It was December 21 and Hogwarts was experiencing the first day of the Yule break. As expected, most students were going home for the holiday.
Harry Potter was almost giddy that he had a place to go where he would be wanted: Sirius Black, his godfather, was going to pick him up from Kings Cross and he would spend the holiday with him, his new girlfriend, and Remus Lupin.
He also was planning on visiting the friends he had now – for the first time, he had some and he was going to enjoy it.
On the train back to London, Harry, Ron, and Neville had a hard time convincing Hermione that she didn't need to spend the whole trip reading for the homework that was due when the break was over.
Lucky for them, Crookshanks helped enourmously in distracting her. It should be mentioned, however, that half-kneazles were not fond of the explosions caused by playing Wizarding snap.
Harry and Ron had both sent their owls on by the simple expedient of writing letters; Ron wrote to his parents and Harry wrote to Sirius. Neville had Trevor in a box similar to the one that Mrs. Weasley had transfigured for him originally.
When they reached London, students were queuing up to be the first off the train.
Sirius Black was standing on Platform 9 ¾, waiting for the Hogwarts Express to come into London. It was scheduled to arrive right after 6:00 and Sirius wanted to ensure he was on time.
Unfortunately, this meant he had to deal with Lucius Malfoy, who had arrived to pick up his son. BY chance, Amelia Bones (sister to Susan's father) was picking up her niece as a favor to her brother and sister-in-law and he spoke with her rather than spending more time with Lucius than a fairly polite greeting required.
When the Express pulled in, he enthusiastically looked to see if he could spot his godson. Suddenly, her heard a shout: "Sirius!"
He turned his head and grinned when he saw his madly waving godson rushing over. "Harry!" he held out his arms and soon he was lifting his godson. He set him down. "So! Ready for a holiday?"
Harry grinned. "I'm looking forward to it. Thanks for sending the house elf to get the trunk. I was not looking forward to lugging that around."
Sirius nodded. "I figured we go eat out and then make our way to my place." Sirius grimaced slightly.
"What's wrong?" Harry asked.
"Eh. Nothing. Still not overly fond of the place – I ran away from home when I was 16 for a reason. But since I own the house, I've been able to make some improvements. Still a few things to do though."
Harry nodded. "Let me say goodbye to my friends!"
Sirius nodded. "Go on, now. I'll be waiting."
Harry said goodbye to a number of other students and then returned. Sirius took a hold of his arm and the two apparated away.
Lucius Malfoy saw with his wife and son and ate dinner at Malfoy Manor. "So, Draco, tell us about your studies."
Draco responded pompously, "Slytherin has classes with Ravenclaw for about half of the classes, Hufflepuff for most others and Gryffindor for potions. I have been doing well. I achieved an O for Astronomy, Potions, and Charms. Transfiguration is run by that harpy McGonagall and she favours her Gryffindors, and the Defense Professor is difficult to impress. Herbology could be better but that would require more mucking around in the dirt which is below a Malfoy." He finished the last with a sneer.
Narcissa commented, "I hope that you have been circumspect in your comments. I will not have a child of mine labeled an uncouth savage."
"Yes, Mother. Only the other Slytherins have heard my comments, other than a few times where I could put others in their place where teachers couldn't hear." He sighed. "I have to be careful around the Gryffindors though."
Lucius asked curiously, "Why is that?"
"Because my Potions partner is a Mudblood," he sneered the word, "and while it pains me to say, my grade would have been much worse with another Gryffindor. She has to spend all of her time studying to truly understand, of course, as she isn't from a magical background, but at least she can follow simple directions, unlike some of those fools."
Lucius nodded. "What is her name?"
With thinly veiled contempt he replied, "Hermione Granger."
Lucius thought about it for a moment. "I seem to remember that name from somewhere."
Narcissa volunteered, "There was a Dagworth-Granger who started the Society of Potioneers."
"Ah, yes, thank you, Dear. That's right. Perhaps she is unknowingly a relation. She might just be a Halfblood rather than a full Mudblood."
Draco considered that. "Maybe. From what I have heard, she is near the top of every class. It would make sense that she has to have some Wizarding blood at least flowing through her veins. There is no way a pure Mudblood could be so much better than so many Purebloods."
"Well, as long as we don't receive any reports of troubles, you can continue as you are. I would like to see improvement – if a Mudblood, who may or may not be a Halfblood but who is assuredly not a Pureblood, can do so well, than a Malfoy can do much better."
Draco nodded at his father's comment. It had been truly vexing to be out-performed by one of lesser blood.
Neville Longbottom was looking forward to checking on his Greenhouse when he returned home.
As his Grandmother led him inside of the house, he started moving toward the stairs. "Neville? Put your things down. I have a surprise for you in the Sitting Room."
Neville shrugged. "Sure, Gran." He put his things down and moved toward the Sitting Room, curious about his Grandmother's much less serious demeanour.
When he walked through the door, he saw that there were two people already there. He stopped in shock when he recognized his mother and father, sitting there with smiles on their face.
His mother, with a somewhat weak voice, cried out in joy, "Neville!"
Although he felt the blood rushing from his head, almost causing him to faint, he didn't and soon he had rushed forward to embrace the woman who, for the first time in his memory, said his name. He also latched on to his father, whom he felt hugging both of them.
Through his tears and from between his two parents, he saw his Gran watching, her own tears running down her face.
True to their expectations, Hermione Granger babbled at her parents as they drove home from Kings Cross after having loaded up her things.
"… earned a total of 107 points during the first semester. Although it is strange that we only seem to have 424 when I checked right before. That means that I've earned a fourth of what Gryffindor has. Then again, the boys seem to lose points for doing stupid things. Apparently, normally Gryffindor loses more in Potions but the other students say that the Professor has been much different since …"
The two Granger parents looked at each other and smiled as they listened to their daughter talk about everything that happened to her for the whole year. They were happy that their little girl hadn't changed that much from what they were used to when they put her on the train those months ago.
The Burrow saw a very happy family getting together after having been apart for several months. Mrs. Weasley rather enjoyed ensuring that each member of the family had their fill. Mr. Weasley enjoyed the various stories that each child had regarding the semester just passed. He did ensure that Percy also had equal time, cheerfully slapping his twins down when they tried to make fun of his more mature concerns.
All in all, it was a Weasley dinner with all that entailed.
When it was done and all the dishes were taken back to the sink, they all gathered back at the family table as Mr. Weasley had requested.
"Okay, children. There are a few things that you need to know." Arthur Weasley's serious tone immediately caught all of their attention. "You all remember the hubbub that occurred after that rat was found living with us." There were murmurs of agreement. "Well, I can honestly say that because of that, our circumstances have changed." When his children started looking worried he chuckled. "No. It's not bad news. Are you all aware of the family my mother was born into?"
Only Ron and Ginny were confused – neither had thought much about Grandma Cedrella as she had died when they were very young. The Twins and Percy, however, nodded. Percy said, "She was born a Black, though she was disowned for marrying Grandfather whom the Blacks did not approve of."
Arthur nodded. "That's right. Well, the new Head of the Black family has a far different view of relations. In addition to removing Bellatrix Lestrange for becoming a Death Eater, Sirius Black has re-instated several members of the family. Instead of absorbing the dowry he reclaimed, he split it evenly between those he reclaimed and their descendents. As a result, a good portion has come to us as I am one of her remaining children. This means that our family is in a much better financial position than we were previously."
The children were somewhat excited to hear that. "How much did we get?" Ron asked. Tact was not one of Ron's strongest characteristics.
"Enough to live comfortably, despite the size of the family. There is a sum which you will each get when you turn seventeen – that is from your inheritance from Billius who named you all in his will – and, of course, once your mother and I are gone you will split what we have left."
Ginny said, quite endearingly, "Well, I hope I never inherit from you then!"
The parents smiled at their youngest. "Well, personally I hope that we pass before any of you. That being said, in addition to spending a few Galleons to ensure that necessary replacements of things take place – only what is necessary, not what is frivolous – you all shall have a bit more money in your pockets. While I have taken a few days off (with the agreement of Perkins who is running things and doesn't have a wife) we will buy new clothes and things that are needed. In addition, you will each do Christmas shopping for friends and family. But we will be sensible about it."
Percy asked, "What do you mean?"
Molly answered. "You have a choice. Either each of you spend a little money on each other, or you all pick names and you will spend a better amount on ONE of your siblings. You would spend the same amount, but instead of four cheap gifts you will each get one better gift in addition to whatever you get from other family members, friends, and us. But you all have to decide together. So choose: Four small gifts or one good gift. Discuss."
In the end, surprising the parents, the children chose to spend a small amount on each of their siblings. No one wanted to sacrifice the individual aspects of their sibling bonds. There would be some ad hoc combining but it was, they decided, more personal. They each also received a few Galleons for presents for friends. Overall, while they spent more money than normal they didn't go overboard.
Arthur and Molly were satisfied that their children understood the difference between money and value.
The Clan Chiefs were meeting regarding projected earnings for the year. The Council had finished reviewing all of the reports.
The Fang clan was skeptical. "It says here that the Claw clan has delivered a 17 percent increase in profits for the year. Where exactly did this come from?"
The Claw Chief was grinning as he said, "The Potter clan, with the return of its last member, has helped to capitalize a number of ventures. In addition, the return of the Black clan leader has also seen a marked increase in business."
The Fang Chief sneered. "I find that remarkable considering how much the Potter clan probably wasted on that insane proposal for a business in the Muggle world."
The Claw Chief was serene as he said, "Actually, that venture has seen a profit of over 7,000 Galleons."
The gathered chiefs were impressed. "That's a decent profit," the Knife Clan Chief commented. "Not enough to have justified the proposal for Gringotts to have invested as we will only see a tenth of that, but still that is a decent profit for a business that has only been running for a few months." There were sounds of agreement.
The Claw Chief interrupted before the Fang representative could speak. "You misunderstand. That was Gringotts' portion of the profits. The entire venture has seen a 70,000 Galleon profit over the investment."
The gathered council was shocked. "For how much of an investment?" the Chief of Clan Chiefs asked.
"I believe my client invested a total of 35,000 on the venture. The Muggle Government now values the business at 400,000 Galleons. The 70,000 Galleons profit was the actual Gold that is to be distributed. If one includes increased value, the total value has seen a 1142 percent increase over the original investment. My client was disappointed that Gringotts refused to invest but believed in the idea so much he decided to capitalize it himself. Truly a shame that the proposal was refused at the urging of the Fang Clan Chief."
The Chief of the Clan Chiefs and others looked over with barely withheld contempt at the now very chagrined Fang Clan Chief.