Disclaimer - A big thank you to JKR, the owner of Harry Potter, who permits us to construct our sandcastles on her beach. Whether those sandcastles resemble Hogwarts or a house of horrors can sometimes be purely down to the conjecture of the reader. One thing unites us all though, none of us are making any money off our writing here. Please keep that in mind as you read our efforts.
This was easily Harry's favourite time of the day, he actually didn't know how he was going to survive in Hogwarts without it. He was now as addicted to this as he was to Hermione's hugs.
They'd done their morning exercises, duelling practice too. After a shower and breakfast, Harry was sitting with a baby in his arms. Today it was Jamie, his name might be James but the family called him Jamie. This actually appealed to Harry, rather than having him as a constant reminder of a man he couldn't remember.
Funnily enough, as the little tike gripped Harry's pinky firmly with his tiny fist, he'd never felt closer to his parents than he did right now. Not that Jamie looked anything like a Potter, his brown eyes and wisps of the same coloured hair clearly identified him as the son of Dan and Emma Granger. It was more the feelings his baby brother stirred somewhere deep inside him.
Harry already knew he would do anything to keep his brother, and his goddaughter, safe. His mum and dad had given their very lives to ensure he had a chance at life, he was certainly their son. Harry was positive he wouldn't hesitate to do the same for the baby currently in his arms, or the little blond baby girl who competed with Jamie for his attention. At least he would get to see Astrid at Hogwarts, it was going to be really hard being away from his baby brother.
Hermione was trying to console both of them by saying that they would be finished Hogwarts before their brother was two. He suspected Hermione was feeling the same as him, and that her efforts to be cheery weren't really doing her any good either. He certainly understood Jenny Abercrombie's decision to choose a university close to someone she knew. Harry was already sure access to Jamie would figure in the decision he and Hermione made after leaving Hogwarts.
He was trying not to think of the mayhem Voldemort had caused back in Britain, Jamie clasping his little finger was actually helping with that. Harry found it impossible to maintain his anger with this tiny person snuggled into the crook of his arm. He would just have to save that anger for when he could use it, a direct order from Ragnok meant Harry couldn't go near Britain at the moment anyway.
Betsy popped onto the porch at the front of the beach chalet, carrying a sheathed sword in each hand. "Master and Mistress has visitors. There is no time to dress properly but you will need these."
Emma took Jamie as her teenage children strapped on their swords. "Surely you won't need them on the island?"
Harry had now spotted the visitors and understood why Betsy had appeared. "The Director is visiting so we need to wear our swords, they don't exactly match our shorts and t-shirts though."
With Hermione on his arm, they headed off to meet the rather large party of guests father had brought to the island. At least they knew all but two of the ten people he'd arrived with.
The young couple bowed to Ragnok before Harry spoke, deliberately using English because of their guests. "Well met, Director. You do me great honour by visiting my island home, especially since for you it must be the wee small hours."
"I'm delighted to be here, Centurion, though I wish the circumstances were better. This was sent to The Minister, and quite a few other outlets around Britain."
Ragnok handed over the letter and Harry felt Hermione stiffen as she read it beside him. She then turned her attention to Cornelius.
"Minister Fudge, If you came here to arrest my Harry then I'm telling you right now - you didn't bring enough people with you."
The shocked silence this declaration caused was broken by Barchoke and Ragnok roaring with laughter, the sight of Hermione more than ready to face down the entire crowd being one of the funniest things they had seen in ages.
An angry and tired Bulgarian Minister grabbed Cornelius by the arm, wanting a private word. "You let a mere girl speak to you like that? No vonder Britain is in the state it's in."
Cornelius just smiled at his Bulgarian counterpart, before explaining a few things he needed to know. "You're wrong, Borislaw, Miss Hermione Granger is no mere girl. She's Harry's mate, a Friend to The Nation and holds their highest award for bravery. She is also an Order of Merlin, First Class holder, and in this instance perfectly correct. We would need a lot more people if we were here to arrest Harry, just take a look around us."
Borislaw then followed the British minister's advice, finding they were now casually surrounded. The people doing so didn't make it obvious but they would be in real trouble if they reached for their wands.
The Minister then addressed the assembled group. "Let me make the introductions here, well of those you haven't met before. This is Borislaw Oblansk, the Bulgarian Minister of Magic. The other wizard you won't know is Brendan Murphy, the Irish Minister of Magic. Harry, Is there somewhere we can sit and talk? We're all pretty done in here but this simply couldn't wait."
"How private does this need to be?"
Cornelius just shrugged his shoulders. "In around four hours, most of magical Britain will wake up to this news with their morning cup of tea. That was one of the reasons we couldn't put off informing you."
Harry led them toward the beach where he could see tables, chairs and sunshades already being set up, however he wanted a word with Arthur, Bill and Percy before anything else started. "We heard George was injured in the attack, how is he."
This saw Bill shaking his head, though he was wearing a wry smile. "Already cracking every bad ear joke you could ever want to hear. The four boys used their training and kept themselves, Ginny and Ron safe. I'm really proud of them, they could so easily have panicked - like the vast majority of the people there."
That was Amos' cue to try and thank Harry for including Cedric in the training, he'd been trying to thank Bill every ten minutes since they found all of them safe.
Hermione was using the time to catch up with Penny, she appeared rather overawed at her surroundings. "Oh I think I'm going to love my new job, especially if it brings me to places like this."
Susan couldn't help but notice how tired her aunt looked, if anyone needed to spend a few days here it was Amelia Bones. Susan was well aware however, the chances of that happening were now nil. Her Aunt Amelia was supposed to join them here for the last few days of their holidays, this attack had surely put paid to that. Susan got Amelia sitting in a comfortable beach chair, kicking her shoes off and drinking a fruity concoction that the elves made - and everyone just loved.
Amos had followed her lead and couldn't help but blurt out what was on his mind, they were all entering their second night without sleep. "Merlin, Amelia, is this where you were heading for your leave? We could all use a few days of this."
Even the Bulgarian minister had mellowed somewhat, Borislaw wasn't exactly smiling but at least he'd stopped scowling. It was hard not to relax in this location.
The letter had since been passed around everyone so it was time for Cornelius to tell them why he was here. "That was delivered by a crow in the middle of an emergency Wisengamot meeting. It caused a fair bit of a stir when I read it out to the chamber…"
Amelia almost choked on her drink at that massive understatement…
-o- flashback -o-
The letter had a polarising effect on what was already a very emotive chamber, everyone present at least knew someone who had been injured or killed last night. That a few of the members appeared to think this letter was a viable means to end all their troubles nearly saw them being lynched. Wands were being drawn when Amos fired off a noisemaker curse.
"We are the law of the land's representatives, and that law will be followed. I will not have this chamber descending into a brawl. Minister Fudge, I believe you still have the floor."
"Thank you, Chief Warlock. I believe I interrupted Madam Bones though, and what she was about to say is very prevalent to where we go next." This would also allow Cornelius a few moments to get himself back under control. Witnessing some members of this chamber even considering this letter as an option made him feel sick, he would deal with them after Amelia was finished her presentation.
She had known hearing the next part would be hard for the chamber but, after that letter, Amelia knew it was more essential than ever. "Knowing that you don't just create an army of inferi out of thin air saw my department carefully examining those inferius bodies we were able to. We actually managed to identify a few which corroborated our other findings, these were all once people that Riddle and his death eaters had murdered during the last war. My department will finally close a lot of missing person files over the next few days."
This time the chamber were shocked into silence. With the numbers involved in this attack, again there was a distinct possibility they may have known, or even been related to, someone who had been turned into an inferius.
"We're certain Riddle used all his inferi last night, and my department would soon notice if he attempted to build another army like that. This led us to considering what other threats he might be able to bring against us. The Dementors are all on Azkaban, and have no wish to leave that island. Centurion Crow killing three of them on the Hogwarts Express means they want nothing to do with this fight. They're more than intelligent enough to understand that siding with Riddle could see them wiped out."
Amelia checked her notes before continuing. "Going over the allies the death eaters had in the last war threw up some shocks. The werewolf community for instance also want nothing to do with this fight. They can see one of their own teaching at Hogwarts, and escorting his Order of Merlin, First Class, auror girlfriend to the ministry ball. Compared to that extremely positive example, Riddle has nothing to offer them. He has nothing to offer, nor the manpower to control, giants or trolls. Variations of the same themes apply to all those he would naturally look to as allies. That leaves us just Riddle and his two followers, Lestrange and Rookwood, to deal with."
She was now staring hard at the chamber, her gaze lingering on those few members who seemed to think this letter was the answer to their prayers. "Let's get one thing straight here and now, my department will deal with Tom Riddle…"
"…only if you get to him first!" This was growled in a deep and dangerous voice. Amelia had been deliberately averting her gaze from that section of the chamber since Cornelius read out that letter. If she felt sick at the crass way some in the chamber had reacted, it must have been a hundred times worse for Ragnok and Harry's father.
She turned and bowed to the goblin leader, recognising that's where the growl had come from. "Director Ragnok, should The Nation apprehend this terrorist before my department gets their hands on him, I would be honoured to toast your success with grog. I would gladly get drunk for the first time in many years, knowing I was amongst fellow warriors and friends."
Ragnok actually stood and returned her bow. "I hope we get that opportunity, Madam Bones. All our intelligence is coming back blank, leaving us to believe this criminal is in a bolt hole miles from anywhere. Unfortunately, our country is overly abundant with isolated locations like that."
Barchoke found himself on his feet without even realising he had risen. The Ambassador tried to be diplomatic but his anger was mighty, this was his family that was being discussed. "I feel I must speak here to defend my son. This abomination called my son a coward, not something I can leave unchallenged. Who was it who bested Riddle at the battle of Bones Manor? Who was it who ran away from Diagon Allay when my son charged down the steps of Gringotts - ready, willing and able to do battle with this criminal? My son is a Centurion, a Baron and holds both our nations highest awards for bravery - all of it earned. Meanwhile this murdering, lying, soulless bastard has to invent his own supposed title and animates corpses to do his fighting for him. Who here would kill my son and let this traitorous, murdering lump of future dragon shit just leave the country?"
The goblin's challenge was there for all to see. Anyone answering positively would soon be up to their neck in more shit than they could handle. Barchoke then emphasised that point further. "I feel I must also warn you before you begin to make any decisions, killing my son will not be an easy thing to do…"
"…and they will need to go through me first to get to him, Ambassador. My resignation will be made here and now while I swear to fight for justice at Harry's side. I would expect a fair few of my aurors to join me there too."
Amelia's declaration actually brought a smile to Cornelius' face. "While nowhere near as proficient with a wand as our esteemed Head of the D.M.L.E., I would still offer that wand up to help Harry in his fight. I promised him that, in any battle with Voldemort, he would have every wand I could muster to support him. If I am no longer minister, I will still honour that promise to stand with him. I could not be Minister of Magic to any country who even considered these lies..."
"...isn't it our job to consider all the options available?"
The shout from the Wizengamot was not totally unexpected, it was time for the minister to let his anger out to play. "I have spent all of today receiving messages of support from ministries around the globe. We have another two Ministers of Magic with us today in our chamber, both of whom lost citizens in this attack too, and have pledged their countries support for our efforts to catch these criminals. How long do you think that support would last if we even acknowledged this? No ministry in the world would give in to terrorist demands, and that's exactly what this letter is."
Cornelius let that sit for a minute before getting down to the real nitty-gritty. "We sit in this chamber in complete safety, and then go home to our protected houses. Our children leave on Monday to a Hogwarts that has the strongest wards protecting the castle in centuries, while our sick are safe in a St Mungo's that's just as heavily warded. Meanwhile you want us to debate our murdering one of the most prominent citizens of the very nation who gave us these great boons?"
The minister knew what argument would be coming next and Cornelius had it well and truly covered. "Before some of the more ill-informed of you mentions gold changing hands, I feel I must point a few home truths out. First, it was the aforementioned Centurion Crow and his mate, Miss Granger, who provided half the gold to ward Hogwarts - their two best friends chipping in the other fifty percent. As to St Mungo's, our friends at Gringotts refused to take one Knut in payment for warding a hospital. They were just as disgusted as we were that such a step was even necessary. Witches and wizards of the Wizengamot, that is friendship, that is honour - two concepts Tom Riddle knows nothing about."
Taking a few deep breaths, Cornelius centred himself to finish his argument. "In this chamber, as in our country, no one is above the rule of the law. Chief Warlock, what does our laws tell us about this situation."
There was no hesitation this time from Amos, here was something he was every bit as passionate about supporting as Cornelius and Amelia. "For Riddle's supposed solution to be officially discussed in this chamber, it has first to be proposed by a member and then seconded by another. You will also then need to elect a new Chief Warlock, because I want no part of that. My son is still alive because he trains with Centurion Crow every week. That training gave him and his friends the skills they needed to survive last night, putting down four inferi in the process. My son and I will fight at Harry's side."
Having made his way down to Amelia, Cornelius again addressed the chamber from her side. "Members of the Wizengamot, there you have it. The question is, would any of you like to make that proposal?" They had been joined by Amos as the three most politically powerful figures in Britain stared down any opposition.
It was like watching an auction for some hideously expensive item, people were sitting completely still in case a twitch of their eyebrow was construed as a bid on their behalf. The darker elements within the Wizengamot were well known, and faced being obliterated from all sides if one of them was stupid enough to open their mouths.
Cornelius slowly let out a breath he didn't even know he'd been holding. Any such proposal was always going to be defeated, but even discussing such a proposal in the chamber would have been rightfully considered a grave insult by the Nation. The minister didn't think he was overstating things when he thought their government might not survive that happening. There would either have been a war against The Nation, with Centurion Crow fighting at the front of their warriors, or Gringotts would have simply closed its doors. All it had needed was for one stupid member to demand their rights to discuss that option and they were screwed, both at home and abroad.
They may have teetered on the edge but now it was time to pull back from the precipice. He handed the vile note to Barchoke before continuing. "Now, to get back on track, I have to announce receiving Ludo Bagman's resignation, and reluctantly accepting it. While in no way accountable for what happened last night, Ludo felt it was the honourable thing to do..."
-o- present -o-
As the tale was told, Harry really didn't know what to say. Amelia tried to help him out. "We all really prefer the direction our nations are moving in, none of us wants to go back to the bad old days. Riddle knows you have been the catalyst for these changes, that's why that letter was sent. Again his lack of intelligence of these changes shows, any member of the Wizengamot trying to act on that would have been torn to shreds by their fellow members - and they all knew it."
Harry thanked them all profusely before turning to his father. "Does this mean we can go home now?"
"I think we should still wait until we had planned to leave for Kingussie, give things a day or so to settle down. There shouldn't be any trouble once you reach Hogwarts…"
Penny couldn't help but chuckle at that. "Between the castle looking after him and Crow's Marauders ready to take out anyone who says a bad word against these four, Hogwarts is probably as safe as this island - not as pretty though."
Harry then invited their guests to stay for lunch, breakfast or whatever meal their body clocks said it was time for. The Irish Minister answered for all of them by saying he might never want to leave here ever again.
Borislaw then introduced a somber note to the sunshine. "As much as that vould please me, there are duties I must carry out. My country haff just entered three days of mourning, and I will take the bodies home. Your dark lord haff made a big mistake. Some of my countrymen may haff been, how do you say, sympathy to his cause, not any more. Using inferi to slaughter innocents vill send disgust around the vorld."
This was a view shared by Brendan. "He certainly got it wrong with the Irish, what he did at the Cup final just got us mad - fighting mad. Cornelius, you need any help with this then I can promise you the Irish will be there."
The elves prepared a buffet where people could help themselves but Minister Fudge had one more thing to mention before they could relax and enjoy the food.
"Arrangements were at a very advanced stage to bring a prestigious tournament back to Hogwarts, a tournament that will see the best of Hogwarts compete against two visiting schools - one of those school will be from Bulgaria. Since we now suspect Riddle has all the details of this tournament, it's being changed as we speak. The competing schools were originally due to arrive in Scotland for Halloween, they will now arrive in time for the Merlin Ball - with the first task taking place around Halloween. These details will also be in the Daily Prophet, spoiling the big reveal at Hogwarts on the first of September."
The mere thought of visiting schools threw up many questions from this inquisitive group of Hogwarts students, most of which were answered over a lovely 'brunch'. Barchoke had taken his son aside, there were things he needed to discuss with Harry before he headed off to Hogwarts.
Severus found his welcome in this now familiar office to be far more cordial than on his previous visits, a reaction that he'd been noticing more and more since replacing that hated tattoo on his arm with a dragon.
""Good evening, Potions Master Snape, please take a seat. I have a proposition for you, one you have my assurance that the choice of whether to accept will be purely yours to make. All I ask is that you at least give it some thought.""
He would certainly agree to mull over whatever Barchoke wanted to talk with him about, and his curiosity now had Severus wanting to find out exactly what this proposition was. The good thing about dealing with goblins was he didn't have to wait too long before discovering just what that proposition entailed.
""Professor Slughorn is claiming that the attack on the World Cup Final proves Britain isn't safe anymore, he just handed Augusta his resignation from Hogwarts. Personally, I believe it was being the only Hogwarts Professor not invited to the Baron's Fayre that put his nose seriously out of joint, he's just using the attack as an excuse. Both my son and daughter really can't stand the leech, and wouldn't even consider having him in their home. This leaves an opening for a potions professor at Hogwarts, a job we would all like you to consider - even on a short-term basis. Augusta and Minerva have their hands full making arrangements for this rescheduled tournament, Needing to fill both the potions position and appoint a new head of Slytherin for Monday are serious problems they could do without. You could solve both their problems - even if it was only long enough to allow them to find a replacement for 'Sluggy'.""
Severus just sat there, staring at Barchoke with no idea what to say next.
""I realise this is probably something that, on first hearing, you might not want to do, but I would like you to consider it for two reasons. First, it proves to everyone that you are no death eater, since having the dark mark would prove fatal to anyone trying to enter Hogwarts. Secondly, there is your godson to consider.""
Mentioning Draco clearly pricked Severus' attention so Barchoke concentrated on that area. "'My own son has benefited greatly from having his godfather back in his life, I'm sure the same could be said for Draco. While Sirius has done his best to protect Draco and his mother, I'm positive he would rather have his godfather there to advise him. Draco really is turning into fine young wizard, nothing like his father.""
Still in something of a dither after having this dropped on him out of the blue, Severus asked his first question - more to buy some time until he sorted his own scrambled thoughts on the matter. ""Won't your son have a problem with me being back in Hogwarts?""
""Harry hopes to one day take over from me as Ambassador, I think his decision here shows he might have some flair for the job. The four involved are all of the opinion that you were nothing more than a young wizard caught between two powerful foes, a mere pawn in their grand schemes, and that you genuinely feel remorse for what happened. They won't be taking your classes but neither will they object to you being back in the castle.""
The potions master then broached what Severus would consider the real problem to his returning. ""What about Black and Lupin? We never really got on while at Hogwarts as students, I can't see that changing much if we we're professors together.""
Barchoke was actually grinning at that. ""The Sirius Black that I know probably bears little resemblance to the one you attended Hogwarts with as a student. I explained to Sirius what I wanted from him before he would be allowed back into Harry's life. He had no objections and has done a wonderful job as a godfather to both Harry and Hermione. A certain Astrid Aurora Black being born has also had a tremendous impact on him, nearly as much as Lady Henrica Black. I think you'll find Remus Lupin a changed man too. Basically, they finally grew up - or the fact they both now have witches in their lives who expect better of them might be nearer the truth.""
Weighing up his options, Severus thought it might be nice to teach again. With no Dumbledore, and knowing it wasn't a long term deal, he might actually enjoy it. A short stint teaching at Hogwarts would also 'out' the fact he wasn't a death eater, something worth a lot more than gold to Severus. A spell teaching in Hogwarts would allow him to have it all, be able to live and work in both communities. For the first time, Severus appreciated the dilemma facing Lily's son. That both his mother and chosen mate were muggle born simply added another level of complexity to Harry's problem.
While he'd already made his mind up, it wouldn't do any harm to keep them waiting on his decision. ""Can I sleep on this and give you my answer tomorrow?""
Barchoke was a shrewd enough negotiator to know he already had his man, he graciously allowed the wizard a day's grace.
They had been somewhat isolated and immune from the tragedy that had befallen Britain after the cup final, being on the island and then returning to Kingussie. That immunity was stripped away as they faced the harsh reality of frightened people on platform nine and three quarters. While the majority of casualties had been from Bulgarian and Irish quidditch supporters, there were still British witches and wizards who had been murdered most foully that night.
Harry was soon to discover for himself exactly what the British wizarding public thought of Riddle's ploy, though the Prophet had certainly helped set the tone. The entire country was well aware exactly what Riddle was, a ruthless, lying, murdering psychopath with delusions of being a deity. They then asked the simple question of why the country should turn on the only person this maniac seemed afraid of. It had laboured the point that the country's children would be far safer in Hogwarts if the castle's chosen champion was there too - something they should all work together toward achieving.
The young centurion wasn't sure how to handle the first person who came forward to shake his hand, smiling that they now knew their children would be safe at Hogwarts. This action was repeated often as the group slowly made its way along the platform.
McGonagall had officially recognised the Marauders as sanctioned Hogwarts lessons and they were now part of the curriculum, she also recognised the trainers involved. They now all held positions in authority, similar to those of a prefect.
She'd offered badges to signify this but the girls involved had chosen something different. Since Harry had been the instigator of the entire marauders project, they wanted these symbols of rank to reflect that. They would wear epaulets on the shoulders of their robes, similar to the ones he wore indicating Harry was of centurion rank. They would have a silver 'M' for marauder, followed by the yeargroup they were teaching displayed in Roman numerals.
Harry was so touched at their idea, he took it a stage further. Those epaulets were attached to jet black dragonhide duelling robes, the now official uniform of marauder trainers. Tonks was also wearing a set, though coloured to imitate her official auror robes, with even the ministry insignia on them.
Asking Amelia's permission for Tonks to wear the robes as a uniform got an immediate yes, and a request for a price per set to see if she could afford getting more of her aurors protected like this. Tonks herself had objected at the expense until Harry pulled a masterstroke, he told her it was an engagement present. Remus was never going to object to something that kept his wife-to-be safe, a smiling Tonks glancing at the ring on her finger meant the battle was already won. The couple would be receiving another present when everyone recovered from the surprise announcement.
They were quite the sight as they strolled along the platform, dressed in uniform. Even the Weasleys had arrived early and there was now sixteen trainers in black dragonhide on the platform. They certainly had a calming effect on the parents who felt their children would be safer with these people around. Amelia had flooded the platform with aurors but these trainers would be in the castle every day along with their children.
It had soon gotten out just how well some of these trainers had acquitted themselves at the world cup, not something Amos was likely to stop boasting about anytime soon, and they had all witnessed the demonstrations at the Baron's Fayre. The parents certainly wanted their children learning these skills.
Susan and Blaise had talked about which members of Crow's Maraders they wanted to help them with the new first year, they would wait until they could meet with Daphne and Terry before any decisions were finalised, Harry had another four robes that would be handed out then.
Parvati was on Blaise's arm and thought the new robes made him appear even more handsome. He'd asked her if they could give being a couple another try and she must have cried for an hour while clinging tightly to him. She'd been an idiot, chasing fun and adventure while ignoring what she already had. Her sister's words were finally getting through her thick skull. Sitting with Blaise's arm around her as the sun sank into the sea wasn't boring - Parvati now though it was bloody wonderful.
She would have a lot more time to listen to her sister from now on. While still a Griffindor, Parvati Patil would be bunking in Ravenclaw. It couldn't be helped that she would still share some classes with Lavender but her father had made it perfectly clear, that would be as far as their interaction went. Parvati now realised how much she'd hurt her parents with her behaviour, that would not be happening again.
Natalie raced over to join the group, with Euan in one hand and Orla in her other. They were soon joined by a pair of excited Creevey boys and Pauline Nott. Since Luna had travelled with them, Harry was delighted to see all six Potter Scholarship students clearly happy to see one another again.
Unsure of what reception they would receive, and not wanting their brother put at any risk whatsoever, they had said their goodbyes to all three Grangers in Kingussie. With the Blacks already in Hogwarts, that left the Longbottoms and Patils to escort the group to the express. They were saying their farewells when Harry notice a little girl in tears, he made his way over and knelt beside her.
"Hey, Maggie, what's wrong?"
It took her a moment to answer through her tears. "I want to go on the train with Denis and Colin. I want to go to Hogwarts too!"
His arm went comfortingly around the little girl who still wore her hat from the fayre. "Do you see that girl there with the long red hair?"
"Is that Ginny? Colin says she's a friend of his."
"Yes, that's Ginny Weasley. She had to stand exactly where you are now many, many, times. You see, Ginny has six older brothers who all went to Hogwarts before her. She eventually got to go too, and still had four of her brothers at Hogwarts when she got there. Your time will come, Maggie, and Colin and Denis will still be there. You might even have one of them taking your marauder club by then."
Her eyes went wide at that thought, Harry used Maggie's distraction to touch the tip of his knife to her now battered hat. That her hat was instantly like new drew a gasp from the little nine year old Creevey. "I'll make sure Colin and Denis write to you at least once a week, the Christmas holidays will be here before you know it."
As Harry left to take Hermione's arm while she boarded the train, his mate couldn't resist gently teasing him. "What is it with you and young damsels in distress at this station?"
"I know how bad I felt leaving Jamie earlier, I just had to help..."
This saw him being gently kissed. "Not something I will ever complain about, love. It's still hard to believe it was only three years ago you helped an eleven year old Hermione Granger onto this train..."
Hermione was now the one being kissed as Harry wished her a happy anniversary, they'd now been best friends for exactly three years - three wonderful years.
Sirius was also reminiscing with the girl in his arms, he was walking around the empty Hogwarts corridors while chatting to Astrid. Sirius was so engrossed telling his daughter a funny story that he almost walked right into Severus Snape.
"Oh, hello - sorry about that, I was so busy talking to my daughter that I didn't see you. I heard you were returning to Hogwarts..."
"Yes, I was asked to come back and help out. I'm pleased to see your daughter takes after her mother, in looks at least..." While his comment could be considered sarcasm, there was no hint of malice - or Snape's usual sneer.
Sirius actually laughed at that. "Well, since my wife's beauty could only one day hope to be matched by our daughter's, I'll certainly take that as a compliment. Things have really changed, Severus, and I mean really changed. The head of the House of Black is married to a veela while teaching muggle studies, my mother must be spinning in her grave. Our godsons are at the forefront of that change. If Draco and Harry can become such good friends, do you think we could at least stop being enemies?"
"Since we will one day be family, I suppose we really should try." Seeing Sirius' confusion almost had Severus smiling, almost. "Isn't Pansy Black betrothed to my godson?"
This had Sirius laughing again. "Now there's something I didn't consider when I set that betrothal up. Ah well, too late to change it now." His wide smile indicated Sirius had no intention of changing anything.
"I want to thank you for that, I know how close those two are..."
"Sorry but that's not something I can take the credit for, I just helped out where I could. Pansy approached Hermione and Padma for help with stopping her father breaking her betrothal to Draco. Those two witches make the marauders look as if we weren't really trying. However, I really want to thank you for giving Harry that photo album. It couldn't have been easy for you, and it's one of his most prized possessions."
"When I look at your godson I don't really see his father, though some of his actions are pure Lily."
"I would have to disagree with you there, Severus. The more I see Harry, the more I see it's his father's influence that has moulded him into the person he is today. His sense of honour and the code by which he lives his life is pure Barchoke, something I have no complaints about. I ruined my chances of ever raising Harry when I chased after Peter, I'm delighted to see you grabbing the opportunity to get back into Draco's life."
"No one's told Draco, have they?"
"No, it will be quite the surprise. Harry and Neville were consulted, which means their girls know too. Those four though know how to keep a secret. Just back and already pulling pranks, way to go, Severus."
The baby in his arms gave a little happy gurgle at her father's antics, an action that saw Sirius' entire face light up with joy. "I need to complete Astrid's tour and get her back to our apartment. With Henrica actually teaching more classes than me, Astrid and I will be spending a lot of time together. I need all the help I can get to make her a daddy's girl. You've met her mother - she's pretty special."
As Sirius made his way down the corridor, still chatting away to the beautiful baby in his arms, Severus was left certain of only one thing. There had been some really big changes during his time at Gringotts.
Dolores was sitting in her Hogwarts apartment, struggling to get her shaking under control. As she glanced around her new accommodation, it wasn't the decor that interested Dolores. Those thick stone castle walls were very comforting, but not nearly as comforting as being behind those wonderful wards that denied access to witches and wizards branded with the dark mark.
Her own home didn't possess those wards, hence how Lestrange and Rookwood were able to bypass that security and enter her bedroom. Dolores had never met Voldemort and, if Lestrange was any guide, she never wanted to. That was one crazy witch, and she was certain only Rookwood's presence saved her from getting up close and personal with Lestrange's knife. They wanted information, information Dolores didn't have to give. With most of the details still to be worked out for the revised tournament, there really wasn't any information she could give them.
At that point, Dolores thought her life was over. There was not one shred of doubt in her mind that Bellatrix would have happily carved her into little pieces, if Rookwood hadn't suggested they needed eyes and ears inside the castle.
Dolores was ordered to write a report and then place it behind a rock, well outside the castle wards, on the path from Hogwarts to Hogsmeade. Since she wasn't a professor, she could easily leave the castle and stroll down to the village any given Saturday. They wanted a report every second Saturday, and would be watching the route to see where she bent down to take a stone out of her shoe.
This was the dilemma responsible for her shaking, trying to decide what to do next. The way Dolores saw it, she had three choices. She could do as they ordered, which would see her end up in Azkaban if she was ever caught. There was also the option of going to Bones, however the ministry would probably just use her as a decoy in the hope of catching Voldemort. She was not Baron Crow, there would be no public uproar because Dolores Umbridge would simply be considered expendable. Her final choice was just to stay safely in the castle, hoping against hope that Voldemort would be defeated before she had to leave next summer.
She had at most two weeks before the decision was made for her. Dolores' non-appearance at Hogsmeade two weekends in a row would put her right near the top of Voldemort's shit list.
Thinking it would be expected of her, since they had worked in the same department, Dolores had visited Bertha in St Mungo's. She never wanted to end up like that, Dolores now knew for certain that some things were certainly worse than death - she'd seen one with her own eyes.
Harry was handing out marauder robes to the four new trainers, delighted with the choices that had been made. Luna and Colin's experience looking after the younger Potter Scholars had made them a natural choice for this responsibility. Since Ginny had also thrown herself into helping the younger students, she too was a good choice. Lyra Burns was a Slytherin who had taken to the marauders like a duck to water, she had embraced the concept of no barriers and worked really hard every week.
The four Slytherin trainers all agreed she was the strongest supporter of their cause in the house of snakes, so Lyra now took that number up to five. The two Gryffindors pushed their house representation up to five too, Luna's inclusion meant the Ravenclaw contingent was still the largest, seven marauder trainers in all. With only Cedric, Susan and Hannah from Hufflepuff, they might have looked to increase that number. Susan was adamant though that they had picked the four best people for the job.
Crow's Marauders were considered mature enough that the four friends thought they could handle the group themselves. They would still have the quartet of Crows, who would now be helping the first years, in their group if they needed any help organising a particular exercise. Draco, Pansy, Hannah and Morag would continue with their own marauders, taking over next year when the four prefects entered their N.E.W.T. year and bowed out. Their long term plan saw marauder classes running until the students being taught reached their fifth year, with lesson plans being passed down the line from trainers to trainers.
Producing future trainers was crucial to the continuation of the program, which was why Harry had introduced the robes. Witnessing the awe that Denis now held his elder brother in, Harry would bet there would be a letter getting sent home tonight, was exactly the reaction he'd hoped to achieve. Here was something for the students to aspire to, something to aim for that could be in their grasp in only two short years.
News of the four new trainers being appointed spread a little happiness along the train.
Albus Dumbledore read the latest news from Britain and it ignited a little flame of happiness in him too. It was now time for his return.
A\N Thanks for reading.