Chapter 1: The Snake
It was a hot day at Privet Drive, Little Whinging. People who didn't need to work were eating ice cream in the shadows of the trees or prepared for visiting the local swimming hall or even one of the lakes nearby.
But one child couldn't enjoy the weather. Fourteen-year-old Harry Potter sat in the garden of the house that was known by the address of "Number four, Privet Drive", the House of the Dursley Family. And he didn't even sit in the sun to tan or anything. He sat in one of the corners that wasn't visible to the neighbours and the street, hiding.
Dudley Dursley, his lovely cousin, was searching for him. And whenever Dudley searched for Harry it meant trouble. Especially since Dudley was big and stupid, a great combination for the bully he was, while Harry was skinny and not exactly a big fighter. At least not in a physical sense. He was quite the duellist, but sadly, he could not show his cousin that part. Not only because his school had forbidden it. But because it involved magic. And if there was anything the Dursleys hated, it was the m-word and anything that seemed even remotely not normal. Like Harry, for example.
Because Harry was a wizard. And not just a normal wizard, but Harry-bloody-Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the wizard that had survived the killing curse while he was still an infant, defeating one of the darkest wizards known to mankind when he couldn't even walk.
So he now went to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry every year, the best - and only - magical school Great Britain had to offer. But still, Dumbledore - the headmaster of said school - insisted on sending him back to that hellhole his relatives called home every single year. And his relatives weren't exactly happy with that, either. He was quite lucky that his godfather - Sirius Black, who was known as a mass murderer even though he had been framed - kept them in check. Before he had broken out of Azkaban, the wizarding prison, Harry had been forced to do all sorts of labor around the household - like cooking, cleaning or gardening - without getting so much as a 'thank you' for his efforts. Especially so since he was still underage and as such wasn't allowed to do magic outside of school. But now, with the threat of a 'crazy mass murderer', they mostly chose to ignore him, pretending that he didn't exist.
Harry liked the calm, but sadly, even though his uncle Vernon and his aunt Petunia ignored him, their son never did the same. Sure, he was frightened as hell if Harry ever drew his wand, but at other times he and his gang did the same as all the years before. A 'nice' little game called 'Harry hunting'.
Hence the reason why he was currently cowering between Petunias prized magnolia bush and the wall of the house. With the few braincells his cousin had he might remember how to walk and punch, but he almost never found any hiding places Harry chose as long as they weren't too obvious.
Anyway, since Dudley and his gang normally searched him for a while before they got bored, he had already made himself comfortable here.
Sighing slightly, he looked at the clear, blue sky above and the birds that flew through his field of vision. What would he give to be one of them. He loved flying on his broomstick at Hogwarts, but said broom was currently in his tiny bedroom upstairs, hidden away and unusable since there were too many muggles - non-magical people - around.
At these times he envied Hedwig a little bit. His snow-white owl was currently delivering a letter to Ron, his best and first friend since year one, and he was sure she had fun flying around, hunting and doing whatever she did when she was away. But he was also pretty sure, that he wouldn't like whatever answer he got. Just like Hermiones letter last week.
Lately, the letters of both of his friends seemed to get less and less informative. They always wrote him that they were not allowed to talk about whatever they did, but he wondered why they mentioned it at all, then? Making him curious and then not telling him anything... that was downright awful, even if they probably didn't mean it that way.
But he got increasingly wary here, having to live with his way too muggle relatives, completely cut off from the wizarding world except for the few letters of his friends and his copy of the Daily Prophet, which was brought every morning by a grey Ministry owl. But the newspaper these days had no news about anything of interest. Namely, Voldemort.
Despite of the heat, Harry shuddered. Nightmares of the resurrection ritual of the Dark Wizard that had tried to kill him when he was a baby still haunted him. It had taken place only a few month ago, but after that, there was nothing. No sudden deaths, no vanishing muggles, no terror. And since there had been no witnesses of that ritual other than Harry and Voldemorts followers, no one except for Dumbledore and his friends even believed in it. They were quite happy with their peaceful life and didn't want anyone to disturb it.
Though it was strange that nothing had happened yet. Was Voldemort gathering his strength? Was he recruiting? The feeling of not knowing anything was driving him crazy! And the fact that his friends left him out of the loop with whatever they were up to didn't cheer him up at all!
A small rustling sound pulled him out of his musings. Confused, he looked for the source of the rustling - fearing for a second, that Dudley had begun poking the bushes - but he let out a relieved sigh as he saw that the noise had been made by a small snake which had just come out of the little hedge that separated the property of the Dursleys from the neighbours.
Wait a second.
A snake? Here, in Little Whinging?
Harry blinked, surprised, at the little animal. It didn't look like your typical garden snake or anything... though he certainly wasn't an expert on reptiles...
He continued staring at the animal. It had black scales, with a dark brown diamond-pattern that seemed to cover it's whole length of about forty inches, and slitted, yellow coloured eyes that were probably normal for a snake.
The snake itself did already seem a bit strange and out of place, but it all started being really weird as the snake began talking.
"So this is Harry Potter..."
Harry stared, baffled, before he remembered that it had to be Parseltongue. Of course, snakes didn't randomly plop out of perfectly muggle hedges and started speaking English! And if he concentrated a bit, he even heard a slight difference.
As he stared, the snake seemed to come to a conclusion and turned back to the hedge, but a hurriedly hissed "Wait!" from Harry stopped it.
"How do you know my name?" he asked curiously, since it wasn't exactly common knowledge among snakes.
Said snake only stared at him, before slowly lifting it's head to look him in the eye. "You are a speaker?"
"Mother did not tell me that. 'Protect Harry Potter' she said. 'The skinny human with black hair and a scar' she said."
Now Harry was frowning. He didn't knew any snakes as the only reptiles he had ever spoken to had been the boa constrictor in the zoo three years ago, which didn't know his name, and the basilisk in the chamber of secrets, which he had killed afterwards. So who was 'Mother'?
He asked the little snake, but it just shook its head.
"Mother said I may not tell anyone of her identity. Not even a speaker, I am sorry. But she seemed very worried about you."
He pondered that for a moment. He did not know said mother, so he should probably be suspicious, but that little snake did seem worried about him and he could not detect any dishonesty. He wondered briefly if animals were able to lie at all, but then dismissed it.
It didn't matter, at least he had someone who seemed to worry for him. His friends seemed too busy with not telling him anything and Hedwig might have been worried, but he couldn't understand her.
And Sirius... he didn't want to burden his godfather with even more problems, being on the run probably led to more than enough things he had to consider.
So in the end, he extended his hand to the snake. "Wanna come inside with me? I can't imagine that you like the heat..."
He didn't know why exactly he had offered. Probably because even a snake was better company than no one.
But in the end, this decision would change his life forever, even if he didn't know that yet, as he took the snake and snuck back to his room...