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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (page 5)


Ron's school spellbooks were stacked untidily in a corner, next to a pile of comics that all seemed to feature The Adventures of Martin Miggs, the Mad Muggle. Ron's magic wand was lying on top of a fish tank full of frog spawn on the windowsill, next to his fat gray rat, Scabbers, who was snoozing in a patch of sun.

Harry stepped over a pack of Self-Shuffling playing cards on the floor and looked out of the tiny window. In the field far below he could see a gang of gnomes sneaking one by one back through the Weasleys' hedge. Then he turned to look at Ron, who was watching him almost nervously, as though waiting for his opinion.

“It's a bit small,” said Ron quickly. “Not like that room you had with the Muggles. And I'm right underneath the ghoul in the attic; he's always banging on the pipes and groaning...”

But Harry, grinning widely, said, “This is the best house I've ever been in.”

Ron's ears went pink.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

AT FLOURISH AND BLOTTS

 

Life at the Burrow was as different as possible from life on Privet Drive. The Dursleys liked everything neat and ordered; the Weasleys' house burst with the strange and unexpected. Harry got a shock the first time he looked in the mirror over the kitchen mantelpiece and it shouted, “Tuck your shirt in, scruffy!” The ghoul in the attic howled and dropped pipes whenever he felt things were getting too quiet, and small explosions from Fred and George's bedroom were considered perfectly normal. What Harry found most unusual about life at Ron's, however, wasn't the talking mirror or the clanking ghoul: It was the fact that everybody there seemed to like him.

Mrs. Weasley fussed over the state of his socks and tried to force him to eat fourth helpings at every meal. Mr. Weasley liked Harry to sit next to him at the dinner table so that he could bombard him with questions about life with Muggles, asking him to explain how things like plugs and the postal service worked.

“Fascinating!” he would say as Harry talked him through using a telephone. “Ingenious, really, how many ways Muggles have found of getting along without magic.”

Harry heard from Hogwarts one sunny morning about a week after he had arrived at the Burrow. He and Ron went down to breakfast to find Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and Ginny already sitting at the kitchen table. The moment she saw Harry, Ginny accidentally knocked her porridge bowl to the floor with a loud clatter. Ginny seemed very prone to knocking things over whenever Harry entered a room. She dived under the table to retrieve the bowl and emerged with her face glowing like the setting sun. Pretending he hadn't noticed this, Harry sat down and took the toast Mrs. Weasley offered him.

“Letters from school,” said Mr. Weasley, passing Harry and Ron identical envelopes of yellowish parchment, addressed in green ink. “Dumbledore already knows you're here, Harry—doesn't miss a trick, that man. You two've got them, too,” he added, as Fred and George ambled in, still in their pajamas.

For a few minutes there was silence as they all read their letters. Harry's told him to catch the Hogwarts Express as usual from King's Cross station on September first. There was also a list of the new books he'd need for the coming year.

SECOND-YEAR STUDENTS WILL REQUIRE:

The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2 by Miranda Goshawk Break with a Banshee by Gilderoy Lockhart Gadding with Ghouls by Gilderoy Lockhart Holidays with Hags by Gilderoy Lockhart Travels with Trolls by Gilderoy Lockhart Voyages with Vampires by Gilderoy Lockhart Wanderings with Werewolves by Gilderoy Lockhart Year with the Yeti by Gilderoy Lockhart

Fred, who had finished his own list, peered over at Harry's.

“You've been told to get all Lockhart's books, too!” he said. “The new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher must be a fan—bet it's a witch.”

At this point, Fred caught his mother's eye and quickly busied himself with the marmalade.

“That lot won't come cheap,” said George, with a quick look at his parents. “Lockhart's books are really expensive...”

“Well, we'll manage,” said Mrs. Weasley, but she looked worried. “I expect we'll be able to pick up a lot of Ginny's things secondhand.”

“Oh, are you starting at Hogwarts this year?” Harry asked Ginny.

She nodded, blushing to the roots of her flaming hair, and put her elbow in the butter dish. Fortunately no one saw this except Harry, because just then Ron's elder brother Percy walked in. He was already dressed, his Hogwarts prefect badge pinned to his sweater vest.

“Morning, all,” said Percy briskly. “Lovely day.”

He sat down in the only remaining chair but leapt up again almost immediately, pulling from underneath him a moulting, gray feather duster—at least, that was what Harry thought it was, until he saw that it was breathing.

“Errol!” said Ron, taking the limp owl from Percy and extracting a letter from under its wing. “Finally—he's got Hermione's answer. I wrote to her saying we were going to try and rescue you from the Dursleys.”

He carried Errol to a perch just inside the back door and tried to stand him on it, but Errol flopped straight off again so Ron lay him on the draining board instead, muttering, “Pathetic.” Then he ripped open Hermione's letter and read it out loud:

“Dear Ron, and Harry if you're there,

I hope everything went all right and that Harry is okay and that you didn't do anything illegal to get him out, Ron, because that would get Harry into trouble, too. I've been really worried and if Harry is all right, will you please let me know at once, but perhaps it would be better if you used a different owl because I think another delivery might finish your one off.

I'm very busy with schoolwork, of course'How can she be?” said Ron in horror. “We're on vacation!—'and we're going to London next Wednesday to buy my new books. Why don't we meet in Diagon Alley?

Let me know what's happening as soon as you can. Love from Hermione.”

 

“Well, that fits in nicely, we can go and get all your things then, too,” said Mrs. Weasley, starting to clear the table. “What're you all up to today?”

Harry, Ron, Fred, and George were planning to go up the hill to a small paddock the Weasleys owned. It was surrounded by trees that blocked it from view of the village below, meaning that they could practice Quidditch there, as long as they didn't fly too high. They couldn't use real Quidditch balls, which would have been hard to explain if they had escaped and flown away over the village; instead they threw apples for one another to catch. They took turns riding Harry's Nimbus Two Thousand, which was easily the best broom; Ron's old Shooting Star was often outstripped by passing butterflies.

Five minutes later they were marching up the hill, broomsticks over their shoulders. They had asked Percy if he wanted to join them, but he had said he was busy. Harry had only seen Percy at mealtimes so far; he stayed shut in his room the rest of the time.

“Wish I knew what he was up to,” said Fred, frowning. “He's not himself. His exam results came the day before you did; twelve O. W. Ls and he hardly gloated at all.”

“Ordinary Wizarding Levels,” George explained, seeing Harry's puzzled look. “Bill got twelve, too. If we're not careful, we'll have another Head Boy in the family. I don't think I could stand the shame.”

Bill was the oldest Weasley brother. He and the next brother, Charlie, had already left Hogwarts. Harry had never met either of them, but knew that Charlie was in Romania studying dragons and Bill in Egypt working for the wizard's bank, Gringotts.

“Dunno how Mum and Dad are going to afford all our school stuff this year,” said George after a while. “Five sets of Lockhart books! And Ginny needs robes and a wand and everything...”

Harry said nothing. He felt a bit awkward. Stored in an underground vault at Gringotts in London was a small fortune that his parents had left him. Of course, it was only in the wizarding world that he had money; you couldn't use Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts in Muggle shops. He had never mentioned his Gringotts bank account to the Dursleys; he didn't think their horror of anything connected with magic would stretch to a large pile of gold.

Mrs. Weasley woke them all early the following Wednesday. After a quick half a dozen bacon sandwiches each, they pulled on their coats and Mrs. Weasley took a flowerpot off the kitchen mantelpiece and peered inside.

“We're running low, Arthur,” she sighed. “We'll have to buy some more today... ah well, guests first! After you, Harry dear!”

And she offered him the flowerpot.

Harry stared at them all watching him.

“W-what am I supposed to do?” he stammered.

“He's never traveled by Floo powder,” said Ron suddenly. “Sorry, Harry, I forgot.”

“Never?” said Mr. Weasley. “But how did you get to Diagon Alley to buy your school things last year?”

“I went on the Underground—”

“Really?” said Mr. Weasley eagerly. “Were there escapators? How exactly—”

“Not now, Arthur,” said Mrs. Weasley. “Floo powder's a lot quicker, dear, but goodness me, if you've never used it before—”

“He'll be all right, Mum,” said Fred. “Harry, watch us first.”

He took a pinch of glittering powder out of the flowerpot, stepped up to the fire, and threw the powder into the flames.

With a roar, the fire turned emerald green and rose higher than Fred, who stepped right into it, shouted, “Diagon Alley!” and vanished.

“You must speak clearly, dear,” Mrs. Weasley told Harry as George dipped his hand into the flowerpot. “And be sure to get out at the right grate...”

“The right what?” said Harry nervously as the fire roared and whipped George out of sight, too.

“Well, there are an awful lot of wizard fires to choose from, you know, but as long as you've spoken clearly—”

“He'll be fine, Molly, don't fuss,” said Mr. Weasley, helping himself to Floo powder, too.

“But, dear, if he got lost, how would we ever explain to his aunt and uncle?”

“They wouldn't mind,” Harry reassured her. “Dudley would think it was a brilliant joke if I got lost up a chimney, don't worry about that—”

“Well... all right... you go after Arthur,” said Mrs. Weasley. “Now, when you get into the fire, say where you're going—”

“And keep your elbows tucked in,” Ron advised.

“And your eyes shut,” said Mrs. Weasley. “The soot—”

“Don't fidget,” said Ron. “Or you might well fall out of the wrong fireplace—”

“But don't panic and get out too early; wait until you see Fred and George.”

Trying hard to bear all this in mind, Harry took a pinch of Floo powder and walked to the edge of the fire. He took a deep breath, scattered the powder into the flames, and stepped forward; the fire felt like a warm breeze; he opened his mouth and immediately swallowed a lot of hot ash.

“D-Dia-gon Alley,” he coughed.

It felt as though he was being sucked down a giant drain. He seemed to be spinning very fast—the roaring in his ears was deafening -he tried to keep his eyes open but the whirl of green flames made him feel sick—something hard knocked his elbow and he tucked it in tightly, still spinning and spinning—now it felt as though cold hands were slapping his face—squinting through his glasses he saw a blurred stream of fireplaces and snatched glimpses of the rooms beyond—his bacon sandwiches were churning inside him—he closed his eyes again wishing it would stop, and then—he fell, face forward, onto cold stone and felt the bridge of his glasses snap.

Dizzy and bruised, covered in soot, he got gingerly to his feet, holding his broken glasses up to his eyes. He was quite alone, but where he was, he had no idea. All he could tell was that he was standing in the stone fireplace of what looked like a large, dimly lit wizard's shop—but nothing in here was ever likely to be on a Hogwarts school list.

A glass case nearby held a withered hand on a cushion, a bloodstained pack of cards, and a staring glass eye. Evil-looking masks stared down from the walls, an assortment of human bones lay upon the counter, and rusty, spiked instruments hung from the ceiling. Even worse, the dark, narrow street Harry could see through the dusty shop window was definitely not Diagon Alley.

The sooner he got out of here, the better. Nose still stinging where it had hit the hearth, Harry made his way swiftly and silently toward the door, but before he'd got halfway toward it, two people appeared on the other side of the glass—and one of them was the very last person Harry wanted to meet when he was lost, covered in soot, and wearing broken glasses: Draco Malfoy.

Harry looked quickly around and spotted a large black cabinet to his left; he shot inside it and pulled the doors closed, leaving a small crack to peer through. Seconds later, a bell clanged, and Malfoy stepped into the shop.

The man who followed could only be Draco's father. He had the same pale, pointed face and identical cold, gray eyes. Mr. Malfoy crossed the shop, looking lazily at the items on display, and rang a bell on the counter before turning to his son and saying, “Touch nothing, Draco.”

Malfoy, who had reached for the glass eye, said, “I thought you were going to buy me a present.”

“I said I would buy you a racing broom,” said his father, drumming his fingers on the counter.

“What's the good of that if I'm not on the House team?” said Malfoy, looking sulky and bad-tempered. “Harry Potter got a Nimbus Two Thousand last year. Special permission from Dumbledore so he could play for Gryffindor. He's not even that good, it's just because he's famous... famous for having a stupid scar on his forehead...”

Malfoy bent down to examine a shelf full of skulls.

 

“...everyone thinks he's so smart, wonderful Potter with his scar and his broomstick—”

“You have told me this at least a dozen times already,” said Mr. Malfoy, with a quelling look at his son. “And I would remind you that it is not—prudent—to appear less than fond of Harry Potter, not when most of our kind regard him as the hero who made the Dark Lord disappear—ah, Mr. Borgin.”

Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 105005 times

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