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



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unrecognizable?

But the dementors don't affect him, Harry thought, staring into the

handsome, laughing face. He doesn't have to hear my Min screaming if

they get too close -

Harry slammed the album shut, reached over and stuffed it back into his

cabinet, took off his robe and glasses and got into bed, making sure the

hangings were hiding him from view.

The dormitory door opened.

"Harry?" said Ron's voice uncertainly.

But Harry still, pretending to be asleep. He heard Ron leave again, and

rolled over on his back, his eyes wide open.

A hatred such as he had never known before was coursing through Harry

like poison. He could see Black laughing at him through the darkness, as

though somebody had pasted the picture from the album over his eyes. He

watched, as though somebody was playing him a piece of film, Sirius

Black blasting Peter Pettigrew (who resembled Neville Longbottom) into a

thousand pieces. He could hear (though having no idea what Black's voice

might sound like) a low, excited mutter. "It has happened, My Lord...

the Potters have made me their Secret-Keeper and then came another

voice, laughing shrilly, the same laugh that Harry heard inside his head

whenever the dementors drew near....

"Harry, you -- you look terrible."

Harry hadn't gotten to sleep until daybreak. He had awoken to find the

dormitory deserted, dressed, and gone down the spiral staircase to a

common room that was completely empty except for Ron, who was eating a

Peppermint Toad and massaging his stomach, and Hermione, who had spread

her homework over three tables.

"Where is everyone?" said Harry.

"Gone! It's the first day of the holidays, remember?" said Ron, watching

Harry closely. "It's nearly lunchtime; I was going to come and wake you

up in a minute."

Harry slumped into a chair next to the fire. Snow was still falling

outside the windows. Crookshanks was spread out in front of the fire

like a large, ginger rug.

"You really don' look well, you know," Hermione said, peering anxiously

into his face.

"I'm fine," said Harry.

"Harry, listen," said Hermione, exchanging a look with Ron, you must be

really upset about what we heard yesterday. But the thing is, you

mustn't go doing anything stupid."

"Like what?" said Harry.

"Like trying to go after Black," said Ron sharply.

Harry could tell they had rehearsed this conversation while he had been

asleep. He didn't say anything.

"You won't, will you, Harry?" said Hermione.

"Because Black's not worth dying for," said Ron.

Harry looked at them. They didn't seem to understand at all.

"D'you know what I see and hear every time a dementor gets too near me?"

Ron and Hermione shook their heads, looking apprehensive. "I can hear my

mum screaming and pleading with Voldemort. And if you'd heard your mum

screaming like that, just about to be killed, you wouldn't forget it in

a hurry. And if you found out someone who was supposed to be a friend of

hers betrayed her and sent Voldemort after her --"

"There's nothing you can do!" said Hermione, looking stricken. "The

dementors will catch Black and he'll go back to Azkaban and -- and serve

him right!"

"You heard what Fudge said. Black isn't affected by Azkaban like normal

people are. It's not a punishment for him like it is for the others."

"So what are you saying?" said Ron, looking very tense. "You want to --

to kill Black or something?"

"Don't be silly," said Herinione in a panicky voice. "Harry doesn't want

to kill anyone, do you, Harry?"

Again, Harry didn't answer. He didn't know what he wanted to do. All he

knew was that the idea of doing nothing, while Black was at liberty, was

almost more than he could stand.

Malfoy knows," he said abruptly. "Remember what he said to me in

Potions? 'If it was me, I'd hunt him down myself... I'd want revenge.

"You're going to take Malfoy's advice instead of ours?" said Ron

furiously. "Listen... you know what Pettigrew's mother got back after

Black had finished with him? Dad told me -- the Order of Merlin, First

Class, and Pettigrew's finger in a box. That was the biggest bit of him

they could find. Black's a madman, Harry, and he's dangerous --"

"Malfoy's dad must have told him," said Harry, ignoring Ron. "He was

right in Voldemort's inner circle --"

"Say You-Know-Who, will you?" interjected Ron angrily.

"-- so obviously, the Malfoys knew Black was working for Voldemort --"

"-- and Malfoy'd love to see you blown into about a million pieces, like

Pettigrew! Get a grip. Malfoy's just hoping you'll get Yourself killed

before he has to play you at Quidditch."

"Harry, please," said Hermione, her eyes now shining with tears, "Please

be sensible. Black did a terrible, terrible thing, but d-don't Put

Yourself in danger, it's what Black wants.... Oh, Harry, you'd be

Playing right into Black's hands if you went looking for him. Your mum

and dad wouldn't want you to get hurt, would they? They'd never want you

to go looking for Black!"

"I'll never know what they'd have wanted, because thanks to Black, I've

never spoken to them," said Harry shortly.

There was a silence in which Crookshanks stretched luxuriously flexing

his claws. Ron's pocket quivered.

"Look," said Ron, obviously casting around for a change of subject,

"it's the holidays! It's nearly Christmas! Let's -- let's go down and

see Hagrid. We haven't visited him for ages!"

"No!" said Hermione quickly. "Harry isn't supposed to leave the castle,

Ron --"


"Yeah, let's go," said Harry, sitting up, "and I can ask him how come he

never mentioned Black when he told me all about my parents!"

Further discussion of Sirius Black plainly wasn't what Ron had had in

mind.


"Or we could have a game of chess, he said hastily, "or Gobstones. Percy

left a set --"

"No, let's visit Hagrid," said Harry firmly.

So they got their cloaks from their dormitories and set off through the

portrait hole ("Stand and fight, you yellow-bellied mongrels!"), down

through the empty castle and out through the oak front doors.

They made their way slowly down the lawn, making a shallow trench in the

glittering, powdery snow, their socks and the hems of their cloaks

soaked and freezing. The Forbidden Forest looked as though it had been

enchanted, each tree smattered with silver, and Hagrid's cabin looked

like an iced cake.

Ron knocked, but there was no answer.

"He's not out, is he?" said Hermione, who was shivering under her cloak.

Ron had his ear to the door.

"There's a weird noise," he said. "Listen -- is that Fang?"

Harry and Hermione put their ears to the door too. From inside the cabin

came a series of low, throbbing moans.

"Think we'd better go and get someone?" said Ron nervously.

"Hagrid!" called Harry, thumping the door. "Hagrid, are you in there.

There was a sound of heavy footsteps, then the door creaked open. Hagrid

stood there with his eyes red and swollen, tears splashing down the

front of his leather vest.

"YWve heard?" he bellowed, and he flung himself onto Harry's neck.

Hagrid being at least twice the size of a normal man, this was no

laughing matter. Harry, about to collapse under Hagrid's weight, was

rescued by Ron and Hermione, who each seized Hagrid under an arm and

heaved him back into the cabin. Hagrid allowed himself to be steered

into a chair and slumped over the table, sobbing uncontrollably, his

face glazed with tears that dripped down into his tangled beard.

"Hagrid, what is it?" said Hermione, aghast.

Harry spotted an official-looking letter lying open on the table.

"What's this, Hagrid?"

Hagrid's sobs redoubled, but he shoved the letter toward Harry, who

Picked it up and read aloud:

Dear Mr. Hagrid,

Further to our inquiry into the attack by a hippogriff on a student in

your class, we have accepted the assurances of Professor Dumbledore that

you bear no responsibility for the regrettable incident.

"Well, that's okay then, Hagrid!" said Ron, clapping Hagrid oil the

shoulder. But Hagrid continued to sob, and waved one of his gigantic

hands, inviting Harry to read on.

However, we must register our concern about the hippogriff in question.

We have decided to uphold the official complaint of Mr. Lucius Malfoy,

and this matter will therefore be taken to the Committee for the

Disposal of Dangerous Creatures. The hearing will take place on April

20th, and we ask you to present yourself and your hippogriff at the

Committee's offices in London on that date. In the meantime, the

hippogriff should be kept tethered and isolated. Yours in fellowship...

There followed a list of the school governors.

"Oh," said Ron. "But you said Buckbeak isn't a bad hippogriff, Hagrid. I

bet he'll get off

"Yeh don' know them gargoyles at the Committee fer the Disposal o'

Dangerous Creatures!" choked Hagrid, wiping his eyes on his sleeve.

"They've got it in fer interestin' creatures!"

A sudden sound from the corner of Hagrid's cabin made Harry, Ron, and

Hermione whip around. Buckbeak the hippogriff was lying in the corner,

chomping on something that was oozing blood all over the floor.

"I couldn' leave him tied up out there in the snow!" choked Hagrid. "All

on his own! At Christmas."

Harry, Ron, and Hermione looked at one another. They had never seen eye

to eye with Hagrid about what he called "interesting creatures" and

other people called "terrifying monsters." Or' the other hand, there

didn't seem to be any particular harm in Buckbeak. In fact, by Hagrid's

usual standards, he was positively cute.

"You'll have to put up a good strong defense, Hagrid," said Hermione,

sitting down and laying a hand on Hagrid's massive forearm. "I'm sure

you can prove Buckbeak is safe."

"Won't make no diff'rence!" sobbed Hagrid. "Them Disposal devils,

they're all in Lucius Malfoy's pocket! Scared o' him! Ad if I lose the

case, Buckbeak --"

Hagrid drew his finger swiftly across his throat, then gave a great wail

and lurched forward, his face in his arms.

"What about Dumbledore, Hagrid?" said Harry.

"He's done more'n enough fer me already," groaned Hagrid. "Got enough on

his plate what with keepin' them dementors outta the castle, an' Sirius

Black lurkin' around --"

Ron and Hermione looked quickly at Harry, as though expecting him to

start berating Hagrid for not telling him the truth about Black. But

Harry couldn't bring himself to do it, not now that he saw Hagrid so

miserable and scared.

"Listen, Hagrid," he said, "you can't give up. Hermione's right, You

just need a good defense. You can call us as witnesses --"

"I'm sure I've read about a case of hippogriff-baiting," said Hermione

thoughtfully, "where the hippogriff got off I'll look it up for you,

Hagrid, and see exactly what happened."

Hagrid howled still more loudly. Harry and Hermione looked at Ron to

help them.

"Er -- shall I make a cup of tea?" said Ron.

Harry stared at him.

"It's what my mum does whenever someone's upset," Ron muttered,

shrugging.

At last, after many more assurances of help, with a steaming mug of tea

in front of him, Hagrid blew his nose on a handkerchief the size of a

tablecloth and said, "Yer right. I can' afford to go ter pieces. Gotta

pull meself together.....

Fang the boarhound came timidly out from under the table and laid his

head on Hagrid's knee.

"I've not bin meself lately," said Hagrid, stroking Fang with one hand

and mopping his face with the other. "Worried abou' Buckbeak, an' no one

likin' me classes --"

"We do like them!" lied Hermione at once.

"Yeah, they're great!" said Ron, crossing his fingers under the table.

"Er -- how are the flobberworms?"

"Dead," said Hagrid gloomily. "Too much lettuce."

"Oh no!" said Ron, his lip twitching.

"An' them dementors make me feel ruddy terrible an' all," said Hagrid,

with a sudden shudder. "Gotta walk past 'em ev'ry time I want a drink in

the Three Broomsticks. 'S like bein' back in Azkaban --"

He fell silent, gulping his tea. Harry, Ron, and Hermione watched him

breathlessly. They had never heard Hagrid talk about his brief spell in

Azkaban before. After a pause, Hermione said timidly, "Is it awful in

there, Hagrid?"

"Yeh've no idea," said Hagrid quietly. "Never bin anywhere like it.

Thought I was goin' mad. Kep' goin' over horrible stuff in me mind...

the day I got expelled from Hogwarts... day me dad died... day I had ter

let Norbert go...."

His eyes filled with tears. Norbert was the baby dragon Hagrid had once

won in a game of cards.

"Yeh can' really remember who yeh are after a while. An' yeh can' really

see the point o' livin' at all. I used ter hope I'd jus' die in me

sleep. When they let me out, it was like bein' born again, ev'rythin' I

came floodin' back, it was the bes' feelin' in the world. Mind, the

dementors weren't keen on lettin' me go."

"But you were innocent!" said Hermione.

Hagrid snorted.

"Think that matters to them? They don' care. Long as they've got a

couple o' hundred humans stuck there with 'em, so they can leech all the

happiness out of 'em, they don' give a damn who's guilty an' who's not."

Hagrid went quiet for a moment, staring into his tea. Then he said

quietly, "Thought o' jus' letting Buckbeak go... tryin' ter make him fly

away... but how d'yeh explain ter a hippogriff it's gotta go inter

hidin'? An' -an' I'm scared o' breakin' the law...." He looked up at

them, tears leaking down his face again. "I don' ever want ter go back

ter Azkaban."

The trip to Hagrid's, though far from fun, had nevertheless had the

effect Ron and Hermione had hoped. Though Harry had by no means

forgotten about Black, he couldn't brood constantly on revenge if he

wanted to help Hagrid win his case against the Committee for the

Disposal of Dangerous Creatures. He, Ron, and Hermione went to the

library the next day and returned to the empty common room laden with

books that might help prepare a defense for Buckbeak. The three of them

sat in front of the roaring fire, slowly turning the pages of dusty

volumes about famous cases If marauding beasts, speaking occasionally

when they ran across something relevant.

"Here's something... there was a case in 1722... but the hippogriff was

convicted -- ugh, look what they did to it, that's disgusting --"

"This might help, look -- a manticore savaged someone in 1296, and they

let the manticore off -- oh -- no, that was only because everyone was

too scared to go near it."

Meanwhile, in the rest of the castle, the usual magnificent Christmas

decorations had been put up, despite the fact that hardly any of the

students remained to enjoy them. Thick streamers of holly and mistletoe

were strung along the corridors, mysterious lights shone from inside

every suit of armor, and the Great Hall was filled with its usual twelve

Christmas trees, glittering with golden stars. A powerful and delicious

smell of cooking pervaded the corridors, and by Christmas Eve, it had

grown so strong that even Scabbers poked his nose out of the shelter of

Ron's pocket to sniff hopefully at the air.

On Christmas morning, Harry was woken by Ron throwing his pillow at him.

"Oy! Presents!"

Harry reached for his glasses and put them on, squinting through the

semi-darkness to the foot of his bed, where a small heap of parcels had

appeared. Ron was already ripping the paper off his own presents.

'Another sweater from Mum... maroon again... see if you've got one.

Harry had. Mrs. Weasley had sent him a scarlet sweater with the

Gryffindor lion knitted on the front, also a dozen home-baked mince

pies, some Christmas cake, and a box of nut brittle. As he moved all

these things aside, he saw a long, thin package lying underneath.

"What's that?" said Ron, looking over, a freshly unwrapped pair of

maroon socks in his hand.

"Dunno..."

Harry ripped the parcel open and gasped as a magnificent, gleaming

broomstick rolled out onto his bedspread. Ron dropped his socks and

jumped off his bed for a closer look.

"I don't believe it," he said hoarsely.

It was a Firebolt, identical to the dream broom Harry had gone to see

every day in Diagon Alley. Its handle glittered as he picked it up. He

could feel it vibrating and let go; it hung in midair, unsupported, at

exactly the right height for him to mount it. His eyes moved from the

golden registration number at the top of the handle, right down to the

perfectly smooth, streamlined birch twigs that made up the tail.

"Who sent it to you?" said Ron in a hushed voice.

"Look and see if there's a card," said Harry.

Ron ripped apart the Firebolt's wrappings.

"Nothing! Blimey, who'd spend that much on you?"

"Well," said Harry, feeling stunned, "I'm betting it wasn't the

Dursleys."

I bet it was Dumbledore," said Ron, now walking around and around the

Firebolt, taking in every glorious inch. "He sent you the Invisibility

Cloak anonymously...."

"That was my dad's, though," said Harry. "Dumbledore was just Passing it

on to me. He wouldn't spend hundreds of Galleons on me. He can't go

giving students stuff like this --"

"That's why he wouldn't say it was from him!" said Ron. "In case some

git like Malfoy said it was favoritism. Hey, Harry" -- Ron gave a great

whoop of laughter -- "Malfoy! Wait till he sees you on this! He'll be

sick as a pig! This is an international standard broom, this is!"

"I can't believe this," Harry muttered, running a hand along the

Firebolt, while Ron sank onto Harry's bed, laughing his head off at the

thought of Malfoy. "Who -?"

"I know," said Ron, controlling himself, "I know who it could've been --

Lupin!"


"What?" said Harry, now starting to laugh himself "Lupin? Listen, if he

had this much gold, he'd be able to buy himself some new robes."

"Yeah, but he likes you," said Ron. "And he was away when your Nimbus

got smashed, and he might've heard about it and decided to visit Diagon

Alley and get this for you --"

"What d'you mean, he was away?" said Harry. "He was ill when I was

playing in that match."

"Well, he wasn't in the hospital wing," said Ron. "I was there, cleaning

out the bedpans on that detention from Snape, remember?"

Harry frowned at Ron.

"I can't see Lupin affording something like this."

"What're you two laughing about?"

Hermione had just come in, wearing her dressing gown and carrying

Crookshanks, who was looking very grumpy, with a string of tinsel tied

around his neck.

"Don't bring him in here!" said Ron, hurriedly snatching Scabbers from

the depths of his bed and stowing him in his pajama pocket.

But Hermione wasn't listening. She dropped Crookshanks onto Seamus's

empty bed and stared, open-mouthed, at the Firebolt.

"Oh, Harry! Who sent you that?"

"No idea," said Harry. "There wasn't a card or anything with it."

To his great surprise, Hermione did not appear either excited or

intrigued by the news. On the contrary, her face fell, and she bit her

lip.


"What's the matter with you?" said Ron.

"I don't know," said Hermione slowly, "but it's a bit odd, isn't it? I

mean, this is supposed to be quite a good broom, isn't it?"

Ron sighed exasperatedly.

"It's the best broom there is, Hermione," he said.

"So it must've been really expensive...."

"Probably cost more than all the Slytherins' brooms put together," said

Ron happily.

"Well... who'd send Harry something as expensive as that, and not even

tell him they'd sent it?" said Hermione.

"Who cares?" said Ron impatiently. "Listen, Harry, can I have a go on

it? Can I?"

"I don't think anyone should ride that broom just yet!" said Hermione

shrilly.


Harry and Ron looked at her.

"What d'you think Harry's going to do with it -- sweep the floor?" said

Ron.

But before Hermione could answer, Crookshanks sprang from Seamus's bed,



right at Ron's chest.

"GET -- HIM -- OUT -- OF -- HERE!" Ron bellowed as Crookshanks's claws

ripped his pajamas and Scabbers attempted a wild escape over his

shoulder. Ron seized Scabbers by the tail and aimed a misjudged kick at

Crookshanks that hit the trunk at the end of Harry's bed, knocking it

over and causing Ron to hop up and down, howling with pain.

Crookshanks's fur suddenly stood on end. A shrill, tint,, whistling was

filling the room. The Pocket Sneakoscope had become dislodged from Uncle

Vernon's old socks and was whirling and gleaming on the floor.

I forgot about that!" Harry said, bending down and picking up the

Sneakoscope. I never wear those socks if I can help it....

The Sneakoscope whirled and whistled in his palm. Crookshanks was

hissing and spitting at it.

"You'd better take that cat out of here, Hermione," said Ron furiously,

sitting on Harry's bed nursing his toe. "Can't you shut that thing up?"

he added to Harry as Hermione strode out of the room, Crookshanks's

yellow eyes still fixed maliciously on Ron.

Harry stuffed the Sneakoscope back inside the socks and threw it back

into his trunk. All that could be heard now were Ron's stifled moans of

pain and rage. Scabbers was huddled in Ron's hands. It had been a while

since Harry had seen him out of Ron's pocket, and he was unpleasantly

surprised to see that Scabbers, once so fat, was now very skinny;

patches of fur seemed to have fallen out too

"He's not looking too good, is he?" Harry said.

"It's stress!" said Ron. "He'd be fine if that big stupid furball left

him alone!"

But Harry, remembering what the woman at the Magical Menagerie had said

about rats living only three years, couldn't help feeling that unless

Scabbers had powers he had never revealed, he was reaching the end of

his life. And despite Ron's frequent conplaints that Scabbers was both

boring and useless, he was sure Ron would be very miserable if Scabbers

died.


Christmas spirit was definitely thin on the ground in the Gryffindor

common room that morning. Hermione had shut Crookshanks in her

dormitory, but was furious with Ron for trying to kick him; Ron was


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