The entire family were early risers this morning, and it wasn't just Crow's Nest that was buzzing with excitement. The entire glen was thrilled today, it was Jamie's first birthday.
The girls had been so proud of the party they had thrown for their husbands on the island, and rightly so. Well over a hundred guests had portkeyed onto the island on the afternoon of Neville's birthday, an island that was already packed to capacity with family and friends who were staying there.
There were games organised on the beach, snacks and drinks available all day and of course loads of swimming too. As the sun began to set, the more formal part of the event took place. It may be hard to describe loads of tables on a beach, each lit by lanterns hanging from a palm-fronds parasol, as formal, but that was as formal as it got on the island. After dinner, two birthday cakes appeared as everyone joined in singing the traditional song. Once pieces of delicious cake had been enjoyed, it was dancing time.
Doing so on a beach, under a tropical sky, actually gave Hogwarts a run for its money in terms of sheer beauty. At the stroke of midnight, a fabulous fireworks display had everyone enraptured. Most thought this was the end of the party until Hermione announced it was now Harry's birthday. This lent new impetuous to the celebrations and the party carried on for at least another two hours.
Those portkeying back to Britain got something of a shock on realising it wasn't yet nine p.m. They had partied the night away but still returned home at an hour their parents approved of.
Padma and Hermione had basked in the praise of their friends and family for throwing the best party ever, only for Harry to steal their thunder some days later.
It had all started off so innocently too. After a summer where they received awards from the Irish, Bulgarian and British Ministries, it was time to meet The Queen. Having heard over and over how important family was to this group, Her Majesty took the unprecedented decision to present their awards at Balmoral Castle. This was her holiday home in the Highlands, and a lot of her family would be there too.
The five were to be inducted into The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, an order of chivalry associated with Scotland that was a gift from a grateful monarch. All five were to become Knights of the Thistle, with Neville and Harry now known as Sir, while Padma, Hermione and Tonks became Ladies of the Thistle.
There were some historic references that Robert the Bruce had introduced this award on the battlefield of Bannockburn, therefore everyone felt this award was more appropriate than The Most Noble Order of the Garter. When Harry read the motto, Nemo me impune lacessit (No one provokes me with impunity) he was convinced it must have been written by a goblin.
Although this location made the event a great deal more informal, it came at a price. Each recipient was only allowed to bring two people with them. Padma, Neville and Hermione all chose their parents, with Tonks being accompanied by Remus and her dad. Harry of course wanted his father to be there but was then left in a bit of a quandary. He eventually decided Parvati should really be present, but still intended to take Jamie in his arms. Although too young to have any idea what was happening, Harry still wanted his brother to be present on this special day.
Harry was sure a grandmother wouldn't kick a toddler out of her home because there was one too many in their party. Turns out he was right, her security were far more concerned about this group that had appeared out of nowhere - and four of them were wearing swords.
Neville and the three witches had chosen to arrive in dress auror robes, as had Frank and Alice, all with an impressive array of awards on their chests. Harry was in his dress Centurion tunic, now sporting his traditional Ravenclaw blue and bronze cape. The impressive medal collection along with the sword at his hip marked Harry as dangerous, the toddler on his other hip was probably the only reason those same security forces relaxed.
The Queen performed the ceremony in an anteroom that had been set out specifically for this purpose. It was made even more special when Her Majesty asked each of the teens in turn for their own sword to carry out their induction into the order. Hermione was beaming as The Queen used the sword that now had Crow engraved on its blade to dub her a Lady of the Thistle, her mum and dad were sharing tissues as they looked on.
They were all then invited to an informal family tea, and that's where the trouble started. It began innocuously enough, Her Majesty inquiring if they could perhaps see a little magic. The few trusted servants in attendance almost fainted where they stood, with good reason. Priceless pieces of silverware were now fluffy white rabbits that were hopping about the table.
Jamie was sitting on his mother's knee, clapping at the display, but the toddler already knew exactly what he wanted. Still clapping his hands, Jamie began to bounce and chant. "Fly, fly, fly..."
Harry stood and bowed to The Queen. "Excuse me ma'am, I think you'll like this." With barely a jump, Swift was then flying around the massive room - performing stunning aerobatics as he weaved his way in and out the chandeliers at speed.
Jamie was laughing and clapping before turning his attention to his sister. "Hemi fly, Hemi fly..."
While those who hadn't seen this before currently had their jaws hitting the table, Padma, Hermione and Neville joined Harry in the air. Jamie was giggling with glee, especially when Swift would fly really close to him. The four birds became teens again, bowed - curtsied before resuming their seats at a stunned table.
"That was extraordinary, can all witches and wizards do that?"
It was Remus who answered The Queen's question. "No Ma'am, very few actually. My wife though has a magical ability that is even rarer."
While kicking Remus under the table, Tonks changed her hair colour a few times before morphing into passable impersonations of Hermione and then Padma.
The looks of envy coming from the other side of the table were explained by Her Majesty. "That is indeed a rare talent, one all of us I'm sure wished we possessed. It would be nice to occasionally go out without everyone recognising us, and then photographing our every move."
That drew a chuckle of understanding from Harry. "We know exactly how that feels, Ma'am. We are renowned inside Gringotts and the magical community..." And that's when trouble struck as Harry had an Idea.
"Ma'am, I hope I'm not being too presumptuous here but we are having a party for Jamie's birthday in Kingussie. There will be a roller coaster and flying carpets for the older kids, while I'm sure our father could convince Gringotts to put on a dragon display if you wished to visit. Dan also has a clay pigeon shooting range set up for any adults or teens who would like to try it..." It was only then that Harry noticed every pair of eyes in the room were focused on him, Hermione's were almost burning right through her husband.
A lot of those pairs of eyes then switched to The Queen. Although The Monarch, she was also a grandmother - and having all her grandchildren staring at her with looks of wonder and longing in their eyes would have been too much for anyone.
"I don't think we have a protocol for something like this, I assume it will be safe for them?"
Barchoke answered that one, the rest of the family were still in shock. It was hard to tell who was worse, Hermione or her mother. "Ma'am, you will all be perfectly safe, and if I may say, thoroughly entertained. Our children chose to live their lives with a unique blend of our three cultures. Kingussie has played host to people from all of those cultures, each have felt at home there. We can easily arrange to have some friends around their own age show your grandchildren over the glen, leaving the adults free to pursue whatever takes their fancy. Kingussie is so safe, not even these Scottish midges can get through its defences."
"Sir, while I would love to see a dragon, banning midges from an entire glen impresses me more."
No one knew what to do when The Queen cracked a joke but members of her own family chuckling along told them it was alright to do the same. Barchoke informed her that the leader of their nation and the Minister of Magic would be present, both would have their wives with them and just be there to enjoy themselves. This event was certainly classed as a social occasion, not a state one. The Queen agreeing to attend saw some very excited grandchildren, and Hermione's pallor matching that of the Lady Ravenclaw.
They had hardly set foot back in Crow's Nest when Barchoke sprang into action. "I'll get my department onto this at once, Bill, Jenny, Penny and Percy can accompany our special visitors around the glen. Harry, you contact the Potter Scholars, they can help look after the young princes and princesses. I'll also contact The Director while Arthur can inform the ministry. There's no protocol for this so we're making it up as we go along. We're looking at another day where history is being made in Kingussie."
Seeing the shocked appearance of the returning family, it was Sirius that asked the question the rest of them wanted to know the answer to. "What in the name of Merlin happened?"
"My husband happened! Luna, remember you wanted to meet The Queen? You're going to get your wish. My husband here invited the entire bloody Royal Family to our brother's first birthday party - in less than a week!" Taking a deep breath, she then turned to her now nervous husband and just about kissed his socks off.
"Part of me wants to strangle you for dropping me right in it - again! Another part wants to drag you away and properly reward you for bringing our three cultures closer again."
Hermione then wiped the smile of her husband's face. "Unfortunately, we now have to get our home ready for this royal visit, we're going to be working our arses off."
As Hermione started issuing tasks to her 'volunteers', Dan couldn't quite hide his groan. He did only whisper to Emma though. "I could quite happily have done without ever hearing that in my life."
Neither had long to fret on it though as their daughter had tasks for them too. Only Barchoke escaped, he needed to organise The Nation's response to this - and inform Arthur.
Elves, goblins, witches, wizards and muggles had all worked very hard to have the entire glen sparkling like a new pin, and have an itinerary in place that Her Majesty had readily agreed to. Now all they had to do was pull it off.
The Creeveys, McDonalds and Abercrombies were pulling double duties today. Not only were they offering advice on their Royal visitors, they were introducing the family of this year's muggle born Potter Scholar to their new world. While young Mark Evans seemed to take everything in his stride, his parents just kept looking around them.
This had the senior Creevey chuckling at their obvious discomfort, while trying to allay their fears. "We all know exactly how you feel. I'm a milkman who has two wizards and a witch for children. After accepting that, little things like meeting The Queen today don't seem such a big deal. Both our sons love Hogwarts, and our Maggie just can't wait to go."
Mary McDonald was more than ready to take another young couple under her wing. "Our Natalie adores Hogwarts too, Colin and Luna looked after her during her first year there - they still do now. We've actually met the leaders from the magical and goblin societies before, but this is the first time The Queen has visited. As you can imagine, it's a big day for everyone around here. Harry and Hermione will have more time to talk to you later, once they get this visit over with."
Harry and Hermione were currently standing waiting on the portkey delivering their special guests. Bill, Jenny, Percy, Penny and Sapphire had gone to Balmoral to bring them here. Sapphire had argued she needed to be involved, giving the goblins a presence on the visiting party. Astrid had started calling her grandfather 'Papa', Jamie then doing the same for Barchoke brought a tear to the goblin's eye. This meant that Jamie's Papa had to be at his birthday celebrations, leaving Sapphire as the obvious candidate to accompany The Queen and her family.
As there was no protocol for this, when Harry introduced Her Majesty to The Director, she held out her hand to be shaken. Hermione instantly thought that historic event made all the worrying and work worthwhile. After shaking Ragnok and Rainha's hands, Her Majesty then did the same for Cornelius and his wife before moving on to greet the rest of the guests in the house.
Using his Hogwarts connections, Harry had managed to borrow a 'horseless' carriages to transport The Queen and Prince Philip around the glen. The elves and goblins then did a fair amount of work on this carriage, leaving it glimmering with gold trim and certainly now fit for a queen. Hagrid provided the thestrals, getting to spend some time with a dragon being more than enough payment for him.
The younger members were going to be sightseeing by flying carpet, no one had thought it suitable to ask The Queen to sit on a rug. Percy and Penny led the Potter Scholars in looking after the young princes and princesses, they would fly around the glen a few times before rejoining their grandparents at their visit to the goblin settlement.
The Queen was chatting with Jenny, using her own experience of placing her son in a Highland boarding school to understand how the young mother felt allowing her child to enter an environment she knew so little about. They at least had some inside knowledge, with Charles' father attending Gordonstoun at the same age.
Prince Phillip appeared really interested that Sapphire was already apprenticed, and then posed a question none of the three could answer. As Sapphire excitedly spoke of Harry and Hermione eventually going to university, he asked why she didn't join them there.
Bill sat back and experienced what was nothing short of a master class in diplomatic skills. This couple had been doing this for so long, it was now second nature to them. Both Sapphire and Jenny were made to feel extremely comfortable as they chatted, and it was easy to see there was genuine interest in their answers. Bill had initially apologised for the three of them being delegated to accompany the Royal Visit, knowing this was not the usual protocol. The Queen had shot him down at once, saying she understood goblin protocol placed someone's birthday as the most important event of the year. This dictated that the family really needed to be at the scheduled birthday party, not showing guests around their glen.
Hearing the noise and laughter being generated from what was originally the kiddy zone put smiles on all there faces, as did watching her delighted grandchildren wave like crazy as they flew past on a couple of magic carpets.
Jamie was having a grand time, their play park was full of children and he was the centre of attention. Being so young though, all the excitement and activity soon began to take its toll. It was a tired little tyke who was laid down in the area they had set up as a little nursery for a nap. The birthday boy was soon joined by Astrid, Bruce and a couple of goblin toddlers. There were silencing charms over that area so the noise wouldn't disturb their sleep, with Dobby monitoring the situation closely. The Granger family elf was already devoted to the little master.
Such were the changes being made in their society that pureblood, muggleborn, veela and goblin toddlers all taking a nap together wasn't even commented on, apart from how cute they looked.
Jamie was still napping when The Queen rejoined his birthday party, though the older children - including her grandchildren - would soon be leaving to ride on the roller coaster and visit the dragon exhibit. The amount of children having fun couldn't fail to put a smile on any parent's face.
The guests of honour were then led to a table where tea, sandwiches and cakes just appeared - this was service that even exceeded what they were used to. As she sat sipping her favourite tea, The Queen realised just how wrong her government were to withdraw their aid from this young man. Every single person she had met today, wizard, goblin or mundane, all had genuine affection and admiration for this couple. Seeing that exhibit where they fought the giant snake was terrifying, the young red-haired man describing what had happened that day was almost as harrowing as watching that memory of their battle at Bannockburn.
The British Monarch was now delighted to have presented these five with the awards they so thoroughly deserved and, after speaking with some of the goblins who now lived and worked here, fully supported what was happening in Kingussie. Being Queen she couldn't actually say so, that didn't mean her Prime Minister wouldn't soon be doing that job for her. She intended to have a chat about this with her Prime Minister at their next scheduled meeting.
Watching her grandchildren troop off with playmates their own age to have a good time is exactly what she wanted for them. Even although this situation could never be considered normal, it was still a rare occasion where she could relax and witness that. Her Majesty was also sure Philip had planted a seed in Sapphire's mind, a seed that she intended to see her government offering any assistance needed to ensure it germinated. British universities were full of students from all over the world, a goblin should be able to fit in without too much difficulty.
The Following Year...
Barchoke found himself back in the Hall of Heroes, something he'd been doing more and more. He always stood in the same place, right in front of the tableau that featured his family - most of whom were in tears the first time they saw it. He may be slightly biased but Barchoke thought it was a work of art, nothing short of a masterpiece of goblin craft and storytelling.
It of course featured the Battle of Bannockburn, and all the main players that day. Rookwood was already down and unfortunately so too was Neville - though clearly only temporarily. All knew the story of how he had ended up there however, throwing himself in front of the torture curse intended for his mate.
Padma was poised to take off Lestrange's arm with her Longbottom blade, the green glowing curse at the end of the mad bitch's wand was never going to be cast. Harry and Hermione were both fighting Voldemort, and his wand too glowed green at the tip, as he prepared to unleash that horrible curse on Hermione.
The master craftsgoblins who created this tableau clearly understood The Nation would never accept a work where Hermione was lying on the ground. Irrational as it might seem, Barchoke himself knew he wouldn't be nearly as fond of the scene if that was the case. Seeing his daughter lying there in real life was one of the worst moments of his life, he had no wish to be reminded of it ever again.
At its unveiling, the family had stood in stunned silence while they attempted to take it all in. Muggles, goblins, veela, a werewolf, house elves, witches and wizards were all here, every single one of them giving their all to ensure the five heroes survived. It was Sirius who noticed them first, his gasp of surprise being only a short step away from a sob.
There, amongst the aurors who were pouring their magic into those wards were James and Lily Potter, both doing the same. It was left to Dan to try and put into words what their family was feeling.
"Harry, we believe our loved ones never really leave us. I think it's fitting that your mum and dad are up there, still giving everything they have to keep their son safe." Hermione certainly wasn't the only person with tears in her eyes but her wide smile to her father let Dan know he'd gotten that just right.
The tableau was a massive hit with The Nation but Barchoke liked to come at quieter times, it allowed him to speak with two old friends. "James, Lily, it's finally time. They've left Hogwarts and are now ready to start on the next phase of their lives, but first we have a wedding to celebrate - and what a wedding. There will be three Ministers of Magic there, and of course The Director and his Mate. You'll be delighted to know, Lily, that there will even be representatives from your Royal Family in Kingussie too."
That had Barchoke thinking back to what he had once hoped tomorrow could be, only for every single one of those hopes to be exceeded by a massive margin.
"I hope it's like Dan says, you're both with Harry tomorrow to see our wonderful children get married for yourself. You'll also see the beautiful witch your godson is marrying too. Frank, Alice and Augusta adore Padma nearly as much as. Neville does. Our children are entering a period where Dan and Emma will have a bigger influence on their lives as they study to attend university, that's as it should be. Sirius and I have steered them through Hogwarts, this is now the Grangers' area of expertise."
""I thought I would find you here, old friend. Shouldn't you be in Kingussie by now? I would hate for any of your family to be worried over you, tomorrow is a big day.""
"I have a little while yet before I'm expected, Director. Were you looking for me for a particular reason?""
""I was wondering if your Assistant Ambassador had reached a decision yet about his future? There have been a number of enquiries about his availability. He has impressed at everything he has done in all his years with us, none more so though than in his time with you.""
This put a smile on Barchoke's face. ""He has finally asked Jenny to marry him, and she said yes. I think that will rule him out of going back to being a curse-breaker, his days of raiding tombs in the remotest corners of the world are over. He also knows I've got my eye on Jenny to come and work for us after she gets her Law degree, Bill might just decide to stay where he is. Harry has two years of study to get into university, then at least another four years after that before he can take up his position. I think Bill will be staying where he is for at least another couple of years.""
That news had The Director laughing. ""With his brother and sister-in-law in your department too, you really are making it a family affair."" Looking at the tableau, Ragnok grew serious once more. ""Building that family has stood Gringotts in good stead, so you just keep on doing what you're doing. In a few years you might even see that family grow, grandchildren are such a blessing.""
""Both want to finish university first, and Padma starts her apprenticeship in September. I'll be ready to retire by the time any grandchildren come along.""
""Rainha and I are looking forward to tomorrow, we'll see you all then.""
As Ragnok left, Barchoke thought it was time for him to do the same. He'd lived all his life in Gringotts but now thought of Kingussie as home. Then again, that's where his family lived.
One of the hardest decisions for any bride is the dress. With two brides and such a mixture of cultures, Padma and Hermione's decision was harder than most. Yes it was a muggle ceremony but they were back to sending out the right signals again. Hermione didn't want a traditional muggle dress, just as Padma shied away from a sari, their auror dress robes were out too for the same reason. They almost settled for their marauder training robes, that club was such a big part of their life, when Hermione hit on an idea.
"I think I fell in love with Harry from the moment I laid eyes on him. You saw how he was dressed, it would be hard not to. What if we had wedding dresses made from the same period?"
"Oh, and the guys could all be tailored like Harry was too - I like that."
When the goblin tailors had shown them some designs and materials, both girls knew this was exactly what they wanted. While their dresses might still touch the ground, there was no wide skirt, train or veil. The white silk flowed around their bodies like petals of a flower that was about to bloom. Each bodice was a mixture of silk and lace which also enhanced bodies that still exercised every day, being sleeveless and practically backless too. Both had beautiful belts around their waist, and while inlayed with gold and jewels, they were not purely for decoration. Neither Padma or Hermione would be without those swords that had Longbottom and Crow engraved on them.
Padma was surprised and delighted that her parents decided to forgo their traditional form of dress to adopt the same 'Pride and Prejudice' theme as the rest of the family. She thought her father was very handsome as he escorted her down the aisle, dressed as an Indian version of Mr Darcy. Parvati, Luna and Sapphire walked behind them, wearing white dresses that only differed from both brides in that they had a much simpler bodice - and of course no belt and swords.
Hermione may have written the invitations but that didn't mean she wasn't still surprised at the number of people here. Knowing there would be over four hundred guests and then seeing them all was two different things. Harry seemed such a long way away as the music had them walking toward both grooms.
As her dad led her to Harry and Reverend Richards, her smile got wider as she thought they were keeping him busy. Since he'd married the Lupins, Tonks and Remus had asked Robert to christen their son, Teddy. Hermione and Harry had stood as his godparents at yesterday's ceremony, held in Kingussie of course. With Henrica heavily pregnant too, Hermione knew she would be drawing godmother duties again soon.
Both fathers soon passed their daughters on to their grooms, before sitting down beside their tearful wives. Reverend Richards then got the show on the road, it was time to marry these two couples.
Hermione had held herself together well, right up until Harry slipped that ring on her finger. She had moved the Potter matriarch ring to her right hand, leaving her finger ready to accept this final band of gold. It was what this represented that finally released Hermione's tears, though they were certainly tears of joy. Here was a goblin crafted work of art, made right here in Kingussie. It not only symbolised Harry's love for her but how far their societies had come. As Harry uttered 'with this ring, I thee wed' Hermione was about to become Mrs Crow - and the entire country supported them in this.
When the Reverend finally said 'you may now kiss your bride', Hermione put her very soul into their first kiss as a couple who were now husband and wife in all three of the societies they lived in. The cheering as both couples kissed was tumultuous.
Standing in the receiving line as all their guests congratulated them seemed to take hours, they even managed to smile as Ron and Lavender wished them well. Ron had calmed down a lot over the last year and inviting the rest of the Weasleys without him wasn't really an option. Neither was inviting him without his girlfriend, hence Lavender got to set foot in Kingussie again - just for today though.
Blaise and Roger had enjoyed winding Colin up that he, as the youngest, could give the best man speech. When the time came, it was Roger who stood to do the honours.
Learning about goblins saw Roger get straight down to business, something he thought his four friends would appreciate. "Meeting Harry Crow changed my life, how many here can also say that?"
Hermione, Neville and Padma had their hands straight up in the air, this generated some laughter before every single person then raised their hand too.
This drew a smile from Roger. "That's just about what I expected…" He was halted for a moment as elves who had just served them a wonderful meal began appearing with their hands raised too. "…and that will please these four even more." This led to applause that soon spread right around the tables. The area in front of the swiss chalet had been expanded so they could all eat dinner there while the section in front of Crow's Nest that had earlier held the wedding ceremony was now being set up as the dance floor for later.
"I had a front row seat as these four became inseparable from their first week at Hogwarts, Harry taking down a troll in those first few days to save these two brides and one of their bridesmaids is something Blaise specifically wanted me to thank you for." This again generated laughter as everyone knew that story, it had now passed into folklore.
"Hermione had already made her mind up she was with Harry before the feast was served at Hogwarts. She hadn't been in the castle an hour before Hermione jumped from the Ravenclaw table to be at Harry's side. If Dumbledore was sending Harry home, then Hermione was going too. In a matter of days, Padma and then Neville had joined them - the Fab Four were born."
Roger was quite pleased that got a few laughs, until he noticed it was only those with muggle connections that were laughing. He'd need to ask Hermione about that later.
"This might be two couples but they were incredibly close right from the start. Fred, George, Cedric and I were lucky enough to take part in their extra training, we spent the next few years getting our arses kicked on a weekly basis. Even adding Victor Krum and my fiancée, Fleur, didn't help - it at least took them longer to defeat the six of us." This generated some genuine laughter as everyone knew Roger hated getting beat at anything.
"When the story eventually came out that both couples were bonded, it wasn't exactly a big surprise. We all could see how close they were, how hard they trained yet how normal they wanted to be. It's a testament to them that seeing these four in the Prophet and reading about the latest thing they had achieved just became normal to us - this is who our friends are."
He then expanded on that idea. "I've spent five years in Hogwarts with them, gone on holiday alongside them, visited that wonderful island and of course spent time with all four here. I thought the Baron's Fayre was one of the greatest things ever to happen in this country, but today tops that.
Roger now directed his comments to both couples. "I've twice watched my four friends go off to war and done the best I could on both of those occasions. The last time was hopefully the war to end all wars, we could do with a good few peaceful generations. You four played a massive part in that, you have all our thanks for that. I think it's now time to raise our glasses and toast four best friends who today became two of the nicest married couples I know. I give you the brides and grooms!"
Harry found himself on the dance floor for the rest of the night. After his first dance with Hermione, he and Neville swapped brides as he then danced with Padma. Three bridesmaids followed, then three mothers, Tonks and now a very pregnant Henrica. He had a promise to keep to Rainha next too.
"This is very inconsiderate of you, Harry, arranging your honeymoon when I'm due to give birth. Who's going to carry me into St Mungo's while you're lying on a beach with Hermione."
"I think you're forgetting, our wedding date was set well before you went and got pregnant. It's also Moony's turn to be godfather, he'll carry you if Sirius can't manage it."
This had both of them laughing before Henrica came back at him. "There is still quite a queue of ladies waiting to dance with the groom, one of the disadvantages of having a large family."
"It's a price I'm happy to pay, Henrica. Besides, I've got Hermione all to myself for the next two weeks. The elves will let us know when the happy event happens, I think it will be sooner than that."
"Oh Harry, I certainly hope so!"
Between the Delacours, Moa and Henrica, there were five veela in Kingussie waiting on a dance with the grooms. Both though only had eyes for the beautiful witches they'd just married.
Hogwarts was busy but just didn't feel the same without the four friends being there, that all changed when the students walked into dinner and found a quartet of visitors sitting at the Ravenclaw table. After all the squeals of greeting, they finally got some answers.
"It's Crow's marauders tonight! The clubs run up until the end of fifth year, who else is going to take you lot?"
Luna wasn't the only one who wanted confirmation but she was the only one who asked. "Do you mean the club is still going to run this year, Harry?"
"Yes, Luna, we're going to be here every week - and for the Christmas parties too."
This was very good news but Harry had more to say. "I'm Hogwarts' Champion, now one of the three responsible for the Potter Scholarships and then there's also the marauders program to consider. I may no longer be a student here but I intend to be returning to the castle for many years to come."
This was something that pleased everybody, and not just Crow's Marauders. Augusta then approached with a pair of scrolls.
"Since you dropped in, I now won't have to owl these. They are invitations to the Merlin ball, I hope you can make it?"
Neville tried not to laugh, his gran was well aware they would be arriving in Hogwarts tonight. "Gran, you know we wouldn't miss it."
Harry quickly agreed with Neville before adding even more. "The Lady Helena is opening the room for the marauder clubs, she will also open the room for you if it's needed for a ball or something special. I've also arranged for the goblin tailors to visit for our new first years the weekend before the Merlin ball."
It was the happiest dinner since returning to Hogwarts for the students. These four may no longer be in the castle every day but it was now clear they hadn't really left Hogwarts for good.
Six years later...
The couple ran alongside the docks, watching the ships being loaded with supplies for the oil rigs. Turning right saw them heading on to the promenade as they raced along Aberdeen's sea front.
"I can't believe this is our last day here, the time just seems to fly past. Our last exam is today!"
This had his wife firing right back at him. "You weren't saying that back in November when the North Sea was coming right over that wall, you were turning the air nearly as blue as we were. I told you we should just have stayed in bed that morning, we were soaked and half frozen to death."
"Hermione, once you start staying in bed, it just becomes harder to get out that same bed the following morning."
"When it's below zero and blowing a gale, you better believe it's hard to get out of bed - especially when my toasty-hot husband is lying beside me."
As they reached the River Don, they turned left to cut inland before turning again to head back to their flat - just a hundred yards or so from Aberdeen University.
"Whose turn is it to make breakfast this morning?"
"I'll get it love, it's actually Sapphire's but she's stressing out over this exam. We both know she'll pass it easily but she wants that top mark. As the first actual goblin to attend university, Sapphire knows the eyes of The Nation will be upon her. She's desperate for the words 'First Class' to be on her Honours Degree."
"She's certainly worked hard enough for it, those slight glamours certainly helped - so did going to every class with her 'brother'."
"It will be great to get back to Kingussie and see our own brother..."
"Harry, it's not even a fortnight since we were home for the weekend. In the last four years we could probably count on the one hand the number of times we went longer than a fortnight without spending a weekend at home."
"I know, but I still miss it. You were right that day when you first walked in, Kingussie is home. Crow's Nest is where we live and I miss it when we're not there."
"Well, we were supposed to go out and celebrate after our last exam - you fancy skipping and heading straight home?"
This got a smile from Harry. "That sounds great, and Sapphire will certainly vote for that. Tony is building up his courage to ask her out on a date - again. This is our last day and there's a hint of desperation about him now."
"I thought that was because you were practically growling at him. He likes Sapphire, and she likes him ... just not like that." She couldn't help but chuckle as Harry almost stumbled at her teasing.
"Oh so not funny Mrs Crow. All these years and we still need to work on that sense of humour."
This just had her laughing more as they put a sprint on toward the flat they shared with Sapphire. Today would be their last day in Aberdeen, just returning to collect their degrees. It was almost time to start the next phase of their lives, at least they wouldn't have to worry about getting a job. Harry and Sapphire were already set, and Hermione had more offers than she knew what to do with. They would discuss that over the summer, it was time for the Crows to fly home.
A/N thanks for reading.
A/N 2 this chapter fought me more than the 100+ that preceded it. Only a short epilogue to go now and we're done, hopefully by the end of the weekend.