Being able to transform into a snake at will was… interesting. For one thing, it gave Vinnie a whole different perspective on life. Everything looked so different from so close to the ground. Not just different either, he just noticed things he never would have just walking around the castle.

Small gaps between stones became crevices big enough to slide his body in, a suit of armour became a hideout with room to spare, and most importantly, the drainage holes hidden under his bed were plenty wide enough to squeeze through and gave access to the extensive pipe network of Hogwarts.

The only problem was that he could never, ever be seen. He shuddered at the mere thought of Oliver or Percy spotting him transforming into a snake in their bedroom. No thank you, this was a skill he would not share with his roommates.

Luckily avoiding the eyes of his roommates wasn’t hard. Percy had his prefect duties and Vinnie had a theory Oliver even slept on the Quidditch pitch.

And so, most days Vinnie could be found, or not be found, depending on how you looked at it, in the walls or floors of Hogwarts, traversing the pipe network in search for the fastest routes to and from classes.

It was on one such day that Vinnie found himself suddenly airborne, as he sped out of a pipe he’d not expected to be this far from the ground. He counted himself very lucky as he landed on a dry leathery surface that was just springy enough to not snap his spine.

He laid there for a moment, slowly moving and coiling his body to check everything still worked. It did. Only when he was sure, did he take in his surroundings.

Enormous columns rose up around him. They went up and up until his limited snake vision didn’t allow him to see any more. The only other room even remotely this size was the great hall, but even that paled in comparison to this place.

The columns were carved all over with images of snakes so realistic any movement of his head gave the illusion of movement in the corners of his vision. Their scales glinted in the soft illumination spreading throughout the chamber without an apparent source.

But what he noticed above all of this grandeur, was the horrible smell. He’d caught flashes of the same odour before as he passed decaying mice or if he’d gone too close to the toilets again. With dread, he became aware of exactly what surface he was laying on.

Scales, going on for what seemed like miles, ran underneath him in both directions. The scales were occasionally interrupted by rips, the edges of which were covered in mould and some of which leaked brown fluids.

His own scales crawling with disgust, he just about flew from the giant’s corpse. The harsh landing on cold stone was almost a relief.

He transformed back to his normal self. Seeing the thing from higher up didn’t take away from the size. The corpse had to be fifty feet long at least. He walked around it and when he saw the clawed out eyes he counted himself lucky to have found the beast dead. One look from those eyes and he would have been basilisk food.

The corpse was well on its way to decomposition. It had to have been here for months, five months to be exact, because he knew exactly when the basilisk had been killed. At the end of last school year rumours had gone around, and then those rumours were only fuelled by Gryffindor’s sudden four-hundred point increase… Vinnie had to admit he didn’t believe the rumours that Harry Potter had killed the monster in the Chamber of Secrets, but here he was standing in front of the evidence.

Why did they just leave the poor thing here to rot? Weren’t basilisks full of valuable ingredients? Even in this state he was looking at a fortune!

His eyes glinted in the low light, matching the eyes of the carved snakes on the columns around him. A second later, a dark two-metre-long snake slithered away, he had to plan this, and the overpowering stench was muddling his brain.

He was back again the next day. To get any ingredients out of the chamber, he’d need to do it in human form. He couldn’t carry shit as a snake. He followed the magnificent pathway between the columns to a large round door that stood open. From there, the tunnel he was in was much less awe-inspiring, being made of roughly cut rock. He doubted it was originally built this way.

He had to crawl through a mass of fallen rock, and from there the tunnel ended abruptly. The very end of a pipe stuck out of the wall above a pile of rodent-bones. Vinnie couldn’t see the end of the pipe, even with a lumos to light it up. It went up too steeply for him to climb even as a snake. He needed a broom, but how was he going to get one in here?

The maps of Hogwarts didn’t give him any insight as to where that pipe might have ended. Defeated, he walked out of the library. Just as he walked through the door, three other people shuffled past him. He stopped, eyes wide, as Harry Potter and Ron Weasley shuffled after a harried Hermione Granger.

“Where is the entrance of the Chamber of Secrets?” Vinnie hissed at the sleeping teen. He curled around the canopy of Potter’s bed, his head hanging down, tongue flicking out every few seconds.

Potter groaned and rolled over in his sleep. He mumbled something, no, hissed something, “How’s Brazil?”

Vinnie tried again, “Where’s the entrance of the Chamber of Secrets?” Potter groaned again, but didn’t answer. He kept moving around. Vinnie was scared he would wake up or something. That wouldn’t be good.

Just as he was ready to give up the mission as a failure, a soft hiss escaped Potter’s lips, “Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.”

Vinnie would have raised his eyebrows if he could as a snake. He doubted Potter had really answered his question, although why he would be dreaming of Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom of all places he didn’t want to know. But however unlikely it might be, it was a location within Hogwarts, so Vinnie decided to check it out.

“What do you know, it really is here.” Vinnie touched the little drawing of a snake next to the tap. “And you were killed by the Basilisk?”

“Oh yes,” said Myrtle, “It was dreadful, I didn’t even have time to see its eyes. You’d think being killed by a Basilisk at least would give you a good look, but nooo.”

Vinnie nodded. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, it’s dead now too. Looks like Potter clawed its eyes out and everything.” He instantly regretted bringing up Potter when he saw the telltale dreamy look appear in her eyes.

“Oh, he’s great, isn’t he? He came here a lot last year to brew potions. He doesn’t visit as often anymore…” Vinnie tuned out the rest of her rambling and turned back to the sink. Now how would he open it?

He shrugged. Simple solutions first. He transformed back to his snake form and rose his head to the height of the tap. “Open,” he hissed.

The tap glowed, turned, and then the entire sink sunk into the floor. Where the sink just stood, was now a gaping hole, a pipe large enough for a grown man to slide down.

Vinnie transformed back and grinned. Now he only needed his broom.

It took him the entire year, and many, many skipped classes to separate out all the good meat from the rotten, put it all in jars and hide it under his bed. He would have put it in his Gringotts vault, but he didn’t have one.

Slowly he began the process of selling it all to potions masters and some more unscrupulous people who were willing to pay even more for it. Soon, he’d gathered enough funds to open up a Gringotts vault, albeit a small one without any extra security. He did ask if he could see the dragons, but the goblin only sneered at him and pushed him back in the cart.

And so Vinnie Proudfoot ended his seventh year not just with a Hogwarts Diploma, but also with experience at harvesting ingredients and selling them on the black market.

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