The Best Medicine (CHALLENGE)

A/N: I, MumbaiGirl1, own nothing recognisable, except for the plot. The sources of inspiration are rather obvious. This was, to commemorate the day, supposed to be published on the 10th of October. This is my Challenge Story (not necessarily the first chapter for any challenge response). I want to see a villain Harry and most that I wanted to read turned out to be Dramione or some Death Eater/Hermione and such rubbish.

"YOU!" snarled Martin Granger, standing at the side of his daughter's bed, while his wife Christine looked on, at the best friend his daughter had followed into a trap, and, to his mind, the person responsible for her now standing on the verge of death. "IT'S YOUR FAULT! YOU WILL HAVE KILLED HER!" The man advanced upon the boy and grabbed him by his collar, before proceeding to shake him and then push him away, hard. It was abusive. Martin Granger didn't particularly care at that moment. He then just sank onto his daughter's bed, distraught.

Harry looked at the family of three that seemed destined to be broken with tears in his eyes. He had nothing to say. As usual, there was nobody on his side. There was nothing good that ever happened to him. There were only two people he always expected that from, that had been left in the world. One was dead, rescuing him from an attack on the rescue party for the very same person. The other seemed to be following him, injured in the previously mentioned rescue attempt.

He shot the Grangers one last look before running out of the Infirmary, painfully aware of Molly Weasley's disapproving glare as she sat by her children.

A mirthless snort escaped him as the realisation struck home painfully. He was truly alone. He had nobody left in the world.

In the deserted dormitory (Dean and Seamus were out somewhere doing who knew what) Harry closed the curtains and lay numbly in bed. It was the worst day of his life, and given the life he'd had, that said something. Dumbly he compared Halloween 1981, every punishment given at the Dursleys, Hermione's petrifaction, the night Voldemort returned, and even then that day won the prize, hands down.

It was his mistake. He had made the mistake of falling for the trap. It was his mistake. It was because of his mistake that Sirius died. It was his mistake. It was because of his mistake that his friends were hurt. It was his mistake.

The thought went on and on in a loop as the boy, too stunned to think, to grieve and to come to terms with everything that had happened just fell asleep with that thought in his mind.

Harry drifted aimlessly through the corridors of Hogwarts, alone again. His previous night's mantra was now competing for head-space with another thought. He had never complained before – h knew it was useless. Nobody would pay attention to him after all, or to what he wanted or needed. He had brought himself up on what meagre things he was allowed in the Dursley house of horrors. He always had only himself.

And now he found out that even his own actions were mistakes.

It made him want to lash out, to complain. It was unfair. What had he ever done to anyone that he was always tormented, always tortured? Who had he hurt? What was his mistake that he was forever destined to suffer? It was endless. He just wanted it to end.

And then there was that bloody prophecy. He was supposed to kill or be killed. Wonderful, wasn't it? He, a hopeless freak, as his dear bitch of an aunt constantly drummed into him, the good-for-nothing waste of space and perfectly good resources, was expected to take care of the magical world's problems.

And even they had no shame asking him to do it for them. When had they stood by him? When had they believed him? What did he owe them?

He hated everyone and everything now, including himself. He just wanted it all to end. He could end it, really. It would be so easy. He just needed to take one step too far off the Astronomy Tower and all his problems would end. Or, if he was feeling particularly creative, he could turn up inside the Acromantula nest in the forest, or perhaps the Black Lake. Or maybe he could just beg Snape, that bastard, to take him to Voldemort, tell him the prophecy, maybe make a deal for his friends and family and stand manfully as the last two words he would ever hear would be spoken.

Maybe then he would not be alone.

And now he had to look forward to being alone and having nothing to tie him to life if he didn't end it all and was shipped back to the Dursleys for his annual imprisonment sentence. What did he have to look forward to?

He really should have been paying attention to his surroundings.

Draco Malfoy was not particularly skilled at anything except whining to his father and getting him to manage things so that he could pay his way to get what the brat wanted. And now Potter had sent his father to Azkaban. He had seen the papers.

"Malfoy Unmasked!" the headlines screamed. "The true face of Lucius Malfoy is now open to the world!"

Well, he would take care of that. Potter would not have to worry about his face anymore.

Funnily, Harry's and Draco's objectives matched for the first and last time in their lives.


"Well, well, well; if it isn't Potter." Draco was evidently practising his evil henchman speech if he could deliver that without stuttering.

Harry found the thought funny, so he said as much, with a snort. "That is adorable. You actually practised a speech just for me after an ambush. It is amusing!" Crazed as he was as he rapidly lost the will to be, he grabbed Draco by the shoulders and shook him as he practically squealed in a semi-dignified manner, "Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!" Finding anything to be humorous was something that both Sirius and his father would have encouraged him in, he decided. At least for as long as he was around, perhaps he could honour their memory that way?

"What is?" asked a slightly disconcerted Draco.

"Don't make me explain the joke! That kills it."

Draco had asked a stupid question, deviating from his objective, and received a non-answer for his troubles, enraging him further. "Grab him!" he snarled, signalling his hulking henchmen to do his job. Crabbe and Goyle, trained to do just that, and Nott, all surged forward to avenge the unmasking of their respective fathers. Together they proceeded to beat Harry up.

And then Draco stepped up with his coup de grace.

"We are going to kill you Potter. I suppose you must have realised that by now."

Harry spat some blood and grinned at him. Yes. The bad week was now officially complete. He had to listen to Draco gloat. He was the poor Wile. E. Coyote in Looney Tunes, it seemed. And he wasn't too, perhaps. Whatever action anyone took, the ACME anvil never seemed to be tired of its love affair with Harry's head. Oh dear, he was deviating. He had to pay attention to his last tormentor. At least the pillock was useful sometimes – if he really did succeed.

"Still finding something very funny, are we?" Draco spat at his enemy. "You are grinning. Tell you what, you unmasked our fathers. You know what the irony will be? When the time is for your funeral, they will want you in a mask, Potter. They will see your face and cringe."

He fished out a potion bottle from his pocket and splashed the scalding thing on Harry's face. Goyle then wrenched open Harry's mouth and Draco, finding his minion's idea worthy had Harry chomp down hard on the bottle. The potion was ingested, as were some pieces of glass. Harry's face was torn up as well.

"Your screams are musical, Potter!" Malfoy gleefully informed his dying enemy. "It is unfortunate that I don't have either the time or the patience to stop and watch." The four cackled with laughter as Harry thrashed about in the vice-like grip of the two behemoths.

"You will join your blood-traitor of a godfather soon, Potty," remarked Nott as they left, leaving Harry to die, as he screamed in agony.

Magic is a wondrous thing. In people who have it, it can be the difference between life and death, for magic always intends to preserve itself. It helps a beaten boy regain his strength and heal his injuries. And it helps a young man, who has given up on life, heal physically.

A bout of tremendous accidental magic fuelled Harry's recovery as the shards of glass were forcefully expelled from his body. The potion was largely expelled. But it could still do only so much.

For all its wonders, not even magic could heal a broken mind.

"That is called luck," muttered Harry to himself after he regained consciousness a good hour later. "I am the boy who can't die." He struggled to his feet as he made his way towards a boys' bathroom to clear up all the sick that his body had expelled. "I can't do anything right. I can't even die properly."

He cleaned up somewhat, unable to reach all the places and unable care about that as well. And then he saw his reflection in the water and was startled.

Harry recoiled at the sight of his own face. He bit down on the scream that threatened to tear through his tortured throat. He had become white – almost like Voldemort, but not quite. The potion had somehow bleached his face. And if he had one scar before, he had many now, enough to outstrip Mad-Eye Moody in that department. His face was permanently disfigured into a grotesque smile.

This time it was a scream of frustration, anger, horror and pain that tore itself free of Harry's abused throat.

"WHY?" he yelled out at nobody in particular. "WHAT DID I EVER DO TO ANYONE? WHY DOES EVERYTHING BAD HAPPEN TO ME? HAVEN'T I BEEN HURT ENOUGH? EVERYBODY AND EVERYTHING IS TAKEN FROM ME! WHY? WHY AM I NOT ALLOWED TO NOT BE SAD OR IN GRIEF?" He shook his fist at the ceiling in the normal gesture of any person at the end of his or her tether and demanding answers from a power far higher than his or her own. "IT IS NOT FUNNY!"

No longer able to contain it all, he fell to the ground, beating the floor with his fists and kicking and screaming out at nobody in particular, before jerking upright and banging his head against a wall, and then kicking it. Finally, he was too exhausted to continue, and he broke down into loud sobs.

The sobs grew in intensity and in loudness before they petered away as they gave way to something else. In that moment, something else joined the glass vial of the potion in its brokenness. After nearly fifteen years of torture, Harry finally snapped. He started laughing. It was a manic laughter that would have terrified anyone who heard it. There wasn't anyone, as a matter of fact, but it was the laughter that portended the unleashing of something far worse than Voldemort onto the magical world.

It was after all the Heir of the Marauders who would have the last laugh.

He laughed till his scars ached, and then laughed some more. Then, nearly three hours later, finally deciding that he wouldn't be missed anyway and since laughter was just what the Doctor ordered for all that ailed the magical world, the demented bloke just simply left, cackling to himself. Work, work, work; who said jokes were easy and came cheap? He just needed to borrow some money while nobody was looking; or rather while they were looking elsewhere.

Albus Dumbledore, Amelia Bones, Cornelius Fudge, Lord Voldemort and the Director of the London Branch of Gringotts' had something very much in common on the twenty-seventh of June 1996. They were, all of them, vexed by an incidence so shocking, even the Dark Lord felt far too uneasy to bother with the idea of implementing any plans to take the magical world over.

Then again, to be honest, it wasn't just the events of the 27th of June that had put everyone in a tizzy. The problems had started a slight bit before the end of the term.

Harry Potter, the prize scapegoat for the Minister, the prize weapon for Dumbledore and a newly interested Amelia Bones, a prized customer of Gringotts', and the prize enemy of Voldemort was found missing the day after the Ministry debacle. His friends, very worried friends had searched in vain. All his effects and his owl were missing. The Order had been given the directive to check for the boy after the Hogwarts Express arrived in London.

And that was where the real scope of the problem became visible. The Hogwarts Express did arrive at Platform 9 ¾. Many students, however, didn't.

Specifically, the children or wards of those who were Imperiused into being Death Eaters and even those of top-ranking Ministry officials who had tarried in their preparations and disbelieved Voldemort's return, were noticeably absent.

For all that he could order his minions to do, even Voldemort knew, that there was nothing he could do if all his minions had lost their children in one go. He could not command them to do his bidding, so instead he had to pretend to care for the "pureblood heirs". And if the Bones woman's niece was missing as well, he knew it wasn't the Ministry doing anything. Not that they ever did anything. It was as if their entire world was put into fearful stasis.

Nobody dared to do anything, particularly when there was no ransom call. There was no sign of them being taken. No Auror had heard even the littlest bit of news. People, already scared of Voldemort, found that this unknown, unnamed and silent threat was far more menacing. About the only thing done was placing an advertisement for a reward in exchange for any information.

And then came the day. The 27th of June was the day when everything started to change and devolve into madness. The site was Gringotts'.

It was a normal day, or whatever passed for the new normal. There were customers milling around, making small transactions just enough to survive upon for a week. It frustrated the goblins to no end. Not one person or goblin blinked an eye when a hooded figure entered the bank. The figure carried a bag which bulged slightly. When the figure forwarded a key which the cashier recognised, and was about to press the Rune that would send an alarm through the bank. One of the people, the information about was valued a lot, was in the bank. He couldn't though, for he found a knife under his throat that very second.

"You will send for the cart, won't you? I don't see the need for you or anyone to be so...alarmed."

The goblin only blinked for a moment. The next moment it cringed at the hideous laughter emanating from the figure. Even if it wasn't Potter, this person had the key. That was all that mattered. It summoned a cart. "Vault 687," it tersely barked.

"Thank you," the customer sing-songed. "You know, I meant to tell you this, but you stink. What do you think of this perfume?" Before the goblin could react, it was sprayed by something. The next moment it keeled over in insane, unstoppable laughter. The goblin laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed till it lost control over its body. It almost destroyed the image of Gringotts' and did not go unpunished. Its assistant simply beheaded the goblin.

Down in the cart, the goblin that sat was asked a very silly question by the passenger. "Do Goblins fly?"

The cart-driver had only time to turn around to glare before the passenger forced a metal cylinder with wings attached to it onto the cart-driver and said, "I always wanted to know." The next instant, the goblin was falling into the deep abyss unaided by the large white feathery wings.

The passenger threw his hood back and leaned dangerously over the edge of the cart. "That's disappointing." He scratched his nose. "Do Goblins have angels? If they do, that was a fallen angel." Then the hideous-faced man grinned to himself and laughed at his own joke. "I will admit it was a bad joke. Well, what the heck. I will laugh anyway." The caverns rang with the laughter eerily as the cart hurtled along the track. A minute later, he shrugged off his hooded cloak to reveal a purple suit – to his addled mind, a parody of the clothes that the most powerful wizard in the world, Dumbledore wore, and threw up his hands into the air. "I just want to spread glee!"

He retrieved his bag and removed lots and lots and lots of smiley balls from it and tossed them around. "Laugh!" he shouted. "Smile! Be outrageously happy!" He waited for a moment to listen to the response that never came. "Well even if you don't I will always be!"

The smiley balls exploded upon contact, bringing all the walls crumbling down and exposing the vaults. And the mad wizard's mad magic collected the money within in the bag that held the balls, expanding it as things came, as he flew in the out-of-control cart on a mad roller-coaster ride. When he returned from the vaults, the hood back in place, he saw the entire goblin army arrayed against him. There was no need for hostilities. He just needed to get them all smiling.

"Just taking out the money I am," he seriously declared, before retrieving the largest bottle of the laughing potion there ever was from a coat pocket. It was taller than he was. "I have never understood why. Can you tell me?"

"What do you want to know thief?" snarled the chief of the army.

"Hey that's my performance pay. I haven't stolen anything. It's polite to pay for entertainment!" Of course, he jingled the bag of money as he said that.

The goblin dismissed the attempt to change the subject. He was going to fulfil the thief's last wish and tell him what he wanted to know. Never let it be said that the Goblins were uncultured beasts. "What do you want to know?"

"Why don't you ever smile?" the hooded man asked with a whine. He imitated the goblin growl and marred it with sibilance as he asked, "Why so serious?" There was no answer. So he continued, "Let's put a smile on that face!" The bottle dropped and broke as he shrieked, "Whoopsie!"

The gas spread through the building as more smiley balls added explosions to the mayhem. The mad cackle echoed through the halls as the madman hopped away on a ridiculously large and obviously magically enhanced Pogo Stick which had the effect of the "Boing" sound added to it. In the madman's wake the broken shells of the smiley balls sang what was to be his signature – "An Ode to Joy".

It was funny how this was the first time he had used the wand at all since he had started to smile forever. Still, it didn't matter. Where he kept on smiling, nobody would even think of sending him a letter for underage magic. Not that it was even a miniscule thought on his mind.

In one fell stroke, everyone had lost money. The goblins, unable to identify the madman, released an accounting of the lost vaults – Malfoy, Nott, Bones, Potter, Dumbledore, Lestrange, Dolohov, Fudge, Longbottom, Black, Diggle, Greengrass, Doge, Gibbon, Abbott, Goldstein... It was rather obvious that the thief wasn't picky at all. There wasn't even a pattern to the thievery, and money didn't seem to be an object, because the Potter vaults weren't much to speak of as compared to the Blacks, and the Diggles were approaching Weasley-level poverty, but it was all gone. No one knew what to say or think. Neither the Dark nor the Light had been spared.

Voldemort was very perturbed by the idea of not only losing his money sources, but also by being upstaged by this unknown element.

The man sat the money down, carefully removing all the objects from it. A cup seemed especially slimy to his hand. "Bah! I never liked badgers! Stupid creatures they are, always angry!" he exclaimed and threw it onto the money pile. Anything that felt slimy to touch went onto the pile. He then separated everything according to family and employed an entire parliament of owls to send it back to the owners. That meant each object was sent individually, with one owl.

"I am sure they never expected the Parliament returning stuff!" he cackled before frowning. "I can't keep laughing at my own jokes. Then he saw the children who were sitting at the table, laughing painfully. "They can laugh at my jokes! But that's for later."

The madman had found very destructive spells to use. One was of fire. He set the Fiendfyre upon the money pile. He didn't bother with control. He liked to watch things burn. In the end, it turned into one large statue that said, "I TOOK THE MONEY! HELP ME SPEND IT!" He watched gleefully as the red-hot words cooled down and he watched as he zoomed above the burning magical village on the outskirts of Manchester on a broom, cackling like the muggle idea of witches. He had particularly liked it when the pile of money had screamed and caused the people who were running to scream as well. It was a pity that the red clowns came and stopped the fire.

He was surprised, a few minutes later when the Parliament he had sent to send back all the Potter things kept coming back to him.

"Shoo!" he shouted at the owls. "Give it to the Potters! We aren't thieves! We keep nothing!"

When nothing worked, the man gave it up as a bad job. Maybe the Potters were all dead. Oh wait, he was a Potter. Bloody hell, he had forgotten being sad. Now he had to go thank the one who made him always smile.

Draco turned out to be a real pansy. Got it? He turned out to be a real Pansy. He couldn't take a little joke to make him smile. He still didn't know who Voldemort was though, not till he died anyway. That wasn't right. He had died of laughter, a good way as any to go.

But as a concerned citizen whose job was to provide the best medicine to one and all, the Doctor, as he called himself, had the duty to bring the fact that little children didn't truly know about their heroes! It had to be corrected.

The following day was worse, especially for Cornelius Fudge who was stubbornly refusing to resign and was quarrelling with Dumbledore and Bones over the matter. Amelia, in fact, just wanted all the power that the Minister had at his disposal to put up martial law so that she could find her niece by whatever way possible, especially now that she was practically penniless. There were only so many disasters she thought a person could bear. It was a pity that she never proactively investigated the yearly challenges a Hogwarts' student faced. If she had paid even an iota of attention to the rumours and done her job better, it would be a very different position she would be in. But as it was, she hadn't and so she wasn't.

Just as he was doing so, he was startled by a loud thud, Dumbledore's shocked, "My God!" and Bones' scream. The source of the noise that caused all the reactions nearly had Fudge choking on his own tongue.

It was Draco Malfoy. Or rather his dead body, hung from a noose, while his face was torn apart in a grotesque smile. Someone had taken a lot of effort repaying certain debts. Not even the worst cases of muggle torture had been so visibly horrible.

In the body's frozen hands was a box. The words, "Watch Me!" were written on it.

With utmost care, the body was taken in, with Amelia's hands shaking as she imagined Susan being tortured thus or worse, and the entire DMLE and a Wizengamot session were convened. Amelia, wishing to keep no stone unturned if it meant help finding Susan, invited the Order as well.

The box contained a videotape.

"How are we to watch that muggle contraption?" someone sneered. It wasn't a Malfoy. Narcissa and Lucius had both been put on a suicide watch, one at home, and the other in prison. But it was someone in their mould all the same.

"Using a VCR that we actually do have and never use," answered Amelia shortly.

"So it is a muggleborn who has kidnapped the children!"

"Or it could be some pureblood who wanted someone to think exactly that and was cleverer than the average pureblood and therefore took this path," reasoned William Shepherd a Muggleborn member, who sat on the Wizengamot owing to being one of the rarest of rare awardees of the Order of Merlin. It took a lot of effort to make the award sound like the death sentence – the rarest of rare case.

"As it stands," Dumbledore practically shouted over the angry repartees that this generated, "we have invested in an instrument from Arthur Weasley's department for precisely such an eventuality. Trading insults won't tell us where the children are."

That quieted down the hall. The box was pried from the hands of Draco Malfoy and placed gingerly on a table. It was a funny box. It had a handle on the outside. The Auror who placed it on the table yanked at it and obviously, failed.

Dumbledore proceeded to cast a simple spell to open it and failed as well.

Other members proceeded to, in their infinite wisdom, to cast spell upon spell to open it. It wasn't bespelled to close, so it couldn't be bespelled to open.

In the end, Tonks got very irritated and hurriedly told Amelia Bones how to open it. The Bones woman complied cautiously, and rotated the handle. It was a Jack-in-the-box, and needed to be opened that way. She was startled when a loud "WHEEEE" sound was emitted from it as a small muggle clown figure sprang from the box, holding the memory vial.

The memory only showed their dead companion. The boy was trussed up completely to a chair. He was barely conscious. He didn't appear to be tortured or starved – not that he seemed starved at that moment either.

"Are you a Death Eater?" asked the questioner.


"No?" sing-songed the tormentor. "Then why do you behave like them?" He placed a crude death eater's mask on the face and then stood behind the boy holding the mask to his face too tightly. "Not so slightly now is it? Nobody can see you smile!" He laughed a very hideous laugh to accompany his actions.

"Stop it you freak!" screamed Draco.

"A freak, am I? Then I am like your Dark Lord! Is that why you follow him?"

"He is a symbol, a symbol to show that one day we will be rid of freakish muggle-loving scum like you. And that you should be afraid of us."

The entire hall shuddered as one at the ingrained stupidity of the dead boy. Here he was at death's door and was still spouting of his stupidity to a person who had no real limits.

"Oh you will never be rid of me, Draco. And you should be afraid of me Draco, you should be. You really think Voldemort's going to make magic better?"

Draco whimpered a bit as he was slapped a bit.

"Look at me," the voice said in a deceptively soothing manner.

"Yes," Draco breathed out.

It was then that the fiend came into view. If Draco's tortured face was grotesque, this new face was the stuff that nightmares were made of. Even Voldemort – not Tom Riddle, but Voldemort as he was now – looked far handsome compared to this person. And it was not a grinning face, so much as a deadly, sinister smile that had a face attached to it. "You see, this is what Voldemort has done to the people of the magical world. They think he is some sort of messiah. So I have to create the solution. The Death Eaters and Voldemort are a disease and I, the Doctor, am going to give the best medicine of all. Laughter, laughter I shall spread, starting tonight. I won't need to spread laughter. It will spread on its own and with better punch-lines, if you start destroying the disease."

He turned to Draco and suddenly there were lights behind the boy. It was a glass dumping space. There were shards of glass everywhere, stacked up in medium-sized mounds presumably to later be melted or something. "Oh, I forgot to mention. Since dear Draco was the one to ensure that I would laugh forever I will give him the honour first. By tomorrow night, four Death Eaters should be dead. Put it in the evening papers. Toodles!" he sang. And then he laughed that echoing laughter as he dragged Draco from his chair for treatment. Malfoy's screams rang out in symphony with the chorus of the Doctor's song.

"I think it would be better if we prepare Mr. Malfoy's body for his funeral," Dumbledore spoke into the silence that greeted the end of the video. He waved his wand over the body, defrosting it in a way. The next moment, he vomited as Draco's body fell apart like miniscule shards of glass.

The Wizengamot was silent for a minute. Then the Aurors flew into action arresting everybody who was marked and lived.

Hermione's convalescence was progressing surprisingly well for a girl who was out of her mind worrying about her missing best friend. She had not had a very good relationship with her parents, especially her father of late. He had run Harry off. She could understand his fear, but then she knew, objectively, that there were two people whom Harry trusted beyond anyone else. And both were, so far as he knew dead or close to death. And now he had gone missing. She worried that he might take a drastic step – there was only so far that anyone could be pushed.

As she read the Daily Prophet on the 29th of June, she shrieked in shock. No it wasn't the headlines which she had ignored as she gazed at the picture. It spoke of a deranged madman who was killing children and spoke about what he had done to Draco in revenge for what Draco had supposedly done. This person had kidnapped so many of her fellow students. But it wasn't the words that had her attention. It was the picture. It was the eyes which told her everything. Even in black and white print, she would recognise them. She would recognise them anywhere. And that was the moment she knew. Her best friend, as she knew him, was dead.

### So that's the Challenge.

### If you want pairings, make it anyone but Harry/Ginny and Hermione/Ron. I can't imagine any better Harley Quinn than Luna but I can't see even a deranged Harry being abusive towards her like the Joker.

### Snape and any Death Eater that you may like is like any other Death Eater and there should be no mercy for them.

### Do what you like with Dumbledore – most will bash him anyway.


### The story should have a true "The Joker descends upon the Magical World" Theme in that Voldemort is not the final goal. The theme has to be Harry's descent into madness as the Joker.

### Otherwise do what you like.

[This came from an attempt to write a canon-style start to a story. That means that Harry is harassed till jumping off a cliff seems a nice, enticing prospect. Don't tell me this is OTT or OOC. That's what JKR did in the last three books. I just gave it a sinister twist.]

Inspiration: The Killing Joke; Joker's Origins (animated film) and The Dark Knight (film).