Downbeat Ending. People seem to like this one best.
It was eleven o'clock that evening. The discussion of the tests had petered out again, with Mandy threatening to slug Hermione if she attempted to continue it; the hair advice for the evening had been dispensed, and the girls were finding comfortable positions on the communal bed. In short, the end of another evening of waiting for grades to come in.
Then Sibby suddenly appeared six inches in front of Harry's face. Sibby had been one of the elves delegated to guard the door on the third floor, so immediately they knew there was a problem.
"Mister Potter, sir?"
"Harry remembered Sibby's name! He..."
"Yes, I did. What is the message?"
"The professor who smells like bad garlic went through the door, sir. The Professor who looks like a bat was with him but left after the garlic professor went through."
With that, the students left to get Professors Sinistra and Trelawney, who were enjoying one last fortified coffee before going to bed. Trelawney had cut down greatly on her drinking, but claimed to still have a weakness for a shot in her coffee on a cold night. The fact that it was almost seventy degrees outside didn't seem to count for much this evening.
Harry stated, "Winky said that Professor Quirrell went through the third-floor door. Apparently tonight's the night."
Both professors immediately ended their coffeeklatsch to begin the pursuit.
With Dumbledore and most of their fellow professors untrustworthy, Sinistra and Trelawney sent Megan Jones to Hufflepuff, on the grounds that Professor Sprout would be likely to help, and that Tonks would be able to summon Aurors in case of an emergency, as she had begun working with them during weekends. Megan arrived unmolested at the badgers' house and talked to Tonks, who was able to summon Aurors and then got her own Combat Cloak.
Combat Cloaks are thick, heavy floor-length cloaks made of dragon skin. They are cumbersome to move around in and ugly to look at, usually dyed black if the dragon in question hadn't been black-skinned. They have one purpose- protecting their wearers from all low- and medium-level spells and many high-level spells. (With one notable exception. No one had yet found a way to make Avada Kedavra any less lethal.)
Meanwhile, the other students had arrived at the third-floor door. Millicent remembered that Cerberi are susceptible to falling asleep when music is played, and a charmed harp was still sounding next to a trap door, in front of a sleeping three-headed dog.
The students jumped down the trap door, along with Professor Sinistra. Trelawney and Susan stayed behind to keep an eye on the dog, the harp, and the escape route.
The students landed in the bower of a large and angry bush. Mandy Brocklehurst was the first to recognize it as Devil's Snare, and to cast Lumos to annoy it. The vines continued to grab and hold more students until each student who still had an arm free managed to cast Lumos and hold their wands close enough to shock the plant into releasing them.
Next came a room with a large, malodorous and unconscious troll. Su Li and Sinistra were left here to keep an eye on it while the other students went forward to a room with a huge chess set.
When they tried to advance across the room, the pawns whipped out two swords each to prevent their further progress. It was obvious that they'd have to play their way across the room.
Too bad none of the students knew how to play any kind of chess. Neither did Sinistra, when asked.
A few minutes later, a half dozen aurors and Nymphadora Tonks finally arrived in their Combat Cloaks. Fortunately, two of them, a large black man named Kingsley Shacklebolt and a smiling young lady named Hestia Jones, did know how to play chess and handily defeated the pieces ranged opposite them.
The aurors proceeded into a room with seven bottles on a table.
Just then, the door opposite the table opened, and Quirrell floated through, with a triumphant look on his face and spells on his lips. After firing several spells, he turned around and removed his turban, and roared swiftly toward the Chess Room and what lay beyond.
"Tonks, get control of yourself!" Kingsley Shacklebolt, Senior Auror, Chess Master, black man with an earring, and all-around badass, was not an easy man to rattle. But from his voice, it was clear that he was almost as shocked as the shivering Nymphadora Tonks.
"He just flew... like a bat out of hell..."
"That's a good term for it, Tonks." Amelia Susan Bones, the head of the Department for Magical Law Enforcement, walked into the room. "There's another dead student in the room with the troll, and Professor Trelawney was killed at the door from the stairwell. There's no sign of Quirrell, or Voldemort... stop cringing, people! We need to start a search immediately!"
"For a flying wizard, who can no doubt Apparate hundreds of miles?" Auror Proudfoot asked. "Good fucking luck."
"I know, Proudfoot, but it has to be done," said Bones. "I don't expect it to produce any results, but we might just get lucky and find someone who saw him in Hogsmeade. Then maybe he can tell us about someone else..." Her voice trailed off at considering the magnitude of the task before her.
"Very well, Madame Bones. You get the search started and get the news out, and we will finish things here," said Shacklebolt. Bones left the room.
The scene was a horrific one. Three Aurors lay dead in the room beyond, now connected to the room where they were now standing, with the table that had contained potions reduced to splinters and the separating wall mostly destroyed. One showed signs of having been killed with the Avada Kedavra, while the other two had died much more unpleasantly from overpowered Cutting and Entrail-Expelling Curses. Millicent Bulstrode lay unmoving and unbreathing behind the remains of a rook. Harry Potter, meanwhile, had been saved by Tonks' quick thinking when she covered him with her body, itself protected by her heavy Combat Cloak; by the way he was moving, he had likely suffered at least one broken rib. The other Harem students were white-faced and shaking, and several were surrounded by pools of vomit caused by what they had seen, heard, and smelled.
"It's starting again, isn't it, Shack?" asked Proudfoot.
"Yes, it is," replied Shacklebolt. There really wasn't anything else to be said here.
At the emergency faculty meeting convened upstairs in the Headmaster's office, however, there was a lot to be said. Most of it was being said to Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, with a list of honorifics that was about to shrink considerably.
"This is your fault, Albus," said Minerva McGonagall. "Yours and no one else's. You didn't consult with any of us before bringing the Philosopher's Stone here. You insisted that the protections on the Stone were adequate. You didn't allow the Aurors to establish a proper guard. And now a Professor and two students are dead."
"You spent too much time playing... political games with the Ministry and too little considering the welfare of your students," added Sinistra, furious as she had never been before. "I and the rest of House Harem are only alive because Voldemort- get used to it, everyone- decided to make a quick getaway!"
"You didn't ask several of us to reinforce the protection on the Stone even though we have knowledge directly related to protection and defense," said Ancient Runes Professor Bathsheba Babbling.
"You should have arranged for a permanent Auror presence here," said Professor Sprout. "They would have done it; they've done it before for high-value targets."
"Eleven-year-olds penetrated your 'intricate traps,' based on clues from Muggles," sneered Professor Snape. Although he had been a proponent of the planned defense, he knew how this meeting was likely to end, and the Professors had been briefed by the Aurors on how the Harem students knew enough to reach the Chess Room.
"I think the Muggles said it best, Albus," concluded Muggle Studies Professor Charity Burbage. "To quote what was said about another subpar war leader, 'You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!'"
Dumbledore said nothing in his own defense. What was there to say against this indictment?
"I'll place the motion," said Professor McGonagall. "All those in favor of demanding Professor
Dumbledore's immediate dismissal from all positions of authority and trust at Hogwarts, say 'Aye.'"
"AYE!" The response was unanimous, except for Dumbledore himself.
"All those opposed?" Just as McGonagall asked the question, a large black owl flew into the Headmaster's office. McGonagall retrieved the owl and removed and read the letter attached to its leg.
"It appears that my motion is now academic. The Board of Governors has already met and discharged you, Dumbledore. Effective immediately. I shall be interim Headmistress until a more permanent replacement is found."
"Congratuilations, Headmistress," said Snape. "If I may make a suggestion..."
"And my first act as Headmistress," McGonagall said to overrule Snape, "is to table my previous motion, substituting the name 'Severus Snape' for 'Dumbledore.'"
"What is this nonsense?" asked Snape.
In response, Professor Flitwick walked over to a filing cabinet on the wall near the door. He opened the middle drawer, pulled out a bulging folder, closed the drawer, returned to the table, and slapped it on the table.
"This is the file of complaints against you, Snape," Flitwick snarled. "For this year, mind you. And there are a dozen more of equal or greater size in that cabinet."
"If I may make a suggestion," Dumbledore attempted to interrupt.
"You most certainly may not," McGonagall proclaimed, "and you shall be stunned if you speak again without permission. You have been fired. You have no voice at this meeting anymore. But since you have decided to include yourself in this conversation, why have you been relying on a known Death Eater for thirteen years?"
"Severus has been supplying us with information from the Death Eaters, and I trust him implicitly."
"And what information is this?" asked Sinistra. "I never heard a word of it."
"You have not been the only one not consulted about this information," said Sprout.
"I haven't been, either, "responded Burbage.
"What little information I have heard, I had already read in the Daily Prophet," said McGonagall. "But no matter now. Your Death Eater connections, your connection with Dumbledore's games, your inadequate design of the Stone's protections, or your atrocious teaching record would each be sufficient reason to fire you."
"I call Professor McGonagall's motion for an immediate vote," said Babbling.
"All in favor?" asked McGonagall.
Snape raised his hand and started to speak. "Headmistress..."
"Motion carried. Both of the sacked Professors are to leave immediately. Contact us later when you have determined where you want your belongings sent."
"But my belongings have been commingled with..." started Dumbledore.
"Don't make me hex you, Dumbledore! GO!"
Dumbledore and Snape both got up and walked out of the office. Snape turned for a Parthian shot, but the look on McGonagall's face convinced him that it would be a bad idea. He left without a word.
"Now, what other business is there?" asked McGonagall.
"I have been thinking," said Professor Binns. "This situation may not be as bad as we think."
"Dare I ask how you could reach that conclusion?" asked Flitwick. "Or will we be exorcising a teacher in addition to the two we have dismissed?"
"Hear me out, please!" pleaded Binns. "Yes, Voldemort has the Stone. But does he know how to use it?"
"Anyone knows what the Stone is used for," sputtered Flitwick.
"You misunderstand me. Yes, he knows what it is intended to do. But does he know the mechanics? Does he know to 'Put Stone A in Cauldron B with Ingredients C and D for Time X?'"
That was a good question, and one without an obvious answer.
"I can think of two people who would know. I think we need to find them immediately. I assume you know who they are."
The Wizengamot's meeting, even chaired by a short, squat heretofore Fudge ally named Dolores Umbridge in Amelia Bones' absence, had been equally quick and brutal. By a unanimous vote, Fudge had been impeached and removed from the post of Minister of Magic. Amelia Bones would be Minister effective immediately; her deputy Alastor Moody, just removed from active duty and previously contemplating retirement, would be Acting Minister until Bones' return. There would be no special election, as had been the custom when the post had become suddenly vacant in the recent past. Indeed, the regular 1994 election was in doubt, pending the resolution of the obviously revived Wizarding War.
Fudge screamed accusations as he was dragged from his office. Narcissa Malfoy, acting as her husband's proxy, confidently stated, "Fudge, I have no idea what you are babbling about, but if you repeat your wild allegations, I shall contact my solicitors." What Lucius Malfoy didn't know about covering up his financial tracks wasn't worth knowing.
As for Xeno Lovegood's allegations, a couple of Wizengamot members had brought their Quibblers to the meeting, only to find that the furious momentum caused by the Philospher's Stone theft was already carrying Fudge out of office. They were not introduced into evidence.
The Leaving Feast was held in a funereal atmosphere, with all-black wall hangings and a very brief, subdued speech by Professor McGonagall honoring the late Professor Trelawney, Millicent, and Su Li. In one sentence, she noted that House Harem would be granted a share of the House Cup along with Ravenclaw, for their heroic efforts in attempting to stop Voldemort. The absence of Snape and of Dumbledore were not referred to in any official way, but with the story of their firing in the Daily Prophet, there wasn't really a need.
On the train ride home, Professor Sinistra gathered House Harem in one crowded compartment to give everyone a chance to say goodbye. According to calculations made by herself and new Deputy Headmaster Professor Flitwick, Harry would require two months at 4 Privet Drive to call it home, rendering him unable to leave for most of the summer. Sinistra personally promised to pick him up the instant that the blood wards permitted, and asked the other Harem students to have their parents visit him whenever they could.
With that, the Hogwarts Express arrived at King's Cross Station. The Dursleys were there in all their dubious glory, with Vernon and Dudley having apparently gained weight during the year. Sinistra saw Vernon cuff Harry in the back of the head as the Durleys headed to their car and her hand tightened about her wand... but for the good of her student, she did nothing and headed back to look after the girls, as she had concluded that threatening the Dursleys would probably make things even worse. It was going to be a long summer for everyone.
So there's your Downbeat Ending. The more I think about this ending, the more I like it; it allows you to play with some concepts never seen in canon (how exactly do you make the Stone work, what would a free agent Dumbledore do, etc.). It will not be the "AH canonical" ending, though. Anyone who wishes to carry it forward is welcome, as long as they acknowledge their source.