Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling chapter one owl post



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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.

"IT WILL HAPPEN TONIGHT."

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:

"THE DARK LORD LIES ALONE AND FRIENDLESS, ABANDONED BY HIS FOLLOWERS.

HIS SERVANT HAS BEEN CHAINED THESE TWELVE YEARS. TONIGHT, BEFORE

MIDNIGHT... THE SERVANT WILL BREAK FREE AND SET OUT TO REJOIN HIS

MASTER. THE DARK LORD WILL RISE AGAIN WITH HIS SERVANTS AID, GREATER AND

MORE TERRIBLE THAN EVER HE WAS. TONIGHT... BEFORE MIDNIGHT... THE

SERVANT... WILL SET OU... TO REJOIN... HIS MASTER....

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.

"Professor Trelawney," Harry panted, "just told me --"

But he stopped abruptly at the sight of their faces.

"Buckbeak lost," said Ron weakly. "Hagrid's just sent this."

Hagrid's note was dry this time, no tears had splattered it, yet his

hand seemed to have shaken so much as he wrote that it was hardly

legible.

Lost appeal. They're going to execute at sunset. Nothing you can do.

Don't come down. I don't want you to see it.

Hagrid


"We've got to go," said Harry at once. "He can't just sit there on his

own, waiting for the executioner!"

"Sunset, though," said Ron, who was staring out the window ill a glazed

sort of way. "We'd never be allowed... 'specially you, Harry...."

Harry sank his head into his hands, thinking.

"If we only had the Invisibility Cloak...."

"Where is it?" said Hermione.

Harry told her about leaving it in the passageway under the one-eyed

witch.

"... if Snape sees me anywhere near there again, I'm in serious



trouble," he finished.

"That's true," said Hermione, getting to her feet. "If he sees you....

How do you open the witch's hump again?"

"You -- you tap it and say, 'Dissendium,'" said Harry. "But --"

Hermione didn't wait for the rest of his sentence; she strode across the

room, pushed open the Fat Lady's portrait and vanished from sight.

"She hasn't gone to get it?" Ron said, staring after her.

She had. Hermione returned a quarter of an hour later with the silvery

cloak folded carefully under her robes.

"Hermione, I don't know what's gotten, into you lately!" said Ron,

astounded. "First you hit Malfoy, then you walk out on Professor

Trelawney --"

Hermione looked rather flattered.

They went down to dinner with everybody else, but did not return to

Gryffindor Tower afterward. Harry had the cloak hidden down tie front of

his robes; he had to keep his arms folded to hide the lump. They skulked

in an empty chamber off the entrance hall, listening, until they were

sure it was deserted. They heard a last pair of people hurrying across

the hall and a door slamming. Hermione poked her head around the door.

"Okay," she whispered, "no one there -- cloak on --"

Walking very close together so that nobody would see them, they crossed

the hall on tiptoe beneath the cloak, then walked down the stone front

steps into the grounds. The sun was already sinking behind the Forbidden

Forest, gilding the top branches of the trees.

They reached Hagrid's cabin and knocked. He was a minute in answering,

and when he did, he looked all around for his visitor, pale-faced and

trembling.

"It's us," Harry hissed. "We're wearing the Invisibility Cloak. Let us

in and we can take it off."

"Yeh shouldn've come!" Hagrid whispered, but he stood back, and they

stepped inside. Hagrid shut the door quickly and Harry pulled off the

cloak.


Hagrid was not crying, nor did he throw himself upon their necks. He

looked like a man who did not know where he was or what to do. This

helplessness was worse to watch than tears.

"Wan' some tea?" he said. His great hands were shaking as he reached for

the kettle.

"Where's Buckbeak, Hagrid?" said Hermione hesitantly.

I -- I took him outside," said Hagrid, spilling milk all over the table

as he filled up the jug. "He's tethered in me pumpkin patch. Thought he

oughta see the trees an' -- an' smell fresh air -- before

Hagrid's hand trembled so violently that the milk jug slipped from his

grasp and shattered all over the floor.

"I'll do it, Hagrid," said Hermione quickly, hurrying over and starting

to clean up the mess.

"There's another one in the cupboard," Hagrid said, sitting down and

wiping his forehead on his sleeve. Harry glanced at Ron, who looked back

hopelessly.

"Isn't there anything anyone can do, Hagrid?" Harry asked fiercely,

sitting down next to him. "Dumbledore --"

"He's tried," said Hagrid. "He's got no power ter overrule the

Committee. He told 'em Buckbeak's all right, but they're scared.... Yeh

know what Lucius Malfoy's like... threatened 'em, I expect... an' the

executioner, Macnair, he's an old pal o' Malfoy's... but it'll be quick

an' clean... an' I'll be beside him.... "

Hagrid swallowed. His eyes were darting all over the cabin as though

looking for some shred of hope or comfort.

"Dumbledore's gonna come down while it -- while it happens. Wrote me

this mornin'. Said he wants ter -- ter be with me. Great man,

Dumbledore...."

Hermione, who had been rummaging in Hagrid's cupboard for another milk

jug, let out a small, quickly stifled sob. She straightened up with the

new jug in her hands, fighting back tears.

"We'll stay with you too, Hagrid," she began, but Hagrid shook his

shaggy head.

"Yeh're ter go back up ter the castle. I told yeh, I don' wan' yeh

watchin'. An' yeh shouldn' be down here anyway... If Fudge an'

Dumbledore catch yeh out without permission, Harry, yeh'll be in big

trouble."

Silent tears were now streaming down Hermione's face, but she hid them

from Hagrid, bustling around making tea. Then, as she picked up the milk

bottle to pour some into the jug, she let out a shriek.

"Ron, I don't believe it -- it's Scabbers!"

Ron gaped at her.

"What are you talking about?"

Hermione carried the milk jug over to the table and turned it upside

down. With a frantic squeak, and much scrambling to get back inside,

Scabbers the rat came sliding out onto the table.

"Scabbers!" said Ron blankly. "Scabbers, what are you doing here?"

He grabbed the struggling rat and held him up to the light. Scabbers

looked dreadful. He was thinner than ever, large tufts of hair had

fallen out leaving wide bald patches, and he writhed in Ron's hands as

though desperate to free himself

"It's okay, Scabbers!" said Ron. "No cats! There's nothing here to hurt

you!"

Hagrid suddenly stood up, his eyes fixed on the window. His normally



ruddy face had gone the color of parchment.

"They're comin'...."

Harry, Ron, and Hermione whipped around. A group of men was walking down

the distant castle steps. In front was Albus Dumbledore, his silver

beard gleaming in the dying sun. Next to him trotted Cornelius Fudge.

Behind them came the feeble old Committee member and the executioner,

Macnair.

"Yeh gotta go," said Hagrid. Every inch of him was trembling. "They

mustn' find yeh here.... Go now..."

Ron stuffed Scabbers into his pocket and Hermione picked up the cloak.

"I'll let yeh out the back way," said Hagrid.

They followed him to the door into his back garden. Harry felt strangely

unreal, and even more so when he saw Buckbeak a few yards away, tethered

to a tree behind Hagrid's Pumpkin patch. Buckbeak seemed to know

something was happening. He turned his sharp head from side to side and

pawed the ground nervously.

"It's okay, Beaky," said Hagrid softly. "It's okay..." He turned to

Harry, Ron, and Hermione. "Go on," he said. "Get goin'."

But they didn't move.

"Hagrid, we can't --"

"We'll tell them what really happened --"

"They can't kill him --"

"Go!" said Hagrid fiercely. "It's bad enough without you lot in trouble

an' all!"

They had no choice. As Hermione threw the cloak over Harry and Ron, they

heard voices at the front of the cabin. Hagrid looked at the place where

they had just vanished from sight.

"Go quick," he said hoarsely. "Don' listen...."

And he strode back into his cabin as someone knocked at the front door.

Slowly, in a kind of horrified trance, Harry, Ron, and Hermione set off

silently around Hagrid's house. As they reached the other side, the

front door closed with a sharp snap.

"Please, let's hurry," Hermione whispered. "I can't stand it, I can't

bear it...."

They started up the sloping lawn toward the castle. The sun was sinking

fast now; the sky had turned to a clear, purple-tinged grey, but to the

west there was a ruby-red glow.

Ron stopped dead.

"Oh, please, Ron," Hermione began.

"It's Scabbers -- he won't -- stay put --"

Ron was bent over, trying to keep Scabbers in his pocket, but the rat

was going berserk; squeaking madly, twisting and flailing, trying to

sink his teeth into Ron's hand.

"Scabbers, it's me, you idiot, it's Ron," Ron hissed.

They heard a door open behind them and men's voices.

"Oh, Ron, please let's move, they're going to do it!" Hermione breathed.

"Okay -- Scabbers, stay put --"

They walked forward; Harry, like Hermione, was trying not to listen to

the rumble of voices behind them. Ron stopped again.

"I can't hold him -- Scabbers, shut up, everyone'll hear us --"

The rat was squealing wildly, but not loudly enough to cover up the

sounds drifting from Hagrid's garden. There was a jumble of indistinct

male voices, a silence, and then, without warning, the unmistakable

swish and thud of an axe.

Hermione swayed on the spot.

"They did it!" she whispered to Harry. "I d -- don't believe it -- they

did it!"

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CAT, RAT, AND DOG

Harry's mind had gone blank with shock. The three of them stood

transfixed with horror under the Invisibility Cloak. The very last rays

of the setting sun were casting a bloody light over the long- shadowed

grounds. Then, behind them, they heard a wild howling.

"Hagrid," Harry muttered. Without thinking about what he was doing, he

made to turn back, but both Ron and Hermione seized his arms.

"We can't," said Ron, who was paper-white. "He'll be in worse trouble if

they know we've been to see him...."

Hermione's breathing was shallow and uneven.

"How -- could -- they?" she choked. "How could they?"

"Come on," said Ron, whose teeth seemed to be chattering.

They set off back toward the castle, walking slowly to keep themselves

hidden under the cloak. The light was fading fast now.

By the time they reached open ground, darkness was settling like a spell

around them.

"Scabbers, keep still," Ron hissed, clamping his hand over his chest.

The rat was wriggling madly. Ron came to a sudden halt, trying to force

Scabbers deeper into his pocket. "What's the matter with you, You stupid

rat? Stay still -- OUCH! He bit me!"

"Ron, be quiet!" Hermione whispered urgently. "Fudge'll be out here in a

minute --"

"He won't -- stay -- put --"

Scabbers was plainly terrified. He was writhing with all his might,

trying to break free of Ron's grip.

"What's the matter with him?"

But Harry had just seen -- stinking toward them, his body low to the

ground, wide yellow eyes glinting eerily in the darkness -- Crookshanks.

Whether he could see them or was following the sound of Scabbers's

squeaks, Harry couldn't tell.

"Crookshanks!" Hermione moaned. "No, go away, Crookshanks! Go away!"

But the cat was getting nearer --

"Scabbers -- NO!"

Too late -- the rat had slipped between Ron's clutching fingers, hit the

ground, and scampered away. In one bound, Crookshanks sprang after him,

and before Harry or Hermione could stop him, Ron had thrown the

Invisibility Cloak off himself and pelted away into the darkness.

"Ron!" Hermione moaned.

She and Harry looked at each other, then followed at a sprint; it ""as

impossible to run full out under the cloak; they pulled it off and it

streamed behind them like a banner as they hurtled after Ron; they could

hear his feet thundering along ahead and his shouts at Crookshanks.

"Get away from him -- get away -- Scabbers, come here --"

There was a loud thud.

"Gotcha! Get off, you stinking cat --"

Harry and Hermione almost fell over Ron; they skidded to a stop right in

front of him. He was sprawled on the ground, but Scabbers was back in

his pocket; he had both hands held tight over the quivering lump.

"Ron -- come on back under the cloak --" Hermione panted. "Dumbledore

the Minister -- they'll be coming back out in a minute --"

But before they could cover themselves again, before they could even

catch their breath, they heard the soft pounding of gigantic paws....

Something was bounding toward them, quiet as a shadow -- an enormous,

pale-eyed, jet-black dog.

Harry reached for his wand, but too late -- the dog had made an enormous

leap and the front paws hit him on the chest; he keeled over backward in

a whirl of hair; he felt its hot breath, saw inch- long teeth -

But the force of its leap had carried it too far; it rolled off him.

Dazed, feeling as though his ribs were broken, Harry tried to stand up;

he could hear it growling as it skidded around for a new attack.

Ron was on his feet. As the dog sprang back toward them he pushed Harry

aside; the dog's jaws fastened instead around Ron's outstretched arm.

Harry lunged forward, he seized a handful of the brute's hair, but it

was dragging Ron away as easily as though he were a rag doll --

Then, out of nowhere, something hit Harry so hard across the face he was

knocked off his feet again. He heard Hermione shriek with pain and fall

too.

Harry groped for his wand, blinking blood out of his eyes



"Lumos!"he whispered.

The wandlight showed him the trunk of a thick tree; they had chased

Scabbers into the shadow of the Whomping Willow and its branches were

creaking as though in a high wind, whipping backward and forward to stop

them going nearer.

And there, at the base of the trunk, was the dog, dragging Ron backward

into a large gap in the roots -- Ron was fighting furiously, but his

head and torso were slipping out of sight --

"Ron!" Harry shouted, trying to follow, but a heavy branch whipped

lethally through the air and he was forced backward again.

All they could see now was one of Ron's legs, which he had hooked around

a root in an effort to stop the dog from pulling him farther underground

-- but a horrible crack cut the air like a gunshot; Ron's leg had

broken, and a moment later, his foot vanished from sight.

"Harry -- we've got to go for help --" Hermione gasped; she was bleeding

too; the Willow had cut her across the shoulder.

"No! That thing's big enough to eat him; we haven't got time --"

"Harry -- we're never going to get through without help --"

Another branch whipped down at them, twigs clenched like knuckles.

"If that dog can get in, we can," Harry panted, darting here and there,

trying to find a way through the vicious, swishing branches, but he

couldn't get an inch nearer to the tree roots without being in range of

the tree's blows.

"Oh, help, help," Hermione whispered frantically, dancing U._ certainly

on the spot, "Please..."

Crookshanks darted forward. He slithered between the battering branches

like a snake and placed his front paws upon a knot on the trunk.

Abruptly, as though the tree had been turned to marble, it stopped

moving. Not a leaf twitched or shook.

"Crookshanks!" Hermione whispered uncertainly. She now grasped Harry's

arm painfully hard. "How did he know --?"

"He's friends with that dog," said Harry grimly. "I've seen them

together. Come on -- and keep your wand out --"

They covered the distance to the trunk in seconds, but before they had

reached the gap in the roots, Crookshanks had slid into it with a flick


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