BOOK 2 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

CHAPTER ONE – THE WORST BIRTHDAY
Not for the first t ime, an argument had broken out over breakfast at number
four, Privet Drive. Mr. Vernon Dursley had been woken in the early hours of the
morning by a loud, hooting noise from his nephew Harry’s room.
“ Third t ime this week!” he roared across the table. “ If you can’ t cont rol that
owl, it’ll have to go!”
Harry tried, yet again, to explain.
“ She’ s bored,” he said. “ She’ s used to flying around outside. If I could j ust let
her out at night –”
“ Do I look stupid?” snarled Uncle Vernon, a bit of fried egg dangling f rom his
bushy mustache. “I know what’ll happen if that owl’s let out.”
He exchanged dark looks with his wife, Petunia.
Harry t ried to argue back but his words were drowned by a long, loud belch
from the Dursleys’ son, Dudley.
“I want more bacon.”
“ There’ s more in the f rying pan, sweetums,” said Aunt Petunia, turning misty
eyes on her massive son. “We must build you up while we’ve got the chance … I don’t
like the sound of that school food…”
“ Nonsense, Petunia, I never went hungry when I was at Smelt ings,” said Uncle
Vernon heartily. “Dudley gets enough, don’t you, son?”
Dudley, who was so large his bot tom drooped over either side of the kitchen
chair, grinned and turned to Harry.
“Pass the frying pan.”
“You’ve forgotten the magic word,” said Harry irritably.
The effect of this simple sentence on the rest of the family was incredible:
Dudley gasped and fell off his chair with a crash that shook the whole kitchen; Mrs.
Dursley gave a small scream and clapped her hands to her mouth; Mr. Dursley j umped
to his feet, veins throbbing in his temples.
“I meant ‘please’!” said Harry quickly. “I didn’t mean –”
“WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU,” thundered his uncle, spraying spit over the table,
“ABOUT SAYING THE ‘M’ WORD IN OUR HOUSE?”
“But I –”
“HOW DARE YOU THREATEN DUDLEY!” roared Uncle Vernon, pounding the table
with his fist.
“I just –”
“ I WARNED YOU! I WILL NOT TOLERATE MENTION OF YOUR ABNORMALITY
UNDER THIS ROOF!”
Harry stared from his purple–faced uncle to his pale aunt , who was t rying to
heave Dudley to his feet.
“All right,” said Harry, “all right…“
Uncle Vernon sat back down, breathing like a winded rhinoceros and watching
Harry closely out of the corners of his small, sharp eyes. Ever since Harry had come
home for the summer holidays, Uncle Vernon had been t reat ing him like a bomb that
might go off at any moment, because Harry Potter wasn’t a normal boy. As a matter of
fact, he was as not normal as it is possible to be.
Harry Pot ter was a wizard – a wizard fresh from his first year at Hogwarts
School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And if the Dursleys were unhappy to have him back
for the holidays, it was nothing to how Harry felt.
He missed Hogwarts so much it was like having a constant stomachache. He
missed the cast le, with its secret passageways and ghosts, his classes (though perhaps
not Snape, the Pot ions master), the mail arriving by owl, eat ing banquets in the Great
Hall, sleeping in his four–poster bed in the tower dormitory, visit ing the gamekeeper,
Hagrid, in his cabin next to the Forbidden Forest in the grounds, and, especially,
Quidditch, the most popular sport in the wizarding world (six tall goal posts, four
flying balls, and fourteen players on broomsticks).
All Harry’ s spellbooks, his wand, robes, cauldron, and top–of–the–line Nimbus
Two Thousand broomst ick had been locked in a cupboard under the stairs by Uncle
Vernon the instant Harry had come home. What did the Dursleys care if Harry lost his
place on the House Quidditch team because he hadn’t practiced all summer? What was
it to the Dursleys if Harry went back to school without any of his homework done?The
Dursleys were what wizards called Muggles (not a drop of magical blood in their veins),
and as far as they were concerned, having a wizard in the family was a mat ter of
deepest shame. Uncle Vernon had even padlocked Harry’ s owl, Hedwig, inside her
cage, to stop her from carrying messages to anyone in the wizarding world.
Harry looked nothing like the rest of the family. Uncle Vernon was large and
neckless, with an enormous black mustache; Aunt Petunia was horse–faced and bony;
Dudley was blond, pink, and porky. Harry, on the other hand, was small and skinny,
with brilliant green eyes and j et–black hair that was always unt idy. He wore round
glasses, and on his forehead was a thin, lightning–shaped scar.
It was this scar that made Harry so particularly unusual, even for a wizard. This
scar was the only hint of Harry’ s very mysterious past , of the reason he had been left
on the Dursleys’ doorstep eleven years before. At the age of one year old, Harry had
somehow survived a curse from the greatest Dark sorcerer of all time, Lord Voldemort,
whose name most witches and wizards st ill feared to speak. Harry’ s parents had died
in Voldemort ’ s at tack, but Harry had escaped with his lightning scar, and somehow –
nobody understood why Voldemort ’ s powers had been dest royed the instant he had
failed to kill Harry.
So Harry had been brought up by his dead mother’ s sister and her husband. He
had spent ten years with the Dursleys, never understanding why he kept making odd
things happen without meaning to, believing the Dursleys’ story that he had got his
scar in the car crash that had killed his parents.
And then, exact ly a year ago, Hogwarts had writ ten to Harry, and the whole
story had come out . Harry had taken up his place at wizard school, where he and his
scar were famous … but now the school year was over, and he was back with the
Dursleys for the summer, back to being t reated like a dog that had rolled in something
smelly.
The Dursleys hadn’ t even remembered that today happened to be Harry’s
twelfth birthday. Of course, his hopes hadn’ t been high; they’ d never given him a real
present, let alone a cake – but to ignore it completely…
At that moment , Uncle Vernon cleared his throat important ly and said, “ Now,
as we all know, today is a very important day.”
Harry looked up, hardly daring to believe it.
“ This could well be the day I make the biggest deal of my career, “ said Uncle
Vernon.
Harry went back to his toast . Of course, he thought bit terly, Uncle Vernon was
talking about the stupid dinner party. He’d been talking of nothing else for two weeks.
Some rich builder and his wife were coming to dinner and Uncle Vernon was hoping to
get a huge order from him (Uncle Vernon’s company made drills).
“ I think we should run through the schedule one more t ime,” said Uncle
Vernon. “We should all be in position at eight o’clock. Petunia, you will be –?”
“ In the lounge,” said Aunt Petunia prompt ly, “ wait ing to welcome them
graciously to our home.”
“Good, good. And Dudley?”
“ I’ ll be wait ing to open the door.” Dudley put on a foul, simpering smile. “May
I take your coats, Mr. and Mrs. Mason?”
“They’ll love him!” cried Aunt Petunia rapturously.
“Excellent, Dudley,” said Uncle Vernon. Then he rounded on Harry. “And you?”
“ I’ ll be in my bedroom, making no noise and pretending I’m not there,” said
Harry tonelessly.
“ Exact ly,” said Uncle Vernon nast ily. “ I will lead them into the lounge,
introduce you, Petunia, and pour them drinks. At eight–fifteen –”
“I’ll announce dinner,” said Aunt Petunia.
“And, Dudley, you’ll say –”
“May I take you through to the dining room, Mrs. Mason?” said Dudley, of fering
his fat arm to an invisible woman.
“My perfect little gentleman!” sniffed Aunt Petunia.
“And you?” said Uncle Vernon viciously to Harry.
“ I’ ll be in my room, making no noise and pretending I’m not there,” said Harry
dully.
“ Precisely. Now, we should aim to get in a few good compliments at dinner.
Petunia, any ideas?”
“ Vernon tells me you’ re a wonderful golfer, Mr. Mason… Do tell me where you
bought your dress, Mrs. Mason …
“Perfect…Dudley?”
“ How about – ‘We had to write an essay about our hero at school, Mr. Mason,
and I wrote about you.”‘
This was too much for both Aunt Petunia and Harry. Aunt Petunia burst into
tears and hugged her son, while Harry ducked under the table so they wouldn’ t see
him laughing.
“And you, boy?”
Harry fought to keep his face straight as he emerged.
“I’ll be in my room, making no noise and pretending I’m not there,” he said.
“ Too right , you will,” said Uncle Vernon forcefully. “ The Masons don’ t know
anything about you and it ’ s going to stay that way. When dinner’ s over, you take Mrs.
Mason back to the lounge for coffee, Petunia, and I’ ll bring the subj ect around to
drills. With any luck, I’ ll have the deal signed and sealed before the news at ten. be
shopping for a vacation home in Majorca this time tomorrow.
Harry couldn’ t feel too excited about this. He didn’ t think the Dursleys would
like him any better in Majorca than they did on Privet Drive.
“Right –I’m off into town to pick up the dinner j ackets for Dudley and me. And
you,” he snarled at Harry. “You stay out of your aunt’s way while she’s cleaning.”
Harry left through the back door. It was a brilliant , sunny day. He crossed the
lawn, slumped down on the garden bench, and sang under his breath:
“Happy birthday to me … happy birthday to me…”
No cards, no presents, and he would be spending the evening pretending not to
exist . He gazed miserably into the hedge. He had never felt so lonely. More than
anything else at Hogwarts, more even than playing Quidditch, Harry missed his best
friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. They, however, didn’ t seem to be
missing him at all. Neither of them had writ ten to him all summer, even though Ron
had said he was going to ask Harry to come and stay.
Count less t imes, Harry had been on the point of unlocking Hedwig’ s cage by
magic and sending her to Ron and Hermione with a letter, but it wasn’t worth the risk.
Underage wizards weren’ t allowed to use magic outside of school. Harry hadn’ t told
the Dursleys this; he knew it was only their terror that he might turn them all into
dung beet les that stopped them from locking him in the cupboard under the stairs
with his wand and broomst ick. For the first couple of weeks back, Harry had enj oyed
mut tering nonsense words under his breath and watching Dudley tearing out of the
room as fast as his fat legs would carry him. But the long silence from Ron and
Hermione had made Harry feel so cut off from the magical world that even taunt ing
Dudley had lost its appeal – and now Ron and Hermione had forgotten his birthday.
What wouldn’ t he give now for a message from Hogwarts? From any witch or
wizard?He’ d almost be glad of a sight of his archenemy, Draco Malfoy, j ust to be sure
it hadn’ t all been a dream … Not that his whole year at Hogwarts had been fun. At
the very end of last term, Harry had come face–to–face with none other than Lord
Voldemort himself . Voldemort might be a ruin of his former self, but he was st ill
terrifying, st ill cunning, st ill determined to regain power. Harry had slipped through
Voldemort ’ s clut ches for a second t ime, but it had been a narrow escape, and even
now, weeks later, Harry kept waking in the night , drenched in cold sweat , wondering
where Voldemort was now, remembering his livid face, his wide, mad eyes Harry
suddenly sat bolt upright on the garden bench. He had been staring absent–mindedly
into the hedge – and the hedge was staring back. Two enormous green eyes had
appeared among the leaves.
Harry jumped to his feet just as a jeering voice floated across the lawn.
“I know what day it is,” sang Dudley, waddling toward him.
The huge eyes blinked and vanished.
“What?” said Harry, not taking his eyes off the spot where they had been.
“I know what day it is,” Dudley repeated, coming right up to him.
“Well done,” said Harry. “So you’ve finally learned the days of the week.”
“ Today’ s your birthday,” sneered Dudley. “ How come you haven’ t got any
cards? Haven’t you even got friends at that freak place?”
“Better not let your mum hear you talking about my school,” said Harry coolly.
Dudley hitched up his trousers, which were slipping down his fat bottom.
“Why’re you staring at the hedge?” he said suspiciously.
“ I’m t rying to decide what would be the best spell to set it on fire,” said
Harry.
Dudley stumbled backward at once, a look of panic on his fat face.
“ You c–can’t –Dad told you you’ re not to do m–magic – he said he’ ll chuck you
out of the house – and you haven’ t got anywhere else to go – you haven’ t got any
friends to take you –”
“Jiggery pokery!” said Harry in a fierce voice. “Hocus pocus squiggly wiggly –”
“MUUUUUUM!” howled Dudley, t ripping over his feet as he dashed back toward
the house. “MUUUUM! He’s doing you know what!”
Harry paid dearly for his moment of fun. As neither Dudley nor the hedge was
in any way hurt , Aunt Petunia knew he hadn’ t really done magic, but he st ill had to
duck as she aimed a heavy blow at his head with the soapy frying pan. Then she gave
him work to do, with the promise he wouldn’t eat again until he’d finished.
While Dudley lolled around watching and eat ing ice cream, Harry cleaned the
windows, washed the car, mowed the lawn, t rimmed the f lowerbeds, pruned and
watered the roses, and repainted the garden bench. The sun blazed overhead, burning
the back of his neck. Harry knew he shouldn’ t have risen to Dudley’ s bait , but Dudley
had said the very thing Harry had been thinking himself.. . maybe he didn’ t have any
friends at Hogwarts … Wish they could see famous Harry Pot ter now, he thought
savagely as he spread manure on the flower beds, his back aching, sweat running down
his face.
It was half past seven, in the evening when at last , exhausted, he heard Aunt
Petunia calling him. “Get in here! And walk on the newspaper!”
Harry moved gladly into the shade of the gleaming kitchen. On top of the fridge
stood tonight ’ s pudding: a huge mound of whipped cream and sugared violets. A loin
of roast pork was sizzling in the oven.
“ Eat quickly! The Masons will be here soon!” snapped Aunt Petunia, point ing to
two slices of bread and a lump of cheese on the kitchen table. She was already
wearing a salmon–pink cocktail dress.
Harry washed his hands and bolted down his pit iful supper. The moment he had
finished, Aunt Petunia whisked away his plate. “Upstairs! Hurry!”
As he passed the door to the living room, Harry caught a glimpse of Uncle
Vernon and Dudley in bow t ies and dinner j ackets. He had only j ust reached the
upstairs landing when the doorbell rang and Uncle Vernon’ s furious face appeared at
the foot of the stairs.
“Remember, boy – one sound –”
Harry crossed to his bedroom on t iptoe slipped inside, closed the door, and
turned to collapse on his bed. The t rouble was, there was already someone sit t ing on
it.
CHAPTER TWO – DOBBY’S WARNING
Harry managed not to shout out , but it was a close thing. The lit t le creature on
the bed had large, bat–like ears and bulging green eyes the size of tennis balls. Harry
knew instantly that this was what had been watching him out of the garden hedge that
morning.
As they stared at each other, Harry heard Dudley’s voice from the hall.
“May I take your coats, Mr. and Mrs. Mason?”
The creature slipped off the bed and bowed so low that the end of its long,
thin nose touched the carpet . Harry not iced that it was wearing what looked like an
old pillowcase, with rips for arm – and leg–holes.
“Er – hello,” said Harry nervously.
“ Harry Pot ter!” said the creature in a high–pit ched voice Harry was sure would
carry down the stairs. “ So long has Dobby wanted to meet you, sir … Such an honor it
is…”
“Th–thank you,” said Harry, edging along the wall and sinking into his desk
chair, next to Hedwig, who was asleep in her large cage. He wanted to ask, “What are
you?” but thought it would sound too rude, so instead he said, “Who are you?”
“Dobby, sir. Just Dobby. Dobby the house–elf,” said the creature.
“Oh – really?” said Harry. “ Er – I don’ t want to be rude or anything, but – this
isn’t a great time for me to have a house–elf in my bedroom.”
Aunt Petunias high, false laugh sounded from the living room. The elf hung his
head.
“ Not that I’m not pleased to meet you,” said Harry quickly, “ but , er, is there
any particular reason you’re here?”
“Oh, yes, sir,” said Dobby earnest ly. “ Dobby has come to tell you, sir … it is
difficult, sir … Dobby wonders where to begin …”
“Sit down,” said Harry politely, pointing at the bed.
To his horror, the elf burst into tears – very noisy tears.
“S–sit down!” he wailed. “Never … never ever…“
Harry thought he heard the voices downstairs falter.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, “I didn’t mean to offend you or anything –”
“Offend Dobby!” choked the elf. “ Dobby has never been asked to sit down by a
wizard – like an equal–”
Harry, t rying to say “ Shh!” and look comfort ing at the same t ime, ushered
Dobby back onto the bed where he sat hiccoughing, looking like a large and very ugly
doll. At last he managed to cont rol himself, and sat with his great eyes fixed on Harry
in an expression of watery adoration.
“You can’t have met many decent wizards,” said Harry, trying to cheer him up.
Dobby shook his head. Then, without warning, he leapt up and started banging
his head furiously on the window, shouting, “Bad Dobby! Bad Dobby!”
“Don’t – what are you doing?” Harry hissed, springing up and pulling Dobby
back onto the bed – Hedwig had woken up with a part icularly loud screech and was
beating her wings wildly against the bars of her cage.
Dobby had to punish himself , sir,” said the elf, who had gone slight ly cross–
eyed. “Dobby almost spoke ill of his family, sir…”
“Your family?”
“ The wizard family Dobby serves, sir… DOBBY’Sis a house–elf – bound to serve
one house and one family forever…
“Do they know you’re here?” asked Harry curiously.
Dobby shuddered.
“Oh, no, sir, no … Dobby will have to punish himself most grievously for
coming to see you, sir. Dobby will have to shut his ears in the oven door for this. If
they ever knew, sir –”
“But won’t they notice if you shut your ears in the oven door?”
“ Dobby doubts it , sir. Dobby is always having to punish himself for something,
sir. They lets Dobby get on with it , sir. Somet imes they reminds me to do ext ra
punishments…
“But why don’t you leave? Escape?”
“ A house–elf must be set free, sir. And the family will never set Dobby free …
Dobby will serve the family until he dies, sir…”
Harry stared.
“ And I thought I had it bad staying here for another four weeks,” he said. “ This
makes the Dursleys sound almost human. Can’t anyone help you? Can’t I?”
Almost at once, Harry wished he hadn’ t spoken. Dobby dissolved again into
wails of gratitude.
“ Please,” Harry whispered frant ically, “ please be quiet . If the Dursleys hear
anything, if they know you’re here –”
“ Harry Pot ter asks if he can help Dobby … Dobby has heard of your greatness,
sir, but of your goodness, Dobby never knew…”
Harry, who was feeling dist inct ly hot in the face, said, “Whatever you’ ve heard
about my greatness is a load of rubbish. I’m not even top of my year at Hogwarts;
that’s Hermione, she –”
But he stopped quickly, because thinking about Hermione was painful.
“ Harry Pot ter is humble and modest ,” said Dobby reverent ly, his orb–like eyes
aglow. “Harry Potter speaks not of his triumph over He–Who–Must–Not–Be–Named –”
“Voldemort?” said Harry.
Dobby clapped his hands over his bat ears and moaned, “ Ah, speak not the
name, sir! Speak not the name!”
“Sorry” said Harry quickly. “I know lots of people don’t like it. My friend Ron –”
He stopped again. Thinking about Ron was painful, too.
Dobby leaned toward Harry, his eyes wide as headlights. “Dobby heard tell,” he
said hoarsely, “ that Harry Pot ter met the Dark Lord for a second t ime j ust weeks ago
… that Harry Potter escaped yet again. “
Harry nodded and Dobby’ s eyes suddenly shone with tears. “ Ah, sir,” he
gasped, dabbing his face with a corner of the grubby pillowcase he was wearing.
“ Harry Pot ter is valiant and bold! He has braved so many dangers already! But Dobby
has come to protect Harry Potter, to warn him, even if he does have to shut his ears in
the oven door later… Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts.”
There was a silence broken only by the chink of knives and forks from
downstairs and the distant rumble of Uncle Vernon’s voice.
“W–what?” Harry stammered. “ But I’ ve got to go back – term starts on
September first . It ’ s all that ’ s keeping me going. You don’ t know what it ’ s like here. I
don’t belong here. I belong in your world – at Hogwarts.”
“ No, no, no,” squeaked Dobby, shaking his head so hard his ears flapped.
“ Harry Pot ter must stay where he is safe. He is too great , too good, to lose. If Harry
Potter goes back to Hogwarts, he will be in mortal danger.”
“Why?” said Harry in surprise.
“ There is a plot , Harry Pot ter. A plot to make most terrible things happen at
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year,” whispered Dobby, suddenly
t rembling all over. “ Dobby has known it for months, sir. Harry Pot ter must not put
himself in peril. He is too important, sir!”
“What terrible things?” said Harry at once. “Who’s plotting them?”
Dobby made a funny choking noise and then banged his head frant ically against
the wall.
“ All right !” cried Harry, grabbing the elf ’ s arm to stop him. “ You can’ t tell me.
I understand. But why are you warning me?” A sudden, unpleasant thought st ruck him.
“ Hang on – this hasn’ t got anything to do with Vol– – sorry – with You–Know–Who, has
it? You could j ust shake or nod,” he added hast ily as Dobby’ s head t ilted worryingly
close to the wall again.
Slowly, Dobby shook his head.
“Not –not He– Who–Must–Not–Be–Named, sir –’
But Dobby’ s eyes were wide and he seemed to be t rying to give Harry a hint .
Harry, however, was completely lost.
“He hasn’t got a brother, has he?”
Dobby shook his head, his eyes wider than ever.
“Well then, I can’ t think who else would have a chance of making horrible
things happen at Hogwarts,” said Harry. “ I mean, there’ s Dumbledore, for one thing –
you know who Dumbledore is, don’t you?”
Dobby bowed his head.
“ Albus Dumbledore is the greatest headmaster Hogwarts has ever had. Dobby
knows it , sir. Dobby has heard Dumbledore’ s powers rival those of He–Who–Must–Not–
Be–Named at the height of his st rength. But , sir” –Dobby’ s voice dropped to an urgent
whisper – there are powers Dumbledore doesn’t … powers no decent wizard…”
And before Harry could stop him, Dobby bounded off the bed, seized Harry’ s
desk lamp, and started beat ing himself around the head with earsplit t ing yelps. A
sudden silence fell downstairs. Two seconds later Harry, heart thudding madly, heard
Uncle Vernon coming into the hall, calling, “ Dudley must have left his television on
again, the little tyke!”
“Quick! In the closet !” hissed Harry, stuf fing Dobby in, shut t ing the door, and
flinging himself onto the bed just as the door handle turned.
“What – the – devil – are – you – doing?” said Uncle Vernon through grit ted
teeth, his face horribly close to Harry’ s. “ You’ ve j ust ruined the punch line of my
Japanese golfer joke … One more sound and you’ll wish you’d never been born, boy!”
He stomped flat–footed from the room.
Shaking, Harry let Dobby out of the closet.
“ See what it ’ s like here?” he said. “ See why I’ ve got to go back to Hogwarts?
It’s the only place I’ve got – well, I think I’ve got friends. “
“Friends who don’t even write to Harry Potter?” said Dobby slyly.
“ I expect they’ ve j ust been – wait a minute,” said Harry, frowning. “ How do
you know my friends haven’t been writing to me?”
Dobby shuffled his feet.
“Harry Potter mustn’t be angry with Dobby. Dobby did it for the best – “
“Have you been stopping my letters?”
“ Dobby has them here, sir,” said the elf. Stepping nimbly out of Harry’ s reach,
he pulled a thick wad of envelopes from the inside of the pillowcase he was wearing.
Harry could make out Hermione’ s neat writ ing, Ron’ s unt idy scrawl, and even a
scribble that looked as though it was from the Hogwarts gamekeeper, Hagrid.
Dobby blinked anxiously up at Harry.
“ Harry Pot ter mustn’ t be angry… Dobby hoped … if Harry Pot ter thought his
friends had forgotten him … Harry Potter might not want to go back to school, sir…”
Harry wasn’ t listening. He made a grab for the let ters, but Dobby j umped out
of reach.
“ Harry Pot ter will have them, sir, if he gives Dobby his word that he will not
return to Hogwarts. Ah, sir, this is a danger you must not face! Say you won’ t go back,
sir!”
“No,” said Harry angrily. “Give me my friends’ letters!”
“Then Harry Potter leaves Dobby no choice,” said the elf sadly.
Before Harry could move, Dobby had darted to the bedroom door, pulled it
open, and sprinted down the stairs. Mouth dry, stomach lurching, Harry sprang after
him, t rying not to make a sound. He j umped the last six steps, landing cat like on the
hall carpet , looking around for Dobby. From the dining room he heard Uncle Vernon
saying, “ … tell Petunia that very funny story about those American plumbers, Mr.
Mason. She’s been dying to hear…“
Harry ran up the hall into the kitchen and felt his stomach disappear. Aunt
Petunia’ s masterpiece of a pudding, the mountain of cream and sugared violets, was
floating up near the ceiling. On top of a cupboard in the corner crouched Dobby.
“No,” croaked Harry. “Please … they’ll kill me…”
“Harry Potter must say he’s not going back to school –”
“Dobby … please …”
“Say it, sir –”
“I can’t –”
Dobby gave him a t ragic look. “ Then Dobby must do it , sir, for Harry Pot ter’ s
own good.”
The pudding fell to the floor with a heart–stopping crash. Cream splat tered the
windows and walls as the dish shat tered. With a crack like a whip, Dobby vanished.
There were screams from the dining room and Uncle Vernon burst into the kitchen to
find Harry, rigid with shock, covered from head to foot in Aunt Petunias pudding.
At f irst , it looked as though Uncle Vernon would manage to gloss the whole
thing over. (“ Just our nephew – very disturbed meet ing st rangers upsets him, so we
kept him upstairs) He shooed the shocked Masons back into the dining room, promised
Harry he would f lay him to within an inch of his life when the Masons had left , and
handed him a mop. Aunt Petunia dug some ice cream out of the freezer and Harry,
st ill shaking, started scrubbing the kitchen clean. Uncle Vernon might st ill have been
able to make his deal – if it hadn’t been for the owl.
Aunt Petunia was j ust passing around a box of af ter–dinner mints when a huge
barn owl swooped through the dining room window, dropped a let ter on Mrs. Mason’ s
head, and swooped out again. Mrs. Mason screamed like a banshee and ran f rom the
house shout ing about lunat ics. Mr. Mason stayed j ust long enough to tell the Dursleys
that his wife was mortally afraid of birds of all shapes and sizes, and to ask whether
this was their idea of a joke.
Harry stood in the kitchen, clut ching the mop for support , as Uncle Vernon
advanced on him, a demonic glint in his tiny eyes.
“ Read it !” he hissed evilly, brandishing the let ter the owl had delivered. “Go
on – read it!”
Harry took it. It did not contain birthday greetings.
Dear Mr. Potter,
We have received intell igence t hat a Hover Charm was used at
your place of residence this evening at twelve minutes past nine.
As you know, underage wizards are not permit t ed to perform
spel ls out side school , and furt her spel l–work on your part may lead to
expulsion f rom said school (Decree for t he Reasonable Rest rict ion of
Underage Sorcery, 1875, Paragraph C).
We would also ask you t o remember t hat any magical act ivit y
t hat risks not ice by members of t he non–magical communit y (Muggles)
is a serious of fense under sect ion 13 of t he Internat ional Confederat ion
of Warlocks’ Statute of Secrecy.
Enjoy your holidays!
Yours sincerely,
Mafalda Hopkirk
IMPROPER USE OF MAGIC OFFICE
Ministry of Magic
Harry looked up from the letter and gulped.
“ You didn’ t tell us you weren’ t allowed to use magic outside school,” said
Uncle Vernon, a mad gleam dancing in his eyes. “ Forgot to ment ion it … Slipped your
mind, I daresay…”
He was bearing down on Harry like a great bulldog, all his teeth bared. “Well,
I’ ve got news for you, boy . … I’m locking you up … You’ re never going back to that
school … never … and if you try and magic yourself out – they’ll expel you!”
And laughing like a maniac, he dragged Harry back upstairs.
Uncle Vernon was as bad as his word. The following morning, he paid a man to
fit bars on Harry’ s window. He himself fit ted a cat–flap in the bedroom door, so that
small amounts of food could be pushed inside three t imes a day. They let Harry out to
use the bathroom morning and evening. Otherwise, he was locked in his room around
the clock.
Three days later, the Dursleys were showing no sign of relent ing, and Harry
couldn’ t see any way out of his situat ion. He lay on his bed watching the sun sinking
behind the bars on the window and wondered miserably what was going to happen to
him.
What was the good of magicking himself out of his room if Hogwarts would
expel him for doing it? Yet life at Privet Drive had reached an all–t ime low. Now that
the Dursleys knew they weren’ t going to wake up as fruit bats, he had lost his only
weapon. Dobby might have saved Harry from horrible happenings at Hogwarts, but the
way things were going, he’d probably starve to death anyway.
The cat–flap rat t led and Aunt Petunia’ s hand appeared, pushing a bowl of
canned soup into the room. Harry, whose insides were aching with hunger, j umped of f
his bed and seized it . The soup was stone–cold, but he drank half of it in one gulp.
Then he crossed the room to Hedwig’ s cage and t ipped the soggy vegetables at the
bot tom of the bowl into her empty food t ray. She ruff led her feathers and gave him a
look of deep disgust.
“ It ’ s no good turning your beak up at it – that ’ s all we’ ve got ,” said Harry
grimly.
He put the empty bowl back on the floor next to the cat–flap and lay back
down on the bed, somehow even hungrier than he had been before the soup.
Supposing he was st ill alive in another four weeks, what would happen if he didn’ t
turn up at Hogwarts?Would someone be sent to see why he hadn’ t come back?Would
they be able to make the Dursleys let him go?
The room was growing dark. Exhausted, stomach rumbling, mind spinning over
the same unanswerable questions, Harry fell into an uneasy sleep. He dreamed that he
was on show in a zoo, with a card reading UNDERAGE WIZARD at tached to his cage.
People goggled through the bars at him as he lay, starving and weak, on a bed of
st raw. He saw Dobby’ s face in the crowd and shouted out , asking for help, but Dobby
called, “Harry Potter is safe there, sir!” and vanished. Then the Dursleys appeared and
Dudley rattled the bars of the cage, laughing at him.
“ Stop it ,” Harry mut tered as the rat t ling pounded in his sore head. “ Leave me
alone … cut it out … I’m trying to sleep…”
He opened his eyes. Moonlight was shining through the bars on the window.
And someone was goggling through the bars at him: a freckle–faced, red–haired, long–
nosed someone.
Ron Weasley was outside Harry’s window.
CHAPTER THREE – THE BURROW
“ Ron!” breathed Harry, creeping to the window and pushing it up so they could
talk through the bars. “Ron, how did you – What the –?”
Harry’ s mouth fell open as the full impact of what he was seeing hit him. Ron
was leaning out of the back window of an old turquoise car, which was parked in
midair Grinning at Harry from the front seats were Fred and George, Ron’ s elder twin
brothers.
“All right, Harry?” asked George.
“What ’ s been going on?” said Ron. “Why haven’ t you been answering my
let ters? I’ ve asked you to stay about twelve t imes, and then Dad came home and said
you’d got an official warning for using magic in front of Muggles –”
“It wasn’t me – and how did he know?”
“ He works for the Minist ry,” said Ron. “ You know we’ re not supposed to do
spells outside school –”
“You should talk,” said Harry, staring at the floating car.
“Oh, this doesn’ t count ,” said Ron. “We’ re only borrowing this. It ’ s Dad’ s. We
didn’t enchant it. But doing magic in front of those Muggles you live with –”
“ I told you, I didn’ t – but it ’ ll take too long to explain now look, can you tell
them at Hogwarts that the Dursleys have locked me up and won’ t let me come back,
and obviously I can’ t magic myself out , because the Minist ry’ Il think that ’ s the second
spell I’ve done in three days, so –”
“Stop gibbering,” said Ron. “We’ve come to take you home with us.”
“But you can’t magic me out either –”
“We don’ t need to,” said Ron, j erking his head toward the front seat and
grinning. “You forget who I’ve got with me.”
“Tie that around the bars,” said Fred, throwing the end of a rope to Harry.
“ If the Dursleys wake up, I’m dead,” said Harry as he t ied the rope t ight ly
around a bar and Fred revved up the car.
“Don’t worry,” said Fred, “and stand back.”
Harry moved back into the shadows next to Hedwig, who seemed to have
realized how important this was and kept st ill and silent . The car revved louder and
louder and suddenly, with a crunching noise, the bars were pulled clean out of the
window as Fred drove st raight up in the air. Harry ran back to the window to see the
bars dangling a few feet above the ground. Pant ing, Ron hoisted them up into the car.
Harry listened anxiously, but there was no sound from the Dursleys’ bedroom.
When the bars were safely in the back seat with Ron, Fred reversed as close as
possible to Harry’s window.
“Get in,” Ron said.
“But all my Hogwarts stuff – my wand – my broomstick –”
“Where is it?”
“Locked in the cupboard under the stairs, and I can’t get out of this room –”
“ No problem,” said George from the front passenger seat . “Out of the way,
Harry.”
Fred and George climbed cat like through the window into Harry’ s room. You
had to hand it to them, thought Harry, as George took an ordinary hairpin f rom his
pocket and started to pick the lock.
“ A lot of wizards think it ’ s a waste of t ime, knowing this sort of Muggle t rick,”
said Fred, “but we feel they’re skills worth learning, even if they are a bit slow.”
There was a small click and the door swung open.
“So – we’ ll get your t runk – you grab anything you need from your room and
hand it out to Ron,” whispered George.
“Watch out for the bottom stair – it creaks,” Harry whispered back as the twins
disappeared onto the dark landing.
Harry dashed around his room, collecting his things and passing them out of the
window to Ron. Then he went to help Fred and George heave his t runk up the stairs.
Harry heard Uncle Vernon cough.
At last , pant ing, they reached the landing, then carried the t runk through
Harry’ s room to the open window. Fred climbed back into the car to pull with Ron,
and Harry and George pushed from the bedroom side. Inch by inch, the t runk slid
through the window. Uncle Vernon coughed again.
“ A bit more,” panted Fred, who was pulling f rom inside the car. “ One good
push –”
Harry and George threw their shoulders against the t runk and it slid out of the
window into the back seat of the car.
“Okay, let’s go,” George whispered.
But as Harry climbed onto the windowsill there came a sudden loud screech
from behind him, followed immediately by the thunder of Uncle Vernon’s voice.
“THAT RUDDY OWL!”
“I’ve forgotten Hedwig!”
Harry tore back across the room as the landing light clicked on – he snatched up
Hedwig’ s cage, dashed to the window, and passed it out to Ron. He was scrambling
back onto the chest of drawers when Uncle Vernon hammered on the unlocked door
and it crashed open.
For a split second, Uncle Vernon stood framed in the doorway; then he let out
a bellow like an angry bull and dived at Harry, grabbing him by the ankle. Ron, Fred,
and George seized Harry’s arms and pulled as hard as they could.
“Petunia!” roared Uncle Vernon. “He’s getting away! HE’S GETTING AWAY!”
But the Weasleys gave a gigant ic tug and Harry’ s leg slid out of Uncle Vernon’ s
grasp – Harry was in the car – he’d slammed the door shut
“ Put your foot down, Fred!” yelled Ron, and the car shot suddenly toward the
moon.
Harry couldn’ t believe it – he was f ree. He rolled down the window, the night
air whipping his hair, and looked back at the shrinking rooftops of Privet Drive. Uncle
Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and Dudley were all hanging, dumbst ruck, out of Harry’ s
window.
“See you next summer!” Harry yelled.
The Weasleys roared with laughter and Harry set t led back in his seat , grinning
from ear to ear.
“Let Hedwig out,” he told Ron. “She can fly behind us. She hasn’t had a chance
to stretch her wings for ages.”
George handed the hairpin to Ron and, a moment later, Hedwig soared j oyfully
out of the window to glide alongside them like a ghost.
“So – what’s the story, Harry?” said Ron impatiently. “What’s been happening?”
Harry told them all about Dobby, the warning he’ d given Harry and the f iasco
of the violet pudding. There was a long, shocked silence when he had finished.
“Very fishy,” said Fred finally.
“ Definitely dodgy” agreed George. “ So he wouldn’ t even tell you who’s
supposed to be plotting all this stuff?”
“ I don’ t think he could,” said Harry. “ I told you, every t ime he got close to
letting something slip, he started banging his head against the wall.”
He saw Fred and George look at each other.
“What, you think he was lying to me?” said Harry.
“Well,” said Fred, “ put it this way – house–elves have got powerful magic of
their own, but they can’ t usually use it without their master’ s permission. I reckon old
Dobby was sent to stop you coming back to Hogwarts. Someone’ s idea of a j oke. Can
you think of anyone at school with a grudge against you?”
“Yes,” said Harry and Ron together, instantly.
“Draco Malfoy,” Harry explained. “He hates me.”
“Draco Malfoy?” said George, turning around. “Not Lucius Malfoy’s son?”
“Must be, it’s not a very common name, is it?” said Harry.
“ I’ ve heard Dad talking about him,” said George. “ He was a big supporter of
You–Know–Who.”
“ And when You–Know–Who disappeared,” said Fred, craning around to look at
Harry, “Lucius Malfoy came back saying he’d never meant any of it. Load of dung – Dad
reckons he was right in You–Know–Who’s inner circle.”
Harry had heard these rumors about Malfoy’ s family before, and they didn’ t
surprise him at all. Malfoy made Dudley Dursley look like a kind, thought ful, and
sensitive boy.
“I don’t know whether the Malfoys own a house–elf,” said Harry.
“Well, whoever owns him will be an old wizarding family, and they’ ll be rich,”
said Fred.
“ Yeah, Mum’ s always wishing we had a house–elf to do the ironing,” said
George. “ But all we’ ve got is a lousy old ghoul in the at t ic and gnomes all over the
garden. House–elves come with big old manors and cast les and places like that ; you
wouldn’t catch one in our house…”
Harry was silent . Judging by the fact that Draco Malfoy usually had the best of
everything, his family was rolling in wizard gold; he could j ust see Malfoy st rut t ing
around a large manor house. Sending the family servant to stop Harry from going back
to Hogwarts also sounded exact ly like the sort of thing Malfoy would do. Had Harry
been stupid to take Dobby seriously?
“ I’m glad we came to get you, anyway,” said Ron. “ I was get t ing really worried
when you didn’t answer any of my letters. I thought it was Errol’s fault at first –”
“Who’s Errol?”
“Our owl. He’ s ancient . It wouldn’ t be the f irst t ime he’ d collapsed on a
delivery. So then I tried to borrow Hermes –”
“Who?”
“ The owl Mum and Dad bought Percy when he was made prefect ,” said Fred
from the front.
“But Percy wouldn’t lend him to me,” said Ron. “Said he needed him.”
“ Percy’ s been act ing very oddly this summer,” said George, frowning. “ And he
has been sending a lot of let ters and spending a load of t ime shut up in his room … I
mean, there’ s only so many t imes you can polish a prefect badge … You’ re driving too
far west , Fred,” he added, point ing at a compass on the dashboard. Fred twiddled the
steering wheel.
“So, does your dad know you’ve got the car?” said Harry, guessing the answer.
“ Er, no,” said Ron, “ he had to work tonight . Hopefully we’ ll be able to get it
back in the garage without Mum noticing we flew it.”
“What does your dad do at the Ministry of Magic, anyway?”
“ He works in the most boring department ,” said Ron. “ The Misuse of Muggle
Artifacts Office.”
“The what?”
“ It ’ s all to do with bewitching things that are Muggle–made, you know, in case
they end up back in a Muggle shop or house. Like, last year, some old witch died and
her tea set was sold to an ant iques shop. This Muggle woman bought it , took it home,
and t ried to serve her friends tea in it . It was a nightmare –Dad was working overt ime
for weeks.”
“What happened?”
“ The teapot went berserk and squirted boiling tea all over the place and one
man ended up in the hospital with the sugar tongs clamped to his nose. Dad was going
frantic – it ’ s only him and an old warlock called Perkins in the office – and they had to
do Memory Charms and all sorts of stuff to cover it up –”
“But your dad – this car –”
Fred laughed. “ Yeah, Dad’ s crazy about everything to do with Muggles; our
shed’ s full of Muggle stuff. He takes it apart , puts spells on it , and puts it back
together again. If he raided our house he’ d have to put himself under arrest . It drives
Mum mad.”
“ That ’ s the main road,” said George, peering down through the windshield.
“We’ll be there in ten minutes … Just as well, it’s getting light…”
A faint pinkish glow was visible along the horizon to the east . Fred brought the
car lower, and Harry saw a dark patchwork of fields and clumps of trees.
“We’re a little way outside the village,” said George. “Ottery St. Catchpole.”
Lower and lower went the flying car. The edge of a brilliant red sun was now
gleaming through the trees.
“Touchdown!” said Fred as, with a slight bump, they hit the ground.
They had landed next to a tumbledown garage in a small yard, and Harry
looked out for the f irst t ime at Ron’ s house. It looked as though it had once been a
large stone pigpen, but ext ra rooms had been added here and there unt il it was
several stories high and so crooked it looked as though it were held up by magic
(which, Harry reminded himself, it probably was). Four or five chimneys were perched
on top of the red roof. A lopsided sign stuck in the ground near the entrance read, THE
BuRRow. Around the front door lay a jumble of rubber boots and a very rusty cauldron.
Several fat brown chickens were pecking their way around the yard.
“It’s not much,” said Ron.
“It’s wonderful,” said Harry happily, thinking of Privet Drive.
They got out of the car.
“ Now, we’ ll go upstairs really quiet ly,” said Fred, “ and wait for Mum to call us
for breakfast Then, Ron, you come bounding downstairs going, ‘Mum, look who turned
up in the night !’ and she’ ll be all pleased to see Harry and no one need ever know we
flew the car.”
“ Right ,” said Ron. “ Come on, Harry, I sleep at the – at the top,” Ron had gone
a nasty greenish color, his eyes fixed on the house. The other three wheeled around.
Mrs. Weasley was marching across the yard, scat tering chickens, and for a
short, plump, kind–faced woman, it was remarkable how much she looked like a saber–
toothed tiger.
“Ah, “said Fred.
“Oh, dear,” said George.
Mrs. Weasley came to a halt in front of them, her hands on her hips, staring
from one guilty face to the next . She was wearing a flowered apron with a wand
sticking out of the pocket.
“So, “she said.
“Morning, Mum,” said George, in what he clearly thought was a jaunty, winning
voice.
“ Have you any idea how worried I’ ve been?” said Mrs. Weasley in a deadly
whisper.
“Sorry, Mum, but see, we had to –”
All three of Mrs. Weasley’ s sons were taller than she was, but they cowered as
her rage broke over them.
“ Beds empt y! No note! Car’ s gone – could have crashed – out of my mind with
worry – did you care? – never, as long as I’ ve lived – you wait unt il your father gets
home, we never had trouble like this from Bill or Charlie or Percy –”
“Perfect Percy,” muttered Fred.
“ YOU COULD DO WITH TAKING A LEAF OUT OF PERCY’S BOOK!” yelled Mrs.
Weasley, prodding a finger in Fred’s chest. “You could have died, you could have been
seen, you could have lost your father his job –”
It seemed to go on for hours. Mrs. Weasley had shouted herself hoarse before
she turned on Harry, who backed away.
“ I’m very pleased to see you, Harry, dear,” she said. “ Come in and have some
breakfast .” She turned and walked back into the house and Harry, after a nervous
glance at Ron, who nodded encouragingly, followed her.
The kitchen was small and rather cramped. There was a scrubbed wooden table
and chairs in the middle, and Harry sat down on the edge of his seat , looking around.
He had never been in a wizard house before.
The clock on the wall opposite him had only one hand and no numbers at all.
Writ ten around the edge were things like Time to make tea, Time to feed the
chickens, and You’ re late. Books were stacked three deep on the mantelpiece, books
with t it les like Charm Your Own Cheese, Enchantment in Baking, and One Minute
Feasts – It ’ s Magic! And unless Harry’ s ears were deceiving him, the old radio next to
the sink had j ust announced that coming up was “Witching Hour, with the popular
singing sorceress, Celestina Warbeck.”
Mrs. Weasley was clat tering around, cooking breakfast a lit t le haphazardly,
throwing dirty looks at her sons as she threw sausages into the frying pan. Every now
and then she muttered things like “don’t know what you were thinking of,” and “never
would have believed it.”
“ I don’ t blame you, dear,” she assured Harry, t ipping eight or nine sausages
onto his plate. “ Arthur and I have been worried about you, too. Just last night we
were saying we’ d come and get you ourselves if you hadn’ t writ ten back to Ron by
Friday. But really,” (she was now adding three fried eggs to his plate) “flying an illegal
car halfway across the country – anyone could have seen you –”
She flicked her wand casually at the dishes in the sink, which began to clean
themselves, clinking gently in the background.
“It was cloudy, Mum!” said Fred.
“You keep your mouth closed while you’re eating!” Mrs. Weasley snapped.
“They were starving him, Mum!” said George.
“ And you!” said Mrs. Weasley, but it was with a slight ly softened expression
that she started cutting Harry bread and buttering it for him.
At that moment there was a diversion in the form of a small, redheaded figure
in a long nightdress, who appeared in the kitchen, gave a small squeal, and ran out
again.
“Ginny,” said Ron in an undertone to Harry. “My sister. She’ s been talking
about you all summer.”
“ Yeah, she’ ll be want ing your autograph, Harry,” Fred said with a grin, but he
caught his mother’ s eye and bent his face over his plate without another word.
Nothing more was said unt il all four plates were clean, which took a surprisingly short
time.
“ Blimey, I’m t ired,” yawned Fred, set t ing down his knife and fork at last . “ I
think I’ll go to bed and –”
“ You will not ,” snapped Mrs. Weasley. “ It ’ s your own fault you’ ve been up all
night . You’ re going to de–gnome the garden for me; they’ re get t ing completely out of
hand again –”
“Oh, Mum –”
“ And you two,” she said, glaring at Ron and Fred. “ You can go up to bed,
dear,” she added to Harry. “You didn’t ask them to fly that wretched car –”
But Harry, who felt wide awake, said quickly, “ I’ ll help Ron. I’ ve never seen a
de–gnoming –”
“ That ’ s very sweet of you, dear, but it ’ s dull work,” said Mrs. Weasley. “ Now,
let’s see what Lockhart’s got to say on the subject –”
And she pulled a heavy book from the stack on the mantelpiece. George
groaned.
“Mum, we know how to de–gnome a garden –”
Harry looked at the cover of Mrs. Weasley’ s book. Writ ten across it in fancy
gold let ters were the words Gilderoy Lockhart ’ s Guide t o Household Pest s. There was
a big photograph on the front of a very good–looking wizard with wavy blond hair and
bright blue eyes. As always in the wizarding world, the photograph was moving; the
wizard, who Harry supposed was Gilderoy Lockhart , kept winking cheekily up at them
all. Mrs. Weasley beamed down at him.
“Oh, he is marvelous,” she said. “ He knows his household pests, all right , it ’ s a
wonderful book…”
“Mum fancies him,” said Fred, in a very audible whisper.
“ Don’ t be so ridiculous, Fred,” said Mrs. Weasley, her cheeks rather pink. “ All
right , if you think you know bet ter than Lockhart , you can go and get on with it , and
woe bet ide you if there’ s a single gnome in that garden when I come out to inspect
it.”
Yawning and grumbling, the Weasleys slouched outside with Harry behind
them. The garden was large, and in Harry’ s eyes, exact ly what a garden should be.
The Dursleys wouldn’ t have liked it – there were plenty of weeds, and the grass
needed cut t ing but there were gnarled t rees all around the walls, plants Harry had
never seen spilling from every flower bed, and a big green pond full of frogs.
“Muggles have garden gnomes, too, you know,” Harry told Ron as they crossed
the lawn.
“ Yeah, I’ ve seen those things they think are gnomes,” said Ron, bent double
with his head in a peony bush, “like fat little Santa Clauses with fishing rods…”
There was a violent scuff ling noise, the peony bush shuddered, and Ron
straightened up. “This is a gnome,” he said grimly.
“Gerroff me! Gerroff me!” squealed the gnome.
It was certainly nothing like Santa Claus. It was small and leathery looking,
with a large, knobby, baldhead exact ly like a potato. Ron held it at arm’ s length as it
kicked out at him with its horny little feet; he grasped it around the ankles and turned
it upside down.
“ This is what you have to do,” he said. He raised the gnome above his head
(“Gerroff me!”) and started to swing it in great circles like a lasso. Seeing the shocked
look on Harry’ s face, Ron added, “ It doesn’ t hurt them –you’ ve j ust got to make them
really dizzy so they can’t find their way back to the gnomeholes.”
He let go of the gnome’ s ankles: It flew twenty feet into the air and landed
with a thud in the field over the hedge.
“Pitiful,” said Fred. “I bet I can get mine beyond that stump.”
Harry learned quickly not to feel too sorry for the gnomes. He decided j ust to
drop the f irst one he caught over the hedge, but the gnome, sensing weakness, sank
its razor–sharp teeth into Harry’s finger and he had a hard job shaking it off – until –
“Wow, Harry – that must’ve been fifty feet… “
The air was soon thick with flying gnomes.
“ See, they’ re not too bright ,” said George, seizing five or six gnomes at once.
“ The moment they know the de–gnoming’ s going on they storm up to have a look.
You’d think they’d have learned by now just to stay put.”
Soon, the crowd of gnomes in the field started walking away in a st raggling
line, their little shoulders hunched.
“ They’ ll be back,” said Ron as they watched the gnomes disappear into the
hedge on the other side of the field. “ They love it here … Dad’ s too soft with them;
he thinks they’re funny…”
Just then, the front door slammed.
“He’s back!” said George. “Dad’s home!”
They hurried through the garden and back into the house. Mr. Weasley was
slumped in a kitchen chair with his glasses off and his eyes closed. He was a thin man,
going bald, but the lit t le hair he had was as red as any of his children’ s. He was
wearing long green robes, which were dusty and travel–worn.
“What a night ,” he mumbled, groping for the teapot as they all sat down
around him. “ Nine raids. Nine! And old Mundungus Fletcher t ried to put a hex on me
when I had my back turned…”
Mr. Weasley took a long gulp of tea and sighed.
“Find anything, Dad?” said Fred eagerly.
“ All I got were a few shrinking door keys and a bit ing ket t le,” yawned Mr.
Weasley. “ There was some pret ty nasty stuff that wasn’ t my department , though.
Mortlake was taken away for quest ioning about some ext remely odd ferrets, but that ’ s
the Committee on Experimental Charms, thank goodness…”
“Why would anyone bother making door keys shrink?” said George.
“ Just Muggle–bait ing,” sighed Mr. Weasley. “ Sell them a key that keeps
shrinking to nothing so they can never find it when they need it … Of course, it ’ s very
hard to convict anyone because no Muggle would admit their key keeps shrinking –
they’ ll insist they j ust keep losing it . Bless them, they’ ll go to any lengths to ignore
magic, even if it ’ s staring them in the face … But the things our lot have taken to
enchanting, you wouldn’t believe –”
“LIKE CARS, FOR INSTANCE?”
Mrs. Weasley had appeared, holding a long poker like a sword. Mr. Weasley’s
eyes jerked open. He stared guiltily at his wife.
“C–cars, Molly, dear?”
“ Yes, Arthur, cars,” said Mrs. Weasley, her eyes flashing. “ Imagine a wizard
buying a rusty old car and telling his wife all he wanted to do with it was take it apart
to see how it worked, while really he was enchanting it to make it fly.”
Mr. Weasley blinked.
“Well, dear, I think you’ ll find that he would be quite within the law to do
that, even if –er –he maybe would have done bet ter to, um, tell his wife the t ruth …
There’ s a loophole in the law, you’ ll find … As long as he wasn’ t intending to f ly the
car, the fact that the car could fly wouldn’t –”
“ Arthur Weasley, you made sure there was a loophole when you wrote that
law!” shouted Mrs. Weasley. “ Just so you could carry on t inkering with all that Muggle
rubbish in your shed! And for your informat ion, Harry arrived this morning in the car
you weren’t intending to fly!”
“Harry?” said Mr. Weasley blankly. “Harry who?”
He looked around, saw Harry, and jumped.
“Good lord, is it Harry Pot ter?Very pleased to meet you, Ron’ s told us so much
about –”
“ Your sons flew that car to Harry’ s house and back last night .” shouted Mrs.
Weasley. “What have you got to say about that, eh?”
“ Did you really?” said Mr. Weasley eagerly. “ Did it go all right? I – I mean,” he
faltered as sparks flew from Mrs. Weasley’ s eyes, “ that – that was very wrong, boys –
very wrong indeed…”
“ Let ’ s leave them to it ,” Ron mut tered to Harry as Mrs. Weasley swelled like a
bullfrog. “Come on, I’ll show you my bedroom.”
They slipped out of the kitchen and down a narrow passageway to an uneven
staircase, which wound its way, zigzagging up through the house. On the third landing,
a door stood aj ar. Harry j ust caught sight of a pair of bright brown eyes staring at him
before it closed with a snap.
“Ginny,” said Ron. “ You don’ t know how weird it is for her to be this shy. She
never shuts up normally –”
They climbed two more f lights unt il they reached a door with peeling paint and
a small plaque on it, saying RONALD’S ROOM.
Harry stepped in, his head almost touching the sloping ceiling, and blinked. It
was like walking into a furnace: Nearly everything in Ron’ s room seemed to be a
violent shade of orange: the bedspread, the walls, even the ceiling. Then Harry
realized that Ron had covered nearly every inch of the shabby wallpaper with posters
of the same seven wit ches and wizards, all wearing bright orange robes, carrying
broomsticks, and waving energetically.
“Your Quidditch team?” said Harry.
“The Chudley Cannons,” said Ron, pointing at the orange bedspread, which was
emblazoned with two giant black C’ s and a speeding cannonball. “ Ninth in the
league.”
Ron’ s school spellbooks were stacked unt idily in a corner, next to a pile of
comics that all seemed to feature The Adventures of Mart in Miggs, the Mad Muggle.
Ron’ s magic wand was lying on top of a fish tank full of frogspawn on the windowsill,
next to his fat gray rat, Scabbers, who was snoozing in a patch of sun.
Harry stepped over a pack of Self–Shuffling playing cards on the floor and
looked out of the t iny window. In the f ield far below he could see a gang of gnomes
sneaking one by one back through the Weasleys’ hedge. Then he turned to look at Ron,
who was watching him almost nervously, as though waiting for his opinion.
“ It ’ s a bit small,” said Ron quickly. “ Not like that room you had with the
Muggles. And I’m right underneath the ghoul in the at t ic; he’ s always banging on the
pipes and groaning …”
But Harry, grinning widely, said, “This is the best house I’ve ever been in.”
Ron’s ears went pink.
CHAPTER FOUR – AT FLOURISH AND BLOTTS
Life at the Burrow was as different as possible from life on Privet Drive. The
Dursleys liked everything neat and ordered; the Weasleys’ house burst with the
st range and unexpected. Harry got a shock the first t ime he looked in the mirror over
the kitchen mantelpiece and it shouted, “ Tuck your shirt in, scruffy!” The ghoul in the
at t ic howled and dropped pipes whenever he felt things were get t ing too quiet , and
small explosions from Fred and George’ s bedroom were considered perfect ly normal.
What Harry found most unusual about life at Ron’s, however, wasn’t the talking mirror
or the clanking ghoul: It was the fact that everybody there seemed to like him.
Mrs. Weasley fussed over the state of his socks and t ried to force him to eat
fourth helpings at every meal. Mr. Weasley liked Harry to sit next to him at the dinner
table so that he could bombard him with quest ions about life with Muggles, asking him
to explain how things like plugs and the postal service worked.
“ Fascinat ing.” he would say as Harry talked him through using a telephone.
“ Ingenious, really, how many ways Muggles have found of get t ing along without
magic.”
Harry heard from Hogwarts one sunny morning about a week after he had
arrived at the Burrow. He and Ron went down to breakfast to f ind Mr. and Mrs.
Weasley and Ginny already sit t ing at the kitchen table. The moment she saw Harry,
Ginny accidentally knocked her porridge bowl to the floor with a loud clat ter. Ginny
seemed very prone to knocking things over whenever Harry entered a room. She dived
under the table to ret rieve the bowl and emerged with her face glowing like the
set t ing sun. Pretending he hadn’ t not iced this, Harry sat down and took the toast Mrs.
Weasley offered him.
“ Let ters from school,” said Mr. Weasley, passing Harry and Ron ident ical
envelopes of yellowish parchment , addressed in green ink. “ Dumbledore already
knows you’ re here, Harry – doesn’ t miss a t rick, that man. You two’ ve got them, too,”
he added, as Fred and George ambled in, still in their pajamas.
For a few minutes there was silence as they all read their let ters. Harry’ s told
him to catch the Hogwarts Express as usual from King’ s Cross stat ion on September
first. There was also a list of the new books he’d need for the coming year.
SECOND–YEAR STUDENTS WILL REQUIRE:
The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2 by Miranda Goshawk
Break with a Banshee by Gilderoy Lockhart
Gadding with Ghouls by Gilderoy Lockhart
Holidays with Hags by Gilderoy Lockhart
Travels with Trolls by Gilderoy Lockhart
Voyages with Vampires by Gilderoy Lockhart
Wanderings with Werewolves by Gilderoy Lockhart
Year with the Yeti by Gilderoy Lockhart
Fred, who had finished his own list, peered over at Harry’s.
“ You’ ve been told to get all Lockhart ’ s books, too!” he said. “ The new Defense
Against the Dark Arts teacher must be a fan – bet it’s a witch.”
At this point , Fred caught his mother’ s eye and quickly busied himself with the
marmalade.
“ That lot won’ t come cheap,” said George, with a quick look at his parents.
“Lockhart’s books are really expensive…”
“Well, we’ ll manage,” said Mrs. Weasley, but she looked worried. “ I expect
we’ll be able to pick up a lot of Ginny’s things secondhand.”
“Oh, are you starting at Hogwarts this year?” Harry asked Ginny.
She nodded, blushing to the roots of her f laming hair, and put her elbow in the
but ter dish. Fortunately no one saw this except Harry, because j ust then Ron’ s elder
brother Percy walked in. He was already dressed, his Hogwarts prefect badge pinned
to his sweater vest.
“Morning, all,” said Percy briskly. “Lovely day.”
He sat down in the only remaining chair but leapt up again almost immediately,
pulling from underneath him a molt ing, gray feather duster – at least , that was what
Harry thought it was, until he saw that it was breathing.
“ Errol!” said Ron, taking the limp owl from Percy and ext ract ing a let ter from
under its wing. “ Finally – he’ s got Hermione’ s answer. I wrote to her saying we were
going to try and rescue you from the Dursleys.”
He carried Errol to a perch j ust inside the back door and t ried to stand him on
it , but Errol f lopped st raight off again so Ron lay him on the draining board instead,
muttering, “Pathetic.” Then he ripped open Hermione’s letter and read it out loud:
“‘Dear Ron, and Harry if you’re there,
“I hope everything went all right and that Harry is okay and that
you didn’ t do anyt hing il legal t o get him out , Ron, because t hat would
get Harry int o t rouble, t oo. I’ ve been really worried and if Harry is al l
right , wil l you please let me know at once, but perhaps it would be
bet t er if you used a dif ferent owl because I t hink another delivery
might finish your one off.
“ I’m very busy wit h schoolwork, of course’ – How can she be?”
said Ron in horror. “We’ re on vacat ion! –’ and we’ re going t o London
next Wednesday t o buy my new books. Why don’ t we meet in Diagon
Alley?
“Let me know what’s happening as soon as you can.
Love from Hermione.”‘
“Well, that fits in nicely, we can go and get all your things then, too,” said
Mrs. Weasley, starting to clear the table. “What’re you all up to today?”
Harry, Ron, Fred, and George were planning to go up the hill to a small
paddock the Weasleys owned. It was surrounded by t rees that blocked it from view of
the village below, meaning that they could pract ice Quidditch there, as long as they
didn’t fly too high.
They couldn’ t use real Quidditch balls, which would have been hard to explain
if they had escaped and flown away over the village; instead they threw apples for one
another to catch. They took turns riding Harry’ s Nimbus Two Thousand, which was
easily the best broom; Ron’ s old Shoot ing Star was often outst ripped by passing
butterflies.
Five minutes later they were marching up the hill, broomst icks over their
shoulders. They had asked Percy if he wanted to j oin them, but he had said he was
busy. Harry had only seen Percy at mealt imes so far; he stayed shut in his room the
rest of the time.
“Wish I knew what he was up to,” said Fred, frowning. “ He’ s not himself . His
exam results came the day before you did; twelve O.W.Ls and he hardly gloated at
all.”
“Ordinary Wizarding Levels,” George explained, seeing Harry’ s puzzled look.
“Bill got twelve, too. If we’re not careful, we’ll have another Head Boy in the family. I
don’t think I could stand the shame.”
Bill was the oldest Weasley brother. He and the next brother, Charlie, had
already left Hogwarts. Harry had never met either of them, but knew that Charlie was
in Romania studying dragons and Bill in Egypt working for the wizard’s bank, Gringotts.
“ Dunno how Mum and Dad are going to afford all our school stuff this year,”
said George after a while. “ Five sets of Lockhart books! And Ginny needs robes and a
wand and everything …”
Harry said nothing. He felt a bit awkward. Stored in an underground vault at
Gringot ts in London was a small fortune that his parents had left him. Of course, it
was only in the wizarding world that he had money; you couldn’t use Galleons, Sickles,
and Knuts in Muggle shops. He had never ment ioned his Gringot ts bank account to the
Dursleys; he didn’ t think their horror of anything connected with magic would st retch
to a large pile of gold.
Mrs. Weasley woke them all early the following Wednesday. After a quick half a
dozen bacon sandwiches each, they pulled on their coats and Mrs. Weasley took a
flowerpot off the kitchen mantelpiece and peered inside.
“We’ re running low, Arthur,” she sighed. “We’ ll have to buy some more
today… Ah well, guests first! After you, Harry dear!”
And she offered him the flowerpot.
Harry stared at them all watching him.
“W–what am I supposed to do?” he stammered.
“ He’ s never t raveled by Floo powder,” said Ron suddenly. “ Sorry, Harry, I
forgot.”
“ Never?” said Mr. Weasley. “ But how did you get to Diagon Alley to buy your
school things last year?”
“I went on the Underground –”
“Really?” said Mr. Weasley eagerly. “Were there escapators? How exactly –”
“ Not now, Arthur,” said Mrs. Weasley. “ Floo powder’ s a lot quicker, dear, but
goodness me, if you’ve never used it before –”
“He’ll be all right, Mum,” said Fred. “Harry, watch us first.”
He took a pinch of glit tering powder out of the flowerpot , stepped up to the
fire, and threw the powder into the flames.
With a roar, the fire turned emerald green and rose higher than Fred, who
stepped right into it, shouted, “Diagon Alley!” and vanished.
“ You must speak clearly, dear,” Mrs. Weasley told Harry as George dipped his
hand into the flowerpot. “And be sure to get out at the right grate …”
“ The right what?” said Harry nervously as the fire roared and whipped George
out of sight, too.
“Well, there are an awful lot of wizard f ires to choose from, you know, but as
long as you’ve spoken clearly –”
“ He’ ll be fine, Molly, don’ t fuss,” said Mr. Weasley, helping himself to Floo
powder, too.
“But, dear, if he got lost, how would we ever explain to his aunt and uncle?”
“ They wouldn’ t mind,” Harry reassured her. “ Dudley would think it was a
brilliant joke if I got lost up a chimney, don’t worry about that –”
“Well … all right … you go after Arthur,” said Mrs. Weasley. “ Now, when you
get into the fire, say where you’re going
“And keep your elbows tucked in,” Ron advised.
“And your eyes shut,” said Mrs. Weasley. “The soot –”
“Don’t fidget,” said Ron. “Or you might well fall out of the wrong fireplace –”
“But don’t panic and get out too early; wait until you see Fred and George.”
Trying hard to bear all this in mind, Harry took a pinch of Floo powder and
walked to the edge of the f ire. He took a deep breath, scat tered the powder into the
flames, and stepped forward; the fire felt like a warm breeze; he opened his mouth
and immediately swallowed a lot of hot ash.
“D–Dia–gon Alley,” he coughed.
It felt as though he was being sucked down a giant drain. He seemed to be
spinning very fast – the roaring in his ears was deafening – he t ried to keep his eyes
open but the whirl of green f lames made him feel sick – something hard knocked his
elbow and he tucked it in t ight ly, st ill spinning and spinning – now it felt as though
cold hands were slapping his face – squint ing through his glasses he saw a blurred
st ream of fireplaces and snatched glimpses of the rooms beyond – his bacon
sandwiches were churning inside him – he closed his eyes again wishing it would stop,
and then –
He fell, face forward, onto cold stone and felt the bridge of his glasses snap.
Dizzy and bruised, covered in soot , he got gingerly to his feet , holding his broken
glasses up to his eyes. He was alone, but where he was, he had no idea. All he could
tell was that he was standing in the stone fireplace of what looked like a large, dimly
lit wizard’s shop – but nothing in here was ever likely to be on a Hogwarts school list.
A glass case nearby held a withered hand on a cushion, a bloodstained pack of
cards, and a staring glass eye. Evil–looking masks stared down from the walls, an
assortment of human bones lay upon the counter, and rusty, spiked inst ruments hung
from the ceiling. Even worse, the dark, narrow st reet Harry could see through the
dusty shop window was definitely not Diagon Alley.
The sooner he got out of here, the bet ter. Nose st ill st inging where it had hit
the hearth, Harry made his way swift ly and silent ly toward the door, but before he’ d
got halfway toward it, two people appeared on the other side of the glass – and one of
them was the very last person Harry wanted to meet when he was lost , covered in
soot, and wearing broken glasses: Draco Malfoy.
Harry looked quickly around and spot ted a large black cabinet to his left ; he
shot inside it and pulled the doors closed, leaving a small crack to peer through.
Seconds later, a bell clanged, and Malfoy stepped into the shop.
The man who followed could only be Draco’ s father. He had the same pale,
pointed face and ident ical cold, gray eyes. Mr. Malfoy crossed the shop, looking lazily
at the items on display, and rang a bell on the counter before turning to his son and
saying, “Touch nothing, Draco.”
Malfoy, who had reached for the glass eye, said, “ I thought you were going to
buy me a present.”
“ I said I would buy you a racing broom,” said his father, drumming his fingers
on the counter.
“What ’ s the good of that if I’m not on the House team?” said Malfoy, looking
sulky and bad–tempered. “ Harry Pot ter got a Nimbus Two Thousand last year. Special
permission f rom Dumbledore so he could play for Gryffindor. He’ s not even that good,
it’s just because he’s famous … famous for having a stupid scar on his forehead…”
Malfoy bent down to examine a shelf full of skulls.
“ …everyone thinks he’ s so smart , wonderful Pot ter with his scar and his
broomstick –”
“ You have told me this at least a dozen t imes already,” said Mr. Malfoy, with a
quelling look at his son. “ And I would remind you that it is not – prudent – to appear
less than fond of Harry Pot ter, not when most of our kind regard him as the hero who
made the Dark Lord disappear – ah, Mr. Borgin.”
A stooping man had appeared behind the counter, smoothing his greasy hair
back from his face.
“Mr. Malfoy, what a pleasure to see you again,” said Mr. Borgin in a voice as
oily as his hair. “ Delighted – and young Master Malfoy, too –charmed. How may I be of
assistance? I must show you, just in today, and very reasonably priced –”
“I’m not buying today, Mr. Borgin, but selling,” said Mr. Malfoy.
“Selling?” The smile faded slightly from Mr. Borgin’s face.
“ You have heard, of course, that the Minist ry is conduct ing more raids,” said
Mr. Malfoy, taking a roll of parchment from his inside pocket and unraveling it for Mr.
Borgin to read. “ I have a few – ah – items at home that might embarrass me, if the
Ministry were to call …”
Mr. Borgin fixed a pair of pince–nez to his nose and looked down the list.
“The Ministry wouldn’t presume to trouble you, sir, surely?”
Mr. Malfoy’s lip curled.
“ I have not been visited yet . The name Malfoy st ill commands a certain
respect , yet the Minist ry grows ever more meddlesome. There are rumors about a new
Muggle Protect ion Act – no doubt that flea–bit ten, Muggle–loving fool Arthur Weasley is
behind it.
Harry felt a hot surge of anger.
“ – and as you see, certain of these poisons might make it appear –”
“I understand, sir, of course,” said Mr. Borgin. “Let me see…”
“ Can I have that?” interrupted Draco, point ing at the withered hand on its
cushion.
“ Ah, the Hand of Glory!” said Mr. Borgin, abandoning Mr. Malfoy’ s list and
scurrying over to Draco. “ Insert a candle and it gives light only to the holder! Best
friend of thieves and plunderers! Your son has fine taste, sir.”
“ I hope my son will amount to more than a thief or a plunderer, Borgin,” said
Mr. Malfoy coldly, and Mr. Borgin said quickly, “No offense, sir, no offense meant –”
“Though if his grades don’ t pick up,” said Mr. Malfoy, more coldly st ill, “ that
may indeed be all he is fit for –”
“ It ’ s not my fault ,” retorted Draco. “ The teachers all have favorites, that
Hermione Granger –”
“ I would have thought you’ d be ashamed that a girl of no wizard family beat
you in every exam,” snapped Mr. Malfoy.
“ Ha!” said Harry under his breath, pleased to see Draco looking both abashed
and angry.
“ It ’ s the same all over,” said Mr. Borgin, in his oily voice. “Wizard blood is
counting for less everywhere –”
“Not with me,” said Mr. Malfoy, his long nostrils flaring.
“No, sir, nor with me, sir,” said Mr. Borgin, with a deep bow.
“ In that case, perhaps we can return to my list ,” said Mr. Malfoy short ly. “ I am
in something of a hurry, Borgin, I have important business elsewhere today –”
They started to haggle. Harry watched nervously as Draco drew nearer and
nearer to his hiding place, examining the obj ects for sale. Draco paused to examine a
long coil of hangman’ s rope and to read, smirking, the card propped on a magnificent
necklace of opals, Caut ion: Do Not Touch. Cursed –Has Claimed t he Lives of Nineteen
Muggle Owners to Date.
Draco turned away and saw the cabinet right in front of him. He walked
forward – he stretched out his hand for the handle –
“Done,” said Mr. Malfoy at the counter. “Come, Draco –”
Harry wiped his forehead on his sleeve as Draco turned away.
“Good day to you, Mr. Borgin. I’ll expect you at the manor tomorrow to pick up
the goods.”
The moment the door had closed, Mr. Borgin dropped his oily manner.
“Good day yourself, Mister Malfoy, and if the stories are t rue, you haven’ t sold
me half of what’s hidden in your manor …”
Mut tering darkly, Mr. Borgin disappeared into a back room. Harry waited for a
minute in case he came back, then, quiet ly as he could, slipped out of the cabinet ,
past the glass cases, and out of the shop door.
Clutching his broken glasses to his face, Harry stared around. He had emerged
into a dingy alleyway that seemed to be made up entirely of shops devoted to the Dark
Arts. The one he’ d j ust left , Borgin and Burkes, looked like the largest , but opposite
was a nasty window display of shrunken heads and, two doors down, a large cage was
alive with gigant ic black spiders. Two shabby–looking wizards were watching him f rom
the shadow of a doorway, mut tering to each other. Feeling j umpy, Harry set off,
t rying to hold his glasses on st raight and hoping against hope he’ d be able to find a
way out of here.
An old wooden st reet sign hanging over a shop selling poisonous candles told
him he was in Knockturn Alley. This didn’ t help, as Harry had never heard of such a
place. He supposed he hadn’ t spoken clearly enough through his mouthful of ashes
back in the Weasleys’ fire. Trying to stay calm, he wondered what to do.
“Not lost are you, my dear?” said a voice in his ear, making him jump.
An aged wit ch stood in front of him, holding a t ray of what looked horribly like
whole human fingernails. She leered at him, showing mossy teeth. Harry backed away.
“I’m fine, thanks,” he said. “I’m just –”
“HARRY! What d’yeh think yer doin’ down there?”
Harry’ s heart leapt . So did the witch; a load of fingernails cascaded down over
her feet and she cursed as the massive form of Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper,
came striding toward them, beetle–black eyes flashing over his great bristling beard.
“Hagrid!” Harry croaked in relief. “I was lost – Floo powder –”
Hagrid seized Harry by the scruff of the neck and pulled him away from the
witch, knocking the t ray right out of her hands. Her shrieks followed them all the way
along the twist ing alleyway out into bright sunlight . Harry saw a familiar, snow–white
marble building in the distance – Gringot ts Bank. Hagrid had steered him right into
Diagon Alley.
“ Yer a mess!” said Hagrid gruff ly, brushing soot off Harry so forcefully he
nearly knocked him into a barrel of dragon dung outside an apothecary. “ Skulkin’
around Knockturn Alley, I dunno dodgy place, Harry – don’ want no one ter see yeh
down there –”
“ I realized that ,” said Harry, ducking as Hagrid made to brush him off again. “ I
told you, I was lost – what were you doing down there, anyway?”
“ I was lookin’ fer a Flesh–Eat in’ Slug Repellent ,” growled Hagrid. “ They’ re
ruinin’ the school cabbages. Yer not on yer own?”
“ I’m staying with the Weasleys but we got separated,” Harry explained. “ I’ ve
got to go and find them…”
They set off together down the street.
“ How come yeh never wrote back ter me?” said Hagrid as Harry j ogged
alongside him (he had to take three steps to every st ride of Hagrid’ s enormous boots).
Harry explained all about Dobby and the Dursleys.
“Lousy Muggles,” growled Hagrid. “If I’d’ve known –”
“Harry! Harry! Over here!”
Harry looked up and saw Hermione Granger standing at the top of the white
flight of steps to Gringot ts. She ran down to meet them, her bushy brown hair flying
behind her.
“What happened to your glasses? Hello, Hagrid –Oh, it ’ s wonderful to see you
two again – are you coming into Gringotts, Harry?”
“As soon as I’ve found the Weasleys,” said Harry.
“Yeh won’t have long ter wait,” Hagrid said with a grin.
Harry and Hermione looked around: Sprint ing up the crowded st reet were Ron, Fred,
George, Percy, and Mr. Weasley.
“Harry,” Mr. Weasley panted. “We hoped you’d only gone one grate too far. He
mopped his glistening bald patch. “Molly’s frantic – she’s coming now –”
“Where did you come out?” Ron asked.
“Knockturn Alley,” said Hagrid grimly.
“Excellent.” said Fred and George together.
“We’ve never been allowed in,” said Ron enviously.
“I should ruddy well think not,” growled Hagrid.
Mrs. Weasley now came galloping into view, her handbag swinging wildly in one
hand, Ginny j ust clinging onto the other. “ Oh, Harry – oh, my dear – you could have
been anywhere –”
Gasping for breath she pulled a large clothes brush out of her bag and began
sweeping off the soot Hagrid hadn’ t managed to beat away. Mr. Weasley took Harry’ s
glasses, gave them a tap of his wand, and returned them, good as new.
“Well, got ta be off,” said Hagrid, who was having his hand wrung by Mrs.
Weasley (“Knockturn Alley! If you hadn’t found him, Hagrid!”). “See yer at Hogwarts!”
And he strode away, head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the packed street.
“Guess who I saw in Borgin and Burkes?” Harry asked Ron and Hermione as they
climbed the Gringotts steps. “Malfoy and his father.”
“Did Lucius Malfoy buy anything?” said Mr. Weasley sharply behind them.
“No, he was selling”
“ So he’ s worried,” said Mr. Weasley with grim sat isfact ion. “Oh, I’ d love to get
Lucius Malfoy for something…”
“ You be careful, Arthur,” said Mrs. Weasley sharply as they were bowed into
the bank by a goblin at the door. “ That family’ s t rouble. Don’ t go bit ing off more than
you can chew –”
“ So you don’ t think I’m a match for Lucius Malfoy?” said Mr. Weasley
indignant ly, but he was dist racted almost at once by the sight of Hermione’ s parents,
who were standing nervously at the counter that ran all along the great marble hall,
waiting for Hermione to introduce them.
“ But you’ re Muggles!” said Mr. Weasley delightedly. “We must have a drink!
What ’ s that you’ ve got there? Oh, you’ re changing Muggle money. Molly, look!” He
pointed excitedly at the ten–pound notes in Mr. Granger’s hand.
“Meet you back here,” Ron said to Hermione as the Weasleys and Harry were
led off to their underground vaults by another Gringotts goblin.
The vaults were reached by means of small, goblin–driven carts that sped along
miniature t rain t racks through the bank’ s underground tunnels. Harry enj oyed the
breakneck j ourney down to the Weasleys’ vault , but felt dreadful, far worse than he
had in Knockturn Alley, when it was opened. There was a very small pile of silver
Sickles inside, and j ust one gold Galleon. Mrs. Weasley felt right into the corners
before sweeping the whole lot into her bag. Harry felt even worse when they reached
his vault . He t ried to block the contents from view as he hast ily shoved handfuls of
coins into a leather bag.
Back outside on the marble steps, they all separated. Percy mut tered vaguely
about needing a new quill. Fred and George had spot ted their friend from Hogwarts,
Lee Jordan. Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were going to a secondhand robe shop. Mr.
Weasley was insisting on taking the Grangers off to the Leaky Cauldron for a drink.
“We’ ll all meet at Flourish and Blot ts in an hour to buy your schoolbooks,” said
Mrs. Weasley, set t ing off with Ginny. “ And not one step down Knockturn Alley!” she
shouted at the twins’ retreating backs.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione st rolled off along the winding, cobbled st reet . The
bag of gold, silver, and bronze j angling cheerfully in Harry’ s pocket was clamoring to
be spent , so he bought three large st rawberry–and–peanut–but ter ice creams, which
they slurped happily as they wandered up the alley, examining the fascinat ing shop
windows. Ron gazed longingly at a full set of Chudley Cannon robes in the windows of
Qual it y Quiddit ch Suppl ies unt il Hermione dragged them off to buy ink and parchment
next door. In Gambol and Japes Wizarding Joke Shop, they met Fred, George, and Lee
Jordan, who were stocking up on Dr. Filibuster’ s Fabulous Wet–Start , No–Heat
Fireworks, and in a t iny j unk shop full of bro ken wands, lopsided brass scales, and old
cloaks covered in pot ion stains they found Percy, deeply immersed in a small and
deeply boring book called Prefect s Who Gained Power. ‘A st udy of Hogwart s prefect s
and t heir later careers, “ Ron read aloud off the back cover. “ That sounds
fascinating…”
“Go away,” Percy snapped.
“‘Course, he’s very ambitious, Percy, he’s got it all planned out … He wants to
be Minister of Magic…“ Ron told Harry and Hermione in an undertone as they left
Percy to it.
An hour later, they headed for Flourish and Blot ts. They were by no means the
only ones making their way to the bookshop. As they approached it , they saw to their
surprise a large crowd j ost ling out side the doors, t rying to get in. The reason for this
was proclaimed by a large banner stretched across the upper windows:
GILDEROY LOCKHART wil l be signing copies of his autobiography MAGICAL ME today
12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“We can actually meet him!” Hermione squealed. “ I mean, he’ s writ ten almost
the whole booklist!”
The crowd seemed to be made up mostly of witches around Mrs. Weasley’s age.
A harrassed–looking wizard stood at the door, saying, “ Calmly, please, ladies … Don’ t
push, there … mind the books, now…”
Harry, Ron, and Hermione squeezed inside. A long line wound right to the back
of the shop, where Gilderoy Lockhart was signing his books. They each grabbed a copy
of The Standard Book of Spel ls, Grade 2 and sneaked up the line to where the rest of
the Weasleys were standing with Mr. and Mrs. Granger.
“Oh, there you are, good,” said Mrs. Weasley. She sounded breathless and kept
patting her hair. “We’ll be able to see him in a minute…”
Gilderoy Lockhart came slowly into view, seated at a table surrounded by large
pictures of his own face, all winking and flashing dazzlingly white teeth at the crowd.
The real Lockhart was wearing robes of forget–me–not blue that exact ly matched his
eyes; his pointed wizard’s hat was set at a jaunty angle on his wavy hair.
A short , irritable–looking man was dancing around taking photographs with a
large black camera that emitted puffs of purple smoke with every blinding flash.
“Out of the way, there,” he snarled at Ron, moving back to get a bet ter shot .
“This is for the Daily Prophet –”
“ Big deal,” said Ron, rubbing his foot where the photographer had stepped on
it.
Gilderoy Lockhart heard him. He looked up. He saw Ron and then he saw Harry.
He stared. Then he leapt to his feet and positively shouted, “It can’t be Harry Potter?”
The crowd parted, whispering excitedly; Lockhart dived forward, seized Harry’s
arm, and pulled him to the front . The crowd burst into applause. Harry’ s face burned
as Lockhart shook his hand for the photographer, who was clicking away madly,
wafting thick smoke over the Weasleys.
“ Nice big smile, Harry,” said Lockhart , through his own gleaming teeth.
“Together, you and I are worth the front page.”
When he f inally let go of Harry’ s hand, Harry could hardly feel his f ingers. He
t ried to sidle back over to the Weasleys, but Lockhart threw an arm around his
shoulders and clamped him tightly to his side.
“ Ladies and gent lemen,” he said loudly, waving for quiet . “What an
ext raordinary moment this is! The perfect moment for me to make a lit t le
announcement I’ve been sitting on for some time!
“When young Harry here stepped into Flourish and Blotts today, he only wanted
to buy my autobiography – which I shall be happy to present him now, free of charge–”
The crowd applauded again.
“ He had no idea,” Lockhart cont inued, giving Harry a lit t le shake that made his
glasses slip to the end of his nose, “ that he would short ly be get t ing much, much more
than my book, Magical Me. He and his schoolmates will, in fact , be get t ing the real
magical me. Yes, ladies and gent lemen, I have great pleasure and pride in announcing
that this September, I will be taking up the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts
teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!”
The crowd cheered and clapped and Harry found himself being presented with
the ent ire works of Gilderoy Lockhart . Staggering slight ly under their weight , he
managed to make his way out of the limelight to the edge of the room, where Ginny
was standing next to her new cauldron.
“ You have these,” Harry mumbled to her, t ipping the books into the cauldron.
“I’ll buy my own –”
“ Bet you loved that , didn’ t you, Pot ter?” said a voice Harry had no t rouble
recognizing. He st raightened up and found himself face–to–face with Draco Malfoy,
who was wearing his usual sneer.
“ Famous Harry Pot ter,” said Malfoy. “ Can’ t even go into a bookshop without
making the front page.”
“Leave him alone, he didn’t want all that!” said Ginny. It was the first time she
had spoken in front of Harry. She was glaring at Malfoy.
“ Pot ter, you’ ve got yourself a girlfriend!” drawled Malfoy. Ginny went scarlet
as Ron and Hermione fought their way over, both clutching stacks of Lockhart’s books.
“Oh, it ’ s you,” said Ron, looking at Malfoy as if he were something unpleasant
on the sole of his shoe. “Bet you’re surprised to see Harry here, eh?”
“ Not as surprised as I am to see you in a shop, Weasley,” retorted Malfoy. “ I
suppose your parents will go hungry for a month to pay for all those.”
Ron went as red as Ginny. He dropped his books into the cauldron, too, and
started toward Malfoy, but Harry and Hermione grabbed the back of his jacket.
“ Ron!” said Mr. Weasley, st ruggling over with Fred and George. “What are you
doing? It’s too crowded in here, let’s go outside.”
“Well, well, well – Arthur Weasley.”
It was Mr. Malfoy. He stood with his hand on Draco’ s shoulder, sneering in j ust
the same way.
“Lucius,” said Mr. Weasley, nodding coldly.
“ Busy t ime at the Minist ry, I hear,” said Mr. Malfoy. “ All those raids … I hope
they’re paying you overtime?”
He reached into Ginny’ s cauldron and ext racted, from amid the glossy Lockhart
books, a very old, very battered copy of A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration.
“Obviously not ,” Mr. Malfoy said. “ Dear me, what ’ s the use of being a disgrace
to the name of wizard if they don’t even pay you well for it?”
Mr. Weasley flushed darker than either Ron or Ginny.
“We have a very different idea of what disgraces the name of wizard, Malfoy,”
he said.
“ Clearly,” said Mr. Malfoy, his pale eyes st raying to Mr. and Mrs. Granger, who
were watching apprehensively. “ The company you keep, Weasley … and I thought
your family could sink no lower –“
There was a thud of metal as Ginny’ s cauldron went flying; Mr. Weasley had
thrown himself at Mr. Malfoy, knocking him backward into a bookshelf . Dozens of
heavy spellbooks came thundering down on all their heads; there was a yell of, “Get
him, Dad!” from Fred or George; Mrs. Weasley was shrieking, “ No, Arthur, no!” the
crowd stampeded backward, knocking more shelves over; “ Gent lemen, please –
please!” cried the assistant, and then, louder than all
“Break it up, there, gents, break it up –”
Hagrid was wading toward them through the sea of books. In an instant he had
pulled Mr. Weasley and Mr. Malfoy apart . Mr. Weasley had a cut lip and Mr. Malfoy had
been hit in the eye by an Encyclopedia of Toadst ools. He was st ill holding Ginny’ s old
Transfiguration book. He thrust it at her, his eyes glittering with malice.
“ Here, girl – take your book – it ’ s the best your father can give you –” Pulling
himself out of Hagrid’s grip he beckoned to Draco and swept from the shop.
“ Yeh should’ ve ignored him, Arthur,” said Hagrid, almost lift ing Mr. Weasley
of f his feet as he st raightened his robes. “ Rot ten ter the core, the whole family,
everyone knows that – no Malfoy’ s worth listenin’ ter – bad blood, that ’ s what it is –
come on now – let’s get outta here.”
The assistant looked as though he wanted to stop them leaving, but he barely
came up to Hagrid’ s waist and seemed to think bet ter of it . They hurried up the
street, the Grangers shaking with fright and Mrs. Weasley beside herself with fury.
“ A fine example to set for your children …brawling in public …what Gilderoy
Lockhart must’ve thought –”
“ He was pleased,” said Fred. “ Didn’ t you hear him as we were leaving?He was
asking that bloke from the Daily Prophet if he’ d be able to work the fight into his
report – said it was all publicity –”
But it was a subdued group that headed back to the fireside in the Leaky
Cauldron, where Harry, the Weasleys, and all their shopping would be t raveling back
to the Burrow using Floo powder. They said good–bye to the Grangers, who were
leaving the pub for the Muggle st reet on the other side; Mr. Weasley started to ask
them how bus stops worked, but stopped quickly at the look on Mrs. Weasley’s face.
Harry took off his glasses and put them safely in his pocket before helping
himself to Floo powder. It definitely wasn’t his favorite way to travel.
CHAPTER FIVE – THE WHOMPING WILLOW
The end of the summer vacat ion came too quickly for Harry’ s liking. He was
looking forward to get t ing back to Hogwarts, but his month at the Burrow had been
the happiest of his life. It was diff icult not to feel j ealous of Ron when he thought of
the Dursleys and the sort of welcome he could expect next time he turned up on Privet
Drive.
On their last evening, Mrs. Weasley conj ured up a sumptuous dinner that
included all of Harry’ s favorite things, ending with a mouthwatering t reacle pudding.
Fred and George rounded off the evening with a display of Filibuster fireworks; they
fiIled the kitchen with red and blue stars that bounced from ceiling to wall for at least
half an hour. Then it was time for a last mug of hot chocolate and bed.
It took a long while to get started next morning. They were up at dawn, but
somehow they still seemed to have a great deal to do.
Mrs. Weasley dashed about in a bad mood looking for spare socks and quills;
people kept colliding on the stairs, half–dressed with bits of toast in their hands; and
Mr. Weasley nearly broke his neck, tripping over a stray chicken as he crossed the yard
carrying Ginny’s trunk to the car.
Harry couldn’ t see how eight people, six large t runks, two owls, and a rat were
going to fit into one small Ford Anglia. He had reckoned, of course, without the
special features that Mr. Weasley had added.
“ Not a word to Molly,” he whispered to Harry as he opened the. Trunk and
showed him how it had been magically expanded so that the luggage fitted easily.
When at last they were all in the car, Mrs. Weasley glanced into the back seat ,
where Harry, Ron, Fred, George, and Percy were all sit t ing comfortably side by side,
and said, “Muggles do know more than we give them credit for, don’ t they?” She and
Ginny got into the f ront seat , which had been st retched so that it resembled a park
bench. “I mean, you’d never know it was this roomy from the outside, would you?”
Mr. Weasley started up the engine and they t rundled out of the yard, Harry
turning back for a last look at the house. He barely had t ime to wonder when he’ d see
it again when they were back George had forgot ten his box of Filibuster fireworks.
Five minutes after that, they skidded to a halt in the yard so that Fred could run in for
his broomst ick. They had almost reached the highway when Ginny shrieked that she’ d
left her diary. By the t ime she had clambered back into the car, they were running
very late, and tempers were running high.
Mr. Weasley glanced at his watch and then at his wife.
“Molly, dear –”
“No, Arthur –”
“ No one would see – this lit t le but ton here is an Invisibility Booster I installed –
that ’ d get us up in the air – then we fly above the clouds. We’ d be there in ten
minutes and no one would be any the wiser –”
“I said no, Arthur, not in broad daylight –”
They reached King’ s Cross at a quarter to eleven. Mr. Weasley dashed across
the road to get t rolleys for their t runks and they all hurried into the station. Harry had
caught the Hogwarts Express the previous year. The t ricky part was get t ing onto
plat form nine and three–quarters, which wasn’ t visible to the Muggle eye. What you
had to do was walk through the solid barrier dividing plat forms nine and ten. It didn’ t
hurt , but it had to be done carefully so that none of the Muggles not iced you
vanishing.
“ Percy first ,” said Mrs. Weasley, looking nervously at the clock overhead,
which showed they had only five minutes to disappear casually through the barrier.
Percy st rode briskly forward and vanished. Mr. Weasley went next ; Fred and
George followed.
“ I’ ll take Ginny and you two come right after us,” Mrs. Weasley told Harry and
Ron, grabbing Ginny’s hand and setting off. In the blink of an eye they were gone.
“Let’s go together, we’ve only got a minute,” Ron said to Harry.
Harry made sure that Hedwig’ s cage was safely wedged on top of his t runk and
wheeled his t rolley around to face the barrier. He felt perfect ly confident ; this wasn’ t
nearly as uncomfortable as using Floo powder. Both of them bent low over the handles
of their t rolleys and walked purposefully toward the barrier, gathering speed. A few
feet away from it, they broke into a run and – CRASH.
Both t rolleys hit the barrier and bounced backward; Ron’ s t runk fell off with a
loud thump, Harry was knocked off his feet, and Hedwig’s cage bounced onto the shiny
floor, and she rolled away, shrieking indignant ly; people all around them stared and a
guard nearby yelled, “What in blazes d’you think you’re doing?”
“ Lost cont rol of the t rolley,” Harry gasped, clutching his ribs as he got up. Ron
ran to pick up Hedwig, who was causing such a scene that there was a lot of muttering
about cruelty to animals from the surrounding crowd.
“Why can’t we get through?” Harry hissed to Ron.
“I dunno –”
Ron looked wildly around. A dozen curious people were still watching them.
“We’ re going to miss the t rain,” Ron whispered. “ I don’ t understand why the
gateway’s sealed itself –”
Harry looked up at the giant clock with a sickening feeling in the pit of his
stomach. Ten seconds … nine seconds …
He wheeled his t rolley forward caut iously unt il it was right against the barrier
and pushed with all his might. The metal remained solid.
Three seconds …two seconds … one second …
“ It ’ s gone,” said Ron, sounding stunned. “ The t rain’ s left . What if Mum and
Dad can’t get back through to us? Have you got any Muggle money?”
And they marched off through the crowd of curious Muggles, out of the stat ion
and back onto the side road where the old Ford Anglia was parked.
Ron unlocked the cavernous t runk with a series of taps from his wand. They
heaved their luggage back in, put Hedwig on the back seat, and got into the front.
“ Check that no one’ s watching,” said Ron, start ing the ignit ion with another
tap of his wand. Harry stuck his head out of the window: Traf fic was rumbling along
the main road ahead, but their street was empty.
“Okay,” he said.
Ron pressed a t iny silver but ton on the dashboard. The car around them
vanished – and so did they. Harry could feel the seat vibrat ing beneath him, hear the
engine, feel his hands on his knees and his glasses on his nose, but for all he could see,
he had become a pair of eyeballs, float ing a few feet above the ground in a dingy
street full of parked cars.
“Let’s go,” said Ron’s voice from his right.
And the ground and the dirty buildings on either side fell away, dropping out of
sight as the car rose; in seconds, the whole of London lay, smoky and glit tering, below
them.
Then there was a popping noise and the car, Harry, and Ron reappeared.
“Uh–oh,” said Ron, jabbing at the Invisibility Booster. “It’s faulty –”
Both of them pummeled it. The car vanished. Then it flickered back again.
“ Hold on!” Ron yelled, and he slammed his foot on the accelerator; they shot
straight into the low, woolly clouds and everything turned dull and foggy.
“ Now what?” said Harry, blinking at the solid mass of cloud pressing in on them
from all sides.
“We need to see the train to know what direction to go in,” said Ron.
“Dip back down again – quickly –”
They dropped back beneath the clouds and twisted around in their seats,
squinting at the ground.
“I can see it!” Harry yelled. “Right ahead – there!”
The Hogwarts Express was streaking along below them like a scarlet snake.
“ Due north,” said Ron, checking the compass on the dashboard. “ Okay, we’ ll
just have to check on it every half hour or so – hold on.
And they shot up through the clouds. A minute later, they burst out into a
blaze of sunlight.
It was a different world. The wheels of the car skimmed the sea of fluffy cloud,
the sky a bright, endless blue under the blinding white sun.
“All we’ve got to worry about now are airplanes,” said Ron.
They looked at each other and started to laugh; for a long t ime, they couldn’ t
stop. It was as though they had been plunged into a fabulous dream. This, thought
Harry, was surely the only way to t ravel – past swirls and turrets of snowy cloud, in a
car full of hot , bright sunlight , with a fat pack of toffees in the glove compartment ,
and the prospect of seeing Fred’ s and George’ s j ealous faces when they landed
smoothly and spectacularly on the sweeping lawn in front of Hogwarts castle.
They made regular checks on the t rain as they flew farther and farther north,
each dip beneath the clouds showing them a different view. London was soon far
behind them, replaced by neat green fields that gave way in turn to wide, purplish
moors, a great city alive with cars like mult icolored ants, villages with t iny toy
churches.
Several unevent ful hours later, however, Harry had to admit that some of the
fun was wearing off. The toffees had made them ext remely thirst y and they had
nothing to drink. He and Ron had pulled of f their sweaters, but Harry’ s T-shirt was
st icking to the back of his seat and his glasses kept sliding down to the end of his
sweaty nose. He had stopped not icing the fantast ic cloud shapes now and was thinking
longingly of the t rain miles below, where you could buy ice-cold pumpkin j uice from a
t rolley pushed by a plump witch. Why hadn’ t they been able to get onto plat form nine
and three–quarters?
“ Can’ t be much further, can it?” croaked Ron, hours later st ill, as the sun
started to sink into their floor of cloud, staining it a deep pink. “ Ready for another
check on the train?”
It was st ill right below them, winding its way past a snowcapped mountain. It
was much darker beneath the canopy of clouds.
Ron put his foot on the accelerator and drove them upward again, but as he did
so, the engine began to whine.
Harry and Ron exchanged nervous glances.
“It’s probably just tired,” said Ron. “It’s never been this far before…”
And they both pretended not to not ice the whining growing louder and louder
as the sky became steadily darker. Stars were blossoming in the blackness. Harry
pulled his sweater back on, t rying to ignore the way the windshield wipers were now
waving fee bly, as though in protest.
“ Not far,” said Ron, more to the car than to Harry, “ not far now,” and he
patted the dashboard nervously.
When they flew back beneath the clouds a lit t le while later, they had to squint
through the darkness for a landmark they knew.
“There!” Harry shouted, making Ron and Hedwig jump. “Straight ahead!”
Silhouetted on the dark horizon, high on the cliff over the lake, stood the many
turrets and towers of Hogwarts cast le. But the car had begun to shudder and was
losing speed.
“ Come on,” Ron said caj olingly, giving the steering wheel a lit t le shake,
“nearly there, come on –”
The engine groaned. Narrow j ets of steam were issuing f rom under the hood.
Harry found himself gripping the edges of his seat very hard as they f lew toward the
lake. The car gave a nasty wobble. Glancing out of his window, Harry saw the smooth,
black, glassy surface of the water, a mile below. Ron’ s knuckles were white on the
steering wheel. The car wobbled again.
“Come on,” Ron muttered.
They were over the lake – the castle was right ahead – Ron put his foot down.
There was a loud clunk, a splutter, and the engine died completely.
“Uh–oh,” said Ron, into the silence.
The nose of the car dropped. They were falling, gathering speed, heading
straight for the solid castle wall.
“ Noooooo!” Ron yelled, swinging the steering wheel around; they missed the
dark stonewall by inches as the car turned in a great arc, soaring over the dark
greenhouses, then the vegetable patch, and then out over the black lawns, losing
altitude all the time.
Ron let go of the steering wheel completely and pulled his wand out of his back
pocket
“STOP! STOP!” he yelled, whacking the dashboard and the windshield, but they
were still plummeting, the ground flying up toward them
“WATCH OUT FOR THAT TREE!” Harry bellowed, lunging for the steering wheel,
but too late
CRUNCH.
With an earsplit t ing bang of metal on wood, they hit the thick t ree t runk and
dropped to the ground with a heavy j olt . Steam was billowing from under the
crumpled hood; Hedwig was shrieking in terror; a golfball–sized lump was throbbing on
Harry’ s head where he had hit the windshield; and to his right , Ron let out a low,
despairing groan.
“Are you okay?” Harry said urgently.
“My wand,” said Ron, in a shaky voice. “Look at my wand –”
It had snapped, almost in two; the t ip was dangling limply, held on by a few
splinters.
Harry opened his mouth to say he was sure they’ d be able to mend it up at the
school, but he never even got started. At that very moment , something hit his side of
the car with the force of a charging bull, sending him lurching sideways into Ron, j ust
as an equally heavy blow hit the roof.
“What’s happen –?”
Ron gasped, staring through the windshield, and Harry looked around j ust in
t ime to see a branch as thick as a python smash into it . The t ree they had hit was
at tacking them. Its t runk was bent almost double, and its gnarled boughs were
pummeling every inch of the car it could reach.
“ Aaargh!” said Ron as another twisted limb punched a large dent into his door;
the windshield was now t rembling under a hail of blows from knuckle–like twigs and a
branch as thick as a bat tering ram was pounding furiously on the roof, which seemed
to be caving
“ Run for it !” Ron shouted, throwing his full weight against his door, but next
second he had been knocked backward into Harry’ s lap by a vicious uppercut from
another branch.
“We’ re done for!” he moaned as the ceiling sagged, but suddenly the f loor of
the car was vibrating – the engine had restarted.
“ Reverse! ” Harry yelled, and the car shot backward; the t ree was st ill t rying to
hit them; they could hear its roots creaking as it almost ripped itself up, lashing out at
them as they sped out of reach.
“That,” panted Ron, “was close. Well done, car –”
The car, however, had reached the end of its tether. With two sharp clunks,
the doors flew open and Harry felt his seat t ip sideways: Next thing he knew he was
sprawled on the damp ground. Loud thuds told him that the car was ej ect ing their
luggage from the t runk; Hedwig’ s cage flew through the air and burst open; she rose
out of it with an angry screech and sped off toward the cast le without a backward
look. Then, dented, scratched, and steaming, the car rumbled off into the darkness,
its rear lights blazing angrily.
“Come back!” Ron yelled after it, brandishing his broken wand.
“Dad’ll kill me!”
But the car disappeared from view with one last snort from its exhaust.
“ Can you believe our luck?” said Ron miserably, bending down to pick up
Scabbers. “Of all the trees we could’ve hit, we had to get one that hits back.”
He glanced over his shoulder at the ancient t ree, which was st ill f lailing it s
branches threateningly.
“Come on,” said Harry wearily, “we’d better get up to the school…”
It wasn’ t at all the t riumphant arrival they had pictured. St iff , cold, and
bruised, they seized the ends of their t runks and began dragging them up the grassy
slope, toward the great oak front doors.
“ I think the feast ’ s already started,” said Ron, dropping his t runk at the foot of
the front steps and crossing quiet ly to look through a bright ly lit window. “ Hey –Harry
– come and look – it’s the Sorting!”
Harry hurried over and, together, he and Ron peered in at the Great Hall.
Innumerable candles were hovering in midair over four long, crowded tables,
making the golden plates and goblets sparkle. Overhead, the bewitched ceiling, which
always mirrored the sky outside, sparkled with stars. Through the forest of pointed
black Hogwarts hats, Harry saw a long line of scared–looking first years filling into the
Hall. Ginny was among them, easily visible because of her vivid Weasley hair.
Meanwhile, Professor McGonagall, a bespectacled wit ch with her hair in a t ight bun,
was placing the famous Hogwarts Sorting Hat on a stool before the newcomers.
Every year, this aged old hat , patched, frayed, and dirty, sorted new students
into the four Hogwarts houses (Gryffindor, Huff lepuf f, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin).
Harry well remembered put t ing it on, exact ly one year ago, and wait ing, pet rified, for
its decision as it mut tered aloud in his ear. For a few horrible seconds he had feared
that the hat was going to put him in Slytherin, the house that had turned out more
Dark witches and wizards than any other – but he had ended up in Gryffindor, along
with Ron, Hermione, and the rest of the Weasleys. Last term, Harry and Ron had
helped Gryffindor win the House Championship, beat ing Slytherin for the first t ime in
seven years.
A very small, mousy–haired boy had been called forward to place the hat on his
head. Harry’ s eyes wandered past him to where Professor Dumbledore, the
headmaster, sat watching the Sort ing from the staf f table, his long silver beard and
half–moon glasses shining bright ly in the candlelight . Several seats along, Harry saw
Gilderoy Lockhart , dressed in robes of aquamarine. And there at the end was Hagrid,
huge and hairy, drinking deeply from his goblet.
“Hang on…“ Harry muttered to Ron. “There’s an empty chair at the staff table
… Where’s Snape?”
Professor Severus Snape was Harry’ s least favorite teacher. Harry also
happened to be Snape’ s least favorite student . Cruel, sarcast ic, and disliked by
everybody except the students from his own house (Slytherin), Snape taught Potions.
“Maybe he’s ill!” said Ron hopefully.
“Maybe he’ s lef t ,” said Harry, “ because he missed out on the Defense Against
Dark Arts job again!”
“Or he might have been sacked!” said Ron enthusiast ically. “ I mean, everyone
hates him –”
“Or maybe,” said a very cold voice right behind them, “ he’ s wait ing to hear
why you two didn’t arrive on the school train.”
Harry spun around. There, his black robes rippling in a cold breeze, stood
Severus Snape. He was a thin man with sallow skin, a hooked nose, and greasy,
shoulder–length black hair, and at this moment , he was smiling in a way that told
Harry he and Ron were in very deep trouble.
“Follow me,” said Snape.
Not daring even to look at each other, Harry and Ron followed Snape up the
steps into the vast , echoing ent rance hall, which was lit with f laming torches. A
delicious smell of food was waft ing from the Great Hall, but Snape led them away
from the warmth and light, down a narrow stone staircase that led into the dungeons.
“In!” he said, opening a door halfway down the cold passageway and pointing.
They entered Snape’ s office, shivering. The shadowy walls were lined with
shelves of large glass) ars, in which f loated all manner of revolt ing things Harry didn’ t
really want to know the name of at the moment . The fireplace was dark and empty.
Snape closed the door and turned to look at them.
“ So,” he said sof t ly, “ the t rain isn’ t good enough for the famous Harry Pot ter
and his faithful sidekick Weasley. Wanted to arrive with a bang, did we, boys?”
“No, sir, it was the barrier at King’s Cross, it –”
“Silence!” said Snape coldly. “What have you done with the car?”
Ron gulped. This wasn’ t the first t ime Snape had given Harry the impression of
being able to read minds. But a moment later, he understood, as Snape unrolled
today’ s issue of the Evening Prophet . “ You were seen,” he hissed, showing them the
headline:
FLYING FORD ANGLIA MYSTIFIES MUGGLES.
He began to read aloud: “ Two Muggles in London, convinced they saw an old
car flying over the Post Off ice tower … at noon in Norfolk, Mrs. Het ty Bayliss, while
hanging out her washing … Mr. Angus Fleet , of Peebles, reported to police … Six or
seven Muggles in all. I believe your father works in the Misuse of Muggle Art ifacts
Office?” he said, looking up at Ron and smiling st ill more nast ily. “ Dear, dear … his
own son…“
Harry felt as though he’ d j ust been walloped in the stomach by one of the mad
t ree’ s larger branches. If anyone found out Mr. Weasley had bewit ched the car … he
hadn’t thought of that …
“ I not iced, in my search of the park, that considerable damage seems to have
been done to a very valuable Whomping Willow,”
Snape went on.
“That tree did more damage to us than we –” Ron blurted out.
“ Silence!” snapped Snape again. “Most unfortunately, you are not in my House
and the decision to expel you does not rest with me. I shall go and fetch the people
who do have that happy power. You will wait here.”
Harry and Ron stared at each other, white–faced. Harry didn’ t feel hungry any
more. He now felt ext remely sick. He t ried not to look at a large, slimy something
suspended in green liquid on a shelf behind Snape’ s desk. If Snape had gone to fetch
Professor McGonagall, head of Gryffindor House, they were hardly any bet ter off. She
might be fairer than Snape, but she was still extremely strict.
Ten minutes later, Snape returned, and sure enough it was Professor
McGonagall who accompanied him. Harry had seen Professor McGonagall angry on
several occasions, but either he had forgot ten j ust how thin her mouth could go, or he
had never seen her this angry before. She raised her wand the moment she entered;
Harry and Ron both flinched, but she merely pointed it at the empty f ireplace, where
flames suddenly erupted.
“Sit,” she said, and they both backed into chairs by the fire.
“Explain,” she said, her glasses glinting ominously.
Ron launched into the story, start ing with the barrier at the stat ion refusing to
let them through.
“ –so we had no choice, Professor, we couldn’t get on the train.”
“Why didn’ t you send us a let ter by owl? I believe you have an owl?” Professor
McGonagall said coldly to Harry.
Harry gaped at her. Now she said it , that seemed the obvious thing to have
done.
“I – I didn’t think –”
“That,” said Professor McGonagall, “is obvious.”
There was a knock on the office door and Snape, now looking happier than
ever, opened it. There stood the headmaster, Professor Dumbledore.
Harry’ s whole body went numb. Dumbledore was looking unusually grave. He
stared down his very crooked nose at them, and Harry suddenly found himself wishing
he and Ron were still being beaten up by the Whomping Willow.
There was a long silence. Then Dumbledore said, “ Please explain why you did
this.”
It would have been better if he had shouted. Harry hated the disappointment in
his voice. For some reason, he was unable to look Dumbledore in the eyes, and spoke
instead to his knees. He told Dumbledore everything except that Mr. Weasley owned
the bewitched car, making it sound as though he and Ron had happened to find a
flying car parked outside the stat ion. He knew Dumbledore would see through this at
once, but Dumbledore asked no quest ions about the car. When Harry had finished, he
merely continued to peer at them through his spectacles.
“We’ll go and get our stuff,” said Ron in a hopeless sort of voice.
“What are you talking about, Weasley?” barked Professor McGonagall.
“Well, you’re expelling us, aren’t you?” said Ron.
Harry looked quickly at Dumbledore.
“ Not today, Mr. Weasley,” said Dumbledore. “ But I must impress upon both of
you the seriousness of what you have done. I will be writ ing to both your families
tonight . I must also warn you that if you do anything like this again, I will have no
choice but to expel you.”
Snape looked as though Christmas had been canceled. He cleared his throat
and said, “ Professor Dumbledore, these boys have f louted the Decree for the
Rest rict ion of Underage Wizardry, caused serious damage to an old and valuable t ree –
surely acts of this nature –”
“ It will be for Professor McGonagall to decide on these boys’ punishments,
Severus,” said Dumbledore calmly. “ They are in her House and are therefore her
responsibility.” He turned to Professor McGonagall. “ I must go back to the feast ,
Minerva, I’ ve got to give out a few not ices. Come, Severus, there’ s a delicious–looking
custard tart I want to sample –”
Snape shot a look of pure venom at Harry and Ron as he allowed himself to be
swept out of his office, leaving them alone with Professor McGonagall, who was st ill
eyeing them like a wrathful eagle. “ You’ d bet ter get along to the hospital wing,
Weasley, you’re bleeding.”
“ Not much,” said Ron, hast ily wiping the cut over his eye with his sleeve.
“Professor, I wanted to watch my sister being Sorted –”
“ The Sort ing Ceremony is over,” said Professor McGonagall. “ Your sister is also
in Gryffindor.”
“Oh, good,” said Ron.
“ And speaking of Gryffindor –” Professor McGonagall said sharply, but Harry cut
in: “Professor, when we took the car, term hadn’t started, so – so Gryffindor shouldn’t
really have points taken from it – should it?” he finished, watching her anxiously.
Professor McGonagall gave him a piercing look, but he was sure she had almost
smiled. Her mouth looked less thin, anyway. “ I will not take any points from
Gryf findor,” she said, and Harry’ s heart lightened considerably. “ But you will both get
a detention.”
It was bet ter than Harry had expected. As for Dumbledore’ s writ ing to the
Dursleys, that was nothing. Harry knew perfect ly well they’ d j ust be disappointed that
the Whomping Willow hadn’t squashed him flat.
Professor McGonagall raised her wand again and pointed it at Snape’ s desk. A
large plate of sandwiches, two silver goblets, and a j ug of iced pumpkin j uice
appeared with a pop.
“ You will eat in here and then go st raight up to your dormitory,” she said. “ I
must also return to the feast.”
When the door had closed behind her, Ron let out a long, low whistle.
“I thought we’d had it,” he said, grabbing a sandwich.
“So did I,” said Harry, taking one, too.
“ Can you believe our luck, though?” said Ron thickly through a mouthful of
chicken and ham. “ Fred and George must ’ ve f lown that car five or six t imes and no
Muggle ever saw them.” He swallowed and took another huge bite. “Why couldn’ t we
get through the barrier?”
Harry shrugged. “We’ ll have to watch our step from now on, though,” he said,
taking a grateful swig of pumpkin juice. “Wish we could’ve gone up to the feast…”
“ She didn’ t want us showing off,” said Ron sagely. “ Doesn’ t want people to
think it’s clever, arriving by flying car.”
When they had eaten as many sandwiches as they could (the plate kept refilling
itself) they rose and left the office, t reading the familiar path to Gryffindor Tower.
The cast le was quiet ; it seemed that the feast was over. They walked past mut tering
port raits and creaking suits of armor, and climbed narrow flights of stone stairs, unt il
at last they reached the passage where the secret ent rance to Gryffindor Tower was
hidden, behind an oil painting of a very fat woman in a pink silk dress.
“Password?” she said as they approached.
“Er –” said Harry.
They didn’t know the new year’s password, not having met a Gryffindor prefect
yet , but help came almost immediately; they heard hurrying feet behind them and
turned to see Hermione dashing toward them.
“ There you are! Where have you been? The most ridiculous rumors – someone
said you’d been expelled for crashing a flying car
“Well, we haven’t been expelled,” Harry assured her.
“ You’ re not telling me you did fly here?” said Hermione, sounding almost as
severe as Professor McGonagall.
“Skip the lecture,” said Ron impatiently, “and tell us the new password.”
“It’s ‘wattlebird,”‘ said Hermione impatiently, “but that’s not the point – “
Her words were cut short , however, as the port rait of the fat lady swung open
and there was a sudden storm of clapping. It looked as though the whole of Gryffindor
House was st ill awake, packed into the circular common room, standing on the
lopsided tables and squashy armchairs, wait ing for them to arrive. Arms reached
through the portrait hole to pull Harry and Ron inside, leaving Hermione to scramble in
after then–.
“ Brilliant !” yelled Lee Jordan. “ Inspired! What an ent rance! Flying a car right
into the Whomping Willow, people’ll be talking about that one for years –”
“Good for you,” said a fifth year Harry had never spoken to; someone was
pat t ing him on the back as though he’ d j ust won a marathon; Fred and George pushed
their way to the front of the crowd and said together, “Why couldn’ t we’ ve come in
the car, eh?”
Ron was scarlet in the face, grinning embarrassedly, but Harry could see one
person who didn’ t look happy at all. Percy was visible over the heads of some excited
first years, and he seemed to be t rying to get near enough to start telling them off.
Harry nudged Ron in the ribs and nodded in Percy’ s direct ion. Ron got the point at
once.
“Got to get upstairs – bit t ired,” he said, and the two of them started pushing
their way toward the door on the other side of the room, which led to a spiral
staircase and the dormitories.
“ ‘Night ,” Harry called back to Hermione, who was wearing a scowl j ust like
Percy’s.
They managed to get to the other side of the common room, st ill having their
backs slapped, and gained the peace of the staircase. They hurried up it , right to the
top, and at last reached the door of their old dormitory, which now had a sign on it
saying SECOND YEARS.
They entered the familiar, circular room, with its five four–posters hung with
red velvet and its high, narrow windows. Their t runks had been brought up for them
and stood at the ends of their beds.
Ron grinned guilt ily at Harry. “ I know I shouldn’ t ’ ve enj oyed that or anything,
but -’
The dormitory door flew open and in came the other second year Gryffindor
boys, Seamus Finnigan, Dean Thomas, and Neville Longbottom.
“Unbelievable!” beamed Seamus.
“Cool,” said Dean.
“Amazing,” said Neville, awestruck.
Harry couldn’t help it. He grinned, too.
CHAPTER SIX – GILDEROY LOCKHART
The next day, however, Harry barely grinned once. Things started to go
downhill from breakfast in the Great Hall. The four long house tables were laden with
tureens of porridge, plates of kippers, mountains of toast , and dishes of eggs and
bacon, beneath the enchanted ceiling (today, a dull, cloudy gray). Harry and Ron sat
down at the Gryff indor table next to Hermione, who had her copy of Voyages wit h
Vampires propped open against a milk j ug. There was a slight st iffness in the way she
said “Morning,” which told Harry that she was st ill disapproving of the way they had
arrived. Neville Longbot tom, on the other hand, greeted them cheerfully. Neville was
a round–faced and accident–prone boy with the worst memory of anyone Harry had
ever met.
“Mail’s due any minute – I think Gran’s sending a few things I forgot.”
Harry had only just started his porridge when, sure enough, there was a rushing
sound overhead and a hundred or so owls st reamed in, circling the hall and dropping
let ters and packages into the chat tering crowd. A big, lumpy package bounced off
Neville’ s head and, a second later, something large and gray fell into Hermione’ s j ug,
spraying them all with milk and feathers.
“ Errol!” said Ron, pulling the bedraggled owl out by the feet . Errol slumped,
unconscious, onto the table, his legs in the air and a damp red envelope in his beak.
“Oh, no –” Ron gasped.
“ It ’ s all right , he’ s st ill alive,” said Hermione, prodding Errol gent ly with the
tip of her finger.
“It’s not that – it’s that.”
Ron was point ing at the red envelope. It looked quite ordinary to Harry, but
Ron and Neville were both looking at it as though they expected it to explode.
“What’s the matter?” said Harry.
“She’s – she’s sent me a Howler,” said Ron faintly.
“ You’ d bet ter open it , Ron,” said Neville in a t imid whisper. “ It ’ ll be worse if
you don’ t . My gran sent me one once, and I ignored it and” – he gulped – “ it was
horrible.”
Harry looked from their petrified faces to the red envelope.
“What’s a Howler?” he said.
But Ron’ s whole at tent ion was fixed on the let ter, which had begun to smoke
at the corners.
“Open it,” Neville urged. “It’ll all be over in a few minutes –”
Ron st retched out a shaking hand, eased the envelope from Errol’ s beak, and
slit it open. Neville stuffed his fingers in his ears. A split second later, Harry knew
why. He thought for a moment it had exploded; a roar of sound fiIled the huge hall,
shaking dust from the ceiling.
“ STEALING THE CAR, I WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN SURPRISED IF THEY’D EXPELLED
YOU, YOU WAIT TILL I GET HOLD OF YOU, I DON’T SUPPOSE YOU STOPPED TO THINK
WHAT YOUR FATHERAND I WENT THROUGH WHEN WE SAW IT WAS GONE –”
Mrs. Weasleys yells, a hundred t imes louder than usual, made the plates and
spoons rat t le on the table, and echoed deafeningly off the stonewalls. People
throughout the hall were swiveling around to see who had received the Howler, and
Ron sank so low in his chair that only his crimson forehead could be seen.
“ – LETTER FROM DUMBLEDORE LAST NIGHT, I THOUGHT YOUR FATHER WOULD
DIE OF SHAME, WE DIDN’T BRING YOU UP TO BEHAVE LIKE THIS, YOU AND HARRY
COULD BOTH HAVE DIED –”
Harry had been wondering when his name was going to crop up. He t ried very
hard to look as though he couldn’t hear the voice that was making his eardrums throb.
“ –ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTED –YOUR FATHER’SFACING AN INQUIRY AT WORK, IT’S
ENTIRELY YOUR FAULT AND IF YOU PUT ANOTHER TOE OUT OF LINEWE’ LL BRING YOU
STRAIGHT BACK HOME.”
A ringing silence fell. The red envelope, which had dropped from Ron’ s hand,
burst into flames and curled into ashes. Harry and Ron sat stunned, as though a t idal
wave had j ust passed over them. A few people laughed and, gradually, a babble of
talks broke out again.
Hermione closed Voyages wit h Vampires and looked down at the top of Ron’ s
head.
“Well, I don’t know what you expected, Ron, but you –”
“Don’t tell me I deserved it,” snapped Ron.
Harry pushed his porridge away. His insides were burning with guilt . Mr.
Weasley was facing an inquiry at work. After all Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had done for
him over the summer …
But he had no t ime to dwell on this; Professor McGonagall was moving along
the Gryffindor table, handing out course schedules. Harry took his and saw that they
had double Herbology with the Hufepuffs first.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione left the cast le together, crossed the vegetable
patch, and made for the greenhouses, where the magical plants were kept . At least
the Howler had done one good thing: Hermione seemed to think they had now been
punished enough and was being perfectly friendly again.
As they neared the greenhouses they saw the rest of the class standing outside,
wait ing for Professor Sprout . Harry, Ron, and Hermione had only j ust j oined them
when she came st riding into view across the lawn, accompanied by Gilderoy Lockhart .
Professor Sprout ’ s arms were full of bandages, and with another twinge of guilt , Harry
spotted the Whomping Willow in the distance, several of its branches now in slings.
Professor Sprout was a squat lit t le wit ch who wore a patched hat over her
flyaway hair; there was usually a large amount of earth on her clothes and her
fingernails would have made Aunt Petunia faint . Gilderoy Lockhart , however, was
immaculate in sweeping robes of turquoise, his golden hair shining under a perfect ly
positioned turquoise hat with gold trimming.
“Oh, hello there!” he called, beaming around at the assembled students. “ Just
been showing Professor Sprout the right way to doctor a Whomping Willow! But I don’ t
want you running away with the idea that I’m bet ter at Herbology than she is! I j ust
happen to have met several of these exotic plants on my travels…”
“Greenhouse three today, chaps!” said Professor Sprout , who was looking
distinctly disgruntled, not at all her usual cheerful self.
There was a murmur of interest . They had only ever worked in greenhouse one
before – greenhouse three housed far more interesting and dangerous plants. Professor
Sprout took a large key f rom her belt and unlocked the door. Harry caught a whif f of
damp earth and fert ilizer mingling with the heavy perfume of some giant , umbrella–
sized f lowers dangling from the ceiling. He was about to follow Ron and Hermione
inside when Lockhart’s hand shot out.
“ Harry! I’ ve been want ing a word – you don’ t mind if he’ s a couple of minutes
late, do you, Professor Sprout?”
Judging by Professor Sprout ’ s scowl, she did mind, but Lockhart said, “ That ’ s
the ticket,” and closed the greenhouse door in her face.
“ Harry,” said Lockhart , his large white teeth gleaming in the sunlight as he
shook his head. “Harry, Harry, Harry.”
Completely nonplussed, Harry said nothing.
“When I heard –well, of course, it was all my fault. Could have kicked myself.”
Harry had no idea what he was talking about . He was about to say so when
Lockhart went on, “ Don’ t know when I’ ve been more shocked. Flying a car to
Hogwarts! Well, of course, I knew at once why you’ d done it . Stood out a mile. Harry,
Harry, Harry.”
It was remarkable how he could show every one of those brilliant teeth even
when he wasn’t talking.
“Gave you a taste for publicity, didn’ t I?” said Lockhart . “Gave you the bug.
You got onto the front page of the paper with me and you couldn’ t wait to do it
again.”
“Oh, no, Professor, see –”
“ Harry, Harry, Harry,” said Lockhart , reaching out and grasping his shoulder. “ I
understand. Natural to want a bit more once you’ ve had that first taste – and I blame
myself for giving you that , because it was bound to go to your head – but see here,
young man, you can’t start flying cars to try and get yourself noticed. Just calm down,
all right? Plenty of t ime for all that when you’ re older. Yes, yes, I know what you’ re
thinking! ‘ It ’ s all right for him, he’ s an internat ionally famous wizard already!’ But
when I was twelve, I was j ust as much of a nobody as you are now. In fact , I’ d say I
was even more of a nobody! I mean, a few people have heard of you, haven’t they? All
that business with He–Who–Must–Not–Be–Named!”
He glanced at the lightning scar on Harry’ s forehead. “ I know, I know – it ’ s not
quite as good as winning Witch Weekly’ s Most Charming–Smile Award f ive t imes in a
row, as I have – but it’s a start, Harry, it’s a start.”
He gave Harry a hearty wink and st rode of f. Harry stood stunned for a few
seconds, then, remembering he was supposed to be in the greenhouse, he opened the
door and slid inside. Professor Sprout was standing behind a t rest le bench in the
center of the greenhouse. About twenty pairs of different–colored earmuffs were lying
on the bench. When Harry had taken his place between Ron and Hermione, she said,
“We’ ll be repot t ing Mandrakes today. Now, who can tell me the propert ies of the
Mandrake?”
To nobody’s surprise, Hermione’s hand was first into the air.
“Mandrake, or Mandragora, is a powerful restorat ive,” said Hermione, sounding
as usual as though she had swallowed the textbook. “ It is used to return people who
have been transfigured or cursed to their original state.”
“ Excellent . Ten points to Gryffindor,” said Professor Sprout . “ The Mandrake
forms an essent ial part of most ant idotes. It is also, however, dangerous. Who can tell
me why?”
Hermione’s hand narrowly missed Harry’s glasses as it shot up again.
“The cry of the Mandrake is fatal to anyone who hears it,” she said promptly.
“ Precisely. Take another ten points,” said Professor Sprout . “ Now, the
Mandrakes we have here are still very young.”
She pointed to a row of deep trays as she spoke, and everyone shuffled forward
for a bet ter look. A hundred or so tufty lit t le plants, purplish green in color, were
growing there in rows. They looked quite unremarkable to Harry, who didn’ t have the
slightest idea what Hermione meant by the “cry” of the Mandrake.
“Everyone take a pair of earmuffs,” said Professor Sprout.
There was a scramble as everyone t ried to seize a pair that wasn’ t pink and
fluffy.
“When I tell you to put them on, make sure your ears are completely covered,”
said Professor Sprout . “When it is safe to remove them, I will give you the thumbs–up.
Right – earmuffs on.”
Harry snapped the earmuf fs over his ears. They shut out sound completely.
Professor Sprout put the pink, fluffy pair over her own ears, rolled up the sleeves of
her robes, grasped one of the tufty plants firmly, and pulled hard.
Harry let out a gasp of surprise that no one could hear. Instead of roots, a
small, muddy, and ext remely ugly baby popped out of the earth. The leaves were
growing right out of his head. He had pale green, mot t led skin, and was clearly
bawling at the top of his lungs.
Professor Sprout took a large plant pot from under the table and plunged the
Mandrake into it , burying him in dark, damp compost unt il only the tufted leaves were
visible. Professor Sprout dusted off her hands, gave them all the thumbs–up, and
removed her own earmuffs.
“ As our Mandrakes are only seedlings, their cries won’ t kill yet ,” she said
calmly as though she’ d j ust done nothing more excit ing than water a begonia.
“ However, they will knock you out for several hours, and as I’m sure none of you want
to miss your first day back, make sure your earmuffs are securely in place while you
work. I will attract your attention when it is time to pack up.
“Four to a tray – there is a large supply of pots here – compost in the sacks over
there – and be careful of the Venemous Tentacula, it’s teething.”
She gave a sharp slap to a spiky, dark red plant as she spoke, making it draw in
the long feelers that had been inching sneakily over her shoulder.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione were j oined at their t ray by a curly–haired
Hufflepuff boy Harry knew by sight but had never spoken to.
“ Just in Finch–Fletchley,” he said bright ly, shaking Harry by the hand. “ Know
who you are, of course, the famous Harry Pot ter… And you’ re Hermione Granger –
always top in everything”
(Hermione beamed as she had her hand shaken too) “ – and Ron Weasley.
Wasn’t that your flying car?”
Ron didn’t smile. The Howler was obviously still on his mind.
“ That Lockhart ’ s something, isn’ t he?” said Just in happily as they began fiIling
their plant pots with dragon dung compost . “ Awfully brave chap. Have you read his
books? I’ d have died of fear if I’ d been cornered in a telephone booth by a werewolf,
but he stayed cool and – zap – just fantastic.
“My name was down for Eton, you know. I can’ t tell you how glad I am I came
here instead. Of course, Mother was slight ly disappointed, but since I made her read
Lockhart ’ s books I think she’ s begun to see how useful it ’ ll be to have a fully t rained
wizard in the family…”
After that they didn’ t have much chance to talk. Their earmuffs were back on
and they needed to concent rate on the Mandrakes. Professor Sprout had made it look
ext remely easy, but it wasn’ t . The Mandrakes didn’ t like coming out of the earth, but
didn’ t seem to want to go back into it either. They squirmed, kicked, flailed their
sharp lit t le fists, and gnashed their teeth; Harry spent ten whole minutes t rying to
squash a particularly fat one into a pot.
By the end of the class, Harry, like everyone else, was sweaty, aching, and
covered in earth. Everyone t raipsed back to the cast le for a quick wash and then the
Gryffindors hurried off to Transfiguration.
Professor McGonagall’s classes were always hard work, but today was especially
difficult. Everything Harry had learned last year seemed to have leaked out of his head
during the summer. He was supposed to be turning a beet le into a but ton, but all he
managed to do was give his beet le a lot of exercise as it scut t led over the desktop
avoiding his wand.
Ron was having far worse problems. He had patched up his wand with some
borrowed Spellotape, but it seemed to be damaged beyond repair. It kept crackling
and sparking at odd moments, and every t ime Ron t ried to t ransf igure his beet le it
engulfed him in thick gray smoke that smelled of rot ten eggs. Unable to see what he
was doing, Ron accidentally squashed his beet le with his elbow and had to ask for a
new one. Professor McGonagall wasn’t pleased.
Harry was relieved to hear the lunch bell. His brain felt like a wrung sponge.
Everyone filled out of the classroom except him and Ron, who was whacking his wand
furiously on the desk.
“Stupid – useless – thing –”
“Write home for another one,” Harry suggested as the wand let off a volley of
bangs like a firecracker.
“Oh, yeah, and get another Howler back,” said Ron, stuffing the now hissing
wand into his bag. “ ‘It’s your own fault your wand got snapped –’“
They went down to lunch, where Ron’ s mood was not improved by Hermione’ s
showing them the handful of perfect coat buttons she had produced in Transfiguration.
“What’ve we got this afternoon?” said Harry, hastily changing the subject.
“Defense Against the Dark Arts,” said Hermione at once.
“Why, “ demanded Ron, seizing her schedule, “ have you out lined all Lockhart ’ s
lessons in little hearts?”
Hermione snatched the schedule back, blushing furiously. They f inished lunch
and went outside into the overcast courtyard. Hermione sat down on a stone step and
buried her nose in Voyages with Vampires again. Harry and Ron stood talking about
Quidditch for several minutes before Harry became aware that he was being closely
watched. Looking up, he saw the very small, mousy–haired boy he’ d seen t rying on the
Sort ing Hat last night staring at Harry as though t ransfixed. He was clutching what
looked like an ordinary Muggle camera, and the moment Harry looked at him, he went
bright red.
“ All right , Harry? I’m –I’m Colin Creevey,” he said breathlessly, taking a
tentat ive step forward. “ I’m in Gryffindor, too. D’ you think –would it be all right if –
can I have a picture?” he said, raising the camera hopefully.
“A picture?” Harry repeated blankly.
“ So I can prove I’ ve met you,” said Colin Creevey eagerly, edging further
forward. “ I know all about you. Everyone’ s told me. About how you survived when
You–Know–Who t ried to kill you and how he disappeared and everything and how
you’ ve st ill got a lightning scar on your forehead” (his eyes raked Harry’ s hairline)
“and a boy in my dormitory said if I develop the film in the right potion, the pictures’ll
move.” Colin drew a great shuddering breath of excitement and said, “ It ’ s amazing
here, isn’ t it? I never knew all the odd stuf f I could do was magic t ill I got the let ter
from Hogwarts. My dad’ s a milkman, he couldn’ t believe it either. So I’m taking loads
of pictures to send home to him. And it ’ d be really good if I had one of you” – he
looked imploringly at Harry – “maybe your friend could take it and I could stand next
to you? And then, could you sign it?”
“Signed photos? You’re giving out signed photos, Potter?”
Loud and scathing, Draco Malfoy’ s voice echoed around the courtyard. He had
stopped right behind Colin, f lanked, as he always was at Hogwarts, by his large and
thuggish cronies, Crabbe and Goyle.
“ Everyone line up!” Malfoy roared to the crowd. “ Harry Pot ter’ s giving out
signed photos!”
“No, I’m not,” said Harry angrily, his fists clenching. “Shut up, Malfoy.”
“ You’ re j ust j ealous,” piped up Colin, whose ent ire body was about as thick as
Crabbe’s neck.
“ Jealous?” said Malfoy, who didn’ t need to shout anymore: half the courtyard
was listening in. “Of what? I don’ t want a foul scar right across my head, thanks. I
don’t think getting your head cut open makes you that special, myself.”
Crabbe and Goyle were sniggering stupidly.
“ Eat slugs, Malfoy,” said Ron angrily. Crabbe stopped laughing and started
rubbing his knuckles in a menacing way.
“ Be careful, Weasley,” sneered Malfoy. “ You don’ t want to start any t rouble or
your Mommy’ ll have to come and take you away from school.” He put on a shrill,
piercing voice. “If you put another toe out of line’ – “
A knot of Slytherin fifth–years nearby laughed loudly at this.
“Weasley would like a signed photo, Pot ter,” smirked Malfoy. “ It ’ d be worth
more than his family’s whole house –”
Ron whipped out his Spellotaped wand, but Hermione shut Voyages wit h
Vampires with a snap and whispered, “Look out!”
“What ’ s all this, what ’ s all this?” Gilderoy Lockhart was st riding toward them,
his turquoise robes swirling behind him. “Who’s giving out signed photos?”
Harry started to speak but he was cut short as Lockhart flung an arm around his
shoulders and thundered jovially, “Shouldn’t have asked! We meet again, Harry!”
Pinned to Lockhart ’ s side and burning with humiliat ion, Harry saw Malfoy slide
smirking back into the crowd. “ Come on then, Mr. Creevey,” said Lockhart , beaming
at Colin.
“A double portrait, can’t do better than that, and we’ll both sign it for you.”
Colin fumbled for his camera and took the picture as the bell rang behind
them, signaling the start of afternoon classes. “ Off you go, move along there,”
Lockhart called to the crowd, and he set off back to the cast le with Harry, who was
wishing he knew a good Vanishing Spell, still clasped to his side.
“ A word to the wise, Harry,” said Lockhart paternally as they entered the
building through a side door. “ I covered up for you back there with young Creevey – if
he was photographing me, too, your schoolmates won’ t think you’ re set t ing yourself
up so much…”
Deaf to Harry’ s stammers, Lockhart swept him down a corridor lined with
staring students and up a staircase. “ Let me j ust say that handing out signed pictures
at this stage of your career isn’ t sensible – looks a tad bigheaded, Harry, to be frank.
There may well come a t ime when, like me, you’ ll need to keep a stack handy
wherever you go, but ” – he gave a lit t le chort le – “ I don’ t think you’ re quite there
yet.”
They had reached Lockhart ’ s classroom and he let Harry go at last . Harry
yanked his robes straight and headed for a seat at the very back of the class, where he
busied himself with piling all seven of Lockhart ’ s books in front of him, so that he
could avoid looking at the real thing.
The rest of the class came clat tering in, and Ron and Hermione sat down on
either side of Harry.
“ You could’ ve fried an egg on your face” said Ron. “ You’ d bet ter hope Creevey
doesn’t meet Ginny, or they’ll be starting a Harry Potter fan club.”
“ Shut up,” snapped Harry. The last thing he needed was for Lockhart to hear
the phrase “Harry Potter fan club.”
When the whole class was seated, Lockhart cleared his throat loudly and
silence fell. He reached forward, picked up Neville Longbot tom’ s copy of Travels with
Trolls, and held it up to show his own, winking portrait on the front.
“Me,” he said, point ing at it and winking as well. “ Gilderoy Lockhart , Order of
Merlin, Third Class, Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defense League, and five–time
winner of Witch Weekly’ s Most–Charming–Smile Award – but I don’ t talk about that . I
didn’t get rid of the Bandon Banshee by smiling at her!”
He waited for them to laugh; a few people smiled weakly.
“ I see you’ ve all bought a complete set of my books –well done. I thought we’ d
start today with a lit t le quiz. Nothing to worry about j ust to check how well you’ ve
read them, how much you’ve taken in –”
When he had handed out the test papers he returned to the front of the class
and said, “You have thirty minutes – start – now!”
Harry looked down at his paper and read:
1. What is Gilderoy Lockhart ‘s favorite color?
2. What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s secret ambition?
3. What, in your opinion, is Gilderoy Lockhart’s greatest achievement to date?
On and on it went, over three sides of paper, right down to:
54. When is Gilderoy Lockhart’s birthday, and what would his ideal gift be?
Half an hour later, Lockhart collected the papers and rifled through them in
front of the class.
“ Tut , tut – hardly any of you remembered that my favorite color is lilac. I say
so in Year with the Yet i. And a few of you need to read Wanderings wit h Werewolves
more carefully – I clearly state in chapter twelve that my ideal birthday gift would be
harmony between all magic and non–magic peoples – though I wouldn’ t say no to a
large bottle of Ogden’s Old Firewhisky!”
He gave them another roguish wink. Ron was now staring at Lockhart with an
expression of disbelief on his face; Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas, who were
sit t ing in front , were shaking with silent laughter. Hermione, on the other hand, was
listening to Lockhart with rapt at tent ion and gave a start when he ment ioned her
name.
“ …but Miss Hermione Granger knew my secret ambit ion is to rid the world of
evil and market my own range of hair–care potions – good girl! In fact” – he flipped her
paper over – “full marks! Where is Miss Hermione Granger?”
Hermione raised a trembling hand.
“ Excellent !” beamed Lockhart . “ Quite excellent ! Take ten points for
Gryffindor! And so – to business –”
He bent down behind his desk and lifted a large, covered cage onto it.
“Now – be warned! It is my j ob to arm you against the foulest creatures known
to wizardkind! You may find yourselves facing your worst fears in this room. Know only
that no harm can befall you whilst I am here. All I ask is that you remain calm.”
In spite of himself, Harry leaned around his pile of books for a bet ter look at
the cage. Lockhart placed a hand on the cover. Dean and Seamus had stopped laughing
now. Neville was cowering in his front row seat.
“ I must ask you not to scream,” said Lockhart in a low voice. “ It might provoke
them.”
As the whole class held its breath, Lockhart whipped off the cover.
“Yes,” he said dramatically. “Freshly caught Cornish pixies. “
Seamus Finnigan couldn’ t cont rol himself. He let out a snort of laughter that
even Lockhart couldn’t mistake for a scream of terror.
“Yes?” He smiled at Seamus.
“Well, they’re not – they’re not very – dangerous, are they?” Seamus choked.
“ Don’ t be so sure!” said Lockhart , waggling a finger annoyingly at Seamus.
“Devilish tricky little blighters they can be!”
The pixies were elect ric blue and about eight inches high, with pointed faces
and voices so shrill it was like listening to a lot of budgies arguing. The moment the
cover had been removed, they had started j abbering and rocket ing around, rat t ling
the bars and making bizarre faces at the people nearest them.
“ Right , then,” Lockhart said loudly. “ Let ’ s see what you make of them!” And
he opened the cage.
It was pandemonium. The pixies shot in every direct ion like rockets. Two of
them seized Neville by the ears and lifted him into the air. Several shot st raight
through the window, showering the back row with broken glass. The rest proceeded to
wreck the classroom more effect ively than a rampaging rhino. They grabbed bot t le
inks and sprayed the class with them, shredded books and papers, tore pictures from
the walls, up–ended the waste basket , grabbed bags and books and threw them out of
the smashed window; within minutes, half the class was sheltering under desks and
Neville was swinging from the iron chandelier in the ceiling.
“ Come on now – round them up, round them up, they’ re only pixies,” Lockhart
shouted.
He rolled up his sleeves, brandished his wand, and bellowed, “ Peskipiksi
Pesternomi!”
It had absolutely no effect ; one of the pixies seized his wand and threw it out
of the window, too. Lockhart gulped and dived under his own desk, narrowly avoiding
being squashed by Neville, who fell a second later as the chandelier gave way.
The bell rang and there was a mad rush toward the exit . In the relat ive calm
that followed, Lockhart st raightened up, caught sight of Harry, Ron, and Hermione,
who were almost at the door, and said, “Well, I’ ll ask you three to j ust nip the rest of
them back into their cage.” He swept past them and shut the door quickly behind him.
“Can you believe him?” roared Ron as one of the remaining pixies bit him
painfully on the ear.
“ He j ust wants to give us some hands–on experience,” said Hermione,
immobilizing two pixies at once with a clever Freezing Charm and stuffing them back
into their cage.
“ Hands on? “ said Harry, who was t rying to grab a pixie dancing out of reach
with its tongue out. “Hermione, he didn’t have a clue what he was doing –”
“ Rubbish,” said Hermione. “ You’ ve read his books – look at all thoseamazing
things he’s done –”
“He says he’s done,” Ron muttered.
CHAPTER SEVEN – MUDBLOOD AND WHISPERS
Harry spent a lot of t ime over the next few days dodging out of sight whenever
he saw Gilderoy Lockhart coming down a corridor. Harder to avoid was Colin Creevey,
who seemed to have memorized Harry’ s schedule. Nothing seemed to give Colin a
bigger thrill than to say, “ All right , Harry?” six or seven t imes a day and hear, “ Hello,
Colin,” back, however exasperated Harry sounded when he said it.
Hedwig was st ill angry with Harry about the disast rous car j ourney and Ron’ s
wand was st ill malfunct ioning, surpassing itself on Friday morning by shoot ing out of
Ron’ s hand in Charms and hit t ing t iny old Professor Flitwick squarely between the
eyes, creat ing a large, throbbing green boil where it had st ruck. So with one thing and
another, Harry was quite glad to reach the weekend. He, Ron, and Hermione were
planning to visit Hagrid on Saturday morning. Harry, however, was shaken awake
several hours earlier than he would have liked by Oliver Wood, Captain of the
Gryffindor Quidditch team.
“Whassamatter?” said Harry groggily.
“Quidditch practice!” said Wood. “Come on!”
Harry squinted at the window. There was a thin mist hanging across the pink–
and–gold sky. Now that he was awake, he couldn’t understand how he could have slept
through the racket the birds were making.
“Oliver,” Harry croaked. “It’s the crack of dawn.”
“ Exact ly,” said Wood. He was a tall and burly sixth year and, at the moment ,
his eyes were gleaming with a crazed enthusiasm. “ It ’ s part of our new t raining
program. Come on, grab your broom, and let ’ s go,” said Wood heart ily. “ None of the
other teams have started training yet; we’re going to be first off the mark this year –”
Yawning and shivering slight ly, Harry climbed out of bed and t ried to f ind his
Quidditch robes.
“Good man,” said Wood. “Meet you on the field in fifteen minutes.”
When he’ d found his scarlet team robes and pulled on his cloak for warmth,
Harry scribbled a note to Ron explaining where he’ d gone and went down the spiral
staircase to the common room, his Nimbus Two Thousand on his shoulder. He had j ust
reached the port rait hole when there was a clat ter behind him and Colin Creevey
came dashing down the spiral staircase, his camera swinging madly around his neck
and something clutched in his hand.
“ I heard someone saying your name on the stairs, Harry! Look what I’ ve got
here! I’ve had it developed, I wanted to show you –”
Harry looked bemusedly at the photograph Colin was brandishing under his
nose. A moving, black–and–white Lockhart was tugging hard on an arm Harry
recognized as his own. He was pleased to see that his photographic self was putting up
a good fight and refusing to be dragged into view. As Harry watched, Lockhart gave up
and slumped, panting, against the white edge of the picture.
“Will you sign it?” said Colin eagerly.
“ No,” said Harry f lat ly, glancing around to check that the room was really
deserted. “Sorry, Colin, I’m in a hurry – Quidditch practice –”
He climbed through the portrait hole.
“ Oh, wow! Wait for me! I’ve never watched a Quidditch game before!”
Colin scrambled through the hole after him.
“ It ’ ll be really boring,” Harry said quickly, but Colin ignored him, his face
shining with excitement.
“ You were the youngest House player in a hundred years, weren’ t you, Harry?
Weren’ t you?” said Colin, t rot t ing alongside him. “ You must be brilliant . I’ ve never
flown. Is it easy? Is that your own broom? Is that the best one there is?”
Harry didn’ t know how to get rid of him. It was like having an ext remely
talkative shadow.
“ I don’ t really understand Quiddit ch,” said Colin breathlessly. “ Is it t rue there
are four balls? And two of them fly around trying to knock people off their brooms?”
“ Yes,” said Harry heavily, resigned to explaining the complicated rules of
Quidditch. “ They’ re called Bludgers. There are two Beaters on each team who carry
clubs to beat the Bludgers away from their side. Fred and George Weasley are the
Gryffindor Beaters.”
“ And what are the other balls for?” Colin asked, t ripping down a couple of
steps because he was gazing open–mouthed at Harry.
“Well, the Quaffle – that ’ s the biggish red one – is the one that scores goals.
Three Chasers on each team throw the Quaff le to each other and t ry and get it
through the goal posts at the end of the pitch –they’ re three long poles with hoops on
the end.”
“And the fourth ball –”
“ – is the Golden Snitch,” said Harry, “ and it ’ s very small, very fast , and
difficult to catch. But that’s what the Seeker’s got to do, because a game of Quidditch
doesn’ t end unt il the Snitch has been caught . And whichever team’ s Seeker gets the
Snitch earns his team an extra hundred and fifty points.”
“And you’re the Gryffindor Seeker, aren’t you?” said Colin in awe.
“ Yes,” said Harry as they left the cast le and started across the dew–drenched
grass. “And there’s the Keeper, too. He guards the goal posts. That’s it, really.”
But Colin didn’ t stop quest ioning Harry all the way down the sloping lawns to
the Quidditch field, and Harry only shook him off when he reached the changing
rooms; Colin called after him in a piping voice, “ I’ ll go and get a good seat , Harry!”
and hurried off to the stands.
The rest of the Gryf findor team were already in the changing room. Wood was
the only person who looked t ruly awake. Fred and George Weasley were sit t ing, puffy–
eyed and tousle haired, next to fourth year Alicia Spinnet , who seemed to be nodding
off against the wall behind her. Her fellow Chasers, Katie
Bell and Angelina Johnson, were yawning side by side opposite them.
“ There you are, Harry, what kept you?” said Wood briskly. “ Now, I wanted a
quick talk with you all before we actually get onto the field, because I spent the
summer devising a whole new t raining program, which I really think will make all the
difference…”
Wood was holding up a large diagram of a Quidditch f ield, on which were
drawn many lines, arrows, and crosses in different colored inks. He took out his wand,
tapped the board, and the arrows began to wiggle over the diagram like caterpillars.
As Wood launched into a speech about his new tact ics, Fred Weasley’ s head drooped
right onto Alicia Spinnet’s shoulder and he began to snore.
The first board took nearly twenty minutes to explain, but there was another
board under that, and a third under that one. Harry sank into a stupor as Wood droned
on and on.
“ So,” said Wood, at long last , j erking Harry from a wist ful fantasy about what
he could be eat ing for breakfast at this very moment up at the cast le. “ Is that clear?
Any questions?”
“ I’ ve got a quest ion, Oliver,” said George, who had woken with a start . “Why
couldn’t you have told us all this yesterday when we were awake?”
Wood wasn’t pleased.
“ Now, listen here, you lot ,” he said, glowering at them all. “We should have
won the Quidditch cup last year. We’re easily the best team. But unfortunately –owing
to circumstances beyond our control – “
Harry shifted guilt ily in his seat . He had been unconscious in the hospital wing
for the final match of the previous year, meaning that Gryffindor had been a player
short and had suf fered their worst defeat in three hundred years. Wood took a
moment to regain control of himself. Their last defeat was clearly still torturing him.
“ So this year, we t rain harder than ever before … Okay, let ’ s go and put our
new theories into practice!” Wood shouted, seizing his broomstick and leading the way
out of the locker rooms. Stiff legged and still yawning, his team followed.
They had been in the locker room so long that the sun was up completely now,
although remnants of mist hung over the grass in the stadium. As Harry walked onto
the field, he saw Ron and Hermione sitting in the stands.
“Aren’t you finished yet?” called Ron incredulously.
“ Haven’ t even started,” said Harry, looking j ealously at the toast and
marmalade Ron and Hermione had brought out of the Great Hall. “Wood’ s been
teaching us new moves.”
He mounted his broomst ick and kicked at the ground, soaring up into the air.
The cool morning air whipped his face, waking him far more effect ively than Wood’ s
long talk. It felt wonderful to be back on the Quidditch field. He soared right around
the stadium at full speed, racing Fred and George.
“What ’ s that funny clicking noise?” called Fred as they hurt led around the
corner.
Harry looked into the stands. Colin was sit t ing in one of the highest seats, his
camera raised, taking picture after picture, the sound st rangely magnif ied in the
deserted stadium.
“Look this way, Harry! This way!” he cried shrilly.
“Who’s that?” said Fred.
“ No idea,” Harry lied, put t ing on a spurt of speed that took him as far away as
possible from Colin.
“What ’ s going on?” said Wood, frowning, as he skimmed through the air toward
them. “Why’ s that first year taking pictures? I don’ t like it . He could be a Slytherin
spy, trying to find out about our new training program.”
“He’s in Gryffindor,” said Harry quickly.
“And the Slytherins don’t need a spy, Oliver,” said George.
“What makes you say that?” said Wood testily.
“Because they’re here in person,” said George, pointing.
Several people in green robes were walking onto the field, broomst icks in their
hands.
“ I don’ t believe it !” Wood hissed in out rage. “ I booked the field for today!
We’ll see about this!”
Wood shot toward the ground, landing rather harder than he meant to in his
anger, staggering slightly as he dismounted. Harry, Fred, and George followed.
“Flint!” Wood bellowed at the Slytherin Captain. “This is our practice time! We
got up specially! You can clear off now!”
Marcus Flint was even larger than Wood. He had a look of t rollish cunning on
his face as he replied, “Plenty of room for all of us, Wood.”
Angelina, Alicia, and Kat ie had come over, too. There were no girls on the
Slytherin team, who stood shoulder to shoulder, facing the Gryffindors, leering to a
man.
“ But I booked the field!” said Wood, posit ively spit t ing with rage. “ I booked
it!”
“ Ah,” said Flint . “ But I’ ve got a specially signed note here from Professor
Snape. ‘ I, Professor S. Snape, give t he Slyt herin t eam permission t o pract ice today on
the Quidditch field owing to the need to train their new Seeker.”‘
“You’ve got a new Seeker?” said Wood, distracted. “Where?”
And from behind the six large figures before them came a seventh, smaller
boy, smirking all over his pale, pointed face. It was Draco Malfoy.
“Aren’t you Lucius Malfoy’s son?” said Fred, looking at Malfoy with dislike.
“ Funny you should ment ion Draco’ s father,” said Flint as the whole Slytherin
team smiled st ill more broadly. “ Let me show you the generous gif t he’ s made to the
Slytherin team.”
All seven of them held out their broomst icks. Seven highly polished, brand–new
handles and seven sets of fine gold let tering spelling the words Nimbus Two Thousand
and One gleamed under the Gryffindors’ noses in the early morning sun.
“ Very latest model. Only came out last month,” said Flint carelessly, flicking a
speck of dust from the end of his own. “ I believe it outst rips the old Two Thousand
series by a considerable amount . As for the old Cleansweeps” – he smiled nast ily at
Fred and George, who were both clutching Cleansweep Fives –“ sweeps the board with
them.”
None of the Gryffindor team could think of anything to say for a moment .
Malfoy was smirking so broadly his cold eyes were reduced to slits.
“Oh, look,” said Flint. “A field invasion.”
Ron and Hermione were crossing the grass to see what was going on.
“What ’ s happening?” Ron asked Harry. “Why aren’ t you playing?And what ’ s he
doing here?”
He was looking at Malfoy, taking in his Slytherin Quidditch robes.
“ I’m the new Slytherin Seeker, Weasley,” said Malfoy, smugly. “ Everyone’ s j ust
been admiring the brooms my father’s bought our team.”
Ron gaped, open–mouthed, at the seven superb broomsticks in front of him.
“Good, aren’ t they?” said Malfoy smoothly. “ But perhaps the Gryff indor team
will be able to raise some gold and get new brooms, too. You could raffle off those
Cleansweep Fives; I expect a museum would bid for them.”
The Slytherin team howled with laughter.
“ At least no one on the Gryff indor team had to buy their way in,” said
Hermione sharply. “They got in on pure talent.”
The smug look on Malfoy’s face flickered.
“No one asked your opinion, you filthy little Mudblood,” he spat.
Harry knew at once that Malfoy had said something really bad because there
was an instant uproar at his words. Flint had to dive in front of Malfoy to stop Fred and
George j umping on him, Alicia shrieked, “ How dare you!” and Ron plunged his hand
into his robes, pulled out his wand, yelling, “ You’ ll pay for that one, Malfoy!” and
pointed it furiously under Flint’s arm at Malfoys face.
A loud bang echoed around the stadium and a j et of green light shot out of the
wrong end of Ron’ s wand, hit t ing him in the stomach and sending him reeling
backward onto the grass.
“Ron! Ron! Are you all right?” squealed Hermione.
Ron opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out . Instead he gave an
almighty belch and several slugs dribbled out of his mouth onto his lap.
The Slytherin team were paralyzed with laughter. Flint was doubled up,
hanging onto his new broomst ick for support . Malfoy was on all fours, banging the
ground with his fist . The Gryf findors were gathered around Ron, who kept belching
large, glistening slugs. Nobody seemed to want to touch him.
“We’ d bet ter get him to Hagrid’ s, it ’ s nearest ,” said Harry to Hermione, who
nodded bravely, and the pair of them pulled Ron up by the arms.
“What happened, Harry?What happened? Is he ill?But you can cure him, can’ t
you?” Colin had run down from his seat and was now dancing alongside them as they
left the field. Ron gave a huge heave and more slugs dribbled down his front.
“Oooh,” said Colin, fascinated and raising his camera. “ Can you hold him st ill,
Harry?”
“Get out of the way, Colin!” said Harry angrily. He and Hermione supported
Ron out of the stadium and across the grounds toward the edge of the forest.
“Nearly there, Ron,” said Hermione as the gamekeeper’s cabin came into view.
“You’ll be all right in a minute – almost there –”
They were within twenty feet of Hagrid’ s house when the front door opened,
but it wasn’ t Hagrid who emerged. Gilderoy Lockhart , wearing robes of palest mauve
today, came striding out.
“Quick, behind here,” Harry hissed, dragging Ron behind a nearby bush.
Hermione followed, somewhat reluctantly.
“ It ’ s a simple mat ter if you know what you’ re doing!” Lockhart was saying
loudly to Hagrid. “ If you need help, you know where I am! I’ ll let you have a copy of
my book. I’m surprised you haven’ t already got one – I’ ll sign one tonight and send it
over. Well, good–bye!” And he strode away toward the castle.
Harry waited unt il Lockhart was out of sight , then pulled Ron out of the bush
and up to Hagrid’ s front door. They knocked urgent ly. Hagrid appeared at once,
looking very grumpy, but his expression brightened when he saw who it was.
“ Bin wonderin’ when you’ d come ter see me – come in, come in – thought you
mighta bin Professor Lockhart back again –”
Harry and Hermione supported Ron over the threshold into the one– roomed
cabin, which had an enormous bed in one corner, a fire crackling merrily in the other.
Hagrid didn’ t seem perturbed by Ron’ s slug problem, which Harry hast ily explained as
he lowered Ron into a chair.
“ Bet ter out than in,” he said cheerfully, plunking a large copper basin in front
of him. “Get ‘em all up, Ron.”
“ I don’ t think there’ s anything to do except wait for it to stop,” said Hermione
anxiously, watching Ron bend over the basin. “ That ’ s a difficult curse to work at the
best of times, but with a broken wand –”
Hagrid was bust ling around making them tea. His boarhound, Fang, was
slobbering over Harry.
“What did Lockhart want with you, Hagrid?” Harry asked, scratching Fang’ s
ears.
“Givin’ me advice on gettin’ kelpies out of a well,” growled
Hagrid moved a half–plucked rooster off his scrubbed table and set t ing down
the teapot . “ Like I don’ know. An’ bangin’ on about some banshee he banished. If one
word of it was true, I’ll eat my kettle.”
It was most unlike Hagrid to crit icize a Hogwarts’ teacher, and Harry looked at
him in surprise. Hermione, however, said in a voice somewhat higher than usual, “ I
think you’ re being a bit unfair. Professor Dumbledore obviously thought he was the
best man for the job –”
“He was the on’ man for the job,” said Hagrid, offering them a plate of treacle
fudge, while Ron coughed squelchily into his basin. “ An’ I mean the on’ one. Get t in’
very difficult ter find anyone fer the Dark Arts j ob. People aren’ t too keen ter take it
on, see. They’ re start in’ ter think it ’ s j inxed. No one’ s lasted long fer a while now. So
tell me,” said Hagrid, jerking his head at Ron. “Who was he tryin’ ter curse?”
“Malfoy called Hermione something – it must ’ ve been really bad, because
everyone went wild.”
“ It was bad,” said Ron hoarsely, emerging over the tabletop looking pale and
sweaty. “Malfoy called her ‘Mudblood,’ Hagrid –”
Ron dived out of sight again as a fresh wave of slugs made their appearance.
Hagrid looked outraged.
“He didn’!” he growled at Hermione.
“ He did,” she said. “ But I don’ t know what it means. I could tell it was really
rude, of course –”
“ It ’ s about the most insult ing thing he could think of,” gasped Ron, coming
back up. “Mudblood’ s a really foul name for someone who is Muggle–born – you know,
non–magic parents. There are some wizards – like Malfoy’ s family – who think they’ re
better than everyone else because they’re what people call pure–blood.”
He gave a small burp, and a single slug fell into his outst retched hand. He
threw it into the basin and cont inued, “ I mean, the rest of us know it doesn’ t make
any difference at all. Look at Neville Longbot tom – he’ s pure–blood and he can hardly
stand a cauldron the right way up.”
An’ they haven’ t invented a spell our Hermione can’ do,” said Hagrid proudly,
making Hermione go a brilliant shade of magenta.
“It’s a disgusting thing to call someone,” said Ron, wiping his sweaty brow with
a shaking hand. “ Dirty blood, see. Common blood. It ’ s ridiculous. Most wizards these
days are half–blood anyway. If we hadn’t married Muggles we’d’ve died out.”
He retched and ducked out of sight again.
“Well, I don’ blame yeh fer t ryin’ ter curse him, Ron,” said Hagrid loudly over
the thuds of more slugs hit t ing the basin. “ Bu’ maybe it was a good thing yer wand
backfired. ‘Spect Lucius Malfoy would’ ve come marchin’ up ter school if yeh’ d cursed
his son. Least yer not in trouble.”
Harry would have pointed out that trouble didn’t come much worse than having
slugs pouring out of your mouth, but he couldn’t; Hagrid’s treacle fudge had cemented
his jaws together.
“ Harry,” said Hagrid abrupt ly as though st ruck by a sudden thought . “Got ta
bone ter pick with yeh. I’ ve heard you’ ve bin givin’ out signed photos. How come I
haven’t got one?”
Furious, Harry wrenched his teeth apart.
“ I have not been giving out signed photos,” he said hot ly. “ If Lockhart ’ s still
spreading that around –”
But then he saw that Hagrid was laughing.
“ I’m on’ y j okin’ ,” he said, pat t ing Harry genially on the back and sending him
face first into the table. “I knew yeh hadn’t really. I told Lockhart yeh didn’ need teh.
Yer more famous than him without tryin’.”
“Bet he didn’t like that,” said Harry, sitting up and rubbing his chin.
“ Don’ think he did,” said Hagrid, his eyes twinkling. “ An’ then I told him I’ d
never read one o’ his books an’ he decided ter go. Treacle fudge, Ron?” he added as
Ron reappeared.
“No thanks,” said Ron weakly. “Better not risk it.”
“ Come an’ see what I’ ve bin growin’ ,” said Hagrid as Harry and Hermione
finished the last of their tea.
In the small vegetable patch behind Hagrid’ s house were a dozen of the largest
pumpkins Harry had ever seen. Each was the size of a large boulder.
“Get t in’ on well, aren’ t they?” said Hagrid happily. “ Fer the Halloween feast
… should be big enough by then.”
“What’ve you been feeding them?” said Harry.
Hagrid looked over his shoulder to check that they were alone.
“Well, I’ve bin givin’ them – you know – a bit o’ help –”
Harry not iced Hagrid’ s flowery pink umbrella leaning against the back wall of
the cabin. Harry had had reason to believe before now that this umbrella was not all it
looked; in fact , he had the st rong impression that Hagrid’ s old school wand was
concealed inside it . Hagrid wasn’ t supposed to use magic. He had been expelled f rom
Hogwarts in his third year, but Harry had never found out why – any ment ion of the
mat ter and Hagrid would clear his throat loudly and become mysteriously deaf unt il
the subject was changed.
“ An Engorgement Charm, I suppose?” said Hermione, halfway between
disapproval and amusement. “Well, you’ve done a good job on them.”
“ That ’ s what yer lit t le sister said,” said Hagrid, nodding at Ron. “Met her j us’
yesterday.” Hagrid looked sideways at Harry, his beard twitching. “ Said she was j us’
lookin’ round the grounds, but I reckon she was hopin’ she might run inter someone
else at my house.” He winked at Harry. “ If yeh ask me, she wouldn’ say no ter a
signed –”
“Oh, shut up,” said Harry. Ron snorted with laughter and the ground was
sprayed with slugs.
“Watch it!” Hagrid roared, pulling Ron away from his precious pumpkins.
It was nearly luncht ime and as Harry had only had one bit of t reacle fudge
since dawn, he was keen to go back to school to eat . They said goodbye to Hagrid and
walked back up to the cast le, Ron hiccoughing occasionally, but only bringing up two
very small slugs.
They had barely set foot in the cool ent rance hall when a voice rang out ,
“ There you are, Pot ter – Weasley.” Professor McGonagall was walking toward them,
looking stern. “You will both do your detentions this evening.”
“What’re we doing, Professor?” said Ron, nervously suppressing a burp.
“ You will be polishing the silver in the t rophy room with Mr. Filch,” said
Professor McGonagall. “And no magic, Weasley – elbow grease.”
Ron gulped. Argus Filch, the caretaker, was loathed by every student in the
school.
“ And you, Pot ter, will be helping Professor Lockhart answer his fan mail, ” said
Professor McGonagall.
“Oh no – Professor, can’ t I go and do the t rophy room, too?” said Harry
desperately.
“ Certainly not ,” said Professor McGonagall, raising her eyebrows. “ Professor
Lockhart requested you particularly. Eight o’clock sharp, both of you.”
Harry and Ron slouched into the Great Hall in states of deepest gloom,
Hermione behind them, wearing a well–you–did–break–school–rules sort of expression.
Harry didn’ t enj oy his shepherd’ s pie as much as he’ d thought . Both he and Ron felt
they’d got the worse deal.
“ Filch’ ll have me there all night ,” said Ron heavily. “ No magic! There must be
about a hundred cups in that room. I’m no good at Muggle cleaning.”
“ I’ d swap anyt ime,” said Harry hollowly. “ I’ ve had loads of pract ice with the
Dursleys. Answering Lockhart’s fan mail … he’ll be a nightmare…
Saturday afternoon seemed to melt away, and in what seemed like no t ime, it
was five minutes to eight , and Harry was dragging his feet along the second–floor
corridor to Lockhart’s office. He gritted his teeth and knocked.
The door flew open at once. Lockhart beamed down at him.
“Ah, here’s the scalawag!” he said. “Come in, Harry, come in –”
Shining bright ly on the walls by the light of many candles were count less
framed photographs of Lockhart. He had even signed a few of them. Another large pile
lay on his desk.
“ You can address the envelopes!” Lockhart told Harry, as though this was a
huge treat. “This first one’s to Gladys Gudgeon, bless her – huge fan of mine –”
The minutes snailed by. Harry let Lockhart ’ s voice wash over him, occasionally
saying, “Mmm” and “ Right ” and “ Yeah.” Now and then he caught a phrase like,
“Fame’s a fickle friend, Harry,” or “Celebrity is as celebrity does, remember that.”
The candles burned lower and lower, making the light dance over the many
moving faces of Lockhart watching him. Harry moved his aching hand over what felt
like the thousandth envelope, writ ing out Veronica Smethley’ s address. It must be
nearly t ime to leave, Harry thought miserably, please let it be nearly t ime… And then
he heard something –something quite apart from the spit t ing of the dying candles and
Lockhart ’ s prat t le about his fans. It was a voice, a voice to chill the bone marrow, a
voice of breathtaking, ice–cold venom.
“ Come … come to me… Let me rip you… Let me tear you … Let me kill
you…”
Harry gave a huge j ump and a large lilac blot appeared on Veronica Smethley’ s
street.
What?” he said loudly.
“ I know!” said Lockhart . “ Six solid months at the top of the best–seller list !
Broke all records!”
“No,” said Harry frantically. “That voice!”
“Sorry?” said Lockhart, looking puzzled. “What voice?”
“That – that voice that said – didn’t you hear it?”
Lockhart was looking at Harry in high astonishment.
“What are you talking about , Harry? Perhaps you’ re get t ing a lit t le drowsy?
Great Scot t – look at the t ime! We’ ve been here nearly four hours! I’ d never have
believed it – the time’s flown, hasn’t it?”
Harry didn’ t answer. He was st raining his ears to hear the voice again, but
there was no sound now except for Lockhart telling him he mustn’ t expect a t reat like
this every time he got detention. Feeling dazed, Harry left.
It was so late that the Gryff indor common room was almost empty. Harry went
st raight up to the dormitory. Ron wasn’ t back yet . Harry pulled on his paj amas, got
into bed, and waited. Half an hour later, Ron arrived, nursing his right arm and
bringing a strong smell of polish into the darkened room.
“My muscles have all seized up,” he groaned, sinking on his bed. “ Fourteen
t imes he made me buff up that Quidditch cup before he was sat isf ied. And then I had
another slug at tack all over a Special Award for Services to the School. Took ages to
get the slime off… How was it with Lockhart?”
Keeping his voice low so as not to wake Neville, Dean, and Seamus, Harry told
Ron exactly what he had heard.
“And Lockhart said he couldn’t hear it?” said Ron. Harry could see him frowning
in the moonlight. “D’you think he was lying? But I don’t get it – even someone invisible
would’ve had to open the door.”
“ I know,” said Harry, lying back in his four–poster and staring at the canopy
above him. “I don’t get it either.”
CHAPTER EIGHT – DEATHDAY PARTY
October arrived, spreading a damp chill over the grounds and into the cast le.
Madam Pomfrey, the nurse, was kept busy by a sudden spate of colds among the staff
and students. Her Pepper-Up pot ion worked instant ly, though it left the drinker
smoking at the ears for several hours af terward. Ginny Weasley, who had been looking
pale, was bullied into taking some by Percy. The steam pouring from under her vivid
hair gave the impression that her whole head was on fire.
Raindrops the size of bullets thundered on the cast le windows for days on end;
the lake rose, the f lower beds turned into muddy st reams, and Hagrid’ s pumpkins
swelled to the size of garden sheds. Oliver Wood’ s enthusiasm for regular t raining
sessions, however, was not dampened, which was why Harry was to be found, late one
stormy Saturday afternoon a few days before Halloween, returning to Gryff indor
Tower, drenched to the skin and splattered with mud…
Even aside from the rain and wind it hadn’t been a happy practice session. Fred
and George, who had been spying on the Slytherin team, had seen for themselves the
speed of those new Nimbus Two Thousand and Ones. They reported that the Slytherin
team was no more than seven greenish blurs, shoot ing through the air like missiles. As
Harry squelched along the deserted corridor he came across somebody who looked just
as preoccupied as he was. Nearly Headless Nick, the ghost of Gryff indor Tower, was
staring morosely out of a window, mut tering under his breath, “ …don’ t fulfill their
requirements …half an inch, if that…”
“ Hello, Nick,” said Harry. “ Hello, hello,” said Nearly Headless Nick, start ing
and looking round. He wore a dashing, plumed hat on his long curly hair, and a tunic
with a ruff, which concealed the fact that his neck was almost completely severed. He
was pale as smoke, and Harry could see right through him to the dark sky and
torrential rain outside.
“ You look t roubled, young Pot ter,” said Nick, folding a t ransparent let ter as he
spoke and tucking it inside his doublet.
“So do you,” said Harry.
“ Ah,” Nearly Headless Nick waved an elegant hand, “ a mat ter of no
importance…. It ’ s not as though I really wanted to j oin…. Thought I’ d apply, but
apparently I ‘don’t fulfill requirements’ –”
In spite of his airy tone, there was a look of great bit terness on his face. “ But
you would think, wouldn’ t you,” he erupted suddenly, pulling the let ter back out of
his pocket, “that getting hit forty–five times in the neck with a blunt axe would qualify
you to join the Headless Hunt?”
“Oh – yes,” said Harry, who was obviously supposed to agree.
“ I mean, nobody wishes more than I do that it had all been quick and clean,
and my head had come off properly, I mean, it would have saved me a great deal of
pain and ridicule. However –” Nearly Headless Nick shook his let ter open and read
furiously: “ ‘We can only accept huntsmen whose heads have parted company with
their bodies. You will appreciate that it would be impossible otherwise for members to
participate in hunt activities such as Horseback Head–Juggling and Head Polo. It is with
the greatest regret , therefore, that I must inform you that you do not fulfill our
requirement s. With very best wishes, Sir Pat rick Delaney–Podmore.’ “ Fuming, Nearly
Headless Nick stuffed the letter away.
“ Half an inch of skin and sinew holding my neck on, Harry! Most people would
think that ’ s good and beheaded, but oh, no, it ’ s not enough for Sir Properly
Decapitated–Podmore.” Nearly Headless Nick took several deep breaths and then said,
in a far calmer tone, “So – what’s bothering you? Anything I can do?”
“ No,” said Harry. “ Not unless you know where we can get seven free Nimbus
Two Thousand and Ones for our match against Sly –”
The rest of Harry’ s sentence was drowned out by a high–pitched mewling from
somewhere near his ankles. He looked down and found himself gazing into a pair of
lamp–like yellow eyes. It was Mrs. Norris, the skeletal gray cat who was used by the
caretaker, Argus Filch, as a sort of deputy in his endless battle against students.
“ You’ d bet ter get out of here, Harry,” said Nick quickly. “ Filch isn’ t in a good
mood – he’s got the flu and some third years accidentally plastered frog brains all over
the ceiling in dungeon five. He’s been cleaning all morning, and if he sees you dripping
mud all over the place –”
“ Right ,” said Harry, backing away f rom the accusing stare of Mrs. Norris, but
not quickly enough. Drawn to the spot by the mysterious power that seemed to
connect him with his foul cat , Argus Filch burst suddenly through a tapest ry to Harry’ s
right, wheezing and looking wildly about for the rule–breaker. There was a thick tartan
scarf bound around his head, and his nose was unusually purple.
“ Filth!” he shouted, his j owls aquiver, his eyes popping alarmingly as he
pointed at the muddy puddle that had dripped from Harry’ s Quidditch robes. “Mess
and muck everywhere! I’ve had enough of it, I tell you! Follow me, Potter!”
So Harry waved a gloomy good–bye to Nearly Headless Nick and followed Filch
back downstairs, doubling the number of muddy footprints on the floor.
Harry had never been inside Filch’ s off ice before; it was a place most students
avoided. The room was dingy and windowless, lit by a single oil lamp dangling from
the low ceiling. A faint smell of fried f ish lingered about the place. Wooden filing
cabinets stood around the walls; from their labels, Harry could see that they contained
details of every pupil Filch had ever punished. Fred and George Weasley had an ent ire
drawer to themselves. A highly polished collect ion of chains and manacles hung on the
wall behind Filch’ s desk. It was common knowledge that he was always begging
Dumbledore to let him suspend students by their ankles from the ceiling. Filch grabbed
a quill from a pot on his desk and began shuffling around looking for parchment.
“ Dung,” he mut tered furiously, “ great sizzling dragon bogies …frog brains
…rat intest ines …I’ ve had enough of it …make an example …where’ s the form
…yes…”
He ret rieved a large roll of parchment from his desk drawer and st retched it
out in front of him, dipping his long black quill into the inkpot. “Name… Harry Potter.
Crime…”
“It was only a bit of mud!” said Harry.
“ It ’ s only a bit of mud to you, boy, but to me it ’ s an ext ra hour scrubbing!”
shouted Filch, a drip shivering unpleasantly at the end of his bulbous nose.
“Crime …befouling the castle …suggested sentence…”
Dabbing at his st reaming nose, Filch squinted unpleasant ly at Harry who waited
with bated breath for his sentence to fall. But as Filch lowered his quill, there was a
great BANG! on the ceiling of the office, which made the oil lamp rattle.
“ PEEVES!” Filch roared, flinging down his quill in a t ransport of rage. “ I’ ll have
you this t ime, I’ ll have you!” And without a backward glance at Harry, Filch ran flat–
footed from the office, Mrs. Norris st reaking alongside him. Peeves was the school
poltergeist , a grinning, airborne menace who lived to cause havoc and dist ress. Harry
didn’ t much like Peeves, but couldn’ t help feeling grateful for his t iming. Hopefully,
whatever Peeves had done (and it sounded as though he’ d wrecked something very big
this time) would distract Filch from Harry.
Thinking that he should probably wait for Filch to come back, Harry sank into a
moth–eaten chair next to the desk. There was only one thing on it apart from his half–
completed form: a large, glossy, purple envelope with silver let tering on the front .
With a quick glance at the door to check that Filch wasn’ t on his way back, Harry
picked up the envelope and read:
Kwikspell
A Correspondence Course in Beginners’ Magic.
Int rigued, Harry f licked the envelope open and pulled out the sheaf of
parchment inside. More curly silver writing on the front page said:
Feel out of step in the world of modern magic? Find yourself making excuses
not to perform simple spells? Ever been taunted for your woeful wandwork? There is
an answer! Kwikspell is an all–new, fail–safe, quick–result, easy–learn course. Hundreds
of witches and wizards have benefited from the Kwikspell method!
Madam Z. Net t les of Topsham writes: “ I had no memory for incantat ions and
my pot ions were a family j oke! Now, after a Kwikspell course, I am the center of
attention at parties and friends beg for the recipe of my Scintillation Solution!”
Warlock D. J. Prod of Didsbury says: “My wife used to sneer at my feeble
charms, but one month into your fabulous Kwikspell course and I succeeded in turning
her into a yak! Thank you, Kwikspell!”
Fascinated, Harry thumbed through the rest of the envelope’ s contents. Why
on earth did Filch want a Kwikspell course?Did this mean he wasn’ t a proper wizard?
Harry was j ust reading “ Lesson One: Holding Your Wand (Some Useful Tips)” when
shuffling footsteps outside told him Filch was coming back. Stuf fing the parchment
back into the envelope, Harry threw it back onto the desk j ust as the door opened.
Filch was looking triumphant.
“ That vanishing cabinet was ext remely valuable!” he was saying gleefully to
Mrs. Norris. “We’ ll have Peeves out this t ime, my sweet –” His eyes fell on Harry and
then darted to the Kwikspell envelope, which, Harry realized too late, was lying two
feet away from where it had started. Filch’ s pasty face went brick red. Harry braced
himself for a t idal wave of fury. Filch hobbled across to his desk, snatched up the
envelope, and threw it into a drawer.
“Have you – did you read –?” he sputtered.
“No,” Harry lied quickly.
Filch’ s knobbly hands were twist ing together. “ If I thought you’ d read my
private – not that it’s mine – for a friend – be that as it may – however –”
Harry was staring at him, alarmed; Filch had never looked madder. His eyes
were popping, a t ic was going in one of his pouchy cheeks, and the tartan scarf didn’ t
help.
“ Very well – go – and don’ t breathe a word – not that – however, if you didn’ t
read – go now, I have to write up Peeves’ report – go –”
Amazed at his luck, Harry sped out of the office, up the corridor, and back
upstairs. To escape from Filch’ s office without punishment was probably some kind of
school record.
“Harry! Harry! Did it work?”
Nearly Headless Nick came gliding out of a classroom. Behind him, Harry could
see the wreckage of a large black–and–gold cabinet that appeared to have been
dropped from a great height. “I persuaded Peeves to crash it right over Filch’s office,”
said Nick eagerly. “Thought it might distract him –”
“Was that you?” said Harry gratefully. “ Yeah, it worked, I didn’ t even get
detention. Thanks, Nick!”
They set off up the corridor together. Nearly Headless Nick, Harry not iced, was
still holding Sir Patrick’s rejection letter…
“I wish there was something I could do for you about the Headless Hunt,” Harry
said. Nearly Headless Nick stopped in his t racks and Harry walked right through him.
He wished he hadn’ t ; it was like stepping through an icy shower. “ But there is
something you could do for me,” said Nick excitedly. “ Harry – would I be asking too
much – but no, you wouldn’t want –”
“What is it?” said Harry.
“Well, this Halloween will be my five hundredth deathday,” said Nearly
Headless Nick, drawing himself up and looking dignified.
“Oh,” said Harry, not sure whether he should look sorry or happy about this.
“Right.”
“ I’m holding a party down in one of the roomier dungeons. Friends will be
coming from all over the count ry. It would be such an honor if you would at tend. Mr.
Weasley and Miss Granger would be most welcome, too, of course – but I daresay you’d
rather go to the school feast?” He watched Harry on tenterhooks.
“No,” said Harry quickly, “I’ll come –”
“My dear boy! Harry Potter, at my deathday party! And” – he hesitated, looking
excited – “ do you think you could possibly ment ion to Sir Pat rick how very frightening
and impressive you find me?”
“Of – of course,” said Harry.
Nearly Headless Nick beamed at him. “ A deathday party?” said Hermione
keenly when Harry had changed at last and joined her and Ron in the common room. “I
bet there aren’t many living people who can say they’ve been to one of those – it’ll be
fascinating!”
“Why would anyone want to celebrate the day they died?” said Ron, who was
halfway through his Pot ions homework and grumpy. “ Sounds dead depressing to
me….”
Rain was st ill lashing the windows, which were now inky black, but inside all
looked bright and cheerful. The f irelight glowed over the count less squashy armchairs
where people sat reading, talking, doing homework or, in the case of Fred and George
Weasley, t rying to find out what would happen if you fed a Filibuster firework to a
salamander. Fred had “ rescued” the brilliant orange, fire–dwelling lizard from a Care
of Magical Creatures class and it was now smouldering gent ly on a table surrounded by
a knot of curious people.
Harry was at the point of telling Ron and Hermione about Filch and the
Kwikspell course when the salamander suddenly whizzed into the air, emit t ing loud
sparks and bangs as it whirled wildly round the room. The sight of Percy bellowing
himself hoarse at Fred and George, the spectacular display of tangerine stars
showering from the salamander’ s mouth, and its escape into the fire, with
accompanying explosions, drove both Filch and the Kwikspell envelope f rom Harry’ s
mind.
By the t ime Halloween arrived, Harry was regret t ing his rash promise to go to
the deathday party. The rest of the school was happily ant icipat ing their Halloween
feast ; the Great Hall had been decorated with the usual live bats, Hagrid’ s vast
pumpkins had been carved into lanterns large enough for three men to sit in, and
there were rumors that Dumbledore had booked a t roupe of dancing skeletons for the
entertainment.
“A promise is a promise,” Hermione reminded Harry bossily. “You said you’d go
to the deathday party.”
So at seven o’ clock, Harry, Ron, and Hermione walked st raight past the
doorway to the packed Great Hall, which was glit tering invit ingly with gold plates and
candles, and directed their steps instead toward the dungeons.
The passageway leading to Nearly Headless Nick’ s party had been lined with
candles, too, though the effect was far from cheerful: These were long, thin, jet–black
tapers, all burning bright blue, cast ing a dim, ghost ly light even over their own living
faces. The temperature dropped with every step they took. As Harry shivered and
drew his robes t ight ly around him, he heard what sounded like a thousand fingernails
scraping an enormous blackboard.
“ Is that supposed to be music?” Ron whispered. They turned a corner and saw
Nearly Headless Nick standing at a doorway hung with black velvet drapes.
“My dear friends,” he said mournfully. “Welcome, welcome …so pleased you
could come….” He swept off his plumed hat and bowed them inside.
It was an incredible sight . The dungeon was full of hundreds of pearly–white,
t ranslucent people, most ly drift ing around a crowded dance floor, waltzing to the
dreadful, quavering sound of thirty musical saws, played by an orchest ra on a raised,
black–draped plat form. A chandelier overhead blazed midnight–blue with a thousand
more black candles. Their breath rose in a mist before them; it was like stepping into
a freezer.
“Shall we have a look around?” Harry suggested, wanting to warm up his feet.
“ Careful not to walk through anyone,” said Ron nervously, and they set off
around the edge of the dance floor. They passed a group of gloomy nuns, a ragged
man wearing chains, and the Fat Friar, a cheerful Huff lepuff ghost , who was talking to
a knight with an arrow st icking out of his forehead. Harry wasn’ t surprised to see that
the Bloody Baron, a gaunt , staring Slytherin ghost covered in silver bloodstains, was
being given a wide berth by the other ghosts.
“Oh, no,” said Hermione, stopping abrupt ly. “ Turn back, turn back, I don’ t
want to talk to Moaning Myrtle –”
“Who?” said Harry as they backtracked quickly.
“ She haunts one of the toilets in the girls’ bathroom on the first floor,” said
Hermione.
“She haunts a toilet?”
“ Yes. It ’ s been out–of–order all year because she keeps having tant rums and
flooding the place. I never went in there anyway if I could avoid it ; it ’ s awful t rying to
have a pee with her wailing at you –”
“Look, food!” said Ron.
On the other side of the dungeon was a long table, also covered in black
velvet . They approached it eagerly but next moment had stopped in their t racks,
horrif ied. The smell was quite disgust ing. Large, rot ten fish were laid on handsome
silver plat ters; cakes, burned charcoal–black, were heaped on salvers; there was a
great maggoty haggis, a slab of cheese covered in furry green mold and, in pride of
place, an enormous gray cake in the shape of a tombstone, with tar–like icing forming
the words,
Sir Nicholas de Mimsy–Porpington
Died 31st October, 1492
Harry watched, amazed, as a port ly ghost approached the table, crouched low,
and walked through it , his mouth held wide so that it passed through one of the
stinking salmon.
“Can you taste it if you walk though it?” Harry asked him.
“Almost,” said the ghost sadly, and he drifted away.
“ I expect they’ ve let it rot to give it a st ronger flavor,” said Hermione
knowledgeably, pinching her nose and leaning closer to look at the putrid haggis.
“Can we move? I feel sick,” said Ron.
They had barely turned around, however, when a lit t le man swooped suddenly
from under the table and came to a halt in midair before them.
“Hello, Peeves,” said Harry cautiously.
Unlike the ghosts around them, Peeves the Poltergeist was the very reverse of
pale and t ransparent . He was wearing a bright orange party hat , a revolving bow t ie,
and a broad grin on his wide, wicked face. “ Nibbles?” he said sweet ly, offering them a
bowl of peanuts covered in fungus.
“No thanks,” said Hermione.
“ Heard you talking about poor Myrt le,” said Peeves, his eyes dancing. “ Rude
you was about poor Myrtle.” He took a deep breath and bellowed, “OY! MYRTLE!”
“Oh, no, Peeves, don’ t tell her what I said, she’ ll be really upset ,” Hermione
whispered frantically. “I didn’t mean it, I don’t mind her – er, hello, Myrtle.”
The squat ghost of a girl had glided over. She had the glummest face Harry had
ever seen, half–hidden behind lank hair and thick, pearly spectacles.
“What?” she said sulkily. “ How are you, Myrt le?” said Hermione in a falsely
right voice. “It’s nice to see you out of the toilet.”
Myrtle sniffed.
“Miss Granger was just talking about you –” said Peeves slyly in Myrtle’s ear.
“ Just saying – saying – how nice you look tonight ,” said Hermione, glaring at
Peeves.
Myrt le eyed Hermione suspiciously. “ You’ re making fun of me,” she said, silver
tears welling rapidly in her small, see–through eyes.
“No – honest ly – didn’ t I j ust say how nice Myrt le’ s looking?” said Hermione,
nudging Harry and Ron painfully in the ribs.
“Oh, yeah –”
“She did –”
“ Don’ t lie to me,” Myrt le gasped, tears now flooding down her face, while
Peeves chuckled happily over her shoulder. “D’you think I don’t know what people call
me behind my back? Fat Myrtle! Ugly Myrtle! Miserable, moaning, moping Myrtle!”
“ You’ ve forgot ten pimply,” Peeves hissed in her ear. Moaning Myrt le burst into
anguished sobs and fled from the dungeon. Peeves shot after her, pelt ing her with
moldy peanuts, yelling, “Pimply! Pimply!”
“Oh, dear,” said Hermione sadly.
Nearly Headless Nick now drifted toward them through the crowd. “ Enj oying
yourselves?”
“Oh, yes,” they lied.
“ Not a bad turnout ,” said Nearly Headless Nick proudly. “ The Wailing Widow
came all the way up from Kent …. It ’ s nearly t ime for my speech, I’ d bet ter go and
warn the orchestra….” The orchestra, however, stopped playing at that very moment.
They, and everyone else in the dungeon, fell silent, looking around in excitement, as a
hunting horn sounded.
“Oh, here we go,” said Nearly Headless Nick bitterly. Through the dungeon wall
burst a dozen ghost horses, each ridden by a headless horseman. The assembly
clapped wildly; Harry started to clap, too, but stopped quickly at the sight of Nick’ s
face.
The horses galloped into the middle of the dance f loor and halted, rearing and
plunging. At the f ront of the pack was a large ghost who held his bearded head under
his arm, from which position he was blowing the horn. The ghost leapt down, lifted his
head high in the air so he could see over the crowd (everyone laughed), and st rode
over to Nearly Headless Nick, squashing his head back onto his neck.
“ Nick!” he roared. “ How are you? Head st ill hanging in there?” He gave a
hearty guffaw and clapped Nearly Headless Nick on the shoulder.
“Welcome, Patrick,” said Nick stiffly.
“ Live ‘ uns!” said Sir Pat rick, spot t ing Harry, Ron, and Hermione and giving a
huge, fake j ump of astonishment , so that his head fell off again (the crowd howled
with laughter).
“Very amusing,” said Nearly Headless Nick darkly.
“ Don’ t mind Nick!” shouted Sir Pat rick’ s head from the floor. “ St ill upset we
won’t let him join the Hunt! But I mean to say – look at the fellow –”
“ I think,” said Harry hurriedly, at a meaningful look from Nick, “ Nick’ s very –
frightening and – er –”
“Ha!” yelled Sir Patrick’s head. “Bet he asked you to say that!”
“ If I could have everyone’ s at tent ion, it ’ s t ime for my speech!” said Nearly
Headless Nick loudly, st riding toward the podium and climbing into an icy blue
spotlight.
“My late lamented lords, ladies, and gentlemen, it is my great sorrow…”
But nobody heard much more. Sir Patrick and the rest of the Headless Hunt had
j ust started a game of Head Hockey and the crowd were turning to watch. Nearly
Headless Nick t ried vainly to recapture his audience, but gave up as Sir Pat rick’ s head
went sailing past him to loud cheers. Harry was very cold by now, not to ment ion
hungry. “ I can’ t stand much more of this,” Ron mut tered, his teeth chat tering, as the
orchestra ground back into action and the ghosts swept back onto the dance floor.
“ Let ’ s go,” Harry agreed. They backed toward the door, nodding and beaming
at anyone who looked at them, and a minute later were hurrying back up the
passageway full of black candles.
“ Pudding might not be finished yet ,” said Ron hopefully, leading the way
toward the steps to the entrance hall.
And then Harry heard it.
“ …rip …tear …kill…”
It was the same voice, the same cold, murderous voice he had heard in
Lockhart ’ s office. He stumbled to a halt , clutching at the stonewall, listening with all
his might, looking around, squinting up and down the dimly lit passageway.
“Harry, what’re you –?”
“It’s that voice again – shut up a minute –”
“ …soo hungry …for so long…”
“Listen!” said Harry urgently, and Ron and Hermione froze, watching him.
“ …kill …time to kill…”
The voice was growing fainter. Harry was sure it was moving away – moving
upward. A mixture of fear and excitement gripped him as he stared at the dark
ceiling; how could it be moving upward? Was it a phantom, to whom stone ceilings
didn’t matter?
“ This way,” he shouted, and he began to run, up the stairs, into the ent rance
hall. It was no good hoping to hear anything here, the babble of talk f rom the
Halloween feast was echoing out of the Great Hall. Harry sprinted up the marble
staircase to the first floor, Ron and Hermione clattering behind him.
“Harry, what’re we –”
“SHH!”
Harry st rained his ears. Distant ly, from the floor above, and growing fainter
still, he heard the voice: “…I smell blood…. I SMELL BLOOD!”
His stomach lurched –
“ It ’ s going to kill someone!” he shouted, and ignoring Ron’ s and Hermione’ s
bewildered faces, he ran up the next flight of steps three at a t ime, t rying to listen
over his own pounding footsteps –Harry hurt led around the whole of the second floor,
Ron and Hermione panting behind him, not stopping until they turned a corner into the
last, deserted passage.
“ Harry, what was that all about?” said Ron, wiping sweat of f his face. “ I
couldn’t hear anything….”
But Hermione gave a sudden gasp, pointing down the corridor. “Look!”
Something was shining on the wall ahead. They approached slowly, squinting
through the darkness. Foot–high words had been daubed on the wall between two
windows, shimmering in the light cast by the flaming torches.
The chamber of secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir, beware.
“What’s that thing – hanging underneath?” said Ron, a slight quiver in his voice.
As they edged nearer, Harry almost slipped – there was a large puddle of water
on the floor; Ron and Hermione grabbed him, and they inched toward the message,
eyes fixed on a dark shadow beneath it . All three of them realized what it was at
once, and leapt backward with a splash. Mrs. Norris, the caretaker’ s cat , was hanging
by her tail from the torch bracket. She was stiff as a board, her eyes wide and staring.
For a few seconds, they didn’ t move. Then Ron said, “ Let ’ s get out of here.”
“Shouldn’t we try and help –” Harry began awkwardly.
“Trust me,” said Ron. “We don’t want to be found here.”
But it was too late. A rumble, as though of distant thunder, told them that the
feast had just ended. From either end of the corridor where they stood came the
sound of hundreds of feet climbing the stairs, and the loud, happy talk of well–fed
people; next moment, students were crashing into the passage from both ends.
The chat ter, the bust le, the noise died suddenly as the people in f ront spot ted
the hanging cat . Harry, Ron, and Hermione stood alone, in the middle of the corridor,
as silence fell among the mass of students pressing forward to see the grisly sight.
Then someone shouted through the quiet. “Enemies of the Heir, beware! You’ll
be next, Mudbloods!”
It was Draco Malfoy. He had pushed to the front of the crowd, his cold eyes
alive, his usually bloodless face f lushed, as he grinned at the sight of the hanging,
immobile cat.
CHAPTER NINE – THE WRITING ON THE WALL
“What ’ s going on here? What ’ s going on?” At t racted no doubt by Malfoy’ s
shout , Argus Filch came shouldering his way through the crowd. Then he saw Mrs.
Norris and fell back, clutching his face in horror.
“My cat! My cat! What’s happened to Mrs. Norris?” he shrieked.
And his popping eyes fell on Harry.
“ You!” he screeched. “ You! You’ ve murdered my cat ! You’ ve killed her! I’ ll kill
you! I’ll –”
“Argus!”
Dumbledore had arrived on the scene, followed by a number of other teachers.
In seconds, he had swept past Harry, Ron, and Hermione and detached Mrs. Norris
from the torch bracket.
“ Come with me, Argus,” he said to Filch. “ You, too, Mr. Pot ter, Mr. Weasley,
Miss Granger.”
Lockhart stepped forward eagerly.
“My office is nearest, Headmaster – just upstairs – please feel free –”
“Thank you, Gilderoy,” said Dumbledore.
The silent crowd parted to let them pass. Lockhart , looking excited and
important, hurried after Dumbledore; so did Professors McGonagall and Snape.
As they entered Lockhart ’ s darkened of fice there was a flurry of movement
across the walls; Harry saw several of the Lockharts in the pictures dodging out of
sight , their hair in rollers. The real Lockhart lit the candles on his desk and stood
back. Dumbledore lay Mrs. Norris on the polished surface and began to examine her.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione exchanged tense looks and sank into chairs outside the pool
of candlelight, watching.
The t ip of Dumbledore’ s long, crooked nose was barely an inch from Mrs.
Norris’ s fur. He was looking at her closely through his half–moon spectacles, his long
fingers gent ly prodding and poking. Professor McGonagall was bent almost as close,
her eyes narrowed. Snape loomed behind them, half in shadow, wearing a most
peculiar expression: It was as though he was t rying hard not to smile. And Lockhart
was hovering around all of them, making suggestions.
“ It was definitely a curse that killed her – probably the Transmogrifian Torture
– I’ve seen it used many times, so unlucky I wasn’t there, I know the very countercurse
that would have saved her….”
Lockhart ’ s comments were punctuated by Filch’ s dry, racking sobs. He was
slumped in a chair by the desk, unable to look at Mrs. Norris, his face in his hands.
Much as he detested Filch, Harry couldn’ t help feeling a bit sorry for him, though not
nearly as sorry as he felt for himself . If Dumbledore believed Filch, he would be
expelled for sure.
Dumbledore was now mut tering st range words under his breath and tapping
Mrs. Norris with his wand but nothing happened: She cont inued to look as though she
had been recently stuffed.
“ …I remember something very similar happening in Ouagadogou,” said
Lockhart , “ a series of at tacks, the full story’ s in my autobiography, I was able to
provide the townsfolk with various amulets, which cleared the matter up at once…
The photographs of Lockhart on the walls were all nodding in agreement as he
talked. One of them had forgotten to remove his hair net.
At last Dumbledore straightened up.
“She’s not dead, Argus,” he said softly.
Lockhart stopped abrupt ly in the middle of count ing the number of murders he
had prevented.
“Not dead?” choked Filch, looking through his fingers at Mrs. Norris. “But why’s
she all – all stiff and frozen?”
“ She has been Pet rif ied,” said Dumbledore (“ Ah! I thought so!” said Lockhart ).
“But how, I cannot say…”
“Ask him!” shrieked Filch, turning his blotched and tearstained face to Harry.
“ No second year could have done this,” said Dumbledore firmly. “ it would take
Dark Magic of the most advanced –”
“ He did it , he did it !” Filch spat , his pouchy face purpling. “ You saw what he
wrote on the wall! He found – in my office – he knows I’m a – I’m a –” Filch’ s face
worked horribly. “He knows I’m a Squib!” he finished.
“ I never touched Mrs. Norris!” Harry said loudly, uncomfortably aware of
everyone looking at him, including all the Lockharts on the walls. “ And I don’ t even
know what a Squib is.”
“Rubbish!” snarled Filch. “He saw my Kwikspell letter!”
“ If I might speak, Headmaster,” said Snape from the shadows, and Harry’ s
sense of forboding increased; he was sure nothing Snape had to say was going to do
him any good. “ Pot ter and his friends may have simply been in the wrong place at the
wrong t ime,” he said, a slight sneer curling his mouth as though he doubted it . “ But
we do have a set of suspicious circumstances here. Why was he in the upstairs corridor
at all? Why wasn’t he at the Halloween feast?”
Harry, Ron and Hermione all launched into an explanat ion about the deathday
party. “…there were hundreds of ghosts, they’ll tell you we were there –”
“ But why not j oin the feast afterward?” said Snape, his black eyes glit tering in
the candlelight. “Why go up to that corridor?”
Ron and Hermione looked at Harry.
“Because – because –” Harry said, his heart thumping very fast ; something told
him it would sound very far–fetched if he told them he had been led there by a
bodiless voice no one but he could hear, “ because we were t ired and wanted to go to
bed,” he said.
“Without any supper?” said Snape, a t riumphant smile flickering across his
gaunt face. “I didn’t think ghosts provided food fit for living people at their parties.”
“We weren’t hungry,” said Ron loudly as his stomach gave a huge rumble.
Snape’s nasty smile widened.
“ I suggest , Headmaster, that Pot ter is not being ent irely t ruthful,” he said. “ It
might be a good idea if he were deprived of certain privileges unt il he is ready to tell
us the whole story. I personally feel he should be taken off the Gryf findor Quidditch
team until he is ready to be honest.”
“ Really, Severus,” said Professor McGonagall sharply, “ I see no reason to stop
the boy playing Quidditch. This cat wasn’ t hit over the head with a broomst ick. There
is no evidence at all that Potter has done anything wrong.”
Dumbledore was giving Harry a searching look. His twinkling light–blue gaze
made Harry feel as though he were being X–rayed.
“Innocent until proven guilty, Severus,” he said firmly.
Snape looked furious. So did Filch.
“My cat has been Petrified!” he shrieked, his eyes popping. “I want to see some
punishment!”
“We will be able to cure her, Argus,” said Dumbledore pat ient ly. “ Professer
Sprout recent ly managed to procure some Mandrakes. As soon as they have reached
their full size, I will have a potion made that will revive Mrs. Norris.”
“ I’ ll make it ,” Lockhart but ted in. “ I must have done it a hundred t imes. I
could whip up a Mandrake Restorative Draught in my sleep –”
“ Excuse me,” said Snape icily. “ But I believe I am the Pot ions master at this
school.”
There was a very awkward pause.
“You may go,” Dumbledore said to Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
They went , as quickly as they could without actually running. When they were
a floor up from Lockhart ’ s office, they turned into an empty classroom and closed the
door quietly behind them. Harry squinted at his friends’ darkened faces.
“D’you think I should have told them about that voice I heard?”
“No,” said Ron, without hesitation. “Hearing voices no one else can hear isn’t a
good sign, even in the wizarding world.”
Something in Ron’s voice made Harry ask, “You do believe me, don’t you?”
“‘Course I do,” said Ron quickly. “But –you must admit it’s weird…”
“ I know it ’ s weird,” said Harry. “ The whole thing’ s weird. What was that
writ ing on the wall about? The Chamber Has Been Opened… What ’ s that supposed to
mean?”
“ You know, it rings a sort of bell,” said Ron slowly. “ I think someone told me a
story about a secret chamber at Hogwarts once … might’ve been Bill…”
“And what on earth’s a Squib?” said Harry.
To his surprise, Ron stifled a snigger.
“Well – it’s not funny really – but as it’s Filch, he said. “A Squib is someone who
was born into a wizarding family but hasn’t got any magic powers. Kind of the opposite
of Muggle–born wizards, but Squibs are quite unusual. If Filch’ s t rying to learn magic
from a Kwikspell course, I reckon he must be a Squib. It would explain a lot . Like why
he hates students so much.” Ron gave a satisfied smile. “He’s bitter.”
A clock chimed somewhere.
“Midnight ,” said Harry. “We’ d bet ter get to bed before Snape comes along and
tries to frame us for something else.”
For a few days, the school could talk of little else but the attack on Mrs. Norris.
Filch kept it fresh in everyone’ s minds by pacing the spot where she had been
at tacked, as though he thought the at tacker might come back. Harry had seen him
scrubbing the message on the wall with Mrs. Skower’ s All–Purpose Magical Mess
Remover, but to no effect ; the words st ill gleamed as bright ly as ever on the stone.
When Filch wasn’ t guarding the scene of the crime, he was skulking red–eyed through
the corridors, lunging out at unsuspecting students and trying to put them in detention
for things like “breathing loudly’ and “looking happy.”
Ginny Weasley seemed very disturbed by Mrs. Norris’ s fate. According to Ron,
she was a great cat lover.
“ But you haven’ t really got to know Mrs. Norris,” Ron told her bracingly.
“ Honest ly, we’ re much bet ter off without her.” Ginny’ s lip t rembled. “ Stuff like this
doesn’ t often happen at Hogwarts,” Ron assured her. “ They’ ll catch the maniac who
did it and have him out of here in no t ime. I j ust hope he’ s got t ime to Pet rify Filch
before he’s expelled. I’m only joking –” Ron added hastily as Ginny blanched.
The attack had also had an effect on Hermione. It was quite usual for Hermione
to spend a lot of t ime reading, but she was now doing almost nothing else. Nor could
Harry and Ron get much response from her when they asked what she was up to, and
not until the following Wednesday did they find out.
Harry had been held back in Potions, where Snape had made him stay behind to
scrape tubeworms off the desks. After a hurried lunch, he went upstairs to meet Ron
in the library, and saw Just in Finch–Fletchley, the Hufflepuff boy from Herbology,
coming toward him. Harry had j ust opened his mouth to say hello when Just in caught
sight of him, turned abruptly, and sped off in the opposite direction.
Harry found Ron at the back of the library, measuring his History of Magic
homework. Professor Binns had asked for a threefoot–long composit ion on “ The
Medieval Assembly of European Wizards.”
“ I don’ t believe it , I’m st ill eight inches short ,” said Ron furiously, let t ing go of
his parchment , which sprang back into a roll. “ And Hermione’ s done four feet seven
inches and her writing’s tiny. “
“Where is she?” asked Harry, grabbing the tape measure and unrolling his own
homework.
“ Somewhere over there,” said Ron, point ing along the shelves. “ Looking for
another book. I think she’s trying to read the whole library before Christmas.”
Harry told Ron about Justin Finch–Fletchley running away from him.
“ Dunno why you care. I thought he was a bit of an idiot ,” said Ron, scribbling
away, making his writ ing as large as possible. “ All that j unk about Lockhart being so
great –”
Hermione emerged f rom between the bookshelves. She looked irritable and at
last seemed ready to talk to them.
“ All the copies of Hogwart s, A Hist ory have been taken out ,” she said, sit t ing
down next to Harry and Ron. “ And there’ s a two–week wait ing list . I wish I hadn’ t left
my copy at home, but I couldn’t fit it in my trunk with all the Lockhart books.”
“Why do you want it?” said Harry.
“ The same reason everyone else wants it ,” said Hermione, “ to read up on the
legend of the Chamber of Secrets.”
“What’s that?” said Harry quickly.
“ That ’ s j ust it . I can’ t remember,” said Hermione, bit ing her lip. “ And I can’ t
find the story anywhere else –”
“ Hermione, let me read your composit ion,” said Ron desperately, checking his
watch.
“ No, I won’ t ,” said Hermione, suddenly severe. “ You’ ve had ten days to finish
it –”
“I only need another two inches, come on –”
The bell rang. Ron and Hermione led the way to History of Magic, bickering.
History of Magic was the dullest subject on their schedule. Professor Binns, who
taught it , was their only ghost teacher, and the most excit ing thing that ever
happened in his classes was his entering the room through the blackboard. Ancient and
shriveled, many people said he hadn’ t not iced he was dead. He had simply got up to
teach one day and left his body behind him in an armchair in front of the staf f room
fire; his routine had not varied in the slightest since.
Today was as boring as ever. Professor Binns opened his notes and began to
read in a f lat drone like an old vacuum cleaner unt il nearly everyone in the class was
in a deep stupor, occasionally coming to long enough to copy down a name or date,
then falling asleep again. He had been speaking for half an hour when something
happened that had never happened before. Hermione put up her hand.
Professor Binns, glancing up in the middle of a deadly dull lecture on the
International Warlock Convention of 1289, looked amazed.
“Miss – er –?”
“Granger, Professor. I was wondering if you could tell us anything about the
Chamber of Secrets,” said Hermione in a clear voice.
Dean Thomas, who had been sit t ing with his mouth hanging open, gazing out of
the window, j erked out of his t rance; Lavender Brown’ s head came up off her arms
and Neville Longbottom’s elbow slipped off his desk. Professor Binns blinked.
“My subj ect is History of Magic,” he said in his dry, wheezy voice. “ I deal with
facts, Miss Granger, not myths and legends.” He cleared his throat with a small noise
like chalk slipping and cont inued, “ In September of that year, a subcommit tee of
Sardinian sorcerers …”
He stuttered to a halt. Hermione’s hand was waving in the air again.
“Miss Grant?”
“Please, sir, don’t legends always have a basis in fact?”
Professor Binns was looking at her in such amazement , Harry was sure no
student had ever interrupted him before, alive or dead.
“Well,” said Professor Binns slowly, “ yes, one could argue that , I suppose.” He
peered at Hermione as though he had never seen a student properly before.
“ However, the legend of which you speak is such a very sensat ional, even ludicrous
tale –”
But the whole class was now hanging on Professor Binns’ s every word. He
looked dimly at them all, every face turned to his. Harry could tell he was completely
thrown by such an unusual show of interest.
“Oh, very well,” he said slowly. “Let me see … the Chamber of Secrets…
“You all know, of course, that Hogwarts was founded over a thousand years ago
– the precise date is uncertain – by the four greatest witches and wizards of the age.
The four school Houses are named after them: Godric Gryffindor, Helga Huff lepuff,
Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin. They built this cast le together, far from
prying Muggle eyes, for it was an age when magic was feared by common people, and
witches and wizards suffered much persecution.”
He paused, gazed blearily around the room, and continued.
“ For a few years, the founders worked in harmony together, seeking out
youngsters who showed signs of magic and bringing them to the castle to be educated.
But then disagreements sprang up between them. A rift began to grow between
Slytherin and the others. Slytherin wished to be more select ive about the students
admit ted to Hogwarts. He believed that magical learning should be kept within all–
magic families. He disliked taking students of Muggle parentage, believing them to be
unt rustworthy. After a while, there was a serious argument on the subj ect between
Slytherin and Gryffindor, and Slytherin left the school.”
Professor Binns paused again, pursing his lips, looking like a wrinkled old
tortoise.
“ Reliable historical sources tell us this much,” he said. “ But these honest facts
have been obscured by the fanciful legend of the Chamber of Secrets. The story goes
that Slytherin had built a hidden chamber in the cast le, of which the other founders
knew nothing.
“ Slytherin, according to the legend, sealed the Chamber of Secrets so that
none would be able to open it unt il his own t rue heir arrived at the school. The heir
alone would be able to unseal the Chamber of Secrets, unleash the horror within, and
use it to purge the school of all who were unworthy to study magic.”
There was silence as he finished telling the story, but it wasn’ t the usual,
sleepy silence that filled Professor Binns’ s classes. There was unease in the air as
everyone cont inued to watch him, hoping for more. Professor Binns looked faint ly
annoyed.
“The whole thing is arrant nonsense, of course,” he said. “Naturally, the school
has been searched for evidence of such a chamber, many t imes, by the most learned
witches and wizards. It does not exist. A tale told to frighten the gullible.”
Hermione’s hand was back in the air.
“Sir – what exactly do you mean by the ‘horror within’ the Chamber?”
“ That is believed to be some sort of monster, which the Heir of Slytherin alone
can control,” said Professor Binns in his dry, reedy voice.
The class exchanged nervous looks.
“ I tell you, the thing does not exist ,” said Professor Binns, shuff ling his notes.
“There is no Chamber and no monster.”
“ But , sir,” said Seamus Finnigan, “ if the Chamber can only be opened by
Slytherin’s true heir, no one else would be able to find it, would they?”
“ Nonsense, O’Flaherty,” said Professor Binns in an aggravated tone. “ If a long
succession of Hogwarts headmasters and headmistresses haven’t found the thing –”
“ But , Professor,” piped up Parvat i Pat il, “ you’ d probably have to use Dark
Magic to open it –”
“ Just because a wizard doesn’ t use Dark Magic doesn’ t mean he can’ t , Miss
Pennyfeather,” snapped Professor Binns. “I repeat, if the likes of Dumbledore –”
“ But maybe you’ ve got to be related to Slytherin, so Dumbledore couldn’ t –”
began Dean Thomas, but Professor Binns had had enough.
“That will do,” he said sharply. “ It is a myth! It does not exist ! There is not a
shred of evidence that Slytherin ever built so much as a secret broom cupboard! I
regret telling you such a foolish story! We will return, if you please, to history, to
solid, believable, verifiable fact!”
And within five minutes, the class had sunk back into its usual torpor.
“ I always knew Salazar Slytherin was a twisted old loony,” Ron told Harry and
Hermione as they fought their way through the teeming corridors at the end of the
lesson to drop off their bags before dinner. “ But I never knew he started all this pure–
blood stuff. I wouldn’ t be in his house if you paid me. Honest ly, if the Sort ing Hat had
tried to put me in Slytherin, I’d’ve got the train straight back home…
Hermione nodded fervent ly, but Harry didn’ t say anything. His stomach had
just dropped unpleasantly.
Harry had never told Ron and Hermione that the Sort ing Hat had seriously
considered put t ing him in Slytherin. He could remember, as though it were yesterday,
the small voice that had spoken in his ear when he’ d placed the hat on his head a year
before: You could be great , you know, it ’ s al l here in your head, and Slyt herin would
help you on t he way to great ness, no doubt about t hat … But Harry, who had already
heard of Slytherin House’ s reputat ion for turning out Dark wizards, had thought
desperately, Not Slytherin! and the hat had said, Oh, well, if you’re sure … better be
Gryffindor… As they were shunted along in the throng, Colin Creevy went past.
“Hiya, Harry!”
“Hello, Colin,” said Harry automatically.
“Harry – Harry – a boy in my class has been saying you’re -”
But Colin was so small he couldn’ t fight against the t ide of people bearing him
toward the Great Hall; they heard him squeak, “See you, Harry!” and he was gone.
“What’s a boy in his class saying about you?” Hermione wondered.
“ That I’m Slytherin’ s heir, I expect ,” said Harry, his stomach dropping another
inch or so as he suddenly remembered the way Just in Finch–Fletchley had run away
from him at lunchtime.
“People here’ll believe anything,” said Ron in disgust.
The crowd thinned and they were able to climb the next staircase without
difficulty.
“D’you really think there’s a Chamber of Secrets?” Ron asked Hermione.
“I don’t know,” she said, frowning. “ Dumbledore couldn’ t cure Mrs. Norris, and
that makes me think that whatever attacked her might not be – well – human.”
As she spoke, they turned a corner and found themselves at the end of the very
corridor where the attack had happened. They stopped and looked. The scene was just
as it had been that night , except that there was no st iff cat hanging from the torch
bracket, and an empty chair stood against the wall bearing the message “The Chamber
of Secrets has been Opened.”
“That’s where Filch has been keeping guard,” Ron muttered.
They looked at each other. The corridor was deserted.
“Can’t hurt to have a poke around,” said Harry, dropping his bag and getting to
his hands and knees so that he could crawl along, searching for clues.
“Scorch marks!” he said. “Here – and here –”
“Come and look at this!” said Hermione. “This is funny…”
Harry got up and crossed to the window next to the message on the wall.
Hermione was point ing at the topmost pane, where around twenty spiders were
scuttling, apparent ly fight ing to get through a small crack. A long, silvery thread was
dangling like a rope, as though they had all climbed it in their hurry to get outside.
“Have you ever seen spiders act like that?” said Hermione wonderingly.
“No,” said Harry, “have you, Ron? Ron?”
He looked over his shoulder. Ron was standing well back and seemed to be
fighting the impulse to run.
“What’s up?” said Harry.
“I – don’t – like – spiders,” said Ron tensely.
“I never knew that,” said Hermione, looking at Ron in surprise.
“You’ve used spiders in Potions loads of times…”
“I don’t mind them dead,” said Ron, who was carefully looking anywhere but at
the window. “I just don’t like the way they move…”
Hermione giggled.
“ It ’ s not funny,” said Ron, f iercely. “ If you must know, when I was three, Fred
turned my – my teddy bear into a great big filthy spider because I broke his toy
broomst ick … You wouldn’ t like them either if you’ d been holding your bear and
suddenly it had too many legs and…”
He broke off, shuddering. Hermione was obviously st ill t rying not to augh.
Feeling they had bet ter get off the subj ect , Harry said, Remember all that water on
the floor? Where did that come from? Someone’s mopped it up.”
“ It was about here,” said Ron, recovering himself to walk a few paces past
Filch’s chair and pointing. “Level with this door.”
He reached for the brass doorknob but suddenly withdrew his hand as though
he’d been burned.
“What’s the matter?” said Harry.
“Can’t go in there,” said Ron gruffly. “That’s a girls’ toilet.”
“Oh, Ron, there won’ t be anyone in there,” said Hermione, standing up and
coming over. “That’s Moaning Myrtle’s place. Come on, let’s have a look.”
And ignoring the large OUT of ORDER sign, she opened the door. It was the
gloomiest , most depressing bathroom Harry had ever set foot in. Under a large,
cracked, and spot ted mirror were a row of chipped sinks. The f loor was damp and
reflected the dull light given off by the stubs of a few candles, burning low in their
holders; the wooden doors to the stalls were flaking and scratched and one of them
was dangling off its hinges.
Hermione put her fingers to her lips and set off toward the end stall. When she
reached it she said, “Hello, Myrtle, how are you?”
Harry and Ron went to look. Moaning Myrt le was float ing above the tank of the
toilet, picking a spot on her chin.
“ This is a girls’ bathroom,” she said, eyeing Ron and Harry suspiciously.
“They’re not girls.”
“ No,” Hermione agreed. “ I j ust wanted to show them how er – nice it is in
here.”
She waved vaguely at the dirty old mirror and the damp floor.
“Ask her if she saw anything,” Harry mouthed at Hermione.
“What are you whispering?” said Myrtle, staring at him.
“Nothing,” said Harry quickly. “We wanted to ask –”
“ I wish people would stop talking behind my back!” said Myrt le, in a voice
choked with tears. “I do have feelings, you know, even if I am dead –”
“Myrtle, no one wants to upset you,” said Hermione. “Harry only –”
“ No one wants to upset me! That ’ s a good one!” howled Myrt le. “My life was
nothing but misery at this place and now people come along ruining my death!”
“We wanted to ask you if you’ ve seen anything funny lately,” said Hermione
quickly. “Because a cat was attacked right outside your front door on Halloween.”
“Did you see anyone near here that night?” said Harry.
“ I wasn’ t paying at tent ion,” said Myrt le dramat ically. “ Peeves upset me so
much I came in here and tried to kill myself. Then, of course, I remembered that I’m –
that I’m “
“Already dead,” said Ron helpfully.
Myrt le gave a t ragic sob, rose up in the air, turned over, and dived headfirst
into the toilet , splashing water all over them and vanishing f rom sight , although from
the direction of her muffled sobs, she had come to rest somewhere in the U–bend.
Harry and Ron stood with their mouths open, but Hermione shrugged wearily
and said, “Honestly, that was almost cheerful for Myrtle … Come on, let’s go.”
Harry had barely closed the door on Myrt le’ s gurgling sobs when a loud voice
made all three of them jump.
“RON!”
Percy Weasley had stopped dead at the head of the stairs, prefect badge
agleam, an expression of complete shock on his face.
“That’s a girls’ bathroom!” he gasped. “What were you –?”
“Just having a look around,” Ron shrugged. “Clues, you know –”
Percy swelled in a manner that reminded Harry forcefully of Mrs. Weasley.
“Get – away – from – there –” Perry said, st riding toward them and start ing to
bust le them along, f lapping his arms. “ Don’ t you care what this looks like? Coming
back here while everyone’s at dinner –”
“Why shouldn’ t we be here?” said Ron hot ly, stopping short and glaring at
Percy. “Listen, we never laid a finger on that cat!”
“ That ’ s what I told Ginny,” said Percy fiercely, “ but she st ill seems to think
you’ re going to be expelled, I’ ve never seen her so upset , crying her eyes out , you
might think of her, all the first years are thoroughly overexcited by this business –”
“ You don’ t care about Ginny,” said Ron, whose ears were now reddening.
“You’re just worried I’m going to mess up your chances of being Head Boy –”
“ Five points from Gryf findor!” Percy said tersely, fingering his prefect badge.
“And I hope it teaches you a lesson! No more detective work, or I’ll write to Mum!”
And he strode off, the back of his neck as red as Ron’s ears.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione chose seats as far as possible from Percy in the
common room that night . Ron was st ill in a very bad temper and kept blot t ing his
Charms homework. When he reached absent ly for his wand to remove the smudges, it
ignited the parchment . Fuming almost as much as his homework, Ron slammed The
Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2 shut. To Harry’s surprise, Hermione followed suit.
“Who can it be, though?” she said in a quiet voice, as though cont inuing a
conversat ion they had j ust been having. “Who’ d want to righten all the Squibs and
Muggle–borns out of Hogwarts?”
“ Let ’ s think,” said Ron in mock puzzlement . “Who do we know who thinks
Muggle–borns are scum?”
He looked at Hermione. Hermione looked back, unconvinced.
“If you’re talking about Malfoy –”
“Of course I am!” said Ron. “ You heard him – ‘You’ ll be next , Mudbloods!’ –
come on, you’ve only got to look at his foul rat face to know it’s him –”
“Malfoy, the Heir of Slytherin?” said Hermione skeptically.
“ Look at his family,” said Harry, closing his books, too. “ The whole lot of them
have been in Slytherin; he’ s always boast ing about it . They could easily be Slytherin’ s
descendants. His father’s definitely evil enough.”
“ They couldve had the key to the Chamber of Secrets for centuries!” said Ron.
“Handing it down, father to son…”
“Well,” said Hermione cautiously, “I suppose it’s possible…”
“But how do we prove it?” said Harry darkly.
“ There might be a way,” said Hermione slowly, dropping her voice st ill further
with a quick glance across the room at Percy. “ Of course, it would be difficult . And
dangerous, very dangerous. We’d be breaking about fifty school rules, I expect –”
“If, in a month or so, you feel like explaining, you will let us know, won’t you?”
said Ron irritably.
“ All right ,” said Hermione coldly. “What we’ d need to do is to get inside the
Slytherin common room and ask Malfoy a few questions without him realizing it’s us.”
“But that’s impossible,” Harry said as Ron laughed.
“ No, it ’ s not ,” said Hermione. “ All we’ d need would be some Polyj uice
Potion.”
“What’s that?” said Ron and Harry together.
“Snape mentioned it in class a few weeks ago –”
“ D’ you think we’ ve got nothing bet ter to do in Pot ions than listen to Snape?”
muttered Ron.
“ It t ransforms you into somebody else. Think about it ! We could change into
three of the Slytherins. No one would know it was us. Malfoy would probably tell us
anything. He’ s probably boast ing about it in the Slytherin common room right now, if
only we could hear him.”
“ This Polyj uice stuff sounds a bit dodgy to me,” said Ron, frowning. “What if
we were stuck looking like three of the Slytherins forever?”
“ It wears of f after a while,” said Hermione, waving her hand impat ient ly. “ But
get t ing hold of the recipe will be very difficult . Snape said it was in a book called
Moste Potente Potions and it’s bound to be in the Restricted Section of the library.”
There was only one way to get out a book from the Rest ricted Sect ion: You
needed a signed note of permission from a teacher.
“ Hard to see why we’ d want the book, really,” said Ron, “ if we weren’ t going
to try and make one of the potions.”
“ I think,” said Hermione, “ that if we made it sound as though we were j ust
interested in the theory, we might stand a chance…”
“Oh, come on, no teacher’ s going to fall for that ,” said Ron. “ They’ d have to
be really thick…”
CHAPTER TEN – THE ROGUE BLUDGER
Since the disast rous episode of the pixies, Professor Lockhart had not brought
live creatures to class. Instead, he read passages f rom his books to them, and
somet imes reenacted some of the more dramat ic bits. He usually picked Harry to help
him with these reconst ruct ions; so far, Harry had been forced to play a simple
Transylvanian villager whom Lockhart had cured of a Babbling Curse, a yet i with a
head cold, and a vampire who had been unable to eat anything except let tuce since
Lockhart had dealt with him.
Harry was hauled to the front of the class during their very next Defense
Against the Dark Arts lesson, this t ime act ing a werewolf If he hadn’ t had a very good
reason for keeping Lockhart in a good mood, he would have refused to do it.
“ Nice loud howl, Harry – exactly –and then, if you’ ll believe it , I pounced – like
this – slammed him to the floor – thus with one hand, I managed to hold him down –
with my other, I put my wand to his throat –I then screwed up my remaining st rength
and performed the immensely complex Homorphus Charm – he let out a piteous moan –
go on, Harry – higher than that – good – the fur vanished – the fangs shrank – and he
turned back into a man. Simple, yet effect ive – and another village will remember me
forever as the hero who delivered them from the monthly terror of werewolf attacks.”
The bell rang and Lockhart got to his feet.
“Homework – compose a poem about my defeat of the Wagga Wagga Werewolf!
Signed copies of Magical Me to the author of the best one!”
The class began to leave. Harry returned to the back of the room, where Ron
and Hermione were waiting.
“Ready?” Harry muttered.
“Wait till everyone’s gone,” said Hermione nervously. “All right…”
She approached Lockhart ’ s desk, a piece of paper clut ched t ight ly in her hand,
Harry and Ron right behind her.
“Er – Professor Lockhart?” Hermione stammered. “I wanted to – to get this book
out of the library. Just for background reading.” She held out the piece of paper, her
hand shaking slight ly. “ But the thing is, it ’ s in the Rest ricted Sect ion of the library, so
I need a teacher to sign for it – I’m sure it would help me understand what you say in
Gadding with Ghouls about slow–acting venoms …”
“ Ah, Gadding with Ghouls!” said Lockhart , taking the note from Hermione and
smiling widely at her. “Possibly my very favorite book. You enjoyed it?”
“Oh, yes,” said Hermione eagerly. “ So clever, the way you t rapped that last
one with the tea–strainer –”
“Well, I’m sure no one will mind me giving the best student of the year a lit t le
extra help,” said Lockhart warmly, and he pulled out an enormous peacock quill. “Yes,
nice, isn’ t it?” he said, misreading the revolted look on Ron’ s face. “ I usually save it
for book–signings.”
He scrawled an enormous loopy signature on the note and handed it back to
Hermione.
“ So, Harry,” said Lockhart , while Hermione folded the note with fumbling
fingers and slipped it into her bag. “ Tomorrow’ s the first Quiddit ch match of the
season, I believe?Gryffindor against Slytherin, is it not?I hear you’ re a useful player. I
was a Seeker, too. I was asked to try for the National Squad, but preferred to dedicate
my life to the eradication of the Dark Forces. Still, if ever you feel the need for a little
private t raining, don’ t hesitate to ask. Always happy to pass on my expert ise to less
able players…”
Harry made an indist inct noise in his throat and then hurried off after Ron and
Hermione.
“ I don’ t believe it ,” he said as the three of them examined the signature on
the note. “He didn’t even look at the book we wanted.”
“ That ’ s because he’ s a brainless git ,” said Ron. “ But who cares, we’ ve got
what we needed –”
“ He is not a brainless git ,” said Hermione shrilly as they half ran toward the
library.
“Just because he said you were the best student of the year –”
They dropped their voices as they entered the muff led st illness of the library.
Madam Pince, the librarian, was a thin, irritable woman who looked like an underfed
vulture.
“Moste Potent e Pot ions?” she repeated suspiciously, t rying to take the note
from Hermione; but Hermione wouldn’t let go.
“I was wondering if I could keep it,” she said breathlessly.
“Oh, come on,” said Ron, wrenching it from her grasp and thrust ing it at
Madam Pince. “We’ ll get you another autograph. Lockhart ’ ll sign anything if it stands
still long enough.”
Madam Pince held the note up to the light , as though determined to detect a
forgery, but it passed the test . She stalked away between the lofty shelves and
returned several minutes later carrying a large and moldy–looking book. Hermione put
it carefully into her bag and they left, trying not to walk too quickly or look too guilty.
Five minutes later, they were barricaded in Moaning Myrt le’ s out–of–order
bathroom once again. Hermione had overridden Ron’ s obj ect ions by point ing out that
it was the last place anyone in their right minds would go, so they were guaranteed
some privacy. Moaning Myrt le was crying noisily in her stall, but they were ignoring
her, and she them.
Hermione opened Most e Pot ente Pot ions carefully, and the three of them bent
over the damp–spot ted pages. It was clear from a glance why it belonged in the
Rest ricted Sect ion. Some of the pot ions had effects almost too gruesome to think
about , and there were some very unpleasant illust rat ions, which included a man who
seemed to have been turned inside out and a witch sprout ing several ext ra pairs of
arms out of her head.
“ Here it is,” said Hermione excitedly as she found the page headed The
Polyj uice Pot ion. It was decorated with drawings of people halfway through
t ransforming into other people. Harry sincerely hoped the art ist had imagined the
looks of intense pain on their faces.
“ This is the most complicated pot ion I’ ve ever seen,” said Hermione as they
scanned the recipe. “ Lacewing flies, leeches, fluxweed, and knotgrass,” she
murmured, running her finger down the list of ingredients. “Well, they’ re easy
enough, they’ re in the student store–cupboard, we can help ourselves … Oooh, look,
powdered horn of a bicorn – don’ t know where we’ re going to get that – shredded skin
of a boomslang –. that ’ ll be t ricky, too and of course a bit of whoever we want to
change into.”
“ Excuse me?” said Ron sharply. “What d’ you mean, a bit of whoever we’ re
changing into? I’m drinking nothing with Crabbe’s toenails in it –”
Hermione continued as though she hadn’t heard him.
“We don’ t have to worry about that yet , though, because we add those bits
last…”
Ron turned, speechless, to Harry, who had another worry.
“ D’ you realize how much we’ re going to have to steal, Hermione? Shredded
skin of a boomslang, that ’ s definitely not in the students’ cupboard. What ’ re we going
to do, break into Snape’s private stores? I don’t know if this is a good idea…”
Hermione shut the book with a snap.
“Well, if you two are going to chicken out , f ine,” she said. There were bright
pink patches on her cheeks and her eyes were brighter than usual. “ I don’ t want to
break rules, you know. I think threatening Muggle–borns is far worse than brewing up a
difficult pot ion. But if you don’ t want to find out if it ’ s Malfoy, I’ ll go st raight to
Madam Pince now and hand the book back in-”
“ I never thought I’ d see the day when you’ d be persuading us to break rules,”
said Ron. “All right, we’ll do it. But not toenails, okay?”
“ How long will it take to make, anyway?” said Harry as Hermione, looking
happier, opened the book again.
“Well, since the fluxweed has got to be picked at the full moon and the
lacewings have got to be stewed for twenty–one days … I’ d say it ’ d be ready in about
a month, if we can get all the ingredients.”
“ A month?” said Ron. “Malfoy could have at tacked half the Muggle–borns in the
school by then!” But Hermione’ s eyes narrowed dangerously again, and he added
swiftly, “But it’s the best plan we’ve got, so full steam ahead, I say.”
However, while Hermione was checking that the coast was clear for them to
leave the bathroom, Ron mut tered to Harry, “ It ’ ll be a lot less hassle if you can j ust
knock Malfoy off his broom tomorrow.
Harry woke early on Saturday morning and lay for a while thinking about the
coming Quidditch match. He was nervous, mainly at the thought of what Wood would
say if Gryffindor lost , but also at the idea of facing a team mounted on the fastest
racing brooms gold could buy. He had never wanted to beat Slytherin so badly. After
half an hour of lying there with his insides churning, he got up, dressed, and went
down to breakfast early, where he found the rest of the Gryffindor team huddled at
the long, empty table, all looking uptight and not speaking much.
As eleven o’ clock approached, the whole school started to make its way down
to the Quidditch stadium. It was a muggy sort of day with a hint of thunder in the air.
Ron and Hermione came hurrying over to wish Harry good luck as he entered the
locker rooms. The team pulled on their scarlet Gryffindor robes, then sat down to
listen to Wood’s usual pre–match pep talk.
“ Slytherin has bet ter brooms than us,” he began. “ No point denying it . But
we’ ve got bet ter people on our brooms. We’ ve t rained harder than they have, we’ ve
been f lying in all weathers –” (“ Too t rue,” mut tered George Weasley. “ I haven’ t been
properly dry since August ” ) “ –and we’ re going to make them rue the day they let that
little bit of slime, Malfoy, buy his way onto their team.”
Chest heaving with emot ion, Wood turned to Harry. “ It ’ ll be down to you,
Harry, to show them that a Seeker has to have something more than a rich father. Get
to that Snitch before Malfoy or die t rying, Harry, because we’ ve got to win today,
we’ve got to.”
“So no pressure, Harry” said Fred, winking at him.
As they walked out onto the pitch, a roar of noise greeted them; mainly
cheers, because Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were anxious to see Slytherin beaten, but
the Slytherins in the crowd made their boos and hisses heard, too. Madam Hooch, the
Quidditch teacher, asked Flint and Wood to shake hands, which they did, giving each
other threatening stares and gripping rather harder than was necessary.
“On my whistle,” said Madam Hooch. “Three … two … one…”
With a roar from the crowd to speed them upward, the fourteen players rose
toward the leaden sky. Harry f lew higher than any of them, squint ing around for the
Snitch.
“ All right there, Scarhead?” yelled Malfoy, shoot ing underneath him as though
to show off the speed of his broom.
Harry had no t ime to reply. At that very moment , a heavy black Bludger came
pelting toward him; he avoided it so narrowly that he felt it ruffle his hair as it passed.
“ Close one, Harry!” said George, st reaking past him with his club in his hand,
ready to knock the Bludger back toward a Slytherin. Harry saw George give the Bludger
a powerful whack in the direct ion of Adrian Pucey, but the Bludger changed direct ion
in midair and shot straight for Harry again.
Harry dropped quickly to avoid it , and George managed to hit it hard toward
Malfoy. Once again, the Bludger swerved like a boomerang and shot at Harry’ s head.
Harry put on a burst of speed and zoomed toward the other end of the pitch. He could
hear the Bludger whist ling along behind him. What was going on? Bludgers never
concentrated on one player like this; it was their job to try and unseat as many people
as possible …
Fred Weasley was wait ing for the Bludger at the other end. Harry ducked as
Fred swung at the Bludger with all his might; the Bludger was knocked off course.
“Gotcha!” Fred yelled happily, but he was wrong; as though it was
magnet ically at t racted to Harry, the Bludger pelted after him once more and Harry
was forced to fly off at full speed.
It had started to rain; Harry felt heavy drops fall onto his face, splattering onto
his glasses. He didn’ t have a clue what was going on in the rest of the game unt il he
heard Lee Jordan, who was commentating, say, “Slytherin lead, sixty points to zero -”
he Slytherins’ superior brooms were clearly doing their j obs, and meanwhile
the mad Bludger was doing all it could to knock Harry out of the air. Fred and George
were now f lying so close to him on either side that Harry could see nothing at all
except their flailing arms and had no chance to look for the Snitch, let alone catch it.
“Someone’s – tampered –with – this –Bludger –” Fred grunted, swinging his bat
with all his might at it as it launched a new attack on Harry.
“We need t ime out ,” said George, t rying to signal to Wood and stop the
Bludger breaking Harry’s nose at the same time.
Wood had obviously got the message. Madam Hooch’ s whist le rang out and
Harry, Fred, and George dived for the ground, still trying to avoid the mad Bludger.
“What ’ s going on?” said Wood as the Gryffindor team huddled together, while
Slytherins in the crowd j eered. “We’ re being f lat tened. Fred, George, where were you
when that Bludger stopped Angelina scoring?”
“We were twenty feet above her, stopping the other Bludger from murdering
Harry, Oliver,” said George angrily. “Someone’s fixed it – it won’t leave Harry alone. It
hasn’t gone for anyone else all game. The Slytherins must have done something to it.”
“ But the Bludgers have been locked in Madam Hooch’ s office since our last
practice, and there was nothing wrong with them then… “ said Wood, anxiously.
Madam Hooch was walking toward them. Over her shoulder, Harry could see the
Slytherin team jeering and pointing in his direction.
“ Listen,” said Harry as she came nearer and nearer, “ with you two flying
around me all the t ime the only way I’m going to catch the Snit ch is if it f lies up my
sleeve. Go back to the rest of the team and let me deal with the rogue one.”
“Don’t be thick,” said Fred. “It’ll take your head off.”
Wood was looking from Harry to the Weasleys.
“ I Oliver, this is insane,” said Alicia Spinner angrily. “ You can’ t let Harry deal
with that thing on his own. Let’s ask for an inquiry –”
“ If we stop now, we’ ll have to forfeit the match!” said Harry. “ And we’ re not
losing to Slytherin just because of a crazy Bludger! Come on, Oliver, tell them to leave
me alone!”
“ This is all your fault ,” George said angrily to Wood. “ ‘Get the Snitch or die
trying,’ what a stupid thing to tell him –”
Madam Hooch had joined them.
“Ready to resume play?” she asked Wood.
Wood looked at the determined look on Harry’s face.
“ All right ,” he said. “ Fred, George, you heard Harry –leave him alone and let
him deal with the Bludger on his own.”
The rain was falling more heavily now. On Madam Hooch’ s whist le, Harry
kicked hard into the air and heard the telltale whoosh of the Bludger behind him.
Higher and higher Harry climbed; he looped and swooped, spiraled, zigzagged, and
rolled. Slight ly dizzy, he nevertheless kept his eyes wide open, rain was speckling his
glasses and ran up his nost rils as he hung upside down, avoiding another fierce dive
from the Bludger. He could hear laughter from the crowd; he knew he must look very
stupid, but the rogue Bludger was heavy and couldn’ t change direct ion as quickly as
Harry could; he began a kind of roller–coaster ride around the edges of the stadium,
squint ing through the silver sheets of rain to the Gryffindor goal posts, where Adrian
Pucey was trying to get past Wood
A whist ling in Harry’ s ear told him the Bludger had j ust missed him again; he
turned right over and sped in the opposite direction.
“ Training for the ballet , Pot ter?” yelled Malfoy as Harry was forced to do a
stupid kind of twirl in midair to dodge the Bludger, and he fled, the Bludger t railing a
few feet behind him; and then, glaring back at Malfoy in hat red, he saw it – the
Golden Snit ch. It was hovering inches above Malfoy’ s left ear – and Malfoy, busy
laughing at Harry, hadn’t seen it.
For an agonizing moment , Harry hung in midair, not daring to speed toward
Malfoy in case he looked up and saw the Snitch. WHAM.
He had stayed st ill a second too long. The Bludger had hit him at last , smashed
into his elbow, and Harry felt his arm break. Dimly, dazed by the searing pain in his
arm, he slid sideways on his rain–drenched broom, one knee st ill crooked over it , his
right arm dangling useless at his side – the Bludger came pelt ing back for a second
at tack, this t ime heading at his face – Harry swerved out of the way, one idea firmly
lodged in his numb brain: get to Malfoy.
Through a haze of rain and pain he dived for the shimmering, sneering face
below him and saw its eyes widen with fear: Malfoy thought Harry was attacking him.
“What the –” he gasped, careening out of Harry’s way.
Harry took his remaining hand off his broom and made a wild snatch; he felt his
fingers close on the cold Snitch but was now only gripping the broom with his legs, and
there was a yell from the crowd below as he headed st raight for the ground, t rying
hard not to pass out . With a splat tering thud he hit the mud and rolled off his broom.
His arm was hanging at a very st range angle; riddled with pain, he heard, as though
from a distance, a good deal of whist ling and shout ing. He focused on the Snitch
clutched in his good hand.
“Aha,” he said vaguely. “We’ve won.”
And he fainted.
He came around, rain falling on his face, st ill lying on the field, with someone
leaning over him. He saw a glitter of teeth.
“Oh, no, not you,” he moaned.
“ Doesn’ t know what he’ s saying,” said Lockhart loudly to the anxious crowd of
Gryffindors pressing around them. “Not to worry, Harry. I’m about to fix your arm.”
“No!”said Harry. “I’ll keep it like this, thanks…”
He t ried to sit up, but the pain was terrible. He heard a familiar clicking noise
nearby.
“I don’t want a photo of this, Colin,” he said loudly.
“ Lie back, Harry,” said Lockhart soothingly. “ It ’ s a simple charm I’ ve used
countless times –”
“Why can’t I just go to the hospital wing?” said Harry through clenched teeth.
“ He should really, Professor,” said a muddy Wood, who couldn’ t help grinning
even though his Seeker was inj ured. “ Great capture, Harry, really spectacular, your
best yet, I’d say –”
Through the thicket of legs around him, Harry spot ted Fred and George
Weasley, wrestling the rogue Bludger into a box. It was still putting up a terrific fight.
“Stand back,” said Lockhart, who was rolling up his jade–green sleeves.
“No – don’ t –” said Harry weakly, but Lockhart was twirling his wand and a
second later had directed it straight at Harry’s arm.
A st range and unpleasant sensat ion started at Harry’ s shoulder and spread all
the way down to his fingert ips. It felt as though his arm was being deflated. He didn’ t
dare look at what was happening. He had shut his eyes, his face turned away from his
arm, but his worst fears were realized as the people above him gasped and Colin
Creevey began clicking away madly. His arm didn’ t hurt anymore – nor did it feel
remotely like an arm.
“ Ah,” said Lockhart . “ Yes. Well, that can somet imes happen. But the point is,
the bones are no longer broken. That ’ s the thing to bear in mind. So, Harry, j ust
toddle up to the hospital wing – ah, Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger, would you escort him?
– and Madam Pomfrey will be able to – er – tidy you up a bit.”
As Harry got to his feet , he felt st rangely lopsided. Taking a deep breath he
looked down at his right side. What he saw nearly made him pass out again.
Poking out of the end of his robes was what looked like a thick, flesh–colored
rubber glove. He tried to move his fingers. Nothing happened.
Lockhart hadn’t mended Harry’s bones. He had removed them.
Madam Pomf rey wasn’ t at all pleased. “ You should have come st raight to me!”
she raged, holding up the sad, limp remainder of what , half an hour before, had been
a working arm. “I can mend bones in a second – but growing them back –”
“You will be able to, won’t you?” said Harry desperately.
“ I’ ll be able to, certainly, but it will be painful,” said Madam Pomfrey grimly,
throwing Harry a pair of pajamas. “You’ll have to stay the night…
Hermione waited outside the curtain drawn around Harry’ s bed while Ron
helped him into his pajamas. It took a while to stuff the rubbery, boneless arm into a
sleeve.
“ How can you st ick up for Lockhart now, Hermione, eh?” Ron called through
the curtain as he pulled Harry’ s limp fingers through the cuf f. “ If Harry had wanted
deboning he would have asked.”
“ Anyone can make a mistake,” said Hermione. “ And it doesn’ t hurt anymore,
does it, Harry?”
“No,” said Harry, getting into bed. “But it doesn’t do anything else either.”
As he swung himself onto the bed, his arm flapped pointlessly.
Hermione and Madam Pomfrey came around the curtain. Madam Pomfrey was holding
a large bottle of something labeled Skele–Gro.
“ You’ re in for a rough night ,” she said, pouring out a steaming beakerful and
handing it to him. “Regrowing bones is a nasty business.”
So was taking the Skele–Gro. It burned Harry’ s mouth and throat as it went
down, making him cough and splut ter. St ill tut–tut t ing about dangerous sports and
inept teachers, Madam Pomfrey ret reated, leaving Ron and Hermione to help Harry
gulp down some water.
“We won, though,” said Ron, a grin breaking across his face. “ That was some
catch you made. Malfoy’s face … he looked ready to kill…
“I want to know how he fixed that Bludger,” said Hermione darkly.
“We can add that to the list of quest ions we’ ll ask him when we’ ve taken the
Polyj uice Pot ion,” said Harry, sinking back onto his pillows. “ I hope it tastes bet ter
than this stuff….”
“If it’s got bits of Slytherins in it? You’ve got to be joking,” said Ron.
The door of the hospital wing burst open at that moment . Filthy and soaking
wet, the rest of the Gryffindor team had arrived to see Harry.
“ Unbelievable flying, Harry,” said George. “ I’ ve j ust seen Marcus Flint yelling
at Malfoy. Something about having the Snitch on top of his head and not not icing.
Malfoy didn’t seem too happy.”
They had brought cakes, sweets, and bot t les of pumpkin j uice; they gathered
around Harry’ s bed and were j ust get t ing started on what promised to be a good party
when Madam Pomfrey came storming over, shout ing, “ This boy needs rest , he’ s got
thirty–three bones to regrow! Out! OUT!”
And Harry was left alone, with nothing to dist ract him from the stabbing pains
in his limp arm.
Hours and hours later, Harry woke quite suddenly in the pitch-blackness and
gave a small yelp of pain: His arm now felt full of large splinters. For a second, he
thought that was what had woken him. Then, with a thrill of horror, he realized that
someone was sponging his forehead in the dark.
“Get off!” he said loudly, and then, “Dobby!”
The house–elf’ s goggling tennis ball eyes were peering at Harry through the
darkness. A single tear was running down his long, pointed nose.
“ Harry Pot ter came back to school,” he whispered miserably. “ Dobby warned
and warned Harry Pot ter. Ah sir, why didn’ t you heed Dobby?Why didn’ t Harry Pot ter
go back home when he missed the train?”
Harry heaved himself up on his pillows and pushed Dobby’s sponge away.
“What’re you doing here?” he said. “And how did you know I missed the train?”
Dobby’s lip trembled and Harry was seized by a sudden suspicion.
“It was you!” he said slowly. “You stopped the barrier from letting us through!”
“ Indeed yes, sir,” said Dobby, nodding his head vigorously, ears flapping.
“ Dobby hid and watched for Harry Pot ter and sealed the gateway and Dobby had to
iron his hands afterward” – he showed Harry ten long, bandaged fingers – “ but Dobby
didn’ t care, sir, for he thought Harry Pot ter was safe, and never did Dobby dream that
Harry Potter would get to school another way!”
He was rocking backward and forward, shaking his ugly head.
“ Dobby was so shocked when he heard Harry Pot ter was back at Hogwarts, he
et his master’s dinner burn! Such a flogging Dobby never had, sir…”
Harry slumped back onto his pillows.
“ You nearly got Ron and me expelled,” he said fiercely. “ You’ d bet ter get lost
before my bones come back, Dobby, or I might strangle you.”
Dobby smiled weakly.
“ Dobby is used to death threats, sir. Dobby gets them five t imes a day at
home.”
He blew his nose on a corner of the filthy pillowcase he wore, looking so
pathetic that Harry felt his anger ebb away in spite of himself.
“Why d’you wear that thing, Dobby?” he asked curiously.
“ This, sir?” said Dobby, plucking at the pillowcase. “ ‘Tis a mark of the house–
elf’ s enslavement , sir. Dobby can only be freed if his masters present him with
clothes, sir. The family is careful not to pass Dobby even a sock, sir, for then he would
be free to leave their house forever.”
Dobby mopped his bulging eyes and said suddenly, “Harry Potter must go home!
Dobby thought his Bludger would be enough to make –”
“ Your Bludger?” said Harry, anger rising once more. “What d’ you mean, your
Bludger? You made that Bludger try and kill me?”
“ Not kill you, sir, never kill you!” said Dobby, shocked. “ Dobby wants to save
Harry Pot ter’ s life! Bet ter sent home, grievously inj ured, than remain here sir! Dobby
only wanted Harry Potter hurt enough to be sent home!”
“Oh, is that all?” said Harry angrily. “ I don’ t suppose you’ re going to tell me
why you wanted me sent home in pieces?”
“ Ah, if Harry Pot ter only knew!” Dobby groaned, more tears dripping onto his
ragged pillowcase. “ If he knew what he means to us, to the lowly, the enslaved, we
dregs of the magical world! Dobby remembers how it was when He–Who–Must–Not–Be–
Named was at the height of his powers, sir! We house–elfs were t reated like vermin,
sir! Of course, Dobby is st ill t reated like that , sir,” he admit ted, drying his face on the
pillowcase. “ But most ly, sir, life has improved for my kind since you t riumphed over
He–Who–Must–Not–Be–Named. Harry Pot ter survived, and the Dark Lord’ s power was
broken, and it was a new dawn, sir, and Harry Pot ter shone like a beacon of hope for
those of us who thought the Dark days would never end, sit … And now, at Hogwarts,
terrible things are to happen, are perhaps happening already, and Dobby cannot let
Harry Pot ter stay here now that history is to repeat itself , now that the Chamber of
Secrets is open once more.”
Dobby froze, horrorst ruck, then grabbed Harry’ s water j ug from his bedside
table and cracked it over his own head, toppling out of sight . A second later, he
crawled back onto the bed, cross–eyed, muttering, “Bad Dobby, very bad Dobby…”
“ So there is a Chamber of Secrets?” Harry whispered. “ And did you say it ’ s
been opened before? Tell me, Dobby!”
He seized the elf’ s bony wrist as Dobby’ s hand inched toward the water j ug.
“But I’m not Muggle–born – how can I be in danger from the Chamber?”
“Ah, sir, ask no more, ask no more of poor Dobby,” stammered the elf, his eyes
huge in the dark. “ Dark deeds are planned in this place, but Harry Pot ter must not be
here when they happen – go home, Harry Pot ter, go home. Harry Pot ter must not
meddle in this, sir, ‘tis too dangerous –”
“Who is it , Dobby?” Harry said, keeping a firm hold on Dobby’ s wrist to stop
him from hit t ing himself with the water j ug again. “Who’ s opened it?Who opened it
last time?”
“ Dobby can’ t , sir, Dobby can’ t , Dobby mustn’ t tell!” squealed the elf. “ Go
home, Harry Potter, go home!”
“ I’m not going anywhere!” said Harry fiercely. “ One of my best friends is
Muggle–born; she’ll be first in line if the Chamber really has been opened –”
“ Harry Pot ter risks his own life for his f riends!” moaned Dobby in a kind of
miserable ecstasy. “ So noble! So valiant ! But he must save himself, he must , Harry
Potter must not –”
Dobby suddenly froze, his bat ears quivering. Harry heard it , too. There were
footsteps coming down the passageway outside.
“ Dobby must go!” breathed the elf, terrified. There was a loud crack, and
Harry’ s fist was suddenly clenched on thin air. He slumped back into bed, his eyes on
the dark doorway to the hospital wing as the footsteps drew nearer.
Next moment , Dumbledore was backing into the dormitory, wearing a long
woolly dressing gown and a night cap. He was carrying one end of what looked like a
statue. Professor McGonagall appeared a second later, carrying its feet . Together,
they heaved it onto a bed.
“Get Madam Pomfrey,” whispered Dumbledore, and Professor McGonagall
hurried past the end of Harry’ s bed out of sight . Harry lay quite st ill, pretending to be
asleep. He heard urgent voices, and then Professor McGonagall swept back into view,
closely followed by Madam Pomfrey, who was pulling a cardigan on over her
nightdress. He heard a sharp intake of breath.
What happened?” Madam Pomf rey whispered to Dumbledore, bending over the
statue on the bed.
“Another attack,” said Dumbledore. “Minerva found him on the stairs.
“ There was a bunch of grapes next to him,” said Professor McGonagall. “We
think he was trying to sneak up here to visit Potter.”
Harry’ s stomach gave a horrible lurch. Slowly and carefully, he raised himself a
few inches so he could look at the statue on the bed. A ray of moonlight lay across its
staring face.
It was Colin Creevey. His eyes were wide and his hands were stuck up in f ront
of him, holding his camera.
“Petrified?” whispered Madam Pomfrey.
“ Yes,” said Professor McGonagall. “ But I shudder to think … If Albus hadn’ t
been on the way downstairs for hot chocolate – who knows what might have –”
The three of them stared down at Colin. Then Dumbledore leaned forward and
wrenched the camera out of Colin’s rigid grip.
“ You don’ t think he managed to get a picture of his at tacker?” said Professor
McGonagall eagerly.
Dumbledore didn’t answer. He opened the back of the camera.
“Good gracious!” said Madam Pomfrey.
A j et of steam had hissed out of the camera. Harry, three beds away, caught
the acrid smell of burnt plastic.
“Melted,” said Madam Pomfrey wonderingly. “All melted…”
“What does this mean, Albus?” Professor McGonagall asked urgently.
“ It means,” said Dumbledore, “ that the Chamber of Secrets is indeed open
again.”
Madam Pomfrey clapped a hand to her mouth. Professor McGonagall stared at
Dumbledore.
“But, Albus … surely … who?”
“ The quest ion is not who,” said Dumbledore, his eyes on Colin. “ The quest ion
is, how…”
And from what Harry could see of Professor McGonagall’ s shad owy face, she
didn’t understand this any better than he did.
CHAPTER ELEVEN – THE DUELLING CLUB
Harry woke up on Sunday morning to find the dormitory blazing with winter
sunlight and his arm reboned but very st iff. He sat up quickly and looked over at
Colin’s bed, but it had been blocked from view by the high curtains Harry had changed
behind yesterday. Seeing that he was awake, Madam Pomfrey came bust ling over with
a breakfast tray and then began bending and stretching his arm and fingers.
“ All in order,” she said as he clumsily fed himself porridge left -handed. “When
you’ve finished eating, you may leave.”
Harry dressed as quickly as he could and hurried off to Gryf findor Tower,
desperate to tell Ron and Hermione about Colin and Dobby, but they weren’ t there.
Harry left to look for them, wondering where they could have got to and feeling
slightly hurt that they weren’t interested in whether he had his bones back or not.
As Harry passed the library, Percy Weasley st rolled out of it , looking in far
better spirits than last time they’d met.
“Oh, hello, Harry,” he said. “ Excellent f lying yesterday, really excellent .
Gryffindor has just taken the lead for the House Cup you earned fifty points!”
“You haven’t seen Ron or Hermione, have you?” said Harry.
“ No, I haven’ t ,” said Percy, his smile fading. “ I hope Ron’ s not in another girls’
toilet…”
Harry forced a laugh, watched Percy walk out of sight , and then headed
st raight for Moaning Myrt le’ s bathroom. He couldn’ t see why Ron and Hermione would
be in there again, but after making sure that neither Filch nor any prefects were
around, he opened the door and heard their voices coming from a locked stall.
“ It ’ s me,” he said, closing the door behind him. There was a clunk, a splash,
and a gasp from within the stall and he saw Hermione’ s eye peering through the
keyhole.
“Harry!” she said. “You gave us such a fright – come in how’s your arm?”
“ Fine,” said Harry, squeezing into the stall. An old cauldron was perched on
the toilet, and a crackling from under the rim told Harry they had lit a fire beneath it.
Conjuring up portable, waterproof fires was a speciality of Hermione’s.
“We’ d’ ve come to meet you, but we decided to get started on the Polyj uice
Pot ion,” Ron explained as Harry, with difficulty, locked the stall again. “We’ ve
decided this is the safest place to hide it.”
Harry started to tell them about Colin, but Hermione interrupted.
“We already know – we heard Professor McGonagall telling
Professor Flitwick this morning. That ’ s why we decided we’ d bet ter get going –

“ The sooner we get a confession out of Malfoy, the bet ter,” snarled Ron.
“ D’ you know what I think?He was in such a foul temper after the Quidditch match, he
took it out on Colin.”
“ There’ s something else,” said Harry, watching Hermione tearing bundles of
knotgrass and throwing them into the potion. “Dobby came to visit me in the middle of
the night.”
Ron and Hermione looked up, amazed. Harry told them everything Dobby had
told him – or hadn’t told him. Hermione and Ron listened with their mouths open.
“ The Chamber of Secrets has been opened before?” Hermione said.
“ This set t les it ,” said Ron in a t riumphant voice. “ Lucius Malfoy must ’ ve
opened the Chamber when he was at school here and now he’ s told dear old Draco
how to do it . It ’ s obvious. Wish Dobby’ d told you what kind of monster’ s in there,
though. I want to know how come nobody’s noticed it sneaking around the school.”
“Maybe it can make itself invisible,” said Hermione, prodding leeches to the
bot tom of the cauldron. “Or maybe it can disguise itself – pretend to be a suit of
armor or something – I’ve read about Chameleon Ghouls –”
“ You read too much, Hermione,” said Ron, pouring dead lacewings on top of
the leeches. He crumpled up the empty lacewing bag and looked at Harry.
So Dobby stopped us f rom get t ing on the t rain and broke your arm,” He shook
his head. “ You know what , Harry? If he doesn’ t stop t rying to save your life he’ s going
to kill you.”
The news that Colin Creevey had been at tacked and was now lying as though
dead in the hospital wing had spread through the ent ire school by Monday morning.
The air was suddenly thick with rumor and suspicion. The first years were now moving
around the castle in tight–knit groups, as though scared they would be attacked if they
ventured forth alone.
Ginny Weasley, who sat next to Colin Creevey in Charms, was dist raught , but
Harry felt that Fred and George were going the wrong way about cheering her up.
They were taking turns covering themselves with fur or boils and j umping out at her
from behind statues. They only stopped when Percy, apoplect ic with rage, told them
he was going to write to Mrs. Weasley and tell her Ginny was having nightmares.
Meanwhile, hidden from the teachers, a roaring t rade in talismans, amulets,
and other protect ive devices was sweeping the school. Neville Longbot tom bought a
large, evil–smelling green onion, a pointed purple crystal, and a rot t ing newt tail
before the other Gryffindor boys pointed out that he was in no danger; he was a pure–
blood, and therefore unlikely to be attacked.
“ They went for Filch f irst ,” Neville said, his round face fearful. “ And everyone
knows I’m almost a Squib.”
In the second week of December Professor McGonagall came around as usual,
collect ing names of those who would be staying at school for Christmas. Harry, Ron,
and Hermione signed her list ; they had heard that Malfoy was staying, which st ruck
them as very suspicious. The holidays would be the perfect t ime to use the Polyj uice
Potion and try to worm a confession out of him.
Unfortunately, the pot ion was only half finished. They st ill needed the bicorn
horn and the boomslang skin, and the only place they were going to get them was
from Snape’ s private stores. Harry privately felt he’ d rather face Slytherin’ s legendary
monster than let Snape catch him robbing his office.
“What we need,” said Hermione briskly as Thursday afternoon’ s double Pot ions
lesson loomed nearer, “is a diversion. Then one of us can sneak into Snape’s office and
take what we need.”
Harry and Ron looked at her nervously.
“ I think I’ d bet ter do the actual stealing,” Hermione cont inued in a mat ter–of–
fact tone. “ You two will be expelled if you get into any more t rouble, and I’ ve got a
clean record. So all you need to do is cause enough mayhem to keep Snape busy for
five minutes or so.”
Harry smiled feebly. Deliberately causing mayhem in Snape’ s Pot ions class was
about as safe as poking a sleeping dragon in the eye.
Pot ions lessons took place in one of the large dungeons. Thursday afternoon’ s
lesson proceeded in the usual way. Twenty cauldrons stood steaming between the
wooden desks, on which stood brass scales and j ars of ingredients. Snape prowled
through the fumes, making waspish remarks about the Gryffindors’ work while the
Slytherins sniggered appreciat ively. Draco Malfoy, who was Snape’ s favorite student ,
kept flicking puffer–fish eyes at Ron and Harry, who knew that if they retaliated they
would get detention faster than you could say “Unfair.”
Harry’ s Swelling Solut ion was far too runny, but he had his mind on more
important things. He was wait ing for Hermione’ s signal, and he hardly listened as
Snape paused to sneer at his watery pot ion. When Snape turned and walked off to
bully Neville, Hermione caught Harry’s eye and nodded.
Harry ducked swift ly down behind his cauldron, pulled one of Fred’ s Filibuster
fireworks out of his pocket , and gave it a quick prod with his wand. The firework
began to fizz and sput ter. Knowing he had only seconds, Harry st raightened up, took
aim, and lobbed it into the air; it landed right on target in Goyle’s cauldron.
Goyle’ s pot ion exploded, showering the whole class. People shrieked as
splashes of the Swelling Solut ion hit them. Malfoy got a faceful and his nose began to
swell like a balloon; Goyle blundered around, his hands over his eyes, which had
expanded to the size of a dinner plate –Snape was t rying to restore calm and find out
what had happened.
Through the confusion, Harry saw Hermione slip quietly into Snape’s office.
“ Silence! SILENCE!” Snape roared. “ Anyone who has been splashed, come here
for a Deflating Draft – when I find out who did this –”
Harry t ried not to laugh as he watched Malfoy hurry forward, his head drooping
with the weight of a nose like a small melon. As half the class lumbered up to Snape’ s
desk, some weighted down with arms like clubs, others unable to talk through gigant ic
puffedup lips, Harry saw Hermione slide back into the dungeon, the front of her robes
bulging.
When everyone had taken a swig of ant idote and the various swellings had
subsided, Snape swept over to Goyle’ s cauldron and scooped out the twisted black
remains of the firework. There was a sudden hush.
“ If I ever find out who threw this,” Snape whispered, “ I shall make sure that
person is expelled.”
Harry arranged his face into what he hoped was a puzzled expression. Snape
was looking right at him, and the bell that rang ten minutes later could not have been
more welcome.
“ He knew it was me,” Harry told Ron and Hermione as they hurried back to
Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. “I could tell.”
Hermione threw the new ingredients into the cauldron and began to st ir
feverishly.
“It’ll be ready in two weeks,” she said happily.
“ Snape can’ t prove it was you,” said Ron reassuringly to Harry. “What can he
do?”
“ Knowing Snape, something foul, ” said Harry as the pot ion frothed and
bubbled.
A week later, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were walking across the ent rance hall
when they saw a small knot of people gathered around the not ice board, reading a
piece of parchment that had j ust been pinned up. Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas
beckoned them over, looking excited.
“ They’ re start ing a Dueling Club!” said Seamus. “ First meet ing tonight ! I
wouldn’t mind dueling lessons; they might come in handy one of these days…
“What , you reckon Slytherin’ s monster can duel?” said Ron, but he, too, read
the sign with interest.
“ Could be useful, he said to Harry and Hermione as they went into dinner.
“Shall we go?”
Harry and Hermione were all for it , so at eight o’ clock that evening they
hurried back to the Great Hall. The long dining tables had vanished and a golden stage
had appeared along one wall, lit by thousands of candles f loat ing overhead. The
ceiling was velvet y black once more and most of the school seemed to be packed
beneath it, all carrying their wands and looking excited.
“ I wonder who’ ll be teaching us?” said Hermione as they edged into the
chat tering crowd. “ Someone told me Flitwick was a dueling champion when he was
young – maybe it’ll be him.”
“ As long as it ’ s not –” Harry began, but he ended on a groan: Gilderoy Lockhart
was walking onto the stage, resplendent in robes of deep plum and accompanied by
none other than Snape, wearing his usual black.
Lockhart waved an arm for silence and called, “ Gather round, gather round!
Can everyone see me? Can you all hear me? Excellent!”
“ Now, Professor Dumbledore has granted me permission to start this lit t le
dueling club, to t rain you all in case you ever need to defend yourselves as I myself
have done on countless occasions – for full details, see my published works.
“ Let me int roduce my assistant , Professor Snape,” said Lockhart , flashing a
wide smile. “ He tells me he knows a t iny lit t le bit about dueling himself and has
sportingly agreed to help me with a short demonstration before we begin. Now, I don’t
want any of you youngsters to worry – you’ ll st ill have your Pot ions master when I’m
through with him, never fear!”
“Wouldn’ t it be good if they finished each other off?” Ron mut tered in Harry’ s
ear.
Snape’s upper lip was curling. Harry wondered why Lockhart was still smiling; if
Snape had been looking at him like that he’ d have been running as fast as he could in
the opposite direction.
Lockhart and Snape turned to face each other and bowed; at least , Lockhart
did, with much twirling of his hands, whereas Snape j erked his head irritably. Then
they raised their wands like swords in front of them.
“ As you see, we are holding our wands in the accepted combat ive posit ion,”
Lockhart told the silent crowd. “ On the count of three, we will cast our first spells.
Neither of us will be aiming to kill, of course.”
“I wouldn’t bet on that,” Harry murmured, watching Snape baring his teeth.
“One – two – three –”
Both of them swung their wands above their heads and pointed them at their
opponent ; Snape cried: “ Expelliarmus!” There was a dazzling flash of scarlet light and
Lockhart was blasted off his feet : He f lew backward off the stage, smashed into the
wall, and slid down it to sprawl on the floor.
Malfoy and some of the other Slytherins cheered. Hermione was dancing on
tiptoes. “Do you think he’s all right?” she squealed through her fingers.
“Who cares?” said Harry and Ron together.
Lockhart was get t ing unsteadily to his feet . His hat had fallen off and his wavy
hair was standing on end.
“Well, there you have it!” he said, tottering back onto the platform. “That was
a Disarming Charm – as you see, I’ ve lost my wand – ah, thank you, Miss Brown – yes,
an excellent idea to show them that , Professor Snape, but if you don’ t mind my saying
so, it was very obvious what you were about to do. If I had wanted to stop you it would
have been only too easy – however, I felt it would be instructive to let them see…”
Snape was looking murderous. Possibly Lockhart had not iced, because he said,
“Enough demonstrating! I’m going to come amongst you now and put you all into pairs.
Professor Snape, if you’d like to help me –”
They moved through the crowd, matching up partners. Lockhart teamed Neville
with Justin Finch–Fletchley, but Snape reached Harry and Ron first.
“ Time to split up the dream team, I think,” he sneered. “Weasley, you can
partner Finnigan. Potter –”
Harry moved automatically toward Hermione.
“ I don’ t think so,” said Snape, smiling coldly. “Mr. Malfoy, come over here.
Let ’ s see what you make of the famous Pot ter. And you, Miss Granger – you can
partner Miss Bulstrode.”
Malfoy st rut ted over, smirking. Behind him walked a Slytherin girl who
reminded Harry of a picture he’d seen in Holidays with Hags. She was large and square
and her heavy j aw j ut ted aggressively. Hermione gave her a weak smile that she did
not return.
“Face your partners!” called Lockhart, back on the platform. “And bow!”
Harry and Malfoy barely inclined their heads, not taking their eyes off each
other.
“Wands at the ready!” shouted Lockhart . “When I count to three, cast your
charms to disarm your opponents – only to disarm them –we don’ t want any accidents
– one … two … three –”
Harry swung his wand high, but Malfoy had already started on “ two” : His spell
hit Harry so hard he felt as though he’ d been hit over the head with a saucepan. He
stumbled, but everything st ill seemed to be working, and wast ing no more t ime, Harry
pointed his wand straight at Malfoy and shouted, “Rictusempra!”
A jet of silver light hit Malfoy in the stomach and he doubled up, wheezing.
“ I said disarm only!” Lockhart shouted in alarm over the heads of the bat t ling
crowd, as Malfoy sank to his knees; Harry had hit him with a Tickling Charm, and he
could barely move for laughing. Harry hung back, with a vague feeling it would be
unsport ing to bewitch Malfoy while he was on the floor, but this was a mistake;
gasping for breath, Malfoy pointed his wand at Harry’ s knees, choked,
“ Tarantallegra!” and the next second Harry’ s legs began to j erk around out of his
control in a kind of quickstep.
“Stop! Stop!” screamed Lockhart, but Snape took charge.
“ Finite Incantatem!” he shouted; Harry’ s feet stopped dancing, Malfoy stopped
laughing, and they were able to look up.
A haze of greenish smoke was hovering over the scene. Both Neville and Just in
were lying on the floor, pant ing; Ron was holding up an ashen–faced Seamus,
apologizing for whatever his broken wand had done; but Hermione and Millicent
Bulst rode were st ill moving; Millicent had Hermione in a headlock and Hermione was
whimpering in pain; both their wands lay forgot ten on the f loor. Harry leapt forward
and pulled Millicent off. It was difficult: She was a lot bigger than he was.
“ Dear, dear,” said Lockhart , skit tering through the crowd, looking at the
aftermath of the duels. “Up you go, Macmillan … Careful there, Miss Fawcett … Pinch
it hard, it’ll stop bleeding in a second, Boot
“ I think I’ d bet ter teach you how to block unf riendly spells,” said Lockhart ,
standing flustered in the midst of the hall. He glanced at Snape, whose black eyes
glinted, and looked quickly away. “ Let ’ s have a volunteer pair – Longbot tom and
Finch–Fletchley, how about you –”
“ A bad idea, Professor Lockhart ,” said Snape, gliding over like a large and
malevolent bat . “ Longbot tom causes devastat ion with the simplest spells. We’ ll be
sending what ’ s lef t of Finch–Flet chley up to the hospital wing in a matchbox.”
Neville’ s round, pink face went pinker. “ How about Malfoy and Pot ter?” said Snape
with a twisted smile.
“Excellent idea!” said Lockhart , gesturing Harry and Malfoy into the middle of
the hall as the crowd backed away to give them room.
“ Now, Harry,” said Lockhart . “When Draco points his wand at you, you do
this.”
He raised his own wand, at tempted a complicated sort of wiggling act ion, and
dropped it . Snape smirked as Lockhart quickly picked it up, saying, “Whoops –my wand
is a little overexcited –”
Snape moved closer to Malfoy, bent down, and whispered something in his ear.
Malfoy smirked, too. Harry looked up nervously at Lockhart and said, “Professor, could
you show me that blocking thing again?”
“Scared?” muttered Malfoy, so that Lockhart couldn’t hear him.
“You wish,” said Harry out of the corner of his mouth.
Lockhart cuffed Harry merrily on the shoulder. “Just do what I did, Harry!”
“What, drop my wand?”
But Lockhart wasn’t listening.
“Three – two – one – go!” he shouted.
Malfoy raised his wand quickly and bellowed, “Serpensortia!”
The end of his wand exploded. Harry watched, aghast , as a long black snake
shot out of it , fell heavily onto the floor between them, and raised itself, ready to
strike. There were screams as the crowd backed swiftly away, clearing the floor.
“ Don’ t move, Pot ter,” said Snape lazily, clearly enj oying the sight of Harry
standing motionless, eye to eye with the angry snake. “I’ll get rid of it…”
“ Allow me!” shouted Lockhart . He brandished his wand at the snake and there
was a loud bang; the snake, instead of vanishing, f lew ten feet into the air and fell
back to the floor with a loud smack. Enraged, hissing furiously, it slithered st raight
toward Justin Finch–Fletchley and raised itself again, fangs exposed, poised to strike.
Harry wasn’ t sure what made him do it . He wasn’ t even aware of deciding to
do it . All he knew was that his legs were carrying him forward as though he was on
casters and that he had shouted stupidly at the snake, “ Leave him alone!” And
miraculously – inexplicably – the snake slumped to the floor, docile as a thick, black
garden hose, its eyes now on Harry. Harry felt the fear drain out of him. He knew the
snake wouldn’ t at tack anyone now, though how he knew it , he couldn’ t have
explained.
He looked up at Just in, grinning, expect ing to see Just in looking relieved, or
puzzled, or even grateful – but certainly not angry and scared.
“What do you think you’ re playing at?” he shouted, and before Harry could say
anything, Justin had turned and stormed out of the hall.
Snape stepped forward, waved his wand, and the snake vanished in a small puff
of black smoke. Snape, too, was looking at Harry in an unexpected way: It was a
shrewd and calculat ing look, and Harry didn’ t like it . He was also dimly aware of an
ominous mut tering all around the walls. Then he felt a tugging on the back of his
robes.
“Come on,” said Rods voice in his ear. “Move – come on –”
Ron steered him out of the hall, Hermione hurrying alongside them. As they
went through the doors, the people on either side drew away as though they were
frightened of catching something. Harry didn’ t have a clue what was going on, and
neither Ron nor Hermione explained anything unt il they had dragged him all the way
up to the empty Gryffindor common room. Then Ron pushed Harry into an armchair
and said, “You’re a Parselmouth. Why didn’t you tell us?”
“I’m a what?” said Harry.
‘A Parselmouth!” said Ron. “You can talk to snakes!”
“ I know,” said Harry. “ I mean, that ’ s only the second t ime I’ ve ever done it . I
accidentally set a boa const rictor on my cousin Dudley at the zoo once – long story –
but it was telling me it had never seen Brazil and I sort of set it f ree without meaning
to that was before I knew I was a wizard –”
“A boa constrictor told you it had never seen Brazil?” Ron repeated faintly.
“So?” said Harry. “I bet loads of people here can do it.”
“Oh, no they can’t,” said Ron. “It’s not a very common gift. Harry, this is bad.”
“What ’ s bad?” said Harry, start ing to feel quite angry. “What ’ s wrong with
everyone? Listen, if I hadn’t told that snake not to attack Justin –”
“Oh, that’s what you said to it?”
“What d’you mean? You were there – you heard me –”
“ I heard you speaking Parseltongue,” said Ron. “ Snake language. You could
have been saying anything – no wonder Just in panicked, you sounded like you were
egging the snake on or something – it was creepy, you know –”
Harry gaped at him.
“ I spoke a different language? But – I didn’ t realize – how can I speak a
language without knowing I can speak it?”
Ron shook his head. Both he and Hermione were looking as though someone had
died. Harry couldn’t see what was so terrible.
“ D’ you want to tell me what ’ s wrong with stopping a massive snake bit ing off
Just in’ s head?” he said. “What does it mat ter how I did it as long as Just in doesn’ t
have to join the Headless Hunt?”
“It matters,” said Hermione, speaking at last in a hushed voice, “because being
able to talk to snakes was what Salazar Slytherin was famous for. That ’ s why the
symbol of Slytherin House is a serpent.”
Harry’s mouth fell open.
“ Exact ly,” said Ron. “ And now the whole school’ s going to think you’ re his
great–great–great–great–grandson or something –”
“But I’m not,” said Harry, with a panic he couldn’t quite explain.
“ You’ ll find that hard to prove,” said Hermione. “ He lived about a thousand
years ago; for all we know, you could be.”
Harry lay awake for hours that night . Through a gap in the curtains around his
four–poster he watched snow start ing to drift past the tower window and wondered…
Could he be a descendant of Salazar Slithering? He didn’ t know anything about his
father’ s family, after all. The Dursleys had always forbidden quest ions about his
wizarding relatives.
Quiet ly, Harry t ried to say something in Parseltongue. The words wouldn’ t
come. It seemed he had to be face–to–face with a snake to do it. But I’m in Gryffindor,
Harry thought. The Sorting Hat wouldn’t have put me in here if I had Slytherin blood…
Ah, said a nasty lit t le voice in his brain, but the Sort ing Hat wanted to put you in
Slytherin, don’t you remember?
Harry turned over. He’ d see Just in the next day in Herbology and he’ d explain
that he’ d been calling the snake off , not egging it on, which (he thought angrily,
pummeling his pillow) any fool should have realized.
By next morning, however, the snow that had begun in the night had turned
into a blizzard so thick that the last Herbology lesson of the term was canceled:
Professor Sprout wanted to fit socks and scarves on the Mandrakes, a t ricky operat ion
she would ent rust to no one else, now that it was so important for the Mandrakes to
grow quickly and revive Mrs. Norris and Colin Creevey.
Harry fret ted about this next to the fire in the Gryff indor common room, while
Ron and Hermione used their time off to play a game of wizard chess.
“ For heaven’ s sake, Harry,” said Hermione, exasperated, as one of Ron’ s
bishops wrest led her knight off his horse and dragged him off the board. “Go and find
Justin if it’s so important to you.”
So Harry got up and lef t through the port rait hole, wondering where Just in
might be. The cast le was darker than it usually was in dayt ime because of the thick,
swirling gray snow at every window. Shivering, Harry walked past classrooms where
lessons were taking place, catching snatches of what was happening within. Professor
McGonagall was shout ing at someone who, by the sound of it , had turned his friend
into a badger. Resist ing the urge to take a look, Harry walked on by, thinking that
Just in might be using his free t ime to catch up on some work, and deciding to check
the library first.
A group of the Hufliepuffs who should have been in Herbology were indeed
sit t ing at the back of the library, but they didn’ t seem to be working. Between the
long lines of high bookshelves, Harry could see that their heads were close together
and they were having what looked like an absorbing conversat ion. He couldn’ t see
whether Just in was among them. He was walking toward them when something of
what they were saying met his ears, and he paused to listen, hidden in the Invisibilit y
section.
“So anyway,” a stout boy was saying, “I told Justin to hide up in our dormitory.
I mean to say, if Pot ter’ s marked him down as his next vict im, it ’ s best if he keeps a
low prof ile for a while. Of course, Just in’ s been wait ing for something like this to
happen ever since he let slip to Pot ter he was Muggle–born. Just in actually told him
he’d been down for Eton. That’s not the kind of thing you bandy about with Slytherin’s
heir on the loose, is it?”
“ You definitely think it is Pot ter, then, Ernie?” said a girl with blonde pigtails
anxiously.
“ Hannah,” said the stout boy solemnly, “ he’ s a Parselmouth. Everyone knows
that ’ s the mark of a Dark wizard. Have you ever heard of a decent one who could talk
to snakes? They called Slytherin himself Serpent–tongue.”
There was some heavy murmuring at this, and Ernie went on, “ Remember what
was writ ten on the wall? Enemies of the Heir, Beware. Pot ter had some sort of run–in
with Filch. Next thing we know, Flich’ s cat ’ s at tacked. That first year, Creevey, was
annoying Pot ter at the Quidditch match, taking pictures of him while he was lying in
the mud. Next thing we know – Creevey’s been attacked.”
“ He always seems so nice, though,” said Hannah uncertainly, “ and, well, he’ s
the one who made You–Know–Who disappear. He can’t be all bad, can he?”
Ernie lowered his voice mysteriously, the Huf flepuffs bent closer, and Harry
edged nearer so that he could catch Ernie’s words.
“ No one knows how he survived that at tack by You–Know–Who. I mean to say,
he was only a baby when it happened. He should have been blasted into smithereens.
Only a really powerful Dark wizard could have survived a curse like that .” He dropped
his voice unt il it was barely more than a whisper, and said, “ That ’ s probably why You–
Know–Who wanted to kill him in the first place. Didn’ t want another Dark Lord
competing with him. I wonder what other powers Potter’s been hiding?”
Harry couldn’ t take anymore. Clearing his throat loudly, he stepped out from
behind the bookshelves. If he hadn’ t been feeling so angry, he would have found the
sight that greeted him funny: Every one of the Hufflepuffs looked as though they had
been Petrified by the sight of him, and the color was draining out of Ernie’s face.
“Hello,” said Harry. “I’m looking for Justin Finch–Fletchley.”
The Huff lepuffs’ worst fears had clearly been confirmed. They all looked
fearfully at Ernie.
“What do you want with him?” said Ernie in a quavering voice.
“ I wanted to tell him what really happened with that snake at the Dueling
Club,” said Harry.
Ernie bit his white lips and then, taking a deep breath, said, “We were all
there. We saw what happened.”
“Then you noticed that after I spoke to it, the snake backed off?” said Harry.
“ All I saw,” said Ernie stubbornly, though he was t rembling as he spoke, “ was
you speaking Parseltongue and chasing the snake toward Justin. “
“ I didn’ t chase it at him!” Harry said, his voice shaking with anger. “ It didn’ t
even touch him!”
“ It was a very near miss,” said Ernie. “ And in case you’ re get t ing ideas,” he
added hast ily, “ I might tell you that you can t race my family back through nine
generations of witches and warlocks and my blood’s as pure as anyone’s, so –”
“ I don’ t care what sort of blood you’ ve got !” said Harry fiercely. “Why would I
want to attack Muggle–borns?”
“I’ve heard you hate those Muggles you live with,” said Ernie swiftly.
“ It ’ s not possible to live with the Dursleys and not hate them,” said Harry. “ I’ d
like to see you try it.”
He turned on his heel and stormed out of the library, earning himself a
reproving glare from Madam Pince, who was polishing the gilded cover of a large
spellbook. Harry blundered up the corridor, barely not icing where he was going, he
was in such a fury. The result was that he walked into something very large and solid,
which knocked him backward onto the floor.
“Oh, hello, Hagrid,” Harry said, looking up.
Hagrid’ s face was ent irely hidden by a woolly, snow–covered balaclava, but it
couldn’ t possibly be anyone else, as he filled most of the corridor in his moleskin
overcoat. A dead rooster was hanging from one of his massive, gloved hands.
“ All righ’ , Harry?” he said, pulling up the balaclava so he could speak. “Why
aren’t yeh in class?”
“Canceled,” said Harry, getting up. “What’re you doing in here?”
Hagrid held up the limp rooster.
“ Second one killed this term,” he explained. “ It ’ s either foxes or a Blood–
Suckin Bugbear, an’ I need the Headmaster’ s permission ter put a charm around the
hen coop.”
He peered more closely at Harry from under his thick, snowflecked eyebrows.
“Yeh sure yeh’re all righ’? Yeh look all hot an’ bothered –”
Harry couldn’ t bring himself to repeat what Ernie and the rest of the
Hufflepuffs had been saying about him.
“ It ’ s nothing,” he said. “ I’ d bet ter get going, Hagrid, it ’ s Transfigurat ion next
and I’ve got to pick up my books.”
He walked off, his mind still full of what Ernie had said about him.
“ Just in’ s been wait ing for somet hing l ike t his to happen ever since he let sl ip
to Potter he was Muggle–born…”
Harry stamped up the stairs and turned along another corridor, which was
part icularly dark; the torches had been ext inguished by a st rong, icy draft that was
blowing through a loose windowpane. He was halfway down the passage when he
tripped headlong over something lying on the floor.
He turned to squint at what he’d fallen over and felt as though his stomach had
dissolved.
Just in Finch–Fletchley was lying on the floor, rigid and cold, a look of shock
frozen on his face, his eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. And that wasn’ t all. Next to
him was another figure, the strangest sight Harry had ever seen.
It was Nearly Headless Nick, no longer pearly–white and t ransparent , but black
and smoky, float ing immobile and horizontal, six inches off the floor. His head was
half off and his face wore an expression of shock identical to Justin’s.
Harry got to his feet , his breathing fast and shallow, his heart doing a kind of
drumroll against his ribs. He looked wildly up and down the deserted corridor and saw
a line of spiders scut t ling as fast as they could away f rom the bodies. The only sounds
were the muffled voices of teachers from the classes on either side.
He could run, and no one would ever know he had been there. But he couldn’ t
j ust leave them lying here … He had to get help .. . Would anyone believe he hadn’ t
had anything to do with this?
As he stood there, panicking, a door right next to him opened with a bang.
Peeves the Poltergeist came shooting out.
“Why, it ’ s pot ty wee Pot ter!” cackled Peeves, knocking Harry’ s glasses askew
as he bounced past him. “What’s Potter up to? Why’s Potter lurking –”
Peeves stopped, halfway through a midair somersault . Upside down, he spot ted
Just in and Nearly Headless Nick. He f lipped the right way up, filled his lungs and,
before Harry could stop him, screamed, “ ATTACK! ATTACK! ANOTHER ATTACK! NO
MORTAL OR GHOST IS SAFE! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! ATTAAAACK!”
Crash – crash – crash – door after door flew open along the corridor and people
flooded out . For several long minutes, there was a scene of such confusion that Just in
was in danger of being squashed and people kept standing in Nearly Headless Nick.
Harry found himself pinned against the wall as the teachers shouted for quiet .
Professor McGonagall came running, followed by her own class, one of whom st ill had
black–and–white–st riped hair. She used her wand to set off aloud bang, which restored
silence, and ordered everyone back into their classes. No sooner had the scene cleared
somewhat than Ernie the Hufflepuff arrived, panting, on the scene.
“ Caught in the act !” Ernie yelled, his face stark white, point ing his finger
dramatically at Harry.
“That will do, Macmillan!” said Professor McGonagall sharply.
Peeves was bobbing overhead, now grinning wickedly, surveying the scene;
Peeves always loved chaos. As the teachers bent over Just in and Nearly Headless Nick,
examining them, Peeves broke into song:
“Oh, Pot ter, you rot ter, oh, what have you done, You’ re killing off’ students,
you think it’s good fun –”
“ That ’ s enough Peeves!” barked Professor McGonagall, and Peeves zoomed
away backward, with his tongue out at Harry.
Just in was carried up to the hospital wing by Professor Flitwick and Professor
Sinist ra of the Ast ronomy department , but nobody seemed to know what to do for
Nearly Headless Nick. In the end, Professor McGonagall conjured a large fan out of thin
air, which she gave to Ernie with inst ruct ions to waf t Nearly Headless Nick up the
stairs. This Ernie did, fanning Nick along like a silent black hovercraft . This left Harry
and Professor McGonagall alone together.
“This way, Potter,” she said.
“Professor,” said Harry at once, “I swear I didn’t –”
“This is out of my hands, Potter,” said Professor McGonagall curtly.
They marched in silence around a corner and she stopped before a large and
extremely ugly stone gargoyle.
“ Lemon drop!” she said. This was evident ly a password, because the gargoyle
sprang suddenly to life and hopped aside as the wall behind him split in two. Even full
of dread for what was coming, Harry couldn’t fail to be amazed. Behind the wall was a
spiral staircase that was moving smoothly upward, like an escalator. As he and
Professor McGonagall stepped onto it , Harry heard the wall thud closed behind them.
They rose upward in circles, higher and higher, until at last, slightly dizzy, Harry saw a
gleaming oak door ahead, with a brass knocker in the shape of a griffin.
He knew now where he was being taken. This must be where Dumbledore lived.
CHAPTHER TWELVE – THE POLYJUICE POTION
They stepped off the stone staircase at the top, and Professor McGonagall
rapped on the door. It opened silent ly and they entered. Professor McGonagall told
Harry to wait and left him there, alone.
Harry looked around. One thing was certain: of all the teachers’ offices Harry
had visited so far this year, Dumbledore’s was by far the most interesting. If he hadn’t
been scared out of his wits that he was about to be thrown out of school, he would
have been very pleased to have a chance to look around it.
It was a large and beaut iful circular room, full of funny lit t le noises. A number
of curious silver instruments stood on spindlelegged tables, whirring and emitting little
puffs of smoke. The walls were covered with port raits of old headmasters and
headmist resses, all of whom were snoozing gent ly in their frames. There was also an
enormous, claw–footed desk, and, sit t ing on a shelf behind it , a shabby, tat tered
wizard’s hat – the Sorting Hat.
Harry hesitated. He cast a wary eye around the sleeping witches and wizards on
the walls. Surely it couldn’ t hurt if he took the hat down and t ried it on again? Just to
see … just to make sure it had put him in the right House …
He walked quiet ly around the desk, lifted the hat from its shelf, and lowered it
slowly onto his head. It was much too large and slipped own over his eyes, j ust as it
had done the last t ime he’ d put it on. Harry stared at the black inside of the hat ,
waiting. Then a small voice said in his ear, “Bee in your bonnet, Harry Potter?”
“Er, yes,” Harry muttered. “Er – sorry to bother you – I wanted to ask – “
“ You’ ve been wondering whether I put you in the right House,” said the hat
smart ly. “ Yes … you were part icularly difficult to place. But I stand by what I said
before” – Harry’s heart leapt – “you would have done well in Slytherin –”
Harry’ s stomach plummeted. He grabbed the point of the hat and pulled it off.
It hung limply in his hand, grubby and faded. Harry pushed it back onto its shelf,
feeling sick.
“ You’ re wrong,” he said aloud to the st ill and silent hat . It didn’ t move. Harry
backed away, watching it . Then a st range, gagging noise behind him made him wheel
around.
He wasn’ t alone after all. Standing on a golden perch behind the door was a
decrepit–looking bird that resembled a half–plucked turkey. Harry stared at it and the
bird looked balefully back, making its gagging noise again. Harry thought it looked very
ill. Its eyes were dull and, even as Harry watched, a couple more feathers fell out of
its tail. Harry was j ust thinking that all he needed was for Dumbledore’ s pet bird to
die while he was alone in the office with it, when the bird burst into flames.
Harry yelled in shock and backed away into the desk. He looked feverishly
around in case there was a glass of water somewhere but couldn’ t see one; the bird,
meanwhile, had become a fireball; it gave one loud shriek and next second there was
nothing but a smoldering pile of ash on the floor.
The office door opened. Dumbledore came in, looking very somber.
“ Professor,” Harry gasped. “ Your bird – I couldn’ t do anything – he j ust caught
fire –”
To Harry’s astonishment, Dumbledore smiled.
“ About t ime, too,” he said. “ He’ s been looking dreadful for days; I’ ve been
telling him to get a move on.”
He chuckled at the stunned look on Harry’s face.
“ Fawkes is a phoenix, Harry. Phoenixes burst into flame when it is t ime for
them to die and are reborn from the ashes. Watch him…”
Harry looked down in t ime to see a t iny, wrinkled, newborn bird poke its head
out of the ashes. It was quite as ugly as the old one.
“ It ’ s a shame you had to see him on a Burning Day,” said Dumbledore, seat ing
himself behind his desk. “ He’ s really very handsome most of the t ime, wonderful red
and gold plumage. Fascinat ing creatures, phoenixes. They can carry immensely heavy
loads, their tears have healing powers, and they make highly faithful pets.”
In the shock of Fawkes catching f ire, Harry had forgot ten what he was there
for, but it all came back to him as Dumbledore settled himself in the high chair behind
the desk and fixed Harry with his penetrating, light–blue stare.
Before Dumbledore could speak another word, however, the door of the office
flew open with an almighty bang and Hagrid burst in, a wild look in his eyes, his
balaclava perched on top of his shaggy black head and the dead rooster st ill swinging
from his hand.
“It wasn’ Harry, Professor Dumbledore!” said Hagrid urgently. “I was talkin’ ter
him seconds before that kid was found, he never had time, sir –”
Dumbledore t ried to say something, but Hagrid went rant ing on, waving the
rooster around in his agitation, sending feathers everywhere.
“ –it can’ t ’ ve bin him, I’ ll swear it in front o’ the Minist ry o’ Magic if I have to –

“Hagrid, I –”
“ – yeh’ve got the wrong boy, sir, I know Harry never -”
“ Hagrid! ” said Dumbledore loudly. “ I do not think that Harry at tacked those
people.”
“Oh,” said Hagrid, the rooster falling limply at his side. “Right. I’ll wait outside
then, Headmaster.”
And he stomped out looking embarrassed.
“ You don’ t think it was me, Professor?” Harry repeated hopefully as
Dumbledore brushed rooster feathers off his desk.
“ No, Harry, I don’ t ,” said Dumbledore, though his face was somber again. “ But
I still want to talk to you.”
Harry waited nervously while Dumbledore considered him, the t ips of his long
fingers together.
“ I must ask you, Harry, whether there is anything you’ d like to tell me,” he
said gently. “Anything at all.”
Harry didn’ t know what to say. He thought of Malfoy shout ing, “ You’ ll be next ,
Mudbloods!” and of the Polyj uice Pot ion simmering away in Moaning Myrt le’ s
bathroom. Then he thought of the disembodied voice he had heard twice and
remembered what Ron had said: “ Hearing voices no one else can hear isn’ t a good
sign, even in the wizarding world. ” He thought , too, about what everyone was saying
about him, and his growing dread that he was somehow connected with Salazar
Slytherin …
“No,” said Harry. “There isn’t anything, Professor…”
The double at tack on Just in and Nearly Headless Nick turned what had hitherto
been nervousness into real panic. Curiously, it was Nearly Headless Nick’ s fate that
seemed to worry people most . What could possibly do that to a ghost? People asked
each other; what terrible power could harm someone who was already dead? There
was almost a stampede to book seats on the Hogwarts Express so that students could
go home for Christmas.
“ At this rate, we’ ll be the only ones left ,” Ron told Harry and Hermione. “ Us,
Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle. What a jolly holiday it’s going to be.”
Crabbe and Goyle, who always did whatever Malfoy did, had signed up to stay
over the holidays, too. But Harry was glad that most people were leaving. He was tired
of people skirt ing around him in the corridors, as though he was about to sprout fangs
or spit poison; tired of all the muttering, pointing, and hissing as he passed.
Fred and George, however, found all this very funny. They went out of their
way to march ahead of Harry down the corridors, shout ing, “Make way for the Heir of
Slytherin, seriously evil wizard coming through…
Percy was deeply disapproving of this behavior.
“It is not a laughing matter,” he said coldly.
“Oh, get out of the way, Percy,” said Fred. “Harry’s in a hurry.”
“ Yeah, he’ s off to the Chamber of Secrets for a cup of tea with his fanged
servant,” said George, chortling.
Ginny didn’t find it amusing either.
“Oh, don’ t ,” she wailed every t ime Fred asked Harry loudly who he was
planning to at tack next , or when George pretended to ward Harry off with a large
clove of garlic when they met.
Harry didn’ t mind; it made him feel bet ter that Fred and George, at least ,
thought the idea of his being Slytherin’ s heir was quite ludicrous. But their ant ics
seemed to be aggravat ing Draco Malfoy, who looked increasingly sour each t ime he
saw them at it.
“ It ’ s because he’ s burst ing to say it ’ s really him,” said Ron knowingly. “ You
know how he hates anyone beat ing him at anything, and you’ re get t ing all the credit
for his dirty work.”
“ Not for long,” said Hermione in a sat isfied tone. “ The Polyj uice Pot ion’ s
nearly ready. We’ll be getting the truth out of him any day now.”
At last the term ended, and a silence deep as the snow on the grounds
descended on the cast le. Harry found it peaceful, rather than gloomy, and enj oyed
the fact that he, Hermione, and the Weasleys had the run of Gryff indor Tower, which
meant they could play Exploding Snap loudly without bothering anyone, and pract ice
dueling in private. Fred, George, and Ginny had chosen to stay at school rather than
visit Bill in Egypt with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. Percy, who disapproved of what he
termed their childish behavior, didn’ t spend much t ime in the Gryff indor common
room. He had already told them pompously that he was only staying over Christmas
because it was his duty as a prefect to support the teachers during this troubled time.
Christmas morning dawned, cold and white. Harry and Ron, the only ones left
in their dormitory, were woken very early by Hermione, who burst in, fully dressed
and carrying presents for them both.
“Wake up,” she said loudly, pulling back the curtains at the window.
“Hermione – you’ re not supposed to be in here –” said Ron, shielding his eyes
against the light.
“Merry Christmas to you, too,” said Hermione, throwing him his present . “ I’ ve
been up for nearly an hour, adding more lacewings to the potion. It’s ready.”
Harry sat up, suddenly wide awake.
“Are you sure?”
“ Posit ive,” said Hermione, shift ing Scabbers the rat so that she could sit down
on the end of Ron’s four–poster. “If we’re going to do it, I say it should be tonight.”
At that moment , Hedwig swooped into the room, carrying a very small package
in her beak.
“ Hello,” said Harry happily as she landed on his bed. “ Are you speaking to me
again?”
She nibbled his ear in an affect ionate sort of way, which was a far bet ter
present than the one that she had brought him, which turned out to be from the
Dursleys. They had sent Harry a toothpick and a note telling him to find out whether
he’d be able to stay at Hogwarts for the summer vacation, too.
The rest of Harry’ s Christmas presents were far more sat isfactory. Hagrid had
sent him a large t in of t reacle fudge, which Harry decided to soften by the fire before
eating; Ron had given him a book called Flying with the Cannons, a book of interesting
facts about his favorite Quidditch team, and Hermione had bought him a luxury eagle–
feather quill. Harry opened the last present to find a new, hand–knit ted sweater from
Mrs. Weasley and a large plum cake. He read her card with a f resh surge of guilt ,
thinking about Mr. Weasley’ s car (which hadn’ t been seen since its crash with the
Whomping Willow), and the bout of rule–breaking he and Ron were planning next . No
one, not even someone dreading taking Polyj uice Pot ion later, could fail to enj oy
Christmas dinner at Hogwarts.
The Great Hall looked magnificent . Not only were there a dozen frost–covered
Christmas t rees and thick st reamers of holly and mist letoe crisscrossing the ceiling,
but enchanted snow was falling, warm and dry, from the ceiling. Dumbledore led them
in a few of his favorite carols, Hagrid booming more and more loudly with every goblet
of eggnog he consumed. Percy, who hadn’ t not iced that Fred had bewitched his
prefect badge so that it now read “ Pinhead,” kept asking them all what they were
sniggering at . Harry didn’ t even care that Draco Malfoy was making loud, snide
remarks about his new sweater f rom the Slytherin table. With a bit of luck, Malfoy
would be getting his comeuppance in a few hours’ time.
Harry and Ron had barely finished their third helpings of Christmas pudding
when Hermione ushered them out of the hall to finalize their plans for the evening.
“We still need a bit of the people you’re changing into,” said Hermione matter–
of–facdy, as though she were sending them to the supermarket for laundry detergent .
“ And obviously, it ’ ll be best if you can get something of Crabbe’ s and Goyle’ s; they’ re
Malfoys best f riends, he’ ll tell them anything. And we also need to make sure the real
Crabbe and Goyle can’t burst in on us while we’re interrogating him.
“ I’ ve got it all worked out ,” she went on smoothly, ignoring Harry’ s and Ron’ s
stupefied faces. She held up two plump chocolate cakes. “ I’ ve filled these with a
simple Sleeping Draught . All you have to do is make sure Crabbe and Goyle find them.
You know how greedy they are, they’ re bound to eat them. Once they’ re asleep, pull
out a few of their hairs and hide them in a broom closet.”
Harry and Ron looked incredulously at each other.
“Hermione, I don’t think –”
“That could go seriously wrong –”
But Hermione had a steely glint in her eye not unlike the one Professor
McGonagall sometimes had.
“ The pot ion will be useless without Crabbe’ s and Goyle’ s hair,” she said
sternly. “You do want to investigate Malfoy, don’t you?”
“Oh, all right , all right ,” said Harry. “ But what about you?Whose hair are you
ripping out?”
“ I’ ve already got mine!” said Hermione bright ly, pulling a t iny bot t le out of her
pocket and showing them the single hair inside it . “ Remember Millicent Bulst rode
wrest ling with me at the Dueling Club? She left this on my robes when she was t rying
to st rangle me! And she’ s gone home for Christmas – so I’ ll j ust have to tell the
Slytherins I’ve decided to come back.”
When Hermione had bust led off to check on the Polyj uice Pot ion again, Ron
turned to Harry with a doom–laden expression.
“Have you ever heard of a plan where so many things could go wrong?”
But to Harry’ s and Ron’ s ut ter amazement , stage one of the operat ion went
just as smoothly as Hermione had said. They lurked in the deserted entrance hall after
Christmas tea, wait ing for Crabbe and Goyle who had remained alone at the Slytherin
table, shoveling down fourth helpings of t rifle. Harry had perched the chocolate cakes
on the end of the banisters. When they spot ted Crabbe and Goyle coming out of the
Great Hall, Harry and Ron hid quickly behind a suit of armor next to the front door.
“ How thick can you get?” Ron whispered ecstat ically as Crabbe gleefully
pointed out the cakes to Goyle and grabbed them. Grinning stupidly, they stuffed the
cakes whole into their large mouths. For a moment , both of them chewed greedily,
looks of t riumph on their faces. Then, without the smallest change of expression, they
both keeled over backward onto the floor.
By far the hardest part was hiding them in the closet across the hall. Once they
were safely stowed among the buckets and mops, Harry yanked out a couple of the
brist les that covered Goyle’ s fore head and Ron pulled out several of Crabbe’ s hairs.
They also stole their shoes, because their own were far too small for Crabbe – and
Goyle–size feet . Then, st ill stunned at what they had j ust done, they sprinted up to
Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.
They could hardly see for the thick black smoke issuing from the stall in which
Hermione was st irring the cauldron. Pulling their robes up over their faces, Harry and
Ron knocked softly on the door.
“Hermione?”
They heard the scrape of the lock and Hermione emerged, shiny–faced and
looking anxious. Behind her they heard the gloop gloop of the bubbling, glut inous
potion. Three glass tumblers stood ready on the toilet seat.
“Did you get them?” Hermione asked breathlessly.
Harry showed her Goyle’s hair.
“Good. And I sneaked these spare robes out of the laundry,” Hermione said,
holding up a small sack. “You’ll need bigger sizes once you’re Crabbe and Goyle.”
The three of them stared into the cauldron. Close up, the pot ion looked like
thick, dark mud, bubbling sluggishly.
“ I’m sure I’ ve done everything right ,” said Hermione, nervously rereading the
splotched page of Moste Potente Pot ions. “ It looks like the book says it should … once
we’ve drunk it, we’ll have exactly an hour before we change back into ourselves.”
“Now what?” Ron whispered.
“We separate it into three glasses and add the hairs.”
Hermione ladled large dollops of the pot ion into each of the glasses. Then, her
hand t rembling, she shook Millicent Bulst rode’ s hair out of its bot t le into the first
glass.
The potion hissed loudly like a boiling kettle and frothed madly. A second later,
it had turned a sick sort of yellow.
“Urgh – essence of Millicent Bulst rode,” said Ron, eyeing it with loathing. “ Bet
it tastes disgusting.”
“Add yours, then,” said Hermione.
Harry dropped Goyle’ s hair into the middle glass and Ron put Crabbe’ s into the
last one. Both glasses hissed and frothed: Goyle’ s turned the khaki color of a booger,
Crabbe’s a dark, murky brown.
“ Hang on,” said Harry as Ron and Hermione reached for their glasses. “We’ d
bet ter not all drink them in here … Once we turn into Crabbe and Goyle we won’ t fit .
And Millicent Bulstrode’s no pixie.”
“Good thinking,” said Ron, unlocking the door. “We’ll take separate stalls.”
Careful not to spill a drop of his Polyjuice Potion, Harry slipped into the middle
stall.
“Ready?” he called.
“Ready,” came Ron’s and Hermione’s voices.
“One – two – three –”
Pinching his nose, Harry drank the potion down in two large gulps. It tasted like
overcooked cabbage. Immediately, his insides started writhing as though he’ d j ust
swallowed live snakes – doubled up, he wondered whether he was going to be sick –
then a burning sensat ion spread rapidly f rom his stomach to the very ends of his
fingers and toes – next , bringing him gasping to all fours, came a horrible melt ing
feeling, as the skin all over his body bubbled like hot wax – and before his eyes, his
hands began to grow, the fingers thickened, the nails broadened, the knuckles were
bulging like bolts –his shoulders stretched painfully and a prickling on his forehead told
him that hair was creeping down toward his eyebrows – his robes ripped as his chest
expanded like a barrel burst ing its hoops – his feet were agony in shoes four sizes too
small
As suddenly as it had started, everything stopped. Harry lay facedown on the
stone–cold floor, listening to Myrt le gurgling morosely in the end toilet . With
difficulty, he kicked off his shoes and stood up. So this was what it felt like, being
Goyle. His large hand trembling, he pulled off his old robes, which were hanging a foot
above his ankles, pulled on the spare ones, and laced up Goyle’ s boat like shoes. He
reached up to brush his hair out of his eyes and met only the short growth of wiry
brist les, low on his forehead. Then he realized that his glasses were clouding his eyes
because Goyle obviously didn’t need them – he took them off and called, “Are you two
okay?” Goyle’s low rasp of a voice issued from his mouth.
“Yeah,” came the deep grunt of Crabbe from his right.
Harry unlocked his door and stepped in front of the cracked mirror. Goyle
stared back at him out of dull, deepset eyes. Harry scratched his ear. So did Goyle.
Ron’ s door opened. They stared at each other. Except that he looked pale and
shocked, Ron was indist inguishable from Crabbe, from the pudding–bowl haircut to the
long, gorilla arms.
“ This is unbelievable,” said Ron, approaching the mirror and prodding Crabbe’ s
flat nose. “Unbelievable.”
“We’ d bet ter get going,” said Harry, loosening the watch that was cut t ing into
Goyle’ s thick wrist . “We’ ve st ill got to find out where the Slytherin common room is. I
only hope we can find someone to follow…”
Ron, who had been gazing at Harry, said, “ You don’ t know how bizarre it is to
see Goyle thinking.” He banged on Hermione’s door. “C’mon, we need to go –”
A high–pitched voice answered him.
“I – I don’t think I’m going to come after all. You go on without me.”
“ Hermione, we know Millicent Bulst rode’ s ugly, no one’ s going to know it ’ s you
–”
“No – really – I don’t think I’ll come. You two hurry up, you re wasting time
Harry looked at Ron, bewildered.
“ That looks more like Goyle,” said Ron. “ That ’ s how he looks every t ime a
teacher asks him a question.”
“Hermione, are you okay?” said Harry through the door.
“Fine – I’m fine – go on –”
Harry looked at his watch. Five of their precious sixty minutes had already
passed.
“We’ll meet you back here, all right?” he said.
Harry and Ron opened the door of the bathroom carefully, checked that the
coast was clear, and set off.
“Don’t swing your arms like that,” Harry muttered to Ron.
“Eh?”
“Crabbe holds them sort of stiff…”
“How’s this?”
“Yeah, that’s better…”
They went down the marble staircase. All they needed now was a Slytherin that
they could follow to the Slytherin common room, but there was nobody around.
“Any ideas?” muttered Harry.
“ The Slytherins always come up to breakfast from over there,” said Ron,
nodding at the ent rance to the dungeons. The words had barely left his mouth when a
girl with long, curly hair emerged from the entrance.
“ Excuse me,” said Ron, hurrying up to her. “We’ ve forgot ten the way to our
common room.”
“ I beg your pardon?” said the girl st iff ly. “ Our common room? I’m a
Ravenclaw.”
She walked away, looking suspiciously back at them.
Harry and Ron hurried down the stone steps into the darkness, their footsteps
echoing particularly loudly as Crabbe’s and Goyle’s huge feet hit the floor, feeling that
this wasn’t going to be as easy as they had hoped.
The labyrinthine passages were deserted. They walked deeper and deeper
under the school, constant ly checking their watches to see how much t ime they had
left . After a quarter of an hour, j ust when they were get t ing desperate, they heard a
sudden movement ahead.
“Ha!” said Ron excitedly. “There’s one of them now!”
The figure was emerging from a side room. As they hurried nearer, however,
their hearts sank. It wasn’t a Slytherin, it was Percy.
“What’re you doing down here?” said Ron in surprise.
Percy looked affronted.
“That,” he said stiffly, “is none of your business. It’s Crabbe, isn’t it?”
“Wh – oh, yeah,” said Ron.
“Well, get off to your dormitories,” said Percy sternly. “ It ’ s not safe to go
wandering around dark corridors these days.”
“You are,” Ron pointed out.
“ I,” said Percy, drawing himself up, “ am a prefect . Nothing’ s about to at tack
me.”
A voice suddenly echoed behind Harry and Ron. Draco Malfoy was st rolling
toward them, and for the first time in his life, Harry was pleased to see him.
“ There you are,” he drawled, looking at them. “ Have you two been pigging out
in the Great Hall all this time? I’ve been looking for you; I want to show you something
really funny.”
Malfoy glanced witheringly at Percy. “ And what ’ re you doing down here,
Weasley?” he sneered.
Percy looked outraged.
“ You want to show a bit more respect to a school prefect !” he said. “ I don’ t
like your attitude!”
Malfoy sneered and mot ioned for Harry and Ron to follow him. Harry almost
said something apologetic to Percy but caught himself just in time. He and Ron hurried
after Malfoy, who said as they turned into the next passage, “That Peter Weasley –”
“Percy,” Ron corrected him automatically.
“Whatever, ” said Malfoy. “ I’ ve not iced him sneaking around a lot lately. And I
bet I know what he’ s up to. He thinks he’ s going to catch Slytherin’ s heir single–
handed.”
He gave a short , derisive laugh. Harry and Ron exchanged excited looks. Malfoy
paused by a stretch of bare, damp stonewall.
“What’s the new password again?” he said to Harry.
“Er –” said Harry.
“Oh, yeah – pure–blood!” said Malfoy, not listening, and a stone door concealed
in the wall slid open. Malfoy marched through it, and Harry and Ron followed him.
The Slytherin common room was a long, low underground room with rough
stonewalls and ceiling from which round, greenish lamps were hanging on chains. A
fire was crackling under an elaborately carved mantelpiece ahead of them, and
several Slytherins were silhouetted around it in high–backed chairs.
“Wait here,” said Malfoy to Harry and Ron, mot ioning them to a pair of empty
chairs set back from the fire. “I’ll go and get it my father’s just sent it to me –”
Wondering what Malfoy was going to show them, Harry and Ron sat down, doing
their best to look at home.
Malfoy came back a minute later, holding what looked like a newspaper
clipping. He thrust it under Ron’s nose.
“That’ll give you a laugh,” he said.
Harry saw Ron’ s eyes widen in shock. He read the clipping quickly, ave a very
forced laugh, and handed it to Harry.
It had been clipped out of the Daily Prophet, and it said:
INQUIRY AT THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC
Art hur Weasley, Head of t he Misuse of Muggle Art ifact s Of f ice,
as today fined fifty Galleons for bewitching a Muggle car.
Mr. Lucius Mal foy, a governor of Hogwart s School of Wit chcraf t
nd Wizardry, where the enchant ed car crashed earl ier t his year, cal led
today for Mr. Weasley’s resignation.
“Weasley has brought t he Minist ry int o disrepute,” Mr. Mal foy
t old our eport er. “ He is clearly unf it t o draw up our laws and his
ridiculous Muggle Protection Act should be scrapped immediately.”
Mr. Weasley was unavailable for comment , al t hough his wife
told reporters to clear off or she’d set the family ghoul on them.
“Well?” said Malfoy impat ient ly as Harry handed the clipping back to him.
“Don’t you think it’s funny?”
“Ha, ha,” said Harry bleakly.
“ Arthur Weasley loves Muggles so much he should snap his wand in half and go
and j oin them,” said Malfoy scornfully. “ You’ d never know the Weasleys were pure–
bloods, the way they behave.”
Ron’s – or rather, Crabbe’s – face was contorted with fury.
“What’s up with you, Crabbe?” snapped Malfoy.
“Stomachache,” Ron grunted.
“Well, go up to the hospital wing and give all those Mudbloods a kick from me,”
said Malfoy, snickering. “ You know, I’m surprised the Daily Prophet hasn’ t reported all
these attacks yet,” he went on thought fully. “ I suppose Dumbledore’ s t rying to hush it
all up. He’ ll be sacked if it doesn’ t stop soon. Father’ s always said old Dumbledore’ s
the worst thing that ’ s ever happened to this place. He loves Muggle–borns. A decent
headmaster would never’ve let slime like that Creevey in.”
Malfoy started taking pictures with an imaginary camera and did a cruel but
accurate impression of Colin: “‘Potter, can I have your picture, Potter? Can I have your
autograph? Can I lick your shoes, please, Potter?”‘
He dropped his hands and looked at Harry and Ron.
“What’s the matter with you two?”
Far too late, Harry and Ron forced themselves to laugh, but Malfoy seemed
satisfied; perhaps Crabbe and Goyle were always slow on the uptake.
“ Saint Pot ter, the Mudbloods’ friend,” said Malfoy slowly. “ He’ s another one
with no proper wizard feeling, or he wouldn’ t go around with that j umped up Granger
Mudblood. And people think he’s Slytherin’s heir!”
Harry and Ron waited with bated breath: Malfoy was surely seconds away from
telling them it was him – but then …
“I wish I knew who it is,” said Malfoy petulantly. “I could help them.”
Ron’ s j aw dropped so that Crabbe looked even more clueless than usual.
Fortunately, Malfoy didn’ t not ice, and Harry, thinking fast , said, “ You must have some
idea who’s behind it all…
“ You know I haven’ t , Goyle, how many t imes do I have to tell you?” snapped
Malfoy. “ And Father won’ t tell me anything about the last t ime the Chamber was
opened either. Of course, it was f ifty years ago, so it was before his t ime, but he
knows all about it , and he says that it was all kept quiet and it ’ ll look suspicious if I
know too much about it . But I know one thing – last t ime the Chamber of Secrets was
opened, a Mudblood died. So I bet it ’ s a mat ter of t ime before one of them’ s killed
this time … I hope it’s Granger,” he said with relish.
Ron was clenching Crabbe’ s gigant ic fists. Feeling that it would be a bit of a
giveaway if Ron punched Malfoy, Harry shot him a warning look and said, “ D’ you know
if the person who opened the Chamber last time was caught?”
“Oh, yeah … whoever it was, was expelled,” said Malfoy. “ They’ re probably
still in Azkaban.”
“Azkaban?” said Harry, puzzled.
“Azkaban – the wizard prison, Goyle,” said Malfoy, looking at him in disbelief
“Honestly, if you were any slower, you’d be going backward.”
He shifted rest lessly in his chair and said, “ Father says to keep my head down
and let the Heir of Slytherin get on with it . He says the school needs ridding of all the
Mudblood filth, but not to get mixed up in it . Of course, he’ s got a lot on his plate at
the moment. You know the Ministry of Magic raided our manor last week?”
Harry tried to force Goyle’s dull face into a look of concern.
“ Yeah…” said Malfoy. “ Luckily, they didn’ t f ind much. Father’ s got some very
valuable Dark Arts stuff. But luckily, we’ ve got our own secret chamber under the
drawing–room floor –”
“Ho!” said Ron.
Malfoy looked at him. So did Harry. Ron blushed. Even his hair was turning red.
His nose was also slowly lengthening – their hour was up, Ron was turning back into
himself, and from the look of horror he was suddenly giving Harry, he must be, too.
They both jumped to their feet.
“Medicine for my stomach,” Ron grunted, and without further ado they
sprinted the length of the Slytherin common room, hurled themselves at the
stonewall, and dashed up the passage, hoping against hope that Malfoy hadn’ t not iced
anything. Harry could feel his feet slipping around in Goyle’ s huge shoes and had to
hoist up his robes as he shrank; they crashed up the steps into the dark ent rance hall,
which was full of a muffled pounding coming from the closet where they’ d locked
Crabbe and Goyle. Leaving their shoes outside the closet door, they sprinted in their
socks up the marble staircase toward Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.
“Well, it wasn’ t a complete waste of t ime,” Ron panted, closing the bathroom
door behind them. “ I know we st ill haven’ t found out who’ s doing the at tacks, but I’m
going to write to Dad tomorrow and tell him to check under the Malfoys’ drawing
room.”
Harry checked his face in the cracked mirror. He was back to normal. He put
his glasses on as Ron hammered on the door of Hermione’s stall.
“Hermione, come out, we’ve got loads to tell you –”
“Go away!” Hermione squeaked.
Harry and Ron looked at each other.
“What’s the matter?” said Ron. “You must be back to normal by now, we are
But Moaning Myrt le glided suddenly through the stall door. Harry had never
seen her looking so happy.
“Ooooooh, wait till you see,” she said. “It’s awful–”
They heard the lock slide back and Hermione emerged, sobbing, her robes
pulled up over her head.
“What ’ s up?” said Ron uncertainly. “ Have you st ill got Millicent ’ s nose or
something?”
Hermione let her robes fall and Ron backed into the sink.
Her face was covered in black fur. Her eyes had turned yellow and there were
long, pointed ears poking through her hair.
“ It was a c–cat hair!” she howled. “M–Millicent Bulst rode m–must have a cat !
And the p–potion isn’t supposed to be used for animal transformations!”
“Uh–oh,” said Ron.
“You’ll be teased something dreadful,” said Myrtle happily.
“ It ’ s okay, Hermione,” said Harry quickly. “We’ ll take you up to the hospital
wing. Madam Pomfrey never asks too many questions…
It took a long t ime to persuade Hermione to leave the bathroom. Moaning
Myrt le sped them on their way with a hearty guffaw. “Wait t ill everyone finds out
you’ve got a tail!”
CHAPTER THIRTEEN – THE SECRET DIARY
Hermione remained in the hospital wing for several weeks. There was a flurry
of rumor about her disappearance when the rest of the school arrived back from their
Christmas holidays, because of course everyone thought that she had been at tacked.
So many students filed past the hospital wing t rying to catch a glimpse of her that
Madam Pomfrey took out her curtains again and placed them around Hermione’ s bed,
to spare her the shame of being seen with a furry face.
Harry and Ron went to visit her every evening. When the new term started,
they brought her each day’s homework.
“If I’d sprouted whiskers, I’d take a break from work,” said Ron, tipping a stack
of books onto Hermione’s bedside table one evening.
“ Don’ t be silly, Ron, I’ ve got to keep up,” said Hermione briskly. Her spirits
were great ly improved by the fact that all the hair had gone from her face and her
eyes were turning slowly back to brown. “ I don’ t suppose you’ ve got any new leads?”
she added in a whisper, so that Madam Pomfrey couldn’t hear her.
“Nothing,” said Harry gloomily.
“I was so sure it was Malfoy,” said Ron, for about the hundredth time.
“What ’ s that?” asked Harry, point ing to something gold st icking out from under
Hermione’s pillow.
“Just a get-well card,” said Hermione hast ily, t rying to poke it out of sight , but
Ron was too quick for her. He pulled it out, flicked it open, and read aloud:
“ To Miss Granger, wishing you a speedy recovery, from your concerned
teacher, Professor Gilderoy Lockhart , Order of Merlin, Third Class, Honorary Member
of the Dark Force Defense League, and five–t ime winner of Witch Weekly’ s Most–
Charming–Smile Award.”
Ron looked up at Hermione, disgusted.
“You sleep with this under your pillow?”
But Hermione was spared answering by Madam Pomfrey sweeping over with her
evening dose of medicine.
“ Is Lockhart the smarmiest bloke you’ ve ever met , or what?” Ron said to Harry
as they left the infirmary and started up the stairs toward Gryf findor Tower. Snape
had given them so much homework, Harry thought he was likely to be in the sixth year
before he finished it . Ron was j ust saying he wished he had asked Hermione how many
rat tails you were supposed to add to a HairRaising Pot ion when an angry outburst
from the floor above reached their ears.
“ That ’ s Filch,” Harry mut tered as they hurried up the stairs and paused, out of
sight, listening hard.
“You don’t think someone else’s been attacked?” said Ron tensely.
They stood st ill, their heads inclined toward Flich’ s voice, which sounded quite
hysterical.
“ – even more work for me! Mopping all night , like I haven’ t got enough to do!
No, this is the final straw, I’m going to Dumbledore –”
His footsteps receded along the out–of–sight corridor and they heard a distant
door slam. They poked their heads around the corner. Filch had clearly been manning
his usual lookout post : They were once again on the spot where Mrs. Norris had been
at tacked. They saw at a glance what Filch had been shout ing about . A great flood of
water st retched over half the corridor, and it looked as though it was st ill seeping
from under the door of Moaning Myrt le’ s bathroom. Now that Filch had stopped
shouting, they could hear Myrtle’s wails echoing off the bathroom walls.
“Now what’s up with her?” said Ron.
“ Let ’ s go and see,” said Harry, and holding their robes over their ankles they
stepped through the great wash of water to the door bearing its OUT OF ORDER sign,
ignored it as always, and entered.
Moaning Myrt le was crying, if possible, louder and harder than ever before. She
seemed to be hiding down her usual toilet . It was dark in the bathroom because the
candles had been ext inguished in the great rush of water that had left both walls and
floor soaking wet.
“What’s up, Myrtle?” said Harry.
“Who’ s that?” glugged Myrt le miserably. “ Come to throw something else at
me?”
Harry waded across to her stall and said, “Why would I throw something at
you?”
“ Don’ t ask me,” Myrt le shouted, emerging with a wave of yet more water,
which splashed onto the already sopping f loor. “ Here I am, minding my own business,
and someone thinks it’s funny to throw a book at me…”
“ But it can’ t hurt you if someone throws something at you,” said Harry,
reasonably. “I mean, it’d just go right through you, wouldn’t it?”
He had said the wrong thing. Myrt le puffed herself up and shrieked, “ Let ’ s all
throw books at Myrt le, because she can’ t feel it ! Ten point s if you can get it through
her stomach! Fifty points if it goes through her head! Well, ha, ha, ha! What a lovely
game, I don’t think!”
“Who threw it at you, anyway?” asked Harry.
“ I don’ t know… I was j ust sit t ing in the U–bend, thinking about death, and it
fell right through the top of my head,” said Myrtle, glaring at them. “It’s over there, it
got washed out…”
Harry and Ron looked under the sink where Myrt le was point ing. A small, thin
book lay there. It had a shabby black cover and was as wet as everything else in the
bathroom. Harry stepped forward to pick it up, but Ron suddenly f lung out an arm to
hold him back.
“What?” said Harry.
“Are you crazy?” said Ron. “It could be dangerous.”
“Dangerous?” said Harry, laughing. “Come off it, how could it be dangerous?”
“ You’ d be surprised,” said Ron, who was looking apprehensively at the book.
“ Some of the books the Minist ry’ s confiscated Dad’ s told me – there was one that
burned your eyes out . And everyone who read Sonnet s of a Sorcerer spoke in limericks
for the rest of their lives. And some old wit ch in Bath had a book that you could never
stop reading! You j ust had to wander around with your nose in it , t rying to do
everything one–handed. And –”
“All right, I’ve got the point,” said Harry.
The little book lay on the floor, nondescript and soggy.
“Well, we won’ t find out unless we look at it ,” he said, and he ducked around
Ron and picked it up off the floor.
Harry saw at once that it was a diary, and the faded year on the cover told him
it was fifty years old. He opened it eagerly. On the f irst page he could j ust make out
the name “T M. Riddle” in smudged ink.
“ Hang on,” said Ron, who had approached caut iously and was looking over
Harry’ s shoulder. “ I know that name … T. M. Riddle got an award for special services
to the school fifty years ago.”
“How on earth d’you know that?” said Harry in amazement.
“ Because Filch made me polish his shield about fifty t imes in detent ion,” said
on resent fully. “ That was the one I burped slugs all over. If you’ d wiped slime off a
name for an hour, you’d remember it, too.”
Harry peeled the wet pages apart . They were completely blank. There wasn’ t
the faintest t race of writ ing on any of them, not even Aunt ie Mabel’ s birthday, or
dentist, half–past three.
“He never wrote in it,” said Harry, disappointed.
“I wonder why someone wanted to flush it away?” said Ron curiously.
Harry turned to the back cover of the book and saw the printed name of a
variety store on Vauxhall Road, London.
“ He must ’ ve been Muggle–born,” said Harry thought fufly. “ To have bought a
diary from Vauxhall Road…”
“Well, it ’ s not much use to you,” said Ron. He dropped his voice. “ Fift y points
if you can get it through Myrtle’s nose.”
Harry, however, pocketed it.
Hermione lef t the hospital wing, de–whiskered, tail–less, and fur-free, at the
beginning of February. On her f irst evening back in Gryff indor Tower, Harry showed
her T. M. Riddle’s diary and told her the story of how they had found it.
“Oooh, it might have hidden powers,” said Hermione enthusiast ically, taking
the diary and looking at it closely.
“ If it has, it ’ s hiding them very well,” said Ron. “Maybe it ’ s shy. I don’ t know
why you don’t chuck it, Harry.”
“ I wish I knew why someone did t ry to chuck it ,” said Harry. “ I wouldn’ t mind
knowing how Riddle got an award for special services to Hogwarts either.”
“ Could’ ve been anything,” said Ron. “Maybe he got thirty O.WL.s or saved a
teacher f rom the giant squid. Maybe he murdered Myrt le; that would’ ve done
everyone a favor…”
But Harry could tell from the arrested look on Hermione’ s face that she was
thinking what he was thinking.
“What?” said Ron, looking from one to the other.
“Well, the Chamber of Secrets was opened fifty years ago, wasn’ t it?” he said.
“That’s what Malfoy said.”
“Yeah…” said Ron slowly.
“And this diary is fifty years old,” said Hermione, tapping it excitedly.
“So?”
“Oh, Ron, wake up,” snapped Hermione. “We know the person who opened the
Chamber last t ime was expelled fifty years ago. We know T. M. Riddle got an award
for special services to the school f ifty years ago. Well, what if Riddle got his special
award for catching the Heir of Slytherin?His diary would probably tell us everything –
where the Chamber is, and how to open it , and what sort of creature lives in it – the
person who’ s behind the at tacks this t ime wouldn’ t want that lying around, would
they?”
“ That ’ s a brilliant theory, Hermione,” said Ron, “ with j ust one t iny lit t le f law.
There’s nothing written in his diary.”
But Hermione was pulling her wand out of her bag.
“ It might be invisible ink!” she whispered.
She tapped the diary three times and said, “Aparecium!”
Nothing happened. Undaunted, Hermione shoved her hand back into her bag
and pulled out what appeared to be a bright red eraser.
“It’s a Revealer, I got it in Diagon Alley,” she said.
She rubbed hard on January first . Nothing happened. “ I’m telling you, there’ s
nothing to find in there,” said Ron. “ Riddle j ust got a diary for Christmas and couldn’ t
be bothered filling it in.”
Harry couldn’t explain, even to himself, why he didn’t just throw Riddle’s diary
away. The fact was that even though he knew the diary was blank, he kept
absentmindedly picking it up and turning the pages, as though it were a story he
wanted to finish. And while Harry was sure he had never heard the name T. M. Riddle
before, it still seemed to mean something to him, almost as though Riddle was a friend
he’ d had when he was very small, and had half forgot ten. But this was absurd. He’ d
never had friends before Hogwarts, Dudley had made sure of that.
Nevertheless, Harry was determined to find out more about Riddle, so next day
at break, he headed for the t rophy room to examine Riddle’ s special award,
accompanied by an interested Hermione and a thoroughly unconvinced Ron, who told
them he’d seen enough of the trophy room to last him a lifetime.
Riddle’ s burnished gold shield was tucked away in a corner cabinet . It didn’ t
carry details of why it had been given to him (“Good thing, too, or it ’ d be even bigger
and I’d still be polishing it,” said Ron). However, they did find Riddle’s name on an old
Medal for Magical Merit, and on a list of old Head Boys.
“ He sounds like Percy,” said Ron, wrinkling his nose in disgust . “ Prefect , Head
Boy … probably top of every class –”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” said Hermione in a slightly hurt voice.
The sun had now begun to shine weakly on Hogwarts again. Inside the cast le,
the mood had grown more hopeful. There had been no more at tacks since those on
Just in and Nearly Headless Nick, and Madam Pomfrey was pleased to report that the
Mandrakes were becoming moody and secret ive, meaning that they were fast leaving
childhood.
“The moment their acne clears up, they’ll be ready for repotting again,”
Harry heard her telling Filch kindly one af ternoon. “ And after that , it won’ t be
long unt il we’ re cut t ing them up and stewing them. You’ ll have Mrs. Norris back in no
time.”
Perhaps the Heir of Slytherin had lost his or her nerve, thought Harry. It must
be get t ing riskier and riskier to open the Chamber of Secrets, with the school so alert
and suspicious. Perhaps the monster, whatever it was, was even now set t ling itself
down to hibernate for another fifty years …
Ernie Macmillan of Hufflepuff didn’ t take this cheerful view. He was st ill
convinced that Harry was the guilty one, that he had “ given himself away” at the
Dueling Club. Peeves wasn’ t helping mat ters; he kept popping up in the crowded
corridors singing “Oh, Potter, you rotter…” now with a dance routine to match.
Gilderoy Lockhart seemed to think he himself had made the attacks stop. Harry
overheard him telling Professor McGonagall so while the Gryffindors were lining up for
Transfiguration.
“ I don’ t think there’ ll be any more t rouble, Minerva,” he said, tapping his nose
knowingly and winking. “ I think the Chamber has been locked for good this t ime. The
culprit must have known it was only a mat ter of t ime before I caught him. Rather
sensible to stop now, before I came down hard on him.
“ You know, what the school needs now is a morale–booster. Wash away the
memories of last term! I won’ t say any more j ust now, but I think I know j ust the
thing…”
He tapped his nose again and strode off.
Lockhart ’ s idea of a morale–booster became clear at breakfast t ime on
February fourteenth. Harry hadn’ t had much sleep because of a late– running
Quidditch pract ice the night before, and he hurried down to the Great Hall, slight ly
late. He thought, for a moment, that he’d walked through the wrong doors.
The walls were all covered with large, lurid pink f lowers. Worse st ill, heart–
shaped confet t i was falling from the pale blue ceiling. Harry went over to the
Gryf findor table, where Ron was sit t ing looking sickened, and Hermione seemed to
have been overcome with giggles.
“What ’ s going on?” Harry asked them, sit t ing down and wiping confet t i off his
bacon.
Ron pointed to the teachers’ table, apparent ly too disgusted to speak.
Lockhart , wearing lurid pink robes to match the decorat ions, was waving for silence.
The teachers on either side of him were looking stony–faced. From where he sat, Harry
could see a muscle going in Professor McGonagall’ s cheek. Snape looked as though
someone had just fed him a large beaker of Skele–Gro.
“ Happy Valent ine’ s Day!” Lockhart shouted. “ And may I thank the forty–six
people who have so far sent me cards! Yes, I have taken the liberty of arranging this
little surprise for you all – and it doesn’t end here!”
Lockhart clapped his hands and through the doors to the entrance hall marched
a dozen surly–looking dwarfs. Not j ust any dwarfs, however. Lockhart had them all
wearing golden wings and carrying harps.
“My friendly, card–carrying cupids!” beamed Lockhart . “ They will be roving
around the school today delivering your valent ines! And the fun doesn’ t stop here! I’m
sure my colleagues will want to enter into the spirit of the occasion! Why not ask
Professor Snape to show you how to whip up a Love Pot ion! And while you’ re at it ,
Professor Flitwick knows more about Ent rancing Enchantments than any wizard I’ ve
ever met, the sly old dog!”
Professor Flitwick buried his face in his hands. Snape was looking as though the
first person to ask him for a Love Potion would be force–fed poison.
“ Please, Hermione, tell me you weren’ t one of the forty–six, 51 said Ron as
they left the Great Hall for their first lesson. Hermione suddenly became very
interested in searching her bag for her schedule and didn’t answer.
All day long, the dwarfs kept barging into their classes to deliver valent ines, to
the annoyance of the teachers, and late that afternoon as the Gryffindors were
walking upstairs for Charms, one of the dwarfs caught up with Harry.
“Oy, you! ‘Arry Pot ter!” shouted a part icularly grim–looking dwarf, elbowing
people out of the way to get to Harry.
Hot all over at the thought of being given a valent ine in front of a line of first
years, which happened to include Ginny Weasley, Harry t ried to escape. The dwarf,
however, cut his way through the crowd by kicking people’ s shins, and reached him
before he’d gone two paces.
“ I’ ve got a musical message to deliver to ‘Arry Pot ter in person,” he said,
twanging his harp in a threatening sort of way.
“Not here,” Harry hissed, trying to escape.
“ Stay st ill!” grunted the dwarf, grabbing hold of Harry’ s bag and pulling him
back.
“Let me go!” Harry snarled, tugging.
With a loud ripping noise, his bag split in two. His books, wand, parchment ,
and quill spilled onto the floor and his bottle ink smashed over everything.
Harry scrambled around, t rying to pick it all up before the dwarf started
singing, causing something of a holdup in the corridor.
“What ’ s going on here?” came the cold, drawling voice of Draco Malfoy. Harry
started stuffing everything feverishly into his ripped bag, desperate to get away before
Malfoy could hear his musical valentine.
“What ’ s all this commot ion?” said another familiar voice as Percy Weasley
arrived.
Losing his head, Harry t ried to make a run for it , but the dwarf seized him
around the knees and brought him crashing to the floor.
“Right,” he said, sitting on Harry’s ankles. “Here is your singing valentine:
His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad,
His hair is as dark as a blackboard.
I wish he was mine, he’s really divine,
The hero who conquered the Dark Lord”
Harry would have given all the gold in Gringot ts to evaporate on the spot .
Trying valiant ly to laugh along with everyone else, he got up, his feet numb from the
weight of the dwarf, as Percy Weasley did his best to disperse the crowd, some of
whom were crying with mirth.
“Off you go, off you go, the bell rang f ive minutes ago, off to class, now,” he
said, shooing some of the younger students away. “And you, Malfoy–”
Harry, glancing over, saw Malfoy stoop and snatch up something. Leering, he
showed it to Crabbe and Goyle, and Harry realized that he’d got Riddle’s diary.
“Give that back,” said Harry quietly.
“Wonder what Pot ter’ s writ ten in this?” said Malfoy, who obviously hadn’ t
not iced the year on the cover and thought he had Harry’ s own diary. A hush fell over
the onlookers. Ginny was staring from the diary to Harry, looking terrified.
“Hand it over, Malfoy,” said Percy sternly.
“When I’ve had a look,” said Malfoy, waving the diary tauntingly at Harry.
Percy said, “As a school prefect –” but Harry had lost his temper. He pulled out
his wand and shouted, “ Expelliarmus!” and j ust as Snape had disarmed Lockhart , so
Malfoy found the diary shoot ing out of his hand into the air. Ron, grinning broadly,
caught it.
“ Harry!” said Percy loudly. “ No magic in the corridors. I’ ll have to report this,
you know!”
But Harry didn’ t care, he was one–up on Malfoy, and that was worth five points
from Gryffindor any day. Malfoy was looking furious, and as Ginny passed him to enter
her classroom, he yelled spitefully after her, “ I don’ t think Pot ter liked your valentine
much!”
Ginny covered her face with her hands and ran into class. Snarling, Ron pulled
out his wand, too, but Harry pulled him away. Ron didn’ t need to spend the whole of
Charms belching slugs.
It wasn’ t unt il they had reached Professor Flitwick’ s class that Harry not iced
something rather odd about Riddle’ s diary. All his other books were drenched in
scarlet ink. The diary, however, was as clean as it had been before the bot t le ink had
smashed all over it . He t ried to point this out to Ron, but Ron was having t rouble with
his wand again; large purple bubbles were blossoming out of the end, and he wasn’ t
much interested in anything else. Harry went to bed before anyone else in his
dormitory that night . This was part ly because he didn’ t think he could stand Fred and
George singing, “ His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad” one more t ime, and
part ly because he wanted to examine Riddle’ s diary again, and knew that Ron thought
he was wasting his time.
Harry sat on his four–poster and flicked through the blank pages, not one of
which had a t race of scarlet ink on it . Then he pulled a new bot t le out of his bedside
cabinet , dipped his quill into it , and dropped a blot onto the first page of the diary.
The ink shone bright ly on the paper for a second and then, as though it was being
sucked into the page, vanished. Excited, Harry loaded up his quill a second t ime and
wrote, “My name is Harry Potter.”
The words shone momentarily on the page and they, too, sank without t race.
Then, at last , something happened. Oozing back out of the page, in his very own ink,
came words Harry had never written.
“Hello, Harry Potter. My name is Tom Riddle. How did you come by my diary?”
These words, too, faded away, but not before Harry had started to scribble
back.
“Someone tried to flush it down a toilet.”
He waited eagerly for Riddle’s reply.
“ Lucky that I recorded my memories in some more last ing way than ink. But I
always knew that there would be those who would not want this diary read. “
“What do you mean?” Harry scrawled, blotting the page in his excitement.
‘ I mean that this diary holds memories of terrible things. Things that were
covered up. Things that happened at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. “
“ That ’ s where I am now,” Harry wrote quickly. “ I’m at Hogwarts, and horrible
stuff’s been happening. Do you know anything about the Chamber of Secrets?”
His heart was hammering. Riddle’ s reply came quickly, his writ ing becoming
untidier, as though he was hurrying to tell all he knew.
“Of course I know about the Chamber of Secret s. In my day, they told us it was
a legend, that it did not exist . But this was a lie. In my fifth year, the Chamber was
opened and the monster at tacked several students, finally killing one. I caught the
person who’ d opened the Chamber and he was expelled. But the Headmaster,
Professor Dippet, ashamed that such a thing had happened at Hogwarts, forbade me to
tell the t ruth. A story was given out that the girl had died in a freak accident . They
gave me a nice, shiny, engraved t rophy for my t rouble and warned me to keep my
mouth shut . But I knew it could happen again. The monster lived on, and the one who
had the power to release it was not imprisoned. “
Harry nearly upset his bottle ink in his hurry to write back.
“ It ’ s happening again now. There have been three at tacks and no one seems to
know who’s behind them. Who was it last time?”
“ I can show you, if you like, “ came Riddle’ s reply. “ You don’ t have to take my
word for it. I can take you inside my memory of the night when I caught him. “
Harry hesitated, his quill suspended over the diary. What did Riddle mean? How
could he be taken inside somebody else’ s memory? He glanced nervously at the door
to the dormitory, which was growing dark. When he looked back at the diary, he saw
fresh words forming.
“Let me show you. “
Harry paused for a fract ion of a second and then wrote two let ters. The pages
of the diary began to blow as though caught in a high wind, stopping halfway through
the month of June. Mouth hanging open, Harry saw that the lit t le square for June
thirteenth seemed to have turned into a miniscule television screen. His hands
t rembling slight ly, he raised the book to press his eye against the lit t le window, and
before he knew what was happening, he was t ilt ing forward; the window was
widening, he felt his body leave his bed, and he was pitched headfirst through the
opening in the page, into a whirl of color and shadow.
He felt his feet hit solid ground, and stood, shaking, as the blurred shapes
around him came suddenly into focus. He knew immediately where he was. This
circular room with the sleeping port raits was Dumbledore’ s of fice – but it wasn’ t
Dumbledore who was sit t ing behind the desk. A wizened, fraillooking wizard, bald
except for a few wisps of white hair, was reading a let ter by candlelight . Harry had
never seen this man before.
“I’m sorry,” he said shakily. “I didn’t mean to butt in –”
But the wizard didn’ t look up. He cont inued to read, frowning slight ly. Harry
drew nearer to his desk and stammered, “Er – I’ll just go, shall I?”
St ill the wizard ignored him. He didn’ t seem even to have heard him. Thinking
that the wizard might be deaf, Harry raised his voice.
“Sorry I disturbed you. I’ll go now,” he half–shouted.
The wizard folded up the let ter with a sigh, stood up, walked past Harry
without glancing at him, and went to draw the curtains at his window. The sky outside
the window was ruby–red; it seemed to be sunset . The wizard went back to the desk,
sat down, and twiddled his thumbs, watching the door.
Harry looked around the off ice. No Fawkes the phoenix – no whirring silver
cont rapt ions. This was Hogwarts as Riddle had known it , meaning that this unknown
wizard was Headmaster, not Dumbledore, and he, Harry, was lit t le more than a
phantom, completely invisible to the people of fifty years ago.
There was a knock on the office door.
“Enter,” said the old wizard in a feeble voice.
A boy of about sixteen entered, taking off his pointed hat . A silver prefect ’ s
badge was glint ing on his chest . He was much taller than Harry, but he, too, had j et–
black hair.
“Ah, Riddle,” said the Headmaster.
“You wanted to see me, Professor Dippet?” said Riddle. He looked nervous.
“Sit down,” said Dippet. “I’ve just been reading the letter you sent me.
“Oh,” said Riddle. He sat down, gripping his hands together very tightly.
“My dear boy,” said Dipper kindly, “I cannot possibly let you stay at school over
the summer. Surely you want to go home for the holidays?”
“ No,” said Riddle at once. “ I’ d much rather stay at Hogwarts than go back to
that – to that –”
“ You live in a Muggle orphanage during the holidays, I believe?” said Dippet
curiously.
“Yes, sir,” said Riddle, reddening slightly.
“You are Muggle–born?”
“Half–blood, sir,” said Riddle. “Muggle father, witch mother.”
“And are both your parents –?”
“My mother died j ust after I was born, sir. They told me at the orphanage she
lived j ust long enough to name me – Tom after my father, Marvolo after my
grandfather.”
Dipper clucked his tongue sympathetically.
“ The thing is, Tom,” he sighed, “ Special arrangements might have been made
for you, but in the current circumstances…”
“ You mean all these at tacks, sir?” said Riddle, and Harry’ s heart leapt , and he
moved closer, scared of missing anything.
“ Precisely,” said the headmaster. “My dear boy, you must see how foolish it
would be of me to allow you to remain at the cast le when term ends. Part icularly in
light of the recent t ragedy . .. the death of that poor lit t le girl … You will be safer by
far at your orphanage. As a mat ter of fact , the Minist ry of Magic is even now talking
about closing the school. We are no nearer locat ing the er – source of all this
unpleasantness…”
Riddle’s eyes had widened.
“Sir – if the person was caught – if it all stopped –”
“What do you mean?” said Dippet with a squeak in his voice, sit t ing up in his
chair. “Riddle, do you mean you know something about these attacks?”
“No, sir,” said Riddle quickly.
But Harry was sure it was the same sort of “ no” that he himself had given
Dumbledore.
Dippet sank back, looking faintly disappointed. “You may go, Tom…”
Riddle slid off his chair and slouched out of the room. Harry followed him.
Down the moving spiral staircase they went , emerging next to the gargoyle in
the darkening corridor. Riddle stopped, and so did Harry, watching him. Harry could
tell that Riddle was doing some serious thinking. He was bit ing his lip, his forehead
furrowed. Then, as though he had suddenly reached a decision, he hurried off, Harry
gliding noiselessly behind him. They didn’ t see another person unt il they reached the
ent rance hall, when a tall wizard with long, sweeping auburn hair and a beard called
to Riddle from the marble staircase.
“What are you doing, wandering around this late, Tom?”
Harry gaped at the wizard. He was none other than a f ifty–year–younger
Dumbledore.
“I had to see the headmaster, sir,” said Riddle.
“Well, hurry off to bed,” said Dumbledore, giving Riddle exact ly the kind of
penet rat ing stare Harry knew so well. “ Best not to roam the corridors these days. Not
since…”
He sighed heavily, bade Riddle good night , and st rode off. Riddle watched him
walk out of sight and then, moving quickly, headed st raight down the stone steps to
the dungeons, with Harry in hot pursuit. But to Harry’s disappointment, Riddle led him
not into a hidden passageway or a secret tunnel but to the very dungeon in which
Harry had Pot ions with Snape. The torches hadn’ t been lit , and when Riddle pushed
the door almost closed, Harry could only j ust see him, standing stock–st ill by the door,
watching the passage outside.
It felt to Harry that they were there for at least an hour. All he could see was
the figure of Riddle at the door, staring through the crack, wait ing like a statue. And
j ust when Harry had stopped feeling expectant and tense and started wishing he could
return to the present, he heard something move beyond the door.
Someone was creeping along the passage. He heard whoever it was pass the
dungeon where he and Riddle were hidden. Riddle, quiet as a shadow, edged through
the door and followed, Harry t iptoeing behind him, forget t ing that he couldn’ t be
heard.
For perhaps five minutes they followed the footsteps, unt il Riddle stopped
suddenly, his head inclined in the direct ion of new noises. Harry heard a door creak
open, and then someone speaking in a hoarse whisper.
“C’mon … gotta get yeh outta here … C’mon now … in the box…”
There was something familiar about that voice … Riddle suddenly j umped
around the corner. Harry stepped out behind him. He could see the dark out line of a
huge boy who was crouching in front of an open door, a very large box next to it.
“Evening, Rubeus,” said Riddle sharply.
The boy slammed the door shut and stood up.
“What yer doin’ down here, Tom?”
Riddle stepped closer. “ It ’ s all over,” he said. “ I’m going to have to turn you
in, Rubeus.
They’re talking about closing Hogwarts if the attacks don’t stop.”
“No at d’yeh –”
“ I don’ t think you meant to kill anyone. But monsters don’ t make good pets. I
suppose you just let it out for exercise and –”
“ It never killed no one!” said the large boy, backing against the closed door.
From behind him, Harry could hear a funny rustling and clicking.
“ Come on, Rubeus,” said Riddle, moving yet closer. “ The dead girl’ s parents
will be here tomorrow. The least Hogwarts can do is make sure that the thing that
killed their daughter is slaughtered…”
“ It wasn’ t him!” roared the boy, his voice echoing in the dark passage. “ He
wouldn’! He never!”
“Stand aside,” said Riddle, drawing out his wand.
His spell lit the corridor with a sudden flaming light . The door behind the large
boy flew open with such force it knocked him into the wall opposite. And out of it
came something that made Harry let out a long, piercing scream unheard by anyone
A vast , low–slung, hairy body and a tangle of black legs; a gleam of many eyes
and a pair of razor–sharp pincers – Riddle raised his wand again, but he was too late.
The thing bowled him over as it scut t led away, tearing up the corridor and out of
sight . Riddle scrambled to his feet , looking after it ; he raised his wand, but the huge
boy leapt on him, seized his wand, and threw him back down, yelling, “NOOOOOOO!”
The scene whirled, the darkness became complete; Harry felt himself falling
and, with a crash, he landed spread–eagled on his four–poster in the Gryffindor
dormitory, Riddle’ s diary lying open on his stomach. Before he had had t ime to regain
his breath, the dormitory door opened and Ron came in.
“There you are,” he said.
Harry sat up. He was sweating and shaking.
“What’s up?” said Ron, looking at him with concern.
“It was Hagrid, Ron. Hagrid opened the Chamber of Secrets fifty years ago.”
CHAPTER FOURTEEN – CORNELIUS FUDGE
Harry, Ron, and Hermione had always known that Hagrid had an unfortunate
liking for large and monst rous creatures. During their first year at Hogwarts he had
t ried to raise a dragon in his lit t le wooden house, and it would be a long t ime before
they forgot the giant , three–headed dog he’ d christened “ Fluffy.” And if, as a boy,
Hagrid had heard that a monster was hidden somewhere in the cast le, Harry was sure
he’ d have gone to any lengths for a glimpse of it . He’ d probably thought it was a
shame that the monster had been cooped up so long, and thought it deserved the
chance to st retch its many legs; Harry could j ust imagine the thirteen–year–old Hagrid
t rying to fit a leash and collar on it . But he was equally certain that Hagrid would
never have meant to kill anybody.
Harry half wished he hadn’ t found out how to work Riddle’ s diary. Again and
again Ron and Hermione made him recount what he’ d seen, unt il he was heart ily sick
of telling them and sick of the long, circular conversations that followed.
“ Riddle might have got the wrong person,” said Hermione. “Maybe it was some
other monster that was attacking people…”
“How many monsters d’you think this place can hold?” Ron asked dully.
“We always knew Hagrid had been expelled,” said Harry miserably. “ And the
at tacks must ’ ve stopped after Hagrid was kicked out . Otherwise, Riddle wouldn’ t have
got his award.”
Ron tried a different tack.
“Riddle does sound like Percy – who asked him to squeal on Hagrid, anyway?”
“But the monster had killed someone, Ron,” said Hermione.
“ And Riddle was going to go back to some Muggle orphanage if they closed
Hogwarts,” said Harry. “I don’t blame him for wanting to stay here…”
“You met Hagrid down Knockturn Alley, didn’t you, Harry?”
“He was buying a Flesh–Eating Slug Repellent,” said Harry quickly.
The three of them fell silent. After a long pause, Hermione voiced the knottiest
question of all in a hesitant voice.
“Do you think we should go and ask Hagrid about it all?”
“ That ’ d be a cheerful visit ,” said Ron. “ ‘Hello, Hagrid. Tell us, have you been
setting anything mad and hairy loose in the castle lately?”‘
In the end, they decided that they would not say anything to Hagrid unless
there was another at tack, and as more and more days went by with no whisper from
the disembodied voice, they became hopeful that they would never need to talk to
him about why he had been expelled. It was now nearly four months since Just in and
Nearly Headless Nick had been Pet rified, and nearly everybody seemed to think that
the at tacker, whoever it was, had ret ired for good. Peeves had finally got bored of his
“ Oh, Pot ter, you rot ter” song, Ernie Macmillan asked Harry quite politely to pass a
bucket of leaping toadstools in Herbology one day, and in March several of the
Mandrakes threw a loud and raucous party in greenhouse three. This made Professor
Sprout very happy.
“ The moment they start t rying to move into each other’ s pots, we’ ll know
they’ re fully mature,” she told Harry. “ Then we’ ll be able to revive those poor people
in the hospital wing.”
The second years were given something new to think about during their Easter
holidays. The t ime had come to choose their subj ects for the third year, a mat ter that
Hermione, at least, took very seriously.
“ It could affect our whole future,” she told Harry and Ron as they pored over
lists of new subjects, marking them with checks.
“I just want to give up Potions,” said Harry.
“We can’ t ,” said Ron gloomily. “We keep all our old subj ects, or I’ d’ ve ditched
Defense Against the Dark Arts.”
“But that’s very important!” said Hermione, shocked.
“ Not the way Lockhart teaches it ,” said Ron. “ I haven’ t learned anything from
him except not to set pixies loose.”
Neville Longbot tom had been sent let ters from all the witches and wizards in
his family, all giving him different advice on what to choose. Confused and worried, he
sat reading the subj ect lists with his tongue poking out , asking people whether they
thought Arithmancy sounded more difficult than the study of Ancient Runes. Dean
Thomas, who, like Harry, had grown up with Muggles, ended up closing his eyes and
j abbing his wand at the list , then picking the subj ects it landed on. Hermione took
nobody’s advice but signed up for everything.
Harry smiled grimly to himself at the thought of what Uncle Vernon and Aunt
Petunia would say if he t ried to discuss his career in wizardry with them. Not that he
didn’t get any guidance; Percy Weasley was eager to share his experience.
“ Depends where you want to go, Harry,” he said. “ It ’ s never too early to think
about the future, so I’ d recommend Divinat ion. People say Muggle Studies is a soft
opt ion, but I personally think wizards should have a thorough understanding of the
non–magical community, part icularly if they’ re thinking of working in close contact
with them – look at my father, he has to deal with Muggle business all the t ime. My
brother Charlie was always more of an outdoor type, so he went for Care of Magical
Creatures. Play to your strengths, Harry.”
But the only thing Harry felt he was really good at was Quidditch. In the end,
he chose the same new subj ects as Ron, feeling that if he was lousy at them, at least
he’d have someone friendly to help him.
Gryffindor’ s next Quidditch match would be against Huff lepuff. Wood was
insist ing on team pract ices every night after dinner, so that Harry barely had t ime for
anything but Quiddit ch and homework. However, the t raining sessions were get t ing
bet ter, or at least drier, and the evening before Saturday’ s match he went up to his
dormitory to drop off his broomstick feeling Gryffindor’s chances for the Quidditch cup
had never been better.
But his cheerful mood didn’ t last long. At the top of the stairs to the
dormitory, he met Neville Longbottom, who was looking frantic.
“Harry – I don’t know who did it – I just found –”
Watching Harry fearfully, Neville pushed open the door.
The contents of Harry’ s t runk had been thrown everywhere. His cloak lay
ripped on the floor. The bedclothes had been pulled off his four–poster and the drawer
had been pulled out of his bedside cabinet, the contents strewn over the mattress.
Harry walked over to the bed, open–mouthed, t reading on a few loose pages of
Travels with Trolls. As he and Neville pulled the blankets back onto his bed, Ron,
Dean, and Seamus came in. Dean swore loudly.
“What happened, Harry?”
“ No idea,” said Harry. But Ron was examining Harry’ s robes. All the pockets
were hanging out.
“Someone’s been looking for something,” said Ron. “Is there anything missing?”
Harry started to pick up all his things and throw them into his trunk. It was only
as he threw the last of the Lockhart books back into it that he realized what wasn’ t
there.
“Riddle’s diary’s gone,” he said in an undertone to Ron.
“What?”
Harry j erked his head toward the dormitory door and Ron followed him out .
They hurried down to the Gryffindor common room, which was half–empty, and j oined
Hermione, who was sitting alone, reading a book called Ancient Runes Made Easy.
Hermione looked aghast at the news.
“But – only a Gryffindor could have stolen – nobody else knows our password –”
“Exactly,” said Harry.
They woke the next day to brilliant sunshine and a light, refreshing breeze.
“ Perfect Quidditch condit ions!” said Wood enthusiast ically at the Gryffindor
table, loading the team’s plates with scrambled eggs. “Harry, buck up there, you need
a decent breakfast.”
Harry had been staring down the packed Gryffindor table, wondering if the new
owner of Riddle’s diary was right in front of his eyes. Hermione had been urging him to
report the robbery, but Harry didn’ t like the idea. He’ d have to tell a teacher all
about the diary, and how many people knew why Hagrid had been expelled fifty years
ago? He didn’t want to be the one who brought it all up again.
As he left the Great Hall with Ron and Hermione to go and collect his Quidditch
things, another very serious worry was added to Harry’ s growing list . He had j ust set
foot on the marble staircase when he heard it yet again
“ Kill this time … let me rip … tear…”
He shouted aloud and Ron and Hermione both jumped away from him in alarm.
“ The voice!” said Harry, –looking over his shoulder. “ I j ust heard it again –
didn’t you?”
Ron shook his head, wide–eyed. Hermione, however, clapped a hand to her
forehead.
“Harry – I think I’ve just understood something! I’ve got to go to the library!”
And she sprinted away, up the stairs.
“What does she understand?” said Harry dist ractedly, st ill looking around,
trying to tell where the voice had come from.
“Loads more than I do,” said Ron, shaking his head.
“But why’s she got to go to the library?”
“ Because that ’ s what Hermione does,” said Ron, shrugging. “When in doubt , go
to the library.”
Harry stood, irresolute, t rying to catch the voice again, but people were now
emerging from the Great Hall behind him, talking loudly, exit ing through the front
doors on their way to the Quidditch pitch.
“You’d better get moving,” said Ron. “It’s nearly eleven – the match –”
Harry raced up to Gryf f indor Tower, collected his Nimbus Two Thousand, and
j oined the large crowd swarming across the grounds, but his mind was st ill in the
castle along with the bodiless voice, and as he pulled on his scarlet robes in the locker
room, his only comfort was that everyone was now outside to watch the game.
The teams walked onto the field to tumultuous applause. Oliver Wood took off
for a warm–up flight around the goal posts; Madam Hooch released the balls. The
Huff lepuffs, who played in canary yellow, were standing in a huddle, having a last–
minute discussion of tactics.
Harry was j ust mount ing his broom when Professor McGonagall came half
marching, half running across the pitch, carrying an enormous purple megaphone.
Harry’s heart dropped like a stone.
“ This match has been cancelled,” Professor McGonagall called through the
megaphone, addressing the packed stadium. There were boos and shouts. Oliver
Wood, looking devastated, landed and ran toward Professor McGonagall without
getting off his broomstick.
“But, Professor!” he shouted. “We’ve got to play – the cup – Gryffindor –”
Professor McGonagall ignored him and cont inued to shout through her
megaphone:
“ All student s are to make their way back to the House common rooms, where
their Heads of Houses will give them further informat ion. As quickly as you can,
please!”
Then she lowered the megaphone and beckoned Harry over to her.
“Potter, I think you’d better come with me…”
Wondering how she could possibly suspect him this t ime, Harry saw Ron detach
himself from the complaining crowd; he came running up to them as they set off
toward the castle. To Harry’s surprise, Professor McGonagall didn’t object.
“Yes, perhaps you’d better come, too, Weasley…”
Some of the students swarming around them were grumbling about the match
being canceled; others looked worried. Harry and Ron followed Professor McGonagall
back into the school and up the marble staircase. But they weren’ t taken to anybody’ s
office this time.
“ This will be a bit of a shock,” said Professor McGonagall in a surprisingly
gent le voice as they approached the infirmary. “ There has been another at tack …
another double attack.”
Harry’s insides did a horrible somersault. Professor McGonagall pushed the door
open and he and Ron entered. .
Madam Pomfrey was bending over a f ifth–year girl with long, curly hair. Harry
recognized her as the Ravenclaw they’ d accidentally asked for direct ions to the
Slytherin common room. And on the bed next to her was –
“Hermione!” Ron groaned.
Hermione laid utterly still, her eyes open and glassy.
“ They were found near the library,” said Professor McGonagall. “ I don’ t
suppose either of you can explain this? It was on the floor next to them…”
She was holding up a small, circular mirror.
Harry and Ron shook their heads, both staring at Hermione.
“I will escort you back to Gryffindor Tower,” said Professor McGonagall heavily.
“I need to address the students in any case.”
“ All students will return to their House common rooms by six o’ clock in the
evening. No student is to leave the dormitories after that t ime. You will be escorted
to each lesson by a teacher. No student is to use the bathroom unaccompanied by a
teacher. All further Quidditch t raining and matches are to be postponed. There will be
no more evening activities.”
The Gryff indors packed inside the common room listened to Professor
McGonagall in silence. She rolled up the parchment from which she had been reading
and said in a somewhat choked voice, “ I need hardly add that I have rarely been so
dist ressed. It is likely that the school will be closed unless the culprit behind these
at tacks is caught . I would urge anyone who thinks they might know anything about
them to come forward.”
She climbed somewhat awkwardly out of the port rait hole, and the Gryffindors
began talking immediately.
“ That ’ s two Gryff indors down, not count ing a Gryf findor ghost , one Ravenclaw,
and one Huff lepuff, “ said the Weasley twins’ friend Lee Jordan, count ing on his
fingers. “ Haven’ t any of the teachers not iced that the Slytherins are all safe? Isn’ t it
obvious all this stuff’ s coming from Slytherin? The Heir of Slytherin, the monster of
Slytherin – why don’ t they j ust chuck all the Slytherins out?” he roared, to nods and
scattered applause.
Percy Weasley was sit t ing in a chair behind Lee, but for once he didn’ t seem
keen to make his views heard. He was looking pale and stunned.
“ Percy’ s in shock,” George told Harry quiet ly. “ That Ravenclaw girl –Penelope
Clearwater – she’s a prefect. I don’t think he thought the monster would dare attack a
prefect.”
But Harry was only half–listening. He didn’ t seem to be able to get rid of the
picture of Hermione, lying on the hospital bed as though carved out of stone. And if
the culprit wasn’ t caught soon, he was looking at a lifet ime back with the Dursleys.
Tom Riddle had turned Hagrid in because he was faced with the prospect of a Muggle
orphanage if the school closed. Harry now knew exactly how he had felt.
“What ’ re we going to do?” said Ron quiet ly in Harry’ s ear. “ D’ you think they
suspect Hagrid?”
“We’ ve got to go and talk to him,” said Harry, making up his mind. “ I can’ t
believe it ’ s him this t ime, but if he set the monster loose last t ime he’ ll know how to
get inside the Chamber of Secrets, and that’s a start.”
“But McGonagall said we’ve got to stay in our tower unless we’re in class –”
“ I think,” said Harry, more quiet ly st ill, “ it ’ s t ime to get my dad’ s old cloak out
again.”
Harry had inherited j ust one thing from his father: a long and silvery Invisibility
Cloak. It was their only chance of sneaking out of the school to visit Hagrid without
anyone knowing about it . They went to bed at the usual t ime, waited unt il Neville,
Dean, and Seamus had stopped discussing the Chamber of Secrets and finally fallen
asleep, then got up, dressed again, and threw the cloak over themselves.
The j ourney through the dark and deserted cast le corridors wasn’ t enj oyable.
Harry, who had wandered the cast le at night several t imes before, had never seen it
so crowded after sunset . Teachers, prefects, and ghosts were marching the corridors
in pairs, staring around for any unusual act ivity. Their Invisibilit y Cloak didn’ t stop
them making any noise, and there was a part icularly tense moment when Ron stubbed
his toe only yards from the spot where Snape stood standing guard. Thankfully, Snape
sneezed at almost exactly the moment Ron swore. It was with relief that they reached
the oak front doors and eased them open.
It was a clear, starry night . They hurried toward the lit windows of Hagrid’ s
house and pulled off the cloak only when they were right outside his front door.
Seconds after they had knocked, Hagrid f lung it open. They found themselves face–to–
face with him aiming a crossbow at them. Fang the boarhound barked loudly behind
him.
“Oh,” he said, lowering the weapon and staring at them. “What ’ re you two
doin’ here?”
“What’s that for?” said Harry, pointing at the crossbow as they stepped inside.
“Nothin’ – nothin’ – “ Hagrid mut tered. “ I’ ve bin expect in’ doesn’ mat ter – Sit
down – I’ll make tea –”
He hardly seemed to know what he was doing. He nearly ext inguished the fire,
spilling water f rom the ket t le on it , and then smashed the teapot with a nervous j erk
of his massive hand.
“Are you okay, Hagrid?” said Harry. “Did you hear about Hermione?”
“Oh, I heard, all righ’,” said Hagrid, a slight break in his voice.
He kept glancing nervously at the windows. He poured them both large mugs of
boiling water (he had forgot ten to add tea bags) and was j ust put t ing a slab of
fruitcake on a plate when there was a loud knock on the door.
Hagrid dropped the fruitcake. Harry and Ron exchanged panic-st ricken looks,
then threw the Invisibility Cloak back over themselves and ret reated into a corner.
Hagrid checked that they were hidden, seized his crossbow, and flung open his door
once more.
“Good evening, Hagrid.”
It was Dumbledore. He entered, looking deadly serious, and was followed by a
second, very odd–looking man.
The stranger had rumpled gray hair and an anxious expression, and was wearing
a st range mixture of clothes: a pinst riped suit , a scarlet t ie, a long black cloak, and
pointed purple boots. Under his arm he carried a lime–green bowler.
“That’s Dad’s boss!” Ron breathed. “Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic!”
Harry elbowed Ron hard to make him shut up.
Hagrid had gone pale and sweaty. He dropped into one of his chairs and looked
from Dumbledore to Cornelius Fudge.
“ Bad business, Hagrid,” said Fudge in rather clipped tones. “ Very bad business.
Had to come. Four at tacks on Muggle–borns. Things’ ve gone far enough. Minist ry’ s got
to act.”
“ I never,” said Hagrid, looking imploringly at Dumbledore. “ You know I never,
Professor Dumbledore, sir –”
“ I want it understood, Cornelius, that Hagrid has my full confidence,” said
Dumbledore, frowning at Fudge.
“ Look, Albus,” said Fudge, uncomfortably. “ Hagrid’ s record’ s against him.
Ministry’s got to do something – the school governors have been in touch –”
“ Yet again, Cornelius, I tell you that taking Hagrid away will not help in the
slightest ,” said Dumbledore. His blue eyes were full of a fire Harry had never seen
before.
“ Look at it f rom my point of view,” said Fudge, fidget ing with his bowler. “ I’m
under a lot of pressure. Got to be seen to be doing something. If it turns out it wasn’ t
Hagrid, he’ ll be back and no more said. But I’ ve got to take him. Got to. Wouldn’ t be
doing my duty –”
“Take me?” said Hagrid, who was trembling. “Take me where?”
“ For a short st retch only,” said Fudge, not meet ing Hagrid’ s eyes. “ Not a
punishment , Hagrid, more a precaut ion. If someone else is caught , you’ ll be let out
with a full apology –”
“Not Azkaban?” croaked Hagrid.
Before Fudge could answer, there was another loud rap on the door.
Dumbledore answered it . It was Harry’ s turn for an elbow in the ribs; he’ d let
out an audible gasp.
Mr. Lucius Malfoy st rode into Hagrid’ s hut , swathed in a long black t raveling
cloak, smiling a cold and satisfied smile. Fang started to growl.
“Already here, Fudge,” he said approvingly. “Good, good…”
“What’re you doin’ here?” said Hagrid furiously. “Get outta my house!”
“My dear man, please believe me, I have no pleasure at all in being inside your
– er – d’ you call this a house?” said Lucius Malfoy, sneering as he looked around the
small cabin. “ I simply called at the school and was told that the headmaster was
here.”
“ And what exact ly did you want with me, Lucius?” said Dumbledore. He spoke
politely, but the fire was still blazing in his blue eyes.
“ Dreadful thing, Dumbledore,” said Malfoy lazily, taking out a long roll of
parchment , “ but the governors feel it ’ s t ime for you to step aside. This is an Order of
Suspension – you’ ll find all twelve signatures on it . I’m afraid we feel you’ re losing
your touch. How many at tacks have there been now?Two more this afternoon, wasn’ t
it?At this rate, there’ ll be no Muggle–borns left at Hogwarts, and we all know what an
awful loss that would be to the school.”
“Oh, now, see here, Lucius,” said Fudge, looking alarmed, “ Dumbledore
suspended – no, no – last thing we want just now”
“ The appointment – or suspension – of the headmaster is a mat ter for the
governors, Fudge,” said Mr. Malfoy smoothly. “ And as Dumbledore has failed to stop
these attacks –”
“ See here, Malfoy, if Dumbledore can’ t stop them,” said Fudge, whose upper
lip was sweating now, “I mean to say, who can?”
“ That remains to be seen,” said Mr. Malfoy with a nasty smile. “ But as all
twelve of us have voted –”
Hagrid leapt to his feet, his shaggy black head grazing the ceiling.
‘An’ how many did yeh have ter threaten an’ blackmail before they agreed,
Malfoy, eh?” he roared.
“ Dear, dear, you know, that temper of yours will lead you into t rouble one of
these days, Hagrid,” said Mr. Malfoy. “ I would advise you not to shout at the Azkaban
guards like that. They won’t like it at all.”
“ Yeh can’ take Dumbledore!” yelled Hagrid, making Fang the boarhound cower
and whimper in his basket . “ Take him away, an’ the Muggle–borns won’ stand a
chance! There’ll be killin’ next!”
“Calm yourself, Hagrid,” said Dumbledore sharply. He looked at Lucius Malfoy.
“If the governors want my removal, Lucius, I shall of course step aside –”
“But –” stuttered Fudge.
“No!”growled Hagrid.
Dumbledore had not taken his bright blue eyes off Lucius Malfoy’ s cold gray
ones.
“ However,” said Dumbledore, speaking very slowly and clearly so that none of
them could miss a word, “ you will f ind that I will only t ruly have left this school when
none here are loyal to me… You also will know that help will always be given at
Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”
For a moment , Harry almost sure that Dumbledore’ s eyes pointed to the corner
where he and Ron was hiding.
“ A sent imental at t itude that deserve to be adored,” said Malfoy, bowing. “ All
of us will mis – eh – your very individual way in arranging everything, Albus, and only
hope that your successor will be able to prevent – ah – ‘murder’.”
Malfoy walked to the door, opened it , and bowed to let Dumbledore walked
out . Fudge, squeezing his hat nervously, waited for Hagrid to walk in front of him. But
Hagrid stayed where he was, taking a deep breath, and told carefully, “ If anyone wan’
ter know somethin’, all they have ter do is following the spiders. Spiders will take ‘em
to the righ’ place! Tha’s all I wan’ ter say.”
Fudge looked at him, confused.
“ Fine, I’ ll come,” said Hagrid, wearing his moleskin overcoat . But when he was
about to go out the door following Fudge, he stopped again and said loudly, “ An’
someone must feed Fang while I’m not around!”
The door closed, and Ron opened the Invisibility Cloak.
“We’ re in t rouble now,” he said. “ No more Dumbledore. It ’ s j ust as they
closing the school tonight. There’ll be attacks everyday if Dumbledore’s not around.”
Fang started to howl, scratching the closed door.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN – ARAGOG
Summer was creeping over the grounds around the cast le; sky and lake alike
turned periwinkle blue and flowers large as cabbages burst into bloom in the
greenhouses. But with no Hagrid visible from the cast le windows, st riding the grounds
with Fang at his heels, the scene didn’ t look right to Harry; no bet ter, in fact , than
the inside of the castle, where things were so horribly wrong.
Harry and Ron had t ried to visit Hermione, but visitors were now barred from
the hospital wing.
“We’ re taking no more chances,” Madam Pomfrey told them severely through a
crack in the infirmary door. “ No, I’m sorry, there’ s every chance the at tacker might
come back to finish these people off…”
With Dumbledore gone, fear had spread as never before, so that the sun
warming the cast le walls outside seemed to stop at the mullioned windows. There was
barely a face to be seen in the school that didn’ t look worried and tense, and any
laughter that rang through the corridors sounded shrill and unnatural and was quickly
stifled.
Harry constantly repeated Dumbledore’s final words to himself “I will only truly
have left this school when none here are loyal to me… Help will always be given at
Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” But what good were these words? Who exactly were
they supposed to ask for help, when everyone was j ust as confused and scared as they
were?
Hagrid’ s hint about the spiders was far easier to understand the t rouble was,
there didn’ t seem to be a single spider left in the cast le to follow. Harry looked
everywhere he went , helped (rather reluctant ly) by Ron. They were hampered, of
course, by the fact that they weren’ t allowed to wander off on their own but had to
move around the cast le in a pack with the other Gryf findors. Most of their fellow
students seemed glad that they were being shepherded from class to class by
teachers, but Harry found it very irksome.
One person, however, seemed to be thoroughly enj oying the atmosphere of
terror and suspicion. Draco Malfoy was st rut t ing around the school as though he had
just been appointed Head Boy. Harry didn’t realize what he was so pleased about until
the Pot ions lesson about two weeks after Dumbledore and Hagrid had lef t , when,
sitting right behind Malfoy, Harry overheard him gloating to Crabbe and Goyle.
“ I always thought Father might be the one who got rid of Dumbledore,” he
said, not t roubling to keep his voice down. “ I told you he thinks Dumbledore’ s the
worst headmaster the school’ s ever had. Maybe we’ ll get a decent headmaster now.
Someone who won’ t want the Chamber of Secrets closed. McGonagall won’ t last long,
she’s only filling in.…
Snape swept past Harry, making no comment about Hermione’ s empty seat and
cauldron.
“Sir,” said Malfoy loudly. “Sir, why don’t you apply for the headmaster’s job?”
“ Now, now, Malfoy,” said Snape, though he couldn’ t suppress a thin– lipped
smile. “ Professor Dumbledore has only been suspended by the governors. I daresay
he’ll be back with us soon enough.”
“ Yeah, right ,” said Malfoy, smirking. “ I expect you’ d have Father’ s vote, sir, if
you wanted to apply for the job – I’ll tell Father you’re the best teacher here, sir –”
Snape smirked as he swept off around the dungeon, fortunately not spot t ing
Seamus Finnigan, who was pretending to vomit into his cauldron.
“ I’m quite surprised the Mudbloods haven’ t all packed their bags by now,”
Malfoy went on. “Bet you five Galleons the next one dies. Pity it wasn’t Granger –”
The bell rang at that moment, which was lucky; at Malfoy’s last words, Ron had
leapt of f his stool, and in the scramble to collect bags and books, his at tempts to
reach Malfoy went unnoticed.
“ Let me at him,” Ron growled as Harry and Dean hung onto his arms. “ I don’ t
care, I don’t need my wand, I’m going to kill him with my bare hands –”
“Hurry up, I’ve got to take you all to Herbology,” barked Snape over the class’s
heads, and off they marched, with Harry, Ron, and Dean bringing up the rear, Ron st ill
t rying to get loose. It was only safe to let go of him when Snape had seen them out of
the cast le and they were making their way across the vegetable patch toward the
greenhouses.
The Herbology class was very subdued; there were now two missing from their
number, Justin and Hermione.
Professor Sprout set them all to work pruning the Abyssinian Shrivelfigs. Harry
went to t ip an armful of withered stalks onto the compost heap and found himself
face–to–face with Ernie Macmillan. Ernie took a deep breath and said, very formally, “I
j ust want to say, Harry, that I’m sorry I ever suspected you. I know you’d never at tack
Hermione Granger, and I apologize for all the stuff I said. We’ re all in the same boat
now, and, well –”
He held out a pudgy hand, and Harry shook it . Ernie and his friend Hannah
came to work at the same Shrivelfig as Harry and Ron.
“ That Draco Malfoy character,” said Ernie, breaking off dead twigs, “ he seems
very pleased about all this, doesn’ t he? D’ you know, I think he might be Slytherin’ s
heir.”
“ That ’ s clever of you,” said Ron, who didn’ t seem to have forgiven Ernie as
readily as Harry.
“Do you think it’s Malfoy, Harry?” Ernie asked.
“No,” said Harry, so firmly that Ernie and Hannah stared.
A second later, Harry spot ted something. Several large spiders were scut t ling
over the ground on the other side of the glass, moving in an unnaturally straight line as
though taking the shortest route to a prearranged meet ing. Harry hit Ron over the
hand with his pruning shears.
“Ouch! What’re you –”
Harry pointed out the spiders, following their progress with his eyes screwed up
against the sun.
“Oh, yeah,” said Ron, t rying, and failing, to look pleased. “ But we can’ t follow
them now –”
Ernie and Hannah were listening curiously.
Harry’ s eyes narrowed as he focused on the spiders. If they pursued their fixed
course, there could be no doubt about where they would end up.
“Looks like they’re heading for the Forbidden Forest…”
And Ron looked even unhappier about that.
At the end of the lesson Professor Sprout escorted the class to their Defense
Against the Dark Arts lesson. Harry and Ron lagged behind the others so they could talk
out of earshot.
“We’ ll have to use the Invisibilit y Cloak again,” Harry told Ron. “We can take
Fang with us. He’s used to going into the forest with Hagrid, he might be some help.”
“ Right ,” said Ron, who was twirling his wand nervously in his fingers. “ Er –
aren’t there – aren’t there supposed to be werewolves in the forest?” he added as they
took their usual places at the back of Lockhart’s classroom.
Preferring not to answer that quest ion, Harry said, “ There are good things in
there, too. The centaurs are all right, and the unicorns…”
Ron had never been into the Forbidden Forest before. Harry had entered it only
once and had hoped never to do so again. Lockhart bounded into the room and the
class stared at him. Every other teacher in the place was looking grimmer than usual,
but Lockhart appeared nothing short of buoyant.
“Come now,” he cried, beaming around him. “Why all these long faces?”
People swapped exasperated looks, but nobody answered.
“ Don’ t you people realize,” said Lockhart , speaking slowly, as though they
were all a bit dim, “the danger has passed! The culprit has been taken away –”
“Says who?” said Dean Thomas loudly.
“My dear young man, the Minister of Magic wouldn’ t have taken Hagrid if he
hadn’ t been one hundred percent sure that he was guilt y,” said Lockhart , in the tone
of someone explaining that one and one made two.
“Oh, yes he would,” said Ron, even more loudly than Dean.
“ I flat ter myself I know a touch more about Hagrid’ s arrest than you do, Mr.
Weasley,” said Lockhart in a self–satisfied tone.
Ron started to say that he didn’ t think so, somehow, but stopped in
midsentence when Harry kicked him hard under the desk.
“We weren’t there, remember?” Harry muttered.
But Lockhart ’ s disgust ing cheeriness, his hints that he had always thought
Hagrid was no good, his confidence that the whole business was now at an end,
irritated Harry so much that he yearned to throw Gadding with Ghouls right in
Lockhart ’ s stupid face. Instead he contented himself with scrawling a note to Ron:
“Let’s do it tonight”.
Ron read the message, swallowed hard, and looked sideways at the empty seat
usually filled by Hermione. The sight seemed to stiffen his resolve, and he nodded.
The Gryffindor common room was always very crowded these days, because
from six o’ clock onward the Gryf findors had nowhere else to go. They also had plenty
to talk about , with the result that the common room often didn’ t empty unt il past
midnight.
Harry went to get the Invisibilit y Cloak out of his t runk right after dinner, and
spent the evening sit t ing on it , wait ing for the room to clear. Fred and George
challenged Harry and Ron to a few games of Exploding Snap, and Ginny sat watching
them, very subdued in Hermione’ s usual chair. Harry and Ron kept losing on purpose,
t rying to finish the games quickly, but even so, it was well past midnight when Fred,
George, and Ginny finally went to bed. Harry and Ron waited for the distant sounds of
two dormitory doors closing before seizing the cloak, throwing it over themselves, and
climbing through the portrait hole.
It was another difficult j ourney through the cast le, dodging all the teachers. At
last they reached the ent rance hall, slid back the lock on the oak front doors,
squeezed between them, trying to stop any creaking, and stepped out into the moonlit
grounds.
“ ‘Course,” said Ron abrupt ly as they st rode across the black grass, “ we might
get to the forest and find there’ s nothing to follow. Those spiders might not ’ ve been
going there at all. I know it looked like they were moving in that sort of general
direction, but…”
His voice trailed away hopefully.
They reached Hagrid’ s house, sad and sorry–looking with its blank windows.
When Harry pushed the door open, Fang went mad with j oy at the sight of them.
Worried he might wake everyone at the cast le with his deep, booming barks, they
hast ily fed him t reacle fudge from a t in on the mantelpiece, which glued his teeth
together.
Harry left the Invisibility Cloak on Hagrid’s table. There would be no need for it
in the pitch–dark forest.
“ C’mon, Fang, we’ re going for a walk,” said Harry, pat t ing his leg, and Fang
bounded happily out of the house behind them, dashed to the edge of the forest , and
lifted his leg against a large sycamore tree.
Harry took out his wand, murmured, “ Lumos!” and a t iny light appeared at the
end of it, just enough to let them watch the path for signs of spiders.
“Good thinking,” said Ron. “ I’ d light mine, too, but you know – it ’ d probably
blow up or something…”
Harry tapped Ron on the shoulder, point ing at the grass. Two solitary spiders
were hurrying away from the wandlight into the shade of the trees.
“Okay,” Ron sighed as though resigned to the worst, “I’m ready. Let’s go.”
So, with Fang scampering around them, sniffing t ree roots and leaves, they
entered the forest . By the glow of Harry’ s wand, they followed the steady t rickle of
spiders moving along the path. They walked behind them for about twenty minutes,
not speaking, listening hard for noises other than breaking twigs and rust ling leaves.
Then, when the t rees had become thicker than ever, so that the stars overhead were
no longer visible, and Harry’ s wand shone alone in the sea of dark, they saw their
spider guides leaving the path.
Harry paused, t rying to see where the spiders were going, but everything
outside his lit t le sphere of light was pitch–black. He had never been this deep into the
forest before. He could vividly remember Hagrid advising him not to leave the forest
path last t ime he’ d been in here. But Hagrid was miles away now, probably sit t ing in a
cell in Azkaban, and he had also said to follow the spiders.
Something wet touched Harry’ s hand and he j umped backward, crushing Rods
foot, but it was only Fang’s nose.
“What d’ you reckon?” Harry said to Ron, whose eyes he could j ust make out ,
reflecting the light from his wand.
“We’ve come this far,” said Ron.
So they followed the dart ing shadows of the spiders into the t rees. They
couldn’t move very quickly now; there were tree roots and stumps in their way, barely
visible in the near blackness. Harry could feel Fang’ s hot breath on his hand. More
than once, they had to stop, so that Harry could crouch down and find the spiders in
the wandlight.
They walked for what seemed like at least half an hour, their robes snagging on
low–slung branches and brambles. After a while, they not iced that the ground seemed
to be sloping downward, though the t rees were as thick as ever. Then Fang suddenly
let loose a great, echoing bark, making both Harry and Ron jump out of their skins.
“What?” said Ron loudly, looking around into the pitch–dark, and gripping
Harry’s elbow very hard.
“There’s something moving over there,” Harry breathed. “ Listen … sounds like
something big…”
They listened. Some distance to their right , the something big was snapping
branches as it carved a path through the trees.
“Oh, no,” said Ron. “Oh, no, oh, no, oh –”
“Shut up,” said Harry frantically. “It’ll hear you.”
“Hear me?” said Ron in an unnaturally high voice. “It’s already heard Fang!”
The darkness seemed to be pressing on their eyeballs as they stood, terrified,
waiting. There was a strange rumbling noise and then silence.
“What d’you think it’s doing?” said Harry.
“Probably getting ready to pounce,” said Ron.
They waited, shivering, hardly daring to move.
“D’you think it’s gone?” Harry whispered.
“Dunno –”
Then, to their right , came a sudden blaze of light , so bright in the darkness
that both of them flung up their hands to shield their eyes. Fang yelped and t ried to
run, but got lodged in a tangle of thorns and yelped even louder.
“Harry!” Ron shouted, his voice breaking with relief “Harry, it’s our car!”
“What?”
“Come on!”
Harry blundered after Ron toward the light , stumbling and t ripping, and a
moment later they had emerged into a clearing. Mr. Weasley’ s car was standing,
empty, in the middle of a circle of thick t rees under a roof of dense branches, its
headlights ablaze. As Ron walked, open–mouthed, toward it , it moved slowly toward
him, exactly like a large, turquoise dog greeting its owner.
“ It ’ s been here all the t ime!” said Ron delightedly, walking around the car.
“Look at it. The forest’s turned it wild…”
The sides of the car were scratched and smeared with mud. Apparent ly it had
taken to t rundling around the forest on its own. Fang didn’ t seem at all keen on it ; he
kept close to Harry, who could feel him quivering. His breathing slowing down again,
Harry stuffed his wand back into his robes.
“ And we thought it was going to at tack us!” said Ron, leaning against the car
and patting it. “I wondered where it had gone!”
Harry squinted around on the floodlit ground for signs of more spiders, but they
had all scuttled away from the glare of the headlights.
“We’ve lost the trail,” he said. “C’mon, let’s go and find them.”
Ron didn’t speak. He didn’t move. His eyes were fixed on a point some ten feet
above the forest floor, right behind Harry. His face was livid with terror. Harry didn’ t
even have t ime to turn around. There was a loud clicking noise and suddenly he felt
something long and hairy seize him around the middle and lift him off the ground, so
that he was hanging facedown. St ruggling, terrified, he heard more clicking, and saw
Ron’ s legs leave the ground, too, heard Fang whimpering and howling – next moment ,
he was being swept away into the dark trees.
Head hanging, Harry saw that what had hold of him was marching on six
immensely long, hairy legs, the front two clutching him t ight ly below a pair of shining
black pincers. Behind him, he could hear another of the creatures, no doubt carrying
Ron. They were moving into the very heart of the forest . Harry could hear Fang
fight ing to free himself from a third monster, whining loudly, but Harry couldn’ t have
yelled even if he had wanted to; he seemed to have left his voice back with the car in
the clearing.
He never knew how long he was in the creature’ s clutches; he only knew that
the darkness suddenly lifted enough for him to see that the leaf–st rewn ground was
now swarming with spiders. Craning his neck sideways, he realized that they had
reached the ridge of a vast hollow, a hollow that had been cleared of t rees, so that
the stars shone brightly onto the worst scene he had ever laid eyes on.
Spiders. Not t iny spiders like those surging over the leaves below. Spiders the
size of carthorses, eight–eyed, eight–legged, black, hairy, gigant ic. The massive
specimen that was carrying Harry made its way down the steep slope toward a misty,
domed web in the very center of the hollow, while its fellows closed in all around it ,
clicking their pincers excitedly at the sight of its load.
Harry fell to the ground on all fours as the spider released him. Ron and Fang
thudded down next to him. Fang wasn’t howling anymore, but cowering silently on the
spot . Ron looked exact ly like Harry felt . His mouth was st retched wide in a kind of
silent scream and his eyes were popping. Harry suddenly realized that the spider that
had dropped him was saying something. It had been hard to tell, because he clicked
his pincers with every word he spoke.
“Aragog!” it called. “Aragog!”
And from the middle of the misty, domed web, a spider the size of a small
elephant emerged, very slowly. There was gray in the black of his body and legs, and
each of the eyes on his ugly, pincered head was milky white. He was blind.
“What is it?” he said, clicking his pincers rapidly.
“Men,” clicked the spider who had caught Harry.
“ Is it Hagrid?” said Aragog, moving closer, his eight milky eyes wandering
vaguely.
“Strangers,” clicked the spider who had brought Ron.
“Kill them,” clicked Aragog fretfully. “I was sleeping…”
“We’ re f riends of Hagrid’ s,” Harry shouted. His heart seemed to have left his
chest to pound in his throat.
Click, click, click went the pincers of the spiders all around the hollow. Aragog
paused.
“Hagrid has never sent men into our hollow before,” he said slowly.
“ Hagrid’ s in t rouble,” said Harry, breathing very fast . “ That ’ s why we’ ve
come.”
“ In t rouble?” said the aged spider, and Harry thought he heard concern
beneath the clicking pincers. “But why has he sent you?”
Harry thought of get t ing to his feet but decided against it ; he didn’ t think his
legs would support him. So he spoke from the ground, as calmly as he could.
“ They think up at the school, that Hagrid’ s been set t ing a a – something on
students. They’ve taken him to Azkaban.”
Aragog clicked his pincers furiously, and all around the hollow the sound was
echoed by the crowd of spiders; it was like applause, except applause didn’ t usually
make Harry feel sick with fear.
“ But that was years ago,” said Aragog fret fully. “ Years and years ago. I
remember it well. That ’ s why they made him leave the school. They believed that I
was the monster that dwells in what they call the Chamber of Secrets. They thought
that Hagrid had opened the Chamber and set me free.”
“ And you . .. you didn’ t come from the Chamber of Secret s?” said Harry, who
could feel cold sweat on his forehead.
“ I!” said Aragog, clicking angrily. “ I was not born in the cast le. I come f rom a
distant land. A t raveler gave me to Hagrid when I was an egg. Hagrid was only a boy,
but he cared for me, hidden in a cupboard in the cast le, feeding me on scraps from
the table. Hagrid is my good friend, and a good man. When I was discovered, and
blamed for the death of a girl, he protected me. I have lived here in the forest ever
since, where Hagrid st ill visits me. He even found me a wife, Mosag, and you see how
our family has grown, all through Hagrid’s goodness…
Harry summoned what remained of his courage.
“So you never – never attacked anyone?”
“ Never,” croaked the old spider. “ It would have been my inst inct , but out of
respect for Hagrid, I never harmed a human. The body of the girl who was killed was
discovered in a bathroom. I never saw any part of the castle but the cupboard in which
I grew up. Our kind like the dark and the quiet…
“ But then … Do you know what did kill that girl?” said Harry. “ Because
whatever it is, it’s back and attacking people again –”
His words were drowned by a loud outbreak of clicking and the rustling of many
long legs shifting angrily; large black shapes shifted all around him.
“ The thing that lives in the cast le,” said Aragog, “ is an ancient creature we
spiders fear above all others. Well do I remember how I pleaded with Hagrid to let me
go, when I sensed the beast moving about the school.”
“What is it?” said Harry urgently.
More loud clicking, more rustling; the spiders seemed to be closing in.
“We do not speak of it!” said Aragog fiercely. “We do not name it! I never even
told Hagrid the name of that dread creature, though he asked me, many times.”
Harry didn’ t want to press the subj ect , not with the spiders pressing closer on
all sides. Aragog seemed to be t ired of tamng. He was backing slowly into his domed
web, but his fellow spiders continued to inch slowly toward Harry and Ron.
“We’ ll j ust go, then,” Harry called desperately to Aragog, hearing leaves
rustling behind him.
“Go?” said Aragog slowly. “I think not…”
“But – but –”
“My sons and daughters do not harm Hagrid, on my command. But I cannot
deny them fresh meat , when it wanders so willingly into our midst . Good–bye, friend
of Hagrid.”
Harry spun around. Feet away, towering above him, was a solid wall of spiders,
clicking, their many eyes gleaming in their ugly black heads. Even as he reached for
his wand, Harry knew it was no good, there were too many of them, but as he t ried to
stand, ready to die fight ing, a loud, long note sounded, and a blaze of light flamed
through the hollow.
Mr. Weasley’ s car was thundering down the slope, headlights glaring, its horn
screeching, knocking spiders aside; several were thrown onto their backs, their endless
legs waving in the air. The car screeched to a halt in front of Harry and Ron and the
doors flew open.
“Get Fang!” Harry yelled, diving into the front seat ; Ron seized the boarhound
around the middle and threw him, yelping, into the back of the car – the doors
slammed shut – Ron didn’ t touch the accelerator but the car didn’ t need him; the
engine roared and they were off, hit t ing more spiders. They sped up the slope, out of
the hollow, and they were soon crashing through the forest , branches whipping the
windows as the car wound its way cleverly through the widest gaps, following a path it
obviously knew. Harry looked sideways at Ron. His mouth was st ill open in the silent
scream, but his eyes weren’t popping anymore.
“Are you okay?”
Ron stared straight ahead, unable to speak.
They smashed their way through the undergrowth, Fang howling loudly in the
back seat , and Harry saw the side mirror snap of f as they squeezed past a large oak.
After ten noisy, rocky minutes, the t rees thinned, and Harry could again see patches
of sky.
The car stopped so suddenly that they were nearly thrown into the windshield.
They had reached the edge of the forest . Fang flung himself at the window in his
anxiety to get out , and when Harry opened the door, he shot off through the t rees to
Hagrid’ s house, tail between his legs. Harry got out too, and after a minute or so, Ron
seemed to regain the feeling in his limbs and followed, st ill st iff–necked and staring.
Harry gave the car a grateful pat as it reversed back into the forest and disappeared
from view.
Harry went back into Hagrid’ s cabin to get the Invisibility Cloak. Fang was
t rembling under a blanket in his basket . When Harry got outside again, he found Ron
being violently sick in the pumpkin patch.
“ Follow the spiders,” said Ron weakly, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. “ I’ ll
never forgive Hagrid. We’re lucky to be alive.”
“I bet he thought Aragog wouldn’t hurt friends of his,” said Harry.
“ That ’ s exact ly Hagrid’ s problem!” said Ron, thumping the wall of the cabin.
“ He always thinks monsters aren’ t as bad as they’ re made out , and look where it ’ s got
him! A cell in Azkaban!” He was shivering uncont rollably now. “What was the point of
sending us in there? What have we found out, I’d like to know?”
“ That Hagrid never opened the Chamber of Secrets,” said Harry, throwing the
cloak over Ron and prodding him in the arm to make him walk. “He was innocent.”
Ron gave a loud snort. Evidently, hatching Aragog in a cupboard wasn’t his idea
of being innocent . As the cast le loomed nearer Harry twit ched the cloak to make sure
their feet were hidden, then pushed the creaking front doors ajar. They walked
carefully back across the ent rance hall and up the marble staircase, holding their
breath as they passed corridors where watchful sent ries were walking. At last they
reached the safety of the Gryffindor common room, where the fire had burned itself
into glowing ash. They took off the cloak and climbed the winding stair to their
dormitory.
Ron fell onto his bed without bothering to get undressed. Harry, however,
didn’ t feel very sleepy. He sat on the edge of his four-poster, thinking hard about
everything Aragog had said. The creature that was lurking somewhere in the cast le, he
thought , sounded like a sort of monster Voldemort – even other monsters didn’ t want
to name it . But he and Ron were no closer to finding out what it was, or how it
Pet rified it s vict ims. Even Hagrid had never known what was in the Chamber of
Secrets.
Harry swung his legs up onto his bed and leaned back against his pillows,
watching the moon glint ing at him through the tower window. He couldn’ t see what
else they could do. They had hit dead ends everywhere. Riddle had caught the wrong
person, the Heir of Slytherin had got off, and no one could tell whether it was the
same person, or a different one, who had opened the Chamber this t ime. There was
nobody else to ask. Harry lay down, st ill thinking about what Aragog had said.He was
becoming drowsy when what seemed like their very last hope occurred to him, and he
suddenly sat bolt upright.
“Ron,” he hissed through the dark, “Ron –”
Ron woke with a yelp like Fang’s, stared wildly around, and saw Harry.
“Ron – that girl who died. Aragog said she was found in a bathroom,” said
Harry, ignoring Neville’ s snuffing snores from the corner. “What if she never left the
bathroom? What if she’s still there?”
Ron rubbed his eyes, frowning through the moonlight . And then he understood,
too.
“You don’t think – not Moaning Myrtle?”
CHAPTER SIXTEEN – THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS
“ All those t imes we were in that bathroom, and she was j ust three toilets
away,” said Ron bit terly at breakfast next day, “ and we could’ ve asked her, and
now…”
It had been hard enough t rying to look for spiders. Escaping their teachers long
enough to sneak into a girls’ bathroom, the girls’ bathroom, moreover, right next to
the scene of the first attack, was going to be almost impossible.
But something happened in their f irst lesson, Transfigurat ion that drove the
Chamber of Secrets out of their minds for the first time in weeks. Ten minutes into the
class, Professor McGonagall told them that their exams would start on the first of
June, one week from today.
‘Exams?” howled Seamus Finnigan. “We’re still getting exams?”
There was a loud bang behind Harry as Neville Longbot tom’ s wand slipped,
vanishing one of the legs on his desk. Professor McGonagall restored it with a wave of
her own wand, and turned, frowning, to Seamus.
“ The whole point of keeping the school open at this t ime is for you to receive
your educat ion,” she said sternly. “ The exams will therefore take place as usual, and I
trust you are all studying hard.”
Studying hard! It had never occurred to Harry that there would be exams with
the cast le in this state. There was a great deal of mut inous mut tering around the
room, which made Professor McGonagall scowl even more darkly.
“ Professor Dumbledore’ s inst ruct ions were to keep the school running as
normally as possible, she said. “ And that , I need hardly point out , means finding out
how much you have learned this year.
Harry looked down at the pair of white rabbits he was supposed to be turning
into slippers. What had he learned so far this year? He couldn’ t seem to think of
anything that would be useful in an exam.
Ron looked as though he’d just been told he had to go and live in the Forbidden
Forest.
“ Can you imagine me taking exams with this?” he asked Harry, holding up his
wand, which had just started whistling loudly.
Three days before their first exam, Professor McGonagall made another
announcement at breakfast.
“ I have good news,” she said, and the Great Hall, instead of falling silent ,
erupted.
“Dumbledore’s coming back!” several people yelled joyfully.
“You’ve caught the Heir of Slytherin!” squealed a girl at the Ravenclaw table.
“Quidditch matches are back on!” roared Wood excitedly.
When the hubbub had subsided, Professor McGonagall said, “ Professor Sprout
has informed me that the Mandrakes are ready for cut t ing at last . Tonight , we will be
able to revive those people who have been Pet rified. I need hardly remind you all that
one of them may well be able to tell us who, or what , at tacked them. I am hopeful
that this dreadful year will end with our catching the culprit.”
There was an explosion of cheering. Harry looked over at the Slytherin table
and wasn’ t at all surprised to see that Draco Malfoy hadn’ t j oined in. Ron, however,
was looking happier than he’d looked in days.
“ It won’ t mat ter that we never asked Myrt le, then!” he said to Harry.
“ Hermione’ ll probably have all the answers when they wake her up! Mind you, she’ ll
go crazy when she f inds out we’ ve got exams in three days’ t ime. She hasn’ t studied.
It might be kinder to leave her where she is till they’re over.”
Just then, Ginny Weasley came over and sat down next to Ron. She looked
tense and nervous, and Harry noticed that her hands were twisting in her lap.
“What’s up?” said Ron, helping himself to more porridge.
Ginny didn’t say anything, but glanced up and down the Gryffindor table with a
scared look on her face that reminded Harry of someone, though he couldn’ t think
who.
“Spit it out,” said Ron, watching her.
Harry suddenly realized who Ginny looked like. She was rocking backward and
forward slightly in her chair, exactly like Dobby did when he was teetering on the edge
of revealing forbidden information.
“ I’ ve got to tell you something,” Ginny mumbled, carefully not looking at
Harry.
“What is it?” said Harry.
Ginny looked as though she couldn’t find the right words.
“What?”said Ron.
Ginny opened her mouth, but no sound came out . Harry leaned forward and
spoke quietly, so that only Ginny and Ron could hear him.
“ Is it something about the Chamber of Secrets? Have you seen something?
Someone acting oddly?”
Ginny drew a deep breath and, at that precise moment , Percy Weasley
appeared, looking tired and wan.
“ If you’ ve finished eat ing, I’ ll take that seat , Ginny. I’m starving, I’ ve only j ust
come off patrol duty.”
Ginny j umped up as though her chair had j ust been elect rified, gave Percy a
fleet ing, frightened look, and scampered away. Percy sat down and grabbed a mug
from the center of the table.
“Percy!” said Ron angrily. “She was just about to tell us something important!”
Halfway through a gulp of tea, Percy choked.
“What sort of thing?” he said, coughing.
“I just asked her if she’d seen anything odd, and she started to say
“Oh – that – that ’ s nothing to do with the Chamber of Secrets,” said Percy at
once.
“How do you know?” said Ron, his eyebrows raised.
“Well, er, if you must know, Ginny, er, walked in on me the other day when I
was – well, never mind – the point is, she spot ted me doing something and I, um, I
asked her not to ment ion it to anybody. I must say, I did think she’ d keep her word.
It’s nothing, really, I’d just rather –”
Harry had never seen Percy look so uncomfortable.
“What were you doing, Percy?” said Ron, grinning. “ Go on, tell us, we won’ t
laugh.”
Percy didn’t smile back.
“Pass me those rolls, Harry, I’m starving.”
Harry knew the whole mystery might be solved tomorrow without their help,
but he wasn’ t about to pass up a chance to speak to Myrt le if it turned up – and to his
delight it did, midmorning, when they were being led to History of Magic by Gilderoy
Lockhart.
Lockhart, who had so often assured them that all danger had passed, only to be
proved wrong right away, was now wholeheartedly convinced that it was hardly worth
the t rouble to see them safely down the corridors. His hair wasn’ t as sleek as usual; it
seemed he had been up most of the night, patrolling the fourth floor.
“Mark my words,” he said, ushering them around a corner. “The first words out
of those poor Petrified people’s mouths will be ‘It was Hagrid.’ Frankly, I’m astounded
Professor McGonagall thinks all these security measures are necessary.”
“I’m agree, sir,” said Harry, making Ron drop his books in surprise.
“Thank you, Harry, said Lockhart graciously while they waited for a long line of
Huff lepuffs to pass. “ I mean, we teachers have quite enough to be get t ing on with,
without walking students to classes and standing guard all night…”
“ That ’ s right ,” said Ron, catching on. “Why don’ t you leave us here, sir, we’ ve
only got one more corridor to go –”
“ You know, Weasley, I think I will,” said Lockhart . “ I really should go and
prepare my next class –”
And he hurried off.
“Prepare his class,” Ron sneered after him. “Gone to curl his hair, more like.”
They let the rest of the Gryf findors draw ahead of them, then darted down a
side passage and hurried off toward Moaning Myrt le’ s bathroom. But j ust as they were
congratulating each other on their brilliant scheme
“Potter! Weasley! What are you doing?”
It was Professor McGonagall, and her mouth was the thinnest of thin lines.
“We were –we were–” Ron stammered. “We were going to – to go and see –”
“Hermione,” said Harry. Ron and Professor McGonagall both looked at him.
“We haven’ t seen her for ages, Professor,” Harry went on hurriedly, t reading
on Ron’ s foot , “ and we thought we’ d sneak into the hospital wing, you know, and tell
her the Mandrakes are nearly ready and, er, not to worry –”
Professor McGonagall was st ill staring at him, and for a moment , Harry thought
she was going to explode, but when she spoke, it was in a strangely croaky voice.
“Of course,” she said, and Harry, amazed, saw a tear glistening in her beady
eye. “ Of course, I realize this has all been hardest on the friends of those who have
been … I quite understand. Yes, Pot ter, of course you may visit Miss Granger. I will
inform Professor Binns where you’ ve gone. Tell Madam Pomfrey I have given my
permission.”
Harry and Ron walked away, hardly daring to believe that they’ d avoided
detent ion. As they turned the corner, they dist inct ly heard Professor McGonagall blow
her nose.
“That,” said Ron fervently, “was the best story you’ve ever come up with.”
They had no choice now but to go to the hospital wing and tell Madam Pomfrey
that they had Professor McGonagall’s permission to visit Hermione.
Madam Pomfrey let them in, but reluctantly.
“ There’ s j ust no point talking to a Pet rified person,” she said, and they had to
admit she had a point when they’ d taken their seats next to Hermione. It was plain
that Hermione didn’ t have the faintest inkling that she had visitors, and that they
might just as well tell her bedside cabinet not to worry for all the good it would do.
“Wonder if she did see the at tacker, though?” said Ron, looking sadly at
Hermione’s rigid face. “Because if he sneaked up on them all, no one’ll ever know….”
But Harry wasn’ t looking at Hermione’ s face. He was more interested in her
right hand. It lay clenched on top of her blankets, and bending closer, he saw that a
piece of paper was scrunched inside her fist . Making sure that Madam Pomfrey was
nowhere near, he pointed this out to Ron.
“ Try and get it out ,” Ron whispered, shift ing his chair so that he blocked Harry
from Madam Pomfrey’s view.
It was no easy task. Hermione’ s hand was clamped so t ight ly around the paper
that Harry was sure he was going to tear it . While Ron kept watch he tugged and
twisted, and at last, after several tense minutes, the paper came free.
It was a page torn from a very old library book. Harry smoothed it out eagerly
and Ron leaned close to read it, too.
Of t he many fearsome beast s and monst ers t hat roam our land,
there is none more curious or more deadly than the Basilisk, known also
as t he King of Serpent s. This snake, which may reach gigant ic size and
l ive many hundreds of years, is born f rom a chicken’ s egg, hat ched
beneat h a toad. It s met hods of kil l ing are most wondrous, for aside
f rom it s deadly and venomous fangs, the Basilisk has a murderous
st are, and al l who are f ixed with t he beam of it s eye shal l suf fer
inst ant deat h. Spiders f lee before t he Basilisk, for it is t heir mort al
enemy, and t he Basil isk f lees only f rom t he crowing of t he rooster,
which is fatal to it.
And beneath this, a single word had been writ ten, in a hand Harry recognized
as Hermione’s.
Pipes.
It was as though somebody had just flicked a light on in his brain.
“ Ron,” he breathed. “ This is it . This is the answer. The monster in the
Chamber’ s a basilisk – a giant serpent ! That why I’ ve been hearing that voice all over
the place, and nobody else has heard it. It’s because I understand Parseltongue…”
Harry looked up at the beds around him.
“ The basilisk kills people by looking at them. But no one’ s died – because no
one looked it st raight in the eye. Colin saw it through his camera. The basilisk burned
up all the film inside it , but Colin j ust got Pet rified. Just in …Just in must ’ ve seen the
basilisk through Nearly Headless Nick! Nick got the full blast of it , but he couldn’ t die
again . . . and Hermione and that Ravenclaw prefect were found with a mirror next to
them. Hermione had j ust realized the monster was a basilisk. I bet you anything she
warned the first person she met to look around corners with a mirror f irst ! And that
girl pulled out her mirror – and –”
Rods jaw had dropped.
“And Mrs. Norris?” he whispered eagerly.
Harry thought hard, picturing the scene on the night of Halloween.
“ The water…” he said slowly. “ The flood from Moaning Myrt le’ s bathroom. I
bet you Mrs. Norris only saw the reflection…”
He scanned the page in his hand eagerly. The more he looked at it , the more it
made sense.
“…The crowing of the roost er …is fat al to it ” ! he read aloud. “ Hagrid’ s
roosters were killed! The Heir of Slytherin didn’ t want one anywhere near the cast le
once the Chamber was opened! Spiders flee before it! It all fits!”
“ But how’ s the basilisk been get t ing around the place?” said Ron. “ A giant
snake …Someone would’ve seen…”
Harry, however, pointed at the word Hermione had scribbled at the foot of the
page.
“ Pipes,” he said. “ Pipes .. .Ron, it ’ s been using the plumbing. I’ ve been hearing that
voice inside the walls…”
Ron suddenly grabbed Harry’s arm.
“ The ent rance to the Chamber of Secrets!” he said hoarsely. “What if it ’ s a
bathroom? What if it’s in –”
“ -Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, “said Harry.
They sat there, excitement coursing through them, hardly able to believe it.
“ This means,” said Harry, “ I can’ t be the only Parselmouth in the school. The
Heir of Slytherin’s one, too. That’s how he’s been controlling the basilisk.”
“What ’ re we going to do?” said Ron, whose eyes were f lashing. “ Should we go
straight to McGonagall?”
“ Let ’ s go to the staff room,” said Harry, j umping up. “ She’ ll be there in ten
minutes. It’s nearly break.”
They ran downstairs. Not want ing to be discovered hanging around in another
corridor, they went straight into the deserted staff room. It was a large, paneled room
full of dark, wooden chairs. Harry and Ron paced around it , too excited to sit down.
But the bell to signal break never came. Instead, echoing through the corridors came
Professor McGonagall’s voice, magically magnified.
“ All student s to return to their House dormitories at once. All teachers return
to the staff room. Immediately, please.”
Harry wheeled around to stare at Ron. “Not another attack? Not now?”
“What’ll we do?” said Ron, aghast. “Go back to the dormitory?”
“No,” said Harry, glancing around. There was an ugly sort of wardrobe to his
left , full of the teachers’ cloaks. “ In here. Let ’ s hear what it ’ s all about . Then we can
tell them what we’ve found out.”
They hid themselves inside it , listening to the rumbling of hundreds of people
moving overhead, and the staff room door banging open. From between the musty
folds of the cloaks, they watched the teachers filtering into the room. Some of them
were looking puzzled, others downright scared. Then Professor McGonagall arrived.
“It has happened,” she told the silent staff room. “A student has been taken by
the monster. Right into the Chamber itself.”
Professor Flitwick let out a squeal. Professor Sprout clapped her hands over her
mouth. Snape gripped the back of a chair very hard and said, “How can you be sure?”
“ The Heir of Slytherin,” said Professor McGonagall, who was very white, “ left
another message. Right underneath the first one. ‘Her skeleton wil l lie in t he
Chamber forever’.”
Professor Flitwick burst into tears.
“Who is it?” said Madam Hooch, who had sunk, weak–kneed, into a chair.
“Which student?”
“Ginny Weasley,” said Professor McGonagall.
Harry felt Ron slide silently down onto the wardrobe floor beside him.
“We shall have to send all the students home tomorrow,” said Professor
McGonagall. “This is the end of Hogwarts. Dumbledore always said…”
The staffroom door banged open again. For one wild moment, Harry was sure it
would be Dumbledore. But it was Lockhart, and he was beaming.
“So sorry – dozed off – what have I missed?”
He didn’ t seem to not ice that the other teachers were looking at him with
something remarkably like hatred. Snape stepped forward.
“ Just the man,” he said. “ The very man. A girl has been snatched by the
monster, Lockhart . Taken into the Chamber of Secrets itself. Your moment has come
at last.”
Lockhart blanched.
“ That ’ s right , Gilderoy,” chipped in Professor Sprout . “Weren’ t you saying j ust
last night that you’ ve known all along where the ent rance to the Chamber of Secrets
is?”
“I – well, I –”sputtered Lockhart.
“ Yes, didn’ t you tell me you were sure you knew what was inside it?” piped up
Professor Flitwick.
“D–did I? I don’t recall –”
“ I certainly remember you saying you were sorry you hadn’ t had a crack at the
monster before Hagrid was arrested,” said Snape. “ Didn’ t you say that the whole
affair had been bungled, and that you should have been given a f ree rein from the
first?”
Lockhart stared around at his stony–faced colleagues.
“I – I really never – you may have misunderstood –”
“We’ ll leave it to you, then, Gilderoy,” said Professor McGonagall. “ Tonight
will be an excellent t ime to do it . We’ ll make sure everyone’ s out of your way. You’ ll
be able to tackle the monster all by youself. A free rein at last.”
Lockhart gazed desperately around him, but nobody came to the rescue. He
didn’ t look remotely handsome anymore. His lip was t rembling, and in the absence of
his usually toothy grin, he looked weak–chinned and feeble.
“Ve – very well,” he said. “I’ll – I’ll be in my office, getting getting ready.”
And he left the room.
“ Right ,” said Professor McGonagall, whose nost rils were f lared, “ that ’ s got him
out f rom under our feet . The Heads of Houses should go and inform their students
what has happened. Tell them the Hogwarts Express will take them home first thing
tomorrow. Will the rest of you please make sure no students have been left outside
their dormitories.”
The teachers rose and left, one by one.
It was probably the worst day of Harry’ s ent ire life. He, Ron, Fred, and George
sat together in a corner of the Gryffindor common room, unable to say anything to
each other. Percy wasn’ t there. He had gone to send an owl to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley,
then shut himself up in his dormitory.
No afternoon ever lasted as long as that one, nor had Gryffindor Tower ever
been so crowded, yet so quiet . Near sunset , Fred and George went up to bed, unable
to sit there any longer.
“ She knew something, Harry,” said Ron, speaking for the first t ime since they
had entered the wardrobe in the staff room. “ That ’ s why she was taken. It wasn’ t
some stupid thing about Percy at all., She’ d found out something about the Chamber
of Secrets. That must be why she was –” Ron rubbed his eyes frant ically. “ I mean, she
was a pure–blood. There can’t be any other reason.”
Harry could see the sun sinking, blood–red, below the skyline. This was the
worst he had ever felt. If only there was something they could do. Anything.
“ Harry” said Ron. “ D’ you think there’ s any chance at all she’ s not – you know –

Harry didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t see how Ginny could still be alive.
“ D’ you know what?” said Ron. “ I think we should go and see Lockhart . Tell him
what we know. He’ s going to t ry and get into the Chamber. We can tell him where we
think it is, and tell him it’s a basilisk in there.”
Because Harry couldn’ t think of anything else to do, and because he wanted to
be doing something, he agreed. The Gryffindors around them were so miserable, and
felt so sorry for the Weasleys, that nobody t ried to stop them as they got up, crossed
the room, and left through the portrait hole.
Darkness was falling as they walked down to Lockhart ’ s office. There seemed
to be a lot of activity going on inside it. They could hear scraping, thumps, and hurried
footsteps. Harry knocked and there was a sudden silence from inside. Then the door
opened the tiniest crack and they saw one of Lockhart’s eyes peering through it.
“Oh – Mr. Pot ter – Mr. Weasley –” he said, opening the door a bit wider. “ I’m
rather busy at the moment – if you would be quick –”
“ Professor, we’ ve got some informat ion for you,” said Harry. “We think it ’ ll
help you.”
“Er – well – it ’ s not terribly –” The side of Lockhart ’ s face that they could see
looked very uncomfortable. “I mean – well all right –”
He opened the door and they entered.
His office had been almost completely st ripped. Two large t runks stood open
on the floor. Robes, j ade–green, lilac, midnightblue, had been hast ily folded into one
of them; books were j umbled unt idily into the other. The photographs that had
covered the walls were now crammed into boxes on the desk.
“Are you going somewhere?” said Harry.
“ Er, well, yes,” said Lockhart , ripping a life–size poster of himself from the
back of the door as he spoke and start ing to roll it up. “ Urgent call –unavoidable –got
to go –”
“What about my sister?” said Ron jerkily.
“Well, as to that –most unfortunate –” said Lockhart , avoiding their eyes as he
wrenched open a drawer and started emptying the contents into a bag. “ No one
regrets more than I –”
“ You’ re the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher!” said Harry. “ You can’ t go
now! Not with all the Dark stuff going on here!”
“Well – I must say –when I took the j ob –” Lockhart mut tered, now piling socks
on top of his robes. “nothing in the job description – didn’t expect –”
“You mean you’re running away?” said Harry disbelievingly. “After all that stuff
you did in your books –”
“Books can be misleading,” said Lockhart delicately.
“You wrote them!” Harry shouted.
“My dear boy,” said Lockhart , st raightening up and frowning at Harry. “ Do use
your common sense. My books wouldn’t have sold half as well if people didn’t think I’d
done all those things. No one wants to read about some ugly old Armenian warlock,
even if he did save a village from werewolves. He’ d look dreadful on the front cover.
No dress sense at all. And the witch who banished the Bandon Banshee had a harelip. I
mean, come on –”
“ So you’ ve j ust been taking credit for what a load of other people have done?”
said Harry incredulously.
“ Harry, Harry,” said Lockhart , shaking his head impat ient ly, “ it ’ s not nearly as
simple as that . There was work involved. I had to t rack these people down. Ask them
exact ly how they managed to do what they did. Then I had to put a Memory Charm on
them so they wouldn’ t remember doing it . If there’ s one thing I pride myself on, it ’ s
my Memory Charms. No, it ’ s been a lot of work, Harry. It ’ s not all book signings and
publicity photos, you know. You want fame, you have to be prepared for a long hard
slog.”
He banged the lids of his trunks shut and locked them.
“Let’s see,” he said. “I think that’s everything. Yes. Only one thing left.”
He pulled out his wand and turned to them.
“ Awfully sorry, boys, but I’ ll have to put a Memory Charm on you now. Can’ t
have you blabbing my secrets all over the place. I’d never sell another book –”
Harry reached his wand j ust in t ime. Lockhart had barely raised his, when
Harry bellowed, “Expelliarmus!”
Lockhart was blasted backward, falling over his t runk; his wand flew high into
the air; Ron caught it, and flung it out of the open window.
“ Shouldn’ t have let Professor Snape teach us that one,” said Harry furiously,
kicking Lockhart ’ s t runk aside. Lockhart was looking up at him, feeble once more.
Harry was still pointing his wand at him.
“What d’ you want me to do?” said Lockhart weakly. “ I don’ t know where the
Chamber of Secrets is. There’s nothing I can do.”
“ You’ re in luck,” said Harry, forcing Lockhart to his feet at wandpoint . “We
think we know where it is. And what’s inside it. Let’s go.”
They marched Lockhart out of his office and down the nearest stairs, along the
dark corridor where the messages shone on the wall, to the door of Moaning Myrt le’ s
bathroom. They sent Lockhart in first. Harry was pleased to see that he was shaking.
Moaning Myrtle was sitting on the tank of the end toilet.
“Oh, it’s you,” she said when she saw Harry. “What do you want this time?”
“To ask you how you died,” said Harry.
Myrtle’ s whole aspect changed at once. She looked as though she had never
been asked such a flattering question.
“Ooooh, it was dreadful,” she said with relish. “ It happened right in here. I
died in this very stall. I remember it so well. I’ d hidden because Olive Hornby was
teasing me about my glasses. The door was locked, and I was crying, and then I heard
somebody come in. They said something funny. A different language, I think it must
have been. Anyway, what really got me was that it was a boy speaking. So I unlocked
the door, to tell him to go and use his own toilet, and then –”
Myrtle swelled importantly, her face shining. “I died.”
“How?” said Harry.
“No idea,” said Myrtle in hushed tones. “I just remember seeing a pair of great,
big, yellow eyes. My whole body sort of seized up, and then I was float ing away…”
She looked dreamily at Harry. “And then I came back again. I was determined to haunt
Olive Hornby, you see. Oh, she was sorry she’d ever laughed at my glasses.”
“Where exactly did you see the eyes?” said Harry.
“ Somewhere there,” said Myrt le, point ing vaguely toward the sink in front of
her toilet.
Harry and Ron hurried over to it . Lockhart was standing well back, a look of
utter terror on his face.
It looked like an ordinary sink. They examined every inch of it , inside and out ,
including the pipes below. And then Harry saw it : Scratched on the side of one of the
copper taps was a tiny snake.
“That tap’s never worked,” said Myrtle brightly as he tried to turn it.
“Harry,” said Ron. “Say something. Something in Parseltongue.”
“But –” Harry thought hard. The only t imes he’ d ever managed to speak
Parseltongue were when he’ d been faced with a real snake. He stared hard at the
tiny– engraving, trying to imagine it was real.
“Open up,” he said.
He looked at Ron, who shook his head.
“English,” he said.
Harry looked back at the snake, willing himself to believe it was alive. If he
moved his head, the candlelight made it look as though it were moving.
“Open up,” he said.
Except that the words weren’ t what he heard; a st range hissing had escaped
him, and at once the tap glowed with a brilliant white light and began to spin. Next
second, the sink began to move; the sink, in fact , sank, right out of sight , leaving a
large pipe exposed, a pipe wide enough for a man to slide into.
Harry heard Ron gasp and looked up again. He had made up his mind what he
was going to do.
“I’m going down there,” he said.
He couldn’ t not go, not now they had found the ent rance to the Chamber, not
if there was even the faintest, slimmest, wildest chance that Ginny might be alive.
“Me too,” said Ron.
There was a pause.
“Well, you hardly seem to need me,” said Lockhart , with a shadow of his old
smile. “I’ll just –”
He put his hand on the doorknob, but Ron and Harry both pointed their wands
at him.
“You can go first,” Ron snarled.
White–faced and wandless, Lockhart approached the opening.
“Boys,” he said, his voice feeble. “Boys, what good will it do?”
Harry j abbed him in the back with his wand. Lockhart slid his legs into the
pipe.
“ I really don’ t think –” he started to say, but Ron gave him a push, and he slid
out of sight . Harry followed quickly. He lowered himself slowly into the pipe, then let
go.
It was like rushing down an endless, slimy, dark slide. He could see more pipes
branching of f in all direct ions, but none as large as theirs, which twisted and turned,
sloping steeply downward, and he knew that he was falling deeper below the school
than even the dungeons. Behind him he could hear Ron, thudding slight ly at the
curves. And then, just as he had begun to worry about what would happen when he hit
the ground, the pipe leveled out , and he shot out of the end with a wet thud, landing
on the damp floor of a dark stone tunnel large enough to stand in. Lockhart was
get t ing to his feet a lit t le ways away, covered in slime and white as a ghost . Harry
stood aside as Ron came whizzing out of the pipe, too.
“We must be miles under the school,” said Harry, his voice echoing in the black
tunnel.
“ Under the lake, probably,” said Ron, squint ing around at the dark, slimy
walls.
All three of them turned to stare into the darkness ahead.
“ Lumos!” Harry mut tered to his wand and it lit again. “ C’mon,” he said to Ron
and Lockhart, and off they went, their footsteps slapping loudly on the wet floor.
The tunnel was so dark that they could only see a lit t le distance ahead. Their
shadows on the wet walls looked monstrous in the wandlight.
“ Remember,” Harry said quiet ly as they walked caut iously forward, “ any sign
of movement, close your eyes right away….”
But the tunnel was quiet as the grave, and the first unexpected sound they
heard was a loud crunch as Ron stepped on what turned out to be a rat ’ s skull. Harry
lowered his wand to look at the floor and saw that it was lit tered with small animal
bones. Trying very hard not to imagine what Ginny might look like if they found her,
Harry led the way forward, around a dark bend in the tunnel.
“Harry – there’ s something up there –” said Ron hoarsely, grabbing Harry’ s
shoulder.
They froze, watching. Harry could j ust see the out line of something huge and
curved, lying right across the tunnel. It wasn’t moving.
“Maybe it ’ s asleep,” he breathed, glancing back at the other two. Lockhart’s
hands were pressed over his eyes.
Harry turned back to look at the thing, his heart beat ing so fast it hurt . Very
slowly, his eyes as narrow as he could make them and st ill see, Harry edged forward,
his wand held high. The light slid over a gigant ic snakeskin, of a vivid, poisonous
green, lying curled and empty across the tunnel f loor. The creature that had shed it
must have been twenty feet long at least.
“Blimey,” said Ron weakly.
There was a sudden movement behind them. Gilderoy Lockhart ’ s knees had
given way.
“Get up,” said Ron sharply, pointing his wand at Lockhart.
Lockhart got to his feet – then he dived at Ron, knocking him to the ground.
Harry j umped forward, but too late – Lockhart was st raightening up, pant ing,
Ron’s wand in his hand and a gleaming smile back on his face.
“ The adventure ends here, boys!” he said. “ I shall take a bit of this skin back
up to the school, tell them I was too late to save the girl, and that you two t ragically
lost your minds at the sight of her mangled body – say good–bye to your memories!”
He raised Ron’s Spellotaped wand high over his head and yelled, “Obliviate!”
The wand exploded with the force of a small bomb. Harry f lung his arms over
his head and ran, slipping over the coils of snakeskin, out of the way of great chunks
of tunnel ceiling that were thundering to the floor. Next moment , he was standing
alone, gazing at a solid wall of broken rock.
“Ron!” he shouted. “Are you okay? Ron!”
“I’m here!” came Ron’ s muff led voice from behind the rockfall. “ I’m okay –
this git’s not, though – he got blasted by the wand -”
There was a dull thud and a loud “ ow!” It sounded as though Ron had j ust
kicked Lockhart in the shins.
“What now?” Ron’ s voice said, sounding desperate. “We can’ t get through –
it’ll take ages…”
Harry looked up at the tunnel ceiling. Huge cracks had appeared in it . He had
never t ried to break apart anything as large as these rocks by magic, and now didn’ t
seem a good moment to try – what if the whole tunnel caved in?
There was another thud and another “ ow!” from behind the rocks. They were
wast ing t ime. Ginny had already been in the Chamber of Secrets for hours … Harry
knew there was only one thing to do.
“Wait there,” he called to Ron. “Wait with Lockhart . I’ ll go on… If I’m not
back in an hour…”
There was a very pregnant pause…
“I’ll try and shift some of this rock,” said Ron, who seemed to be trying to keep
his voice steady. “So you can – can get back through. And, Harry –”
“ See you in a bit ,” said Harry, t rying to inj ect some confidence into his shaking
voice.
And he set off alone past the giant snakeskin.
Soon the distant noise of Ron st raining to shift the rocks was gone. The tunnel
turned and turned again. Every nerve in Harry’ s body was t ingling unpleasant ly. He
wanted the tunnel to end, yet dreaded what he’ d f ind when it did. And then, at last ,
as he crept around yet another bend, he saw a solid wall ahead on which two
entwined serpents were carved, their eyes set with great, glinting emeralds.
Harry approached, his throat very dry. There was no need to pretend these
stone snakes were real; their eyes looked st rangely alive. He could guess what he had
to do. He cleared his throat, and the emerald eyes seemed to flicker.
“Open, “said Harry, in a low, faint hiss.
The serpent s parted as the wall cracked open, the halves slid smoothly out of
sight, and Harry, shaking from head to foot, walked inside.
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN – THE HEIR OF SLYTHERIN
He was standing at the end of a very long, dimly lit chamber. Towering stone
pillars entwined with more carved serpents rose to support a ceiling lost in darkness,
cast ing long, black shadows through the odd, greenish gloom that filled the place. His
heart beat ing very fast , Harry stood listening to the chill silence. Could the basilisk be
lurking in a shadowy corner, behind a pillar? And where was Ginny? He pulled out his
wand and moved forward between the serpent ine columns. Every careful footstep
echoed loudly off the shadowy walls. He kept his eyes narrowed, ready to clamp them
shut at the smallest sign of movement . The hollow eye sockets of the stone snakes
seemed to be following him. More than once, with a j olt of the stomach, he thought
he saw one st ir. Then, as he drew level with the last pair of pillars, a statue high as
the Chamber itself loomed into view, standing against the back wall.
Harry had to crane his neck to look up into the giant face above: It was ancient
and monkeyish, with a long, thin beard that fell almost to the bot tom of the wizard’ s
sweeping stone robes, where two enormous gray feet stood on the smooth Chamber
floor. And between the feet , facedown, lay a small, black–robed figure with f laming–
red hair.
“Ginny!” Harry mut tered, sprint ing to her and dropping to his knees. “ Ginny –
don’ t be dead – please don’ t be dead –” He f lung his wand aside, grabbed Ginny’ s
shoulders, and turned her over. Her face was white as marble, and as cold, yet her
eyes were closed, so she wasn’t Petrified. But then she must be –
“Ginny, please wake up,” Harry muttered desperately, shaking her.
Ginny’s head lolled hopelessly from side to side.
“She won’t wake,” said a soft voice.
Harry j umped and spun around on his knees. A tall, black–haired boy was
leaning against the nearest pillar, watching. He was st rangely blurred around the
edges, as though Harry were looking at him through a misted window. But there was
no mistaking him
“Tom – Tom Riddle?”
Riddle nodded, not taking his eyes off Harry’s face.
“What d’you mean, she won’t wake?” Harry said desperately. “She’s not – she’s
not –?”
“She’s still alive,” said Riddle. “But only just.”
Harry stared at him. Tom Riddle had been at Hogwarts fifty years ago, yet here
he stood, a weird, misty light shining about him, not a day older than sixteen.
“Are you a ghost?” Harry said uncertainly.
“A memory,” said Riddle quietly. “Preserved in a diary for fifty years.”
He pointed toward the floor near the statue’ s giant toes. Lying open there was
the lit t le black diary Harry had found in Moaning Myrt le’ s bathroom. For a second,
Harry wondered how it had got there – but there were more pressing mat ters to deal
with.
“ You’ ve got to help me, Tom,” Harry said, raising Ginny’ s head again. “We’ ve
got to get her out of here. There’ s a basilisk .. . I don’ t know where it is, but it could
be along any moment … Please, help me –”
Riddle didn’ t move. Harry, sweat ing, managed to hoist Ginny half off the floor,
and bent to pick up his wand again. But his wand had gone.
“Did you see –?”
He looked up. Riddle was still watching him – twirling Harry’s wand between his
long fingers.
“Thanks,” said Harry, stretching out his hand for it.
A smile curled the corners of Riddle’ s mouth. He cont inued to stare at Harry,
twirling the wand idly.
“Listen,” said Harry urgent ly, his knees sagging with Ginny’ s dead weight .
“We’ve got to go! If the basilisk comes –”
“It won’t come until it is called,” said Riddle calmly.
Harry lowered Ginny back onto the floor, unable to hold her up any longer.
“What d’you mean?” he said. “Look, give me my wand, I might need it –”
Riddle’s smile broadened.
“You won’t be needing it,” he said.
Harry stared at him. “What d’you mean, I won’t be –?”
“I’ve waited a long time for this, Harry Potter,” said Riddle. “For the chance to
see you. To speak to you.”
“ Look,” said Harry, losing pat ience, “ I don’ t think you get it . We’ re in the
Chamber of Secrets. We can talk later –”
“We’ re going to talk now,” said Riddle, st ill smiling broadly, and he pocketed
Harry’s wand.
Harry stared at him. There was something very funny going on here…
“How did Ginny get like this?” he asked slowly.
“Well, that’s an interesting question,” said Riddle pleasantly. “And quite a long
story. I suppose the real reason Ginny Weasley’ s like this is because she opened her
heart and spilled all her secrets to an invisible stranger.”
“What are you talking about?” said Harry.
“ The diary,” said Riddle. “My diary. Lit t le Ginny’ s been writ ing in it for months
and months, telling me all her pit iful worries and woes – how her brothers tease her,
how she had to come to school with secondhand robes and books, how” –Riddle’ s eyes
glinted “how she didn’t think famous, good, great Harry Potter would ever like her…”
All the t ime he spoke, Riddle’ s eyes never left Harry’ s face. There was an
almost hungry look in them.
“ It ’ s very boring, having to listen to the silly lit t le t roubles of an eleven–year–
old girl,” he went on. “ But I was pat ient . I wrote back. I was sympathet ic, I was kind.
Ginny simply loved me. No one’s ever understood me like you, Tom … I’m so glad I’ve
got t his diary t o conf ide in … It ’ s l ike having a f riend I can carry around in my
pocket…”
Riddle laughed, a high, cold laugh that didn’ t suit him. It made the hairs stood
up on the back of Harry’ s neck. “ If I say it myself, Harry, I’ ve always been able to
charm the people I needed. So Ginny poured out her soul to me, and her soul
happened to be exactly what I wanted … I grew stronger and stronger on a diet of her
deepest fears, her darkest secrets. I grew powerful, far more powerful than lit t le Miss
Weasley. Powerful enough to start feeding Miss Weasley a few of my secrets, to start
pouring a little of my soul back into her…”
“What d’you mean?” said Harry, whose mouth had gone very dry.
“ Haven’ t you guessed yet , Harry Pot ter?” said Riddle soft ly. “ Ginny Weasley
opened the Chamber of Secrets. She st rangled the school roosters and daubed
threatening messages on the walls. She set the Serpent of Slytherin on four Mudbloods,
and the Squib’s cat.”
“No,” Harry whispered.
“ Yes,” said Riddle, calmly. “ Of course, she didn’ t know what she was doing at
first . It was very amusing. I wish you could have seen her new diary ent ries … far
more interest ing, they became … Dear Tom,” he recited, watching Harry’ s horrified
face, “ ‘ I t hink I’m losing my memory. There are roost er feat hers all over my robes
and 1 don’ t know how they got t here. Dear Tom, l can’ t remember what 1 did on t he
night of Halloween, but a cat was attacked and I’ ve got paint al l down my f ront . Dear
Tom, Percy keeps tel ling me I’m pale and I’m not mysel f . I t hink he suspect s me…
There was anot her at tack t oday and I don’ t know where I was. Tom, what am I going
to do? I think I’m going mad… I think I’m the one attacking everyone, Tom!’”
Harry’s fists were clenched, the nails digging deep into his palms.
“ It took a very long t ime for stupid lit t le Ginny to stop t rust ing her diary,” said
Riddle. “ But she finally became suspicious and t ried to dispose of it . And that ’ s where
you came in, Harry. You found it , and I couldn’ t have been more delighted. Of all the
people who could have picked it up, it was you, the very person I was most anxious to
meet.”
“ And why did you want to meet me?” said Harry. Anger was coursing through
him, and it was an effort to keep his voice steady.
“Well, you see, Ginny told me all about you, Harry,” said Riddle. “ Your whole
fascinat ing history. “ His eyes roved over the lightning scar on Harry’ s forehead, and
their expression grew hungrier. “ I knew I must find out more about you, talk to you,
meet you if I could. So I decided to show you my famous capture of that great oaf,
Hagrid, to gain your trust –”
“ Hagrid’ s my friend,” said Harry, his voice now shaking. “ And you f ramed him,
didn’t you? I thought you made a mistake, but –”
Riddle laughed his high laugh again.
“ It was my word against Hagrid’ s, Harry. Well, you can imagine how it looked
to old Armando Dippet . On the one hand, Tom Riddle, poor but brilliant , parent less
but so brave, school prefect , model student … on the other hand, big, blundering
Hagrid, in t rouble every other week, t rying to raise werewolf cubs under his bed,
sneaking off to the Forbidden Forest to wrest le t rolls .. . but I admit , even I was
surprised how well the plan worked. I thought someone must realize that Hagrid
couldn’ t possibly be the Heir of Slytherin. It had taken me five whole years to find out
everything I could about the Chamber of Secrets and discover the secret ent rance …
as though Hagrid had the brains, or the power!
“Only the Transfigurat ion teacher, Dumbledore, seemed to think Hagrid was
innocent . He persuaded Dipper to keep Hagrid and t rain him as gamekeeper. Yes, I
think Dumbledore might have guessed … Dumbledore never seemed to like me as
much as the other teachers did…”
“I bet Dumbledore saw right through you,” said Harry, his teeth gritted.
“Well, he certainly kept an annoyingly close watch on me after Hagrid was
expelled,” said Riddle carelessly. “ I knew it wouldn’ t be safe to open the Chamber
again while I was st ill at school. But I wasn’ t going to waste those long years I’ d spent
searching for it . I decided to leave behind a diary, preserving my sixteen–year–old self
in its pages, so that one day, with luck, I would be able to lead another in my
footsteps, and finish Salazar Slytherin’s noble work.”
“Well, you haven’ t finished it ,” said Harry t riumphant ly. “ No one’ s died this
t ime, not even the cat . In a few hours the Mandrake Draught will be ready and
everyone who was Petrified will be all right again –”
“ Haven’ t I already told you,” said Riddle quiet ly, “ that killing Mudbloods
doesn’t matter to me anymore? For many months now, my new target has been – you.”
Harry stared at him.
“ Imagine how angry I was when the next t ime my diary was opened, it was
Ginny who was writ ing to me, not you. She saw you with the diary, you see, and
panicked. “What if you found out how to work it, and I repeated all her secrets to you?
What if, even worse, I told you who’ d been st rangling roosters? So the foolish lit t le
brat waited unt il your dormitory was deserted and stole it back. But I knew what I
must do. It was clear to me that you were on the t rail of Slytherin’ s heir. From
everything Ginny had told me about you, I knew you would go to any lengths to solve
the mystery –– part icularly if one of your best friends was at tacked. And Ginny had
told me the whole school was buzzing because you could speak Parseltongue…
“ So I made Ginny write her own farewell on the wall and come down here to
wait . She st ruggled and cried and became very boring. But there isn’ t much life left in
her … She put too much into the diary, into me. Enough to let me leave its pages at
last … I have been wait ing for you to appear since we arrived here. I knew you’ d
come. I have many questions for you, Harry Potter.”
“Like what?” Harry spat, fists still clenched.
“Well,” said Riddle, smiling pleasant ly, “ how is it that you a skinny boy with no
extraordinary magical talent –managed to defeat the greatest wizard of all t ime?How
did you escape with nothing but a scar, while Lord Voldemort ’ s powers were
destroyed?”
There was an odd red gleam in his hungry eyes now.
“Why do you care how I escaped?” said Harry slowly. “ Voldemort was after
your time…”
“Voldemort,” said Riddle soft ly, “ is my past , present , and future, Harry
Potter…”
He pulled Harry’ s wand from his pocket and began to t race it through the air,
writing three shimmering words:
TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE
Then he waved the wand once, and the let ters of his name rearranged
themselves:
I AM LORD VOLDEMORT
“ You see?” he whispered. “ It was a name I was already using at Hogwarts, to
my most intimate friends only, of course. You think I was going to use my filthy Muggle
father’ s name forever? I, in whose veins runs the blood of Salazar Slytherin himself ,
through my mother’ s side? I, keep the name of a foul, common Muggle, who
abandoned me even before I was born, just because he found out his wife was a witch?
No, Harry – I fashioned myself a new name, a name I knew wizards everywhere would
one day fear to speak, when I had become the greatest sorcerer in the world!”
Harry’ s brain seemed to have j ammed. He stared numbly at Riddle, at the
orphaned boy who had grown up to murder Harry’ s own parents, and so many others
… At last he forced himself to peak.
“You’re not,” he said, his quiet voice full of hatred.
“Not what?” snapped Riddle.
“ Not the greatest sorcerer in the world,” said Harry, breathing fast . “ Sorry to
disappoint you and all that , but the greatest wizard in the world is Albus Dumbledore.
Everyone says so. Even when you were st rong, you didn’ t dare t ry and take over at
Hogwarts. Dumbledore saw through you when you were at school and he st ill frightens
you now, wherever you’re hiding these days –”
The smile had gone from Riddle’s face, to be replaced by a very ugly look.
“ Dumbledore’ s been driven out of this cast le by the mere memory of me!” he
hissed.
“ He’ s not as gone as you might think!” Harry retorted. He was speaking at
random, wanting to scare Riddle, wishing rather than believing it to be true
Riddle opened his mouth, but froze. Music was coming from somewhere. Riddle
whirled around to stare down the empty Chamber. The music was growing louder. It
was eerie, spine–t ingling, unearthly; it lifted the hair on Harry’ s scalp and made his
heart feel as though it was swelling to twice its normal size. Then, as the music
reached such a pitch that Harry felt it vibrat ing inside his own ribs, flames erupted at
the top of the nearest pillar. A crimson bird the size of a swan had appeared, piping
its weird music to the vaulted ceiling. It had a glit tering golden tail as long as a
peacock’s and gleaming golden talons, which were gripping a ragged bundle.
A second later, the bird was flying st raight at Harry. It dropped the ragged
thing it was carrying at his feet , then landed heavily on his shoulder. As it folded its
great wings, Harry looked up and saw it had a long, sharp golden beak and a beady
black eye. The bird stopped singing. It sat still and warm next to Harry’s cheek, gazing
steadily at Riddle.
“That’s a phoenix,” said Riddle, staring shrewdly back at it.
“ Fawkes?” Harry breathed, and he felt the bird’ s golden claws squeeze his
shoulder gently.
“ And that –” said Riddle, now eyeing the ragged thing that Fawkes had
dropped, “that’s the old school Sorting Hat –”
So it was. Patched, frayed, and dirty, the hat lay motionless at Harry’s feet.
Riddle began to laugh again. He laughed so hard that the dark chamber rang
with it, as though ten Riddles were laughing at once.
“ This is what Dumbledore sends his defender! A songbird and an old hat ! Do
you feel brave, Harry Potter? Do you feel safe now?”
Harry didn’ t answer. He might not see what use Fawkes or the Sort ing Hat
were, but he was no longer alone, and he waited for Riddle to stop laughing with his
courage mounting.
“To business, Harry,” said Riddle, still smiling broadly. “Twice – in your past, in
my future –we have met . And twice I failed to kill you. How did you survive? Tell me
everything. The longer you talk,” he added softly, “the longer you stay alive.”
Harry was thinking fast , weighing his chances. Riddle had the wand. He, Harry,
had Fawkes and the Sort ing Hat , neither of which would be much good in a duel. It
looked bad, all right … but the longer Riddle stood there, the more life was dwindling
out of Ginny … and in the meant ime, Harry not iced suddenly, Riddle’ s out line was
becoming clearer, more solid … If it had to be a fight between him and Riddle, bet ter
sooner than later.
“ No one knows why you lost your powers when you at tacked me,” said Harry
abrupt ly. “ I don’ t know myself But I know why you couldn’ t kill me. Because my
mother died to save me. My common Muggle–born mother,” he added, shaking with
suppressed rage. “ She stopped you killing me. And I’ ve seen the real you, I saw you
last year. You’ re a wreck. You’ re barely alive. That ’ s where all your power got you.
You’re in hiding. You’re ugly, you’re foul –”
Riddle’ s face contorted. Then he forced it into an awful smile. “ So. Your
mother died to save you. Yes, that ’ s a powerful countercharm. I can see now … there
is nothing special about you, after all. I wondered, you see. There are st range
likenesses between us, af ter all. Even you must have not iced. Both half–bloods,
orphans, raised by Muggles. Probably the only two Parselmouths to come to Hogwarts
since the great Slytherin himself We even look something alike . .. but after all, it was
merely a lucky chance that saved you from me. That’s all I wanted to know.”
Harry stood, tense, wait ing for Riddle to raise his wand. But Riddle’ s twisted
smile was widening again.
“ Now, Harry, I’m going to teach you a lit t le lesson. Let ’ s match the powers of
Lord Voldemort , Heir of Salazar Slytherin, against famous Harry Pot ter, and the best
weapons Dumbledore can give him…”
He cast an amused eye over Fawkes and the Sort ing Hat , then walked away.
Harry, fear spreading up his numb legs, watched Ridthe stop between the high pillars
and look up into the stone face of Slytherin, high above him in the half–darkness.
Riddle opened his mouth wide and hissed – but Harry understood what he was saying…
“ Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts Four!”
Harry wheeled around to look up at the statue, Fawkes swaying on his
shoulder.
Slytherin’ s gigant ic stone face was moving. Horrorst ruck, Harry saw his mouth
opening, wider and wider, to make a huge black hole. And something was st irring
inside the statue’ s mouth. Something was slithering up from its depths. Harry backed
away unt il he hit the dark Chamber wall, and as he shut his eyes t ight he felt Fawkes’
wing sweep his cheek as he took flight . Harry wanted to shout , “ Don’ t leave me!” but
what chance did a phoenix have against the king of serpents?
Something huge hit the stone floor of the Chamber. Harry felt it shudder – he
knew what was happening, he could sense it , could almost see the giant serpent
uncoiling itself from Slytherin’s mouth. Then he heard Riddle’s hissing voice:
“Kill him!”
The basilisk was moving toward Harry; he could hear its heavy body slithering
heavily across the dusty floor. Eyes st ill t ight ly shut , Harry began to run blindly
sideways, his hands outstretched, feeling his way – Voldemort was laughing
Harry t ripped. He fell hard onto the stone and tasted blood the serpent was
barely feet from him, he could hear it coming. There was a loud, explosive spit t ing
sound right above him, and then something heavy hit Harry so hard that he was
smashed into the wall. Wait ing for fangs to sink through his body he heard more mad
hissing, something thrashing wildly off the pillars. He couldn’ t help it – he opened his
eyes wide enough to squint at what was going on.
The enormous serpent , bright , poisonous green, thick as an oak t runk, had
raised itself high in the air and its great blunt head was weaving drunkenly between
the pillars. As Harry t rembled, ready to close his eyes if it turned, he saw what had
dist racted the snake. Fawkes was soaring around its head, and the basilisk was
snapping furiously at him with fangs long and thin as sabers. Fawkes dived. His long
golden beak sank out of sight and a sudden shower of dark blood spat tered the f loor.
The snake’ s tail thrashed, narrowly missing Harry, and before Harry could shut his
eyes, it turned – Harry looked st raight into its face and saw that its eyes, both its
great , bulbous yellow eyes, had been punctured by the phoenix; blood was st reaming
to the floor, and the snake was spitting in agony.
“ NO!” Harry heard Riddle screaming. “ LEAVE THE BIRD! LEAVE THE BIRD! THE
BOY IS BEHIND YOU. YOU CAN STILL SMELL HIM. KILL HIMI”
The blinded serpent swayed, confused, st ill deadly. Fawkes was circling its
head, piping his eerie song, j abbing here and there at its scaly nose as the blood
poured from its ruined eyes.
“Help me, help me,” Harry muttered wildly, “someone – anyone …”
The snake’ s tail whipped across the floor again. Harry ducked. Something soft
hit his face. The basilisk had swept the Sort ing Hat into Harry’ s arms. Harry seized it .
It was all he had left , his only chance – he rammed it onto his head and threw himself
flat onto the floor as the basilisk’s tail swung over him again.
‘Help me – help me –’ Harry thought , his eyes screwed t ight under the hat .
‘Please help me …’
There was no answering voice. Instead, the hat cont racted, as though an
invisible hand was squeezing it very t ight ly. Something very hard and heavy thudded
onto the top of Harry’ s head, almost knocking him out . Stars winking in front of his
eyes, he grabbed the top of the hat to pull it of f and felt something long and hard
beneath it . A gleaming silver sword had appeared inside the hat , its handle glit tering
with rubies the size of eggs.
“KILL THE BOY! LEAVE THE BIRD! THE BOY IS BEHIND YOU! SNIFF –– SMELL HIM.”
Harry was on his feet , ready. The basilisk’ s head was falling, its body coiling
around, hit t ing pillars as it twisted to face him. He could see the vast , bloody eye
sockets, see the mouth stretching wide, wide enough to swallow him whole, lined with
fangs long as his sword, thin, glittering, venomous –
It lunged blindly –– Harry dodged and it hit the Chamber wall. It lunged again,
and its forked tongue lashed Harry’ s side. He raised the sword in both his hands – The
basilisk lunged again, and this t ime its aim was t rue –– Harry threw his whole weight
behind the sword and drove it to the hilt into the roof of the serpent ’ s mouth –But as
warm blood drenched Harry’ s arms, he felt a searing pain j ust above his elbow. One
long, poisonous fang was sinking deeper and deeper into his arm and it splintered as
the basilisk keeled over sideways and fell, twitching, to the floor.
Harry slid down the wall. He gripped the fang that was spreading poison
through his body and wrenched it out of his arm. But he knew it was too late. White–
hot pain was spreading slowly and steadily from the wound. Even as he dropped the
fang and watched his own blood soaking his robes, his vision went foggy. The Chamber
was dissolving in a whirl of dull color. A patch of scarlet swam past , and Harry heard a
soft clatter of claws beside him.
“Fawkes,” said Harry thickly. “You were fantastic, Fawkes…”
He felt the bird laid its beaut iful head on the spot where the serpent ’ s fang
had pierced him. He could hear echoing footsteps and then a dark shadow moved in
front of him.
“ You’ re dead, Harry Pot ter,” said Riddle’ s voice above him. “ Dead. Even
Dumbledore’s bird knows it. Do you see what he’s doing, Potter? He’s crying.”
Harry blinked. Fawke’ s head slid in and out of focus. Thick, pearly tears were
trickling down the glossy feathers.
“ I’m going to sit here and watch you die, Harry Pot ter. Take your t ime. I’m in
no hurry.”
Harry felt drowsy. Everything around him seemed to be spinning.
“ So ends the famous Harry Pot ter,” said Riddle’ s distant voice. “ Alone in the
Chamber of Secrets, forsaken by his f riends, defeated at last by the Dark Lord he so
unwisely challenged. You’ ll be back with your dear Mudblood mother soon, Harry…
She bought you twelve years of borrowed t ime … but Lord Voldemort got you in the
end, as you knew he must…”
If this is dying, thought Harry, it’s not so bad. Even the pain was leaving him …
But was this dying? Instead of going black, the Chamber seemed to be coming back
into focus. Harry gave his head a lit t le shake and there was Fawkes, st ill rest ing his
head on Harry’ s arm. A pearly patch of tears was shining all around the wound ––
except that there was no wound.
“Get away, bird,” said Riddle’ s voice suddenly. “ Get away from him – I said,
get away ––”
Harry raised his head. Riddle was point ing Harry’ s wand at Fawkes; there was a
bang like a gun, and Fawkes took flight again in a whirl of gold and scarlet.
“ Phoenix tears,” said Riddle quiet ly, staring at Harry’ s arm. “Of course …
healing powers … I forgot…”
He looked into Harry’s face. “But it makes no difference. In fact, I prefer it this
way. Just you and me, Harry Potter … you and me…”
He raised the wand. Then, in a rush of wings, Fawkes had soared back overhead
and something fell into Harry’s lap –– the diary.
For a split second, both Harry and Riddle, wand st ill raised, stared at it . Then,
without thinking, without considering, as though he had meant to do it all along, Harry
seized the basilisk fang on the floor next to him and plunged it st raight into the heart
of the book.
There was a long, dreadful, piercing scream. Ink spurted out of the diary in
torrents, st reaming over Harry’ s hands, flooding the floor. Riddle was writhing and
twist ing, screaming and flailing and then – he had gone. Harry’ s wand fell to the floor
with a clatter and there was silence. Silence except for the steady drip drip of ink still
oozing from the diary. The basilisk venom had burned a sizzling hole right through it.
Shaking all over, Harry pulled himself up. His head was spinning as though he’ d
just t raveled miles by Floo powder. Slowly, he gathered together his wand and the
Sort ing Hat , and, with a huge tug, ret rieved the glit tering sword from the roof of the
basilisk’ s mouth. Then came a faint moan f rom the end of the Chamber. Ginny was
stirring. As Harry hurried toward her, she sat up. Her bemused eyes t raveled from the
huge form of the dead basilisk, over Harry, in his blood–soaked robes, then to the diary
in his hand. She drew a great, shuddering gasp and tears began to pour down her face.
“Harry –– oh, Harry –– I tried to tell you at b–breakfast, but I c–couldn’t say it in
front of Percy –– it was me, Harry –– but I –– I s–swear I d– diddt mean to –– R–Riddle
made me, he t–took me over –– and – how did you kill that –– that thing?W–where’s
Riddle? The last thing I remember is him coming out of the diary ––”
“ It ’ s all right ,” said Harry, holding up the diary, and showing Ginny the fang
hole, “ Riddle’ s finished. Look! Him and the basilisk. C’mon, Ginny, let ’ s get out of
here ––”
“ I’m going to be expelled!” Ginny wept as Harry helped her awkwardly to her
feet . “ I’ ve looked forward to coming to Hogwarts ever since B–Bill came and n–now I’ll
have to leave and –– w–what’ll Mum and Dad say?”
Fawkes was wait ing for them, hovering in the Chamber ent rance. Harry urged
Ginny forward; they stepped over the mot ionless coils of the dead basilisk, through
the echoing gloom, and back into the tunnel. Harry heard the stone doors close behind
them with a soft hiss.
After a few minutes’ progress up the dark tunnel, a distant sound of slowly
shifting rock reached Harry’s ears.
“Ron!” Harry yelled, speeding up. “Ginny’s okay! I’ve got her!”
He heard Ron give a st rangled cheer, and they turned the next bend to see his
eager face staring through the sizable gap he had managed to make in the rock fall.
“Ginny!” Ron thrust an arm through the gap in the rock to pull her through
first . “ You’ re alive! I don’ t believe it ! What happened?” How –what –– where did that
bird come from?”
Fawkes had swooped through the gap after Ginny.
“He’s Dumbledore’s,” said Harry, squeezing through himself.
“ How come you’ ve got a sword?” said Ron, gaping at the glit tering weapon in
Harry’s hand.
“ I’ ll explain when we get out of here,” said Harry with a sideways glance at
Ginny, who was crying harder than ever.
“But ––”
“ Later,” Harry said short ly. He didn’ t think it was a good idea to tell Ron yet
who’d been opening the Chamber, not in front of Ginny, anyway. “Where’s Lockhart?”
“ Back there,” said Ron, st ill looking puzzled but j erking his head up the tunnel
toward the pipe. “He’s in a bad way. Come and see.”
Led by Fawkes, whose wide scarlet wings emit ted a soft golden glow in the
darkness, they walked all the way back to the mouth of the pipe. Gilderoy Lockhart
was sitting there, humming placidly to himself.
“His memory’s gone,” said Ron. “The Memory Charm backfired. Hit him instead
of us. Hasn’ t got a clue who he is, or where he is, or who we are. I told him to come
and wait here. He’s a danger to himself”
Lockhart peered good–naturedly up at them all.
“Hello,” he said. “Odd sort of place, this, isn’t it? Do you live here?”
“No,” said Ron, raising his eyebrows at Harry.
Harry bent down and looked up the long, dark pipe.
“Have you thought how we’re going to get back up this?” he said to Ron.
Ron shook his head, but Fawkes the phoenix had swooped past Harry and was
now flut tering in front of him, his beady eyes bright in the dark. He was waving his
long golden tail feathers. Harry looked uncertainly at him.
“ He looks like he wants you to grab hold…” said Ron, looking perplexed. “ But
you’re much too heavy for a bird to pull up there –”
“ Fawkes,” said Harry, “ isn’ t an ordinary bird.” He turned quickly to the others.
“We’ve got to hold on to each other. Ginny, grab Ron’s hand. Professor Lockhart ––”
“He means you,” said Ron sharply to Lockhart.
“You hold Ginny’s other hand ––”
Harry tucked the sword and the Sort ing Hat into his belt , Ron took hold of the
back of Harry’ s robes, and Harry reached out and took hold of Fawkes’ s st rangely hot
tail feathers.
An ext raordinary lightness seemed to spread through his whole body and the
next second, in a rush of wings, they were flying upward through the pipe. Harry could
hear Lockhart dangling below him, saying, “Amazing! Amazing! This is just like magic!”
The chill air was whipping through Harry’ s hair, and before he’ d stopped enj oying the
ride, it was over –– all four of them were hit t ing the wet floor of Moaning Myrt le’ s
bathroom, and as Lockhart st raightened his hat , the sink that hid the pipe was sliding
back into place.
Myrtle goggled at them.
“You’re alive,” she said blankly to Harry.
“ There’ s no need to sound so disappointed,” he said grimly, wiping flecks of
blood and slime off his glasses.
“Oh, well … I’ d j ust been thinking … if you had died, you’ d have been
welcome to share my toilet,” said Myrtle, blushing silver.
“ Urgh!” said Ron as they left the bathroom for the dark, deserted corridor
outside. “Harry! I think Myrtle’s grown fond of you! You’ve got competition, Ginny!”
But tears were still flooding silently down Ginny’s face.
“Where now?” said Ron, with an anxious look at Ginny. Harry pointed.
Fawkes was leading the way, glowing gold along the corridor. They st rode after
him, and moments later, found themselves outside Professor McGonagall’ s office.
Harry knocked and pushed the door open.
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN – DOBBY’S REWARD
For a moment there was silence as Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Lockhart stood in
the doorway, covered in muck and slime and (in Harry’ s case) blood. Then there was a
scream.
“Ginny!”
It was Mrs. Weasley, who had been sit t ing crying in front of the fire. She leapt
to her feet , closely followed by Mr. Weasley, and both of them f lung themselves on
their daughter. Harry, however, was looking past them. Professor Dumbledore was
standing by the mantelpiece, beaming, next to Professor McGonagall, who was taking
great , steadying gasps, clutching her chest . Fawkes went whooshing past Harry’ s ear
and set t led on Dumbledore’ s shoulder, j ust as Harry found himself and Ron being
swept into Mrs. Weasleys tight embrace.
“You saved her! You saved her! How did you do it?”
“I think we’d all like to know that,” said Professor McGonagall weakly.
Mrs. Weasley let go of Harry, who hesitated for a moment , then walked over to
the desk and laid upon it the Sort ing Hat , the ruby-encrusted sword, and what
remained of Riddle’ s diary. Then he started telling them everything. For nearly a
quarter of an hour he spoke into the rapt silence: He told them about hearing the
disembodied voice, how Hermione had finally realized that he was hearing a basilisk in
the pipes; how he and Ron had followed the spiders into the forest , that Aragog had
told them where the last vict im of the basilisk had died; how he had guessed that
Moaning Myrt le had been the vict im, and that the ent rance to the Chamber of Secrets
might be in her bathroom…
“ Very well, ” Professor McGonagall prompted him as he paused, “ so you found
out where the ent rance was –– breaking a hundred school rules into pieces along the
way, I might add – but how on earth did you all get out of there alive, Potter?”
So Harry, his voice now growing hoarse from all this talking, told them about
Fawkes’ s t imely arrival and about the Sort ing Hat giving him the sword. But then he
faltered. He had so far avoided mentioning Riddle’s diary –– or Ginny. She was standing
with her head against Mrs. Weasley’ s shoulder, and tears were st ill coursing silent ly
down her cheeks. What if they expelled her? Harry thought in panic. Riddle’ s diary
didn’ t work anymore … How could they prove it had been he who’ d made her did it
all?
Inst inct ively, Harry looked at Dumbledore, who smiled faint ly, the f irelight
glancing off his half–moon spectacles.
“What interests me most ,” said Dumbledore gent ly, “ is how Lord Voldemort
managed to enchant Ginny, when my sources tell me he is current ly in hiding in the
forests of Albania.”
Relief –– warm, sweeping, glorious relief –– swept over Harry. “W–what ’ s that?”
said Mr. Weasley in a stunned voice. “ YouKnow–Who? En–enchant Ginny? But Ginny’ s
not … Ginny hasn’t been … has she?”
“ It was this diary,” said Harry quickly, picking it up and showing it to
Dumbledore. “Riddle wrote it when he was sixteen…”
Dumbledore took the diary from Harry and peered keenly down his long,
crooked nose at its burnt and soggy pages.
“ Brilliant ,” he said sof t ly. “Of course, he was probably the most brilliant
student Hogwarts has ever seen.” He turned around to the Weasleys, who were looking
utterly bewildered.
“ Very few people know that Lord Voldemort was once called Tom Riddle. I
taught him myself, fif ty years ago, at Hogwarts. He disappeared after leaving the
school … t raveled far and wide … sank so deeply into the Dark Arts, consorted with
the very worst of our kind, underwent so many dangerous, magical t ransformat ions,
that when he resurfaced as Lord Voldemort , he was barely recognizable. Hardly
anyone connected Lord Voldemort with the clever, handsome boy who was once Head
Boy here.”
“ But , Ginny,” said Mrs. Weasley. “What ’ s our Ginny got to do with – with ––
him?”
“His d–diary!” Ginny sobbed. “I’ve b–been writing in it, and he’s been w–writing
back all year ––”
“Ginny!” said Mr. Weasley, f labbergasted. “ Haven’ t I taught you anything.
What have I always told you?Never t rust anything that can think for itself if you can’ t
see where it keeps its brain? Why didn’ t you show the diary to me, or your mother?A
suspicious object like that, it was clearly full of Dark Magic –”
“ I d–didn’ t know,” sobbed Ginny. “ I found it inside one of the books Mum got
me. I th–thought someone had just left it in there and forgotten about it ––”
“Miss Weasley should go up to the hospital wing right away,” Dumbledore
interrupted in a firm voice. “ This has been a terrible ordeal for her. There will be no
punishment . Older and wiser wizards than she have been hoodwinked by Lord
Voldemort .” He st rode over to the door and opened it . “ Bed rest and perhaps a large,
steaming mug of hot chocolate. I always find that cheers me up,” he added, twinkling
kindly down at her. “ You will find that Madam Pomfrey is st ill awake. She’ s j ust giving
out Mandrake juice –– I daresay the basilisk’s victims will be waking up any moment.”
“So Hermione’s okay!” said Ron brightly.
“There has been no lasting harm done, Ginny,” said Dumbledore.
Mrs. Weasley led Ginny out , and Mr. Weasley followed, st ill looking deeply
shaken.
“ You know, Minerva,” Professor Dumbledore said thought fully to Professor
McGonagall, “ I think all this merits a good feast . Might I ask you to go and alert the
kitchens?”
“ Right ,” said Professor McGonagall crisply, also moving to the door. “ I’ ll leave
you to deal with Potter and Weasley, shall I?”
“Certainly,” said Dumbledore.
She left , and Harry and Ron gazed uncertainly at Dumbledore. What exactly
had Professor McGonagall meant , deal with them?Surely – surely – they weren’ t about
to be punished?
“ I seem to remember telling you both that I would have to expel you if you
broke any more school rules, said Dumbledore.
Ron opened his mouth in horror.
“Which goes to show that the best of us must somet imes eat our words,”
Dumbledore went on, smiling. “ You will both receive Special Awards for Services to
the School and –– let me see – yes, I think two hundred points apiece for Gryffindor.”
Ron went as bright ly pink as Lockhart ’ s valent ine flowers and closed his mouth
again.
“ But one of us seems to be keeping might ily quiet about his part in this
dangerous adventure,” Dumbledore added. “Why so modest, Gilderoy?”
Harry gave a start . He had completely forgotten about Lockhart. He turned and
saw that Lockhart was standing in a corner of the room, st ill wearing his vague smile.
When Dumbledore addressed him, Lockhart looked over his shoulder to see who he was
talking to.
“ Professor Dumbledore,” Ron said quickly, “ there was an accident down in the
Chamber of Secrets. Professor Lockhart ––”
“ Am I a professor?” said Lockhart in mild surprise. “ Goodness. I expect I was
hopeless, was I?”
“ He t ried to do a Memory Charm and the wand backfired,” Ron explained
quietly to Dumbledore.
“ Dear me,” said Dumbledore, shaking his head, his long silver mustache
quivering. “Impaled upon your own sword, Gilderoy!”
“Sword?” said Lockhart dimly. “Haven’t got a sword. That boy has, though.” He
pointed at Harry. “He’ll lend you one.”
“Would you mind taking Professor Lockhart up to the inf irmary, too?”
Dumbledore said to Ron. “I’d like a few more words with Harry…
Lockhart ambled out . Ron cast a curious look back at Dumbledore and Harry as
he closed the door. Dumbledore crossed to one of the chairs by the fire.
“ Sit down, Harry,” he said, and Harry sat , feeling unaccountably nervous.
“ First of all, Harry, I want to thank you,” said Dumbledore, eyes twinkling again. “ You
must have shown me real loyalty down in the Chamber. Nothing but that could have
called Fawkes to you.”
He st roked the phoenix, which had flut tered down onto his knee. Harry grinned
awkwardly as Dumbledore watched him.
“And so you met Tom Riddle,” said Dumbledore thoughtfully. “I imagine he was
most interested in you…”
Suddenly, something that was nagging at Harry came tumbling out of his
mouth.
“ Professor Dumbledore … Riddle said I’m like him. St range likenesses, he
said…
“ Did he, now?” said Dumbledore, looking thought fully at Harry from under his
thick silver eyebrows. “And what do you think, Harry?”
“ I don’ t think I’m like him!” said Harry, more loudly than he’ d intended. “ I
mean, I’m –– I’m in Gryffindor, I’m…”
But he fell silent, a lurking doubt resurfacing in his mind.
“ Professor,” he started again after a moment . “ The Sort ing Hat told me I’ d ––
I’ d have done well in Slytherin. Everyone thought I was Slytherin’ s heir for a while …
because I can speak Parseltongue …”
“ You can speak Parseltongue, Harry,” said Dumbledore calmly, “ because Lord
Voldemort –– who is the last remaining ancestor of Salazar Slytherin –– can speak
Parseltongue. Unless I’m much mistaken, he t ransferred some of his own powers to
you the night he gave you that scar. Not something he intended to do, I’m sure…”
“Voldemort put a bit of himself in me?” Harry said, thunderstruck.
“It certainly seems so.”
“ So I should be in Slytherin,” Harry said, looking desperately into Dumbledore’ s
face. “The Sorting Hat could see Slytherin’s power in me, and it ––”
“ Put you in Gryff indor,” said Dumbledore calmly. “ Listen to me, Harry. You
happen to have many qualities Salazar Slytherin prized in his hand–picked students. His
own very rare gift , Parseltongue – resourcefulness – determination –– a certain
disregard for rules,” he added, his mustache quivering again. “ Yet the Sort ing Hat
placed you in Gryffindor. You know why that was. Think.”
“It only put me in Gryffindor,” said Harry in a defeated voice, “because I asked
not to go in Slytherin…”
‘Exact ly, “ said Dumbledore, beaming once more. “Which makes you very
different from Tom Riddle. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we t ruly are, far
more than our abilit ies.” Harry sat mot ionless in his chair, stunned. “ If you want
proof, Harry, that you belong in Gryffindor, I suggest you look more closely at this.”
Dumbledore reached across to Professor McGonagall’ s desk, picked up the
blood–stained silver sword, and handed it to Harry. Dully, Harry turned it over, the
rubies blazing in the firelight. And then he saw the name engraved just below the hilt.
Godric Gryffindor
“Only a t rue Gryffindor could have pulled that out of the hat , Harry,” said
Dumbledore simply.
For a minute, neither of them spoke. Then Dumbledore pulled open one of the
drawers in Professor McGonagall’s desk and took out a quill and a bottle of ink.
“What you need, Harry, is some food and sleep. I suggest you go down to the
feast , while I write to Azkaban –– we need our gamekeeper back. And I must draft an
advertisement for the Daily Prophet , too,” he added thought fully. “We’ ll be needing a
new Defense Against the Dark Art s teacher… Dear me, we do seem to run through
them, don’t we?”
Harry got up and crossed to the door. He had j ust reached for the handle,
however, when the door burst open so violent ly that it bounced back off the wall.
Lucius Malfoy stood there, fury in his face. And cowering behind his legs, heavily
wrapped in bandages, was Dobby.
“Good evening, Lucius,” said Dumbledore pleasantly.
Mr. Malfoy almost knocked Harry over as he swept into the room. Dobby went
scurrying in after him, crouching at the hem of his cloak, a look of abj ect terror on his
face. The elf was carrying a stained rag with which he was at tempt ing to finish
cleaning Mr. Malfoys shoes. Apparent ly Mr. Malfoy had set out in a great hurry, for not
only were his shoes half–polished, but his usually sleek hair was disheveled. Ignoring
the elf bobbing apologet ically around his ankles, he fixed his cold eyes upon
Dumbledore.
“ So!” he said “ You’ ve come back. The governors suspended you, but you st ill
saw fit to return to Hogwarts.”
“Well, you see, Lucius,” said Dumbledore, smiling serenely, “ the other eleven
governors contacted me today. It was something like being caught in a hailstorm of
owls, to tell the t ruth. They’ d heard that Arthur Weasleys daughter had been killed
and wanted me back here at once. They seemed to think I was the best man for the
j ob after all. Very st range tales they told me, too … Several of them seemed to think
that you had threatened to curse their families if they didn’ t agree to suspend me in
the first place.”
Mr. Malfoy went even paler than usual, but his eyes were still slits of fury.
“So –– have you stopped the at tacks yet?” he sneered. “ Have you caught the
culprit?”
“We have,” said Dumbledore, with a smile.
“Well?”said Mr. Malfoy sharply. “Who is it?”
“ The same person as last t ime, Lucius,” said Dumbledore. “ But this t ime, Lord
Voldemort was acting through somebody else. By means of this diary.”
He held up the small black book with the large hole through the center,
watching Mr. Malfoy closely. Harry, however, was watching Dobby.
The elf was doing something very odd. His great eyes fixed meaningfully on
Harry, he kept point ing at the diary, then at Mr. Malfoy, and then hit t ing himself hard
on the head with his fist.
“I see…” said Mr. Malfoy slowly to Dumbledore.
“ A clever plan,” said Dumbledore in a level voice, st ill staring Mr. Malfoy
straight in the eye. “Because if Harry here” –– Mr. Malfoy shot Harry a swift, sharp look
–– “ and his f riend Ron hadn’ t discovered this book, why –– Ginny Weasley might have
taken all the blame. No one would ever have been able to prove she hadn’ t acted of
her own free will …”
Mr. Malfoy said nothing. His face was suddenly mask-like.
“ And imagine,” Dumbledore went on, “ what might have happened then … The
Weasleys are one of our most prominent pure–blood families. Imagine the effect on
Arthur Weasley and his Muggle Protect ion Act , if his own daughter was discovered
at tacking and – killing Muggle–borns … Very fortunate the diary was discovered, and
Riddle’ s memories wiped from it . “Who knows what the consequences might have
been otherwise…”
Mr. Malfoy forced himself to speak.
“Very fortunate,” he said stiffly.
And still, behind his back, Dobby was pointing, first to the diary, then to Lucius
Malfoy, then punching himself in the head. And Harry suddenly understood. He nodded
at Dobby, and Dobby backed into a corner, now twisting his ears in punishment.
“ Don’ t you want to know how Ginny got hold of that diary, Mr. Malfoy?” said
Harry.
Lucius Malfoy rounded on him.
“How should I know how the stupid little girl got hold of it?” he said.
“ Because you gave it to her,” said Harry. “ In Flourish and Blot ts. You picked up
her old Transfiguration book and slipped the diary inside it, didn’t you?”
He saw Mr. Malfoy’s white hands clench and unclench.
“Prove it,” he hissed
.“Oh, no one will be able to do that ,” said Dumbledore, smiling at Harry. “ Not
now that Riddle has vanished f rom the book. On the other hand, I would advise you,
Lucius, not to go giving out any more of Lord Voldemort ’ s old school things. If any
more of them find their way into innocent hands, I think Arthur Weasley, for one, will
make sure they are traced back to you…”
Lucius Malfoy stood for a moment , and Harry dist inct ly saw his right hand
twitch as though he was longing to reach for his wand. Instead, he turned to his house–
elf “We’re going, Dobby!”
He wrenched open the door and as the elf came hurrying up to him, he kicked
him right through it . They could hear Dobby squealing with pain all the way along the
corridor. Harry stood for a moment, thinking hard. Then it came to him –
“ Professor Dumbledore,” he said hurriedly. “ Can I give that diary back to Mr.
Malfoy, please?”
“ Certainly, Harry,” said Dumbledore calmly. “ But hurry. The feast ,
remember…”
Harry grabbed the diary and dashed out of the office. He could hear Dobby’ s
squeals of pain receding around the corner. Quickly, wondering if this plan could
possibly work, Harry took off one of his shoes, pulled off his slimy, filthy sock, and
stuffed the diary into it. Then he ran down the dark corridor.
He caught up with them at the top of the stairs.
“Mr. Malfoy,” he gasped, skidding to a halt, “I’ve got something for you ––”
And he forced the smelly sock into Lucius Malfoy’s hand.
“What the ––?”
Mr. Malfoy ripped the sock off the diary, threw it aside, then looked furiously
from the ruined book to Harry.
“ You’ ll meet the same st icky end as your parents one of these days, Harry
Potter,” he said softly. “They were meddlesome fools, too.”
He turned to go.
“Come, Dobby. I said, come.”
But Dobby didn’ t move. He was holding up Harry’ s disgust ing, slimy sock, and
looking at it as though it were a priceless treasure.
“Master has given a sock,” said the elf in wonderment . “Master gave it to
Dobby.”
“What’s that?” spat Mr. Malfoy. “What did you say?”
“Got a sock,” said Dobby in disbelief. “Master threw it , and Dobby caught it ,
and Dobby –– Dobby is free. “
Lucius Malfoy stood frozen, staring at the elf. Then he lunged at Harry.
“You’ve lost me my servant, boy!”
But Dobby shouted, “You shall not harm Harry Potter!”
There was a loud bang, and Mr. Malfoy was thrown backward. He crashed down
the stairs, three at a t ime, landing in a crumpled heap on the landing below. He got
up, his face livid, and pulled out his wand, but Dobby raised a long, threatening
finger.
“ You shall go now,” he said f iercely, point ing down at Mr. Malfoy. “ You shall
not touch Harry Potter. You shall go now.”
Lucius Malfoy had no choice. With a last, incensed stare at the pair of them, he
swung his cloak around him and hurried out of sight.
“ Harry Pot ter freed Dobby!” said the elf shrilly, gazing up at Harry, moonlight
from the nearest window reflected in his orb–like eyes. “Harry Potter set Dobby free!”
“ Least I could do, Dobby,” said Harry, grinning. “ Just promise never to t ry and
save my life again.”
The elf’s ugly brown face split suddenly into a wide, toothy smile.
“ I’ ve j ust got one quest ion, Dobby,” said Harry as Dobby pulled on Harry’ s sock
with shaking hands. “ You told me all this had nothing to do with He–Who–Must–Not–Be–
Named, remember? Well ––”
“ It was a clue, sir,” said Dobby, his eyes widening, as though this was obvious.
“Was giving you a clue. The Dark Lord, before he changed his name, could be freely
named, you see?”
“Right,” said Harry weakly. “Well, I’d better go. There’s a feast, and my friend
Hermione should be awake by now…
Dobby threw his arms around Harry’s middle and hugged him.
“ Harry Pot ter is greater by far than Dobby knew!” he sobbed. “ Farewell, Harry
Potter!”
And with a final loud crack, Dobby disappeared.
Harry had been to several Hogwarts feasts, but never one quite like this.
Everybody was in their paj amas, and the celebrat ion lasted all night . Harry didn’ t
know whether the best bit was Hermione running toward him, screaming “ You solved
it ! You solved it !” or Just in hurrying over from the Hufflepuff table to wring. his hand
and apologize endlessly for suspect ing him, or Hagrid turning up at half past three,
cuffing Harry and Ron so hard on the shoulders that they were knocked into their
plates of t rifle, or his and Ron’ s four hundred points for Gryf findor securing the House
Cup for the second year running, or Professor McGonagall standing up to tell them all
that the exams had been canceled as a school t reat (“ Oh, no!” said Hermione), or
Dumbledore announcing that , unfortunately, Professor Lockhart would be unable to
return next year, owing to the fact that he needed to go away and get his memory
back. Quite a few of the teachers joined in the cheering that greeted this news.
“ Shame,” said Ron, helping himself to a jam doughnut . “ He was start ing to
grow on me.”
The rest of the final term passed in a haze of blazing sunshine. Hogwarts was
back to normal with only a few, small differences – Defense Against the Dark Arts
classes were canceled (“ but we’ ve had plenty of pract ice at that anyway,” Ron told a
disgruntled Hermione) and Lucius Malfoy had been sacked as a school governor. Draco
was no longer st rut t ing around the school as though he owned the place. On the
cont rary, he looked resent ful and sulky. On the other hand, Ginny Weasley was
perfectly happy again.
Too soon, it was t ime for the j ourney home on the Hogwarts Express. Harry,
Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, and Ginny got a compartment to themselves. They
made the most of the last few hours in which they were allowed to do magic before
the holidays. They played Exploding Snap, set off the very last of Fred and George’ s
Filibuster fireworks, and pract iced disarming each other by magic. Harry was get t ing
very good at it.
They were almost at King’s Cross when Harry remembered something.
“Ginny – what did you see Percy doing, that he didn’t want you to tell anyone?”
“Oh, that,” said Ginny, giggling. “Well –Percy’ s got a girlfriend.” Fred dropped
a stack of books on George’s head.
“What?”
“ It ’ s that Ravenclaw prefect , Penelope Clearwater,” said Ginny. “ That ’ s who
he was writ ing to all last summer. He’ s been meet ing her all over the school in secret .
I walked in on them kissing in an empty classroom one day. He was so upset when she
was –– you know – attacked. You won’t tease him, will you?” she added anxiously.
“Wouldn’ t dream of it ,” said Fred, who was looking like his birthday had come
early.
“Definitely not,” said George, sniggering.
The Hogwarts Express slowed and finally stopped.
Harry pulled out his quill and a bit of parchment and turned to Ron and
Hermione.
“ This is called a telephone number,” he told Ron, scribbling it twice, tearing
the parchment in two, and handing it to them. “I told your dad how to use a telephone
last summer – he’ ll know. Call me at the Dursleys’ , okay? I can’ t stand another two
months with only Dudley to talk to…”
“ Your aunt and uncle will be proud, though, won’ t they?” said Hermione as
they got off the t rain and j oined the crowd thronging toward the enchanted barrier.
“When they hear what you did this year?”
“ Proud?” said Harry. “ Are you crazy? All those t imes I could’ ve died, and I
didn’t manage it? They’ll be furious…”
And together they walked back through the gateway to the Muggle world.”

Tentang taoefiq27

I'm only usual man
Pos ini dipublikasikan di Harry Potter, Novel dan tag . Tandai permalink.

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