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¡°Ron!¡± said Hermione. ¡°Harry's supposed to stay in school ¡ª¡±

Fudge smiled at Harry over the rim of his teacup, rather like an uncle surveying a favorite nephew. Harry, who couldn't believe his ears, opened his mouth to speak, couldn't think of anything to say, and closed it again.

¡°Severus was very interested in where I went every month.¡± Lupin told Harry, Ron, and Hermione. ¡°We were in the same year, you know, and we ¡ª er ¡ª didn't like each other very much. He especially disliked James. Jealous, I think, of James's talent on the Quidditch field¡­anyway Snape had seen me crossing the grounds with Madam Pomfrey one evening as she led me toward the Whomping Willow to transform. Sirius thought it would be ¡ª er ¡ª amusing, to tell Snape all he had to do was prod the knot on the tree trunk with a long stick, and he'd be able to get in after me. Well, of course, Snape tried it ¡ª if he'd got as far as this house, he'd have met a fully grown werewolf ¡ª but your father, who'd heard what Sirius had done, went after Snape and pulled him back, at great risk to his life¡­Snape glimpsed me, though, at the end of the tunnel. He was forbidden by Dumbledore to tell anybody, but from that time on he knew what I was.¡­¡±

Hermione's mouth was slightly open by the time Harry had finished.

Ron was enraged that Hermione had never taken Crookshanks's attempts to eat Scabbers seriously, hadn't bothered to keep a close enough watch on him, and was still trying to pretend that Crookshanks was innocent by suggesting that Ron look for Scabbers under all the boys¡¯ beds. Hermione, meanwhile, maintained fiercely that Ron had no proof that Crookshanks had eaten Scabbers, that the ginger hairs might have been there since Christmas, and that Ron had been prejudiced against her cat ever since Crookshanks had landed on Ron's head in the Magical Menagerie.

Ron and Hermione looked quickly at Harry, as though expecting him to start berating Hagrid for not telling him the truth about Black. But Harry couldn't bring himself to do it, not now that he saw Hagrid so miserable and scared.


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