A/N: First, love to my beta Visitkarte.
And yourselves, dear readers.
Since so many of these one shots hinge on (nonromantic) love, I wanted to do something really challenging that dealt with platonic love. Trying to write like a snake is, in fact, a challenge. I've anthropomorphized a fair amount. Also, the Parseltongue is slightly different snake to human than it is human to human, because I don't think snakes would have a concept of selfhood like humans do.
I got a few basic facts about snakes from a website; any errors are my own.
The title is a reference to Andrew Marvell's 'To His Coy Mistress'.
Master has found the Boy. Nagini is pleased. Nagini wants Master to kill the Boy. Then Nagini will feed. The Boy smells better than the Rat-man, the one they call Pee/teer or Pett/eee/groo. Pett/ee/groo smells bad. Leathery and old and stale, like a house elf. House elves taste as nasty as they smell. The Boy smells good; young and tender and meaty. He will make an excellent meal.
As the Boy sleeps Nagini climbs on the bed. The blankets are thick and soft. The Boy is lying face up, chest moving like a little engine. Breath like a warm cloud, raspy in the stillness, smelling of illness. Sick from…Before. Nagini watches the Boy's face a few moments, tongue darting and retracting. The Boy's skin tastes like salt. Sighing now. Nagini turns and slithers away, no louder than the Boy's breath. She is deep in thought.
After a Time:
Master is punishing the Boy again. Such a naughty Boy, always defying and fighting and disobeying. Master is talking but Nagini understands nothing. Such an ugly sound, human speech. When Master takes the Boy through the Floo, Nagini comes too.
Master is gentle, holding the Boy on the bed. The Boy is making some kind of noise, but Nagini has only the faintest sense of it, having no ears. The smells are stronger and easier to parse; sadness and fear from the Boy, triumph from Master. Catching a juicy baby rabbit after careful stalking might produce such a smell as Master has.
Master is swaying. Nagini approves. Younglings need a certain kind of handling, and this is an excellent start. The Boy is making eye water very hard. The smell is overlaying the cool silk of Master's robes. Master sways the Boy until the sleep smell blooms. Nagini wishes to help. The bedclothes rustle as Master nests the Boy under them. Nagini climbs under and carefully coils at the Boy's stomach.
Nagini wonders how a creature that makes such an awful fuss can be so…soft in this position. The Boy is vulnerable, scared, radiating grief and terror. It would be easy to hurt the Boy, but instead of fighting or running, the Boy curls into the coiling snake. Resentment of a meal denied drains away, replaced by a curious warmth. Ridiculous creatures, humans. Hideous, weak, helpless as newborn young.
Master is leaving. Nagini will follow soon, but first the Boy must be seen to. The sleep smell is very strong. Nagini coils tighter, to make the Boy feel safe enough to sleep.
" Hush, Young Master. Nagini is here, and Master is here. Master and Nagini will take good care of Young Master. Young Master is safe and warm. Safe and warm. Sleep now, sleep where it's safe and warm."
The Boy--the Young Master-- finally lets go. This time the breath is sweet, no smell of anything. Nagini stays this time-- Young Master's silly human arms are tangled in her coils. It's warm under the covers. She sleeps.
There's a celebration going on. Nagini is hiding in the library. This many humans make her feel nervous. Such edgy creatures, humans. Master has explained that Young Master is taking a mate. The mate is Pan/see. Pan/see is afraid of Nagini. Nagini thinks Pan/see is an idiot, and not worthy of Young Master, who is funny and smart. Pan/see is neither funny or smart.
The door opens. Nagini slithers deeper under the table. The figure kneels. "Nagini? Where are you?"
"Young Master, Nagini is here."
Young Master bends and scoops Nagini up. Nagini snuggles into his chest. Young Master stands still, breathing deeply. " Young Master ought to go out. Master will scold."
"I just need a moment. It's…hard. Ginny is here and it's…really hard."
Nagini feels sympathy pinch her heart. Ginn/ee is Young Master's old brood mate. He loves Gin/ee but Young Master must mate the other one, the stupid one. "Master knows what is best for Young Master. Young Master must be strong."
Young Master sniffles. " I know. Best get back." He gives Nagini a final squeeze and sets her back in place. "Young Master?"
"I am glad I did not eat you."
Young Master bursts out laughing. "Brilliant, Nagini. I love you, too."
Nagini ponders this a very long time.
Young Master picks Nagini up. Pan/see is holding a little bundle. A little hand pokes up from the bundle and waves. Young Master lays Nagini carefully on the bed, and Nagini slithers up and slowly presses close to the bundle.
Human young are even uglier than adults, thinks Nagini, looking at the red, wrinkled, foul smelling creature in Pan/see's arms. Nagini's tongue flicks out and lightly traces the youngling's cheek. Soft, so soft. And sweet, sweeter than anything Nagini has ever experienced.
The eyes are opening. The baby regards Nagini with faint surprise. "Hello, little Master." Little Master's plump cheeks split in one of those happy grimaces humans make. It's actually sort of…well, not cute. But cuter than Nagini would like to think.
Pan/see is making a whiny, irritating noise. Young Master hushes her with a hand wave and takes the youngling from the woman. "Would you like to hold Jamie, Nagini?"
Nagini coils tightly as Young Master gently releases the blanketed youngling. The Little Master relaxes at once, cooing. Nagini sways just a little, exactly like Young Master had liked. " Hush, Little Master. Go to sleep. Good boy, go to sleep."
The baby stops moving, grows heavy. The woman is making very loud voice noises. Young Master hisses with disgust. "Pansy thinks you've killed Jamie. Stupid bitch. Sorry, Nagini."
Pan/see glares nastily. Nagini obliges with a ferocious snap and an equally horrible stare. Pan/see gesticulates at Young Master furiously. "Have a drink with me, Nagini?"
They go to the study. Young Master has fire whiskey, Nagini water. Nagini can still smell the baby's sweet, pure scent. Little Master is wonderful, as perfect as a human can hope to be.
Nagini thinks about Young Master's earlier life. The details had never seemed relevant before now. "Where are Young Master's mother and father?"
Young Master stiffens. "Dead."
Nagini subtly arranged her coils about Young Master. " Nagini is sorry, Young Master."
"Thank you, Nagini."
Nagini knows just the thing to make Young Master feel better. "They must have loved Young Master very much." Humans adore this sort of sentimental thing.
A drop of moisture hits Nagini's head. Young Master doesn't make eye water aloud anymore. Instead, Nagini feels the shaking deep within the coils. "Hush, Young Master. Hush, no eye water. Nothing will hurt Young Master while Nagini is here."
It takes a long time for the eye water to stop.
Bell/ah is dead. Young Master asked Master if Nagini could come to stay because Pan/see is away with the younglings. Young Master is drinking fire whiskey again. It smells bad. Nagini is curled up, head on tail coil.
"Young Master is quiet. Thinking?"
"You could say that."
"Yes. No. Ah, God, Nagini, where does time go?"
Time being a rather sketchy concept for reptiles, Nagini frowns slightly . "Young Master is not well."
Young Master clutches the goblet in his hand. " I remember that day at the Ministry. I should have known better… they tried to warn me. Snape tried…then it was too late. He laughed as she killed him. Damn her eyes!"
Nagini has heard about that day . " This was when Young Master and his brood mates fought Bell/ah and Loo/sss, yes?"
Harry nodded. " I thought my godfather was in danger, you see."
Nagini hadn't the foggiest what that last meant. "Young Master should not have fought his elders."
"Things were different then. We were so young…"
Nagini shook her head firmly. " When Nagini met Young Master, he was in poor condition. Very thin, sleeping all the time. He was rude to Master, too, very naughty of him. It was lucky for Young
Master that Master and Nagini could take care of him and help him learn the right way to behave."
Young Master laughs. "Yes. I was the lucky one, wasn't I? The Golden Boy, the Savior of the Wizarding World."
Nagini makes a sound to indicate her annoyance. "It was long ago, Young Master. Do not waste energy thinking on what might have been."
Young Master doesn't seem to hear. " Poor Hermione, stuck with the Lestranges and then the Ferret. I hated her for giving in. Hated her! After everything that happened…how could I have hated
her? She's all that left of us now. Ginny's gone, married to that repulsive toe rag…Ron's dead…Neville's…I don't know. But Hermione… she cried at the funeral just as though Bellatrix were her…how
could she, Nagini?"
Nagini hasn't the foggiest whom Young Master is talking about. She opts to say nothing, knowing Young Master will talk until the drink brings sweet sleep.
"Bell/ah hurt Young Master?"
"Yes. I hated that woman. Hated her."
"She will not bother Young Master anymore."
"I know. I just wish…" Young Master abruptly lies down on the divan and Nagini quickly takes the old place up.
"Hush, Young Master."
It would never occur to Nagini to tell about the love feeling inside that seems to be for Young Master. Foolish human sentimentality. Completely illogical, absurd…but oddly warming all the same.