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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 17 страница


And Firenze whisked around; with Harry clutching on as best he could,

they plunged off into the trees, leaving Ronan and Bane behind them.


Harry didn't have a clue what was going on.


"Why's Bane so angry?" he asked. "What was that thing you saved me from,



Firenze slowed to a walk, warned Harry to keep his head bowed in case of

low-hanging branches, but did not answer Harry's question. They made

their way through the trees in silence for so long that Harry thought

Firenze didn't want to talk to him anymore. They were passing through a

particularly dense patch of trees, however, when Firenze suddenly



"Harry Potter, do you know what unicorn blood is used -for?"


"No," said Harry, startled by the odd question. "We've only used the

horn and tail hair in Potions."


"That is because it is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn," said

Firenze. "Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain,

would commit such a crime. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive,

even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have

slain something pure and defenseless to save yourself, and you will have

but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your



Harry stared at the back of Firenze's head, which was dappled silver in

the moonlight.


"But who'd be that desperate?" he wondered aloud. "If you're going to be

cursed forever, deaths better, isn't it?"


"It is," Firenze agreed, "unless all you need is to stay alive long

enough to drink something else -- something that will bring you back to

full strength and power -- something that will mean you can never die.

Mr. Potter, do you know what is hidden in the school at this very



"The Sorcerer's Stone! Of course -- the Elixir of Life! But I don't

understand who --"


"Can you think of nobody who has waited many years to return to power,

who has clung to life, awaiting their chance?"


It was as though an iron fist had clenched suddenly around Harry's

heart. Over the rustling of the trees, he seemed to hear once more what

Hagrid had told him on the night they had met: "Some say he died.

Codswallop, in my opinion. Dunno if he had enough human left in him to



"Do you mean," Harry croaked, "that was Vol-"


"Harry! Harry, are you all right?"


Hermione was running toward them down the path, Hagrid puffing along

behind her.


"I'm fine," said Harry, hardly knowing what he was saying. "The

unicorn's dead, Hagrid, it's in that clearing back there."


"This is where I leave you," Firenze murmured as Hagrid hurried off to

examine the unicorn. "You are safe now."


Harry slid off his back.


"Good luck, Harry Potter," said Firenze. "The planets have been read

wrongly before now, even by centaurs. I hope this is one of those



He turned and cantered back into the depths of the forest, leaving Harry

shivering behind him.


Ron had fallen asleep in the dark common room, waiting for them to

return. He shouted something about Quidditch fouls when Harry roughly

shook him awake. In a matter of seconds, though, he was wide-eyed as

Harry began to tell him and Hermione what had happened in the forest.


Harry couldn't sit down. He paced up and down in front of the fire. He

was still shaking.


"Snape wants the stone for Voldemort... and Voldemort's waiting in the

forest... and all this time we thought Snape just wanted to get



"Stop saying the name!" said Ron in a terrified whisper, as if he

thought Voldemort could hear them.


Harry wasn't listening.


"Firenze saved me, but he shouldn't have done so.... Bane was furious...

he was talking about interfering with what the planets say is going to

happen.... They must show that Voldemort's coming back.... Bane thinks

Firenze should have let Voldemort kill me.... I suppose that's written

in the stars as well."


"Will you stop saying the name!" Ron hissed.


"So all I've got to wait for now is Snape to steal the Stone," Harry

went on feverishly, "then Voldemort will be able to come and finish me

off... Well, I suppose Bane'll be happy."


Hermione looked very frightened, but she had a word of comfort.


"Harry, everyone says Dumbledore's the only one You-Know-Who was ever

afraid of With Dumbledore around, You-Know-Who won't touch you. Anyway,

who says the centaurs are right? It sounds like fortune-telling to me,

and Professor McGonagall says that's a very imprecise branch of magic."


The sky had turned light before they stopped talking. They went to bed

exhausted, their throats sore. But the night's surprises weren't over.


When Harry pulled back his sheets, he found his invisibility cloak

folded neatly underneath them. There was a note pinned to it:


Just in case.







In years to come, Harry would never quite remember how he had managed to

get through his exams when he half expected Voldemort to come bursting

through the door at any moment. Yet the days crept by, and there could

be no doubt that Fluffy was still alive and well behind the locked door.


It was sweltering hot, especially in the large classroom where they did

their written papers. They had been given special, new quills for the

exams, which had been bewitched with an AntiCheating spell.


They had practical exams as well. Professor Flitwick called them one by

one into his class to see if they could make a pineapple tapdance across

a desk. Professor McGonagall watched them turn a mouse into a snuffbox

-- points were given for how pretty the snuffbox was, but taken away if

it had whiskers. Snape made them all nervous, breathing down their necks

while they tried to remember how to make a Forgetfulness potion.


Harry did the best he could, trying to ignore the stabbing pains in his

forehead, which had been bothering him ever since his trip into the

forest. Neville thought Harry had a bad case of exam nerves because

Harry couldn't sleep, but the truth was that Harry kept being woken by

his old nightmare, except that it was now worse than ever because there

was a hooded figure dripping blood in it.


Maybe it was because they hadn't seen what Harry had seen in the forest,

or because they didn't have scars burning on their foreheads, but Ron

and Hermione didn't seem as worried about the Stone as Harry. The idea

of Voldemort certainly scared them, but he didn't keep visiting them in

dreams, and they were so busy with their studying they didn't have much

time to fret about what Snape or anyone else might be up to.


Their very last exam was History of Magic. One hour of answering

questions about batty old wizards who'd invented selfstirring cauldrons

and they'd be free, free for a whole wonderful week until their exam

results came out. When the ghost of Professor Binns told them to put

down their quills and roll up their parchment, Harry couldn't help

cheering with the rest.


"That was far easier than I thought it would be," said Hermione as they

joined the crowds flocking out onto the sunny grounds. "I needn't have

learned about the 1637 Werewolf Code of Conduct or the uprising of

Elfric the Eager."


Hermione always liked to go through their exam papers afterward, but Ron

said this made him feel ill, so they wandered down to the lake and

flopped under a tree. The Weasley twins and Lee Jordan were tickling the

tentacles of a giant squid, which was basking in the warm shallows. "No

more studying," Ron sighed happily, stretching out on the grass. "You

could look more cheerful, Harry, we've got a week before we find out how

badly we've done, there's no need to worry yet."


Harry was rubbing his forehead.


"I wish I knew what this means!" he burst out angrily. "My scar keeps

hurting -- it's happened before, but never as often as this."


"Go to Madam Pomfrey," Hermione suggested.


"I'm not ill," said Harry. "I think it's a warning... it means danger's



Ron couldn't get worked up, it was too hot.


"Harry, relax, Hermione's right, the Stone's safe as long as

Dumbledore's around. Anyway, we've never had any proof Snape found out

how to get past Fluffy. He nearly had his leg ripped off once, he's not

going to try it again in a hurry. And Neville will play Quidditch for

England before Hagrid lets Dumbledore down."


Harry nodded, but he couldn't shake off a lurking feeling that there was

something he'd forgotten to do, something important. When he tried to

explain this, Hermione said, "That's just the exams. I woke up last

night and was halfway through my Transfiguration notes before I

remembered we'd done that one."


Harry was quite sure the unsettled feeling didn't have anything to do

with work, though. He watched an owl flutter toward the school across

the bright blue sky, a note clamped in its mouth. Hagrid was the only

one who ever sent him letters. Hagrid would never betray Dumbledore.

Hagrid would never tell anyone how to get past Fluffy... never... but --


Harry suddenly jumped to his feet.


"Where're you going?" said Ron sleepily.


"I've just thought of something," said Harry. He had turned white.

"We've got to go and see Hagrid, now."


"Why?" panted Hermione, hurrying to keep up.


"Don't you think it's a bit odd," said Harry, scrambling up the grassy

slope, "that what Hagrid wants more than anything else is a dragon, and

a stranger turns up who just happens to have an egg in his pocket? How

many people wander around with dragon eggs if it's against wizard law?

Lucky they found Hagrid, don't you think? Why didn't I see it before?"


"What are you talking about?" said Ron, but Harry, sprinting across the

grounds toward the forest, didn't answer.


Hagrid was sitting in an armchair outside his house; his trousers and

sleeves were rolled up, and he was shelling peas into a large bowl.


"Hullo," he said, smiling. "Finished yer exams? Got time fer a drink?"


"Yes, please," said Ron, but Harry cut him off.


"No, we're in a hurry. Hagrid, I've got to ask you something. You know

that night you won Norbert? What did the stranger you were playing cards

with look like?"


"Dunno," said Hagrid casually, "he wouldn' take his cloak off."


He saw the three of them look stunned and raised his eyebrows.


"It's not that unusual, yeh get a lot o' funny folk in the Hog's Head --

that's the pub down in the village. Mighta bin a dragon dealer, mightn'

he? I never saw his face, he kept his hood up."


Harry sank down next to the bowl of peas. "What did you talk to him

about, Hagrid? Did you mention Hogwarts at all?"


"Mighta come up," said Hagrid, frowning as he tried to remember.

"Yeah... he asked what I did, an' I told him I was gamekeeper here....

He asked a bit about the sorta creatures I took after... so I told

him... an' I said what I'd always really wanted was a dragon... an'

then... I can' remember too well, 'cause he kept buyin' me drinks....

Let's see... yeah, then he said he had the dragon egg an' we could play

cards fer it if I wanted... but he had ter be sure I could handle it, he

didn' want it ter go ter any old home.... So I told him, after Fluffy, a

dragon would be easy..."


"And did he -- did he seem interested in Fluffy?" Harry asked, try ing

to keep his voice calm.


"Well -- yeah -- how many three-headed dogs d'yeh meet, even around

Hogwarts? So I told him, Fluffy's a piece o' cake if yeh know how to

calm him down, jus' play him a bit o' music an' he'll go straight off

ter sleep --"


Hagrid suddenly looked horrified.


"I shouldn'ta told yeh that!" he blurted out. "Forget I said it! Hey --

where're yeh goin'?"


Harry, Ron, and Hermione didn't speak to each other at all until they

came to a halt in the entrance hall, which seemed very cold and gloomy

after the grounds.


"We've got to go to Dumbledore," said Harry. "Hagrid told that stranger

how to get past Fluffy, and it was either Snape or Voldemort under that

cloak -- it must've been easy, once he'd got Hagrid drunk. I just hope

Dumbledore believes us. Firenze might back us up if Bane doesn't stop

him. Where's Dumbledore's office?"


They looked around, as if hoping to see a sign pointing them in the

right direction. They had never been told where Dumbledore lived, nor

did they know anyone who had been sent to see him.


"We'll just have to --" Harry began, but a voice suddenly rang across

the hall.


"What are you three doing inside?"


It was Professor McGonagall, carrying a large pile of books.


"We want to see Professor Dumbledore," said Hermione, rather bravely,

Harry and Ron thought.


"See Professor Dumbledore?" Professor McGonagall repeated, as though

this was a very fishy thing to want to do. "Why?"


Harry swallowed -- now what?


"It's sort of secret," he said, but he wished at once he hadn't, because

Professor McGonagall's nostrils flared.


"Professor Dumbledore left ten minutes ago," she said coldly. "He

received an urgent owl from the Ministry of Magic and flew off for

London at once."


"He's gone?" said Harry frantically. "Now?"


"Professor Dumbledore is a very great wizard, Potter, he has many

demands on his time --


"But this is important."


"Something you have to say is more important than the Ministry of Magic,



"Look," said Harry, throwing caution to the winds, "Professor -- it's

about the Sorcerer's tone --"


Whatever Professor McGonagall had expected, it wasn't that. The books

she was carrying tumbled out of her arms, but she didn't pick them up.

"How do you know --?" she spluttered.


"Professor, I think -- I know -- that Sn- that someone's going to try

and steal the Stone. I've got to talk to Professor Dumbledore."


She eyed him with a mixture of shock and suspicion.


"Professor Dumbledore will be back tomorrow," she said finally. I don't

know how you found out about the Stone, but rest assured, no one can

possibly steal it, it's too well protected."


"But Professor --"


"Potter, I know what I'm talking about," she said shortly. She bent down

and gathered up the fallen books. I suggest you all go back outside and

enjoy the sunshine."


But they didn't.


"It's tonight," said Harry, once he was sure Professor McGonagall was

out of earshot. "Snape's going through the trapdoor tonight. He's found

out everything he needs, and now he's got Dumbledore out of the way. He

sent that note, I bet the Ministry of Magic will get a real shock when

Dumbledore turns up."


"But what can we --"


Hermione gasped. Harry and Ron wheeled round.


Snape was standing there.


"Good afternoon," he said smoothly.


They stared at him.


"You shouldn't be inside on a day like this," he said, with an odd,

twisted smile.


"We were --" Harry began, without any idea what he was going to say.


"You want to be more careful," said Snape. "Hanging around


like this, people will think you're up to something. And Gryffindor

really can't afford to lose any more points, can it?"


Harry flushed. They turned to go outside, but Snape called them back.


"Be warned, Potter -- any more nighttime wanderings and I will

personally make sure you are expelled. Good day to you."


He strode off in the direction of the staffroom.


Out on the stone steps, Harry turned to the others.


"Right, here's what we've got to do," he whispered urgently. "One of us

has got to keep an eye on Snape -- wait outside the staff room and

follow him if he leaves it. Hermione, you'd better do that."


"Why me?"


"It's obvious," said Ron. "You can pretend to be waiting for Professor

Flitwick, you know." He put on a high voice, "'Oh Professor Flitwick,

I'm so worried, I think I got question fourteen b wrong....'"


"Oh, shut up," said Hermione, but she agreed to go and watch out for



"And we'd better stay outside the third-floor corridor," Harry told Ron.

"Come on."


But that part of the plan didn't work. No sooner had they reached the

door separating Fluffy from the rest of the school than Professor

McGonagall turned up again and this time, she lost her temper.


"I suppose you think you're harder to get past than a pack of

enchantments!" she stormed. "Enough of this nonsense! If I hear you 've

come anywhere near here again, I'll take another fifty points from

Gryffindor! Yes, Weasley, from my own house!" Harry and Ron went back to

the common room, Harry had just said, "At least Hermione's on Snape's

tail," when the portrait of the Fat Lady swung open and Hermione came



"I'm sorry, Harry!" she wailed. "Snape came out and asked me what I was

doing, so I said I was waiting for Flitwick, and Snape went to get him,

and I've only just got away, I don't know where Snape went."


"Well, that's it then, isn't it?" Harry said.


The other two stared at him. He was pale and his eyes were glittering.


"I'm going out of here tonight and I'm going to try and get to the Stone



"You're mad!" said Ron.


"You can't!" said Hermione. "After what McGonagall and Snape have said?

You'll be expelled!"


"SO WHAP" Harry shouted. "Don't you understand? If Snape gets hold of

the Stone, Voldemort's coming back! Haven't you heard what it was like

when he was trying to take over? There won't be any Hogwarts to get

expelled from! He'll flatten it, or turn it into a school for the Dark

Arts! Losing points doesn't matter anymore, can't you see? D'you think

he'll leave you and your families alone if Gryffindor wins the house

cup? If I get caught before I can get to the Stone, well, I'll have to

go back to the Dursleys and wait for Voldemort to find me there, it's

only dying a bit later than I would have, because I'm never going over

to the Dark Side! I'm going through that trapdoor tonight and nothing

you two say is going to stop me! Voldemort killed my parents, remember?"


He glared at them.


"You're right Harry," said Hermione in a small voice.


"I'll use the invisibility cloak," said Harry. "It's just lucky I got it



"But will it cover all three of us?" said Ron.


"All -- all three of us?"


"Oh, come off it, you don't think we'd let you go alone?"


"Of course not," said Hermione briskly. "How do you think you'd get to

the Stone without us? I'd better go and took through my books, there

might be something useful..."


"But if we get caught, you two will be expelled, too."


"Not if I can help it," said Hermione grimly. "Flitwick told me in

secret that I got a hundred and twelve percent on his exam. They're not

throwing me out after that."


After dinner the three of them sat nervously apart in the common room.

Nobody bothered them; none of the Gryffindors had anything to say to

Harry any more, after all. This was the first night he hadn't been upset

by it. Hermione was skimming through all her notes, hoping to come

across one of the enchantments they were about to try to break. Harry

and Ron didn't talk much. Both of them were thinking about what they

were about to do.


Slowly, the room emptied as people drifted off to bed.


"Better get the cloak," Ron muttered, as Lee Jordan finally left,

stretching and yawning. Harry ran upstairs to their dark dormitory. He

putted out the cloak and then his eyes fell on the flute Hagrid had

given him for Christmas. He pocketed it to use on Fluffy -- he didn't

feel much like singing.


He ran back down to the common room.


"We'd better put the cloak on here, and make sure it covers all three of

us -- if Filch spots one of our feet wandering along on its own --"


"What are you doing?" said a voice from the corner of the room. Neville

appeared from behind an armchair, clutching Trevor the toad, who looked

as though he'd been making another bid for freedom.


"Nothing, Neville, nothing," said Harry, hurriedly putting the cloak

behind his back.


Neville stared at their guilty faces.


"You're going out again," he said.


"No, no, no," said Hermione. "No, we're not. Why don't you go to bed,



Harry looked at the grandfather clock by the door. They couldn't afford

to waste any more time, Snape might even now be playing Fluffy to sleep.


"You can't go out," said Neville, "you'll be caught again. Gryffindor

will be in even more trouble."


"You don't understand," said Harry, "this is important."


But Neville was clearly steeling himself to do something desperate.


I won't let you do it," he said, hurrying to stand in front of the

portrait hole. "I'll -- I'll fight you!"


"Neville, "Ron exploded, "get away from that hole and don't be an idiot



"Don't you call me an idiot!" said Neville. I don't think you should be

breaking any more rules! And you were the one who told me to stand up to



"Yes, but not to us," said Ron in exasperation. "Neville, you don't know

what you're doing."


He took a step forward and Neville dropped Trevor the toad, who leapt

out of sight.


"Go on then, try and hit me!" said Neville, raising his fists. "I'm



Harry turned to Hermione.


"Do something," he said desperately.


Hermione stepped forward.


"Neville," she said, "I'm really, really sorry about this."


She raised her wand.


"Petrificus Totalus!" she cried, pointing it at Neville.


Neville's arms snapped to his sides. His legs sprang together. His whole

body rigid, he swayed where he stood and then fell flat on his face,

stiff as a board.


Hermione ran to turn him over. Neville's jaws were jammed together so he

couldn't speak. Only his eyes were moving, looking at them in horror.


"What've you done to him?" Harry whispered.


"It's the full Body-Bind," said Hermione miserably. "Oh, Neville, I'm so



"We had to, Neville, no time to explain," said Harry.


"You'll understand later, Neville," said Ron as they stepped over him

and pulled on the invisibility cloak.


But leaving Neville lying motionless on the floor didn't feel like a

very good omen. In their nervous state, every statue's shadow looked

like Filch, every distant breath of wind sounded like Peeves swooping

down on them. At the foot of the first set of stairs, they spotted Mrs.

Norris skulking near the top.


"Oh, let's kick her, just this once," Ron whispered in Harry's ear, but

Harry shook his head. As they climbed carefully around her, Mrs. Norris

turned her lamplike eyes on them, but didn't do anything.


They didn't meet anyone else until they reached the staircase up to the

third floor. Peeves was bobbing halfway up, loosening the carpet so that

people would trip.


"Who's there?" he said suddenly as they climbed toward him. He narrowed

his wicked black eyes. "Know you're there, even if I can't see you. Are

you ghoulie or ghostie or wee student beastie?"


He rose up in the air and floated there, squinting at them.


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