Author's Note: This story takes place summer after Goblet of Fire. It's a sequel to "The Serpent", in which Harry learnt he could turn into a snake. Thank you to everyone who reviewed that story.
— CHAPTER ONE —
Serpent in Privet Drive
'Mrs Figg?' Harry called down the hall. 'I'm going to number four, OK?'
'Say hello to your aunt and uncle for me,' Mrs Figg's voice floated back from the kitchen.
'Er,' said Harry.
That would be difficult. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia were not currently in residence at number four. Harry was staying with Mrs Figg; her back had started playing her up earlier in the year and the Dursleys had volunteered him to live in over the holidays and keep an eye on her.
Uncle Vernon had informed Harry of this as they were driving away from King's Cross at the beginning of summer. Then, rather than taking Harry back to Privet Drive, Uncle Vernon let him off in Paddington station and handed him a train ticket to Little Whinging.
'... and I shall expect you to look in on the house and garden every day,' Uncle Vernon growled. 'If they're not in perfect condition when we get back, you'll be very sorry indeed.'
'Get back?' Harry asked, slightly stunned at this sudden turn of events. 'Where are you going?'
'Majorca,' said Uncle Vernon curtly. He slammed the car door shut and drove off at top speed.
Harry arrived at Mrs Figg's house late that night and had been sleeping in her spare room ever since. Once he got over his surprise, he was quite relieved he wouldn't have to put up with his relations that summer, particularly in light of everything that had happened last year at Hogwarts. Old and boring Mrs Figg might be, but living with her was still infinitely preferable to living with the Dursleys.
Her cat stories were as deadly dull as ever, but Harry had worked out a routine to avoid the worst of them. He spent his mornings doing whatever work he could find around Mrs Figg's house and garden that he judged might strain her back. After lunch he made the excuse of going to visit the Dursleys' house, taking care to remain outdoors until nearly dark. Of evening he kept to his room, ostensibly doing homework.
Harry had been at Mrs Figg's for almost a week before he noticed that she didn't seem to realise the Dursleys were away. At first Harry was somewhat concerned, but a few days close observation revealed nothing else apparently amiss with her mind, memory or hearing. He supposed his aunt and uncle had simply neglected to mention their trip to her.
Harry hadn't been sure what to do about this. The Dursleys had left him with Mrs Figg on previous occasions, but not without telling her, and not when she was in poor health -- although come to think of it, her back hadn't appeared to be hurting her all that much lately either. Even so, Mrs Figg wasn't likely to be pleased when she found out the truth, and the longer Harry waited to tell her, the less pleased she'd be.
It was possible the Dursleys might return before Mrs Figg discovered they were gone, but Harry had no idea how long they'd be in Majorca, or for that matter where they were staying. This was another problem -- he'd have a job explaining his magic things to social services if Mrs Figg reported him as an abandoned child.
Harry finally decided to write and tell his friend Ron Weasley. Ron's mother had spoken of inviting Harry to stay with them later in the summer. It would give him a place to go if Mrs Figg felt she couldn't keep him on, and Mr Weasley would no doubt be able to smooth over any troubles with the Muggle authorities. Hedwig had soared off yesterday evening, carrying his letter to The Burrow.
Blazing sunlight poured down on Privet Drive, and all appeared as it should be in the front garden as Harry approached number four. Going round the back, he saw that the rose bushes needed watering. He had just begun dragging the hose towards them when a blinding pain seared across his scar.
It felt as though someone had driven a red-hot nail through his skull. Harry staggered, tripped over the coils of the hose and fell to the ground. The burning in his forehead grew steadily worse, along the terrifying realisation of what it must mean -- that somehow, impossibly, Lord Voldemort was nearby.
Now Harry could hear someone moving around inside the house. He had to run, to hide, but his scar was hurting so badly he couldn't stand up. If he could get to the greenhouse ... if he could crawl there ... Using every last ounce of strength, he fought to drag himself across the ground, but even that seemed to require more of an effort than he was capable of.
Suddenly the pain in Harry's scar faded to a dull ache and crawling became miraculously easier, in spite of the fact that his arms and legs had vanished. The grass had grown enormously high about him and the scent of the flowers had increased tenfold. The greenhouse towered in the distance, larger even than Hogwarts castle, but now Harry was making speedy progress towards it -- now that he had transformed into a serpent.
The back door opened. A foot hit the ground, sending vibrations through Harry's entire body, and a most peculiar odour reached his tongue. Harry shot under the nearest rose bush and froze, heart pounding rapidly. He watched as a tall, cloaked figure strolled out into the garden, doing his best to remain still and calm. Even if Voldemort had seen the snake, he couldn't possibly realise it was Harry. All Harry had to do was stay quiet and keep out of sight ...
Voldemort looked around him. His snake-like nostrils dilated and his red, slitted eyes fixed upon Harry's hiding place.
'You! Under the rose bush! Come here!' he said sharply.
Something about the cold, hissing voice made Harry obey it unthinkingly. With a flick of his tail he sent himself slithering across the grass towards the speaker, coming to a stop a few feet away and raising his head attentively.
When Harry gazed up into the livid scarlet eyes of Lord Voldemort, his trance was shattered. Terror clogged his brain and snake instinct took over. In a weird, all-over, twisting-inside-out motion, he flopped on to his back and went limp.
'It's no good, I know you're not really dead,' said Voldemort, now sounding quite amused. 'I'm not going to hurt you -- I only want to ask you some questions.'
Harry reluctantly unflopped himself. Voldemort went down on one knee and held out his left arm. Harry slowly and awkwardly wrapped himself around it. In addition to being scared out of his wits, he'd not spent enough time as a snake to be entirely at ease with its body's movements. Voldemort stood up and Harry tightened his coils convulsively to avoid slipping off.
'The people who live here, where are they?' asked Voldemort.
With some difficulty, Harry stopped himself blurting out 'Majorca'. He didn't think that even the Dursleys deserved to have Voldemort set on them.
'They -- they're gone,' Harry said, trying hard to keep his voice from shaking. 'Been gone for days.'
'Did you see them leave?'
'Yeah,' Harry forced himself to lie. 'They carried a bunch of boxes to the car and drove away.'
This last was probably true; he'd had to put his trunk in the back seat of Uncle Vernon's car as there was luggage in the boot. Aunt Petunia and Dudley hadn't been with him -- Harry assumed Uncle Vernon had left them off shopping or something.
'What kind of boxes?' demanded Voldemort.
'Brown -- squarish -- leather,' said Harry vaguely. He wasn't sure a snake would know what a suitcase was.
Voldemort paced up and down the garden, obviously thinking hard. 'The smaller boy --'
'He wasn't with them,' Harry said before he could stop himself. After a brief internal struggle, he added, 'He hasn't been here since last summer.'
'But you'd recognise him, if he came back,' said Voldemort.
'I reckon so,' said Harry. 'He used to do a lot of the gardening in the summer.'
Harry was starting to feel a bit less apprehensive. If Voldemort thought the snake could be useful as a spy, to keep a watch for Harry's return, he wasn't likely to do anything horrible to it.
'Excellent,' said Voldemort.
He walked round to the front garden, Harry still clinging on to his arm, and turned to face the house. His lipless mouth curled into a most unpleasant smile.
'As no one seems to be in, I shall have to leave a calling card,' he said. He pointed his wand at number four and snapped, 'Reducto!'
With tremendous thundering roar, the whole front half of the Dursleys' house collapsed into rubble. Voldemort stepped over the garden wall on to the pavement and waved his wand again. Grass and flowers shrivelled and blackened in the shape of a Dark Mark covering a better part of the front garden.
Remembering his uncle's last words to him in Paddington station, Harry surveyed the destruction with a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach (which now took up most of his body). If Voldemort didn't kill him, Uncle Vernon certainly would.
Harry began to hear shouts and screams from neighbours who were hurrying out to see what had made the great racket. Then his vision blurred, and the sounds and smells of Privet Drive grew fainter and vanished.
When Harry's eyes cleared again, he was inside a large stone room. The fear he had initially felt upon being caught by Voldemort returned in full force. Where had Voldemort taken him? And, more importantly, why?
Harry flicked out his tongue. Wood, stone, dust, books -- the smells reminded him strongly of the Hogwarts classroom in which he was first transformed into a snake. He swung his head from one side to the other, taking stock of his new surroundings.
It looked as though he was in some sort of study. Bookshelves and cabinets lined the walls. Directly in front of him was a desk made of dark, highly polished wood, carved into an elaborate design of entwined serpents, their eyes set with tiny green and yellow jewels.
On the desk was a roll of parchment weighted open by a fat, warty bronze toad and an enormous faceted emerald nearly the size of a man's fist. A stack of books had been pushed aside to the far corner. Lying beside them was a knife with a black metal blade and a plain wooden hilt.
All in all, the room had an only recently occupied look to it. There were many empty spaces amongst the books on the shelves, and bare spots on the walls where pictures should have hung.
'Where are we?' Harry asked nervously.
'Your new home,' Voldemort replied.
He walked past the desk towards a door in the wall that it faced. Harry, wrapped about his arm, perforce went with him. They came out into a much smaller room, empty except for several chairs. Although of the same style as the desk in Voldemort's study, these chairs were rather shabby -- wood scratched, velvet padding stained and worn, jewelled eyes missing from some of the carved snakes.
Voldemort waved his wand, and the chairs rose into the air and floated to the left side of the room. All along the right-hand wall he conjured up a kind of stone enclosure, roughly four feet high, with a round stone basin in the middle of it.
The basin filled itself with water and the area around it filled with dirt. A patch of tall grass sprang up on one side of the basin and some shorter grass, a rose bush and a large rock appeared on the other. The rose bush bore a suspicious resemblance to the one Harry had hidden under in the Dursleys' back garden.
Voldemort looked down at Harry and said, 'In a few weeks, I will have a very important job for you to do ... what is your name?'
It was very hard for Harry to lie to Voldemort as a snake, but sheer self-preservation prevented him from saying 'Harry Potter'. He had to tell Voldemort something, though, and he hadn't the foggiest notion what kind of names real snakes gave themselves.
'I -- I don't think I have one,' Harry replied after some moments of frantic thought.
If challenged, he planned to say he'd been hatched out in a pet shop and never known his mother, but Voldemort didn't seem made unduly suspicious.
'Then I shall call you Seeker,' he said with a twisted smile. Harry tensed at the mention of his Quidditch position. Luckily Voldemort didn't appear to notice. 'For now, you'll be living in here,' he continued. 'What sort of things do you like to eat?'
Harry wasn't certain what snakes ate, either. He suspected it would be an extremely bad idea to ask for steak-and-kidney pudding ... and the thought of eating it was actually quite revolting to him. Nasty brown sludge -- what he really fancied was a plump, green, juicy --
'Frogs,' said Harry. 'I eat frogs.'
Voldemort set his hand on the grass near the rose bush so Harry could slide off his arm. With one last wave of his wand, he conjured a glass front for the enclosure, sealing it into a tank.
That done, Voldemort disappeared into his study. Harry stared out at the empty room in shock for several long moments. Then a new feeling came over him, a feeling of being horribly exposed and vulnerable. At the fastest slither he could manage, Harry made his way past the stone-lined pond and headed into the tall grass to take cover.
Halfway to the back wall of the tank, he came across what looked like an abandoned rabbit-hole. He crawled inside, curled up and simply lay there, shaking from head to tail, scarcely able to believe he was still alive.
Alive -- but a prisoner of Voldemort, who thought he was a real snake and had a job for him to do. Something foul, no doubt. Harry recalled with a shudder the wizard quoted in Rita Skeeter's last article, who'd said that snakes were used for Dark Magic of the very worst sort.
He had to get away from here, as quickly as possible ... but how? Harry could see no way of escaping from his tank, not with Voldemort in the next room. His wand was in his trunk at Mrs Figg's, along with his Invisibility Cloak, his Firebolt, his penknife from Sirius -- anything, in fact, that could be of any use to him.
Mrs Figg ... it felt like years since he'd left her house. What would she think when he didn't show up for dinner? Of course she'd hear about number four being blown up long before then. She didn't know the Dursleys were in Majorca -- she'd think the whole family had been murdered!
Harry wondered what the neighbours would make of the Dark Mark burnt into the Dursleys' lawn, not to mention the Muggle police. He assumed the Ministry of Magic would eventually wipe everyone's memory. A brief hope that they might somehow manage to track Voldemort to his hideout flickered and died.
Voldemort wouldn't be stopping here if this place was easy to find, and it wasn't a sure bet that the Ministry would even be looking. Would the wreckage of the Dursleys' house be enough to convince Fudge that Voldemort truly had returned? Harry didn't have high hopes -- Fudge would be desperate to believe anything rather than that. He'd probably reckon Harry had gone mad and done it himself.
Dumbledore would know Harry was innocent, but he'd have no reason to suppose that Harry had survived. Only Ron and Hermione were aware that Harry could turn into a snake, and it would hardly occur to either of them that he had somehow become Voldemort's pet -- the notion was simply too far-fetched.
He could count on no rescue from outside. Harry drew his coils tighter in despair. He had always known in the back of his mind that he would have to face Lord Voldemort again, but not so soon or so unexpectedly or so alone. The only bright spot to his situation was that he had a little time to come up with a good plan.
Harry settled himself into a more comfortable position and started thinking.
Disclaimer: All characters and concepts from the Harry Potter series copyright J K Rowling.