An AU of a Sixth Year AU Story: What would have happened if two liberal American druids had taken Harry to America, before returning with him to Hogwarts? In this chapter, Hagrid becomes a mummy, a...
"I can't believe how much work they've given us," Ron complained a few weeks after the three boys had agreed to try and follow Hermione's schedules.
Hermione smiled a very superior smile from her seat in the library. The teachers had given them so much homework that the Easter holidays had been more work than fun. This day was even worse, as it was the first warm, clear day of the late Scottish spring, and a warm, sweet breeze came in through the window, open for the first time since September.
"I'll never remember all this," Ron complained, throwing down his quill.
Harry didn't look up from his Herbology homework, while Neville scratched away on a Potions essay. Hermione totally ignored the outburst, since it was far from the first one. However, when the three heard Ron say, "Hagrid! What are you doing in the library?" the other three members of the quartet did look up, equally surprised. None had ever seen Hagrid in the library before.
Hagrid seemed to be trying to hide something, and he looked very out of place.
"Jus' lookin'," he said in a shifty voice that got their interest at once. "An what're you lot up ter? Yer not still lookin' fer Nicolas Flamel, are yeh?"
"Oh, we found out who he is ages ago," Ron said in a voice that rather reminded Harry of Percy. "And we know that the dog's guarding the Phil. . . ."
"Shhhh!" Hagrid scowled and glanced about. "Don' go shoutin' about it! What's the matter with yeh?"
"There are a few things we wanted to ask you, as a matter of fact," Harry said. "You know, about what's guarding, well, it, apart from Fluffy. . . ."
"Shhh I said!" Hagrid said in an angry hiss. "Listen, come and see me later. I'm not promisin' I'll tell yeh anythin', mind, but don' go rabbitin' about it here. Students aren' s'pposed ter know. They'll think I've told yeh!"
"All right," Harry said, placating his friend, "we'll see you later."
Hagrid glanced around and tried to sneak off.
"What was that behind his back?" Hermione asked thoughtfully.
"Do you think it had anything to do with the, well, with it?" Neville asked.
"Let me go see what section he was in," Ron said, glad for the excuse to get up. He came back a few minutes later with a puzzled look and a few books.
"Look at these!" he said, surprised but quietly. "Dragons! Dragon Species of Great Britain and Ireland. From Egg to Inferno. A Dragon Keeper's Guide."
"Hagrid told me once he always wanted a dragon," Harry said simply.
"But it's against our laws," Neville pointed out.
Hermione and Harry had to agree, but Ron wasn't done. "Dragon breeding was outlawed by the Warlocks' Convention of 1709, everyone knows that."
"True," Neville and Harry muttered.
"It's hard to stop Muggles from noticing us if we're keeping dragons in the back garden, which you can't, because you can't totally tame a dragon."
"We know," Neville said.
"You should see the burns Charlie gets off the really wild ones." Ron's brother worked with wild dragons in Romania. "Only government agencies can work with them."
"Government agencies and licensed ranches and reserves. Yes, we know, Ron," Harry pointed out. "Still, Hagrid likes dragons. If he wants to read about them, why not?"
"Now that's odd," Hermione said an hour later, as the four friends approached Hagrid's cabin.
"What is?" Neville asked.
"All his curtains are closed," she pointed out. "They've never even been half shut before." Ron and Neville shrugged, taking her word for it.
"Well," Harry said, "we knew he was up to something." He stepped up and knocked.
"Who is it? Hagrid demanded from behind the door.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Neville. Remember?"
"Oh," Hagrid said, opening the door a crack. "Right. Come on in." He opened the door just wide enough for the four children to come in single file, and shut the door quickly. It was dark, and very hot. The only light came from the roaring fireplace, which was odd since it was a fairly warm day.
Hagrid started making them tea, which they accepted, and offered them stoat sandwiches, which even Ron refused.
"So, yeh wanted to ask me somethin'?" Hagrid asked as he fussed with the tea.
"Yes," Harry replied. He had decided to get right to the point. "We were wondering if you could tell us what's guarding the Stone. Apart from Fluffy, we mean."
Hagrid frowned and said, "O' course I can't. Number one, I don't know meself. Number two, yeh four know too much already, so I wouldn' tell yeh if I could. That Stone's there fer a good reason. It was almost stolen out of Gringotts." He looked at Harry. "I suppose yeh've worked that out an' all?"
Harry nodded. "Remember, my dad," Hagrid frowned, "Henry Dorff that is, is an auror. He and Mister Moody were called in by the goblins, along with every other active and retired auror in Britain. I heard them mention the vault number, but I didn't think to put it together until after we . . . learned about Fluffy."
"Beats me how yeh even know abou' Fluffy," Hagrid complained.
"Oh, come on, Hagrid! You might not want to tell us, but you do know! You know everything that goes on around here," Hermione said. Ron and Neville looked confused, but Harry smiled. He recognized this as the cajoling, flattering voice Hermione used to get her way. "We were only wondering who had done the guarding, really," Hermione went on. "We wondered who Dumbledore had trusted enough to help out, apart from you."
Hagrid's chest swelled with praise, and he was smiling. Ron and Neville caught on at last, and joined Hermione and Harry in beaming proudly at their friend.
"Well . . . I don' suppose it could hurt to tell you that. Let's see . . . he borrowed Fluffy from me, o' course, and then some of the teachers did enchantments. Professor Sprout, Professor Flitwick, Professor McGonagall, Professor Quirrell, and o' course Dumbledore did somethin' hisself." Hagrid stared at his hands, as he had been ticking off the names as he said them. "Hang on, I've forgotten someone." He thought. "Oh, yeah! Professor Snape?"
"SNAPE?" the students chorused.
"Yeah, Professor Snape! Yer not still goin' on abou' that, are yeh? Look, Snape is helpin' protect the Stone. He's not about ter steal it!"
The four friends looked at each other. If Snape had been in on protecting the Stone, he would have been as likely as Hagrid to know who else was helping. It was possible that he had at least some idea of how to get past all or most of them, except apparently for whatever Quirrell had done, and Fluffy.
"You're the only one who knows how to get past Fluffy, aren't you Hagrid?" Harry asked anxiously. "And you wouldn't tell anyone, would you? Not even a teacher?"
"Not a soul knows except me and Dumbledore," Hagrid said proudly.
"That's good," Harry said. He wiped the seat off his forehead. "Hagrid, can't we have some windows open? I'm boiling."
"Can't today, Harry, sorry," Hagrid said, stealing a glance at the fire. All four students looked, and saw the same thing.
"Hagrid!" Harry exclaimed, "what's that?" He saw what it was, but didn't believe it. In the middle of the fire was a large, black egg.
"Ah, well, tha's . . . well. . . ."
Ron got up and looked at it. "Where did you get it, Hagrid? It must have cost you a fortune!"
"No, I won it," Hagrid replied. "Jus' las' night. I was down in the village havin' a few drinks. Got in a game o' cards with a stranger. He was quite glad to rid of it, ter be honest."
"But what are you going to do with it when it hatches?" Hermione demanded. She couldn't be certain, but she, along with the others, had a good idea what kind of egg it was.
"Well, I've been doin' some readin'," Hagrid admitted. He pulled a large volume out from under his pillow. "Got this outta the library. Dragon Breeding for Pleasure and Profit. It's a bit outta date, of course, bu' it's all in here. Keep the egg in the fire, 'cause their mother's breathe on 'em, see. When it hatches,, feed it on a bucket o' brandy mixed with chicken blood every half hour. An see here? How ter recognize diff'rent eggs? Wot tha is is a Norwegian Ridgeback. Rare, they are."
"But Hagrid," Hermione protested, "you live in a wooden house!"
Hagrid ignored them. Instead, he sat, looking at the egg and humming happily. As they left a while later, all four realized they had yet another problem.
A little less than a week later, Hedwig brought Harry an unsigned note. Still, it was clearly from Hagrid. It only had two words: It's hatching.
Ron wanted to hurry down and watch, but Hermione insisted that they wait until after classes.
"Hermione, how many times in our lives are we going to see a dragon hatching?"
"We've got lessons," Hermione repeated. "We'll get into trouble, and that's nothing compared to what Hagrid will be in when someone finds out what he's. . . ."
"Shush!" Neville hissed.
Harry looked up and saw Draco Malfoy glaring at them, glaring and listening. How much had he heard? Draco said nothing, and slinked away.
Ron and Hermione argued all the way to Herbology, and Hermione finally agreed they could down after class and before lunch. When the bell sounded, the quartet took off.
Hagrid had been expecting them, and ushered them in quickly, saying only, "It's almost out!"
The egg was lying on the table. There were deep cracks in it. Something was moving inside, and a funny clicking noise was coming from it.
All five drew up chairs and watched. All at once there was a scraping noise, and the egg split open. The baby dragon flopped onto the table.
The four students wrinkled their noses. It wasn't very attractive; Harry thought it looked rather like a crumpled black umbrella. Still, its wings were huge compared to the tiny body, and all five watched with a little awe as the tiny creature spread them fully for the first time.
Then it sneezed, blowing sparks from its snout.
"Isn't he beautiful?" Hagrid muttered. He stroked the dragon, which tried to bite him with its very sharp fangs. "Look! He knows his mummy!"
Neville and Ron rolled their eyes, while Harry shook his head.
"Hagrid, don't dragons grow, well, very fast over their first few weeks?" Hermione asked.
Hagrid was about to answer when the color drained from his face. He leapt up.
"What's wrong?" Hermione and Harry each demanded.
"Someone was lookin' in . . . some student."
"Malfoy!" Harry said, looking at the retreating form.
Hagrid looked shocked, then he shook his head and went to feed the dragon. "Come along, Norbert," he said. "Time fer nummies."
"Norbert?" Ron and Neville demanded.
"Nummies?" Harry asked.
"Got to call him somethin'," Hagrid pointed out. "Don' he look like a Norbert?"
"Hagrid, you're going to have to let him go," Hermione stated firmly. "Let him go soon!"
"Hermione! He's just hatched! He'd die!"
"Hagrid! In three weeks, he'll be about as big as your house! In less than two, you'll have to be feeding him so much meat everyone will notice!" Ron pointed out.
Hagrid shrugged. "I know I can't keep him forever, but I need to keep him at least a few weeks," Hagrid pled with them.
"Malfoy could go to Dumbledore, or worse, Snape, at any time," Neville said. "You know Snape will want to turn Norbert into potions supplies."
Hagrid glared at that.
The knees of all five then turned to water as there was a knocking on the hut's door. Hagrid looked around, desperately looking for a way to hide the dragon, busy with its brandy and chicken blood.
Before anyone could actually move, the locked door seemed to swing open on its own, although no one heard any incantation, revealing four forms. The smallest started shouting, "Let go of me! Just who do you think you are? Wait until my father hears of this!"
A wand swished, and Malfoy was stunned. Hermione, Ron, and Neville gasped in shock. They had never seen that major a hex used, especially not on a student. Harry was in shock, but for a different set of reasons.
"Uncle Tom? Master Cadfael?"
"Ah, young Harry," Cadfael said happily, walking in. "Students," he said, with a slight bow. "Mister Hagrid. Now, we saw Mister Hagrid acting rather suspiciously this past week, and saw you four students sneaking in, and this one being even more . . . suspicious. Who is he, by the way?"
"Draco Malfoy, sir," Harry whispered, a bit in awe of the power radiating from the trio.
"Really?" the third man said with a really cheerful sneer. "How . . . delicious."
"Padrig!" Cadfael scolded. He turned his attention to the table. "A baby dragon?"
"Jus' hatched!" Hagrid said proudly.
"A Ridgeback, isn't it?" Tom Lawrence asked.
"Yeah!" Hagrid started to enthuse, but then he remembered that having a private dragon was illegal.
"Certainly an event to draw the curious," Cadfael acknowledged. "Padrig here will take Malfoy to an associate of ours who has a truly remarkable facility in memory charms. He shall be a bit . . . oblivious for the rest of the day, but otherwise unharmed. Take the boy away."
Padrig grinned and dragged the stunned Malfoy from the hut.
"The question arises, what should we do about this dragon?"
Harry turned to Ron. "Charlie!"
"I'm Ron," Ron said. "You haven't met Charlie."
"No, you git! Your brother Charlie works with dragons in Romania. Could he take err, Norbert?"
"Norbert?" Tom and Cadfael asked.
"Norbert," Hagrid stated. "Everthin' needs a proper name."
"I could write him, I suppose," Ron said, a bit doubtfully.
"Norbert is too young to travel!" Hagrid protested.
"We could fireproof everything," Tom suggested quietly. "The dragon could travel in a week or two. Harry, I mean Henry, has some experience with dragons. We couldn't transport . . . Norbert to America, but there might be a way to get him to Romania."
"We'll fireproof the cabin," Cadfael agreed, "and then send Henry Dorff over. You four, get to lunch, and write to this Charlie. Try not to snicker at young Malfoy if he appears intoxicated, and don't tell anyone about any of this."
"Yes, sir," Harry said. "Sir?"
"Why are you here?"
"Dark forces are gathering, Harry. Whatever anyone may think of us, we try and represent the forces of Light." Cadfael looked at the others. "I am known as Cadfael. I am a leader of those who are commonly called the Hidden of the Old Faith, or the Hidden Druids. You are Harry's friends and fol, err, companions?"
"Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Neville Longbottom, this is Master Cadfael and Thomas Lawrence."
Cadfael looked at them deeply, and then smiled. "Four brave young lions. Leadership, scholarship, tactical logic, and perseverance. All loyal, determined, and brave." He nodded. "A fine quartet. Still, you should get going if you want lunch. Don't visit again until Friday afternoon at the earliest. Harry, send a note to your father with your owl when you hear back from Mister Weasley's brother."
Ron wrote to Charlie, and then they had to wait. Starting Friday, the group, singly and together, made trips down to visit the rapidly growing dragon.
The following Wednesday evening, Ron returned from a late visit to Hagrid, having sneaked a few pounds of left-over fat the house elves had collected for them at Harry's request.
"What's wrong?" Harry asked as Ron threw off the invisibility cloak.
"It was bad enough hauling that fat down there, and helping Hagrid feed that monster a case of dead rats," Ron complained, "but then the bloody thing bit me!" Ron showed Harry his hand, wrapped in a bloody handkerchief. "I'm not going to be able to hold a quill for a week. I tell you, that dragon's the most horrible animal I've ever met, but the way Hagrid goes on about it, you'd think it was a fluffy little bunny. When it bit me, he actually told me off for frightening it! When I left, he was singing it a lullaby."
Ron scowled. Harry was searching through his trunk. He had gotten a new one shortly after Christmas, which had several magical compartments in it. "Did you hear a word I said?"
"Yes, I did." Harry straightened up, holding a bottle and a towel. "Dad told Mom what was going on, and she sent this along Saturday. If you let me clean that for you, you'll be fine by Friday morning. If you don't, it'll swell and you'll have to go to Madam Pomfrey."
Oh . . . thanks. Good thing your mum is on top of things."
"She almost always is. Annoying, sometimes."
As Harry was finishing, there was a tap on the window. Harry let Hedwig in. "Must be your letter from Charlie."
How are you? thanks for the letter -- I'd be glad to take the Norwegian Ridgeback, but it won't be easy getting him here. I think the best thing will be to send him over with some friends of mine who are coming to visit me next week. Trouble is, they mustn't be seen carrying an illegal dragon.
Could you, or Harry's friends, get the Ridgeback up the tallest tower at midnight on Saturday? They can meet you there and take him away while it's still dark.
Send me an answer as soon as possible.
Ron looked at Harry.
"We'll send Dad the note," Harry said, "and also tell him that we'll be at Hagrid's tomorrow evening, right before dinner. That way, he can send Hedwig off tonight, and tell us if we're supposed to do anything."
"Good plan. We can tell Neville when he comes up, and Hermione in the morning before breakfast."
Henry Dorff and Cadfael were waiting for them outside of the Hagrid's cabin. Hagrid was inside with Norbert, and by the sounds of things, the dragon was a bit active.
"This reminds me why I didn't want to be a dragon rancher," Henry muttered with a wince as a particularly loud crash came from the back of the cabin.
"You could have been a dragon rancher?" Ron asked. Some remote areas had dragon reserves, and the caretakers both kept the dragons away from Muggles and culled the dragons as well as taking care of the rest.
"My family's been running one of the largest reserves in North America for almost three hundred years," Henry answered. He wrinkled his nose. "Never cared for the idea myself, which made me the odd man out."
"You'll have to meet Charlie sometime," Ron said with a smile.
"I'll meet his friends at least," Henry replied. He looked over the four children. "We'll take care of this. Stay in your common room Saturday night. If you're out, even if no one can see you" (all four paled, realizing that Henry Dorff must know about Harry's cloak) "that still could get things stirred up. In fact, I want the four of you to promise me something."
"What's that?" Harry asked.
"Don't leave the castle unsupervised when it's dark, under any circumstances. Never go into the Forest."
"Why, Dad?" Harry asked.
Cadfael and Henry exchanged looks, and then Henry explained. "There's something in the Forest at night. Something new, and something awful."
"We've chased it away three times," Cadfael said. "It is not to be trifled with."
"What is it?" Harry asked.
Cadfael started to answer, but Henry made a motion which silenced him. Henry thought a few moments, and then said, "I don't want to tell you. Your mother doesn't want to tell you, either. Neither does Dumbledore. But, we also think you need to know, or at least your mother and I do. The thing has attacked and killed one unicorn and drained it of most of its blood. It's stalking the others. What does that tell you?"
Harry thought of what he knew of unicorns and their blood. Finally, he said, "Whatever is doing it would be cursed, because they're so pure. So, it must be a dark creature, or an evil person. Which is it?"
"It was a person," Cadfael answered. "Whether or not it can still be called a person or if we should consider it an evil, sentient creature is debatable."
"It must think it needs unicorn blood to keep it going. That means it's badly hurt or damaged. Even so. . . ."
"Even so, to live off of unicorn blood will give you strength, but also eat deeply into your soul, because you have polluted nature and magic at a fundamental level," Cadfael stated. He looked at Harry. "Have you heard of a being such as that, Harry? A being that might be acting as a parasite, and needs to strengthen its host?"
Harry's eyes went wide, and then so did Hermione's, as they both figured it out. "Voldemort," she whispered. Ron and Neville flinched.
"Exactly," Henry said. "Now, since you four seem to have acquired a knack of learning things, tell me, is there anything up at the castle that Voldemort would want even more than unicorn blood?"
"The Stone!" Harry answered, his eyes wide.
"Exactly. Now, the fact that it hunts and haunts the Forest means the Stone is safe," Henry answered. "We think if we can keep it away from any more unicorns, the host will die sometime this summer and Voldemort will be disembodied yet again."
"What if someone inside Hogwarts. . . ." Harry started.
"Don't worry," Henry said. "Just keep an eye out, but don't worry, okay? No one should try anything while the students are here. So, just be careful. All right?"
The quartet nodded, made their promises, and left after saying their goodbyes.
When the children were out of earshot, Henry rounded on Cadfael. "You and Dumbledore had better be right. If Harry is hurt or killed, Tabitha, Tudor, Tom, Lloyd and I will skin the pair of you alive."
Cadfael knew that Dorff did not mean that threat metaphorically, and that they would probably succeed.