Chapter 17 : Hagrid's Memories.
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It was Saturday before they got a chance to visit Hagrid.
“I can’t believe Binns gave us a two-foot essay our first week back,” Albus said. “And Jones has been piling on the homework too.”
“I guess we’ve got to start working harder now we’re in our second term,” Rose said. “Actually, I think some of those disputes Binns was talking about could be pretty interesting.”
“Maybe, if we’d anybody else teaching about them.”
“That’s what the library is for, Albus. So we can look up all the stuff he doesn’t bother telling us. If we’ve time after we leave Hagrid, I’m going to do some research.”
“OK.” He supposed he should do some himself. He wanted to do well in the end of year exams, after all, but it was so boring.
He caught sight of a large group of first years.
“Hey, what’s going on over there?”
“You think we should check it out?” Rose asked.
He thought for a moment.
“I guess so. It’s not like Hagrid’s expecting us, after all.”
Hagrid had said they were welcome to visit any time, so they’d just decided to chance turning up without telling him. It wasn’t like he was often away during term time.
They joined the large group of students they’d noticed.
First years from all four houses seemed to be represented in the crowd.
Albus glanced around, hoping to see one of his dorm mates. Unable to find them, he turned to Dora, who was standing at the edge of the crowd.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
She rolled her eyes. “Malfoy’s somehow managed to smuggle a broom into school and all this lot think it’s the coolest thing anybody’s ever done.” She waved a hand around the circle.
He stared. “He is going to be in so much trouble!”
She shrugged. “He’s a Malfoy. He’ll probably get away with it. Daddy’ll give the school a donation or something to get him off, even if he does get caught.”
“He couldn’t do that. Could he?” He turned to Rose.
“It’s possible,” she said. “Stuff like that used to happen all the time, Mum says. The rich pureblood families used to have a lot of influence and could basically buy themselves out of a lot of sticky situations. The Ministry’s changed a lot over the last fifteen or twenty years though, so I don’t know if it’d happen today.” She sounded doubtful.
“Well, I’ve no intention of standing around here gawping in admiration,” Dora said. “Golden Arrows aren’t that unusual, for all the fuss he’s making about it.”
“We should go too,” Rose said quietly to Albus. “Might as well get talking to Hagrid.”
Albus wasn’t sorry to be leaving. He really didn’t want to be there when a teacher turned up. Besides Dora had a point. There was nothing that exciting about somebody bringing a broom to Hogwarts. All the older students had them, after all. Sneaking one in in first year was kind of silly, when you thought about it. It wasn’t as if you’d get much chance to use it. It was just looking for trouble unnecessarily.
“James says he tried to sneak a broom in when he was in first year,” he said.
Rose rolled her eyes. “James would.”
“He says Mum caught him and made him leave it home though. Hey, do you think Scorpius’s parents know he’s brought his?”
“Probably. I don’t know.”
They reached Hagrid’s cabin and Albus reached up to knock on the door.
Hagrid opened almost immediately and beamed at them.
“All righ’ Albus? Rose?”
“Hi Hagrid. Can we come in?” Albus asked.
“Yeh don’ have to ask tha’.” Hagrid sounded shocked. “O’ course yeh’re always welcome. But firs’ come round the back. Something I want ter show yeh.”
The followed apprehensively. When Hagrid had something he wanted to show people, it usually meant some kind of dangerous beast.
“Isn’ he beau’iful?”
Standing in front of them was a chestnut coloured winged horse.
“Oh wow,” Rose said, but she approached cautiously all the same. “Is he the same as those horses Madame Maxime had?”
She grinned. According to their parents, Hagrid had a crush on the Headmistress of Beauxbatons.
Hagrid shook his head. “They were Abraxan horses. He’s an Aethonan. Name is Jupiter.”
“Is it safe to stroke him?” she asked.
“So long as yeh’re gentle. Don’ like rough handling, Aethonans don’.”
Tentatively, she reached out to stroke him.
“Um, Hagrid. We wanted to ask you a few questions.”
“Oh, yeh did, did yeh?”
“You don’t mind, do you?”
He shook his head. “No, I don’ mind. Go righ’ ahead.”
“Well, it’s about the Chamber of Secrets.”
“Ah. Well, come inside firs’ and have a cup o’ tea.”
They exchanged glances. He didn’t seem particularly anxious to discuss it.
“Yeh’re parents changed me life, yeh know. Yeh’re dad.” He nodded at Albus. “And yeh’re mum and dad.” He nodded at Rose. “I had this Acromantula, yeh see, when the Chamber was firs’ opened. And when they found him…”
“When Voldemort told them about him, you mean,” Rose said indignantly.
“So yeh know abou’ that? Yeah, he told them. And they thought he was the monster that’d bin attackin’ people. But Dumbledore, he said, even if it had bin, I wouldn’ ha’ meant it, like, so I got to stay on here as Gamekeeper. He was a great man, Dumbledore. I’m sorry yeh never met him. Best Headmaster the school ever had. Aragog’s descendents are still in the forest.” He changed the subject rather abruptly. “But they aren’ as friendly, like. Yeh wouldn’ want to get to close to them.”
Albus shuddered. He’d no intention of getting too close to a giant, unfriendly spider.
“But before all that happened,” Rose began tentatively. “We were wondering what it was like when the Chamber was actually opened and when people started being attacked.”
Hagrid thought for a moment. “There was a lot o’ fear. A girl died, yeh know. She wasn’t tha’ well-liked. Used to get bullied, yeh know. I think people felt sort o’ guilty abou’ tha’. But mostly, people were just scared. Worried they’d be next, like.”
“So nobody’d really want to remind people of what happened?” Albus said thoughtfully.
Hagrid shook his head. “Can’t see why anyone would. ‘Cept You-Know-Who, o’ course and he’s dead. Some o’ the Death Eaters might have bin pleased. Well, they weren’ Death Eaters then. They were just his friends. You-Know-Who’s, I mean.”
“Can you tell us anything about his friends?” Rose asked.
Albus couldn’t see how that would help. Surely most of them would be ancient by now. Well, OK, they probably wouldn’t be much older than Hagrid, but they were still unlikely to be hanging around Hogwarts. Even their grandchildren had probably left!
Hagrid paused once again. “A lot o’ them were members o’ that club Slughorn has. Slytherins mostly, o’ course, like most Dark Wizards. Could never like tha’ house meself. Have to be civil when I’m teachin’ them, o’ course, but I still don’t like them.”
“But Slughorn liked them?” Albus asked. “I mean, he liked Voldemort and his friends.”
A rather scary idea’d just occurred to him. Slughorn’d liked Voldemort when he was at school. Slughorn’s third year class had made the Swelling Solution just before he’d received chocolates laced with it. And the graffiti had appeared just outside Slughorn’s office.
Albus didn’t like Slughorn much. He found him irritating and fawning, but the thought of the genial wizard plotting to send him possibly poisonous potions or threatening the return of Voldemort seemed beyond horrible. Slughorn might be annoying, but Albus had always assumed he was harmless. Now he wasn’t sure.
“Well, he was a good student, yeh see,” Hagrid said. “Not like me. Never tha’ great at the magic, I wasn’. Me and me dad, we wondered if it migh’ be because o’ me mum. Her not bein’ a witch, yeh know. Slughorn always liked the brigh’ ones. No time for us dunces, he hadn’. Not that you two would have ter worry about tha’. Bright as buttons you two are.”
“You’re not stupid, Hagrid.” Albus was indignant. “You know more about magical creatures than just about anybody else in the world.”
Hagrid beamed. “I wasn’ any good at potions though and tha’ was what Slughorn cared abou’, I suppose. I don’ blame him. Nice man, Horace. Came to Aragog’s funeral and all, he did. Said he was always int’rested in unusual creatures. I never knew tha’ when I was at school. Strange what yeh don’ know abou’ your teachers, isn’t it?”
“I suppose it is,” Albus said nervously. That wasn’t something he wanted to think about.
“Don’t think abou’ them much, I suppose. Didn’ stop to think how worried they must have bin when the Chamber was opened either. Or abou’ what they’d do if Hogwarts was closed.”
“Closed?” Albus and Rose said in unison.
Hagrid nodded. “They were talking abou’ closing it if the attacks weren’ stopped, like. If I hadn’ bin expelled, I expec’ they would’ve, but they thought tha’ ended it.”
Remembering how hard returning to Hogwarts after the holidays had been, Albus couldn’t help wondering if there might be a motive there. Maybe somebody was so homesick they wanted Hogwarts closed, so they’d have no choice but to return home.
If that was the motive, it was probably a first year. In Albus’s experience, the older students seemed far more relaxed and at home in the castle. It was definitely better than thinking it might be a teacher, particularly a Potions teacher who had access to goodness knows how many poisons.
He thought of Scorpius, complaining that everybody at Hogwarts judged him just because he was a Malfoy, Nathan, staring dismally at his broom when Madame Chang insisted he try to mount it for the fifth time that lesson, Derek, missing the technology of the Muggle world. He thought of Angie, staying at Hogwarts over Christmas. Had she wanted to do that or had she had to? Maybe her parents had been going abroad or something and wouldn’t be able to if Hogwarts closed and they’d nowhere to leave her?
Would any of them really go to such lengths? It seemed excessive, but it was about the only possible motive he could think of. Why else would somebody sneak out in the middle of the night to threaten Voldemort’s return and why then try to blame it on Albus?
Not that this explained the latter action. Wouldn’t the school be less likely to close if they knew who’d done it or thought they did?
He shivered at the thought of being expelled like Hagrid was.
“There’s one other thing we want to ask you about?” Rose said.
“Go righ’ ahead.”
“You’ve been teaching here a long time, right? So you probably taught Professor Blackburn?”
“Well, I didn’ really. I mean, I was teachin’ here when she was at school, but she never took Care o’ Magical Creatures, so I never knew her all tha’ well. Seemed a nice girl, though.”
“What house was she in?”
“I don’ know if I remember.” He thought for a moment. “Oh, I do now. She was a Ravenclaw, tha’ was it. Just like the two o’ you.”
They exchanged glances. After seven years of answering the eagle’s questions, doing so might become second nature, so it was just possible she could have answered quickly and snuck into the tower. They couldn’t rule her out after all
“Professor Slughorn hinted that something bad happened to her when she was at school,” Rose said.
“Tha’s none o’ your business!” Hagrid’s tone was sharp and Albus jumped. “Oh well,” he continued more gently. “Your parents were always ferretin’ out myst’ries, so I suppose it’s hardly surprisin’ if you do the same. But there are some myst’ries that shouldn’ be solved, because they hurt people. Tha’ young woman’s bin through some hard times already. It’s not righ’ to be prying into her affairs.” He smiled at them. “Now, do you want another cup o’ tea.”
“No, thanks, Hagrid,” Rose said. “We’d better get back to the castle. We could come down again next weekend, if that’s all right.”
“O’ course it’s all righ’. Always glad to see yeh. Yeh can help me feed Jupiter.”
“I’d like that,” Rose said. “Bye Hagrid.”
Albus added his goodbyes and they left the cabin.
“Even Hagrid won’t tell us!” Rose said in frustration.
“But it sounds like all the teachers know, so they’d probably guess if it had anything to do with well, everything this term.”
“Maybe, but she is the only new teacher this year and there is a mystery there; you have to admit that. And she was in Ravenclaw.”
“Yeah, I thought of that too,” he said. “She’d probably be used to answering the questions by now. But there are other possibilities too, don’t you think?”
She glanced at him questioningly. “What possibilities have you thought of? Let’s see if our ideas match.”
He wanted to say it might be a homesick first year. That was the idea he liked best, the one he wanted to believe. It was much less worrying than the others. But when he thought of saying it aloud, it sounded stupid. She’d probably laugh at him.
“Slughorn,” he said instead. “Hagrid said he liked Voldemort and had him in the Slug Club and all. And when you think of it, Slughorn could have done a lot of this.”
He reminded her that the note was supposed to have come from Slughorn, that the graffiti was found outside his office and that his class had made the Swelling Solution just before Albus had received it.
She nodded. “Yeah, I was thinking much the same way, although I’d forgotten his class made that potion. It’s not very likely though, is it? I mean, he’s been here so long. If he’d been supporting Voldemort, surely somebody’d have figured it out. Besides, I can’t exactly imagine him sneaking into your dormitory. He was never a Ravenclaw, after all and even if he could answer the question, I doubt he’d get in unnoticed. He’s rather distinctive.”
“He could have done it while everybody was in class,” Albus said doubtfully. “Or he could have an Invisibility Cloak.”
She wrinkled her nose. “I suppose it’s possible.”
But she obviously didn’t think it very likely. Albus didn’t really either. He couldn’t imagine Slughorn wandering around Ravenclaw Tower or rifling through his trunk.
“Do you suspect Blackburn, so?” he asked. “Or do you have any other ideas?”
She shrugged. “It could be just about anybody really, couldn’t it? We don’t seem to have found out anything really conclusive. Let’s review what we’ve got for a moment. The person was able to get into Ravenclaw Tower. And they could find your dormitory and your trunk. That probably counts against Slughorn too. He wouldn’t be likely to know his way around Ravenclaw Tower, whereas Blackburn probably would.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Albus admitted.
“Circe said she thought the person was short, but that doesn’t help us much since she wasn’t sure. And the person seems to have some knowledge about the second time the Chamber of Secrets was opened, so they probably know somebody who was at Hogwarts at that time.”
“Somebody who probably wasn’t attacked,” Albus reminded her.
“That’s true. And probably not Muggleborn either, because they probably wouldn’t want to be reminded of Muggleborns being attacked.”
Albus shuffled awkwardly, wondering how to phrase what he hadn’t said.
“Um, you know how Hagrid said they thought about closing the school?”
“Do you think that might be a reason?”
“You mean somebody might want Hogwarts closed now?”
“Yeah.” He didn’t add on his idea that it might be somebody homesick. That did sound stupid.
She thought for a moment. “I really doubt it’d work. It’d take more than graffiti and a few practical jokes. The time Hagrid was talking about, a girl died. It’s not the same thing, you know.”
“Somebody might think it worth a try though.”
She grinned. “So we should be suspecting O.W.L.s students.? I’ve heard them complaining the amount of work they’ve to do this year is horrific.”
“I hadn’t thought of them.”
“I was mostly joking. I don’t think you’d try and close a school down just because you were getting too much homework. But somebody might have some kind of grudge. Now I really wish I knew what happened to Blackburn!”
“You think something bad might have happened to her here and she came back to try and get the place closed down out of revenge?”
“Well, it’s possible, isn’t it?” Then she shook her head. “No, that’s pretty weak. A teacher would surely know they wouldn’t close the school down that easily. Somebody who got expelled?...But they wouldn’t still be here. Oh, I don’t know!”
Albus shuddered at the thought they might never find out. He didn’t think he could face seven years of not knowing when he might find something hidden in his trunk or a potion added to his food. There had to be something they could do.
But he hadn’t the slightest idea what it might be.
This is the first time Hagrid has had much to say in any of my stories, so please let me know if I've made any mistakes with his accent. Thanks.
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