“Yes?” said Moody, looking at her.
“Avada Kedavra,” Hermione whispered.
Several people looked uneasily around at her, including Ron.
“Ah,” said Moody, another slight smile twisting his lopsided mouth. “Yes,
the last and worst. Avada Kedavra... the Killing Curse.”
He put his hand into the glass jar, and almost as though it knew what was
coming, the third spider scuttled frantically around the bottom of the jar,
trying to evade Moody's fingers, but he trapped it, and placed it upon the desktop.
It started to scuttle frantically across the wooden surface.
Moody raised his wand, and Harry felt a sudden thrill of foreboding.
“Avada Kedavra!” Moody roared.
There was a flash of blinding green light and a rushing sound, as though
a vast, invisible something was soaring through the air—instantaneously the
spider rolled over onto its back, unmarked, but unmistakably dead. Several of
the students stifled cries; Ron had thrown himself backward and almost toppled
off his seat as the spider skidded toward him.
Moody swept the dead spider off the desk onto the floor.
“Not nice,” he said calmly. “Not pleasant. And there's no countercurse. There's
no blocking it. Only one known person has ever survived it, and he's sitting
right in front of me.”
Harry felt his face redden as Moody's eyes (both of them) looked into his
own. He could feel everyone else looking around at him too. Harry stared at
the blank blackboard as though fascinated by it, but not really seeing it at
So that was how his parents had died... exactly like that spider. Had they
been unblemished and unmarked too? Had they simply seen the flash of green light
and heard the rush of speeding death, before life was wiped from their bodies?
Harry had been picturing his parents' deaths over and over again for three
years now, ever since he'd found out they had been murdered, ever since he'd
found out what had happened that night: Wormtail had betrayed his parents' whereabouts
to Voldemort, who had come to find them at their cottage. How Voldemort had
killed Harry's father first. How James Potter had tried to hold him off, while
he shouted at his wife to take Harry and run... Voldemort had advanced on Lily
Potter, told her to move aside so that he could kill Harry... how she had begged
him to kill her instead, refused to stop shielding her son... and so Voldemort
had murdered her too, before turning his wand on Harry.
Harry knew these details because he had heard his parents' voices when he
had fought the dementors last year—for that was the terrible power of the dementors:
to force their victims to relive the worst memories of their lives, and drown,
powerless, in their own despair.
Moody was speaking again, from a great distance, it seemed to Harry. With
a massive effort, he pulled himself back to the present and listened to what
Moody was saying.
“Avada Kedavra's a curse that needs a powerful bit of magic behind it—you
could all get your wands out now and point them at me and say the words, and
I doubt I'd get so much as a nosebleed. But that doesn't matter. I'm not here
to teach you how to do it.
“Now, if there's no countercurse, why am I showing you? Because you've got
to know. You've got to appreciate what the worst is. You don't want to find
yourself in a situation where you're facing it. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” he roared,
and the whole class jumped again.
“Now... those three curses—Avada Kedavra, Imperius, and Cruciatus—are known
as the Unforgivable Curses. The use of any one of them on a fellow human being
is enough to earn a life sentence in Azkaban. That's what you're up against.
That's what I've got to teach you to fight. You need preparing. You need arming.
But most of all, you need to practice constant, never-ceasing vigilance. Get
out your quills... copy this down...”
They spent the rest of the lesson taking notes on each of the Unforgivable
Curses. No one spoke until the bell rang—but when Moody had dismissed them and
they had left the classroom, a torrent of talk burst forth. Most people were
discussing the curses in awed voices—”Did you see it twitch?” “and when he killed
it—just like that!”
They were talking about the lesson, Harry thought, as though it had been
some sort of spectacular show, but he hadn't found it very entertaining—and
nor, it seemed, had Hermione.
“Hurry up,” she said tensely to Harry and Ron.
“Not the ruddy library again?” said Ron.
“No,” said Hermione curtly, pointing up a side passage. “Neville.” Neville
was standing alone, halfway up the passage, staring at the stone wall opposite
him with the same horrified, wide-eyed look he had worn when Moody had demonstrated
the Cruciatus Curse.
“Neville?” Hermione said gently.
Neville looked around.
“Oh hello,” he said, his voice much higher than usual. “Interesting lesson,
wasn't it? I wonder what's for dinner, I'm—I'm starving, aren't you?”
“Neville, are you all right?” said Hermione.
“Oh yes, I'm fine,” Neville gabbled in the same unnaturally high voice. “Very
interesting dinner—I mean lesson—what's for eating?”
Ron gave Harry a startled look.
But an odd clunking noise sounded behind them, and they turned to see Professor
Moody limping toward them. All four of them fell silent, watching him apprehensively,
but when he spoke, it was in a much lower and gentler growl than they had yet
“It's all right, sonny,” he said to Neville. “Why don't you come up to my
office? Come on... we can have a cup of tea...”
Neville looked even more frightened at the prospect of tea with Moody. He
neither moved nor spoke. Moody turned his magical eye upon Harry.
“You all right, are you, Potter?”
“Yes,” said Harry, almost defiantly.
Moody's blue eye quivered slightly in its socket as it surveyed Harry. Then
he said, “You've got to know. It seems harsh, maybe, but you've got to know.
No point pretending... well... come on, Longbottom, I've got some books that
might interest you.”
Neville looked pleadingly at Harry, Ron, and Hermione, but they didn't say
anything, so Neville had no choice but to allow himself to be steered away,
one of Moody's gnarled hands on his shoulder.
“What was that about?” said Ron, watching Neville and Moody turn the corner.
“I don't know,” said Hermione, looking pensive.
“Some lesson, though, eh?” said Ron to Harry as they set off for the Great
Hall. “Fred and George were right, weren't they? He really knows his stuff,
Moody, doesn't he? When he did Avada Kedavra, the way that spider just died,
just snuffed it right—”
But Ron fell suddenly silent at the look on Harry's face and didn't speak
again until they reached the Great Hall, when he said he supposed they had better
make a start on Professor Trelawney's predictions tonight, since they would
Hermione did not join in with Harry and Ron's conversation during dinner,
but ate furiously fast, and then left for the library again. Harry and Ron walked
back to Gryffindor Tower, and Harry, who had been thinking of nothing else all
through dinner, now raised the subject of the Unforgivable Curses himself.
“Wouldn't Moody and Dumbledore be in trouble with the Ministry if they knew
we'd seen the curses?” Harry asked as they approached the Fat Lady.
“Yeah, probably,” said Ron. “But Dumbledore's always done things his way,
hasn't he, and Moody's been getting in trouble for years, I reckon. Attacks
first and asks questions later—look at his dustbins. Balderdash.”
The Fat Lady swung forward to reveal the entrance hole, and they climbed
into the Gryffindor common room, which was crowded and noisy.
“Shall we get our Divination stuff, then?” said Harry.
“I s'pose,” Ron groaned.
They went up to the dormitory to fetch their books and charts, to find Neville
there alone, sitting on his bed, reading. He looked a good deal calmer than
at the end of Moody's lesson, though still not entirely normal. His eyes were
“You all right, Neville?” Harry asked him.
“Oh yes,” said Neville, “I'm fine, thanks. Just reading this book Professor
Moody lent me...”
He held up the book: Magical Water Plants of the Mediterranean.
“Apparently, Professor Sprout told Professor Moody I'm really good at Herbology,”
Neville said. There was a faint note of pride in his voice that Harry had rarely
heard there before. “He thought I'd like this.”
Telling Neville what Professor Sprout had said, Harry thought, had been a
very tactful way of cheering Neville up, for Neville very rarely heard that
he was good at anything. It was the sort of thing Professor Lupin would have
Harry and Ron took their copies of Unfogging the Future back down to the
common room, found a table, and set to work on their predictions for the coming
month. An hour later, they had made very little progress, though their table
was littered with bits of parchment bearing sums and symbols, and Harry's brain
was as fogged as though it had been filled with the fumes from Professor Trelawney's
“I haven't got a clue what this lot's supposed to mean,” he said, staring
down at a long list of calculations.
“You know,” said Ron, whose hair was on end because of all the times he had
run his fingers through it in frustration, “I think it's back to the old Divination
“What—make it up?”
“Yeah,” said Ron, sweeping the jumble of scrawled notes off the table, dipping
his pen into some ink, and starting to write.
“Next Monday,” he said as he scribbled, “I am likely to develop a cough,
owing to the unlucky conjunction of Mars and Jupiter.” He looked up at Harry.
“You know her—just put in loads of misery, she'll lap it up.”
“Right,” said Harry, crumpling up his first attempt and lobbing it over the
heads of a group of chattering first years into the fire. “Okay... on Monday,
I will be in danger ofer—burns.”
“Yeah, you will be,” said Ron darkly, “we're seeing the skrewts again on
Monday. Okay, Tuesday, I'll... erm..
“Lose a treasured possession,” said Harry, who was flicking through Unfogging
the Future for ideas.
“Good one,” said Ron, copying it down. “Because of... erm... Mercury. Why
don't you get stabbed in the back by someone you thought was a friend?”
“Yeah... cool...” said Harry, scribbling it down, “because... Venus is in
the twelfth house.”
“And on Wednesday, I think I'll come off worst in a fight.”
“Aaah, I was going to have a fight. Okay, I'll lose a bet.”
“Yeah, you'll be betting I'll win my fight...
They continued to make up predictions (which grew steadily more tragic) for
another hour, while the common room around them slowly emptied as people went
up to bed. Crookshanks wandered over to them, leapt lightly into an empty chair,
and stared inscrutably at Harry, rather as Hermione might look if she knew they
weren't doing their homework properly.
Staring around the room, trying to think of a kind of misfortune he hadn't
yet used, Harry saw Fred and George sitting together against the opposite wall,
heads together, quills out, poring over a single piece of parchment. It was
most unusual to see Fred and George hidden away in a corner and working silently;
they usually liked to be in the thick of things and the noisy center of attention.
There was something secretive about the way they were working on the piece of
parchment, and Harry was reminded of how they had sat together writing something
back at the Burrow. He had thought then that it was another order form for Weasleys'
Wizard Wheezes, but it didn't look like that this time; if it had been, they
would surely have let Lee Jordan in on the joke. He wondered whether it had
anything to do with entering the Triwizard Tournament.
As Harry watched, George shook his head at Fred, scratched out something
with his quill, and said, in a very quiet voice that nevertheless carried across
the almost deserted room, “No—that sounds like we're accusing him. Got to be
Then George looked over and saw Harry watching him. Harry grinned and quickly
returned to his predictions—he didn't want George to think he was eavesdropping.
Shortly after that, the twins rolled up their parchment, said good night, and
went off to bed.
Fred and George had been gone ten minutes or so when the portrait hole opened
and Hermione climbed into the common room carrying a sheaf of parchment in one
hand and a box whose contents rattled as she walked in the other. Crookshanks
arched his back, purring.
“Hello,” she said, “I've just finished!”
“So have I!” said Ron triumphantly, throwing down his quill.
Hermione sat down, laid the things she was carrying in an empty armchair,
and pulled Ron's predictions toward her.
“Not going to have a very good month, are you?” she said sardonically as
Crookshanks curled up in her lap.
“Ah well, at least I'm forewarned,” Ron yawned.
“You seem to be drowning twice,” said Hermione.
“Oh am I?” said Ron, peering down at his predictions. “I'd better change
one of them to getting trampled by a rampaging hippogriff.”
“Don't you think it's a bit obvious you've made these up?” said Hermione.
“How dare you!” said Ron, in mock outrage. “We've been working like house-elves
Hermione raised her eyebrows.
“It's just an expression,” said Ron hastily.
Harry laid down his quill too, having just finished predicting his own death
“What's in the box?” he asked, pointing at it.
“Funny you should ask,” said Hermione, with a nasty look at Ron. She took
off the lid and showed them the contents.
Inside were about fifty badges, all of different colors, but all bearing
the same letters: S. P. E . W.
“Spew?” said Harry, picking up a badge and looking at it. “What's this about?”