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Chapter 22 ~ Welcome to My Nightmare
Rick’s mind went blank, except for the sound of two words that reverberated painfully through his consciousness ... Avada Kedavra, spoken in the cold, harsh, gloating voice of Voldemort. It seemed to go on forever, but probably it was only a few moments. As the last echo of those terrible words died away, Rick’s senses began to function once more, discerning the world around him. He found himself alone, in the Potters’ garden at Godric’s Hollow. But how can this be? Rick asked himself. It was no longer an autumn night. The garden was no longer tidy and well-kept. The Potters’ house was no longer in flames. The midday sun was low in a wintry sky. The garden was an untended, unruly mass of weeds, and the cottage was in ruins. Both house and garden looked like they had been untouched for years. In fact, everything looked exactly the same to Rick, as it had when he Apparated here from Hogwarts. Rick searched his mind, but could not remember having deliberately tried to travel forward again in time. Yet it really seemed as though he had. The last thing he could remember was Voldemort’s Killing Curse. Everything after that was a total blank. It’s not like I’m not used to living with huge blanks in my past, thought Rick uneasily. I just wish I knew what happened after Voldemort cursed Harry. That was the whole point of my being there. I better get back to Hogwarts and tell Dumbledore what happened. I wonder what he’ll make of it. Rick Apparated back to the Headmaster’s study and immediately made himself visible. But the Headmaster wasn’t there; nor was Harry or Hermione. Professor Snape was the only one in the room. He was standing with his back to Rick, lost in thought, looking out the window. “Err, Professor Snape,” said Rick, “Where’s Professor Dumbledore and —” But Rick stopped. Snape spun around, reflexively drawing his wand as he moved into a defensive posture, the expression on his face, a mixture of surprise, incredulity, wariness, and hostility. “Who the hell are you? Where in Hades did you come from?” demanded Snape dangerously. “How on earth did you manage to get into this locked and warded office? Stay perfectly still! Move as much as a muscle and you’ll be dead before you hit the ground!” “Err ... Professor Snape,” began Rick. “What’s going —” “I already know my own name,” said Snape, glaring intently at Rick. “What I wish to know is your name – and exactly what you are doing in my office!” he said threateningly. “Your office?” Rick blurted out. “But this is Professor Dumbledore’s office – where is he?” “I’ll ask the questions,” barked Snape. He appeared to be a little unsettled by Rick’s question. “Tell me your name and how you got into my office. Now!” Rick was about to ask Snape why he was asking him his name, when he knew it perfectly well. But a quick probe of Snape’s mind told Rick that Snape was completely mystified as to who he was. Rick was starting to feel very uneasy. “My name is Rick Godfry, sir,” said Rick. “Err ... what’s the date today?” Snape ignored Rick’s question. “How did you get into my office?!” he demanded. “I Apparated, sir,” answered Rick. “Don’t lie to me!” snarled Snape. “No one can Apparate at Hogwarts – tell me how you got into my office – now!” Since Snape was refusing to answer him, Rick decided to get his answers straight from Snape’s mind. It was exactly the same day that he had Apparated from this office to Godric’s Hollow. But it was no longer Dumbledore’s office. Professor Severus Snape seemed to firmly believe that he, and not Professor Dumbledore, was the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. What have I done? Rick asked himself fearfully. Have I somehow changed everything? Snape was becoming furious. He raised his wand, apparently intending to hex Rick. But suddenly Rick disappeared. “You see, I was telling you the truth about Apparating,” said Rick from behind Snape. He had decided it would be easier just to demonstrate than argue. Snape spun around, astonished, pointing his wand at Rick, but before he could curse him, Rick was back in front of the desk. “Impedimenta! ” yelled Snape, after turning around again. Rick didn’t bother to Apparate this time. He simply cast a Reflecting Shield, which turned Snape’s curse back on him. Snape stood frozen. Rick took the opportunity to try and sort out his confused thoughts. He sank into a comfortable armchair and tried to figure out what had happened. It was obvious now that somehow, he had changed time, and almost certainly not for the better. But he had done nothing! He followed Dumbledore’s instructions to the letter. In the end, he changed nothing. He didn’t cast his Reflecting Shield over Harry. Had Harry been killed? Did Voldemort get away unscathed? He had to find out, but Snape didn’t seem to be in any mood to answer questions. Rick was certain Snape had changed sides and joined Dumbledore before that fateful Halloween night. He was just going to have to trust him – well, a little, at least. “Err, Professor Snape, if you wouldn’t mind just, err ... standing there quietly for a bit, I’d like to take the opportunity to, err ... explain where I’ve come from. You probably won’t believe me at first, so it might be best if you just, err ... stay that way, till I’m finished.” Rick decided to be selective about what he told Snape, just in case he had changed sides again. “I’m a Hogwarts student, sir. A Gryffindor, as you can see from my uniform. I was in this very office this morning. But, you see, you weren’t here. In fact, you weren’t even the Headmaster. You were the Potions master. Professor Albus Dumbledore was the Headmaster and I was sitting in this room with him and two friends of mine, Hermione Granger and Harry Potter. I have some rather unusual abilities, as you’ve just seen for yourself. One of them is the ability to travel in time. Professor Dumbledore had asked me to go back in time, to observe something. He told me most emphatically, not to change anything. “I did exactly as he said, and was very careful not to change a thing. But somehow, it seems I have, because, when I Apparated back to his office, Professor Dumbledore, Harry, and Hermione were gone and you were here – apparently, the Headmaster of Hogwarts. Something has gone dreadfully wrong. Err ... by the way sir, I didn’t curse you – err, just in case you were thinking I did. I’m rather good at putting up a Reflecting Shield, which turns your own curse back on you. You were hit by your own Impedimenta Curse. I’ll lift it now. But I suggest you don’t try cursing me again. Finite Incantatem.” Snape remained frozen for a few moments as he stared wide-eyed at Rick, in disbelief. Finally, he shook his head violently and rushed to his desk, pulled open a drawer, and took out a bottle of Firewhisky. He didn’t bother with a glass; he just threw back his head, taking two large gulps, to steady his nerves. Then he collapsed into his chair and closed his eyes, pressing a thumb and forefinger to them. After a minute or two, he opened his eyes, and took a small glass from the open drawer. He filled it with Firewhisky and downed it in a single gulp. Finally, he looked up at Rick, incredulously. “Did I hear you correctly? Did you say that one of the people in this office was Harry Potter?” “Yes sir,” replied Rick. “Harry Potter, the son of James Potter and Lily Evans. I think you went to school —” “But Harry Potter died, along with his parents, fifteen years ago!” said Snape emphatically. Rick gulped – his worst fears had been realised. “In this reality, perhaps he did, but in the one I came from he didn’t. Voldemort tried to kill him, but his curse rebounded, almost killing him, but not quite. It destroyed his body and he disappeared for fourteen years. His followers were defeated. Most of them ended up in Azkaban. Harry Potter became famous for causing Voldemort’s downfall. He became known as The Boy who Lived.” “But surely this is just some fantastic story you’ve invented – it can’t be true,” said Snape, shaking his head as he poured himself another Firewhisky. But Rick could see the doubt and uncertainty in Snape’s mind. He had to find a way of proving it to him. “I don’t know what is and isn’t common knowledge in this reality sir, but since you’re Headmaster here, you probably wouldn’t expect me to know that you were once a Death Eater – but that you changed sides and were spying for Dumbledore. You warned him that one of the Potters’ friends was spying for Voldemort. It was Peter Pettigrew. I doubt very much many people in this reality would know that.” Snape turned ashen-faced. There was not a person alive who knew his deepest, darkest, most dangerous secret – at least not until now. Snape quickly downed the glass of Firewhisky. He certainly wasn’t going to confirm the allegation. If it got out, he was worse than dead. For a moment he considered killing Godfry. No – he’d killed enough in his Death Eater days – he’d turned his back on that. That aside, this Godfry, or whoever he was, had a lot of power. It might not be so easy. “If Harry died that night, in this reality, then what about Voldemort? What happened to him?” asked Rick, uneasily. “In this reality,” replied Snape, in a flat emotionless voice, “he is called the Eternal Emperor. He is the absolute ruler of the magical world, and has plans to one day be ruler of the whole world.” “What happened to Professor Dumbledore and Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Hagrid and all the other members of —” Rick stopped himself short, he knew nothing of Snape’s present loyalties – if he had any, apart from to his bottle of Firewhisky. He didn’t want to give away the name of anyone that Snape didn’t know about – they might still be alive. “The Order of the Phoenix?” asked Snape. “All dead – and many more besides. Everyone who opposed the Dark Lord was ruthlessly murdered – after the Dementors had devoured their souls. All the Squibs, Muggle-born and half-blood witches and wizards were exterminated fifteen years ago, when the Dark Lord came to power. Welcome to my Nightmare, Mr. Godfry,” said Snape, in a dull, lifeless voice, pouring himself another Firewhisky, and quickly downing it. “Actually, Professor Snape, I think it’s my nightmare,” said Rick, feeling unbearably guilty. “I think I may have created it. You know how I told you that Professor Dumbledore sent me back in time? Well, he sent me back to the night that Voldemort killed the Potters. Like I said, in my reality, Voldemort’s curse rebounded on him. I was supposed to observe where it struck him. He has a protective cloak. It’s called the Cloak of —” “Yes, yes, I know all about the Cloak of Salazar Slytherin. He goes on about it ad nauseam, as if it’s some blasted sacred relic,” spat Snape, impatiently. “Since his rebounding curse destroyed his body,” continued Rick, “Professor Dumbledore thought it may have also damaged the cloak. I was just supposed to watch, and see where the curse hit him.” “But you didn’t just watch, did you?” said Snape accusingly. “You broke the golden rule of Time Travel – you changed something – you blasted fool! You changed something which resulted in Voldemort surviving and creating this hell on earth! You are to blame for this nightmare!” he said angrily. Rick hung his head. “Yes, I am to blame,” he sighed. “Not because I did something – but because I did nothing. You see, everyone believed that Lily Potter had found some ancient magic to protect Harry. She sacrificed her own life to save Harry’s and everyone believed that her sacrifice protected Harry from Voldemort’s Killing Curse and sent it back on him. But I was listening to the Potters talking before Voldemort arrived, and it was clear she hadn’t found a spell powerful enough to do that.” “I began to wonder if maybe, it was my Reflecting Shield that had protected Harry. I mean, that I had always been there, because I had always gone back in time and done it ... if you see what I mean. But I kept remembering what Professor Dumbledore said about not changing time. In the end I didn’t know whether not changing time meant doing nothing or doing something – casting the Reflecting Shield. Now I know!” “I see,” said Snape, stroking his chin, and contemplating Rick’s dilemma and the terrible, but fascinating complexities of Time Travel. “In the end,” said Rick, “I figured that if I did nothing and it turned out that I should have acted, then I could always go back again to before Voldemort cursed Harry and cast the Reflecting Shield. But something unexpected happened when Voldemort cast his Killing Curse, I was somehow thrown back to the present time. That’s why I Apparated back here, sir, I wanted to ask the Headmaster’s advice on what I should do.” “Well, since I am now the Headmaster, I am more than willing to give you my advice,” said Snape. “Go back! Cast your Reflecting Shield! This reality, which, it seems, you have created, is an abomination! This,” he said, pointing to the half-empty bottle of Firewhisky, “is the only thing that makes life remotely tolerable. This once proud school is a mere shadow of what it was. Like the wizarding world at large, it has been decimated. Achievement and excellence count for naught! All that matters is blood – and where it places one in the social pecking order. Ability and intelligence are shunned, nepotism and cronyism determine success,” he said bitterly. “After his glorious victory, our great, immortal Emperor found himself presiding over a very small empire indeed. When the blood-letting was over and only the Purebloods were left, surprise, surprise – he discovered there was a Demographic Problem. Having killed most of the population, he was surprised to find that there were not enough people left to do the work and run things. There are less than half the number of students at this school now, than there were in my student days, and even then, it is almost impossible to find qualified teachers. All the old ones were killed – Purebloods included – their only crime was to have been appointed by Professor Dumbledore.” “All of them?” asked Rick, alarmed. “Yes, except for myself, Binns – who was already dead – Trelawney – whom the Immortal One regards as a Great Seer – and of course Madam Hooch, or should I say, ex-Headmistress Hooch!” said Snape scornfully. “What? You mean Madam Hooch, the flying instructor?” asked Rick, puzzled. “How did she get to be Headmistress? I wouldn’t have thought that she was qualified.” “Oh, but you’re mistaken,” said Snape sarcastically. “She was eminently qualified to succeed Dumbledore as Headmistress. After all, she had, unbeknownst to myself, been the Dark Lord’s longest serving spy at Hogwarts. Not to mention being part of the Magistocracy – a second cousin of Minister of Magic Parkinson, no less. What better qualification could there be for Headmistress of Hogwarts? In three short years, she almost totally destroyed this school. When her shortcomings became so glaringly obvious, that even the Minister of Magic noticed, she was elevated to Minister of Magical Games and Sports. It has been my unhappy task to be Headmaster of this declining school ever since. The only compensation in my appointment was that it allowed me to give up active Death Eater service.” “When the penny finally dropped, and our esteemed Emperor, in his infinite wisdom, realised there was a Demographic Problem, he decreed that there would be a breeding program – don’t get me started on that insanity. It wasn’t the obvious problems in the running the mundane affairs of the wizarding world, which troubled him. Such practical considerations never seem to cross his evil, twisted mind. No, what alarmed him was the realisation that the wizarding population was too small to carry out his cherished dream of exterminating the Muggles. This world is not only evil and cruel; it is also totally irrational and insane.” Snape shook his head in disgust, before downing another glass of Firewhisky. Out of the corner of his eye, Rick noticed a sudden movement over by one of the bookshelves. Was that a mouse disappearing behind it? he asked himself. Could it be? ... Yes, it was! Rick projected his magical map and immediately identified the spy. He jumped to his feet and used a Summoning Charm to pull it out from behind the bookcase, and bring it squeaking and clawing into his outstretched hand. He managed to get a good grip around its back to prevent it from biting and scratching him in its frantic attempts to escape. “Where on earth did that rat come from?” asked Snape, somewhat surprised. “It’s no rat, sir,” replied Rick. It’s a spy. An Animagus, by the name of Peter Pettigrew. “Pettigrew, an Animagus? Surely not!” said Snape in disbelief. “How could such an inept, bootlicking little sycophant as Pettigrew have mastered such advanced magic? However, if it’s true, and he’s been listening to my less than devotional ranting about the Eternal Emperor, I’ll have to do something about him.” Rick cast a spell on the rat, forcing it to transform. He had to release it, as it started spinning around. As it hit the floor, a head began shooting upwards, followed by arms and legs. When the transformation was complete, standing before them was a short little man, with a pointed nose and small, watery eyes. He immediately drew his wand, only to find it disappear from his hand and end up in Rick’s. Rick flicked it at Pettigrew’s feet. Pettigrew found he couldn’t move – they were stuck fast to the floor. “So, Pettigrew!” barked Snape, rising unsteadily to his feet and coming around to the front of his desk. “Who ordered you to spy on me?” “S-s-spy? Me s-spy on you, S-s-severus?” he stuttered lamely. “I-I, wasn’t s-spying on you, I-I ... I...” “You were what?” asked Snape menacingly. “I know – you were just looking for cheese ... you thought my office was a cheese shop, and you’d just pop in for a little Gruyere ... is that right, Ratty?” “Y-yes, I mean n-no, I mean ...” spluttered Pettigrew, in fear. “Who sent you?” demanded Snape, levelling his wand at the little wizard. “You have two seconds before I hit you with a Restricted Curse!” “N-no, p-please,” begged Pettigrew pathetically. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know. It was Lucius Malfoy who sent me to s-spy on you. But it wasn’t just you; it was all the Hogwarts staff. It was j-just a r-routine surveillance mission,” he mumbled apologetically. “My, my, Pettigrew, so you’ve joined Malfoy’s Secret Security Service? You certainly have come up in the world – or perhaps it’s the world that’s gone down to your miserable level,” said Snape derisively. “I’m going to have to dispose of you, little rodent. It would never do to have you report my treasonous remarks about our evil Emperor to his head of Secret Security, now would it?” “S-s-severus,” begged the fearful Pettigrew, “I-I’d n-never do that to you ... p-p-please d-don’t k-kill me. I k-know, why d-don’t you m-memory-charm me, s-so I c-can’t remember w-what you said. P-please have m-mercy,” Pettigrew pleaded, pathetically. “I have no mercy,” said Snape coldly. “Even if I memory-charm you, Malfoy will send you back again. I don’t want any of Malfoy’s ratty little spies sneaking about; informing him of everything I say and do. Anyway, Pettigrew, you deserve to die for what you did – betraying your friends to the Dark Lord. They were no friends of mine, but a Secret Keeper who betrays his secret to the enemy of those he has sworn to protect is the lowest of the low – and deserves to die,” said Snape harshly, advancing threateningly on Pettigrew. “Wait, Professor Snape,” said Rick. As much as he hated the miserable traitor, he did not want to see him killed. “I know the perfect way to deal with him. Squibbus; Finite Incantatum. There, now you can move again – but you’re a Squib. I wouldn’t go rushing off to Malfoy, if I were you – I understand that Squibs get exterminated. Here, take your wand, try a spell or two,” said Rick to the disbelieving Pettigrew. “How about something simple – like Wingardium Leviosa?” “Wingardium Leviosa,” said Pettigrew, pointing his wand at a scroll on a small table. But nothing happened. Frantically he tried several other simple spells, but they didn’t work, either. “P-please, take off this terrible curse, p-please, I’ll do anything you say,” he begged pitifully. “It can’t be taken off – it’s irreversible – and permanent. Even if I could take it off I wouldn’t, you wretched traitor,” spat Rick. “It’s your just deserts for what you did to your friends. James, Lily and their baby Harry are all dead because of you. And as a result of your treachery, Voldemort triumphed and many, many more died, including your friends, Sirius and Remus. It’s hard to believe that one miserable little rat, like you, could cause so much pain, suffering, and death. As a result of your actions, Squibs are ruthlessly murdered – well now you’re a Squib – you can experience, first hand, the consequences of your own cowardly actions.” Snape, meanwhile, was leaning back on his desk for support. The excessive amount of Firewhisky he had imbibed made him unsteady on his feet. But more than that, he was stunned at Rick’s Squibbus Curse. He knew how hard the Dark Lord, and others, had searched – unsuccessfully – for such a spell. It was clear this Rick Godfry was no ordinary wizard. He had unheard of powers. “P-please,” begged Pettigrew miserably, d-don’t leave me as a S-Squib. “The Secret Security Service has special Squib detectors. They still check them, even though all the Squibs have been killed, because new ones are born – and immediately killed. They’ll d-detect me and k-kill me. P-Please, do something,” he pleaded. “The Squibbus Curse is irreversible,” said Rick. “Of course, I could turn you back into a rat – but you would remain a rat till the day you die.” As much as he abhorred Pettigrew’s treachery, he couldn’t condemn him to death. “Oh, yes, p-please, merciful boy, please turn me into a rat,” begged Pettigrew pathetically. “I know how to survive as a rat. I’d rather live as rat than die as a man.” Snape snorted mockingly at Pettigrew. Rick gestured to Pettigrew with his hand, transforming him permanently into a rat, which quickly scurried away. “I must remember to get myself a cat,” said Snape, smirking wickedly, as he made his way unsteadily back to his chair. He started reaching for his bottle of Firewhisky, but then drew back his hand. Perhaps he’d enough. “That’s a most impressive curse you used on Pettigrew,” said Snape. “You appear to have extraordinary powers. How exactly did you acquire them?” Rick was, by now, fairly sure that Snape was not serving Voldemort. It was likely that he wasn’t opposing him either, but in all likelihood, neither was anyone else. In this world, opposing Voldemort meant certain death. Snape just seemed to be trying to survive. He couldn’t save the world, so he was just trying to save himself – with the help of his Firewhisky. Rick noticed how subdued and fatalistic, Snape had become, compared to the Snape he remembered – that fire, which often burned so maliciously and malevolently, seemed to have been extinguished. Perhaps it had been drowned by the Firewhisky. In any case, Snape was already aware that he had extraordinary powers, so there seemed little harm in explaining how they came about. Rick was not intending to hang around in this Nightmare Reality for much longer, anyway – he was planning to go back in time and set things right. “Extraordinary,” said Snape, when Rick finished his story. “You are uniquely equipped to help those opposed to the Dark Lord, in your reality, overcome him and prevent a Nightmare World like this one, from coming into being. I suggest you return to the time just prior to when Harry Potter was killed. From what you have said, it seems certain that it was your Reflecting Shield that sent the Dark Lord’s curse back on him, penetrating his protective cloak, and destroying his body. By going back to that night and not casting the shield, you changed Time, and brought this terrible reality into being.” “I know that now. It was really stupid of me,” said Rick. “Voldemort actually did a test before he used the Killing Curse, to check whether Harry was protected from his curses. He was able to put his mark on Harry. I should have known then, beyond doubt, that nothing would stop Voldemort’s Killing Curse – but me.” “You say he put his mark on the Potter baby? How did he do it? What did this mark look like?” asked Snape curiously. “He just pointed his wand at Harry’s forehead and said Signum Ego Concateno,” said Rick. “A zigzag-shaped wound appeared on the baby’s forehead. Harry Potter has a very distinctive scar of that shape on his forehead, to this day. It looks like a lightening bolt,” explained Rick. “Yes, I know what it looks like,” said Snape, to Rick’s surprise. “Harry Potter must have been the first one the Dark Lord marked in that way. It can only be put on infants. It is quite different from the Dark Mark he puts on his adult Death Eaters – although its purpose is somewhat similar – to bind the recipient to the one who made it. A year or two after his victory, the Dark Lord made a very interesting discovery about that particular mark. If one who is marked should kill the one who made the mark, then they will also die.” Rick gasped. “For a couple of years, after this discovery, the Dark Lord put his mark on every infant on its first birthday,” continued Snape, ignoring Rick’s shocked reaction. “Being obsessed with his own immortality, he saw it as a way to deter attempts upon his life. For a while it looked like the wizarding world would be populated by wizards and witches with lightening bolt zigzags on their foreheads. Eventually, however, the Dark Lord discovered a rather unfortunate side effect. Those with the mark appeared to have some kind of mental link with him. He became fearful that it would give them access to his thoughts – so he had them all killed – every single child whom he had marked. Consequently, there is not a single third or fourth year student at Hogwarts – they were all killed,” said Snape, shaking his head morosely. “This is truly, a grotesque, Nightmare Reality,” said Snape bitterly, knocking back another Firewhisky. “Yes,” agreed Rick. “This terrible reality should never have come into existence. I need to go back and set things right.” As he spoke, Rick reached for his wand. He was surprised to discover it was not in the special thin wand pocket where he always kept it. He was sure he had returned it to the pocket, after going back in time at Godric’s Hollow. He had not used it since. He searched every pocket – twice – becoming more and more frantic. “My wand, I can’t find it anywhere – it’s gone,” he cried desperately, sinking down into a nearby chair. “What? Gone?” asked Snape. “But you seem to be capable of wandless magic. What do you need a wand for? Anyway, there’s always Pettigrew’s wand, you could use that,” he said, pointing to where Pettigrew had dropped it, when he was transformed into a rat. “I can do wandless magic. I only need a wand for one thing: Time Travel. But not just any wand, it needs to be my wand – the wand of Godric Gryffindor,” said Rick, dejectedly. “Without it, I can’t go back in time. I’m stuck here in this Nightmare Reality that I created, and I can’t go back and fix it,” he said forlornly. “You had the wand of Godric Gryffindor?” asked Snape incredulously. “Yes, Professor Dumbledore gave it to me. Wait —” said Rick, jumping up and dashing across the room to the Founders cabinet – it was empty. “Where are all the things that used to be in here?” asked Rick, turning to face Snape. “It used to have the sword of Godric Gryffindor and the Sorting Hat in it – along with the wand of Godric Gryffindor.” Snape shrugged his shoulders. “Looted by Death Eaters I imagine – when they defeated Dumbledore and seized Hogwarts. Such valuable and powerful magical objects as those would have been handed over to the Dark Lord. In fact, as I recall, it was almost exactly at the time Hogwarts fell, that the Dark Lord began using a different wand. It’s an unusual colour, a very dark brown and it has something etched at one end.” “That’s it!” said Rick, “Voldemort’s got the wand of Godric Gryffindor! But why would he want to use Gryffindor’s wand? I mean Gryffindor and Slytherin were enemies, and Voldemort believes that he’s the heir of Salazar Slytherin.” “True,” agreed Snape. “However, that wand must be one of the most ancient in existence, and possibly the most powerful. The Dark Lord is obsessed with power and objects of power. He wouldn’t care whose wand it had been. Of course, he hasn’t announced that he’s using Gryffindor’s wand – he wouldn’t want that to get out. He hates Godric Gryffindor with a passion.” “So that’s why my wand disappeared,” mused Rick. “When I didn’t stop Voldemort’s curse, reality changed. In this reality, I don’t have Gryffindor’s wand – because Voldemort’s got it. And, since I don’t have that wand in this reality, I wouldn’t have been able to travel back to the past, to that Halloween night. That’s why I inexplicably found myself back in the present time. I’ve got to get that wand back,” said Rick, determinedly. “I have no idea how you’re going to do that,” said Snape. “You seem to know about the Cloak of Salazar Slytherin. But that’s not all the Dark Lord has protecting him. He has become completely obsessed with his own immortality – that, and exterminating the Muggles. He has a permanent guard of his most trusted Death Eaters protecting him, day and night. He has, in the past few years become even more paranoid and reclusive; he very rarely appears in public. Apart from the odd, increasingly irrational decree, he pretty much leaves the running of the wizarding world to his two hand-picked lieutenants: Cecil Parkinson, the Minister of Magic and Lucius Malfoy, Commander of the Death Eaters, the Secret Security Service and other, unknown secretive and evil organs of oppression.” “I have to get close to him, there must be a way. Do you know where he is? I can Apparate right to him – magical Wards won’t stop me,” said Rick, keen to get on with it. “No one knows where Voldemort is,” said Snape. “His whereabouts are a closely-guarded secret. He is rumoured to have several residences, which he moves between. As I said, he is totally paranoid about his immortality. In order to go to him, you must be issued with a special Portkey. There is only one way you can get close to him – you must become a Death Eater!” “No!” gasped Rick, in horror. “He still presides over the initiation ceremonies, and personally burns the Dark Mark into the arm of every new Death Eater. In order for the mark to bind his Death Eaters to himself, he must make the Dark Mark himself. There is no other way for you to get close to him – of that I am quite certain,” said Snape. Rick gulped. “So how do I become a Death Eater, then?” asked Rick, shuddering at the thought. “Like almost everything else in this corrupt world, it depends on who you know. Without patronage, it could take you years. That’s how everything works here, he said bitterly. However, in the case of joining the Death Eaters, since you’re not in the Magistocracy, you will also need to demonstrate exceptional magical power. That shouldn’t be a problem for you.” “Wait a moment,” said Snape. He pulled open a drawer and took out a small vial containing a purple liquid. He uncorked it and downed it in a single gulp. “Sobriety Potion,” he explained. “I don’t have much use for it these days – it tends to defeat the whole purpose of the Firewhisky. However, I need to give some careful thought to how we are going to get you close enough to the Dark Lord to get that wand back, and end this Nightmare.” “You will have to pose as an exchange student. I think I can fabricate the necessary papers. We will say that you are from New Zealand – as you did in your reality – and, because there are no magical schools there, your parents instructed you at home, but decided to send you to Hogwarts to complete your education. I presume that with all your gifts, you will do well academically – in fact you will probably find your studies ridiculously easy. Sixth-year is probably the academic equivalent of fourth-year in my student days. So we should be able to get away with putting you in Ravenclaw.” “But what about the Sorting Hat?” asked Rick. “Doesn’t it decide my house? I was hoping to be in Gryffindor,” said Rick quickly. “That won’t be possible,” replied Snape. “The Dark Lord abolished Gryffindor House when he came to power, along with the sorting ceremony. Students are allocated a house based upon two ridiculous rules. If their family is classified as belonging to the Magistocracy in ‘Parkinson’s Pureblood Genealogy’, they automatically go into Slytherin. Otherwise, they sit a test of magical and academic ability. Those above a certain threshold go into Ravenclaw. Those who fail to attain the threshold – the majority – go into to Hufflepuff. The house to which you are assigned determines your prospects and your future in the wizarding world. However, I do not wish to go into all of that now – it is far too depressing – especially when I’m sober.” “But wouldn’t I need to be in Slytherin to become a Death Eater?” asked Rick. “No, not at all,” said Snape. “By and large, the Magistocracy do very little, except strut about like a bunch of prize peacocks admiring themselves. They contribute very little to the wizarding world in real terms. Of course they are the heads of all the Ministry departments, and form the top echelons of the various security services. Many join the Death Eaters, mainly for the prestige it brings. Naturally, they fill all the top positions. In short, they are the political and managerial elite – they do virtually nothing. The real work is done by those from Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. Hufflepuffs leave school after fifth year and do all the menial jobs. Ravenclaws make up the bulk of the security services, although not the highest ranks. They also fill the middle management positions at the Ministry, run businesses and so on. If they are magically powerful, they may also be invited to become Death Eaters.” “You were saying something about needing patronage, before,” said Rick. “Yes. Only a few students each year are invited to become Death Eaters,” explained Snape. “Due to its association with the Dark Lord, it is very prestigious, and competition is fierce. In order to receive an invitation, you will need to impress the Dark Arts and Duelling Professor, Barty Crouch, with your magical abilities.” “Barty Crouch junior?” asked Rick, remembering how he had impersonated Mad-Eye Moody in his reality. “Yes,” said Snape, distastefully. It was obvious that he loathed Barty Crouch. “However, Crouch’s recommendation will not be enough. We live in a Magistocracy not a meritocracy. It’s who you know, not what you know that counts in this world. You have the son and daughter of the two highest-ranking families in the Magistocracy in your year, Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson. You will need to cultivate one or the other. Otherwise, you might have to wait years to receive your invitation.” Rick groaned. “I suppose you must know them,” said Snape. “You would have gone to school with them in your reality. I doubt you will find that the depraved values and the pampering and privilege they have experienced all their lives in this reality have improved them – on the contrary.... But you will need to get one of them on side, to ask their father to give you the nod. That’s how it works.” “How soon could I be initiated as a Death Eater, sir?” asked Rick. The more he heard about this terrible world – which he had created – the more desperate he became to get out of it, by returning the world to the way it was supposed to be. “There are two induction ceremonies each year, at the equinoxes. The March Equinox is in four weeks. You should be old enough. In fact, if I am not mistaken, both Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson are to be inducted at that time. If you move quickly, you may be able to join them.” “Four weeks. You mean I’m going to have to live in this horrible Nightmare for four weeks?” muttered Rick, dejectedly. “I have lived in this Nightmare for fifteen years,” spat Snape, bitterly. “I shall do everything in my power to help you end it, but it will have to be done surreptitiously, behind the scenes. I do not wish to have my part in assisting you to obtain the Dark Lord’s wand exposed. After all, you may fail to get the wand. Or, you may obtain it, but not succeed in your attempt to turn this terrible reality back to the one from which you came. Should you fail, I shall be condemned to live out my life in this Nightmare. Unless you have urgent need of my assistance, it will be safer, for us both, if you do not visit my office again. As you have seen for yourself, there are spies everywhere.” Snape pointed his wand at Rick. “Please remove your Reflecting Shield, Mr. Godfry. It is you, who needs to become a Ravenclaw, not I.” He muttered a spell and Rick’s tie and other Gryffindor insignia changed to those of Ravenclaw house. “I’ll dig up some clothes and books for you, from the Lost Property dungeon. There’s probably even a trunk down there to put them in. I’ll have a house-elf bring it to your dormitory. Take Pettigrew’s wand – you’ll need to pretend you’re using it. I’ll introduce you to your Head of House and have him show you to Ravenclaw Tower. Do try to make a good impression on him.” Rick couldn’t help but reflect on the irony of the situation. In this reality, he and Snape trusted each other as allies and confidants. They were each in possession of the other’s darkest secrets. They had the power to destroy the other, but instead they were protecting each other and working together for a common cause. Snape rose to his feet and strode across to the fireplace. Taking a handful of powder from a porcelain dish on the mantelpiece, he threw it in the fire, and, as the flames flared up, he called, “Barty Crouch!”
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
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