From habit, I fought through the pain and managed to open my eyes enough to see the blue between white of what must be the sky.
The light added to the agony gnawing away behind my eyes, so I shut them, trying hard to find the darkness that took the pain away.
The next time I woke enough to open my eyes again, I could see only a greyish matter that, with some effort, I finally concluded must mean that I was inside somewhere.
I found I didn't care much. I knew that I should, but I didn't.
I went back to sleep.
The third time I woke and remembered waking, I was propped up on a pillow, head high enough to see over the lump at the far end of the bed that must be my feet.
The bed was surrounded by a partial screen, but it hurt when I tried to move my head to see more, so I didn't.
"Ah, awake. That's very good of you. Your mouth must be dry. Would you like something to drink?"
The voice was female. English, not American. Authoritative.
Her hand came into view first, holding a cup of what proved to be sweet, cool water. She allowed me only a couple of sips before she removed the cup. "Slowly. There's no need for gulping. There's plenty more where that came from."
I wanted to argue that. There had been a time in my life when there had been no water, only the condensation which formed on a transporter that most of the world didn't believe even existed. And barely enough of that for gulping.
Still, as long as I swallowed carefully, the cup remained at my mouth until I had drunk my fill.
"Why don't you go back to sleep?" said the reasonable voice.
But with the memory of that time when thirst and hunger had waged their own war with my fear came the understanding that I shouldn't be in a bed, shouldn't be anywhere but in a coffin.
"I'm dead," I croaked, feeling the beginning of panic, wanting to move but unable to.
"No, you're not." The voice was very firm on that. "But I want you to go to sleep. We will discuss this when you next wake."
And because the voice was so very firm, because I was suddenly so very tired, I gave in to it.
The man was sitting by my bed, watching me.
This was it, I told myself. It had finally happened. I had lost my mind.
The man had a long white beard that reached, from my range of vision, at least to his waist, longer than that white hair. On which rested a tall peaked hat.
Blue eyes that actually twinkled peered at me from behind half-glasses.
"I'd wager that you think you've gone crazy," said the man.
Another of those upper class English voices. Friendlier than the Well Manicured Man's. Still, I had learnt the hard way years ago, so I kept quiet. Silence often got the other to spill more information than speech.
"I'd also wager that you thought you should be dead. Quite honestly, you should be. However, Poppy tells me that metal thing you Muggles are overly fond of using - Merlin knows why! It is so destructive! - entered your forehead at such an angle that it just nicked part of the frontal lobe before lodging in the skull."
The man held up a small oblong metal item. "We managed to get it out with an extraction spell. Poppy feels that there was no additional damage done. In fact, that you are very lucky as your brain itself seems to have escaped any major damage. Your arm is also healing nicely. I'm so sorry, but we couldn't do anything about the other one."
I managed to raise my right arm enough to see that it now bore two new scars, but the wounds were pretty much healed. Still staring at my arm as though I expected it to disappear - Why not? The other one had - I raised my hand to my forehead where I could feel a small indentation a couple of centimetres above my nose.
"You were very lucky, for a Muggle." That was the first voice. The woman had appeared behind the man. She, too, was wearing a peaked hat, a black one.
Was this some new order of monks and nuns?
The thought crossed my mind that I really should know where I was. I wondered why but made myself ask, "Where am I?"
"Hogwarts," said the man.
I shook my head slightly. I shouldn't have done that. The motion woke up some pain, but it was more of a throbbing ache than the shearing agony that I seemed to remember.
"Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," added the man. "You won't have heard of us. But that's all right." The man stood. "This is Madam Pomfrey. She's in charge of the Infirmary where you find yourself. I am Professor Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts. Now that we've introduced ourselves, may I ask for your name?"
I wanted to shake my head to clear it but remembered in time that such an action was not something my head required. Still, surely I hadn't heard correctly: extraction spell? witchcraft and wizardry?
"Do you remember your name?" The man's voice was more insistent but still friendly.
I forced my eyes to focus on the man. Did it matter if I gave my name?
All they had to do was run my fingerprints through some police database and it would come up.
They didn't know what to do with me.
In this world of theirs, I was not what I had been. I was merely a "Muggle".
A non-magical person.
That bothered them more than the fact that I had been an assassin.
What really bothered them was that, though I had been "killed" in that other world, in the underground garage of F.B.I. Headquarters, they had found me, lying unconscious, in the middle of their Quidditch pitch.
Quidditch. Something else to add to my growing list of what was different in this world of theirs.
When Madam Pomfrey pronounced me strong enough, Professor Dumbledore and another of his staff, a man called Snape, came to my bedside and offered me something to drink.
"It is Veritaserum," growled the dark man. He glared at me but he wasn't Spender. There was nothing evil in his look, nothing that made me want to find a place to hide. He looked irritated, but I later came to realize that he looked at everyone that way. As though he had other places to be and better things to do than humour whoever was talking to him.
"It will allow us to ask you questions and you to answer them truthfully," explained the Professor.
They waited while I thought about that. "A truth serum."
"Yes. You needn't worry; there are no side effects, no consequences."
Which is how they learnt what I was. But not how I had gotten from D.C. to the middle of their Quidditch pitch.
To this different world of theirs.
Not only was this world different, what with its magic, but I was different in it.
It took me a long time to realize just how I had changed.
There were the obvious, to begin with.
They had asked me if I didn't find my prosthesis cumbersome. Ineffectual. And had instead given me something which acted like an arm though it really wasn't part of me. Still, it didn't break down and I didn't have to remove it as it never chafed, never pained me like the other one had.
My reaction time was much slower. It was as though I had to think about every word they spoke to me before I "heard" it. Like there was a time delay. If there were too many words, it became very confusing; they all jumbled up in my mind until I couldn't tell which was the one I should be concentrating on.
Madam Pomfrey used her wand to check me out and couldn't find anything wrong. Not really.
"The brain is a wondrous thing, but it, too, has limits," she said, in that firm tone of hers. "I wonder if we will ever truly know how and why it works."
Then there was the fact that I no longer had any trouble with sitting still. I knew that, in that other world, there'd been times when I had been required to do so, but I also remembered that it had been difficult.
Now I could sit somewhere and still be there when they finally came to find me hours later. I was not aware that time had passed to that extent.
I was not really aware of time.
I knew to go to bed when someone indicated that it was time to do so, and then, when I woke, I knew to check the clock to see if it was time to get out of bed. I also ate when they told me to or when they handed me some food.
But the biggest difference took me weeks to figure out.
I was sitting on a rock, watching the squid in the lake playing with a large ball someone had thrown into the water, when I realized that the part of me which had always been afraid was gone.
Fear had been with me for so long. I tried to remember another time when I hadn't had this tight ball of fear in me. Before Spender? Before the orphanage where he had found me?
I spent days digging around in me to see if, maybe, it had moved from the spot in my stomach where it had resided to another part of my anatomy.
But, no, it was gone.
Maybe, I thought, the fear was what had kept my reaction time so quick, had kept the words from getting jumbled, had made it so hard to just sit and watch.
They gave me a room off the Infirmary as my own as there were a few particular problems. The nightmares.
Strange that, though I had lost my fear, I hadn't lost them.
My screams woke up Madam Pomfrey and any patient she happened to have.
They didn't come all the time. There were nights I slept all the way through. There were nights when I woke before I screamed. But there were also nights when they couldn't rouse me and I screamed myself hoarse.
And in the morning, when they asked me what I had been dreaming about, I couldn't tell them.
Yes, I remembered becoming the means of transport of some Oilian. I remembered being locked away in the silo. I remembered losing my arm. I remembered the times I had been so terrified of disobeying Spender, of his punishments for things I never knew were wrong, whether I did or didn't do them.
Snape tried to develop a potion that would help, but nothing seemed to work. I could tell that he thought I was not responding to his mixtures on purpose.
"Would you like to see the animals?"
In that other world, he would have been a freak. Or maybe the highest paid basketball/football player ever.
Even standing at my tallest - I rose to the tip of my toes once just to check - I only came to under his armpit.
I went with him to see the animals. Nothing like those I was used to seeing.
Well, not Hagrid's.
Oh, there were cats and owls and rats and dogs about the place, but Hagrid collected different things.
The Blast-Ended Skrewt was interesting. Not very pleasant. Hagrid had named it Herman but I thought Spender would have been a better name for the thing.
I liked the hippogriffs and they seemed to like me. They allowed me to groom them. I wasn't fond of the nips they liked to give me but Hagrid explained it was a sign of approval. That if they hadn't liked me, they could have bitten my head off.
Gradually, without either of us really being aware of it, I got into the habit of helping Hagrid care for his animals. Every day. Or as often as I remembered to think about it. Sometimes, when I didn't show up and he really needed me, he would send an owl for me.
Her name was Pansy. She was a tiny barn owl and he used her only for me. After a while, she knew where to find me more than I did. She'd land on my shoulder and nibble on my ear lobe until she had my attention. Then, together, we'd go to Hagrid's hut. She stayed with me because sometimes, something caught my attention and I would forget where I was going.
I guess I had been there for about half a term when I heard them discussing me.
Hagrid had wanted some of the greenery from the kitchen to feed the unicorns so he'd sent me, with Pansy, to go get a basket from the House Elves.
When I first met the House Elves, I remember thinking that Mulder could have used one to keep his apartment clean, his refrigerator stocked, his meals ready whenever he needed them. Mind you, Scully could have taught them a thing or two about organization.
We were coming along the hallway, to the picture leading to the kitchens, when I heard my name.
And I stopped. I thought that someone had called me, so I waited for them to call me again.
"...doesn't belong here. Krycek is a Muggle and needs to be returned to the Muggles."
I didn't recognize the voice, but it was angry.
"...should never have been allowed to remain here so long!"
"Now, Cornelius." That was Professor Dumbledore's voice. Calm and soothing as when he spoke to me.
"We needed to know how he had found his way here." That was Snape. His tone was icier than ever. So, he didn't like this Cornelius.
"I don't see..."
"We need to know if the demarcation lines between our world and that of the Muggles have been breached, Minister."
Ah, McGonagall. I watched her one night as she changed into a cat. As a witch she didn't much like me, but as a cat there was this spot between her ears that she liked scratched. Sometimes, when I needed to sit outside in the dark, I would wait until the Infirmary wing was quiet and I would go out to sit on my favourite rock. Now and then, she would join me for a while, as though she too needed the dark and the quiet.
"Well, if they have been, it was only that once. A fluke. He has nothing to do with our world. He's a Muggle, not a Squib. We don't need to keep him. Either he goes back or he goes to Azkaban."
I could tell by the gasps, by the protests that Azkaban was not a place I wanted to be sent to.
Pansy nipped my ear and I continued to the kitchen.
I thought about it the rest of that day and during supper which I ate, as usual, in the Infirmary. Madam Pomfrey was watching me with a worried look.
I figured things were not good.
I checked my room before I left, making sure that I had all that I would need.
I had no real weapons, not that I was sure the ones from that other world would work here. But I had stolen a knife from the kitchens that afternoon and I could do a lot with that, if I remembered how to use it.
I pulled on the two t-shirts that I had, courtesy some Muggle-bred wizard. And the thick sweater that someone had contributed when Madam Pomfrey had asked for clothing for me. It was a deep khaki colour. I guess whoever had donated it - there was a large, yellowish "G" knitted in the middle of the chest - hadn't liked the colour, as it hadn't been worn.
I wrapped the food that I had snuck into my pockets during supper, added the two apples that I had taken from the basket Hagrid had given me to feed as a treat to the hippogriffs. I shoved all that I was taking with me into the pockets of the robe that Madam Pomfrey had insisted I wear when wandering outside. I think she thought it would help me pass for one of the staff.
I checked one last time and quietly left the room, the wing and finally the building.
There was no moon, no stars, but that was okay. I knew where I was going and none of those would have helped once I got into the Forbidden Forest.
I had listened when Hagrid had warned his students about the Forbidden Forest. About the horrible things in it. Even McGonagall in her witch form had warned me to stay out of there. I knew that Pansy nipped me really hard if I went close to it.
So I figured it would be the last place they would look for me.
It was dark, but nowhere near as dark as the silo had been.
There were strange sounds, but I figured whatever they were, if they attacked, they would be aiming to kill. Not see how much pain I could endure before I passed out.
And besides, how horrible could things be? More horrible than the Grays? Than the Rebels with their flame throwers? Than the Oilians? Than Replicants?
What did they have in this world that was worse than what I had seen and experienced in that other one? The one that this Cornelius guy wanted to send me back to.
Maybe this Azkaban, but they would have to find me first. And I really didn't think they would care to follow me into the deepest, darkest part of the Forbidden Forest.
I walked a long time. I knew when the sun rose because things became a little clearer. I could see maybe a good twenty feet ahead of me now instead of five or six. My night vision was still excellent, in spite of that bullet in the head.
When I finally realized I was hungry, I stopped and ate just a little of the food I had with me. One thing the silo had taught me was how to pace myself. I'd survived the first three days on the condensation off the transporter and one broken granola bar that I'd had in my pocket.
I sat and listened to the "daytime" noises. They reminded me of the ones in a Siberian forest I had been dropped into as a teenager. Before they set the dogs loose and I was supposed to outrun, outwit them into staying alive.
I supposed if anything was going to come out and eat me, it would have done so by now. So I slept a little.
Something did wake me. I looked around for the horse whose hoof beats I was certain I had heard. From the light, I decided that I had slept maybe a couple of hours, three at the most, and that I should perhaps move deeper into the Forest.
I had no real idea of where I was going or what I was looking for when I entered the Forbidden Forest. Only that I didn't want to be sent back to the world where I was supposed to be dead. A world where fear had lived in me for so long.
I heard the brook before I saw it. It looked cool and inviting.
I sat by it and watched the small current in the quickly fading light. I put a fingertip in it and then pulled it out, wondering if the tip was going to dissolve. When it didn't, I placed it onto the tip of my tongue to see if it was poisoned or, more probably in this world, spelled in some way.
It tasted cool, wet, and when nothing happened, I leaned over, scooped a handful up to my mouth. I sat back against a rock and ate an apple as I waited to see if I would turn into one of Hagrid's experiments.
The small clearing was surrounded by dense trees of what had to be incredible age. Their trunks were the size of pick-up trucks. The branches were as thick as regular trees. The leaves had to be high up as I couldn't see them, but they certainly didn't allow any extra light into the area.
There was a pile of what seemed to be pine needles under one of the massive trees. They were dry and bug-free. A good place, I thought to myself.
I didn't go further with that thought. And I didn't go further into the Forest.
I made myself a nest in the pile needles, drank my fill of water then wrapped my robe tightly about myself and went to sleep.
I dreamt about that forest in Siberia. Complete with howling dogs.
I woke to Fang licking my face with far more enthusiasm than I liked.
And with Severus Snape watching me.
I brushed Fang's face away from mine and sat up. Snape said nothing, just gracefully lowered himself into a cross-legged seated position on the forest floor. Still silent, he passed me a small packet from his pocket. Some sandwiches. I ate one as he continued watching me. Fang lay next to me and I fed him bits.
"What made you suddenly decide to bolt, Krycek?"
He sounded barely curious, as though he was not all that interested. But his eyes were intent on mine. And there I saw...worry? Why would a Potions Master be worried about a Muggle?
I wanted to look away but couldn't. I did wonder if he had cast a spell on me while I had slept.
"I overheard you talking."
Snape nodded as though I had merely confirmed something he already knew.
"I don't want to go back to that world. In that world, I'm dead. And I think that, if you send me back, I will be dead."
He said nothing. Made no gesture. Just waited for me to continue.
"And from everyone's reaction, I don't think I want to go to Azkaban."
"No, you don't. Do you know what Azkaban is?"
I shook my head. Fang didn't like the word. He made a growly whimpering sound.
I listened while Snape explained about Dementors.
No, I didn't think I would like it there.
I rested my head back against the tree and looked around. "Maybe I can stay here. I wouldn't bother any one and the fact that no one understands how I came to be here wouldn't be an issue."
Snape raised that cool eyebrow of his. He was better at it than Skinner. The man who had shot me dead in the basement garage of F.B.I. Headquarters.
"You would not survive here, Krycek."
"I have so far."
I smiled. "Maybe I came to this world because this is where I belong. In the shadows, in the darkness. Along with the other horrible creatures. If I stay here, no one need worry about what I'm doing in this world. No one would need to keep an eye on me."
"Have we been keeping an eye on you?" Snape took his wand and spelled us a small fire and a pot of tea.
I liked watching them do that sort of thing. Making something appear - or disappear - with just a wave of a wand or the saying of words that, when I said them, caused nothing to happen.
The tea was minty and soothing. I drank a whole cup before I explained. "You've all been watching me. The Professor watches me with curiosity. He keeps waiting for me to do something. Maybe grow a second head. McGonagall watches me to see if she should transfigure into a cat and join me at night. Madam Pomfrey watches me to see that I eat properly, that I get some sleep. If I've been out all night, she comes into my room and removes the clock so that I'll sleep. She watches to see if she should keep her door open so she'll hear my nightmares as they begin so that she can wake me before I start screaming."
I had been stroking and scratching Fang's head which he'd moved onto my lap. Now I looked up.
"And you watch me. With that look in your eyes when you think I won't catch it."
Snape's eyes seemed to darken. "And what look is that?"
I moved Fang's head off my lap, got onto my hands and knees, and crawled over to where he was watching me. "The same look that I got in that other world when someone decided they wanted to fuck me."
Snape said nothing. Didn't even move an inch as I approached him.
"You want me." I placed my face close enough that he seemed to blur a little.
He didn't move back. "Yes, I do." Said in that still barely curious, barely interested tone.
"Then why haven't you done something about it?"
"What would you expect me to do?"
I sat down, my legs splayed. Fang came to sit by me. Another one who watched me. Who knew my smell. Which was probably how Snape had found me. "Indicate it in some way."
There was a long silence during which I stared at the brook and Snape stared at me.
"Should I snap my fingers?"
I cocked my head, focusing on the small ripple that I could barely see. "That's one way."
The ripple disappeared and came back.
"As for a dog."
I just watched the ripple until Fang nudged me with his head. I stopped staring at the ripple and scratched the big head. Finally I realized that Snape was still waiting for my answer. "Yes."
"But you're not a dog."
I just shrugged. I'm sure that Spender would have laughed himself silly at Snape's comment.
I looked up and at him. No one had ever called me that since I'd gotten here.
"Alex," he said it again, his voice calm and soothing like the Professor's. "Do you remember the day you drank the Veritaserum?"
I had to think about that. I nodded.
"Do you remember any of what you told us that day?"
"The truth. About how I had no idea how I'd gotten here. About what I did in that other world."
"But not anything else?"
I shrugged. What more could I have told them? Had they asked me about more than that? I tried but couldn't remember.
"Dumbledore asked you how you had become an assassin. Do you remember that?"
No, I didn't. My memories of those first days were spotty at best.
Snape lifted his hand to my face. He just placed it on my cheek and left it there barely long enough for me to register its presence.
He rose to his feet. "Come. It's all right to go back. You're not going to be sent back to that other world or to Azkaban. Dumbledore's pulled certain strings and you're to stay at Hogwarts. But you must be supervised. Just to be certain that you are not one of the Dark Lord's little surprises."
I got up as well and looked at him. "Who's going to supervise me?"
I thought I saw the glimmer of a smile. "I am."
I looked at the forest around me for a bit. I memorized the brook and the trees, just in case I should ever need them again.
We walked out along a path that I hadn't seen. Ahead of us, far beyond the range of my sight but not of my hearing, were the sounds of horses. Fang ran up ahead to them and then back to us, as though making certain one group did not lose the other.
At one point, Severus offered his hand and I took it.
We came out much sooner than I would have thought, right by Hagrid's hut.
Hagrid was sitting on his front steps, whittling away. "Ah, I see you found him, Professor. The hippogriffs missed you, Alex. They find that you've a gentler hand at grooming than I do."
Pansy seemed to have missed me, too. She landed on my shoulder, wings flapping, squawking and hooting as though scolding me for not taking her with me. I guess she forgave me because, before we got to one of the side doors, she nipped my ear.
All her racket was probably why Professor Dumbledore, McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey were waiting for us by the door.
"He's all right?" McGonagall reached out to pat my shoulder.
"Right as rain," grouched Snape.
Madam Pomfrey had her wand out, quickly checking me over. "Doesn't seem the worse for his little adventure," she reported to the Professor.
The Professor just shook his head. "Alex, should this urge to explore the Forbidden Forest ever come upon you again, please discuss it with one of us. I'm certain that Severus can find a potion that will dissuade you of the desire."
Actually, Severus has never had to.
He told me that I was moving into his quarters as that would make it easier to supervise me.
He moved me into his bed so that I would be close at hand should the nightmares occur.
At first, they did.
He would wake and hold me, talking calmly until I wrapped myself around him.
Once he began making love to me, they went away.
They've never come back.
TITLE: ANOTHER LIFE
DATE: July, 2002
BETA: with thanks to Rhys.
NOTE 1: An experiment with first person POV.
NOTE 2: You really do need to be familiar with at least the first Harry Potter (book or movie) for any of this to make sense.
Summary: In the X-Files episode "Existence", Alex Krycek was killed. But is the Rat really dead?
Characters: Alex Krycek, Krycek/Severus Snape
Warnings: Implied sex