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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (page 21)


Harry hesistated. What if Black did know the passage was there?

Ron, however, cleared his throat significantly, and pointed to a notice pasted on the inside of the sweetshop door.

————BY ORDER OF ———— THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC

Customers are reminded that until further notice, dementors will be patrolling the streets of Hogsmeade every night after sundown. This measure has been put in place for the safety of Hogsmeade residents and will be lifted upon the recapture of Sirius Black. It is therefore advisable that you complete your shopping well before nightfall.

Merry Christmas!

“See?” said Ron quietly. “I'd like to see Black try and break into Honeydukes with dementors swarming all over the village. Anyway, Hermione, the Honeydukes owners would hear a break-in, wouldn't they? They live over the shop!”

“Yes, but but —” Hermoine seemed to be struggling to find another problem. “Look, Harry still shouldn't be coming into Hogsmeade. He hasn't got a signed form! If anyone finds out, he'll be in so much trouble! And it's not nightfall yet—what if Sirius Black turns up today? Now?”

“He'd have a job spotting Harry in this,” said Ron, nodding through the mullioned windows at the thick, swirling snow. “Come on, Hermione, it's Christmas. Harry deserves a break.”

Hermione bit her lip, looking extremely worried.

“Are you going to report me?” Harry asked her, grinning.

“Oh—of course not—but honestly, Harry —”

“Seen the Fizzing Whizbees, Harry?” said Ron, grabbing him and leading him over to their barrel. “And the Jelly Slugs? And the Acid Pops? Fred gave me one of those when I was seven—it burnt a hole right through my tongue. I remember Mum walloping him with her broomstick.” Ron stared broodingly into the Acid Pop box. “Reckon Fred'd take a bit of Cockroach Cluster if I told him they were peanuts?”

When Ron and Hermione had paid for all their sweets, the three of them left Honeydukes for the blizzard outside.

Hogsmeade looked like a Christmas card; the little thatched cottages and shops were all covered in a layer of crisp snow; there were holly wreaths on the doors and strings of enchanted candles hanging in the trees.

Harry shivered; unlike the other two, he didn't have his cloak. They headed up the street, heads bowed against the wind, Ron and Hermione shouting through their scarves.

“That's the post office

“Zonko's is up there —”

“We could go up to the Shrieking Shack

“Tell you what,” said Ron, his teeth chattering, “shall we go for a butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks?”

Harry was more than willing; the wind was fierce and his hands were freezing, so they crossed the road, and in a few minutes were entering the tiny inn.

It was extremely crowded, noisy, warm, and smoky. A curvy sort of woman with a pretty face was serving a bunch of rowdy warlock' up at the bar.

“That's Madam Rosmerta,” said Ron. “I'll get the drinks, shall I?” he added, going slightly red.

Harry and Hermione made their way to the back of the room,,,her, there was a small, vacant table between the window and a handsome Christmas tree, which stood next to the fireplace. Ron came back five minutes later, carrying three foaming tankards of hot butterbeer.

“Merry Christmas!” he said happily, raising his tankard.

Harry drank deeply. It was the most delicious thing he'd ever tasted and seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside.

A sudden breeze ruffled his hair. The door of the Three Broomsticks had opened again. Harry looked over the rim of his tankard and choked.

Professors McGonagall and Flitwick had just entered the pub with a flurry of snowflakes, shortly followed by Hagrid, who was deep in conversation with a portly man in a lime-green bowler hat and a pinstriped cloak—Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic.

In an instant, Ron and Hermione had both placed hands on the top of Harry's head and forced him off his stool and under the table. Dripping with butterbeer and crouching out of sight, Harry clutched his empty tankard and watched the teachers' and Fudge's feet move toward the bar, pause, then turn and walk right toward him.

Somewhere above him, Hermione whispered, Mobiliarbus!”

The Christmas tree beside their table rose a few inches off the ground, drifted sideways, and landed with a soft thump right in front of their table, hiding them from view. Staring through the dense lower branches, Harry saw four sets of chair legs move back from the table right beside theirs, then heard the grunts and sighs If the teachers and minister as they sat down.

Next he saw another pair of feet, wearing sparkly turquoise high heels, and heard a woman's voice. “A small gillywater —”

“Mine,” said Professor McGonagall's voice.

“Four pints of mulled mead —”

“Ta, Rosmerta,” said Hagrid.

“A cherry syrup and soda with ice and umbrella —”

“Mmm!” said Professor Flitwick, smacking his lips.

“So you'll be the red currant rum, Minister.”

“Thank you, Rosmerta, m'dear,” said Fudge's voice. “Lovely to see you again, I must say. Have one yourself, won't you? Come and join us...”

“Well, thank you very much, Minister.”

Harry watched the glittering heels march away and back again. His heart was pounding uncomfortably in his throat. Why hadn't it occurred to him that this was the last weekend of term for the teachers to& And how long were they going to sit there? He needed time to sneak back into Honeydukes if he wanted to return to school tonight... Hermione's leg gave a nervous twitch next to him.

“So, what brings you to this neck of the woods, Minister?” came Madam Rosmerta's voice.

Harry saw the lower part of Fudge's thick body twist in his chair as though he were checking for eavesdroppers. Then he said in a quiet voice, “What else, m'dear, but Sirius Black? I daresay you heard what happened up at the school at Halloween?”

I did hear a rumor,” admitted Madam Rosmerta.

“Did you tell the whole pub, Hagrid?” said Professor McGonagall exasperatedly.

“Do you think Blacks still in the area, Minister?” whispered Madam Rosmerta.

“I'm sure of it,” said Fudge shortly.

“You know that the dementors have searched the whole village twjce?” said Madam Rosmerta, a slight edge to her voice. “Scared all my customers away... It's very bad for business, Minister.”

“Rosmerta, dear, I don't like them any more than you do,” said Fudge uncomfortably. “Necessary precaution... unfortunate, but there YOU are... I've just met some of them. They're in a fury against Dumbledore—he won't let them inside the castle grounds.”

“I should think not,” said Professor McGonagall sharply. “How are we supposed to teach with those horrors floating around?”

“Hear, hear!” squeaked tiny Professor Flitwick, whose feet were dangling a foot from the ground.

“All the same,” demurred Fudge, “they are here to protect you all from something much worse... We all know what Black's capable of...”

“Do you know, I still have trouble believing it,” said Madam Rosmerta thoughtfully. “Of all the people to go over to the Dark Side, Sirius Black was the last I'd have thought... I mean, I remember him when he was a boy at Hogwarts. If you'd told me then what he was going to become, I'd have said you'd had too much mead.”

“You don't know the half of it, Rosmerta,” said Fudge gruffly. “The worst he did isn't widely known.”

“The worst?” said Madam Rosmerta, her voice alive with curiosity, “Worse than murdering all those poor people, you mean?”

“I certainly do,” said Fudge.

“I ca'A believe that. What could possibly be worse?” “You say you remember him at Hogwarts, Rosmerta,” murmured Professor McGonagall. “Do you remember who his-best friend was?”

“Naturally,” said Madam Rosmerta, with a small laugh. “Never saw one without the other, did you? The number of times I had them in here—ooh, they used to make me laugh. Quite the double act, Sirius Black and James Potter!”

Harry dropped his tankard with a loud clunk. Ron kicked him.

“Precisely,” said Professor McGonagall. “Black and Potter. Ringleaders of their little gang. Both very bright, of course—exceptionally bright, in fact—but I don't think we've ever had such a pair of troublemakers —”

“I dunno,” chuckled Hagrid. “Fred and George Weasley could give 'em a run fer their money.”

“You'd have thought Black and Potter were brothers!” chimed in Professor Flitwick. “Inseparable!”

“Of course they were,” said Fudge. “Potter trusted Black beyond all his other friends. Nothing changed when they left school. Black was best man when James married Lily. Then they named him godfather to Harry. Harry has no idea, of course. You can imagine how the idea would torment him.”

“Because Black turned out to be in league with You-Know-Who?” whispered Madam Rosmerta.

“Worse even than that, rn'dear...” Fudge dropped his voice and proceeded in a sort of low rumble. “Not many people are aware that the Potters knew You-Know-Who was after them. Dumbledore, who was of course working tirelessly against You-Know-Who, had a number of useful spies. One of them tipped him off, and he alerted James and Lily at once. He advised them to go into hiding. Well, of course, You-Know-Who wasn't an easy person to hide from. Dumbledore told them that their best chance was the Fidelius Charm.”

“How does that work?” said Madam Rosmerta, breathless with interest. Professor Flitwick cleared his throat.

“An immensely complex spell,” he said squeakily, “involving the magical concealment of a secret inside a single, living soul. The information is hidden inside the chosen person, or Secret-Keeper, and is henceforth impossible to find—unless, of course, the Secret-Keeper chooses to divulge it. As long as the Secret-Keeper refused to speak, You-Know-Who could search the village where Lily and James were staying for years and never find them, not even if he had his nose pressed against their sitting room window!”

“So Black was the Potters' Secret-Keeper?” whispered Madam Rosmerta.

“Naturally,” said Professor McGonagall. “James Potter told Dumbledore that Black would die rather than tell where they were, that Black was planning to go into hiding himself... and yet, Dumbledore remained worried. I remember him offering to be the Potters' Secret-Keeper himself.”

“He suspected Black?” gasped Madam Rosmerta.

“He was sure that somebody close to the Potters had been keeping You-Know-Who informed of their movements,” said Professor McGonagall darkly. “Indeed, he had suspected for some time that someone on our side had turned traitor and was passing a lot of information to You-Know-Who.”

“But James Potter insisted on using Black?”

“He did,” said Fudge heavily. “And then, barely a week after the Fidelius Charm had been performed —” “Black betrayed them?” breathed Madam Rosmerta.

“He did indeed. Black was tired of his double-agent role, he was ready to declare his support openly for You-Know-Who, and he seems to have planned this for the moment of the Potters' death. But, as we all know, You-Know-Who met his downfall in little Harry Potter. Powers gone, horribly weakened, he fled. And this left Black in a very nasty position indeed. His master had fallen at the very moment when he, Black, had shown his true colors as a traitor. He had no choice but to run for it —”

“Filthy, stinkin' turncoat!” Hagrid said, so loudly that half the bar went quiet.

“Shh!” said Professor McGonagall.

“I met him!” growled Hagrid. “I musta bin the last ter see him before he killed all them people! It was me what rescued Harry from Lily an' James's house after they was killed! jus' got him outta the ruins, poor little thing, with a great slash across his forehead, an' his parents dead... an' Sirius Black turns up, on that flyin' motorbike he used ter ride. Never occurred ter me what he was doin' there. I didn' know he'd bin Lily an' James's Secret-Keeper. Thought he'd jus' heard the news o' You-Know-Who's attack an' come ter see what he could do. White an' shakin', he was. An' yeh know what I did? I COMFORTED THE MURDERIN' TRAITOR!” Hagrid roared.

“Hagrid, please!” said Professor McGonagall. “Keep your voice down!”

“How was I ter know he wasn' upset abou' Lily an' James? It was You-Know-Who he cared abou'! An' then he says, 'Give Harry ter me, Hagrid, I'm his godfather, I'll look after him —' Ha! But I'd had me orders from Dumbledore, an' I told Black no, Dumbledore said Harry was ter go ter his aunt an' uncle's. Black argued, but in the end he gave in. Told me ter take his motorbike ter get Harry there. 'I won't need it anymore,' he says.

“I shoulda known there was somethin' fishy goin' on then. He loved that motorbike, what was he givin' it ter me for? Why wouldn' he need it anymore? Fact was, it was too easy ter trace. Dumbledore knew he'd bin the Potters' Secret-Keeper. Black knew he was goin' ter have ter run fer it that night, knew it was a matter o' hours before the Ministry was after him.

“But what if I'd given Harry to him, eh? I bet he'd 've pitched him off the bike halfway out ter sea. His bes' friends' son! But when a wizard goes over ter the Dark Side, there's nothin' and no one that matters to em anymore...”

A long silence followed Hagrid's story. Then Madam Rosmerta said with some satisfaction, “But he didn't manage to disappear, did he? The Ministry of Magic caught up with him next day!”

“Alas, if only we had,” said Fudge bitterly. “It was not we who found him. It was little Peter Pettigrew—another of the Potters' friends. Maddened by grief, no doubt, and knowing that Black had been the Potters' Secret-Keeper, he went after Black himself.”

“Pettigrew... that fat little boy who was always tagging around after them at Hogwarts?” said Madam Rosmerta.

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 112235 times

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