Chapter 8: Naja
Harry walked toward the dungeons, his heart pounding wildly and head spinning, his veins running on pure anger. Lucky he had a Calming Draught in his room for just such emergencies. That stupid Impediment Jinx cast by Neville not only chaught him off guard – something which definitely got his blood boiling, but also separated him from something so amazing...
Harry stopped for a second, taking a few deep breaths. Slowly, almost tentactively he touched his bottom lip with his trembling fingers. He closed his eyes and his mind recalled the feel of Ginny´s lips on his. He never EVER experienced something even remotely similar... though his first kiss was long gone (lost to an unworthy candidate)... but the feel of Ginny – her lips clashing so violently with his, her hair – smooth and silky in his fingers, her hands pulling him as close as humanly possible...
"WHAT´S GOING ON WITH YOU?!"he exclaimed in his mind.
But with another deep breath desighned to calm himself, he recalled what a wise old woman (a muggle – he reminded himself with pride) had always told him since he was a little boy.
"Harry... you´ll know instantly the one who is the best for you – after one simple, single kiss. You´ll just know... just like your Mum did and... just I had known..."
Harry gulped. Could she be right?... But afterall... when was Grandmum Annie EVER wrong? The smile from his face dissapeared as soon as he reminded himself of the Impediment Jinx and his rage immediately returned – also the painfull realization of what was bound to happen after the exchange.
He was still wrestling with his feelings when he reached Slytherin Common Room. Paying absolutely no attention to the stares and whispering he was getting from younger fellow snakes – he figured they must´ve seen him in Hogsmeade with Ginny – he made his way into his room, desperate for the Calming Draught.
Opening the door he found Draco there blushing like mad as a giggling Astoria went over the bags he brought from Hogsmeade. The two barely flashed him smiles of greeting when Harry found himself constricted and squeezed with affection by a semi-long yet powerfull cobra with pure-gold (which seemed to glow slightly) and black-onyx scales.
"N...Naja..."he breathed almost in surprise – in the wake of everything that has happened, he had almost forgotten his Dad´s mentioning of a bag meant for him and given to Draco.
"Harry... I missssssed you..."hissed his beloved pet-cobra happily, though he was the only person in the room who understood what she said.
Draco and Astoria however didn´t need parseltongue for this little exchange – the affectionate "hug" was too plain to miss for anyone. Draco grinned at the pair happily and Astoria gave her sunniest smile as Harry reached for Naja´s head (now settled over his heart) with his hand and stroke it gently with his palm – Naja leaning into the feeling contently, sticking her tongue out in order to take in as much detail as possible – her golden scales glowing brighter, her jet-black eyes shining.
Harry instantly felt his anger evaporate, his tension dissapear, his worries vanish – any need for a Calming Draught was long gone as a happy smile graced his lips.
"I missed you too, Naja."he said to her, his voice gentle and he felt Naja squeeze him tighter yet not (NEVER) enough to hurt him.
"She´s been getting a bit impatient, Harry... since Draco opened the vase when he got back."informed Astoria smilingly.
"At first she merely lay on your bed, but for some time now she was slithering around the room, waiting for you to come back."
Harry´s heart warmed and he replaced his palm on her head with his lips, giving her an affectionate kiss. As he moved towards his bed – Naja remained tied to him with her head exactly on the same spot – he spied the remaining contents of his bag and felt a surge of affection towards his dear old Dad. Inside, next to the enchanted vase he made two years back in this very room in order to transport Naja safely and secretly where he wished, were his favourite muggle magazines sent by Granddad and Grandmum Evans and a handfull of letters, one of which – the one without an envilope - he took into his hand and instantly recondized his Dad´s handwriting.
I´ve been slightly worried given the thing that happened this morning. If we don´t get around to mentioning this infront of your charming girl – I understand if we don´t – rest assured, that me and your Mum have talked with your sister. I figured, that you also wished to visit your... ah, charges... as well. Though the others don´t seem to be as buffed, poor Naja apparently senced you in the house and came out of your room to investigate – heh... Amelia shrieked like a schoolgirl when Naja entered the kitchen and jumped straight into Sirius´ arms (you should´ve seen THAT). Now... you don´t have to be "in-tune" with animals to see, that the poor girl was really missing her beloved master. Me and your Mum could see that quite easily when we were in your room yesterday – thanks for the password by the way. I didn´t really have the heart to see our little Naja so sulky and sad, so... there you are. Now young man, I hope you realize the trouble I am most likely to get into once your dear Mum finds, that Naja is not in the house... that´s why I ask you the ussual – DON´T let her be seen in school. I imagine that Sev will most likely know, that she is there as well but... let´s keep this a boy´s secret for as long as possible. I´m afraid that your Mum will surely try to skin me and poor Severus alive for this and unlike Naja – this WILL pose a problem for us (needless to say that I am counting on you to soften your strong and scary Mum´s heart, since she is completly helpless before YOUR puppy-eyes). By the way... both Mum and me were incredibly impressed when we saw what you´ve done to your room. Astounding work, Harry... amazing magic - wonderous to behold. I can´t tell which of us were more proud of your ablilities – though I imagine that your Mum would definitely say it was HER (but the you know it was actually ME, right?). I also in a way understand why you don´t want just anyone to enter your room, though I hope that this list will one day include your siblings as well as your charming girl. One thing mystifies me though – the empty portrait... Harry... who´s portrait IS it?
Well... must go now... I have to scope Naja into that enchanted vase you made for her and slowly be off to Hogsmeade – we´ll see you there. If I won´t have the chance, give my best to the other snakies in your room and don´t worry about Naja´s absence at the Cottage. Surely the other boys of yours will love the oppoturnity to keep our Anti-Vermin Home Security System active – you do know how your dear old Dad hates rats...
Also your grandparents have sent you fresh copies of your favourite reading (I couldn´t help but flicker trough a few pages and... I´m completly lost... can´t understand most of it – giant surge of pride at my smart son occuring in here), so I hope that this along with Naja will be more than enough to make up for the damage done by Alice´s outburst this morning.
See you soon
"So... what does your Dad have to say?"asked Astoria, noting the grin on his face.
"Well... he gives all of you his best. And he asked about the "empty-portrait" in my room."
All three laughed, sharing a private joke.
"Does he really expect you to answer THAT one?"giggled Astoria.
"Well... I suppose it was worth a try."said Draco winking at Harry.
Harry shook his head.
"I suppose. Still... I´m not likely to answer, am I now?"shrugged Harry, wiggling his eyebrows mischievously, while his free hand was strocking Naja´s scales.
Suddenly the door of their room opened and in walked Blaise – a goofy smile plastered on his face. Harry, Draco, Astoria and Naja looked curiously as Blaise walked towards his bed and positively collapsed eagle-spread on it, sighing dreamily.
"Hisss heart iss beating very fassssst..."hissed Naja, sticking her tongue out to confirm.
"That´s love for you, all right."
"Blaise mate... are you okay?"asked Draco in concern moving closer to him.
"´Course he is, you prat. That´s how a boy ussually looks when he´s been snogged half-to-death."she said grinningly, recodnizing the signs though she never once seen Blaise display them – he for once completly forgot to act all high, noble and charming and looked like a lovesick fourth-year.
Draco looked at her in shock.
"H...how would you know that?! Have... have you...?"he gaped at her.
Astoria grinned and stuck out her tongue.
"Wouldn´t you like to know, Malfoy."she said mischievously.
Harry chuckled as Draco pouted and turned his head back towards Blaise.
"I imagined something like that would occur when charming Miss Lovegood separated her and Blaise away from me and Ginny upon returning to the castle."informed Harry – a mischievous smirk on his face.
"As I understood it, she said something about an unused classroom..."
Draco snorted but Astoria cooed "cute...".
Blaise looked at them, his grin never leaving his face as his cheeks took on color.
"She... she is an angel... absolutely extraordinary (Draco snorted again)... I have never met such an enchantingly beautifull and wonderous being... I... I am happy beyond any words that I can spend my life with her..."he breathed, his eyes closed dramily relishing the feel of his still-slightly swollen lips.
This statement left the rest of the room completly stunned. He said it with the same passionate tone of voice as was present years back ( and everytime since then) when he announced his life´s ambition of becoming Minister of Magic – something he was very intent on becoming one day. Draco slapped his forehead in mild disbelief.
"Sweet Merlin... you got it bad, don´t you... HEY... no need to glare at me like that, Blaise..."he added quickly, raising his hands in surrender for Blaise raised his head from the bed and gave Draco a truly murderous glare.
"Sure... I found the notion of your engagement amusing for a while, but you´re my mate... I´m happy things are going well for you."
Blaise´s murderous glare instantly changed to a friendly, happy and slightly relieved smile.
"Thank you, Dray. It truly means the world to me having your support... along with everyone else´s of course."
Harry and Astoria grinned at him.
"Of course you have our support, Blaise."said Astoria staunchly and Harry nodded fervently.
"Needless to say, that I think that Miss Lovegood is more than a fine match for you."said Harry earnestly – the hour they all spent at the Three Broomsticks had convinced him of that.
Blaise smiled brightly – he knew his friends would definitely understand, but hearing it said made it all the better. He layed his head back into the pillows happily.
"Perhaps... this inter-house bridging is the first step in turning this country around and building a better future for everyone..."he breathed, his heart longing for the words to be true.
His three friends couldn´t help but laugh happily.
"Spoken like a true politician."said Harry in good-humor.
Draco grinned and gave Blaise a mock-sallute.
"You can count on my vote, future Minister."
The room once more rang with happy laughter and even Naja – sencing the emotions going on hissed happily as if to join in. The door opened again and in came Angus, his clothes slightly blackened – as if burned by something, and his normally shoulder-long brown hair sticking out in all directions, giving it a slight resemblance to a hedgehog – he looked as though he had recieved an electric shock, yet for some reason he looked incredibly happy about something. His happiness only increased as he saw who was wrapped around Harry. He walked closer even as he said "hi" to everyone and placed his palm on Naja´s outstreched head.
"And hello to you too, girl. Long time no see..."he said happily to her and though she couldn´t evactly understand what he said, she senced the emotion behind the greeting and returned it happily.
"So, Angus... how did your date go? I didn´t think Susan would try to curse you right on the first date."said Harry nonchalantly, though it was plain to everyone that Susan Bones was the least likely reason for his looking like that.
Angus blushed and shook his now spiky head.
"That´s good... because it wasn´t Susan. First up, the unicorns we were treating – all five of them – are completly cured and we released them into the Forest. Very gratefull they were too... I think Susan liked that experience..."he said, a small smile appeared on his face.
Suddenly the smile grew tenfold.
"And our project is underway... the Greatbolt Eels hatched this morning."he said almost breathlessly.
Harry, Draco, Astoria and Blaise gave a loud goan. Angus went along with most of Hagrid´s experiments – the two honestly found eachother as the best partners, sharing not only (an almost obsessive) interest in Magical Creatures, but also a breathless fascination with dangerous ones – the more lethal the better. Upon meeting Angus´ father and brother this would definitely be understandable in a way, however...
"Dear sweet Merlin, Angus! That is NOT what boys take a girl to upon their first date!"scolded Astoria in exaspiration.
Angus looked confused for a second.
"What´s the problem? I mean she agreed to go... she saw five beautifull unicorns, plus a rare breed of sea creatures. Do you have any idea how fascinating they are?"
Draco sighed and shook his head.
"I imagine that this fascination was at once followed by your and Hagrid´s... ah, investigations."said Blaise now rose from his bed and looked at his friend in mild-exaspiration.
"Sure did... we took out my Voltmeter – thanks for helping me transforming it to work on magic, Harry – and I started to measure up their inner-charge. Guys... amazing... just only hatched – tiny as a worm - and 50 volts already... reckon they´ll be able to deliver 200 by the end of the month. Maybe even more."
Draco and Blaise exchanged exaspirated looks, Harry whistled in mild-interest, Naja looked curiously at the activity going on and Astoria sighed deeply, seating herself on Draco´s bed and crossing her arms and legs, looking at Angus rather like a big sister would on her tiny baby brother when doing something bad.
"So... you find it amazing, do you?"she asked icily, her eyes narrowing to slits.
Harry, Draco and Angus all gulped, remembering of the begining of this summer and the all-mighty scolding they got from her AND Harry´s mother, when they found them (along with James and Sirius) having their "Tough-guy chilli-pepper eating contest". Draco and Harry quickly side-stepped away, leaving Angus right in Astoria´s line-of-fire. Angus gulped dispite the obvious difference of size and weight. For such a small girl, she could be really fearsome sometimes.
"So... you find it amazing when a tiny electric worm nearly incinerates you with its voltage?! DO YOU?!"
For the slightest moment Harry was very glad for the fact, that he had his faithfull Naja to protect him. Angus however had no such help.
"Well I... I ... well, no... but..."he stammered, desperate to explain himself now looking positively like a six-year-old boy chaught in wrong-doing by his mother.
"Did you have any concern for the poor girl at all? Instead of taking her out on a nice and simple date – a stroll in Hogsmeade or anything of the sort, YOU took her to Hagrid´s so she can look at you playing around with your little experiments... Has it ever crossed your mind, that she may not appretiate your fooling around with Mother Nature?!"
Angus looked shame-facedly at the ground.
"N...no... b... but Torie... she, Susan... she agreed and..."
Astoria flared and immediatly launched into a five-minute scolding, which left Angus with his head bowed in utter and complete shame. Still fumming, she turned her angry sights on Harry.
"I at least hope, that you have had sence enough to treat Ginny Weasley to a nice time."
Harry, sitting on his bed and strocking Naja had merely rolled his eyes.
"Yes, Torie... both of us had a blast, I daresay..."he said in a calm voice – the entire room knowing the reason behind her scolding Angus.
"I second that, Torie. Harry behaved like a true gentleman."said Blaise staunchly.
Astoria nodded and flashed Angus a look that said "SEE?!", Angus once more bowed his head shamefully.
"But something must´ve happened, Harry... I saw the look on your face when you came into the room..."said Draco and though his arms were folded, his eyes reflected concern.
Astoria gasped and instantly looked back at Harry, now in concern. Blaise and Angus also moved closer. He was still strocking Naja, who senced something was wrong and tightened her hold on him as if to give him her support – something which Harry felt and understood even as he sighed deeply before looking at his friends – a small bit of rage returning to his veins.
"Not something, Dray... someone..."he muttered, his green eyes narrowing.
The remaining snakes in the room scrowled as one.
Harry nodded and quickly retold what had happened before the enterance to Gryffindor Tower. Draco and Angus looked disgusted, Blaise was shaking his head, but Astoria looked completly infuriated.
"The stupid git... I hope you hexed him straight into the Hospital Wing. If not... I think I should take up the task myself."she said venomously.
"If Ginny Weasley doesn´t beat you to it."said Draco with a small smirk, remembering her Bat Bogey Hex from yesterday.
Harry shook his head.
"Look... let´s just drop the stupid matter right now. I´m determined to NOT let what Albus and Aberforth taught me go to waste. Though... right now it looks like Neville and Alice sure don´t give me much of a choice. But anyway... I take it Torie, that while we were on our dates you´ve taken the oppoturnity to speak to Bode, right?"said Harry as he seated himself at the joint-table, a small spark in his eyes which told everyone quite plainly, that it was time to get back to business.
All four of them looked as though they wanted to discuss the Neville-issue more, but nodded and seated themselfs at their chairs.
"Yes Harry... Bode met me as we were going trough Hogsmeade. The other girls are under the impression, that I have a much older boyfriend."she said with a slight giggle.
Harry, Angus and Blaise chuckled – Borderick junior was ten years older than Astoria – but Draco for some reason scrowled at the idea.
"Well... that covered for you nicely. And what has our good ol´ Double-B managed to found out?"asked Angus with a smile.
"Apparently Fudge has the Repopulation Act office being filled up with several new workers to enter phase two of his plan. B has been offered a position in that office."said Astoria smugly.
The boys looked at eachother in happy surprise.
"This is even better than I hoped."said Harry quietly, looking as though he was appraising the possibilities.
"This could save us a lot of trouble with gathering information. No need of intermediaries... oh that reminds me... Dobby."he called and immediately, his faithfull house-elf appeared at his side.
"Yes, master Draco. How may Dobby help?"he asked, looking at his master brightly.
Draco smiled gently at the elf.
"Has the special post arrive yet?"
Upon his master´s question Dobby smiled happily and nodded his head.
"Yes, master Draco. Dobby will fetch it for you, but first there is something master should know about."
The five Slytherins at once looked at the tiny house-elf with great curiosity and even Naja stuck her tongue out, apparently just as curious.
"The woman you is telling Dobby about is visiting the Manor today. She spoke to your father, master."
Angus, Astoria and Blaise exchanged surprised looks, but Draco and Harry had a wild look of triumph on their faces.
"And Dobby... I trust you have done as I instructed..."said Draco quietly, his excitement – as well as his best friend´s – building by the second.
Dobby nodded proudly.
"As master told Dobby, Dobby turned invisible and followed into your father´s study. Dobby has heared everything Athena Kellen told."
While Draco and Harry looked at eachother while the others quickly grasped what was going on.
"Y...you don´t think...?"breathed Astoria, looking at the two boys.
"I´ve had a feeling she might try something. Eversince Dray told us who he was engaged to."explained Harry looking as though this piece of news was something he was hoping for.
Draco gave a nod towards Harry and the latter got up from his chair at once. As he came to his bed, he gently peeled Naja from him.
"Wait here for a while. You can wrap up around me after we are finished."he said to her as he laid her on his bed, Naja nodding at him.
Draco returned his sights on Dobby who was shaking slightly in the wake of the Parseltongue.
"Come on, Dobby... its about time you got used to hearing Parseltongue. This is Harry, you know... there is nothing to be afraid of."said Draco in a gentle voice, hoping to calm his house-elf down.
"Dobby knows master... He just... remembers... He Who Must Not Be Named..."he replied still shakily.
Draco shook his head slightly and sighed sadly, but decided to leave it at that.
"Master wants Dobby to tell what Dobby saw?"
Upon his elf´s question Draco shook his head and drew his wand.
"No Dobby... we think, that this particural conversation requires much more than mere words. Especially since it can serve in so many ways."
"Right you are, Dray."said Harry as he pulled out of this trunk the birthday present he got for his seventeenth birthday and the three other Slytherins gasped, while Draco snickered.
"A PENSIEVE?!"boomed Astoria wide-eyed.
"H...how...? Where?"stuttered Angus as Blaise only shook his head in disbelief.
Harry grinned broadly as he brought it to the table.
"Our dear Headmaster felt, that I may be in need of this lovely instrument."said Harry smugly as he placed the instrument on the table.
"Right... Dobby... the memory if we may..."said Draco quickly, ignoring the awed stares of the other snakes.
Dobby obediently allowed his master to extract the memory, wasting no time to place it straight into the Pensieve.
"Thanks Dobby. While we are looking over the memory could you please fetch the post for us, please? I suspect it´ll prove to have only more usefull information for our aim."said Draco smiling excitedly – the excitement now mirrored by Angus, Blaise and Astoria.
"More ammunition you mean..."grinned Angus happily.
As soon as Dobby dissapeared, Harry beckoned the rest of them towards the pensieve. All thoughts of his troubles long forgotten, the twinkle in his eyes most familiar to everyone in the room.
"Let´s go snakes..."he commanded excitedly and all five of them dove into the pensieve, each very eager to hear what Athena Kellen said to Lucius Malfoy.
The night was dark and though the moon was shining brightly, the shadows cast by the trees made the entire forest pitch-black. A rat was racing trough the woods running as though for dear life. It was a most unussual rat indeed. It had a large bald-patch on the top of his head and even more unussual, its right paw was silvery and seemed to shine slightly in the darkness. Stopping for a while the rat allowed itself a small brake it remained still for a second merely looking around with its blue eyes as though deciding where to run next. Suddenly the rat gave a loud squeak of pain and in an instant transformed into a man. Short, with grubby skin, watery eyes and a pointed nose. The bald patch was now clearly visible and so was a shiny, silver right hand. Gasping in pain he quickly rolled-up the sleeve of his left arm to reveal a kind of black tatoo on his forearm – a skull with a serpent protruding from its mouth. And with another gasp of pain he saw, that the tattoo moved and blinked deep-red for a few times.
He almost screamed out loud when he felt someone Apparate by the tree ahead of him. The figure was only only barely visible in the darkness, but it spoke in the voice Wormtail never expected to hear again – a high, cold voice he knew (and feared) so well.
"Long time no see, Wormtail."
Peter Pettigrew, AKA Wormtail gasped and immediatly got knelt as the figure came closer.
"Master... master... h...how... I... I thought you were..."
"Dead?! Dear, dear... how my faithfull servants doubt me..."said the figure, shaking its head as it stopped before his kneeling servant.
Wormtail at once raised his head, terror and panic written all over his face.
"N...no, master... I do not doubt your greatness... nothing of the sort..."he stammered panicly.
"Silence!"commanded the voice silkily and Wormtail obeyed at once.
"Now my little rodent friend, there is much work to be done. I have a few tasks for you."
"Anything master... anything at all... whatever task you give me, I will do it."said Wormtail quickly.
The figure gave a small cruel laugh.
"Of THAT I am sure, Wormtail. Do what I ask of you and you shall be rewarded. Fail and no place in the world will hide you from Lord Voldemort´s wrath..."
His tone-of-voice was still silky, but the Wormtail shook uncontrolably in the wake of the statement. The cloaked figure laughed cruelly once more.
"I am glad you understand my meaning, Wormtail. Now... here is what I want you to do first..."
Ginny barely slept at all. She spent an hour or so in her bed just wondering, how many other incidents like this would occur – who else would be determined to stand between her and Harry. The support of Harry´s parents was reassuring, but Ginny suspected that it was only a matter of time before she would have a one-on-one with Alice. She wasn´t sure how she felt about it... afterall... she knew Alice for so long, admired her to some extent... but her hate of her own younger brother – that was something she felt, she definitely wouldn´t accept. She mused on so many things for so long that before she knew, daylight was shining trough the windows of her room and her roommates were slowly waking from sleep. Ginny almost sighed when they did. They, like most of the Gryffindor house – hell, maybe even most of the school by now – knew that she was engaged to the scary Slytherin. Her roommates already expressed their feelings about it and it seemed, that no matter what she said in Harry´s defence, everyone just didn´t want to listen.
Ginny always found, that news (and rumors) travel fast at Hogwarts, so it was absolutely no surprise to her when she entered the Great Hall for breakfast, that she found herself on the recieving end of many stares (and even more muttering to go along with it). However she did not pay attention to any of it and as she slowly ate her breakfast, she viewed the Slytherin table, her eyes glued on one particural spot, which was now empty. Suddenly the attention of almost everyone, including the staff turned to the door as a large group of third-years sprinted into the Great Hall as though running for dear life. Ginny couldn´t help but smirk as she knew very well what, or rather who sent them running like that. Sure enough Harry Potter entered the Great Hall along with his friends. Ginny (along with everyone) at once understood WHY those third-years ran – the expression on his face was furious. It was mirrored by both Draco and Blaise as well. Life in the Great Hall seemed to have stopped for a few seconds, everyone was as quiet as a mouse as the four Slytherins made their way towards their table and their favourite seating-spots, their fellow snakes making room for them respectivelly.
"Oh my... did something else happen? Or did that incident with Neville...?"breathed Hermione quietly, so that only Ron and Ginny could hear.
"Who knows..."muttered Ron, but Ginny noted (with a wild surge of relief), that her brother´s expression lacked the glare he ussually gave the Slytherins.
Ginny tried catching Harry´s eye, but the four Slytherins seemed to be immersed in what looked like serious conversation. Ginny wondered for a while what topic could have summoned such a expression to their faces – a mix of anger, worries and determination.
"Has anyone seen Neville by the way?"asked Seamus quickly.
Many Gryffindors shook their heads and looked concerned before directing glares on Harry.
"Has anyone seen him at all since we released him from that jinx?"asked Dean and once more the table fell silent.
"Do you think Potter may have done something to him?"asked Lavender and at once the Gryffindor Table erupted into heavy discussion about what Harry Potter may have done to his half-brother.
Ginny almost slapped her forehead.
"What you´re saying doesn´t make any sence at all. If he wanted to do something to Neville, don´t you think he would´ve done it when he had him disarmed in that corridor?"said Hermione loudly, glaring a few of the girls including Lavender.
Ginny instantly felt a rush of gratitude to her. Unsurprisingly it did nothing to stop the theories.
"Hey look..."exclaimed Colin Creevy.
Hannah Abbott entered the Great Hall looking both worried and furious. Briskly she walked to the Slytherin table and Harry Potter.
"Something HAD to happen."said Demelza as all of them watched.
Hannah was saying something to Harry angerly and Ginny saw, that for the slightest moment Harry´s eyes went wide as though he couldn´t believe his ears. A second later however his expression changed to a stern-one before he replied to her. After a long while, during which the two seemed to be locked in a glaring-match, Hannah turned on her heel and went to sit down at the Hufflepuff table. Draco, Angus and Blaise exchanged glances and turned to Harry, who wore a stony expression.
"See? This proves it! Potter did something to Neville."said Lavender in truimph.
"Boy... when Alice finds out..."said Dean, who knew very well how protective she is of Neville.
"He deserves it! I hope Alice curses him so badly, he´ll never want to attack anyone again."said Pavarti glaring at him.
Ginny at once stood up, blood boiling in her veins. She was all for shouting at them, but saw that it would do little good and as she once more looked at the face of her fianceé, she decided that he was a much higher priority now.
"Where are you going, Gin?"asked Ron as Ginny started to walk away.
"Where do you think, Ronald?"hissed Hermione, shaking her head in mild-exaspiration.
Gryffindors drew breath as one as they saw Ginny walking toward the Slytherin table.
"Ron, do something... stop her!"exclaimed Lavender in a horrified voice, her hand going to her mouth as she looked at where Ginny was going.
Ron however fixed her and everyone else a small glare.
"No way. Its her choice and I respect it. Unlike someone I stand behind my siblings."he said staunchly.
Ginny didn´t even register the surprised gasps of nearly everyone at the Gryffindor Table as she reached Slytherin table. The Slytherins eyed her curiously (as though unsure what to make of this), before looking at Harry in equal curiosity. Harry raised an eyebrow and gave them all a look that said quite plainly "Mind your own business". At once the Slytherins dug in to their breakfast. Draco smirked happily as the looked around.
"Love it when you do that."he muttered to Harry as Angus chuckled and Blaise proceeded to sip from his cup of tea as though uninterested, but the cup barely concealed his smile.
Ginny couldn´t help but grin too.
"Definitely has its uses."she said in an appretiative voice.
Harry gave a small grin, but his face still had that small haunted look she saw before as he stood up and looked at his closest friends.
"We´ll continue later."he said quietly and the three boys nodded.
"Shall we go for a stroll, Ginny?"he asked with a slight smile at her.
Ginny smiled happily as she nodded. The stares and muttering went louder as the pair exited the Great Hall hand-in-hand – the student body almost unable to believe what they have seen.
As the afternoon sun shone on the Hogwarts grounds, Ron and Ginny were walking back from their Quiddich practice, brooms still in hand. Neville, as it shown hadn´t slept in the Gryffinor Common Room, but as Hannah found out – in an unused classroom. The entire school now knew, that she found him pale, clammy and exhausted before breakfast and at once insisted on accompanying him to Gryffindor Tower, so that he could get his rest. He appeared to be quite unharmed, but the student body still insisted, that Harry Potter had something to do with it. This fact, along with a number of others left Ginny in a very sour mood, so sour in fact that even Quiddich couldn´t lift her spirits up.
"And this time we´ll shift the strategy mid-game... heh, they won´t know what hit ´em."said Ron eagerly, already envisioning the sure victory in their first match.
Ginny rolled her eyes.
"Yes, yes... you´ve said so a thousandth time already, Captain."
Ron grinned at the title (and position) he recieved last year. Ginny also couldn´t help but feel a small twinge of pride at her brother.
"Well... no matter how this angers our respective fianceés, the snakes are going down in the first match."said Ron gleefully – the first match of the season (Gryffindor VS Slytherin) was schedueled for next Saturday.
Ginny´s eyes flashed at the word "Snake" and Ron immediately tensed.
"L...look Gin... I didn´t mean to offend Po... I mean...Harry... he doesn´t even play Quiddich. Or even watch it for that matter..."
Ginny sighed and shook her head.
"Its not that..."she murmured and Ron looked confused.
"Look... what happe... Mione."he called in mid-sentance as he saw his now secret girlfriend rushing to them.
Unsurprisingly there was a book in her arms.
"Ron, Severus asked me to tell you, that he wants us in his office after dinner. To socialize a bit more."
Ron sighed, though thistime he wasn´t so apprehencive. Ginny raised her eyebrow as she looked at the book.
"What´s that, Mione?"
Hermione smiled and showed it.
"Magicly bred creatures of legend?"
Hermione nodded happily and beckoned them both to sit down at the nearby tree.
"I wasn´t able to resist, since I heared Alice talking about it and Severus had been so kind to lend this book to me."she said breathlessly as she listed up a particural chapter.
Ron gasped as Hermione showed them a picture of the chapter called "Egyptian Royal Queen Cobra". Ginny held in her breath and gave the picture a hard glare.
Ron and Hermione however took no notice of it.
"So this is Harry Potter´s pet..."breathed Ron in slight awe.
Hermione nodded smilingly and began to read.
"Legend has it, that this amazing cobra species had been bred by High Priest Imhotep – one of the most respected and legendary wizards of Ancient Egypt. The methods of this particural breeding is still unclear as there are many legends as to how the High Priest has done it. Firm historical evidence suggests, that he had bred it in order to protect the Pharaoh´s son – the successor to the throne, who was in danger from one of the first recorded Dark Wizards. This cobra has unique powers and is very intelligent – fully capable of deciphering human emotions and communicate accordingly. Its gold and onyx - scaled skin is shedded as a normal snake´s once a month, leaving behind gold and onyx pieces..."
"Bloody hell. Its owner doesn´t even have to work to get gold."
Hermione silenced him with a stare and went on.
"...which has naturally attracted the attention of many thiefs and treasure-hunters over the centuries. It is however most unwise approach it, for its fangs hold an extremly powerfull venom, second only to a Basilisk´s. Like the Basilisk its scales are too magically powerfull to be overcome by spells. Unlike the Basilisk however, these Cobras are extremly proficient with it and are known to even be capable of spitting it with deadly accuracy. Luckily the Royal Queen Cobra is extremly difficult to come by – their intelligence and powers render them almost impossible to locate..."
"No kidding..."muttered Ginny angerly.
Ron and Hermione looked at her in surprise.
"The bloody snake can turn invisible."
"You´ve seen it?!"exclaimed Ron.
Ginny sighed and retold them what happened during her and Harry´s stroll and the very reason she was so annoyed.
"He seemed to have realized she was following us and quickly headed to the Room of Requirement. There he introduced her to me."
Ron slapped his forehead.
"He...brought it HERE?!"
"He said, that Snape and Dumbledore know about it and he has strictly instructed her not to show herself."
"Herself? Its a she?!"asked Ron dumbfounded.
Ginny now sported a most furious look.
"Her name is Naja."she growled.
Ron opened and closed his mouth several times, completly at a loss for words, but to both Weasley´s surprise, Hermione giggled.
"Cute... and well... witty too... The word Naja is a genus for cobra."she explained.
Ginny however still looked angry as Hermione carried on reading.
"...though it is widely believed, that several of these amazing Cobras still live today, deep in the underground ruined cities of Egypt or the Pharaoh´s tombs. The Ancient Egyptian wizards held these Cobras to great regards as did the Pharaohs. One legend has it, that the last reported ruler who had one was Cleopatra herself and that she died from its bite as the faithfull pet performed her mistress´ wish. There have been many other legends of a few Ancient Egyptian wizards having these as their faithfull pets and their records speak of an unbreakable bond of friendship between them. Some legends even say, that female Queen Cobras (as was the one bred by Imhotep) form an extremly strong bond with their male masters..."
At this, Ginny gave a snort.
"No kidding. She wouldn´t even let me hold his hand."
Ron and Hermione looked at her with opened mouths.
"Harry asked me to give her some time, that she will come around and get used to me, but really... the damn cobra was wrapped tightly around him all and positively kept glaring me the entire time Harry and I talked."
Once more Hermione gave a long giggle.
"Oh Ginny... don´t you see? She is just afraid."
Ginny gave her an incredulous look.
"Afraid?! Mione, its a poisonous cobra for Merlin´s sake... what could she possibly be afraid of?"asked Ron shaking his head.
Hermione giggled again.
"Look... it says here that females have strong bonds with their male masters. Plus, Harry is a Parselmouth, so I expect that he and Naja are even closer, given that they can actually talk to eachother. And it says, that she can decipher human emotions. She must´ve senced something out of you Ginny, that made her feel threatened."
Ginny turned bright red. Indeed the moment she wanted to kiss Harry, the cobra wrapped itself tightly around him, as if to say "MINE!".
Ron looked from Ginny to Hermione, apparently unsure what it meant.
"She is afraid, that you will take her beloved master away from her."said Hermione, the explanation drawing a stunned gasp from Ron.
Ginny slapped her forehead. No wonder Harry was so annoyed as she and Naja had a small five-minute glaring-match.
"Jeez, Ginny... this is really starting to get crazy."said Ron quietly as though unable to believe the situation.
Ginny let out an exaspirated sigh.
"Tell me about it... first my roommates, then my friends, then fellow Gryffindors, then half of the school-body, Neville, soon enough Alice I bet and... now even an overprotective and jealous Royal Queen Cobra..."