“I’m home!” Harry cried. He breathed in the air and magic of the castle with vigor. He had missed it, he realized with a great surge of joy, he had missed it. “I have news for you! A formal apology from Aragog and his kin and a treaty for peace!”
The basilisk stared at him. The stickiness of its gaze wore off after about a minute, after which the basilisk was still staring. “Come again?” it asked.
“He’s the leader of the acromantuae in the forest. He got blamed for killing Myrtle and swore revenge against you. His people have been feuding with you for fifty years. Now that he knows the truth about Riddle, he made me emissary between our people to establish peace.”
The basilisk seemed to be thinking that one over hard. “Who are...‘our people’?”
“Me and you, I suppose.” Harry shrugged. “I have a written treaty and everything. They want to establish trade.”
“Ah. Well, don’t tell him I didn’t know he existed. What does this treaty say?”
Harry pulled it from his pack. He had transcribed it as Aragog had dictated, written in the margins of a library book, and it took up about half the tome. “It’s pretty long,” he admitted. “Lots of long words.”
“I have an idea,” said the basilisk. “Going forward, as Snakeheart, you may act in my capacity for anything you feel does not need my direct input.”
“You just don’t want to read it with me,” Harry accused.
“Correct,” the basilisk said.
“Well, you have to, because they use a lot of words I don’t know. But once I get the hang of it, I can do that.”
The moved into the den. Harry sighed as he put down his pack and began pulling things out of it. His cup, his spare sweater. Beside Percy on the flat rock, he placed the fire snake eggshells, his thestral hair bracelets, and the gifts for his friends: for Limmy, a brilliant pink feather he would put on a necklace; for Myrtle, a scrawled list of word games from the acromantulae; for Ava, the diaphanous wings from a winged fish Chikkeritt had caught.
The basilisk curled around Harry, heavy and warm and comforting. “You were gone a long time,” it said. “The spring is almost over. Did you see things? Did you grow?”
Harry smiled and leaned into it, closing his eyes in contentment. He remembered leaping though the open air, and soft rainbow fur, nighttime adventures, and even the belated thrill at danger overcome. “Yeah, I think I did,” he said.