Dark Lord, Me? Don't Be Ridiculous!
The assembled Death Eaters stared in disbelief at the still smoking crater where their Dark Lord had stood. Those that were closest to him had been blown back by the blast, and only a few remained on their feet thanks to being caught by those behind them. Nobody moved for a few seconds, the shock of Voldemort's destruction freezing them in place.
The fallen Death Eaters stirred and were being helped to their feet by those who remained standing when they heard it: laughter - dark, deep and sinister - echoing all around them. A few of the Death Eaters pulled their wands, but most were still regaining their balance after the explosion.
A moment later there was a gust of wind and the smoke from the crater cleared. Standing at the far edge was a figure dressed in a long black cloak that seemed to absorb all the light around it with a hood drawn up to mask his features. Now that they could see him, he was clearly the source of the laughter, as his body language gave it away. Those Death Eaters who hadn't drawn their wands drew them now, but before any could raise them the figure began to glow with a dangerous black aura as he stopped laughing.
"Your master is dead and gone!" the figure declared, making it clear that he, at least, was convinced of it. "Now you will kneel before me, your new Lord and Master, or die where you stand!"
The Death Eaters all stopped as one, as while they knew nothing about this new Dark Lord, they were convinced he meant every word he said. Seeing that they needed a little push, the figure stepped forward and began to lower his hood. "Kneel and bow before the Dark Lord Potter!" Harry said, his eyes glowing with he same black aura and his voice carrying an almost palpable force.
As one, the death eaters knelt and prostrated themselves before Harry, compelled to do so by both fear and the power of his command. The moment they all did so, he waved his left hand across the group, and a bright red flash washed over them, stunning them. "Accio wands," he declared, waving his own with his right hand. Wands shot out from every Death Eater's hand, along with a few spares hidden in their robes. Harry plucked them out of the air, then tossed them into the crater. "Incendio." With a flare, the pile of wands was nothing but ash, and Harry relaxed. As he did so, the aura faded, and the cloak lightened to a deep midnight gray.
"You can come out now, Albus," Harry said, turning to his left. There was a shimmer, and Albus Dumbledore stepped out from behind a tree twenty or so yards away. He stepped forward slowly, his wand out, eying Harry warily.
"I can't let you become the next Dark Lord, Harry." He spoke the words slowly and carefully, as though trying not to startle him. Harry shrugged, then waved his left hand.
Albus Dumbledore was a powerful Wizard, with over a hundred years of experience to draw on. He could cast wordlessly, wandlessly, and more powerfully than most if not all the other residents of Magical Britain. Yet as he felt Harry's spell hit him, he knew that even he had no chance to get out of it. It was only as he started falling over, then heard Harry cast a spell to levitate him, that he realized that he was just frozen. He floated over to Harry, unsure of his intentions, before he tried to speak.
Amazingly, he could, even though the rest of his body was frozen. "What are you doing, Harry?" he asked in a pleading voice, hoping to appeal to Harry's emotions.
Harry conjured a comfortable chair, then lowered Dumbledore into it, moving him into a sitting position as he did so. Watching closely, Dumbledore realized that he was using both his wand and wandless magic simultaneously and without apparent effort, something even he had trouble with. After Dumbledore was seated, Harry conjured a simple chair for himself, and sat so that he was sitting on it backwards, facing his Headmaster.
"I'm finishing this," said Harry, his voice even and cold. "I'm doing what you should have done sixteen years ago when Voldemort was defeated the first time, but were either too stupid or too scared to do. You're lucky your old pal Gellert didn't come back to haunt you, but then again you couldn't prevent others from doing what needed to be done with his followers. Voldemort was only as powerful as his supporters made him; with him gone they've lost their leader and figurehead, but none of their power base."
Dumbledore realized where Harry was going, and his face fell. "You can't just kill them all, they haven't..."
"Silencio." Harry shut Dumbledore up with a flick of his wand, then stared at him, boring into his soul with his bright green eyes. "Every last one of them is a killer. They have killed before. If they are allowed to survive, I guarantee they will kill again if they can. More importantly, they will inspire others to kill, either by taking up their cause, or attempting to free them. You know I'm right, you're just afraid of having to live with the consequences. I'm not, because I've lived with them all my life. Watch Albus, watch and learn how one deals with rabid dogs like these."
Harry stood, banishing his chair with a wave of his fingers, then strode across the crater to the fallen Death Eaters while Dumbledore watched. He stunned them again, individually this time, then walked over to the middle of the group. "Rennervate," he said while pointing his wand at the kneeling figure, then grabbed him by the collar and hoisted him up. Dumbledore could see that it was Lucius Malfoy, who stared at Harry with both fear and contempt.
"Hello, Lucius," Harry intoned sinisterly, as the black aura became visible around him again. "You have caused much suffering by your actions, not to mention your words. But don't worry, I promise you won't suffer any in return."
"I'll kill you, Potter," Lucius snarled, but those were the last words he would ever speak.
Harry raised his left hand, gently grabbed Lucius's forehead, and softly spoke so that Albus could barely make out the words. "Avada Kedavra." There was a brief flash of green under Harry's palm, then Lucius crumpled in front of him. Harry stood there for a moment, then moved to the next Death Eater as Dumbledore struggled to comprehend what he'd just seen.
This turned out to be Bellatrix Lestrange, who didn't get a word out before Harry silenced her. "You know, Trixie," Harry started. At the glare he received back, he simply continued, "May I call you Trixie? No? Too bad, not that I'll be calling you that for long." Bellatrix's glare hardened, if possible, but Harry ignored it. "As I was trying to say, you're quite beautiful."
As impossible as it sounds, for once in their lives Albus Dumbledore and Bellatrix Lestrange both had the same shocked, open mouthed look on their faces and the same thought going through their heads: "What?!"
Harry nodded slowly. "It's such a shame your soul is empty. Fortunately, you won't be needing it anymore." He raised his hand to her forehead. "Goodbye, Trixie. Avada Kedavra." The green light flashed again, and Bellatrix Lestrange joined Lucius in a heap.
Harry continued on through the Death Eaters, waking them up, saying a few words to them, and then wandlessly executing them. By the fourth time, Dumbledore had just crumpled in the chair; while he couldn't move, his attitude was one of clear defeat. In his mind, he tried to think of some way to take down Harry after he was finished with the Death Eaters, but he was fairly certain that even he wouldn't be able to do it. He feared for what life would be like under this new Dark Lord, who had been mistreated by so many over the years.
There were only a few Death Eaters remaining, when Harry found Peter Pettigrew. He wandlessly bound Wormtail before waking him so that the Animagus couldn't escape as a rat again. "Hello, Wormtail, remember me?" Harry asked. Unlike the others, he hadn't silenced his target this time.
"H-H-Harry, my Lord, please let me serve you!" Wormtail pleaded, fear showing across his entire body.
"I believe you owe me a Life Debt, rat," Harry said, his voice sounding even colder, if that was possible.
"Y-Yes," Wormtail sputtered, "anything I have is yours."
"Hmm...", mused Harry, "What I really want is for you to turn yourself in and clear Sirius' name." Wormtail paled as Harry's aura flared even darker. "Oh, right, that won't make a difference anymore. Sirius is DEAD!"
Wormtail was thrown backwards a dozen feet by the force of Harry's shout, and would have fallen over had Harry not waved his hand and levitated him back. Hovering in front of Harry, Wormtail sputtered and pleaded, but only nonsense came out of his mouth.
Harry raised his hand to Wormtail's forehead. "Since there's nothing else that you have that I want, I'm going to collect. Literally." He closed his eyes for a moment, thinking of Sirius and his parents as Wormtail wondered what Harry was waiting for.
"You were one of their best friends," Harry whispered, and for a moment the blackness of his aura flickered, then returned in full force. "Goodbye, Peter." Wormtail's eyes grew wide at Harry saying his real name, and then he saw no more.
Dumbledore saw the flash of green before Wormtail collapsed, but didn't hear the words. He wondered if Harry even had to say them, or if he could cast it silently. After watching him mercilessly execute almost two dozen Death Eaters, it wouldn't surprise him if he could. He returned to trying to come up with a way to deal with Harry, not paying attention as the few remaining Death Eaters were dispatched. After a few moments of silence, he realized that Harry was standing in front of him, the black aura gone but his eyes still not entirely back to normal.
"Come to finish me too, Harry?" Dumbledore asked.
Harry shook his head, and as he did so his eyes went back to normal. He conjured the chair back, but this time sat in it normally, albeit still not really relaxing.
"I'm not going to hurt you, Albus, as much as there's a part of me that wants to pay you back for my time at the Dursley's. But you are going to listen to me, and then you're going to leave me alone." Harry spoke softly, almost conversationally, but there was steel behind it that was impossible to miss.
"You executed them," said Dumbledore, numbly. "Cold, calculated, remorseless. I was afraid that having to kill Voldemort would turn you Dark, but the prophecy meant I had no choice. I tried to keep you on the light path, but I see now that I failed. Perhaps it won't be me, I dare say I expect it won't be me, but someday someone will take you down, just as surely as you took down Voldemort," he said sadly.
"You're wrong, you know," replied Harry. "And I'm no more a Dark Lord than you are."
Dumbledore was shocked that Harry would call him a Dark Lord. "I'm not..." was all he could get out before Harry interrupted him again, although this time he wasn't silenced.
"Yes you are, there's no point in denying it. You're not malicious about it, and you aren't bent on death and destruction, but you're still a Dark Lord." At Dumbledore's disbelieving look, Harry said, "I'll prove it to you."
"One:" Harry ticked off a finger. "You're convinced that you're doing the right thing, that you're absolutely on the side of Light and can't be wrong. Someone who is truly Light doubts themselves but doesn't let it discourage them on the occasions that they realize they were wrong. It's part of what keeps them from heading down the wrong path by keeping them grounded."
Dumbledore watched Harry closely, but otherwise didn't respond.
"Two:" he ticked another finger. "You're selfish, constantly making decisions that affect others without consulting them. Regardless of whether you're right or not, you're taking choice away from them. As hard as it is to accept, Light recognizes that people have the right to make bad decisions."
"Three:" he ticked another finger. "You're convinced that everyone can be turned to the light, if you just give them enough chances. You're convinced that sooner or later they have to make good choices, because that's what you want them to. This blinds you to reality, not because you aren't looking, but because you refuse to see it. See also point number two."
Dumbledore looked like he wanted to say something, but Harry gave him a look that stopped him. He was hearing what Harry was saying, but it still wasn't really registering.
"And finally:" he ticked the last finger on his hand. "Everything you've done, you've claimed was 'For the Greater Good'. Merlin how I hate that phrase! How stupid do you have to be to miss the fact that the 'Greater Good' is, by definition, also a 'Lesser Evil'?"
Dumbledore blinked. Was Harry correct? Was the Greater Good really Evil?
"Yes, you may have been trying to help the most people the best way you could," Harry continued, "but you justified hurting me and who knows who else by claiming it was for the Greater Good. Never because you thought it was best, never because you couldn't come up with a better solution, always for the Greater Good. People make mistakes, even the good guys. And we live with those mistakes, and do our best to make up for them. Not you. Not the Great Albus Perfect Wizarding Beneficence Dumbledore, Leader of the Light, Shaper of our Children, Savior of the World, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera." The last was said in a passable Yule Brenner imitation, although that fact was lost on Dumbledore.
"You committed more wrongs against me than I can possibly count, many of them before I even knew you existed. And yet, you've only apologized once, right before doing it again, and you've never tried to make up for them. Not to mention all the times you've denied the facts and compounded your misdeeds. No, Albus, you are a Dark Lord of the first order. Fortunately for the rest of the world, you're fairly benign to everyone whose name isn't Harry Potter."
Dumbledore was no longer looking at Harry. In fact, he wasn't really looking at anything. His eyes were open, but unfocused, as he clearly was trying to examine himself relative to Harry's statements. Harry transfigured his chair into something a little more comfortable, then sat back and relaxed for the first time that afternoon. He knew this wasn't over, but with Dumbledore thinking, there wasn't much he could do. He'd never be finished with this if he didn't get the old goat to back him.
It was a good ten minutes before Dumbledore's eyes refocused, and he turned his head to look at Harry again. "H-Harry?" he said, his voice cracking and throat dry.
Harry looked up. "Would you like some water?" he asked. At Dumbledore's nod, he conjured a glass of water, then held it out. "If I release your arms, do you promise not to take any action until we finish this conversation? I don't feel like feeding you like a baby, nor do I want to explain to Madam Pomfrey why I had to cut your arms off." The last was said with a bit of his old smile, causing Dumbledore more relief than he thought possible.
"I give you my word that I won't use any magic until we finish this discussion," Albus said is a slightly scratchy voice. With a wave of Harry's hand, his arms were freed, and the cup of water floated over to him until he could grab it. Taking a few sips of water, he looked at Harry with his Headmaster's gaze, studying him like he would a student sent to him for punishment.
After a moment, Harry sighed. "You're not going to intimidate me, Headmaster," Harry said.
Dumbledore couldn't help but smile at the use of his title. "Of course not, Harry," he replied, "but I'm still trying to see what's really going on so I can understand. You've given me a lot to think about, and I suspect we have only a limited amount of time before someone else finds us, so I'm trying figure out the contradiction you've presented to me. To think that your response to me calling you Dark Lord was to tell me that I was wrong, and then lay out a logical case for me being one too! I'm still not convinced that you're right, but I must admit that I can't just brush you off. And if you're right, I can't say that I'm happy about it either..."
"I didn't say you were wrong about calling me a Dark Lord, Albus."
Dumbledore stared in shock. Had Harry Potter just admitted to being a Dark Lord? But then again, he'd also made a case for Dark Lord's not necessarily being an imminent danger. His head was starting to hurt, and he didn't think either a headache potion or a stiff drink was going to help. "Then what?" Dumbledore asked, sounding more confused than ever.
"Think about what you said about what I had just done." Harry shook his head. "About how you said I had done it."
Dumbledore tried to remember exactly what he'd said, but his thoughts were too jumbled from everything Harry had told him that he couldn't remember. He thought about taking a guess, but then realized that was just the kind of thing Harry had been getting at. "I'm sorry, I can't remember," said Dumbledore, watching Harry intently.
Harry nodded. "Thank you for your honesty, maybe you can teach an old goat new tricks." Harry smiled at Dumbledore, who gave a half smile back, knowing it was a backhanded compliment at best. "You said my executing them was cold, calculated and remorseless. You were wrong."
Dumbledore thought about the exact words spoken, then felt a little hope in his heart. Could Harry mean he had felt something?
Harry gave Dumbledore a minute to think it over, then said. "It wasn't remorseless. I regret every single life I took today, even that of Tom Riddle. I regret that it had to be done, and I regret that I had to be the one to do it. I didn't want to be a Dark Lord. I DON'T want to be one. But in that time and place, for those minutes, I did what had to be done." He took a deep breath and looked down, then continued in a voice so quiet it was nearly a whisper. "I went someplace that I never, ever want to go again. There's a stain upon my soul because of it, one that will never go away. I'd do it again if I had to, but only to prevent someone else from having to do it. No one should ever have to do what I did today." When he looked up, Dumbledore could see there were tears streaming down his face.
"Harry, my boy," Dumbledore said. Harry searched his face for any signs of manipulation or insincerity, but for once saw nothing but open, honest compassion. "I still don't approve of all the actions you took today, but I see now how hard they were on you. Please, tell me why you did what you did. I won't interrupt, and I won't judge you until I know all the facts. Please, I need to understand how you could willingly do this to yourself knowing how much it would cost you." Tears were rolling down Dumbledore's face now too, as he watched his current favorite pupil struggle with the demons he'd unleashed upon his own soul.
Harry heard Dumbledore's request, but more than that he felt the old man's sadness. Not sadness that Harry had done what he'd done, but that he'd felt like he had no choice in the matter. Knowing now that they'd be able to work things out, the dam holding his emotions back broke, and he burst into tears.
Albus watched as Harry broke down, seeing once again the little boy who'd first appeared at Hogwarts nearly seven years ago. He wished he could move, not to flee, or to capture him, but to give Harry a hug. A moment later, he realized he could move, even though Harry had apparently done nothing. He slowly got up, not wanting to frighten Harry, then knelt by his chair and drew him into a hug. It was somewhat awkward, since they'd never had this kind of relationship, but Harry needed a hug and he was the only one here.
After a few minutes, Harry finally stopped sobbing, and Dumbledore released him and returned to his own chair as Harry pulled himself together. He looked at Dumbledore, nodded, then conjured up a glass of water for himself before he began.
"I know you've always held out hope that I wouldn't have to kill Voldemort to fulfill the prophecy, but I realized a while back that there wasn't really a choice. Yes, I could die, and perhaps someone else would come along and kill him later, but I wasn't willing to take that chance. So I stopped listening to all your Light-sided mumbo-jumbo and thought about what it would take to actually kill him." Harry smiled at Dumbledore's frown at calling it 'mumbo-jumbo', but the Headmaster kept his word and didn't say a thing.
"I realized that to take down a Dark Lord, you had to think like a Dark Lord." Dumbledore's eyebrows shot up, to which Harry replied, "Yes, that's when I first started to suspect you weren't everything you claimed to be. You may have realized it too at the time, at least subconsciously, which is why I suspect you pushed so hard to give people second chances, not to mention third, fourth, fifth, and so on. I also thought about how you pushed for tolerance and reform after Voldemort's first defeat, and what the result was even before Voldemort's return. When you put it all together, it's not a pretty picture."
Dumbledore nodded, looking like he wanted to say something but wasn't going to interrupt. "Go ahead," said Harry, "I'd like to hear what you're thinking before I continue."
"I'm thinking that looking back at the big picture," said Dumbledore, "I have to agree with you. Even without Voldemort's return, Wizarding society was tearing itself apart between the haves and the have-nots, and the vast majority of those who supported him the first time around were in even better positions to do so this time. I have more to say on it, but I'll wait."
"OK," replied Harry. "So I found myself in a situation where I knew that the only way to take down Voldemort was to out-Dark Lord him, as tasteless as that was. I really wasn't sure if I could do it, so I did some serious soul-searching, literally in this case, to come up with an answer." Dumbledore gasped. "Ah, so you did know," said Harry. Seeing Dumbledore shake his head, he continued, "Or at least suspected?" That got a nod, to which Harry responded with one of his own.
"Anyway, I found something I wasn't expecting. A deep, black stain on my soul, containing a bit of someone else's." Harry gave Dumbledore a wry grin. "Three guesses whose it was, and the first two don't count."
Dumbledore chuckled at Harry's joke, earning him a genuine smile in return. He motioned for Harry to continue.
"It took me two weeks of spending all night searching the restricted section of the library to figure out what it was, and come up with a theory as to why it was there. Fortunately, something I'd found early in my searches that didn't appear relevant at first turned out to be just what I needed. I'm surprised it was even in the library, to be honest; after all, school children shouldn't be learning how to harness their soul as a power source for their magic."
"What?" exclaimed Dumbledore, clearly surprised to hear that was in the library.
"Well, it was buried rather deeply in a discussion of something else, and only mentioned in passing without any instructions, but I never would have gotten the idea to do so otherwise. Figuring out how to do it was a different story. The library had nothing of use, but I found a few things that were helpful in the Black Library at Sirius' place. Well, I guess it's mine now, but it'll always be his place to me. In any case, I learned how to harness my soul to power my magic, then I took it a step further. The piece of Riddle's soul was attached to mine, but they never really mixed. It took a bit of trial and error, but eventually I was able to pull from his soul to power things without touching my own. The only trick was that I couldn't use my wand when I did it, as the phoenix feather refused to use that dark soul to do anything."
Dumbledore gestured with his hand, and Harry guessed what he was asking without wanting to interrupt.
"Yes, that's how I learned to do wandless magic," said Harry. "I can do it for lots of things now, but to use the power of his soul, I had to do it that way. After I had practiced a bit, I noticed something else peculiar: the piece of Riddle's soul was getting smaller and staying that way, while no matter how much of my own soul I used, it always grew back if I left it for a few days. And that was when I figured out what I had to do."
Dumbledore gasped. "You mean?"
"Yes, his soul has been purged from mine, permanently. As I said, there's still a black stain on my soul from where it was and what I had to do to get rid of it, but killing those Death Eaters used the last traces of it. I might have been able to purge it another way," he said, preempting the objection he knew Dumbledore was going to raise, "but it would have been a much longer and more painful process, and who knows if Riddle would have found a way to revive again using it. Plus, I had already decided that any Death Eater who came to see their master duel me was too dangerous to leave alive. Hopefully the rest of them will get the message and I won't have to track them down."
Dumbledore sat back and contemplated what Harry had said. Yes, Harry had done a lot of things he didn't approve of. But he was starting to think they would only be a one-time occurrence. And if there had been a piece of Voldemort's soul attached to Harry's, who knows how much that had influenced things as well. He would have to keep a close eye on Harry for a while, but he thought this might well be the last appearance of Dark Lord Potter.
He looked at Harry, who nodded and said, "Ask away, you've earned it."
"Thank you," said Dumbledore, "I only have a couple of questions. First, how did you kill Voldemort?"
"A soul-powered reducto and a wanded incendio, fired straight down from about five hundred feet up. Nearly fell off of my broom when I tried that the first dozen times. Wizards never look up, unless they're playing Quiddich. Heck, even some of the players never think to look up. Next question?"
Dumbledore just shook his head at Harry's commentary, as the idea of a soul-powered blasting curse nearly made him shiver. "How did you feel when you killed Voldemort and the various Death Eaters?"
"Ah," replied Harry, "now we get to the question you really wanted the answer to. I felt different with each one. With Voldemort, I mostly felt relief. Both that I'd been successful, and that no matter what else happened, he would be gone for good by the end of the day. With the Death Eaters, mostly I felt resigned and sick to my stomach, not to mention the pain of casting a soul-powered killing curse. I'll get back to that in a sec," he said at Dumbledore's questioning gaze. "When I killed Lucius, thought I would feel good about having gotten some revenge for everything he and his family have done to me and my friends. Instead I felt smaller, like I'd lost something and didn't know what it was. I realize now that I'd lowered myself down to his level somewhat, and that's what I regret the most. Bellatrix was the same, though I did enjoy taunting her at the time. By the time I got to Peter, I think I'd subconsciously processed all that, but it wasn't until the very end that I realized it consciously. I actually had to force myself to kill him, not because I didn't want to, but because I knew that if I left any of them alive they'd turn the Wizarding world against me like Fudge and Skeeter did before. And in all honesty, if they did that I might well become the Dark Lord Potter, just because they pushed me too far."
Dumbledore looked worried. "What's to keep that from happening anyway?"
Harry thought for a minute. "Well, first of all, there's the fact that you and I are the only ones who actually know what happened here today, and I know you won't say anything about if you give me your word. Which I intend to get before we leave." Harry looked at Dumbledore, who still looked worried. "Not right now, but once we're all done. If you feel you can't trust me enough to give your word, we can always duel and may the best Wizard win." The smile on Harry's face belied the seriousness of the suggestion, but it did alleviate some of Dumbledore's fears.
"There's also the fact that I really, REALLY don't want to go there ever again. For just once in my life I'd like to be Just Plain Harry, not that that's ever going to happen here. But still, if I'm really lucky after a couple years it'll mostly die down and I can walk away from the spotlight and live a mostly normal life. If I went the other way, I'd NEVER have that chance. Plus, girls may go for tall, dark and handsome, but they rarely go for brutal, Dark and homicidal." This time Dumbledore had to smile. Despite all that had happened, there was still a regular teenager underneath, and that was what he intended to foster if Harry would let him.
"OK, Harry, you've convinced me," Dumbledore said with a laugh. "If you just want to be a teenage boy and live a fairly quiet life, that's something I'm more than willing to support. Taking a step back for a moment, you said the soul-powered killing curse hurt?" asked Dumbledore.
Harry nodded slowly, and closed his eyes. "All soul-casting hurts, at least a little bit. After all, you're ripping out part of your soul, and the more you use the worse it feels. But the nature of what you're casting relative to the nature of your soul also affects how it feels. A "light" soul, if you will, can be used to power Light magic without it hurting too badly, but using it for Dark magic would hurt quite a bit. The opposite is true as well." Harry sagged, obviously growing tired from the stress of the day.
Dumbledore looked thoughtful. "But if you used Voldemort's soul for the killing curse, wouldn't that be more compatible?"
"Yes and no," replied Harry, visibly pulling himself back together a bit. "Using the darkness of his soul to power it made it easier, but it was still my soul that was controlling the channel. Essentially I had to use my soul to create the conduit, and then pass the bit of his soul through it to power the spell. Every time I cast it, it felt like the time Voldemort hit me with the Cruciatus curse back in fourth year, only compressed into a single jolt. The one time I tested it before today, it knocked me down for over an hour. Even with a good dose of pain-killing potion beforehand, I still hurt all over." Harry smiled, albeit a little forcefully. "That's yet another reason I have no interest in going there again, especially since it'll hurt even more to use my own soul."
"Very well," said Dumbledore, "I only have one last question for you."
Harry nodded, guessing it was the same thing he wanted to ask Dumbledore.
"What now?" they both asked together. Harry started laughing immediately, and was joined by his companion after a moment. It lasted for nearly a minute, and proved to be rather cathartic for both of them.
"Well," said Dumbledore, "I think this calls for a bit of a celebration. Perhaps you're old enough to try firewhisky."
"What about them?" asked Harry, pointing behind him to the pile of dead Death Eaters. "Someone's bound to ask questions when they find them."
Dumbledore looked over Harry's shoulder, realizing that the boy was right. "Ideally they should be turned into the Ministry, so that they can be dealt with properly. But that could lead to some unpleasant questions for you."
Harry thought for a minute, then shrugged. "Wouldn't be the first time, won't be the last. I didn't use my wand to cast anything illegal, so unless they give me veritaserum, I just need to keep my head down and hope that the death of Voldemort covers it. Wait, I know what we can do. Do you trust me?" Dumbledore looked at him for a moment, then nodded. "Close your eyes. And you might want to put up a shield, just in case."
Dumbledore blinked, but did what Harry suggested as Harry jumped up and banished the chair he was in. Once Dumbledore's shield was up, Harry closed his eyes and thought about what things looked like immediately after he'd blown Riddle to bits. Raising his hand, the various bodies of Death Eaters rose slightly and repositioned themselves to approximately where they had been. Then Harry raised his wand to be level with his other hand, and after a moment's concentration began slowly raising both of them, pointing higher in the sky. This continued for a minute, during which Harry began to grimace as the bodies rose higher and higher. Then he relaxed, and they dropped. From about two hundred feet up.
A few seconds later Dumbledore heard and felt a series of crashes, and opened his eyes just in time to see a little dirt bounce off his shield. The Death Eaters were now sprawled out as though knocked down by a blast, and probably had the broken bones to go with it. Harry turned to Dumbledore and said, "Not perfect, but should be good enough to make it look like the blast took them down. Now how about you and I go find a nice corner table at the Three Broomsticks and raise a glass or three to the demise of Lord Voldemort?"
Dumbledore shook his head with a smile. He knew he might regret this, but then again he was getting old, and probably wouldn't be around long enough for it to bite him. "OK, Harry, I'm in. I promise not to tell anyone what really happened here, and I won't mention this Dark Lord business again. Just please tell me your story so I can stick to it."
Harry beamed. "Simple," he said, "I challenged him to a duel, showed up on my broom at altitude, and when I saw his backup I did a hit and run - one shot, from above, and then I took off and didn't look back until you found me and told me the news. You must've found out about the duel, followed me, and either confirmed that the Death Eaters were dead before coming to find me, or just took off when you saw Voldemort was gone. Either way, you were just an observer. Nice and simple, and it has the benefit of being mostly true. Now, I'm hungry. Dinner's on me, drinks are on you, deal?"
Dumbledore had been nodding as he followed along with the story. Harry was right, it probably would hold up. He smiled when Harry said he was hungry, again glad to see the typical teenager emerge. "Deal. Shall I apparate us together?"
"Nah, you go on ahead. I want to collect my broom and take it back to my locker. Come find me there." Harry started to walk away from the crater, and Dumbledore apparated away.
After he was gone, Harry laughed. "He really thought I was the Dark Lord Potter." Harry chuckled darkly for a moment, then burst into normal laughter. "Dark Lord, me? Don't be ridiculous!"