Disclaimer: Standard stuff (I don't own anything, I won't be making profit, any resemblance to previously published content is purely coincidental, JK Rowling is the coolest, etc.). If I make any legal errors regarding copyrighted material, inform me and I will correct them immediately.
Harry Potter and the Lightning Scar
"Buuuuu," Harry groaned into his pillow. "Dun wa' ge' up."
"I said get up, you lazy idiot!" Daphne repeated, poking him in the side with her surprisingly-sharp forefinger. "The press conference is in thirty minutes, and you need to get ready. Now get up, or I'll have Winky come down here and get you out of bed."
Still groaning, Harry dragged himself out of bed and staggered to the bathroom. The previous night had been a very long night; Harry had won the Triwizard Tournament, killed Voldemort and his Death Eaters, explained himself to the ever-so-helpful adults and Daphne, and then spent the next few hours burning off all of his remaining adrenaline with Daphne before simply passing out. In short, he was exhausted...but not so exhausted that he was willing to face Winky's wrath. The last time she had been involved in getting him out of bed, Harry had found himself teleported into a bath filled with freezing cold water.
"Scrub extra hard, you stink and you look like you were smacked by a troll," Daphne called from the bedroom, already finishing her own preparations—not having been in a fight for her life the previous night, she was fairly well-rested. "I'll get your outfit together. I can't have you looking like a ragamuffin in front of the press."
Nearly thirty minutes later, Harry was showered and fully dressed, without any hope of making it to the press conference on time. "Winky!" he called. "Can you take me to Amelia Bones, and then take Daphne to the Great Hall?"
With a slight pop, Winky appeared and grabbed his hand.
"Is yous being ready, Master Harry?" she asked, though she was looking at Daphne.
"Good luck, Harry!" Daphne said quietly, before grabbing his shoulders and kissing him. Winky grinned happily, seeing that Master had found a Miss with some sense.
With another, louder pop, Harry and Winky disappeared.
"You're going to need it," Daphne murmured.
Moments later, Winky reappeared, and took her hand. Daphne put her game face on.
"Okay, Winky," she said. "Let's go."
Amelia Bones, Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, looked down from the small stage that had been erected in the Great Hall of Hogwarts. She would have preferred to hold this press conference at the Ministry, but there was so much Auror activity—and a heightened security level—at the Ministry that it would have been impractical. Crowding in front of the student tables (which were filled with students mostly concerned with getting breakfast) was a veritable sea of reporters; Auror Tonks, who had been assigned to quietly gather the press, had used her mother's and cousin's Black family name to lend weight to the vague promise of a "big story." Rita Skeeter, with her faithful photographer, stood at the front of the crowd, looking smug—perhaps Potter had tipped her off again. Amelia decided that she'd have to tiptoe carefully around Harry Potter and Rita Skeeter once she took over as Minister; those two (and she had no illusions that they weren't in cahoots) had managed to completely ruin Albus Dumbledore, and she wanted no part of that sort of intrigue.
Minister Bones, she mused. It had a nice ring to it. Everyone in the DMLE who looked at the casualty list and the "official" (that is, heavily sanitized) statement collected from Harry Potter knew that Cornelius Fudge could never hope to remain in charge after so many of his "trusted, respected pureblood advisers" (many of whom he had personally pardoned for their actions in the war) were found dead after trying to resurrect their not-quite-fallen master. If she could manage to bring the dead Death Eaters' finances into the investigation, she would certainly uncover evidence of massive corruption on Fudge's part, and she'd get the immense pleasure of throwing him into Azkaban. And practically all she had to do to coast into the Minister's office was wrap this investigation up with a nice little bow, stick to the official story (Harry's qualms about information security notwithstanding, she agreed that all the technical details were best kept from the public, lest they be used again in the future), and—her eyes flicked to the exhausted-looking, deflated, disgraced Albus Dumbledore—above all, keep Harry Potter happy. Or, at the very least, keep him angry at someone else.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sudden appearance of Harry Potter. He appeared with a slight pop (apparently, he didn't think much of Hogwarts's infamous anti-apparition wards), and a buzz of conversation instantly rose from the gathered reporters and students. He did look impressive, Amelia observed, especially for a fourteen-year-old. He was wearing simple but elegant black and green robes, which brought out his startlingly-green (were they glowing?) eyes, and his boots and belt were obviously made of dragon hide...likely from the Hungarian Horntail he had blown away back in November, she realized. Altogether, it made for a fairly good first impression. Perhaps they'd pull this off after all.
"Good morning, everyone," Harry's voice thundered, startling Amelia out of her observations. She hadn't seen or heard him cast the sonorous charm, and it was clear by the scores of flinches and jump-starts in the crowd that nobody else had, either...another point for his first impression. "Yes, I am indeed still alive. As you might have guessed, you're all here to learn about the events that took place after the conclusion of the Triwizard Tournament last night. So let's get started."
Harry was nervous when Winky first took him into the Great Hall to stand before Director Bones. Worse, Winky had turned herself invisible (she was still accustomed to moving unseen in public, claiming on many occasions that "a good house-elf is being not seen and not heard, Master Harry sir"), so it looked as though he had just made a mockery of Hogwarts's anti-apparition wards—in fact, he could see Hermione reaching into her bag for her well-used copy of Hogwarts: A History. Every eye in the Great Hall was upon him, and he scanned the crowd for familiar faces. Cedric, Fleur, and Viktor were all sitting with their parents, Dumbledore, and Maxime; Igor Karkaroff, of course, was absent, having died from Harry's spellwork while fleeing from Britain. Thinking about Karkaroff reminded Harry of why he was here, and his anxiety ratcheted up a notch. However, he calmed somewhat when he glimpsed Daphne's small smile from across the Great Hall, where she sat with Tracey. From the left side of the stage, Sirius gave him a cheeky thumbs-up, and Remus smiled encouragingly. I killed bloody Voldemort last night, I shouldn't be nervous about a bit of public speaking, he thought, absently casting a silent, wandless sonorous. Compared to Voldemort and the Death Eaters, this should be a piece of cake. Harry squared his shoulders. Looks like it's showtime.
The large crowd gave a collective start when Harry began speaking, but he didn't let that stop him. In direct, authoritative, unambiguous tones—while intentionally avoiding the vague, "I can't give you any useful details for your own good, but you should still trust me" language Dumbledore had made after Voldemort's first fall—Harry walked the audience through the events of the previous night. Of course, since he was sticking to the "official story," he was pretty much lying through his teeth; he made no mention of the details of how Voldemort was resurrected, or how the ritual supposedly cost the lives of all of the Death Eaters. The crowd didn't know the difference, though, and were thoroughly enraptured by the tale, gasping and murmuring at all the right parts. As he concluded, he gestured to Director Bones, who flicked her wand. A Notice-Me-Not charm fell, and suddenly the entire crowd was able to see the stasis-charmed corpse of Voldemort.
"This," Harry called out over the shocked gasps and cries, "is the body of the terrorist named Tom Riddle, the self-proclaimed Dark Lord Voldemort! He is dead, and he will never be resurrected again. Any questions?"
Harry was immediately assaulted by a cacophony of shouted questions, but the tumult ceased when he put up a hand. "One at a time. Rita, you go first."
Rita Skeeter grinned, and looked down at her script one last time. Winky had delivered a letter that very morning describing the part that Harry wanted her to play, and he had promised an exclusive interview in return.
"I noticed that you didn't really say much about how Tom Riddle—" (Harry had instructed her to refer to the Dark Lord by his real name, to begin washing away the terrorist's mystique) "—died. Did the resurrection spell fail? Or was he killed? I couldn't help but notice that his body was somewhat...damaged...in a way that almost suggests some sort of curse."
"Ah, Rita," Harry said cheerfully, "I'm glad you asked. I have provided Director Bones a copy of my memory which shows exactly how Tom Riddle died. Director?"
Amelia flicked her wand again, and another Notice-Me-Not charm was dispelled. This time, a large, wok-shaped projection-style pensieve was revealed. With a sweeping wave of her wand, the Great Hall dimmed (despite the sun being up), and a three-dimensional image was projected into the air above the stage. Magic is awesome, Harry thought, suppressing a grin. He knew that after people saw this scene, his reputation was going to be untouchable, and it was extremely unlikely that anyone would draw a wand on him any time soon.
The memory began right after Harry had snarked at Riddle about his new mortality—Harry and Amelia had agreed that any mention of mortality might lead people to realize that Riddle had been immortal, which might start them on a search to their own immortality...which would lead to another Dark Lord. The crowd watched, transfixed, as memory-Harry shrugged in the face of the Dark Lord's fury, and gasped as the memory-wizards exchanged threats and insults.
Harry had ensured that Amelia would set up the projection angle so that memory-Harry's on-the-fly thaumaturgy between the wands was hidden behind a headstone. It would look to the audience as though Harry had somehow silently and wandlessly exploded the Dark Lord's wand, before striking him down for good. As the moment approached, Harry squinted and put his fingers in his ears, knowing that even in the memory projection, the lighting would be almost blindingly bright and the thunder would be deafening. He noticed that Daphne and those who had been watching from Sirius's mirror did the same, having learned their lesson the previous night. Of the rest of the crowd, only Rita and her photographer were similarly prepared.
The remainder of the audience had been given no such warning. There were shrieks as Voldemort's wand burst into flames (memory-Harry's flaming holly and phoenix feather wand was thankfully still hidden behind the headstone, even as he dropped it), and then a chorus of surprised and pained cries as the darkened Great Hall was lit up by the projection of the lightning spell, while the walls and foundation shook from the sound of the thunderclap. Despite the white-out of the entire room, it was clear to everyone that the bolt of lightning had hit Voldemort directly in the forehead.
Director Bones flicked her wand again, cutting off the memory before the shockwave blasted Harry off his feet; after all, it wouldn't do for the people to see their hero as vulnerable. Silence reigned as the projection disappeared and the Great Hall brightened. Reporters, students, staff, parents, and Ministry officials all stared at Harry. More than a few were literally slack-jawed. After a long moment, Harry broke the silence.
"So, there you have it," Harry said flatly. "Tom Riddle is dead, by my own hand. The Death Eaters are all dead, and Director Bones will be publishing a full fatality list shortly. Veritaserum testimony from Barty Crouch, Jr.—taken before he died, of course—proved that he murdered his father, who, frankly, rather had it coming, and entered me into the Triwizard Tournament without my knowledge as a complex assassination attempt. That's pretty much all the information I have for you. Unless there are any other questions, I suppose we may as well get to our breakfast; in fact, even if you have questions, I'd appreciate it if you could send them via owl post later on, as I'm pretty hungry—as you all now know, I had a rather busy night. Thanks for coming, everyone."
With a few nervous chuckles at Harry's sort-of-joke (but mostly just uneasy silence at Harry's tone), the majority of the reporters and Ministry officials went back about their business, though more than a few lingered around, as though hoping Harry would change his mind and start talking again. A stern glare from Director Bones, though, sent them scurrying away to write their articles. Within moments, the only people in the Great Hall were the ones planning on eating breakfast there.
Harry sat at his booth, studiously ignoring the stares of the staff and students. He took a few large bites of his shockingly large, syrup-drowned Belgian waffle, and sipped at his coffee. It was not long, however, before he became aware that he was no longer alone.
"Mind if I take a seat, Harry?" Rita Skeeter asked politely. "I was hoping we could do that interview now, since I'm already here."
"Sure," Harry replied after swallowing the last of his giant waffle. "You don't need any other details on the graveyard, do you?"
"No," she replied. "But I am curious about a few other things. For starters, what was that horrible, horrible noise that we all heard while you were in the maze?"
"Ah, that," Harry said. "Well, that was me stabbing a dementor in the face. It turns out that they aren't fond of that. Also, dementor blood is absolutely disgusting."
"A dementor?!" Rita gasped, not needing to feign surprise, as even she thought that putting a dementor in a competition for children was absolutely insane. "How could the judges have possibly been so irresponsible? And where in the world did they get a dementor? The Ministry keeps them..." Her eyes widened and she fell silent as the implication hit her.
"There you have it," Harry said seriously. "It is common knowledge that I used to be very badly affected by dementors. Barty Crouch, Jr. put the dementor in the maze, but someone at the Ministry of Magic must have approved his transfer request. Director Bones is already investigating it from her end, and I suspect that she will find that whoever gave Crouch that dementor knew full well that it was going to be used to try to murder me. Tom Riddle had spies everywhere during the war, and not all of them were Death Eaters."
"At least it'll be a delightful bit of irony when they catch whoever did it," Rita said, writing furiously; she didn't use her Quick-Quotes Quill when conducting interviews with people she had deals with, and her arrangement with Harry had been extremely profitable, so she wasn't about to risk angering him with an overzealous auto-quill. "Once they're thrown in Azkaban, that is."
Harry nodded, and Rita continued on.
"The other big question, Harry, is whether you plan to stay at Hogwarts?" Rita asked. "After all, it's no secret that you have had a rough time here, between the staff, the other students, and constantly dodging death. Now that you've seen what some other schools have to offer, are you thinking about leaving for greener pastures?"
"That is a great question, Rita," Harry said. Daphne had anticipated this question when they had made their deal with Rita, and after some discussion, Harry had come up with an answer that would serve his ulterior motives very well indeed. "And the answer is a big, fat...maybe. It depends on a lot of things."
"Like what, Harry?" Rita asked, her eyes glinting. She smelled a scandal.
Harry grinned. "Well, like you said, I've had a lot of trouble with the staff, so if Hogwarts fixed some of its staffing problems, that would go a long way toward convincing me to stay. There are a few openings, and a few openings that should be made."
"Hypothetically," Rita said slowly, having quickly caught onto Harry's game, "if you could choose who would fill those openings, who would you choose?"
Harry's grin turned positively predatory. He had a huge amount of influence right now, and a few printed words from him could snowball into dramatic changes at Hogwarts, as the school Board of Governors scrambled to ingratiate themselves to him.
"Well, as you know, Albus Dumbledore is retiring at the end of this term. I don't have any real preference, but I'd hope that the incoming headmaster would be someone with whom I haven't had any major clashes. Also, it shouldn't be one of Dumbledore's die-hard supporters—some professors here at Hogwarts functioned as his fixers and enforcers more than they actually taught, often with detrimental effects on the students. In fact, I would hope that the Board of Governors would give serious thought to whether those professors should retain their positions at all. And don't get me started on Trelawney and Binns—they both need to go."
"And what about the existing vacancies?" Rita asked. "For example, Defense Against the Dark Arts?"
"I'm glad you asked," Harry responded. Everything he had already said was obvious, and common knowledge. Now, though, he was about to make a splash. "Defense Against the Dark Arts is a joke at Hogwarts, and as recent events have shown, every witch and wizard needs to be able to defend themselves. The best DADA teacher I've ever had was Remus Lupin, last year; I bet he would resume his post immediately if he was asked."
"Isn't he a werewolf?" Rita asked. "What about the parents who don't want a werewolf teaching their children?"
Harry's eyes narrowed, and his tone sharpened. "Yes, he is a werewolf. That means that one night a month, he transforms. The rest of the time, he's a perfectly normal wizard. Considering the fact that last year's OWL and NEWT scores were the highest they've been in literally decades, I would think that Hogwarts can provide Wolfsbane Potion—I would hope that those parents would put education over bigotry."
Rita finished scrawling, and looked at her watch. "Well, it looks like that's about all the time I've got—I need to get a draft to my editor by noon to make the evening edition. Feel free to owl me whenever you want to comment on anything, Harry. I see a long, profitable road ahead of us."
Harry nodded, dismissing her. The rest of the students were gathering their things to go to their exams. Harry, as a contestant in the Triwizard Tournament, had been excused from his end-of-term exams, so he went down to the Chamber, where Daphne was already waiting. Since she had helped him prepare for the tournament, it was only fair that he help her prepare for her exams.
As Harry had expected, within a week of Rita's article, the Hogwarts Board of Governors were practically falling over themselves to take Harry's suggestions about changes to the school's staff. It probably helped that about half of the "prestigious purebloods" on the Board had been killed by Harry's attack through the Dark Mark, so they had been replaced with much more Harry-friendly set of purebloods, including Sirius's cousin Andromeda Tonks, Arthur Weasley, Amos Diggory, and Daphne's father (when Harry asked Daphne what his given name was, she simply replied, "to you, it's 'Mister,' and don't forget it"). With a friendly Board and Harry's return to Hogwarts in September as his ultimate bargaining chip, he got pretty much everything he wanted.
Dumbledore did not quite go quietly into the night—he lobbied hard in favor of McGonagall taking over as headmistress. However, the Board knew that it was a series of disagreements with her that had ultimately led to Harry's resignation from Gryffindor, and there was ample evidence of McGonagall allowing her personal loyalty to Dumbledore to cause her to participate in and help cover up his many schemes at Hogwarts...most of which had placed students in danger or allowed them to be mistreated by other students and Professor Snape. Thus, the well-liked Professor Flitwick had been promoted to the headmaster's office as a sort of compromise candidate, and McGonagall was demoted from Deputy Headmistress (that position was taken up by Professor Vector, the stern but sharp arithmancy professor) back to a regular professorship. Snape, with neither Dumbledore nor McGonagall (in Dumbledore's stead) to cover for him, had been sacked immediately. His predecessor, Horace Slughorn, jumped at the chance to return to Hogwarts. Though he had been happily retired, the opportunity to "collect" Harry Potter had been too enticing, so he signed an employment contract for three years (coincidentally, the exact amount of time before Harry was expected to graduate from Hogwarts).
By the time exams had finished and the Hogwarts Express was preparing to return to London, Remus was already preparing his DADA syllabus for the next term; the real Alastor Moody had happily walked out of the hospital wing on his own two feet (thanks to Harry's gift of a dose of Limb Regeneration Potion), and had cheerfully told everyone in earshot that if he ever accepted a position at Hogwarts again, to stun him and check for Polyjuice and the Imperius Curse. The ghost of Professor Binns had been exorcised and replaced by—of all people—Sirius Black, who had allowed his cousin Andromeda to take his place on the Board of Governors so that he could take a teaching position. It actually made a bit of sense, though; Sirius had been raised in the hyper-traditional Black family, so he had been forced to learn a great deal of history when he was young. Plus, the Board hoped that if someone fun was teaching the subject, it might become something other than a designated naptime.
As Harry hoisted his Winky-packed trunk and—in full view of the entire student body of Hogwarts, who were all standing in line to get on the Hogwarts Express—gave Daphne a searing goodbye kiss (though they wouldn't be apart for long, as Sirius and Remus had arranged a month-long beach-hopping vacation with the Greengrass family to begin the next week), he thought back to the end of the previous year. Then, he had been devastated by the perceived loss of a future with Sirius and Remus, and had been practically stumbling around on autopilot. Now, he had a home with Sirius and Remus (and assurance that he would be able to see them during the school year), a girlfriend who had proven capable of being his partner, and a blazing-bright future ahead of him. All in all, he mused as the Hogwarts Express chug-chugged its way out of sight, it had been a pretty good year. Harry smiled to himself, took a quick glance around to make sure he was alone, and disappeared in a blinding flash of lightning and a deafening crash of thunder. It was time to go home.
Harry wakes up! Harry meets the press! Harry strikes a deal! Harry goes home!
As of the end of Chapter 36, HPatLS is at 109,175 words—in LibreOffice, that's 217 single-spaced pages in 12-point Times New Roman. Start date: 5/14/2014. End date: 8/30/2014.
So, that's it for Harry Potter and the Lightning Scar. It's been great fun to write (though the actual conclusion was very difficult to nail down), and I'm definitely going to keep going with writing fanfiction (though there is no sequel planned for HPatLS). Thank you all for reading!