A/N: I own only Lexie, Ruby and Max. Apologies to the delay my good folks, it was when I spent 4 hours writing 2 chapters for a very much later part of this story that I realized I should probably write some more from where I'm at lol. All credit goes to J.K. Rowling, her excellency. And without further ado...
Chapter 17: Dragons
The next day Lexie didn't have much time to think about her brother as the twins had chosen that day to swoop down and kidnap her. Both were talking a mile a minute about plans for pranks, one twin's arm around her waist while the other had placed his around her neck. They laughed and joked and did their best to tease their friend as they led her into the Great Hall for breakfast. Her thoughts remained blissfully light as her roommates kidnapped her back from the twins after the meal and the girls spent the time in the Common Room and then their dorm.
It wasn't till around lunch that she'd tracked Harry down and he'd relayed to her about Flamel and about their suspicions, finally letting her in on the secret of the Stone's presence in Hogwarts. He confided in her about Quirrel as well and the trio all started trying to silently support the stuttering teacher. Lexie noticed the way the Professor seemed to become paler and lose weight, but as the school wasn't being attacked, he didn't seem to have cracked yet. While Harry and the others would listen for the Cerberus whenever they passed the corridor, Lexie did her best to stay far from it. It wasn't that she didn't trust Harry; she just didn't want to be anywhere near the beast.
Hermione though, was also busy color coding schedules for the upcoming end-of-year exams, which most of the students just seemed to shrug off. She often nagged the boys to do the same but only Lexie really took her seriously and had been spending more time in the library and in empty classrooms practicing. She was often too tired to even read her father's journal, she studied so hard. It seemed the Professors were also on the same wavelength as the bushy-haired first year. They began to assign so much homework Hermione even had trouble. Lexie helped Ruby as much as she could, even let her come with her to practice potions or spells.
"I'll never remember this!" Ron yelled one afternoon, throwing down his quill and looking longingly out the library window. They were all working on homework and it was the first good day in months, summer was clearly just around the corner.
"Hagrid!" Ron cried and they looked up from the books. "What are you doing in the library?"
Hagrid shuffled into view, but from their viewpoint it appeared as if he was hiding something behind his back. He was slightly too big for the library, towering over some of the smaller bookcases.
"Jus' lookin'," he said in a shifty voice that got their attention immediately. "An' what're you lot up ter?" He peered at them suspiciously. "Yer not still lookin' fer Nicholas Flamel, are yeh?"
"Oh, we found out who he is ages ago," Ron boasted and Lexie rolled her eyes. "And we know what the dog's guarding, it's a Sorcerer's St—"
"Shhh!" Hagrid hushed and Lexie punctuated the point by kicking Ron under the table with an exasperated look. They weren't supposed to know after all. "Don't go shoutin' about it, what's the matter with yeh?"
"There's some things we wanted to ask you, actually Hagrid," added Harry, "about what's guarding the Stone apart from Fluffy—."
"SHHH!" said Hagrid again. "Listen – come an' see me later, I'm not promisin' I'll tell yeh anythin', mind, but don't go rabbitin' about it here. Student's aren' s'posed to know 'member? They'll think I've told yeh –."
"See you later, then," said Harry glumly and Hagrid shuffled out of the library.
Ron hissed and rubbed his leg sourly, glaring at Lexie. "What'd you kick me for?"
"You heard him, we're not supposed to know about the stone," replied Lexie.
"Well, how come you didn't kick Harry? He talked about it too," Ron complained.
"I like him better," she answered cheekily. Harry blushed as Ron grumbled.
"What was he hiding behind his back?" Hermione asked, her forehead scrunching in thought.
"Do you think it had anything to do with the Stone?" added Harry.
"I'm going to see what section he was in," Ron got up to go and look, tired of working. He darted back to where he'd seen the Gameskeeper and looked at the books around him, grabbed a few and returned, slamming them down on the table.
"Dragons!" he whispered. "Hagrid was looking up dragons! Look," he showed them the books. "Dragon Species of Great Britain and Ireland; From Egg to Inferno, A Dragon Keeper's Guide.
"Hagrid told me when we met that he's always wanted a dragon," said Harry and Hermione nodded in agreement.
"But it's against our laws," whispered Ron. "Dragon breeding was outlawed by the Warlock's Convention of 1709, everyone knows that. Just imagine, how can we muggles from noticing us if we're keeping dragons in the backyard? Besides, they're bloody dangerous. You should see the burns Charlie's got off wild ones in Romania."
"Are there wild dragons in Britain?" asked Harry.
"Yeah, of course there are, Common Welsh Green and Hebridean Blacks. The Ministry has a job keeping them hushed up, let me tell you. Wizards have to modify muggles' memories that've seen one, to make them forget."
"So what's Hagrid up to?" asked Hermione in the silence that followed.
When they knocked on Hagrid's door an hour later, they were puzzled to see the curtains that were almost always open, drawn. Hagrid called, "Who is it?" before answering, then ushered them inside quickly.
It was smoldering inside the small cottage, and even though it was a pleasantly warm day outside, there was a roaring fire lit. Hagrid made them tea and sandwiches that they politely refused before he fell silent.
"So – yeh said yeh had questions?"
"Yes," said Harry, getting straight to the point. "We were wondering if you would tell us what's guarding the Stone apart from Fluffy."
"And why it's here," added Lexie. She had gone along more out of curiosity than anything and was regretting it just a little. It wasn't like her to be nosing into matters that did not concern her, but she felt a loyalty to Harry that she couldn't deny, so there she was.
"Well I don't rightly know, and o' course I can't tell you what's guardin' it," he said in shock. "Number one, I don't know meself. Number two, yeh know too much already, an' I wouldn' tell yeh if I could." Hagrid turned to Lexie, "Dumbledore wanted it here an' it was almost stolen outta Gringotts – I s'pose yeh've worked that out too? 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 happens around here," Hermione tried next in a flattering tone and Hagrid smiled. "We merely wondered who did the guarding really, who Dumbledore trusted enough to help him, apart from you."
Hagrid's chest swelled, Lexie's eyebrow rose at her tactic, Harry smiled at her, and Ron flashed her a grin too.
"Well, I s'ppose it couldn't hurt to tell yeh that…let's see…he borrowed Fluffy from me…then some o' the teachers did some enchan'ments….Professor Sprout—Professor Flitwick—Professor McGonagall-," he ticked them off on his large fingers, "Professor Quirrel –an' Dumbledore himself did somethin', o' course. Wait, I've forgotten someone. Oh yeah, Professor Snape."
"Snape?" Four voices chorused.
"Yeah—yer not still on abou' that are yeh? Look Snape helped protect the Stone, he's not about ter steal it."
Lexie could tell all four of them were thinking the same thing – if Snape had added a protection, it must have been terribly easy to discover how the others had guarded it. Except, it seemed, for Professor Quirrel and Fluffy.
"Only you know how to get past Fluffy, right?" Lexie asked next, and Harry picked up on the thought.
"Yeah, you wouldn't tell anyone would you? Not even the teacher's?"
"Not a soul knows except me an' Dumbledore," said Hagrid with pride in his voice.
"Well at least there's that," Harry muttered to Ron, Hermione, and Lexie. "Hagrid, can we open a window? I'm boiling."
"Can't, Harry, sorry," said Hagrid. He glanced at the fire and they followed his gaze.
"Hagrid…is that?" Hermione asked, but they all knew what it was. In the very center of the fire, under the kettle, was a large black egg.
"Ah," Hagrid said, fiddling with his beard. "That's—er…"
"Where did you get it, Hagrid?" Ron asked, crouching near the fire to get a better look, "It must have cost a fortune."
"Won it," said Hagrid, "Las' night down in the village. Got to havin' drinks and played a game o' cards with some stranger. Think it was quite glad to be rid of it, ter be honest."
"But what are you going to do when it hatches?" asked Hermione.
"Well, I've bin doin' some readin' see," answered Hagrid, pulling out a book. "Got this outta the library—Dragon Breeding for Pleasure and Profit
—it's a bit outta date, but it's all in here. Keep the egg in the fire, 'cause their mothers breathe on 'em, and when it hatches, feed it on a bucket of brandy mixed wit' chicken's blood every half hour. An' see here—how ter recognize diff'rent eggs. What I got there's a Norwegian Ridgeback. They're rare, them."
He looked pleased with himself while the others just looked worried. "Hagrid, you live in a wooden house," Hermione said, trying to appeal to him.
But Hagrid wasn't listening; he was stoking the fire and humming merrily. Lexie guided the others out while he was occupied and they all stood around looking at one another.
"Well…" said Harry.
"Yeah…" agreed Ron and for once even Hermione was speechless.
"I can't be part of this," Lexie spoke up.
"What do you mean?" asked Harry, looking at her in confusion.
"The dragon, this, all of this," she waved a hand to indicate the cottage. "You don't understand, my fath- Lucius Malfoy will find out I'm part of this somehow and I could be disowned. I just got a family Harry, I swear I won't tell anyone but I can't." She pleaded to him with her eyes, "I'll help you figure out how to keep the Stone safe but if he finds out about the dragon…"
"I understand," said Harry. And he did, she didn't want to be held responsible for something illegal. She gave him an apologetic look before turning back for the castle.
"Can you believe her?" spat Ron angrily.
"Don't Ron," Hermione argued.
"She said she would help and keep it quiet, that's all she can do without putting herself or us in jeopardy," Harry explained to the other two. "If Lucius knew she knew, that we knew, all of us would be in trouble, not to mention your families. By staying out of it she's trying to protect all of us, I don't blame her for it."