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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (page 39)


“Of course,” said Black, and the ghost of a grin flitted across his gaunt face. He, too, began rolling up his sleeves. “Shall we kill him together?”

“Yes, I think so,” said Lupin grimly.

“You wouldn't... you won't...,” gasped Pettigrew. And he scrambled around to Ron.

“Ron... haven't I been a good friend... a good pet? You won't let them kill me, Ron, will you... you're on my side, aren't you.

But Ron was staring at Pettigrew with the utmost revulsion.

“I let you sleep in my bed!” he said.

“Kind boy... kind master...” Pettigrew crawled toward Ron “You won't let them do it... I was your rat... I was a good pet...”

“If you made a better rat than a human, it's not much to boast about, Peter,” said Black harshly. Ron, going still paler with pain, wrenched his broken leg out of Pettigrew's reach. Pettigrew turned on his knees, staggered forward, and seized the hem of Hermione's robes.

“Sweet girl... clever girl... you—you won't let them... Help me...”

Hermione pulled her robes out of Pettigrew's clutching hands and backed away against the wall, looking horrified.

Pettigrew knelt, trembling uncontrollably, and-turned his head slowly toward Harry.

“Harry... Harry... you look just like your father... just like him...”

“HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO HARRY?” roared Black. “HOW DARE YOU FACE HIM? HOW DARE YOU TALK ABOUT JAMES IN FRONT OF HIM?”

“Harry,” whispered Pettigrew, shuffling toward him, hands outstretched. “Harry, James wouldn't have wanted me killed... James would have understood, Harry... he would have shown me mercy...”

Both Black and Lupin strode forward, seized Pettigrew's shoulders, and threw him backward onto the floor. He sat there, twitching with terror, staring up at them.

“You sold Lily and James to Voldemort,” said Black, who was shaking too. “Do you deny it?”

Pettigrew burst into tears. It was horrible to watch, like an oversized, balding baby, cowering on the floor.

“Sirius, Sirius, what could I have done? The Dark Lord... you have no idea... he has weapons you can't imagine... I was scared, Sirius, I was never brave like you and Remus and James. I never meant it to happen... He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named forced me —”

“DON'T LIE!” bellowed Black. “YOU'D BEEN PASSING INFORMATION TO HIM FOR A YEAR BEFORE LILY AND JAMES DIED! YOU WERE HIS SPY!”

“He—he was taking over everywhere!” gasped Pettigrew. “Wh—what was there to be gained by refusing him?”

“What was there to be gained by fighting the most evil wizard who has ever existed?” said Black, with a terrible fury in his face. “Only innocent lives, Peter!”

“You don't understand!” whined Pettigrew. “He would have killed me, Sirius!”

“THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED!” roared Black. “DIED RATHER THAN BETRAY YOUR FRIENDS, AS WE WOULD HAVE DONE FOR YOU!”

Black and Lupin stood shoulder to shoulder, wands raised.

“You should have realized,” said Lupin quietly, “if Voldemort didn't kill you, we would. Good-bye, Peter.”

Hermione covered her face with her hands and turned to the wall.

“NO!” Harry yelled. He ran forward, placing himself in front Pettigrew, facing the wands. “You can't kill him,” he said breathlessly. “You can't.”

Black and Lupin both looked staggered.

“Harry, this piece of vermin is the reason you have no parents,” Black snarled. “This cringing bit of filth would have seen you die too, without turning a hair. You heard him. His own stinking skin meant more to him than your whole family.”

“I know,” Harry panted. “We'll take him up to the castle. We'll hand him over to the dementors... He can go to Azkaban... but don't kill him.”

“Harry!” gasped Pettigrew, and he flung his arms around Harry's knees. “You—thank you—it's more than I deserve—thank you —”

“Get off me,” Harry spat, throwing Pettigrew's hands off him in disgust. “I'm not doing this for you. I'm doing it because—I don't reckon my dad would've wanted them to become killers—just for you.”

No one moved or made a sound except Pettigrew, whose breath was coming in wheezes as he clutched his chest. Black and Lupin were looking at each other. Then, with one movement, they lowered their wands.

“You're the only person who has the right to decide, Harry,” said Black. “But think... think what he did...”

“He can go to Azkaban,” Harry repeated. “If anyone deserves that place, he does...”

Pettigrew was still wheezing behind him.

“Very well,” said Lupin. “Stand aside, Harry.”

Harry hesitated.

“I'm going to tie him up,” said Lupin. “That's all, I swear.”

Harry stepped out of the way. Thin cords shot from Lupin's wand this time, and next moment, Pettigrew was wriggling on the floor, bound and gagged.

“But if you transform, Peter,” growled Black, his own wand pointing at Pettigrew too, “we will kill you. You agree, Harry?”

Harry looked down at the pitiful figure on the floor and nodded so that Pettigrew could see him.

“Right,” said Lupin, suddenly businesslike. “Ron, I can't mend bones nearly as well as Madam Pomfrey, so I think it's best if we just strap your leg up until we can get you to the hospital wing.”

He hurried over to Ron, bent down, tapped Ron's leg with his wand, and muttered, “Ferula.” Bandages spun up Ron's leg, strapping it tightly to a splint. Lupin helped him to his feet; Ron put his weight gingerly on the leg and didn't wince.

“That's better,” he said. “Thanks.”

“What about Professor Snape?” said Hermione in a small voice, looking down at Snape's prone figure.

“There's nothing seriously wrong with him,” said Lupin, bending over Snape and checking his pulse. “You were just a little—overenthusiastic. Still out cold. Er—perhaps it will be best if we don't revive him until we're safety back in the castle. We can take him like this...”

He muttered, “Mobilicorpus.” As though invisible strings were tied to Snape's wrists, neck, and knees, he was pulled into a standing position, head still lolling unpleasantly, like a grotesque puppet. He hung a few inches above the ground, his limp feet dangling. Lupin picked up the Invisibility Cloak and tucked it safely into his pocket.

“And two of us should be chained to this,” said Black, nudging Pettigrew with his toe. “Just to make sure.”

“I'll do it,” said Lupin.

“And me,” said Ron savagely, limping forward.

Black conjured heavy manacles from thin air; soon Pettigrew was upright again, left arm chained to Lupin's right, right arm to Ron's left. Ron's face was set. He seemed to have taken Scabbers's true identity as a personal insult. Crookshanks leapt lightly off the bed and led the way out of the room, his bottlebrush tail held jauntily high.

CHAPTER TWENTY

THE DEMENTOR'S KISS

Harry had never been part of a stranger group. Crookshanks led the way down the stairs; Lupin, Pettigrew, and Ron went next, looking like entrants in a six-legged race. Next came Professor Snape, drifting creepily along, his toes hitting each stair as they descended, held up by his own wand, which was being pointed at him by Sirius. Harry and Hermione brought up the rear.

Getting back into the tunnel was difficult. Lupin, Pettigrew, and Ron had to turn sideways to manage it; Lupin still had Pettigrew covered with his wand. Harry could see them edging awkwardly along the tunnel in single file. Crookshanks was still in the lead. Harry went right after Black, who was still making Snape drift along ahead of them; he kept bumping his lolling head on the low ceiling. Harry had the impression Black was making no effort to prevent this.

“You know what this means?” Black said abruptly to Harry as they made their slow progress along the tunnel. “Turning Pettigrew in?”

“You' re free,” said Harry.

“Yes...,” said Black. “But I'm also—I don't know if anyone ever told you—I'm your godfather.”

“Yeah, I knew that,” said Harry.

“Well... your parents appointed me your guardian,” said Black stiffly. “If anything happened to them...”

Harry waited. Did Black mean what he thought he meant?

“I'll understand, of course, if you want to stay with your aunt and uncle,” said Black. “But... well... think about it. Once my name's cleared... if you wanted a... a different home...”

Some sort of explosion took place in the pit of Harry's stomach.

“What—live with you?” he said, accidentally cracking his head on a bit of rock protruding from the ceiling. “Leave the Dursleys?”

“Of course, I thought you wouldn't want to,” said Black quickly. “I understand, I just thought I'd —”

“Are you insane?” said Harry, his voice easily as croaky as Black's.

“Of course I want to leave the Dursleys! Have you got a house? When can I move in?”

Black turned right around to look at him; Snape's head was scraping the ceiling but Black didn't seem to care.

“You want to?” he said. “You mean it?”

“Yeah, I mean it!” said Harry.

Black's gaunt face broke into the first true smile Harry had seen upon it. The difference it made was startling, as though a person ten years younger were shining through the starved mask; for a moment, he was recognizable as the man who had laughed at Harry's parents' wedding.

They did not speak again until they had reached the end of the tunnel. Crookshanks darted up first; he had evidently pressed his paw to the knot on the trunk, because Lupin, Pettigrew, and Ron clambered upward without any sound of savaging branches.

Black saw Snape up through the hole, then stood back for Harry and Hermione to pass. At last, all of them were out.

The grounds were very dark now; the only light came from the distant windows of the castle. Without a word, they set off. Pettigrew was still wheezing and occasionally whimpering. Harry's mind was buzzing. He was going to leave the Dursleys. He was going to live with Sirius Black, his parents' best friend... He felt dazed... What would happen when he told the Dursleys he was going to live with the convict they'd seen on television...!

“One wrong move, Peter,” said Lupin threateningly ahead. His wand was still pointed sideways at Pettigrew's chest.

Silently they tramped through the grounds, the castle lights growing slowly larger. Snape was still drifting weirdly ahead of Black, his chin bumping on his chest. And then —

A cloud shifted. There were suddenly dim shadows on the ground. Their party was bathed in moonlight.

Snape collided with Lupin, Pettigrew, and Ron, who had stopped abruptly. Black froze. He flung out one arm to make Harry and Hermione stop.

Harry could see Lupin's silhouette. He had gone rigid. Then his limbs began to shake.

“Oh, my —” Hermione gasped. “He didn't take his potion tonight! He's not safe!”

“Run,” Black whispered. “Run. Now.”

But Harry couldn't run. Ron was chained to Pettigrew and Lupin. He leapt forward but Black caught him around the chest and threw him back.

“Leave it to me—RUN!”

There was a terrible snarling noise. Lupin's head was lengthening. So was his body. His shoulders were hunching. Hair was sprouting visibly on his face and hands, which were curling into clawed paws. Crookshanks's hair was on end again; he was backing away —

As the werewolf reared, snapping its long jaws, Sirius disappeared from Harry's side. He had transformed. The enormous, bearlike dog bounded forward. As the werewolf wrenched itself free of the manacle binding it, the dog seized it about the neck and pulled it backward, away from Ron and Pettigrew. They were locked, jaw to jaw, claws ripping at each other.

Harry stood, transfixed by the sight, too intent upon the battle to notice anything else. It was Hermione's scream that alerted him —

Pettigrew had dived for Lupin's dropped wand. Ron, unsteady on his bandaged leg, fell. There was a bang, a burst of light—and Ron lay motionless on the ground. Another bang—Crookshanks flew into the air and back to the earth in a heap.

“Expelliarmus.” Harry yelled, pointing his own wand at Pettigrew; Lupin's wand flew high into the air and out of sight. “Stay where you are!” Harry shouted, running forward.

Too late. Pettigrew had transformed. Harry saw his bald tail whip through the manacle on Ron's outstretched arm and heard a scurrying through the grass.

There was a howl and a rumbling growl; Harry turned to see the werewolf taking flight; it was galloping into the forest —

“Sirius, he's gone, Pettigrew transformed!” Harry yelled.

Black was bleeding; there were gashes across his muzzle and back, but at Harry's words he scrambled up again, and in an instant, the sound of his paws faded to silence as he pounded away across the grounds.

Harry and Hermione dashed over to Ron.

“What did he do to him?” Hermione whispered. Ron's eyes were only half-closed, his mouth hung open; he was definitely alive, they could hear him breathing, but he didn't seem to recognize them.

“I don't know...”

Harry looked desperately around. Black and Lupin both gone... they had no one but Snape for company, still hanging, unconscious, in midair.

“We'd better get them up to the castle and tell someone,” said Harry, pushing his hair out of his eyes, trying to think straight. “Come —”

But then, from beyond the range of their vision, they heard a yelping, a whining: a dog in pain...

“Sirius,” Harry muttered, staring into the darkness.

He had a moment's indecision, but there was nothing they could do for Ron at the moment, and by the sound of it, Black was in trouble —

Harry set off at a run, Hermione right behind him. The yelping seemed to be coming from the ground near the edge of the lake. They pelted toward it, and Harry, running flat out, felt the cold without realizing what it must mean —

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 112257 times

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