I'm going to do something I've never done before and answer a guest review during an actual posting, you'll perhaps understand why when you read it.
Robin:I asked you to upload the rest of this story so I could read to my
daughter before she died. Well, you didn't and now she's dead and buried.
Robin, you have my deepest sympathies for your loss and I would really have loved to help. Unfortunately, you asked the impossible of me. When I post a chapter, that is basically all I have and certainly all there is, I haven't a word of the next chapter written. Since you posted your request as a guest, I wasn't able to personally reply to your message and tell you this. I understand this will be of little comfort, I just wanted you to know I didn't deliberately withhold the story from your daughter and would have helped if I could.
Hermione had been wished a happy Valentine's Day from Harry so was unconcerned when neither a card, flowers or gift appeared at breakfast. She had arranged with Eargit to deliver her own card to Harry, which earned her a thank you kiss from her mate. Both Patil twins received cards, Parvati was delighted after getting one from Blaise. Luna was left blushing as she received a friends one from Colin, with both Hufflepuff witches also getting cards from their year mates, Justin and Zac.
After breakfast, there were five people heading off to Kingussie with the intention of looking over Harry and Hermione's new home. The three adults expected to be spending some time there too in the coming months, something Emma was really looking forward to. Telling everyone they would see them back in Hogwarts for dinner, the excited couple set off with their parents for Scotland. The portkey landed all five in front of quite an imposing building, set squarely in a scene that wouldn't look out of place on a tin of Scottish shortbread.
The goblin masons were world class and the outside of the building already looked clean and crisp, with the coat of arms above the door being replaced by the relief of a wings-spread crow clutching a sword in its talons. Hermione was busy taking everything in when she suddenly found herself being scooped up bridal style into her mate's strong arms.
"Harry, what are you doing? Put me down!"
"After making the gaffe of not asking your father's permission for your hand, I got a hold of a book on muggle customs. It said I'm supposed to carry you over the threshold of our new home, this is our new home."
Hermione then wrapped her arms around her mate's neck and rested her head on Harry's shoulder, ignoring the sniggering that was coming from her mum and dad. Barchoke opened the door and allowed his son to carry Hermione across the threshold, into a short entrance hall that was festooned with flowers. "Happy Valentine's day, Hermione, these are for you."
Emma was standing behind them slack jawed, and not at them now kissing. "Harry, these are beautiful! Daniel Granger, you have a lot to live up to."
This led to a whine that was almost comical. "Harry, you're making me look bad here!"
Harry gently lowered Hermione to her feet before sheepishly turning to face them. "Em, sorry Dan, you're about to really hate me. Mum, these are for you!"
Harry had a bouquet of pink roses in his hand and suddenly thought he'd made a terrible mistake, Emma burst into tears before practically smothering him in her arms. It wasn't until he spotted the wide smile on Hermione's face that Harry started to relax from the knowledge he hadn't just made an almighty blunder. That changed again when he felt Dan's hand settle on his shoulder. No words were exchanged though, a reassuring squeeze and a smile was more than enough to tell Harry that Dan was really pleased.
Hermione grabbed his hand and dragged him deeper into their home, only to find Betsy and a squad of Potter elves waiting on them in the main reception hall. "Welcome home, Mistress. We's all waiting on your orders to fix house."
Emma was standing there clutching her precious roses with her jaw once more hanging slack. "I imagined your father and I spending weekends here with paintbrushes in our hands, now I find out you have an army of magical helpers..."
"You are all welcome to come here anytime you want, Hermione and I are in Hogwarts for most of the year anyway. Dobby should be able to pop you up here in a jiffy."
Hermione was nodding in agreement at Harry's open invitation, she certainly wanted her mum involved in turning this building into a home. What she knew about home decorating and interior design could be written on the back of a postage stamp, and Harry was even worse. The goblins seemed to think that stone was the very height of chic so they really needed her mother on board for this.
"Mum, the elves may do the work but they will need someone to tell them how they want it to be done. Let's get those colour charts and material samples out and we can see what should go where. What about furniture too? If you and dad can shop for us, the elves will soon bring it from Crawley to here."
This certainly rekindled Emma's enthusiasm, she would help decide how each room would look and feel, with the elves expertly carrying out all the work - it didn't get much better than that!
Harry then offered his contribution to the decor of their home. "As long as all the marks where the animal heads once hung get covered up, you ladies can do whatever you like. Father will arrange for you to have funds for anything you think we need. Hermione, after we've seen all the house, could we go for a run and see some of the grounds?"
"Once we decide what room is going to become the library, we can then look outside. This is just fabulous, Harry - our own home!"
"Not yet fourteen and she's ready to move out..."
"It's nothing like that, dad, you, mum and father will certainly always have rooms anywhere we live, and it's not like we'll be staying here without you until after we're married. You can all stay at our house this summer, instead of us staying at yours."
Harry had an idea and just threw it out there. "We could easily have a shooting range outside, Dan, we never did get around to seeing just what your guns can do." That certainly perked up Dan and Barchoke's interest.
"We could set up a clay pigeon shoot, you would like that much better than firing at paper targets." When Dan explained exactly what a clay pigeon was, and what was involved in shooting them, there was never any doubt this was going to happen. Both goblins present were really keen to see this idea become a reality, and Harry even took the idea one step further.
"That sounds like a fantastic speed and accuracy drill, firing at flying clay disks. We could even use wands or guns at the targets, we need to let Assistant Ambassador Weasley see that once we have it up and running. Will these guns be safe for all of us to use?"
"A gun is merely a tool, Harry, it's how you use that tool that counts. You taught Hermione how to use her sword, and you both take precautions when you use them. You also treat your blades with respect, give that same level of respect to whatever gun you use and it will be fine."
Barchoke wanted to know more about these guns while Hermione and Emma dragged Harry away to see the rest of the house.
Hermione and Harry had learned so many different Scottish words that existed purely for this country's poor weather, and how it made you feel. Driech, drookit, chittered, smirr, snaw and snell were all words both had become accustomed to, as well as becoming accustomed to the conditions those words described. On a day like today though, both felt Scotland was simply one of the most beautiful countries in the world. That they now owned this tiny little corner of it just made that feeling all the sweeter.
The air was crisp, clear and so fresh you could taste it every time you drew breath, this was also one of those exceedingly rare February days where there was not a cloud in the sky. With barely a hint of wind either, it was still cold but refreshingly so. She had also ensured Harry had received 'proper' running clothes as a part of his Christmas, she loved seeing him in his tunic but it wasn't really practical for those dry but icy cold days at Hogwarts where they would brave a few laps around the Black Lake.
Jogging bottoms and a fleece top now protected them on those mornings when the mercury didn't sneak up past freezing. As they approached a rocky little valley where even the local heather struggled to gain a foothold, Harry's eyes were sparkling with more than the cold.
"This would be a perfect location for a small settlement. Goblins will tunnel into rock, using the spoil to build the outside part of their home. There must be room for about a dozen dwellings here, and that hillside is granite - simply the best building material."
Hermione was caught up in the enthusiasm Harry was displaying, she was pretty enthusiastic about their new home herself. "I would love to be able to go running around our home and meet goblins living here, how soon do you think that will happen?"
"Oh, certainly not before the ministerial ceremony, we may have already been granted this land and house but I have no intention of pushing it. There could be the first signs of work beginning before we head back to Hogwarts in September, certainly before we return home for Christmas..."
This saw Hermione leap into his arms and Harry had to spin around with his mate so they didn't topple over. "Sorry, Harry, just you saying return home for Christmas did something to my insides - I just had to jump on you..."
Their lips met as they shared their most passionate kiss to date, standing in their own glen and just a few miles or so from their new home. Both were now breathless, and not from the running. "We'd better head for home, Betsy will give me hell if I make her mistress late for lunch..."
"Harry Crow, you mention anything about needing a shower and you better start practicing kissing Eargit, because that's the only female that will be kissing you for at least six months!"
This had both of them laughing as they swung around to complete the homeward section of the loop route they had mapped out to enable them to see as much as they could of their new home.
Their arrival back in Hogwarts was only about twenty minutes later than the rest of the group who'd spent the weekend at Grimmauld. All had shared a great few days and it was now time to pass the joy around. Hermione and Padma started handing out invitations to Florida to their six Ravenclaw yearmates, this rapidly resulted in them facing a barrage of questions from half a dozen excited friends.
Harry nodded to Parvati and they made their way to the Slytherin table together, she had an invitation for Blaise while Harry handed envelopes to Draco and Pansy. Harry just had to chuckle at the reaction he received from the couple. "Don't panic you two, it's not a Valentine's card. Draco looked really worried there for a moment."
Parvati was also having to deal with a wide-eyed Blaise, his envelope did contain a Valentine's card - with an invitation to Florida tucked inside. "You'll get to meet my parents as they'll be there too, along with Hermione's, Hannah's and the Hobsons. We're not sure if Professor Lupin will be able to make it or not, all the adults are choosing between what weeks they can holiday with us over the summer."
Her potential boyfriend wasn't sure if he heard Parvati correctly. "Do you mean this is only part of your holiday?"
"Well, we're all going to Sweden for Sirius and Professor Hobson's wedding, with heading to Florida the following weekend. Southern Italy and Paris follow Florida before we're back in Britain for the ministry ball. As there are six award winners, we'll have more tables this year so I'll be able to take a date..."
Quick as a flash, Blaise was in there. "Parvati, I would love to accompany you to the ministry ball, and any other time you need a date."
A wide smile and a nod of her head gave Blaise his answer. As a happy Parvati now headed back to Gryffindor territory, Blaise knew he would have to write home about this holiday - and some other things.
Clutching her invitation in trembling hands, Pansy was frightened to release her grip in case it disappeared, she was still nosey enough though to ask a question. "Are the Hobson's going to Florida Professor Hobson's mother and father that we met at Christmas?"
"Yes, we're going to be spending the entire summer with them. You'll be getting invited to the wedding in Sweden too, that's still being organised so those invitations are still some weeks away."
A shocked Draco managed to mumble his thanks to Harry before he headed back to the Ravenclaw table. With the covetous glances being sent their way, he was beginning to think Pansy had the right idea of holding on to hers tightly.
Luna almost started a riot when she handed out invitations to Ginny and Colin. Ginny was just so excited to be going anywhere but muggle born Colin knew exactly what a trip to Florida meant, Luna confirming that they would be visiting some other world had the young wizard hyper. Dean Thomas mentioning that his family were saving up to visit the Florida theme parks and hoped to go next summer just added to the excitement.
Parvati then sat beside Lavender and began to wonder if she'd made a mistake, it was too late to change her mind now though. "Lav, I've got something here for you too, but it's not Florida. I thought you'd enjoy something that's a bit more us, how does a week sightseeing and shopping in Paris with the gang sound?"
Parvati now had some appreciation of just how annoying someone emitting a high-pitched squeal close to your eardrum could be as Lavender pounced on her, before sitting back and looking serious. "We need to study your issues of Vogue, we'll be able to see the real clothes that have been in that magazine actually in the shops!"
"Lavender, you already know every issue from cover to cover..."
"...but that was before I knew we were going to Paris! We still have the April and May editions to look forward to."
The Hufflepuff table had its share of excitement too, with Justin and Zac receiving invitations. Muggle born Justin had actually visited before, his tall tales had his housemates wondering whether to believe him. Susan and Hannah though were able to confirm some of what Justin said, thanks to Emma's ever present camera and all the photos she took from last year.
As the excitement spread through the hall, Remus was sitting with Henrica at the staff table. The werewolf though had a different calendar that ruled his life, the family had of course known this when they made their plans. He would be available for the wedding, ball, trip to the island and Florida too if he wanted.
"That actually sounds like a lot of fun, tell Hermione to put my name down for all of that."
"How did you know it was Hermione that arranged the schedule?"
"Henrica, we both teach the girl. It was always going to be Hermione or Emma doing the organising, and my money would certainly be on Hermione."
At that, they noticed the girl in question was looking toward them. Henrica giving Hermione a double thumbs-up saw the parchment brought out and Remus' name added, both professors struggled to contain their laughter at the super efficient Miss Granger.
Harry had a few more invitations to pass out but needed to see a certain someone first.
It was a few days later that a strange looking bird delivered a letter to Luna while they were at breakfast. "It's from my dad!"
Luna's explanation was totally unnecessary, nor did she have to say this was good news - none of her friends had ever seen the little blonde so happy. "He's going to be in Sweden and meet us there for the wedding, dad's also interested in joining us over part of the holidays. He doesn't say which but I'll find that out later."
Hermione had her arm around the girl she was beginning to think of as a younger sister. "That's great news, Luna. We get home on the Saturday, stay with mum and dad and then head for Sweden on Monday morning."
"I'll write and let him know. I don't think Lukas or Moa would mind if he was a day or so early..." Luna was about to ask the bird if it would wait and take a letter back for her when a certain regal snowy owl had other thoughts on the matter. The strange feathered creature knew its place and had no intention of getting into a disagreement with a hacked-off bird of prey.
It would seem Harry, Hermione and Moonlight weren't the only ones in the process of adopting Luna into their family, Eargit was making it clear she would carry any mail for the young witch.
Hermione already had parchment, ink and a quill out for Luna to write her reply. They were all really keen to meet the man who Luna clearly adored.
Ragnok walked with Barchoke over the land in Kingussie now owned by a goblin, both were impressed with the site Harry had indicated might be suitable for dwellings.
"Your son has surpassed all expectations we had for him, he's also surpassed anything the Nation could have asked of him. Like the ministry's death eaters, his successes have also swept all the nation's doubters aside. I feel we too should be rewarding him though I am seeking your advice on the matter first."
This was certainly a welcome change of attitude from the director but Barchoke was unsure how Harry would react to more honours. His son had now established himself as a centurion, even amongst his goblin peers, Barchoke knew this was not the time to change that status but waited until the director spoke before saying any more.
"My intentions would be to elevate his two friends to the same status as his mate, Friends of the Nation. They fought side by side with a centurion and were in the same extreme danger throughout the entire incident, I want to show we're proud of that without in any way overshadowing the ministry's own plans. You know all the parents and politicians involved, what do you think?"
"I know that would be something Harry would like very much, the families involved would be happy with that decision too. When, where and how were you thinking of doing this? All of those would need to be considered before we could hope to predict how the ministry might respond."
"I was thinking as soon as possible, which would limit the location to Hogwarts, and we'd want to keep the formalities to a minimum."
Barchoke again thought that was a brilliant suggestion. More importantly, a suggestion he could sell to the people involved. The last thing they wanted here was to be accused of trying to steal the ministry's thunder, an invitation for the minister to attend might help with that too - let him see how low key the awards were.
"I think this is something I should take to Arthur Weasley, talking to Augusta might prepare Hogwarts for this happening too."
Ragnok was happy with that, just as he was delighted with the proposed site of what would be the first goblin dwellings outside Gringotts in centuries. "This project is one of the most important we've ever undertaken. I want this entire glen warded with our strongest protections within hours of the ministry ceremony. We can have everything in place just waiting on that happening, I want your family to wake up the next morning in the most heavily warded location in Britain."
Knowing his family would be the focus of any death eater or disgruntled goblin backlash, Barchoke really couldn't be happier with the director's approach to this matter. He still intended to see the house warded too. When it came down to the safety of his family, Barchoke took no chances at all.
As was becoming their new norm, the four hung back after their lesson to talk with Bill. After the questions about the marauders class, Harry again had a surprise for their tutor.
"We're looking to add a touch of adventure to our holidays this summer and planned to spend a week in Cairo. We wondered if you would like to join us?"
After hearing what was involved, Bill quickly agreed - and couldn't wait to start phase two of the plan. They headed off to lunch and Bill made straight for the crops of red hair at the Gryffindor table.
The entire family now knew about Ginny's plans for the summer and Bill confirming that their parents were delighted for her, and of course she could go, saw the littlest Weasley almost flying without a broom. Bill had more news for his siblings though and his attention moved to Percy. "How would you like the chance to visit Egypt this summer? You would have the opportunity to do some studying, see things very few wizards have and also take time out to have some fun."
"I take it this has something to do with Centurion Crow? Why me?"
"Every so often, the goblins will spot someone in Hogwarts they think could work for them. That's what happened to me and I've never regretted my decision. I understand you had your heart set on the ministry but I just want you to know there are other options out there. I'll be in Cairo too, and Barchoke is using that fact to get us access to places very few have ever seen..."
Bill was interrupted by a squeal that had Percy on his feet and his hand reaching for his wand, seeing Penny with her arms around two of her young Ravenclaws stayed his hand. Whatever was happening, she was clearly very happy about it.
His eldest brother's droll voice drew him back to their previous conversation. "Oh, did I forget to mention that Penny was being invited too? They really think very highly of her you know, her Ravenclaws and the goblins that is. This week in Egypt will give you both a chance to look over the situation, you can bet the goblins will be doing the same to you."
"A week's holiday with my girlfriend, seeing wonders with a possible job offer when we leave Hogwarts..."
"Did I also forget to mention Madam Bones will be there too? Impressing her could see offers coming from the ministry as well, especially if you two get the head badges you deserve next term."
"Before I say yes, you need to tell me the catch - there has to be a catch here?"
"We'll of course there is! We have to put up with the twin menace of Fred and George for the week..."
There was a loud thunk as Fred's head hit the table because George excitedly lunged across both his twin and the Gryffindor table, desperate to confirm what he'd just heard. "We're really invited? They want us to come too? We never get invited, ever!"
Fred's head might currently being squashed into the table by his twin but it was another brother who held his total attention, Fred's eyes were silently begging Bill not to say this was a prank.
"They want to spend some time with their four training partners and thought this was the best week to do that..."
Fred's head was then yanked off the table as both twins shouted at once. "We're going to Egypt!"
Like at least half of the Gryffindor table, Ron had been listening intently. He was just about to shout about him being the only member of the Weasley family currently inside Hogwarts who wasn't invited on holiday when he bit his tongue. Stopping for that moment let him see that Crow was never going to invite him anywhere, he'd tried to attack most of them at one point or another. He also decided to look on the bright side, a week at the Burrow without the twins would be as good as a holiday!
Roger and Cedric were also delighted to be invited, both would be writing home today for permission to go. Neither expected that to be a problem, not with Madam Bones, the new Lord and Lady Black and their private defence tutor going too.
Professor McGonagall standing at lunch was such an unusual occurrence the hall was soon quiet, her announcement certainly perked their interest.
"Tonight at dinner will see Hogwarts welcome some special guests, and we will be holding a feast in honour of that. I expect everyone to be here and dressed in school uniform by the start of dinner, please ensure that any student not currently in the great hall hears of this information."
As the four headed off for their lesson with Sirius, Hermione was denouncing the latest rumour sweeping the castle as drivel. "Can you honestly see McGonagall holding a feast just because Sir Nicholas is getting made an honouree member of the headless hunt? Do you know what type of food they serve at ghost parties? Even Ronald Weasley wouldn't eat it!"
"It can't be that bad..."
"Harry, they deliberately let food rot until it positively reeks in the hope of getting some sensation when they pass through it."
This drew a disgusted expression from Padma. "Hermione, too much knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I could quite happily have gone my entire life and not known that fact, just thinking about it nearly has my lunch passing right through me!"
"Eugh, and I give out too much information? I could certainly have done without that mental image, Miss Patil."
Harry had another question though so interrupted the girls. "Just how rotting are we talking here? I'm still not sure Ronald would be able to resist. Can't you just see him holding his nose while shovelling the food into his mouth?"
That was too much for Neville. "Oh yuck, I declare Harry the winner of this grossing me out contest, and can we please change the bloody subject?"
"Sure, honey, whatever you want, we know you've got to share a dorm with him." Padma then played her ace. "Imagine, waking up to that in the morning..."
That tipped the scales for Hermione. "Ok, we have a new winner. Sorry Harry but I can't think of anything grosser than that image so Padma is still the reigning champion!"
He accepted his defeat with good grace. "Her title is safe, Hermione, I can't think of anything grosser either."
They arrived at the seventh floor to find an excited Sirius waiting on them, that Henrica and Remus were there too put all thoughts of tonight out of their heads. They were far more interested in what was about to happen.
Sirius could hardly wait to tell them. "I know all four of you are becoming frustrated at the lack of results in your search for an animagus form, even though I warned you it would take time. There is a potion you can take though that will help you with this process. The marauders didn't have access to this potion because it's incredibly difficult to brew but we all know a goblin that would have no trouble completing it."
The four would also have no trouble accepting something Master Pitslay had brewed. Hermione though felt as if they were cheating. "Do you mean we drink this potion and that's it, we're all animangi?"
"No, the potion only shows that you have a form, and what that form is. You still have to do all the hard work required to master the transformation. Think of it like an enticement, it will not only show you what's possible but let you see your form too. That way, if it's a flobberworm, you can decide whether it's worth all the work or not."
They all knew Sirius wasn't really joking with that last part, who would want to spend months working hard to discover what their form was, only for it to be useless. Why would anyone want to be a flobberworm?
Harry didn't really know what to ask Hogwarts for but she provided a room anyway. It was large and domed shaped, with a high ceiling. Three sofas surrounded a thick mat on the floor, they naturally headed for the sofas as Sirius explained the process. "This is just a glimpse you'll get today and will keep your own mind, we won't have to deal with feral lions or anything like that running about the room. You'll only transform for a minute or so, try and make the most of it no matter what you get."
There was no surprise that Harry went first. Sitting on the mat with everyone watching him closely, he drank the clear liquid that tasted faintly of peppermint. Harry was beginning to think Sirius had pulled a prank on them when his body suddenly felt as if a dragon had just sat on him.
They watched intently as Harry transformed into some kind of bird, it was slightly bigger than the common blackbird but appeared really ungainly on the ground. It was Hermione who recognised the high piercing chirp, and also what the problem was. She gently lifted the bird up before it appeared to flop out of her hand, what was ungainly on the ground was sheer poetry in motion in the air. Harry was zooming about the room quicker than the latest Nimbus, and certainly living up to his form's name.
"I recognised that chirp before his form, you just never see them on the ground because they don't ever land. Harry's a swift!"
They all watched as Harry twisted and turned around the room in a display of arial acrobatics no broom could ever match. They then noticed another transformation as the mostly black bird became golden, Harry then wobbled in the air before diving toward Hermione. She held her arms out wide to give him something to land on but he shot right to her chest, clutching on to her robes with his short legs until the transformation reversed - and her arms wrapped around a golden centurion. During the resulting kiss, Harry's armour faded as he returned completely to normal. Their foreheads were now resting on each other as Harry spoke to the room.
"That was amazing, the flying wasn't too bad either."
This had both marauders roaring with laughter while Padma and Neville plied him with question after question. Hermione though had one that stumped everyone - except Harry.
"You told us that mass plays a role in transfiguration, how can you then change into a much smaller creature?"
They all sat back down as Harry attempted his explanation. "A normal swift will have a brain about the size of a hazelnut, certainly smaller than a walnut, yet I retained all my memories and my thoughts were just as they are now. I couldn't speak because the animal can't but my chirping alerted you to my problem, swifts just aren't equipped to speak - or launch themselves from the floor. Even my armour worked, though it slowed me down. What I'm trying to say is the swift is still me."
This received total agreement from his godfather. "While transformed, I'm still Sirius Black, though with a little bit of Padfoot in there too. You wouldn't get that today because the potion masks those animal instincts..."
This had Remus roaring with laughter. "I had forgotten about that. When Sirius first managed the transformation, he hadn't gained total control over those instincts. We used to throw sticks, and he couldn't help but fetch them..."
This had all of them laughing but earned Sirius a kiss from his fiancée. "Nice to know you can be trained!"
While this was fun it hadn't really answered her question, not something Miss Granger was about to put up with.
Harry already knew the signs and got back on track. "We already know each person has to have a magical form or they can't become an animagus, and that's the vital difference. You see, it isn't really transfiguration - you can't consciously decide I'll be a lion today and a bear tomorrow, it has to come from within. Your own magic will allow you to transform into your specific magical animal, if you have one, there is no other way to become an animagus."
They didn't look convinced so Harry tried a different tack. "We've all seen goblins and elves performing transfigurations, have you ever seen a goblin or elf animagus? The answer would be no because it's impossible, even goblin masters of the subject can't do it. Only a witch or a wizard can perform the feat, just as only a veela can undergo their transformation. Henrica has a choice of when to transform but that form is already predetermined - again not transfiguration. She is a veela and her form is part of her."
His godfather was again nodding in agreement. "I can't argue with any of that, I suppose it's just another way of looking at the subject. It's easy to see though why an animagus transformation would be considered transfiguration..."
The Ravenclaw in Padma totally lost out this time as the excited witch just had to butt in. "I don't care what it's called, I just want to try it!"
With that, the discussion was well and truly over as they clearly had their next volunteer for the potion.
The excitement of their lesson saw their session overrunning, leaving them rushing to make the recently announced feast on time. Harry was thinking how right the Weasley twins were when they christened them the Order of the Aves, since all four of them had bird forms. His thoughts were disrupted when he noticed his centurion dress tunic had been laid out on the bed, with no time available to investigate this unusual phenomenon, that's what he would be wearing.
Meeting Hermione and Padma in the common room, it was clear both were wearing new robes. "Let me guess, the robes were lying on your beds just waiting on you?"
"So you've no idea what's going on either?"
"Sorry, Hermione, all I know is that we're going to be late if we don't get a move on."
They weren't surprised when they met Neville in a new set of robes too. "Is anyone else thinking that today's lesson was planned to keep us late, and not asking any questions about this feast?"
This earned Padma a kiss on the cheek from her betrothed. "You could only be an owl, but we really need to fly or we'll be late."
"Oh yes, my big strong hawk, let's swoop down there."
Hermione was now groaning. "Are we finished with the bird puns? It's already getting old."
Harry tugged her along on his arm. "Well, I'm hovering here trying to find a pun that will work for a kestrel, since I'm struggling I would say we were finished."
"Oh dear, that goblin sense of humour just doesn't get any better. I suppose I should join in and say we need to get down there swiftly but my heart really isn't in it."
This had Harry roaring with laughter, laughter that stopped when they entered the great hall. While Harry's eyes were instantly drawn to his father, he couldn't miss the presence of the Director, Minister of Magic, members of their family along with about fifty goblin warriors and some centurions standing around the perimeter of the hall.
McGonagall stood and beckoned them forward. "As the guests of honour have finally arrived, we can now begin this evening's festivities." Her broad smile informed the quartet they weren't in any trouble. "I'll now hand over to Director Ragnok to handle the formal part of the proceedings."
As they reached the front of the hall, Harry gave the centurion salute before kneeling. ""Well met, Director. I am rather surprised to see you at Hogwarts though.""
The other three knelt and offered the goblin greeting too, before Ragnok replied in English.
"Please rise, we hope to keep this as informal as possible." As the quartet got back on their feet, Raknok addressed the hall. "Barely months ago, a titanic struggle took place underneath this very castle. These four were involved in a battle that demanded every ounce of their courage and recently acquired skills. They fought side by side, caring not who was witch, wizard or goblin. Centurion Crow needed every one of his friends' help to overcome their foes, something I would like to recognise here."
Harry relaxed for the first time, understanding what the director was about to do and that the warriors were here merely as witnesses. His hand found Hermione's and squeezed it reassuringly before the director continued.
"Mr Neville Longbottom and Miss Padma Patil, betrothed to the house of Longbottom, Gringotts would like to bestow Friend of our Nation status on you both."
At that, Barchoke and Master Pitslay came forward, both had a scabbard containing a sword in their hands. As they fitted the blades to their new owners, whispered instructions were passed.
As both goblins retreated, Neville drew his sword and the words choked in his throat for a moment as his eyes focused on the word 'Longbottom' engraved the entire length of the magnificent goblin blade. ""I thank the Nation and hope to prove myself worthy of this honour.""
Padma had noticed their families present and proudly drew her sword, she too hesitated though when she saw her blade also carried the name 'Longbottom'. A tingle passed right through her body at the thought of one day being Neville's wife. She also gave her response in goblin.
A delighted director nodded his acceptance as the four made their way back and the feast began. Padma headed over to Gryffindor with Neville and sat beside Parvati, the sisters sitting together at either table had become such a normal occurrence that not one eyebrow was raised.
Cornelius was quite impressed with the simplicity of the ceremony yet the emotional response from all four was hard to miss. Even the couple not receiving an award were clearly delighted for their friends. He said as much to his opposite number from the Nation.
Ragnok couldn't be happier with how this evening had played out, the compliment from the minister just added to that. "Thank you, Minister. We goblins are a simple people who value honour, courage and honesty. How could we not wish to honour those young people? They stand for everything that's good in both our worlds, a fact emphasised by your Government's own upcoming recognition of their achievements."
Approval of his plans from another national leader was a new but very pleasant experience for Cornelius. He also got a chance to experience for himself how the 'extended family' operated. As the feast ended, all converged in a large group and congratulations were passed from every one of them. Cornelius had made a career out of studying people but even watching closely, he couldn't decipher any hierarchy amongst the group - apart from their children being at the centre of everything. It may be a very strange mixture but it certainly worked for them, making something similar work for the whole of the British Isles though was a daunting challenge. He would ask Arthur tomorrow about the possibility of inviting the Director to their awards ball in the summer.
Both Grangers had visited Hogwarts before but this time it was full of bustling students, every one of whom appeared to know their children. All of the first years were easily identifiable by their Crow's Marauders badges that they all proudly wore on their robes, Emma thought they must have met all of them now as they came over to congratulate Neville and Padma.
There was no question that Harry and Hermione were delighted for their friends though Emma had a question she just had to quietly ask. "Harry, why is Hermione's the only sword without a name on it? She's blood bound to you, same as another couple we know."
"It's really simple, what name would they put on her sword?"
Emma was about to answer when it hit, there was still a decision to be made in a few years time. She put her arms around both of her children and couldn't help the smile that was on her lips. One day she would be a grandmother, whether those children were called Crow or Potter would matter not a jot to Emma Granger, she would simply love them with everything that she had.
A/N thanks for reading
Translations - Driech - cold, wet, utterly miserable. Drookit - soaked through to your skin. Chittered - shivering from the cold. Smirr - light but persistent rain. Snaw - snow. Snell - very cold.