Author's Notes: Well, now I feel silly. Not only did I forget the standard disclaimer, I also did not mark this story complete at the single chapter. It was supposed to be a one-shot. And to keep from disappointing JerichoTazer and LordFiolr, who added it to their Story Alerts thinking it wasn't finished, here is Chapter Two, written almost nine years after Chapter One!
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Standard Disclaimer That Ought To Have Been At The Start Of Chapter One: Anything you recognise is not mine. Anything you don't is. Basically, anything that does not belong to me is the property of J.K. Rowling, and Terry Pratchett, and whoever wrote the first pantomime version of "Cinderella" that I ever saw, and there's even a slight reference to Tolkien. I kid you not - there is a near-quote from the "Cinderella" pantomime in here. Also, I have quoted two sentences from the story on that started this craziness ("The Boring Job" by Translucent Darkness, which I thought was a fantastic basic premise which was sadly underexploited, ergo I did my own version).
The snake skeleton hadn't had a day this good since it had been alive. It was a very boring life, being nailed to a door attached to a house that nobody came near. But today there had been visitors. First there had been the tall creature who spoke to it LIKE THIS and they'd had a most fascinating conversation about cats. The tall creature had liked them. The snake had been indifferent – while it had been alive, it had been too big to be eaten by them but not big enough to eat them, so cats had been an annoyance until it'd discovered that they made excellent warm coverings. The cats had not been so impressed, and the snake had learnt to sneak up on them while they slept.
The small skeletal creature, on the other hand, had awoken its appetite. It hadn't had a meal in... in...
In far too long, that's what.
Outside the door, Wormtail was freaking out. The snake skeleton had not stopped staring at him since he and his Master had arrived, and now it was beginning to smack its jaws and strain towards him.
Then there'd been a long patch of quiet. The snake skeleton's suspense was almost killing it.
But really, what was a snake skeleton to do when its first visitors in over forty years had not only visited it, but also informed it that they were expecting somebody else very shortly?
The tasty-looking skeleton had briefly reappeared through the door and offered the snake skeleton something pink and squishy-looking. The snake skeleton had accepted.
The marshmallow had been the best thing he'd ever eaten. Dead or alive. But then, his stomach felt so empty that if he'd been offered a stone, he'd probably have said the same thing.
Technically speaking, he no longer had a stomach, but it still felt like he did, and it had felt empty.
The marshmallow had also done one other thing. The snake skeleton manipulated its jaws, trying to get the melting pink goo off its poisonous fangs.
The snake skeleton was salivating diluted blood at him. Pink was dripping onto the ground. Wormtail would have liked nothing better than to flee, preferably to somewhere where the only snakes to be found were the snakes in Muggle sweet packets. The sort of snakes that one could bite the heads off of. He shuddered and edged as far away from the door as he could while still keeping it in sight. The snake skeleton raised its head as far as it could to keep him in view.
The next guest had been rude. The tall man had been able to speak its language, and even a "Lovely weather we're having, isn't it?" would have been at least bordering on polite, but no. All the man had said was "Open the door and bite anybody but me who comes close enough to you." How on earth was it ever going to get an interesting conversation if it had to kill any possibilities, it wanted to know. But the man hadn't listened.
The small, scared man that the rude one had brought with him, on the other hand... there were possibilities there. Maybe he would be more talkative.
Hey, you over there. Want to chat? The snake skeleton strained towards him, trying to get rid of the very last of the marshmallow. Please? I'm so bored. I have to bite you if you come too close, but we can talk from a distance.
Wormtail relaxed slightly as the snake skeleton's head sank down again. Maybe it's given up? Maybe I'm out of range now.
Oh, I'm sorry. Yes. Thank you very much for the second marshmallow. It can't be easy, manipulating it through the hole in the side of the door.
Yes, I know I have it all over my face. And you know what?
I don't even care. This is the best day I've ever had since before I died.
The Death of Rats patted the snake skeleton kindly on its tail, looking sympathetic. Then its blue eyes suddenly brightened.
Really? Oh yes, I'd love to. Are you sure he won't mind?
The Death of Rats shook its head and spread its paws wide in a welcoming gesture. "SQUEAK."
The door opened. Wormtail blinked as his Master staggered through it and sank down against the frame, breathing hard. I'd say he'd had a heart attack if I wasn't well aware that he has no heart.
Death stepped over the prone form of Lord Voldemort and turned to go. The snake skeleton began to writhe frantically.
"WHAT?" Death looked at the desperate skeleton. "OH. OF COURSE HE CAN COME." He paused, studying the snake's jaws. "WERE YOU SNEAKING HIM MARSHMALLOWS?"
The Death of Rats looked down, abashed.
Hesitantly, Wormtail edged out of the nettles. Whatever had happened to his Master to make him faint like that, if he didn't help he'd be tortured when his Master woke up. Of course, if his Master woke up while he was helping, he'd be tortured anyway. How did I ever get myself into this mess? He looked warily at the snake skeleton.
Or at the place where the snake skeleton had been. Wormtail promptly panicked. Where'd it go? It wants to eat me and now I can't see where it is!
Something tapped him between the shoulder blades. Wormtail shrieked and spun around.
"YOU HAVE NO NEED TO FEAR. YOUR TIME IS NOT YET UP."
Wormtail's gaze slowly, disbelievingly lifted to the figure's face. For lack of anything else to call it.
Wormtail's horrified stare shifted to the creature's left shoulder. The Death of Rats waved at him merrily, grinning. "SQUEAK." It pointed to Wormtail, then to itself, and picked up its tiny scythe. "SQUEAK." It nodded once at him, pointedly, then turned back to the horror whose shoulder it was riding on.
"OH, VERY WELL. WE CAN ALWAYS ACQUIRE ANOTHER BAG." The monster inserted its skeletal fingers delicately into its sleeve and extracted a mostly-empty packet of marshmallows, offering one to the skeletal rat and one to the snake skeleton, who Wormtail now noticed was curled up on Death's other shoulder. The snake opened its jaws wide and chomped down on the marshmallow, sighing happily. And then they suddenly weren't there anymore.
Wormtail sank to the ground, retaining just enough presence of mind to conjure a sunshade over both him and his Master as a token sign that he had helped. He made sure that it had a pattern of Dark Marks. With a very slight bit of malice aforethought, he gave just one of the Dark Mark symbols a subtle shade of blue deep in the eye sockets.
All right, people, that's definitely the END of this story (unless of course the writing bug bites once again for it, but given the nine-year gap between me writing the chapters I think this is most unlikely)! Thanks once again to JerichoTazer and LordFiolr, without whom there would never have BEEN a Chapter Two!