2 days later
As strange and ridiculous as this place was, I thought that my being here, if it was a dream, was a strange one, totally unlike in content and length from any dream I'd ever dreamed before. For a start, maybe in other people's dreams day followed night and each day seemed twenty four hours long, but none of my previous dreams had ever been like that. The progression of days and nights, while new to me in a dream, were one of the few things that seemed normal or logical about this world.
After Dobby had arrived a couple of days ago, and after a session of hugs and grins between us that had made Snape very uncomfortable, I'd started to ask Dobby about how long he had been here. At first I thought that he knew me from my real life but a few more questions and talk with him revealed that it was a bit more complicated than that. He remembered me not only from the real world but also, when he got here, he had merged with a Dobby who had always lived here. He had that Dobby's memories too, and so remembered a previous period when Harry had been mostly in control of Harry/Voldemort. He seemed as almost as confused as I was, but his experience was different from mine in that I could not remember anything about the history of the being I'd taken over.
In his 'real' Dobby memories he remembered witnessing his own little funeral when I buried his body at Shell cottage, and then, at some uncertain time later, had found himself here in la-la land, working in the kitchens as a pastry cook, and where, according to his own vague memories and also according to the other house-elves, he had worked for years, ever since he had been a very young elfling.
"We shall just have to make the best of it and see what we can do here. You can be my personal aide and friend, if you want to that is …"
"Dobby want, yes! Dobby honoured to be Great Harry Potter Sir's elf! Dobby be bestest personal aide elf... Dobby will be looking after Master Harry Potter Sir!" He was alternating between hugging my legs and doing a funny little jigging dance around me. Just watching him exhausted me and Snape was eyeing him with thinly disguised disgust.
"Settle down Dobby" I said. "Be still. I'm very happy to meet you again, but at the moment I'm feeling a bit tired."
At which he stopped jigging about, sniffed, snorted loudly, then announced, "The Great Harry Potter Sir not know this bad place. Dobby helps Harry Potter Sir fix, yes Dobby will!"
I knew it!l Snape seemed to think it was a great place to live despite Voldie ruling it and his being a slave—as was everyone else in all but name—but that couldn't be right; for one thing, I owned an elf breeding stud farm, so almost by definition I must be evil... or used to be evil when I was mostly Voldemort… or something.
Yes, that should be the first thing I'd have to do something about. If Hermione was here in this ridiculously unreal 'reality', she'd be less likely to despise me if I'd already got all that stopped ASAP. As I was Head Pooh-Bah-come-El-Supremo, it shouldn't be too difficult to do a 'saving elves thing', no, they were people too, so it was still my 'saving people thing' as she used to call it.
Granted, since coming here, my never very clever brain seemed to be working at only half its normal strength, in fact most of the time it felt as if I was trying to think through a thick padding of cotton wool, which was a worry, but even so, being super-powerful and having the 'my word is law' power, plus Dobby's help, would make the thing 'a piece of cake', yeah, right, obviously.
While thinking about making a start on that project I'd been eating the breakfast that Dobby had arrived with a few minutes earlier.
Snape was eating with me. He seemed more at ease now, far less nervous about sitting at the table and eating with me than he had been. I had asked Dobby to join us too, but he said that he'd eaten 'hours ago, first thing'. As a quick Tempus told me it was 6am, I had to wonder when 'first thing' had been, probably about 3 or 4 am. Perhaps elves did not need much sleep.
"We're visiting the elf farm today,"I informed Severus. "It will be a surprise visit – so no telling anyone about it, that's an order by the way. There is only one elf farm isn't there? Please tell me there is only one."
Snape hastily swallowed a mouthful of toast. "Yes My Lord, there is only one. They will be delighted and overwhelmed by your lordship's unequalled condescension in visiting them.
I have instructed the Hydrex to run your bath and await your pleasure. Shall I lay out your…" He broke off as Dobby re-appeared, rushed over to the walk-in wardrobe, grabbed a green cloak and dragonhide boots and laid them on the bed...
"You little …" He glanced at me and broke off again, but the tension in his lips revealed his fury at Dobby's encroaching on what he considered to be his territory. Apparently dressing me was Snape's bailiwick.
He continued, addressing Dobby, "It is my duty and my pleasure to be the Master's valet. You, elf, will confine yourself to the kitchen." Apparently he'd forgotten I'd told Dobby that he could be my friend and aide.
Despite my natural bias in favour of Dobby, I had to admit that the long orange sock on one foot, the shorter knee-high stocking on the other, and the purple, yellow and red hats he was wearing, probably meant that he had no more colour or clothes sense than he'd had in the past, and did not give me any confidence in having him as my valet. The robes and boots he had selected for me looked fine however - and if Snape chose my clothes I would no doubt soon have an all-black wardrobe.
Restrained by my presence, neither Snape nor Dobby said any more, however they were exchanging glares which promised slow and messy mutual deaths as soon as either I or they left the room.
"I can chose my own clothes" I said. They both turned to glare at me. (Well, a betrayed look from Dobby and a hint of disapproval from Snape.)
I caved. "Okay, Severus can suggest, just suggest mind you, what I'm to wear every day this month, and next month you can do it Dobby."
Dobby's eyes started to water so I added. "If you wish, you may come with us today when we visit the elf stud farm." At which he exclaimed "Dobby will gets more hats!" and popped out of the room.
I wondered where he was getting his clothes from, as real-world Dobby's hats had been knitted by Hermione and his socks had been Christmas presents from me and others. I shook my head to clear it of the distraction. I had more important things to think about than how and where Dobby got his clothes.
As it turned out, we didn't get around to visiting the elf farm that day. Just as we were about to depart I felt a searing pain at the site of my old scar. "Oh gods no!" I started to stagger and would have collapsed onto the floor had Snape not caught and carried me to an armchair. He was extremely concerned and fussed around me so much it was as if his mind had been taken over by Molly Weasley or Poppy.
He held a potions phial near my hand. "Please drink this Master, it will help with the pain. Take just a small sip." I grabbed it eagerly and gulped a couple of mouthfuls of it, much to his alarm.
"That's great stuff!" I exclaimed, as within a few seconds the pain almost vanished.
Despite the sudden cessation of pain I was feeling shaky… and worried too; I was scared it meant that the Tom Riddle part of me was trying to be in control. "Do I get like pains like that when Voldie tries to take over?" I asked him.
"No Master, I believe not. That has always happened while you were asleep—from what we have been able to observe, during untroubled sleep."
Well, I supposed that was good news; at least I wouldn't know much about it beforehand if he took charge again.
"I am not sure I'm up to tackling the house-elf farm problem at the moment, I think I'll do that tomorrow instead," I said, "but I do need to get out of here for a while, I need fresh air. I'll take a walk around the grounds. There is a garden here?"
That evening I told both Snape and Dobby that I wished to be alone for a while, and asked Dobby to bring me a couple of bottles of butterbeer and a sandwich; avocado and lettuce if possible, and to toast the bread.
When Dobby popped back with the butterbeer and sandwich I waved him away rather abruptly, and then sat down to eat and think about what had happened that day, and what it meant. Half an hour later I'd reluctantly concluded that the 'alternate reality' theory and the I'm dreaming one were both wrong, and that the most likely explanation was that I'd gone crazy and in reality was lying in a bed next to Neville's mum and dad in the loony ward, err, sorry, in the Janus Thickey ward for long term spell damage, at St Mungo's.
I supposed that there was still a remote possibility that I was having a regular dream, but if I was, then I thought that I would have woken up by now. If it was not a normal but extended and strange dream, that left three possibilities: I was crazy and this world was all in my head. I was dreaming but it was because I was lying in a coma somewhere, or, Snape's earlier suggestion that this was the real world and I'd been in a coma and had imagined and created the other world.
But I didn't think Snape's theory could be right because if I had dreamt up the other world, then I had imagined a world that despite being ridiculous and illogical in many ways, nevertheless was extremely detailed and had more internal consistency than this world had. I didn't think I was clever enough to have done that. Also, I'd not thought of it before that instant, but Dobby, like me, remembered being in my real world before he came here, so surely that meant that this world was either a dream or an alternate universe to which we we had both travelled - and I had not just dreamed up my old world. Aggh! I gave up thinking about it for a while; it was getting me no-where and anyway, whether I was really here now or merely dreaming that I was, did not make a great deal of difference as, either way, I seemed to be stuck here, so I might as well just take each day as it came.
As Snape had said in response to my query about the existence of a garden, there were several; the grounds extended for about three or four square miles and most of it was garden. It was the people we had come across when I'd decided to explore the palace gardens who had been rather a shock. After wandering through an exquisite Japanese garden and then a very large walled garden that Snape called 'The Blue Garden,' I felt rather well. The quiet and beauty of them both had relaxed me, and I no longer felt as shaky as I had after my head had exploded in pain just as it used to do when I still had a horcrux in my forehead.
As we left the walled garden, and in order to get to the entry to the next garden, we had to walk across the corner of a expansive paved area. It was about the size of a couple of football grounds, and was all paved in what looked like marble. Across on the other side of it, or perhaps beyond the other side, were some large buildings that looked rather like hangars. I asked Snape what they were. "Those buildings over there, they are not aircraft hangars are they?" I thought it very odd that what looked like muggle buildings would be not only so close to us, but also either actually on the palace grounds or very close to them.
Snape looked bewildered for a moment. I realised that I'd asked a stupid question; of course he had no idea what aircraft were, let alone what muggle aircraft hangars were.
"Forgive me Master, I am unfamiliar with the term 'hangar' although 'aircraft' would be an excellent term…"
I interrupted him. "Forget it. Just tell me what those buildings are and what they're for. They are on the palace grounds aren't they?"
"Yes indeed Master. The largest buildings are dragon stables and the smaller buildings are for your household Dragoon regiment, their servants and other workers."
"Dragon stables? Like horse stables but for dragons, and the Dragoons, the dragon cavalry?"
"They actually ride the dragons? Surely not?" I was surprised; the dragons I knew were not trainable at all, or so I'd been told.
This was definitely a very different world if dragons could be ridden. 'Dragoon' cavalry who rode dragons instead of horses amused me. "Most apposite." I said. 'Apposite' had been my 'word of the day' about five weeks ago so I was chuffed that I'd managed to remember it, but not certain that I'd correctly remembered what it meant. Not that it mattered all that much; in this reality I had Humpty Dumpty's power of mastery over words, of making them mean whatever I wanted them to mean.
I turned and started to walk towards the buildings and Snape, longer legs and all, had to run a few steps to keep up with me.
I was eager to see the dragons and their riders but was not getting there fast enough. They were much further away than I'd thought. "Dobby, get me a broomstick. Oh, and one for Snape too. Decent ones, Firebolts if there are any, or something similar."
Within moments Dobby had popped away and returned, carrying two racing brooms and one smaller one. "Oh, thanks. And you got one for yourself too? Sorry, I thought you'd do your popping thing, or I'd have asked you to get one for yourself too."
We took flight. As we neared the buildings I found myself getting more and more excited at the notion of dragons that were trainable enough to be ridden; that was something that I was pretty sure was impossible in my old world.
As we landed I asked, "Do you think they'd let me fly on one?" Receiving no immediate answer I looked around at Snape and Dobby; both of them had a 'duh!' expression on their faces. Before they could say anything I added. "Oh yeah. I forgot for a moment that I'm El Supremo around here. Dragon flight coming up."
The dragon riders must have noticed our approach, as a group of what looked to be about twenty people emerged from one of the smaller buildings and started towards us.
In the lead was a moustache, a large, wide, curl-ended, red moustache, which decorated the face of a middle aged wizard. He was clad in a skin-tight black dragonhide suit. He was slightly too stout for the uniform, but I did not notice that until we got closer, my gaze was riveted on his moustache. Then I noticed, it was hard not to, that all the males in the group wore moustaches, many of them large but none as impressive as that of their leader. They reminded me of a photo I'd once seen of muggle soldiers of a generation or four ago, when moustaches had been compulsory in the muggle British army. They all wore leather body suits, but they varied widely in cut and colour.
They had drawn their wands as we flew towards them, but as we landed and they could see who their visitors were, they hastily replaced their wands in their arm holsters and sprang to attention. At least this lot did not fall on the floor when they recognised me which was a relief; a regiment that prostrated itself every time it saw its leader would be at rather a disadvantage.
On landing Snape had somehow managed to entangle his broom in his robes. So much for his dignity; I couldn't help but stare while he attempted to free himself. Most of the time he was so like my Snape that every time he behaved out of character it really startled me. Still stuck, he hopped to my side, leaned towards me, and whispered, "Major Bloodnok".
The major dipped his head. "Your Excellency!" he bellowed, causing his moustache to flare out as if taking wing. I jumped back to avoid the spittle.
"Major Bloodnok. I suggest you lower your volume. Spit in my direction again and you'll be demoted to stable boy and shovelling dragon shit for the foreseeable future."
Ignoring his spluttered apologies I continued, "this is an inspection. I will see everything and meet everyone. You there," I pointed to one of the three witches (yes, the prettiest one) in the group. "You will show me around. We'll start with the…" I stopped because Bloodnok was saying something to me about her not being a suitable person, that he would be honoured to show me around the site himself. I was so astounded that he had dared to interrupt me, let alone say that I had chosen the wrong person, that I hardly heard the rest of what he said. Judging from his attitude, the Voldemort half of me had either not been so addicted to using Cruciatus as a punishment as my Voldie had been, or, more likely, Bloodnok had never been in his presence before.
I turned and glared, one of several first class glares I'd copied from real Snape, and was tempted to curse him; 'Crucio' on the tip of my tongue. (Later I would worry about that, but at the time it seemed natural and entirely justified to want to hurt him.) He paled, stepped back and kneeled. The urge to Crucio him lessened, but then I realised that I needed to do something at least, something to maintain my authority and role. 'Petrificus Totalis' I thought. He became rigid, except for his eyes, they were rolling.
"Leave him there," I ordered. "Who is next in charge here?" A sandy haired titan stepped forward. He was about a foot taller than I was, even with the enhancements I'd given myself that first evening when I was bathed by the Hybrex.
"That would be me, My Lord, Captain Eccles, sir."
'What?!' I'd thought the 'Bloodnok' funny enough, but I managed to say "Good to meet you captain," as I stared into his eyes, trying to find out if he was having me on.
Apparently I was no Legilimens as I couldn't enter his thoughts. That was a surprise, an unwelcome surprise. So far in this world I'd been able to do everything I'd attempted, and real Voldemort had been an expert Legilimens, so it was strange that I was not. Perhaps I could only do that when I was more Voldie than The Boy Who etc.
"No doubt you have a Bluebottle here as well?" I grinned.
"Yes My Lord," he said, and nodded towards the small, blonde, leather-clad witch I'd chosen as my guide. "May I present Lieutenant Bluebottle, My Lord."
That did not amuse me; it shocked me. I thought of sending Snape or Dobby back to the palace for Veritaserum. This either had to be a set-up or it was rather solid evidence for the 'I'm dreaming' theory.
I pulled my thoughts together and put thinking about these Dra-Goons aside for the moment. 'If necessary I can torture the truth out of them later,' I thought, and then amended that thought to 'use Veritaserum, not torture, use Veritaserum'.
Captain Eccles eyes widened. I looked around, they all looked fearful, so I forced myself to smile, which made them all flinch. "Thank you captain, you and your men stand at ease and remain here. I'll send my small friend if I require you," I ordered.
I addressed the delectable small blonde lieutenant. "Come," I said, and followed by Snape, Dobby and Lieutenant Bluebottle who had not yet dared to say anything, I walked towards the nearest and largest building. I turned slightly towards Snape and Dobby and signalled that they were to fall back slightly, then beckoned Lieutenant Bluebottle to come forward and walk beside me. She came forward a bit but was still a pace or two back.
"No, right here beside me Lieutenant. I can't talk to you back there." At which she came alongside, still not venturing to say anything.
Her head was tilted forward so that her thick, just above shoulder length dark blonde hair, hung as a curtain, concealing all but her nose. That was slightly annoying, however it did mean I could get a good look at the rest of her without her being too aware of it. She was worth looking at; medium height, a little on the thin side perhaps, but with medium sized breasts that saved her from looking androgynous in the leather body suit.
As we neared the door I could hear a rumbling noise. It sounded like a crowd of people all talking at once, while in the background there was orchestral music with the base turned up too much. I did not ask my companion what the rumbling was; I'd find out soon enough.
I had intended, self-consciously virtuously, to start the inspection by looking at what the quarters for the lowest of the employees was like—I hadn't done that in the palace yet I'd reminded myself—then do the same for the flying corps, and then going on to the kitchens and food and saving the best part, the dragons and their mews, for last. However the first building we entered was where the dragons were housed. Seeing and hearing them put all thought of everything else out of my mind. The 'rumbling' was coming from them.
The 'room' we had entered was huge, absolutely enormous, the ceiling must have been a good hundred metres above us and the far wall, well there was no far wall, the whole back of the area was open to the air. There were no pens or divisions, nor were the dragons tethered. There were dozens or so large six foot high platforms of smooth rock, on nearly all of which lay dragons, dragons of many different breeds and sizes. I couldn't see any that looked like the breeds I knew.
"I shall need you to identify their breeds for me Bluebottle," I said.
Before she could reply, a dragon's head, the size of an old yank petrol guzzler car, appeared before me. "She doesn't know."
"It's no use asking her. She doesn't know. She'll tell you I'm a Greater Snow White. I ask you, do I look like a little muggle fairy tale heroine? What nonsense!"
"Well... to be fair, you do a bit," I said slowly, looking at the head of a dragon, the head the size of two whole wildebeests, that had appeared in front of me. " I can see how they made the mistake; Snow White was beautiful, had white skin, black hair and red lips, and your scales are a wonderful silvery white except on your crest which is shimmering black, and around your mouth where the scales shade to red. So, yes I can understand their thinking to some extent, however, it should have been Greatest, not Greater, that is obvious; I can't understand what they were thinking there." I did understand one thing already, the dragon was vain and all powerful Dark Lord or not, I would be a fool to offend it.
"You do seem to have a few more grey cells than most wizards I must say. At least you've bothered to learn our language. We might be able to make a half-way decent dragon rider of you, in a decade or two, given intensive training."
"Thank you. I think."
"You look very similar to another True Language speaker we had here a couple of centuries ago, but the eyes are different. He was a big disappointment. Couldn't take the training, and wimped out after the first few lessons. You are not he I trust? We'll have to kill you if you are of course. Can't have semi-trained riders wandering d'ye see."
"Me? Wasn't me, someone who looked like me but with red eyes, nah, no sir! He was some sort of fifth cousin of mine I think: definitely not me."
"Pleased to hear it. We shall start your training tomorrow. It's about time we had a dragon rider around here."
"What? But what about the Dragon Rider regiment?"
"Our servants? Don't make me laugh. Not. A rider amongst the lot of 'em. Hasn't been for years, over six centuries. Huh! They pretend they are riders, but has anyone ever seen one of 'em actually riding a dragon? Course not! Clambering over our backs to clean our scales is the closest they ever come to it, and even that scares the fertiliser out of 'em. To a man they'd vomit up their puny guts or faint if we took to the air with 'em on our backs."
Well that was a more than a small disappointment. My regiment of dragon riders was actually a regiment of dragon nurses, cleaners and shit-shifters. I suppose I should not be too surprised, not when it contained a Bloodnok, an Eccles and a Bluebottle, that had to have been a CLUE that they were a joke.
I was not too keen to ride a dragon after all. A few decades of training? And apparently I'd already dropped out of basic training once before. I made an excuse.
"Great Dragon," I said. (He had not told me his real name yet, but I thought 'Great Dragon' respectful enough to keep on his good side.) "I am immeasurably grateful for your offer to train me, it is a great honour indeed, however I must postpone the commencement of it for a decade or two, if you will allow that. I am but newly arrived here and my first task is to get the country in order."
"Hmm. Pity. You looked so promising too. I am not impressed. We may need to incinerate you. We are not impressed are we?" He added, turning to the other dragons, who as one, chorused "NOT IMPRESSED. WE MAY INCINERATE YOU," and dragon-glared at me. Let me tell you, a glare from a dragon, even one dragon, puts even the best Snape-glare into the 'Fail!' basket. The glare from dozens of the beasts loosens one's bowels. Not mine of course; that I happened to use a quick wandless cleaning charm at that moment was a coincidence.
"Well! I must get going. Have to see a man about a dog. Go for a walk and stuff. Housework, vacuuming and things. Lots of things to be done." I was vaguely aware that I was babbling.
There was a rumbling thunder coming from dozens of throats. I quailed... Then I realised it was laughter. I stood up straighter and tried to look as if I had deliberately made a joke.
"The lad's a comedian. Good one boy. If you really want to go for a walk I suggest the Forbidden Forest back of here. Lots to see and do." They all laughed again. "Though be careful where you step as there are plot holes in that forest so large we use them to trap erumpents; they are not so deliciously tasty a morsel as a young human, but satisfyingly chewy."
Again the laughter rumbled and echoed around the hangar, unnerving me... That is, it would have unnerved me, had I not been a Gryfindor and an old hand at the dragon-confronting business, Boy-Who-Won-the-Triwizard-Tornament, me… Okay, they'd said I cheated in the first task, but it wasn't my fault that the Horntail had taken a shine to me: something about being a sucker for green eyes she'd said and had simpered and pushed the golden egg towards me so that all I'd had to do was pick it up and walk back out of the arena.
It was nearly lunch time so I had to return to the Parthenon. (Lunch time being at whatever hour of the clock I wanted it to be of course, which today happened to be right about now.)
Lieutenant Bluebottle had stepped back when I'd started to talk to the dragon. I said goodbye to the dragons and turned towards her and to Snape and Dobby who were also behind me. Snape still had the end of his broom entangled in his robe. What was the man thinking? Wasn't he a wizard? Then I saw why: every time Severus pulled his broom from the hem of his robe, Dobby flicked a finger towards it and the robe curled itself around the broom again.
"Dobby! Stop that at once. Snape, Dobby, we are returning home. I'm feeling peckish.," And I led them back the way we had come.
"Lieutenant Bluebottle, thank you for your company. We shall continue this visit another time. By the way, you and the rest of the regiment shouldn't call that dragon I was talking to 'Snow White,' he doesn't q like it and it is not his name."
"What is his name Lord?"
For some reason I had not asked, nor had he volunteered it. "It would be unpronounceable for anyone not a parselmouth. I suggest you just call him something respectful, Great Dragon would do, they all understand English perfectly well so be careful what you say around them...Fetch that idiot major for me, I have some instructions for the regiment." We shall see how they cope with an order for a fly-past the Parthenon to display their aerial skills on dragon back.
"Your will my Lord," she said, looking frightened, and ran towards the members of the regiment who were still standing around the rigid form of Major Bloodnok.
AN I'm not certain if I'll continue this fic as it has generated very little interest.