Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Read online

Page 5

Chapter 5 The Dementor


  Tom woke Harry the next morning with his usual toothless grin and a cup of tea. Harry got dressed and was just persuading a disgruntled Hedwig to get back into her cage when Ron banged his way into the room, pulling a sweatshirt over his head and looking irritable.

  "The sooner we get on the train, the better," he said. "At least I can get away from Percy at Hogwarts. Now he's accusing me of dripping tea on his photo of Penelope Clearwater. You know," Ron grimaced, "his girlfriend. She's hidden her face under the frame because her nose has gone all blotchy. . . "

  "I've got something to tell you," Harry began, but they were interrupted by Fred and George, who had looked in to congratulate Ron on infuriating Percy again.

  They headed down to breakfast, where Mr. Weasley was reading the front page of the Daily Prophet with a furrowed brow and Mrs. Weasley was telling Hermione and Ginny about a love potion she'd made as a young girl. All three of them were rather giggly.

  "What were you saying?" Ron asked Harry as they sat down.

  "Later," Harry muttered as Percy stormed in.

  Harry had no chance to speak to Ron or Hermione in the chaos of leaving; they were too busy heaving all their trunks down the Leaky Cauldron's narrow staircase and piling them up near the door, with Hedwig and Hermes, Percy's screech owl, perched on top in their cages. A small wickerwork basket stood beside the heap of trunks, spitting loudly.

  "It's all right, Crookshanks," Hermione cooed through the wickerwork. "I'll let you out on the train. "

  "You won't," snapped Ron. "What about poor Scabbers, eh?"

  He pointed at his chest, where a large lump indicated that Scabbers was curled up in his pocket.

  Mr. Weasley, who had been outside waiting for the Ministry cars, stuck his head inside.

  "They're here, he said. "Harry, come on. "

  Mr. Weasley marched Harry across the short stretch of pavement toward the first of two old-fashioned dark green cars, each of which was driven by a furtive-looking wizard wearing a suit of emerald velvet.

  "In you get, Harry," said Mr. Weasley, glancing up and down the crowded street.

  Harry got into the back of the car and was shortly joined by Hermione, Ron, and, to Ron's disgust, Percy.

  The journey to King's Cross was very uneventful compared with Harry's trip on the Knight Bus. The Ministry of Magic cars seemed almost ordinary. though Harry noticed that they could slide through gaps that Uncle Vernon's new company car certainly couldn't have managed. They reached King's Cross with twenty minutes to spare; the Ministry drivers found them trolleys, unloaded their trunks, touched their hats in salute to Mr. Weasley, and drove away, somehow managing to jump to the head of an unmoving line at the traffic lights.

  Mr. Weasley kept close to Harry's elbow all the way into the station.

  "Right then," he said, glancing around them. "Let's do this in pairs, as there are so many of us. I'll go through first with Harry. "

  Mr. Weasley strolled toward the barrier between platforms nine and ten, pushing Harry's trolley and apparently very interested in the InterCity 125 that had just arrived at platform nine. With a meaningful look at Harry, he leaned casually against the barrier. Harry imitated him.

  In a moment, they had fallen sideways through the solid metal onto platform nine and three-quarters and looked up to see the Hogwarts Express, a scarlet steam engine, puffing smoke over a platform packed with witches and wizards seeing their children onto the train.

  Percy and Ginny suddenly appeared behind Harry. They were panting and had apparently taken the barrier at a run.

  "Ah, there's Penelope!" said Percy, smoothing his hair and going pink again. Ginny caught Harry's eye, and they both turned away to hide their laughter as Percy strode over to a girl with long, curly hair, walking with his chest thrown out so that she couldn't miss his shiny badge.

  Once the remaining Weasleys and Hermione had joined them, Harry and Mr. Weasley led the way to the end of the train, past packed compartments, to a carriage that looked quite empty. They loaded the trunks onto it, stowed Hedwig and Crookshanks in the luggage rack, then went back outside to say goodbye to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.

  Mrs. Weasley kissed all her children, then Hermione, and finally Harry. He was embarrassed, but really quite pleased, when she gave him an extra hug.

  "Do take care, won't you Harry?" she said as she straightened up, her eyes oddly bright. Then she opened her enormous handbag and said, "I've made you all sandwiches. Here you are, Ron. . . no, they're not corned beef. . . Fred? Where's Fred? Here you are dear. . . "

  "Harry," said Mr. Weasley quietly, "come over here for a moment. "

  He jerked his head towards a pillar, and Harry followed him behind it, leaving the others crowded around Mrs. Weasley.

  "There's something I've got to tell you before you leave --" said Mr. Weasley in a tense voice.

  "It's all right, Mr. Weasley," said Harry, "I already know. "

  "You know? How could you know?"

  "I -- er -- I heard you and Mrs. Wesley talking last night. I couldn't help hearing," Harry added quickly. "Sorry --"

  "That's not the way I'd have chosen for you to find out," said Mr. Weasley looking anxious. .

  "No -- honestly it's OK. This way, you haven't broken your word to Fudge and I know what's going on. "

  "Harry, you must be scared -- "

  "I'm not," said Harry sincerely. "Really," he added, because Mr. Weasley was looking disbelieving. "I'm not trying to be a hero, but seriously, Sirius Black can't be worse than Lord Voldemort, can he?"

  Mr. Weasley flinched at the sound of the name, but overlooked it.

  "Harry, I knew you were, well, made of stronger stuff than Fudge seems to think, and I'm obviously pleased that you're not scared, but --"

  "Arthur!" called Mrs. Weasley, who was now shepherding the rest onto the train. "Arthur, what are you doing? It's about to go!"

  "He's coming Molly!" said Mr. Weasley, but he turned back to Harry and kept talking in a lower and more hurried voice, "Listen, I want you to give me your word --"

  " -- that I'll be a good boy and stay in the castle?" said Harry gloomily.

  "Not entirely," said Mr. Weasley, who looked more serious than Harry had ever seen him. "Harry, swear to me you won't go looking for Black. "

  Harry stared, "What!"

  There was a loud whistle. Guards were walking along the train, slamming all the doors shut.

  "Promise me, Harry," said Mr. Weasley, talking more quickly still, "that whatever happens --"

  "Why would I go looking for someone I know wants to kill me?" said Harry blankly.

  "Swear to me that whatever you might hear --"

  "Arthur, quickly!" cried Mrs. Weasley.

  Steam was billowing from the train it had started to move. Harry ran to the compartment door and Ron threw it open and stood back to let him on. They leaned out of the window and waved at Mr. and Mrs. Weasley until the train turned a corner and blocked them from view.

  "I need to talk to you in private," Harry muttered to Ron and Hermione as the train picked up speed.

  "Go away, Ginny," said Ron.

  "Oh, that's nice," said Ginny huffily, and she stalked off.

  Harry, Ron, and Hermione set off down the corridor, looking for an empty compartment, but all were full except for the one at the very end of the train.

  This had only one occupant, a man sitting fast asleep next to the window. Harry, Ron, and Hermione checked on the threshold. The Hogwarts Express was usually reserved for students and they had never seen an adult there before, except for the witch who pushed the food cart.

  The stranger was wearing an extremely shabby set of wizard's robes that had been darned in several places. He looked ill and exhausted. Though quite young, his light brown hair was flecked with gray.

  "Who d'you reckon he is?" Ron hissed as they sat down and slid the door shut, taking