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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39. Slug Club

Horace had tried to be subtle, it was something he was usually very good at - but subtlety clearly wasn't working in this case. His repeated attempts to get closer to the boy-who-lived had been rebuffed at every turn. With his friends always around him, and Harry not taking the normal potions class, his opportunities to get near the boy were being severely limited.

With this ball pending, and the three Order of Merlin winners being guests of honour, Horace didn't want anyone else getting their hooks into Harry - certainly not before him.

As his letters were being ignored, he was going to personally hand-deliver the next invitation. This course of action also presented its own problems - how and when to do it. Mealtimes were out, that could turn into too much of a spectacle.

Horace's choices were eventually whittled down, leaving interrupting one of Harry's classes as his best option. Which particular class was then an easy decision. Minerva, Filius or Pomona would all chase him if he attempted such a thing. The young history professor should provide no such obstacles in his quest to entrap what would be the star acquisition in his Slug Club.

"Excuse me, Professor Hobson, sorry to interrupt your lesson..." Horace's eyes were drawn, like the rest of the class, to the box held open in Henrica's hands. The history professor had a priceless teaching aid for her lesson, an Order of Merlin, First Class.

Henrica had been loaned Harry's award to demonstrate exactly what the Order of Merlin actually looked like. It took a couple of days to research the material but, since Monday, all her classes had learned the facts and protocol behind this most prestigious award. Sirius had practically fallen over with laughter when he'd heard what they were up to - accepting the invitation to Hermione's birthday party on the understanding that he would be invited to the ball too.

The history professor hid her shudder well, as 'call me Sluggy' entered her class. There was something about this man that just made her skin crawl. She'd grown accustomed to males eyeing her up and down, almost exclusively as an object of sexual desire. With Sluggy, it felt as if he was calculating how much he could charge others for renting out her sexual favours - once he owned her. Henrica had never met anyone with a more appropriate nickname - Horace Slughorn was one slimy bastard.

None of this showed on her beautiful face as she contrived a weak smile for her Hogwarts colleague. "How can I help you, Professor Slughorn?"

"Oh my, that's spectacular!" His eyes glued to Harry's award, Horace was now more determined than ever to add the boy-who-lived to his exclusive club. "Sorry to disturb you, Professor Hobson, but I seem to have a slight communications problem. Every owl I send to Harry here seems to go astray, so I thought I would deliver these invitations myself. I know how disappointing it can be for second years to watch those merely a year above them heading off to Hogsmeade, so near and yet so far, that is why I have organised one of my little intimate soirées for Saturday night. I have invitations here for Miss Bones, Mr Longbottom and Harry."

Horace held his invitation out to Harry, only to be greeted with a steely glare. "It's Centurion Crow, and the answer is no."

A flustered Horace could only splutter a 'what?' In reply, Harry then spelt it out for the Head of Slytherin.

"It is no secret Professor Hobson spent part of the summer holidaying with my family, yet she still refers to me in class as Centurion Crow. On the other hand, we have never met, far less been introduced. By what right do you refer to me as Harry?"

Slughorn tried to steer the conversation onto calmer waters, having no idea this was as calm as it would get. "My apologies, Centurion, no insult was intended. I hope this didn't influence your decision and we can start again. Let's use this party as the first step to getting to know one another."

"Apology accepted, I still have a previous engagement though."

"Oh come now, what else is there to do inside Hogwarts on a Saturday night?" Horace was then faced with the unusual sight of the entire class laughing at him.

Neville was next to speak up. "I too have a previous engagement, Professor. I have no intention of missing Hermione's birthday party."

Thinking of how he could still swing this deal around, Horace referred to the invitation that was still clutched in his hand. "These invitations are for you and a partner, I had of course assumed Miss Granger would be a guest too. That will be a perfect way to celebrate her birthday." Again this was met with laughter, even members of his own house were laughing at him now.

Susan was next to decline. "I too have a previous engagement. I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to Hermione's party, and have no intention of missing it - Harry throws the best parties."

This was greeted with total agreement - some of it grudgingly given to be sure. That was more to do with those not receiving an invitation to the latest one, rather than in any way disputing Susan's statement.

Horace was a trier though, it took a lot to dissuade him once he'd set his mind to something. "Ah, then you'll need staff supervision. I of course offer my services..."

He was cut off immediately by Harry. "That won't be necessary, Professor Hobson has already agreed to fulfil that role."

"But surely you will need a male adult there too?"

That avenue was also swiftly closed off. "Lord Black has kindly agreed to give up his Saturday night to be here in the castle. These arrangements have already been agreed with our head of house and Professor McGonagall."

Horace still had Harry's invitation in his hand but was left clutching at straws. "Very well, I would still like to attend though. Surely that is possible?"

It was Hermione who finally lost it at this point. "First, you want to invite us to your party, now you want to gatecrash mine? No! In a muggle school, a professor inviting children to a 'little intimate soirée' would see the police - their aurors - involved. Who chaperones at your parties, Professor?"

It was an enraged Horace Slughorn who took a step toward Hermione. "How dare you..."

Just as Dan Granger had predicted to his wife and Sirius in that cafe, a threat to Hermione and Centurion Crow showed up. He was firmly between his bonded and Slughorn, it was time to lose the niceties Sirius had been teaching them. Sometimes, Harry just had to let his inner goblin out to play.

"Miss Granger is a friend of the goblin nation, and under my personal protection. Any threat, verbal or otherwise, will be met with a goblin response."

"Are you threatening me, boy? I'll have you expelled!"

"Not threatening, Professor, just passing on a warning. I am a Centurion first, and a Hogwarts student second. You need to understand that fact. Screeching abuse at a goblin female will see you lose your head, literally. No goblin would ever stand back and allow that to happen. I have now explained the situation to you, I trust it won't happen again?"

Harry then turned his back on Slughorn to talk with Hermione. "We have people like that in goblin society too, they eke out a living by putting one contact in touch with another contact. They don't actually contribute anything to our society, they've just found a nice, comfortable, niche for themselves. We call them leeches, rather appropriate name in this case - don't you think." His wink almost had Hermione laughing before Harry turned around to face a stunned Slughorn again.

"This is the part where you tell me how impressive your list of contacts is, and how much they could help me. Can I just point out my father is an Ambassador, Lord Black is my godfather, I am heir to the most Ancient and Noble House of Potter and that's my Order of Merlin, First Class, in Professor Hobson's hands. Add to that I holidayed this summer with the Bones', Longbottoms and Patils - now tell me what your contacts can do for me?"

The class were stunned, having never seen Harry act like this before. It was reminiscent of the most arrogant of purebloods, he wasn't finished though. "Tell me, Professor, do you count Tom Riddle among those contacts?"

This drew gasps from the other students, and saw a shocked Slughorn take a step back. Harry's attitude now began to make sense, and he still wasn't finished. "I'll bet Riddle was in your 'Slug Club'? You were his head of house, you made him prefect - and then head boy. Did you use your contacts to help Riddle after he left Hogwarts?"

Slughorn couldn't have gotten any paler if a plague of leeches had attached themselves to his bloated body, blows were being delivered here that his ego might never recover from.

"You should have worked out by now that my friends and I have been avoiding you, now you know why. Stay away from me and my friends, we have no intention of becoming part of Sluggy's collection of misfits and death eaters."

That Slughorn was receiving hostile stares, even from his own house members, rang the death knell for a resurrected 'Slug Club'. He couldn't give invitations away to the starving after Harry's tirade. Horace though wasn't about to stand here and take that, not from a second year.

"Who are you to accuse me, boy? You think brandishing a name makes you brave? You have no idea of the power the dark lord wields, or the consequences we'll all face when he returns..."

Horace decided to say no more, the sword now pointing in his direction certainly played some part in reaching that decision. He was honest enough to admit the sword was not the major reason for his silence, looking into those green eyes was a lot more frightening. He'd often heard that Harry had his mother's eyes, Horace would now refute that. They may be the same colour and shape, but that was all. These contained a fierceness and ruthless determination Horace had rarely witnessed before, and certainly never in one so young.

"This sword is the consequences your dark lord will face when he returns, it won't be alone. My sword will be backed by every blade Gringotts can muster, and every wand the ministry has to hand. Voldemort had way less than a hundred followers last time, yet people like you cowered in fear and almost let him win. Sealing a house in the middle of the night, as decent people slept in their beds, before burning everything to the ground is nothing more than the work of rabid animals. These animals will be rounded up and dealt with, just how many of those animals will be current or former slugs?"

As if to emphasise Harry wouldn't be alone, Hermione had her blade drawn and wands were finding their way into hands all around the classroom. No one felt Harry needed help with Slughorn, this was purely a gesture of support. As well as Henrica, there were also Slytherins with their wands now drawn.

Horace was just glad none of those wands were pointing at him, the glare from a sword-wielding boy-who-lived was more than enough to put him off his crystallised pineapple.

"You are standing there now, no doubt with information that would help us win this fight. Will you go and speak with Amelia Bones about this? I really don't think so. Even by your inactions, you have chosen your side - and everyone in this classroom can see it. By all means, use your fabled contacts to pass the word - tell them this from me. There is no more middle ground, this coming fight will affect all of us. You have already chosen your path, and it's a path that disgusts me. How Dumbledore thinks you're fit to lead a house is just one more crime to lay at the Headmaster's door."

It was a livid head of Slytherin who scuttled out the room. To his credit, Sluggy managed not to leave a trail of liquid behind him.

-oOoOo-

They were just finishing off their dinner when their head of house approached the Ravenclaw table.

"Centurion, I have been asked to accompany you to a meeting with the headmaster."

This left Harry puzzled. "Master Flitwick, you know that can't happen without my father present?"

"I informed the headmaster of this, he said the issue was so serious it couldn't wait. The claim is you threatened Professor Slughorn with your sword..."

The second year Ravenclaws responded en mass to that allegation, Filius didn't need to be head of the house of the smart to understand they were collectively rubbishing that allegation.

"I've been advised that, should you decide not to accompany me, the headmaster would have no other option but to take Professor Slughorn's word. That would lead to the cancelling of Miss Granger's party on Saturday night."

Hermione was first to react. "No, Harry, I will not be used by Dumbledore to force you into anything. Sorry guys, the party is now cancelled."

This drew groans from those who were invited but Hermione wouldn't be budged. She held her mate's hand to emphasise her point. "We both know Dumbledore is trying to provoke a reaction here, let's not give him one. As long as I get to spend my birthday with you, I'll be happy."

Harry spotted the Ravenclaw ghost and asked her advice. "My Lady Ravenclaw, can the headmaster do this?"

Her answer was not what Harry hoped to hear. "In matters of indiscipline, the heads of house and headmaster have a wide range of options open to them. This party is clearly something you want, withholding it is therefore an appropriate form of punishment."

Padma was furious, seeing her friends get punished like this. "...but my Lady, surely if the punishment is unjust?"

"The headmaster has finally wised-up." This drew all the attention onto Harry, waiting on an explanation to his statement. "Dumbledore probably knows these allegations are nothing more than a pile of dragondung, he's punishing Hermione while smugly sitting back - waiting to see what I'll do. If I rush to his office, proclaiming my innocence, he wins a small victory. If I contact my father and allow him to deal with it, again I appear weak. Accepting the punishment still works for him, because he gets some payback for all the trouble I've caused him."

He felt Hermione squeeze his hand before speaking proudly to him. "Those lessons with Sirius are really paying off."

Harry looked to Hermione before answering their head of house. "Master Flitwick, I won't be accompanying you to the headmaster's office. He knows that option is not available without my father present, or is old age affecting his mental health?"

Filius supposed he really shouldn't have been surprised that these two quickly spotted the trap Dumbledore had set. "I'll tell him, Centurion."

"You may also tell him this will not go unanswered. Using Hermione's birthday as a lever to get to me is about what we've come to expect from Dumbledore. It makes me wonder why I actually come here. Potions, defence and history are all organised by my father - and I'm teaching Professor McGonagall our method of transfiguration. No offence intended, Master Flitwick, but charms, herbology and astronomy can be tutored too - and I wouldn't have to put up with Dumbledore, Slughorn or Lockhart."

Filius left to deliver Harry's answer, knowing how much this must be hurting. He'd tried to explain to Dumbledore that, since goblins don't celebrate Christmas or any other holidays like that, a person's birthday was the most important day of the year. Knowing that this was Hermione's first birthday as Harry's mate made this an extra special occasion - not that he told the headmaster that last piece of news. Dumbledore had been supremely confident the threat to Hermione's party would quickly see Harry comply with whatever scheme he'd conjured up - Hermione had instantly taken that option away by declaring the party canceled.

The head of Ravenclaw didn't think Harry's threat to leave was an idle one either. To Harry, not being able to celebrate his mate's birthday would seem too high a price to pay for what the castle had to offer. Filius' main worry though was how many others he would take with him, and whether Hogwarts could survive the public outcry his leaving would generate - Dumbledore certainly wouldn't survive as headmaster. Knowing that fact just might be the thing that would finally tip Harry's hand - he may consider that a price worth paying to leave the castle.

Back at the now shocked Ravenclaw table, it was Padma who asked the question that a lot of people wanted to know the answer to. "Would you really leave Hogwarts, Harry?"

He could see the looks of disbelief from all around the table, a table that contained more than Ravenclaws as his friends had rallied round. He tried to explain his position. "Last year was the first time I ever celebrated Christmas, something I plan to do again this year. To a goblin, someone's birthday is the most important day of the year. What would you do if Dumbledore just announced that Christmas was canceled - made into just another day? You were in that class, that smarmy slug has been chasing after me since the express - am I just supposed to play along? I hate my fame, and am certainly not going to play along with anyone else trying to use it for their benefit."

It was a very nervous Padma who asked the next bit. "What about the rest of us?"

"My main reason for attending Hogwarts in the first place was to see if I could make some friends, I happen to think I've made some very good ones. Whatever I do, whether it's tutoring or another school, any of my friends who want to join me will be more than welcome."

"What about me?"

The quivering voice sounded as if its owner was close to tears, it was also so faint that Harry wasn't sure if he was supposed to hear it. A miserable Luna was not something Harry would ever tolerate - not when he could easily fix it.

"You weren't listening, Luna, I said those friends who want to join me will be more than welcome."

As the implications of what Harry said slowly dawned on Luna, her smile was like the rising sun - it just got brighter and brighter. Watching this, Harry felt he knew how to brighten up a few more of their friends. All were disappointed that the party was cancelled.

"I was keeping this as a surprise for Saturday, but now seems a good time to let you know. The third through to seventh years will all be able to hit Hogsmeade this weekend, most will be making preparations for the ball while we'll need to attend in what we brought to Hogwarts. I didn't think this was very fair so, as part of Hermione's birthday celebrations, there will be a squad of Gringotts tailors in the castle on Saturday morning. They will be bringing loads of suits and dresses in the style we wore to the summer ball, and they are exclusively for those who can't leave the castle. Namely, the first and second years. I would advise you to get down early as they will be working on a first come basis. They will have clothes for everyone, you may not get exactly what you want though if someone picks it first."

Morag was not alone in almost hyperventilating at that thought, she did though manage to express her thanks. "Harry, that's fantastic! I'll gladly wear anything they bring, but you didn't leave us much time to send home for the gold to buy them."

"Probably because you won't need gold, it's part of my gift to Hermione. For us to attend the ball dressed differently would make us stand out from the rest of you, not something we would intentionally do. At the same time, why should we let some of the older students attend the ball dressed finer than us. The solution was simple."

Even the smart Ravenclaws were struggling to understand this, Mandy needed confirmation. "So, you're buying us dresses as a birthday present for Hermione?"

"Yes, so Hermione can wear the new dress I got her to the ball..."

"Harry, you got me a new dress? I still have the one from summer..."

"...which has been all over the Prophet. Can't have people thinking I can't buy my girlfriend a new dress." This was said with such a smile that everyone understood the Prophet had nothing to do with it. Harry just wanted to buy Hermione a new dress - one that would probably see her become the belle of the ball - and was prepared to kit out everyone else in a similar fashion so she could wear it.

"Oh Padma, Parvati, Susan and Hannah, there are new dresses with your name on them too - Neville didn't get one though." This got a laugh from all of them as news of this quickly spread to all four houses.

-oOoOo-

Albus was waiting with Horace in his office, getting Harry to apologise to the head of Slytherin would be a good start. It would get Horace off his back and teach Harry a little humility, something the boy was sadly lacking in. It was a good job he was sitting down though as Filius entered the office alone.

"Filius, where is Harry?"

"Sitting chatting with his friends." The little professor refused to say another word, Filius was really angry with Albus and had no intention of making this easy.

Albus was struggling to believe the lad wouldn't rush up here. Harry had raced to the infirmary that night on the merest chance Miss Granger could be in danger. How could he possibly be still sitting with his friends? "Did you pass on my message?"

"Yes." The silence drew as Filius refused to say any more. If Albus wanted to treat him as a message boy, he would act like one.

"What was his response?"

"I believe he is currently debating with his friends why he bothers attending Hogwarts. Most of his classes are already tutored and he wouldn't need to endure two professors who want to use his fame - and a headmaster determined to assert control over his life. Personally, I can see his point."

Albus was so shocked at his miscalculation, he didn't even notice Minerva and Henrica entering his office. "...and Miss Granger's birthday party?"

"Oh, she saw right through you. Miss Granger refused to let it be a lever for you to control her boyfriend, she cancelled the party immediately."

Horace then totally misread the situation. "Well, if he apologises - my offer for Saturday night still stands."

Henrica exploded at that. "Dumbledore, where did you get this slimy bastard? He comes into my class, causes a rumpus and then goes running off to you with a story of big bad second years beating him up. Harry verbally destroyed this smarmy git, and his sluggy club. He was prepared to back those views up physically after this buffoon started shouting at Hermione. Slughorn's reputation is now shit even amongst the Slytherins, yet that's who you chose to back - instead of even talking to me. It was my class, it should be me you are summoning - not a student you are forbidden from speaking with."

"Kindly remember who you are speaking too, Professor Hobson..."

"...and you would do well to remember that I don't work for Albus Dumbledore - I would never have taken the job otherwise. If Harry is seriously considering leaving Hogwarts, you can bet he'll take his friends with him. I honestly don't know if the school could survive the publicity of that, I know you couldn't."

"No one will be going anywhere. Once Harry calms down and comes to his senses..."

This time it was Minerva who got ripped into the headmaster. "Harry was sitting laughing with his friends, there is no calming down for him to do. Judging by the amount of excitement being generated down there, I would guess Harry just announced his surprise. His father wrote to me requesting permission, I of course said yes."

The headmaster made no attempt to hide the sarcasm in his question. "Since I am the headmaster, don't you think I should be aware of this surprise?"

"Well, since you've left me to run the school for years, that would be a no. Harry has arranged for goblin tailors to come here Saturday morning, providing dresses and suits..."

"NO! I will not allow such a thing. Promoting goblin wares, while denying trade to the village of Hogsmeade cannot be allowed. I'm surprised at you, Minerva."

There was no way McGonagall was going to stand for that. "Perhaps if you would shut up and let me finish, you wouldn't be. These tailors are here specifically for all the first and second years - students not allowed to attend Hogsmeade. This is a service Centurion Crow is providing free of charge, all bills are being met by him."

The greed expressed in Slughorn's face was visible to all in the headmaster's office. "He's paying for new clothes for the entire two years' worth of students?"

Minerva didn't really try to hide the disgust she felt for Horace when answering him. "Yes, for some of these children, these will be the finest clothes they've ever owned. They will also attend their first ball, dressed as well as their peers - was I supposed to say no to an offer like that? On behalf of Hogwarts, I graciously accepted Barchoke's offer - and offered him our gratitude in return for making such a gesture. You thank him by forcing Miss Granger's party to be cancelled!"

Horace felt his situation was being ignored. "You can't have hoodlums threatening their professors with swords..."

An angry veela cut him off before any more could be said. "Point number one, Slughorn, you are not one of his professors and had no reason - other than your own personal gain - for approaching Harry in my class. Point number two, Harry never threatened you with his sword - which destroys your entire reason for running off to Dumbledore in the first place."

If looks could kill, Henrica would have been vaporised by the glare Horace was directing at her, the veela was unconcerned as she told the true story of what had happened in her class earlier. "Professor Slughorn here was loudly proclaiming the fate that would await us all when his friend, Voldemort, returned. Harry drew his sword to demonstrate exactly what was waiting on Voldemort should he return - at no point was Harry's blade anywhere near Sluggy. Was this the story you heard, headmaster?"

Albus now had his head in his hands, wondering how things had went so wrong - again. He understood that the game was over the instant Miss Granger had canceled her own party. With no leverage, Harry was always going to refuse his request. Now, he was in an even worst position, one that it was probably impossible for him to recover from. There was no way he could reinstate the party, any remaining credibility would be instantly destroyed - Albus might as well resign here and now.

He needed some leverage on Harry, anything at all he could use - and time was running out. There was no doubt there would be a full report on its way to the boy's father, Hobson would see to that. Amelia and Augusta would also be receiving full reports, only their sources would be different - both their charges were actually in the class.

"I suppose we should be grateful he hasn't withdrawn from next week's ball..."

Again Minerva cut off her boss. "He may not have withdrawn but already asked for a set of conditions. He won't sit near you or Lockhart, and refuses to be photographed with either of you - and that was before your latest escapade."

Henrica then added to their misery. "You both will also have his godfather to deal with when he comes here on Saturday. Sirius will not be pleased that a party he was invited to was forced to be canceled - you can expect an irate Lord Black to make his opinion known."

Filius followed both witches out the headmaster's office, leaving Horace to ask Dumbledore if he was still going to punish Harry.

"Horace, cancelling the party is punishment enough, especially since it's now emerging all the boy did was refuse your clumsy approach. Trust me, Horace, you don't want to push this any further. Sirius will be livid and Harry's father isn't exactly the forgiving type. My advice would be to stay well away from Harry, and even further from Miss Granger. Approach her again and you just might get a closer look at Gryffindor's famous sword."

It was a very disgruntled Horace who left the headmaster's office, he hadn't gotten one single thing he wanted. Albus hadn't either, but he was slowly getting used to that outcome when dealing with the boy-who-lived.

-oOoOo-

The birthday girl made her way down the stairs to the common room, finding herself engulfed in a pair of oh so familiar arms. Hermione made a startling discovery, getting kissed as a teenager was so much better as her boyfriend delivered her birthday kiss.

Harry was nuzzling into Hermione's hair as he wished her a happy birthday. "We may not be able to have a party, but I'm still hoping to make your day special."

Hermione was in Harry's arms so gave the only answer she could. "Harry, it's already special - you don't need to do any more."

"I know, but I want to. We better set off for our run, I have plans for the rest of the day."

"Harry, you know I don't like surprises..."

"Oh, I think you'll like these ones."

"Ones - as in more than one? C'mon, at least give me a clue? It is my birthday, you know."

"Ha-ha, Granger - nice try. Let's go!"

-oOoOo-

Showered and dressed in her duelling robes after her run, Hermione now found Padma and Luna waiting on her. Birthday hugs were followed by gifts, there was no joke item from her best friend this year. The book's title might have caused some raised eyebrows amongst muggles, to Hermione, 'the bonds of love' would be read from cover to cover - looking for information on the special bond she shared with her mate.

The present she received from their younger friend was exquisite, strange, yet very touching at the same time. Hermione found herself holding a flower that had been turned into glass crystal, reflecting the light in a rainbow of colours. That the flower was a dandelion was neither here nor there, Hermione's smile saw Luna's face glow with a happiness that outshone her gift.

"It's a family spell my mother taught me, that's the first time I've cast it not using her wand. My room at home is full of them."

"It's beautiful, Luna, thank you very much."

Harry's arrival saw them all head down to breakfast, to find a great hall almost bereft of first and second year students. Neville soon joined them, wishing Hermione a happy birthday and handing over his present. Opening the wrapping revealed an elaborately carved silver photo frame, Hermione was in tears at the inscription, never mind the subject matter. 'Friends Forever' was a precious gift to a girl who'd been friendless just over a year ago. The picture featured the four of them at the Black Sea, and Hermione remembered Augusta taking it. It was a wizarding picture that had them all laughing and clowning around for the camera, how happy they were was clearly projected from the frame.

The girls were so happy at this gift, Neville got a thank you kiss from both Hermione and Padma. Harry loved the gift too, but refrained himself to a comment. "Okay, Longbottom, way to set the present bar high."

"I'm sure you've got it covered, Harry. When gran showed me that photograph, I knew it would be perfect for this. I've got a copy for you and Padma too, mine is in a frame beside my bed."

Hermione had it sitting in the middle of the table and kept glancing at it as they ate breakfast, it was Padma who broached the subject of the missing students. "Where is everybody?.

"Well, the boys are queued outside Professor Flitwick's room, while the girls are waiting at Henrica's. New clothes for the ball are apparently more important than breakfast."

Neville's explanation had Padma looking toward Luna, she quickly answered the unspoken question. "Oh, I'm just happy to be going, I'll pop along later and pick up a dress."

"Well, we should be thankful for small mercies, at least we won't have Colin shoving his camera in our faces while he's waiting to get fitted for a suit. I swear some days I can still see flashes when I close my eyes. I think you should have a word with him, Harry..."

The blank looks coming from her fellow Ravenclaws generated the first twinge of unease in Padma. "He does follow you around, taking pictures when you least expect it?"

Hermione was shaking her head. "Not since the first day or so, he's calmed down since then..."

The giggles coming from Luna told them they were all missing something here, all except Neville. His head was down as he tried to eat his breakfast and blend into the surroundings.

Unease was quickly turning to alarm as Padma asked for answers. "Ok, Luna, what's going on?"

"Nothing at all, Colin is just sweet on you - very sweet!"

Padma's gaze shifted to Harry, he was clearly trying to stifle his laughter - and just as clearly didn't know about this beforehand. Hermione appeared as shocked as she felt but Neville still had his head down, refusing to met anyone's eyes. "Neville?"

That was enough to see his feeble defences crumble. "I'm sorry, I should have told you. I thought Parvati would have mentioned it."

It was an even more confused Padma who asked for some elaboration. "Parvati? What has she got to do with this?"

Neville was struggling with what to say so decided to just blurt it out. "Colin asked her if she could teach him to dance. He wanted to learn for Hermione's party, Colin also wanted to know what it would be like to dance with you..."

Padma visibly winced at that. "Ouch! I'll bet Parvati took that well?"

"I think she got him with three stinging hexes before Colin managed to make it up the stairs to his dorm. It's been a running joke in Gryffindor for almost a week now."

This news certainly didn't improve Padma's mood. "My sister is being made fun of - and you never mentioned it?"

This was greeted by Neville shaking his head. "It's more Colin they're ribbing, it's good natured though and he's fine with it. I tried to speak with Parvati about this, and got my head chewed off. She told me that she didn't need her sister's boyfriend looking out for her - and then told me to piss off."

While the other three were contemplating that, Luna focused their thoughts. "Fred and George are almost the one person, but you and your sister are very different. I could never mistake you for Parvati."

Padma decided she would need to speak with her twin later, Professor Weasley had arrived for their lesson.

-oOoOo-

Harry was receiving strange looks from his three friends as they found themselves once more in the room that had held the diadem. He offered an explanation. "Today's lesson will be a bit different. We've been learning how to detect threats, today we get a chance to use this. Last time we were in here, we didn't really have time to explore. This morning we will, and hopefully sort some of the treasure from the junk. Oh, anything that has Hermione's name on it is hers!"

This certainly got the birthday girl's attention. "You hid presents for me in here?"

A smiling Harry answered his enthusiastic mate. "Just some of them, Hermione."

The quartet started searching, with anything that caught their interest being checked first. Bill was also on hand to make doubly sure they didn't come across anything they couldn't handle. They were working in pairs when Padma's shout had Hermione running over to see what she'd found - a small box with Hermione Granger written on a gift tag.

Opening the box, she discovered a pendant that had a familiar design. A golden chain was attached to a two inch hoop of the same material. A beautifully carved golden crow had its wings spread in flight across the hoop, but held a golden heart in its claws - instead of a sword.

"I've got the badges ready for the marauders on Tuesday night, but I had this one made especially for you. Do you like it?"

"Harry, I love it! Will you put it on me?"

Hermione lifted her hair as Harry fastened the clasp before giving her a kiss. "Beautiful, now let's see if you can find the other one?"

That was all the motivation Hermione needed, soon finding her other hidden gift. The young witch's hands were trembling as she realised what the ancient book was she now held in her hands. "Harry?"

"Helena was disgusted that Dumbledore forced you to cancel your party, she hopes this will help make up for that. The goblin translation charm Professor Flitwick cast on you is in there too - along with quite a few others. Helena also knew you would really appreciate it."

What Hermione held in her hands was a gift beyond treasure, a notebook belonging to Helena's mother, Rowena Ravenclaw.

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