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The Gryffindors watched fearfully. The Slytherins looked excited. Snape picked up Trevor the toad in his left hand and dipped a small spoon into Neville's potion, which was now green. He trickled a few drops down Trevor's throat.
"The what?" said Harry.
Harry's immediate impression was of a large, glittering insect. Professor Trelawney moved into the firelight, and they saw that she was very thin; her large glasses magnified her eyes to several times their natural size, and she was draped in a gauzy spangled shawl. Innumerable chains and beads hung around her spindly neck, and her arms and hands were encrusted with bangles and rings.
Malfoy let out a low, sneering laugh.
"The sooner we get on the train, the better," he said. "At least I can get away from Percy at Hogwarts. Now he's accusing me of dripping tea on his photo of Penelope Clearwater. You know," Ron grimaced, "his girlfriend. She's hidden her face under the frame because her nose has gone all blotchy..."
Everyone was staring, transfixed, at Professor Trelawney, who gave the cup a final turn, gasped, and then screamed.
There wasn't much room inside. Every inch of wall was hidden by cages. It was smelly and very noisy because the occupants Of these cages were all squeaking, squawking, jabbering, or hissing. The witch behind the counter was already advising a wizard on the care of double-ended newts, so Harry, Ron, and Hermione waited, examining the cages.
Ron made a violent gesture in midair.
Harry heard chairs move. As quietly as he could, he hurried down the passage to the bar and out of sight. The parlor door opened, and a few seconds later footsteps told him that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were climbing the stairs.
Like nearly everything Ron owned, Scabbers the rat was secondhand (he had once belonged to Ron's brother Percy) and a bit battered. Next to the glossy rats in the cage, he looked especially woebegone.
She snatched up her bag and stalked away.
"It's not funny, Ron," said Hermione sharply. "Honestly, I'm amazed Harry wasn't expelled."
"Welcome!" said Dumbledore, the candlelight shimmering on his beard. "Welcome to another year at Hogwarts! I have a few things to say to you all, and as one of them is very serious, I think it best to get it out of the way before you become befuddled by our excellent feast...."
"No one knows how he got out of Azkaban," said Ron uncomfortably. "No one's ever done it before. And he was a top-security prisoner too."
"NO, CROOKSHANKS, NO!" cried the witch, but Scabbers, shot from between her hands like a bar of soap, landed splay-legged on the floor, and then scampered for the door.
Fudge strode out of the parlor and Harry stared after him. There was something extremely odd going on. Why had Fudge been waiting for him at the Leaky Cauldron, if not to punish him for what he'd done? And now Harry came to think of it, surely it wasn't usual for the Minister of Magic himself to get involved in matters of underage magic?
Harry could sort of see what Hagrid meant. Once you got over the first shock of seeing something that was, half horse, half bird, you started to appreciate the hippogriffs' gleaming coats, changing smoothly from feather to hair, each of them a different color: stormy gray, bronze, pinkish roan, gleaming chestnut, and inky black.。