Moody took out a register, shook his long mane of grizzled gray hair out of his twisted and scarred face, and began to call out names, his normal eye moving steadily down the list while his magical eye swiveled around, fixing upon each student as he or she answered.
"Right then," he said, when the last person had declared themselves present, "I've had a letter from Professor Lupin about this class. Seems you've had a pretty thorough grounding in tackling Dark creatures--you've covered boggarts, Red Caps, hinkypunks, grindylows, Kappas, and werewolves, is that right?"
There was a general murmur of assent.
"But you're behind--very behind--on dealing with curses," said Moody. "So I'm here to bring you up to scratch on what wizards can do to each other. I've got one year to teach you how to deal with Dark-- "
"What, aren't you staying?" Ron blurted out.
Moody's magical eye spun around to stare at Ron; Ron looked extremely apprehensive, but after a moment Moody smiled--the first time Harry had seen him do so. The effect was to make his heavily scarred face look more twisted and contorted than ever, but it was nevertheless good to know that he ever did anything as friendly as smile. Ron looked deeply relieved.
"You'll be Arthur Weasley's son, eh?" Moody said. "Your father got me out of a very tight corner a few days ago... Yeah, I'm staying just the one year. Special favor to Dumbledore...One year, and then back to my quiet retirement."
He gave a harsh laugh, and then clapped his gnarled hands together.
"So--straight into it. Curses. They come in many strengths and forms. Now, according to the Ministry of Magic, I'm supposed to teach you counter curses and leave it at that. I'm not supposed to show you what illegal Dark curses look like until you're in the sixth year. You're not supposed to be old enough to deal with it till then. But Professor Dumbledore's got a higher opinion of your nerves, he reckons you can cope, and I say, the sooner you know what you're up against, the better. How are you supposed to defend yourself against something you've never seen? A wizard who's about to put an illegal curse on you isn't going to tell you what he's about to do. He's not going to do it nice and polite to your face. You need to be prepared. You need to be alert and watchful. You need to put that away, Miss Brown, when I'm talking."
Lavender jumped and blushed. She had been showing Parvati her completed horoscope under the desk. Apparently Moody's magical eye could see through solid wood, as well as out of the back of his head.
"So... do any of you know which curses are most heavily punished by wizarding law?"
Several hands rose tentatively into the air, including Ron's and Hermione's. Moody pointed at Ron, though his magical eye was still fixed on Lavender.
"Er," said Ron tentatively, "my dad told me about one... Is it called the Imperius Curse, or something?"
"Ah, yes," said Moody appreciatively. "Your father would know that one. Gave the Ministry a lot of trouble at one time, the Imperius Curse."
Moody got heavily to his mismatched feet, opened his desk drawer, and took out a glass jar. Three large black spiders were scuttling around inside it. Harry felt Ron recoil slightly next to him--Ron hated spiders.
Moody reached into the jar, caught one of the spiders, and held it in the palm of his hand so that they could all see it. He then pointed his wand at it and muttered, "Imperio!"
The spider leapt from Moody's hand on a fine thread of silk and began to swing backward and forward as though on a trapeze. It stretched out its legs rigidly, then did a back flip, breaking the thread and landing on the desk, where it began to cartwheel in circles. Moody jerked his wand, and the spider rose onto two of its hind legs and went into what was unmistakably a tap dance.
Everyone was laughing--everyone except Moody.
"Think it's funny, do you?" he growled. "You'd like it, would you, if I did it to you?"
The laughter died away almost instantly.
"Total control," said Moody quietly as the spider balled itself up and began to roll over and over. "I could make it jump out of the window, drown itself, throw itself down one of your throats..."
Ron gave an involuntary shudder.
"Years back, there were a lot of witches and wizards being controlled by the Imperius Curse," said Moody, and Harry knew he was talking about the days in which Voldemort had been all-powerful. "Some job for the Ministry, trying to sort out who was being forced to act, and who was acting of their own free will."
"The Imperius Curse can be fought, and I'll be teaching you how, but it takes real strength of character, and not everyone's got it. Better avoid being hit with it if you can. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!" he barked, and everyone jumped.
Moody picked up the somersaulting spider and threw it back into the jar.
"Anyone else know one? Another illegal curse?"
Hermione's hand flew into the air again and so, to Harry's slight surprise, did Neville's. The only class in which Neville usually volunteered information was Herbology which was easily his best subject. Neville looked surprised at his own daring.
"Yes?" said Moody, his magical eye rolling right over to fix on Neville.
"There's one--the Cruciatus Curse," said Neville in a small but distinct voice.
Moody was looking very intently at Neville, this time with both eyes.
"Your name's Longbottom?" he said, his magical eye swooping down to check the register again.
Neville nodded nervously, but Moody made no further inquiries. Turning back to the class at large, he reached into the jar for the next spider and placed it upon the desktop, where it remained motionless, apparently too scared to move.
"The Cruciatus Curse," said Moody. "Needs to be a bit bigger for you to get the idea," he said, pointing his wand at the spider. "Engorgio!"
The spider swelled. It was now larger than a tarantula. Abandoning all pretense, Ron pushed his chair backward, as far away from Moody's desk as possible.
Moody raised his wand again, pointed it at the spider, and muttered, "Crucio!"
At once, the spider's legs bent in upon its body; it rolled over and began to twitch horribly, rocking from side to side. No sound came from it, but Harry was sure that if it could have given voice, it would have been screaming. Moody did not remove his wand, and the spider started to shudder and jerk more violently--"Stop it!" Hermione said shrilly.
Harry looked around at her. She was looking, not at the spider, but at Neville, and Harry, following her gaze, saw that Neville's hands were clenched upon the desk in front of him, his knuckles white, his eyes wide and horrified.
Moody raised his wand. The spider's legs relaxed, but it continued to twitch.
"Reducio," Moody muttered, and the spider shrank back to its proper size. He put it back into the jar.
"Pain," said Moody softly. "You don't need thumbscrews or knives to torture someone if you can perform the Cruciatus Curse... That one was very popular once too.
"Right... anyone know any others?" Harry looked around. From the looks on everyone's faces, he guessed they were all wondering what was going to happen to the last spider. Hermione's hand shook slightly as, for the third time, she raised it into the air.
"Yes?" said Moody, looking at her.
"Avada Kedavra," Hermione whispered.
Several people looked uneasily around at her, including Ron.
"Ah," said Moody, another slight smile twisting his lopsided mouth. "Yes, the last and worst. Avada Kedavra... the Killing Curse."
He put his hand into the glass jar, and almost as though it knew what was coming, the third spider scuttled frantically around the bottom of the jar, trying to evade Moody's fingers, but he trapped it, and placed it upon the desktop. It started to scuttle frantically across the wooden surface.
Moody raised his wand, and Harry felt a sudden thrill of foreboding.
"Avada Kedavra!" Moody roared.
There was a flash of blinding green light and a rushing sound, as though a vast, invisible something was soaring through the air--instantaneously the spider rolled over onto its back, unmarked, but unmistakably dead. Several of the students stifled cries; Ron had thrown himself backward and almost toppled off his seat as the spider skidded toward him.
Moody swept the dead spider off the desk onto the floor.
"Not nice," he said calmly. "Not pleasant. And there's no counter curse. There's no blocking it. Only one known person has ever survived it, and he's sitting right in front of me."
Harry felt his face redden as Moody's eyes (both of them) looked into his own. He could feel everyone else looking around at him too. Harry stared at the blank blackboard as though fascinated by it, but not really seeing it at all...
About the book:
Harry Potter is midway through his training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup. He wants to find out about the mysterious event that's supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn't happened for a hundred years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen-year-old wizard. But unfortunately for Harry Potter, he's not normal - even by wizarding standards. And in his case, different can be deadly.
Excerpt from The Power
- Naomi Alderman
Excerpt from Dark Places
- Gillian Flynn