The next several weeks were torturous for Harry. Ron refused to speak to him, even to hear an apology, and he wouldn't even talk to Hermione, Neville, or Ginny. Ginny was nearly as heart-broken as her twin after he had told her to leave - they both were red-eyed and tired throughout the day, and only responded to direct questions. Ginny was doing lots and lots of drawings now, and all of them made Harry weep: a picture of Kamno with one head and one stump; a sketch of a mermaid dying in a desert; a full-color image of a slim blonde girl, sobbing on a stone floor somewhere underground.
Harry, meanwhile, did his best to ignore Ron's prattish behavior, reasoning that the potion would wear off eventually, but he knew in the back of his mind that the whole argument was his fault. Yes, he had ingested the anger potion, and yes, Ron had taken some sadness potion, but he had been the one to ignore Ron and provoke the sadness and depression. Draco tried to offer comfort, a sad look for his friend on his face, but Harry saw through it. The blonde had never liked the redhead, and was now quietly satisfied that Harry's friendship with Ron appeared to be over. Harry rebuffed him.
The one bright spot in this arose after Professor Sprout held Neville back after Herbology one day. He had, as it turned out, received the highest scores in Herbology since Sprout herself. She had asked him to assist her in the greenhouses outside of classes, making him her apprentice in the art. It ate up all of his free time, but Neville was gratified and accepted instantly, resulting in the first contact with Ron since the Incident: he gruffly congratulated Neville before sobbing a bit and leaving.
Harry had never gotten around to telling his friends about the acid Snape had brewed before term started. Upon reflection, he decided that it was probably a good thing, though: Hermione would take it as proof for her crackpot theory about Professor Snape being evil, while Ginny would argue that it was clearly another safeguard for the package Hagrid had picked up.
Speaking of the package, Hermione had found out much more about Nicholas Flamel than Harry himself had. He was reclusive and never came out it public, but it seemed that he was famous in the muggle world as well as the wizarding world.
"There's even a street named after him," she had told him earnestly. "And another named after his wife. Supposedly they created an artifact called the Philosopher's Stone, which can be used to create the Elixir of Eternal Life. By taking the Elixir regularly, you can become immortal!"
Ginny, though, had pointed out that muggles often got such things wrong, and insisted on looking up the Philosopher's Stone in an alchemy book from the library. It turned out that the Flamels had in fact been able to create the Stone, but the Elixirs of Eternal Life (Draughts of Eternal Life, technically) had not needed replenishment. Flamel had only created one cauldron of Draughts before he realized this, and destroyed the Stone. The Draughts lost some power, and rather than staving off death forever, now only healed any wound. Since being made, all of the Draughts had been used up.
"But clearly not all of them were," Hermione had argued. "Since we know at least two of them are in Hogwarts, in the forbidden corridor."
But try as they might, none of them could figure out whether Snape was right and Adams was trying to steal the Draughts or if Dumbledore was right and he wasn't. Hermione still held that Snape was trying to, even though she was alone in her belief. Neville and Ginny backed Dumbledore, while Harry thought that Snape was right.
In late January, Harry got another letter from Hagrid inviting him for tea. Needing something to do to distract him from the ongoing problems with Ron, Harry immediately accepted, writing back with Tantalus (the silver-gold owl would answer to either Electrum or Tantalus, but seemed to prefer his original name) that Hermione and Ginny would also be coming.
When Harry arrived at the Great Hall with the girls, he saw Hagrid waiting for him.
"I heard about you and Ron," Harry said in his precise voice. "Are you all right, Harry?"
Harry swallowed. "Yeah, I'm doing alright," he answer. "Ginny's not, though."
"I'm fine, Harry," Ginny insisted.
Hagrid glanced at the redhead appraisingly. "No, you're not," he said flatly. "Come on down to the hut and have some tea. I always mix Calming Draught in with it."
The three students, wrapped in thick winter robes, followed the gamekeeper down a path of melted snow to his hut. As they walked, Hermione asked, "So, Professor Snape makes Calming Draught for you?"
Hagrid shook his head. "No, I make it myself. It's very useful when I'm working with the animals – either I dose them to keep them calm while I bandage them, or I take a dose myself to keep me calm while I bandage myself."
Hermione went quiet, and said nothing until they reached the hut. Harry, however, kept up small talk with the large man, eventually asking a question which had been floating around his head since he had gotten the first letter from Hagrid, the first Friday of the year. "Hagrid, please don't take this the wrong way, but why did you invite me to tea the first time, back in September? We didn't meet before the Sorting, so…"
Hagrid smiled. "I saw through Filius's illusion when I ran into you and him in Diagon Alley. He's pretty good, but I'm better at mind magics than him. Got the knack from my mum, you know." The big man knocked on his door once and it swung open, allowing them access to the hut. "And since you grew up with muggles, I was worried you might have been having trouble making friends."
It looked pretty much like it had the last time – there was more meat hanging now, and a pair of large barrels by one wall. The fire was banked up even higher, with a large cauldron sitting in it – the flames licked all the way to the edge of the iron bowl, which was filled with boiling blackish water.
"That was very nice of you, then," Harry smiled, thanking Hagrid, who blushed bright red with pleasure. "I'm glad I met you, even though I did make friends."
Ginny was still staring at the cauldron. "Hagrid," she asked, "what are you cooking there?"
Hagrid seemed to flinch. "Er. It's Calming Draught. It still has to simmer for –"
"No," Hermione interrupted. "I looked it up after the Incident, and Calming Draught has no black stage. That's not Calming Draught."
Harry blinked, then leaned in closer to the cauldron. He only caught a glimpse before Hagrid's huge hand pulled him back, but it was enough. "There's an egg in there," he said flatly. "A big black egg. What kind of animal has to be hatched in heat?"
"Dragons," Ginny and Hermione said in unison. They glanced at each other for a moment before Hermione nodded to the redhead, and Ginny continued alone. "The color of the egg corresponds to the scale color, so that would have to be either a Norwegian Ridgeback, a Hibridean Black, or a Hungarian Horntail. One of my big brothers works with dragons," she explained to Hermione.
"So which is it?" Hermione demanded of Hagrid. "And what, exactly, are you going to do with a dragon? They're illegal for God's sake!"
Hagrid looked a little bashful. "It's a Norwegian Ridgeback," he confessed. "And I'm going to raise it."
Harry was flabbergasted. "Hagrid, you live in a wooden house."
He shrugged. "I've already fireproofed it magically, and I'm working on reinforcing it." Hagrid plucked a twig from the ground and held it in his hand, causing it to glow for a moment. "See?"
Harry took the twig and tried to snap it, but it was too strong. "I see."
Ginny was amazed. "Wandless magic!"
Hagrid smiled. "I've always been good at wandless magic," he explained. "Another knack inherited from my mum. And of course, I had to get better after…" he looked away. "after I was expelled third year. But Dumbledore let me stay on and help old Ogg!" he declared. "Great man, Dumbledore, great man…"
Hermione cleared her throat. "But it's still illegal to raise a dragon, even if the house is fireproof and unbreakable. And it'll grow really fast, too! There won't be room for a dragon in this house three weeks after it hatches!"
"Ah, but I planned this out," Hagrid said. "It's due to hatch in mid-February, and I'll take him or her out back into the Forest two weeks later. It's big enough to be a hunting range for a Ridgeback, and then I can tell Dumbledore that one just migrated here."
Hermione still looked doubtful. "I should really tell the Headmaster…"
Hagrid looked panicked at this suggestion. "No! Don't!"
Harry smiled craftily. "How about this. We won't tell Dumbledore about your dragon, but you have to tell us about what you got from Gringotts on my birthday."
Hagrid swallowed, considering it. "All right," he finally said. "Dumbledore sent me to retrieve the last remaining Draughts of Life from one of Nicholas Flamel's vaults. There are three Draughts, and each can heal any wound – physical, mental, emotional, anything." The three children nodded – this they already knew, though not the exact number. "They're all thought to be destroyed," Hagrid continued, "but Dumbledore and old Nic thought that someone might've gotten wind of them and would try to get into Gringotts. And they were right, the vault was broken into that night." Hagrid sighed. "The Draughts are in the third-floor corridor now, behind safeguards from lots of the Professors. I lent him my Cerberus, Chnoudotos, to guard it, and I know that Professors Sprout, McGonagall, Flitwick, Adams, and Snape all did something too. And Flamel and Snape were working together on something before term started. Now that's all you're going to find out from me, so get back to the castle!"