J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (page 33)



Harry's euphoria at finally winning the Quidditch Cup lasted at least a week. Even the weather seemed to be celebrating; as June approached, the days became cloudless and sultry, and all anybody felt like doing was strolling onto the grounds and flopping down on the grass with several pints of iced pumpkin juice, perhaps playing a casual game of Gobstones or watching the giant squid propel itself dreamily across the surface of the lake.

But they couldn't. Exams were nearly upon them, and instead of lazing around outside, the students were forced to remain inside the castle, trying to bully their brains into concentrating while enticing wafts of summer air drifted in through the windows. Even Fred and George Weasley had been spotted working; they were about to take their O. W. L. s (Ordinary Wizarding Levels). Percy was getting ready to take his N. E. W. T. s (Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests), the highest qualification Hogwarts offered. As Percy hoped to enter the Ministry of Magic, he needed top grades. He was becoming increasingly edgy, and gave very severe punishments to anybody who disturbed the quiet of the common room in the evenings. In fact, the only person who seemed more anxious than Percy was Hermione.

Harry and Ron had given up asking her how she was managing to attend several classes at once, but they couldn't restrain themselves when they saw the exam schedule she had drawn up for herself. The first column read:


9 o'clock, Arithmancy

9 o'clock, Transfiguration


1 o'clock, Charms

1 o'clock, Ancient Runes

“Hermione?” Ron said cautiously, because she was liable to explode when interrupted these days. “Er—are you sure you've copied down these times right?”

“What?” snapped Hermione, picking up the exam schedule and examining it. “Yes, of course I have.”

“Is there any point asking how you're going to sit for two exams at once?” said Harry.

“No,” said Hermione shortly. “Have either of you seen my copy of Numerology and Gramatica?”

“Oh, yeah, I borrowed it for a bit of bedtime reading,” said Ron, but very quietly. Hermione started shifting heaps of parchment Harry, Ron, and Hermione plenty of opportunity to speak to Hagrid.

“Beaky's gettin' a bit depressed,” Hagrid told them, bending low on the pretense of checking that Harry's flobberworm was still alive. “Bin cooped up too long. But still... we'll know day after tomorrow—one way or the other —”

They had Potions that afternoon, which was an unqualified disaster. Try as Harry might, he couldn't get his Confusing Concoction to thicken, and Snape, standing watch with an air of vindictive pleasure, scribbled something that looked suspiciously like a zero onto his notes before moving away.

Then came Astronomy at midnight, up on the tallest tower; History of Magic on Wednesday morning, in which Harry scribbled everything Florean Fortescue had ever told him about medieval witch-hunts, while wishing he could have had one of Fortescue's choco-nut sundaes with him in the stifling classroom. Wednesday afternoon meant Herbology, in the greenhouses under a baking-hot sun; then back to the common room once more, with sunburnt necks, thinking longingly of this time next day, when it would all be over.

Their second to last exam, on Thursday morning, was Defense Against the Dark Arts. Professor Lupin had compiled the most unusual exam any of them had ever taken; a sort of obstacle course outside in the sun, where they had to wade across a deep paddling pool containing a grindylow, cross a series of potholes full of Red Caps, squish their way across a patch of marsh while ignoring misleading directions from a hinkypunk, then climb into an old trunk and battle with a new boggart.

“Excellent, Harry,” Lupin muttered as Harry climbed out of the trunk, grinning. “Full marks.”

Flushed with his success, Harry hung around to watch Ron and Hermione. Ron did very well until he reached the hinkypunk, which successfully confused him into sinking waist-high into the quagmire. Hermione did everything perfectly until she reached the trunk with the boggart in it. After about a minute inside it, she burst out again, screaming.

“Hermione!” said Lupin, startled. “What's the matter?”

“P—P—Professor McGonagall!” Hermione gasped, pointing into the trunk. “Sh—she said I'd failed everything!”

It took a little while to calm Hermione down. When at last she had regained a grip on herself, she, Harry, and Ron went back to the castle. Ron was still slightly inclined to laugh at Hermione's boggart, but an argument was averted by the sight that met them on the top of the steps.

Cornelius Fudge, sweating slightly in his pinstriped cloak, was standing there staring out at the grounds. He started at the sight of Harry.

“Hello there, Harry!” he said. “Just had an exam, I expect? Nearly finished?”

“Yes,” said Harry. Hermione and Ron, not being on speaking terms with the Minister of Magic, hovered awkwardly in the background.

“Lovely day,” said Fudge, casting an eye over the lake.

“Pity... pity...”

He sighed deeply and looked down at Harry.

“I'm here on an unpleasant mission, Harry. The Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures required a witness to the execution of a mad hippogriff. As I needed to visit Hogwarts to check on the Black situation, I was asked to step in.”

“Does that mean the appeal's already happened?” Ron interrupted, stepping forward.

“No, no, it's scheduled for this afternoon,” said Fudge, looking curiously at Ron.

“Then you might not have to witness an execution at A!” said Eon stoutly. “The hippogriff might get off!”

Before Fudge could answer, two wizards came through the castle doors behind him. One was so ancient he appeared to be withering before their very eyes; the other was tall and strapping, with a thin back mustache. Harry gathered that they were representatives of the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures, because tie very old wizard squinted toward Hagrid's cabin and said in a feeble voice, “Dear, dear, I'm getting too old for this... Two o'clock, isn't it, Fudge?”

The black-mustached man was fingering something in his belt; Harry looked and saw that he was running one broad thumb along the blade of a shining axe. Ron opened his mouth to say something, but Hermione nudged him hard in the ribs and jerked her head toward the entrance hall.

“Why'd you stop me?” said Ron angrily as they entered the Great Hall for lunch. “Did you see them? They've even got the axe ready! This isn't justice!”

“Ron, your dad works for the Ministry, you can't go saying things like that to his boss!” said Hermione, but she too looked very upset. “As long as Hagrid keeps his head this time, and argue, hi case properly, they can't possibly execute Buckbeak...”

But Harry could tell Hermione didn't really believe what she was saying. All around them, people were talking excitedly as they ate their lunch, happily anticipating the end of the exams that afternoon, but Harry, Ron, and Hermione, lost in worry about Hagrid and Buckbeak, didn't join in.

Harry's and Ron's last exam was Divination; Hermione's, Muggle Studies. They walked up the marble staircase together; Hermione left them on the first floor and Harry and Ron proceeded all the way up to the seventh, where many of their class were sitting on the spiral staircase to Professor Trelawney's classroom, trying to cram in a bit of last-minute studying.

“She's seeing us all separately,” Neville informed them as they went to sit down next to him. He had his copy of Unfogging the Future open on his lap at the pages devoted to crystal gazing. “Have either of you ever seen anything in a crystal ball?” he asked them unhappily.

“Nope,” said Ron in an offhand voice. He kept checking his watch; Harry. knew that he was counting down the time until Buckbeak's appeal started.

The line of people outside the classroom shortened very slowly. As each person climbed back down the silver ladder, the rest of the class hissed, “What did she ask? Was it okay?”

But they all refused to say.

“She says the crystal ball's told her that if I tell you, I'll have a horrible accident!” squeaked Neville as he clambered back down the ladder toward Harry and Ron, who had now reached the landing.

“That's convenient,” snorted Ron. “You know, I'm starting to think Hermione was right about her”—he jabbed his thumb toward the trapdoor overhead—”she's a right old fraud.”

“Yeah,” said Harry, looking at his own watch. It-was now two o'clock. “Wish she'd hurry up...”

Parvati came back down the ladder glowing with pride.

“She says I've got all the makings of a true Seer,” she informed Harry and Ron. “I saw loads of stuff... Well, good luck!”

She hurried off down the spiral staircase toward Lavender.

“Ronald Weasley,” said the familiar, misty voice from over their heads. Ron grimaced at Harry and climbed the silver ladder out of sight. Harry was now the only person left to be tested. He settled himself on the floor with his back against the wall, listening to a fly buzzing in the sunny window, his mind across the grounds with Hagrid.

Finally, after about twenty minutes, Ron's large feet reappeared on the ladder.

“How'd it go?” Harry asked him, standing up.

“Rubbish,” said Ron. “Couldn't see a thing, so I made some stuff up. Don't think she was convinced, though...”

“Meet you in the common room,” Harry muttered as Professor Trelawney's voice called, “Harry Potter!”

The tower room was hotter than ever before; the curtains were closed, the fire was alight, and the usual sickly scent made Harry cough as he stumbled through the clutter of chairs and table to where Professor Trelawney sat waiting for him before a large crystal ball.

“Good day, my dear,” she said softly. “If you would kindly gaze into the Orb... Take your time, now... then tell me what you see within it...”

Harry bent over the crystal ball and stared, stared as hard as he could, willing it to show him something other than swirling white fog, but nothing happened.

“Well?” Professor Trelawney prompted delicately. “What do you see?”

The heat was overpowering and his nostrils were stinging with the perfumed smoke wafting from the fire beside them. He thought of what Ron had just said, and decided to pretend.

“Er —” said Harry, “a dark shape... um...”

“What does it resemble?” whispered Professor Trelawney. “Think, now...”

Harry cast his mind around and it landed on Buckbeak.

“A hippogriff,” he said firmly.

“Indeed!” whispered Professor Trelawney, scribbling keenly on the parchment perched upon her knees. “My boy, you may well be seeing the outcome of poor Hagrid's trouble with the Ministry of Magic! Look closer... Does the hippogriff appear to... have its head?”

“Yes,” said Harry firmly.

“Are you sure?” Professor Trelawney urged him. “Are you quite sure, dear? You don't see it writhing on the ground, perhaps, and a shadowy figure raising an axe behind it?”

“No!” said Harry, starting to feel slightly sick.

“No blood? No weeping Hagrid?”

“No!” said Harry again, wanting more than ever to leave the room and the heat. “It looks fine, it's— flying away...”

Professor Trelawney sighed.

“Well, dear, I think we'll leave it there... A little disappointing... but I'm sure you did your best.”

Relieved, Harry got up, picked up his bag and turned to go, but then a loud, harsh voice spoke behind him.


Harry wheeled around. Professor Trelawney had gone rigid in her armchair; her eyes were unfocused and her mouth sagging.

“S—sorry?” said Harry.

But Professor Trelawney didn't seem to hear him. Her eyes started to roll. Harry sat there in a panic. She looked as though she was about to have some sort of seizure. He hesitated, thinking of running to the hospital wing—and then Professor Trelawney spoke again, in the same harsh voice, quite unlike her own:


Professor Trelawney's head fell forward onto her chest. She made a grunting sort of noise. Harry sat there, staring at her. Then, quite suddenly, Professor Trelawney's head snapped up again.

“I'm so sorry, dear boy,” she said dreamily, “the heat of the day, you know... I drifted off for a moment...”

Harry sat there, staring at her.

“Is there anything wrong, my dear?”

“You—you just told me that the—the Dark Lord's going to rise again... that his servant's going to go back to him.

Professor Trelawney looked thoroughly startled.

“The Dark Lord? He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? My dear boy, that's hardly something to joke about... Rise again, indeed —”

,'But you just said it! You. said the Dark Lord —”

“I think you must have dozed off too, dear!” said Professor Trelawney. “I would certainly not presume to predict anything quite as far-fetched as that!”

Harry climbed back down the ladder and the spiral staircase, wondering... had he just heard Professor Trelawney make a real prediction? Or had that been her idea of an impressive end to the test?

Five minutes later he was dashing past the security trolls outside the entrance to Gryffindor Tower, Professor Trelawney's words still resounding in his head. People were striding past him in the opposite direction, laughing and joking, heading for the grounds and a bit of long-awaited freedom; by the time he had reached the portrait hole and entered the common room, it was almost deserted. Over in the corner, however, sat Ron and Hermione.

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