The Sugar Quill
Author: Andrea13 and Persephone_Kore  Story: Snakes and Spiders  Chapter: Chapter 2/3: Serpent Talk
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Snakes and Spiders 2/3

Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. No undue claim nor material profit is intended.

Snakes and Spiders 2/3
by Andrea13 and Persephone
Stepbrothers series

*****

Rubeus led the way to a part of the castle clearly not frequented by many students, but not shut away in any fashion -- of course, if it had been, and hadn't been concealed, someone probably would have been into it illicitly by now unless the defenses were very good. The corridors and rooms were shadowed; Rubeus stopped and banged on a wall eventually. "Just in case," he explained, "so if she's there and got her eyes open she'll know somebody's there and close them."

Moira swallowed. "Good idea. What did you do the first time you found the Chamber?"

Rubeus grinned. "Tom made me tie a scarf over my eyes. As if I didn't know enough ter keep my eyes closed!"

"Well, what did he do?"

"Closed his eyes when she first came out, but he could tell her right off to shut hers too. But he wanted ter be the one ter check, not me." He rolled his eyes and grinned cheerfully. "Brothers, yeh know?"

Moira chuckled. "I've one of my own. Is it safe now?"

"Ought ter be." Rubeus pushed the door open; Moira caught her breath at the sight of the enormous serpent sprawled throughout half the room beyond, scales glimmering in the dim light, head up and a tongue larger than many snakes were entire flickering interestedly toward them.

Rubeus just bounded right in, apparently so used to the scene that he didn't bother admiring her beauty anymore. "Evening, Sharessa! I've brought a friend of mine an' Tom's ter meet yeh! Her name's Moira." He reached the massive head and reached up happily to scratch at Sharessa's eye ridges. "Come on, Moira, she likes this."

Moira took the chance for a good stare as she advanced slowly; hopefully this wouldn't offend the basilisk, but really, how often did one have the chance to stare safely at a basilisk? If one liked that sort of thing. Sharessa stretched various parts of her length almost as if she could tell where Moira was looking, making herself gleam as she arched her head down. The long forked tongue flickered less than an inch from Moira's face, and she held out a hand to be smelt even though this seemed unnecessary.

She became aware after a moment of a low hiss that had risen first when Rubeus came in, though it hadn't seemed to register then. Judging from the rest of the basilisk's behavior, it seemed to be welcome.... "She's lovely." The hiss sharpened slightly as Moira moved the hand up to an eye-ridge.

"She said Gryffindor himself used to scratch her eye-ridges when he'd come see her. I like carryin' on the tradition."

Moira laughed. "So she's more impressive than the stories and far nicer, is that it?"

Rubeus looked sideways and grinned at her. "She was that disgusted with some of the stories."

"I think I'd be disgusted too if I found out there were stories calling me a horrible monster." She grinned cheerfully. "Though for all I know, there are those stories in the Slytherin dorms."

"...Not that I know of, but most people know not to insult Gryffindors TOO badly around me," a new voice put in with a hint of confusion. Rubeus and Moira spun around to see Tom in the doorway, blinking at them. He managed a charming smile for Moira after a moment, though. "I see you've met Sharessa."

"Reckoned yeh'd be studying, Tom," Rubeus said easily. "I thought these two might like to meet each other, especially with Sharessa still out here anyway."

"Well, you shouldn't be conducting guided tours here or anything, but I don't suppose there's any harm in one or two people." He walked forward and hissed something softly to Sharessa, who flicked her tongue out again with every appearance of smiling.

"I don't mean to be a nuisance. But I couldn't really resist...."

Tom grinned. "I couldn't resist, and I didn't even have someone telling me he could take me straight to her. It's all right. Sharessa said she's very pleased to meet you and you have good hands."

Moira grinned back and told herself once more that she was entirely too pleased to hear that. "I'm glad. And please tell her I'm delighted to meet her too."

"Of course. I've become very good at translating." Tom hissed again, his voice low and very pleasant for all the unfamiliarity of the sounds. "Moira said she's delighted to meet you. You've made another stunning impression. I wish I could impress people so easily."

"But don't you, Salazar's Heir?" Sharessa hissed back softly in amusement, butting her head against him affectionately. "Everyone who's come to see me has smelled impressed by the time they left. You're very smart. And Salazar's heir, of course, so you must be impressive." Her voice turned a little sly. "Is there someone in particular you want to impress? I like Moira."

"You like anybody who'll scratch your eye-ridges," Tom told her teasingly.

"I liked her before that," Sharessa returned complacently, though she did hiss incoherently when Moira returned tentatively to scratching. "I liked her when you talked about her. When you talked about her a lot."

Tom hoped that the firelight wasn't quite bright enough to show the hint of pink he suspected was in his cheeks. "That's good."

Moira smiled at him and asked teasingly, "Well, Mister Translator, aren't you going to tell us what she said?"

Tom smiled almost easily. "Oh, she said she likes you. The hiss when you started petting her again wasn't actually words, but it meant that too."

"Rubeus said she likes anyone who scratches her eye-ridges," Moira pointed out, then grinned and scratched harder. "But I'll take it as a compliment regardless."

"Oh, she said she likes what she's heard about you, too," Tom said before he quite thought.

Moira blinked, then looked sideways at the basilisk and ventured, "I suppose Rubeus told her about all his Housemates."

"Well, quite a few. ...I believe Fido mentioned you to her, actually."

"I'm honored. I think." Moira grinned. "I suppose it's nice to have someone else who can talk to Sharessa without your needing to translate."

"I'm sure she appreciates it, too!"

"No doubt. Erm...I finished my hat essay, by the way. I had Rubeus look over it too."

Tom blinked and chuckled, then grinned across at his brother. "Good idea."

"And she read my Transfiguration essay too," Rubeus volunteered, grinning back even if he didn't realize what was quite so funny.

"The one on animal transformations, just now, isn't it? I still remember Dumbledore's expression when he saw I'd spent an extra roll on a quick discussion of Animagi."

"Don't tell me you've added Animagus to your list of talents, Tom," Moira put in with a laugh. "Isn't prefect, Seeker, star student, and basilisk-tamer enough for you?"

"I'd like to study that, but apparently it's almost impossible to find someone to teach you unless you're taking NEWT-level transfiguration -- and you're not allowed to register before age seventeen anyway. Not that I have time right now, either...." He paused at this point and blushed faintly again. "And... well, no. Not if I can do more." Another slight pause, with a soft stacatto hissing in it. "Besides, Sharessa didn't need taming."

"Slytherins are never satisfied, are they?" Moira grinned again and added, "No offense. I'm sure you have some things to say about Gryffindors too. And I meant no offense to Sharessa."

"Oh, I didn't think you did -- neither did she, actually, she was laughing." Of course, she'd been laughing at him, mostly. "It's just that despite the stories, if tame's the right word, she's never been otherwise."

"Basilisk friend, then," she amended seriously. Then with a twinkle in her eye added, "And translator extraordinaire for too many historians to name."

"Don't remind me."

"Are they even going to let you go home for summer holidays? Or are you going to be here forever, like Professor Binns?"

"I... might end up here part of the holiday. But at least then I won't be trying to revise for OWLs at the same time. You know, I'm really glad they're interested, but if they could spend a thousand years not knowing you'd think they could slow down for a few months, wouldn't you?"

Moira raised her hand to muffle a giggle, but her eyes were twinkling with laughter. "Well, on the bright side, maybe you'll get extra points in History of Magic for it."

"Oh, I get an honorary OWL in that for sure, but I still have the regular one to deal with. Not that it's going to be that hard...." He couldn't quite help smirking. "I pay attention in there."

She raised an eyebrow. "Is there some secret Slytherin anti-sleeping potion, or is it a family recipe? And will you share?"

"There are plenty of variations -- Alertness Elixirs, Wakefulness Wax, Attention Tincture, Insomnia Infusion -- all right, that last one's more of a liquid jinx. I don't know of any secret ones; you can look them all up... but I wouldn't recommend most of them unless you're extremely good at brewing and don't mind the side effects. There are only a few that are any good for regular use." He paused, then grinned again. "Of course, there are also the ones even Muggles use, if you haven't built up a tolerance to caffeine -- coffee or strong tea."

"...You really DO use potions to stay awake in Binns's class? No wonder you're at the head of your year..."

"No, except for the tea, I just know what they are. The key to staying awake in History of Magic is to be interested in what he's saying and pay attention to the content without noticing his voice."

"I didn't think that was possible, but I'll try next time. I'm not sure if I can manage quite your level of dedication, though. Rubeus said you were studying for OWLs at the beginning of last summer!"

Tom shot his brother a quick glance. "Oh... well... I was expecting it to take more time than it did. It's a good thing I did get started, though, as busy as this year's turning out."

Moira looked back down at Sharessa. "And I keep managing to take up your free time. I'm sorry."

"Oh, no, that's quite all right. I've got to take some time not working; even Hufflepuffs do... occasionally." He winked. "And I was the one who went nosing around about your essay, wasn't I?"

"True enough. I've never seen anyone get so worked up over bowler hats."

"Was I that, er, worked up? I didn't mean to be rude about it."

Moira grinned at him. "You were rather worked up, but you weren't rude. I'm glad you pointed out the errors, honestly. You're not the only one trying to get good marks, you know!"

"I didn't think that. I just know I did rather jump in." He grinned back. "I'm nosy, I suppose." And he'd been looking at her anyway.

"Slytherins aren't nosy," Rubeus chimed in. "They're sneaky."

"There's no point sneaking just to sneak. You have to have a motive. And I'd like to know how looking over someone's shoulder and announcing you want to correct her essay is sneaky," Tom announced with a sort of mock indignation.

"It might be sneaky if you're really looking for an excuse to talk to her," Sharessa hissed mischievously.

"I wasn't looking for an excuse," Tom hissed back indignantly. "I'm the Heir of Slytherin and if I wanted to talk to someone I wouldn't need an excuse."

"Well, maybe you were just trying to get on my good side so you could steal Leona from me," Moira suggested, then tilted her head at Sharessa and added, "What did she say?"

"Oh, she was suggesting silly ulterior motives too."

"Yes, very silly. As you sssssay, you don't need an excuse."

Tom smiled charmingly and hissed between his teeth, "If you caused Grandfather Slytherin this much trouble, it's no wonder he left the school!"

Moira grinned even more. "I'm curious about what a basilisk would suggest as your ulterior motives for reading over someone's shoulder."

"She's a thousand years old and knew Salazar Slytherin; she could probably suggest more convoluted ulterior motives than I'll ever come up with...."

"True enough." Moira scratched Sharessa's scales and crooned, "You're smarter than those silly boys anyway, aren't you?"

Sharessa gave another hissing laugh. "Maybe you should get her alone instead of talking to her with me here as a distraction, Salazar's Heir."

"I can conduct my own conversations, thank you, Sharessa." Tom rolled his eyes, then added in English, "She said she's, er, tired. She's going to go back to the Chamber."

"I did not say anything of the sort," Sharessa informed him cheerfully, "but if it will help you to relax with a nice witch, I will be as tired as you like."

"You're the one who said I should talk to her without you here," he hissed back. "Good night, Sharessa."

"I know. I'm very pleased you're taking my advice." Sharessa rubbed the top of his head with her chin, bumped Rubeus affectionately on the shoulder, and began winding her way away from the fire. "Good night, Salazar's Heir."

Moira watched her depart sadly. "It was good to get a chance to meet her up close. Do you think I could talk to her again sometime?"

"I'm sure you could. She likes the attention; you should see her preen and act up for the historians. I haven't told any of them when she's laughing, though."

"How do snakes laugh?"

"You heard her -- ss-ss-ss-ssss, that sort of thing? Though that's one sound I can't quite imitate, at least hers. Maybe when I've been speaking only Parseltongue for a while."

"Oh, was that laughter? She was doing it an awful lot...were you being funny or was she laughing at Rubeus and me?"

"Well, some of it was... she laughed at all of us, I think. She's in a good mood."

"I suppose that's a good thing. I don't think I'd like to see her in a bad mood!"

"Oh, she wouldn't hurt you anyway. But I imagine she would be scary that way." Tom glanced up at his brother. "Of course, some of us are used to that in pets...."

Rubeus snorted. "None o' mine are scary," he proclaimed with wild inaccuracy, and then gave a prodigiously fake yawn that nevertheless convinced him well enough to become genuine. "I think I'll be on up to bed. Yeh still got a few minutes 'fore curfew, but there it is. Good night, Tom, Moira." And he wandered with no further ceremony off in the general direction of Gryffindor Tower.

"Good night," Moira echoed, fighting back a yawn of her own from sheer contagion. "I suppose I should go back too..." But she didn't make any move to follow Rubeus.

Tom had watched his brother's departure with a sort of half-grateful suspicion and now turned his attention to Moira. "I can walk you there, if you like. Don't worry about letting on where it is -- if anyone does, that is. I've heard some try to make a secret of it, but really, once you've overheard a couple of first-years fretting about remembering what to say to the fat pink lady...."

Moira smiled back and fell into step beside him. Very slow steps. "It helps the first-years bond with their House, but beyond that I don't see what good trying to keep entrances a secret is. Besides, I'm sure with a brother and stepfather in Gryffindor, you'd've heard enough stories to make a good guess regardless."

"Neither of them," Tom confided, "is much for secrets." This was not strictly accurate, considering that Rubeus had not publicized the Chamber entrance and Aragog was, so far as Tom knew anyway, still a general secret. "They'll keep some if it's important enough, but it's not something they're over-fond of." He looked down at her and had the feeling his expression was rather warm. Really mustn't overdo it; seeming importunate was never good. "Unlike certain ancestors, of course."

"I was under the impression the certain ancestors were yours and your mother's, and you seem quite capable of keeping secrets even if Rubeus doesn't." Moira tilted an eyebrow up at him and grinned challengingly. "Or are you just good at it without being 'over-fond' of it?"

"That," Tom said, returning the grin with interest, "depends on the secret."

"Hmmm. Something to remember if I ever want you to keep a secret for me."

"Very wise."

"Well, I'm no Ravenclaw, but I try."

"Fortunately, none of the houses have quite a full lock on their respective qualifications. You'd get everybody but Slytherins wandering about aimlessly that way, and us not being able to get to our goals on account of being too scared, stupid, or lazy to do anything. And that wouldn't do at all."

"True enough. Are you going to add penning the Sorting Hat's next song to your list of accomplishments?"

"I don't think it would listen. Anyway I had the oddest feeling it was going to dance off my head when I was Sorted, and I've never quite wanted to go too near it since."

She blinked at him. "That's rather...odd behavior for it, isn't it? I don't remember anything too extraordinary about my Sorting... It didn't take very long."

"You must have been an easy Sort. Bold through and through or some such?" He grinned easily at her. "I don't know if it was really going to dance. It didn't move or anything. I just got that feeling. No idea why. Maybe the Slytherin bit knew me or something, but Mum never mentioned being danced at, so perhaps I was just a bit dizzy from all the excitement."

"You mean Tom Riddle was over-excited? Perish the thought. I happen to know for a fact that Tom Riddle was born suave."

Tom swept an exaggerated bow, only slightly distorted by the need to work around a suit of armor standing at attention in the hallway. Moira giggled and curtsied back.

Tom grinned and continued thoughtfully, "I'm not sure it's allowed for anyone to be Sorted calmly. Maybe there's a spell going back to when you actually had to stand up and have the Founders look you over. Or however they did it, exactly."

"I think that would be terrifying, though I suppose the Founders weren't quite as legendary then as they are now. But I'd still be terrified at the thought of having to stand up before all these professors I don't know to have them decide where I belong. It was scary enough having a hat doing it!"

"I think at the time people were used to the idea of being looked over for apprenticeships," Tom said thoughtfully, "but I imagine it was still nervewracking."

"Mm, good point." Moira looked up at the portrait of the Fat Lady, which they'd reached entirely too quickly for her preference. "Well...I suppose you need to hurry to make it in before curfew."

"I suppose I do." Tom didn't move. But he really should. "...Best of luck with that essay."

"I just have a few things to change with Rubeus' suggestions, then I'll be done." A pause. "Thank you for all your help."

"I didn't mind at all." He gave her a slow grin. "You're much more fun than the historians."

Moira's stomach did a slow somersault. "Ah...thank you. That's a great compliment for someone actually interested in Binns's lectures."

"I really should go before your Head of House catches me out again." Tom considered a moment, and then added with an even brighter smile, "But I don't read everybody's essays over their shoulders, you know."

Moira caught her breath and smiled with more shyness than before. "I'm glad you chose mine, then."

Tom grinned down at her. "Me too. See you tomorrow?"

"If you can be pried away from Sharessa, certainly...Sleep well."

"I'll manage. You too." He turned and left, black robes and hair vanishing before too many steps into the shadows of the corridor, and Moira turned to give the password to the portrait.

"Seems like a nice boy, dear," the Fat Lady said comfortably as she swung open.

"Yes," Moira replied before she stepped in. "I think he is."

*****

Jess: Hope you see this -- perhaps we should email too. :) Thanks for the review of Moon and Stone! The last chapter hurt to write -- they would have made up, we think, given time, but it didn't make sense for this version of Salazar to leave: he had to have died in the Chamber. We hope you won't stop enjoying CoS, though; the basilisk was obviously rather nuts by that point, and hey, some of the Slytherins are fun... Phineas was very entertaining. ;)

Iggy: Glad you're enjoying them; thanks for letting us know! We've got a bit more in stock. :)

Barbelibou: Rubeus has his own ideas about what would be appropriate corresponding behavior. ;) As you can see, Sharessa is indeed taking some interest in the proceedings.... Glad you like it. (And can you imagine the canon Ernie MacMillan being told that in some other life Tom Riddle might have been his great uncle? ;))

Frankie Beeblebrox: *giggles* He was a cute youngun, wasn't he? Thank you for your kind comments on the dialogue -- it's delightful to know it comes across well. As for Tom's time-management skills, he's a mite frazzled but very efficient. :) Rubeus is really a charming kid to write in this AU -- the effects on him are maybe a bit subtler than on Tom, but we think having Tavish around longer and Mary and Tom at all probably helps temper the urge to get carried away about his Interesting Creatures. Not TOO much though. ;) About the warning bells... oh dear. We didn't actually mean that to be especially ominous -- this particular interpretation of the basilisk is really quite sociable, and as you can see in this chapter, she's out of the chamber (since the historians probably aren't welcome to be in on the secret, and wouldn't care for the slime) and Rubeus knows how to alert her they're coming so as to avoid any accidents. And thank you for recommending us!

//
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