Outside the Apothecary, Hagrid checked Harry’s list again.
“Just yer wand left - A yeah, an’ I still haven’t got yeh a birthday
Harry felt himself go red.
“You don’t have to —”
“I know I don’t have to. Tell yeh what, I’ll get yer animal. Not a toad,
toads went outta fashion years ago, yeh’d be laughed at - an’ I don’
like cats, they make me sneeze. I’ll get yer an owl. All the kids want
owls, they’re dead useful, carry yer mail an’ everythin’.”
Twenty minutes later, they left Eeylops Owl Emporium, which had been
dark and full of rustling and flickering, jewel-bright eyes. Harry now
carried a large cage that held a beautiful snowy owl, fast asleep with
her head under her wing. He couldn’t stop stammering his thanks,
sounding just like Professor Quirrell.
Harry saw it. In a great rush of excitement he dived downward after the streak of gold. Slytherin Seeker Terence Higgs had seen it, too. Neck and neck they hurtled toward the Snitch — all the Chasers seemed to have forgotten what they were supposed to be doing as they hung in midair to watch.
Harry was faster than Higgs — he could see the little round ball, wings fluttering, darting up ahead.
Harry was so close to the mirror now that his nose was nearly touching that of his reflection.
“Mom?” he whispered. “Dad?”
They just looked at him, smiling. And slowly, Harry looked into the faces of the other people in the mirror, and saw other pairs of green eyes like his, other noses like his, even a little old man who looked as though he had Harry’s knobbly knees — Harry was looking at his family, for the first time in his life.
The Potters smiled and waved at Harry and he stared hungrily back at them, his hands pressed flat against the glass as though he was hoping to fall right through it and reach them. He had a powerful kind of ache inside him, half joy, half terrible sadness.
Harry had never in all his life had such a Christmas dinner. A hundred fat, roast turkeys; mountains of roast and boiled potatoes; platters of chipolatas; tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick, rich gravy and cranberry sauce - and stacks of wizard crackers every few feet along the table.
These fantastic party favors were nothing like the feeble Muggle ones the Dursleys usually bought, with their little plastic toys and their flimsy paper hats inside. Harry pulled a wizard cracker with Fred and it didn’t just bang, it went off with a blast like a cannon and engulfed them all in a cloud of blue smoke, while from the inside exploded a rear admiral’s hat and several live, white mice…
Flaming Christmas puddings followed the turkey. Percy nearly broke his teeth on a silver sickle embedded in his slice. Harry watched Hagrid getting redder and redder in the face as he called for more wine, finally kissing Professor McGonagall on the cheek, who, to Harry’s amazement, giggled and blushed, her top hat lopsided.
“They’re not birds!” Harry said suddenly. “They’re keys! Winged keys — look carefully. So that must mean…” He looked around the chamber while the other two squinted up at the flock of keys. “Yes — look! Broomsticks! We’ve got to catch the key to the door!”
“But there are hundreds of them!”
Ron examined the lock on the door.
“We’re looking for a big, old-fashioned one — probably silver, like the handle.”
They each seized a broomstick and kicked off into the air, soaring into the midst of the cloud of keys. They grabbed and snatched, but the bewitched keys darted and dived so quickly it was almost impossible to catch one.
“There!” Harry shouted, making Ron and Hedwig jump. “Straight ahead!”
Silhouetted on the dark horizon, high on the cliff over the lake, stood the many turrets and towers of Hogwarts castle.
But the car had begun to shudder and was losing speed.
“Come on,” Ron said cajolingly, giving the steering wheel a little shake, “nearly there, come on —”
The engine groaned. Narrow jets of steam were issuing from under the hood. Harry found himself gripping the edges of his seat very hard as they flew toward the lake.
“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.
He put Hagrid’s card up next to Ron’s and Hermione’s, grinning more broadly than ever…
Deciding that he’d worry about the Hogsmeade form when he woke up, Harry got back into bed and reached up to cross off another day on the chart he’d made for himself, counting down the days left until his return to Hogwarts. Then he took off his glasses and lay down; eyes open, facing his three birthday cards. Extremely unusual though he was, at that moment Harry Potter felt just like everyone else — glad, for the first time in his life, that it was his birthday.
“Tell you what,” said Ron, his teeth chattering, “shall we go for a butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks?”
Harry was more than willing; the wind was fierce and his hands were freezing, so they crossed the road, and in a few minutes were entering the tiny inn.
It was extremely crowded, noisy, warm, and smoky. A curvy sort of woman with a pretty face was serving a bunch of rowdy warlocks up at the bar.
“That’s Madam Rosmerta,” said Ron. “I’ll get the drinks, shall I?” he added, going slightly red.
Harry and Hermione made their way to the back of the room, where there was a small, vacant table between the window and a handsome Christmas tree, which stood next to the fireplace. Ron came back five minutes later, carrying three foaming tankards of hot butterbeer.
“Merry Christmas!” he said happily, raising his tankard.
Harry drank deeply. It was the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted and seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside.
Harry sneaked along the path, where a particularly sloppy puddle yielded some foul-smelling, green sludge.
Crabbe and Goyle caught some this time. Goyle hopped furiously on the spot, trying to rub it out of his small, dull eyes.
“It came from over there!” said Malfoy, wiping his face, and staring at a spot some six feet to the left of Harry.
Crabbe blundered forward, his long arms outstretched like a zombie. Harry dodged around him, picked up a stick, and lobbed it at Crabbe’s back. Harry doubled up with silent laughter as Crabbe did a kind of pirouette in midair, trying to see who had thrown it. As Ron was the only person Crabbe could see, it was Ron he started toward, but Harry stuck out his leg. Crabbe stumbled — and his huge, flat foot caught the hem of Harry’s cloak. Harry felt a great tug, then the cloak slid off his face.
For a split second, Malfoy stared at him.
“AAARGH!” he yelled, pointing at Harry’s head. Then he turned tail and ran, at breakneck speed, back down the hill, Crabbe and Goyle behind him.
Harry tugged the cloak up again, but the damage was done.
Ron was staring over Harry’s shoulder. Harry wheeled around. With a snap, the man in the shadows closed the door behind them.
A mass of filthy, matted hair hung to his elbows. If eyes hadn’t been shining out of the deep, dark sockets, he might have been a corpse. The waxy skin was stretched so tightly over the bones of his face, it looked like a skull. His yellow teeth were bared in a grin. It was Sirius Black.
“Expelliarmus!” he croaked, pointing Ron’s wand at them.
Harry’s and Hermione’s wands shot out of their hands, high in the air, and Black caught them. Then he took a step closer. His eyes were fixed on Harry.
“I thought you’d come and help your friend,” he said hoarsely.
“Sirius, you’d better go, quick,” Harry panted. “They’ll reach Flitwick’s office any moment, they’ll find out you’re gone.”
Buckbeak pawed the ground, tossing his sharp head.
“What happened to the other boy? Ron?” croaked Sirius.
“He’s going to be okay. He’s still out of it, but Madam Pomfrey says she’ll be able to make him better. Quick — go —”
But Black was still staring down at Harry.
“How can I ever thank —”
“GO!” Harry and Hermione shouted together.
Black wheeled Buckbeak around, facing the open sky.
“We’ll see each other again,” he said. “You are — truly your father’s son, Harry…”
He squeezed Buckbeak’s sides with his heels. Harry and Hermione jumped back as the enormous wings rose once more…The Hippogriff took off into the air…He and his rider became smaller and smaller as Harry gazed after them…then a cloud drifted across the moon…They were gone.
“Great Scott, he can fly!” yelled Bagman as the crowd shrieked and gasped. “Are you watching this, Mr. Krum?”
Harry soared higher in a circle; the Horntail was still following his progress; its head revolving on its long neck - if he kept this up, it would be nicely dizzy - but better not push it too long, or it would be breathing fire again -
Harry plummeted just as the Horntail opened its mouth, but this time he was less lucky - he missed the flames, but the tail came whipping up to meet him instead, and as he swerved to the left, one of the long spikes grazed his shoulder, ripping his robes —
He could feel it stinging, he could hear screaming and groans from the crowd, but the cut didn’t seem to be deep.
Harry, his arms shaking madly now, looked back into the ghostly face of his father.
“Your mother’s coming…” he said quietly. “She wants to see you… it will be all right… hold on…”
And she came… first her head, then her body… a young woman with long hair, the smoky, shadowy form of Lily Potter blossomed from the end of Voldemort’s wand, fell to the ground, and straightened like her husband. She walked close to Harry, looking down at him, and she spoke in the same distant, echoing voice as the others, but quietly, so that Voldemort, his face now livid with fear as his victims prowled around him, could not hear…
“When the connection is broken, we will linger for only moments… but we will give you time… you must get to the Portkey, it will return you to Hogwarts… do you understand, Harry?”
“Yes,” Harry gasped, fighting now to keep a hold on his wand, which was slipping and sliding beneath his fingers.
“Harry…” whispered the figure of Cedric, “take my body back, will you? Take
my body back to my parents…”
“I will,” said Harry, his face screwed up with the effort of holding the wand.
“Do it now,” whispered his father’s voice, “be ready to run… do it now…”
“You do not seek to kill me, Dumbledore?” called Voldemort, his scarlet eyes narrowed over the top of the shield. “Above such brutality, are you?”
“We both know that there are other ways of destroying a man, Tom,” Dumbledore said calmly, continuing to walk towards Voldemort as though he had not a fear in the world, as though nothing had happened to interrupt his stroll up the hall. “Merely taking your life would not satisfy me, I admit.”
“There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!” snarled Voldemort.
“You are quite wrong,” said Dumbledore, still closing in upon Voldemort and speaking as lightly as though they were discussing the matter over drinks. Harry felt scared to see him walking along, undefended, shieldless; he wanted to cry out a warning, but his headless guard kept shunting him backwards towards the wall, blocking his every attempt to get out from behind it. “Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness”
Another jet of green light flew from behind the silver shield. This time it was the one armed centaur, galloping in front of Dumbledore, that took the blast and shattered into a hundred pieces, but before the fragments had even hit the floor, Dumbledore had drawn back his wand and waved it as though brandishing a whip. A long thin flame flew from the tip; it wrapped itself around Voldemort, shield and all. For a moment, it seemed Dumbledore had won, but then the fiery rope became a serpent, which relinquished its hold on Voldemort at once and turned, hissing furiously, to face Dumbledore.