Harry Crow

Disclaimer - Harry Potter belongs to JKR. I write purely for fun and it's posted here so anyone can read my efforts - free of charge. Anybody wishing professional standards of writing should go and buy a book, JKR has apparently got a new one out!

Chapter 34

Albus was taking an evening stroll around the castle, this was at least better than sitting in his office moping. He'd been so busy thinking about the public embarrassment missing tonight's ball would cause him that he'd totally overlooked the much greater problem that was right under his nose. Albus had also been mulling over what to do about Severus when it hit home that he hadn't actually seen his potions professor for a while.

During the summer break, it wasn't uncommon for staff to be missing for weeks at a time but Severus would usually tell him when he set off on an ingredients gathering trip. As Albus cast his mind back further, the last time he could recall seeing the head of Slytherin was when Severus saw his students off to the express. This led Albus to do something he would not normally do, enter a professor's accommodation without their permission or knowledge. In Severus' rooms he found no sign of his potions professor, literally. It was evident Severus had packed everything he owned and skedaddled out the castle - no fond goodbye or even a note.

This left Albus in a precarious position. If he told Barchoke that it was Snape who passed on the prophecy, it would now appear as if he'd helped Severus flee before revealing the informant's identity. The headmaster was also in a quandary over what to do about a potions professor come September. Severus hadn't handed in his notice, and advertising his position might alert people that he'd done a runner. Just when Albus thought he'd finally got the defence job sorted, along comes something else to upset the apple cart. He was left asking himself why the fates suddenly hated him so?

-oOoOo-

Dolores thought the fates were against her as well. She would admit to herself that thinking on her feet was not one of her best traits, she was more of a careful schemer who strived from the shadows to achieve her long term goals - but that wouldn't work tonight. She had approached a few people who shared some of her opinions on magical society, hoping to create a collective sense of outrage at this odious circus tonight's ball was turning into. Really, she was just looking for someone to do the dirty work in her place but Dolores was finding no takers.

The boy cunningly revealing he might one day be the goblin ambassador had won him a lot of plaudits tonight, that the ministry wouldn't then have to deal with a beast was certainly a plus. If the boy decided to forsake them and live as a goblin, the public would tear down whatever government allowed that travesty to happen. Here might be a compromise that was acceptable to all.

There was also those who weren't present tonight but whose absence still played a big part in Dolores not finding the support she was looking for. That Albus Dumbledore was refused an invitation for the ball again counted in the boy's favour, especially amongst those with the same leanings as Dolores. At the back of all their minds too was the omission of the Malfoys, now social pariahs in their community. The fact that their wealth was locked away until the son came of age sent shivers up pureblood spines - and this boy was rumoured to be the one responsible for their spectacular fall from grace.

No, it would appear Dolores was on her own tonight. Gordon had told her that when he tried to instigate a confrontation with the boy at Hogwarts, this supposed hero had point-blank refused. This led Dolores to believe his extra defence training was because the boy-who-lived needed it. All she had seen from the boy so far was cutting Dumbledore's wand with a sword, after Black had punched the old fool out and put him on his back. Dolores was confident of winning any confrontation with the brat, it would be the engineering of it that would take all of her skill.

A direct attack on the boy would see her lose support, even after she trounced him. Dolores needed to choose her victim carefully, one that would have him rushing to their aid. All his friends were out for the same reason as the brat was, publicly, she couldn't appear to be a bully that was picking on children. This left Dolores running her eye over the rest of his company. Part of her would really like a go at that veela creature, but a mature veela wouldn't need a little boy springing to her aid. It was also known they could transform and throw fireballs at their foes, not something she fancied facing.

The more she studied, the more her choice became obvious - the muggle bitch who thought she and her mudblood daughter had the right to be here tonight. The problem with her choice was that Amelia Bones and Augusta Longbottom never let her intended target get out of their sight. Dolores was getting desperate, but not desperate enough to tangle with either of those two witches.

Emma couldn't hide her delight at dancing with her daughter's boyfriend. "Oh thank you, Harry, if Arthur had asked me one more stupid question - I swear I would have screamed. If that's the ministry's expert on the general British public, Mr. 'I collect plugs - and batteries too' Weasley, then I hate to think how poor his knowledge is on your nation. Eckeltricity! - even Augusta knows better than that now. Molly's been staring daggers at her husband all evening but I think the chance to talk with two live muggles is too big of an opportunity for him to pass up."

"Well, it also gets me away from their daughter staring in my direction all through the meal. The break from Hogwarts must have lowered Hermione's tolerance, she usually can just ignore it."

She knew she really shouldn't tease but Emma couldn't help it, the mother in her had grown very fond of Harry. "I noticed the only time she wasn't staring at you was when you looked anywhere near her, then her face was redder than her hair. Do the girls stare often, Harry?"

"They stare at the boy-who-lived, not me. My friends don't stare because they've taken the time to get to know me, not some myth."

Emma had spotted some girls in Florida who'd never heard of Harry Potter but still eyed-up this handsome young man. Harry's shoulders were so broad and muscled that they'd had to purchase T-shirts supposedly for ages fifteen to sixteen to achieve a proper fit. With shorts and trainers completing his outfit, you would never have placed him as just approaching twelve. Emma felt those muscles tense as they danced before they sprang into action. She would not have considered herself light as such, that didn't account for Harry being able to lift her effortlessly off her feet and spin her around. No sooner had Emma' feet regained contact with terra firma when Harry had released his hold and quickly turned to face where she had been mere seconds before.

Dolores had sensed a golden opportunity when her two intended victims took to the dance floor. Her original intention was to stick out her foot and trip the bitch before instigating an argument, that was before the green eyed monster of jealousy saw the angry red mist descend to cloud her judgement. This woman was beautiful, even Dolores couldn't deny that. The muggle moved with a grace and elegance that she herself coveted, but it was the way she smiled and chatted to the boy in her arms that saw Delores' bile rise. She was suddenly transferred to other times and different places where the rules were always the same - the pretty girls got all the boys. That this bitch was a muggle magnified the problem immensely in Dolores' eyes.

As they danced toward her, an intended trip was rapidly transforming into a kick. By the time they reached where she had positioned herself, uncontrollable jealousy had Dolores wanting to harm this bitch for all the humiliation and hurt she'd suffered from pretty girls over the years. She took a step forward and swung her foot as hard as she could at those delicate ankles.

Dolores was prepared for the impact, what she wasn't prepared for was hitting fresh air - how could she have missed? Her striking foot continuing unchecked threw her totally off balance, and saw her rump hit the floor with a tremendous thump.

While sitting there trying to comprehend what had just happened, a hand reached out to help her. She looked along that arm until her gaze locked onto the greenest pair of eyes she'd ever seen.

"Are you okay? That bit of floor is slippy, it almost had Emma down just then."

They had instantly gathered a crowd, a crowd that was far from silent. "Slippy my arse, she tried to kick that lady..."

Dolores saw it reflected back in those green orbs, he not only knew what she'd attempted but had somehow foiled her attack. The muggle bitch looking over his shoulder added fuel to her now raging temper, this was not who the most famous wizard in their society should associate with. As far as Dolores was concerned, he'd already made his choice - and chosen badly.

"Get your paw away from me, goblin. You dishonour the proud name of Potter with the choices you make and the company you keep. Your parents would be ashamed of you."

The band may have been still playing a waltz but this was now the event attracting all the attention. Harry glanced at his still offered hand before replying. "That is something none of us here will ever know, since people who shared the same opinions as you saw them murdered in their home. I think what would make them ashamed is that they gave their lives yet this attitude still remains." His offered hand was withdrawn and Harry's gaze got harder. "I have been awarded your society's top honour tonight, but you still consider me far beneath you - purely down to you thinking what flows through your veins is better than mine. Would you care to duel and see if you're correct? I'm sure we can find another vial somewhere and then people can guess just how pure your blood is."

Before anyone could intervene and put a stop to this, Dolores quickly shouted her agreement. "I accept your duel to first blood, we'll see just whose blood it is that gets spilt."

Harry agreed, and then turned to find all his guests were now right behind him. He could see Sirius wanted to object but his father pushed forward first. "I'll hold your coat, son."

This effectively killed any argument though Hermione was now in front of him too, she began unbuttoning his waistcoat before giving advice most of the listening crowd could certainly hear. "Remember Master Sharpshard, don't mess about. Take her out quickly, I want more dances with my boyfriend tonight."

The waistcoat was now off and in his father's hands as his girlfriend started on his shirt. Padma had seen how the crowd reacted to Hermione's words and decided to take it a step further. "I thought Harry took Master Sharpshard out pretty effectively, Hermione. Greatest bladesmith the Goblin Nation has and Harry cut him to pieces, what your boyfriend can do with that sword is just scary..."

Dolores had of course been listening and interrupted. "I choose wands for this duel, not swords."

Hermione had removed his cravat and cuff links, leaving Harry standing there with his shirt open to the waist. He turned to face his opponent. "You are welcome to choose whatever weapons you want, as am I. If you wish to apologise for your attempted attack on Emma, and the slandering of my family, I will accept and we can move on. Otherwise, you will face my blades. You challenged a centurion to a duel, you are about to find out just what that means."

Hermione removed one of the bejewelled disks that decorated her belt, one twist and Harry had a shield on his arm. "I've got a spare here if you need a second?"

This earned her a kiss from her boyfriend as Fudge then attempted to sweep the whole thing under the carpet. "Harry, is this really necessary? Can't we reach some agreement to avoid bloodshed? A sword against a wand is hardly a fair fight, I don't wish to see you hurt."

This saw his three friends burst out laughing, Neville further amazed his grandmother by standing up to the Minister of Magic. "Barchoke arranged duelling dummies for us to practice on. These are top of the range models but we can't let Harry fight them, two of them together can't hit Harry with a spell before he hacks them to pieces. Professor Weasley couldn't repair the last two he destroyed. I would guess she will get one, perhaps two spells off before Harry's blades find their mark. I don't know what she does at the ministry, but I would guess she won't be at work on Monday."

Harry had a shield and his knife on one arm while he drew his sword, taking a few practice swipes. "I've given my terms, minister. She came looking for a fight, I would hate to disappoint. The Grangers are under my protection yet she still made the attempt. Even then, I was prepared to overlook that since it was so childish an attempt - not now."

Glad his boots were made of dragon hide and would cope with the change, Harry activated his armour.

Hermione may have been terrified inside but none of that showed as she gave Harry a quick kiss for luck. "Make it quick, Harry, don't give her a chance to get a lucky shot in."

Dolores was rapidly reevaluating her options, they didn't look good. To back down now would be the end of her career, but to fight might be the end of a lot more than that. She enjoyed her position in the ministry, she also enjoyed picking her nose on occasion. If that blade got too close, Dolores might lose both her job and her wand arm.

She tried to stall, Dolores was ready to try anything. "Armour, what kind of honour is there in fighting with armour on?"

"The same type of honour there is in challenging a twelve year old boy to a duel on his birthday. You thought you would be fighting a little kid, instead you're facing a highly-trained centurion. Do we need a referee or are there too many witnesses for you to attack me when my back is turned?"

The band had long since stopped playing, unable to compete with the entertainment this confrontation was providing. Harry's comments drew loud gasps from the large crowd, most of whom were amazed at just how well this young man had judged his opponent.

Dolores was backed into a corner and couldn't see anyway out, she drew her wand and fired the first curse. Her emotional state being what it was, she cast the curse a lot stronger than she'd intended. It sliced the back of her hand open and she held it up to her opponent, almost wetting herself to find him now right in front of her with that deadly sword poised to strike - how could anyone move that fast?

"First blood I believe, is your honour satisfied?" Dolores was feeling quite pleased with her solution and put as much venom into the word 'honour' as she possibly could. The back of her hand was also in agony, she hoped it didn't leave a scar.

Her opponent then showed what he thought of her honour by turning his back on her and walking away. This was about as big a show of disrespect to an opponent's honour as possible, without committing the ultimate social faux pas and actually spitting in someone's face. Dolores dearly wanted to raise her wand but she now had a face full of furious Fudge.

"You will leave here immediately, reporting to my office at eight o'clock, Monday morning. At that time, you will be reassigned. If you're not there at eight sharp, I will assume you do not wish to be reassigned and have resigned from the ministry."

Dolores left the ball with her head down and leaving a trail of blood behind. Her hand hurt like the devil, it would probably leave a scar too! She was about to be demoted and some toady would take her place on the fast track to success. Dolores knew she was finished in any administration headed by Fudge, what she needed to do now was keep her head down and give people time to forget tonight. Meanwhile, she would be looking about for a challenger to Fudge, and getting in quick before anyone else.

This was certainly going to be a long term project. As long as Fudge had the support of the boy-who-lived, he would be untouchable as minister. Dolores wasn't forgetting that brat either, he'd just shot straight to the top of her 'get even with' list. This was a very short list since she usually ensured those names that appeared on it soon got what was coming to them. She would have to play this one different, plotting the death or dismemberment of a national hero was not something that was going to happen overnight. She'd acted in haste tonight and paid the price, Fudge demoting her would see his proposal sail through the Wizengamot, Dolores would get even though - she always did.

Harry had buttoned his shirt, leaving it open at the neck, and slipped his waistcoat on. After that fiasco, the rest of the night would be informal as far as he was concerned. Hermione was right beside him and he could see her beginning to fret, both could benefit from a long hug but neither wanted to show weakness here.

"Harry, your dance card just filled with my name for the rest of the night."

"That's fine with me, Hermione, but I need to finish my dance with the beautiful lady who was my partner before this started."

Emma attempted to intervene. "Harry, it's fine..."

"No, mum, Professor Weasley taught us that your reactions after a fight can be just as important. We are all going to continue as if everything is normal, and enjoy the rest of the evening. One dance, Harry, then you're mine."

Emma could actually feel him shaking as they danced. "Harry, wouldn't you rather sit for a while?"

"Actually, I'd rather get the hell out of here, but we can't leave yet. It's just the adrenalin, Emma, I was psyching myself up to attack that woman. I would need to have shown I wasn't a pushover and actually harmed her, not something I was looking forward to. Her doing that actually worked better for me, I don't want to give the impression I'm some bloodthirsty nutter with a sword."

"I don't think you could ever be accused of being like that..."

"Dumbledore thought so after the troll, and some of the people here would too if I'd just sliced that witch's wand arm off. After the troll, I stood in a shower for about an hour before hiding in my room for the rest of the night. After Malfoy, I was in a toilet throwing up when Hermione found me. With Master Sharpshard, I was too concerned for Hermione to let anything else bother me."

This drew a shiver from his dance partner. "Don't remind me, watching the memory was bad enough. You've had a hard life for a twelve year old."

"Oh no, Emma, I've had a great life. My father is a very wise goblin, he wanted me to see the world and I've loved every bit of it. The summer holidays have been the best time I've ever had. You now have some idea how wealthy my family is, I could easily spend the rest of my life living in my own private and privileged world. I think that is something my mum and dad would be disappointed in, I know my father wouldn't stop me but I just couldn't do that. All three have put their lives on the line to save mine, I think I need to at least try and make something of myself."

"Harry, you've already done more than enough to make all three of them proud of their son. I watched your father's memory of when you fought your trainer after he hurt Hermione, then tonight you stepped in to protect me too - how could anyone not be proud of you?"

"Does this mean you would accept a lodger for the rest of this weekend?"

"Well, since we'll all be going to your private island after the Wizangamot meeting on Monday, I would say that was a distinct possibility." She could feel his shakes lessening as they danced, both were simply ignoring the stares of the other dancers. Emma decided to make something clear. "Harry, that room at our house is now considered yours. Providing your father agrees, you can stay whenever you want. Dan and I certainly don't mind, and I doubt Hermione will complain." She was rewarded by his first genuine smile since the incident.

The dance ended and Hermione was waiting for them, the young couple took to the floor and were soon oblivious to everything and everyone around them.

Ginny had watched the entire incident from behind her mother. Bill had told her Harry was very close to his three friends but this just drove that home, they were all there for him without a moment's hesitation. Ginny was trying to tell herself this was just a hopeless crush but Merlin, Harry was so handsome. She'd almost put her elbow in the soup simply eating at the same table as him, watching him dance with the girls at the table had built a hope in her she too might actually dance with Harry on his birthday. That was gone now, and probably just as well. Had he actually held her, Ginny Weasley would probably have fainted on the spot.

Emma returned to the table and was determined to take control of the conversation this time. "Molly, Arthur, I can't praise your son, Bill, highly enough. We've actually seen him teaching and were very impressed. He's certainly had a wonderful effect on those four, they all really look up to him."

Molly's entire face lit up and Emma knew she'd hit the bullseye. Muggle or magical, mothers loved to talk about their children. She would much rather talk about that than have Arthur ask her what you used a rubber duck for.

-oOoOo-

Dolores considered herself lucky in a way. The press had gone positively ga-ga over Crow and his friends, with barely any mention of their altercation that happened later. Working under Ludo Bagman in the Department of Magical Games and Sports was also slightly better than the punishment she though Fudge would stick her with. She had envisaged manning the graveyard shift in floo control for the next few years, or even exiled to rot in magical creatures.

This was not the deepest, darkest depths of the ministry Dolores thought she was destined for, a comeback was certainly possible from here. Now all she needed to do was light a fire under Ludo's arse to raise the department's profile, though making sure she got most of the credit for any achievements they managed. It was still the same game and Dolores Umbridge was an expert at it.

-oOoOo-

Harry and Hermione were running along the beach, purely from habit their swords were strapped behind them. They'd arrived on the island after the minister's goblin proposal had surfed through the Wizengamot on the wave of positive energy still abounding from Friday's ball. There would be a ceremonial signing of the amended treaty at the end of August with Barchoke taking up his new position then. Dolores Umbridge didn't exactly have many friends so her demotion wasn't even commented on.

The island was just under five miles around, though it appeared as a group of sandbars on maps - and to the naked eye if you didn't have permission to be here. As their sandals performed a steady slap, slap, slap rhythm on the damp sand, Hermione thought this was her favourite time of the day. Not because of any love of exercise, though she had come to like that part too, this was the time in every day when it was just her and Harry. They had been exercising practically every morning since just after the troll incident last year.

Whether it was running around Crawley, the tunnels under Gringotts or the park outside Grimmauld Place, Hermione thought this had them all beat. She wondered if Harry could get the room at Hogwarts to recreate this? Now, wouldn't that be something to get her out of a warm bed on a cold winter's morning in the castle? This made her smile, knowing that the mere thought that the young man currently running beside her would be waiting downstairs was all the motivation Hermione Granger would ever need.

It probably appeared strange to outsiders how much she depended upon Harry, how much they relied on each other, to them it just felt so natural. She entered Kings Cross station without a friend in the world, and left the express knowing she'd just made the best one either would ever find. Some might also question how quiet Harry could be, but not anyone who really knew him. Before she left for Hogwarts, her mother had given her the 'boy talk' but none of that applied to Harry.

Yes he certainly struggled sometimes putting his feelings into words, she was sure though that was more to do with being raised as a goblin than any question of immaturity. Harry didn't need words with her, every time he hugged her or when Hermione looked into those green eyes - those actions spoke volumes to her.

That they'd fallen asleep in each other's arms after the ball was somewhat expected, waking up still there and covered with a quilt showed the enormous trust both sets of parents placed on them - something neither had any intention of breaking. Just being with Harry meant this would have easily have been the best summer of her life. That they had seen and done some amazing things together was just the cherry on top.

They could see the beach chalets up ahead, meaning they were near the end of their run. Hermione reached out and took Harry's arm as both of them then slowed to a walk.

"I've been practicing with my bracelet since your father blood-bonded it to me..."

This drew a wide smile from her boyfriend. "None of us actually thought you would wait until we were back at Hogwarts, how is the practice going?"

Trying not to blush at how well he knew her, Hermione thought a demonstration would be the best way to show Harry. Her bracelet expanded up her arm and wrapped around her shoulder, slipping partially under the sports bra she was wearing.

"Hermione, that's fantastic! When you fight with a sword, your shield arm is the most exposed. If we can get that shield expanded over your torso, you will be almost as protected as me."

Harry praise, followed by taking her in his arms and offering a kiss in reward for her efforts meant Hermione's morning was just perfect. They walked arm in arm the last quarter of a mile to where they were staying.

There were eight chalets / beach huts spaced along the white sands. They may have appeared rustic and basic from the outside but stepping onto the porch brought you every comfort magic had to offer.

The twins were sitting on one of those porches, eating breakfast and watching the young couple approach. Parvati's eyeballs nearly joined the cereal in her bowl at the sight of Harry in just a pair of shorts. "Oh Merlin, how does Hermione resist throwing Harry to the sand and snogging him senseless?"

Padma just couldn't help but tease her sister. "Who says she does resist? This is a big island, they're hardly likely to do it outside their parents' porches."

Seeing she was falling for this, Padma changed tactics. There couldn't be the slightest hint of misunderstanding here. "Seriously Pav, it's okay to look - just don't ogle and never, ever think of touching. Those two are great friends but anyone trying to come between them will get squashed like a bug. You were brilliant in Rome, but here it will only be us. We'll swim, play games and generally have a great time. Both Harry and Neville will spend most of the week like that, just be their friend and get used to it. We thought the boys were going to have a heart attack the first time they saw us in our bikinis, they got over it pretty quickly."

"You mean the boys have seen you in that thing you showed me?"

"No, we took them off and swam naked..."

"YOU DID WHAT?"

"Daaad! I was only kidding with Pav. Emma and Augusta were there all the time, do you really think those two would let anything happen?"

Ramrao had walked out and just caught the end of that conversation. "Sorry dear, you just scared your old father half to death. I trust the people you were staying with, the young men involved and more importantly, I trust you."

This saw Padma rush to hug her dad. "I was very proud of you at that ball, the way you helped Harry. He really didn't want to fight that woman..." Ramrao really shouldn't have been surprised at his daughter once more springing to the young man's defence.

"Of course Harry didn't want to fight her, only a fool would want to fight. We're taught fighting should be your last option. We are also taught how to fight, just in case we need that option. Harry would have made mincemeat of her, dad, I wasn't joking when I said he was scary with that blade. Neville called it right, she would have gotten one, perhaps two spells off and then it would have been all over. It would also have been all over the Prophet too, and certainly hurt the chances of the goblin proposal going through the Wizengamot."

He kissed the top of his daughter's head. "So smart and so brave..." Ramrao then pantomimed looking around him at the idyllic setting. "...and I just love your friends!"

Parvati felt a twinge of jealousy at the attention her twin sister was receiving, attention that would usually be heading in her direction. It was also strange seeing Padma with the cool friends and the hot date for the ball. Just thinking of the number of witches who would kill to be in her place soon had the smile back on Parvati's face, it would probably take her until Christmas to tell Lavender all that had happened so far - and they still had Tokyo to look forward to.

Remus was also watching the young couple approach, the lump of emotion in his throat affecting his voice as he shouted to them. "Still up for a lesson, you two?"

He couldn't get over just how much Harry reminded him of James, the mature version who finally got Lily Evans' attention in the way he wanted. Hermione might look nothing like his friend Lily but, if Remus closed his eyes, it was almost like talking to Lily again as they did their prefect patrols. He'd led a pretty isolated life for the last decade and was struggling to cope with being in company where he was not only accepted but made welcome.

Harry waved over at the man who was a friend of his parents, and his godfather's best friend too. They'd gotten to know Remus from staying in Grimmauld Place, gradually building trust and growing to like the person who must have been the quiet one amongst the marauders.

"We normally have a practice after our morning run so now works for us - if that's all right for you?"

Remus quickly agreed and by the time he joined them, their swords were laid down as they ran through some shield drills. These two had effected a variation that Remus had never seen before. They would occasionally let a spell through, only to reflect it back at the caster using the metal shields on their forearms.

Neville and Padma joined them and were soon practicing shield drills of their own. The four friends had quickly drawn a crowd with everyone currently on the island coming out to watch. Barchoke removed some portable ward stones from a bag, creating a shielded area around the four who were practicing.

Remus' intentions were for them to carry out their normal practice so he could assess what level they were at, they were clearly a lot more advanced than a normal first year Hogwarts curriculum would provide. When they finished practicing, they switched to duels with the three going after Harry. It soon became obvious that the ward stones were needed to protect the spectators as curses were flying everywhere as they deflected off shields - magical and physical.

The trio were working well together, trying to outflank Harry while keeping him busy defending himself from very accurately cast curses. Harry though had a trick up his sleeve and created a powerful blast of air. Normally this would be worse than useless, normally they didn't fight on a beach. Neville and Padma were soon out the fight, sand in their eyes left them sitting ducks to be picked off. Hermione had used her metal shield to protect her eyes but now knew she was outmatched. With Padma and Neville blinded from the sand, even reviving them wouldn't help. She was still figuring out what to do when her boyfriend clipped her with a stunner.

She came back round, hearing Padma's voice. "Have I told you I hate you today, Harry? If not, consider it done - that sand went bloody everywhere!"

Neville's answer to that problem was to strip off his shirt and dive into the sea, creating another problem as three young witches were left practically drooling at the two boys on display.

Harry was helping a groaning Hermione into a sitting position. "You did well..."

"I did not! That was a brilliant use of our environment as a weapon, I'm still taking too long to make my mind up about what I'm going to do. In a real fight, I won't have five minutes to think over what action to take."

"Don't be to hard on yourself - HERMIONE!"

The last word was shouted in shock as a wave leapt from the sea and soaked both of them. He'd been concentrating on cheering up Hermione and missed what her wand was doing. They were soon rolling in the sand, soaking wet and roaring with laughter.

Both marauders were also wearing wide grins at the prank but the morning entertainment wasn't over just yet. Barchoke removed two duelling dummies from his bag and brought them to full size.

"I know some of you were very worried at the ball the other night, you may have noticed neither I nor his three duelling partners had any concerns on the matter. This was not bravado, we just know Harry's abilities. He would need to have done something really stupid to be in any danger, and Hermione had him focused totally on the task in hand. I'm hoping we could have a little demonstration here this morning, Harry?"

He pulled Hermione to her feet, getting a kiss for luck before going over to collect his sword. With this amount of people here, he wasn't going to be able to cast with his sword but Harry should still be able to manage.

Even with this handicap, a golden Harry had destroyed both dummies in under ten seconds.

Amelia had probably more experience with fighting than anyone there, her knees went weak at what she'd just witnessed - she sat on the beach before her legs actually gave way.

Ramrao was reminded of Padma's words earlier and found himself in complete agreement with his daughter. Harry would have made mincemeat out of that witch.

Dan and Emma had watched the memory of a very real fight against that giant goblin, Harry hacking a couple of dummies just couldn't compare to that. They now had a better idea of what Harry could have done to that witch the other night, no wonder the kids were really upset when they eventually came home.

Remus was standing beside Sirius, Henrica and Barchoke, and wasn't slow to let his opinion be known. "Whoever you've got teaching these four defence, keep a hold of them. That was simply brilliant, and devastating. Amelia's sitting there trying to figure out how you would defend yourself from such an attack, I doubt she's having any better ideas than me - and all I've got is get the hell out of there as fast as possible."

All could see the pride of a father in his son. "That is an attack Harry has developed by combining Curse-breaker Weasley's teachings with that of his goblin weapons training and centurion armour. If it makes you feel any better, we goblins don't know how we would stand up to that either. He used something similar to defeat someone we all thought couldn't be beaten. If any goblin is ever stupid enough to challenge my son in the goblin arena, they probably wouldn't have time to shit themselves before Harry cut them down."

Henrica was nodding in agreement. "I've been worried about that since reading through your laws especially the inheritance ones. Harry could be challenged, and now he's a centurion you wouldn't be able to represent him in the pit."

"It has been a worry of mine for a few years, how Harry would cope if I couldn't represent him, I'm not worried any more. I don't want to say too much here but Harry was actually holding back there."

Remus glanced toward Sirius for confirmation of that ridiculous remark, only to get a nod that left him with only a one word answer. "Shit!"

Augusta had been concentrating on something else this morning, watching as her grandson threw magic around with accuracy and ease. She also hadn't missed the reaction of the three young witches when Neville stripped off his shirt. For the first time in many years, Augusta saw a bright future for the house of Longbottom.

She was in a very happy frame of mind when Barchoke approached her, removing a book with a plain brown cover. "This will give you something to read while our charges tire themselves out having fun on the beach. It's a pre-print copy of a book that won't be available until the first of September, all I ask is that you keep it quiet until then. I have a copy for Amelia too, so you can talk to her about it - and I will answer any questions either of you have."

As the little goblin walked toward Amelia, it was an intrigued Augusta who opened the book - only to find herself involuntary sitting down onto the sand as the title hit home. The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore.

-oOoOo-

Harry raced into his room, a shower, change of shorts and then breakfast with Hermione the only things on his mind. He didn't know he had a visitor, and one who appeared really excited to see him.

"Harry Potter!" said the creature in a high-pitched voice. "So long has Dobby wanted to meet you, sir … Such an honour it is. …"

A/N thanks for reading

A/N 2 a big thank you to everyone who gave such a positive response about the project I'm working on, I only hope your expectations aren't too high. Please remember this is a 2 minute film, made by kids to encourage other kids not to do something foolish. Our school sits in deepest, darkest Lanarkshire - Pixar we ain't. Details will follow around the beginning of February.