Title: Harry's Happy Christmas
Summary: Harry has a special Christmas encounter in his "7th" year.

Harry's Happy Christmas

Harry grabbed a warm long sleeve shirt, a package of underwear, and some socks before heading to the register to pay for the clothes with a little of their precious money that Hermione had brought with her. They were doing a little shopping for some "necessities", or that was how Hermione had phrased it. She had also said that he didn't need to see what she bought as she headed off in her own direction in the store. If she was buying what he thought she was, he agreed that he didn't need to see her "unmentionables". Since they had to shop, they had felt it was safer in the Muggle world, and both of them knew how to act here.

That reminded him of Ron, who had left them several weeks ago. He missed Ron's presence, and yet, even Harry had to admit that he felt less agitated with Ron not being there. Those conflicting emotions gave him trouble, but he ruthlessly pushed them aside yet again, not wanting to really think about them. He really didn't want to think about their lack of progress in their search for the Horcruxes either.

His purchases complete, he looked at his watch and saw he had nearly twenty minutes to waste, as Hermione had said she'd meet him at the front doors when the store was to closed. They'd picked this time of the evening to shop as they'd hoped it'd be less crowded. Maybe it was, but there were still a lot of people around he thought. Harry did noticed that there were not many children; it was late enough most of them had been taken home.

Wondering around the store, yet trying to keep aware of who might be around him, he noticed a sign that said Santa's Workshop was around the corner. With a snort of amusement, he walked that way to indulge in a childhood fantasy.

While he knew of "visiting Santa", he'd never been allowed to do it as a child, and Dudley made sure he knew that he could never go and would never be good enough to go.

Rounding the corner, he saw an elaborate setup to make it look like a cozy snowy scene in a small area. There was "Santa" sitting on his big chair and one helper at this time of night. Amazingly, there were no children; then again, the hour was late.

Deciding that since he had time to kill and that he'd never done this as a child, he walked through the queuing area and right up to Santa. The helper had her back turned and didn't see him.

Santa's smile grew as Harry walked up; he had been watching the young man approach. "Ho, ho, ho. Aren't you a little old for this?"

Harry looked down for a moment bashfully before looking back up. "Yeah, I probably am, but I never had the chance when I was younger … and I was, well, wondering…"

Santa laughed and waved his hand to the side.

Harry turned in that direction and saw the helper looking at them before shrugging and turning back to whatever it was she was doing.

"I think you're just light enough for this to work." The jolly man patted his left knee. "Have a seat and tell me what you'd like for Christmas." As Harry sat, the man said, "First, tell me your name."

"I'm Harry," he told the man as he really looked him over, suddenly feeling very at ease. "You have an incredible suit."

"Thank you, my boy. It's been in the family for as long as I can remember."

For some reason, the man calling him "boy" didn't bother him. "I've seen a long beard before, but yours looks really good - not too long, not too short, and not fake."

"That's because it's real, lad," he chuckled. At Harry's skeptical look, the man said, "Go ahead, you can check for yourself if you do it carefully."

With a slow hand, Harry pulled very gently on the beard verifying that it was indeed real. "If I had to draw a picture of Santa Claus, I think I'd want to use you as the model."

"Really?" the jolly man asked with a large grin and a chuckle. "In that case, I'm very flattered." He examined Harry for a moment. "Tell me Harry, as pleasant as that is to hear, there is something more important. Do you really believe in Santa Claus?"

Harry looked down at his hands for a moment. "I've seen some very unusual things so it's possible there is a Santa Claus."

"That's good to know," the man agreed, a little more serious, "but do you believe?" He drawled out the last word in a mysterious manner.

Harry thought for a moment more as he realized what the man was actually asking. "I want to," Harry said quietly and honestly, "but it's hard. My relatives never let me and told me I'd never be good enough for you to visit."

Santa nodded. "I'm sorry, Harry, truly I am. There are limits to even what Santa can do. Christmas is special, but I'm also afraid that the magic of Christmas is dwindling as fewer truly believe."

"Yes," Harry replied and nodded, "belief is very important for many things." He knew belief in yourself was very important in casting spells and he could easily imagine that could be true for other things.

"Back to my first question. What would you like for Christmas, young Harry?"

Harry looked around for a moment. The helper that was dressed in an elf costume was now doing something with some folders.

"If you speak quietly, no one will hear you," Santa said encouragingly. "What do you really want?"

Harry snorted quietly. "I don't think you can give me that as I want the conflict to end."

Santa grunted, although kindly. "No, I can't make people do things against their will. My Christmas magic only applies to giving things and making people happier."

Harry looked at him sharply at his mention of "Christmas magic", but the man only looked at him kindly. Finally, he nodded. "I had hoped, but I guess I already knew somehow."

"So what can I bring you?"

Fidgeting for a brief moment, Harry finally whispered, "I'm supposed to be finding these … things. If I can and then figure out how to destroy them, then I can end some of the conflict in the world. But I don't know where they are or how to destroy them. While I wished you could bring them to me, I'd be very grateful for a clue about where to look." For a brief moment, Harry would have sworn the old man's blue eyes twinkled, just like a former mentor's, but a second look showed him a contemplative old man with white hair and simple bright blue eyes.

"That's a tall order, young Harry."

"They say that Santa is the Head Elf, and I've got a friend that's … well, I think he'd make a good helper to Santa Claus and he's powerful, so Santa Claus would have to more powerful than him," Harry reasoned.

"That's interesting, but very vague."

"I'm sorry," Harry quickly apologized. "I probably shouldn't have even told you that much, but I'm so desperate."

"You can't be even a little more specific?"

Harry considered what else he could say. For reasons he couldn't begin to explain, Harry trusted this old man. Maybe, he thought as an idea came to him. "The Sword of Gryffindor would help us and probably allow us to destroy the things we seek, but I have no idea where it is. So if you get me the Sword of Gryffindor, that would be a very helpful present."

"Hmm," said Santa as he stared into Harry eyes. "At least that's something specific to consider. However, it sounds like you're on a quest and all heroes on a quest must be brave and of pure heart. Since you are still trying to do a good deed despite being desperate, I can see your bravery. However, are you pure of heart? Why do you want to do this quest?"

"Because I'm fated to," Harry said slowly, almost unwillingly.

"Fate can be ignored, it may be disastrous to do so, but you don't have to do this, yet you are. Why? Revenge perhaps?"

Shaking his head, Harry whispered, "No. Well, maybe a very small part because my parents were murdered, but I still think of it as avenging all of those who have been hurt and killed. Mostly, I need to do this to protect my friends and all of those who will be killed if I don't finish soon. A lot of innocent people are being hurt now."

Santa evaluated him for a moment longer before his smile returned. "Perhaps not completely pure, but pure enough, I think." He looked over to the side for a moment. "Your companion?" he asked with a nod in the direction he'd looked.

Harry looked over and saw Hermione glaring at him, as if he shouldn't have been doing what he was. He supposed he shouldn't have, but for reasons he couldn't explain, he was glad he had talked to the old man because he felt more at peace. "Yes, Hermione is helping me. I wouldn't be nearly as far along as I am now without her. She's scarily brilliant."

Santa laughed. "Ho, ho, ho. I'm glad you have help. Too bad she doesn't believe though."

Now Harry laughed. "No, I don't think she could, at least no without incontrovertible proof."

"Well, you go with her and keep each other safe … and believe. I'll pass your request along and perhaps you'll receive something to help you in your quest. Here, take this candy cane, but please don't eat it until Christmas morning."

"Thank you, Santa," Harry said as he stood and tucked the candy into his bag. Looking at the man, he smiled and said, "Thanks for listening to me. That helped a lot. Happy Christmas!"

"Happy Christmas to you too, young Harry! Be sure to be asleep on Christmas Eve."

Harry walked down the steps of the short platform and towards Hermione with a spring in his step, more hopeful for reasons he couldn't begin to explain.

As Santa watched the young couple walk around the corner out of sight, he said softly, "I hope you have a Happy Christmas, Harry Potter; I will try."

Harry woke suddenly. As he prepared to grab his wand and fight, Hermione came into his vision. "Feeling better?" she asked.

The memory returned of them going to Godric's Hollow the day before and the fight there. "A little sore, but otherwise fine," he replied. He also remembered it was Christmas morning.

"You had trouble sleeping, I presume?" she asked lightly.

"No, I don't remember waking up at all. In fact, I can't remember sleeping that deeply in a long time. No dreams either," he answered, trying to anticipate her questions.

Hermione bit her lower lip lightly, a habit she always had when thinking a difficult problem through.

"What's bothering you?" he asked when she didn't say anything after a moment.

She looked at him carefully. "I slept deeply too, and yet it looks like someone else has been here. Even Ron shouldn't have been able to find us. I'm worried, Harry."

"Err," he sounded as he tried to work through her hurried explanation. "Why do you think someone else has been here? We're both fine, or is there something else you're not telling me." He was starting to get a little worried now by how she was behaving.

After a moment, she finally said, "Perhaps you should come see it in the main room." She left his small room in the tent to give him a little privacy to put on his gown; she was wearing hers as well.

Walking out into the main room of the tent, Harry saw a two foot tall Christmas tree with a handful of decorations and a handful of fairies on the branches as lights. Underneath the tree were two presents in colorful paper.

"I, uh, I thought we agreed no presents," he stammered.

"We did and I didn't do this," she replied firmly, glaring at him for breaking a promise.

"I didn't put the tree or presents there either." Now he understood why she was worried. Because his wand had been broken last night, he couldn't do anything to help, so he asked, "Did you cast a diagnostic spell on the presents to see if either shows as magical?" She nodded. "They seem safe enough then."

"But where did they come from?" she asked, worry still evident in her voice.

"I guess we'll have to open them. There is a card attached to yours," he pointed out. With a grin he added, "I'd guess yours is a rolled up poster."

Hermione cast another diagnostic charm to be extra safe. Finally, she pulled the envelope with her name on it off of the cylinder and carefully opened it, mindful of the sort of problems that unknown mail can cause from her fourth year. Nothing happened as she pulled a folded card free of the envelope. Opening it, she read out loud, "Hermione, which comes first, seeing or believing? Perhaps this can help you to believe and keep the magic of Christmas alive. Santa Claus."

Harry gasped when he heard that. "Santa?"

She frowned at him. "Harry, surely you've outgrown that."

"Hermione, before McGonagall came to visit you seven years ago, would you have said that magic exists?" When she didn't answer, he continued, "So considering all we've seen, why can't Santa Claus exists? If there is a Santa Claus, and I believe there is, then the man I talked to the other night at the store is him. I don't know what he was doing at that store at that time, but that was him - the Head Elf."

After a long moment, Hermione replied, "I can't prove a negative, but I'm not sure it was really him."

"Perhaps you should see what the man you don't believe in brought you," he said with a grin.

Shaking her head at his antics, she carefully peeled the paper off the present to reveal a scroll. Grabbing the edge, she slowly unrolled it to see diagrams and runes and many words became visible until all six feet of the scroll was revealed. Putting it on the table she instantly began to study it.

"What is it?" Harry asked curiously as none of it made sense to him.

"I'd swear this part describes a Dark Mark based on the picture. This part over here describes making a map, I think, but I'm not really sure yet. I don't know what this middle part is doing. This is amazingly complex," she said with admiration in her voice as she continued to study it.

Knowing she'd be busy for awhile with a mystery like that in front of her, Harry pulled the long box to him. He'd guess there was a broom in here based on the shape, but the size wasn't quite right. There was also no card on this present, just a tag with his name on it. Ripping the paper off caused Hermione to look up and pay attention.

Now he had a wooden box with a simple catch to open the lid. Lifting the top up and letting it flop back on the hinge, Harry gasped at the sight. Lying in a velvet indention was Gryffindor's Sword. "Bloody hell!" he shouted in way that would have made Ron proud.

Hermione was so stunned to see the weapon there, all she could get out was, "Is that really-"

"Yeah," he answered, "I'd recognize that sword anywhere. And my wand!" Nestled against the blade was his original wand completely whole and new looking. Grabbing it, he said, "Lumos!" When it lit, he laughed with joy. He had been so upset about it being broken last night. Hermione grinned in pleasure and relief at seeing his wand restored.

By the point of the blade was a folded card. Opening it, he read it aloud for Hermione.

"Harry, I truly am sorry I was never able to visit you before. You've always been under wards I could not cross and I deeply regret not being able to bring you any joy and happiness before now, especially when you needed some while at your relatives. Do know that I would never have brought Dudley any presents, even coal would have been too good for how he acted." Harry chuckled at that while Hermione looked incredulous.

"I had a very pointed talk with Fate about you and she allowed me to change your quest from the nearly impossible one you've had for these seventeen years to a much simpler one. So I give you the Sword that you requested and that will destroy the objects you sought. A good swing is all you need. If you lift out the tray on the top that holds the sword, you'll find the objects you sought."

Dropping the card, Harry grabbed a small loop at each end of the tray and lifted the sword away and set it on the table. He was too speechless from what he was looking at to even swear. There in the bottom of the box was a destroyed diary, the locket they'd been carrying, a burnt looking ring, a small cup with the picture of a badger on the side, a diadem with a large blue stone, a small snake that looked wooden, a blob of something that looked like thick parchment with a line on it, and what looked like a wooden doll that scarily resembled Voldemort.

They each looked at the other with wide eyes then back down at the items.

"Do you think those are really-" Hermione started as she pointed to the two wooden objects.

"Transfigured and shrunk, I'd guess," he answered. "What is that though?" He pointed to the strange parchment looking thing that had a line on it.

Hermione tilted her head to look at it differently then gasped. "Harry!" Her hand flew to his forehead and lifted his hair out of the way. "Harry!" she screamed and launched herself at him, practically squeezing him to death as she sobbed on his shoulder.

While he comforted the distraught witch, he did his best to think it through. The line on "the thing" did look something like his scar if you tilted your head just right. Lifting one hand from her back, he tentatively touched his forehead and felt nothing but smooth skin instead of the scar he'd felt there for as long as he could remember.

"Hermione, is my scar really gone?"

She sniffed a couple of times before pulling back and moving his hair aside again and staring at his forehead. "It looks like you never had a scar at all, Harry. To think that, you had a … a…" She flung her arms around him again for another hug before finally letting go. "I'm sorry, Harry, I'm appalled you had that in you and we never knew and yet I'm so happy that you're rid of it."

He thought about that for a moment. "I think Dumbledore knew, or some of his actions make more sense now if I believe that was true."

"You're free it of now. Do you feel better?" she asked, carefully looking at him as if searching for a defect.

"I don't know. I think I feel normal, but maybe I need a little time to really know." When she nodded at the possibility, he picked the letter back up and searched for where he had left off.

"Let's see. Here we go… You can destroy them at any time, but you might not want to do it immediately, or perhaps you may want to do all but the last immediately. Why you ask?

Because I was only able to trade your quest for another, not completely remove you from all quests. I'm sorry, Harry, but as I told you the other evening, even I have limits on me. Your new quest…"

Harry paused and looked at Hermione with not a small amount of dread before he looked back to the card. "Your new quest is to make your country a better place to live. After some thought, I'm sure you'll agree this is a better quest, certainly less dangerous, and I believe something you would probably do anyway. My suggestion is not to destroy the final part before you fully understand Miss Granger's gift because if you do it makes her gift useless; but as all things in life, your actions are your choice … choose wisely. Also, find love and enjoy life my young magical friend. For you, believing is seeing and I'm very proud of you for that and for helping to keep the magic of Christmas alive. St Nicholaas, a.k.a. Santa Claus, the Head Elf

p.s. Please go see your 'family' this evening because that will allow me to fulfill one other Christmas wish."

With a grin, Harry looked at his best friend. "So now that you see, do you believe?"

"I don't know why I'm surprised when there are magical creatures, a man who wouldn't die, and everything else we've seen and done, but I am." She looked up for a moment as if asking for strength before looking at him. "Very well, Harry, I believe in Santa Claus too." Rolling her eyes at his smug look, she asked, "So, what do you want to do now?"

An excited Harry answered, "I want you to conjure me a two foot tall rock with a flat top," as he grabbed the sword with one hand and levitated the locket with his wand. When she finished with the rock, Harry placed the locket on top of the rock then swung the sword. Sparks flew when the magically hardened sword hit the locket, then a black mist flew up along with a scream. "Another one down," he said a little more excited as Hermione levitated each of the others over to be destroyed until there was only the wooden doll left.

"Considering what he did, I think we should take his suggestion," she told him. "I believe he was trying to tell us something important."

"I agree. Let's get dressed then you study that scroll and I'll fix breakfast."

Just before dinner, Hermione gasped then screamed, "I figured it out!"

"What?" he asked as he ran over to look at her with all of her notes all over the table with parts of the scroll copied to each along with her annotations.

"This is totally brilliant. This one thing will allow you fulfill most of your quest Harry. The changes for the better that we'll be able to accomplish will bring freedom to everyone. It's so-"

"What - is - it?" he queried her as he put his face in front of hers.

She blushed as she realized she had been rambling. "It's the equivalent of the Marauders' map for our county, Harry, but instead of showing everyone here, it will show those with a Dark Mark. We'll be able to get rid of all the Death Eaters who are here."

"That is a good start," he agreed thoughtfully.

"A good start?! Harry, this is beyond brilliant!"

"Hermione, not everyone who is corrupt, agrees with Riddle, and whatever other else should disqualify them from being in the Ministry has a Dark Mark. So it's a good start, a very good one; but there is still a lot of work to be done. Think about all the bad laws too."

She deflated at his comments. "You're right, I was still thinking about winning the war."

Harry laughed. "Hermione, there is still a war and it won't be won overnight as we can't show that," he pointed at the wooden doll. "However, we have real hope now because we know He can't terrorize anyone else personally and we have the map to find the worst of his followers. We can win this and make our country better!"

"I understand Santa's suggestion now," Hermione started explaining rapidly. "If the map shows those with the Dark Mark, then getting rid of the Dark Lord now means that the Mark will go away when he's completely gone…"

"Making the map useless," Harry finished. "Santa is the greatest and we're going to make this country better!"

They hugged in their excitement.

"Let's pack up and go tell a few people. I think I want to put on disguises and put this doll in my vault, then we can go to The Burrow and tell the Order. How long do you think it'll take you to make one of those maps for real?"

Hermione played with her lip for a moment. "An hour or two, I think."

"Right, so you start on the map, I'll take this to Gringotts and return; then when you're done, we'll go to The Burrow."

"But Harry…"

"I'll be fine, Hermione. You can help disguise me," he told her.

An hour later, Harry returned with a smile. "All done," he announced as he came into the tent.

Hermione slumped in relief. "I was so worried I didn't get much done. I'm sorry."

"No problem. Continue on and I'll pack for us to leave," he told her still with a spring in his step at their progress.

When they were ready, they Apparated to the orchard at The Burrow, which was outside of the family's wards.

"I think we should clean out the Ministry and Hogwarts first," Harry said as they walked, "and then go after all the Death Eaters that go into hiding. Easy." Harry buffed his nails on his jacket.

"I doubt it'll be easy," she argued as they began to walk towards the house.

"Yeah, probably not stupidly easy, but it's a plan," he said.

"What are you going to do about Ron?" she asked. "Are you going to forgive him?"

"It's up to him, but probably, although I won't forget that he's left me twice. You?" He looked at her and saw her working her lip over again.

"I probably will too, but he'll have to apologize. It won't be the same though."

"No, it won't," he agreed.

"What about Ginny?"

He saw her looking at him carefully. "If she'll take me back. She said she understood why I left. Now I'll find out if that was true or if she changed her mind. What do you think?"

As they approached the house, Hermione didn't get a chance to respond as Ginny was the first out of the house with her wand out and pointing at them. "Stop there, whoever you are." Her father came out right behind her, also with his wand out.

It was nearing dusk, but it wasn't dark enough yet for them to be unrecognizable, Harry thought. "It's really us, Ginny. We have good news."

Ron and Molly came out now, also with wand in hand.

"Prove to us you're who you say you are?" Ginny demanded.

Harry looked to Ron, who seemed to be wearing a mask, frozen where he was at seeing his friends. "Ron can verify that when he left us, it was only Hermione's shield that kept him and me from coming to blows." He looked at her and saw her beautiful hair moving softly in the cold breeze. The sight gave him courage. "And our last time together alone was interrupted by Ron, and the time before that we were alone you said that I had a stupid and noble reason for leaving you, one that regret I had to do, and I now ask you to take me back, if you'll have me." He gave her his best pleading look.

Ginny shoved her wand into a side pocket as she ran to him, threw her arms around him, and kissed him hard - despite all the onlookers.

"Wow," Harry said softly when they parted.

Ginny's expression suddenly turned fierce and she slapped him - hard. "That was for leaving me, you prat. If you ever walk away from me again, don't bother to return."

"Right," he said with a nod, as he slowly touched his cheek, which he was sure was bright red.

She pulled his hand away and gently kissed where she'd slapped him. "For you to remember your promise." Hooking her hand over his arm, she walked him to the house; Hermione followed as she chuckled quietly.

"Harry, it's so good to see you!" Molly hugged him. "I'm glad you're well. Do come in and get warm and eat."

"Harry," Arthur pulled him in for a light hug with one arm before guiding him into the house. Ron had preceded his mother in and stood nervously by the fire.

Once they were all seated in the living room, with Ginny next to Harry, Arthur asked, "What brings you here now? It's still very dangerous out there."

"It's somewhat less dangerous now," Harry said with a grin. When they all started to talk, Harry held up his hand. "Can you get McGonagall and any of the Aurors here, like Tonks or Shacklebolt? I'd prefer to explain only once."

"Tonks had to leave the Aurors for her and Lupin's safety. They're married now," Arthur explained. "And she's pregnant."

"Really? Splendid for them," Harry said enthusiastically.

"Kingsley has managed to keep his position, although I'm not sure how." Arthur rubbed his chin thoughtfully. I'll contact them, but it may be tomorrow morning before they can get here." He stood and used the fireplace to go somewhere else and contact them.

Molly looked at the teens and suddenly declared, "I need to go finish dinner. Ginny, come help me please."

"No thank you, Mum. I think I need to hear this too."

"Ginny…" Molly said in warning.

"It's all right, Mrs Weasley," Harry said to prevent an argument. "I don't mind and I agree that she deserves to be here." Ron didn't look happy about that, but he said nothing so his mother left the room.

The other three all looked at Ron. It didn't take long for him to quell under their stares. "Look, I'm sorry I left. You know that..." he briefly glanced at Ginny, "thing was affecting me, and you too. I thought about coming back a few minutes after I left, but I ran into a group of Snatchers. I was planning to come back soon, if I could figure out how to find you again. I was going to bring a lot of food too."

Harry looked at Hermione. This was one instance he couldn't tell what she was thinking, but it was obvious she wasn't happy. "Yes, I know the locket was affecting all of us and that's really the only reason I'm willing to forgive you at the moment."

Ron perked up.

"But," Harry said forcefully to stop him from saying anything. "But you were my best mate and you've run out on me twice now."


"You've forgotten fourth year?" Harry asked acidly. "I haven't." Ron wilted. "You're still my friend Ron, more for Ginny's sake than mine at this moment. I can forgive a lot, Merlin knows I've made enough mistakes, but I don't run out on my best friend and I don't expect my best friend to do that either." He felt Ginny's hand rubbing his back and that soothed him some, so he concentrated on that for the moment so as not to say anything else he shouldn't.

In the lull, Hermione spoke up. "I agree with Harry, Ron. I forgive you because of the locket, but you were a complete and utter arse and shouldn't have left us. It can't be the same for us, at least not for a long time."

Ron hung his head and no one said anything for awhile.

Ginny broke the silence as it started to get tense again. "Harry, are you really back for good now? Did you finish whatever you had to do?"

He smiled at her and moved a strand of hair behind her ear. "I'll explain more later, but yes, we've done the hard part; now we just have to mop up the mess."

"What?!" Ron shouted, incredulous. "How did you do it so quickly?"

"Because Santa Claus gave me what I wanted for Christmas," Harry replied with the barest of smiles.

Ginny said, "That works, because I got what I wanted for Christmas," before she kissed Harry gently.

Arthur returned via the Floo before it could get awkward again. After dusting himself off, he said, "Kingsley and the Professor will both be here in a few hours."

While they waited, Molly served dinner and the Weasleys brought Harry and Hermione up to speed on the latest news. Besides the Lupins, the Taboo and the Snatchers were hot topics of conversation.

Just before the visitors were to arrive, Bill and Fleur also dropped by. They were welcomed to the meeting. Harry also asked Bill to recast the Fidelius around #12 Grimmauld soon for their safety and he agreed.

McGonagall and Shacklebolt were both glad to see that Harry and Hermione were doing well. All were very surprised by his news that Tom Riddle was "transfigured and stored" and could be easily removed from this life. Harry also briefly explained that Dumbledore had sent them searching for objects that had allowed Riddle to not totally die and all of those objects were now destroyed.

Towards the end, Hermione pulled out her special map and showed everyone. They could even count the number of marked Death Eaters, and it was more than Kingsley Shacklebolt had expected. Everyone could also see one marked person at Hogwarts during the holiday.

"I think we should clear Hogwarts first, then the Ministry, then search any that are hiding after that," Harry said, putting forth his plan.

"We'll need lots of Veritaserum," Hermione added. "We'll need to make sure they are guilty of Unforgiveables and other crimes and not under the Imperius."

Harry looked at her for a moment. "Agreed. The guilty must be removed, but we must also not punish anyone who truly was controlled … and we need to know who's lying."

"It will be a lot of work, but there is a small force I believe we can fully trust to get this started," Shacklebolt finally said.

"What of Severus?" McGonagall asked. "I know Albus trusted him and said he was his spy. I have seen Severus blunt much of the Carrows' cruelty."

"He also killed Dumbledore," Harry protested hotly. "I watched him do it and I'll gladly testify at his trial."

"There is another option," Ginny said quietly, the first time she had spoken up at the meeting. As everyone looked at her, she said, "He's not a good man, but he apparently did something to help Dumbledore. Perhaps we capture him and give him the choice to take one of his potions and save us the trouble of a trial and save himself from Azkaban."

"Ginny!" her mother gasped, horrified at the idea.

"Actually, it would solve a few problems if he ended it all himself," Shacklebolt agreed. He looked to the professor. "When do the Carrows return?"

"Just after the new year, so in about nine days," McGonagall answered.

"Right." Shacklebolt looked at everyone with a steely eye. "Not a word of this to anyone. I like Harry's plan. We take Hogwarts first in nine days. That gives us time to gather our forces and make some plans. After Hogwarts, then we immediately go after the Ministry. We hit them hard knowing exactly who's marked and who's not, as well as knowing there is no Him coming to help them. Hermione, can you make a few more of these maps?"

"I can make more. However, won't they know there's a problem in that time if You-Know-Who isn't seen in the next nine days?" Hermione asked worriedly.

"Luckily, no. I've heard he's supposed to be on the continent recruiting at this time. If he takes his time returning, no one will say a thing or be surprised," the Auror said with a grin. "However, your point that we can't wait too long is valid."

"I have one last question." McGonagall turned to Harry and Hermione. "You didn't say how you made this map and captured Him?"

Hermione smiled sweetly and looked at Harry. With a chagrined look, he said, "I talked to Santa Claus about ending the war and he gave me the Sword of Gryffindor and all the objects I was needed to end the war. I believed he was real and they were my Christmas present."

Both of McGonagall's eyebrow rose. "I'd heard rumors he was real, but there really is a Santa Claus?"

Harry looked at Hermione smugly. She sighed and said simply, "Yes there is. I believe in him too … now."

"That's all it took to end this?" McGonagall asked, still trying to take it all in, as was almost everyone else.

"Yes," Harry answered.

"Well, there was one other thing," Ginny said quickly. As they all looked at her, she smiled and said, "I asked Santa Claus for my boyfriend to come back to me for my Christmas present and here he is on Christmas Day."

The chuckling and laughter started and lasted for several minutes, several minutes that Ginny snuggled and lightly kissed her boyfriend under her mother's watchful eye.

(the end)

(A/N: I hope you enjoyed this little plot bunny and I hope everyone has a Happy Christmas! - Kevin)