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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (page 2)


Harry—this is a Pocket Sneakoscope. If there's someone untrustworthy around, it's supposed to light up and spin. Bill says it's rubbish sold for wizard tourists and isn't reliable, because it kept lighting up at dinner last night. But he didn't realize Fred and George had put beetles in his soup.

Bye —

Ron

Harry put the Pocket Sneakoscope on his bedside table, where it stood quite still, balanced on its point, reflecting the luminous hands of his clock. He looked at it happily for a few seconds, then picked up the parcel Hedwig had brought.

Inside this, too, there was a wrapped present, a card, and a letter, this time from Hermione.

Dear Harry,

Ron wrote to me and told me about his phone call to your Uncle Vernon. I do hope you're all right.

I'm on holiday in France at the moment and I didn't know how I was going to send this to you—what if they'd opened it at customs?—but then Hedwig turned up! I think she wanted to make sure you got something for your birthday for a change. I bought your present by owl-order; there was an advertisement in the Daily Prophet (I've been getting it delivered; it's so good to keep up with what's going on in the wizarding world), Did you see that picture of Ron and his family a week ago? I bet he's learning loads. I'm really jealous—the ancient Egyptian wizards were fascinating.

There's some interesting local history of witchcraft here, too. I've rewritten my whole History of Magic essay to include some of the things I've found out, I hope it's not too long—it's two rolls of parchment more than Professor Binns asked for.

Ron says he's going to be in London in the last week of the holidays. Can you make it? Will your aunt and uncle let you come? I really hope you can. If not, I'll see you on the Hogwarts Express on September first!

Love from Hermione

P. S. Ron says Percy's Head Boy. I'll bet Percy's really pleased Ron doesn't seem too happy about it

Harry laughed as he put Herrmone's letter aside and picked up her present. It was very heavy. Knowing Hermione, he was sure it would be a large book full of very difficult spells—but it wasn't. His heart gave a huge bound as he ripped back the paper and saw a sleek black leather case, with silver words stamped across it, reading Broomstick Servicing Kit.

“Wow, Hermione!” Harry whispered, unzipping the case to look inside.

There was a large jar of Fleetwood's High-Finish Handle Polish, a pair of gleaming silver Tall-Twig Clippers, a tiny brass compass to clip on your broom for long journeys, and a Handbook of Do-It-Yourself Broomcare.

Apart from his friends, the thing that Harry missed most about Hogwarts was Quidditch, the most popular sport in the magical world—highly dangerous, very exciting, and played on broomsticks. Harry happened to be a very good Quidditch player; he had been the youngest person in a century to be picked for one of the Hogwarts House teams. One of Harry's most prized possessions was his Nimbus Two Thousand racing broom.

Harry put the leather case aside and picked up his last parcel. He recognized the untidy scrawl on the brown paper at once: this was from Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper. He tore off the top layer of paper and glimpsed something green and leathery, but before he could unwrap it properly, the parcel gave a strange quiver, and whatever was inside it snapped loudly—as though it had jaws.

Harry froze. He knew that Hagrid would never send him anything dangerous on purpose, but then, Hagrid didn't have a normal person's view of what was dangerous. Hagrid had been known to befriend giant spiders, buy vicious, three-headed dogs from men in pubs, and sneak illegal dragon eggs into his cabin.

Harry poked the parcel nervously. It snapped loudly again. Harry reached for the lamp on his bedside table, gripped it firmly in one hand, and raised it over his head, ready to strike. Then he seized the rest of the wrapping paper in his other hand and pulled.

And out fell—a book. Harry just had time to register its handsome green cover, emblazoned with the golden title The Monster Book of Monsters, before it flipped onto its edge and scuttled sideways along the bed like some weird crab.

“Uh-oh,” Harry muttered.

The book toppled off the bed with a loud clunk and shuffled rapidly across the room. Harry followed it stealthily. The book was hiding in the dark space under his desk. Praying that the Dursleys were still fast asleep, Harry got down on his hands and knees and reached toward it.

“Ouch!”

The book snapped shut on his hand and then flapped past him, still scuttling on its covers. Harry scrambled around, threw himself forward, and managed to flatten it. Uncle Vernon gave a loud, sleepy grunt in the room next door.

Hedwig and Errol watched interestedly as Harry clamped the struggling book tightly in his arms, hurried to his chest of drawers, and pulled out a belt, which he buckled tightly around it. The Monster Book shuddered angrily, but could no longer flap and snap, so Harry threw it down on the bed and reached for Hagrid's card.

Dear Harry,

Happy Birthday!

Think you might find this useful for next year. Won't say no more here. Tell you when I see you. Hope the Muggles are treating you right.

All the best,

Hagrid

It struck Harry as ominous that Hagrid thought a biting book would come in useful, but he put Hagrid's card up next to Ron's and Hermione's, grinning more broadly than ever. Now there was only the letter from Hogwarts left.

Noticing that it was rather thicker than usual, Harry slit open the envelope, pulled out the first page of parchment within, and read:

Dear Mr. Potter,

Please note that the new school year will begin on September the first. The Hogwarts Express will leave ftom King's Cross station, platform nine and three-quarters, at eleven o'clock.

Third years are permitted to visit the village of Hogsmeade on certain weekends. Please give the enclosed permission form to your parent or guardian to sign.

A list of books for next year is enclosed. Yours sincerely,

Professor M. McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress

Harry pulled out the Hogsmeade permission form and looked at it, no longer grinning. It would be wonderful to visit Hogsmeade on weekends; he knew it was an entirely wizarding village, and he had never set foot there. But how on earth was he going to persuade Uncle Vernon or Aunt Petunia to sign the form?

He looked over at the alarm clock. It was now two o'clock in the morning.

Deciding that he'd worry about the Hogsmeade form when he woke up, Harry got back into bed and reached up to cross off another day on the chart he'd made for himself, counting down the days left until his return to Hogwarts. Then he took off his glasses and lay down, eyes open, facing his three birthday cards.

Extremely unusual though he was, at that moment Harry Potter felt just like everyone else—glad, for the first time in his life, that it was his birthday.

CHAPTER TWO

AUNT MARGE'S BIG MISTAKE

Harry went down to breakfast the next morning to find the three Dursleys already sitting around the kitchen table. They were watching a brand-new television, a welcome-home-for-the-summer present for Dudley, who had been complaining loudly about the long walk between the fridge and the television in the living room. Dudley had spent most of the summer in the kitchen, his piggy little eyes fixed on the screen and his five chins wobbling as he ate continually.

Harry sat down between Dudley and Uncle Vernon, a large, beefy man with very little neck and a lot of mustache. Far from wishing Harry a happy birthday, none of the Dursleys made any sign that they had noticed Harry enter the room, but Harry was far too used to this to care. He helped himself to a piece of toast and then looked up at the reporter on the television, who was halfway through a report on an escaped convict:

“...The public is warned that Black is armed and extremely dangerous. A special hot line has been set up, and any sighting of Black should be reported immediately.”

“No need to tell us he's no good,” snorted Uncle Vernon, staring over the top of his newspaper at the prisoner. “Look at the state of him, the filthy layabout! Look at his hair!”

He shot a nasty look sideways at Harry, whose untidy hair had always been a source of great annoyance to Uncle Vernon. Compared to the man on the television, however, whose gaunt face was surrounded by a matted, elbow-length tangle, Harry felt very well groomed indeed.

The reporter had reappeared.

“The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will announce today —”

“Hang on!” barked Uncle Vernon, staring furiously at the reporter. “You didn't tell us where that maniac's escaped from! \What use is that? Lunatic could be coming up the street right now!”

Aunt Petunia, who was bony and horse-faced, whipped around and peered intently out of the kitchen window. Harry knew Aunt Petunia would simply love to be the one to call the hot line number. She was the nosiest woman in the world and spent most of her life spying on the boring, law-abiding neighbors.

“When will they learn,” said Uncle Vernon, pounding the table with his large purple fist, “that hanging's the only way to deal with these people?”

“Very true,” said Aunt Petunia, who was still squinting into next door's runner beans.

Uncle Vernon drained his teacup, glanced at his watch, and added, “I'd better be off in a minute, Petunia. Marge's train gets in at ten.”

Harry, whose thoughts had been upstairs with the Broomstick Servicing Kit, was brought back to earth with an unpleasant bump.

“Aunt Marge?” he blurted out. “Sh—she's not coming here, is she?”

Aunt Marge was Uncle Vernon's sister. Even though she was not a blood relative of Harry's (whose mother had been Aunt Petunia's sister), he had been forced to call her “Aunt” all his life. Aunt Marge lived in the country, in a house with a large garden, where she bred bulldogs. She didn't often stay at Privet Drive, because she couldn't bear to leave her precious dogs, but each of her visits stood out horribly vividly in Harry's mind.

At Dudley's fifth birthday party, Aunt Margo had whacked Harry around the shins with her walking stick to stop him from beating Dudley at musical statues. A few years later, she had turned up at Christmas with a computerized robot for Dudley and a box of dog biscuits for Harry. On her last visit, the year before Harry started at Hogwarts, Harry had accidentally trodden on the tail of her favorite dog. Ripper had chased Harry out into the garden and up a tree, and Aunt Marge had refused to call him off until past midnight. The memory of this incident still brought tears of laughter to Dudley's eyes.

“Marge'll be here for a week,” Uncle Vernon snarled, 11 and while we're on the subject”—he pointed a fat finger threateningly at Harry—”we need to get a few things straight before I go and collect her.”

Dudley smirked and withdrew his gaze from the television. Watching Harry being bullied by Uncle Vernon was Dudley's favorite form of entertainment.

“Firstly,” growled Uncle Vernon, “you'll keep a civil tongue in your head when you're talking to Marge.”

“All right,” said Harry bitterly, “if she does when she's talking to me.

“Secondly,” said Uncle Vernon, acting as though he had not heard Harry's reply, “as Marge doesn't know anything about your abnormality, I don't want any—any funny stuff while she's here.

You behave yourself, got me?”

“I will if she does,” said Harry through gritted teeth.

“And thirdly,” said Uncle Vernon, his mean little eyes now slits in his great purple face, “we've told Marge you attend St. Brutus's Secure Center for Incurably Criminal Boys.”

“What?” Harry yelled.

“And you'll be sticking to that story, boy, or there'll be trouble, spat Uncle Vernon.

Harry sat there, white-faced and furious, staring at Uncle Vernon, hardly able to believe it. Aunt Marge coming for a weeklong visit—it was the worst birthday present the Dursleys had ever given him, including that pair of Uncle Vernon's old socks.

“Well, Petunia,” said Uncle Vernon, getting heavily to his feet, “I'll be off to the station, then. Want to come along for the ride, Dudders?”

“No,” said Dudley, whose attention had returned to the television now that Uncle Vernon had finished threatening Harry.

“Duddy's got to make himself smart for his auntie,” said Aunt Petunia, smoothing Dudley's thick blond hair. “Mummy's bought him a lovely new bow tie.”

Uncle Vernon clapped Dudley on his porky shoulder. “See you in a bit, then,” he said, and he left the kitchen.

Harry, who had been sitting in a kind of horrified trance, had a sudden idea. Abandoning his toast, he got quickly to his feet and followed Uncle Vernon to the front door.

Uncle Vernon was pulling on his car coat.

“I'm not taking you,” he snarled as he turned to see Harry watching him.

“Like I wanted to come,” said Harry coldly. “I want to ask you something.”

Uncle Vernon eyed him suspiciously.

“Third years at Hog—at my school are allowed to visit the village sometimes,” said Harry.

“So?” snapped Uncle Vernon, taking his car keys from a hook next to the door.

“I need you to sign the permission form,” said Harry in a rush.

“And why should I do that?” sneered Uncle Vernon.

“Well,” said Harry, choosing his words carefully, “it'll be hard work, pretending to Aunt Marge I go to that St. Whatsits —”

“St. Brutus's Secure Center for Incurably Criminal Boys!” bellowed Uncle Vernon, and Harry was pleased to hear a definite note of panic in Uncle Vernon's voice.

“Exactly,” said Harry, looking calmly up into Uncle Vernon's large, purple face. “It's a lot to remember. I'll have to make it sound convincing, won't I? What if I accidentally let something slip?”

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 112265 times

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