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J.K.Rwling >> Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix (page 57)


'There are no footsteps leading away from your cabin door.'

'Well, I: I don' know why that'd be:' said Hagrid, tugging nervously at his beard and again glancing towards the corner where Harry, Ron and Hermione stood, as though asking for help. 'Erm:'

Umbridge wheeled round and strode the length of the cabin, looking around carefully. She bent and peered under the bed. She opened Hagrid's cupboards. She passed within two inches of where Harry, Ron and Hermione stood pressed against the wall; Harry actually pulled in his stomach as she walked by. After looking carefully inside the enormous cauldron Hagrid used for cooking, she wheeled round again and said, 'What has happened to you? How did you sustain those injuries?'

Hagrid hastily removed the dragon steak from his face, which in Harry's opinion was a mistake, because the black and purple bruising all around his eye was now clearly visible, not to mention the large amount of fresh and congealed blood on his face. 'Oh, I: had a bit of an accident,' he said lamely.

'What sort of accident?'

'I - I tripped.'

'You tripped,' she repeated coolly.

'Yeah, tha's right. Over: over a friend's broomstick. I don' fly, meself. Well, look at the size o' me, I don' reckon there's a broomstick that'd hold me. Friend o' mine breeds Abraxan horses, I dunno if you've ever seen 'em, big beasts, winged, yeh know, I've had a bit of a ride on one o' them an' it was -'

'Where have you been?' asked Umbridge, cutting coolly through Hagrid's babbling.

'Where've I -?'

'Been, yes,' she said. Term started two months ago. Another teacher has had to cover your classes. None of your colleagues has been able to give me any information as to your whereabouts. You left no address. Where have you been?'

There was a pause in which Hagrid stared at her with his newly uncovered eye. Harry could almost hear his brain working furiously.

'I - I've been away for me health,' he said.

'For your health,' repeated Professor Umbridge. Her eyes travelled over Hagrid's discoloured and swollen face; dragon blood dripped gently and silently on to his waistcoat. 'I see.'

'Yeah,' said Hagrid, 'bit o' - o' fresh air, yeh know -'

'Yes, as gamekeeper fresh air must be so difficult to come by,' said Umbridge sweetly. The small patch of Hagrid's face that was not black or purple, flushed.

'Well - change o' scene, yeh know -'

'Mountain scenery?' said Umbridge swiftly.

She knows, Harry thought desperately.

'Mountains?' Hagrid repeated, clearly thinking fast. 'Nope, South o' France fer me. Bit o' sun an': an' sea.'

'Really?' said Umbridge. 'You don't have much of a tan.'

'Yeah: well: sensitive skin,' said Hagrid, attempting an ingratiating smile. Harry noticed that two of his teeth had been knocked out. Umbridge looked at him coldly; his smile faltered. Then she hoisted her handbag a little higher into the crook of her arm and said, 'I shall, of course, be informing the Minister of your late return.'

'Righ',' said Hagrid, nodding.

'You ought to know, too, that as High Inquisitor it is my unfortunate but necessary duty to inspect my fellow teachers. So I daresay we shall meet again soon enough.'

She turned sharply and marched back to the door.

'You're inspectin' us?' Hagrid repeated blankly, looking after her.

'Oh, yes,' said Umbridge softly, looking back at him with her hand on the door handle. The Ministry is determined to weed out unsatisfactory teachers, Hagrid. Goodnight.'

She left, closing the door behind her with a snap. Harry made to pull off the Invisibility Cloak but Hermione seized his wrist.

'Not yet,' she breathed in his ear. 'She might not be gone yet.'

Hagrid seemed to be thinking the same way; he stumped across the room and pulled back the curtain an inch or so.

'She's goin' back ter the castle,' he said in a low voice. 'Blimey: inspectin' people, is she?'

'Yeah,' said Harry, pulling off the Cloak. Trelawney's on probation already:'

'Um: what sort of thing are you planning to do with us in class, Hagrid?' asked Hermione.

'Oh, don' you worry abou' that, I've got a great load o' lessons planned,' said Hagrid enthusiastically, scooping up his dragon steak from the table and slapping it over his eye again. 'I've bin keepin' a couple o' creatures saved fer yer OWL year; you wait, they're somethin' really special.'

'Erm: special in what way?' asked Hermione tentatively.

'I'm not sayin',' said Hagrid happily. 'I don' want ter spoil the surprise.'

'Look, Hagrid,' said Hermione urgently, dropping all pretence, 'Professor Umbridge won't be at all happy if you bring anything to class that's too dangerous.'

'Dangerous?' said Hagrid, looking genially bemused. 'Don' be silly, I wouldn' give yeh anythin' dangerous! I mean, all righ', they can look after themselves -'

'Hagrid, you've got to pass Umbridge's inspection, and to do that it would really be better if she saw you teaching us how to look after Porlocks, how to tell the difference between Knarls and hedgehogs, stuff like that!' said Hermione earnestly.

'But tha's not very interestin', Hermione,' said Hagrid. The stuff I've got's much more impressive. I've bin bringin' 'em on fer years, I reckon I've got the on'y domestic herd in Britain.'

'Hagrid: please:' said Hermione, a note of real desperation in her voice. 'Umbridge is looking for any excuse to get rid of teachers she thinks are too close to Dumbledore. Please, Hagrid, teach us something dull that's bound to come up in our OWL.'

But Hagrid merely yawned widely and cast a one-eyed look of longing towards the vast bed in the corner.

'Lis'en, it's bin a long day an' it's late,' he said, patting Hermione gently on the shoulder, so that her knees gave way and hit the floor with a thud. 'Oh - sorry -' He pulled her back up by the neck of her robes. 'Look, don' you go worryin' abou' me, I promise yeh I've got really good stuff planned fer yer lessons now I'm back: now you lot had better get back up to the castle, an' don' forget ter wipe yer footprints out behind yeh!'

'I dunno if you got through to him,' said Ron a short while later when, having checked that the coast was clear, they walked back up to the castle through the thickening snow, leaving no trace behind them due to the Obliteration Charm Hermione was performing as they went.

Then I'll go back again tomorrow,' said Hermione determinedly. I'll plan his lessons for him if I have to. I don't care if she throws out Trelawney but she's not getting rid of Hagrid!'

- CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE -

The Eye of the Snake

Hermione ploughed her way back to Hagrid's cabin through two feet of snow on Sunday morning. Harry and Ron wanted to go with her, but their mountain of homework had reached an alarming height again, so they remained grudgingly in the common room, trying to ignore the gleeful shouts drifting up from the grounds outside, where students were enjoying themselves skating on the frozen lake, tobogganing and, worst of all, bewitching snowballs to zoom up to Gryffindor Tower and rap hard on the windows.

'Oi!' bellowed Ron, finally losing patience and sticking his head out of the window, 'I am a prefect and if one more snowball hits this window - OUCH!'

He withdrew his head sharply, his face covered in snow.

'It's Fred and George,' he said bitterly, slamming the window behind him. 'Gits:'

Hermione returned from Hagrid's just before lunch, shivering slightly, her robes damp to the knees.

'So?' said Ron, looking up when she entered. 'Got all his lessons planned for him?'

'Well, I tried,' she said dully, sinking into a chair beside Harry. She pulled out her wand and gave it a complicated little wave so that hot air streamed out of the tip; she then pointed this at her robes, which began to steam as they dried out. 'He wasn't even there when I arrived, I was knocking for at least half an hour. And then he came stumping out of the Forest -'

Harry groaned. The Forbidden Forest was teeming with the kind of creatures most likely to get Hagrid the sack. 'What's he keeping in there? Did he say?' he asked.

'No,' said Hermione miserably. 'He says he wants them to be a surprise. I tried to explain about Umbridge, but he just doesn't get it. He kept saying nobody in their right mind would rather study Knarls than Chimaeras - oh, I don't think he's got a Chimaera,' she added at the appalled look on Harry and Ron's faces, 'but that's not for lack of trying, from what he said about how hard it is to get eggs. I don't know how many times I told him he'd be better off following Grubbly-Plank's plan, I honestly don't think he listened to half of what I said. He's in a bit of a funny mood, you know. He still won't say how he got all those injuries.'

Hagrid's reappearance at the staff table at breakfast next day was not greeted by enthusiasm from all students. Some, like Fred, George and Lee, roared with delight and sprinted up the aisle between the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables to wring Hagrid's enormous hand; others, like Parvati and Lavender, exchanged gloomy looks and shook their heads. Harry knew that many of them preferred Professor Grubbly-Plank's lessons, and the worst of it was that a very small, unbiased part of him knew that they had good reason: Grubbly-Plank's idea of an interesting class was not one where there was a risk that somebody might have their head ripped off.

It was with a certain amount of apprehension that Harry, Ron and Hermione headed down to Hagrid's on Tuesday, heavily muffled against the cold. Harry was worried, not only about what Hagrid might have decided to teach them, but also about how the rest of the class, particularly Malfoy and his cronies, would behave if Umbridge was watching them.

However, the High Inquisitor was nowhere to be seen as they struggled through the snow towards Hagrid, who stood waiting for them on the edge of the Forest. He did not present a reassuring sight; the bruises that had been purple on Saturday night were now tinged with green and yellow and some of his cuts still seemed to be bleeding. Harry could not understand this: had Hagrid perhaps been attacked by some creature whose venom prevented the wounds it inflicted from healing? As though to complete the ominous picture, Hagrid was carrying what looked like half a dead cow over his shoulder.

'We're workin' in here today!' Hagrid called happily to the approaching students, jerking his head back at the dark trees behind him. 'Bit more sheltered! Anyway, they prefer the dark.'

'What prefers the dark?' Harry heard Malfoy say sharply to Crabbe and Goyle, a trace of panic in his voice. 'What did he say prefers the dark - did you hear?'

Harry remembered the only other occasion on which Malfoy had entered the Forest before now; he had not been very brave then, either. He smiled to himself; after the Quidditch match anything that caused Malfoy discomfort was all right with him.

'Ready?' said Hagrid cheerfully, looking around at the class. 'Right, well, I've bin savin' a trip inter the Forest fer yer fifth year. Thought we'd go an' see these creatures in their natural habitat. Now, what we're studyin' today is pretty rare, I reckon I'm probably the on'y person in Britain who's managed ter train 'em.'

'And you're sure they're trained, are you?' said Malfoy, the panic in his voice even more pronounced. 'Only it wouldn't be the first time you'd brought wild stuff to class, would it?'

The Slytherins murmured agreement and a few Gryffindors looked as though they thought Malfoy had a fair point, too.

'Course they're trained,' said Hagrid, scowling and hoisting the dead cow a little higher on his shoulder.

'So what happened to your face, then?' demanded Malfoy.

'Mind yer own business!' said Hagrid, angrily. 'Now, if yeh've finished askin' stupid questions, follow me!'

He turned and strode straight into the Forest. Nobody seemed much disposed to follow. Harry glanced at Ron and Hermione, who sighed but nodded, and the three of them set off after Hagrid, leading the rest of the class.

They walked for about ten minutes until they reached a place where the trees stood so closely together that it was as dark as twilight and there was no snow at all on the ground. With a grunt, Hagrid deposited his half a cow on the ground, stepped back and turned to face his class, most of whom were creeping from tree to tree towards him, peering around nervously as though expecting to be set upon at any moment.

'Gather roun', gather roun',' Hagrid encouraged. 'Now, they'll be attracted by the smell o' the meat but I'm goin' ter give 'em a call anyway, 'cause they'll like ter know it's me.'

He turned, shook his shaggy head to get the hair out of his face and gave an odd, shrieking cry that echoed through the dark trees like the call of some monstrous bird. Nobody laughed: most of them looked too scared to make a sound.

Hagrid gave the shrieking cry again. A minute passed in which the class continued to peer nervously over their shoulders and around trees for a first glimpse of whatever it was that was coming. And then, as Hagrid shook his hair back for a third time and expanded his enormous chest, Harry nudged Ron and pointed into the black space between two gnarled yew trees.

Title: Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix
Author: J.K.Rwling
Viewed 243805 times

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