The next few weeks followed a comfortable, if odd, routine. Harry went to class, with Nyx tucked in his hood. Ron would try to wind him up, and Harry would ignore him, mostly. Harry and Draco would partner during Potions class, and Ron would mouth off. Professor Snape would give Ron a detention, either with himself or Filch. Harry would get a detention as well, always with Professor Snape.
However, while most in the castle thought Snape was giving Harry an unfair number of detentions, Harry was quite enjoying himself. The first detention he had received after his breakdown in the dungeons had been a bit awkward, but they had steadily gotten better. Harry felt much better now that someone else knew some of his secrets. While Harry served a "detention," Professor Snape usually allowed Diana to take her human form. The Potions Master had been pleasantly surprised when she had pulled out a children's potion book and began studying it, even more so when she shyly asked a few questions about proper brewing techniques.
Harry had admitted to Professor Snape that Narcissa had given them a few lessons, but she had had little time before the term began. Professor Snape had said little on that matter, but had handed Diana a couple of books from his own library that would explain certain techniques more clearly. Harry smiled at the joy that had lit her sweet face. He then grew more serious as he thought back to the first detention he had received after she had revealed her secret.
Harry knocked at the door and waited for the command to enter. He obeyed, quickly closing the door behind him and walking quickly to stand in front of the professor's desk. He remained silent, knowing it was rude to interrupt, and foolish to say something so obvious as 'I'm here, Professor.'
After a long moment, Professor Snape laid down the quill he had been marking with and focused on Harry. "Mr. Potter, you will be attempting to brew a Shrinking Solution this evening. You should have sufficient time to do so, if you are not completely hopeless. As you are working, I suggest your familiar stay clear, as this potion is quite volatile."
"I left her with the Weasley twins, sir," Harry said. "I trust them to keep her safe from their younger brother."
Harry set up his cauldron and selected his supplies from the storage closet. Professor Snape nodded and moved back to his desk. Harry almost winced when he realized the professor was marking essays. From the deep scowl on the older man's face, said homework was beyond horrible. He shrugged it off and focused on his potion.
An hour later, Harry set his wand aside and carefully decanted the potion into the six vials he had set aside. The professor stepped up beside him and took one of the vials, holding it up to the light and carefully examining the potion within. After a lengthy pause, his dark eyes fell on Harry. The older man finally pulled a nearby stool over and sat.
"Lucius sent word that he looked into having your sister stay at the manor during the school year," he said calmly. At Harry's nod, he continued. "He would have taken her with him right away, however, the wards surrounding Hogwarts would have picked up her magical signature, and alerted the headmaster."
Harry nodded his understanding. "I recall something about that in Hogwarts: A History," he said. "There wards lower a bit at the beginning and end of each term due the number of people coming and going. But one wizard arriving to visit and departing with a child would certainly raise suspicion."
"Exactly," replied Professor Snape. "And, as you made it quite clear you do not trust the headmaster with this secret, the only course of action remaining is to continue as you were: hiding her in plain sight. Though from here on, you will have a few allies to aid you." The shadow of a smile crossed his features. Harry smiled back. Realizing curfew was quickly approaching, he packed his things and returned to Gryffindor Tower, claiming Nyx from the twins before heading to bed.
It was a rather relaxed Sunday evening, and Harry had completed all his assignments before lunch. He, Hermione, Draco, Vince, and Greg were all sitting around a table in the library. It was the best place in the castle for them to gather, considering they couldn't easily go to each other's common rooms, and Ronald Weasley tended to avoid the library. And, now that Hermione had located a charm that allowed any written or printed word the caster touched their wands to be read aloud in their head, even Vince enjoyed grabbing a book and reading.
"Hey, Harry?" whispered Hermione. "Do you want to go and visit Hagrid? We haven't been to see him since the Quidditch match." Harry smiled and nodded. He quickly wrote out the same question on a scrap of parchment and passed it across the table to the Slytherins. Draco quickly nodded, but the other two shook their heads, writing replies. Greg wanted to go over some of his assignments once more before lessons the next day, and Vince was really enjoying the book on rare magical creatures he had found.
So Harry, Draco, and Hermione gathered their things and made the trek down to the big man's hut near the edge of the Forbidden Forest. The sun was just beginning to set, but they knew Hagrid would see them safely back to the castle. They knocked at the door of the little hut and waited for a response.
"Who is it?" called Hagrid, just before he opened the door. He let the three students in, with a wary look at Draco, then shut the door right behind them. Harry found himself quickly loosening his scarf and cloak, as the cozy heat of the hut was more near to stifling. He saw that Hermione and Draco were no better.
"Good afternoon, Hagrid," Harry said, smiling.
"Afternoon, Harry, Hermione," Hagrid greeted cheerfully. He looked at Draco for a moment. "Malfoy." He sounded less than pleased that the third member of the group was there. Harry frowned.
"Something wrong?" he asked.
"Nuthin', Harry," was the reply. "So, how are your studies goin'?"
Harry smiled when Hermione near fell out of her chair in excitement. "Oh, brilliantly," she cried. "There is so much to learn, there is almost not enough hours in the day to study all I want. The magical history of Great Britain alone is so rich, not to mention international and foreign history, law and culture. And almost everything we learn goes against what Muggles believe is even possible!" She opened her mouth to continue. Instead, she squeaked in surprise when Draco popped a Chocolate Frog into her mouth.
"Take a breath now and again, Hermione," he said with a smirk. Hermione gave him a glare, but decided to just enjoy the treat. The three students shared a laugh. "Here, the card. I don't know if you are collecting them, but I know they helped me learn various historical figures. Besides, I already have Professor Dumbledore." Hermione accepted the card, her mind always eager for new knowledge.
Hagrid smiled at the interaction before he sighed. "I guess I should apologize," he said. "For bein' so hard on young Malfoy. See, I'll admit I've no fondness for Slytherins, and the Malfoys are pretty well as Slytherin as they come. But suppose you ain't all bad, if young Harry here likes you."
"Yes, well," said Draco, blushing a little. "Why should he settle for less than the very best in friends?" Hermione snickered at the exaggerated pride in his voice.
"Well, you certainly didn't half get the Malfoy pride, that's for sure," Hagrid teased with a smile. Harry could not restrain himself. He burst out laughing at the mock offended look on Draco's face. Draco grinned and gave him a playful shove in retaliation.
Harry turned back to Hagrid. "I really like most of my classes," he said. "I always have enjoyed school, and the Magical world is fascinating."
Hagrid smiled. "Glad to see yer getting' inta yer studies. No more askin' questions about things better left alone, got it?"
"You mean Nicholas Flamel and whatever is being hidden in the third floor corridor?" asked Harry.
Hagrid opened his mouth to scold them, but was stopped by Hermione's cry. "I found it!" she said. "Draco, you handed it right to me!"
Draco looked confused. "What did I hand to you?" he asked.
"The Chocolate Frog card! Albus Dumbledore worked with his friend, renowned alchemist Nicholas Flamel, researching the Sorcerer's Stone!" She turned to the others. "The Sorcerer's Stone is considered the ultimate product of alchemy. It's a stone that can turn any metal that touches it into pure gold and produces the Elixir of Life, which is said to make the drinker immortal! That's what's in the school, isn't it, Hagrid?"
Hargid frowned furiously. "Now, see here!" he said firmly. "The three of you need to stop this foolishness right now. Yer meddlin' in dangerous things, and yer like to get hurt. Stick to yer studies and keep outta trouble!"
"But what if someone decided to steal it?" asked Harry.
"That's why we got so many things guarding it," answered Hagrid. "You don't think Fluffy's the only thing in there, do ya? All the professors gave something to help."
"All of them?" asked Harry, a little calmer. If all the professors had made some sort of obstacle, there was little chance someone would get past all of them.
"Aye, so don't worry no more over it. You lot just focus on yer studies."
The three students nodded, agreeing now that their curiosity was satisfied. Harry tugged off his scarf in the heat of the small cabin. "Hagrid," he said. "I know it's cold outside, but don't you think this heat is a little much?" Harry looked over to his friends, not surprised to see Hermione nodding her agreement, her own scarf and mittens in her lap. He glanced at Draco, expecting him to agree, but had to frown in confusion at the look of stunned disbelief on the blonde's face.
He was staring into the fire. Specifically, he was staring at a large, egg-shaped, black object in the heart of the flames. "Merlin's Beard!" he whispered. "How did you manage to get that?"
"I won it," the big man answered. "Off of a stranger down at the pub. I always wanted one of me own." The egg suddenly wobbled. Hagrid quickly and gently scooped it from the flames and set it on the hearth. Clear scratching sounds were coming from the object, and it began wobbling more forcefully. Suddenly, the egg burst open, and out crawled a long, wet reptile. The firelight glistened off its wings, and it looked around curiously.
Draco turned to Hagrid. "How did you manage to get a Norwegian Ridgeback egg?" he asked. "I know they are fascinating, but this is a very bad idea." At Hagrid's surprised look, he rolled his silvery eyes. "Oh, please, my name is Draco. I can't help but be interested."
"Ere, now," said Hagrid. "Norbert's goin' to be just fine. He'll be a good little lad."
Harry felt it time to voice his own opinion. "I'm sure he will, Hagrid. But he'll be a good dragon, not a dog, or cat, or owl. You may be able to keep him here for now, but it is going to be impossible to keep him hidden or safe as he gets bigger. You may need to move him somewhere else. What if one if the students gets hurt?"
"He's a gentle creature, you'll see. He won't hurt nobody," stated Hagrid firmly. He looked at the clock on the mantle. "Bless me! It be getting late. You lot best be getting back to you dormitories, and quick. You'll be out after curfew at this rate." The three students hurried for the door. "Oh, and Harry, ye might want to give Ron Weasley another chance. He feels awful, and he really wants to be friends."
Harry frowned. "If he wants be friends with Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, then he can forget it," he said sternly. "If he wants to be friends with me, just Harry, he can start by actually apologizing for nearly killing my familiar and insulting my friends. So far, he has behaved more spoiled than Draco on his worst day. And the worst thing is when he complains about how much money I have." Harry angrily turned to the door and stormed out, feeling a little remorseful for taking his anger out on Hagrid.
"Harry?" said Hermione. "Is that all that bothers you about Weasley? Or is it something else?"
Harry sighed. "I hate bullies," he finally said as they neared the castle. "I have dealt with bullies since I can remember. They think they should have something simply because they want it. If they see someone with something they don't have, they think they should have it, too. Weasley thinks he has the right to be jealous of me. I have fame, power, and money. He's so blinded by what he doesn't have, that idiot can't see that I envy him."
A snide voice interrupted them. "And what could I possibly have that you don't, or can't just go buy?" said the subject of their discussion.
"And speak of the devil," grumbled Harry. "I can't help but wonder whether he was playacting for Hagrid when he seemed all contrite, or now when he blusters about how I am supposed to be his friend and give him whatever he wants."
Ron's face flushed angrily. "It's because you are supposed to be my friend!" he cried. "We were supposed to be friends, and people would actually notice me, instead of Bill, or Perfect Prefect Percy! But instead, you pal around with that slimy snake! This isn't how things are meant to go!" Harry glared, and opened his mouth to retort, but was cut off by the appearance of his head of house, along with the deep bell that signaled curfew. Ron paled. "Professor!" he cried, clearly thinking of his own skin. "I went looking for Potter, since I noticed he wasn't in the dorms, and…"
"Enough," she said. "Twenty points each, for being out after curfew. The four of you will also be serving detention."
Ron's face paled further. "Four?" he asked.
"That is correct, Mr. Weasley," said Professor McGonagall. "Despite your claims to me that you were looking for Mr. Potter, you, too, were out of your dormitory after hours. And before you try to tell me that you were on your way to the dorms, you were going in the opposite direction, and the prefects had already informed me of your absence. You will join your classmates in detention. Now, to bed, all of you." She turned and strode down the corridor.
Draco, Harry, and Hermione all gave each other sympathetic glances before turning toward their dorms. Ron trailed after Harry, muttering about unfairness. Harry ignored him. He refused to say anything other than giving the password to the Fat Lady until he was at his bed. He made sure Nyx was fed and changed his clothes.
Ron seemed to have enough. "Why won't you say anything?" he asked angrily. "And why did you say you envy me. What do I have that you don't?"
"If you don't know the answer to that, Ronald Weasley, then there is less hope for you than I feared," said Harry. Without another word, he climbed into bed, holding Nyx close, and closed his curtains.
Forgive me! Life really got to me. Started back to work after recovering from surgery, moved to a new place, and a lot of other things. Already working on the next chapter. It shouldn't be nearly this long before the next one. Thank you for all the reviews!