Life was going well for Harry James Potter.
He had two doting parents, several friends-of-the-family who regarded him almost as a son of their own, and lived a comfortable, cherished existence.
Every now and then an angel or a demon would pass by, just to keep tabs on the child; for some reason the Potters had set up wards to hide their property, but that was hardly enough to keep away the forces of Heaven and Hell. Harry seemed happy, and cared for, which was what everyone involved wanted at this stage of the proceedings. Leading him down the path of righteousness or the path of damnation could come when he was a little older, and capable of more than baby talk. So both sides checked in on the boy every so often, and report back to their superiors that things seemed to be going exactly as planned. They were routine report, brief and lacking in detail, which was perhaps why no one thought to mention the Fidelus ward.
If Crowley had been the one sent to check on the Antichrist, he would have asked: hang on, why are the Potters hiding behind a Fidelus ward? What are they hiding from? And he would have investigated.
Unfortunately, the other demons (and angels, for that matter) weren't exactly the type to think beyond their immediate orders: Harry Potter was safe and cared for, so what did it matter if his parents had chosen to hide their home? Who understood the whims of humans, especially wizards?
So the Fidelus ward went unremarked upon, and no one bothered to find out why the Potters were in hiding, which was why it came as a nasty shock when a demon stopped by Godric's Hollow on the second of November, 1981 to find the Potter's house falling apart, powerful magical residue hanging in the air, and absolutely no sign of the Potters anywhere.
A frantic search for information was made, and eventually some details of the situation became known. The Dark Lord who had been terrorising the wizarding world for the last couple of decades or so had targeted the Potters, killing both Lily and James, only to somehow be destroyed himself when he attempted to attack their son.
(Well, not destroyed, the higher-ups of both sides muttered among themselves disapprovingly; not after the way Voldemort had mutilated his soul in the search for immortality. But the rank-and-file didn't need to know that.)
Only Harry had survived the attack, which meant he was alive – somewhere. And that, really, was the root of the whole problem.
"We lossst the Antichrist!" Crowley hissed. "Losst him!"
Aziraphale and Crowley were dining at the Ritz, discussing the latest twist in the whole Antichrist affair.
"I'm sure someone will find him again, sooner or later," Aziraphale said soothingly. "And once one side does, it won't take long for the other side to find him as well, you know."
Crowley was not appeased.
"It's got to be a spell, and a powerful one," he said. "Last week everyone knew exactly where the kid was, and then bam! He's disappeared, and no one can find any sign of him, even though practically all of Hell's been sent out looking for him."
"Do you really think a mere spell could thwart the forces of both Hell and Heaven?" Aziraphale asked doubtfully.
"If enough power was involved, it's possible," said Crowley darkly. "It's an unpredictable force, magic – the really old stuff, that involves the human soul, you never know exactly what it can do. And if the Antichrist's power is tied up in it, somehow…"
"Oh dear," Aziraphale said, a little lamely, as he grasped the implications.
"…then we're all bloody well done for, that's what," Crowley finished, in stronger language than Aziraphale had used. "He's got more than enough power to keep himself hidden from us. We won't know where he is or what's happened to him until he's old enough to go to Hogwarts – and that's if the spell doesn't somehow stop us from finding him then, too."
"Hogwarts," said Aziraphale, brow wrinkling. "That's the British wizarding school, isn't it?"
"He should be old enough to attend in September 1991," said Crowley. "But that's ten years away, angel! Ten years in which no one's going to have any idea what's going on, and whoever's in charge of finding him is going to be in a lot of trouble indeed."
Aziraphale patted his shoulder sympathetically.
"Put you on the case, have they?"
"I hate responsibility," he said miserably.
"Well, you know where he's going to be in ten years," Aziraphale said briskly. "Come up with a plan to find him then, and I'm sure your superiors won't be too upset, surely?"
Crowley sent Aziraphale a look.
"You're talking about the mercy of Hell," he said flatly.
Aziraphale winced a little.
"I'm screwed, angel, let's face it," Crowley said gloomily. "Hell's not going to forgive me for this one. There's no way I can spin this to make it look good."
There wasn't much that Aziraphale could say to that, because it was true. So instead he poured Crowley another glass of wine, and the two ethereal beings proceeded to get well and truly drunk.
Meanwhile, at number four Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, a set of monumentally powerful blood wards thrummed, hiding young Harry Potter from anyone who might come looking for him.
The blood wards should have been weak, adversely affected by the fact that Harry had been taken in grudgingly, and resided in a far from loving home. But the power running through Harry's blood and residing in his soul had boosted the wards to unheard-of strength. At this point, not even Albus Dumbledore could have found Harry, and he was the one who'd left the boy there. Mail would still reach Harry – trained post owls weren't likely to care one way or another about the child they were delivering letters to – but anyone with any thoughts of harming, using, or manipulating Harry would have no hope of locating him.
Dumbledore wouldn't realise what was going on until later, when he tried to remember where Harry Potter lived, and couldn't. It would be far too late to correct the problem by then.
Young Harry slept on, in the cupboard where Petunia Dursley had stashed him, unaware of the many people out searching for him.
On his forehead was a bloody mark, shaped like a lightning bolt. For anyone who knew their ancient runes, the symbol for success and victory was branded on his forehead.
It was difficult to find a more pleasant boy than Harry Potter.
Small for his age, and badly dressed, the boy was nonetheless calmly-spoken with lovely manners, and a shy, endearing smile which only increased his charm. Despite the unfashionable glasses he wore, he was a good-looking boy, with a pair of brilliant green eyes that drew remark wherever he went.
The Dursley couple had tried to spread rumours about Harry, talking about delinquency and bad behaviour, but it was obvious to everyone who actually met the child that there wasn't an ounce of harm in him. He was far too well-behaved, too well-mannered, and a kind word or two was enough to make him beam in startled pleasure. It was more than likely, the neighbours thought, that the Dursleys were trying to divert attention from their own, rather unpleasant offspring, whose bullying ways were well-known to the neighbourhood. It was only a shame that Harry wasn't treated better.
Harry himself was largely unaware of the way other people viewed him. All he knew was that most people were kind to him, apart from his relatives.
Even, as it turned out, when the 'person' in question was a snake.
Harry liked snakes. They were always inclined to answer his many questions.
"And then what happened?" Harry hissed in curiosity.
"And then the Father of All Serpents told her to eat from the tree, for it was the fruit of Knowledge," said the snake. "And her eyes were opened, and she perceived her nakedness, and sought to cover herself."
Harry was supposed to be weeding the garden, but sitting behind the garden shed listening to a snake tell him stories was far more interesting.
"Couldn't she tell?" Harry asked the snake, his brow wrinkling. "I mean, it's sort of hard not to notice, being naked."
'It's a metaphor," said the snake tolerantly. "When I say that she noticed that she was naked and sought to cover herself, I mean that she became different from other creatures, and noticed the way in which she was different."
Harry thought about this for a while.
"It's a mettyphor because... because only humans wear clothes, right? And she was different from all the animals," he said finally.
"Very good," praised the snake.
Somehwhere in the distance an angry voice screeched, "BOY!"
"Uh-oh," Harry exclaimed, scrambling to his feet. "I'd better go. Thank you for the story, Mr Snake."
"You are welcome," said the snake. But the boy had already fled.
The next day at school, Harry approached his teacher.
Miss Harper turned to look at Harry.
"Aren't you supposed to be outside during lunch?" she asked him.
Harry looked up at her with wide green eyes, looking dismayed.
"It's just that I had a question," he said.
Miss Harper smiled, and Harry relaxed as he saw that he wasn't in trouble.
"What's your question, Harry?"
"Someone was telling me stories," he explained. "About an angel who turned into a snake and told the first lady to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. It was really interesting."
Miss Harper's eyebrows rose.
"That's a story from the Bible," she told Harry kindly. "You don't have any Bible's at home?"
Harry shook his head, frowning.
Miss Harper thought for a moment.
"You know, I think the library has a some religious literature, if you want to read more," she said thoughtfully. "I can show you next time we go there for reading time, how does that sound?"
Harry's face turned radiant.
"Than you, Miss Harper! That's brilliant!"
Thus, the next time that Harry talked to the snake in the garden, he had a little more understanding of the stories the snake told.
"So," Harry summarised the snake's latest tale, "basically Lucifer is in trouble because he ran away and was naughty, instead of doing what he was told."
"...I suppose you could say that," the snake conceded eventually. It had never heard Lucifer's actions described quite that way before.
Harry nodded in the serene conviction that he was right.
"My book says he was the fairest and most beautiful angel of them all, and they called him the Morning Star, for he shone as bright," Harry quoted. "So how come he was a snake in the garden then? I don't get it."
"That was a different angel," said the snake. "The Father of All Serpents turned himself into a snake, on the orders of the Morning Star."
"Oh." Harry frowned. "Why does my book say they're the same person?"
"Because most humans don't know how to talk to snakes, so they got the story wrong," said the snake, with lofty superiority.
"That makes sense." Harry looked considering. "Why do you suppose Lucifer wanted people to eat of the fruit of Knowledge?"
"Oh, that was the Father of All Serpents' idea," said the snake. "He was told to cause trouble, and that was what he chose to do. And now humanity understands the difference between good and evil because of it."
Harry thought that over.
"Reckon we owe him one, then," he told the snake finally. "What's his name, the Father of All Serpents?"
The snake would have shrugged, if it could have. As it was, it's tongue darted in and out, and it said, "I couldn't tell you. Snakes don't really bother with names."
Harry nodded politely, a little disappointed.
"That's a pity," he said. "I should have liked to know his name."