The Almost Chosen Ones

Dragons, Centaurs, And Cloaked Figures, Oh My!

Quirrell must have been braver than we thought. As weeks past he seemed to be getting thinner and a bit more pale, but it didn’t look as though he’d cracked yet.

The Stone wasn’t the only thing on our minds. Exams were creeping closer and Hermione wouldn’t let any of us forget it. She started color coding all her notes and enforcing her study schedules that she gave us for Christmas. “Hermione, the exams are ages away.” Ron complained, as usual. Hermione snapped, “Ten weeks, that’s not ages. That’s like a second to Nicholas Flamel.” Ron lifted his head from his book. “But we’re not six hundred years old,” Ron reminded her. “Anyway, what are you studying for, you already know it all.”

“What am I studying for? Are you crazy? You realize we need to pass these exams to get into second year? They’re very important, I should have started studying a month ago, I don’t know what’s gotten into me.” I don’t get why Hermione puts so much pressure on herself. I mean, I know that she feels that she has a lot to prove, as a muggleborn, but she has to know that she could take the exams right now and get an O. She has nothing to worry about. “I’ll never remember this,” Ron burst out as he looked around for anything to distract himself with. “Hagrid! What are you doing in the library?”

Hagrid shuffled into view trying to hide something behind his back. “Jus’ lookin’,” he said in a shifty voice that got our interest at once. ...Yeah, right. “And what’re you lot up to? Your not still lookin’ for Nicolas Flamel, are yeh?” He asked suspiciously. “Oh, we found him ages ago,” Ron said impressively. “And we know what that dog’s guarding, it’s a Sorcerer’s St-”

“Shhhhh!” Hagrid looked around to see if anyone was listening. “Don’ go shoutin’ about it, what’s the matter with yeh?” The big guy has a point, if there was one trait Ron lacked it was subtlety. “There are actually a few things that we wanted to ask you in fact,” Harry said, “about what’s guarding the Stone apart from Fluffy-”

“SHHHHH!” Hagrid shushed again. “Listen-come an’ see me later, I’m not promising I’ll tell yeh anything, mind, but don’t go blabbin’ about it in here, students aren’t s’pposed to know. They’ll think I’ve told yeh-” Harry nodded, “See you later, then.” Hagrid shuffled off. “Wonder what he was hiding.” Ron’s growling stomach at the perfect time, I didn’t feel like studying anymore anyway. We dropped off our books and things at Gryffindor tower before we made our way to the Great Hall.

After dinner Nev went to Herbology Club while the rest of us walked to Hagrid’s Hut. All the curtains were closed. That’s strange. We knocked on the door. Hagrid called “Who is it?” before he let us in, even though he knew we were coming. He shut the door quickly behind us. It was stifling hot inside. Even though it was a warm day, Hagrid had a fire blazing in the grate. He made us tea and offered us his infamous rock cakes, which we politely declined. “So-yeh wanted to ask me somethin’?”

“Yes,” Harry said, getting straight to the point. “We were wondering if you could tell us what’s guarding the Sorcerer’s Stone other than Fluffy?” Hagrid frowned at him. “O’ course I can’t,” he said. “Number one, I don’ know meself. Number two, yeh know too much already, so I wouldn’ tell yeh if I could. That Stone’s here for a good reason. It was almost stolen outta Gringotts-I s’ppose yeh’ve worked that out an’ all? Beats me how yeh even know about Fluffy.”

“Oh, come on, Hagrid, you might not want to tell us but you do know, you know everything that goes on around here,” said Hermione in a warm, flattering voice. Hagrid’s beard twitched and we could tell he was smiling. Look out world, Hermione’s got brains and charm. “We only wondered who had done the guarding, really. We wondered who Dumbledore had trusted enough to help him, apart from you.” Girl knows how to lay it on thick. She’s got it. “Well, I don’t suppose it could hurt to tell yeh that ... he borrowed Fluffy from me ... then some of the teachers did enchantments ... Professor Sprout, Professor Flitwick, Professor McGonagall,” he listed as he ticked them off on his fingers. I knew it. “Professor Quirrell, and Dumbledore himself did somethin’, o’ course. Hang on, I’ve forgotten someone. Oh yeah, Professor Snape.”

Snape?” Harry asked incredulously. Hagrid leaned forward. “Yeah-yer not still on about that, are yeh? Look, Snape helped protect the Stone, he’s not about to steal it.” We all looked at each other. Since Snape was one of the teachers protecting the Stone, he also knew who else set up a test, but did he know what the other tests were and how to beat them? The only thing we did know is that he hasn’t been able to get past Fluffy and he doesn’t know what spells or enchantments Quirrell set up to protect the Stone. Just how close was Snape from getting the Stone? We didn’t know. Right now our saving graces were Dumbledore and Fluffy.

“You’re the only one who knows how to get past Fluffy, aren’t you Hagrid?” Harry asked anxiously. “You wouldn’t tell anyone, would you? Not even one of the teachers?” Hagrid stood up and walked by the fire. “O’course not! Ain’t no one gonna get passed Fluffy. Not a soul knows how, except for me and Dumbledore.”

I heard something rattle in the fire grate behind Hagrid. My eyebrows crinkled. What was that? All of our eyes were on Hagrid, or more so whatever might be behind Hagrid that was now clattering about more incessantly. After a short awkward pause, Hagrid knew that he could no longer hide whatever he was trying to hide. Hagrid put on oven mitts from the kitchenette and grabbed something out of the cauldron that was in the fire and placed it on the table. “Uh, Hagrid, what exactly is that?” Harry asked cluelessly. “Hagrid...Is that?” I started my thought out loud. “Oh! That...that’s uh...umm.” Hagrid trailed off, not wanting to confess just what exactly that was. “I know what that is!” Ron exclaimed, happy that he actually knew the answer to something. “But Hagrid, how did you get one?”

“I won it!” Hagrid exclaimed enthusiastically now that the cat was out of the bag, or the dragon almost out of its shell, I suppose. “Off a stranger I met down at the pub. Seemed right glad to be rid of it, matter of fact...” He said the last part quietly in confusion, as if who wouldn’t want a pet dragon?

The egg was now wobbling slightly on the table. A funny clicking noise started coming from inside. After a second or two a few cracks developed on the shell. It was moving inside, trying to claw its way out. It was hatching. I leaned forward slightly. I saw everyone else take a little step back, but everyone seemed to be holding our breath. All at once there was this scraping noise and the egg split open. The baby dragon flopped onto the table and shook off the few remaining egg shell pieces. It was kind of cute in a strange sort of way. The bony wings reminded me of the pictures of thestrals, I looked them up after I found out my wand core. “Is that...a dragon?” Hermione finally stated the question out loud. The baby dragon let out a little caw as if knowing that he was the center of attention and the topic at hand. “That’s not just a dragon! That’s a Norwegian Ridgeback!” Ron corrected. “My brother works with these in Romania.”

“Isn’t he beautiful?” Hagrid said, a bit misty eyed. The baby dragon turned to look at him. “Oh, bless him, look, he knows his mommy!” he chuckled happily as he reached out a hand to stroke the dragon’s head. “Hello little Norbert.” Norbert, no offense, but what kind of name is Norbert? “Norbert?” we asked. He looks more like a Blaze to me. “Yeah, well, he’s gotta have a name don’ he?” I chuckled slightly. Hagrid slightly tickled his throat and behind his ears. Norbert sort of giggled into a cough before he hiccuped a fireball that flew into Hagrid’s beard. Definitely a Blaze. Hagrid pat the embers out with his oven mitts. “He’ll have to be trained up a bit o’course” Norbert coughed up a bit of smoke. “Hagrid, you live in a wooden house. How fast do Norwegian Ridgebacks grow, exactly?” Hagrid was about to answer when he started squinting at the window. “Who’s that?” We all turned to the window where we saw the back of a bright blond head running back to the castle. “Malfoy.” I answered. There were no mistaking those locks. “Oh dear,” Hagrid said as the color started to leave his face. Oh dear, is right.

“Hagrid always wanted a dragon. He told me so the first time I ever met him.” Harry said as we trekked our way up to the castle. “That’s crazy!” I wonder if I wished really hard for a baby thestral, could I get one as easy as that? “What’s worse is that Malfoy knows,” Ron said. “I don’t understand, is that bad?” Harry asked. “Oh, it’s bad all right.” We turned around a corner and there was Professor McGonagall, holding a candle, waiting for us. Malfoy stepped out from behind her, smirking at us. I glared at him. “Good evening.” I think she might have been a bit sarcastic.

She led us to her office. “Nothing, I repeat nothing, gives a student the right to walk about the school at night. Therefore, as punishment for your actions, fifty points will be taken.” Our jaws dropped. “Fifty?” Harry asked incredulously. “Each,” Malfoy looked like a cat that swallowed the canary. “And to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, all five of you will receive detention.” Malfoy looked confused and it was my turn to smirk. He took a step closer to her desk. “I’m sorry Professor, perhaps I heard you wrong. I thought you said the five of us.” She raised a Scottish eyebrow at him. “No, you heard me correctly Mr. Malfoy. You see, though honorable as your intentions were,” Ha, honorable. “You, too, were out of bed after hours. You will join your classmates in detention tomorrow.” That crap may fly with Snape, but that definitely wasn’t so with McGonagall. Go cry to your father about that. With that she dismissed us to our dormitories.

The next morning proved that last night was not a dream. Two hundred points lost. That put Gryffindor in last place. In one night, we ruined any chance of winning the House Cup this year. At first, the Gryffindors who passed the giant hourglasses that recorded the House Points thought there had been a mistake. How could Gryffindor suddenly have two hundred points less than yesterday? Then, like any juicy story at Hogwarts, it spread like Fiendfyre. The famous Harry Potter, hero of two Quidditch matches, lost all the points with a couple other stupid first years. So we went from sort-of popular for first years, to the stupid first years who lost Gryffindor the House Cup. That’s just great. People pointed, glared, and gossiped. On the other hand, the Slytherins whistled and cheered as we past, “Thanks, we owe you one!” Oh, shut up!

“They’ll forget eventually.” Nev tried to cheer us up. “Yeah, Fred and Gerge have lost loads of points in all the time they’ve been here, and people still like them.” Ron agreed. “They’ve never lost two hundred points in one go though have they?” Harry rebutted miserably. He has a point.

At ten o’clock that night we met Filch and Malfoy in the Entrance Hall for detention. Filch led us out onto the grounds. “A pity they let the old punishments die out. There was a time when detention had you hanging by your wrists from the ceiling for a few days. I’ve got the chains still in my office, keep ‘em well oiled in case they’re ever needed...God, I miss the screamin’” We all worriedly looked at each other. What a creep. “You’ll be serving detention with Hagrid tonight. He’s got a little job to do inside the dark forest.

“Sorry lot, this, Hagrid.” Filch said as we approached Hagrid, who was leaving his hut. Hagrid sniffled as he put down his lantern. “Good God, man, you’re not still on about that bloody dragon, are you?” Filch sneered. Hagrid sniffed again. “Norbert’s gone!” Hagrid cried. “Dumbledore sent him off to Romania to live in a colony.” Aww. “But that’s good, isn’t it? He gets to live with his own kind.” I said trying to point out the silver lining. “Yeah, but what if he don’t like Romania? What if the other dragons are mean to him? He’s only a baby after all!” Hagrid sobbed. “Oh, For God’s sake, pull yourself together man! You’re going into the forest after all. Got to have your wits about you.” Filch kind of sang out the last part for some reason. “The forest! I thought that was a joke! We can’t go in there, students aren’t allowed!” Malfoy cried in outrage. “There are...” A wolf howled in the distance. “...Werewolves.” Did he just whimper? “Oh, there’s more than Werewolves in those trees lad, you can be sure of that. Nighty night.” Filch left us with that lovely end note. “Right, let’s go.” Hagrid called before he led us into the dark forbidden forest.

“Right then,” said Hagrid, “now, listen carefully, ‘cause it’s dangerous what we’re gonna do tonight, and I don’ want no one takin’ risks, understand? Follow me.” We marched our way through the forest behind Hagrid, ignoring Malfoy’s consistent complaints. After about twenty minutes Hagrid stopped and knelt on the ground. He dipped his fingers into a puddle of some metallic-like goo. “Hagrid, what is that?” Harry asked the question that I’m sure we all were thinking. “What we’re here for.” Hagrid lifted his fingers to the light cast off by his lantern. His big fingers were covered in a silvery substance. “See that? That’s unicorn blood, that is. I found one dead a few weeks ago. Now, this one’s been hurt bad by somethin’,” We all looked around in the darkness, as if whatever had done that to the poor unicorns were stalking us, right now. “So, it’s our job to go find the poor beast.” Hagrid finished. “Ron, Hermione, you come with me. Harry, Callie, you go with Malfoy.”

“Okay, then I get Fang.” Malfoy demanded. I rolled my eyes. I can’t believe I was stuck with him, at least I wasn’t alone. “Fine, Just so’s you know, he’s a bloody coward.” Hagrid admitted. Fang whimpered as we all looked at him. At least it took the smirk off of Malfoy’s face, for now anyway. We split up in different directions looking for the injured unicorn. “Wait until my father hears about this! This is servant stuff!” Malfoy ranted. Merlin’s saggy left buttock! I doubt if his father even cares how he landed himself into detention. We walked for nearly half an hour deeper into the forest, Malfoy complaining all the way. “Maybe next time you’ll think twice about being a little tattletale. Besides, If I didn’t know better Draco, with all this ranting and moaning, I’d think you were scared.” I taunted. “Scared, Ivy?” he snapped. A deep moaning sound echoed throughout the forest. “Did you hear that?” Malfoy asked suddenly alert. We all looked around. “Come on, Fang!” he called as he stalked forward. “Scared.” He scoffed silently.

After another five minutes or so Fang stopped up ahead. When we caught up to him we realized why he stopped. Against a large tree up ahead there was the fallen unicorn. It was the black cloaked figure hovering over the unicorn that caused goosebumps to trickle from the back of my neck down to my arms. The figure slightly lifted his head. I could just see the trails of unicorn blood that left a silvery stain on his lips. Malfoy started screaming bloody murder before he turned and ran away, Fang chasing after him. I took a deep breath and gripped my wand tightly, my other hand unconsciously in a tight fist, nails digging four crescent moons into my palm. It didn’t really walk, as much as it glided over to us, its robes trailing behind. Even though it was closer I didn’t have any better of an idea of what was hiding under that dark hood. Harry grabbed his forehead and staggered backwards. I heard the sound of hooves galloping behind us and saw something jump over us, charging at the figure. Harry collapsed to his knees with his hands still holding his head. I caught him by the shoulders and lent him against a tree. When I looked back the figure was gone and in front of me was a centaur. Wow, I had never actually seen a centaur. He had long white-blond hair and a palomino body with a bright, shiny tail. “Harry Potter, you must leave. You are known to many creatures here. The forest is not safe at this time, especially for you.” I figured the ‘and friend’ was implied. Or at least that’s what I told myself. “But what was that thing you saved us from?” The centaur looked back at the unicorn that was lying limply on the ground. “A monstrous creature. It is a terrible crime to slay a unicorn. Drinking the blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You’ve slain something so pure and defenseless to save yourself, that from the moment the blood touches your lips you will live a half life, a cursed life.”

“But who would choose such a life?” I wondered out loud. What would be the point of living? The centaur turned to me. “Can you think of no one?” For a moment no one said anything. “Do you mean to say that...” Harry started slowly, “That thing that killed the unicorn, that was drinking its blood, that was Voldemort?” It felt like my heart stopped for a moment. “Do you know what is hidden in the school at this very moment?” Harry and my eyes widened. “The Sorcerer’s Stone.” We whispered fearfully. If V-Voldemort got his hands on the Sorcerer’s Stone...

I heard barking near by, closely followed by a soft yell of “Callie! Harry!” A minute later Hagrid, Malfoy, Hermione, Ron, and Fang made it around a few trees and into the clearing. “Hello there, Firenze. I see you’ve met our young Mr. Potter and Miss Longbottom. You guys all right?” We both nodded. “This is where I leave you, you’re safe now. Good luck.” Firenze said before he galloped off into the forest.

Neville had fallen asleep on the couch in the common room, waiting for us to come back. He mumbled something about Snape as I shook him awake. In a matter of seconds, though, he was wide-eyed as Harry explained what happened in the forest. I sat in an armchair and stared into the fire, unlike Harry, who couldn’t keep still and started pacing between the couches and the fire. “Snape wants the Stone for Voldemort...and Voldemort’s waiting in the forest...and all this time we thought Snape just wanted to get rich...Don’t you see, we had it wrong...Snape doesn’t want the Stone for himself, he wants the Stone for Voldemort. With the Elixir of Life, Voldemort will be strong again. He’ll, He’ll come back.” Harry ended his rant dejectedly and collapsed into the arm chair across from me. “But, but if he comes don’t think he’ll try to...kill you, do you?” Ron choked out. “I think if he’d had the chance he might have tried to kill me tonight.” Harry answered honestly. Neville gulped, “And to think that I’ve been worrying about my potions final!”

“Hang on a minute! You’re all forgetting one thing. Who’s the one wizard Voldemort always feared?” I turned my gaze away from the fire to Hermione. “Dumbledore! As long as Dumbledore’s around you’re safe. As long as Dumbledore’s around you can’t be touched.” She has a point. We all calmed down a bit when Hermione’s logic seeped into our worried brains, like always. The sky was starting to lighten when we made our way to our dormitories. We were so exhausted, we simply collapsed into bed, grabbed Ty, and closed the drapes.

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