J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (page 41)

“But —”

“Listen to me, Harry. It is too late, you understand me? You must see that Professor Snape's version of events is far more convincing than yours.”

“He hates Sirius,” Hermione said desperately. “All because of some stupid trick Sirius played on him —”

“Sirius has not acted like an innocent man. The attack on the Fat Lady—entering Gryffindor Tower with a knife—without Pettigrew, alive or dead, we have no chance of overturning Sirius's sentence.”

“But you believe us.”

“Yes, I do,” said Dumbledore quietly. “But I have no power to make other men see the truth, or to overrule the Minister of Magic...”

Harry stared up into the grave face and felt as though the ground beneath him were falling sharply away. He had grown used to the idea that Dumbledore could solve anything. He had expected Dumbledore to pull some amazing solution out of the air. But no ...their last hope was gone.

“What we need,” said Dumbledore slowly, and his light blue eyes moved from Harry to Hermione, “is more time.”

“But —” Hermione began. And then her eyes became very round. “OH!”

“Now, pay attention,” said Dumbledore, speaking very low, and very clearly. “Sirius is locked in Professor Flitwick's office on the seventh floor. Thirteenth window from the right of the West Tower. If all goes well, you will be able to save more than one innocent life tonight. But remember this, both of you: you must not be seen. Miss Granger, you know the law—you know what is at stake... You—must—not—be—seen.”

Harry didn't have a clue what was going on. Dumbledore had turned on his heel and looked back as he reached the door.

“I am going to lock you in. It is —” he consulted his watch, “five minutes to midnight. Miss Granger, three turns should do it. Good luck.”

“Good luck?” Harry repeated as the door closed behind Dumbledore. “Three turns? What's he talking about? What are we supposed to do?”

But Hermione was fumbling with the neck of her robes, pulling from beneath them a very long, very fine gold chain.

“Harry, come here,” she said urgently. “Quick!”

Harry moved toward her, completely bewildered. She was holding the chain out. He saw a tiny, sparkling hourglass hanging from it.

“Here —”

She had thrown the chain around his neck too.

“Ready?” she said breathlessly.

“What are we doing?” Harry said, completely lost.

Hermione turned the hourglass over three times.

The dark ward dissolved. Harry had the sensation that he was flying very fast, backward. A blur of colors and shapes rushed past him, his ears were pounding, he tried to yell but couldn't hear his own voice —

And then he felt solid ground beneath his feet, and everything came into focus again —

He was standing next to Hermione in the deserted entrance hall and a stream of golden sunlight was falling across the paved floor from the open front doors. He looked wildly around at Hermione, the chain of the hourglass cutting into his neck.

“Hermione, what —?”

“In here!” Hermione seized Harry's arm and dragged him across the hall to the door of a broom closet; she opened it, pushed him inside among the buckets and mops, then slammed the door behind them.

“What—how—Hermione, what happened?”

“We've gone back in time,” Hermione whispered, lifting the chain off Harry's neck in the darkness. “Three hours back...”

Harry found his own leg and gave it a very hard pinch. It hurt a lot, which seemed to rule out the possibility that he was having a very bizarre dream.

“But —”

“Shh! Listen! Someone's coming! I think—I think it might be us!” Hermione had her ear pressed against the cupboard door.

“Footsteps across the hall... yes, I think it's us going down to Hagrid's!”

“Are you telling me,” Harry whispered, “that we're here in this cupboard and we're out there too?”

“Yes,” said Hermione, her ear still glued to the cupboard door. “I'm sure it's us. It doesn't sound like more than three people... and we're walking slowly because we're under the Invisibility Cloak—”

She broke off, still listening intently.

“We've gone down the front steps...”

Hermione sat down on an upturned bucket, looking desperately anxious, but Harry wanted a few questions answered.

“Where did you get that hourglass thing?”

“It's called a Time-Turner,” Hermione whispered, “and I got it from Professor McGonagall on our first day back. I've been using it all year to get to all my lessons. Professor McGonagall made me swear I wouldn't tell anyone. She had to write all sorts of letters to the Ministry of Magic so I could have one. She had to tell them that I was a model student, and that I'd never, ever use it for anything except my studies... I've been turning it back so I could do hours over again, that's how I've been doing several lessons at once, see? But...

“Harry, I don't understand what Dumbledore wants us to do. Why did he tell us to go back three hours? How's that going to help Sirius?”

Harry stared at her shadowy face.

“There must be something that happened around now he wants us to change,” he said slowly. “What happened? We were walking down to Hagrid's three hours ago...”

“This is three hours ago, and we are walking down to Hagrid's,” said Hermione. “We just heard ourselves leaving...”

Harry frowned; he felt as though he were screwing up his whole brain in concentration.

“Dumbledore just said—just said we could save more than one innocent life...” And then it hit him. “Hermione, we're going to save Buckbeak!”

“But—how will that help Sirius?”

“Dumbledore said—he just told us where the window is—the window of Flitwick's office! Where they've got Sirius locked up! We've got to fly Buckbeak up to the window and rescue Sirius! Sirius can escape on Buckbeak—they can escape together!”

From what Harry could see of Hermione's face, she looked terrified.

“If we manage that without being seen, it'll be a miracle!”

“Well, we've got to try, haven't we?” said Harry. He stood up and pressed his ear against the door. “Doesn't sound like anyone's there... Come on, let's go.”

Harry pushed open the closet door. The entrance hall was deserted. As quietly and quickly as they could, they darted out of the closet and down the stone steps. The shadows were already lengthening, the tops of the trees in the Forbidden Forest gilded once more with gold.

“If anyone's looking out of the window —” Hermione squeaked, looking up at the castle behind them.

“We'll run for it,” said Harry determinedly. “Straight into the forest, all right? We'll have to hide behind a tree or something and keep a lookout —”

“Okay, but we'll go around by the greenhouses!” said Hermione breathlessly. “We need to keep out of sight of Hagrid's front door, or we'll see us! We must be nearly at Hagrid's by now!”

Still working out what she meant, Harry set off at a sprint, Hermione behind him. They tore across the vegetable gardens to the greenhouses, paused for a moment behind them, then set off again, fast as they could, skirting around the Whomping Willow, tearing toward the shelter of the forest...

Safe in the shadows of the trees, Harry turned around; seconds later, Hermione arrived beside him, panting.

“Right,” she gasped. “We need to sneak over to Hagrid's... Keep out of sight, Harry...”

They made their way silently through the trees, keeping to the very edge of the forest. Then, as they glimpsed the front of Hagrid's house, they heard a knock upon his door. They moved quickly behind a wide oak trunk and peered out from either side. Hagrid had appeared in his doorway, shaking and white, looking around to see who had knocked. And Harry heard his own voice.

“It's us. We're wearing the Invisibility Cloak. Let us in and we can take it off.”

“Yeh shouldn've come!” Hagrid whispered. He stood back, then shut the door quickly.

“This is the weirdest thing we've ever done,” Harry said fervently.

“Let's move along a bit,” Hermione whispered. “We need to get nearer to Buckbeak!”

They crept through the trees until they saw the nervous hippogriff, tethered to the fence around Hagrid's pumpkin patch.

“Now?” Harry whispered.

“No!” said Hermione. “If we steal him now, those Committee people will think Hagrid set him free! We've got to wait until they've seen he's tied outside!”

“That's going to give us about sixty seconds,” said Harry. This was starting to seem impossible.

At that moment, there was a crash of breaking china from inside Hagrid's cabin.

“That's Hagrid breaking the milk jug,” Hermione whispered. “I'm going to find Scabbers in a moment —”

Sure enough, a few minutes later, they heard Hermione's shriek of surprise.

“Hermione,” said Harry suddenly, “what if we—we just run in there and grab Pettigrew —”

“No!” said Hermione in a terrified whisper. “Don't you understand? We're breaking one of the most important wizarding laws! Nobody's supposed to change time, nobody! You heard Dumbledore, if we're seen —”

“We'd only be seen by ourselves and Hagrid!”

“Harry, what do you think you'd do if you saw yourself bursting into Hagrid's house?” said Hermione.

“I'd—I'd think I'd gone mad,” said Harry, “or I'd think there was some Dark Magic going on —”

“Exactly! You wouldn't understand, you might even attack yourself! Don't you see? Professor McGonagall told me what awful things have happened when wizards have meddled with time... Loads of them ended up killing their past or future selves by mistake!”

“Okay!” said Harry. “It was just an idea, I just thought

But Hermione nudged him and pointed toward the castle. Harry moved his head a few inches to get a clear view of the distant front doors. Dumbledore, Fudge, the old Committee member, and Macnair the executioner were coming down the steps.

“We're about to come out!” Hermione breathed.

And sure enough, moments later, Hagrid's back door opened, and Harry saw himself, Ron, and Hermione walking out of it with Hagrid. It was, without a doubt, the strangest sensation of his life, standing behind the tree, and watching himself in the pumpkin patch.

“It's Okay, Beaky, it's okay...” Hagrid said to Buckbeak. Then he turned to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. “Go on. Get goin'.”

“Hagrid, we can't —”

“We'll tell them what really happened

“They can't kill him —”

“Go! It's bad enough without you lot in trouble an' all!”

Harry watched the Hermione in the pumpkin patch throw the Invisibility Cloak over him and Ron.

“Go quick. Don' listen...”

There was a knock on Hagrid's front door. The execution party had arrived. Hagrid turned, around and headed back into his cabin, leaving the back door ajar. Harry watched the grass flatten in patches all around the cabin and heard three pairs of feet retreating. He, Ron, and Hermione had gone... but the Harry and Hermione hidden in the trees could now hear what was happening inside the cabin through the back door.

“Where is the beast?” came the cold voice of Macnair.

“Out—outside,” Hagrid croaked.

Harry pulled his head out of sight as Macnair's face appeared at Hagrid's window, staring out at Buckbeak. Then they heard Fudge.

“We—er—have to read you the official notice of execution, Hagrid. I'll make it quick. And then you and Macnair need to sign it. Macnair, You're supposed to listen too, that's procedure —”

Macnair's face vanished from the window. It was now or never.

“Wait here,” Harry whispered to Hermione. “I'll do it.”

As Fudge's voice started again, Harry darted out from behind his tree, vaulted the fence into the pumpkin patch, and approached Buckbeak.

“It is the decision of the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures that the hippogriff Buckbeak, hereafter called the condemned, shall he executed on the sixth of June at sundown —”

Careful not to blink, Harry stared up into Buckbeak's fierce orange eyes once more and bowed. Buckbeak sank to his scaly knees and then stood up again. Harry began to fumble with the knot of rope tying Buckbeak to the fence.

“...sentenced to execution by beheading, to be carried out by the Committee's appointed executioner, Walden Macnai...”

“Come on, Buckbeak,” Harry murmured, “come on, we're going to help you. Quietly... quietly...”

“ witnessed below. Hagrid, you sign here...”

Harry threw all his weight onto the rope, but Buckbeak had dug in his front feet.

“Well, let's get this over with,” said the reedy voice of the Committee member from inside Hagrid's cabin. “Hagrid, perhaps it will be better if you stay inside —”

“No, I—I wan' ter be with him... I don' wan' him ter be alone —”

Footsteps echoed from within the cabin.

“Buckbeak, move!” Harry hissed.

Harry tugged harder on the rope around Buckbeak's neck. The hippogriff began to walk, rustling its wings irritably. They were still ten feet away from the forest, in plain view of Hagrid's back door. “One moment, please, Macnair,” came Dumbledore's voice. “You need to sign too.” The footsteps stopped. Harry heaved on the rope. Buckbeak snapped his beak and walked a little faster.

Hermione's white face was sticking out from behind a tree.

“Harry, hurry!” she mouthed.

Harry could still hear Dumbledore's voice talking from within the cabin. He gave the rope another wrench. Buckbeak broke into a grudging trot. They had reached the trees...

“Quick! Quick!” Hermione moaned, darting out from behind her tree, seizing the rope too and adding her weight to make Buckbeak move faster. Harry looked over his shoulder; they were now blocked from sight; they couldn't see Hagrid's garden at all.

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