A/n: Thank you to everyone who reviewed. I did read each review, although I am sadly too lazy and simple-minded to actually take time to reply. I barely leave myself enough time to write the fanfic let alone respond to reviews. My therapist says I need to learn better time management, because as I am now I waste most of it.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. J. K. Rowling does. I'm not her. Now I'm going to disappear into a shadowy corner and cry about it.
Harry walked through the ancient version of Hogsmeade with a forlorn expression and a heavy heart. It was Christmas Eve. His friends were a thousand years away. Voldemort was causing turmoil throughout the wizarding world. Worst of all, Harry found himself completely alone again. Why was it that he always had to be alone on important days meant to share with loved ones? His birthday, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, and now Christmas… Harry sighed and shook his head. Such thoughts were only depressing him even more.
He turned a corner and saw a pet shop. It was in the same place as in his time, but it had a different name. Stepping inside the store, Harry looked around the small building at the strange creatures locked in their cages ready to take home as a Christmas present.
"Oh, no…a human…a customer…I hope he doesn't come this way…We've lost too many as it is…"
Harry's eyes turned to the general direction of the voice. He was quite curious to know what kind of person would not want a customer to make a purchase in their store. It was part of their job to make a sale and profit, right? What businessman would be afraid of business?
His question was answered when he found himself staring down at a small serpent that was writhing in what seemed like pain.
"I'm sick. You don't want a diseased pet. Find someone else," it hissed at him.
Harry smirked and hissed back, "If you were as sick as you pretend to be, I doubt you would be able to move so much, little one." He smiled disarmingly and knelt down so that he was eye level with the shocked creature. "I'm Harry, by the way. What is your name?"
"I have no name that a human could pronounce, snake speaker," it told him guardedly. It then let out another series of hisses that Harry recognized was a name, but it made no sense to him beyond that. "How is it you can speak my language?"
"A wizard sent a curse at me and instead of killing me as it should have, it backfired at him and marked me as his equal when I was an infant. I inherited this ability from him."
The snake looked pensive. "There is only one bloodline I know of that can speak the language of snakes. It must have been a Slytherin." Harry nodded in agreement, staring dazedly into the serpent's crimson eyes. After several minutes of tense silence in which the snake seemed to be measuring him up, it nodded imperceptibly to itself and said, "I have decided, human. You shall be my master. No other human has ever been courageous enough to look me in the eyes before."
Harry was flattered by the offer, but he didn't have much money. "But you must be very expensive. I cannot afford a familiar as beautiful as you."
The snake hissed in amusement and replied, "Open the cage, young human. I shall take care of the rest." Harry hesitantly obeyed, wondering how a snake was going to convince a shopkeeper to do anything at all, let alone haggle with him. The snake slithered out and for the first time, Harry was able to gauge its size. It was about three and a half feet long. He watched as it made its way to the back of the shop. There was a loud shout and the sound of several parcels falling to the floor. Harry slowly stepped toward the racket and saw a middle-aged man huddled in a corner with both his hands over his eyes. He was murmuring quietly to himself about how he'd known it was too dangerous to keep around the store and that he was going to die.
"Don't kill him," Harry ordered. The snake turned to look at him, taken aback by the command. To Harry, it was a perfectly reasonable request, but to the snake it obviously was not. "I have seen enough death and bloodshed to last me ten lifetimes. I will not take a familiar who kills without reason." After a short pause, the snake nodded and slithered over to him and up around his body until it was resting on his shoulders.
"Um, excuse me," Harry said uncomfortably, knowing he'd nearly given the man a heart attack with his new friend. "How much is this snake? I'd like to buy it."
After registering the words, the man replied, "N-Nothing! Just take it and get out of here! Get that thing away from me!" Harry just shrugged and exited the building, leaving a few galleons next to the register on the way out."You are too kind, young master," the snake hissed next to his ear.
"You're male, right? I think I will name you Ares. You seem to possess an unnaturally warlike spirit," he said teasingly, though his new companion took him seriously.
"I approve, master. If you wish to call me Ares, I accept the human name." Harry laughed heartily and turned into a bookstore in hopes of finding something to help him get home. Even though he knew it was a hopeless cause, Harry refused to give up, especially when all of his friends were fighting so hard in the future to protect the world from Voldemort. How could he just sit around and enjoy life with the Founders when his friends were dying one by one in a war? "What are you searching for, master?"
"A way home," Harry mumbled as he scanned a shelf near the back of the store. "I am from the future. I don't remember what happened beyond the fact that it was in the middle of a huge battle, but I somehow ended up here."
"Will I be returning with you?" Ares inquired, staring at the human writing blankly; it was gibberish to the snake but nonetheless was fascinating in its simplicity and primitive appearance.
Harry sighed. "I would like that, Ares, but I'm not sure if there is a way to return at all, let alone with a familiar." There might not be a way home. That thought brought tears to his eyes and he felt the small serpent tighten its hold on him slightly.
"Nonsense!" Ares replied, "All spells can be undone! It is merely a matter of finding its counter." Harry nodded, offered a small smile, and tried to calm himself down. It would not do to make a scene in a public place with a snake wrapped around his shoulders. He'd already received more than his fair share of attention on the streets, so much so that he'd made Ares hide in his robes until they were someplace less crowded.
"Harry, what in Merlin's name is that!" Godric exclaimed, pointing exaggeratedly at the teen's shoulder.
"This is Ares. He's my new familiar." Harry stroked Ares' scales as the snake slithered across his hands, enjoying the touch. "He's promised not to hurt anyone, so I see no reason why you wouldn't allow it," he added. Godric immediately turned to Salazar with this new information.
"You knew," he accused. "Why would you let him get a serpent?"
Salazar shook his head, "I didn't know anything, Godric. He most likely picked the snake up on his excursion to Hogsmeade this afternoon."
Harry nodded in confirmation. "Yes, I saw him in a pet shop and decided that he was much more important than a rule that is incomprehensibly ridiculous and grounded in old superstition." He smiled sheepishly. "I'm sorry for not asking first," he said to Salazar.
Salazar gave him a reassuring smile. "It's quite all right… this time. Next time, be sure to acquire the proper permission from your Head of House." Harry nodded and then bowed obediently. Turning to Godric, the Founder added, "I will take responsibility for this if things get out of hand."
"What are they saying, young master?" Ares hissed softly.
"Godric is being rude and saying I cannot keep you, and Salazar is offering to take responsibility for any trouble we get into."
Salazar, who had been eavesdropping on their conversation, chuckled quietly. "I say that hoping I will have no need to take the blame for any unnecessary stunts."
Harry grinned. "Of course, Professor, I wouldn't dream of causing mischief. Not me! I'm a good little boy." Salazar snorted in disbelief. "I am! You think I've been bad this year, you should be grateful you didn't know me in the past—or rather, the future! My friends and I used to cause so much trouble that each year we were threatened with expulsion at least once!"
Ares cut in, "Your professor is a snake speaker. He is a Slytherin?"
Salazar's green eyes darkened so that they were almost black. "Yes, unfortunately, although I'd prefer not to be reminded of it, thank you." Harry opened his mouth to inquire as to the reason, but Ares hissed sharply in warning. Looking again at Salazar's eyes, Harry realized it was not a subject the man was willing to discuss. Salazar, sensing Harry's uneasiness, said, "What kind of snake is Ares, Harry?" Harry shrugged and translated the question for Ares, who wondered why Salazar had even bothered with human tongue.
Harry paled and answered, "He's a basilisk." Of course, Salazar had already heard Ares' reply, but the full implications of the words didn't hit until he'd heard them come from Harry's own mouth. "Could he be the one I killed in my second year?"
Salazar nodded slowly. "That is very possible, Harry. Where else could we keep a basilisk than in the Chamber of Secrets…and they live for such a long time…"
"I don't care. I'm not getting rid of him. Not right now, anyways. Godric will just have to wait a thousand years. I've already gotten attached."
"But would you leave him here, knowing what terrible fate will someday befall him?" Salazar asked gently. Harry bit his lip uncertainly.
"I… he attacked me first… he should have known it was me… I didn't know him yet… and he really should have known better… so isn't it his own fault? He… he could have… I don't know… he could have killed Voldemort instead… right?"
"A thousand years is a long time to be alone, Harry," the older wizard reminded him. "Is that fair to Ares?"
"I'm not getting rid of him! He's not just some animal that can be put down when you're sick of him! He's a basilisk and he's my friend!"
"A friend you've had only for a day—"
"And trust with my life!" Harry snapped, growing defensive. Ares didn't understand the words being exchanged but hissed at Salazar for making his master upset. "I've only known you for a few months, and I trust you as well. Call me foolish if you like, but I'd prefer to have relationships and be hurt than always wonder what could have been."
"Harry, I never asked for your trust, and I would rather you take it back. I am not a trustworthy person. I will abuse whatever power you give me; that I can promise you. It is part of who I am. It's in my blood."
"And it is in my blood to trust traitors," Harry replied. Turning to Ares, he hissed, "I won't let them take you away, Ares. You will stay with me forever… won't you?"
"Of course, young master."
"You'll wait for me, right? Even for a thousand years?"
"Yes, young master, I will wait," Ares hissed with a hint of annoyance at having to repeat himself. Harry grinned widely at the serpent and stroked its scales tenderly.
"Thank you. I just hope we don't end up killing each other when next we meet." Ares looked up at Harry incredulously. "Well, a thousand years is a long time to wait, Ares, and there will be others who speak your tongue. Please do not be deceived by another Parseltongue. Please don't turn against me."
"I would never commit such a crime against honor and duty, young master. You rescued me from my cage and have offered me care and shelter. I am your faithful servant."
"Good, then you won't obey Tom Riddle," Harry murmured in English, ignoring the curious looks he received from Salazar and Ares, the latter of which did not understand the statement while the former had understood too well.
"Salazar Slytherin, how could you allow him to keep a basilisk!" Godric exclaimed once Harry had left the room that evening.
Salazar sighed. "I see no reason why not, Godric. Harry is an exceptional student and I think he deserves some semblance of friendship in this time. He has no human friends, but he seems pleased enough with the serpent." The Parselmouth grew silent for a moment before adding, "What is this really about, Godric? I know it's not about the snake."
There was a tense pause. "Why didn't you tell me he was a Parselmouth?" The question was very soft, and Salazar almost missed it.
"There was no reason for you to know, and if Harry had wanted you informed, he would have gone to you directly."
Godric glared. "And since when have you respected people's wishes? This isn't like you, Salazar. You never make exceptions for anyone about anything. I have seldom seen you bestow favoritism on a single person. You would have never permitted a dangerous creature like a basilisk within the school before Harry came along. I have to wonder if you realize just how much special attention you shower the boy with. I, at least, have my reasons, being as he is my student.
"Why are you treating him like he means something to you? He shouldn't. He can't, Salazar. I see the way you look at him—that sad, wistful look. Why do you do this to yourself? Not only is he clueless to your feelings, he is a student—my student—and a child, Salazar, a child. Do you understand what I'm saying? You don't, do you?"
Salazar sighed again, this time much deeper. "It is not that I don't understand, Godric. It's that knowing such truths changes nothing. I cannot help what I feel. It by no means suggests that I would ever act on those feelings, but I have them nonetheless." Godric was staring at him in wary pity. "I don't regret it, Godric. I am grateful I was able to meet young Harry Potter. I would not wish for him to return my feelings—I'm not quite sure what I'd do if he did."
"Run for the hills and die an old hermit," Godric quipped, and Salazar chuckled half-heartedly. "Salazar Slytherin, you are my friend—one of my best friends, actually. I hate watching you hurt yourself, but I will not interfere. It is, after all, your business what you feel and for whom you feel it. Heaven forbid I might actually attempt to tamper with the volatile force that is your heart."
"I resent that."
"You're scary when people try to help you. It's true and don't you dare deny it!"
Salazar rolled his eyes. "Regardless, we should continue the search for a way to get Harry home with just as much fervor as ever.
Godric nodded. "Of course. The boy cannot stay here. He must return to his own time. You're the one who needs to remember that."
Salazar watched his friend depart. "I'm the one who needs to remember?" He laughed dryly. "How can I forget? It hangs over my head each day like a dark storm cloud boding utter devastation."
Rowena scurried down the corridor to Godric's classroom, a large piece of parchment clutched tightly in her pale hands. She'd finally found it. After months of searching, she'd finally found a way that might send young Harry to his own time.
As she neared the door, she paused with her hand hovering over the doorknob. There were loud voices resonating from within. Pressing her ear to the wooden door, she listened intently.
"Not only is Harry clueless to your feelings, he is a student—my student—and a child, Salazar, a child. Do you understand what I'm saying? You don't, do you?" Rowena covered her mouth to stifle a gasp. Salazar had feelings for Harry? She'd known that Harry was fond of the Slytherin Founder, but for Salazar to return those feelings was preposterous! He would know better than to get involved with a student!
"...I am by no means suggesting that I would ever act on those feelings, but I have them nonetheless." Rowena fought back her cry of shock and listened to the rest of the conversation, careful to slip into the shadows as Godric made his exit.
The new piece of information astounded her. Salazar Slytherin, the apparently cold, indifferent, distant Salazar Slytherin, had feelings for Harry Potter, the boy who'd only weeks ago expressed his admiration for Salazar himself. How curious... Rowena glanced down at the slip of parchment and smiled faintly before slipping it into her pocket and departing for her bedroom. A little longer wouldn't hurt anyone.