disclaimer type=standard

Anything you recognise is either JK's or George's. I daresay anything else belongs to them too.

/disclaimer

o_ooo000ooo_o

My silent, point-blank reducto curse tore through the creature's body, creating an explosive, narrow cone of reptilian xenobiology directly behind it. A fraction of a second later, the weapon in the lizard's hand discharged, a flash of scarlet light in my peripheral vision. I felt the barrel warm under my grasp and a wash of heat near my left ear. In my mind's eye, I could imagine the hair on my temple shrivelling.

My assailant's body, unsupported due to the sudden absence of several vertebrae, collapsed. Bonelessly, so to speak.

Silence reigned.

Chapter 3

I recognised the scene. I'd been in it often enough.

I was the outsider. The outsider who'd just killed someone belonging to the 'in-crowd'. Everyone nearby had expected me to be dead, and were shocked into silence that I'd not gone along with the script. The pervasive stillness was fragile, and wouldn't last long. Even if the lizard-man had been universally loathed, I was still the interloper, and would need to pay the price for the death. If I ran, I'd be attacked. If I stayed, I'd be attacked. Either way, I was a dead wizard.

At least, that was the conventional view. Me? I'd never subscribed to the usual storyline. There were ways to distract people, and a very effective way of doing so was to spill money everywhere. And the lizardman looked as though he had been gambling…

Still holding onto the lizardman's arm, I swung my leg up and kicked the underside of the table. A subtle levitation charm followed by a banisher sent the table flying, while making it look as though I'd kicked it over. Glittering objects went flying, discs, cards and dust. Beings were diving and scrabbling for the scattered valuables before they'd landed.

With the sudden lack of attention on me, I made my move. I wrenched the weapon from the lizard's dead grip and dropped him like the cooling sack of dead meat it was. I turned and pushed my way through the surging crowd. A quick word activated some defensive glyphs sewn into my clothing. They'd stop a bullet or two from a low calibre weapon, so hopefully they'd be at least partially effective here.

The space between my shoulder blades itched alarmingly as I swam against the current. A few other intelligent figures were also pushing away from the central crush.

I was half way to the exit before I heard the noise behind me really ramp up. Shouts of anger turned to screams of fright and the sounds of weapon discharges echoed over the thumping music. Without slowing I turned my head, ready to bolt if needed, or fight.

Neither was necessary. The weapons were being fired directly up, leaving burn marks and shattered light fittings on the metal ceiling. Dozens of aliens braved the danger and scrabbled at the centre of an enormous crowd. Hardly anyone was looking in my direction. One exception was another lizard creature, who stared at me open mouthed. It could have been in surprise, or it could have been in anger. Or, I suppose, it could even have been in lust for all I could decipher the look. But given the dimensions of the mouth in question, it was a very expressive expression.

I pushed my way out, desperate to get away from the scene.

I hadn't managed to learn a single word of the local lingo, but had probably already committed a capital crime or two. Nice going, Potter.


Being used to the sort of shit my life could throw my way in an instant, I didn't spend time berating my decisions that led me to that place. I focused on getting the hell away from there. It turned out to be surprisingly easy, what with all the different species around. I could walk on one side of a gigantic slug as it pushed its way through the crowd, and be totally hidden from view from a good percentage of people around.

Rather than somewhere popular, I decided to go the other way and find a secluded place. It was easier said than done, while standing in the middle of easily the largest cityscape I'd ever been in, but there were a number of parks and plazas around.

An hour or so later, I located a gap between two statues that had fewer aliens standing around than usual. A few flicks of my wand caused them to remember some important errand they needed to accomplish, leaving me more-or-less alone in a city of umpteen millions.

I needed information. And I had a particularly effective source.

I pulled out The Resurrection Stone. Without the big crack through the middle, it worked far better than the old goat had ever dreamed. I could never be sure why Dumbledore had never tried to repair it with the Elder Wand; his shade always avoided answering the question and I had no wish to offend such a valuable source of information by forcing the issue. It's entirely possible it wouldn't work for anyone but the Master of Death. It's also remotely possible that Dumbledore simply didn't think of it. Even genius could overlook obvious solutions occasionally.

I slipped the ring on my pinkie and called to my favourite source of information, "Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore of the House of Dumbledore."

Nothing happened. There was no swirling shadow, coalescing into the familiar form of a condescending old bugger.

I felt my heart rate increase and perspiration bead on my forehead. Dumbledore's shade had always answered my summons before; eagerly even. The old wizard was always overjoyed to learn how the world had changed, though he apparently enjoyed lecturing me even more. Generally on how disappointed he was with my career decisions. With no answer from the translucent, patronizing genius, I called to my next choice. Less useful in terms of knowledge, but guaranteed for a laugh.

"Sirius Orion Black, of the Ancient and Noble House of Black."

Again, nothing.

I bit my lip, suddenly very nervous indeed. Despite the constant, repetitive parental lectures I received whenever I summoned her, I called out, "Lily Potter, of the House of Potter." Still nothing. "James Potter, of the House of Potter. Shit! Remus John Lupin. Nymphadora Lupin of the Ancient and Noble House of Black. Come on Tonks! You always hated that name. Where are you?"

I felt a sudden crushing hopelessness. Was I so far into the future that the spirits of those I had known in life no longer returned? Dumbledore's shade and I had spoken several times about the theoretical limitations of the Stone. He had once postulated that the phrase 'We're not gone while those who remember us remain' actually meant something quite literal. That a person's shade could only be summoned as long as there were people alive who remembered them.

I grimaced. Well, I'd just disproved that hypothesis. I vividly remembered the old man, but couldn't so much as call forth a vapour.

I took a deep breath and growled, causing several aliens with better-than-average hearing scoot even further away from me. Giving in to despair was not my style. Not anymore. It was time to stop feeling sorry for myself and take control. I needed to do something useful, something productive. I ran my fingertips over the double row of eighteen bumps on my belt. Each of the lumps held a small, unbreakable container with a potion – usually a single dose. Since I'd last refilled the belt, I'd used four potions, three while tracking Bellatrix to Scotland, and the healing potion for my head half an hour ago.

I mentally recited the names as my finger traced part of the way around the thirty two remaining vials. I had specifically chosen each potion for both their long potency-life and usefulness while on a mission. While back in my time most of them were relatively easy (if costly) to replace, here in the future I had no idea if even the simplest one was replaceable at all.

Still, the first order of business was information. I needed to know where I was, and what year it was. Hopefully, once I had answers to my first and second questions I could begin to formulate the answer to the third and fourth - how I got here, and, if it was possible, how the hell I was going to get back.

But the nature of my questions was irrelevant. I had no way of asking them. The Resurrection Stone wasn't calling the spirits of the dead, so that avenue was closed to me. The first thing I required was the ability to communicate with the locals. I needed a translator. I could go back to the big temple with all the robed people and hope they'd lend me their robot, or I could sort out acquiring my own. My own would be better. I didn't know how long it would take to have the robot learn English.

I took a moment to fix in my mind my need for someone who could understand me. I eased from its leather home a potion the colour of molten gold. I briefly debated saving it for an emergency; after all, it was nigh on impossible to brew, hideously expensive and rare as a house-broken nundu.

But if being dropped in an unknown city, at an unknown time in the future, where no one speaks English is not considered an emergency, then perhaps my expectations were a mite unrealistic. I thought hard about a translator; someone (or something given the fact that they had robots here) that would be able to help me. I brought the potion to my mouth and swallowed.

The Felix Felicis took effect.

I immediately felt a renewed sense of purpose. A feeling that, given my current sour mood, buoyed my spirits greatly. As when I first tried the potion, I knew exactly the direction I needed to go. I set off.

With the potion guiding my steps, I walked around two buildings and up a pair of long ramps to a distinctly different city level. It appeared to be a sort of nexus of public transportation, reminding me somewhat of the bus station on top of Hammersmith tube station in London - if flying trains were as common as London buses. What really caught my eye however was the fact that the skyscrapers thinned out at this altitude, allowing me my first unrestricted glimpse of the horizon.

Bugger me if it wasn't concrete, glass and steel from skyline to skyline. Tokyo was a collection of mud huts in comparison.

In any other situation, I'd take the time to stop and be suitably awestruck at the sight. But while the luck potion I had imbibed did have a lengthy potency period, it was not unlimited. I scurried up and down the many platforms, searching for the train that felt correct.

There it was. I jumped on the floating train, sat down and waited for it to depart. Once I had my bum on what had been an uncomfortably sticky seat (before some magical cleaning), I was a little more equipped to handle the view. While most of the people and creatures on the train barely looked up from their hand-held computers, I stared out the window at the monstrous city. It was glorious.

Sterile, heartless and alien, sure. But it was glorious nonetheless.

A few minutes later, the train departed, rocketing across the dense urban cityscape ad speeds that may have been disturbing, had I not been an experienced flyer.

According to my Muggle watch (an old-fashioned Swiss-made one that ran on gears and springs rather than batteries – it was infinitely easier to charm hardware), I was on the train for over three hours before I felt the need to get off. In that time, the city did not thin out. The quality, size, style and cleanliness of the buildings ebbed and flowed, but the city itself persisted.

Just how big was this place? Did it have a limit? My mind reeled at the possibilities. How big could a city grow if not limited by resource usage? Could an entire country be covered by concrete and steel? A continent?

A planet?

How on earth (if that still made any sense, given I'd not seen a speck of dirt since my arrival) would you feed all those people?

I emerged onto a station that was significantly more rundown than my point of origin. I joined a crowd in a huge elevator, and as a group we dropped towards the foundations of the city.

Thirty-odd descending stops later, I exited at the lowest floor. I felt close to my goal, a sort of dull, pressing excitement. I found another ramp and made my way further down into the depths of the city. The lower I descended, the fewer humans there were, though the press of bodies remained more-or-less constant. The sheer variety of life was eye-popping, and that was to someone who had met and spoken with serpents, goblins, centaurs, elves, dwarves and acromantulas before puberty.

My single-minded determination was briefly stymied as I passed a stunning, lithe, green-skinned female (at least, I assumed it was female – her well-shaped breasts were a definite hint in forming that theory), the back of whose head was swollen with tissue before narrowing down to two thick, pointy tentacles. Her garments were definitely cut to show off her attributes, and her swagger indicated she had no qualms in testing the self-control of any nearby male.

The potion in my veins forced my attention back to where it belonged; directing me towards what appeared to be a very small, very narrow shop. Without missing a step, I changed direction slightly towards the front door and pushed it open.

The moment I entered, a resounding crash echoed throughout the store, making me tense up as a gust of wind rushed over me.

I scanned the layout of the store in under a second. Instead of the usual method (well, the usual human method) of spreading out stock in neat, organised aisles, this store was arranged vertically. I couldn't make out the roof of the narrow building; from my perspective the walls merged together at some distant point above. Thick shelves overflowed with metallic, ceramic and transparent components and parts – some looked shiny and new, but most did not. A bewildering array of parts, pipes, beams, computers, partial and entire robots, coils of cables, tools and other indescribable objects filled the nearby shelves to bursting.

But it wasn't the fact that the store was vertical that caught my attention. It was the fact that over a dozen creatures were clambering up and down the shelves, sorting and retrieving different pieces of stock.

The creatures looked remarkably like acromantulas.

Not exactly though. The spider-man who appeared to be in charge was behind a counter. He stood upright on its rear pair of legs and was dressed in, for want of a better word, clothes. Each leg (arm?) ended in a three fingered appendage. The apparent storekeeper was currently holding a metal cane of some kind in one of his six available hands. He chittered angrily and waved the cane like a club at one of the many spider-men leaping between the distant shelves.

The crash on my entry had been a huge, semi-transparent crate full of robot heads landing on the floor. It had hit with great force, just behind the creature I assumed was the owner. I'd probably be pissed too if one of my employees had just almost squished me like... well, like a bug.

Spurred on by the potion's effect, I stepped forward and asked, "Do you happen to have anything that can translate for me?"

The creature turned to face me. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise at the sight. Instead of the usual eight eyes, it had six. They were red instead of black, and two of them were far larger than the other four. The thing's mouth was framed by a pair of enormous and terrifying pincers. It waved one hairy arm off to one side and said something in a series of hisses and clicks. Another thin, humanoid robot with an oval head and arms permanently bent at an angle stepped forward and spoke in a human-ish voice. Still, the words made no sense to me at all.

Another one, I thought. This one was a little more rusty and had a definite sense of long-use. Well, here goes.

"Sorry, I don't understand. Can you please get me a robot that speaks English?"

The robot tilted its head slightly to one side, touched its chest with one hand and said, "Em Nine Are Four Two."

Here we go again. I figured that was the robot's name, even if the syllables meant nothing to me. I touched my own chest and said, "I'm Harry."

"I'm harry," the robot repeated.

I sighed and shook my head. I should have seen that one coming. "Harry," I clarified.

"Harry," the robot repeated again. It gestured towards the acromantula-ish storekeeper. "Milanench."

I pointed towards the robot and shook my head. "I want to buy a robot that can understand me." This one wasn't quite right; I suspected that it could learn English, but there was something in this store that was what I needed. I could feel the potion urging me forward.

The creature called Milanench raised one hairy arm and made a weird gesture. I guessed that he wanted payment; it seemed to be a constant of all shopkeepers, no matter what city. Or no matter what species, come to think of it. Goblins and gnomes were the same way too.

I reached slowly and non-threateningly into my robe and brought out the weapon I'd taken from the lizard man's corpse. I placed it on the counter in front of me. Guns were valuable enough in the past. I could only hope that it would be valuable enough to cover the cost of a robot.

The spidery storekeeper looked down at the weapon and gave me what I can only assume was the spider equivalent of a sneer. He half-turned, dipped one of his many arms into the recently-created mess of rusty robot heads and whipped one out, apparently at random.

The metallic object in the spiderman's hand was perhaps half again as large as my own head. With a negligent flip, the object arced through the air, left a small dent in the counter top as it bounced once and thumped hard into my chest. I clasped it reflexively, but nearly dropped it straight away. It was twice as heavy as I had expected.

In the time it had taken for the metal ball to reach me, the weapon I'd offered had been swept away by another arm, and was gone from sight.

I struggled with the 'head' until I could hold it comfortably. It didn't really look much like the head of the robot that tried talking to me. About two thirds was mostly round, with a broad, flat ridge flaring down from the top to the front, split towards the end by a fine grill that was packed full of rust, dirt and muck. Two small trapezoid holes on either side of the ridge gave the impressions of being eyes. On one side there was a bent and half-melted spike of metal that looked a little like it could be the base of an antenna. It was not uniformly weighted; most of the mass seemed to be in the back end.

The rust-coloured surface was pitted and scored so much it was almost smooth, looking as though it had been through several long lifetimes of hard wear and tear. The underside of the object had a thin 'neck'. Twisted and torn, the whole thing appeared as though it had been ripped forcibly from something. It looked worthless, except for one thing.

The potion in my veins sang like an angelic choral symphony. Getting my hands on this thing was the luckiest thing that could happen to me. This had to be my interpreter.

Still, I should object, shouldn't I? It's generally expected.

"That's it?" I exclaimed, looking up at the storekeeper. "This hunk of junk is all I'm getting?"

The creature called Milanench gave me nothing but a pointed silence and an expression I had bugger all chance of deciphering. I turned the head around and tucked it under one arm. "Look here," I said, pointing to the sheered metal. "I'd like the rest of it."

Milanench continued to stare at me, silent as a spider, his two terrifying pinchers moving in and out in a way that would act as the universe's most powerful laxative on Ron.

I wasn't getting anywhere. To haggle effectively, you really needed some common point of reference, and I didn't even have the benefit of being a similar phylum.

I gave a mental snort. Hermione had taught me that word. I felt a brief pang of homesickness at the thought of my bossy friend. "Never mind, I'm out of here," I said gruffly.

I turned the heavy, overly expensive lump of metal around under my arm so that it was relatively balanced. It was a bloody awkward size and shape to carry; I'd have to do something about that once I was out of the shop.

I turned away from the acromantula-man and exited his shop, all the while feeling his gaze on my retreating back. Once out the door, I raised the hood of my cloak, activating the Nothing-To-See-Here charm on my clothes. People would see me well enough that they'd get out of my way, but would consider me unremarkable, even with a large metal head under my arm.

I cast a lightening charm to make carrying my purchase much easier. I was no longer a scrawny, malnourished child, but I was a long way from being buff. I headed off into the crowds, looking for a place in which I could squat while I took stock of my situation. The fading elixir of luck nudged me further down into the bowels of the city. For the next quarter of an hour or so, I made my way through the slowly thinning masses, dodging and weaving. I felt that I was being followed, which was odd, given the charm on my cloak. Still, there were all these apparently intelligent robots around. How would magic designed to confuse human senses affect them? Merlin, how would magic affect alien senses?

There had been several recent problems with the Statute of Secrecy. Well, 'recent' from my personal perspective, not from the perspective of being untold years in the future. Small electronic devices capable of recording video anywhere were appearing on the market, and they made enforcing the separation between the mundane and magical worlds a great deal more difficult. Most of the simpler charms only affected human senses, and didn't fool video cameras, which had led to many potentially catastrophic incidents.

So I had to assume that the robots in this time were capable of seeing me, even if humans dismissed me.

I grimaced at the thought. I'd relied on magic for so long to travel about unnoticed that my skills to blend in naturally had atrophied. I'd have to start practicing again.

The press of humanity (and untold other species) was uncomfortable; there seemed to be little concern for the personal space of others. I found myself unconsciously seeking thinner crowds, moving down further and further into the deepening darkness of the cityscape.

There was some intangible barrier, some natural yet unseen boundary, beyond which the crowd density dropped markedly. The mishmash of odours became difficult for me to ignore; and I'd spent half a dozen years brewing malodorous potions in a minimally ventilated dungeon. The biological scents of hundreds of different species were suddenly trumped by the sharp chemical tang of industrial waste. I cast a bubblehead charm, hoping that the magic imbued in my cloak would keep people from noticing a transparent, pliable membrane on my face.

My fears on that score diminished once I passed a creature that had a mechanical devices fitted over his eyes, mouth and nose. Magic probably wasn't necessary to keep people wondering about something as simple as a bubble around my face.

The walkway I was on traversed the gap between two super-buildings, allowing me to look up to see the dusk-tinted sky. I focused on the towering buildings, with uncountable flying cars travelling in perfect formation between the spires. The city may spread beyond the horizon in every direction, but theoretically that was just a matter of time for any growing population. The true awe-inspiring sight was how oddly depthless it was; one level always seemed to be built on another. Even disregarding my current altitude, the height of the skyscrapers above me meant that the substances used in their construction must be phenomenally strong.

I shook my head at the sudden sense of insignificance and continued on my way. Eventually, as I descended further into darkness the crowds became small groups of furtive individuals, clumping together for mutual protection. This far down in the urban gloom, the buildings were thicker, the thoroughfares narrower.

Dangerous looking beings prowled in the shadows, wearing their lawlessness as a badge of honour. But despite their wariness, the charm on my cloak allowed me to drift past. While a few of the locals occasionally gave me a brief, puzzled glance, most didn't even appear to let me register on their awareness.

It took me about an hour to find a satisfactory place to make a temporary base of operations. Around me, creatures were squatting anywhere that offered even moderate shelter. Even corners were filled with pitiful beings clutching whatever clothes they had around themselves. It would seem that homelessness and poverty were constants throughout time.

Down one blind alleyway however, a broken door partly covered a room about a tenth the size of my old bedroom at Privet Drive. At this level of the city a room such as this was a veritable palace, but the massive, decomposing corpse of an oozing slug-creature did the work of a handful of bouncers in keeping potential squatters away. Insects of all sizes filled the air with a threatening drone as they feasted on the necrotic flesh.

I vanished the remains, scourigfied the small room clean, banished the insects, lit the room and charmed the air clear. Tentatively, I removed the bubblehead charm to find that the air was bearable. Magic was damned useful at times.

I dumped the robot head in a corner and set about crafting a set of sentry and notification wards. The rubble in the alleyway presented me with plenty of raw material to work with. It only took a few minutes for me to etch some runes into a half dozen pebble-sized stones and place them at strategic points in the alleyway. A couple of charms later and I had a notification ward schema erected. It had no capability for active protection (that kind of schema required quite a bit more in the way of materials) but I'd get a warning should anyone with hostile intentions crossed them.

Next, I worked on giving myself more room. I cast a simple repair charm on the broken door, allowing it to close correctly for the first time in untold years. I then performed one of the more difficult pieces of common magic. I traced the edge of the room with my wand, preparing the spell. Once the dimensions were mapped, I concentrated, cast the spell and pushed my hands apart. The expansion charm engaged, enlarging the room's floor space a hundred-fold.

A few wand flicks conjured a couple of pieces of furniture – a desk and a comfortable chair. With a room now larger than the common room in Gryffindor Tower and suitable for work, I rubbed my eyes with the back of my hand. I'd been in this time period less than a day, but with all the emotional stress it felt as though I'd been here for a week.

Treacherous thoughts suggesting that I may never be able to return home threatened to overwhelm me. I'd been trying to keep from thinking them ever since my undignified dunking, forcing myself to remain optimistic. But here, alone in a sterile room and untold centuries away from home, my mood darkened to match the early evening blackness outside.

I sank down into the soft chair and took several deep breaths. A cheering draught would be most welcome and useful at this moment, but I'd never found reason to use one of my limited belt slots for such a simple potion. Not when a dose could be bought from any apothecary or street vendor for a couple of knuts.

Those thoughts magnified my poor mood. I was really starting to feel the effects of being awake for more than a full day.

My gaze turned to the robot head I'd carried down dozens of city levels. With a casual flick and lift, I levitated it to the desk in front of me. I had no idea how badly I had been swindled by the creature called Milanench; the weapon I traded was probably worth the price of this rusty lump of scrap dozens, maybe even hundreds of times over. Hopefully though, a little bit of magic would sort that out. A single dose of Felix Felicius could give the imbiber a full twelve hours of luck; the potion had not yet completely run its course.

I manhandled the head into an upright position, with the 'eyes' facing towards me. I ran my left palm over the top of it, noting that despite the rust-coloured exterior, no rust flecks stuck to my palm. The head rocked under my touch, not having a stable base on which to sit securely.

I looked down at what appeared to be some sort of neck. The sheered and torn metal components were far narrower than a comparable human neck. The broken section was choked with rust and grit, but I could make out the dense electronics behind it. I didn't even bother trying to get a closer look. The last time I worked undercover in the Muggle world I had to get my neighbour's nine-year-old son to reset my microwave clock every time I unplugged it to make some toast. I would only confuse myself trying to work out what it did.

With a wand flick I dismissed the feather-weight spell. Charms from different magical schools didn't conflict much. Healing magic didn't have much impact on spells that changed an objects colour, for example. But spells that affected the physical properties of an object did have unpredictable effects when combined, unless layered correctly. A weight-adjustment charm may well affect the potency of a repair charm. I didn't have the capability (or the inclination) to perform a full arithmancy audit, and I wasn't about to take a risk.

With as much precision as I could muster, I passed the Elder wand through the prescribed motions and cast, "Reparo!"

Even the most potent repairing charm did not work on crafted magical objects that were powered by runes (such as wardstones) or items that had multi-layered charms like broomsticks - if they did, McGonagall or Flitwick would probably have repaired my Nimbus with a word. They were proven to work well on pre-industrial technology, and I'd had excellent results on modern electronics in the past. In my sixth year at Hogwarts, Hermione had tried heroically to shoehorn the concept of reversing entropy into my head, but at the time I'd been lost in the complex answer. It was not until I'd embraced the self-improvement meme that I finally understood the concept of returning an object to a previous state. Just minutes ago, the simple charm had worked well doing exactly that to the door to my new lair, but I could only hope that it would have a similar effect on the broken piece of advanced technology. The robot head looked far more complex than an electronic door.

The pulse of magic flooded the robot head, causing it to vibrate gently. Cosmetically, the surface lost some of the deeper pockmarks, while beyond my sight I could imagine ancient components shaking off the detritus of time and jumping into place. One of the trapezoid depressions that appeared to form the eyes began accumulating all sorts of tiny metallic and ceramic pieces, all fitting together in the most complicated miniature jigsaw puzzle I'd ever seen.

As the magic faded, the last obvious change was the grill on the front of the head. It popped audibly as it straightened and thickened, dislodging dirt, grit and dust.

I tilted my head from side to side, examining the visible changes. "Not bad for a first effort," I decided, nodding with satisfaction. I repeated the spell, once more foregoing speed for precision.

Again, the magic took hold and partially reversed the decay of time. The outer surface smoothed out as erosion was wiped away as easily as dusting a table. The spike on the side of the skull straightened and took on more definition. The second 'eye' depression began filling up with tiny metal bits and pieces.

On casting the charm a third time, transparent coverings spread over the eyes and the spike visibly thickened into what looked like an antenna. Leaning back I considered the changes. They were miniscule yet profound. Whereas before I had to almost squint to get it to look like a head, now it looked almost ready to speak.

I cast the charm once more. This time, there was little change. Despite the rusty colour, the robot head looked as though it had just come out of a manufacturing facility.

My spirits dropped as realisation dawned. I picked it up and turned it over, swearing. The thin neck now ended at a clean break instead of a twisted, rusty mess, but there was one thing missing.

There wasn't a switch to turn the bloody thing on.

Well, there was one way to 'shock' electronics into operation. The only problem was that the technique did quite a bit more than just turn electronic machines on. Hermione had berated me for hours after using it to fix her parent's home entertainment system. I'd accidentally (well, drunkenly, to be completely honest) spilled my drink all over her parents' stereo system.

A smile forced its way onto my lips at the memory of my friend telling me off for using an overpowered repair charm. I'd flooded the system with so much magic that it turned itself on at full volume, and wouldn't turn off or down no matter what we tried. We'd even turned the switch off at the wall and pulled the cable out.

I could never figure out why she was so upset. A silencing charm meant the neighbours weren't disturbed and the magic had run its course a month or so later. No harm, no foul, right?

I set the metal head upright again on the desk and picked up my wand. Forcing as much power as I could, I screamed, "REPARO!"

Chapter 4

The overpowered spell flooded the already repaired head. As the effects of the fifth charm faded, the two 'eyes' grudgingly glimmered into life. With a burst of static, the robotic skull fully lit up, its eyes a deep blood red. A voice emerged, crisp and precise, from the grill on the front, but still in a language I didn't recognise.

o_ooo000ooo_o

AN: Thanks to my reviewers.