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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (page 29)


Harry paused, trying to see where the spiders were going, but everything outside his little sphere oflight was pitch-black. He had never been this deep into the forest before. He could vividly remember Hagrid advising him not to leave the forest path last time he'd been in here. But Hagrid was miles away now, probably sitting in a cell in Azkaban, and he had also said to follow the spiders.

Something wet touched Harry's hand and he jumped backward, crushing Rods foot, but it was only Fang's nose.

“What d'you reckon?” Harry said to Ron, whose eyes he could just make out, reflecting the light from his wand.

“We've come this far,” said Ron.

So they followed the darting shadows of the spiders into the trees. They couldn't move very quickly now; there were tree roots and stumps in their way, barely visible in the near blackness. Harry could feel Fang's hot breath on his hand. More than once, they had to stop, so that Harry could crouch down and find the spiders in the wandlight.

They walked for what seemed like at least half an hour, their robes snagging on low-slung branches and brambles. After a while, they noticed that the ground seemed to be sloping downward, though the trees were as thick as ever.

Then Fang suddenly let loose a great, echoing bark, making both Harry and Ron jump out of their skins.

“What?” said Ron loudly, looking around into the pitch-dark, and gripping Harry's elbow very hard.

“There's something moving over there,” Harry breathed. “Listen... sounds like something big...”

They listened. Some distance to their right, the something big was snapping branches as it carved a path through the trees.

“Oh, no,” said Ron. “Oh, no, oh, no, oh—”

“Shut up,” said Harry frantically. “It'll hear you.”

“Hear me?” said Ron in an unnaturally high voice. “It's already heard Fang!”

The darkness seemed to be pressing on their eyeballs as they stood, terrified, waiting. There was a strange rumbling noise and then silence.

“What d'you think it's doing?” said Harry.

“Probably getting ready to pounce,” said Ron.

They waited, shivering, hardly daring to move.

“D'you think it's gone?” Harry whispered.

“Dunno—”

Then, to their right, came a sudden blaze of light, so bright in the darkness that both of them flung up their hands to shield their eyes. Fang yelped and tried to run, but got lodged in a tangle of thorns and yelped even louder.

“Harry!” Ron shouted, his voice breaking with relief “Harry, it's our car!”

“What?”

“Come on!”

Harry blundered after Ron toward the light, stumbling and tripping, and a moment later they had emerged into a clearing.

Mr. Weasley's car was standing, empty, in the middle of a circle of thick trees under a roof of dense branches, its headlights ablaze. As Ron walked, open-mouthed, toward it, it moved slowly toward him, exactly like a large, turquoise dog greeting its owner.

“It's been here all the time!” said Ron delightedly, walking around the car. “Look at it. The forest's turned it wild...”

The sides of the car were scratched and smeared with mud. Apparently it had taken to trundling around the forest on its own. Fang didn't seem at all keen on it; he kept close to Harry, who could feel him quivering. His breathing slowing down again, Harry stuffed his wand back into his robes.

“And we thought it was going to attack us!” said Ron, leaning against the car and patting it. “I wondered where it had gone!”

Harry squinted around on the floodlit ground for signs of more spiders, but they had all scuttled away from the glare of the headlights.

“We've lost the trail,” he said. “C'mon, let's go and find them.”

Ron didn't speak. He didn't move. His eyes were fixed on a point some ten feet above the forest floor, right behind Harry. His face was livid with terror.

Harry didn't even have time to turn around. There was a loud clicking noise and suddenly he felt something long and hairy seize him around the middle and lift him off the ground, so that he was hanging facedown. Struggling, terrified, he heard more clicking, and saw Ron's legs leave the ground, too, heard Fang whimpering and howling—next moment, he was being swept away into the dark trees.

Head hanging, Harry saw that what had hold of him was marching on six immensely long, hairy legs, the front two clutching him tightly below a pair of shining black pincers. Behind him, he could hear another of the creatures, no doubt carrying Ron. They were moving into the very heart of the forest. Harry could hear Fang fighting to free himself from a third monster, whining loudly, but Harry couldn't have yelled even if he had wanted to; he seemed to have left his voice back with the car in the clearing.

He never knew how long he was in the creature's clutches; he only knew that the darkness suddenly lifted enough for him to see that the leaf-strewn ground was now swarming with spiders. Craning his neck sideways, he realized that they had reached the ridge of a vast hollow, a hollow that had been cleared of trees, so that the stars shone brightly onto the worst scene he had ever laid eyes on.

Spiders. Not tiny spiders like those surging over the leaves below. Spiders the size of carthorses, eight-eyed, eight-legged, black, hairy, gigantic. The massive specimen that was carrying Harry made its way down the steep slope toward a misty, domed web in the very center of the hollow, while its fellows closed in all around it, clicking their pincers excitedly at the sight of its load.

Harry fell to the ground on all fours as the spider released him. Ron and Fang thudded down next to him. Fang wasn't howling anymore, but cowering silently on the spot. Ron looked exactly like Harry felt. His mouth was stretched wide in a kind of silent scream and his eyes were popping.

Harry suddenly realized that the spider that had dropped him was saying something. It had been hard to tell, because he clicked his pincers with every word he spoke.

“Aragog!” it called. “Aragog!”

And from the middle of the misty, domed web, a spider the size of a small elephant emerged, very slowly. There was gray in the black of his body and legs, and each of the eyes on his ugly, pincered head was milky white. He was blind.

“What is it?” he said, clicking his pincers rapidly.

“Men,” clicked the spider who had caught Harry.

“Is it Hagrid?” said Aragog, moving closer, his eight milky eyes wandering vaguely.

“Strangers,” clicked the spider who had brought Ron.

“Kill them,” clicked Aragog fretfully. “I was sleeping... ...

“We're friends of Hagrid's,” Harry shouted. His heart seemed to have left his chest to pound in his throat.

Click, click, click went the pincers of the spiders all around the hollow.

Aragog paused.

“Hagrid has never sent men into our hollow before,” he said slowly.

“Hagrid's in trouble,” said Harry, breathing very fast. “That's why we've come.”

“In trouble?” said the aged spider, and Harry thought he heard concern beneath the clicking pincers. “But why has he sent you?”

Harry thought of getting to his feet but decided against it; he didn't think his legs would support him. So he spoke from the ground, as calmly as he could.

“They think,, up at the school, that Hagrid's been setting a—a—something on students. They've taken him to Azkaban.”

Aragog clicked his pincers furiously, and all around the hollow the sound was echoed by the crowd of spiders; it was like applause, except applause didn't usually make Harry feel sick with fear.

“But that was years ago,” said Aragog fretfully. “Years and years ago. I remember it well. That's why they made him leave the school. They believed that I was the monster that dwells in what they call the Chamber of Secrets. They thought that Hagrid had opened the Chamber and set me free.”

“And you... you didn't come from the Chamber of Secrets?” said Harry, who could feel cold sweat on his forehead.

“I!” said Aragog, clicking angrily. “I was not born in the castle. I come from a distant land. A traveler gave me to Hagrid when I was an egg. Hagrid was only a boy, but he cared for me, hidden in a cupboard in the castle, feeding me on scraps from the table. Hagrid is my good friend, and a good man. When I was discovered, and blamed for the death of a girl, he protected me. I have lived here in the forest ever since, where Hagrid still visits me. He even found me a wife, Mosag, and you see how our family has grown, all through Hagrid's goodness...”

Harry summoned what remained of his courage.

“So you never—never attacked anyone?”

“Never,” croaked the old spider. “It would have been my instinct, but out of respect for Hagrid, I never harmed a human. The body of the girl who was killed was discovered in a bathroom. I never saw any part of the castle but the cupboard in which I grew up. Our kind like the dark and the quiet...”

“But then... Do you know what did kill that girl?” said Harry. “Because whatever it is, it's back and attacking people again—”

His words were drowned by a loud outbreak of clicking and the rustling of many long legs shifting angrily; large black shapes shifted all around him.

“The thing that lives in the castle,” said Aragog, “is an ancient creature we spiders fear above all others. Well do I remember how I pleaded with Hagrid to let me go, when I sensed the beast moving about the school.”

“What is it?” said Harry urgently.

More loud clicking, more rustling; the spiders seemed to be closing in.

“We do not speak of it!” said Aragog fiercely. “We do not name it! I never even told Hagrid the name of that dread creature, though he asked me, many times.”

Harry didn't want to press the subject, not with the spiders pressing closer on all sides. Aragog seemed to be tired of talking. He was backing slowly into his domed web, but his fellow spiders continued to inch slowly toward Harry and Ron.

“We'll just go, then,” Harry called desperately to Aragog, hearing leaves rustling behind him.

“Go?” said Aragog slowly. “I think not...”

“But—but—”

“My sons and daughters do not harm Hagrid, on my command. But I cannot deny them fresh meat, when it wanders so willingly into our midst. Good-bye, friend of Hagrid.”

Harry spun around. Feet away, towering above him, was a solid wall of spiders, clicking, their many eyes gleaming in their ugly black heads.

Even as he reached for his wand, Harry knew it was no good, there were too many of them, but as he tried to stand, ready to die fighting, a loud, long note sounded, and a blaze of light flamed through the hollow.

Mr. Weasley's car was thundering down the slope, headlights glaring, its horn screeching, knocking spiders aside; several were thrown onto their backs, their endless legs waving in the air. The car screeched to a halt in front of Harry and Ron and the doors flew open.

“Get Fang!” Harry yelled, diving into the front seat; Ron seized the boarhound around the middle and threw him, yelping, into the back of the car—the doors slammed shut—Ron didn't touch the accelerator but the car didn't need him; the engine roared and they were off, hitting more spiders. They sped up the slope, out of the hollow, and they were soon crashing through the forest, branches

whipping the windows as the car wound its way cleverly through the widest gaps, following a path it obviously knew.

Harry looked sideways at Ron. His mouth was still open in the silent scream, but his eyes weren't popping anymore.

“Are you okay?”

Ron stared straight ahead, unable to speak.

They smashed their way through the undergrowth, Fang howling loudly in the back seat, and Harry saw the side mirror snap off as they squeezed past a large oak. After ten noisy, rocky minutes, the trees thinned, and Harry could again see patches of sky.

The car stopped so suddenly that they were nearly thrown into the windshield. They had reached the edge of the forest. Fang flung himself at the window in his anxiety to get out, and when Harry opened the door, he shot off through the trees to Hagrid's house, tail between his legs. Harry got out too, and after a minute or so, Ron seemed to regain the feeling in his limbs and followed, still stiff-necked and staring. Harry gave the car a grateful pat as it reversed back into the forest and disappeared from view.

Harry went back into Hagrid's cabin to get the Invisibility Cloak. Fang was trembling under a blanket in his basket. When Harry got outside again, he found Ron being violently sick in the pumpkin patch.

“Follow the spiders,” said Ron weakly, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. “I'll never forgive Hagrid. We're lucky to be alive.”

“I bet he thought Aragog wouldn't hurt friends of his,” said Harry.

“That's exactly Hagrid's problem!” said Ron, thumping the wall of the cabin. “He always thinks monsters aren't as bad as they're made out, and look where it's got him! A cell in Azkaban!” He was shivering uncontrollably now. “What was the point of sending us in there? What have we found out, Id like to know?”

“That Hagrid never opened the Chamber of Secrets,” said Harry, throwing the cloak over Ron and prodding him in the arm to make him walk. “He was innocent.”

Ron gave a loud snort. Evidently, hatching Aragog in a cupboard wasn't his idea of being innocent.

As the castle loomed nearer Harry twitched the cloak to make sure their feet were hidden, then pushed the creaking front doors ajar. They walked carefully back across the entrance hall and up the marble staircase, holding their breath as they passed corridors where watchful sentries were walking. At last they reached the safety of the Gryffindor common room, where the fire had burned itself into glowing ash. They took off the cloak and climbed the winding stair to their dormitory.

Ron fell onto his bed without bothering to get undressed. Harry, however, didn't feel very sleepy. He sat on the edge of his four-poster, thinking hard about everything Aragog had said.

The creature that was lurking somewhere in the castle, he thought, sounded like a sort of monster Voldemort—even other monsters didn't want to name it. But he and Ron were no closer to finding out what it was, or how it Petrified its victims. Even Hagrid had never known what was in the Chamber of Secrets.

Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 104247 times

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