Chapter Eighteen: Planning

Dumbledore had a cup of hot chocolate prepared for Harry as soon as Newt told him and about the incident with the Obscurus. The Headmaster looked terribly weary as he handed the drink to a shivering Harry.

Selena had uncurled herself from Harry's torso, but she remained close to him. Aurelion hovered in lazy circles around his master, humming in Parseltongue.

"I apologize again, Harry," Newt sighed. "An Obscurus is a dreadful presence to experience at the best of times, but I didn't realize it would affect you like this."

"It's fine," he said hollowly, sipping from his hot chocolate.

Charlie had a mixture of sympathy and uncertainty on his face as he looked from Albus to Newt and back again. "Should we continue, or…?"

"I can handle it," Harry told him. "I just need a moment."

Albus took a deep breath. "Right. Well, the good news is we've identified all of the possible access points for the Basilisk to emerge from in the school. I will assemble the Heads of House shortly and we will go about sealing them and setting up alarm enchantments to go off should the Basilisk pass near those given points. Moreover, Charlie believes we've found at least one access point that could serve as an area to lure it into the open."

Dumbledore waved his wand and the extensive map of Hogwarts' pipe system levitated in front of them. He gestured to one particular area on the outside of the castle. "This is one of the few exit pipes that leads out of the school. The sewage is magically vanished, but the water flows out of this point aboveground into the Black Lake. Below the castle is another large pipe that takes water in directly from the lake and cleanses it to be suitable for the castle's daily needs. Together, they keep the water in Hogwarts fresh and the Black Lake itself clean and healthy.

"We suspect this pipe will be out of the way enough to keep the Basilisk from causing any collateral damage to the castle. When we enact our plan, the students will be secured in their dormitories and guarded by teachers."

Harry stilled. "It could escape through that pipe in the lake, couldn't it?"

"In theory? Yes," Charlie admitted. "But fortunately for us, Basilisks don't like the cold, and the Black Lake is quite frigid throughout the year. If it did choose to escape that way, I don't think it could get very far before its body shut down."

"Regardless, we'll be taking precautions for that," Albus added. "I'll add the detection charms myself to ensure if it does take that route, we'll know about it."

Charlie nodded. "Our tentative plan is to lure it out at this pipe with Harry's Parseltongue—if you're willing, of course—and attempt communication. If that doesn't work, we can try to bait it out with food. Worst comes to worst, we'll send a tracking mouse into the tunnels to find the Basilisk so we can hunt it down."

"You can't seriously be thinking about going after it in those pipes," Newt stated flatly. "It's suicide."

"I have a number of ideas we could try before it comes to that," Albus replied grimly. "Not the least of which involves evacuating the school while we flood the pipes and wait for the Basilisk to flee or drown. It would make a mess of the school, but it's better than a number of alternatives. We should consider our options thoroughly before we commit—this isn't the sort of animal we can take chances with."

"Agreed. What else?"

"I've decided for safety's sake to request help from a few acquaintances of mine," Dumbledore announced. "For all our skilled teachers, Hogwarts is massive, and I do not want to be underprepared when the time comes to encounter this creature. Moreover, I think I might have a possible solution to keeping an eye on the Basilisk once it approaches the site of the trap."

Charlie raised an eyebrow. "And that would be…?"

"Alastor Moody."

"Mad-Eye?" Charlie considered that for a moment. "You think his artificial eye might not be affected by the Basilisk?"

"I think it's a possibility," Albus shook his head. "I don't know for certain. But he's a skilled Auror and he's wary enough to come up with plans for plans when we get to the point of encountering the creature."

Harry was a little lost. "Um. Who?"

"Forgive me, Harry, I'm rambling again. Alastor is an old friend of mine and the Head Auror for the Ministry of Magic: Magical law enforcement. They're the best of the best at magical combat—the Auror Office accepts a very small number of recruits. You've met one before. Kingsley Shacklebolt is currently Alastor's second in-command."

Harry blinked. He had wondered what Kingsley had been doing there when he showed up with McGonagall to rescue Harry from the Dursley's. He cocked his head to the side. "Why's he called Mad-Eye?"

"Alastor has been injured a number of times throughout his career, and one of those injuries cost him an eye. He's replaced it with an artificial eye that allows him enhanced magical vision."

Newt tapped his fingers against his leg. "Who else?"

"Shacklebolt ideally," Dumbledore admitted. "I also think it would be wise to summon Remus. Once the school is locked down and we know the Basilisk's escape routes are limited, I want as much firepower as we can have without making the trap too obvious."

"If it comes to that," Newt reminded.

The Headmaster inclined his head. "If it comes to that. Yes."

"How long?" Harry asked anxiously. "It's going to still be loose until we do something about it."

"Hopefully no longer than a week. Remus is abroad; I'll have Fawkes track him down shortly. Alastor will be easy to contact, and through him, Shacklebolt. On top of them, we'll have myself, the three of you—and Harry will be removed quickly should the situation sour—Minerva, Severus, and Flitwick."

"Not your new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?" Charlie prompted with a smirk.

Harry had never seen Dumbledore annoyed, but the look on his face spoke of a barely-concealed irritation. "I believe Mr. Lockheart would best serve us on a trip to Hogsmeade to celebrate his new position as teacher. Far away from misfires and foolish attempts to conquer the Basilisk himself. In fact, I will not be informing him of it."

Harry blinked. That was a lot more than he was expecting.

"Well then," Newt began cheerily. "I suppose I'll search for some suitable bait, shall I? Contact me when we've got a date prepared."

"I'll come with Mr. Scamander as well," Charlie agreed.

Dumbledore clasped his hands together. "Thank you. I'll inform you as soon as we're prepared."

The two of them said their goodbyes, then walked to the Floo in Dumbledore's office and quickly vanished in bursts of green flame, leaving Harry, Selena, and Aurelion alone with the Headmaster.

The old man pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. "Dear me, but I'm getting too old for this."

Harry sipped at his hot chocolate again before a thought occurred to him. "Sir? Who is…Fawkes, I think you said?"

Dumbledore blinked. "Merlin's beard, have I not introduced you yet? Let us rectify that immediately."

He turned and whistled sharply. Harry jumped when a melodious cry responded, and then his eyes grew round as the moon as a magnificent, crimson bird flew over to them from behind a number of shelves in the huge office. It circled them, flew in place for a few moments to regard Aurelion face-to-face, (who did the same with overwhelming curiosity) then settled on Dumbledore's desk with only the slightest sound of claws on wood.

Dumbledore's aged face lost some of its weariness and gained back a little light. "Fawkes is a Phoenix, Harry. Have you read about them?"

"Yeah," Harry felt excitement budding within him, the Obscurus and Slytherin's Basilisk forgotten for a moment. "The can carry really heavy loads and their tears have healing powers. When they reach the end of their lives, they burn and are reborn from the ashes—it's called a 'Burning Day'. The songs they sing are magical and…"

That thought made Harry reach out with his magic, to feel for the song of magic around Fawkes. It was a melody of birdsong and the crackle of a warm hearth, freeing and homey and just…soothing.

Fawkes seemed to sense the action, for he cocked his head at Harry curiously and let out a low trill. It was neither disapproval nor surprise—if anything, the Phoenix seemed amused.

Harry couldn't help but smile before he looked back to Dumbledore, who was watching them fondly. "Where did you get him?"

"Oh, one does not simply claim a Phoenix for oneself," Dumbledore chuckled. "A Phoenix is an intensely loyal creature that will bind itself to a single person. Once that person dies, they will depart to find their own paths, rather than seek a new master.

"There's an old legend in my family that a Phoenix will appear to any Dumbledore who is in desperate need. Fawkes came to me some fifty years ago, and he has been my friend ever since. He comes and goes as he pleases, but if ever I need him, he always arrives."

Albus smiled and looked back to Harry. "In that regard, he's much to me the same way Selena is to you. A guardian to look our for me."

Selena merely flicked her tongue in acknowledgement and lifted her head to meet Fawkes face-to-face. The Phoenix studied her with matching curiosity and chirped again, causing her to hiss in a non-threatening manner.

Dumbledore paused again. "That reminds me, did you know Fawkes was the Phoenix whose feather resides in the core of your wand?"

Harry's gaze whipped to Dumbledore in surprise. "What? Really?"

"Indeed. Olivander told me when you received your wand. Phoenixes are rare enough, so when they give feathers freely, they are treasured cores for wand-making. Fawkes gave up two of his feathers shortly after he came to me, and I gave them both to Olivander. Now one of those feathers has found its way to you."

Harry looked back at Fawkes and hesitantly pulled out his wand, holding it between his hands where the Phoenix could see it easily. The bird's eyes brightened and Harry thought he saw a flicker of flames as Fawkes sensed a familiar spark of himself. In his hands, the wand warmed and resonated with calm, lazy pulses of magic.

"Whoa," he breathed.

"Wand resonance is a fascinating thing, is it not?" Dumbledore beamed.

Fawkes trilled and stretched out his luxurious wings in response. Albus raised a hand to stroke the top of the Phoenix's head, who accepted the affection regally.

A thought came to Harry. "Sir? Could Basilisk scales or something similar be used for a wand core?"

Selena shot him a look and he raised his hands defensively. "I'm just curious."

"You should hope so."

"I don't believe anyone has tried to make a wand using any part of a Basilisk," Dumbledore remarked. "However, it's not outside the realm of possibilities. A Horned Serpent was said to have given a shard of its horn to Isolt Sayre, one of the founders of Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in America. They're as rare as Phoenixes, so of course such wands are incredibly difficult to procure, but I suspect it would be possible for a Basilisk to imitate such a thing. Perhaps a scale or a fang."

"Not, I think, from this Basilisk," Selena hissed.

"I'm not going to take you apart," Harry replied. "I already have a wand, anyways."

"Do not lose it. I shall not replace it for you."

Dumbledore smiled at the antics of the pair. "Well, I must assemble the Heads of House and prepare to enchant the pipes around the school. You can meet Fawkes again another time, Harry. Best to get back to your dorm now. I'll walk you there."

"Yes, sir."

"We should evacuate the school," Flitwick said bluntly.

Dumbledore stood with the Heads of House in his office, pacing by his desk after explaining the situation to the four of them. The possibility of the Basilisk was already in their minds, but the near-certainty now confirmed to them left the atmosphere grim.

"I agree," Pomona nodded. "It's too dangerous. Mandrakes I can grow, but a cure for Petrification is no good if the Basilisk kills them first."

"Unfortunately, evacuating the school is not an option," Severus muttered, garnering the attention of the others. "The one who opened the Chamber of Secrets is still here somewhere in these halls."

"Any ideas who?"

"Nothing concrete," he admitted begrudgingly. "But Minerva and I were able to tell from the fingerprints used to create the message in the hall that we are looking for a child."

McGonagall nodded to her ashen-faced colleagues. "He's right. We could evacuate the school and deal with the Basilisk, but the student responsible will almost certainly vanish."

"Limiting its access to exit points in the pipes will ensure its ability to harm our students will be greatly mitigated," Dumbledore said. "But yes, to evacuate the school would give the perpetrator an escape route."

"Does that really matter in the face of a full-grown enemy Basilisk on the loose?"

"There's no telling, Pomona," McGonagall told her. "The snake is a problem, but what else might Salazar Slytherin have hidden in the Chamber of Secrets? It could be just the first of many threats."

"We have a plan," Dumbledore added. "With any luck, we'll be ready in a week. Tonight, we enchant every pipe exit point in the school the snake might be able to look through."

"Albus," Flitwick sighed. "You know as well as the rest of us that the Chamber has been opened before. What happens if the beast kills again?"

"We will not give it the chance. It was loose for months the last time, and ultimately, we had no idea what we were dealing with before the Chamber closed and the beast returned to its slumber. Which reminds me; I should likely see to it that Hagrid's criminal record is purged in the wake of this incident."

Severus stilled. "Albus. The last time the Chamber of Secrets was open, Hogwarts possessed…a very specific student who could have done this."

Dumbledore's face tightened. "The thought has occurred to me."

"You-Know-Who, right?" Pomona wrung her hands together worriedly. "You mentioned the wraith to us last year…Could he have returned to Hogwarts?"

"I do not believe so," Flitwick shook his head. "Dumbledore and I reinforced the wards specifically to detect an entity like that re-entering the school. Even if he's possessed someone again, he would've been found out the moment he walked onto the grounds."

"Then how?"

"Voldemort does not necessarily have to be here in person to have an influence," Dumbledore allowed slowly, an idea slowly dawning on him.

Severus' brow furrowed. "What do you mean?"

Albus rapped his fingers against his desk for a moment in thought. "Let me think on that before I create a panic. It might not be relevant. For now, we need to ward the pipes. Come. There is no time left to waste."

The next few days passed by slowly.

Selena was almost constantly in the suitcase (much to her displeasure) while Aurelion assumed the role of Harry's constant guardian. Although they heard nothing more from the rogue Basilisk, its presence in the school left all of them paranoid. It wasn't uncommon that they'd escape outside to breathe in fresh air, to escape the school that had become a trap.

The only good to come out of the situation was that homework due dates were pushed back thanks to the enforced curfew. Granted, Harry wasn't thrilled about that because he loved to learn.

At least he didn't have to deal with Lockheart's nonsense as much.

Still, it disappointed him that he wasn't able to spend as much time studying with friends from other houses. So whenever he got a chance to escape for a bit and be with those few people, he seized it.

"That old coot Slytherin couldn't have just left alone the people a thousand years after he kicked the bucket, could he?" Nym grumbled, skipping a stone over the lake. Her hair flashed red briefly as she vented her frustration before returning to her favorite pink. "What mad hatter plants a bloody Basilisk in the school to haunt it a millennium later?"

"You tell me," Harry replied, frowning when his stone sunk on the first throw. He knelt to pick up another one. "I read about him as much as I could, but I get the feeling that history's been warped a bit over time. How are you doing that?"

He watched as she skipped another stone five times across the lake's surface. Nym smirked at him. "Can't be telling you all my secrets."

"You didn't enchant them, did you?"

"Yes Harry, I came out to this specific spot that you chose in the middle of the my classes to enchant all the random rocks I'd pick up to skip just so I'd look cool," she snickered. "Don't be ridiculous. If I enchanted them, they'd be flying from one end of the lake to the other."

"Then how?"

"Skill. My dad showed me how when I was little," Nym tossed a pebble up and caught it lazily. "Want me to teach you?"


She moved closer to him and showed her hand. "So you twist like this, yeah? Then when you throw, flick your hand like—this!"

Nym snapped her hand out and the rock flew, skipping across the water a few times before it sank again. Harry attempted to mirror her, but only got the stone to barely skid before it lost its momentum.

"You aren't turning your wrist properly," she told him. Nym reached up for him and stilled, asking permission with her eyes. Harry nodded and she took his wrist in her hand and slowly turned it to the angle necessary. "So when you throw it, your hand is supposed to go like this. Give that a go."

Harry nodded and repeated the motion slowly first, then reared his arm back and threw. It only skipped twice, across the lake, but it was a big improvement to his first attempts.

"Not bad, Potter," she grinned. Her tone became teasing. "Sure you didn't enchant that one?"

"Jog on," Harry joked. Nym cackled at his sarcasm.

They fell into a companionable silence for a while. Harry felt at ease in the peace and quiet, and his recent practice with Dumbledore had him reaching for the voice of magic almost unconsciously.

He closed his eyes, humming to bring music to the unique tune he could feel through his whole being. Nym's magic beside him was an easygoing thrum, sparking with jolts of energy that rose and fell with vibrance and life. It was at once contrasting and yet complimentary to his own magic, which Harry had found was a steady, harmonic melody. It flickered back and forth between melancholy and quiet joy, and he wondered if that was really a reflection of himself.

At some point, he stopped throwing rocks and kept the last smooth pebble he'd picked up in his fingers, turning it slowly as he lost himself to the voice of magic.

He opened his eyes lazily and realized that the lake before them was vibrating. Droplets of water defied gravity, floating up and twisting themselves into intricate patterns with a gentle touch of the wind's breath. His head turned to Nym and he realized she was staring at him, wide-eyed. Her hair had turned yellow from sheer surprise.

Harry's concentration broke and the water crashed back to the lake in an instant, creating a loud splash as his magic relaxed. The sudden sound made them both yelp. Nym's hair reverted to a darker shade of pink than normal.

"Sorry!" Harry gasped. "I didn't—I didn't realize—"

"It's okay!" She shook her head. "You just caught me off-guard, that's all."

His face burned and reflex pushed his eyes to the ground. "Um. Maybe…don't mention I did that to anyone?"

"Your secret's safe with me," Nym promised. She shifted her weight from one foot to another. "So…"

"Dumbledore," Harry muttered. "I—he's kind of…giving me lessons. To control my magic."

He gave her the run-down of his current situation, how the Horcrux had been sapping his magic all his life, and how Dumbledore was helping him re-learn control of the unrestricted power. It was the short version that did not entail the possibility of Lord Voldemort rising from the dead. Half-dead. Whatever the bloody wanker was now.

To her credit, Nym took it all in stride. She was good at that, Harry reflected in his thoughts—being able to accept a situation as it was and simple work with it from there. Practical. Clever.

She bobbed her head a few times once he was done explaining and glanced at him. "You gonna do it again?"

"Erm. Do you want me to?"

"Sure. You might wanna sit down, though," she advised. "It sounds like you'll be standing for ages if you forget yourself again."

Harry's glare was heatless. "I'm not that absentminded."

Nym grinned back teasingly. "Could've fooled me."

Huffing, he sat down and Nym joined him, lazily tossing rocks into the lake as Harry made himself comfortable again. Breathing deeply, he reached for the voice of magic consciously this time, but once again gave in to the melody.

He felt a little self-conscious at first, humming as he had now that he knew Nym was paying attention, but it didn't take long to lose himself to the musical vibrance of the magic around them. The breath of the atmosphere was a gentle sigh when it scooped up the water and laid gravity bereft, coiling the droplets into liquid crystal ribbons that reflected light as they danced.

It wasn't a monumental piece of magic—he just encouraged what was already there into a lazy motion. Simple. As natural as the pulse of his heart.

Harry swayed slightly from side to side as he closed his eyes again. He felt Nym's magic beside him quicken like a heartbeat, expressing a melodic wonder he felt couldn't quite be voiced. It was a noiseless sound like all the magic around them, warm and responsive and alive.

"Cool," she breathed. The corners of Harry's lips twitched up into a smile and his magic responded in kind; a little happier, a little less somber at its core.

Harry was in the library Saturday evening, tucked into a book with Selena and Aurelion curled on top of him in a pile of scales. Selena was still wide awake, while Aurelion had decided to take a short nap before they had to return to the dorms.

He'd finished his homework earlier and since Dumbledore's last lesson with him was yesterday, it meant there wouldn't be another until Tuesday at the earliest. He had some time to kill, so he did in his favorite way; by reading with his closest companions at his side.

Sometimes he'd read to Selena and Aurelion in Parseltongue if they ever felt too lazy to try and read a book themselves, but today they were both content to share his body warmth and relax.

Well, try to relax. They were switching guard duty, essentially. Aurelion had watched Harry for much of the day, when Selena was confined to the suitcase. Now that things were winding down, she'd popped out to take over so Aurelion could nap.

Harry didn't blame them. He was keeping his ears peeled for even a whisper of unfamiliar Parseltongue and hoping the rogue Basilisk would opt to leave them (and ideally, the entire bloody school) alone.

Wishful thinking, granted, but could you blame him?

Part of the reason he was in the library at the moment was because he'd been trying to master a translation spell that would allow him to—who would've guessed?—read a foreign language as easily as if it were english. He was succeeding for the most part, although the meaning of some words didn't quite translate properly at times and he had to investigate that particular word a bit more thoroughly.

Multilingual grammar as it turned out was, at times, a rather large pain in the backside.

It had been even more difficult when he was reading a book on advanced elemental charms co-written by expert African wizards from different parts of the continent, who utilized different dialects he was sure probably made more sense if you were familiar with the language.

There were certain spells you just didn't want to get wrong, especially when some entailed (if he was reading that right) the creation and manipulation of a lightning storm.

He'd eventually frustrated himself trying to figure it all out and opted to set that particular piece of writing aside for a later date. Instead, he picked out a book written by a European witch on Ancient Runes, a subject he'd be allowed to take next year at Hogwarts.

Ron would probably be horrified to learn Harry was reading about school topics a year off over chatting about the Quidditch World Cup that was still two years away, but Harry was planning on discussing the subject with Hermione, anyways. He'd ask Ron to fill him in on the possible Championship matches later, when the other boy was done probably betting with Seamus, Dean, Neville, and whoever else was in on that. Probably Katie Bell and Oliver Wood.

And the Twins, who were likely to prank anyone who disagreed with them for the fun of it. Actually, they'd probably prank even the ones who agreed with them anyways, Harry thought with some amusement.

Aurelion shifted in his sleep to bury his head in the crook of Harry's arm. How the Horned Serpent was able to breathe, he had no idea, but Harry knew his friend was comfortable, and that was all that mattered.

Selena's forked tongue flicked out and she lifted herself slightly. "Harry. Snape is coming."

Harry looked up just as said Professor rounded the corner, peering from the bookshelves on the opposite side of the aisle and over to them, where he stilled. The Potions Professor regarded the boy and his two serpents for a moment. "Potter."

"Evening, Professor," Harry replied.

Aurelion chose that moment to wake and his skull rose lazily, looking from Harry to Selena to Snape and fixating on the older man. His unblinking eyes were still drowsy and even the hisses he made sounded sleepy. "Problem?"

"No," Harry soothed.

"Good," the Horned Serpent yawned hugely, exposing growing, curved fangs.

Snape tilted his head slightly. "What are you reading this time?"

Harry kept a finger in the book to hold his place and showed the title to the Professor, who raised an eyebrow. "Not a topic you need to study until next year."

"I like to learn," he said simply.

"You should learn to keep track of the time," Snape told him dryly. He held up a watch. "Curfew."

Harry internally panicked for a moment. "Blast. Didn't realize it was already so late. I'm sorry, Professor."

Snape let out a sigh that held only the barest hint of exasperation. "Up you get, Potter. I'll escort you back to the dorms. Then I'll return to my hunt for other students who need to keep a watch on them."

The boy nodded and encouraged Aurelion back into the suitcase to rest. With Snape around, Selena was free to roam beside him.

He gathered up his books and walked out of the library with Snape. Madam Pince was waiting at the exit and didn't look surprised in the least to see them. She watched the three approach with a bemused expression. "I wondered if you were still lurking in here somewhere. What were you reading on today?"

"Runes, ma'am," Harry replied to the librarian.

"I see. Any particular fancy I should hold in advance for you tomorrow?"

"Not sure yet. I'll finish the book I started and ask you afterwards, if that's alright?"

"Always, dearie," Pince beamed.

Harry looked decided bashful and Snape rolled his eyes. "Come, boy. And hope we don't meet Filch on the way to Gryffindor, or he won't cease to badger me until I start docking points."

"Yes, sir."

Selena hissed her own farewell to Pince (who just waved in response) and the three of them left the library behind.

Once they were out of earshot, Snape shook his head. "What dark sorcery did you use to get that vulture of a woman to actually like you?"

Harry frowned. "She's not that bad."

Snape looked at him this time and lifted a thin eyebrow. "Has she not torn into you over the slightest defacing of a book?"

"Um. No?"

The Potions Professor seemed truly befuddled for a moment, then appeared to just mentally give up. "I shouldn't even be surprised at this point."

"Why's that?"

Snape slowed to a halt and Harry with him. Selena came to a stop as well, lifting her head to watch the older man.

Seemingly wrestling with something, Snape regarded Harry for a long moment. Whatever the conclusions was, he wasn't expecting what came next.

"You're so much like your mother, boy."

Harry stilled. "You knew my mum."


Snape hesitated and began walking again, his strides quicker than before. Harry had to almost jog to keep up, and Selena slithered at a matching pace. "What was she like?"

He didn't answer at first and Harry frowned. "You can't just say that and then not tell me. Please, give me something. Anything! Did you know my dad as well?"

"I do not invoke his name," Snape growled, his mood shifting instantly. "Nor should you do so in my presence."

"Then just my mum," Harry tried again. "Please, Professor?"

Snape turned to snap at him and the anger died in his throat. Pleading green eyes stared up at him, wide and curious and a little bit scared.

"Damn you, boy," he muttered under his breath. Selena must've heard it judging by how she started to puff up, but Snape drowned the Basilisk out. He never stopped walking, escorting Harry as much as he was fleeing his presence. "Lily Evans was—she was an exceptional witch. The brightest of her generation. She enjoyed her books and her studies. Many a time, she would correct a teacher and be entirely right in her correction. She excelled at every subject Hogwarts could throw at her."

Harry's step slowed for a moment and he frowned. Snape turned to berate him, but the boy looked slightly confused. "Her maiden name was Evans?"

Of all the things Potter could've asked, that was the amongst the last of the topics he'd expected to hear come from the boy's mouth. Snape had to physically resist the urge to let his jaw drop. "Do you know nothing of her?"

"No," Harry's eyes darkened and there was a hint of anger Lily (and now her son) had always kept tightly controlled. A rare frustration Snape could see as clearly as he'd seen in the child's mother. "I never knew her."

"You grew up with her sister."

"She didn't like my mum or me. She never said much."

Snape felt a thunderbolt of raw fury tear through him, that some lowly muggle had dared to smear the memory of Lily Evans by not even bothering to tell her own child about the extraordinary life she'd led. Only years of practice with his own self-control allowed him to take a breath instead of spit curses directed towards Petunia Dursley.

He came to another stop and heard the boy's footsteps cease behind him. Snape regained himself and turned around to face Harry and Selena.

"She was muggle-born, then?" Harry asked before Snape could speak. "Evans is a muggle name."

"Yes. That didn't stop her from being brilliant at magic, though. She was desperate to learn everything she could."

"I know," the boy smiled to himself wryly. "I understand what that's like."

Harry looked back up. "Were you friends with her?"

Snape grew very still. "I was in our earlier years here at Hogwarts. Our friendship…did not last in our later years."

"What happened?"

"I am not answering that," Snape retorted, but his bite was just tired. He turned and continued their journey to Gryffindor Tower "Not today, Potter. Perhaps…perhaps another time."

"That's fine," Harry accepted, falling into step behind him.

They reached the portrait and Snape gave the password to the Fat Lady, opening the passage to the tower. Harry quietly thanked him and entered the dorms. Selena stopped behind the boy, rearing up on her powerful coils to regard Snape close to eye-level.

He met the Basilisk's too-intelligent eyes warily. "What?"

She said nothing, just studied him in such a manner that he felt she was looking into him, past the shell of a bitter man who had long-since accepted his terrible lot in life.

"Your master is waiting for you," he snapped. "Go, before the portrait shuts you halfway in the door."

The Fat Lady made some indignant retort to that statement, but Snape ignored her.

Selena observed him for a moment more, a knowing glimmer that he did not like shining in those amber eyes. Satisfied, she lowered herself back to the ground and slithered into the common room. The portrait shut behind her.

Snape turned and slowly walked down the stairs to continue his hunt for other students out after curfew, but his heart wasn't in it.

A/N: Ok, I'll probably try to update Viridescent next. I'll try to alternate a bit back and forth between this story and Viridescent, but who knows what might happen? My new job is exhausting and all I really feel like doing outside of work is eating, sleeping, reading, or writing. Life, guys. Life.

As ever, please review and thanks for reading!