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The Sea Serpent of Cromer by Lululuna
Chapter 3 : End
 
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The Sea Serpent of Cromer
Chapter Three


His sword was wrought by goblin steel,
His heart was forged of ore.
He caught the monster in his reel
And head from body tore.

-old wizarding folk song, local to Cromer


**


The most famous wizard to come from Cromer is Glanmore Peakes, who slay the wicked sea serpent of Cromer in a mighty battle in the year 1700. Peakes was immortalized in a statue in the Cromer town square, and the sea serpent’s preserved teeth can be viewed in the Cromer History and Fisheries Museum. The Muggle records state that Peakes killed a wild shark which had strayed into the English channel and was pestering the fishermen – indeed, the statue’s depiction of Peakes standing on the head of the dead beast has caused much confusion amongst tourists and locals alike.

- A History of Magic
, by Bathilda Bagshot

**


Children, it is with a heavy heart that I acknowledge this is the third night on which we have not heard from your parents. I am so very sorry, but I do not want to lead you into false hope. You know that these last few years have been difficult ones, terrible years, and that a dark cloud has fallen upon Britain in the form of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

What is that? I am very old, children, and I have outlived my allotted lifespan through the centuries, seen generations be born, grow old, seen children bury parents. My gifts have brought to me a sublime gift and a terrible burden, one that I would not bestow on any other witch nor wizard, though plenty have asked for a taste of the power of life. There are reasons why I have kept my exact craft secret to all but Nellie. I do not pretend to be a master of death, but am merely a scholar of life.

No, dear one, do not fear death nor the dead. Life itself bears difficulty. There are only a handful of others who have seen as much of humanity as I have – ghosts, who linger as half-selves, clinging to the imitation of life; vampires, whose elongated lifestyles are punctuated by vicious hunger, silent hearts and being pushed to the margins of society. Only Nellie and I have kept our bodily forms and survived through the centuries, bearing witness to the loss of innocence again and again.

Child, you may keep the handkerchief. It was made for me by a French duchess who was also a sorceress, and has persisted through the centuries. Perhaps it is even valuable!

Are you quite certain you wish to hear the remainder of the tale? The story ends quite bleakly, and the history books tell the rest. In your copy of A History of Magic, which will be one of your textbooks when you reach Hogwarts age, you will find the ending to the story. Indeed, some of the sea serpent’s teeth were shorn from its lolling mouth and kept as tokens. They were the size of a man’s foot, though they were not so sharp as to tear through men’s flesh quite so easily. Many of those who perished fighting the sea serpent hit their heads and drowned, or were thrown into the water by a lash of its mighty tale. It scarcely seemed to develop a particular taste for men.

On the morning that Glanmore Peakes was set to venture out and slay the sea serpent, I received a letter from France, from Nellie, chiding me on how involved I was getting into the domestic affairs of Cromer. She reminded me that I was there to lie low and to rest from the dramas and politics of the French court, and told me quite sternly that as I was no Englishman, and had no stake in the English politics of the time, I should not meddle in the doings of the Ministry of Magic which they were so poorly orchestrating.

I also received a letter from the council of the Ministry, in response to a plea I had issued after my discussion with Cadmus Bode about more desirable means of confronting the sea serpent problem. The council responded that they put their full trust in Bode’s agency and did not have the resources to address the issue. This was a blatant lie, as the Ministry’s vault at Gringotts was filled on a monthly basis with a significant percentage of the earnings of each vault-owning witch and wizard in Britain. Keep in mind we are speaking of harder times, when there was less a presence of a comfortable middle class, and most of the magical population were either wealthy merchants and land-owners, or the impoverished serfs and villagers and hedge-healers whose meager earnings were greedily snapped up by the administration.

Admittedly, the Ministry is hardly less corrupt in this century than it was in the year 1700. But no matter – certainly do not repeat that to your father and uncle. As loyal Ministry employees they might be forced to bring me in! Ha!

Frustrated with the Ministry’s response, I chose to ignore Nellie’s advice for the time being and seek out a final audience with Cadmus Bode, strongly advising him to reconsider the bounty on the sea serpent which was leading to so many fresh graves. I found Bode by the pier, where the scent of the salt and thunder of the sea hung in the air, dampening my whiskers. Bode’s broad shoulders were staunch and square, his meaty hands thrust upon the wooden railing in front of him. His robes billowed about his ankles and his fine leather boots were stained around the edges. He was watching two young girls who were collecting sea shells from the pebbled beach and tucking them into their aprons.

Our conversation was brief and bordering on less-than-cordial. I took a deep breath.

“Bode, ze sea serpent does not mean to hurt the men you send after eet with zeir swords and pitchforks and nets. Eet is a wild creature – naturally, eet will defend eetself. Were you to arrange for transportation of ze creature to less-inhabited waters, zis would be an easy solution and ze town and ze monster would be happier for eet.”

Bode seemed to consider this for a moment, as he gazed out at the bay. A storm was coming in, and the first tendrils of wind stroked and toyed with our hats and sleeves. We both stood in silence for a pregnant minute, and I observed as a young boy seemed to appear from the large rocks lining part of the coastline. He was dark-headed and wore his clothes well, though his trousers were wet. As I watched him, the boy pulled out a wand from his pocket and cast a quick spell over his clothes. I frowned, finding this a little puzzling: under the regulations of the International Statute of Secrecy, children were not supposed to use magic outside of Hogwarts for fear they would foolishly perform a spell in front of Muggles. The boy glanced at the two little girls on the beach.

“Zat boy…” I began to say, but Bode had noticed him as well. He brought an eyeglass lens, which was dangling on a chain up to his eye – these were quite expensive, even for a man of Bode’s financial means – and peered through it. He said nothing about the wand, and I turned my mind back to the actual matter at hand. “Truly, Bode, perhaps eet is time ze Ministry focused its efforts on protecting magical creatures, rather than simply exterminating zem as zey pose hiccups and problems to wizards.”

I should add, children, that in those times the Muggles were quite superstitious. In modern times, a sighting of a magical creature by a Muggle, such as a goblin, or a giant, or a dragon – would be considered grounds for violating the Statute and come beneath the jurisdiction of the Ministry. The Muggles of Cromer, fishermen and seamen, were accustomed to tales of sea serpents – they did not think of magic and link the issue to wizards living amongst them, but instead faced the sea serpent as one might a shark or a whale which was invading the nets.

Bode opened his mouth to say something, when something very upsetting happened, and it happened quite quickly. The sea serpent rose out from the waters, scales glistening through the air, and began to swim quite quickly towards the shore with determined strokes. The two girls collecting seashells looked up and screamed. They began to run back towards the pier, but the sea serpent was too quick. In a moment, the sea serpent had stretched forward and – oh, how terrible to see! – plucked up one of the children in its jaws.

Blood stained the pebbles of the shore, salt on salt.

I was too far away to do anything, and my mind was frozen in horror. I could not think of what spell could bring the other girl quickly enough to safety. But the sea serpent left her alone as it crunched down on the bones of her sister, the flap of her apron dangling from its mouth. The other girl reached us, and I bent down and tried to console her as she screamed and wept.

After that horrific attack, all of my pleas went unheard. I was shocked that the sea serpent had acted in such an aggressive way – after all, it was not known for devouring flesh. All of the remains of the men who had perished trying to slay it for the bounty had been recovered from the sea. The sea serpent had plenty of fish which it had stolen from the nets, and no reason to begin hunting humans. I was suspicious, but had not yet put the pieces together. The entire town was far too outraged at the death of the little girl and blown up with excitement over Glanmore Peakes’ plan to listen much to the musings of an old Frenchman.

Yuna was distraught. She helped Peakes prepare, begging him to borrow a sword or bow and arrows off one of the village men. But he was insistent that he only have the old hat he had stolen from the school, holding the ragged thing as if it were a costly treasure. I could not bear to wish him good luck, but I shook his hand and said I hoped to see him survive. Perhaps he could see the doubt and skepticism in my eyes. His own were full of ice and fire. The thick, black ring marred his rough hands, a handsome thing which did not belong on the finger of a commoner. I found my eyes fixed on it as he draped an arm around Yuna.

I noticed that something was missing from his finger – the fine, large ring of black stone, which had been so out of place on a plain man from a fishing village.

“Your ring, sir,” I said, drawing closer. “Did you lose eet in ze trip to Hogwarts?” His hand looked thin and forlorn without it, like it could be the hand of any man.

“The ring was only on loan,” Peakes said shortly. “It has served its use and thus has been returned to its rightful owner.”

I found this most curious. My experience with greedy men is that they do not relinquish their treasures – whether stolen or earned – very lightly. But I believe, if my suspicions are correct, that this ring was not for purposes of show, but purposes of access to valuable things. For while the Peakes family were poor and low, by wearing a ring embossed with the symbol of one of the old families would allow Peakes to gain access to certain protected areas which held something he needed very dearly.

I watched him, as the storm began to touch the horizon and cast a gray damper across the village. I stood with the villagers, shoulder-to-shoulder, Yuna clinging to my arm and peering up from beneath her eyelashes to watch as Peakes rowed himself out to sea, to where one of the buoys was dancing about from the tugs of the serpent beneath the water. He was small against the waves, slender and disproportioned, a most unlikely hero. But his face was cold and determined, his arms strong. Murder was in his heart.

The serpent appeared, swimming almost curiously around his boat. Peakes raised the battered old wizard’s hat above his head. He seemed to look up towards the heavens, his hair whipping about in the wind. The villagers muttered and frowned amongst themselves – how could he expect to hold his own without a weapon? There was none more shocked than myself when suddenly, Peakes seemed to reach into the hat and pull out a shimmering beam of light which glimmered silver against the encroaching gray – he had been right, children! The sword of Gryffindor had come to Cromer.

The battle – well, the sea serpent appeared surprised that it was being attacked, recoiling and attempting to swim away, back into the depths of the sea where it might hide amongst the ocean floor, where swords could not reach. But Peakes sliced into the creature’s tail, opening a great bloody gash which turned the water red. The creature screamed and spun on him, neck arching as it struck the rowboat like a cobra, teeth bared as they shredded one of the oars.

They fought. Peakes wielded the sword of Gryffindor like a knight from a romance slaying a dragon as his lady love looked on. But instead of shining armor he wore a leather jerkin and carried an old hat, and instead of the mystical setting of the forest this was cold, cold ocean. He nicked the sea serpent’s neck. It bellowed. He was soaked in water, blinking furiously. He pulled out his wand. A curse stung the creature in the eye.

It was then that I became aware of one of the spectators, a finely-dressed man who sat upon a large horse. His long cloak draped gracefully over the saddle, and he wore a plumed hat like he was a member of the gentry. His face was pursed in scornful interest. Pointed silver spurs glistened against the horse’s flank. I looked a little closer, and noticed the insignia on a heavy amulet hung about his neck, but could not quite identify his face.

Beside me, Yuna let out a little squeal, burying her head in my shoulder again. Peakes had been bitten on his arm, and blood was flooding out of his wound. I patted Yuna on the arm and stroked her hair – she was such a sweet child, and I felt very fatherly affection for her despite my fatherly disapproval of her choice of a husband.

Peakes’ injury seemed only to fuel his rage, for in that moment as I turned my eyes back out to the sea he reared up and plunged the sword into the serpent’s neck. He twisted it. Spells and sparks flew from his wands, bombarding the creature’s scales so that they seemed to turn red with blood and reflected fire.

As the clouds shielded the accusing eyes of the sun and the first drops of rain replaced Yuna’s tears, the sea serpent died.

**


The sea serpent of Cromer was dead. The people of Cromer rejoiced. They rowed out to where Peakes sat, exhausted, the sword glimmering beside him. They took knives and bandages and water for him, but he insisted on cutting through the sea serpent’s body, lugging its heavy, lolling head into the boat, and taking it back to the shoreline.

In death, the sea serpent was greatly abused. The people took turns prodding it, stabbing its eyes, taking a scale or ripping out a tooth as a keepsake. Peakes paraded through the town square with his grisly trophy, blood and entrails dripping onto the cobblestones, the rain and the wind running through the sea serpent’s mouth and emerging from its severed neck.

Disgusted, I left Yuna and wandered back into my room at the inn, lighting a fire in the grate with an easy flick of my wand. As I peered out, I watched as Peakes accepted the bounty money from Cadmus Bode, who had no qualms about shaking the slayer’s grimy, bloody hand. He was accustomed to gore – perhaps he even took pleasure from it. Peakes was shouting about how the sword of Gryffindor was forged for the killing of snakes.

The little girl whose sister had been killed by the sea serpent in the day spat in the lifeless eyes of the creature, her hair plastered to her head. Many of the other villagers dared not come too close. Later, there would be much discussion and confusion about what to do with the enormous carcass, which sank and then resurfaced a few hours later, headless and bloated, its rotting stench traveling on the stormy winds.

And amongst all of this chaos, I watched the man on the fine horse with the heavy locket around his neck ride away, a sour expression marring his fine features. And I noticed that there was a passenger on the horse with him: a small boy, with fine clothes and a dark head of hair, who looked remarkably similar to the well-dressed man. The little boy whom I had twice seen, shortly before the sea serpent had made an unusual or unnatural appearance. They rode in the direction of the neighboring county.

That night, I joined the festivities in the parlor of the inn. Peakes was exalted as a hero, his face flushed and pleased, and the ale was flowing freely through the stomachs of the red-faced men of the village. Cadmus Bode was at Peakes’ right hand, praising his skill and daring, and admiring the sword of Gryffindor.

Children, it is getting late, and the story is coming to a close. Doubtlessly you will study the tale of the sea serpent in your History of Magic or Care of Magical Creatures classes – you will see Glanmore Peakes’ face on a Chocolate Frog card, perhaps, or view his portrait where it hangs in Hogwarts. This is very well – he is your ancestor, as Yuna is your ancestress, and for all his faults it cannot be said that he lacked cunning or daring. But I believe there is more to the story, and that Glanmore Peakes’ heroism was more contrived than deserved.

Have you put the pieces together yet? Think – think of the hat and the sword, and how easily Peakes attained access to them. Think of the house of Gaunt, and how they are said to descend from Salazar Slytherin, the most famous Parseltongue – a person who can speak the language of snakes and command the slithering creatures. Think of how causing a stir in Cromer, the rival fishing community and the home of many of the Muggles they looked down upon, might be beneficial to the Gaunts. Think of the actions of the sea serpent, how it uncharacteristically attacked the girl on the beach, how Peakes was able to succeed in slaying it when so many better men had failed.

Think of our cast of characters: Peakes, who was known for being a wand for hire, for consorting with the nobility and executing distasteful services. He saw no crime in this. It would have been quite simple for him to have created an alliance with the Gaunt family – he won fame and glory in slaying the sea serpent. The motive for their participation in his victory over the serpent remains a little foggy to me – perhaps he had a secret or threat which he held over their heads, or perhaps the matter of the sea serpent had gotten out of hand and they were ready for its reign of terror to be ended in Cromer. It is true that after his victory, Peakes became quite famous and created a powerful neighbor and ally for the Gaunts.

Yes, I believe the little boy in the fine clothes, with the wand, was one of the Gaunt sons, who spoke the language of snakes and thus was urging the sea serpent to behave in aggressive ways. I believe that Peakes returned the ring to the man on the horse, its rightful owner, after it allowed him passage into Hogwarts. I even would go so far to assume that perhaps Cadmus Bode was involved in the entire sordid mess, but there is no real proof for that, for any of it. Perhaps Gaunt had lost to Peakes while gambling. Corruption and wicked sorcery were victorious, and I stayed silent throughout the whole mess.

What is that? Well, child, how could I have proven anything? The pieces of the puzzle were quite subtle. The matter of the sea serpent is finished.

Sea serpents are quite rare nowadays – their kind has been hunted into near extinction. But what has flourished instead is the species of corrupt man, of wizards who think they may hold life and death in their hands, who control the government and work only for the greater good of themselves. I have seen them through the years, children – they have grown more ruthless and bold. History is littered with the scum of humanity. An old friend jokingly accused me last week of being a misanthrope – do you know what that means? A misanthrope is a hater of humanity. I do not hate humanity, children. It is only that humanity continues to disappoint me.

You must rest – this conversation is far too heavy for young ears. Sleep, my dears, and perhaps tomorrow I might find a more pleasant story to tell you of. Perhaps you should like a story about unicorns and maidens, or the people who dwell within portraits. Yes, I shall find a lovely story. Goodnight.

**


The children are finally asleep. I get to my feet, shakily, supporting my frail weight on the bed frame. I smile down at them: the boy’s arms wrapped around the teddy bear he keeps hidden under the blankets when his friends come round, the little girl’s blond hair spread across the pillow. How precious they are, how delicate.

I move into the kitchen, where Perenelle sits daintily at the table, nursing a cup of tea. She looks up at me and smiles softly, and I lean forward and place a gentle kiss upon her wrinkled lips.

“I ‘ope you did not frighten les jeunes – the little ones - with your stories of ze past,” she says quietly. “Fantastic stories of sea serpents and swords – zey will have nightmares.” Her French accent comes through so strongly when we are alone, despite years of living in Britain.

Mieux les cauchemars du passé que les terreurs de la presente,” I say in French, keeping my voice low as well. It is better to fear the nightmares of the past than the terrors of the present.

“Maybe zis is so,” Perenelle says. She takes my hand with her own and squeezes it. “Shall I prepare ze tea with ze elixir?”

Merci, mon amour,” I tell her gratefully. Thank you, my love. “Avez-vous entendu des nouvelles de leur parentes?” Have you heard any news about their parents?

Perenelle shakes her head sadly. “Non. Leur oncle m’a contacté et il prendra les enfant si le pire est vra.” She tells me that she has spoken with the children’s uncle – another descendant of ours – who will take the children if the worst is true. Oh, how dearly I hope it is not true.

Sadly, the worst of the stories often are.

**


Epilogue


After the slaying of the sea serpent of Cromer, Nicholas Flamel returned to France. He and his wife, Perenelle, fled several decades later during the French Revolution, choosing to pursue a quiet life in the country away from the difficult mechanics of the blooming English Ministry for Magic. They survived through the centuries, feeding themselves on elixir from Flamel’s famous Philosopher’s Stone, telling the stories of their adventures to generations of their descendants.

A decade after Lord Voldemort fell for the first time, Flamel’s stone was nearly captured by one of the Dark Lord’s followers. Flamel and Perenelle decided to destroy the stone and, after getting their affairs in order and bidding a fond farewell to their family, slipped away, as if flowing into a long sleep after a very long day.

The two children who heard the story of the sea serpent of Cromer, the little girl and the little boy, never saw their parents again. Their mother and father were killed by the Death Eaters for daring to defend some Muggle neighbors whom the Death Eaters had targeted, and their bodies were found years later stuffed into a shallow grave in Yorkshire. The children were taken in by their uncle, Artemius Peakes, who later married and had a son of his own: Jimmy Peakes, who would one day play as a Beater on the Gryffindor Quidditch team.

The orphaned brother and sister visited Cromer one day, many years later. The pier and the rocky beach are still there, though the inn where Nicholas Flamel stayed is long gone. In the museum, they looked at the teeth of the sea serpent their ancestor had slain. They read the plaques and admired the statue commemorating Glanmore Peakes as a selfless hero.

“I think of it, sometimes,” the young woman said to her brother. She is petite and blond and pale, like her ancestress Yuna, but has a hardened toughness to her of someone who had known loss. “Of the story Grandfather Flamel told us, when we didn’t yet know about Mum and Dad. He was such a dear, taking us in that month. He was a lovely grandfather. I miss him sometimes.”

The boy smiled quietly, looking out to the sea. He had never wielded a sword, like his ancestor Glanmore Peakes, and he did not see much of himself in Glanmore’s bearded likeness which could be found on Chocolate Frog cards.

“Perhaps, if more people could live as long as Grandfather, the world would be a kinder place,” he mused. The wind blew across his face, like the hands of the past reaching through the centuries to touch their heir. “He had such a bitter wisdom to him, a desire to teach and to love. I should be proud to be like him, myself.”

The girl smiled and linked an arm through her brother’s, leaning her head against his shoulder as Yuna and Flamel had stood, all those years ago, watching Glanmore Peakes spread blood through the sea. The buoys of the traps bobbed in the waves, and people chattered and laughed from the square behind them. But for a moment, just a moment, all was still.

The End





Author’s Note: Thank you for reading! I loved writing this story and challenging myself with it, and I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you to MargaretLane for issuing the awesome challenge. If any readers have the time to review, I’d love to know whether you figured out the explanation of the link between Peakes and the Gaunts beforehand – I had fun planting the clues. :) Thanks again!

The song at the beginning is written by me, as is the exert from A History of Magic. If you'd like to read the rest of the song, let me know via the forums as there are a few more verses! :) There are two lines which are inspired by lines in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: about Flamel’s death being like finally going to sleep, and about getting his affairs in order. They are credited to JK Rowling, as are many of the plot details and characters here.


Translations:

les jeunes - the children

Mieux les cauchemars du passé que les terreurs de la presente -
It is better to fear the nightmares of the past than the terrors of the present.

Merci, mon amour. Avez-vous entendu des nouvelles de leurs parentes? Thank you, my dear. Have you heard any news of their parents?

Non. Leur oncle m’a contacté et il prendra les enfant si le pire est vrai. No. Their uncle contacted me and said he would take them in if the worst is true.


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