Harry Crow

Disclaimer - I am not JKR, nor a professional author. I write as a simple form of escapism, and purely for my own enjoyment. I then post those efforts here so others can read my stories for free. For those people who know exactly how to write the perfect Harry Potter story, and simply must point out the many reasons why mine isn't it, please do us all a favour and write the thing. Like everyone else on this site, I'm always searching for good stories to read.

Chapter 70

It felt strange not sitting down to breakfast with Harry but that strangeness had started for Hermione the moment her mate wasn't there to offer their usual morning greeting. The excitement around the Ravenclaw table at a Hogsmeade weekend didn't quite reach Hermione, to her it just meant that Harry was on duty. She was still going to the village and would spend the day with lots of their friends. This time Hermione might even see inside some of the shops - Harry had asked her to replenish Hannah's chocolate stash that took such a pounding on the express.

He'd also asked all three of them to wear their duelling robes in Hogsmede, there was no point in taking chances.

-oOoOo-

The residents of Hogsmeade were as pleased to see the patrols as they were the Hogwarts students, not caring if those patrols were goblin warriors or ministry aurors. Tonks and Harry had tried to assess where any attack might come from and had patrols covering those specific areas, they also had clearly visible forces on standby inside the village and all these squads were constantly rotating. This was done to keep everyone alert and hopefully give the impression to anyone watching that the forces they had available were greater than they actually were. Tonks had taken Harry's point to heart, the idea here was to scare anyone away from making an attempt to attack the students.

Hermione had been keeping an eye out for Harry as the gang toured Hogsmeade, it was rather a surprise then when she left Honeydukes and walked right into him.

"Would my lady like to join me for some lunch?"

"I would love to!"

"We only have half an hour so it will just be a quick bite..."

She then noticed the ten grinning goblin warriors behind him and wondered just where they were going, Harry would certainly want to eat with them too. She was on his arm as the squad marched unerringly to the Three Broomsticks, entering and sitting at the largest table there. The speed at which the food appeared was surprising to Hermione but the goblin ale being served gave the game away. ""You had this planned?""

""An army marches on its stomach, Hermione, it would be a poor commander who didn't make provisions for his men to be fed. We're spread around all the establishments that provide food, allowing us to spread the wealth and also our cover of the village.""

""Huh, even my lunch date is bloody tactical!""

This saw the goblin warriors roar with laughter, Hermione shaking her head and mumbling about 'goblin sense of humour' just cracked them up more.

Word that Harry was having lunch in the Three Broomsticks soon spread and a lot of their friends popped in to say hi, those who could speak goblin using that language to do so. This really impressed the warriors but the Prophet reporter couldn't believe his ears, or his eyes, a squad of heavily armed goblins sitting having lunch in the Three Broomsticks! Having lunch was hard enough to believe, for pureblood after pureblood to come forward and greet them in their own language was shocking.

Longbottom and his betrothed were already Friends of the Nation but Bones, Diggory, Abbot, Davies and a couple of Weasleys all clearly not only knew the language but were comfortable talking with the goblins too. When the Hogwarts Head Boy and Girl entered and displayed the same behaviour the reporter was glad his photographer was capturing this, the editor would never believe it otherwise.

Molly Weasley would have trouble believing George and Fred could feature on the front page of the Prophet without having aurors coming knocking on the Burrow door

As the squad was getting ready to return to duty, Harry had a quiet word with his mate. "We will be escorting the last of the students up to the castle, if you wait until then we can walk to Hogwarts together."

Hermione didn't want to kiss him while he was on duty but she would certainly be waiting for that walk. Thanking everyone for their company during lunch, the squad headed off to relieve the next rotation for their break.

The reporter watched them leave and knew that, barring any attack on Hogsmeade, he already had his front page story.

-oOoOo-

The real story though was unfolding over three thousand miles away. As Hermione strolled back to the castle with Harry, Peter was walking through the trees with a crying baby in his arms. Bella had stollen the male child earlier and he had been given the job of taking care of it until the ritual tomorrow. Peter would have loved to put the child to sleep but any magic cast on the baby might interfere with the ritual, hence why he was currently walking through the trees trying to quiet the infant. Bella might be prohibited from casting any magic on the baby but Peter had no such protections in place, he was also certain that it wouldn't be a sleeping charm Bella sent his way if the baby's crying irritated her.

As he comforted the crying child, Peter was desperately trying not to think of what the immediate future held for the doomed infant. His master had imprinted the ritual on his mind so Peter could now see exactly where the snake was going to bite the little boy and the points at which Rookwood would then make the cuts. The bleeding baby would quickly be immersed in the foul potion before their master would leave his familiar and take possession of the new construct just before the child died.

Peter's thoughts drifted to another child he once held in his arms, so long ago and what now seemed like another life. Even then though his choice had already been made, a choice he was now having to live with. He tried not to look back, or think what his life might have been if he'd made different choices. Peter was only looking forward, though not to what would happen to this little one on Halloween.

-oOoOo-

As Harry didn't celebrate Halloween, and had no intention of attending the feast, he asked Hermione if she would join him for dinner tonight. Again, only Harry leading his squad as they walked back to Hogwarts stopped Hermione kissing her mate. A dinner for just the two of them sounded a great way to finish off a weekend where she'd hardly seen him, both Saturday and Sunday had been spent patrolling the village. This would also let Padma and Neville enjoy the feast with Parvati.

It had been a busy weekend but Harry didn't think it could have gone much better, the Prophet was full of praise for the Ministry and Gringotts after ensuring the children visiting Hogsmeade were kept safe. The front page of course featured the Baron of Kingussie having lunch with his goblin warriors and wizarding friends, along with quotes from all the proprietors who were delighted at the extra business the combined auror and warrior forces had provided.

A message had been passed on to Harry that The Director was very pleased at how the entire situation had been handled, the goodwill the nation would reap from this was an unexpected bonus. Seeing goblins being accepted like this was slowly changing wizarding attitudes towards them, changes that were even being noticed on the floor of the bank. Tellers were reporting outbreaks of civility from their customers. If things continued on this track, civility would become the norm rather than the exception.

They were enjoying their meal and just being able to chat about anything, their hopes and dreams of the future. Hermione then had a question about the holidays that would soon be upon them.

"Can we spend Christmas in Kingussie?"

"I would think we will certainly spend some of the holidays there. It isn't really big enough to hold everyone though, and I don't know about a marque in Kingussie during December. You would probably be better with a giant igloo. Last year Sirius hosted the entire holidays, and threw an engagement party in there too, but I think we might be getting invited to the Bones or the Longbottoms this Christmas."

Seeing the sense in Harry's answer, she had to agree. "As long as our family is there that will be fine with me, Christmas in our own home though would have been nice."

"We've still got seven weeks of Hogwarts to go before we get to that, who knows what other surprises Master Auror Moody will have for us by then."

This set Hermione off giggling. "I think it was him who got the surprise when you transfigured his wooden leg into a giant banana, with no spell or wand movement. You just know he's going to add that into our fighting techniques."

"If it caught him out then it will be worth the effort. I just shudder to think what uses he'll come up with for it."

"We should invite him to spend Christmas with us, or at least part of it, he lives alone..."

"You get to run that one by the family first, I've learned my lesson about handing out invitations." Hearing Hermione giggle again was music to Harry's ears, he planned to be listening to that cute giggle for many years to come.

-oOoOo-

There was no way the word cute could be applied to the cackle Bella emitted as she lifted her master out of the cauldron, this lack of cuteness applied doubly so to the thing she now lovingly cradled in her arms. The snake venom and the potion had wrought terrible damage on the child's body in order to prepare it as a vessel for Tom's spirit. Skin that was once so soft and smooth now had the look and texture of old cracked leather, a chubby little body had become emaciated to the point where movement was slow and severely restricted. A little hand was still held out though and such command in a voice coming from this tiny body was startling.

"Wormtail, my wand."

Peter reverently handed over the piece of wood that came alive the instant his master's little fingers curved around it, a shower of sparks shooting into the night sky.

"I am in need of my resst, we will go over my planss in the morning."

Bella had her master wrapped in a blanket and was cuddling him into her breasts. They were going to be traveling back to Britain as a family with Bella having no trouble playing the doting mother. Rookwood was of course going to be the father, leaving Peter with the role of uncle - an uncle who would have a large suitcase with Nagini resting inside.

Peter was pleased that at least he would get to sit on the train this time, rather than cowering under it. If his master had his way, Peter's days of cowering would soon be over. The Dark Lord intended to get a body back and then show Britain why it was right to fear him. The country might have thought it had been experiencing a lot of changes recently but those would be nothing compared to how the Dark Lord intended to make his presence felt.

-oOoOo-

Harry felt his presence would make the guys more nervous but Henrica convinced him otherwise so, instead of just opening the room for the first year marauders and leaving as usual, he stood beside the Lady Black and watched the club being run through its paces.

They were sticking very closely to Hermione's notes from last year and Harry remembered this lesson well, the introduction of the stinging hex. He watched as Fred and George put all joking aside and were very serious with their charges, that all four were now prefects and charged with helping the first years certainly helped them establish a great working relationship with their marauder students. That Draco and Pansy were working alongside the twins without the slightest hint of hesitation certainly told its own story of how far the changes inside Hogwarts had gone, Slytherins and Gryffindors working together would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.

Harry and Henrica lent a hand assisting those who had been hexed out of the duelling area, constantly checking they were alright. Seeing some of them fighting back tears from the pain gave Harry an idea and he disappeared for a while, returning with Luna and Colin just before the guys were getting ready to wind up the lesson. He let the kids get their comforting mug of hot chocolate while their tutors explained exactly why they had done what they did tonight.

"Excuse me, Cedric, I really don't want to butt in here but I thought your students might like to see exactly what our aims are for this club. I have Luna and Colin here, both of whom were at this exact same stage last year, I wondered if your class would like to see how these two fight now?"

This was an exercise that hadn't been available to Crow's Marauders last year but everyone concerned could see this as something that would certainly help their sore students. The entire club were soon on their feet, eager to see just what level the second years were at.

Harry was limiting the fight to three minutes and let them loose in the area Hogwarts had warded. First years that had been feeling sorry for themselves a moment ago were now shouting encouragement as the two Crow's Marauders threw spells, dodged and shielded until Harry called time to much cheering. It was a happy yet determined bunch of first years who soon after that left the room, allowing Harry to apologise to the tutoring team.

"Sorry about that, guys, but something just occurred to me as I was helping Natalie back to her group. Last year Crow's Marauders had the choice of Lockhart or us, I would like to think that wasn't a difficult decision. You lot are up against Remus and I could see some of our first year wondering if this was worth it, a stinging hex is called that for a reason - it bloody stings. I wanted them to get a look at what was possible before they thought about chucking it in."

Roger didn't think any apology was needed. "I was looking at them and could see us losing a few, but not after watching these two. You've really been pushing them this term."

Colin had been delighted that he was one of the pair Harry picked and his face was flushed from exertion and pride, Luna was just glad to help out. "Our shields are getting stronger all the time, but Harry still keeps telling us not to rely on them..." They all joined in with what had become their unofficial motto - 'the best defence is not to be there'.

Harry took the ribbing in the good spirit that was intended. "Really well done tonight, I don't know about you but I certainly found that the hardest lesson to teach last year. Next week they'll have a set of duelling robes on when they practice but you still have to be careful they don't use that as an excuse to go charging into a fight, especially those bloody Gryffindors."

Again Colin took the jibe in the spirit it was intended but the twins were quick to defend their house, in their own inimitable style of course. "Hey, we teach our first year better than that..."

"...yeah, first thing we taught them - don't get caught."

"Is that the same thing, Fred?"

"It's the most important thing, can't have us Gryffindor prefects looking bad..."

"...and Alicia would go mental if we made her look bad."

The twins theatrical shudders weren't fooling anyone, Alicia and Angelina certainly had more chance of reining Fred and George's more outlandish behaviour than McGonagall ever would.

-oOoOo-

Rookwood was having a hard time trying to rein their master's impatience in. That Peter was too afraid to confirm or deny what Augustus was saying, and Bella simply couldn't wait to start some mayhem, certainly didn't help his case any.

"Master, to go anywhere near Little Hangleton before the solstice invites disaster on all of us. This is a totally different ministry we're dealing with now, between them and the goblins I'm certain that house will be monitored. Until we have your wand backing our endeavours then any confrontations should be avoided when possible. Bella's the most powerful witch I've ever met but Peter and I are at best average in a fight. Until we have you restored to a new body then we're vulnerable. After the ceremony, I'll gladly storm the ministry itself at your side if that's your command."

The Dark Lord was not used to having his orders questioned by his followers, painfully enforcing his will would usually be his immediate response should that ever happen. He forced himself to stop and think though, understanding that Rookwood was well aware of what his fate could be - yet he still spoke out. This was also a death eater who masterminded an escape from Azkaban with the sole intention of helping his lord return to power - Rookwood's bond with Bella being nothing more than an opportunity that his plans generated, and the clever wizard then seized with both hands.

There was also the fact that Rookwood wouldn't be considered one of his lord's inner circle, yet almost every one of those bastards granted that honour were far too busy looking out for themselves to ever search for the wizard they had called master. Rookwood's loyalty was beyond reproach, leaving only the conclusion that it was genuine concern that made him speak out of turn.

By sheer magical power and her utter ruthlessness, Bella had more than earned her place as his right hand. Rookwood certainly didn't possess much power but had an intellect that was probably only second to his own. That superior intellect was telling the dark lord to listen to this intelligent and loyal death eater.

"You may have a point, Rookwood. I have waited over ten yearss to return, I can eassily be patient for another s-six weeks. Then I will announce my return to thosse cowardss who took my mark and then failed me. They will be the firsst to feel my wrath, but certainly not the lasst."

Bella's face fell as her master conceded it was better to play it safe for now, everything changed at his final comments though. Watching as her master tortured those cowards who had bought their way out of Azkaban, and then continued living in their comfortable mansions, would be almost as satisfying as torturing them herself.

Rather than letting out the sigh of relief he certainly felt, Augustus actually pushed for more. "Master, until we can confirm otherwise, I think we have to treat everyone and everything as compromised. Even though Bella and I were very careful to leave no clues to our whereabouts, the ministry were all over the Carrows very quickly. They were so sure of our position, they even had reporters and photographers from the Prophet along. They missed us by a matter of hours and pure chance, they also had enough firepower along to level the Carrows' farm."

Peter felt on safer ground here, sticking it to someone he hated was certainly sweet. That this person was already dead and wouldn't be coming after him also helped. "The ministry already had Lucius Malfoy in a cell by the time the Prophet broke the storyline his crime, and that was only a matter of mere days after the incident with the basilisk happened."

Bella couldn't help but needle the little man, she didn't like Peter. "..and that's when you decided to search for our master - before you were caught too! You had over ten years to do that, where the fuck were you?"

Peter was stuttering to try and answer Bella's question, knowing full well she was right. Admitting that though could be the end of him. "You two took your time breaking out of Azkaban too..." He almost bit his tongue off after realising what he had just said, Bella might just cut it out for him after that.

Rookwood wanted Peter along, if for nothing more than to look after Nagini. "I was not aware our master had made Horecruxes until Malfoy ended up in a cell beside us. If Malfoy had one for safe keeping, it was certain Bella would have one too. If I could have gotten my hands on one of those I knew I could aid our master's return. It took nearly eight months to manufacture what I needed to get us out of there - and now we're here!"

Lord Voldemort used to enjoy pitting one death eater against another for his own amusement, since he currently only had three - that couldn't be allowed to happen. Bella would slaughter Peter in seconds anyway, where was the entertainment in that.

"Peter s-still came, that iss the important thing. You have given me much to think on, Rookwood, we will talk more as-s we head home."

That was more than Augustus hoped for, his master would listen to him. It was also more than Peter had hoped for, their master's backing would stay Bella's wand - for now. The sooner she had some other targets to take her ire out on the happier he would be.

-oOoOo-

It was only after realising how happy they were that Emma knew it was time to talk to Dan. "You've just come in from shooting while I've spent a lovely morning losing myself in a book I've been meaning to read for ages. Now we're being waited on hand and foot."

Drinking his tea to wash down the delicious scone he was eating left Dan wondering where his wife was going with this. He decided to let her get it out of her system and then see where they were.

"We're living here like landed gentry. You're Lord of the Manor, walking around with a servant beside you carrying your gun, while I'm sitting about like a right lady..." Emma was interrupted by a slight pop as a clearly worried Dobby appeared at her side.

"Has Dobby done something wrong, mistress? Dobby will work harder to fix whatever the problem is."

Watching the little guy who they literally owed their lives to standing there wringing his hands with worry brought Emma up short, she needed to fix this at once. "Dobby, never doubt for one second that Dan and I don't think you are simply the best elf in the whole world. I was talking with Dan about what we should do in the future and forgot one of our family was missing from the discussion, please sit and join us, Dobby."

Dobby's emotions were always on the surface so Dan and Emma both watched as he traveled from worry to elation in the space of a few moments. The invitation to sit though had him folding his legs and sitting on the floor, there was more work to do before he would be comfortable sitting on a chair beside them.

"What I was trying to lead up to is that our lives have been changing ever since we discovered Hermione was a witch. I feel we've now reached a crossroads, one where we have to decide what we do next. Our lives changed forever the night those goblins attacked us in our home. We need to figure out what we want to do with our lives, and even whether Crawley is still home."

This had Dan sitting up and paying full attention, this could be a life-changing conversation. "You don't want to return to Crawley?"

"I loved our house there, our home. We have so many happy memories that were made there but I just don't know if I would ever feel safe living in that house again. Kingussie actually feels more like home to me now, which is what got me worrying to start with. It was less than a year ago we first laid eyes on this place."

Dan had no trouble understanding what his wife meant, he loved Kingussie too. "When you consider we tracked down every piece of furniture in this house and you were given carte blanche with the decor then it's hardly surprising we both feel right at home here. I still remember the morning we found that chair you're so fond of, and what a state it was in. That dealer must have thought he had a right couple of mugs but you could see its potential, you've always been able to spot things like that. Now, will you tell me what's really on your mind?"

"I don't know what I want to do with my life anymore, Dan. You know I've always been sceptical about people having so-called near death experiences but having a ruddy great knife sticking out of your belly has a way of making you look at your own life through different eyes."

Dan was over and comforting his wive immediately, she obviously needed to get this off her chest. "I always saw myself growing old beside you, surrounded by a few grandchildren. We almost had that snatched away from us."

He may be sitting quietly on the floor but Dobby was a good elf with a wonderful family, he anticipated their needs and floated a box of tissues over. Both were going to need them.

Holding his wife close allowed Dan to air some of his own fears. "I stood there, helpless, and the world meant nothing if you weren't there to share it with me. When you regained consciousness and held our children, then my world was back together. You can't ever leave me, Emma, you just can't!" Both were now needing the tissues that Dobby had provided as Dan finally 'got' what Emma was meaning.

"It's a bit like watching Frank and Alice try to find their place in the world again..."

That saw him receive a grateful kiss from his wife. "That's exactly how I feel, almost as if I was reborn. At this moment I have no idea what I want to do with my new life, I honestly don't know if I could go back to being a dentist in Crawley though. Our world had been changing before that night but now I feel like a different person. Does that make any sense?"

It made perfect sense to her husband. "Not only have we changed but our place in Crawley has too. We used to be known around town as a couple of dentists, now we've been plastered all over the national newspapers as terrorist targets. We've seen the way Harry and Hermione are treated by the goblins and magicals, I can certainly do without that kind of fame. Let's be honest here, we hardly need to work for money. Why spend more years building up our practice just to make even more money when we eventually have to sell it. Hermione is already set for life, that ring on her finger could probably buy half our street, and you know Harry would be happy to let us live in any of his properties we wanted to."

The realisation that her husband understood saw Emma snuggling into Dan. "While I don't know if I can go back to being a dentist in Crawley, I don't want to sit about and do nothing for the rest of my life..."

Dobby could understand his mistress wanting to be busy, all elves liked to be busy. Once more he tried to help his family.

"Mistress, Betsy heard the Lady Potter saying she would like to hold a party here but the house wasn't big enough." Dobby now had their attention and felt awkward offering his suggestion. "Dobby was watching the goblins making homes from the rock, very nice homes."

The Grangers were becoming more used to dealing with Dobby now and just let him ramble, knowing he would get there in the end.

"Dobby was then wondering - if Lady Potter wanted more rooms, and goblins could make rooms out of the rock, Dobby knows this house is built on the same type of rock."

It hit both Grangers like a sledgehammer what the little guy was suggesting. "Oh my, underneath Gringotts is massive! They could have whatever they wanted down there..."

"...and it will all need to be designed, decorated and kitted out. It could be our Christmas present to them, and then we could sit down to discuss as a family where we go from here. Dobby, you will certainly be included in those discussions."

A very happy elf was soon dispatched with a message for Barchoke, the goblin's expertise would certainly be needed for this.

-oOoOo-

Bertha didn't know what was behind the message she got, only that it couldn't be good. Nothing good ever came out of Dolores' office. It was a dark day for the rest of the games and sports department when she got dumped on them.

She knocked on the door as that sugary sweet voice bade her to enter.

"Ah Bertha, I just wanted to congratulate you on a job well done. I'm so pleased that I'm authorising an extra few days holiday for you."

This stunned her, and was certainly unexpected. "Why thank you Madam Umbridge. I assume you'll want me to take them after the presentation to the minister?"

"Oh I wouldn't worry about that. I have all your notes and am used to giving presentations to the minister, I'm sure I'll manage without you. Your extra holidays can start today."

Bertha had a sinking feeling of just what was going on here, she protested again. "...but surely you'll need me in there too. After all, I was the one who made all the arrangements..."

"...and I will be sure to mention that. After all, that's why you are getting this extra holiday - to show how pleased I am with you."

Bertha knew exactly why she was being spirited out of the way. All her hard work would be presented under the name of Dolores Umbridge, with no recognition of the fact it was Bertha Jorkins who had done all the organising of the three tasks. That superior smirk on Dolores' face left Bertha hoping the bitch got a little too close to the first task and her arse was properly roasted. Now that would certainly be something worth watching.

-oOoOo-

Rookwood was watching the house but something about this scene was screaming danger to him, a feeling he hadn't experienced for a while. Their journey across Europe and back into Britain had been ridiculously easy. No one really paid too much attention to a family travelling with a young child, some charms simply set to discourage levels took care of those who would. Back in Britain, Augustus had a plan that should see them safe until the solstice.

There were houses all over the country that were sitting empty, and their addresses would be easy to find. A telephone directory would point them in the direction of people named Potter, all of whom had been moved out of their homes for safety. It was one of these empty houses he was staring at now.

"What's the matter, lover, it looks perfectly normal to me."

His mate's comment crystallised exactly what had raised his hackles. "That's what's wrong here, Bella, it looks far too normal. This house has been lying empty for months yet appears in perfect condition. The garden is maintained and the windows are sparkling clean, that shouldn't be the case."

It was their master who realised what was going on here. "Housse Elves-s are maintaining the property, they'll be maintaining all the properties. How is this posssible? Thesse are muggle homes-s."

Bella actually had the most experience dealing with these creatures. "If their lord and master bought these properties, and they were lying empty, the elves would automatically look after them."

"So Potter buys all the houses, the elves look after them and then he'll make a tidy profit when he eventually sells. Meanwhile, all the muggle Potters are out of our reach and he gets nothing but praise for organising this." The admiration was there for the rest of them to hear, Augustus' professional admiration at a plan well executed.

"How iss it posssible for a young boy to know all thisss?"

Peter had been monitoring the situation longer than the others, even living as a rat he had kept his eyes on the newspapers. "He was raised by goblins, and calls one of them father. If there is a profit to be made, the goblins will squeeze it out. Oh, that father is now the goblin's ambassador to the ministry."

This was greeted by silence before Bella pinned him with a glare, ignoring the fact she already knew most of this. Bella was spoiling for a fight, or even just a victim. "...and you are just telling us this now?"

"S-so, the goblins-s are ussing the Potter boy to influence the minisstry - and the minisstry are allowing them too! That iss s-something we will exploit later. We need to do s-something now."

"If we try to stay in that house, those elves will soon report us to their master. We would have the entire ministry down on top of us within twenty-four hours. We'll have to look elsewhere for a safe haven to wait until the solstice."

Her anger had not abated in the slightest, Bella strongly stated her opinion. "I will wait those two weeks, living in a pig sty if I have to, but not a moment longer. I'm sick of these bastards being one step ahead of us and not being able to strike back. It's time we gave this country a reminder of just who holds the power, the purebloods will once more flock to our master's banner. If they don't, my wand will kill every single one of the blood traitors."

Not even Voldemort objected to Bella's rant. When you had a highly efficient attack dog, it was more about pointing it at the right target than keeping it muzzled. They would all have to rough it out for two weeks but, as Bella said, not a moment longer.

-oOoOo-

Hermione's ever present planner told her there was just under two weeks to the end of what had been a very busy term. It also told her that the day before they left Hogwarts was a Hogsmeade visit so Harry would again be on duty. It didn't matter too much this time though, the following day they were stepping onto the Express and heading for home. Harry would be hers for two whole weeks, and it would be just them doing their exercises every morning.

She was delighted Padma and Neville now joined them each morning but there was no denying she missed that it wasn't only her and Harry. That had been the one time of the day when she had her mate all to herself, and Hermione missed that more than she ever thought she would.

With mum and dad not yet returning to work, she was really looking forward to this holiday. Nothing had yet been arranged amongst the extended family although everyone was heading to their own homes when the express reached London, all knew though that Harry had an open house policy at Kingussie - they were all welcome there anytime.

It was strange but Hermione was beginning to think of Kingussie as home, rather than the house she grew up in. When she mentioned this to Harry she had received an answer that had her thinking he would be a natural at politics - 'home to me is wherever you are'. It was said with such sincerity though that Hermione just had to kiss him, something that she seemed to grasp the slightest excuse to do - and Harry never once complained. Yes, it would be good to get him to herself and celebrate the season of peace and goodwill to all together.

A/N Thanks for reading.