A follow up to Bound and Determined and another old story of mine. 'What if events in the Chamber turned out differently' explored a bit further.
AN: Initially, I wasn't really going to write any follow ups to Bound and Determined. The credit for making my brain go the extra length and come up with this ficlet goes to Crys. As always, C&C is welcome.
follow up to a HP AU ficlet
Silence, with the gentle fluttering of distant sounds serving to make it not less, but more intense.
Not true silence, then.
He knew there was no such thing as true silence. There wouldn't be, until he breathed his last.
The heat was an enveloping experience, like a layer of soft and moist silk running across exposed skin.
The hiss of air as it left his lungs, then as it entered again, did not break this stillness. It composed itself into it, becoming as indistinguishable as he hoped he was.
And then there was the rush. Underbrush stroking his flanks as he felt motion, eyes locked on the running form, its smell filling his nostrils and the heat it gave off helping him follow even as the escapee dashed through the cover provided by the thicket of the forest floor.
The sound, or rather vibration, of bounding steps.
From the soles of his feet, he felt them. With his ears, he heard the
rustle of approaching prey.
As much a part of the background as the tree his back was propped against.
In an instant, the rush of motion was discarded, or should that be exchanged?
Relayed sensation, relayed sight, relayed hearing were pushed aside as his own senses stretched.
His lunge wasn't even much of a lunge.
Turn on the ball of the right foot.
Feel the vibration.
Hear the startled prey over the sound of his own, finally accelerating, hearbeat.
The wooden shaft felt as if it were an extension of his hand, even as said hand was pushed forward.
His heartbeat slowed, and another fluttered, its beat hiccuping for an instant and then going ...
Embrace the link and see the prey as something other than a melange of coppery tones, fur, fear and anger stench, skin and meat.
Once, this would have seemed barbaric. Now?
It was simply his nature.
He was past denying his nature.
Good hunt, little ssserpent.
The fire crackled. Once, he would have said 'merrily'. Now it was merely comforting.
Stars hung above, though he could not see them.
Being blind had its drawbacks.
The meat was surprisingly tender, given how fresh it was, but that likely had to do with preparation. He'd been more than a fair cook before, and merely had to adapt. Suprsingly, smell and touch made up for lack of sight, though the link and his Pact Partner were more than ready to provide that in those first weeks.
The smell of cooking meat, as the boar spun on its spit, its flesh already sizzling. The noises of life around them.
The warmth of the fire was an odd comfort, doubled as it was by the link. A pleasure he was glad to share and have shared with him. His Pact Partner enjoyed the warmth. Unsurprising, given his serpentine nature.
Winter was coming.
Oh, it was still far off. And yet, he could feel it, feel the cycle of death and rebirth, the river of life. Its flow altered, surged, dwindled, but continued on. It was fascinating to contemplate, really ... shame he had little time for idle contemplation these days. Surviving was a chore in and of itself.
Ironically it was also, he was coming to realize, one of the best times he could remember having.
Perhaps, because it was so unlike anything he'd ever experienced that it was trivial to let himself go, lose himself in the sensation and forget ...
And he had things in his memory that he'd rather forget about.
A healing balm for a torn soul.
Again, amusing irony. His soul was not really torn anymore, rather, it had been stretched somewhat. Mixed with that of another, this time not merely due to the mark left on his brow.
Here, in this forest, with no others here save for the scaled bulk of his Pact Partner, he was finally discovering the meaning of what it meant to do more than merely exist.
He felt alive.
How poetic, little ssserpent. Ssshould we get you sssome bark, so you can keep the ruminationsss pressserved for posssterity?
He was also learning the fine art of sarcasm ... from a beast that was, or had been, the king of all it surveyed. Or the slayer. In a way, it was one and the same, really.
"Title it 'Ramblingsss of an insssane Dark Wizard' or whatnot, and sssell millionsss of copiesss?" He replied, though his voice wasn't really needed for communication in this case. He was equally comfortable with both methods, to tell the truth, but vocalizing his thoughts often helped him order them appropriately. "Tempting offer."
If one of those who'd known him previously had been able to hear him speak those words (and understand them, since he was hissing rather than speaking at the moment), they would have scarcely recognized him.
It was a dramatic change he'd undergone, especially for a period as short as two months. At least, that was how this would be understood by others. In truth, the changes had occurred far earlier, already coming into being as the Pact was being made.
Assimilating them, though, that had taken a bit of work.
He was not, in the strictest sense of the word, mature. Not as a human being would understand it. The Basilisk, though, was old. Far more intelligent than it had been given credit for. And of a mindset and morality that was alien to that which was commonly in place among humankind.
This, though, worked both ways, as did most things about the Pact.
And even as the alien ideas were taken into the mind of the erstwhile Gryffindor, the king of serpents had been forced to deal with an influx of his own.
In the end, they were both a little less than they'd been before, and at the same time a little more.
Simply a sum of their parts, at first. Now, though, something beyond merely that.
And winter was coming.
The insistent little nagging voice of instinct spoke up again, still quiet, yet pestering at the same time. Not something he would willingly ignore. It was, after all, correct. Summer would give way to fall, would give way to winter.
If nothing else, his Pact Partner had taught him to not only live in the moment, but to also look ahead.
And it was somewhat startling just how far ahead a being that was, for all intents and purposes, the oldest sentient creature he'd ever encountered could look.
The immediate future didn't require anything of him ... but beyond that, ever so slightly beyond that, they would need to move.
We linger here for reasssonsss of our own, little ssserpent. You know thisss.
The giant serpent moved, surrounding he youth, coiling itself underneath his legs and around his torso, resting its head - well, part of it at least - on top of one of his shoulders. It was, the boy knew, one of the benefits the Basilisk saw in their Pact. A heat source that moved with it. For a cold blooded creature this was something of a luxury.
"Where would we go, then?" he didn't glance over his shoulder, but the intent was clear. As things stood, they were too deep in the forest to still see the lake and castle they'd ventured from, and the boy knew a return would be rather difficult, if not impossible. Were he to desire it.
It was a possibility, however, and if nothing else, the Pact had taught him to always examine his possibilities.
"Big help," replied the boy, the tone of his hiss matching the smugness that the one his Partner had given contained. And the sarcasm.
This was not an unimportant issue though, for either of them. The Basilisk could sleep, but his Partner's body was not yet ready for hibernation, even with the less obvious changes wrought by the powers unleashed as the Pact-bond was forged. Possibly, it would never be quite ready for the Sleep.
There were things, the king of serpents could sense, that lurked within the boy. Desires and wants, that - while dormant now, suppressed to make room for learning this new way of life - would eventually make themselves know.
The boy knew this as well, though not on an entirely conscious level.
Still, planning aside, some things were best dealt with one step at a time. Else they'd likely overwhelm even the most fortified of minds.
There was still some time left to take that particular step.
Both Pact partners shared this awareness, and decided to deliberate further during the coming days. Right then, though, the night was too enthralling to let go of, and boy and serpent soon sunk into the depths of slumber.
The book's contents were far from what most considered legal. At least, far from what most wizards would consider legal. Or good.
It was one of the things that they had taken from the Chamber. At first glance, nothing special. At second glance, nothing special.
But, really, he did not really glance. Not anymore.
Fingers moved, tracing and feeling the paper, the ink, and the subtle flow of energy that preserved the tome past what the materials it had been created from could possibly handle.
It was old.
It was also not, strictly speaking, anything even close to being a key to ultimate power.
That was alright with him.
Ultimate power was, as far as he could tell, grossly overrated.
He was perfectly willing to settle for moderately impressive power.
And he'd be perfectly content with a place to live, a meal to fill his stomach every day, and being left alone for now.
Again, ironically, the so called king of serpents had priorities that ran much along the same lines. A symbol of ambition, perfectly willing to shrug the mantle away and immerse itself in selfishness.
Although ambition could be interpreted in many ways.
He was perfectly willing to settle with just living as his current ambition. At least for the time being.
Though the differences between life and existence were something he'd become well aware of, especially lately.
He still had his magic. In a way, it was actually easier to wield now. He could almost 'see' the flows as a spell was woven into being. He imagined that, with practice, the words could become unnecessary. With practice, though. And patience.
Of patience, he'd recently learned more than he'd ever known before. Not merely of fearful waiting, or of anxiety suppressed, but of true patience.
He would learn.
He had time.
He was still young.
And there was the faintest possibility that he would remain so for quite a while ...
Mossst likely, little ssserpent. You will not end before I do, I will not end before you do. The Pact hasss asssured that.
So he worked. Practiced.
Some things came easier, some were more difficult, but this caused surprisingly little irritation.
There isss nothing to be concerned about. We, each of usss, are different. We learn differently. Ssso doesss your breed. You know thisss. It isss the nature of life itssself, diversssity.
The studies were not rushed. Rather, they were thorough. Learn something, attempt to master it, only when you cannot continue can you move on.
Very much like the hunt, the boy noted.
And other things were set in motion by this, as well.
Things that they would only come to be aware of in time.
He knew the name of the town ... or, perhaps, had known it. He'd read it upon entering. It wasn't all that important though, in the long run, so he'd not committed it to memory.
Winter had finally come.
He felt slightly sluggish, though. The cold, while also invigorating, was having a dual effect.
Surprisingly, it had the opposite effect on his Partner. The serpent slithered, its scales on the snow, something that would have been impossible for the cold blooded creature to do normally.
The Pact was sharing on roughly equal terms, after all.
The house was small, on the outskirts of the town, out of the way. A good place for contemplation. Solitude, he would have said before, but there was no true solitude possible for him. Not anymore. Not ever again.
One of the things about the Pact that he saw as a definite advantage.
He missed the hunt, to be honest, but it was not the place for it. Nor the weather. His Partner could and did still seek out prey, but that also happened on a more sporadic basis.
A few carefully planned out actions had made acquiring their current lodgings a possiblity, with little fuss standing in the way of things.
Sometimes, magic was very useful.
He did not play with the mind, really. Oh, a bit of added confusion about an issue here, a slight nudge there ... subtle, nothing as obvious and glaring as those clumsy memory charms Lockhart had been so fond of.
People looked, people saw, but they simply ... wrote it off as an oddity. Ignorance of the modern world. It was present, had been present for some time. He merely ... capitalized on it. No big thing, really.
Though, to be honest, there really wasn't much he could do about people not noticing his Partner. On the other hand, he didn't need to do much to that effect, since the king of serpents was insidious and stealthy when there was need.
And time passed.
Winter crossed its midpoint.
Books were read, and things were learned.
But fate has a way of nudging at events sometimes.
He sat in darkness.
Light wasn't really a concern for him any longer. He'd learned to work around the Price the Pact had required, by virtue of said Pact's other aspects.
It was a little known fact that snakes were deaf. In the traditional sense of having no real 'ears', at least. They perceived vibration, yes, but actual sound was something of a mystery to them. The hissing of Parseltongue paid little heed to actual words, more to the vibrations of the voice which were carried by the speaker's innate magic.
The ability to 'feel' footfalls, motion, the vibration of the very air itself as it carried 'sounds'. One could perceive their surroundings with these, in some cases better than one could with sight alone.
And then there was the Third Eye. Or whatever you might call that organ which let serpents perceive heat.
These innate abilities, among others, seemed to have been shared through the Pact somehow, even as the Basilisk had gained eyes that, while lacking its trademark dread gaze, let it see the world as the hairlessss apesss did.
It was, to both of them, something of an experience, each witnessing what the world looked like from another being's point of view.
The room was comfortably warm, though the boy was faintly aware of the fact that he would have considered it a tad too warm a few months ago.
He was reading, fingers skimming paper as he took in the minute differences in texture that marked letters.
Engrosssing, little ssserpent?
That this surprised him marked just how deeply he'd been studying the text.
"Sssomewhat," he admitted, sheepishly. "How wasss the hunting?"
Thisss disssgustingly wet and cold white sssubstance sssemed intent on getting in my way. I fail to sssee the reassson for your ssspieciesss' fassscination with it, little ssserpent. Once the novelty hasss worn off, it isss little more than bothersssome detritusss.
"Sssorry," the boy sighed. "If it weren't for me, you could sssimply sssleep through thisss ..."
Ssstill, it isss an interesssting dissstraction. The King of Serpents grudgingly conceded. Do not let it burden you, little ssserpent. You provided usss with a warm lair for thisss occasssion. And, in any cassse, I welcome thisss break in the monotony of exissstence.
The boy frowned at this.
Ssso, what wasss it that had you ssso deeply in itsss clutchesss?
"A ... triviality," was the response. "A sssection of the tome isss filled with ssscrying ssspellsss ... I wasss attempting to find a ... replacement."
He made a gesture towards the uniformly white orbs of his eyes.
No luck, little ssserpent?
"It isss asss if I literally cannot sssee in that manner anymore, other than through your eyesss," the boy replied sadly. "They don't work for me."
Do not let it dissscourage you. There isss far more to the weave of magicksss that entanglesss usss all than wizardsss have dissscovered. Until you dissscover one, you have the ussse of mine.
"Whenever you feel like it granting the privilege," there was a smirk slowly creeping onto his face.
Isss that arrogance I feel, little ssserpent?
"I sssuppossse. You're rubbing off on me, I think."
At first, he didn't know what it was that had awakened him. Merely that it had been unexpected enough to have him instinctively roll from the bed, hand closed around the holly length of his wand, senses stretching out as far as he could manage and perceiving ... nothing.
Or rather, those that were of the more mundane persuasion, though there were hardly any that he'd call 'normal' these days.
That was when he he noticed it.
A prickling sensation on top of his skin, as if an nonexistent wind was running across it.
For some reason it put him on edge, and for the life of him he couldn't tell why ...
Little ssserpent, his Pact Partner's voice came directly into his mind, and he knew the Basilisk was not in its preferred resting place - the cottage's small boiler room - even as it made contact and he reached to share what it was seeing. They come! It hasss been a while, but I can sssenssse them ssstill! It isss unmistakable!
"Lesss obfussscation, more information, pleassse," he mumbled. It was not necessary, since he could just as easily 'think' the words and the Basilisk would hear them as if he were standing next to it. From the 'tone' it had used, there was considerable unease involved, and there were few things that he knew could take the King of Serpents aback.
He was halfway into his clothes by the time the reply came. Along with an image of just what the serpent was seeing.
The light dusting of snow on the ground. The moonlight falling on that.
A struggling figure rushing over the meadow, in roughly the direction of the town.
And following it, the clear source of the Basilisk's disquiet. So clear that it set the hairs on the nape of his neck on end.
Cloaked in shifting darkness woven into hooded robes, floating above the white cover at a pace that seemed leisurely but ate up ground rapidly enough ...
It wasn't his knowledge that he drew upon to recognize these dread creatures, but that made their idenity and presence no less true.
His Pact Partner merely confirmed it.