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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (page 29)


“So how about it?” Ron said to Harry as though there had been no interruption. “Come on, last time we went you didn't see anything. You haven't even been inside Zonko's yet!”

Harry looked around to check that Hermione was well out of earshot.

“Okay,” he said. “But I'm taking the Invisibility Cloak this time.”

On Saturday morning, Harry packed his Invisibility Cloak in his bag, slipped the Marauder's Map into his pocket, and went down to breakfast with everyone else. Hermione kept shooting suspicious looks down the table at him, but he avoided her eye and was careful to let her see him walking back up the marble staircase in the entrance hall as everybody else proceeded to the front doors.

“'Bye!” Harry called to Ron. “See you when you get back!”

Ron grinned and winked.

Harry hurried up to the third floor, slipping the Marauder's Map out of his pocket as he went. Crouching behind the one-eyed witch, he smoothed it out. A tiny dot was moving in his direction. Harry squinted at it. The minuscule writing next to it read Neville Longbottom.

Harry quickly pulled out his wand, muttered, “Dissendium!” and shoved his bag into the statue, but before he could climb in himself, Neville came around the corner.

“Harry! I forgot you weren't going to Hogsmeade either!”

“Hi, Neville,” said Harry, moving swiftly away from the statue and pushing the map back into his pocket. “What are you up to?”

“Nothing,” shrugged Neville. “Want a game of Exploding Snap?”

“Er—not now—I was going to go to the library and do that vampire essay for Lupin —”

“I'll come with you!” said Neville brightly. I haven't done it either!”

“Er—hang on—yeah, I forgot, I finished it last night!”

“Great, you can help me!” said Neville, his round face anxious. “I don't understand that thing about the garlic at all—do they have to eat it, or —”

He broke off with a small gasp, looking over Harry's shoulder.

It was Snape. Neville took a quick step behind Harry.

“And what are you two doing here?” said Snape, coming to a halt and looking from one to the other. “An odd place to meet —”

To Harry's immense disquiet, Snape's black eyes flicked to the doorways on either side of them, and then to the one-eyed witch.

“We're not—meeting here,” said Harry. “We just—met here.”

“Indeed?” said Snape. “You have a habit of turning up in unexpected places, Potter, and you are very rarely there for no good reason... I suggest the pair of you return to Gryffindor Tower, where you belong.”

Harry and Neville set off without another word. As they turned the corner, Harry looked back. Snape was running one of his hands over the one-eyed witch's head, examining it closely.

Harry managed to shake Neville off at the Fat Lady by telling him the password, then pretending he'd left his vampire essay in the library and doubling back. Once out of sight of the security trolls, he pulled out the map again and held it close to his nose.

The third floor corridor seemed to be deserted. Harry scanned the map carefully and saw, with a leap of relief, that the tiny dot labeled Severus Snape was now back in its office.

He sprinted back to the one-eyed witch, opened her hump, heaved himself inside, and slid down to meet his bag at the bottom of the stone chute. He wiped the Marauder's Map blank again, then set off at a run.

Harry, completely hidden beneath the Invisibility Cloak, emerged into the sunlight outside Honeydukes and prodded Ron in the back.

It's me,” he muttered.

“What kept you?” Ron hissed.

“Snape was hanging around.”

They set off up the High Street.

“Where are you?” Ron kept muttering out of the corner of his mouth. “Are you still there? This feels weird...”

They went to the post office; Ron pretended to be checking the price of an owl to Bill in Egypt so that Harry could have a good look around. The owls sat hooting softly down at him, at least three hundred of them; from Great Grays right down to tiny little Scops owls (“Local Deliveries Only”), which were so small they could have sat in the palm of Harry's hand.

Then they visited Zonko's, which was so packed with students Harry had to exercise great care not to tread on anyone and cause a panic. There were jokes and tricks to fulfill even Fred's and George's wildest dreams; Harry gave Ron whispered orders and passed him some gold from under the cloak. They left Zonko's with their money bags considerably lighter than they had been on entering, but their pockets bulging with Dungbombs, Hiccup Sweets, Frog Spawn Soap, and a Nose-Biting Teacup apiece.

The day was fine and breezy, and neither of them felt like staying indoors, so they walked past the Three Broomsticks and climbed a slope to visit the Shrieking Shack, the most haunted dwelling in Britain. It stood a little way above the rest of the village, and even in daylight was slightly creepy, with its boarded windows and dank overgrown garden.

“Even the Hogwarts ghosts avoid it,” said Ron as they leaned on the fence, looking up at it. “I asked Nearly Headless Nick... he says he's heard a very rough crowd lives here. No one can get in. Fred and George tried, obviously, but all the entrances are sealed shut...”

Harry, feeling hot from their climb, was just considering taking off the cloak for a few minutes when they heard voices nearby. Someone was climbing toward the house from the other side of the hill; moments later, Malfoy had appeared, followed closely by Crabbe and Goyle. Malfoy was speaking.

“...should have an owl from Father any time now. He had to go to the hearing to tell them about my arm... about how I couldn't use it for three months...”

Crabbe and Goyle sniggered.

“I really wish I could hear that great hairy moron trying to defend himself... 'There's no 'arm in 'im, 'onest that hippogriff's as good as dead —”

Malfoy suddenly caught sight of Ron. His pale face split in a malevolent grin.

“What are you doing, Weasley?”

Malfoy looked up at the crumbling house behind Ron.

“Suppose You'd love to live here, wouldn't you, Weasley? Dreaming about having your own bedroom? I heard your family all sleep in one room—is that true?”

Harry seized the back of Ron's robes to stop him from leaping on Malfoy. “Leave him to me,” he hissed in Ron's ear.

The opportunity was too perfect to miss. Harry crept silently around behind Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, bent down, and scooped a large handful of mud out of the path.

“We were just discussing your friend Hagrid,” Malfoy said to Ron. “Just trying to imagine what he's saying to the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures. D'you think he'll cry when they cut off his hippogriff's

SPLAT.

Malfoy's head jerked forward as the mud hit him; his silverblond hair was suddenly dripping in muck.

“What the —?”

Ron had to hold onto the fence to keep himself standing, he was laughing so hard. Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle spun stupidly on the spot, staring wildly around, Malfoy trying to wipe his hair clean.

“What was that? 'Who did that?”

“Very haunted up here, isn't it?” said Ron, with the air of one commenting on the weather.

Crabbe and Goyle were looking scared. Their bulging muscles were no use against ghosts. Malfoy was staring madly around at the deserted landscape.

Harry sneaked along the path, where a particularly sloppy puddle yielded some foul-smelling, green sludge.

SPLATTER.

Crabbe and Goyle caught some this time. Goyle hopped furiously on the spot, trying to rub it out of his small, dull eyes.

“It came from over there!” said Malfoy, wiping his face, and staring at a spot some six feet to the left of Harry.

Crabbe blundered forward, his long arms outstretched like a zombie. Harry dodged around him, picked up a stick, and lobbed it at Crabbe's back. Harry doubled up with silent laughter as Crabbe did a kind of pirouette in midair, trying to see who had thrown it. As Ron was the only person Crabbe could see, it was Ron he started toward, but Harry stuck out his leg. Crabbe stumbled—and his huge, flat foot caught the hem of Harry's cloak. Harry felt a great tug, then the cloak slid off his face.

For a split second, Malfoy stared at him.

“AAARGH!” he yelled, pointing at Harry's head. Then he turned tail and ran, at breakneck speed, back down the hill, Crabbe and Goyle behind him.

Harry tugged the cloak up again, but the damage was done.

“Harry!” Ron said, stumbling forward and staring hopelessly at the point where Harry had disappeared, “you'd better run for it! If Malfoy tells anyone—you'd better get back to the castle, quick —” “See you later,” said Harry, and without another word, he tore back down the path toward Hogsmeade.

Would Malfoy believe what he had seen? Would anyone believe

Malfoy? Nobody knew about the Invisibility Cloak—nobody except Dumbledore. Harry's stomach turned over—Dumbledore would know exactly what had happened, if Malfoy said anything —

Back into Honeydukes, back down the cellar steps, across the stone floor, through the trapdoor—Harry pulled off the cloak, tucked it under his arm, and ran, flat out, along the passage... Malfoy would get back first... how long would it take him to find a teacher? Panting, a sharp pain in his side, Harry didn't slow down until he reached the stone slide. He would have to leave the cloak where it was, it was too much of a giveaway in case Malfoy had tipped off a teacher—he hid it in a shadowy corner, then started to climb, fast as he could, his sweaty hands slipping on the sides of the chute. He reached the inside of the witch's hump, tapped it with his wand, stuck his head through, and hoisted himself out; the hump closed, and just as Harry jumped out from behind the statue, he heard quick footsteps approaching.

It was Snape. He approached Harry at a swift walk, his black robes swishing, then stopped in front of him.

“So,” he said.

There was a look of surpressed triumph about him. Harry tried to look innocent, all too aware of his sweaty face and his muddy hands, which he quickly hid in his pockets.

“Come with me, Potter,” said Snape.

Harry followed him downstairs, trying to wipe his hands clean on the inside of his robes without Snape noticing. They walked down the stairs to the dungeons and then into Snape's office.

Harry had been in here only once before, and he had been in very serious trouble then too. Snape had aquired a few more slimy horrible things in jars since last time, all standing on shelves behind his desk, glinting in the firelight and adding to the threatening atmosphere.

“Sit,” said Snape.

Harry sat. Snape, however, remained, standing.

“Mr. Malfoy has just been to see me with a strange story, Potter,” said Snape.

Harry didn't say anything.

“He tells me that he was up by the Shrieking Shack when he ran into Weasley—apparently alone.”

Still, Harry didn't speak.

“Mr. Malfoy states that he was standing talking to Weasley, when a large amount of mud hit him in the back of the head. How do you think that could have happened?”

Harry tried to look mildly surprised.

“I don't know, Professor.”

Snape's eyes were boring into Harry's. It was exactly like trying to stare down a hippogriff. Harry tried hard not to blink.

“Mr. Malfoy then saw an extraordinary apparition. Can you imagine what it might have been, Potter?”

“No,” said Harry, now trying to sound innocently curious.

“It was your head, Potter. Floating in midair.”

There was a long silence.

“Maybe he'd better go to Madam Pomfrey,” said Harry. “If he's seeing things like —”

“What would your head have been doing in Hogsmeade, Potter?” said Snape softly. “Your head is not allowed in Hogsmeade. No part of your body has permission to be in Hogsmeade.”

“I know that,” said Harry, striving to keep his face free of guilt or fear. “It sounds like Malfoy's having hallucin —”

“Malfoy is not having hallucinations,” snarled Snape, and he bent down, a hand on each arm of Harry's chair, so that their faces were a foot apart. “If your head was in Hogsmeade, so was the rest of you.”

“I've been up in Gryffindor Tower,” said Harry. “Like you told —” “Can anyone confirm that?”

Harry didn't say anything. Snape's thin mouth curled into a horrible smile.

“So,” he said, straightening up again. “Everyone from the Minister of Magic downward has been trying to keep famous Harry Potter safe from Sirius Black. But famous Harry Potter is a law unto himself Let the ordinary people worry about his safety! Famous Harry Potter goes where he wants to, with no thought for the consequences.

Harry stayed silent. Snape was trying to provoke him into telling the truth. He wasn't going to do it. Snape had no proof—yet.

“How extraordinarily like your father you are, Potter,” Snape said suddenly, his eyes glinting. “He too was exceedingly arrogant. A small amount of talent on the Quidditch field made him think he was a cut above the rest of us too. Strutting around the place with his friends and admirers... The resemblance between you is uncanny.”

“My dad didn't strut,” said Harry, before he could stop himself. “And neither do I.”

“Your father didn't set much store by rules either,” Snape went on, pressing his advantage, his thin face full of malice. “Rules were for lesser mortals, not Quidditch Cup-winners. His head was so swollen —”

“SHUT UP!”

Harry was suddenly on his feet. Rage such as he had not felt since his last night in Privet Drive was coursing through him. He didn't care that Snape's face had gone rigid, the black eyes flashing dangerously.

“What did you say to me, Potter?”

“I told you to shut up about my dad!” Harry yelled. I know the truth, all right? He saved your life! Dumbledore told me! You wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for my dad!”

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 110136 times

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