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The Hero Complex

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His life was a mess.

Waking up in a damp cavern filled with god-knows-what is not something Harry Potter ever wanted to experience again. He could feel something prodding him in the arse, his head was pounding and the distant thrums of Hermione and Ron’s voices were vibrating in his head (shut up you bastards-) before his body stopped working and he lay in the darkness in resignation. It was wet and cold. Harry huffed out a laugh.

Of fucking course. Only him. Only Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, the living, breathing embodiment of bad luck would be in this stupid situation. Only him, the butt end of a universal joke, would be the first person to touch a malfunctioning portkey, and be transported to a fucking cave in the middle of nowhere. He blamed the notorious Potter luck, but he knew it was something else, something to do with Karma or some other form of divine punishment.

What had he done though? Kill Voldemort? Curse Death Eaters? Arrest criminals? Wasn’t that justified? Clearly, it wasn’t. Fate must bloody hate him.

After a while of contemplating his miserable excuse of a life, Harry heaved and scrambled up with all the remaining energy he had, leaning against the wall of the cave for support. He rubbed his eyes after he wiped his hands on his Auror cloak, and blinked blearily when he couldn’t see a thing.

Ah-

Bloody hell.

He fumbled around awkwardly in his cloak pockets for any of his belongings and was relieved to feel the scratchy material of a drawstring bag. Taking the bag out of his robe pocket, he stuck his hand inside the bottomless pouch and felt around for anything useful. His pocket watch, a time turner, a knife, a confiscated wand frayed at the ends, a leather-bound book, a few magical gemstones, a quill, and what seems to be a letter. He wouldn’t know for sure. He had lost his wand, and his magic wasn’t responding to him at all so he couldn’t even use a first-year spell to see in the dark.

“Lumos.” He tried again.

“Arguamenti!”

“Reducto.”

“Bombarda?”

“Shit.”

The spells he was usually capable of doing wandlessly weren’t working, and he couldn’t feel any semblance of the warmth that usually rushed to his toes when he cast one. Harry frowned, scratching his head in confusion and slid down the cave wall in defeat. This was impossible. Oh, how he wished Hermione was here with him.

He stood up and started walking.

The cave was like a never-ending tunnel, no start and no end. What if he had gone deeper into the cave instead heading to the entrance? What if he missed an exit? What if he got attacked by creatures? His pocket knife was by no means a good mode of defence, and his clothes were weighty and clinging to his body, restricting his movement. He was really fucked, wasn’t he?

“Come on Harry,” he whispered to himself, “come on, you can do this. Think of happy thoughts. Think of nice things. Butterflies, rainbows, glitter, squash juice. Think. What can you do?”

A sudden splash startled a yelp out of him and he instinctively reached for the wand that should be strapped to his arm. It wasn’t there, of course, so he staggered forward wildly and starting running. He didn’t know what kind of magical or non-magical creatures were in this cave, so he better be safe than sorry.

‘Running’ in mud is not an easy feat (it felt more like Harry was wading through water), and Harry was doing a pretty crappy job at it. His robes which were not much of a problem before were suddenly a lot heavier, so he had to discard them. A pity, because now he had nothing to protect him from the elements. In his left hand he carried the small drawstring bag in which all of his belongings were in. He hastily stuffed it in his pant pocket and hoped to God it did not fall out.

‘Two-legs-not-supposed-be-here-go-out-get-out!'

Startled, Harry panicked and swatted the strange wriggling bodies out of his face, his ears straining to hear the serpentine hissing he had not heard for so long, especially not since the horcrux was remov- removed! The Horcrux in his scar had been ripped out when Voldemort had been killed, and he had been unable to understand Parseltongue after the war. Why, how, could he possibly be able to hear it now?

“I’ve gone mad,” he said in astonishment, flinching when a forked tongue brushed across his right cheek.

“Well, this really isn’t what I thought I’d be doing in twenty years when Mrs Weasley asked me about my plans for the future.”

‘Our-home-cave-ours-trespasser-out-get-out!’

After ripping an overly excited snake off his leg, he threw his hands up to his forehead, brushing matted hair out of the way and pressing around his hairline for a familiar lightening shaped scar.

“No,” he whispered in horror, his frozen stiff fingers trying to erase the raised skin by rubbing it furiously. To no avail though, because it stayed there as it had for the majority of his life.

Hermione had helped him to get rid of his scar after she became an Unspeakable. And they had succeeded. This could not be his old body. This was not him.

Standing-there-why-should-move-get-out-cave-is-ours!’

Annoyed at the jumbled hissing, Harry flung the nearby snakes away in a fit of confusion, his situation feeling direr by the second. Snakes… inside a cave. He was alone in the middle of nowhere, with no wand and somehow he had lost his access to magic. He didn’t know what time it was, he didn’t know where he was, he didn’t know if he was blind or not, and he was starving and cold. Clenching his teeth, he hissed at the snakes hanging above him in reluctance.

‘You… can you guys help me?’

Surprised hisses broke the silence, and a few snakes dropped down and coiled themselves around his body. Harry flinched when they tightened around his limbs and forced himself to not rip them off. They were warm, and that was slightly helping him.

‘Two-legs is speaker of serpent language! Two legs must be magic-user; the head will be proud if we bring Two-legs to him!’

Harry remained silent, his erratic breathing the only sound echoing around him, he closed his eyes. So he was in a place where magic existed. Great.

‘Two-legs speak and we tell secret. Two-legs does not know how to get out. We know. Two-legs speak.’

What a bunch of demanding little things. Merlin, he had half a mind to curse them if he hadn’t had lost his bloody wand.

‘There. Are you happy?’  He snapped moodily.

Parseltongue was a beautiful language, he couldn’t help but admit. The sibilant words rolled off his tongue as easily as when he was twelve, and he found himself feeling as elevated and excited as when he first spoke the language.

‘That is enough,’ a snake said, her voice soft and soothing.

‘Come with us and you will find your way out.’

And Harry was taken away to the surface.

-=-

‘We are the only ones in this cave,’ a small voice whispered in his ear.

Harry had been lead to a human-sized tunnel that he was told to crawl through. The snakes had piled in after him, and were wriggling and writhing all around the tiny space. Little heads butted his hands, and drops of water splashed onto his back. Harry breathed in the cold frigid air, and breathed out hope.

‘Up, and we have arrived.’

There was a hole in the roof of the tunnel that was emitting a soft warm glow. Harry blinked slowly, his vision blurry as he tried to see through the haze that clouded his vision. He watched in astonishment as the snakes swarming around him climbing over the top of the hole into a den in the earth.

He hauled himself up and sighed in relief when he realised he could see, albeit very blurrily. His glasses were lost after all. Just like his sense of direction and preservation, it would seem.

Great Harry, just shut up Harry.

A snake with eyes the colour of rubies slithered to another that was resting on a rock. Distantly, he could make out the shape of a very long and thick snake conversing quietly with the ruby-eyed snake. After a few moments of furious hissing, the huge snake slithered down from its perch towards him, and stopped at his feet, lifting its upper body so that its head was up to Harry’s waist. In return, Harry crouched slightly, so that he could see its piercing eyes and jet-coloured scales.

Ocelocoatl just told me of your familiarisation with our tongue, magic-user. You are welcome to leave our cave if you will do us a favour.’

Hisses of agreement echoed throughout the den in a cacophony of noise. Harry sighed and rubbed the back of his head wearily. He did expect a catch, but he really didn’t want to do anything without his magic. Well, he was completely helpless at the moment either way, and the group of snakes had helped him get somewhere, so he supposed he should accept.

‘I will do what is within my power.’

With a bow of its head, the black serpent coiled itself around Harry’s leg and slid up to Harry’s shoulders.

‘I am Tlahtoacoatl, the leader of these snakes. Our cave is rarely visited, so I am very glad you have arrived with such fortunate timing.’

A low grumbling noise rose around the occupants of the room, and the snakes descended into chaos. The walls shook and the ground trembled. A mass of snakes dropped down into the hole Harry came from hurriedly, but Tlahtoacoatl whipped his head around to face the fleeing snakes and hissed loudly at their retreating forms.

‘Calm down! The two-legged one has promised, all will be fine.’

Shadows from a dim light in the corner of the den crawled up high on the walls as the snakes all gradually trickled back from the hole in the ground. They bashfully made their way back to their original places and murmured quiet apologies. Tlahtoacoatl nodded his head in approval, and spoke into Harry’s ear quietly.

‘What you felt just then was once our elder, the Wise-one. She is in a constant state of madness after magic-users ventured into our cave and carelessly cast spells left and right. We have tried to restrain her, but she is just too strong.’

Harry shook the shiver he felt crawl up his spine away. That really did not sound too good. A snake who was insane and powerful enough to cause tremors such as those? How could he possibly be able to face it without his wand or his magic? A list of spells ran through Harry’s head of what could have possibly made the snake go berserk, most of them being borderline illegal, some restricted, which did not bode very well for him. After a while of consideration, he nodded hesitantly and looked into the eyes of Tlahtoacoatl as sincerely as he could.

‘I will help if you will show me to her.’

The snakes hissed in elevation. They pooled around him in a pile and clambered over each other to try and climb up him. Tlahtoacoatl rubbed Harry’s cheek gently with his head and wrapped himself around Harry’s wrist. With a swift motion, he bit Harry’s skin and climbed back around Harry’s shoulders. Harry yelped and watched in astonishment as the blood in his arteries glowed golden before turning back to normal.

‘What did you do?’ Harry asked forcefully, agitation clear in his features.

‘I made you immune to our poisons. Do not worry, it will not harm you since I gave you my venom willingly. Come, follow Ocelocoatl and Piptoncoatl, they will take you to the Wise-one.’

Harry followed the two snakes obediently, Tlahtoacoatl’s words ringing in his ears. The snake in question was draped across Harry’s shoulders, awfully calm in spite of the apparent danger Harry would be going through. It didn’t seem like the other snakes wanted to help either, with how Ocelocoatl and Piptoncoatl slithered away faster than he had ever seen snakes slither before.

Tlahtoacoatl gestured to the opening in the wall with his tail and unwound himself from Harry’s body. He fell to the ground gracefully and flickered his tongue in warning.

‘Be careful two-legger, for the Wise-one is not forgiving of those who disturb her rest. You can try to talk to her, I suppose, but I doubt that will work. If you succeed, you have me and my clan member’s loyalty and gratefulness, if you do not, well.’

Harry looked at Tlahtoacoatl incredulously, a tirage of questions at the tip of his tongue. Was he supposed to keep her alive? How did he expect Harry to talk to the Wise-one when they have obviously failed? Sighing heavily, Harry scratched at the nape of his neck and brushed off any of his worries with a shake of his head. Do or die, it did not matter anymore, he might as well attempt to help the snakes.

It seemed like forever before Tlahtoacoatl bid him good luck and left silently through a crack in the ground. Harry stood still for a moment, before realising that there were glowing orbs of light lining the slimy cave walls. Hey! He could just go right now since he had a light source, and there were no snakes watching him anymore, maybe he could-

The orbs dimmed and then went out entirely. Well, so much for that idea. Squaring his shoulders and clenching onto his drawstring bag tightly, Harry brushed away the vines draped over the small opening and squeezed his way through to the other side.

-=-

Holy shit.

Harry stared in awe at the giant thing of a snake in front of him. She was just a little bit smaller than the basilisk he fought in second-year, and appeared to be resting peacefully on its giant rock. Not wanting to awaken her just yet without the proper equipment, Harry quietly knelt down and spilt the contents of his pouch out onto the slightly moist ground. He rifled through the items and gasped when he found his time turner. Though on further inspection, the hourglass had shattered and all the grains of sand had fallen out.

There was a reason why time-turners were so expensive and hard to source. They were extremely useful, but dangerous, as they were fragile and shattered easily despite various protective charms, which is what appears to have happened here. This particular time turner had been gifted to him by Theodore Knott, who had managed to design a new one that was what he called a ‘true’ time turner, because of its ability to take a person to any time period, for any amount of time. Theodore had originally made it so that he and Draco could go back in time to save Voldemort, but after much consideration, they decided to leave it be and never speak of it again.

Except Harry had made friends during his internship as an Auror with Draco, and through association, Theodore. After a few years, they caved and spilt about the time turner to Harry, who accepted it and promised to take care of it.

What would they say now!

Harry knew he had to find a way to fix the time turner or make a new one. This accident with him appearing in a cave must be linked to it, and Harry did not know the full repercussions of a blunder such as this. Distraught, Harry placed the time turner back into the pouch and the rest of his trinkets as well. What was left was his pocket knife and the ratty old wand that looked as if it would break any moment. Not useful at all, but it would have to do.

Steeling himself, Harry spared another glance at the serpent and pocketed his pouch once again.

Apart from her size, the huge serpent had the most exquisite scales as well. They were a pearly white, and had a glossy sheen to it, like oil on water. Occasionally, when the serpent shifted, the light would catch on the scales and blind Harry for a moment.  

“In all my years as an Auror,” he muttered underneath his breath, resigned. With cautious steps, he approached the resting snake’s head, knees shaking with anticipation and palms furiously sweating.

‘Oh Wise-one, please awaken so I may speak to you,’ Harry called out.

The huge beast stirred, and Harry felt the very foundations of the ground shake as she sluggishly twisted her body to face him. Two huge yellow eyes stared Harry in the face dauntingly, and sharp fangs dripping with venom beared at him in aggression and irritation.

‘You dare,’ she hissed menacingly, ‘you dare disturb the Wise-one’s rest?!’

With a great heave, she lunged at Harry and opened her gaping mouth, preparing to swallow Harry whole. Shouting in surprise, Harry was barely able to evade the attack by rolling on the ground to his left. The Wise-one fell down with a loud thud, but recovered quickly and chased Harry around the edge of the enclosure.

Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks! Come on magic, answer to me, hurry up, hurry up!

Harry gritted his teeth and tried to summon his magic from his core. It was barely there, but Harry could feel it pulsing slightly in his chest. Closing his eyes for a second, and concentrating really hard, Harry waved the ratty old wand and sent what he hoped was a strong petrifying spell towards the snake. There was a loud hiss, and Harry yelped when the Wise-one became even more enraged. He scrambled onto a nearby rock and thought of a quick plan while taking a breather.

After the Wise-one spotted him crouching on a rock, she charged at him front on and threw her tail at him with great force. Dust and rocks rained down from the missed blow, and Harry, when he saw his opportunity, leapt onto the serpent’s head with a great roar.

‘Listen to me!’

He hissed loudly to the serpent while clinging to her huge head.

‘Listen now!’

The snake reared her head and slammed her own body onto the ground, attempting to throw Harry off of her body. She writhed and twisted, hissing in aggravation and disgust. Harry swore, and frowned in thought while desperately trying not to fall off. What could he do? His magic only reacted especially strongly when he was in dangerous situations, so he could-

That was it! Letting out a breath he didn’t know he was holding, Harry pushed himself off the snake’s head and watched in horror as the ground came closer and closer to his face.

Come on, come on!

Just when the air whistling in his ear was about to stop, Harry finally found his magic and tugged hard at the constraints surrounding it. The all too familiar feeling of tingling warmth made it back into his fingertips, and letting out a chuckle of relief, Harry fell to the ground with a loud crack. Getting back up quickly, Harry groaned in pain and hurriedly shot a couple of binding spells and a couple of proper petrifying spells. He also sent a silencing spell just for good measure. The ratty old wand seemed like it accepted him as its wielder for now, which was great. All in all, a good trade-off for a twisted ankle and an aching back.

Harry watched in satisfaction as the Wise-one finally stopped thrashing about and slumped onto the ground, boneless. He limped around to one of the giant eyes and smirked in triumph when he saw the anger flit through them briefly. He patted the snake lightly on her snout and hissed at it softly.

‘You are hurting your clan members. They are living in fear and are hoping you will come to your senses. Speak to me, but do so in a fitting manner. Do not forget that you are at my mercy as of now.’

Harry cancelled the silencing spell with a wave and scowled when the giant snake glared at him furiously.

‘YOU. KILL YOU. HURT YOU, INSOLENT HUMAN. INSIGNIFICANT, STUPID-’

And… he stopped listening. Through the angry ramblings, Harry observed the restrained movement of the snake’s jaws and the pained expressions that briefly flew across the large serpent’s face with fascination. Something must be wrong with her mouth. Perhaps one of her lower teeth? Or maybe her tongue. He sighed and asked the serpent to open her mouth reluctantly, for he really did not to hear her talking again.

‘Why? You can’t make me. Stupid human.’ She hissed snidely.

Harry rolled his eyes and cursed her inside his head for her bitchiness. With a wave of the ratty wand and a whispered ‘aberto’, he forced her giant, fat mouth to open.

“Fucking hell, no wonder you are such a bitch, with a wound like this.”

Harry stared at the gaping hole in one of the snake’s broken teeth, and winced at the pained wail when Harry poked at it insensitively with the tip of his wand. He huffed an apology under his breath and tapped on the broken tooth, murmuring a quick healing spell.

There was a pregnant silence in the air after Harry patched up the Wise-one’s tooth.

‘…Sorry.’

Harry snorted into his hand and patted the snake reassuringly. He followed her as she slithered her way to her rock, and sat down beside her when she curled up contently under the glowing lights of the cave.

‘Thank-you, human. I apologise for trying to kill you.’

‘Just don’t try it again,’ Harry spared a cold glance at one of the Wise-one’s giant eyes.

The Wise-one bowed her head in apology and flicked her tongue out to taste the air around Harry. She opened and shut her jaw a few times to test out the fixed tooth, and was satisfied when it didn’t hurt any longer.

‘I won’t.’

‘What caused your wound?’ Harry asked after she had calmed down a bit.

‘Wand-wielders. They came into my cave and tried to kill me. They feared me too much though, so they ran away half-finished.’

Ah, of course. Probably some naïve adventurers looking for a good catch discovered the resting place of the Wise-one. He had to deal with some of these disillusioned people before, barely adults who thought they were more skilled than they actually were. Of course, that did not excuse their barbaric actions. It was a pity there were no laws about these sort of things, otherwise, none of this would have happened.

‘Then I will have to apologise on their behalf. If you would like I could throw some wards up around the cave for you?’

‘No, wards do not work well with our clan’s magic.’

The Wise-one looked at Harry from the corner of her eye.

‘You are very considerate for a human.’

Harry smiled.

‘You are not such a bad snake yourself.’

And the two proceeded to exchange conversation until a very timid looking snake peeked their head into the enclosure from the veiled entrance.

‘Wise-one? Are you well again? Leader and I came down because we heard the shaking stop.’ A small female voice asked.

‘Yes, I am well. Thanks to Har-ri here.’

The forest green snake practically flew towards the huge white serpent; she lay down by her side while the Wise-one practically preened under the admiring looks and exclamations from the tiny snake. Harry chuckled at their antics but looked up when he heard the baritone hissing of Tlahtoacoatl travel through the air.

‘Speaker, you have my gratefulness for returning the Wise-one into her own self. If I may ask, what was the problem?’

The Wise-one nudged at Harry with her huge head, so he stood up and made his way to Tlahtoacoatl.

‘Her tooth. It was hurt.’

Tlahtoacoatl nodded at the answer and climbed onto Harry. He finally looked at the Wise-one and exchanged greetings. The two snakes chatted for a few minutes while Harry and the small green snake held a small conversation. Harry learned that the forest green snake used to be the carer of the Wise-one, and was very skilled at catching butterflies without hurting them. She was a pleasant little snake, and Harry thought he wouldn’t have minded talking to her a bit more.

In the end, the Wise-one thanked Harry for his help and gave one of her scales and a few drops of venom that he bottled up in one of his vials as a gift. She also asked him to place his palm in the middle of her eyes, and when he did, an elaborate symbol appeared on his hand.

He examined the elegant lines of glowing white while the Wise-one gave her final farewells.

‘You are welcome to visit anytime you wish Har-ri. The stamp on your palm shows my protection over you. I wish you the best of luck. Please come talk to me again.’

Harry smiled at the huge serpent and gave her a final pet before he was lead out by Tlahtoacoatl while the little green snake stayed with the Wise-one. Harry slumped in relief after they left the enclosure, and thanked the gods above for his good fortune.

Tlahtoacoatl took him once again to the den and slid off his shoulders when the other snakes swarmed around him with words of thanks and praise on their tongues. Harry stroked a few before he broke free from the mass of snakes and headed towards the door that suddenly appeared in one of the cave walls.

‘Har-ri,’ Tlahtoacoatl began, ‘we have decided that one of us shall accompany you on your ventures so that you will always be able to come back to us.’

A jet black snake similar in size to Tlahtoacoatl slithered forward, and climbed onto Harry’s offered arm. They draped their body over Harry’s shoulders and nudged his cheek gently.

‘This is Yaocoatl. He is my brother. He has agreed to go with you. Please take good care of him.’

Yaocoatl hissed softly at Harry and bumped Harry’s palm with his head. Harry chuckled and stroked Yaocoatl lightly.

‘See you then, Har-ri. Brother will now take you to the surface. Remember that we are forever indebted to you.’

With a final wave from Harry, Yaocoatl dropped down from Harry’s shoulders and took him through the door.

-=-

Stumbling out of the cave into the sunlight greatly dis-oriented Harry and Yaocoatl. The two quickly made their way to the shade of a nearby tree, and rested underneath. They sat there for a while in a comfortable silence, observing the surrounding nature contently, before two stomachs growled loudly, and with a groan, Harry realised how hungry he and Yaocoatl were.

‘Har-ri, I will get food for you.’

Yaocoatl was a great snake. In the ten minutes Harry had talked with him, he had displayed all the qualities of a good subordinate in any Auror division. Loyal, smart, obedient, helpful, and a good conversationalist.

‘It’s fine Yao, I hear someone heading this way anyway. Come hide in my shirt.’

The long snake curled himself around Harry’s waist, but his dress shirt was baggy enough to hide the bulking shape. Harry rested on the tree trunk and closed his eyes, calming his breathing and faking sleep.

The loud crunching of leaves got closer and closer, until it stopped altogether and Harry could feel a hulking figure tower over him. A booming voice with a heavy Scottish accent reverberated in his ear, and Harry pretended to be startled awake. He sucked in a breath when he saw a pair of worn dragon hide boots on two huge feet.

“Aye, what do we have ‘ere?”

Harry looked up and up until he was face to face with warm hazel brown eyes. He scrambled up from his spot on the ground, and quickly put some distance between him and the massive man.

“It’s okay lad, ain’t no one gonna hurt ya.”

Harry looked around the forest with confusion and back at the robed figure. He scanned his surroundings for a bit, before he peered up through his fringe at the man, and started speaking in a slightly hoarse voice.

“Sir, where am I? Who are you? What am I doing here?”

The man tutted, and approached Harry carefully with his hands in the air in a show of trust in order to make Harry feel comfortable around his presence. It was honestly a bit like he was trying to tame a wild animal.

“You’re at Hogwarts, me name’s Ogg, and I dunno what you’re doing ‘ere in the Forbidden Forest.”

Ogg? Harry searched his brain for any recognition of the name, and ding ding, there was. Hadn’t the Weasley Matriarch mentioned that there was a gamekeeper in Hogwarts by that name when she had attended? Holy shit, Harry stared in horror at the well-kept man with a basket of herbs in his arm, and nearly fainted if it wasn’t for Yao hissing words of comfort to Harry.

“Ogg?” He managed to choke out, green eyes wide and surprised.

“Yea, do I know you from somewhere?”

Harry slumped to the ground in defeat and buried his head in his arms. Ogg hurried to his side and placed a warm hand on his shoulder.

“Look lad, yer look famished. Let me take you Hogwarts and we can get you some grub and a hot drink yah? The ‘eadmaster will be able to sort things out.”

Harry groaned and shook his head, a mass of dirty curls falling into his face.

“Sorry, Ogg. I don’t think I can stand up.”

Yelping, Harry grabbed onto Ogg’s shirt in surprise. He had been hauled onto the tall man’s shoulders. The sudden movement alarmed Yao, and he hissed in annoyance as he wrapped himself tighter around Harry’s waist.

“Don’ worry, I’ll take you there safely.”

Harry watched through heavy eyelids as Ogg headed back to the same hut Hagrid had lived in. Ogg placed the basket of herbs down on a table, before covering Harry in a coat and exiting his hut. He locked the door and started the familiar trek of going up to the castle.

By now Harry’s brain had gone into overdrive. The cave, his hunger, and a realisation that he really didn’t want to acknowledge was really fucking with him.

The last thing he saw was the magnificent stone walls of his old school, and the last thing he felt was the nostalgic warmth of Hogwarts’ magic enveloping him in warmth before he fell asleep to the comforting hisses of Yao.