Harry Potter smiled at the sight which greeted him. A Slytherin first year student had just run into what Harry had truthfully thought of as the finest trap he had ever set up (and he had set up a lot of traps in his time to be sure). The trap was quickly sprung: an invisible string tripwire that could barely be seen, or felt, but once walked in would trigger the hidden compartment Harry had placed in the corridor ceiling.
Within the space of a second, corrosive acid poured from a previously hidden acid-proof cauldron in the compartment, and upon making contact with the the little child (had Harry ever been that small or were eleven year olds as a group shrinking?), began melting the flesh off of his bones. The first year screamed in agony as the acid did it's work, so loudly that Harry thought he might have to cover his ears… and then there was nothing but a pile of melting robes and bones on the floor, and the merest hint of hair and blood.
Harry laughed, truly satisfied its the results of this contraption, and ran a hand through his long, slicked back, jet black hair. His green eyes blazed in a kind of sadistic merriment. On his forehead was a scar in an elegant, almost beautiful shape of a symbolised heart, a scar that he had received from a botched spell over a decade and a half ago from a wizard named Tom Riddle. Harry's robes were jet black, as were his shirt, his trousers, the leather trenchcoat he wore and - though nobody could see them - his underpants as well. The only non-black item of his outfit was the tie in Gryffindor blood-red.
"Pathetic," he said, sighing theatrically. "I swear, Ronald, these kids are getting thicker."
Ronald Weasley, stood with his arms folded at Harry's side, said nothing, but a cruel smile played out across his lips. He was perhaps the best known backstabber in Gryffindor house (and there were a lot of backstabbers in Gryffindor house), but was nonetheless the closest thing to a friend that Harry possessed, and was certainly one of the smartest people in the school. He was well known as a for-hire man, who lent his unique skills (as one of the Weasley clan he had basically grown up as an assassin, hit-man and professional killer extraordinaire, albeit one overshadowed by rather more theatrical brothers and his bulldog killing machine sister) out for Galleons, and was ruthlessly efficient when he did so. He didn't speak as often as he might, but when he did, he was cold, intelligent, and to-the-point. His choice of clothes reflected his nature as a sophisticated, intelligent man; velvet smoking jacket (Gryffindor blood red of course), thin black drainpipe trousers, elegantly styled hair of dignified auburn, white shirt, silver waistcoat, and a black cravat finishing the ensemble.
"I'm bored," their hanger-on Hermione Granger said from behind them. Harry turned to her, objectively evaluating her appearance for what must have been the fifty third time this year. She wore, as usual, a too-short skirt, an open necked top, and the school robe (she was the only one of the three who bothered with the uniform), though it was ripped in a dozen (indecent) places. The only reason he hadn't had his way with her was because it was well known almost everyone else had, even the girls - everyone apart from Ronald, but only because Ronald was... well, not into her type. In point of fact, it was strongly rumoured that Hermione had slept with members of the teaching staff, which would explain why she hadn't been kicked out yet – she was to all intents and purposes remarkably stupid. In fact, being Gryffindors resident bike (as she was often called) was about the only thing she was accomplished at (publicly at least).
Harry decided to let her remark pass without comment, instead walking over and resetting the trap for the next poor sod who would wander this corridor: this particular corridor was only ever used by Slytherins, so he was certain that his next target would be another member of that "illustrious" house.
Life, he thought with a wide grin, is brilliant.
By now, you probably think I'm as batshit crazy by relaying this description of the Golden Trio as the writer of "My Immortal", although I would like to think that you find my writing more intelligent if not at least more readable. And true, this description of those three heroes of the story of the Wizarding world does seem a little "at odds" with the established history of their personae. But there is (as the old saying goes) method in my madness.
Perhaps I should dispense with the pompous puncturing (not to say wanton and brutal sledgehammering) of the fourth wall (which is going to need some real TLC when this story is finished, I promise you that) and explain myself a little bit better.
In the Ministry of Magic - that is to say, the Ministry of Magic in the Harry Potter universe you are familiar with, or one so similar to it as to be nigh on indistinguishable (except not quite that universe because I am not JK Rowling), there is a place where every single time turner ever made is regulated. As anyone and everyone knows (at least, anyone and everyone with three years training and a heck of a lot of temporal theory study behind them - which in that universe numbers at twelve people so far), alternate universes, retcons, parallel dimensions, mirror worlds, opposite worlds and various other things of that nature are ten a penny (or Knut, depending on your preference). In layman's terms, for every universe where Harry Potter is the noble, heroic being that you and I know and love, there is one where all that is completely reversed.
The Golden Trio I began this tale by describing belong to a universe that is such a place. To give you a brief idea (if the description of this "alternate trio" did not give you sufficient idea) of what this universe is like, it might be wise to describe to you the founders of the great school Hogwarts in this particular reality. They could best be summed up as follows:
Godric Gryffindor had been a warrior barbarian, murderous, intelligent and brutal, who had (after butchering many thousands of people either personally with his trusty sword or by implication with the armies of barbarians he had assembled) become the founder of Gryffindor House in Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Helga Hufflepuff was remembered as the cruel, sadistic master of what you and I know as the unforgivable curses (also known as the unforgivable curses there - though more because they were unforgivably lazy and far better spells with far more sadistic powers of destruction and torment were known), and founder of the house Hufflepuff, known for its equally sadistic students.
Rowena Ravenclaw had been as intelligent in that universe as she is in the one we are more familiar with, but that intelligence was turned to foul uses one dare not speak of: she was eventually murdered in her bed by her daughter, and the "source" of her power, a diadem of some description, was stolen.
Finally, Salazar Slytherin was the former friend of Gryffindor (an advisor and confidante), though he eventually left the school in disgust at what his colleagues were and had become, although legend has it he left a monster behind… those in his house tend to be more moral, kinder, and are generally considered weaker by the other houses, though in practice this was never completely correct: thought more moral in practice than others, that was only in comparison to some truly despicable individuals (like comparing the guy who kicked your cat to Hitler - the guy might not be Hitler, but he still kicked your cat).
If this was the basis upon which this darker Hogwarts was founded, one can naturally imagine the wizarding world that had resulted. Surprisingly enough, some things were (perversely) much better. Among other things, little or no prejudices existed against Muggles, if only because Muggles and Wizards shared common goals: the acquisition of power, the destruction of enemies, and victory at any cost. Empires had been built with the power of wizards guiding the hands of Muggles. Also, Goblins were extinct (genocidal war, long story), though unfortunately House-Elves had gone the same way.
One thing that surprised the watchers of the Department Of Mysteries was that Thomas Marvolo Riddle was still reviled in this particular universe, but because he was a kind, moralistic philanthropist who had, instead of focusing on power, had instead dedicated his life purely to the aid of his sickened world (the kind of cause for which the phrase "beating your head against a brick wall" was no doubt invented).
It might surprise you to know that the Department of Mysteries watched this world, but it shouldn't. Every DoM in every universe watched every other universe everywhere, mainly as a guiding point for their own (to observe trends in a universe similar to your own was to locate trends that were - or might - occur in your own universe). Sometimes, what they saw disturbed them greatly.
"Mad," Unspeakable John Carmichael (a random person who does not matter in the grand scheme of things) said to his superior – a square jawed, steel haired man only known as T.
T was the senior Unspeakable in the temporal division of the DoM, and it was commonly said that T actually stood for Time. It actually stood for Tiberius (because T hated the name Tiberius, as any sensible man would in his place), but T never said that himself (I mean, would you?).
"That world is sick," T said in reply to his colleague, his voice grim. "Absolutely sick. Look at that – the entire Weasley clan there puts the Lestranges of our world into shame!"
For a little context: in that universe, Charlie Weasley had been killed while trying to lead an army of Dragons to conquer Durmstrang School – only for that school to prove its own strength by unleashing the magical equivalent of Armageddon upon said army. It was by all accounts quite impressive to watch. Bill Weasley was on the run, for breaking into Gringotts – the only person to have ever successfully done so and lived. His current life appeared to be living in the Bahamas with several women he had picked up. The two elder Weasleys were comparable in many ways to the Malfoys of T's own world (the world you and I are more familiar with), and they were also much richer, having been given much of the goblin gold that Bill had stolen (no one dared try to reclaim it). Their younger children were similarly horrid, Percival Weasley having been a tearaway monster with arson, anarchy and murder behind him, the Twins having been the cause of many a fatal prank (their sense of humour a twisted form of what the twins of T's universe possessed), Ronald being highly intelligent and then selling his knowledge to the highest bidder (who at this point happened to be Harry Potter) and Ginevra Weasley was Captain of the school Fighter Broom squadrons (no Quidditch as such in that twisted universe, just Aerial Duelling - fatal and fast, and if one enjoyed it, fun).
To return to "the point", T didn't like observing that universe for many reasons, and yet he made it his business to do precisely that because - frankly - it scared him. It didn't scare him because of any chance that his own universe might turn out that way - no, the moral nature of that universe was a polar opposite to his own, far too different. No, there was an entirely different fear in T's mind.
What if that inverse universe found out about this universe?
He, T, had spent years trying to keep this universe, their universe, safe and free from all the dangerous madmen from all the universes, (since everyone agreed this universe had enough maniacs of its own) but he knew that there was another T, in that other universe. That T spent his time trying to break down walls between worlds, trying, in vain so far thankfully, to invade this world, with its nice, moral people, and many others like it.
What T didn't know (fortunately for him, since had he tried to prevent the events that followed all that would have happened would have been his own death first) was that finally, the T from that inverse universe had succeeded, with the help of one - very different - Albus Dumbledore.
In that universe, the murderous Harry Potter, still in his all black ensemble, was vaguely irritated. He spat out his chewing gum as he came up the steps to Professor Albus Dumbledore's office.
He never liked coming up to this place, not only because the last time he had been here was painful, but also because even without that bad memory, Dumbledore was terrifying.
He was an ancient monster, rumoured to wield the most powerful wand in the world. He had at one time been the friend and ally of the Dark Wizard Grindelwald, but he had murdered him and become the most powerful wizard in history. The only reason he wasn't currently ruling the world was because he hated desk jobs, and being the headmaster of a school like this gave him more influence than any man alive. He was known for being sadistic, cruel, malevolent, and a thousand other synonyms for "just plain fucked up" (and if you think a thousand synonyms don't exist, you might be right - but they would for him).
Wen Harry entered his office, the old man looked down at him from behind half-moon spectacles sat upon his crooked nose, and smiled chillingly.
"Potter," he said softly. His skin was pale and translucent, almost as if he was walking dead already. His hair and beard were long and matted, bone white. In place of a wand (or perhaps as well as), he wielded a staff with a silver, transparent head. He wore long, thick robes, like Harry's, of jet black, except that his robes were old and moth-eaten. A snake lay on the desk behind him, hissing quietly to itself.
"Sir," Harry said deferentially. He hated being "deferential" to the man, he was an absolute monster, but needs must (and this was certainly a "needs must" scenario, Harry thought, shuddering again slightly as the memory of his last visit returned to him...).
"You're needed," Dumbledore said, getting right to the point and ignoring Harry's obvious discomfort. "You, Granger, Ronald Weasley and his sister."
"Oh?" Harry said, curious. Then, to his own surprise, he smiled cockily. 'Needed' suggested that he was necessary for a reason that required him being alive, so for once he could afford a little insolence. "The word 'no,' springs to mind, along with the phrase, f-"
"Don't push it Potter," Dumbledore snapped, and Harry shut up. "I needn't remind you of my temper."
Harry's face soured at the unwelcome reminder. No, he didn't need to be reminded of Dumbledore's temper at all, thank you very much, but he'd never be free of the reminders now, would he?
"Anyway," Dumbledore continued, "you'll be rewarded for this one. You do this one task and I'll give you all the money and power you could ask for. Mr Weasley has already agreed to the terms and set off. The girls are waiting for your decision."
"All the money and power I want?" Harry repeated. He thought about it for a long moment, almost considering the idea on its own merits. "Could you make me minister of magic? Ruler of the wizarding world?"
He was half joking, of course (why would he want to rule anything, it would be dull) but Dumbledore's reply was, horribly (and thrillingly) enough, perfectly sincere.
"Where you are going," the old man smiled sinisterly, "I have a feeling I could make you a God."
An hour earlier, after some arranging with a man named "T" (identical to 'our' universe's T save for his name being "Timothy" and having a goatee beard), and Ronald Weasley, aged sixteen and aged twenty one, dressed in his finest velvet smoking jacket, ruffled shirt, waistcoat, bow tie and drainpipe trousers, stood sighing in a corridor while the man muttered nonsense nearby.
To be fair, had you asked him only a year ago, he would have said he wanted most of his nights to have ended something like this, albeit in a very different context, but obviously, a lot had changed. For one thing, he was in fact a twenty one year old in mind even if chronologically and physically he was only sixteen.
There was an old tradition that every Weasley underwent, a ritual during the summer before their sixth year at Hogwarts, where they would be inducted into the family business proper. They would be taken to a room in the Burrow Mansion, where they would spend five years suspended in time, metabolism stopped, ageing process stopped, but still able to be taught and to learn. He and his father - who had done this for five sons previously and had already gained three decades of experience on top of his actually lifetime - had duelled, sparred, practiced assassination and poisoning and mixed martial arts and swordplay and silent takedowns until Ronald (and more importantly, his very demanding father) could happily say he was an expert killer, something he was immensely pleased about (and it had only taken him four and a half years to get it perfect - no one else in the family had taken to it as fast as he). He had always been a clever tactician and a reasonably adept fighter but five years non-stop training - while it had left him slightly more eccentric than he had been - nonetheless did him quite wing process, especially in terms of his value to Harry "paid money up front" Potter.
The connections his father had made to get that room had paid dividends - T, the man who was currently mumbling nonsense in Latin near Ron - had approached them about getting Dumbledore to help break down certain walls to get to certain other worlds (all technical jargon above Ronald's head or interest) that - according to what T said - would have alternate versions of themselves in it. Ronald didn't particularly like the sound of that - he had never in his life been comfortable in his own skin, though his outward demeanour was carefully designed to portray the opposite. The idea that he might meet himself was quite unsettling, although the idea that he might have to kill himself - the ultimate goal of the mission - was strangely compelling, in a cathartic way.
"Are you ready to proceed?" T's voice spoke, interrupting Ronald's thoughts. Ronald sighed.
"Yes, of course I am," he said impatiently. "Why else have you been standing there mumbling nonsense?"
"Cutting through layers of sometime carefully enough that you don't tear a hole in all reality that can never be repaired is delicate work," T snapped harshly, having little patience for Ronald's insolence. "Now be quiet. It's time."
He said something Ronald couldn't hear, and then the entirety of reality greyed out and became fuzzy, as if it was warping and distorting. And suddenly, he was back - in the same corridor he had just left. There was, however, something odd about it. Instead of a sort of lingering darkness, there was light, making the corridor feel more open plan though the architecture was exactly the same. The portraits were calm and smiling - talking even! - not, as Ronald remembered from his own, screaming in agony. Ronald smiled.
"Fascinating," he said - his first love was knowledge, and the knowledge of a whole world would be most intriguing... but still, he was here for a task and he had better complete it.
The plan was simple enough. T knew that Harry Potter and his friends were - to coin a phrase - the most famous wizards and witches alive. The four were to replace their counterparts - by any and all means necessary - and from there, subvert the status quo and allow the forces of T's department access, and therefore the ability to conquer the world.
Utterly boring and lacking in imagination as far as such plans went, at least in Ronald's opinion, but he was being paid considerable amounts of gold for this, so it shouldn't have come as a surprise.
"Ron!" came a familiar voice from behind him, startling him from his thoughts. On instinct, he span around, aiming his wand at the face of whoever it was - and found Hermione Granger staring wide eyed at him and the tip of his wand.
Was that Hermione Granger? Surely not - her clothes were decent in every sense of the word, her appearance was definitely more dignified, her tone - from precisely one word - already seemed more intelligent and - was she carrying a non-pornographic book?! No, surely not. He smirked in delight - someone here was actually intelligent. Good grief.
"Ron, what are you doing?" she squeaked, looking at the wand. He lowered it with a slight smirk. "And... what are you wearing?" she asked him, looking him over thoughtfully. He smiled condescendingly.
"Clothes, my dear," he said with a patronising tone of voice "Any more silly questions?"
She seemed somewhat ruffled by his remark, and Ronald smiled slightly more. However, he had a mission to complete and had no time for her.
"Well, Ron," she said, and she sounded like she was building up to saying something, "I was just wondering if you... you know, needed any help on your homework..."
"I don't think that will be necessary, my dear," Ronald smiled, turning away from her. That hadn't been what she intended to say, of that he was certain. He began walking down the corridor - as he did so, he threw over his shoulder, "and kindly address me as 'Ronald' - 'Ron' sounds so very common."
Hermione raised an eyebrow in shock at his behaviour, and followed Ronald as he walked down the corridor. She raised her eyebrows still further when he actually smiled - flirtatiously smiled - at a handsome Hufflepuff boy, who seemed a little flustered - and she was actually scared by the strange laugh that Ron gave in response to the boy's expression. It had almost been predatory...
"Are you alright, Ronald?" Hermione asked him, taking care to use the full name while Ron was in this strange mood, and he turned to face her properly.
"Oh, are you still following me?" he said, sounding less than interested - in fact, downright irritated, which offended Hermione slightly, though it was overwhelmed by her curiousity. "How dull. Is the library still on the second and third floor?"
This sudden change of subject shocked her slightly, and the question was just plain odd.
"Er... yes, of course," she said, "but..."
"Good," Ronald smiled, and then he looked her up and down as if appraising her. "If you would join me, my dear, I have some research to do."
Hermione followed him, running through every possibility of what might be wrong with him in her mind. Imperius? Polyjuice? No, wouldn't account for much of the change. Maybe he was genuinely being different, though it was such a radical change that it seemed impossible...
Harry Potter grinned at Ginevra Weasley - God help the person who called her Ginny - who remained quietly impassive next to him. She was almost as tall as him, and certainly more muscular, which scared him no end, but he never let it show - she was still quite hot, and despite her outward disdain for him he fancied his chances with her. Well, in as much as he fancied his chances with anyone.
"Ready?" he asked.
"I am," Hermione smiled from his other side. The fact that she hadn't had him yet grated her, he knew, and she was always trying to get him interested in her - but for Gods sake, Harry Potter had bloody standards! He was quite principled in many ways, albeit only for his own benefit, and having sexual intercourse with a girl known for having sexual intercourse with - well, everything she could - was, among other things, well, socially damaging, not to mention degrading and just plain unoriginal.
Then again, if there was no one else, then perhaps one day he might consider it. Just consider it, mind you.
"I'm ready," Ginevra said, tersely. "Now shut up, Potter."
Harry sighed, and looked straight ahead, at the grim, bearded man who had only identified himself as 'T'.
"Go for it," he said. T smiled, raised his wand, and mumbled words Harry could not hear...
And then he found himself in the Gryffindor common room, except that this common room was lighter, brighter, and less filled with images of dead things than he remembered.
And another Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley and Ginevra Weasley were staring at him.
"Oh crap," he said, before going for his wand.