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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (page 7)


“Nice big smile, Harry,” said Lockhart, through his own gleaming teeth. “Together, you and I are worth the front page.”

When he finally let go of Harry's hand, Harry could hardly feel his fingers. He tried to sidle back over to the Weasleys, but Lockhart threw an arm around his shoulders and clamped him tightly to his side.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said loudly, waving for quiet. “What an extraordinary moment this is! The perfect moment for me to make a little announcement I've been sitting on for some time!

“When young Harry here stepped into Flourish and Blotts today, he only wanted to buy my autobiography -which I shall be happy to present him now, free of charge-” The crowd applauded again. “He had no idea,” Lockhart continued, giving Harry a little shake that made his glasses slip to the end of his nose, “that he would shortly be getting much, much more than my book, Magical Me. He and his schoolmates will, in fact, be getting the real magical me. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have great pleasure and pride in announcing that this September, I will be taking up the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!”

The crowd cheered and clapped and Harry found himself being presented with the entire works of Gilderoy Lockhart. Staggering slightly under their weight, he managed to make his way out of the limelight to the edge of the room, where Ginny was standing next to her new cauldron.

“You have these,” Harry mumbled to her, tipping the books into the cauldron. “I'll buy my own—”

“Bet you loved that, didn't you, Potter?” said a voice Harry had no trouble recognizing. He straightened up and found himself face-to-face with Draco Malfoy, who was wearing his usual sneer.

“Famous Harry Potter,” said Malfoy. “Can't even go into a bookshop without making the front page.”

“Leave him alone, he didn't want all that!” said Ginny. It was the first time she had spoken in front of Harry. She was glaring at Malfoy.

“Potter, you've got yourself a girlfriend!” drawled Malfoy. Ginny went scarlet as Ron and Hermione fought their way over, both clutching stacks of Lockhart's books.

“Oh, it's you,” said Ron, looking at Malfoy as if he were something unpleasant on the sole of his shoe. “Bet you're surprised to see Harry here, eh?”

“Not as surprised as I am to see you in a shop, Weasley,” retorted Malfoy. “I suppose your parents will go hungry for a month to pay for all those.”

Ron went as red as Ginny. He dropped his books into the cauldron, too, and started toward Malfoy, but Harry and Hermione grabbed the back of his jacket.

“Ron!” said Mr. Weasley, struggling over with Fred and George. “What are you doing? It's too crowded in here, let's go outside.”

“Well, well, well—Arthur Weasley.”

It was Mr. Malfoy. He stood with his hand on Draco's shoulder, sneering in just the same way.

“Lucius,” said Mr. Weasley, nodding coldly.

“Busy time at the Ministry, I hear,” said Mr. Malfoy. “All those raids... I hope they're paying you overtime?”

He reached into Ginny's cauldron and extracted, from amid the glossy Lockhart books, a very old, very battered copy of A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration.

“Obviously not,” Mr. Malfoy said. “Dear me, what's the use of being a disgrace to the name of wizard if they don't even pay you well for it?”

Mr. Weasley flushed darker than either Ron or Ginny.

“We have a very different idea of what disgraces the name of wizard, Malfoy,” he said.

“Clearly,” said Mr. Malfoy, his pale eyes straying to Mr. and Mrs. Granger, who were watching apprehensively. “The company you keep, Weasley... and I thought your family could sink no lower—”

There was a thud of metal as Ginny's cauldron went flying; Mr. Weasley had thrown himself at Mr. Malfoy, knocking him backward into a bookshelf. Dozens of heavy spellbooks came thundering down on all their heads; there was a yell of, “Get him, Dad!” from Fred or George; Mrs. Weasley was shrieking, “No, Arthur, no!”; the crowd stampeded backward, knocking more shelves over; “Gentlemen, please—please!” cried the assistant, and then, louder than all, “Break it up, there, gents, break it up—”

Hagrid was wading toward them through the sea of books. In an instant he had pulled Mr. Weasley and Mr. Malfoy apart. Mr. Weasley had a cut lip and Mr. Malfoy had been hit in the eye by an Encyclopedia of Toadstools. He was still holding Ginny's old Transfiguration book. He thrust it at her, his eyes glittering with malice.

“Here, girl—take your book—it's the best your father can give you—” Pulling himself out of Hagrid's grip he beckoned to Draco and swept from the shop.

“Yeh should've ignored him, Arthur,” said Hagrid, almost lifting Mr. Weasley off his feet as he straightened his robes. “Rotten ter the core, the whole family, everyone knows that—no Malfoy's worth listenin' ter—bad blood, that's what it is—come on now—let's get outta here.”

The assistant looked as though he wanted to stop them leaving, but he barely came up to Hagrid's waist and seemed to think better of it. They hurried up the street, the Grangers shaking with fright and Mrs. Weasley beside herself with fury.

“A fine example to set for your children... brawling in public... what Gilderoy Lockhart must've thought...”

“He was pleased,” said Fred. “Didn't you hear him as we were leaving? He was asking that bloke from the Daily Prophet if he'd be able to work the fight into his report—said it was all publicity—”

But it was a subdued group that headed back to the fireside in the Leaky Cauldron, where Harry, the Weasleys, and all their shopping would be traveling back to the Burrow using Floo powder. They said good-bye to the Grangers, who were leaving the pub for the Muggle street on the other side; Mr. Weasley started to ask them how bus stops worked, but stopped quickly at the look on Mrs. Weasley's face.

Harry took off his glasses and put them safely in his pocket before helping himself to Floo powder. It definitely wasn't his favorite way to travel.

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

THE WHOMPING WILLOW

 

The end of the summer vacation came too quickly for Harry's liking. He was looking forward to getting back to Hogwarts, but his month at the Burrow had been the happiest of his life. It was difficult not to feel jealous of Ron when he thought of the Dursleys and the sort of welcome he could expect next time he turned up on Privet Drive.

On their last evening, Mrs. Weasley conjured up a sumptuous dinner that included all of Harry's favorite things, ending with a mouthwatering treacle pudding. Fred and George rounded off the evening with a display of Filibuster fireworks; they filled the kitchen with red and blue stars that bounced from ceiling to wall for at least half an hour. Then it was time for a last mug of hot chocolate and bed.

It took a long while to get started next morning. They were up at dawn, but somehow they still seemed to have a great deal to do. Mrs. Weasley dashed about in a bad mood looking for spare socks and quills; people kept colliding on the stairs, half-dressed with bits of toast in their hands; and Mr. Weasley nearly broke his neck, tripping over a stray chicken as he crossed the yard carrying Ginny's trunk to the car.

Harry couldn't see how eight people, six large trunks, two owls, and a rat were going to fit into one small Ford Anglia. He had reckoned, of course, without the special features that Mr. Weasley had added.

“Not a word to Molly,” he whispered to Harry as he opened the. trunk and showed him how it had been magically expanded so that the luggage fitted easily.

When at last they were all in the car, Mrs. Weasley glanced into the back seat, where Harry, Ron, Fred, George, and Percy were all sitting comfortably side by side, and said, “Muggles do know more than we give them credit for, don't they?” She and Ginny got into the front seat, which had been stretched so that it resembled a park bench. “I mean, you'd never know it was this roomy from the outside, would you?”

Mr. Weasley started up the engine and they trundled out of the yard, Harry turning back for a last look at the house. He barely had time to wonder when he'd see it again when they were back George had forgotten his box of Filibuster fireworks. Five minutes after that, they skidded to a halt in the yard so that Fred could run in for his broomstick. They had almost reached the highway when Ginny shrieked that she'd left her diary. By the time she had clambered back into the car, they were running very late, and tempers were running high.

Mr. Weasley glanced at his watch and then at his wife.

“Molly, dear—”

“No, Arthur—”

“No one would see—this little button here is an Invisibility Booster I installed—that'd get us up in the air—then we fly above the clouds. We'd be there in ten minutes and no one would be any the wiser—”

“I said no, Arthur, not in broad daylight—”

They reached King's Cross at a quarter to eleven. Mr. Weasley dashed across the road to get trolleys for their trunks and they all hurried into the station.

Harry had caught the Hogwarts Express the previous year. The tricky part was getting onto platform nine and three-quarters, which wasn't visible to the Muggle eye. What you had to do was walk through the solid barrier dividing platforms nine and ten. It didn't hurt, but it had to be done carefully so that none of the Muggles noticed you vanishing.

“Percy first,” said Mrs. Weasley, looking nervously at the clock overhead, which showed they had only five minutes to disappear casually through the barrier.

Percy strode briskly forward and vanished. Mr. Weasley went next; Fred and George followed.

“I'll take Ginny and you two come right after us,” Mrs. Weasley told Harry and Ron, grabbing Ginny's hand and setting off. In the blink of an eye they were gone.

“Let's go together, we've only got a minute,” Ron said to Harry.

Harry made sure that Hedwig's cage was safely wedged on top of his trunk and wheeled his trolley around to face the barrier. He felt perfectly confident; this wasn't nearly as uncomfortable as using Floo powder. Both of them bent low over the handles of their trolleys and walked purposefully toward the barrier, gathering speed. A few feet away from it, they broke into a run and —

CRASH.

Both trolleys hit the barrier and bounced backward; Ron's trunk fell off with a loud thump, Harry was knocked off his feet, and Hedwig's cage bounced onto the shiny floor, and she rolled away, shrieking indignantly; people all around them stared and a guard nearby yelled, “What in blazes d'you think you're doing?”

“Lost control of the trolley,” Harry gasped, clutching his ribs as he got up. Ron ran to pick up Hedwig, who was causing such a scene that there was a lot of muttering about cruelty to animals from the surrounding crowd.

“Why can't we get through?” Harry hissed to Ron.

“I dunno—”

Ron looked wildly around. A dozen curious people were still watching them.

“We're going to miss the train,” Ron whispered. “I don't understand why the gateway's sealed itself—”

Harry looked up at the giant clock with a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach. Ten seconds... nine seconds...

He wheeled his trolley forward cautiously until it was right against the barrier and pushed with all his might. The metal remained solid.

Three seconds... two seconds... one second...

“It's gone,” said Ron, sounding stunned. “The train's left. What if Mum and Dad can't get back through to us? Have you got any Muggle money?”

And they marched off through the crowd of curious Muggles, out of the station and back onto the side road where the old Ford Anglia was parked.

Ron unlocked the cavernous trunk with a series of taps from his wand. They heaved their luggage back in, put Hedwig on the back seat, and got into the front.

“Check that no one's watching,” said Ron, starting the ignition with another tap of his wand. Harry stuck his head out of the window: Traffic was rumbling along the main road ahead, but their street was empty.

“Okay,” he said.

Ron pressed a tiny silver button on the dashboard. The car around them vanished—and so did they. Harry could feel the seat vibrating beneath him, hear the engine, feel his hands on his knees and his glasses on his nose, but for all he could see, he had become a pair of eyeballs, floating a few feet above the ground in a dingy street full of parked cars.

“Let's go,” said Ron's voice from his right.

And the ground and the dirty buildings on either side fell away, dropping out of sight as the car rose; in seconds, the whole of London lay, smoky and glittering, below them.

Then there was a popping noise and the car, Harry, and Ron reappeared.

“Uh-oh,” said Ron, jabbing at the Invisibility Booster. “It's faulty—”

Both of them pummeled it. The car vanished. Then it flickered back again.

“Hold on!” Ron yelled, and he slammed his foot on the accelerator; they shot straight into the low, woolly clouds and everything turned dull and foggy.

“Now what?” said Harry, blinking at the solid mass of cloud pressing in on them from all sides.

“We need to see the train to know what direction to go in,” said Ron.

“Dip back down again—quickly—”

They dropped back beneath the clouds and twisted around in their seats, squinting at the ground.

“I can see it!” Harry yelled. “Right ahead—there!”

The Hogwarts Express was streaking along below them like a scarlet snake.

“Due north,” said Ron, checking the compass on the dashboard. “Okay, we'll just have to check on it every half hour or so. Hold on...” And they shot up through the clouds. A minute later, they burst out into a blaze of sunlight.

It was a different world. The wheels of the car skimmed the sea of fluffy cloud, the sky a bright, endless blue under the blinding white sun.

“All we've got to worry about now are airplanes,” said Ron.

They looked at each other and started to laugh; for a long time, they couldn't stop.

Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 99633 times

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