Author's Note- I will be tearing through first and second year as quickly as I can. If you're reading this then I assume you've read all the original books or watched the movies, so I won't waste your time with familiar stuff. Not to say that the first two years won't be entertaining, I just don't want you to have to slog through 200,000 words before the changes from canon really become noticeable.
As the Halloween feast was ending a warmly dressed Luna Lovegood waddled into the Great Hall, struggling with two bulging bags and her own heavy clothing. Nobody paid her any attention as she slowly made her way to the Hufflepuff table where Harry and his friends were still eating, engrossed with the celebration and general cheer of the holiday. Justin finally noticed the beleaguered girl and elbowed Harry to get his attention, pointing to her.
"Er... Luna, what's going on?"
"Hello Harry," she said breathlessly, "I wanted to come along and watch so I packed my things."
Nobody quite knew what she was talking about, though that was fairly normal. She dug through her pockets for a second and handed Harry a magazine, which the boy knew to take without question. It turned out to be a special Halloween edition of The Quibbler, and while Harry always appreciated the interesting and truthful articles of the respectable paper he wasn't making the connection between that and Luna's current behavior.
"Page seventeen," she suggested helpfully.
Harry, curious, turned to the page she mentioned and began reading. His face made an interesting show for all of the kids around him, turning from curious to annoyed to furious as he read the article in front of him. Luna arranged her bags so that they were both in one hand and stood expectantly next to Harry.
"Snappy!" he suddenly called out.
With a crack a house-elf appeared next to him, looking up with a vaguely adoring expression. "Master Harry called?"
"Bulgaria," he said, and put his hand on the house-elf's shoulder. Luna followed suit.
With another crack the three of them disappeared. Nobody quite knew what had just happened.
"Find another copy of that Quibbler!" Justin yelled.
"It's over this way," Luna said, leading Harry through a small mountain pass in Bulgaria like it was a nice summer hike. She was right to dress warmly, seeing as the weather was roughly two degrees above freezing, but Harry hardly noticed the cold as they marched through the mostly uninhabited wilderness. Once or twice a minute Luna would stop, pull out a large and rather oddly labeled map, check something and nod to herself before continuing on.
It was almost an hour before they stumbled across the wards. The wards didn't affect wizards, only muggles, so the two of them quickened their pace and almost ran the rest of the way into an isolated village on the side of the mountain. None of the lights were on, no one was moving around, and nothing made even the slightest sound.
"You know any Bulgarian? Wait, is Bulgarian a language?"
"I don't know, Harry."
Luna didn't actually say which question she was answering but it didn't really make a difference.
"Right. Well, wouldn't be the first time I didn't speak the native tongue. Let's go introduce ourselves."
Back in Hogwarts, a number of children were crowding around the first copy of The Quibbler they could find.
"What's it say?"
"Clear off, I'll read it out loud," Fred said, shooing all the younger students out of his personal space. "Ahem. Bulgarian Ministry bungles! Terrible chimaera set loose near muggle village!"
"Oh, give it here!" Hermione snatched the magazine out of his hands and with a few spells copied page seventeen a dozen times, handing them out to the eager hands of Harry's concerned friends. They all immediately buried themselves in reading whatever it was that enraged the boy and had him blatantly disobeying school rules, leaving the grounds without permission in front of all the teachers in the Great Hall.
Bulgarian Ministry Bungles!
Terrible Chimaera set loose near Muggle village!
In an astounding display of ineptitude the Bulgarian Ministry's Department of Magical Creatures branch has somehow dropped a fully grown, mating male chimaera in a dense Bulgarian forest without any way of retrieving it. Chimaeras are known wizard-killers, and as such they are classified as Too Dangerous to apprehend without a full team of at least ten Creature Experts working together.
While this normally wouldn't be a problem, the Beast was dropped only a mile away from a small Muggle village of a couple hundred people, dooming them to almost certain death. The 'threat' of some of those Muggles surviving the impending massacre to tell the outside world of magic has led to the Ministry sealing off all possible avenues of escape for the villagers, trapping them with the monster.
"We simply need time before we can gather a team to capture this dangerous, wild animal in its natural environment," a Ministry spokesperson said. "We aren't going to send wizards to their deaths with an understaffed team, and while it's unfortunate that the muggles will likely die there is simply nothing more we can do at the moment."
BUT CAN THEY?
It has already been two days since the chimaera was lost, but there is no team assembled yet. Is the Ministry intentionally delaying the rescue effort because only Muggles are Threatened? Or is this something even more sinister- was this an Intentional act, a Ministry that is simply testing out their new Anti-Muggle policy?Is the Bulgarian Ministry planning on 'accidently' dropping dangerous creatures all throughout the Muggle World?
"This... is absolute rubbish," Hermione said.
A scream pierced the darkness, making the hairs on the back of Harry's neck stand up. He knew that scream. That was the 'Oh God what is that thing somebody help me' scream.
With another sharp crack the witch, wizard and house-elf popped into existence right next to the girl who was currently trying to wake up half the country with her ear-splitting shrieks. This also put them right next to what was currently causing her to scream.
Namely, a very angry chimaera.
Harry realized why the village looked so empty when they had first seen it; the villagers had all tried to flee from their homes. The slim beams of light from two wands failed to show how many people were currently here, trapped between wards they couldn't cross and a beast that was trying to devour them, but it was obvious from the amount of sound they were making that at least most of the villagers were accounted for.
Which was all well and good, but the chimaera quickly shook itself from the brief surprise that three more snacks arriving had given it.
"Snappy, get Luna over to the other people and protect them," Harry said, keeping his gaze locked on the chimaera. It was time for some heroics.
The chimaera decided it was having enough of the girl's incessant noise-making and lunged at her, intent on eating her face, only to be brought up short when it collided with something that wouldn't budge. Something that hadn't been there before.
Harry's Stand couldn't really be called 'imposing.' It took the form of a woman in her early twenties, with glowing green eyes and softly crackling fire instead of hair, clad in only a simple white dress. Coming up at a miniscule five feet nothing with the kind of scrawny arms that came from being an unathletic girl, nobody would have been intimidated by her size alone. She looked, if Harry was being completely honest with himself, much like he imagined his mother- minus the fire hair and glowing eyes, of course. Harry called her Fire Soul, since it seemed appropriate, and a Stand has to have a name.
So it must have come as quite a surprise when the slight woman punched the chimaera with roughly the same amount of force as a charging elephant.
Well, maybe not so surprising. Chimaera hide is magically strong. The beast merely took a step back when met with the unexpected blow, barely registering a punch that would have snapped a car in half.
Well, this is going to be rough. The chimaera reared up and attempted to bash Fire Soul with its massive hooves, but Harry directed his Stand to weave around the flailing limbs and snap off punches whenever an opening presented itself. Harry himself scampered around just out of range, keeping the creature from focusing on anything other than his Stand, saving most of his concentration for maintaining Fire Soul's graceful fighting style while trying to figure out how to actually win this fight.
A dozen students were sitting in Dumbledore's office under the watchful gazes of seemingly every teacher in the school, nervously trying to figure out exactly what had happened to their friend.
"And you're sure that he had a house elf?"
"Yes, sir," Susan replied, her ingrained desire to work with authority taking over, "he called the elf 'Snappy' and it was definitely serving him."
"Curious." Albus Dumbledore stroked his rather impressive wizard beard, sweeping his gaze across the mostly first year students seated in front of him.
"Er... are we in trouble, Headmaster?"
"No, Miss Granger, I don't believe you are. You're all free to go, and rest assured I will be doing everything in my power to locate our wayward student."
Five hours later an exhausted Harry Potter was slumped on top of an equally exhausted chimaera. The thing was surprisingly docile when it didn't have the energy to lift itself up. Five straight hours of being punched (mostly ineffectually) and trying (but failing to) attack Harry's Stand had completely drained the large creature's stamina, leaving it lying on the ground without making any effort to move. Harry himself fell down on top of it, lacking the necessary strength to push himself off.
"Master Harry needs a potion?"
"Thanks Snappy," he slurred, drinking the Invigoration Draught as the loyal elf poured it down his throat.
Harry's eyes snapped into focus, revealing nothing but darkness without his Stand's flaming hair to light everything up. He fumbled for his wand and lit it, looking around for anyone else. I must have covered a lot of ground during that fight... Harry sighed, taking Snappy's hand once again. "Can you take me back to where Luna is?"
"Of course, Master Harry!" The elf beamed at him, thankful for the ability to serve, and apparated the two of them back to the huddled mass of Bulgarians.
Luna Lovegood was sitting in the center of them, apparently fascinating the crowd with a story of some sort; the people were riveted on her every word, though how they understood her was something Harry didn't concern himself with. Seeing everyone safe and relatively sound, Harry issued his last orders to Snappy for the night.
"Find some of the Greymane Centaurs- they should be in the forests of Romania just north of here- and let them know I've got a... relatively harmless chimaera here that needs to get moved before morning. If they don't ask for anything, don't offer them anything, but if they want payment you can promise them a service from me of their choosing."
"At once, Master Harry!"
The little elf apparated away, leaving Harry with Luna and the Bulgarian villagers. Time to make the best of things; now that Harry was out of the castle he planned on visiting some old friends and making sure everyone was safe even with his extended absence. He already left school, he wouldn't get in any more trouble if he stayed out a few more days, right?
"We really should get back to Hogwarts soon, Harry." Luna Lovegood was sitting in a comfortable chair, letting her legs swing idly about during the conversation.
"Oh yeah, I forgot. How long has it been?"
Harry made a face that spoke of long suffering, but pushed himself up from his own chair and started gathering his things. Sometimes he stumbled across some of Luna's clothes- the girl somehow managed to leave her stuff everywhere- but it only took a few minutes to gather everything up. With that done the two kids exited the magical tent Luna had brought along and set about dismantling it, then shrinking it again with the keyword.
Truth be told, Harry liked being out in the open far more than attending school, but there was no denying how useful wizarding magic could be, so with a heavy sigh he summoned his loyal house elf and teleported the three of them back to Hogwarts. He gave Luna a smile and a wave as they parted company, both students returning to their respective common rooms to begin their schooling at Hogwarts once again.
Harry spotted Hannah and Ernie exiting the common room just as he was approaching and waved to them, eliciting a gasp from the girl and a startled yell from the boy.
"Harry! You- you're okay! Everyone was so worried!"
"Er, what?" Harry wasn't sure what was going on, but Hannah looked like she was about to cry. That wasn't good. Heroes weren't supposed to make girls cry.
"You just left without telling anyone, you never sent an owl, everyone thought something bad had happened, Professor Dumbledore himself went out to go look for you... oh, poor Susan, she thought you got eaten by a chimaera, she was begging her aunt to find you, you really better go apologize to her right away."
This was, quite frankly, way beyond Harry's comprehension. Why would anyone be upset if he just left for a while? It wasn't like they needed him here, nothing ever happened at Hogwarts, and besides he had hero things to do all over the world. Still, if there was anything he'd learned from his travels, it was to always apologize to girls even if you had no idea what you did wrong.
"Right. Where is she?"
In a darkened room on the other side of the world, two wizards were looking at the fabled Philosopher's Stone with as much greed as a human eye could possibly possess. One of them, a short man wearing a ridiculous turban, held the stone aloft in his hand as if he was presenting life itself to the shadowy corner of the cramped living space. A venomous snake lifted itself off the ground there, hissing out what sounded eerily like human words.
You have served me well, Quirrell... all that you desire shall be yours.
"You honor me with your praise, My Lord. With that old fool Dumbledore out looking for Harry Potter, it was all too easy to get through his pathetic defenses."
A hissing sound that could have sounded like laughter, if laughter was meant to invoke fear instead of joy, slithered its way out of the snake's mouth.
And you, Snape... you shall brew me the elixir of life from this stone to make me whole once again, and you shall be the greatest of my followers...
The man's face, dominated by his beaky nose, showed no signs of joy or revulsion at the snake's words. "It shall be done, Master. I have never worked with the Philosopher's Stone before, but I predict it will take no more than a few months to prepare the elixir."
Yes, yes... in only a few months the greatest wizard who ever lived will be reborn. I shall have to thank Harry Potter before I kill him... for his unknowing contributions to my rebirth...
The hissing, laughing snake slowly made its way back into the darkness, leaving the two wizards to themselves. Quirrell looked almost rapturous, reveling in the praise he had received from his master. Of the dark-cloaked, sour man, nothing could be gleaned from the stony features of his face. If he was pleased, or upset, nobody would know from looking at him.
"Did you hear him? You heard him, didn't you, Severus? All of my desires will come true! The Dark Lord rewards his most faithful followers, and I have served him in a way no others could. I brought him the key to his rebirth!"
Quirrell was beside himself in glee, and would have danced around the room in sheer bliss had he not retained an ounce of sanity- one does not simply dance in the presence of the Dark Lord, even if you didn't know if he was still watching or not.
"You may have brought him the Stone, but do not forget that only I can unlock its secrets."
The sour man held out his hand, obviously waiting for the smaller wizard to hand the Stone over to him. He didn't have to wait long, for the overjoyed Quirrell plopped the Stone down without any hesitation.
"Yes yes, I won't deny your part in this. There is plenty of glory to go around today, after all, and the Dark Lord always keeps his promises. All that I desire... ha ha ha!"
With that, the mostly mad Quirrell walked calmly away from the dilapidated house, planning his future services to his lord and master. He was insane, not stupid; he knew that his continued rewards hinged on being continually useful to the Dark Lord even after this service.
Severus Snape, former potions master of Hogwarts, former member of the Order of the Phoenix, and former Death Eater held the key to Voldemort's rebirth in his hands. His face did not let a single thought or emotion show through. He slowly, carefully, put the Stone in his pocket and left the darkened house, apparating silently into the night.
He arrived in his workshop, which contained everything he needed to study the Philosopher's Stone.