Conscience of the Snake
This is kind of a teaser… I want your reaction whether or not I should continue it…
A/N: This will be something new for me, I read a lot of time travel fics and Founder's fics, but have never written oneThe time travel template is common, I hope that what I am going to do with it is not.
Beginning of the End of the Beginning
Post War, Year 1.5
Wizarding Britain, for all intents and purposes, no longer existed. Its downfall had began in what would have been Harry Potter's seventh year in Hogwarts. He was not there to see it. Harry, Ron, and Hermione had left school to hunt down Voldemort's Horcruxes. It was a long and arduous task, one in which two of their number did not survive. Ron had been the first to die. Harry and Hermione never realized that he had died until several months later. By then Hermione was also counted among the dead.
The trio had been camping in a magical tent in the Forbidden Forest when there had been an argument and Ron had stormed out in a fit of jealousy. He had promptly apparated home to the Burrow. Harry and Hermione figured that he would somehow find them and once again they would patch up their friendship. This was not to be however, because when Ron arrived back at the Burrow, it was under attack by Voldemort's Death Eaters. He had fought valiantly, proving that he was a true Gryffindor, but it was too late. By the time he arrived, Bill, Fleur, Charlie, Arthur and Molly were dead. Fred and George died soon after, killed by the husband and wife team of Rudolphus and Bellatrix Lestrange. Ron died when he threw himself in front of a killing curse meant for his sister, Ginny. That brave act of self-sacrifice extended Ginny's life by roughly 15 seconds; she was decapitated by a Reducto curse cast by Peter Pettigrew. This left Percy as the last living Weasley. When the Ministry fell, Percy took the Dark Mark in order to stay alive. It did him no good in the long run. Although he fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming Minister of Magic, Voldemort himself killed Percy in a fit of pique when Percy raised a mild disagreement with his Master.
It was after the fall of the Ministry that the Goblins of Gringotts decided that it would be in their best interest to support Voldemort. It was a fatal Mistake. Voldemort demanded, and got, a truce that put one Death Eater working in Gringotts for every Goblin employed. On Boxing Day of 1997, the Death Eaters turned their wands on their Goblin co-workers and killed most of them. The survivors sealed off the vaults and ended up starving to death in the tunnels. The dragons feasted on the corpses until they ran out, then they also slowly starved, the larger ones eating the smaller ones until there was no food left. Without access to the vaults, there was no more bank and the wizarding economy crashed.
It was at this point that any light wizards who were able, fled the country. Several hundred were killed attempting to escape, many more were killed by the magical border guards of neighboring countries. The International Confederation had placed an embargo and blockade on Britain in an attempt to contain Voldemort within the borders of Britain. Muggle flights were being monitored by International 'Antiterrorist Forces' with the cooperation of the British Muggle authorities. Anyone with a magical signature would be turned over to the muggle authorities, who made them 'disappear'. Since most wizards had no muggle records, they were considered foreign terrorists, or at the very least, undocumented aliens with no rights. This hard attitude was brought about by the Gringotts goblins in the other nations. The loss of the British branch had hit them hard, and goblins were not known for their forgiving attitude. By the time that Harry Potter returned to Britain under the cover of darkness, there were only two classes of magical people in Britain, those with the Dark Mark, and the dead. The total magical population of Britain was less than 5,000.
Harry Potter had finally tracked down the last Horcrux in Egypt, in a tomb that Tom Riddle had visited over thirty years prior. He had then met up with Luna Lovegood in Paris; she had been on an assignment for the Quibbler when the embargo and blockade had been announced. She had lived in exile from that time, covering the expatriate British magical community in Paris for a small wizarding newspaper. With the assistance of the Gringotts goblins in Paris, Harry had trained for his mission in life, the destruction of Tom Riddle, the Dark Lord Voldemort. Luna had trained with him, along with a goblin named Bloodeye. The plan was to infiltrate the three being team into Britain so that Harry could challenge Voldemort with Luna and Bloodeye providing intelligence and back up. Should Harry defeat Voldemort, Bloodeye would be there to open Gringotts and either assist returning refugees or begin transferring Gringotts assets out of the country.
It was a good plan, however none of the three had ever heard Murphy's Law of Warfare, which states that 'no plan, no matter how well thought out, ever survives first contact with the enemy'. The trio, with the unacknowledged assistance of the border guards, infiltrated Britain easily, made their way to London, and were able to sneak into Gringotts where Bloodeye gave them access to the vault area. He keyed the three of them into the security wards that the dead workers had erected to protect the vaults. The three spent close to a week going through different vaults looking for anything that might assist them in their quest to destroy Voldemort. They finally found the mother lode of weapons in the vault of a long dead wizard who had belonged to the British SAS. The old Sergeant Major had been a collector of both magical and muggle weaponry. The vault had been filled with weapons from all over the world, 'appropriated' by the old soldier during his thirty years in the Queen's service. There were also ancient weapons from the magical world, including a staff which seemed to call out to Harry. It was when they left the bank under cover of darkness that things went all to hell.
As the three crept out of the bank, heavily burdened with weapons, lights flared in Diagon Alley, bringing daylight conditions to the late night. Harry and Luna's magical signature had been detected by Death Eaters monitoring such things in the Ministry building. Every available Death Eater had apparated to Diagon Alley and waited in ambush. The Dark Lord had also been notified and was expected to make an appearance soon to finish off the only bit of resistance left to his unfettered rule.
When the lights flared, Harry took the staff and set up a shield while Luna transfigured rubble to make a low, thick stone wall between them and the Death Eaters. Bloodeye enlarged an American M60 machine gun, popped the support legs down and began to feed a belt of ammunition into it. Luna, her wall built as well as possible, dropped down to take charge of the M60 while Bloodeye assembled a Russian RPG7 and launched the grenade into the midst of the assembled Death Eaters. It would be the last thing he ever did. Just as the grenade exploded, a green light from the killing curse cast by Lucius Malfoy caught the goblin in the chest. Malfoy fell the next moment, his body riddled by several 7.62 mm rounds from the M60. The rounds splashed through him as if he were made of soft bread, hitting many of his fellow Death Eaters in their path. It was then that Voldemort decided to make his appearance. He strode to the front, waving his followers into inaction. He had waited so long for this day that he was going to enjoy torturing Harry to death. Unfortunately for him, Harry was not willing to play along.
Just as Voldemort began to make a gloating statement about how he was going to crush Harry once and for all, Luna fired a stream of bullets from the M60 just to Voldemort's left. Harry fired off a killing curse to Riddle's right, effectively bracketing him. With his staff, Harry fired a curse right up the middle, catching the Dark Lord in the chest. The curse had the effect of releasing the bindings holding the molecules of Voldemort's body together. The most feared Dark Lord in history melted into a puddle in the middle of the street, no longer immortal with his Horcruxes gone. All of the assembled Death Eaters, as one, screamed as the 'Doomsday Option' implanted in their Dark Marks took their lives in one soul wrenching second. Less than three minutes into the fight, the only magical people left in Britain were Luna and Harry.
Britain had fallen. The last goblin lay on the steps of the bank he had served, the victim of the last Death Eater to cast a spell. The werewolves and vampires had either been killed off by Voldemort or had fled the country before the embargo. The centaurs in Britain had been hunted into extinction for sport by the Death Eaters. Diagon Alley was a ghost town, its colourful shops deserted for months. Hogwarts had been destroyed by the muggle government, a foreign wizard 'painting' the castle with a laser device to guide in bunker-busting 'smart bombs' to prevent it from falling into Voldemort's hands. With the destruction of Hogwarts, the village of Hogsmeade had no purpose, and was abandoned. This pattern of desolation spread throughout wizarding Britain as people either fled or were killed. Voldemort had ended up as the sole ruler of a population equivalent to a small town.
The only usable magical buildings left were Gringotts and the Ministry building. St. Mungo's had closed due to a lack of healers; under Voldemort, healing had been done by roaming healers and medi-witches in private residences or in the Ministry building. There was no more healing to be done, only the cleanup of the bodies. Harry and Luna had no way to contact the outside world, owls were stopped by the blockade and Phoenixes refused to enter the land ruled by the dark. Floo access out of the country was blocked and the wards erected by the International Confederation stopped Portkeys and apparition past the borders.
Harry and Luna spent the next three days transfiguring the bodies they found into dust, letting the Death Eaters blow away in the wind. Following that, they raided Gringotts for muggle money and drifted into Muggle London to discuss what they would do next.
Knowing that the Muggle government would take them into custody should they make themselves known, Harry and Luna began to spend hours in the Ministry library and Gringotts looking for some way to bring life back to their homeland. It was close to a month later, after leaving the library, that they decided to check other places in the building. Some time later, they found themselves in the Department of Mysteries. It was a good thing that they had packed a few meals in their backpacks, the Department was a fascinating place. Harry had picked up a magical pocketknife during one of his forays into Gringotts like the one Sirius had given him, one which would open any lock. He used it on the file cabinets in the Department, opening them up so that Luna could search for something which might help them. It was on the second day in the department that Luna looked at the label on a drawer and gave an excited squeak. She began to scan through the folders, giving each a glance, then tossing them aside. She got to a thick folder, checked the first few parchments, then took the folder over to a table to explore the contents, getting more agitated with each page. With a smile on her face, she called Harry over.
"Harry, if you could go back in time, what would you change?" she asked.
"Back in time? You mean like with a Time Turner?" This line of questioning puzzled him.
"No, a time turner, as you are aware, can only take you back a maximum of eight hours. This folder raises the possibility that you can travel much farther than that, but you would have to go back for a specific purpose. You could interact with one person who could fulfill your quest, but no one else could see you. This parchment," she held up an ancient document. "claims that the writer did exactly that. He went back twenty five years and acted as a guide and mentor to his younger self."
Harry stared at her in shock. If this actually worked, he could go back to his younger self, give the location of the Horcruxes to Dumbledore so they could be destroyed, and train his younger self to be able to kill Voldemort as soon as he stuck his ugly head out of that cauldron in his fourth year. In fact, how effective would that ritual be if all of the bones in that graveyard were made of transfigured flobberworms? He could get Sirius out of prison early, prove that Pettigrew was the traitor… even better than that, he could go back far enough that he could stop Voldemort before his parents could be killed! Interact with Moody; Dumbledore would be worthless, attempting to convert Voldemort rather than killing him, and let Moody get rid of the Horcruxes. They could then swipe a machine gun and riddle Riddle when he walked in the door at Godric's Hollow. Maybe even sooner! Put down that mad dog before he could get out of control. The possibilities were endless!
"Luna," he asked. "Who was the wizard who wrote that document?"
"Let's see…. Oh, here it is. Uric of Gathsgaarten."
Harry's heart fell. "Well, it was a good thought while it lasted. Really Luna, Uric the Oddball? Named after a bodily waste fluid? The only wizard in history with a story so wacky that it kept the entire fifth year class of Professor Binns not only awake, but doubled over in laughter? That Uric!?"
Luna looked at him sharply. "Harry, you of all people should know better than to judge people by the labels that other people hang on them. Labels like mudblood, freak, worthless; how about labeling a child as 'Savior of the World'? Or maybe….. 'Loony' Lovegood? Do you still think of me that way?"
"Of course not! You are one of the smartest people I have ever known. But you have to admit that all of your talk about non-existent creatures could make a bad impression on people who don't know you as well as I do."
"That's just the point, how do you know they are non-existent? Because you have never seen them? There are more things in Heaven and Earth than fit in your limited preconceptions! You say that you don't consider me 'loony' because you know me. You don't know Uric either! He might have been like me, someone who can see past the perceptions of 'normal' people. I know that snorkacks exist because I have seen them in my inner sight. It might just be that Uric knew something that the rest of the world didn't. If he really did go back in time and interact his younger self, it could have been that he did know things that the rest of the world didn't. Remember that sketch that Binns showed the class from Uric's portfolio?" At Harry's nod, she continued. "It was a contraption that Uric claimed people could fly in without brooms or any other magic. Leonardo Da Vinci drew one remarkably similar three hundred years later and Muggle engineers claim that he designed the first helicopter! The base formula is here, if we follow it we could very well be wasting our time, but if Uric really did this and we can duplicate it, you could live up to your title of 'Savior of the Wizarding World'!"
"Whoa Luna! I had no idea that you felt so strongly about this. Okay, I will agree to go along with you on this, its not like we have any other options right now. So, what does this actually do?"
"If the formula is correct, it will open a portal to the time that you want. There is a lot of intent built into this…. Hmmm… Let's see, the traveler will maintain his powers, but will only be able to interact with one person, the one most likely to help him with his mission… so much of it depends on what you want to do. That is the part with the intent built in. The actual time travel base formula is a nightmare. Darn, I am pretty good at Arithmancy, but I am nowhere near this level…. Just trying to keep the equations straight could take me years of calculating. I'm sorry Harry, I may have just gone off on you without being able to prove my hypothesis."
"Hmm… is it just being able to store and process the equations that is the problem?"
"That and the converting of the formula to spell form, figuring out the incantation and wand movements. They are tied into the formula."
Harry smiled. "Luna, have you ever heard of a computer? Or a program called Excel?"
The next day, Harry and Luna went into Muggle London to one of the 'big box' stores, those monstrosities that have driven scores of smaller shopkeepers out of business. They bought a new Toshiba laptop preloaded with the new Microsoft Windows 98 operating system and Microsoft Office 97 with Excel, a spreadsheet program. Harry also purchased a couple of yellow and black books so that they could have a crash course on the programs. "Thank Merlin for the 'For Dummies' series!" he thought. A Hewlett Packard printer rounded out their purchases. The two took a taxi back to their flat with their new tool and spent the next few weeks learning how to operate it.
Luna had to create a whole new configuration for the spreadsheet program since they were not working in a Base 10 system, but rather a Base 13. This in and of itself took three weeks, but finally they thought that they had tweaked it to the point that they could feed in some Arithmantical formulas for familiar existing spells to check out their work. Luna fed in the formula for the levitation spell, and sure enough, the program converted the formula to the proper wand movements and incantation. It even provided the proper inflection for the incantation, reminding Harry of Hermione's attempts to correct Ron's pronunciation back in first year. Remembering that scene in Professor Flitwick's class made Harry a bit maudlin. "If this is successful, we will never have that incident with the troll, I will finish off Quirrell as soon as I can get him alone. Then I'll kick Dumbledore's wrinkly old arse for ever bringing that Stone into the school for a Death Eater to grab!"
They worked late into the nights, feeding formulas into the computer, checking and re-checking their work until they were positive that the time had come to begin work on the Tempus Transfer formula that Luna had gleaned from Uric's notes. Harry bought a remote keyboard for the laptop so that he could keep up with Luna's reading of the formula. It was a hellishly long set of equations, and they had to fit together perfectly. Before beginning the transcription, they brewed several Pepper-Up Potions, then got a good night's sleep. As they lay in the double bed, one of the few pieces of furniture that had come in the 'furnished' flat, Harry rolled over and looked Luna in the eye.
"What are you going to do when I go back?" he asked.
"I'm going back also. A bit farther than you though."
Yes, after your portal closes, I am going to refigure the formula to take me back to a few months prior to my mother's death. I spent a few years, along with Daddy, trying to figure out what went wrong with that experimental spell that killed her. Daddy was never the same after her death, and I suppose that I was not either. I withdrew into myself, relying more on my Inner Sight than I did the world around me. I know that I seemed pretty strange to the 'normal' people at Hogwarts, it was self preservation. Nobody messes with the 'crazy people'. Since you are going back to your first year, and I am going back to when I was four, I don't know if we will see each other. Uric was pretty vague about what would happen when the mission was complete. If I continue, maybe the two of us 'ghosts' will be able to interact."
"I will look forward to it." Harry reached over and tenderly kissed Luna, the first time he had ever done so. She returned the kiss with enthusiasm. Moments later, the last British witch and wizard began to make love, abandoning themselves to an urgency neither had ever before felt. Spent, they drifted off to sleep, holding each other as if they would never let go.
The next morning, they had a good breakfast, then with a fresh strong pot of tea, began their work. Harry sat down at the laptop while Luna began rattling off the formula. The same formula would work for both of them with just a couple of minor changes relating to the time to which each wanted to go. As Harry filled in block after block on the spreadsheet with numbers and symbols, Luna told him when to skip cells so that they could place the interim calculations in. They worked steadily through the morning, then ate a light lunch and took the first of the Pepper-Up potions in order to remain alert. They kept feeding in blocks of numbers until Harry's fingers were numb from hitting the keys. When they had the last of the numbers and symbols in, Harry took another potion and began the calculations while Luna grabbed a short nap. He filled in the cells having to do with the time period with a yellow highlighting so that Luna would be able to adjust the formula after he left, then woke her up so that she could begin converting the calculations to wand movements and incantations. As she did that, he sank down into the bed and dropped off to sleep. It seemed that he had just closed his eyes when he felt Luna slide into bed next to him.
"Get it done?" he asked.
"Yes, but this will take a while to memorize. There are over seventy-five separate wand movements and the incantation will take almost an hour to complete. I printed off the whole mess and set it on the table. Tomorrow we will start having you practice the wand movements with a stick while saying the incantation. If we bring in some easels, we can blow the pages up to poster size to make it easier. Start at one side of the flat and work your way around. When you reach the last poster, you should stab your wand to the side and the portal should open."
"Sounds complicated. Do you really think that it will work?"
"We can only hope. After all, what else shows any promise?" With that, Luna gave him a small kiss on the forehead and rolled over to sleep.
The next morning, the two had a light breakfast, then began their practice. With breaks during the day, and Luna critiquing Harry as he went along, by the time night fell, Harry was just beginning to feel comfortable. It took another two full days of practice, with Luna correcting his errors in movement and inflection, before Harry had the spell down pat.
"Talk about a tough taskmistress; are you sure that you aren't channeling Hermione?" he asked with a groan.
"I have to be tough; you have only one shot at this. Once that portal opens, there are no do overs. Now, take your potions and grab your real wand. It's showtime!"
Harry set down the imitation wand with which he had been practicing, picked up his real wand, then took one potion for his throat and a Pepper-Up potion. He grimaced and rinsed his mouth out with some water. He then stepped over to Luna, took her chin in his hand and gave her a long, tender kiss. "Just in case I don't see you after this. I'm ready."
"Alright. As you are doing the incantation, you need to be thinking about meeting the best person to complete your mission. So much of this spell contains intent, so don't think of a specific person, just the best one. It would do you no good to, say, think of Dumbledore; you might get back there and Dumbledore either refuse to acknowledge you or refuse to help. So stay focused, and good fortune. And if we don't meet again Harry, I want you to know I love you."
"And I also love you." He straightened his back, looked at the first poster, and began the incantation. Fifty-three minutes later, he reached the last syllable and stabbed his wand forward in a decisive movement. The air shimmered, and a dark silver oval appeared, growing larger until it was large enough to step through. Keeping his wand pointed forward, he stepped through the portal and disappeared. The portal disappeared as soon as Harry did.
Luna watched as Harry disappeared, then sadly said, "Goodbye, Love." She then walked over to the laptop with her notepad and sat down to adjust the temporal destination in the program. All it would take is changing two cells of numbers, then practicing the revised wand movements and incantation. Running her finger over the mouse spike, she scrolled down and found the highlighted cells. Looking back in her notepad, she mused, "That's funny, that decimal point should have been three places to the right, not six. She ran a quick calculation in her head, then paled.
Harry crashed down to the ground, then looked around to attempt to get his bearings. In the distance he saw a familiar set of hills. He was in Northern Scotland, no more than three miles from Hogwarts, but out in the middle of a field. He picked himself up and began walking toward Hogsmeade. As he walked, he noticed that the grass was not flattening beneath his feet. "Well, that makes sense; if my footsteps could be seen, then others could see me. Maybe Uric wasn't such an oddball after all," he thought. He took a few more steps then stopped, thumping his palm into his forehead. "I wonder," he mused. Reaching into the pocket of his robe, he took out his shrunken broom and enlarged it. Jumping aboard, he kicked off with a whoop, enjoying his first good flight in months. Nearing the edge of the village, he pulled back on the broom in shock, stopping in mid air. That was not Hogsmeade, at least not the Hogsmeade that he had come to know. There was not a main street with colourful shops, rather there were earthen huts with thatched roofs. The street was dusty, and there was a farmer urging a flock of sheep across the road on the outskirts of town.
Harry felt a pull in his chest and turned toward the Hogwarts castle. About halfway there, he felt a sudden pull toward the ground. On the dirt road into town rode a sandy haired man on a black steed. Harry followed the pull and landed directly in front of the man. The horse spooked, rearing suddenly and spilled the man off. As soon as the man was out of the saddle, the horse calmed and ignored Harry. The downed man did not ignore Harry, he reached in his sleeve and pulled a wand.
"Who art thou?" he hissed. Literally hissed. With a shock, Harry realized that the man had addressed him in Parseltongue. Harry moved slowly, not giving the man any reason to use the wand.
Bowing low, Harry said, "My name is Harry Potter. Do you mind pointing that thing somewhere else? I'm very sorry, it was an accident."
The man's eyes widened and Harry groaned. He realized that he had answered in the same language. The man eyed him carefully, then put his wand away and held out his hand.
"Thou speaketh the noble language, Master Potter? In that case, I greet thee as a brother. My name is Salazar Slytherin."
Harry had one overwhelming thought at hearing this.