Harry Crow

What will happen when a goblin-raised Harry arrives at Hogwarts. A Harry who has received training, already knows the prophecy and has no scar. With the backing of the goblin nation and Hogwarts herself. Complete.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8186071/1/Harry-Crow

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52. Orders of Merlin

The silence at the breakfast table alerted Sirius that there was something wrong, one glance at the Prophet informed him of just what that something was. 'Another Dark Creature set loose inside Hogwarts' was banner headlines across the front page. Sirius didn't read another word, he was already looking around the room for Moony.

"Where's Remus, has he seen this?"

"He was here but left after the paper arrived, said it ruined his appetite. No wonder, Sirius, this is pure character assassination. How anyone could think Remus Lupin in any way matched what was described in that article is beyond me..."

"I know, Emma, but I need to go find him." With that, Sirius was out the door and heading for Remus' room - he got there just as his friend was finishing packing his meagre belongings into a well worn traveling bag.

"You should be able to get your money back for the robes, they were a lovely Christmas present but it doesn't look as if I'll need them now - and the sheep would piss themselves laughing at me if I turned up to work dressed as a wizard. Even a wolf has to have some dignity, Sirius, and sheep laughing at you is just not something that can be taken lightly. Tell Harry thanks for the clothes too, they really are the finest I've ever owned. I know you never return a gift to a goblin, can I leave them here?"

Remus hadn't once looked up as he finished his packing, and tied the neck of his bag. Sirius wasn't fooled in the slightest by the feeble attempt at joking - Moony was really hurting here. Sirius shut the door, it was time for some tough talking with his friend. "You'll need the clothes Harry got you for Henrica and my engagement party tonight, you will be there. Yes this news is gonna cause a stink but I promise at the end of it, Remus Lupin will be smelling of roses - or at least not left stinky."

This drew Remus' full attention. "...and just how do you hope to achieve that? I am a werewolf, and I am classed as a dark creature by the ministry. Whatever you say against that article, those facts remain."

"I never read that article, I don't need to. What you're forgetting is that you are also Remus Lupin, a thoroughly decent wizard. You're my best friend - who'll also be best man at my wedding and godfather to Sirius and Henrica Black's firstborn child. I won't allow you to leave, at least not like this."

"Sirius, what option do I have? I couldn't get a job cleaning glasses at the Hog's Head after that article."

"Lord Black couldn't get that job either, they don't wash their glasses at the Hog's Head. We were expecting this news to come out, Remus, not so dramatically or so soon but it would have broken anyway. The difference this time is you now have powerful friends who will fight for you, but you need to understand this is not out of any sense of charity. Augusta wants you at Hogwarts simply because she thinks you are the best person for the job, Amelia wants you there so her auror candidates at least know one end of their wand from another when they leave Hogwarts. Trust me, that is not a joke!"

Sirius then got deadly serious. "We both know Voldemort isn't really gone and, when he returns, he'll be going after Harry. Henrica has already attacked a basilisk trying to keep them safe, I simply can't lose Harry, Hermione or Henrica. I need you in that castle, Moony, I need someone I trust implicitly to have my wife and godchildren's backs. They're my family and so are you, Moony. Azkaban taught me I don't cope with being alone too well, neither do you - and sheep don't count as company."

"Look, Sirius, it's not as if I want to return to those sheep. Contrary to what you keep insinuating, there was no shepherd's delight under the moonlight with my favourite ewe! How can I possibly teach at Hogwarts after today's Prophet, the parents would never stand for it." The smirk on Sirius' face was reminiscent of the one he would wear just before pulling off a particularly audacious prank, Remus was really worried now.

"Moony, we though the Marauders were pretty hot shit, and we probably were. Compared to Amelia, Augusta and Barchoke though, we're mere babes in the woods! You already have ministerial support for taking up your teaching position at Hogwarts, and Fudge will defend that decision. They then have a scheme in place that means you probably won't rate a mention in the Prophet tomorrow, all their reporters will be busy chasing down other stories. With today's front page, I'll bet an emergency meeting of the Wizengamot has already been called, all your problems might even be sorted before tonight's party. At least give it until the end of the holidays before returning to your flock?"

"I don't know about hot shit, Sirius, but I think you're full of it. Voldemort will shave his legs and take up belly dancing before they'll allow a dark creature to teach at Hogwarts."

Sirius now had his arm around his friend's shoulders, leading him away from the room - and the still packed bag. "Moony my old chum, did I ever show you my favourite photo? It was taken exactly a year ago today and Henrica somehow acquired a framed copy for me. If a twelve year old boy can chase Dumbledore out of Britain, getting you a teaching job in Hogwarts should be child's play. Then again, that boy has an awesome kick-arse godfather...and a wicked sword!"

-oOoOo-

No one would be surprised that Sirius' prediction proved to be correct, an emergency Wizengamot meeting was tabled for noon. The glints of anticipation on certain faces were hard to miss, here was the pureblood rallying point they had been searching for. Here was a cause that would allow them to draw a line in the sand and say no further, they had no idea a tidal wave was just about to hit their beach - and sweep more than their puny line away.

Wizengamot member Duncan 'I was under the imperious' Avery was first to his feet after Amos opened the proceedings, making his intentions clear right from the off. "Can I ask if the minister was aware that this creature would be entering Hogwarts, and what does he intend to do about this disgusting situation now it has been exposed?"

Cornelius had expected nothing less and had his answer well prepared. "The ministry was asked if Remus John Lupin could be allowed to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts. After ensuring proper and robust methods would be in place to remove any hint of danger from the students, the ministry gave its consent. His qualifications and references were all excellent, he's easily the most qualified applicant we've had for the job in many years - and the children will be lucky to have him teaching there."

The minister sat after giving his answer and began counting into himself. Amelia had bet both him and Amos that there would be at least ten seconds of silence after that answer, Cornelius hadn't expected to make it back into his seat before the bedlam began.

He now owed Amelia five galleons as the expected bedlam took almost twenty seconds to arrive. It then took a good few minutes for Amos to get the chamber back into some kind of order. Duncan was then allowed to respond to the Minister's answer.

It was an angry Avery who responded, not quite believing what he'd just heard. "The only way to keep the children safe is to remove this creature from Hogwarts, or remove its head!"

Amelia calmly stood to rebuff this attack, though inside she was seething. It was time to use some of that anger to verbally kick this death eater bastard's teeth right down his throat. "In this chamber we administer the law of the land, I'll have no more talk of beheading a member of our community. This is a similar situation to those who were cursed with the imperius to do a dark lord's bidding, Remus Lupin didn't chose to suffer from lycanthropy either. In fact, he was a mere boy when infected."

Duncan felt the ice cold hand of fear grip his gonads, those claims of imperius had never been questioned inside this chamber - a fair bit of gold had changed hands to ensure that catastrophe never happened. The problem here was that none of the gold had gone into the hands of Bones, Diggory or Fudge. The mood inside the chamber had now changed dramatically, they weren't used to witnessing members being slapped down so brutally - and Amelia Bones appeared to be ready to get bloody over this matter.

"Even though he was afflicted with this terrible disease, Remus Lupin attended Hogwarts as a student. In those seven years, he not only passed his O.W.L.'s and N.E.W.T.'s with distinction, but also gained the respect and trust to be chosen as a Gryffindor prefect. This was before the invention of Wolfsbane potion too, yet a young Remus still managed to pose no danger for those seven years - and more than keep pace with his peers."

This was all news to the vast majority of those members in the chamber, and certainly hadn't been mentioned anywhere in the Prophet's article. "The minister, quite rightly, demanded that we introduce protocols to ensure the children's safety before he would agree to allow this teaching appointment, those protocols stood up to the most rigorous examination we could put them to. Professor Lupin will be supplied with wolfsbane potion to ensure he retains his mind while transformed, he will also be escorted by an auror from the castle to a secure location outside the Hogwarts wards before the full moon rises. The new wards at Hogwarts are amongst the most powerful in the world, they will not allow a transformed werewolf anywhere near the school."

Amelia was knocking their arguments down like skittles, and she still wasn't finished. "As you know, due to poor teaching in this subject, Assistant Ambassador Weasley has been traveling to Hogwarts twice weekly for the last eighteen months to teach Harry Crow's defence classes - this was paid for by Harry's father. Professor Lupin has so impressed with his teaching that this will no longer be the case. The Hogwarts defence professor will now teach all seven years, as he's contracted to do. On the few days his condition leaves him too unwell to teach, an auror will cover those classes. I now open our protocols to this chamber, please feel free to question them thoroughly. After all, everyone is here today purely to ensure our children's safety while they attend Hogwarts."

The shout came before Amelia could even sit down. "Why don't you get this Weasley to teach defence, save all this trouble."

With a smile, she was able to tell the absolute truth. "Bill Weasley was a highly skilled curse breaker before becoming an Assistant Ambassador. To put it bluntly, Hogwarts simply couldn't afford him - he probably earns a larger salary than I do! The only reason Hogwarts was able to attract a professor of the quality of Henrica Hobson is because someone else is paying for it."

"Surely there is someone else who could teach defence?"

"Is Lockhart really that bad?"

Amelia decided to deal with both questions at the same time. "Last year, Dumbledore actually employed a wizard possessed by Voldemort to teach defence, certainly putting the children in far more danger than having Remus Lupin as a professor ever would. Lockhart is so ineffective, Harry Crow was actually persuaded by the first years to teach them defence. When a second year student is a better teacher than the incumbent professor, something needs to be done. Both Madam Longbottom and myself have witnessed Remus Lupin's teaching methods, and we also have dependants attending Hogwarts. The castle will be safe for them, you have our assurance of that."

With the rug effectively pulled from under them, those who wanted to object purely on the basis that Remus was a werewolf were left looking around for support. That Amelia had mentioned the unbelievably delicate matter of those escaping punishment by using the imperius curse defence inside the Wizengamot Chamber meant there were now quite a few members who were desperate not to draw attention to themselves - so their objections died too.

Cornelius let the arguments against Lupin's appointment peter out before standing again. "As that matter now appears settled, and since we are all here anyway, I would like to introduce something for this chamber's consideration. Before that though, I would like to first set the scene by giving this chamber the chance to view Auror Tonks' memory of what actually happened inside the Chamber of Secrets." There was never going to be an objection to that, even the fact that they were using a goblin device to view this memory was being conveniently ignored.

The memory captured and held everyone's attention, even those who had watched it before. This time the memory ran just a little bit longer as Tonks reported to Amelia, while they looked on as Barchoke cradled a trapped Hermione while Harry's stretcher was placed beside them. The Wizengamot watched in fascination as aurors couldn't move the beast an inch, the creature's skin being so resistant to magic that their spells simply glanced right off. It was left to the goblins with transfigured metal bars to shift the beast enough to slip the girl free. She had thankfully passed out by this point, sparing her any more pain.

Cornelius once more stood and addressed the chamber. "I think we can all agree that was one headline the Prophet got right, those six really are the heroes of Hogwarts..."

This resulted in a round of applause, then Cornelius began to reveal what he was up to. "I hope the chamber will agree with me that these heroes deserved to be rewarded. With Professor Hobson becoming engaged to Lord Black today, and the betrothal announcement from the Patils and Longbottoms, it's also clear these heroes are going to play a prominent part in our society in the years to come. With the success of last year's summer celebration ball, I'm also proposing that we again adopt that method to distribute those awards."

So far, the minister hadn't said anything too controversial, that was about to change. "The affection that the goblins clearly showed Miss Granger was rather difficult to understand, she is after all a first generation witch. That difficulty remained unexplained until we were supplied with more information - information I am now at liberty to share with this chamber. It has been correctly reported that goblins don't use betrothal contracts, and never arrange marriages between families. Instead, they insist on a much more ancient form of magical joining. In a ceremony held in Gringotts, Centurion Crow and Miss Granger blood bonded, and will marry when of an appropriate age to do so. The Goblin Nation already considers her a Centurion's mate, and the daughter of Ambassador Barchoke."

The stunned silence that greeted that announcement saw Cornelius simply push on with what he wanted to say. "Taking all those factors into consideration, and having again watched all six work as a team to overcome such overwhelming adversity, I would like to propose the following awards:

Auror Nymphadora Tonks - Order of Merlin, First Class.
Professor Henrica Hobson - Order of Merlin, First Class.
Neville Longbottom - Order of Merlin, First Class.
Padma Patil - Order of Merlin, First Class.
Hermione Granger - Order of Merlin, First Class.

Since Harry is already a holder of this prestigious award, and also a lifetime Hogwarts Champion, I'm hoping the chamber will ratify the title of Harry Crow, Baron of Kingussie, on him - and the small parcel of land that comes with this barony. This would allow both he and Baroness Hermione to live in close proximity to the castle after they graduate from Hogwarts."

There was a moment's pause before the guarded question was asked. "Minister, isn't the boy already in line to become a Lord? What's a Barony in comparison to that?"

Here was where some of them would pass yesterday's Christmas dinner into their underwear. "At the moment, Harry holds the rank of Centurion, and an Order of Merlin, First Class. Both of these make him an adult in either society but don't come with any titles."

As it began to sink in just what there minister was proposing here, another tentative question was asked. "Isn't it against the law for goblins to own land, and live anywhere but inside Gringotts?"

This would be the moment that defined his ministry, or saw him kicked out on his ear. "Yes, that is currently true. It is also true that we in this chamber collectively have the power to change that law..."

Cries of 'NEVER!' were some of the more printable comments that came from around the chamber, 'lunacy!' was another well used term. Cornelius let them rant for a few moments before holding up his hands for silence. He was surprised at himself with how calm he felt. When analysing his feelings further, Cornelius was even more surprised to find he was enjoying himself - he'd never felt more alive!

One shouted comment drew gasps inside the chamber, and forced an instant reply from Cornelius. "If the boy has already chosen to live his life as a goblin, then I say let him rot under Gringotts!"

"The only thing young Harry has chosen is the witch who'll be at his side. Even in goblin society, their actions are regarded as somewhat preemptive - it's extremely rare for goblins to undertake this rite under the age of seventeen. Harry has been raised as a goblin so it seems natural to me that, when he meets the right girl for him, this is the method he would use to show that - their level of blood bonding certainly confirmed they are indeed right for each other. Knowing this young couple as I do, and with all of us having just witnessed a demonstration of just how devoted they are to each other, I have no hesitation in passing on my personal and ministerial congratulations to both of them on their bonding."

The minister had once more left them with really nowhere to go with their arguments, the issue about the boy-who-lived now being bonded was effectively closed. The chamber's focus now switched to this proposed change in the law, again Cornelius had something up his sleeve.

"Like everyone in this room, I was taught history by a ghostly professor whose lessons were born from the worst type of bigotry. Even death didn't stop his revenge on the nation he loathed with a passion, a passion that ran all the way to assisting a young Voldemort in the hope the emerging dark lord would then exterminate an entire society. What we need here is some truth, facts and figures that we can base our judgement around. For that, I asked Ambassador Weasley, and his eldest son, to bring us facts that could be corroborated into this chamber. By your leave, I will invite them in to present those facts now."

When there was no objections, Cornelius signalled to the clerk to fetch the Weasleys, before offering his final remark to the chamber. "As you well know, a change in law of this magnitude needs to sit with this chamber for forty days, there will be no vote on the matter until January has ended. What I'm anxious to avoid here is another panic similar to the one a certain story in today's Prophet instigated. Let everyone hear the facts of the matter, take their time to form the questions that need to be asked, then - and only then - will we have the appropriate debate and vote. That is the way our law is supposed to operate, while I am minister, that is the way our laws will operate."

Arthur and Bill strode into the chamber, having his son stand so confidently beside him, while facing the most powerful legislative body in Britain, was a very proud moment for the head of the Weasley family.

A nod from Cornelius was their signal to begin. "Looking through all the records in the ministry, and with assistance from Gringotts, we were able to confirm that the last sortie between wizards and goblins was indeed sixteen twelve..."

Arthur found himself rudely interrupted by a loud and angry shout from the chamber. "By my reckoning, that means our current arrangements have kept the peace for almost three hundred and eighty years. Why the hell would we want to change a law that works so well?"

Bill could see this was a deliberate attempt to bully his father, and disrupt their presentation. Bill knew his father was a wizard who was too polite to deal with this situation the way it needed to be dealt with. His son though was used to negotiating with goblins, it was time to begin earning that large salary they paid him.

"Excuse me, but since I was invited by the Minister of Magic to this chamber, I assumed I wasn't here for decoration. I'm afraid I have to take issue with that statement you just made. If you class the reigns of terror instigated by Grindelwald and Tom Riddle, I refuse to call that criminal Voldemort, as peace - then the definition of the word has changed since you left Hogwarts."

"I'm quite aware of the definition of peace, I was alluding to the situation with the goblins..."

"I beg your pardon, sir. Goblins never allude, rather say exactly what they mean - I find it quite refreshing. So, what you were alluding to was that wizards were too busy fighting each other to bother with the goblins?"

This raised a few chuckles as it became instantly apparent that young Weasley could tie Nott in knots, verbally, magically and physically.

"Don't put words in my mouth, boy, just whose side are you on here?"

Bill's entire demeanour just got a lot more serious. The rest of the chamber ceased to exist as he focused on Nott. "Oh, I wasn't aware there were sides to join? I thought the vote was at least forty days away yet. We were asked here today to present some facts...and sir, the only person allowed to call me boy is standing beside me - please remember that in future..." Bill didn't actually say 'or he would have to remind him' but everyone clearly got the message. In those few minutes, Bill Weasley had established himself as a player in the game - a player with powerful backing.

Arthur waited until Nott had acknowledged his error before continuing. "We compared goblin and ministry records of the casualties caused by this brief conflict and found them fairly comparable, single digits the only difference between both sets of figures. We then compared this to the British witches and wizards killed during the conflict with Grindelwald, over seven times the number of them lost their lives when compared to sixteen twelve. When we ran the numbers for Riddle and his death eaters, the figure was almost thirty times more..."

"That's preposterous - and irrelevant!'

This time there was no give in Arthur, he stood proud and answered straight back. "While all we have is mostly the numbers of casualties for sixteen twelve, the death eater victims are well documented. We have names, dates, places, and, in some cases, even the names of those who committed the atrocities. We were asked for facts and that is what we are presenting here. It was Antonin Dolohov who murdered both my brothers-in-law, the four death eaters who accompanied him on that attack were never identified. It wasn't goblins who killed them, wizards tortured Gideon and Fabian Prewett to death..."

This led to Amelia standing, and making a statement of her own. "It wasn't goblins who almost wiped out the Bones family either, rather cowards who hid behind masks. It was goblins who ensured my last living relative couldn't be controlled by any potion a wizard chose to slip her. The goblins have also erected protective wards around our home to ensure those same cowardly mask-wearing bastards will not burn us out while we sleep in our beds."

Augusta then slowly rose to her feet, her emotions rang clear in her voice. "It wasn't goblins who tortured my son and his wife until they almost lost their minds. It is certainly goblins who are slowly returning them to their family. The goblins can never replace the lost years, nor do we hold any false hope Frank and Alice will ever make a full recovery, for everything the goblins do give us though - we will be eternally grateful. Our home is also protected by the same wards that keep our children safe at Hogwarts - and I could easily make a case for both the Ministry of Magic and St Mungo's receiving that same level of protection. Any evil bastard who would deliberately fire a killing curse at a baby boy, after first killing both his parents, wouldn't think twice about attacking a hospital filled with the sick and injured."

Augusta was hoping someone would mention denying access to those forced to take the dark mark while under the imperius curse, none of them though dared rise to the bait. Her simple answer would have been - prove it. Instead, she fired a parting shot before sitting back down. "If I discovered the Longbottoms would have goblins for neighbours, I would be delighted. In our hour of need, I know their reaction would be like the one we just witnessed earlier in that brave auror's memory. They would come running, ready, willing and more than able to render assistance - not cowering under their beds in the hope the bogyman would pick on someone else - and leave them alone."

It was almost as if a gauntlet had been thrown down, anyone who'd lost family in either war stood and recited their relation's names like a role of honour. The sheer number of names making the point far more effectively than mere numbers ever could. When you could put names or even faces to the figures murdered, it suddenly became a devastating presentation of the harm done to their society. That none of the named had died at the hands of goblins, and no one in the chamber could recall an ancestor who had, more than proved the point that the minister wanted made today. The goblins hadn't been their enemies for almost four hundred years, wasn't it about time they stopped treating them as such?

Bill had one last card to play, or, to be precise, a memory.

"The goblin nation keeps an archive of memories, and have done so for centuries - this one is from May, sixteen ten." The memory showed a bustling little town, with wizards and goblins going about their daily business. It was only spotting the occasional group of students in Hogwarts robes that gave a clue to where this location actually was.

"Yes, witches and wizards of the Wizengamot - this is Hogsmeade. As you can see, at that time it was considered the Scottish equivalent of Diagon Alley. The village would prosper from the Hogwarts students visiting during the school year and yet those same students would then do their school shopping in London over the holidays. Everyone was prospering until some wizards got jealous, and greedy - they thought the goblins had the better land in Hogsmeade and arrogantly ordered them to move. When they didn't, Bloody Binns and his band of pre death eaters started burning goblins alive in their home. Thus began the conflict of sixteen twelve, and the demise of Hogsmeade."

No one felt like disputing Bill's explanation of historic events, it wasn't really important at the moment, they certainly couldn't dispute the Hogsmeade of today was a pale shadow of the memory they were watching here.

"The goblin nation would like to re-open a Gringotts branch in Hogsmeade, but are currently barred under ministry law from doing so. Let's not forget the outstanding young man who's at the very centre of this whole debate. Is this chamber really going to confine Harry to dwell below Gringotts if he chooses to live his life as a centurion? As someone who knows him very well, I can put my hand on my heart and honestly say that would be a great loss to our society - a great and unnecessary loss."

Amos asked if there were any more questions, and once more Sirius was proven something of a prophet. They had practically forgotten the name Remus Lupin by the end of the session, or the fact that a werewolf would be teaching at Hogwarts in a little over a week's time.

The Prophet would surely lead tomorrow with the story that the boy-who-lived had chosen his bride. For the members of the Wizengamot though, it would be considering changing the laws on goblins that would demand the most attention - and once again this would become a decision that would mostly be determined by their political leanings.

For those of the light faction, the decision wasn't too difficult, their saviour and champion had chosen his bride. That she was not from an established magical family was a little disappointing, that this witch then choose the old ways to bond though was certainly a point in her favour. Neither her courage nor the couple's commitment to each other could be questioned though, at least not by anyone who watched a memory of what happened inside the Chamber of Secrets.

The possibility of the goblins being allowed to settle outside of Gringotts was not as scary a thought as Harry leaving their society forever, that would be a disaster in their eyes. That he clearly had other options available meant they would offer whatever enticements were needed to keep him amongst them. They would be voting yes to the Baron of Kingussie, and not one member thought to object to a muggle born being awarded their society's highest honour.

Those of a dark persuasion were becoming terrified of the influence the goblin nation was having on their society, and their inability to be able to put a halt to it. Unlike the light, they had no leader to rally behind - with even the most bigoted amongst them having to admit the boy who defeated that basilisk cut a powerful figure to oppose directly.

For those who also carried the dark mark, things just seemed to be lurching from bad to worse. These new goblin wards were nothing short of a nightmare, a nightmare they seemed destined to be forced to face. Already their mark barred them from entering Hogwarts, and apparently now the homes of some prominent purebloods. Placing those wards around the Ministry of Magic or St Mungo's would be an unmitigated disaster, denying them access to their power, prestige and even healing. Their problem was, on what grounds could they object to wards that protected people from what was now regarded as a criminal organisation?

All had spotted the verbal trap that bitch Longbottom had set, and none had risen to the poisonous bait. Their problems were increased though by Bones publicly mentioning their condition in the chamber, drawing everyone's attention to something they would like to see buried deep and never talked about again. Out of principle, they would oppose the Baron of Kingussie, though they were far more worried about these wards than having goblins for neighbours. If the ministry chose to erect these wards, they wouldn't be able to attend the celebration ball anyway. Depending when those wards were erected, they might not even get a chance to vote on this matter. Not one thought was spared to the fact a mudblood would become an Order of Merlin, First Class, holder - or that a werewolf would now be teaching at Hogwarts.

The neutrals would, as usual, control which way the vote was decided. Their views were similar to those of the light faction regarding Miss Granger eventually becoming the bride of the boy-who-lived. While they would usually be in favour of anything that increased commerce in their community, the memory of what Hogsmeade used to be was a powerful enticement, they also realised that there would then be increased competition for that commerce - from the goblins.

As neutrals, they also understood that purchasing the wonderful new wards the goblins were making available would see their supposed neutrality end in the eyes of those no longer able to access their property. Whether that was a price worth paying to protect their families would be a decision for individuals. In short, they neither wanted the return of the dark lord nor any more goblin influence on their society. Many would seek private meetings with those involved at the vanguard of this proposal, quietly promising Amelia and Cornelius support in exchange for their assurance there would be no more changes in these laws for at least a number of years.

Since that was already the plans of those at the ministry involved with the goblins, their assurances would be given.

Gilderoy had sat near the back of a packed public gallery, the hood of his robe raised so he wouldn't be recognised - unless he wanted to be. Today had not gone as he had planned, not even close. Who cared about this Lupin person's qualifications or teaching abilities, the man was a werewolf - end of story! Instead of winning his job back, he was forced to sit here while his character was further abused and eroded. Claiming a twelve year old boy was a better teacher than him was simply ridiculous.

Watching that memory again, surrounded by members of the public who were seeing it for the first time, left Gilderoy with the distinct impression he was now the only one who considered that notion ridiculous. Their opinion was crystal clear, they would rather see Harry Crow named King, than force him to leave them forever. The journalists who were sitting furiously taking notes were well aware of this opinion, and Gilderoy expected to see that reflected in their stories tomorrow. It was always easier to influence public opinion when you were telling people something they actually agreed with. Gilderoy left the chamber a disappointed wizard. He hadn't gotten his job back, he also hadn't gotten any fan mail since leaving the Hogwarts wards behind. Gilderoy's only consolation was that things simply couldn't get any worse - he had no idea just how wrong he could be.

-oOoOo-

Hermione had been nervous about tonight, and that was before learning the Minister of Magic had announced that she and Harry were blood bonded to the Wizengamot -tomorrow the entire country would know. She was dressed like a princess in another new goblin creation that Harry gave her as part of her Christmas - and she was also wearing jewellery fit for any queen, the ring on her finger being her clear favourite.

Hermione was in no way nervous that she might outshine the lady whose party this was, we were talking about Henrica Hobson here after all. No, what was making Hermione nervous was that the goblin tailors had taken into account her developing body when they designed this dress for her, it almost made her feel 'grown-up' - and for some reason she was nervous as to how Harry would react to that.

The dress might make her appear slightly older but inside Hermione felt like a nervous little girl - and didn't know why. These bouts of self-doubt were becoming rarer but they still held the power to make Hermione question everything that had happened in the last couple of years. It was almost as if things were going too well, and she was expecting everything to end when the clock struck midnight. She would be back in Crawley, Hogwarts and Harry were nothing more than wonderful dreams - and Hermione Granger was once more the friendless bookworm..."

"Hermione, are you ready... Oh, my! - our little girl is growing up. You look so beautiful!"

"Thanks mum, and thanks for everything. I'm sitting here staring into the mirror, almost having to pinch myself to see if this is real, yet you and dad have had to cope with so much more - and I just really needed to say thank you for all you've done for me."

"Hermione, stop. You're going to have my make-up running soon - and we can't really greet our gentlemen looking like a couple of Pandas..."

"Betsy applied my make-up, mum, it won't run."

"Well, as wonderful as Dobby is, that's not one of his talents. If you're ready, your father and Harry are downstairs."

Harry and Dan were standing waiting on the Granger ladies at the bottom of the staircase, their reactions to seeing Hermione were totally different. Harry had a beaming smile on his face, he approached Hermione and kissed the back of her hand in greeting. Dan meanwhile was experiencing that pivotal moment in every father's life when it suddenly hits home that their daughter is growing up. This beautiful and confident young lady in front of him surely couldn't be the child that he used to read bedtime stories to - where did the time go?

Emma could see her husband struggling with his emotions at the moment so spoke with Harry to give Dan a chance to regain his equilibrium. "You seem very pleased with yourself, Harry, aren't you even slightly apprehensive about tonight? It's not just family who'll know your secret now."

He shook his head, though the broad smile never wavered. "Back in May I spoke to Sirius about asking Hermione to be my girlfriend. I said then that she is beautiful, smart and just wonderful to spend time with - and tonight, everyone can see I was right. Asking her to be mine before anyone else could swoop in and steal her away is easily the best decision I ever made! The entire country now knowing of our bonding is not something to worry about. How they treat us now might affect our decisions on where our future lies, but it won't change the fact that we're together."

All Hermione's nerves had fled, now she was back on Harry's arm. He was once more dressed in Harry 'Darcy' mode and Hermione thought asking him to share a carriage with her that first of September was easily the best decision she ever made too.

Dan was now the one left shaking his head. "In all this extra training and lessons you do, Harry, were any of them on how to chat up girls? I don't think I was ever as smooth as that - hell, I'm not that smooth now!"

"Sorry to disappoint, Dan, but no. I've only ever been interested in one girl - and now she's mine! If that isn't a reason to smile then I don't know what is."

Dan offered Emma his arm before following the couple in front of them who were practically floating toward the ballroom. "Boy's a bloody natural at that too - there must be something he can't do?"

Emma knew Dan was cracking jokes to get himself together, seeing Hermione in that dress had been a shock for her too. She though already had her few moments to get over the shock, Emma tried to help her husband out. "Hermione says Harry's a terrible singer, she thinks it's a goblin thing." Seeing Dan smile at that let her know he was going to be fine. It also earned him a kiss on the cheek - a kiss that promised more later.

They were the last house guests to arrive in the ballroom, something Padma was quick to point out. "Got here at last, did you? Were you lost, or just unable to part with the Christmas present Sirius got you?"

Nothing was going to shift Hermione's smile tonight, especially not her friend's teasing. "Now Padma, don't get jealous. Just because I now have a book that gives me access to everything stored in the Black Library..."

It was an open-mouthed Hannah who just had to butt in, there was something a lot more important she wanted to know. "Never mind talking about some old books, Hermione, how the hell do I get a figure like that?"

Sparing Hermione's blushes from Hannah's question, Padma answered for her friend. "It's easy! You just get up in the middle of the night, run for miles and then cross swords with Harry here for an hour or so. Do that every day for well over a year and - hey presto! Told you it was easy."

They were all closer now, and had gotten well used to what passed for Padma's sense of humour. Hannah though appeared to be considering if the torture Padma just described wasn't a sacrifice worth paying to have a figure like Hermione's, Susan looked as if she was on the verge of volunteering for this figure-defining training too.

Hermione though just stuck her tongue out at her best friend - which, as she expected, also earned a quip back from Padma.

"Oh, way to ruin the effect, Granger. Standing there like a fairy princess, and then she wastes it by being childish - such a pity."

"If a fairy princess had you for a best friend, you would probably be a toad by now..."

Hermione's playful answering barb just cracked Luna up, "A playmate for Trevor!" which started everyone else laughing.

They had to cut their now normal joking around short though as the guests started arriving, Hannah couldn't wait to introduce her friends to her parents while everyone else was simply looking forward to a great night.

Sirius and Henrica had both been adamant that tonight was their night, they didn't want to spend it surrounded by guests they didn't know - just so it could be said the 'right people' had been present. They had also been reticent about asking the people in power at the ministry who were perceived to be on 'their side' in the struggle to change magical attitudes inside Britain. With the meeting being held today, Amelia had advised that this would no longer be the case. The officials in question would have already stood and declared their position on these matters inside the Wizengamot.

That was why Cornelius, Amos and Arthur had to all floocall home to inform their respective wives that they had been invited to Lord Black's engagement party tonight.

The Diggorys were actually the first to arrive, with Cedric having Katie Bell on his arm. Having been present when the twins had asked Angelina and Alicia, Cedric, being the gentleman that he was, had asked the third Gryffindor chaser to be his date - much to Katie's delight.

A still shocked Remus had quickly approached Amos to thank him for his support in the chamber today, thanks that the Chief Wizard refused to accept.

"Had those objections against you been about your inability to teach our children, my answer would have been different. If the Wizengamot expect me just to blindly follow the old bigotries, then they elected the wrong person Chief Wizard. Cedric has told me how bad a teacher Lockhart is, and how lucky he feels to be receiving extra lessons. Education shouldn't be about 'luck', and that's where you come in. Bringing the defence classes at Hogwarts to a level they should be is all the thanks any of us expect."

With that, Remus finally began to comprehend that the British magical community was not only capable of changing, it appeared now ready to accept some.

Dan and Emma had been watching for the arrival of the Creeveys, Colin had quickly shot over to where the rest of the Hogwarts contingent were gathered, leaving his parents adrift in a situation they knew little about. Being taken under the Grangers' wings saw grateful thanks being offered by both. Colin's father saying that milkmen didn't usually get invited to parties held by Lords and Ladies drew laughter from Sirius and Henrica - with Lukas and Moa also promising to help the overwhelmed couple with anything they didn't understand. The muggle couple offering thanks to Barchoke for Harry looking after Colin while he was at Hogwarts meant that the Creeveys would fit right in to their company.

The Weasleys arrival saw the Hogwarts contingent grow even more, and also gave Harry an idea how to switch Remus' mind onto something else. A quick word with Fred and George, with the name Moony being mentioned, soon had them practically stalking the marauder.

Their other friends were all very accepting of Harry and Hermione's bonding, it was surprisingly easy since the couple weren't acting any different than they normally would. Ginny had been more concerned that Professor Lupin's arrival would see the end of Crow's Marauders. All involved with teaching the club quickly confirmed they wished to continue with it, making Ginny, Luna and Colin very happy. That club really was their favourite time at Hogwarts, and all three were wearing their marauder's badges tonight.

Even Roger turning up with Cho Chang as his date didn't dent the group's good mood. Cho had pretty much kept to herself after apologising to Harry and Hermione, they certainly weren't expecting any trouble from her tonight.

All the Hogwarts students had naturally sat together, seeing them occupy one side of the ballroom. When the Greengrass family arrived, Daphne didn't hesitate to lead her younger sister over to join the large group. Draco and Pansy arrived with Blaise, after thanking their hosts for being invited and handing over the gift, Draco and Pansy followed Blaise over to join the crowd. The news of what had transpired at today's Wizengamot meeting was spreading like wildfire, Pansy had heard it from her father so of course passed it on to Draco. What Pansy hadn't mentioned was the idea this had sparked in her mind. Her goal tonight was to get Granger alone for a few moments and hope the girl could answer some of the questions the Slytherin had. If that meant she had to play suck-up all night, Pansy was more than prepared to do exactly that.

Cornelius was fashionably late in arriving, not through choice or playing games to get noticed, simply because his wife took so long to get ready. Why she had to try on five separate outfits, only to finally decide on the one she's put on first, was a mystery way beyond the minister's understanding. He'd learned years ago just to say his wife looked beautiful in everything, he was after all a politician.

The Minister of Magic was presented with what he thought was a perfect example of how the political landscape of their country was changing the minute they walked into the ballroom. Barchoke was dancing with a simply stunning Miss Granger around the Black Ballroom, and their actions didn't even raise one eyebrow amongst the guests who were present. It wasn't so long ago, even entering this house would have meant that neither the goblin nor the muggle born witch would have left it alive.

-oOoOo-

A witch who would certainly have considered the murder of both the filthy goblin and the mudblood, simply for daring to entering the home of a pureblood, as acceptable behaviour was sitting alone sipping firewhisky. Dolores couldn't see any prospects that this latest vote against their way of life wouldn't gain a pass through the Wizengamot, there were just too many powerful figures lining up to support it. Add to that a werewolf would be teaching inside Hogwarts and their entire society seemed to be going to the dogs. There were now multiple creatures holding teaching positions at the country's premier school of magic, with a veela, a goblin and now a werewolf passing themselves off as professors. This would surely eventually foster the belief amongst tomorrow's adults that this was perfectly acceptable and even normal behaviour - and something that Dolores Umbridge was desperate to put a stop to.

What she needed was a way to directly compare Hogwarts against other magical schools, public humiliation appearing to be her best option for forcing people to face the truth - and see the proper standards of blood purity being restored once more.

Dolores knew there were enough archaic rules and outright stupid ideas just lying around in the archives of the Department of Magical Games and Sports to cover practically any eventuality - the trick would be in finding just the right one.

Good old Ludo Bagman was strutting around the ministry like a pompous prick because the Quidditch World Cup was returning to Britain, due to all of her hard work in undermining the opposing bids for the tournament. The mere thought of pulling off a second coup would see her Departmental Head providing Dolores with all the help she would need in her search for a way to show Hogwarts for what it really was - an affront and a disgrace to their ancient way of life.

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