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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (page 31)


Hermione was sitting at a table, fast asleep, her head resting on an open Arithmancy book. They went to sit down on either side of her. Harry prodded her awake.

“Wh—what?” said Hermione, waking with a start and staring wildly around. “Is it time to go? W—which lesson have we got now?”

“Divination, but it's not for another twenty minutes,” said Harry. “Hermione, why didn't you come to Charms?”

“What? Oh no!” Hermione squeaked. “I forgot to go to Charms!”

“But how could you forget?” said Harry. “You were with us till we were right outside the classroom!”

“I don't believe it!” Hermione wailed. “Was Professor Flitwick angry? Oh, it was Malfoy, I was thinking about him and I lost track of things!”

“You know what, Hermione?” said Ron, looking down at the enormous Arithmancy book Hermione had been using as a pillow. “I reckon you're cracking up. You're trying to do too much.”

“No, I'm not!” said Hermione, brushing her hair out of her eyes and staring hopelessly around for her bag. “I just made a mistake, that's all! I'd better go and see Professor Flitwick and say sorry... I'll see you in Divination!”

Hermione joined them at the foot of the ladder to Professor Trelawneys classroom twenty minutes later, looking extremely harrassed.

“I can't believe I missed Cheering Charms! And I bet they come up in our exams; Professor Flitwick hinted they might!”

Together they climbed the ladder into the dim, stifling tower room. Glowing on every little table was a crystal ball full of pearly white mist. Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat down together at the same rickety table.

“I thought we weren't starting crystal balls until next term,” Ron muttered, casting a wary eye around for Professor Trelawney, in case she was lurking nearby.

“Don't complain, this means we've finished palmistry,” Harry muttered back. “I was getting sick of her flinching every time she looked at my hands.”

“Good day to you!” said the familiar, misty voice, and Professor Trelawney made her usual dramatic entrance out of the shadows. Parvati and Lavender quivered with excitement, their faces lit by the milky glow of their crystal ball.

“I have decided to introduce the crystal ball a little earlier than I had planned,” said Professor Trelawney, sitting with her back to the fire and gazing around. “The fates have informed me that your examination in June will concern the Orb, and I am anxious to give you sufficient practice.”

Hermione snorted.

“Well, honestly... 'the fates have informed her' who sets the exam? She does! What an amazing prediction!” she said, not troubling to keep her voice low. Harry and Ron choked back laughs.

It was hard to tell whether Professor Trelawney had heard them as her face was hidden in shadow. She continued, however, as though she had not.

“Crystal gazing is a particularly refined art,” she said dreamily. “I do not expect any of you to See when first you peer into the Orb's infinite depths. We shall start by practicing relaxing the conscious mind and external eyes”—Ron began to snigger uncontrollably and had to stuff his fist in his mouth to stifle the noise—”so as to clear the Inner Eye and the superconscious. Perhaps, if we are lucky, some of you will see before the end of the class.”

And so they began. Harry, at least, felt extremely foolish, staring blankly at the crystal ball, trying to keep his mind empty when thoughts such as “this is stupid” kept drifting across it. It didn't help that Ron kept breaking into silent giggles and Hermione kept tutting.

“Seen anything yet?” Harry asked them after a quarter of an hour's quiet crystal gazing.

“Yeah, there's a burn on this table,” said Ron, pointing. “Someone's spilled their candle.”

“This is such a waste of time,” Hermione hissed. “I could be practicing something useful. I could be catching up on Cheering Charms —”

Professor Trelawney rustled past.

“Would anyone like me to help them interpret the shadowy portents within their Orb?” she murmured over the clinking of her bangles.

I don't need help,” Ron whispered. “It's obvious what this means. There's going to be loads of fog tonight.”

Both Harry and Hermione burst out laughing.

“Now, really!” said Professor Trelawney as everyone's heads turned in their direction. Parvati and Lavender were looking scandalized. “You are disturbing the clairvoyant vibrations!” She approached their table and peered into their crystal ball. Harry felt his heart sinking. He was sure he knew what was coming —

“There is something here!” Professor Trelawney whispered, lowerng her face to the ball, so that it was reflected twice in her huge glasses. “Something moving... but what is it?”

Harry was prepared to bet everything he owned, Including his Firebolt, that it wasn't good news, whatever it was. And sure enough —

“My dear Professor Trelawney breathed, gazing up at Harry. “It is here, plainer than ever before... my dear, stalking toward you, growing ever closer... the Gr —”

“Oh, for goodness' sake!” said Hermione loudly. “Not that ridiculous Grim again!”

Professor Trelawney raised her enormous eyes to Hermione's face. Parvati whispered something to Lavender, and they both glared at Hermione too. Professor Trelawney stood up, surveying Hermione with unmistakable anger.

“I am sorry to say that from the moment you have arrived in this class my dear, it has been apparent that you do not have what the noble art of Divination requires. Indeed, I don't remember ever meeting a student whose mind was so hopelessly mundane.”

There was a moment's silence. Then —

“Fine!” said Hermione suddenly, getting up and cramming Unfogging the Future back into her bag. “Fine!” she repeated, swinging the bag over her shoulder and almost knocking Ron off his chair. “I give up! I'm leaving!”

And to the whole class's amazement, Hermione strode over to the trapdoor, kicked it open, and climbed down the ladder out of sight.

It took a few minutes for the class to settle down again. Professor Trelawney seemed to have forgotten all about the Grim. She turned abruptly from Harry and Ron's table, breathing rather heavily as she tugged her gauzy shawl more closely to her.

“Ooooo!” said Lavender suddenly, making everyone start. “Ooooo, Professor Trelawney, I've just remembered! You saw her leaving, didn't you? Didn't you, Professor? 'Around Easter, one of our number will leave us forever!' You said it ages ago, Professor!”

Professor Trelawney gave her a dewy smile.

“Yes, my dear, I did indeed know that Miss Granger would be leaving us. One hopes, however, that one might have mistaken the Signs... The Inner Eye can be a burden, you know...”

Lavender and Parvati looked deeply impressed, and moved over so that Professor Trelawney could join their table instead.

“Some day Hermione's having, eh?” Ron muttered to Harry, looking awed.

“Yeah...”

Harry glanced into the crystal ball but saw nothing but swirling white mist. Had Professor Trelawney really seen the Grim again? Would he? The last thing he needed was another near-fatal accident, with the Quidditch final drawing ever nearer.

The Easter holidays were not exactly relaxing. The third years had never had so much homework. Neville Longbottom seemed close to a nervous collapse, and he wasn't the only one.

“Call this a holiday!” Seamus Finnigan roared at the common room one afternoon. “The exams are ages away, what're they playing at?”

But nobody had as much to do as Hermione. Even without Divination, she was taking more subjects than anybody else. She was usually last to leave the common room at night, first to arrive at the library the next morning; she had shadows like Lupin's under her eyes, and seemed constantly close to tears.

Ron had taken over responsibility for Buckbeak's appeal. When he wasn't doing his own work, he was poring over enormously thick volumes with names like The Handbook of Hippogriff Psychology and Fowl or Foul? A Study of Hippogriff Brutality. He was so absorbed, he even forgot to be horrible to Crookshanks.

Harry, meanwhile, had to fit in his homework around Quidditch practice every day, not to mention endless discussions of tactics with Wood. The Gryffindor-Slytherin match would take place on the first Saturday after the Easter holidays. Slytherin was leading the tournament by exactly two hundred points. This meant (as Wood constantly reminded his team) that they needed to win the match by more than that amount to win the Cup. It also meant that the burden of winning fell largely on Harry, because capturing the Snitch was worth one hundred and fifty points.

“So you must catch it only if we're more than fifty points up,” Wood told Harry constantly. “Only if we're more than fifty points up, Harry, or we win the match but lose the Cup. You've got that, Haven't you? You must catch the Snitch only if we're —”

“I KNOW, OLIVER!” Harry yelled.

The whole of Gryffindor House was obsessed with the coming match. Gryffindor hadn't won the Quidditch Cup since the legendary Charlie Weasley (Ron's second oldest brother) had been seeker. But Harry doubted whether any of them, even Wood, wanted to win as much as he did. The enmity between Harry and Malfoy was at its highest point ever. Malfoy was still smarting,bout the mud-throwing incident in Hogsmeade and was even more furious that Harry had somehow wormed his way out of punishment. Harry hadn't forgotten Malfoy's attempt to sabotage him in the match against Ravenclaw, but it was the matter of Buckbeak that made him most determined to beat Malfoy in front of the entire school.

Never, in anyone's memory, had a match approached in such a highly charged atmosphere. By the time the holidays were over, tension between the two teams and their Houses was at the breaking point. A number of small scuffles broke out in the corridors, culminating in a nasty incident in which a Gryffindor fourth year and a Slytherin sixth year ended up in the hospital wing with leeks sprouting out of their ears.

Harry was having a particularly bad time of it. He couldn't walk to class without Slytherins sticking out their legs and trying to trip him up; Crabbe and Goyle kept popping up wherever he went, and slouching away looking disappointed when they saw him surrounded by people. Wood had given instructions that Harry should be accompanied everywhere he went, in case the Slytherins tried to put him out of action. The whole of Gryffindor House took up the challenge enthusiastically, so that it was impossible for Harry to get to classes on time because he was surrounded by a vast, chattering crowd. Harry was more concerned for his Firebolt's safety than his own. When he wasn't flying it, he locked it securely in his trunk and frequently dashed back up to Gryffindor Tower at break times to check that it was still there.

All usual pursuits were abandoned in the Gryffindor common room the night before the match. Even Hermione had Put down her books.

“I can't work, I can't concentrate,” she said nervously.

There was a great deal of noise. Fred and George Weasley were dealing with the pressure by being louder and more exuberant than ever. Oliver Wood was crouched over a model of a Quidditch field in the corner, prodding little figures across it with his wand and muttering to himself Angelina, Alicia, and Katie were laughing at Fred's and George's jokes. Harry was sitting with Ron and Hermione, removed from the center of things, trying not to think about the next day, because every time he did, he had the horrible sensation that something very large was fighting to get out of his stomach.

“You're going to be fine,” Hermione told him, though she looked positively terrified.

“You've got a Firebolt!” said Ron.

“Yeah...” said Harry, his stomach writhing.

It came as a relief when Wood suddenly stood up and yelled, “Team! Bed!”

Harry slept badly. First he dreamed that he had overslept, and that Wood was yelling, “Where were you? We had to use Neville instead!” Then he dreamed that Malfoy and the rest of the Slytherin team arrived for the match riding dragons. He was flying at breakneck speed, trying to avoid a spurt of flames from Malfoy's steed's mouth, when he realized he had forgotten his Firebolt. He fell through the air and woke with a start.

It was a few seconds before Harry remembered that the match hadn't taken place yet, that he was safe in bed, and that the Slytherin team definitely wouldn't be allowed to play on dragons. He was feeling very thirsty. Quietly as he could, he got out of his four-poster and went to pour himself some water from the silver jug beneath the window.

The grounds were still and quiet. No breath of wind disturbed the treetops in the Forbidden Forest; the Whomping Willow was motionless and innocent-looking. It looked as though the conditions for the match would be perfect.

Harry set down his goblet and was about to turn back to his bed when something caught his eye. An animal of some kind was prowling across the silvery lawn.

Harry dashed to his bedside table, snatched up his glasses, and put them on, then hurried back to the window. It couldn't be the Grim—not now—not right before the match —

He peered out at the grounds again and, after a minute's frantic searching, spotted it. It was skirting the edge of the forest now... It wasn't the Grim at all ...it was a cat... Harry clutched the window ledge in relief as he recognized the bottlebrush tail. It was only Crookshanks...

Or was it only Crookshanks? Harry squinted, pressing his nose flat against the glass. Crookshanks seemed to have come to a halt. Harry was sure he could see something else moving in the shadow of the trees too.

And just then, it emerged—a gigantic, shaggy black dog, moving stealthily across the lawn, Crookshanks trotting at its side. Harry stared. What did this mean? If Crookshanks could see the dog as well, how could it be an omen of Harry's death?

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 112247 times

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