Further to our inquiry into the attack by a hippogriff on a student in your
class, we have accepted the assurances of Professor Dumbledore that you bear
no responsibility for the regrettable incident.
“Well, that's okay then, Hagrid!” said Ron, clapping Hagrid oil the shoulder.
But Hagrid continued to sob, and waved one of his gigantic hands, inviting Harry
to read on.
However, we must register our concern about the hippogriff in question. We
have decided to uphold the official complaint of Mr. Lucius Malfoy, and this
matter will therefore be taken to the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous
Creatures. The hearing will take place on April 20th, and we ask you to present
yourself and your hippogriff at the Committee's offices in London on that date.
In the meantime, the hippogriff should be kept tethered and isolated. Yours
There followed a list of the school governors.
“Oh,” said Ron. “But you said Buckbeak isn't a bad hippogriff, Hagrid. I
bet he'll get off
“Yeh don' know them gargoyles at the Committee fer the Disposal o' Dangerous
Creatures!” choked Hagrid, wiping his eyes on his sleeve. “They've got it in
fer interestin' creatures!”
A sudden sound from the corner of Hagrid's cabin made Harry, Ron, and Hermione
whip around. Buckbeak the hippogriff was lying in the corner, chomping on something
that was oozing blood all over the floor.
“I couldn' leave him tied up out there in the snow!” choked Hagrid. “All
on his own! At Christmas.”
Harry, Ron, and Hermione looked at one another. They had never seen eye to
eye with Hagrid about what he called “interesting creatures” and other people
called “terrifying monsters.” Or' the other hand, there didn't seem to be any
particular harm in Buckbeak. In fact, by Hagrid's usual standards, he was positively
“You'll have to put up a good strong defense, Hagrid,” said Hermione, sitting
down and laying a hand on Hagrid's massive forearm. “I'm sure you can prove
Buckbeak is safe.”
“Won't make no diff'rence!” sobbed Hagrid. “Them Disposal devils, they're
all in Lucius Malfoy's pocket! Scared o' him! Ad if I lose the case, Buckbeak
Hagrid drew his finger swiftly across his throat, then gave a great wail
and lurched forward, his face in his arms.
“What about Dumbledore, Hagrid?” said Harry.
“He's done more'n enough fer me already,” groaned Hagrid. “Got enough on
his plate what with keepin' them dementors outta the castle, an' Sirius Black
lurkin' around —”
Ron and Hermione looked quickly at Harry, as though expecting him to start
berating Hagrid for not telling him the truth about Black. But Harry couldn't
bring himself to do it, not now that he saw Hagrid so miserable and scared.
“Listen, Hagrid,” he said, “you can't give up. Hermione's right, You just
need a good defense. You can call us as witnesses —”
“I'm sure I've read about a case of hippogriff-baiting,” said Hermione thoughtfully,
“where the hippogriff got off I'll look it up for you, Hagrid, and see exactly
Hagrid howled still more loudly. Harry and Hermione looked at Ron to help
“Er—shall I make a cup of tea?” said Ron.
Harry stared at him.
“It's what my mum does whenever someone's upset,” Ron muttered, shrugging.
At last, after many more assurances of help, with a steaming mug of tea in
front of him, Hagrid blew his nose on a handkerchief the size of a tablecloth
and said, “Yer right. I can' afford to go ter pieces. Gotta pull meself together...
Fang the boarhound came timidly out from under the table and laid his head
on Hagrid's knee.
“I've not bin meself lately,” said Hagrid, stroking Fang with one hand and
mopping his face with the other. “Worried abou' Buckbeak, an' no one likin'
me classes —”
“We do like them!” lied Hermione at once.
“Yeah, they're great!” said Ron, crossing his fingers under the table. “Er—how
are the flobberworms?”
“Dead,” said Hagrid gloomily. “Too much lettuce.”
“Oh no!” said Ron, his lip twitching.
“An' them dementors make me feel ruddy terrible an' all,” said Hagrid, with
a sudden shudder. “Gotta walk past 'em ev'ry time I want a drink in the Three
Broomsticks. 'S like bein' back in Azkaban —”
He fell silent, gulping his tea. Harry, Ron, and Hermione watched him breathlessly.
They had never heard Hagrid talk about his brief spell in Azkaban before. After
a pause, Hermione said timidly, “Is it awful in there, Hagrid?”
“Yeh've no idea,” said Hagrid quietly. “Never bin anywhere like it. Thought
I was goin' mad. Kep' goin' over horrible stuff in me mind... the day I got
expelled from Hogwarts... day me dad died... day I had ter let Norbert go...”
His eyes filled with tears. Norbert was the baby dragon Hagrid had once won
in a game of cards.
“Yeh can' really remember who yeh are after a while. An' yeh can' really
see the point o' livin' at all. I used ter hope I'd jus' die in me sleep. When
they let me out, it was like bein' born again, ev'rythin' I came floodin' back,
it was the bes' feelin' in the world. Mind, the dementors weren't keen on lettin'
“But you were innocent!” said Hermione.
“Think that matters to them? They don' care. Long as they've got a couple
o' hundred humans stuck there with 'em, so they can leech all the happiness
out of 'em, they don' give a damn who's guilty an' who's not.”
Hagrid went quiet for a moment, staring into his tea. Then he said quietly,
“Thought o' jus' letting Buckbeak go... tryin' ter make him fly away... but
how d'yeh explain ter a hippogriff it's gotta go inter hidin'? An' -an' I'm
scared o' breakin' the law...” He looked up at them, tears leaking down his
face again. “I don' ever want ter go back ter Azkaban.”
The trip to Hagrid's, though far from fun, had nevertheless had the effect
Ron and Hermione had hoped. Though Harry had by no means forgotten about Black,
he couldn't brood constantly on revenge if he wanted to help Hagrid win his
case against the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures. He, Ron,
and Hermione went to the library the next day and returned to the empty common
room laden with books that might help prepare a defense for Buckbeak. The three
of them sat in front of the roaring fire, slowly turning the pages of dusty
volumes about famous cases If marauding beasts, speaking occasionally when they
ran across something relevant.
“Here's something... there was a case in 1722... but the hippogriff was convicted—ugh,
look what they did to it, that's disgusting —”
“This might help, look—a manticore savaged someone in 1296, and they let
the manticore off—oh—no, that was only because everyone was too scared to go
Meanwhile, in the rest of the castle, the usual magnificent Christmas decorations
had been put up, despite the fact that hardly any of the students remained to
enjoy them. Thick streamers of holly and mistletoe were strung along the corridors,
mysterious lights shone from inside every suit of armor, and the Great Hall
was filled with its usual twelve Christmas trees, glittering with golden stars.
A powerful and delicious smell of cooking pervaded the corridors, and by Christmas
Eve, it had grown so strong that even Scabbers poked his nose out of the shelter
of Ron's pocket to sniff hopefully at the air.
On Christmas morning, Harry was woken by Ron throwing his pillow at him.
Harry reached for his glasses and put them on, squinting through the semi-darkness
to the foot of his bed, where a small heap of parcels had appeared. Ron was
already ripping the paper off his own presents.
'Another sweater from Mum... maroon again... see if you've got one.
Harry had. Mrs. Weasley had sent him a scarlet sweater with the Gryffindor
lion knitted on the front, also a dozen home-baked mince pies, some Christmas
cake, and a box of nut brittle. As he moved all these things aside, he saw a
long, thin package lying underneath.
“What's that?” said Ron, looking over, a freshly unwrapped pair of maroon
socks in his hand.
Harry ripped the parcel open and gasped as a magnificent, gleaming broomstick
rolled out onto his bedspread. Ron dropped his socks and jumped off his bed
for a closer look.
“I don't believe it,” he said hoarsely.
It was a Firebolt, identical to the dream broom Harry had gone to see every
day in Diagon Alley. Its handle glittered as he picked it up. He could feel
it vibrating and let go; it hung in midair, unsupported, at exactly the right
height for him to mount it. His eyes moved from the golden registration number
at the top of the handle, right down to the perfectly smooth, streamlined birch
twigs that made up the tail.
“Who sent it to you?” said Ron in a hushed voice.
“Look and see if there's a card,” said Harry.
Ron ripped apart the Firebolt's wrappings.
“Nothing! Blimey, who'd spend that much on you?”
“Well,” said Harry, feeling stunned, “I'm betting it wasn't the Dursleys.”
I bet it was Dumbledore,” said Ron, now walking around and around the Firebolt,
taking in every glorious inch. “He sent you the Invisibility Cloak anonymously...”
“That was my dad's, though,” said Harry. “Dumbledore was just Passing it
on to me. He wouldn't spend hundreds of Galleons on me. He can't go giving students
stuff like this —”
“That's why he wouldn't say it was from him!” said Ron. “In case some git
like Malfoy said it was favoritism. Hey, Harry”—Ron gave a great whoop of laughter—”Malfoy!
Wait till he sees you on this! He'll be sick as a pig! This is an international
standard broom, this is!”
“I can't believe this,” Harry muttered, running a hand along the Firebolt,
while Ron sank onto Harry's bed, laughing his head off at the thought of Malfoy.
“I know,” said Ron, controlling himself, “I know who it could've been—Lupin!”
“What?” said Harry, now starting to laugh himself “Lupin? Listen, if he had
this much gold, he'd be able to buy himself some new robes.”
“Yeah, but he likes you,” said Ron. “And he was away when your Nimbus got
smashed, and he might've heard about it and decided to visit Diagon Alley and
get this for you —”
“What d'you mean, he was away?” said Harry. “He was ill when I was playing
in that match.”
“Well, he wasn't in the hospital wing,” said Ron. “I was there, cleaning
out the bedpans on that detention from Snape, remember?”
Harry frowned at Ron.
“I can't see Lupin affording something like this.”
“What're you two laughing about?”
Hermione had just come in, wearing her dressing gown and carrying Crookshanks,
who was looking very grumpy, with a string of tinsel tied around his neck.
“Don't bring him in here!” said Ron, hurriedly snatching Scabbers from the
depths of his bed and stowing him in his pajama pocket.
But Hermione wasn't listening. She dropped Crookshanks onto Seamus's empty
bed and stared, open-mouthed, at the Firebolt.
“Oh, Harry! Who sent you that?”
“No idea,” said Harry. “There wasn't a card or anything with it.”
To his great surprise, Hermione did not appear either excited or intrigued
by the news. On the contrary, her face fell, and she bit her lip.
“What's the matter with you?” said Ron.
“I don't know,” said Hermione slowly, “but it's a bit odd, isn't it? I mean,
this is supposed to be quite a good broom, isn't it?”
Ron sighed exasperatedly.
“It's the best broom there is, Hermione,” he said.
“So it must've been really expensive...”
“Probably cost more than all the Slytherins' brooms put together,” said Ron
“Well... who'd send Harry something as expensive as that, and not even tell
him they'd sent it?” said Hermione.
“Who cares?” said Ron impatiently. “Listen, Harry, can I have a go on it?
“I don't think anyone should ride that broom just yet!” said Hermione shrilly.
Harry and Ron looked at her.
“What d'you think Harry's going to do with it—sweep the floor?” said Ron.
But before Hermione could answer, Crookshanks sprang from Seamus's bed, right
at Ron's chest.
“GET—HIM—OUT—OF—HERE!” Ron bellowed as Crookshanks's claws ripped his pajamas
and Scabbers attempted a wild escape over his shoulder. Ron seized Scabbers
by the tail and aimed a misjudged kick at Crookshanks that hit the trunk at
the end of Harry's bed, knocking it over and causing Ron to hop up and down,
howling with pain.
Crookshanks's fur suddenly stood on end. A shrill, tint,, whistling was filling
the room. The Pocket Sneakoscope had become dislodged from Uncle Vernon's old
socks and was whirling and gleaming on the floor.
I forgot about that!” Harry said, bending down and picking up the Sneakoscope.
I never wear those socks if I can help it...
The Sneakoscope whirled and whistled in his palm. Crookshanks was hissing
and spitting at it.
“You'd better take that cat out of here, Hermione,” said Ron furiously, sitting
on Harry's bed nursing his toe. “Can't you shut that thing up?” he added to
Harry as Hermione strode out of the room, Crookshanks's yellow eyes still fixed
maliciously on Ron.
Harry stuffed the Sneakoscope back inside the socks and threw it back into
his trunk. All that could be heard now were Ron's stifled moans of pain and
rage. Scabbers was huddled in Ron's hands. It had been a while since Harry had
seen him out of Ron's pocket, and he was unpleasantly surprised to see that
Scabbers, once so fat, was now very skinny; patches of fur seemed to have fallen