How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Lord Voldemort
Chapter 1: Uh-Oh, This Is Going To Be Some Day
(Author's note: The details of nuclear physics, warfare, etc., presented in this story are not intended to be especially accurate.)
It was the third day, and I had given up trying; the third day after Dumbledore's funeral should have taken place, and hadn't. I'd found nothing that could alter what had happened, nothing to explain why everyone and everything in the world had frozen between one breath and the next. The sun remained fixed at eternal morning, the ripples on the lake were immobile; I had found the centaurs stopped in mid-hunt in the Forbidden Forest, the Muggles mid-shop in Dufftown. I cast Specialis Revealo and the answer came from the atmosphere at large, restating in a different language what I already knew: Tempus Stabat.
"Why is tempus stabatting?" I asked the silent castle. "Why?" but there was no answer.
I had eaten my way through a good portion of the food that lay, permanently fresh, under the knives of the motionless house-elves in the kitchens; I had discovered that the toilets wouldn't properly flush, and that the only solution was to go round the castle using each one in turn; I had found that getting a good night's sleep in mid-morning sunshine was very difficult, but I hadn't found any explanation of what was happening. All right, someone had cast a spell to stop time; but it hadn't stopped me.
So, the third day, and I had lost my resistance to the agony of waving my hand in front of people's faces and seeing their total lack of response. During the first hours I had gone round the castle approaching everyone I could think of, McGonagall and Slughorn and anyone with any degree of authority or knowledge; I had shaken them and prodded them and shouted, but nothing had happened. So, as I say, I had stopped doing that. I was curled up at Ginny's feet where she sat preserved in the middle of eating breakfast; not moving or speaking, and trying my best not to exist at all, just to wait until all this was over, one way or the other.
And it was over; I heard the front door bang.
Walking matter-of-factly down the hallway, robes swishing briskly, was Voldemort.
I was too distracted by the sudden, excruciating pain in my scar to form a proper plan. Pulling my wand out, pointing it at him with a wildly shaking hand, I said in a voice that was half a scream, "DID YOU DO THIS?!"
He seemed only very mildly surprised to see me. He Disarmed me without a word, and I ran maniacally towards him with the intention of throttling him with my bare hands; but he Petrified me and, to my dismay, I found myself frozen to the spot like everyone else in Hogwarts. I thought, "That's it, he's going to leave me here, a statue, like everyone else. I'll be here forever." The horror was unspeakable.
Then he played an irritable little tune by rapping our wands together, and said "When you've quite finished trying to kill me, Potter, we have a world to save. Is there anyone else still animate here, apart from you?"
He cast the partial Body-Bind, freeing my head and shoulders to let me answer, but all I managed was an ear-blasting, window-shattering scream. Voldemort quickly put the full Bind back on again.
"It's easier to read your mind, boy. Not to mention quieter... Nobody here apart from you, I see. Why you should have resisted the stasis spell, I have no idea. Either you're benefiting from the link we share, or I must have underestimated you significantly. Not that it really matters..."
He conjured up a high-backed chair and sat down. "I don't want you to start screeching at me again, so I'd better explain what's happening. More or less the entire world... the planet, if you like, is under a Temporal Stasis spell. I cast it in advance, many years ago, to stop time. I set it to activate automatically in the event of a nuclear war. That war has now started. The command has been given to fire the missiles."
He started tapping our wands against his leg, as though marking time to an inaudible tune.
"As you can see, a nuclear war would be somewhat... inadvisable," he said slowly. "And only wizards and witches of great power have been able to ignore the stasis spell and move at normal speed. Actually, I haven't found any others, not so far. So the two of us now have the enviable task of locating all the British warheads and deactivating them. That shouldn't be too bad because, comparatively speaking, there's hardly any of them. What bothers me is the possibility that the Russian and North American wizards have been caught by the spell, in which case we'll have to do it all ourselves. If that is the case we might as well just AK ourselves in the heads right now," he said in an almost inaudible voice, adding a very scary small smile.
"Do you get the point now?" he finished suddenly, looking up at me. "I will unParalyse you, but you must not try to kill me. Or Stun me or Petrify me or attack me in any way. I would also appreciate it if you didn't scream."
He removed it, and I stood for quite some time with my mouth just hanging open, tears parenthesising my nose as I battled the pain in my scar. Finally I said, "You could be lying about the nuclear war."
He gave a horrible, mirthless laugh, followed by a hideously cheery grin. "I'll prove it to you, shall I, dear child? I'll remove the temporal stasis spell (well, actually there are technical difficulties with that anyway, but...), and the entire habitable environment can be completely obliterated, and I'll sit back and say, 'There! I told you so.' Why are you crying?"
I managed to gasp out, "Fucking hurts."
"What does?" he said impatiently, and cast some kind of anaesthetic spell before I could answer. Blue, tingling magic fizzed down the front of my face; blessed relief. I made my eyes point in the same direction and tried to get my thoughts to do likewise.
"This could just be some plan to get me away from Hogwarts and kill me."
Voldemort did an insane little dance of frustration in which he swooped round with his arms aloft. I watched in nauseated astonishment. "A, there is a nuclear war on, and B, why on earth would I cast a temporal stasis spell just to get you away from Hogwarts?!"
"Because you want to kill me!"
He stopped his dance and gave a hoot of strangled laughter. "Fuck me, boy, I don't want to kill you that much!"
"Is it a difficult spell to cast?" I said doubtfully, privately thinking that he must be telling the truth just because he was being so weird, and that anyway I had no choice but to go with him for the moment, because if I stayed here any longer I would completely loop the loop.
"It took me most of 1956," he said sombrely. "Even I encountered great problems. I began to think I wouldn't get it done in time."
I exhaled uncertainly. "All right," I said, "so we have to defuse nuclear bombs? What good am I supposed to be?"
"You can help me, boy."
"I'm only sixteen."
Glare. "What's that got to do with anything, fool?"
"I don't know about nuclear bombs," I said impatiently, "and I'm not powerful enough magically to do much else, either."
"You are obviously powerful enough or you wouldn't have resisted the stasis spell, not to mention having escaped death by my hand five times," he hissed with a look of tremendous hatred at my having made him admit it. "And I know perfectly well you're no nuclear physicist, what I need is an assistant and general dogsbody. If you don't feel up to that, you can just stay here."
As if that was any sort of a choice. I said, "Where are we going?"
Where we went first was a supermarket, in which Voldemort browsed the aisles with an indifferent expression, placing cabbage and beetroot in his trolley as though this were perfectly normal for Dark Lords. As soon as I saw the beetroot I decided I would be better off cooking my own meal. I gathered everything I needed for a full English breakfast, and wandered back to the front of the shop to find that Voldie had summoned a Primus stove and was indeed making borscht.
"Are we going to Russia?" I said curiously.
"Here's a stove for you," he said indifferently, conjuring a twin Primus and a frying pan. "Don't disturb me while I'm making plans."
Suited me fine. "I'll be in the sanitary towels section," I said, and trundled off to the other end of the supermarket. While I cooked my meal I had to ponder all sorts of odd factors, such as: Where was the steam going? Why didn't the smoke alarm go off and activate the sprinkler system? How come things we had touched defied the stasis spell, but only briefly? And, What does this pump thing on the Primus do? Ultimately, though, I was totally satisfied with my cookery, and ate it with relish.
I trundled over to the newspaper section and was deeply disappointed by the vast array of tits. The broadsheets seemed worried about the situation in the Middle East, but I had thought that for just one cataclysm the tabloids might have had the grace to put something else on the cover. Oh well. I returned to the aisles, which contained a small number of desultory shoppers. They didn't look the least bit worried about the end of the world; did they not know it was happening? My ignorance, I realised, was astounding. I wandered back to Voldemort, who was stirring his borscht, and said "How come the sirens aren't sounding?"
"Possibly because (a) the missiles haven't left their launching pads yet and (b) the siren system was dismantled at the end of the Cold War," Voldie said.
Fair enough. "Have you finished making plans yet?"
"No," he said dully, "because there isn't really any plan to make. We find the warheads and, I suppose, Vanish them. I don't know if you can come up with anything better?"
He seemed serious. I thought the question over. It was odd talking to him like this; he was like a different person, a grey cardboard man, and we were trying to save the world. I said, "I wish."
He frowned at the stove. "Vanishing things sends them to a pocket universe from which they can theoretically be brought back. That's not really what we want, although it's better than nothing. I suppose one way of getting rid of them would be to send them to the pocket universe and then detonate them."
"Bit shit for the pocket universe," I said.
"I was thinking that. We don't know what's in there. It could be another inhabited planet for all we know; which would still dispose of the bombs, but... and I'm worried that the walls won't hold and the blast will leak back here," he added, which he plainly considered to be far more important.
I had a feeling there was something I'd missed here, because it seemed to me that bombs ought to have detonators; or, in the case of those round black things in cartoons, a long piece of string with the end on fire. If that was the case then surely all we needed to do was separate the bomb from the detonator? I said as much to Voldemort and was rewarded with a glare. His red eyes looked particularly strange under the strip lights.
"Go and read a magazine or something," he said shortly, and started eating his borscht.
"Where are we going?" I asked for the second time as he extended a black-robed arm and pinned me to his chest with a grip of steel. I knew we had to use Side-Along Apparition, but being touched by him made me shudder.
"Lakenheath," came the supremely illuminating reply, and off we went down the rubber hose; and even had he bothered to say "The American Air Base in Surrey," I would still have been utterly confused by my arrival in what looked like any old field, albeit with a massive great road down the middle. While I was staggering in drunken circles and trying to compose myself, he looked up and down the road, shook his head, grabbed me and Disapparated again.
"Could you stop Apparating every five seconds?" I demanded, reeling from the impact and sitting down hard.
"The runway is two miles long," he said tersely. "D'you expect me to just walk down it?"
"What runway?" I demanded, just as he grabbed me and Disapparated for the third time and I finally saw what he was on about, because in front of us was a spiky, bizarrely streamlined aeroplane about as high as a house and three times as long. A tiny, frozen bloke was visible inside a bubble on top.
"Fuck me," I said, sitting down again.
"That's one of them," said Voldie in great triumph. "For a moment I was thinking we'd missed them all. And still with the bombs in the bay," and for absolutely no apparent reason he suddenly Petrified me wordlessly.
I couldn't see what Voldie was doing very clearly. I stayed locked in position and looked round at some very pretty Southern countryside with fields and deciduous woods. The ground was rather wet. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw his wand moving, drawing a complex, glowing pattern in mid-air; a rather oddly-shaped pattern, really. I squinted painfully sideways and saw that the lines were very wiggly, which turned out to be because his hand was shaking.
"Dammit," he said. "I just can't..."
He erased the wiggly lines and drew new ones, and finally managed a pattern that seemed to satisfy him; he finished the spell non-verbally, and the whole of one side of the aeroplane suddenly disappeared. I presumed he'd made it invisible. Just while I was being fascinated by how little space there was inside, he unPetrified me.
"What did you Petrify me for?" I said indignantly, jumping up.
"To stop you going near the aircraft, disrupting the temporal stasis spell and making something terrible happen," he said, rolling his eyes.
"Yeah, like I would!"
"Oh, very likely! You're a Gryffindor! Take one step towards that plane and I'll do it again."
I stood and looked up at the half-plane. It had a small pregnant belly, inside which were several long, white chimneys with little wings.
"Is that the bombs?" I said, making Voldemort flinch.
"Yes, they are," he said harshly. "Now be quiet."
He raised his wand and pointed it at the plane. Then he took a gasping breath and lowered it again. After a moment he tried again, but his whole arm was shaking. I could see his elbow wobbling from side to side.
I began to feel worried. Whatever it was that was affecting him, it seemed obvious that this spell had the potential to go alarmingly wrong. Like he might detonate the warheads, kill us both and destroy the world, for starters. "Let me hold your hand," I said quietly, very keen that he should not jump.
"Piss off, Potter," he snapped, still shaking.
"I don't want you to miss."
I gently put my left arm round his stomach; then I wrapped my right hand around his bony wrist. (By 1997 I was only about a foot shorter than him.) I was pleased to note that my hand didn't shake at all.
He didn't protest or move. He took a few deep breaths, his frail bony arm now helpfully encased in a Harry plaster cast, and roared, "EVANESCO!"
The white chimneys vanished. We waited several seconds to see if the pocket universe exploded and took us with it. Nothing happened.
"Excuse me," Voldemort said politely, peeling himself away from my grasp, and he turned aside and puked very genteelly all over the grass.