Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone Read online

Page 14


Chapter 14 Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback

 

  Quirrell, however, must have been braver than they'd thought. In the weeks that followed he did seem to be getting paler and thinner, but it didn't look as though he'd cracked yet.

  Every time they passed the third-floor corridor, Harry, Ron, and Hermione would press their ears to the door to check that Fluffy was still growling inside. Snape was sweeping about in his usual bad temper, which surely meant that the Stone was still safe. Whenever Harry passed Quirrell these days he gave him an encouraging sort of smile, and Ron had started telling people off for laughing at Quirrell's stutter.

  Hermione, however, had more on her mind than the Sorcerer's Stone. She had started drawing up study schedules and color coding all her notes. Harry and Ron wouldn't have minded, but she kept nagging them to do the same.

  "Hermione, the exams are ages away. "

  "Ten weeks," Hermione snapped. "That's not ages, that's like a second to Nicolas Flamel. "

  "But we're not six hundred years old," Ron reminded her. "Anyway, what are you studying for, you already know it's an A. "

  "What am I studying for? Are you crazy? You realize we need to pass these exams to get into the second year? They're very important, I should have started studying a month ago, I don't know what's gotten into me. . . "

  Unfortunately, the teachers seemed to be thinking along the same lines as Hermione. They piled so much homework on them that the Easter holidays weren't nearly as much fun as the Christmas ones. It was hard to relax with Hermione next to you reciting the twelve uses of dragon's blood or practicing wand movements. Moaning and yawning, Harry and Ron spent most of their free time in the library with her, trying to get through all their extra work.

  "I'll never remember this," Ron burst out one afternoon, throwing down his quill and looking longingly out of the library window. It was the first really fine day they'd had in months. The sky was a clear, forget-me-not blue, and there was a feeling in the air of summer coming.

  Harry, who was looking up "Dittany" in One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, didn't look up until he heard Ron say, "Hagrid! What are you doing in the library?"

  Hagrid shuffled into view, hiding something behind his back. He looked very out of place in his moleskin overcoat.

  "Jus' lookin'," he said, in a shifty voice that got their interest at once. "An' what're you lot up ter?" He looked suddenly suspicious. "Yer not still lookin' fer Nicolas Flamel, are yeh?"

  "Oh, we found out who he is ages ago," said Ron impressively. "And we know what that dog's guarding, it's a Sorcerer's St--"

  "Shhhh!" Hagrid looked around quickly to see if anyone was listening. "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," said Harry, "about what's guarding the Stone apart from Fluffy--"

  "SHHHH!" said Hagrid again. "Listen -- come an' see me later, I'm not promisin' I'll tell yeh anythin', mind, but don' go rabbitin' about it in here, students aren' s'pposed ter know. They'll think I've told yeh--"

  "See you later, then," said Harry.

  Hagrid shuffled off.

  "What was he hiding behind his back?" said Hermione thoughtfully.

  "Do you think it had anything to do with the Stone?"

  "I'm going to see what section he was in," said Ron, who'd had enough of working. He came back a minute later with a pile of books in his arms and slammed them down on the table.

  "Dragons!" he whispered. "Hagrid was looking up stuff about dragons! Look at these: Dragon Species of Great Britain and Ireland; From Egg to Inferno, A Dragon Keeper's Guide. "

  "Hagrid's always wanted a dragon, he told me so the first time I ever met him, " said Harry.

  "But it's against our laws," said Ron. "Dragon breeding was outlawed by the Warlocks' Convention of 1709, everyone knows that. It's hard to stop Muggles from noticing us if we're keeping dragons in the back garden -- anyway, you can't tame dragons, it's dangerous. You should see the burns Charlie's got off wild ones in Romania. "

  "But there aren't wild dragons in Britain ?" said Harry.

  "Of course there are," said Ron. "Common Welsh Green and Hebridean Blacks. The Ministry of Magic has a job hushing them up, I can tell you. Our kind have to keep putting spells on Muggles who've spotted them, to make them forget. "

  "So what on earth's Hagrid up to?" said Hermione.

  When they knocked on the door of the gamekeeper's hut an hour later, they were surprised to see that all the curtains were closed. Hagrid called "Who is it?" before he let them in, and then shut the door quickly behind them.

  It was stifling hot inside. Even though it was such a warm day, there was a blazing fire in the grate. Hagrid made them tea and offered them stoat sandwiches, which they refused.

  "So -- yeh wanted to ask me somethin'?"

  "Yes," said Harry. There was no point beating around the bush. "We were wondering if you could tell us what's guarding the Sorcerer's Stone apart from 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 fer 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 abou' Fluffy. "

  "Oh, come on, Hagrid, you might not want to tell us, but you do know, you know everything that goes on round here," said Hermione in a warm, flattering voice. Hagrid's beard twitched and they could tell he was smiling. "We only wondered who had done the guarding, really. " Hermione went on. "We wondered who Dumbledore had trusted enough to help him, apart from you. "

  Hagrid's chest swelled at these last words. Harry and Ron beamed at Hermione.

  "Well, I don' s'pose it could hurt ter tell yeh that. . . let's see. . . he borrowed Fluffy from me. . . then some o' the teachers did enchantments. . . Professor Sprout -- Professor Flitwick -- Professor McGonagall -- " he ticked them off on his fingers, "Professor Quirrell -- an' Dumbledore himself did somethin', o' course. Hang on, I've forgotten someone. Oh yeah, Professor Snape. "

  "Snape?"

  "Yeah -- yer not still on abou' that, are yeh? Look, Snape helped protect the Stone, he's not about ter steal it. "

  Harry knew Ron and Hermione were thinking the same as he was. If Snape had been in on protecting the Stone, it must have been easy to find out how the other teachers had guarded it. He probably knew everything -- except, it seemed, Quirrell's spell and how to get past Fluffy.

  "You're the only one who knows how to get past Fluffy. aren't you, Hagrid?" said Harry anxiously. "And you wouldn't tell anyone, would you? Not even one of the teachers?"

  "Not a soul knows except me an' Dumbledore," said Hagrid proudly.

  "Well, that's something," Harry muttered to the others. "Hagrid, can we have a window open? I'm boiling. "

  "Can't, Harry, sorry," said Hagrid. Harry noticed him glance at the fire. Harry looked at it, too.

  "Hagrid -- what's that ?"

  But he already knew what it was. In the very heart of the fire, underneath the kettle, was a huge, black egg.

  "Ah," said Hagrid, fiddling nervously with his beard, "That's -- er. . . "

  "Where did you get it, Hagrid?" said Ron, crouching over the fire to get a closer look at the egg. "It must've cost you a fortune. "

  "Won it," said Hagrid. "Las' night. I was down in the village havin' a few drinks an' got into a game o' cards with a stranger. Think he was quite glad ter get rid of it, ter be honest. "

  "But what are you going to do with it when it's hatched?" said Hermione.

  "Well, I've bin doin' some readin'," said Hagrid, pulling a large book from under his pillow. "Got this outta the library -- Dragon Breeding for Pleasure and Profit -- it's a bit outta date, o' course, but it's all in here. Keep the egg in the fire, 'cause their mothers breathe on I em, see, an' when it hatches, feed it