This story begins on the morning straight after the Battle of Hogwarts, and everything has basically proceeded exactly as it did in the book. The only other information you should know is that any italics are simply showing Harry's thought process.
This is just a bit of an experiment, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.
Waking up in my old Hogwarts dorm feels undeniably good, though perhaps a little strange. Everything is exactly as I remember it, from the comfortable springiness of the feather mattress to the regal red of the bed covers, and the quiet crackling of the small fire in the middle of the room. Since I last slept in one of these beds I have become a godfather, I have killed several people, I have lost even more people, an entire war has been fought and the darkest wizard ever to walk the earth has been vanquished by my hand. All of this, and the Gryffindor dorm is still welcoming enough that one wakes up feeling like royalty. If I didn't know better, I'd say that nothing had changed.
Unfortunately, I know that not to be true. Everything has changed. There are so many people who I'll never see again, so many people who I didn't get to say goodbye to, so much blood on my hands. I think it's safe to say that I'll remember Ron's cry of anguish as he first saw Fred's fate for the rest of my life, but even more tragic, in my opinion, is what happened to Professor Lupin. The last time I spoke to him he'd been the happiest I'd ever seen him; I'd known that in his life of hardship and misery, that had been a highpoint. Now, fate had wiped him from this earth just months after he'd finally achieved that joy. Truly, though, being named the godfather of his son is probably the biggest honour I'll ever receive.
Not only that, but somehow I feel slightly changed, too. I just feel... different. Oh well, it's probably nothing.
Putting my tugging heart to the side for a second, I reach over to the side of my pillow to grab my wand. When my fingers clench only air, panic clenches my heart like a cold fist. After all that has happened, I feel utterly naked without my wand within arm's reach. I flail around in fear trying to find it; I haven't slept without it by my head since my fourth year at Hogwarts, back when I still felt safe within these walls.
Relief washes the icy panic from my system as I find that it has simply rolled from the bed onto the floor and I stretch to pick it up, placing it back in its rightful place next to my head. As I rest back against my pillow, my elevated heart rate beginning to slow, I wonder whether I will ever be able to drop the defensive instincts that have become an integral part of me in the last year. After all, Voldemort, my greatest adversary, is dead. Gone forever. What little remains of his murderous following has fled into hiding. If they have any sense, they will have left the country by now because I intend to hunt each and every one of them down and make them hurt for the damage they have done to me, my friends and my home.
Yes, I definitely feel different. I mean, since when have I harboured such aggressive feelings? I can actually feel myself wanting to hurt them. I'm sure that the Harry of yesterday would have left the new Ministry, under temporary control by the more than capable Kingsley, to find the escaped Death Eaters and bring them to justice. This only reinforces my fear that I'm different somehow, and I'm worried that it's not necessarily for the better.
I shake my head. Perhaps this change that I can feel is only a temporary thing; so what if I've woken up a little more violently-motivated than usual? Hopefully I'm just acclimatising to not having Voldemort in my life.
As I clamber from my bed I meet the brisk morning air and shiver accordingly. Certainly, Hogwarts is a colder place than it had been in my six years here. Stretching my limbs, I am surprised to find that I don't have the aches and pains that I had grown used to recently. Things are, perhaps, looking up.
Instinctively checking that I have my wand safely tucked in my pocket, I walk to the window and grimace. The Gryffindor tower may have survived unscathed, but the rest of Hogwarts has not been so lucky. The courtyard is a mess of rubble, stone and dead creatures. Bridges, walls and roofs are collapsed. Several small fires still burn around the grounds, and a cloud of smoke that has gathered overhead is so dark, and so thick, that even the sun is struggling to pierce it. The damage to my home is immeasurable. McGonagall's going to have a hard time getting everything in order for the start of the new academic year, starting in only a few months, but she'll find a way, I am sure. Making a mental note to offer her a hand, I turn from the window to see see a pile of fresh clothes at the end of my bed.
"Thank you, Kreacher." I mutter. Even with the never ending depth of Hermione's purse, I had still only brought a few items of clothing with me on the Horcrux hunt and safe to say, opportunities to give them a good clean had been few and far between.
After having a brief shower, I exchange my tattered clothes, so tatty and irreparable that I doubt even any self-respecting tramp would be seen dead in them, with the ones that Kreacher has brought me. Though I am grateful for the elf's consideration, his collection is so bizarre that it could have come straight from the Lovegood family wardrobe. I mean, bright pink trousers and a lime green shirt decorated with an inscription saying "WORLD'S BEST CENTAUR"?
Since when have I cared about what I look like? Merlin, I was still wearing Dudley's clothes until I was twelve!
Once again I shake the doubts from my head and throw the clothes on, grateful simply because they feel fresh and clean, and the shirt doesn't smell too much of centaur. I check again that my wand is safe in my pocket before closing the door on the Gryffindor dorm with a soft thud. Somehow, I feel that I'll never sleep there again.
The Common Room is deserted when I go down. Well, almost deserted; Ron and Hermione are attacking each other's faces in the comfy armchair by the fireplace. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't look like either of them really know what they're doing. Certainly, from my perspective it resembles a rather vicious headbutt rather than a passionate kiss. There's a lot of touching, abrasion and contortion and not a huge amount of actual mouth-to-mouth contact, which I'm relatively certain is pretty important in the act of kissing. But hey, good for them.
They don't notice me as I walk past and I decide not to interrupt them. I know for a fact that Ron's fancied Hermione for years but the stupid idiot was too scared to tell her, so I guess it's about time that they finally start going out.
Unfortunately as I leave the Common Room, the Fat Lady does notice me. Old Harry used to find her quite amusing but today, she's really not someone I'm too keen to talk to, especially when there are so many other things that need my attention.
She says: "Well done, Harry. We won!"
"We won?" I laugh. "Sorry, I don't remember seeing you at the battle. Or was it you who single-handedly took down those giants?"
She sniffs indignantly and takes up a pose of superiority. "I don't remember you being so rude."
"Oh, fuck off."
She's right, though. I don't remember me being so rude either.
Yes, I'm definitely feeling different. Old Harry would never have even considered saying something so rude. I'm sure that something has changed in me; I don't feel like the Harry Potter of yesterday, yet I can't pin down exactly what is different. It's difficult to explain exactly why I'm so sure that something is different but I know it all the same. Everything about me is just subtly different to how I remember it. Even the Fat Lady, somebody who rarely observes anything other than her own reflection, has noticed that I've changed. That is definitely saying something.
Unsettled, I ignore her outraged screams and continue down the stairs. Every time I pass somebody, they congratulate me on my victory. Occasionally they even pat me on the back, the condescending gits! Generally I ignore them or mutter some kind of thank you, unless they happen to be female and attractive, when I put considerably more effort in. Regrettably, most of them seem to be put off when they see my shirt.
Okay, I've started flirting with girls now, too. I swear that up until this morning I was still blushing whenever a girl so much as passed me in the corridor!
By the time I reach the hall, I must have been congratulated at least fifty times. By the thirtieth, I was already questioning whether killing Voldemort really worth this? This doubt, however insincere, is immediately erased as I enter the Great Hall. Still serving as a mortuary, there is nothing "great" about the Great Hall right now. Yesterday, in the daze, confusion and disbelief of beating my arch rival, I clearly didn't quite observe just how tragic this room was and still is. I have seen a lot of sad, sad stuff in my seventeen years, but nothing holds a candle to this. I have never before seen so many dead bodies in one place, nor so many people crying.
As I approach the Weasley family, who are preparing to move Fred's body to the Burrow, I am hit by Ginny the human cannonball. I sigh; any former chance of making an inconspicuous entrance is now gone. She sobs on my shoulder for a few seconds before kissing me, tears still deluging from her puffy eyes. It's like Cho Chang all over again. Ginny's lips are as soft as ever, but it's difficult to enjoy the kiss under the circumstances, especially when I can see the various reactions from the Weasleys over my shoulder. Molly has put her grief to one side and is watching expectantly as if I am supposed to drop down on one knee and ask her daughter to marry me. Bill, who always was very protective of Ginny, is glaring daggers at me. As if this is my fault! Fleur has an exasperated expression on her face, but I'm not sure whether it's directed at me or at Ginny. It's always difficult to tell with the French beauty, when she seems to get annoyed by rather a lot.
Eventually I can't stand it any more and have to gently separate us. Ginny starts crying even more.
"Maybe this isn't the time or place?" I propose quietly, pointedly leaving open the possibility of us continuing this later, though I am hardly enthusiastic about the idea. But, hopefully it will stop her crying for a few minutes? Thankfully, she nods and lets me go but insists on holding my hand as we walk over to the rest of the family.
Molly, of course, views this gesture as a declaration of love, which is the last thing I need. I suspect that she just likes weddings. As for the other Weasleys, well, it wouldn't take Albus Dumbledore to sense the air of disapproval around them.
"I'm very happy for the two of you." The Weasley matriarch smiles.
Ginny beams through her tears.
Apparently, I'm Ginny Weasley's boyfriend again. That didn't take long!
Don't ask me how. Her siblings continue to glare at me. I could definitely do a lot worse, to be fair; she's a pretty girl with reasonable power and strength. But somehow, I just don't want what she has to offer.
Since when was I so repulsed by the idea of being Ginny's boyfriend? I swear even yesterday she was still the subject of my desires!
I decide that now is probably not the best time to express just how little I want a relationship with the youngest Weasley, considering we're sitting by the lifeless body of her brother. That would probably only make my situation worse.
I take a step back, feeling uncomfortable being so closely entwined in what was clearly family business. Fred had been a good friend, but it wasn't my place to mourn with those who loved him most. I see Fleur experiencing the same awkwardness; she had never really built up too close a relationship with the family (apart from Bill, obviously) what with Molly and Ginny's general disapproval of her. Sidling up to her, she raises an eyebrow at me.
"Nice shirt." She says humorously.
I put on a haughty expression. "I think you'll find that I'm trying to improve wizarding-centaur relations."
"By wearing a shirt that says 'WORLD'S BEST CENTAUR'?" She laughs. "Forgive me, but I think that the centaurs will, uh, appreciate your efforts more if you give zhis title to a centaur rather zhan yourself."
Credit to Fleur, her English accent and sense of humour have both improved immeasurably. I still remember the days of the tournament when I would have preferred to spend time with Professor Binns and his goblin uprisings than with her. But since then, she has become somewhat less egotistical and now I don't actually mind spending time with her every so often, though we still have little that we can talk about.
"It was the centaurs themselves who bestowed this title on me." I deadpan. "This shirt is their greatest honour."
That makes her laugh. Merlin, she's sexy when she laughs.
Just as I'm about to deliver an exceptional, if I do say so myself, quip about my pink trousers, I am whisked away by Kingsley for a meeting in Dumbledore's Office. Looks like my part in this struggle isn't over just yet.
"I expect you have a lot of questions, Mister Potter." McGonagall says as she sits us down in her new office.
I answer: "One or two, yeah."
This meeting is for the eyes of only myself, the new Minister for Magic and the new headmistress. Pretty exclusive club, right?
My old transfiguration professor leans forward in her new grand chair. She is well suited to it, in my opinion. Behind her, Dumbledore is snoozing softly in his painting. "I first of all want to offer my gratitude on behalf of the entire school. Undoubtedly, by defeating him you saved us all."
"I concur with that." Kingsley booms from next to me.
"My pleasure." I say shortly. To be honest, I'm too tired to argue with them about who truly deserves the praise. "Next question?"
I don't like being in this office; it brings back painful memories. As much as I truly believe that McGonagall will make an exceptional headmistress, it pains me to see anyone other than Albus Dumbledore sitting in the head's chair. And will I ever get past the habit of calling this room 'Dumbledore's Office'?
She looks surprised at the shortness of my reply, but continues nonetheless. "I just want to say that you will always be welcome within these walls, whether as a student, resident or teacher."
"Or maybe even headteacher?" I joke.
McGonagall gives me that familiar strict stare which I'll always wither under. To be fair, she's only been in the job for a day, so I can forgive her for not looking for successors just yet. Maybe I'll try again in a few years.
"Do you think the school will be ready for next year?" I change the subject.
"I'll make sure of it." She growls. "I'm going to give the teachers a week off to recover and mourn, but then they've all agreed to return to fix everything up."
"If you ever need an extra wand around, I'll clear my schedule." I offer.
Kingsley enters the conversation. "Speaking of your schedule, I may need to borrow you for a few public appearances over the next months, Harry."
I let out a deep sigh. It seems as though my hopes of fading into a peaceful, private life are going to have to wait for a short while.
"How many are you thinking?" I ask, supposing that I can drag myself out for a few photo shoots ever so often.
"Three of four times a week?" Kingsley suggests. "We're thinking that in return we can let you be an auror without having to do the normal five year training. If anyone deserves it, you do. You could be head of the auror department by twenty five and, who knows, even Minister for Magic by thirty five."
"Fuck that!" I explode, surprising myself as much as the other two. "Even Fudge only dragged me out for publicity a few times a year. And fuck joining the Ministry! I'm not getting myself entangled in that mess of corruption and weakness."
"People need to see you working with the Ministry."
McGonagall butts in. "Kingsley is right, Mister Potter. You may not like the Ministry, but we need it nonetheless."
Why am I so angry? It's a pretty reasonable request!
I hold my head in stress. Not feeling like myself is pretty uncomfortable.
"Let me consider it, okay?" I reason once I've calmed down.
"Are you okay, Harry?" McGonagall asks, momentarily dropping her stern façade to reveal the concerned motherly figure that I know her to be deep down.
I nod. "Yeah, fine. Absolutely fine."
Neither Kingsley nor McGonagall look convinced.
"Look, can I speak to Professor Dumbledore for a second? There are a few things I need to wrap up." I request.
The headmistress examines me for a few seconds, clearly unhappy that there are things I am keeping secret from her, but eventually lets up, leading Kingsley out of the office.
"Come and find me again later, Mister Potter." She says as she leaves. "Don't think for one second that I'm finished with you yet."
"You seek my counsel, Harry?" The painting of Dumbledore asks once we're in private.
I nod slowly. "If you don't mind, professor?"
"Of course not, my boy!" He says with remarkable cheer. "Ask away, ask away."
Clearly, even dead, Albus Dumbledore relishes a good puzzle.
"Ever since I woke up today, I've felt strange. It's difficult to explain, but I feel like I'm a different person. It might be just a temporary thing, or it might just be because I don't have the pressure of Voldemort in my life, but a hunch says its different. I can't really explain why."
"In what ways do you feel different?"
"Well as I said, it's difficult to explain. But for example, I feel confident, I feel powerful, even arrogant. And definitely I feel less self-conscious. There have been a few occasions today when I've just said exactly what I feel, when in the past I've always kept my opinions to myself."
"Like your outburst a couple of minutes ago?" Dumbledore asks, pushing his glasses up his nose.
"All of those could easily be attributed to the fact that you have just defeated Voldemort, Harry. I'm sure that once you get used to the feeling of being safe, you'll return to normal."
I'm already shaking my head. "It's not like that, sir. I can tell. As today as gone on, I've felt less and less like myself. I feel as though my entire personality is changing."
The former headteacher smiles, "Well, Harry. There's an easy way to find out."
He's got that expression on, the really annoying one that says "We both know what I'm talking about, here" even though I have no idea.
"Summon your patronus, Harry." He tells me.
Of course! Patronuses reflect a person's character in animal form, so if my character has truly changed then my patronus will have done so accordingly.
Drawing my newly fixed wand from my pocket, I rotate my wrist in a cyclical counter-clockwise motion and mutter the incantation, setting my thoughts on my only enjoyable moment of the day so far: my short conversation with Fleur.
Instantly, the familiar silver wisps shoot from the end of my wand but they do not form a stag. They form a phoenix. It is about the size of an average swan, but thinner and doubly as majestic. Seriously, however impressive my stag had been, this phoenix just took my breath away.
Dumbledore gasps and smiles. "Amazing, absolutely amazing. Harry, I think that you are absolutely right."
I too am in a state of disbelief; a phoenix is as rare a patronus as you can have. I guess it explains my new fiery temperament. While we both think in silence, my beautiful phoenix flies gently around my head.
"What determines character, sir?" I ask. The tiniest glint of an idea has formed in my head.
"Why, the soul, dear boy." He explains.
I'd thought as much. My idea was, perhaps, coming together. "So could it be linked to the fact that I had Voldemort's soul in me, but now I don't?"
Dumbledore smiles at me. "A brilliant thought process, Harry! Yes, a most intriguing question. I wonder if..."
He trails off, annoying me somewhat. "You wonder what?"
"This is a most difficult question, Harry." The painting explains with a small smile. "The soul is a most complex thing. Wizards and witches have studied it for centuries, yet we still have very limited understanding of it. I'm afraid that at this point, I can only hazard a guess as to why you are experiencing what you are."
"Go on," I say eagerly.
The elderly professor sighs. "This is just an educated guess, Harry, but I think it is possible that Voldemort's soul did more than just attach itself to your body. It attached itself to your soul. When Voldemort willingly destroyed the part of himself inside you, your soul changed because it was no longer attached to his."
"This leads me to believe that your soul has fixed itself from where Voldemort's soul was torn from it."
"So because it has had to fix itself, my character has changed with it?" I check.
Dumbledore nods. "If my theory is correct, then yes. You should not worry, Harry. Having a phoenix patronus is a very good sign. Your character will be adjusted, but you'll still be you. There may be a few alterations that you should be aware of, however."
I gesture for him to continue.
He sighs, "Phoenixes are the noblest creatures in the animal kingdom, but don't think that they are perfect. Those of us lucky enough to have phoenix patronuses tend to pick up some of their less favourable traits. Phoenixes can be proud creatures because of their brilliant power. I am embarrassed to admit that I myself was exceptionally arrogant in my younger years; please don't fall into the same trap as I did."
Okay, I'm sure I can deal with a little possible arrogance. Shouldn't be too much a problem, right?
"Another intriguing characteristic of the phoenix is that it is generally a very solitary creature. Most will spend their entire lives alone. Others find a single person who they are loyal and trusting to, like Fawkes with myself. For all the wonderful aspects of a phoenix, they can be rather unpleasant to people other than the one they've bonded to. I for one feel fortunate that I was never on the receiving end of one of Fawkes' tantrums."
"So you think that might happen to me? I'll become solitary?"
Dumbledore considers this for a second. "I think so, yes. But remember: you will most likely form a very close relationship with one person, as Fawkes did with me."
Despite Dumbledore's warnings of loneliness pride, I can feel myself relaxing. I mean, surely I'll only be a better person without a bit of Voldemort affecting my character? Of course, there'll be a few things that'll need getting used to. For example, it appears that my new self isn't attracted to Ginny. Definitely not the end of the world. And the fact that I now feel more magical than I ever have done before? That's certainly not the end of the world either.
After all, we wouldn't want my life getting boring now Voldemort's gone, would we?
What did you think? I hope all of the troubles that Harry had been feeling with his character made sense in the end when Dumbledore talks about the characteristics of a phoenix. More important than that, though, I just hope you enjoyed reading it.
Thanks very much, and reviews are appreciated!