And then there were these Azkaban guards everyone kept talking about. They
seemed to scare most people senseless, and if they were stationed all around
the school, Black's chances of getting inside seemed very remote.
No, all in all, the thing that bothered Harry most was the fact that his
chances of visiting Hogsmeade now looked like zero. Nobody would want Harry
to leave the safety of the castle until Black was caught; in fact, Harry suspected
his every move would be carefully watched until the danger had passed.
He scowled at the dark ceiling. Did they think he couldn't look after himself?
He'd escaped Lord Voldemort three times; he wasn't completely useless...
Unbidden, the image of the beast in the shadows of Magnolia Crescent crossed
his mind. What to do when you know the worst is coming...
“I'm not going to be murdered,” Harry said out loud.
“That's the spirit, dear,” said his mirror sleepily.
Tom woke Harry the next morning with his usual toothless grin and a cup of
tea. Harry got dressed and was just persuading a disgruntled Hedwig to get back
into her cage when Ron banged his way into the room, pulling a sweatshirt over
his head and looking irritable.
“The sooner we get on the train, the better,” he said. “At least I can get
away from Percy at Hogwarts. Now he's accusing me of dripping tea on his photo
of Penelope Clearwater. You know,” Ron grimaced, “his girlfriend. She's hidden
her face under the frame because her nose has gone all blotchy...”
“I've got something to tell you,” Harry began, but they were interrupted
by Fred and George, who had looked in to congratulate Ron on infuriating Percy
They headed down to breakfast, where Mr. Weasley was reading the front page
of the Daily Prophet with a furrowed brow and Mrs. Weasley was telling Hermione
and Ginny about a love potion she'd made as a young girl. All three of them
were rather giggly.
“What were you saying?” Ron asked Harry as they sat down.
“Later,” Harry muttered as Percy stormed in.
Harry had no chance to speak to Ron or Hermione in the chaos of leaving;
they were too busy heaving all their trunks down the Leaky Cauldron's narrow
staircase and piling them up near the door, with Hedwig and Hermes, Percy's
screech owl, perched on top in their cages. A small wickerwork basket stood
beside the heap of trunks, spitting loudly.
“It's all right, Crookshanks,” Hermione cooed through the wickerwork. “I'll
let you out on the train.”
“You won't,” snapped Ron. “What about poor Scabbers, eh?”
He pointed at his chest, where a large lump indicated that Scabbers was curled
up in his pocket.
Mr. Weasley, who had been outside waiting for the Ministry cars, stuck his
“They're here, he said. “Harry, come on.”
Mr. Weasley marched Harry across the short stretch of pavement toward the
first of two oldfashioned dark green cars, each of which was driven by a furtive-looking
wizard wearing a suit of emerald velvet.
“In you get, Harry,” said Mr. Weasley, glancing up and down the crowded street.
Harry got into the back of the car and was shortly joined by Hermione, Ron,
and, to Ron's disgust, Percy.
The journey to King's Cross was very uneventful compared with Harry's trip
on the Knight Bus. The Ministry of Magic cars seemed almost ordinary. though
Harry noticed that they could slide through gaps that Uncle Vernon's new company
car certainly couldn't have managed. They reached King's Cross with twenty minutes
to spare; the Ministry drivers found them trolleys, unloaded their trunks, touched
their hats in salute to Mr. Weasley, and drove away, somehow managing to jump
to the head of an unmoving line at the traffic lights.
Mr. Weasley kept close to Harry's elbow all the way into the station.
“Right then,” he said, glancing around them. “Let's do this in pairs, as
there are so many of us. I'll go through first with Harry.”
Mr. Weasley strolled toward the barrier between platforms nine and ten, pushing
Harry's trolley and apparently very interested in the InterCity 125 that had
just arrived at platform nine. With a meaningful look at Harry, he leaned casually
against the barrier. Harry imitated him.
In a moment, they had fallen sideways through the solid metal onto platform
nine and threequarters and looked up to see the Hogwarts Express, a scarlet
steam engine, puffing smoke over a platform packed with witches and wizards
seeing their children onto the train.
Percy and Ginny suddenly appeared behind Harry. They were panting and had
apparently taken the barrier at a run.
“Ah, there's Penelope!” said Percy, smoothing his hair and going Pink again.
Ginny caught Harry's eye, and they both turned away to hide their laughter as
Percy strode over to a girl with long, curly hair, walking with his chest thrown
out so that she couldn't miss his shiny badge. stood back to let him on. They
leaned out of the window and waved at Mr. and Mrs. Weasley until the train turned
a corner and blocked them from view.
“I need to talk to you in private,” Harry muttered to Ron and Hermione as
the train picked up speed.
“Go away, Ginny,” said Ron.
“Oh, that's nice,” said Ginny huffily, and she stalked off.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione set off down the corridor, looking for an empty
compartment, but all were full except for the one at the very end of the train.
This had only one occupant, a man sitting fast asleep next to the window.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione checked on the threshold. The Hogwarts Express was
usually reserved for students and they had never seen an adult there before,
except for the witch who pushed the food cart.
The stranger was wearing an extremely shabby set of wizard's robes that had
been darned in several places. He looked ill and exhausted. Though quite young,
his light brown hair was flecked with gray.
“Who d'you reckon he is?” Ron hissed as they sat down and slid the door shut,
taking the seats farthest away from the window.
“Professor R. J. Lupin,” whispered Hermione at once.
“How d'you know that?”
“It's on his case,” she replied, pointing at the luggage rack over the man's
head, where there was a small, battered case held together with a large quantity
of neatly knotted string. The name Professor R. J. Lupin was stamped across
one corner in peeling letters.
“Wonder what he teaches?” said Ron, frowning at Professor Lupin's pallid
“That's obvious,” whispered Hermione. “There's only one vacancy, isn't there?
Defense Against the Dark Arts.”
Harry, Ron, and Hermione had already had two Defense Against the Dark Arts
teachers, both of whom had lasted only one year. There were rumors that the
job was jinxed.
“well, I hope he's up to it,” said Ron doubtfully. “He looks like on, good
hex would finish him off, doesn't he? Anyway...” He turned to Harry. “What were
you going to tell us?”
Harry explained all about Mr. and Mrs. Weasley's argument and the warning
Mr. Weasley had just given him. \When he'd finished, Ron looked thunderstruck,
and Hermione had her hands over her mouth. She finally lowered them to say,
“Sirius Black escaped to come after you? Oh, Harry... you'll have to be really,
really careful. don't go looking for trouble, Harry —”
“I Don't go looking for trouble,” said Harry, nettled. “Trouble usually finds
“How thick would Harry have to be, to go looking for a nutter who wants to
kill him?” said Ron shakily.
They were taking the news worse than Harry had expected. Both Ron and Hermione
seemed to be much more frightened of Black than he was.
“No one knows how he got out of Azkaban,” said Ron uncomfortably. “No one's
ever done it before. And he was a top-security prisoner too.”
“But they'll catch him, won't they?” said Hermione earnestly. “I Mean, they've
got all the Muggles looking out for him too...” “What's that noise?” said Ron
A faint, tinny sort of whistle was coming from somewhere. The, looked all
around the compartment.
“It's coming from your trunk, Harry,” said Ron, standing UP and reaching
into the luggage rack. A moment later he had pulled the Pocket Sneakoscope out
from between Harry's robes. It was spinning very fast in the palm of Ron's hand
and glowing brilliantly.
“Is that a Sneakoscope?” said Hermione interestedly, standing up for a better
“Yeah... mind you, it's a very cheap one,” Ron said. “It went haywire just
as I was tying it to Errol's leg to send it to Harry.”
“Were you doing anything untrustworthy at the time?” said Hermione shrewdly.
“No! Well... I wasn't supposed to be using Errol. You know he's not really
up to long journeys... but how else was I supposed to get Harry's present to
“Stick it back in the trunk,” Harry advised as the Sneakoscope whistled piercingly,
“or it'll wake him up.”
He nodded toward Professor Lupin. Ron stuffed the Sneakoscope into a particularly
horrible pair of Uncle Vernon's old socks, which deadened the sound, then closed
the lid of the trunk on it.
“We could get it checked in Hogsmeade,” said Ron, sitting back down. “They
sell that sort of thing in Dervish and Banges, magical instruments and stuff.
Fred and George told me.”
“Do you know much about Hogsmeade?” asked Hermione keenly. “I've read it's
the only entirely non-Muggle settlement in Britain —”
“Yeah, I think it is,” said Ron in an offhand sort of way.
“But that's not Why I want to go. I just want to get inside Honey Dukes.”
“What's that?” said Hermione.
“It's this sweetshop,” said Ron, a dreamy look coming over his face, “where
they've got everything... Pepper Imps—they make you smoke at the mouth—and great
fat Chocoballs full of strawberry mousse and clotted cream, and really excellent
sugar quills, which you can suck in class and just look like you're thinking
what to write next —”
“But Hogsmeade's a very interesting place, isn't it?” Hermione pressed on
eagerly. “In Sites of Historical Sorcery it says the inn was the headquarters
for the 1612 goblin rebellion, and the Shrieking Shades supposed to be the most
severely haunted building in Britain —”
“— and massive sherbert balls that make you levitate a few inches off the
ground while you're sucking them,” said Ron, who was plainly not listening to
a word Hermione was saying.
Hermione looked around at Harry.
“Won't it be nice to get out of school for a bit and explore Hogsmeade?”
“'Spect it will,” said Harry heavily. “You'll have to tell me when You've
“What d'you mean?” said Ron.
“I can't go. The Dursleys didn't sign my permission form, and Fudge wouldn't
Ron looked horrified.
“"You're not allowed to come? But—no way—McGonagall or someone will give
you permission—” musclely; Crabbe was taller, with a pudding-bowl haircut and
a very thick neck; Goyle had short, bristly hair and long, gorilla-ish arms.
“Well, look who it is,” said Malfoy in his usual lazy drawl, pulling open
the compartment door. “Potty and the Weasel.”
Crabbe and Goyle chuckled trollishly.
“I heard your father finally got his hands on some gold this summer, Weasley,”
said Malfoy. “Did your mother die of shock?”
Ron stood up so quickly he knocked Crookshanks's basket to the floor. Professor
Lupin gave a snort.
“Who's that?” said Malfoy, taking an automatic step backward as he spotted
“New teacher,” said Harry, who got to his feet, too, in case he needed to
hold Ron back. “What were you saying, Malfoy?”
Malfoy's pale eyes narrowed; he wasn't fool enough to pick a fight right
under a teacher's nose.
“C'mon,” he muttered resentfully to Crabbe and Goyle, and they disappeared.
Harry and Ron sat down again, Ron massaging his knuckles.
“I'm not going to take any crap from Malfoy this year,” he said angrily.
“I mean it. If he makes one more crack about my family, I'm going to get hold
of his head and —”
Ron made a violent gesture in midair.
“Ron,” hissed Hermione, pointing at Professor Lupin, “be careful...”
But Professor Lupin was still fast asleep.
The rain thickened as the train sped yet farther north; the windows were
now a solid, shimmering gray, which graduily darkened until lanterns flickered
into life all along the corridors and over the luggage racks. The train rattled,
the rain hammered, the ind roared, but still, Professor Lupin slept.
“We must be nearly there,” said Ron, leaning forward to look past Professor
Lupin at the now completely black window.
The words had hardly left him when the train started to slow down.
“Great,” said Ron, getting up and walking carefully past Professor Lupin
to try and see outside. “I'm starving. I want to get to the feast...
“We can't be there yet,” said Hermione, checking her watch.
“So why're we stopping?”
The train was getting slower and slower. As the noise of the pistons fell
away, the wind and rain sounded louder than ever against the windows.
Harry, who was nearest the door, got up to look into the corridor. All along
the carriage, heads were sticking curiously out of their compartments.
The train came to a stop with a jolt, and distant thuds and bangs told them
that luggage had fallen out of the racks. Then, without warning, all the lamps
went out and they were plunged into total darkness.
“'What's going on?” said Ron's voice from behind Harry.
“Ouch!” gasped Hermione. “Ron, that was my foot!”
Harry felt his way back to his seat.
“D'you think we've broken down?”
There was a squeaking sound, and Harry saw the dim black outline of Ron,
wiping a patch clean on the window and peering out.