Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: The Nightmare Before Bedtime :: 02 :: Unveiling

02 • Unveiling

I was reminded for some odd reason of the Authenticity Nazis frequently stirring up trouble at events I had attended in the past. I guess it was the way she moved. Her expression was firm, faintly annoyed, and ever so slightly amused. “Well,” she said to me, omitting any sort of form of address, “I suppose you’d like to know how you’re doing.”

I had a damn good idea already, but I nodded for show.

“It seems the potion accident had a rather peculiar effect on you—something that’s never happened before in recorded history—essentially turning you into the male version of yourself.” She paused, possibly to see if I would either pass out or throw a tantrum, then continued when I simply stared at her, “There is no known way to reverse the effect.”

The corner of my mouth quirked up as I tried to decide how to play this. “So, does anyone know offhand the proper way to legally change one’s name?” I asked.

Dead silence ensued until Pomfrey said, “The headmaster has decided to move you into the unused Gryffindor head boy room. You can’t very well continue to share facilities with the girls, and you might be incredibly uncomfortable sharing with the boys. Your new room has its own bathroom.”

I shrugged. “Works for me.” Internally I was cheering over the fact that I could properly set up my waterbed and other possessions without having to worry about upsetting the other people in a shared dorm. “When may I leave the infirmary?”

“After you get dressed,” she said, then glanced at my fellow Gryffindors. “I’m sure this lot will wait for you, and Miss Granger can show you to your new room once you’re back at the tower.”

I flashed a smile at Hermione and returned the nod she gave me. “In that case, let me get dressed.”

It was necessary to do a tiny bit of magical adjustment on my clothes considering that certain aspects of my body had changed. For instance, my hips had narrowed. As I rejoined the others I noticed that Harry kept staring at me in a fascinated sort of way, but decided not to comment on that just yet. Instead I asked, “I sincerely hope that someone kept an eye on my cats?”

It took me most of the remainder of the day to settle into my new digs. I even found the time to swap out the network card in my desktop while I was setting it up on my desk. By then I was feeling quite exhausted—putting sheets on a waterbed is truly a difficult task, though thankfully I had the beauty of a non-permanent sticking charm on my side—so I sprawled on my bed to ponder something that was quite possibly the most important question concerning my changed existence.

Should I learn to go commando, or should I acquire a load of boxer briefs?

At that point I decided I really ought to have a shower and investigate more closely my new body. Wouldn’t anyone in my situation? I’m sure they would. I noticed almost immediately that something wasn’t quite right. Either Neville’s blunders were truly unsurpassed or there was something about him I hadn’t been informed of. His potion explosion had given me an appendage of the Jewish variety.

But that was all right, so I continued to wash up, briefly debating the merits of cutting my hair shorter (and dismissing the idea almost as quickly), only to become very distracted once I began soaping a certain part of my anatomy. You know the one. I very quickly became convinced that men, at least of the magical variety, had it much, much better when it came to certain activities.

A bit later on I was back in my bedroom, transfiguring my existing wardrobe into clothing that fit more comfortably, and musing on new names for myself, when a knock sounded at my door. It was the trio, ostensibly come to see how I was doing, and probably to see if I’d had a nervous breakdown yet over my changed circumstances.

Once again I noticed the aura of fascination Harry seemed to have for me, and the idea popped into my head that the boy might be gay. I would have to try flirting with him; he wasn’t bad looking, so it shouldn’t be a chore. Ron, on the other hand, was staring at my bed with a startling lack of intelligence in his expression.

“What kind of bed is that?” he asked, and I decided that the vapid look on his face was probably quite the norm for him.

“It’s a waterbed. Go ahead and sit down on it, but please, don’t bounce. If you break it, I’ll be very annoyed.”

While he was investigating that, having dragged Harry over with him, Hermione was gaping at the copious amount of electronics I had set up. “How on earth. . . ?” she sort of questioned.

I shrugged a shoulder and moved closer. “I would have refused to come here if I hadn’t managed to get them converted over so they’d work properly.” I think I caught a distinct flicker of jealousy cross her face, but then it was all about quiet resolve and determination.

“Oh, I nearly forgot,” she said, looking mildly chagrined. “The headmaster would like to see you in his office. I’ll escort you if you like since you’ve never been there.”

I nodded and grabbed a set of robes to toss on over my clothes as Hermione chivvied the boys away from the bed and then herded us all out like ducklings. She led, and we walked, and I could sense that there were a million questions she was dying to ask.

What eventually came out was, “Are you coping well?”

“I seem to be. I’m rather more concerned about the fact that I’ve missed two days of opportunity when it comes to socialization with my peer group.”

Her expression told me immediately that the sarcasm went right over her head. She compounded that by replying, “Oh, well you have all year. You might want to go to Hogsmeade this coming weekend. That is, if you need to, er. . . .”

“I do,” I assured her. “I’ve already made alterations to most of my clothing, but there are a few things I’d like to purchase to round things out. Assuming they sell muggle-style clothing there, that is.”

She nodded and asked, “I hope you’re not too terribly upset with Neville.”

I shook my head, and was grateful to see we had reached our destination. Hermione spoke the password, making me feel quite hungry as a result, then led me up to the office and waved me through the door after she had announced our presence with a knock.

My first thought as I stepped inside was that the headmaster obviously had the same kind of relatives I did. I left that thought unvoiced, though, and took a seat when he indicated I should do so.

He stared at me for a moment, seemingly at a loss for words, then said in a dry, dusty voice, “Mr Brown, I have here paperwork from the Ministry so that you might have your name changed.”

“Fantastic,” I said, “that’s very kind of you, sir.” And really, I was thrilled to death that someone had been proactive on my behalf, sparing me the tedium of doing the work myself.

Dumbledore aimed a faint smile at me and pushed some papers in my direction, as well as a quill and an inkpot. I wanted to sigh at the sight of them; why on earth these people couldn’t move even an inch into modern times and learn how to use a ballpoint pen was beyond my ken. Were they all secretly masochists?

I carefully read the document, nodded, and dipped the quill into the pot, then filled in the applicable blanks. The headmaster then signed as a witness—apparently he could function as some sort of magical notary public—and the deed was done.

I was now officially Nick Varian Brown. My former middle name had always been a source of annoyance to me, so I was happy to be rid of it. And besides, the new one was witty if you had the knowledge to appreciate it.

“Is that all, sir?”

“Unless you have any questions or concerns you would like to voice, you may leave,” he said.

I rose to my feet and smiled, then said, “I just wanted to thank you for your consideration. The room change, I mean.” He nodded an acknowledgement, so I hastened off, heading down rather than up in order that I might have a cigarette. More than two days without one tended to make me a bit snippy, truth be told.

Harry found me midway through my first, an accident I’m sure given that he was carrying a broom in one hand. As he spotted me his cheeks pinked slightly. “I was just going to have a fly,” he said.

I smiled. Innocently, that is.

*

Time, as it is wont to do, passed. A number of days, in fact. And during that time Harry, for some inexplicable reason, had taken me into his confidence and explained all about the psychotic whackjob that had repeatedly tried to end his life, and continued to.

Personally, I thought this Voldemort fellow could learn a lot from the leaders of certain countries, and even from the multitude of terrorist cells around the world, but I wasn’t about to be helpful and send the guy a letter on the subject.

Things had been going quite swimmingly. In an effort to maintain peace and keep Hermione’s jealousy at bay, I had even pointed her in the right direction the odd time or three, though I drew the line at ever letting her get her hands on books from my private library. For all I knew, in the magical world the term ‘bookworm’ had sinister connotations of the damaging kind.

Ron seemed to be a fairly oblivious sort, so it was no real surprise that he never caught on to the fact that Harry was becoming quite fond of me. His sister, however, was not quite so disconnected from reality. A quidditch fanatic she might be, but not to such extremes that she was unaware of Harry’s fascination with me.

In point of fact, I had been graced with more than one look of jealousy from the girl. I would generally shake my head slightly, feel a dash of pity, and brush it off. I knew from the many things I had heard that Ginny aspired to be more than she was, but could tell she would never quite reach those heights, especially when she was willfully blind to the fact that the object of her desire was quite clearly a homosexual.

Naturally, that made him perfect for my own nefarious plans, and besides, I was becoming rather fond of him myself. No amount of Sparklypoo™ cosmetics borrowed from Lavender was going to help the poor dear, and Ginny was probably better off with someone like Neville.

So, after a weekend of the usual sort of thing, we awoke the next day and trooped down for breakfast, then hustled off to the dungeons for another thrilling Potions class; I had long since managed to secure Harry as my partner. On Snape’s arrival, he of the violent movements and theoretically intimidating mien, we were informed that we would be brewing a heritage potion, and after a short, but ultimately boring lecture on how it was a pure-blood custom, we were allowed to begin.

Several hours later I stared into my cauldron and smiled in satisfaction, then prepared a sample for marking and set it aside. Harry had also managed to properly brew his, which was the sort of thing to set Snape’s teeth permanently on edge.

The procedure was simple enough once we were allowed to continue. A shallow tray, a piece of parchment, a ladleful of potion poured in, plus several minutes of waiting, and everyone was graced with the magical equivalent of a family tree, complete with spiffy colours that denoted things like blood impurities. I assumed pure-blood families used this sort of thing to decide who to disinherit or disown (and possibly arrange an accidental death for).

Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to investigate them, and were barked at and ordered to turn in our samples and get the hell out. Most people did so gladly, though that twitchy little ferret seemed to take great pleasure in how members of houses other than Slytherin tended to flinch a lot as they passed by the professor’s desk.

In fact, it wasn’t until after dinner that I had a chance to look at my own. The trio had been invited into my room since I was feeling uncommonly kind, and once there each of us whipped out our parchments and started fiddling with them. The first to gasp in shock was Harry, who looked up and around with wide eyes before jabbing a finger at his parchment.

“Gryffindor,” he said to no one in particular.

“What do you mean, Harry?” asked Hermione, then took the parchment when it was offered. After a quick glance she too gasped and shot him a look of wonder, then quickly got a hold of herself and said casually, “Well, it’s no wonder you were placed in Gryffindor, right?”

“Wha?” contributed a confused Ron, looking back and forth between Harry and Hermione like they were playing tennis.

“Harry is a descendant of Godric Gryffindor,” Hermione supplied.

And, miracle of miracles, Ron did not immediately blow a gasket and rail about the unfairness of it all. Instead he asked, “So, do you think there’s a vault involved?”

“Ron!” Hermione shrieked.

While they were bickering I shot a slight smile at Harry and went back to perusing my own parchment, jotting down notes as I went along. Truth be told, I was finding some rather peculiar things as I progressed. The bed lurched up and down as Harry took a seat next to me so he could be nosy, shortly followed by a strangled sound as he got a look at my notes.

“How is that possible?” he asked in a whisper.

“Hm?” I responded in an absent way.

“You’re related to everyone.”

“We are all brothers and sisters in this world,” I said piously.

He appeared to be momentarily taken aback by that, then shook his head. “You’re Snape’s kid? Related to Dumbledore? Oh my god, you’re descended from all four founders? And Merlin!”

Hermione went dead silent and her head whipped around like a vicious beast that just caught the scent of prey. “I’m sorry, what did you just say, Harry?”

I passed her my notes and snatched Harry’s parchment out of her hand; further investigation showed that Harry was also related to the Slytherins. Funny, though, he looked ready to pass out when I showed that bit to him.

“I’m sure it’s nothing special,” I said to the room at large, then paused. “Though, how Professor Snape is my father. . . .” Even I couldn’t quite figure that one out. My mother was simply not the sort to carouse with strange men of the tall, dark, and broody type. Somehow, I didn’t think I could slip a question like that into casual conversation, and besides, she would never believe I was her offspring at that point.

I shrugged.

“Nick, I really think you ought to show this to the headmaster,” Hermione advised. She really could be overbearing at times. Still, she might have a point. If I was related to Dumbledore, I might be able to score some serious points with the man. Such as, a hefty addition to my vault and perhaps a nice little house in Hogsmeade for the holiday and after.

And that made me wonder if I had been a changeling child and under a mysterious enchantment for my entire life. Were my eyes really that odd shade of blue-grey I had always assumed came from my maternal grandfather? Was my hair really brown?

Deciding to be generous I looked at Hermione and asked, “Don’t suppose you happen to know of any spells to detect the presence of a glamour, do you?”

She thought for a moment, her brow furrowed in concentration, then brightened and nodded. Her wand appeared a moment later and after a nod from me she cast. “Yes, you’re under a glamour,” she stated. “Should we remove it?”

I considered, then shook my head. “No, or at least, not just yet. It would help if I looked the same when I go to see the headmaster.”

“Let’s go!” she enthused as she leapt to her feet.

To be honest I was mildly shocked. I would have expected her to suggest things wait until the next day, with me writing a proper little note requesting a moment of the headmaster’s time. I mentally shrugged and went with it.

“Would you two like to come?” I asked the boys.

“What if he’s not in his office?” Ron queried, for once asking a sensible question.

“I’ll check the map.” Harry dashed off and was back a few minutes later. “He’s there.”

So we all trooped off to the headmaster’s office, were invited in, and waved to seats. “To what do I owe this pleasure?” the man inquired.

“Professor,” Hermione said breathlessly, “you’ll never believe what we found out!” She snatched the parchment and notes out of my hand and planted them on the desk as though she had just presented him with the Holy Grail.

My eyes wandered around the office in an attempt to stave off the desire to nap as the headmaster checked out the documentation. Eventually he looked up, eyes twinkling madly in what I suspected was a drug-induced manner, and said, “How very interesting.”

Really.

“And look, professor,” Hermione said, then brandished her wand in my general direction. A quick cast and I knew I had taken on my true guise.

“Fascinating, simply fascinating. I shall have to speak with Professor Snape,” he added. “For the time being, you may all go.”

I didn’t hear another word about it for several weeks, though it ought to be noted that Snape kept eyeing me strangely, quite possibly in an attempt to figure out where in his past he had managed to get lucky. He was not, after all, GQ cover material.

Harry and I were roaming the halls talking quietly when he flitted around a corner, his robes billowing behind him. On spotting us he swooped closer, a sneer twisting his lips and a glare being directed at my companion.

“Brown,” he barked, “follow me. Potter, find something else to do.”

I think the man was a mite upset that I was chummy with a boy he despised, but that wasn’t my problem. I shot Harry a reassuring smile, then murmured, “Sir.”

Snape stalked off like an actor in a B vampire movie, so I followed, but not before rolling my eyes for Harry’s benefit. We ended up in the man’s office and I was not invited to take a seat.

And then he said something totally uncharacteristic. “Thank Merlin you didn’t get my nose.”

I smirked. As it was, I must have inherited my mother’s nose, and indeed, her eyes, for they were like finest blue ceylon sapphires. My hair was now a waterfall of blue-black and dead straight. I was, dare I say it, quite a stud, especially when you considered the rest of the package.

“The results of that potion show that your mother’s name is Serena Winters.”

I thought back for a moment, then nodded. “I’ve never heard of her before, sir. I suppose I must have been adopted by a muggle couple.”

After eyeing me up and down for a few seconds he launched into a tirade about the indignity of having a child in Gryffindor. I suffered through it patiently enough; again, it wasn’t my problem. My mind had long since drifted off into an induced daydream when something he said snapped me back to internal attention.

“A name change, sir? Is that wise?”

Snape snapped his mouth closed and gave me a penetrating look, then said, “Explain.”

I shrugged one shoulder. “I mean no offense, sir, but rumor has it that you are, or at least were, a Death Eater. If that is the case, a son suddenly popping up is the sort of thing to get back to the Dark Tosser, right? Isn’t it possible that he might think it’s a spiffy idea for your son to join his merry band of malicious miscreants?”

His eyes narrowed and his lips compressed, probably at my less than respectful demeanor and phraseology. “Possibly,” he eventually admitted. “The Dark Lord is rather keen on such displays of . . . family togetherness.”

I let out a snort of laughter. “The family that plays together slays together?”

Snape shot me a dark look, but I could tell he was morbidly amused. “Perhaps we might consider revisiting this topic at a later time.”

“Of course, sir.”

“Dismissed,” he said, then turned away as though indifferent.

*

My next kerfuffle with Hermione was over something I considered to be a rather odd issue. I had maintained from the get-go that using quill and ink was bothersome in the extreme, and had been using muggle writing implements to take notes in class, and had for those same notes forsaken parchment in favor of spiral-bound notebooks.

To add to the issue, I had very quickly created a custom font that mimicked my handwriting for use on my computers, and was in the habit of using a good old fashioned text editor for my homework. After all, it was extremely tedious to have to line things out when one made a mistake, or even start over. Spell check was my friend, and this method allowed me to revise without major and undue effort.

The final blow came when she caught me loading up sheets of parchment into one of the paper trays of my laser printer and printing out my completed essays. The end result was a document that looked handwritten, but wasn’t.

For some strange reason, she tried to convince me I was cheating.

I scoffed in her general direction and said, “And if you decide to bring a laptop to school for next term, I’ll be happy to fix it up for you, show you how to create a font based off your own handwriting, and let you connect to my network so you can use my printer.”

She had to be satisfied with that; really, there was no other choice. It wasn’t my fault that she wasn’t as smart as she thought she was, and I was never one to hide my own intelligence under a basket somewhere in fear of offending some poor sod who had delusions of being the next candidate for inclusion to Mensa.

Aside from that things were once again moving along swimmingly. So swimmingly, it seemed, that not only was Harry spending hours in my private room (he called it studying, but I called it a game of Red Light-Green Light given the number of semi-covert glances he kept shooting my way), but Halloween was nearly upon us!

And I knew what that meant insofar as my current interest went; we would have to be on the lookout for something nasty to occur, in keeping with a tradition that psychotic whackjob kept. Personally, I thought that level of predictability should have clued someone in to the man being in serious need of help by those dictatorships and terrorists I had thought about previously, but once again I maintained silence on the subject.

Dumbledore (call me “Alby”) had decided, in his infinite wisdom, to host a costume party on that hallowed eve. Naturally, that announcement sent most of the female population into a frenzy of planning. The males, on the other hand, were quietly contemplating falling off a broom at an auspicious moment so that they might safely hide out in the infirmary.

Ron and Harry never stood a chance what with Hermione and Ginny nipping at their heels, and we all soon found ourselves traipsing around Hogsmeade at the weekend, looking for costume ideas. Ron, having spotted the quidditch shop, quickly declared he was going as a member of the Chudley Cannons and would hear no more about it.

Privately, I wondered if the horrendous clash of colours to be anticipated when it came to his hair and orange was part of some devious plot to blind people who attempted to look at him, thus sparing the young man from attempts by anyone to ask him to dance, or even recognize him.

Harry, however. . . .