A few more letters were written that night before the six of them decided to turn in. Ron and Ginny wrote a letter Charlie asking if he could take the Dragon, and Kestrel wrote a letter to her dad asking if he could help with the situation at all. Kestrel received a reply back the next morning at breakfast, having to once again save her plate from Barnabas. "I really dislike your owl, Nev."
"I know, I'm sorry. I really have no idea why he does that."
She opened the letter after tossing the owl a piece of bacon. She scanned the contents before shoving the letter into her bag. "Dad says he and Uncle Frank are going to come down and have a discreet word with Hagrid about the Dragon, and see if they can't convince him to let people who are better equipped to care for it, look after it. So Ginny, Ron, when you hear back from Charlie send my dad or Nev's dad a letter." The two red-heads nodded and they joined the other First Year Gryffindors in heading towards the Greenhouses.
Since finals were coming up the teachers seemed to be piling up the lessons that they wanted them all to learn. They almost had more homework than they could keep up with. The Professors either wanted essays, or diagrams, or in depth analysis (as in depth as first years could get) on whichever spell they had just learnt. All the homework they were getting seriously cut into the personal research that the four were trying to do. On top of everything else, Bill's letter had come back with the unfortunate news that he had no idea of any such room at Hogwarts, so that was yet another disappointing dead end.
During breakfast on the following Wednesday Ron and Hermione received a letter from Hagrid with only two words written in a messy scrawl of letters 'It's hatching.' Ron and Hermione looked panicked for a moment, then surprised as Kestrel grabbed her bag and bolted up from the table, running out of the Great Hall as if she was being chased by Fluffy once again. The remaining five agreed after much arguing to go down to Hagrid's hut after Herbology during their morning break.
When Professor Sprout asked where Kestrel was, Harry quickly thought up a lie and told the kindly Head of Hufflepuff that Kestrel hadn't been feeling well and had gone to the Hospital Wing.
So when Kestrel ran into the Greenhouse halfway through the lesson, red in the face and breathing rather hard. Professor Sprout asked if she was sure she was feeling well enough to continue with class. "Yes Professor, Madame Pomfrey gave me a draught and said I should be right as rain by the end of the day."
"Very well, dear, but take it easy if you feel sick."
"Yes Professor." Kestrel thanked her and quickly joined in with Ginny and Hermione in drawing a Fluxweed plant.
Once class was over they hurried down to Hagrid's and Kestrel explained that she had run off to send a letter to Sirius and Frank letting them know that the Dragon was hatching earlier than anticipated. They knocked at Hagrid's door and after confirming who it was hurried them inside, hastily closing the door behind them.
"It's nearly out, now. You've come just in time."
The six stared in fascination at the black egg that rested on the top of Hagrid's large wooden table. The egg had deep cracks running through it, they could hear the creature moving about inside and soft clicks emanating from the egg. Then all at once the egg seemed to fall apart and there was a baby dragon, the size of a large housecat, on the table. Its black leathery wings all shrivelled up against its long, sinewy black body. Its eyes were bright orange; it had stubby little horns near the top of its head, and wide flaring nostrils. The baby sneezed and a small puff of flame shot out its mouth, making Ron and Neville shove back from the table.
Hagrid sniffled, tears in his eyes, as he reached out to pat the tiny dragon on the head. It just whipped its head around and snapped at the man's large fingers. "Oh look, bless him, he knows his mummy."
Kestrel and Harry stared up at the man, identical looks of amused horror on their faces, while the others could only shake their heads in resignation.
"Hagrid, how fast do Norwegian Ridgebacks grow exactly?" Neville asked, still keeping a safe distance from the table.
As Hagrid was about to answer his face went white behind his black beard, and he hurried over to the window and peered out of the curtains.
"What's the matter, Hagrid?" Harry asked drawing his wand and holding it down by his leg.
"Someone was looking through the gap in the curtains – it's a kid – he's running back up to the school."
Neville and Ginny leaped up and gazed out the window, recognizing the figure of the student running away, even though he was already so far off. There was no mistaking that shock of blonde hair. Malfoy.
"Don't worry Hagrid, I sent a letter off to my Dad and Uncle Frank, they'll take care of the Dragon long before Malfoy manages to tell anyone about it." Kestrel reassured him reaching up and patting his elbow, which was about as high as she could reach.
By lunch the next day Kestrel had received a reply back from her father, who assured her that the dragon situation was under control, taking a load off of the six First Year's minds. Despite the assurances that everything was being taken care of, the smug looks that Malfoy was sending them for the next few days still managed to set them on edge. During the breaks between classes, during lunch, and after supper, one or two of them would go down to Hagrid's hut and help out with the Ridgeback, which he had decided to call Norbert.
It was Neville and Kestrel's turn that Wednesday night, so after they had finished eating they gathered up their things and made the trek down to Hagrid's dilapidated wooden hut. They knocked and Hagrid called out for them to wait a moment. It was not Hagrid who answered the door, but Frank Longbottom instead.
"Hey you two, in you get, quick now." He held open the door enough for them to slip by him. Dark eyes scanning the area around Hagrid's hut, making sure the kids had not been followed. Frank closed the door and ruffled Neville's hair and smiled at Sirius giving Kestrel a noogie.
"When did you get here dad?" Neville asked setting his bag next to the door and looking up at the dark haired, dark eyed man standing next to him.
"Not that long ago, a little bit before dinner started."
"Yeah, we wanted to get in and out without anyone noticing our presence." Sirius explained as he straightened up from tormenting his daughter. "We're just waiting on Charlie Weasely and a few of his mates to arrive, and then we'll get down to business of transporting little Norbert here to Romania." He bowed toward the baby dragon with a flourish and was rewarded with a tiny jet of flame being blown at him, catching his robes on fire. He scowled at the creature irritably and put the fire out with a spout of water from his wand.
While the three adults talked about the logistics of the move, Neville and Kestrel continued with what they had come down here to do. Neville grabbed the dead, plucked and chopped up chickens, which were soaking in a bucket of brandy, and proceeded with feeding the baby dragon while Kestrel cleaned out the metal crate that Hagrid was keeping it in.
Kestrel finished her task quickly with a few well aimed Scourgify's and joined Neville in feeding Norbert. Once that was done Kestrel pulled out the sketch she had begun of the baby dragon the other day, along with a pencil and continued with her sketching.
Sirius eventually wandered over, growing bored with the discussion that Frank and Hagrid were having. He peered over his daughter's shoulder admiring her drawing. "What're you drawing there, luv?"
"I'm drawing Norbert here, because the boys, and Ginny and I are planning on creating a duplicate to use to scare the pants off of the Slytherins..." She paused in thought for a moment, tapping her pencil to her lips, a bright smile forming on her face. "And probably the rest of the school come to think of it. If it works out the way we want it to."
"Nice. If it works send us a memory, I'm sure James and Remus would love to see it."
"If it works you will definitely be getting a memory in the post."
Sirius' next words were interrupted by another knock at Hagrid's door. Sirius was closest and so went to see who it was, giving Kestrel's shoulder a squeeze as he turned towards the door. He opened the door a crack, just enough to see through, and grinned at whoever it was he saw outside.
"You must be Charlie. Come on in." He stood back and a young man stepped into the swelteringly hot hut. He was of the same build as the older Weasely twins and Ginny, short and stocky rather than thin and tall. His hair was as bright a red as any of his siblings and he seemed to have more freckles than he knew what to do with.
"Yeah, and you'd be Sirius Black then. Hiya Hagrid."
"Charlie, thanks fer comin'." The large man shook Charlie's hand, making the second oldest Weasely seem much smaller than he really was.
"It's not a problem. The Preserve has been looking for a Ridgeback for quite awhile. You not only saved us a lot of trouble, but a lot of gold as well." Charlie shrugged indifferently before an excited look came over his face. "So where is it?"
An hour before curfew found Neville and Kestrel walking back up to the castle, a clear night sky above them, promising an excellent view of the heavens for Astronomy class that night. They had barely made it a few feet into the castle when they were both grabbed and pulled roughly into an empty room just off of the Main Entrance Hall. They didn't even have a chance to pull their own wands before they had three wands inches away from their faces.
"Well, well, well, what do we have here? Two ickle Gryffie's out all by their lonesome. Sneaking ickle Gryffies by the looks of things. Wouldn't you say Crabbe? Goyle?"
Neville rolled his eyes and straightened his back, leaning against the wall he had been shoved into more firmly. "Your attempts at being intimidating leave a heck of a lot to be desired Malfoy."
"Besides we're not sneaking if it's still before curfew, you muppet."
"You better watch that cheek of yours Black, or –"
"Or what Malfoy? What are you going to do?"
"To you, Black, nothing, but to that oaf living in the shack? It would be a shame if, say for instance, an anonymous tip were to reach the Department for Control of Magical Creatures, that the Hogwarts Groundskeeper has an illegal Dragon egg." His smirk widened as Neville and Kestrel's eyes narrowed at him further than they already were. "I hear he's already in trouble with the Ministry for something that happened when he was in school. It would be such a shame if he were to receive another black mark on his already spotty record."
"You're nothing but scum Malfoy, making up lies about nice people like Hagrid." Kestrel snapped, taking a daring step forward, Malfoy's wand digging into her sternum. "I'd heard the Malfoy name had fallen in the past few years, what with your father's own black marks on his record, or would that be Dark Mark?"
Draco's naturally pale complexion went sallow in a matter of seconds and he pressed the tip of his wand harder into Kestrel's chest, forcing her back against the wall, getting right up into her personal space, his face right next to hers. Crabbe and Goyle kept Neville in place with their own wands. "Be careful who you insult Kestrel, the right words in the right ears and your father could be sacked, and then whose family name would be disgraced."
"I'd still rather be a Black than a Malfoy any day of the week, Draco. Now," Draco took several steps hastily backwards when Kestrel's own wand, having been stealthily slipped from its holster on her wrist, tapped him on the leg. "Neville and I are going to leave, we're going to pretend we never had this conversation, and we're all going to continue on as we have been. Is that clear?
"Or do I have to get creative with my hexes? Ginny taught me her Bat Bogey Hex and I've been dying to try it out on someone." She raised one elegant black brow dangerously and twitched her wand in Crabbe and Goyle's direction.
The two hulking Slytherins, having seen the affect of the only female Weasely's favourite hex, backed up quickly and pointed their wands away from Neville. Neville drew his own wand, ready if one of them decided to change their minds.
"Smart lads. Now I'd like to be able to say that this has been fun, but we both know that that would be a lie. So tootles." Kestrel kept her wand trained on them while Neville opened the door. He looked out making sure the coast was clear, and then waved Kestrel through, keeping his wand trained on the three Slytherins the entire time. Once they were out of the room, they slid their wands back into their holsters and sprinted up to Gryffindor Tower, managing to make it back without running into any more problems.
They told the others that the Dragon would be leaving tonight, and they wouldn't have to worry about it any further. Neville decided that it would be prudent to write a letter to Hagrid, telling him to get rid of any evidence that Norbert had ever made his hut home. Just in case.