Title: The Unlikely Hero
A/N: Updates will be once every two weeks at the latest, once a week at the quickest. I don't have a beta reader because that would mean it would take even longer to get the chapter out, and I'm sure most of you would rather deal with a few grammatical errors rather than waiting weeks and weeks. If you spot any major inconsistencies, feel free to e-mail me or note it in a review. All comments are welcome, even flames, though I probably won't respond to more than a few in each chapter. I hope you enjoy it and check out some of the other things I've written.
"The Prophecy and the Potions Master"
Prophecies, Severus thought, were silly things. First of all, a prophecy suggested there was such a thing as fate, and Severus did not believe in fate. He did not believe in love at first sight either. He was a perfectly sensible man who lived a rather dull, lonely life brewing potions for the village of Hogwarts.
He was not well liked. The other villagers made fun of his sallow skin and hooked nose. They laughed about his greasy hair and his outdated clothing. Nevertheless, when they needed a potion, they were willing to overlook his discouraging appearance and pay by the galleons for his highly effective brews and tonics.
Severus did not think his existence horrible or his loneliness unbearable. He had a small cottage on the edge of the village that was the perfect size for him, and a faithful donkey that got him from place to place well enough. He made routine trips into the nearby forest for herbs and plants that he needed for his orders, and occasionally went into the village to deliver them.
That was about the sum of his life. He preferred his lonely solitude at the edge of the woods to the annoying company of the villagers.
This was why when the official looking knight pounded rudely on his door with the King's newest decree, he did not take the news well. His glittering black eyes scanned the rolled parchment quickly.
The young knight looked around suspiciously. It was rumored there was a curse on the potion master's cottage. The younger boys would often dare each other to sneak up to it at night, and the memory of such nights must have made him slightly uncomfortable.
"This is ridiculous. I do not believe in prophecies, and if the King were a wiser man, neither would he. I will not travel all the way into the village when I was not planning on doing so just to have a tug at some stupid sword. If that is all the news you bring, good day!" Severus made to slam the door, but the knight forcibly put a foot in his way. Finding his courage, the knight brandished the decree under Severus's large nose.
"Whether you like it or not isn't the question. The King wants every man in his kingdom to try their hand at pulling the Sword of Gryffindor out of the stone. As laughable as the idea is, this means you have to give it a pull. The King's word is law, and as a knight, I'm here to enforce it. Either come willingly, or I'll carry you myself." Severus and the knight locked eyes in a heated staring match that ended when Severus abruptly turned his back and grabbed his cloak, a sack that contained a jar of some sort of potion, and his money pouch.
His dignity offended, Severus growled under his breath as he made his way to his donkey tied in front of the cottage. The beast flicked an ear disinterestedly as Severus tossed a rucksack over his back and mounted him gracefully. The knight jumped on the back of his impressive white steed and galloped off to his next destination, leaving Severus to make the ride into the village alone.
Severus plodded along, occasionally making a comment to Sal, his donkey.
"This is a complete waste of my time."
Sal huffed out a great breath of air, as if he were sighing in agreement.
"The whole situation is absurd! Whoever heard of a prince being kidnapped by an evil dragon? He's a bloody prince! He can defeat the dragon on his own and rescue himself. Leave me to my potions!"
Sal stopped, nibbled on some grass, and then continued onward. Lazily, a cloud rolled by overhead, and some tame deer glanced up at them from the other side of a serene looking pond nearby. The Kingdom of Gryffindor was a peaceful place – at least it had been until Deatheaters kidnapped the prince in the name of the evil dragon Voldemort. Now everyone was working themselves up into a right panic. The peace and serenity of the village had been shattered.
When they reached their destination, Severus tied his donkey up in front a small home and knocked sharply on the door. A weathered old woman cracked the door open, her long nose protruding through the crack as her beady eyes glared at him from the darkness.
"Madam, I've come to deliver your potion. A remedy for your aching hands – correct?"
She opened the door wider, and nodded for him to step inside.
"It's about time. They get so cramped without the potion that I can barely cook my own dinner," she mumbled irritably as she fetched her coin purse. "How much will it cost me?"
Severus observed the way her bony fingers struggled with the simple clasp, and the grimace of pain on her face as she forced her hands to flex. Her home was nearly bare, and her quilt was far too thin. The dinner she'd mentioned earlier was a watery stew – barely enough to fill half a bowl.
"There is no charge. I will make my money off the fools who ask for love potions and aphrodisiacs." He placed the large jar on a rickety table and left quickly, before the proud old woman would feel obliged to thank him. He empathized with her. She, too, was not liked by anyone in the village. He imagined he would be very similar to her in his old days.
He led his donkey through the quaint little streets until he came to the village square, a bustling place filled with all sorts of activity. Vendors were tucked into every available space, and the sounds of haggling played like an overture. In the very center of the square there was a large rock with an elaborate hilt buried deep inside it. Just behind it lay the road that lead to the magnificent Castle of Gryffindor. It was positioned in such a way that when the sun set, the red sand stones became so bright that it looked as though the castle was being swallowed by the burning orb and charged by its light.
Severus walked through the square as if he saw none of the beauty around him, and in truth, he really was blind to it.
Today, however, the square was arranged slightly different. Armed knights formed a ring around the sword in the stone. A platform had been erected, on which sat King James and Queen Lily on makeshift thrones. Though the vendors booths were open, most of the activity was centered around the sword.
An orderly line had been made leading up to the stone. Villagers, some Severus recognized and others he had never seen, were anxiously waiting, their hands itching to give the sword a pull. Standing closest to the stone with a determined look on his face was a tall, muscular red-head. His armor positively gleamed in the fading sunlight. The red cape that brushed at the ground showed his rank – Captain of the Knights, second in command to King James himself. Everyone was craning their necks to watch the spectacle. The King observed his favorite knight for a few more seconds, then raised a hand to call for silence.
"By now, all of you know of our kingdom's misfortune. My son, Prince Harry, has been kidnapped by Deatheaters – footmen for the evil dragon Voldemort. It is not known were Harry has been taken, but this event was foretold by the prophecy that was revealed before his birth. The man or woman that pulls the sword of Gryffindor from the stone is the chosen one. He, or she, will be charged with the quest of rescuing my son from the clutches of the monster and destroying it. If the chosen one does not defeat the dragon, he will conquer every kingdom until there is only devastation and death left behind. So it has been told, and so it will be...unless the chosen one is found. Therefore, by my decree, every able man and woman will attempt to pull the sword from the stone. My knights have all tried with the exception of my Captain. If it is not him, then we will call upon the villagers of Gryffindor," he paused with his gaze upon the tall red-head. "But I am sure that Captain Ronald will make that unnecessary." The king nodded his head at the Captain, who took a step towards the stone. He halted, however, when the queen raised her voice over the excited whispers.
"Also, people of Gryffindor, remember that he who pulls out the sword is entitled to my son's hand in marriage should he successfully rescue him. We are not merely searching for a rescuer – we are looking for the future King or Queen of Gryffindor!"
The whispering increased ten fold. Young ladies, who normally would have protested at having to lift a pail of water, were rolling up their sleeves. Boisterous men, who had spent the previous night ogling at women in the whorehouse, were boasting about how they would pull the sword and claim the prince's hand.
Severus had never desired anyone, woman or man, and certainly had never wished to marry. However, even he could recognize the aesthetic beauty of Prince Harry.
It was true, the prophecy had been revealed by the court wizard Albus Dumbledore before Harry was born. It had been automatically assumed that a princess was coming – one who would need a strapping prince-in-the-making to rescue her when the dragon came.
So, with much rejoicing despite the ominous prophecy, the name "Harriet" was decided on by the King and Queen, and the villagers anxiously awaited the arrival of the little girl. Finally, after what seemed like years, the day came. On a hot July morning, the princess was born.
Except, it was a prince. A little prince that was named Harry instead of Harriet.
But Harry was far more beautiful than any princess could have hoped to be. In fact, he looked neither masculine nor feminine, but rather ethereal. His black hair was silky and naturally tussled looking. His lips were the perfect shape and size. His skin was unblemished, his teeth were sparkling, his eyes were enchanting, and his kindness was known throughout all four kingdoms as being unparalleled.
Everyone wanted him. Women and men alike salivated over him as if he were a piece of meat. Had it not been for the prophecy, he would have had so many marriage offers from noblemen, knights, and royalty that they would have simply not been able to keep up with them all.
Severus knew all this. He also knew that the idea of himself with someone like Prince Harry was beyond laughable. It would be the laugh of the day that he would even have to attempt to pull the sword out. He would be mortified.
He prayed then that Captain Ron would pull the sword out as if it were merely trapped in milky butter. He begged to whatever deities were out there to spare him the embarrassment.
He was not to be obliged.
Captain Ronald climbed the rock and locked his large hands around the hilt. He pulled furiously, using every ounce of strength in his body, but the sword would not budge.
Not even an inch.
Severus happened to catch a glimpse of the court wizard standing in the shadows behind the king. His blue eyes were twinkling with amusement. His lips were quirked into a tiny smile. Then, as if the moment had been planned since the beginning of time, Albus Dumbledore's piercing eyes slid from Ron to rest on him. Out of everyone in the crowd, they found him.
They flayed though his thoughts, his worries, his doubts and his fears. They left his soul open and gaping. His eyes sang of potential and fate and all the secrets of the universe buried in just one man.
And then...he winked.
Severus did not believe in fate, but he knew in that moment, as sure as he knew the sun would rise and the birds would sing, that he would be the one to pull the sword from the stone.
The Next Chapter:
A voyage of a million miles begins with just one step...