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——

 

There was a hissing coming from the garden. A stream of sibilance by the bushes. And next to it, a scrawny kid - messy black hair dangling in his eyes, round-rimmed glasses glinting in the sun. He sat with his legs crossed, palms on his knobbly knees, hissing. 

 

But Harry had always been weird - growing up with people like them ,anyone would be. 

 

After a minute, Mrs Next Door turned her attention back to her washing line, spinning the rotary, hanging another shirt.  The kid wasn’t doing any harm and she had bigger things to worry about. 

 

Harry was hissing. He pushed his face closer to the snake. It was curled over the branches, green chin pushed close into the chrysanthemums. 

 

Blue flower 

 

It’s not blue, it’s yellow. He’d pointed this very obvious information out without quite realising he was talking to a snake. 

 

I sense heat, I don’t see it. It’s blue. 

 

Harry shrugged. If the snake said the chrysanthemum was blue, it was probably right, in one way or another. It was something he’d remembered from Primary School - about colour cones in the eyes. He shrugged. Muggle stuff didn’t matter as much as it used to. He was a wizard, after all. 

 

“Harry! You’d better be done with the garden boy! Dudley needs his breakfast!” Aunt Petunia’s voice was like squeaking polystyrene. Merlin, not being able to do Magic in front of the Muggles sucked. 

 

“Coming Aunt Petunia!” 

 

“Oh, and kill that wretched snake at the bottom of the garden! I can’t do it because I’m looking for Dudley’s shoes.” 

 

The excuses that woman came up with, she’d admit to wiping Dudley’s bottom for him if it meant she didn’t have to voice her fear of snakes. 

 

Sorry. Harry whispered to the snake, before pushing it deeper into the bush. 

 

***

 

Harry’s cupboard was small and dark. He could hear Petunia and Vernon fighting upstairs, hissing at each other in whispered tones in the kitchen, probably so they wouldn’t disturb Dudley upstairs. 

 

Harry pushed a warm cheek into his warm pillow, before he decided he couldn’t sleep like that, flipping the pillow over to the cold side. 

 

Hissing. He thought. Like the snake at the bottom of the garden. 

 

He wondered if the snake was cold outside on it’s own. 

 

No one had remembered to lock the cupboard door, Harry couldn’t remember why. But he was glad they hadn’t. 

 

Harry pulled one of Vernon’s old jumpers over his head, listening to the hangers clatter as he flailed his arms around, trying to bunch up his sleeves in such a way that he could grip the handle of his door. It was one of the handles that turned around. Uncle Vernon had installed it so Harry couldn’t escape easily. Harry, for the most part, found it annoying. Annoying, but not unmanagable. 

 

Sweeping the hall, he noticed the door to the kitchen was shut. Thank Merlin for small mercies.

 

He pulled his shoes on in the hall as quietly as possible, sneaking a look toward the doorway he exhaled, cringing as the door creaked open, patches of light leaking onto the porch. He stepped gingerly down onto the grass, wincing as he almost slipped. 

 

The grass was wet. It had probably rained, but Harry hadn’t seen it from the cupboard. 

 

Tiptoeing across grass was much easier than tiptoeing across Aunt Petunia’s creaking, waxy floorboards. He turned backwards, partially to check whether the door had shut on him and partially to glare at the visible stretch of hallway that gleamed with the foul smelling substance that was floor polish and wax cleaner. 

 

He was snapped out of his Mexican showdown with the Dursleys’  hallway by a sound. Multiple sounds, really. He couldn’t describe it well, but he knew what it was. 

 

Why are you awake? 

 

Why do you know I’m here? Harry countered, the cold weather making his tongue sharp.

I heard your footsteps. You big ones stomp around very loudly. Can feel vibrations when you walk. 

 

Oh sorry. Harry said, quick to change the subject of how loud he is. Are you cold? 

 

Only when I fall out of bush. The snake twitched it’s tail, indicating the hedge stretching the perimeter of the yard. Pavements are hard. Very cold this time of day. 

 

It’s night. 

 

My time works differently to your time. 

 

Oh. Harry felt like he should stop correcting the snake and do something useful instead. Do you want to come inside? 

 

With you? Yes. Please. The way the word please came out was garbled, warped slightly. Snakes don’t say please and thank you, it wasn’t in their vocabulary because it was unnecessary. Harry was pleased it had made the effort to be polite to him. 

 

Mrs Next Door’s curtain twitched as Harry scampered back into the house, a writhing mass of something tucked into an oversized pocket.

 

***

 

Harry woke up before Aunt Petunia had time to bang on his door. The sun was out and he had a strange tingling feeling in his stomach. It was a good feeling, one of those feelings you get when you wake up and you have a school trip. 

 

Harry would like a school trip to Hogsmede. 

 

Hogsmede! He was sure it wasn’t long now until he was going back to school. He imagined it for a bit, laying back on his bed as his little green companion napped in the sun on his tiny window ledge. 

 

He would get to see Ron and Hermione again he could do magic, he could take… oh. He hadn’t thought of a name. He didn’t even know if the snake was a boy of a girl. 

 

***

 

The peace didn’t last for long. His broken clock had shown 3pm for the past two weeks - he hadn’t asked for it to be replaced. But he didn’t need to know the time. Aunt Petunia was a precise enough alarm. 

 

“Harry!” Bang. Bang. Bang. The door shook on it’s hinges as Harry swung himself out of bed. “You’d better be awake! I won’t have you sleeping in like this is unhealthy!” 

 

Go away. The snake muttered from its place on the window ledge, before curling back into itself, head tucked under its body. 

 

Not moving from it’s hidey hole - it made more low noises, short and sharp. Humans are loud. 

 

I know. 

 

They are-

 

Harry raised his eyebrow at the snake. He was horrified. Petunia had done the exact same thing to Dudley when he’d said the same bad word about a year before. 

 

At the next bang, Harry conceded that the snake was right to use the bad word.  

 

***

 

Of course, Harry cooked breakfast, but today he didn’t burn the bacon. Smiling, he settled the pan to simmer.



He could hear Dudley watching Courage the Cowardly Dog on the big television in the living room. 

 

A name! 

 

Courage. He whispered. 

 

***

 

He packed his trunk the Muggle way, which was inconvenient to say the least. It felt like it had taken hours just to fold his clothes. (He’d started by dumping them all unceremoniously into his suitcase - only relenting to the folding when he realised it wouldn’t shut properly.) “Merlin’s-”

 

His cupboard door swung open as his trunk swung shut. Harry instantly stood with his back to the window - shielding Courage from Vernon.

“We don’t say words like that in this house, boy.” Vernon’s finger was about an inch away from Harry’s nose, making Harry recede into his own neck slightly. He couldn’t back away. 

 

He gulped. “Yes.”

 

“Excuse you?”

 

“Yes. Uncle Vernon.” Harry said resolutely.

 

This had been going on for years, but Harry still hadn’t quite gotten used to it. He could, however, see that this wasn’t the right time to ask Vernon if he could have a lift to King’s Cross. 

 

***

 

“Yes Vernon, no Vernon, three bags full Vernon.” Harry grumbled for the sixth time under his breath as the Dursley family swung the car into a parking spot and herded Harry out of it as fast as possible. 

 

At least he’d remembered his trunk this time. 

 

Loud. Lots of human shapes. Yellow. Mostly.  

 

Courage was tucked into his pocket beside his ribcage. He’d chosen one of Dudley’s old t-shirts specifically with the snake in mind. Yeah. Harry said softly. I know. 

 

Do you want me to bite them?

 

NO! Harry must have made an unintentionally breathy noise as he sucked the air through his teeth, because a crowd of people turned to him and stared, probably thinking he’d fallen over or something equally as stupid.

***

“...Like bringing a snake to school?” Ron nodded to the little head peeking out of Harry’s pocket as they wandered down 9 and ¾. “Come on mate, I’m messing. Just hide it in your robes or something.”

 

“Besides, Harry. You’re the Chosen One .” Hermione said this with as much disdain as her body could muster, her curls falling around her face as she marched over to the yellow line to wait for the train. 

 

They were all relatively early for once, even Ron and his gaggle of siblings. His mum had apparently made everyone get everything together the night before, even going as far as to making a Hot Potato checklist. 

 

“If your bags are not fully packed, your trunk will burn. You will have three minutes to pack before it’s completely incinerated.” Ron parroted, rolling his eyes. Fred and George had been especially unlucky in that department, although George’s trunk only started smoking. Fred’s was well and truly burnt at the corners. 

 

Before they could go on to discuss anything else about the twins - a plan to replace the windshield wipers on a Ministry Issued car with a Rainbow paintbrush spell - the train let off an excess of steam, the noise almost tumbling Courage onto the tracks. Harry grabbed her, holding her up to his face. 

 

I’m starting to think I should have called you Neville Longbottom. 

 

***

Meanwhile, back at the Dursley’s, Mrs Next Door picked up the phone. 

“999. What’s your emergency?” 

“Oh. Thank god. There’s a little boy over at number 4. Yes, Privet Drive. He’s just gone off to boarding school I think. I don’t know where. I was just ringing as a precaution... I don’t think his carers are very good to him... yes. Of course. Thank you. Adoption? Oh, um...”

——

It was already dark. “And wet and cold.” Ron pointed out helpfully as the train skirted another bend, the tracks squeaking against the rolling wheels. The clouds overhead had indeed turned a dark grey, stretching out in thin, watery lines. 

 

Hermione returned to their compartment with a couple of white paper bags. “I got Betie’s Botts for you.” She nodded to Ron, who gratefully took the bag from her.

 

“And assortments for you because you eat a new thing every week.”

 

“Stop using big words, Hermione, you sound like my mum.” Ron was already deep into his box of jelly beans. “No! Wait! You snuck a chocolate frog in here too? You’re the best!”

 

Hermione said nothing but her lip quirked at the praise. 

 

What is chocolate frog. Does it taste like frog?

 

Harry was stroking Courage’s head, his knuckles sliding softly over her smooth scales. They shimmered as she curled up on his lap, basking in the warmth of his thighs. It does not taste like frog. You can have some mice or something once I get to Hogwarts. 

 

Courage had gone hunting the night before, leaving him a couple of presents for his squirming stomach on the window ledge. Harry wrinkled his nose less than fondly. You can’t eat frog. Or toad. You have to promise. 

 

Courage dipped her head in annoyed acquiescence and Harry settled into the  rolling train ride, leaning into his robes as carefully as he could without the clasp coming undone. 

 

He really needed to fix that. 

——


He’d barely been back to school before he was hauled up to the Headmaster’s office. “-managed two days… docked points for…” 

 

Harry wasn’t listening, or not very well, half of his mind on the little coil of scales back in his dorm. His cheek dimpled as he bit down on it, thinking about the air bubble charm he’d cast on his bedside drawer and wondering whether Courage had eaten her rat yet. 

 

“-about putting Muggle paint in the windscreen wipers of Ministry Cars.” 

 

Oh. Oh. Right.

 

“I don’t know Sir, wasn’t there.” Since being back at school, Harry had fallen into the more regional dialect of Cinderford - the town just outside the Forbidden Forest. 

 

“I see. Well, if you do see anything…” Dumbledore looked down at him through his half-moon spectacles, lines creasing in the corners of his eyes. “Be sure to tell me.” A pause. “Before you go, I have something for you... adoption papers from a Mrs. Needle?”

 

“Mrs. Next Door?” 

 

“If that’s what you call her. We can do the transfer here, if you promise to keep this information quiet - we can’t allow the Dursley’s to know anything, understood?”

 

Yes. Sir.”

 

“I suppose I should let you go. I have everything I need.”

 

Still, Harry didn’t move. Adoption... wow. A hiss emitted from his jacket pocket. 

 

“Sir. I don’t suppose I’d be allowed a pet? A snake… maybe? Hypothetically speaking.” He’d learned the word from Hermione, and it seemed like it’d come in handy for a conversation like this. 

 

But, to Harry’s surprise, Dumbledores face split into a grin. Leaning back on his chair he chuckled. “Well… I don’t see why not. Just don’t tell Professor Mcgonagall.”

 

***

 

Where are we?

 

Sh. This is Defence, I actually like this class.

 

It’s dark. Perfect time for awakeness. 

 

Harry groaned internally. How could he have forgotten that snakes were nocturnal? 

 

The Defence Professor was probably saying something immensely important that Harry would need to understand later, but currently, he was arguing with a snake. So it’d have to wait. 

 

I’m never taking you to sit in on my classes again. Harry tried his best to speak quietly, but he knew that students were already looking at him out of the corner of his eye warily. 

 

He did look odd, his robe bulging and rippling at odd moments as Courage slipped over his back and shoulders, trying to seek a comfortable position. 

 

If you don’t stop moving up there, I am going to have to leave you outside. Don’t think I won’t do it. 

 

Try me.

 

Harry’s hand shot up. “Sir, it’s realllyyyy stuffy in here. Can I open a window?” Before he got a reply - before his mind could be changed, Harry shot from his seat. 

 

For the rest of class Harry’s shoulder felt like it was missing something. 

 

*** 

 

The only mention of Courage was an overheard one near the girls bathroom. “Eep! A snake!”

 

But when Harry had burst in there, looking for Courage he was stopped in his tracks as four pairs of eyes turned to glare at him. 

 

“Oh, uh, sorry have you seen…” Harry backed out of the doorway. 

 

“I must have gotten the wrong bathroom. Sorry.” His face flushed, he ran back to the common room, taking the steps up to the tower two at a time. 

When he recounted this story to Ron, he seemed to think it resoundingly more funny than Harry had. 

 

*** 

 

Harry almost jumped out of his skin at the face peering over his bedside table the next morning, big brown eyes fixed on his face. 

 

“Hermione! You can’t just walk in here!” 

 

“Yes I can, you should have been awake twenty minutes ago!” Harry groaned, thinking about the broken alarm clock and Aunt Petunia’s nagging. Clearly it hadn’t stuck - even though the awnings are open and a slanting patch of rapidly weakening sunlight is streaming over his chest. 

 

He sunk back into the bed halfheartedly, only to sit bolt upright again. “Where is everyone. Why aren’t you in class?”

 

“It’s Saturday.” Hermione said it as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Besides. Ron’s gone to see Madame Pomfrey. He has a coughing fit. Which he claims you caused last night.” She poked him in the stomach. 

 

“I did not cause anything! Why aren’t you down there with him?”

 

“Because, he asked me to come get you, since he can’t go to Hogsmede-” She made air quotes, “in fear of infecting anyone - as he puts it, he’s asked us to go alone.”

 

“Yeah, ok.”

 

“Why did you agree so easily to that?” Hermione narrowed her eyes in suspicion and Ron’s reverberating words of what she doesn’t know can’t hurt her thrummed around in his brain. 

 

Well, Ron wasn’t here now was he. 

 

“He asked me to sneak a bottle of Odgen’s Firewhiskey back here.” 

 

***

 

“You need to get that clasp sorted, you’re robes are wonky.”

 

What’s she saying?

 

She says robes are wobbly. 

 

Parseltongue didn’t work well with Muggle slang, especially not with Muggle slang that had only existed in the past hundred years or so, so Harry found himself substituting words left right and centre. 

 

I agree. 

 

Harry shot Courage a look. He’d found her in his underwear drawer while he was sorting through balls of socks earlier in the day. 

 

“What’s she saying about me?” Hermione inclined her head, looking a bit concerned. 

 

“She agrees with you.”

 

“Oh. That’s alright then.”

 

*** 

 

The reptile shop was full of smells - smells that you couldn’t tell whether they were good or bad because they all blended together. 

 

Harry was at the counter when he caught Malfoy from the corner of his eye. He hadn’t noticed him because, well… he was sat on the floor. 

 

His robes were sprinkled with sawdust and his hair was windswept as he crouched down to the tank, fingers inches away from the glass, muttering. Harry couldn’t see what it was until Draco stood, cradling the Bearded Dragon in his arms, pushing the glass case shut gently with his foot. 

 

He felt Courage tense - or maybe it was him - he wasn’t sure. 

 

The cashier gave him his plastic baggie of mice and Harry dumped a load of change: sickles, knuts, galleons on the counter before tearing off in the other direction. “Sorry! Keep the change! I’m late for a robe fitting!”

 

While not technically true, it wasn’t a lie either. 

 

By the time he was out on the street, the clasp for his robes had fallen off completely. 

 

Bundling up a shivering Courage in his cloak, he stalked up the road in hopes of findng Hermione somewhere close to Gringotts. 

——

 

“Well, snakes and bearded dragons are usually sworn enemies-”

 

Oh.

 

That sounds familiar. 

 

Harry shifted in his seat at Madame Malkins as Hermione held up robe buckles for him to try. “-but you described it strangely. Like Courage was afraid.”

 

Harry confirmed this with Courage, who had curled up in the empty buckle box Madame Malkin had given him before she went to sort things out in the back of the shop. 

 

“Well. It’s just that snakes don’t cower-” At Harry’s hard look, she reordered her sentence into something more positive toward Courage, although the snake couldn’t understand human language. 

 

Complicated. She’d said. 

 

“What I mean, Harry, is the snake usually makes enemies with the dragon. Not the other way around.” 

 

A handshake came to mind before Harry dismissed it. “Okay.” 

 

***

 

Harry spent a lot of hours that night reassuring Courage that she could come back to classes with him, and that the Bearded Dragon wouldn’t hurt her.  I promise. If anything happens I shall punch the owner. He’s a ferret anyway. 

 

He doesn’t look like a ferret. 

 

Snakes don’t understand sarcasm either. Apparently. 

 

***

 

The week is uneventful until Friday. 

 

Greg Goyle’s cauldron blows up in Potion’s - which is, unfortunately, first lesson and Harry gets detention for laughing about it. Charms is a mess because Professor Flitwick has a minor form of Spattergroit and Filch is summoned as a substitute teacher.

 

By the time he slumps down in transfiguration, Harry’s head lolls a little as the words roll over him, fading into the general noise of the classroom. He jumps when Courage sliters down his chest to settle herself on the lap of his open robes. 

 

He shifts so his robes cover her and she talks nineteen to the dozen. 

 

Malfoy gets detention - Merlin knows what for - and by the end of class Harry finds he has an entire page of notes about how scared he is of Bearded Dragons. 

 

Perfect. 

 

He really wants to thump his head against the desk, but instead stuffs the paper into his pocket and slips out of class, careful not to catch eyes with Mcgonagall who is talking quite severely to someone in the corner. 

 

***

 

Harry walks into detention with a determination that deteriorates as soon as he sees Malfoy lounging on the desk next to the window. 

 

“What do you want?” His legs are long and lanky, stretching over a long patch of floor. “You’re looking at me like I shouldn’t be here.”

 

“You shouldn’t.” Harry’s tone is flat as Courage winds down his arm and he throws his robes off. It’s far too hot in here for that. Anyway. Malfoy has a Muggle Dragon. It only occurs to Harry now that the creature is Muggle. He doesn’t know what that means, but he’s certain Malfoy’s parents don’t know about his little acquaintance. 

 

Malfoy’s wand is out before he has a chance to say anything else. “Get that thing away from me!”

 

“Relax. She’s more scared of your dragon than you are of her!”

 

“I don’t have a- oh.” 

 

***

 

Harry and Draco watched in abject horror for the both of their babies as the Bearded Dragon sidled up to the snake, nudging Courage with his head, before promptly settling beside her.

 

The dragon had seemed to decide that she was safe. 

 

Told you. Harry whispered to her before turning a scowl on Malfoy.

 

He was staring, open mouthed. 

 

“Seems like we do have something in common, after all, Potter.”

 

*** 

 

“What the heck is an Heir of Slytherin and why did no one tell me anything about it!” Hermione and Ron sprang apart. 

 

Hermione thrust a book into his hands and turned back to Ron. She made an offhand remark about getting it from the library when she’d found out Harry could speak Parseltongue, although she hadn’t pressed him for answers, her lips were drawn tightly, the bow of her mouth less pronounced than usual.

 

Their heads had been pushed together conspiratially for about half of the afternoon while Harry had been stalking the school grounds. “Oh you’re both useless!”

 

“Harry!” Hermione shouted after him but he turned his back on them. 

 

***

 

What doing?

 

Harry was picking grass outside the Forbidden Forest. Well, more like ripping it up. He just took fistfuls, prising it out of the ground just to discard it behind him. 

 

The snake that had come up to him was not Courage. This one was bigger, with darker markings. 

 

It’s eyes narrowed when Harry didn’t answer. You are wanting to be alone?

 

Harry didn’t know what he wanted. Not really. 

 

---

 

Harry left the book at the entrance of the forest. 

 

He’d flipped through it, reluctantly but the words swam in his head. Words like Slytherin’s Heir licking at the corners of his mind - like a hungry snake. 

 

A hungry snake is what he found when he got back to his dorm. The rabbit swung from her jaws, fur matted between her teeth. 

 

He wrestled the bunny out of Courage’s grasp, using his wand to snip some fur off the poor rabbit. 

 

The rabbit wasn’t too downtrodden thank Merlin, but it settled a bitter look over it’s face as Harry transfigured an old box under his bed labelled ‘broom cleaning’ into a small cage. 

 

I’ll be having words with you when I get back. 

 

He didn’t take another look at his bedside table as he whisked the box under his arm, making for the common room to find the owner of the rabbit.

 

***

 

“Binky!” 

 

Of course the rabbit was Lavender’s. His day just had to get worse. 

 

“Oh his hairs all matted! He looks so angry! What happened!”

 

Harry rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “I- um… found him like that?” He didn’t sound very convincing. 

 

“Sorry Lavender I have to go I’ve got homework to finish.” 

 

Lavender was too busy fiddling with a small purple brush to pay much attention as Harry left the common room as fast as was physically acceptable. 

 

*** 

 

He managed to get back to the dorm just before curfew. Neville and Dean were already in bed, Seamus singing loudly in the bathroom. 

 

“Hey.” Ron said, a little sheepishly, though Harry noticed he hadn’t said sorry. Instead he pointed to Harry’s bedside table. “I didn’t want to move it but I picked it up - just to make sure it was yours.”

 

The buckle was silver and dented, totally unlike the polished brass that pinned his cloak together now. 

 

Harry examined the buckle carefully. “It’s mine.” This confirmation led him nowhere though. 

 

He’d dropped it in Diagon, hadn’t he?

 

“I heard about the rabbit. Fred and George were in the commons when you gave it to Lavender”. 

 

Harry groaned. “Please don’t tell her Courage tried to eat the bloody thing.” 

 

“Your snake tried to eat Lavender’s rabbit?!”

 

“Shh!”

 

It was too late for that though. Neville had already scooped Trevor up in his hands and legged it to the bathroom. A high pitched scream from Seamus the only indication that the toad had been successfully relocated. 

 

***

 

The next morning Harry was awake and headed to the library before any of his roommates had stirred. 

 

He decided to take Courage with him. Thinking about Nevilles toad drove him to scoop her up from her hideyhole in his sock drawer, which she was less than impressed by. 

 

I’m sorry but you have to come with me. I’m not letting you go anywhere near Neville’s toad. 

 

Where going?

 

The library. Harry imagined she gave him and almost Hermione-like glare at that. 

 

I wasn’t lying to Lavender, I do have homework. Harry couldn’t imagine snakes cared about homework or libraries, but he just liked talking to her. 

 

She sat on his shoulder as he perused the books. When he eventually found an empty study desk - apparently most of the school had had the same bright idea as he did - he curled up and read. 

 

Why so quiet?

 

Do you want me to read to you? When he didn’t get an answer he shrugged and did it anyway. 

 

Selina Sapworthy is a very famous witch specialised in water plants. 30 years ago when she met Sir Winogrand's collection in the African Lakes, she was absolutely surprised with the diversity and the magical potential that those water plants had… as Harry’s soft voice drifted through her, Courage was lulled by the rise and fall of his chest. 

 

“Potter.” 

 

Harry shut the Herbology book so fast that a cloud of dust rose from the pages. “What do you want Malfoy.” 

 

“No need to be rude. I came to return this, if you must know.” He held up a book. 

 

Harry didn’t care. Turning back to Courage he continued to speak to Malfoy. “Why not return it to Madame Pince then.”

 

“It’s your book.” 

 

Harry peered at the cover before realising it was the book Hermione had leant him. 

 

“Thanks.” He said begrudgingly, taking the book. 

 

To his horror, instead of leaving, Draco sat down opposite him. 

 

“Can you teach me how to do that?”

 

“To do what?” Harry was so confused that he didn’t really have a snide comment prepared for retaliation purposes.

 

“Parceltongue, Potter. You speak it.” 

 

“Well yeah but…” 

 

“It works with other reptiles, apparently. I checked the restricted section.” 

 

Harry turned to Courage. She opened her mouth in an approximation of a smile. Friend is sad he can’t speak to other friend. 

 

What, Malfoy?

 

No, Aurellius sad he can’t speak to his human. To which Courage slithered down Harry’s arm to join and equally excited Aurellius on the table. 

 

“I’ll teach you. On one condition, tell me why you kept my robe clasp.” 

 

Draco did at least have the good grace to blush at this. 

 

*** 

 

“We didn’t see you at breakfast.” 

 

“I was with Draco. I’m teaching him Parseltongue.” Harry said it so casually that it took Ron a minute to process. Hermione, however, had no such problem.

 

“Since when is Malfoy Draco?” Her eyes narrowed and Harry couldn’t help but compare it to the way Aurellius looked at Harry when he spoke to Draco in English, like they were keeping secrets from him. 

 

“Since he decided to actually clear up why all this Heir of Slytherin stuff was important instead of just dumping a book in my hands and leaving me to it. Did Ron tell you about Lavender's rabbit?” 

 

Lavender’s butterscotch curls flew as she turned in her chair. “Why are you lot talking about Binky. She didn’t do anything!”

 

Harry apologised profusely before Ron whispered that he’d tell Hermione later. “Oi, pass the chicken, Lav?” 

 

*** 

 

Sunday was a monotonous affair, the sky was sleet grey and clouds roiled thickly overhead. A lot of students had chosen to stay in bed. 

 

As the roof of the great hall showed nothing of interest, Harry made his way over to the Gryffindor table.

 

He’d barely been able to grab a piece of toast before he was stopped in his tracks. 

 

Oi, Potter.

 

“What do you want, Malf- Draco.” 

 

Draco bared his teeth, an approximation of a smile. “I’ve been practicing. Are you free lunch time, I thought we could go to the library.” 

 

“Uh.. yeah sure.” Harry wasn’t sure he’d ever seen Draco so happy. He gave him a tentative smile back. “Do you want to sit with me?” 

 

Mmmm turkkkey came a voice from under Draco’s robes. That settled it for them. 

 

They talked quietly as their pets scampered over the sparsely populated bench. They talked about everything that wasn’t war. Classes, food, their pets, how difficult plosives and fricatives were. Neither of them seemed to notice that they were talking reasonably to one another, each of them occupied with other things. 

 

Look I’ll cut you some beef now - even though you shouldn’t have any. Harry busied himself with his whining snake while Draco piled his plate with vegetables, scowling at the claw prints in his cucumber. 

 

If you can’t behave you’re going on the floor. Draco scowled. 

 

Harry laughed as he watched Draco pluck the writhing mass of scales and teeth from a piece of lettuce before depositing him in Harry’s lap. Sit there and behave yourself.

 

“Oh, Potter.” 

 

Harry rolled his eyes. “Call me Harry.” 

 

“Okay, whatever scarhead I have quidditch practice with the Slytherins tomorrow.” Draco dusted some invisible breadcrumbs from his shirt before making to stand. 

 

“Why tell me that, I don’t care.” 

 

“Oh use your brain.” Draco quipped but he was fidgeting with his buttons as he did so. “I want you to babysit.”

 

“You trust me?” The shock must have shown on his face because Draco’s lip quirked upwards slightly before the mask was back in place. 

 

“No. Aurellius doesn’t like to be left by himself. He trusts you.” Without another word Harry was left alone, Courage flicking her tongue ever so often in search of her friend. 

 

When Harry stood up to leave he had to pry her off a cabbage leaf that apparently still carried Aurellius’ scent.

 

---

 

Harry spent most of the morning frantically looking for advice in the library, Madame Pince gently moving him along from the Creatures section over to Muggle Studies. The section on Muggle Studies was a lot smaller than the rest of the library, with only a few shelf units. 

 

They were grouped together in such a way that they created an unintentional reading nook. Harry sat down, making the most of the quiet as he flipped through a couple of books on wild reptiles. 

 

Courage was, of course, with him. Settled on his shoulder as always. Her tail drooped downward, flicking over the coloured pictures as Harry read. 

 

That looks like friend. Doesn’t smell like friend though. 

 

Aurellius isn’t here right now. I’m reading about him. 

 

Why?

 

So I can know how to take care of him, I don’t want to do anything wrong - I know Draco adores him. 

 

You not thinking of getting rid of me are you?

 

No! Where did you get that idea!

 

You learn about Aurellius as owner and not friend. 

 

Harry thought about this information for a while. Sometimes Courage was smarter than he was. (Could snakes get sorted into Ravenclaw?) Eventually he packed up the books, pushing them back onto the shelf with a satisfying sliding motion. 

 

***

 

Do you reckon animals can be sorted into houses?

 

I have no idea what half of those words are, you moron. 

 

“Oh, so you bothered to learn the word moron but my previous sentence didn’t make sense?” Harry effectually rolled his eyes. “I asked if animals could be sorted into houses.” He had assumed Draco would make a snide comment about how animals couldn’t be sorted because they weren’t wizards and it was against genetic code or something else pretentious.

 

“Aurellius is a Hufflepuff. Obviously.”

 

Harry didn’t say anything for a while, watching as Courage wound her way around Harry’s arm. 

 

“I think Courage is a Ravenclaw.” 

 

“What, because she’s smarter than you?”

 

“Hey!” For some reason, Harry was very protective over his snakes fake Hogwarts sorting.

 

Draco shook his head. “She’s a Gryffindor - like you.” Their eyes met briefly before Draco turned away, suddenly intent on the table wood below him. “I saw her try to throw herself onto the platform before you got on the train at the start of the year. And I heard about the rabbit.” 

 

“Oh for Merlin’s sake!” Harry watched, half appalled and half amused as Draco placed his hand gently against his mouth; it didn’t quite stop him laughing through his fingers. 

 

When he left this time, Harry left his tie behind, with the feeble hope that Draco would return it.

 

——

 

Sure enough, the tie was neatly draped over his bed the next day, along with a note. 

 

It was written in a gentle, swirling script. 

 

Dear Harry Potter, 

 Please come and ask me out instead of leaving me pick up after you. 

 

D. Malfoy

 

Harry stared at the note, before pocketing it, running his hand over the thick ink as he made his way down the dormitory stairs. 

 

Oh my god… he said please .

 

Courage hissed happily, uncurling herself from his neck to blink up at him.

 

Oh! Finally.