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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (page 10)


He and Hermione sat down on either side of Ron, who had saved them seats.

“What was all that about?” he muttered to Harry.

Harry started to explain in a whisper, but at that moment the headmaster stood up to speak, and he broke off.

Professor Dumbledore, though very old, always gave an impression of great energy. He had several feet of long silver hair and beard, half-moon spectacles, and an extremely crooked nose. He was often described as the greatest wizard of the age, but that wasn't why Harry respected him. You couldn't help trusting Albus Dumbledore, and as Harry watched him beaming around at the students, he felt really calm for the first time since the dementor had entered the train compartment.

“Welcome!” said Dumbledore, the candlelight shimmering on his beard. “Welcome to another year at Hogwarts! I have a few things to say to you all, and as one of them is very serious, I think it best to get it out of the way before you become befuddled by our excellent feast...”

Dumbledore cleared his throat and continued, “As you will all be aware after their search of the Hogwarts Express, our school is presently playing host to some of the dementors of Azkaban, who are here on Ministry of Magic business.”

He paused, and Harry remembered what Mr. Weasley had said about Dumbledore not being happy with the dementors guarding the school.

“They are stationed at every entrance to the grounds,” Dumbledore continued, “and while they are with us, I must make it plain that nobody is to leave school without permission. Dementors are not to be fooled by tricks or disguises—or even Invisibility Cloaks,” he added blandly, and Harry and Ron glanced at each other. “It is not in the nature of a dementor to understand pleading or excuses. I therefore warn each and every one of you to give them no reason to harm you. I look to the prefects, and our new Head Boy and Girl, to make sure that no student runs afoul of the dementors,” he said.

Percy, who was sitting a few seats down from Harry, puffed out his chest again and stared around impressively. Dumbledore paused again; he looked very seriously around the hall, and nobody moved or made a sound.

“On a happier note,” he continued, I am pleased to welcome two new teachers to our ranks this year.

“First, Professor Lupin, who has kindly consented to fill the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.”

There was some scattered, rather unenthusiastic applause. Only those who had been in the compartment on the train with Professor Lupin clapped hard, Harry among them. Professor Lupin looked particularly shabby next to all the other teachers in their best robes.

“Look at Snape!” Ron hissed in Harry's ear.

Professor Snape, the Potions master, was staring along the staff table at Professor Lupin. It was common knowledge that Snape,anted the Defense Against the Dark Arts job, but even Harry, who hated Snape, was startled at the expression twisting his thin, sallow face. it was beyond anger: it was loathing. Harry knew that expression only too well; it was the look Snape wore every time he set eyes on Harry.

“As to our second new appointment,” Dumbledore continued as the lukewarm applause for Professor Lupin died away. “Well, I am sorry to tell you that Professor Kettleburn, our Care of Magical Creatures teacher, retired at the end of last year in order to enjoy more time with his remaining limbs. However, I am delighted to say that his place will be filled by none other than Rubeus Hagrid, who has agreed to take on this teaching job in addition to his gamekeeping duties.”

Harry, Ron, and Hermione stared at one another, stunned. Then they joined in with the applause, which was tumultuous at the Gryffindor table in particular. Harry leaned forward to see Hagrid, who was ruby-red in the face and staring down at his enormous hands, his wide grin hidden in the tangle of his black beard.

“We should've known!” Ron roared, pounding the table. “Who else would have assigned us a biting book?”

Harry, Ron, and Hermione were the last to stop clapping, and as Professor Dumbledore started speaking again, they saw that Hagrid was wiping his eyes on the tablecloth.

“Well, I think that's everything of importance,” said Dumbledore. “Let the feast begin!”

The golden plates and goblets before them filled suddenly with food and drink. Harry, suddenly ravenous, helped himself to everything he could reach and began to eat.

It was a delicious feast; the hall echoed with talk, laughter, and the clatter of knives and forks. Harry, Ron, and Hermione, however, were eager for it to finish so that they could talk to Hagrid. They knew how much being made a teacher would mean to him. Hagrid wasn't a fully qualified wizard; he had been expelled from Hogwarts in his third year for a crime he had not committed. It had been Harry, Ron, and Hermione who had cleared Hagrid's name last year.

At long last, when the last morsels of pumpkin tart had melted from the golden platters, Dumbledore gave the word that it was time for them all to go to bed, and they got their chance.

“Congratulations, Hagrid!” Hermione squealed as they reached the teachers' table.

“All down ter you three,” said Hagrid, wiping his shining face on his napkin as he looked up at them., “Can' believe it... great man, Dumbledore... came straight down to me hut after Professor Kettleburn said he'd had enough... It's what I always wanted. —”

Overcome with emotion, he buried his face in his napkin, and Professor McGonagall shooed them away.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione joined the Gryffindors streaming up the marble staircase and, very tired now, along more corridors, UP more and more stairs, to the hidden entrance to Gryffindor Tower's large portrait of a fat lady in a pink dress asked them, “Password?”

“Coming through, coming through!” Percy called from behind the crowd. “The new password's 'Fortuna Major'!”

“Oh no,” said Neville Longbottom sadly. He always had trouble remembering the passwords.

Through the portrait hole and across the common room, the girls and boys divided toward their separate staircases. Harry climbed the spiral stair with no thought in his head except how glad he was to be back. They reached their familiar, circular dormitory with its five four-poster beds, and Harry, looking around, felt he was home at last.

CHAPTER SIX

TALONS AND TEA LEAVES

When Harry, Ron, and Hermione entered the Great Hall for breakfast the next day, the first thing they saw was Draco Malfoy, who seemed to be entertaining a large group of Slytherins with a very funny story. As they passed, Malfoy did a ridiculous impression of a swooning fit and there was a roar of laughter.

“Ignore him,” said Hermione, who was right behind Harry. “Just ignore him, it's not worth it...”

“Hey, Potter!” shrieked Pansy Parkinson, a Slytherin girl with a face like a pug. “Potter! The dementors are coming, Potter! Woooooooooo!”

Harry dropped into a seat at the Gryffindor table, next to George Weasley.

“New third-year course schedules,” said George, passing then, over. “What's up with you, Harry?”

“Malfoy,” said Ron, sitting down on George's other side and glaring over at the Slytherin table.

George looked up in time to see Malfoy pretending to faint with terror again.

“That little git,” he said calmly. “He wasn't so cocky last night when the dementors were down at our end of the train. Came runing into our compartment, didn't he, Fred?”

“Nearly wet himself,” said Fred, with a contemptuous glance at Malfoy.

“I wasn't too happy myself,” said George. “They're horrible things, those dementors...”

“Sort of freeze your insides, don't they?” said Fred.

“You didn't pass out, though, did you?” said Harry in a low voice.

“Forget it, Harry,” said George bracingly. “Dad had to go out to Azkaban one time, remember, Fred? And he said it was the worst place he'd ever been, he came back all weak and shaking... They suck the happiness out of a place, dementors. Most of the prisoners go mad in there.”

“Anyway, we'll see how happy Malfoy looks after our first Quidditch match,” said Fred. “Gryffindor versus Slytherin, first game of the season, remember?”

The only time Harry and Malfoy had faced each other in a Quidditch match, Malfoy had definitely come off worse. Feeling slightly more cheerful, Harry helped himself to sausages and fried tomatoes.

Hermione was examining her new schedule.

“ Ooh, good, we're starting some new subjects today,” she said happily. villains are these, that trespass upon my private lands! Come I. scorn at my fall, perchance? Draw, you knaves, you dogs!”

They watched in astonishment as the little knight tugged his sword out of its scabbard and began brandishing it violently, hopping up and down in rage. But the sword was too long for him; a particularly wild swing made him overbalance, and he landed facedown in the grass.

“Are you all right?” said Harry, moving closer to the picture.

“Get back, you scurvy braggart! Back, you rogue!”

The knight seized his sword again and used it to push himself back up, but the blade sank deeply into the grass and, though he pulled with all his might, he couldn't get it out again. Finally, he had to flop back down onto the grass and push up his visor to mop his sweating face.

“Listen,” said Harry, taking advantage of the knight's exhaustion, “we're looking for the North Tower. You don't know the way, do you?”

“A quest!” The knight's rage seemed to vanish instantly. He clanked to his feet and shouted, “Come follow me, dear friends, and we shall find our goal, or else shall perish bravely in the charge!”

He gave the sword another fruitless tug, tried and failed to mount the fat pony, gave up, and cried, “On foot then, good sirs and gentle lady! On! On!”

And he ran, clanking loudly, into the left side of the frame and out of sight.

They hurried after him along the corridor, following the sound of his armor. Every now and then they spotted him running through a picture ahead.

“Be of stout heart, the worst is yet to come!” yelled the knight, and they saw him reappear in front of an alarmed group of women in crinolines, whose picture hung on the wall of a narrow spiral staircase.

Puffing loudly, Harry, Ron, and Hermione climbed the tightly spiraling steps, getting dizzier and dizzier, until at last they heard the murmur of voices above them and knew they had reached the classroom.

“Farewell!” cried the knight, popping his head into a painting of some sinister-looking monks. “Farewell, my comrades-in-arms! If ever you have need of noble heart and steely sinew, call upon Sir Cadogan!”

“Yeah, we'll call you,” muttered Ron as the knight disappeared, “if we ever need someone mental.”

They climbed the last few steps and emerged onto a tiny landing, where most of the class was already assembled. There were no doors off this landing, but Ron nudged Harry and pointed at the ceiling, where there was a circular trapdoor with a brass plaque on it.

“'Sibyll Trelawney, Divination teacher,"' Harry read. “How're we supposed to get up there?”

As though in answer to his question, the trapdoor suddenly opened, and a silvery ladder descended right at Harry's feet. Everyone got quiet.

“After you,” said Ron, grinning, so Harry climbed the ladder first.

He emerged into the strangest-looking classroom he had ever seen. In fact, it didn't look like a classroom at all, more like a cross between someone's attic and an old-fashioned tea shop. At leasttwenty small, circular tables were crammed inside it, all surrounded by chintz armchairs and fat little poufs. Everything was lit with a dim, crimson light; the curtains at the windows were all closed, and the many lamps were draped with dark red scarves. it was stiflingly warm, and the fire that was burning under the crowded mantelpiece was giving off a heavy, sickly sort of perfume as it heated a large copper kettle. The shelves running around the circular walls were crammed with dusty-looking feathers, stubs of candles, many packs of tattered playing cards, countless silvery crystal balls, and a huge array of teacups.

Ron appeared at Harry's shoulder as the class assembled around them, all talking in whispers.

“Where is she?” Ron said.

A voice came suddenly out of the shadows, a soft, misty sort of voice.

“Welcome,” it said. “How nice to see you in the physical world at last.”

Harry's immediate impression was of a large, glittering insect. Professor Trelawney moved into the firelight, and they saw that she was very thin; her large glasses magnified her eyes to several times their natural size, and she was draped in a gauzy spangled shawl. Innumerable chains and beads hung around her spindly neck, and her arms and hands were encrusted with bangles and rings.

“Sit, my children, sit,” she said, and they all climbed awkwardly into armchairs or sank onto poufs. Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat themselves around the same round table.

“Welcome to Divination,” said Professor Trelawney, who had seated herself in a winged armchair in front of the fire. “My name is professor Trelawney. You may not have seen me before. I find that descending too often into the hustle and bustle of the main school clouds my Inner Eye.”

Nobody said anything to this extraordinary pronouncement. Professor Trelawney delicately rearranged her shawl and continued, “So you have chosen to study Divination, the most difficult of all magical arts. I must warn you at the outset that if you do not have the Sight, there is very little I will be able to teach you.. Books can take you only so far in this field...”

At these words, both Harry and Ron glanced, grinning, at Hermione, who looked startled at the news that books wouldn't be much help in this subject.

“Many witches and wizards, talented though they are in the area of loud bangs and smells and sudden disappearings, are yet unable to penetrate the veiled mysteries of the future,” Professor Trelawney went on, her enormous, gleaming eyes moving from face to nervous face. “It is a Gift granted to few. You, boy,” she said suddenly to Neville, who almost toppled off his pouf. “Is your grandmother well?”

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: J.K.Rîwling
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