AUTHOR'S NOTES: I love snakes. I love watching the specials on National Geographic channel or Animal Planet. And I got to thinking, what if various venomous snakes somehow got into Hogwarts. If you don't like snakes, this might not be the best story to read.
I know I've got several other stories in the works but this idea's been in my head for a while and I decided to just go ahead and post it.
STORY SUMMARY: Harry has enough on his plate with Voldemort and the Death Eaters. But what happens when something much more mundane but far more deadly turns up? And no one is immune from this new menace.
HARRY POTTER: Seven Deadly Strikes
The old truck chugged down the road towards an estate in the middle of Scotland. Driving past the ruins of what must have once been a magnificent castle centuries ago, the driver was too busy staring and missed the deep pothole in the road. The truck bounced wildly and one of the wooden crates lashed to the flatbed trailer fell off and tumbled down into a ditch, breaking apart and releasing at least 5 alien species into an unfamiliar land.
Sensing movement, a Western Diamondback rattlesnake curled, his tail rattling fiercely. As a skeletal horse came closer, the snake struck out, sinking his long fangs into the leg of the thestral.
When Rubeus Hagrid found the dead thestral the following morning, there were no signs of the snakes that had escaped from the broken crate. The dead animal looked grotesque; bloody and bloated and the Hogwarts gamekeeper wondered what could have caused such a violent death. After burying the thestral, Hagrid took the broken crate up to the castle and up to the office of Professor Albus Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
"Ahhh, Hagrid," Dumbledore said, cheerfully, coming in from his private chambers. Looking at the wrecked crate Hagrid had placed on the desk, Dumbledore's eyes narrowed. "What is this?"
"Found this by the road, Headmaster," Hagrid explained, looking at the wood. "Some muggle must have been driving down the road. Crate must have fallen off a… what do yer call 'em?"
"Trucks," Dumbledore said, thoughtfully, studying the writing on the crate. "Snakes." Inside the crate there seemed to be at least 6 different sections.
"Pardon?" Hagrid asked, puzzled. Looking at the writing as well, he said, "What types of snakes?"
"That," Dumbledore said, worried. "Is what I do not know. But there looks to be about 6 of them."
Hagrid thought for a moment then said, "I found one of the thestrals dead by the crate."
"Then we must assume that at least one of the snakes inside was venomous," Dumbledore replied, gravely. "I will inform the staff and we will have to be very careful to keep our students safe from harm."
After being informed of the potential danger of an unknown myriad of venomous snakes, Potions Master Severus Snape immediately retreated to his dungeons. Dumbledore had tasked him with concocting antivenin to counteract any snake bites.
The problems was that different types of snakes used different types of venom and without the slightest idea of what kinds of snakes they could be dealing with, Snape would either need to make numerous types of antivenins or one type that would reverse the effects of different types of venom.
Setting up several small cauldrons at the front of his classroom, Snape began work, hoping that all this trouble would be a waste of time.
Two days before the students were due to return to Hogwarts another snake showed itself. At first, Hagrid wasn't sure what the pale gray thing was at the edge of the lake. But as he went closer, he recognized the thing as a snakeskin. Easily 25 feet long, the skin was recently shed.
Inside the castle, Dumbledore was pacing the Great Hall anxiously. Seeing Hagrid coming in carrying an absolutely enormous snakeskin, he stopped. "Where did you find that?" Dumbledore wanted to know.
"By the lake, Professor Dumbledore," Hagrid replied.
"The beast that shed that would not have fit in the crate you found before," Dumbledore said, thinking. He knew that 30 miles beyond the nearest muggle village was an estate which was supposed to be the home of a well-known—at least in the muggle world—snake expert. Was the man aware that a huge predator was living in an area where hundreds of students walked every day? And thinking of the danger, how could Dumbledore alert the students without creating a panic?
Sitting in his compartment on the Hogwarts Express, Harry Potter rested his head against the window as the Train started away from England and along the long and winding track that led to Scotland. This summer had been the worst ever, by far. After the TriWizard Tournament and Cedric Diggory's death Harry had been having nightmares about being back in the graveyard. Add to that the fact that both Vernon and Dudley had been beating him regularly…
Vernon always kept the physical abuse to a minimum. Harry might have a black eye now and then or bruises on his upper arms from being squeezed too hard… But this summer had ended with Harry in the hospital with a broken leg, a sprained neck, two cracked ribs, broken nose, a serious black eye and multiple fractures of the left arm including two broken fingers and a dislocated thumb, elbow, and shoulder.
Once Molly Weasley—the mother of one of Harry's best friends—had found out, she'd sent the twins—Fred and George—to fetch Harry from the hospital before going to the Dursleys herself.
Looking out the window as the towns started to give way to countryside, Harry slowly flexed his left hand and arm before slowly rolling his head across. It had taken the better part of two days for Mrs. Weasley to heal Harry's injuries and it was a week before Harry's leg was strong enough to bear his full weight.
Closing his eyes, Harry's mind slowly drifted back to a week after his birthday.
It was early in the morning when a panicked scream woke the inhabitants of Number 4 Privet Drive.
Vernon Dursley growled angrily as he got out of bed and charged down the hall to the bedroom of his nephew, Harry, who was now wide awake, drenched in cold sweat and breathing heavily. Without a word, Vernon grabbed Harry by the back of the hair and dragged him out of the room. "I'll give you something to scream about, boy!" Vernon shouted, throwing Harry down the stairs where the skinny boy landed in a heap. Slowly coming down the stairs, his son behind him, Vernon pulled Harry up by the arm, twisting the limb back until there was the sickening crack and pop of bones breaking and joints dislocating.
Dudley landed a good punch to Harry's face before landing two to Harry's side. "That's for waking me up, Potter!" Dudley said, menace in his voice.
Harry felt himself losing consciousness and couldn't remember the next few hours, eventually waking the following afternoon in the hospital, a brace around his neck, and his leg and left arm in full casts.
As Harry tried to think through the haze of painkillers, he soon became aware of an older woman standing next to the bed. "Who…?"
"I'm Dr. Winston," the woman replied as she slowly elevated the back of Harry's bed.
Harry winced as the movement jostled his neck, side, and his left arm which was in a cast up to his shoulder and immobilized by a sling. "How did I get here?" Harry asked, glancing at the doctor who moved more into his range of vision.
"Joggers found you at the playground," Dr. Winston replied, giving Harry a look. "Do you know who attacked you?"
Harry looked away and didn't answer. Looking at his broken body, he asked, "How bad?"
"Sprained neck, black eye, two broken ribs," Dr. Winston replied. "Bad, but not terribly serious. The worst was your leg and arm. We had to put 6 pins in your leg and knee to repair the damage. And you've got 4 pins in your arm." Seeing Harry's scrunched look, she asked, "Do you usually wear glasses?" When Harry tried to nod, she stopped him. "You can't move your head. You sprained the muscles in your neck. You're lucky you didn't do any further damage. It could have been much worse."
It was two weeks after waking up in the hospital that Harry had his first visitor, Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody. Moody looked gruff as ever, but when Harry looked away from him, he sighed as he sat down. "My father was a dark wizard," Moody began, quietly. "When I told him I wasn't about to join the Death Eaters he blasted my leg off." Waiting until Harry looked at him, he added, "Never did manage to grow the damn thing back." Looking Harry over, he said, "I was about your age, Potter."
"Does Dumbledore know I'm here?" Harry asked, curiously.
Moody grunted an affirmative. "Molly Weasley's fixing up the place first. Fred and George should be here in a few days to fetch you."
"Do Ron and Hermione know?" Harry wondered. It wasn't that he was ashamed of them seeing him like this. He just didn't want to hear all the questions.
"About you being in the hospital or that it was your uncle that did it?" Moody asked, fixing Harry with both eyes.
"Any of it," Harry said, flatly.
"Probably." Moody shrugged. "Anything you want me to tell them?"
Harry's musings were interrupted by Ginny Weasley who came into the compartment with Fred, George, and Ron and Hermione Granger. When Harry didn't look at them, Hermione said, "Harry, if you ever want to talk…" Realizing that obviously Harry didn't want to talk, she sighed. "We're here for you Harry."
After a short while, the others left but Hermione stayed put in her seat across from Harry. "Hermione, I don't want to talk about it."
"How long has this been going on, Harry?" Hermione asked.
"Usually the Dursleys like to pretend that I don't exist," Harry replied, still looking out the window. "They rarely hurt me."
"What happened?" Hermione wanted to know.
"I had a nightmare," Harry replied, succinctly. When he didn't say anymore, Hermione got up and left the compartment.
In another compartment, Fred and George looked pensive and yet unsurprised at Harry's aloofness. While Hermione, Ron, and Ginny talked about Harry, the twins quietly slipped out of the compartment and went back to Harry's.
Harry looked up when the door opened again and sighed when he saw the Weasley twins come in and sit down opposite him. "I'm really not in the mood, guys."
"We know," Fred replied.
"Just thought you'd like some company," George added.
After a few minutes, Harry let out a soft chuckle. "Stop it. Seeing the two of you being serious is too weird. Tell me about the joke shop."
Fred and George grinned with relief before pulling out their lists of plans and order sheets.
The rest of the trip was uneventful and when Harry finally got off the train he found Ron and Hermione talking with Ginny. "Hey," Harry said tentatively as he approached his friends.
"You okay, mate?" Ron asked, hesitantly.
"Not really," Harry replied. "But I'll be fine."
"Okay," Ron replied with a nod as they headed to the line of carriages. Harry went last but hesitated before he climbed into the carriage.
"You okay, Harry?" Ginny asked.
"Yeah," Harry said, vaguely as he looked around. Finally getting in, Harry shrugged off the sound he'd heard. It was probably nothing.
Curled in the bushes next to the path, the rattlesnake's tail was rattling fiercely as the students and carriages rolled on.
Finally, as the last carriage headed towards the castle, the snake slithered off into the bushes in search of safer surroundings.
Sitting in the center of the staff table in the Great Hall, Dumbledore was lost in thought. Only an hour ago he'd returned from the estate of Gregory Hindle, a world-renowned herpetologist. As Hindle gave Dumbledore a tour of the property, the scientist explained at how his son had been fascinated with snakes and how eventually Gregory started studying snakes as well. "I know why you're here," Hindle said as he made tea in the kitchen. "This is about that shipment of specimens that got lost, isn't it?"
"Dr. Hindle, I am the headmaster of a school where hundreds of students walk the grounds every day," Dumbledore said, simply. "I am concerned for their safety."
Hindle gave Dumbledore a wry smile. "Hogwarts, right?" Seeing Dumbledore's surprised look, he said, "Damon went there years ago. That's when he got into snakes."
"Which snakes escaped?" Dumbledore asked, quickly.
Hindle led the headmaster to a study and rifled through some papers before pulling out a list. Skimming over it, he said, "Western Diamondback, Russell's Viper, black mamba… the taipans are accounted for. Bloody hell…" Looking up, he said, "The king cobra is missing. Along with… a Rinkhal's cobra, a coral snake… and a fer-de-lance."
"Nothing large?" Dumbledore asked, thinking of the snake skin that Hagrid had found.
Hindle thought for a moment. "The king cobra can grow up to be 18 feet in length."
"My gamekeeper found a 25 foot snake skin," Dumbledore explained.
"Annie," Hindle said, paling very slightly. "I saved her from poachers. The enclosure out back is her territory. Titanium fencing which goes 10 feet below the ground. There's a pool and everything… I don't know how she escaped. If there's a pool or a lake near the school that's likely where you'll find her."
Dumbledore set his cup of tea down, feeling alarmed at what he'd discovered. "What do I do if someone is bitten?"
Hindle set his own teacup down and stood, beckoning Dumbledore to follow him. In a lab in the basement, Hindle went to a cooler and a case and loaded vials of antivenin into the case before handing it to Dumbledore. "I never understood the whole magic thing. But maybe you can work with this and get it to work faster."
Now as he sat watching the students file into the room, the second through seventh years joining their housemates and friends and the first years gathering at the front of the room before the staff table Dumbledore was worried. Any of the students could be bitten or killed.
The only question was who would be the first.