Potter and Black: The Goblet of Fire

Rita Skeeter's Scoup

disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, just Arabella. Hope you like it!

Rita Skeeter's Scoup

Everybody got up late on Boxing Day. Arabella was happier than usual as Hermione's hair was bushy again. Ron and Hermione seemed to have reached an unspoken agreement not to discuss their argument. They were being quite friendly to each other, though oddly formal. Arabella and Harry tried not to look at each other too much, they didn't want to blow their cover, but Arabella had a sudden urge to snog him at the corner of the common room, not caring who saw them.

Ron wasted no time telling Arabella, Harry and Hermione about the conversation he had overheard between Madame Maxime and Hagrid, but they didn't seem to find the news that Hagrid was a half-giant nearly as shocking as Ron did.

'Well, I thought he must be,' said Hermione, shrugging. 'I knew he couldn't be pure giant because they're about twenty feet tall. But honestly, all this hysteria about giants. They can't all be horrible…It's the same sort of prejudice that people have toward werewolves…It's just bigotry, isn't it?'

Ron looked as though he would have liked to reply, but perhaps he didn't want another row, because he contented himself with shaking his head disbelievingly while Hermione wasn't looking. Harry didn't seem to mind that Hagrid was a half-giant, he was still Hagrid. Arabella was a bit worried. She grew up hearing stories about giants and how they allied with Voldemort during the First War. They were responsible for some of the War's worst massacres against the Muggle community. This usually scared the living daylights out anyone hearing it for the first time, but this is Hagrid. There wasn't a single bad bone in him. Hermione's right, they're not all horrible.

It was now time to think of the homework they had neglected during the first week of the holidays. Everybody seemed to be feeling rather moody now that Christmas was over. Everybody except Harry, who as starting to feel slightly nervous.

The trouble was that February the twenty fourth was looking a lot closer than it did before, and Harry still hadn't done anything about the egg, even though he said that he was working on it, which was just total bull. He told Arabella about what Cedric told him during the ball, about taking a bath in the prefect bathroom. Harry wasn't so sure whether or not Cedric really wanted to help him, or if it was just some sort of joke.

And so the first day of the new term started, and Arabella set off to lessons, weighed down by the supplies in her bag and the books on her arms, but she felt happier, more joyful then she did the previous term. As the snow covered the grounds, nobody was looking forward to Care of Magical Creature much in this weather, though as Ron said the skrewts would probably warm them up nicely, either by chasing them, or blasting off so forcefully that Hagrid's cabin would catch fire.

When they arrived at Hagrid's cabin, however, they found an elderly witch with closely cropped gray hair and a very prominent chin standing before his front door.

'Hurry up, now, the bell rang five minutes ago,' she barked at them as they struggled toward her through the snow.

'Who're you?' said Ron, staring at her. 'Wheres Hagrid?'

'My name is Professor Grubbly-Plank,' she said briskly. 'I am your temporary Care of Magical Creatures teacher.'

'Where's Hagrid?' Harry repeated loudly.

'He is indisposed,' said Professor Grubbly-Plank shortly.

An unpleasant laughter reached their ear as Arabella turned around. Malfoy and the rest of the Slytherins were joining the class. All of them looked gleeful, and none of them looked surprised to see Professor Grubbly-Plank.

'This way, please,' said Professor Grubbly-Plank, and she strode off around the paddock where the Beauxbatons horses were shivering. Arabella, Harry, Ron, and Hermione followed her, looking back over their shoulders at Hagrid's cabin. All the curtains were closed.

'What's wrong with Hagrid?' asked Harry.

'Never you mind,' she said as though she thought he was being nosy.

'I do mind, though,' said Harry hotly. 'What's up with him?'

Professor Grubbly-Plank acted as though she couldn't hear him. She led them past the paddock where the huge Beauxbatons horses were standing, huddled against the cold, and toward a tree on the edge of the forest, where a large and beautiful unicorn was tethered.

Many of the girls 'ooooohed!' at the sight of the unicorn. 'Oh it's so beautiful!' whispered Lavender Brown. 'How did she get it? They're supposed to be really hard to catch!'

The unicorn was so brightly white it made the snow all around look gray. It was pawing the ground nervously with its golden hooves and throwing back its horned head.

'Boys keep back!' barked Professor Grubbly-Plank. 'They prefer the woman's touch, unicorns. Girls to the front, and approach with care some on, easy does it…'

Arabella stayed behind as the girls walked slowly forward towards the unicorn. She had a thing against horses, even though this was a unicorn. One time, when she was seven, she went horseback riding with Nymph. It was actually quite fun in the beginning, but the horse was very jumpy and excited. One thing lead to another and Arabella fell of the horse, then the horse landing on her left leg, nearly cracking it into two. Ever since then, she's stayed away from horses or anything that resembled them. This one especially since it has a dagger attached to its head.

Arabella walked to where Harry and Ron were with most of the boys. She attached herself between them, but slightly leaned on Harry. Nobody noticed, but Neville was giving her a sort of secretive smile.

'Why aren't you with the rest of them?' asked Ron.

'Bad experiences with horses,' said Arabella.

'But it's a unicorn,' said Harry.

'Does not make it any better,' said Arabella, shaking her head.

Ron was about to open his mouth to say something, but decided against it.

'What d'you reckons wrong with Hagrid? You don't think a skrewt -?' said Harry, but he was cut off.

'Oh he hasn't been attacked, Potter, if that's what you're thinking,' said Malfoy softly. 'No, he's just too ashamed to show his big, ugly face.'

'What d'you mean?' said Harry sharply.

Malfoy put his hand inside the pocket of his robes and pulled out a folded page of newsprint.

'There you go,' he said. 'Hate to break it to you. Potter…'

He smirked as Harry snatched the page, unfolded it, and read it, with Arabella, Ron, Seamus, Dean, and Neville looking over his shoulder. It was an article topped with a picture of Hagrid looking extremely shifty.

DUMBLEDORE'S GIANT MISTAKE

Albus Dumbledore, eccentric Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, has never been afraid to make controversial staff appointments, writes Rita Skeeter, Special Correspondent. In September of this year, he hired Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody, the notoriously jinx-happy ex-Auror, to each Defense Against the Dark Arts, a decision that caused many raised eyebrows at the Ministry of Magic, given Moody's well-known habit of attacking anybody who makes a sudden movement in his presence. Mad-Eye Moody, however, looks responsible and kindly when set beside the part-human Dumbledore employs to teach Care of Magical Creatures.

Rubeus Hagrid, who admits to being expelled from Hogwarts in his third year, has enjoyed the position of gamekeeper at the school ever since a job secured for him by Dumbledore. Last year, however, Hagrid used his mysterious influence over the headmaster to secure the additional post of Care of Magical Creatures teacher, over the heads of many better-qualified candidates.

An alarmingly large and ferocious-looking man, Hagrid has been using his newfound authority to terrify the students in his care with a succession of horrific creatures. While Dumbledore turns a blind eye, Hagrid has maimed several pupils during a series of lessons that many admit to being 'very frightening.' 'I was attacked by a hippogriff, and my friend Vincent Crabbe got a bad bite off a flobberworm,' says Draco Malfoy, a fourth-year student. 'We all hate Hagrid, but we're just too scared to say anything.'

Hagrid has no intention of ceasing his campaign of intimidation, however. In conversation with a Daily Prophet reporter last month, he admitted breeding creatures he has dubbed 'Blast-Ended Skrewts,' highly dangerous crosses between manti-cores and fire-crabs. The creation of new breeds of magical creature is, of course, an activity usually closely observed by the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Hagrid, however, considers himself to be above such petty restrictions.

'I was just having some fun,' he says, before hastily changing the subject. As if this were not enough, the Daily Prophet has now unearthed evidence that Hagrid is not - as he has always pretended - a pureblood wizard. He is not, in fact, even pure human. His mother, we can exclusively reveal, is none other than the giantess Fridwulfa, whose whereabouts are currently unknown. Bloodthirsty and brutal, the giants brought themselves to the point of extinction by warring amongst themselves during the last century.

The handful that remained joined the ranks of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and were responsible for some of the worst mass Muggle killings of his reign of terror. While many of the giants who served He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named were killed by Aurors working against the Dark Side, Fridwulfa was not among them. It is possible she escaped to one of the giant communities still existing in foreign mountain ranges. If his antics during Care of Magical Creatures lessons are any guide, however, Fridwulfa's son appears to have inherited her brutal nature.

In a bizarre twist, Hagrid is reputed to have developed a close friendship with the boy who brought around You-Know-Who's fall from power - thereby driving Hagrid's own mother, like the rest of YouKnow-Who's supporters, into hiding. Perhaps Harry Potter is unaware of the unpleasant truth about his large friend – but Albus Dumbledore surely has a duty to ensure that Harry Potter, along with his fellow students, is warned about the dangers of associating with part-giants.

Arabella finished reading and felt her body become rigid.

'How did she find out?' whispered Ron, whose mouth was hanging open.

But that wasn't what was bothering Harry.

'What d'you mean, 'we all hate Hagrid'?' Harry spat at Malfoy. 'What's this rubbish about him' - he pointed at Crabbe - 'getting a bad bite off a flobberworm? They haven't even got teeth!'

Crabbe was sniggering, apparently very pleased with himself.

'Well, I think this should put an end to the oaf's teaching career,' said Malfoy, his eyes glinting. 'Half-giant…and there was me thinking he'd just swallowed a bottle of Skele-Gro when he was young…None of the mummies and daddies are going to like this at all…They'll be worried he'll eat their kids, ha, ha…'

'You-'

'Are you paying attention over there?'

Professor Grubbly-Planks voice carried over to the boys, and Arabella; the girls were all clustered around the unicorn now, stroking it. Harry was so angry that the Daily Prophet article shook in his hands as they turned to stare unseeingly at the unicorn, whose many magical properties Professor Grubbly-Plank was now enumerating in a loud voice, so that the boys and Arabella could hear too.

'I hope she stays, that woman!' said Parvati when the lesson had ended and they were all heading back to the castle for lunch. 'That's more what I thought Care of Magical Creatures would be like…proper creatures like unicorns, not monsters…'

'What about Hagrid?' Harry said angrily as they went up the steps.

'What about him?' said Parvati in a hard voice. 'He can still be gamekeeper, can't he?'

Parvati had been very cool toward Harry since the ball. Apparently Harry didn't pay much attention to her, but she still had a very good time all in all with a boy from Durmstrang.

'That was a really good lesson,' said Hermione as they entered the Great Hall. 'I didn't know half the things Professor Grubbly-Plank told us about uni-'

'Look at this!' Harry snarled, and he shoved the Daily Prophet article under Hermione's nose.

Hermione's mouth fell open as she read. Her reaction was exactly the same as Ron's.

'How did that horrible Skeeter woman find out? You don't think Hagrid told her?'

'No,' said Harry, leading the way over to the Gryffindor table and throwing himself into a chair, furious. 'He never even told us, did he? I reckon she was so mad he wouldn't give her loads of horrible stuff about me, she went ferreting around to get him back.'

'Maybe she heard him telling Madame Maxime at the ball,' said Arabella.

'I'd have seen her in the garden!' said Ron. 'Anyway, she's not supposed to come into school anymore, Hagrid said Dumbledore banned her…'

'Maybe she's got an Invisibility Cloak,' said Harry, ladling chicken casserole onto his plate and splashing it everywhere in his anger. 'Sort of thing she'd do, isn't it, hide in bushes listening to people.'

'Ron did, you mean,' said Hermione.

'I wasn't trying to hear him!' said Ron indignantly. 'I didn't have any choice! The stupid prat, talking about his giantess mother where anyone could have heard him!'

'We've got to go and see him,' said Harry. 'This evening, after Divination. Tell him we want him back…you do want him back?' he shot at Hermione.

'I - well, I'm not going to pretend it didn't make a nice change, having a proper Care of Magical Creatures lesson for once - but I do want Hagrid back, of course I do!' Hermione added hastily, quailing under Harry's furious stare.

So that evening after dinner, the four of them left the castle once more and went down through the frozen grounds to Hagrid's cabin. They knocked, and Fang's booming barks answered.

'Hagrid, it's us!' Harry shouted, pounding on the door. 'Open up!'

Hagrid didn't answer. They could hear Fang scratching at the door, whining, but it didn't open. They hammered on it for ten more minutes; Ron even went and banged on one of the windows, but there was no response.

'What's he avoiding us for?' Hermione said when they had finally given up and were walking back to the school. 'He surely doesn't think we'd care about him being half-giant?'

But it seemed that Hagrid did care. They didn't see a sign of him all week. He didn't appear at the staff table at mealtimes, they didn't see him going about his gamekeeper duties on the grounds, and Professor Grubbly-Plank continued to take the Care of Magical Creatures classes. Malfoy was gloating at every possible opportunity.

'Missing your half-breed pal?' he kept whispering to any one of them whenever there was a teacher around, so that he was safe from their retaliation. 'Missing the elephantman?'

There was a Hogsmeade visit halfway through January. Hermione was very surprised that Harry was going to go.

'I just thought you'd want to take advantage of the common room being quiet,' she said. 'Really get to work on that egg.'

'Oh I - I reckon I've got a pretty good idea what it's about now,' Harry lied.

'Have you really?' said Hermione, looking impressed. 'Well done!'

When Hermione left them and Ron went to bed, Arabella hit him over the head before giving him a kiss.

They left the castle together on Saturday and set off through the cold grounds toward the gates. As they passed the Durmstrang ship in the lake, they saw Krum and Nikola emerge onto the deck. They were dressed in nothing but their swimming trunks. They climbed up onto the side of the ship, stretched out their arms, and dived, right into the lake.

'They're mad!' said Harry, staring. 'It must be freezing, it's January!'

'It's a lot colder where they comes from,' said Hermione. 'I suppose it feels quite warm to them.'

'Yeah, but there's still the giant squid,' said Ron. He didn't sound anxious – if anything, he sounded hopeful. Hermione noticed his tone of voice and frowned. Arabella silently agreed with Ron. She wouldn't mind if the giant squid got to Nikola and ripped his tongue out, anything out really.

'Krum's really nice, you know,' she said. 'He's not at all like you'd think, coming from Durmstrang. He likes it much better here, he told me.'

Ron said nothing. He hadn't mentioned Krum since the ball, and Harry said nothing about Nikola either. It was the unspoken rule between them.

Once they were certain that Hagrid was nowhere to be seen, Harry suggested a visit to the Three Broomsticks for a drink. The pub was as crowded as ever, but Hagrid was still not there. They went up to the bar to order four butterbeers from Madam Rosmerta.

'Doesn't he ever go into the office?' Hermione whispered suddenly. 'Look!'

She pointed into the mirror behind the bar, and Arabella saw Ludo Bagman's reflection, sitting in a corner with a bunch of goblins. Bagman was talking very fast in a low voice to the goblins, all of whom had their arms crossed and were looking rather menacing.

It was odd that Bagman was here at Three Broomsticks on a weekend when there was no Triwizard event going on. Bagman glanced over at the back, saw Harry and stood up.

'In a moment, in a moment!' Arabella heard him say to the goblins, and Bagman hurried through the pub towards Harry.

'Harry!' he said. 'How are you? Been hoping to run into you! Everything going all right?'

'Fine, thanks,' said Harry.

'Wonder if I could have a quick, private word, Harry?' said Bagman eagerly. 'You couldn't give us a moment, you three, could you?'

'Er - okay,' said Ron, and he, Hermione, and Arabella went off to find a table while Bagman led Harry along the bar to the end furthest from Madam Rosmerta.

'What do you think he wants?' asked Ron, as they watched Bagman talking to Harry.

'I don't know, but it's probably something bad,' said Arabella, taking as sip of butterbeer. 'You don't mess with goblins. Something's going on.'

They continued to watch them as Bagman and Harry talked and as Fred and George appeared. Harry managed to slip away.

'What did he want?' Ron said, the moment Harry had sat down.

'He offered to help me with the golden egg,' said Harry.

'He shouldn't be doing that!' said Hermione, looking very shocked. 'He's one of the judges! And anyway, you've already worked it out - haven't you?'

'Er…nearly,' said Harry.

'Well, I don't think Dumbledore would like it if he knew Bagman was trying to persuade you to cheat!' said Hermione, still looking deeply disapproving. 'I hope he's trying to help Cedric as much!'

'He's not, I asked,' said Harry.

'Who cares if Diggorys getting help?' said Ron.

'What are the goblins doing here?' said Arabella.

'Looking for Crouch, according to Bagman,' said Harry. 'He's still ill. Hasn't been into work.'

'Maybe Percys poisoning him,' said Ron. 'Probably thinks if Crouch snuffs it he'll be made head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation.'

Hermione gave Ron a don't-joke-about-things-like-that look, and said, 'Funny, goblins looking for Mr. Crouch…They'd normally deal with the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.'

'Crouch can speak loads of different languages, though,' said Harry. 'Maybe they need an interpreter.'

'Worrying about poor 'ickle goblins, now, are you?' Ron asked Hermione. 'Thinking of starting up S.P.U.G. or something? Society for the Protection of Ugly Goblins?'

'Ha, ha, ha,' said Hermione sarcastically. 'Goblins don't need protection. Haven't you been listening to what Professor Binns has been telling us about goblin rebellions?'

'No,' said Arabella, Harry and Ron together.

'Well, they're quite capable of dealing with wizards,' said Hermione, taking a sip of butterbeer. 'They're very clever. They're not like house-elves, who never stick up for themselves.'

'Uh-oh,' said Ron, staring at the door.

Arabella looked at the door, and uh-oh was right. Rita Skeeter just entered Three Broomsticks. She bought drinks, and she and her photographer made their way through the crowds to a table nearby. Arabella, Harry, Ron and Hermione glaring at her as she approached. She was talking fast and looking very satisfied about something.

'…didn't seem very keen to talk to us, did he, Bozo? Now, why would that be, do you think? And what's he doing with a pack of goblins in town anyway? Showing them the sights…what nonsense…he was always a bad liar. Reckon something's up? Think we should do a bit of digging? 'Disgraced Ex-Head of Magical Games and Sports, Ludo Bagman…' Snappy start to a sentence, Bozo - we just need to find a story to fit it -'

'Trying to ruin someone else's life?' said Harry loudly.

A few people looked around. Rita Skeeter's eyes widened behind her jeweled spectacles as she saw who had spoken.

'Harry!' she said, beaming. 'How lovely! Why don't you come and join-?'

'I wouldn't come near you with a ten-foot broomstick,' said Harry furiously. 'What did you do that to Hagrid for, eh?'

Rita Skeeter raised her heavily penciled eyebrows.

'Our readers have a right to the truth, Harry. I am merely doing my-'

'Who cares if he's half-giant?' Harry shouted. 'There's nothing wrong with him!'

The whole pub had gone very quiet. Madam Rosmerta was staring over from behind the bar, apparently oblivious to the fact that the flagon she was filling with mead was overflowing.

Rita Skeeters smile flickered very slightly, but she hitched it back almost at once; she snapped open her crocodile-skin handbag, pulled out her Quick-Quotes Quill, and said, 'How about giving me an interview about the Hagrid you know. Harry? The man behind the muscles? Your unlikely friendship and the reasons behind it. Would you call him a father substitute?'

Hermione stood up very abruptly, her butterbeer clutched in her hand as though it were a grenade.

'You horrible woman,' she said, through gritted teeth, 'you don't care, do you, anything for a story, and anyone will do, won't they? Even Ludo Bagman -'

'Sit down, you silly little girl, and don't talk about things you don't understand,' said Rita Skeeter coldly, her eyes hardening as they fell on Hermione. 'I know things about Ludo Bagman that would make your hair curl…not that it needs it -' she added, eyeing Hermione's bushy hair. She then turned to Arabella, smiling nastily. 'But I bet you already know, that werewolf of yours probably told you all about Ludo Bagman. He's of course the reason why your dear mother, may she rest in peace, had to go into hiding after all.'

'What the bloody hell are you talking about?' snarled Arabella, getting up from her seat quickly as some of her butterbeer fell over on to the floor. Arabella didn't like Rita's tone of voice. It was full of glee, excitement. It was sickening to hear her talk about Arabella's mother.

Rita's eyes widened and smiled broadened. 'You mean you don't know? You truly don't know?'

'Either tell me or get out,' said Arabella, her voice cold. She didn't believe a single word that came out of this woman's mouth. It was all bullshit.

Rita's Quick-Quotes Quill started to move at a rapid pace. Arabella felt her blood boil at that sight. She grabbed the Quick-Quotes Quill, put it on the table and threw Harry's butterbeer all over it. All Rita's notes were smudged with butterbeer. Arabella felt a sort of satisfaction from the sight. She turned back to Rita and was even more pleased. Rita's face was stuck between horror and rage. Her eyes were budging out, the ends of her mouth were twitching, her nose was flared and she was staring at her ruined Quick-Quotes Quill. Nobody talks about Arabella's mother like that without getting something in return, and this was just it.

'Let's go, Arabella,' said Hermione, tugging on Arabella's sleeve, 'c'mon. Harry - Ron…'

They left; many people were staring at them as they went. Arabella was walking fast out of Hogsmeade with Harry, Ron and Hermione beside her. She was shaking with fury.

'She'll be after you two next,' said Ron told her. 'You and Hermione.'

'Let her try!' said Hermione defiantly. 'I'll show her. Silly little girl, am I?' Oh, I'll get her back for this. First Harry, then Hagrid…'

'You don't want to go upsetting Rita Skeeter,' said Ron nervously. 'I'm serious, she'll dig up something on you -'

'My mother's dead, my father's on the run, my godfather's a werewolf, and I'm related to some of the most feared criminals in the wizarding world. Tell me, what else can she dig up?' yelled Arabella, throwing her hand in the air. 'And Hagrid's not hiding anymore! Rita Skeeter, of all the bloody people in the world, is not going to upset him!'

Walking in a briskly, Arabella was more furious with what she was thinking, rather than what happened. Did her mother really go into hiding? Was Ludo Bagman's fault? Why was she going into hiding in the first place? It was most likely all bullshit, but this was definitely something you wouldn't just make up.

They walked back up the road, through the gates flanked by winged boars, and up through the grounds to Hagrid's cabin. The curtains were still drawn, and they could hear Fang barking as they approached.

Arabella started to pound on the door as Hermione started to shout. They were a good team.

'Hagrid! Hagrid, that's enough! We know you're in there! Nobody cares of your mum was a giantess, Hagrid! You can't let that foul Skeeter woman do this to you! Hagrid, get out here, you're just being –'

The door opened. Arabella said, 'About blo-!' and then stopped, very suddenly, because she had found herself face-to-face with Dumbledore.

'Good afternoon,' he said pleasantly, smiling down at them.

'We-er-we wanted to see Hagrid,' said Arabella in a rather small voice.

'Yes, I surmised as much,' said Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling. 'Why don't you come in?'

'Oh…um…okay,' said Arabella.

They went into the cabin. Hagrid was sitting at his table. He looked a real mess. His face was blotchy and his eyes swollen.

'Hi, Hagrid,' said Harry.

Hagrid looked up.

''Lo,' he said in a very hoarse voice.

'More tea, I think,' said Dumbledore, closing the door behind Arabella, Harry, Ron and Hermione, drawing out his wand, and twiddling it; a revolving tea tray appeared in midair along with a plate of cakes. Dumbledore magicked the tray onto the table, and everybody sat down. There was a slight pause, and then Dumbledore said, 'Did you by any chance hear what Miss Granger was shouting, Hagrid?'

Hermione went slightly pink, but Dumbledore smiled at her and continued, 'Hermione, Arabella, Harry, and Ron still seem to want to know you, judging by the way they were attempting to break down the door.'

'Of course we still want to know you!' Harry said, staring at Hagrid. 'You don't think anything that Skeeter cow - sorry, Professor,' he added quickly, looking at Dumbledore.

'I have gone temporarily deaf and haven't any idea what you said. Harry,' said Dumbledore, twiddling his thumbs and staring at the ceiling.

'Er-right,' said Harry sheepishly. 'I just meant-Hagrid, how could you think we'd care what that-woman-wrote about you?'

Two fat tears leaked out of Hagrid's beetle-black eyes and fell slowly into his tangled beard.

'Living proof of what I've been telling you, Hagrid,' said Dumbledore, still looking carefully up at the ceiling. 'I have shown you the letters from the countless parents who remember you from their own days here, telling me in no uncertain terms that if I sacked you, they would have something to say about it -'

'Not all of 'em,' said Hagrid hoarsely. 'Not all of 'em wan me ter stay.'

'Really, Hagrid, if you are holding out for universal popularity, I'm afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time,' said Dumbledore, now peering sternly over his half-moon spectacles. 'Not a week has passed since I became headmaster of this school when I haven't had at least one owl complaining about the way I run it. But what should I do? Barricade myself in my study and refuse to talk to anybody?'

'Yeh - yeh're not half-giant!' said Hagrid croakily.

'Hagrid, look at who I have for relative!' Harry said furiously. 'Look at who Arabella has for relatives!'

'You do not want to have my relatives,' muttered Arabella, shaking her head.

'An excellent point,' said Professor Dumbledore. 'My own brother, Aberforth, was prosecuted for practicing inappropriate charms on a goat. It was all over the papers, but did Aberforth hide? No, he did not! He held his head high and went about his business as usual! Of course, I'm not entirely sure he can read, so that may not have been bravery…'

'Come back and teach, Hagrid,' said Hermione quietly, 'please come back, we really miss you.'

Hagrid gulped. More tears leaked out down his cheeks and into his tangled beard. Dumbledore stood up. 'I refuse to accept your resignation, Hagrid, and I expect you back at work on Monday,' he said. 'You will join me for breakfast at eight-thirty in the Great Hall. No excuses. Good afternoon to you all.'

Dumbledore left the cabin, pausing only to scratch Fangs ears. When the door had shut behind him, Hagrid began to sob into his dustbin-lid-sized hands. Hermione kept patting his arm, and at last, Hagrid looked up, his eyes very red indeed, and said, 'Great man, Dumbledore…great man…'

'Yeah, he is,' said Ron. 'Can I have one of these cakes, Hagrid?'

'Help yerself,' said Hagrid, wiping his eyes on the back of his hand. 'Ar, he's righ', o' course - yeh're all righ'…I bin stupid…my ol' dad woulda bin ashamed o' the way I've bin behavin'…'

More tears leaked out, but he wiped them away more forcefully, and said, 'Never shown you a picture of my old dad, have I? Here…'

Hagrid got up, went over to his dresser, opened a drawer, and pulled out a picture of a short wizard with Hagrid's crinkled black eyes, beaming as he sat on top of Hagrid's shoulder. Hagrid was a good seven or eight feet tall, judging by the apple tree beside him, but his face was beardless, young, round, and smooth - he looked hardly older than eleven.

'Tha was taken jus' after I got inter Hogwarts,' Hagrid croaked. 'Dad was dead chuffed…thought I migh' not be a wizard, see, 'cos me mum…well, anyway. 'Course, I never was great shakes at magic, really…but at least he never saw me expelled. Died, see, in me second year… 'Dumbledore was the one who stuck up for me after Dad went. Got me the gamekeeper job…trusts people, he does. Gives 'em second chances…tha's what sets him apar' from other heads, see. He'll accept anyone at Hogwarts, s'long as they've got the talent. Knows people can turn out okay even if their families weren'…well…all tha' respectable. But some don understand that. There's some who'd always hold it against yeh…there's some who'd even pretend they just had big bones rather than stand up an' say - I am what I am, an' I'm not ashamed. 'Never be ashamed,' my ol' dad used ter say, 'there's some who'll hold it against you, but they're not worth botherin' with.' An' he was right. I've bin an idiot. I'm not botherin' with her no more, I promise yeh that. Big bones…I'll give her big bones.'

Arabella, Harry, Ron and Hermione looked at each other nervously, but Hagrid was still talking, apparently unaware that he had said anything odd.

'Yeh know wha, Harry?' he said, looking up from the photograph of his father, his eyes very bright, 'when I firs' met you, you reminded me o' me a bit. Mum an' Dad gone, an' you was feelin' like yeh wouldn' fit in at Hogwarts, remember? Not sure yeh were really up to it…an' now look at yeh, Harry! School champion!'

He looked at Harry for a moment and then said, very seriously, 'Yeh know what I'd love Harry? I'd love yeh ter win, I really would. It'd show 'em all…yeh don' have ter be pure-blood ter do it. Yeh don have ter be ashamed of what yeh are. It'd show 'em Dumbledore's the one who's got it righ', lettin' anyone in as long as they can do magic. How you doin' with that egg, Harry?'

'Great,' said Harry. 'Really great.'

Hagrid's miserable face broke into a wide, watery smile.

'Tha's my boy…you show 'em, Harry, you show 'em. Beat 'em all.'

They walked back to the castle later that afternoon, Ron and Hermione walked further up as Harry and Arabella were a few feet behind them. Arabella's right arm was looped around Harry's left.

'Harry, you have to see if Cedric's hint's right,' said Arabella as the picture of Hagrid's face was making her feel a bit guilty, even though this was all on Harry.

Harry nodded as they continued their way up towards the castle.

Thank you for reading!

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