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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (page 26)


“What's that?”

“They call it the Dementor's Kiss,” said Lupin, with a slightly twisted smile. “It's what dementors do to those they wish to destroy utterly. I suppose there must be some kind of mouth under there, because they clamp their jaws upon the mouth of the victim and—and suck out his soul.”

Harry accidentally spat out a bit of butterbeer.

“What—they kill —?”

“Oh no,” said Lupin. “Much worse than that. You can exist without your soul, you know, as long as your brain and heart are still working. But you'll have no sense of self anymore, no memory, no.. . anything. There's no chance at all of recovery. You'll just exist. As an empty shell. And your soul is gone forever... lost.”

Lupin drank a little more butterbeer, then said, “It's the fate that awaits Sirius Black. It was in the Daily Prophet this morning. The Ministry have given the dementors permission to perform it if they find him.”

Harry sat stunned for a moment at the idea of someone having their soul sucked out through their mouth. But then he thought of Black.

“He deserves it,” he said suddenly.

“You think so?” said Lupin lightly. “Do you really think anyone deserves that?”

“Yes,” said Harry defiantly. “For... for some things...”

He would have liked to have told Lupin about the conversation he'd overheard about Black in the Three Broomsticks, about Black betraying his mother and father, but it would have involved revealing that he'd gone to Hogsmeade without permission, and he knew Lupin wouldn't be very impressed by that. So he finished his butterbeer, thanked Lupin, and left the History of Magic classroom.

Harry half wished that he hadn't asked what was under a dementor's hood, the answer had been so horrible, and he was so lost in unpleasant thoughts of what it would feel like to have your soul sucked out of you that he walked headlong into Professor McGonagall halfway up the stairs.

“Do watch where you're going, Potter!”

“Sorry, Professor —”

“I've just been looking for you in the Gryffindor common room, Well, here it is, we've done everything we could think of, and there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with it at all. You've got a very good friend somewhere, Potter...”

Harry's jaw dropped. She was holding out his Firebolt, and it looked as magnificent as ever.

“I can have it back?” Harry said weakly. “Seriously?”

“Seriously,” said Professor McGonagall, and she was actually smiling. “I daresay you'll need to get the feel of it before Saturday's match, won't you? And Potter—do try and win, won't you? Or we'll be out of the running for the eighth year. in a row, as Professor Snape was kind enough to remind me only last night...”

Speechless, Harry carried the Firebolt back upstairs toward Gryffindor Tower. As he turned a corner, he saw Ron dashing toward him, grinning from ear to ear.

“She gave it to You? Excellent! Listen, can I still have a go on it? Tomorrow?”

“Yeah... anything,” said Harry, his heart lighter than it had been in a month. “You know what—we should make up with Hermione... She was only trying to help...”

“Yeah, all right,” said Ron. “She's in the common room how working, for a change —”

They turned into the corridor to Gryffindor Tower and saw Neville Longbottom, pleading with Sir Cadogan, who seemed to be refusing him entrance.

“I wrote them down!” Neville was saying tearfully. “But I must've dropped them somewhere!”

“A likely tale!” roared Sir Cadogan. Then, spotting Harry and Ron: “Good even, my fine young yeomen! Come clap this loon in irons. He is trying to force entry to the chambers within!”

“Oh, shut up,” said Ron as he and Harry drew level with Neville.

“I've lost the passwords!” Neville told them miserably. “I made him tell me what passwords he was going to use this week, because he keeps changing them, and now I don't know what I've done with them!”

“Oddsbodikins,” said Harry to Sir Cadogan, who looked extremely disappointed and reluctantly swung forward to let them into the common room. There was a sudden, excited murmur as every head turned and the next moment, Harry was surrounded by people exclaiming over his Firebolt.

“Where'd you get it, Harry?”

“Will you let me have a go?” “Have you ridden it yet, Harry?”

“Ravenclaw'll have no chance, they're all on Cleansweep Sevens!”

“Can I just hold it, Harry?”

After ten minutes or so, during which the Firebolt was Passed around and admired from every angle, the crowd dispersed and Harry and Ron had a clear view of Hermione, the only person who hadn't rushed over to them, bent over her work and carefully avoiding their eyes. Harry and Ron approached her table and at last, she looked up.

“I got it back,” said Harry, grinning at her and holding up the Firebolt.

“See, Hermione? There wasn't anything wrong with it!” said Ron.

“Well—there might have been!” said Hermione. “I mean, at least you know now that it's safe!”

“Yeah, I suppose so,” said Harry. “Id better put it upstairs.”

“I'll take it!” said Ron eagerly. “I've got to give Scabbers his rat tonic.”

He took the Firebolt and, holding it as if it were made of glass, carried it away up the boys' staircase.

“Can I sit down, then?” Harry asked Hermione.

“I suppose so,” said Hermione, moving a great stack of parchment off a chair.

Harry looked around at the cluttered table, at the long Arithmancy essay on which the ink was still glistening, at the even longer Muggle Studies essay (“Explain Why Muggles Need Electricity” and at the rune translation Hermione was now poring over.

“How are you getting through all this stuff?” Harry asked her.

“Oh, well—you know—working hard,” said Hermione. Close-up, Harry saw that she looked almost as tired as Lupin.

“Why don't you just drop a couple of subjects?” Harry asked, watching her lifting books as she searched for her rune dictionary.

“I couldn't do that!” said Hermione, looking scandalized.

“Arithmancy looks terrible,” said Harry, picking up a very complicated-looking number chart.

“Oh no, it's wonderful!” said Hermione earnestly. “It's my favorite subject! It's —”

But exactly what was wonderful about Arithmancy, Harry never found out. At that precise moment, a strangled yell echoed down the boys' staircase. The whole common room fell silent, staring, petrified, at the entrance. Then came hurried footsteps, growing louder and louder—and then Ron came leaping into view, dragging with him a bedsheet.

“LOOK!” he bellowed, striding over to Hermione's table.

“LOOK!” he yelled, shaking the sheets in her face.

“Ron, what —?”

“SCABBERS! LOOK! SCABBERS!”

Hermione was leaning away from Ron, looking utterly bewildered. Harry looked down at the sheet Ron was holding. There was something red on it. Something that looked horribly like —

“BLOOD!” Ron yelled into the stunned silence. “HE'S GONE! AND YOU KNOW WHAT WAS ON THE FLOOR?”

“N—no,” said Hermione in a trembling voice.

Ron threw something down onto Hermione's rune translation. Hermione and Harry leaned forward. Lying on top of the weird, spiky shapes were several long, ginger cat hairs.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

GRYFFINDOR VERSUS RAVENCLAW

It looked like the end of Ron and Hermione's friendship. Each was so angry with the other that Harry couldn't see how they'd ever make up.

Ron was enraged that Hermione had never taken Crookshanks's attempts to eat Scabbers seriously, hadn't bothered to keep a close enough watch on him, and was still trying to pretend that Crookshanks was innocent by suggesting that Ron look for Scabbers under all the boys' beds. Hermione, meanwhile, maintained fiercely that Ron had no proof that Crookshanks had eaten Scabbers, that the ginger hairs might have been there since Christmas, and that Ron had been prejudiced against her cat ever since Crookshanks had landed on Ron's head in the Magical Menagerie.

Personally, Harry was sure that Crookshanks had eaten Scabbers, and when he tried to point out to Hermione that the evidence all pointed that way, she lost her temper with Harry too.

“Okay, side with Ron, I knew you would!” she said shrilly. “First the Firebolt, now Scabbers, everything's my fault, isn't it! just leave me alone, Harry, I've got a lot of work to do!”

Ron had taken the loss of his rat very hard indeed.

“Come on, Ron, you were always saying how boring Scabbers was,” said Fred bracingly. “And he's been off-color for ages, he was wasting away. It was probably better for him to snuff it quickly—one swallow—he probably didn't feel a thing.”

“Fred!” said Ginny indignantly.

“All he did was eat and sleep, Ron, you said it yourself,” said George.

“He bit Goyle for us once!” Ron said miserably. “Remember, Harry?”

“Yeah, that's true,” said Harry.

“His finest hour,” said Fred, unable to keep a straight face. “Let the scar on Goyle's finger stand as a lasting tribute to his memory. Oh, come on, Ron, get yourself down to Hogsmeade and buy a new rat, what's the point of moaning?”

In a last-ditch attempt to cheer Ron up, Harry persuaded him to come along to the Gryffindor team's final practice before the Ravenclaw match, so that he could have a ride on the Firebolt after they'd finished. This did seem to take Ron's mind off Scabbers for a moment (“Great! Can I try and shoot a few goals on it?”) so they set off for the Quidditch field together.

Madam Hooch, who was still overseeing Gryffindor practices to keep an eye on Harry, was just as impressed with the Firebolt as everyone else had been. She took it in her hands before takeoff and gave them the benefit of her professional opinion.

“Look at the balance on it! If the Nimbus series has a fault, it's a slight list to the tail end—you often find they develop a drag after a few years. They've updated the handle too, a bit slimmer than the Cleansweeps, reminds me of the old Silver Arrows—a Pity they've stopped making them. I learned to fly on one, and a very fine old broom it was too...”

She continued in this vein for some time, until Wood said, “Er—Madam Hooch? Is it okay if Harry has the Firebolt back? We need to practice...”

“Oh—right—here you are, then, Potter,” said Madam Hooch. “I'll sit over here with Weasley...”

She and Ron left the field to sit in the stadium, and the Gryffindor team gathered around Wood for his final instructions for tomorrow's match.

“Harry, I've just found out who Ravenclaw is playing as Seeker. It's Cho Chang. She's a fourth year, and she's pretty good... I really hoped she wouldn't be fit, she's had some problems with injuries...” Wood scowled his displeasure that Cho Chang had made a full recovery, then said, “On the other hand, she rides a Comet Two Sixty, which is going to look like a joke next to the Firebolt.” He gave Harry's broom a look of fervent admiration, then said, “Okay, everyone, let's go—”

And at long last, Harry mounted his Firebolt, and kicked off from the ground.

It was better than he'd ever dreamed. The Firebolt turned with the lightest touch; it seemed to obey his thoughts rather than his grip; it sped across the field at such speed that the stadium turned into a green-and-gray blur; Harry turned it so sharply that Alicia Spinnet screamed, then he went into a perfectly controlled dive, brushing the grassy field with his toes before rising thirty, forty, fifty feet into the air again.

“Harry, I'm letting the Snitch out!” Wood called.

Harry turned and raced a Bludger toward the goal posts; he outstripped it easily, saw the Snitch dart out from behind Wood, and within ten seconds had caught it tightly in his hand.

The team cheered madly. Harry let the Snitch go again, gave it a minute's head start, then tore after it, weaving in and out of the others; he spotted it lurking near Katie Bell's knee, looped her easily, and caught it again.

It was the best practice ever; the team, inspired by the presence of the Firebolt in their midst, performed their best moves faultlessly, and by the time they hit the ground again, Wood didn't have a single criticism to make, which, as George Weasley pointed out, was a first.

“I can't see what's going to stop us tomorrow!” said Wood. “Not unless—Harry, you've sorted out your dementor problem, haven't you?”

“Yeah,” said Harry, thinking of his feeble Patronus and wishing it were stronger.

“The dementors won't turn up again, Oliver. Dumbledore'd go ballistic,” said Fred confidently.

“Well, let's hope not,” said Wood. “Anyway—good work, everyone. Let's get back to the tower... turn in early —”

“I'm staying out for a bit; Ron wants a go on the Firebolt,” Harry told Wood, and while the rest of the team headed off to the locker rooms, Harry strode over to Ron, who vaulted the barrier to the stands and came to meet him. Madam Hooch had fallen asleep in her seat.

“Here you go,” said Harry, handing Ron the Firebolt.

Ron, an expression of ecstasy on his face, mounted the broom and zoomed off into the gathering darkness while Harry walked around the edge of the field, watching him. Night had fallen before Madam Hooch awoke with a start, told Harry and Ron off for not waking her, and insisted that they go back to the castle.

Harry shouldered the Firebolt and he and Ron walked out of the shadowy stadium, discussing the Firebolt's superbly smooth action, its phenomenal acceleration, and its pinpoint turning. They were halfway toward the castle when Harry, glancing to his left, saw something that made his heart turn over—a pair of eyes, gleaming out of the darkness.

Harry stopped dead, his heart banging against his ribs.

“What's the matter?” said Ron.

Harry pointed. Ron pulled out his wand and muttered, “Lumos!”

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 114228 times

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