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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (page 25)


“Not spew,” said Hermione impatiently. “It's S-P-E-W. Stands for the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare.”

“Never heard of it,” said Ron.

“Well, of course you haven't,” said Hermione briskly, “I've only just started it.”

“Yeah?” said Ron in mild surprise. “How many members have you got?”

“Well—if you two join—three,” said Hermione.

“And you think we want to walk around wearing badges saying 'spew,' do you?” said Ron.

“S-P-E-W!” said Hermione hotly. “I was going to put Stop the Outrageous Abuse of Our Fellow Magical Creatures and Campaign for a Change in Their Legal Status—but it wouldn't fit. So that's the heading of our manifesto.”

She brandished the sheaf of parchment at them.

“I've been researching it thoroughly in the library. Elf enslavement goes back centuries. I can't believe no one's done anything about it before now.”

“Hermione—open your ears,” said Ron loudly. “They. Like. It. They like being enslaved!”

“Our short-term aims,” said Hermione, speaking even more loudly than Ron, and acting as though she hadn't heard a word, “are to secure house-elves fair wages and working conditions. Our long-term aims include changing the law about non-wand use, and trying to get an elf into the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, because they're shockingly underrepresented.”

“And how do we do all this?” Harry asked.

“We start by recruiting members,” said Hermione happily. “I thought two Sickles to join—that buys a badge—and the proceeds can fund our leaflet campaign. You're treasurer, Ron—I've got you a collecting tin upstairs—and Harry, you're secretary, so you might want to write down everything I'm saying now, as a record of our first meeting.”

There was a pause in which Hermione beamed at the pair of them, and Harry sat, torn between exasperation at Hermione and amusement at the look on Ron's face. The silence was broken, not by Ron, who in any case looked as though he was temporarily dumbstruck, but by a soft tap, tap on the window. Harry looked across the now empty common room and saw, illuminated by the moonlight, a snowy owl perched on the windowsill.

“Hedwig!” he shouted, and he launched himself out of his chair and across the room to pull open the window.

Hedwig flew inside, soared across the room, and landed on the table on top of Harry's predictions.

“About time!” said Harry, hurrying after her.

“She's got an answer!” said Ron excitedly, pointing at the grubby piece of parchment tied to Hedwig's leg.

Harry hastily untied it and sat down to read, whereupon Hedwig fluttered onto his knee, hooting softly.

“What does it say?” Hermione asked breathlessly.

The letter was very short, and looked as though it had been scrawled in a great hurry. Harry read it aloud:

Harry—

I'm flying north immediately. This news about your scar is the latest in a series of strange rumors that have reached me here. If it hurts again, go straight to Dumbledore—they're saying he's got Mad-Eye out of retirement, which means he's reading the signs, even if no one else is.

I'll be in touch soon. My best to Ron and Hermione. Keep your eyes open, Harry.

Sirius

Harry looked up at Ron and Hermione, who stared back at him.

“He's flying north?” Hermione whispered. “He's coming back?”

“Dumbledore's reading what signs?” said Ron, looking perplexed. “Harry—what's up?”

For Harry had just hit himself in the forehead with his fist, jolting Hedwig out of his lap.

“I shouldn't've told him!” Harry said furiously.

“What are you on about?” said Ron in surprise.

“It's made him think he's got to come back!” said Harry, now slamming his fist on the table so that Hedwig landed on the back of Ron's chair, hooting indignantly. “Coming back, because he thinks I'm in trouble! And there's nothing wrong with me! And I haven't got anything for you,” Harry snapped at Hedwig, who was clicking her beak expectantly, “you'll have to go up to the Owlery if you want food.”

Hedwig gave him an extremely offended look and took off for the open window, cuffing him around the head with her outstretched wing as she went.

“Harry,” Hermione began, in a pacifying sort of voice.

“I'm going to bed,” said Harry shortly. “See you in the morning.”

Upstairs in the dormitory he pulled on his pajamas and got into his four-poster, but he didn't feel remotely tired.

If Sirius came back and got caught, it would be his, Harry's, fault. Why hadn't he kept his mouth shut? A few seconds' pain and he'd had to blab... If he'd just had the sense to keep it to himself.

He heard Ron come up into the dormitory a short while later, but did not speak to him. For a long time, Harry lay staring up at the dark canopy of his bed. The dormitory was completely silent, and, had he been less preoccupied, Harry would have realized that the absence of Neville's usual snores meant that he was not the only one lying awake.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

BEAUXBATONS AND DURMSTRANG

Early next morning, Harry woke with a plan fully formed in his mind, as though his sleeping brain had been working on it all night. He got up, dressed in the pale dawn light, left the dormitory without waking Ron, and went back down to the deserted common room. Here he took a piece of parchment from the table upon which his Divination homework still lay and wrote the following letter:

Dear Sirius,

I reckon I just imagined my scar hurting, I was half asleep when I wrote to you last time. There's no point coming back, everything's fine here. Don't worry about me, my head feels completely normal.

Harry

He then climbed out of the portrait hole, up through the silent castle (held up only briefly by Peeves, who tried to overturn a large vase on him halfway along the fourth-floor corridor), finally arriving at the Owlery, which was situated at the top of West Tower.

The Owlery was a circular stone room, rather cold and drafty, because none of the windows had glass in them. The floor was entirely covered in straw, owl droppings, and the regurgitated skeletons of mice and voles. Hundreds upon hundreds of owls of every breed imaginable were nestled here on perches that rose right up to the top of the tower, nearly all of them asleep, though here and there a round amber eye glared at Harry. He spotted Hedwig nestled between a barn owl and a tawny, and hurried over to her, sliding a little on the dropping-strewn floor.

It took him a while to persuade her to wake up and then to look at him, as she kept shuffling around on her perch, showing him her tail. She was evidently still furious about his lack of gratitude the previous night. In the end, it was Harry suggesting she might be too tired, and that perhaps he would ask Ron to borrow Pigwidgeon, that made her stick out her leg and allow him to tie the letter to it.

“Just find him, all right?” Harry said, stroking her back as he carried her on his arm to one of the holes in the wall. “Before the dementors do.”

She nipped his finger, perhaps rather harder than she would ordinarily have done, but hooted softly in a reassuring sort of way all the same. Then she spread her wings and took off into the sunrise. Harry watched her fly out of sight with the familiar feeling of unease back in his stomach. He had been so sure that Sirius's reply would alleviate his worries rather than increasing them.

“That was a lie, Harry,” said Hermione sharply over breakfast, when he told her and Ron what he had done. “You didn't imagine your scar hurting and you know it.”

“So what?” said Harry. “He's not going back to Azkaban because of me.”

“Drop it,” said Ron sharply to Hermione as she opened her mouth to argue some more, and for once, Hermione heeded him, and fell silent.

Harry did his best not to worry about Sirius over the next couple of weeks. True, he could not stop himself from looking anxiously around every morning when the post owls arrived, nor, late at night before he went to sleep, prevent himself from seeing horrible visions of Sirius, cornered by dementors down some dark London street, but betweentimes he tried to keep his mind off his godfather. He wished he still had Quidditch to distract him; nothing worked so well on a troubled mind as a good, hard training session. On the other hand, their lessons were becoming more difficult and demanding than ever before, particularly Moody's Defense Against the Dark Arts.

To their surprise, Professor Moody had announced that he would be putting the Imperius Curse on each of them in turn, to demonstrate its power and to see whether they could resist its effects.

“But—but you said it's illegal, Professor,” said Hermione uncertainly as Moody cleared away the desks with a sweep of his wand, leaving a large clear space in the middle of the room. “You said—to use it against another human was—”

“Dumbledore wants you taught what it feels like,” said Moody, his magical eye swiveling onto Hermione and fixing her with an eerie, unblinking stare. “If you'd rather learn the hard way—when someone's putting it on you so they can control you completely—fine by me. You're excused. Off you go.”

He pointed one gnarled finger toward the door. Hermione went very pink and muttered something about not meaning that she wanted to leave. Harry and Ron grinned at each other. They knew Hermione would rather eat bubotuber pus than miss such an important lesson.

Moody began to beckon students forward in turn and put the Imperius Curse upon them. Harry watched as, one by one, his classmates did the most extraordinary things under its influence. Dean Thomas hopped three times around the room, singing the national anthem. Lavender Brown imitated a squirrel. Neville performed a series of quite astonishing gymnastics he would certainly not have been capable of in his normal state. Not one of them seemed to be able to fight off the curse, and each of them recovered only when Moody had removed it.

“Potter,” Moody growled, “you next.”

Harry moved forward into the middle of the classroom, into the space that Moody had cleared of desks. Moody raised his wand, pointed it at Harry, and said, '1mperio!”

It was the most wonderful feeling. Harry felt a floating sensation as every thought and worry in his head was wiped gently away, leaving nothing but a vague, untraceable happiness. He stood there feeling immensely relaxed, only dimly aware of everyone watching him.

And then he heard Mad-Eye Moody's voice, echoing in some distant chamber of his empty brain: Jump onto the desk... jump onto the desk...

Harry bent his knees obediently, preparing to spring.

Jump onto the desk...

Why, though? Another voice had awoken in the back of his brain.

Stupid thing to do, really, said the voice.

Jump onto the desk...

No, I don't think I will, thanks, said the other voice, a little more firmly... no, I don't really want to.

Jump! NOW!

The next thing Harry felt was considerable pain. He had both jumped and tried to prevent himself from jumping—the result was that he'd smashed headlong into the desk knocking it over, and, by the feeling in his legs, fractured both his kneecaps.

“Now, that's more like it!” growled Moody's voice, and suddenly, Harry felt the empty, echoing feeling in his head disappear. He remembered exactly what was happening, and the pain in his knees seemed to double.

“Look at that, you lot... Potter fought! He fought it, and he damn near beat it! We'll try that again, Potter, and the rest of you, pay attention—watch his eyes, that's where you see it—very good, Potter, very good indeed! They'll have trouble controlling you!”

“The way he talks,” Harry muttered as he hobbled out of the Defense Against the Dark Arts class an hour later (Moody had insisted on putting Harry through his paces four times in a row, until Harry could throw off the curse entirely), “you'd think we were all going to be attacked any second.”

“Yeah, I know,” said Ron, who was skipping on every alternate step. He had had much more difficulty with the curse than Harry, though Moody assured him the effects would wear off by lunchtime. “Talk about paranoid...” Ron glanced nervously over his shoulder to check that Moody was definitely out of earshot and went on. “No wonder they were glad to get shot of him at the Ministry. Did you hear him telling Seamus what he did to that witch who shouted 'Boo' behind him on April Fools' Day? And when are we supposed to read up on resisting the Imperius Curse with everything else we've got to do?”

All the fourth years had noticed a definite increase in the amount of work they were required to do this term. Professor McGonagall explained why, when the class gave a particularly loud groan at the amount of Transfiguration homework she had assigned.

“You are now entering a most important phase of your magical education!” she told them, her eyes glinting dangerously behind her square spectacles. “Your Ordinary Wizarding Levels are drawing closer—”

“We don't take O. W. L. s till fifth year!” s aid Dean Thomas indignantly.

“Maybe not, Thomas, but believe me, you need all the preparation you can get! Miss Granger remains the only person in this class who has managed to turn a hedgehog into a satisfactory pincushion. I might remind you that your pincushion, Thomas, still curls up in fright if anyone approaches it with a pin!”

Hermione, who had turned rather pink again, seemed to be trying not to look too pleased with herself.

Harry and Ron were deeply amused when Professor Trelawney told them that they had received top marks for their homework in their next Divination class. She read out large portions of their predictions, commending them for their unflinching acceptance of the horrors in store for them—but they were less amused when she asked them to do the same thing for the month after next; both of them were running out of ideas for catastrophes.

Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 136082 times

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