InLibrary.org

HOME | SEARCH | TOP | SITEMAP      

 
 


 

J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (page 38)


“He tried to bring Peter to me, but couldn't... so he stole the passwords into Gryffindor Tower for me... As I understand it, he took them from a boy's bedside table...”

Harry's brain seemed to be sagging under the weight of what he was hearing. It was absurd... and yet...

“But Peter got wind of what was going on and ran for it.” croaked Black. “This cat—Crookshanks, did you call him?—told me Peter had left blood on the sheets... I supposed he bit himself... Well, faking his own death had worked once.”

These words jolted Harry to his senses.

“And why did he fake his death?” he said furiously. “Because he knew you were about to kill him like you killed my parents!”

“No,” said Lupin, “Harry-”

“And now you've come to finish him off!”

“Yes, I have,” said Black, with an evil look at Scabbers.

“Then I should've let Snape take you!” Harry shouted.

“Harry,” said Lupin hurriedly, “don't you see? All this time we've thought Sirius betrayed your parents, and Peter tracked him down—but it was the other way around, don't you see? Peter betrayed your mother and father—Sirius tracked Peter down —”

“THAT'S NOT TRUE!” Harry yelled. “HE WAS THEIR SECRET-KEEPER! HE SAID SO BEFORE YOU TURNED UP. HE SAID HE KILLED THEM!”

He was pointing at Black, who shook his head slowly; the sunken eyes were suddenly over bright.

“Harry... I as good as killed them,” he croaked. “I persuaded Lily and James to change to Peter at the last moment, persuaded them to use him as Secret-Keeper instead of me... I'm to blame, I know it... The night they died, I'd arranged to check on Peter, make sure he was still safe, but when I arrived at his hiding place, he'd gone. Yet there was no sign of a struggle. It didn't feel right. I was scared. I set out for your parents' house straight away. And when I saw their house, destroyed, and their bodies... I realized what Peter must've done... what I'd done...”

His voice broke. He turned away.

“Enough of this,” said Lupin, and there was a steely note in his voice Harry had never heard before. “There's one certain way to prove what really happened. Ron, give me that rat.”

“What are you going to do with him if I give him to you?” Ron asked Lupin tensely.

“Force him to show himself,” said Lupin. “If he really is a rat, it won't hurt him.”

Ron hesitated. Then at long last, he held out Scabbers and Lupin took him. Scabbers began to squeak without stopping, twisting and turning, his tiny black eyes bulging in his head. “Ready, Sirius?” said Lupin.

Black had already retrieved Snape's wand from the bed. He approached Lupin and the struggling rat, and his wet eyes suddenly seemed to be burning in his face.

“Together?” he said quietly.

“I think so,,, said Lupin, holding Scabbers tightly in one hand and his wand in the other. “On the count of three. One—two—THREE!”

A flash of blue-white light erupted from both wands; for a moment, Scabbers was frozen in midair, his small gray form twisting madly—Ron yelled—the rat fell and hit the floor. There was another blinding flash of light and then —

It was like watching a speeded-up film of a growing tree. A head was shooting upward from the ground; limbs were sprouting; a moment later, a man was standing where Scabbers had been, cringing and wringing his hands. Crookshanks was spitting and snarling on the bed; the hair on his back was standing up.

He was a very short man, hardly taller than Harry and Hermione. His thin, colorless hair was unkempt and there was a large bald patch on top. He had the shrunken appearance of a plump man who has lost a lot of weight in a short time. His skin looked grubby, almost like Scabbers's fur, and something of the rat lingered around his pointed nose and his very small, watery eyes. He looked around at them all, his breathing fast and shallow. Harry saw his eyes dart to the door and back again.

“Well, hello, Peter,” said Lupin pleasantly, as though rats frequently erupted into old school friends around him. “Long time, no see.

“S—Sirius... R—Remus...” Even Pettigrew's voice was squeaky. Again, his eyes darted toward the door. “My friends... my old friends...”

Black's wand arm rose, but Lupin seized him around the wrist, gave him a warning took, then turned again to Pettigrew, his voice light and casual.

“We've been having a little chat, Peter, about what happened the night Lily and James died. You might have missed the finer points while you were squeaking around down there on the bed —”

“Remus,” gasped Pettigrew, and Harry could see beads of sweat breaking out over his pasty face, “you don't believe him, do you...? He tried to kill me, Remus...”

“So we've heard,” said Lupin, more coldly. “I'd like to clear up one or two little matters with you, Peter, if you'll be so —”

“He's come to try and kill me again!” Pettigrew squeaked suddenly, pointing at Black, and Harry saw that he used his middle finger, because his index was missing. “He killed Lily and James and now he's going to kill me too... You've got to help me, Remus...”

Black's face looked more skull-like than ever as he stared at Pettigrew with his fathomless eyes.

“No one's going to try and kill you until we've sorted a few things out,” said Lupin.

“Sorted things out?” squealed Pettigrew, looking wildly about him once more, eyes taking in the boarded windows and, again' the only door. “I knew he'd come after me! I knew he'd be back for me! I've been waiting for this for twelve years!”

“You knew Sirius was going to break out of Azkaban?” said Lupin, his brow furrowed. “When nobody has ever done it before?”

“He's got dark powers the rest of us can only dream of!” Pettigrew shouted shrilly. “How else did he get out of there? I suppose He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named taught him a few tricks!”

Black started to laugh, a horrible, mirthless laugh that filled the whole room.

“Voldemort, teach me tricks?” he said.

Pettigrew flinched as though Black had brandished a whip at him.

“What, scared to hear your old master's name?” said Black. I don't blame you, Peter. His lot aren't very happy with you, are they?”

“Don't know what you mean, Sirius —” muttered Pettigrew, his breathing faster than ever. His whole face was shining with sweat now.

“You haven't been hiding from me for twelve years,” said Black. “You've been hiding from Voldemort's old supporters. I heard things in Azkaban, Peter... They all think you're dead, or you'd have to answer to them... I've heard them screaming all sorts of things in their sleep. Sounds like they think the double-crosser double-crossed them. Voldemort went to the Potters' on your information... and Voldemort met his downfall there. And not all Voldemort's supporters ended up in Azkaban, did they? There are still plenty out here, biding their time, pretending they've seen the error of their ways.

If they ever got wind that you were still alive, Peter —”

“Don't know... what you're talking about...,” said Pettigrew again, more shrilly than ever. He wiped his face on his sleeve and looked up at Lupin. “You don't believe this—this madness, Remus —”

“I must admit, Peter, I have difficulty in understanding why an innocent man would want to spend twelve years as a rat,” said Lupin evenly.

“Innocent, but scared!” squealed Pettigrew. “If Voldemort's supporters were after me, it was because I put one of their best men in Azkaban—the spy, Sirius Black!”

Black's face contorted.

“How dare you,” he growled, sounding suddenly like the bearsized dog he had been. I, a spy for Voldemort? When did I ever sneak around people who were stronger and more powerful than myself? But you, Peter—I'll never understand why I didn't see you were the spy from the start. You always liked big friends who'd look after you, didn't you? It used to be us... me and Remus... and James...

Pettigrew wiped his face again; he was almost panting for breath.

“Me, a spy... must be out of your mind... never... don't know how you can say such a —”

“Lily and James only made you Secret-Keeper because I suggested it,” Black hissed, so venomously that Pettigrew took a step backward. “I thought it was the perfect plan... a bluff... Voldemort would be sure to come after me, would never dream they'd use a weak, talentless thing like you... It must have been the finest moment of your miserable life, telling Voldemort you could hand him the Potters.”

Pettigrew was muttering distractedly; Harry caught words like “far-fetched” and “lunacy,” but he couldn't help paying more attention to the ashen color of Pettigrew's face and the way his eyes continued to dart toward the windows and door.

“Professor Lupin?” said Hermione timidly. “Can—can I say something?”

“Certainly, Hermione,” said Lupin courteously.

“Well—Scabbers—I mean, this—this man—he's been sleeping in Harry's dormitory for three years. If he's working for You-Know-Who, how come he never tried to hurt Harry before now?”

“There!” said Pettigrew shrilly, pointing at Ron with his maimed hand. “Thank you! You see, Remus? I have never hurt a hair of Harry's head! Why should I?”

“I'll tell you why,” said Black. “Because you never did anything for anyone unless you could see what was in it for you. Voldemort's been in hiding for fifteen years, they say he's half dead. You weren't about to commit murder right under Albus Dumbledore's nose, for a wreck of a wizard who'd lost all of his power, were you? You'd want to be quite sure he was the biggest bully in the playground before you went back to him, wouldn't you? Why else did you find a wizard family to take you in? Keeping an ear out for news, weren't YOU, Peter? Just in case your old protector regained strength, and it was safe to rejoin him...”

Pettigrew opened his mouth and closed it several times. He seemed to have lost the ability to talk.

“Er—Mr. Black—Sirius?” said Hermione.

Black jumped at being addressed like this and stared at Hermione as though he had never seen anything quite like her.

“If you don't mind me asking, how—how did you get out of Azkaban, if you didn't use Dark Magic?”

“Thank you!” gasped Pettigrew, nodding frantically at her. “Exactly! Precisely what I —”

But Lupin silenced him with a look. Black was frowning slightly at Hermione, but not as though he were annoyed with her. He seemed to be pondering his answer.

“I don't know how I did it,” he said slowly. “I think the only reason I never lost my mind is that I knew I was innocent. That wasn't a happy thought, so the dementors couldn't suck it out of me... but it kept me sane and knowing who I am... helped me keep my powers... so when it all became ...too much... I could transform in my cell... become a dog. Dementors can't see, you know...” He swallowed. “They feel their way toward people by feeding off their emotions... They could tell that my feelings were less—less human, less complex when I was a dog... but they thought, of course, that I was losing my mind like everyone else in there, so it didn't trouble them. But I was weak, very weak, and I had no hope of driving them away from me without a wand...”

“But then I saw Peter in that picture... I realized he was at Hogwarts with Harry... perfectly positioned to act, if one hint reached his ears that the Dark Side was gathering strength again...”

Pettigrew was shaking his head, mouthing noiselessly, but staring all the while at Black as though hypnotized.

“...ready to strike at the moment he could be sure of allies... and to deliver the last Potter to them. if he gave them Harry, who'd dare say he'd betrayed Lord Voldemort? He'd be welcomed back with honors...

“So you see, I had to do something. I was the only one who knew Peter was still alive...”

Harry remembered what Mr. Weasley had told Mrs. Wealsey. “The guards say he's been talking in his sleep... always the same words... 'He's at Hogwarts. '”

“It was as if someone had lit a fire In my head, and the dementors couldn't destroy it... It wasn't a happy feeling... it was an obsession... but it gave me strength, it cleared my mind. So, one night when they opened my door to bring food, I slipped past them as a dog... It's so much harder for them to sense animal emotions that they were confused... I was thin, very thin... thin enough to slip through the bars... I swam as a dog back to the mainland... I journeyed north and slipped into the Hogwarts grounds as a dog. I've been living in the forest ever since, except when I came to watch the Quidditch, of course. You fly as well as your father did, Harry...”

He looked at Harry, who did not look away.

“Believe me,” croaked Black. “Believe me, Harry. I never betrayed James and Lily. I would have died before I betrayed them.”

And at long last, Harry believed him. Throat too tight to speak, he nodded.

“No!”

Pettigrew had fallen to his knees as though Harry's nod had been his own death sentence. He shuffled forward on his knees, groveling, his hands clasped in front of him as though praying.

“Sirius—it's me... it's Peter... your friend... you wouldn't —”

Black kicked out and Pettigrew recoiled.

“There's enough filth on my robes without you touching them,” said Black.

“Remus!” Pettigrew squeaked, turning to Lupin instead, writhing imploringly in front of him. “You don't believe this wouldn't Sirius have told you they'd changed the plan?”

“Not if he thought I was the spy, Peter,” said Lupin. “I assume that's why you didn't tell me, Sirius?” he said casually over Pettigrews head.

“Forgive me, Remus,” said Black.

“Not at all, Padfoot, old friend,” said Lupin, who was now rolling up his sleeves. “And will you, in turn, forgive me for believing you were the spy?”

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 105729 times

123456789101112131415161718192021222324252627282930313233343536373839404142434445


 
              
Page generation 0.001 seconds