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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54. Treason Is Such An Ugly Word

Hermione felt a sense of real contentment, and slowly began to realise why - she was waking up snuggled into Harry. They had left the hospital last night and Sirius had brought them to Crawley. Dobby was soon whipping up something for them to eat as they told their story to her mum and dad before both she and Harry headed off to bed. Her last memories were of checking to see if Harry was okay with what had happened, and she supposed they had then fallen asleep together.

"Morning, looks like someone didn't make it back to their own bed?"

She gave Harry a peck on the cheek in greeting, Hermione was happy to be here though nervous about the circumstances that led to it. "I hope it was mum who put this blanket on us, and not one of the elves. I would hate mum or dad to think we were sneaking about..."

Betsy arrived with a pop. "Not to worry, mistress, the missies covered both of you after finding you sleeping. Betsy and Dobby weren't sure what to do, we didn't want to wake mistress because she looked so peaceful."

"That's fine, Betsy, you did exactly the right thing..."

Two glasses of orange juice appeared on Harry's nightstand as Dobby got in on the act.

They sat up in bed, drinking juice and discussing the upcoming day. "I don't think we can return to Hogwarts today. You heard the minister last night, Nott is going on trial today at an emergency meeting of the Wizengamot. I need to make an appearance as Centurion Crow, and be at father's side."

"I want to be there too, perhaps Sirius will take me?"

Harry thought that was a good idea and agreed they should ask him, before voicing his concerns about another matter. "If they went after my father, I'm worried they might think your parents are a softer target. We know they can't get anywhere near this house, not without the nation rushing squads of warriors to Crawley, it's when Dan and Emma are outside of here I'm worried about..."

A knock at the bedroom door saw Emma enter, she was smiling as she sat on the bed beside them. "I didn't mean to eavesdrop but I heard our names mentioned just before I knocked. Is there anything we need to know?"

"Nothing specific, I'm just worried about you both when you leave the safety of this house. I don't know if we could ward where you work, perhaps emergency portkeys would be a better option - it's certainly something I'll be talking with Father about. It may be nothing, but far better to be careful and put some precautions in place."

"You and Barchoke haven't steered us wrong yet, Dan and I will certainly take your advice on this matter. I hate to ask this but I think it's something we need to talk about, since it would have such an effect on all of us. What would have happened if the attack yesterday had been successful?"

Harry understood why Emma was asking this question, it didn't make answering it any easier. Hermione burrowing into his side gave him the support needed to deal with this. "Politically, it would have depended on the ministry's response. If they had then gone after the death eaters, and really sorted the problem, they might have been able to avert a war. Otherwise, Centurion Crow would be right at the front of the fight. At that point, the Grangers would be better getting out of the country - you would be right in the middle of a war that wasn't yours..."

"Never, Harry..."

Harry gently placed his finger on her lips, stopping his mate before she could get a head of steam up. "Hermione, don't you remember, we had this discussion. Goblin females can't be warriors, as a witch you're underage and, as for muggles, it's not their fight. I would need all three of you well out of it..."

She removed Harry's finger, determined to have her say. "The discussion I choose to remember is the one where I said you couldn't ask that of me, anything but that, Harry."

Having asked the question more to discover what would happen to Harry if he lost his father, his answer had taken her aback. Emma could see the raw emotion expressed between them, she also thought it was better if this was openly discussed amongst all of them. "Would you really fight against witches and wizards, Harry?"

"A wizard murdered my mum and dad. If another wizard then assassinated my father, I would certainly have cause to. I am a Centurion though, and Hermione was present the day I swore a blood oath to defend the Nation. If the Nation goes to war, I'll do the same as every one of its centurions and warriors, I will fight!"

Hermione had, of course, known how Harry would react if the nation went to war, she gave her mother another piece of information to help save her worrying too much. "Both Amelia and the Minister knew what Harry would do, too. You could see it last night at the hospital. That's why this will be dealt with very quickly, the ministry is desperate to show Harry and the Nation they can take care of this problem."

Dan then sauntered into Harry's room. "Politics before breakfast? I thought you two would have been fencing by now?"

It was a sheepish Hermione who answered her father. "We overslept."

"Well, let's get changed to meet the day and then have breakfast together. Sirius will be here soon and it will be interesting to see what the Prophet makes of yesterday. We got so used to reading your newspaper that Dobby now gets us a copy. It actually helps that we have met a lot of the people that are mentioned daily in its pages."

Taking that as her cue to go to her own room, Hermione scooted out of there to exchange her pyjamas for something more suitable to go down to breakfast with. She needn't have worried though, her father was much more concerned with asking Harry a question about the ramifications of yesterday than saying anything about her falling asleep in her mate's arms. "Do you really think there would have been a war between wizards and goblins?"

"We've been prepared for one since I entered Hogwarts, Dan. I've been breaking ministerial laws right, left and centre - and have only been getting away with it because the ministry dosen't want to acknowledge that I'm a goblin. That they're now actually changing some of those laws is what prompted yesterday's attack, a backlash from bigoted purebloods desperate to put a stop to these reforms."

This was something neither parent could remember hearing from Harry before, leading Dan to ask the obvious question. "Why would you deliberately break ministerial laws?"

"We knew Voldemort wasn't really dead, and his death eaters were all poised in important positions awaiting his return. The ministry didn't have this information because Dumbledore kept it a secret, and we couldn't tell them because goblins are barred from interfering in wizarding affairs. Had Voldemort returned and then risen to power, the Nation would certainly have gone to war when he then turned his attention onto Gringotts. This was the lesser of two evils for us, and had been working far better than we could have dared hope - up until yesterday."

The mere thought of her boy having to go to war had tears forming in Emma's eyes. "...but why you, Harry, why does it always have to be you who's in danger?"

A surprisingly strong arm slipped around Emma's shoulders. "...because I'm the only one who can, mum, the ministry wouldn't give a shit about what happened to any other goblin."

Lifting her hand, she tenderly brushed his long black hair away from his face. "I've only just gotten a son, I can't lose him - I won't lose him. Tell me this is going to be sorted without a war?"

"As Hermione said, the ministry are desperate to appease us. Nott is certainly going down, as will anyone who helped him, but it's what they do about the death eater problem that will really determine how this turns out. Nott was a member of the Wizengamot, at the very heart of their government - the minister really has to take action to ensure that can't happen again. Whether that same Wizengamot will allow him to could determine all our futures. That's why Hermione and I decided to give Hogwarts a miss today, we really need to be there."

"Will it be safe?"

"I think the only blood spilled on the floor will be political, Amelia will have her aurors there to make sure of that - otherwise I wouldn't be letting Hermione anywhere near the place." Harry had lowered his voice as he said that last part, but obviously not enough.

"I heard that, Crow, we'll discuss it over breakfast. What's keeping you lot?" A now dressed Hermione re-entered the room to find her tearful mother holding onto Harry and her dad looking worried. "Seriously, I leave you alone for a few minutes and my mum makes a move on my boyfriend! Mrs Granger, kindly unhand my mate." Hermione's smile let them all know this was her attempt at humour.

Unable to resist, Dan reached out and ruffled his daughter's hair before cracking a joke. "Seriously, I think that Padma Patil is a bad influence on you!"

"Oh, it's not Padma, that was me trying out my goblin sense of humour..."

For some reason, this just cracked Harry up with laughter.

"It wasn't that funny! Okay, Harry, enough..." This was just making him laugh all the harder though.

"You're finally getting it, Hermione, you're more goblin than you think."

With that, Dan and Emma headed off to get themselves ready for their day, leaving their daughter impatiently tapping her foot as Harry still rolled about the bed with laughter. Both thought that, after the last twenty four hours, laughter was exactly what Harry needed.

-oOoOo-

Harry and Hermione missing at breakfast inside Hogwarts was certainly noticed. Most had now heard his father had been attacked in the ministry though it wasn't until the Prophet arrived that all the details became known.

Ron was so upset, he really couldn't face his breakfast. There was his father's picture on the front page, the signs of battle all around him as Arthur Weasley publicly thanked Ambassador Barchoke for saving his life. Home schooling was looming for Ron, after attacking the son of the goblin who was the only reason his father was still alive - that wasn't what was really leaving him uninterested in food though.

He had charged Crow in a rage and swung his best punch, connecting with nothing but air. Ron still didn't know how he ended up flying through that same air as it all happened so fast. Crow though was in total control of every move he made, and that left Ron Weasley with no appetite. Not only had he believed Crow when he said that next time it would cost him a body part, Ron now knew with utter certainty that he would be helpless to stop Crow carrying out his threat. The lesson that Crow was not to be messed with had finally sunk in to his thick skull, he just hoped it wasn't too late and he could still remain at Hogwarts.

Theo Nott was currently questioning his decision to stay at Hogwarts, the entire school now knew what his father had attempted - he felt as if the walls were closing in on him. Help actually came from an unexpected source, Pansy put a comforting hand on his arm before offering some words of hope.

"It will get better, Theo. Trust me, I know. Providing you had nothing to do with this, Harry won't hold a grudge - and we both know the rest of Hogwarts will follow his lead. He's even helping Draco and me - and that after Lucius almost got all of them killed with that bloody diary."

Millicent thought this would be a good time to confirm some strange rumours she'd heard, and perhaps divert a little of their house's attention away from Theo. "Is it true then that they even have the two of you acting like a pair of muggles?"

The smile and enthusiasm that Pansy answered with was a shock to everyone who was now listening, which included most of Slytherin house. "We spent New Year's Eve at a private party organised by Lord Black. Yes it was on a muggle boat and all the staff were muggles too! We spent that evening being served delicious food and dancing to a wonderful band while cruising up and down central London. At midnight, there were fireworks along the embankment and it was easily the best party I've ever been to. The waiters served us these fruit cocktails that were non alcoholic and simply divine, they even had little paper umbrellas sticking out them - I actually saved a couple as souvenirs when Hermione told me they would just be binned. Her mum was taking pictures and we'll see them when they return..." Pansy trailed off at that, not wanting to remind Theo why the couple weren't currently in the castle.

These remarks coming from the pureblood princess Pansy Parkinson silenced the Slytherin table, then Daphne got in on the act too. "My young sister and I had a wonderful time at Lord Black's engagement party, are you saying New Year's was better than that?"

"Oh Daphne, London is so much bigger than just the bits we normally see - beautiful too! It was such an intimate and romantic evening, and starting the New Year dancing with Draco made it one of the best experiences of my life."

That Pansy spoke so glowingly of something that was, in effect, muggle certainly alerted a few Slytherins to the not so subtle changes that were beginning to effect all of them.

Padma and Luna were busy reading the part where the reporter had interviewed a witch that Barchoke had been injured saving, or rather saving both the witch and her young daughter. Both girls had no trouble imagining Barchoke putting his life on the line to save a child. It got better as they read, since it turns out it was the little girl's birthday and, after a special treat, she had just been heading back home from having lunch with her auror father in the ministry restaurant. Both girls knew how goblins felt about a person's birthday and reading that would certainly perk Barchoke up. The now four year old witch could be seen peeking round from where she was hiding behind her mother as the press photographer had taken their picture.

-oOoOo-

It had taken all Barchoke's persuasive powers to have him entering the Wizengamot chamber without being accompanied by a squad of warriors, Ragnok had been incensed over the assassination attempt on the Nation's Ambassador. He had managed to convince the director that, with his son at his side and their assistant ambassador at his back, he would be safe. Barchoke's arm was currently in a sling, both sets of healers didn't want him using it for a day or so to given his shoulder time to heal.

Harry was in his centurion uniform, with his helmet tucked under his arm as he walked beside his father. Those green eyes scanned the entire chamber as he effortlessly appeared every inch the warrior who was alert for any threats. Bill was behind them with his father waiting inside the chamber. That there were only three chairs at the table set aside for them was immaterial, Harry placed his helmet on the table before taking a watchful position behind his now seated father.

None in the chamber could miss the statement that was being made here, just as none could object to it. It would be difficult to justify removing someone's bodyguard when a member of this very chamber had already tried to kill them, that his bodyguard was the boy-who-lived would make any decision along those lines doubly difficult - if not bloody impossible.

Amos opened the proceedings before adding that he was really pleased to see their three guests fit and able to attend here today. Taking the line of ignoring Harry's presence set the tone for everyone else.

It was then Amelia's turn to move the proceeding's forward, Nott appearing from the floor, shackled to a chair and inside an iron cage certainly achieved that.

"Yesterday afternoon, an attempt was made to assassinate the ambassador of a sovereign nation friendly to this government, an act that could have seen our society plunged into war. Three of the attackers were under the imperius curse, a fact that has since been verified by questioning all three while under veritaserum - something they voluntarily agreed to. As our laws justly state, these three were not responsible for their actions and will face no criminal charges."

This was greeted with nods of agreement and a few calls of 'here, here'.

"Theodore Nott Senior is an entirely different matter. He too claimed to be under the influence of the imperius, though exhibited none of the symptoms. He also refused to be questioned under veritaserum, claiming this was his right as a member of the Wizengamot. While correct that Wizengamot members can claim their word should be believed, there is one situation that cuts right through that privilege."

Harry's hand was resting on the hilt of his sword, his grip tightened as he noticed others slowly making their way into the chamber - only relaxing when realising that Amelia had wisely decided to flood the chamber with aurors. With his mate, father and godfather here today, Harry thought that was an outstanding decision. Amelia's next sentence provided Harry, and the entire chamber, with their first clue as to why she thought this action was necessary.

She approached the prisoner and spoke directly to him. "Theodore Nott, I am giving you this final opportunity to voluntary accept veritaserum, otherwise I shall be forced to charge you with treason..."

This started uproar amongst the chamber, an uproar that soon died down as all the extra aurors made their presence known.

"I would remind this chamber that treason is defined as trying to illegally overthrow the government, a charge that could easily apply in this case. I would again like to remind this chamber that there is only one possible sentence if someone is found guilty of treason, the choice is Theodore Nott's to make."

Knowing that truth serum would soon expose his guilt, and that the penalty for treason was death, Theodore conceded to the only option now open to him and accepted the serum voluntarily.

After asking a few questions to ensure the serum was working effectively, Amelia then got right to the meat of the matter.

"Did you cast the imperius curse on three people to attack Ambassador Barchoke."

"Yes."

With that admission of using an unforgivable curse, his fate was already sealed. Amelia though pressed for more.

"Why did you do that?"

"I am a pureblood, I will not have goblin filth living next to me like an equal."

"Was anyone else involved or aware of your plan?"

"No. I approached a few like-minded people about striking back at these creatures, every single one of them wanted nothing to do with anything I was planning."

From a professional point of view, there was something about the attack that troubled Amelia. Here was her chance to satisfy that curiosity. "After using the imperius to get three people to attack, why did you then get involved yourself?"

"I hadn't intended to but the goblin blew the attack before it could be sprung. I was observing when I saw the younger Weasley with his back to me, I couldn't resist. The blood traitor moved at the wrong moment and all I hit was the fountain. Then I was under fire from all sides and woke in a cell."

"So you intended just to watch as all three were murdered?"

"Yes."

It was then Amelia slipped in the question that was the main reason behind filling the chamber with her aurors. "Were you yourself under the influence of the imperius curse when you took the dark mark?"

Before any objections could be raised, the entire chamber heard Nott's one word answer that would redefine the map of British magical society. "No."

Those aurors were now needed as Amelia faced an angry backlash, with shouts and threats coming from the Wizengamot members.

"Why was that question asked?"

"It has no bearing on this trial..."

As order was being restored, the minister himself stepped forward to answer the chamber. "In her role as Head of the DMLE, Madam Bones is responsible for the safety of everyone in this chamber. From the Chief Warlock to those in the public gallery, all fall under her remit. She approached me with a method of greatly assisting her department as they carry out their work - not because she needed my permission but simply to warn of the implications this would bring with it. With ministerial backing, she intends to see wards erected around the Ministry of Magic to ensure an incident like yesterday will never happen again - because no marked death eater will be able to pass through the wards."

Fearing that this was a massive lurch to the light, one of the moderates posed a question. "Wouldn't that just mean the people involved yesterday would have been placed under the imperius curse outside the wards?"

Amelia had an answer prepared for this eventually. "It's no secret I already have these wards installed around my home, with Master Auror Moody and some auror volunteers we tested that very theory last night. In every single case, passing through those wards affected the person under the curse. Some were then able to throw it off while all were affected enough for their behaviour to be noticeably different from what could be considered normal."

As this was sinking in, Amelia had something else she wanted to say. "I would like to take this opportunity to personally and publicly thank Ambassador Barchoke for his swift and courageous actions yesterday. Assassination attempts aside, one of my aurors almost losing their wife and child in the ministry atrium is not something I could ever tolerate. Swift action has to be taken to ensure people can walk about their ministry in safety, I'm simply doing the job I'm paid to do."

Personalising the attack halted most of the objections as members considered those occasions when their own families had visited the ministry. This tactic was never going to work with the hard core amongst the dark members, they had simply too much to lose.

"What of those who had the dark mark forced upon them? Should they be punished because of the actions of one individual?"

This was a question Cornelius knew would certainly be asked, his answer would decide if he was still minister by the end of today. Amelia's departmental remit already made her responsible for the wards protecting the Ministry of Magic, the only way to stop this ward replacement was to remove her from that position - something the minister had just made clear he had no intention of doing. The chamber would then have to remove him first to get to Amelia, again something Cornelius was hoping to avoid.

"It is possible to allow specific people through the wards, though history provides us with a warning of what can happen when security is breached with the case of the Trojan Horse. Troy's walls protected the city until they allowed their enemies access. Since neither myself nor Madam Bones held our current positions when the death eater cases were being dealt with, a certain level of reassurance would need to be reached before we employed this method. Namely, answering the last question Nott was asked - while under the effects of veritaserum."

There it was, out in the open but Cornelius had more to say. "We are aware that specific methods can be deployed to render veritaserum ineffective, especially knowing the question to be asked and having time to prepare, therefore this questioning would have to be carried out today."

It appeared as if the numbers of aurors present had doubled, which was probably the only thing keeping people in their seats. The minister held his hands up for silence and hoped he could placate the chamber with his next statement. "I realise we are practically forcing members to accept this but, since we inherited this problem, I can't see any other solution. What would be the point of wasting your time barring all the windows and doors if you then basically invited an enemy such as Nott into your home? I also realise that, historically Wizengamot members have been exempt from being forced to answer questions under truth serum, I have no intention of breaking that history. Any member who feels the indignity of answering this question under truth serum is just too much may leave this chamber with no stain on their character, safe in the knowledge that their family seat will be here waiting on their heir."

Cornelius and Amelia both knew that forcing this issue could start a war, the very thing they were desperately trying to avoid. By leaving those marked with a 'way out', they hoped this could be accepted without the battle that would surely come with backing them into a corner. They weren't looking to create any martyrs to the pureblood cause here, just isolate them so they could no longer play any major roles in their society. The Minister's 'no stain on their character' would be the official version, people would make their own minds up over those who would rather leave than answer that particular question under veritaserum.

Harry had a long discussion with his father over what might happen today, this was more than they expected to get. A slight nod was all the indication Harry needed to speak, the minister had just handed them a golden opportunity to get their point across.

"Minister, could I be allowed to say a few words?"

He took the silence that followed as permission and put their ideas forward. "The ministry are to be commended for taking such a fair stance on what is an impossible situation, I would like to bring to this chamber's attention a matter that fits nicely into what is being discussed here. Last night, Madam Bones traveled to Hogwarts to ensure Theo Nott didn't discover what his father had been involved in by reading about it in this morning's Prophet. Theo's first reaction was to apologise to me, saying he had no idea what his father had been planning - something we heard confirmed earlier. I know Mr Nott has yet to be sentenced but could we consider his innocent family when that time comes? Theo would appear to be nothing like his father and could be a great asset one day in this chamber, it would be a shame to deprive all of us of that because of his father."

When Harry asked to speak, Cornelius wasn't sure what to expect. The Minister was as surprised as everyone present by the lad's request, only to be blown away by his follow-on.

"I also understand young Pauline Nott is down to attend Hogwarts in September. With two of the three members of the selection committee currently in this chamber, I would like to put her name forward as a candidate for a Potter Scholarship."

Hermione was sitting in the public gallery, so proud of her Harry. As Harry had said to mum this morning, he really was the only one who could do this. These may be mostly Barchoke's words but they were far more effective being spoken by his son. She had to nudge their godfather though, Sirius had gotten so caught up in the proceedings that he forgot he had a part to play.

"I would certainly support that nomination. Too many of our children are tarred with the same brush as their parents." That statement coming from Lord Black carried a lot of weight, all knew his parents had been as dark as their family name implied.

Amelia, too, was caught off guard from this approach. She had to answer though. "I agree in principle with that suggestion although we will have to look at all the candidates..." One glance at Harry and she knew Pauline Nott would be receiving a Potter Scholarship - even if he had to pay for an extra one himself.

"That's very magnanimous of you, Harry."

"I don't think so, Minister. What we were hoping to see here today was justice being done, and we're confident it will be. Vengeance on innocents is not something we seek or support."

Harry had once more surprised the chamber, they were expecting the goblin stance to be that everyone possible be punished for this attack on their Ambassador.

"It is common knowledge I receive extra lessons in defence but my favourite subject since before starting Hogwarts has always been history. Our current professor is always quoting that if we don't learn from our history, we're doomed to repeat it. In 1612, Dreyfus Binns slaughtered innocent goblins and was tried, then sentenced for his crimes. His son Donald was almost as bad as his father, resulting in him being barred from Gringotts for life. Cuthbert Binns committed none of the crimes his father and grandfather were infamous for, yet circumstances saw him being punished too. A bitter and twisted Cuthbert Binns ended up doing more harm to the Nation than the rest of his family combined. The Nation has no wish to create any more enemies, though it always has room for more friends."

Everyone in the chamber was glad of Harry's interruption, it gave them that moment needed for tempers to cool and reactions to be considered. The points he had raised also added another dimension to the situation. No one doubted what he had said here had just protected the Nott family - and also spread that protection to others. If the Notts were to be treated as innocents, then no blame would be attached to the sons and daughters of those who had to leave this chamber for the last time today. It also unfortunately gave the truth serum time to wear off Nott senior. With nothing left to lose, he was determined to have his say.

"Stay away from my family, you bastard. Not content with being the son of a mudblood, you stand there claiming to be kin to that creature next to you. Both of you should be put down like the animals that you are..." Amelia hit the prisoner with a silencing curse, sparing them from listening to any more of that bigoted bile.

Harry felt compelled to answer that accusation though. "We obviously have different ideas of what an animal is. Personally, I think a person who fires the killing curse at a toddler doesn't even deserve to be classed as an animal. That Tom couldn't even do the job properly makes your so-called dark lord an incompetent arsehole too!"

Amos wanted to stand and applaud that statement, instead he concentrated on doing his job. "Since Theodore Nott has already confessed to his crimes we can move directly on to sentencing. As the charge of treason wasn't brought forward, and no one was killed, the accepted punishment for using unforgivable curses and attempted murder would be life in Azkaban. Do we have anyone in this chamber who disagrees with that sentence?"

Giving plenty of time to allow for any objections, Amos then brought his gavel down as Nott's fate was sealed.

The Minster's mind had shot forward and focused on something he just felt the time was right for attempting now. As a still silenced Nott disappeared into the floor, Cornelius made the snap decision and just went for it.

"Before we ask those members carrying the mark for their decision, I would like to put something to this chamber first. On the fifth of February, this chamber is scheduled to make a very important decision. Since I fear some members might choose not to be here when that vote is cast, I would like to offer this chamber the alternative of voting on this today. A decision of this magnitude should not pass or fail in this chamber due to what could be considered a technicality."

Even Amelia and Amos were left stunned at this move. While she herself thought that, without any marked death eaters in the chamber, the vote was now a certainty to receive a positive response, Cornelius clearly didn't want to hand ammunition to those who opposed it. 'They changed the wards to guarantee the vote' was an accusation Amelia could already envisage being made against them. Amos had quickly checked through the rule book to see if this move was legal. Providing the chamber agreed unanimously to hold the vote today, it was. Since they were all here, including the goblin representatives, it was agreed to proceed.

One of the members stood and directed a question toward Amos. "Since the proposed Baron is actually here amongst us, could he be asked what his intentions would be if the award were to be made?"

Amos glanced toward Harry who nodded that he was quite prepared to answer, and did.

"We in no way wanted to be presumptuous and just assume the award was going to be made, so discussions have only taken place in the loosest possible sense. We have my godfather's wedding, a possible ball and our summer break from Hogwarts to arrange. Part of those holidays would definitely be spent living in Kingussie. It would certainly be somewhere Hermione and I would think of as home."

That answer went down very well with those inclined to say yes. A question was then posed to Barchoke about opening a Gringotts branch in Hogsmeade. After confirming they were very keen to do so, the Goblin Ambassador then answered the follow-on question about goblins living amongst wizards as honestly as he could.

"Our two nations have been separated for centuries, I don't think any of us are quite ready to be living cheek by jowl this time next week. Again, without attempting to prejudge any decision reached here, I made tentative enquiries to the proposed Baron of Kingussie about the possibility of some goblins living in his glen as a first step. We goblins don't use crystal balls but I would foresee a Gringotts branch opening in Hogsmeade long before any goblins even thought about settling there. Our whole approach to this would be to take things very slowly, giving all of us time to get used to the new situation."

The contrast between the demented and bigoted ravings of their former member, Nott, compared to the reasoned thoughts of Barchoke couldn't have been starker - or more thought-provoking. To the majority of the chamber, Nott's views were unpalatable yet the Goblin Ambassador was painting them a picture that they could all live with. When the questions moved to possible arrangements for the summer ball, it was hard to contain the excitement at what was effectively the goblin's table.

The decisive yes vote had those in the public gallery applauding loudly, with Hermione and Sirius jumping up and down while holding on to each other in sheer joy.

The expressing of joy was confined to the public gallery though, those on the floor of the chamber understood the session wasn't over yet. It was left to Amos to bring the proceedings back on track. "We have one more piece of business that must be dealt with before this session can be closed. Having already heard the question that would be asked, and the chamber giving a guarantee that only this question will be asked, would any member like to forgo their Wizengamot privileges and voluntarily accept veritaserum?"

While this question was left hanging, Cornelius gave them notice of the time scale involved. "Madam Bones hopes the new wards can be installed over the weekend, beginning on Friday evening. This will be the only opportunity to accept this offer. The rest of today will see every branch of the ministry made the same offer, starting in the auror department."

With no one making a move to accept the offer, Amos was left with no other option but to bring down his gavel - ending the session and also any death eater involvement in the Wizengamot. It wasn't so much a victory for the light, more of a disastrous day for the dark.

The goblin party waited until they had reached the privacy of Arthur's new office before celebrating what was a stunning result for them. Sirius and Hermione soon arrived, with the latter immediately finding herself wrapped in a familiar strong pair of arms while being hoisted up into the air by her jubilant centurion mate. Harry then lowered her until their lips met.

"Mmmm, I've never kissed a Baron before, I could certainly get used to that!"

"I've never kissed an Order of Merlin holder before either, Dumbledore really wasn't my type..."

This started Barchoke laughing, both at his son's joke and his daughter's reaction to it. "Did you forget what else was settled in there today? Congratulations, my daughter. I am a very proud father, a father who now has two Order of Merlin, First Class, holders in his family."

Hermione had actually forgotten what else was approved today. The awards were a package deal, but all the emphasis had been on Harry's Barony. That Hermione had actually forgotten something saw Bill and Sirius laughing, this was the first time either had experienced the phenomenon of a gobsmacked Miss Granger.

It was into this oasis of mirth that Cornelius, Amelia and Amos entered, they hadn't been experiencing much laughter as they worked their way through the ministry to make their dark mark exemption offer. Unsurprisingly, they had no takers so far. What was losing your job when compared to a stay in Azkaban?

"Arthur, I just spoke to your staff. While no one volunteered to take truth serum, I can't see you having anyone missing from work on Monday."

Arthur graciously accepted the minister's backhanded compliment but it was a bowing Barchoke who offered his nation's gratitude. "Minister, that was masterfully played today - on all fronts."

A smiling Cornelius was still coming to terms with the rush that pushing through this legislation had provided, he had a definite spring in his step and felt at least ten years younger. "Thank you, Ambassador. You and your son certainly helped. Sorry for just dropping it on everyone like that, I just didn't want the awards to be tainted by people claiming we rigged the vote by barring the death eaters. All six who received awards today thoroughly deserved them - as today's vote proved. It also ended beyond doubt that anyone who claimed they'd been under the imperius curse when working for Voldemort was lying. We plan to marginalise them by taking away their power base, meanwhile keeping our eyes open that none of them try and do a Malfoy on us."

Amos was pretty certain that wouldn't happen. "They would be risking so much that I think they'll play the longer game here. Both Malfoy and Nott are now in Azkaban, and I'm assuming the Nott vaults will be frozen too?"

"He attacked a Goblin Ambassador, the Nation had to react." Barchoke's grin showed that the goblins had all different levels of reacting. "His wife was served with her twenty four hour notice though we do have an adviser helping with her choices."

An apology was also offered from Amelia. "Sorry Barchoke, for announcing these wards without confirming it with you first. You offered this service previously, and I'm hoping the offer is still open?"

"Of course, Amelia, Friday evening suits us just fine. Are we erecting a new ward scheme just here or is St Mungo's included too?"

It was actually Cornelius who answered, "We thought to leave St Mungo's for now. Like you said, Ambassador, we want to take things slowly and give people the chance to get used to this new idea that death eaters are not welcome in our society. Now, if you will excuse us, we have many more departments to cover before people begin leaving for home." The minister then led Amelia and Amos back out of the office to the six aurors who were accompanying them on their historic and momentous task.

-oOoOo-

It was only still having to take potions for his wound that gave Barchoke a valid excuse for escaping the Director's office without having to consume at least one tankard of grog. With the reactions his news sparked in Gringotts though, Barchoke fully expected the nation's celebrations still to be ongoing in two days when his potion regime ended.

This gave Barchoke some time to spend with his son and daughter, which had led directly to where they were now. Both he and Harry had loved Hermione's idea so his son knocked on the door.

The door was answered by a wizard who appeared to be in his mid-twenties, his wary expression changing instantly when he noticed just who was at his door. "Ambassador Barchoke! Sir, I can't thank you enough for yesterday. If you hadn't been there..."

"Auror Dugan, every day you report for duty, you are prepared to do exactly what I did yesterday. I know you were on duty several times at Hogwarts, spending your time there helping to protect my son and daughter. Between warriors, no thanks are ever needed."

His wife had headed for the door as soon as she heard the ambassador's name mentioned. "Andrew, don't keep these people at the door! They are certainly welcome in our house..."

Andrew Dugan rather sheepishly held out his hand to Barchoke. "My wife is of course right, I was just so shocked to see you standing there. You are indeed very welcome in this house." It was handshakes all around as the trio were led into a rather plain but certainly homely living room, a certain young witch was sitting playing with some stuffed animals.

"This is Danielle, our daughter..."

On hearing her mother say her name, the youngster looked up to see they had visitors. There was no hesitation on her part as she rose from the floor and headed straight for Barchoke, pointing to his sling. "Does it still hurt?"

Sitting to be on the same level as the child, Barchoke gave a merry chuckle. "It did, but not any longer. I have to wear this for a couple of days..."

On hearing that it didn't hurt, Danielle then did what she wanted to do in the first place and hugged the person who her mummy had said saved them both. "Thank you!"

There was hardly a dry eye in the house though Harry was smiling at how well his father was adapting to receiving hugs.

"You are very welcome, young lady, I just hoped it didn't spoil your birthday. To a goblin, that is a person's most important and special day."

With complete innocence, the now four year old witch asked the nice little man a serious question. "What's a goblin?"

That led to a smile and a knowing look in Harry's direction. "My little boy used to ask me that very same question..."

Not wanting this to turn into a blubber-fest, Hermione slipped her hand into Harry's bag and withdrew the wrapped present they had bought for Danielle. She knelt beside her father and the little witch. "We didn't want yesterday to spoil your birthday and brought you this."

Danielle had been taught proper manners so looked pleadingly toward her parents for permission to accept the gift, permission that was soon forthcoming. She politely accepted the gift and then her manners ran out, Danielle franticly ripped the paper off to discover what was inside. She squealed 'thank you' before rushing off to introduce her new stuffed unicorn to the rest of her collection.

Her mother looked on in awe. "How did you know?"

"Danielle had unicorns on the jacket she was wearing yesterday, and what little girl doesn't like stuffed animals?" Hermione was still on her knees as Danielle then introduced her new human friend to all of her stuffed animals.

Watching as Hermione interacted effortlessly with the child brought a lump to both goblins' throats, Danielle's long black hair sending Barchoke and Harry's thoughts years into the future. The Dugans were also watching the scene but had a different thought in their minds. Their daughter had no idea what a goblin was, far less possessing any knowledge of the prejudices that were linked to that race. They silently swore Danielle would never learn any of those prejudices from them.

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