Chapter Thirty-Three: Hagrid the Granny
Harry looked up at Snape, and couldn't really think of anything to say. He knew Snape was partially right. Or, at least, Harry couldn’t see Snape as a friend, or a husband, or an adulterer. He could picture Snape in the long, sweeping black robes of a Death Eater, the white mask, the Dark Mark tattooed on his arm. With a funny stab inside him, he remembered Snape cleaning his wounds after the brawl with Blaise Zabini, and imagining him as an uncle or a father for one instant. And as always, he could see Snape as the vile, spiteful Potions master he had always been.
Snape smirked lazily. "You do, don't you?"
"Partly," said Harry. "I... it's just that... well, Ron doesn't see you as a professor anymore, and Ron's the one I talk with most. He just sees you as a Death Eater. It's the only view of you I've got that somebody else shares."
Snape's dark eyes glittered, amused, as he sat back in his chair, watching Harry over steepled fingers. "My Potions mistress was an artist's model. She posed naked for a lot of muggle painters. According to the whispers I heard during lessons, the boys in the class could never look at her without seeing her naked. Black, I believe, was most badly affected by this. It was perhaps the reason he took Potions at NEWT level... but how odd. I never imagined myself being viewed in only one way."
"So it's nothing to do with Voldemort," said Harry, promptingly.
"No, it isn't, Potter." Snape surveyed him closely for a moment, languishing back in his black leather chair, shadows cast over half his face and candlelight washing across the other. "Clearly, I overestimated you. Have you never learnt about wizard marriage?"
Harry shook his head. "There was no need to... why? Is it different to muggle marriage?"
"At one point, it wasn't overly different," said Snape. "Of course, that time was several thousand years ago. At one point, wizards and muggles lived in relative harmony. I daresay Professor Binns has fruitlessly tried to teach you all this, and failed miserably... however... this time was when most magical folklore came out. I believe muggles refer to what wizards know as truth as fiction. Fairies, griffins, unicorns, phoenixes, magic... they all crop up in various muggle fairy tales at some point. Of course, muggles could not live peacefully with us for long. They have a distinct fear of things which are different - whether race, gender, sexuality, religion, or any number of things. And so wizards went into hiding."
Harry listened to him avidly, and realised that he was actually learning History of Magic and wanted to know more.
"For several centuries, the muggles kept some of our practices and some of our beliefs," said Snape. "Muggle tales of the time refer constantly to the magical community. The main belief they kept was of marriage, though in truth, it is not so much a belief but a practice. Muggles are simple creatures, even more simple than Hogwarts students. They copy what they see. For centuries, muggles witnessed wizarding marriages. A man and wife are bonded together in a ceremony, and that bond is sacred. Under no terms must it be broken. Once a wizard and witch agree to marry, they are together for the rest of their lives. Muggles saw this, and like the brainless creatures they are, they copied us. Up until the time of one of their kings, Henry VIII, divorce was forbidden in most of England, for the country was almost completely Catholic."
"And then he made his own church," said Harry, who remembered this part from his history classes at his old muggle school. "So he could divorce his wife without the pope's permission."
Snape nodded. "Indeed. The divorce rates worldwide were also incredibly low. Muggle marriages were admittedly very strong, almost as much as wizarding marriages. And then divorce was allowed, and the sanctity of muggle marriage slowly fell. It's still descending now. A quarter of all marriages end in divorce."
"But... why haven't wizard marriages fallen like that?" asked Harry.
Snape smiled grimly. "The bond involved in wizard marriages cannot be broken, Potter, by any means at all except one - death. As long as both partners are alive, the bond will work within their minds to keep them loving each other until their dying days. And, of course, this is where my situation enters the equation... adultery."
Harry thought for a moment, and then worded his question carefully, trying very hard not to say anything offensive. "Somebody who tries to intrude into the bond is given bad luck, aren't they? Is that why...?"
Snape nodded. "The bond between Rookwood and his wife is doing everything within its power to make me pay most dearly. You witnessed my magic break at Grimmauld Place? And yes, the terrible luck comes with it."
"Why don't... why don't you give up? The bond's going to do something really bad eventually, isn't it? It might..."
"Kill me," Snape finished. "And yes. Eventually, it will."
"Then why are you doing this? It's not worth your life," said Harry, desperately. "If the only way to break the bond is to kill Rookwood, you should kill Rookwood before you carry on, or wait for somebody else to kill Rookwood. You'll die if you keep going." He paused, and then went blindly onwards, saying, "Dumbledore won't want you to die. What about me? What am I going to do if you're dead? Who's going to give me an electric shock whenever I do anything dangerous?"
"Calm yourself, Potter," Snape said, quietly. "I have things under control... nothing incriminating has happened for a long time and it shall stay that way until Rookwood is dead."
"Were they already married when you met her?" Harry asked.
Snape shook his head. "No. I knew her for a very long time before he did. I met her in my sixth year... then he tore her from my side and made sure she could never be mine again. He married her."
Harry looked down, wondering what to say. After a moment or so, he managed, "I'm sorry..."
"What is there to be sorry about, Potter?" asked Snape, raising an eyebrow. "I'd have thought that you would be delighted by that story."
Harry shook his head, the vision of Mark Erith swimming across hid mind, of Cho, telling him there was somebody else. "No. I know you don't think I'm a very thoughtful person... I know what that's like though. Rookwood should die for that."
"Should he?" said Snape, his other eyebrow arching upwards. "Just for marrying somebody?"
Harry shook his head again, and this time, he saw Draco stroking the thestral gently on Hogsmeade station, and he remembered that it was Rookwood who killed Lucius Malfoy in front of his son. "Not just for that. For a lot of things." He paused, thinking of something, and looking up to meet Snape's dark gaze. "Professor?"
Snape had got out of his seat, and was strolling over to the corner sorting through various jars and bottles on a shelf. "Mm, Potter?"
"Why are you telling me all of this? Why do you trust me?" Harry got up, and followed him, resting against a cauldron. "No offence, but you're not the sort of person to spill all your secrets to somebody like me..."
Snape smiled slightly, selecting a bottle from the shelf, eyeing the label, and putting it back. "The guardian bond, Potter."
"What about it?"
"Admittedly, I never thought this would happen with our particular bond," said Snape, coolly. "It has more uses that just protecting you physically, or alerting me when you're in danger. Some bonds almost become a thing of trust... should the subject wish to confide in their guardian, the guardian will be unable to repeat the things they hear to anybody else. The bond inside you is aware of this, and so should I confide in you, you won't be able to repeat them either. It's a marvellous system."
"Then why were you always so worried about me telling Ron and Hermione about your secrets?" Harry asked, frowning.
"I didn't want to believe the trust factor had entered the bond," said Snape. He took down another bottle, and this time, it was the correct one. "Ah... open wide, Potter."
"What is it?" said Harry, worriedly, backing away a little when Snape advanced with the potion.
"Anti-food poisoning draft," said Snape. He uncorked the bottle, and handed it to Harry. "The Risotta is still a threat."
Harry drained the bottle slowly, closing his eyes again the horrible, sour taste. Once he was done, he wrinkled his noses, handing to back to Snape and wiping his mouth. "You couldn't make it a little sweeter, could you?"
Snape smirked. "Its need to work well far outstrips its need to taste nice. When you're lifting a spoonful of poison to your lips, Potter, you’ll - "
There was a knock on the door then, and Snape whipped around. Harry, caught by surprise and Snape's elbow, gave a startled cry and tumbled backward into one of the cauldrons with a loud thump. He cringed, only his legs sticking out of the top, knowing how stupid he must look.
"Professor?" he called, muffled because his chin was squashed against his chest. "A little help?"
"I got the right room then," said a soft, amused female voice. Harry instantly shut up and listened hard, trying to peer of the top of the cauldron.
"Mmm, you did," said Snape, vaguely, turning away and looking down at Harry in the cauldron. "I know you're a little spineless sometimes, Potter, but hiding whenever anybody knocks on the door is taking things a little far, don't you think?"
Harry squirmed slightly and opened his mouth to tell Snape to stop being such a jerk and talk to her, but he was slowly realising that there was some dried potion left in this cauldron, and it was burning a hole through the seat of his trousers. As a result of his wriggling, Snape's girlfriend noticed him.
"Boiling students again, Severus?" There was the sound of heels on the stone floor, and that woman appeared at Snape's side, looking down at Harry with a smile on her clever face. "Ah... Harry Potter. I wondered when I'd meet you."
"S'a pleasure," said Harry, sniffily, lifting his pelvis up as much as possible to stop his trousers dissolving completely.
"Aren't you going to introduce us, Sev?" she said, with a raised eyebrow and a cool smile.
Snape's right-eye twitched at being addressed with a pet name in public, and he muttered, "This is Potter. Potter, this is Andralyn."
Andralyn? Harry wondered for a moment where he'd heard that name before. "Hello," he said, breathlessly, aware his legs were still up in the air like television aerials.
"It's a pleasure," she said, in that soft purr. She leant down into the cauldron, offering him a pale, delicate hand with long, perfectly manicured nails. He took it, expecting a handshake, but with surprising strength for such a slim woman, she helped him out of the cauldron and set him back on his feet. He made sure his back stayed facing the wall, to hide the sizzling hole in his trousers.
"Thanks," he said.
She smiled slightly, a very cool, clever sort of smirk. Snape had good taste, Harry thought.
The Potions master cleared his throat. "Is there a reason you came here, or have you joined the Helping School Boys Out Of Cauldrons squad?"
"Oh no, they turned down my membership." She smiled sweetly. "Dumbledore wants me to bring you to his office so all of us can talk about the... ah... situation as adults."
"Is Rookwood there?" said Snape, his eyes narrowing dangerously.
She chuckled. "Why yes, Severus, we've managed to track down a Death Eater who's on the run, and he came willingly into a school and agreed not to kill any children or Dumbledore. He also doesn't know that his wife is having an affair, but he seems really cool with it."
Snape rolled his eyes. "Sarcasm. How predictable of you." He glanced at Harry, and said, "Potter, I shall be back in ten min-"
"In an hour," she corrected. "In fact, why don't you pack up your things and - "
"Stay right where you are, Potter," Snape growled. "I shall be half an hour at the very most." He drew his wand from up his sleeve, and conjured a thick book titled, 'How To Con Muggles With Legilimency And The Pure Arts'. "I expect you to be able to convince the average muggle you're psychic by the time I get back."
Without another word, he swept along the rows of desks and pulled the door open, bringing a quick draft into the room that ruffled Harry’s hair. Andralyn smiled to Harry, a very pretty smile that would have had Draco quivering, and then followed Snape. As she was passing out of the door, Harry saw her pinch his cheek teasingly, and the snarl curling Snape's lips at the gesture, then the door slammed. The very moment that silence dawned, Harry yelped with pain and started to frantically fan his rear end with his hand, swearing.
The expression on Ron's face when Harry stepped into the common room, ripped off his robes and revealed a gaping hole in the backside of his trousers was something that Harry would never forget.
"What on earth did - "
"I sat in a potion," said Harry, angrily. "I've been clamping my robes around my backside for the last two hours."
"You sat in a potion," said Ron, with a look that suggested he didn't believe a word of it.
"It hurt," Harry blustered. "A lot! Snape's girlfriend had to get me out of the cauldron!"
Ron raised an eyebrow. "You were in a cauldron, and Snape's girlfriend had to get you out because you were sitting in a potion."
"Yes!" Harry said, grabbing his pajamas. Ron covered his eyes with a book as Harry changed, his third cousin still talking angrily. "And I'd appreciate a little sensitivity about it, actually."
Ron grinned into his hands. "Don't be like that, Harry. Just get some new trousers on and save the old ones, Hermione probably knows some weird Hole In Trousers Caused By Potions Stain charm. Maybe that's what that article was about."
"And Hermione can see into the future now, can she?"
"Sure, she probably taught herself it over the Christmas holidays. I wouldn't be surprised."
Harry pulled his pajama top on, doing up the buttons. "There, you can look." He carried his trousers over to his trunk and stuffed them in, slamming the lid, standing up and jumping with surprise as he came face to face with a large brown owl sitting on the windowsill outside, rapping on the glass. He pulled the window open, the owl handed him a letter scribbled quickly on a torn scrap of parchment, and then it flew off into the night again.
Frowning, Harry read the letter, and when he was finished, his face split into an excited grin. "Ron! Sly's having her baby! Hagrid just sent me a note!"
"What?" Ron was up and out of bed instantly. "We've got to go down there!"
Harry stuffed the letter from Hagrid into his pocket, grabbing the invisibility cloak and putting on his slippers so quickly that he didn't notice that one was Ron's, and they were on the wrong feet. Ron tugged his Chudley Cannons dressing gown on over his pajamas, and they both hurried out into the dark corridor.
"Which way is it again?" said Ron, looking around. "I can't recognise this place in the dark."
"Shhh," said Harry. He threw the invisibility cloak over them both, making sure no body parts were sticking out, and then said, quietly, "It's this way. We head for the astronomy tower, then there's that door... it won't be hard..."
They set off down the darkened corridors, moving quietly and slowly, always checking there was nobody around. Technically, Ron was allowed out at night, but it would seem suspicious if he was in his pajamas and a bright orange dressing gown, heading up to the astronomy tower. There was only one place in the school that was better guarded that the astronomy tower, and that was Snape's dungeons. Any students found creeping around the dungeons at night would be sliced into little pieces and turned into a photograph-developing potion the next day by Snape's first class. Professor Sinistra was apparently just as protective of her chambers, and the astronomy tower was the cleverest place in school.
As they neared the entrance hall, both of them slowly became aware of an odd sound, like lots of small children doing farm animal impressions. When they passed the marble staircase, they saw Charlie Weasley chasing opsittops around the entrance hall, trying to put them back in a large cardboard box at the foot of the stairs. The sneezy opsittop was making a break for freedom up the marble steps, having to hop to grab the edge of each one and haul himself up, sneezing every few seconds. Ron made a funny noise as Sneezy disappeared under the invisibility cloak, hiding from Charlie, but luckily, Charlie didn't notice.
"Get it out," Ron whispered.
"Shhh," Harry hissed. "He'll go out soon on his own."
Ron yelped then, and Harry dug his elbow hard into Ron's side, exceptionally glad that Charlie was being harassed by the opsittops and didn't hear Ron's surprised yell. Ron choked, "It's going up my trouser leg, Harry."
"Shake it out," Harry said, "and be quiet! Charlie might hear you!"
Ron shifted next to him, and there was a thump, a sneeze, and Ron sighed. "It's out. Come on, quick, before it tries to turn my trousers into a ladder again."
They hurried off, darting quickly down a corridor. Harry had just stopped to try and work out which way it was to the astronomy tower when Ron gasped.
"It's following us!"
Sneezy was pattering down the corridor after them, arms outstretched, as though looking for a hug, making a high-pitched squeaking sound as he ran. "Can it see us?" Harry whispered, his eyes wide.
"Apparently not," said Ron, as Sneezy sprinted right past them, still squeaking. The little opsittop stopped, looking very confused and blinking around at the darkness. "Come on." Ron nudged Harry in the leg, and they started to walk very quietly along the corridor, desperate not to have Sneezy follow them all the way there trying to cuddle Ron's leg.
Sneezy still looked confused, his big green eyes welling with little tears, and then to their surprise, he said, in a voice that was perfectly like Ron's, "Harry?"
Harry stopped, staring at it. Ron froze next to him, and whispered, "It can talk!"
"No it can't, it just heard you," said Harry.
"Harry?" Sneezy croaked. He looked around the darkness with wide eyes, looking frightened. "Ron?"
"Oh, we can't leave it," Ron whispered. "Look at it. It's going to cry."
Harry sighed, and lifted up the corner of the invisibility cloak. "Sneezy! Get in here, and stay quiet!"
Sneezy's eyes widened, and his face split into delight as he pattered over, squeaking again. Ron jumped and hissed, "It's hugging my leg again, Harry!"
"He's not doing any harm," said Harry. "Don't kick him. Come on, Sly might have had her baby by now."
They set off again, Harry constantly telling Ron to stop complaining, Ron moaning about Sneezy, and Sneezy sitting comfortably on Ron's shoe, making a happy gurgling sort of noise in between his sneezing. After what seemed like hours, they found the door in the staircase, got through the other room with the stone tiled walls, and emerged in the dragon enclosure.
Hagrid and Draco were already there. With a great deal of bravery Harry thought, Draco was sitting by Sly's head, draping wet towels over her neck and face. Obviously, cooling charms wouldn't work. Dragon skin repelled most charms and hexes. Hagrid stood by her stomach, rubbing her gently and checking on the baby. Norbert was prowling around the place looking like most fathers did before their first child was born, and when Harry and Ron drew off the cloak, he came right over and gave them a good sniffing. Ron stood frozen-still, quivering in his bright orange dressing gown, as Norbert eyed him closely.
Sneezy wasn't quite as scared as Ron. He stared back at Norbert when it was his turn to be smelt, and gave a curious, "Oooooooooh," punctuated by a loud sneeze. Norbert drew back, revolted, and let them pass, clearly worried he would be covered in opsittop spit again.
Harry went over to sit with Draco. The Slytherin looked very agitated. His blonde hair was splayed all around his shoulders and he was still wearing a very ruffled school uniform, his tie half undone, shirt untucked, robes thrown vaguely over a stool nearby. "Pass me another towel," he said over his shoulder. Harry handed him one, and Draco draped it carefully over Sly's forehead. She made a high, weary keening sound in thanks.
"How long's she been like this?" Harry asked, rolling up the sleeves of his pajamas and conjuring more towels to dunk in the water.
"Few hours," said Draco. He sighed tiredly. "Dragon births can be as fast as an hour, or as long as a few days. Think Quidditch match lengths."
"Oh, great," said Harry, slightly sarcastically.
Everybody present winced as Sly gave a high, echoing keening cry, her powerful claws lashing out and knocking a mountain of bales of hay to the floor. Ron yelled, the straw cascading down on top of him and knocking him over. For the next fifteen minutes, Sneezy sat in a corner, mimicking Ron's cry perfectly, until Ron tried to dunk the little opsittop in Sly's water trough, and Sneezy shut up pretty quickly.
The hours slid past, the candles burning lower and lower until the ceiling was cast with spidery shadows and everything was gloomy and dark. Charlie Weasley appeared with the rest of the opsittops, and he and Ron spent the night keeping them entertained, while Harry, Draco and Hagrid attended to Sly. It was two in the morning before Harry even realised how late it was, and how low his eyelids were drooping.
"Draco," he said, sleepily. "Wake up."
Draco woke up with a soft snort of surprise, just stopping himself from falling face down into the warm water for the towels. "What?"
"There's a dragon in labour, if you forgot," said Harry. He rubbed his eyes tiredly, taking another towel out of the water and draping it vaguely across Sly's neck, though it did nothing really. The dragon keened again, her tail thrashing to one side and nearly decapitating Hagrid.
Draco groaned, running his hands wearily through his hair. "I'm tired. I smell of dragon dung. My hair is a mess. There's straw on my clothes. I shouldn't have to do this... I want to be an astronomer for Merlin's sake. I'm not going to be running around some horrid, straw-ridden, cold, dark - "
His words were cut out instantly as Sly gave a horrible, piercing, keening screech that Harry at first thought was the siren. Everybody clamped their hands over their ears, even the opsittops, as Sly continued to thrash around, knocking candles from the walls and upsetting several large barrels of water, sending it gushing everywhere. Draco yelled, "I don't BELIEVE it!!" as he was completely drenched from the waist down in the flood, and for the few seconds of quiet afterwards, he stamped his foot, looking as though he was going to cry. "That's it!! I quit!! Stuff your stupid dragon, I don't care!!"
But he fell quiet, and so did Harry, as a soft, almost silent sound met their ears. A tiny, gentle little whimpering sound. They turned around to look, as Hagrid came into view, a damp towel bundle in his huge arms. They all fell instantly silent, and the whimpering grew a little louder, as Hagrid brought the bundle over to them, and knelt down.
The baby dragon was tiny, barely the size of a rabbit, his bottle green scales damp and delicate-looking, his wings crumpled around himself, two tiny little stubby horns just visible on top of his head. He mewled softly. Harry felt a tug in his heart. Hagrid apparently did as well. There were tears of joy leaking into his beard. Charlie appeared at Hagrid's shoulder, followed by a crowd of curious opsittops, and Harry could almost see the lump in Charlie's throat.
"S'beautiful," Hagrid choked.
"Yep," said Charlie, in an oddly strangled voice.
Sly gave a shrill snort, tilting her head wearily towards them, sniffing gently for her baby. Hagrid and Charlie both walked over and sat by her head. Hagrid held out the tiny little baby dragon, and Harry watched, fascinated, as Sly nuzzled her little one gently. The baby coughed a little, almost a squeak, his little arms reaching out and pawing at her snout. Hagrid choked back a sob of what sounded like, "That's my grandson", and then they all shivered slightly, as Sly began to sing.
It was one of the most beautiful things Harry had ever heard. Soft and high, gentle, soothing, the complete opposite of what dragons were in the eyes of most wizards. Harry felt as though he was being wrapped up in a thick, snuggly blanket, getting smaller, rolling over to cuddle against somebody warm and soft, hearing a woman's voice singing softly, a song he couldn't remember and yet could never forget. He became very dimly aware of voices somewhere inside his mind, and above him, somebody came into view, and a hand smoothed around the back of his head.
"He's beautiful, isn't he, James?" said a soft, sweet voice that made something tug painfully inside him.
"Almost as much as his mother..." came the reply, gentle and calm. Harry felt something strong from that voice. Something that said he was safe. Something that told him he'd never be hungry, or never be cold, or never alone.
Very vaguely, his thoughts faded away, bringing back the hunger pains stabbing in his stomach, and the cold of the Astronomy Hall. He looked around. Everybody else seemed to have gone through the same thing. Harry and Charlie were smiling. But Hagrid and Draco looked just like Harry felt. Very alone indeed.
"What was that?" said Harry, as Sly continued to sing to her baby.
"A mother dragon's song," said Charlie. He smiled softly. "It brings back memories of being very small. Your own mother singing to you."
Draco's head tilted forward, his hair falling down over his eyes, perhaps to hide something. Hagrid shook his head and said, "Well. Where's the opsittops? We need teh teach 'em the song."
The opsittops, however, were already learning. They stood in a little crowd around Charlie's feet, staring up at the dragons with wide, desperately excited eyes, swaying from left to right in time to the song. Harry could practically see the recognition dawning in their little faces. One or two started to hum. Somebody was whistling along to the tune. A few more started murmuring, picking up a few definite notes, and then a couple of little voices got braver, singing softly. It took just a few seconds more, before the entire herd of opsittops started singing, warbling the beautiful song back to Sly and her baby, all perfectly in tune, a little choir of opsittops. Charlie started humming along, and then Hagrid did, and Harry found himself whistling the tune gently, and soon everybody in the dragon enclosure was singing together. The sound echoed around the stone walls, making the candles flicker in their flames, and even Draco was singing past his tears for the parents he lost. Harry could imagine the whole castle echoing the sound back, high and soft, lighting up the whole of Hogwarts for the little baby dragon.
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