The room was black and silent except for the steady beat of a machine in the corner. Suddenly a bright light flickered to life overhead. “Where am I?” Severus gasped.
“Surely you know, deep down in that mechanical heart of yours.” A voice echoed.
“What are you talking about?”
“You know, that’s the problem with you, Sev. You always underestimate the muggleborns.” The voice was suddenly much closer. A face loomed over him, a blue scarf hiding the hair and a gauzy white mask covering the mouth; even the eyes were blocked by the reflection of the bright light in the glass lenses. Severus squinted, overwhelmed by the bright light shining right into his face. “It’s a rather foolish mistake. After all, we reproduce like rabbits. We’ll always be one step behind you, in front of you, beside you… My gloves, nurse?” The man held out his hand about a foot over Severus’ head.
“Rupert?” Severus croaked. “I’m confused.”
A slender, latex coated wrist reached over his face. “Did you hear something, Dr. Giles?”
The face leaned closer and Severus could make out his own reflection in the pair of glasses, such a pointless accessory no self-respecting wizard under a century old would be caught dead in… At least, that was the fashion until that damned Potter kid returned to the wizarding world. “Ah, how very astute of you, nurse.” The man muttered.
“Thank you doctor.” That voice! Severus knew that voice. In one form or another it had been haunting him for twenty years.
“Prepare 100 ccs of soma. It’s harder if they’re awake during the procedure.” Dr. Giles said in a surgical monotone.
“The procedure?” Severus tried to sit up, but found that he was strapped to the table.
“Oh yes, Severus, today is your lucky day. Today we shall extract your soul.”
“Don’t worry. Your heart obliteration went just fine, and this is a much easier procedure. Nurse Potter, is the soma ready?”
“My soul? Are you going to use unicorn’s blood? An Orb of Thessulah? A Dementor’s Kiss?”
“Oh no, nothing so mundane. We’re going to use muggle methods.” Severus couldn’t see the doctor’s mouth, but could swear he was grinning.
“Doctor, I’ve got the injection ready.”
“Thank you, Nurse Potter. You know, no one draws serum as skillfully as you.”
“Oh doctor, you’re too kind.” As latex hands passed a very sharp needle directly over his face, Severus noticed the fingers lingered together just slightly longer than should be acceptable for the workplace.
“Now, Severus, this won’t hurt a bit.” And with that, the needle was jabbed into Severus’ arm.
Severus meant to say “Of course that hurts! Get away from me, you bloody bastard!” But it came out sounding more like “mrph!”
“Doctor, it appears the drug is beginning to take effect.”
“Yes, Nurse, it does, doesn’t it?”
“He won’t feel a thing now, will he?” The nurse leaned over the body, giving Severus a clear view of Lily Evans’ sparkling green eyes.
“Oh, he can feel alright. He just won’t be able to do anything about it.”
“Oh, how terribly clever you are, Dr. Giles!”
“Yes, aren’t I?”
“You know doctor, I always admired your skilled… hands.” The’s nurse’s voice had gotten breathy, and Severus wanted to jump up and yell “halt!” but he was frozen on the operating table.
“And I’ve always admired you, nurse.” Dr. Giles replied. “If only I wasn’t so busy now.”
“If it weren’t for this surgery, I’d let you ravish me on this table.” The nurse continued, ignoring the frantic look in Severus’ eyes.
The doctor, who had picked up several instruments, appeared to have a change of heart. “There’s no reason I should have to do this surgery. There are many other muggle doctors out there. Why, I even have my own apprentice.” Dr. Giles set down the metal tools and called out, “Dr. Granger, you’re needed in surgery stat!”
“You called?” A third masked face instantly appeared in Severus’ limited vision. “Oh my, what a tragic case!”
“Ms. Granger!” Severus tried to call for help, but his mouth wouldn’t move.
“Dr. Granger, I was just about to start a soul extraction on this man, but I’d rather you take over while I ravish Nurse Potter.”
“A soul extraction! I would love the challenge!” There was a snap as Hermione Granger slipped on a pair of gloves. She took a seat next to Severus’ head, so that she filled up most of his peripheral vision. “You know, my parents are dentists, so I know everything there is to know about teeth. In fact, my father lets me hold the drill for root canals. This is my first soul extraction, but I’ve read ever so much about it. First you need to position the head, just so.”
Severus felt a plastic hand yank his chin, tilting his head back so that he had a better view of Dr. Giles kissing Nurse Potter. The scene looked even more bizarre than Severus had expected, as neither one had removed their masks. Just as he was going to turn his head away from the scene, he found his entire field of vision taken up by a man with a funny bowler hat. “Cheese is patient. Cheese waits for no man.”
Severus’ jaw was yanked open and he heard a drill rev up next to his ear. “Now this won’t hurt a bit.” A girlish voice whispered.
“Severus? Severus…. Severus!”
Severus slowly opened his eyes in the darkness. Noticing the screaming had stopped, Giles flipped on the light. “Are you alright?”
“Rupert, is it just you?” Severus blinked.
“Yes, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the neighbors came running when they heard you. Did something happen? Have you pulled your stitches?”
“I… I…” Severus was at a loss for words. If he had been
thinking clearly when he went to bed, he would have remembered to cast a silencing spell, but as it was, he was exposed, with all evidence pointing to his night terrors and weak mind. Damn that herbal tea.
“Here, let me double check.” A drowsy Giles walked to the couch. With gentle fingers, he felt along the edges of Severus’ injuries. “Nothing appears to be wrong. Nothing is too swollen.”
“Of course not. It was just a…” Severus cut off, unwilling to admit his weakness.
“Nightmare?” Giles filled in. “Can’t say I’m surprised. I imagine working for Voldemort is bound to bring up a few night terrors.”
“I wasn’t … I mean….” Severus didn’t know how to say that more often then not, it was the man next to him starring in his dreams, not Lord Voldemort.
“Would you like me to get something? Perhaps one of the painkillers the doctor prescribed?”
“Really? They’ll help you sleep.” Giles rubbed his eyes wearily.
“Maybe I don’t want to sleep.”
“It’s the middle of the night, everyone wants to sleep.”
“Maybe I don’t.” Severus insisted.
“Do you want the lights on then?”
“Yes… I mean, no.” Severus wasn’t about to admit that he wanted to sleep with the light on.
“Yes or no?”
“Yes I don’t want the lights on, or no, I want the lights on?”
“Fine. You know, I really don’t care. Sleep or don’t sleep; just keep quiet so I can get in a few more hours before work, alright?” Rupert gave up, flipping on his reading lamp and shutting off the main light. He trudged back to the stairway. “Good night, Severella.”
“Night, Muddy.” Sev whispered.
I have dearly missed you this summer.”
Rupert scribbled out the two lines he had written, deciding to start over again. With a quick wand wave and a mumbled “refresco!” he was once again faced with a blank piece of paper.
“How is your summer going? Mine’s been very interesting.”
Once again, Rupert scribbled out the words and cleared the page, enjoying the freedom of Greece’s relaxed underage magic laws. He stared at the page, its blankness mocking him. “Dear Lily, I’m an utter pillock. I can’t put a sentence together to save my life, and I believe it’s your fault.” Rupert muttered. He ran through a few more lines and finally started again.
“Father was already sending me an owl with some translations for Quentin, so he attached my OWL scores. I think I did reasonably well, but he was most displeased with everything but divination. The letter was so scathing, that I took the liberty of using the hotel phone to ring him and explain the wizarding grading scale. While that got him off my case for history, he is now concerned about my future in divination. I told him that the practical test was so stacked against me that I could have foreseen my score ahead of time, but I don’t think he got the joke. Even with the low score in divination, I think it’s relatively safe to predict that father will be most displeased when he gets the long distance phone bill this month. It was a long argument. Anyway, without further ado, here is what I scored, since I know your curiousity is killing you, even if you won’t admit it.”
“RUPERT!” A sharp yell came from outside the field tent.
“Coming!” Rupert yelled back. “Bother this.” He rolled the parchment up and tucked it, along with his wand, back into his vest. “Did you find the entrance?”
“We did.” Quentin admitted, his face twitched gleefully.
“Smashing!” Rupert started off towards the excavation pit.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“To see the entrance,” Rupert replied, trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. If Severus had seen how patient he’d been this summer with Quentin, he’d be nominated for an Order of St. Mungo’s Award, or possibly honorary membership in Hufflepuff.
“You’re not going to the entrance. You need to help me with the translations.”
“The translations aren’t at the entrance?”
“We found a few baubles and knickknacks at the front that might be important.”
“Fine. A few baubles won’t take very long.” Rupert muttered, resignedly following Quentin away from the active dig and towards the work tables. “So, what do you need help with?”
“Let’s clear up one point first. I don’t need your help.” Quentin answered sharply, “I’m simply offering you this opportunity to assist with the dig instead of spending all summer writing love letters to your girlfriend.”
“For your information, I was writing to my brother.”
“He’s only your step-brother.” Quentin pointed out nastily. “Neither of you have a full set of parents.”
“What an astute observation. I never would have realized it if you hadn’t mentioned it.”
“I do try to be helpful.” Quentin smirked as he took a seat. “Now here is what we’re going to do. When I point to an artifact, I want to you pick it up and read aloud any writing that may be on it. I will then write down what you say so that we can go back to the hotel and work on our translations there.”
“Are you sure that’s the best way to do this?” Rupert questioned.
“It’s the most systematic way to do this. If we both try to record the information, we’ll end up duplicating efforts.”
“I just think that reading aloud…”
“You did swear that your Greek was up to par.”
“… from artifacts found outside a cursed tomb, doesn’t seem like the smartest…”
“If you don’t think you’re capable of the simplest linguistic task, I can call your father and have you removed before the end of the week.” Quentin threatened.
“Fine, I can read the pottery to you, but I want it on the record that I think this is a bad idea.”
“Duly noted.” Quentin pulled out his field notebook with a fair amount of pomp. “Alright, begin with that pot there.”
Rupert picked up a small urn from the tarp full of excavated artifacts. “Alright, we have an urn of approximately 20 centimeters in height. Along the lip we have some writing …” The junior watchers in training continued through the stack in this fashion until there were only a few items on the tarp remaining to be catalogued.
“Do the statue next.”
Rupert picked up a bizarre marble statue that looked a bit like a miniature satyr. “I don’t think this is a good idea. Perhaps we should save this one until later.”
“Is there writing on the base?”
“Yes, but I’m getting the sense that trying to read what it says would be a bad idea.” Rupert stared suspiciously at the statue that had been guarding the door to the crypt. He picked up the camel hair brush and swept aside some dirt blocking the letters at the base. “I think it says nightmare curse.” He said, carefully working his brush across the satyr’s hooves to reveal the rest of the letters.
“We’re not trying to translate the texts now, just read them to me.” Quentin snapped.
“Alright.” And in a clear voice Rupert read from the base of the statue, wavering only when he felt the statue twitch in his fingers. The shaking increased as he continued to the end of the short message.“Oh boy.”
“Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?”
At the resounding thud, Quentin glanced up from his desk. “Rupert? Rupert Giles, this is no time to be lying down. We still have work… Rupert?”
Rupert gave no reply, having collapsed on the tarp with the
statue clutched to his chest. Quentin tried poking Rupert, but the boy didn’t stir. He felt for a pulse, and was relieved to feel a strong one, but it was just as troubling that Rupert didn’t wake when he should have felt Quentin touch his neck. “Oh dear. Medic! I need a medic!”
As the Council’s doctor rushed in and took over, Quentin went back to the words he had just written, and frantically tried to translate the statue’s message for any clue. “Curse of Nightmare in the future tense. Curse of the Nightmare To Be? That makes no sense. Foreboding Curse? Perhaps Nightmare is the name of the demon?”
“It looks like the boy is trapped in a deep sleep.” The doctor pronounced in a tired voice. After working with the Council for twenty years, he had seen just about everything. This was hardly the first spell induced coma he had encountered. “Do you know what caused it?”
“I think it’s the statue.” Quentin absently pointed to the figure still clutched in Rupert’s arms.
“I’m going to get him transferred to the hospital tent. You need to contact his father. Sir Bradford will know what to do.”
“Yes sir.” Quentin said, sounding much younger than his true age. If there was one thing he didn’t want to do, it was admit failure to the senior watchers.
Meanwhile, Rupert’s mind was taking him far away from the dig site in Greece. Wherever he had gone, it sure was dark.
“Giles? Giles can you open your eyes?”
Rupert tried to open his eyes, and the black was replaced with a stunning pair of green eyes the he knew belonged to Lily. “Hello Willow.”
Even as the words came out of his mouth, he knew they were wrong, but for some reason she didn’t seem to notice his slip. “Thank goodness you’re alright. You were hit on the head pretty hard.”
“Oh? I thought I had fallen down.”
“Well duh, that’s what happens when you get hit.” Lily didn’t sound like Lily at all.
Rupert shook his head to get rid of the dizziness. “So what hit me?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where am I?”
“Don’t you recognize this?” Lily looked around. “It’s the hospital wing at Hogwarts.”
“Oh, of course. Who’s that?” Rupert pointed at a man laying on the cot across from his.”
“I don’t know. He keeps offering me cheese.”
“Actually I think it’s cheddar.”
“Not really. I prefer provolone, but that’s not important.”
“We need to leave now.”
“Where are we going?”
“But we never go to Hogsmeade. Remember? We stay behind.”
“Margaret’s in trouble. We have to help her.”
“It’s the death eaters.”
“Why would they come after Buffy?” Rupert shook his head. That wasn’t what he meant to say. “I mean, why would they come after Buffy… MacDuffy… MacDuff.” He struggled to form the words.
“They’re not, silly.”
“Then why do we have to help her?”
“They’re coming after you.”
“So we must go to Hogsmeade.”
“But Hogwarts is safer from attack.” Just at that moment, the whole castle shook as if being hit by an earthquake. “Alright, Hogsmeade it is.”
Lily grabbed his hand and ran down the halls of the familiar castle, up the stairs to the very top of the Divination Tower. They could hear the sound of fighting below them. “Here we are. Take a seat.” Lily sat down at the frilly table across from him.
“I thought we were going to Hogsmeade.” Rupert said in confusion.
“Drink the tea. Read the leaves.”
“Is this some sort of joke? Just because I bombed the OWL doesn’t mean you have to make fun of me like this.”
“Drink the tea now.” Lily insisted.
Rupert took the oversized tea cup and gulped down the tea. “There, all done.” He set the mug down, only to discover that the room had shifted around him and he appeared to be in a muggle tea shop.
“Do you think it’s wrong to date a werewolf?”
“Willow,” Rupert winced. Why couldn’t he say Lily’s name? “Where are we?”
“You can’t have a one Starbucks town without a Starbucks.”
“What on earth is that supposed to mean?”
“You’ll find out.” Lily winked at him.
“I’m so lost.” Rupert admitted.
“Drink some more tea.” Lily instructed him.
“But I finished my tea.” Rupert looked down to find his empty mug had refilled itself, and now was garnished by some ridiculous whipped cream and cinnamon. Rupert took a gulp. This time, when he set down the cup there was man in a black robe and a white mask on the other side of the table.
“Merlin.” Rupert muttered. This is exactly how the Prophet described the Death Eaters. The figure raised a wand and pointed it at Rupert. “Death Eater!” Rupert yelled, but no one in the shop seemed to notice. He jumped to his feet, pushing the table at the masked wizard, and went running out of the shop as fast as possible. The street looked nothing like Hogsmeade. In fact it resembled muggle London more than any wizarding town he had ever been to, but it was still wrong. He turned around to find the figure following him. Deciding he could analyze where he was later, when he wasn’t being pursued by a Death Eater, he took off running.
He soon found himself running into a cemetery. “Buffy!” He called, seeing the familiar form of Margaret MacDuff sitting on the tombstone.
“You’ve got issues, Giles.” The girl replied, suddenly not looking like Meggie.
“There’s a Death Eater following me!”
“Do you even know why?” One moment the girl was tall and a redhead, the next moment she was tiny and blonde. She kept flickering back and forth, the only thing remaining constant was the wooden stick she was twirling in her fingers.
“He’s trying to kill me.”
“Are you sure?”
“That’s what Death Eater’s do!”
“That’s just whack.”
“What?” Rupert stopped short. What on earth did that mean?
“Why would anyone want to eat death? I mean, hello, how gross, not to mention totally unsanitary.”
“I don’t think they actually eat anything, although I’m not sure.”
“Why don’t you ask him? He’s standing right behind you.” Rupert turned around in horror, to find the girl had been telling the truth. “Now, if you two can behave yourselves, I’ve got some staking to do.” The girl, now completely blonde, hopped off the tombstone and vanished.
“Merlin.” Rupert muttered finding himself face to mask with the Death Eater. The wizard raised his wand, but before he could fire a curse, Rupert threw a punch at the wizard’s jaw. “Ow!” Rupert shook his hand in pain as the wizard recoiled. Seeing his chance, Rupert tried to grab the wand out of the wizard’s hand. With a quick yank, Rupert pulled the wand forward, causing the wizard to also lurch forward and knock the two of them to the ground. The pair tussled in the grass, neither able to gain the upper hand.
The wizard finally rolled over on top of Rupert, and was about to choke the boy, when Rupert reached up and tore off the mask. “Severus?”
“Wake up!” The wizard growled. “Wake up, Rupert Giles!”
“Wake up! Come on, Rupert. Don’t do this to me.” Rupert blinked. He wasn’t dead. At least he hoped heaven didn’t consist of Quentin pacing in front of his bed. How did he end up in his hotel bed? “Wake up, damn you.” The junior watcher insisted.
“Huh?” Rupert muttered.
“Oh thank god!” Quentin rushed to his bedside.
“You invoked the hexus Salix.”
“The curse of the willow? Well that explains the name problems.” Rupert muttered.
“No. This isn’t the Latin Salix.” Quentin pointed to the statue still clutched in Rupert’s hands. “Salix was a satyr employed by Mithophrates, the demon lord we believe to be inside the tomb. Supposedly, Salix’s curse gives the victim a prophetic dream that shows a perverted vision of the future. Salix used to infiltrate the enemy camps the night before Mithophrates went into battle. The enemy would have horrible dreams that would distract them from the
“How do you know all this?” Rupert didn’t ask the more important question, which was, if he knew all this, why did he make Rupert read the stupid statue aloud in the first place?
“While you were sleeping, I took the liberty of calling your father for advice. He recognized a description of the statue and confirmed that it was a talisman of Salix.”
“So it was dream.” Rupert breathed a sigh of relief.
“A prophetic dream. While it might not come true, parts of it definitely will reflect the future. So tell me, what did you see? Is there anything the Council should be aware of?”
“What do you mean?” Rupert asked cagily.
“Did you see any upcoming battles? Were there any dark forces we should be aware of? Did you see a slayer?”
“I dreamt I was having tea with my friend Lily, whom I repeatedly called Willow.”
“Is that all?”
“Well,” Seeing the eager gleam in Quentin’s eyes, Rupert decided right then and there that he wasn’t about to mention he saw his brother in death eater robes, or that he kept calling his friend, who acted like a slayer would, Buffy. “There was this man.”
“He offered Lily cheese.”
“It was chedder. She prefers provolone.”
“Aargh! You must be the worst watcher on the face of the earth. You’re given the opportunity to see the future and you waste it having tea with your girlfriend and talking about cheese!”
“She’s not my girlfriend!”
“You should have seen something more important than that. The curse was supposed to bring up a relevant future event.”
“It doesn’t matter, does it? You said the prophecies were twisted.”
“It’s still a prophecy!”
“So you read the damn statue!”
“And get cursed by a long dead satyr? I don’t think so.” Quentin scoffed. “Clearly it did you no good. Now, get out of bed. Your father wanted you to phone him as soon as you were up.”