"Normal Talk"

'Thoughts or Emphasis'


Chapter Fourteen

Year 2 – Part five of... ?

The first Quidditch match of the year was an event all on its own. Malfoy took to the skies with finesse that caused many to compare the two Seekers while, they in the air. Harry was the favourite seeker because he had the record of being the youngest Seeker at this school. However Malfoy had his own following because it was evident that he could keep up with Harry's daredevil flying.

Still this game was exciting and definitely one for the books. A rogue bludger was hunting the Seekers. It had a nasty vicious program that the fans and audience didn't quite understand or notice at the time. However it was targeting only the Seekers and the main Seeker that it was targeting was Harry.

It was only when Harry finally managed to get the Snitch that everyone noticed how the bludger hadn't stopped its course and was continuing to attack a specific person. Luckily Hermione was quick with the incantation that blew it up to prevent further damage.

Harry's arm was broken during the game. It was after the game, when all was finished that he was pissed off once more at a certain Defence Against the Dark Arts (DADA) teacher who was meddling past his experience and knowledge.

The doofus wanted to mend Harry's arm and he was not a medi-wizard.

"Now, now my dear boy," Professor Lockhart said. "You needn't worry. I know just what to do in such cases."

Harry twisted out of the way and hopefully out of the range of the professor's wand. "No," he shouted. "You're not a medic, you don't nee…"

It was too late. The Professor said the incantation and then quite happily said, "There now. You see, there's no more pain."

Hagrid wasn't happy at all to see this Professor harm his ward. "No pain," he said horrified. "He doesn't 'ave any bones left in 'is arm."

Harry stood up, removed his cape to create a quick emergency sling for his arm. His guardian was quite right. He didn't have any bones in his arm. It was flopping around like some kind of dead rubber fish. That's why he created the sling in order to keep his arm close to his body and prevent it from getting damaged due its floppiness.

He turned around looking for his broom. It was only a short distance away, so called his broom to him. It was done wandlessly and he made sure that it tripped up the DADA professor in order to get to him.

Lockhart fell back to the ground onto his butt and when he tried to get up, Harry had whipped his broom over his shoulder in such a way that it whacked the man on his head making him fall back down. As soon as the Professor was successfully standing again, broom then was shoved in the man's face. It pricked him with the bristles, missing his eyes and then when Harry turned to walk back into the school, well it scratched one side of the man's face scoring it with multiple lines.

Harry was talking to his friends when he felt something against his broom and he whipped around quickly thinking that he was being attacked or stalked or something. That's when he noticed his Defence Professor on the ground again with a face full of red scratch marks.

"Sorry sir," Harry said, mock contritely. "I didn't see you there. I must just be a bit clumsy because my balance is off." He turned his attention back to his friends, ignoring the sputtering man on the ground and said, "I'm going to go to the Infirmary to see what can be done about this arm. I'll see you guys later… maybe."

"Okay Harry," Hermione said. "Do you think you'll be able to do your homework?"

"Right then," Ron replied to Harry's comment and then he said, "Hermione he just had the bones banished from his arm, do you think that he would be able to do his homework under those conditions? His bones will need to be re-grown and that is not a fun process. My brother Charlie had that happen to him once and he was a bear about it for whole time."

She huffed and walked away, saying, "Well I've got homework to do. I hope you get yours done in time, without asking to look at mine. See you later Harry."

Ron rolled his eyes at that and asked, "Do you need me to get you anything?"

"Let's wait and see what Madam Pomfrey has to say about this," Harry said walking into the school and heading towards the infirmary. He wondered just what would be needed to re-grow his bones.

"Harry," Hagrid called out. "I'll see you tomorrow afternoon for tea."

"Okay Hagrid," he replied. "See you then."

Once they arrived at the Infirmary, they were witness to Madam Pomfrey telling off Malfoy. "Get up and get out of here, Mr. Malfoy, you've been healed," she said. "There's no need for you to remain here moaning as though you were dying."

She turned to Harry and Ron who had walked in to witness this, took one look at Harry's arm and said, "I'm afraid that you'll have to stay overnight for observation. I can fix a broken arm easily enough, but in this case re-growing the bones will take time and it will be painful. You're in for a difficult night, I'm afraid."

"I understand," Harry said. "Ron could you get me the book by my bed and my stuff for washing."

"What about your pyjamas?" He asked.

"He'll be getting hospital regulation ones," Madam Pomfrey said. Harry nodded, knowing that that would happen.

"I'll be back, Harry," Ron said heading out.

"Now young man, pick a bed and get settled," she said. "Do you want to wait until you've changed before taking this?"

She held up a funky looking bottle that looked like it could have been sold in the Muggle World as a Halloween gimmick bottle. It had a skull for a top and the main bottle portion was ribbed like skeleton ribs with the words 'Skele-Gro' across the middle.

'That's a cool looking bottle,' he thought. 'I certainly wouldn't make a mistake about the potion if the bottle was that obvious… I wonder if the bottles that potions are stored in make a difference on the life of the potion or if it will affect a potion if it's stored in the wrong bottle. Hmm, it's something that I'm going to have to ask Severus about later.'

"Yes please," he replied to her question and settled down to wait for Ron to come back with supplies to wash away the grit from the Quidditich match.

It was later that night when he was awoken by at a commotion near his bed. He looked around while putting on his glasses and noticed that there was a grubby house-elf nearby. "You again," he said startling the creature. "What do you think that you're doing here?"

"Dobby is sorry, Mister Harry Potter Sir," the house-elf said. "You must be leaving the school. Bad things will happen if you stay."

"Bad things will happen if I don't stay," Harry told the miserable little creature. "Why are you bothering me like this? I'm not the only one who can help you."

"The Great Harry Potter doesn't know hard it be for house-elves," Dobby said. "Dobby be remembering when," the elf leaned in and whispered, "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named came into power. House-elves be treated worse than dirt. Dobby still badly treated…"

"Dobby," Harry said. "If your Master is bad why don't you leave?"

"No house-elf ever leave a Master unless given clothes," Dobby said shuddering at the thought of the dreaded clothes. He also was shivering in hope of his bad master forgetting one day and perhaps absent-mindedly handing him something that could be deemed as clothes.

"Master would never give Dobby clothes. Master is careful to not even leave a sock lying around… oh… oh… Dobby is bad elf for telling… bad elf for telling… must punish Dobby… Dobby be punished…" At this the sad little creature began to bang his head on the small night table next to Harry's bed and to slam his fingers in the drawer.

Harry was horrified at this information and at the display of self-punishment. He didn't realize that his own house-elves were confined like Dobby, but he never once saw them punish themselves for a supposed wrong.

'I certainly hope that they don't do that,' he thought. 'I'm going to have to call one to the school and find out about them. I don't want to offend them, but I will not see or hear of them punishing themselves if they believe that I am offended by something.'

He stopped Dobby from his antics and said, "Stop that… stop that right now. You've done nothing to deserve punishment."

"Dobby's Master does not know that Dobby is out," the house-elf said. "Dobby is bad elf for coming to help The Great Harry Potter."

"Look," the green-eyed boy said. "You've given me your warning, but you've got to stop trying to help me. You need to leave. Right now, I'll take everything you've told me under consideration, but…"

Then there was a clack sound as the door to the infirmary was opened and a flutter of several teachers, plus the caretaker came in carrying a body. "I found 'im in the 'all," Mr. Filch said. "He was just laying there all stiff and dead-like. Just like my Mrs. Norris."

The commotion was too much for the house-elf and he popped away quickly before it could be caught by the school's authorities. Harry lay back down on his bed and played possum in the hopes of finding out what has happened.

The person that was carried in was Colin Creevy and his first thought was that he was glad not have the flash of the little brat's camera going off in his face for the remainder of the year. He didn't like that he thought that and was immediately sorry that he felt like that.

'It's not right to feel happy that an annoyance has been got rid of,' he thought. 'Not like that anyway. At least the mandrakes are growing just fine and Severus will be able to brew the anti-petrifaction potion…Who am I kidding that's a fourth year potion and he's going to have me brew a batch of it or else write an essay on it or something. I hope that I can find out who the Heir of Slytherin is before they do any more damage to the school.'

"He's petrified Albus," Professor McGonagall said. "Just like your cat Mr. Filch. Oh, poor little Colin. How do you reckon he survived?"

"Mrs. Norris," the old caretaker said in voice full of upset. "You need to find out what is doing this. You've got to catch them and punish them."

The headmaster nodded and noticed that the boy had his camera in his hands. "This might have saved him," the old man said. "I wonder…" He took the camera from the dead looking hands of the boy and opened the back of it hoping that the film was salvageable. It wasn't. The film spilled out in a mass of dark ooze before evaporating in a puff of dark and light smoke.

Harry knew that the old man was aware that he was awake, but there was nothing that he could do about. His bones were still re-growing and if he had known what that stupid teacher was going to do, he certainly would have fought the idiot man off a lot sooner to prevent the loss of his bones. Still there was something to being around when things like this happened because it was better to know more about what was going on rather than less.

Professor Dumbledore looked in Harry's direction, his eyes losing his signature twinkle at the thoughts of perhaps having to close the school. It was not the first time that this has happened in his tenure as a teacher of this school, but this was the first time that he was responsible for all the students.

He was having an internal debate about what his future course of action should be. Suddenly he was distracted from his thoughts by the other Professors around him and then he let himself be persuaded to let things be for the time being.

"We'll wait and see," he said calmly, as they walked out of the infirmary. "The mandrakes are growing well and we'll have to change the curfew hours for a while, but I believe that it will all work out in the end."

Harry rolled his eyes and knew that something was going on. He also knew that the Headmaster had an idea of what it could be. It was obvious that the old man wasn't 100 percent certain about how, why or more importantly who was petrifying people around the school. He removed his glasses and tried to rest for the remainder of the night. He had managed to fall asleep, but his arm was giving a twinge now and again that was unpredictable and not helping to rest.

He sat up and then decided to fold over some of the blankets onto the floor, while wrapping the rest around him to keep the heat in. He then settled into a meditative position that was more comfortable than lying down. It would allow him to relax more so than sleeping in the bed. It was the only way that he would get a full night's rest in so short a time.


Fuzzy Interlude in Autumn

Severus was walking in the Forbidden Forrest with Hagrid by his side. They were having a casual conversation about the animals and plants in the forest. Hagrid was telling the potions professor about some of the animals that he had seen in the forest, as well as the panel that he was learning from, in his own Arca.

"I don' rightly know tha' the panel works for me, but at least I'm learnin' abou' the smaller animals, even if'n they're more plain an' less innerestin' than some o' the others," the large man told his companion.

Severus chuckled and said, "Hagrid the more interesting animals that you like are large and scary to an average child." He was laughing softly while he was talking. "I believe that is why your size is reduced for that particular panel. Harry was very insightful in providing you with that option. Do you not think so?"

Hagrid was sort of blushing sheepishly and chuckling too. "Yah, I do. It's just that it seems ta get pointed out often when I'm in other places, but at least the magics I'm learnin' are innerestin'."

"Do you mind telling me about them?"

"Not at all," Hagrid said, placing his hand on Severus' back to guide and protect him, as they made their way around a Carnivorous Tenticulus Aspen Tree. The tree never affected Hagrid, but its tentacles did try to reach out to the smaller prey in the form of the Potions Master. "Do you need some o' these vines today?"

Severus looked at the tree and said, "Maybe several of its shoots by the roots there, but no vines are needed at this time. I still have three full length ones properly preserved."

"All righ' then," Hagrid said. "I'll come back later with the tools needed. How many would ye be needin'?"

"Ten to twenty," the darker man said. "That will last me for a while and they are part of the potion that will remove the petrification from that young Gryffindor and Filch's cat."

They followed a set route that the Potions Master had planned in order to gather some of the ingredients and he had needed to map out the route first. This was to get the general direction down ahead of time, before sending Harry for his fifth year items for the boy's spring term. Harry was scheduled to take an O.W.L. test in Potions, Ancient Runes and Arithmancy during the coming summer.

Severus did notice that the larger man did tend to touch him more when it was only the two of them, but then again he privately did prefer it that way also. There was no way in this world that his budding relationship with this man would become public fodder. He still had the Dark Mark and at the moment he was under no delusion that Voldemort was completely eradicated from the Wizarding World.

"I unner'stan' Sev'rus," Hagrid said when he heard the other man sigh. "We'll be fine. We got Harry to look after. Ye'll be doin' what you need to do when the time comes, but ye be sure that ye return to the safest place possible. Ifn' things don' turn out the way we want'em to."

"Yes Hagrid," Severus said, feeling a glow from the inside at the thought that this man cared about what could possibly happen to him. He felt it too. The Dark Lord was out there… somewhere and he knew that Harry's life and his own would become more complicated because of it. He gave the bearded man a shy smile and patted him on the arm to let him know that he understood what he was implying.

They slowly made their way back to Hagrid's Hut while they gathered the leavings from various other animals within the Dark Forrest.


Duelling – Before the Yule Holidays

The events in the school were unsettling and therefore the DADA Professor took it upon himself to set up a little duelling club to help ease the minds of the poor worried students. Ron and Hermione were interested in it. Many of the other students were looking forward to learning all about the proper forms and of course, actual being able to duel.

Ron dragged Harry to the session because the red-head thought that there was a chance to see something happen to the hated Slytherin students.

Harry allowed himself to be dragged along because he admitted to having some curiosity about the duelling session and processes that the Professor would teach. Although he was quite sure that the teacher was going to mess it up anyway.

Hermione only came along to see if there was going to be a showing of spells that they had yet to learn about in the school.

The rest of the Houses were scheduled for duelling sessions. The sessions were arranged by year and as luck would have it the second years were scheduled first. This was because of the way the timetables had been set up and of course the Headmaster wanted Harry to witness a true duel before any other student.

The students were told to go to the old Duelling Hall for their sessions. They were gathered around the raised duelling platform. Professor Lockhart was posturing again for the audience. He was in a fancy duelling outfit and was swishing up and down the platform posing, mainly for the girls.

"Don't worry children," he said. "These being somewhat dark times Professor Dumbledore has graciously allowed me to give everyone a chance to experience a real Wizard's Duel. The rules of engagement are as follows: Greet your opponent in the centre, give your opponent a wand salute, turn back to back, walk tenpaces away, face your opponent and begin at the bell. These are controlled, civilized duels people. No Dark spells are permitted during a formal duel. Now the Headmaster has allowed one of your Professors to come up here and conduct a demonstration with me."

The students looked around for the other Professor. Many of the Slytherins smirked when they saw that it was their own Head of House that would be participating. The other students watched with a wary eye, hoping that there would be no cause for the man to take points.

"Fear not children," Professor Lockhart said. "You'll get you Potions Master back in one piece after I'm through with him."

Professor Snape sneered at the man all the while stepping up onto the platform and going through the motions that the other man was voicing out loud for the students. He was waiting for his opportunity to put the fop in his place and it was too easy to even give him any pleasure.

He waited until Lockhart said, "Wands at the ready."

A not even a second passed after the bell rung to begin the duel and Severus called out, "Expelliarmus."

The DADA Professor was sent flying backwards and his wand was pulled out of his hand. One of the older students, a Prefect, on referee duty called out, "Match Point to Professor Snape. Opponent successfully disarmed. Duel concluded."

Everyone ignored Professor Lockhart's comment about how he 'meant to do that' and looked on to what the other professor was going to do. "If I may make a suggestion," Snape told the other man as he handed him his wand. "Perhaps the students should be practicing duels rather than us merely demonstrating how to duel."

"Yes well," the other man hemmed and hawed for a moment. "An excellent idea sir," he said looking over the students to choose the next opponents. He said, "Weasley, Potter up you go."

"Perhaps not," the Potions Master said stopping the boys from even getting a toe onto the platform. "Mr. Weasley's wand is damaged and not completely reliable at this point in time. Might I suggest another student, perhaps someone from my own House, Mr. Malfoy, get up here."

He didn't let the other man say another word and gestured for the blond boy to get up on the duelling platform. The two boys looked at one another and Harry was wondering just what he would need to do in order to keep back his skills to match that of the other boy.

"Face one another," Professor Lockhart coached.

Malfoy sneered at the Boy-Who-Live, initiating the wand salute and saying, "Scared Potter".

"You wish," Harry said finishing the wand salute.

"Turn and walk ten paces," the DADA Professor said. "Wait for the bell…"

However since one of the duellists was a Slytherin he didn't wait for the bell and he fired off his first spell before the bell finished ringing. Harry was ready for it and stepped to one side, letting the spell go past him. He called out his own spell, "Rictusempra", which Malfoy to flip over and land down hard on his backside from the force of the spell even though it was just a tickling charm.

It was kind of humiliating, but that just pissed him off even more. He stood back up with the aid of his Head of House. He positioned himself to cast another spell. It was one that he was sure was going to cause panic. His wand movements were precise, as he called out, "Serpensortia."

A cobra came out from the end of his wand. Harry immediately recognized a similar species, but still shouted out, "NOBODY MOVE, NOBODY MAKE A SOUND. EVERYONE KEEP ABSOLUTELY STILL."

He moved forward and began to hiss quickly at the snake, (…Easy there. You don't want to hurt the students. You do want to live don't you…)

However Professor Lockhart thinking that he knew best cast a spell that just agitated it some more.

(…Called forth into this cold place...) The snake hissed in anger and pain. (…Attacked by stinging fire. Someone has to pay, they will pay…)

Harry stepped forward more quickly to draw the snake's attention. (…You don't want to do that. You must decide quickly whether you want to live or die because there are a couple of nesters here that will kill you if you harm these nestlings. I can get you out of here and I can send you someplace safe…)

The cobra started to slither towards Harry. (…Your word speaker, you promise…)

(…Yes…) Harry said, pulling out the Snake-Wrangling Sack. (…In here, you will be safe. It will put you to sleep for a bit and then next time I pull you out we will discuss where you would like to go. Please decide quickly…)

Panic or fear makes people do stupid things. Justin Finch-Fletchley gasped and stepped backwards in his fear despite Harry's warning to have nobody move. It drew the snake's attention and it was rising up to aim, but Harry had to stop it.

(…Don't hurt the nestling or I will be unable to help you…)

The snake turned to Harry and hissed. (…The fear smells delicious, sweet and tart, like salt in the air around a fig tree…) It said flicking its tongue out to taste it. (…Are you sure?…)

(…You attack, I can't help you…) Harry hissed. (…The biggers will kill you for harming a nestling even if the nestling was being stupid and ignoring my advice…)

(…Nestlings do that, but you seem to be smarter than most nestling, plus you speak. Very well then, hold that open a bit more…) The cobra agreed quickly and made up its mind. It slithered into the sack before Professor Snape could banish it with a spell. He was close, but Harry was faster. The boy tied the sack and placed it back in his pocket.

Justin looked up in his shock, while everyone around was whispering. He said, "What do you think you are playing at?"

Harry cocked his head to one side, looked the boy in the eye and said, "Are you deaf or are you stupid? I told you and everyone else in this room not to move and what do you do? You moved, causing the snake's attention to be diverted to you. Are you an IDIOT or WHAT?"

"Now see here," Justin said. "You have no right…"

"That was a Black Banded Egyptian Spitting Cobra (i), you fool," Harry said putting the emphasis on the word, spitting. "I've studied snakes and that particular species could have literally spit venom in your face. It could have irreparably damaged your eyes or worse killed you before anyone could have done anything to help you. I told everyone in the room not to move and I'm quite sure that I was speaking the Queen's English before I started speaking directly to the snake."

He stepped down from the platform and noticed that all of the students were trying to keep a set distance away from him. 'Well that's new,' he thought. 'They're acting like they're afraid of me. Oh, well at least I won't have to put up with anyone wanting to fawn over a celebrity for a while.'

He was about to leave the room when Professor Snape called out to him, even though Ron and Hermione were tugging on his arms to get him away from everyone. "Mr. Potter," he had to ask in sneering tone. "What are you planning to do with that snake?"

"I was planning to go to Hagrid to have him help me gather the spit, sir," Harry said. "I was also going to have him show me how to milk the venom from the snake's fangs as well. It's a difficult species to find outside of Egypt and these ingredients would be valuable in potions. It's best to gather them before I let it go home."

"Very commendable," Professor Snape said. He looked around at the confusion in the room and noticed that the DADA Professor was just standing there at a loss for words. "It seems as though our duelling session is at an end. Everyone return to your Houses. Potter, you will follow me. We'll get the jars necessary to contain the spit. I'll show you how to extract the venom. There is no need to step out in the inclement weather and bother Hagrid for that."

"Harry," Ron hissed, not liking the looks coming from the other students and not wanting Harry to be taken away by the Head of Slytherin House. "We need to go now. Don't go with him," he said quietly.

"I'm sorry sir," Hermione said. "Harry needs to return to his House to do his homework. We've delayed it long enough. Come on Harry."

Harry twisted away from the two Gryffindors and said with a confused frown, "Unhand me. I don't have to go anywhere with the two of you and I don't know where you're getting your information about my homework, Hermione, but I'll thank you to butt out of my business." He succeeded in pulling away from their grasping hands and said, "I'll speak to the two of you later."

He walked towards the waiting Potions Master and quickly followed the man out of the Duelling Hall. The room was bursting with whispers about the new skill that the Boy-Who-Lived had just displayed.

Ron and Hermione were listening to the worst of it. They were also embarrassed that Harry hadn't taken their advice to leave the Hall before this all happened. They began to walk to their common room with the other Gryffindors, just as the other Houses began to leave.

Meanwhile Harry and Professor Snape were headed down to the potions classroom. "That wasn't very wise Mr. Potter."

"What wasn't wise, sir," Harry asked.

"Ignoring your friends' request to leave quickly," the man said. "Displaying such a talent in the Duelling Hall in front of all the other students, what were you thinking? Mouthing off to a student in this school, especially a muggle-born student like that Hufflepuff."

"I have nothing to hide, sir," Harry said. "There is nothing wrong with talking to snakes, as long as the snakes can remain calm. This one is wilder than any other I've met, but that's partially due to the spell Professor Lockhart cast on it. He said it was like 'stinging fire', the poor thing."

Professor Snape paused for a moment and the continued heading towards his regular classroom. "How long have you had this particular skill?"

"All my life," Harry said. "Why do you ask?"

They arrived in the classroom. They walked towards the lab section of the class. Snape pulled out several jars. "This one will hold the venom that the snake wants to spit. This one will be used for milking the venom from its fangs."

They put on special thick gloves and Snape watched Harry handle the snake. "It's in stasis for the moment, but it's still agitated and ready to spit," the second year Gryffindor explained. He positioned the head of the snake and used a spell to pry the snake's mouth open around the jar that will accept the spraying spit. The jar had a cloth over the opening. It was a special cloth that would allow the spit to only go one way and not splash back out. "Let me coax the snake, sir."

(...Wake up...) He hissed to the cobra. (...Please wake up, you're attached to a jar that will collect your spit, feel free to attack the jar in front of you...) The cobra rose from its stasis state in a bit of a panic and it attacked the jar as requested. Good thing that Harry was wearing the special gloves because of the way the venom was spat it splashed a bit on the surface area of the table too. (...Easy there, are you awake now?...)

(...Yes...) The snake replied. (...I didn't harm anyone, did I?...)

(...No...) Harry said. (...We were prepared for your reaction and collected the venom safely. My Professor would like to know if he can milk the venom from your fangs. He is a Potions Master...)


(...Potions are mainly curative liquids made from various things, like your venom...) Harry explained as simply as he could. He hoped that the snake understood what he meant by curative.

(...I understand. Of course he may have the venom from my fangs...) The cobra replied. (...It doesn't take that long for the venom to come back anyway...)

(...Thank you...) Harry said. He turned to his Professor and said, "He agrees to let you have the venom from his fangs."

Professor Snape had been watching the exchange for a while now and he asked his student, wondering, "Where does he want to go after this?"

"I'll ask," Harry replied. (...Do you wish to go home?...)

(...I don't have one...) The snake replied. (...You know I don't recall hatching or hunting ever. How is that possible?...)

"He doesn't remember hatching or hunting," Harry told his teacher. "Is that something to do with the spell that Malfoy cast?"

Professor Snape had to pause and think about that one. "He used Serpensortia, which means that technically he is conjuring a snake and not calling forth one. It must be supposed that this snake is not entirely alive by natural means and therefore as a magically created entity that would have no memories of actually living."

Harry related this information to the snake who was noticeably upset because it felt that it was alive and should have the right to continue living. (...I want to live, but because I don't have any memory I don't know where to live...)

(...Easy there...) Harry said calming it down. (...We'll figure something out. A conjuration is based on a particular idea, image or existing knowledge. You look like a Black Banded Egyptian Cobra, but you also have the Spitting ability of another Egyptian cobra species and that is what I called you. There are a couple of ways to figure out your nature, but be easy we'll find you a good home of your choice...)

The cobra coiled around Harry's arm and stayed there for the time being. (... Ask your teacher...)

"Sir," Harry said. "Are there tests that you can conduct in order to find out the actual kind of snake that he is or maybe you could ask Malfoy what snake he was thinking about, when he did the conjuration?"

"That is a good idea," Severus said. "Perhaps in the meantime he would like to room with me or Hagrid until we can find a proper place for him."

The snake agreed to stay in the dungeons with the Potions Master for the time being. It even agreed to being milked on a weekly basis. Hopefully it wouldn't take too long to convince his young Slytherin to hand over the specific snake information that the boy had in his mind during the duel.

"Now young man," his Professor began, as tea was served in his secure private office. "How long have you been able to speak to snakes?"

"All my life," Harry said. "Surely you've seen Tertia, she's my familiar and is often free to roam around the house, haven't you?"

"I have seen a Coral Runespoor around your home, but I hesitated to mention it because I thought she was a gift from Hagrid," Severus confirmed, he called a house-elf to bring them some tea. "You've always been able to speak to her?"

"Yep," Harry said. "I did get her as a gift."

Severus nodded and said, "From Hagrid."

"No," Harry said. "I got her from my goblin estate manager and a friend of his."

The Professor was surprised at that, but the boy then explained what had happened and how he had received a packet of books from them, plus his little Tertia. "They claimed that it was a gift to me because I entrusted them with the secret of being a Parseltongue," he said. "They were happy to look for a familiar and they received the authorization from Hagrid to seek something one for me. I don't know that I'd ever want to go through the process that you went through for yours."

The Potions Professor agreed that it was not everyone that would be willing to go through that process, but he was very happy with his shadow phoenix. "It's true that not everyone would have the patience for such a venture," Severus told the Boy-Who-Lived. "However I'm content with my Nerosku (ii) and I wouldn't trade him for all the familiars in the world."

"Luckily the only thing that you needed to do was record him as a magical familiar with the goblins of Gringotts," Harry said. "All familiars are technically seen as possessions so that they can bypass that magical creature regulation. The ministry should never have instituted that law because it's so stupid. Familiars are linked the magic of a being and are not feral creatures or objects to be owned."

"That certainly is true, but I believe the law came about when the witch or wizard passed away," Severus tried to explain. "There are records of recorded familiars that went feral and attacked any new owner, which is why that law came into effect."

Harry snorted and said, "That's because a familiar is supposed to choose the wizard not the other way around. Yours will likely seek out freedom when you pass away, but one like mine may have to be passed on to a new owner, unless she passes away before I do."

Severus sipped his tea and listened to the boy rant a bit and then Harry went off onto another tangent of thought as this subject seemed to link a few others. The Potions Professor was very tolerant of this because sometimes the boy had ideas pop up on occasion that helped him re-focus his research into possibly other areas or tangents.

This time however it was Harry who finished his rant without prompting. He asked his Professor, "You're still coming for the Yule Holidays this year, aren't you?"

"Yes," Severus told him. "It will be like the last year. I will arrive on the twenty-fifth in the afternoon after have done my mandatory obligation to my godson's family. I will have to leave on the thirtieth this year because of the mandrakes and a few other potions that I need to prepare for the infirmary."

Harry nodded and said, "I'm looking forward to it. We'll wait for you before we open our presents. Oh, did you want to go shopping again on the twenty-sixth?"

"Yes, actually," Severus said. "We'll plan it well, but could you look into the locations of the stores prior to leaving this time. I don't really want to spend that whole day shopping, so I've made a list of places that I'm interested in visiting."

He handed the list and Harry looked it over briefly, nodding at the contents. He tucked it away safely and said, "We'll be waiting for you."


It was only a day later, after the revelation of Harry's new gift, that the body of Justin Finch-Fletchley and the floating form of Nearly Headless Nick was found. Every student that had been in the Duelling Hall had a chance to tell their own version of the story.

Many refused to acknowledge the fact that Harry had warned them not to move. The stories got wilder and wilder. Soon it was circulated that Harry had set up the attack and that he was actually the Heir to Slytherin due to his ability alone.

During this time Dumbledore was keeping a watchful eye out for the Boy-Who-Lived and wondered whether he should summon the youth to discuss this situation. 'Perhaps in the new year when things have settled down for a bit,' he thought. 'It won't do to call for him just before the Yule Holidays, as Minerva has mentioned that Harry will not be staying behind this year either.'


Harry was excited to be leaving the school and its gloomy atmosphere for a while. Everyone staring at him and thinking that he was the one to attack Finch-Fletchley and he complained about it to Ron and Hermione, "It's stupid to think that I would willingly do anything like that."

"Well," Hermione began. "You haven't been very nice since the Duelling Hall incident."

"What were they to think?" Ron asked. "You spoke Parseltongue and it sounded like you were egging the snake to attack."

"You both know that I spoke in English telling everyone not to move," Harry said. "It doesn't matter if Finch-Fletchley was so afraid that he let his fear rule him. He moved and drew the snake's attention to him. If I was really egging the snake on, then I wouldn't have made a sound about any of it."

"Really Harry," Hermione said. "You're the Boy-Who-Lived. How do you think it looks when you do something that only You-Know-Who can do."

"You know what Hermione," Harry said. "I don't know who you're talking about. I can only assume that you mean Voldemort and not Mr. Filch or Malfoy over there. However I'm not going to spend the rest of my life assuming anything about who're you're referring to, so let's be clear about this. The name of the Git that has been terrorizing the Wizarding World is Voldemort, say his name or don't talk to me about him at all."

The poor girl felt affronted, but in the end she took her own advice about the fear of a name increasing the fear itself. She saw that Harry was serious about this and it did make sense. She could be referring to anyone. Even Ron got a strange look in his eye when Harry mentioned not knowing who he was talking about. It was pretty silly to continue talking about knowing someone when the 'someone' they were referring to could be completely different.

"Very well," Hermione said. "But you should still be careful about the magical gifts that you chose to display."

"I wasn't displaying anything," Harry said. "I spoke to the snake in order to prevent anyone from coming to harm. If I was someone into displaying my own abilities, you'd both have known that I could speak to snakes long before that Duelling Hall Incident, as you call it. Now if you'll both excuse me, I'm going to go pack for the holidays."

The other two realized that Harry was right. If he had wanted them to know about him being able to speak to snakes, then he would have told them about it. As it was, it was a complete surprise to them that he never felt that he had to tell them about this skill. This caused them to wonder what else he could be hiding from them.



(...i...) Black Banded Egyptian Spitting Cobra – I made it up from a combination of an Egyptian Spitting Cobra and the Black Banded Cobra. The black banded cobra was cuter, but the spitting factor was more interesting for a duel of magic.

Black Banded Cobra – see my profile for a photo (found on some website that I can no longer remember where, but there is a copyright on this photo, so obviously it's not mine.)

"Isn't he cute?"

(...ii...) Nerosku – mix of Italian and Swedish for the name of Severus' shadow phoenix. (used worldlingo dot com for translation) Nero is "Black" in Italian. Skugga is "Shadow" in Swedish, not truly original for the name, but I liked the mix. Nerosku sounds like it came from another language all on its own.

Author's Note: I've hit a minor snag on at this point and have been trying at different times to get the Holiday season done. I've already got a pretty good idea on how to end this story, I'm just stuck in the middle so to speak. This will take some time, but this was posted for those that wished to see a bit more. At least it's not a cliff hanger!