A/N: Wow, that's a bit daunting… I go to sleep after posting the Prologue, and wake up with 90 things from Fanfiction in my inbox. Just wow. Oh, and an important note. Go read this story's warnings on my Author profile; it's the only warning you'll get.

Chapter 1: A Few Minor Changes…

The sensation he experienced was like reverse apparation; instead of feeling squeezed through a narrow tube it was like he was being ripped in every direction at once. He felt that it was only his willpower—his magic—that kept him together at all. Then it altered, feeling like he was being forced through his animagus transformation, and Harry was sure that he'd been partway through changing before he stubbornly forced himself back to rights. It could have gone on for an eternity, or just a few seconds, but Harry knew that he almost hadn't made it…

(Made it where? What..?)

And then suddenly…it stopped. Harry was lying on soft ground, inhaling warm, somewhat humid air, and hearing birdsong and rustling leaves. He opened his eyes and saw nothing but trees and vibrant foliage, but…something was…wrong?

He furrowed his brows and concentrated, then closed his eyes again and groaned quietly, nearly pained. He muttered a quiet "What the hell?" and checked again for good measure, getting the same results.

There was no ambient magic, wherever he was. None at all. Just what did he get himself into this time?

'Ambient magic', before, was something he'd only read about—it was usually mentioned in conjunction with warding, or higher spell casting for the less magically strong—but something he never put any real thought into. It was one of those things that you don't really notice until it's not there anymore. Like the hum of electricity though a muggle house; you only notice the static noise when you're left in absolute silence from a power outage.

The only thing that kept Harry from panicking over the void of outer magic was that he could still feel his magic, tied to his soul as it was. The whole situation confused him terribly, however; even the most muggle areas had been saturated in ambient magic. Even places that were in the middle of nowhere, or places that had been utterly destroyed. Magic was practically a force of nature! He couldn't quite wrap his head around the idea that magic wasn't here.

Harry inhaled shakily from his sprawled position on the ground, eyes still closed and body still weak, even if he wasn't so cripplingly exhausted. It smelled so…clean, wherever he was. Unpolluted. There wasn't a trace of smog in the air, not the sound of a vehicle in the distance, nor an airplane in the sky. All Harry could hear were nature sounds; animal and plant sounds.

He was unsure how long he laid there with his eyes closed, just breathing and letting himself wind down from something that he knew should have killed him. Either the Ministry Battle or the trip through the Veil. It had to have been at least a few hours, from the angle of the sunlight hitting his eyelids.

It was only when—with a bone-deep, weary sigh—he finally fought to sit up and open his eyes that he realized that something had gone horribly, horribly wrong.

His gaze fell to his right hand, which was—curiously enough—completely obscured by the tattered sleeve of his charcoal gray, prisoner issue robe. It was curious, because Harry was pretty damn sure the robe had fit properly before. He felt himself start to frown at the extra inches of material as he tugged the sleeve up to expose his hand.

The almost-frown turned into a grimace, with a bit of a spastic eye twitch thrown in for good measure. He knew that eight months with no exposure to light would turn anyone pale—it hadn't helped either when he stopped going outside in his sixth year—but this was more than a little ridiculous. His skin was almost paper-white; he was fucking Voldemort pale, and damn was that saying something. The scar on the back of his hand—"I must not tell lies"—stood out more starkly than it ever had, though it was still the same pale pink of an old scar.

His paleness wasn't what told him something was wrong, however. His hand was smaller, but his (thin, bony) fingers were proportionately too long. Then there was the small issue of his fingernails turning dark and fucking pointed! They weren't really all that long, though still longer than he liked, but he sure as hell didn't remember Voldemort ever sitting there and filing and painting his nails! He would have remembered that, surely! (There was something else odd about his nails, as well, but he couldn't pinpoint what…)

Harry shook the sleeve back over his hand, and then his sluggish mind realized the implications of what his too large robe—and the rest of his clothes, by the feel of it—meant. He had shrunk! He knew he had been short for his age, but he must be a midget now!

He groaned brokenly and let himself fall back onto the comfy ground. (He could call the ground comfy if he damn well pleased; you try sitting on hard stone for eight months and then try and deny that soft grass wasn't comfortable!). Gods Above, he had just killed the most evil Dark Lord in centuries—he deserved his pity-party!—but did all this shit always have to happen to him?

His thoughts on the Dark Lord, however brief, triggered Harry's latent paranoia; all at once he realized the vulnerable position he was in. Sure, there didn't appear to be people around, but there were animals; he could hear them! What if there was something dangerous and he—weak and vulnerable—looked like a good meal?

Standing up was far harder than sitting up had been, and staying upright was just as difficult as it had been in the Ministry. His clothes suddenly being at least eight inches too long didn't help any, either.

Growling, Harry drew his arms into the robe and pulled the drawstring tighter on the thin pants—so as not to walk out of them—and then folded the extra material up to the best of his ability. He stumbled over to lean against a tree and listened carefully, before deciding he still had some measure of luck left; he could hear moving water nearby. Before his meager strength completely diminished he intended to get there, at least.

Looking east (if the sun still set in the west here, anyway…he really had no clue where he was…) Harry could just barely make out the glimmer of water through the bushes. He'd only made it a couple feet in that direction when a hare bound out in front of him, nearly startling him into falling. The brown mammal looked at him with large eyes—

And promptly dropped dead. (Hey, he wasn't that ugly, was he?) Harry was torn between amusement and horror; just what the hell happened this time?

Harry sighed and shook his head, continuing in the direction of the water, pausing long enough to grab the hare by its front paw—and swinging it in a parody of a child with a stuffed animal, sending a spike of amusement through him. There was no sense in wasting the meat, especially as it had practically fallen into his lap; although he didn't feel hungry he hadn't eaten anything solid in eight months, and he had to start rebuilding his strength sometime.

When he broke out of the undergrowth Harry saw that the water was a small river—almost a large creek, really—whose banks were made of many smooth rocks. If he had to guess, he'd say that it was running lower than it usually did (the closest plants were still a dozen feet from the water), so wherever he'd landed probably wasn't in its rainy season. Or it was in a drought.

Harry carefully picked his way over the smooth rocks to the sluggishly moving water. He dropped the rabbit next to him; it made a kind of thump-splat noise that dragged an odd little giggle passed his lips. He paused momentarily, not quite sure what was funny about the noise, before shrugging it off as not important; it felt pretty good to laugh at something, anyway. He stared at the rabbit another moment before he pulled the robe up over his head and sat it off to the side—he didn't want to get blood on it. Blood was hard to get out of clothing, even with magic.

Moving gingerly Harry lowered himself to sit—nearly sighing in relief; he was so weak—but on the water's wavering surface he though he saw something…wrong…with his reflection. It was moving too much to get a clear picture, though. Harry frowned and grabbed a fist-sided rock; it took barely any effort to transfigure it into a flat mirror.

Well. Somehow he doubted anyone back in the Wizarding World could recognize him now.

Apparently he hadn't just shrunk; somehow he looked younger (even if the sharp angles of his face—ones that showed so readily because of starvation—aged him somewhat). Actually, he barely looked like he could pass as a teenager at all, and it kind of pissed him off because he was almost eighteen goddamnit! That wouldn't be why no one would recognize him, however. Harry didn't look much like himself at all: The structure of his face was thinner and sharper, and he knew that it had nothing to do with him looking like a famine victim, though it would probably change again once he'd gained some weight.

Harry realized queasily, with a horrified sort of fascination, that he looked quite a bit like Voldemort after his rebirth. He wondered if his appearance had anything to do with taking the Dark Lord's magic; that body had been born from a spell, from magic, after all…

His hands were resolutely still as Harry studied the details of his new face. Hm, at least he still had a proper nose. It was rather hard to fit in without a proper nose; he probably would have thrown a fit if he'd had those creepy slits that Voldemort called nostrils. No matter how much Harry liked snakes…no. Just no.

He still had hair, too, and it was still black. It was dull and lank—to be expected, really—, and didn't defy gravity as much as before, but he couldn't complain. His eyes weren't red, either—

Harry stared. Well, damn, that explained the hare dropping dead, anyway; Harry would recognize those eyes anywhere. Basilisk eyes. He couldn't tell where the sclera ended and the iris began; his eyes were now completely, vividly, toxic yellow, broken only by the thin vertical line of black he recognized as elliptical pupils. He took a moment to raise a hand to put his face in shadow; it was interesting to watch his pupils expand and contract, and very hard to look away. It made him look very…inhuman.

Exhaling a little hopelessly Harry allowed himself to shift into his animagus form, feeling a little thrill at being able to change again, though he'd only done it a couple times while still at Hogwarts. He slowly reared up from his prone position on the sun-warmed stones, swiveling to look at the small mirror. If he'd been capable of it in this form, he would have frowned, but settled for hissing wordlessly instead. He was significantly smaller in this body, as well: Though still intimidating, his previously impressive crest of black feather-like scales was less full, and he was now closer to thirty feet long than sixty.

Feh. He smashed the little mirror with his tail and reared his head higher off the ground, flicking his tongue out as his keen eyes scanned the trees past the opposite bank. This apparent de-aging was a bit annoying, but he could get over it—it definitely wasn't the worst thing that could have happened by surviving eminent death. A shiver went down his entire spine at the though of Voldemort's survival of death; stuck as something less than a ghost for thirteen years

He shook his head and instead turned to contemplate the dead hare sprawled next to him. The though of eating it didn't disgust him in the least, especially when he scented it and all that registered was "food". If he ate in this form, though, he didn't know if it would be safe to transform back to a human after; the basilisk stomach was much larger than a human one, and he didn't know if his magic would compensate for the food or if he would inadvertently rupture his stomach if he didn't finish digesting first. There weren't many cases of a wizard having so large an animagus form, so he hadn't had a lot to learn from. And what would happen if he ate and then ran into a human before he felt he could transform back? Nope, no good.

Harry shifted back to his human form—a glance at one of the mirror shards revealed his eyes to still be yellow—well, mostly human anyway. He'd halfheartedly hoped that a shift would have reversed his snakey-trait but, well—he shrugged—it wasn't too bad. He'd think of something…it would be hard as hell to blend in with normal people now, though. (Eh, whatever…)

His attention refocused to the slowly cooling mammal still sitting by his side; it smelled just as appetizing as a couple minutes ago, even if it was raw…Wait. Harry paused; there was more than one thing wrong with that thought, though he decided to focus on only one of them. Still smelled?

A wave of his hand repaired the broken rock-turned-mirror and had it levitating before his face. Harry deliberately stuck his tongue out and stared, unimpressed, at the thin, black, forked thing that was his tongue. How bloody annoying.

It was rather hard to be disappointed about anything after fulfilling a life or death prophecy and then surviving a trip through the Veil of Death, but Harry was getting there. He sat, scowling at the mirror, wondering (somewhat sarcastically) if the dark, purplish bruising around his eyes would be permanent, too. Seriously though, Voldemort—in all his snake-ish-ness—had absolutely nothing on Harry.

He shifted on the rocks and sullenly prodded the limp food item with his index finger; he suspected, idly, that if he had his old strength his new claw would have punctured its hide. Alas, his finger strength would definitely not allow him to puncture the skin, let alone remove it to get to the flesh. He tilted his head, thoughtful, before tracing a finger down the animal's spine, the skin splitting with a controlled cutting curse. From there it was the small matter of sticking his fingers into the wound and loosening the skin from the flesh, then cutting the loosened hide away.

Being squeamish was something he'd lost rather quickly into his sixth year, even before he'd preformed the ritual. Seeing and performing—he had been in Voldemort's head at the time, after all—Black spells and torture every time you slept would leave even the most softhearted at least desensitized after a while. Skinning a dead animal had nothing on skinning a live, four year old muggle.

He frowned, tilting his head slightly and hands stilled from their work. Well. That last though didn't bother him as much as it used to…Huh. Should he be worried..? Gasp! Oh no! Maybe he'd truly "gone dark"! (Maybe he'd start to monologue soon!) Harry choked on a giggle; yeah, sure. Harry was pretty sure he'd AK himself the first time he started to monologue an evil speech.

The skin had been entirely stripped away from the back, and his fingers were liberally covered in slick, cooling blood. His tongue flicked out again, and the scent stirred a response in his stomach. Hunger. The suddenness of the sensation was surprising, and quite painful, causing Harry to curl in on himself and grimace. His mouth felt hot and he swallowed bile down; he had to eat, now. Harry raked his claws down the exposed flash, parallel to the spine, and it split; he didn't know, and didn't care, if it was his nails or a spell that actually cut the meat.

It really didn't look all that appetizing—though Harry had been forced to eat worse while still living with the Dursleys—but Harry pulled a strip of rabbit meat off the rest of the carcass, squeezing it between his fingers to test the texture. He gave a mental shrug, stomach still screaming for food, and slipped the stringy meat past his lips…The first taste he got was of blood, and granted, it tasted rather good. An experimental chew resulted in the gamey meat shredding into fine ribbons; not the usual sensation of chewing raw meat, for sure.

The mirror was brought once more to face level; Harry bared his teeth to get a look…and promptly started laughing, a slightly unhinged giggle at that. That was all he could do when faced with this situation anymore; it was actually funny though, especially the though of smiling at anyone. Still giggling Harry stuck a finger in his mouth to feel his new, rather scary, teeth. They were narrower than before, but all were longer and much sharper; his canines looked particularly wicked, but there were at least two more sets of "fangs" that looked just as menacing. Harry wondered offhandedly if he was venomous: It would make sense, with this kind of teeth, because unlike most serpents the basilisk had more than one set of venom-injecting fangs.

His stomach stopped trying to kill him after the first swallow of rabbit but Harry continued to eat, giggling slightly as he did so. He was exceptionally pleased that the taste didn't repulse him. It meant that he would be able to live off the land if he couldn't locate people: It would have been terribly embarrassing to die of starvation after all the crap he'd managed to survive. Too quickly though, he realized not eating for so long had reeked havoc on his ability to do so at all; the handful of flesh seemed to make him too full and it was almost purged…Harry swallowed the lump back down, grimacing in distaste. That…was annoying.

Dragging a bloody finger across his lips, Harry turned to the sky, spotting the sun through the thick leaves of the many trees. He guessed it to be mid-afternoon, but that wasn't the concern; Harry was making plans for himself, thinking as he hadn't done in months. His mind was surprisingly quick on the uptake.

His first goal was to find people, but even before that he would have to prepare. His eyes were priority; there was no way he would walk around with his eyes closed, but killing people (on accident, no less) was out of the question. His appearance was somewhat of a problem, as well, but there was even less he could do about that. Yes, a glamour spell could work—even if it wasn't his best work, Harry had tried hard to become proficient in all aspects of magic—until he fell unconscious, of course. A glamour of the magnitude needed to disguise his skin color, for example, would unravel when he fell asleep, or even into meditation. In a way, hiding under a glamour could be more disastrous, as he would go from looking normal to quite unnatural, and having some sort of power. Muggles never took well to surprises like that.

A glamour still wouldn't have been ruled out so completely if it wasn't for the fact that they could unravel in high-stress situations. Harry hadn't tested his temper in a while, but in a situation where he got worked up enough to drop his disguise…yeah. Worse than it unraveling while he slept.

Harry pushed the thoughts of illusions out of mind as a permanent solution; it would be a fallback if (and probably when, knowing his luck) he really needed to go unnoticed.

Transfiguration, on the other hand, sounded like a more solid fallback and much less likely to come undone without him willing it to. That boded testing before he would ever consider trying it on himself, however; transfiguring something as delicate as an eye (more so than his tongue or skin) could permanently blind him if it went wrong. He wouldn't chance it, no matter how well he currently knew the theory. That thought, too, was disregarded for an immediate solution.

No, as of now appearance wasn't so much a concern. Harry needed to find something to keep him from killing (or petrifying) anything that looked him in the eye…

Harry sighed softly, turning his eyes away from the vibrant green leaves and back to the rather mauled looking hare. He absently cast a preserving charm to keep the flesh from going rancid and then shifted slightly on the rocks, gingerly moving closer to the water. Too-long fingers added streaks of red to his barely-there reflection on the stream's surface; the bright yellow of his eyes the only thing that stood out starkly.

Harry frowned, staring hard at the water; maybe he was over-thinking the solution. All he needed were his eyes obscured; so long as they couldn't see his eyes they shouldn't be fatal. He tilted his head back and narrowed his eyes thoughtfully, catching sight of the dark lump of cloth in his peripheral vision. His overlarge robe. Yes, that could work…

The dark material—at one time coarse but now soft from wear—tore easily against his nimble, if weak, fingers. Harry carefully ripped the bottom hem off, leaving him with a dark ribbon a couple feet long and a few inches wide; a blindfold. He scrubbed the material between his hands in the creek's cool water to get rid of the worst of the…grime…before holding it over his eyes experimentally. Worn as it was the blindfold left him, well, practically blind.

Harry scowled for all of two seconds before he wanted to hit himself for being stupid; was he a wizard or not? He tied the cloth over his eyes, knotting it tightly at the back of his head and tucking the trailing tails into his shirt, before proceeding to weave his magic through it, casting a spell usually used for spying. Another look at the mirror proved the spell to be satisfactory; his eyes couldn't be seen by anyone looking, but Harry saw everything clearly (if a bit dim, as if he were wearing sunglasses).

Nodding to himself Harry reversed the transfiguration, the mirror becoming just another stone. He had long since become uncomfortable sitting upon the uneven river rocks and now forced himself to stand. Thankfully, he had the energy to stand, but was now experiencing the start of an all-over burning ache; it felt like he'd just run himself past exhaustion. Swaying wearily on his feet Harry decided that he would not backtrack, so crossing the water it was.

Frowning hatefully at his shaking limbs Harry levitated the robe and rabbit behind him, knowing on a certain level that it wouldn't tire his magic in the least to do so but it would exhaust his physical strength beyond moving to be weighted down by a wet robe. He waded carefully into the cool water—at its deepest it tugged at his calves—and shivered slightly as the water leeched further up the material of his pants. He shivered and almost fell but stubbornly kept forward, slipping into the deeper shadows cast by the trees. The only noises became his gasps for air, the rustling of disturbed leaves as he moved and the occasional wet patter of blood as the rabbit carcass floated along behind him. His thoughts kept whirling along the track of 'Gee, I wish Voldemort was still alive so I could kill him again for wrecking my body worse than the Dursleys ever did.'

He collapsed on the soft grass, against the base of a tree; a silent, ugly snarl twisted his face as his muscles screamed agony and exhaustion. He cancelled the levitation spell, the rabbit thumping down and spattering blood across the grass—and his legs—and his robe dropping onto his lap. It took a moment of struggling but Harry managed to pull the article on properly, slumping weakly afterwards. This weakness was quite…troublesome.

After many minutes of lying silently at the base of a tree, still exhausted, Harry realized with some dread that he would have to do something he had not willingly done in almost two years…Sleep. It had actually gotten to the point where Harry would not sleep; he would meditate deeply (supposedly the first step in learning Occlumency, but Harry couldn't go any further than that, no matter how hard he tried) to rest his body and mind, but it just couldn't rejuvenate him like sleep was supposed to. It still rested him more than Voldemort's visions would allow him; they couldn't be sent as easily if he meditated instead.

Sadly enough, though, Harry hadn't had enough time to waste it by sitting around pseudo-sleeping: Most of the time he would suddenly drop from physical and mental exhaustion. Later on, during his time with Voldemort, he was usually Stunned unconscious, if he wasn't already out…

In short, Harry's experiences with sleep were bad. Nearing the point of developing a phobia bad.

The decision was ultimately taken out of his hands; one moment he was staring up at the thick canopy of rustling leaves and the next his magic surged inward and his vision blacked around the edges—

Pained whimpering and furious, wordless hisses were the sounds Harry woke to. He wondered, in a vague, detached sort of way, just who pissed off Voldemort enough to make him sic Nagini on them. He knew better than to even think about why the Dark Lord had moved him to lie down, on something soft at that. Yes, better not to think about that… Instead, Harry wondered why it was brighter than usual, behind his closed eyes, and why the air was warm.

The whimpering was now accompanied by choked sobs—Harry felt no pity—but the hissing had stopped. Harry was puzzled as to why the snake had sounded so angry, because if he though about it, it really hadn't sounded like Nagini's voice and most snakes that were called upon were rather quiet about their attacks…

Then his tongue flicked out—seemingly of its own accord—and he was bombarded with a multitude of scents, and he remembered that he was free. But…now he was far more confused as to why the scent of distressed (dying) human male and potent venom and angry snake were anywhere near him. He wouldn't know if he just stayed lying here, though, so he pushed himself to sit upright and opened his eyes.

He blinked at the scene that greeted him in the dim, pre-dawn light. There was a man convulsing on the ground, maybe ten feet away from Harry, and there was a knife of some sort just out of the man's reach; apparently dropped. More interesting than that—in Harry's own, biased opinion—was the strange reddish-orange colored snake looking at him, and if Harry had to guess he would say it was surprised.

Harry noticed as it slithered towards him that its scales shimmered attractively, like fire; he had never heard of a snake like this before. It came to rest on his outstretched legs, head low and non-threatening as its bright red tongue flicked out to scent him. Harry leaned closer to the serpent and scented it in turn; it smelled of a sort of musk that could only ever be "snake", but also of a bitter tang that he somehow knew to be venom.

"Lord Snake?" the unusual serpent hissed, and Harry was amused. He knew the basilisk was called the "King of Serpents" but he had assumed the title had been given by humans…

"Call me Harry, pretty one," Harry purred quietly. He found that most snakes were more agreeable after complementing them, but the endearment slipped out naturally, as a truth. He sought out the eyes and found them to be lustrous orange, with perfectly round pupils.

"Lord Harry, then," it hissed in turn, and Harry rolled his eyes behind the blindfold; stubborn snake. "Are you well?" It sounded concerned of all things, and flicked its tongue out again. The implications of the action were clear; it could smell his current weakness.

"I will be well in time," Harry placated, for he wasn't well, and he didn't feel like lying over something like that right now. Onto pressing matters, though… "Why is there a human writhing about over there?" he asked, head tilted towards the fallen man.

"I bit him," it said plaintively, a hint of its previous fury creeping into its tone. "He will be dead soon." The orange eyes turned to the fallen man—he was whimpering again—and seemed proud of the statement.

Harry's eyes turned back to the wickedly sharp knife for a moment before returning to the fire-patterned serpent. "Thank you for protecting me, little friend. It is quite fortuitous that you were here…whenever you got here," he muttered the last part, noting again that it was barely dawn; he'd been unconscious for somewhere near half a day, if not longer.

His protector preened under the praise and Harry smiled at it fondly; it felt strange to smile after so long and the expression was quickly gone. He scooped up the sinuous body and settled the creature over his shoulders—where it sat quite contently—before forcing himself to stand. It was easier to move today, even if his muscles still ached terribly from overexertion.

Stepping lightly towards the man Harry thinks that he must suffer from terrible luck, to sneak up on someone defenseless and still be struck down. He kneeled beside the man, negligently banishing the knife a few more feet away, and prodded the sweaty brow with his index finger. Pain-glazed brown eyes opened, locking onto his face briefly, before landing on the vibrantly colored snake wrapped tightly around his shoulders. The man jerked away (as much as he could while lying down and in agonized pain, which wasn't much) and screamed at him.

In a language Harry had never heard before.

Well. Wasn't that just wonderful. (Note the sarcasm.)

He looked more closely at the man, this time noticing the different facial structure, darker-than-his skin tone (or, well, previous skin tone; he'd be willing to bet that right now everyone had darker skin than him…), and coarser, more functional than attractive clothes. Harry frowned in though for a moment, but an idea quickly sprang to mind, and he moved closer and deliberately scented the man. Pain was an interesting smell-taste (he was still a bit unsure about that…); there was fear in it too. Fear was quite acrid, but pleasing to him on a level he suspected to be his "basilisk thoughts". Under that there was decay, the man's body breaking down around him, and that was what Harry was searching for. The man would die, regardless of what Harry did.

Harry nodded to himself; yes, there would be no consequence in trying. "Don't look at my eyes, pretty," he hissed to his companion, and didn't move until he felt it slither under his robe.

Harry half-stood and rolled the shaking man completely flat on his back before moving to straddle the man's chest, at the same time pinning the quaking, venom-weakened arms to his sides using his knees. The dying man was gasping weakly and had shut his eyes against the pain; Harry lowered his blindfold.

Thumb and index fingers on the upper and lower lids of the man's tightly-clenched eyes, Harry readied his magic for something he had never actively tried before… Everything would need to happen quickly, since he didn't know if it would work through the blindfold, and the man wouldn't last much longer anyway… A muttered "Legilimens" even before he forced the pain-glazed eyes open… Pulled into the man's mind even as his body stiffens in the shock of instant death.

It's almost dawn and he needs to check the traps before anything gets to them and ruins the fur; the village a day's travel east is holding market in a few days and he has a few prepared furs to sell…

A small clearing by his third trap—empty—and he sees a still, corpse-pale body lying at the base of a tree, one of the deadly-poisonous snakes native to Grass country still poised a few feet from the child. He draws a knife, but at his movement the fire-scaled beast sprung itself from the ground and latched onto his throat…

A clammy finger breaks through the agony of his burning blood and he sees the blinded corpse-child kneeling beside him, the serpent wrapped serenely over thin shoulders…

The boy exposing a black, forked tongue before an unholy hissing passed the pale, blood-smeared lips, the snake on its shoulders moving into the odd clothing the snake-demon was shrouded in…

A light weight settling on his chest, restricting his already difficult breathing and any movement of his arms…

Cold fingers with sharp claws prying open his eyes…

The most vivid yellow he had ever seen, staring out from purple-black markings set into a sharp, apathetic face…

Harry jerked out of the blackness that was the dead man's mind. The man had been foolish, attempting to slay the snake in some misguided attempt to avenge the death of someone he didn't even know. He pulled the blindfold back over his eyes, smoothing it with sleeve-covered hands, and carefully stood from his seat on the corpse.

"It is safe to look again, pretty one," Harry hissed pleasantly. "Thank you for protecting me," Even if the man meant no harm to him—believed him dead already—it still felt, well, nice to have someone willing to kill to keep him safe.

Absently rubbing a phantom pain over his heart, Harry pondered the unusual experience of his first attempt at Legilimency; unusual because it felt like he had used it before. He knew he had never used it before, simply because it required another person's mind to rifle through, and he worked alone. It also appeared, from what he had read in the Room of Requirement, that he was a natural Legilimens, a direct contradiction of his abysmal Occlumency skills. A few more seconds of searching and he probably would have found what he was looking for; knowledge of the language the man spoke. He did know, now, where the nearest settlement was, so he wasn't disappointed; he knew of another quick way to learn the language.

Harry was unsure, but pleased, with his skill in the Mind Arts; it was not at all common (proof being that he only knew of three wizards who had mastered the skill; Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape, and Tom Marvolo Riddle…). If properly harnessed he would be able to identify a lie, no matter how well a person could hide the signs, just by looking at their eyes. He frowned to himself; if he had known about his apparent proficiency before he probably could have gleaned the information through his blindfold and kept the fur-trapper alive longer, to learn more.

No—he shook his head—it probably wasn't good to take the knowledge of a language like that, he probably would have ended up copying an unusual speech pattern or something…

He shook his head again, this time in amusement at his thoughts, and made his way away from the body to where he had been sleeping. He felt his companion shift on his shoulders, its triangular head pressed against his throat. Harry felt no fear from the action, though, even after seeing the effect of its bite. Something was telling him he had little to fear from the venom or even from the snake at all. As he was constantly finding himself, Harry was unsure why he felt—knew—this, but it was easy to trust this…instinct.

He yawned widely and sat back against the tree, careful not to lean on the snake. He wouldn't worry though, as long as his intuition held true.

/-/-/-/-/

A/N: I liiike reviews, 'kay? Keep reviewing. I won't withhold chapters if I don't get reviews, but more reviews (especially the ones telling me what you liked, didn't like, questions and such) make me more motivated to get these chapters typed up more quickly. X3 Oh, and if you didn't see the top note go check my profile for story warnings. They will likely not be posted in the story itself. You have been warned.

On a side note, can any of you guess the direction this story will be taking?