Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Read online

Page 7


Chapter 7 The Boggart in the Wardrobe

 

  Malfoy didn't reappear in classes until late on Thursday morning, when the Slytherins and Gryffindors were halfway through double Potions. He swaggered into the dungeon, his right arm covered in bandages and bound up in a sling, acting, in Harry's opinion, as though he were the heroic survivor of some dreadful battle.

  "How is it, Draco?" simpered Pansy Parkinson. "Does it hurt much?"

  "Yeah," said Malfoy, putting on a brave sort of grimace. But Harry saw him wink at Crabbe and Goyle when Pansy had looked away.

  "Settle down, settle down," said Professor Snape idly.

  Harry and Ron scowled at each other; Snape wouldn't have said 'settle down' if they'd walked in late, he'd have given them detention. But Malfoy had always been able to get away with anything in Snape's classes; Snape was head of Slytherin House, and generally favored his own students above all others.

  They were making a new potion today, a Shrinking Solution. Malfoy set up his cauldron right next to Harry and Ron, so that they were preparing their ingredients on the same table.

  "Sir," Malfoy called, "sir, I'll need help cutting up these daisy roots, because of my arm --"

  "Weasley, cut up Malfoy's roots for him," said Snape without looking up.

  Ron went brick red.

  "There's nothing wrong with your arm," he hissed at Malfoy.

  Malfoy smirked across the table.

  "Weasley, you heard Professor Snape; cut up these roots. "

  Ron seized his knife, pulled Malfoy's roots toward him, and began to chop them roughly, so that they were all different sizes.

  "Professor," drawled Malfoy, "Weasley's mutilating my roots, sir. "

  Snape approached their table, stared down his hooked nose at the roots, then gave Ron an unpleasant smile from beneath his long, greasy black hair.

  "Change roots with Malfoy, Weasley. "

  "But, sir --!"

  Ron had spent the last quarter of an hour carefully shredding his own roots into exactly equal pieces.

  "Now," said Snape in his most dangerous voice.

  Ron shoved his own beautifully cut roots across the table at Malfoy, then took up the knife again.

  "And, sir, I'll need this shrivelfig skinned," said Malfoy, his voice full of malicious laughter.

  "Potter, you can skin Malfoy's shrivelfig," said Snape, giving Harry the look of loathing he always reserved just for him.

  Harry took Malfoy's shrivelfig as Ron began trying to repair the damage to the roots he now had to use. Harry skinned the shrivelfig as fast as he could and flung it back across the table at Malfoy without speaking. Malfoy was smirking more broadly than ever.

  "Seen your pal Hagrid lately?" he asked them quietly.

  "None of your business," said Ron jerkily, without looking up.

  "I'm afraid he won't be a teacher much longer," said Malfoy in a tone of mock sorrow. "Father's not very happy about my injury --"

  "Keep talking, Malfoy, and I'll give you a real injury," snarled Ron.

  "¨C he's complained to the school governors. And to the Ministry of Magic. Father's got a lot of influence, you know. And a lasting injury like this" -- he gave a huge, fake sigh -- "who knows if my arm'll ever be the same again?"

  "So that's why you're putting it on," said Harry, accidentally beheading a dead caterpillar because his hand was shaking in anger, "To try to get Hagrid fired. "

  "Well," said Malfoy, lowering his voice to a whisper, "partly, Potter. But there are other benefits too. Weasley, slice my caterpillars for me. "

  A few cauldrons away, Neville was in trouble. Neville regularly went to pieces in Potions lessons; it was his worst subject, and his great fear of Professor Snape made things ten times worse. His potion, which was supposed to be a bright, acid green, had turned --

  "Orange, Longbottom," said Snape, ladling some up and allowing to splash back into the cauldron, so that everyone could see.

  "Orange. Tell me, boy, does anything penetrate that thick skull of yours? Didn't you hear me say, quite clearly, that only one cat spleen was needed? Didn't I state plainly that a dash of leech juice would suffice? What do I have to do to make you understand, Longbottom?"

  Neville was pink and trembling. He looked as though he was on the verge of tears.

  "Please, sir," said Hermione, "please, I could help Neville put it right --"

  "I don't remember asking you to show off, Miss Granger," said Snape coldly, and Hermione went as pink as Neville. "Longbottom, at the end of this lesson we will feed a few drops of this potion to your toad and see what happens. Perhaps that will encourage you to do it properly. "

  Snape moved away, leaving Neville breathless with fear.

  "Help me!" he moaned to Hermione.

  "Hey, Harry," said Seamus Finnigan, leaning over to borrow Harry's brass scales, "have you heard? Daily Prophet this morning -- they reckon Sirius Black's been sighted. "

  "Where?" said Harry and Ron quickly. On the other side of the table, Malfoy looked up, listening closely.

  "Not too far from here," said Seamus, who looked excited. "It was a Muggle who saw him. 'Course, she didn't really understand. The Muggles think he's just an ordinary criminal, don't they? So she phoned the telephone hot line. By the time the Ministry of Magic got there, he was gone. "

  "Not too far from here . . . " Ron repeated, looking significantly at Harry. He turned around and saw Malfoy watching closely. "What, Malfoy? Need something else skinned?"

  But Malfoy's eyes were shining malevolently, and they were fixed Harry. He leaned across the table.

  "Thinking of trying to catch Black single-handed, Potter?"

  "Yeah, that's right," said Harry offhandedly.

  Malfoy's thin mouth was curving in a mean smile.

  "Of course, if it was me," he said quietly, "I'd have done something before now. I wouldn't be staying in school like a good boy, I'd be out there looking for him. "

  "What are you talking about, Malfoy?" said Ron roughly.

  "Don't you know, Potter?" breathed Malfoy, his pale eyes narrowed.

  "Know what?"

  Malfoy let out a low, sneering laugh.

  "Maybe you'd rather not risk your neck," he said. "Want to leave it to the Dementors, do you? But if it was me, I'd want revenge. I'd hunt him down myself. "

  "What are you talking about?" said Harry angrily, but at that moment Snape called, "You should have finished adding your ingredients by now; this potion needs to stew before it can be drunk, so clear away while it simmers and then we'll test Longbottom's. . . "

  Crabbe and Goyle laughed openly, watching Neville sweat as he stirred his potion feverishly. Hermione was muttering instructions to him out of the corner of her mouth, so that Snape wouldn't see. Harry and Ron packed away their unused ingredients and went to wash their hands and ladles in the stone basin in the corner.

  "What did Malfoy mean?" Harry muttered to Ron as he stuck his hands under the icy jet that poured from the gargoyle's mouth "Why would I want revenge on Black? He hasn't done anything to me -- yet. "

  "He's making it up," said Ron savagely. "He's trying to make you do something stupid. . . "

  The end of the lesson in sight, Snape strode over to Neville, who was cowering by his cauldron.

  "Everyone gather 'round," said Snape, his black eyes glittering, "and watch what happens to Longbottom's toad. If he has managed to produce a Shrinking Solution, it will shrink to a tadpole. If, as I don't doubt, he has done it wrong, his toad is likely to be poisoned. "

  The Gryffindors watched fearfully. The Slytherins looked excited. Snape picked up Trevor the toad in his left hand and dipped a small spoon into Neville's potion, which was now green. He trickled a few drops down Trevor's throat.

  There was a moment of hushed silence, in which Trevor gulped; then there was a small pop, and Trevor the tadpole was wriggling in Snape's palm.

  The Gryf