Disclaimer: I'm not muscling in on JK's turf - just gambolling on it, like a spring lamb, having fun working out the literary and psychological puzzles which she is having fun setting us.

This was written for a challenge at the WhySnape? Forum at www. hostingphpbb. com /forum/index. php?mforum=snape. The requirement was to mark what would have been Snape's 50th birthday, on 9th January 2010, by writing about the Voldemort wars as seen from the viewpoint of someone who was not one of the main characters, nor closely involved with the main action. They were also supposed to be based closely on the author and how they thought they would really have reacted in that situation, but since I already have a partial self-insert in the Mood Music/Sons of Prophecy sequence, I skipped that bit.


They say that the black-haired boy could talk to snakes, but that was before my time. That was the other boy, of course, the one who grew up to be one of the four first chiefs of the school here - it was he brought us here. He came from a place of many waters and he liked anything odd, not human. He had a snake, a basilisk, and when he quarrelled with his lover and left we could hear her twisting through the pipes for so long, so lonely without a mate or a master.... When she was young they say she used to come out of the pipes into the loch and swim, and we had to stay away from her gaze, but that was before my time.

Then the other one, the one called after a puzzle-with-words who wanted to devour death, he let her out and let her kill but she didn't feed, though we fed her fish, from pity, through the pipes. Did he eat the bodies himself, that he kept from her, do you know? He was born the same year I was, but you air-breathers age too fast.

Not that we.... See we have gills, here, under the ear and we can live under the surface if the water breathes, if it's live and singing with oxygen, but where the water is dead we have to come to the surface for air, being mammals like you, and if we can't then we too can drown.

Did you think we were fish, like those silly drawings of merwomen with scaly tails? Can you see me sitting on a rock, luring silly sailors to their doom? No, we came from lemurs a long time ago, like you, but we went back into the water to live with the dolphins and seals. We went down to the sea but the first one, the one who hatched the basilisk, he came out to us in a little boat and talked to us and told us about this new college of wand-magic that he and his friends were starting, something to rival Dún Scáith, and how we could come to this loch and be part of it; we could share - "pool", you say, like water flowing together? - our knowledge and learn together and in the early days, when there were less than fifty human students, we studied with them and spoke with them, we taught them the Long Dance and the Dance to Summon the Fishes and the Soundless Song, and they shared their wand magic and their spell magic with those of us who had the skill.

But as time went there were more and more of them and they went away from us, they lost interest in us - they only wanted to know about one form of magic, their own, and we were allowed no part in it. We had been here almost since the beginning and been part of their college but their new rules forbade us from bearing wands or learning what they taught here. We became menagerie animals to them, like the squid. One of you humans brought him here when my grandfather was little and called him "kraken", they fixed him up with magic so he could live in fresh water, the same way they did with us and then left him here with no mate, to be looked at, to feed on the fishes we needed for food, and try to feed on us. We can go down to the sea when we wish, if we swim the streams by night: there's a channel underground to the wizards' village and from there it's only a little way, our warriors go down to the sea and come back wearing shark teeth and big scars but the kraken cannot pass: the way is too shallow for him.

Sometimes he tries to talk the way the krakens do, with the colours and patterns flashing across his skin like clouds in the high sky, but there is none here to answer him.

This speech we are having, this is for ray-dee-oh, the box of words, yes? You put your memory into a bowl and play it back so you can copy my words? I will listen if I can, if I can borrow a box from the giant's child.

So.... As humans lost interest in us, we lost interest in them, also. A few still came to speak to us: the long one, the one called "White" who is in the tomb on the shore, he was friends with Mercus, our Lady, since both were young although she of course is still not old, and he learned our language from her and taught us many things, especially the war-games called chess, halma and back-ham, although we had to play with stone pieces. And the one who looked like a rook, he used to swim with us sometimes when the other students weren't here, before sorrow crushed the buoyancy from him; he used to grow gills by magic and come down to our village, to study the plants in the gardens and the paintings on the walls, that tell our story. Even after his true mistress died and he lost the heart for visiting us, when he was an instructor here, sometimes a few of us would swim to the quay which is under the castle, to bring him water-herbs. But him, he tries to speak but it comes out like squeaking and creaking, we could hardly understand his accent and the words, also, were often wrong: it was that that inspired me to learn your speech and become official Translator for our Lady, instead of farming like my parents and sibs. Few of our people speak much of your tongue.

What? Oh yes, we farm. In the sea it is not so easy: we have only the shore, there, and the waves wash away what we plant. But here the wizards put their dung into the water to supplement ours and it makes for rich fields, so we become settled and ag-grare-ree-an: we grow many kinds of edible waterweeds, wherever the lake is shallow enough to let in the light, and all must be tended and harvested.

I liked the rook boy: he had harsh manners but all peoples were alike to him. He was rude to everybody. The giant's child, of course, he comes, but to him we are specimens: interesting monsters, like the squid. But humans are monsters too to him, I think - all aliens, all otherwise.

The third of the dark-haired boys who spoke to snakes, the one with lightning in his head, they say Puzzle tried to kill him when he was little and the one who would eat death was eaten by death and spat out again, was forced out to become a shadow, a taste in the currents - but that war was far from here. I know the rook boy followed the eaters of death for a while before he knew what they really were and the girl who was his true focus and mistress died defending her son, the one with the lightning sigil.

My true mistress is our Lady Mercus, as it should be.

The lightning boy was one of the swimmers, one of the wizard children who came to us when they played the racing game. That was the year I came of age and danced the Long Dance for the first time. I took a mate for the first time too, and he and I lived in a house by the square, overlooking the statue of Father Sea, so we saw it all.

But I am telling it out of order. Two years before that, Puzzle put his ghost into some sigils painted on wood-pulp and it spoke to the basilisk and released her into the castle again where she attacked several people, although she did not kill. The lightning boy murdered her - yes, she attacked him when she was told to but he could have spoken to her, he could have won her to him, she would have come gladly to anybody who could speak to her kindly in her own tongue and give her companionship but he didn't try - we heard it through the pipes. And so she died, so old and so alone, without a master or a mate.

Then two years later, the wizard children raced as our own young warriors do, playing at battle - we had to play that we had taken some of them hostage, and then the warriors had to free them. Singer Amris sang a puzzle-song for them, and it was put into a magic egg to tell them what to do. The warriors brought their spears and the choir sang to honour them - and, Sea knows, because we don't get much excitement around here, we have to take what we can get - and they had to come down as fast as they could swim, free a hostage and carry them back to shore. The lightning boy was fast and he had thought to grow gills, like the rook boy before him, but he was foolish: he saved all the hostages, not just his own, and lost the race. If they had been real hostages in real danger, what he did would have been a triumph but to feel he had to save them all for a war-game was carrying play-acting too far, I thought.

Or did he think we might really let sleeping children come to harm? Do they teach them nothing at all about us at the school, now, that he thought that we might let them drown? Doesn't he know that we and the dolphins always save the drowning swimmers?

Anyway, a few tide-cycles later he was stolen away and I heard White told our Lady the man who wanted to eat death made himself a new body out of his blood and someone else's muscle and bone. You'd think that that would feel just - yuck, wouldn't you, but he was able to possess the minds of creatures so I suppose he was used to being inside flesh that wasn't his, and you people wrap animal skins round your feet all the time. The lightning boy fought his way out, apparently - he's fast, I saw that in the war-game - but he had a piece of Puzzle's ghost inside him from way back so he couldn't get right away. They were tied together.

So Puzzle had a body again and he made trouble for the humans, and a human called Resentment came (why do you call your children after such strange things?) and made trouble for us. She took the school and pushed White out and she tried to bar us and drive us out to the sea - she hated anything that spoke but wasn't human. But we wouldn't go - it may not be perfect but we've made our lives here, we've made a culture, different from what we had in the sea, we could not carry our fields and our houses with us so our Lady threatened to spear her and feed her to the squid and she let us be. Then she offended the centaurs, who are less amiable than us, and she was driven out and White came back but he was changed, damaged, driven by the need to set a trap for Puzzle before he died.

He and our Lady had our warriors out searching the shore-lines all around the south of this island - they were looking for a special cave which I know now held a piece of Puzzle's ghost but we didn't know that then, and two of our warriors died when they found it, because the water was full of the Swimming Dead. I don't know if they were warned in advance.

Then the rook boy killed White - I couldn't believe it when I heard, but our Lady Mercus said White had told her to always trust the rook boy and treat him as his agent in all ways, so we thought White had given his life to advance his rook. White was buried in a great tomb by the side of the loch and we came with spears to honour him and kept our counsel.

But it was a sad time for the rook boy because he was without a master again, and by his own hand - he became the master, indeed, but the ones who should have been his honour guard hated him, because they thought he still ate death. He did not come to speak to us nor we to him, because he had to seem like what they thought him, and Puzzle's warriors drove out all the children whose parents were not magical - are humans really that sure who their fathers are? - and set his servants in the castle.

We saw the rook boy again when Puzzle sent emissaries to us, asking us to ally with them. I was the Translator and I saw him stand with them. They promised us that under their new regime we would be treated in all ways equally with the fork-legs, if only our Lady would make a mark on leather for them. So she asked the rook boy if it was true and he said that it was, that he could promise us that the Dark Lord would give us exactly the same freedoms he would give to wizards: but when our Lady asked him how much freedom that was he smiled that flat little smile of his, and she didn't sign.

Then Puzzle came himself and broke the tomb by the loch and took out the Deathstick, which only our Lady had known was there, and the broken stones fell down into the water. Not long after that there was a great battle up round the castle - flames and thunder roaring through the night, and more stones falling, and bodies; spell-lights crackling like the gunpowder dazzlers you use for celebrations and the giants and the spiders swarming across the grass, tearing down the walls. Stones fell down all the way from the top of the cliff and the shock-waves washed us back and forth as if the sea had come: we would have fought for White and the rook boy if we could but we cannot go far inland - away from the loch, I mean, not the sea - or move there fast enough to be of use, though we speared a few who stepped too near the shore.

Later we heard that the boy with the lightning in his head sacrificed himself as a hostage to Puzzle and went into death and out again to kill the ghost in him, and the Deathstick would not fire on him and struck Puzzle instead, killing him properly dead, and that was good - probably even for him. What was not good was that the rook boy had been killed as well: we heard that Puzzle set his ghost-serpent to tear his throat out and he drowned in blood, and never lived to see the world he had fought for, though he poured his memory into a bowl to spring the trap White had set for his enemies.

He died so young and so lonely, without a mate or a master: we would have saved the drowning swimmer if we could, but we cannot go so far inland.

Author's note:

According to Fantastic Beasts male basilisks have crests. There's no mention of the one in the Chamber of Secrets having a crest, so it's probably female. On the other hand, I made the squid male because some male squid communicate by flashing colours across their skins, and females don't.

"Kraken" is an ancient name for a famously huge, legendary giant squid. We don't know whether the squid at Hogwarts is a Giant Squid (Architeuthis sp.), a Colossal Squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) or something new to science, since its name isn't capitalised.

According to Irish tradition Scáthach, which means "The Shadowy One", was a Scottish warrior-witch who ran a magical martial-arts school, and taught the Irish hero Cúchulainn. Her fortress was called Dún Scáith (the Castle of Shadows), and many people believe that the real but now ruined 14th C castle in Skye called Dun Sgathaich was built on the site of Dún Scáith.

As well as being another name for the chess-piece which is otherwise called a castle, a rook is a Eurasian member of the crow family, highly intelligent and rather raffish-looking, with a stalking walk, black feathers, a pale face and an exceptionally large beak. You can see rooks at the RSPB website at www. rspb. org. uk /wildlife/birdguide/name/r/rook/index. aspx.

The un-named Translator has gained much of her information about the war away from the loch either from hearsay or with hindsight from back issues of the Prophet, which is why some of it is a little scrambled. This is of course the version of the interview which was broadcast on wizard radio, with the interviewer's own interjections excised, and with the last few lines of the Translator's comments cut off in order to end on a dramatic note.

Work is in progress (rather slowly) on the next chapter of Giving Extras. All my stories will be updated eventually.