Nearly ten years had passed since the Dursleys had woken up to find their nephew on the front steps, but Privet Drive had hardly changed at all. The sun rose on the same tidy front gardens and lit up the brass number four on the Dursley's’ front door; it crept into their living room, which was almost exactly the same as it had been on the night when Mr. Dursley had seen that fateful news report about owls. Only the photographs on the mantelpiece really showed much time had passed. Ten years ago, there had been lots of pictures of what looked like a large blond boy riding his first bicycle, on a carousel at the fair, playing a computer game with his father, being hugged and kissed by his mother. The room held no sign at all that another boy lived in the house, too.
Yet Harry Potter was still there, waiting silently at the moment, but not for long. His Aunt Petunia was awake and it was her shrill voice that made the first noise of the day.
“Up! Get up! Now!”
Harry scurried quickly out of his cupboard and into the kitchen.
“I want you to look after the bacon. And don’t you dare let it burn, I want everything to be perfect on Dudley’s birthday.”
His Aunt turned to fuss over Dudley’s presents while Harry minded the bacon. The table was almost hidden under all Dudley’s presents. It looked as though Dudley had gotten the new computer he wanted, not to mention the second television and the racing bike. Exactly what Dudley wanted with a racing bike was a mystery to Harry, as Dudley was very fat and very much hated exercise - unless, of course, it involved punching somebody. Dudley’s favorite punching bag was Harry, but he often couldn’t catch him. Maybe if Harry had nicer clothes people would be able to tell.
For most of his life Harry had been small and skinny, which he originally thought was something to do with his living in a cupboard, and which was probably not helped by the size of Dudley’s hand-me-down’s - which still made him look much smaller than he was. That was until third grade when his class had learned about “having a healthy diet” and “proper portion sizes”. Which is when Harry learned that the Dursley’s were effectively starving him.
This knowledge, along with the knowledge that undernourishment could cause him to be much smaller as an adult than he would have been otherwise, led Harry to seek other ways of procuring food.
Harry was working at a small family owned bookstore in town in his free time. Under the table and for less than minimum wage though the job may have been, it was the best job he’d ever had. Working at a bookstore had lots of perks - no Dudley or his gang, the teenagers that hung around were nice, and of course the books.
Harry was a voracious reader, he’d read all kinds of books. The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, Anna Karenina, The Catcher in the Rye, The Iliad, The Odyssey, To Kill a Mockingbird, Frankenstein, Dracula, Alice in Wonderland, Matilda, Pet Semetary, Cujo, Ender's Game, The Mist of Avalon, Jurassic Park- Not just the classics though! He also read popular stuff like; The Host, The Strand, The Mortal Imstraments, The Hunger games, and Twilight. It seemed like he read a thousand books a week with how much he read.
Part of his pay at the bookshop was being able to take any book he wanted, so long as he only took one copy and told his boss Mr. Moony.
Mr. Moony was a weird man. He had dusty blond hair, old worn clothes, and scars all over his body - most noticeably his face. He wasn’t the owner of the bookshop - that was Mr. and Mrs. Flamel - but he was the one that hired Harry. He also seemed like the type of guy Harry shouldn’t be alone with for too long, he always seemed to be watching Harry when he wasn’t helping customers, and he would sometimes sit too close to him on the couch in the breakroom. Not close enough for him to actually touch Harry, but close enough that you could tell he wanted to.
He was nice enough, though, always told funny stories about him and his mates in school - though they did seem like bullies, his friends, always picking on some poor bloke called Snape. He told Harry all kinds of stories - he probably could have been a writer if he’d wanted - that he’d make up on the fly, they would sometimes make a game of it. Harry would give him a one word prompt and Mr. Moony would make up a story based on it.
One story that Harry had really loved was a tragic story about a boy who was bitten by a werewolf as a baby. He lived in a “Wizard World” - where Mr. Moony liked all his stories to be - where people were all afraid of werewolves. The man that bit the little boy was named Fenrir - like Loki’s son from Norse mythology - and he was an evil man who fought with the Bad Guys in the Great War. The boy, named Lupin - another wolf name, how funny - grew up hiding his lycanthropy from everyone but his parents, but when he was eleven he went to a magic school because he was a wizard - a bit too much in Harry’s opinion, one should make a character either a werewolf or a wizard. Other wise it isn’t fair to the other characters in your story. While at the magic school he met three boys that found out his secret and loved him like a brother regardless and they all lived happily ever after.
Uncle Vernon entered the kitchen, pulling Harry from his thoughts with a shout of, “Comb your hair!”, before sitting down.
About once a week Vernon looked over the edge of his newspaper and shouted that Harry needed a haircut. Harry must of had more haircuts than any of the other boys in his class put together, but it made no difference, his hair simply grew that way - all over the place. Just like he wanted it to.
Harry was frying eggs by the time Dudley arrived in the kitchen with his mother. Dudley looked a lot like Uncle Vernon. He had a large pink face, not much neck, small, watery blue eyes, and thick blond hair that lay smoothly on his thick, fat head. Aunt Petunia often said that Dudley looked like a baby angel - Harry often said that Dudley looked like a pig in a wig.
Harry put the plates of eggs and bacon on the table, which was difficult as there wasn’t much room. Dudley, meanwhile, was counting his presents. His face fell.
“Thirty six.” he said,looking up at his mother and father. “That’s two less than last year.”
“Darling, you haven’t counted Aunt Marge’s present, see, it’s here under this big present from Mummy and Daddy.
“All right, thirty seven then,” said Dudley, going red in the face. Harry, who could see a huge Dudley tantrum coming on, began wolfing down his bacon as fast as possible in case Dudley turned the table over.
Aunt Petunia obviously scented danger, too, because she said quickly, “And we’ll buy you another two presents while we’re out today. How’s that popkin? Two more presents. Is that alright?”
Dudley thought for a moment. It looked like hard work. Finally he said, “So I’ll have thirty... Thirty...”
“Thirty nine, sweetums.” said Aunt Petunia.
“Oh. Alright then.”
Uncle Vernon chuckled.
“Little tyke wants his money’s worth, just like his father. “Atta boy, Dudley!” He ruffled Dudley’s hair.
Just then the phone rang, Aunt Petunia went to answer it while Vernon and HArry watched Dudley unwrap his presents. Just as Dudley was unwrapping his twenty-first present Petunia came back into the room looking both angry and worried.
“Bad news, Vernon. Mrs. Figg broke her leg and won’t be able to take him.” she jerked her head towards Harry.
Dudley’s mouth fell open, but before anyone else could speak Harry cut in, heart in his throat, “I could go to that second hand bookstore while you’re at the zoo! The owner doesn’t mind, I promise!” if Harry could spend all day with the Flamel’s and Mr. Moony instead of crazy old Mrs. Figg and her endless amounts of cats his life would be perfect.
“What? So we can come home to a message from the police saying that you were arrested for shoplifting? No...” Uncle Vernon put his hand on his chin, thinking.
Harry’s life would never be perfect would it?
“I suppose we could take him to the zoo,” Aunt Petunia said,”... and leave him in the car...”
“The car’s new, he’s not sitting in it alone...”
Dudley began to cry loudly. In fact, he wasn’t really crying - it had been years since he actually cried - but he knew he could get just about anything if he screwed his face up and wailed.
“Dinky Duddydums, don’t cry! Mummy won’t let him spoil your special day!” she cried, flinging her arms around him.
Just then the door rang - “Oh God they’re here!” said Petunia frantically - and a moment later Piers Polkiss, walked in with his mother. Piers was a scrawny boy with a face like a rat. He was usually the one that held people’s arms while Dudley hit them. Dudley stopped pretending to cry at once.
Half an hour later Harry couldn’t believe his luck - or really, his misfortune. He was sitting in the back of the Dursley's car with Piers and Dudley, on the way to the zoo for the first time in his life. His Aunt and Uncle hadn’t been able to think of anything to do with him.
So Harry got to follow them around, he had many unique experiences - he even got his first ever taste of ice cream.
After lunch they went to the reptile house. It was cool and dark in there, with lit windows all along the walls. Behind the glass, all sorts of lizards and snakes were crawling and slithering over bits of wood and stone. Dudley and Piers wanted to see huge, venomous cobras and thick, man crushing pythons. Dudley quickly found the largest snake in the place. It could have wrapped its body twice around Uncle Vernon’s car and crushed it into a trash can - but at the moment it didn’t look in the mood. Infact, it was fast asleep.
Dudley stood with his nose pressed against the glass, staring the glistening brown coils.
Harry, however, had found the enclosure farthest from any of the members in his travelling party and amused himself with looking inside for its inhabitant. Inside was what was most likely the smallest snake in the whole place. Coiled around the branches of a small tree was any even smaller snake that stretched itself out like it was another one of the tree’s branches. If not for the lack of wind in the enclosure - it seemed to be swaying in a non-existent wind - Harry might not have even seen the snake.
The snake itself was skinny, it had brown and grey markings, like a stick. It’s throat had small black markings, like there was another layer of black scales hidden beneath the surface.
Harry peered at the plaque besides the enclosure.
Twig Snake, Africa
“Africa’s a continent isn’t it? What part are you from then...” Harry mused aloud.
“ I wouldn’t know. You humans have strange ways of naming things.”
That was the snake. Harry saw it, it talked back. What-
“ What’s wrong - you look like the food bringers after the feed the cobras.”