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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (page 12)


He mounted his broomstick and kicked at the ground, soaring up into the air. The cool morning air whipped his face, waking him far more effectively than Wood's long talk. It felt wonderful to be back on the Quidditch field. He soared right around the stadium at full speed, racing Fred and George.

“What's that funny clicking noise?” called Fred as they hurtled around the corner.

Harry looked into the stands. Colin was sitting in one of the highest seats, his camera raised, taking picture after picture, the sound strangely magnified in the deserted stadium.

“Look this way, Harry! This way!” he cried shrilly.

“Who's that?” said Fred.

“No idea,” Harry lied, putting on a spurt of speed that took him as far away as possible from Colin.

“What's going on?” said Wood, frowning, as he skimmed through the air toward them. “Why's that first year taking pictures? I don't like it. He could be a Slytherin spy, trying to find out about our new training program.”

“He's in Gryffindor,” said Harry quickly.

“And the Slytherins don't need a spy, Oliver,” said George.

“What makes you say that?” said Wood testily.

“Because they're here in person,” said George, pointing.

Several people in green robes were walking onto the field, broomsticks in their hands.

“I don't believe it!” Wood hissed in outrage. “I booked the field for today! We'll see about this!”

Wood shot toward the ground, landing rather harder than he meant to in his anger, staggering slightly as he dismounted. Harry, Fred, and George followed.

“Flint!” Wood bellowed at the Slytherin Captain. “This is our practice time! We got up specially! You can clear off now!”

Marcus Flint was even larger than Wood. He had a look of trollish cunning on his face as he replied, “Plenty of room for all of us, Wood.”

Angelina, Alicia, and Katie had come over, too. There were no girls on the Slytherin team, who stood shoulder to shoulder, facing the Gryffindors, leering to a man.

“But I booked the field!” said Wood, positively spitting with rage. “I booked it!”

“Ah,” said Flint. “But I've got a specially signed note here from Professor Snape. `I, Professor S. Snape, give the Slytherin team permission to practice today on the Quidditch field owing to the need to train their new Seeker. "'

“You've got a new Seeker?” said Wood, distracted. “Where?”

And from behind the six large figures before them came a seventh, smaller boy, smirking all over his pale, pointed face. It was Draco Malfoy.

“Aren't you Lucius Malfoy's son?” said Fred, looking at Malfoy with dislike.

“Funny you should mention Draco's father,” said Flint as the whole Slytherin team smiled still more broadly. “Let me show you the generous gift he's made to the Slytherin team.”

All seven of them held out their broomsticks. Seven highly polished, brand-new handles and seven sets of fine gold lettering spelling the words Nimbus Two Thousand and One gleamed under the Gryffindors' noses in the early morning sun.

“Very latest model. Only came out last month,” said Flint carelessly, flicking a speck of dust from the end of his own. “I believe it outstrips the old Two Thousand series by a considerable amount. As for the old Cleansweeps”—he smiled nastily at Fred and George, who were both clutching Cleansweep Fives—”sweeps the board with them.”

None of the Gryffindor team could think of anything to say for a moment. Malfoy was smirking so broadly his cold eyes were reduced to slits.

“Oh, look,” said Flint. “A field invasion.”

Ron and Hermione were crossing the grass to see what was going on.

“What's happening?” Ron asked Harry. “Why aren't you playing? And what's he doing here?”

He was looking at Malfoy, taking in his Slytherin Quidditch robes.

“I'm the new Slytherin Seeker, Weasley,” said Malfoy, smugly. “Everyone's just been admiring the brooms my father's bought our team.

Ron gaped, open-mouthed, at the seven superb broomsticks in front of him.

“Good, aren't they?” said Malfoy smoothly. “But perhaps the Gryffindor team will be able to raise some gold and get new brooms, too. You could raffle off those Cleansweep Fives; I expect a museum would bid for them.”

The Slytherin team howled with laughter.

“At least no one on the Gryffindor team had to buy their way in,” said Hermione sharply. “They got in on pure talent.”

The smug look on Malfoy's face flickered.

“No one asked your opinion, you filthy little Mudblood,” he spat.

Harry knew at once that Malfoy had said something really bad because there was an instant uproar at his words. Flint had to dive in front of Malfoy to stop Fred and George jumping on him, Alicia shrieked, “How dare you!”; and Ron plunged his hand into his robes, pulled out his wand, yelling, “You'll pay for that one, Malfoy!” and pointed it furiously under Flint's arm at Malfoys face.

A loud bang echoed around the stadium and a jet of green light shot out of the wrong end of Ron's wand, hitting him in the stomach and sending him reeling backward onto the grass.

“Ron! Ron! Are you all right?” squealed Hermione.

Ron opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. Instead he gave an almighty belch and several slugs dribbled out of his mouth onto his lap.

The Slytherin team were paralyzed with laughter. Flint was doubled up, hanging onto his new broomstick for support. Malfoy was on all fours, banging the ground with his fist. The Gryffindors were gathered around Ron, who kept belching large, glistening slugs. Nobody seemed to want to touch him.

“We'd better get him to Hagrid's, it's nearest,” said Harry to Hermione, who nodded bravely, and the pair of them pulled Ron up by the arms.

“What happened, Harry? What happened? Is he ill? But you can cure him, can't you?” Colin had run down from his seat and was now dancing alongside them as they left the field. Ron gave a huge heave and more slugs dribbled down his front.

“Oooh,” said Colin, fascinated and raising his camera. “Can you hold him still, Harry?”

“Get out of the way, Colin!” said Harry angrily. He and Hermione supported Ron out of the stadium and across the grounds toward the edge of the forest.

“Nearly there, Ron,” said Hermione as the gamekeeper's cabin came into view. “You'll be all right in a minute—almost there—”

They were within twenty feet of Hagrid's house when the front door opened, but it wasn't Hagrid who emerged. Gilderoy Lockhart, wearing robes of palest mauve today, came striding out.

“Quick, behind here,” Harry hissed, dragging Ron behind a nearby bush. Hermione followed, somewhat reluctantly.

“It's a simple matter if you know what you're doing!” Lockhart was saying loudly to Hagrid. “If you need help, you know where I am! I'll let you have a copy of my book. I'm surprised you haven't already got one—I'll sign one tonight and send it over. Well, good-bye!” And he strode away toward the castle.

Harry waited until Lockhart was out of sight, then pulled Ron out of the bush and up to Hagrid's front door. They knocked urgently.

Hagrid appeared at once, looking very grumpy, but his expression brightened when he saw who it was.

“Bin wonderin' when you'd come ter see me—come in, come in—thought you mighta bin Professor Lockhart back again—”

Harry and Hermione supported Ron over the threshold into the oneroomed cabin, which had an enormous bed in one corner, a fire crackling merrily in the other. Hagrid didn't seem perturbed by Ron's slug problem, which Harry hastily explained as he lowered Ron into a chair.

“Better out than in,” he said cheerfully, plunking a large copper basin in front of him. “Get 'em all up, Ron.”

“I don't think there's anything to do except wait for it to stop,” said Hermione anxiously, watching Ron bend over the basin. “That's a difficult curse to work at the best of times, but with a broken wand—”

Hagrid was bustling around making them tea. His boarhound, Fang, was slobbering over Harry.

“What did Lockhart want with you, Hagrid?” Harry asked, scratching Fang's ears.

“Givin' me advice on gettin' kelpies out of a well,” growled Hagrid, moving a half-plucked rooster off his scrubbed table and setting down the teapot. “Like I don' know. An' bangin' on about some banshee he banished. If one word of it was true, I'll eat my kettle.”

It was most unlike Hagrid to criticize a Hogwarts' teacher, and Harry looked at him in surprise. Hermione, however, said in a voice somewhat higher than usual, “I think you're being a bit unfair. Professor Dumbledore obviously thought he was the best man for the job—”

“He was the on'y man for the job,” said Hagrid, offering them a plate of treacle fudge, while Ron coughed squelchily into his basin. “An' I mean the on' one. Gettin' very difficult ter find anyone fer the Dark Arts job. People aren't too keen ter take it on, see. They're startin' ter think it's jinxed. No one's lasted long fer a while now. So tell me,” said Hagrid, jerking his head at Ron. “Who was he tryin' ter curse?”

“Malfoy called Hermione something—it must've been really bad, because everyone went wild.”

“It was bad,” said Ron hoarsely, emerging over the tabletop looking pale and sweaty. “Malfoy called her `Mudblood,' Hagrid—”

Ron dived out of sight again as a fresh wave of slugs made their appearance. Hagrid looked outraged.

“He didn'!” he growled at Hermione.

“He did,” she said. “But I don't know what it means. I could tell it was really rude, of course—”

“It's about the most insulting thing he could think of,” gasped Ron, coming back up. “Mudblood's a really foul name for someone who is Muggle-born—you know, non-magic parents. There are some wizards—like Malfoy's family—who think they're better than everyone else because they're what people call pure-blood.” He gave a small burp, and a single slug fell into his outstretched hand. He threw it into the basin and continued, “I mean, the rest of us know it doesn't make any difference at all. Look at Neville Longbottom—he's pure-blood and he can hardly stand a cauldron the right way up.”

“An' they haven't invented a spell our Hermione can' do,” said Hagrid proudly, making Hermione go a brilliant shade of magenta.

“It's a disgusting thing to call someone,” said Ron, wiping his sweaty brow with a shaking hand. “Dirty blood, see. Common blood. It's ridiculous. Most wizards these days are half-blood anyway. If we hadn't married Muggles we'd've died out.”

He retched and ducked out of sight again.

“Well, I don' blame yeh fer tryin' ter curse him, Ron,” said Hagrid loudly over the thuds of more slugs hitting the basin. “Bu' maybe it was a good thing yer wand backfired. 'Spect Lucius Malfoy would've come marchin' up ter school if yeh'd cursed his son. Least yer not in trouble.”

Harry would have pointed out that trouble didn't come much worse than having slugs pouring out of your mouth, but he couldn't; Hagrid's treacle fudge had cemented his jaws together.

“Harry,” said Hagrid abruptly as though struck by a sudden thought. “Gotta bone ter pick with yeh. I've heard you've bin givin' out signed photos. How come I haven't got one?”

Furious, Harry wrenched his teeth apart.

“I have not been giving out signed photos,” he said hotly. “If Lockhart's still spreading that around—”

But then he saw that Hagrid was laughing.

“I'm on'y jokin',” he said, patting Harry genially on the back and sending him face first into the table. “I knew yeh hadn't really. I told Lockhart yeh didn' need teh. Yer more famous than him without tryin'.”

“Bet he didn't like that,” said Harry, sitting up and rubbing his chin.

“Don' think he did,” said Hagrid, his eyes twinkling. “An' then I told him Id never read one o' his books an' he decided ter go. Treacle fudge, Ron?” he added as Ron reappeared.

“No thanks,” said Ron weakly. “Better not risk it.”

“Come an' see what I've bin growin',” said Hagrid as Harry and Hermione finished the last of their tea.

In the small vegetable patch behind Hagrid's house were a dozen of the largest pumpkins Harry had ever seen. Each was the size of a large boulder.

“Gettin' on well, aren't they?” said Hagrid happily. “Fer the Halloween feast... should be big enough by then.”

“What've you been feeding them?” said Harry.

Hagrid looked over his shoulder to check that they were alone.

“Well, I've bin givin' them—you know—a bit o' help—”

Harry noticed Hagrid's flowery pink umbrella leaning against the back wall of the cabin. Harry had had reason to believe before now that this umbrella was not all it looked; in fact, he had the strong impression that Hagrid's old school wand was concealed inside it. Hagrid wasn't supposed to use magic. He had been expelled from Hogwarts in his third year, but Harry had never found out why -any mention of the matter and Hagrid would clear his throat loudly and become mysteriously deaf until the subject was changed.

“An Engorgement Charm, I suppose?” said Hermione, halfway between disapproval and amusement. “Well, you've done a good job on them.”

“That's what yer little sister said,” said Hagrid, nodding at Ron. “Met her jus' yesterday.” Hagrid looked sideways at Harry, his beard twitching. “Said she was jus' lookin' round the grounds, but I reckon she was hopin' she might run inter someone else at my house.” He winked at Harry. “If yeh ask me, she wouldn' say no ter a signed—”

“Oh, shut up,” said Harry. Ron snorted with laughter and the ground was sprayed with slugs.

“Watch it!” Hagrid roared, pulling Ron away from his precious pumpkins.

It was nearly lunchtime and as Harry had only had one bit of treacle fudge since dawn, he was keen to go back to school to eat. They said good-bye to Hagrid and walked back up to the castle, Ron hiccoughing occasionally, but only bringing up two very small slugs.

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