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Ad Astra Per Aspera

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July 27th, 1990

Harry Potter, age nine, ambled down the sidewalk towards Number Four, Privet Drive from the corner store. Aunt Petunia had given him some money to go buy a tub of ice cream. Dudley was sick, and was wailing (pretending, he had long since learned that if he was seemingly crying, his mother would dote on him even more so than usual) for the cold treat.

Now, lugging the bagged ice cream down the street, careful to keep it off the pavement, Harry stopped. He felt something. It was hard to describe, and it didn’t happen very often, but now Harry could feel a presence in the bush a few feet ahead of him. The bush rustled, and out came a snake. The sun glinted off the shining purple scales, and the snake looked up at Harry with piercing red eyes.

Harry, the kind child that he was, smiled at the snake. “Hello, little snake. Are you staying cool in the heat?” To his surprise, the snake tilted its head and let out a hiss. Then, it spoke.

“A speaker. I have never met one. You are so small, speaker. I will stay with you, and ensure you are never lonely.”

“You want to be my friend?” Harry looked at the snake, surprise on his face and in his voice. The snake repeated the word, as if testing it out, and gave what Harry could only assume was a smile.

“Yes, I want to be your friend.“

And with that, the snake moved towards him and slithered up his pants leg, wrapping itself around his tiny frame under the baggy shirt Harry wore. Harry didn’t question it, happy at the idea of having a companion, and continued on towards Number Four.

Later, after fixing lunch for his family and cleaning the kitchen, all with his new little friend under his shirt, Harry was sent outside to do the gardening. His serpent friend slithered out from under his shirt and settled in the grass, eyes tracking Harry’s movements. Harry looked towards the snake as he worked.

“What do I call you?”

“I do not have a name. You may call me whatever you wish.”

Harry looked at the snake and hummed. “I like Mitra, it means friend.”

Mitra hissed in agreement, and nosed Harry’s hand. Harry smiled, rubbing his finger lightly along his head. “Mitra, why can’t anyone else hear you? You said you never met anyone who could speak to you.”

“It is a very rare ability, speaking to serpents. Only those with magic in their blood can do it, and even then, speakers are few in number.”

“Magic? What do you mean? Does that mean I’m magical?”

“Yes of course! Only the rarest wizards speak our tongue. The last one was my mother’s master. And now, you are my master. I will protect you forever, Master.”

Harry’s mind was racing a million miles an hour. He was a wizard? Was that why strange things happened to him? Every time something strange happened, Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia got very mad at him. Most of his biggest, harshest scars were from times something inexplicable happened to him.

As if he could sense Harry’s train of thought, Mitra slithered towards him and nosed his shirt up. The part of his small torso revealed was marred by an angry red scar, one of the fresher ones.

“What happened?”

Harry glanced down at his stomach, lightly tracing a finger over the scar. “Uncle Vernon caught me sneaking food. The cupboard where I sleep was locked, and I was so hungry. I knew they were gone, and that if I tried hard enough I could make it unlock. They came home early and saw me in the kitchen.”

Mitra hissed angrily, and reared up so he was looking Harry in the face. “They will pay for hurting my Master. We will train your magic so you can get stronger, and then we will make them hurt for what they have done to you.”

Harry looked at Mitra and spoke softly, his voice quivering. “It was my fault. I did something freaky and ate food, even though they told me not to. Don’t hurt them because of something I did. They don’t like when I do freaky stuff.”

Mitra, sensing his Master’s fear, softened his gaze and spoke in a soothing hiss. “Master, you are not at fault. You did accidental magic, something you can’t control yet, to get food. They shouldn’t treat you that way because of something you have no control over.”

Harry hesitated, but nodded slowly. “It’s not my fault?” At the shake of Mitra’s head, Harry nodded again and spoke. “It’s not my fault. They were wrong to do stuff like that to me.”

Mitra hissed in agreement, and Harry smiled. He ran a finger across his scales before going back to his gardening, chatting happily with Mitra all day.

That night, Harry laid on the cot in his cupboard. Mitra was curled up next to him, hissing angrily about how his Master was treated. Eventually, he turned his eyes to Harry.

Mitra seemed angry as he hissed, "Master why do you cook for the ordinary muggle humans? You shouldn't be treated like this! Why are we in this tiny room? My Master shouldn't live in this place!"

"What are muggles?" Harry immediately asked.

The snake looked furious as he spat, "Muggles are humans who can't do magic. You are a wizard! Wizards are special, and wizards should not be hurt by stupid muggles! What else do these muggles do to you?"

Harry sighed, "I don’t want to go into any more detail than I already told you. Let’s just say that what I told you in the garden isn’t even close to the worst thing they’ve done to me.”

“Well I’m here now. As your familiar, I will always protect you, Master.”

“What do you mean, you are my familiar?"

"It means that I am bonded to you now. I will live as long as you do, and I will only ever belong to you.”

Harry smiled. He felt so lucky that he had met Mitra. He had so many questions to ask, but he didn't know where to start. He decided to just start with a broad question, hoping that it would evolve into a more specific line of questioning, "Mitra, can you tell me more about wizards? What can they do? Where can I find them and more information on them?"

"Wizards are very special Master. They can do amazing things using magic.” Mitra explained. "They can use sticks to make their magic do almost anything they want. My mother's master could even do magic without a stick. When you practice your magic, we can use it against the muggles who hurt you. There is a place where wizards go called Diagon Alley. There are many stores to buy things there. One day I will take you, but first we must deal with these muggles. We will start strengthening your magic tomorrow, and you can ask me more questions if you have any, but for now we must rest so we have plenty of energy tomorrow.”

Harry nodded his agreement and murmured a goodnight to the snake. As he let himself be overcome by sleep, he couldn’t help but think how happy he was that Dudley had wanted ice cream.