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Chapter Seventeen
Returns and Yule Time Spirit

The entire Order gaped at the new arrivals.  This was the last thing they had been expecting, especially right after a battle.  The elves bowed respectfully to Dumbledore, who was just as stunned as everyone else, and Vrykolakas smirked widely before inclining his head slightly.  Once everyone had recovered, Harry waved his hand and conjured three more seats, asking his guests to join him at the table.  Taking his own seat by Dumbledore, Harry clasped his hands and rested them on the table in front of them.

“ Any questions?” he asked, looking at each of the assembled Order members one at a time.  It was Hermione, as usual, who broke the silence.

“ Harry, did you even find out how you got into the forest?  I mean, you said that no-one was supposed to be able to get there, and you got there by accident.  It just seems awfully convenient that you ended up in a place where you could gather reinforcements.”

Harry nodded to his friend, thinking over his answer before speaking.

“ You're right, `Mione, it wasn't by accident.  How much do you know about apparition?”

“ Just the basics.  It's one area I didn't see much future in studying in depth,” she answered, a small frown marring her forehead.  She was obviously regretting this oversight and was planning on heading to the library straight after the meeting.  Harry took up his explanation before she could brood too long.

“ It's alright, I never thought to research it before, either.  I looked into it while I was away, though.  Apparently, there are several effects that result from lack of concentration while apparating.  The most obvious, and common, is splinching.  Another is ending up in the wrong location.  If your emotions are running particularly high, and you try to apparate without concentrating fully, as I did, you end up in completely the wrong place.”

“ That all makes sense, Harry,” Ginny said, “ But that doesn't explain how you ended up there

“ I was getting to that.  As I was saying, if your emotions are running high, you have a greater chance of ending up in the wrong location.  Normally, if you go wrong, your blood naturally pulls you towards blood that is similar to your own.”

“ Like family members…” Glen said.

“ Exactly.  Don't ask me how it works, as I don't know.  I didn't look in that much detail.  All I know is that I was trying to get away, and I ended up in the Teutoburg forest, as Mei and Lei are my cousins.  My blood pulled me to the nearest blood relatives it could find.”

“ That doesn't make sense, though,” Glen countered, “ I'm a closer blood relative than they are, as are Heather and your Aunt Petunia.”

Harry sent Glen a sharp look as he mentioned Heather's name.

“ Glen, what have you told people about Heather?” he asked, a hint of anger in his voice.  Harry hadn't wanted anyone to know his aunt was still alive, as it placed her in a rather vulnerable position.  Glen, catching on, looked around at the shocked and curious faces around him.  Some of the assembled Order members, those who had been in the Order during Voldemort's first reign especially, knew who Heather was, and thought she had died twenty years previously.

“ I'm sorry, Dad,” Glen said, hanging his head, “ When you disappeared I had to tell Professor Dumbledore what had happened.”

“ I can appreciate that, son, but what about the rest of them,” Harry said, gesturing to the other occupants of the room.  Glen had the good grace to look ashamed.  After a minute of silence, Harry answered Glen's question.

“ I didn't end up where you and Heather were, because it was you two I was running from, and I didn't end up with Petunia because even subconsciously I would never go there unless I had to.  Therefore, I was pulled to Mei and Lei's location.”

Throughout all of this, the elves and the vampire had been silent, watching their new friend interact with the people he knew the best.  It was strange for them, seeing the broken boy that had arrived in their forest taking control like that.  They had seen from the start that he was a natural leader, but was often reluctant to draw attention to himself.  After watching him win a battle of words with his son, they decided it was time for them to step in.  Clearing his throat, Vrykolakas gained the attention of everyone in the room, most of whom were sending him nervous looks.  

“ As amusing as this is, I believe we have a treaty to discuss.”

“ Indeed,” Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling like mad, “ I apologise for keeping you waiting.  We are honoured to have you join us.”

“ Yes, you should be.  You must understand, we normally do not mix well with wizards.  Many of your kind see us as an abomination,” the vampire continued, “ We were most surprised when young Harry came to us and showed only respect and courtesy.  Having discussed the circumstances with him at length, and having realised that the darker of our kind have sided with Voldemort, we are willing to offer our assistance.  While we normally stay away from the affairs of humans, in this case we believe it would give us the chance to show the wizarding world that not all of us are the murderous creatures we are perceived to be.”

“ I understand,” the wizened headmaster said, nodding respectfully to the vampire leader, “ In our Order we welcome anyone who has good intentions, no matter their race or bloodline.  Any help you offer us will be commended as soon as the war is over.”

“ All I ask, is that my faction is recognised by the Ministry of Magic as a group of individuals, and not as the stereotypes set out by their administration.”

“ We will do all that is in our power to fulfill your request, Sir,” Dumbledore concluded.  Vrykolakas smiled and sat back in his chair to watch the rest of the proceedings as Meilani cleared her throat, preparing to speak on behalf of the elves.

“ Professor Dumbledore, as Vrykolakas stated, we will help in any way we can.  You have the full support of the Teutoburg elves.  Our race is loyal to our families, and any fight of our cousin's, is ours as well.  We will fight with you, but please understand that we are not your servants, or your followers, but your allies.”

“ Of course, my Lady, there is no doubt about that.  Unlike Voldemort, we do not gather followers, merely allies.  We welcome you to the fight, and hope we enjoy cooperative relations in the future,” the headmaster said, bowing lightly to the she-elf, “ Now, if that is all, I believe this meeting is adjourned.  Tomorrow, there will be a full Order meeting when we can discuss the outcome of the battle and start recruiting more members, as well as bringing back some of our old allies.  Meeting adjourned.”


As soon as Dumbledore finished speaking, people started leaving.  Vrykolakas and the elves stayed for a few minutes to say goodbye to Harry before leaving as well, promising to return the following day for the meeting.  Once most of the people had left, the Hogwarts residents went into the entrance hall and flooed back to the school, arriving as always in Harry's room.  The headmaster bade them all goodnight and headed back to his office, most of the students and teachers going with him.  Harry, the other time travellers, Glen, Sev, Sirius and Remus sat themselves down in front of the fireplace, Harry closing his eyes for a few moments to gather his thoughts and block out the accusing looks being sent at him from his friends.  

“ Look, I know I did wrong.  I don't need a lecture,” Harry said, before anyone could start throwing accusations his way.  The Boy-Who-Lived lifted his head and looked at the worries gazes of his friends and instantly felt ten times worse.  The guilt of leaving them, coupled with what he did to Malfoy, had been plaguing him ever since he arrived in the Teutoburg forest.  He knew it was a stupid thing to do; running away from his problems, but it had been harder still coming back and facing all of the Order's disappointment, his friends' disappointment, and, most of all, his son's disappointment.  As Harry's gaze reached that of his son, he broke down in tears, sobbing loudly and letting the pain ease from his chest with the large, cleansing tears.  Ginny immediately sat down in his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck and rubbing soothing circles on his back.

Eventually, Harry calmed down somewhat, and the wracking sobs eased, leaving silent tears trailing down his cheeks.  Looking at his friends, who were all watching him with different emotions in their eyes, Harry offered a watery smile.

“ I think I needed that,” he said with a humourless laugh.  The others smiled back at him, some of the worry in their eyes abating slightly.

“ Feel better?” Ginny asked.

“ A lot, thanks,” Harry told her, “ I'm so sorry, you guys.  Especially you, Glen.  I don't know what's been wrong with me recently.  It's like I keep slipping away from what I'm normally like and becoming a whole different person.”

“ Harry, it's not surprising,” Remus told him, “ I mean, you've been through a lot over the last three years.”

“ So have Gin, Ron and `Mione,” the green-eyed boy pointed out.

“ Yes, but not nearly as much as you,” Remus continued, “ I'm not belittling what they've been through, especially two years ago when you were captured, but I believe you more than anyone have been under a lot of strain.  I mean, you've been battling the forces of evil for seven years, and have faced some shocks, such as finding out about your heritage and being turned into a vampire.  Not to mention having to leave behind a woman you loved and who was pregnant with your child.  It's enough to send anybody over the edge, and it's a miracle you're as sane as you are.”

“ But I'm turning evil!  I'll end up like Voldemort if I'm not careful…”

“ Harry, all you need is some help and support.  You can get over this.  Last year, the same thing happened.  You started to go over the edge, becoming more cruel and careless, but you pulled away from it.  You came back.  Harry, we all have two sides to our personality.  We all have the capacity for good, and for evil.  What we have to do is lead our lives the best way we can, and find a good balance.  You can learn to live with this, as everyone does, you just need some time,” Sev said.

“ I know, and I'll try.  Maybe a few weeks without excitement did me some good.  I needed a break from everything that's been going on here.”

“ Yes,” Ron said, “ And you came back to us.  You faced your demons, and you will come out stronger for it.”

“ Ron's right,” Sirius agreed, “ The fact that you can admit that what you did was wrong, and feel strongly enough about it that you can cry, shows you are still a good person.  You are good, Harry, and you always will be.”

Harry smiled at his friends, sitting around him and supporting him, no matter what he did.  I guess this is what it's like to have a family, Harry thought, considering how easily the people closest to him forgave him.  After a few minutes of silence, Hermione spoke up with a question that had been on everyone's mind.

“ Are you okay, Harry?”

“ No, `Mione, not by a long shot,” Harry said, a small smile making its way onto his lips, “ But I will be.”


The following morning, when Harry walked into the Great Hall at breakfast, he was met with silence and open stares.  Continuing uncomfortably through the crowed room, he took a seat at the Gryffindor table with Dean and Seamus, who lent him small smiles before continuing their conversation about Muggle sports.  Harry picked at his food, not really feeling hungry, the stares he could feel pounding into his back doing nothing to help his appetite.  Once the chatter in the Hall had reached normal levels, he was startled out of his thoughts by a cold hand resting on his shoulder.  Looking up, he saw Peeves and `Tea floating next to him.

“ Hi, guys,” he said without enthusiasm.  He felt worse when the concern shown on `Tea's face doubled.

“ Harry, where have you been?” the ancient girl asked him in Anglo-Saxon, gaining the group strange looks from Dean and Seamus.

“ Away,” he muttered.

“ Away where?” the poltergeist asked, one eyebrow raised.

“ I needed some time away.  Something…happened…”

“ We know, Glen told us.  Harry, why did you do it?” `Tea asked, a sad look in her eyes.

“ `Tea, I'm sorry, but I really don't want to go over this again.  I spent all of last night discussing it with the others.  I'm feeling drained today, both physically and emotionally.”

“ Harry, love, we just want to help…”

“ I know you do.  But I don't want people mithering me…”

“ Maybe you need people to mither you,” Peeves said, a rare flash of insight showing through his normally superficial seeming character, “ Maybe you need people to bother you, and make sure you don't fall deeper into this pit of despair I see forming.”

“ I'm fine, Peeves really.  It's not like last year.  There's no depression.  No suicidal thoughts.  No pit of despair.  I'm alright.”

“ Sure, you know what they say about that river in Egypt…”

“ I am not in denial!” Harry fumed, “ And it's none of your business, anyway.”

“ Alright, calm down,” `Tea interjected, “ There's no need to be so defencive.”

“ I'm not defencive!”

“ Yes, you are.  Harry, you need help.  Professional help, preferably.”

Harry looked at the two concerned ghosts in resignation.  This was exactly what he had been over the night before with his living friends, and no matter how much he denied it, they were right.  They cared, and they didn't want anything to happen to him.  Looking up to the Head Table, he saw Dumbledore watching him, the twinkle in his eyes slightly dimmed.  He would do something about it, Harry thought, but for now, he just wanted to be left alone.  


That afternoon, Harry's peace and quiet was disrupted my Glen's voice in his head.

~Dad, we need you to come to Professor Dumbledore's office right away~

With a sigh, Harry placed a bookmark in his potions text and rested it on the table next to him.

~Sure, Glen, I'll be there in a minute~

With a deep breath, Harry stood and made his way over to the wall, placing his hand on it and creating a door into the headmaster's office.  As it was a Saturday, and he had no essays to do as he'd been away for nearly a month and hadn't yet asked for the work to catch up, he was spending his day in his room reading over some potions books.  He felt like he needed space and time to settle back in to Hogwarts life, and the hidden room had become his sanctuary away from the stares and incessant questions.

Before he turned the door handle, though, he heard a roaring of flames behind him.  Turning quickly around, his hand raised ready to hex someone, he saw the fire turn green and a face appear in the flames.  Lowering his hand, he walked over and knelt in front of the grate to talk to them.

“ Heather!  Hi, why are you calling?  Sorry, that came out rude, but I thought you avoided all things magic.”

“ Harry, I'm sorry, but this isn't a social call.  There's a Death Eater attack going on in Canterbury, and I think Draco's been hurt.”

“ What was he doing there?” Harry asked, suspicion and mistrust colouring his voice.  Heather rolled her eyes at him.

“ Well, he certainly wasn't part of it!  It's not like he can do any magic, anyway.”

“ True.  What was he doing there, then?”

“ A friend of his' family took him to the cinema to see a film.  They were due back ages ago, but I got a frantic call from his friend telling me that there were people in black robes attacking and that Draco's father had hurt him.”

“ That sounds like a Death Eater attack alright.  I'll call the Order; we'll be there as soon as we can.”

Relief washed over Heather's face, and she smiled up at her nephew.

“ Thanks, Harry.  I didn't know who else to call.  The Ministry is out for obvious reasons, and I didn't want to call Dumbledore.”

“ You made the right decision.  I'll get on it right away.”

“ Good.  Harry, will you be coming for a visit soon?  I know the last one was a bit of a disaster…”

Harry hung his head in shame, but nodded slightly.

“ I'll come around on Boxing day, how does that sound?”

“ That'll be great,” Heather said with a smile, “ I'll see you then.  If you want to bring any of your friends, or your son, I don't mind.”

“ I'll ask them.  Bye Heather.”

“ Bye Harry.”

That said, Heather's head disappeared from the fire, and Harry quickly made his way to the wall.  As he pulled the newly created door open and walked into Dumbledore's office, he was met with the sight of all Hogwarts members of the Order.  They were sitting around with cups of tea in their hands and smiles on their faces.  When they saw the look on Harry's face, though, they became a little concerned.

“ Harry!  There you are,” Dumbledore exclaimed, “ We were starting to wonder where you were.  I wanted to discuss this full Order meeting we're calling tonight…”

“ Headmaster, I'm sorry for interrupting, but there's a Death Eater attack going on in Canterbury.  As far as I know it's been going on for a while, but I think we should get down there as soon as possible.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, the other occupants of the room leapt to their feet, heading through the still open door into Harry's room.  They went straight to the fireplace and flooed three at a time to Corvus Corax, from where they could apparate to Canterbury.  It was a tried and tested method, and proved quicker than walking to the edge of the Hogwarts anti-apparition wards.

As soon as the small group arrived in Canterbury, they started throwing hexes left, right and centre.  There weren't many Death Eaters left by this point, but those that were there were too distracted to hear them arrive.  As the black clad figures began to fall to the ground, Harry made his way down the street, looking for Malfoy.  A feeling of guilt was niggling at him, as he knew he was the one that sent the boy into the Muggle world without magic, where he would be highly vulnerable.  Granted, he hadn't expected anything like this to happen, but he should have known better.

Eventually, several tension-filled minutes later, he found the crumpled body of the youngest Malfoy lying in the street, a small girl clinging to him.  Her arms were wrapped tightly around his waist, and she was rocking gently backwards and forwards.  She had a glazed and shocked look in her eyes, and in one hand she held Malfoy's wand.  Striding over, Harry noticed a second body on the floor, that of Lucius Malfoy.  Quickly sending up sparks, and wrapping the Malfoy patriarch in magical ropes, Harry turned his attention back to the other two.

“ Hi there,” he said, addressing the girl, “ My name's Harry, and I'm here to help you.  Now, I need you to let go of the boy, and come over here.”

The girl didn't say anything, her rocking continuing at the same rhythm.  Harry noticed, though, that her grip on Draco increased.  I guess this is the friend Heather spoke of, he thought, as he gently placed a hand on each of the people in front of him, before apparating to Heather's home.  


Harry didn't stay long at Heather's house, just long enough to hand over Draco, and the girl who was clinging to him, before apparating back to Corvus Corax.  He correctly assumed that the rest of the Order would be back by now, and he found them sitting around the tables in the ball room, discussing in depth the battle they had fought at Diagon Alley.  After all, with his return the day before, they hadn't had a chance to debrief.  Taking his place next to Dumbledore, Harry listened to the stories from various members about their roles in the battle, and a niggling feeling of guilt found its way into the Boy-Who-Lived's heart when he heard his friends and son discussing their roles.  Harry felt guilty for putting that much strain on them.  Maybe if he had been there, he would have made a difference, and the battle would have been easier.  As soon as these thoughts entered his head, he started mentally berating himself for being too cocky, thinking that he could make such a big difference.  He thought about Voldemort's arrogance and self importance, and shied away from the idea, not wanting to end up like his arch nemesis.

Eventually, Harry dragged his thoughts back to the meeting just as Dumbledore was clearing his throat to speak.  He had pretty much missed out on the discussions of the battles, opting to lose himself in his thoughts.  When Dumbledore spoke, though, it was usually best to listen.

“ Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have definitive proof that Voldemort is once more threatening our freedom.  We have tried to do what we can, as disassembled as we are, but it is simply not enough.  Minister Fudge is refusing to believe in Voldemort's return, so it is once more up to the Order of the Phoenix to do what the Ministry has refused to do.  I believe it is time for a full meeting, so we can see who is still willing to participate in our cause, and who is not.  We also need to start gathering reinforcements and recruiting as many people as possible.  Harry, if you would do the honours?”

Harry nodded and concentrated hard, sending the familiar tingling feeling through the Order marks, calling everyone to the meeting.  Within minutes, people started apparating and flooing in to the castle, and walking in the doors, taking empty seats up.  Eventually, the influx stopped, and Dumbledore stood, looking around the room, disappointment shining in his eyes.  There was less than half the original number there.  Many, he knew, had been killed in the last war, but many still were not there for other reasons.  Collecting himself, though, he smiled at the assembled crowd.

“ Welcome back to the Order of the Phoenix.  Thank you all for coming.  I know that many of you have moved on with your lives since the last war, but you have been called here today for one simple reason.  Voldemort is back, no matter what the Ministry says, and he needs to be stopped.  I would like to ask any of you still willing to fight to attend this meeting.  Anyone who feels it is time for them to leave the Order, you may leave now.  This will not be held against you, as I know many of you have new families to consider, but I would like to stress the importance of the Order in this time.  We will be receiving no help from the Ministry, and the Death Eater attacks have started in earnest.  Even if you choose not to remain today, all I ask is that you pass on the message, recruit as many as possible, and at least give us a chance at fighting back the darkness.  Thank you.”

His piece said, the elderly headmaster took his seat, and waited for people to decide what they were going to do.  Five minutes later, no-one had moved.  The twinkle in Dumbledore's eyes became slightly brighter and nodded to Harry, who realised what the headmaster wanted.  Standing, he cleared his throat and gathered the attention of everyone gathered.

“ Thank you everyone for staying.  To any of you who have not met me, I am Harry Potter, second in command of the Order of the Phoenix.  There is only one issue I believe needs discussing at this meeting, as it is only preliminary, and that is our allies.”

Just as the words left his mouth, the doors to the ball room slammed open, and in walked Meilani, Leilani and Vrykolakas.  The vampire leader was dressed all in black, with swishing robes that could rival Severus'.  The two elves walked one on each side of the vampire, dressed in pure white.  They made an imposing trio, and many of the Order members who had not yet gotten over the shock of Harry being second in command were gaping in awe.  The new arrivals made their way to Harry, bowing their heads to him slightly in a show of respect, an action the boy returned.  With a gesture from Harry, the three took their seats at his other side, and the Boy-Who-Lived turned his attention back to the shocked Order members.

“ Now, some of you will have already met Vrykolakas, Meilani and Leilani last night, but for those of you who haven't, I am proud to present the leaders of a hidden colony of elves and vampires, who are willing to help us in our fight against Voldemort.”

There was an immediate uproar.  Some people were shouting that the vampires weren't to be trusted, and would sell them out to the Dark Lord.  Others were exclaiming at the presence of elves, as a large number of them had never met Gaerwyn or Lolide.  The fact that a species many thought to be now extinct were offering their assistance was throwing off people's perceptions of the world.  After a few minutes, Harry became irritated at some people's narrow mindedness, and shot sparks into the air, effectively silencing the room.  When he was sure he had everyone's full attention, he angrily addressed the crowd.

“ Alright, that's enough.  I can't believe the amount of disrespect you are showing!  You are supposed to be fighting for the Light, for freedom and equality, yet here you are condemning people who you know nothing about.  It's disgraceful.  Now listen very carefully, I shall say this only once.  Vrykolakas represents a faction of the vampires who are peace loving, and do not kill humans.  As such, he and his people deserve to be respected.  Despite his misgivings about humans, I was able to persuade him to help us in our fight, and I will not tolerate anyone insulting him.  As for the elves, they are my kin, and you really don't want to upset a member of my family.  I am perfectly willing to defend them.  Those of you who have seen me in battle know not to cross me.  They are bringing to our aid the elves who were banished from the elven world for their support of the human race.  As such, they deserve our respect and gratitude.  If we lose the support of either group, especially when our numbers are so few, we may as well surrender to Voldemort now.  Do I make myself clear?”

Everyone in the room nervously nodded their heads in acceptance, disconcerted by the slight glow that was surrounding their saviour, and the lengthening of his teeth those closest to him noticed.  Harry simply radiated power, and they knew he would defend these people with his life.  As the Order's second in command took his seat once more, and the glow faded, Dumbledore stood to speak.

“ On that note, I believe there is nothing left to say.  I expect the Order council to convene every Saturday at 8pm.  Thank you for your attention, meeting adjourned.”


As soon as Monday morning rolled around, Harry found himself sitting in lessons for the first time in over a month.  It seemed strange to be back at Hogwarts, but he was quickly getting used to it.  Much to his dismay, Professor Umbridge was still as cruel as ever, but seemed to be a lot more nervous than the last time he had seen her.  When he asked Glen about it, his son burst out laughing, telling him that he and `Tea had spent the last month carrying on the prank that Harry had started.  Whenever they passed her in the corridor, or any time during the day they felt like torturing her, they would start sending her mental messages again.  After so much time of this happening off and on, she had grown rather paranoid, and from what `Tea had seen while spying on her in her private quarters, she was convinced she was going mad.  The `voices' were driving her insane, slowly but surely, and sometimes during lessons she would break down crying and tell everyone to leave.  While Harry was a little concerned that they were being a little harsh on her, when he heard the sort of rules she had been making, taking over the school slowly and surely, he decided she needed to be gotten rid of, preferably without implicating himself or his friends.  This seemed like the best solution they had.

Towards the end of his second week back, Harry called the Marauders into his room, a large smirk on his face.  As soon as they saw it, they knew they were in for a treat.  Once they were all seated comfortably, Harry leant forward, resting his elbows on his knees.

“ I have a plan.”

“ What sort of a plan?” Ron asked.

“ Well, I hear Umbridge has been causing trouble, and I think we should up the ante and get rid of her once and for all.”

“ What are you planning?” Peeves asked, “ You don't want to do anything too extreme, or you'll get expelled.”

“ Oh, nothing much, just a little prank at the Christmas feast.  I hear a lot of people will be here this year, and Fudge is planning to drop by for dinner to check up on the school.  He's been getting strange reports from Umbridge.  She seems to think she's losing it...”

“ I'm not surprised, mate,” Ron said, “ You've got her convinced she's hearing voices.”

“ I know.  And I have the perfect plan for sending her over the edge…”


Two weeks after Harry's return, the peace in the Great Hall was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Draco Malfoy.  The only ones not surprised when the blond popped into existence right in the middle of lunch were Harry and Dumbledore, who had been expecting him.  Harry was a little curious about what had changed with the boy.  When he had dropped him off at Heather's house after the attack on Canterbury, she had told him that from what she could gather he must have defied his father.  There was no other reason the Malfoy patriarch would have hurt his only heir.  This had made Harry wonder how a person with such deep seated prejudices could change so much in only two months.  While he guessed the Slytherin's time in the Muggle world had done him some good, he felt guilty about sending him there in the first place, especially after the attack.  Draco had been defenceless.  There were other ways he could have dealt with the boy, but at the time it had seemed like a good option.  In retrospect, he believed he should have done things differently.

“ POTTER!” Harry heard, as he was violently dragged from his contemplations by an angry Malfoy heading straight for him.  He simply sat at the Gryffindor table, watching him come towards him.  Ron stood up, raising his hand slightly, but Harry pulled him back into his seat, shaking his head at him slightly.  Ron frowned, but let it go, sitting back to watch the scene play out.  When Draco was nearly to Harry's position, the Gryffindor stood and made his way to the middle of the Hall, meeting the blond.  They both stopped and faced each other, Harry with resignation, and Draco filled with anger.  Before the green eyed boy could do anything, he reeled back as a hard punch hit him squarely in the jaw.  He took the pain, not even trying to avoid the next blow that fell.  As Draco took out some of his anger on his nemesis, Harry couldn't help but feel he deserved it, especially when Draco started to speak.

“ Do you know what you've cost me, Potter?  Everything, that's what!  I've been disowned and disinherited.  I've been forced to choose between my family and my best friend.  I've defied the Dark Lord, and had my magic ripped from me.  And it's all because of YOU!”

As he came to the end of his little speech, Draco landed one last punch to Harry's eye, before stepping back and looking at his bruised and bleeding rival.  Harry lowered his eyes in shame, looking at the floor as Draco examined him.  He was startled, though, when he heard his former enemy's tone soften.

“ However, Potter, you also forced me to learn some valuable lessons, about love, and friendship, and the value of people, both Muggle and magical alike, and for that I thank you.”

Harry's startled eyes met the sad ones of the blond Slytherin, and he looked deep into the sparkling grey orbs and found only sincerity and a hint of sadness.  Harry was shocked further when Draco held out his hand, much like in their first year, and waited to see what Harry would do.  After a few seconds' hesitation, the older boy clasped the hand in front of him, shaking it firmly.  A small smile played on Draco's lips, breaking out into a malice-free smirk.

“ This doesn't mean we're friends, Potter, but I'm willing to call a truce.”

Harry smiled back at him, his eyes a little less haunted than they were before.

“ Deal.”


The rest of the time until Christmas passed relatively quietly, with only one Death Eater attack.  The Order was slowly growing as people were recruited in secret.  One of the main aims of the Order was to stay out of the public eye.  As soon as the Ministry found out that Dumbledore was gathering forces, he would send the Aurors in.  Fudge believed that Harry and Dumbledore were both delusional, accusing them of making up Voldemort's return to cover up their own activities.  As a consequence, he had decided to join the headmaster at the school for Christmas dinner to get a more thorough report from Umbridge, and to see first hand how Dumbledore dealt with things.

Umbridge herself had become increasingly jittery as time passed.  Since Harry had returned, she now had three voices in her head instead of just two.  She had started jumping at shadows and sending the students into her classroom before her to see if there was anyone hiding there.  The Marauders were finding the whole situation highly amusing.

Another large change had been after the return of Draco Malfoy.  While he still disliked Harry and his friends, avoiding them when he could, the truce he had made with the Boy-Who-Lived still held true.  They pair no longer bothered each other, simply getting on with their own lives.  The Hogwarts rumour mill was having a field day, though.  The Slytherins were highly disturbed by the radical changes in their once leader's behaviour.  He hexed people who used the word `Mudblood' in his presence, he openly supported Muggles and Muggleborns, and perhaps the most disturbing, he had a stuffed lion on his bed.  The Muggleborn students had discovered that it was called Simba, and immediately realised it was from the Lion King.  Those in Slytherin House, though, who had no knowledge of television, thought it was a Gryffindor mascot.  Draco had received so many death threats since his return that he had been moved out of his dorm and into a private room a whole half year early.  The crunch had come when his dorm mates had found him sitting on his bed watching The Little Mermaid.  Harry found the whole thing rather amusing, but he didn't dare mention that to his former enemy.

When Christmas finally rolled around, the morning was passed lazily in front of the fire.  The time travellers, Glen and their ghost friends had all assembled in Harry's room to open their presents and tell stories of past Christmases.  Glen told them about his Yule holidays with his grandmother.  He was surprised by some of the traditions the modern people had, such as the Christmas tree and presents.  He found the whole experience very educational, though.  When it was finally time for Christmas dinner, the group made their way to the Great Hall.  When they arrived, they saw the teachers already sitting at the single long table, with Minister Fudge right between Professor Umbridge and the headmaster.  As soon as he spotted Harry, Fudge sent him a poisonous glare, to which Harry simply raised an eyebrow and smirked.  Fudge shuddered at the boy's cold gaze, and turned back to his conversation.  The group seated themselves as far from the teachers as they could, and Harry, Glen and `Tea started to send mental messages to Umbridge.

~There she is again, talking to Fudgy-boy~

~Indeed.  How strange, her skin seems to be turning purple~

~Like a plum~

~Or a grape~

~An aubergine, even~

~I wonder if she's green inside~

~Let's cut her open and find out~

~Yes, let's!  I'll get the cleaver…~

The three could barely hold in their laughter as the toad-like woman paled considerably and started to sweat.  The Minister didn't seem to notice as he continued to babble on about how he needed reliable people working at Hogwarts, people who weren't losing their marbles like Dumbledore and the Potter boy.  By the time dessert came around, the Marauders could barely contain their glee.  Just as people were helping themselves to the Christmas pudding, Harry sent a strong mental suggestion to Umbridge, the sort of thing that would compel her to do something, but as no spell was used it was untraceable.  She immediately let out a loud shriek, before singing slowly, gaining her stares from the whole table.

“ When the outside temperature rises
   And the meaning is oh so clear
   One thousand and one yellow daffodils
   Begin to dance in front of you - oh dear
   Are they trying to tell you something
   You're missing that one final screw
   You're simply not in the pink my dear
   To be honest you haven't got a clue.”

She started to sing slightly louder when she got to the first chorus.

“ I'm going slightly mad
   I'm going slightly mad
   It finally happened - happened
   It finally happened - ooh oh
   It finally happened
   I'm slightly mad
   Oh dear.”

By this point everyone was looking at her as if she really was mad.  Draco, though, looked highly amused.  During his tenure in the Muggle world, he had gotten a taste for Muggle music, especially Queen.  This was a song he had heard before.

“ I'm one card short of a full deck
   I'm not quite the shilling
   One wave short of a shipwreck
   I'm not my usual top billing
   I'm coming down with a fever
   I'm really out to sea
   This kettle is boiling over
   I think I'm a banana tree
   Oh dear.”

“ I'm going slightly mad
   I'm going slightly mad
   It finally happened - happened
   It finally happened - uh huh
   It finally happened
   I'm slightly mad
   Oh dear.”

“ Ooh ooh ah ah
   Ooh ooh ah ah
   I'm knitting with only one needle
   Unravelling fast it's true
   I'm driving only three wheels these days
   But my dear how about you.”

“ I'm going slightly mad
   I'm going slightly mad
   It finally happened
   It finally happened - oh yes
   It finally happened
   I'm slightly mad
   Just very slightly mad
   And there you have it.”

As the song ended, she let out a loud shriek, and ran from the table as fast as her short tubby legs would allow.  Cornelius Fudge watched her leave, a look of abject confusion on his face.  Dumbledore's eyes were twinkling madly, and he glanced over at Harry, who was equally amused.  Glen and Ron were trying their hardest not to laugh, but Peeves and Draco weren't as restrained.  As soon as the doors banged shut behind her, they burst out laughing, quickly followed by most of the other students.  The only one, apart from the Minister, who didn't look in the slightest amused was Hermione, who was sending the Marauders disapproving looks.  When the laughter died down a little, loud but slow clapping could be heard coming from a corner near the doors.  Looking over in the right general direction, the startled Hogwarts residents watched as a black-clad figure emerged from the shadows, a highly amused look on his ageing features.  It took a minute for it to sink in who this was, as the man had aged since he was last seen, before Harry let out a loud gasp.

“ Eustace?”

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