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Professor Snape’s Mystery Guest
A brief aside to his normal teaching duties gives the Potions Master a tempting challenge - Professor Snape is asked by the Headmaster to help unravel an old and baffling mystery. But can Snape do so?  And how might he do so? Will the key to the mystery lie with the Keeper of the Bookes? Or will it be found from the Enchantress of Robinwood? Or does fate have something quite different in store for this most enigmatic of J. K. Rowling’s inspired and inspiring characters? 

Bookmarks

Introduction & Disclaimer

Part 1 - Chapter 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7

Part 2 - Chapter 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14

Author's Notes

Review


 Part Two

 

Chapter Eight - Culture Shock

It was much later when Snape regained full consciousness.  The three men had gone and a plump man and a thin youngish woman had taken their place.  The woman was examining Snape, while the plump young man looked on, making sarcastic comments.

“This is bad, Fran.  What total drogue did this?” she asked her companion.

“They won’t say.  But don’t worry.”

She dabbed at Snape’s temple with a scrap of tissue but couldn’t stem the bleeding.  “Ohrr Jeez.  Where’s Jason?” she demanded.

“Probably in Meduseld, Suzi darling.  Sucking up to Aragorn, wherever he is.  Bound to be, since it’s Marve.”

“Fran!”

“I’m only jealous, darling.  Don’t worry.  He’s born lucky, that brother of yours.  Fancy getting Legolas, again!  And he got Aragorn himself last month.  I never get anyone famous.  I reckon he fixes it somehow.”

At that moment Snape opened his eyes and the woman jumped back in surprise.  She asked the Potions Master how he was feeling, but refused to untie him.  “We’ll be going soon” she said soothingly.  Then she raised her voice.  “Fran, go and get Jason for me!”

“What?  Now?”

“Fran, PLEASE!”

“But the Orcs –”

“You’re dead, anyway!  It doesn’t make any difference.”

She had a sharp temper.  Somehow it matched her short, smooth, masculine hairstyle.  Reluctantly the plump man got to his feet and slouched out of the chamber.  Snape watched him go.  He wore a Matador-style brown plastic jacket over his robes and a bright pink oval patch flashed in Snape’s face as he slouched away.  Snape noticed that the woman was similarly dressed and she too had a pink patch on he left breast.  When she turned to ensure Fran was doing her bidding Snape noticed there was a similar oval on her back, like a sort of badge.

She didn’t seem to want to talk but Snape discovered that provided she was near to him he could invade her mind; her intellect appeared to offer little resistance, and he wondered again why this was so easy.  What was it about these surroundings that fostered something akin to electronic feedback?

The woman’s train of thought made a certain degree of sense.  Snape formed the impression that she had undeveloped magical powers and wondered if she was a Squib.  She was worried – in her mind he could see glimpses of his own prone body, the blood trickling down his pale forehead; this was interspersed with scenes of a courtroom where his advocate, a bewigged man in silk robes, stood haranguing a silver haired Muggle and demanding a huge sum in damages.  It seemed that she was forming a rather desperate plan to take Snape home, feed him and let him rest.  Then get him to his own home whenever he felt strong enough, and thus escape an action for personal injury.

As he thought over her thoughts Snape wondered what they might mean and what his best course of action would be.  He didn’t know where he was but clearly, apart from Legilimency, his wizaring powers didn’t work in this strange environment.  He felt groggy from the blow on the head but did not want to be taken to any Muggle hospital.  He simply wanted to Apparate home and preferably with his wand, so he decided to play along with her wishes for the time being until there was a good opportunity to make an escape.  She seemed to be feeling that she and her associates were in the wrong – that put her at a strong disadvantage; Snape could use that against her.

Eventually two young men arrived, one blond and one dark.  Like Suzi and Fran they too wore strange plastic jackets over their robes but the patches on their chests and backs were white.  The blond man turned out to be Suzi’s brother Jason, and the dark man’s name was Marve.  It was difficult to fathom the relationship between these two men.  They paid Snape little heed and instead joked together and teased each other as if they were brothers or very close friends, but at times the glances that passed between them hinted at something more.  And did this perhaps explain Fran’s jealous-sounding jibes?

Carefully they lead Snape away, walking for quite a distance and reaching the edge of the savannah.  Then suddenly they had passed through a door and the world had turned inside out – the mountain and grassland countryside was inside something much bigger.

As Snape struggled to comprehend this he noticed they were turning to the left beneath a large electronic notice board.  From its golden script Snape could tell that they were not making for the Coffee Shop, nor the Restaurant, Checkout, Booking Hall, Car Park, Underground Link or Way Out to Greenwich Bridge – they were heading for Toilets and Changing Rooms.  Crowds of Muggles, mostly young and in small groups, weaved past them, talking loudly and heading in all directions.  And, Snape noticed, wearing a variety of outlandish clothes – some in medieval-looking knee-length tunics, and tights, and some in ultra modern fashions.  Were these costumes?  Was this some kind of theatre?  Snape’s head swam – the change of scale and perspective from ‘outside’ to ‘inside’, the clothes, the senseless conversations…  It was only his anger at it all that was keeping him sane!

As they pulled up outside the Men’s Changing Rooms Jason said “I know you’re a main character but I assume your stuff’s in here with ours.”

Snape’s mind raced to frame a reply.  “I have no stuff” he whispered acidly, “but, as I’ve told you, I need that black stick.”

Jason and Marve were surprised to learn that the Potions Master had no other clothes to change into.  Finally they looked at each other and shrugged, but Suzi was almost alarmed.

“Oh, don’t fuss, Suzi” Jason drawled.  “What does it madder?  He’s clothed.  Have you seen a piece o’ wood?”

“A what?”

“He keeps going on about it.  What’s your name?  Adrian.  Adrian’s lost a piece o’ wood.  Black stick.”

Snape’s wand was nowhere to be found and not wanting to cause too much question or delay Snape waived the matter aside and let them get ready to set off for home.

While he waited the men showered, changed their clothes, retrieving their possessions from tall lockers, and deposited their ‘robes’ and used towels in a laundry chute.  Then they rejoined Suzi and made their way to the Checkout where all three of them handed in their jackets and locker keys.  Snape saw that the swords were connected to the jackets; a thin cable ran up into the sleeve, and the swords themselves looked to be light, plastic-coated, metal rods.

Each time the Checkout assistant passed a jacket under a metal bar, a beep sounded.  Marve looked at his score on the digital display and grinned.  Six-hundred-and-seventy-five credits.  He opted to have it added to his accumulated score, as did Suzi with her three-hundred-and-twenty-five credits.  But Jason asked for his four-hundred-and-seventy-five to be paid, and handed over a plastic card.  He smiled and pocketed the topped up bank card as they headed for the exit.  Snape followed, his arm resting on Suzi’s shoulders as she supported him and guided him towards the Underground Link.  Another golden sign was looming above them.  It proclaimed

Thank you for visiting Holodrome.  We hope you’ve had  FUN  FUN  FUN !   At this moment in time the Dark Lord remains unconquered, so the rollover jackpot currently stands at a handsome 37,000 credits.  The bounty is waiting for you – come back tomorrow and track Sauron down.

Now booking…

Saturday 25 September for 12 weeks                       Jurassic Park Monster e-Safari

Book now to draw the character of your choice on your preferred date.

Coming soon…

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Full details available – pick up a leaflet or visit our website at

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The two men were arguing the merits of various Star Wars heroes as the exit doors swung open automatically and Snape stepped outside.  His head was reeling – it had all been a game, these young people had been playing some stupid game in a vast, controlled, fictional landscape.

Snape’s head snapped up.  He looked around carefully.  His surroundings were still not as he had expected.  To his dismay Snape saw that he was not outside at all.  They were entering a tiled tunnel that connected with the London Underground.  They walked quickly to a station platform and without buying tickets boarded a busy train.  Suzi had flashed a pass at the barrier and they had been let through without question.  A few stops later they squeezed through a crowd of Muggles and got off the train.  Snape by now was feeling hopeful again.  They were in the heart of London so he could slip away and head for Diagon Alley, or even for the Ministry.  But he was wrong; halfway up a sloping walkway Suzi used a plastic proximity card to open a door in the wall and the four of them slipped through into a different underground transport system.

It was still a railway but of a narrower gauge than the public Underground.  The station was totally deserted and when the train arrived it consisted only of three old carriages built to half the scale of the previous train.  With difficulty Snape folded himself up, climbed inside and sat on the poorly upholstered bench seat.  They journeyed slowly past many stops but there was no diagram to help Snape to work out where he was, or where he was heading.  Nor were there any adverts or any other signs that this creaking wooden carriage was a public vehicle.  This was a private system and these Muggles were on their own territory with Suzi very much in control.

They alighted after what seemed like a long time.  Feeling close to despair and with blood breaking out afresh on his forehead Snape allowed himself to be guided through an underground car park and into a modern apartment block.  Another proximity card, or possibly the same one was used to gain access to the building.  Once inside Suzi instructed ‘Jase’ to help Snape to undress and get into bed.  Jason said little and Snape was careful to maintain his act of feeling unwell; however innocent answers to his apparently causal questions told him that this was Suzi’s flat, she allowed her only brother Jase to share it, and Marve was a frequent visitor.  Snape was already displaying some of the anger he felt about these Muggles’ style of conversation.  Their slapdash attitudes even extended to their inability to use their full forenames.  Something of the Potions Master’s irritation no doubt showed because he suddenly noticed Jason refer to himself as Jason and to Marve as Marvin.  (Suzi however was still Suzi, and Snape was to learn the following day that she had in fact been named Suzi.)

A little while later Suzi dressed Snape’s head wound and then brought him food and drink.  She enquired whether he felt well enough to watch TV.  She indicated her television ‘set’ which consisted of a processor box and two speakers, beneath a flat, wall-mounted screen.  Snape was about to decline when a thought occurred to him.

“Do you have a newspaper?”

She looked surprised – had he blundered again?  It seemed that everything he asked or said made them as puzzled about him as their inane conversations made him bewildered and angry about them.

“I subscribe to NewsUnlimited…”

She spent almost ten minutes showing him how the television handset worked and what channels he could choose.  Her explanations and questions, although well-intentioned, were frightening in their lack of meaning.  “You can choose from CultureShack, NaturalWorld, NewsUnlimited or ClassicMoviedrome.  If you wanna watch live, just press this, or this, or this – see?  If you wanna download for later, scroll through the schedule, cursor down to the programme you want and press OK to store it.  If you wanna browse what’s stored on disk, press this.  Then you can cursor down the index and press OK to select any stored item.  You can view on one channel, and download from any others at the same time, as long as the download times don’t overlap.  The TV’s got ten re-writeable disks but it can’t do simultaneous multi-channel downloads, none of my sets can.  Jason’s always on at me to update them but as he doesn’t pay for them I don’t see why I should…”

It was a whirl of meaningless drivel.  Finally Snape got her to tune the television into the news channel and to leave it running.  He finished his Chianti and dish of pasta carbonara, feigned sleepiness and let her turn the TV volume down quite low and leave him alone.  Once she had gone he watched and listened with increasing alarm.

Not that the news was bad.  New Dawn, the socialist / environmental, left-of-centre party had increased its impressive opinion poll lead and was hoping to do well in the forthcoming general election, building on significant gains of four years ago.  The long spell of hot weather looked like it was finally coming to an end – there was a risk of storms by the weekend and a danger of flash floods as water would pool on the baked ground rather than sink in.  But none of this was of interest to Snape – this was not why he was staring at the screen in disbelief.

At the bottom right of the television screen was a time display which read 9:37pm, and running across from the bottom left hand corner was the piece of information he most wanted to have and yet dreaded to know – today’s date.  It was Tuesday 14th September 2027.

Snape lay back and let this fact sink in.  He had got to London, but he been bounced forward twenty-seven years.  And he was now in a Muggle environment without his wand and apparently stripped of magical powers.  And he couldn’t Apparate back.  What could he do?

Well, twenty-seven years is not such a very long time, he reasoned, not for wizards.  Presumably there is still a Digon Alley and Ministry of Magic.  If I simply go outside I could walk to either of them.  If my powers don’t return soon presumably there is still a St Mungo’s.  But Muggle London changes quite rapidly – can I find my way?  And how far am I from the centre?  Might I wander for ages in a fruitless search, unable to find anyone to give me meaningful directions?  I’ve no Muggle money for fares or provisions and not much wizard gold – can I steal some cash?  Or will Suzi help me if I just ask?

He went to the window and twitched the drape aside.  If this was London he didn’t recognise it.  The buildings were almost all apartment blocks and some distance beyond them were tall office blocks of darkened glass.  Directly beneath him was a side street named Olympic Grove, but less than fifty yards away it joined what looked like a much more major road, yet there were no red busses and no black taxis scurrying by.  And there were very few cars!  Surely Muggle London was full of cars, they choked every road, they lined every kerb; colourful, garish and smelly.  Snape looked up into a darkening sky in which a few stars were already visible.  He was relieved to see constellations he recognised.

He tried once again to Apparate, but still nothing happened, so he took a look around the bedroom.  A desk set sideways-on and near to a corner held a wealth of computer and office equipment to which Snape could not put names – in fact they were a notepad computer with the monitor raised, a multi-media recorder, a scanner, two printers – one large enough to take A2 outsized media, an (illegally obtained) smartcard encoder, and a paper trimmer.  Of the fitted bedroom furniture, one standard wardrobe and one combination robe held Suzi’s expensive Muggle clothes, the third was entirely fitted with shelves and held literature – leaflets, maps, posters and telephone canvassing lists, all of which belonged to

New Dawn

Socialism embraces the Environment

the red-green alliance – valuing you, valuing nature

Snape studied the maps – they were mostly of sections of West Sussex ranging from Gatwick Airport to just north of Devil’s Dyke in the South Downs.  Snape discarded them – he was sure he wasn’t that far from central London.  There was one local map that looked like it might be of relevance and eventually Snape found Olympic Grove, but even though it told him the truth about where he was, it was not large enough in scale to be of use, and Snape – not yet knowing the history of the early 21st century – could not appreciate the unique location of Suzi’s flat.  He was on the Hackney-Stratford borders, at an award-winning condominium which had been part of the 500-acre redevelopment constructed for the 2012 Olympic Games and part of a multi-billion pound East London regeneration package.  Snape had yet to discover that he was in an apartment block built specifically for Civil Servants and linked by a spur line to the half-gauge underground railway that connected the main organs of Government in Westminster and Whitehall.

Snape sighed in despair.  The Potions Master was on a steep learning curve.

Review

Chapter Nine -The Shadow in the Forest

Via Professor Sprout, it was young Darien who alerted the school at lunchtime on New Year’s Day.  No one except Dumbledore had been at all concerned that Snape had not been at breakfast.  Dumbledore knew Snape intended to go to London, but he had said he would be back by mid-morning at the latest, and Snape always kept his word.  McGonagall chided the Headmaster for worrying about Snape as if he was father to the irascible Potions Master.

Dumbledore chuckled good-naturedly in reply but they both knew there was some truth in this – the Headmaster had long had a place in his heart for Snape, ever since he saw him as a quietly ambitious student, determined to do well academically and to shrug off memories of an unhappy childhood.  Dumbledore remembered how shocked he had been when Snape had become involved with the Death Eaters, and how relieved he had been when the dark Slytherin found a way back…

Professor Sprout was the actual bearer of the summons.  She rushed up to the Headmaster’s office with a message that Darien needed to see him urgently and was waiting in the Entrance Hall.  This news was strange enough, given that Centaurs usually disdained any association with humans, although the Centaurs of the Forbidden Forest had become more respectful to Dumbledore’s associates since the last battle with Voldemort.  But even so, it was rare for a Centaur to ask to see a human.

Darien led them into the Forest where his brother Cairne stood guard over what Darien had termed a Shadow.  Dumbledore looked at it in wonder, it was nothing like a shadow.  There, glittering among the trees, was the strangest sight the Headmaster had ever seen.

If the winter temperature had dropped to its customary level Dumbledore could almost believe he was looking at an ice statue, a perfectly fashioned representation of Snape, precision-carved to the last fold of the Potions Master’s cloak and the tiniest of his eyelashes.  But it was not only the pinpoint accuracy that gave the lie to this being an ice sculpture – this object was smooth, dry and hard to the touch like the carapace of an insect.  However the Headmaster feared it might be brittle and he was glad that Cairne and Darien were prepared to stand guard.  Wanting some assistance he hurried back to the school and returned with McGonagall, Lupin and Lorin Hengist who had just arrived back from her holiday and had been deep in conversation with the Defence Against the Dark Arts Master.

“Well, what have we here?” Dumbledore asked.  Receiving no reply he turned to Darien.  “You called this a Shadow” he said.  “Why do you call it that?”

“That is the term for such things, Professor” Darien replied.  “Where it comes from I do not know.”

“Don’t Centaurs know all things” Lorin piped up.  “Isn’t it written in the stars?”

“Impudent witch” Cairne retorted.  “It is not for you to question us in this insolent way.  What could humans understand of what is written in the stars, even if the moon turned into a swan’s quill and wrote the secrets of all time across the sky.”

Dumbledore gave her a warning look.  He didn’t want a quarrel with the Centaurs and Lorin was not normally so impolite.  But something in Cairne’s words had stirred Lorin’s memory.  For a moment she looked at Dumbledore as if struggling to find the words she needed.

“Headmaster, do you mind if I speak to my grandfather’s portrait?” she requested.  “I want to ask him to ask my father something.”

“Naturally I have no objection, but are you going to tell me why, Lorin?” he replied, puzzled.

“It’s the parchment; the piece of night.  I think…  I’ve got an idea, Headmaster.”

Lorin implored Cael to visit his portrait in the tower of Bliant in order to persuade her father to bring or send the black parchment to Hogwarts immediately.  Meanwhile Dumbledore summoned house-elves to assist the Centaurs to guard the Shadow, and he too returned to his office to wait with Lorin for the arrival of the Keeper of the Bookes.

A short time later Kieren arrived, trudging from the Forest up to the castle, a silver casket in his hands and a disgruntled expression on his face.  McGonagall met him and took him to Dumbledore’s office.  He was civil to the Headmaster, but rather bad tempered with his daughter.  Eventually, after a lengthy meeting he set off for home, leaving Lorin and Dumbledore in charge of the casket.

“I’m sorry about the bad atmosphere” Lorin admitted.  “Father and I still haven’t patched things up.  He can’t forgive me for siding with Mother.  Anyway, at least he’s given me this, and that was a miracle.  I wasn’t sure he’d part with it.”

She opened the casket and took out the black fragment, holding it almost reverently.

“I always used to call this a piece of night” she explained.  “When I was a little girl I used to imagine it was a piece of the night sky made solid.  You know that this sparkles faintly at each full moon, Headmaster.  I think that’s because it’s written in moon runes.  And now Father has told us how it sparkled last night.”

Kieren had explained that he kept particular watch on the Booke of Birth at each turn of the year because he always liked to know the name of the first baby of the year.  He would owl the parents and, providing they consented, would notify the Daily Prophet.  The first baby of the new Millennium seemed even more newsworthy which was why Kieren had been perfectly placed to notice the black parchment twinkling ‘off schedule’.

“Yes, go on Lorin” Dumbledore said gently.

“Cairne said something about the moon becoming a swan’s quill and writing in the sky” Lorin continued.  “That surely wasn’t said by chance.  That’s what made me think of this.  And now this parchment produces yet another odd event at the Millennium.  As you know the moon is way past its last quarter and the full moon is ages off, so why the sparkling now?  Surely it’s significant.”

“Yes, perhaps it is” Dumbledore agreed with mounting excitement.  “At last we might be able to make some progress with these longstanding mysteries.  But I think we will need Boris.  And we probably need an on-going council of war until this is solved.  Because whatever this is about, I want my Potions Master back!”

As the hours rolled by Dumbledore made his office open house to all the staff, who gathered and broke up and re-gathered.  Many ideas were put forward and discarded.  Dumbledore instructed the house elves to serve dinner for the staff at the large round meeting table in his office – he wanted no disturbance to the Professors’ train of thought.

Hagrid and Zamyatin arrived in time for dinner; Hagrid in good spirits and Zamyatin somewhat the worse for wear and not wanting much to eat.  There was still no sign of Snape.  When Zamyatin heard about the Shadow in the Forest and was shown the black parchment he went to his own office and prepared a complicated and rarely used potion – a poisonous and cold mixture containing powdered moosntone and fulminide of quicksilver.  The mercury fumes made him feel worse than ever, but he steeled himself to keep going, and carefully carried the finished potion to the Headmaster’s office, along with a shallow tray and a pair of tweezers as large as forceps.

“Lorin makes good guess” he agreed.  “Diss parchment, I am sure, is written in concealed moon runes.  Der runes of dee Giantess Nott.  Dey can be read if I pour ziss potion over der parchment.  Normally dey are designed to be read at full moon, but as Lorin says zer parchment showed signs of activity a few hours ago I sink ziss will work.”

He noticed the scared and doubtful faces around the table.  Only Dumbledore looked calm.  Was the flamboyant Russian about to destroy an unfathomed marvel?

“You tont peliff me?” he asked, smiling.  “Zen you gotta trust me.  Watch carefully, and be sure to keep your food away from ziss – ziss is poison.”

Breathing lightly and leaning back to avoid the fumes, he laid the parchment in the tray and poured the potion over it as if he was developing a photograph, using the tips of the tweezers to gently prod the parchment down into the liquid to ensure it was thoroughly soaked.  After a few minutes he lifted it out and let the excess liquid drip back into the tray.  There were exclamations of surprise from around the table – runic words were now visible, glittering silver against the black.  It took Zamyatin a further few headachy minutes to translate them.  He scribbled busily with ink and quill on an ordinary piece of parchment.  Then he sat back and slid the translation across to Lorin to read aloud.

Everyone listened intently as she said “Oh! It’s a poem…

His skin is pale as winter moon, his hair is raven dark,

His arm is strong, its reach is long, it bears a secret mark.

Yet he is now in custody, though guilty of no crime;

A captive of the dome of day, a prisoner of time.

The sunless sky is full of light, yet Thor's wroth may divulge

The finger of obsidian crowned by the Ice-Giant's badge.

Where edge of east meets edge of west your cautious path must lie.

The die with five blank faces will point you on your way.”

On hearing this everyone began talking at once.  Dumbledore let them continue for half a minute and then called for calm.

“Well done, Boris!  Now, everyone … let us start to put our thoughts in order” he commanded.  “Madam Pince, would you kindly take notes for us.  Let us consider this line by line.”

“Well the first few lines must apply to Professor Snape” McGonagall said guardedly.  “Skin pale as moon, dark hair…”  Her analysis halted – she was not happy about voicing the allusion to the mark on Snape’s arm and skipped making direct reference to it.  “Yet he is now in custody” she continued.  “Well, the words are plain enough, though I cannot imagine why he should be arrested.  I suppose an M L E P arrested him.  Heaven knows what he’s been up to.”

“A captiff of der dome off day” Zamyatin mused, closing his eyes to rest them and turning his mind away from the food on the table; the very thought of which made him feel ill.

“From ancient times the sky has been spoken of as a dome” Lorin cut in, “as I’m sure you all know.  In fact from heaven right round to the underworld was pictured as a huge sort of globe, with the earth flat across the middle something like a dinner plate.  So the ‘dome’ is simply a reference to the sky or the heavens.”

Dumbledore sighed.  “But why dome of day?  A prisoner of time” he murmured.  “Has Severus travelled in time as well as space?  Lorin, what do you say to that?”

“I’m an Astronomer, Headmaster, not a relativity theorist” she replied sadly.  “Sorry, but this is a bit beyond me.  It’s my mother you need for questions like that.”

“Yes, Lorin.  I think you are correct” Dumbledore agreed, “and very soon I’ll be asking you to fetch her here.  Come on, come on, everyone” he added briskly.  “Let’s polish this off and sleep on it.  Where have we got to?”

“The sunless sky is full of light – that must be moonlight, Headmaster” Madam Pomfrey suggested.

Pince wrote busily.

“Thor's wroth may divulge – a storm will uncover something” Madam Hooch chipped in.  “The finger of obsidian…?”

“The finger of obsidian…?”

There were many blank looks – no one could guess the meaning of this, although Zamyatin might have done, had he been paying sufficient attention.  He was now obviously flagging and he ruefully admitted that he was still badly hung-over.  Dumbledore excused him and he went off to bed.

Under his beard Hagrid grinned.  He was determined to show he was made of sterner stuff, and that a few days drinking could not knock him out.  “Crown’ by the Ice-Giant's badge – well Professor Snape’s tall but he isn’ a giant” he pointed out forcefully.

“He might look like a giant to a Goblin, or possibly even to some Muggles” Flitwick suggested.  “The Ice Giant – the Shadow in the Forest looks like an ice sculpture – that must be the Ice Giant.  But the badge – could that be the emblem of the House of Slytherin?”

“I think the Ice Giant is a name for Thor” Lorin said quietly.  “You see ‘Thor’s wroth’ is mentioned.  Could the badge be the thorn rune, Thurisaz?  Boris should be here for this.  Or my mother – she knows all this stuff.”

“But the ice sculpture…  Surely…”

Again they talked round and round the problem.  Everyone finally agreed that ‘where edge of east meets edge of west your cautious path must lie’ must be a reference to the International Date Line, and ‘the die with five blank faces’ was clearly the rotating white cube drawn by the laser – Dumbledore obviously thought so – more than once he was heard to mutter “Alea iacta est – the die is cast”, but why it should have seven spots no one could make out.  When did dice ever have more than six spots?

Finally the meeting broke up and they all retired to their rooms, some with a copy of the poem as they wished to study it further.  Lorin set off for the Forest as she intended to visit her mother.  The rest of the staff spent an anxious night wondering if Snape had been formally arrested or if he was being held captive by Dark forces, and pondering whether they would have to search the whole thirteen thousand miles of the International Date Line in order to find him.

And if the Headmaster’s suspicions proved correct and Snape had travelled in time as well as space, they knew ‘where’ to look but not ‘when’ to look.

A tall order indeed!

Review

 

Chapter Ten -Eyewash and Insight

Snape woke up in the darkened bedroom at a few minutes past six.  Suzi sat at her notepad computer, typing almost silently, her face in profile and the screen casting a glow on to the side wall of the room.  She wore a tailored grey suit and looked as though she was about to go out.  Snape groaned faintly and put his hand to the lump of sticking plaster on his head.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you” she said softly.  “Just e-mailing something to work.  I’m off in a minute.  Marve ’ll be here to look after you today.”

“You’re going to work,” Snape said, “at this hour?”

“Oh yes” she said sourly, logging off her machine.  “Jase and I only had a flexi yesterday.  He’ll go in later but I need to start early.  Got loads to do.  And I’m doing a short day tomorrow – gotta dental appointment, and I don’t wanna have to go back afterwards.  Anyway, can I get you some breakfast before I shoot off?”

He let her serve him with a pot of tea and a bowl of muesli and fruit.  Then she was gone.  Apart from a few trips to the bathroom Snape stayed in bed the whole day.  Jason looked in before he too went to work, and supplied fresh tea and toast.  Marvin arrived and there was a mumbled conversation in the hall before Jason left.

Just before ten o’clock another friend arrived.  Marvin stuck his head around the bedroom door and asked Snape if it was OK to use the computer.  He also lent Snape one of his own oriental silk wraps as it was a better fit for the Potions Master than Jason’s spare bathrobe.

Snape made no objection to Marvin using the computer so he worked for a while and finally the smartcard encoder, gave forth a faint whiff of molten plastic, rattled, and issued two plastic cards.  Apparently very pleased with himself, Marvin disappeared and Snape tuned into the conversation in the sitting room, just audible through the wall behind his head.

“You sure these’ll do all zones?”

“Course.  Trust me.  This one’s for the baby bugs, this for the multiples.  OK?”

Unbeknown to Snape money changed hands.

“Cheers, Marve.”

The other man left and Marvin reappeared to close down the software he was using and log Suzi’s machine off.  But, as many of us know to our cost, computers are addictive, and Marvin could not pass up the chance of talking to a non-technical, attentive audience whom he could impress.  Far from closing things down he was soon chatting to Snape as he surfed the web, showing off about the clever things he liked to do with modern electronics.  At Snape’s gentle prompting he also began to explain the esoteric technicalities of his father’s virtual reality game, which Snape had come to realise he had dropped into yesterday by accident.  Snape was aware that he had to be careful about how he posed questions – he could not risk giving away the fact that he knew nothing about the game, or indeed about Muggle life in this particular era.

Although the technicalities were beyond Snape and he realised that he might be being subjected to a fair degree of eyewash, he came to the conclusion that Marvin was cunning and skilled, with abilities far greater than his friends, and because of this Snape was surprised that the young man did not have a job.  In between disappearing to the kitchen to fix an excellent meal of scallops, prawns and mushrooms, Marvin revealed that Jason was a government statistician, Suzi a political researcher and her boyfriend, Oliver Warrenby, whom Snape hadn’t yet met, was a junior barrister, apparently very proud of his recent acceptance by Pupil-Master Sir Simon Elyot, the famous ‘silk’.

Amongst his successful relatives Marvin stood out as an oddity.  Although he had at times worked on projects for the man he called Father, he was basically unemployed and seemed to exist as a parasite upon the good natures of Suzi and Jason.  At the age of nine he had been adopted into the family by Suzi and Jason’s famous father, the multi-millionaire Archibald Mella, and like the Mella children he had been educated by private tutor.  He now lived at Mella’s Sloane Street flat in west London and spent most of the time bumming around like a typical spoiled rich kid.

Pondering these facts, Snape spent his day, still pretending illness, but wolfing down the Coquilles St Jacques Marvin brought him.  His brain was almost feverish as he thought over all that he had learned; it had been a day of harrowing play-acting and many surprises.

In the evening, assuming he hadn’t had much to eat, Suzi brought him a bowl of chilli and hinted that he must be well enough to return home.  Snape deliberately failed to take the hint and was allowed to stay another night, trusting that Suzi’s innate kindness and good manners would cause her to put up with him for a further twenty-four hours.  For all her uncertain temper and slapdash mode of speech Suzi was a well brought up young lady and had a compassionate nature and a sense of honour.

Yes, I need a little longer to judge, Snape said to himself, I don’t want to be wrong about this.

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Chapter Evelen - The Weaver’s Indulgence

As the staff gathered for breakfast in Dumbledore’s office on Sunday 2nd January, Zamyatin was absent, still nursing his hangover.  Lorin walked into the office accompanied by Lupin, Dumbledore and by an aged witch.  Few of the staff associated the never-before-seen mother of Professor Lorin Hengist with the unobtrusive wedding photograph of Kieren and Rowen Raegan, but McGonagall and Flitwick had a hard job concealing their surprise.  Snape too would have been shocked and would probably have found the situation highly amusing – for it was not the beautiful bride once pictured in the society pages of the magical press who walked beside Lorin, it was the ugly old crone whom Snape knew as the Enchantress of The Wood of Repulse.

Rowen Hengist said little when she was introduced.  Instead she took her place at the table and ate hungrily, listening to the endless debate about the poem’s meaning as she made short work of porridge, bacon and eggs with fried tomatoes and mushrooms, and toast and marmalade.  She was drinking her second beaker of coffee as Lupin was pretending to bewail the idea of searching all thirteen thousand miles of the International Date Line.

“This is an impossible task, Headmaster” he sighed.  “Leave him.  Do without him.  He’ll turn up of his own accord.”

There were many smiles and smirks at the idea of leaving Snape to his own devices.  Even Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled as he said “It would certainly give the Houses a more level playing field in terms of winning the Championship.  However, I do not think we can leave Severus to his own devices.  Nor do I believe, do you!  The die did not appear by chance.  We are his means of return.  Fate is playing a strange hand here, and we must do our part…  Filius, are you alright?”

The Charms Professor had suddenly gasped and clapped a hand to his head.  “The Dome of Day” he cried.  “It may not be the heavens, after all.  Where edge of east meets edge of west – the Millennium Dome; it’s built on the Greenwich Meridian.  In London!”

“So we don’t have a thirteen thousand mile search?”

“No!  No, Remus, maybe not!  But why call it The Dome of Day?”

“Severus was going to London” Sprout pointed out.  “That bit makes sense.”

“Yes, he was” McGonagall agreed.  “And he’d be back by now, unless he’s a prisoner.  He really hasn’t been picked up by an M L E Patrol has he, Headmaster?  Are you certain?”

“No, Minerva, he has not” Dumbledore assured her, brandishing a letter.  “Here are the Ministry confirmations.  They are not holding him captive – not in London, not in Azkaban.”

“Then where?”

“And when?  If he has travelled in time.”

“Yes, he has!”  The flat voice made everyone jump.  Rowen Hengist had spoken at last.  “That structure in the Forest is a Time Shadow.”  Once she had captured her audience Rowen deigned to elaborate.  “The Professor has travelled in time, well almost all of him has, but a ‘shadow’ of him persists at the point in his proper spacetime from which he was plucked.  That usually means that he travelled against his will.  The poem tells you he is a prisoner of time.  He can be returned to his proper time if we are careful about how we do it.  Someone will have to rescue him.  I can help them to prepare.”

Silence greeted this little speech, until…

“Shall I go, Headmaster?”

“No!” Lorin gasped in a fierce whisper.

Dumbledore looked at Lupin’s tired, lined face and knew he could not send him.  Lupin, already was old before his time.  Added to that was the problem of his werewolf condition.  Lorin had described the next full moon as ‘ages off’ but from 14th January Lupin would have to start taking his potion to prepare for his coming transformation, and when he transformed he would be out of action for several days.  So if the search took a long time Lupin would not be the number-one choice to undertake it.

“A brave offer, Remus, and one for which I thank you” Dumbledore replied, “but no, I must do this myself.”

“But where?” Sprout insisted.  “I mean, when?” she said irritably, correcting herself quickly.  “How will you know what date to travel to, Headmaster, even if Filly is right about the destination?”

“That is what the die is telling us” he replied.  “The die with five blank faces will point you on your way.  Seven spots.  But what are we to make of the seven?  Seven days?  Seven years?  Seven centuries?  Rubeus, where is Boris?  This is a numbers problem.  The magical properties of seven.  Rowen, make a suitable potion, please, to get Boris sobered up.  I need him sitting up, bright eyed and paying attention, with his brain in full working order.”

It took Rowen Hengist almost an hour to put together a Detoxification Draught once the Headmaster had given her access to Snape’s stores.  Accompanied by Hagrid she carried it carefully to Zamyatin’s bedchamber where the Arithmancy and Ancient Runes Professor lay on his back in bed, in a rumpled nightshirt, half propped up with pillows and snoring gently, his breath foul.  Hagrid slid an arm under Zamyatin’s shoulders allowing his head to flop back.  With one hand Rowen grasped the Russian’s hair to lock his head steady and dribbled the potion accurately down his throat.  He spluttered but swallowed most of it.

“We wait five minutes” she said to Hagrid.  “Then we get his head under a tap.”

Five minutes later they dragged Zamyatin to the bathroom, bent him over the edge of the bath and turned on the shower, angling the spray-head to hit the back of his neck and twisting the rose to turn the fine spray into a narrow jet.  The cold water completed the job started by Rowen’s potion and half an hour later the Russian wizard was sitting in the Headmaster’s office, a little dishevelled but bright of eye once more and eagerly munching a stack of buttered toast as he re-read the poem and listened to the other staff talking about the cube in the sky.

“Is der moon” he said dramatically.  “Dee moon is key to all of diss.  Diss is my reckoning.  Silver on black.  White on black.  Moon runes.  Moonstone to reveal them.  So … let us consider cycles of der moon.  Not days.  Not weeks.  Moon cycles is our unit and diss is aritmetic.  Only aritmetic, not magical meaning of seven!  How many spots were on dee die – seven.  Dee die is a cube.  What is cube of seven?  Tree hunded-an-forty-tree.  Tree hunded-an-forty-tree moon cycles – how many days, pliss?”

“Well, twenty nine point five days per moon cycle…  About…”  Hastily Lorin did the arithmetic.  “Something over twenty-seven years” she said carefully.  “It needs to be worked out exactly.  How do we know what date and time to start from?”

This was a fair point and caused a moment’s pause.

“There are various dates we know” McGonagall said carefully.  “The dates the Booke was corrupted.  The date the black parchment was created.  The date the die was drawn in the sky.  Perhaps we have to guess.  Let’s choose the date the parchment was created.  What do you think, Headmaster?”

Dumbledore considered this for a few minutes.  “I think we have to seek Cairne’s guidance” he said finally.

As Zamyatin went away to check the substances and objects attributed to Thor, Dumbledore visited Cairne.  The Centaur’s advice was to work from the date of the Millennium.  Using that date and time, Zamyatin’s careful recalculation produced an initial date of 14th September 2027.  He then conferred with Rowen Hengist to ask her about the preparation time she would need, and to obtain her help in checking his calculations.

The witch and wizard spent much time rechecking arithmetic, adjusting for elapsed time from the start of the new year, and considering when the Headmaster could embark on his rescue mission.  Finally Rowen went away to begin her preparations, leaving Zamyatin to announce the set-off time and the estimated date and time of arrival – Thursday 16th September 2027 at a little after half-past three in the afternoon.

And so Dumbledore resolved to try to travel forward to that date and time, and to the site of the Millennium Dome on the Greenwich Meridian in London.  Before he set off he had a private meeting with the Deputy Head in her office.

“I must say, as the old year came to a close I didn’t expect the new one to start with an adventure like this” he admitted.

“Neither did I” McGonagall agreed.  She eyed him carefully and then looked away, her eyes oddly bright.

“I fully expect to come back, Minerva, but if anything goes wrong … you take over.  We have discussed this before, in circumstances far more grave.  You know what to do.”

“Yes, very well.”  She took off her glasses and began polishing them agitatedly on a handkerchief, but Dumbledore made her put them down and face him.  He took hold of her shoulders.

“Why so sad?  We have faced far worse.”

“Yes.  But somehow this is –?  You don’t even know if the Millennium Dome exists in 2027.  Some how this is more … unknown.”

Dumbledore could not refute her logic, so instead he kissed her and then held her tightly in a comforting embrace.

*

Half-past one on the morning of Monday 3rd January was the chilly hour that Boris Zamyatin and Rowen Hengist had calculated for Dumbledore’s journey.  The mild weather of the turn of the year was ebbing away and a light fall of snow had occurred.  Snape’s Time Shadow, where the Centaurs and house elves had been taking turns to stand guard, now looked more like a ghost than an ice sculpture – an ominous sign.

McGonagall couldn’t bear to go with him so it was Lorin and Lupin that accompanied the Headmaster to a Forest clearing where Zamyatin and Lorin’s mother had been making preparations.  They had constructed a hearth of stones and heaped it high with oak twigs.  Rowen now lit the twig pile from the torch Lupin carried, and on the fire she set a small cauldron of iron.  She gave Dumbledore a potion of sandalwood, bindweed and snakeroot, and placed around his neck a necklace of Nauthiz runes carved in beech.  Finally she handed him a crystal of smoky quartz.

“Which is your wand hand?  Very well.  Hold this tightly in the other hand.  Never let it out of your hand until you have arrived” she said gravely.  “Do not lose it, Dumbledore.  You will need it for the journey back.  Do you remember all of my instructions?”

“Yes, I believe I do” the Headmaster replied.  “Do not worry, Rowen.”

“Do not worry!  If I don’t get you there and back safely, that Deputy of yours will flay the skin from my bones.”

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled.  He stood upright and ready, facing Rowen and placing his right hand palm downwards onto her outstretched right hand.  Then in an ancient Celtic tongue that even Dumbledore could not understand she uttered an incantation, as with her left hand she took one by one from Zamyatin the offerings he had helped her to prepare – hyssop oil, borage root, wormwood leaves, crushed sardonyx crystals and common salt.  She cast them one by one into the hot cauldron at the appropriate point in the invocation…

“Son of Uranus, father to Water, Death an Air, guardian of the twisting twelve,

Hear me, Lord Saturn, Weaver of the Temporal Weft, Vortigern’s instructor.

Give me your attention.  Grant me your … indulgence.

With hyssop I search for you,

With wormwood I call to you,

With borage I beseech you,

With sardonyx I lure you

With salt I pay you.

Allow me my purpose…”

On the last word Rowen’s breath escaped her lips like a snake hiss, and against her will Lorin gave a small shudder.  Lupin tightened his protective grip around her shoulders as Lorin emitted a tiny gasp of amazement.  Her mother was still standing, trancelike by the smoking fire, but Dumbledore had gone.

*

It was not like travelling by Portkey – there was no swirl of colours nor rush of air.  It was not like Apparating because although it took only an instant, the Headmaster slowed prior to the final destination and became conscious of the fact that the journey was still in progress.  He realised he had no control over his point of touch down and found himself hovering high above a shining city.  Below him it was mid afternoon and a violent storm raged, yet its feeble energies seemed not to be a threat to him.  His body was lining up over a domed roof, smooth like the top of a hen’s egg.  As he watched, a bolt of lightening struck the roof and smashed it open, leaving a ragged hole.  Just visible through this was what looked like the top of a pillar made of black glass.  Dumbledore could not tell that it had once had a fanciful many-spiked parapet above a flat roof, because the shiny black stone had also been shattered and what little was left of the higher surfaces had tumbled into a heap of debris; its random configuration resembling a runic letter, illuminated weirdly in the lesser lightening flashes.

From his vantage point the rune was unmistakable – it was Thurisaz, the thorn symbol of the Norse god Thor, seen by some as powerfully negative, revealing the darker side of our nature, and seen by others as positive, offering powerful protection.  What more fitting symbol could there be for his unpopular, perennially mistrusted Potions Master.

As he descended gently towards the top of the broken tower Dumbledore muttered “Crowned by the Ice Giant’s badge” and found himself repeating phrases Zamyatin had quoted to him a few hours earlier “ ‘The thorn is sharp to all, painful to grasp, uncommonly severe to those who rest among them.’  Well, well, Severus, after such a clear pointer as this if I don’t find you here” he construed “I surely won’t find you anywhere!”

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Chapter Twelve -The Thorn in his Side

Meanwhile, as the early afternoon had grown hot and muggy Snape had sat in the smart sitting room of Suzi’s flat, pretending to listen to Beethoven’s pastoral symphony as Marvin cleared away the remains of the lunch and stacked the dishwasher…

Although he was working hard to conceal it Snape was feeling almost weak with a mixture of exhilaration and anxiety.  It had so far been another strange day, stranger than the previous one.  Once again as Jason had left for work Marvin had arrived, presumably because Suzi and Jason did not intend to leave a stranger to his own solitary devices within their home.  Marvin had been excellent company.  He chatted amiably and quite innocently about his life as he and Snape pottered in the kitchen deciding what they would concoct for lunch.  It seemed Marvin had had a good education but had never been able to settle to a job.  He had long ago ‘chucked’ university after completing only one term, and after a series of unsatisfactory jobs had worked for a while with his father, helping him to develop ideas for the games parks and dealing with site acquisitions and the procurement of supplies.  But it was no good, Marvin never really felt that he fitted in to anything, and rather than berating him for being a lazy leech, his adoptive father had been curiously sympathetic about this.

“He’s an odd bod, too, you see” Marvin had reasoned, as he fastened his hair into a pony tail.  “I suppose that’s why he puts up with me.  He’s a brilliant man, my father!  I’d have been sunk without him.  Now, lunch…  What shall we have?  I thought of doing a green Quorn curry, Thai style.  All tumbled together like a paella.  Or do I mean a risotto?  Anyway…”

It was obvious that he liked cooking.  Snape had helped, and noted how well Marvin handled and prepared ingredients – his enthusiasm, his flair and skill, his relaxed attention to detail.  He’d be a natural at potions, Snape realised.

Marvin was a handsome man.  He had a long aristocratic face, in general shape vaguely reminiscent of McGonagall’s.  His hair and eyes were dark, and Snape had to admit that he was powerfully drawn to this ‘young man’.  And yet, curiously, although young in his looks, Marvin Mella was not a young man.  It turned out that he was older than Snape by almost eleven years!  Was it his association with a younger circle of friends that heightened the boyish, adventurous side to his nature?  Or was it his casual, all-boys-together relationship with Jason?  Marvin had admitted that that relationship was physical but not ‘serious’ – he had never yet formed a permanent bond with anyone, and assumed he was not the type to settle down.

But Marvin wasn’t always a prankster and trickster – he could be studious too, fanatically attentive to detail, and relentless in pursuit of technical excellence.

Snape was entranced.

He was also impressed.

And added to that, he was intrigued.

For he had looked into Marvin Mella’s mind.  Young Marve was a wizard!

With further suspicions forming ever stronger in his mind, and his desire to get home notched up to desperation level, Snape was ready to go out when Suzi arrived back a little after half-past two.  Dutifully she asked how he was feeling and the Potions Master was in no mood to pull his punches.

“Suzi, you must take me to your father.  We must go now.”

“Why?”

“Just do as I say.”

“Now?  We can’t go now!  It’s been a stinking hot, busy morning and I’ve had nothing to eat.  There’s gonna be one hell of a storm any minute –”

“Never mind that.  I insist we go now.”

“Yeah, ‘go’ now is about right!  You’re obviously much better, Adrian.  Just go home.  Tell you what, I’ll take you home.  Come on –”

But again he cut her short.  “We are going to see your father.  We are going now, girl.  If we don’t, you can be sure I’ll drag his name through every court in England.”

Suzi glared at him, but there was no more argument because he had played on her worst fear – bad publicity.

She drove, taking her 2-seater ‘baby bug’ hydrogen-powered car from the apartment block’s underground car park.  They were so angry with each other that they exchanged not one word.  The sky matched their mood exactly – it was a lurid purplish grey and there were ominous rumbles of thunder.

In between lunch time and rush hour, the traffic was relatively light and they made Holodrome in good time, crossing the iconic Greenwich Bridge that her father had helped to finance in order to facilitate access to the first of his games parks.  It was dark enough for some of the street lights to begin their coral pink glow towards amber.

She parked as near as she could to the games park’s main entrance but once inside Suzi did not head for the Booking Hall nor the Check-In Desk.  Waving another proximity card at a sensor on the wall she slipped through a door marked Authorised Personnel Only.  In icy silence she and Snape stood side by side in a lift, rode down a couple of floors, walked along a series of faintly humming corridors and then took another lift.  It rose smoothly and for quite a long time.  When they emerged at the top Snape followed Suzi into a lobby and then through another card-controlled door of black marble which gave onto a narrow spiral staircase.  The staircase lead up to a large, bare, chamber that seemed to be carved from the same black, shiny stone.  It was ringed with windows providing a spectacular centrally placed view of the vast playing surface of the Lord of the Rings Orc-Slayer virtual reality game.  But Snape was no longer impressed with the manufactured mountain and savannah panorama, nor with fake Barad-dûr frowning darkly in the south east from which Sauron, the Dark Lord, was programmed to appear occasionally, and whose capture earned the victor the accumulating jackpot.  Snape was more concerned with what was inside this tower room.  Near its centre stood a very solid table, the top of which was bare except for one object – a 13½-inch stick of ebony – Snape’s wand.

At the table sat a wizard dressed in robes of a synthetic, fundamentally greyish, material that constantly changed its colour, like oil reflecting from a muddy puddle.  He had long, straight, paper-white hair and beard, and a few stray black hairs showed at the sides of his moustache.  He turned his smooth, handsome face towards Snape and gave the Potions Master a baleful stare.  “Well, well” he muttered.  “Gríma was ever a thorn in Saruman’s side.  It seems there is no escaping Gríma.  What do you want, Severus Snape?”

“His name is Adrian Fallon, Father” Suzi corrected, with a scowl at her erstwhile guest.

“Oh, no it isn’t” Archibald Mella replied.  “This man is a teacher, and more besides.”

“And are you really Archibald Mella” Snape ventured to the seated wizard, “or something more besides?  Your ‘children’ are something more besides, aren’t they Mella.  Or one of them is – the one that calls himself Marve.”

Mella’s smooth face twitched.  “Leave us, Suzi” he said sharply.  “Get yourself a coffee or something.  Mr Snape and I have business to discuss.”

Suzi glared but did as she was told, and moments later the two wizards were alone.

“How much?” Mella asked.  Snape looked nonplussed.  “How much for your silence?” Mella elaborated.  “Or do I just kill you now?  (He pulled his wand.)  I could you know, and get away with it.  Everyone thinks this place is only a whiz-kid electronic bag of tricks – holograms and so forth.  You’ve probably guessed it’s also maintained by spells.  But what Muggle would worry about a stray flash of green light in the middle of my computer generated virtual-reality masterpiece?”

“It isn’t money that I want” Snape replied softly, and although Mella was enough of a businessman to know that everyone has a price, he felt that there was quite possibly some truth behind Snape’s words and it was too intriguing to leave undiscovered.  Snape was a hero in his own realm and occupied a key position at what was probably the most prestigious wizarding school in the world.  It was difficult to fathom what else he might want out of life, unless he wanted to be Hogwarts Headmaster or the Minister for Magic.

“Go on” Mella snarled.

“The young man who calls himself Marvin Mella” Snape explained.  “He’s a wizard, or could be if he was trained … coached.  He could be very great.  He wasn’t born Marvin Mella, was he.”

“No” Mella agreed.  “And Marvin has never been his name.  Ever since I became his guardian I’ve let people assume Marve is short for Marvin, but of course it is not.  It is short for Marvolo.”

Snape raised an eyebrow, yet there was also an ‘I thought as much’ look on his face.

“He was born Marvolo Domitius Riddle” Mella continued.  His father was Marvolo Domenico Riddle, the son of Tom Marvolo Riddle and Carolyn Patterson.”

“So your adopted son, Marvolo Mella, is actually the grandson of Tom Riddle” Snape stated.

“That is correct” Mella confirmed wearily.  “You realise I am going to wipe all this information from your mind in a few seconds time.”

“Yes, you might well do that” Snape agreed, eyeing the wand that was trained upon him.  “But think about it, Mella.  Think of the man’s future.  He’s unemployed and wasting his gifts forging plastic cards so that his friends can break into cars.  He has talents far beyond his Muggle technical brilliance.  He doesn’t belong here.  He’s clearly never settled here.  He belongs in my world – the world you chose to leave behind.  He never had that choice, did he?”

“And you could teach him?”

“Depend upon it!  Of all the wizards at Hogwarts I am the one most perfectly equipped to be his mentor.”

“NO, Snape!  LOOK AT HIS LINEAGE – what might he become?  Think of the consequences!  I’ve always had to bear that in mind – keep him safe from abusing his powers.  I promised his father that I’d take care of him.”

“And did his father really intend this?”

Mella hesitated.  “He wanted him kept safe” he protested.  “This is how I choose to do it.”  He eyed Snape carefully and added “I know what you once were, Snape.  You knew my father.  I wasn’t born Archibald Mella anymore than Marve was Marvin.  My name at birth was Roland Mulciber.  Yes, I see by your face you now realise; I take it you remember my father.  Yes, Snape, we both know the temptations of evil and the lure of absolute power.  And the ultimate despair that that path leads to.”

Having reached an impasse they fell silent.  Rain clattered onto the domed roof far above the ceiling of the tower.  Mella, looking faintly ridiculous now in his guise of Saruman, continued to sit at his black marble table, his mind clearly in conflict but his face set resolutely against Snape’s plan to take his adopted son to Hogwarts.

Snape whirled angrily about the tower room, which was empty except for Mella’s table and chair and the stairs by which they had entered, and which lead on up to the flat roof.  He didn’t know how he was going to return to Hogwarts and he didn’t want to admit it anymore than he wanted to admit to the loss of his magical powers.  He suspected Mella could help him to get back and he also now suspected that the loss of his powers was something to do with the time jump into the strange environment in which he had been plunged.  Mixed in with the electronics and holographic images, Holodrome was a clever knot of spellwork far worse than The Wood of Repulse or even the Ministry of Magic.  Mixing spells with ‘standard’ electronics was extremely advanced magic – Mella had phenomenal powers.  And what did he choose to do with them – fritter them away in the Muggle world, making money.  And deny his children and ward their true birthright!

Seething with anger and trying not to panic at his personal plight, Snape stared out of a high window towards the fortress of the Hornburg at the entrance to Helm’s Deep ‘miles’ away under its canopy of false, sunless daylight, as unseen and high above them in the real world the storm gathered pace.  Lightening was streaking the darkened sky, and they could hear the thunder crashing overhead.

Finally Snape turned his attention to the wall beside the window and he caressed the cold, shiny stone with a pale hand.  “Is this basalt?” he asked, as his fingers traversed the rippling, glassy rock.

“Obsidian” Mella mumbled.  “The pillar of Orthanc is a particular form of basalt.  A very hard, black basalt.  Unbreakable –”

His last word was drowned out by pounding thunder.  A lightening bolt had ripped through the Holodrome roof and struck the top of the pillar.  It broke, splitting into rocks and splinters, and crashing down around the wizards in a hail of black ice.  Terrified, Snape spun on the spot, throwing his arms over his head and pressing his back against the wall as if he longed to sink into its rough hewn surface.  Mella had dived under the table.  A sea of jagged black pebbles rattled across the floor towards Snape’s feet like an iceberg spilling across the deck of a ship, but he managed to remain standing.  As the dust settled and the last few chips pattered down from the broken walls Albus Dumbledore’s figure appeared.  He was standing in the middle of the room, pocketing a crystal and brushing debris from his robes.  Then leaning forwards he picked up the black wand which still lay on the table miraculously undisturbed, like the still eye in the centre of a hurricane.  He turned to Snape.

“Yours, Severus?” he enquired mildly.

Mella was scrabbling in the scree and hauling himself to his feet.  His hands were grazed and he looked dazed and worried, yet not entirely surprised, as if wizards dropped in on him every day.  “We had better get out of this wreckage” he advised.  “It’s not safe.”

He lead them down in the lift to his private chambers far below the ground level of Holodrome and left them for a while in order to find his daughter, receive damage reports and give instructions for any necessary evacuation and safety work.  In his absence Snape updated Dumbledore…

The Headmaster was as surprised as Snape had been.  “So this is Tom Riddle’s grandson, we’re talking about” he verified.

“Yes, Headmaster.”

“But Voldemort had no children – Tom Riddle was the last surviving heir of Salazar Slytherin.”

“Was he?”

Dumbledore’s attempted reply died on his lips.  “The Booke” he said finally.  “The deleted names.”

Snape said nothing, but arched an eyebrow.

“And you want to bring him back to Hogwarts” the Headmaster continued.

“I do.”

“What if he won’t come?”

“He must be given the chance, Headmaster.  He must be allowed to make his own choice.  He’s not content where he is.”

“And what of Mella’s natural children, Suzi and Jason?”

“Jason, I believe, is a Squib.  Suzi … Suzi I agree should also be given the option.”

“Hmmm.  You’re not so relentlessly adamant about her right to choose are you, Severus.  I take it Marvolo holds a special place in your affections.”

Snape glared but said nothing.

“Is it mutual?”

Finally the glare gave way to a curt nod, and Snape looked angrily away.

“You will be discrete, wont you, Severus.”

“Like Lupin and Lorin Hengist?  Oh yes!  Of course I will.  When have I ever been otherwise” Snape hissed menacingly.  “Marvolo is no impressionable teenager, innocent of life.  Do you realise that in the current time, 2027, he is actually fifty-five years old?  Jason told me their ages – he is 26 and his sister 28.  I must admit Marvolo acts as if he is the same age, such juvenile behaviour is not unknown for wizards.  But the ‘young man’ I am talking of bringing back is almost eleven years older than my true age.  My year-2000 age.  It’s bizarre.”

“And do you expect him to be a student?”

“No not a student in the normal sense, but a part-time mature student.  He can be my assistant.  I’ll pay him a salary.  I’m not expecting the school to finance –”

“No, no.  Don’t worry about that.  I’m sure we can employ him to help you with stock control and such duties.  And he will need time for his studies.”

Snape looked at Dumbledore in wary surprise.  “You are going to make this possible, Headmaster?”

Dumbledore smiled kindly.  “If it is what Marvolo wants, of course I am.  I happen to agree with you about not denying magical children a proper education.”

Snape’s face twitched in a shy and half-suppressed smile.  He was deeply moved and was at a loss for words.

When Mella arrived back he had removed the charm from his hair and beard, treated his scratched hands and changed his clothes.  His clean-shaven, normally tanned face looked grey with worry.  He would not talk about the extent of the damage to Holodrome except to assure them that they were safe in his underground chambers and they would shortly be moving to his West End flat.

Half an hour later Snape and Dumbledore were settling themselves into the kind of squashy, chintzy armchairs Dumbledore liked so much and Snape privately detested, while Mella instructed his staff to prepare an early meal.  It was absurdly early for dinner, but the travelling, and the anxious events of the afternoon had made everyone feel in need of the comfort of food and they needed to sit and unwind and talk over many complex issues.

Conversation in the sitting room verged into argument at times and was also punctuated by Mella taking brief calls on his mobile phone.  He also made a phone call to his Finance Director to discuss insurance cover.  The call appeared to set his mind at rest about certain matters – it seemed that any costs relating to Holo-Dromes PLC would not impact significantly upon his private fortune.  And yet in spite of this Mella seemed worried.  Snape and Dumbledore suspected it had nothing to do with the damage to the games park, nor even with the futures of Mella’s children.  But what this additional concern was they could not guess.

Marvolo arrived a little while later, and changed into his evening clothes.  He also let the Professors use the en-suite facilities of his small but well-appointed bedroom to freshen up before dinner.  His possessions were few but costly – a narrow wardrobe of expensive clothes, a few pieces of designer jewellery, some books and a collection of CDs and DVDs.  Snape realised it would not take Marvolo very long to pack the clothes into a trunk if he decided to move out.

Soon they were all taking their seats at the handsome Sheridan dining table.  The meal opened with fresh salmon pavé with asparagus, and with Mella doing his best to explain that Marvolo could if he wished train to be a wizard.  Snape thought that Marvolo looked particularly unsurprised.  As the salmon dishes were taken away and they were presented with pan-fried fillets of lamb, Marvolo was still questioning and considering his options.

“I’d certainly like to visit Hogwarts” he admitted.

“You must understand that if you go you will not be able to return” Mella explained.  “Not to this time.  You can find me anytime after your point of departure but don’t go looking for me in an earlier time.  And more to the point don’t go looking for yourself.”

“Myself?”

“Yes, Marve, yourself.  You will not unwind your life by going back to the year 2000.  You will live in two separate timelines until the moment of schism arrives again.  So don’t go looking for your other self while the two of you exist.  It actually may not be possible – it may be that an accident befalls one copy of you if you try to meet your other self.  It is dangerous.  I don’t know whether such a thing has ever happened, and if it has what the two selves thought of each other.  Each could go crazy with the shock –”

“It has happened” the Headmaster said quietly.  “And the person in question kept his sanity, because he thought he saw his father.  From afar.  Only from afar.  He and his father were very alike.  But yes, Marvolo, to see one’s other self would be dangerous.  To seek to bring that about would be the greatest folly, of enormous unknown consequence.”

“Thank you, Dumbledore” Mella replied.  “We are at least agreed on something!  So, now do you understand, Marve?  If you journey back in time you stay in that time.  Popping back and forth is not an option.  It is usually not allowed, so we cannot control the fallout.  That is what I should have foreseen.”

“But Severus and the Headmaster have travelled in time” Marvolo protested.

“They have not!” Mella almost shouted.  “Not in the way that you suppose.  Professor Snape has not fully left his time.  He has left a Time Shadow in his real time and that is where he belongs.  When he returns he will recover his magical powers.  Professor Dumbledore has been sent here by a powerful witch who clearly knows a lot about temporal transmission.  And it seems it has been allowed – I suspect that the time lines have already been constructed to accommodate it.  Anyhow, this witch does not have the certain means I have to send you back.  I can transport you far more surely.  I can even override the temporal laws if I choose – fool that I am.”

“So it was you that tampered with the Booke” Dumbledore interjected in a soft, calm voice.

“Yes, it was I” Mella nodded.  “With both Bookes.  The Dark Lord removed his son’s name at the moment of his birth.  But when Marve here, his grandson, was born no one troubled about it.  Marve was not given the surname Riddle, although ‘Marvolo’ was a bit of a giveaway.  But, the Dark Lord was growing in power so it seemed there was no problem, although by then I’d already changed my name as I had decided to start covering my tracks and preparing to distance myself from my father.  Then in the middle of 1981 things began to go very badly wrong.  Marve’s mother and his father, my business partner, died in a battle between his fellow Death Eaters and your forces, Dumbledore; and that meant I became Marve’s guardian.  So I desperately started to tidy up.  I removed the name of Tom Riddle’s son from the Booke of Death – in real time, and trusted that it had not already been spotted as it had not been there for very long.  No one saw!  No one knew – I had got away with it!  Heartened by this I grew braver still, and projected my will back in time to remove Marvolo's name from the Booke of Birth so that it seemed it had never been there.  In other words, I re-wrote history.”

“So if my Deputy had copied the name from the Booke –?”

“Her record would have been unmade” Mella admitted, “and she and anyone else she had shown it to would have no memory of such a thing.  And that’s when I decided not to send you to a wizarding school, Marve.  That’s partly why I altered the Booke of Birth.  Very soon, events seemed to prove me right.  At the end of October that year The Dark Lord vanished, stripped of his powers and leaving his followers in a very vulnerable position, and the rest of us – not devotees, but their unfortunate relatives and associates, concerned as to what our fate might be.  It was a most harrowing time.  No doubt you hate me for the decisions I made, but since then you have had a good, safe, privileged life, as did my own children in their turn.”

“You’re wrong” Marvolo said softly.  “I don’t hate you for what you did.  But I do want this chance, Father.  And I still don’t see why I can’t come and go.”

“The proof of that is sitting in front of us” Mella said gravely.  “Altering the Bookes in real time is one thing.  But reaching back nine years or so and rewriting the past…?  How stupid I was!  How blind!  I thought I’d got away with it.  No consequences.  There are always consequences!  And they need not have been as benign as this.  In the first year or so matters looked mended, but from that point onwards many things went wrong.  You were a brilliant student yet nothing really engaged you.  You were offered places at Sussex and Cambridge.  You wouldn’t even have gone if I hadn’t begged you.  And you gave Cambridge up after barely a term!”

“I’m sorry, Father” Marvolo said softly.

“It’s not really your fault, Marvolo” Mella insisted.  “The error was mine – the second I altered the past.  That damned black parchment sprang into existence.  Years later the Millennium triggered its activation and its decoding.  Professor Snape arrived here, stripped of power and yet I cannot stop what he wants to do!  Professor Dumbledore is now here to rescue him – and he is not stripped of power; it seems the rescue is ordained.  If you think I’m going to meddle with time ever again, you are much mistaken.  It is impossible to control the outcomes!  So, I’m sorry, I know this is hard and all something of a very sudden shock, but the choice you must make must be an irrevocable one.  All I can say is, knowing you as I do and knowing your talents, and knowing something of the magical world, you will enjoy life at Hogwarts.  And I think you will be safe.  And I’m sure you will do well, if you don’t get carried away with your powers.  You do understand, don’t you, that the magical world is nothing like the Muggle world – you will be leaving modern electronics behind.  As the Headmaster has said, there is no electricity at Hogwarts, no telephone, no computers, no powered shavers or tooth-brush…  Ye gods, how strange it is to be contemplating all of this!  Jason and Suzi must give this some thought too, when they get here.  Where are they?  They’re too late for dinner now, dammit.”

The main course was cleared away and pudding was served.  “Castle pudding; very amusing” Mella murmured to his butler.  “I’m sure my guests will appreciate a certain irony.”

Dumbledore chuckled, and Marvolo directed a smile at Snape whose face, in reply, showed surprise and softened from its habitual sneer.

As pudding was replaced with cheese and biscuits, faint noises in the hall told Mella that Jason and Suzi had arrived.  Snape was cutting himself a thin slice of Emmental and playing about with it, absent-mindedly fitting white grapes into the holes, and eating the cheese and fruit together.  His mind was far away as he calculated and recalculated his plans.

Mella was mumbling softly, almost to himself.  “Well, here we go.  Perhaps we will part and our lives will take different tracks.  But Marve may decide to see us again in his far future.  Twenty-seven years is not forever.”

He fell into a morose silence, picked up a walnut from a Georgian silver dish, crushed it unnecessarily hard between the nutcracker jaws and began to tug the fragments from the broken shell.  He said nothing further, and apart from a decanter of tawny port being passed around, there was little sound from the diners.

Suddenly two people in Muggle evening clothes appeared at the dining room door.  “Good evening, everyone” Suzi said smoothly.  “Sorry we’re late, but we ate a while ago – as, thanks to Mr Fallon, I had no lunch.”

“Are we still in time for coffee?” Jason asked hopefully.

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Chapter Thirteen -The Spindle of Vortigern

Jason took a while to absorb the information that his father and the Hogwarts staff related.  Matters came as less of a surprise to Suzi.

“So I, too, can go if I want” she said.  “You’d let me go back.”

“I’m not suggesting you go back” Mella explained, “but if you wish you may take up the education I denied you; now, from this term.  The Professors will let you attend Hogwarts as a mature student.  You could become a witch, Suzi.  I will pay your fees.  It’s up to you.”

“It is a very fascinating life” Dumbledore added.  “If I had known, I would have brought some photographs to show you.  Not that I know what Hogwarts is like ‘now’ but if I am no longer the Headmaster I’m still confident that we have someone worthy enough to honour my offer to you.  Don’t you agree, Severus?”

“Yes, I expect so” Snape said dully.  “But perhaps Miss Mella is not enthralled by the thought of being able to brew magical potions, or transform objects, or make them come to her, or fly away –”

“You mean like this?” Suzi interrupted as she sneaked her father’s wand from his sleeve and pointed it at the pepper pot.  “Wingardium Leviosa” she commanded, and the pepper pot rose into the air.  Guiding it around the table she brought it gently to rest beside the salt caddy and then smiled at their dumbstruck faces.  “I’ve been able to do things like that since I was quite a little girl” she confessed.  “And so has Marve – don’t let him kid you otherwise.”

Marvolo glared at her – he had not intended to admit this.  He then caught Snape’s eye and the two of them exchanged wry smiles.

“I used to pinch your wand, Father” Suzi continued, “and mess about trying to do magic; trying to remember things I’d heard you say, or Mother say.  You never knew, did you?  Mother never knew either.  I saw her too, at times, performing the occasional spell when she thought no one was looking.  Marve never bothered with wands but he could still make the odd thing happen.  It used to worry us at times, but we never wanted to let on.  Well, to put you all out of your misery, no I won’t be going to Hogwarts, but thanks for the offer.  As Father knows only too well, my ambitions, and Oliver’s, lie in other directions.  Oliver’s doing well as pupil to Sir Simon Elyot and we have plans to marry in a year or so’s time.  And I’ve been selected as the candidate to fight Crawley-West Dyke in the forthcoming election.  Aside from marrying Oliver, that’s what I really want to do – become an MP.  Better still become part of a New Dawn government.”

Mella couldn’t help himself – he let out a ‘pah’ of disgust.

“Father disapproves” Suzi observed a little scornfully.  “He’ll even pay my Hogwarts fees to delay my political career.  It was OK when I stood in regional seats, but now I’ve won my spurs and been given a real chance in a safe seat – and a Central Government seat, no less – he’s losing his nerve.  We don’t share the same views, you see – he supports this right-wing near-dictatorship we live under now, my values have always been socialist and green.  Oliver’s very progressive in his views, too.  Simon Elyot’s chambers is renown for its human rights cases – Oliver’s learning loads.”

“Oh yes, this is all very laudable, Suzi, but it’s this right-wing near-dictatorship that has fed and clothed you” Mella spat contemptuously.

“What say did I ever have about any of that?” Suzi asked indignantly.  “That doesn’t mean I can keep quiet when I see badly needed social reform, or pollution laws so lax that companies with enough clout can drive a coach-and-horses through them.  No.  Thank you, seriously, Professor Dumbledore, Professor Snape, for your consideration and for your generous offer, and thank you Father for offering to fund me, but my ambitions lie here.  If I make it to Government I’ll be keen to work in liaison with the Ministry of Magic.  I never knew that existed!  That explains quite a few strange events that take place at times at Number Ten, and some of the more unfathomable missives from the Prime Minister’s Office!”

“Well, I’m just sorry to see you go” Jason admitted to Marvolo.  “But as Father says, I’m Squib, so my future’s here.  That’s the only sensible course.  Anyway, come back and see us in twenny-seven-or-so years’ time.  Odd, isn’t it – if you go tonight, you could visit us tomorrow.  It would only be a few hours for us but you’d have to live through twenny-seven years to visit us.  So, if you do that, will you look like you do now, or older?”

“I’ve no idea” Marvolo admitted.

“Older, I’m afraid” Mella informed him.  “Now, Professor Dumbledore, I think we must allow Jason and Marve a little privacy to say a last goodbye.  And Marve, you have packing to do.  Look, you’d better take my trunk and my black cloak, and I’ll let you have all the gold I’ve got here, but there’s no point in taking Muggle cash – I doubt it will be legal tender –”

“Don’t worry, I’ll survive, Father.  I can always hoc my Cartier studs” Marvolo replied, nervously fingering a diamond cufflink.

“I’m sure things will never get to such a pitch as that” Snape cut in smoothly.

“No I’m sure they won’t” Dumbledore agreed, as his twinkling eyes took in the sudden extra pallor in the Potion Master’s face.  “Anyway, the gold you give Marvolo now, at today’s price levels, will probably be worth far more in our time, so don’t worry.  Marvolo won’t start off penniless and we certainly won’t let your son starve.”

“No.  Of course not.  Thank you” Mella replied, looking a little dazed.  “Well, OK, get packing.  Jason, go and give him a hand.”

Once Jason and Marvolo were out of earshot Dumbledore asked Mella to verify that there was no need to worry about their time lines.

“It’s really not an issue” Mella confirmed.  “You and Professor Snape have made a brief excursion into the future but have not met your future selves and will soon be ‘home’ again.  Marvolo’s world-line flows forward to 2027, then will loop back to 2000 and flow forward again, but through different points in space.  He doesn’t need to do anything about joining up with his other self.  As we agreed, he must actually do the opposite and aim to keep away from his other self.  Now Dumbledore, what was the name of that witch who guided you here?  Rowen Hengist!  Yes, I can’t say I’m surprised.  I want you to take a letter to her, please; which I’ll draft now…”

*

It was almost midnight when Dumbledore, Snape and Marvolo arrived in the Forbidden Forest.  Dumbledore and Marvolo appeared fairly close together, Marvolo with his luggage and wearing his father’s cloak over his dinner jacket.  Snape arrived simultaneously but a little further away, filling out his transparent Shadow with black robed substance, his wand in his sleeve as it was when he had first sought to Apparate on that fateful Millennium night.  Applause and cheers greeted their arrival; McGonagall, Flitwick, Sprout, Zamyatin and Hagrid, and Lupin with his arms around both Lorin and Rowen, had been keeping vigil near Snape’s Shadow; and Rowen had been able to alert everyone to the time travellers’ imminent arrival.  They all shook hands and Snape said a rather embarrassed thank you to the staff who had taken the lead in bringing about his rescue, and the creatures who had guarded his Time Shadow.  He gave Rowen Hengist a quizzical look.

“Yes, this is my mother” Lorin confirmed.

“The Mistress of Potions” Snape said softly.  “So that’s how you knew of me that day I came to you in Robinwood.  As Raegan’s wife, you had met Dumbledore.”

“Your name did come up in discussion once or twice” she replied, giving him a twisted smile.  “Dumbledore had this mad idea that you could look at a picture in my husband’s mind and read something within it, like reading a book.  However, much water has passed under many bridges since those happy days, Snape.  Pardon my reticence, but I don’t have much to say about those times.”

Dumbledore interrupted to save her further embarrassment.  “We have a guest in our midst” he reminded them, “and the journey will have been quite an ordeal for him, so no more questions and explanations, please, until he has had time to get his bearings.  We will have a brief late-night supper in my office later, while we make introductions; but first – accommodation.  Marvolo, you have been allocated the spare bedchamber in the dungeons.  Severus will direct you.  Now, the luggage.  Hagrid, could you –”

“Let me” Snape said quickly, pulling his wand.  “I need to try this.  Locomotor trunk!”

He was very relieved when Marvolo’s luggage levitated at his command and floated slowly before them as they walked up to the castle.  Snape’s powers were fully restored.

While Marvolo was shown to his room, Dumbledore explained matters to McGonagall as they waited in the Headmaster’s office for the others to arrive.  “He has decided to use the name Marvolo Mella” the Headmaster explained.  “Marvolo after his father, grandfather and maternal great-grandfather, and Mella in honour of his adoptive father.”

“But what if he doesn’t adapt to life here, Albus” McGonagall pointed out.  “He seems to have an abysmal track record of settling to anything.”

“He says he’ll be able to cope in this era even if he has to forego Hogwarts” Dumbledore explained.  “We did discuss this point.  He is old enough to cope, and Severus would never let him walk out of Hogwarts destitute.  Marvolo was 28 in the year 2000, but it is a wizard of 54, closing in on 55, who has joined us today.  Marvolo has not had his age and experience unwound by the time journey any more than Severus or I have, and Mella explained to me that that would indicate that he really does belong here.  So I think you’ll find he will stay with us.  Things never went right for Marvolo in the Muggle world – Mella knew he didn’t belong there, he just didn’t want to admit it.”

Gradually the staff assembled for supper and to meet their new part-time student/colleague.  Marvolo, a happy anticipatory expression on his face, and now wearing a set of Snape’s robes, arrived in company with the Head of Slytherin.  Dumbledore made the formal introductions.

“Now where is Rowen” he concluded.  “Rowen?  I have an envelope for you.”

The envelope contained one large and three small sheets of parchment which Rowen read with interest mixed with sadness, at times bordering on anger.  Then she made Dumbledore describe the black basalt tower that Mella had fashioned into the Pillar of Orthanc and the means of their return journey.  When Dumbledore said that in order to get them back, Mella took them to the heart of the pillar and made them climb into a hollow, rotatable, stone sphere that looked like a globe pierced by twelve axes, she smiled a bitter smile.

“So he does have it” she said flatly, holding out the letter for Dumbledore to read.  “The Spindle of Vortigern.  That’s how he did it.  I wondered if he had access to it.  When Mella made the London Holodrome he moved it from that hill in Herefordshire and hid it inside the tower of Orthanc.  Vortigern’s Spindle is a very powerful and ancient device – a Time Spinner that sends matter through the twelve dimensions of spacetime – as you and Snape and Mella-junior know because you have all made that journey.  Muggles, with their string theories, have discovered that at least eleven dimensions must be in existence.  They have yet to discover the twelfth, but I suppose they will.”

“Was the Spindle once buried in Cleedon Hill?” Snape asked suspiciously.

“Yes, it was” Rowen confirmed.  She sighed and looked sad.  “And now he’s going to destroy it if he can.  I’ll know tomorrow.  And he’s given me a little task.”  Angrily she brandished the three small parchment sheets and said “He’s listed the details he and Tom Riddle erased from the Bookes.  Wants me to give these to Kieren.  Me!  Lorin, a favour if you please!  Tomorrow I want you to take these to your father for me.”

“Oh, no, Mother” Lorin replied.  “But I’ll go with you to see him.”

Rowen looked murderous but could not talk her way out of the task Mella had given her.  Very soon she pleaded sleepiness and took herself off to bed.

*

Breakfast the following morning was a strange affair.  Marvolo wandered up from the dungeons with Snape but then said he had a quick errand in the Headmaster’s office and disappeared for what he fully expected to be a delay of no longer than five minutes.  He entered the Great Hall almost twenty minutes later, having got lost on the way back.  Nevertheless he was in high spirits, enthralled with the medieval castle – its candles, torches and roaring log fires, its huge and unusual library, its moving and talking portraits, and its drifting ghosts.

“It gets a little rowdy when the students return” Snape admitted, “but it has its compensations.  The food is not great cuisine, but wholesome and plentiful, and the housekeeping arrangements are faultless.  The building can be very cold at times, but one can always find a cosy corner by a log fire.  And of course you have yet to observe the fun of taking house points from students and giving detentions.”

“I can’t wait to see you in action in the Potions classroom, Severus” Marvolo grinned.  “By the way, you were right.  I tried on the Sorting Hat just now.  That’s what held me up.  It said I’m ideal for Slytherin.”

“I knew you would be” Snape smirked.  “After breakfast we’ll visit Diagon Alley, as you need to open an account and deposit your gold.  Then we can do some shopping.  I’d, err, like to buy you your wand, if you’re willing … a sort of welcome-to-Hogwarts present…”

Sitting slightly apart and in quiet conversation with Dumbledore, Rowen Hengist received a further note from Archibald Mella as she was finishing her breakfast.  It was a cryptic poem and was not delivered by owl but materialised suddenly on her bread plate.  She looked dismayed to see it but nodded her head in mute understanding as she read

The pendulum swings both ways

And so gives us a clue

That spacetime’s fabric isn’t smooth

It folds and loops in tight-wound curves

Through twelve dimensions, most of which

Are hidden from our view.

The pendulum swings both ways.

The mage who in his pride

Rides back on it to change events

Must risk the unknown consequence,

The after-shock of his intents,

The fallout of his deed.

“Well, he’s done it” she said to Dumbledore.  “Mella’s found a way to destroy the Spindle of Vortigern without unmaking all the events between now and his own time.  What a wizard the world has lost in his choice to play the Muggle entrepreneur!  What a pity he would not give up the Spindle to the Ministry of Magic.  Thought it was too dangerous to exist, and this would be the last task – to send me this.  If its transmission was allowed it would prove he was doing the right thing.”

“Ah, but Rowen, I do think Mella’s choice is best” Dumbledore replied gravely.  “It is sad that such a great artefact has gone from the world, but it was too powerful.  We still have Time-Turners, and their fallout is bad enough.  And you have some skill in time-transmission.”

She smiled at the twinkle in his eyes.  “I’m going to be teaching Lorin” she explained.  “That fool of a father of hers has made a poor job of her education.  Yes, OK, she attended Durmstrang, my old school; and yes, she can do ordinary magic, but she has a lot more to learn.  You’ll see!  See what you think each time she returns from spending the summers with me.  By the way (Rowen dropped her voice very low and tried not to stare at Lorin and Lupin sitting side by side) I’ve explained to her that werewolves are nowhere near as long-lived as other wizards.  Remus’s condition will gradually take its toll.  Lorin is aware.”

Dumbledore nodded.  “And what about yourself and Kieren” he asked.  “Will there ever be a reconciliation?”

“Our breach was not of my making” Rowen hissed fiercely.  “Well, he claims I was the cause, because I hurt him in the most painful way imaginable – I made him feel a fool.  So my punishment is for him to hurt me for evermore.  No, Dumbledore, I don’t know if we can ever patch things up.  He may not even speak to me today!  If you want me to make a prediction it won’t be about myself.  (Again she glanced down the long table.)  It will be this.  Before the decade is up you will need a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher; and my daughter will one day wed, and give birth to the next Keeper of the Bookes.”

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Chapter Forteen -Closure of the Schisms

Rowen’s prediction turned out to be accurate.  Seven years later Lupin died of a heart attack – he was found slumped over his desk with the pile of second year essays he had been marking tumbled to the floor.

Snape was appointed Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts.  Marvolo Mella, his education long completed, was made Professor of Potions.  Snape and Mella were well and truly settled in their discrete relationship and if anyone had any suspicions of it, they certainly never voiced them.

To his enduring credit Snape never again referred to Boris Zamyatin as ‘Kazzak Stan’.

Long before Lupin died, Lorin Hengist, now of her own volition renamed Lorin Raegan, had become a highly accomplished witch.  She grieved at the death of Lupin but she had one consoling factor in her life – her parents were reconciled and for the previous five years her mother had been living at Bliant Tower and once again calling herself Rowen Raegan.

Almost two years after Lupin’s demise Lorin was preparing to give up teaching, marry a healer called Daniel Linwood and move to London, but keep her name as Lorin Raegan – being a modern-thinking wizard her fiancé had agreed to take her surname when they married.  (He would actually become Daniel Linwood-Raegan, and they would name their daughter – who would be the next Keeper of the Bookes – Holly Linwood Raegan.)

Lorin and Dumbledore walked the Forest together as she outlined her plans, and the Headmaster took the opportunity to enquire about something that had often puzzled him.

“I hope you don’t mind my asking” he said tentatively.  “Well, you can of course tell me to mind my own business, but, I have often wondered why your parents split up, and then were reconciled so much later.  Am I very out of order asking about this?”

“I don’t know whether it’s out of order” Lorin replied.  “But as it’s you, I’ll try to explain.  My mother is – as you know, as everyone can see – not a beautiful witch.  But beautiful or not, people have certain drives.  Certain needs.  Her lack of looks would normally mean she’s doomed to be ignored by all wizards.  Well… (Lorin shrugged), she just wanted to be loved, so, not surprisingly, she experimented with changing her appearance.  And as a young, blonde, blue eyed beauty she won the heart of my father.  But she made one mistake in her clever act – one laps in one fateful moment that exposed the lie.

“My father was horror struck to learn the truth, and always claimed her deception made a fool of him.  She resented the fact that his love for her was governed entirely by her appearance.  He had often puzzled that I looked nothing like either of them.  My mother had lied, saying I was the living image of her mother – the genes had jumped a generation or so, but my father was never convinced.  When her dishonesty was exposed he was by then so much on his guard he felt he couldn’t trust her in anything.”

“She never tried to change your appearance, to save the need for that lie.”

“No, she would never do that to a baby, so my father’s unspoken suspicions had festered.  But as it turned out he was wrong on that score – he was the only wizard for her; she had never been unfaithful to him.  And in all her years of exile and poverty she sought no other wizard.  Well, my father is a good bit older and wiser now, Headmaster, and my mother has not forgotten how to produce those illusions even though Father now knows them to be illusions.  And he no longer minds – he doesn’t see it as a deception.  Well it’s not a deception now, is it.”

“This reminds me of fairy stories such as ‘the lovely princess kisses the ugly frog who then turns into a handsome prince’ Lorin.”

“Yes, Headmaster, except that my parents have rewritten the rules.  My father values Rowen, now, for her mind, and sees beyond her looks.  He loves her now, not just the outside of her.  And when he wants her beautiful – no problem – she can ‘do’ beautiful.  He also now understands her fear of being shunned.  Even the ugliest of us can crave to be adored – indeed they are more likely to; that is their tragedy.”

They had emerged from the Forest and were nearing the lake.  Dumbledore drew to a halt.  He thought of Kieren Raegan and Rowen Hengist, and Remus Lupin and Lorin Hengist, and then of Severus Snape and Marvolo Mella.

“Yes, Lorin” he mused.  “Yes, I think I see what you mean.  How cruel the world can be.  Over superficial things.”

***

Since its opening in the year 2000, the Millennium Dome had had something of a chequered history, but there was an inexorable downward trend in its fortunes.  It was passed from owner to owner and manager to manager as the first decade of the 21st century unfolded.  Finally in 2012 Archibald Mella offered to buy it if he could also have the surrounding land and planning permission for a new road bridge across the River Thames and a revamped rail connection.  The Greater London Authority approved his plans for a games park and helped to put the infrastructure in place, striking a deal with Mella on the funding.  Mella bought the Millennium Dome site for a very competitive price and began to develop what was to be the first of a world-wide series of games parks, aimed at a predominantly young age-group, and providing a technical and conceptual advance on the basic form of paint-ball chase and ‘kill’ military-style of game.  He had the original dome demolished and replaced with a much larger domed structure, covering a good deal of the Greenwich peninsula.  Thus the London Holodrome was born and Mella had tapped into a new source to feed the pool of his fortunes.

*

In 2016, at the age of 175 Albus Dumbledore retired.  He and Minerva McGonagall moved out of Hogwarts and finally got married.

Snape won the position of Headmaster and appointed his long-term friend and successful Auror, Harry Potter, as Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts, but not wanting to give Gryffindor House too much of a fillip he reserved the position of Head of Gryffindor for the forty-year-old witch he had chosen as the new Transfiguration Professor.  Cunning to the last, Snape naturally also took the opportunity to appoint his partner and Potions Master, Marvolo Mella, to Head of Slytherin House.  He also thought long and hard about making him Deputy Head, but realised he could not justify promoting Mella over the heads of Professors Flitwick and Sprout, so he made Flitwick his Deputy.  Privately Dumbledore approved of Snape’s teaching appointments, and the new staff turned out to be very successful in their rôles.  Hogwarts continued as a centre of magical excellence.

In the October 2027 General Election Suzi Mella was elected as Member of Parliament for Crawley-West Dyke.  She was very quickly promoted to the Cabinet Office in the appropriately obscure and obscurely named Regulatory Impact Unit, where she became Personal Private Secretary to the Minister for Mage-Muggle Relations.  This was one of a small number of hush-hush Cabinet positions, virtually unknown in the Muggle world except to a few key Government members and Civil Servants.  She married Oliver Warrenby in the spring of 2028.

At Christmas in 2027 Marvolo spent two days visiting his family, and although Snape remained behind at the school it crossed his mind to write to Suzi and ask if she wanted to have the opportunity of studying at Hogwarts.  But for one reason or another he let the matter slip.  However in the summer of 2028 he honoured Dumbledore’s original offer, and received a courteous reply from Suzi declining the offer but inviting Marvolo and himself to dinner with Jason, her father and herself in London.  Intrigued, Snape accompanied his Potions Master, and found himself wined and dined in a private room at an exclusive club for high-ranking lady politicians.  On arrival Archibald Mella, Suzi, Jason and Marvolo were again effusive in their delight to be reunited; Mella also wrung Snape’s hand and Jason hugged the Headmaster as if he was an old friend.  Then Snape and Suzi eyed each other carefully.  Fearing the worst she scanned his forehead to see if there was any sign of a scar and was mystified that the Headmaster found this amusing.  She stretched out her hand in greeting and Snape bent to kiss it, deciding some old world charm wouldn’t go amiss on this historic occasion.

“Am I still in your bad books, Miss Mella?” he purred.

“Well, I’m not sure whether our moment of friction has lasted ten months or twenty eight years” she confessed, “but either way I think it’s time to bury the hatchet.  And please – call me Suzi.  Err, how’s your head?”

Snape gave and uncharacteristic grin.  “Fine thank you, Suzi” he chuckled.  “And please, call me Severus.  Bye the way, did you ever treat yourself to a television capable of simultaneous multi-channel downloads?  Yes, I see my question has surprised you” he added, his black eyes glittering with glee, “but I do now understand something of this atrocious modern-day Muggle jargon.”

The End

Review

Author's Notes

Although ‘Mystery Guest’ is used here in a very different context, this title was inspired by Hans Gruber’s acid half-whisper ‘Mr Mystery Guest’ hissed into the telephone to John McClane in Die Hard – a great Alan Rickman / Bruce Willis film.

There really is an Udimore village in Sussex, near Rye, and there is a legend that when the villagers tried to construct the church on land that was too marshy, angels carried the building-stone to a higher place each night until the villagers took the hint.  Udimore may mean ‘o'er the mere’ or it may be from the Anglo Saxon for ‘boundary of the woods’.  My East Anglian ‘Isle of Udimore’ is fictional – a fusion of the Isle of Ely and Glastonbury Tor.

Much of the East Anglian fens were once covered by shallow sea, but I think that from that Bronze Age time to when the seas had receded might have taken longer than from my first Bliant to his great-great-grandson’s great-great-grandson, so please forgive me my poetic licence on this point.

Steeple Wellow, Cleedon Hill and Robinwood (The Wood of Repulse) are fictional.  The shape of Cleedon Hill was inspired in part by Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, but the height and the view are based roughly on British Camp in the Malverns.

J K Rowling explained in an interview that when each wizard child is born its name is written down by a magic quill, and I believe she said in a magic book, so that the Hogwarts letter can be sent out when the child reaches eleven – hence my basis for the Bookes of Birth and Death.

Kildonnan Liqueur Scotch Whisky is fictional (it’s produced by a wizarding distillery).

Bowtruckle, Kneazle, Porlock, Jobberknoll, Runespoor, Thestral, Tebo, Acromantula and Dugbog are described in J K Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and some of these already crop up in the Harry Potter novels.

The rush-light style of lamp that Rowen Hengist used at her Robinwood home really does exist – I have seen a rush stem set in a medieval holder made for burning molten tallow, and it gave a good light that looked, to me, more powerful than the light from the average candle.

The arithmetic:

7 cubed = 7 x 7 x 7 = 343

343 moon cycles = 10,118.5 days  (I have to admit I was a bit ball-park here and used 29.5 as the number of days per moon cycle; strictly speaking I think it should be 29.530588 which would produce a date later in September 2027)

A few minutes past midnight on 1 January 2000 + 10118.5 days = a few minutes past noon on 14 September 2027.

The details of Mella’s Lord of the Rings Virtual Reality Game are based on my memories of the Lord of the Rings films and my knowledge of Tolkien’s books.  I first got the idea for this story from noticing a superficial resemblance between the appearance of Snape and Gríma, and thought it would be interesting to drop Snape into a virtual reality environment.  The resemblance is only very slight – Snape, as we know, is a wizard of brooding power; Gríma is a cringing whisperer of words of despair but an interesting character none-the-less.

M L E P is an abbreviation for Magical Law Enforcement Patrol.

The ‘die is cast’ refers to any fateful decision from which there is no turning back.  According to the Roman historian Suetonius, Julius Caesar used the words iacta alea esto (let the die be cast) at the crossing of the Rubicon.  The Rubicon was a small river which formed part of the boundary between ancient Italy and the province of Cisalpine Gaul (now northern Italy) and Caesar took the decision to cross this from his province of Gaul to march into Rome, precipitating war between himself and Pompey.

The details of runes and of the Norse deity Thor come from various internet sites, mainly

www.gale.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/midnite_gale_9.htm and

www.mystic-mouse.co.uk/Runes/RuneIndex.htm

Personally I don’t believe in sorcery, nor in any form of religion, but even so I find such details interesting.  The websites are informative – I quoted from the mystic mouse site when constructing Dumbledore’s ‘repetition of Zamyatin’s words’.

London is planning to make a bid to host the Olympics in 2012 and a site in East London may be redeveloped as a result.

So far as I know there is no private underground railway that links the main centres of Government and their key workers in London, but for my story I pictured an obsolete maintenance system reused for this purpose.

There is no such thing as fulminide of mercury – that was deliberate mumbo-jumbo from me.  However fulminate of mercury is a poisonous and explosive compound used in percussion caps and detonators.  Mercury – also known as quicksilver – is extremely poisonous!  Like lead it has a strong affinity with nervous tissue, so both metals are implicated in medical conditions such as brain damage.  It’s a substance best avoided in any form.

Bliant and Meliodas are names from Arthurian legend, as is the famous Dark-Age wizard, Merlin.  Vortigern and Hengist come from British history.  Also, a wizard by the name of Hengist of Woodcroft is responsible for founding Hogsmeade – according to The Harry Potter Lexicon (an excellent website of Harry Potter factual data that I have only recently discovered) this fact appears on a Chocolate Frog Card in The Harry Potter Trading Card Game that J. K. Rowling helped to create.  The website says ‘all text on the cards was written or edited by Rowling and has been given her approval’ so it is ‘included in the Lexicon as canon’.  The Lexicon website can be found at

www.hp-lexicon.org/index-2.html

As its main emphasis is on fact, The Lexicon is an excellent resource for writers of fan fiction – shame I came across it so late.

And finally, I’d be pleased to have your feedback on this and my other fics.  I need you to be honest but if you didn’t like them please don’t be too sharp with me – I’m only human and not armour-plated like Professor Snape.  Thank you for reading this.    A.