Creatures Great and Small 2
Disclaimer: This is a work of fan-fiction based on the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling. No undue claim nor material profit is intended.
Creatures Great and Small
by Andrea13 and Persephone
Tom hadn't been lying about how busy he was with studying, Quidditch, and his prefect's duties, but he managed to sneak in plenty of time for his searching. That didn't, however, leave him with a great deal of time to spend with his brother or for little things like, oh, sleep. So it took a few seconds for his brain to kick back in when Rubeus snared him on his way out of the library one night and whispered excitedly, "Aragog tol' me ter tell yeh hello."
Tom blinked a few times. "Who's Aragog?" He really thought he'd learned all the Gryffindors' names by now, in Rubeus's year at least....
Rubeus rolled his eyes good naturedly. "Tom! Th' egg!"
"Your egg told you to tell me hello?"
"No!" Rubeus was grinning at him now. "Don' yeh ever sleep anymore, Tom? No, th' egg hatched. An' it was...what we thought it was." He looked around carefully. There weren't any students close, but you could never be too careful.
Tom blinked some more. The egg? They'd thought it was -- "Merlin! An--" He looked around as well. "It was a...spider, then?"
"A beauty, too!" Rubeus looked rapturous. "And smart, just like I told yeh. He was listenin' ter me in th' egg."
"In the egg?" Tom stopped to consider this, remembering all he'd read about acromantulae. They were supposedly originally bred as guards, and bred to think intelligently. But he hadn't considered.... "Your spider talks?"
"What? Yeh can talk to snakes, and yeh think that's odd?"
"I think most of your pets are odd. But one that speaks English is particularly unusual."
"His English ain't so good yet."
A grin tugged at the corner of Tom's mouth. "That may be your doing, Rubeus...."
"What d' yeh mean by that?"
"What do you think?" Tom shook his head. "I just hope you can persuade it not to go about eating people. Acromantulas don't generally avoid eating humans."
"He wouldn' hurt anybody!"
Tom winced. He had heard that before. There was a reason he was plotting extremely carefully how to keep the Chamber monster -- he strongly suspected it to be a basilisk -- under control when they found it. "According to his instincts, at least if he were raised by his own kind, we'd be food. It should help if he understands you when you tell him we're not."
"I won' let Aragog hurt anyone, Tom. I promise. Everyone's just scared of interesting creatures because they don' understand them!"
"Some interesting creatures," Tom said dryly, "are actually dangerous. You'll get along better keeping them if you remember that and are careful."
"I'll make sure he doesn' hurt anyone. Just don' tell anyone he's here? He's too little to be off on his own yet..."
"Too little? From that egg, he should be the size of both your fists, and that's before you count the legs!"
"He's still a baby!" Rubeus protested in an injured voice.
"...All right, but still, for a spider he's huge."
"He's not a spider, he's an acromantula, and he's still a baby." Rubeus' tone firmly indicated that that was the end of discussion on the matter.
"Rubeus, I've been explaining all the advantages presented by spiders to two housemates who can't stand the things for the past week because the most common spell to get rid of them would probably work on an acromantula too, at least a... relatively small one. I think. I'm not going to tell." He paused. "They're not the kind where the hairs are poisonous, are they?"
"...Not all of them."
"Not all the hairs? Or which one is Aragog?"
"Not all the hairs. Just the ones at the ends of his legs. You're okay as long as 'e don' walk on you."
"Well, that's good to know. I thought it had to be something; you haven't shown up with any kind of weird rash on your hands. Except for that once from Herbology, of course. I wondered though. Haven't held an acromantula before, you know."
Rubeus' face brightened. "D' you want to? He'd love to see you!"
Tom was not nearly as enthusiastic as Rubeus about the prospect, and as matching Rubeus' enthusiasm for most of the creatures generally termed monsters was nearly impossible, he was fairly sure his brother knew this. He was interested, however, if a little wary. "Well, I don't see why he'd be particularly thrilled, but I wouldn't mind being properly introduced."
"Great!" Rubeus jumped up and grabbed his older brother's hand, towing him out of the empty classroom they'd ducked into. "He'll be happy to see you, Tom, just wait. It's been a few days actually -- I couldn' ever catch you -- he's talkin' and huntin' his own food now and everything -- and he gets lonely down here all alone."
"Shh. No point telling me to keep quiet if you go bellowing about him."
Rubeus' voice dropped to an exaggerated whisper as he practically carried the smaller but older boy down the hall. "I wasn' bellowing. I'm being quiet."
"Right." To be entirely fair, Rubeus seemed to be fairly good at stealth after all, and they reached a room in the dungeons apparently unobserved. Aside from the occasional ghost, of course.
"Aragog," Rubeus whispered, going to one particular cupboard in the corner and scratching on its door gently. "I brought Tom 'ere to meet you."
There was a muffled clicking sound, and the door opened slowly to permit the emergence of first one long, spidery leg, then the rest of the young Acromantula. Tom took note of the hairs at the bottom of the leg. Politely, he whispered, "Hello, Aragog."
Aragog moved one leg in what Tom decided to interpret as an Acromantulan greeting. "Hello, friend of Hagrid."
There was now the question of what, precisely, one discussed with a large talking spider.
"He's been telling me a lot about you." That should be fairly safe.
"Good. Good things?"
"Yes. He's very fond of you." Tom thought he was getting the hang of the Acromantula's tendency to click mandibles on every word. "He says you've started to do your own hunting."
"Yes. Many mice in the basement. Small prey." Though the voice didn't hold much inflection, Tom rather thought Aragog sounded disappointed.
"Well, I don't know that there's anything much larger for you to eat in the building."
"Many, many, much larger." Aragog eyed Tom up and down, then added regretfully, "Too large. For now."
"If you mean the students," Tom began, then looked at Rubeus. He wasn't sure how Aragog was likely to react to him, but hopefully the acromantula would listen to Rubeus....
"Humans aren't prey, Aragog. Yeh can' hurt them, ever. When yeh get a little bigger, there's lots of prey in the Forest, though."
"None of them, ever?" Aragog clicked wistfully.
"Never," Rubeus said firmly. "If yeh do hurt them, people'll catch you and send yeh away or kill yeh. As long as yeh don' hurt anyone, it'll be fine."
"Careful, then," Aragog replied. "Will be careful." A pause. "More friends of Hagrid?"
"Right. All the other humans are his friends," Tom spoke up. "He'd be very cross if you ate any of them."
This was a slight exaggeration, but if it ever became necessary for Aragog to attack a human, presumably the exception could be explained at the time. Tom had the uncomfortable feeling that Aragog would be all too eager. "That's right," Rubeus agreed after a moment. "Yeh musn't eat them. There'll be plenty of good huntin' in the Forest, though."
Aragog clicked his mandibles twice in either agreement or resignation, but didn't argue the point any further. "When do I see the Forest?"
"When yeh get bigger," Rubeus said firmly. "Yer not big enough yet to try all of what's in there. I've seen. I'll take you there when it's time."
"'You've seen'," Tom repeated with a snort. "I swear, they're going to have to draft a whole new rule to keep students out of the Forest after the example YOU set, little brother."
"It's nice in there, really," Rubeus protested. "Yeh just got to be careful."
Tom shook his head slightly. "If you say so. I prefer keeping my explorations confined to the castle."
"Gettin' any closer to finding that chamber?" Rubeus shook his head. "Best take care -- that Slytherin was a tricky one -- 'course, so are you, at that."
"I'm sneakier," Tom assured him with a grin. "I'm almost there, I know it. I'm almost SURE it's a basilisk in there. I just need to figure out exactly how to GET to it...."
"A basilisk? Are yeh serious?"
"It makes sense. Salazar Slytherin was a Parselmouth, remember? What better creature to put in his chamber than one HE could control but no one else could?"
"You've said yerself that just because yeh can talk to something doesn' mean it'll listen."
"I'll be careful." Tom flashed a grin. "Don't tell me you're trying to talk me out of looking for a monster...."
"Of course not," Rubeus replied indignantly. "Can't wait -- Aragog? What's wrong?" The Acromantula appeared severely agitated.
"The creature!" Aragog clacked angrily, his legs shifting in agitation. "The dread creature. Friend of Hagrid should NOT seek the creature! Or Hagrid must let me GO!"
"It's not going to hurt you," Tom protested a bit irritably. He cautiously put out a hand to the hairy spider-body, hoping not to get himself bitten for the gesture. "Whatever it is, I'm not planning to let it hurt anyone." Maybe enemies. He didn't exactly have real enemies at the moment, though. Rivals, yes, but that was different.
Aragog hissed and clicked some more. "It is the creature we fear about all others!" He raised a hairy leg to push Tom's hand away, then began scuttling backwards into the cupboard. "Friend of Hagrid should not meddle with such things."
"Aragog, it's all right," Rubeus whispered. "Don't worry -- Tom can talk to it if it's a basilisk; he'll tell it to behave itself!"
Another fierce click-clattering, then Aragog disappeared into the depths of the cupboard, apparently not willing to talk to them any more.
"Well." Tom sat back on his heels and looked thoughtfully at the empty space where the baby acromantula had stood. "That was a good first meeting."
"Aragog...." Rubeus peered into the cupboard, then sighed and looked mournfully at his brother. "I didn' think it'd upset him like that."
"Well..." Tom frowned, thinking back to his basilisk book. "They're supposed to be spiders' mortal enemy, from what I read, but Aragog's an Acromantula, not just a plain spider. Besides, I won't let it hurt anyone."
"Tom? I haven't seen you grinning like that since yeh beat Gryffindor in th' last Quidditch match. What's up?"
"I found it, Rubeus!" Tom said excitedly, lowering his voice and looking around to make sure no one could overhear. "At least, I think I did. I have to go back and check; a Hufflepuff first year walked in and interrupted me. But I FOUND it!"
"The Chamber?!" Rubeus wasn't quite as good at keeping his voice low. It rose to an excited squeak, then he blushed and looked around to make sure no one heard. "Where is it?"
Tom grinned. "The girls' toilet on the second floor."
"Wha -- Tom!"
Tom managed to look completely innocent. "What? I'd checked just about every other room in the castle."
"Yeh shouldn' have gone in there!"
"Why not? No one was in it at the time!"
"Well I should HOPE not!" Rubeus still looked scandalized.
"I can't believe you're upset about that. You're certainly not above bending the rules when it suits you, little brother. I should be reporting you nearly every time I talk to you for your creatures. I won't even mention Aragog. But going into a girls' toilet scandalizes you? Honestly." His grin widened. "Does that mean you don't want to come along?"
"Aragog's not hurtin' anything, and no more are any of the others," Hagrid protested. "That's not -- it's -- why would Salazar have put it THERE?"
"He made it a thousand years ago. The castle's changed a bit since then. It might've been anything then. It probably had some kind of charm on it, to adapt the entrance to whatever was put in there. They didn't have plumbing like that a thousand years ago, you know," he pointed out with a wink.
"Still," Rubeus grumbled.
"You expect me to give up my search just because it's in the girls' room?" Tom shook his head. "So are you coming or not? I'm sneaking out tonight."
Rubeus looked torn. "Yeh really think there's a creature in there?"
"All the legends agree. I'm almost positive it's a basilisk. And I can't believe he wouldn't have taken circumstances into account to keep it fed and healthy. I'm sure it's still there!" Tom's eyes were lit with passion, his smile anticipatory. "Can you imagine? Salazar Slytherin's basilisk. Imagine the stories it can tell!"
"We'll want to be careful -- I can' imagine it's too happy after this long, even if he did keep it healthy."
"I know how to handle myself around snakes, Rubeus. And I trust you to handle yourself around any creature. We're probably the two people in the school best-equipped to find it."
"I still feel sorry for it." Rubeus frowned suddenly. "An' for Aragog, though -- he's still scared to death about the whole thing, he is."
"I won't let it hurt Aragog, don't worry. But the poor thing's been cooped up for a thousand years!" Tom's face grew serious. "I'll have to look into silencing charms on the roosters before I let it out, of course. And make sure it knows to keep its eyes shut."
"Yeh don' think it'll mind that, do yeh?"
"No more than Aragog minds your telling him what not to hunt," Tom said wryly.
"That's a point." Rubeus looked thoughtful. "I think I can take care o' the roosters. I've been helpin' look after the fowl sometimes lately -- yeh'll want ter keep it inside at dawn, though; keepin' them quiet when the sun comes up would be awful suspicious."
"That shouldn't be a problem. It would be best to just let it roam at night, when there aren't many people around. Just in case." Tom grinned and rubbed his hands together. "This is going to be great, Rubeus!"
"An' yeh laugh at me about my creatures..." Rubeus muttered.
"Ah, come on, you know you're looking forward to it too!"
"Well, yeah. I've never met a basilisk. Just...be careful!"
"I'm being told to be careful by a Gryffindor," Tom said gravely. "The natural order of things is out of balance."
"Yeah, well, if you're going to be the one doing crazy things, I'll tell yeh to be careful," Rubeus grumbled.
"I'm going to be. Honestly. I'm fascinated, not stupid."
"Well, yeh're a Slytherin. It's hard to tell the difference sometimes." Rubeus grinned. "So we're doing this tonight?"
Tom cuffed at him, missing deliberately despite the fact that he'd have had a hard time landing a blow that would actually faze his brother. "That's right." He grinned suddenly. "And another advantage to its being after hours -- there really shouldn't be any girls in there to worry about."
Silmelas: Thank you, glad you're enjoying it! Here's your baby Aragog -- and we don't mind rambling. The basilisk won't be getting out on its own, we'll say that.
MrRobertsIII: Thanks! We love Hagrid, but couldn't quite resist the crack about the books (he'll make friends with anything dangerous). The discount incident was a lot of fun to write, too.
Toby. *g* Thanks, we had fun trying to figure out how he might have gotten it too.
Frankie Beeblebrox: Thanks for both reviews! We're glad you're enjoying it, and that you think the bits of this time period we know from canon got incorporated smoothly. "Guest Who" was, I think, originally prompted by the "puggle" joke, but it gave us a lot of opportunity to explore the family dynamic. And the plants, well, Mary's attachment to dangerous (if rooted) creatures was one of the points of compatibility with Tavish. :)