Chapter 7: Parseltongue

Harry wasn't prepared for the reaction that his new pets garnered from the rest of the school. The Slytherins were ecstatic many of them leaning in to get a better look at the newly hatched snakes twining around Harry and Draco. The rest of the school had an entirely different reaction. It was only now as Harry sat in the safety of his dorm room that he could really get a grasp on everything that had happened at dinner and after.

The great hall had exploded in a multitude of reactions to the presence of the snakes. The other Slytherins had formed a solid wall around the two boys, while the rest of the students stampeded toward the door. Harry had sat completely dumbfounded as screams built around him from the other students. He hissed reassuringly at the baby creatures as they reacted badly to the rise in sound and the waves of fear rolling off of his classmates. The snakes burrowed under his and Draco's robes, crying out in fear themselves.

"What's wrong with everybody?" Harry leaned over and shouted into Draco's ear.

"Snakes are feared in wizarding world" Draco paused, "Well, at least in Britain." He amended, "It has to do with the Dark Lord."

"I can get being afraid, but this is panic!" Harry looked around in wonder. He wasn't the only one; while those born in the wizarding world were funneling out of the hall, the muggle born were sitting and looking bemused at their classmate's reaction. Some muggles were afraid of snakes, but mostly people tolerated them.

"The result of the last war," One of the older students leaned close to Harry, wand peeking out from under her sleeve. "Unmitigated panic at anything that might mean the Dark Lord is returning."

"They think I'm going to become the Dark Lord?" Harry stared in disbelief as the bottleneck finally cleared and most of the students managed to flee the hall. Dessert hadn't even been served yet.

"Probably most of them." Theo commented, scanning the hall with watchful eyes.

"That is just crazy!" Harry exclaimed as he stroked his hands up the body of the snake hidden beneath his robe, he could see Draco doing the same.

"What is the meaning of this?" A sharp voice cut through the babble of voices still echoing through the great hall. McGonagall's grey haired form swept through the crowd of Slytherins eyes sweeping over the group as if looking for an infraction.

"Now, now my dear head mistress; I'm sure this is nothing that can't be easily explained." Dumbledore walked in behind her, his star spangled robes twinkled in the candle light. His eyes sparkled to match, hands tucked into the sleeves of his robe to present the most jovial image possible. Harry wasn't fooled; if nothing else Dumbledore's wand might be tucked up his sleeve and in easy reach. "What has happened here my dear boy?"

Harry looked behind the Headmaster at his head of house whom had glided into place at Dumbledore's shoulder. He nodded his head once in encouragement and then waited patiently with the rest of the audience for Harry's answer.

"My pets hatched Professor." Harry stated motioning to the box with his free hand, "and when everyone saw what my pets were they just freaked out and ran." Harry watched as the adult's eyes drifted over the sand covered box and took note of the speckled shells shattered on the sand.

"And what kind of pets were these Harry?" McGonagall questioned her voice soft and calm.

"A pair of baby snakes Professor."

"And just where are these snakes now Harry?" Dumbledore asked scanning for the apparently absent creatures. Harry reached up and pressed his sleeve gently down around his upper arm until the outline of the coiled serpent was defined against the cloth.

"Right here. I think they both got a little scared by all of the commotion." Harry looked over at Draco who was copying Harry's movements, showing off the other snake tucked under his sleeve. "I think I might be able to coax them out with the promise of food if you want?" Harry looked at the faces staring at him, luckily only a few were pinched with worry; it seemed that most of his classmates were excited by the prospect of seeing the animals again.

"Yes Harry, that would be most helpful." Dumbledore replied hands shifting in his sleeves.

Harry eyed the crowd before bending over his arm and lifting the edge of the sleeve. He didn't want to force the serpent out of its hiding place as that just might scare it more, and Harry wanted the little creatures trust, but he might be able to talk it out.

"Come on out little one, no need to be afraid anymore." There was a collective indrawn breath as Harry spoke to the hidden snake, but Harry paid it no mind. "I promise no one out here is going to hurt you." He felt the form wrapped around his bicep shift and a quite hiss that conveyed worry and fear shivered on the air, but no actual words were forth coming. Harry reached up and stroked the snake through the fabric of his robe before trying again. "There are still other people here but they won't be loud or try to hurt you…" Harry glanced at the platters on the table before spying one full of strips of chicken, "and there is food here for you." Harry received a flash of hunger from the serpent and felt the snake's interest peak. "Yes, there is food." The snake began to slither down his arm and Harry shivered a little at the feel; across from him Draco let out a small laugh and then flushed when everyone stared at him.

"Sorry, it tickles." Draco said and Harry stared as the red snake on Draco's arm poked its head out of his sleeve just a few seconds before a small triangular silver head poked out from underneath his own cuff. The red snake on Draco's hand lifted its head and hissed, "Food?" Harry floundered for a moment at hearing words from them so soon; all the snakes he had met before had felt older than these two.

"Yes here." Harry reached out and placed a few pieces of the chicken on Draco's plate before adding some to his own. He tore the strips into small pieces and then presented one to the silver snake. It sniffed at it for a moment before opening its mouth to reveal a full set of small sharp teeth that ripped off a small hunk of chicken and then swallowed it whole. Across the table the red snake was imitating its companion but with smaller almost dainty bites. Harry kept up a steady supply of food but looked up at the Professors as he lured the snake completely out in the open.

Dumbledore and the other teachers gathered around had leaned in to see the small snakes but where now in quite conference at the back of the group. And though his full attention was on the conversation Harry noticed that Dumbledore had placed himself so that he could see both Draco and Harry without having to spare much of his attention. Harry shrugged to himself and turned back to the snakes and his friends, the Professors would talk to them when they were ready. Theo, Draco, Blaise, Pansy and the other gathered close and watched as the two baby hatchlings gorged themselves on chicken, beef, and surprisingly enough some pieces of greenery that Harry didn't recognize. By the time they were finished and curled up asleep on Harry and Draco's wrists their bellies had expanded to twice their original size.

"You will be happy to know Harry that you will be allowed to keep your pets." Dumbledore stated grandly. "There were some who were against it, but as it has been pointed out to us the school charter allows for exceptions in the pet rule when the student has certain… affinity for the animal in their keeping. And as you can clearly speak parseltongue, you fall under this category."

"Parseltongue?" Harry looked at the faces around him, "I'm not speaking English?"

"No Harry you're not." Dumbledore replied calmly while others looked away as if embarrassed. "You should have your friends explain it to you while you finish dinner." He smiled around the table as if he was thrilled with all the students there. "But we also have a problem here my boy." Harry grit his teeth slightly at the name, no matter how differently it was said he still did not like being called boy. "We don't know if your snakes are poisonous or not and we need to make sure that they don't have a chance to harm any of the students here. They are going to have to either stay with you at all times or be caged when they're not with you until we can discover if they are harmful or not." Here he paused and looked over the snakes sleepily hissing in their dreams. "I take it you didn't bring any sort of habitat for them to live in with you?" When Harry shook his head sheepishly Dumbledore nodded as if this was a something he knew already. "Meet me in my office tomorrow after lunch and we'll have a Professor escort you down to Hogsmede so that you can pick up anything that you need."

"Can Draco come too? It looks like the other snake likes him and I'd feel more comfortable if he were along." Harry put on his most innocent and vulnerable face and hoped that the Headmaster wouldn't see through it.

"Yes I don't see why that would be a problem, he is more than welcome to come along." Dumbledore stated after a slight pause. "But until we can find out if these snakes are safe I'm going to have to put a proximity ward on them. They are not allowed to get more than a few feet from you and if they try they won't be able to move past a certain point. When you get your supplies tomorrow I'll have the Professor that accompanies you place a more complex spell on you so that they can be either with you or within a certain distance of the tank. When we learn more about them we can see about taking the proximity wards off." Dumbledore stated and though Harry wanted to object he could see the reasons behind what the Headmaster had to do and agreed. Dumbledore beamed at them as if they had passed some unspoken test with flying colors before pulling out his wand and waving it over the snakes and then attaching the spell to Harry with a firm thrust of his wand in the dark haired boy's direction. "Now, please everyone should finish their dinner while I go calm the rest of the school down. Severus and Flitwick if you would be so kind as to stay until the students are finished." Both Professors nodded in agreement but Severus' dark eyes tracked the Headmasters movements as he left the hall. He then stared for a few minutes at Draco and Harry before sweeping back to the head table, settling with his cup of tea and giving it a tap with his wand to reheat the now cold cup.

Harry breathed out a sigh of relief as he watched the two Professors settle and he turned back to his food. Slowly the other students wandered back to their own tables, though one skinny girl with eyes wide behind her glasses stared at him for a few minutes before smiling brightly and wandering off to the Ravenclaw table; her wispy blonde hair floating around her. Harry stared after her before being pulled back into a conversation with the other Slytherins. Before no one out of Harry's grade level had deigned to talk to him (and Harry was pretty sure most of the ones in his grade level talked to him only because Draco was his friend), but now there were seventh year prefects nudging younger students out of the way so they could say a few words to him and gawk at the sleeping snakes.

It took them a while to get through dinner with all of the disturbances but eventually they made it through even the dessert course. Harry had taken a few large pieces of chicken and wrapped them in one of the cloth napkins so that there would be food for the snakes in the middle of the night if they woke before breakfast. It was only on the way back to the dorm room with Professor Snape stalking along behind them that Harry was able to ask about parseltongue.

"It's the snake language." Blaise commented from Draco's other side, sneering at Harry's lack of knowledge. "It's what you were speaking to your snakes at dinner."

"But that was just English." Harry exclaimed looking from Draco to Theo and back, "right?"

Draco and Theo shook their heads in unison, "No Harry, parseltongue sounds nothing like English. It's full of sibilant sounds; you hiss like a snake when you speak it."

"It just sounds like English to me, even when they speak back." Harry dragged a hand through his hair, it was hanging into his eyes now, and maybe he should get a haircut in Hogsmede. "But there are lots of things I don't know about in the wizarding world; surely lots of people can do it."

Now Professor Snape spoke from where he had been silently following them.

"No Mister Potter, parseltongue is one of the most rare and most feared talents in the British wizarding world. Only those wizards and witches who are direct descendants of Slytherin are supposed to be able to speak it and the last know wizard to have the ability in Britain was the Dark Lord."

"Well bollocks." Harry cursed tugging at his hair, "no wonder everyone thinks I'm going to become the next Dark Lord."

"Language!" Draco cried his eyes round and shocked. Harry laughed at his scandalized look bumping his shoulder into his friends.

"I think if anything calls for bad language its learning that most of the school now considers me to be evil incarnate." Harry stated.

"Nothing calls for that kind of language." Draco replied sniffing and lifting his pointed nose into the air. "We are above such things."

"Sure we are Draco." Harry said rolling his eyes at his friend as they entered the common room, Professor Snape sweeping off without a word to any of them.

And now after they had gone through their nightly rituals Harry laid in his bed with his dragon curled up next to him. They were facing each other, their wrists laying next to each other so the snakes could curl up together as well. Harry reached out and stroked his other hand down Draco's arm waiting until his eyes opened to look at him.

"Thank you." Harry whispered.

"For what?" Draco asked his voice cloudy with sleep.

"For everything today, for agreeing to go with me tomorrow."

"I would never leave you alone if I could help it." Draco said tangling their fingers together. Harry smiled and closed his eyes burrowing into the warmth created by Draco and the bed around them.

Though they had eaten breakfast in the great hall with the rest of the students Draco and Harry had spent most of their time outside near the lake working on their reading for next week. Even though they were only through their first week they had reading for each class though luckily no actual assignments yet. The snakes had in fact woken during the night and they had blearily feed them the pieces of chicken before falling back to sleep. The two snakes sunned themselves on a nearby rock enjoying the heat of the dying summer day. They stayed there until lunch before heading back inside.

Now after feeding the snakes at lunch and finishing themselves they were heading for the Headmasters office in anticipation of their trip off school grounds. As they rounded a corner they could see the statue that marked the door to Dumbledore's office but they also noticed the group of Ravenclaws and Gryffindors lounging at the opening of another hallway further down the corridor. Harry flinched but Draco tugged on his hand to encourage him to continue on toward the office.

As they passed the hallway a boy about their own age wearing a Ravenclaw tie stepped to block their way. Immediately others swarmed forward to complete a half circle and cut them off.

"Should have known the Boy-Who-Lived couldn't resist the evil of Slytherin house; snakes for a snake."

"Really, is that the best you can do?" Draco arched an eyebrow and shook his head as if disappointed in a pupil. "If you're going to insult someone at least think about it for a while so that you actually have something clever to say. Though that might take a few years for some of you, but don't feel pressured, just take your time." Harry had to smother a laugh as eyes in the group narrowed at the insult; he kept alert for any break in the cohesion of the group, bullies were something he was used to dealing with.

"You better watch your mouth Malfoy, as far as I can see there's only two of you and lots of us."

"Lots? What are you to incompetent to count now?" Draco sneered, "I count eight of you but even with those odds I believe we have the advantage."

"I think you're a little too confident you condescending twat." Weasley taunted from his side of the circle.

"Oh, a word over one syllable, did you look that one up Weasel?" Draco laughed flicking his eyes toward the red head at the rejoinder. The two boys started to close with them and Harry noticed his chance. He tightened his arm around Draco's and dragged him through the gap that had opened between the Ravenclaw and his closest companion. The move was fast enough and so unexpected that they were able to break through the line and get part way down the hall before their antagonists could think to object.

"That's not going to help you any!" One of them yelled though Harry couldn't care to look back at who had spoken. But he knew from the comment they were following. As they approached the statue of the gargoyle that Dumbledore's message had told them was the guardian of his office he noticed the stone eyes flick past them. The gargoyle shivered once and then hopped off the pedestal as it sank into the floor; in the space left open Dumbledore was walking calmly out of the alcove to greet them.

"Ah boys, there you are, right on time!" He motioned them into the alcove apparently taking no notice of the pack of Ravenclaws and Gryffindors that had stopped further down the corridor. "I realized that I had forgotten to include the password for the gargoyle in my note and so came down to retrieve you. I hope you were not waiting long?"

"No Professor." They responded in unison ducking past his green robed form and onto a spiral staircase that rose on its own. They were ushered into his office and directed to seats in front of his enormous desk.

Harry was not afraid to admit that he was staring at the Headmaster's office. It was decorated unlike anything he had ever seen before. Silver instruments rested on a shelf along with a variety of books Harry couldn't see titles on. A large desk dominated most of the circular room and a stairway curved along the wall behind the desk to a balcony on the upper floor. The wall next to the staircase was covered in portraits of mostly older men, though a few women were sprinkled throughout, most of them were sleeping peacefully. As he watched though a ripple of awareness traveled through the frames and many began to awaken.

On a perch behind the desk rested the most beautiful bird Harry had ever seen. It seemed to notice his attention, removing its head from underneath a wing and catching his gaze. The bird cooed at him before lifting into the air to fly over and settle on his shoulder. Harry's breath caught in this throat as its warm weight settled next to his ear, claws very gently digging into the cloth over his shoulder. On his wrist the still unnamed silver snake hissed in pleasure and began to travel up his arm toward the source of the warmth. The bird began a soft trilling song as it sat on his shoulder and welcomed the attentions of the snake as it curled around Harry's neck to bask in the warmth.

"Wow." Draco breathed from next to Harry; he reached a tentative hand toward the bird, letting out a delighted sound as the glowing red bird allowed him to scratch at its chest. "I've never seen a phoenix up close before. He's yours I take it sir?" Draco turned his head toward the Headmaster but kept his hand on the bird, his fingers buried in the silky chest feathers. Harry reached his own hand up to scratch below Draco and the phoenix let out a trilling coo and settled in more firmly.

"Indeed his is Mister Malfoy, Fawkes has been with me for a very long time and I greatly enjoy his company. It seems as if he likes you both very much, I've seen him take to few people this easily." Dumbledore was beaming at both of them, but Harry couldn't really seem to make himself care about the Headmasters plans.

"Are we leaving for Hogsmede soon sir?" Harry asked.

"Yes Harry, we're just waiting for your escort." Dumbledore eyed the door, "and if I'm not mistaken this will be him." The door swung in and in strode Professor Snape. Harry knew the Professor didn't like to spend more time than he had to with students and so was a little apprehensive about having him as a chaperone on this trip, but he didn't look more dour than usual and Draco was smiling broadly.

"Ah Severus, so good of you to join us." Dumbledore said with a jovial smile.

"My apologies Headmaster. I ran into a group of disruptive students outside your office and had to deal with them." Severus stood to one side of the room eyeing the group before him. He eyed the phoenix on Harry's shoulder who turned to scold him gently before lifting from Harry's shoulder and flying back to his perch. In Harry's hand was one loose feather, which he quickly stuffed in his pocket, he noticed Draco doing the same and smiled at him.

"Very good Severus. I imagine that everything is in order."

"Yes Headmaster. I talked to Draco's parents last night and they have given their permission for him to leave school grounds in my company. And from what I know of Mister Potter's… guardians, I see no need to bother them with his whereabouts." Severus never looked in his direction, but Harry breathed a sigh of relief, the Dursley's didn't need to know anything about his time here, and would have just gotten mad at contact from his school.

"You are his Head of House Severus; I leave that to your discretion."

"Thank you Headmaster." Severus dipped his head in acknowledgement and turned to his students. "If you are ready we shall leave for the town. It is only a few minutes' walk so we shall not be using other means of travel." He did not wait for them turning on his heal and leaving the door open behind him as he strode down the spiral staircase. Harry and Draco hurried to catch up with him after a quick glance at the head master who ushered them on. They caught a glimpse of Professor Snape's robe as it disappeared out of the alcove and down a hallway. They caught up with him before he managed to exit the schools main doors and then had to walk quickly to keep up with his ground eating strides. Harry was panting as the passed out of the gates of Hogwarts and down a tightly packed dirt road.

Harry had no clue where they were geographically. He knew that the train had headed north out of London, but that left a lot of places they could be. He didn't trust the time they had spent on the train either as he knew that had to be magical and so could go faster or slower or move in different directions than a conventional train. So even though he was out of breath Harry made sure to glance around himself, taking in whatever he could see. It didn't help him much, he knew they weren't anywhere near Surrey as the trees and plants were completely different, and there were no mountain ranges close to London that he knew off. But at least it was pretty to look at. Summer was still holding its grip on the area but there was a hint of fall in the air, a chill that grabbed at their cloaks.

"Come on Harry." Draco tugged at his cloak as Harry began to fell behind.

"Alright, alright." Harry stopped slowing down and matched his pace to Draco's looking for a glimpse of the town they were visiting.

"Have you been to Hogsmede before?" Harry gasped out.

"No." Draco wasn't even breathing heavily. "My parents always declared that Hogsmede was only for Hogwarts students and that we could find much higher quality materials in the other wizarding shopping areas." He leaned over toward Harry. "We're not supposed to go until we're third years, but I think I can convince Uncle Sev to allow us to make at least one quick stop at another store before we go back." There was a glint in his eye that Harry was beginning to recognize and fear.

At the pace Professor Snape set they managed to make the trek to Hogsmede in about fifteen minutes. Dark squat buildings rose out of the landscape leaning together against the encroaching forest. No smoke rose from the chimneys yet and windows were thrown wide open to catch any of the chill breeze that was wafting through the town. This village was nothing like Diagon Alley; it looked like any ramshackle town found along the minor roadways that Harry had seen on his one car trip with the Dursley's. It looked so much like a muggle town that Harry would not have recognized it for a wizarding community if he had wandered into it on his own. Even the signs for the shops could have been simulated with muggle technology.

The trio swept past numerous stores with names like Zonkos, the Hogs Head, the Three Broomsticks, and Honeydukes. It was only the hand Draco had on his sleeve that kept Harry from stopping and staring into the windows of some of the stores or running head long into other shoppers. When the passed the Hogs Head, a rather grimy looking tavern, Professor Snape turned right past the bar and lead them down an alley that wove back behind the other shops. At the far end of the alley a large two story stone building squatted. The sign over the door proclaimed it to be Eeylops Animal Emporium.

"Does the same man own this shop as the one in Diagon Alley?" Harry whispered to Draco as they entered the dark musty shop. Draco, ever eager to show off his knowledge launched into an explanation.

"Hogsmede has actually been around longer than Diagon Alley. Most of the wizarding communities developed separately and it was only in the last two hundred years that the communal wizarding areas like Diagon Alley have been built. This is where Eeylops was first founded and now the family has multiple shops run by different members of the family." Draco's voice washed over Harry as he looked around the shop. At first glance the founding store of the Eeylops chain looked much like the Owl Emporium in Diagon Alley. It was dark and quite, the rustling of wings the main sound that broke the silence. Dozens of owls dozed on perches either in groups or alone and ranged in size from tiny fluff balls only as large as a mouse to majestic eagle owls who watched the group with glowing golden eyes. As his eyes adjusted though Harry began to see further into the store beyond the screen of owls that blocked the rest of the building from view.

The ground floor was divided into different environments with large isles diving each section from the others. Unlike the owls who were grouped together in one area Harry could tell that all of the other animals had been placed according to their habitat, not grouped by type. From what Harry could see at a glance each area sported many different type of animal, though no predators were present in these cages that Harry could see. From where he stood Harry noticed a desert area, a jungle area, and what he suspected was a water area; the water was contained by some force Harry couldn't see and formed a square wall of blue almost as tall as the ceiling. He walked up to the nearest display area and reached out a hand to touch the leaf of a small tree growing in the store. His hand stopped inches from the leaf and he yelped in pain, Harry had rapped his knuckles against a solid wall.

"Keeps the animals in and nosy patrons from stealing my merchandise when they think no one is looking." Harry jumped and spun in midair as a gravelly voice echoed from behind him. A wizened wizard stood not a foot from him dressed in slacks and a button down shirt with the sleeves rolled over his elbows. His skin was taunt and brown with liberal scars marking his forearms, when Harry glanced at his hands he realized the man was also missing a few fingers.

"I wasn't trying to…" Harry trailed off, his eyes skittering around looking for either Draco or Severus, but both of them had vanished into different parts of the store.

"If you weren't trying to fondle my merchandise then what are you here for?" The wizard growled his attitude a direct contrast to how stately he looked.

"I need supplies for two of these." Harry answered hurriedly pulling down the collar of his robes to show off the silver snake curled around his neck like some living piece of jewelry. The older wizard's countenance immediately softened as he reached out one long spindly finger to stroke the scales under Harry's chin. Harry held absolutely still.

"Oh he is lovely." The wizard murmured as he withdrew his hand. "I don't have much call for pet snakes now a days. They've fallen out of favor over the last few centuries." His gaze was shrewd as he looked Harry over, either not noticing or caring about the scar visible on Harry's forehead.

"I've heard that before sir, but I don't understand why. I think their brilliant." Harry stroked the snake around his neck lovingly, enjoying the feeling of the soft dry scales against his fingers.

"Hmm, well we'll see." The man turned abruptly motioning at Harry to follow along behind him. "Accessories are this way." They turned back toward the owls walking behind them and past a desk Harry had not noticed before. In the area behind the desk a series of closely spaces isles was stocked with the accessories needed to care for a variety of pets. Perches, cages, food, bedding, treats, and toys of varying shapes and sizes sat in dutiful rows waiting to be bought. The wizard led him unerringly toward the back of the shop, further and further into the stacks of merchandise. They passed a set of stairs that had a sign labeled 'Second Floor' with an arrow pointing up the steps before finally stopping at a small area tucked into the back corner of the shop. A few dusty glass aquariums sat forlornly with fake rocks, plants, and heating lamps. Treat bags so old they had started to yellow or fall apart listed on their sides and threatened to fall off the shelves. "Not much left." The man grumbled, "But everything here is on clearance." Harry just stared for a moment eyeing the merchandise doubtfully.

"Ahh Master Eeylop, you have found young Mister Potter. Good." Professor Snape strode toward them Draco pulled along in his wake.

"Yes, Mister Potter here is my first snake owner in many years." Eeylop rubbed his fingers together eagerly.

"Well Mister Potter you should choose what you need so we can be on our way. I wish to return to the school before dinner." Snape folded his arms and glared down his crooked nose. Harry glanced back and forth between the items on the shelves and both of the older wizards.

"I'm sorry." Harry said looking over at Master Eeylop. "I saw that your other items were new and in good repair, but I can't buy this merchandise for my snakes. Could we buy some of your other merchandise for now and maybe order newer merchandise from you to pick up later?" Harry tangled his hands together in his nervousness, one hand picking at the cuff of his robes.

"Good answer Mister Potter." A grin split Eeylops face and with a wave of his hand the image before Harry's eyes changed. Though the display of items was still small everything was clean and in good condition. A range of cages, many no longer looking anything like muggle aquariums took up most of the space. Different types of landscapes sat in boxes on lower shelves, the different rocks and plants that belonged with each environment were grouped together.

"Okay, that is so much better." Harry exclaimed smiling and stepping forward eagerly. He reached out to touch the tanks and stroke his finger down one of the living miniaturized plants in his excitement. Draco joined him quickly and Harry moved over to include him in their decisions. They easily spent the next hour going over the types of cases and what to put into the cages to make them as nice for the snakes as possible. Harry included Master Eeylop in the discussion, turning to ask him what he thought the snakes' natural habitat might be and what they should use in the tanks. Soon all three were involved in a virulent debate and Snape had wandered off to look at Eeylops animal displays.

The cage the boys finally decided on was actually two cages that could be fused into one and then divided again when they needed to go their separate ways over the holidays. The sides were crafted from the same spells used on the animal displays in the store; they formed a solid almost completely invisible barrier that allowed wind and light to filter through, but anything larger than a molecule could not pass through the walls. A slight shimmer where the walls were and the polished lengths of wood defined the edges of the cage. A small window cut out of the lid could be lifted to put in food or reach in for the snakes without having to lift the entire lid.

Choosing the landscape for the cage was actually really fun. An environment was chosen for the cage and the temperature, bedding, amount of sun, and humidity was programed into the tank. They tried out multiple environments because even Master Eeylop could not identify what type of snake these were. They had not enjoyed the jungle theme complaining about it feeling too wet to Harry, who had laughed and changed the environment to a desert. Both snakes had basked in the sun, but after a few minutes claimed to become too hot. But when given a generic 'back yard' theme had asked for more heat and sand. Draco had huffed and called them both spoiled. Master Eeylop had enjoyed the challenge though, placing a small pond in the middle of the tank so they could drink or bath surrounded by a warm grass environment. On both edges of the tank a desert environment was placed so that the snakes could bask in the extra warm sun or rest near the pool in a slightly cooler area. The pool was perfectly centered in the tank so when the halves were split apart each snake would have an identical environment to live in.

Then Harry and Draco were presented with images of different rocks, trees, and plants that existed in the environments they had chosen. When they touched an image it was placed in the tank and by using their wands they were able to drag the item around the container until it was placed where they wanted; they was then fixed in place so it wouldn't shift.

Harry placed a few tall leafy plants that provided shaded areas for them to curl up in on his end of the tank. One long branch stretched from the pond into the top of the desert area; a few smaller flat topped rocks provided basking areas closer to the ground. Draco had almost mirrored Harry's side of the tank, though he had an area at the back that was so thick with brush his little red beauty could easily hide inside.

The snakes were released into the mock tank and Harry grinned as they hissed their pleasure at the arrangement. Harry's silver snake began to climb one of the tall leafy plants and it began to bend in half under his weight. Harry smothered a laugh at the hiss of surprise and rescued the baby from the falling plant. He traded out two of the plants for miniaturized trees and placed the silver scaled snake onto the trunk of one of the new additions. He (Harry had decided his was a boy as the voice sounded more male to him than Draco's maroon snake) immediately climbed into the canopy and draped himself over the branches.

"Do you like it?" Harry asked of them both.

"Oh yes." Draco's female replied, basking on a desert rock near her friend.

"This feels really nice." Harry's silver snake agreed, scratching his scales against his branch.

"They like it." Harry beamed, turning to his companions. Draco's eyes had glazed over slightly and Professor Snape was staring at him, but Master Eeylop was grinning hugely.

"A parseltongue. The Boy-Who-Lived is a parseltongue."

"I assume that this will remain between us." Professor Snape stated voice calm and deadly.

"Oh yes of course!" Master Eeylop hopped in place in his excitement. "It's just very exciting that we will finally have a wizard who speaks parseltongue that cannot be painted as dark. I can't wait to see what effect he has on the magical creature community." There was a mischievous glint in the older man's eye as he gazed at Harry.

They left fairly quickly after that. Their tank was crafted from the model which blanked as soon as their product appeared on its own platform. Master Eeylop informed them that most snakes were solely carnivorous so plain meat and insects were a good place to start in figuring out what they were able to eat. Since they had eaten some vegetation without any bad effects that they should keep feeding them small amounts of different types of vegetation. The snakes seemed to know what they could eat and what they couldn't. Forcing food on them would be a bad idea, but if they gave them a large range of choices they could build a picture of what the snakes diet was, and maybe help narrow down what species of snake they were. So they bought a variety of insects and then collected the completed tank. Professor Snape shrunk the packages and handed them off to Harry and Draco.

As they were heading back towards Hogwarts they passed by Honeydukes. Draco stopped and called out to Professor Snape.

"Uncle Severus?" Snape stopped and turned toward his nephew, an eyebrow rose skeptically.

"Yes Draco?"

"Mother's birthday is in a few weeks and I won't get a chance to come back here again. I want to get Mother a set of her favorite chocolates, can we go into Honeydukes?" Even though Narcissa was a high borne witch she had developed a fondness for Honeydukes Flavor Change Truffles while at Hogwarts. And while she would never admit it, her family knew of her fondness for them and acquired them whenever they could. Severus stared hard at his nephew before nodding his head. Draco beamed at his godfather before turning and dashing toward the store. Draco clearly thought he had fooled his godfather, but Harry saw Professor Snape roll his eyes behind Draco's back and had to smother his smile at the family. Clearly the Professor cared for his nephew and would allow himself to be manipulated from time to time if it made Draco happy. Harry had to remember that trick for later.

Honeydukes was amazing, the chocolates and candies ranging from the magically mundane (ice mice) to the disgusting (cockroach clusters and blood pops?). They loaded up on anything that looked good and Draco grabbed a few boxes of the Flavor Change Truffles for his Mother and one for them to enjoy. They made their decisions quickly so that the Professor wouldn't get impatient with them and allowed him to shrink their packages when they were done. And then they were on their way back to Hogwarts, Harry absorbing everything he could about Hogsmede as he struggled to keep up with Professor Snape's long strides.

When they returned to school Professor Snape walked with them to their dorm room. The other boys fled under his penetrating gaze, but Draco and Harry felt more protected than fearful. He watched as the two boys cleared the tops of their dressers and began unloading the packages from their pockets. The two snakes watched intently from their places wrapped around Harry and Draco's necks as the dressers were pushed together and the shrunken tank was placed in the center. They stepped back from between the beds and placed the rest of their packages on Draco's bed.

Professor Snape joined the edges of the two dressers together and then expanded them so that a large platform was available. He then unshrunk the tank and the packages on Draco's bed. His eyes did not miss the fact that Harry's bed looked unslept in, but he decided to leave that issue for later. Harry was having a positive effect on his godson and he didn't want to disturb that balance so soon. The tank fit nicely on the dressers, a small amount of space left where the boys could place the store bought food and return some of the items they had removed to make room for the tank.

"Thanks Professor!" Harry said eyes alight at the demonstration of magic.

"Of course, now stand still. Finite Incantatem." Harry shivered as he felt the ward on him dissolve and then watched as with a few flicks of his wand and quiet words the Professor tied a proximity ward from the snakes to the tank and then to both Harry and Draco. This one had a larger radius worked into the spell but the magic felt less intrusive as it settled into Harry's skin. He caught Draco's shiver from the corner of his eye as the magic settled into him as well. The Professor stared for a few moments before nodding curtly and sweeping from the room. Harry glanced at his friend and Draco just grinned and shrugged his shoulders.

"That's Uncle Severus."

Harry laughed turning toward their bed his eyes gleaming at the bounty on the covers. He pulled his phoenix feather out of his robe pocket and placed it on his dresser, brushing his fingers over the soft down. He brushed his hair out of his eyes as he turned to rifled through the packages on the bed, taking out the snake food to place on the dresser.

"Your hair is getting longer." Draco said reaching out to ruffle the long strands hanging over his eyes.

"Yeah, I dunno why, it's never gotten longer than what it was when I came to school. I meant to ask about getting it cut but…" Harry shrugged and pulled his silver snake from around his neck and placed him in the cage. Draco stroked his maroon snake letting her play over his fingers for a few minutes before placing her inside as well.

"Must be the higher quality of the food." Draco declared as he placed one of the frozen insect packages in the cage and activated it. They watched as the outer paper burned away, unfreezing the crickets inside who began to chirp and jump around. The snakes zeroed in on the sounds and they were soon stalking the creatures around the cage.

"Higher quality and quantity." Harry cast a quick tempus, one of the introductory spells they were taught as electronics such as wrist watches tended to short out among so much magic. The clocks in the dorms had long since been destroyed beyond repair, so the simple charm was taught to all first years in their first lesson, no matter the class. "It's almost time for dinner." Draco rolled his eyes at his friend; it was like Harry had an expandable wizarding space in his stomach.

"Yeah okay, come on." Draco turned away from the tank and took Harry's hand. Harry grinned and followed along in the wake of his friend.