The Dragon Egg
"I wish I were going," Pansy said sadly as they got up from the lunch table. It was Friday, and after a week of anticipation, the day of Hagrid's come-uppance had arrived.
"Myself as well," Tracy moped, her usual smile nowhere to be seen. "Woe is us."
"We've discussed this," Daphne said patiently. "It can only be Harry, Millie, and myself."
"Doesn't mean we have to be happy about it." Draco griped, kicking moodily at a spot of nothing on the floor. "Big oaf has insulted all of us, saying what he said."
"He had no right to talk that way," Millie agreed. "Not when he's not even a proper wizard. He's just the outdoors janitor."
"Even if he had finished school," Theo argued, "he wasn't in Slytherin. Only fellow Slytherins may judge us."
"Solidarity," Goyle nodded.
"I like that." Crabbe grunted.
"It's just a question of being judged by one's peers," Draco continued, "and none of the other Houses are our equals."
"Isn't that the truth?" Millie asked rhetorically.
"Hagrid seemed a decent fellow," Harry said morosely. "When he took me away from the Muggles, I thought he was so nice. He even brought me a birthday cake, the first one I'd ever had. He did some magic, too."
"Magic!" Draco said, astounded. "What sort of magic?"
"He gave Dudley a pig's tail," Harry told him.
"So that's what Hagrid meant when he said he wanted to give your cousin a matching set of ears!" Millie exclaimed.
"He's not supposed to do magic!" Draco was still very surprised, to judge by the tone of his voice. "He was expelled, and they snap your wand when you get expelled."
"Indubitably," Tracy agreed. "How could he have done magic? Where would he have gotten a wand from?"
"He didn't use a wand," Harry said. "He was pointing his umbrella at things. Dudley, the firegrate to start a fire, and so on."
"He could probably be in a lot of trouble if anybody found out about that," Theo mused, scratching his chin. "If he kept the pieces of his wand, he could have put them into his umbrella. You'll have to make sure he doesn't get near it while you're hexing him."
"That's only if he's sober enough to remember," Pansy laughed.
"When Hagrid and I got to Diagon Alley, he ran off to the pub as soon as he could," Harry said, getting back to his original story. "I went to get my robes fitted, and he went back to the Leaky Cauldron, for a pick-me-up, he said. He knocked on the window while Draco and I were standing on the stools, but he left quick enough."
"He probably ducked back inside for another 'pick-me-up'," Theo said with a sneer.
"Oh, I know that's what he did," Harry assured him. "I took a very long time to find my wand, and Hagrid must've spent all that time drinking. When he finally came along, he was bellowing and shouting just like my Uncle Vernon."
"That he was," Draco said, remembering. "His face was pretty red, as I recall."
"Drinking in front of students," Millie said with audible disdain. "It's disgusting. What sort of example is he setting? That flask he carries around, he's always having a sip out of it."
"And he was unaccountably rude to Draco's father. Mister Malfoy was perfectly pleasant to me," Harry told his other friends, "and Hagrid was carrying on like the world was ending. After he dragged me away, he said all sorts of nasty things."
"Oh really?" Draco asked curiously. "Like what?"
"Well, he said your whole family was trouble and that I'd be better off staying away from you." Harry flushed at even speaking the awful things Hagrid had said.
"Boils," Draco stated, folding his arms.
"What?" Crabbe asked.
"Boils," Draco repeated. "Daphne, I want Hagrid to get some boils on his arse. Take care of it for me, would you love?"
Daphne smirked. "Be glad to. Everyone else decide what they want me to cast for hexes?"
As the others gave Daphne their requests, Theo walked next to Harry. "So you've got the story straight?"
"Yes," Harry said. "Hagrid was drinking and insulted Professor Snape. We got very angry and hexed him. Then we ran away."
"Good," Theo said, pleased. "This is a risky business, you know," he cautioned.
"I know," Harry said somberly. "It's probably going to mean lost points and detention for us all."
"Not as much as if it gets out that we planned this all," Millie chimed in, "or if all of us were going down there."
"Indeed," Theo agreed. "It's worth it, though."
"Yup," Millie said. "Professor Snape told us to make sure we had good reason for doing the things we did. Defending his good name is certainly reason enough."
"Well I just hope his name is good and worthy of defence," Theo said quietly. "I don't want to believe he's the bad guy in this muddle about the Stone, but I can't deny the evidence."
"Let's not get into this argument again," Harry pleaded. "Let's just keep focus on the short-term for now. We defend our House."
They all scurried off to the unused Potions classroom that they had turned into their own private practice space. Harry, Millie, and Daphne all set to casting their spells, practicing for teatime. The others cast, read, or wrote assignments. May was here, and examinations were coming soon.
When the bell tolled three o'clock, Harry and the two girls left the castle. Wordlessly, each ready for the task ahead, they walked down the path and across the grass at an agonizingly slow pace. Smoke curled up to the sky, despite the temperate weather.
Harry knocked firmly on Hagrid's door. Fang began barking, drowning out anything the Gamekeeper might have said. After a few minutes, the door opened a crack, and Hagrid stuck his face out.
"I dinae expect you lot to come back after last week," he said brusquely, "but I'm very busy today. Perhaps next week." He started to close the door.
Millie stuck her foot in the door. Before Hagrid could react, all three Slytherins had pushed their way inside and drawn their wands.
"'Ere now, what's this all about?" Hagrid demanded, outraged.
"Last week you insulted our Head of House," Millie informed him. "We're here to extract retribution."
"Revenge, yeh mean," Hagrid said, folding his arms across his chest. "The Headmaster'll hear about this, mark my words."
"No doubt," Daphne said cooly, "but how else are we supposed to react when you insult our House right in front of us? No, I think our punishment will be quite lenient."
Harry was focused on keeping his wand pointed at Hagrid, but he was being distracted by the heat of the roaring fireplace. The interior of the hut was sweltering, and Harry was sweating profusely.
There was a rattling sound from the fireplace.
"Well," Hagrid boomed, talking loudly, "do what yeh feel yeh have ter do. I don't suppose apologizin' would do any good."
"What was that noise?" Millie asked, not allowing herself to be distracted. The rattle came again, like iron clacking on iron.
"It's nothin'," Hagrid said. "Jus' the wind rattlin' this shaky ol' place."
"It's coming from the fireplace," Daphne said, and she headed in that direction.
"Please, won't yeh all jus' get on with it?" Hagrid pleaded with them, but Daphne was resolute. She peered into the fireplace, under the pot that sat above the burning coals.
"Hagrid!" she half-shouted. "What are you doing with one of those?" she demanded.
"What is it?" Harry asked as he rushed over to see. Hagrid groaned and put his face in his hands.
"It's a dragon egg," Daphne told him. "Hagrid, have you taken complete leave of your senses? Breeding dragons is illegal! It's a direct violation of the Warlock's Convention of Seventeen-oh-nine. Even you should know that."
"A dragon egg?" Millie asked, coming closer. "Wicked! Where'd you get it, Hagrid? Must've cost a fortune."
"Won it," he muttered, very embarrassed. "Las' night I were down in the village havin' me a few drinks. Got into a card game with a stranger, an' he put it up fer stakes. Lucky draw I got, three kings an' a pair o' sevens, so I took the egg. I think he were quite glad ter be rid of it, but me, I'm happier 'n' a clam."
"What are you going to do when it hatches?" Daphne demanded. "Keep it in here all the time? Hagrid, you live in a wooden house!"
"I bin doin' some readin'," Hagrid said, ignoring the admonition and pulling a book from under his pillow. "Got this outta the library -- Dragon Breeding For Pleasure and Profit. It's an older book, teh be sure, but that sort'a information dinae go bad. Keep the egg in the fire, 'cause their mothers breathe on 'em, see, an' when it hatches, yeh feed it on a bucket o' brandy mixed with chicken blood every half hour. An' see here -- how to recognize diff'rent breeds an' diff'rent eggs. This one I gots here is a Norwegian Ridgeback. They're rare, them."
"Hagrid, this is insane," Harry tried to reason with him. The big man wasn't paying any attention, just prattling on about baby dragons.
"Well, this has been interesting," Millie said, "but we have to be going now."
Hagrid stopped his chatter. "Yeh ain't goin' ter hex me? Yeh won't be tellin' anyone about this, will yeh?" he asked, his face full of hope.
"We've got something better than a hexing," Millie told him. "Hagrid, you're asking us to be accessories to a crime. We have to report this."
"Yeh can't!" Harry thought Hagrid's face might fall off, so heart-broken did he look.
"There might be another way," Daphne said in a silky tone. Everyone looked to her. "Hagrid, what's our silence worth to you?"
The big man scowled. "What would yeh be needin' money fer? Yeh've all got more'n yeh know what ter do with."
Daphne shook her head, sending her straight blonde hair waving around. "Not money, Hagrid; information. We want to know more about the magic guarding the Philosopher's Stone."
From the look on Hagrid's face, they knew they had him cornered. He didn't dare tell them, but he didn't dare refuse to tell them either. He was damned if he did, and doomed if he didn't.
Daphne smiled sweetly at him. "We'll talk more about this next week," she said with a tone full of sugar. "Harry? Millie? Let's go."
As they walked down the steps to the dungeons and headed towards the dorm, they discussed what sort of information they should ask for, as well as the possibility that Hagrid might be insane.
"We'll want to know what the protections on the Stone are," Millie said. "And also what professor set which protections."
"What in the name of the Founders does he think he's doing with a bloody dragon egg?" Daphne demanded. "He thinks he can hatch the bloody thing?"
"Trying to raise a dragon in that tiny hut?" Harry asked, still incredulous. "He's a complete loon."
"He had to have been completely drunk to have even considered taking that dragon egg as stakes," Daphne declared, "but it makes no nevermind to me. Now we've got him over a barrel and can find out everything we need to know about the Stone and the protections over it."
They continued on their way, completely unaware of a pair of wide, freckled ears that had heard everything.
Over the next week, the Slytherins continued revising for their examinations. Though disappointed when told that Hagrid hadn't received his hexing, the others were beyond gleeful at the blackmail material they now had. It was hard to maintain a cool demeanor, acting as though everything were normal. They were so focused on studying and keeping things under wraps, they didn't even bother to antagonize Weasley, though he gave them several excellent opportunities.
After Quidditch practices, one of their group would always drift nearby to Hagrid's hut and peer in the grimy, dirt-stained window. On Tuesday afternoon, Millie reported that the dragon had hatched. This was great news, because it would be much more difficult for Hagrid to rid himself of a live dragon.
"Not that there's much worry of that," Daphne said disparagingly. "What with the way he was prattling on about all the stuff he found out from books-"
"Hey!" Theo objected. "Don't knock what you can learn from books!"
"I didn't even realize he knew how to read," Draco laughed.
Friday came not soon enough, and Potions lecture seemed to drag on and on. When they were finally free, the Slytherins calmly exited the classroom, calmly walked down the hall, calmly rounded the corner, and bolted for the Great Hall. They ate as quickly as they could, then hurried back into the dungeons to do some more revising.
"Let's get to work," Daphne said, drawing her wand.
"What for?" Harry asked. "Aren't we just going to ask him questions?"
"Yes," Daphne answered him, "but the information is in exchange for us not telling about the dragon. He still gets his hexing for insulting our House."
"Surely you hadn't forgotten," Draco said to him.
Harry shook his head. "No, I hadn't forgotten the insult, but with the dragon egg and all, I thought we weren't going to hex him."
"Vengeance is a dish best served cold," Tracy told him. "You might have put it off for a bit because of the egg, but you can't forget what he did to earn that hexing in the first place."
Harry considered that for a moment. It made sense. He was proud of his good marks, and Snape certainly had nothing to do with what he earned in Astronomy, Charms, or Defence Against the Dark Arts. The only thing Snape could influence was his Potions marks, and Harry knew he'd earned every single point.
"You're right," he conceded. "We musn't forget to hex him after we know everything. But," he cautioned, "we can't hex him until we know everything either."
"Right," Daphne said. "I've got the list of questions. We'll get our answers."
When Harry knocked on Hagrid's door a few hours, Hagrid was quick to throw the door open for them. They tramped in, looking around for the dragon.
"Yer too late," Hagrid told them, drinking from a large goblet. "Li'l Norbert's gone."
"Gone?" they said, not believing.
"Aye," he said, sounding very pleased with himself. "So ye've got nothing ter blackmail me with." He took another large swallow.
"Where's it gone to?" Daphne demanded.
"I sent him ter Romania with Charlie Weasley," Hagrid told them, boasting of his own cleverness. "He works with 'em there, so Norbert'll be safe."
"Weasley!" Harry exclaimed.
Hagrid's face clouded. "I shouldn'a said that," he muttered.
"How did Charlie Weasley know about the dragon?" Millie asked him. "Where did he take the little bleeder?"
"Young Ron tol' me about Romania, an' he gone off ter the village to visit with his brother, and-" Hagrid stopped speaking. He put down his goblet. "I shouldn'a said that," he said again, his voice shaky.
"Weasley's left school grounds?" Daphne said, not believing her ears. "Millie, Harry, let's go!" They ran for the castle.
"Got. To tell. Professor. Snape." Millie panted as they ran.
They burst through the main doors and were running pell mell when Professor McGonagall stepped into the corridor. "Halt!" she demanded. The three Slytherins skidded to a stop. "What is the meaning of this? Running in the corridors is not allowed," she told them. "It is a reckless and dangerous activity. Explain yourselves immediately."
Harry looked at Millie. Millie looked at Daphne. Daphne looked at Harry. They all nodded. "Ron Weasley has left school grounds, Professor," he said, trying to sound believable.
"Rubbish," she told him at once.
"It's true!" Daphne came to his aid. "He's helping smuggle a dragon to Romania!"
"Miss Greengrass, you will cease telling such outrageous lies at once."
"She's not lying," Millie protested. "We've seen the dragon ourselves!" They had only seen the dragon through the windows of Hagrid's hut, but that counted.
"Silence!" Professor McGonagall's lips were a thin, white line. She stared down her nose at them, her face all pinched up. "I will not listen to such disgusting falsehoods. You're obviously only trying to get Mister Weasley in trouble. Detention for all three of you! Get back to your House immediately. I shall be speaking with Professor Snape about this, you mark my words. I will not have you lying to teachers. Go!"
Harry wilted in the face of McGonagall's wrath. It wasn't fair, he seethed. Just because they were in Slytherin, people automatically assumed that they were lying about everything. Even Professor McGonagall, who was noted for being fair and impartial, wouldn't believe them simply because the story was so incredible, and she automatically assumed the worst about them.
However Weasley had learned about the dragon, he'd obviously taken it on himself to destroy the leverage the Slytherins had over Hagrid, and now they had detention on top of it. It made him want to hit something.
There was no opportunity for them to plot a suitable vengeance upon Weasley, but word reached them through the grapevine that Professor Snape had caught Weasley sneaking back into the castle after curfew and assigned him detention, in addition to taking points. They took a small amount of comfort in this news; at least they hadn't lost any points.
That evening, Harry, Daphne, and Millie went to McGonagall's office after classes were over.
"Professor? Daphne said, knocking on the door. "May we please have a few minutes of your time?"
"Certainly, Miss Greengrass. All of you come in. Did you have a question about the homework?"
"Actually, ma'am, we were sort of hoping you'd see fit to cancel our detentions."
McGonagall arched one eyebrow.
"You gave us detention because you thought we'd lied to you about Weasley leaving school grounds, but Professor Snape caught Weasley sneaking back into the castle after curfew that night, so we didn't lie to you."
"Miss Greengrass, you were given detention for making up ridiculous stories about dragons. While I might have listened to you reporting a student out of bounds, to have added such an implausible fantasy to your story strikes me as plainly malicious. I will not tolerate lying to the staff. You will serve detention as planned."
"When might that be, Professor?"
"I am currently working on the details with Mister Filch. You will be notified. Was there anything else?"
"No, ma'am," Daphne said with a sigh.
Harry tried not to feel too upset as they headed back to the common room.
"Well, what's she supposed to think? Be fair. It is a pretty outrageous story."
"It also happens to be true," Daphne said.
"Put yourself in her shoes. Would you believe us?"
"Probably not. Doesn't mean I like this any better."
"I think we should hex Hagrid even more for getting us detention."
"I think hexing Hagrid might get us more detention," Harry said. "I'm thinking we should forget the whole thing."
"That's probably a good idea," Millie said. "I'm going to have a hard enough time explaining this one to my parents."
"Can we at least hex Weasley then? This is all his fault," Daphne said.
"Tempting. Very tempting."
The week passed slowly, as their days were filled with potions ingredients, charms, hexes, dates of magical discoveries, dates of goblin rebellions, moons, stars, herbs, fungi, and everything else they'd learned about during the past school year. Harry and the others studied long into the night.
There was no time for chess or Exploding Snap or other games. The Slytherin common room was a quiet place nowadays as every student focused on reading books and scribbling notes. Professor Snape began to spend long hours sitting in a chair by the fireplace grading homework, but always ready to put it aside to help someone with a question.
They didn't just ask him about Potions. The Potions Master did hear plenty of those questions, of course, but he also answered inquiries about Charms, hexes, jinxes, curses, Ancient Runes (which was a class older students could take), Arithmancy (likewise), herbs, fungi, and Transfiguration. All of the students went to their Head at least once with a problem. Professor Snape helped everyone, never raising his voice, never giving up on them. It was plain to see that everyone revered him.
"Those facts have got to be wrong," Harry said to Theo one night as they were getting ready for bed. "I just can't believe that Snape tried to hurt me."
"Are we going to bring this up again?" Draco said tiredly.
Theo's face was troubled. "No, Harry's right. I've watched Snape this week, too, and it's not clicking."
"Professor Snape cares a lot about us," Harry said. "Any fool can see that."
"Ah, so you're a fool, are you?" Draco said slyly.
Harry made a face at him. "You see it too, Draco. Don't deny it. He's our Head of House; I say we go to him with what we know about the Stone. He'll help us. I just know it."
Draco nodded. "I do see it," he agreed. "Maybe we ought to just forget about the whole thing. Maybe Quirrell only wants the Stone to cure his stutter."
The boys all laughed. "Good one, Draco," Goyle grinned.
"That would be truly horrible," the blond boy continued. "Can you imagine being immortal and stuttering constantly? Who would want to?" He started laughing again.
"We're not forgetting anything," Harry said sharply. "It was Quirrell who tried to kill me, and I mean to make him answer for it."
Draco sobered quickly. "Right. I hadn't forgotten that."
Theo lay down and pulled his sheets up to his chin. "We'll talk about it in the morning," he yawned. "Right now, I couldn't even make a cheese sandwich."
Monday morning at breakfast, notes were delivered to Harry, Millie, and Daphne. All three notes were identical messages from McGonagall informing of the terms for their detentions.
Your detention will take place at eleven o'clock tonight. Meet Mr. Filch in the entrance hall.
With all the studying they'd been doing, Harry had quite forgotten about their detention. Now that he was reminded, he was still furious about the injustice of the whole situation.
"Not only are the three of us going to be wrongly serving detention, but we'll also miss out on a night's studying," Daphne said.
Harry laughed sharply. "I'll skiv on studying Transfiguration to make up for the time lost."
"That old hag didn't want to believe us," Millie agreed, "so I'm not going to bother myself with studying for her class."
"If she asks me why my mark is so bad, I won't hesitate to tell her that I couldn't study because I was wrongly given detention," Daphne concured. "Forget Transfiguration."
"Yes, forget it," Theo advised. "We've got Herbology to think about right now."
"Fine," Pansy mocked him. "We'll think about plants, and you can think about Mandy."
Theo rolled his eyes. "I think I'm going to take up with her," he said in an exasperated tone, "just to have the satisfaction of making you shut your mouth for five bloody minutes."
Pansy smirked at him. "Aww, did I hurt your feelings, Teddy?"
He ignored her. "Now then, Millie, tell me about dittany."
"Time to go to class," Harry sighed as he stood up. Right now, he wished he were going to Potions lecture. Watching Professor Snape abuse Weasley would probably do wonders for his mood.
Theo quizzed them all on the walk down to the greenhouses. Harry knew the answers to the questions Theo asked him, the questions Theo asked his other friends, and the questions that Professor Sprout asked the class. He wasn't worried about his examination, not when Herbology was so closely tied to Potions, a subject he truly enjoyed.
Terry, Mandy, and Padma all said hello to him as he went to his station. Ever since the picnic, the three Ravenclaws had gone out of their way to be friendly, and that was nice. His fellow Slytherins were already friends with the trio, but Harry was pleased that he was getting on well with them too.
After Herbology was History of Magic, which Harry hated. Even when he tried to stay awake, he dozed off after a few minutes. Reading the book was boring enough, but Binns' monotonic droning made him want to learn exorcism. The bell woke him for lunch, and he stumbled down the corridor.
"I'm hungry," Goyle said, rubbing his tummy.
"Yeah," Crabbe agreed. "Food is good." He turned to glare at Draco. "And don't call me a fathead!"
Draco affected an air of injured innocence. "The very thought never crossed my mind."
They spent their free period after lunch studying in the library. While the dungeons were cozy, time they spent traipsing up and down the stairs was better spent reading. Harry was regretful when their free period was over. They couldn't forget about Transfiguration any longer.
Professor McGonagall's eyes were cold and hard as they filed into her classroom. The Slytherins wordlessly took their seats and prepared to be lectured. She was always polite, but sometimes she spoke in an acid tone, and they could tell she didn't think much of them. Ever since she had assigned Harry, Millie, and Daphne detention, the Slytherins hadn't liked the Deputy Headmistress much either, so it balanced out.
Harry half-listened to her lecture. She was just reviewing the material they'd covered last week, and he was bored. His thoughts drifted to his detention in a few hours. He'd gotten in trouble at Muggle school before, but he suspected that his punishment would be at least more interesting than writing lines on the chalkboard.
"Mister Potter?" Professor McGonagall asked. Bugger, she'd caught him not paying attention.
"Sorry, could you repeat the question? I don't think I heard it all," Harry said casually. He wasn't going to let her get to him.
"Five points from Slytherin, Mister Potter," she said coldly.
The bell rang before he could protest, and they quickly headed back to the dungeons. Harry slouched along in a foul mood. Nothing was going right today. He tried not to let it bother him while he concentrated on his homework, but he kept staring off into space.
He barely tasted his dinner. He didn't try to do anymore homework and spent some time getting to know his chessmen. When the hour for his detention rolled around, Harry was still in a bad mood, so when he, Daphne, and Millie came up the stone steps from the dungeons into the entrance hall, his eyes narrowed dangerously as he saw who else was present.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded.