Harry Crow

Disclaimer - Harry Crow might be my invention, Harry Potter is not. On hearing Jo was publishing new editions of HP on the first of September, I was rather disappointed to read it was only the covers that were being updated. After her recent revelations, it offered up some hope of an alternative version of The Deathly Hallows. Now that would be a book I would buy.

Chapter 95

"I vould like your permission to escort Sapphire to the Yule Ball."

Viktor thought he'd made a terrible mistake, a mistake that could be his last. A pair of cold green eyes were suddenly focused on him with a frightening intensity. This was not his friend, Harry, facing him. Here was Centurion Crow - someone Viktor just decided he never wanted as an enemy. There was also no disguising the threat in Harry's reply.

"I'm going to need to hear your reasons for asking Sapphire, Viktor, and I'd better like them."

Taking a deep breath, Viktor proceeded to do just that. "All over Europe, Durmstrang has a dark reputation. Grindelwald is a former student, our current headmaster is a death eater and now ve find Dumbledore is, how you say, exposing himself as not light? I am a proud Bulgarian but ashamed of how ve are seen. I asked the hat to put me in Hufflepuff, I vant to show that all of us from Durmstrang is not like that. Sapphire going to the ball vith me vould do the same, and she is nice company I think. Your friend, Daphne, told me ve go to these balls to dance all night and have fun, that is my intentions. I am not Marko, Harry, your friend vould be treated vith the respect and honour she deserves."

It was now Harry's turn to let out the breath he hadn't even realised he'd been holding. It also took him a moment to regain his focus, and notice a very worried Viktor still waiting on an answer.

"Sorry about that, Viktor, I am rather protective of Sapphire - especially when she is in the magical community. I know you're nothing like Marko, and don't forget, Durmstrang is not alone in having infamous former students. At least Durmstrang expelled your wannabe dark lord, the so-called Lord Voldemort is a Hogwarts former head boy - he even won a special award from the school. I'll need to contact Sapphire and see what she thinks of this. I would advise keeping this matter a secret though, let them all wait until the ball before discovering who your date is."

A much relieved Viktor quickly agreed with that. The warning bell sounding for classes saw Cedric looking for Viktor and of course a trio of friends searching for Harry. 'Later' though was all he would say on the matter as they headed off to ancient runes.

it wasn't until much later that day they discovered what had transpired as Harry held them back when Master Pitslay's potion's class ended.

""Master Pitslay, I have an urgent message I would like you to pass on to my father. It has been announced there will be a Tri-Wizard Ball in Hogwarts on the twenty fourth of December. This morning I was approached by the Durmstrang Champion, Viktor Krum, seeking my permission to ask Sapphire to this ball - as his date for the evening.""

This not only surprised the goblin potions master, Hermione, Padma and Neville were all pretty stunned by that news too.

Master Pitslay was left shaking his head, trying to clear it rather than indicating a no. ""This may be a step too far for her father, it may be a step too far for The Nation too.""

""Viktor's intentions are entirely honourable, otherwise I wouldn't even have considered this request. He is a quidditch star in his country and admired by many, Viktor walking into that ball with Sapphire on his arm sends out a very powerful message. Sapphire will arrive in Hogwarts with the four of us, and leave with us too. There won't be a single minute of the entire evening where she will not be under my care - I would take my blades to anyone who behaved inappropriately toward her.""

Hermione's hand slid into his. ""We all know that, Harry. What we don't know are Viktor's intentions toward Sapphire. What is he expecting of her, and how do you think she will respond to this?""

"'Viktor is hoping for a night of dancing and fun, with someone he's hoping will become a friend - nothing more. Sapphire is a goblin, she will be expecting nothing else - until the day she meets her mate. She already told you this. Goblins don't date in a way that you three would recognise, they just socialise with a wide group of friends until they meet their mate. Sapphire just has a wider group of friends than most young goblins.""

It was Padma who brought another point up for consideration. ""Harry, Viktor escorting Sapphire to what is a prestigious event won't just be big news in Britain, it will go international. Remember how the witches reacted to Hermione being alongside you all the time? The reactions to this could be a lot worse, and would all be aimed at Sapphire.""

""It will be kept quiet before the event, do you think anyone in the castle will say anything on the night of the ball? When the story hits the press, Sapphire will be staying in Kingussie with us until we need to return to Hogwarts. The only way to get at her would be by post, and our wards will redirect anything sinister straight to Gringotts - the sender might just get a surprise. We'll be there to deal with any hate mail, there's sure to be a fireplace nearby to put it into. When the political side gets sorted, it will then be Sapphire's decision whether she wants to attend as Viktor's date.""

This drew a chuckle from Hermione. ""She already has his autograph, Harry, I don't think Sapphire will be saying no.""

The quiet man of the quartet then spoke his mind. ""Master Pitslay, Sapphire is not just our friend, there will be many more in the castle who consider her their friend too. She will be surrounded by friends the entire evening and perfectly safe. If, for whatever reason, she can't accept Viktor's offer, I have a spare arm she would be welcome to. Harry needs to sit at the top table but we would be honoured if she chose to spend the evening with Padma and me.""

This received a deep bow from Master Pitslay. '"Well spoken, Friend Longbottom. Young Sapphire is indeed fortunate to have friends such as you four. I fear though your mate is right, such an occurrence would become international news. We'll have to involve The Director in this decision, before going anywhere near Sapphire with it. Knowing she is still welcome to attend the ball means that a no is not the end of the matter for her.""

The four then went for dinner, and it was left to Hermione to bring another subject up. "How did you react when Viktor asked you that?"

"Not well. I had to fight my inner goblin not to draw my blade there and then. Only hearing what Viktor intended allowed me to calm down, I think I may have given Viktor a fright…"

"If he's taking our friend to the ball, that's maybe not a bad thing." Padma's smirk told Harry there was more to come. "At least you missed Colin asking Luna to be his date for the ball. He dashed over the minute you left with Viktor."

He'd been caught out already today so Harry wasn't rising to that bait. "Is there any of you who think I need to have a quiet word with Colin?" The four walked into the great hall, all with smiles on their faces.

-oOoOo-

It was at their run the following morning before Fleur got a chance to speak with Harry.

"I want to zank you for saying yes to zis ball, 'Arry. Our Christmas would 'ave been dull wizout it."

This puzzled the four Hogwarts students exercising until Fleur explained further. "We knew when we volunteered for zis, we would be spending Christmas in Scotland. Wizout the ball zough, we would 'ave nozzing to look forward too..."

Harry had actually stopped running to stare at the French Champion. "You're not going home for the holidays? I thought Christmas was all about family?" He looked toward Hermione for help with this.

"This will only be the fourth year Harry has celebrated Christmas, it's not part of a goblin's calendar. He doesn't go in for the religious side of the holiday but just loves the idea that entire families get together to celebrate, that certainly appeals to his inner goblin. Nothing is more important to them than family."

This was something that certainly resonated with a certain Bulgarian. "As I am now Hogwarts student, I could possibly go home. That would not be fair to other Durmstrang people, so Cedric invited me to his house for holidays."

It was like a light going on behind Harry's eyes as he turned to Fleur. "You could spend Christmas with us, in Kingussie..."

"Harry no. If you are going to do this then Fleur needs to know." He just smiled at his mate, leaving Hermione to do the explaining and asking. "I know him very well, Fleur, and can see what he's up to. We have a rather peculiar family..."

That had Padma laughing. "Peculiar doesn't even begin to describe it, Hermione. We Patils are Indian, the Grangers are muggles and then we have Crow's goblin father and friends. Throw in a werewolf and a couple of Sweedish veela for good measure and you have quite the mixture."

"Thank you, Padma. Now Fleur, how would your parents react to a mixture like that?"

She'd been confused before but now Fleur was totally flummoxed. "My parents are very, 'ow you say, open-minded. Zey would not object to me being in zat company."

"That's not what I asked Fleur, how would they adapt to being in that company? I know my Harry, he's intending asking them to visit Kingussie too. You just can't go dropping our family on strangers however. Just because it's normal to us, others might think different."

She was now focused solely on Harry, Fleur struggled to find any words. "You...you would do zat?"

"I'm supposed to be an inscrutable goblin, yet Hermione reads me like an open book. She's also right, our family is rather a strange lot. Why don't you write home and invite your family on my behalf, mentioning how weird we all are. If they still want to chance it, we can then sit down and work out the details..."

She simply couldn't help it, Fleur just launched herself at Harry and hugged him for all she was worth - before regaining her senses. She jumped back and started apologising.

"Oh 'Ermione, I am so sorry. 'E just made me so 'appy...non, zat did not sound right..." She was stopped from saying any more by Hermione and Padma bursting into laughter.

"It's fine, Fleur. My Harry has a habit of doing things that sees girls just wanting to hug him in thanks, that's how we got together in the first place."

"Yes, Hermione got me addicted to her hugs. Now I can't do without them."

"He's not joking, they even spend their nights on a Ravenclaw sofa, hugging until the morning."

"Padma Patil, how do you know about that?"

"Oh, Pav and I had sat up late chatting. I popped my head into your room to see if you were asleep, and you weren't there. I came down the stairs just as Betsy was putting a blanket on you two, you looked so sweet together."

"...and why wait until now to mention it?"

"Hermione, I was saving it until it would be funny..."

"Well, I don't think it's funny..." She was forced to smile though as both Neville and Harry were chuckling away. "It's his fault, I'm just so comfortable in Harry's arms I never want to leave."

"How many times now is that you've spent the night together?"

"Now Padma, your jealousy is showing. Are we counting that time I was twelve and our fathers put a blanket over us?"

They had started running again as the two best friends continued their teasing, Harry and Neville learning long ago not to get involved as these two tried to get one over on the other. It always ended with them both in fits of laughter, the one who succumbed first being adjudged the looser.

As the teasing got more outlandish, Fleur's jaw was hanging open and even Viktor appeared perplexed.

"Padma did say our family is nuts, didn't she."

"Neville, I zzink your family is Fantastique! I shall be writing 'ome as soon as we finish 'ere."

This certainly drew a smile from Harry. "We will be trying to spend Christmas Day and New Year together, there will also be a wedding at Kingussie over the holidays. The Diggories will be invited, and that invitation will include any guests they have staying too."

Her Christmas had just shifted from dull to spectacular, Fleur though was curious about how this came about. "If Madam Longbottom did not tell you about us not going 'ome, 'ow did she get you to agree to ze ball?"

"Oh, good luck with that one, Fleur. He hasn't even told Padma or I how gran managed it..." Hermione buckling with laughter was immediately followed by Padma doing the same, they literally were holding each other up while they laughed. Both Harry and Neville just split either side of the laughing obstruction on the track and continued running.

Harry offered his reassurance to the other two champions. "Don't worry, they'll catch up. This is just their way of letting off some steam, I don't think those two could be angry with each other if they tried."

That found agreement from Neville. "Padma's now like a triplet, she has two sisters..."

-oOoOo-

It was another 'sister' who was being discussed inside Gringotts.

""I'm very worried about this. It is one thing for my daughter to attend these functions as the Centurion's guest, quite another to be on the arm of a famous wizard - who's also an international sports star.""

""My guarantee still stands, Goldskin. My son would gut anyone who attempted to harm your daughter - be they wizard or goblin.""

The Director then said his piece. ""Your Sapphire will attend with my blessing, and my public support. As well as Centurion Crow, there will be another three Friends of The Nation in attendance too - all of whom are very fond of your daughter. With the Centurion taking responsibility for her safety, and The Nation publicly supporting Sapphire, I think we can all agree no harm will befall her.""

Barchoke could just imagine this story whizzing around the magical world. A goblin on the arm of Viktor Krum in little backward Britain would shock many and surprise most - it certainly surprised him. ""I realise the position this puts you in as a father, Goldskin, but please believe me when I say Sapphire has many friends at Hogwarts. She will dance and have fun, returning to Kingussie along with my son and daughter.""

With The Director pushing for this too, Goldskin was helpless to resist. He did have one condition though, one he would not be shifted from. ""If I agree to this, the final decision must still lie with Sapphire.""

""Absolutely. Please tell her also Friend Longbottom has offered that Sapphire can accompany him and his mate to the ball. Centurion Crow has some official duties as champion that prevents him making the same offer. I wouldn't want her thinking this Bulgarian was her only option for attending the ball, the decision will then be hers to make.""

With that assurance from The Director, Sapphire was escorted into The Director's Office. Both father and daughter had been summoned but Sapphire had been asked to wait outside. Goldskin watched as his daughter confidently walked into Ragnok's office, her face lighting up when she spotted Barchoke's presence. Any other teenager would have been terrified in this situation, it just showed the confident female his daughter was becoming. He laid the current situation out for his daughter.

""Sapphire, your friend Harry was approached by someone who wanted to invite you to a ball in Hogwarts over the December holidays. It was the Bulgarian quidditch player…""

""Viktor, oh dear."" She then turned slightly apprehensively, but still excitedly to Barchoke. ""I hope Harry didn't frighten him too much? Harry's very protective of me, all my magical friends are. What made Harry change his mind? Did Colin ask Luna to the ball, she would be hoping he would…""

""Sapphire!""

She returned her attention to her father and demurely bowed her head. Sapphire though had noticed her outburst had caused wide grins from Barchoke and The Director. ""Sorry father, it's just a lot to take in. I will of course abide by your decision on this matter. I'm assuming Viktor is trying to make a statement by asking me, since I've barely spoken to him.""

""Yes, and the Centurion has guaranteed your safety…"" Sapphire tried not to roll her eyes at that statement from her father. Like most teenagers though, she didn't quite manage it - and it widened the grins of other two goblins watching this discussion between father and daughter.

""You can refuse and still attend the ball, with Friend Longbottom and his mate. We have all agreed the final decision will be yours.""

There was no need even to think about it as far as Sapphire was concerned. ""Being seen and photographed in Harry's company is helping The Nation become more accepted in Britain, I think me doing this could only help that effort. Harry might be leading the fight but I'm more than willing to play any part I can.""

This drew a deep chuckle from Ragnok. ""Well said, young Sapphire. You are a credit to your family and friends. I fully support your decision, and the jewellery you wear to this ball will publicly say so.""

Sapphire found herself kneeling alongside her father, facing The Director, both overwhelmed at the honour they were being shown here. She couldn't leave it at that though. ""I am honoured, Director. With respect though, I would still like to wear my necklace Harry and Hermione gave me - I never take it off.""

While her father stiffened at his daughter's perceived cheek, Ragnok chuckled heartily. ""Nor should you, the protections on that sapphire are second only to those on Miss Granger's bracelet - and then only because there was less material to work with.""

The Director's words had Sapphire's hand reaching to her favourite thing in the world, she should have guessed Harry would have done something like that. Her father though appeared totally gobsmacked at that news, already having thought the gift was too much before he knew it was enchanted. He would also be shocked to discover his reactions were exactly the same as a muggle father, placed in the same position a few years earlier.

""I told you, Goldskin. My son looks after his friends, and your Sapphire is his oldest friend. As to your questions, Sapphire, all I know is that Augusta somehow convinced him - and that Colin is probably the only person Harry would approve of to ask Luna to the ball.""

Sapphire was leaving the Director's office, chuckling to herself at the truth behind Barchoke's words. She would need to write to Luna and find that news out for herself. Her father was at her side, proud at how well she'd handled herself but dumbfounded at where this confidence was coming from. He had of course noticed his daughter was growing up. Like fathers the world over, he'd just never realised how much she'd grown.

Both were stopped by Barchoke reaching a snap decision. ""Goldskin, I would like to offer your daughter an apprenticeship, working with my department. She already knows more about the world outside Gringgots than most goblins, and seems keen to learn more. She could start immediately as we would need to tailor her education to her new position. That would also make this ball an official function - meaning any expense would be picked up by my department.""

Barchoke was always intending to pay for anything Sapphire needed, but this way it gave her family honour too. The Ambassador was basically just thinking out loud yet the more he said, the more Barchoke liked what he was saying. ""When my son completes his education, he will work at my side before eventually becoming The Nation's Ambassador. At that time he will need someone at his side that he trusts implicitly to be his Assistant Ambassador. Your daughter could one day be that person.""

Ragnok got very excited at that idea. ""This is not just a tremendous opportunity for your daughter, it's a marvellous opportunity for The Nation too. Young Sapphire here has done exactly the same as the Centurion and the three Friends, openly embraced all three cultures that touch our lives. I can't think of anyone more suited to this role, and not just because she has the Centurion's complete trust. Understand though, Barchoke here is a hard taskmaster. He's giving you a glimpse of what your future could hold, you will then have to do all the years of hard work necessary to achieve that future.""

Goldskin looked at his daughter and saw her eyes sparkling to match that sapphire around her neck she was so fond of. The Director was right, this was a tremendous opportunity for his daughter, and her family. If things worked out as Barchoke suggested, Sapphire could eventually be one of the highest ranking females in The Nation. His decision though was the same as earlier.

""While I acknowledge the great honour, and tremendous opportunity, this offer bestows on my family. The final decision must be my daughter's to make. Sapphire after all would be the one then facing years of hard work.""

All three goblins knew what her answer was going to be, Sapphire though still managed to surprise them. She shot back and hugged Barchoke for all she was worth. Having grown accustomed to this greeting from his daughter, the goblin knew exactly how to respond.

""Thank you for this...""

""Sapphire, all I'm giving you is a chance. Anything else you will earn yourself. None of us were joking about the years of hard work part.""

She stood back and, with a very wide grin on her face, bowed deeply. ""Ambassador Barchoke, I would be honoured to accept this opportunity.""

""Good, now this news does not reach Hogwarts until after the ball. My son's reasons for changing his mind are mystifying, I suspect he and Madam Longbottom are up to something. Your first task will be to see if you can find out what that is.""

Barchoke's wink informed Sapphire he wasn't seriously worried about this, just curious as to what Harry was up to. She would still do her best to find out the reason behind it. A seriously happy Sapphire almost skipped away, her bewildered father following on behind.

His daughter was now apprenticed to Ambassador Barchoke's department, and attending a prestigious wizarding ball on the arm of an international quidditch player - how it had happened was still a shock to him.

As they left, Ragnok couldn't help but say what was on his mind to his friend. ""Goldskin must be wondering what would have happened had he not dragged Sapphire away from Britain.""

Barchoke couldn't quite mask the bitterness he still felt over the matter. ""Let the bastard wonder, his actions broke my young son's heart. I couldn't be happier with Harry's choice of mate and truly love my wonderful daughter. I see no reason though to let how Goldskin acted affect Sapphire, my entire family is very fond of her.""

""I have to admit to being surprised at how well your daughter accepted Sapphire.""

""Hermione just sees Sapphire as Harry's oldest friend. My children are true mates in every way we understand that relationship to be. Both are more goblin than we thought possible.""

-oOoOo-

Dumbledore was left bemoaning the quality of people he was reduced to working with. Dolores Umbridge was an emotional wreck, her current state threatened all his plans but he had no one else. He tried to appease her.

"As leader of the Durmstang contingent, I will still be informed when the next task is - as well as what it entails. I just won't have any input into what those tasks will be, or any influence in choosing the dates. You will still have your information to send to Tom."

Rather than showing relief, this just sent cold shivers down the witch. "I have a list of books to acquire, and no idea how to go about tracking down some of these titles. My job at the ministry won't last long if it gets out I've been strolling down Knockturn Alley. I don't know how long I can do this, Albus. That Lestrange bitch is the craziest person I have ever met. With either a wand or a knife in her hand, she terrifies me. I'm wondering if perhaps I would be better off going to Bones. They could set something up to catch those two, and then protect me from Voldemort."

Knowing that Dolores would be forced to reveal his part in all this, Albus had to prevent that disaster at all costs. "Bellatrix is deadly, but not as crazy as everyone believes. It's mostly an act to terrify her opponents, a very convincing act I have to say. They won't dare harm you as long as you are still useful to them. As for the ministry, they would certainly keep you safe. Voldemort wouldn't be able to get to you in Azkaban."

Having crushed her moment of rebellion, it was time to build Dolores back up again. "I know someone who can help with getting what Voldemort wants, he was even sitting at the bar when I came up here."

Albus had indeed spotted Fletcher leaning on what passed for a bar in the Hog's Head, Albus was currently talking with Dolores in a private room upstairs. For a few pieces of gold, Mundungus would soon track down what they needed.

Her fears somewhat sated, Dolores handed over the list and gold she'd lifted to purchase the items. Albus would arrange with Dung to get the stuff as quickly as possible, giving him time to study the materials before handing them over to Dolores. She didn't know when her visitors would return, that was probably deliberate to keep Dolores on her toes.

Even if they returned before Albus handed everything over, it couldn't be helped. It was imperative he figured out exactly what Tom was up to, what was a little torture of Dolores when compared to that.

None of the conspirators knew the goblins already had teams working at doing exactly that, determining just what Voldemort's scheme was, having obtained the necessary information from Rita. Rita herself was keeping a low profile at the moment, staying well away from Dumbledore too. When Dolores had headed for Hogsmeade, Rita wasn't tempted to try and hear any conversations. Just seeing Dumbledore enter the same building was all the conformation she needed.

-oOoOo-

Luna needed some confirmation, and knew just where to go to get it. She plonked herself down beside Harry for lunch, asking her question right away before the other Potter Scholars arrived.

"Harry, I received a letter this morning from Sapphire. Sapphire says she's going to the Yule Ball, as Viktor Krum's date…"

"Eh, we're trying to keep that quiet at the moment, Luna."

"No problem, Harry. I guess the mystery of why you agreed to ball has now been solved?"

"Not even close, Luna. Viktor thought that one up all on his own. I hear you have a date for this ball too, I'm assuming that Sapphire was asking you that question as well?"

The little blonde now had a smile on her face. "Colin asked me as soon as the ball was announced, I think Ginny and Lyra were disappointed at that."

"As long as you're happy, Luna, and your date behaves himself." Harry's voice had risen slightly, it was certainly loud enough for a now red-faced Colin to hear as he sat down at the table.

This earned Harry a hug, followed by a kiss on the cheek. "You know he will, Harry, and thanks."

"I see what you mean about ze 'ugs and kisses, 'Ermione. Your 'Arry 'as a way wiz ze witches."

"Oh it's not just witches, Fleur, my mum's been hugging and kissing him since the first time they met." This drew a fair bit of laughter from the Potter Scholars gathered to have lunch together, a ritual that had just grown into an everyday occurrence. They all knew Emma Granger, and the fact she considered Harry her son too.

"Well, 'e can expect to be 'ugged by my mozzer and sister too. I 'eard back from zem, zay want to come whenever zey can."

"We finish up on the nineteenth, returning on the third. Your family are welcome to stay in Kingussie for as much, or as little, of that as they want. The chalet is being fitted out as guest accommodation and we're hoping to avoid needing wizarding tents in our training room…"

This saw Denis and Euan interrupting. "Those tents were great, Harry, me and my mum loved them."

"Our dad wanted to buy one for going camping over the summer. We couldn't really take it onto a camping site though, five Creeveys getting out of something that size would be sure to cause questions."

Natalie agreed with that too. "My dad said Professor McGonagall should take one of them when she tells muggle born they're witches or wizards. He thought his back was going to suffer that weekend, until he went inside. Three furnished bedrooms, a bathroom and even a working kitchen, all in that little space. The McDonalds would certainly be happy staying in one of those tents again."

This left Hermione shaking her head. "We thought we were putting our guests at an imposition, asking them to stay in tents. It never occurred to us that they see so little magic, this would appeal to them."

"It's a bit like me, Hermione. I've only celebrated three Christmases. The first was with you and Harry in Crawley, the next at Grimmauld with Sirius and last year with the Longbottoms. I don't really care too much where this year's is, just as long as we're all together. A tropical beach might make a nice change?"

"No point in hinting, Padma, I've already given Remus and Tonks use of the island for their honeymoon." Harry then turned to all the Potter Scholars. "We haven't got our plans finalised for the holidays yet but we hope to see all of you at Kingussie for at least part of the holidays." That led to a load of yeses, and Orla walking about with a beaming smile on her face for the rest of the day.

By dinnertime, the rumour sweeping the castle was that Lavender Brown was going to the Yule Ball, on the arm of Ronald Weasley. Ginny confirmed this news in her own inimitable style. "If that bitch cheats on Ron again, after him giving her another chance, I swear I'll scalp her."

The little firebrand calmed down somewhat when Dean Thomas approached and asked her to the ball. Dates were being arranged up and down the hall, Viktor found himself having to fend off a few pushy Beauxbatons students.

"I haff already asked someone to the ball, they said yes." He then found one of the benefits of being in Hufflepuff as his new housemates rallied round to offer him protection. Even so, some of the witches were dying to know just who the lucky girl was. All Viktor was saying on the matter was that a gentlemen never tells. They would all see his date at the ball.

-oOoOo-

Arthur was having a ball. The muggle government had offered them anything they wanted for the chance to catch the Potter Killers, even military assistance. That was why Arthur and Bill found themselves in a special government electronics lab, one that had a clearance so secret the people they were working with could certainly be trusted with the knowledge magic exists.

The three people they were currently working with were really sceptical, but their orders had come from the very top. When Bill dissapparated right in front of them, all that scepticism vanished with him. They were now every bit as excited as Arthur, this was as new to them as all their gadgets and equipment were to the ministry official. That same ministry official was astonished as the large screen was suddenly zooming in on an arial picture of Ottery St Catchpole. The flashing dot he was told indicated Bill was walking alongside an area of the map that appeared not quite as sharp as the rest. After the previously agreed upon five minutes, Bill entered the Burrow's wards - and the signal disappeared.

"That's roughly what we would have expected to happen, wards disrupt signals for electronic equipment. There are a few charms some witches and wizards born to non magical parents have come up with, specifically to allow television and radio signals through. The people we need these devices for though would need to be tracked to an area that will be deliberately masking any and all signals. We have our own way of placing tracking charms, those however will certainly be targeted too."

While Arthur was now fairly knowledgeable on the muggle world, the conversations he was listening to here were way above his head.

After a while, Arthur really had to say something. "Let me see if I've got the gist of this. It should be easier because only the transmitter, and not the detection equipment, will come into contact with shields and magic. Also that there might be four sources helps, and yes, I think they will be able to activate their transmitters just before the event."

"Good, that means we can have them cycling through multiple frequencies and methods - something that is murder on power requirements. That they can switch them on, and we don't have to make them minute, will help with that problem too."

A returning Bill had a set of ward stones from Gringotts. Both Weasleys marked an area of floor in a nearby cleared room before placing the stones on the floor and activating them, giving the technicians a defined warded area to work with. Arthur and Bill then left to report to their bosses on what was a very productive meeting.

-oOoOo-

Their usual meeting with the Blacks that Saturday took a very unusual twist, all their parents and Amelia were present for a start. After all the greetings, and sending for Parvati, it was time to get down to business.

it was a rather somber Barchoke who started them off. "We've hit a problem, a very big problem. When the muggle government discovered the four people who might be facing the Potter Killers were all under sixteen, well they hit the roof. They are pulling all their cooperation and making threatening noises against the ministry for even contemplating such a thing. We really don't know what to do next, their trackers were showing the best promise - they're certainly something Riddle won't deliberately shield against."

The group assembled had gotten so used to treating their children as adults, their actual ages were sometimes forgotten. Dan at least could see how his government could reach their decision. "To support the use of what they see as children being used as soldiers could easily bring down any Westminster government. It's something that's really hard to argue against, especially since none of us in this room are happy or even comfortable with the situation either."

It was left to Harry to try and put things into perspective. "With or without their help, Voldemort is going to make his play. Knowing this could be our best chance to end the war, I'm still going to take that chance. I am an adult in two of the three societies that affect our lives, the muggle government are not going to be able to stop me doing this. What if we set up some kind of meeting - on our terms though. If they tried to take us four into protective custody, or something silly like that, things could go bad so quickly."

Hermione liked that idea, already knowing she would be facing Voldemort at Harry's side. "Who are we dealing with? Could we invite them to Kingussie for the weekend?"

This drew a groan from Emma. "What happened to the girl who got her knickers in a twist because Harry asked the Minister of Magic to his birthday party? Now that same girl wants to invite the Prime Minister of Britain to stay for the weekend!"

Harry was off his seat and hugging Emma. "Mum, that's bloody brilliant! Let's invite The Minister and The Director too, the three heads of government can share their views on the matter."

This also sparked something in Padma. "Why don't we invite Borislaw as well? The Bulgarians certainly want Voldemort's head on a stick after what happened at the world cup. If the British government refuse to help us, Borislaw could approach the Bulgarian one for help."

This had Sirius beaming. "I've taught them well. I also remember Minister Murphy vowing to help, that means we have the Irish as an option too. Meeting this lot, talking with their parents and then discovering that there are other governments willing to help should put enough pressure on this prime minister to see him cave."

"What about inviting Professor Snape too?" Neville's words silenced everyone, all knew though he wouldn't have mentioned this without a good reason. "Who knows more about death eaters, and what they're capable off, than a former death eater? Mum and dad can share some of their experiences but they're my parents, we need someone impartial to give that kind of information."

"Why don't you just go the whole hog and invite The Queen too..." This focused all eyes on Emma again. "It was a joke, people. No, it was just a joke. Please, don't take that serious..."

A/N thanks for reading

A/N 2 The school where I have worked for the last 32 years has just been threatened with closure. Needless to say, I am heavily involved with the fight against the bulldozers. I currently have no way of knowing how much of my time this will take up, I'll do my best to retain my posting schedule. As usual though, I have not one word of the next chapter written.