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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 16 страница. "I would never have believed it of any of you



 

"I would never have believed it of any of you. Mr. Filch says you were

up in the astronomy tower. It's one o'clock in the morning. Explain

yourselves."

 

It was the first time Hermione had ever failed to answer a teacher's

question. She was staring at her slippers, as still as a statue.

 

"I think I've got a good idea of what's been going on," said Professor

McGonagall. "It doesn't take a genius to work it out. You fed Draco

Malfoy some cock-and-bull story about a dragon, trying to get him out of

bed and into trouble. I've already caught him. I suppose you think it's

funny that Longbottom here heard the story and believed it, too?"

 

Harry caught Neville's eye and tried to tell him without words that this

wasn't true, because Neville was looking stunned and hurt. Poor,

blundering Neville -- Harry knew what it must have cost him to try and

find them in the dark, to warn them.

 

"I'm disgusted," said Professor McGonagall. "Four students out of bed in

one night! I've never heard of such a thing before! You, Miss Granger, I

thought you had more sense. As for you, Mr. Potter, I thought Gryffindor

meant more to you than this. All three of you will receive detentions --

yes, you too, Mr. Longbottom, nothing gives you the right to walk around

school at night, especially these days, it's very dangerous -- and fifty

points will be taken from Gryffindor."

 

"Fifty?" Harry gasped -- they would lose the lead, the lead he'd won in

the last Quidditch match.

 

"Fifty points each," said Professor McGonagall, breathing heavily

through her long, pointed nose.

 

"Professor -- please

 

"You can't --"

 

"Don't tell me what I can and can't do, Potter. Now get back to bed, all

of you. I've never been more ashamed of Gryffindor students."

 

A hundred and fifty points lost. That put Gryffindor in last place. In

one night, they'd ruined any chance Gryffindor had had for the house

cup. Harry felt as though the bottom had dropped out of his stomach. How

could they ever make up for this?

 

Harry didn't sleep all night. He could hear Neville sobbing into his

pillow for what seemed like hours. Harry couldn't think of anything to

say to comfort him. He knew Neville, like himself, was dreading the

dawn. What would happen when the rest of Gryffindor found out what

they'd done?

 

At first, Gryffindors passing the giant hourglasses that recorded the



house points the next day thought there'd been a mistake. How could they

suddenly have a hundred and fifty points fewer than yesterday? And then

the story started to spread: Harry Potter, the famous Harry Potter,

their hero of two Quidditch matches, had lo st them all those points,

him and a couple of other stupid first years.

 

From being one of the most popular and admired people at the school,

Harry was suddenly the most hated. Even Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs

turned on him, because everyone had been longing to see Slytherin lose

the house cup. Everywhere Harry went, people pointed and didn't trouble

to lower their voices as they insulted him. Slytherins, on the other

hand, clapped as he walked past them, whistling and cheering, "Thanks

Potter, we owe you one!"

 

Only Ron stood by him.

 

"They'll all forget this in a few weeks. Fred and George have lost loads

of points in all the time they've been here, and people still like

them."

 

"They've never lost a hundred and fifty points in one go, though, have

they?" said Harry miserably.

 

"Well -- no," Ron admitted.

 

It was a bit late to repair the damage, but Harry swore to himself not

to meddle in things that weren't his business from now on. He'd had it

with sneaking around and spying. He felt so ashamed of himself that he

went to Wood and offered to resign from the Quidditch team.

 

"Resign?" Wood thundered. "What good'll that do? How are we going to get

any points back if we can't win at Quidditch?"

 

But even Quidditch had lost its fun. The rest of the team wouldn't speak

to Harry during practice, and if they had to speak about him, they

called him "the Seeker."

 

Hermione and Neville were suffering, too. They didn't have as bad a time

as Harry, because they weren't as well-known, but nobody would speak to

them, either. Hermione had stopped drawing attention to herself in

class, keeping her head down and working in silence.

 

Harry was almost glad that the exams weren't far away. All the studying

he had to do kept his mind off his misery. He, Ron, and Hermione kept to

themselves, working late into the night, trying to remember the

ingredients in complicated potions, learn charms and spells by heart,

memorize the dates of magical discoveries and goblin rebellions....

 

Then, about a week before the exams were due to start, Harry's new

resolution not to interfere in anything that didn't concern him was put

to an unexpected test. Walking back from the library on his own one

afternoon, he heard somebody whimpering from a classroom up ahead. As he

drew closer, he heard Quirrell's voice.

 

"No -- no -- not again, please --"

 

It sounded as though someone was threatening him. Harry moved closer.

 

"All right -- all right --" he heard Quirrell sob.

 

Next second, Quirrell came hurrying out of the classroom straightening

his turban. He was pale and looked as though he was about to cry. He

strode out of sight; Harry didn't think Quirrell had even noticed him.

He waited until Quirrell's footsteps had disappeared, then peered into

the classroom. It was empty, but a door stood ajar at the other end.

Harry was halfway toward it before he remembered what he'd promised

himself about not meddling.

 

All the same, he'd have gambled twelve Sorcerer's Stones that Snape had

just left the room, and from what Harry had just heard, Snape would be

walking with a new spring in his step -- Quirrell seemed to have given

in at last.

 

Harry went back to the library, where Hermione was testing Ron on

Astronomy. Harry told them what he'd heard.

 

"Snape's done it, then!" said Ron. "If Quirrell's told him how to break

his Anti-Dark Force spell --"

 

"There's still Fluffy, though," said Hermione.

 

"Maybe Snape's found out how to get past him without asking Hagrid,"

said Ron, looking up at the thousands of books surrounding them. "I bet

there's a book somewhere in here telling you how to get past a giant

three-headed dog. So what do we do, Harry?"

 

The light of adventure was kindling again in Ron's eyes, but Hermione

answered before Harry could.

 

"Go to Dumbledore. That's what we should have done ages ago. If we try

anything ourselves we'll be thrown out for sure."

 

"But we've got no proof!" said Harry. "Quirrell's too scared to back us

up. Snape's only got to say he doesn't know how the troll got in at

Halloween and that he was nowhere near the third floor -- who do you

think they'll believe, him or us? It's not exactly a secret we hate him,

Dumbledore'll think we made it up to get him sacked. Filch wouldn't help

us if his life depended on it, he's too friendly with Snape, and the

more students get thrown out, the better, he'll think. And don't forget,

we're not supposed to know about the Stone or Fluffy. That'll take a lot

of explaining."

 

Hermione looked convinced, but Ron didn't.

 

"If we just do a bit of poking around --"

 

"No," said Harry flatly, "we've done enough poking around."

 

He pulled a map of Jupiter toward him and started to learn the names of

its moons.

 

The following morning, notes were delivered to Harry, Hermione, and

Neville at the breakfast table. They were all the same:

 

Your detention will take place at eleven o'clock tonight. Meet Mr. Filch

in the entrance hall.

 

Professor McGonagall Harry had forgotten they still had detentions to do

in the furor over the points they'd lost. He half expected Hermione to

complain that this was a whole night of studying lost, but she didn't

say a word. Like Harry, she felt they deserved what they'd got.

 

At eleven o'clock that night, they said good-bye to Ron in the common

room and went down to the entrance hall with Neville. Filch was already

there -- and so was Malfoy. Harry had also forgotten that Malfoy had

gotten a detention, too.

 

"Follow me," said Filch, lighting a lamp and leading them outside.

 

I bet you'll think twice about breaking a school rule again, won't you,

eh?" he said, leering at them. "Oh yes... hard work and pain are the

best teachers if you ask me.... It's just a pity they let the old

punishments die out... hang you by your wrists from the ceiling for a

few days, I've got the chains still in my office, keep 'em well oiled in

case they're ever needed.... Right, off we go, and don't think of

running off, now, it'll be worse for you if you do."

 

They marched off across the dark grounds. Neville kept sniffing. Harry

wondered what their punishment was going to be. It must be something

really horrible, or Filch wouldn't be sounding so delighted.

 

The moon was bright, but clouds scudding across it kept throwing them

into darkness. Ahead, Harry could see the lighted windows of Hagrid's

hut. Then they heard a distant shout.

 

"Is that you, Filch? Hurry up, I want ter get started."

 

Harry's heart rose; if they were going to be working with Hagrid it

wouldn't be so bad. His relief must have showed in his -face, because

Filch said, "I suppose you think you'll be enjoying yourself with that

oaf? Well, think again, boy -- it's into the forest you're going and I'm

much mistaken if you'll all come out in one piece."

 

At this, Neville let out a little moan, and Malfoy stopped dead in his

tracks.

 

"The forest?" he repeated, and he didn't sound quite as cool as usual.

"We can't go in there at night -- there's all sorts of things in there

-- werewolves, I heard."

 

Neville clutched the sleeve of Harry's robe and made a choking noise.

 

"That's your problem, isn't it?" said Filch, his voice cracking with

glee. "Should've thought of them werewolves before you got in trouble,

shouldn't you?"

 

Hagrid came striding toward them out of the dark, Fang at his heel. He

was carrying his large crossbow, and a quiver of arrows hung over his

shoulder.

 

"Abou' time," he said. "I bin waitin' fer half an hour already. All

right, Harry, Hermione?"

 

"I shouldn't be too friendly to them, Hagrid," said Filch coldly,

they're here to be punished, after all."

 

"That's why yer late, is it?" said Hagrid, frowning at Filch. "Bin

lecturin' them, eh? 'Snot your place ter do that. Yeh've done yer bit,

I'll take over from here."

 

"I'll be back at dawn," said Filch, "for what's left of them," he added

nastily, and he turned and started back toward the castle, his lamp

bobbing away in the darkness.

 

Malfoy now turned to Hagrid.

 

"I'm not going in that forest, he said, and Harry was pleased to hear

the note of panic in his voice.

 

"Yeh are if yeh want ter stay at Hogwarts," said Hagrid fiercely.

"Yeh've done wrong an' now yehve got ter pay fer it."

 

"But this is servant stuff, it's not for students to do. I thought we'd

be copying lines or something, if my father knew I was doing this, he'd

 

tell yer that's how it is at Hogwarts," Hagrid growled. "Copyin' lines!

What good's that ter anyone? Yeh'll do summat useful or Yeh'll get out.

If yeh think yer father'd rather you were expelled, then get back off

ter the castle an' pack. Go on"'

 

Malfoy didn't move. He looked at Hagrid furiously, but then dropped his

gaze.

 

"Right then," said Hagrid, "now, listen carefully, 'cause it's dangerous

what we're gonna do tonight, an' I don' want no one takin' risks. Follow

me over here a moment."

 

He led them to the very edge of the forest. Holding his lamp up high, he

pointed down a narrow, winding earth track that disappeared into the

thick black trees. A light breeze lifted their hair as they looked into

the forest.

 

"Look there," said Hagrid, "see that stuff shinin' on the ground?

Silvery stuff? That's unicorn blood. There's a unicorn in there bin hurt

badly by summat. This is the second time in a week. I found one dead

last Wednesday. We're gonna try an' find the poor thing. We might have

ter put it out of its misery."

 

"And what if whatever hurt the unicorn finds us first?" said Malfoy,

unable to keep the fear out of his voice.

 

"There's nothin' that lives in the forest that'll hurt yeh if yer with

me or Fang," said Hagrid. "An' keep ter the path. Right, now, we're

gonna split inter two parties an' follow the trail in diff'rent

directions. There's blood all over the place, it must've bin staggerin'

around since last night at least."

 

"I want Fang," said Malfoy quickly, looking at Fang's long teeth.

 

"All right, but I warn yeh, he's a coward," said Hagrid. " So me, Harry,

an' Hermione'll go one way an' Draco, Neville, an' Fang'll go the other.

Now, if any of us finds the unicorn, we'll send up green sparks, right?

Get yer wands out an' practice now -- that's it -- an' if anyone gets in

trouble, send up red sparks, an' we'll all come an' find yeh -- so, be

careful -- let's go."

 

The forest was black and silent. A little way into it they reached a

fork in the earth path, and Harry, Hermione, and Hagrid took the left

path while Malfoy, Neville, and Fang took the right.

 

They walked in silence, their eyes on the ground. Every now and then a

ray of moonlight through the branches above lit a spot of silver-blue

blood on the fallen leaves.

 

Harry saw that Hagrid looked very worried.

 

"Could a werewolf be killing the unicorns?" Harry asked.

 

"Not fast enough," said Hagrid. "It's not easy ter catch a unicorn,

they're powerful magic creatures. I never knew one ter be hurt before."

 

They walked past a mossy tree stump. Harry could hear running water;

there must be a stream somewhere close by. There were still spots of

unicorn blood here and there along the winding path.

 

"You all right, Hermione?" Hagrid whispered. "Don' worry, it can't've

gone far if it's this badly hurt, an' then we'll be able ter -- GET

BEHIND THAT TREE!"

 

Hagrid seized Harry and Hermione and hoisted them off the path behind a

towering oak. He pulled out an arrow and fitted it into his crossbow,

raising it, ready to fire. The three of them listened. Something was

slithering over dead leaves nearby: it sounded like a cloak trailing

along the ground. Hagrid was squinting up the dark path, but after a few

seconds, the sound faded away.

 

"I knew it, " he murmured. "There's summat in here that shouldn' be."

 

"A werewolf?" Harry suggested.

 

"That wasn' no werewolf an' it wasn' no unicorn, neither," said Hagrid

grimly. "Right, follow me, but careful, now."

 

They walked more slowly, ears straining for the faintest sound.

Suddenly, in a clearing ahead, something definitely moved.

 

"Who's there?" Hagrid called. "Show yerself -- I'm armed!"

 

And into the clearing came -- was it a man, or a horse? To the waist, a

man, with red hair and beard, but below that was a horse's gleaming

chestnut body with a long, reddish tail. Harry and Hermione's jaws

dropped.

 

"Oh, it's you, Ronan," said Hagrid in relief. "How are yeh?"

 

He walked forward and shook the centaur's hand.

 

"Good evening to you, Hagrid," said Ronan. He had a deep, sorrowful

voice. "Were you going to shoot me?"

 

"Can't be too careful, Ronan," said Hagrid, patting his crossbow.

"There's summat bad loose in this forest. This is Harry Potter an'

Hermione Granger, by the way. Students up at the school. An' this is

Ronan, you two. He's a centaur.))

 

"We'd noticed," said Hermione faintly.

 

"Good evening," said Ronan. "Students, are you? And do you learn much,

up at the school?"

 

"Erm --"

 

"A bit," said Hermione timidly.

 

"A bit. Well, that's something." Ronan sighed. He flung back his head

and stared at the sky. "Mars is bright tonight."

 

"Yeah," said Hagrid, glancing up, too. "Listen, I'm glad we've run inter

yeh, Ronan, 'cause there's a unicorn bin hurt -- you seen anythin'?"

 

Ronan didn't answer immediately. He stared unblinkingly upward, then

sighed again.

 

"Always the innocent are the first victims," he said. "So it has been

for ages past, so it is now."

 

"Yeah," said Hagrid, "but have yeh seen anythin', Ronan? Anythin'

unusual?"

 

"Mars is bright tonight," Ronan repeated, while Hagrid watched him

impatiently. "Unusually bright."

 

"Yeah, but I was meanin' anythin' unusual a bit nearer home, said

Hagrid. "So yeh haven't noticed anythin' strange?"

 

Yet again, Ronan took a while to answer. At last, he said, "The forest

hides many secrets."

 

A movement in the trees behind Ronan made Hagrid raise his bow again,

but it was only a second centaur, black-haired and -bodied and

wilder-looking than Ronan.

 

"Hullo, Bane," said Hagrid. "All right?"

 

"Good evening, Hagrid, I hope you are well?"

 

"Well enough. Look, I've jus' bin askin' Ronan, you seen anythin' odd in

here lately? There's a unicorn bin injured -- would yeh know anythin'

about it?"

 

Bane walked over to stand next to Ronan. He looked skyward. "Mars is

bright tonight," he said simply.

 

"We've heard," said Hagrid grumpily. "Well, if either of you do see

anythin', let me know, won't yeh? We'll be off, then."

 

Harry and Hermione followed him out of the clearing, staring over their

shoulders at Ronan and Bane until the trees blocked their view.

 

"Never," said Hagrid irritably, "try an' get a straight answer out of a

centaur. Ruddy stargazers. Not interested in anythin' closer'n the

moon."

 

"Are there many of them in here?" asked Hermione.

 

"Oh, a fair few... Keep themselves to themselves mostly, but they're

good enough about turnin' up if ever I want a word. They're deep, mind,

centaurs... they know things... jus' don' let on much."

 

"D'you think that was a centaur we heard earlier?" said Harry.

 

"Did that sound like hooves to you? Nah, if yeh ask me, that was what's

bin killin' the unicorns -- never heard anythin' like it before."

 

They walked on through the dense, dark trees. Harry kept looking

nervously over his shoulder. He had the nasty feeling they were being

watched. He was very glad they had Hagrid and his crossbow with them.

They had just passed a bend in the path when Hermione grabbed Hagrid's

arm.

 

"Hagrid! Look! Red sparks, the others are in trouble!"

 

"You two wait here!" Hagrid shouted. "Stay on the path, I'll come back

for yeh!"

 

They heard him crashing away through the undergrowth and stood looking

at each other, very scared, until they couldn't hear anything but the

rustling of leaves around them.

 

"You don't think they've been hurt, do you?" whispered Hermione.

 

"I don't care if Malfoy has, but if something's got Neville... it's our

fault he's here in the first place."

 

The minutes dragged by. Their ears seemed sharper than usual. Harry's

seemed to be picking up every sigh of the wind, every cracking twig.

What was going on? Where were the others?

 

At last, a great crunching noise announced Hagrid's return. Malfoy,

Neville, and Fang were with him. Hagrid was fuming. Malfoy, it seemed,

had sneaked up behind Neville and grabbed him as a joke. Neville had

panicked and sent up the sparks.

 

"We'll be lucky ter catch anythin' now, with the racket you two were

makin'. Right, we're changin' groups -- Neville, you stay with me an'

Hermione, Harry, you go with Fang an' this idiot. I'm sorry," Hagrid

added in a whisper to Harry, "but he'll have a harder time frightenin'

you, an' we've gotta get this done."

 

So Harry set off into the heart of the forest with Malfoy and Fang. They

walked for nearly half an hour, deeper and deeper into the forest, until

the path became almost impossible to follow because the trees were so

thick. Harry thought the blood seemed to be getting thicker. There were

splashes on the roots of a tree, as though the poor creature had been

thrashing around in pain close by. Harry could see a clearing ahead,

through the tangled branches of an ancient oak.

 

"Look --" he murmured, holding out his arm to stop Malfoy.

 

Something bright white was gleaming on the ground. They inched closer.

 

It was the unicorn all right, and it was dead. Harry had never seen

anything so beautiful and sad. Its long, slender legs were stuck out at

odd angles where it had fallen and its mane was spread pearly-white on

the dark leaves.

 

Harry had taken one step toward it when a slithering sound made him

freeze where he stood. A bush on the edge of the clearing quivered....

Then, out of the shadows, a hooded figure came crawling across the

ground like some stalking beast. Harry, Malfoy, and Fang stood

transfixed. The cloaked figure reached the unicorn, lowered its head

over the wound in the animal's side, and began to drink its blood.

 

"AAAAAAAAAARGH!"

 

Malfoy let out a terrible scream and bolted -- so did Fang. The hooded

figure raised its head and looked right at Harry -- unicorn blood was

dribbling down its front. It got to its feet and came swiftly toward

Harry -- he couldn't move for fear.

 

Then a pain like he'd never felt before pierced his head; it was as

though his scar were on fire. Half blinded, he staggered backward. He

heard hooves behind him, galloping, and something jumped clean over

Harry, charging at the figure.

 

The pain in Harry's head was so bad he fell to his knees. It took a

minute or two to pass. When he looked up, the figure had gone. A centaur

was standing over him, not Ronan or Bane; this one looked younger; he

had white-blond hair and a palomino body.

 

"Are you all right?" said the centaur, pulling Harry to his feet.

 

"Yes -- thank you -- what was that?"

 

The centaur didn't answer. He had astonishingly blue eyes, like pale

sapphires. He looked carefully at Harry, his eyes lingering on the scar

that stood out, livid, on Harry's forehead.

 

"You are the Potter boy," he said. "You had better get back to Hagrid.

The forest is not safe at this time -- especially for you. Can you ride?

It will be quicker this way.

 

"My name is Firenze," he added, as he lowered himself on to his front

legs so that Harry could clamber onto his back.

 

There was suddenly a sound of more galloping from the other side of the

clearing. Ronan and Bane came bursting through the trees, their flanks

heaving and sweaty.

 

"Firenze!" Bane thundered. "What are you doing? You have a human on your

back! Have you no shame? Are you a common mule?"

 

"Do you realize who this is?" said Firenze. "This is the Potter boy. The

quicker he leaves this forest, the better."

 

"What have you been telling him?" growled Bane. "Remember, Firenze, we

are sworn not to set ourselves against the heavens. Have we not read

what is to come in the movements of the planets?"

 

Ronan pawed the ground nervously. "I'm sure Firenze thought he was

acting for the best, " he said in his gloomy voice.

 

Bane kicked his back legs in anger.

 

"For the best! What is that to do with us? Centaurs are concerned with

what has been foretold! It is not our business to run around like

donkeys after stray humans in our forest!"

 

Firenze suddenly reared on to his hind legs in anger, so that Harry had

to grab his shoulders to stay on.

 

"Do you not see that unicorn?" Firenze bellowed at Bane. "Do you not

understand why it was killed? Or have the planets not let you in on that

secret? I set myself against what is lurking in this forest, Bane, yes,

with humans alongside me if I must."





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