Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Page 11) eBook online

“No one wants to upset me! That’s a good one!” howled Myrtle. “My life was nothing but misery at this place and now people come along ruining my death!”

“We wanted to ask you if you’ve seen anything funny lately,” said Hermione quickly. “Because a cat was attacked right outside your front door on Halloween.”

“Did you see anyone near here that night?” said Harry.

“I wasn’t paying attention,” said Myrtle dramatically. “Peeves upset me so much I came in here and tried to kill myself. Then, of course, I remembered that I’m—that I’m “ “Already dead,” said Ron helpfully.

Myrtle gave a tragic sob, rose up in the air, turned over, and dived headfirst into the toilet, splashing water all over them and vanishing from sight, although from the direction of her muffled sobs, she had come to rest somewhere in the U bend.

Harry and Ron stood with their mouths open, but Hermione shrugged wearily and said, “Honestly, that was almost cheerful for Myrtle… Come on, let’s go.”

Harry had barely closed the door on Myrtle’s gurgling sobs when a loud voice made all three of them jump.

“RON!”

Percy Weasley had stopped dead at the head of the stairs, prefect badge agleam, an expression of complete shock on his face.

“That’s a girls’ bathroom!” he gasped. “What were you—?”

“Just having a look around,” Ron shrugged. “Clues, you know—” Percy swelled in a manner that reminded Harry forcefully of Mrs. Weasley.

“Get—away—from—there—” Percy said, striding toward them and starting to bustle them along, flapping his arms. “Don’t you care what this looks like? Coming back here while everyone’s at dinner—”

“Why shouldn’t we be here?” said Ron hotly, stopping short and glaring at Percy. “Listen, we never laid a finger on that cat!”

“That’s what I told Ginny,” said Percy fiercely, “but she still seems to think you’re going to be expelled, I’ve never seen her so upset, crying her eyes out, you might think of her, all the first years are thoroughly overexcited by this business—”

“You don’t care about Ginny,” said Ron, whose ears were now reddening. “You’re just worried I’m going to mess up your chances of being Head Boy—”

“Five points from Gryffindor!” Percy said tersely, fingering his prefect badge. “And I hope it teaches you a lesson! No more detective work, or I’ll write to Mum!”

And he strode off, the back of his neck as red as Ron’s ears.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione chose seats as far as possible from Percy in the common room that night. Ron was still in a very bad temper and kept blotting his Charms homework. When he reached absently for his wand to remove the smudges, it ignited the parchment. Fuming almost as much as his homework, Ron slammed The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2 shut. To Harry’s surprise, Hermione followed suit.

“Who can it be, though?” she said in a quiet voice, as though continuing a conversation they had just been having. “Who’d want to frighten all the Squibs and Muggle-borns out of Hogwarts?”

“Let’s think,” said Ron in mock puzzlement. “Who do we know who thinks Muggle-borns are scum?”

He looked at Hermione. Hermione looked back, unconvinced.

“If you’re talking about Malfoy—”

“Of course I am!” said Ron. “You heard him—‘You’ll be next, Mudbloods!’—come on, you’ve only got to look at his foul rat face to know it’s him—”

“Malfoy, the Heir of Slytherin?” said Hermione skeptically.

“Look at his family,” said Harry, closing his books, too. “The whole lot of them have been in Slytherin; he’s always boasting about it. They could easily be Slytherin’s descendants. His father’s definitely evil enough.”

“They could’ve had the key to the Chamber of Secrets for centuries!” said Ron. “Handing it down, father to son…”

“Well,” said Hermione cautiously, “I suppose it’s possible…”

“But how do we prove it?” said Harry darkly.

“There might be a way,” said Hermione slowly, dropping her voice still further with a quick glance across the room at Percy. “Of course, it would be difficult. And dangerous, very dangerous. We’d be breaking about fifty school rules, I expect—”

“If, in a month or so, you feel like explaining, you will let us know, won’t you?” said Ron irritably.

“All right,” said Hermione coldly. “What we’d need to do is to get inside the Slytherin common room and ask Malfoy a few questions without him realizing it’s us.”

“But that’s impossible,” Harry said as Ron laughed.

“No, it’s not,” said Hermione. “All we’d need would be some Polyjuice Potion.”

“What’s that?” said Ron and Harry together.

“Snape mentioned it in class a few weeks ago—”

“D’you think we’ve got nothing better to do in Potions than listen to Snape?” muttered Ron.

“It transforms you into somebody else. Think about it! We could change into three of the Slytherins. No one would know it was us. Malfoy would probably tell us anything. He’s probably boasting about it in the Slytherin common room right now, if only we could hear him.”

“This Polyjuice stuff sounds a bit dodgy to me,” said Ron, frowning. “What if we were stuck looking like three of the Slytherins forever?”

“It wears off after a while,” said Hermione, waving her hand impatiently. “But getting hold of the recipe will be very difficult. Snape said it was in a book called Moste Potente Potions and it’s bound to be in the Restricted Section of the library.”

There was only one way to get out a book from the Restricted Section: You needed a signed note of permission from a teacher.

“Hard to see why we’d want the book, really,” said Ron, “if we weren’t going to try and make one of the potions.”

“I think,” said Hermione, “that if we made it sound as though we were just interested in the theory, we might stand a chance…”

“Oh, come on, no teacher’s going to fall for that,” said Ron. “They’d have to be really thick…”




10. THE ROGUE BLUDGER


Since the disastrous episode of the pixies, Professor Lockhart had not brought live creatures to class. Instead, he read passages from his books to them, and sometimes reenacted some of the more dramatic bits. He usually picked Harry to help him with these reconstructions; so far, Harry had been forced to play a simple Transylvanian villager whom Lockhart had cured of a Babbling Curse, a yeti with a head cold, and a vampire who had been unable to eat anything except lettuce since Lockhart had dealt with him.

Harry was hauled to the front of the class during their very next Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson, this time acting a werewolf. If he hadn’t had a very good reason for keeping Lockhart in a good mood, he would have refused to do it.

“Nice loud howl, Harry—exactly—and then, if you’ll believe it, I pounced—like this—slammed him to the floor—thus with one hand, I managed to hold him down—with my other, I put my wand to his throat—I then screwed up my remaining strength and performed the immensely complex Homorphus Charm—he let out a piteous moan—go on, Harry—higher than that—good—the fur vanished—the fangs shrank—and he turned back into a man. Simple, yet effective—and another village will remember me forever as the hero who delivered them from the monthly terror of werewolf attacks.”

The bell rang and Lockhart got to his feet.

“Homework—compose a poem about my defeat of the Wagga Wagga Werewolf! Signed copies of Magical Me to the author of the best one!”

The class began to leave. Harry returned to the back of the room, where Ron and Hermione were waiting.

“Ready?” Harry muttered.

“Wait till everyone’s gone,” said Hermione nervously. “All right…”

She approached Lockhart’s desk, a piece of paper clutched tightly in her hand, Harry and Ron right behind her.

“Er—Professor Lockhart?” Hermione stammered. “I wanted to—to get this book out of the library. Just for background reading.” She held out the piece of paper, her hand shaking slightly. “But the thing is, it’s in the Restricted Section of the library, so I need a teacher to sign for it—I’m sure it would help me understand what you say in Gadding with Ghouls about slow acting venoms…”

“Ah, Gadding with Ghouls!” said Lockhart, taking the note from Hermione and smiling widely at her. “Possibly my very favorite book. You enjoyed it?”

“Oh, yes,” said Hermione eagerly. “So clever, the way you trapped that last one with the tea strainer—”

“Well, I’m sure no one will mind me giving the best student of the year a little extra help,” said Lockhart warmly, and he pulled out an enormous peacock quill. “Yes, nice, isn’t it?” he said, misreading the revolted look on Ron’s face. “I usually save it for book signings.”

He scrawled an enormous loopy signature on the note and handed it back to Hermione.

“So, Harry,” said Lockhart, while Hermione folded the note with fumbling fingers and slipped it into her bag. “Tomorrow’s the first Quidditch match of the season, I believe? Gryffindor against Slytherin, is it not? I hear you’re a useful player. I was a Seeker, too. I was asked to try for the National Squad, but preferred to dedicate my life to the eradication of the Dark Forces. Still, if ever you feel the need for a little private training, don’t hesitate to ask. Always happy to pass on my expertise to less able players…”

Harry made an indistinct noise in his throat and then hurried off after Ron and Hermione.

“I don’t believe it,” he said as the three of them examined the signature on the note. “He didn’t even look at the book we wanted.”

“That’s because he’s a brainless git,” said Ron. “But who cares, we’ve got what we needed—”

“He is not a brainless git,” said Hermione shrilly as they half ran toward the library.

“Just because he said you were the best student of the year—”

They dropped their voices as they entered the muffled stillness of the library. Madam Pince, the librarian, was a thin, irritable woman who looked like an underfed vulture.

“Moste Potente Potions?” she repeated suspiciously, trying to take the note from Hermione; but Hermione wouldn’t let go.

“I was wondering if I could keep it,” she said breathlessly.

“Oh, come on,” said Ron, wrenching it from her grasp and thrusting it at Madam Pince. “We’ll get you another autograph. Lockhart’ll sign anything if it stands still long enough.”

Madam Pince held the note up to the light, as though determined to detect a forgery, but it passed the test. She stalked away between the lofty shelves and returned several minutes later carrying a large and moldy looking book. Hermione put it carefully into her bag and they left, trying not to walk too quickly or look too guilty.

Five minutes later, they were barricaded in Moaning Myrtle’s out of order bathroom once again. Hermione had overridden Ron’s objections by pointing out that it was the last place anyone in their right minds would go, so they were guaranteed some privacy. Moaning Myrtle was crying noisily in her stall, but they were ignoring her, and she them.

Hermione opened Moste Potente Potions carefully, and the three of them bent over the damp spotted pages. It was clear from a glance why it belonged in the Restricted Section. Some of the potions had effects almost too gruesome to think about, and there were some very unpleasant illustrations, which included a man who seemed to have been turned inside out and a witch sprouting several extra pairs of arms out of her head.

“Here it is,” said Hermione excitedly as she found the page headed The Polyjuice Potion. It was decorated with drawings of people halfway through transforming into other people. Harry sincerely hoped the artist had imagined the looks of intense pain on their faces.

“This is the most complicated potion I’ve ever seen,” said Hermione as they scanned the recipe. “Lacewing flies, leeches, fluxweed, and knotgrass,” she murmured, running her finger down the list of ingredients. “Well, they’re easy enough, they’re in the student storecupboard, we can help ourselves… Oooh, look, powdered horn of a Bicorn—don’t know where we’re going to get that—shredded skin of a Boomslang—that’ll be tricky, too and of course a bit of whoever we want to change into.”

“Excuse me?” said Ron sharply. “What d’you mean, a bit of whoever we’re changing into? I’m drinking nothing with Crabbe’s toenails in it—”

Hermione continued as though she hadn’t heard him.

“We don’t have to worry about that yet, though, because we add those bits last…

Ron turned, speechless, to Harry, who had another worry.

“D’you realize how much we’re going to have to steal, Hermione? Shredded skin of a boomslang, that’s definitely not in the students’ cupboard. What’re we going to do, break into Snape’s private stores? I don’t know if this is a good idea…”

Hermione shut the book with a snap.

“Well, if you two are going to chicken out, fine,” she said. There were bright pink patches on her cheeks and her eyes were brighter than usual. “I don’t want to break rules, you know. I think threatening Muggle-borns is far worse than brewing up a difficult potion. But if you don’t want to find out if it’s Malfoy, I’ll go straight to Madam Pince now and hand the book back in—”

“I never thought I’d see the day when you’d be persuading us to break rules,” said Ron. “All right, we’ll do it. But not toenails, okay?”

“How long will it take to make, anyway?” said Harry as Hermione, looking happier, opened the book again.

“Well, since the fluxweed has got to be picked at the full moon and the lacewings have got to be stewed for twenty one days… I’d say it’d be ready in about a month, if we can get all the ingredients.”

“A month?” said Ron. “Malfoy could have attacked half the Muggleborns in the school by then!” But Hermione’s eyes narrowed dangerously again, and he added swiftly, “But it’s the best plan we’ve got, so full steam ahead, I say.”

However, while Hermione was checking that the coast was clear for them to leave the bathroom, Ron muttered to Harry, “It’ll be a lot less hassle if you can just knock Malfoy off his broom tomorrow.”

Harry woke early on Saturday morning and lay for a while thinking about the coming Quidditch match. He was nervous, mainly at the thought of what Wood would say if Gryffindor lost, but also at the idea of facing a team mounted on the fastest racing brooms gold could buy. He had never wanted to beat Slytherin so badly. After half an hour of lying there with his insides churning, he got up, dressed, and went down to breakfast early, where he found the rest of the Gryffindor team huddled at the long, empty table, all looking uptight and not speaking much.

As eleven o’clock approached, the whole school started to make its way down to the Quidditch stadium. It was a muggy sort of day with a hint of thunder in the air. Ron and Hermione came hurrying over to wish Harry good luck as he entered the locker rooms. The team pulled on their scarlet Gryffindor robes, then sat down to listen to Wood’s usual pre match pep talk.

“Slytherin has better brooms than us,” he began. “No point denying it. But we’ve got better people on our brooms. We’ve trained harder than they have, we’ve been flying in all weathers—” (“Too true,” muttered George Weasley. “I haven’t been properly dry since August”) “and we’re going to make them rue the day they let that little bit of slime, Malfoy, buy his way onto their team.” Chest heaving with emotion, Wood turned to Harry.

“It’ll be down to you, Harry, to show them that a Seeker has to have something more than a rich father. Get to that Snitch before Malfoy or die trying, Harry, because we’ve got to win today, we’ve got to.”

“So no pressure, Harry,” said Fred, winking at him.

As they walked out onto the pitch, a roar of noise greeted them; mainly cheers, because Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were anxious to see Slytherin beaten, but the Slytherins in the crowd made their boos and hisses heard, too. Madam Hooch, the Quidditch teacher, asked Flint and Wood to shake hands, which they did, giving each other threatening stares and gripping rather harder than was necessary.

“On my whistle,” said Madam Hooch. “Three… two… one…”

With a roar from the crowd to speed them upward, the fourteen players rose toward the leaden sky. Harry flew higher than any of them, squinting around for the Snitch.

“All right there, Scarhead?” yelled Malfoy, shooting underneath him as though to show off the speed of his broom.

Harry had no time to reply. At that very moment, a heavy black Bludger came pelting toward him; he avoided it so narrowly that he felt it ruffle his hair as it passed.

“Close one, Harry!” said George, streaking past him with his club in his hand, ready to knock the Bludger back toward a Slytherin. Harry saw George give the Bludger a powerful whack in the direction of Adrian Pucey, but the Bludger changed direction in midair and shot straight for Harry again.

Harry dropped quickly to avoid it, and George managed to hit it hard toward Malfoy. Once again, the Bludger swerved like a boomerang and shot at Harry’s head.

Harry put on a burst of speed and zoomed toward the other end of the pitch. He could hear the Bludger whistling along behind him. What was going on? Bludgers never concentrated on one player like this; it was their job to try and unseat as many people as possible…

Fred Weasley was waiting for the Bludger at the other end. Harry ducked as Fred swung at the Bludger with all his might; the Bludger was knocked off course.

“Gotcha!” Fred yelled happily, but he was wrong; as though it was magnetically attracted to Harry, the Bludger pelted after him once more and Harry was forced to fly off at full speed.

It had started to rain; Harry felt heavy drops fall onto his face, splattering onto his glasses. He didn’t have a clue what was going on in the rest of the game until he heard Lee Jordan, who was commentating, say, “Slytherin lead, sixty points to zero.”

The Slytherins’ superior brooms were clearly doing their jobs, and meanwhile the mad Bludger was doing all it could to knock Harry out of the air. Fred and George were now flying so close to him on either side that Harry could see nothing at all except their flailing arms and had no chance to look for the Snitch, let alone catch it.

“Someone’s—tampered—with—this—Bludger—” Fred grunted, swinging his bat with all his might at it as it launched a new attack on Harry.

“We need time out,” said George, trying to signal to Wood and stop the Bludger breaking Harry’s nose at the same time.

Wood had obviously got the message. Madam Hooch’s whistle rang out and Harry, Fred, and George dived for the ground, still trying to avoid the mad Bludger.

“What’s going on?” said Wood as the Gryffindor team huddled together, while Slytherins in the crowd jeered. “We’re being flattened. Fred, George, where were you when that Bludger stopped Angelina scoring?”

“We were twenty feet above her, stopping the other Bludger from murdering Harry, Oliver,” said George angrily. “Someone’s fixed it—it won’t leave Harry alone. It hasn’t gone for anyone else all game. The Slytherins must have done something to it.”

“But the Bludgers have been locked in Madam Hooch’s office since our last practice, and there was nothing wrong with them then…” said Wood, anxiously.

Madam Hooch was walking toward them. Over her shoulder, Harry could see the Slytherin team jeering and pointing in his direction.

“Listen,” said Harry as she came nearer and nearer, “with you two flying around me all the time the only way I’m going to catch the Snitch is if it flies up my sleeve. Go back to the rest of the team and let me deal with the rogue one.”

“Don’t be thick,” said Fred. “It’ll take your head off.” Wood was looking from Harry to the Weasleys.

“Oliver, this is insane,” said Alicia Spinner angrily. “You can’t let Harry deal with that thing on his own. Let’s ask for an inquiry…”

“If we stop now, we’ll have to forfeit the match!” said Harry. “And we’re not losing to Slytherin just because of a crazy Bludger! Come on, Oliver, tell them to leave me alone!”

“This is all your fault,” George said angrily to Wood. “‘Get the Snitch or die trying,’ what a stupid thing to tell him!”

Madam Hooch had joined them.

“Ready to resume play?” she asked Wood.

Wood looked at the determined look on Harry’s face.

“All right,” he said. “Fred, George, you heard Harry—leave him alone and let him deal with the Bludger on his own.”

The rain was falling more heavily now. On Madam Hooch’s whistle, Harry kicked hard into the air and heard the telltale whoosh of the Bludger behind him. Higher and higher Harry climbed; he looped and swooped, spiraled, zigzagged, and rolled. Slightly dizzy, he nevertheless kept his eyes wide open, rain was speckling his glasses and ran up his nostrils as he hung upside down, avoiding another fierce dive from the Bludger. He could hear laughter from the crowd; he knew he must look very stupid, but the rogue Bludger was heavy and couldn’t change direction as quickly as Harry could; he began a kind of roller coaster ride around the edges of the stadium, squinting through the silver sheets of rain to the Gryffindor goal posts, where Adrian Pucey was trying to get past Wood…

A whistling in Harry’s ear told him the Bludger had just missed him again; he turned right over and sped in the opposite direction.

“Training for the ballet, Potter?” yelled Malfoy as Harry was forced to do a stupid kind of twirl in midair to dodge the Bludger, and he fled, the Bludger trailing a few feet behind him; and then, glaring back at Malfoy in hatred, he saw it—the Golden Snitch. It was hovering inches above Malfoy’s left ear—and Malfoy, busy laughing at Harry, hadn’t seen it.

For an agonizing moment, Harry hung in midair, not daring to speed toward Malfoy in case he looked up and saw the Snitch.

WHAM.

He had stayed still a second too long. The Bludger had hit him at last, smashed into his elbow, and Harry felt his arm break. Dimly, dazed by the searing pain in his arm, he slid sideways on his rain drenched broom, one knee still crooked over it, his right arm dangling useless at his side—the Bludger came pelting back for a second attack, this time aiming at his face—Harry swerved out of the way, one idea firmly lodged in his numb brain: get to Malfoy.

Through a haze of rain and pain he dived for the shimmering, sneering face below him and saw its eyes widen with fear: Malfoy thought Harry was attacking him.

“What the—” he gasped, careening out of Harry’s way.

Harry took his remaining hand off his broom and made a wild snatch; he felt his fingers close on the cold Snitch but was now only gripping the broom with his legs, and there was a yell from the crowd below as he headed straight for the ground, trying hard not to pass out.

With a splattering thud he hit the mud and rolled off his broom. His arm was hanging at a very strange angle; riddled with pain, he heard, as though from a distance, a good deal of whistling and shouting. He focused on the Snitch clutched in his good hand.

“Aha,” he said vaguely. “We’ve won.” And he fainted.

He came around, rain falling on his face, still lying on the field, with someone leaning over him. He saw a glitter of teeth.

“Oh, no, not you,” he moaned.

“Doesn’t know what he’s saying,” said Lockhart loudly to the anxious crowd of Gryffindors pressing around them. “Not to worry, Harry. I’m about to fix your arm.”

“No!” said Harry. “I’ll keep it like this, thanks…”

He tried to sit up, but the pain was terrible. He heard a familiar clicking noise nearby.

“I don’t want a photo of this, Colin,” he said loudly.

“Lie back, Harry,” said Lockhart soothingly. “It’s a simple charm I’ve used countless times—”

“Why can’t I just go to the hospital wing?” said Harry through clenched teeth.

“He should really, Professor,” said a muddy Wood, who couldn’t help grinning even though his Seeker was injured. “Great capture, Harry, really spectacular, your best yet, I’d say—”
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