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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40. Surprise Birthday Guest

If you closed your eyes in the great hall of Hogwarts, it would be impossible to guess that seventy percent of the students were off having their lunch in Hogsmeade. The first and second year students, who had no choice but to remain in the castle, were generating enough noise and excitement to easily compensate for those missing. All had gotten new outfits this morning and were busily describing them to anyone who'd listen.

Hermione's eyes were currently closed, well, Henrica's hands over them meant she couldn't see anything. The oh's and ah's of the great hall's occupants alerted her that something was going on, then bursting into singing 'Happy Birthday' was also a rather large clue.

Henrica removing her hands left Hermione looking at a rather large cake, complete with thirteen candles - all waiting to be blown out. Sirius was levitating it to a space on the table right in front of her that her friends had cleared. She may have been blushing from all the attention but Hermione was one happy witch. Blowing the candles out resulted in much cheering, and a pile of plates appearing beside the monster cake. Hermione cut a few pieces for her friends before allowing Hogwarts to take over the distribution. Pretty soon, everyone had a piece.

With almost the entire first and second year sitting at the Ravenclaw table, Sirius and Henrica joined them. The marauder was far too jovial for the current situation, telling those who knew him that Sirius was up to something. They didn't have long to wait.

"Well, Miss Granger, I also have some presents for you. I am under strict instructions though not to hand them over unless the homework we gave you last week gets an outstanding."

Hermione wasn't alone in asking. 'homework?'

"Oh dear, I expected better from you four. What will we do about this situation, Professor Hobson?"

"Well, Lord Black, they really leave me no option. I'm so disappointed in you four, I think your attitude really needs to be worked on. We shall do that tonight when the four of you have detention with me. Don't bother with dinner, oh, and wear something nice."

Hannah may have started the giggling but it soon spread as more and more students realised exactly what was happening here. The loud laughter soon attracted an unwelcome visitor, the headmaster.

"I couldn't help overhearing professor that you gave four students detention for tonight, I hope you intend to have them doing meaningful work?"

Henrica had an answer ready for that particular question. "You mean like Professor Lockhart has students assist him with answering his fan mail? These four have been taking extra lessons on wizarding etiquette, Lord Black and I intend to ensure they don't embarrass us at the Merlin Ball next Saturday. We'll be working their socks off tonight."

"Forgive me for saying so, professor, but that sounds like a party to me. A party that you know I canceled."

"A party requires invited guests, headmaster, therefore this can't be a party. These four will be serving detention with us, that detention will consist of learning how to behave at a party. Of course, it will only be a simulation."

The sniggering from some of the pupils wasn't helping Albus' mood. "This appears to me to be a clear case of you attempting to undermine my authority as headmaster, something I can't allow..."

Sirius cut him off, though it was clearly Lord Black who stood to face Dumbledore. "I have with me the proper signed authority to take these four from Hogwarts right now. I would also like to add that this parchment doesn't contain a date for when they may return."

This had Albus in a cold sweat. "Might I see this signed authority?"

"If I have to take the parchment out of my pocket, it stays out - and these four leave with us. It's your call, headmaster, what do you want to do?"

It wasn't lost on the students that this was pretty much a similar decision to the one Harry had been forced into by the headmaster, only Dumbledore didn't have Hermione to help him out.

Albus was sorely tempted to call Black's bluff, but he couldn't be one hundred percent sure it was a bluff. The goblin would certainly sign the papers to allow Harry and Miss Granger to leave, the other parents had also holidayed over the summer with Black. He really couldn't take the risk of losing Harry over something so trivial, it would be forgotten by the time the Merlin Ball came around.

"Carry on, Professor Hobson." With that, Albus headed off to his office.

A delighted Hermione now pounced on Harry, leaving him to thank the person who made this possible. "Sirius, have I ever told you that you're the coolest godfather on the planet!"

Sirius was apologising to the other girls for not being able to give them 'detention' too -hence the large birthday cake at lunchtime.

Padma was delighted for her friend, and then she felt the tug on her sleeve. Parvati appeared in a right temper.

"Were you really going to just leave Hogwarts with them? Don't I count for anything anymore?"

"Pav, if I know Sirius, he doesn't have any such parchment in his pocket."

This didn't lessen Parvati's glare, or ire. "I notice you didn't answer any of the questions I just asked. I suppose that in itself is an answer!"

Padma watched her twin sister storm away, before Lavender spoke to her.

"I'll try and calm her down but she'd gone to a lot of trouble to get a date for Hermione's party. Hearing it was cancelled was bad enough. Now it's back on but she can't go..." Lavender didn't say the final part, both girls knew what she meant though. Parvati couldn't go - but Padma could. She felt a comforting arm slip around her shoulder and Neville's reassuring voice in her ear.

"It's not your fault, Padma, it isn't really Parvati's either. Dumbledore spoiled it for all of us. We both know Sirius would have everyone there if he could. Deep down, Parvati knows that too. When she cools down, she'll be sorry for what she said."

Neville found himself being kissed by Padma for the second time that day. "What did I do to deserve that?"

"Just for being you, and keep your arm there. If I have to protect you from witches, you can start repaying me by discouraging amorous first years - especially ones with cameras."

-oOoOo-

Hermione was having a wonderful time. A lovely meal had been shared by the six of them, now it was time to dance. Hogwarts had provided a room that was a lot more intimate than anything they were used to, next week's ball would be a much grander affair.

Harry glanced at the witch in his arms and smiled. "I did have contingency plans in place, you know, there was no way we weren't doing this on your birthday."

As they waltzed around the small dance floor, Hermione's curiosity was piqued. "Oh, and just what did you have planned?"

"Dinner for two, followed by dancing - in my room. I had already arranged with Hogwarts to remove the bed and gotten my hands on a wizarding wireless."

"That sounds lovely, though I'm sure Dumbledore would still have found something to complain about. No chaperone? - I can just see Slughorn volunteering..."

"Oh I had a chaperone arranged too, one that not even the headmaster could fault - Lady Helena."

Remembering her gift saw Hermione's eyes sparkle even more. "That would have given me a chance to thank her in private. Mentioning I've got one of her mother's notebooks would start a riot at the Ravenclaw table. You really get on well with her, don't you?"

"She's a very nice lady, I can kinda understand what it must have been like for her. I have the whole goblin / boy-who-lived rubbish to put up with, imagine trying to live up to being Rowena Ravenclaw's daughter? Recovering her diadem was a big relief from the guilt she had been carrying, you must have noticed she now smiles a lot more than she used to."

This had Hermione nodding. "I came down the other morning and she was sitting having a conversation with Luna, both looked really pleased with their chat..."

"I'm so sorry Luna couldn't be here tonight, she was really looking forward to going to a party..."

Hermione had another reason to regret her original party being canceled. "I hope Parvati doesn't give Padma too hard a time because she couldn't come here tonight, Sirius explained it to everyone..."

Harry was hoping that his final gift for Hermione went as well as the rest of her birthday. With this one though, he could only hope - and wait for Eargit's arrival in the morning.

-oOoOo-

Dan had Emma wrapped in his arms. They were siting on their sofa, watching Hermione's message replay on a loop setting. Both parents really missed their daughter, especially today, and this way it at least felt as if they got to see Hermione on her birthday.

"I still can't believe how much she's grown, or that she didn't have this written down - word for word."

"Her reading from a prepared script wouldn't have had anywhere near the same impact as this did. That is our Hermione, wearing her heart on her sleeve." This was not the first time Emma had disagreed with her husband over their daughter, it was time to face her own mistakes from that night.

"Dan, I'm so sorry. You had legitimate concerns for our daughter's safety and I just ignored them - and you. I saw Hermione breaking her heart and immediately cast you as the villain. Seeing the kids' reactions just scrambled my brains and I panicked too..."

Dan just held his wife closer, providing comfort as she cried into his chest. "Sirius wasn't the only one who noticed you 'mothering' those two boys. I know we always wanted more children, we only drew back from adopting when Hermione started having bouts of accidental magic - I wish we could have known that's what it was at the time."

Emma well remembered the numbing terror of thinking there was something wrong with their daughter, toddlers shouldn't be able to have their picture books floating to them.

Her husband's arms provided comfort as he attempted to analyse exactly what went wrong that night. "Our reactions were all pretty predictable, and it hurts even more because of that. I saw Hermione in danger, and tried to remove her from the threat. Hermione saw me trying to separate her from Harry, there was only one way she was ever going to react to that. You saw a distraught daughter, and mummy bear went into protecting cubs mode. We were all right, but at the same time all wrong."

As both contemplated their actions that night, they were interrupted by a knock at the door. That it was the back door immediately focused their attention, that door was now only used by people portkeying into the garden.

The quizzical glances were soon replaced by excitement as Emma had a thought. "Sirius? He must have had to bring the kids home..."

This had both racing to the back door, not realising Hermione wouldn't have knocked at her own home. Their visitor was the last person they expected to be standing there.

Noticing Emma had been crying, he asked if this was a bad time. The entire situation was awkward enough without adding anything else to the mix. Both Grangers quickly reassured their guest that this was not the case, inviting the goblin into their lounge - where the message from Hermione was still playing.

This halted Barchoke in his tracks, he was unable to take his eyes off Hermione pleading for her family to be put together again. As the recording ended, Dan stepped forward to stop the cycle repeating. He and his wife were wondering just what the goblin was doing in Crawley when Barchoke spoke.

"Children are a wonderful blessing, and sometimes we have to stand back and look at things from their perspective. We have Sirius providing lessons to them on wizarding culture, while you have done your best to equip them both to survive in the muggle world - as have I for our culture. In all that we made a terrible mistake, no one is teaching the parents about these cultures - cultures that are totally alien to us. Our children hope to be able to wrap their lives around all three, yet we are totally ignorant about two of them. I believe this was the basis for our misunderstanding, and really hope we can move forward from here."

This left Dan and Emma gobsmacked, and Barchoke wasn't yet finished with the shocks. "I understand from my son that not asking a girl's father for her hand is a serious breach of your protocol? On behalf of my son and I, I would like to offer our apologies for this. Harry assures me it is something he intends to put right, he will be asking your permission before they get engaged. I believe Hermione's seventeenth birthday was mentioned as a possible date for this event."

Dan had thought about what he was going to say to Barchoke but the goblin turning up here and apologising to him blew all his carefully considered words out through his ears. "Should Harry approach me with that question, my answer will of course be yes. I'm hardly likely to grill him about his future prospects, or whether he can support my little girl."

Emma held her breath at Dan's attempt at humour, especially at a time like this. A slight grin from Barchoke signalled that her husband had actually judged the mood right.

"You know fine well that the reason I'll be saying yes is I truly believe what Hermione said in her message to us, their bond indicates they could search the entire country and not find anyone more suited. They make each other happy, and what more could a father ask for? I should have taken the time to see that, instead of acting the way I did. For that, I too am sorry."

The goblin nodded his acceptance. "Harry also sent a message to me, saying that an Ambassador has to be able to see both sides of any arguments, and then negotiate a settlement that lands somewhere in the middle."

"Is that why you're here?" Emma just had to ask.

"My son's words made me stand back and think, it was something else though that brought me here tonight. I asked Harry what I could get my daughter for her birthday, he replied that putting our family back together again would be the greatest gift I could give Hermione. From what I saw of her message my son was right."

The shocked silence this was greeted with by both Grangers saw Barchoke think he'd overstepped the mark. "I'm sorry if I got it wrong by calling Hermione my daughter..."

Emma's hand on his arm stopped him saying any more. "Providing you don't mind us considering Harry as our son too, I certainly have no problems with that." Dan's nod of agreement saw a lot of the tension leave the room.

"Stay and celebrate our daughter's birthday with us. There is so much we need to talk about, so much we still don't know about each other. Let's sit and chat, and try to ensure something like that evening will never happen again." Dan's words started the rebuilding of their family. That it was being developed on the love each parent had for their children meant their family was being rebuilt on a strong foundation, and would rise like a Phoenix from the ashes - reborn and be even stronger than before.

-oOoOo-

Hermione could see Harry was nervous about something as they headed down to breakfast, she couldn't think of any reason for this and resolved to ask him about it as soon as they were alone. Eargit's arrival saw that anxiety spike before Harry's face wore a wide smile. She couldn't contain her curiosity any longer. "Harry, anything you want to tell me?"

Switching to his own language, Harry gave his bonded her final present for her birthday. ""My father asked what he could get his daughter for her birthday, I told him putting our family back together would be a great gift. He celebrated your birthday in Crawley last night, with your mum and dad.""

Hermione had been blown away with the stud earrings Sirius brought from Barchoke, her 'real' gift though left her speechless. Fortunately, she didn't need words to display how much that news meant to her. Leaning forward, she gave Harry a kiss that contained all the love she felt for her wonderful mate.

There were witches sitting at the Ravenclaw table who still harboured hopes of dating the boy-who-lived, those hopes died as they witnessed that kiss. It wasn't by any means a snog-fest, it wasn't even passionate. There was just so much love and tenderness expressed between the couple by this simple act that you would need to have been really stupid to harbour any hope that these two weren't a very serious couple - and stupid people didn't get to wear the blue and bronze of Ravenclaw.

Padma hadn't noticed Harry's anxiety, though could hardly miss him conversing with Hermione in his own language. Her fears were immediately quashed by Hermione's reaction to whatever the news was, it was now time to tease. "Okay, now you two have gotten that out of your system, care to share the good news?"

Hermione's eyes never left Harry's as she gave her friend enough information to fill in any blanks. "Harry's father celebrated my birthday with my mum and dad last night."

This saw Padma dive on both of them, knowing how much this meant to her friends, the comment from Roger followed on close behind. "Any news you'd like to share there, Harry?"

"Only that I am one lucky guy, Roger."

"Sitting there with two girls hugging you at breakfast, it's kinda hard to disagree with that."

This drew some laughs and Harry was quite prepared to joke right back. "Patil hugs are only surpassed by those from a Granger, though I don't think Neville would agree with me!" Seeing Padma blush at that just added to their good mood, she teased Harry and Hermione enough to warrant some gentle payback. Bill's arrival signalled it was time to get serious, they were all up for their lesson today.

-oOoOo-

Crow's Marauders were also up for their lesson on Tuesday evening. Having them swap activities last week meant tonight was the time to put those lessons into practice. They were split into teams of four, wherever possible ensuring that each team had a member of the four houses and was a balance of the sexes. They were then involved in a round-robin tournament that whittled them down to four teams. A semi-final and final soon followed.

Luna's team actually reached the final, and she was the last member standing. Unfortunately there were still two left from the other team and she got tagged taking one of the pair out. There was loud cheering from all present and the winners got a bar of Honeyduke's finest chocolate. The four friends ended the evening by handing out the club badges to all members, leaving a lot of extremely happy first years heading back to their dorms.

Henrica walked back with them as the quartet also headed back, they were discussing what had worked, what hadn't and who had excelled.

Neville was shaking his head at Colin's antics. "He's bought into the whole 'brave Gryffindor' persona, that's why he keeps charging right into battle. His curses are accurately cast but, against four opponents, you are always going to get hit. I think we need to start using stinging curses, that should discourage that behaviour a lot more than a blob of colour that disappears. In any real fight, his tactics would see him hit every time."

Hermione found herself agreeing. "He's agile enough to be good at evading, he just doesn't seem to want to. There were a few more who acted the same."

Harry had experience of this phenomenon from his own training. "When you make training fun, there's a tendency to treat it like a game. Goblins are taught with wooden swords but are moved onto real blades as soon as the've mastered the basics. I agree with Neville, nothing focuses your mind more than knowing your opponent is trying to do you an injury with their weapon. I think we would then need to cut it down to pairs though, having eight first years firing off stinging hexes at the same time is a recipe for disaster."

The three claws entered their common room to hear the first years raving about their lesson, and proudly displaying their badges. Harry needed his lightning fast reflexes when a curse suddenly came flying at them, he deflected it harmlessly into the ceiling while Padma and Hermione took down their attacker with a couple of very accurate stunners.

Roger woke to find himself flat on his back, and the sword of Gryffindor resting under his chin. "I would like an explanation, Davies, and I would like it now."

The explanation didn't help the trio. "...and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we need them to train us in defence. I'm a fourth year, near the top of my year too, yet three second years easily handled my surprise attack - before handing me my arse. You might also notice that every wand in first and second year is currently pointing at me, now that is how it's supposed to be."

Harry felt a gentle hand on his shoulder as Penny spoke to him. "It's okay, Harry, I've got this. Professor Flitwick turned down their request for extra defence lessons. He said it would cause problems with the other houses if these lessons were only available for Ravenclaws, and he doesn't have the time to basically do the job Lockhart's already being paid to do. Roger here, however unwisely, was trying to prove a point that you were our next best option."

"I expected to get taken down, but not that easily. What did I do wrong?"

Harry sheathed his sword before helping his friend to his feet. "Your curse was powerful enough but your aim was slightly off. It was going to hit my shoulder, making it easier to dodge, but I knew Padma was behind me. I deflected it upward to be safe."

Padma then joined the critique. "You fired a curse and then just stood there, waiting to see what would happen next. Against multiple opponents you should have continued to cast, and been on the move at all times."

This was normal procedure for the Ravenclaw trio, they did it after every fight. The rest of the house though watched on in astonishment as Hermione continued ripping Roger's technique to shreds. As he was the one who ended up on the ground, they couldn't find fault with one word of it. "You also didn't use any of the advantages your ambush site provided. There is big heavy furniture and doorways to provide cover, you didn't use any of it."

"Okay, I'm now more convinced than ever I need some defence lessons from you guys. Any time, any place, just say the word and I'll be there."

Roger's pleading meant Harry was always going to cave on this one. "We have the ball on Saturday, you get a list together of those who want to be involved and we'll see what we can do next week."

The older wizard now had his arm around Harry's shoulders. "Thanks Harry, I knew we could count on you..." Roger now had a puzzled look on his face as he removed his arm and prodded Harry on the chest. "Merlin, Harry, you're solid! What the hell do you eat to get like that?"

"Mister Davies, would you kindly stop prodding my boyfriend? You don't get like that from eating, rather years of hard work. I happen to like it - very much!" She now had her arms wrapped about Harry as Roger appeared more embarrassed over this than getting stunned.

Penny then dragged him away for a severe bollocking, explaining in no uncertain terms what would happen the next time he fired a curse in the common room. The second year trio got their books out and joined the rest of their yearmates in some studying before bed. It was potions first thing tomorrow and no one wanted to enter that class unprepared - checking that everyone knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing had become a bit of a ritual the evening before Master Pitslay's classes.

-oOoOo-

Gilderoy had something of a dilemma on his hands. He so wanted to attend the Merlin Ball, Gilderoy had the exact outfit in mind. The problem was that, as a guest of honour, he would be obliged to wear an Order of Merlin. He'd worried the problem like a dog with a bone before finally getting to the marrow of the problem. Gilderoy had narrowed it down to two choices, each option though was not without risk.

His first was to feign illness. This was risky in that Hogwarts had its own healer on the premises and his presence at the ball was sure to be missed. There was also the fact that Gilderoy really wanted to go to the ball.

His other option was to attend and just bluff his way through the evening. This was his favourite option for two reasons. The first one was obvious, he got to attend the ball. The second was also self-explanatory. The gullible wizarding public had been swallowing the shite he'd been passing off as the truth for years, why should Saturday night be any different?

-oOoOo-

Harry felt different as he walked down to breakfast and it wasn't hard to work out why. He was wearing his tunic as normal on a weekend, his sword was at his hip, his epaulettes were displayed on his shoulders, his centurion bands - as well as Hermione - were on his arm. The only difference was the award worn on his chest, and yet it seemed to change everything.

Hermione had given him his morning kiss, but then said he looked so handsome. He himself felt like a warrior on parade, awaiting an inspection from the director. Harry thought letting Henrica borrow his award to display to her classes would have lessened the effect but people were certainly treating him differently - almost reverently. He wondered if this was how Dumbledore became so detached from reality. Harry had this reaction for less than an hour and already knew he didn't like it, Dumbledore had been receiving this treatment for decades.

Harry also had friends who would quickly put him right if his head started getting too big. Padma would soon puncture an inflated head with a few well-aimed barbs, and he didn't even want to think what Hermione's reaction to any arrogance on his part would be.

On entering the great hall, custom dictated Harry headed for the staff table. Harry added the centurion salute to his bow to the headmaster, a fellow Order of Merlin holder. His award shining brightly on the dark purple robes that could almost have been classed as demure for Dumbledore.

Whatever Harry's dispute with the headmaster, it was irrefutable that Dumbledore had earned his Order of Merlin, First Class, the hard way. He had been a great warrior for the light once, though appeared to have lost his way as he'd aged.

"Well met, Headmaster."

"A good morning to you too, Centurion." Albus had stood and returned the bow. If nothing else, the award pinned to the lad's tunic deserved it. "It would appear the third member of our exclusive group has yet to join us for breakfast. Since I know you have lessons for the rest of the day, I'm sure you can leave the formalities until tonight's ball." Both Harry and Albus were smiling as he headed back to the Ravenclaw table. That in itself was something of a major achievement.

When Bill arrived for their lesson, a quick word saw Harry reach a decision. "Roger, you're with us. If you want to learn so badly that you'll ambush us in the common room, I think it's time you learned what you're letting yourself in for."

Roger was out of his seat like a shot, following them out the hall. Lockhart never made an appearance at breakfast.

The defence professor was also conspicuous by his absence at lunch, as was Roger Davies. It was actually Cho who worked up the courage to ask where he was. This enquiry was greeted with four smiles before Harry answered.

"He's in his room, probably sleeping by now. Will someone make sure to wake him in time for tonight's ball? Oh, and do it early enough to make sure he has plenty of time for a hot bath, best thing for sore muscles."

"What did you do to him?"

Padma resented that question, she didn't even see who asked it but that didn't matter. "We didn't do anything to him, he just wanted to do the same lesson as us. Roger spent the last half hour of the lesson lying exhausted on the floor. We do this for six hours every weekend, Roger thought he could dive right in and do the same, he's physically and magically exhausted but should feel better after a few hours sleep. We have another set of lessons to go yet - and then the ball!"

No more questions were asked, though Roger would be well and truly quizzed later.

-oOoOo-

Harry was left questioning his eyesight as Hermione floated down the stairs to meet him, he knew his mate was beautiful but this was just too much. Her blue dress just did something that melted his insides. A gentle kiss of greeting got his brain into gear once more and he offered Hermione his arm. His 'my lady' comment wasn't missed by anyone there either, Hermione was certainly his lady.

Harry then offered his other arm to Padma. "Miss Patil, may I escort you to your date? I wouldn't want anyone to get the idea you were available, Neville would be most upset."

The trio led the students of Ravenclaw house toward the seventh floor, where quite a crowd had gathered. The headmaster, and most of the staff, were waiting on them - along with the Lady Helena.

Harry bowed deeply to the ghost. "My Lady, please thank Hogwarts for providing the room tonight."

Helena's voice held some mirth as she replied. "Hogwarts is very pleased with the changes her champion is instigating, and welcomed the idea of the entire school being able to celebrate on this special day. I would like to propose that the last Saturday in September be set aside to make this an annual event, it certainly gets the school year off to a magnificent start. We've never seen the students so happy and think this should be encouraged."

Albus quickly stepped in to gain some more much-needed positive points with the students. "I think that is a tremendous idea and will certainly add it to the school calendar for future years."

The evening was off to a flier and Harry hadn't even opened the room yet. When he did, more than a few jaws hit the floor. The room surpassed anything they had seen before.

Yes it was slightly bigger than the great hall but Hogwarts had solved the accommodation problem using a different method. There was a stage for the band located in one corner of the square room, with tables that held twelve all around the sides. Above those tables was a series of balconies that, except for above the stage, surrounded the hall. The entire room was of a grandeur that hadn't been seen since the hight of the Baroque period, and outside of a royal palace. Harry couldn't help but think that was appropriate, since the girl on his arm was like a princess to him. This also meant the period dress of the first and second years now fitted right in.

An ornamental and exquisitely carved fountain occupied the middle of the dance floor with all the hall's carvings and gold trimmings being highlighted by twenty magnificent crystal chandeliers.

There was more than a glint of humour from the Ravenclaw ghost as she jokingly enquired if the room would do, Harry's answer though showed just how much he had picked up from Sirius' lessons.

"My Lady, I appreciate Hogwarts' attempt to match the beauty of my date, it was a valiant attempt." No living person had ever heard the Grey Lady laugh before, the delightful and almost musical sound had everyone considering they would need a more appropriate name for the Ravenclaw ghost. When Helena smiled, there was nothing grey about the ghost who'd clearly been a great beauty when alive.

"We thought the first, second and third years would appreciate the balconies, allowing them to see everything that happens - without feeling obliged to dance if they don't want to."

This proved a really popular suggestion as the lower years headed for the staircases.

Dumbledore was not alone in being surprised at just how much control this second year had over the castle, or how much the Lady Helena had changed.

Hannah and Susan had invited Ernie and Justin to be their dates for Hermione's cancelled party, they naturally just continued that arrangement for the ball. Parvati surprised them by arriving on the arm of Blaise Zabini, though Padma made sure there were two seats next to her available for her twin and her date.

Colin was rather chivalrously about to give up his own place at Harry's table to allow Ginny and Luna to join them, when Hogwarts increased the size of their table. Not only was there a place for Colin, there were two as-yet unoccupied place settings. That puzzle was soon solved by the arrival of Henrica and Sirius.

"Do you mind if we sit with you lot for the evening? Downstairs is just so...what in the name of Merlin is that?"

His godfather's exclamation had everyone at the table turning to see what had caused this outburst. Not that every eye wasn't now turned in that direction anyway - just as he'd expected. If there was one thing Gilderoy knew how to do, it was make an entrance - and what an entrance!

He'd timed it to perfection, everyone else had arrived but dinner had yet to be served. He stood there in what Gilderoy considered a heroic pose, allowing everyone to get a good look at him. His black patent leather boots hugged his calves to just below his knees, their heels adding an inch and a half to his height. Those same boots melted into a pair of purple breeches that had bright red cavalry stripes down the side, they also gave new definition to the phrase 'tight'. The bulge at his groin caused Luna to ask if he wasn't staying for dinner, since he'd brought his own lunch box.

His royal blue bum freezer jacket had more gold braid than a dozen admirals and he actually wore a leather scabbard - containing his wand instead of a sword. His ridiculous ensemble was completed by a short fur-lined cape, jauntily worn over one shoulder. There was no way Gilderoy Lockhart was going to hide his trademark golden locks under any kind of hat.

Harry audibly groaned, knowing what was required of him now. He stood to find Hermione right beside him, the grip on his arm saying she was accompanying him.

"If he tries to grab my boyfriend again, I'm going to introduce him to my blade." This drew smiles from all around the table, they all knew Hermione was really going down there to drag Harry off the prat if he started anything. They just hoped she let him beat Lockhart up a bit first - beat up a lot worked for them too.

The couple found the headmaster waiting at the bottom of the stairs, together they walked toward the still posing professor. "Excuse me, Professor Lockhart, I fail to spot your Order of Merlin amongst the rest of the paraphernalia you're currently wearing."

Hermione had a closer view than anyone else but she was sure those in the hall were reaching the same conclusion as she was. Dumbledore wore his award with pride, and effortlessly projected the image of an elder statesman. Harry on the other hand looked the epitome of a young warrior, even as he walked toward Lockhart you could see he was ready for instant action.

Lockhart on the other hand had deliberately aimed for a military theme, something again he had no right to. He'd gone for hussar, and ended up with bizarre! He looked like someone who'd been kicked out of the Village People for being too outlandish, Hermione wondered if she could get the band to play Y.M.C.A.

Gilderoy then unveiled his master plan, and his 'award'. "Ah, headmaster, I was sure you would notice that. When the Merlin committee were debating my award, it was mentioned that my greatest wish was world peace. They then struck my award especially for me."

The defence professor then indicated a gold peace symbol hanging from a scarlet ribbon, a symbol that was recognised even in goblin society. Hermione had also spotted an 'I heart N.Y.' medallion hanging from a piece of ribbon too. While Harry and even Dumbledore were struck dumb by the audacity of the wizard, Hermione's mind went into hyperdrive. She moved her own medallion onto her dress, just above her heart, and a quick sticking charm saw it held there.

"How silly of me, I forgot to wear my Order of the Avis, First Class. The awards committee knew my greatest wish too, a golden crow holding my heart. The Second Class award is of course silver, and features a sword. Can we assume the committee also knew of your allergy to bronze, and made your Third Class award out of gold instead?"

Albus was actually enjoying watching these two take someone else apart for a change, that was until he noticed the glints of silver from above. Miss Granger's actions had set off a chain reaction amongst the first years. It would appear as if every single one of them had brought their badges to the ball, all now wore them on their jackets and dresses like Miss Granger.

Devotion like that reminded Albus of another young man, though Tom was in fourth year before he began gathering followers around him. Harry already had first year wrapped up, along with the vast majority of second. With the Weasley twins and the Davies boy, they were making inroads into fourth too! Albus couldn't help but hear the Ravenclaw boy raving about the defence lesson he attended this morning, his claim that he had learned more in those three hours than his previous three years at Hogwarts was certainly being believed.

He almost opened his mouth to say something before deciding to let Lockhart be the one to put his foot in it tonight, and Lockhart duly obliged. Totally missing the sarcasm from Miss Granger, he quickly confirmed her suspicion that he was indeed allergic to bronze.

The three walked away, leaving Lockhart thinking that once again he'd fooled everyone. Thanks to Henrica's lessons, the entire student population now knew Lockhart's outrageous claims were a pile of shit. That neither Harry nor the Headmaster bowed to Lockhart also indicated that they both knew that too. The only one fooled was the fool himself, Gilderoy Lockhart.

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