Here's to the Losers

A version you've never read of the Triwizard Tournament.

Chapter 5: Give Me this Last Encore

When Harry arrived back at the stadium for the Triwizard Tournament he felt far removed from what was happening. He'd been mobbed by the students and professors and officials. Aurors were heavily present as they had been summoned immediately upon Harry's disappearing act.

Dumbledore was speaking to him, something about explosions ripping apart different areas of Britain all at the same time, including at Hogwarts, but Harry barely heard him as his focus was suddenly acute and directed all at one person who was limping toward him as the professor was called away by the Minister who had just arrived.

"It's all right, son, I've got you… come on… hospital wing…" Moody said gruffly, grabbing Harry's arm and directing him away from the frightened crowd.

"I don't need to go to the hospital wing. I'm fine," Harry replied neutrally, following the fake Moody without hesitation. He didn't want people to see what was coming next. Least of all Dumbledore.

"You need to lie down…Come on now…" Moody commanded, pushing Harry into the Great Hall and frog marching him up the winding shifting staircases.

"Of course, professor, you're probably right. Thanks for getting me away from all of that." Harry waved mildly behind him indicating the masses back at the stadium.

Moody looked down at him and smiled a sickly smile. Harry wondered how he never caught on to the perverse glee the Death Eater took in past incidences. It was an expression he had worn often. "What happened Harry?"

Harry shrugged, entering quietly into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. "Cup was a Portkey."

Harry smiled darkly when he heard the soft snick of the door locking behind them. He maneuvered further into the room and toward the large cabinet that had once held a boggart in third year. The thunk thunk of the fake Moody's gait echoed loudly in the room. Harry quivered in anticipation, all his sense on high alert.

"The Dark Lord was there? What happened there?"

Harry nodded keeping his back to the professor as he slowly slipped his wand into his hand. He flexed his grip on the hilt and let out a deep breath. He waited.

"Come. Come. Tell me. Did the Death Eaters show up? Who was there?"

"All of them that could be there. All that mattered, except one. The most important one."

"Who had the distinction of the Dark Lord's favor?"

"Why you, Barty Crouch," Harry said with a hint of surprise. "You were his inside man, were you not?"

At that Harry spun around and slash his wand. Unformed wild magic whipped through his wand and crackled in the air. Moody never stood a chance as the nameless spell tore through him. His bones exploded outward from the joints, breaking through the skin at unsightly angles. Barty slumped to the floor howling in pain.

Harry stalked closer and leaned over. "I must thank you, Barty. Without your efforts I never could have been at the right spot at the right time. It was you, wasn't it, who called the cup to me in the maze? I knew it had not been me. The magic reacted too belatedly to be my spell.

"Without you I never would have made it to that graveyard. It should comfort you as you die that the goal for the evening had been achieved. The potion was used. The ritual performed. Voldemort sadly was not the one to benefit."

"No…" Barty whispered horrified. His face started to bubble and Harry knew the polyjuice would be wearing off soon.

"I do have to wonder what the potion would have done for him. Restore him to his own body perhaps. But I already had my own body and so the potion did what it was truly meant to do – change a mortal into an immortal. Bone of the father. Flesh of the servant. Blood of the enemy. All to give strength, power, and eternal life. I as of yet, do not know what I am, but guessing from things I would say I am part phoenix. Should be useful… the ability to recover from Killing Curses or perhaps… that was a gift I always possessed as I performed such a miracle in my infancy. Maybe now my phoenix abilities are manifested in new ways. Time will tell. I will figure it out."

"No…" Barty repeated, fainter, his breath wheezing loudly. His face was back to his normal countenance again. "You could never do that. You never take action. I kept trying to force you, to give you hints, but you ignored them all. You couldn't do what you're saying."

Harry scoffed. "I don't want eternal glory. There was no reason to compete in a silly school tournament. Now life or death matches with my greatest enemy? I try not to lose those."

"No, no, no," Barty cried.

Harry grinned briefly at him. "Yes. I think I'm going to like the results of your efforts. I just wanted you to know before you died. Good bye Barty."

The door banged open as Barty exhaled for the last time and in poured Dumbledore, Snape, and McGonagall armed and ready for battle. They halted at seeing Harry crouched before a gruesome body of a young man.

"What is going on here?" Snape sneered, gripping his wand reflexively.

Harry shook his head and widened his eyes, employing quickly a look he'd used often on Petunia Dursley throughout the years. "Polyjuice. One minute this was Professor Moody and the next he started screaming as his skin began bubbling. I think he went through a terrible withdrawal or perhaps brewed the potion incorrectly. Many of his bones erupted through his skin. It was terrible. I didn't know what to do."

The Sorting Hat knew what it was talking about when it wanted to put him in Slytherin.

Dumbledore looked at Harry disquietly and then back at the body. "It is probably for the best. Had it not happened who knows what he would have done to you. Do you know who this is, Harry?"

"He said his name was Barty Crouch, sir. What would he want with me?"

"Don't you know?"

"Was he a Death Eater? I had a run in with Voldemort. I think I killed him. He died like Professor Quirrell did, turning to ash beneath my hands."

"Was he possessing somebody?" Dumbledore inquired fixedly.

Harry shook his head then stopped and nodded slowly. "Perhaps. Maybe. I don't know. Wormtail was there. He was brewing a potion—"

Snape snorted and then did something truly scary… he laughed like a maniac. "That fat stupid pitiful Squib was brewing for the Dark Lord? No wonder the whole thing went wrong."

"Severus," Dumbledore admonished.

McGonagall's lips twitched. She too found it hilarious, well as hilarious as a situation like this could be—which was hardly at all—it was serious. She schooled her features and lowered her wand.

Harry noted the other two still held theirs at the ready. That told him he needed to do more to convince them of his story. It shouldn't be hard. Dumbledore was notoriously forgiving, just take how he dealt with Severus… the thought caught Harry off guard. It didn't sound like him. He uneasily shoved it aside and focused on the task at hand. If ever he was to prove the Sorting Hat right about being perfect for Slytherin now was the time.

"Yes, well," Harry shrugged. "Nevertheless that's what he was doing. Voldemort was talking about the potion as if it would create a body for him. It required bone of the father, flesh of the servant, blood of the enemy—me to be exact—in order to do this. When Wormtail was distracted I rushed to the pile of robes Voldemort was lying in and really he wasn't human though he was the shape of a baby. I touch him and he screamed and burned away."

"Wormtail didn't even properly get you out of the way to keep you from interfering?" Snape questioned.

"I think he tried but he couldn't because of the Life Debt he owed me. I think the plan had been to kill me and use all of my blood or at least a good portion."

Thank Merlin for Ronald Weasley's crash course in Life Debts at the end of year feast back in third year. It was a good bluff.

"But you stopped it and him," McGonagall said with a proud smile.

"For now. Until the next time he tries to regain his powers."

Dumbledore smiled at this. "There's where I think I have good news, Harry. All over Britain occurred several simultaneous explosions of great magnitude. The Muggles are claiming acts of terrorism and well they wouldn't be wrong in the strictest of sense as Voldemort is the greatest terrorist of them all, but I think they were holdings of great importance to Voldemort that simply ceased to exist when you killed Voldemort so directly. If he wasn't in a body then you must have perished his soul."

Harry nodded pretending that it all made sense to him. He yawned. "Really Professors it's been a long night and if the immediate threat is over I think I'd like to sleep and discuss things again in the morning."

'Of course Harry, my dear boy," Dumbledore said. "Let's get you to Madam Pomfrey."

Harry sighed disgustedly. "I hate the hospital wing."

"I know your pain," he answered with a wink.

"Hi Harry," Luna said the next morning sitting in the unoccupied chair by his hospital bed. "You're looking chipper."

Harry actually felt anything but chipper which surprised him considering how well he felt before coming under Madam Pomfrey's care. Not that he blamed the healer, because when one was dealing with unknown potions meant for the darkest of dark lords, things were bound to cock up at some point.

But instead of saying all that he kept it simple with a dry, "You don't say," while rubbing his forehead and grimacing. "Whatever gave you that idea?"

"Because your scar is healing," she said lightly, touching the lightning bolt shape beneath the fringe of his hair. It burned under her touch.

"Evidence points to the contrary," he said softly, watching her abstracted expression as she lost herself in her imaginary world.

"You have a lock of red hair," Luna noted, giving it a gentle tug. "What on earth did you transfigure it for? Is it a new trend? Should I change a lock of my own hair? Perhaps blue if it's supposed to be about House pride."

"Well if you followed suit how could the rest of Hogwarts not want to join in the fun?"

Luna smiled. "Exactly what I was thinking!" She took out her wand and grabbed a hank of hair. She touched it once and it went bubble gum pink. She frowned slightly, shook her wand, and tapped her hair again. This time it turned bright blue and with a satisfied smile she put her wand away. "Now we match."

"Hey Luna," Harry said, "What's the Quibbler said about the terrorist attacks across Britain that happened last night?"

Luna brightened. "We have several eyewitnesses who are quite positive they heard You-Know-Who wailing at these locations. They think he was starting an acapella group that featured heavily on dark ambient music stylings."

Harry laughed robustly causing him to ache all over. Every time he tried to speak he laughed harder, until he was doubled up gasping for breath. A few minutes later when he had himself under control he tried speaking again. "Thank you for that Luna."

"We are a humor based magazine, but don't mistake that to mean we don't talk about real news with real facts."

"Then remind me when I want to buy some concert tickets to see Voldy and the Eaters live that no matter how cool the rest of the wizarding world thinks them, they had their beginnings killing and torturing and maiming."

"Promise. I'm not into that scene either. I much prefer the Weird Sisters and Screaming Banshees."

They were quiet together for a little while, each happy to sit in the other's presence.

"I'm glad you survived, Harry," Luna said after some more time had passed. She laid her hand on top of his and squeezed. "It would have been awful if You-Know-Who had managed to kill you."

Reflexively, Harry started, "I don't know what you're talking about—"

Luna shook her head. "It's like what happened at the end of all your years, Harry. Everybody knows what you've done. It's always the worst kept secret."

Harry shrugged sheepishly. "Sorry."

She squeezed his hand again and got up. "Don't worry about it. When you're back on your feet again look me up."

Harry caught her hand as she started to walk away. Luna glanced back in surprise, her protuberant silvery grey eyes widened. "The last Hogsmeade visit is the day after tomorrow to celebrate the end of the Tournament. Will you go with me?"

"Will you buy me a puffskin?"

"A what?" Harry asked, confused.

"A puffskin," she repeated. "I've always wanted one, but dad always said they looked too much like dust bunnies to him."

"Oh…" Harry said dumbly. "Well if you want one I don't see why not."

"Then I'd be delighted to go."

The smile on Harry's face didn't fade until long after Luna had left. He'd buy her a hundred puffskins, whatever they were, if that meant he could have a hundred dates with her.

Harry sat with Hermione and Ron at lunch the following day, absently listening to them bicker with one another. His attention was all on the Ravenclaw girl sitting two tables over eating her banana pudding first. When she pulled out the latest Quibbler edition and began reading upside down, he chuckled quietly.

"Oh look!" Ron exclaimed as hundreds of owls flooded the Great Hall.

They flew to students from all three schools dropping newspapers like miniature bombs. Food splashed up from plates, cups fell over, feathers rained down and one unexpecting student caught the Weasley owl in his stomach. Fred and George laughed, high-fiving each other before pulling Errol off Lee Jordan.

Headlines proclaimed in English, French, and Bulgarian Sirius Black's exoneration. The whole story was retold from beginning to end with the surprising twist of Peter Pettigrew showing up on the Ministry's doorstep and turning himself in. Hermione wondered why he did it after all this time. Ron couldn't care less about why Wormtail decided to come forward but was happy that he did. In his mind it meant that Harry was finally leaving his ruddy muggle aunt and uncle and getting a real wizarding home of his own.

The Great Hall doors banged open and in walked the man of the hour himself. Students gasped in shock. The ones who hadn't yet read the newspapers being circled through the student body like contraband shrieked in horror as they recognized the wizard who was once proclaimed to be the most terrible wizard alive after Voldemort… and if they thought about it for a minute… Bellatrix too… making him really the third scariest.

"Hi Pup!" Sirius shouted, waving excitedly at Harry. He was wearing professor robes, which Hermione immediately noticed and commented upon. Some students tried to hex him, but Sirius laughed them all off and sauntered up the aisle to the Head table where Dumbledore stood and clapped him on the back.

"Students and guests," Dumbledore began loudly, hushing the hysteria, "In light of recent events I would like to present to you Hogwarts' newest staff member. Recently exonerated Sirius Black has agreed to replace the previous Defense Against the Darks Arts professor. I do believe he will have a lot to teach all of you. Now back to your regularly scheduled mischief."

Harry clapped long and hard for Sirius, his maniac grin matched by the Marauder. Snape was doomed. Doomed. DOOMED! Heh. Heh. Heh.

Harry was just saying goodbye to the Durstrang and Beauxbatons champions along with the rest of Hogwarts when Fawkes flash fired into existence and landed on his shoulder. The foreign champions looked startled, but Harry who was used to odd things happening merely smiled and gave Fawkes a light caress feeling the soft feathers against his skin. Fawkes crooned and nipped Harry's ear.

Cedric came over to say goodbye to Fleur and Krum as well. He gave Fawkes a curious glance and raised an eyebrow at Harry. "How come you got Dumbledore's phoenix, Harry?"

Harry shrugged. "Beats me. The bird just showed up as I was telling Krum we had to hold a Seekers match this summer. My godfather said he could arrange everything and after seeing Krum's Wronski Feint at the Quidditch World Cup, I've been dying to challenge you on the pitch."

"I'd like to join you guys," Cedric said eagerly. "I play Seeker for Hufflepuff," he explained to Fleur and Krum. Fleur just rolled her eyes and moved away after declaring huffily about boys and their broomsticks. Fawkes hooted in commiseration and pecked Harry on the head.

"Great!" Harry said, pushing Fawkes' beak from his hair. "Cedric's the only Seeker to beat me at Hogwarts."

Cedric shook his head. "I still think Hooch should have called for a rematch." He turned to Krum, "A couple dozen dementors swarmed the field and Harry fell from 50 stories high off his broomstick. It wasn't fair."

Krum's eyes rounded, he turned to Harry. "I know about dementors. Our Defense Against the Dark Arts professor vent over them in our British crash course prior to coming here. He said only vizards who had experience true horror vould pass out in their presence. Vas it Lord Vullduhmort?"

Harry nodded and it was Cedric's turn to look dumbfounded. "Yeah, I heard him killing my mum and her screaming. Luckily there's a charm you can cast to keep them away. I used one at the end of the year to save my godfather from a swarm of them. That was before they declared him to be innocent."

"Blimey Harry," Cedric croaked. "Now I definitely want that rematch."

"This summer then?" Harry asked.

"Ov course," Krum replied. "If you are any good, I haff contacts in the International Quidditch League. I could get you audition for a national team."

"Excellent!" Cedric and Harry shouted at once and then laughed. Fawkes chirped and flashed away leaving the boys to scheme and figure out their plans.

That summer everything began to change for Harry. He moved in with his godfather, Sirius Black. The two had great fun in their cottage out in the middle of nowhere. There was plenty of grounds to romp on. Sirius was teaching Harry about becoming an animagus and when Harry got too tired to transform even a toe they played Frisbee. Sirius liked the fanged ones best.

His research into the graveyard potion proved futile. It was too obscure. Harry only pursued it when the dark moods began to creep up on him. He couldn't figure out why it happened, but knew it traced back to his impulsive decision to jump into the potion himself. He didn't want to turn into another Dark Lord, but one couldn't be too careful.

In the meantime, Fawkes was a constant companion. He built a new nesting ground in Harry's room. Dumbledore explained that it was time for Fawkes to find a new champion to champion. The fact that the phoenix had picked Harry was a great relief to the old wizard who had had deep misgivings at the end of the third task.

What Dumbledore didn't know was that Harry had developed another language affinity. He could talk to phoenixes, well at least to Fawkes, as easily as he did to snakes. Fawkes said this was because of the red lock of hair amidst Harry's black locks. It was the sign of the fire-bird. It meant he would one day be able to transform into a phoenix himself.

This relieved Harry greatly. He wasn't evil. Just highly pragmatic like a phoenix. Life and death were a balance… and speaking of balance… Luna visited often that summer making sure to keep Harry as off balanced as possible. She once called him a basilisk slayer, which made him laugh, until it came to bite him in the arse years down the road and then he had to wonder how she knew.

Together they shared their first kiss… and their first hickeys. Kissing was one of Harry's favorite things to do. When he couldn't kiss Luna he contented himself with talking to her over the Floo. He got her that puffskin.

Tomorrow he'd be meeting Cedric and Krum at the Ballycastle Bats Stadium for their Seeker Challenge. Several Seekers from Quidditch teams the world over were joining them in what would become a favorite annual tradition. The Daily Prophet planned to cover the event and Luna said she'd go support him in the stands.

Life was perfect.

Well for now.

The End.