4 Privet Drive, Surrey
Harry Potter woke with a gasp, slapping a hand to his sweaty forehead. Absent-mindedly rubbing his scar he collapsed back onto the thin mattress and sighed. Another night, another dream filled with cruel red eyes and flashes of green light. Glancing at the clock, he saw that it was 5:30 in the morning. Heaving yet another sigh he abruptly stood up and began to pace the small room. He tried to tear his mind away from the dream, and though he couldn't remember any specific details, he could still feel the terror and despair weighing heavily on his heart. It was the same despair he felt every time he remembered that Sirius was dead. It had been over two weeks since the incident at the ministry and it was only now that Harry really began to realise that Sirius wasn't coming back. Harry was alone. But then, he supposed he had always been alone, and even in the brief years he had known Sirius, that hadn't really changed. Sure, Sirius had given him hope that he wouldn't always be alone, but what good was any of that when Harry hardly ever got to talk to - and even less often see- his godfather? Hell, he'd had more conversations with Draco Malfoy than he'd ever had with Sirius, even if they weren't so pleasant. He could always count on hatred and indifference to be a constant in his life, but love? Family? Maybe it was time he accepted that he had no one. Harry's dark thoughts continued until 7:00, when Harry heard his relatives stirring. Pulling on a too-big T-shirt he opened his door and went downstairs to the kitchen to begin breakfast.
He was cracking eggs into the pan when Dudley barrelled his way into the kitchen, followed by Uncle Vernon. Never one to bother with pleasantries where Harry was concerned, Vernon snapped, "Hurry up boy, and get the food done. Don't make us wait!"
"Yes, Uncle Vernon."Harry replied dully, adding bacon to the pan. The smell of fat made his stomach feel queasy, and he had a feeling he would be passing on breakfast again. It had become something of a routine for Harry to skip breakfast, but it wasn't always him that made the decision. More often than not Aunt Petunia would enter the kitchen and declare that he would get nothing to eat until he completed chores, then hand him a list he couldn't possibly get done till late afternoon. Lately too, the list had included chores that he had already completed. Really, how many times did the lawn need to be mowed in a week? By the time he had finished cooking and served his relatives, a light film of grease had adhered itself to his skin, making him feel sticky and uncomfortable. He left the kitchen and made his way out into the garden. His first chore for the day was to tidy up the garden shed, and he glanced over at the rickety tin shed dubiously. That was bound to take a while. No way was he going to be finished anytime soon. He shoved the frustration he felt aside and walked to the shed.
Days passed in the same monotonous routine and Harry sunk into a depression, passing the time in a haze. One afternoon he found himself sitting on the window sill of his room wising he had Hedwig for company. She however, was banned from the house, as were any other owls. He had sent her with a letter to the Weasleys, telling them not to owl him (for fear of Death By Vernon) and that he would see them come September 1st. Harry had been particularly snarky that day, and frightened
Dudley with a few made up words. That of course, had led to a whole lot of trouble. Vernon had taken his trunk from the cupboard under the stairs and dragged it to the yard. Harry had barely managed to rescue a shard from Sirius' mirror before Uncle Vernon had set the contents of his trunk alight. "Didn't I tell you not to use that unnaturalness in this house! You're never going back to that freak school of yours, not if I have anything to say about it. Harry had watched sadly as his belongings were burned before he trudged up to his room and stashed the shard with his invisibility cloak and the Marauder's Map under the loose floorboard. He was more than a little worried, however, about the fact that he no longer had a wand. Then again, the wand had been useless against Voldemort, and since Harry was destined to kill the man, he would have needed a new wand anyway. Still, he had become quite fond of the holly and phoenix feather wand, it was like a part of him. Shrugging, he had returned downstairs to complete his chores.
Lunchtime came and went and Harry had only just finished pruning the shrubs that lined the edge of the yard. Hefting the cutters over his shoulder he walked to the shed to put them away. As he approached the shed he was startled by a voice. "Sssooo many sssmaaalll juicccy moussiesss. Sssooo delectable..." Smiling slightly, Harry leaned the cutters against the shed and stepped around the corner, moving into the dark space between the wall and the fence. "Hello?"he called out hesitantly, and was pleased when the snake answered, "You ssspeak my tongue, human?"
"Yesss, where are you sssnake?"Harry hissed, eyeing the ground as he carefully shuffled through the leaves.
Suddenly a crimson head poked up through the leaves and the snake replied "I'm here, human."
Harry sat a small distance from the snake and it slithered slowly over to him. It was only a small snake, a baby, but it was beautifully coloured. A crimson head sporting splashes of gold, faded to a deep green flecked with silver. "Do you have a name, snake?"asked Harry.
"Sssomething you are called by othersss. My name isss Harry."
"Harry, I have no name. I am jussst me."The snake curled around Harry's wrist and looked at him. "You are niccce Harry. You don't run like all the deliciousss little mousiesss and the other humansss."
Harry smiled. "I like snakesss. Hey! Want to hang around with me for a while. You know my nest matesss don't really talk to me and I get pretty bored without company." 'Nest mates? Strange how parseltongue translates', thought Harry.
"That soundsss pleasssant. Will you carry me with you?"
"Most cccertainly," replied Harry, inclining his head to the little snake.
"I wasss just hunting. Will you wait while I feassst? Scrumptiousss mousiesss here, with little bonesiesss that smash and-"
"That's fine" said Harry, smiling grimly. He repositioned himself against the shed wall and watched the snake with interest as it sat in wait for a meal. After a while, a small garden mouse darted around the corner and Harry tensed in anticipation. Then, so fast that he hardly saw it, the snake struck, sinking it's fangs into the little mouse, which twitched for a few seconds then lay still. Harry chose to ignore the snake as it swallowed its prey, and his wandering eyes fell upon something tucked inside an old, cracked flower pot. 'Cigarrettes? Must be Dudleys,' Harry thought, and grinned wickedly. He could just imagine Aunt Petunia's reaction if she found out her precious Diddikins was a smoker, and not just tobacco either. As well as a considerably stash of store bought cigarettes, there were a few hand rolled ones that Harry was sure were pot. He began to tuck them back, but stopped and removed one from the open packet. Dudders wouldn't miss one. He dug around at the bottom of the flower pot and came up with a lighter, and proceeded to light the cigarette. Ten minutes later he felt a bit more relaxed and the smoke had taken the edge off of his hunger. Looking down he found the small snake curled up near his feet and hissed "I mussst go inside now. Will you come?"
"I hasss never been inssside before. Should be interesssting." It was getting dark as Harry walked back to the house, the snake curled around his waist and beneath the over-large shirt, and he vaguely wondered what the date was if the days were getting shorter already. He had completely lost track of time, going through the days in sullen stupor. He was fairly certain it was past his birthday, though he hadn't received any gifts from anyone due to Uncle Vernon's desire to keep as little freakishness out of the house as possible. He entered the house to find the Dursleys already eating, and was surprised to see another plate (though not as heavily piled as even Aunt Petunia's) at the table. He hesitated before his Aunt snapped; "Well, what are you waiting for? Sit and eat." It was only once he had settled that he looked up to see his cousin smirking and a pleased look on his uncle's face. "What's the occasion?" asked Harry.
Uncle Vernon spoke, his chin wobbling, "Your aunt, cousin and I are going away for a time. Marge has generously invited us to accompany her to a dog show, very prestigious. We'll be gone three days, and while we are you are to remain in your cupboard. "He paused as Harry slumped in his chair. "We leave tomorrow, and whilst we are gone, I expect you to behave." He continued in an imperious tone. "Mark my words boy, if we come back to find the house ruined, there'll be hell to pay."
"As if I could get up to much locked in a bloody cupboard" Harry snarled, his voice raised. Perhaps not the best way to talk to his uncle. "I'll have none of that from you boy! You've got five minutes and then you'll be in your room. By room of course, he meant cupboard.
Harry stopped to put the snake in the cupboard before he rushed to the bathroom, used the toilet and rinsed his face before trudging along the landing and down the stairs. Waiting at the bottom was his uncle and cousin, and Harry quietly muttered "Bastards." as he walked past them. Not quiet enough, unfortunately. His uncle grabbed him by the scruff of the neck as he crouched to enter the cupboard. "What did you say to me boy? " he yelled, his face livid. Harry cried out as his head struck the wall, and a fist collided with his stomach. "After everything we've done for you, you ungrateful freak!" he fumed. "Don't speak to my father like that again, Potter!" said Dudley, a smirk fixed on his piggy face. Harry gasped again as a fist, Dudley's this time, caught him in the jaw.
It was only minutes later that Harry was roughly thrown into the cupboard, but it felt much longer. He was used to being harassed by Dudley's gang, but this was different. Vernon had pushed Harry around before, given him the odd slap, but he had never hit him before. Winded and pained, Harry collapsed unconscious on the hard floor.
Harry woke to a deafening silence. Light shone through cracks around the door, and he knew it must be the next day. He began to sit up, but hissed in a sharp breath and froze as a sharp pain shot through his ribs and arm. It felt like he'd broken at least a few bones. He lay still, breathing shallowly, and nearly yelled out when a voice enquired, "Missster Harry isss awake now? "
"Ahh! You ssscared me, snake!"
"Sssorry Harry. I will not ssspeak."
"No, no, i'm glad you're here snake. You surprisssed me, that'sss all." Harry took a cigarette from his pocket and began to chew. Harry and the snake passed the day chatting, and Harry fell asleep long after darkness had fallen, weak and hungry, the snake curled on his chest.
Harry was desperately thirsty. "If only I had my wand, snake. I could get usss out of here."
"What isss a wand, Harry?"
"Itssss a piece of wood, with a specccial core in the middle. It letsss me do magicsss. My uncle dessstroyed it though."
"Why do you need thisss wand, human? You can ssspeak my language without a wand, issss thissss not magic?"
"I supposssse. Itsss different though."
"Different how? Try Harry try. Letsss go out into the garden. Yesss, the garden. Warm sssun to bassssk in, yummy mousiessss to eatsiesss."
Harry grinned. "There are few who can do wandlesssss magic, friend. It isss a skill."
"Have you ever tried, Harry?"
"No, i'm not powerful enough. It wouldn't work."
"Sssss... I do not want to ssstay in this darknessss Harry."
Harry sighed and focussed on the door. "Alohamora is a sssimple charm, I suppossse."
He reached his hand out and grasped the low handle. "Alohamora!" Nothing. Hmph. He tried again. "Alohamora!" Again he tried the handle, but it was still locked. "No usssse, snake. I can't do it."
"You ssspke in the language of humansss, Harry. Why not ssspeak asss you ssspeak to me?"
Harry frowned thoughtfully. "I never thought to ... I supposssse I could try."
Once again, he reached out his good arm and grasped the handle. This time when he spoke, he focussed on the warm snake that was curled beneath his shirt. "Alohamoraaaaa." His voiced hissed out, and while he thought 'alohamora', what came out was entirely different. He felt a thrill of excitement when he heard a quiet click, but he suddenly felt extremely tired. "Yesss, snake, you were right. I'm sssuddenly so tired, though. Jussst a short ressst. Then we can go out to the garden." With that, Harry fell into a deep sleep.
Harry's mind fluttered at the edge of waking, awareness fading in and out. Distantly he thought he hear footsteps. He frowned. The Dursleys couldn't be back yet, surely. It had only been two days. 'Then again,' thought Harry, 'maybe I was unconscious longer than I thought.' Gathering his broken arm against his chest he strained to listen. Burglars perhaps? Or a worse kind of intruder? A Death Eater? Harry froze at that thought. Above his head, a stair creaked and Harry held his breath. 'Dont be such a wimp. The house creaks all the time. There's no one there.'
"Sssnake?" There was no answer.
Suddenly Harry remembered he wasn't trapped anymore. Grinning broadly and completely forgetting his moment of fear he gritted his teeth and stood on his knees. Pushing the door open with his good arm, he squinted in the bright light. "Excellent!" he hissed. He crawled to his feet and walked to the back door. 'Ah, sunlight!' Feels sooo good' thought Harry as he stepped out of the house. 'I wonder where that snake is?' He was saddened by the thought that the snake was gone. The little thing had been good to talk to. Sighing, he lowered himself to the ground and laid back, closing his eyes and letting the sun warm him. He was starting to drift off when a shadow moved over him. 'Damn clouds!' He froze however when he heard a rustle of fabric. He opened his eyes, and found himself looking into the angry black eyes of one Severus Snape. "Bloody hell!"
""Language, Potter!" spat Snape, glaring down at him.
"Professor! What are you doing here? " 'God, I hope he's here on Dumbledore's orders.'
"The question is what the hell are you doing here Potter? Why are you not at school?"
"Huh? School? What- what date is it?"
Snape was clearly furious. "What date is it Potter? What date? It is currently the 2nd of September, and you are now a day late for school. Do you have any- any idea the worry you have caused? The entire school has been searching for you, and now I have been sent – wasting my valuable time- to find you, and you are laying sunbaking, and you ask me what date is it? His voice, which had started out as a yell, had now quietened to a harsh whisper.
"I- uh... lost track. I didn't realise so much time had passed." He frowned. How had so much time gone past without him realising? He'd been a bit of a mess, but he didn't think he'd been that out of it.
"You expect me to believe you simply lost track! Do you not own a calendar, Potter? Or perhaps you entertain the belief that you need not catch the train along with the common folk? You were just waiting for an escort?"
Harry remained silent.
"Well? Get up. I do not have any more time to waste on you." With that, Snape turned and strode back into the house. Gingerly, Harry rose to his feet and followed, holding his arm to his chest.
In the kitchen, Snape turned to him with a sneer and ordered: 'Go get your belongings Potter, and be quick about it. I have no desire to spend excess time in this place."
'Well, who would have thought we'd ever agree on something?'' thought Harry. Turning on the spot, Harry exited the kitchen and went up the stairs. He smirked. Everything he owned now would fit in his pockets. Coming back down the stairs, he made a split second decision. Walking as quickly as he could, he slipped behind the shed and filled his pockets with what was left of Dudley's smokes. Not a bad haul, actually. He had just stood up when he heard a quiet voice speak his name. "Hello Harry, it isss wonderful in the garden isn't it. Sssooo much better than the indoorssss."
"Yessss, snake. Lisssten to me, I have to go now, back to school."
"Sssschool? What issss school?"
"Aaah, a wonderful placcce, where I learn about magicsss. Would you like to come with me? I would look after you and itsss very nice there." Harry hoped the snake would agree, he felt they had become quite close, and he could talk to the snake about anything.
"Such an adventure it will be!"hissed the snake. "I would sssimply love to go to thisss... school."
"It's decided then! Come snake, but stay out of sight for now. I don't think snakesss are allowed in Hogwartsss."
"Ssssuch a ssslippery ssserpent, Harry. I think we are going to be great friendsss..."
Harry smiled as the snake crawled beneath into a pocket of his pants. Suddenly remembering Snape, he hurried back into the kitchen, only to find it empty. "Sir? Sir, I'm ready to go," he called. He walked into the next room and stopped dead. Snape stood staring into the cupboard under the stairs, but looked up when Harry walked in. "What is this, Potter?" he hissed in a deadly voice.
Harry fidgeted and looked away from the cupboard. "Er- what's what, sir?"
"Do not feign ignorance, Potter."
"It's just a cupboard sir. We should really go. I don't want to waste any more of your time, Professor."
Glaring, Snape crooked a finger and beckoned Harry. Feeling quite reluctant, Harry shuffled over to Snape and glanced into the cupboard. He was taken by surprise to see a rather large amount of blood staining the ragged blanket that lay on the cold floor. He looked down and realised the same blood stained his own shirt, though he supposed most of it must be on the back, because it was hardly noticeable."Erm..."
Suddenly, Snape raised his arm and Harry couldn't help but flinch at the movement. An odd look passed over Snape's face as he looked between Harry and the cupboard. "Where are your family, Potter?"
"Oh, well they went away for a few days. They should be back tomorrow I think, or maybe today. I'm not quite sure."
Snape suddenly place a finger beneath Harry's chin and lifted his head up, searching his eyes. Harry was so surprised by the contact that he was stunned into silence, but when Snape's eyes widened, he jerked his head back and looked away. 'Bloody Snape. None of his business. Should have learned Occlumency when I had the chance."
Snape spoke. "You're relatives beat you and locked you in a cupboard, Potter," he sneered, but there was no malice in his eyes. Instead, they looked confused, troubled. For some reason this angered Harry. 'I must look so weak,' thought Harry. 'It's none of his bloody business anyway.'
Annoyed, Harry replied, "Like you always say sir, only the best for a spoiled, pampered little child." Turning he began to walk towards the front hall, but his shoulder was grabbed from behind and he gasped. Snape immediately released him. "Do they beat you often Potter?"
"It's really none of your business Snape, and if it's all the same to you, I'd much rather not talk about it."
"Well it's not all the same to me, Potter, and I will thank you not to be rude. Go to the kitchen and sit."
Harry scowled, but did as he was told.
"Take off your shirt," ordered Snape, who was searching his pockets and placing vials on the table. He handed Harry one. "Drink."
Not in the mood to argue, Harry followed both orders, and ignored Shape's open stares. He glanced down however, and found his torso was covered in large, dark bruises. Snape tutted and took the chair beside Harry, before beginning to poke and prod Harry's upper body. Feeling distinctly uncomfortable, Harry was about to protest when a particularly painful jab made him gasp.
"Hm. A broken rib, it would appear, and that arm doesn't look good either," mused Snape. Then slapping the table, he stood and said, "Well, that pain relieving potion will kick in soon, but you'll have to wait until Hogwarts to mend the broken bones. Up, Potter and go fetch another shirt. That one is entirely unsuitable."
'So much for sympathy,' thought Harry. He grumbled his way up the stairs and plucked a Dudley cast-off from the wardrobe. Then, remembering he had no other clothes he quickly stuffed a
shopping back with a few things. He was not looking forward to wearing these things around the school. Hopefully he would be able to go to Hogsmeade with someone.
He re-entered the kitchen and Snape looked at him. "When I said fetch another shirt Potter, I meant one that was halfway decent. That looks absolutely ridiculous."
"Well, you're going to have to put up with it because this is all I've got," he retorted.
"I see," Snape replied shortly. Very well, where is your trunk?"
"Er... well, the thing is sir-"
"Spit it out, Potter!"
"My uncle burned all my things."
"Your uncle burned all your things, " Snape repeated slowly.
"Yeah." Harry shrugged. "They were always threatening it but this time they actually did it."
"Fine." Snape snapped. "Let's go then. Keep a hold of your wand."
Snape froze. "Your wand is... gone. The phoenix feather wand?"
"The very same," said Harry drily.
Snape then spouted some very choice words that Harry was fairly sure teachers weren't supposed to say in the presence of students. "It doesn't matter sir, I'll just get another one. No big deal."
"No big deal?!" Snape sputtered. "Potter, you have no idea! My God, someone is going to pay for this!" With that he stormed out the front door and into the front yard. Harry hurried to keep up and caught Snape at the fence. "Sir, how are we getting back to Hogwarts?"
"We are apparating."
"Ugh. Sir, I don't think my ribs could tolerate that at the moment."
Snape spared him an exasperated glance and sighed. "I suppose not. Very well." Instead of grabbing Harry's elbow, he walked to the curb and stuck out his wand. Not two seconds later, a gaudy purple bus screeched to a halt in front of them.
A gangly, pimple-face young man appeared in the door and announced; "Welcome to the Knight Bus, salvation of stranded witches and wizards everywhere!"
"Get on!" snapped Snape, and Harry grinned.
So, it might be a while before I update this, just a bit less than a month cos i have exams coming up. But after that, i'll be on holidays and updating as much as possible