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THE JOURNEY FROM PLATFORM NINE AND THREE QUARTERS 3



Must be, said Percy, frowning at Dumbledore. Its odd, because he usually gives us a reason why were not allowed to go somewherethe forests full of dangerous beasts, everyone knows that. I do think he might have told us prefects, at least.

And now, before we go to bed, let us sing the school song! cried Dumbledore. Harry noticed that the other teachers smiles had become rather fixed.

Dumbledore gave his wand a little flick, as if he was trying to get a fly off the end, and a long golden ribbon flew out of it, which rose high above the tables and twisted itself, snakelike, into words.

Everyone pick their favorite tune, said Dumbledore, and off we go!

And the school bellowed:

 

 

Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts,

Teach us something please,

Whether we be old and bald

Or young with scabby knees,

 

 

Our heads could do with filling

With some interesting stuff,

For now theyre bare and full of air,

Dead flies and bits of fluff,

 

 

So teach us things worth knowing,

Bring back what weve forgot,

Just do your best, well do the rest,

And learn until our brains all rot.

 

 

Everybody finished the song at different times. At last, only the Weasley twins were left singing along to a very slow funeral march. Dumbledore conducted their last few lines with his wand and when they had finished, he was one of those who clapped loudest.

Ah, music, he said, wiping his eyes. A magic beyond all we do here! And now, bedtime. Off you trot!

The Gryffindor first years followed Percy through the chattering crowds, out of the Great Hall, and up the marble staircase. Harrys legs were like lead again, but only because he was so tired and full of food. He was too sleepy even to be surprised that the people in the portraits along the corridors whispered and pointed as they passed, or that twice Percy led them through doorways hidden behind sliding panels and hanging tapestries. They climbed more staircases, yawning and dragging their feet, and Harry was just wondering how much farther they had to go when they came to a sudden halt.

A bundle of walking sticks was floating in midair ahead of them, and as Percy took a step toward them they started throwing themselves at him.

Peeves, Percy whispered to the first years. A poltergeist. He raised his voice, Peevesshow yourself!

A loud, rude sound, like the air being let out of a balloon, answered.

Do you want me to go to the Bloody Baron?

There was a pop, and a little man with wicked, dark eyes and a wide mouth appeared, floating cross-legged in the air, clutching the walking sticks.



Oooooooh! he said, with an evil cackle. Ickle Firsties! What fun!

He swooped suddenly at them. They all ducked.

Go away, Peeves, or the Baronll hear about this, I mean it! barked Percy.

Peeves stuck out his tongue and vanished, dropping the walking sticks on Nevilles head. They heard him zooming away, rattling coats of armor as he passed.

You want to watch out for Peeves, said Percy, as they set off again. The Bloody Barons the only one who can control him, he wont even listen to us prefects. Here we are.

At the very end of the corridor hung a portrait of a very fat woman in a pink silk dress.

Password? she said.

Caput Draconis, said Percy, and the portrait swung forward to reveal a round hole in the wall. They all scrambled through itNeville needed a leg upand found themselves in the Gryffindor common room, a cozy, round room full of squashy armchairs.

Percy directed the girls through one door to their dormitory and the boys through another. At the top of a spiral staircasethey were obviously in one of the towersthey found their beds at last: five four posters hung with deep red, velvet curtains. Their trunks had already been brought up. Too tired to talk much, they pulled on their pajamas and fell into bed.

 

Great food, isnt it? Ron muttered to Harry through the hangings. Get

off,

Scabbers! Hes chewing my sheets.

 

Harry was going to ask Ron if hed had any of the treacle tart, but he fell asleep almost at once.

Perhaps Harry had eaten a bit too much, because he had a very strange dream. He was wearing Professor Quirrells turban, which kept talking to him, telling him he must transfer to Slytherin at once, because it was his destiny. Harry told the turban he didnt want to be in Slytherin; it got heavier and heavier; he tried to pull it off but it tightened painfullyand there was Malfoy, laughing at him as he struggled with itthen Malfoy turned into the hook nosed teacher, Snape, whose laugh became high and coldthere was a burst of green light and Harry woke, sweating and shaking.

He rolled over and fell asleep again, and when he woke next day, he didnt remember the dream at all.

 

8. THE POTIONS MASTER

 

There, look.

Where?

Next to the tall kid with the red hair.

Wearing the glasses?

Did you see his face?

Did you see his scar?

Whispers followed Harry from the moment he left his dormitory the next day. People lining up outside classrooms stood on tiptoe to get a look at him, or doubled back to pass him in the corridors again, staring. Harry wished they wouldnt, because he was trying to concentrate on finding his way to classes.

There were a hundred and forty two staircases at Hogwarts: wide, sweeping ones; narrow, rickety ones; some that led somewhere different on a Friday; some with a vanishing step halfway up that you had to remember to jump. Then there were doors that wouldnt open unless you asked politely, or tickled them in exactly the right place, and doors that werent really doors at all, but solid walls just pretending. It was also very hard to remember where anything was, because it all seemed to move around a lot. The people in the portraits kept going to visit each other, and Harry was sure the coats of armor could walk.

The ghosts didnt help, either. It was always a nasty shock when one of them glided suddenly through a door you were trying to open. Nearly Headless Nick was always happy to point new Gryffindors in the right direction, but Peeves the Poltergeist was worth two locked doors and a trick staircase if you met him when you were late for class. He would drop wastepaper baskets on your head, pull rugs from under your feet, pelt you with bits of chalk, or sneak up behind you, invisible, grab your nose, and screech, GOT YOUR CONK!

Even worse than Peeves, if that was possible, was the caretaker, Argus Filch. Harry and Ron managed to get on the wrong side of him on their very first morning. Filch found them trying to force their way through a door that unluckily turned out to be the entrance to the out of bounds corridor on the third floor. He wouldnt believe they were lost, was sure they were trying to break into it on purpose, and was threatening to lock them in the dungeons when they were rescued by Professor Quirrell, who was passing.

Filch owned a cat called Mrs. Norris, a scrawny, dust colored creature with bulging, lamp like eyes just like Filchs. She patrolled the corridors alone. Break a rule in front of her, put just one toe out of line, and shed whisk off for Filch, whod appear, wheezing, two seconds later. Filch knew the secret passageways of the school better than anyone (except perhaps the Weasley twins) and could pop up as suddenly as any of the ghosts. The students all hated him, and it was the dearest ambition of many to give Mrs. Norris a good kick.

And then, once you had managed to find them, there were the classes themselves. There was a lot more to magic, as Harry quickly found out, than waving your wand and saying a few funny words.

They had to study the night skies through their telescopes every Wednesday at midnight and learn the names of different stars and the movements of the planets. Three times a week they went out to the greenhouses behind the castle to study Herbology, with a dumpy little witch called Professor Sprout, where they learned how to take care of all the strange plants and fungi, and found out what they were used for.

Easily the most boring class was History of Magic, which was the only one taught by a ghost. Professor Binns had been very old indeed when he had fallen asleep in front of the staff room fire and got up next morning to teach, leaving his body behind him. Binns droned on and on while they scribbled down names and dates, and got Emetic the Evil and Uric the Oddball mixed up.

Professor Flitwick, the Charms teacher, was a tiny little wizard who had to stand on a pile of books to see over his desk. At the start of their first class he took the roll call, and when he reached Harrys name he gave an excited squeak and toppled out of sight.

Professor McGonagall was again different. Harry had been quite right to think she wasnt a teacher to cross. Strict and clever, she gave them a talking to the moment they sat down in her first class.

Transfiguration is some of the most complex and dangerous magic you will learn at Hogwarts, she said. Anyone messing around in my class will leave and not come back. You have been warned.

Then she changed her desk into a pig and back again. They were all very impressed and couldnt wait to get started, but soon realized they werent going to be changing the furniture into animals for a long time. After taking a lot of complicated notes, they were each given a match and started trying to turn it into a needle. By the end of the lesson, only Hermione Granger had made any difference to her match; Professor McGonagall showed the class how it had gone all silver and pointy and gave Hermione a rare smile.

The class everyone had really been looking forward to was Defense Against the Dark Arts, but Quirrells lessons turned out to be a bit of a joke. His classroom smelled strongly of garlic, which everyone said was to ward off a vampire hed met in Romania and was afraid would be coming back to get him one of these days. His turban, he told them, had been given to him by an African prince as a thank you for getting rid of a troublesome zombie, but they werent sure they believed this story. For one thing, when Seamus Finnigan asked eagerly to hear how Quirrell had fought off the zombie, Quirrell went pink and started talking about the weather; for another, they had noticed that a funny smell hung around the turban, and the Weasley twins insisted that it was stuffed full of garlic as well, so that Quirrell was protected wherever he went.

Harry was very relieved to find out that he wasnt miles behind everyone else. Lots of people had come from Muggle families and, like him, hadnt had any idea that they were witches and wizards. There was so much to learn that even people like Ron didnt have much of a head start.

Friday was an important day for Harry and Ron. They finally managed to find their way down to the Great Hall for breakfast without getting lost once.

What have we got today? Harry asked Ron as he poured sugar on his porridge.

Double Potions with the Slytherins, said Ron. Snapes Head of Slytherin House. They say he always favors themwell be able to see if its true.

Wish McGonagall favored us, said Harry. Professor McGonagall was head of Gryffindor House, but it hadnt stopped her from giving them a huge pile of homework the day before.

Just then, the mail arrived. Harry had gotten used to this by now, but it had given him a bit of a shock on the first morning, when about a hundred owls had suddenly streamed into the Great Hall during breakfast, circling the tables until they saw their owners, and dropping letters and packages onto their laps.

Hedwig hadnt brought Harry anything so far. She sometimes flew in to nibble his ear and have a bit of toast before going off to sleep in the owlery with the other school owls. This morning, however, she fluttered down between the marmalade and the sugar bowl and dropped a note onto Harrys plate. Harry tore it open at once. It said, in a very untidy scrawl:

 

 

Dear Harry,

 

 

I know you get Friday afternoons off, so would you like to come and have a cup of tea with me around three?

 

 

I want to hear all about your first week. Send us an answer back with Hedwig.

 

 

Hagrid

 

Harry borrowed Rons quill, scribbled

Yes, please, see you later

on the back of the note, and sent Hedwig off again.

 

It was lucky that Harry had tea with Hagrid to look forward to, because the Potions lesson turned out to be the worst thing that had happened to him so far.

 

At the start-of-term banquet, Harry had gotten the idea that Professor Snape disliked him. By the end of the first Potions lesson, he knew hed been wrong. Snape didnt dislike Harryhe

hated

him.

 

Potions lessons took place down in one of the dungeons. It was colder here than up in the main castle, and would have been quite creepy enough without the pickled animals floating in glass jars all around the walls.

Snape, like Flitwick, started the class by taking the roll call, and like Flitwick, he paused at Harrys name.

 

Ah, Yes, he said softly, Harry Potter. Our new

celebrity.

 

Draco Malfoy and his friends Crabbe and Goyle sniggered behind their hands. Snape finished calling the names and looked up at the class. His eyes were black like Hagrids, but they had none of Hagrids warmth. They were cold and empty and made you think of dark tunnels.

You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potionmaking, he began. He spoke in barely more than a whisper, but they caught every wordlike Professor McGonagall, Snape had the gift of keeping a class silent without effort. As there is little foolish wand waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I dont expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper deathif you arent as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach.

More silence followed this little speech. Harry and Ron exchanged looks with raised eyebrows. Hermione Granger was on the edge of her seat and looked desperate to start proving that she wasnt a dunderhead.

Potter! said Snape suddenly. What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?

 

Powdered root of what to an infusion of what?

Harry glanced at Ron, who looked as stumped as he was; Hermiones hand had shot into the air.

 

I dont know, sir, said Harry.

Snapes lips curled into a sneer.

Tut, tutfame clearly isnt everything.

He ignored Hermiones hand.

Lets try again. Potter, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?

Hermione stretched her hand as high into the air as it would go without her leaving her seat, but Harry didnt have the faintest idea what a bezoar was. He tried not to look at Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, who were shaking with laughter.

I dont know, sir.

 

Thought you wouldnt open a book before coming, eh, Potter? Harry forced himself to keep looking straight into those cold eyes. He had looked through his books at the Dursleys, but did Snape expect him to remember everything in

One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi?

 

Snape was still ignoring Hermiones quivering hand.

What is the difference, Potter, between monkshood and wolfsbane?

At this, Hermione stood up, her hand stretching toward the dungeon ceiling.

I dont know, said Harry quietly. I think Hermione does, though, why dont you try her?

A few people laughed; Harry caught Seamuss eye, and Seamus winked. Snape, however, was not pleased.

Sit down, he snapped at Hermione. For your information, Potter, asphodel and wormwood make a sleeping potion so powerful it is known as the Draught of Living Death. A bezoar is a stone taken from the stomach of a goat and it will save you from most poisons. As for monkshood and wolfsbane, they are the same plant, which also goes by the name of aconite. Well? Why arent you all copying that down?

There was a sudden rummaging for quills and parchment. Over the noise, Snape said, And a point will be taken from Gryffindor House for your cheek, Potter.

Things didnt improve for the Gryffindors as the Potions lesson continued. Snape put them all into pairs and set them to mixing up a simple potion to cure boils. He swept around in his long black cloak, watching them weigh dried nettles and crush snake fangs, criticizing almost everyone except Malfoy, whom he seemed to like. He was just telling everyone to look at the perfect way Malfoy had stewed his horned slugs when clouds of acid green smoke and a loud hissing filled the dungeon. Neville had somehow managed to melt Seamuss cauldron into a twisted blob, and their potion was seeping across the stone floor, burning holes in peoples shoes. Within seconds, the whole class was standing on their stools while Neville, who had been drenched in the potion when the cauldron collapsed, moaned in pain as angry red boils sprang up all over his arms and legs.

Idiot boy! snarled Snape, clearing the spilled potion away with one wave of his wand. I suppose you added the porcupine quills before taking the cauldron off the fire?

Neville whimpered as boils started to pop up all over his nose.

Take him up to the hospital wing, Snape spat at Seamus. Then he rounded on Harry and Ron, who had been working next to Neville.

YouPotterwhy didnt you tell him not to add the quills? Thought hed make you look good if he got it wrong, did you? Thats another point youve lost for Gryffindor.

This was so unfair that Harry opened his mouth to argue, but Ron kicked him behind their cauldron.

Dont push it, he muttered, Ive heard Snape can turn very nasty.

 

As they climbed the steps out of the dungeon an hour later, Harrys mind was racing and his spirits were low. Hed lost two points for Gryffindor in his very first week

why

did Snape hate him so much?

 

Cheer up, said Ron, Snapes always taking points off Fred and George. Can I come and meet Hagrid with you?

At five to three they left the castle and made their way across the grounds. Hagrid lived in a small wooden house on the edge of the forbidden forest. A crossbow and a pair of galoshes were outside the front door.

 

When Harry knocked they heard a frantic scrabbling from inside and several booming barks. Then Hagrids voice rang out, saying,

Back,

Fang

back.

 

Hagrids big, hairy face appeared in the crack as he pulled the door open.

 

Hang on, he said.

Back,

Fang.

 

He let them in, struggling to keep a hold on the collar of an enormous black boarhound.

There was only one room inside. Hams and pheasants were hanging from the ceiling, a copper kettle was boiling on the open fire, and in the corner stood a massive bed with a patchwork quilt over it.

Make yerselves at home, said Hagrid, letting go of Fang, who bounded straight at Ron and started licking his ears. Like Hagrid, Fang was clearly not as fierce as he looked.

This is Ron, Harry told Hagrid, who was pouring boiling water into a large teapot and putting rock cakes onto a plate.

Another Weasley, eh? said Hagrid, glancing at Rons freckles. I spent half me life chasin yer twin brothers away from the forest.

The rock cakes were shapeless lumps with raisins that almost broke their teeth, but Harry and Ron pretended to be enjoying them as they told Hagrid all about their first lessons. Fang rested his head on Harrys knee and drooled all over his robes.

Harry and Ron were delighted to hear Hagrid call Fitch that old git.

An as fer that cat, Mrs. Norris, Id like ter introduce her to Fang sometime. Dyeh know, every time I go up ter the school, she follows me everywhere? Cant get rid of herFitch puts her up to it.

Harry told Hagrid about Snapes lesson. Hagrid, like Ron, told Harry not to worry about it, that Snape liked hardly any of the students.

 

But he seemed to really

hate

me.

 

Rubbish! said Hagrid. Why should he?

Yet Harry couldnt help thinking that Hagrid didnt quite meet his eyes when he said that.

Hows yer brother Charlie? Hagrid asked Ron. I liked him a lotgreat with animals.

 

Harry wondered if Hagrid had changed the subject on purpose. While Ron told Hagrid all about Charlies work with dragons, Harry picked up a piece of paper that was lying on the table under the tea cozy. It was a cutting from the

Daily Prophet:

 

GRINGOTTS BREAK-IN LATEST

 

Investigations continue into the break in at Gringotts on 31 July, widely believed to be the work of Dark wizards or witches unknown.

Gringotts goblins today insisted that nothing had been taken. The vault that was searched had in fact been emptied the same day.

But were not telling you what was in there, so keep your noses out if you know whats good for you, said a Gringotts spokesgoblin this afternoon.

 

Harry remembered Ron telling him on the train that someone had tried to rob Gringotts, but Ron hadnt mentioned the date.

Hagrid! said Harry, that Gringotts break in happened on my birthday! It mightve been happening while we were there!

 

There was no doubt about it, Hagrid definitely didnt meet Harrys eyes this time. He grunted and offered him another rock cake. Harry read the story again.

The vault that was searched had in fact been emptied earlier that same day.

Hagrid had emptied vault seven hundred and thirteen, if you could call it emptying, taking out that grubby little package. Had that been what the thieves were looking for?

 

As Harry and Ron walked back to the castle for dinner, their pockets weighed down with rock cakes theyd been too polite to refuse, Harry thought that none of the lessons hed had so far had given him as much to think about as tea with Hagrid. Had Hagrid collected that package just in time? Where was it now? And did Hagrid know something about Snape that he didnt want to tell Harry?

 

THE MIDNIGHT DUEL

 

Harry had never believed he would meet a boy he hated more than Dudley, but that was before he met Draco Malfoy. Still, first year Gryffindors only had Potions with the Slytherins, so they didnt have to put up with Malfoy much. Or at least, they didnt until they spotted a notice pinned up in the Gryffindor common room that made them all groan. Flying lessons would be starting on Thursdayand Gryffindor and Slytherin would be learning together.

Typical, said Harry darkly. Just what I always wanted. To make a fool of myself on a broomstick in front of Malfoy.

He had been looking forward to learning to fly more than anything else.

You dont know that youll make a fool of yourself, said Ron reasonably. Anyway, I know Malfoys always going on about how good he is at Quidditch, but I bet thats all talk.

Malfay certainly did talk about flying a lot. He complained loudly about first years never getting on the house Quidditch teams and told long, boastful stories that always seemed to end with him narrowly escaping Muggles in helicopters. He wasnt the only one, though: the way Seamus Finnigan told it, hed spent most of his childhood zooming around the countryside on his broomstick. Even Ron would tell anyone whod listen about the time hed almost hit a hang glider on Charlies old broom. Everyone from wizarding families talked about Quidditch constantly. Ron had already had a big argument with Dean Thomas, who shared their dormitory, about soccer. Ron couldnt see what was exciting about a game with only one ball where no one was allowed to fly. Harry had caught Ron prodding Deans poster of West Ham soccer team, trying to make the players move.

Neville had never been on a broomstick in his life, because his grandmother had never let him near one. Privately, Harry felt shed had good reason, because Neville managed to have an extraordinary number of accidents even with both feet on the ground.

 

Hermione Granger was almost as nervous about flying as Neville was. This was something you couldnt learn by heart out of a booknot that she hadnt tried. At breakfast on Thursday she bored them all stupid with flying tips shed gotten out of a library book called

Quidditch Through the Ages

. Neville was hanging on to her every word, desperate for anything that might help him hang on to his broomstick later, but everybody else was very pleased when Hermiones lecture was interrupted by the arrival of the mail.

 

Harry hadnt had a single letter since Hagrids note, something that Malfoy had been quick to notice, of course. Malfoys eagle owl was always bringing him packages of sweets from home, which he opened gloatingly at the Slytherin table.

A barn owl brought Neville a small package from his grandmother. He opened it excitedly and showed them a glass ball the size of a large marble, which seemed to be full of white smoke.

Its a Remembrall! he explained. Gran knows I forget thingsthis tells you if theres something youve forgotten to do. Look, you hold it tight like this and if it turns redoh His face fell, because the Remembrall had suddenly glowed scarlet, youve forgotten something

Neville was trying to remember what hed forgotten when Draco Malfoy, who was passing the Gryffindor table, snatched the Remembrall out of his hand.

Harry and Ron jumped to their feet. They were half hoping for a reason to fight Malfay, but Professor McGonagall, who could spot trouble quicker than any teacher in the school, was there in a flash.

Whats going on?

Malfoys got my Remembrall, Professor.

Scowling, Malfoy quickly dropped the Remembrall back on the table.

Just looking, he said, and he sloped away with Crabbe and Goyle behind him.

At three thirty that afternoon, Harry, Ron, and the other Gryffindors hurried down the front steps onto the grounds for their first flying lesson. It was a clear, breezy day, and the grass rippled under their feet as they marched down the sloping lawns toward a smooth, flat lawn on the opposite side of the grounds to the forbidden forest, whose trees were swaying darkly in the distance.

The Slytherins were already there, and so were twenty broomsticks lying in neat lines on the ground. Harry had heard Fred and George Weasley complain about the school brooms, saying that some of them started to vibrate if you flew too high, or always flew slightly to the left.

Their teacher, Madam Hooch, arrived. She had short, gray hair, and yellow eyes like a hawk.

Well, what are you all waiting for? she barked. Everyone stand by a broomstick. Come on, hurry up.

Harry glanced down at his broom. It was old and some of the twigs stuck out at odd angles.

Stick out your right hand over your broom, called Madam Hooch at the front, and say Up!

UP! everyone shouted.

Harrys broom jumped into his hand at once, but it was one of the few that did. Hermione Grangers had simply rolled over on the ground, and Nevilles hadnt moved at all. Perhaps brooms, like horses, could tell when you were afraid, thought Harry; there was a quaver in Nevilles voice that said only too clearly that he wanted to keep his feet on the ground.

Madam Hooch then showed them how to mount their brooms without sliding off the end, and walked up and down the rows correcting their grips. Harry and Ron were delighted when she told Malfoy hed been doing it wrong for years.

Now, when I blow my whistle, you kick off from the ground, hard, said Madam Hooch. Keep your brooms steady, rise a few feet, and then come straight back down by leaning forward slightly. On my whistlethreetwo

But Neville, nervous and jumpy and frightened of being left on the ground, pushed off hard before the whistle had touched Madam Hoochs lips.

Come back, boy! she shouted, but Neville was rising straight up like a cork shot out of a bottletwelve feettwenty feet. Harry saw his scared white face look down at the ground falling away, saw him gasp, slip sideways off the broom and

WHAMa thud and a nasty crack and Neville lay facedown on the grass in a heap. His broomstick was still rising higher and higher, and started to drift lazily toward the Forbidden Forest and out of sight.





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