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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (page 18)


“Be quiet,” said Snape coldly. “I did not ask for information. I was merely commenting on Professor Lupin's lack of organization.”

“He's the best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher we've ever had,” said Dean Thomas boldly, and there was a murmur of agreement from the rest of the class. Snape looked more menacing than ever.

“You are easily satisfied. Lupin is hardly overtaxing you—I,Would expect first years to be able to deal with Red Caps and grindylows. Today we shall discuss —”

Harry watched him flick through the textbook, to the very back chapter, which he must know they hadn't covered.

“Werewolves,” said Snape.

“But, sir,” said Hermione, seemingly unable to restrain herself, “we're not supposed to do werewolves yet, we're due to start hinkypunks —”

“Miss Granger,” said Snape in a voice of deadly calm, “I was under the impression that I am teaching this lesson, not you. And I am telling you all to turn to page 394.” He glanced around again. 'All of you! Now!”

With many bitter sidelong looks and some sullen muttering, the class opened their books.

“Which of you can tell me how we distinguish between the werewolf and the true wolf?” said Snape.

Everyone sat in motionless silence; everyone except Hermione, whose hand, as it so often did, had shot straight into the air.

“Anyone?” Snape said, ignoring Hermione. His twisted smile was back. “Are you telling me that Professor Lupin hasn't even taught you the basic distinction between —”

“We told you,” said Parvati suddenly, “we haven't got as far as werewolves yet, we're still on —”

“Silence!” snarled Snape. “Well, well, well, I never thought I'd meet a third-year class who wouldn't even recognize a werewolf when they saw one. I shall make a point of informing Professor Dumbledore how very behind you all are...”

“Please, sir,” said Hermione, whose hand was still in the air, “the werewolf differs from the true wolf in several small ways. The snout of the werewolf —”

“That is the second time you have spoken out of turn, Miss Granger,” said Snape coolly. “Five more points from Gryffindor for being an insufferable know-it-all.”

Hermione went very red, put down her hand, and stared at the floor with her eyes full of tears. It was a mark of how much the class loathed Snape that they were all glaring at him, because every one of them had called Hermione a know-it-all at least once, and Ron, who told Hermione she was a know-it-all at least twice a week, said loudly, “You asked us a question and she knows the answer! Why ask if you don't want to be told?”

The class knew instantly he'd gone too far. Snape advanced on Ron slowly, and the room held its breath.

“Detention, Weasley,” Snape said silkily, his face very close to Ron's. “And if I ever hear you criticize the way I teach a class again, you will be very sorry indeed.”

No one made a sound throughout the rest of the lesson. They sat and made notes on werewolves from the textbook, while Snape prowled up and down the rows of desks, examining the work they had been doing with Professor Lupin.

“Very poorly explained... That is incorrect, the kappa is more commonly found in Mongolia... Professor Lupin gave this eight out of ten? I wouldn't have given it three...”

When the bell rang at last, Snape held them back.

“You will each write an essay, to be handed in to me, on the ways you recognize and kill werewolves. I want two rolls of parchment or, the subject, and I want them by Monday morning. It is time somebody took this class in hand. Weasley, stay behind, we need to arrange your detention.”

Harry and Hermione left the room with the rest of the class, who waited until they were well out of earshot, then burst into a furious tirade about Snape.

“Snape's never been like this with any of our other Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers, even if he did want the job,” Harry said to Hermione. “Why's he got it in for Lupin? D'you think this is all because of the boggart?”

“I don't know,” said Hermione pensively. “But I really hope Professor Lupin gets better soon...”

Ron caught up with them five minutes later, in a towering rage.

“D'you know what that —” (he called Snape something that made Hermione say “Ron!”) “— is making me do? I've got to scrub out the bedpans in the hospital wing. Without magic!” He was breathing deeply, his fists clenched. “Why couldn't Black have hidden in Snape's office, eh? He could have finished him off for us!”

Harry woke extremely early the next morning; so early that it was till dark. For a moment he thought the roaring of the wind had woken him. Then he felt a cold breeze on the back of his neck and sat bolt upright—Peeves the Poltergeist had been floating next to him, blowing hard in his ear.

“What did you do that for?” said Harry furiously. Peeves puffed out his cheeks, blew hard, and zoomed backward out of the room, cackling.

Harry fumbled for his alarm clock and looked at it. It was half past four. Cursing Peeves, he rolled over and tried to get back to sleep, but it was very difficult, now that he was awake, to ignore the sounds of the thunder rumbling overhead, the pounding of the wind against the castle walls, and the distant creaking of the trees in the Forbidden Forest. In a few hours he would be out on the Quidditch field, battling through that gale. Finally, he gave up any thought of more sleep, got up, dressed, picked up his Nimbus Two Thousand, and walked quietly out of the dormitory.

As Harry opened the door, something brushed against his leg. He bent down just in time to grab Crookshanks by the end of his bushy tail and drag him outside.

“You know, I reckon Ron was right about you,” Harry told Crookshanks suspiciously. “There are plenty of mice around this place—go and chase them. Go on,” he added, nudging Crookshanks down the spiral staircase with his foot. “Leave Scabbers alone.”

The noise of the storm was even louder in the common roorn. Harry knew better than to think the match would be canceled; Quidditch matches weren't called off for trifles like thunderstorms. Nevertheless, he was starting to feel very apprehensive. Wood had pointed out Cedric Diggory to him in the corridor; Diggory was a fifth year and a lot bigger than Harry. Seekers were usually light

and speedy, but Diggory's weight would be an advantage in this weather because he was less likely to be blown off course.

Harry whiled away the hours until dawn in front of the fire, getting up every now and then to stop Crookshanks from sneaking up

the boys, staircase again. At long last Harry thought it must be time for breakfast, so he headed through the portrait hole alone.

“Stand and fight, you mangy cur!” yelled Sir Cadogan.

“Oh, shut up,” Harry yawned.

He revived a bit over a large bowl of porridge, and by the time he'd started on toast, the rest of the team had turned up.

“It's going to be a tough one,” said Wood, who wasn't eating anything.

“Stop worrying, Oliver,” said Alicia soothingly, “we don't mind a bit of rain.”

But it was considerably more than a bit of rain. Such was the popularity of Quidditch that the whole school turned out to watch the match as usual, but they ran down the lawns toward the Quidditch field, heads bowed against the ferocious wind, umbrellas being whipped out of their hands as they went. just before he entered the locker room, Harry saw Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, laughing and pointing at him from under an enormous umbrella on their way to the stadium.

The team changed into their scarlet robes and waited for Wood's usual pre-match pep talk, but it didn't come. He tried to speak several times, made an odd gulping noise, then shook his head hopelessly and beckoned them to follow him.

The wind was so strong that they staggered sideways as they walked out onto the field. If the crowd was cheering, they couldn't hear it over the fresh rolls of thunder. Rain was splattering over Harry's glasses. How on earth was he going to see the Snitch in this?

The Hufflepuffs were approaching from the opposite side of the field, wearing canary-yellow robes. The Captains walked up to eacb other and shook hands; Diggory smiled at Wood but Wood no, looked as though he had lockjaw and merely nodded. Harry saw Madam Hooch's mouth form the words, “Mount Your brooms.,, He pulled his right foot out of the mud with a squelch and swung it over his Nimbus Two Thousand. Madam Hooch put her whistle to her lips and gave it a blast that sounded shrill and distant they were off

Harry rose fast, but his Nimbus was swerving slightly with the wind. He held it as steady as he could and turned, squinting into the rain.

Within five minutes Harry was soaked to his skin and frozen, hardly able to see his teammates, let alone the tiny Snitch. He flew backward and forward across the field past blurred red and yellow shapes, with no idea of what was happening in the rest of the game. He couldn't hear the commentary over the wind. The crowd was hidden beneath a sea of cloaks and battered umbrellas. Twice Harry came very close to being unseated by a Bludger; his vision was so clouded by the rain on his glasses he hadn't seen them coming.

He lost track of time. It was getting harder and harder to hold his broom straight. The sky was getting darker, as though night had decided to come early. Twice Harry nearly hit another player, without knowing whether it was a teammate or opponent; everyone was now so wet, and the rain so thick, he could hardly tell them apart...

With the first flash of lightning came the sound of Madam Hooch's whistle; Harry could just see the outline of Wood through the thick rain, gesturing him to the ground. The whole team splashed down into the mud.

“I called for time-out!” Wood roared at his team. “Come on, under here —”

They huddled at the edge of the field under a large umbrella; Harry took off his glasses and wiped them hurriedly on his robes.

“What's the score?”

“We're fifty points up,” said Wood, “but unless we get the Snitch soon, we'll be playing into the night.”

“I've got no chance with these on,” Harry said exasperatedly, waving his glasses.

At that very moment, Hermione appeared at his shoulder; she was holding her cloak over her head and was, inexplicably, beaming.

“I've had an idea, Harry! Give me your glasses, quick!”

He handed them to her, and as the team watched in amazement, Hermione tapped them with her wand and said, “Impervius!”

“There!” she said, handing them back to Harry. “They'll repel water!”

Wood looked as though he could have kissed her.

“Brilliant!” he called hoarsely after her as she disappeared into the crowd. “Okay, team, let's go for it!”

Hermione's spell had done the trick. Harry was still numb with cold, still wetter than he'd ever been in his life, but he could see. Full of fresh determination, he urged his broom through the turbulent air, staring in every direction for the Snitch, avoiding a Bludger, ducking beneath Diggory, who was streaking in the opposite direction...

There was another clap of thunder, followed immediately by forked lightning. This was getting more and more dangerous. Harry needed to get the Snitch quickly —

He turned, intending to head back toward the middle of the field, but at that moment, another flash of lightning illuminated the stands, and Harry saw something that distracted him completely, the silhouette of an enormous shaggy black dog, clearly imprinted against the sky, motionless in the topmost, empty row of seats.

Harry's numb hands slipped on the broom handle and his Nimbus dropped a few feet. Shaking his sodden bangs out of his eyes, he squinted back into the stands. The dog had vanished.

“Harry!” came Wood's anguished yell from the Gryffindor goal posts. “Harry, behind you!”

Harry looked wildly around. Cedric Diggory was pelting up the field, and a tiny speck of gold was shimmering in the rain-filled air between them —

With a jolt of panic, Harry threw himself flat to the broornhandle and zoomed toward the Snitch.

“Come on!” he growled at his Nimbus as the rain whipped his face. 'Taster!”

But something odd was happening. An eerie silence was falling across the stadium. The wind, though as strong as ever, was forgetting to roar. It was as though someone had turned off the sound, as though Harry had gone suddenly deaf—what was going on?

And then a horribly familiar wave of cold swept over him, inside him, just as he became aware of something moving on the field below...

Before he'd had time to think, Harry had taken his eyes off the Snitch and looked down.

At least a hundred dementors, their hidden faces pointing up at him, were standing beneath him. It was as though freezing water were rising in his chest, cutting at his insides. And then he heard it again... Someone was screaming, screaming inside his head... a woman...

“Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!”

“Stand aside, you silly girl... stand aside, now...”

“Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead —”

Numbing, swirling white mist was filling Harry's brain... What was he doing? Why was he flying? He needed to help her... She was going to die... She was going to be murdered...

He was falling, falling through the icy mist.

“Not Harry! Please... have mercy... have mercy...

A shrill voice was laughing, the woman was screaming, and Harry knew no more.

“Lucky the ground was so soft.”

“I thought he was dead for sure.”

“But he didn't even break his glasses.”

Harry could hear the voices whispering, but they made no sense whatsoever. He didn't have a clue where he was, or how he'd got there, or what he'd been doing before he got there. All he knew was that every inch of him was aching as though it had been beaten.

“That was the scariest thing I've ever seen in my life.”

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