Chapter 3 – The Dream
"Hello, my child." an old man spoke, sadly. He looked ancient, with long, silver hair, and a beard so long it was tucked into his belt. His purple hat had silver runes around the brim.
He looked tired, very tired. Behind him was a strange man holding out a wand, who looked very angry, but he seemed to be frozen in place.
"Today is your eleventh birthday, and if everything has gone correctly, you will have received a letter from a school called Hogwarts. You will have also discovered you are a wizard."
"Nearly ten years ago, when you were but a baby, the man behind me, who is referred to in our world as "He who must not be named," but who calls himself "Lord Voldermort," broke into your house with the intent to end your life. When he got here, he instead cast a curse on you." The old wizard seemed to slump a bit as he spoke. Oddly, his mouth didn't seem to move quite in time with his words, and the more Desmond looked the more it seemed that he was speaking gibberish with his mouth- or at least, not English, though
"The Curse is sometimes called "The Mark of Cain." It will cause people to shun you… even to hate and despise you, and to refuse you aid or comfort. The effect is strongest on Witches and Wizards, but even non-magical folk are affected to some degree or another." Desmond realized that the man behind the wizard he thought was frozen in place was actually moving, very slowly. His lips were moving and his wand was, likewise, moving to point at the old wizard.
"I have slowed time to give you this message, but very soon I too will succumb. This curse has likely made your life difficult over the last few years. I tried to counter it before I too fell to its effects, but if you are receiving this message, then I have failed."
"The only cure is a very difficult to brew potion… and even this will only give you a temporary reprieve. You must try and find a man called Severus Snape. I do not know what will have become of him after all these years, but I can tell you where to start looking for him."
Desmond felt his right hand twitching lightly.
"When you wake up, find a piece of paper and a writing implement. Your hand will write the directions you must follow to remove the curse. The first thing you must do is travel to a house in Godrick's Hollow. Speak to the door and say the words "Phoenix Tail."
He felt himself lift up, surrounded by white light, and heard glass shattering.
Desmond woke with a start, his hand twitching as it was in the dream. He reached for his backpack, which he kept hung on the bedpost next to him when he slept, and removed a notebook and a pen. He wrote in the dark, barely able to make out his own handwriting.
When he had filled two pages, his hand finally stopped twitching. He closed the book, put it and the pen back into his backpack, and slipped silently off the bed. He looked at the clock, 5:17. If he went now he could catch the bus in to town and get on the main train line.
He dressed quickly but silently, grabbing his raincoat off the peg and carrying it and his backpack out of the dorm before he slipped the backpack on and put the raincoat in the backpack. He was used to sneaking out of his dorm. Lots of kids did it and it wasn't hard to sneak past the one bored person watching the door.
He'd been to Godrick's Hollow once to look at the spot where he was found. He'd spent a few hours looking at the various houses on the block, but all he got for his troubles was shouted at by an old woman with white hair.
He pulled his wallet out of his pack, checking to see how much money he had. When he stopped under a street light, he paused, suddenly full of doubt.
Why was he trying to do this again?
He pulled his notebook out and looked at it under the light for the first time.
What he had written had not been in his handwriting. On the previous page he could see his own messy scrawl. What he'd written before he was perfectly awake was in a neat, loopy copperplate, every stroke exact, despite the fact that he'd done it in the dark without knowing what he was writing.
Okay. he thought. So it's real. Can I trust the source? He was used to talking to himself, as he often didn't have anyone else to talk things over with.
He thought of the old man, and then thought of the other man behind him. He knew which he'd sooner trust. And the curse... well, it explained why he'd never had a friend, never had more than one adult trust his word, ever.
He put the book and his wallet away in his pack and walked to the train station.
By the time he got to Godrick's Hollow, it was not only light, but the sun was nearly at it's peak. He'd had to change from a train to a smaller bus, then to a little local bus service where he and one other old man were the only passengers. Once he got off in the center of the little village, he immediately knew which way to go, following the main road and turning right, then left, the houses around him getting progressively older. Any adults that saw him on his way seemed to turn up their noses, as usual. Nobody stopped him.
He came to a stop outside an old, rundown house with the grass growing long. He opened the rusty gate and walked up to the front door. The stange, rippled glass in the windows was dark, and the porch had a thick layer of dust on it. It didn't look like anyone had visited for a long time. Or at least, no visitors who used the front door.
The door itself was strange too, round topped instead of a rectangle like the doors at the home. It was made of dark wood and had iron bands around it. It looked ancient somehow, and a little out of place. He felt foolish as he spoke, sincerely hoping nobody was living here now, though something told him that he was safe from that. "Phoenix Tail."
The door swung open to reveal a hallway with a high, arched ceiling. He walked inside, and the door swung shut behind him, startling him for a moment.
There was an inch of dust on every surface in the rundown flat, but other than that it was neat and tidy. He walked forward, stumbling in the dark as he fumbled for a lightswitch, not finding one. He gave up and reached into his backpack for his torch.
Once he could see, instinct drew him in to the first room on the left, walking into a small comfortable sitting room. The fireplace was cold. The room, like the hallway, was covered in dust, though otherwise clean. Bookshelves lined every wall, and he longed to go look at these. He sneezed, and decided that he'd rather get back out into the fresh air more. He was on a mission.
He reached into his backpack for the notebook and examined it under the torchlight.Step 1. Go to Godrick's Hollow. Find 17 Slope Lane, enter with password. Step 2. Lift rug in front room, find the knot in the shape of an oak leaf, press it. Step 3. Remove trunk from secret compartment, open, find wand and money. (Muggle & Wizarding)
He stopped reading at that point, eager to see some wizarding money. He pulled the rug up, removing the trunk from the promised spot. Opening it.
Inside he found a small stack of 20 quid bills, along with a brown bag, a long, slightly battered looking wand, a black cloak and a scarf, along with several books. He examined them carefully, blinking at the titles, which included Transfiguration Montly, October 1951, Magical Flora and Fauna of the Fens. and an odd book with no title at all, but bound in a strange green leather.
He set aside his raging bibliophilia for a moment, opening the small brown bag, which made an expensive "clink" when he handled it. He removed several coins, and something inside him knew the names. Golden Galleons, Silver Sickles and Bronze Knuts. 17 Sickles to the Galleon, 29 Knutts to the Sickle.
He admired them for a moment, before putting them back in the bag, adding the pound notes to it and slipping it deep inside his backpack, under an old jumper. He then lifted the wand, a few small red sparks flying drom the end as he waved it lightly in the air, earning a gasp from the boy. He looked down to his book again.Step 4. Put on cloak, add scarf to cover face, and press wand lightly to throat. Incant. Obscura Vox.
He was a little loathe to press the wand to any portion of his anatomy after it emitted sparks, but he did as he was told. "Obscura Vox. La la-hey!"
His voice had changed in timbre. He was small enough that with long hair, he'd easily pass for an ugly girl. He went and looked in the mirror once he'd put on the cloak and scarf, and spoke some nonsense words, trying out his new voice."One ring to rule them all, and one ring to-... Bloody hell."
He was going to look silly if he tried to get on a train like that, but nobody would take him for himself. With only his eyes visible he looked like a bit like some of the muslim girls he'd seen down at the shops, his smaller body easily believable as a slightly older, yet undeveloped girl.
He went back to the book.Step 5. Go outside, walk two blocks in any direction. Wait until unobserved, then point wand away from body at a 90 degree angle to the curb, then flick up, to sky. No incantation. Transportation will arrive shortly. Step 6. Ask to go to Spinner's End in Coketown. You are Hunter Snape, 16, going to visit your uncle who has fallen ill. Pay with eight silver sickles. Step 7. Go to the last house on the block, number 127. Knock, and ask for Severus Snape. Keep your hood down and scarf up. Do not show him your face, but do not lie.
He stopped reading at this point, figuring he'd have time to read further while he was getting there. Coketown was quite a ways away, he seemed to remember. He looked down at the trunk and the myriad of books there, torn between stuffing them in his backpack or not. He eventually decided not, since they probably belonged to Dumbledore, and shut the trunk, putting it away and replacing the rug.
He reached in to the backpack and opened the sack, counting out eight sickles and putting them in his pocket, where they jingled softly. He walked back towards the door, opening it with the handle this time, shutting it behind him, before walking out to the street.
After he was sufficiently away from the house, he checked to make sure he was alone, and flicked his wand in the proscribed manner, wondering just how long it would take. He fell over backwards when the large purple triple decker bus appeared with a loud bang.
The door open and the driver called out to him. "C'mon, All aboard." Desmond picked himself up off the ground and groaned a little, grabbing his backpack and getting on the bus, which proclaimed itself the "Knight Bus," according to the painted name on the hood.
The driver, who's name tag read "Ernie Prang," grunted. "Where ya goin'?" He asked, peering at Desmond through coke-bottle glasses.
Desmond spoke, still unused to his girlish voice. "As close as you can get me to Spinner's end, in Coketown." he said.
Ernie grimaced a bit as he looked at the hooded figure. "What number? Eight sickles please."
Desmond removed the coins from his pocket and counted them into Ernie's waiting hand. "One nineteen Spinner's End, please." He said, hoping that bit of misdirection was unnecessary. Ernie waved him inside the bus, and Desmond walked to the back of the bus, settling in one of the unsecured chairs gingerly. He felt relieved that he wasn't even asked his name, or why he was there. Cloaks were useful, he decided.
A second later, Ernie pulled a lever, and the bus accelerated again with a lound bang. Desmond's chair, along with the rest of the chairs in the bus, slid backwards, and the boy gripped the edges of his seat. There were two other witches in the far back of the bus, and they seemed to regard him coldly.
With a bang, the scenery outside changed from pleasant countryside to hectic cityscape of London. They stopped, again with a loud bang. Ernie called out. "Leaky Cauldron, stop for Diagon Alley."
Desmond looked out the window as the two wizards got off. They walked towards a dingy looking pub. He watched them until the bus sped of again.
After several more stops where Harry saw various bits of London, noting locations where wizards and witches got on and off, "Ottery St. Catchpole," "Hogsmeade," "Hollyhead," "Cork," (This caused Desmond a bit of shock, realizing that the bus was hopping wildly all over England.)
The bus finally came to a jarring stop. "Spinner's End, Coketown." Desmond got up and off the bus quickly, looking up and down the deserted street as the bus lurched off and turned around a corner before disappearing with another bang.
Harry turned to walk towards the end of the street. Once he got to the house Dumbledore had indicated, he moved towards the door, then stopped. What was he meant to say to this Snape?
He dropped his backpack as the door opened, and he froze as the gaunt man stared at him coldly. "Exactly who are you and what do you want?"
Desmond froze as the wizard walked towards him. "I…" he swallowed. "Are you Severus Snape?"
Severus didn't answer, merely stared at the boy. "I was meant to come here and ask Severus Snape for help."
The wizard scoffed and rolled his eyes. "Well, I'm not sure exactly what help you are in the market for, but I do not deal with people who's faces I cannot see. I am not interested. Good day." He turned to go inside.
"Dumbledore sent me here."
Snape turned on his heel as he stared at the boy. "Albus Dumbledore hasn't been seen in nearly ten years." he sneered. "And even if he did somehow speak to you from the great beyond, or wherever he's ended up, why would he send you to a former Death Eater for help?"
Desmond struggled for a moment, and Snape stared at him coldly. "I don't know. I haven't read that far in the note."
"Show me," Snape said, in a voice that dripped with menace, "This note, and show me your face."
"The note said not to show you my face."
"And why is that?"
He shrugged. "He said I had a curse on me." he said, removing the notebook from his backpack and looking at it, reading step 8.Step 8. Serverus will no doubt ask to see this missive. First, Ask him who he asked me to protect. The answer is Lily Potter. Step 9. Severus, please help the bearer of this message. Do not use Legimency on them, and do not ask to see their face until AFTER you have brewed the following potion. It is vital to all concerned that you do this.
There was a list of ingredients and instructions that took up most of the rest of the filled pages.
"He wrote that I need to ask you a question before I trust you." He said, "Who did you ask him to protect?"
Severus looked down at the notebook, which Desmond quickly closed. He gave a small sigh, and said, in a pained voice, "I asked him to save Lily Potter from the Dark Lord."
Desmond nodded, and handed over the notebook.
Snape looked over the list, then sighed. "This appears to be in his handwriting. I will not ask any further questions... However, I cannot brew this," he said, irritably, "For two reasons. One, I do not have these three ingredients, which are either expensive or difficult to find in the UK. Secondly..." he held up his hands, which shook lightly. "I can't prepare the ingredients. My manual dexter-… my hands shake too much to prepare ingredients with enough precision."
Desmond shrugged. "Can I help? I have money, too."
Snape looked down at him. "I am uncertain of your skills. However, if you're willing to learn…" he pondered a bit. How much money do you have?"
He reached into his backpack. "I have about fifty of the gold coins, more of the little ones, and some muggle money too."
Snape sighed and nodded. "That will be sufficient. Let me go inside and fetch my cloak." he looked down at the boy. "I do not know why he trusts you with me."
Desmond shrugged, and waited as Snape fetched his cloak. The tall man returned. "I am not sufficiently well to apparate us both to London from here. There is a floo node closer to the center of town. Are you up for a little walking?"
"What's a floo node?"