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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (page 10)


Judging by Professor Sprout's scowl, she did mind, but Lockhart said, “That's the ticket,” and closed the greenhouse door in her face.

“Harry,” said Lockhart, his large white teeth gleaming in the sunlight as he shook his head. “Harry, Harry, Harry.”

Completely nonplussed, Harry said nothing.

“When I heard -well, of course, it was all my fault. Could have kicked myself.”

Harry had no idea what he was talking about. He was about to say so when Lockhart went on, “Don't know when I've been more shocked. Flying a car to Hogwarts! Well, of course, I knew at once why you'd done it. Stood out a mile. Harry, Harry, Harry.”

It was remarkable how he could show every one of those brilliant teeth even when he wasn't talking.

“Gave you a taste for publicity, didn't I?” said Lockhart. “Gave you the bug. You got onto the front page of the paper with me and you couldn't wait to do it again.”

“Oh, no, Professor, see—”

“Harry, Harry, Harry,” said Lockhart, reaching out and grasping his shoulder. “I understand. Natural to want a bit more once you've had that first taste—and I blame myself for giving you that, be cause it was bound to go to your head—but see here, young man, you can't start flying cars to try and get yourself noticed. Just calm down, all right? Plenty of time for all that when you're older. Yes, yes, I know what you're thinking! 'It's all right for him, he's an internationally famous wizard already!' But when I was twelve, I was just as much of a nobody as you are now. In fact, Id say I was even more of a nobody! I mean, a few people have heard of you, haven't they? All that business with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!” He glanced at the lightning scar on Harry's forehead. “I know, I know—it's not quite as good as winning Witch Weekly's Most Charming-Smile Award five times in a row, as I have—but it's a start, Harry, it's a start.”

He gave Harry a hearty wink and strode off. Harry stood stunned for a few seconds, then, remembering he was supposed to be in the greenhouse, he opened the door and slid inside.

Professor Sprout was standing behind a trestle bench in the center of the greenhouse. About twenty pairs of different-colored ear muffs were lying on the bench. When Harry had taken his place between Ron and Hermione, she said, “We'll be repotting Mandrakes today. Now, who can tell me the properties of the Mandrake?” To nobody's surprise, Hermione's hand was first into the air.

“Mandrake, or Mandragora, is a powerful restorative,” said Hermione, sounding as usual as though she had swallowed the textbook. “It is used to return people who have been transfigured or cursed to their original state.”

“Excellent. Ten points to Gryffindor,” said Professor Sprout. “The Mandrake forms an essential part of most antidotes. It is also, however, dangerous. Who can tell me why?”

Hermione's hand narrowly missed Harry's glasses as it shot up again.

“The cry of the Mandrake is fatal to anyone who hears it,” she said promptly.

“Precisely. Take another ten points,” said Professor Sprout. “Now, the Mandrakes we have here are still very young.”

She pointed to a row of deep trays as she spoke, and everyone shuffled forward for a better look. A hundred or so tufty little plants, purplish green in color, were growing there in rows. They looked quite unremarkable to Harry, who didn't have the slightest idea what Hermione meant by the “cry” of the Mandrake.

“Everyone take a pair of earmuffs,” said Professor Sprout.

There was a scramble as everyone tried to seize a pair that wasn't pink and fluffy.

“When I tell you to put them on, make sure your ears are completely covered,” said Professor Sprout. “When it is safe to remove them, I will give you the thumbs-up. Right—earmuffs on.”

Harry snapped the earmuffs over his ears. They shut out sound completely. Professor Sprout put the pink, fluffy pair over her own ears, rolled up the sleeves of her robes, grasped one of the tufty plants firmly, and pulled hard.

Harry let out a gasp of surprise that no one could hear.

Instead of roots, a small, muddy, and extremely ugly baby popped out of the earth. The leaves were growing right out of his head. He had pale green, mottled skin, and was clearly bawling at the top of his lungs.

Professor Sprout took a large plant pot from under the table and plunged the Mandrake into it, burying him in dark, damp compost until only the tufted leaves were visible. Professor Sprout dusted off her hands, gave them all the thumbs-up, and removed her own earmuffs.

“As our Mandrakes are only seedlings, their cries won't kill yet,” she said calmly as though she'd just done nothing more exciting than water a begonia. “However, they will knock you out for several hours, and as I'm sure none of you want to miss your first day back, make sure your earmuffs are securely in place while you work. I will attract your attention when it is time to pack up.

“Four to a tray—there is a large supply of pots here—compost in the sacks over there—and be careful of the Venomous Tentacula, it's teething.”

She gave a sharp slap to a spiky, dark red plant as she spoke, making it draw in the long feelers that had been inching sneakily over her shoulder.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione were joined at their tray by a curly-haired Hufflepuff boy Harry knew by sight but had never spoken to.

“Justin Finch-Fletchley,” he said brightly, shaking Harry by the hand. “Know who you are, of course, the famous Harry Potter... And you're Hermione Granger—always top in everything...” (Hermione beamed as she had her hand shaken too) “and Ron Weasley. Wasn't that your flying car?”

Ron didn't smile. The Howler was obviously still on his mind.

“That Lockhart's something, isn't he?” said Justin happily as they began filling their plant pots with dragon dung compost. “Awfully brave chap. Have you read his books? Id have died of fear if Id been cornered in a telephone booth by a werewolf, but he stayed cool and—zap—just fantastic.

“My name was down for Eton, you know. I can't tell you how glad I am I came here instead. Of course, Mother was slightly disappointed, but since I made her read Lockhart's books I think she's begun to see how useful it'll be to have a fully trained wizard in the family...”

After that they didn't have much chance to talk. Their earmuffs were back on and they needed to concentrate on the Mandrakes. Professor Sprout had made it look extremely easy, but it wasn't. The Mandrakes didn't like coming out of the earth, but didn't seem to want to go back into it either. They squirmed, kicked, flailed their sharp little fists, and gnashed their teeth; Harry spent ten whole minutes trying to squash a particularly fat one into a pot.

By the end of the class, Harry, like everyone else, was sweaty, aching, and covered in earth. Everyone traipsed back to the castle for a quick wash and then the Gryffindors hurried off to Transfiguration.

Professor McGonagall's classes were always hard work, but today was especially difficult. Everything Harry had learned last year seemed to have leaked out of his head during the summer. He was supposed to be turning a beetle into a button, but all he managed to do was give his beetle a lot of exercise as it scuttled over the desktop avoiding his wand.

Ron was having far worse problems. He had patched up his wand with some borrowed Spellotape, but it seemed to be damaged beyond repair. It kept crackling and sparking at odd moments, and every time Ron tried to transfigure his beetle it engulfed him in thick gray smoke that smelled of rotten eggs. Unable to see what he was doing, Ron accidentally squashed his beetle with his elbow and had to ask for a new one. Professor McGonagall wasn't pleased.

Harry was relieved to hear the lunch bell. His brain felt like a wrung sponge. Everyone filed out of the classroom except him and Ron, who was whacking his wand furiously on the desk.

“Stupid—useless—thing—”

“Write home for another one,” Harry suggested as the wand let off a volley of bangs like a firecracker.

“Oh, yeah, and get another Howler back,” said Ron, stuffing the now hissing wand into his bag. “ `It's your own fault your wand got snapped—”

They went down to lunch, where Ron's mood was not improved by Hermione's showing them the handful of perfect coat buttons she had produced in Transfiguration.

“What've we got this afternoon?” said Harry, hastily changing the subject.

“Defense Against the Dark Arts,” said Hermione at once.

“Why, “demanded Ron, seizing her schedule, “have you outlined all Lockhart's lessons in little hearts?”

Hermione snatched the schedule back, blushing furiously.

They finished lunch and went outside into the overcast courtyard. Hermione sat down on a stone step and buried her nose in Voyages with Vampires again. Harry and Ron stood talking about Quidditch for several minutes before Harry became aware that he was being closely watched. Looking up, he saw the very small, mousy-haired boy he'd seen trying on the Sorting Hat last night staring at Harry as though transfixed. He was clutching what looked like an ordinary Muggle camera, and the moment Harry looked at him, he went bright red.

“All right, Harry? I'm -I'm Colin Creevey,” he said breathlessly, taking a tentative step forward. “I'm in Gryffindor, too. D'you think—would it be all right if—can I have a picture?” he said, raising the camera hopefully.

“A picture?” Harry repeated blankly.

“So I can prove I've met you,” said Colin Creevey eagerly, edging further forward. “I know all about you. Everyone's told me. About how you survived when You-Know-Who tried to kill you and how he disappeared and everything and how you've still got a lightning scar on your forehead” (his eyes raked Harry's hairline) “and a boy in my dormitory said if I develop the film in the right potion, the pictures'll move.” Colin drew a great shuddering breath of excitement and said, “It's amazing here, isn't it? I never knew all the odd stuff I could do was magic till I got the letter from Hogwarts. My dad's a milkman, he couldn't believe it either. So I'm taking loads of pictures to send home to him. And it'd be really good if I had one of you”—he looked imploringly at Harry—”maybe your friend could take it and I could stand next to you? And then, could you sign it?”

“Signed photos? You're giving out signed photos, Potter?”

Loud and scathing, Draco Malfoy's voice echoed around the courtyard. He had stopped right behind Colin, flanked, as he always was at Hogwarts, by his large and thuggish cronies, Crabbe and Goyle.

“Everyone line up!” Malfoy roared to the crowd. “Harry Potter's giving out signed photos!”

“No, I'm not,” said Harry angrily, his fists clenching. “Shut up, Malfoy.”

“You're just jealous,” piped up Colin, whose entire body was about as thick as Crabbe's neck.

“Jealous?” said Malfoy, who didn't need to shout anymore: half the courtyard was listening in. “Of what? I don't want a foul scar right across my head, thanks. I don't think getting your head cut open makes you that special, myself.”

Crabbe and Goyle were sniggering stupidly.

“Eat slugs, Malfoy,” said Ron angrily. Crabbe stopped laughing and started rubbing his knuckles in a menacing way.

“Be careful, Weasley,” sneered Malfoy. “You don't want to start any trouble or your Mommy'll have to come and take you away from school.” He put on a shrill, piercing voice. “If you put another toe out of line—”

A knot of Slytherin fifth-years nearby laughed loudly at this.

“Weasley would like a signed photo, Potter,” smirked Malfoy. “It'd be worth more than his family's whole house—”

Ron whipped out his Spellotaped wand, but Hermione shut Voyages with Vampires with a snap and whispered, “Look out!”

“What's all this, what's all this?” Gilderoy Lockhart was striding toward them, his turquoise robes swirling behind him. “Who's giving out signed photos?”

Harry started to speak but he was cut short as Lockhart flung an arm around his shoulders and thundered jovially, “Shouldn't have asked! We meet again, Harry!”

Pinned to Lockhart's side and burning with humiliation, Harry saw Malfoy slide smirking back into the crowd.

“Come on then, Mr. Creevey,” said Lockhart, beaming at Colin. “A double portrait, can't do better than that, and we'll both sign it for you.”

Colin fumbled for his camera and took the picture as the bell rang behind them, signaling the start of afternoon classes.

“Off you go, move along there,” Lockhart called to the crowd, and he set off back to the castle with Harry, who was wishing he knew a good Vanishing Spell, still clasped to his side.

“A word to the wise, Harry,” said Lockhart paternally as they entered the building through a side door. “I covered up for you back there with young Creevey—if he was photographing me, too, your schoolmates won't think you're setting yourself up so much...”

Deaf to Harry's stammers, Lockhart swept him down a corridor lined with staring students and up a staircase.

“Let me just say that handing out signed pictures at this stage of your career isn't sensible—looks a tad bigheaded, Harry, to be frank. There may well come a time when, like me, you'll need to keep a stack handy wherever you go, but”—he gave a little chortle—”I don't think you're quite there yet.”

They had reached Lockhart's classroom and he let Harry go at last. Harry yanked his robes straight and headed for a seat at the very back of the class, where he busied himself with piling all seven of Lockhart's books in front of him, so that he could avoid looking at the real thing.

The rest of the class came clattering in, and Ron and Hermione sat down on either side of Harry.

“You could've fried an egg on your face” said Ron. “You'd better hope Creevey doesn't meet Ginny, or they'll be starting a Harry Potter fan club.”

“Shut up,” snapped Harry. The last thing he needed was for Lockhart to hear the phrase “Harry Potter fan club.”

Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 95417 times

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