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


CHAPTER SIX TALONS AND TEA LEAVES



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CHAPTER SIX

TALONS AND TEA LEAVES

When Harry, Ron, and Hermione entered the Great Hall for breakfast the

next day, the first thing they saw was Draco Malfoy, who seemed to be

entertaining a large group of Slytherins with a very funny story. As

they passed, Malfoy did a ridiculous impression of a swooning fit and

there was a roar of laughter.

"Ignore him," said Hermione, who was right behind Harry. "Just ignore

him, it's not worth it...."

"Hey, Potter!" shrieked Pansy Parkinson, a Slytherin girl with a face

like a pug. "Potter! The dementors are coming, Potter! Woooooooooo!"

Harry dropped into a seat at the Gryffindor table, next to George

Weasley.


"New third-year course schedules," said George, passing then, over.

"What's up with you, Harry?"

"Malfoy," said Ron, sitting down on George's other side and glaring over

at the Slytherin table.

George looked up in time to see Malfoy pretending to faint with terror

again.


"That little git," he said calmly. "He wasn't so cocky last night when

the dementors were down at our end of the train. Came runing into our

compartment, didn't he, Fred?"

"Nearly wet himself," said Fred, with a contemptuous glance at Malfoy.

"I wasn't too happy myself," said George. "They're horrible things,

those dementors...."

"Sort of freeze your insides, don't they?" said Fred.

"You didn't pass out, though, did you?" said Harry in a low voice.

"Forget it, Harry," said George bracingly. "Dad had to go out to Azkaban

one time, remember, Fred? And he said it was the worst place he'd ever

been, he came back all weak and shaking.... They suck the happiness out

of a place, dementors. Most of the prisoners go mad in there."

"Anyway, we'll see how happy Malfoy looks after our first Quidditch

match," said Fred. "Gryffindor versus Slytherin, first game of the

season, remember?"

The only time Harry and Malfoy had faced each other in a Quidditch

match, Malfoy had definitely come off worse. Feeling slightly more

cheerful, Harry helped himself to sausages and fried tomatoes.

Hermione was examining her new schedule.

" Ooh, good, we're starting some new subjects today," she said happily.

villains are these, that trespass upon my private lands! Come I. scorn

at my fall, perchance? Draw, you knaves, you dogs!"

They watched in astonishment as the little knight tugged his sword out

of its scabbard and began brandishing it violently, hopping up and down

in rage. But the sword was too long for him; a particularly wild swing

made him overbalance, and he landed facedown in the grass.

"Are you all right?" said Harry, moving closer to the picture.

"Get back, you scurvy braggart! Back, you rogue!"

The knight seized his sword again and used it to push himself back up,

but the blade sank deeply into the grass and, though he pulled with all

his might, he couldn't get it out again. Finally, he had to flop back

down onto the grass and push up his visor to mop his sweating face.

"Listen," said Harry, taking advantage of the knight's exhaustion,

"we're looking for the North Tower. You don't know the way, do you?"

"A quest!" The knight's rage seemed to vanish instantly. He clanked to

his feet and shouted, "Come follow me, dear friends, and we shall find

our goal, or else shall perish bravely in the charge!"

He gave the sword another fruitless tug, tried and failed to mount the

fat pony, gave up, and cried, "On foot then, good sirs and gentle lady!

On! On!"


And he ran, clanking loudly, into the left side of the frame and out of

sight.


They hurried after him along the corridor, following the sound of his

armor. Every now and then they spotted him running through a picture

ahead.

"Be of stout heart, the worst is yet to come!" yelled the knight, and



they saw him reappear in front of an alarmed group of women in

crinolines, whose picture hung on the wall of a narrow spiral staircase.

Puffing loudly, Harry, Ron, and Hermione climbed the tightly spiraling

steps, getting dizzier and dizzier, until at last they heard the murmur

of voices above them and knew they had reached the classroom.

"Farewell!" cried the knight, popping his head into a painting of some

sinister-looking monks. "Farewell, my comrades-in-arms! If ever you have

need of noble heart and steely sinew, call upon Sir Cadogan!"

"Yeah, we'll call you," muttered Ron as the knight disappeared, "if we

ever need someone mental."

They climbed the last few steps and emerged onto a tiny landing, where

most of the class was already assembled. There were no doors off this

landing, but Ron nudged Harry and pointed at the ceiling, where there

was a circular trapdoor with a brass plaque on it.

"'Sibyll Trelawney, Divination teacher,"' Harry read. "How're we

supposed to get up there?"

As though in answer to his question, the trapdoor suddenly opened, and a

silvery ladder descended right at Harry's feet. Everyone got quiet.

"After you," said Ron, grinning, so Harry climbed the ladder first.

He emerged into the strangest-looking classroom he had ever seen. In

fact, it didn't look like a classroom at all, more like a cross between

someone's attic and an old-fashioned tea shop. At leasttwenty small,

circular tables were crammed inside it, all surrounded by chintz

armchairs and fat little poufs. Everything was lit with a dim, crimson

light; the curtains at the windows were all closed, and the many lamps

were draped with dark red scarves. it was stiflingly warm, and the fire

that was burning under the crowded mantelpiece was giving off a heavy,

sickly sort of perfume as it heated a large copper kettle. The shelves

running around the circular walls were crammed with dusty-looking

feathers, stubs of candles, many packs of tattered playing cards,

countless silvery crystal balls, and a huge array of teacups.

Ron appeared at Harry's shoulder as the class assembled around them, all

talking in whispers.

"Where is she?" Ron said.

A voice came suddenly out of the shadows, a soft, misty sort of voice.

"Welcome," it said. "How nice to see you in the physical world at last."

Harry's immediate impression was of a large, glittering insect.

Professor Trelawney moved into the firelight, and they saw that she was

very thin; her large glasses magnified her eyes to several times their

natural size, and she was draped in a gauzy spangled shawl. Innumerable

chains and beads hung around her spindly neck, and her arms and hands

were encrusted with bangles and rings.

"Sit, my children, sit," she said, and they all climbed awkwardly into

armchairs or sank onto poufs. Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat themselves

around the same round table.

"Welcome to Divination," said Professor Trelawney, who had seated

herself in a winged armchair in front of the fire. "My name is professor

Trelawney. You may not have seen me before. I find that descending too

often into the hustle and bustle of the main school clouds my Inner

Eye."


Nobody said anything to this extraordinary pronouncement. Professor

Trelawney delicately rearranged her shawl and continued, "So you have

chosen to study Divination, the most difficult of all magical arts. I

must warn you at the outset that if you do not have the Sight, there is

very little I will be able to teach you.. Books can take you only so far

in this field...."

At these words, both Harry and Ron glanced, grinning, at Hermione, who

looked startled at the news that books wouldn't be much help in this

subject.

"Many witches and wizards, talented though they are in the area of loud

bangs and smells and sudden disappearings, are yet unable to penetrate

the veiled mysteries of the future," Professor Trelawney went on, her

enormous, gleaming eyes moving from face to nervous face. "It is a Gift

granted to few. You, boy," she said suddenly to Neville, who almost

toppled off his pouf. "Is your grandmother well?"

"I think so," said Neville tremulously.

"I wouldn't be so sure if I were you, dear," said Professor Trelawney,

the firelight glinting on her long emerald earrings. Neville gulped.

Professor Trelawney continued placidly. "We will be covering the basic

methods of Divination this year. The first term will be devoted to

reading the tea leaves. Next term we shall progress to palmistry. By the

way, my dear," she shot suddenly at Parvati Patil, "beware a red-haired

man."

Parvati gave a startled look at Ron, who was right behind her and edged



her chair away from him.

"In the second term," Professor Trelawney went on, "we shall progress to

the crystal ball -- if we have finished with fire omens, that is.

Unfortunately, classes will be disrupted in February by a nasty bout of

flu. I myself will lose my voice. And around Easter, one of our number

will leave us forever."

A very tense silence followed this pronouncement, but Professor

Trelawney seemed unaware of it.

"I wonder, dear," she said to Lavender Brown, who was nearest and shrank

back in her chair, "if you could pass me the largest silver teapot?"

Lavender, looking relieved, stood up, took an enormous teapot from the

shelf, and put it down on the table in front of Professor Trelawney.

"Thank you, my dear. Incidentally, that thing you are dreading -- it

will happen on Friday the sixteenth of October."

Lavender trembled.

"Now, I want you all to divide into pairs. Collect a teacup from the

shelf, come to me, and I will fill it. Then sit down and drink, drink

until only the dregs remain. Swill these around the cup three times with

the left hand, then turn the cup upside down on its saucer, wait for the

last of the tea to drain away, then give your cup to your partner to

read. You will interpret the patterns using pages five and six of

Unfogging the Future. I shall move among you, helping and instructing.

Oh, and dear" -- she caught Neville by the arm as he made to stand up --

"after you've broken your first cup, would you be so kind as to select

one of the blue patterned ones? I'm rather attached to the pink."

Sure enough, Neville had no sooner reached the shelf of teacups when

there was a tinkle of breaking china. Professor Trelawney swept over to

him holding a dustpan and brush and said, "One of the blue ones, then,

dear, if you wouldn't mind... thank you. ... "

When Harry and Ron had had their teacups filled, they went back to their

table and tried to drink the scalding tea quickly. They swilled the

dregs around as Professor Trelawney had instructed, then drained the

cups and swapped over.

"Right," said Ron as they both opened their books at pages five and six.

"What can you see in mine?"

"A load of soggy brown stuff," said Harry. The heavily perfumed smoke in

the room was making him feel sleepy and stupid.

"Broaden your minds, my dears, and allow your eyes to see past the

mundane!" Professor Trelawney cried through the gloom.

Harry tried to pull himself together.

"Right, you've got a crooked sort of cross... " He consulted Unfogging

the Future. "That means you're going to have 'trials and suffering' --

sorry about that -- but there's a thing that could be the sun... hang

on... that means 'great happiness'... so you're going to suffer but be

very happy...."

"You need your Inner Eye tested, if you ask me," said Ron, and they both

had to stifle their laughs as Professor Trelawney gazed in their

direction.

"My turn..." Ron peered into Harry's teacup, his forehead wrinkled with

effort. "There's a blob a bit like a bowler hat," he said. "Maybe you're

going to work for the Ministry of Magic...

He turned the teacup the other way up.

"But this way it looks more like an acorn.... What's that?" He scanned

his copy of Unfogging the Future. "'A windfall, unexpected gold.'

Excellent, you can lend me some... and there's a thin, here," he turned

the cup again, "that looks like an animal... yeah, if that was its

head... it looks like a hippo... no, a sheep..."

Professor Trelawney whirled around as Harry let out a snort of laughter.

"Let me see that, my dear," she said reprovingly to Ron, sweeping over

and snatching Harry's cup from him. Everyone went quiet to watch.

Professor Trelawney was staring into the teacup, rotating it

counterclockwise.

"The falcon... my dear, you have a deadly enemy."

"But everyone knows that, " said Hermione in a loud whisper. Professor

Trelawney stared at her.

"Well, they do," said Hermione. "Everybody knows about Harry and

You-Know-Who."

Harry and Ron stared at her with a mixture of amazement and admiration.

They had never heard Hermione speak to a teacher like that before.

Professor Trelawney chose not to reply. She lowered her huge eyes to

Harry's cup again and continued to turn it.

"The club... an attack. Dear, dear, this is not a happy cup....

I thought that was a bowler hat," said Ron sheepishly.

"The skull... danger in your path, my dear...."

Everyone was staring, transfixed, at Professor Trelawney, who gave the

cup a final turn, gasped, and then screamed.

There was another tinkle of breaking china; Neville had smashed his

second cup. Professor Trelawney sank into a vacant armchair, her

glittering hand at her heart and her eyes closed.

"My dear boy... my poor, dear boy no it is kinder not to say.. . no...

don't ask me...."

"What is it, Professor?" said Dean Thomas at once. Everyone had got to

their feet, and slowly they crowded around Harry and Ron's table,

pressing close to Professor Trelawney's chair to get a

good look at Harry's cup.

"My dear," Professor Trelawney's huge eyes opened dramatically,

"You have the Grim."

"The what?" said Harry.

He could tell that he wasn't the only one who didn't understand; Dean

Thomas shrugged at him and Lavender Brown looked puzzled, but nearly

everybody else clapped their hands to their mouths in horror.

"The Grim, my dear, the Grim!" cried Professor Trelawney, who looked

shocked that Harry hadn't understood. "The giant, spectral dog that

haunts churchyards! My dear boy, it is an omen -- the worst omen -- of

death!"

Harry's stomach lurched. That dog on the cover of Death Omens in



Flourish and Blotts -the dog in the shadows of Magnolia Crescent...

Lavender Brown clapped her hands to her mouth too. Everyone was looking

at Harry, everyone except Hermione, who had gotten up and moved around

to the back of Professor Trelawney's chair.

"I don't think it looks like a Grim," she said flatly.

Professor Trelawney surveyed Hermione with mounting dislike.

"You'll forgive me for saying so, my dear, but I perceive very little

aura around you. Very little receptivity to the resonances of the

future." Seamus Finnigan was tilting his head from side to side.

"It looks like a Grim if you do this," he said, with his eyes almost

shut, "but it looks more like a donkey from here," he said, leaning to

the left.

"When you've all finished deciding whether I'm going to die Or not!"

said Harry, taking even himself by surprise. Now nobody seemed to want

to look at him.

"I think we will leave the lesson here for today," said Professor

Trelawney in her mistiest voice. "Yes... please pack away your

things...."

Silently the class took their teacups back to Professor Trelawney,

packed away their books, and closed their bags. Even Ron was avoiding

Harry's eyes.

"Until we meet again," said Professor Trelawney faintly, "fair fortune

be yours. Oh, and dear" -- she pointed at Neville -- "you'll be late

next time, so mind you work extra-hard to catch up."

Harry, Ron, and Hermione descended Professor Trelawney's ladder and the

winding stair in silence, then set off for Professor McGonagall's

Transfiguration lesson. It took them so long to find her classroom that,

early as they had left Divination, they were only just in time.

Harry chose a seat right at the back of the room, feeling as though he

were sitting in a very bright spotlight; the rest of the class kept

shooting furtive glances at him, as though he were about to drop dead at

any moment. He hardly heard what Professor McGonagall was telling them

about Animagi (wizards who could transform at will into animals), and

wasn't even watching when she transformed herself in front of their eyes

into a tabby cat with spectacle markings around her eyes.

"Really, what has got into you all today?" said Professor McGonagall,

turning back into herself with a faint pop, and staring around at them

all. "Not that it matters, but that's the first time my transformation's

not got applause from a class."

Everybody's heads turned toward Harry again, but nobody spoke. Then

Hermione raised her hand.

"Please, Professor, we've just had our first Divination class, and we

were reading the tea leaves, and --"

"Ah, of course," said Professor McGonagall, suddenly frowning.

"There is no need to say any more, Miss Granger. Tell me, which of you

will be dying this year?"

Everyone stared at her.

"Me," said Harry, finally.

"I see," said Professor McGonagall, fixing Harry with her beady eyes.

"Then you should know, Potter, that Sibyll Trelawney has predicted the

death of one student a year since she arrived at this school. None of

them has died yet. Seeing death omens is her favorite way of greeting a

new class. If it were not for the fact that I never speak ill of my

colleagues --"

Professor McGonagall broke off, and they saw that her nostrils had gone

white. She went on, more calmly, "Divination is one of the most

imprecise branches of magic. I shall not conceal from you that I have

very little patience with it. True Seers are very rare, and Professor

Trelawney --"

She stopped again, and then said, in a very matter-of-fact tone, "You

look in excellent health to me, Potter, so you will excuse me if I don't

let you off homework today. I assure you that if you die, you need not

hand it in."

Hermione laughed. Harry felt a bit better. It was harder to feel scared

of a lump of tea leaves away from the dim red light and befuddling

perfume of Professor Trelawney's classroom. Not everyone was convinced,

however. Ron still looked worried, and Lavender whispered, "But what

about Neville's cup?"

When the Transfiguration class had finished, they joined the crowd

thundering toward the Great Hall for lunch.

"Ron, cheer up," said Hermione, pushing a dish of stew toward him. "You

heard what Professor McGonagall said."

Ron spooned stew onto his plate and picked up his fork but didn't start.

"Harry," he said, in a low, serious voice, "You haven't seen a great

black dog anywhere, have you?"

"Yeah, I have," said Harry. "I saw one the night I left the Dursleys'. "

Ron let his fork fall with a clatter.

"Probably a stray," said Hermione calmly.

Ron looked at Hermione as though she had gone mad.

"Hermione, if Harry's seen a Grim, that's -- that's bad," he said. "My

-- my uncle Bilius saw one and -- and he died twenty-four hours later!"

"Coincidence," said Hermione airily, pouring herself some pumpkin juice.

"You don't know what you're talking about!" said Ron, starting to get

angry. "Grims scare the living daylights out of most wizards!"

"There you are, then," said Hermione in a superior tone. "They see the

Grim and die of fright. The Grim's not an omen, it's the cause of death!

And Harry's still with us because he's not stupid enough to see one and

think, right, well, I'd better kick the bucket then!"

Ron mouthed wordlessly at Hermione, who opened her bag, took out her new

Arithmancy book, and propped it open against the juice jug.

"I think Divination seems very woolly," she said, searching for her

page. "A lot of guesswork, if you ask me."

"There was nothing woolly about the Grim in that cup!" said Ron hotly.

"You didn't seem quite so confident when you were telling Harry it was a

sheep," said Hermione coolly.

"Professor Trelawney said you didn't have the right aura! You just don't

like being bad at something for a change!"

He had touched a nerve. Hermione slammed her Arithmancy book down on the

table so hard that bits of meat and carrot flew everywhere.

"If being good at Divination means I have to pretend to see death omens

in a lump of tea leaves, I'm not sure I'll be studying it much longer!

That lesson was absolute rubbish compared with my Arithmancy class!"

She snatched up her bag and stalked away.

Ron frowned after her.

"What's she talking about?" he said to Harry. "She hasn't been to an

Arithmancy class yet."

Harry was pleased to get out of the castle after lunch. Yesterday's rain

had cleared; the sky was a clear, pale gray, and the grass was springy

and damp underfoot as they set off for their first ever Care of Magical

Creatures class.

Ron and Hermione weren't speaking to each other. Harry walked beside

them in silence as they went down the sloping lawns to Hagrid's hut on

the edge of the Forbidden Forest. It was only when he spotted three

only-too- familiar backs ahead of them that he realized they must be

having these lessons with the Slytherins. Malfoy was talking animatedly

to Crabbe and Goyle, who were chortling. Harry was quite sure he knew

what they were talking about.

Hagrid was waiting for his class at the door of his hut. He stood in his

moleskin overcoat, with Fang the boarhound at his heels, looking

impatient to start.

"C'mon, now, get a move on!" he called as the class approached. "Got a

real treat for yeh today! Great lesson comin' up! Everyone here? Right,

follow me!"

For one nasty moment, Harry thought that Hagrid was going to lead them

into the forest; Harry had had enough unpleasant experiences in there to

last him a lifetime. However, Hagrid strolled off around the edge of the

trees, and five minutes later, they found themselves outside a kind of

paddock. There was nothing in there.

"Everyone gather 'round the fence here!" he called. "That's it -- make

sure yeh can see -- now, firs' thing yeh'll want ter do is open yer

books --"

"How?" said the cold, drawling voice of Draco Malfoy.

"Eh?" said Hagrid.

"How do we open our books?" Malfoy repeated. He took out his copy of The

Monster Book of Monsters, which he had bound shut with a length of rope.

Other people took theirs out too; some, like Harry, had belted their

book shut; others had crammed them inside tight bags or clamped them

together with binder clips.

"Hasn' -- hasn' anyone bin able ter open their books?" said Hagrid,

looking crestfallen.

The class all shook their heads.

"Yeh've got ter stroke 'em," said Hagrid, as though this was the most

obvious thing in the world. "Look --"

He took Hermione's copy and ripped off the Spellotape that bound it. The

book tried to bite, but Hagrid ran a giant forefinger down its spine,

and the book shivered, and then fell open and lay quiet in his hand.

"Oh, how silly we've all been!" Malfoy sneered. "We should have stroked

them! why didn't we guess!"

"I -- I thought they were funny," Hagrid said uncertainly to Hermione.

"Oh, tremendously funny!" said Malfoy. "Really witty, giving us books

that try and rip our hands off!"

"Shut up, Malfoy," said Harry quietly. Hagrid was looking downcast and

Harry wanted Hagrid's first lesson to be a success.

"Righ' then," said Hagrid, who seemed to have lost his thread, "so -- so

yeh've got yer books an' -- an' - - now yeh need the Magical Creatures.

Yeah. So I'll go an' get 'em. Hang on... "

He strode away from them into the forest and out of sight.

"God, this place is going to the dogs," said Malfoy loudly. "That oaf

teaching classes, my father'll have a fit when I tell him

"Shut up, Malfoy," Harry repeated.

"Careful, Potter, there's a dementor behind you

"Oooooooh!" squealed Lavender Brown, pointing toward the opposite side

of the paddock.

Trotting toward them were a dozen of the most bizarre creatures Harry

had ever seen. They had the bodies, hind legs, and tails of horses, but

the front legs, wings, and heads of what seemed to be giant eagles, with

cruel, steel-colored beaks and large, brilliantly, orange eyes. The

talons on their front legs were half a foot long and deadly looking.

Each of the beasts had a thick leather collar around its neck, which was

attached to a long chain, and the ends of all of these were held in the

vast hands of Hagrid, who came jogging into the paddock behind the

creatures.

"Gee up, there!" he roared, shaking the chains and urging the creatures

toward the fence where the class stood. Everyone drew back slightly as

Hagrid reached them and tethered the creatures to the fence.

"Hippogriffs!" Hagrid roared happily, waving a hand at them. "Beau'iful,

aren' they?"

Harry could sort of see what Hagrid meant. Once you got over the first

shock of seeing something that was, half horse, half bird, you started

to appreciate the hippogriffs' gleaming coats, changing smoothly from

feather to hair, each of them a different color: stormy gray, bronze,

pinkish roan, gleaming chestnut, and inky black.

"So," said Hagrid, rubbing his hands together and beaming around, "if

yeh wan' ter come a bit nearer --"

No one seemed to want to. Harry, Ron, and Hermione, however, approached

the fence cautiously.

"Now, firs' thing yeh gotta know abou' hippogriffs is, they're proud,"

said Hagrid. "Easily offended, hippogriffs are. Don't never insult one,

'cause it might be the last thing yeh do."

Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle weren't listening; they were talking in an

undertone and Harry had a nasty feeling they were plotting how best to

disrupt the lesson.

"Yeh always wait fer the hippogriff ter make the firs' move," Hagrid

continued. "It's polite, see? Yeh walk toward him, and yeh bow, an' yeh

wait. If he bows back, yeh're allowed ter touch him. If he doesn' bow,

then get away from him sharpish, 'cause those talons hurt.

"Right -- who wants ter go first?"

Most of the class backed farther away in answer. Even Harry, Ron, and

Hermione had misgivings. The hippogriffs were tossing their fierce heads

and flexing their powerful wings; they didn't seem to like being

tethered like this.

"No one?" said Hagrid, with a pleading look.

"I'll do it," said Harry.

There was an intake of breath from behind him, and both Lavender and

Parvati whispered, "Oooh, no, Harry, remember your tea leaves!"

Harry ignored them. He climbed over the paddock fence.

"Good man, Harry!" roared Hagrid. "Right then -- let's see how yeh get

on with Buckbeak."

He untied one of the chains, pulled the gray hippogriff away from its

fellows, and slipped off its leather collar. The class on the other side

of the paddock seemed to be holding its breath. Malfoy's eyes were

narrowed maliciously.

"Easy) now, Harry," said Hagrid quietly. "Yeh've got eye contact, now

try not ter blink.... Hippogriffs don' trust yeh if yeh blink too

much...."

Harry's eyes immediately began to water, but he didn't shut thern.

Buckbeak had turned his great, sharp head and was staring at Harry with

one fierce orange eye. "Tha's it," said Hagrid. "Tha's it, Harry... now,

bow."

Harry didn't feel much like exposing the back of his neck to Buckbeak,



but he did as he was told. He gave a short bow and then looked up.

The hippogriff was still staring haughtily at him. It didn't move.

"Ah," said Hagrid, sounding worried. "Right -- back away, now, Harry,

easy does it

But then, to Harry's enormous surprise, the hippogriff suddenly bent its

scaly front knees and sank into what was an unmistakable bow.

"Well done, Harry!" said Hagrid, ecstatic. "Right -- yeh can touch him!

Pat his beak, go on!"

Feeling that a better reward would have been to back away, Harry moved

slowly toward the hippogriff and reached out toward it. He patted the

beak several times and the hippogriff closed its eyes lazily, as though

enjoying it.

The class broke into applause, all except for Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle,

who were looking deeply disappointed.

"Righ' then, Harry," said Hagrid. "I reckon he might' let yeh ride him!"

This was more than Harry had bargained for. He was used to a broomstick;

but he wasn't sure a hippogriff would be quite the same.

"Yeh climb up there, jus' behind the wing joint," said Hagrid, "an' mind

yeh don' pull any of his feathers out, he won' like that...."

Harry put his foot on the top of Buckbeaks wing and hoisted himself onto

its back. Buckbeak stood up. Harry wasn't sure where to hold on;

everything in front of him was covered with feathers.

"Go on, then'" roared Hagrid, slapping the hippogriffs hindquarters.

Without warning, twelve-foot wings flapped open on either side of Harry,

he just had time to seize the hippogriff around the neck before he was

soaring upward. It was nothing like a broomstick, and Harry knew which

one he preferred; the hippogriff's wings beat uncomfortably on either

side of him, catching him under his legs and making him feel he was

about to be thrown off; the glossy feathers slipped under his fingers

and he didn't dare get a stronger grip; instead of the smooth action of

his Nimbus Two Thousand, he now felt himself rocking backward and

forward as the hindquarters of the hippogriff rose and fell with its

wings.

Buckbeak flew him once around the paddock and then headed back to the



ground; this was the bit Harry had been dreading; he leaned back as the

smooth neck lowered, feeling he was going to slip off over the beak,

then felt a heavy thud as the four ill-assorted feet hit the ground. He

just managed to hold on and push himself straight again.

"Good work, Harry!" roared Hagrid as everyone except Malfoy, Crabbe, and

Goyle cheered. "Okay, who else wants a go?"

Emboldened by Harry's success, the rest of the class climbed cautiously

into the paddock. Hagrid untied the hippogriffs one by one, and soon

people were bowing nervously, all over the paddock. Neville ran

repeatedly backward from his, which didn't seem to want to bend its

knees. Ron and Hermione practiced on the chestnut, while Harry watched.

Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle had taken over Buckbeak. He had bowed to

Malfoy, who was now patting his beak, looking disdainful.

"This is very easy," Malfoy drawled, loud enough for Harry to, hear him.

"I knew it must have been, if Potter could do it.... I bet you're not

dangerous at all, are you?" he said to the hippogriff. "Are you, you

great ugly brute?"

It happened in a flash of steely talons; Malfoy let out a highpitched

scream and next moment, Hagrid was wrestling Buckbeak back into his

collar as he strained to get at Malfoy, who lay curled in the grass,

blood blossoming over his robes.

"I'm dying!" Malfoy yelled as the class panicked. "I'm dying, look at

me! It's killed me!"

"Yer not dyin'!" said Hagrid, who had gone very white. "Someone help me

-- gotta get him outta here --"

Hermione ran to hold open the gate as Hagrid lifted Malfoy easily. As

they passed, Harry saw that there was a long, deep gash on Malfoy's arm;

blood splattered the grass and Hagrid ran with him, up the slope toward

the castle.

Very shaken, the Care of Magical Creatures class followed at a walk. The

Slytherins were all shouting about Hagrid.

"They should fire him straight away!" said Pansy Parkinson, who was in

tears.

"It was Malfoy's fault!" snapped Dean Thomas. Crabbe and Goyle flexed



their muscles threateningly.

They all climbed the stone steps into the deserted entrance hall.

"I'm going to see if he's okay!" said Pansy, and they all watched her

run up the marble staircase. The Slytherins, still muttering about

Hagrid, headed away in the direction of their dungeon common room;

Harry, Ron, and Hermione proceeded upstairs to Gryffindor Tower.

"You think he'll be all right?" said Hermione nervously.

"Course he will. Madam Pomfrey can mend cuts in about a second," said

Harry, who had had far worse injuries mended magically by the nurse.

"That was a really bad thing to happen in Hagrid's first class, though,

wasn't it?" said Ron, looking worried. "Trust Malfoy to mess things up

for him...."

They were among the first to reach the Great Hall at dinnertime, hoping

to see Hagrid, but he wasn't there.

"They wouldn't fire him, would they?" said Hermione anxiously, not

touching her steak-and- kidney pudding.

"They'd better not," said Ron, who wasn't eating either.

Harry was watching the Slytherin table. A large group including Crabbe

and Goyle was huddled together, deep in conversation. Harry was sure

they were cooking up their own version of how Malfoy had been injured.

"Well, you can't say it wasn't an interesting first day back," said Ron

gloomily.

They went up to the crowded Gryffindor common room after dinner and

tried to do the homework Professor McGonagall had given them, but all

three of them kept breaking off and glancing Out of the tower window.

"There's a light on in Hagrid's window," Harry said suddenly.

Ron looked at his watch.

"If we hurried, we could go down and see him. It's still quite early..."

I don't know," Hermione said slowly, and Harry saw her glance at him.

"I'm allowed to walk across the grounds, " he said Pointedly. "Sirius

Black hasn't got past the dementors yet, has he?"

So they put their things away and headed out of the portrait hole, glad

to meet nobody on their way to the front doors, as they weren't entirely

sure they were supposed to be out.

The grass was still wet and looked almost black in the twilight. When

they reached Hagrid's hut, they knocked, and a voice growled, "C'min."

Hagrid was sitting in his shirtsleeves at his scrubbed wooden table; his

boarhound, Fang, had his head in Hagrid's lap. One look told them that

Hagrid had been drinking a lot; there was a pewter tankard almost as big

as a bucket in front of him, and he seemed to be having difficulty

getting them into focus.

"'Spect it's a record," he said thickly, when he recognized them. "Don'

reckon they've ever had a teacher who lasted on'y a day before."

"You haven't been fired, Hagrid!" gasped Hermione.

"Not yet," said Hagrid miserably, taking a huge gulp of whatever was in

the tankard. "But's only a matter o' time, i' n't it, after Malfoy..."

"How is he?" said Ron as they all sat down. "It wasn't serious, was it?"

"Madam Pomfrey fixed him best she could," said Hagrid dully, "but he's

sayin' it's still agony... covered in bandages... moanin'..

"He's faking it, " said Harry at once. "Madam Pomfrey can mend anything.

She regrew half my bones last year. Trust Malfoy to milk it for all it's

worth."


"School gov'nors have bin told, o' course," said Hagrid miseribly. "They

reckon I started too big. Shoulda left hippogriffs fer later... done

flobberworms or summat.... Jus' thought itdmake a good firs' lessons all

my fault...."

"It's all Malfoy's fault, Hagrid!" said Hermione earnestly.

"We're witnesses," said Harry. "You said hippogriffs attack if you

insult them. It's Malfoy's problem that he wasn't listening. We'll tell

Dumbledore what really happened."

"Yeah, don't worry, Hagrid, we'll back you up," said Ron.

Tears leaked out of the crinkled corners of Hagrid's beetle-black eyes.

He grabbed both Harry and Ron and pulled them into a bone-breaking hug.

"I think you've had enough to drink, Hagrid," said Hermione firmly. She

took the tankard from the table and went outside to empty it.

"At, maybe she's right," said Hagrid, letting go of Harry and Ron, who

both staggered away, rubbing their ribs. Hagrid heaved himself out of

his chair and followed Hermione unsteadily outside. They heard a loud

splash.

"What's he done?" said Harry nervously as Hermione came back in with the



empty tankard.

"Stuck his head in the water barrel," said Hermione, putting the tankard

away.

Hagrid came back, his long hair and beard sopping wet, wiping the water



out of his eyes.

"That's better," he said, shaking his head like a dog and drenching them

all. "Listen, it was good of yeh ter come an' see me, I really --

Hagrid stopped dead, staring at Harry as though he'd only just realized

he was there.

"WHAT D'YEH THINK YOU'RE DOIN', EH?" he roared, so suddenly that they

jumped a foot in the air. "YEH'RE NOT TO GO WANDERIN' AROUND AFTER DARK,

HARRY! AN, YOU TWO! LETTIN' HIM!"

Hagrid strode over to Harry, grabbed his arm, and pulled him to the

door.


"C'mon!" Hagrid said angrily. "I'm takin' yer all back up ter school,

an' don' let me catch yeh walkin' down ter see me after dark again. I'm

not worth that!"


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