Some of you know this already; others will find it freaky and weird. The confession is this: I have written Harry Potter fanfiction.
I wrote a few stories after Order of the Phoenix was released. Some people liked them. Most of them I don't really think very much of myself. I think there's a few of them still around, but I don't go back to them. I was quite getting into it, and then Half-Blood Prince came out, and blew the story ideas I was working on out of the water, and between one thing and another I never went back.
But there was one story I wanted to write but hadn't written. And I wanted to write it before I read Deathly Hallows, which I probably won't for a few days because I can't afford new books right now. I only even got one book at the annual Regent Booksale last night, and that cost me 50c.
Anyway, here's the story. And if you thought Harry Potter fanfiction was a freaky and weird idea, I dread what you'll think of Harry Potter/Discworld crossovers. For such it is.
Here he was, then. But "here" was a different place.
Black sand, gritty underfoot. Pale stars overhead, and a hint of mountains on the distant horizon the sky was so dark it was hard to see where it stopped and the ground began. The air was not cold, but he shivered.
How had he come to be here? Recent events were... unclear. They'd been fighting, wands drawn, and then...
His enemy must have known a spell that would cause him to Apparate to somewhere random. He made a note to learn that spell if he could get back. For now, he needed light. He drew his wand.
Lumos! he thought. Nothing happened. "Lumos!" he said aloud; the sound was oddly dead. Still no light. Was this a null magic area? He'd heard of them, but never been in one before.
Something prickled on the back of his neck, and he turned. Approaching unhurriedly over the dark sand was a tall figure, cloaked in black from head to foot, its face quite invisible in its hood. A thing of menace, in this darkened world.
He shook himself. Cloaked figures were nothing to fear. A Dementor, or a Death Eater either way, it couldn't harm him.
"Who goes there?" he said, in a commanding tone except that, once again, the air sucked the life out of his voice.
The stranger's words, when they came, seemed to enter his head without passing through his ears.
"Tom Riddle is dead," snapped Voldemort. "I killed him. His name is not spoken. In view of your ignorance," he put as much haughty magnanimity into his voice as he could muster, "Lord Voldemort will be lenient on this occasion."
VOLDEMORT? VOL DE MORT... IS THAT IN THE SENSE OF "FLIGHT FROM DEATH" OR "THEFT OF DEATH"? AND I'M NOT SURE YOU SHOULD PRONOUNCE THE "T" ON THE END...
"What are you babbling about, you fool?"
PARDON ME. I WAS MERELY TAKING AN INTEREST. IN ANY CASE, I ASSURE YOU WE HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR FROM THIS "LORD VOLDEMORT".
"I am Lord Voldemort," snarled Voldemort, drawing himself up to his full height which, he noted with inward dismay, did not quite equal that of the stranger. "You will address me as 'Lord', you will obey me, and you will speak of me with respect."
Legilimency, Voldemort found, was not working either; but the attitude of the cloaked figure indicated puzzlement.
NO, NO, said the stranger. IT DEFINITELY SAYS "TOM RIDDLE" HERE. A hand emerged from the dark cloak, the fingers longer and paler than his own; it held a peculiarly-shaped assortment of glass bulbs something like a large hourglass, with six smaller timers attached around the sides, and tubes passing through the middle. All the sand lay in the bottom bulb.
"Beware," said Voldemort, essaying a threatening glare. "Death awaits you if you defy me!"
This time, the featureless hood contrived to seem amused. YOU KNOW, THERE'S A RATHER INTERESTING IRONY TO WHAT YOU JUST SAID... IN ANY CASE, the stranger went on, I HAVE SOME THINGS THAT BELONG TO YOU. The glass contraption vanished back into the dark robes. The figure began drawing out more things, which it set in mid-air before it, where they floated: a Muggle diary, a small ornate cup, a ring with a black gem, a heavy locket; then, with a hiss, a snake crawled out from behind (or perhaps under) the skirts of the cloak...
"Where did you get those?" Voldemort could no longer disguise his fear.
WELL, THEY GET DESTROYED, YOU SEE, SO THAT THEY JOIN THEIR OWNER IN THE AFTERLIFE. IT'S A BURIAL CUSTOM OF SOME SORT, I BELIEVE. I'M SUPPOSED TO BRING THEM TO THE OWNER. THEY DO MAKE THE PLACE DREADFULLY UNTIDY IF THEY'RE LEFT LYING ABOUT.
"Afterlife? Who are you?" Voldemort recoiled.
I... AM THE NEXT GREAT ADVENTURE. The stranger drew back his hood a little, and Voldemort saw his face for the first time: the bony chin, the grinning teeth, the vacant cheeks, the dark eye-sockets with their tiny pinpoint stars.
Voldemort screamed, then leapt forward, jabbing his wand wildly at Death. "Avada Kedavra!" As before, there was no effect; no flash of light, no surge of power. "Avada Kedavra!"
NOW THERE'S A FAMILIAR PHRASE. YOU AND YOUR FOLLOWERS HAVE BEEN KEEPING ME VERY BUSY LATELY. A hint of reproach crept into Death's voice. REALLY, TOM, YOU CAN HARDLY BLAME PEOPLE IF THEY GET A BIT UPSET ABOUT IT ALL.
"No, no," said Voldemort, shaking his head frantically. "Those were Muggles. They get born and die like animals. They have no magic at all. You can't really call them people."
I SEE. Death shrugged. AND YET HERE YOU ARE, DEAD, JUST LIKE THEM. NOW, TOM, I REALLY MUST BE GOING. THERE'S A WAR IN YUGOSLAVIA I NEED TO SEE TO. JUST ONE MORE THING.
"What?" Voldemort stood motionless. His terror had not faded, but it had reached a kind of plateau, and he could keep it in check for the moment.
WELL, YOU SEE, WHEN WIZARDS DIE, I'M SUPPOSED TO GIVE THEM A CHOICE. YOU CAN PASS ON TO THE NEXT LIFE, OR YOU CAN STAY IN THIS ONE AS A GHOST. IT'S UP TO YOU.
"What happens if I... pass on?" Voldemort dreaded the answer, but was it better to face his destiny in ignorance?
GENERALLY, I UNDERSTAND, YOU GO TO WHATEVER AFTERLIFE YOU BELIEVE IN. HEAVEN, HELL, REINCARNATION, NIRVANA, ANNIHILATION, ALL THAT SORT OF THING. WHATEVER YOU'VE ALWAYS TRULY BELIEVED WAITED BEYOND MY DOOR.
"I'll take ghost-hood, then," said Voldemort immediately. "I shall haunt them forever, all of them, everyone who did me wrong. They'll live to regret killing me, I'll tell you that!"
IS THAT YOUR FINAL ANSWER?
"Yes. Yes, it is!"
YOU WOULDN'T LIKE TO RECONSIDER?
Voldemort thought of what lay beyond the grave of his dreams, and stamped his foot, making no sound but raising a little cloud of floating sand. "No! No, I won't reconsider! Make me a ghost!"
VERY WELL. AS YOU WISH. Death reached out a hand, a small silver key between his fingers. Voldemort saw it snap into a dark keyhole in the air, and heard it click as Death turned it.
THERE. IT'S DONE. I MUST INFORM YOU, HOWEVER, THAT THOSE WHO BECOME GHOSTS OFTEN FIND THAT THERE ARE... OTHER GHOSTS TO CONTEND WITH. THE PEOPLE WHO WENT BEFORE THEM AND HAVE, WELL, WHATEVER REASON THEY MIGHT HAVE TO BE ANGRY WITH THE NEW GHOST, COME BACK AND TAKE REVENGE. I'VE NEVER SEEN THE POINT OF IT MYSELF. YOU MIGHT WANT TO KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN.
"What?" Death was already walking away. "Stop! You can't leave me like this! You never told me about that before I made the choice! Is that your idea of justice?"
Death halted in mid-step, and turned slowly. For a moment, his eyes burned red. JUSTICE, TOM RIDDLE?
Voldemort's fear finally overcame his powers of speech; he said nothing.
THERE'S NO JUSTICE, TOM. THERE'S JUST ME. YOU OF ALL PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW THAT. Death turned about again, strode a couple of steps, and disappeared, leaving Voldemort alone.
Voldemort closed his eyes tight, and pressed his hands over them, waiting. His heart was not pounding well, that was more or less the point but terror was over-ruling his mind. Suddenly, however, it occurred to him that if his magic wasn't working any more, then neither would his enemies'. He lowered his hands.
"Very well," said Voldemort to the inside of his eyelids. "Come on, Dumbledore. Do your worst."
But when he opened his eyes, Dumbledore was not there. Standing in front of him, staring into his face, was a boy, dark-haired, handsome but for the deathly pallor of his face. He had seen that boy long ago, in mirrors.
"Do your worst," said the boy, and five other voices. Voldemort whirled; he was surrounded by pale images of himself, at different ages, their faces distorted to differing degrees.
"No," he said.
"No," they mocked him.
"Leave me! I command you!" he shrieked.
"I command you! I command you!" they screeched in reply.
He tried to make a run through the gap between two of the figures, but they retreated as he advanced; behind him, the others followed. He was trapped, at the centre of a circle of the fragments of his own shattered soul.
"What have you done to us, Tom?" said the dark-haired boy.
"What have you done to us?" echoed the others, one after another.
And the six Tom Riddles began to walk around him, spiralling inward, with absolute hatred in their eyes. Voldemort screamed, and they all screamed in reply...