Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Read online

Page 15


Chapter 15 The Quidditch Final

 

  "He sent me this," Hermione said, holding out the letter.

  Harry took it. The parchment was damp, and enormous teardrops had smudged the ink so badly in places that it was very difficult to read.

  Dear Hermione,

  We lost.

  I'm allowed to bring him back to Hogwarts. Execution date to be fixed.

  Beaky has enjoyed London.

  I won't forget all the help you gave us.

  Hagrid

  "They can't do this," said Harry. "They can't. Buckbeak isn't dangerous. "

  "Malfoy's dad's frightened the Committee into it," said Hermione, wiping her eyes. "You know what he's like. They're a bunch of doddery old fools, and they were scared. There'll be an appeal, though, there always is. Only I can't see any hope. . . Nothing will have changed. "

  "Yeah, it will," said Ron fiercely. "You won't have to do all the work alone this time, Hermione. I'll help. "

  "Oh, Ron!"

  Hermione flung her arms around Ron's neck and broke down completely. Ron, looking quite terrified, patted her very awkwardly on the top of the head. Finally, Hermione drew away.

  "Ron, I'm really, really sorry about Scabbers. . . " she sobbed.

  "Oh -- well -- he was old," said Ron, looking thoroughly relieved that she had let go of him. "And he was a bit useless. You never know, Mum and Dad might get me an owl now. "

  The safety measures imposed on the students since Black's second break-in made it impossible for Harry, Ron, and Hermione to go and visit Hagrid in the evenings. Their only chance of talking to him was during Care of Magical Creatures lessons.

  He seemed numb with shock at the verdict.

  "S'all my fault. Got all tongue-tied. They was all sittin' there in black robes an' I kep' droppin' me notes and forgettin' all them dates yeh looked up fer me, Hermione. An' then Lucius Malfoy stood up an' said his bit, and the Committee jus' did exac'ly what he told 'em. . . "

  "There's still the appeal!" said Ron fiercely. "Don't give up yet, we're working on it!"

  They were walking back up to the castle with the rest of the class. Ahead they could see Malfoy, who was walking with Crabbe and Goyle, and kept looking back, laughing derisively.

  "S'no good, Ron," said Hagrid sadly as they reached the castle steps. "That Committee's in Lucius Malfoy's pocket. I'm jus' gonna make sure the rest o' Beaky's time is the happiest he's ever had. I owe him that. . . . "

  Hagrid turned around and hurried back toward his cabin, his face buried in his handkerchief.

  "Look at him blubber!"

  Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle had been standing just inside the castle doors, listening.

  "Have you ever seen anything quite as pathetic?" said Malfoy. "And he's supposed to be our teacher!"

  Harry and Ron both made furious moves toward Malfoy, but Hermione got there first -- SMACK!

  She had slapped Malfoy across the face with all the strength she could muster. Malfoy staggered. Harry, Ron, Crabbe, and Goyle stood flabbergasted as Hermione raised her hand again.

  "Don't you dare call Hagrid pathetic, you foul -- you evil --"

  "Hermione!" said Ron weakly, and he tried to grab her hand as she swung it back.

  "Get off, Ron!"

  Hermione pulled out her wand. Malfoy stepped backward. Crabbe and Goyle looked at him for instructions, thoroughly bewildered.

  "C'mon. " Malfoy muttered, and in a moment, all three of them had disappeared into the passageway to the dungeons.

  "Hermione!" Ron said again, sounding both stunned and impressed.

  "Harry, you'd better beat him in the Quidditch final!" Hermione said shrilly. "You just better had, because I can't stand it if Slytherin wins!"

  "We're due in Charms," said Ron, still goggling at Hermione. "We'd better go. "

  They hurried up the marble staircase toward Professor Flitwick's classroom.

  "You're late, boys!" said Professor Flitwick reprovingly as Harry opened the classroom door. "Come along, quickly, wands out, we're experimenting with Cheering Charms today, we've already divided into pairs --"

  Harry and Ron hurried to a desk at the back and opened their bags. Ron looked behind him.

  "Where's Hermione gone?"

  Harry looked around too. Hermione hadn't entered the classroom, yet Harry knew she had been right next to him when he had opened the door.

  "That's weird," said Harry, staring at Ron. "Maybe -- maybe she went to the bathroom or something?"

  But Hermione didn't turn up all lesson.

  "She could've done with a Cheering Charm on her too," said Ron as the class left for lunch, all grinning broadly -- the Cheering Charms had left them with a feeling of great contentment.

  Hermione wasn't at lunch either. By the time they had finished their apple pie, the after-effects of the Cheering Charms were wearing off, and Harry and Ron had started to get slightly worried.

  "You don't think Malfoy did something to her?" Ron said anxiously as they hurried upstairs toward Gryffindor Tower.

  They passed the security trolls, gave the Fat Lady the password ("Flibbertigibbet"), and scrambled through the portrait hole into the common room.

  Hermione was sitting at a table, fast asleep, her head resting on an open Arithmancy book. They went to sit down on either side of her. Harry prodded her awake.

  "Wh -- what?" said Hermione, waking with a start and staring wildly around. "Is it time to go? W -- which lesson have we got now?"

  "Divination, but it's not for another twenty minutes," said Harry. "Hermione, why didn't you come to Charms?"

  "What? Oh no!" Hermione squeaked. "I forgot to go to Charms!"

  "But how could you forget?" said Harry. "You were with us till we were right outside the classroom!"

  "I don't believe it!" Hermione wailed. "Was Professor Flitwick angry? Oh, it was Malfoy, I was thinking about him and I lost track of things!"

  "You know what, Hermione?" said Ron, looking down at the enormous Arithmancy book Hermione had been using as a pillow. "I reckon you're cracking up. You're trying to do too much. "

  "No, I'm not!" said Hermione, brushing her hair out of her eyes and staring hopelessly around for her bag. "I just made a mistake, that's all! I'd better go and see Professor Flitwick and say sorry . . . I'll see you in Divination!"

  Hermione joined them at the foot of the ladder to Professor Trelawney's classroom twenty minutes later, looking extremely harassed.

  "I can't believe I missed Cheering Charms! And I bet they come up in our exams; Professor Flitwick hinted they might!"

  Together they climbed the ladder into the dim, stifling tower room. Glowing on every little table was a crystal ball full of pearly white mist. Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat down together at the same rickety table.

  "I thought we weren't starting crystal balls until next term," Ron muttered, casting a wary eye around for Professor Trelawney, in case she was lurking nearby.

  "Don't complain, this means we've finished palmistry," Harry muttered back. "I was getting sick of her flinching every time she looked at my hands. "

  "Good day to you!" said the familiar, misty voice, and Professor Trelawney made her usual dramatic entrance out of the shadows. Parvati and Lavender quivered with excitement, their faces lit by the milky glow of their crystal ball.

  "I have decided to introduce the crystal ball a little earlier than I had planned," said Professor Trelawney, sitting with her back to the fire and gazing around. "The fates have informed me that your examination in June will concern the Orb, and I am anxious to give you sufficient practice. "

  Hermione snorted.

  "Well, honestly. . . 'the fates have informed her'. Who sets the exam? She does! What an amazing prediction!" she said, not troubling to keep her voice low. Harry and Ron choked back laughs.

  It was hard to tell whether Professor Trelawney had heard them as her face was hidden in shadow