Chapter 7: Dendroaspis Angusticeps
"Slytherin!" The old crumpled Sorting Hat shouted elatedly.
Slytherin? While Taylor considered herself slightly cunning, resourcefully ambitious, and mentally determined, she doubted her ability to blend into the house based on traditionalism. For a minute, she considered objecting to the decision, but instead glanced at the Gryffindor table. Lily frowned with minor disappointment, and looked at the austerity of the Slytherin table. Despite her brief pause, the Slytherins clapped enthusiastically as she returned the Sorting Hat to the stool.
The rest of the sorting continued, with James Potter joining the Gryffindor table. Sirius shook his friend's hand in a congratulatory manner. Taylor was only mildly reassured when Severus Snape was sorted into Slytherin house. At least I know someone, right? Lily, on the other hand, held her head at the calamity. Both of her friends were galaxies away. At the far end of the table, Taylor felt out of place amid the sea of malachite. Occasionally, she noticed other students in her house whispering to one another while glancing at her.
The first years finally disappeared from the circus ring. The headmaster stood up to speak and the hall grew faint. His grey silver hair sparkled in the floating candle light, and his blue eyes twinkled with a warm tenderness. He introduced himself as Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. The stars on his robes rotated and spun gently.
"Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts. Before we begin our celebratory feast, I have a few words for you all." From his pockets he pulled out a scroll. Taylor's stomach rumbled in bitter protest.
"Tickle, wings, dandelion, fudge. Thank you. I'm not sure about the rest of you but I'm starved! Tuck in."
Taylor cocked her head and raised her eyebrows at his selected mettle of words. To the first-years surprise, the once barren table, which held nothing but the elbows of students, was now filled with the most palatable food. Pineapples, peppermint humbugs, sausages, and turkey blossomed upon the plates. Roast beef, roasted chicken, and pork chops nestled neatly next to boiled potatoes, yorkshire pudding, peas, and carrots. Everyone's hunger took hold of their minds.
Forgetting all her minor questions, Taylor plated heaping piles of food. What does it matter what house I'm in? Magic is so clever. Pumpkin juice refreshingly washed down the meal. It was as creamy as pumpkin pie in liquid form.
While eating, the Slytherins at her table began to whisper in hushed tones. They were casting devious glances toward the first years in their domain. They snickered and pulled out a pack and rummaged through it. Taylor studied them for a moment with a jaded look. Only Severus seemed camouflaged within the popular group.
All throughout dinner, the Slytherins were noisy and gossiped about people who they did not know. Taylor cleaned up her spot a bit and relaxed, waiting to be dismissed. Bloated with scrumptious food, her eyes began to droop. A slick cold coil wrapped itself around her exposed ankle. Taylor froze imagining a terrifying muscular creature with drooling fangs. The second year Slytherins burst out a cackle and watched for her reaction. Taylor swallowed and took a closer look under the table. A small glossy green snake flicked its tongue up at her. Its bright greenish-yellow belly heaved with fear. The reptile looked frightened to be on the ground. Its yellow eyes geometrically contrasted elegantly upon its thin rectangular head. Round pupils connected innocently with Taylor's sympathetic eyes. The snake wrapped its thin tail around Taylor's leg, as if it were a tree branch.
Help me! Where are the treessssss? Pleassse. It pleaded. Taylor gaped at the animal.
Did it just talk? It definitely talked. Food just appeared from thin air, and you doubt that a snake can speak?Rather foolishly, she answered the snake's plea.
"How can I help?" It seemed equally startled by her reply. The serpent tightened its grip on her ankle, composing its story.
Thossse awful boys have hidden me for dayssss in a dark box. I missss the treesss. I haven't fed in weekssss. Taylor brought down a carrot stick. It edged away from her offering. Taylor presented the snake roast beef, which it declined feebly. Insects and rodents were not on the menu. Taylor shook her head.
"There's no food for a snake up here." The snake curled closer.
Help, pleasssssssse. It wearily hissed.
"Alright, alright. Don't bite me though." She reached down and picked up the reptile. The feast was just ending as the headmaster dove into a real speech. He introduced the staff, warned the first years about the Forbidden Forest, and extended a final warming welcome. As students began to file out of the Great Hall, she approached the headmaster. He is going to think I am loony. He couldn't possibly judge me after his first speech. Will he speak meaningless words to me, like dandelion or fudge?
She patiently waited until he was done discussing dragon internships with a group of giggling Hufflepuff girls. With great care, he turned to her and smiled brightly. Taylor felt warm inside and all her uncertainties were forgotten. She held the snake up to her nose.
"Excuse me. This snake was under the Slytherin table. He's really hungry and I was wondering, since first years especially aren't allowed to go out on the grounds at night, if you could drop him off outside in a tree. Being that you are a professor, and in charge of the school and…" Taylor realized she was rambling, but the whole time, the headmaster just nodded.
"A hungry snake? I'll take him straight to the forest for you." Dumbledore had a certain look in his eye as if he were scanning Taylor for corruption. Finding none, he grinned and took hold of the reptile. "Well off to bed Miss Lupin, if you hurry, you'll be able to find the Slytherin prefect. They shouldn't be too far."
Thankssss. The serpent curled around Dumbledore's warm hand. Taylor left the great hall and managed to find the crowd she was searching for.
Sirius studied the paintings on the wall of the Gryffindor common room. Monks swayed in meditation, while knights saved damsels in distress. Lily did not dawdle in the common room to catch the boys. She felt like a cornered animal, without a chance for escape.
James, on the other hand, declared the common room as his own. He sat on the couch next to Remus and scratched his foot. "Finally, a place to call home." Sirius snorted in agreement. He concentrated on the cracks in the wall and traced each one with his finger.
"If you keep molesting that wall like that, I'm going to have to report you to the prefects." James mocked. Sirius chuckled and sat down on a maroon rug near the blazing fire.
"I'm going to like this house." He admitted
"Better than Slytherin, I'm sure." Remus replied looking over his book, Hogwarts: A History.
"Do you ever put those books down?" Sirius asked. Remus looked down at his lap embarrassed. James wrapped an arm around Remus's shoulders.
"We like our little bookworm when he's reading though. He can give us that valuable information and do our homework when we get tired of doing it." Remus smiled and pushed him off.
"You really are a git, James." He remarked with a smile. Sirius and James laughed in uncanny unison.
The Slytherin prefect led the meager Slytherin group down four flights of stairs, through several dark labyrinthine halls. They stood in front of a bare stone wall. Various pictures of snakes curled on dying branches, stared at them from the adjacent fortifications. Some snakes were eating themselves, like ouroboroi. Taylor felt slightly uncomfortable under the reptilian gaze.
The prefect cleared his throat, his brown hair tucked neatly into his uniform cap. "The password is Cruoris Tyrannus." Blood of a tyrant. Taylor watched as the bricks parted to reveal a common room area. "Remember it or sleep outside. My name is Rabastan Lestrange. If I have to tell you to do something more than once, I will enact severe punitive measures." Rabastan strolled inside.
Taylor stepped through the hole cautiously, and found herself in a cold marble room soaked in a subterranean emerald light. The windows were petite with silver rims, and Taylor suddenly realized the dungeons were underwater. We're under the lake! The room was arranged with mossy green couches of different shapes and sizes. The room was circular with several layers leading down to the center. The short steps led down to a soft rugged area, like Incan terrace farming. A small fire roared underneath a portrait of a stern Salazar Slytherin. Additional paintings on the wall were not particularly optimistic. Pictures of nesting dragons, harsh prefects, and shadowy landscapes decorated the room. Rabastan stopped near some stairs which led farther down into the ground. He pointed to the left.
"Boys sleep down here on the left. Girls, the same on your right. You'll find your belongings have already been brought down. Enjoy your evening, and welcome to your new home." He parted the crowd and went outside to his post.
Taylor fumbled her way over to the right and into the dormitory. She found her suitcase and situated herself on a four poster bed. She drew the green hangings as other girls her age entered. The dungeon reminded her of the orphanage, the way it resembled a funeral home.