The Serpent's Gaze, Book Three: The Convict's Cry

BY : DictionaryWrites
Category: Harry Potter > General > General
Dragon prints: 203
Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter and the characters therein belong to JK Rowling; I'm playing in the sandbox, as it were, whilst claiming no ownership and making no money.

Harry stands back, looking with satisfaction around his living space. The tent is simply furnished: there's a bed, a chest of drawers and a wardrobe to the right of the room, and to the left is a modest kitchen with a few cupboards, a simple hob and an oven. The only other piece of furniture is a low, oak coffee table in the middle of the room, and there's a little door that leads into the bathroom.

There are few things more bizarre in the world than a clawfoot tub in the middle of a tent, but Harry has learned to embrace the weird and wonderful over the past few years in the wizarding world.

His things are all unpacked: his trunk lies open at the end of his bed, his record player sits on the coffee table and his bits and pieces are scattered around the room - a cloak and two jackets hung on the hooks on the back of the bathroom door, his organiser settled on the dresser, his broom leaning against his wardrobe. Even his poster of Lixie Pott, the fae pop princess of 1990, is stuck up on one of the fabric walls. This isn't a cupboard under the stairs or someone else's second bedroom, and it's not a shared dormitory, either.

Surveying the scene, Harry feels a true sense of ownership, of belonging, that he's never experienced before: for the first time in Harry's life, he's looking at a home that is utterly and entirely his own. Hedwig hoots at him from her place on the bed's footboard, and Harry blows air at her: almost entirely his own.

Smiling, he steps out of his summer home, and double checks the tent ropes where he's tied them to bits of shelving around Dudley's room - they're all well secured, and Harry's content with how they're set out. He zips the tent shut and flicks closed the magical padlock on its opening: there's no sense risking Dudley going in and trashing the place, after all. There's an opening in the tent's roof that owls can enter and exit by, but beyond that it's quite secure, and he's going to keep Dudley's window open the whole summer.

He steps out of Dudley's second bedroom, pulling on his coat - the summer is warm, but it's showering outside for the time being, and he doesn't want to get wet.

"I've set myself up, Aunt Petunia," Harry says, making his way into the kitchen. She stares at Harry like he's a particularly bad smell, but Harry stares right back, unflinching. "I've got my own bathroom, my own kitchen, so I'm not going to have to eat meals with you guys." Petunia crosses her thin arms over her chest, twisting her mouth as she looks down at him.

"It's magic, is it?" Oh, good on her, Harry thinks. She's finally able to say the word.

"I mean, technically it's just a bending of the rules of physics," Harry offers, and her scowl deepens. "Do you need anything from Tesco? I need to pick up some shopping." Petunia looks angry at the very thought, as if somehow Harry being a wizard and picking up a few things from the supermarket must cancel each other out. Dudley has no concerns, though - if Harry gets something for him now, he won't have to go get it himself or wait for his mother to get it for him.

"Blue milk," Dudley demands through a thick mouthful of chocolate cereal.

"Red milk," Petunia corrects, and Dudley groans. He's been on a diet since last year, and while it doesn't seem to have made any difference to Dudley's size, it's made a big adjustment to his usual bright and sunny attitude. Harry hadn't known he could possibly get worse, but he certainly has. Skimmed milk for Dudley it is.

---

LOCKHART TO SERVE 25 YEARS

There are two photos of Gilderoy Lockhart in the paper, side-by-side: one is of him posing in bright yellow robes, tossing back his hair and performing his ridiculous little for-the-camera laugh, but the other is a stark contrast of him in court, hair stringy, skin pallid. Harry feels a deep satisfaction at seeing the transformation, and he pushes the guilt he feels for the fact away.

There's a list of his crimes in the paper, and Harry sits back on his bed, reading the entire account of the fraud: the Prophet has done a full feature on each of Lockhart's books and who he stole his apparent deeds from, and Harry can't help but read the article from its first sentence to the end.

The style is unfamiliar, sort of like the inflammatory style Harry sees in the gossip magazines Petunia pretends she doesn't buy in with the TV Times and The Daily Mail. He glances at the byline, and he sees the name: Rita Skeeter. He frowns a little, trying to remember if he's heard the name before - he thinks maybe it's been mentioned in one letter or another, but only in passing, and he doubts it was all that important.

In the post the same day are a few scattered letters - one from Theo Nott, another from Dromeda Tonks, and most importantly is his letter from Hogwarts, listing his supplies and confirming his choices for his elective subjects next year. Care of Magical Creatures looks to be interesting, especially if it involves animals a bit tamer than basilisks and three-headed dogs, and he and Hermione had agreed to take Ancient Runes together. Harry had taken recommendations from different people last year, but one of them had stuck with him: Lucius Malfoy had mentioned that Runes were a crucial element to learning how to cast long-term wards, and had even listed a few book titles on the subject.

Harry knows better than to trust Lucius Malfoy, but the man usually knows what he's talking about, and warding is a fascinating area of magic.

He glances through the rest of the envelope, scanning his equipment list, and then he picks out the unfamiliar form about Hogsmeade visits, glancing over it. Sighing, he pulls himself up and heads downstairs, leaning into the kitchen: immediately, he shoves his permission letter behind his back.

"Oh, there's the boy," Marge grumbles, turning up her fat nose, and Harry sets his jaw. She's sat down in the kitchen with Vernon and Dudley, and Harry glances back into the hall, where the shrew's suitcases are settled next to the door, and he sighs. Why would he have assumed that the summer would be alright for him? Why on earth would he have thought it might be enjoyable for once?

"Here he is," Harry says dryly. "Just letting you know I'm going out, Aunt Petunia." Aunt Petunia is distracted, looking with disgust at Marge's dog where he sits at her feet, and Harry doesn't mind her attention being focused on something other than him.

"Where are you going?" Marge and Vernon demand at the same time, and Harry rolls his eyes, seeing their family resemblance more than ever.

"The off-license, where else?" he retorts, and he shoves his permission letter into his pocket, ignoring whatever insult Marge calls after him. He refuses to listen to any of it - she can say whatever she likes about his parentage or whatever, but he doesn't have to sit there and let her direct her bile at him.

He picks up some eggs, and he stops as he leaves the corner shop off Kellogg's Walk, scanning the notice board beside the exit. There are different adverts for around Little Whinging, selling lawnmowers or advertising child minding services, and Harry goes back to the counter. "Sorry," he says, "Have you got a card for the board?"

---

"You're filthy," Marge says as Harry enters the house a few weeks later, and he ignores her: this is the fourth or fifth time she's hovered in Privet Drive's hall, waiting for him to come back, and apparently she still doesn't completely understand the idea that doing odd jobs in people's gardens might get a bit of dirt on someone's trousers.

"Don't mind me, Marge," Harry replies in as airy a tone as he can muster. He has twenty five pounds neatly settled into his wallet for his day's work, and for once he's grateful that Petunia had him spend so much of his time before Hogwarts tending the flowerbeds and keeping her lawn in such keen shape. "I'll just be up in my room, making no noise and pretending that I don't exist!"

When he gets into his tent, he sets his new Muggle money in the cheap money box he'd bought for his dresser: he'd had several calls the very morning that he'd put his little advert in the shop, and he'd started immediately. It isn't all that hard - he mows lawns, prunes rose bushes, paints fences. He does everything he'd had to do in the summers before he started going to Hogwarts, but now he gets a bit of money for it, and the people he does the work for are both nicer and more grateful than Aunt Petunia.

He sets his coins and five pound note in the box, closing it up, and then he puts on the Celestina Warbeck record Mrs Weasley had sent him as a birthday present, settling down in front of the coffee table to work on a jigsaw. Harry had never done a jigsaw before this summer - Dudley had never liked them, so Harry had never really gotten the opportunity to do them before, but he finds he quite likes the process. He hasn't yet decided whether the moving image on the jigsaw - a Welsh Green asleep on a hillside - makes it easier or not.

He hears a knock on the bedroom door, and he absent-mindedly calls, "Come in!" Aunt Petunia appears in the tent's doorway, and she's stopped short, her eyes wide as she glances around the room, her eyes wide and her lips parted in utter surprise. Lixie Pott gives her a seductive wave and blows her a kiss from her place on the wall, and Aunt Petunia turns her head away, tutting, before looking at Harry severely.

"Marge is leaving," Petunia says crisply, "If you'd take her suitcases out to the car?"

"Sure," Harry says, pulling himself up off the floor, and Aunt Petunia lingers in the doorway, looking around the room with curious eyes. It's the same curiosity that makes her buy the stupid celebrity gossip magazines and peek out of the curtains if Mr Perkins is late coming home from work on a Friday night - she just can't help but be nosy. He doesn't bother to point it out, though - he just walks past her, grabbing his coat and heading downstairs. He doesn't talk to Marge or Vernon, and just gets on with dragging both of her cases out to the car and dropping them heavily into Uncle Vernon's boot.

He needs to grab some more pasta for himself, so he walks straight away from Privet Drive. Kellogg's Walk is a good fifteen minutes away, but the big Tesco is twenty minutes further, but Harry's not going to bother walking all the way for a packet of pasta.

It's nearly six o'clock in the evening when Harry starts walking back, and Harry enjoys the golden light streaking across the sky: Harry despises the perfectly manicured lawns, middle class window dressings and pretentious hedges of Little Whinging, but he loves the warmth of the sky, the lack of light pollution, the fields that go on for miles if you walk the right way out of town. Were the suburban houses removed from the equation, Harry would love Little Whinging - he thinks he'd like to live somewhere rural one day. Maybe have a cottage.

"Harry," says a hoarse voice from behind him, and Harry turns. On pure instinct, he takes a stumbling step back, clutching his bag of pasta illogically to his chest as he stares in front of him. The man is gaunt and emaciated, his black hair and beard sticking filthily to his head, and he's dressed in stinking grey rags that must leave him freezing even in the August warmth. Outstretched to Harry, his hands are shaking, but Harry makes no move to take one.

"How do you know my name?" Harry demands, staring into the man's eyes. He's some kind of tramp, Harry's sure, but he can't really gauge his eyes when he's hidden under such thick beard and filth, and the man shakes his head.

"Needed to, needed to see that you were alright, Harry, are you alright, Harry, alright?" The man looks so desperate to know, his eyes wide where they're sunken into his face.

"I'm fine," Harry says, "Who are you?"

"Need to get to Hogwarts, now," the man says, his voice hoarse and croaking, and he sounds as if he hasn't spoken to someone else for years, "He's at Hogwarts." The man begins to totter away from Harry, his gait unstable, and Harry looks after him, but he knows better than to follow him.

When he gets home, Uncle Vernon is watching the news, and Harry stands stock still in the living room doorway as he holds out his Hogsmeade permission form for his uncle to sign. "Hang on!" Vernon snaps distractedly at the newsreader, scribbling his signature on Harry's bit of parchment. "You haven't told us where he's escaped from!" The face in the image is much younger looking, much more handsome and clearer, without so much beard covering his face, but Harry recognizes the tramp on Kellogg's Walk.

"I think he's escaped from the wizard prison, Azkaban," Harry says quietly, staring at the picture on the screen and feeling a cold shiver run up his spine. The Dursleys are all staring at Harry, slack-jawed with their eyes wide, but Harry doesn't, can't, say anything more on the subject: he walks up the stairs and into his tent in a dream-like state.

He knows it already, feels it in his bones. He's not going to have a normal year at school after all.



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