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. 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 stutter. Arth would just silently watch with a blank face.
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 Flamel."
"But we're not six hundred years old," Ron reminded her. "Anyway, what are you studying for, you already know it all."
"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. I mean look at Arth, he's been studying since before Christmas."
Ron turned around in horror.
"Is what she said true? Don't tell me it is."
Arth just gave a shrug. "I just went over the course books a couple times. No biggie."
"NO BIGGIE? No wonder you looked sick and tired all the time, you weren't resting but torturing yourself with self given homework."
"I find studying quiet relaxing."
"And that's why you were all sick and pale?"
"Both if you are monsters, who studies during the holidays?"
"People who are successful in life," replied Arth with a grin leaving Ron speechless.
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 or while you could hear the constant scribbling of Arth's quill.
They 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.
"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 -"
"You should just not tell us that if it's that's important-"
"See you later, then," said Harry while hurriedly covering Arth's mouth.
Hagrid shuffled off.
"Come on Arth, why you got to ruin it for us, there's no harm in knowing."
"It will if it has anything to do with that dog."
"What was he hiding behind his back?" Asked 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 Keeper's Guide."
"Maybe Hagrid is raising a dragon,". Said Arth in a joking manner.
"Hagrid's always wanted a dragon, he told me so the first time I ever met him, " said Harry. "He might just want to learn about them. We can ask when we meet him later."
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 they refused.
"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 is 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."
"Ron and Harry led us straight to him. Charming specimen, wish I knew how to calm him down."
"Blimey, you met him? Isn't he quiet the fella? but I'm not going to tell you anything more."
"Come on Hagrid, 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.
"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."
"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, are you actually keeping a dragon in here, the temperature is too hot for you to say that you like the heat, and it is the optimal temperature for raising baby dragons... no way."
Arth ran toward the fireplace.
Sure enough, 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 diff'rent 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.
"Hagrid, you do know that baby dragons grow fast? It'll be bigger than your hut after about about a month or so."
Suddenly, funny clicking noise started to come from the egg. Visible cracks, webbed the shell. Hagrid hurriedly grabbed the egg out of the fire and placed it in the table.
They all drew their chairs up to the table and watched while holding their breaths.
All at once there was a scraping noise and the egg split open. The baby dragon flopped onto the table. Its spiny wings were huge compared to its skinny jet body, it had a long snout with wide nostrils, the stubs of horns and bulging, orange eyes.
It sneezed. A couple of sparks flew out of its snout.
"Isn't he beautiful?" Hagrid murmured. He reached out a hand to stroke the dragon's head. It snapped at his fingers, showing pointed fangs.
"Bless him, look, he knows his mommy! I'm going to call him Norbert." said Hagrid.
"I think he knows his food." Said Ron, "looks as if it wants to take a chunk out of Hagrid."
"Hagrid," said Hermione, "how fast do Norwegian Ridgebacks grow, exactly?"
Hagrid was about to answer when the color suddenly drained from his face. He leapt to his feet and ran to the window.
"What's the matter?"
"Someone was lookin' through the gap in the curtains, it's a kid, he's runnin' back up ter the school."
Arthur immediately ran out and pointed his wand at the running figure.
The boy fell down and skidded for a few feet on the floor before coming to a stop.
It was Malfoy.
Arth dragged Malfoy back into the hut under the gazed of four highly impressed people.
Arth scowled before glancing at the petrified Malfoy.
"Hagrid, the dragons got to go. I saved you this time however, the more time we waste, the higher chance of us getting found. I'm going to Obliviate his memories so he doesn't remember what happened, but I can't do this forever."
"Just let him go," Harry urged. "Set him free."
"I can't," said Hagrid. "He's too little. He'd die."
"I have a brother, Charlie. In Romania. Studying dragons. We could send Norbert to him. Charlie can take care of him and then put him back in the wild! How about it, Hagrid?"
"It takes time to reply back so in the meantime, you can stay with the dragon."
And in the end, Hagrid agreed that they could send -an owl to Charlie to ask him.
The following week dragged by. Wednesday night found the four of them sitting alone in the common room, long after everyone else had gone to bed.
The clock on the wall had just chimed midnight when there was a tap on the dark window.
"It's Hedwig!" said Harry, hurrying to let her in. "She'll have Charlie's answer!"
The three of them put their heads together to read the note.
How are you? Thanks for the letter -- I'd be glad to take the Norwegian Ridgeback, but it won't be easy getting him here. I think the best thing will be to send him over with some friends of mine who are coming to visit me next week. Trouble is, they mustn't be seen carrying an illegal dragon.
Could you get the Ridgeback up the tallest tower at midnight on Saturday? They can meet you there and take him away while it's still dark.
Send me an answer as soon as possible. Love,
"We've got the invisibility cloak," said Harry. "It shouldn't be too difficult, I think the cloaks big enough to cover two of us and Norbert."
"Which two of us will go?"
"Harry and Hermione can hide under the cloak, I will stay on lookout."
"Yeah, I forgot that Arth doesn't need a invisibility cloak, cause he is one."
Arth stabbed Ron sharply on the side of his rib with his wand.
"It'll all be over at midnight on Saturday," said Hermione.
It was a very dark, cloudy night, and they were a bit late arriving at Hagrid's hut because they'd had to wait for Peeves to get
out of their way in the entrance hall, where he'd been playing tennis against the wall.
Hagrid had Norbert packed and ready in a large crate.
"He's got lots o' rats an' some brandy fer the journey," said Hagrid in a muffled voice. "An' I've packed his teddy bear in case he gets lonely."
From inside the crate came ripping noises that sounded as if the teddy bear was being ruthlessly shredded.
"Bye-bye, Norbert!" Hagrid sobbed, as Harry and Hermione covered the crate with the invisibility cloak and stepped underneath it themselves. "Mommy will never forget you!"
"Remember, when you hear the sound of a crow, it means there is danger," said Arthur before he disappeared into the shadows.
How they managed to get the crate back up to the castle, they never knew. Midnight ticked nearer as they heaved Norbert up the marble staircase in the entrance hall and along the dark corridors. UP another staircase, then another -- even one of Harry's shortcuts didn't make the work much easier.
"Nearly there!" Harry panted as they reached the corridor beneath the tallest tower.
Then a sudden sound of a raven caught Harry and Hermione by surprise. Forgetting that they were already invisible, they shrank into the shadows, staring at the dark outlines of two people grappling with each other ten feet away. A lamp flared.
Professor McGonagall, in a tartan bathrobe and a hair net, had Malfoy by the ear.
"Detention!" she shouted. "And twenty points from Slytherin! Wandering around in the middle of the night, how dare you -"
"You don't understand, Professor. Harry Potter's coming - he's got a dragon!"
"What utter rubbish! How dare you tell such lies! Come on - I shall see Professor Snape about you, Malfoy!"
It was not until they'd stepped out into the cold night air did they throw off the cloak, glad to be able to breathe properly again. Hermione did a sort of jig.
"Malfoy's got detention! I could sing!"
"Don't," Harry advised her.
"Hmm," a familiar voice materialized right next to them.
"I seems as though the memory charm wore off. Well I suppose it was due to happen. I had to cast it a bit weak this time otherwise he would've lost some essential parts of his brain. Well, at least he got detention."
Arth stopped out from the shadows.
"Well, I guess that all we can do know is wait."
Chuckling about Malfoy, they waited, Norbert thrashing about in his crate. About ten minutes later, four broomsticks came swooping down out from the darkness.
Charlie's friends were a cheery lot. They showed Arth, Harry, and Hermione the harness they'd rigged up, so they could suspend Norbert between them. They all helped buckle Norbert safely into it and then Harry and Hermione shook hands with the others and thanked them very much.
At last, Norbert was gone.
As they stepped into the corridor, a raven cried, and Filch's face loomed suddenly out of the darkness.
"Well, well, well," he whispered.
"We are in trouble," Harry groaned to Hermione.
They'd left the invisibility cloak on top of the tower and Arth was nowhere to be seen.