Category: Book

Sub Category: Harry Potter

Series Title: Serpentine

Title: The Growing Years

Genres: General - cause I can't think what else it would go under, really

Language: English

Author: Zephyr5

Rating: PG-13

Summary: Challenge Response: Harry was abandoned by the Dursleys at the tender age of four, and a magical serpent took him in and brought him up. He grows up into a wild child who only understands Parseltongue, wants to be a real snake, and dislikes human beings in general. When he decides that a certain Dark Lord should be his mate, all hell breaks out.

Warnings: male/male relationship later, dark!Harry, confused!Snape, character death, mention of bestiality. Oh, and everyone's probably horribly OOC…

Spoiler Warnings: none - this is AU through and through (obviously, since he gets abandoned before the books really get started)

Disclaimers: I do not own the canon Harry Potter characters who make an appearance, I do, however, own the idea of Nye, shadow vipers, and the plot.

AN: This is my response to the 'Child of Serpent' set by PxW at thesilversnitch, and my first completed Harry Potter fic - please review :)

Challenge Instructions: 1.The magical serpent can be anything as long as it is part snake or takes snake form. 2. Harry has to learn to become an animagus and takes the form of a silver or black serpent. 3. Voldemort initially thinks Harry is just an unknown species of poisonous snake and takes him as a pet. 4. There must be a scene where Harry fiercely defends his mate.

AN: Edited to catch a couple of typos and a continuity error - hopefully my Corvine muse will now return.

The Growing Years

He choked on dust as the car sped away from him, the people within not once looking back - refusing to acknowledge the child they had just abandoned in the forest. To be fair, it was possible that they assumed someone would find him - Clipstone forest was a reasonably popular place after all, what with a holiday resort sited within its boundaries. To be honest though, it was more likely that they just didn't care whether he was found or whether he met some grisly and awful fate - such as eating poisonous berries and dying. As long as it couldn't be tied to them, they had no worries, and there was little chance of the boy attempting to identify them - they'd made it clear what would happen if he darkened their doorstep again.

The four year old's eyes watered where fine dust particles had blown into them. He blinked and sniffled a couple of times, sneezing as more dust irritated his nose. Reaching up a grubby hand, he pulled off the bottle-lens glasses on his face and wiped in vain at the tears spilling down his cheeks. Giving it up as a hopeless task, he carefully replaced the glasses, well aware that there would be no mending them if he broke them now. He was quite sure his relatives were gone for good, and although he thought he should be upset at this, he couldn't seem to find any emotion except relief, as though a great burden had been lifted off his shoulders.

It was a nice enough day - a few clouds and a gentle breeze, but otherwise warm and sunny - and he had nothing better to do, and no one to tell him to do otherwise, so Harry sat down on the grassy bank beside the dusty road, and then lay back, basking in the sunshine. He was hungry, but he'd actually managed to sneak some food at breakfast, so he knew he wouldn't have to worry about eating anything for a good while yet. He'd learned just how long he could go without food under his relative's harsh 'discipline'.

Water was another matter entirely, but this was 'the outdoors', and in England to boot. The amount it rained in this country, Harry rather thought it might be more of a problem when it came to finding food - it wasn't like surviving in his relatives' house had prepared him for this.

Sighing heavily, he decided to wait and see what turned up, and soon, lulled by the sun's warmth and the sound of the wind whispering through the trees above, he drifted off to sleep.

---

"I sssmell two-legsss-young… Oh yesss… Tender, sssweet…unguarded…" The hissing, whispering voice nudged him out of his dreams, and Harry awoke with a start. The sun had dimmed, hidden behind a somewhat thicker layer of cloud than had been present in the sky when he had first lain down. It looked ominously dark, as though the pleasant weather planned to turn as night fell.

The wind had dropped to almost nothing, the trees and bushes still and silent, and yet… He could hear a rustling noise, coming closer, closer, closer…

"Lunch!" He shot from his sitting position on the bank into the middle of the road at the hissed exclamation, narrowly missing being bitten by a large, white snake. A large, white, winged snake… He sat down in shock, gaping soundlessly. The…snake…seemed amused, weaving from side to side and flickering its tongue at him.

"Sssilly prey." He heard it chide him, hearing it as sibilant hisses, and yet understanding it perfectly. "You ssshould not try to run from me…" He blinked rapidly as it advanced, pinned by its almost hypnotic gaze.

"W-why do y-you w-want t-to eat m-me?" He managed to squeak out, barely aware that the words in his mind slipped off his tongue in hisses similar to those the creature had spoken moments earlier. The serpent froze, as if it couldn't believe that he was talking back to it, then furled its wings tightly to its back and lowered itself so that it no longer towered above him, but regarded him from a height similar to his own.

"Very interesssting…" It hissed, making a careful circuit of him, testing the air around him from every angle. "Blood magic…broken. Tracesss of powerful magic…twisssted in itsss purpossse. Powerful magic both of your own, and unknowingly ssstolen… Yesss, very interesssting. And you ssspeak the sssnake-tongue… Maybe I won't eat you after all…" Harry wasn't quite sure what to make of that, so he stammered the first thing that came to mind.

"M-magic?" He'd heard the word before, but always in a negative sense - generally when something weird had happened in the house that couldn't be explained, like the time all the lightbulbs in the living room had exploded - and usually in the same sentence as the words 'does', 'not', and 'exist'.

"Magic." The snake agreed. Or maybe disagreed. Harry wasn't sure, since he hadn't really known what he'd meant when he'd stammered the word. "My name isss Nye. What isss your name, young one?"

"Harry." He responded automatically. That was his name after all, even if his relatives had always referred to him as 'boy' or 'freak'. The snake cocked its head to one side, considering.

"Well…until you dissscover a better one, that name will do I sssupossse." Its tongue flicked out again - somehow tasting the air to see what was around, Harry realised. "I mussst find other prey now. Wait here until I return for you…Harry… If another threatensss you, sssay my name and they will underssstand that you are not to be harmed. I will return sssoon…" With that, Nye slithered past him, and disappeared into the undergrowth on the opposite side of the road. Harry had nothing better to do, and since he seemed to have acquired himself a friend, he obediently returned to the side of the road, to resume napping whilst he waited for the snake to return. This time, however, he consciously kept alert for any sounds that might indicate danger…

---

Somewhat surprisingly, it was not anything natural that next disturbed his slumber. This time it was the click and whir of bicycles, and the good-natured chatter of their riders. Harry didn't wait around to see what their reactions would be. He had never known any other people than those who had earlier abandoned him, and as he knew your relatives were supposed to treat you with love and kindness, he had absolutely no desire to be picked up by anyone else. He doubted he would survive their 'love' - especially if they decided, as his relatives had, that he was a 'freak'.

The cyclists were too caught up in their own holiday enjoyment to notice the wildly swaying bushes where Harry had dived out of sight, and even if they had, would likely not have thought anything of it. Harry was just grateful when they passed out of sight, leaving a smaller cloud of dust behind than the car had. Deciding he was safer where he was, Harry curled into a ball and tried not to think of anything. Tried not to think of the soft, green eyes he saw in his mind when he was scared. Tried not to think of the glasses he dreamed of holding that were not his own. Most of all, tried not to think of the green light and high-pitched scream that haunted his frequent nightmares.

"What hasss you ssscared, young one?" Harry jerked in surprise when Nye spoke behind him. He quickly calmed himself when he realised it was just the winged snake.

"Ssome people, they went passt. I hid from them." The snake seemed to understand his disjointed explanation, and also seemed to find his slight lisp - not quite as pronounced as a snake's, but more pronounced than a human - amusing.

"I caught enough food for both of usss. Come." Quickly Harry wriggled out of the bush and followed Nye as the snake wound its way through the forest undergrowth. After a while, they came to a grassy clearing, where a large oak had toppled over. The ground dropped away beneath the oak's trunk, and had piled up on the other side, creating the ideal site for a badger's sett. In fact, it appeared that badgers had, at one point, lived there. But there were none in residence now - probably with good reason given Nye's size.

The tunnels were just the right size for the skinny, four-year-old Harry, although the snake had to fold its wings tightly to its sides to scrape through. The chambers though… The chambers were easily large enough to hold Nye and Harry, and probably would be for some time to come. Harry suspected that Nye had done some enlarging of the 'rooms', since he couldn't understand why badgers would want - or need - so much vertical space.

The food Nye had spoken of turned out to be two young rabbits, and it was at that point that Harry realised another problem they might have. The rabbits were unskinned and raw.

Now, skinning and cooking his rabbit wouldn't have been a problem for Harry, since he had seen his aunt doing it before, except he didn't have a knife, and he had no way of making a fire - or pots in which to cook the creature. Nye, however, ignored his protestations that he couldn't eat raw rabbit, and without the tools to skin and cook the creature, Harry knew that he would eventually be forced to eat it raw, or simply starve.

It took another two days - in which time Nye had eaten the original rabbit and provided another, fresh, rabbit - before his hunger became great enough for him to surrender and greedily rip into the young creature's tender flesh. He learned, in the process, that human teeth were a lot blunter - and rabbit skin a lot tougher - than he had thought. But the raw meat went down, and stayed down, and for the first time in his life, Harry knew what it felt like to be full.

---

It wasn't until his adult teeth began to replace his milk teeth that Harry learned to use the sharp shards of flint that littered the ground as a knife. By this point he was used to raw meat, and the idea of cooking it no longer seemed as important as it once had.

---

When Harry and Nye's seventh summer together came, driven by the magic Harry was beginning to display in accidental bursts, the snake began to tell Harry what it knew of magic, the wizarding world, the 'muggle' world, and about Harry himself…

"Ssso I'm a wizard." Harry hissed, having picked up a true snake's accent to his words after living with Nye for seven years. "And I can do magic. But how?" Nye shrugged - a movement of the wings that no longer seemed odd to Harry, although it had at first.

"Mossst wizardsss I have ssseen ussse sssticksss that ssshine with magic. They wave them around and make noisssesss, and thingsss happen." Harry tilted his head to one side, thoughtfully.

"Can you do magic?" He asked the winged snake. Nye nodded.

"Yesss. I sssee the magic within me and I know where I want it to go and what it ssshould do. Sssome wizardsss have a limited ability to do thisss. Sssome wizardsss I have ssseen ussse thisss to change their ssshape - become creaturesss like dogsss and catsss." Harry brightened at this last pronouncement.

"Maybe I can become a sssnake after all." He hissed gleefully. "I do not like thisss ssshape." He gestured angrily at himself. "Do you know how they do it Nye? Can you teach me?" The winged snake shrugged again.

"The onesss I sssaw, they reached down into the core of themssselvesss and found the creature within their sssoul. Thisss form they wrapped their magic around and then…" a fluttery motion of its wings, "they were changed." It was a vague description, but Harry was determined. He'd found nothing to endear himself to humans in his seven feral years, and wanted nothing more than to become a winged snake like his friend, Nye, but he would happily settle for a simple snake - or even another form entirely, as long as it wasn't human.

Closing his eyes, he reached down into the core of his being, as Nye had taught him to do when he had been learning how to understand and live in the forest. He looked deep inside, and was unsurprised when the creature he found within was a long, slender, black serpent, with silver, lightning-bolt shaped markings running down its spine. Pleased, he reached out with a separate part of his mind and grasped the energy that was his magic, pulling it towards the serpent's form in his soul and forcing the two to merge. There was a moment where every bone in his body seemed to liquefy and shift, and then, when he opened his eyes, his perspective had changed.

Where the human Harry had been sitting, there was now coiled a slender, black serpent, with silver, lightning-bolt shaped markings running down its spine. Nye hissed, impressed with the form that Harry had achieved.

"A ssshadow viper. Impresssive." Harry preened and uncoiled, slithering around the underground chamber, and revealing his total length to be a little over 5 ½ feet. "Perhapsss now you have another form, you wisssh to choossse another name?" Harry considered this. He supposed it would be better to leave his old name with his old form, but he didn't really know what sort of name he should choose for his new form.

"What would you sssugessst?" He asked Nye. The winged snake considered him for a long moment, tongue flicking in and out as it thought.

"How doesss Hadesss sssound?" Harry - Hades - smiled a serpent's smile.

"Sssoundsss perfect."

---

If Harry had thought, upon becoming Hades, that he had left his human form behind once and for all, he was roughly disabused of the notion by Nye, who decided that his success in performing the shape-shifting magic warranted his learning - or attempting to learn - more magic. Magic that could only be done by a human, and only learned by aping wizards and witches practising - both legally and illegally - magic in the forest.

The first snag they met was Harry's inability to understand human speech. He'd been with Nye, speaking Parseltongue, for seven of his eleven years, and in that time had come to forget his first tongue - English - entirely. Fortunately Nye could understand the noises the humans made, enough to translate them into the equivalent in Parseltongue, although the sounds made no sense.

The second snag they met was Harry's difficulties in focussing his magic. It appeared that it was for this reason that wizards and witches used the 'magic sticks', and were relatively useless at performing magic without them. Most could only manage to summon their magic sticks to them from nearby, and some were unable to do even that. That particular problem was solved by Nye again, who reasoned that if the magic sticks were merely to aid concentration, it should be simple enough to substitute, say, an ordinary stick. Unfortunately this method proved to be a bit hit-and-miss, but after Harry accidentally started the largest forest fire in decades trying to use a magic stick a wizard 'lost' in fright - having caught sight of Nye - they decided that hit-and-miss was far safer.

When Harry finally lost all patience with sticks, they discovered that he found it far easier to simply channel his magic directly - although in a slightly more structured manner than Nye - and the winged snake then had him practise reaching for his magical energy through meditation until he was able to grasp it at a moment's notice. Then he tried casting spells that way - channelling the power through his hands - and although the stronger spells left him with a tight, itchy feeling across his skin - Nye thought it sounded like when a moult was due - his casting success rate was perfect, although his control of the strength of the spell took longer to perfect.

---

It was during the spring of his eleventh year with Nye, just under two full years after he had finally mastered his magic, that he first experienced the instinct to breed - as a snake - and had his first wet-dream - as a human. Nye was supportive, but insisted that he remain as Harry for that spring - and all subsequent springs. He was only permitted to become Hades during the other three seasons, when there was no risk of him breeding with a real snake - the outcome of which was uncertain, and highly dangerous. Nye was as insistent that - were he to take a mate - Harry would have to pick a human, as he was about when he could be Hades and when not.

So Harry seethed during the spring months, and vowed that he would never take a mate, as he wanted nothing to do with humans. Nye simply ignored the sulking teenager, and kept his amusement at Harry's vow of celibacy to himself. He did, however, allow the teenage boy all the space and time he needed to discover the unexpected pleasure of touching himself.

Fortunately one of the spells Harry had learned from his unwitting teachers was a cleansing spell, and though it could not disguise the distinct and acrid smell of semen from either Nye's or Hades' questing tongues, Nye was discreet enough to never mention it - or Harry's blushes.

---

But whilst their home remained, so far, untouched by the troubles of the world outside, all was not well, and the ripples caused by disturbances in the magical world were slowly making themselves felt in the forest's magical communities. Witches and wizards were no longer a common sight, unless they were dressed in black robes and smooth, white masks - neither hiding the scents of fear and death that cloaked them like invisible shrouds. Some of the magical creatures who lived within the forest, such as the werewolves, howled their support of a new power amongst the wizards. A new power with an old name - an old terror brought back to life.

In Harry's seventh year with Nye, a dark wizard had been rumoured to be living a half-life by attaching his spirit to other creatures, and then forcing his host to sustain his existence by drinking unicorn blood. He had manipulated one of his unfortunate victims into a school of magic, in Scotland, named 'Hogwarts', and had then tried to steal the philosopher's stone being guarded there. He had been foiled in this attempt by the Headmaster of the school, although things got a bit vague when it came to whether the wizard's spirit had been destroyed with its host, or had simply fled to bide its time and find another.

Nye had mentioned the incident to Harry, and the boy had instantly asked what made the dark wizard 'dark' - and why the other humans feared to say his name. The winged snake had explained about Voldemort's persecution of 'muggles' and 'half-bloods', and had then explained how humans insisted on classifying magic by its means, rather than its ends. Harry had listened carefully, only twice asking for expansion on a point, and had then asked about the dark wizard's attitude towards magical creatures. Nye had admitted ignorance, but had not been surprised when Harry remarked that perhaps he wasn't alone in disliking the rest of humanity.

When Nye had pointed out that 'humanity' included pure-blood wizards, Harry had countered with the fact that he would hardly be a freak amongst his 'own kind' - and that perhaps he had narrowed his definition of the humans he loathed so much.

In Harry's eighth year with Nye, the same dark wizard was instrumental in awakening a basilisk - the news shot through the serpent community like wildfire. It seemed that not only did Voldemort have a penchant for reptiles, he could speak Parseltongue. The word was out - the dark wizard was persona most grata, and if some serpents cautiously chose to remain neutral until the lines of the coming conflict were clearer, there were none who would go against him.

It also became clear to Nye that Harry was taking more and more of an interest in the dark wizard who, like himself, appeared to have a grudge against much of humanity, and an affinity with serpents.

In Harry's ninth year with Nye, there was no news of Voldemort. In fact, the most interesting thing that happened all year was the escape of Sirius Black - a prisoner in Azkaban - and his subsequent death at the lips of the Dementors sent to guard the Hogwarts perimeter. Harry was bitterly disappointed, but realised without Nye's prompting that, like a serpent, Voldemort was most likely plotting and planning for some event in the future.

Harry's ninth year speculations were proven correct the very next year, when Voldemort rigged a wizarding tournament at Hogwarts and used the blood of a kidnapped student - violently opposed to the dark wizard and his aims - to resurrect himself. The death of the muggle-born Hermione Granger, marked by Voldemort's trademark Morsmorde mark in the sky, rocked the wizarding world.

Harry nagged Nye insistently for news of the dark wizard after that, and eventually the winged snake acceded to the boy's demands and went to see the wizard for himself. He found Voldemort to have a serpent's tongue when it came to speaking, and the ruthlessness and calculated cruelty of an elder dragon. He also took the opportunity to taste the man's wounded magic, and found, not entirely to his surprise, that its taste was that of the stolen magic he had tasted on Harry, ten years earlier. Nye knew then that he had to bring the two together. Even without Voldemort having - albeit accidentally - bound himself and Harry together when the boy was an infant - whilst trying to kill him - he could sense that the two were meant to be together. Whether that togetherness took the form of a master and servant, partners, or mates, he didn't know, but he did know that they would be a force to be reckoned with…