A GOOD DREAM?

For once I was having a good dream. It makes a change from the nightmares that are my usual lot, I thought. Even though I'd finally completely disposed of Voldemort and all his horcruxes just over two years ago, I still had nightmares about him and his Death Eaters pretty much every night and in my dreams they were still all alive and kicking. This dream, thank the gods, was pleasant, not a nightmare at all, and also different from the nightmares because I was aware that I was dreaming. I hope no-one wakes me up, but I bet Voldie or his Death Eaters will arrive soon, and this will degenerate into the usual scream-making mess of a nightmare; I'd better enjoy it while I can.

In my dream I was lying on the grass with my back leaning against the trunk of a friendly oak tree, and basking in the sheer balminess of a warm and flower scented Spring day. The surrounding wood was obviously not the Forbidden Forest; it felt welcoming, and was abounding in mundane, completely non-magical, spring flowers, mainly primroses and bluebells. This early in Spring, that means I'm probably somewhere in southern England.

It was a good dream, one of the best, mainly because absolutely nothing 'exciting' was happening. The only slightly unsettling thing about it was my fearful apprehension that something 'exciting' would probably start to happen very soon.

Dreams are like that sometimes I find; they lull you into a false sense of security, and then some previously innocent part of the dream blindsides you by morphing into a monster that would terrify Merlin himself—and there goes your good dream, just another rotten nightmare, yet again.

I glared suspiciously at the trees and wild flowers; if they thought they were going to take me unaware then they had another think coming. There was one flower in particular that my gaze settled on, a pure white thing, an anemone I thought it was called, which was just the sort of virginally angelic pure flower that would be a perfect cover for something heart-stoppingly frightful. It seemed to be minding its own business but I was not about to be taken in. I stared at it steadily, wand in hand, ready for when it made its traitorous move against me…

It was at that very moment that something did happen. It was not the anemone though, apparently its role had merely been to distract me from noticing the people whom I could now just make out in the distance. They were almost hidden by bushes and low branches, but something, the noise of twigs breaking perhaps, had alerted me to their presence. There seemed to be about a dozen of them but there didn't seem to be any white masks, which made me relax slightly.

They seemed to be looking for someone. I could hear them calling out although I couldn't make out what they were saying, and they were peering under bushes and looking up into the trees. I couldn't recognise anyone at that distance, so after standing up with my back to the trunk for a few moments I decided on discretion, climbed up my new best friend the oak, and wedged myself into a large fork about twenty feet up and well hidden by leaves.

The party of searchers were partially hidden by the foliage that sheltered me. I could both hear and see that they were closing in, but I couldn't see their faces clearly. Their clothes I could see; they were quite odd as they were neither Muggle clothes nor your ordinary Wizarding robes either; they looked as if someone had decided that crossing harlequin costumes with wizards' robes would be a good idea, and I was not at all sure that I agreed. The way they were dressed reminded me of something, I wasn't sure what, perhaps an illustration I'd once seen in a book somewhere.

As they got nearer I started to hear what it was they were calling out: it was "Master" and "Sire", interspersed with a few of "My Lord".

That 'Master' sounded as if they might be calling Voldemort. Not good that. People calling for Voldemort were probably Death Eaters despite the strange garb they wore and the lack of Death Eater masks. That they were just calling and not using a Point Me spell was another oddity. The calls were not loud, quite soft and quiet in fact, it was as if they did not really want whomever they were calling to hear them. If it was Voldie they were looking for then I quite understood their reluctance to actually find him.

At least it wasn't me they were after. If I stayed quiet they would probably miss me altogether and wander on by, or so I dared to hope. I scrunched down gratefully into my fork and awaited developments.

Unfortunately, instead of wandering off in some other direction as I'd been hoping and praying they would, they gradually all came together, right beneath my oak.

They were only a few feet away from me, but the angle was wrong for me to see their faces and all I got was a good view of the tops of their heads. There was one that looked as if it might be Snape's head, but the others were either hidden under hats or were not recognisable... Snape, hmm, well if he was with a party from the Order that was fine, but if he was with his old DE cohorts— which was very likely since this dream was due to develop into a nightmare right about now—that was not good, nightmarishly bad in fact.

They were discussing the progress of their search. I could hear snatches of conversation;

"He does not usually come this far," "He won't want to be disturbed but what alternative do we have?…" and, more mysteriously, "He is light-phase now isn't he? You did say he was green didn't you?"

"Of course he's green you blithering cretin; he went light only two days ago, it may be months, perhaps years, before he turns again." Snape's voice, there was no mistaking it.

"Well you say that, but you're his favourite, he likes you whichever he is".

Light? Green? What the heck did that mean? Perhaps it wasn't Moldieshorts they were looking for after all. I vaguely remembered some myth about a Green Man, the Green Man of the Woods, not that calling for the Green Man made any sense either, unless this was a gathering of his worshippers or something.

I was concentrating so hard on trying to make out what they were saying that I leaned too hard on one of the smaller branches, and it snapped, loudly. Damn.

Instantly they stopped talking and, as one, looked up. I drew back my head but it was too late, they'd seen me. What happened next was unexpected: All of them, except the one who, as I could now see and hear, definitely was Snape, looked appalled, and backed off rapidly for a couple of yards then knelt, heads virtually to the ground.

Snape too became rather pale, but he only took a couple of backward steps before bowing from the waist. "Master, pray forgive our foolish words; we were anxious and worried. You have been gone for hours. Will you not come back with us now My Lord?"

He certainly sounded worried, and despite having the same velvet over gravel voice, not at all like the Snape I knew when awake, the real Snape would never display emotion so openly.

Well okay then, this might not be so bad after all; apparently whoever they thought I was, I was not in any danger. Probably I was Voldemort, just as I had been in so many of my previous 'The-Boy-Who-Lived-to-Destroy-the-Dark-Lord' nightmares. However this dream was rather different as I still felt like myself inside and I still looked like myself.

Of course, I know now that Snape was on our side and had been all along; had helped me often, even saved my life a few times, and he has to be admired for his unequalled courage in spying right bang in the middle of the evil serpent's lair and all that, but that did not stop him still being both hate-full and hate-able. What was to stop me having a little fun at his expense? Besides, I could not really harm him in a dream.

I grinned at him, and was delighted to see that somehow he managed to become even more pale than the Vampire-white which was normally his preferred choice of complexion colour. "Why are you wearing 'a coat of many colours' Snape? Black is your colour, please remember that in future or I shall be displeased." I gestured at his robes, which immediately turned black.

Wow! Hmm, that was unexpected. Was that me? With neither a wand nor a word too. Excellent. I'd never been much cop at wandless magic, not even in my dreams, so this was a welcome development and could be entertaining. I looked at the others; if I was playing Voldie then they were Death Eaters to a man I supposed; that they were all kowtowing to me in a satisfyingly obsequious way seemed to bear out this theory. (I had only learned the meaning of the word 'obsequious' yesterday, as it had been yesterday's 'word of the day'. It was nice to have an opportunity to use it so soon, even I if was only to myself, and only in a dream.)

"You all look as if you are dressed for a masquerade, you look ridiculous! 'We are not amused,'" Not that these pure-bloods were likely to have heard of Queen Vicky, let alone recognise what she was supposed to have said.

"The royal 'we' is a nice touch. Don't you agree Severus?"

As I frowned at them, all their robes changed to a pale dull fawn. "Ah, that's much better."

I was not completely certain if the colour changes were my doing or not, so to test it out I stared at their hats and thought 'black'. All the hats immediately became black.

Then, deliberately not staring at the oak tree, I thought 'red autumn leaves', and all the foliage turned blood red.

Ah. Good. This was going to be a dream where compared to me even Merlin would look like a squib. I'd not even needed a few Latin words to pretty it up with. For a Ridiculously-Powerful-Mage, wandless and wordless magic is so much more 'the thing.'

"Most apposite, My Liege."

What? Oh yes. I'd forgotten that I'd asked Snape a question. "That was a rhetorical question Snape. Your agreement is assumed."

"I humbly beg your pardon Sire."

I was amused to see that he was dying to point out that it had not been phased exactly as a rhetorical question, but did not dare to do so. He was biting his lips.

The sudden way I'd been upgraded from 'Master' and 'Lord' to 'Liege' and 'Sire' had me puzzled; had Voldieshorts declared himself king or was I playing the role of someone else entirely?

"Remind me Severus, when was I crowned?"

His gaze, which had never left my face since they had first discovered me in the oak tree, had faltered, and he looked slightly disconcerted for a moment. "It was at the start of your previous red-phase Master, that is, five years ago come May Day."

I was about to ask why, if I was the king, he addressed me as 'lord' as well as the regal 'liege' and 'sire'. I was not sure how the king-thing worked, but didn't you have to be addressed as either one or the other? but the 'red-phase' distracted me—and I was going to ask about that instead, but then thought that judging by their talk when they had not realised that I could hear them, it was something they all knew, and they would think I knew it too. They might think I'd gone completely around the bend if I asked about it. Though come to think of it, the real What's-His-Name-Again? had always shown enough evidence of insanity to get any less powerful wizard committed to Bedlam, yet even that had not lessened the number of his adulating minions. Perhaps insanity was expected of Dark Lords, or was even one of the essential qualifications for the job.

I let go of my rambling thoughts, and soundlessly Apparated to the ground.

"Let's go. Lead the way Snape. I'm feeling peckish," I said.

"Are we to walk or Apparate Master? It is well over seven leagues."

Um... As I had no idea where we were going, Apparation was impossible for me, but 'seven or more leagues', err, how long were leagues again? Quite a bit longer than miles I seemed to remember. A bit too far to walk anyway. What to do? Ah yes.

"I want to test your side-along Apparation Snape." To his obvious discomfort, I grabbed his arm. "Take me there," I ordered.

'There' turned out to be in front of a blindingly white mansion-come-palace-edifice-thing. Not like any Wizarding building I'd ever seen before. The architect might have visited the Parthenon a few times too often, or perhaps not often enough and that had resulted in this Parthenon-somehow-gone-wrong. It was easy to recognise the school of architecture; it was Early Pretentious.

The result was not welcoming and in fact looked as far from homey as it is possible to get while still remaining on mother Earth. I walked in, Snape following me. Inside the building it would have been difficult to go straight more than a yard or two in any direction without either running head first into a column or stubbing your toe on a statue. The statues looked perfectly at home. No-one else did.

"Severus, take me to my suite. You lead the way. I need to eat before I re-design this place. Just you Snape, the rest of you, leave us."

My minions, who had Apparated in immediately behind us, turned aside obediently, and started to leave by a side-door. "Mm, I do like that dull shit-brown, it makes them look like friars."

"At once Sire. And shall I issue the new sumptuary laws immediately?"

Er, What was he talking about? Oh yes, I'd asked him to lead me to my rooms. "Tomorrow will be soon enough for the new laws," I said.

Meanwhile I needed to find myself a dictionary. My recent learn-a-new-word-a-day resolution had not covered that one yet. It was bloody unfair that in my own bloody dream someone could use a word I did not understand! Maybe I should issue a law against it. Then I had a brilliant inspiration of how to find out exactly what 'sumptuary laws' were without either asking Snape or having to find or ask for a dictionary.

"We should not issue new laws without some discussion of them first," I said "and how they are to be worded and all that. So, what is your understanding of it?"

"How gracious of you my Liege. If I remember correctly, I'm to wear black, and all males of courtier status are to wear brown with black hats.

Are all slaves to wear black too Sire and are there to be changes for other ranks and females? Also no doubt all Hybros would benefit from your vision and then there are the house-elves and Hybrex..."

I tuned out the rest of whatever it was he was gabbling on about. Of course! It should have been obvious to me; sumptuary laws must be about what people had to wear. How strange to have laws about it. Then, on reflection, I realised that I missed the colourful medieval-festival flavour of the robes they had been wearing in the forest when I'd first seen them. I had really only changed them because I could.

"I have changed my mind. I don't like the friar-look-alike idea after all. You are to wear black, it is definitely the only colour for you, but all the rest of my minions are to be clothed as they were before."

"As you will it Master."

The 'Master' made me think to something else he had said before; something about 'the other slaves'.

"Er, Snape, are you a slave?"

He dropped to his knees and put his head to the ground. "It is my great honour to be thy property Master. I am vastly ashamed that thou art forced to remind me of it. I should be punished."

"Oh for goodness sake stand up! It seems to me that slave or not, you are less in awe of me than the rest of those idiots are. Are they slaves too?"

Snape stood up and even allowed himself the suspicion of a smile; it was no more than a half-millimetre and split-second twitch of one side of his upper lip.

"No Master, as you know, they are not, they have no Hybro blood, or if they have then they have managed to hide it – but all must obey thy every word and call you 'Master' so the distinction between us is less than one might imagine."

"It appears that they obey you too Snape," I grinned, Master-of-All-I-Surveyed-Me. I smiled in a superior fashion.

"Indeed Master. As indeed they should, as through me they hear you. Were I not the grateful recipient of thy favour they would not take my orders or even my advice; on the contrary they would probably entertain themselves by hexing me as often and imaginatively as they could."

"What's with all the 'thees' and 'thous' all of a sudden?" I asked, and then went on before he could reply, "you know Snape, this dream is really cool: Instead of no-one taking much notice of anything I say, which seems to be the rule when I'm awake… which when you think about it, is jolly unfair, after all I am the Boy-Who … well, never mind that for now. Well, so far, everyone here in Dreamland is so eager and obedient—plus having you as my favourite, my favourite slave, that's priceless!"

"Don't look at me as if I've lost my marbles. The real Snape can hide what he thinks far more successfully than you can. You should definitely work on that. Come to think of it; I'd have thought you'd be just as expert at it as my Snape is as you both must have had years of practice at hiding your real thoughts from your masters."

I paused and then, thinking of the all-too-real Severus Snape, I went on; "In future whenever you sneer at me and make some clever and cutting remark at my expense, I shall remember this dream and how humble and obedient you were."

I shook my head. "Enough of this, I'm hungry. Order me my dinner. I do hope I'll be able to taste it. That's where dreams often fail, don't you agree?"

Snape looked confused and slightly worried, but waved his wand as if to summon a house-elf

What materialised a second later was no house-elf—she was obviously female—and appeared to be some sort of cross between a High Elf and a human.

Snape ordered "A selection of our Lord's favourite food at once."

The elf or whatever it was, bowed, and popped out, just like any everyday run-of-the-mill house-elf.

"Snape, humour me, pretend that I'm a visitor here who has just arrived from some foreign land, and everything is new and needs to be explained. It will be good practice for you if we have any foreign visitors. For example, what was that being? Is she a house-elf?"

"An excellent notion My Lord, as are all your ideas..."

"If you are going to flatter me you need to work on your sincerity. That attempt was pathetic. You are failing in your Snape-ishness again."

Then I felt a bit mean. Snape behaving so out of character was not his fault; it was my dream after all, and so all he could say were words that I put into his mouth. Not only that, but as I was his master he would not act Snape-ishly to me, just as the real Snape had not acted that way to the real Voldemort.

Then I noticed that he had dropped to the floor again."Stand up Professor. I do hope you have permanent cushioning charms on your knees. I don't want my favourite servant crippled."

He stood up, but I saw that I was worrying him again, so to forestall what promised to be another abject apology, I hurried to add; "That elf-person Snape, what sort of house-elf is she? That's if she is a house-elf at all? She looks nothing like one."

"She is a hybrid Master. They are called Hybrex, which are one of the results of the bi-purpose breeding project of one of thy great previous incarnations."

My previous incarnations? I was momentarily distracted from house-elf hybrids, but then put the reincarnation question aside for later.

"Okay, tell me more; what was hybridised and what was the purpose of doing it? Where Veelas and High Elves part of the experiment?"

"Not officially Master. You are no doubt correct in suspecting some Veela and High Elf genes were used, otherwise it is difficult to account for their beauty, but officially it was merely house-elves and human slaves.

The aim was to produce a being with all the powers and emotions of normal house-elves: the same need to be bound to a master, the same tireless and joyful work ethic, the same pleasure in service and submission, while at the same time to look attractive to their masters. Most are female but some are male, or, more often, genetically de-sexed males, and there also a few hermaphrodites."

Then he added, "Hermaphrodites have both male and female sexual organs." For a split second he looked appalled, and then rushed to add, "as you are of course aware Master."

He was not quite quick enough though. "I know what a hermaphrodite is Severus!... Oh, stand up again…that's better. You said 'bi-purpose', what was the other aim?" I added quickly, before he had a chance to slide to the floor again.

"The other aim was creation of beings such as I Master, that is, Hybros. We are mostly human slave, but with a few house-elf genes to enhance submission and tireless energy. It was not considered necessary to make us attractive as our purpose is to be in administration, clerks, secretaries, office managers for example, or household functionaries such as butlers."

"It must make you angry that you were deliberately bred to be a slave!" I said, feeling indignant on his behalf, even though he was Snape.

"No Master, not at all. In fact it was a great kindness. My human ancestors were slaves anyway, but we Hybros, thanks to our house-elf genes, are content to be so. Without them we would still be slaves, but always wishing to be free."

He had a very peculiar idea of kindness. It would have been better to free his ancestors. "Are there still ordinary house-elves ?"

"Yes Master; indeed most house-elves are of the traditional breed. Hybrex and Hybros are often too expensive for your ordinary subjects to afford in great numbers."

At that moment the food arrived. It was carried in by two of the hybrids, the Hybrex, they were both more beautiful than seemed completely real. They looked more like the exaggerated pictures of women from a Muggle comic; huge long-lashed eyes, large breasts, tiny waists and long legs. Ordinary human females would just love them. Not.

After conjuring a chair and table, and depositing their trays on the table, they bowed and popped out again — and after shaking my head slightly I was able to concentrate on the food which looked as if it was prepared by a master-chef.

It looked delicious. I was a bit anxious that this would be the moment when I'd wake up, wake up before I'd had a chance to taste it, so I sat down at once and started to eat; all was well, I continued to dream and it tasted as delicious and was as succulent as it looked.

Snape stood behind my chair ready to attend to me, but I conjured another chair and gestured that he should sit at the table with me. "Help me eat some of this. There's enough to feed a dozen wizards or even a couple of Rons."

He looked wary, and seated himself on the chair gingerly, as if he thought it might collapse beneath him. Somehow he managed to look delighted at the 'honour' of sitting down with me to eat while at the same time nervous that I might change my mind at any moment and punish him for his presumption at sitting at the table with me. He made no move to take any of the food.

"Here," I said, conjuring a plate and cutlery for him. "Tuck in, I don't know what most of this is; it has all been prettied up so much by the cook that it's disguised, but it tastes divine. That there is definitely some sort of fish I think, and that's chicken, but it tastes a bit different, maybe its goose or something."

Snape took one of the chicken-things onto his plate, carefully cut off a small piece with his knife and uncertainly put it in his mouth.

"So? What do you reckon it is? Chicken do you think?" I asked.

"I do not know Master. It is delicious." "Not like Hybro food" he added so softly I could hardly hear him.

I gulped the mouthful I had. "The food they give you is not nice?"

"Oh yes Master. It is designed to maintain our optimum health."

"But not particularly tasty?"

I had put him on the spot and he was desperately trying to think of a reply that did not sound ungrateful while still being true. I cut him off; "You need say no more," I said.

I was angry. Dreaming or not, giving 'the help' second class food smacked too much of my time at the Dursleys. "Who does the meal planning and cooking?"

"The Hybrex and house-elves Master".

"Whoever is in charge of the kitchens come here!" I said loudly. Almost immediately a reassuringly normal ordinary house-elf was bowing before me.

"How can Alonzo help Master Sir?"

"Are you the person who plans the menus for the staff?"

"Yes Master," he said in a squeaky voice, while wringing his hands anxiously.

"I am not angry. This food is wonderful. Your cooking is excellent." He smiled widely and looked reassured.

"However, although the food served to the Hybros is no doubt good for them, it may not be as tasty as I'd like it to be. There is to be no 'special' house-elf, Hybrex or Hybro food from now on, well, not much of it, anyone who wants to continue eating it can, but they must also have a selection of this type of food available. It need not be quite so pretty perhaps, but it should be as tasty and varied." I gestured at the food on the table, "and they must be encouraged to eat it. Tell everyone that I want them to at least try it."

I thought further and turned to Snape. "Do you think it should be introduced slowly? That it might upset their stomachs if they switched too suddenly?" At his slight nod and murmured "Yes Master," I turned again to the elf.

"Okay Alonzo; we must try to introduce it slowly. Maybe to begin with give everyone their normal food, and just put dishes of the new stuff on the table too, and tell them that they are to have only small portions of it at first. You'll need more elves to cook I suppose, so tell whoever is in charge of the purse strings to buy as many as you need, and bring them to me for bonding. Preferably ordinary traditional house-elves such as yourself," I added.

Alonzo was so happy he was crying. "The Great Lord! So kind to elvses! Alonzo do it now Master!"

He popped away and I looked at Snape. "You all right there? You look a bit funny. I do have the money to buy more elves if we need them don't I?"

"Yes Master." He then continued, uncertainly, "especially as of course you would be buying them from yourself, as yours is the only elf breeding stud farm."

I nearly choked on a piece of the chicken but managed to swallow it down. No! I had an elf stud farm. Oh My God! I had better not tell Hermione about this dream; I was even shocked myself. I muttered something unintelligible, and took more of the chicken or whatever it was.

As we were eating it had started to get dark. I felt surprise at how long the dream was lasting, but then remembered having had previous dreams that had seemed long but when I'd woken up I'd found that I'd only been asleep for a few minutes.

I got to my feet. "I'm going to bed now Snape. Walk me to my bedroom."

He was standing slightly behind me and that would not do as I had no idea where my bedroom was. "Walk in front of me, there is something about the way your cloak swirls and billows that I wish to examine."

I felt reluctant to reveal that I did not know my way around. I was not sure why I felt so reluctant, except that on the thousand to one chance that this was not a dream, I'd need to tread carefully until I found out a lot more about how this world operated. It seemed I was as feared as Voldemort had been and might actually be Voldemort, or at least was some sort of dark lord, but that would not mean I was automatically safe, perhaps quite the contrary.

Snape obediently walked ahead of me through a labyrinth of twisted passages lit by wall brackets containing torches that lit as we passed, and whose complexity would give the passages at Hogwarts a run for their money. At last the passageway widened out to about thirty feet across. Ahead of us on the far wall was an eleven or twelve foot high carved wooden door which he opened, and then stood aside for me to precede him. My bedroom I presumed.

Sunglasses would have been useful. It was decorated in Extreme Seraglio, and was as over-the-top as the rest of the mansion. Apparently Voldie's taste, er, my taste, while dreadful, was at least consistent.

"Where are the houris?"

"The Hybrex Master?" He held his wand ready to wave. "What do you require this evening Master? Females, males, or perhaps one of the hermaphrodites, or a selection?"

"No, stop! I don't want any of them thanks. I was just joking. I'm too young anyway." Not too young I thought, just too inexperienced. I'd probably just make a fool of myself… though, in a dream did that really matter?... Perhaps just one would be okay ...

Then I noticed that Snape was laughing, apparently he thought I'd tried to make a joke. His laughter sounded dutiful ...and totally unconvincing. "Ah Master, that is a good one! 'Too young'! You who are so ancient, so much older than us all!"

His eyes disagreed with his words; they were saying 'so you found a large phial of idiocy potion and guzzled the lot did you? You blithering nincompoop.'

Not being able to think of a come-back, I ignored the commentary from his eyes, looked down at myself, and then into a mirror hanging on the wall. Um, I did look a couple of years older than I usually did, perhaps more, maybe late twenties, and was there something a bit odd about my eyes? I leaned closer to the mirror. No, no hint of red at all, they were as reassuringly green as ever.

Snape's 'older than us all' was a bit much. His risking offending me by telling me I was old, was rather a surprise too. "You think I look old Snape?"

He hastily suppressed an expression of alarm, but not before I'd noticed it. Not everyone would have noticed, but watching my beloved Uncle Vernon's face for any slight indication of his mood, had given me a thorough grounding in the skill of reading faces, and years at Hogwarts watching the greasy git had only honed my talent. I let him sweat a little. His knees gave way again but this time I did not tell him to stand up.

"No Master. Absolutely not. You misunderstood me I think, you look as young as ever. I was merely referring to your years and incarnate nature."

"So, I lack the brains to understand what you said?"

He pressed himself even closer to the floor and all I could hear were muffled apologies.

Yes, I was being mean, very mean; I don't know what came over me really, perhaps the years of being the butt of the real Snape's sarcasm about my lack of both intelligence and common-sense, and my foolhardiness and arrogance, had built up a store of resentment. I must say, it was satisfying to make the dream Snape pay for it. In real life I had no hope of coming out on top in any conversation with Snape.

But then I felt guilty. I've always hated bullies and here I was bullying this Snape almost as badly as my arrogant bully of a father and Sirius had bullied the real one. This me, this Voldie or kingy, or whoever he/I was, might be as much of a right bastard as the Voldemort I'd known in reality.

"Cripes Snape, I'm not angry at you. Stand up again please, and do stop dropping to your knees every couple of minutes; it's giving me whiplash watching you bobbing up and down." Merlin, how pathetic that sounded, a very second-rate sort of Dark Lord I was making.

"Get going now and get some sleep yourself. That's an order as I think you need it. I'm going to bed."

With more murmured apologies and thanks Snape sidled out through the door. I heard a soft thud from the other side of the door and wondering what had happened, opened it. He was lying on a pallet across the doorway.

"I appreciate your getting into the spirit of the traditional faithful-servant-sleeping-across-the-doorway thing Severus, but that pallet is not long enough for you." I concentrated on turning it into a four-poster bed long enough to fit his six-foot-something frame. The short grey nightshirt he wore did not hide his knees and calves. Hybros may not have been bred for looks but at least his legs weren't half bad, no, not bad at all. I, with my knobbly knees, was rather envious.

"Er, what bedding do you want? Feather bed, woollen blankets and an eiderdown?" I gestured at the fireplace on the left wall of the huge ante-room, causing the fire to flare up, and then cast a warming charm around the bed.

"There. That should keep you warm enough. Close your mouth, you look ridiculous gaping like that, and not at all Snape-ish."

"Thank you Master. You are too kind."

"Yeah, that's me; the last of the Kind Dark Lords, well, the Intermittently Kind Dark Lords anyway."

I stepped back into the bedroom, shut the door, and was about to cast protective wards, when I realised that he would be outside of them. I opened the door again.

"Get up for a min... oh, you're not in bed yet. Good." I shrunk the bed down, levitated it into my bedroom, then expanded it.

Snape was still standing outside the door. "Summon a couple of guards for the door," I ordered. It was slack that there were not half a dozen guards there already. All they had to protect their Whatever-The-Heck-I-Was was just Snape?

Snape waved his wand and two large males walked into the ante-room and took up positions each side of the bedroom door. Normal human wizards or Hybros? There was no way I could tell by looking at them. They both wore the slashed and colourful medieval looking robes that I'd seen previously.

"And you Snape, get in here. You're sleeping in here now. I'd rather you were in here with me on this side of the wards if we're attacked.

"Who might attack us Master? No enemy has been able to breach the palace wards since the 1856 upgrade."

I'd not noticed any particularly strong wards around the place, but then perhaps my mage-sight did not work here. "Err, well, it's best to err on the safe side. As to who might, there are still some Death Eaters around... I mean the Order of course, or Aurors."

"What order is that Master and do you suspect some traitors in your Auror corps?"

What? 'My Auror corps?'

"The Order of the… oh never mind, forget it. I've just realised something I should have realised ages ago. I've read enough Muggle Fantasy fiction to recognise an Alternative Universe when I'm dumped right in the middle of one, even if it is only a dream AU." From the look on Snape's face he thought I'lost a few mor marbles, he obviously hadn't understood much of that.

"Forgive me Great One but are you feeling unwell again?"

"Just overtired, so I'm getting a bit confused. Take that 'I'm concerned that you've gone bonkers again,' look off your face and go to bed," I said as I got in my bed, or rather, climbed, clambered and scrambled up onto it. It was expansive enough to entertain a whole chorus line of Hybrex—which made some sense I suppose—but why it had to be high as well as wide was a puzzle. It did not seem to have been custom-designed for a Short Dark Lord. At least after dragging yourself up and into the thing you'd be tired enough to sleep soundly. After getting in with some difficulty I snuggled down. I could not remember ever going to bed in a dream before, and was beginning to wonder about the 'I'm having a dream' theroy.