Chapter 10 – A Feasting to Remember

The three friends pulled themselves back from the window as they finished waving goodbye to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley on Platform 9¾. "I guess summer is officially over" said Ron.

"It was the worst of times, it was the best of times" murmured the bushy-haired witch as she picked up Crookshanks and placed her on her lap as she sat down.

Ron stopped in the midst of trying to move Harry over so he could sit down. "That makes no sense at all Hermione. How can it be totally opposite at the same time? I think she's already gone round the bend from studying all summer."

Harry winced as he saw the upcoming argument starting before they had even left London proper. "It's the first line of a very famous muggle book mate."

"That doesn't surprise me a bit" Ron continued as Ginny tried to push her brother down to the bench. Neville was shaking his head as if he was already tired of the continuing fireworks from the two squabbling friends.

"Ron! I was just saying that…"

"So don't want to hear it."

Harry just leaned over and held Ron's shoulder. Just a little harder than normal to keep him from jumping to his feet and trying to intimidate Hermione.

"Settle down. She just meant that there's good things happening as well as bad."

"And Harry would know that more than any other person in here" the ever-placid Luna Lovegood said from her place next to Ginny. The slim girl still was still holding a paper upside down reading it but had looked at Harry with her head tilted.

"The Ministry and the Prophet have all let a series of lies be printed about Harry's statement about what happened at the final task of the Tournament."

"You read the Prophet Luna?" Neville asked.

"Only to read the hidden messages about the latest Ministry cover up on the Heliotrope population explosion. Father says that they are printing all the lies on Harry to keep the public from finding out that Minister Fudge has adopted and hidden a colony of Yustrumers under the Magical Brotherhood Fountain at the Ministry."

"What are Yustrumers Luna?" Harry smilingly asked over the frantic hand waving from Hermione.

"Well," Luna said as she folded up her latest copy of the Quibbler, "Yustrumers are parasitic Chizpurtles that are found in the German Alps; they can fly into your ears and whisper those funny suggestions that make you have wet dreams."

Harry was hard pressed to keep from laughing but Ginny stepped on his foot as Luna watched Ron choke on his own spit. Luna leaned forward in her seat and reached across to grab his nose. That stopped Ron from breathing for three or four seconds and his face grew quite red but he could breathe easier after she let him go.

Hermione had rolled her eyes at the reactions from the three boys to what Luna said and stood up suddenly. "Come on Ron, we need to get up to the Prefects Meeting and see when or if we have to patrol."

"Now? Before the snack cart comes around?" Ron look totally put out that he might miss his third best friend on the train if he left now.

"Did you or did you not read the letter that came with your Prefect Badge? It clearly states that the Prefects meeting is in the second car from the front twenty minutes after the Express leaves the station."

"But I didn't …" the tall redhead whined.

"Ronald, we need to go now. Or would your prefer to just hand the badge over to Harry so you won't miss any meals?"

"I'm going to miss meals? Nobody told me…"

Harry stood up and pushed Ron out the door after Hermione. "We'll get you something from the cart mate. Remember the twins said you could skive off your rounds at school to go to the kitchens any time you wanted?"

"Oh, yeah. I remember now."

"I heard that Ron! Come along before I dock you points for disregarding your duty."

"She's going to a right nightmare this year with that attitude" Ron got out before he hurried down the corridor after Hermione. Harry and the others heard their bickering disappearing into the distance.

Harry turned around smiling after closing the compartment door and saw that Ginny had rolled off her seat and was sitting on the floor convulsing in laughter. Neville was trying to stifle his laughter and failing miserably at it while Luna had gone back to reading her paper. Reaching down, Harry hauled Ginny back up to her seat and then sat down next to Neville.

"Have a nice summer Neville?"

"A lot better than what I heard yours was" his friend replied. "I mostly worked in the greenhouses at Longbottom Manor and did homework."

"I can see you put on some muscles. Some girls ought to find that attractive" Luna said.

Neville blushed but turned away from the blond to stare at Harry. "So how are you really? Dementors, that trial and the press – nothing easy for you all over again."

"Not to mention those horrid Dursleys" Ginny said angrily.

Harry tried to settle Ginny down with a small wave of his hand but did reply to his friend. "The Dementors were a surprise but my patronus scared them away although it took Dudley took four or five days until he fully recovered. It seemed the Wizengamot and Fudge were out to have me convicted and my wand snapped but Dumbledore and Mrs. Figg showed up in the nick of time to have the charges dismissed. The Daily Prophet? I don't pay much attention to that rag as they don't print anything but what the Ministry wants."

"We wrote an article defending you Harry" came Luna's voice from behind her paper.

"Thank your father for me Luna. Ron sent it to me and although I'm not sure the Dementors really wanted to crown me Emperor of the Lost Elves, it was nice to have somebody say I wasn't lying about the Dementors or the last task."

"And Neville, your grandmother sent me a nice owl after I thanked her for speaking out against Fudge and his loathsome undersecretary before Dumbledore got there. I'll send another proper letter to her the next time you write her if you don't mind."

"Certainly not Harry. She was surprised I defended you so well when we first got the news about the trial. I tried but she wouldn't let me come that day."

The two boys were about to discuss Harry's experiences at the trial but the doorway opened again and Hermione and an angry Ron returned to the compartment.

"You'll never guess who else made Prefect Harry?" Hermione asked.

"From Ron's face is had to be Malfoy."

"And Pansy Parkinson as well" Ron finished up. "You better have me or Hermione around instead of wandering the halls alone at night Harry. Their liable to dock hundreds of points on you for flimsier excuses than Snape makes."

"Professor Snape, Ron" Hermione automatically corrected.

"It actually might be a nice thing if Malfoy and Parkinson got patrols together."

"What? Why?" said most of the people in the compartment in response to Harry's statement.

Harry lowered his voice and leaned forward. "We can check their location on the Marauder's map. The first time they head into a broom closet to snog we could lock them in with an Impermutable Charm. Think they might like to explain their location and activities to Dumbledore or McGonagall when they had to be let out?"

Ron, Neville and Ginny started clapping for Harry's plan while Hermione thought it was too risky to try. Not that she didn't like the idea but she didn't want Harry to get in trouble deliberately.

The five were still laughing when the door was thrown open and the friends were treated to their annual intrusion by the members of Slytherin House. Draco Malfoy had his usual sneer on his face as he looked with contempt at the students within. With him was the other Slytherin prefect and the two bookends of Crabbe and Goyle

"Oh look, a collection of losers - all in the same compartment. Best mind your manners around me Potter; I'm a prefect now and you can serve detentions with Professor Snape at my merest whim."

"Which Ronald and I can cancel as fast as you assign them Draco" Hermione said. "Don't think you're getting away with anything just because you and your… girlfriend undeservingly got handed badges by your head of House."

Pansy whipped out her wand to try and hex Hermione but Draco surprisingly pushed her wand down. "They won't always be together. We'll take care of them when we find them alone. So Scarhead, how's it feel to be publicly condemned by everyone in wizarding world that matters?"

"I don't know Malfoy, your father and his Death Eater friends aren't really people that really matter to me. How's if feel to have your father go to his hands and knees and crawl on his belly to kiss Voldemort's slimy robes?"

Draco's mouth fell open at that question and before he could react, Harry strode forward, pushed the two Slytherins back into the corridor and then slammed the door on their faces.

Harry locked the door and then Hermione cast a silencing charm on the door so that they could only hear "Wait until my father…"

Looking around at his friends, Harry muttered an apology. Ginny came over and rubbed his back. "It's okay Harry. Every year he comes here trying to make trouble and each year he gets shot down. You think he might be possibly brain damaged?"

Everybody chuckled at that but Luna raised her head from her upside-down paper. "He's obviously got a serious infection of Salantrous Mimitrons. He can only parrot the things he hears at home."

Ron grabbed Hermione and put a hand over her mouth before she could object. "That's exactly what I thought Luna but I wasn't going to say anything as you are the expert."

"Thank you Ronald."

The six settled down and fell to discussing the upcoming year and who they might possible have as an instructor for DADA. Hermione told everyone that the Head Boy had told them that it was going to be somebody from the Ministry.

"It can't be any worse than having that fake copy of Moody" Ron said.

"Professor Moody" Hermione said.

"Oh no, here we go again" Ginny whispered to Neville and Harry.

"Barty Crouch Jr. wasn't the real Moody so he wasn't a real professor" Ron stated

"That isn't the issue; you have to respect the position."

"Like I'm going to respect a Death Eater just because he's pretending to be somebody he's not?"

Ginny pulled Harry off his seat. "Harry and I are going to see about finding Angelina or the twins about the Quidditch team."

"And I think Neville wants to show me the caboose and help search for the missing cufflinks."

"What missing cufflinks?" Neville asked as he let Luna lead him out the door.

"Benjamin Jacoby, the Head Boy in 1892, lost the famous Cufflinks of Loch Ness somewhere during his last ride on the Hogwarts Express. They controlled the appearance of the water dragon that lives there. I'm sure they are in the Hogwarts caboose."

To nobody's surprise Ron and Hermione were still going at it. Neville looked at them a little helplessly, shrugged and held out his hand. "I'll help you look Luna."

Harry and Ginny followed them out to the corridor and watched them walk off. "About ten minutes until your brother and Hermione get fed up with one another and quit yelling?"

"I guess that's about right Harry. And it'll be that long until Neville realizes that cabooses might be a better place to snog than broom closets."

Harry looked at the grin of the redhead and then his jaw dropped. "He wouldn't."

"No but she might" Ginny said with a giggle.

The two left quickly that particular piece of the passageway to get away from the shouting and Ginny was glad that Harry didn't seem to mind her holding his hand as they went looking for their classmates.

Xxxx xxxx

The search for classmates and friends didn't go so well and Ginny and Harry quickly returned to their compartment. Not many people wanted to see Harry or talk to him and he quickly realized that a lot of people had believed the lies The Daily Prophet had been writing.

Neville and Luna had returned from their 'search' of the caboose with a slightly dazed grin on Neville's face for their efforts. The rest of the trip passed without anything else happening although Ron and Hermione had to leave for about a half hour for their patrol of the train. When they got close to their destination the three boys had waited in the corridor while the girls changed and then reversed places while the boys changed.

Departing from the rail car, Harry was getting more upset and losing patience with the avoidance, stares and whispers coming from the rest of the returning students. Hermione grabbed his arm in an effort to distract him and led him up to where the carriages waited to take everyone up to the school.

Harry stopped in shock as he saw the creatures that were pulling the carriages; black reptilian-like horses that had folded wings and a very bony appearance. It was Luna that identified the animals and told Harry that they were Thestrals and that only people who had seen some one die could see them. Neville confirmed that it was the truth because he had seen his grandfather die and the close group of friends knew the Luna had survived the explosion that had killed her mother.

Although Harry felt bad about such an unwelcomed reminder of Cedric Diggory's death, he joined the others in touching and petting the winged creature that was still invisible to Hermione, Ron and Ginny.

The six made their way up to the castle and into the Great Hall and Harry let out a groan when he finally saw who was present at the teacher's table. Although the absence of Hagrid was a mystery, it was the witch sitting next to Professor Snape that was the source of his consternation. The woman was almost as wide as she was tall with short curly brown hair and a pink bow that matched the same colored sweater she had placed over her robes. Her face had a downturned wide mouth and she had wide saggy eyes that gave her the overall look of a frog or toad. Harry had the strange thought that he ought to warn Neville to keep Trevor, his pet toad, away from someone that Trevor might consider a beautiful giant date.

Then Harry explained to his friends that the person was Delores Umbridge and that she was Fudge's Senior Undersecretary. There were plenty of questions as to why she was sitting with the other professors. Discussion about her presence was curtailed as Professor McGonagall led the new first years in for their sorting. The Sorting Hat sang a song of danger and upcoming darkness and implored the houses to work together for their safety. That message was not lost on Harry after the events in the cemetery the previous June and he only paid half-attention to the sorting and welcoming words of Dumbledore as he called for the feast to begin.

Not much in the way of hungry after what had gone on so far during the afternoon, Harry saw a number of people at all of the House tables watch him with distrust and some open hostility. Malfoy and his followers were quite happy at the situation he was in and Harry clenched his hands under the table in an effort to control his temper.

It was Hermione rubbing his back and whispering for him to relax that finally let Harry fill up his plate and begin picking at his food. The next time he looked up from his meal he noticed something a little strange. Umbridge was not glaring at him or even eating any of the food off her plate. She was avoiding looking in his direction at all and seemed to be reading something that was on a clipboard she was clutching in her stubby little hands. A dropped plate from somewhere in the direction of the Hufflepuff table startled her and Harry tried to understand why she had almost jumped backwards out of her chair.

It was a surprise when the food vanished from the tables; at least to Harry and Ron. Before Ginny's brother could start complaining that he hadn't had enough to eat he was shoved almost under the table by Gred and Forge. He was shushed when he regained his seat as Dumbledore had come forward to make his usual start of year announcements.

"Congratulations to all our new first years for being sorted in to their respective Houses. Good luck with all your future studies and friendships. As with every other year The Forbidden Forest remains exactly that – as a few of our adventurous students have attest to , having discovered the myriad dangers and inhabitants that make it out of bounds." Harry and Ron colored a little and lowered their heads in embarrassment.

"Mr. Filch has asked me to remind everyone that the list of proscribed items has now reached an unprecedented number of four hundred and seventy-one. A complete can be found posted on the bulletin board outside the Great Hall as well as his office door. Additionally magic is not to be performed in the passageways between, before or after classes unless under the express supervision of an instructor."

("When is he going to tell us where Hagrid is?" Harry whispered to Hermione.

"Shhh. He usually states the staff changes somewhere in here" she whispered back.)

"We have two changes to our list of professors this year. After a brief absence, Professor Grubbly-Plank has returned to teach Care of Magical Creatures on a temporary basis. We would also like to welcome the new instructor for Defense against the Dark Arts, Professor Umbridge. She comes to us with the highest recommendation from the Minister of Magic."

There was polite applause from almost everyone but Harry let his head drop until it hit the table with a thunk that seem to reverberate around the Great Hall. There was a mix of laughter from the people around Harry's place at the Gryffindor table and a few choice insults from the center of the Slytherin table where Malfoy and his group sat.

Dumbledore waited for the noise to settle down before he started to speak again. "As this is a Friday…"

The scrape of a chair from the Head table brought everyone's attention around as the newest Professor seemed to slowly stand, clear her throat and make her way around the end of the table to come up and stand a few feet away from the headmaster. She was rocking a little side to side and even Ron could see how white her knuckles were where she gripped the clipboard she had been looking at since the students had filed into the room.

"It seems Professor Umbridge wishes to address all of you. I shall leave her to it." Dumbledore withdrew to the side of the table and watched as Delores raised her head to talk to the students she would soon be teaching.

"Hem, Hem."

"That was incredibly rude of her to interrupt the Headmaster like that" Neville whispered to his friends.

'I wonder what drivel is going to come out of that mouth' Harry thought.

"Ahem, hem." Delores spoke up a little louder in an effort to make the buzz amongst the tables quiet down.

"Thank you Head… Headmaster for those words of welcome. It is a quite an honor to stand here in front of the sons and daughters of the true… of the true holders of magic and responsibility in magical England. It seems only yesterday that I was struggling… struggling to learn the ways and means of the various courses that are taught here at Hogwarts."

("What did she mean by the 'true' holders of magic?" Hermione said tugging on Harry's sleeve."

"Malfoy and the rest of the purebloods fanatics" Harry mumbled through clenched teeth.)

"It is especially encouraging seeing all the friendly… friendly and encouraging faces of all you children."

("Children?" was heard from a number of astonished sixth and seventh year students.)

Delores winced as she heard some criticism from her last words but instead of apologizing she kept stumbling on with her speech. "The Ministry of Magic has always considered the education of young witches and wizards to be something of concern… ahem, to be something of vital importance of the future of our way of life. The special gifts which have been handed down through gen…generations of families is something that should be nurtured and carefully guarded."

("I think she just insulted all the muggleborn and people with mixed heritage" Ron said as he saw Hermione's lips tighten in a familiar way.

"I know she did Ron. It's okay Hermione, we just won't pay her any mind.")

Umbridge looked to the other teachers for some sort of support but only saw stony stares and disapproval for what she had said so far. "It is the Minister's… excuse me, the Ministry's opinion that that time honored methods of instruction should be embraced while we guard against new…we guard against new methods and instruction of those people of lesser…" Here Delores Umbridge brought forth her clipboard and began reading the speech directly from it. Much to the surprise and disgust of most of the students who quickly turned to their neighbors with raised eyebrows and shaking heads.

A strange murmur broke out in the Great Hall as students and then the other teacher's began conversing quietly with each other as Umbridge droned on.

The speech became very rambling and Harry could see the clipboard shake as the ex-assistant of Minister Fudge rambled on with some sort of explanation of what the objectives of her courses would be or how she intended to teach. It was all very confusing and somewhat contradictory in places and Harry wondered what had ever possessed Fudge to try posting this… ludicrous parody of a proper teacher to Hogwarts.

The speech continued to ramble on and Harry could see that the student's reactions were having an effect of Professor Umbridge. Her voice stumbled and floundered as she lost her place a few times and had to backtrack and her hands started trembling more and more.

Finally Harry had had more than he could take from this… person. She had insulted and degraded him at his trial and now his friends and even the teacher's and courses here at school were the subject of her loathsome insinuations. He just couldn't stomach it any more. Harry shoved himself to his feet and moved forward despite the efforts of Ginny and Ron to hold him back as he moved to the front of the hall. Silence greeted his movement and even Dumbledore stood a little straighter as he watched a clearly upset Harry come forward. There were yells of encouragement coming from some of the students while the Slytherin table was screaming for Potter to remember his place. Dumbledore raised his hands in a familiar call for silence.

Hermione was chewing on her fingernails as she watched Professor Snape glower and get angrier with every step Harry took. Just as the Potions instructor began to rise and begin punishing or hexing her best friend she saw Professor McGonagall grab Snape by his robes and haul him forcefully back down to his seat. When he tried reaching for his wand, McGonagall deftly picked it out of his grasp and shook a finger in his face.

The silence that greeted that action cleared the room to hear the final confusing words from the DADA professor.

"…intent on preserving which must be preserved, perfecting what must be perfected and pruning out those people… err, practices that should be prohibited."

Delores' voice had sunk almost to a level that only one person could have heard if he had really cared about what she was saying. That person was Harry Potter who was now standing and waiting impatiently some three feet from Professor Umbridge. Said professor was obviously relieved as she had finished her speech. She lowered the clipboard and then looked up with a hopeful look on her face. That changed quickly as she found herself only a few feet from a glowering Harry Potter.

Umbridge screamed and fell over backward and the clipboard was flung out of her hand with all the speed and rotation of a Fanged Frisbee. The few people who weren't totally fixated on the interaction between Harry and Umbridge got to witness the remarkable speed and reflexes that had made Professor Flitwick a Grand Master of Dueling. He nimbly avoided the dangerous projectile and sprung back to a standing position on his chair to watch the encounter from a better viewpoint.

An explosion of sound erupted behind Harry but Dumbledore raised his hands again for silence. A sudden quiet came across the Hall with only Draco Malfoy's voice calling out insults to the messy-haired wizard. Hermione smiled and nodded down the Gryffindor table as she saw one of the twins hide his wand after casting a stinging spell across the tables at the Slytherin troublemaker that temporarily shut him up.

Umbridge had crab-walked backwards as far as she could retreat until she came up against the base of the teacher's table. She couldn't retreat any further and her mouth gaped open and closed like a fish out of water (or maybe like a toad waiting for flies). She finally found some resemblance of her voice and responded to Harry Potter's glare.

"D…Do….Don't hurt me. Why… why are you st..still here?"

"This is where I go to school" Harry answered with a bit of confusion.

"But… you have.. the Dark…You-Kno… is trying to…"

Harry turned to look at Dumbledore. "Do you have any idea of what she is trying to say?"

Dumbledore shrugged his shoulders. "Perhaps this should be a discussion for my office."

Professor Umbridge struggled to her feet. "I will not go anywhere with Lord Potter!"

A shocked gasp ran through the hall and Harry knew his own face reflected his own disbelief. "What do you mean – Lord Potter? What are you saying? Why do you call me a lord?"

Umbridge shook her head as if clearing out the cobwebs. "You are a dangerous person; a dangerous wizard. By the sacred laws of the Ancient and Noble Families, you are now titled. By bringing you up on charges before the whole Wizengamot Fudge unknowingly but legally classified you as an adult. You have been emancipated since the trial began. The Minister had that notice put under a Fidelius charm so that even Dumbledore wasn't aware of it. I… I am.. was the Secret Keeper for that."

("Does that mean Harry doesn't have to go back to those horrid Dursleys ever again?" Ginny asked.

Hermione thought for a second and then broke out in a wide grin. "YES!" she half-shouted over the general noise of the students who were both entranced and shocked at what their new professor was saying.)

"She lies! Potter is a half-breed not a lord." Four separate silencing spells hit Draco Malfoy at the Slytherin table and he fell unconscious under it from the impact. Only Harry had not turned to watch that flagrant violation of Hogwarts rules. Strangely, even Professor Snape seemed more interested in what the Senior Undersecretary was disclosing in front of one and all than the damage to one of his house members.

"The Minister fears you Harry Potter. He fears the tales you tell and what those words mean to him. He has used his position to consolidate power and wealth. He doesn't want to lose that so he will never believe you. He does not believe a mere boy can change history…. again! He does not want the magical world to think he is concerned about anything else than their welfare. But he doesn't know hardly anything about you."

"It is Lord … You-Know-Who espouses pureblood superiority although he was defeated by a half-blood. The Dark Lord ended many pureblood families just because they opposed his methods of obtaining power. It only means his pureblood agenda is a sham."

Harry looked at Umbridge's eyes and wondered if she was going through some sort of a breakdown. The witch was trembling, her eyes darting around the hall looking for an escape or an attack. Harry wasn't sure if he wanted to hear anything else from Umbridge. Or if anything Umbridge had to say would make sense. He had no idea why she was spouting off like this and actually sort of helping him.

"Barty Crouch Jr. was kissed by a Dementor so he would not be questioned by anyone in the DMLE or the Department of Mysteries. He wanted no truth discovered of the attempt on Harry Potter's life or the story he tried telling everyone else."

A new murmur of voices rose up from the students sitting at the House tables. Malfoy was still unconscious underneath the Slytherin table although Pansy Parkinson and Vincent Crabbe were trying to get him to wake up.

"I've seen… Oh, I have seen what Harry Potter has done. He is a killer. Without a wand he has conquered…he has destroyed… he has done the impossible. But it doesn't end. It never seems to end for him. Dark forces, the Darkest Lord continues to pursue and try to end the life of this seemingly unimportant boy. His first year defending the Philosopher's Stone. His second year Potter kill the monster of the Chamber of Secrets - a basilisk - WITHOUT a wand! And last year's confrontation at that horrid cemetery where He-Who-Shall-Not created a new body though some hideous dark ritual."

("How does she know that?" an upset Ginny whispered.

Ron shook his head from side to side but clasped his sister's hand in a protective gesture. "The Ministry must have spies on Harry" he finally whispered back. Ginny reached for her wand with her free hand, ready to hex anyone that might tried to get at Harry.)

Umbridge continued on, focusing on any and everyone else but the young wizard in front of her. "I do not understand or can even try to figure out how Potter does this. How he continues to show his face knowing that he is walking with the Shadow of Death itself. Walking with a target painted on his back. Only you can judge if he is suicidal or mad to stand up and resist the most powerful Dark Wizard in our lifetime."

Delores Umbridge cautiously moved step by step toward the end of the teacher's table. "You would all be wise to flee. The Dark Lord that was supposed to have been conquered all those years ago…is … and has… is still attempting… to kill Harry Potter for the last four years. Potter has turned him or his minions back. The Dementors owe allegiance to You-Know-Who; and not just the two who were sent to Little Whining."

There was a gasp from a lot of the students present who had heard about the attack on Harry and his cousin Dudley. Umbridge had just confirmed that there had been two of the Azkaban guards away from the prison island. Umbridge stared hard at Harry. "Yes," she cackled wildly, "nobody found the official paperwork concerning that because nobody thought to ask about it. Minister Fudge himself signed off on that order; under an Imperius Curse that was cast on him by Lucius Malfoy."

Parkinson and Crabbe dropped Malfoy in shock and a few people actually winced as they heard the white-haired wizard's head hit the floor with a loud thunk.

"Harry Potter has beat Riddle at least three times that I know of. Four if you count the time when he was one."

("Who's Riddle?" was the question students were asking each other. Professor Snape's face had drained of color at the mention of that name.)

"Halloween of 1981 not a one-time defeat as the few people that know Potter can probably relate. HE is coming.. HE is coming."

There were increasingly anxious stares around the Great Hall. Some were looking at classmates and friend's faces to get some sense of a reality check. Many were openly throwing scared glances at Harry and to Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley begging for some hint of confirmation or denial to Umbridge's wild accusations and rambling. Some were casting fearsome glances to the doors and windows in anticipation of a surprise attack.

Meanwhile Delores Umbridge had reached the end of the teacher's table and had pulled her wand out. "You keep away from me Harry Potter. The closer I am to you the more danger I am in. I've seen what you've done; I know that you are going to teach your magic to your classmates and what happens to Defense instructors at this school. I shall not stand idly by and be killed by the curse or the fallout from another unsuccessful attempt on your life."

Delores eyed Harry for a second and then waved her wand blindly at the four House tables. "You don't know what's happening. None of you know the danger you and your families are all in. The Dark Lord survives and is coming to conquer you all but only after he takes care of the Boy-Who-Lived. I've seen the battles that have happened. Potter is a hero – that is not something Cornelius Fudge wants you to believe."

Umbridge had moved toward the Great Doors but had not stopped talking. She raved on about a number of subjects that were on her mind – blood quills for punishment, how devious and tricky Potter was going to be in opposing her, a duel against most of the student body. All were wild descriptions that reinforced a growing conviction that Umbridge was not exactly sane. She also called out vague threats of retaliation against those actions that professors had planned for her future. All with a wild gleam in her eye. And waving her wand around like she was swatting at flies with it.

She kept walking backwards between the tables as if she had to keep a cautious eye on Harry or Dumbledore – or both of them. The students of the two tables she walked between pressed closer to the tables in an effort to not have her touch them or attract her erratic behavior. She finally made it to the other end of the Hall and the Great Doors. Raising her wand in triumph, Umbridge yelled back to the Boy-Who-Lived. "I leave you to your fate Harry Potter. Whether or not you meet or beat the Dark Lord again, I care not. I will not be here to see it."

A bright flash of flame erupted in the air directly above Umbridge's head and she screamed fell over crying as Dumbledore's phoenix Fawkes appeared and circled the hall singing a song of happiness and calm.

Delores slowly pulled herself up to her feet and looked wildly across the length of the Great Hall. She called out loudly as she held one of the door open with one hand. "Dumbledore, I resign this position I was appointed to. I will not stay here to brainwash the half bloods and mudbloods into believing that they don't need to know how to defend themselves. That was my mission. To make everyone dependent on the power and wisdom of the Minister of Magic."

"I will send you an owl to let you know where to forward my mail and my office furnishings to. You only need to know that it will be far, far away from England. Farewell children!"

The Great Doors slammed shut after Umbridge and the silenced ended with a roar that came from the students and staff. Some students rushed at Harry for answers but he retreated quickly behind the teacher's table. There was such a loud confusion of that Dumbledore cast a 'Sonorus' spell on himself and called out loudly for "Silence" and to have everyone "Take your seats".

When some semblance of order was re-established, Dumbledore went into a quick meeting with Professor McGonagall and the other members of the Hogwarts staff. Harry was still trying to explain that he didn't have any idea of what Umbridge had been talking about to anyone within the sound of his voice at the Gryffindor table.

Silence came again to the hall as Dumbledore clapped his hands for attention. "A much unexpected turn of events indeed. It appears that we now have no instructor for Dense against the Dark Arts. It is with some reluctance that I will not be asking the Ministry to appoint another. So, if you will excuse an old professor that has not taught for a number of years, I shall be seeing you all in the Defense classroom starting Monday morning."

There was a space of about two heartbeats until the first cheers started echoing back from the rafters. Harry was among the first of the students to climb up one his chair and start hollering his approval. Ron was celebrating also but he tugged on Harry's sleeve and pointed across the hall to where most of Slytherin House sat in shocked silence. Harry nodded and went back to applauding with the rest of the students.

To be correct, that was the rest of the students minus one. At the outer doors, one student had slipped outside and was watching Delores Umbridge as she hurried and celebrated her own release from a bleak future on the path down to Hogsmeade. The Ravenclaw fourth year fingered her butterbeer cork necklace and hummed a happy little tune as she watched Umbridge disappear from sight. Luna Lovegood turned back to rejoin the celebration that was going on in the Great Hall but stopped after a few steps as she watched two ghosts float through the Great Doors and came to a halt in front of her.

It was a couple and one could see that they were obviously in love with one another as they had an arm around the others waist and a warm glow in their eyes as they looked at each other. The woman was very pretty, with waist length dark red hair and almond shaped green eyes that Luna had only seen on one other living being. The man was tall and thin and wore glasses that did nothing to help the appearance of his very untidy black hair.

It was the ghost witch that spoke up first. "Thank you Luna for your knowledge and help in preventing this danger to our son."

"It is I who should be thanking you Mrs. Potter."

"Lily, please."

"Then thank you for having such a remarkable son then Lily. He was the first person that extended a hand of friendship to me after all those years I spent alone with just my father for companionship."

"And you must call me James then Luna" the man said. "Your mother was not allowed to come with us now but she wanted to let you know that she still loves you very much and is quite proud of you. She is watching over you as we watch over our son. With your seer abilities to see a little bit of Harry's future and Umbridge's threat to that and our own 'hauntings' of her mind, we have hopefully prevented a disaster or two from occurring and have made Harry's task against the Dark Lord a little easier at the same time."

"Should I tell Harry what we have been doing?"

The two ghosts shared a small smile and then shook their heads. "He has enough going on already" James said. "He doesn't need to know that we've interceded on his behalf. We don't want him to think that he can't get by on his own."

"I think I understand and will not mention anything."

Lily smiled. "You're a very good friend to Harry Luna. As you know there are a number of possible paths that Harry may take as his life unfolds. We see that he will have much love as his triumphs."

"As will you" James said.

"I cannot see my own paths" Luna said. "I am unable to see my own true love."

"You may find love with Ron or Neville or another or even Harry himself. If that last future happens, know that we enthusiastically approve his and your choice in that matter."

"But you will not tell me?"

"There are more possible stories about Harry's future than there are steps in Hogwarts. You may or may not be his mate or true love. That is only a story that must develop on its own."

"Will Harry or I see you again?"

"We will be granted permission to attend his wedding as your mother Selena will attend yours. Good luck in your future Luna Lovegood; whatever it may be and with whomever it shall be. You are watched over with care and love."

Luna curtseyed to the ghostly pair and watched as they walked off together and faded into nothingness. She turned back to enter the Great Hall and wondered which wizard might greet her first.

~~~ Fini ~~~