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Chapter Thirty-One: Kantankerous Kibbles

The next day was a Thursday, and the day of Kibbles's inspection. Harry, Ron and Hermione had agreed they would go down to help Hagrid and get Kibbles ready at about half past five, so at five o' clock, they went down to dinner, with half an hour to go.

"I wonder what we'll not be eating tonight," said Ron, pleasantly.

"I hope it's something nasty," said Harry. "It's always harder when it looks good."

They passed the entrance to the dungeons at the same time as a large group of Slytherins were coming up for dinner. Harry saw Kainda at the back, remembered that they were supposed to be "practicing Quidditch" tonight, and that he wouldn't be there because of the inspection. He said, "One second," to Ron and Hermione, and hurried through the crowd of Slytherins. Kainda gave him her typical in-public smile.

"Boss," she said, her eyes sparking.

"Our... ah... practice tonight," he said, trying hard not to smile. "I'm not going to be there, unfortunately. Kibbles has got an inspection and I'm helping Hagrid. So if you were planning to spontaneously go on any long walks, perhaps, I can't come."

Her lips curled into a smile and she stepped out of the crowd. He followed her, and she lounged against a pillar to talk. "You're completely not subtle, you know."

He chuckled. "I tried. Sorry about that... Hagrid really needs me. Kibbles is a bit of a handful and they'll take him away if he doesn't pass the inspection."

"It's okay," she said. "How about tomorrow?"

"I can't," he said, apologetically. "I've got DA Club and then my occlu- remedial potions."

She laughed. "Remedial potions. Yes, Harry, remedial potions. I fully believe that. As if Professor Snape would give up his time to teach you extra Potions."

He grinned. "It's a secret."

"And it's going to stay that way," said a cold, quiet voice just behind him. He glanced around, just in time to see Snape disappear into the hall, his long black cloak sweeping along the floor.

Kainda chuckled. "Hey, don't worry, I don't want to poke and pry about. It's your business. So how about Saturday? Hey, it's the Hogsmeade Weekend! I forgot about that. I was planning to go up to the Shrieking Shack, if you're interested. Everybody else can come too, if you like."

"Sure," he said. "Sounds great."

"By the way, any news on the Quidditch final?" she asked. "Are we in? We flattened Hogwarts United in the quarter-finals, we'll be fighting for first place in the league, right?"

"Probably," he said. "I hope we are anyway. Blaise has been going around saying that he's sure his team are in the finals, so you'll have to go against your little brother. Hope you don't mind."

She chuckled. "Sounds fine to me. I still haven't been able to find out what position he's playing though. Some people say Seeker, but I don't know. He might take Chaser for an important match. It all depends I guess."

Harry nodded, and said, "We'd better go in, don't want to miss out on sitting and staring at a plateful of poison."

She laughed, and they both headed into the hall. Kainda peeled off to sit with Draco at the Slytherin table, and Harry made his way to slide in beside Ron. When he did, Ron chuckled. "She's after you, you know."

"Oh?" said Harry, feigning disinterest. "I hadn't noticed. Pass the bread rolls."

"What were you talking about?" asked Ron, grinning, handing him the basket.

"The Shrieking Shack. She's going there on Saturday and wants to know if you all want to come and explore."

"Wouldn't you prefer some private time with dear Kainda?" said Ron. He grinned.

Harry shrugged. "Not really."

Perhaps luckily, Ron was distracted next second by the arrival of the evening meal. Hermione moaned sadly. "Oh, it's lasagne... I love lasagne..."

"Oh, stop whining," said Ron. "Have some bread and imagine it's lasagne."

Hermione took one of the rolls and sighed. "I think that's going to be rather hard, considering that they're practically opposites. I'm really sick of all this nonsense. How are we ever going to know if the food's okay if nobody eats it?"

Ron leaned forward, shovelling up a spoonful of the lasagne, and holding it in her face. "Go on then. If you die, maybe that'll prove to you that the food most certainly is not okay."

She gave him a very disdainful look over the top of the lasagne. "I don't need to be hand-fed, Ron, I'm not an infant." She jerked the spoon out of his hand, and was about to put it down, when she paused, frowning, sniffing at it. "Does something smell odd to you?"

Harry took the spoon and tentatively smelt it. "I don't know..." He took the lasagne away, and sniffed the air. "Yeah... but it's not the food. It smells a bit like... fire..."

They all swapped worried looks. More people in the hall were starting to look up, asking their neighbours what the smell of smoke was, and a few people looked a little scared. Lupin had smelt it too. He leant over to Dumbledore and muttered something. Dumbledore listened, nodding, and then took a few tentative sniffs himself. He looked puzzled for a moment. The rest of the staff had noticed it too.

"Look!!" one of the second years suddenly shouted, pointing out through one of the windows, looking horrified. Everybody jumped up, trying to see, and Harry realised with a surge of sick fear that there were plumes of thick black smoke billowing up from Hagrid's cabin.

"It's Hagrid!" he said, and before anybody could stop him, he had bolted for the door. Ron and Hermione both clattered up, rushing after him. The rest of the students were hurrying towards the entrance hall to see what was happening, and soon the doorway was completely blocked. The voices of Snape, Lupin and Alrister, all shouting at Harry to get back inside, were drowned in the noise from the students. Harry didn't hear a word of it, clattering through the entrance doors out into the grounds.

Snape snarled furiously, and started muttering constantly under his breath as he fought through the crowd, "Jacardia. Jacardia, Potter, jacardia you insufferable, arrogant little hero!"

Harry twitched with every buzz from his collar, eventually skidding to a halt halfway across the grounds to reach up, fumbling for the collar. Ron and Hermione appeared next to him, panting. Ron took a great gulp of air, and gasped, "What are you doing? Come on, we've got to get a teacher!"

Harry tore the collar roughly from his neck. Ron's eyes widened as Harry plunged it angrily into his pocket.

"What's - "

"Nothing," Harry snapped, "Come on, we've got to - "

Hermione suddenly let out a shrill, high-pitched cry. "Look! Look at the smoke!"

Harry looked up above the smoke pouring from behind the greenhouses, where Hagrid's cabin was, and his heart froze in his chest. It looked as though it was forming into a great skull - the dark mark.

"It couldn't be..." Ron choked.

Harry's legs kicked into action before his head had been given time to think. He was off running again, sprinting towards Hagrid's cabin, his heart thudding painfully hard in his chest. He didn't want to think of what he'd see when he rounded the greenhouses. The smoke was still furling above where he knew Hagrid's house was. What if there were Death Eaters? Heliopaths? Voldemort? He sprinted around the side of the greenhouses, ignoring Hermione and Ron's shouts at him to stop -

But what he saw was certainly not what he expected.

Hagrid was running back and forth, from his water barrel to the opsittops' shed, which was on fire, belching black smoke into the air, and Hagrid was holding a tea cup in one hand, and a wellington boot in the other, trying to scoop more water up to put out the flames. Harry stood frozen for a while, amazed at suddenly how funny this seemed, watching Hagrid rushing back across the grass and trying to douze the flames with a teacup full of water.

"Help!" he shouted at Harry, Ron and Hermione, gesturing wildly with the wellington boot and splashing water everywhere. "Get somethin' teh carry water!"

"Hagrid, it's only the shed!" said Hermione. "Kibbles doesn't use it anymore!"

"The opsittops're in there!" Hagrid yelled, trying to pick up the whole water barrel.

Harry, Ron and Hermione stared at each other, and then became aware of the sound of the little opsittops inside the shed, all making a noise like a fire alarm. They bolted into action, and rushed forward. Hermione ripped out her wand and started sweeping water charms over the shed, as Ron hurried to struggle with the water barrel with Hagrid. Charlie Weasley and Harry rushed forward, drawing their wands, and both cried, "Wingardium leviosa!" It lifted high up into the air, gliding forwards, and with a noise like an ocean being emptied, they flung the barrelful of water all over the shed.

The smoke rushed up into the air and there was a hiss of steam, a loud creak, and the shed promptly collapsed in a heap of charred wood. Hermione squealed, "The opsittops!", but they were all staggering out in a huddle. All of them were coughing, except for one, who was sneezing. Apparently he hadn't learnt the noise of coughing yet. Hermione rushed forward and dropped to her knees, checking they were all okay, as Hagrid, Charlie, Ron and Harry all sighed.

"Thankyeh," said Hagrid, wiping his brow. "I were washin' Kibbles and he got a bit upset. He doesn't like gettin' washed, an' he knew his inspection were comin' up, then he smelt the opsittops in his shed. Started roarin' flames all over the place."

"At least, they're okay," said Charlie, nodding. Everybody else seemed oblivious to the fact that he was there.

"Yeah," said Ron. "Phwew. That barrel's heavy, Hagrid, why don't you get a hose or a fountain or something?"

"Didn't think Kibbles'd ever do somethin' so bad," said Hagrid. "He's in fer such a yellin' when he gets back 'ere... he's grounded fer a month fer one thing. And jus' before his inspection an' all! Bloody glad the inspector's late, fer once. We got time teh find Kibbles now."

"The inspector's not late," said Charlie, frowning.

"What?" Hagrid looked around wildly. "Why? Where is he?"

"Hagrid, it's me," said Charlie, starting to laugh.

They all jumped, just noticing that he was there. Ron stared up at his older brother. "What are you doing here?"

Charlie grinned and ruffled his hair. "I've come for the inspection. Good thing I arrived in time, huh?"

Hagrid went scarlet behind his beard. "Oh, y'haven't, have yeh? I dunno where Kibbles is. He's not normally like this, hones'ly. He's a lovely dragon. Yeh've jus' caught him on a bad day."

Charlie laughed at that. "It's okay, Hagrid, I know what dragons are like. Are your opsittops alright?"

"They're fine," said Hermione, smiling, tickling them all under their little chins and making them giggle. One of them was still sneezing. "I think this one could do with some hayfever tablets," she said, watching it sneeze so hard it tumbled backwards, then sat up, looking stunned at the force of what it had just done.

"Yeah, he's bin sneezin' fer quite a while now," said Hagrid. "Probably got the flu or summet."

They were all suddenly distracted, as two shapes came swiftly towards them. Once was Kibbles, who was roaring at the sight of the opsittops, looking so angry he could burst, charging across the grounds like a huge green rhino. The other was Snape, who was shouting, "POTTER!!", looking so angry he could burst, gliding across the grounds like a huge black bat. Harry felt his stomach lurch, not sure which he was more afraid of.

Hagrid ran in front of the dragon, yelling, "NO, Kibbles, NO! Stop it! Yeh naughty dragon, yeh're a very VERY bad dragon! If yeh dare run Mummy down - "

Kibbles roared frustratedly, stamping his feet on the ground, tossing his head and flailing his great tail around. Everybody winced as the spiked end rushed into a tree and sent it toppling to the ground with an almighty crash. Hagrid and Charlie both ran forward to try and calm the dragon, and Harry was planning to as well, but Snape was sweeping down on him. The Potions master grabbed his arm and pulled him away from the crowd. His eyes were nearly bulging with fury.

Harry choked, "Sorry! I'm fine! Look, I'm not in danger!"

"Be quiet," Snape hissed, shooting a dark glance at Ron, who was watching suspiciously out of the corner of his eye. "Potter, put the collar back on this instant. I have a good mind to charm it on permanently. Do you have any idea what would have happened if this had been a Death Eater attack? You would have been torn to pieces, you foolish brat."

"But Hagrid might have - "

"No, Potter," Snape snarled. "Listen to me. You are not the almighty hero. You are a sixteen-year-old boy, you do not have any incredible magical powers of survival, and there are millions of wizards in this world far more capable of fighting the Dark Lord than you. You - will - be - killed."

"I'm not going to just let my friends be in danger," said Harry, quite angrily.

Snape's eyes narrowed. "Does anything penetrate your skull, Potter? If you have cause for concern, find an adult wizard you can alert to the trouble. Do not run mindlessly into the middle of danger. There is a fine line between bravery and foolishness; a fine line, which I hasten to add, you just crossed. If you had just been killed, you would have not been remembered as a hero but a complete moron who didn't stop to think once. Am I clear, Potter?" Harry muttered a vague 'yes', but Snape's grip tightened on his shoulder, and he said, firmly, "Look at me and tell me if I am clear, Potter."

Harry looked up, directly into his cold black eyes, and said, "Yes. You are clear. I won't run into danger anymore."

Snape scanned his face for a moment, making sure he wasn't lying, and Harry looked right back, almost defiantly. After a few seconds, Snape said, "Very well, Potter. And the collar?"

Harry sighed quietly, taking the vile collar out of his pocket and handing it to Snape. Snape shot another dark glare at Ron, and moved his position to block his view, as he took the collar and fitted it carefully around Harry's neck. Harry just stared straight ahead as Snape buckled it into place.

"Please, Potter," said Snape, in a very weary tone. "Do not take it off again. It's for your own good."

"It's also uncomfortable," said Harry, bitterly.

"In what way?"

"What?" said Harry, who had expected Snape to tell him to live with it.

Snape sighed. "In which way is it uncomfortable?"

"It's too tight," said Harry. "And the buckle rubs."

Snape's cold fingers undid the buckle, opening in a few more notches and redoing it, tucking the metal under a slip of fabric. "Better?"

Harry nodded. "Yeah. Thanks." After a moment, he said, "I won't take it off again. Sorry."

"So you should be," said Snape, simply.

"Leave him alone," said a sharp, rather high voice from somewhere at Harry's elbow. "Wasn't a Death Eater attack, was it? Don't take it out on him, just because you've got a cucumber lodged up your - "

"Peeves?" said Harry, staring around.

"The one and only," said the voice. "Don't spread it around, Potty. You've got an audience. And Snape, don't be so harsh to him, for the love of dungbombs. With him all the time, I am. We know you soil yourself over him on regular occasions, but not in public, please."

Snape's face worked in fury. "You brattish, insufferable - "

"Yeah yeah, heard it all before. Think of something else, and don't hog my Potter." For a moment, just over Snape's shoulder, Harry saw Peeves's wide, grinning face formed from the last whisps of smoke in the air, then it was gone. He grinned back.

"What are you smirking at?" Snape said, glancing over his shoulder.

"Um... Kibbles," said Harry. Kibbles was indeed giving a good reason for smirking, sitting on his haunches next to Hagrid's hut, his arms folded, eyes rolled up into his head, as Hagrid tried to wash his tail, which was swishing back and forth vaguely, purposely evading Hagrid's sponge.

"No, Kibbles! Keep yeh tail still, or I'm never gonna gerrit clean. Come on, be a good boy fer Mummy!" Kibbles's long, scaly tail swished the other way, knocking over a stray opsittop who fell forward with a noise like a squeaker being bounced against a wall.

"Hmm," Snape droned, unconvinced. "Keep your eyes and your brain open in future please, Potter. Remember just where following your heart has gotten you."

Harry looked away. "Yeah. I do. I don't need you to remind me."

"Remedial potions, Potter, tomorrow," said Snape, standing up. "Do not be late." He swished away across the grounds, heading back towards the school.

A soft cackle sounded somewhere near Harry's elbows. "Grouchy today, isn't he?"

Harry laughed, as Ron came over, frowning, studying Harry closely. "What was all that about?" he asked.

"Nothing," said Harry, vaguely. He moved to go round Ron and join Hermione with the opsittops, but Ron put out a hand and caught him in the chest.

"Harry," he said. He looked very suspicious. "Why has Snape given you a collar? And what was with all the muttering? Tell me what's going on. It's not a time-turner, is it? Because that got very tedious, you know, and if it is, just tell me now and I promise I won't beat you up."

"No, it's not," said Harry. "It's... a secret."

Ron looked hurt at this. "I'm your cousin, you can tell me, can't you?"

"No," said Harry. "Sorry, Ron, it's a really big thing and - ahh!" He clapped a hand to his neck as the collar buzzed. Seeing Ron's suspicious frown, he said, "Wasp."

Ron gave a hollow laugh. "Yeah, right. Come on Harry, what is it? You can trust me, can't you? Come on... I bet you've told Hermione and precious Draco."

"I haven't told anybody," said Harry, honestly. "But if I could, I promise, you'd be the first person I'd tell. Seriously, Ron."

Ron looked a little happier at this news, though still a little hurt and suspicious. He said, "You will tell me someday, right?"

"Of course I will," said Harry. "Just not now. And it might not be for a while."

"Alright," said Ron, sighing. "I wish you'd tell me things. You told Draco what you got in your Potions exam before you told me. And you told Hermione all that stuff about Karkaroff in fourth year."

"Yeah, because we hated each other then," said Harry. "Don't let it worry you Ron, it's not important." He surveyed the still-hurt expression on his cousin's face for a moment then said, "What if I tell you something that nobody else knows except me and one other person?"

Ron looked at him, his expression a little hopeful. "Okay."

Harry glanced around, making sure that everybody else was busy with the opsittops and telling Charlie how good Kibbles is normally, and then he said, quietly, "I'm dating Kainda." Seeing Ron's expression split into a triumphant grin, Harry added, quickly, "Don't tell anybody. And yes, you told me so. Just don't tell anybody Ron."

Ron was trying hard not to laugh. "I don't believe you. You total liar. I want to hear all details later and I'll be stealing some veritaserum from Snape's office first just to make sure you're not lying again. And if I find you are, I'll tell everybody about Kainda."

Harry's insides squirmed. "Alright, alright. Come on, we'd better help out with Kibbles."

Ron glanced across at Kibbles, and smirked. "Yeah, I think we should."

Kibbles was chasing the little herd of terrified opsittops round and round Hagrid's cabin, all of them making very odd noises from a clucking chicken to a grating noise that sounded like somebody sawing wood, Hagrid was chasing after the dragon shouting, "NO, KIBBLES!!" and Charlie was too busy laughing to do anything. Hermione was dancing by the pile of smouldering wood that was the shed, saying something that sounded like, "I knew I should have brought my book on dragons...", and both Harry and Ron started to laugh along with Charlie as Hagrid fell over, and the crowd of opsittops ran to hide under his beard.

Kibbles roared with fury as a deep, throaty sort of growl came from under Hagrid's beard. Only the opsittops' legs could be seen, their little knees shaking together as they chattered in the same throaty snarl.

Charlie stopped laughing, and looked curious at this, watching Kibbles toss his head back and forth, searching for the source of the noise. "Hang on... I think I've realised why he's so angry..."

"Bloody good job an' all," Hagrid muttered, trying to fish the opsittops out of his beard.

"The opsittops are making the sound a male dragon does when his territory has been invaded," said Charlie. He crouched down, scooped an opsittop out from under Hagrid's beard and studied it. It made a little 'rawr'ing noise, wriggling about in his fist. "You hear that? That's the noise." He poked the opsittop gently, and it roared at him again. It was amazing how something so cute could sound so fierce. "They probably picked it up from Kibbles, maybe smelling another animal in the forest."

"So... the opsittops are mimicking Kibbles," said Hermione. "And Kibbles thinks that they're another male dragon trying to get his territory?"

"Exactly," said Charlie.

"But how are we going to stop them roaring?" said Ron. "Maybe... we could get some spellotape, and make little gags for them all."

"We can't gag all of them," said Hermione. "There are about twenty-five here all ready, plus, it's very cruel. You wouldn't like it if somebody came along and put something horrible in your mouth to stop you talking."

Charlie grinned. "I wouldn't mind that."

Ron pushed his older brother, Charlie grabbed him and ruffled his hair again, blurring the edges of his white stripe. Ron screwed up his face. "Get off me! Why does everybody keep doing that? Don't - touch - the - do!"

Charlie laughed, gave him a last few flicks and then let him go. "Right, little-brother-teasing over. Gagging the opsittops won't work anyway. The dragon's roar doesn't come from the mouth, it's made in the throat. That's how they can breathe fire and snarl at the same time, at least, that's how Welsh Greens do it. What we need is to teach the opsittops how to make a pleasant dragon noise. Perhaps dragon song."

"Dragon song?" asked Ron, still trying to sort out his hair. "What's that?"

"It's the song that dragons make to show other dragons they like them. It's like... a friendship song. If we can get the opsittops to sing to Kibbles, he should be fine with them and calm down."

"But we need to find a dragon for that," said Harry. "One that knows the song already, so it can teach the opsittops. And how do we make the dragon sing anyway?"

"Dragons sing for various different reasons," Charlie explained. "There's mating, obviously, when young dragons are playing, if they come back to somewhere they were happy before. Whatever we do, we'll need another dragon, and a happy dragon at that."

They all thought for a moment, and then Hermione said, suddenly, "I've got it!"

"What?" everybody said.

"If they come back to somewhere they were happy before," said Hermione, excitedly. "What about - "

"You're not suggesting..." said Ron, looking horrified.

"Norbert?" said Harry.

Hagrid's face split into a wide, hopeful grin. "Oh, Norbert! What ever 'appened to him, Charlie? Could we get Norbert teh come back teh Hogwarts?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Charlie, looking a bit worried. "We've got him tagged, we know where he is, but... hang on... he's perfect! Why didn't I think of it before? He's got a mate, a Romanian Longhorn, we've called her Sly. She's expecting a child pretty soon, and she'll sing to the baby."

Hagrid's beetle-black eyes welled with tears, and he choked, "Norbert's gonna be a daddy? Then... then... I'm gonna be a Granny! Oh, my Norbert's all grown up now... he's got his own mate 'an everythin'... bless 'im..." He wiped his eyes. "I'm sorry... s'just so lovely... bless 'is little 'eart.."

"Then we'll bring Norbert and Sly over," said Charlie, smiling. "Oh, they'll need somewhere to live though. Somewhere nice and high up, with lots of space. Somewhere fairly cold, dragons don't like being that hot."

Ron and Harry shrugged, and Ron suggested, "A mountain somewhere?"

Hermione, however, smiled. "I think we've got somewhere that will do. And just the person who can ask to use it."

"Who? Where?" said Ron, frowning at her.

"Professor Sinistra might be a little reluctant at first, you realise," said Draco, as he led Harry, Ron and Hermione all up the cold stone staircase to the astronomy tower. "She's got a lot of sensitive equipment in the Astronomy Hall, and if she has to move all that out... I'll do my best, of course. And I daresay I have a better chance of getting her to agree, I am, after all, her favourite student." He smiled slyly, opening a trap door set into the wall of the staircase.

Ron and Harry swapped identical smiles. Draco raised an eyebrow at this.


"You have too many hormones," said Ron, shaking his head, climbing after Hermione into the room through the trap door.

Draco's face darkened in a scowl, and he glared after Ron. "At least I do have them, Weasley, but don't worry, give it a few years and the freckles will turn into spots, I'm sure."

"Shut up, Malfoy," came Ron's voice, echoing from the other room. Harry clambered through the gap, and then Draco slid through, shutting the door carefully behind him.

Harry looked around. It was a fairly small room, very cold and plain, and there was no furniture at all, just stone tiles winding their way across the floor, up the walls and over the ceiling as well. "Where are we?" asked Harry, curiously.

Draco was counting tiles, and answered absent-mindedly over his shoulder. "Only students doing Astronomy at NEWT level ever get to come here. The equipment in all the NEWT rooms is highly sensitive, and Professor Sinistra, very wisely in my opinion, doesn't let the lower years near such delicate objects. I expect you all to be very careful. Especially you, Weasley."

"Especially me?" said Ron, shocked. "Why? What have I ever done?"

"Bigger people cause bigger accidents," said Draco, idly, reaching out and sliding his fingers across the gap between two tiles.

"Just because I'm taller than you," said Ron, waspishly.

"Such a childish reply," Draco mused, in a very superior tone, as he peeled the tiles down, taking out a whole section, and revealing a hidden door. Ron went for it, but Draco said, "Ah, Weasley. Ladies first," as he opened it for Hermione.

She smiled and stepped through. "Thankyou, Draco."

Ron shot a look of pure venom at Draco, who smiled pleasantly. "Weasley, you can go through now if you wish."

"I hate you," said Ron, his eyes narrowed.

"Likewise. Through the door, please, try not to fall over your own feet."

Ron shook his head disbelievingly and stepped through the door. As he did, he simpered, "Thankyou, Draco."

"It was my pleasure," said Draco, sweetly. Harry chuckled, shaking his head, and stepping through the doorway, followed by Draco.

This room was almost the complete opposite to the last one. It was simply huge, far bigger than the entrance hall, the roof was made of blackened glass, and the stone walls were lavishly decorated in long velvet drapes of royal purple. Delicate silver embroidery in the luxurious material glittered in the lights of the pearlescent white candles shlimmering everywhere. Magical telescopes were spread out around the hall, pointed out at the sky beyond, and in the very centre of the room was a huge glass ball, bigger than all of them, and inside was a fully moving, breath-takingly beautiful model of the galaxy.

"Gosh," said Hermione, excitedly. "The Astronomy Hall. I read about it in "Hogwarts : A History", but I never thought I'd actually be here. Of course, I didn't take Astronomy... I wish I had now. This is rather beautiful, isn't it? Oh, a lunarscope! I've always wanted to see one of these. I really wish I'd taken Astronomy now, but Professor McGonagall said I shouldn't - "

"Hermione, give it a rest," Ron groaned, massaging his head. "My ears can only take so much, you know."

They were distracted at that moment, as Professor Sinistra stepped out from behind the glass ball where she had apparently been standing all along, unnoticed by the four of them. She was a tall woman, very slim, tapered and elegant, with skin nearly as pale as Snape's, and dark purple and black hair, tousled around her thin shoulders, one half falling in front of her face. Her attire was usually black or purple, made of velvet, and today was no exception. Her cloak swept along the ground as she walked, and as she passed into the pool of light from a bundle of candles, the half-moon pendant around her neck gleamed with bright silver light.

"Good afternoon," she said, her black-inked lips curling into a smile. "May I help you?"

"Ah, Professor," said Draco. He smiled politely, his pale eyes glittering, and at times like this, it was easy to see the Malfoy blood in him. "I came to ask a favour."

Her amethyst-coloured eyes travelled onto the other three, one thin eyebrow arching ever so slightly. "And you brought back-up in case you somehow perished during the journey?"

"No, no," said Draco, smiling corteously. "The four of us are here to ask for a favour. In truth, Harry probably knows far more about the matter than I, but we thought it best if I came to show them the way."

"And what would this favour be?" she asked.

"In a few days, two fully grown dragons will be arriving from Romania," said Draco. "One is a female, expecting a child fairly soon, and this particular breed gives birth to live young. We need to find a suitable place for them to stay, and the only place that we can think of currently is the Astronomy Hall."

Her thin eyebrows rose a little. "Dragons? In the Astronomy Hall? That would disrupt the classes somewhat, don't you think?"

"We presumed that the equipment and classes would be moved elsewhere," said Draco. "There are a great deal of empty classrooms perfectly well-suited to astronomy and the objects used for its study."

"Hmm..." Sinistra looked rather thoughtful for a moment, her soft purple eyes lingering on Draco. "If there truly is no other place in school that they can be housed, then of course, I shall move."

"Thankyou, Professor," said Draco, with a gracious nod of his head. "I daresay that Hagrid and Professor Lupin will come up fairly soon to arrange the moving of all the equipment. Thankyou again."

"My pleasure," she replied, her eyes glittering as she smiled slowly, secretively, as though she knew things they didn't. She'd make a fair Divination teacher, Harry thought as they all turned away, and Draco lead them out of the hall, through the stone room, and back into the staircase.

"That was easy," said Draco, smiling.

"I didn't understand a word of what either of you said," Ron announced.

Draco chuckled. "It's called 'talking properly', Weasley."

"Yeah, and if you say one more thing against me I'm going to hit you so hard you won't be able to 'talk properly' for the rest of your life."

"Touche, Weasley, touche."


"Never mind."


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