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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (page 6)


A stooping man had appeared behind the counter, smoothing his greasy hair back from his face.

“Mr. Malfoy, what a pleasure to see you again,” said Mr. Borgin in a voice as oily as his hair. “Delighted—and young Master Malfoy, too—charmed. How may I be of assistance? I must show you, just in today, and very reasonably priced—”

“I'm not buying today, Mr. Borgin, but selling,” said Mr. Malfoy.

“Selling?” The smile faded slightly from Mr. Borgin's face.

“You have heard, of course, that the Ministry is conducting more raids,” said Mr. Malfoy, taking a roll of parchment from his inside pocket and unraveling it for Mr. Borgin to read. “I have a few—ah—items at home that might embarrass me, if the Ministry were to call...”

Mr. Borgin fixed a pair of pince-nez to his nose and looked down the list.

“The Ministry wouldn't presume to trouble you, sir, surely?”

Mr. Malfoy's lip curled.

“I have not been visited yet. The name Malfoy still commands a certain respect, yet the Ministry grows ever more meddlesome. There are rumors about a new Muggle Protection Act—no doubt that fleabitten, Muggle-loving fool Arthur Weasley is behind it—”

Harry felt a hot surge of anger.

“and as you see, certain of these poisons might make it appear—”

“I understand, sir, of course,” said Mr. Borgin. “Let me see...”

“Can I have that?” interrupted Draco, pointing at the withered hand on its cushion.

“Ah, the Hand of Glory!” said Mr. Borgin, abandoning Mr. Malfoy's list and scurrying over to Draco. “Insert a candle and it gives light only to the holder! Best friend of thieves and plunderers! Your son has fine taste, sir.”

“I hope my son will amount to more than a thief or a plunderer, Borgin,” said Mr. Malfoy coldly, and Mr. Borgin said quickly, “No offense, sir, no offense meant—”

“Though if his grades don't pick up,” said Mr. Malfoy, more coldly still, “that may indeed be all he is fit for—”

“It's not my fault,” retorted Draco. “The teachers all have favorites, that Hermione Granger—”

“I would have thought you'd be ashamed that a girl of no wizard family beat you in every exam,” snapped Mr. Malfoy.

“Ha!” said Harry under his breath, pleased to see Draco looking both abashed and angry.

“It's the same all over,” said Mr. Borgin, in his oily voice. “Wizard blood is counting for less everywhere—”

“Not with me,” said Mr. Malfoy, his long nostrils flaring.

“No, sir, nor with me, sir,” said Mr. Borgin, with a deep bow.

“In that case, perhaps we can return to my list,” said Mr. Malfoy shortly. “I am in something of a hurry, Borgin, I have important business elsewhere today—”

They started to haggle. Harry watched nervously as Draco drew nearer and nearer to his hiding place, examining the objects for sale. Draco paused to examine a long coil of hangman's rope and to read, smirking, the card propped on a magnificent necklace of opals, Caution: Do Not Touch. Cursed—Has Claimed the Lives of Nineteen Muggle Owners to Date.

Draco turned away and saw the cabinet right in front of him. He walked forward... he stretched out his hand for the handle...

“Done,” said Mr. Malfoy at the counter. “Come, Draco—”

Harry wiped his forehead on his sleeve as Draco turned away.

“Good day to you, Mr. Borgin. I'll expect you at the manor tomorrow to pick up the goods.”

The moment the door had closed, Mr. Borgin dropped his oily manner.

“Good day yourself, Mister Malfoy, and if the stories are true, you haven't sold me half of what's hidden in your manor...”

Muttering darkly, Mr. Borgin disappeared into a back room. Harry waited for a minute in case he came back, then, quietly as he could, slipped out of the cabinet, past the glass cases, and out of the shop door.

Clutching his broken glasses to his face, Harry stared around. He had emerged into a dingy alleyway that seemed to be made up entirely of shops devoted to the Dark Arts. The one he'd just left, Borgin and Burkes, looked like the largest, but opposite was a nasty window display of shrunken heads and, two doors down, a large cage was alive with gigantic black spiders. Two shabby-looking wizards were watching him from the shadow of a doorway, muttering to each other. Feeling jumpy, Harry set off, trying to hold his glasses on straight and hoping against hope he'd be able to find a way out of here.

An old wooden street sign hanging over a shop selling poisonous candles told him he was in Knockturn Alley. This didn't help, as Harry had never heard of such a place. He supposed he hadn't spoken clearly enough through his mouthful of ashes back in the Weasleys' fire. Trying to stay calm, he wondered what to do.

“Not lost are you, my dear?” said a voice in his ear, making him jump.

An aged witch stood in front of him, holding a tray of what looked horribly like whole human fingernails. She leered at him, showing mossy teeth. Harry backed away.

“I'm fine, thanks,” he said. “I'm just—”

“HARRY! What d'yeh think yer doin' down there?”

Harry's heart leapt. So did the witch; a load of fingernails cascaded down over her feet and she cursed as the massive form of Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper, came striding toward them, beetle-black eyes flashing over his great bristling beard.

“Hagrid!” Harry croaked in relief. “I was lost—Floo powder—”

Hagrid seized Harry by the scruff of the neck and pulled him away from the witch, knocking the tray right out of her hands. Her shrieks followed them all the way along the twisting alleyway out into bright sunlight. Harry saw a familiar, snow-white marble building in the distance—Gringotts Bank. Hagrid had steered him right into Diagon Alley.

“Yer a mess!” said Hagrid gruffly, brushing soot off Harry so forcefully he nearly knocked him into a barrel of dragon dung outside an apothecary. “Skulkin' around Knockturn Alley, I dunno dodgy place, Harry—don' want no one ter see yeh down there—”

“I realized that,” said Harry, ducking as Hagrid made to brush him off again. “I told you, I was lost—what were you doing down there, anyway?”

“I was lookin' fer a Flesh-Eatin' Slug Repellent,” growled Hagrid. “They're ruinin' the school cabbages. Yer not on yer own?”

“I'm staying with the Weasleys but we got separated,” Harry explained. “I've got to go and find them...”

They set off together down the street.

“How come yeh never wrote back ter me?” said Hagrid as Harry jogged alongside him (he had to take three steps to every stride of Hagrid's enormous boots). Harry explained all about Dobby and the Dursleys.

“Lousy Muggles,” growled Hagrid. “If I'd've known—”

“Harry! Harry! Over here!”

Harry looked up and saw Hermione Granger standing at the top of the white flight of steps to Gringotts. She ran down to meet them, her bushy brown hair flying behind her.

“What happened to your glasses? Hello, Hagrid—Oh, it's wonderful to see you two again—Are you coming into Gringotts, Harry?”

“As soon as I've found the Weasleys,” said Harry.

“Yeh won't have long ter wait,” Hagrid said with a grin.

Harry and Hermione looked around; sprinting up the crowded street were Ron, Fred, George, Percy, and Mr. Weasley.

“Harry,” Mr. Weasley panted. “We hoped you'd only gone one grate too far...” He mopped his glistening bald patch. “Molly's frantic—she's coming now—”

“Where did you come out?” Ron asked.

“Knockturn Alley,” said Hagrid grimly.

“Excellent.” said Fred and George together.

“We've never been allowed in,” said Ron enviously.

“I should ruddy well think not,” growled Hagrid.

Mrs. Weasley now came galloping into view, her handbag swinging wildly in one hand, Ginny just clinging onto the other.

“Oh, Harry—oh, my dear—you could have been anywhere—”

Gasping for breath she pulled a large clothes brush out of her bag and began sweeping off the soot Hagrid hadn't managed to beat away. Mr. Weasley took Harry's glasses, gave them a tap of his wand, and returned them, good as new.

“Well, gotta be off,” said Hagrid, who was having his hand wrung by Mrs. Weasley (“Knockturn Alley! If you hadn't found him, Hagrid!”). “See yer at Hogwarts!” And he strode away, head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the packed street.

“Guess who I saw in Borgin and Burkes?” Harry asked Ron and Hermione as they climbed the Gringotts steps. “Malfoy and his father.”

“Did Lucius Malfoy buy anything?” said Mr. Weasley sharply behind them.

“No, he was selling. '

“So he's worried,” said Mr. Weasley with grim satisfaction. “Oh, I'd love to get Lucius Malfoy for something...”

“You be careful, Arthur,” said Mrs. Weasley sharply as they were bowed into the bank by a goblin at the door. “That family's trouble. Don't go biting off more than you can chew.”

“So you don't think I'm a match for Lucius Malfoy?” said Mr. Weasley indignantly, but he was distracted almost at once by the sight of Hermione's parents, who were standing nervously at the counter that ran all along the great marble hall, waiting for Hermione to introduce them.

“But you're Muggles!” said Mr. Weasley delightedly. “We must have a drink! What's that you've got there? Oh, you're changing Muggle money. Molly, look!” He pointed excitedly at the ten-pound notes in Mr. Granger's hand.

“Meet you back here,” Ron said to Hermione as the Weasleys and Harry were led off to their underground vaults by another Gringotts goblin.

The vaults were reached by means of small, goblin-driven carts that sped along miniature train tracks through the bank's underground tunnels. Harry enjoyed the breakneck journey down to the Weasleys' vault, but felt dreadful, far worse than he had in Knockturn Alley, when it was opened. There was a very small pile of silver Sickles inside, and just one gold Galleon. Mrs. Weasley felt right into the corners before sweeping the whole lot into her bag. Harry felt even worse when they reached his vault. He tried to block the contents from view as he hastily shoved handfuls of coins into a leather bag.

Back outside on the marble steps, they all separated. Percy muttered vaguely about needing a new quill. Fred and George had spotted their friend from Hogwarts, Lee Jordan. Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were going to a secondhand robe shop. Mr. Weasley was insisting on taking the Grangers off to the Leaky Cauldron for a drink.

“We'll all meet at Flourish and Blotts in an hour to buy your school books,” said Mrs. Weasley, setting off with Ginny. “And not one step down Knockturn Alley!” she shouted at the twins' retreating backs.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione strolled off along the winding, cobbled street. The bag of gold, silver, and bronze jangling cheerfully in Harry's pocket was clamoring to be spent, so he bought three large strawberry-and-peanut-butter ice creams, which they slurped happily as they wandered up the alley, examining the fascinating shop windows. Ron gazed longingly at a full set of Chudley Cannon robes in the windows of Quality Quidditch Supplies until Hermione dragged them off to buy ink and parchment next door. In Gambol and Japes Wizarding Joke Shop, they met Fred, George, and Lee Jordan, who were stocking up on Dr. Filibuster's Fabulous Wet-Start, No-Heat Fireworks, and in a tiny junk shop full of broken wands, lopsided brass scales, and old cloaks covered in potion stains they found Percy, deeply immersed in a small and deeply boring book called Prefects Who Gained Power.

`A study of Hogwarts prefects and their later careers, “ Ron read aloud off the back cover. “That sounds fascinating...”

“Go away,” Percy snapped.

“Course, he's very ambitious, Percy, he's got it all planned out... he wants to be Minister of Magic...” Ron told Harry and Hermione in an undertone as they left Percy to it.

An hour later, they headed for Flourish and Blotts. They were by no means the only ones making their way to the bookshop. As they approached it, they saw to their surprise a large crowd jostling out side the doors, trying to get in. The reason for this was proclaimed by a large banner stretched across the upper windows:

GILDEROY LOCKHART will be signing copies of his autobiography MAGICAL ME today 12. 30–4. 30

“We can actually meet him!” Hermione squealed. “I mean, he's written almost the whole booklist!”

The crowd seemed to be made up mostly of witches around Mrs. Weasley's age. A harassed-looking wizard stood at the door, saying, “Calmly, please, ladies... Don't push, there... mind the books, now... “

Harry, Ron, and Hermione squeezed inside. A long line wound right to the back of the shop, where Gilderoy Lockhart was signing his books. They each grabbed a copy of The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2 and sneaked up the line to where the rest of the Weasleys were standing with Mr. and Mrs. Granger.

“Oh, there you are, good,” said Mrs. Weasley. She sounded breathless and kept patting her hair. “We'll be able to see him in a minute...”

Gilderoy Lockhart came slowly into view, seated at a table surrounded by large pictures of his own face, all winking and flashing dazzlingly white teeth at the crowd. The real Lockhart was wearing robes of forget-me-not blue that exactly matched his eyes; his pointed wizard's hat was set at a jaunty angle on his wavy hair.

A short, irritable-looking man was dancing around taking photographs with a large black camera that emitted puffs of purple smoke with every blinding flash.

“Out of the way, there,” he snarled at Ron, moving back to get a better shot. “This is for the Daily Prophet—”

“Big deal,” said Ron, rubbing his foot where the photographer had stepped on it.

Gilderoy Lockhart heard him. He looked up. He saw Ron and then he saw Harry. He stared. Then he leapt to his feet and positively shouted, “It can't be Harry Potter?”

The crowd parted, whispering excitedly; Lockhart dived forward, seized Harry's arm, and pulled him to the front. The crowd burst into applause. Harry's face burned as Lockhart shook his hand for the photographer, who was clicking away madly, wafting thick smoke over the Weasleys.

Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 97425 times

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