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And then the tunnel began to rise; moments later it twisted, and Crookshanks had gone. Instead, Harry could see a patch of dim light through a small opening.

He and Hermione paused, gasping for breath, edging forward. Both raised their wands to see what lay beyond.

It was a room, a very disordered, dusty room. Paper was peeling from the walls; there were stains all over the floor; every piece of furniture was broken as though somebody had smashed it. The windows were all boarded up.

Harry glanced at Hermione, who looked very frightened but nodded.

Harry pulled himself out of the hole, staring around. The room was deserted, but a door to their right stood open, leading to a shadowy hallway. Hermione suddenly grabbed Harrys arm again. Her wide eyes were traveling around the boarded windows.

Harry, she whispered, I think were in the Shrieking Shack.

Harry looked around. His eyes fell on a wooden chair near them. Large chunks had been torn out of it; one of the legs had been ripped off entirely.

Ghosts didnt do that, he said slowly.

At that moment, there was a creak overhead. Something had moved upstairs. Both of them looked up at the ceiling. Hermiones grip on Harrys arm was so tight he was losing feeling in his fingers. He raised his eyebrows at her; she nodded again and let go.

Quietly as they could, they crept out into the hall and up the crumbling staircase. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust except the floor, where a wide shiny stripe had been made by something being dragged upstairs.

They reached the dark landing.

Nox, they whispered together, and the lights at the end of their wands went out. Only one door was open. As they crept toward it, they heard movement from behind it; a low moan, and then a deep, loud purring. They exchanged a last look, a last nod.

Wand held tightly before him, Harry kicked the door wide open.

On a magnificent four poster bed with dusty hangings lay Crookshanks, purring loudly at the sight of them. On the floor beside him, clutching his leg, which stuck out at a strange angle, was Ron.

Harry and Hermione dashed across to him.

Ronare you okay?

Wheres the dog?

Not a dog, Ron moaned. His teeth were gritted with pain. Harry, its a trap

What

Hes the dog hes an Animagus.

Ron was staring over Harrys 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 hadnt 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 Rons wand at them.


:

  1. A bright silver light appeared right ahead of him, moving through the trees. Whatever the source, it was moving soundlessly. The light seemed simply to drift toward him.
  2. A chill that had nothing to do with the iced champagne was stealing through Harrys chest.
  3. A dark figure came bustling toward them, and Harry saw a glint of silver to the light of their wands. They had found Gryffindors sword.
  4. A door to his left flew open and Professor McGonagall emerged from her office looking grim and slightly harassed.
  5. A few moments later, Mr. Weasley came into the warm living room carrying his dinner on a tray. He looked completely exhausted.
  6. A jet of silver light hit Malfoy in the stomach and he doubled up, wheezing.
  7. A mixture of gratitude and shame welled up in Harry. Had Lupin forgiven him, then, for the terrible things he had said when they had last met?
  8. A motherly-looking Healer wearing a tinsel wreath in her hair came bustling up the corridor, smiling warmly at Harry and the others.
  9. A paralyzing terror filled Harry so that he couldnt move or speak. His Patronus flickered and died.
  10. A porters cap pulled low over his mismatched eyes, Moody came limping through the archway pushing a trolley loaded with their trunks.
  11. A roaring, billowing noise behind him gave him a moments warning. He turned and saw both Ron and Crabbe running as hard as they could up the aisle toward them.
  12. A seam had split on Hermiones bag. Harry wasnt surprised; he could see that it was crammed with at least a dozen large and heavy books.




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Then, out of nowhere, something hit Harry so hard across the face he was knocked off his feet again. He heard Hermione shriek with pain and fall too. | Harrys and Hermiones 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.

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