31 October 1943
"Hagrid, where d'ye think yer goin'?" barked Ogg from where he sat on the front stoop of the hut, cleaning out a pumpkin.
"Er—" Hagrid turned, chewing his lip nervously. "I, er, though' I'd go an' check on tha' unicorn. That all righ'?" he asked.
Ogg frowned, but nodded, bending over the pumpkin again. "Go on," he said. "Don' know if you'll find 'er, but ye can try. Be back ta help me take the pumpkins up ta the castle."
Hagrid smiled. "Yes, sir," he said, and he turned and jogged into the forest, shaking the lower branches of the trees around him with the force of his footfalls. He continued down the forest path for quite a distance, until it abruptly ended.
Hagrid frowned slightly and looked all around, trying to remember—oh, yes, this way—he took a step off the path and began to crunch through the foliage underfoot.
Tonight would be his first Halloween at Hogwarts when he would not be a student. Professor Dumbledore had invited him to the feast, but Hagrid was anxious about seeing all of his former classmates…some more than others. He didn't think he really wanted to sit through the whole Halloween feast at the staff table, watching the Gryffindor table eat and laugh without him.
Or, worse yet, laugh at him.
Not that Hagrid was ungrateful that he had been allowed to stay at Hogwarts. Professor Dumbledore had given him the opportunity to stay as long as he wanted, and Ogg was a great teacher. Yes, Hagrid was happy, but…he dropped his head slightly, ducking beneath a branch.
How was it at all fair that after all of Professor Dumbledore's work, he had lost his privileges to even study magic on his own? He wasn't allowed to live in the castle, and while he couldn't deny being happy in his freedom to roam the grounds, something in Hagrid's heart gave a painful twinge every time he saw his father's picture sitting in his trunk beneath Ogg's spare bed.
Hagrid sighed and ducked through a thicket of nettles, taking care not to injure himself or crush the witch hazel that was growing wild beneath it, and came to a stop. He stood in a wide clearing that made a small bowl in the earth between a circle of trees.
"Aragog?" he called, looking around. "Yeh here?" Hagrid looked down around his feet and saw a few little clusters of spiders skittering all around him. "Aragog?"
"Hagrid?" asked a deep voice from the opposite end of the clearing. "Is that you?"
"It's me, yeh can come out," Hagrid insisted, grinning. He watched as Aragog's long, hairy legs disentangled themselves from what had appeared, moments before, to be a web of roots at the base of an old tree.
Aragog had grown in the last few months; he was nearly the size of a small pony. He picked his way to Hagrid, stretching his long legs. Hagrid grinned and petted one of the spindly legs.
"How are yeh?" he asked, as Aragog lifted another leg and brushed it against Hagrid's shoulder (a form of greeting for acromantulae, Hagrid had quickly learned).
"I am…well," Aragog said slowly, but Hagrid could see his eight black eyes glance away for a moment.
"Yeh sure?" Hagrid asked, sitting down cross-legged and looking Aragog in the face. Aragog clicked his pincers uncomfortably and took a few steps back.
"I was merely…thinking, Hagrid," Aragog said. "It isn't important."
Hagrid scratched his neck and shrugged. "How's the web?" he asked. "D'yeh need me to bring anything for yeh? It's gonna get cold soon—"
"Hagrid, something is troubling you," Aragog said, taking a step closer. "Tell me."
"Nah, s'nothin'," Hagrid said, shaking his shaggy head. "Don' worry 'bout it."
Aragog clicked his pincers again and lifted his leg, brushing against Hagrid's shoulder again. "Something is weighing on you, Hagrid. You can tell me."
Hagrid sighed, looking down at his enormous hands. "I jus'…tonigh's Halloween, an' I'm s'posed ter go up ter the castle an' sit with everyone, but…I dunno, I don' think I wan' ter."
"Because of me?" Aragog asked. "Because of what I did to you?"
"No," Hagrid said quickly. "No, Aragog, tha's not it at all, don' think that. I jus'…well, I'll have ter see my ol' friends…"
Aragog blinked and clicked his pincers again. "You don't want to see the one who caught you." Hagrid shifted uncomfortably, and Aragog brushed his leg against Hagrid's shoulder again. "You are much braver than they are, Hagrid."
"Nah," Hagrid said quickly, rubbing an enormous hand beneath his nose and sniffing.
"You are," Aragog told him, clicking his pincers rapidly. "You are a much better human than any I have yet to meet, and your blood says that you are only half human to begin with."
Hagrid gave a watery chuckle. "Yeh jus' made a joke, didn' yeh?"
"Did I do well?" Aragog asked. He clicked his pincers excitedly. "I was thinking of the one you told last week. I think I understood it. I climb trees when I am angry, yes?"
Hagrid laughed again and shook his head. "Somethin' like that, yeah." Then he reached out and touched Aragog's leg, looking at the eight black eyes seriously. "Tell me wha's botherin' you, Aragog. Yeh've been quiet lately."
Aragog clicked his pincers again, but said nothing.
Hagrid sighed. "Are yeh lonely, Aragog? I…I know I haven't been able ter visit yeh much, but…well, d'yeh maybe…wan' ter go home?"
"No," Aragog said sharply. "No, Hagrid, my home is here. I don't know anything other than these grounds, and I have no wish to leave."
"Well," Hagrid said slowly, "What can I do ter help yeh?"
Aragog clicked his pincers and took a few shuffling steps back. "I…I can think of nothing. I will be fine, Hagrid. I am not lonely, I have you as my friend."
Hagrid sighed and nodded.
"You should hurry back," Aragog said after a few moments. "You will be wanted at the castle soon."
"I don' wan' ter go," Hagrid said gruffly. "I'll stay here, no one'll miss me."
"I disagree," Aragog answered calmly. "You must go, Hagrid. You have more right to be there than…some."
Hagrid stared at Aragog's large black eyes, and was somehow, after all this time, surprised to see such an unusual understanding in them. When Aragog had first hatched, over a year ago, Hagrid had only been able to communicate with him by guessing at the hunger in his eyes. Even when Aragog had finally learned to speak, Hagrid had to work hard to help him open up about even the simplest of things, like hunger. Being friends with Aragog, Hagrid had learned, was an exercise in hearing what Aragog never said.
Hagrid sighed, raised an enormous hand, and patted Aragog's hairy leg. "All righ'," he mumbled, getting to his feet. "I'll come back tomorrow, though."
Aragog clicked his pincers, skittering back a few feet. "I look forward to it."
That night, after another marvelous Halloween feast (Hagrid had forgotten all about Tom Riddle, the Slytherins, and even his fears of being laughed at, when he saw that Professor Dumbledore had saved him a seat right up at the head table) in the Great Hall, Hagrid stayed up late composing a letter to an old acquaintance, inquiring as to the existence of a female acromantula who might need a mate.
Because after all, he thought, listening to Ogg snore in the bed across the cabin, Aragog had never said that he wanted a mate.
HI GUYS! IMISSEDYOUSOMUCH!
Hehe hi everybody :) How are we all doing, hm? So I know this isn't my absolute best that you've ever seen, but everything's been absolutely nuts lately, and I needed to just get the snapshot-y pieces out for a-trip-to-honeydukes' Best Friends Competition. Meh, we'll see :) I got some hard sets this time, no one I've ever written before. This one is obviously Hagrid and Aragog, hope you like, and I'll be posting a Lily and Severus piece soon. I've still got tons of projects that I'm working on. :) Love you all!