- Chapter Fourteen -
"The grounds?" Peter suggested. "The lake looks pretty... We could go there."
Sirius and James ignored him.
"How about the Forbidden Forest?" said James in an excited whisper. "I heard there are all sorts of creatures in there, like centaurs and acromantula and werewolves-"
But Remus stamped on that idea. "Uh, clue's in the title," he said dryly. "The Forbidden Forest. As in, the forest that you're not supposed to go in. Probably because it's... um... dangerous."
Sirius groaned. "It can't be that dangerous," he said.
Remus raised an eyebrow. "What, with its giant, human-eating spiders and murderous beasts? No, it can't be dangerous at all..."
"Oh, all right, we've got the point," said Sirius, folding his arms.
They had stopped walking about ten yards from a small, wooden cabin.
"So, not the Forbidden Forest then?" asked James, scrunching up his forehead to think.
"The lake?" Peter suggested hopefully.
"No, that's boring," said James. He glanced around and saw the hut. "Hang on... What's in that hut? D'you reckon someone lives there?"
The others followed his gaze. "Probably Hagrid," said Remus lightly, watching a trickle of smoke unfurl from the mossy chimney. "He is the gamekeeper, after all."
"Shall we go and visit?" asked Sirius, already starting towards the cabin's front door. He knocked hard on the wood and the sound of muffled barking greeted them, followed by a scrabble of claws.
Hagrid's voice rang out from somewhere inside. "Get back, Fang... Back, yeh lazy dog..." He threw open the front door and the boys were faced with his vast body.
"Hi, Hagrid," said James loudly, grinning broadly at the surprised look on the gamekeeper's face. "We're first-years. You probably don't know who we are, do you?"
Hagrid smiled under his bushy brown beard, his beetle black eyes crinkling at the corners. "No, I don'," he said cheerfully. "But I recognise yeh a bit from the firs' night."
"I'm James," said James, as Hagrid stood back to let them inside. "James Potter."
Hagrid's eyebrows shot up. "Potter, eh?" he said, closing the door behind them.
Immediately, the large black boarhound - who Hagrid quickly introduced as 'Fang' - came bounding up to them and started licking their ears.
"Yeh father'll be Fleamont Potter, then?" asked Hagrid, pulling Fang off by the collar. "Inventor o' tha' haircare potion everyone's bin goin' on about?"
"Sleekeazy's haircare potion," James corrected him automatically. "And, yes, he is my dad."
"Interestin'," said Hagrid. He pulled out some chairs at the large wooden table. "An' who are the others?"
"I'm Sirius," said Sirius at once, holding out his hand for Hagrid to shake. He winced slightly as Hagrid shook his whole arm with one of his dustbin-lid-sized hands. "Sirius Black. But I'm not like the rest of my family, I promise."
Hagrid looked him up and down, taking in his Gryffindor robes. "I s'pose not," he said at last, gruffly turning to put the kettle on. "Yeh must be the firs' Black teh be put in Gryffindor in... well, it could be forever."
"I'm Remus Lupin, Hagrid," said Remus quietly, smiling as Hagrid offered him his hand. "And this is Peter Pettigrew."
"Know yer father too," grunted Hagrid to Remus as the kettle billowed thick clouds of white steam. "Great with dark creatures, he is. I never knew the Pettigrews so much, though. I've heard o' them occasionally..." He passed them all a hot mug of tea and they sat down gratefully to drink it.
Peter chose that moment to look around the cabin.
It was clearly built as a one-roomed house. A large, brightly-quilted bed stood in one corner and several hams had been hung from the ceiling. In the left corner, there sat a basket of wool (Hagrid evidently enjoyed knitting) and next to it was...
"Hagrid, what's that?" James asked suddenly, pointing at a wooden crate between the knitting and the table. It was shivering slightly and kept emitting a strange buzzing, like a swarm of angry bees.
Hagrid glanced at the spot James was looking at. "Oh, tha'," he said vaguely, waving an enormous hand. "Tha's just a crate o' Doxies. I got 'em a couple o' days ago, jus' before term started. I've been hatching 'em."
Remus' eyes widened. "A crate of Doxies, Hagrid?" he asked, peering apprehensively at the crate. If he looked closely, he could just make out a flurry of dark shapes buzzing around within. "Hagrid, you do know that Doxies are venomous, don't you? You're going to have to be careful if you let them out the crate."
Hagrid chuckled. "Like father, like son," he said cheerfully, turning his back on the Doxy crate and smiling at Remus through his beard. "An' I know they're venomous," he added. "I got a bottle o' Doxycide in me cupboard."
He took a swig from his enormous mug of tea, then looked at them thoughtfully. "How're yeh findin' Hogwarts?" he asked at length. "Been getting teh yer classes all right?"
"No," said Sirius at once. "We were late to our first lesson. Then Remus was late for Herbology. But we've enjoyed Hogwarts so far."
Hagrid grunted. "Well, tha's something, I s'pose. It's always hard findin' yer way in the firs' week. But it'll get easier, I can promise yeh."
"How did you find Hogwarts, Hagrid?" asked Peter timidly, watching Fang, who was drooling all over his knees.
Hagrid shifted uncomfortably and glanced towards the back door, where a flowery pink umbrella had been propped. "I- Well, teh tell the truth, I was... I was expelled from Hogwarts in me third year."
Remus gasped. "You were expelled?" he whispered. "But why?"
Hagrid shifted again and raised his voice. "Look, It's nearly the end o' break. Yeh'd better get goin' teh yer next lesson. It was nice ter meet yeh, but I'll see yeh another time." He stood up and they took the hint to leave, bidding Hagrid goodbye as they began the walk up to the castle.
"I wonder what he was expelled for," said James thoughtfully. "I'll write to Dad and ask him. Maybe he'll know."
But Mr Potter didn't know. His answer arrived two days later as the first-years sat down for breakfast.
Dear James, (the letter read)
Congratulations on being sorted into Gryffindor. And I'm glad you've made some new friends.
No, I don't know why Rubeus Hagrid was expelled from Hogwarts, although I seriously don't think you should start trying to find out. Unless Hagrid wants to tell you, you don't have the business to know.
Your mother has asked me to tell you to wash your underwear-
"Urgh, Mum!" said James, when he read this bit to the others.
-and make sure you put on clean socks. I doubt the other boys will thank you for stinking the place out.
Have a great rest of the week.
Lots of love,
Dad (and Mum).
PS: Don't think I haven't noticed that my invisibility cloak's gone missing!
James finished reading, grinned and shook his head at the others. "Oh, well. Dad won't use the cloak, anyway. It'd just be gathering dust if I'd left it at home."
"You've got an invisibility cloak?" asked Remus, impressed.
James nodded. "Well, yeah. Kind of. It's my dad's at the moment, but he says he'll give it to me eventually. I brought it with me, though, without him knowing. Although I guess he knows now."
"Wow, said Remus, who was busy writing a letter to his own parents, something he'd completely forgotten to do until James' letter reminded him.
"Aren't invisibility cloaks really rare?" Peter asked, watching James fold up the letter and tuck it neatly into his pocket.
"Yeah," said James, shrugging. "They are. Our one's been in my family for ages."
"We can use it for sneaking around the castle!" said Sirius excitedly, shovelling scrambled egg into his already-bulging mouth. He chewed for a couple of minutes, then swallowed. "Or playing tricks on people."
"We could even use it to spy on conversations," said James, equally as excitedly.
A couple of late owls swooped overhead, delivering mail to their owners.
"Or we could-" But James stopped speaking very suddenly. A handsome screech owl was flying towards them, with something large and red in its beak.
Everyone looked around to see who the red letter was for.
I'll be posting updates on Saturdays, from now on. For now, however, here's a new chapter. It's a bit shorter than usual :)
If you liked it, please feel free to leave your thoughts - thanks!
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