The sky was a clear, pale gray, and the grass was springy and damp underfoot as they set off for their first ever Care of Magical Creatures class.
Ron and Hermione weren't speaking to each other. Harry and Arth walked beside them in silence as they went down the sloping lawns to Hagrid's hut on the edge of the Forbidden Forest.
It was only when he spotted three only-too-familiar backs ahead of them that he real- ized they must be having these lessons with the Slytherins. Malfoy was talking animatedly to Crabbe and Goyle, who were chortling.
If the Slytherins were here then that would mean Scarlett was here as well.
Sure enough, Arth felt a tug on his arm and saw that Scarlett was grabbing it.
Malfoy glared at Arth before sulking off.
Hagrid was waiting for his class at the door of his hut. He stood in his moleskin overcoat, with Fang the boarhound at his heels, looking impatient to start.
"C'mon, now, get a move on!" he called as the class approached. "Got a real treat for yeh today! Great lesson comin' up! Everyone here? Right, follow me!"
Hagrid strolled off around the edge of the trees, and five minutes later, they found themselves outside a kind of paddock. There was nothing in there.
"Everyone gather 'round the fence here!" he called. "That's it — make sure yeh can see — now, firs' thing yeh'll want ter do is open yer books —"
"How?" said the cold, drawling voice of Draco Malfoy.
"Eh?" said Hagrid.
"How do we open our books?" Malfoy repeated. He took out his copy of The Monster Book of Monsters, which he had bound shut with a length of rope.
Other people took theirs out too; some, like Harry, had belted their book shut; others had crammed them in- side tight bags or clamped them together with binder clips.
"Hasn' — hasn' anyone bin able ter open their books?" said Hagrid, looking crestfallen.
Scarlett let out a snort of contempt.
"What an idiot. All you have to do is stroke the books. Arth figured it out the moment he got it. I wonder why some people are arrogant even when they are much inferior to others?"
"Scarlett, that's because everyone is different."
Malfoy went red again before sending another glare at Arth.
"Righ' then," said Hagrid, "now that yer can open yer books, all you need are yer magical creatures. I'll go get em."
He strode away from them into the forest and out of sight.
"God, this place is going to the dogs," said Malfoy loudly. "That oaf teaching classes, my father'll have a fit when I tell him —"
"Shut up, Malfoy," Harry repeated.
"Careful, Potter, there's a dementor behind you —"
"Oooooooh!" squealed Lavender Brown, pointing toward the opposite side of the paddock.
Trotting toward them were a dozen of the most fascinating creatures Arth had ever seen. They had the bodies, hind legs, and tails of horses, but the front legs, wings, and heads of what seemed to be giant eagles, with cruel, steel-colored beaks and large, brilliantly or- ange eyes. The talons on their front legs were half a foot long and deadly looking.
Each of the beasts had a thick leather collar around its neck, which was attached to a long chain, and the ends of all of these were held in the vast hands of Hagrid, who came jogging into the paddock behind the creatures.
"Gee up, there!" he roared, shaking the chains and urging the creatures toward the fence where the class stood. Everyone drew back slightly as Hagrid reached them and tethered the creatures to the fence.
"Hippogriffs!" Hagrid roared happily, waving a hand at them. "Beau'iful, aren' they?"
Arthur was in love with the hippogriffs' gleaming coats, changing smoothly from feather to hair, each of them a different color: stormy gray, bronze, pinkish roan, gleaming chestnut, and inky black.
"So," said Hagrid, rubbing his hands together and beaming around, "if yeh wan' ter come a bit nearer —"
Before Hagrid could finish, Arth ran into crowd of Hippogriffs.
"Don't mind me go ahead with the lesson."
"Er... ok," Hagrid looked confused. "Now, firs' thing yeh gotta know abou' hippogriffs is, they're proud. Easily offended, hippogriffs are. Don't never insult one, 'cause it might be the last thing yeh do."
Everyone was too occupied with Arth to pay attention though.
"Yeh always wait fer the hippogriff ter make the firs' move," Hagrid continued. "It's polite, see? Yeh walk toward him, and yeh bow, an' yeh wait. If he bows back, yeh're allowed ter touch him. If he doesn' bow, then get away from him sharpish, 'cause those talons hurt-"
Lavender screamed and Hagrid turned around immediately.
A hippogriff had Arth by the scruff and was attempting to fly away with him.
However, before BUCKBEAK could take off, the other hippogriffs started to fight him.
From somewhere within the flurry of feathers, Arth's voice could be heard.
"Is this what it feels like the be fought over?"