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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (page 30)


Snape's sallow skin had gone the color of sour milk.

“And did the headmaster tell you the circumstances in which your father saved my life?” he whispered. “Or did he consider the details too unpleasant for precious Potter's delicate ears?”

Harry bit his lip. He didn't know what had happened and didn't want to admit it—but Snape seemed to have guessed the truth.

I would hate for you to run away with a false idea of your father, Potter,” he said, a terrible grin twisting his face. “Have you been imagining some act of glorious heroism? Then let me correct you—your saintly father and his friends played a highly amusing joke on me that would have resulted in my death if your father hadn't got cold feet at the last moment. There was nothing brave about what he did. He was saving his own skin as much as mine. Had their joke succeeded, he would have been expelled from Hogwarts.”

Snape's uneven, yellowish teeth were bared.

“Turn out your pockets, Potter!” he spat suddenly.

Harry didn't move. There was a pounding in his ears.

“Turn out your pockets, or we go straight to the headmaster! Pull them out, Potter!”

Cold with dread, Harry slowly pulled out the bag of Zonko's tricks and the Marauder's Map.

Snap picked up the Zonko's bag.

“Ron gave them to me,” said Harry, praying he'd get a chance to tip Ron off before Snape saw him. “He -brought them back from Hogsmeade last time —”

“Indeed? And you've been carrying them around ever since? How very touching... and what is this?”

Snape had picked up the map. Harry tried with all his might to keep his face impassive.

“Spare bit of parchment,” he said with a shrug.

Snape turned it over, his eyes on Harry.

“Surely you don't need such a very old piece of parchment?” he said. “Why don't I just—throw this away?”

His hand moved toward the fire.

“No!” Harry said quickly.

“So!” said Snape, his long nostrils quivering. “Is this another treasured gift from Mr. Weasley? Or is it—something else? A letter, perhaps, written in invisible ink? Or—instructions to get into Hogsmeade without passing the dementors?”

Harry blinked. Snape's eyes gleamed.

“Let me see, let me see...” he muttered, taking out his wand and smoothing the map out on his desk. “Reveal your secret!” he said, touching the wand to the parchment.

Nothing happened. Harry clenched his hands to stop them from shaking.

“Show yourself!” Snape said, tapping the map sharply.

It stayed blank. Harry was taking deep, calming breaths.

“Professor Severus Snape, master of this school, commands you to yield the information you conceal!” Snape said, hitting the map with his wand.

As though an invisible hand were writing upon it, words appeared on the smooth surface of the map.

Mooney presents his compliments to Professor Snape, and begs him to keep his abnormally large nose out of other people's business.”

Snape froze. Harry stared, dumbstruck, at the message. But the map didn't stop there. More writing was appearing beneath the first.

“Mr. Prongs agrees with Mr. Moony and would like to add that Professor Snape is an ugle git.”

It would have been very funny if the situation hadn't been so serious. And there was more...

“Mr. Padfoot would like to register his astonishment that an idiot like that ever became a professor.”

Harry closed his eyes in horror. When he'd opened them, the map had had its last word.

“Mr. Wormtail bids Professor Snape good day, and advises him to wash his hair, the slimeball.”

Harry waited for the blow to fall.

“So...” said Snape softly. “We'll see about this...”

He strode across to his fire, seized a fistful of glittering powder from a jar on the fireplace, and threw it into the flames.

“Lupin!” Snape called into the fire. “I want a word!”

Utterly bewildered, Harry stared at the fire. A large shape had appeared in it, revolving very fast. Seconds later, Professor Lupin was clambering out of the fireplace, brushing ash off his shabby robes.

“You called, Severus?” said Lupin mildly.

“I certainly did,” said Snape, his face contorted with fury as he strode back to his desk. “I have just asked Potter to empty his pockets. He was carrying this.”

Snape pointed at the parchment, on which the words of Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs were still shining. An odd, closed expression appeared on Lupin's face.

“Well?” said Snape.

Lupin continued to stare at the map. Harry had the impression that Lupin was doing some very quick thinking.

“Well?” said Snape again. “This parchment is plainly full of Dark Magic. This is supposed to be your area of expertise, Lupin. Where do you imagine Potter got such a thing?”

Lupin looked up and, by the merest half-glance in Harry's direction, warned him not to interrupt.

“Full of Dark Magic?” he repeated mildly. “Do you really think so, Severus? It looks to me as though it is merely a piece of parchment that insults anybody who reads it. Childish, but surely not dangerous? I imagine Harry got it from a joke shop —”

“Indeed?” said Snape. His jaw had gone rigid with anger. “You think a joke shop could supply him with such a thing? You don't think it more likely that he got it directly from the manufacturers?”

Harry didn't understand what Snape was talking about. Nor, apparently, did Lupin.

“You mean, by Mr. Wormtail or one of these people?” he said. “Harry, do you know any of these men?”

“No,” said Harry quickly.

“You see, Severus?” said Lupin, turning back to Snape. “It looks like a Zonko product to me —”

Right on cue, Ron came bursting into the office. He was completely out of breath, and stopped just short of Snape's desk, clutching the stitch in his chest and trying to speak.

“I—gave—Harry—that—stuff,” he choked. “Bought—it... in Zonko's... ages—ago...”

“Well!” said Lupin, clapping his hands together and looking around cheerfully. “That seems to clear that up! Severus, I'll take this back, shall I?” He folded the map and tucked it inside his robes. “Harry, Ron, come with me, I need a word about my vampire essay—excuse us, Severus —”

Harry didn't dare look at Snape as they left his office. He. Ron, and Lupin walked all the way back into the entrance hall before speaking. Then Harry turned to Lupin.

“Professor, I —”

“I don't want to hear explanations,” said Lupin shortly. He glanced around the empty entrance hall and lowered his voice. “I happen to know that this map was confiscated by Mr. Filch many years ago. Yes, I know it' s a map,” he said as Harry and Ron looked amazed. “I don't want to know how it fell into your possession. I am, however, astounded that you didn't hand it in. Particularly after what happened the last time a student left information about the castle lying around. And I can't let you have it back, Harry.”

Harry had expected that, and was too keen for explanations to protest.

“Why did Snape think I'd got it from the manufacturers?”

“Because...,” Lupin hesitated, “because these mapmakers would have wanted to lure you out of school. They'd think it extremely entertaining.”

“Do you know them?” said Harry, impressed.

“We've met,” he said shortly. He was looking at Harry more seriously than ever before.

“Don't expect me to cover up for you again, Harry. I cannot make you take Sirius Black seriously. But I would have thought that what you have heard when the dementors draw near you would have had more of an effect on you. Your parents gave their lives to keep you alive, Harry. A poor way to repay them—gambling their sacrifice for a bag of magic tricks.”

He walked away, leaving Harry feeling worse by far than he had at any point in Snape's office. Slowly, he and Ron mounted the marble staircase. As Harry passed the one-eyed witch, he remembered the Invisibility Cloak—it was still down there, but he didn't dare go and get it.

“It's my fault,” said Ron abruptly. “I persuaded you to go. Lupin's right, it was stupid, we shouldn't've done it —”

He broke off; they reached the corridor where the security trolls were pacing, and Hermione was walking toward them. One look at her face convinced Harry that she had heard what had happened. His heart plummeted—had she told Professor McGonagall?

“Come to have a good gloat?” said Ron savagely as she stopped in front of them. “Or have you just been to tell on us?”

“No,” said Hermione. She was holding a letter in her hands and her lip was trembling. “I just thought you ought to know... Hagrid lost his case. Buckbeak is going to be executed.”

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

THE QUIDDITCH FINAL

He sent me this,” Hermione said, holding out the letter.

Harry took it. The parchment was damp, and enormous teardrops had smudged the ink so badly in places that it was very difficult to read.

Dear Hermione, We lost. I'm allowed to bring him back to Hogwarts. Execution date to be fixed. Beaky has enjoyed London. I won't forget all the help you gave us.

Hagrid

“They can't do this,” said Harry. “They can't. Buckbeak isn't dangerous.”

“Malfoy's dad's frightened the Committee into it,” said Hermione, wiping her eyes. “You know what he's like. They're a bunch of doddery old fools, and they were scared. There'll be an appeal, though, there always is. Only I can't see any hope... Nothing will have changed.”

“Yeah, it will,” said Ron fiercely. “You won't have to do all the work alone this time, Hermione. I'll help.”

“Oh, Ron!”

Hermione flung her arms around Ron's neck and broke down completely. Ron, looking quite terrified, patted her very awkwardly on the top of the head. Finally, Hermione drew away.

“Ron, I'm really, really sorry about Scabbers...” she sobbed.

“Oh—well—he was old,” said Ron, looking thoroughly relieved that she had let go of him. “And he was a bit useless. You never know, Mum and Dad might get me an owl now.”

The safety measures imposed on the students since Black's second break-in made it impossible for Harry, Ron, and Hermione to go and visit Hagrid in the evenings. Their only chance of talking to him was during Care of Magical Creatures lessons.

He seemed numb with shock at the verdict.

“S'all my fault. Got all tongue-tied. They was all sittin' there in black robes an' I kep' droppin' me notes and forgettin' all them dates yeh looked up fer me, Hermione. An' then Lucius Malfoy stood up an' said his bit, and the Committee jus' did exac'ly what he told 'em...”

“There's still the appeal!” said Ron fiercely. “Don't give up Yet, we're working on it!”

They were walking back up to the castle with the rest of the class. Ahead they could see Malfoy, who was walking with Crabbe and Goyle, and kept looking back, laughing derisively.

“S'no good, Ron,” said Hagrid sadly as they reached the castle steps. “That Committee's in Lucius Malfoy's pocket. I'm jus' gonna make sure the rest o' Beaky's time is the happiest he's ever had. I owe him that...”

Hagrid turned around and hurried back toward his cabin, his face buried in his handkerchief.

“Look at him blubber!”

Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle had been standing just inside the castle doors, listening.

“Have you ever seen anything quite as pathetic?” said Malfoy. “And he's supposed to be our teacher!”

Harry and Ron both made furious moves toward Malfoy, but Hermione got there first—SMACK!

She had slapped Malfoy across the face with all the strength she could muster. Malfoy staggered. Harry, Ron, Crabbe, and Goyle stood flabbergasted as Hermione raised her hand again.

“Don't you dare call Hagrid pathetic, you foul—you evil —”

“Hermione!” said Ron weakly, and he tried to grab her hand as she swung it back.

“Get off, Ron!”

Hermione pulled out her wand. Malfoy stepped backward. Crabbe and Goyle looked at him for instructions, thoroughly bewildered.

“C'mon,” Malfoy muttered, and in a moment, all three of them had disappeared into the passageway to the dungeons.

“Hermione!” Ron said again, sounding both stunned and irnpressed.

“Harry, you'd better beat him in the Quidditch final!” Hermione said shrilly. “You just better had, because I can't stand it if Slytherin wins!”

“We're due in Charms,” said Ron, still goggling at Hermione. “We'd better go.”

They hurried up the marble staircase toward Professor Flitwick's classroom.

“You're late, boys!” said Professor Flitwick reprovingly as Harry opened the classroom door. “Come along, quickly, wands out, we're experimenting with Cheering Charms today, we've already divided into pairs —”

Harry and Ron hurried to a desk at the back and opened their bags. Ron looked behind him.

“Where's Hermione gone?”

Harry looked around too. Hermione hadn't entered the classroom, yet Harry knew she had been right next to him when he had opened the door.

“That's weird,” said Harry, staring at Ron. “Maybe—maybe she went to the bathroom or something?”

But Hermione didn't turn up all lesson.

“She could've done with a Cheering Charm on her too,” said Ron as the class left for lunch, all grinning broadly—the Cheering Charms had left them with a feeling of great contentment.

Hermione wasn't at lunch either. By the time they had finished their apple pie, the after-effects of the Cheering Charms were wearing off, and Harry and Ron had started to get slightly worried.

“You don't think Malfoy did something to her?” Ron said anxiously as they hurried upstairs toward Gryffindor Tower.

They passed the security trolls, gave the Fat Lady the password (“Flibbertigibbet”), and scrambled through the portrait hole into the common room.

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 105758 times

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