Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone Read online
Chapter 16 Through the Trapdoor
In years to come, Harry would never quite remember how he had managed to get through his exams when he half expected Voldemort to come bursting through the door at any moment. Yet the days crept by, and there could be no doubt that Fluffy was still alive and well behind the locked door.
It was sweltering hot, especially in the large classroom where they did their written papers. They had been given special, new quills for the exams, which had been bewitched with an Anticheating spell.
They had practical exams as well. Professor Flitwick called them one by one into his class to see if they could make a pineapple tapdance across a desk. Professor McGonagall watched them turn a mouse into a snuffbox -- points were given for how pretty the snuffbox was, but taken away if it had whiskers. Snape made them all nervous, breathing down their necks while they tried to remember how to make a Forgetfulness potion.
Harry did the best he could, trying to ignore the stabbing pains in his forehead, which had been bothering him ever since his trip into the forest. Neville thought Harry had a bad case of exam nerves because Harry couldn't sleep, but the truth was that Harry kept being woken by his old nightmare, except that it was now worse than ever because there was a hooded figure dripping blood in it.
Maybe it was because they hadn't seen what Harry had seen in the forest, or because they didn't have scars burning on their foreheads, but Ron and Hermione didn't seem as worried about the Stone as Harry. The idea of Voldemort certainly scared them, but he didn't keep visiting them in dreams, and they were so busy with their studying they didn't have much time to fret about what Snape or anyone else might be up to.
Their very last exam was History of Magic. One hour of answering questions about batty old wizards who'd invented selfstirring cauldrons and they'd be free, free for a whole wonderful week until their exam results came out. When the ghost of Professor Binns told them to put down their quills and roll up their parchment, Harry couldn't help cheering with the rest.
"That was far easier than I thought it would be," said Hermione as they joined the crowds flocking out onto the sunny grounds. "I needn't have learned about the 1637 Werewolf Code of Conduct or the uprising of Elfric the Eager. "
Hermione always liked to go through their exam papers afterward, but Ron said this made him feel ill, so they wandered down to the lake and flopped under a tree. The Weasley twins and Lee Jordan were tickling the tentacles of a giant squid, which was basking in the warm shallows. "No more studying," Ron sighed happily, stretching out on the grass. "You could look more cheerful, Harry, we've got a week before we find out how badly we've done, there's no need to worry yet. "
Harry was rubbing his forehead.
"I wish I knew what this means!" he burst out angrily. "My scar keeps hurting -- it's happened before, but never as often as this. "
"Go to Madam Pomfrey," Hermione suggested.
"I'm not ill," said Harry. "I think it's a warning. . . it means danger's coming. . . "
Ron couldn't get worked up, it was too hot.
"Harry, relax, Hermione's right, the Stone's safe as long as Dumbledore's around. Anyway, we've never had any proof Snape found out how to get past Fluffy. He nearly had his leg ripped off once, he's not going to try it again in a hurry. And Neville will play Quidditch for England before Hagrid lets Dumbledore down. "
Harry nodded, but he couldn't shake off a lurking feeling that there was something he'd forgotten to do, something important. When he tried to explain this, Hermione said, "That's just the exams. I woke up last night and was halfway through my Transfiguration notes before I remembered we'd done that one. "
Harry was quite sure the unsettled feeling didn't have anything to do with work, though. He watched an owl flutter toward the school across the bright blue sky, a note clamped in its mouth. Hagrid was the only one who ever sent him letters. Hagrid would never betray Dumbledore. Hagrid would never tell anyone how to get past Fluffy. . . never. . . but. . .
Harry suddenly jumped to his feet.
"Where're you going?" said Ron sleepily.
"I've just thought of something," said Harry. He had turned white. "We've got to go and see Hagrid, now. "
"Why?" panted Hermione, hurrying to keep up.
"Don't you think it's a bit odd," said Harry, scrambling up the grassy slope, "that what Hagrid wants more than anything else is a dragon, and a stranger turns up who just happens to have an egg in his pocket? How many people wander around with dragon eggs if it's against wizard law? Lucky they found Hagrid, don't you think? Why didn't I see it before?"
"What are you talking about?" said Ron, but Harry, sprinting across the grounds toward the forest, didn't answer.
Hagrid was sitting in an armchair outside his house; his trousers and sleeves were rolled up, and he was shelling peas into a large bowl.
"Hullo," he said, smiling. "Finished yer exams? Got time fer a drink?"
"Yes, please," said Ron, but Harry cut him off.
"No, we're in a hurry. Hagrid, I've got to ask you something. You know that night you won Norbert? What did the stranger you were playing cards with look like?"
"Dunno," said Hagrid casually, "he wouldn' take his cloak off. "
He saw the three of them look stunned and raised his eyebrows.
"It's not that unusual, yeh get a lot o' funny folk in the Hog's Head -- that's the pub down in the village. Mighta bin a dragon dealer, mightn' he? I never saw his face, he kept his hood up. "
Harry sank down next to the bowl of peas. "What did you talk to him about, Hagrid? Did you mention Hogwarts at all?"
"Mighta come up," said Hagrid, frowning as he tried to remember. "Yeah. . . he asked what I did, an' I told him I was gamekeeper here. . . He asked a bit about the sorta creatures I took after. . . so I told him. . . an' I said what I'd always really wanted was a dragon. . . an' then. . . I can' remember too well, 'cause he kept buyin' me drinks. . . Let's see. . . yeah, then he said he had the dragon egg an' we could play cards fer it if I wanted. . . but he had ter be sure I could handle it, he didn' want it ter go ter any old home. . . So I told him, after Fluffy, a dragon would be easy. . . "
"And did he -- did he seem interested in Fluffy?" Harry asked, trying to keep his voice calm.
"Well -- yeah -- how many three-headed dogs d'yeh meet, even around Hogwarts? So I told him, Fluffy's a piece o' cake if yeh know how to calm him down, jus' play him a bit o' music an' he'll go straight off ter sleep--"
Hagrid suddenly looked horrified.
"I shouldn'ta told yeh that!" he blurted out. "Forget I said it! Hey -- where're yeh goin'?"
Harry, Ron, and Hermione didn't speak to each other at all until they came to a halt in the entrance hall, which seemed very cold and gloomy after the grounds.
"We've got to go to Dumbledore," said Harry. "Hagrid told that stranger how to get past Fluffy, and it was either Snape or Voldemort under that cloak -- it must've been easy, once he'd got Hagrid drunk. I just hope Dumbledore believes us. Firenze might back us up if Bane doesn't stop him. Where's Dumbledore's office?"
They looked around, as if hoping to see a sign pointing them in the right direction. They had never been told where Dumbledore lived, nor did they know anyone who had been sent to see him.
"We'll just have to -- " Harry began, but a voice suddenly rang across the hall.
"What are you three doing inside?"
It was Professor McGonagall, carrying a large pile of books.
"We want to see Professor Dumbledore," said Hermione, rather bravely, Harry and Ron thought.
"See Professor Dumbledore?" Professor McGonagall repeated, as though this was a very fishy thing to want to do. "Why?"
Harry swallowed -- now what?
"It's sort of secret," he said, but he wished at once he hadn't, because Professor McGonagall's nostrils flared.
"Professor Dumbledore left ten minutes ago," she said coldly. "He receiv