When the duck starts taking off, you know it was a really bad idea to drop acid in the Chinese

Will Self's "Real Meals" column.

I’ve shifted my business back to Wong Kei. As regular readers of this column will be aware, the realest restaurant meal I eat – in terms of both its Heideggerian thrownness and my own helpless habituation – is a plate of barbequed pork and crispy pork rice, with a dish of Chinese vegetables in oyster sauce, washed down with a pot of green tea. I’ve been eating this meal week in, week out for over 30 years in a series of restaurants around Soho in London.

I began in Man Lee Hong on Lisle Street in the late 1970s. When that establishment closed in the early 1980s, I shifted to Wong Kei – then in the mid-1980s I upped sticks to China China on the corner of Gerard Street, where I remained for almost two decades until it changed ownership and became one of those hateful all-you-can-eat buffets. Forced out in the early Noughties, I scurried down Newport Place to the Canton, where I was perfectly happy until a couple of years ago the gaff was sold from under me and the quality of its hog dropped precipitately. Homeless for a while, I wandered the streets disconsolately, toying with esoteric Chinese medical practices – cupping, candles stuck in my ears, twisted roots to resurrect my own . . . twisted root – until a few months ago, on impulse, I returned to Wong Kei.

I’d been gone so long the entire establishment – all four storeys – had upped sticks and moved. True, it has only shifted a few yards into Wardour Street but in many ways the new Wong Kei is worlds apart from the old. I remember my late lamented mate Smiler telling me about a grim episode in the old Wong Kei. He’d gone in to eat a nourishing congee in the throes of a serious heroin withdrawal, and on impulse thought he’d ask the waiter if he knew of a good acupuncturist who could alleviate his suffering. Some things in Wong Kei – such as the vertiginous language barrier – don’t change, so Smiler mimed the insertion of needles; perhaps a little too vigorously, because the waiter began nodding his head, then led Smiler through a back exit into an adjacent basement where a rather fearsome Tong-ish type offered him an ounce of smack at a knockdown price.

My own drug experience in the old Wong Kei was equally bizarre. I’d been with a friend at the Notting Hill Carnival, where, oppressed by the crowds, we had retreated to the top of one of the structures in the Meanwhile Gardens adventure playground. Up there it seemed like a good idea to drop some acid. My friend – who was and remains an impatient fellow – couldn’t wait for the major hallucinogen to come on, and so suggested that we hightail it into town and have a Chinese meal. Ensconced on the top floor of Wong Kei – with time decelerating to the ever-so-’umble leg rubbing of a fly that skulked beside a stray grain of rice wearing the face of Uriah Heep – my foolish pal ordered dish after dish. Then, as they began to arrive, each one more phantasmagorical than the last – glacéed giblets, chickens feet in birds’ nests, three flattened flying ducks – he got the fear and fled, leaving me to settle my own rebelliously fluttery stomach and the bill, before clawing my way out into a London full of ghosts of the civil dead.

But as I say: that was then – and this is now. Wong Kei’s new premises have none of the outright seediness of the old. This is a handsome building in the art nouveau style – Sara Bernhardt laid the foundation stone, Henry Irving the coping stone, and according to an English Heritage blue plaque on the facade, it was for many years the premises of one Willy Clarkson, wigmaker and theatrical costumier. I once unveiled a blue plaque for H H Munro (Saki), the prose laureate of the unheimlich. It was in Mortimer Street and the chairman of the relevant committee, Loyd Grossman, came along to conduct me on to the scaffolding outside the inventor of Sredni Vashtar’s former rooms. I had no idea what to expect from the own-label presenter of Masterchef, but Grossman was charming – never more so than when the two of us had to clamber across a desk at which its occupant continued to work (the flat is now an accountants’ office). How apt, we both remarked.

Perhaps if everyone in government had eaten at Wong Kei, there’d have been no need for them to suspend the putting up of these helpful identity pucks – my bill came to £10 including a tip. Then I did something bizarre, and asked the guy at the till what Wong Kei meant – a piece of information I’d failed to solicit since Thatcher’s first term. “Famous,” he said. And there we have it.

Crispy duck in the window of a China town restaurant. Photograph: Getty Images

Will Self is an author and journalist. His books include Umbrella, Shark, The Book of Dave and The Butt. He writes the Madness of Crowds and Real Meals columns for the New Statesman.

Show Hide image

Harry Potter and the Rift in Time: a Stephen Bush fanfic

It’s increasingly clear I did not know what the word grimaced meant.

Hello. I’m Stephen, and from 2000 to 2006 I wrote fanfiction, a topic I’ve written on before. But for our Harry Potter Week, I agreed to dig up a masterpiece from the deepest reaches of the Internet. So here, for the first time since 2003, unedited, is…

Harry Potter and the Rift in Time

a_wide_eyed_wanderer

A note on setting: as with the bulk of the Harry Potter fanfiction I perpetrated, this was written during what fans called “the long summer” – between the Goblet of Fire, published in 2000, and The Order of the Phoenix, published in June 2003. I wrote this a few months before The Order of the Phoenix came out.

Chapter One

Summer had ended, as summer always does.

Some profound stuff here.

And so Harry and Ron found themselves once again aboard the train to Hogwarts.

“Good summer, ‘arry?” asked the ginger-haired wizard who was Harry’s best friend.

I’m not sure why Ron has a Cockney accent, in truth. But don’t worry, in about, mebbe, three lines of dialogue, I will have forgotten to include it.

“Scar hurt a bit,” Harry grimaced broadly, “But no sign of-”

 Harry stopped and frowned.

Can you grimace broadly? More importantly, can you grimace and then frown? You know, I’m not certain I knew what a “grimace” really was when I wrote this.

Although it had been six weeks since the traumatic events that had seen the Dark Lord Voldemort returned to new and terrifying life, Harry still remembered it as if it were yesterday. “Kill the spare,” that awful voice had hissed – and with a flash of deadly light, Cedric Diggory had died.

“No sign of Voldemort,” he grimaced quietly.

Yes, I think it’s safe to say that I did not know what the word “grimaced” meant.

Ron usually leapt to tell his friend that he should refer to Voldemort as “You Know Who”, but was so concerned about the expression of concern on the bespectacled wizard’s face that he was more concerned at comforting his friend.

Something I find intriguing about my fanfiction: I was worried about overusing the words “Harry” and “Ron”, clearly. But not that bothered about using the word “concern” as if it were going out of fashion.

“Well, that’s good, then, innit?” the lanky redhead said, adopting a tone of exaggerated cheer to boost his friend, “What are you thinking of picking for your special subject?”

Goodbye Ron’s inexplicable East London accent. It will not be seen again.

Ron and Harry were now in their fifth year in Hogwarts, which meant they had to pick two special subjects alongside their OWLs, which they would sit later in the year, before progressing to their NEWTs, which would allow them to pick a degree subject at one of the wizarding universities. Harry was hoping to study at Snaresbrookes, a specialist sporting university that had produced many of the Quidditch players that had wowed Harry, Ron and Hermione at last years Quidditch World Cup. Ron hoped to study at Theydon’s, the civil servant’s college, to follow his father and brother Percy into the Ministry of Magic.

It says a lot about how pushy my mum was that even in the privacy of my own fanfiction, the kids had to go on to post-16 education. And yes, I did use Central Line stations to help me name things and places.

Hermione, who was elsewhere on the train, hoped to go to Chigwell, the finest wizarding university in the known world.

I believe this sentence is intended as “foreshadowing”.

“Theory of Quidditch,” said the Boy Who Lived, his mouth smiling as he forgot the horrific events of his fourth year, “I’m not sure what I’m picking as my number two. What about you, Ron?”

In case you were wondering: this exchange quite literally heals Harry’s trauma at the events of the Goblet of Fire. Neither Cedric Diggory, nor his death, are mentioned again in any shape or form in the rest of the story. All it took was a conversation about what course he would be studying in fifth year.

“Not Whaddamancy,” Ron shuddered, “That’s Snape’s class. Fred says that Transference is easy, so I’ll pick that. And then Disenchantment, Dad says he uses what he learnt their all the time at work.”

Whadda...what now? The reason for introducing Snape’s specialist class will become apparent later on, but why on earth it’s not, I don’t know, Advanced Potions is not entirely clearly to me.

“I’ll pick Transference, then, if it’s easy.”

“OH NO!” said a smart voice from down the corridor, “You can’t pick like that!”

A smart voice? Me neither.

Harry and Ron jumped. They had been so preoccupied that they hadn’t realised that Hermione, who had been looking for them elsewhere on the train, had entered the carriage. Hermione plonked her bags down on a seat and sighed theatrically.

“You can’t just pick subjects based on what is easy,” Hermione said, “These subjects will shape our entire futures. You have to pick topics that will stretch and improve you. I’m taking Advanced Theory of Conjuration, Whaddamancy and Professor McGonagall says I can do Concalculus as well, as it would conflict with my timetable, like in third year.”

Something I believed very strongly growing up – and still believe now in truth – is that Hermione Granger is the true hero of the Harry Potter books. What I find unnerving about how obnoxious Hermione is throughout this story is that these were clearly traits I found admirable and saw in myself.  

If Harry and Ron had only listened to Hermione, they might have averted disaster. But instead, they looked at each other and grinned.

Ooh, foreshadowing!

“Transference it is,” said Harry.

“Transference for everyone!” cheered Ron.

Hermione frowned. If she had known the forces that were about to be unleashed, she wouldn’t have frowned.

Ooh, more foreshadowing!

She’d have screamed in terror.

The chapter could have really ended at “she wouldn’t have frowned”, but I had a lot of contempt for my audience in 2003, so instead you get this extra, extra bit of foreshadowing.

 

Chapter Two

When Harry and Ron arrived at the first Transference class, their hearts immediately sank. The transference teacher, Orpheus Gandar, had an imposing figure, with a shock of white hair. His robes were scruffy and the room stank of coffee. It was clear to see why – the cluttered classroom was filled with magical curios and half-finished coffee mugs, which made up nine-tenths of the stench in his class. The other tenth was coming from the rotting carcass, hanging from the centre of room, as if Professor Gandar had opened a butchers in the middle of the room.

Looking back, I am fairly certain that no amount of unfinished coffee cups could mean that a rotting carcass contributed only one-tenth of the smell in a room.

“What is that unholy smell?” sneered a fifteen old with shoulder length blonde hair.

“That smell, Malfoy, is coming from your mother,” quipped Seumas Finnigan.

Note the mispelling of Seamus Finnegan. I blame the fact I used to read the Guardian every day as a teenager. 

“What did you say about my mother, Finnegan?” grimaced Malfoy, bunching his hands into fists.

It’s increasingly clear I did not know what grimaced meant.

“Be quiet!” snapped Professor Gandar, “Behave yourself, both of you! Ten points each from Ravenclaw!”

“But sir,” sighed Ella Reubens, a dark-haired girl from Ravenclaw, “Malfoy is from Slytherin. Seumas is from Gryffindor.”

(She called Draco “Malfoy”, because she disliked him, and Seumas “Seumas” because she got on well with the Gryffindors.)

I find it a little sad that I did a nice little bit of subtle character writing and then immediately ruined it by drawing attention to it.

“Don’t interrupt!” spluttered Gandar, “10 points from Ravenclaw! 10 points from Slytherin! And 10 points from Gryffindor too!”

“Is that 10 points from Ravenclaw or 20?” asked Ella.

“It’ll be 30 if you keep it up,” Gandar snapped.

“Sir, that’s not fair,” protested Harry.

“Another 10 points from Gryffindor!” Gandar roared.

Orpheus Gandar: captain, leader, legend. The “shock of white hair” is ripped straight from the Target novelisations of old Doctor Who, but the trope - dotty old teacher who is inadvertently comic - seems to be pretty much the only teacher character I could write at this point. Across a wide variety of Harry Potter fanfiction, characters not entirely unlikey Orpheus Gandar appear again and again. The Hogwarts of my imagination was not a very professional organisation. 

“You better shut up, Potter!” sneered Malfoy.

“10 points from Slytherin!” Gandar roared, “Now, let me explain the carcass. Transference, as you all should know, is the study of transferring objects or people by magical means. Floo Powder, Apparition, weaving a magical carpet, constructing a flying broomstick, these are all fruits of the great art of Transference!”  

Ella smiled at Harry, who smiled back. Ella had a small, perfectly spherical head, very pale skin and a very long neck, with long dark hair. She and Hermione were part of a study group together, Harry remembered. He had never noticed how pretty she was before.

I know. You have a lot of questions. Why did I think that having a “perfectly spherical head” was an attractive trait? Why am I describing Harry’s love interest as if she were ET in a wig? Why does this plotline fill your heart with dread? The answers to these questions are: I honestly don’t know. 

“Now, an advanced wizard such as myself can transfer anyone or anything over great distance with as much ease as I make myself a cup of coffee,” said Gandar, helping himself to a half-finished mug and sipping from it, “But for you fresh things, you’d better start on something you can’t damage. I’ll show you what I want you to do.”

Gandar plunged his mug back down on a desk and whipped out a long white ebony wand.

What is white ebony, I hear you ask? I don’t know.

Shiftio!” he cried, with a flick of the wrist.

JK Rowling’s approach to coming up with the name of a new spell: a clever Latin-based pun. My approach: just add “io” to an English word. 

And a black hole opened up, and swallowed the carcass. Gandar flicked his wrist again, and the hole closed. He flicked a third time and another hole opened, this one on the other side of the room – spitting the carcass out and landing it directly on another hook on the other side of the room.

“There you go,” said Professor Gandar with a triumphant gulp of coffee, “It’s easy when you know how. Flick the wrist away from you to open the hole, flick the wrist towards to close it, to the side and think about where you want it to go to open it again, that’s the name of the game. Away, towards, side, think! Who wants to practice first?”

Chapter Three

It was in the fifth-year Gryffindor girls’ dorm. Lavender Brown was busily unpacking in one corner, Parvati Patel was writing a letter to her younger brother in another, and Hermione was reading a new copy of Advanced Conjuration: An Introduction when there was a knock on the door.

“I bet it’s your boyfriend, Hermione!” giggled Parvati.

“Shut up!” Hermione grimaced.

There it is again.

“Who is it?” Hermione called out.

“It’s Harry, can I come in.”

“I’ll come out,” said Hermione, as Lavender and Parvati giggled.

“Not your boyfriend then,” snickered Lavender.

If looks could kill, Hermione would have left Lavender chopped up and crucified on the nearest wall. Contenting herself with a sharp glare, Hermione left the dormitory.

“What was that about your boyfriend?” Harry asked, curiously.

I am unsure if one can ask something and not do so in a curious manner.

“Just teasing,” Hermione blushed again, “Nothing in particular. What can I help you with? How was Transference? Easy?”

“Pretty easy,” Harry confessed, “But we’ve been asked to practice with conkers, in groups, and I know you and Ella Reubens are friends, so…”

Now it was Harry’s time to blush. The bespectacled wizard looked at his shoes, which were Reebok.

Getting all the important details inThis is the kind of attention to detail that marked me out for a big future as a Serious Journalist.

“Yes, we’re friends,” said Hermione, “She’s nice. She’s very clever, too.”

“Does she have…a boyfriend?” Harry asked his footwear.

“Not anymore,” Hermione said, “She used to go out with Joseph Latymer, another Ravenclaw, but they broke up.”

“Great!” Harry said, a little too loudly, “Great. Do you think she might want to join a study group practicing transference?”

“Does she need a study group, seeing as it’s so easy?” asked Hermione, “I must admit, I’m a little disappointed that Ella would choose such an easy class. Still, I suppose she has always liked the theoretical side of magic. Her father’s a Muggle scientist and she’s always been fascinated as to how all of it works.”

“I just thought,” Harry’s eyes turned back to his trainers again, “I just thought it would be a good way to get to know her a bit, you know.”

“Oh!” said Hermione, “I hadn’t thought. Well, I’m sure she’d be happy to come around. We can all study together, me, you, her and Ron.”

“Won’t that be a bit awkward?” asked Harry.

Hermione beamed. “No. I think it’ll be just fine.”

Chapter Four

Later that day, Hermione, Ron, Harry and Ella met in Harry’s room.

I know what you’re thinking. Why do the girls get a dormitory but Harry gets a room to himself? I think what happened is that between the two chapters I realised that I didn’t want to have to explain what “Seumas”, Dean Thomas and Neville Longbottom were up to so I decided to give them rooms instead.

Harry’s room was neat and tidy, though the walls were covered with awards won for Quidditch and Chudley Cannons memorabilia, as well as one photograph of his parents and another of Harry, Ron and Hermione at a beach over the summer.

A few weeks passed between publishing the first three chapters on my LiveJournal and the remainder of the story, which is one reason why Harry and Ron have gone from talking about the summer as if they hadn’t seen each other in Chapter One to having a picture taken at the beach in Chapter Four.

“Very tidy,” Hermione commented, “Not like Ron’s room, it’s always messy.”

“That’s a bit unfair,” Ron grimaced, “Your room is always full of piles of books, anyway!”

Sadly, I did not use the time between Chapters Three and Four to look up the word “grimaced”.

“It’s very neat,” said Ella, approvingly, “My room is very messy, you should help tidy it for me sometime.”

My expectations of what mid-teens life would be like aged 12 were partially fulfilled. We really did use chat-up lines this bad.

“That’d be, uh, nice,” said Harry, looking at his feet again.

“Well, shall we practice some Transference?” said Hermione, brightly, “I’ve been reading up on it and I’m keen to have a go myself!”

Hermione whipped out a single glass marble.

“Okay,” said Ella, “It’s quite easy, actually. The theory is very interesting though. I think it may hold some explanations about how magic works. Far from being a slap in the face for modern science, I think magic can, in fact, be explained using Muggle science!”

“Really?” asked Harry. As pretty as Ella was, she was even prettier when she was explaining something.

Oh god.

“Yes,” Ella nodded furiously, “The First Law of Thermodynamics says that energy cannot be created or destroyed.”

“Which,” Hermione interjected, “Wizard theorists have long believed that the existence of magic rebuts the First Law. We create and destroy energy at all times – for instance, when we create an enchanted fire, or even an illusion, we are creating energy.”

“It’s not just the First Law that magic defies,” Ella continued, “The Second Law of Thermodynamics states the more you put things together, the more they keep falling apart.”

“That’s the essence of the second law of thermodynamics and I never heard a truer word spoken,” nodded Hermione.

Doctor Who fans will find this exchange suspiciously familiar to one in Tom Baker’s final story “Logopolis”.

“But if energy cannot be destroyed and entropy is always increasing, how can magic work? My theory is that actually witches and wizards are simply transferring energy from one dimension to another, not creating it at all,” Ella said excitedly. Harry gazed fondly at her.

Just in case you hadn’t got it. Harry is into Ella.

“This is all over my head,” complained Ron.

“Don’t worry about it, darling,” said Hermione, reassuringly, “You know, Rowena Ravenclaw thought that all magic came from a higher plane of existence, and believed that magic users would return there upon death.”

“How do you know all this stuff?” asked Ron.

“Haven’t you ever read Hogwarts: A History?” asked Hermione.

“It’s my belief that the Transference spell also works by moving the object or the person transfers into and out of another dimension,” Ella said, “In fact, the more I read about it, the more convinced I become. But sadly, it’ll be years until I can get to Chigwell – if I can get to Chigwell – to prove my theories.”

“Can’t you test it right now?” asked Harry, excitedly.

“How would I do that?” asked Ella.

“Oh, isn’t it obvious?” said Hermione.

“No,” said Ron.

“For a person apparating or even being transferred, the experience feels instantaneous,” Hermione said, “Or, in the case of Floo Powder, it takes a matter of minutes. The Transference Spell is meant to work by opening one hole, closing it, then opening another. What if we opened one hole, but didn’t close it? And then opened another? I think instead of a hole, it would create a tunnel, and energy would come pouring through.”

“That would be incredibly dangerous outside of a research environment,” Ella said, “Who knows what reaction it could unleash? No, I’ll just have to wait. And I’m probably wrong anyway.”

“I think you should do it,” said Harry, “I think your theory sounds like a good one, and we should try it out. We’re at Hogwarts, what’s the worst that could happen here?”

At the beginning of this story, Harry was traumatised by the death of Cedric Diggory. At best two or three days later, he has seemingly forgotten about it. All because Ron asked what courses to drop.

“Alright,” said Ella, “Hermione, shall you create one hole and then I’ll create the other.”

“Right you are,” said Hermione, “Here goes: Shiftio!

A small black hole, barely the size of a marble, appeared in the air.

“My turn,” said Ella, “Shiftio!

Another small black hole, again barely the size of a small black hole opened – and then the ground began to shake. The two holes began to pull at one another, until they resembled not so much two holes, but a long, black, gaping mouth. A howling sound, like a high wind, began to howl from the void.

A howling sound began to howl. This is great stuff.

“Oh no!” said Hermione, “We have to stop this!”

Hermione flicked her wrist, but it was no good.

“What’s happening?!” asked Ron.

“My theory was right!” Ella shouted above the howling wind, as she desperately flicked her wrist in a desperate bid to close the hole: “We opened a void into a realm of pure energy!”

“So what’s the problem?!” asked Harry.

“Because we blew open another hole!” said Hermione, “I’ve seen this before, with my Time Turner! Harry, we’ve opened a rift in time!”

Chapter Five

Harry’s room was certainly a mess now. His Quidditch Awards had been scattered across the room, as had his CDs and videogames. The wind whipped at the four of them, their robes billowing in the wind.

How did Harry, a man who has no Muggle money to his name, acquire CDs and videogames?

Something was coming through the void: a hulking, tentacled, monster. It was round and covered in short, cropped hair, like a tennis ball that had been dropped in an oil slick. It had six cruel tentacles, and one large, blood-red eye. As it oozed from the void, the wind stopped and the void closed behind it. And suddenly, the oozy blackness opened revealing a sticky red mouth.

Lovecrafts a hell of a drug, you know? I am not sure why I referred to the creature’s “six cruel tentacles” (and four friendly ones?) but it’s something I was fond of doing. The monster in Harry Potter and the Minotaur’s Rage had “cruel horns” and if you search the word “cruel” in any of my fanfiction, the chances are you will find a body part.  

FREEDOM!” hissed the creature.

“Are you...a fairy?” asked Harry, nervously.

“I’ve studied the fairy books comprehensively,” said Hermione, “And that isn’t a fairy.”

There’s a lot going on here. Why does Harry think this could be a fairy? What are “the fairy books”?

“YOU HAVE TRAVELLED THE WEB OF TIME. PIQUANT,” the creature rasped, “YOUR TEMPORAL ENERGIES WILL SUSTAIN ME. FEED ME!”

The creature leapt at Hermione, pushing Ron, Harry and Ella aside. Hermione yelped as the beast’s jaws closed on her throat.

“Hermione, no!” cried Ron.

Harry grabbed his Firebolt from its case on the wall and beat the creature about the head with his racing broomstick.

You’d think I could have introduced the Firebolt when I described Harry’s room in the last chapter, or even when I set the scene at the start of this one, but no.

The creature roared with pain and released Hermione.

“HOW DARE YOU PREVENT MY FEEDING, SCAR-FACE!”

“You can eat from the Banqueting Hall like the rest of us,” snapped Harry, “Come on guys, run!”

The four heroes ran, the black shadow flying towards them.

“YOU CANNOT RUN, YOU CANNOT HIDE. YOU’VE TURNED TIME, AND NOW YOU’LL FEED ME!”

“Can we fight it!?” yelled Ron as they ran.

“With what?” asked Hermione, “We don’t know what its weaknesses are, and we can’t use one of the Unforgivable Curses, even on that…thing!”

“Run!” cried Harry, “I’ll hold them off, with the Firebolt!”

Them? They are being chased by a singular entity.

“We’re not leaving you!” cried Ella.

“You’ve got to get help!” said Harry, “It’s Hermione it wants to eat! Go! I’ll be fine!”

Harry charged at the creature, his broomstick held high like a club, and smashed it into its face, once, twice, dodging and diving as it tried to whack at him with its tentacles.

“This way!” said Hermione, “To the library!”

“I don’t think this is time for a book!” said Ron

“It’ll have loads of teachers in it,” said Hermione, “Teachers who can help!”

The School Library was wood panelled, and lit by floating candles.

“I’d like to order a copy of Potion-Making for Practical Wizards, Volume Eight,” said Snape.

“Of course, Severus,” said Madam Pince, “It’ll be a week until it arrives on the goods train.”  

The plot of this story is literally about them using magic to transport things instantaeneously and yet it takes a week for them to transport a book. 

“That’s quite alright,” said the Potions Master, “Thank you so mu-”

Suddenly, a wizard with glasses and dark hair smashed through the library’s walls, tossed there by some unknown force. It was Harry Potter. At that same moment, at the other end of the library, Hermione, Ron and Ella ran through the library doors.

“What is going on, Potter?” sneered Snape.

“Sir, there’s a thing lose in the castle grounds – some kind of black thing, we were practicing Transference , and.”

“An Outer Horror,” sighed Snape, “We’ll deal with this.”

Snape pulled his wand from his robes. Madam Pince did likewise, as the creature barrelled through the hole it had made in the wall. The two teachers started hurling spells at the Outer Horror, but it kept advancing.

“Mr Potter, fetch Dumbledore at once! Run!” shouted Snape as he continued to cast spells, “Miss Granger, stay where you are, it’s you it’ll be after, thanks to that Time Turner of yours!”

Harry turned to run, but he didn’t need to. Teachers were pouring into the room, with Dumbledore at their head, each of them hurling spells at the creature, holding it back – but not hurting it.

“What do we do?” asked Ron.

“If only you still had your Time Turner,” said Ella.

“Time Turner,” said Hermione, “Time Turner! You’re a genius, Ella! I just need to turn back time! Shiftio!”

A large black hole appeared around the Outer Horror, and the vile creature began to be sucked into the void.

“WHAT?! NO! IMPOSSIBLE! THIS…CANNOT…BE!” it roared as it vanished into the hole. Hermione closed it with a flick of her wrist.

All was quiet. The beast had gone. Hermione had saved the day.

Having…endangered the day by coming up with the idea of testing Ella’s theory, but there you go.

Chapter Six

“The costs to the library are horrendous,” Dumbledore said gravely, “It will delay your education by a term, and you will all have to stay for a few extra weeks over the summer to make up the time.”
Dumbledore winked at Harry. Dumbledore knew that a few more weeks at Hogwarts and away from the Dursleys would be no punishment at all. But more was to come. Dumbledore had summoned Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ella, Snape and Professor McGonagall to his office to account for what had gone on.

“While curiosity is admirable, and experimentation is to be encouraged at a school,” Dumbledore said, “Doing what you did outside the bounds of a classroom was incredibly dangerous. In normal circumstances, I’d have no choice but to expel all four of you.”

Hermione let out a gasp.

“But with Voldemort on the prowl that isn’t an option,” Dumbledore said, gently, “Instead, it’s going to be 300 points off each of your houses and no trips to Hogsmeade either. Of course, that means that the House Cup will be gifted to Slytherin this year, as there is no way that any of your houses will be able to make up that gap.”

Snape grinned like a Cheshire Cat. Ron, Harry, Ella and Hermione looked glum.

I have a lot of questions for past Stephen. The four of them unleashed an abomination from above time, and their punishment is that they won’t win the House Cup or go on a jolly? They’re 15, they don’t care about the House Cup. Really not sure why I wrote Dumbledore as quite this irresponsible.

“What about Hufflepuff, sir?” asked Ella.

“Well, Miss Ruebens, as you know, Mr Weasley is a Hufflepuff, so they will have no chance of overhauling Slytherin either,” said Dumbledore.

I’m not saying that the other characters were realised in astonishing detail, but I really don’t know what is going on with my depiction of Dumbledore here.

“I’m a Gryffindor, sir,” said Ron.

“Are you?” gasped Dumbledore, “Well, the Sorting Hat’s not foolproof, clearly.”

Stephen’s version of Dumbledore. History’s greatest monster.

“Professor!” protested Hermione, angrily, “Ron is the most Gryffindor person I know. He’s brave, and kind, and honourable, and – and I love him!”

“I know,” Dumbledore winked, “I just thought you should come out and say it, and that the two of you should stop telling poor Harry that you were “off to research Potions” or whatever nonsense.”

I’m not saying this fanfiction was going to win any awards but this late “Dumbledore turns into the world’s least professional man” development has floored me. I think I intended for Dumbledore’s winking to reveal that he was really on their side, but instead he comes across as unprofessional and sleazy. 

“Anyway,” Dumbledore continued, “Unless anyone has a persuasive case, that’ll be 300 points from Ravenclaw and 900 points from Gryffindor.”

“Actually, headmaster,” Snape interjected, “The fault was mine. I had a conversation with Miss Granger about theoretical magic after her Whaddamancy class and I fear she took it as an instruction. I take full responsibility.”

“Hmph!” harrumped Dumbledore

My theory is that as I got to the end I started phoning it in, explaining why the quality, never particularly high, really drops off in this chapter.

“Well,” Dumbledore said, “Severus, we’ll talk about this between ourselves. You four may go.”

Outside Dumbledore’s study, the four teenagers looked at each other awkwardly.

“How long have the two of you been….?” Harry asked.

Ron and Hermione blushed.

“Well…”

“It….”

“We spent a lot of time together this summer,” Hermione said, “And well, we were talking about last year and we realised how much we, uh, meant to each other.”
“We didn’t tell you because we didn’t want you to think that while you were holed up with the Dursleys we were having fun without you,” Ron said.

“It’s okay,” said Harry, “I’m glad. The two of you were driving me mad last year, I’m glad you worked it out.”

“And seeing as we can all still go to Hogsmeade, we could do a double date,” said Ella.
“A double date?” gasped Harry, “You mean?”
Ella grinned and held out an arm.

“Walk me back to Ravenclaw’s dorms?”

Dormitory update. They have dormitories again.

Ella and Harry walked off, arm in arm.

“Hermione…”

“Yes, Ron?”

“You know, I, uh, love you too, right?”

Hermione beamed.

“Yes, Ron. Meet you at mine? I want to talk to Snape.

“You aren’t half weird.”

Ron walked off, and Snape walked out.

“Miss Granger,” the tall and forbidding Potions Master said.

“Professor Snape,” gasped Hermione.

Why is she gasping? She knew he was in that room!

“I suppose you’re wondering why I lied for you, and blew Slytherin’s easiest chance at the House Cup in our history,” Snape said.

“Yes, sir,” said Hermione.

“You confirmed to me that while you can let your curiosity get the better of you, you are one of the cleverest witches of your age,” said Snape, “While I want you to be more careful in future – I don’t want that curiosity crushed.”

WORST. TEACHERS. EVER. Also why did I think they cared this much about the House Cup?

“Thank you, sir.”

“No need. And, Miss Granger?”

“Yes, Professor?”

“I do hope that you won’t disappoint me.”

Clearly I intended this to set up a sequel, because I ended it with…

THE END?

Thankfully, it was. 

Now read the other articles included in the New Statesman’s Harry Potter Week.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

0800 7318496