Prompt bunny from the lovely rendamos, with a hint of ideas from the amazing raspberriesandrum.
Updates are likely to be quite erratic depending on how inspired I feel, whether I'm in the middle of an exam, access to a laptop, and ideas. I've worked out about 20% of this fic so far, and I'm writing as I think of it - what happens next is as much my guess as it is yours. Due to this, feel free to natter an idea or two in a review, and you may see them pop up in the next chapters. I really, really hope to make this a long fic, and finish it.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. I do, however, own my own, handmade wand which is epic.
Chapter 1: Beginning
Pain seared through his body, slashing through his nerves and –
It was everywhere, it consumed his every thought, and his fingers were breaking, he was sure, just like his hair was being ripped piece by piece from his skin and his limbs were stretched to their limits –
There was no rest, no chance for him to breathe – he couldn't breathe, his lungs were shrinking and couldn't pull in enough air, his skull as well, rippling into a smaller shape and pulverising his brain, thoughts were jumbled as his whole body was squashed, pulled and pushed like a side-along apparation gone wrong –
His face first, from what he could tell through the pain, sucked into the vacuum and he still couldn't breathe and then the rest of his body, and finally his legs, squeezed through like a mouse through a tiny crack in a door, but exaggerated because there was no way this could be natural –
And suddenly, it began to slow down. Barely, but enough for his torture-ridden mind to comprehend and notice and Merlin, he could breathe again and he gulped air, dragged it into his abused lungs and his heart picked up again, thank Merlin, oh God –
As his senses gently came back to normal, cautiously, as if hiding from another possible attack, he realised that he was still on the floor of his inherited house. The wooden floorboards, cleaner than he remembered, felt hard and uncomfortable against his aching muscles. It felt odd for a minute when he tried to move his hands, to steady himself or grab his head or feel around himself to make sure he was alive – he wasn't quite sure which – before realising that the shock of the spasm-inducing agony had not only sought his subconscious instincts and safety inside his own mind, but he had automatically shifted to his Animagus form. His animal version, after all, had a noticeably smaller amount of morals when it came to protecting himself, and more instincts in order to do it. The snake could strike at almost invisible speeds without even thinking, whilst as a human he'd have to gather his magic, pick a spell, aim his wand, and throw his power at the enemy.
He focused on his eyes, the burning slowly fading to a constant, manageable noise, and glanced around where he lay sprawled. He noticed first that the ritual ingredients had disappeared. There were no sprigs of herbs and magical plants set at exact degrees of measurements in a perfect pentagon around him, and the gems had gone from their small, wobbly stacks at each point of the star. Most importantly, on the northern point, there was no Time-Turner (Version 3.4, DoM Exp. (Extremely Dangerous)) with its tentacle-like chains curling through the patterns of chalk on the floor, no wires of pure magic circling the runes or wrapping the stone piles.
Behind where the experimental equipment had previously laid, colours and shapes swirled and intermingled as things moved almost too fast to see. The pain, which was by now a mere fraction of the hurt caused by, say, the Cruciatus, was easily dismissed to the back of his mind and he could keep his thoughts on the happenings surrounding his vulnerable form. The moving blurs, he soon found out, were people and animals. The people sped through, differing marginally every time they came in sight, and the animals changed every so often, and the children shrunk to babies and the furniture moved and the television which had appeared earlier was older… and he knew what had happened.
It had worked.
Well, it was working. The pain was still an irritating constant and he was obviously still moving back in time.
...Which he needed to stop doing, he decided, as the television remote disappeared and was replaced by a radio-like dial beside the TV screen. He could imagine the crackly, static response that a machine that old fashioned would produce.
He racked his serpent brain for the answer. The ritual had three stages, he remembered. Naturally, it was the setup, the sending, and the stopping, and he couldn't exactly speak the chants aloud in his snake form, could he? Hissing was notably useless when it came to spell casting.
Intent, then, could possibly work in a similar way to non-verbal spells. He'd just have to hope that his luck held out and the ritual didn't need spoken words in the Queen's English.
And so, whilst he droned out the four-line ending of the spell which needed to be repeated (he couldn't remember how many times, so he figured he'd do it until it worked), his mind was screaming, STOP STOP STOPSTOPSTOPSTOP with strong intent and –
The Muggle film which was happening around him slowed to the crawl of reality. The old woman, who had claimed the horrible paisley armchair beside the fireplace, began drinking her milk at a normal pace rather than on fast-forward, and the dog washing itself at her feet slowed his licking to a natural speed.
Okay, he breathed out in relief, success; now let's get out of the dark ages! Because Merlin, his grandparents likely had a better television than that.
Feeling marginally in control this time, the snake watched closely as the surrounding room sped up once more, rushing back forward through time. He could feel the whirring of the Time-Turner (Version 3.4, DoM etc.) as if it had been absorbed into his bloodstream, and it shifted in time with his heartbeat.
A spike in the pain, which he had previously been trying to ignore, jolted his concentration. The magic apparently didn't like him calling the shots, because the spike turned into a brief stabbing feeling, and then to a long slashing, and now –
The pain was back in full force, and his concentration was shattered. His aforementioned calm heartbeat burst into action, racing away at a million beats per minute –
It didn't include the squeezing and mashing of being forced through a paradoxical wormhole this time, but it was close enough. He felt like he was going to have a heart attack; that is, if his heart didn't thump right out of his chest first –
Mentally screaming again, his face and mind and body contorted in pain, he began yelling once again for it to –
STOP STOP STOP STOPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOP –
Like the after effects of a Crucio, he lay shuddering on the wooden floor once more, muscles periodically spasming and clenching. He breathed in deeply again, getting the feeling of déjà vu as his lungs choked in oxygen.
Swirling in the air around him was his magic, wild and independent and searching the surrounding area; he wasn't in control of it anymore, and Merlin if that didn't bring even more déjà vu. The last time his magic decided to go solo was after the Final Battle, in which he fought his enemy and almost died in the aftershock. As it was, it just loosened his ability to manipulate his power. It instead lashed out at anyone he had a negative thought towards, soothing those he liked, and doing every slight action on his mere impressions of thoughts as they began to form in his head.
It took a total of three years before it had calmed down then, and he hoped perhaps he could shorten that the second time around. The amount of pain he was in didn't help, however; stress just aggravated it.
Both the magic and the pain dissuaded him from even attempting to revert from his Animagus form, not that he had the energy anyway, and so he contented himself with staying safely still, tail coiled into a protective bunch around his head. And then he slept.
Not for long, apparently, as he felt a soft jab in his side. He peeked through his looped body to see a chubby face not 5 inches from his own. The toddler's eyes were wide in wonder, cheeks rosy and dimpled as the little girl grinned. He twitched and hissed in warning as a short, wrinkly finger reached forward again and neared his still sensitive scales, but refrained from striking out.
The snake's head wound back into his huddled body again as an almighty screech came from the doorway. It was cut off abruptly when the elder woman came to her senses; hopefully realising that she'd either deafen the poor animal or spook the potentially poisonous snake into teething on her daughter. (It was most likely the latter.)
"Marie, sweetie, don't touch it," spoke the woman in forced hushed tones. Her blonde hair fell over her shoulders as she reached backwards to grab something before creeping nearer. She crouched down in an attempt to appear less threatening. As the child chattered nonsense to her parent, one hand reached and clutched at Marie's dress, sliding her along the floor and putting some distance between her and the danger.
The snake clenched his tail closer as he sighed. He needed to find a way to leave Grimmauld Place, which had apparently changed marginally between whatever time he was currently occupying, and the 2000s. He knew that the Black family had owned number 12 for a few of decades at least, so he wondered if he'd perhaps been shunted along into number 11, possibly by one of the many protective wards that surrounded his godfather's childhood home.
BANG! Just as he began to uncoil, ready to slither under a nearby sofa to plan his escape, a basket of some sort had been slapped to the floor over him, narrowly missing the tip of his tail.
It was a washing basket, likely the object that Marie's mother had collected before retrieving her kid. And he was stuck, which was great. The basket approach (read: lack of hexes) also proved that he was inside a Muggle house, and so even if he was able to, transforming back to his human form was not recommended.
He collapsed back to the floorboards, eyes rolling at his luck.
Deciding to make the most of his time, he slipped back into a light doze, replenishing his energy in sleep. He kept an ear open to keep track of the human as she flipped through a thick, yellow book with a phone in hand.
"I can't really tell the length as it's all coiled up, but it's about an inch and a half thick. Black mostly, but the underside is dark red, like blood, and the red is in streaks up the sides.
"Yes, exactly like that. Shiny scales, and it looks really smooth; no ridges. It didn't attack my daughter, either, and she's at the age where she has to feel everything so she probably poked it!
"Mud snake? Okay, as long as it isn't poisonous. I thought the red meant it was venomous... Right, I'm free all day. I've only just moved in, and they didn't say anything about a snake problem. Not that it'd help the house sell, of course.
"Sure, that's fine. I'm pretty sure it can't get out. Laura Winslow, 11 Grimmauld – you've heard of it? Great. Of course, bye."
The room darkened then as Laura tossed a blanket from the sofa over the basket. Soon after came a couple of thumps, and a slight creak as a pile of heavy objects secured his prison.
The mud snake huffed a sigh. Harry Potter wasn't getting out of this one.
It was at least a few hours later when the visitors arrived. By this time, the snake was quite hungry (time travelling did wonders for your appetite) and irritable, bored of the limited space. The floor vibrated with every footstep as the newcomers came toward him, the wooden ground quaking and scratching slightly at his skin.
Laura Winslow was already speaking, explaining the situation and whatnot. The snake, grumpy as he was, let his instincts take over from his human mind as the two men removed the cover.
"He's quite a nice one; I'd say at least a metre long, on the longer end of the scale. I'd also put him at quite a young age." The guy was tall and lean, towering over the snake's prone form to peer through the holes in the basket.
The other, shorter but equally skinny and dressed in the same suit-like uniform with a bag of equipment over his shoulder, had knelt beside his colleague for a closer look. "They're native to America so God knows how it got here. Illegal trade? Zoo escapee?"
The first unzipped his bag and pulled out a collapsible carrier box and a long tool. As his co-worker gently tipped the basket up, he eased the tool under the rim and clenched the handle, causing the two-pronged end to close around the snake's body, close to the head. They grinned in tandem as he was raised into the air, one setting up the box ready for use whilst the other examined the red and black hissing animal for wounds or anything unusual. The snake could see the woman, child in her arms, leaning against the door frame with a look of curious awe, apparently feeling brave enough to admire the reptile now that her youngster was safe.
"He looks fine to me," said the taller man, lowering Harry into the box as he spoke. "A fine animal, though slightly mysterious!"
The snake calmed once more from his tense posture as the carrier lid closed, slipping him into darkness again. He listened with half a mind to the farewells of the humans as he felt himself being lifted and moved.
Okay, he thought to himself, squashing down the instincts to sleep yet again. I really need a plan now... Though it would help if I knew where I was being taken, he supposed, and the date would be pretty beneficial as well.
As it was, Harry didn't find out either until three months had passed.
During those three months, the snake had been passed through police and security for an investigation into how he appeared in England, veterinary hospitals for checkups and physical examinations, a quarantine to make sure he was safe to stay in the country, and long, bumpy drives between each location.
Needless to say, he was royally fed up by the time he reached his new home.
Chessington's World of Adventure, a zoo and adventure park family attraction, was located in Surrey. Apparently they had recently had a Cobra pass away from old age, and Harry replaced it in the large tank beside a Brazilian boa constrictor.
In all honesty, it was a nice place to be forced to live in, the snake had to admit to himself; it may not have been as spacious as the wild where his species lived naturally, but within the glass walls were a variety of plants and foliage to climb up and sleep on, a selection of rocks to bask on beneath a heat-producing light, mud and clay to slither through and hide in, and a clear pool of flowing water in the centre, perfect for cooling off and relaxing in. He was fed regularly and his tank was washed often, and all he had to do in return was look pretty for the tourists.
Not bad at all. Except the part where he was stuck within a glass prison, unable to get out to his younger self, nowhere near Hogwarts or the Ministry of Magic, and absolutely useless when it came to the Wizarding War which was approaching in the next decade or two.
Harry dismissed the thought as he shifted his coils to warm his belly. From his position, he could see the sign (upside-down) which stated his details.
This is Rufio the Mud Snake.
His species is native to America, where they eat small amphibians and live in marshland, mud, and water.
This one arrived at Chessington on April 10th 1989.
Beneath was a list of names of children who had adopted his predecessor, Edward the Cobra, and details on how to donate towards "Rufio" and "receive your own plaque and adoption package (includes a photo and 2 free visits to Chessington's World of Adventure, see terms and conditions)".
The year 1989 meant that the non-time-travelling Harry would be 8 or 9 years old. He winced a little at knowing he wasn't able to give his younger self a chance to live without neglect and borderline abuse, but it wasn't a major problem – he hadn't been aiming for a specific year originally, having no clue how the Time-Turner worked once the ritual was started. And anyway, he didn't think he'd turned out too bad – he could cook, he proudly told himself, which is a valuable life skill.
Back on topic, it had been only a week before he realised why Chessington sounded familiar. When he did, he could have slapped himself. (If he had hands, that is. As it was, he rolled himself off his sunning rock and let his body sink to the bottom of the pond.) The irony was stifling; this was the exact same zoo that the Dursleys had visited on Dudley's 11th birthday, and the boa in the tank beside him was the one he had spoken to.
This meant that if he couldn't figure a way past the zoo security any time soon, he still has the opportunity when little Harry comes and vanishes his glass cage. He'd have to work that out in his favour, perhaps by asking the boa to hide for the day, but it was likely going to be quite easy.
And until then, he'd live peacefully, make a couple of serpent friends, and try and get his magic back under control.
"They need to feed me a bit more," hissed Chester. He was born in captivity, but the Brazilian breeding had apparently given him a delightful accent anyway. He liked to joke that he sounded 'exotic'. "I'm beginning to feel my ribs!"
Yes, he may have been joking. It was half Rufio's love for Chester's sarcastic wit and half Harry's magic, which was still misbehaving, that caused a reaction anyway. Two hours later, at the evening feeding time, a breeze of wind came from nowhere and knocked a box of live mice into the rainforest-like enclosure that held the massive snake (who really didn't need any extra food, in Harry's opinion).
The zoo keeper leapt forward with a yelp in an attempt to catch it, but ended up just jolting the last two out as he grabbed it. Chester hissed out a cackling laugh and said a quick "thanks, amigo" before sliding forward from his perch and beginning the hunt.
Rufio shot an amused glance at the fretting man before sneaking forward to scare a shivering mouse that had hidden too close to the glass separating their tanks.
He could get used to this.