Harry Crow

Disclaimer - with Christmas fast approaching, I have once more asked Santa for ownership of the Harry Potter empire. Since I'm more likely to get a jumper that would make one knitted by Molly Weasley look cool, I'm legally obliged to state here that Harry Potter still isn't mine.

Chapter 27

It was an impassioned Amelia Bones who presented her case to the assembled Wizengamot, this really was something very close to her heart. Attempting to change centuries of accepted abuse was never going to be easy though. When the first protest came, it was from an unexpected quarter. Amelia had counted on the backing of all the witches in the Wizengamot, apparently she was wrong to make that assumption. Oh how she hated that hem, hem, and the false, high pitched little-girl voice that wasn't fooling anyone. Apart from clearly failing the long, slim part of the criteria, Dolores Umbridge was pure barracuda.

"I am having difficulty understanding Madam Bones' concern over this matter. Didn't I read in the Prophet the other week that, due to her association with this Crow creature, her niece was now taking some goblin concoction that supposedly protected the girl from unscrupulous wizards?"

Delores' smile never reached her eyes. Here was the fabled wicked witch who would attempt to ensnare children into her gingerbread house, only to cook their bones in her cauldron. A false sweet and innocent facade hiding the real evil behind, but not fooling those who knew what Delores really was. She smilingly twisted the proverbial dagger her question had just thrust into the heart of Amelia's proposal. "One is then left to wonder about the motive behind this motion. Could it be to bring further publicity to what is nothing more than a very minor matter? Thus allowing her goblin friends to make even more gold from selling this protection myth to frightened fathers of young witches."

Amelia was livid. Her years spent as an auror had taught her not to waste time and energy by fighting against that anger, but to use that very same anger to aid her in battle. There was no doubt Amelia was now embroiled in a battle, a battle she intended to win. Umbridge was not only going down, Amelia was going to bury her for getting personal and introducing Susan into the argument. Wizengamot chamber decorum now allowed Amelia to get personal in her rebuffing of this bitch's argument, the head of the DMLE intended to take full advantage of that.

"Although Susan is my niece, I have raised her since she was a toddler as both her parents were murdered by death eaters. I look on Susan as my daughter and of course want to protect her, just as any parent would. It is perfectly understandable that Madam Umbridge doesn't have the maternal experience to comprehend this emotion."

Amelia had a lot more to say, taking Dolores' deliberately misconstrued supposition apart a piece at a time. "She is also badly misinformed about the goblin elixir that now protects my niece's virtue and honour. At no point did gold changed hands between myself and the goblins over this matter, nor were the other young witches currently using this elixir asked for any form of payment. Harry is one of the most honourable people I have ever met, and he just wanted his friends protected from this vile and very real threat. I for one sleep better at night knowing Susan has this protection, and such a good friend looking out for her." Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, bitch. Amelia though wasn't finished, not by a long shot. Her anger had just sparked a piece of inspiration, inspiration that might provide a method for swinging everyone behind her proposal.

Her voice may have been steady but Amelia's determination to end a perceived wrong shone through. "Before us is a motion to criminalise these potions, potions that don't just affect and control witches. For generations, stories have been smugly and almost jokingly bandied about of witches using these type of potions to 'get a wizard interested' in their charms. This behaviour has almost become socially acceptable in our society, but it is every bit as wrong as a wizard using these disgusting potions to take advantage of a witch." This bit of truth shook the chamber out of its apathy, Amelia had just made this real for them. She pressed home that advantage. "Imagine if you will, waking up beside a person you would never willingly take to bed."

Amelia's attention was currently fixed on Dolores, and not by accident. "Now, bad as that is, add in a ring or a child conceived while under the influence of these potions and you have an instant recipe for disaster."

Amelia's stare had now focused the chamber's attention onto Dolores. This was unwanted attention that saw Umbridge become red with rage, as wizard after wizard drew the conclusion Amelia had hoped for. The only way a wizard would ever end up in bed with Dolores Umbridge was under the influence of a massive amount of alcohol, or one of these potions. While waking up with a hangover beside Umbridge may be a vomit inducing scenario, at least they would have the knowledge they must have been far too drunk to have gotten up to anything. These potions were an entirely different matter.

Amelia's victory was never in doubt after that, with a discussion on a sliding scale of severity actually taking place before the vote was cast. The final ballot handed a landslide victory to the head of the DMLE, and it would now be illegal to brew, posses and especially use a love potion in Britain.

-oOoOo-

Cornelius had the delighted head of the DMLE in his office for a celebratory drink, and couldn't help but wonder why he hadn't listened to Amelia's councel more often. This decision today would certainly assist his plans to bring the goblins closer, and he was now certain Amelia would be a great team member to have on his side to help see those plans realised.

"I would like to offer my personal congratulations on your victory today, you spearheaded that brilliantly through an originally apathetic chamber. I was wondering if you would like the same challenge for a cause that I've been working on? This time though, the chamber might be downright hostile."

The minister could see he had piqued her interest, and attempted to make the offer irresistible. "What I need from you though is a promise of secrecy, until I'm ready to introduce this to the chamber. Even if you oppose the idea, which I obviously don't think you will, I must still have your promise."

Asking to have the head of the DMLE on board meant there was no way this could be something that was even slightly dodgy, and her promise of silence only lasted until the motion was introduced. "Okay, Cornelius, I'll bite. Just what are you up to?"

The minister waited until she'd actually given her word before passing on the information. "I want to shut down Arthur Weasley's department, and make him head of a new one, one that handles all our relations between the ministry, the muggles and the goblins."

As Amelia was mentally running through the ramifications of that, she held her glass out for a refill. She took a sip before coming up with questions that got right to the heart of the matter. "Weasley is an inspired choice. Old pureblood family, loves muggles and has a son who's employed by Gringotts - and also teaches Harry. I'm assuming you're using that connection to sound out the goblins about this proposal?"

"Their responses appear to be very positive, and so far they've not demanded anything that would break the deal. We've been asked to recognise an ambassador, an ambassador who would handle all their dealings with the ministry - Weasley would be our representative."

This made perfect sense to Amelia. For the ministry to accept an ambassador from the goblins would be the wizards and witches of Britain acknowledging they were a sovereign nation, a large leap up from considering them beasts. With some Wizengamot members thinking muggles and goblins were equally beneath them, Cornelius might actually have a chance of getting this through the chamber without too much of a fight. "Can you tell me anything more?"

"Barchoke's name has been put forward as their first ambassador..."

This started Amelia laughing. "Oh that is just priceless! Have you a timescale in mind?"

"I was hoping to introduce this at the end of June. A motion that changes laws and charters must sit in the chamber forty days to allow proper time for discussion, and give any opposition time to build their arguments. During those forty days I'm gambling on Harry attending the ministry summer ball, putting public pressure on those hoping to scupper the motion."

Finishing off her drink, Amelia gave Cornelius the bad news. "Harry won't be in Britain at that time, I've seen his summer plans - because I'll be joining him for part of those holidays."

It was now Cornelius' turn to finish his drink. He thought for a moment before being totally honest with his head of DMLE. "Amelia, without Harry at that ball, I don't think I can get the votes needed to pull this off. You clearly have information I don't, how can I get Harry to the ball?"

"The problem might be his guests. Harry's invited them on holiday with him, I don't know whether he'd leave those guests and return to Britain - just so he could attend a ministry ball."

The minister was basically thinking out loud now, he needed this to happen. "What if we invited his guests too? Just who are we talking about?"

"I see a couple of problems with that. The Bones, Abbots, Longbottoms and Patils shouldn't pose any political trouble, neither would Sirius Black and his date. Harry probably wouldn't even consider attending without Miss Granger, but it's her parents and Barchoke that will be the main obstacles. Can you swing a pair of muggles and a goblin attending the ministry's premier event?"

Fudge didn't get to be minister without being able to put a political spin on just about anything. "What if we gave the group their own table? Add in the Weasleys as the ministry representative, you would be there as Harry's invited guest. Do you think the Grangers and Barchoke would be accepted for the opportunity to attend the premier magical event in Europe this summer, a ball with the boy-who-lived as the guest of honour. The goblins made him a centurion for chasing a ghost out of Hogwarts, it's now the ministry's turn to honour our saviour. We could even hold it on his birthday, and come up with some kind of gift or award to show how much the Potters' sacrifice means to us. What do you think?"

"I think you have the beginnings of a great idea. Rather than trying to heap honours onto Harry, I think you may have more success if you honoured James and Lily. Yes, by all means include Harry in any award but this spreads it around, and may make the evening more palatable to everyone attending."

The minister loved that idea. "We get to honour James and Lily Potter, as well as Harry Crow. That would certainly pacify some of the more traditional families who usually attend."

Both knew what Cornelius meant by 'more traditional' but now they were left to decide what form the award would take. They still had time so decided to ask Barchoke for his opinion. Changed days indeed when a goblin was being consulted on a prestigious ministry event. Amelia hadn't actually said she was on board for this adventure, as usual, she let her actions speak for her.

-oOoOo-

Severus intended to let his actions speak for him too, or rather his inactions. Despite repeated prompting from Albus and Lucius, he wanted nothing to do with Harry Crow. Severus had no intention of going anywhere near the lad, painful things seemed to happen to those antagonists who got too close to Centurion Crow. Albus and Lucius being two prime examples.

He understood Albus' fear, it was hard not to. The headmaster ensured Severus knew the history of Tom Riddle, and Crow was so far ahead of where that future dark lord had reached at the same age it was terrifying Albus. Harry had political influence and financial power that a young Tom couldn't even dream about, and that was without taking into account the whole Hogwarts Champion and a centurion to boot. If Tom Riddle had those same advantages when he'd set foot inside the castle, Severus had not one shred of doubt Britain would now be ruled by Lord Voldemort.

Today's Prophet emphasised the casual power wielded by this eleven year old. The law had just changed because Harry Crow had been sent some potion-centred chocolates by owl. He neither ate the chocolates nor asked for the law to be changed, the ministry just tripped over itself in its haste to appease the boy.

What Severus was struggling to understand was the way Albus kept trying to pedal the same old shit in Harry's direction, after repeatedly being slapped down for that very action. What made it worse though was his repeated efforts to get Severus to join him in this fatally flawed campaign.

He wondered if Albus getting his own way, unopposed for so long, left him unable to adapt when things suddenly stopped proceeding as he intended they should. The headmaster was unquestionably a learned wizard, yet appeared to be blinkered where Harry was concerned. When his scheming didn't work, there was no plan B - just a different variation of the same shit plan that had already spectacularly failed. Even his godson, Draco, had learnt to leave Crow alone, yet Albus seemed incapable of grasping the same lesson that was blatantly obvious to a pre-teen boy. Perhaps the headmaster suffered from a simple case of arrogance, Albus Dumbledore knew better than everyone else - so therefore he must be right. It didn't really matter to Severus what it was, he still wanted no part of it.

What Severus really struggled to understand was the puzzle of why the sorting hat had placed the boy in Ravenclaw. His mother was still the brightest witch Severus had ever met in his life. While he may have called the lad's father a stuck-up arrogant bullying bastard of a git, stupid was not a term you could associate with James Potter. Harry though, while undoubtedly very bright, was easily the most Slytherin child to come through Hogwarts since Salazar opened his house to students. His godson was supposed to be a Slytherin yet Severus shuddered to think what Draco's attitude would be like with even a tenth of Harry's power and fame.

Harry on the other hand quietly went about his business, cultivating close friends and associates while destroying enemies with an efficient ruthlessness Salazar Slytherin would have been proud of. Crow ruled the first years without even trying or apparently meaning to do so, the entire year-group following him out the great hall from the Christmas Feast being the best example Severus could think of.

On the other hand, Dumbledore's popularity had slipped to a level Argus Filtch would be hard-pressed to match. That picture in the Prophet with Harry standing over a bloody Albus Dumbledore was a massive blow to his public persona. Even though the newspaper clearly stated it was Sirius Black who had knocked Albus to the floor, it was the image of Crow standing there with his sword pinning Dumbledore down everyone remembered.

Severus was certain that those blasted Weasley twins were responsible for making Albus go ape, purely due to the fact Crow and his friends had just returned to the castle that very morning. With no proof, and the headmaster's already noted attitude to pranks and potions, Minerva wouldn't even allow him to take points from her house. It was now obvious to everyone that the headmaster was losing control of the school, and wouldn't be in the castle much longer if he didn't modify his behaviour.

This presented Severus with an even greater dilemma, what to do if Albus got booted out of Hogwarts? There existed an uneasy state of detente between himself and Crow at the moment, that would swiftly switch to all out war should the lad ever discover the part one Severus Snape played in the Potters' demise. The potions master was sure being barred from Gringotts would be the least of his problems, keeping his head attached to his neck would be his number one priority. Albus wanted Severus to stay in Hogwarts but all bets would be off if there was a new headmaster in charge.

His mind was made up, if / when Dumbledore got kicked out the castle - Severus would then make his own escape. Should Crow manage to get Albus out of Hogwarts, even defeating the dark lord might not be beyond this lad's growing capabilities. After that, Magical Britain would swoon at his feet - and give him anything he asked for. Crow requesting Severus Snape's head on a stick was a distinct possibility. He needed to get said head onto the other side of the planet before that happened. The magical world might not know a lot about goblins, but asking one you'd wronged for mercy was simply a waste of breath - probably your last breath too.

-oOoOo-

Sirius was out of breath by the time he'd climbed all the way up the hills, his dragon hide boots standing up to the journey through this desolate landscape better than the rest of his attire. He could have apparated by line of sight but Sirius didn't want to make the person he was here to see any more nervous than he had to. By making his way up the hill - bloody mountain - on foot, he would have been visible for ages, and recognisable for at least the last half a mile.

He approached the lone figure carefully, making no sudden movements and keeping his empty hands in plain sight. "You're a hard person to find, hidden away in this wilderness. Well, at least I know you're still a marauder. What a prank, putting a wolf in charge of the sheep. How's it going shepherd Lupin, you look like shit!"

"At least I'm dressed for the terrain, and the weather. Who the hell picked your clothes?"

"My beautiful blonde girlfriend, it's supposed to be the latest fashion. She's a Swedish veela who's taken pity on an old dog, and my tail has never stopped wagging since. If you think I'm going to say anything other than 'yes honey' to whatever she wants, then you're crazier than you look, Moony."

The ragged and weather-beaten man replied with a sarcastic laugh. "Well I certainly considered me being crazy as one option when I saw you tripping through the heather. The old timers told me this would happen if I spent too much time up here by myself, seems they were right. Humour a crazy old werewolf and tell me how you managed to get your badly tailored arse out of Azkaban?"

"Harry and his father sprung me..."

Remus now had an angry look in his eyes, and a wand in his hand.

"Harry also sliced clean through the wand of the last wizard who drew on me, you have no idea how proud I am to say it was Albus Dumbledore he faced down - I've even got the pictures to prove it."

He could see this wasn't helping his friend understand so got serious. "Sorry Moony, I should have said Harry's adopted father. I know better than anyone James and Lily are dead, but I wasn't the secret keeper. I still blame myself for their deaths though, convincing them to swap to Peter was just stupid. Rat bastard led his master straight to them. He's still out there, Remus, but I had to promise Harry's father I wouldn't go chasing after him. I was told in no uncertain terms that Harry needs his godfather in his life, he also needs his Uncle Moony..."

"Now I know this is real, my imagination could never come up with a story half as crazy as that. Sirius, if this is your idea of some bullshit prank, I swear I'll kill you myself."

"Marauder's honour, Moony. Henrica really is a beautiful blonde Swedish veela..."

Moony sprang at Sirius and soon they were hugging like long lost brothers - which is effectively what they were.

-oOoOo-

To eleven and twelve year olds, anyone out of their teens was considered old. By that method of reckoning, Professor McGonagall was ancient. Using this same measuring scale, the small stooped witch currently standing next to their transfiguration professor must be Methuselah's mother.

It was Neville who provided the witch's identity to his three friends as they took their usual seats in transfiguration. "That's Griselda Marchbanks, she's a friend of my gran's. She is also head of the wizarding examination board, I wonder what she's doing here? OWL's and NEWT's don't start for nearly five weeks, and we're only first year."

This caused Hermione to stop as if she'd been pole axed, earning concerned glances from her friends. "I can't believe exams are just over four weeks away, and I forgot all about them. I haven't even started revising..."

Her panic attack would need to wait until later as McGonagall now demanded her class' full attention. "Good morning class. As you have already noticed, we have a visitor with us this morning. Madam Marchbanks has been testing Hogwarts students since the headmaster sat his NEWT's, I've asked her here today in the hope of gaining her expert opinion on this class. I want this to be a class exercise so today we will all be working on transfiguring the same type of item."

Minerva's wand soon had trays containing teapots landing at the end of each bench, her students knew what to do with them.

If it was anyone else other than Minerva McGonagall asking for this favour, Griselda would have rather impolitely told them to get stuffed. She figured Minnie had discovered a transfiguration prodigy, why else would she be handing out teapots to a group of first years. Griselda couldn't quite remember whether the teapot to turtle transfiguration was the end of second year, or the beginning of third, it certainly wasn't taught in first.

The ancient witch needed her cane to keep from falling over as student after student completed the transfiguration. That wasn't what made Griselda's head spin though, they were using neither a recognised spell nor wand movements. Minerva soon had a chair configured for her guest before turning back to her class. "Very well done. Now, as a treat, I want you spending the rest of the lesson using your imagination to see what else you can transfigure that teapot into. Madam Marchbanks and I will be observing, and I better not see anything dangerous on your bench."

Minerva conjured a chair for herself and a small table between them. No sooner was the table solid than a tea service appeared on it. The professor poured tea for both of them, since Griselda couldn't take her eyes off the first years.

"I know exactly how you feel, this breaks the rules of magic we apparently only thought existed. I couldn't tell you about it before, you wouldn't have believed me anyway. This is one of those things you really need to see for yourself."

With her hand shaking more than usual, Griselda reached for her tea. "Minnie, I'm looking at it, and I still don't believe it. Now, before my old heart gives up in shock, I want you to tell me exactly what we're witnessing here."

She was listening to a tale of goblin transfiguration while watching a menagerie of small animals run, scurry and hop around the benches.

"...so now I have a class that are so far ahead of their peers, I have no idea how to proceed into second year. They don't learn spells and there are no books to deal with a situation like this. As a written test, I required an essay on the difficulties of transfiguring inanimate material into a living creature. The essays were astonishing. They didn't waste reams of parchment giving me the wrong spells or back to front wand movements, every single one of them got the fact that it was all about concentration - and their ability to properly imagine the creature they were aiming for."

Madam Griselda Marchbanks didn't become the head of the exam board because she was stupid, the old witch caught on at once. "Strip away the spell and wand movements, that's all there is left."

"Exactly! This leaves a very big problem though. This is easily the best class I have ever taught, but every single one of them will fail the current OWL and NEWT exams. They'll ace the practicals, then fail miserably at the written part - because it's information they don't need to know. I could have them conjuring items in their second year, because every session is spent with a wand in their hand."

"Do you plan on rolling this out through the school?"

"No, for a few good reasons. I'm having to learn a different way to transfigure myself, it will take a while longer to get the harder spells down. I think that's purely because I've been doing them a different way for most of my life. It's not easy to concede there's a better way to do something that you're a certified master of, I can't ignore what's right in front of me though. There are students in this class who would struggle with traditional methods, you can see for yourself how quickly they're picking this up."

Griselda found it impossible to refute what was right in front of her eyes. Minerva though wasn't finished.

"I'm hoping you can help me with the other reason. If the exams can't be changed, I'm going to have to spend the next six years teaching this class spells they will never use. On those headings, I won't teach September's new first year this method."

This drew a sharp response from her friend. "You have to continue teaching this method, I've never seen children this young so comfortable with their magic. I'll bring the rest of the examiners in to observe this class when we're here in June, I won't say a word to them beforehand. If we changed the exam to, say seventy five percent practical, with the rest made up of a few essay questions, that should be acceptable. We could even raise the threshold of transfiguration we expect them to be able to accomplish. Otherwise, this lot will be at Ordinary Wizarding Level by the end of their third year. I take it some of the class are even more accomplished than what we're seeing here?"

With a smile, Minerva levitated a large block of wood in Harry's direction. She'd hoped Griselda would ask that question. "Centurion Crow, would you please show Madam Marchbanks what this method of transfiguration is capable of?"

It took a moment of thought before Harry decided what he wanted to do. The block of wood became a young lion cub, before being transfigured into a magnificent golden eagle. If there was any doubt what Harry was attempting, it ended when the eagle became a badger. A large silver serpent drew some gasps, before a baby dragon changed those gasps to shrieks.

Hermione heard Harry telling the dragon to behave itself and asked if it was safe to touch. Being told to keep talking to it and scratch behind its ears saw her do just that.

The deputy headmaster of Hogwarts and the head of the wizarding exam board were just as enthralled as the rest of the class. Watching in disbelief as the young muggle born witch scratched a baby dragon while talking to it in gobbledygook.

Minerva finally found her voice. "I understood the house emblems, Centurion Crow, but why the baby dragon?"

"The symbol of Gringotts professor. I may have been sorted into Ravenclaw but I'm still a goblin."

Hermione removed her hand and, when no one else appeared interested in emulating her feat, Harry returned the dragon to the block of wood he started with.

The bell signalled the end to the quickest lesson Griselda could ever remember, the time had appeared to fly past. She watched as student after student transfigured their creation back to the original teapot, and placed it on the end of their bench as they left. There were no bags to pack, no books or parchment to put away. Stow their wands and leave, that was all they had to do.

Excitement buzzed around the ancient witch's body. She casually told the tale of being Albus Dumbledore's examiner for his NEWT's, what she didn't often mention was that those exams were still the same ones sat by today's young witches and wizards. Do the same shit for over a century and it was hard to get excited about it. Here was something new, so new it practically blew her mind.

"Minerva, you have to continue this. They've four years yet before they sit OWL's, that gives us plenty of time to bring in a new exam. If Hogwarts has another four years worth of students, trained in this method, following on behind - the ministry will be forced to change the exam."

The professor could see the sense in that argument. It was one she wouldn't have considered though without Griselda's backing.

"I want you to keep me informed of their progress, this class will be our test group and I want them closely monitored. Gauging their abilities will be necessary for setting the exam criterion. If as I suspect, the transfiguration they perform in that exam is of a far higher standard than currently required for OWL's, publicising that should quickly kill off any opposition."

She could hardly wait to bring the rest of the examiners to see this class, it had been at least a couple of decades since Griselda had felt like that about spending the beginning of June inside Hogwarts.

-oOoOo-

They had no sooner left the classroom than Harry broached the subject that had got Hermione hot and bothered before class started. He was worried his best friend was regretting all the time they spent together, and would now want to spend that time studying for exams. What made it worse in Harry's opinion was that these were exams he was sure they would both ace.

"You seemed worried about our exams, Hermione, surely you know you'll be top in all your classes?"

"Harry, you're miles ahead in defence, potions and transfiguration. Neville has green thumbs to go with those green fingers of his and stargazer Patil here has us all beat in astronomy. I might get top in charms and history of magic, but that's hardly all my classes."

"Isn't that enough?"

It was a serious question, a question that deserved a serious answer. Although the question had come from Padma, she could see the concern in Harry's eyes. If he though for one second she was going to stop hanging around with her best friend to go on some revision crusade, he was badly mistaken. "It was more surprise at Neville mentioning exams, and me not realising how close they were. Before Hogwarts, I would have had a chart on my wall at home, with a colour-coded revision schedule all worked out, since April. We spent April hammering through our extra lessons, and getting another upgrade to our potions books. Not once did I even think of exams."

Neville was confused, not a new state for him when with his friends but one that he'd been experiencing less of late. "You say that as if it's a bad thing, Hermione."

"Oh, it's certainly not a bad thing, it was more a surprise at myself. Before Hogwarts, exams were all I had - only books were my friends. I think it just hit me how much I had changed, and I'm very happy with those changes. I'm still going to try and beat Harry to be number one student in our year, but I can live with it if he wins."

This got a chuckle out of Neville. "Well, we've certainly got enough experience of it. He beats us every weekend in defence. I know what you mean though, my gran barely lets me out of her sight at home. I've never had friends before either so Hogwarts has been unbelievable for me too."

"Well, I've enjoyed it as well. Being in a different house from my sister has allowed me to be myself, instead of everyone looking at us as if we were two half's of the same person. I know George and Fred play on that aspect a lot, but sometimes I think they are the same person. Parvati and I are very different. I need to catch her before lunch, I'll see you guys then."

As their friend headed off, a smiling Harry thought he'd changed the most. He didn't mention that though, they had far more important things to talk about with Padma gone. "Okay, now we've sorted that out, what are we going to do for the twins' birthday? We can use the room again for a party, I think we better check with McGonagall first this time."

Both agreed with that idea before Neville aired his thoughts on the real problem. "I think the way Harry handled it at Christmas was the right idea. Getting Parvati a gift as Padma's sister. I like Parvati, I just don't want her getting the wrong idea and hanging all over me because I wish her a happy birthday."

Both Harry and Hermione were in total agreement with that. Padma meant a lot to all three of them and her twin sister had to be taken into consideration. With Hogwarts help, a party for both would be easily arranged, and they had Sirius or Eargit to acquire any gifts they needed to buy.

Since Lavender would have to be invited, any plans toward a surprise birthday party died then and there. The blonde Gryffindor would have the story spread all over the castle within hours of being told, so there was no chance of her keeping it from Parvati.

-oOoOo-

With a general invite to all students of first year, Minerva couldn't find a reason to refuse their plans for a party. That she, Filius and Henrica were all invited too made it an easy decision for the deputy headmistress to reach. Usually birthday parties would be held in the celebrating student's common room. With the twins being sorted into different houses, that option was not available in this instance.

Harry and Neville made their way from the staff table, the Ravenclaw smiling while the Gryffindor searched for the courage his house was noted for. Both boys made their way to identical Asian witches, with the same task in mind.

Harry knew he was getting off lightly while Neville wished for the umpteenth time the hat had placed him in Ravenclaw with his friends.

"Padma, we know it's your birthday tomorrow and wanted to hold a party in the room. McGonagall just gave us permission..."

A shriek of delight pierced the great hall, and probably a few eardrums too! All eyes were drawn to where Parvati had Neville in what could easily be described as a headlock, while she jumped up and down in excitement.

"You made Neville tell Parvati?"

"Hey, he's the Gryffindor - I'm not brave enough for that. We're asking all of first year, we'll have our dinner there Saturday night. Some of the professors will be their too, and Sirius of course."

The young witch's eyes sparkled with moisture as she answered her friends. "That will be wonderful, and thanks for including Pav."

"No problem, her birthday is the second of May too..."

Harry thought he was getting better at cracking jokes as both Padma and Hermione began laughing. It was only when he spotted Parvati out the corner of his eye, heading at speed straight for a certain centurion, he realised the joke was on him. Harry bracing himself for the worse just saw the two girls laugh harder.

The excitement of a party swept through the great hall, infecting every house. This presented a problem for Draco, what to do? He'd kept his distance from Crow, no more antagonising but certainly no socialising either. Now he was being forced to make a decision. Tales of the great time had by those who followed Crow out the hall at Christmas had Draco wanting to attend, but his pride was in the way.

It was only thinking about the instructions his father had given that allowed Draco to circumvent his prideful obstacle. His father wanted information on Crow, so Draco could put this down as a spying mission. Of course, he would have to pretend to enjoy himself - otherwise he would stand out like a sore thumb. A spy needed to be unobtrusive and inconspicuous, Draco intended to blend right in.

Ron Weasley had no such dilemma, there would be cake, he was sort of invited - no-brainer! He would finally get to see this room Seamus and Dean raved about - there might even be some of that goblin ale that was supposedly better than butterbeer. Ron finally had something to look forward to that wasn't related to Gryffindor playing Quidditch.

Albus watched on, a mere observer as the castle slipped a little further from his grasp. His opinion was neither sought, nor did he think it would be listened to. For Albus Dumbledore, being ignored was a new experience - and not in any way a pleasant one.

A/N thanks for reading

A/N 2 I have been incredibly busy lately, so much so that I haven't one word written of the next chapter. Hope to maintain my weekly posting schedule but it may slip by a day or two.