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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 3 страница



dirty rags swimming in gray water.

 

"What's this?" he asked Aunt Petunia. Her lips tightened as they always

did if he dared to ask a question.

 

"Your new school uniform," she said.

 

Harry looked in the bowl again.

 

"Oh," he said, "I didn't realize it had to be so wet."

 

"Don't be stupid," snapped Aunt Petunia. "I'm dyeing some of Dudley's old

things gray for you. It'll look just like everyone else's when I've

finished."

 

Harry seriously doubted this, but thought it best not to argue. He sat

down at the table and tried not to think about how he was going to look

on his first day at Stonewall High -- like he was wearing bits of old

elephant skin, probably.

 

Dudley and Uncle Vernon came in, both with wrinkled noses because of the

smell from Harry's new uniform. Uncle Vernon opened his newspaper as

usual and Dudley banged his Smelting stick, which he carried everywhere,

on the table.

 

They heard the click of the mail slot and flop of letters on the

doormat.

 

"Get the mail, Dudley," said Uncle Vernon from behind his paper.

 

"Make Harry get it."

 

"Get the mail, Harry."

 

"Make Dudley get it."

 

"Poke him with your Smelting stick, Dudley."

 

Harry dodged the Smelting stick and went to get the mail. Three things

lay on the doormat: a postcard from Uncle Vernon's sister Marge, who was

vacationing on the Isle of Wight, a brown envelope that looked like a

bill, and -- a letter for Harry.

 

Harry picked it up and stared at it, his heart twanging like a giant

elastic band. No one, ever, in his whole life, had written to him. Who

would? He had no friends, no other relatives -- he didn't belong to the

library, so he'd never even got rude notes asking for books back. Yet

here it was, a letter, addressed so plainly there could be no mistake:

 

Mr. H. Potter

 

The Cupboard under the Stairs

 

4 Privet Drive

 

Little Whinging

 

Surrey

 

The envelope was thick and heavy, made of yellowish parchment, and the

address was written in emerald-green ink. There was no stamp.

 

Turning the envelope over, his hand trembling, Harry saw a purple wax

seal bearing a coat of arms; a lion, an eagle, a badger, and a snake

surrounding a large letter H.

 

"Hurry up, boy!" shouted Uncle Vernon from the kitchen. "What are you



doing, checking for letter bombs?" He chuckled at his own joke.

 

Harry went back to the kitchen, still staring at his letter. He handed

Uncle Vernon the bill and the postcard, sat down, and slowly began to

open the yellow envelope.

 

Uncle Vernon ripped open the bill, snorted in disgust, and flipped over

the postcard.

 

"Marge's ill," he informed Aunt Petunia. "Ate a funny whelk. --."

 

"Dad!" said Dudley suddenly. "Dad, Harry's got something!"

 

Harry was on the point of unfolding his letter, which was written on the

same heavy parchment as the envelope, when it was jerked sharply out of

his hand by Uncle Vernon.

 

"That's mine!" said Harry, trying to snatch it back.

 

"Who'd be writing to you?" sneered Uncle Vernon, shaking the letter open

with one hand and glancing at it. His face went from red to green faster

than a set of traffic lights. And it didn't stop there. Within seconds

it was the grayish white of old porridge.

 

"P-P-Petunia!" he gasped.

 

Dudley tried to grab the letter to read it, but Uncle Vernon held it

high out of his reach. Aunt Petunia took it curiously and read the first

line. For a moment it looked as though she might faint. She clutched her

throat and made a choking noise.

 

"Vernon! Oh my goodness -- Vernon!"

 

They stared at each other, seeming to have forgotten that Harry and

Dudley were still in the room. Dudley wasn't used to being ignored. He

gave his father a sharp tap on the head with his Smelting stick.

 

"I want to read that letter," he said loudly. "I want to read it," said

Harry furiously, "as it's mine."

 

"Get out, both of you," croaked Uncle Vernon, stuffing the letter back

inside its envelope.

 

Harry didn't move.

 

"I WANT MY LETTER!" he shouted.

 

"Let me see it!" demanded Dudley.

 

"OUT!" roared Uncle Vernon, and he took both Harry and Dudley by the

scruffs of their necks and threw them into the hall, slamming the

kitchen door behind them. Harry and Dudley promptly had a furious but

silent fight over who would listen at the keyhole; Dudley won, so Harry,

his glasses dangling from one ear, lay flat on his stomach to listen at

the crack between door and floor.

 

"Vernon," Aunt Petunia was saying in a quivering voice, "look at the

address -- how could they possibly know where he sleeps? You don't think

they're watching the house?"

 

"Watching -- spying -- might be following us," muttered Uncle Vernon

wildly.

 

"But what should we do, Vernon? Should we write back? Tell them we don't

want --"

 

Harry could see Uncle Vernon's shiny black shoes pacing up and down the

kitchen.

 

"No," he said finally. "No, we'll ignore it. If they don't get an

answer... Yes, that's best... we won't do anything....

 

"But --"

 

"I'm not having one in the house, Petunia! Didn't we swear when we took

him in we'd stamp out that dangerous nonsense?"

 

That evening when he got back from work, Uncle Vernon did something he'd

never done before; he visited Harry in his cupboard.

 

"Where's my letter?" said Harry, the moment Uncle Vernon had squeezed

through the door. "Who's writing to me?"

 

"No one. it was addressed to you by mistake," said Uncle Vernon shortly.

"I have burned it."

 

"It was not a mistake," said Harry angrily, "it had my cupboard on it."

 

"SILENCE!" yelled Uncle Vernon, and a couple of spiders fell from the

ceiling. He took a few deep breaths and then forced his face into a

smile, which looked quite painful.

 

"Er -- yes, Harry -- about this cupboard. Your aunt and I have been

thinking... you're really getting a bit big for it... we think it might

be nice if you moved into Dudley's second bedroom.

 

"Why?" said Harry.

 

"Don't ask questions!" snapped his uncle. "Take this stuff upstairs,

now."

 

The Dursleys' house had four bedrooms: one for Uncle Vernon and Aunt

Petunia, one for visitors (usually Uncle Vernon's sister, Marge), one

where Dudley slept, and one where Dudley kept all the toys and things

that wouldn't fit into his first bedroom. It only took Harry one trip

upstairs to move everything he owned from the cupboard to this room. He

sat down on the bed and stared around him. Nearly everything in here was

broken. The month-old video camera was lying on top of a small, working

tank Dudley had once driven over the next door neighbor's dog; in the

corner was Dudley's first-ever television set, which he'd put his foot

through when his favorite program had been canceled; there was a large

birdcage, which had once held a parrot that Dudley had swapped at school

for a real air rifle, which was up on a shelf with the end all bent

because Dudley had sat on it. Other shelves were full of books. They

were the only things in the room that looked as though they'd never been

touched.

 

From downstairs came the sound of Dudley bawling at his mother, I don't

want him in there... I need that room... make him get out...."

 

Harry sighed and stretched out on the bed. Yesterday he'd have given

anything to be up here. Today he'd rather be back in his cupboard with

that letter than up here without it.

 

Next morning at breakfast, everyone was rather quiet. Dudley was in

shock. He'd screamed, whacked his father with his Smelting stick, been

sick on purpose, kicked his mother, and thrown his tortoise through the

greenhouse roof, and he still didn't have his room back. Harry was

thinking about this time yesterday and bitterly wishing he'd opened the

letter in the hall. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia kept looking at each

other darkly.

 

When the mail arrived, Uncle Vernon, who seemed to be trying to be nice

to Harry, made Dudley go and get it. They heard him banging things with

his Smelting stick all the way down the hall. Then he shouted, "There's

another one! 'Mr. H. Potter, The Smallest Bedroom, 4 Privet Drive --'"

 

With a strangled cry, Uncle Vernon leapt from his seat and ran down the

hall, Harry right behind him. Uncle Vernon had to wrestle Dudley to the

ground to get the letter from him, which was made difficult by the fact

that Harry had grabbed Uncle Vernon around the neck from behind. After a

minute of confused fighting, in which everyone got hit a lot by the

Smelting stick, Uncle Vernon straightened up, gasping for breath, with

Harry's letter clutched in his hand.

 

"Go to your cupboard -- I mean, your bedroom," he wheezed at Harry.

"Dudley -- go -- just go."

 

Harry walked round and round his new room. Someone knew he had moved out

of his cupboard and they seemed to know he hadn't received his first

letter. Surely that meant they'd try again? And this time he'd make sure

they didn't fail. He had a plan.

 

The repaired alarm clock rang at six o'clock the next morning. Harry

turned it off quickly and dressed silently. He mustn't wake the

Dursleys. He stole downstairs without turning on any of the lights.

 

He was going to wait for the postman on the corner of Privet Drive and

get the letters for number four first. His heart hammered as he crept

across the dark hall toward the front door --

 

Harry leapt into the air; he'd trodden on something big and squashy on

the doormat -- something alive!

 

Lights clicked on upstairs and to his horror Harry realized that the

big, squashy something had been his uncle's face. Uncle Vernon had been

lying at the foot of the front door in a sleeping bag, clearly making

sure that Harry didn't do exactly what he'd been trying to do. He

shouted at Harry for about half an hour and then told him to go and make

a cup of tea. Harry shuffled miserably off into the kitchen and by the

time he got back, the mail had arrived, right into Uncle Vernon's lap.

Harry could see three letters addressed in green ink.

 

"I want --" he began, but Uncle Vernon was tearing the letters into

pieces before his eyes. Uncle Vernon didnt go to work that day. He

stayed at home and nailed up the mail slot.

 

"See," he explained to Aunt Petunia through a mouthful of nails, "if

they can't deliver them they'll just give up."

 

"I'm not sure that'll work, Vernon."

 

"Oh, these people's minds work in strange ways, Petunia, they're not

like you and me," said Uncle Vernon, trying to knock in a nail with the

piece of fruitcake Aunt Petunia had just brought him.

 

On Friday, no less than twelve letters arrived for Harry. As they

couldn't go through the mail slot they had been pushed under the door,

slotted through the sides, and a few even forced through the small

window in the downstairs bathroom.

 

Uncle Vernon stayed at home again. After burning all the letters, he got

out a hammer and nails and boarded up the cracks around the front and

back doors so no one could go out. He hummed "Tiptoe Through the Tulips"

as he worked, and jumped at small noises.

 

On Saturday, things began to get out of hand. Twenty-four letters to

Harry found their way into the house, rolled up and hidden inside each

of the two dozen eggs that their very confused milkman had handed Aunt

Petunia through the living room window. While Uncle Vernon made furious

telephone calls to the post office and the dairy trying to find someone

to complain to, Aunt Petunia shredded the letters in her food processor.

 

"Who on earth wants to talk to you this badly?" Dudley asked Harry in

amazement.

 

On Sunday morning, Uncle Vernon sat down at the breakfast table looking

tired and rather ill, but happy.

 

"No post on Sundays," he reminded them cheerfully as he spread marmalade

on his newspapers, "no damn letters today --"

 

Something came whizzing down the kitchen chimney as he spoke and caught

him sharply on the back of the head. Next moment, thirty or forty

letters came pelting out of the fireplace like bullets. The Dursleys

ducked, but Harry leapt into the air trying to catch one.

 

"Out! OUT!"

 

Uncle Vernon seized Harry around the waist and threw him into the hall.

When Aunt Petunia and Dudley had run out with their arms over their

faces, Uncle Vernon slammed the door shut. They could hear the letters

still streaming into the room, bouncing off the walls and floor.

 

"That does it," said Uncle Vernon, trying to speak calmly but pulling

great tufts out of his mustache at the same time. I want you all back

here in five minutes ready to leave. We're going away. Just pack some

clothes. No arguments!"

 

He looked so dangerous with half his mustache missing that no one dared

argue. Ten minutes later they had wrenched their way through the

boarded-up doors and were in the car, speeding toward the highway.

Dudley was sniffling in the back seat; his father had hit him round the

head for holding them up while he tried to pack his television, VCR, and

computer in his sports bag.

 

They drove. And they drove. Even Aunt Petunia didn't dare ask where they

were going. Every now and then Uncle Vernon would take a sharp turn and

drive in the opposite direction for a while. "Shake'em off... shake 'em

off," he would mutter whenever he did this.

 

They didn't stop to eat or drink all day. By nightfall Dudley was

howling. He'd never had such a bad day in his life. He was hungry, he'd

missed five television programs he'd wanted to see, and he'd never gone

so long without blowing up an alien on his computer.

 

Uncle Vernon stopped at last outside a gloomy-looking hotel on the

outskirts of a big city. Dudley and Harry shared a room with twin beds

and damp, musty sheets. Dudley snored but Harry stayed awake, sitting on

the windowsill, staring down at the lights of passing cars and

wondering....

 

They ate stale cornflakes and cold tinned tomatoes on toast for

breakfast the next day. They had just finished when the owner of the

hotel came over to their table.

 

"'Scuse me, but is one of you Mr. H. Potter? Only I got about an 'undred

of these at the front desk."

 

She held up a letter so they could read the green ink address:

 

Mr. H. Potter

 

Room 17

 

Railview Hotel

 

Cokeworth

 

Harry made a grab for the letter but Uncle Vernon knocked his hand out

of the way. The woman stared.

 

"I'll take them," said Uncle Vernon, standing up quickly and following

her from the dining room.

 

Wouldn't it be better just to go home, dear?" Aunt Petunia suggested

timidly, hours later, but Uncle Vernon didn't seem to hear her. Exactly

what he was looking for, none of them knew. He drove them into the

middle of a forest, got out, looked around, shook his head, got back in

the car, and off they went again. The same thing happened in the middle

of a plowed field, halfway across a suspension bridge, and at the top of

a multilevel parking garage.

 

"Daddy's gone mad, hasn't he?" Dudley asked Aunt Petunia dully late that

afternoon. Uncle Vernon had parked at the coast, locked them all inside

the car, and disappeared.

 

It started to rain. Great drops beat on the roof of the car. Dud ley

sniveled.

 

"It's Monday," he told his mother. "The Great Humberto's on tonight. I

want to stay somewhere with a television. "

 

Monday. This reminded Harry of something. If it was Monday -- and you

could usually count on Dudley to know the days the week, because of

television -- then tomorrow, Tuesday, was Harry's eleventh birthday. Of

course, his birthdays were never exactly fun -- last year, the Dursleys

had given him a coat hanger and a pair of Uncle Vernon's old socks.

Still, you weren't eleven every day.

 

Uncle Vernon was back and he was smiling. He was also carrying a long,

thin package and didn't answer Aunt Petunia when she asked what he'd

bought.

 

"Found the perfect place!" he said. "Come on! Everyone out!"

 

It was very cold outside the car. Uncle Vernon was pointing at what

looked like a large rock way out at sea. Perched on top of the rock was

the most miserable little shack you could imagine. One thing was

certain, there was no television in there.

 

"Storm forecast for tonight!" said Uncle Vernon gleefully, clapping his

hands together. "And this gentleman's kindly agreed to lend us his

boat!"

 

A toothless old man came ambling up to them, pointing, with a rather

wicked grin, at an old rowboat bobbing in the iron-gray water below

them.

 

"I've already got us some rations," said Uncle Vernon, "so all aboard!"

 

It was freezing in the boat. Icy sea spray and rain crept down their

necks and a chilly wind whipped their faces. After what seemed like

hours they reached the rock, where Uncle Vernon, slipping and sliding,

led the way to the broken-down house.

 

The inside was horrible; it smelled strongly of seaweed, the wind

whistled through the gaps in the wooden walls, and the fireplace was

damp and empty. There were only two rooms.

 

Uncle Vernon's rations turned out to be a bag of chips each and four

bananas. He tried to start a fire but the empty chip bags just smoked

and shriveled up.

 

"Could do with some of those letters now, eh?" he said cheerfully.

 

He was in a very good mood. Obviously he thought nobody stood a chance

of reaching them here in a storm to deliver mail. Harry privately

agreed, though the thought didn't cheer him up at all.

 

As night fell, the promised storm blew up around them. Spray from the

high waves splattered the walls of the hut and a fierce wind rattled the

filthy windows. Aunt Petunia found a few moldy blankets in the second

room and made up a bed for Dudley on the moth-eaten sofa. She and Uncle

Vernon went off to the lumpy bed next door, and Harry was left to find

the softest bit of floor he could and to curl up under the thinnest,

most ragged blanket.

 

The storm raged more and more ferociously as the night went on. Harry

couldn't sleep. He shivered and turned over, trying to get comfortable,

his stomach rumbling with hunger. Dudley's snores were drowned by the

low rolls of thunder that started near midnight. The lighted dial of

Dudley's watch, which was dangling over the edge of the sofa on his fat

wrist, told Harry he'd be eleven in ten minutes' time. He lay and

watched his birthday tick nearer, wondering if the Dursleys would

remember at all, wondering where the letter writer was now.

 

Five minutes to go. Harry heard something creak outside. He hoped the

roof wasn't going to fall in, although he might be warmer if it did.

Four minutes to go. Maybe the house in Privet Drive would be so full of

letters when they got back that he'd be able to steal one somehow.

 

Three minutes to go. Was that the sea, slapping hard on the rock like

that? And (two minutes to go) what was that funny crunching noise? Was

the rock crumbling into the sea?

 

One minute to go and he'd be eleven. Thirty seconds... twenty ... ten...

nine -- maybe he'd wake Dudley up, just to annoy him -- three... two...

one...

 

BOOM.

 

The whole shack shivered and Harry sat bolt upright, staring at the

door. Someone was outside, knocking to come in.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

THE KEEPER OF THE KEYS

 

BOOM. They knocked again. Dudley jerked awake. "Where's the cannon?" he

said stupidly.

 

There was a crash behind them and Uncle Vernon came skidding into the

room. He was holding a rifle in his hands -- now they knew what had been

in the long, thin package he had brought with them.

 

"Who's there?" he shouted. "I warn you -- I'm armed!"

 

There was a pause. Then --

 

SMASH!

 

The door was hit with such force that it swung clean off its hinges and

with a deafening crash landed flat on the floor.

 

A giant of a man was standing in the doorway. His face was almost

completely hidden by a long, shaggy mane of hair and a wild, tangled

beard, but you could make out his eyes, glinting like black beetles

under all the hair.

 

The giant squeezed his way into the hut, stooping so that his head just

brushed the ceiling. He bent down, picked up the door, and fitted it

easily back into its frame. The noise of the storm outside dropped a

little. He turned to look at them all.

 

"Couldn't make us a cup o' tea, could yeh? It's not been an easy

journey..."

 

He strode over to the sofa where Dudley sat frozen with fear.

 

"Budge up, yeh great lump," said the stranger.

 

Dudley squeaked and ran to hide behind his mother, who was crouching,

terrified, behind Uncle Vernon.

 

"An' here's Harry!" said the giant.

 

Harry looked up into the fierce, wild, shadowy face and saw that the

beetle eyes were crinkled in a smile.

 

"Las' time I saw you, you was only a baby," said the giant. "Yeh look a

lot like yet dad, but yeh've got yet mom's eyes."

 

Uncle Vernon made a funny rasping noise.

 

I demand that you leave at once, sit!" he said. "You are breaking and

entering!"

 

"Ah, shut up, Dursley, yeh great prune," said the giant; he reached over

the back of the sofa, jerked the gun out of Uncle Vernon's hands, bent

it into a knot as easily as if it had been made of rubber, and threw it

into a corner of the room.

 

Uncle Vernon made another funny noise, like a mouse being trodden on.

 

"Anyway -- Harry," said the giant, turning his back on the Dursleys, "a

very happy birthday to yeh. Got summat fer yeh here -- I mighta sat on

it at some point, but it'll taste all right."

 

From an inside pocket of his black overcoat he pulled a slightly

squashed box. Harry opened it with trembling fingers. Inside was a

large, sticky chocolate cake with Happy Birthday Harry written on it in

green icing.

 

Harry looked up at the giant. He meant to say thank you, but the words

got lost on the way to his mouth, and what he said instead was, "Who are

you?"

 

The giant chuckled.

 

"True, I haven't introduced meself. Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and

Grounds at Hogwarts."

 

He held out an enormous hand and shook Harry's whole arm.

 

"What about that tea then, eh?" he said, rubbing his hands together.

"I'd not say no ter summat stronger if yeh've got it, mind."

 

His eyes fell on the empty grate with the shriveled chip bags in it and

he snorted. He bent down over the fireplace; they couldn't see what he

was doing but when he drew back a second later, there was a roaring fire

there. It filled the whole damp hut with flickering light and Harry felt

the warmth wash over him as though he'd sunk into a hot bath.

 

The giant sat back down on the sofa, which sagged under his weight, and

began taking all sorts of things out of the pockets of his coat: a

copper kettle, a squashy package of sausages, a poker, a teapot, several

chipped mugs, and a bottle of some amber liquid that he took a swig from

before starting to make tea. Soon the hut was full of the sound and

smell of sizzling sausage. Nobody said a thing while the giant was

working, but as he slid the first six fat, juicy, slightly burnt

sausages from the poker, Dudley fidgeted a little. Uncle Vernon said

sharply, "Don't touch anything he gives you, Dudley."

 

The giant chuckled darkly.

 

"Yet great puddin' of a son don' need fattenin' anymore, Dursley, don'

worry."

 

He passed the sausages to Harry, who was so hungry he had never tasted

anything so wonderful, but he still couldn't take his eyes off the

giant. Finally, as nobody seemed about to explain anything, he said,

"I'm sorry, but I still don't really know who you are."

 

The giant took a gulp of tea and wiped his mouth with the back of his

hand.

 

"Call me Hagrid," he said, "everyone does. An' like I told yeh, I'm

Keeper of Keys at Hogwarts -- yeh'll know all about Hogwarts, o' course.





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