All for One

"Quirrell?" Draco could not believe his ears. "That idiot? It can't be. You must be mistaken, Granger."

"It's him, I'm telling you! I saw everything through the binoculars! He stared at Harry, pointed his wand and muttered something. He didn't even blink. I know everything about such spells, trust me!"

"Severus also didn't let Harry out of his sight. Do you suspect him too?"

"Of course not!" She was indignant. "We know everything about Professor Snape while this Quirrell guy… Also, when his robes caught fire, he got distracted, and Harry's broom stopped somersaulting! It surely means something!"

"Yes," Draco contemplated, "that's true. We don't know much about Quirrell, and he has been teaching here not that long, unlike McGonagall, Flitwick or Sprout. Whom can we question about him? We can't ask Severus."

"What?" Granger was surprised. "Aren't you going to tell him?"

"About Quirrell? Of course I will," Draco shook his head, annoyed. "That's not the point. I can't ask him questions. He'll know we're snooping around and will give us a whole load of detentions, so that we would be always nearby. Or worse, he can make Stapleton chaperone us."

"So, we need to ask one of the teachers without anyone suspecting anything?" Granger grew thoughtful. "I don't know…"

"I know! You need to speak to Hagrid!" Draco was enthusiastic. "He can't keep his mouth shut."

"Who exactly is 'you'?"

"Longbottom and you."

"What about you and Harry?"

"First of all, we wouldn't be able to drag Harry out of the dungeons till the end of the day. The team will be celebrating. They'll soon start looking for me too, by the way. And secondly, Hagrid won't tell us anything after the last time we met."

Granger wavered a little, and then nodded decidedly.

"Alright. We'll visit him in the afternoon. And let's meet… tomorrow after breakfast, in the library."

"Why there?" Draco frowned.

"No one will pay attention to us meeting this way. If I come to the dungeons, someone will notice and ask what I am doing down there."

"Right," Draco snorted quietly. "And no one will ask what you are doing in the library."

For some reason Granger was not offended, she only smiled and ran away.

Draco shrugged and went to the dormitories to celebrate.

X X X

The official-looking scroll came with the evening post. La voilà enfin, Lucius smirked smugly.

Really, it was nine days since Halloween, and contrary to all expectations, the Ministry had been silent. He broke the seal and unfolded the parchment. The letter was not from Madam Bones, though.

Dear Mr. Malfoy,

I see now that you had not been joking about using too traditional and yet unorthodox methods. Even without knowing your reasons for what you did, I am well aware of the value that such information may have, especially for certain undesirable people.

Thus, I believe it to be of the utmost importance to personally discuss with you further possible actions (official and otherwise) that might need to be taken in order to keep this information secret.

Are you available tomorrow before noon?

Sincerely yours,

KS

"Sapristi!"

Apparently, Senior Auror Shacklebolt was not as straightforward as he looked. What was it, blackmail? A covert proposal for an alliance? If the latter, then for whose benefit? Or was it just sincere concern? In this case, why such a cloak-and-dagger approach?

Lucius shook his head. It was a pity that Liam Lloyd had rounded up so little information about Shacklebolt. After that warning in September, Lucius very carefully renewed his acquaintance with Lloyd. Liam was obviously amiable, but still kept his distance. It seemed he rather willingly provided information on his junior colleague, although it was sparse and differed very little from what was known to public. The Shacklebolts were an old British Wizarding bloodline that had seen better days and now were not as wealthy as they had been before. There were a lot of Gryffindors and Ravenclaws in the family, with occasional dash of Slytherins. They were mostly battle warlocks (thus the coat of arms), travellers or scientists. No politicians. Almost a century and a half ago, one Henry Shacklebolt, obsessed by wanderlust, ended up in Atlanta, which he later left with a Dixie wife. Their marriage was a happy one, although childless. As a result, Henry's heir was his wife's younger brother who agreed to abandon his American family ways for British ones. The man was pureblood enough, and the Shacklebolts were liberal enough to find this arrangement acceptable. For almost a century after that, nothing of interest happened apart from the fact that the new Shacklebolts seemed to be drawn to foreign girls. Kingsley Shacklebolt's father, also a Henry, married a Frenchwoman, an artist of sorts, and, according to rumours, at this moment lived somewhere in Mexico, researching the roots of Latin-American Wizarding tradition. Kingsley himself studied at Beauxbatons and immediately after graduation joined the Auror office in 1983 when the echo of the First war died down. There was nothing interesting or exciting in his biography.

Except for this curious letter.

Frowning, Lucius took a quill and penned a short reply.

X X X

Saying that Severus was upset by the events on the Quidditch field would be misrepresenting facts. He was neither scared, nor upset. What he actually felt was, alternatively, horror or barely controlled rage. The blame for the latter should be placed solely on the shoulders of the Headmaster who had basically insisted on Harry's participation in the game despite any objections and misgivings of the Head of Slytherin. The reason for the former could not be shared with anybody but Lucius; however, as Mr Malfoy was unfortunately not at hand at the time, Severus had to suffer in silence.

Close to midnight, Flitwick gloomily announced that even his vast knowledge of diagnostic magic had been exhausted. Minerva and Severus had already given up twenty minutes before that. As far as they could say, Harry's broom had not been cursed in any way. Apart from the usual flying and other sport charms, no additional spells, jinxes or hexes could be found. This meant that the malicious magic had been used directly during the match, which in turn confirmed the Potions master's worst suspicions.

Flitwick said his good-byes and went to bed, but Minerva stayed. Without any nonsensical chit-chat, Severus served them both a little of Ogden's Finest – the day's events did not call for mulled wine.

"Who could it be? What do you think?" Minerva asked slowly after several sips. Her question did not need a clarification.

"I don't know," Severus answered glumly. "My suspicions, as well as the Headmaster's, point to one person, but…" he stopped.

"But what? Who is it?"

He hesitated.

"Tell me!"

"No one found out how the troll had got into the school. And Quirrell behaved rather strangely that day. Dumbledore asked me to keep an eye on him."

"On Quirrell..?" The Gryffindor Head snorted dismissively. "It cannot be true. That nincompoop is not capable of anything, especially this sort of powerful magic. I saw how hard it was for you to keep the counter-curse going!"

"Exactly," Severus agreed gloomily. "But if it was not him, then who?"

"Some extremely talented seventh-year student?"

Severus did not even grace this absurd guess with an answer. Judging by Minerva's hesitation, she did not believe her own hypothesis herself. Both were silent for several minutes staring into their empty glasses.

"And the 'but'?" Minerva remembered suddenly.

"You see," Severus started begrudgingly having reached a decision, "when I did the counter-spell, I felt the presence of... of someone who just could not possibly be there."

Minerva gave the Potions master an anxious glance, and he nodded — slowly and grimly.

X X X

"What's taking you so long? You are fumbling with the porridge as if it's Polyjuice potion! When are you going to finish, really?!"

Harry looked at Draco in astonishment. They entered the Great Hall only ten minutes ago and just started eating breakfast. They had a long and wonderful Sunday ahead of them, and nowhere to hurry!

"What's got into you?" he asked, leisurely cutting an apple.

"Nothing!" Draco snapped. Then he suddenly whispered: "We have an important meeting!"

"What meeting?"

"An important one! Can't you eat a little faster?"

Harry decided that it was easier to give in and hastily finished his porridge.

"So, where are we going?"

"To the library!"

Not knowing whether to laugh or to cry, Harry obediently followed his brother to the library. He was not surprised at all when he saw Hermione there. There were many big volumes around her, and she was clearly looking for something in one of them. He could not help, but wonder when Draco first passed her by, then stopped suddenly, turned around and asked, "Granger, do you really need Alchemy for beginners?"

"What? Ah, good morning, Draco. Yes, I do need this book," she replied.

"In this case, I will have to tolerate your company again," Draco confidently announced and sat down across from her.

Harry looked at both of them quizzically and sat down too.

"You are both mad," he said quietly, but with feeling. "If you won't stop fooling around, half of the school will know that you're up to something. Now, can you tell me please what it is all about?"

Draco and Hermione looked at each other.

"You start," Draco nodded.

"Neville and I visited Hagrid yesterday, right around tea time," Hermione whispered. "He invited us for tea, of course. He praised your Quidditch skills, Harry, so it was easy enough to turn the conversation to the topic we wanted to discuss."

"Which topic?" Harry asked suspiciously. "Did I miss something important?"

Draco and Hermione looked at each other again.

"We think you were attacked yesterday," Draco said quietly.

"I've noticed that myself, thank you," Harry made a face. His whole body still hurt after yesterday's crazy broom ride. "Severus, Flitwick and McGonagall spent the whole evening checking the broom. Flint says they didn't find anything."

"Harry, we think it was Quirrell," Hermione whispered, agitated.

"You think," Draco corrected.

"I'm almost sure. He stared at you the whole game, Harry, and when I set his robes on fire, he got distracted, and your broom immediately straightened."

"It's strange," Harry conceded thoughtfully. "But what does Hagrid have to do with it?"

"We wanted to question him. To learn what he knows about..."

"And?" Draco cut her off impatiently.

She glared at him.

"I will tell if someone will stop interrupting me. We talked about the incident with Harry's broom. I said that it was definitely a jinx, one performed by a teacher because students couldn't have mastered it. Hagrid started objecting, saying that no teacher here would hurt a student. Then I said, "You must know everyone around here for a long time!" He smiled and started talking. It turns out, he studied here in one year with Professor McGonagall, can you imagine?"

"Old news," Draco grumbled.

"So you knew about that?" Harry sounded surprised. "How?"

Draco looked embarrassed.

"I didn't know anything," he mumbled. "Why is McGonagall important, anyway?"

"Just in case," Hermione countered. "You never know in advance what might be useful."

"Or not useful," Draco snorted. "Alright, I shut up. Sorry," he added seeing hurt on Hermione's face and reproach on Harry's.

Hermione cleared her throat.

"So, he talked a lot about his time at school and what a good Head Girl McGonagall was. We decided not to interfere and just listen. When people don't think that you want to know something specific, they talk a lot more."

Harry and Draco looked at each other. Judging by the expression on Draco's face, he desperately wanted to ask just how the Gryffindor girl learned that, but he kept it to himself. Hermione noticed them glancing at each other, though. And, strangely enough, she smiled slyly.

"At first, my parents didn't like me reading constantly and asking a lot of questions. They thought that I should choose books for my age and be interested in the same things as the girls from my school class. Anyway, I learned to listen what they talk about when they think I'm busy with something else."

"And then?" Harry asked.

"What?" She did not understand.

"You said 'at first they didn't like it'."

"Oh," she shrugged. "They got used to it, I suppose."

"I am sorry to interrupt..." Draco said, not sounding sorry at all.

"Right," Hermione conceded. "You are right, we keep getting sidetracked. So, Hagrid first talked about himself, and then I asked him as if by chance who taught DADA at that time. It turns out the teachers for this subject change constantly! That is, at Hagrid's time it was different, there was one teacher, but soon after the war, they started changing every year and keep doing so! Professor Quirrell taught Muggle studies at first, then he spent a whole year away and now he teaches DADA!"

"Well, at least it means that we'll have a better teacher next year," Draco snorted. "That's good."

"So he left the castle," Harry repeated slowly. "Interesting..."

"Is it?"

"How do we know that he is Quirrell?"

Draco and Hermione stared at him.

"Hmm," Draco frowned. "You do have a point. It should be easy to play his part with that stupid turban and his stutter..."

"He didn't stutter before," Hermione added. "Nor did he wear a turban. Hagrid wondered what happened to him. Quirrell wasn't afraid of vampires before that mysterious vacation. At least, not that much."

Harry jumped suddenly, barely biting back a cry.

"We've all been complete idiots," he exclaimed. "Well, at least Draco and I."

"Why am I an idiot?" Draco was offended.

"We saw Quirrell before! In Diagon Alley, remember? During the summer... He had no turban then. And no stutter."

"Then it's all clear," Draco concluded grimly. "This must an imposter. Do you remember during the first lesson he said 'I'm glad to meet you'? He probably didn't know that we've already met the real Quirrell."

"How is this possible?" Hermione interjected. "Why has no one noticed that it's not him? All right, you didn't because you had met him only once. But he worked here before! Other teachers and senior students saw him. Why has no one suspected anything? And why does he attract so much attention to himself? Ok, I can believe that he stutters, but the rest of it? Do you really think he's that barmy? And if he's just pretending, then why?"

"This I can understand," Draco replied. "It's easy to change the appearance, but behaviour... If you pretend to be a stuttering idiot, no one will notice if you make a mistake."

"Easy to change the appearance..?" Hermione asked.

"There's a potion," Draco explained absentmindedly. "There are other ways. I'll explain later in details if you want. It doesn't matter how it was done, it's important that it's possible... We need to watch him. Have you learned anything else?"

Hermione looked around to be sure that no one was sitting too close. After checking that no one was listening in, she said, "Yes. It's the most interesting part. When Hagrid talked of Quirrell, Neville said something really strange. He said, 'I am curious, does Professor Quirrell know what the three-headed dog is guarding on the third floor?'"

"What?" Draco gasped.

"That's was exactly what Hagrid exclaimed, and he even dropped the tea pot," Hermione continued in agitated whisper. "He was so terrified! 'How did you learn about Fluffy?' he said. And Neville asked as if nothing happened, 'Who is Fluffy?'"

"Wow!" Harry was impressed.

"So?" Draco demanded. "What happened next?"

Hermione stared at the boys.

"I think you know something I don't," she grumbled. "Anyway, Hagrid said this three-headed Fluffy is his pet. Some Greek person he met in a pub a year ago sold it to him, and now this Fluffy guards..."

"What?" Draco leaned forward in anticipation.

"No one knows," Hermione sighed. "At that moment Hagrid caught himself and fell silent. Well, almost. He also said that it was none of our business and we should keep out because it's dangerous, Professor Dumbledore and Nicolas Flamel will deal with it."

"Flamel?" Draco was astonished. "Are you sure that he mentioned Flamel?"

Hermione nodded.

"Yeah. I asked him again, and he was so beside himself that he slipped again. I think it's someone important."

Draco moaned, barely audibly.

"Do you know this name?" Harry was surprised.

"You should too," Draco snapped, "if you read anything on Potions besides the school textbook. Nicolas Flamel is the greatest alchemist in the world."

"Why is he not mentioned in The Greatest Wizards of the twentieth century then?" Hermione asked, perplexed. "I know it because I read it twice."

Draco smiled mysteriously.

"Because he became famous long before that."

"In the nineteenth century?" Hermione guessed. "Is he that old?"

Harry deduced from his brother's smile that the man was much older.

"Listen," he started in a whisper. "People are staring, because we're only talking and not writing or doing anything else. Madam Pince might come to check. We need to meet somewhere else. You know where, do you? Today after dinner. And one more thing: we need to invite Neville and discuss it together."

Draco nodded vehemently.

"And Professor Snape?"

"What about him?"

"Are you going to tell him?"

"Yes," Draco promised. "But not today. We'll talk to Longbottom first."

X X X

This time Kingsley Shacklebolt did not smile or joke; his every movement revealed intense concentration. He followed Lucius to the study, declined coffee without a word and stayed silent for a while staring into the distance.

Lucius waited patiently.

"I think," Shacklebolt finally said, "it will be better if we first deal with the official part of my visit."

"I am all ears."

The Auror took a scroll with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement seal out of his robe's pocket.

"Can I use your quill and ink?"

"My table is at your disposal."

"Thank you." Shacklebolt moved to the table. Lucius sat in an armchair across from him. "Mr. Malfoy, the Department of Home Security will be very grateful if you very briefly answer a few questions." He slightly stressed the word 'very'.

"I will do my best."

"Thank you. Let us start. Are you or are you not the guardian and legal representative of Mr Harry James Potter?"

"Yes, I am."

Lucius noted with interest that Shacklebolt carefully wrote down the question and the answer. Judging by the barely visible glow when he put the stop mark, the parchment was charmed against later additions and other machinations.

"Did you," he continued calmly, "conduct a category B restricted ritual on the night from October 31st to November 1st?"

"Yes, I did," Lucius replied, smirking inside. Despite the spell being of category B (category A consisted of the Unforgivable Curses), the 'restricted' part in this case meant only voluntary participation of mentally healthy adults. The spell simply did not work without that condition fulfilled, so the Ministry could have not bothered adding it to any lists.

"Is it true that this action was caused by concern for Mr. Potter's safety?"

Now Lucius allowed himself a little smile, as he knew now exactly what Shacklebolt was aiming at.

"Yes, it is definitely so."

"Do you have a serious reason to think that there is a threat to Mr. Potter's life and health?"

"Yes, I do."

"And was the ritual you used meant to diminish or eliminate the aforementioned threat?"

"Yes, it was."

"Do you think that if the ritual and its consequences become public it might be dangerous for Mr. Potter?"

"Yes, it is very likely."

Shacklebolt nodded, satisfied.

"In this case, do you agree, as Mr. Potter's guardian, to seal all the Ministry documents concerning Mr. Potter, his relations and other connections with the standard Seal of Silence?"

"Yes, I do."

Shacklebolt finished writing the last clause and without a word passed the parchment and the quill to Lucius. After carefully reading the paper and making sure it had no additions, Lucius signed it and returned to the Auror. Kingsley signed it too, then took out his wand and tapped the parchment three times. The Ministry seal glowed golden, and the parchment duplicated itself.

"Take the copy," Shacklebolt said. "I will have the original."

"You?" Lucius asked curious. "Not the Archives?"

"No," Shacklebolt finally smiled. "Now everything concerning you and your family is confidential. Only I have access to it. And Madame Bones, of course."

"What about the Minister?"

"He does not," Shacklebolt shook his head. "Even the Unspeakables will have to ask my permission."

"C'est trés merveilleux," Lucius muttered absentmindedly.

"Je suis d'accord," Smirking, the Auror replied in fluent French.

"Je voudrais savoir s'il y a un prix."

"Il y a toujours un prix."

Lucius looked questioningly at his guest.

"You see, Mr. Malfoy," Shacklebolt spoke English again, "I do not think it is in the best interests of Wizarding Britain to stand in the way of the only man who holds its future in his hands."

"I sincerely hope you are exaggerating."

"Not a bit. I think you should know that you are not the only one with friends in the Department of Mysteries."

"I am glad to hear it," Lucius answered impassively, but a shiver ran down his spine. "Do continue, please."

"I will be frank," Shacklebolt leaned forward a little. "I think it will save us a lot of time, actually. You are the guardian of the Boy Who Lived. Unlike the general public and our esteemed Minister," the corner of his mouth curved up, "the selected employees of our Department know full well that it is not just a fancy title that in the future will make its owner to shine on the cover of Witch Weekly."

Lucius allowed himself a snort.

Shacklebolt gave a fleeting grin and then became serious again.

"The fate of the country depends heavily on your ability to prepare Mr. Potter for the difficulties that lie ahead. And we would be insane to stand in your way."

"Are you not putting too much faith in an eleven-year-old child?"

"I am afraid that we have no one else to put it in. Besides, trust me, no one is expecting the impossible. Either from you or from the boy."

"In this case, what exactly is... your generous offer about?"

"You give us information concerning any potential threat, anything you deem relevant. The Department reciprocates and protects you from the interference of any third party."

Lucius thought about it. Then he smiled slowly, "I hope you are aware that there are forces in Britain that even you cannot control."

"Of course, I am. I am afraid, however, that you will have to deal with them on your own. Perhaps, you will be able to find... some household remedy."

X X X

Despite their concerns, it was easy to meet up in the dungeons. However, Severus, looking as dark as the sky before rain, summoned the boys before lunch and strictly forbade them to leave first year dormitories without a chaperone while he was gone.

"I will be back before dinner," he announced in a chilly tone. "And I would like to see you alive and preferably in one piece when I return. Do not leave the school and, for Merlin's sake, refrain from snooping around for half a day. I hope you possess at least some common sense. If anything happens," he frowned, "ask the baron to help. He has greater power in the dungeons than in any other part of the castle. I hope he will be able to keep you out of harm's way."

Harry and Draco promised their godfather to be sensible, to listen to the Baron de Combrai and assured him that they do not plan to get into any trouble today.

"It is something to be thankful for," Severus grumbled and was off without even having lunch.

"What Dad will say, I wonder?" Harry whispered.

"Nothing good, I bet," Draco answered.

After lunch, they waited for Hermione and Neville in the Entrance hall, and then slipped into the dungeons. The Bloody Baron escorted them all the way hiding a smirk, so no one stopped them: the students of other Houses got out of their way as soon as they saw the ghost, while Slytherins took more notice of the spectre of their House than of some first-years.

Blaise, Millie and Pansy noticed, of course, where their friends were headed, but did even not think of asking questions. At least, at that time. They could interrogate them later, so why bother?

Once Hermione was separated from Geraint, everyone gathered near the fake window on soft pillows.

"What did you mean, Longbottom?" Draco demanded.

"What do I mean by what?" Neville was taken aback.

"When you asked Hagrid what his three-headed dog was guarding? Why did you admit that you had been there at all?"

Neville blushed.

"Don't the teachers know already? Your… I mean, Professor Snape caught us there."

"What?" Hermione was astonished. "I knew you were hiding something! Tell me everything right now!"

Harry and Draco looked at each other.

"It's all your fault," Draco muttered.

"My fault?"

"It's not me who is friends with... those," Draco gestured to the Gryffindors.

"What do you mean 'those'?" Hermione flared up.

Harry sighed.

"Alright," he announced. "I'll tell you."

He sat comfortably and told their story, the short version, of course. He did not mention the twins, Ron Weasley and the duel, only said that Draco and he went to the Trophy Room at night on a dare. He described Filch's appearance, their escape, the accidental encounter with Neville and the adventure in the forbidden wing briefly, but accurately. Hermione groaned, went pale and tut-tutted disapprovingly.

"Boys!" she only said after Harry finished. "Alright, I got it. Now I want to know what Neville meant." She turned to him. "Why do you think the dog is guarding something?"

Neville stared at Draco and Harry in surprise.

"Didn't you see?"

"Didn't see what, Longbottom?" Draco asked impatiently and sharply.

"It was standing on a trapdoor," Neville answered, puzzled, dismissing Draco's rudeness. Since their memorable detention with Snape, he became much more confident. Harry was no longer surprised that the Hat sent Neville to Gryffindor instead of Hufflepuff, as Draco predicted on the train.

"What trapdoor?" Hermione frowned.

"There was a trapdoor," Neville explained patiently. "I was so afraid when I saw the dog that I could only stand and stare." He blushed a little. "That's when I saw it. The dog was chained, so no one could come close to the trapdoor. I think it's guarding something that's hidden down there. Why keep the beast there otherwise?"

No one could contradict the theory. The four of them looked at each other.

"So," Hermione started in her 'adult' voice, "what do we have? First, a three-headed dog is sitting in a hall on the third floor, guarding something valuable. Second, Professor Snape, Hagrid, Headmaster Dumbledore and someone named Flamel know about it."

And Filch, Harry thought, remembering the encounter in the staffroom. Since he promised his godfather not to tell anyone, he decided not to share.

"Third," Draco continued, "Hagrid is very interested in the Gringotts break-in this summer, remember?"

The Gryffindors nodded. The Prophet mentioned the incident so often that even Hermione knew about the attempted robbery.

"It means he took something out of that vault that was robbed later," Harry added. "He mentioned some 'Hogwarts business' that was supposed to be very secret. I think Fluffy is guarding what he took from the bank, whatever it is."

"What a name for a beast," Draco grumbled. "Only Hagrid could think of that."

"What is there, I wonder?" Hermione said thoughtfully. "And what does this Flamel have to do with it?"

Draco stared at the girl incredulously.

"Are you seriously saying that you know nothing about him?"

All the others just stared at him, not understanding.

"Nicolas Flamel," Draco said slowly, "is the only man in history who managed to create a Philosopher's Stone."

"What is that?" Hermione asked bravely, seeing that everybody else looked lost.

Draco just rolled his eyes.

"Come on!" he said. "I had no real hopes for Longbottom, and Granger can be excused, as her parents are Muggles, even if in the old days Muggles used to know about such things too. But you, Harry?! The Stone will transform any metal into pure gold. It also produces the Elixir of Life, which will make the drinker immortal."

"It can't be! Why do wizards keep dying then?" the Gryffindor girl exclaimed.

"Because no one knows how to create the Stone," Draco whispered in agitation. "People have tried to do it for centuries, of course, but everyone failed. Only Flamel succeeded, but he keeps his secret."

"You bet!" Harry snorted. "So you think the Stone is in Hogwarts?"

"This is ridiculous!" Hermione shook her head. "To hide such a thing in a school?"

"What would you propose if you were in their place?" Draco squinted.

"Some place more secure. For example, some…"

"Bank?"

All of them looked at each other.

"Alright," Hermione said. "I might see why the Gringotts is out. But why here?"

"Good question," Draco conceded. "We need to find out what Dumbledore and Flamel have in common."

"What's the point?" Neville asked.

Harry shrugged.

"None at the moment. It could come handy later, though. The Headmaster has some very interesting acquaintances."

"It would be much more interesting to know," Hermione remarked, "who is looking for this hidden thing. Considering that according to rumours, Gringotts is guarded by dragons…"

"I think," Neville interfered, "the most important thing is to find out who is trying to hurt Harry."

"What is there to find out? "Hermione snorted a little. "It's Quirrell. I mean, the fake Quirrell. It explains everything: the reason for the stupid turban, garlic and stutter…"

"…and the reason he's always staring at me," Harry added glumly.

"We must find out who he is," Hermione concluded firmly.

"If I may…" the Baron de Combrai boomed suddenly, and everyone jumped.

"Yes, Your Lordship?" Draco inquired politely.

"If I were you I would have taken care of Mr. Potter's safety, instead of trying to reveal your opponent's identity. I would think that if something happens to him, Professor Snape will be very displeased, as well as your parents."

Draco shuddered.

"That's so true. And I will have to suffer the consequences, by the way."

"Well, thanks," Harry teased.

"Boys," Hermione reproached. "His Lordship is right, this is very serious. We should plan our actions so that this Quirrell or whoever he is couldn't hurt Harry."

Everyone fell silent.

"He wouldn't dare to do anything during the classes or in the Great Hall," Harry noted. "He's not stupid enough to play a nasty trick in front of so many witnesses."

"As if the Quidditch match was a one-on-one business," Neville said.

"That was different," Draco frowned. "There were too many witnesses. And everyone was occupied with the game. The only reason Granger noticed something was because she's not very interested in Quidditch. And usually people like her don't come to the game at all."

"Do you propose I should skip all the games?" Harry flared.

"Yes!" his friends replied in unison.

"And no training too!" Hermione said sternly.

"I believe," Baron said calmly, "this is a sensible precaution. If you also try not to walk alone anywhere, even in my dungeons, and to stay at the dormitories after the curfew, it will be even better."

"I will keep an eye on him," Draco promised.


FOOTNOTES:

La voilà enfin (fr.) — (in this case) Finally!

Sapristi (fr.) — Well, well!

C'est trés merveilleux... — the dialog between Lucius and Shacklebolt in French:

"It is just wonderful."

"I agree."

"I would like to know if this has a price."

"Everything has a price."