"Well done," said Dumbledore quietly, so that only Harry could hear. "Nice to
see you haven't been brooding about that mirror... been keeping busy... excellent..."
Snape spat bitterly on the ground.
Harry left the locker room alone some time later, to take his Nimbus Two Thousand
back to the broomshed. He couldn't ever remember feeling happier. He'd really done
something to be proud of now — no one could say he was just a famous name any more.
The evening air had never smelled so sweet. He walked over the damp grass, reliving
the last hour in his head, which was a happy blur: Gryffindors running to lift him
onto their shoulders; Ron and Hermione in the distance, jumping up and down, Ron
cheering through a heavy nosebleed.
Harry had reached the shed. He leaned against the wooden door and looked up at
Hogwarts, with its windows glowing red in the setting sun. Gryffindor in the lead.
He'd done it, he'd shown Snape....
And speaking of Snape...
A hooded figure came swiftly down the front steps of the castle. Clearly not
wanting to be seen, it walked as fast as possible toward the forbidden forest. Harry's
victory faded from his mind as he watched. He recognized the figure's prowling walk.
Snape, sneaking into the forest while everyone else was at dinner — what was going
Harry jumped back on his Nimbus Two Thousand and took off. Gliding silently over
the castle he saw Snape enter the forest at a run. He followed.
The trees were so thick he couldn't see where Snape had gone. He flew in circles,
lower and lower, brushing the top branches of trees until he heard voices. He glided
toward them and landed noiselessly in a towering beech tree.
He climbed carefully along one of the branches, holding tight to his broomstick,
trying to see through the leaves. Below, in a shadowy clearing, stood Snape, but
he wasn't alone. Quirrell was there, too. Harry couldn't make out the look on his
face, but he was stuttering worse than ever. Harry strained to catch what they were
"... d-don't know why you wanted t-t-to meet here of all p-places, Severus..."
"Oh, I thought we'd keep this private," said Snape, his voice icy. "Students
aren't supposed to know about the Sorcerer's Stone, after all."
Harry leaned forward. Quirrell was mumbling something. Snape interrupted him.
"Have you found out how to get past that beast of Hagrid's yet?"
"B-b-but Severus, I - — "
"You don't want me as your enemy, Quirrell," said Snape, taking a step toward
"I-I don't know what you
"You know perfectly well what I mean."
An owl hooted loudly, and Harry nearly fell out of the tree. He steadied himself
in time to hear Snape say, "-- your little bit of hocus-pocus. I'm waiting."
"B-but I d-d-don't - — "
"Very well," Snape cut in. "We'll have another little chat soon, when you've
had time to think things over and decided where your loyalties lie."
He threw his cloak over his head and strode out of the clearing. It was almost
dark now, but Harry could see Quirrell, standing quite still as though he was petrified.
"Harry, where have you been?" Hermione squeaked.
"We won! You won! We won!" shouted Ron, thumping Harry on the back. "And I gave
Malfoy a black eye, and Neville tried to take on Crabbe and Goyle single-handed!
He's still out cold but Madam Pomftey says he'll be all right — talk about showing
Slytherin! Everyone's waiting for you in the common room, we're having a party,
Fred and George stole some cakes and stuff from the kitchens."
"Never mind that now," said Harry breathlessly. "Let's find an empty room, you
wait 'til you hear this...."
He made sure Peeves wasn't inside before shutting the door behind them, then
he told them what he'd seen and heard.
"So we were right, it is the Sorcerer's Stone, and Snape's trying to force Quirrell
to help him get it. He asked if he knew how to get past Fluffy — and he said something
about Quirrell's 'hocus pocuss — I reckon there are other things guarding the stone
apart from Fluffy, loads of enchantments, probably, and Quirrell would have done
some anti-Dark Arts spell that Snape needs to break through - — "
"So you mean the Stone's only safe as long as Quirrell stands up to Snape?" said
Hermione in alarm.
"It'll be gone by next Tuesday," said Ron.
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
Hermione, however, had more on her mind than the Sorcerer's Stone. She had started
drawing up study schedules and colorcoding 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
"But we're not six hundred years old," Ron reminded her. "Anyway, what are you
studying for, you already know it 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
"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 earths 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
"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.
"0' course I cant, 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."
"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 on a bucket
o' brandy mixed with chicken blood every half hour. An' see here — how ter recognize
diffrent eggs — what I got there's a Norwegian Ridgeback. They're rare, them."
He looked very pleased with himself, but Hermione didn't.
"Hagrid, you live in a wooden house," she said.
But Hagrid wasn't listening. He was humming merrily as he stoked the fire.
So now they had something else to worry about: what might happen to Hagrid if
anyone found out he was hiding an illegal dragon in his hut. "Wonder what it's like
to have a peaceful life," Ron sighed, as evening after evening they struggled through
all the extra homework they were getting. Hermione had now started making study
schedules for Harry and Ron, too. It was driving them nuts.