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Chapter Twenty-Four
Counter Plans and a New Leader

“ Good morning, everybody.  I'm back.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Harry's friends leapt to their feet and ran over to where the boy was standing in the doorway.  Ginny, with an enthusiastic squeal, leapt at her boyfriend and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck and squeezed him tightly, before firmly planting her lips on his.  Harry was surprised and a little shocked at her public display of affection, but quickly forgot about it as he kissed her back enthusiastically.  Cheers went up around the Hall, but the pair was oblivious to the cat calls and scolding from Minerva.  They were in their own little world, where nothing else existed but them.  Harry knew that in the months he had been going out with Ginny he hadn't exactly been the ideal boyfriend.  He didn't spend as much time with her as he would have liked to, especially with the arrival of his son, his fleeing to the Teutoburg forest and his depression eating up a lot of his time.  However, he was beginning to realise that `absence makes the heart grow fonder' was indeed very true.  Of course, he had missed all of his friends while he was in Azkaban, but the loss of Ginny had left him feeling empty inside.  As he held her now, he swore to himself that after the battle with Voldemort was over, he would make it up to her in any way he could.

Ginny was having rather similar thoughts.  As far back as Harry's first year, she had had strong feelings for the young saviour.  At first, it had been a crush, but ever since the trip through time she had come to love him for the person he was.  It had killed her inside to watch life throw so many things at the Boy-Who-Lived over the years, each trial wearing away at him piece by piece.  She had witnessed him at his highest and lowest points, but still she loved him.  She always would, no matter how many things vying for his time she had to share him with.  The last month had been torture for her from start to finish.  Hermione and Ron had missed their friend as well, but they had each other to cling to and draw comfort.  Glen had his mother to support him, and Severus kept to himself most of the time.  Ginny had no-one.  She couldn't talk to her old school friends because she had matured too much, and she now found them to be too young for her.  They hadn't been there, and so couldn't relate.  Now that she had him back, though, she wouldn't let him go for the world.

When Ginny and Harry finally pulled apart, the young vampire was greeted with hugs from his other friends.  Severus, for obvious reasons, didn't greet him, but a glance at the Head Table showed that the Potions Master had a faint smile playing on his lips.  Once the commotion died down, Harry made his way to the Gryffindor table, where his Housemates immediately started hurling questions at him.  After ten minutes of answering as best he could, Harry made his excuses and left the Hall, pulling Ginny behind him by the hand, and followed close behind by Hermione, Ron and Glen.  As soon as he was out of the door, he placed his hand on a nearby wall and led the small group into his hidden room.  Five minutes later, the students were joined by Severus, Heather, `Tea and Peeves, as well as Sirius and Remus, who had been quickly summoned by Harry's aunt.  Once everyone was comfortable, the inevitable questioning began.

“ How do you feel, Harry?” Sirius asked first, a question which everyone had undoubtedly been thinking.  Sirius, though, knew how it felt to spend time in Azkaban, something the others couldn't really relate to.

“ Well, I've been better,” Harry answered truthfully, “ Azkaban's not exactly the most fun place in the world, but I survived it alright.  My mental gift helped enormously, keeping the Dementors away for almost three weeks.  I also had a little fun with Fudge, which kept my spirits up.”

After being questioned about Fudge, Harry told them the whole story.  When he described the way the Minister ran screaming from the cell, everyone laughed for a good ten minutes.  Cornelius Fudge was despised by most of the group for varying reasons, so to hear Harry get one up on him certainly brightened their day.  Once they had all calmed down, Harry told them about how his mental shields had gradually broken down during the third week, letting the Dementors affect him more and more.  His eyes became slightly haunted when he described the things he had had to relive.  His parents' deaths were prominent, as well as his time in Grindelwald's headquarters.  Glen started crying, though, when his father mentioned that his most painful memory was the moment he had to leave `Tea after finding out she was carrying his child.  The ghost had hung her head when she heard this, and Ginny had hugged him tightly and soothed him as he began to cry, his sniffles eventually turning into sobs as he let out some of his grief.  He still had a lot of pain to deal with, and the Dementors had brought back some of the darkest times in his past.  Crying, though, was a release, and none of his friends made him feel ashamed for breaking down.  Ever since his mental state had first been questioned, Harry had been very conscious of losing his humanity and turning into another Dark Lord.  While before he would have been embarrassed by his weakness by crying in front of others, now he was relieved and welcomed it, knowing it proved he still had feelings.  It made him human.

Once he had calmed down and the friends had caught up, they discussed the situation with Voldemort for a while, Harry and Severus comparing their views of the meeting revealing the Dark Lord's plans of attack.  After a while, Harry let out a loud sigh and came to a decision.

“ I'll have to call an Order meeting,” he said slowly, thinking it over carefully, “ With Dumbledore `unavailable', I'm the only one who can call a meeting.  I'll do it tonight, which will give us four full days to plan for the attack.  Voldemort thinks I'm weak from my stay in Azkaban, and I must admit that I'm not feeling up to scratch, but it could have been a lot worse.  Voldie doesn't know that I can block the effects of the Dementors for such a long period, so I'll make sure to act weak in front of the rest of the students for the next few days.  Any Death Eater children can report back that I'm in a bad state, despite putting on a brave face when I first arrived.  I'll try and be subtle, as if I'm trying to hide the problem.  We should be able to surprise the Head Snake when the time comes, giving us the advantage.”

“ What if one of the Slytherins figures it out?” Remus asked, “ I mean, after all, they are known for being cunning.”

“ Cunning they may be, Moony,” Harry said with a wicked grin, “ But you forget that so am I.  I did, after all, spend a year in their House during Voldemort's first reign.  I have outsmarted Lucius Malfoy several times, I'm sure I can deal with the current students.”

“I hope so, Harry, for your sake,” Heather said with a frown.

“ Don't worry, Aunt Heather.  I'll be fine.”

Ron decided to change the subject, knowing that they had been covering some painful and serious topics over the last couple of hours.  He was thankful that it was May Day, and the school had the day off from lessons.  It meant they could all spend the day together planning for the attack, and letting Harry relax after his ordeal.  The redhead decided it was time for some recreation after such heavy discussion.

“ Hey, guys,” he said, “ What do you say we have some fun.  Harry mate, you've been in prison for a month.  I think it's time to let your hair down!”

Harry laughed, giving Ginny, who was sitting on his lap, a quick peck on the cheek.

“ And what do you have in mind?” he asked.  Ron grinned back wickedly.

“ I feel like a party.  What do you say?”

The students all readily agreed, deciding who they should invite to join them.  After all, the more the merrier.  The adults watched on in amusement, deciding for once they weren't going to act like teachers and stop them.  If anyone deserved some fun, it was this group.  Glen was joining in enthusiastically with the planning.  After all, it was his first real 20th century party, and he was curious to see what sort of things teenagers got up to in this age.


Half an hour later, the whole thing was fully organised.  Fred and George Weasley had been quickly summoned and sent to Hogsmeade via one of the secret tunnels to bring supplies.  Sev and Heather had sent them disapproving looks, but after Harry's pleading they quickly relented.  They both owed the younger man a lot, so they thought it would be alright to let it slide just once.  Some other people had also been invited to the party, but not too many.  After all, with Sirius attending, they had to be careful who was there.  Eustace was one of the first to arrive there, having flooed in from Corvus Corax, bringing a couple of the younger Order members with him, Nymphadora Tonks and Charlie Weasley.  Once everyone had arrived, Hermione started her magically enhanced CD player and chose a mixed summer album with cheesy Muggle pop music.  It suited everybody, and before long the group, including the adults, was dancing merrily.  At lunch time, the Weasley twins brought out the supplies from Hogsmeade, including a crate of butterbeer, and two bottles of Ogden's Firewhiskey.  Severus scowled at them when he saw the latter, but a light smack on the back of the head from an amused Heather made him roll his eyes in resignation and accept a glass of the amber liquid.  Before long, Charlie made the suggestion everyone had been waiting for.

“ Anybody up for playing a game?”

The partygoers quickly agreed, all sitting in the middle of the room's training mats in a circle.

“ What shall we play?” Tonks asked.

“ How about spin the bottle?” Hermione suggested.

“ You can't be serious!” Fred exclaimed.

“ No, that's me,” Sirius yelled.  Everyone rolled their eyes at the old joke, all having heard it countless times before.  The only one who never tired of it was the animagus himself.

“ What's wrong with spin the bottle?” Hermione asked.

“ Would you want to kiss half the people in this room?” Eustace asked, smirking.

“ Especially the teachers,” George agreed, looking at Severus and Heather.  The Potions Master made a face at the thought, looking over at Remus and Sirius in disgust.  Harry, Ginny and Glen started to giggle.  Hermione, however, crossed her arms and sulked.

“ Fine, you come up with a better suggestion,” she said.

“ We should play a drinking game,” Ron said.

“ Or truth or dare!” Ginny squealed, getting excited at the prospect.  Most of the group groaned at this suggestion.

“ How about `I never'”, Harry suggested.

“ How about a combination,” Tonks said.  Everyone looked at her strangely.

“ What?” she asked, “ It's a good idea.  One person spins the bottle.  The person it lands on is asked `truth or dare'.  If they choose dare, they have to do something really embarrassing, if they choose truth, they have to say `I never'.  Then we follow the `I never' rules and drink if we did the thing they say.  Then that person spins the bottle.”

“ That's not bad, if a little bizarre,” Fred conceded.

“ True, I'm up for it,” George said.

The rest of the party goers looked at each other and shrugged.  Sev was the first to lay down any ground rules.

“ I'm game for playing,” he said, surprising some of them, “ But I suggest we lay down a few rules, such as no dares that could lead to permanent damage to property or any harm to a person.  Also, anything said under `truth' should be kept strictly between us.  No spreading vicious rumours around the school or using things said for blackmail.”

They all readily agreed, and Harry cast a quick spell over them, similar to the Order secrecy spell, preventing them from conveying the information to anyone else.  Once everything was settled, Ginny conjured a bottle and placed it in the middle of the circle.  They all filled their glasses with a shot of Firewhiskey, and Harry was told to go first.  The bottle landed on his son.

“ Glen, truth or dare?”

Glen, never having played any of the games before, unwisely chose dare.  Harry grinned at him wickedly.

“ I dare you to attend tonight's Order meeting in your underwear.”

The look on Glen's face was priceless.  The people of his time were a lot more conservative, and the idea of wandering around mostly naked in public frightened him a little.  He immediately turned bright red, much to everyone's amusement.

“ W-what if I refuse,” he asked, nervously.

“ You have to do a forfeit, which is usually a lot worse,” Hermione told him.  Glen paled.

“ A-alright, I suppose I'll have to do it, then.”

Glen, with shaking hand, reached forward and span the bottle, which landed on Tonks.  The Metamorphmagus grinned at him.

“ Dare,” she said.  Everyone groaned.

“ Erm…” Glen wasn't sure what to say.  Looking around, he opted for something simple.

“ I dare you to ask Professor Flitwick out on a date at dinner.”

Tonks giggled insanely and quickly wrote the dare down on a conjured notepad, so she didn't forget about it.  She added Glen's dare as well, so they could keep track of everything.  Once this was done, she span the bottle and laughed maniacally when it landed on Severus.  The spy took one look at her and groaned.

“ Do I have to?” he asked.

“ You agreed to play,” Harry pointed out.

“ Indeed.  I suppose I'll choose truth.  I shudder to think what that insane woman would come up with.”

Tonks looked a little disappointed at this, but picked up her drink in anticipation of his admission.  Severus cleared his throat loudly and raised his glass.

“ I never did the twist in public,” he stated, and quickly drank his Firewhiskey.  Several people choked on their laughter, but Hermione, Tonks, Eustace, Charlie and the twins all finished their drinks.  That done, Severus span the bottle and it landed on Ginny.  She smiled at Harry.

“ I never fell in love,” she said, taking a drink.  Harry quickly followed suit, as did Ron, Hermione, Eustace, Charlie and Tonks.  The next spin of the bottle landed on Ron, who chose dare.  Ginny, remembering Severus' admission, asked him to stand in the middle of the circle and do the twist.  The redhead blushed, but when Hermione put the song on her CD player, he had no choice.  His sister quickly summoned her camera as Ron made a fool of himself dancing in front of everyone.  Fred and George found the whole thing hilarious, promising to send photos to their mother.  The game continued for another hour in the same way, with dares mounting up and small tidbits of information being revealed to everyone.  The group was also becoming increasingly drunk, making people's inhibitions slowly disappear.  When they were getting near the end of their second bottle of Firewhiskey, the `truth' part of the game suddenly took a darker turn.

“ I never killed anyone,” Fred proclaimed.  

Some of those seated looked at each other a little uncomfortably, before Severus, Eustace and Heather all took up their glasses and drank.  When Fred span the bottle, and it landed on Remus, the werewolf let out a long sigh.

“ Well, seeing as we're on the difficult ones, I never felt depressed.”

He took a drink, as did Harry, Heather, Sev, Sirius and Eustace.  The next spin of the bottle landed on Harry.  With pain filled eyes slightly glazed with alcohol consumption, Harry raised his glass high.

“ I never felt suicidal.”

Taking a large gulp, he smacked his glass down on the mat.  His friends looked at him in horror, Ginny grabbing his hand.  The group was further shocked when the same people as before took a drink.

“ Why?” Hermione asked in disbelief.

“ When I was turned,” Harry said simply, squeezing his girlfriend's hand, “ But then I found Ginny, and I love her so much, I don't want to ever leave her.”

“ After I was bitten,” Remus admitted.

“ While I was in Azkaban,” Sirius whispered.

“ When Voldemort had me,” Heather said, tears falling down her cheeks.

“ After I went to the elf world,” Eustace said, “ Knowing I was leaving everything behind, and knowing it would be the last time I saw my son alive.”

“ Every day for the last twenty years,” Severus said, refilling his glass and taking another drink.  The rest looked at him in disbelief.  Severus just shrugged.

“ Don't worry about it.  In four days it'll all be over, either way.”

Everyone nodded, all now in a melancholy mood.  Fred and George grabbed the last bottle and shared the rest of the Firewhiskey before standing in front of everyone and taking a bow.

“ We never played a prank,” they said simultaneously, causing everyone to burst out laughing, and lightening the mood considerably.


At dinner that night, the group from the party all filed into the Great Hall laughing and joking, their few moments of gravity having left no lasting impression.  They had all taken a sobering potion before they left Harry's room, but it wouldn't kick in until after they ate something.  The Slytherins and teachers watched in bemusement as Severus walked through the door, giving a blue haired Tonks a piggyback ride.  They were further disturbed when he deposited the Metamorphmagus at the Head Table right in front of the tiny Charms professor.  Tonks wrinkled her face in concentration and her hair turned bright pink, before she got down on one knee in front of Flitwick.

“ Filius, I humbly ask if you would consider going on a date with me.”

The normally energetic man sat stock still, gaping at the Auror in disbelief.

“ I-I don't know what to say.  Why are you asking?  And in public…” he said, looking around at the watching students.

“ I'm sorry, old chap,” she said brightly, “ I was dared to ask you out.  The offer still stands, though.  It's the least I can do for showing you up in front of everyone.”

Flitwick blushed bright red.

“ We'll discuss this later, Nymphadora,” he whispered.  The Auror nodded enthusiastically and went to sit with the time travellers at the Gryffindor table.  She arrived just as Hermione was proposing to Neville.  Harry, Ron and Ginny were giggling maniacally, the alcohol still influencing them.  By the end of dinner, though, the effects of the potion had kicked in and the group was feeling a lot less jolly and a lot more embarrassed.  With a groan of resignation, Harry looked at his friends.

“ I guess we'd better get this over with,” he said, sending out a tingle through the Order marks and calling a full meeting.


As soon as dinner finished, the Order members currently in Hogwarts all headed straight to Domus Corvus Corax, Glen in his underwear.  The teachers who had not been present at the party were all giving him strange looks.  As soon as they arrived at the Order headquarters they were met by hundreds of people milling around in the entrance hall and the ballroom.  Harry quickly sent up sparks and asked everyone to enter the meeting room and take a seat.  He quickly conjured an extra set of chairs and several more tables.  It was rare for a full Order meeting to be called, as there were so many people, but in this case it was necessary.  Just as people were getting settled, a loud *pop* came from the corner of the room.  Looking over, a large grin appeared on Harry's face and he ran over to the new arrivals.

“ Minh!  Gaerwyn!  Lolide!  It's so great to see you!”

“ It's great to see you as well, Harry,” Minh said, giving her grandson a tight hug.  The sisters quickly followed suit.  Their reunion was interrupted by a voice calling out from behind them in elvish.

“ Mother!  Aunt Gaerwyn!” Leilani called as she and her sister ran across the room and into their mother's waiting arms.  For the two banished elves, it had been hundreds of years since they had seen their family.  Not knowing exactly where they were, Lolide and Gaerwyn hadn't been able to visit them when they had been in Britain helping the Order in previous eras.  The reunion was joyful, and Harry stepped back to allow them to speak for a few minutes.  While he was waiting, he went to talk to the leader of the vampires.

“ Well, Vry, this is it.”

“ What's happening, Harry?” he asked.

“ The final battle's coming.  Are your people ready to change the world's opinion of you?”

“ We have been waiting for this opportunity for centuries,” he said, solemnly, “ This will be our finest hour.  We will make you proud.”

“ I'm sure you will, Vry.  I have every confidence in you.”

Once Harry was sure everyone had arrived, he took his place at the council table where Dumbledore normally sat and sent up sparks to gain everyone's attention.  As soon as he was sure they were all listening, he cast a sonorus charm on his throat and addressed them.

“ Thank you all for coming today.  As will probably know, we have been having difficulties for the last month, since we lost Albus Dumbledore to St. Mungo's and I was sent to Azkaban.  No Order meetings were called, and the wizarding world is descending into chaos.  Now, our leader is still absent, and there is little we can do about it at the moment.  Breaking him out will lose us any support we may have had from the Ministry and the Aurors.  As his right hand man, and the only other person capable of summoning the Order, I am assuming command of the Order of the Phoenix for the foreseeable future.  Does anyone have a problem with that?”

A recently inducted Ministry official cleared his throat.

“ Mr. Potter, I realise you have been placed in the position of second in command, but are you sure you are capable of actually leading the Order?”

Harry sent the man a cool glare before answering.

“ I ran the original Order, the one established in 1944.  I only gave the position to Albus Dumbledore when I left that time period.  I trusted his judgment, and I still do.  However, he is not here at the moment, and I am.  Does anyone else in this room have first hand experience of leading the Order?” he asked.  No one answered.

“ I thought not.  Now, if you wish, you can push for a vote of no confidence.  Will that be necessary, Mr. Todmoore?”

The man meekly shook his head and lowered his gaze.  Harry nodded once before resuming his speech.

“ As some of you will know, Voldemort plans to attack Hogwarts on the 5th May.”

There was an immediate uproar.  People were starting to panic at the idea.  Hogwarts hadn't been attacked in recent history, but the Dark Lord was powerful, and may win.  If he gained control of the wizarding school, the rest of the British wizarding world would soon follow.  Before full blown panic could set in, Harry sent up sparks to gain their attention.

“ Please don't panic.  We have four days, and I plan to be ready.  You all now know about the attack, and I want you to prepare to fight.  Voldemort believes I will be weakened from my stint in Azkaban, and I plan to continue letting him think that.  This is the big one.  The final, decisive battle in the war against Voldemort, and we will win.”

“ How?” Mundungus Fletcher asked.  Harry smirked at him.

“ Because I have a plan.”

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