The Sugar Quill
Author: Andrea13 and Persephone_Kore  Story: Herpetology  Chapter: Chapter 2: Serpents, Weasels, and the Face in the Fire
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Herpetology Chapter 2

Herpetology
by Andrea13 and Persephone
Chapter 2: Serpents, Weasels, and the Face in the Fire

Herpo's table manners were, unsurprisingly, not exactly the norm at the Weasley table, but this was graciously enough overlooked, and everyone else cheerfully made conversation -- mostly with each other, as conversation with Herpo had to be conducted by gestures or relayed through Harry. Mrs. Weasley tended to hover. Herpo began to wonder whether perhaps his welcome carried enough suspicion that she found it necessary to keep him under guard... but it was a relatively kindly guard if so. (In reality, while she would have been fierce if he had seemed to threaten her children, she was mostly keeping watch that none of her children sneaked anything strange into their guest's food.)

What she failed to prevent, however, was pure accident -- when Herpo was in the act of standing, finally, at the end of the meal, it happened that George and Ron were both trying to pass by behind him at the same time, and in close quarters and a bit off balance, Ron accidentally elbowed him in the back.

Ron recovered quickly and turned quickly to apologize. "Sorry, I mean, Harry, could you tell --" He broke off in astonishment as it registered that Herpo was leaning on the table, breath catching agonizedly. "What in -- I didn't think it was that hard -- I say, are you all right?"

Harry was staring and asking quickly, "Are you all right? It was just an accident; he didn't mean anything!"

"I..." Herpo gasped in pain, doubled over. "Not...bad..."

Ron was leaning worriedly over Herpo and had cautiously taken his arm with an idea of directing him back into the chair; Herpo tried to retain what dignity he could by not panicking and trying to pull away -- it wasn't as if it would do any good -- but did resist being moved, hunched over as the pain radiated from the old wound in his back. It made moving uncomfortable sometimes, but it hadn't been struck again before....

Harry did not think "not bad" was very convincing. "It looks like it hurts pretty bad. What happened? Can we do anything?"

"Just an...old wound," Herpo hissed, trying to get back his breath. "It still pains me sometimes. I am fine." He remained hunched over, however, and his face was pale and drawn with pain. He wasn't terribly convincing. "Tell the boy he can let go now; I'm not going to fall over or curse him."

"You could sit back down," Harry suggested, "if that might help." He switched to English. "Ron, he says you hit an old injury and you can let go of him now."

"Oh. Right." Ron let go, but he still looked worried. "Er...I could make some tea?"

Harry managed not to laugh at him, but Mrs. Weasley didn't. Herpo managed to glance warily up at her; at once she stopped laughing and came over, putting a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Now then, it's all right -- my, you're jumpy -- poor dear. Won't you sit down? Perhaps the other room, when you feel you can walk, that might be more comfortable...."

"We could levitate him, Mum," Fred offered.

Harry helpfully translated most of Molly's words, though he left out Fred's offer. That might make Herpo more nervous than he already was, and that was saying something. Herpo twitched a smile at the fussing woman and sat gingerly, still half-bent in his chair. "Really, I will be fine. It was mostly surprising. Is everyone this...concerned here?"

"Er... well, not everybody... around here, and the twins are tricksters, but the Weasleys generally really are this nice, yes. And Hermione and... some other people. It depends."

Herpo had straightened up a little -- never quite all the way, but then he hadn't been before -- in his chair during this somewhat muddled explanation and was trying very hard to relax. He was just getting somewhere, and the pain was easing, when he sneezed again -- which hurt nearly as much as the accidental blow.

"Oh you poor dear!" Molly exclaimed, apparently completely forgetting that their guest was a (rather dirty) ancient Dark wizard and only seeing a young man in distress. "You need to be in bed, dear. With a nice soothing draught, I think."

"No!" Herpo gasped when Harry hissed out a translation, trying to shake off the hand on his arm. "I am fine!"

"It's all right," Harry replied, rather startled at the vehemence, "she's not going to poison you, you know."

"I am well; I do not need your assistance," Herpo protested again, mostly because he couldn't recall the last time someone had offered assistance and knew there must be some sort of a catch. Hadn't they murdered his beauties as soon as he stopped keeping an eye on them? Well, not these them, but Others nonetheless. He couldn't trust them...

"I don't think," Harry began, then paused as Herpo huddled around another sneeze, which left tears in his eyes and was definitely not going to mollify Mrs. Weasley. "Er, bless you... I don't think she's going to believe you're fine, you see."

A short, bitter laugh, which was somewhat difficult to get out around gasps of pain, but Herpo managed. "Of course. Why should you not doubt my word? No one ever believes the foul Parselmouth. Can no one just let me live or die in peace?!"

Harry refrained from pointing out that dying did not generally qualify as 'fine,' and considered just translating this to Mrs. Weasley and letting her come up with a response, but decided to give Herpo one more shot before resorting to that. "They believe me -- but only when I'm not obviously talking nonsense. You don't look fine, or act like it, and I'm not going to try to tell her you are."

Herpo tried to recall if anyone had ever argued with him this much. Not in his memory. "I tell you, I am fine. Old injuries."

"And, what, an allergy to the tablecloth?" Harry sighed and looked up at Mrs. Weasley. "He says he's fine and doesn't need to be looked after."

Mrs. Weasley hmphed loudly. "'Fine' indeed! You boys are all the same! You wouldn't admit you were feeling a trifle off if you had a hole straight through your head." She seemed to be addressing all of this to Herpo, who was staring at her with wide and unwittingly-fascinated eyes despite not being able to understand a word. "Now you listen to me, young man! You need a nice warm bed and some chicken soup and Pepper-Up, and if I have to tie you down, that's what you'll get!"

Harry decided that while he wasn't sure how much good it would do given her manner, the words could stand to be toned down a bit in translation. "She says," he hissed, "that boys are all the same and wouldn't admit anything was wrong if there was a hole in our heads -- see, it's not Parseltongue putting you under suspicion, much more general -- and that she's going to put you to bed and feed you soup." He paused. "It sounds like a little much for a head cold to me too, but it's not going to hurt."

"...Are all the women in this place so...forceful?"

"Not all of them, but most of them I know seem to be," Harry replied honestly, thinking of Hermione and the Weasley women. "They're very nice, really."

Herpo looked somewhat dubious, but nodded reluctantly. "I will not antagonize her. Medusa was friendlier..."

Harry tried desperately not to laugh on the theory that he would then have to translate this. Thankfully, even "Medusa" was unrecognizable in Parseltongue. "I didn't know you'd met," he hissed a little breathlessly, "but I've always thought Mrs. Weasley was very friendly. Just... also very determined."

"What other woman would taint herself by speaking with a Parselmouth?" Herpo hissed morosely. "And even she... ah, no matter. She is long since gone. Tell your Mrs. Weasley I... appreciate her hospitality."

Harry decided that even the Dursleys might have been an improvement on ancient Greece, at least if he'd known he was a Parselmouth earlier. At least they'd been temporary, and he'd recovered from everything Dudley's friends ever did. He also wondered whether the basilisks' deadly gaze might have been in tribute of some sort to the problem of looking at Medusa, then decided he didn't really want to think about it.

Besides, there was something very odd about the thought of being able to carry on a conversation with someone's hair.

"He said to tell you he appreciates your hospitality," Harry told Mrs. Weasley, "but I think you're scaring him a little."

"Oh dear." Mrs. Weasley looked extremely dismayed and compensated by acting even more mothering, which was probably what was scaring Herpo in the first place. "I'm sorry. I'm not really sure how to deal with random ancient wizards showing up at my door."

"She's doing it again," Herpo hissed/groaned to Harry.

"Yes, I see that. Er... relax?"

"I am relaxed! I would hardly accuse her of trying to harm a guest. But she is very...intense."

"She's trying to make you feel better. Really." He looked up at Mrs. Weasley. "Well... I don't think he's quite used to being... fussed over."

"It takes Mum to fuss over a Dark wizard," Fred intoned solemnly.

"He doesn't seem so Dark," Ginny said thoughtfully. "Just...scared."

"He still said he created basilisks, didn't he?" Ron added belligerently. "Sounds Dark enough to me!"

"But very cool," George said brightly, "if you don't let them go around killing people, which we have some indication he didn't mean to do, if this is the disappearance and coming here was an accident. And really. How on earth did he think of hatching a chicken egg with a toad? It's very impressive."

"Say that after facing one down with a bird and an old hat," Harry said dryly, but he decided it wouldn't hurt to relay that on to Herpo. It might even calm him down a bit. So he hissed, "George thinks you were very clever in creating your basilisks. How did you think of using a toad to hatch the chicken egg?"

Herpo blinked at him. "Er... a great deal of trial and error. But finally, you see, I recalled that there were a great number of rumors regarding the results of handling toads, including effects on, ah, pregnant women," oddly, he blushed, "and the chicken's egg seemed the most appropriate based on habits and significance...."

Harry blinked back, finally translating, "Something about how toads affect pregnant women, but mostly lots of trial and error."

"You have to wonder about someone who has nothing better to do with his time than try hatching eggs under different animals," Fred muttered.

"Fred Weasley, you be polite!" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed in outrage.

"But he can't understand us, Mum!"

"That's no excuse for rudeness!"

"He lived in a cave," Harry said. "I don't think he did have much else to do. We're probably lucky I didn't stay with the Dursleys long enough to end up creating new cousins for the Acromantulas in the cupboard."

Ron twitched. "Not funny, mate," he muttered. Harry grinned apologetically.

Herpo sneezed again and hissed.

"I'm sorry, dear," Mrs. Weasley said at once, sending some of her children into fits of smothered laughter again. "We didn't mean to neglect you. Why don't we get you to -- well, a hot bath first if you'd care for one, and then off to bed?"

When Harry translated, Herpo's face lit up. "A bath? A real bath? A real, hot bath?" He kissed Mrs. Weasley's hand. "Madam, I will be your servant for a bath."

Harry faithfully reported this -- albeit with not quite as much enthusiasm, as he didn't want to seem to make fun and that much, at least, had been clearly communicated to begin with -- while Molly was still blinking in surprise at the kiss. She smiled down at Herpo, who had started worrying a second after his outburst whether he might have offended her and was accordingly relieved -- even if she did pat his shoulder again in what was apparently meant to be a soothing gesture. "Well, that's certainly going a bit far, but you're very welcome to it -- Harry, would you show him how everything works? I can't imagine the plumbing would be quite familiar."

"Sure," Harry replied, while praying again for the existence of a translation spell. He hissed the translation of Mrs. Weasley's words to Herpo, adding on his own, "Come on, I'll show you around. Our baths are a bit smaller than the Greek ones, if I'm remembering right, but they're comfortable." He debated offering a hand, since Herpo still didn't look that steady, but decided against it based on the other wizard's reaction to contact thus far.

Herpo managed to make it to his feet unassisted by any party other than the table (he looked rather alarmed when the tablecloth reached up and patted his hand, and Mrs. Weasley glowered at the twins), though with enough difficulty that after her mother got out of the way Ginny was found hovering at a slight distance with a hand out and the same encouraging smile as before. Herpo shook his head at her, but he managed to smile back this time, a little. "I can walk," he said to Harry. "Really."

Harry laughed a little and replied, "It doesn't matter. They'll still want to help. Trust me, I've been around them enough when I was sick or hurt to know. It took a little getting used to, but they really mean well."

Herpo made what was clearly a deliberate effort to straighten his back. "I will admit," he said slowly, "that if it is this easy to... make it difficult for me to move now, I was wise to stay inside my cave." He took Ginny's hand, gingerly and rather briefly, and then let go of it again; she shrugged and fell back as Harry came up to lead him to the bath.

"Is it all right," Harry asked after a moment along the way, "if I ask what happened to your back? It must've been pretty bad if it's 'old' and still bothering you that much."

Herpo stiffened and said shortly, "A rock."

Harry remembered that Herpo had referred to thrown stones, and decided to use their arrival at the bath as a reason to drop the subject in favor of explaining the current state of wizarding plumbing, or at least the mildly eccentric Burrow version thereof.

He left Herpo settling into a state of somewhat incredulous ecstasy regarding the hot water, went back to the kitchen, and was very shortly sent back up with a set of robes, somewhat worn but clean and definitely warmer than what Herpo had turned up in. Night-robes, technically. Wizard and Muggle garments coincided remarkably in the area of nightclothes; these would probably pass without too much comment among Muggles, but really did seem to be a cross between a nightgown, a bathrobe, and regular wizarding day-robes, in a faded maroon that suggested they might have been originally intended for Ron.

"We thought you might want something else to put on -- this is warmer, more comfortable here. I think it used to be Ron's; hope you don't mind."

Herpo picked up the cloth and muttered for a few moments in what had to be ancient Greek before remembering Harry standing there and actually blushed slightly. He inclined his head towards Harry and said in Parseltongue, "My apologies. I was observing how heavy the cloth is, but that is to be expected in such a cold climate. Thank you."

"Just be glad," Harry hissed drily on his way out, "that you managed not to show up in winter."

"This is warm?!"

Harry wasn't sure how Herpo managed a strangled squeak in Parseltongue, but he did. And it sounded very odd indeed. "Well, it is evening. And it's not the hottest part of the summer just yet. But it's much warmer than it would have been if you'd been a few months off."

"Why would people live in this country?" Herpo muttered.

"We're used to it," Harry told him mildly. "Don't worry. We won't let you freeze."

He returned to the kitchen to find Hermione's head in the fire. He also shortly discovered that as the Grangers didn't seem to be much for fireplaces, she had thrown Floo Powder into a floating Bluebell Flame, and kept ducking in and out of it while she hunted through books.

"Oh, hello, Harry. I knew I'd seen instructions for a translation spell; I tracked it down a few minutes ago, but I'm trying to translate it."

Harry blinked. "I guess you've heard about our new visitor. But doesn't needing a translation for a translation spell sort of defeat the purpose?"

"That's how it works," Hermione explained absently, then paused to mumble to herself. "You know, the Iliad is not very helpful in terms of translating things... Odysseus would definitely have been a Slytherin though. Oh, thanks, Mum, this is much better -- she studied Greek for medical etymology!"

There was a pause at this point, as Hermione was apparently writing something and looking things up. After a moment she began again, "Once you've done the spell, everyone included in it will be able to understand what any of the others say -- while hearing it in the other language at the same time, that's convenient, good for learning it properly." She paused again to write something else.

"But it has to be incanted simultaneously in both languages -- the timing can be tricky, I suggest practicing it ahead of time to get an idea where each of you should be at what point in the other's speech. You see, you have to incant in the language you want translated -- that's another reason to practice; you should check to see you're pronouncing it well. Ginny, you were good with Greek-derived spells...." Hermione laughed. "Or I could come over; I'd rather like to be involved at some point, though I'll be annoyed if I end up Petrified again."

"He doesn't seem to have brought any basilisks with him," Harry pointed out logically. "And he was very upset over it." He shook his head. "I'm sure Ginny can manage the spell just fine, but you know we always like to see you again."

Hermione considered. "We got up very early today; I was half asleep on my feet before I got interested in this. I'd have to make it a very brief visit if I came this evening, and I'm sure he's met quite enough new people for one evening. If you think he wouldn't mind repeating the spell some other time I might come later... well, I suppose you could ask him, couldn't you?"

"He's having raptures over the hot water right now, but I doubt he'll mind. He doesn't seem to like people that much, but he likes them even less when he can't understand them."

"Oh, so if you asked him he'd prefer I didn't show up at all?" Hermione laughed, then was caught in the middle of it by a yawn. "Ooh... I think I had best leave visiting for another time. Let me just give you the incantation.... Ginny? You'll want to be sure you can pronounce the Greek one properly. And you might want to get Harry to tell him the incantation in Parseltongue and ask him to say it in Greek. It won't hurt anything to say it singly, or for that matter to get it wrong saying it singly."

"But it will hurt to get it wrong saying it together?" Ginny asked, her eyebrows furrowed.

Hermione looked down for a moment. "Under most circumstances, no. It's possible to cause accidents mispronouncing any spell, of course, but if it's only a problem of timing and in the case of most mispronunciations, it just won't work and will therefore be frustrating. The books says that one can generally feel the spell settling in if it's going properly, and there's generally warning enough to stop before you say anything disastrous."

"Well, that's a relief. I don't think it should be too bad at any rate. Looks simple enough." Ginny folded up the piece of parchment Hermione passed through the fire after a short study and put it in her pocket. "We should probably wait until Herpo is rested, though. He looked exhausted. Did he ever tell you why he was hurt, Harry?"

Harry shifted a bit. "A rock... thrown at him, I think. I didn't ask for details."

Ginny made a face. "Ouch. It seems pretty severe for it still to be bothering him now. Do you think he'd let us take a look at it?"

"I... don't know," Harry said slowly. "It might be worth asking... a little bit later. It looked like it got worse when he was tense, before, and I don't think the suggestion would be very relaxing right now."

"Right. A nervous sort, isn't he?"

"It doesn't sound like things were very good for Parselmouths in his day. At least I just got talked about behind my back."

"And in front of it!" Fred added brightly.

Harry couldn't help a snort of laughter at that, while Ginny glared at them. "Yes, that was -- Ginny, don't glower, I know you didn't care for their approach but I was glad they thought it was ridiculous enough to joke about."

Ginny smiled wryly. "I suppose. But they're my brothers, and I can glower at them if I want to."

She stopped and looked up at the staircase, at that point; Herpo had just appeared, clad in Ron's old maroon nightrobes and looking decidedly uncertain, probably as to what was going on, where he was supposed to be, and why there was a head in the fireplace.

Hermione's view of the room apparently swiveled to include him, because she raised a hand into the flames to wave in a friendly way in his direction and call out an incomprehensible greeting before she ducked out of the flames and disappeared.

Herpo looked intrigued. "You have a voice in the flames who speaks my language?" he hissed to Harry. "Where did she go?"

Harry struggled not to laugh. "Er, that was my friend, Hermione. She just lives a ways away, so we communicate through the fire. She doesn't speak your language, but she's really smart. She probably knows a few phrases. She did find a translation spell for us, though, so you can understand more people here than just me."

Ginny pulled out the parchment again and waved it in demonstration; Herpo blinked and decided to leave the fire-communication for a later time and consider the translation spell. The other Parselmouth did, he thought a bit wistfully, seem to have quite a number of friends. "Her name seems more normal than the others," he said. "Well... how will the translation spell be done?"

"According to Hermione, it has to be read simultaneously in the two languages you're trying to translate. Then you'll be able to hear in your own language while we speak in ours. Or something like that. But you have to be fluent in the language you're trying to translate to, so you'll have to read the English one and Ginny's going to try the Greek. We were hoping you could help us on pronunciation."

Herpo nodded hesitantly. "If you tell me what you are trying to say, I will tell you how to s-say it." The slight stutter at the end, a break in the hiss, gave way to a sneeze and sniffle.

Ginny offered another handkerchief wordlessly, glad that the sneeze hadn't led to gasps of pain this time. He smiled slightly in appreciation and blew his nose.

Harry replied diffidently, "We thought you might want to get some rest before trying it."

"Now would be fine... unless it is a very strenuous spell." Herpo cast Mrs. Weasley a cautious glance and added, "And if you think we could complete it before the very formidable hostess decides I must be in bed?"

Harry grinned. "I think we can manage that. I think Hermione wrote everything out in Greek, so you could just read that for Ginny to get the pronunciation right, then we'll show you the English version. She said it wasn't too complicated once she figured it out."

The Greek version turned out to be essentially correct, though not pronounced exactly as Ginny would have guessed; Herpo pronounced (or nodded) her rendition correct on the third try. He frowned when she handed him the paper, though, and shook his head, starting to hiss again.

"Oh. You wouldn't be able to read it, of course, I'm sorry." She read it aloud to him instead; he imitated her carefully, if a bit sibilantly.

"Close. You've almost got it." She smiled encouragingly at him and repeated herself, slowly and carefully. They went through the same dance again of him imitating and her correcting until she finally nodded happily and said, "I think he's got it, Harry. Would you tell him..?"

"That's it. You two are supposed to say it in unison -- I don't know how exactly that works in different languages, but at least I'm sure you start and end at the same time." Harry peered at the paper as Ginny started 'round the room with her wand. "She has to mark everyone else to be included first... that's the only part that needs a wand though. Huh."

There were a few minutes of scrambling as those present called for those who weren't so everyone in the house could be included in the spell. Herpo stood aside with remarkable patience as Ginny finished marking everyone and came back to where the two Parselmouths stood. "All right, we'll start reading on 'three'," she told him while Harry translated. She held up her fingers and counted out, "One, two, three," then began to chant.

Rather to her surprise, Ginny found that not only had they both memorized the "nonsense" syllables in the course of pronunciation practice, but they must have started off well because the spell seemed to wrap around her mind and mouth, controlling the pace of her speech and settling both languages into a sort of odd not-rhythm so that it was much easier than she had expected to finish speaking at the same time.

They both fell silent and looked at each other afterwards; Ginny looked around the room and then back at Herpo and asked tentatively, "Well? Did it work?"

His eyes widened. "I know Harry explained it, but I still was not prepared to hear you speak my own language! I think it definitely worked."

That was rather hard to argue, as they all now heard English overlying his incomprehensible words. Ginny grinned delightedly. "It did! This will make things easier."

And regardless of what these people acted like, Herpo did not like advertising that he was a Parselmouth so openly. No, this was all to the better. "You must thank your friend in the fire for me."

Harry laughed. "We will." He paused for a second to make sure he was speaking English before adding, "You could thank her yourself, actually -- she'll probably come over and visit soon. You wouldn't mind doing the spell again to be able to talk with her, would you?"

Herpo looked confused. "You mean she is not a fire elemental?"

"Er... no. That's just how the spell to talk with somebody at a distance looks." Harry floundered here, as he wasn't entirely sure how the spell worked.

"Oh." Now the Greek wizard looked disappointed. "I was impressed you had managed to befriend and train an elemental so well. No matter."

"I wasn't trying to be misleading...."

"Molly does have a point, though; you look tired," Mr. Weasley remarked rather gently. Herpo looked a good deal better after the bath, but having his face clean only made the circles under his eyes more pronounced, and he did seem a bit wilted. "You needn't stay standing, you know."

"I am fine, thank you," Herpo said firmly, proving that stubbornness was far from a strictly British or modern trait.

Arthur paused for a moment and then tried again a bit more delicately. "That's very gracious of you, but it has been inhospitable of us to keep you on your feet so long already. Please, sit down and make yourself comfortable."

"...Very well," Herpo said after a short pause. He took a surreptitious look around the room, then quickly settled himself into the closest chair. "Thank you."

"You are very welcome." Arthur smiled faintly when some of his sons looked toward him, a little startled at the formal phrasing. "And I hope you'll forgive us -- particularly my wife -- if we fuss over you somewhat more than you may be used to. It's, ah, customary in this house... and I think you stir her maternal instincts as well."

There was hardly a gracious way Herpo could deny such a request from his host, so he braced himself internally and nodded. "Thank you, again. Your wife does you credit."

Molly returned from a trip into the kitchen looking strangely amused and bearing a tray with a bowl of soup. "There, now. We'll have you tucked in bed as soon as you please, but here's broth to keep you warmed up in the meantime."

Herpo still looked a bit dazed, but made no other response but thanking her and beginning to eat.

After nearly sneezing into his soup three times, however, Herpo was beginning to entertain suspicions that she had put something in it to make him more tractable about being put to bed. On the other hand, possibly the chill of the garden outside -- much cooler than his cave, and that hadn't been the warmest place, even if it was shelter and, almost more important, concealment -- was catching up with him and making matters worse.

Or maybe it was the twenty-five century misplacement in time. His poor beauties, left alone until hunger drove them out to die....

He felt another flash of anger at those who'd killed his poor darlings -- whatever the Harry boy had said, he doubted it was entirely due to their actions. He knew how much the villagers in the area hated him -- but it was distant, almost tired. He could do nothing now for his beauties. But if what Harry said was true, some of them still existed, somewhere....

A massive yawn nearly split his face, making him dribble soup back into the bowl. He flushed slightly and tried to pay more attention to the conversation around him. He found Molly's eyes on him, though from a less alarmingly short distance. "Would you like to get some rest now, dear?" she asked softly. "I've made up a bed for you."

"I...A bed would be...very nice," Herpo replied, after a short internal debate. He was a guest here, as strange as that seemed. Surely there would be no harm in a night's rest...

Molly beamed upon him almost warmly enough to make up for this place's absurd climate and came over to remove the tray. "Let me just put this in the kitchen and I'll show you the way."

The uncomfortable thought occurred to him that he would probably be quite helpless if these people had not apparently accepted him as a guest; even had he picked himself up out of the garden and escaped the strange biting creatures there, he would have no idea of the lay of the land or where to go to avoid people....

This was, he thought, likely to become a problem.

Well... perhaps tomorrow he could get some information from Harry and the fire-haired people.... They would undoubtedly be supportive for anything that would get him out of their home sooner.

Maybe he could go looking for the descendants of his beauties.

He was briefly distracted by what seemed to be an inordinate number of stairs; he very nearly stumbled over his own feet and a step more than once and only realized how carefully the woman was watching him when he actually lost his balance and she startled him completely by catching him before he could fall on his face.

"Poor dear, nearly too sleepy to walk. I should have mentioned it sooner." She patted his shoulder and let go of his arm with the other hand. "There, are you all right now?"

He was certainly more awake, out of nerves if nothing else. "I...am fine, madam. Thank you." He gripped the banister much more carefully the rest of the way. "I hope I am not taking the bed from one of your own..."

"Oh, we have room, don't worry. We just rearranged things a bit. Now, you'll be in what used to be Bill's and Charlie's room, but they only come back to visit now. As for the bed itself, you'd be surprised how much stray furniture's about. We keep this one thinking it's an ottoman most of the time -- but don't worry, of course it's clean now."

"...Ah. Of course." Herpo decided to just nod agreement and go along with the strange woman for now.

Molly ushered him into a cozy room and practically tucked him into the bed. "Sleep well, now. We'll see you in the morning." Privately, she resolved to send someone up with breakfast if he didn't get up too early for that. He could use the extra rest.

-----

DSDragon: We're continuing! "Swamprat" is currently a one-shot, but this one has about five chapters. Glad you like it. :)

MrRobertsIII: We're glad you can do with a little more Herpo, as there's a bit more to the story. ;) We haven't composed the back of Voldemort's Chocolate Frog Card. Feel free to imagine it. ;) And you never know, there might be a new and improved basilisk eventually... fortunately, with less bitter conversationalists.

Jess: Yes, as indicated in the first paragraph, this is shortly after Voldemort's defeat. Harry has finally escaped the press (for now) and is recharging amongst Weasleys and chocolate, probably quite glad not to have to think about The Upcoming Battle every minute. As for Swamprat, you're quite right -- we're very fond of the Founders. Glad you enjoy our work; thank you so much for telling us!

Daroga: We're glad you like them! This one will have some more serious moments a bit further on, but if you want to read a bit more humor, Andrea13's Thinking Cap stories (solo page) are hilarious.

Nundu: Well, we've had fun with it and hope you continue to. Here's the next bit!

Minuial: Yes, we are crazy -- oh, you meant the story. That too. Glad you enjoy it. :)

Nightcrawler: Thanks. :) I think it's clear we have a slight partiality to Parselmouths as well. *whistles innocently* Glad you're enjoying it!

SilverPhoenix: This fic really isn't about what happened to Voldemort, but we thought we should make it clear that he ISN'T around anymore. This is just a little look forward after Book Seven if complete. Glad you're enjoying it!

PineappleQueen: Well, when you only know him through the basilisks, he's not a very pleasant man. But we wanted to show a different side of him! Glad you're enjoying it. As for Swamprat, that one's currently a one-shot, though we agree there's plenty of room to expand it later if inspiration strikes. Thanks for the review!

Barb: We don't require long reviews. We just like to hear you're enjoying the fic. ....Although long reviews don't *hurt*, either! Glad you enjoyed Swamprat, too -- and the Weasleys would probably be surprised by this Salazar even without being related to him!

Annapurna: You'll just have to read to find out, won't you? (Though I suppose you have, if you're down to this point again. ;)) Hope you liked it, and thanks for the review!

Amaryllis: There've been some great fics with Harry's Chocolate Frog card, so we couldn't resist mentioning it. Thanks. :)

Lazywitch: Thank you, and here's the update!

And to Springyn about "Swamprat": There was a deliberate echo of Yoda's behavior when first meeting Luke, yes. :)

//
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