Chapter Thirty-Eight: The Joys of Always Winning

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.

"Dumbledore!" Lucius Malfoy thundered as he stormed into Albus' office.

He really did have a bad habit of doing that but as long as he remained on the board of governors it was technically within his rights. He wondered briefly what had taken the man so long to get around to coming.

Albus pointedly refused to acknowledge him until he had finished filling out the paperwork he was working on. Then he calmly set his work aside and turned to face a fuming Lucius. "Yes, Lucius?"

"You nearly got my son killed!" he snapped, looking like he was very near pacing.

"Did I?" Albus asked curiously. "I don't remember this."

"You don't remember the giant basilisk running around your school a couple of weeks ago?" Lucius asked incredulously. "Maybe we should seriously consider whether someone with such clear senility should be running this school."

"I don't believe having someone senile running anything would be a good idea," Albus continued, unconcerned. "But I am far from senile, Lucius, and I remember the basilisk."

"Then you know what you nearly did to Draco," Lucius said triumphantly.

Albus raised his eyebrows. "Do I? I believe that I handled that problem when I called in the Aurors."

"You never caught who was responsible for it," Lucius said, abruptly changing tactics.

"Didn't I?" Albus asked absently.

Lucius stilled. "Who was it?"

Albus held up the now-harmless little black book. "Someone gave a schoolchild a piece of Lord Voldemort's soul, Lucius, and that soul possessed them and set the basilisk on the children."

"His soul?" Lucius whispered, turning white. That confirmed that then."But…he was dead."

"Let us hope, for the sake of whoever was so careless and so stupid to have disposed of such a thing in such a manner, that that was the only piece of his soul left lying around or…why, I do not even wish to contemplate what might happen to the person who threw away a part of Voldemort's soul," Albus continued. "And on the matter of finding who was possessed, I was thinking of asking the students if they had seen this diary before. Maybe the possessed person wouldn't want to admit it but one of their friends might have seen it. Given Harry Potter's unfortunate connection to Voldemort, I was thinking of starting with the first year Slytherins."

Lucius was as close to panicking as Albus had ever seen him but you had to look very, very closely to even notice that something was amiss at all. Albus knew that Lucius was asking himself if he were positive that Draco had never seen that book and wouldn't accidentally give himself away when unexpectedly presented with it again even if he had more sense than to admit to recognizing it.

"I don't think that's necessary," Lucius said firmly. So he couldn't be sure.

"But the culprit-" Albus began.

"Is probably a traumatized but innocent child who needs to put this behind him or her," Lucius insisted. "The board won't stand for you trying to find a scapegoat, Dumbledore."

Albus smiled pleasantly. "I wouldn't dream of it."

Harry wondered if maybe he should be more excited. Slytherin had won the House Cup for the…Actually, he didn't even know how many times. And the Quidditch Cup again, too. And that was great and he was celebrating and the rest of Hogwarts just looked annoyed which only made it better but…still.

Everyone always knew that, barring one of them screwing up terribly or someone from one the other houses managing to take down a suddenly-back Voldemort without the aid of a Slytherin, Slytherin was going to win. It was just a fact. And so while it was very nice it certainly didn't feel like something to get all excited about. And this wasn't even the year that would cause them to break the record or anything.

Zacharias vowed vengeance and next year but Harry really didn't care.

Theodore was staring at Dumbledore suspiciously.

No one seemed inclined to ask but Harry was actually rather curious and so he sighed. "Tell us, Theodore, why do you keep staring at Dumbledore?"

"I'm not staring," Theodore denied, not taking his eyes off of Dumbledore.

"Is there something Dumbledore-related you might wish to discuss?" Harry tried again.

Theodore blinked and finally turned back to them. "By strange coincidence, yes there is."

"And that would be?" Harry prompted. He was almost there!

"I just don't trust him not to turn around at the last minute and give Gryffindor the Cup," Theodore explained.

Draco rolled his eyes. "Get real, Theodore. He wouldn't just do that after he already awarded it to us. He'd have given Gryffindor points last night or this morning or something."

"That wouldn't be dramatic enough," Theodore argued. "Picture this, we're celebrating and everyone else is annoyed because we won again. Then, suddenly, right after he congratulates us he tell us that there are a few last-minute points to award. Everyone stops breathing, the other three houses from hope and us because we can't believe that this is really happening and all of our downright Hufflepuffian hard work is going to go down the drain."

Pansy laughs. "Hufflepuffian?"

Theodore nods. "Yes, Hufflepuffian. And then he gives Gryffindor all these points so they're just tied with us and the people who can add in their head wish that they had been given just one more point and everyone else tries to make sense of it. They all suspect what's going on, though, because you don't just give out lots of last-minute points at the goodbye feast unless it's going to change something. You don't give out last-minute points at the goodbye feast period. And then Dumbledore picks the most useless and barely involved person in the whole thing and gives them a few token points so that he can say that he won Gryffindor the house cup."

"That never would have happened," Daphne said, shaking her head.

"Only because taking down the dark lord happened in January," Theodore argued. "And even then, if Harry had been a Gryffindor – or even a Hufflepuff or a Ravenclaw – then I bet he'd get five hundred points or something right now for helping get rid of the basilisk."

"I didn't actually get any points for the basilisk, come to think of it," Harry mused.

"The Weasley twins did," Blaise informed them.

"See!" Theodore cried excitedly, completely indifferent to all of the stares that he was getting. "See!"

"Fred and George helped identify the basilisk and find where it was located," Harry pointed out. "All I did was open the entrance."

"So?" Daphne demanded. "You still helped out just as much as they did. And we might have found out about the basilisk and the sink some other way but you were always going to be the only one who could get in there and stop the basilisk. It's a thousand-year-old snake so we couldn't very well wait for it to die of old age. What were we supposed to do? Move?"

"I wouldn't want to go to Durmstrang," Draco said randomly. "Too cold and too easy to get pushed off a glacier."

"Okay…" Pansy said, looking at him strangely.

"And the attacks would have stopped soon enough anyway," Harry pointed out. "Once Draco gave us the book and we took it to Dumbledore."

"That makes it sound so much more dignified and responsible than just throwing it on his chair and running away," Blaise said, laughing.

"Well, to be fair we did watch from the hallway to make sure that no one took it before Dumbledore came and then running away," Harry pointed out.

"Ah, my mistake, that was perfectly responsible then," Blaise said dryly, rolling his eyes.

"If anything, I'm the real hero here," Draco said arrogantly.

Pansy just laughed at him. "Right. You and your possessed self that started all of this in the first place."

"I'm not a Gryffindor; it took me awhile to get the whole 'hero' thing down," Draco explained.

"Shall we tell Dumbledore that and see if we can score some more points?" Theodore asked innocently.

Draco shook his head. "Nah, we're winning by enough. Any more and it would be embarrassing."

"See, that's probably another reason," Harry said. "Gryffindor needed the points and we didn't."

Daphne rolled her eyes. "Please, Harry, no one needs points and if there weren't such epic rivalries-"

Harry groaned and studiously didn't look at Zacharias at that.

"-then no one would actually care since it's clearly just the teachers trying to make us behave," Daphne continued.

"But it won't happen," Theodore said, trying to convince himself.

"It won't happen," Pansy insisted.

"Do any of you guys know a Peter?" Blaise asked them. "I got a letter this morning saying that he died so, if you do, sorry. Unless you didn't like him in which case, public sorry and private congratulations."

"Peter was your stepfather," Tracy informed them.

Draco looked suspiciously at her. "How much of our conversation were you listening to?"

"I don't actually care about your conversation, Draco, I just sensed that Blaise was having trouble keeping track of his various stepfathers again," Tracy claimed.

"Is it that time of year already?" Blaise asked with an air of profound indifference.

"There is no way that your stepfathers meet you before the wedding," Pansy declared.

Blaise just shrugged. "They don't always meet me afterwards."

Harry was helping Gilderoy pack up his office when Hermione, Neville, and Ron came in.

"Greetings," Gilderoy said brightly. "Is there something I can do for you?"

"We just finished reading our advanced copy of your book," Ron explained.

From that way that Hermione was looking at him, by 'we' he clearly meant 'he' since Hermione and likely Neville (from the way he was not being glared at) had already finished it but had to wait until the last minute because Ron was still working on it.

"Oh?" Gilderoy asked, sounding quite modest indeed. It had taken him a very long time to get modesty down but he was rather proud of the final results. "What did you think?"

"I, for one, appreciate how you managed to make what Hermione still calls my 'moment of pyromania' into a sensible and heroic approach," Neville told him.

"I still don't know what that word means," Ron admitted.

"It means I really like fire," Neville replied.

Hermione smiled shyly. "Was it really that brilliant when I solved the potions? Reading about it in your book was just…you're an amazing writer."

"Thank you, Hermione," Gilderoy said, smiling back at her. "That potion was meant to stump people so, even if it was honest instead of just all poison or something, the fact that you managed to solve it so quickly when you're only eleven is truly remarkable."

"You would have been able to solve it if I couldn't though, couldn't you professor?" Hermione asked eagerly.

"I would certainly like to think so," Gilderoy agreed. "But I didn't look at that poem until after you solved it so I suppose we'll never know."

"My favorite part was the chess match and how you wrote that I was holding everybody's lives in their hands," Ron announced. "It was certainly the most freaked out that I've ever been in my whole life. And you make it all sound so wonderful and…and Gryffindor."

Neville smirked at Harry, who was quickly paling. Hopefully not too Gryffindor.

"I just wrote about what I saw and experienced," Gilderoy told them. Well, after a heavy dose of spicing up to make it more appealing to his readers than what had actually happened. It had been pretty easy, actually, but everyone wanted a dramatic tale of near-misses so that the final victory would feel earned.

"I really enjoyed your in-depth analysis of what we were doing and why," Hermione gushed. "Even though we often took a non-conventional approach to the traps, your explanation made me feel like we really did the only thing that we could have done in the situation."

"At least if we were using our heads," Harry said agreeably.

"Thankfully, we were," Gilderoy said, not even wanting to think about what would have happened if Harry hadn't gotten him.

"I was a little curious about the troll fight scene," Neville said, flipping through the book and turning to the pages in question. "I mean, I read it very carefully and technically everything in here did happen but…it's seven pages long and you don't actually mention the fact that the troll was already unconscious and Ron was just trying to be heroic."

"He was being heroic," Harry said, rushing to Ron's defense. "If that had woken up when you guys were going back…"

Gilderoy had been well aware of what was and was not in his book and the impression that it gave out. He would have gone the far easier way and just completely scrapped what happened and wrote the most thrilling fight scene that he could except that there were three witnesses who didn't know the truth and so would have objected or started wondering what else he had made up. But on the other hand, he couldn't just leave out one of the obstacles and nobody wanted to read about Ron bravely killing a helpless and unconscious troll. It was a compromise, really.

Gilderoy frowned. "Really? Let me see." He took Neville's copy and made a show of skimming it.

"Not once," Hermione confirmed.

"I like it," Ron remarked.

Harry laughed. "You would."

"I guess you're right, Neville," Gilderoy said, shaking his head. "I can't believe…I swore that I had that in there. Maybe in an earlier draft? I can take it out, of course."

"No, you can't!" Ron cried out.

"But it's really not fair to the spirit of accuracy," Gilderoy protested. "People might actually think that you're capable of taking down a full-grown and completely aware mountain troll by yourself."

"Neville!" Ron said pleadingly.

Neville was weakening. He had probably had to hear all about Ron's probable inferiority complex over the past year and this would be a good way of lessening the amount of times that he'd have to hear about it next year. "Oh, alright. It is technically true, after all."

"Thank you, Neville!" Ron exclaimed, looking like he might hug the other boy (who quickly took two steps back). "How about it Harry? Hermione?"

Harry shrugged. "Oh, I don't care."

"I suppose…" Hermione agreed reluctantly.

Eyes shining, Ron turned back to Gilderoy. "How about it, Professor?"

"I suppose I can let it stay," Gilderoy conceded.

The three stayed for a few more minutes and then departed, leaving Gilderoy alone with his adopted son.

"This was the most ridiculous year ever," Harry declared, shaking his head. "Or at least these last few months. I don't even want to know what the next six years will be like."

"Probably much calmer without You-Know-Who or that basilisk running around," Gilderoy predicted. "But if not, well, at least I won't be here to have to deal with it."

"Ah, right, the 'curse'," Harry said using air quotes.

"It is a perfectly valid curse that has gotten rid of dozens of professors," Gilderoy insisted.

"You seem to be fine," Harry pointed out. "Are you saying that you beat the curse?"

Gilderoy shrugged. "Maybe I outsmarted it or maybe it's just that I decided to comply with it and so it had no reason to punish me or to try to force me out."

Harry looked sad. "I'm going to miss you."

Gilderoy laughed. "Miss me? We haven't even left Hogwarts yet and we've got a whole summer before you're coming back here! That's plenty of time." He'd miss Harry, too, of course, but there would be time enough for that later.

"What are you going to do?" Harry asked him.

"Probably the same things I've always done," Gilderoy replied. "Work on staying famous and beloved and find new creatures to…write about."

"It should be easier to stay famous now that you and I co-killed You-Know-Who," Harry remarked. "I think that's the section I like the best and no one who knows the truth wants the truth getting out there so they'll accept it."

"On the other hand, I think we both will have the problem of nothing we ever do from now on ever being able to top what we've already done," Gilderoy mused. "It's just like with Dumbledore. He defeated Grindelwald in 1945 and what's he done since then? Acquired a couple of positions, worked on dragon's blood, who really cares? His crowning achievement is Grindelwald."

"You're probably right," Harry admitted. "Although, really, if you must have problems then they might as well be those kinds."

"I think you're aiming too low, Harry," Gilderoy told him, holding a hand out in a 'picture it' gesture. "Imagine…a world where we simply don't have problems."

Harry laughed. "One day," he agreed.

Of course, Harry was right. They were practically there already. Even if he had never wanted it and only accidentally done it when there was literally no other choice, he was a genuine hero now and he knew for sure that his son would always be proud of him for that, whatever he came to think about the rest. He was more famous than he had ever dreamed and he'd only get more famous as time went on and Harry came into his own. He had managed to fool the great Dumbledore for almost a year and if he could do that then he could fool anyone.He was even the only wizard to walk away from this job since the 1940s!

Not bad for a wizard who could really only cast an Obliviate.

Not bad for any wizard, really.

But then, Gilderoy Lockhart had never aimed to be just any wizard .

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