All in the Family
Chapter 15: Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback
The walls were painted sky blue, the carpet a faded warm brown hinting at many years passing along leaving a permanent tread. The walls were covered in several posters that James didn't recognize of bands, but also several hand done, and extremely accurate, drawings of dragons that someone had magicked to life for this kid, flying around through each others edges.
It was crowded, the sparse bit of walking space nonexistent with the eight of them all in here at once, hardly much bigger than Harry's cupboard; but the love and care that went into this room was evident.
Lily came forward towards a desk crammed into the back corner and brushed her hand against a greyling snoozing, little blue plums of smoke escaping from its pointed head, the back end of which wasn't quite done. It was clear details were still being added of feathers to the long extended tail.
"Well I officially have no clue where we are," Peter muttered. He'd been the lucky one to land on the bed, but he had automatically moved to the edge and crossed his ankles, swinging his feet uncomfortably like he expected the occupant to appear and tell him to take his shoes off.
"Hey, wasn't one of Ron's brothers a dragon trainer or something?" Alice asked, leaning against the door with the book already in her hands.
"Dragon keeper," the older Black corrected with a look of disgust, clearly unable to grasp the concept of why anyone would want such a thing.
"I'm getting the feeling Harry's going to have some interactions with him then," she returned pleasantly, then read out the chapter title.
Black groaned in disgust and shook his shoulders like he was trying to shake off a nat before slouching over to the window and prodding along the edge like he was going to try and jump out.
"He has a thing against dragons," Potter pleasantly informed all of them needlessly.
Regulus frowned in sympathy, but knowing his brother would only snap his head off if he tried to say anything, he instead went back to investigating the picture. He was sure no one else had even noticed it, but he'd landed right in front of what must be the Weasley family.
It sat proudly against the wall, coupled in with so many other pictures of things it probably went unnoticed despite the red haired family. Regulus couldn't take his eyes off of it. He could easily identify the twins, chasing each other around every inch of available grass and weaving in between their fathers legs who was juggling the infant, whatever that little girls name had been, and who must be Ron hanging off his dad's arm to get his attention. The mother had her arms around the last three all at once, and looked exasperated, but the adoring smile on her face showed she wouldn't be anywhere else.
There was no other context, no telling what was going on before or after it was taken, why the kids were all so rambunctious or who had even taken the photo. It simply captured the moment of the one clear thing Charlie enjoyed in his life, the chaos of his family. It was baffling! All Regulus had ever known was the structure of his family tree, the rules and consequences through watching Sirius break those.
The story wasn't progressing with much interest to anyone even when Hagrid arrived. None knew him that well, so maybe he was always shifty when asked a direct question, though the oddity of him being in the school library when he'd never been known there before was keeping their attention. Ron's discovery just made it all click in a despicable way.
"A dragon! That mad gamekeeper has a dragon in his cabin! A Norwegian Ridgeback on top of everything!"
Remus covered his ears for the volume, but still looked more sympathetic than anything for Sirius' screeching.
"If I ever catch that man doing anything of the sort now I'll add him to my list right after I-"
"Alright Padfoot," James easily roped his arm around him to cut off what three just saw as a tantrum. Those who did know could only wince in sympathy with no real words of comfort for this. James kept trying anyways, "there's no dragons here-"
Then he cut off with a wince at his own stupidity as Sirius snorted in disgust and had to fight back the temptation to burn the walls into real fire.
"What's his problem?" Frank muttered to Alice.
"As if I know," she reminded. She was tempted to ask Regulus who clearly knew, but even though she could see his face he hadn't looked away from the wall this whole time, was still making no attempts to reach out and communicate with any of them, and she wasn't going to force her hand.
Lily, honestly felt a bit of pity for this. She'd never stopped to consider any of them with actual fears, human moments like Black was now showing. All she'd ever seen was their likes, one like to be exact, of their horrid ways against her friend. Now she was watching Potter, all three of them try to comfort their friend in by far the kindest thing she'd ever seen.
His mood only worsened when the kids went to Hagrid's, Hagrid only confirmed what none of them were surprised about. It made sense all of the teachers and not just Quirrell would put up some protection for this thing Dumbledore was protecting. No, it just kept going downhill that there was indeed an egg roasting away in Hagrid's fireplace.
"I actually kind of liked the three headed dog, that was cool once it wasn't trying to eat him anymore! The troll was a menace, but at least manageable! Your kid just couldn't stop there Prongs! A dragon, and it's all Hagrid's fault," Sirius kept up his insistent mutter, trying to push the arm away and get the dang window open that no force of magic or willpower was accomplishing. He was boiling up in here, he could swear those little flickers coming from the end of the dragon's nostrils were coming to life and fixing to leap right off the page towards him-
"Breath Pads," Moony was trying to soothe by instead changing the subject. Which actually made Malfoy feel useful for the first time. "Let's focus instead on plotting ways of getting Malfoy expelled."
"Why do you think he didn't just run off and tell on them?" Peter did ask curiously. "What does he have to gain by sitting on this information?"
"Don't know," James begrudgingly said, "but it's the first actual intelligent thing he's done. Looking for an advantage rather than just jumping around to get them in trouble."
Regulus looked up and around at them in surprise, it was the first kind thing he'd ever heard them say about a Slytherin. Then he just assumed they were saying it to throw Sirius off, which wasn't really working. He frowned in a bit of concern now as his brother just got more silent and still when the dragon had hatched. His brother had never actually told them what had happened when he'd been left down in the Gringotts vault, but his parents hadn't paid it much concern since he couldn't have gotten inside to any of the importance, like the gold or heirlooms. Regulus had tried to ask, just out of curiosity, but Sirius had completely ignored him.
Now he was more irked than anything he'd clearly told his mates something, the obvious sympathy for him made that clear. He and Sirius may not have been getting on in recent years, but when had that amounted to he couldn't be told anything?
Alice had no liking for the beasts in particular, but the idea of a baby one was more charming than fearsome like Black seemed to find it, so she read on with cute little spirits about Hagrid's handling of this, up until it bit Ron.
"Okay, now we have a problem," Frank winced and took an extra step back from one particular orange faced lizard that had its fangs exposed. He overbalanced and fell on the bed next to Pettigrew, who raised a brow at him but otherwise ignored that.
"Norwegian Ridgebacks are poisonous," Lupin agreed in a still rather forced conversational tone, while his back was to everyone. He had poked his head under the desk curiously, and came back with a tiny little spindle chair which he nudge against Black, who seemed resistant to sitting down anymore than getting away from the window. "Hope he went to Madam Pomfrey, she never asks too many questions."
"I like to think even she'd demand where he got a dragon bite," Alice disagreed.
Lily flushed a bit but chose not to say anything, having personal experience with the matron not asking one to many questions from a few experimental potions accidents, so actually agreeing with one of the Marauders for once.
The decision to contact Charlie and his quick response was the best thing Sirius had heard this whole chapter, they were getting rid of that beast toot sweet! His small moment of happiness didn't last long.
Things only got worse for the kids dealing with this mess when Malfoy still managed to make everything worse. Thankfully the kids didn't derail their plan for this, Sirius had never heard of a better use of their cloak than riding that monster from their grounds! He just couldn't stop his imagination going haywire, that thing growing larger by the moment and getting loose on the grounds and then roaring so loud his ears started bleeding all while trying to shoot fire that just missed him from the tiny alcove he'd managed to squeeze himself into by the grace of Padfoot. That cart trundling away without him in it, his Uncle Cygnus, and Aunt Druella apparently deaf to his calls to come back. He could still swear he saw Bellatrix laughing as she slipped the goblin something when they turned the corner-
He'd been sat down in the chair without his noticing, Remus' hand firmly on his shoulder and smiling kindly down at him. He wasn't sure what he'd been saying, but it suddenly occurred to him that the weeks he'd been having his blowout with Moony had actually been the longest stretch of time he hadn't had to think about that. Even the weekly potions classes with its kindling cauldrons or some scaly beast Professor Kettleburn had brought to class had managed to remind him of the incident all year.
So lost in his mind, he'd completely missed the part where Malfoy had been caught by McGonagall, and he forced a laugh as Moony quietly explained it to him until Charlie's friends arrived. He'd kiss them both for taking this thing away, though just as likely never go within arms reach of anyone mad enough to handle these beasts for a living. "That whole incident was entirely pointless!" Sirius kept up his furious mutterings he'd been carrying this whole time. Alice was honestly impressed he hadn't run out of breath. "What was the point of that I ask you? It certainly could have been left out and saved me-"
So invested was he in his own rantings, he nearly missed the ending horror of Filch discovering them without their cloak. They got not a single second to live in their shock before they were once again torn away.