Disclaimer: I do not own any of it. If you tried to sue me you would find I don't own much money either. Major references to Harry Potter and Doctor Who, obviously. Other more minor references to Lord of the Rings, Stargate, and Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Summary: This is a prequel to Arithmancy, although you should read Arithmancy first if you wanna get some of this. Next prequel/sequel will depend on my own random brain and the order I feel like writing things. Stay tuned.
Author's Note: I cannot stop myself from picturing a young Salazar Slytherin as looking a great deal like Robert Downey Jr when he was playing Tony Stark in Ironman. Just so you get that mental picture in your head before reading this.
x x x
December 24th, 999 AD: Harbinger of... Um, Well, Something
Fitting in was never his strong suit. He just could not look normal, no matter where he went. If he went to a convention in his own name he would still manage to stand out. Not that it was exactly possible to hold a convention in the name of one who had no name, but that was irrelevant. The point of the matter was that he failed to blend in.
In a time and place where long hair and beards were the fashion in men, his black hair was so short if he had any less he'd be shaved bald, and he had no beard at all. The long hair fashion tended to hide ears, but his ears were sticking out much more than could possibly be considered normal. While others wore colors, he wore black. Black leather, at that. It might have been fashionable in the twentieth century, but this was the tenth century and it kind of stood out like a sore thumb.
He was visiting a small village in Scotland. Here the other people wore cloth robes, often bright, but still as long as his own coat. He may not blend in exactly, but they did not give him as many odd looks as most people in this time might for his appearance.
The village looked like something out of a Christmas greeting card, snow lining the rooftops, the buildings looking almost like gingerbread. After a brief stop at the little shop at the end of the street, grateful he had for once remembered to bring the correct currency, he wandered down the main street towards the large castle on the hill. The castle overlooked the village, and it was obvious that the village was placed near the castle rather than the other way around.
He could feel the winged boars on either side of the gates scan him as he approached, not the sort of scanning devices he was used to but a less intrusive scan of the mind, to determine intent. When it decided he was not a threat the gate opened and he continued on his way up towards the castle itself.
He paused to frown momentarily at an open field on the far side of the grounds from the lake, cursing his timing to show up before Quidditch had even been invented yet. In spite of his best efforts, he never got to sit through an entire game. Something always came up and he had to go before the end. This time he wouldn't even get to see the start of a game.
Too bad. More important things to do, after all.
It took much less effort than it looked like it ought to, to open the huge front doors of the castle. They were three stories high, solid oak and about as thick as he was wide, but they still opened with the gentlest push. Inside was a large entrance hall taller than the doors, with a vast marble staircase leading upwards in front of him, a smaller set of double doors (only two stories high) off to his left, and a few corridors leading off in various directions, one next to the main staircase leading downwards, the rest staying on the ground floor.
Leaning against the wall next to the foot of the marble staircase stood a man, watching him. He must have been waiting, probably alerted by the statues to the presence of a stranger. This man had long reddish-brown hair and beard, it almost looked like a mane. He wore rich red robes with gold trim, and his eyes seemed to match somewhere between his hair and that golden color on his robes.
"Just visiting?" he asked in a deep voice that seemed to echo in the cavernous hall. The scepticism in his tone implied this was the message the statues had picked up from their scan, and the man did not believe it for a moment.
"Yeah." was all the answer given by the darker and slighter man, as he closed the door carefully behind him.
"Somehow I do not entirely believe that." Godric Gryffindor- for that was who this man had to be- answered.
A faint smile, "Well, I did detect something... unusual... by your standards, even... in the area."
"Indeed?" Godric asked, raising a bushy eyebrow in curiosity, "And perhaps you would care to identify yourself?"
"I'm the Doctor." he was slightly disappointed that Godric did not question his name further, but his next statement clarified things somewhat.
After staring for a second, Godric spoke in a very cold tone, more to himself than to the Doctor. "Impossible. That was four hundred years ago."
"Oh, so Merlin DID mention me?" the Doctor asked, with a light conversational note in his voice that implied some gossipy friend had passed his name on instead of a great scholar dead three hundred years or so now.
Godric shook his head, "Time travel. That was supposed to be a myth."
"I get that a lot." the Doctor noted.
"Legend calls you a herald of doom."
"I get that a lot too." the Doctor agreed, "Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever gonna regenerate with long grey hair and a beard and go visit Arda."
"Fiction, a joke, nevermind." the Doctor dismissed, "I am often accused of being the cause of trouble, but the trouble is generally there first I just show up with bad timing. Or good timing, depending on how you look at it."
"I see." Godric said dubiously, "And what 'trouble' do you detect here?"
"Not in Hogwarts, not yet anyway." the Doctor said dismissively, "I hope I got here in time to socialise before the problems start. I always liked this place."
"You have been here before? When?"
"About a thousand years in your relative future."
"It is good to know, then, that our endeavours last so long." Godricsaid, his tone somewhat cold as he eyed the Doctor with suspicion.
The Doctor nodded solemnly, "Yeah... so, I don't suppose I could meet your fellow Founders at all? Heard so many great things about you all."
"Is that so?" another softer voice asked from the corridor that led downwards. The man standing there was shorter than both the Doctor and Godric, and his hair was somehow even darker than the Doctor's short black hair. The neatly trimmed short beard and hair that did not even reach his shoulder actually managed to be closer to the Doctor's lack of blending in than it was to the rest of the Wizardingworld of this age. He wore black robes with silver trim on them, and though his face wore a stern expression, his keen eyes looked like they were laughing at what they observed.
"Salazar Slytherin, I presume?" the Doctor asked, nodding politely at the shorter man.
Salazar nodded, his lip twitching into a vague semblance of a smile, "It seems all our reputations precede us, Doctor. I have read a great deal about your exploits during Merlin's time, and I do wonder how you define 'great', there was an inflection in your tone that implied something you did not say."
The Doctor blinked and raised an eyebrow, shifting nervously, "Just rumours, the bad parts. No historical proof."
"I see." Salazar said, smiling genuinely now, "I shall summon the ladies and you may dine with us while you explain exactly why you are here, then." without waiting for an answer Salazar swept up the marble staircase leaving the other two men alone.
"Is he always that observant?" the Doctor asked with a slight frown. Sure, he had heard the rumours about Salazar Slytherin being a bit evil, but something in his mannerisms bothered the Doctor, and it bothered him even more that he could not place it.
"Unfortunately, yes." Godric said with a sigh, "No one can keep a secret from Salazar, not that we don't try." there was some bemusement in that last sentence, as if it had become a game to try to keep trivial details from the keen wizard.
x x x
They did not dine in the Great Hall as the Doctor had half hoped. It was a holiday, after all. Students who had families to go to returned home for the holidays. Those few who remained tended to stay out of sight of the Founders, either from awe, respect or possibly mild fear.
Instead the five gathered to eat in a smaller room on the first floor. It had a nice view of the forest through a few small windows, and the food was as good as the Doctor remembered from his visit in 1977. That had been during his previous incarnation, before the Time War.
"This food is fantastic." At their slightly confused expressions, he blinked and reiterated, "Wonderful, excellent, brilliant." curse the fact his current favourite word wasn't in use in this age. He would have to 'remind' the TARDIS to translate it for them. There was a reason he kept that wooden mallet around the control room, after all.
Helga Hufflepuff, a slightly plump witch with golden-blond ringlets framing her pretty face, blushed at the compliment, "Why thank you, Doctor." she answered, "All the recipes used here are of my own creation."
"Well I love them all." the Doctor confirmed with a grin before shovelling some more potatoes into his mouth.
"At least he chews with his mouth closed." Salazar remarked, "Unlike certain students." he gave a pointed look to Godric at this, and Helga giggled at Godric's answering scowl.
"Now, Salazar, we cannot blame the younger students for their lack of table manners." Rowena Ravenclaw, a tall witch with dark red hair tied up in a bun and a soft lilting voice, pointed out, "They were raised on swine farms, before their talent was discovered. It will take time."
"Uncultured Muggle-spawn." Salazar grumbled.
Godric cleared his throat and glared pointedly at Salazar, "We have company."
"Oh I don't mind being insulted. Just because I enjoy socialising with Muggles all the time, have no magical ability as you recognise it, etcetera etcetera."
Helga giggled again, "I do like your sense of humour, Doctor."
"Why thank you."
"You do not count as a Muggle." Salazar pointed out, "You taught Merlin a thing or two by all accounts."
"I did, didn't I?" the Doctor noted smugly, "Still, some of my best friends were Muggles."
"Past tense, is it?" Salazar asked, raising a questioning eyebrow.
"Well... not all of them." the Doctor muttered, a slightly petulant tone in his voice, "A lot of them haven't been born yet." he added with a cheeky smile, forcefully shoving the threatening dour mood away from himself.
Salazar smiled faintly, "I envy you." he said quietly, "The ability, if you wished, to travel back to a time before a loved one died, even if for nothing more than to see their face once again." The distance in his tone strongly implied he was thinking of one person in particular.
"Would it not be difficult to resist the urge to save that loved one?" Rowena pointed out before the Doctor could.
"Not for Sal here. Cold logic this one." Godric said with a smile and a tone that showed he did not intend the remark as a genuine insult.
Salazar snorted, and resumed eating, with all the feigned dignity of a cat that had just been unceremoniously ejected from a house and begun grooming as if it meant to do so all along.
As they were just starting on their desserts- something light and fluffy involving some sort of fruit or berry, which the Doctor only managed to get one bite of- a soft humming sound attracted their attention. The four Founders appeared to hear more from it, and the Doctor figured this was an alarm or warning, quite possibly from the scanners at the gate.
They shared a look which seemed to be asking the question, 'So who gets the arduous task of dealing with this one?'
Finally Salazar sighed, setting down his fork before he had a chance to eat any of the very nice looking dessert. "You can count on the fact that I have been sent to deal with it meaning it really is trouble for a change." he informed them Rowena seemed to smile a little too innocently as he said this, as if she agreed completely. Apparently he had the Doctor's luck when it came to dealing with routine annoyances, they always ceased to be routine for him and not for anyone else.
"I'll come with you if you like?" the Doctor offered.
"That might cause fate to blow up the castle." Godric joked. So they had read all about the incident with Merlin, then. It hadn't really been the Doctor's fault that chapel had exploded, it had all been the Yusaahn Hive's fault. Honest!
The Doctor grinned, "I'll be sure to divert any explosives I find away from the rest of you."
x x x
Salazar led the way along the edge of the forest. Whatever had breached the wards had not done so at the gate. "You don't really have that much bad luck with checking on things, do you?"
"I always seem to get the hysterical homicidal Muggles, or dark creatures encroaching on the grounds." Salazar answered with a bemused smirk, "One time it was a dragon, Godric was jealous of that. I sometimes believe Rowena can detect that type of problem and chooses me to deal with it on purpose."
The Doctor blinked, "Ever get any normal routine stuff?"
"Only once. It was a Muggle-born boy who had run away from home before they burned him, he wanted to learn to control his power and had somehow heard of this place. He is one of my best students now, but has yet to cause any trouble or blow anything up. So far."
"What's his name?"
The Doctor choked and had to fight not to fall over laughing, "Give him a few generations." he said between fits of laughter. Salazar rolled his eyes, knowing better than to ask what that meant.
It did not take long for them to reach the point where the forest crossed the border of the grounds. It was possible to enter the grounds through the Forest because there were points the walls simply could not pass through. They entered the edge of the forest, and the Doctor was secrety very thankful that Acromantulas had yet to be introduced to this part of the world.
It was not long before they came across the source of the intrusion. A boy, no older than nine or ten, stumbling blindly through the forest.
"Halt." Salazar ordered, "You are trespassing on private property. Identify yourself."
The boy turned to face them, and both seemed to recoil when they saw where his eyes should have been. They had not been removed, they simply were not there, skin grew over empty eye sockets as if he had never had eyes to begin with.
"Please help me!" the boy cried, stumbling towards them.
"What happened to you, child?" Salazar asked his tone becoming gentle, though still commanding, as he knelt down and placed a hand on the boy's shoulder in what appeared to be an attempt to comfort him.
"I... I don't know, I was out in the field and something attacked me, and now I can't see." the boy whimpered, and the Doctor was certain he would be crying if he could. The Doctor took out his sonic screwdriver, turned it to setting 42, which was 'scan humans for unusual stuff' mode, and began running it over the boy's face.
After a second he asked, "Have you ever been able to do anything unusual, when you were scared or angry? Things you couldn't explain?"
The boy nervously nodded.
The Doctor turned to Salazar, "He was a wizard, but something has drained his magical potential, there's only traces left."
"My- my brother was disowned for going to that creepy castle on the hill. I always wanted to go with him, but the strange woman said I was too young and my parents would have disowned me too if I'd tried."
"Your brother's name is?" Salazar asked.
"Jaered Millerson." the boy answered. He was still terrified, but the presense of people willing to help him seemed to have calmed him down a fair bit.
"He is in Helga's house." Salazar informed the Doctor, "Very well, and your name is?"
"We will take you to Hogwarts, you will be safe there and we can try to find out what has happened to you. Is that alright, Galen?" Salazar asked, his tone soft and comforting.
The Doctor was a little preoccupied staring into the trees to comment. He was certain he had seen movement. But when Salazar started to guide the boy out of the forest, the Doctor considered it wise to follow, rather than getting lost in here on his own.
x x x
"Whatever attacked him used magic as its weapon, but..." Rowena had been attempting to explain the boy's situation to the other four, but after running several scanning spells on him she still appeared to be confused by it. "It seemed to drain his magical energy from him, I cannot tell how but this boy is- for the moment- a Muggle. He is slowly recovering his abilities, and the curse which afflicted his eyes was easily reversed."
"A trick to disable the victim rather than the reason for the attack." the Doctor noted, it seemed quite obvious to him from her explaination, "It wanted the magic."
"It appears you found your trouble, Doctor." Godric said coldly.
"There was something in the forest, something moved while we were talking to the boy, I'm sure of it." the Doctor said, as much to himself as to the others.
"Navigating the forest is not an easy matter, it could be anywhere by now." Salazar noted, "But if you wish to return to the location where we found Galen I can lead you."
"I shall go with you, this time." Godric said determinedly.
"And what will you do that we could not?" Salazar asked with a smile that showed he was joking, "Poke it with a pointy piece of metal?"
"Just because the Muggles use swords, that is no reason to pretend they are not useful. In the right circumstances." Godric said indignantly, but he was smiling, showing he knew it as intended as a joke.
x x x
It was eventually decided that, much against the chivalric instincts of Godric Gryffindor, Rowena would also accompany them into the forest. Helga chose to stay and keep watch over the school and the boy who had been attacked.
It did not take long for them to find the location where they had met the boy. Rowena began casting tracking spells around her, to try to find anything that ought not to be there, while Godric hovered around, like he thought he was her very overprotective older brother. Salazar followed the Doctor, who was examining the perimeter of the clearing. It was the Doctor who spotted it first.
A centaur, laying on the ground, unmoving, and at a very uncomfortable looking angle.
When the four cautiously approached it, they found it was dead. While Rowena continued to cast her tracking spells, the Doctor noticed a clear liquid on the centaur's uninjured neck. He touched the liquid with his index finger, then brought it to his nose and sniffed.
The others were now watching him carefully. The Doctor wrinkled his nose at what he smelled in the liquid and decided against the method some of his former incarnations had employed of tasting unfamiliar substances to identify them. Smell was almost as effective.
"Venefivorous acid." he muttered, as if this made sense. Latin wasn't dead yet, it might make sense to them.
"Where did it come from?" Rowena asked.
"There are only two creatures that can do this in the universe, and I'm pretty sure one is extinct." the Doctor answered, wiping the clear liquid off his hand on the dead centaur's coat, it couldn't hurt the centaur anymore than it already had done, and it certainly might cause harm if it stayed with the Doctor.
A rustling of leaves attracted their attention, and they all looked up in unison, but were startled to see not a threat, but instead a unicorn scampering past. It did not stop to look at them, but merely continued on its way leaving a soft glow of light in the air it has passed through.
Behind where the unicorn had been sat a humanoid figure, almost ghostly, watching the unicorn with interest but not moving until it saw them watching it.
Its eyes lit up as its gaze settled quite firmly on the three humans, ignoring the Doctor almost completely. "Your kind seem to take it better than the horse-men."
"Who are you?" Salazar demanded.
"Sentient..." the Doctor muttered, trailing off. That had been the one he thought was extinct. He noticed how it had watched but not attacked the unicorn, not only sentient but highly intelligent as well if it recognised unicorns as sacrosanct, untouchable.
The being looked like a ghost, but in full color. Humanoid but not quite human in appearance. Its eyes glowed in catlike slits for one thing, and there was an echo to its voice, it more resembled another race altogether which the Doctor didn't care to think about too much. Last time he encountered THAT race had been most unpleasant, but they had definite magical potential, which explains why this being could take their form. "If memory serves, it can take the form of any being it drains the magic from."
Without warning it took the shape of a dragon and roared, before returning this time to a fully human appearance, the exact image of the boy, Galen. "Correct. You have seen more like me? I am not alone?" it asked hopefully.
"Not on this world... not in this time." the Doctor said with a frown.
"My world shattered, my food sources wiped out in an instant. I was lost in emptiness." it said quietly, "Nowhere and nowhen. Then I felt drawn, this castle is surrounded by so much energy, but I could not touch it. The beings here are so much more fragile than those on my own world."
"Venesaurs." the Doctor said simply. They greatly resembled Earth's dinosaurs, but were highly intelligent and with the same form of energy used here for magic in them. Psyonics, he believed it was referred to by scientists after the thirtieth century. This creature was called, on its own world, a Raptor, one of the ruling class of that world, consuming psyonic energy to live instead of physical food. A basis for the myth that dragons could shape-shift, actually.
The Raptor, currently in human form, nodded, "We are shape-shifters. We take the form of those whose energy we consume, but I never intended to kill for it." it directed a mournful look at the centaur.
"I liked the glowey-eyed one better." Salazar noted.
"Not now." the Doctor said with an exasperated tone, before turning to fully face the Raptor, "You can't stay here."
The Raptor gazed right back at him, "What happened to my home?"
The Doctor flinched, he had expected this sooner or later, "The Time War." he said quietly, "It was destroyed by one of the Dalek's assaults, along with Mynarr and Avaria. We tried to stop them, but-" he stopped very abruptly, and frowned at the memory, not wanting to discuss his own loss with anyone. Ever.
x x x
"Well it makes a pleasant change." the Doctor informed the Founders. The Raptor was sitting quietly in a corner, causing no harm. "I'm used to anything unusual I find being hostile."
"So am I." Salazar said, smiling faintly, "This Time War you spoke of-"
"No, I will not talk about it."
"Too recent?" Helga asked.
"If I show up in five minutes to talk about it, it will probably have been a few thousand years from my perspective." he said, half joking. Only half.
Salazar laughed at this, and made a shooing motion, "Go get out of our castle before something hostile does realise you're here."
The Doctor grinned, and waved goodbye, leading the Raptor back to the TARDIS. He had a good place in mind for it to resettle. A world somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, full of beings of psyonic potential which did not rely on that power to live, few there even knew they had it in the first place. And that planet had survived the Time War just fine, too.
At least sometimes there was a happy ending for some people. Life would go on, wars ended and survivors rebuilt. That was the way of things.
x x x
Latin reference for those who didn't get them:
Venefivorous = invented by me based on the following.
Veneficus = 'magical' or 'caster of spells' can also mean 'poisonous' apparently.
Vorare = 'to devour', commonly used today in words like carnivorous or herbivore.