Harry whimpered to himself as he stared wide eyed around the dim cavern. One second he had been up in the girls' lavatory and the next he was here, wherever that was, in a stinky, scary dark place without a single grown up. Esme's shouts had faded as he fell, and all was now eerily silent around him.
Harry was quite a brave little boy, but this was a little too much adventure even for him. He felt his eyes fill with tears, and he suddenly wished with all his heart that Nana or one of his godfathers were right there with him. Instead, though, he was all alone and the shadows loomed menacingly around him.
He forced himself to stand up and shuffle forward, thinking there might be a door or even a portrait with someone who could tell him where he was. He was sure Esme would go get help, but who knew how long that would take? Harry wanted to get out of there right NOW. Before any of those shadows grew claws and fangs and ate him.
The floor was littered with crunchy things that Harry didn't want to think too much about. He realized, to his dread, that the darkness was only getting worse, and he suddenly decided that maybe Uncle Severus wasn't such a weenie after all. There really were things that went bump in the night, and they all lived RIGHT HERE. He gave up on being brave and adventurous and began to bawl.
Severus tumbled onto the cavern floor and instantly drew his wand. "Lumos!" A bright light flared and he scanned his surroundings for Harry. He could hear sobbing coming from up ahead, and he rushed in that direction, only dimly registering the crunch of bones beneath his boots.
"Harry! Harry!" he shouted, swinging the wand from side to side to ensure he didn't miss the little boy.
"Unca Sevewus!" Suddenly Harry shot out of the shadows and swarmed up his godfather, climbing the lanky man's frame like a monkey. He grabbed Severus' neck in a death grip and wound his legs around the professor's waist. "You came! You came!" he sobbed over and over into his godfather's ear.
Severus just stood for a moment, overcome with relief. He clutched the boy tightly to him. He was all right. Harry was all right.
It took several moments before the two respective heart rates slowed to something close to normal. As might have been expected, Harry recovered first.
Harry took a deep shuddering breath and wiped his nose on his godfather's shoulder. Now that Uncle Severus was here, suddenly the shadows didn't look so threatening after all. The terrifying shapes had melted away, revealing themselves to be meek little alcoves and tables. In the light of his godfather's Lumos, the things that go bump had fled, and Harry looked around with interest.
Now that Uncle Severus was here, Harry felt safe and warm… and very, very curious.
Severus, meanwhile, was still trying to calm his racing heart. When he had seen that abyss yawning before him, he had been certain that Harry would have broken bones, if not worse injuries. Finding the little boy unharmed was more than he had dared to hope.
"Where are we?" Harry asked, his little voice piping up out of the gloom.
Severus took a deep breath and cleared his throat, ensuring that his normal voice would emerge and not the panicked shrillness that had previously been heard. Happily, Harry had been too hysterical at the time to notice. "Where are we?" he repeated, scowling at the boy in his arms. "We are someplace that naughty little boys have no business being! I should spank you so hard you can't sit for a week!"
Undismayed at what he knew to be an empty threat, Harry nevertheless pouted at Uncle Severus' tone. "It's not my fault! It was Sarah and Susie's fault! They made the big hole, and then Esme yelled and Myrtle screamed and I got scared and fell. An' besides, Susie said you told them to keep it a secret. You shoulda told them not to open the door like that – it's dangerous."
Severus blinked, bemused by the realization that Harry was telling him that something was dangerous. Apparently the child really had been frightened by his unintentional entry into this… place. "Well, all right then," he said, less harshly. "I suppose if it was an accident then you won't be punished, you annoying child. But what do you mean I told them about this place?"
Harry huffed. "That's what Susie said. You're the head of Slyvv- er, Slytherin - an' she said dat's who made them guard dis place." He paused. "Where awe we, Unca Sevewus?"
Snape's mind worked frantically to answer that very question. Surely it couldn't be… But if it was warded by a Slytherin – or perhaps even The Slytherin? He glanced around and excitement began to build. Yes. It could be. Almost certainly, considering that the entrance could only be opened by a parselmouth...
There had been rumors, legends even, of a secret chamber built by Salazar Slytherin himself. A place where he kept all his secret notes and Potion journals. If this were it and some of those notes – or Merlin! Even some ingredients? – were still intact…? Snape tried not to drool at the thought of finding the private papers of one of the most talented Potion Masters of all time.
But no. He had a responsibility. He had to get Harry out of here. The child had suffered a serious fright. He was surely traumatized and needed to be returned to the castle proper for –
"Unca Sevewus?" Harry asked hopefully. "Can I pwease get down and look awound?"
Severus jerked in shock. "Aren't you scared?"
"Not anymore," Harry answered honestly. "Pwease? It's an adventure isn't it? Just for us?" He paused, a crafty gleam entering his eye. "Unca Siwius will be vewy jealous."
Severus glanced around, trying to appear nonchalant. That arrogant mutt, Black, was always filling Harry's head with exciting tales of life as an Auror. It would certainly be nice to be able to compete for once and have a little adventure of his own – one that had nothing to do with Death Eaters or Dark Lords. Besides, what possible danger could there be? Nothing had been down here for decades, if not centuries, and they were already past Slytherin's wards.
"Well… I suppose it would be helpful if we took a look around before leaving," he agreed casually. "I'm sure Uncle Albus will want to come down here later, and it would be nice if we could tell him what to expect."
Harry grinned and wiggled out of his godfather's arms. Just as he was about to explore the nearest dark corner, Severus caught him by the arm. "Do not touch anything. Look with your eyes, not your hands, or –" he used the ultimate threat "- I will tell Nana."
Harry's eyes widened. Uncle Severus wasn't kidding! "Yes, Unca Sevewus," he agreed, nodding furiously.
Severus let him go and started looking around. There was probably a door to a Potions Lab around here somewhere, though likely it would be hidden…
"Unca Sevewus, what's this?" Harry asked, digging around in the detritus on the cavern floor and holding up a grayish white object.
Snape looked up and fought not to scream. "A human skull," he eventually replied with brittle calm.
"Ewwwwww! Cool!" Harry exclaimed, delighted. He peered into the eye sockets.
Don't frighten the child. Don't frighten the child. Severus cleared his throat again. "It has probably been here for many hundreds of years, Harry, and you should treat it with respect. What's more: what did I say about touching things?"
Harry put it back as if it burned his hands. "Sowwy!" He glanced at Severus nervously. "Are you gonna tell Nana?"
"That was your only warning," Snape replied sternly, but he was already distracted by some runes scribbled above an alcove.
Harry sighed in relief and went back to his exploring.
"Who – is – there?" A deep voice echoed in Harry's head, and intrigued, he looked around. "Who stirs in the Chamber? Who has trespassed where none may come? Who has awakened me?"
"Unca Sevewus, what does 'trespassed' mean?" Harry asked curiously.
"It means to go somewhere you're not allowed," Snape replied abstractedly.
"But you're a professor, so you're not trespassing, right? And I'm wif you, so I'm not, right?"
"Mmmm." It looked like it might be some weird form of Latin, written backwards and upside down, rather than actual runes, he mused.
"Beware, violator! You have disturbed the Chamber – now you will suffer the penalty!"
"Unca Sevewus, what does 'violator' mean?"
"Someone who breaks the rules." Or actually, rather than Latin, it might be Old English. Or possibly French. Or German. Maybe. Snape gnashed his teeth. He had always hated languages at school.
"It has been long – too long – since I have eaten. I smell blood, fresh meat and bones… Violators, prepare to be consumed!"
"Unca Sevewus, what does 'consumed' mean?"
Severus sighed impatiently and didn't turn away from where he was puzzling out the runes. Writing. Whatever. "It means eaten. Where are you getting all these new words, Harry?"
"De big snake is saying dem," his godson replied calmly.
Snape spun, his wand coming up as he searched the floor for a snake. His eyes hunted wildly for a snake around Irving's size, and he looked right past the basilisk three times, because he simply couldn't imagine anything that big being alive. Then his eye caught the movement of its coil, and he choked, as he realized that what he had taken as the base of a pillar was actually one coil of the enormous serpent. "B- B- B-" he stuttered, his brain frantically trying to process that he was mere feet away from one of the most dangerous Dark creatures ever encountered, and one that had been considered extinct for some time.
Harry looked over at his uncle curiously. Why was Uncle Severus making that funny noise? And he had gone a funny greeny-white color. Wasn't he feeling well? Harry walked over and tugged on his robe. "Are you okay, Unca Sevewus? I won't put this snake in your bed, I pwomise." He glanced over at where the giant creature was still slithering into the room. "It wouldn't fit anyway."
Snape slammed his eyes shut as his brain finally emerged from its terror-induced paralysis. "Close your eyes!" He hissed, grabbing Harry and clamping one hand over his eyes.
"Hey!" his godson protested, automatically reaching up to drag his godfather's hand away from his face.
"No, Harry!" Severus' tone made the boy freeze. "Don't move! That's not a snake, it's a basilisk! Don't look at it!"
Harry obediently dropped his hand, but he was confused. Why was his godfather so upset all of a sudden? It was almost like the time when he had stumbled upon Uncle Sirius reading that funny magazine with all the happy ladies in it. He had climbed onto the chair to see what was making his Uncle whistle like that, and suddenly Uncle Sirius had clamped his hand over Harry's eyes in just the same way.
Nana had been very cross with Uncle Sirius when she found out about his choice of reading material, and she explained to Harry that it wasn't polite to stare at someone – even a picture – when they had no clothes on. But snakes didn't usually wear clothes, so why was Uncle Severus so upset?
"Excuse me," he called out to the snake. "Are you supposed to have clothes on?"
The basilisk stopped short. "A Speaker? Who are - wait. What did you just ask me?"
"I was just wondering if it was rude to look at you becuz you're s'posed to have clothes on."
"What kind of ridiculous question is that? Only you foolish humans wear clothing! How can a Speaker not know such things? Or do you try to jest before I eat you? Truly, you are no more than a fool in motley!"
Harry did a slow burn. He didn't like being called names. "Don't you call me a fool! You're just a dumb ol' snake!"
The basilisk hissed in outrage. "How dare you! I am no snake! I am a BASILISK, you impudent human!"
Harry knew what "impudent" meant, having been called it plenty of times by Uncle Severus, usually in conjunction with the term "brat". He stuck his tongue out at the creature. "Nyah nyah, you're nothing but a stupid snake!"
Unaware that his godson was engaged in a name-calling contest with the basilisk, Snape tried frantically to think of a plan. He couldn't believe he'd been stupid enough not to tell any of the other professors what had happened, but had simply ran to the lavatory in a blind panic and leapt after Harry. By now, with any luck Laughton would have dragged Pinfold to another faculty member, but who knew when the first rescuer might arrive? And they would likely make the same mistake he had, imagining this to be an old, disused chamber and not the lair of an incredibly powerful magical creature.
What had he been thinking? At the very least he should have sent his Patronus to Dumbledore or McGonagall or even the mutt. Black would have been happy to attack the basilisk while Snape and Harry escaped; the fact that he was certain to be eaten made it exactly the kind of lunatic plan the Gryffindor would consider brilliant strategy.
No, Severus couldn't expect rescue from anyone else. He had to do something to save Harry, at least, from the basilisk. But what? He couldn't apparate. He couldn't hope to escape the creature by running – the thing was bigger than the Knight Bus. Even if he knew where he was going, he was certain it could outpace him, and he was, quite literally, blind.
He mentally replayed his impression of the chamber in his mind but could think of nowhere that he and Harry could hole up, safe from the snake. He could launch a preemptive strike, with a blasting curse or incendio, but he doubted that any single spell would be strong enough to kill the monster outright, and if he missed or didn't disable it, then its return strike would surely kill both of them. He kept his wand up, pointed in the direction the basilisk had last been, and hoped his hand wasn't shaking too badly. His other hand remained clamped around Harry's eyes to keep the boy from looking at the creature.
He thought of magicking something into a portkey to whisk Harry away, but he worried that the instant he turned his focus away from the monster, the basilisk would attack. He cast a Protego over them, hoping it might be enough to repulse an initial attack, but he knew the creature's sheer size would quickly overwhelm any shield he could create.
He slid one foot behind him, feeling for the wall, and he heard the basilisk slither closer. He froze, breathless. What to do? What to do?
"Don't you call me a snake, you wretched little creature!" the basilisk said furiously. "You have the manners of an ill-bred lout! How dare you burst into my home and insult me! I shall feast on your bloody corpse, scrawny though it is."
"I'm not scrawny!" Harry yelled back, just as angry. He wasn't sure what most of the other words meant, but "scrawny" he knew. "And you better not swear, or my Uncle Severus will hex you!"
"You expect that I will fear this Uncle Severus?" the basilisk sneered. "I fear no mortal! I answer only to Master Slytherin himself!"
Harry scowled. "My Uncle is the Master of Slytherin, you stupid stinky snake!"
"Foolish, prattling idiot! You know nothing!"
Harry was now livid with fury. How dare a snake call him names! "You take dat back!" he screamed, shaking his finger at the basilisk, oblivious to Severus' hand over his face. "Don't you call me names, you bad BAD snakey!"
"You do not give me orders, little, scrawny, lying Speaker," the basilisk shouted back. "Salazar Slytherin is Master here!"
Severus abruptly realized his godson was hissing and jerking around underneath his hand. "Harry! What are you doing?" he demanded.
"Unca Sevewus!" Harry said, nearly sobbing in rage. "Dis bad snake is calling me names and telling lies! Aren't you head of Slytherin?"
"Yes, of course I am," Severus said blankly, "but…"
But Harry was back, sneering at the snake. "You're the dumb one, stupid stinky snakey! My Uncle says he is too the head of Slytherin!"
"My Master bows to no one! Your Uncle lies!"
"Ooooooh, now you're gonna get it!" Harry crowed triumphantly. "Wait'll I tell my Uncle on you!"
The basilisk was beginning to get a trifle uneasy. It was used to terrified, weeping victims. Occasionally one tried to flee, but never in its entire existence had its intended meal insulted it and hurled threats. What was more, it could scent no deception in the tiny human standing before it. The human truly believed what it was saying. A tendril of doubt niggled at the back of the basilisk's brain. How long had it been sleeping?
"Unca Sevewus! Hex the snake! It's being VERY naughty!" Harry commanded. "It says that you're a liar! Punish it! Punish it!"
"Little speaker!" The basilisk decided it could always eat the rude little human later. It would do no harm to make sure of a few things first. "Who is this uncle of yours? Where is Salazar Slytherin?"
"I'm not gonna talk to you anymore," Harry announced haughtily. "You are a meanie, and you call people names. I don't like you."
"Harry, are you talking to the basilisk?" Snape demanded. "What is it saying?"
"Answer me, annoying human! Do as I command!"
"Bppppllllth!" Harry made a rude noise at the monster.
"Harry! What was that?" Severus snapped.
"I'm ignoring de bad snake, Unca Sevewus. It wants me to answer its questions, but I won't. So there!" he hissed at the basilisk.
"What questions?" Severus demanded.
Harry sighed. "They're stupid questions, Unca Sevewus. Cuz it's a stupid snake. I don't wanna talk to it anymore. It's mean and rude and ugly. Did you hear that? I told my uncle you're mean and rude - and ugly too!"
"Don't you dare be rude to the basilisk, Harry James Potter!" Severus ordered angrily. If they had a hope in hell of getting out of here, it was going to be due to the basilisk's mercy. "You apologize right now."
"Nooooo, Unca Sevewus," Harry whined. "I don't wanna!"
Harry sulked, but he knew better than to defy Uncle Severus when his godfather was in A Mood. "My Uncle says I have to apologize for being rude to you," he said grumpily.
"Ha, ha!" the basilisk laughed, making the little boy grind his teeth in fury. "Obviously your uncle is more well bred than you are and realizes the honor due to one of my kind."
"No," Harry snapped back. "He just doesn't speak Snake so he doesn't know what a prat you are. And you can't tell him I just said so either, so ha, ha, to you!"
"Don't call me a snake, you little idiot! I told you I am a basilisk, though I imagine it is too difficult a concept for such a moron as you."
The basilisk was beginning to remind Harry of that snotty Draco kid his Uncle Severus sometimes had him play with. "I am rubber, you are glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you," he chanted.
"Did it really escape your notice that I am much larger and smarter than a snake?" the basilisk snarled. "How dumb are you anyway?"
"You may be bigger but you're not any smarter," Harry shot back. "I've talked to lots of snakes and you're nothing special."
Severus gave Harry a little shake. "What are you saying? Have you answered its questions yet? What is it saying now?"
Harry sighed loudly. "My uncle wants me to answer your questions. What did you want to know again?"
"Stupid human. I asked who your uncle is. What is an 'uncle' anyway?"
"Well, he's not really my uncle. He's actually my godfather."
"My mummy and daddy died when I was little, so I live here at Hogwarts with my Nana and my two godfathers. They take care of me and I do what they tell me."
"Ah. You are his slave. You are not a very good slave, scrawny little rude human," the basilisk said loftily.
"I am not his slave!" Harry yelled.
"Why are you yelling? What are you saying?" Severus asked anxiously. "Didn't I tell you to be polite?"
"It's bein' mean to me! It says I'm your slave," Harry wailed, nearly in tears of anger and frustration. "An' it's calling me scrawny!"
Severus fought down his irritation. "Harry, it's practically the size of a Quidditch pitch; to the basilisk, Hagrid is scrawny." Harry giggled a little at that, and some of his anger abated. "Now come on, Harry. Be a good boy and try to make friends," Severus coaxed.
"Dis snake is even worse dan Draco," Harry sulked, but he turned back to the basilisk. "Okay, so what else do you want to know?" he whinged. "I'm tired and don't wanna explore no more. I wanna go home for tea."
The basilisk blinked and reconsidered. Obviously the annoying small human had never even considered the possibility that he would not leave the Chamber alive. Perhaps the larger human which had been so quiet and still was more powerful than it had first thought? There must be some great magic here in order to make the little human so confident as to be offensive. "Where is Salazar Slytherin?" it asked, suddenly feeling uncertain.
"Who? My Uncle is a Slytherin, but I don't know a Salazar. Hang on. Let me check. Unca Sevewus, de snake wants to know where Salazar Slytherin is. Is he one of the new students?"
Of course! Slytherin was reputed to have had a basilisk familiar! Snape had always dismissed the tales as apocalyptic, but apparently they were true, and somehow the wizard had managed to put the creature in some kind of magical stasis or hibernation. "Harry, you know who Salazar Slytherin is! He was one of the Founders of the school." Snape gritted his teeth. He knew he shouldn't have let the mutt be the one to explain Hogwarts history to Harry. He probably mentioned no one but Godric Gryffindor. "Tell the basilisk that I am sorry to say that Salazar Slytherin has been dead for centuries, but the House he created still stands."
"He's dead," Harry reported bluntly. "For a really really long time. But he made a House, and my Uncle's head of it now."
"Your uncle is the Heir of Slytherin?" the basilisk asked, in tones of amazement. "How can this be? He is not even a Speaker!"
Harry was stung on his uncle's behalf. He decided to take a page from Draco's book. "My uncle is too busy to be boddered talking to snakeys like you all day. Dat's why he has me do it for him," he informed the basilisk in the haughtiest of tones.
"Hmmm. There was another who woke me… He was a Speaker. Where is he?"
"I don't know!" Harry had reached the limits of his patience. "But my uncle is de head of Slytherin now and your Master is dead, dead, dead."
The basilisk thought, but there was really only one path open to it, much as it might wish to avoid it – and the annoying little human who stood upon it. It sighed. "Tell your uncle that I will be his familiar. I was created to serve the House of Slytherin, and as its head, he is now my Master."
Harry blinked, impressed. "Unca Sevewus, it says you're its new master."
Severus nearly staggered back from the shock. "What! Harry, are you sure that's what it said?"
The basilisk saw the larger human's reaction and got nervous. "Little annoying Speaker, what is wrong? Does your Uncle already have a familiar?"
"No," Harry reported. "But I don't think he wants one."
The basilisk blinked in shock. Rebuffed? A wizard was rejecting it? "Tell your Uncle that I am a very good familiar!" it ordered huffily. "He will not be disappointed in me."
"Harry, please thank the basilisk for the enormous honor it shows me, but explain that I – I am not suited to accept it as a familiar," Snape said, sweating as he tried to think of a way of declining without offending the monster. All he wanted to do was to get the two of them out of here and wall up the basilisk again.
"He says he don't want you," Harry reported, bored now.
The basilisk thrashed in agitation. It would never live down this shame! "What sort of wizard is your uncle?" it asked suddenly. "As head of Slytherin, does he emulate Salazar? Is he a Potions Master as well?"
"My Uncle Severus is the best Potions Master in Britain!" Harry boasted. Then, feeling a bit disloyal, he added, "And my Uncle Sirius is the best Auror. And my Nana is -"
The basilisk ignored his later statements. "Then surely your uncle will want the basilisk venom and scales that I can provide. They will make him the most sought-after Potions Master in the world."
Harry duly relayed the statement and watched his Uncle Severus' face take on a dazed, dreamy look. "Okay, you win," he informed the basilisk. He knew Uncle Severus only got that look when something he was brewing was going really, really well.
"Excellent," the basilisk drawled, highly satisfied. That would teach the stupid human to value it properly. "Tell my new Master that I will need to be fed before much longer. And I would like new quarters. I am bored with these. And tell him that he can let you look at me. Now that I have accepted him as my Master, I will only kill on his command."
"… So it says we can look at it." Harry finished, sounding as bored and hungry as he was. "Can we go now, Unca Sevewus? I want my tea and biscuits!"
Severus kept his hand over Harry's eyes and didn't open his own. What if the creature were lying? What if his Protego was somehow preventing the monster from attacking them, and it was trying to trick him? What if – The basilisk got tired of waiting and, moving its enormous head until it was nose to nose with Snape, it flickered out its tongue and tickled his cheek.
Snape's eyes flew open automatically, and he found himself staring into the eyes of a basilisk. "Hello, Master," the monster hissed politely.
"It says hello," Harry sighed, much put upon.
It took Severus three tries before he could get his voice to work. "H-hello," he managed. "Er, Harry, tell the basilisk that if it will wait a short time, I will talk with the Headmaster and arrange its meals and new quarters. Perhaps something close to my laboratory…"
"Will you ask Hagrid to help take care of it?" Harry asked, bouncing excitedly. "It's as big as a dragon, an' he's wanted one of those for a long, long time!"
"Yes, probably," Severus agreed absently, still thinking of all the potions he could use basilisk ingredients in. "Oh, and tell it that it's not to kill anyone at all unless I tell it otherwise." Hmmm. Severus' attention drifted – temporarily – away from his potions. Having a basilisk at his bidding had real potential. If a Death Eater meeting could be arranged for the nearby Forbidden Forest… The carnage his basilisk could produce would certainly put a crimp in the Dark Lord's plans and further safeguard Harry.
Snape grinned wolfishly as an even better idea occurred to him. Oh, the prank possibilities of a basilisk! Now he could finally pay Black back for his little trick during their schooldays. Black had only had a mangy werewolf to work with, after all. Hmmmm. Severus admired the basilisk. This would be fun.
"Now can we go, Unca Sevewus?" Harry moaned. "I'm hunnnnnnngry."
"Spoiled little slave," the basilisk tsk'd. "I have been waiting several decades since my last meal."
Harry shot a glare at the serpent. Now that Uncle Severus was no longer blocking his view, he had to admit the creature was pretty scary looking. Hmmm. Maybe he could talk Nana into transfiguring it into something a little smaller and less menacing. Maybe an afternoon as a bunny rabbit would teach it some manners…
Happily plotting their respective mayhem, Harry and his godfather returned to Myrtle's toilet, only to find Sprout, Sirius, Pomfrey, Dumbledore, and McGonagall all worriedly arguing over who would go down into the Chamber and who would remain behind. "As grateful as I am for your belated and inefficient but doubtless well-intentioned rescue efforts," Severus announced sarcastically, "you can see that they are unnecessary."
"Pup!" Sirius yelped, grabbing Harry up. "That Hufflepuff thought you were a goner! Are you okay?"
"Let me see him, Sirius!" Pomfrey ordered, trying to get close enough to run a few diagnostic spells.
"Are you all right, my boy?" the Headmaster asked Severus worriedly, as McGonagall hurried over.
"Harry and I are fine, Headmaster," Snape replied. "Is Miss Pinfold still among the living?"
"Oh, Severus, she's been so worried!" Pomona Sprout sighed. "Can I go and reassure her that you're not angry with her? She was so careful to keep Harry with her, just as you said, and she could hardly have expected, well, all this."
"I agree," Severus agreed austerely. "She will not be penalized for her actions, though Miss Laughton has earned Slytherin ten points for bringing her to me."
Sprout smiled and went to tell Esmeralda that she could stop filling out those transfer requests to Australian schools. "What happened down there, Severus?" McGonagall asked. "Harry keeps talking about a 'big, stinky snake'. Did you find something?"
Severus toyed with the idea of telling them that he'd found Gryffindor's diary, just to watch Black race down there and encounter the basilisk. But no, he sighed, Minerva would hex the snot out of him if he did. "Beyond bones and dust? Only Salazar Slytherin's familiar."
Dumbledore's eyes lost their twinkle. "Slytherin's familiar was a basilisk!"
"You found its body?" Minerva guessed. "No wonder you seem so pleased! Think of all the potion ingredients you can make from the skeleton."
"Actually," Severus smirked, "the basilisk is still using its skeleton. It is very much alive," he ignored the gasps from the others, "and has decided that the head of Slytherin House is its rightful Master."
Dumbledore blinked rapidly. "But – that – you? I – you?"
Severus nodded. "I now have the only known basilisk familiar in existence. Headmaster, I would appreciate it if you would ask Hagrid to take charge of its dietary requirements, and you will need to inform the castle that it requires new quarters. I assume that you agree these inconveniences will be offset by the increased security such a guardian will bring to the castle? Good. And now, if you will excuse me, I have some letters I wish to write to Potion Master acquaintances."
"Nana!" Harry yelled. "I want my tea! And then I want a bath!"
The adults in the room turned en masse to stare at the child. Harry requesting a bath? Voluntarily?
"That was a really stinky snake," Harry explained.
"Well," a rather pale Nana said, taking Harry by the hand, "this truly is a day of miracles."