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



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"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..."

"... as 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.

"Stop!" he whispered to Hermione. "They might hear us

Hagrid's back door had opened with a bang. Harry, Hermione, and Buckbeak

stood quite still; even the hippogriff seemed to be listening intently.

Silence... then --

"Where is it?" said the reedy voice of the Committee member. "Where is

the beast?"

"It was tied here!" said the executioner furiously. I saw it! just

here!"


"How extraordinary," said Dumbledore. There was a note of amusement in

his voice.

"Beaky!" said Hagrid huskily.

There was a swishing noise, and the thud of an axe. The executioner

seemed to have swung it into the fence in anger. And then came the

howling, and this time they could hear Hagrid's words through his sobs.

"Gone! Gone! Bless his little beak, he's gone! Musta pulled himself

free! Beaky, yeh clever boy!"

Buckbeak started to strain against the rope, trying to get back to

Hagrid. Harry and Hermione tightened their grip and dug their heels into

the forest floor to stop him.

"Someone untied him!" the executioner was snarling. "We should search

the grounds, the forest."

"Macnair, if Buckbeak has indeed been stolen, do you really think the

thief will have led him away on foot?" said Dumbledore, still sounding

amused. "Search the skies, if you will.... Hagrid, I could do with a cup

of tea. Or a large brandy."

"O' -- o' course, Professor," said Hagrid, who sounded weak with

happiness. "Come in, come in...."

Harry and Hermione listened closely. They heard footsteps, the soft

cursing of the executioner, the snap of the door, and then silence once

more.


"Now what?" whispered Harry, looking around.

"We'll have to hide in here," said Hermione, who looked very shaken. "We

need to wait until they've gone back to the castle. Then we wait until

it's safe to fly Buckbeak up to Sirius's window. He won't be there for

another couple of hours.... Oh, this is going to be difficult...."

She looked nervously over her shoulder into the depths of the forest.

The sun was setting now.

"We're going to have to move," said Harry, thinking hard. "We've got to

be able to see the Whomping Willow, or we won't know what's going on."

"Okay," said Hermione, getting a firmer grip on Buckbeak's rope. "But

we've got to keep out of sight, Harry, remember...."

They moved around the edge of the forest, darkness falling thickly

around them, until they were hidden behind a clump of trees through

which they could make out the Willow.

"There's Ron!" said Harry suddenly.

A dark figure was sprinting across the lawn and its shout echoed through

the still night air.

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

And then they saw two more figures materialize out of nowhere. Harry

watched himself and Hermione chasing after Ron. Then he saw Ron dive.

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

"There's Sirius!" said Harry. The great shape of the dog had bounded out

from the roots of the Willow. They saw him bowl Harry over, then seize

Ron....


"Looks even worse from here, doesn't it?" said Harry, watching the dog

pulling Ron into the roots. "Ouch -- look, I just got walloped by the

tree -- and so did you -- this is weird--"

The Whomping Willow was creaking and lashing out with its lower

branches; they could see themselves darting here and there, trying to

reach the trunk. And then the tree froze.

"That was Crookshanks pressing the knot," said Hermione.

"And there we go..." Harry muttered. "We're in."

The moment they disappeared, the tree began to move again. Seconds

later, they heard footsteps quite close by. Dumbledore, Macnair, Fudge,

and the old Committee member were making their way up to the castle.

"Right after we'd gone down into the passage!" said Hermione. "If only

Dumbledore had come with us..."

"Macnair and Fudge would've come too," said Harry bitterly. "I bet you

anything Fudge would've told Macnair to murder Sirius on the spot...."

They watched the four men climb the castle steps and disappear from

view. For a few minutes the scene was deserted. Then --

"Here comes Lupin!" said Harry as they saw another figure sprinting down

the stone steps and hating toward the Willow. Harry looked up at the

sky. Clouds were obscuring the moon completely.

They watched Lupin seize a broken branch from the ground and prod the

knot on the trunk. The tree stopped fighting, and Lupin, too,

disappeared into the gap in its roots.

"If he'd only grabbed the cloak," said Harry. "It's just lying

there...."

He turned to Hermione.

"If I just dashed out now and grabbed it, Snape'd never be able to get

it and --"

"Harry, we mustn't be seen!"

"How can you stand this?" he asked Hermione fiercely. "Just standing

here and watching it happen?" He hesitated. "I'm going to grab the

cloak!"


"Harry, no!"

Hermione seized the back of Harry's robes not a moment too soon. just

then, they heard a burst of song. It was Hagrid, making his way up to

the castle, singing at the top of his voice, and weaving slightly as he

walked. A large bottle was swinging from his hands.

"See?" Hermione whispered. "See what would have happened? We've got to

keep out of sight! No, Buckbeak!"

The hippogriff was making frantic attempts to get to Hagrid again; Harry

seized his rope too, straining to hold Buckbeak back. They watched

Hagrid meander tipsily up to the castle. He was gone. Buckbeak stopped

fighting to get away. His head drooped sadly.

Barely two minutes later, the castle doors flew open yet again, and

Snape came charging out of them, running toward the Willow.

Harry's fists clenched as they watched Snape skid to a halt next to the

tree, looking around. He grabbed the cloak and held it up.

"Get your filthy hands off it," Harry snarled under his breath. "Shh!"

Snape seized the branch Lupin had used to freeze the tree, prodded the

knot, and vanished from view as he put on the cloak.

"So that's it," said Hermione quietly. "We're all down there... and now

we've just got to wait until we come back up again...."

She took the end of Buckbeak's rope and tied it securely around the

nearest tree, then sat down on the dry ground, arms around her knees.

"Harry, there's something I don't understand.... Why didn't the

dementors get Sirius? I remember them coming, and then I think I passed

out... there were so many of them...."

Harry sat down too. He explained what he'd seen; how, as the nearest

dementor had lowered its mouth to Harry's, a large silver something had

come galloping across the lake and forced the dementors to retreat.

Hermione's mouth was slightly open by the time Harry had finished.

"But what was it?"

"There's only one thing it could have been, to make the dementors go,"

said Harry. "A real Patronus. A powerful one."

"But who conjured it?"

Harry didn't say anything. He was thinking back to the person he'd seen

on the other bank of the lake. He knew who he thought it had been... but

how could it have been?

"Didn't you see what they looked like?" said Hermione eagerly. "Was it

one of the teachers?"

"No," said Harry. "He wasn't a teacher."

"But it must have been a really powerful wizard, to drive all those

dementors away... If the Patronus was shining so brightly, didn't it

light him up? Couldn't you see --?"

"Yeah, I saw him," said Harry slowly. "But... maybe I imagined it.... I

wasn't thinking straight.... I passed out right afterward...."

"Who did you think it was?"

I think --" Harry swallowed, knowing how strange this was going to

sound. I think it was my dad."

Harry glanced up at Hermione and saw that her mouth was fully open now.

She was gazing at him with a mixture of alarm and pity.

"Harry, your dad's -- well -- dead," she said quietly.

"I know that," said Harry quickly.

"You think you saw his ghost?"

"I don't know... no... he looked solid...."

"But then --"

"Maybe I was seeing things," said Harry. "But... from what I could

see... it looked like him.... I've got photos of him...."

Hermione was still looking at him as though worried about his sanity.

I know it sounds crazy," said Harry flatly. He turned to took at

Buckbeak, who was digging his beak into the ground, apparently searching

for worms. But he wasn't really watching Buckbeak.

He was thinking about his father and about his father's three oldest

friends... Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs.... Had all four of them

been out on the grounds tonight? Wormtail had reappeared this evening

when everyone had thought he was dead.... Was it so impossible his

father had done the same? Had he been seeing things across the take? The

figure had been too far away to see distinctly... yet he had felt sure,

for a moment, before he'd lost consciousness....

The leaves overhead rustled faintly in the breeze. The moon drifted in

and out of sight behind the shifting clouds. Hermione sat with her face

turned toward the Willow, waiting.

And then, at last, after over an hour...

"Here we come!" Hermione whispered.

She and Harry got to their feet. Buckbeak raised his head. They saw

Lupin, Ron, and Pettigrew clambering awkwardly out of the hole in the

roots. Then came Hermione... then the unconscious Snape, drifting

weirdly upward. Next came Harry and Black. They all began to walk toward

the castle.

Harry's heart was starting to beat very fast. He glanced up at the sky.

Any moment now, that cloud was going to move aside and show the moon....

"Harry," Hermione muttered as though she knew exactly what he was

thinking, "we've got to stay put. We mustn't be seen. There's nothing we

can do...."

"So we're just going to let Pettigrew escape all over again.. said Harry

quietly.


"How do you expect to find a rat in the dark?" snapped Hermione.

"There's nothing we can do! We came back to help Sirius; we're not

supposed to be doing anything else!"

"All right!"

The moon slid out from behind its cloud. They saw the tiny figures

across the grounds stop. Then they saw movement --

"There goes Lupin," Hermione whispered. "He's transforming

"Hermione!" said Harry suddenly. "We've got to move!"

"We mustn't, I keep telling you --"

"Not to interfere! Lupin's going to run into the forest, right at us!"

Hermione gasped.

"Quick!" she moaned, dashing to untie Buckbeak. "Quick! Where are we

going to go? Where are we going to hide? The dementors wilt be coming

any moment --"

"Back to Hagrid's!" Harry said. "It's empty now -- come on!"

They ran as fast as they could, Buckbeak cantering along behind them.

They could hear the werewolf howling behind them....

The cabin was in sight; Harry skidded to the door, wrenched it open, and

Hermione and Buckbeak flashed past him; Harry threw himself in after

them and bolted the door. Fang the boarhound barked loudly.

"Shh, Fang, it's us!" said Hermione, hurrying over and scratching his

ears to quieten him. "That was really close!" she said to Harry.

"Yeah..."

Harry was looking out of the window. It was much harder to see what was

going on from here. Buckbeak seemed very happy to find himself back

inside Hagrid's house. He lay down in front of the fire, folded his

wings contentedly, and seemed ready for a good nap.

"I think I'd better go outside again, you know," said Harry slowly. "I

can't see what's going on -- we won't know when it's time --"

Hermione looked up. Her expression was suspicious.

"I'm not going to try and interfere," said Harry quickly. "But if we

don't see what's going on, how're we going to know when it's time to

rescue Sirius?"

"Well... okay, then... I'll wait here with Buckbeak... but Harry, be

careful -- there's a werewolf out there -- and the dementors

Harry stepped outside again and edged around the cabin. He could hear

yelping in the distance. That meant the dementors were closing in on

Sirius.... He and Hermione would be running to him any moment....

Harry stared out toward the lake, his heart doing a kind of drumroll in

his chest.... Whoever had sent that Patronus would be appearing at any

moment....

For a fraction of a second he stood, irresolute, in front of Hagrid's

door. You must not be seen. But he didn't want to be seen. He wanted to

do the seeing.... He had to know...

And there were the dementors. They were emerging out of the darkness

from every direction, gliding around the edges of the lake.... They were

moving away from where Harry stood, to the opposite bank.... He wouldn't

have to get near them....

Harry began to run. He had no thought in his head except his father...

If it was him... if it really was him... he had to know, had to find

out....

The lake was coming nearer and nearer, but there was no sign of anybody.



On the opposite bank, he could see tiny glimmers of silver -- his own

attempts at a Patronus --

There was a bush at the very edge of the water. Harry threw himself

behind it, peering desperately through the leaves. On the opposite bank,

the glimmers of silver were suddenly extinguished. A terrified

excitement shot through him -- any moment now --

"Come on!" he muttered, staring about. "Where are you? Dad, come on --"

But no one came. Harry raised his head to look at the circle of

dementors across the lake. One of them was lowering its hood. It was

time for the rescuer to appear -- but no one was coming to help this

time --

And then it hit him -- he understood. He hadn't seen his father -- he



had seen himself --

Harry flung himself out from behind the bush and pulled out his wand.

"EXPECTO PATRONUM! "he yelled.

And out of the end of his wand burst, not a shapeless cloud of mist, but

a blinding, dazzling, silver animal. He screwed up his eyes, trying to

see what it was. It looked like a horse. It was galloping silently away

from him, across the black surface of the lake. He saw it lower its head


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