Thursday, July 17, 2003

Harry Potter 6: Judgment Day

An evening in April.

Harry Potter blew out his breath in satisfaction. He had just finished writing two entire scrolls' worth for a report on the Goblin Orgy of 1652. He was alone in the Shrieking Shack, having decided this would be the quietest place in Hogsmeade to study. Blinking the sweat out of his green eyes and absently scratching his forehead scar, Harry made his way blearily downstairs, where a six-pack of butterbeers was waiting faithfully atop an old, abandoned bar, kept cold by Hermione Granger's Chilling Charm (which she claimed was a female specialty, the charm being a subtype of the dreaded Frigidity Curse).

As Harry reached for a butterbeer, there was a loud knock on the door. Harry jumped, then smiled, knowing this could only mean it was seven-thirty, and his friend Ron Weasley had finally tracked Harry down for dinner. They were planning to meet Hermione in town and try out The Dragon's Scrotum, a new wizard barbecue restaurant specializing in dragon steaks and something the local warlocks jokingly called "volcano oysters." Swigging his butterbeer and carting an extra one for Ron, Harry made for the door and opened it, smiling in anticipation.

But the smile left his face instantly. A gigantic, muscular man in sunglasses, wearing an open Hogwarts robe, was standing in front of him. The robe was far too small for the man, who-- to Harry's horror-- appeared to be naked beneath it, and completely oblivious to this fact.

"Harry Potter?" asked the man in a deep, Austrian-accented voice. It was more statement than question.

Harry, who'd been staring enviously downward, didn't realize he'd just been addressed. He blinked and looked up at the bizarre stranger.


The muscleman said nothing. Harry gulped, squinted past the man and looked down the road. "Did Ron send you? My friend, Ron Weasley? Is this some kind of prank?"

The man considered, head cocked to one side. Then he spoke.

"Is this Ronald Weasley?" His enormous right hand came up into view, clutching Ron's unattached head by his trademark red hair. Ron's freckled face was slack in death, eyes rolled reflexively skyward, mouth stupidly open.

Two butterbeers shattered on the floor. Harry screamed and stumbled backward. In that horrible moment, he realized: This guy's wearing Ron's robe!

Ron's head looked as if it had been ripped off, and not very cleanly. It was the most unmagical way to remove someone's head that Harry could think of. And judging by the intruder's fearsome muscles, Harry guessed the muscleman had done it by hand, without any twisting.

Harry's scream and backpedal had carried him into the Shrieking Shack's foyer. He plunged his hand into his robes... but his wand was upstairs, on the bed with his homework. Damn!

Without pausing to look back, Harry ran for the stairs. The wand was his only hope. Even though, at sixteen, his physique had acquired the same lithe muscularity as his father's, Harry knew he wouldn't stand a chance in hand-to-hand combat against this man, who was obviously extremely disturbed.

But when Harry was barely halfway up the stairs, something heavy and round hit him square in the small of the back. It felt almost like a Quidditch Bludger... but no: the muscleman had thrown Ron's head at Harry, scoring a direct hit. Harry stumbled on the steps, clutched the small of his back in agony and screamed, "HAVE YOU NO RESPECT FOR THE DEAD!?" The muscleman ignored this and advanced with an eerie, machinelike grace to the base of the stairs. In the semidarkness of the stairwell, Harry saw that the man's eyes glowed red.

Gritting his teeth despite the pain, Harry pushed himself the rest of the way upstairs and flew into the Shack's bedroom. He saw his wand lying next to his homework and grabbed it, his brain whizzing in a million directions. Who was this man? Why did he kill Ron? Why is he trying to kill me? Obviously, Voldemort sent him...

Harry's breathing slowed a bit as he realized the man had reached the top of the stairs, but hadn't tried entering the bedroom to confront Harry. Huh--?

Too late, Harry realized that, if his assailant had torn off Ron Weasley's head and taken his robe... he had probably taken Ron's wand. And sure enough, Harry heard an incantation in that man's deep, booming voice... but it was the strangest-sounding incantation he'd ever heard.

"Accio Phase Plasma Rifle With Forty-Watt Range!"

Harry gulped. And when the man did finally step inside the bedroom, the last things Harry Potter saw and heard in this world were these: a near-naked muscleman holding a huge, futuristic assault rifle; the high whine of a plasma charger; and the sizzle-roar of a directed energy burst.

Smoke. Ashes. Of Harry Potter, nothing remained save a black, carbonized spot on the floor. The Terminator lowered its weapon, mission accomplished. There was the sound of someone mounting the stairs. The Terminator turned. A thin, towering figure had appeared in the bedroom doorway, nodding in grim satisfaction.

"Well done, old boy," muttered Albus Dumbledore. "That little shit has been a constant annoyance since his arrival at this school. I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever have a chance to enjoy some peace and quiet. Very well. Back to the future with you." With a wave of his wand, Dumbledore dismissed the Terminator, who disappeared in a great sphere of chrono-energy.

Hermione burst in at that moment, her eyes bright with tears.

"Oh, Professor! I-- I found Ron's body down the road... then I... then I found his head at the bottom of the stairs! And-- Professor! Where's Harry?"

Dumbledore had been contemplating the spot where, only seconds before, Harry had stood. "Dead, I'm afraid. Vaporized by powerful magic. I don't know what to say, Hermione."

Hermione gasped and fell to her knees. Dumbledore couldn't help noticing how her robe failed to hide the beautiful curves of her now-womanly body. He leaned over and raised her to her feet, hugging her and stroking her long, wild brown hair. "It'll be all right," he whispered down to her, long fingers stroking lower, lower, lower.

Yes, indeed, Dumbledore thought with a private grin. Things were going to be more than all right.