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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (page 6)


After breakfast Harry would go out into the backyard, take out his wand, tap the third brick from the left above the trash bit,, and stand back as the archway into Diagon Alley opened in the wall.

Harry spent the long sunny days exploring the shops and eating under the brightly colored umbrellas outside cafes, where his fellow diners were showing one another their purchases ( “ it, s a lunascope, old boy—no more messing around with moon charts, see?”) or else discussing the case of Sirius Black (“personalty, I won't let any of the children out alone until he's back in Azkaban”). Harry didn't have to do his homework under the blankets by flashlight anymore; now he could sit in the bright sunshine outside Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor, finishing all his essays with occasional help from Florean Fortescue himself, who, apart from knowing a great deal about medieval witch burnings, gave Harry free sundaes every half an hour.

Once Harry had refilled his money bag with gold Galleons, silver Sickles, and bronze Knuts from his vault at Gringotts, he had to exercise a lot of self-control not to spend the whole lot at once. He had to keep reminding himself that he had five years to go at Hogwarts, and how it would feel to ask the Dursleys for money for spellbooks, to stop himself from buying a handsome set of solid gold Gobstones (a wizarding game rather like marbles, in which the stones squirt a nasty-smelling liquid into the other player's face when they lose a point). He was sorely tempted, too, by the perfect, moving model of the galaxy in a large glass ball, which would have meant he never had to take another Astronomy lesson. But the thing that tested Harry's resolution most appeared in his favorite shop, Quality Quidditch Supplies, a week after he'd arrived at the Leaky Cauldron.

Curious to know what the crowd in the shop was staring at, Harry edged his way inside and squeezed in among the excited witches and wizards until he glimpsed a newly erected podium, on which was mounted the most magnificent broom he had ever seen in his life.

“Just come out—prototype —” a square-jawed wizard was telling his companion.

“It's the fastest broom in the world, isn't it, Dad?” squeaked a boy younger than Harry, who was swinging off his father's arm.

“Irish International Side's Just put in an order for seven of these beauties!” the proprietor of the shop told the crowd. “And they're favorites for the World Cup!”

A large witch in front of Harry moved, and he was able to read the sign next to the broom:

*THE FIREBOLT*

THIS STATE-OF-THE-ART PACING BROOM SPORTS A STREAM-LINED, SUPERFINE HANDLE OF ASH, TREATED WITH A DIAMOND-HARD POLISH AND HANDNUMBERED WITH ITS OWN REGISTRATION NUMBER. EACH INDIVIDUALLY SELECTED BIRCH TWIG IN THE BROOMTAIL HAS BEEN HONED TO AERODYNAMIC PERFECTION, GIVING THE FIREBOLT UNSURPASSABLE BALANCE AND PINPOINT PRECISION. THE FIREBOLT HAS AN ACCELERATION OF 150 MILES AN HOUR IN TEN SECONDS AND INCORPORATES AN UNBREAKABLE BRAKING CHARM. PRICE ON REQUEST.

Price on request... Harry didn't like to think how much gold the Firebolt would cost. He had never wanted anything as much in his whole life—but he had never lost a Quidditch match on his Nim bus Two Thousand, and what was the point in emptying his Gringotts vault for the Firebolt, when he had a very good broom already? Harry didn't ask for the price, but he returned, almost every day after that, just to look at the Firebolt.

There were, however, things that Harry needed to buy. He went to the Apothecary to replenish his store of potions ingredients, and as his school robes were now several inches too short in the arm and leg, he visited Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions and bought new ones. Most important of all, he had to buy his new schoolbooks, which would include those for his two new subjects, Care of Magical Creatures and Divination.

Harry got a surprise as he looked in at the bookshop window. Instead of the usual display of goldembossed spellbooks the size of paving slabs, there was a large iron cage behind the glass that held about a hundred copies of The Monster Book of Monsters. Torn pages were flying everywhere as the books grappled with each other, locked together in furious wrestling matches and snapping aggressively.

Harry pulled his booklist out of his pocket and consulted it for the first time. The Monster Book of Monsters was listed as the required book for Care of Magical Creatures. Now Harry understood why Hagrid had said it would come in useful. He felt relieved; he had been wondering whether Hagrid wanted help with some terrifying new pet.

As Harry entered Flourish and Blotts, the manager came hurrying toward him.

“Hogwarts?” he said abruptly. “Come to get your new books?”

“Yes,” said Harry, “I need —”

“Get out of the way,” said the manager impatiently, brushing Harry aside. He drew on a pair of very thick gloves, picked up a large, knobbly walking stick, and proceeded toward the door of the Monster Books' cage.

“Hang on,” said Harry quickly, “I've already got one of those.”

“Have you?” A look of enormous relief spread over the manager's face. “Thank heavens for that. I've been bitten five times already this morning —”

A loud ripping noise rent the air; two of the Monster Books had seized a third and were pulling it apart.

“Stop it! Stop it!” cried the manager, poking the walking stick through the bars and knocking the books apart. “I'm never stocking them again, never! It's been bedlam! I thought we'd seen the worst when we bought two hundred copies of the Invisible Book of Invisibility -cost a fortune, and we never found them... Well... is there anything else I can help you with?”

“Yes,” said Harry, looking down his booklist, “I need Unfogging the Future by Cassandra Vablatsky.”

“Ah, starting Divination, are you?” said the manager, stripping off his gloves and leading Harry into the back of the shop, where there was a corner devoted to fortune-telling. A small table was stacked with volumes such as Predicting the Unpredictable: Insulate Yourself Against Shocks and Broken Balls: When Fortunes Turn Foul.

“Here you are,,' said the manager, who had climbed a set of steps to take down a thick, blackbound book. “Unfogging the Future. Very good guide to all your basic fortune-telling methods—palmistry, crystal balls, bird entrails.

But Harry wasn't listening. His eyes had fallen on another book, which was among a display on a small table: Death Omens. What to Do When You Know the Worst Is Coming.

“Oh, I wouldn't read that if I were you,” said the manager lightly, looking to see what Harry was staring at. “You'll start seeing death omens everywhere. It's enough to frighten anyone to death. “

But Harry continued to stare at the front cover of the book; it showed a black dog large as a bear, with gleaming eyes. It looked oddly familiar...

The manager pressed Unfogging the Future into Harry's hands.

“Anything else?” he said.

“Yes,” said Harry, tearing his eyes away from the dog's and dazedly consulting his booklist. “Er—I need Intermediate Transfiguration and The Standard Book of Spells, Grade Three.”

Harry emerged from Flourish and Blotts ten minutes later with his new books under his arms and made his way back to the Leaky Cauldron, hardly noticing where he was going and bumping into several people.

He tramped up the stairs to his room, went inside, and tipped his books onto his bed. Somebody had been in to tidy; the windows were open and sun was pouring inside. Harry could hear the buses rolling by in the unseen Muggle street behind him and the sound of the invisible crowd below in Diagon Alley. He caught sight of himself in the mirror over the basin.

“It can't have been a death omen,” he told his reflection defiantly. “I was panicking when I saw that thing in Magnolia Crescent... It was probably just a stray dog...”

He raised his hand automatically and tried to make his hair lie flat

“You're fighting a losing battle there, dear,” said his mirror in a vvheezy voice.

As the days slipped by, Harry started looking wherever he went for a sign of Ron or Hermione. Plenty of Hogwarts students were arriving in Diagon Alley now, with the start of term so near. Harry met Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas, his fellow Gryffindors, in Quality Quidditch Supplies, where they too were ogling the Firebolt; he also ran into the real Neville Longbottom, a round-faced, forgetful boy, outside Flourish and Blotts. Harry didn't stop to chat; Neville appeared to have mislaid his booklist and was being told off by his very formidable-looking grandmother. Harry hoped she never found out that he'd pretended to be Neville while on the run from the Ministry of Magic.

Harry woke on the last day of the holidays, thinking that he would at least meet Ron and Hermione tomorrow, on the Hogwarts Express. He got up, dressed, went for a last look at the Firebolt, and was just wondering where he'd have lunch, when someone yelled his name and he turned.

“Harry! HARRY!”

They were there, both of them, sitting outside Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor—Ron looking incredibly freckly, Her,,one very brown, both waving frantically at him.

“Finally!” said Ron, grinning at Harry as he sat down. “We went to the Leaky Cauldron, but they said you'd left, and we went to Flourish and Blotts, and Madam Malkin's, and —”

“I got all my school stuff last week,” Harry explained. “And how come You knew I'm staying at the Leaky Cauldron?” “Dad,” said Ron simply.

Mr. Weasley, who worked at the Ministry of Magic, would of course have heard the whole story of what had happened to Aunt Marge.

“Did you really blow up your aunt, Harry?” said Hermione in a very serious voice.

“I didn't mean to,” said Harry, while Ron roared with laughter. “I just—lost control.”

“It's not funny, Ron,” said Hermione sharply. “Honestly, I'm amazed Harry wasn't expelled.”

“So am I,” admitted Harry. “Forget expelled, I thought I was going to be arrested.” He looked at Ron. “Your dad doesn't know why Fudge let me off, does he?”

“Probably 'cause it's you, isn't it?” shrugged Ron, still chuckling. “Famous Harry Potter and all that. I'd hate to see what the Ministry'd do to me if I blew up an aunt. Mind you, they'd have to dig me up first, because Mum would've killed me. Anyway, you can ask Dad yourself this evening. We're staying at the Leaky Cauldron tonight too! So you can come to King's Cross with us tomorrow! Hermione's there as well!”

Hermione nodded, beaming. “Mum and Dad dropped me off this morning with all my Hogwarts things.”

“Excellent!” said Harry happily. “So, have you got all your new books and stuff?”

“Look at this,” said Ron, pulling a long thin box out of a bag and opening it. “Brand-new wand. Fourteen inches, willow, containing one unicorn tail-hair. And we've got all our books —” He pointed at a large bag under his chair. “What about those Monster Books, eh? The assistant nearly cried when we said we wanted two.”

“What's all that, Hermione?” Harry asked, pointing at not one but three bulging bags in the chair next to her.

,,Well, I'm taking more new subjects than you, aren't IF' said Hermione. “Those are my books for Arithmancy, Care of Magical Creatures, Divination, the Study of Ancient Runes, Muggle Studies —”

“What are you doing Muggle Studies for?” said Ron, rolling his eyes at Harry. “You're Muggleborn! Your mum and dad are Muggles! You already know all about Muggles!”

“But it'll be fascinating to study them from the wizarding point of view,” said Hermione earnestly.

“Are you planning to eat or sleep at all this year, Hermione?” asked Harry, while Ron sniggered. Hermione ignored them.

“I've still got ten Galleons,” she said, checking her purse. “It's my birthday in September, and Mum and Dad gave me some money to get myself an early birthday present.”

“How about a nice book? said Ron innocently.

“No, I don't think so,” said Hermione composedly. “I really want an owl. I mean, Harry's got Hedwig and you've got Errol —”

“I haven't,” said Ron. “Errol's a family owl. All I've got is Scabbers.” He pulled his pet rat out of his pocket. “And I want to get him checked over,” he added, placing Scabbers on the table in front of them. “I don't think Egypt agreed with him.”

Scabbers was looking thinner than usual, and there was a definite droop to his whiskers.

“There's a magical creature shop just over there,” said Harry, who knew Diagon Alley very well by now. “You could see if they've got anything for Scabbers, and Hermione can get her owl,”

So they paid for their ice cream and crossed the street to the Magical Menagerie.

There wasn't much room inside. Every inch of wall was hidden by cages. It was smelly and very noisy because the occupants Of these cages were all squeaking, squawking, jabbering, or hissing. The witch behind the counter was already advising a wizard on the care of double-ended newts, so Harry, Ron, and Hermione waited, examining the cages.

A pair of enormous purple toads sat gulping wetly and feasting on dead blowflies. A gigantic tortoise with a jewel-encrusted shell was glittering near the window. Poisonous orange snails were oozing slowly up the side of their glass tank, and a fat white rabbit kept changing into a silk top hat and back again with a loud popping noise. Then there were cats of every color, a noisy cage of ravens, a basket of funny custard-colored furballs that were humming loudly, and on the counter, a vast cage of sleek black rats that were playing some sort of skipping game using their long, bald tails.

The double-ended newt wizard left, and Ron approached the counter.

“It's my rat,” he told the witch. “He been a bit off-color ever since I brought him back from Egypt.”

“Bang him on the counter,” said the witch, pulling a pair of heavy black spectacles out of her pocket.

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