Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Page 7) eBook online

She pointed to a row of deep trays as she spoke, and everyone shuffled forward for a better look. A hundred or so tufty little plants, purplish green in color, were growing there in rows. They looked quite unremarkable to Harry, who didn’t have the slightest idea what Hermione meant by the “cry” of the Mandrake.

“Everyone take a pair of earmuffs,” said Professor Sprout.

There was a scramble as everyone tried to seize a pair that wasn’t pink and fluffy.

“When I tell you to put them on, make sure your ears are completely covered,” said Professor Sprout. “When it is safe to remove them, I will give you the thumbs up. Right—earmuffs on.”

Harry snapped the earmuffs over his ears. They shut out sound completely. Professor Sprout put the pink, fluffy pair over her own ears, rolled up the sleeves of her robes, grasped one of the tufty plants firmly, and pulled hard.

Harry let out a gasp of surprise that no one could hear.

Instead of roots, a small, muddy, and extremely ugly baby popped out of the earth. The leaves were growing right out of his head. He had pale green, mottled skin, and was clearly bawling at the top of his lungs.

Professor Sprout took a large plant pot from under the table and plunged the Mandrake into it, burying him in dark, damp compost until only the tufted leaves were visible. Professor Sprout dusted off her hands, gave them all the thumbs up, and removed her own earmuffs.

“As our Mandrakes are only seedlings, their cries won’t kill yet,” she said calmly as though she’d just done nothing more exciting than water a begonia. “However, they will knock you out for several hours, and as I’m sure none of you want to miss your first day back, make sure your earmuffs are securely in place while you work. I will attract your attention when it is time to pack up.

“Four to a tray—there is a large supply of pots here—compost in the sacks over there—and be careful of the Venomous Tentacula, it’s teething.”

She gave a sharp slap to a spiky, dark red plant as she spoke, making it draw in the long feelers that had been inching sneakily over her shoulder.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione were joined at their tray by a curly haired Hufflepuff boy Harry knew by sight but had never spoken to.

“Justin Finch-Fletchley,” he said brightly, shaking Harry by the hand. “Know who you are, of course, the famous Harry Potter… And you’re Hermione Granger—always top in everything…” (Hermione beamed as she had her hand shaken too) “and Ron Weasley. Wasn’t that your flying car?” Ron didn’t smile. The Howler was obviously still on his mind.

“That Lockhart’s something, isn’t he?” said Justin happily as they began filling their plant pots with dragon dung compost. “Awfully brave chap. Have you read his books? I’d have died of fear if I’d been cornered in a telephone booth by a werewolf, but he stayed cool and—zap—just fantastic.

“My name was down for Eton, you know. I can’t tell you how glad I am I came here instead. Of course, Mother was slightly disappointed, but since I made her read Lockhart’s books I think she’s begun to see how useful it’ll be to have a fully trained wizard in the family…”

After that they didn’t have much chance to talk. Their earmuffs were back on and they needed to concentrate on the Mandrakes. Professor Sprout had made it look extremely easy, but it wasn’t. The Mandrakes didn’t like coming out of the earth, but didn’t seem to want to go back into it either. They squirmed, kicked, flailed their sharp little fists, and gnashed their teeth; Harry spent ten whole minutes trying to squash a particularly fat one into a pot.

By the end of the class, Harry, like everyone else, was sweaty, aching, and covered in earth. Everyone traipsed back to the castle for a quick wash and then the Gryffindors hurried off to Transfiguration.

Professor McGonagall’s classes were always hard work, but today was especially difficult. Everything Harry had learned last year seemed to have leaked out of his head during the summer. He was supposed to be turning a beetle into a button, but all he managed to do was give his beetle a lot of exercise as it scuttled over the desktop avoiding his wand.

Ron was having far worse problems. He had patched up his wand with some borrowed Spellotape, but it seemed to be damaged beyond repair. It kept crackling and sparking at odd moments, and every time Ron tried to transfigure his beetle it engulfed him in thick gray smoke that smelled of rotten eggs. Unable to see what he was doing, Ron accidentally squashed his beetle with his elbow and had to ask for a new one. Professor McGonagall wasn’t pleased.

Harry was relieved to hear the lunch bell. His brain felt like a wrung sponge. Everyone filed out of the classroom except him and Ron, who was whacking his wand furiously on the desk.

“Stupid—useless—thing—”

“Write home for another one,” Harry suggested as the wand let off a volley of bangs like a firecracker.

“Oh, yeah, and get another Howler back,” said Ron, stuffing the now hissing wand into his bag. “It’s your own fault your wand got snapped—”

They went down to lunch, where Ron’s mood was not improved by Hermione’s showing them the handful of perfect coat buttons she had produced in Transfiguration.

“What’ve we got this afternoon?” said Harry, hastily changing the subject.

“Defense Against the Dark Arts,” said Hermione at once.

“Why,” demanded Ron, seizing her schedule, “have you outlined all Lockhart’s lessons in little hearts?” Hermione snatched the schedule back, blushing furiously.

They finished lunch and went outside into the overcast courtyard. Hermione sat down on a stone step and buried her nose in Voyages with Vampires again. Harry and Ron stood talking about Quidditch for several minutes before Harry became aware that he was being closely watched. Looking up, he saw the very small, mousy haired boy he’d seen trying on the Sorting Hat last night staring at Harry as though transfixed. He was clutching what looked like an ordinary Muggle camera, and the moment Harry looked at him, he went bright red.

“All right, Harry? I’m—I’m Colin Creevey,” he said breathlessly, taking a tentative step forward. “I’m in Gryffindor, too. D’you think—would it be all right if—can I have a picture?” he said, raising the camera hopefully.

“A picture?” Harry repeated blankly.

“So I can prove I’ve met you,” said Colin Creevey eagerly, edging further forward. “I know all about you. Everyone’s told me. About how you survived when You-Know-Who tried to kill you and how he disappeared and everything and how you’ve still got a lightning scar on your forehead” (his eyes raked Harry’s hairline) “and a boy in my dormitory said if I develop the film in the right potion, the pictures’ll move.” Colin drew a great shuddering breath of excitement and said, “It’s amazing here, isn’t it? I never knew all the odd stuff I could do was magic till I got the letter from Hogwarts. My dad’s a milkman, he couldn’t believe it either. So I’m taking loads of pictures to send home to him. And it’d be really good if I had one of you”—he looked imploringly at Harry—“maybe your friend could take it and I could stand next to you? And then, could you sign it?”

“Signed photos? You’re giving out signed photos, Potter?”

Loud and scathing, Draco Malfoy’s voice echoed around the courtyard. He had stopped right behind Colin, flanked, as he always was at Hogwarts, by his large and thuggish cronies, Crabbe and Goyle.

“Everyone line up!” Malfoy roared to the crowd. “Harry Potter’s giving out signed photos!”

“No, I’m not,” said Harry angrily, his fists clenching. “Shut up, Malfoy.”

“You’re just jealous,” piped up Colin, whose entire body was about as thick as Crabbe’s neck.

“Jealous?” said Malfoy, who didn’t need to shout anymore: half the courtyard was listening in. “Of what? I don’t want a foul scar right across my head, thanks. I don’t think getting your head cut open makes you that special, myself.”

Crabbe and Goyle were sniggering stupidly.

“Eat slugs, Malfoy,” said Ron angrily. Crabbe stopped laughing and started rubbing his knuckles in a menacing way.

“Be careful, Weasley,” sneered Malfoy. “You don’t want to start any trouble or your Mommy’ll have to come and take you away from school.” He put on a shrill, piercing voice. “If you put another toe out of line—”

A knot of Slytherin fifth years nearby laughed loudly at this.

“Weasley would like a signed photo, Potter,” smirked Malfoy. “It’d be worth more than his family’s whole house—”

Ron whipped out his Spellotaped wand, but Hermione shut Voyages with Vampires with a snap and whispered, “Look out!”

“What’s all this, what’s all this?” Gilderoy Lockhart was striding toward them, his turquoise robes swirling behind him. “Who’s giving out signed photos?”

Harry started to speak but he was cut short as Lockhart flung an arm around his shoulders and thundered jovially, “Shouldn’t have asked! We meet again, Harry!”

Pinned to Lockhart’s side and burning with humiliation, Harry saw Malfoy slide smirking back into the crowd.

“Come on then, Mr. Creevey,” said Lockhart, beaming at Colin. “A double portrait, can’t do better than that, and we’ll both sign it for you.”

Colin fumbled for his camera and took the picture as the bell rang behind them, signaling the start of afternoon classes.

“Off you go, move along there,” Lockhart called to the crowd, and he set off back to the castle with Harry, who was wishing he knew a good Vanishing Spell, still clasped to his side.

“A word to the wise, Harry,” said Lockhart paternally as they entered the building through a side door. “I covered up for you back there with young Creevey—if he was photographing me, too, your schoolmates won’t think you’re setting yourself up so much…”

Deaf to Harry’s stammers, Lockhart swept him down a corridor lined with staring students and up a staircase.

“Let me just say that handing out signed pictures at this stage of your career isn’t sensible—looks a tad bigheaded, Harry, to be frank. There may well come a time when, like me, you’ll need to keep a stack handy wherever you go, but”—he gave a little chortle—“I don’t think you’re quite there yet.”

They had reached Lockhart’s classroom and he let Harry go at last. Harry yanked his robes straight and headed for a seat at the very back of the class, where he busied himself with piling all seven of Lockhart’s books in front of him, so that he could avoid looking at the real thing.

The rest of the class came clattering in, and Ron and Hermione sat down on either side of Harry.

“You could’ve fried an egg on your face” said Ron. “You’d better hope Creevey doesn’t meet Ginny, or they’ll be starting a Harry Potter fan club.”

“Shut up,” snapped Harry. The last thing he needed was for Lockhart to hear the phrase “Harry Potter fan club.”

When the whole class was seated, Lockhart cleared his throat loudly and silence fell. He reached forward, picked up Neville Longbottom’s copy of Travels with Trolls, and held it up to show his own, winking portrait on the front.

“Me,” he said, pointing at it and winking as well. “Gilderoy Lockhart, Order of Merlin, Third Class, Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defense League, and five time winner of Witch Weekly’s MostCharming Smile Award—but I don’t talk about that. I didn’t get rid of the Bandon Banshee by smiling at her!”

He waited for them to laugh; a few people smiled weakly.

“I see you’ve all bought a complete set of my books—well done. I thought we’d start today with a little quiz. Nothing to worry about—just to check how well you’ve read them, how much you’ve taken in—”

When he had handed out the test papers he returned to the front of the class and said, “You have thirty minutes—start—now!” Harry looked down at his paper and read:



1. What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s favorite color?

2. What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s secret ambition?

3. What, in your opinion, is Gilderoy Lockhart’s greatest achievement to date?


On and on it went, over three sides of paper, right down to:



54. When is Gilderoy Lockhart’s birthday, and what would his ideal gift be?


Half an hour later, Lockhart collected the papers and rifled through them in front of the class.

“Tut, tut—hardly any of you remembered that my favorite color is lilac. I say so in Year with the Yeti. And a few of you need to read Wanderings with Werewolves more carefully—I clearly state in Chapter twelve that my ideal birthday gift would be harmony between all magic and non magic peoples—though I wouldn’t say no to a large bottle of Ogden’s Old Firewhisky!”

He gave them another roguish wink. Ron was now staring at Lockhart with an expression of disbelief on his face; Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas, who were sitting in front, were shaking with silent laughter. Hermione, on the other hand, was listening to Lockhart with rapt attention and gave a start when he mentioned her name.

“…but Miss Hermione Granger knew my secret ambition is to rid the world of evil and market my own range of hair care potions—good girl! In fact—” he flipped her paper over “—full marks! Where is Miss Hermione Granger?”

Hermione raised a trembling hand.

“Excellent!” beamed Lockhart. “Quite excellent! Take ten points for Gryffindor! And so—to business—”

He bent down behind his desk and lifted a large, covered cage onto it.

“Now—be warned! It is my job to arm you against the foulest creatures known to wizardkind! You may find yourselves facing your worst fears in this room. Know only that no harm can befall you whilst I am here. All I ask is that you remain calm.”

In spite of himself, Harry leaned around his pile of books for a better look at the cage. Lockhart placed a hand on the cover. Dean and Seamus had stopped laughing now. Neville was cowering in his front row seat.

“I must ask you not to scream,” said Lockhart in a low voice. “It might provoke them.” As the whole class held its breath, Lockhart whipped off the cover.

“Yes,” he said dramatically. “Freshly caught Cornish pixies.”

Seamus Finnigan couldn’t control himself. He let out a snort of laughter that even Lockhart couldn’t mistake for a scream of terror.

“Yes?” He smiled at Seamus.

“Well, they’re not—they’re not very—dangerous, are they?” Seamus choked.

“Don’t be so sure!” said Lockhart, waggling a finger annoyingly at Seamus. “Devilish tricky little blighters they can be!”

The pixies were electric blue and about eight inches high, with pointed faces and voices so shrill it was like listening to a lot of budgies arguing. The moment the cover had been removed, they had started jabbering and rocketing around, rattling the bars and making bizarre faces at the people nearest them.

“Right, then,” Lockhart said loudly. “Let’s see what you make of them!” And he opened the cage.

It was pandemonium. The pixies shot in every direction like rockets. Two of them seized Neville by the ears and lifted him into the air. Several shot straight through the window, showering the back row with broken glass. The rest proceeded to wreck the classroom more effectively than a rampaging rhino. They grabbed ink bottles and sprayed the class with them, shredded books and papers, tore pictures from the walls, up ended the waste basket, grabbed bags and books and threw them out of the smashed window; within minutes, half the class was sheltering under desks and Neville was swinging from the iron chandelier in the ceiling.

“Come on now—round them up, round them up, they’re only pixies,” Lockhart shouted.

He rolled up his sleeves, brandished his wand, and bellowed, “Peskipiksi Pesternomi!”

It had absolutely no effect; one of the pixies seized his wand and threw it out of the window, too. Lockhart gulped and dived under his own desk, narrowly avoiding being squashed by Neville, who fell a second later as the chandelier gave way.

The bell rang and there was a mad rush toward the exit. In the relative calm that followed, Lockhart straightened up, caught sight of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, who were almost at the door, and said, “Well, I’ll ask you three to just nip the rest of them back into their cage.” He swept past them and shut the door quickly behind him.

“Can you believe him?” roared Ron as one of the remaining pixies bit him painfully on the ear.

“He just wants to give us some hands-on experience,” said Hermione, immobilizing two pixies at once with a clever Freezing Charm and stuffing them back into their cage.

“Hands on?” said Harry, who was trying to grab a pixie dancing out of reach with its tongue out. “Hermione, he didn’t have a clue what he was doing—”

“Rubbish,” said Hermione. “You’ve read his books—look at all those amazing things he’s done—”

“He says he’s done,” Ron muttered.




7. MUDBLOODS AND MURMURS


Harry spent a lot of time over the next few days dodging out of sight whenever he saw Gilderoy Lockhart coming down a corridor. Harder to avoid was Colin Creevey, who seemed to have memorized Harry’s schedule. Nothing seemed to give Colin a bigger thrill than to say, “All right, Harry?” six or seven times a day and hear, “Hello, Colin,” back, however exasperated Harry sounded when he said it.

Hedwig was still angry with Harry about the disastrous car journey and Ron’s wand was still malfunctioning, surpassing itself on Friday morning by shooting out of Ron’s hand in Charms and hitting tiny old Professor Flitwick squarely between the eyes, creating a large, throbbing green boil where it had struck. So with one thing and another, Harry was quite glad to reach the weekend. He, Ron, and Hermione were planning to visit Hagrid on Saturday morning. Harry, however, was shaken awake several hours earlier than he would have liked by Oliver Wood, Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team.

“Whassamatter?” said Harry groggily.

“Quidditch practice!” said Wood. “Come on!”

Harry squinted at the window. There was a thin mist hanging across the pink and gold sky. Now that he was awake, he couldn’t understand how he could have slept through the racket the birds were making.

“Oliver,” Harry croaked. “It’s the crack of dawn.”

“Exactly,” said Wood. He was a tall and burly sixth year and, at the moment, his eyes were gleaming with a crazed enthusiasm. “It’s part of our new training program. Come on, grab your broom, and let’s go,” said Wood heartily. “None of the other teams have started training yet; we’re going to be first off the mark this year—”

Yawning and shivering slightly, Harry climbed out of bed and tried to find his Quidditch robes.

“Good man,” said Wood. “Meet you on the field in fifteen minutes.”

When he’d found his scarlet team robes and pulled on his cloak for warmth, Harry scribbled a note to Ron explaining where he’d gone and went down the spiral staircase to the common room, his Nimbus Two Thousand on his shoulder. He had just reached the portrait hole when there was a clatter behind him and Colin Creevey came dashing down the spiral staircase, his camera swinging madly around his neck and something clutched in his hand.

“I heard someone saying your name on the stairs, Harry! Look what I’ve got here! I’ve had it developed, I wanted to show you—”

Harry looked bemusedly at the photograph Colin was brandishing under his nose.

A moving, black and white Lockhart was tugging hard on an arm Harry recognized as his own. He was pleased to see that his photographic self was putting up a good fight and refusing to be dragged into view. As Harry watched, Lockhart gave up and slumped, panting, against the white edge of the picture.

“Will you sign it?” said Colin eagerly.

“No,” said Harry flatly, glancing around to check that the room was really deserted. “Sorry, Colin, I’m in a hurry—Quidditch practice—”

He climbed through the portrait hole.

“Oh, wow! Wait for me! I’ve never watched a Quidditch game before!”

Colin scrambled through the hole after him.

“It’ll be really boring,” Harry said quickly, but Colin ignored him, his face shining with excitement.

“You were the youngest House player in a hundred years, weren’t you, Harry? Weren’t you?” said Colin, trotting alongside him. “You must be brilliant. I’ve never flown. Is it easy? Is that your own broom? Is that the best one there is?”

Harry didn’t know how to get rid of him. It was like having an extremely talkative shadow.

“I don’t really understand Quidditch,” said Colin breathlessly. “Is it true there are four balls? And two of them fly around trying to knock people off their brooms?”

“Yes,” said Harry heavily, resigned to explaining the complicated rules of Quidditch. “They’re called Bludgers. There are two Beaters on each team who carry clubs to beat the Bludgers away from their side. Fred and George Weasley are the Gryffindor Beaters.”

“And what are the other balls for?” Colin asked, tripping down a couple of steps because he was gazing open mouthed at Harry.

“Well, the Quaffle—that’s the biggish red one—is the one that scores goals. Three Chasers on each team throw the Quaffle to each other and try and get it through the goal posts at the end of the pitch—they’re three long poles with hoops on the end.”

“And the fourth ball—”

“is the Golden Snitch,” said Harry, “and it’s very small, very fast, and difficult to catch. But that’s what the Seeker’s got to do, because a game of Quidditch doesn’t end until the Snitch has been caught. And whichever team’s Seeker gets the Snitch earns his team an extra hundred and fifty points.”

“And you’re the Gryffindor Seeker, aren’t you?” said Colin in awe.

“Yes,” said Harry as they left the castle and started across the dewdrenched grass. “And there’s the Keeper, too. He guards the goal posts. That’s it, really.”

But Colin didn’t stop questioning Harry all the way down the sloping lawns to the Quidditch field, and Harry only shook him off when he reached the changing rooms; Colin called after him in a piping voice, “I’ll go and get a good seat, Harry!” and hurried off to the stands.

The rest of the Gryffindor team were already in the changing room. Wood was the only person who looked truly awake. Fred and George Weasley were sitting, puffy eyed and tousle haired, next to fourth year Alicia Spinnet, who seemed to be nodding off against the wall behind her. Her fellow Chasers, Katie Bell and Angelina Johnson, were yawning side by side opposite them.

“There you are, Harry, what kept you?” said Wood briskly. “Now, I wanted a quick talk with you all before we actually get onto the field, because I spent the summer devising a whole new training program, which I really think will make all the difference…”

Wood was holding up a large diagram of a Quidditch field, on which were drawn many lines, arrows, and crosses in different coloured inks. He took out his wand, tapped the board, and the arrows began to wiggle over the diagram like caterpillars. As Wood launched into a speech about his new tactics, Fred Weasley’s head drooped right onto Alicia Spinnet’s shoulder and he began to snore.

The first board took nearly twenty minutes to explain, but there was another board under that, and a third under that one. Harry sank into a stupor as Wood droned on and on.

“So,” said Wood, at long last, jerking Harry from a wistful fantasy about what he could be eating for breakfast at this very moment up at the castle. “Is that clear? Any questions?”

“I’ve got a question, Oliver,” said George, who had woken with a start. “Why couldn’t you have told us all this yesterday when we were awake?”

Wood wasn’t pleased.

“Now, listen here, you lot,” he said, glowering at them all. “We should have won the Quidditch cup last year. We’re easily the best team. But unfortunately—owing to circumstances beyond our control—”

Harry shifted guiltily in his seat. He had been unconscious in the hospital wing for the final match of the previous year, meaning that Gryffindor had been a player short and had suffered their worst defeat in three hundred years.

Wood took a moment to regain control of himself. Their last defeat was clearly still torturing him.

“So this year, we train harder than ever before… Okay, let’s go and put our new theories into practice!” Wood shouted, seizing his broomstick and leading the way out of the locker rooms. Stiff legged and still yawning, his team followed.

They had been in the locker room so long that the sun was up completely now, although remnants of mist hung over the grass in the stadium. As Harry walked onto the field, he saw Ron and Hermione sitting in the stands.

“Aren’t you finished yet?” called Ron incredulously.

“Haven’t even started,” said Harry, looking jealously at the toast and marmalade Ron and Hermione had brought out of the Great Hall. “Wood’s been teaching us new moves.”

He mounted his broomstick and kicked at the ground, soaring up into the air. The cool morning air whipped his face, waking him far more effectively than Wood’s long talk. It felt wonderful to be back on the Quidditch field. He soared right around the stadium at full speed, racing Fred and George.

“What’s that funny clicking noise?” called Fred as they hurtled around the corner.

Harry looked into the stands. Colin was sitting in one of the highest seats, his camera raised, taking picture after picture, the sound strangely magnified in the deserted stadium.

“Look this way, Harry! This way!” he cried shrilly.

“Who’s that?” said Fred.

“No idea,” Harry lied, putting on a spurt of speed that took him as far away as possible from Colin.

“What’s going on?” said Wood, frowning, as he skimmed through the air toward them. “Why’s that first year taking pictures? I don’t like it. He could be a Slytherin spy, trying to find out about our new training program.”

“He’s in Gryffindor,” said Harry quickly.

“And the Slytherins don’t need a spy, Oliver,” said George.

“What makes you say that?” said Wood testily.

“Because they’re here in person,” said George, pointing.

Several people in green robes were walking onto the field, broomsticks in their hands.

“I don’t believe it!” Wood hissed in outrage. “I booked the field for today! We’ll see about this!”

Wood shot toward the ground, landing rather harder than he meant to in his anger, staggering slightly as he dismounted. Harry, Fred, and George followed.
Previous Page Next Page