Author's Note: There are many in this world part of a dark conspiracy whose sole aim is to prevent me having time to write this story. But I have heroically beaten them all back.(For now!) So you see I know just how Harry feels in this story. I will not let the dark forces win. I will continue come what may and take this story to its conclusion. We still have far to go.

Chapter 28 - Hell in a handbasket.

Harry cursed himself, "IDIOT!"

"What was I thinking?" he asked himself aloud as he paced back and forth in the Gryffindor common room. "The whole blood point was to avoid Malfoy. And what do I do? Run straight to him and let him …" Harry's tirade against himself faltered as he contemplated the effect the touch of the veela had on his mental shields. He was trembling now but he willed himself not to surrender to the shock. He couldn't afford to fall apart now.

"If it hadn't been for Ginny…" Harry said aloud to the empty room but with those words came the need to be sure his friends were alright. Harry pulled the Marauder's map from his pocket and a quick touch of his wand with an "I solemnly swear I am up to no good," the map was revealed. Harry didn't realise the significance of the students standing in unmoving ranks in the Great Hall at first but when he did his heart leapt into his throat.

"NO!" He yelled at the map, "Not because of me!"

The seconds ticked by like years before finally there was movement. Harry didn't dare move his eyes from the map as he watched the first dot to begin to move.

"Please, please, please." He whispered to whatever deity would listen as the name on the dot became readable as it separated from the others. Harry sucked in a breath as he saw who it was.

Blaise Zambini fumed as she held her wand towards one of the Ravenclaws. How had this happened so quickly? One moment they were all eating lunch with the most serious topic of conversation being who would win the next Quidditch match and then they were here, wands drawn and ready to fight. Slytherin stood outnumbered three to one. Blaise knew they would be defeated all to easily if it came to a fight. But what other choice was there?

Hermione Granger still held the arm of Ron Weasley with her left hand as she held her wand in her right. She knew the DA members had the skill to fight well and as the other houses had sided with Gryffindor they were bound to win easily but that did not mean she liked the idea of the houses fighting amongst themselves. This is what the Sorting Hat had warned of in its songs of the last few years. Hermione had not wanted it to come to this. But what other choice was there?

Albus Dumbledore was about to again try to assert his authority over his students when two lone students had both stepped forward at the same time to directly face each other.

Blaise Zambini regarded the Gryffindor that had stepped forward to face her after they had caught each others eye and silently saw they both desired a way out of this madness. Potter obviously valued this girl even though she was muggle born. Blaise didn't hold with the idiotic views of the supporters of the Dark Lord but she was still raised as one of the pure blood elite that considered all muggleborns beneath contempt. Blaise had never considered Granger as anything more than an annoyance. The muggle born had the nerve to top almost every class she was in. The fact the muggle born was a Gryffindor as well only added to the loathing the pure blooded students regarded Hermione Granger with. She would have been put in her place long ago had it not been for her friendship with Potter. Potter had made it known years ago that any attack on one of his friends would be regarded as an attack on him and one thing everyone in Slytherin knew was that Potter had defeated every attack made on him with the attacker suffering hugely. Potter, it was whispered had even killed a Professor in his first year. Burned him to death with his bare hands. No, no Slytherin wanted to try his luck in a direct fight against Potter, so Hermione Granger was left alone to excel at her class work. Blaise snorted to herself as she considered the shock the muggleborn would get once she graduated and discovered that the opportunities for muggleborns in the wizarding world consisted of low paid menial work or marrying into some squib bound pureblood family hoping to undo the curse with some fresh blood. Of course the pureblood family would not advertise the fact that they had become so desperate to stay magical. The girl would be kept in virtual seclusion as nothing more than a baby factory and never acknowledged publicly as having any connection to the pure blooded husband. And once she was beyond child bearing age she would be quietly disposed of and a more publicly acceptable mate for the husband found. Perhaps the Weasley boy had already decided that it would be his family to use Granger in that way although Zambini did not know of the Weasleys suffering any squibs recently. Perhaps it was a precaution against future squibs or perhaps the Weasleys wanted to introduce some intelligence into their next generation. That they certainly needed. Either way Blaise Zambini didn't care. The muggle born was the only one among the ones facing her whose eyes held any sign of wanting to avoid an all out confrontation.

Hermione Granger regarded Blaise Zambini closely. Hermione was all too aware of the contempt the girl held for her, the contempt that all the stuck up pure bloods held for any muggle born that dared to show that muggleborns were just as capable as they were. Harry seemed to like this girl but Harry was naïve at times especially when it came to the opposite sex. But Blaise Zambini had met Hermione Granger's with the same look of wanting to find a way out of this madness and Hermione had acted and step forward to face the pure blood.

"How do we do this?" Hermione Granger whispered.

"You get your friends to lower their wands." Blaise replied as if it was obvious.

Hermione snorted at the suggestion. "Not until your friends lower theirs."

Blaise glared at the girl's gall to question her direction. "Together then." Blaise sneered.

Hermione glared back at the girl's tone but reluctantly gave a brief nod of agreement.

"Everyone lower your wands on the count of three!" Hermione's voice announced, not loudly but she knew all would hear it.

Pansy Parkinson was one of the many that objected. "I'm not letting Weasley just walk away with this." She announced hotly.

Ron Weasley also growled his objection. "We can take them, Moine."

"Parkinson use your brain for once." Blaise said coldly, "We are overmatched here. This is not the Slytherin way."

"Ron!" Hermione snapped. "We are not doing this!"

Pansy growled but knew Blaise was right.

Ron growled and although he didn't think Hermione was right this time he did love her and would do as she said.

Others who had objected to the cessation of hostilities made no further objections and prepared to lower their wands.

Dumbledore had like all the others in the Great Hall watched this sudden and unexpected exchange with interest. But unlike the others in the Great Hall, he had misgivings about it as well. The students had ignored him but listened to Miss Granger and Miss Zambini. The students should always look o him to provide the leadership they need in life and not to each other. Dumbledore had to re-establish his pre-eminence quickly. "Miss Weasley will be punished I assure you." The Headmaster announced.

Ron Weasley just exploded at the headmaster's announcement. "Malfoy was the one that started this!" he screamed. Many of the other Gryffindors added their agreement to Ron's words in a rowdy babble of voices.

"Enough!" the headmaster snapped loudly. "Mr Potter started this incident."

Again the outraged voices of the students broke out, not only Gryffindors but many in Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff as well.

Dumbledore ignored the objections. "You will tell Mr Potter that he is to come to my office immediately." Dumbledore stated forcefully.

"Like he is going to listen to you." Ron Weasley interjected.

"Ron!" Hermione exclaimed wishing Ron would just shut up for once.

"Fifty points will be taken from Gryffindor." Dumbledore announced loudly. "And Miss Weasley your Hogsmead privileges are suspended indefinitely."

"No! You can't do that." Ginny gasped as her face paled. "I have to attend the presentation of candidates the first weekend."

"Albus." Mrs Longbottom interrupted, "The girl does need to be there. I know Harry Potter will insist upon it."

"I am the headmaster of this school Madam." Dumbledore stated tersely at Mrs Longbottom, "not Harry Potter. It is I who will assign punishment for transgressions and I have decided that Miss Weasley will lose her Hogsmead privileges."

"Quite right, Dumbledore. Quite right." Fudge chimed in hoping to look important. He really didn't understand what was going on here but he needed to be seen as taking an active leadership role to these future voters.

Meanwhile Ginny was sobbing on Hermione Granger's shoulder. Hermione tied to calm her friend but knew it to be hopeless. This would prevent Ginny from being in the stupid contest to marry Harry. Ginny pulled away from Hermione and ran crying out the doors. Hermione suddenly free glanced at Ron Weasley and winced. Ron's face was scarlet and he was about to explode. Knowing Ron as she did, she knew he was about to start yelling all sorts of undesirable things and anyone that got in his way. That would not help this situation one bit. Hermione grabbed him and spoke in his ear.

"Go after Ginny." Hermione told him, "She needs you NOW."

Ron stared back in a moment of indecision until Hermione pushed him towards the doors. "GO!" she said firmly and he did. His anger had not abated one little bit but Ginny needed him now.

Meanwhile the argument over the Headmasters announcement continued.

"Albus, don't you think that is a bit harsh?" Professor McGonagall entered the argument with the headmaster. McGonagall knew how much Ginny Weasley wanted to be in the rituals. McGonagall was her head of house and she knew she should take the girls side in this. She knew it would be hopeless though. Albus was obviously scheming to keep the girl out of the rituals and would have his way eventually like he always did.

Dumbledore seethed as his decisions were being questioned again. He thought to himself, "Couldn't these people understand that he was doing this for the greater good. Why couldn't people just do as they are told? They must realise he knew best."

Blaise Zambini knew when it was time to take advantage of a distraction. Now that the other houses had their attention turned away from the Slytherins and towards the argument with the headmaster, Blaise signalled to her fellow Slytherins to back away slowly. While the argument between Potter's friend's and Dumbledore continued, the Slytherins had retreated out of the main doors into the entrance hall and made as one towards their common room. They had much to discuss.

After the other houses noticed the departure of the Slytherins, the others in the Great Hall began to break apart into groups discussing the events that had just occurred. There would be long discussion this night in the common rooms about what this had all meant.

Author's Note: Next chapter soon I promise.