Harry Crow

Disclaimer - I write purely for my own enjoyment and make no money from my efforts. (Apple never picked up on an iPad sponsorship deal either) Neither do I claim to own any of the characters who appear in this story, everyone on the planet must know by now that Harry Potter belongs to a certain Miss Rowling.

Chapter 47

Padma arrived with her family into a back garden that was very familiar to the young witch, she fairly shot through the door in search of her friends. Neville was actually waiting on her and there was no awkwardness in his hug of greeting. It was a rather nervous Parvati though who entered the Grangers' home at a much more sedate pace, and with her mother and father close for support.

Neville spotted this at once and released Padma before opening his arms to her twin. With a sob, Parvati dived into them and held on as if her life depended upon it. Ever since hugging his gran in the Hogwarts infirmary saw Neville escaping the expected rollicking of his life, the relieved wizard's new mantra was to hug everyone. He thought he'd gotten it wrong here until noticing the other three Patils were smiling at him.

"I'm so sorry, Neville, for all the trouble I caused..."

"You didn't do anything, Parvati, it was all Tom. I'm sorry too that I never noticed what was really going on. I'm your housemate, your friend, and we had just spent a good part of the summer together. I was so wrapped up in my own world though that I ignored a friend that needed help. I really am sorry, Parvati."

Parvati may have controlled her sobbing but Neville's arms around her were proving too nice to end right away. "You came to rescue me, Neville, I couldn't ask for a better friend than that."

"That's what friends do, Harry and Hermione will tell you the same. Their legs still have them toddling about like babies but they're waiting on you both in the lounge."

Padma took her twin and led her there, Ramrao wanted a quick word with Neville first. "Thanks for that, Neville, Parvati was really worried about meeting people again. That was a very mature attitude to take."

"Sir, to be perfectly honest, I never expected to come out of the chamber - that basilisk was bloody terrifying. Padma pulled me through, and gave me the courage to fight on. I think our time down there will change all of us, my gran certainly treats me different now."

Ramrao had his hand supportingly on Neville's shoulder. "I saw that beast dead and it terrified me, I'm still not sure how you four managed to pull it off. I also saw my daughter kiss you, and wanted to let you know I approve - assuming you remain a gentleman..."

"Sir, Padma is a scary witch in her own right - but have you met her best friends? Padma and I haven't had time to discuss anything about that day yet, when we do I can assure you I will be a proper gentleman."

"Ramrao, stop trying to scare the boy."

"Smita, this 'boy' helped bring down a gigantic basilisk and then stopped Voldemort, I hardly think he'll be scared of Padma's father."

The three shared a quiet laugh at that as Neville showed them where to go. Smita wasted no time in rushing over to the sofa to hug Harry and Hermione, drawing a wry chuckle from Emma. "I find myself doing that all the time too, I think I'm trying to convince myself that they are actually okay and still with us."

The Patil mother agreed. "I found myself repeatedly getting up and checking the twins room the last couple of nights, just to ensure they were safely sleeping in their beds. I am so glad I never went down into that chamber, just the picture in yesterday's Prophet scared the life out of me. I would probably never let the girls out of my sight again if I had actually seen the beast for real."

Sirius and Dan had been ferrying enough chairs for everyone into the lounge. Now that they were all seated, it was time to start the 'family' meeting.

"Augusta, Smita, Ramrao, you will hear things today that I must ask you not to speak of with anyone who isn't currently in this room." Barchoke's gaze then settled on Parvati. "I'm afraid that applies doubly so to you, Miss Patil."

She nodded her agreement at once. "I think what upset me the most was not knowing what was going on. Padma and I never had secrets from each other before, that played a big part in pushing us away from each other. As long as I can talk to Padma about anything I hear today, I'll be happy with that."

Smita was pleased at any move that would keep her twins close to each other. "Are we to assume that Padma and Neville already know these secrets?"

It was Harry who answered this time. "Hermione, Padma and Neville have stood beside me practically since we met. Their friendship means everything to me and keeping secrets is not a good basis for any friendship. I'm really sorry Padma, we should have realised what you keeping those same secrets from Parvati would do to your relationship with your twin sister. It's time to trust people and live with the consequences. Did you get confirmation, father?"

The goblin seemed to age as he answered his son. "Yes, and he was working alone."

"Then he is a dead man..."

"Harry, no. Let the ministry deal with it."

"Hermione, he attacked my family - he attacked you!" The rest of the 'family' didn't exist for the couple at the moment, they were staring into each other's eyes as they fought this battle of wills.

"Amelia will make sure he sees the inside of Azkaban, we could even ask he gets Sirius' old cell. Ask your godfather if that's a soft option."

"...but Hermione, he attacked..."

"...and you're not fit to duel anyone over the age of three at the moment. Let Amelia have that time to see justice done. If he's not in Azkaban by then, I'll even be your second."

Harry was getting lost in those brown eyes. "She can have a week, after that - he's mine!"

"Make it two, love. Give both you and Amelia time to get ready. Two weeks, for me, please?" When Hermione added a tender kiss to her plea, everyone there knew Harry was done for.

"Two weeks - not a day longer!"

This earned Harry another kiss and saw a weight leave Barchoke's shoulders. He knew his son would call Malfoy out, just as the goblin knew there was no way he could have talked Harry out of it. Hermione very wisely didn't even try that tack, instead she rather cleverly bought some time for Amelia to do her work - and allow Harry to recover properly.

The goblin was glad Hermione had extracted that promise before his son heard the next piece of news, even his mate would have struggled to contain Harry's anger after this.

"I should now really fill everyone in on exactly what's going on here. During the summer, we received a warning that a 'great danger' would be coming to Hogwarts. That this danger would involve Harry was all the information we had, absolutely nothing specific that we could approach yourselves, Amelia or Minerva with."

You would have to be a right fool not to see there was more going on here than they were being told, and Augusta was no fool. "Can I ask why Amelia and the girls aren't here today?"

Barchoke directed his answer at those who didn't yet know the full story. "There are things you will hear that we wouldn't necessarily want the Head of the DMLE to learn. That's in no way a negative reflection on the current holder of that post, rather us trying to offer some protection to Amelia. She will certainly hear that this was a direct attack against my son, and also that the wrong witch ended up with the horcrux..."

Padma caught on at once. "It was supposed to be me, wasn't it?"

This was confirmed by Barchoke. "An attack on Harry would work best if it was targeted at you, Neville or Hermione."

"Oh, Malfoy is so dead!"

This sharpened Augusta's attention. "Malfoy, Lucius Malfoy?"

Her indiscretion saw Padma's cheeks blush. "Oops! I wasn't supposed to say anything..."

"Okay, let's get everything out in the open. I am Harry Crow, current head of House Potter. My father arranged that so no one could influence my decision on where my future lies. Funnily enough, the ministry solved my problem by awarding me an Order of Merlin, that automatically makes me an adult as far as the ministry are concerned - and allows me to call out Malfoy. His elf actually provided the warning, which is why we got no specific details. We only discovered it was Malfoy's elf when Draco's mother pulled him from Hogwarts - and we only suspected a basilisk was involved when Hermione found that information in the library on Friday night."

Her hand slipped into his, knowing what was coming next. "Hermione is not merely my girlfriend, we are blood bound mates - and will officially marry when both of us become of age to do so."

Parvati immediately looked to her twin for confirmation, Padma told her what she knew. "Truly bonded, with an all-over glow that turned golden - I wish I could have seen it!"

"Our father has a memory of our bonding, I'm sure he could be convinced to let you see it. We put the Malfoys under investigation - using the same method that brought down Dumbledore - and now have confirmation. Father, can we prove it to the ministry though?"

"We certainly have enough evidence to get him arrested and standing trial for this. Letting Amelia and the Minister know we're having to hold you back from calling Lucius out might just force them into action. Failing that, do you think Malfoy would accept the pit?"

"NO! Not again, that can't happen again..."

"Emma, there is not one person in this room who wants that. Just like they did in the chamber though, we have to prepare for every option. I will be putting all the pressure I can on the ministry to deal with this, and am confident that Malfoy will receive justice. I also think Harry has a better chance fighting Malfoy in the pit, rather than a formal wizards duel. Lucius will be able to use whatever curses he wants in the pit, without any repercussions, he'll go for a big play. While Lucius is grandstanding, Harry will be on him."

It was Smita who asked the obvious question. "Eh, what's this pit, and why does Emma look as if she's going to pass out?"

With difficulty, Harry moved over to Emma. "This is just contingency plans, please don't worry about it..."

"Do you have to do this, Harry? I never want to even think about you going into that thing again."

"Same reason as last time, Emma, he attacked Hermione. If I don't respond, someone else may think it's worth another try. There are families who would literally kill to get their daughters next to the Potter name and fortune, until I marry Hermione I need to show what happens to anyone daring to make that attempt."

It was left to Hermione to answer Smita's original question. "The pit is the goblin way of deciding justice. Two go in, only one comes out alive. A goblin made an attempt to kill me at the end of the summer, that is why we blood bonded. Harry then fought in the pit to ensure it would never happen again. He put their champion down in seconds..."

Padma and Parvati moved either side of Hermione to offer comfort, Emma didn't appear to be letting Harry go anytime soon.

Barchoke summed the situation up for everyone. "The blood bond makes Hermione my daughter too, I will do everything in my power to keep both of them safe. Malfoy needs to pay for this atrocity though, one way or another he will."

The Potter elves then decided refreshments were needed, while Betsy popped in with a hankie for Hermione - and a warning not to overtire herself.

As Harry shakily made his way back to Hermione, Dan tried to get everyone back on track. "Are there any more questions, or can we move on to the real reason behind this get-together today?"

Ramrao spoke for the rest of them. "If we think of anything later, Padma or Neville will probably know the answer."

Happy with that, Dan continued. "We watched Auror Tonks memory right from just before the alarm sounded. While my first instincts were for you to get out that castle as quickly as possible, you took minimal risks to collect information that could prove vital in solving this problem. Discovering Parvati's predicament clearly changed all the rules."

Parvati was now sitting between Padma and Neville, and was very grateful for the support they offered.

"Even then, you sent for help immediately and did nothing more than attempt to open the passage. On achieving that difficult feat, you still hung back until formulating a plan. I tried to put myself in your position and discovered I would have made all the same choices. Every member of the team that went into the chamber played an absolutely vital role in ensuring we are all sitting here today to talk about this. Had you gone down there with even one person less, the outcome could have been oh so different."

The four were looking at Dan as if waiting for the hammer to drop, it wasn't going to happen. "Had you lot rushed in there all gung-ho, looking for trouble, we would be having a very different conversation right now. Instead, you never lost sight of the fact it was a rescue mission, and only fought when you were left with no other choice. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm so proud of all of you. The Prophet got it right, you are heroes in the truest sense of the word - you risked your lives to save someone else's."

The Patil's, Barchoke, Sirius and Augusta heartily endorsed that viewpoint, leaving some very relieved people thinking they got off lightly.

It was now Hermione's turn to toddle across the room as she hugged her father.

"Okay, enough of this mushy stuff. That basilisk obviously affected the beautiful Professor Hobson more than the healers thought, she actually agreed to marry me!" Sirius punctuated this announcement with a kiss for a smiling Henrica

This news was greeted with cheers all round. Sirius of course had more to say. "There will be an engagement party in Grimmauld on Boxing Day but I would like to invite our extended family to spend the Christmas holidays with us. I want to turn the entire holiday season into a celebration, a celebration of our new family - and no, Henrica is not pregnant!" The way the couple looked at one another at that remark meant Sirius didn't need to say 'yet', they all got the message.

Emma had found that she'd been close to tears ever since Saturday, the ones now forming though were of joy - and partly relief. Since he was released from Azkaban, they had spent a lot of time with Sirius. Even when Harry and Hermione were in Hogwarts, he would visit at least once a week to tell them how their kids were doing. Henrica was also liked by everyone in the company, and thought a wonderful match for Sirius, so this news was indeed joyous.

Her relief was due to their Christmas problem being so neatly solved. Emma didn't really care where they spent Christmas, just as long as they were all together. With Dan working to control his natural instinct and springing to Hermione's defence without thinking, they were slowly but surely rebuilding relationships that would eventually be stronger than they were before.

Dan had sat with a glass of whiskey in his hand, and tears rolling down his cheeks, as he recounted to her the story of what their kids had faced. Emma had let him get it out of his system and then taken Dan to bed, the glass of whiskey left still untouched on the table. She was so proud of her husband for the way he handled the situation today, and now they could look forward to spending Christmas as a family.

This jolted Emma out of her thoughts as a potential problem hit. "Sirius, Luna Lovegood has been invited to spend Christmas with us..."

"...and she's invited to Grimmauld too. Where is she, I thought her father was still on his research trip?"

His wife-to-be had the answer to that. "Padma made sure Luna was with Penny, before we went looking for these two. Penny swore not to let Luna out of her sight, and was even going to take Luna home with her."

"They're both coming here tomorrow, Penny is bringing her by something called the knight bus, and then Luna will be staying until we go back to Hogwarts." Hermione then added a little more information about their quirky friend. "She also knows about our bond, apparently she can see it."

-oOoOo-

Cornelius was wishing he couldn't see this as Lucius Malfoy condemned himself with his own words. "We can't show that memory in the Wizengamot chamber, they would never accept evidence collected like that. He clearly didn't know someone else was watching, and it was a discussion with his wife - in his own home. If we started admitting evidence like that into a trial, half the Wizengamot would probably end up being interviewed by your department."

Having known these facts beforehand, Amelia wasn't perturbed in the slightest. "Then we have some serious problems, Cornelius. Barchoke has informed me that only Harry's injuries are currently stopping his son calling the senior Malfoy out, we are talking a duel to the death here."

This fairly ruined the Minister's day, his public approval rating had never been higher too. Anything happening to the Boy-who-lived would soon put a serious dent in those ratings. "Harry wouldn't be doing the actual fighting though, would he?"

"His status as a centurion in his own world sees him regarded as an adult, being an Order of Merlin, First Class, recipient provides the same function in ours. He would fight Lucius Malfoy to the death. Harry was clearly the target, and his friends suffered through it. Luna Lovegood, my Susan, Hannah Abbot, Parvati Patil - and then the three of his friends that accompanied him down to the chamber for the rescue mission. His girlfriend, Miss Granger, is still recovering from the injuries she sustained."

This drew an audible groan from the minister. "We should be discussing how we can reward these heroes, not trying to stop them fighting duels to the death. What can we do about this, Amelia?"

"I think we have more than enough information to arrest Malfoy, a search of his manor to ensure he has nothing else like this would also appear prudent. He obviously did it, and should then be forced to say so under truth serum. How far we want to open the can of worms really has to be decided by you." In the past, this would be the point at which Cornelius would fold - protecting his friends and his own self-interest. It was time to see if this new version really had grown a spine.

The minister didn't disappoint. "Acting on reliable information the ministry has received, an arrest warrant should be issued against Lucius Malfoy. Since this relates to a deadly artefact that was in his possession, a thorough search of his premises should also take place to ensure there are no more threats lurking in the background. He should be questioned under truth serum regarding this attack, and any other current or planned future attacks he has knowledge of. Will that do?"

Amelia could see Cornelius practically begging her with his eyes to accept this compromise. Since it was more than Amelia expected, and would see Malfoy take up residence in Azkaban, she decided to cut the minister a break. Amelia also had something up her sleeve she now wouldn't need to use as leverage, she told Cornelius anyway. "That would be acceptable. It will also work for the press, since Miss Skeeter is all set to break the story. I'm looking forward to being ahead of the game for once. I'll get a team together and hit Malfoy Manor today."

The minister was certainly paler when Amelia left his office than he was when she entered. Cornelius had made the right choices though, now it was her turn. She could have lost the last member of her family over this, Malfoy was going down - hard.

-oOoOo-

Neville was finding his conversation with his grandmother extremely hard. "Gran, do we really need to talk about a betrothal? I really like Padma but we have kissed once, that hardly means we want to spend the rest of our lives together."

"I know, Neville, but you have to understand that these extraordinary escapades at Hogwarts from both of you are going to attract a lot of attention. Even your mother recognised Padma is a beautiful witch. Now that Padma's also recognised as a hero of Hogwarts, Ramrao and Smita expect to be inundated with offers for their daughter. There will also be a lot of offers heading in your direction too. What we're trying to do here is see both of you happy, rather than arranging a betrothal that you don't really want."

This drew a groan from Neville, his pact with Padma was supposed to shield them from betrothal offers - but that was before the chamber. "Can't I just wait for a few years and see what happens?"

"Neville, you know that's not possible. I was betrothed at your age, so were your mother and father - the Longbottoms have done this for centuries. I know two of your friends are different but you and Padma have always known what's expected of you. If you're not interested in each other, we have to know now so Padma's parents can find the best possible match for their daughter. They really need to take advantage of all this interest."

Mentioning his other two friends sparked something in Neville. "As I said, I really like Padma but neither of us know if we're suitable for a betrothal. There is a way we can find out though..."

This took Augusta back. "Neville, surely you don't mean..."

"Yes, we perform the blood bond ritual. That will tell us if we're a suitable match, then we could happily be betrothed. The blood bond wouldn't finalise until we were married, just like Harry and Hermione."

His grandmother was well aware of what act was needed to finalise a blood bond, she spared Neville's blushes and let him off with the marriage comment. "What would you do if the blood bond indicated you weren't suitable?"

"Hug Padma and wish her luck in finding someone else, I would also promise we would always be friends. She really is a great friend, gran, I would hate to see her stuck with me. This way, we would both know if a betrothal would work."

It was hard for Augusta to curtail her exasperation and a little slipped out. "Neville Longbottom, you are one of the most eligible young wizards in Britain - and that was before the Chamber of Secrets. You are certainly not someone a witch would consider being stuck with - like some kind of booby prize! Both Smita and Ramrao think Padma's sweet on you, and I know you really like her - that puts you both in the same position your mum and dad were."

This made him happier about the situation but Neville had made his mind up. "I still want to try the blood bond ceremony. Like Harry, I've spent my life listening to stories of how much my parents loved each other - I want the same. This way, Padma and I can know exactly how suitable we would be for each other."

Augusta really only had one more question for her grandson. "...and what do you hope the result of the ritual will be?"

This time, Neville couldn't contain his blush - he answered as honestly as he could. "I hope it shows we have a strong bond, and that leads us to a betrothal."

A warm smile spread across Augusta's face. She recognised her grandson's innate shyness, and also the confidence he would gain from a positive reaction to the ritual. He needed proof that he and Padma would be a good match, and his other two friends had provided such a good example of what a couple should be. "Blood bond rituals were originally carried out to see if couples were suitable to wed, I've never heard of one being used as part of a pre-betrothal agreement. Any other family might take this as an insult to their daughter but I think I'll be able to explain the situation to Smita and Ramrao - that we all only want the best for Padma. It will need to be kept secret though, whatever the outcome."

Neville understood his gran meant secret from everyone except family, he was fine with that.

-oOoOo-

The Granger house once more woke to the whack, whack of practice swords being used in the back garden. Raising his head from the pillow to glance at the window drew a groan from Dan, his groan was directed at the rain he saw running down the glass. "Those two are still recovering, I hardly think being out in this weather will be helping."

"You could see their frustration yesterday because their injuries were physically curtailing them, they're obviously not fit to go for their run yet but this will let them get some normality back."

He couldn't help but tease his wife. "Emma, practicing with wooden swords in the pissing rain, mere days after being seriously injured, is anything but normal."

"It's normal for them. In our world, those two would have been looking at multiple surgical procedures, weeks of lying in a hospital bed and then months of physiotherapy. They would have been lucky if they were able to practice fencing by this time next year. Those swords saved their lives, let them practice as often as they want..."

"You're still worried about Harry having to fight this Malfoy..."

"Worried doesn't even start to describe it - I'm bloody terrified! He may be a centurion but I just see my boy, having to fight someone to the death - how the hell am I supposed to feel?"

"I honestly don't think it will come to that, Barchoke was confident the ministry would take action. Remember, this thing also harmed Susan, we know how protective Amelia is of her niece. I was also watching Sirius as this was being discussed, I think he would take action before Harry could. We have an extended family now, with Harry right in the centre of it. That family won't stand back and let anything happen to him."

Emma snuggled into her husband, silently praying he was right - and the thwack thwack was merely their children practicing their sport/hobby.

-oOoOo-

The occupants of Malfoy Manor received a much ruder awakening, Amelia led her team to arrest Lucius - and tear the place apart in their search for other dark objects. She had brought Alastor Moody along for this very purpose, that artificial eye of his would certainly come in handy when looking for hidden rooms or compartments.

Lucius' heart sank as he spotted his visitors, Bones must have brought about twenty aurors with her. "What is the meaning of this..."

Amelia was in no mood to take any shit from Malfoy today. "Lucius Malfoy, I have a warrant here for your arrest. Evidence has been presented that implicates you as instigating the attacks at Hogwarts. You will have your day in front of the Wizengamot as they ascertain your guilt or innocence. We also have a search warrant that includes every part of Malfoy Manor, the ministry has no intention of allowing any more horcruxes to make their way into the general population."

This almost had Lucius reaching for his wand, the gleam of anticipation in Moody's good eye soon changed his mind. The chances of the old auror hitting him with a stunner were negligible, Moody liked to put his targets down harder than that.

While slightly disappointed that Malfoy didn't try something really stupid, Amelia was suddenly thinking she might not need Moody after all. A rather ragged elf had silently appeared behind the Malfoys and was indicating to the floor at her feet. When Barchoke had supplied her with that memory, the goblin had also told her why they had focused their attention on the Malfoys. It was clear this elf wanted Lucius to be caught and was again providing all the help his bond would allow.

"Alastor, could you scan this room for hidden compartments or trapdoors?"

Mad-eye had of course spotted the elf and was already concentrating on the floor. "There is some kind of ward on the floor, and rather heavy notice-me-not charms. I think our friend from the unspeakables should start right here.

By the time a cowed Lucius was in the magic inhibiting cuffs, the unspeakable had the trapdoor open - and Dobby was ready to point them in the direction of their next find. There was enough dark objects in that room alone to ensure Lucius would be residing in Azkaban for a very long time.

Draco stood beside his mother, helplessly watching as his smart and oh so powerful father was led out of their home in chains. The chances of him returning to that same home were nil, the family didn't even have enough gold to waste on hiring a lawyer to defend him. Thinking of family saw the realisation hit that he was now effectively head of the Malfoys, it was time to make sure the family survived.

"Mother, I think you need to contact Lord Black over this matter."

"That won't help, Draco, your father and Sirius have hated each other since they were your age."

"I'm not asking for him to help father, we are going to need help to avoid being dragged under with father. Lord Black is our access to the only person who can help us here. A word from Crow could be the difference between us still living at the manor or begging in the streets."

"I don't think that will do any good either. Sirius has no reason to be merciful, he has us exactly where he wants us."

"We're exactly where father put us, mother. I'm hoping he'll talk to Crow about it..."

"You're pinning your hopes on mercy from a goblin? I thought we taught you better than that..."

Draco gestured to their home being torn apart around them. "...and see where those lessons have led. Things changed the moment Crow walked into Hogwarts, father couldn't accept that and was led out of here in chains. Dumbledore couldn't accept it and has been chased out of Hogwarts. Crow showed me mercy before when he didn't need to, this time we are actually innocent. The right word from him can protect us from this - have you got any better ideas?"

That stopped Narcissa dead in her tracks, she actually had no idea what to do next. All their friends would sit back and wait to see what happened, too fearful of getting dragged into this mess to offer any semblance of support. They were on their own, and probably wouldn't survive the public backlash without some kind of protection. "Do you really think Crow would help?"

"He hates Lockhart, the man is a complete idiot, yet Crow cancelled the tarantallegra spell Slughorn had him under - before taking Sluggy apart and dangling him from the ceiling. His attitude is that of a pure light wizard but, when he chooses to act, his methods are at best grey. With Granger in danger, he would have jumped in that basilisk's mouth and slashed away with those blades of his to save her. Father's biggest mistake was to put her in danger, I half expected Crow to turn up here and personally hack him to bits. Anyone stupid enough to attack her will be shown no mercy, luckily we weren't involved with any of it. Crow really is our only chance..."

She couldn't argue with anything her son just said, those blades had just taken down the biggest basilisk ever recorded - how could you argue with that? "I'll send an owl to Sirius and see if he answers..."

"What about your sister? You might try writing to her too..."

"Draco, I haven't spoken to Andromeda in nearly twenty years!"

"The situation we are in at the moment, we can't afford not to take even the slimmest of chances. I've had to be civil to Crow for over a year now, not once has he rubbed my nose in it. Things are changing, mother, we need to change too. What alternative do we have?"

Narcissa couldn't see any alternatives, knowing the Wizengamot had the power to levy heavy fines against Lucius too. These would be taken straight out their vaults, leaving who knows what for Draco to inherit when he came of age. If they took too much, the Parkinsons would cancel the betrothal between Pansy and Draco, they may be forced to do so anyway - to distance themselves from Lucius' disaster.

It was beginning to dawn on Narcissa that, if she wanted Draco to have any kind of life, she was going to have to get her nose out of the air and do some grovelling. To protect her son's future, Narcissa would do whatever it took.

-oOoOo-

Emma had enjoyed her morning, she was taking a few days off work until Hermione and Harry had fully recovered. That, and she just didn't want to let them out of her sight. After Luna and Penny had arrived, and made sure Hermione and Harry were getting better, Emma had offered to take them into Crawley. When the alarm sounded at Hogwarts, there was no time to grab trunks as the evacuation took place. Luna was currently wearing some of Penny's resized clothes since her trunk was still in her dorm.

Just being able to do some normal things, clothes shopping and pizza for lunch, was exactly what Emma needed. Anything really to distract her mind from the thought of Harry fighting a duel to the death. Knowing there were charms on the magical bus that wouldn't even allow her to see it, Emma entered the house as the three friends said goodbye to Penny - and was surprised to find Sirius and Henrica waiting there. By the smile Sirius was wearing, it was going to be a pleasant surprise.

Knowing how worried Emma was, Sirius got straight to the point. "Lucius Malfoy was arrested this morning. Amelia arrived with a team of aurors and also tore Malfoy Manor apart - even his own wife expects him to be changing his address to Azkaban."

Emma managed to make it to a chair before she broke down and started crying, these though were tears of relief. Hermione and Harry were alarmed when they first spotted her sitting crying, that was until Sirius told them the reason behind her tears. He also told the pair he needed to speak with them - this would not be a straightforward conversation.

-oOoOo-

This was the first time Narcissa had entered Gringotts in almost a year, she had no reason to go there until now. Sirius had responded to her plea, and set their meeting here. Once the news broke, she probably wouldn't be able to walk down Diagon Alley, and certainly not stroll into Gringotts bank. She was led through a warren of tunnels until Narcissa was directed into what she considered a very strange room to hold a meeting, there weren't even any chairs, then she spotted Sirius standing beside an observation wall.

"I like to come here and spend some time just watching Alice and Frank recover, I always seem to pick up on some little sign of improvement that wasn't there the last time I visited. I've come to think of the Longbottoms as a metaphor for our society, we thought nothing could be done but, day by day, they are slowly proving us all wrong."

She watched in astonishment as Alice carefully brushed what hair her husband had left. And then lovingly kissed him on the cheek. "How is this possible? They've spent years in St Mungo's..."

"It's possible because of who Alice Longbottom is godmother to, the very same person who is my godson too - the same person who your husband intended to see dead."

She had no answer for that, and didn't think Sirius was looking for one - he hadn't even looked in her direction yet.

"My godson has a good heart, but that should never be taken as a sign of weakness. Barchoke has done a wonderful job of raising my godson, the one area he was unable to teach is the workings of pureblood houses and politics - that is where I come in. Harry knows Draco is innocent, and also that he has been keeping his head down since their confrontation in the great hall. Harry feels a child shouldn't be persecuted for the sins of the father."

She let out a long and audible sigh of relief but that proved a mistake, Sirius now turned to face her - or should that be Lord Black.

"Just to be clear here, Malfoy, I don't agree with my godson on this. You may not have known the specifics of what that husband of yours was up to but you knew enough to get your own son out of danger - leaving everyone else behind to fucking die! Was your husband so precious to you that you were prepared to stand back and let him unleash mass murder onto children? Then again, his halfblood master met his end trying the same - to murder a baby. I'll bet your pureblood friends will love you when this gets out, making sure the Malfoy heir was safe while their children were left to the tender mercies of a basilisk."

Gone were the funny quips and jokes, Narcissa was faced with a furious Lord Black - a quite terrifying sight. "Let me make something plain to you, should Draco bide his time until his inheritance and then act, plot or conspire against my godson's health - I will make it my business to destroy the very name of Malfoy, and all those who bear it. Amelia actually did your husband a favour, either Harry or I would have killed him otherwise - and there would have been no saving of Draco from the consequences that."

Draco had already told her Crow would come for Lucius, adding Sirius to that too would have ensured she wore widow's weeds before long. Narcissa had nothing to say because she had nothing to offer, both she and Draco were completely at Sirius' mercy.

"Harry will release a statement, condemning your husband's actions but sparing Draco from any blame. For that, we want something in return..."

This was how Dobby came to find himself inside Gringotts, and being given clothes by his mistress.

A/N Thanks for reading - and hope to see you back here next week.