J_K_Rowling_-_HP_6_-_Harry_Potter_and_the_Half

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Harry Potter
AND THE HALF -BLOOD
PRINCE

also by j. k. rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer ’s Stone
Year One at Hogwarts
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Year Two at Hogwarts
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Year Three at Hogwarts
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Year Four at Hogwarts
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Year Five at Hogwarts

Harry Potter and the Half -Blood Prince
Year Six at Hogwarts
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Year Seven at Hogwarts

H arry P
otter
and the Half - Blood
Prince














BY
J. K. Rowling

ILLUSTRATIONS BY M ary
G randPr й








ARTHUR A. LEVINE BOOKS
AN IMPRINT OF SCHOLASTIC Press.

T o Mackenzie,
My beautiful
daughter, I dedicate
Her ink -and -paper twin.




Text copyright © 2005 by J. K. Rowling Illustrations by Mary Grandprй copyright © 2005 by Warner Bros. HARRY
POTTER, characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and ©
Warner Bros. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J. K. Rowling. All rights reserved. Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., Publishers since 1920.
scholastic, the lantern logo and associated logos are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Scholastic Inc. No part of this publication may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,
without written permission of the publisher. For information regardin g permission, write
to Scholastic Inc., Attention: Permissions Department, 557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2005921149
ISBN 0 -439 -78454 -9 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 05 06 07 08 09 Printed in the U.S.A. 23 First American edition, July 2005

C
ontents
ONE
The Other Minister · 1
TWO
Spinner ’s End · 19
THREE
Will and Won ’t · 38
FOUR
Horace Slughorn · 57
FIVE
An Excess of Phlegm · 81
SIX
Draco ’s Detour · 105
SEVEN

The Slug Club · 129
EIGHT
Snape Victorious · 155



 vii ‘

NINE
The Half -Blood Prince · 171
TEN
The House of Gaunt · 194
ELEVEN
Hermione ’s Helping Hand · 217
TWELVE
Silver and Opals · 237
THIRTEEN
The Secret Riddle · 258
FOURTEEN
Felix Felicis · 279
FIFTEEN
The Unbreakable Vow · 303
SIXTEEN
A Very Frosty Christmas · 325
SEVENTEEN
A Sluggish Memory · 349

 viii ‘

EIGHTEEN
Birthday Surprises · 373
NINETEEN
Elf Tails · 399
TWENTY
Lord Voldemort ’s Request · 423
TWENTY -ONE
The Unknowable Room · 447
TWENTY -TWO
After the Burial · 469
TWENTY -Three
Horcruxes · 492
TWENTY -FOUR
Sectumsempra · 513
TWENTY -FIVE
The Seer Overheard · 535
TWENTY -SIX
The Cave · 555

 ix ‘

TWENTY -SEVEN
The Lightning Struck Tower · 579
TWENTY -EIGHT
Flight of the Prince · 597
TWENTY -NINE
The Phoenix Lament · 611
THIRTY
The White Tomb · 633

 x ‘

Harry Potter
AND THE HALF -BLOOD
PRINCE

C H A P T E R O N E










THE OTHER
MINISTER




t was nearing midnight and the Prime Minister was sitting
I
alone in his office, reading a long memo that was slipping
through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning be -
hind. He was waiting for a call from the President of a far distant
country, and between wondering when the wretched man would
telephone, and trying to suppress unpleasant memories of what had
been a very long, tiring, and difficult week, there was no t much space
in his head for anything else. The more he attempted to focus on the
print on the page before him, the more clearly the Prime Minister
could see the gloating face of one of his political oppo - nents. This

particular opponent had appeared on th e news that very day, not only
to enumerate all the terrible things that had happened in the last week
(as though anyone needed reminding) but also to explain why each
and every one of them was the government ’s fault. The Prime
Minister ’s pulse quickened a t the very thought of these accusations,
for they were neither fair nor true. How on earth
 1 ‘

CHAPTER ONE


was his government supposed to have stopped that bridge collaps - ing?
It was outrageous for anybody to suggest that they were not
spending enough on bridges. The bridge was fewer than ten years old,
and the best experts were at a loss to explain why it had snapped
cleanly in two, sending a dozen cars into the watery depths of the river
below. And how dare anyone suggest that it was lack of policemen
that had resulted in those two very nasty and well -publicized murders?
Or that the government should have somehow foreseen the freak
hurricane in the West Country that had caused so much damage to
both people and property? And was
it his fault that one of his Junior Ministers, Herbert Chorley, had
chosen this week to act so peculiarly that he was now going to be
spending a lot more time with his family?
“A grim mood has gripped the country, ” the opponent had con -
cluded, barely concealing his own broad grin.
And unfortunately, this was perfectly true. The Prime Minister felt it
himself; people really did seem more miserable than usual. Even the
weather was dismal; all this chilly mist in the middle of July. . . . It
wasn ’t right, it wasn ’t normal. . . .
He turned over the second page of the memo, saw how much longer it
went on, and gave it up as a bad job. Stretching his arms above his
head he looked ar ound his office mournfully. It was a handsome room,
with a fine marble fireplace facing the long sash windows, firmly
closed against the unseasonable chill. With a slight shiver, the Prime
Minister got up and moved over to the window, looking out at the
th in mist that was pressing itself against the glass. It was then, as he
stood with his back to the room, that he heard a soft cough behind
him.
He froze, nose to nose with his own scared -looking reflection in
 2 ‘

THE OTHER M INISTER


the dark glass. He knew that cough. He had heard it before. He turned
very slowly to face the empty room.
“Hello? ” he said, trying to sound braver than he felt. For a brief
moment he allowed himself the impossible hope that nobody would
answer him. However, a voice responded at once, a crisp, decisive
voice that sounded as though it were reading a pre - pared statement. It
was coming — as the Prime Minister had known at the first cough —
from the froglike little man wearing a long silver wig who was depicted
in a small, dirty oil painting in the far corner of the room.
“To the Prime Minister of Muggles. Urgent we meet. Kindly re -
spond immediately. Sincerely, Fudge. ”
The man in the painting looked inquiringly at the Prime Mi nister.
“Er, ” said the Prime Minister, “listen. . . . It ’s not a very good time for
me. . . . I ’m waiting for a telephone call, you see . . . from the President
of — ”
“That can be rearranged, ” said the portrait at once. The Prime
Minister ’s heart sank. He had been afraid of that.
“But I really was rather hoping to speak — ”
“We shall arrange for the President to forget to call. He will tele -
phone tomorrow night instead, ” said the little man. “Kindly re -
spond immediately to Mr. Fudge. ”
“I . . . oh . . . very well, ” said the Prime Minister weakly. “Yes, I ’ll see
Fudge. ”
He hurried back to his desk, straightening his tie as he went. He had
barely resumed his seat, and arranged his face into what he hoped was
a relaxed and unfazed express ion, when bright green flames burst into
life in the empty grate beneath his marble man - telpiece. He watched,
trying not to betray a flicker of surprise or
 3 ‘

CHAPTER ONE


alarm, as a portly man appeared within the flames , spinning as fast as a
top. Seconds later, he had climbed out onto a rather fine an - tique rug,
brushing ash from the sleeves of his long pin -striped cloak, a
lime -green bowler hat in his hand.
“Ah . . . Prime Minister, ” said Cornelius Fudge, striding forward with
his hand outstretched. “Good to see you again. ”
The Prime Minister could not honestly return this compliment, so said
nothing at all. He was not remotely pleased to see Fudge, whose
occasional appearances, apar t from being downright alarm - ing in
themselves, generally meant that he was about to hear some very bad
news. Furthermore, Fudge was looking distinctly care - worn. He was
thinner, balder, and grayer, and his face had a crum - pled look. The
Prime Minister had seen that kind of look in politicians before, and it
never boded well.
“How can I help you? ” he said, shaking Fudge ’s hand very briefly and
gesturing toward the hardest of the chairs in front of the desk.
“Difficult to know where to begin, ” muttered F udge, pulling up the
chair, sitting down, and placing his green bowler upon his knees.
“What a week, what a week . . . ”
“Had a bad one too, have you? ” asked the Prime Minister stiffly,
hoping to convey by this that he had quite enough on his plate al -
rea dy without any extra helpings from Fudge.
“Yes, of course, ” said Fudge, rubbing his eyes wearily and look - ing
morosely at the Prime Minister. “I’ve been having the same week you
have, Prime Minister. The Brockdale Bridge . . . the Bones and Vance
murde rs . . . not to mention the ruckus in the West Country . . . ”
“You — er — your — I mean to say, some of your people were —
were involved in those — those things, were they? ”
 4 ‘

THE OTHER MINISTER


Fudge fixed the Prime Minister with a rather stern look. “Of course
they were, ” he said. “Surely you ’ve realized what ’s going on? ” “I . . . ”
hesitated the Prime Minister.
It was precisely this sort of behavior that made him dislike Fudge ’s
visits so mu ch. He was, after all, the Prime Minister and did not
appreciate being made to feel like an ignorant schoolboy. But of
course, it had been like this from his very first meeting with Fudge on
his very first evening as Prime Minister. He remembered it as tho ugh
it were yesterday and knew it would haunt him until his dying day.
He had been standing alone in this very office, savoring the tri - umph
that was his after so many years of dreaming and scheming, when he
had heard a cough behind him, just like tonigh t, and turned to find
that ugly little portrait talking to him, announcing that the Minister of
Magic was about to arrive and introduce himself. Naturally, he had
thought that the long campaign and the strain of the election had
caused him to go mad. He ha d been utterly ter - rified to find a portrait
talking to him, though this had been noth - ing to how he felt when a
self -proclaimed wizard had bounced out of the fireplace and shaken
his hand. He had remained speechless throughout Fudge ’s kindly
explanation that there were witches and wizards still living in secret all
over the world and his reassurances that he was not to bother his head
about them as the Ministry of Magic took responsibility for the whole
Wizarding community and prevented the non -magical p opulation
from getting wind of them. It was, said Fudge, a difficult job that
encompassed everything from regulations on responsible use of
broomsticks to keeping the dragon population under control (the
Prime Minister remem - bered clutching the desk for s upport at this
point). Fudge had then
 5 ‘

CHAPTER ONE


patted the shoulder of the still -dumbstruck Prime Minister in a fa -
therly sort of way.
“Not to worry, ” he had said, “it’s odds -on you ’ll never see me again.
I’ll only bother you if there ’s something really serious going on our
end, something that ’s likely to affect the Muggles — the non -magical
population, I should say. Otherwise, it ’s live and let live. And I must
say, you ’re taking it a lot better than your pr ede -
cessor. He tried to throw me out the window, thought I was a hoax
planned by the opposition. ”
At this, the Prime Minister had found his voice at last.
“You ’re — you ’re not a hoax, then? ”
It had been his last, desperate hope.
“No, ” said Fudge gently. “No, I ’m afraid I ’m not. Look. ” And he had
turned the Prime Minister ’s teacup into a gerbil. “But, ” said the Prime
Minister breathlessly, watching his teacup chewing on the corner of
his next speech, “but why — why has no - body told me — ?”
“The Minister of Magic only reveals him - or herself to the Mug - gle
Prime Minister of the day, ” said Fudge, poking his wand back inside
his jacket. “We find it the best way to maintain secrecy. ” “But then, ”
bleated the Prime Minister, “why hasn ’t a former Prime Minister
warned me — ?”
At this, Fudge had actually laughed.
“My dear Prime Minister, are you ever going to tell anybody? ”
Still chortling, Fudge had thrown some powder into the fireplace,
stepped into the emerald flames, and vanishe d with a whooshing
sound. The Prime Minister had stood there, quite motionless, and re -
alized that he would never, as long as he lived, dare mention this en -
counter to a living soul, for who in the wide world would believe him?
 6 ‘

THE OTHER MINISTER


The shock had taken a little while to wear off. For a time, he had tried
to convince himself that Fudge had indeed been a hallucina - tion
brought on by lack of sleep during his grueling election cam - paign. In
a vain attempt to rid himself of all reminders of this uncomfortable
encounter, he had given the gerbil to his delighted niece and instructed
his private secretary to take down the portrait of the ugly little man
who had announced Fudge ’s arriva l. To the Prime Minister ’s dismay,
however, the portrait had proved impossi - ble to remove. When
several carpenters, a builder or two, an art historian, and the
Chancellor of the Exchequer had all tried unsuc - cessfully to prise it
from the wall, the Prime Minister had aban - doned the attempt and
simply resolved to hope that the thing remained motionless and silent
for the rest of his term in office. Occasionally he could have sworn he
saw out of the corner of his eye the occupant of the painting yawning,
or else scratching his nose; even, once or twice, simply walking out of
his frame and leav - ing nothing but a stretch of muddy -brown canvas
behind. How - ever, he had trained himself not to look at the picture
very much, and always to tell himself firmly tha t his eyes were playing
tricks on him when anything like this happened.
Then, three years ago, on a night very like tonight, the Prime Minister
had been alone in his office when the portrait had once again
announced the imminent arrival of Fudge, who ha d burst out of the
fireplace, sopping wet and in a state of considerable panic. Before the
Prime Minister could ask why he was dripping all over the Axminster,
Fudge had started ranting about a prison the Prime Minister had never
heard of, a man named “Ser ious ” Black, some - thing that sounded like
“Hogwarts, ” and a boy called Harry Potter, none of which made the
remotest sense to the Prime Minister.
 7 ‘

CHAPTER ONE


“. . . I ’ve just come from Azkaban, ” Fudge had panted, tipping a large
amount of water out of the rim of his bowler hat into his pocket.
“Middle of the North Sea, you know, nasty flight . . . the dementors
are in uproar ” — he shuddered — “they ’ve never had a breakout
before. Anyway, I had to come to you, Prime Minister. Black ’s a
known Muggle killer and may be planning to rejoin You -
Know -Who. . . . But of course, you don ’t even know who You -
Know -Who is! ” He had gazed hopelessly at the Prime Minister for a
moment, then said, “Well, sit down, sit down, I ’d better fill you in. . . .
Have a whiskey . . . ”
The Prime Minister rather resented being told to sit down in his own
office, let alone offered his own whiskey, but he sat neverthe - less.
Fudge pulled out his wand, conjured two large glasses full of amber
liquid out of thin air, pushed one of them into the Prime Minister ’s
hand, and drew up a chair.
Fudge had talked for more than an hour. At one point, he had refused
to say a certain name aloud and wrote it instead on a piece of
parchment, which he had thrust into the Prime Minister ’s
whiskey -free hand. When at last Fudge had stood up to leave, the
Prime Minister had stood up too.
“So you think that . . . ” He had squinted down at the name in his left
hand. “Lord Vol — ”
“ He -Who -Must -No t-Be -Named !” snarled Fudge.
“I’m sorry. . . . You think that He -Who -Must -Not -Be -Named is still
alive, then? ”
“Well, Dumbledore says he is, ” said Fudge, as he had fastened his
pin -striped cloak under his chin, “but we ’ve never found him. If you
ask me, he ’s not dangerous unless he ’s got support, so it ’s Black we
ought to be worrying about. You ’ll put out that warning,
 8 ‘

THE OTHER MINISTER


then? Excellent. Well, I hope we don ’t see each other again, Prime
Minister! Good night. ”
But they had seen each other again. Less than a year later a
harassed -looking Fudge had appeared out of thin air in the cabinet
room to inform the Prime Minister that there had been a spot of
bother at the Kwidditch (or that was what it had sounded like) World
Cup and that several Muggles had been “involved, ” but that the Prime
Minister was not to worry, the fact that You -Know - Who ’s Mark had
been seen again meant nothing; Fudge was sure it was an isolated
incident, and the Muggle Liaison Office was deal - ing with all memory
modifications as they spoke.
“Oh, and I almost forgot, ” Fudge had added. “We ’re importing three
foreign dragons and a sphinx for the Triwizard Tournament, quite
routine, but the Department for the Regulation and Control of
Magical Creatures tells me that it ’s down in the rule book that we have
to notify you if we ’re bringing highly dangerous creatures into the
country. ”
“I — what — dragons ?” spluttered the Prime Minis ter.
“Yes, three, ” said Fudge. “And a sphinx. Well, good day to you. ” The
Prime Minister had hoped beyond hope that dragons and sphinxes
would be the worst of it, but no. Less than two years later, Fudge had
erupted out of the fire yet again, this time wi th the news that there had
been a mass breakout from Azkaban.
“A mass breakout? ” repeated the Prime Minister hoarsely.
“No need to worry, no need to worry! ” shouted Fudge, already with
one foot in the flames. “We ’ll have them rounded up in no time —
just thought you ought to know! ”
And before the Prime Minister could shout, “Now, wait just one
moment! ” Fudge had vanished in a shower of green sparks.
 9 ‘

CHAPTER ONE


Whatever the press and the opposition might say, the Prime Min - ister
was not a foolish man. It had not escaped his notice that, de - spite
Fudge ’s assurances at their first meeting, they were now seeing rather
a lot of each other, nor that Fudge was becomi ng more flus - tered with
each visit. Little though he liked to think about the Min -
ister of Magic (or, as he always called Fudge in his head, the Other
Minister), the Prime Minister could not help but fear that the next
time Fudge appeared it would be with graver news still. The sight,
therefore, of Fudge stepping out of the fire once more, looking di -
sheveled and fretful and sternly surprised that the Prime Minister did
not know exactly why he was there, was about the worst thing that had
happened in the course of this extremely gloomy week. “How should
I know what ’s going on in the — er — Wizarding community? ”
snapped the Prime Minister now. “I have a country to run and quite
enough concerns at the moment without — ”
“We have the same concerns, ” Fudge interrupted. “The Brock - dale
Bridge didn ’t wear out. That wasn ’t really a hurricane. Those murders
were not the work of Muggles. And Herbert Chorley ’s family would
be safer without him. We are currently making arrangements to have
him transferred to St. Mungo ’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and
Injuries. The move should be effected tonight. ”
“What do you . . . I ’m afraid I . . . What ?” blustered the Prime
Minister.
Fudge took a great, deep breath and said, “Prime Minister, I am very
sorry t o have to tell you that he ’s back. He -Who -Must -Not -
Be -Named is back. ”
“Back? When you say ‘back ’ . . . he ’s alive? I mean — ” The Prime
Minister groped in his memory for the details of that
 10 ‘

THE OTHER MINISTER


horrible conversation of three years previously, when Fudge had told
him about the wizard who was feared above all others, the wiz - ard
who had committed a thousand terrible crimes before his mys - terious
disappearance fifteen years earlier.
“Yes, alive, ” said Fudge. “That is — I don ’t know — is a man alive if
he can ’t be killed? I don ’t really understand it, and Dumble - dore
won ’t explain properly — but anyway, he ’s certainly got a body and is
walking and talking and killing, so I suppose, for the purpose s of our
discussion, yes, he ’s alive. ”
The Prime Minister did not know what to say to this, but a per - sistent
habit of wishing to appear well -informed on any subject that came up
made him cast around for any details he could re - member of their
previou s conversations.
“Is Serious Black with — er — He -Who -Must -Not -Be -Named? ”
“Black? Black? ” said Fudge distractedly, turning his bowler rapidly in
his fingers. “Sirius Black, you mean? Merlin ’s beard, no. Black ’s dead.
Turns out we were — er — mistaken ab out Black. He was innocent
after all. And he wasn ’t in league with He -Who - Must -Not -Be -Named
either. I mean, ” he added defensively, spin - ning the bowler hat still
faster, “all the evidence pointed — we had more than fifty
eyewitnesses — but anyway, as I s ay, he ’s dead. Murdered, as a matter
of fact. On Ministry of Magic premises. There ’s going to be an inquiry,
actually. . . . ”
To his great surprise, the Prime Minister felt a fleeting stab of pity for
Fudge at this point. It was, however, eclipsed almost im - mediately by
a glow of smugness at the thought that, deficient though he himself
might be in the area of materializing out of fire - places, there had
never been a murder in any of the gove rnment de -
partments under his charge. . . . Not yet, anyway . . .
 11 ‘

CHAPTER ONE


While the Prime Minister surreptitiously touched the wood of his desk,
Fudge continued, “But Black ’s by -the -by now. The point is, we ’re at
war, Prime Minister, and steps must be taken. ”
“At war? ” repeated the Prime Minister nervously. “Surely that ’s a little
bit of an overstatement? ”
“He -Who -Must -Not -Be -Named has now been joined by those of his
followers who broke out of Azkaban in January, ” said Fudge,
speaking more and more rapidly and twirling his bowler so fast that it
was a lime -green blur. “Since they have moved into the open, they
have been wreaking havoc. The Brockdale Bridge — he did it, Prime
Minister, he threatened a mass Muggle killing unless I stood aside for
him and — ”
“Good grief, so it ’s your fault those people were killed and I ’m
having to answer questions about rusted rigging and corroded ex -
pansion joints and I don ’t know what else! ” said the Prime Minis - ter
furiously.
“ My fault! ” said Fudge, coloring up. “Are you saying you would
have caved in to blackmail like that? ”
“Maybe not, ” said the Prime Minister, standing up and striding about
the room, “but I would have put all my efforts into catching the
blackmailer before he committed any such atrocity! ”
“Do you really think I wasn ’t already making every effort? ” de -
manded Fudge heatedly. “Every Auror in the Ministry was — and is
— trying to find him and round up his followers, but we happen to be
talking about one of the most powerful wizards of all time, a wizard
who has eluded capture for almost three decades! ”
“So I suppose you ’re going to tell me he caused the hurricane in the
West Country too ?” said the Prime Minister, his temper rising with
every pace he took. It was infuriating to discover the reason
 12 ‘

THE OTHER MINISTER


for all these terrible disasters and not to be able to tell the public,
almost worse than it being the government ’s fault after all.
“That was no hurricane, ” said Fudge miserably.
“Excuse me! ” barked the Prime Minister, now positively stamp - ing
up and down. “Trees uprooted, roofs ripped off, lampposts bent,
horrible injur ies — ”
“It was the Death Eaters, ” said Fudge. “He -Who -Must -Not -Be -
Named ’s followers. And . . . and we suspect giant involvement. ” The
Prime Minister stopped in his tracks as though he had hit
an invisible wall. “ What involvement? ”
Fudge grimaced. “He used giants last time, when he wanted to go for
the grand effect, ” he said. “The Office of Misinformation has been
working around the clock, we ’ve had teams of Obliviators out trying
to modify the memories of all the Muggles who saw what really
happened , we ’ve got most of the Department for the Regulation and
Control of Magical Creatures running around Somerset, but we can ’t
find the giant — it’s been a disaster. ”
“You don ’t say! ” said the Prime Minister furiously.
“I won ’t deny that morale is pretty low at the Ministry, ” said Fudge.
“What with all that, and then losing Amelia Bones. ” “Losing who? ”
“Amelia Bones. Head of the Department of Magical Law En -
forcement. We think He -Who -Must -Not -Be -Named may have
murdered her in person, because she was a very gifted witch and —
and all the evidence was that she put up a real fight. ”
Fudge cleared his throat and, with an effort, it seemed, stopped
spinning his bowler hat.
“But that murder was in the newspapers, ” said the Prime M inis -
ter, momentarily diverted from his anger. “ Our newspapers. Amelia
 13 ‘

CHAPTER ONE


Bones . . . it just said she was a middle -aged woman who lived alone. It
was a — a nasty killing, wasn ’t it? It ’s had rather a lot of publicity. The
police are baffled, you see. ”
Fudge sighed. “Well, of course they are, ” he said. “Killed in a room
that was locked from the inside, wasn ’t she? We, on the other hand,
know exactly who did it, not that that gets us an y further to - ward
catching him. And then there was Emmeline Vance, maybe you didn ’t
hear about that one — ”
“Oh yes I did! ” said the Prime Minister. “It happened just around the
corner from here, as a matter of fact. The papers had a field day with it,
‘breakdown of law and order in the Prime Minis - ter ’s backyard — ’”
“And as if all that wasn ’t enough, ” said Fudge, barely listening to the
Prime Minister, “we ’ve got dementors swarming all over the place,
attacking people left, right, and center. . . . ”
Once upon a happier time this sentence would have been unin -
telligible to the Prime Minister, but he was wiser now.
“I thought dementors guard the prisoners in Azkaban, ” he said
cautiously.
“They did, ” said Fudge wearily. “But not anymore. They ’ve deserted
the prison and joined He -Who -Must -Not -Be -Named. I won ’t pretend
that wasn ’t a blow. ”
“But, ” said the Prime Minister, with a sense of dawning horror,
“didn ’t you tell me they ’re the creatures that drain hope and happi -
ness out of people? ”
“Tha t’s right. And they ’re breeding. That ’s what ’s causing all this
mist. ”
The Prime Minister sank, weak -kneed, into the nearest chair. The idea
of invisible creatures swooping through the towns and
 14 ‘

THE OTHER MINISTER


countryside, spreading despair and hopelessness in his voters, made
him feel quite faint.
“Now see here, Fudge — you ’ve got to do something! It ’s your
responsibility as Minister of Magic! ”
“My dear Prime Minister, you can ’t honestly think I ’m still Min - ister
of Magic after all this? I was sacked three days ago! The whole
Wizarding community has been screaming for my resignation for a
fortnight. I ’ve never known them so united in my whole term of
office! ” said Fudge, with a brave attempt at a smile.
Th e Prime Minister was momentarily lost for words. Despite his
indignation at the position into which he had been placed, he still
rather felt for the shrunken -looking man sitting opposite him.
“I’m very sorry, ” he said finally. “If there ’s anything I can d o? ” “It’s
very kind of you, Prime Minister, but there is nothing. I was sent here
tonight to bring you up to date on recent events and to in - troduce you
to my successor. I rather thought he ’d be here by now, but of course,
he ’s very busy at the moment, wi th so much going on. ” Fudge looked
around at the portrait of the ugly little man wear - ing the long curly
silver wig, who was digging in his ear with the point of a quill.
Catching Fudge ’s eye, the portrait said, “He ’ll be here in a moment,
he ’s just finis hing a letter to Dumbledore. ”
“I wish him luck, ” said Fudge, sounding bitter for the first time. “I’ve
been writing to Dumbledore twice a day for the past fortnight, but he
won ’t budge. If he ’d just been prepared to persuade the boy, I might
still be . . . Well, maybe Scrimgeour will have more success. ” Fudge
subsided into what was clearly an aggrieved silence, but it was broken
almost immediately by the portrait, which suddenly spoke in its crisp,
official voice.
“To the Prime Minister of Muggles. Requesting a meeting.
 15 ‘

CHAPTER ONE


Urgent. Kindly respond immediately. Rufus Scrimgeour, Minister of
Magic. ”
“Yes, yes, fine, ” said the Prime Minister distractedly, and he barely
flinched as the flames in the grate turned emerald green again, rose up,
and revealed a second spinning wizard in their heart, disgorging him
moments later onto the antique rug.
Fudge got to his feet and, after a moment ’s hesitation, the Prime
Minister did the same, watching the new arrival straighten up, dust
down his long black robes, and look around.
The Prime Minister ’s first, foolish thought was that Rufus Scrimgeour
looked rather like an old lion. There were streaks of gray in his mane
of tawny hair and his bushy eyebrows; he had keen yellowish eyes
behind a pair of wire -rimmed spectacles and a certain rangy, loping
grace even though he walked with a slight limp. There was an
immediate impression of shrewdness and toughness; the Prime
Mi nister thought he understood why the Wizarding community
preferred Scrimgeour to Fudge as a leader in these dangerous times.
“How do you do? ” said the Prime Minister politely, holding out his
hand.
Scrimgeour grasped it briefly, his eyes scanning the room, then pulled
out a wand from under his robes.
“Fudge told you everything? ” he asked, striding over to the door and
tapping the keyhole with his wand. The Prime Minister heard the lock
click.
“Er — yes, ” said the Prime Minister. “And if you don ’t m ind, I ’d
rather that door remained unlocked. ”
“I’d rather not be interrupted, ” said Scrimgeour shortly, “or watched, ”
he added, pointing his wand at the windows, so that the
 16 ‘

THE OTHER MINISTER


curtains swept across them. “Right, well, I ’m a busy man, so let ’s get
down to business. First of all, we need to discuss your security. ” The
Prime Minister drew himself up to his fullest height and replied, “I am
perfectly happy with the security I ’ve alr eady got, thank you very — ”
“Well, we ’re not, ” Scrimgeour cut in. “It’ll be a poor lookout for the
Muggles if their Prime Minister gets put under the Imperius Curse.
The new secretary in your outer office — ”
“I’m not getting rid of Kingsley Shacklebolt , if that ’s what you ’re
suggesting! ” said the Prime Minister hotly. “He ’s highly efficient, gets
through twice the work the rest of them — ”
“That ’s because he ’s a wizard, ” said Scrimgeour, without a flicker of a
smile. “A highly trained Auror, who has been assigned to you for your
protection. ”
“Now, wait a moment! ” declared the Prime Minister. “You can ’t just
put your people into my office, I decide who works for me — ” “I
thought you were happy with Shacklebolt? ” said Scrimgeour coldly.
“I am — that ’s to say, I was — ”
“Then there ’s no problem, is there? ” said Scrimgeour. “I . . . well, as
long as Shacklebolt ’s work continues to be . . . er
. . . excellent, ” said the Prime Minister lamely, but Scrimgeour barely
seemed to hear him.
“Now, about Herbert Chorley, your Junior Minister, ” he contin - ued.
“The one who has been entertaining the public by imperson - ating a
duck. ”
“What about him? ” asked the Prime Minister.
“He has clearly reacted to a poorly performed Imperius Curse, ” said
Scrimgeour. “It’s addled his brains, but he could still be dangerous. ”
 17 ‘

CHAPTER ONE


“He ’s only quacking! ” said the Prime Minister weakly. “Surely a bit of
a rest . . . Maybe go easy on the drink . . . ”
“A team of Healers from St. Mun go ’s Hospital for Magical Mal - adies
and Injuries are examining him as we speak. So far he has at - tempted
to strangle three of them, ” said Scrimgeour. “I think it best that we
remove him from Muggle society for a while. ”
“I . . . well . . . He ’ll be all right, won ’t he? ” said the Prime Min - ister
anxiously.
Scrimgeour merely shrugged, already moving back toward the
fireplace.
“Well, that ’s really all I had to say. I will keep you posted of de -
velopments, Prime Minister — or, at least, I shall probably be too
busy to come personally, in which case I shall send Fudge here. He has
consented to stay on in an advisory capacity. ”
Fudge attempted to smile, but was unsuccessful; he merely looked as
though he had a toothache. Scr imgeour was already rum - maging in
his pocket for the mysterious powder that turned the fire green. The
Prime Minister gazed hopelessly at the pair of them for a moment,
then the words he had fought to suppress all evening burst from him
at last.
“But f or heaven ’s sake — you ’re wizards ! You can do magic !
Surely you can sort out — well — anything !”
Scrimgeour turned slowly on the spot and exchanged an incred - ulous
look with Fudge, who really did manage a smile this time as he said
kindly, “The trouble is, the other side can do magic too, Prime
Minister. ”
And with that, the two wizards stepped one after the other into the
bright green fire and vanished.
 18 ‘

C H A P T E R T W O










SPINNER ’ S END




any miles away the chilly mist that had pressed against the Prime
Minister ’s windows drifted over a dirty river that wound between
overgrown, rubbish -strewn banks. An immense chimney, relic of a
disused mill, reared up, shadowy a nd ominous. There was no sound
apart from the whisper of the black water and no sign of life apart
from a scrawny fox that had slunk down the bank to nose hopefully at
some old fish -and -chip wrap - pings in the tall grass.
But then, with a very faint pop, a slim, hooded figure appeared
out of thin air on the edge of the river. The fox froze, wary eyes fixed
upon this strange new phenomenon. The figure seemed to take its
bearings for a few moments, then set off with light, quick strides, its
long cloak r ustling over the grass.
With a second and louder pop, another hooded figure materi -
alized.
“Wait! ”
 19 ‘

CHAPTER TWO


The harsh cry startled the fox, now crouching almost flat in the
undergrowth. It leapt from its hiding place and up the bank. There was
a flash of green light, a yelp, and the fox fell back to the ground, dead.
The second figure turned over the animal with its toe. “Just a fox, ”
said a woman ’s voice dismissively from u nder the hood. “I thought
perhaps an Auror — Cissy, wait! ”
But her quarry, who had paused and looked back at the flash of light,
was already scrambling up the bank the fox had just fallen down.
“Cissy — Narcissa — listen to me — ”
The second woman caught the first and seized her arm, but the other
wrenched it away.
“Go back, Bella! ”
“You must listen to me! ”
“I’ve listened already. I ’ve made my decision. Leave me alone! ” The
woman named Narcissa gained the top of the bank, where a line of old
railings separated the river from a narrow, cobbled street. The other
woman, Bella, followed at once. Side by side they stood looking across
the road at the rows and rows of dilapidat ed brick houses, their
windows dull and blind in the darkness.
“He lives here? ” asked Bella in a voice of contempt. “ Here ? In
this Muggle dunghill? We must be the first of our kind ever to set foot
— ”
But Narcissa was not listening; she had slippe d through a gap in the
rusty railings and was already hurrying across the road.
“Cissy, wait !”
Bella followed, her cloak streaming behind, and saw Narcissa darting
through an alley between the houses into a second, almost
 20 ‘

SPINNER ’S END


identical street. Some of the streetlamps were broken; the two women
were running between patches of light and deep darkness. The
pursuer caught up with her prey just as she turned another corner, this
time suc ceeding in catching hold of her arm and swing - ing her around
so that they faced each other.
“Cissy, you must not do this, you can ’t trust him — ”
“The Dark Lord trusts him, doesn ’t he? ”
“The Dark Lord is . . . I believe . . . mistaken, ” Bella panted, and her
eyes gleamed momentarily under her hood as she looked around to
check that they were indeed alone. “In any case, we were told not to
speak of the plan to anyone. This is a betrayal of the Dark Lord ’s — ”
“Let go, Bella! ” snarled Narcissa, and she drew a wand from be - neath
her cloak, holding it threateningly in the other ’s face. Bella merely
laughed.
“Cissy, your own sister? You wouldn ’t — ”
“There is nothing I wouldn ’t do anymore! ” Narcissa breathed, a note
of hysteria in her voice, and as she brought down the wand like a knife,
there was another flash of light. Bella let go of her sis - ter ’s arm as
though burned.
“ Narcissa !”
But Narcissa had rushed ahead. Rubbing her hand, her pursuer
followed again , keeping her distance now, as they moved deeper into
the deserted labyrinth of brick houses. At last, Narcissa hur - ried up a
street named Spinner ’s End, over which the towering mill chimney
seemed to hover like a giant admonitory finger. Her foot - steps
echoed on the cobbles as she passed boarded and broken win - dows,
until she reached the very last house, where a dim light glimmered
through the curtains in a downstairs room.
 21 ‘

CHAPTER TWO


She had knocked on the door before Bella, cursing under her breath,
had caught up. Together they stood waiting, panting slightly,
breathing in the smell of the dirty river that was carried to them on the
night breeze. After a few seconds, they heard move - ment behind the
door and it opened a crack. A sliver of a man could be seen looking
out at them, a man with long black hair parted in curtains around a
sallow face and black eyes.
Narcissa threw back her hood. She was so pale that she seemed to
shine in the darkness; the long blonde hair streaming down her back
gave her the look of a drowned person.
“Narcissa! ” said the man, opening the door a little wider, so that the
light fell upon her and her sister too. “What a pleasant sur - prise!
“Severus, ” she said in a strained whisper. “May I speak to you? It ’s
urgent. ”
“But of course. ”
He stood back to allow her to pass him into the house. Her still -
hooded sister followed without invitation.
“Snape, ” she said curtly as she passed him.
“Bellatrix, ” he replied, his thin mouth curling into a slightly mocking
smile as he closed the door with a snap behind them. They had
stepped directly into a tiny sitting room, which had the feeling of a
dark, padded cell. The walls were completely cov - ered in books, most
of them bound in old black or brown leather; a threadbare sofa, an old
armchair, and a rickety table stood grouped together in a pool of dim
light cast by a candle -filled lamp hung from the ceiling. The place had
an air of neglect, as though it was n ot usually inhabited.
Snape gestured Narcissa to the sofa. She threw off her cloak, cast
 22 ‘

SPINNER ’S END


it aside, and sat down, staring at her white and trembling hands
clasped in her lap. Bellatrix lowered her hood more slowly. Dark as
her sister was fair, with heavily lidded eyes and a strong jaw, she did
not take her gaze from Snape as she moved to stand behind Narcissa.
“So, what can I do for you? ” Snape asked, set tling himself in the
armchair opposite the two sisters.
“We . . . we are alone, aren ’t we? ” Narcissa asked quietly. “Yes, of
course. Well, Wormtail ’s here, but we ’re not counting vermin, are
we? ”
He pointed his wand at the wall of books behind him and with a bang,
a hidden door flew open, revealing a narrow staircase upon which a
small man stood frozen.
“As you have clearly realized, Wormtail, we have guests, ” said Snape
lazily.
The man crept, hunchbacked, down the last few steps and moved
into t he room. He had small, watery eyes, a pointed nose, and wore an
unpleasant simper. His left hand was caressing his right, which looked
as though it was encased in a bright silver glove.
“Narcissa! ” he said, in a squeaky voice. “And Bellatrix! How charming
— ”
“Wormtail will get us drinks, if you ’d like them, ” said Snape. “And
then he will return to his bedroom. ”
Wormtail winced as though Snape had thrown something at him.
“I am not your servant! ” he squeaked, avoiding Snape ’s eye. “Really? I
was under the impression that the Dark Lord placed you here to assist
me. ”
 23 ‘

CHAPTER TWO


“To assist, yes — but not to make you drinks and — and clean your
house! ”
“I had no idea, Wormtail, that you were craving more dangerous
assignments, ” said Snape silkily. “This can be easily arranged: I shall
speak to the Dark Lord — ”
“I can speak to him myself if I want to! ”
“Of course you can, ” said Snape, sneering. “But in the mean - time,
bring us drinks. Some of the elf -made wine will do. ” Wormtail
hesitated for a moment, looking as though he might argue, but then
turned and headed through a second hidden door. They heard
banging and a clinking of glasses. Within seconds h e was back, bearing
a dusty bottle and three glasses upon a tray. He dropped these on the
rickety table and scurried from their pres - ence, slamming the
book -covered door behind him.
Snape poured out three glasses of bloodred wine and handed two of
them t o the sisters. Narcissa murmured a word of thanks, whilst
Bellatrix said nothing, but continued to glower at Snape. This did not
seem to discompose him; on the contrary, he looked rather amused.
“The Dark Lord, ” he said, raising his glass and draining it. The sisters
copied him. Snape refilled their glasses. As Narcissa took her second
drink she said in a rush, “Severus, I ’m sorry to come here like this, but
I had to see you. I think you are the only one who can help me — ”
Snape held up a hand to stop h er, then pointed his wand again at the
concealed staircase door. There was a loud bang and a squeal, followed
by the sound of Wormtail scurrying back up the stairs. “My
apologies, ” said Snape. “He has lately taken to listening at
 24 ‘

SPINNER ’S END


doors, I don ’t know what he means by it. . . . You were saying,
Narcissa? ”
She took a great, shuddering breath and started again. “Severus, I
know I ought not to be here, I have been told to say nothing to any one,
but — ”
“Then you ought to hold your tongue! ” snarled Bellatrix. “Par -
ticularly in present company! ”
“‘Present company ’?” repeated Snape sardonically. “And what am I to
understand by that, Bellatrix? ”
“That I don ’t trust you, Snape, as you very well know! ” Narcissa let
out a noise that might have been a dry sob and cov - ered her face with
her hands. Snape set his glass down upon the table and sat back again,
his hands upon the arms of his chair, smil - ing into Bell atrix ’s
glowering face.
“Narcissa, I think we ought to hear what Bellatrix is bursting to say; it
will save tedious interruptions. Well, continue, Bellatrix, ” said Snape.
“Why is it that you do not trust me? ”
“A hundred reasons! ” she said loudly, strid ing out from behind the
sofa to slam her glass upon the table. “Where to start! Where were you
when the Dark Lord fell? Why did you never make any attempt to find
him when he vanished? What have you been doing all these years that
you ’ve lived in Dumbledor e’s pocket? Why did you stop the Dark
Lord procuring the Sorcerer ’s Stone? Why did you not return at once
when the Dark Lord was reborn? Where were you a few weeks ago
when we battled to retrieve the prophecy for the Dark Lord? And why,
Snape, is Harry Pot ter still alive, when you have had him at your mercy
for five years? ”
She paused, her chest rising and falling rapidly, the color high in
 25 ‘

CHAPTER TWO


her cheeks. Behind her, Narcissa sat motionless, her face still hid - den
in her hands.
Snape smiled.
“Before I answer you — oh yes, Bellatrix, I am going to answer! You
can carry my words back to the others who whisper behind my back,
and carry false t ales of my treachery to the Dark Lord! Before I answer
you, I say, let me ask a question in turn. Do you really think that the
Dark Lord has not asked me each and every one of those questions?
And do you really think that, had I not been able to give satis factory
answers, I would be sitting here talking to you? ” She hesitated.
“I know he believes you, but . . . ”
“You think he is mistaken? Or that I have somehow hoodwinked him?
Fooled the Dark Lord, the greatest wizard, the most accom - plished
Legilimens the world has ever seen? ”
Bellatrix said nothing, but looked, for the first time, a little dis -
comfited. Snape did not press the point. He picked up his drink again,
sipped it, and continued, “You ask where I was when the Dark Lord
fell. I was where he had ordered me to be, at Hogwarts School of
Witchcraft and Wizardry, because he wished me to spy upon Albus
Dumbledore. You know, I presume, that it was on the Dark Lord ’s
orders that I took up the post? ”
She nodded almost imperceptibly and then opened her mouth, but
Snape forestalled her.
“You ask why I did not attempt to find him when he vanished. For the
same reason that Avery, Yaxley, the Carrows, Greyback, Lu - cius ” —
he inclined his head slightly to Narcissa — “and many others did not
attempt to find him. I believed him finished. I am not proud of it, I
was wrong, but there it is. . . . If he had not
 26 ‘

SPINNER ’S END


forgiven we who lost faith at that time, he would have very few fol -
lowers left. ”
“He ’d have me! ” said Bellatrix passionately. “I, who spent many years
in Azkaban for him! ”
“Yes, indeed, most admirable, ” said Snape in a bored voice. “Of
course, you were n’t a lot of use to him in prison, but the gesture was
undoubtedly fine — ”
“Gesture! ” she shrieked; in her fury she looked slightly mad. “While I
endured the dementors, you remained at Hogwarts, com - fortably
playing Dumbledore ’s pet! ”
“Not quite, ” sa id Snape calmly. “He wouldn ’t give me the De - fense
Against the Dark Arts job, you know. Seemed to think it might, ah,
bring about a relapse . . . tempt me into my old ways. ” “This was your
sacrifice for the Dark Lord, not to teach your fa - vorite subject? ” she
jeered. “Why did you stay there all that time, Snape? Still spying on
Dumbledore for a master you believed dead? ”
“Hardly, ” said Snape, “although the Dark Lord is pleased that I never
deserted my post: I had sixteen years of information on Dumbled ore
to give him when he returned, a rather more useful welcome -back
present than endless reminiscences of how unpleas - ant Azkaban
is. . . . ”
“But you stayed — ”
“Yes, Bellatrix, I stayed, ” said Snape, betraying a hint of impa - tience
for the first time. “I had a comfortable job that I preferred to a stint in
Azkaban. They were rounding up the Death Eaters, you know.
Dumbledore ’s protection kept me out of jail; it was most convenient
and I used it. I repeat: The Dark Lord does n ot com - plain that I
stayed, so I do not see why you do.
 27 ‘

CHAPTER TWO


“I think you next wanted to know, ” he pressed on, a little more loudly,
for Bellatrix showed every sign of interrupting, “why I stood between
the Da rk Lord and the Sorcerer ’s Stone. That is eas - ily answered. He
did not know whether he could trust me. He thought, like you, that I
had turned from faithful Death Eater to Dumbledore ’s stooge. He
was in a pitiable condition, very weak, sharing the body of a mediocre
wizard. He did not dare reveal him - self to a former ally if that ally
might turn him over to Dumbledore or the Ministry. I deeply regret
that he did not trust me. He would have returned to power three years
sooner. As it was, I saw only greedy and unworthy Quirrell attempting
to steal the stone and, I admit, I did all I could to thwart him. ”
Bellatrix ’s mouth twisted as though she had taken an unpleasant dose
of medicine.
“But you didn ’t return when he came back, you didn ’t fly back to him
at once when you felt the Dark Mark burn — ”
“Correct. I returned two hours later. I returned on Dumble - dore ’s
orders. ”
“On Dumbledore ’s — ?” she began, in tones of outrage. “Think! ” said
Snape, impatient again. “Think! By waiting two hours, just two hours,
I ensured that I could remain at Hogwarts as a spy! By allowing
Dumbledore to think that I was only returning to the Dark Lord ’s side
because I was ordered to, I have been able to pass information on
Dumbledore and the Order of the P hoenix ever since! Consider,
Bellatrix: The Dark Mark had been growing stronger for months. I
knew he must be about to return, all the Death Eaters knew! I had
plenty of time to think about what I wanted to do, to plan my next
move, to escape like Karkarof f, didn ’t I?
“The Dark Lord ’s initial displeasure at my lateness vanished
 28 ‘

SPINNER ’S END


entirely, I assure you, when I explained that I remained faithful, al -
though Dumbledore thought I was his man. Yes, the Dark Lord
thought that I had left him forever, but he was wrong. ”
“But what use have you been? ” sneered Bellatrix. “What useful
information have we had from you? ”
“My information has been conveyed di rectly to the Dark Lord, ” said
Snape. “If he chooses not to share it with you — ”
“He shares everything with me! ” said Bellatrix, firing up at once. “He
calls me his most loyal, his most faithful — ”
“Does he? ” said Snape, his voice delicately inflecte d to suggest
his disbelief. “Does he still, after the fiasco at the Ministry? ”
“That was not my fault! ” said Bellatrix, flushing. “The Dark Lord has,
in the past, entrusted me with his most precious — if Lucius hadn ’t
— ”
“Don ’t you dare — don ’t you dare blame my husband! ” said
Narcissa, in a low and deadly voice, looking up at her sister. “There is
no point apportioning blame, ” said Snape smoothly. “What is done, is
done. ”
“But not by you! ” said Bellatrix furiously. “No, you were once again
absen t while the rest of us ran dangers, were you not, Snape? ” “My
orders were to remain behind, ” said Snape. “Perhaps you disagree
with the Dark Lord, perhaps you think that Dumbledore would not
have noticed if I had joined forces with the Death Eaters to figh t the
Order of the Phoenix? And — forgive me — you speak of dangers . . .
you were facing six teenagers, were you not? ”
“They were joined, as you very well know, by half of the Order before
long! ” snarled Bellatrix. “And, while we are on the subject of th e
Order, you still claim you cannot reveal the whereabouts of their
headquarters, don ’t you? ”
 29 ‘

CHAPTER TWO


“I am not the Secret -Keeper; I cannot speak the name of the place.
You understand how the enchantment works, I think? The Dark Lord
is satisfied with the information I have passed him on the Order. It led,
as perhaps you have guessed, to the recent capture and murder of
Emmeline Vance, and it certainly helped dispo se of Sirius Black,
though I give you full credit for finishing him off. ” He inclined his
head and toasted her. Her expression did not soften.
“You are avoiding my last question, Snape. Harry Potter. You could
have killed him at any point in the past five years. You have not done
it. Why? ”
“Have you discussed this matter with the Dark Lord? ” asked Snape.
“He . . . lately, we . . . I am asking you, Snape! ” “If I had murdered
Harry Potter, the Dark Lord could not have used his blood to
regenerate, maki ng him invincible — ”
“You claim you foresaw his use of the boy! ” she jeered. “I do not
claim it; I had no idea of his plans; I have already con - fessed that I
thought the Dark Lord dead. I am merely trying to ex - plain why the
Dark Lord is not sorry that Potter survived, at least until a year
ago. . . . ”
“But why did you keep him alive? ”
“Have you not understood me? It was only Dumbledore ’s pro - tection
that was keeping me out of Azkaban! Do you disagree that murdering
his favorite student might have turned him against me? But there was
more to it than that. I should remind you that when Potter first arrived
at Hogwarts there were still many stories circu - lating about him,
rumors that he himself was a great Da rk wizard, which was how he
had survived the Dark Lord ’s attack. Indeed,
 30 ‘

SPINNER ’S END


many of the Dark Lord ’s old followers thought Potter might be a
standard around which we could all rally once more. I was curious, I
admit it, and not at all inclined to murder him the moment he set foot
in the castle.
“Of course, it became apparent to me very quickly that he had no
extraordinary talent at all. He has fought his way out of a num - ber of
tight corners by a simple combination of sheer luck and more talented
friends. He is mediocre to the last degree, though as obnoxious and
self -satisfied as was his father before him. I have done my utmost to
have him th rown out of Hogwarts, where I be - lieve he scarcely
belongs, but kill him, or allow him to be killed in front of me? I would
have been a fool to risk it with Dumbledore close at hand. ”
“And through all this we are supposed to believe Dumbledore has
never suspected you? ” asked Bellatrix. “He has no idea of your true
allegiance, he trusts you implicitly still? ”
“I have played my part well, ” said Snape. “And you overlook
Dumbledore ’s greatest weakness: He has to believe the best of peo -
ple. I spun him a tale of deepest remorse when I joined his staff, fresh
from my Death Eater days, and he embraced me with open arms —
though, as I say, never allowing me nearer the Dark Arts than he could
help. Dumbledore has been a great wizard — oh yes, he has, ” (for
Bellatrix had made a scathing noise), “the Dark Lord acknowledges it.
I am pleased to say, however, that Dumbledore is growing old. The
duel with the Dark Lord last month shook him. He has since sustained
a serious injury because his reactions are slow er than they once were.
But through all these years, he has never stopped trusting Severus
Snape, and therein lies my great value to the Dark Lord. ”
 31 ‘

CHAPTER TWO


Bellatrix still looked unhappy, though she appeared unsu re how best
to attack Snape next. Taking advantage of her silence, Snape turned to
her sister.
“Now . . . you came to ask me for help, Narcissa? ” Narcissa looked up
at him, her face eloquent with despair. “Yes, Severus. I — I think you
are the only one who can help me, I have nowhere else to turn. Lucius
is in jail and . . . ”
She closed her eyes and two large tears seeped from beneath her
eyelids.
“The Dark Lord has forbidden me to speak of it, ” Narcissa con -
tinued, her eyes still closed. “He wishes none to know of the plan. It
is . . . very secret. But — ”
“If he has forbidden it, you ought not to speak, ” said Snape at once.
“The Dark Lord ’s word is law. ”
Narcissa gasped as though he had doused her with cold water.
Bellatrix looked satisfi ed for the first time since she had entered the
house.
“There! ” she said triumphantly to her sister. “Even Snape says so: You
were told not to talk, so hold your silence! ”
But Snape had gotten to his feet and strode to the small window,
peered through the curtains at the deserted street, then closed them
again with a jerk. He turned around to face Narcissa, frowning.
“It so happens that I know of the plan, ” he said in a low voice. “I am
one of the few the Dark Lord has told. Nevertheless, had I not b een in
on the secret, Narcissa, you would have been guilty of great treachery
to the Dark Lord. ”
“I thought you must know about it! ” said Narcissa, breathing more
freely. “He trusts you so, Severus. . . . ”
 32 ‘

SPINNER ’S END


“You know about the plan? ” said Bellatrix, her fleeting expres -
sion of satisfaction replaced by a look of outrage. “ You know? ”
“Certainly, ” said Snape. “But what help do you require, Nar - cissa? If
you are imagining I can persuade the Dark Lord to change his mind, I
am afraid there is no hope, none at all. ”
“Severus, ” she whispered, tears sliding down her pale cheeks. “My
son . . . my only son . . . ”
“Draco should be proud, ” said Bellatrix indifferently. “The Dark Lord
is granting him a great honor. And I will say this for Draco: He isn ’t
shrinking away from his duty, he seems glad of a chance to prove
himself, excited at the prospect — ”
Narcissa began to cry in earnest, gazing beseechingly all the while at
Snape .
“That ’s because he is sixteen and has no idea what lies in store! Why,
Severus? Why my son? It is too dangerous! This is vengeance for
Lucius ’s mistake, I know it! ”
Snape said nothing. He looked away from the sight of her tears as
though they were indecent, but he could not pretend not to hear her.
“That ’s why he ’s chosen Draco, isn ’t it? ” she persisted. “To pun - ish
Lucius? ”
“If Draco succeeds, ” said Snape, still looking away from her, “he will
be honored above all others. ”
“But he won ’t succeed! ” sobbed Narcissa. “How can he, when the
Dark Lord himself — ?”
Bellatrix gasped; Narcissa seemed to lose her nerve. “I only
meant . . . that nobody has yet succeeded. . . . Severus
. . . please . . . You are, you have always been, Dr aco ’s favorite
 33 ‘

CHAPTER TWO


teacher. . . . You are Lucius ’s old friend. . . . I beg you. . . . You are the
Dark Lord ’s favorite, his most trusted advisor. . . . Will you speak to
him, persuade him — ?”
“The Dark Lord will not be persuaded, and I am not stupid enough to
attempt it, ” said Snape flatly. “I cannot pretend that the Dark Lord is
not angry with Lucius. Lucius was supposed to be in charge. He got
himself captured, along with how many others, and failed to retrieve
the prophecy into the bargain. Yes, the Dark Lord is angry, Narcissa,
very angry indeed. ”
“Then I am right, he has chosen Draco in revenge! ” choked Narcissa.
“He does not mean him to succeed, he wants him to be killed trying! ”
When S nape said nothing, Narcissa seemed to lose what little
self -restraint she still possessed. Standing up, she staggered to Snape
and seized the front of his robes. Her face close to his, her tears
falling onto his chest, she gasped, “You could do it. You could do it
instead of Draco, Severus. You would succeed, of course you would,
and he would reward you beyond all of us — ”
Snape caught hold of her wrists and removed her clutching hands.
Looking down into her tearstained face, he said slowly, “He inte nds
me to do it in the end, I think. But he is determined that Draco should
try first. You see, in the unlikely event that Draco succeeds, I shall be
able to remain at Hogwarts a little longer, ful - filling my useful role as
spy. ”
“In other words, it doesn ’t matter to him if Draco is killed! ” “The
Dark Lord is very angry, ” repeated Snape quietly. “He failed to hear
the prophecy. You know as well as I do, Narcissa, that he does not
forgive easily. ”
 34 ‘

SPI NNER ’S END


She crumpled, falling at his feet, sobbing and moaning on the floor.
“My only son . . . my only son . . . ”
“You should be proud! ” said Bellatrix ruthlessly. “If I had sons, I
would be glad to give them up to the service of the Dark Lord! ”
Narcissa gave a little scream of despair and clutched at her long
blonde hair. Snape stooped, seized her by the arms, lifted her up, and
steered her back onto the sofa. He then poured her more wine and
forced the glass into her hand.
“Narcissa, that ’s enough. Drink this. Listen to me. ” She quieted a little;
slopping wine down herself, she took a shaky sip.
“It might be possible . . . for me to help Draco. ” She sat up, her face
paper -white, her eyes huge. “Severus — oh, Severus — you would
help him? Would you look after him, see he comes to no harm? ”
“I can try. ”
She flung away her glass; it skidded across the table as she slid off the
sofa into a kneeling position at Snape ’s feet, seized his hand in both of
hers, and pressed her lips to it.
“If you are there to protect him . . . Severus, will you swear it? Will you
make the Unbreakable Vow? ”
“The Unbreakable Vow? ”
Snape ’s expression was blank, unreadable. Bellatrix, however, let out a
cackle of triumphant laughter.
“Aren ’t you listening, Narcissa? Oh, he ’ll try, I’m sure. . . . The
usual empty words, the usual slithering out of action . . . oh, on the
Dark Lord ’s ord ers, of course! ”
 35 ‘

CHAPTER TWO


Snape did not look at Bellatrix. His black eyes were fixed upon
Narcissa ’s tear -filled blue ones as she continued to clutch his hand.
“Certainly, Narcissa, I shall make the Unbreakable Vow, ” he said
quietly. “Perhaps your sister will consent to be our Bonder. ”
Bellatrix ’s mouth fell open. Snape lowered himself so that he was
kneeling opposite Narcissa. Beneath Bellatrix ’s astonished gaze, they
grasped right hands.
“You will need your wand, Bellatrix, ” said Snape coldly.
She drew it, still looking astonished.
“And you will need to move a little closer, ” he said. She stepped
forward so that she stood over them, and placed the tip of he r wand
on their linked hands.
Narcissa spoke.
“Will you, Severus, watch over my son, Draco, as he attempts to fulfill
the Dark Lord ’s wishes? ”
“I will, ” said Snape.
A thin tongue of brilliant flame issued from the wand and wound its
way around their hands like a red -hot wire.
“And will you, to the best of your ability, protect him from harm? ”
“I will, ” said Snape.
A second tongue of flame shot from the wand and interlinked with the
first, making a fine, glowing chain.
“And, should it prove necessary . . . if it seems Draco will fail . . . ”
whispered Narcissa (Snape ’s hand twitched within hers, but he did not
draw away), “will you carry out the deed that the Dark Lord has
ordered Draco to perform? ”
There was a moment ’s silence. Bellatrix watched, her wand upon their
clasped hands, her eyes wide.
 36 ‘

SPINNER ’S END


“I will, ” said Snape.
Bellatrix ’s astounded face glowed red in the blaze of a third tongue of
flame, which shot from the wand, twisted with the oth - ers, and bound
itself thickly around their clasped hands, like a rope, like a fiery snake.



























 37 ‘

C H A P T E R T H R E E










WILL AND WON ’ T




arry Potter was snoring loudly. He had been sitting in a
H
chair beside his bedroom window for the best part of
four hours, staring out at the darkening street, and had finally fallen
asleep with one side of his face pressed against the cold win - dowpane,
his glasses askew and his mouth wide open. The misty fug his breath
had left on the window sparkled in the orange glare of the streetlamp
outside, and the artificial light drained his face of all color, so that he
looked ghostly beneath his shock of untidy black hair.
The room was strewn with various possessions and a good smatter ing
of rubbish. Owl feathers, apple cores, and sweet wrappers littered the
floor, a number of spellbooks lay higgledy - piggledy among the
tangled robes on his bed, and a mess of newspapers sat in a puddle of
light on his desk. The headline of one blared:

 38 ‘

WILL AND WON ’T


HARRY POTTER: THE CHOSEN
ONE?
Rumors continue to fly about the mysterious re - cent
disturbance at the Ministry of Magic, during which
He -Who -Must -Not -Be -Named was sighted once
more.
“We ’re not allowed to talk about it, don ’t ask me
anything, ” said one agitated Obliviator, who re -
fused to give his name as he left the Ministry last
night.
Nevertheless, highly placed sources within the
Ministry have confirmed that the disturbance cen -
tere d on the fabled Hall of Prophecy.
Though Ministry spokeswizards have hitherto
refused even to confirm the existence of such a place,
a growing number of the Wizarding commu - nity
believe that the Death Eaters now serving sen -
tences in Azkaban for tresp ass and attempted theft
were attempting to steal a prophecy. The nature of
that prophecy is unknown, although speculation is
rife that it concerns Harry Potter, the only person
ever known to have survived the Killing Curse, and
who is also known to have be en at the Ministry on
the night in question. Some are going so far as to call
Potter “the Chosen One, ” believing that the
prophecy names him as the only one who will be able
to rid us of He -Who -Must -Not -Be -Named. The
current whereabouts of the prophecy, if it
exists, are unknown, although ( ctd. page 2,
column 5 )

 39 ‘

CHAPTER THREE


A second newspaper lay beside the first. This one bore the headline:
SCRIMGEOUR SUCCEEDS FUDGE

Most of this front page was taken up with a large black -and - white
picture of a man with a lionlike mane of thick hair and a rather ravaged
face. The picture was moving — the man was wav - ing at the ceiling.

Rufus Scrimgeour, previously Head of the Auror
office in the Department of Magical Law Enforce -
ment, has succeeded Cornelius Fudge as Minister of
Magic. The appointment has largely been greeted
with enthusiasm by the Wizarding community,
though rumors of a rift between the new Minister
and Albus Dumbledore, newly reinstated Chief
Warlock of the Wizengamot, surfaced within hours
of Scrimgeour taking office.
Scrimgeour ’s representatives admitted that he had
met with Dumbledore at once upon taking
possessi on of the top job, but refused to com - ment
on the topics under discussion. Albus Dum -
bledore is known to ( ctd. page 3, column 2 )

To the left of this paper sat another, which had been folded so that a
story bearing the title ministry guarantees students ’ safety was visible.
 40 ‘

WILL AND WON ’T


Newly appointed Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrim -
geour, spoke today of the tough new measures taken
by his Ministry to ensure the safety of stu - dents
returning to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and
Wizardry this autumn.
“For obvious reasons, the Ministry will not be going
into detail about its stringent new security plans, ”
said the Minister, although an insider con - firmed
that measures includ e defensive spells and charms, a
complex array of countercurses, and a small task
force of Aurors dedicated solely to the protection of
Hogwarts School.
Most seem reassured by the new Minister ’s tough
stand on student safety. Said Mrs. Augusta
Longbottom, “My grandson, Neville — a good
friend of Harry Potter ’s, incidentally, who fought the
Death Eaters alongside him at the Ministry in June
and —

But the rest of this story was obscured by the large birdcage standing
on top of it. Inside it was a magnificent snowy owl. Her amber eyes
surveyed the room imperiously, her head swiveling occasionally to
gaze at her snoring master. Once or twice she clicked her beak
impatiently, but Harry was too deeply asleep to he ar her.
A large trunk stood in the very middle of the room. Its lid was open; it
looked expectant; yet it was almost empty but for a residue of old
underwear, sweets, empty ink bottles, and broken quills that
 41 ‘

CHAPTER THR EE


coated the very bottom. Nearby, on the floor, lay a purple leaflet
emblazoned with the words:
— issued on behalf of —
The Ministry of Magic
PROTECTING YOUR HOME AND
FAMILY AGAINST DARK FORCES
The Wizarding community is currently under threat from an orga -
nization calling itself the Death Eaters. Observing the following
simple security guidelines will help protect you, your family, and your
home from attack.
1. You are advised not to leave the h ouse alone.
2. Particular care should be taken during the hours of dark -
ness. Wherever possible, arrange to complete journeys be -
fore night has fallen.
3. Review the security arrangements around your house,
making sure that all family members are aware of emer -
gency measures such as Shield and Disillusionment Charms,
and, in the case of underage family members,
Side -Along -Apparition.
4. Agree on security questions with close friends and family
so as to det ect Death Eaters masquerading as others by use
of the Polyjuice Potion (see page 2).
 Should you feel that a family member, colleague, friend, or
neighbor is acting in a strange manner, contact the Magi -
cal Law Enforcement Squad at once. They may have been
put under the Imperius Curse (see page 4).
 42 ‘

WILL AND WON ’T


6. Should the Dark Mark appear over any dwelling place or
other building, DO NOT ENTER, but contact the Auror
office immediately.
7.
Unconfirmed sightings suggest that the Death Eaters may
now be using Inferi (see page 10). Any sighting of an In -
ferius, or encounter with same, should be reported to the
Minist ry IMMEDIATELY.

Harry grunted in his sleep and his face slid down the window an inch
or so, making his glasses still more lopsided, but he did not wake up.
An alarm clock, repaired by Harry several years ago, ticked loudly on
the sill, showing one min ute to eleven. Beside it, held in place by
Harry ’s relaxed hand, was a piece of parchment covered in thin,
slanting writing. Harry had read this letter so often since its arrival
three days ago that although it had been delivered in a tightly furled
scroll , it now lay quite flat.
Dear Harry,
If it is convenient to you, I shall call at number four, Privet
Drive this coming Friday at eleven P.M. to escort you to the
Burrow, where you have been invited to spend the remainder
of your school holidays.
If you are agreeable, I should also be glad of your assistance in a matter
to which I hope to attend on the way to the
Burrow. I shall explain this more fully when I see you.
Kindly send your answer by return of this owl. Hoping to
see you this Friday,
I am, yours most sincerely,
Albus Dumbledore
 43 ‘

CHAPTER THREE


Though he already knew it by heart, Harry had been stealing glances at
this missive every few minutes since seven o ’clock that evening, when
he had first taken up his position beside his bed - room window, which
had a reasonable view of both ends of Privet Drive. He knew it was
pointless to keep rereading Dumbledore ’s words; Harry had sent back
his “yes ” with the delivering owl, as re- quested, and all he could do
now was wait: Either Dumbledore was going to come, or he was not.
But Harry had not packed. It just seemed too good to be true that he
was going to be rescued from the Dursleys after a mere fort - night of
their company. H e could not shrug off the feeling that something was
going to go wrong — his reply to Dumbledore ’s let - ter might have
gone astray; Dumbledore could be prevented from collecting him; the
letter might turn out not to be from Dumble - dore at all, but a trick or
joke or trap. Harry had not been able to face packing and then being
let down and having to unpack again. The only gesture he had made to
the possibility of a journey was to shut his snowy owl, Hedwig, safely
in her cage.
The minute hand on the alarm clock reached the number twelve and,
at that precise moment, the streetlamp outside the window went out.
Harry awoke as though the sudden darkness were an alarm. Hastily
straightening his glasses and unsticking his cheek from the glass, he
pressed his nos e against the window instead and squinted down at the
pavement. A tall figure in a long, billowing cloak was walking up the
garden path.
Harry jumped up as though he had received an electric shock,
knocked over his chair, and started snatching anything and every -
 44 ‘

WILL AND WON ’T


thing within reach from the floor and throwing it into the trunk. Even
as he lobbed a set of robes, two spellbooks, and a packet of crisps
across the room, the doorbell ra ng. Downstairs in the living room his
Uncle Vernon shouted, “Who the blazes is calling at this time of
night? ”
Harry froze with a brass telescope in one hand and a pair of trainers in
the other. He had completely forgotten to warn the Dursleys that
Dumb ledore might be coming. Feeling both panicky and close to
laughter, he clambered over the trunk and wrenched open his
bedroom door in time to hear a deep voice say, “Good evening. You
must be Mr. Dursley. I daresay Harry has told you I would be coming
for him? ”
Harry ran down the stairs two at a time, coming to an abrupt halt
several steps from the bottom, as long experience had taught him to
remain out of arm ’s reach of his uncle whenever possible. There in the
doorway stood a tall, thin man with waist -length sil - ver hair and beard.
Half -moon spectacles were perched on his crooked nose, and he was
wearing a long black traveling cloak and a pointed hat. Vernon
Dursley, whose mustache was quite as bushy as Dumbledore ’s,
though black, and who was wearing a p uce dress - ing gown, was
staring at the visitor as though he could not believe his tiny eyes.
“Judging by your look of stunned disbelief, Harry did not warn
you that I was coming, ” said Dumbledore pleasantly. “However, let us
assume that you have invited me warmly into your house. It is unwise
to linger overlong on doorsteps in these troubled times. ” He stepped
smartly over the threshold and closed the front door behind him.
 45 ‘

CHAPTER THREE


“It is a long time since my last visit, ” said Dumbledore, peering down
his crooked nose at Uncle Vernon. “I must say, your agapan - thus are
flourishing. ”
Vernon Dursley said nothing at all. Harry did not doubt that speech
would return to him, and soon — the vein pulsing in his uncle ’s
temple was reaching danger point — but something about
Dumbledore seemed to have robbed him temporarily of breath. It
might have been the blatant wizardishness of his appearance, but it
might, too, have been that even Uncle Vernon could sense that here
was a man whom it would be very difficult to bully.
“Ah, good evening Harry, ” said Dumbledore, looking up at him
through his half -moon glasses with a most satisfied expression.
“Excellent , excellent. ”
These words seemed to rouse Uncle Vernon. It was clear that as far as
he was concerned, any man who could look at Harry and say
“excellent ” was a man with whom he could never see eye to eye.
“I don ’t mean to be rude — ” he began, in a tone that threatened
rudeness in every syllable.
“— yet, sadly, accidental rudeness occurs alarmingly often, ”
Dumbledore finished the sentence gravely. “Best to say nothing at all,
my dear man. Ah, and this must be Petunia. ”
The kitchen door had opened, and there stood Harry ’s aunt, wearing
rubber gloves and a housecoat over her nightdress, clearly halfway
through her usual pre -bedtime wipe -down of all the kitchen surfaces.
Her rather horsey face registered nothing but shock. “Albus
Dumbledore, ” said Dumbledo re, when Uncle Vernon failed to effect
an introduction. “We have corresponded, of course. ” Harry thought
this an odd way of reminding Aunt Petunia that he
 46 ‘

WILL AND WON ’T


had once sent her an exploding letter, but Aunt Petunia did not
challenge the term. “And this must be your son, Dudley? ”
Dudley had that moment peered round the living room door. His
large, blond head rising out of the stripy collar of his pajamas looked
oddly disembodied, his mouth gaping in astonishment and fear.
Dumbledore waited a moment or two, apparently to see whether any
of the Dursleys were going to say anything, but as the silence stretched
on he smiled.
“Shall we assume that you have invited m e into your sitting room?
Dudley scrambled out of the way as Dumbledore passed him. Harry,
still clutching the telescope and trainers, jumped the last few stairs and
followed Dumbledore, who had settled himself in the armchair
nearest the fire and was tak ing in the surroundings with an expression
of benign interest. He looked quite extraordi - narily out of place.
“Aren ’t — aren ’t we leaving, sir? ” Harry asked anxiously. “Yes, indeed
we are, but there are a few matters we need to dis - cuss first, ” said
Dum bledore. “And I would prefer not to do so in the open. We shall
trespass upon your aunt and uncle ’s hospitality only a little longer. ”
“You will, will you? ”
Vernon Dursley had entered the room, Petunia at his shoulder, and
Dudley skulking behind them b oth.
“Yes, ” said Dumbledore simply, “I shall. ”
He drew his wand so rapidly that Harry barely saw it; with a ca - sual
flick, the sofa zoomed forward and knocked the knees out from under
all three of the Dursleys so that they collapsed upon it
 47 ‘

CHAPTER THREE


in a heap. Another flick of the wand and the sofa zoomed back to its
original position.
“We may as well be comfortable, ” said Dumbledore pleasantly. As he
replaced his wand in his pocket, Harry saw that his hand was
blackened and shriveled; it looked as though his flesh had been
burned away.
“Sir — what happened to your — ?”
“Later, Harry, ” said Dumbledore. “Please sit down. ” Harry took the
remaini ng armchair, choosing not to look at the Dursleys, who
seemed stunned into silence.
“I would assume that you were going to offer me refreshment, ”
Dumbledore said to Uncle Vernon, “but the evidence so far sug - gests
that that would be optimistic to the poi nt of foolishness. ”
A third twitch of the wand, and a dusty bottle and five glasses
appeared in midair. The bottle tipped and poured a generous mea -
sure of honey -colored liquid into each of the glasses, which then
floated to each person in the room.
“Madam Rosmerta ’s finest oak -matured mead, ” said Dumble - dore,
raising his glass to Harry, who caught hold of his own and sipped. He
had never tasted anything like it before, but enjoyed it immensely. The
Dursleys, after quick, scared looks at one an - oth er, tried to ignore
their glasses completely, a difficult feat, as they were nudging them
gently on the sides of their heads. Harry could not suppress a
suspicion that Dumbledore was rather enjoy - ing himself.
“Well, Harry, ” said Dumbledore, turning towar d him, “a diffi -
culty has arisen which I hope you will be able to solve for us. By us,
I mean the Order of the Phoenix. But first of all I must tell you that
 48 ‘

WILL AND WON ’T


Sirius ’s will was discovered a week ago and that he left you every -
thing he owned. ”
Over on the sofa, Uncle Vernon ’s head turned, but Harry did not look
at him, nor could he think of anything to say except, “Oh. Right. ”
“This is, in the main, fairly straightforward, ” Dumbledore went on.
“You add a reasonable amount of gold to your account at Gringotts,
and you inherit all of Sirius ’s personal possessions. The slightly
problematic part of the legacy — ”
“His godfather ’s dead? ” said Uncl e Vernon loudly from the sofa.
Dumbledore and Harry both turned to look at him. The glass of mead
was now knocking quite insistently on the side of Vernon ’s head; he
attempted to beat it away. “He ’s dead? His godfather? ” “Yes, ” said
Dumbledore. He did not ask Harry why he had not confided in the
Dursleys. “Our problem, ” he continued to Harry, as if there had been
no interruption, “is that Sirius also left you number twelve,
Grimmauld Place. ”
“He ’s been left a house? ” said Uncle Vernon greedily, his small eyes
narrowing, but nobody answered him.
“You can keep using it as headquarters, ” said Harry. “I don ’t care.
You can have it, I don ’t really want it. ” Harry never wanted to set foot
in number twelve, Grimmauld Place again if he could help it. He
thought he would be haunted forever by the memory of Sirius
prowling its dark musty rooms alone, imprisoned within the place he
had wanted so desperately to leave.
“That is generous, ” said Dumbledore. “We have, however, va - cated
the building temporarily. ”
“Why? ”
 49 ‘

CHAPTER THREE


“Well, ” said Dumbledore, ignoring the mutterings of Uncle Vernon,
who was now being rapped smartly over the head by the persistent
glass of mead, “Black family tradition decreed that the house was
handed down the direct line, to the next male with the name of
‘Black. ’ Sirius was the very last of the line as his younger brother,
Regulus, predeceased him and both were childless. While his will
makes it perfectly plain that he wants you t o have the house, it is
nevertheless possible that some spell or enchantment has been set
upon the place to ensure that it cannot be owned by anyone other than
a pureblood. ”
A vivid image of the shrieking, spitting portrait of Sirius ’s mother that
hung in the hall of number twelve, Grimmauld Place flashed into
Harry ’s mind. “I bet there has, ” he said.
“Quite, ” said Dumbledore. “And if such an enchantment exists, then
the ownership of the house is most likely to pass to the eldest of
Sirius ’s living rela tives, which would mean his cousin, Bellatrix
Lestrange. ”
Without realizing what he was doing, Harry sprang to his feet; the
telescope and trainers in his lap rolled across the floor. Bellatrix
Lestrange, Sirius ’s killer, inherit his house?
“No, ” he said.
“Well, obviously we would prefer that she didn ’t get it either, ” said
Dumbledore calmly. “The situation is fraught with complica - tions.
We do not know whether the enchantments we ourselves have placed
upon it, for example, making it Unplottable , will hold now that
ownership has passed from Sirius ’s hands. It might be that Bellatrix
will arrive on the doorstep at any moment. Naturally we had to move
out until such time as we have clarified the position. ” “But how are
you going to find out if I ’m allowed to own it? ”
 50 ‘

WILL AND WON ’T


“Fortunately, ” said Dumbledore, “there is a simple test. ” He placed
his empty glass on a small table beside his chair, but
before he could do anything else, Uncle Vernon shouted, “ Will you
get these ruddy things off us ?”
Harry looked around; all three of the Dursleys were cowering with
their arms over their heads as their glasses bounced up and down on
their skulls, their contents flying everywhere.
“Oh, I ’m so sorry, ” said Dumbledore politely, and he raised his wand
again. All three glasses vanished. “But it would have been better
manners to drink it, you know. ”
It looked as though Uncle Vernon was bursting with any num - ber of
unpleasant retorts, but he merely shrank back into the cush - ions with
Aunt Petunia and Dudley and said nothing, keeping his small piggy
eyes on Dumbledore ’s wand.
“You see, ” Dumbledore said, turning back to Harry and again
speaking as though Uncle Vernon had not uttered, “if you have in -
deed inher ited the house, you have also inherited — ”
He flicked his wand for a fifth time. There was a loud crack, and a
house -elf appeared, with a snout for a nose, giant bat ’s ears, and
enormous bloodshot eyes, crouching on the Dursleys ’ shag carpet and
covered in grimy rags. Aunt Petunia let out a hair -raising shriek;
nothing this filthy had entered her house in living memory. Dudley
drew his large, bare, pink feet off the floor and sat with them raised
almost above his head, as though he thought the crea - ture might run
up his pajama trousers, and Uncle Vernon bel -
lowed, “What the hell is that? ”
“Kreacher, ” finished Dumbledore.
“Kreacher won ’t, Kreacher won ’t, Kreacher won ’t!” croaked the
house -elf, quite as loudly as Uncle Vernon, stamping his long,
 51 ‘

CHAPTER THREE


gnarled feet and pulling his ears. “Kreacher belongs to Miss Bella - trix,
oh yes, Kreacher belongs to the Blacks, Kreacher wants his new
mistress, Kreacher won ’t go to the Potter brat, Kreacher won ’t, won ’t,
won ’t — ”
“As you can see, Harry, ” said Dumbledore loudly, over Kreacher ’s
continued croaks of “won ’t, won ’t, won ’t,” “Kreacher is showing a
certain reluctance to pass into your ownership. ”
“I don ’t care, ” said Harry again, looking with disgust at th e writhing,
stamping house -elf. “I don ’t want him. ”
“ Won ’t, won ’t, won ’t, won ’t — ”
“You would prefer him to pass into the ownership of Bellatrix
Lestrange? Bearing in mind that he has lived at the headquarters of the
Order of the Phoenix for the past y ear? ”
“ Won ’t, won ’t, won ’t, won ’t — ”
Harry stared at Dumbledore. He knew that Kreacher could not be
permitted to go and live with Bellatrix Lestrange, but the idea of
owning him, of having responsibility for the creature that had be -
trayed Sirius, was repugnant.
“Give him an order, ” said Dumbledore. “If he has passed into your
ownership, he will have to obey. If not, then we shall have to think of
some other means of keeping him from his rightful mis - tress. ”
“ Won ’t, won ’t, won ’t, WON ’T!”
Kreacher ’s voice had risen to a scream. Harry could think of nothing
to say, except, “Kreacher, shut up! ”
It looked for a moment as though Kreacher was going to choke. He
grabbed his throat, his mouth still working furiously, his eyes bulging.
After a few seconds of frantic gulping, he threw himself face forward
onto the carpet (Aunt Petunia whimpered) and beat
 52 ‘

WILL AND WON ’T


the floor with his hands and feet, giving himself over to a violent, but
entirely silent, tantrum.
“Well, that simplifies matters, ” said Dumbledore cheerfully. “It seems
that Sirius knew what he was doing. You are the rightful owner of
number twelve, Grimmauld Place and of Kreacher. ”
“Do I — do I have to keep him with m e? ” Harry asked, aghast, as
Kreacher thrashed around at his feet.
“Not if you don ’t want to, ” said Dumbledore. “If I might make a
suggestion, you could send him to Hogwarts to work in the kitchen
there. In that way, the other house -elves could keep an e ye on him. ”
“Yeah, ” said Harry in relief, “yeah, I ’ll do that. Er — Kreacher — I
want you to go to Hogwarts and work in the kitchens there with the
other house -elves. ”
Kreacher, who was now lying flat on his back with his arms and legs in
the air, gave Harry one upside -down look of deepest loathing and,
with another loud crack, vanished.
“Good, ” said Dumbledore. “There is also the matter of the hip -
pogriff, Buckbeak. Hagrid has been looking after him since Sirius died,
but Buckb eak is yours now, so if you would prefer to make different
arrangements — ”
“No, ” said Harry at once, “he can stay with Hagrid. I think Buckbeak
would prefer that. ”
“Hagrid will be delighted, ” said Dumbledore, smiling. “He was
thrilled to see Buckbeak aga in. Incidentally, we have decided, in the
interests of Buckbeak ’s safety, to rechristen him ‘Witherwings ’ for the
time being, though I doubt that the Ministry would ever guess he is the
hippogriff they once sentenced to death. Now, Harry, is your trunk
pa cked? ”
 53 ‘

CHAPTER THREE


“Erm . . . ”
“Doubtful that I would turn up? ” Dumbledore suggested shrewdly.
“I’ll just go and — er — finish off, ” said Harry hastily, hurrying to
pick up his fallen telescope and trainers.
It took him a little over ten minutes to track down everything he
needed; at last he had managed to extract his Invisibility Cloak from
under the bed, screwed the top back on his jar of color - change ink,
and forced the lid of his trunk shut on his cauld ron. Then, heaving his
trunk in one hand and holding Hedwig ’s cage in the other, he made his
way back downstairs.
He was disappointed to discover that Dumbledore was not wait - ing
in the hall, which meant that he had to return to the living room.
Nobody was talking. Dumbledore was humming quietly, appar - ently
quite at his ease, but the atmosphere was thicker than cold custard,
and Harry did not dare look at the Dursleys as he said, “Professor —
I’m ready now. ”
“Good, ” said Dumbledore. “Just one l ast thing, then. ” And he turned
to speak to the Dursleys once more.
“As you will no doubt be aware, Harry comes of age in a year ’s time
— ”
“No, ” said Aunt Petunia, speaking for the first time since Dum -
bledore ’s arrival.
“I’m sorry? ” said Dumbled ore politely.
“No, he doesn ’t. He ’s a month younger than Dudley, and Dudders
doesn ’t turn eighteen until the year after next. ”
“Ah, ” said Dumbledore pleasantly, “but in the Wizarding world, we
come of age at seventeen. ”
 54 ‘

WILL AND WON ’T


Uncle Vernon muttered, “Preposterous, ” but Dumbledore ig - nored
him.
“Now, as you already know, the wizard called Lord Voldemort has
returned to this country. The Wizarding community is cur - rently in a
state of open warfare. Harry, whom Lord Voldemort has already
attempted to kill on a number of occasions, is in even greater danger
now than the day when I left him upon your doorstep fifteen years ago,
with a letter explaining about his par - ents ’ murder and expressing the
hope that y ou would care for him as though he were your own. ”
Dumbledore paused, and although his voice remained light and calm,
and he gave no obvious sign of anger, Harry felt a kind of chill
emanating from him and noticed that the Dursleys drew very slightly
clos er together.
“You did not do as I asked. You have never treated Harry as a son. He
has known nothing but neglect and often cruelty at your hands. The
best that can be said is that he has at least escaped the appalling
damage you have inflicted upon the un fortunate boy sit - ting between
you. ”
Both Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon looked around instinc - tively, as
though expecting to see someone other than Dudley squeezed
between them.
“Us — mistreat Dudders? What d ’you — ?” began Uncle Ver - non
furiously, but Dumbledore raised his finger for silence, a si - lence
which fell as though he had struck Uncle Vernon dumb. “The magic I
evoked fifteen years ago means that Harry has pow - erful protection
while he can still call this house ‘home. ’ Howe ver miserable he has
been here, however unwelcome, however badly treated, you have at
least, grudgingly, allowed him houseroom. This
 55 ‘

CHAPTER THREE


magic will cease to operate the moment that Harry turns seventeen; in
other words, at the moment he becomes a man. I ask only this: that
you allow Harry to return, once more, to this house, before his
seventeenth birthday, which will ensure that the protection contin -
ues until that time. ”
None of the Dursleys said anythi ng. Dudley was frowning slightly, as
though he was still trying to work out when he had ever been
mistreated. Uncle Vernon looked as though he had something stuck in
his throat; Aunt Petunia, however, was oddly flushed. “Well, Harry . . .
time for us to be off, ” said Dumbledore at last, standing up and
straightening his long black cloak. “Until we meet again, ” he said to
the Dursleys, who looked as though that moment could wait forever
as far as they were concerned, and after doffing his hat, he swept from
the room.
“Bye, ” said Harry hastily to the Dursleys, and followed Dum - bledore,
who paused beside Harry ’s trunk, upon which Hedwig ’s cage was
perched.
“We do not want to be encumbered by these just now, ” he said,
pulling out his wand again. “I shall send them to the Burrow to await
us there. However, I would like you to bring your Invisibility Cloak . . .
just in case. ”
Harry extracted his cloak from his trunk with some difficulty, trying
not to show Dumbledore the mess within. When he had st uffed it into
an inside pocket of his jacket, Dumbledore waved his wand and the
trunk, cage, and Hedwig vanished. Dumbledore then waved his wand
again, and the front door opened onto cool, misty darkness.
“And now, Harry, let us step out into the night an d pursue that flighty
temptress, adventure. ”
 56 ‘

C H A P T E R F O U R










HORACE
SLUGHORN




espite the fact that he had spent every waking moment of
D
the past few days hoping desperately that Dumbledore
would indeed come to fetch him, Harry felt distinctly awkward as they
set off down Privet Drive together. He had never had a proper
conversation with the headmaster outs ide of Hogwarts before; there
was usually a desk between them. The memory of their last
face -to -face encounter kept intruding too, and it rather heightened
Harry ’s sense of embarrassment; he had shouted a lot on that occa -
sion, not to mention done his bes t to smash several of Dumble - dore ’s
most prized possessions.

Dumbledore, however, seemed completely relaxed. “Keep your wand
at the ready, Harry, ” he said brightly. “But I thought I ’m not allowed
to use magic outside school, sir? ” “If there is an attack, ” said
Dumbledore, “I give you permission to use any counterjinx or curse
that might occur to you. However, I do not think you need worry
about being attacked tonight. ”
 57 ‘

CHAPTER FOUR


“Why not, sir? ”
“You are with me, ” said Dumbledore simply. “This will do, Harry. ”
He came to an abrupt halt at the end of Privet Drive. “You have
not, of course, passed your Apparition Test, ” he said. “No, ” said
Harry. “I thought you had to be seventeen? ”
“You do, ” sai d Dumbledore. “So you will need to hold on to my arm
very tightly. My left, if you don ’t mind — as you have noticed, my
wand arm is a little fragile at the moment. ”
Harry gripped Dumbledore ’s proffered forearm. “Very good, ” said
Dumbledore. “Well, here we go. ” Harry felt Dumbledore ’s arm twist
away from him and redou - bled his grip; the next thing he knew,
everything went black; he was being pressed very hard from all
directions; he could not breathe, there were iron bands tightening
around hi s chest; his eye - balls were being forced back into his head;
his eardrums were being pushed deeper into his skull and then —
He gulped great lungfuls of cold night air and opened his streaming
eyes. He felt as though he had just been forced through a v ery tight
rubber tube. It was a few seconds before he realized that Privet Drive
had vanished. He and Dumbledore were now stand - ing in what
appeared to be a deserted village square, in the center of which stood
an old war memorial and a few benches. His c om - prehension
catching up with his senses, Harry realized that he had just Apparated
for the first time in his life.
“Are you all right? ” asked Dumbledore, looking down at him so -
licitously. “The sensation does take some getting used to. ”
“I’m fine, ” said Harry, rubbing his ears, which felt as though
 58 ‘

HORACE SLUGHORN


they had left Privet Drive rather reluctantly. “But I think I might
prefer brooms. . . . ”
Dumbledore smiled, drew his traveling cloak a little more tightly
around his neck, and said, “This way. ”
He set off at a brisk pace, past an empty inn and a few houses.
According to a clock on a nearby church, it was almost midnight. “So
tell me, Harry, ” said Dumbledore. “Your scar . . . has it been hurting at
all? ”
Harry raised a hand unconsciously to his forehead and rubbed the
lightning -shaped mark.
“No, ” he said, “and I ’ve been wondering about that. I thought it
would be burning all the time now Voldemort ’s getting so power - ful
again. ”
He glanced up at Dumbledore and saw that he was wearing a satisfied
expression.
“I, on the other hand, thought otherwise, ” said Dumbledore. “Lord
Voldemort has finally realized the dangerous access to his thoughts
and feelings you have been enjoying. It appears that he is now
employing Occlumency against you. ”
“Well, I ’m not complaining, ” said Harry, who missed neither the
disturbing dreams nor the startling flashes of insight into Voldemort ’s
mind.
The y turned a corner, passing a telephone box and a bus shelter. Harry
looked sideways at Dumbledore again. “Professor? ” “Harry? ”
“Er — where exactly are we? ”
“This, Harry, is the charming village of Budleigh Babberton. ”
“And what are we doing here? ”
 59 ‘

CHAPTER FOUR


“Ah yes, of course, I haven ’t told you, ” said Dumbledore. “Well, I
have lost count of the number of times I have said this in recent years,
but we are, once again, one member of staff short. We are here to
persuade an old colleague of mine to come out of retire - ment and
return to Hogwarts. ”
“How can I help with that, sir? ”
“Oh, I think we ’ll find a use for you, ” said Dumbledore vaguely. “Left
here, Harry. ”
They proceeded up a steep, narrow stre et lined with houses. All the
windows were dark. The odd chill that had lain over Privet Drive for
two weeks persisted here too. Thinking of dementors, Harry cast a
look over his shoulder and grasped his wand reassur - ingly in his
pocket.
“Profes sor, why couldn ’t we just Apparate directly into your old
colleague ’s house? ”
“Because it would be quite as rude as kicking down the front door, ”
said Dumbledore. “Courtesy dictates that we offer fellow wizards the
opportunity of denying us entry. In an y case, most Wizarding
dwellings are magically protected from unwanted Ap - parators. At
Hogwarts, for instance — ”
“— you can ’t Apparate anywhere inside the buildings or grounds, ”
said Harry quickly. “Hermione Granger told me. ” “And she is quite
right. W e turn left again. ”
The church clock chimed midnight behind them. Harry won - dered
why Dumbledore did not consider it rude to call on his old colleague
so late, but now that conversation had been established, he had more
pressing questions to ask.
“Sir, I saw in the Daily Prophet that Fudge has been sacked. . . . ”
“Correct, ” said Dumbledore, now turning up a steep side street.
 60 ‘

HORACE SLUGHORN


“He has been replaced, as I am sure you also saw, by Rufus Scrim -
geour, who used to be Head of the Auror office. ”
“Is he . . . Do you think he ’s good? ” asked Harry. “An interesting
question, ” said Dumbledore. “He is able, cer - tainly. A more decisive
and forceful personality than Cornelius. ” “Yes, but I meant — ”
“I k now what you meant. Rufus is a man of action and, having fought
Dark wizards for most of his working life, does not under - estimate
Lord Voldemort. ”
Harry waited, but Dumbledore did not say anything about the
disagreement with Scrimgeour that the Daily Prophet had reported,
and he did not have the nerve to pursue the subject, so he changed it.
“And . . . sir . . . I saw about Madam Bones. ”
“Yes, ” said Dumbledore quietly. “A terrible loss. She was a great witch.
Just up here, I think — ouch. ”
He had pointed with his injured hand.
“Professor, what happened to your — ?”
“I have no time to explain now, ” said Dumbledore. “It is a thrilling
tale, I wish to do it justice. ”
He smiled at Harry, who understood that he was not being snubbed,
and that he had permission to keep asking questions. “Sir — I got a
Ministry of Magic leaflet by owl, about security measures we should all
take against the Death Eaters. . . . ”
“Yes, I received one myself, ” said Dumbledore, still smiling. “Did you
find it useful? ”
“Not really. ”
“No, I thought not. You have not asked me, for instance, what is my
favorite flavor of jam, to check that I am indeed Professor
Dumbledore and not an impostor. ”
 61 ‘

CHAPTER FOUR


“I didn ’t . . . ” Harry began, not entirely sure whether he was be - ing
reprimanded or not.
“For future reference, Harry, it is raspberry . . . although of course, if I
were a Death Eater, I would have been sure to research my own jam
preferences before i mpersonating myself. ”
“Er . . . right, ” said Harry. “Well, on that leaflet, it said some - thing
about Inferi. What exactly are they? The leaflet wasn ’t very clear. ”
“They are corpses, ” said Dumbledore calmly. “Dead bodies that have
been bewitched to do a Dark wizard ’s bidding. Inferi have not been
seen for a long time, however, not since Voldemort was last
powerful. . . . He killed enough people to make an army of them, of
course. This is the place, Harry, just here. . . . ”
They were nearing a small, neat stone house set in its own gar - den.
Harry was too busy digesting the horrible idea of Inferi to have much
attention left for anything else, but as they reached the front gate,
Dumbledore stopped dead and Harry walked into him. “Oh dear. Oh
dear, dea r, dear. ”
Harry followed his gaze up the carefully tended front path and felt his
heart sink. The front door was hanging off its hinges. Dumbledore
glanced up and down the street. It seemed quite deserted.
“Wand out and follow me, Harry, ” he said quiet ly. He opened the gate
and walked swiftly and silently up the gar - den path, Harry at his heels,
then pushed the front door very slowly, his wand raised and at the
ready.
“ Lumos. ”
Dumbledore ’s wand tip ignited, casting its light up a narrow hallway.
To the left, another door stood open. Holding his illumi -
 62 ‘

HORACE SLUGHORN


nated wand aloft, Dumbledore walked into the sitting room with
Harry right behind him.
A scene of total devastation met their eyes. A grandfather clock lay
splintered at their feet, its face cracked, its pendulum lying a lit - tle
farther away like a dropped sword. A piano was on its side, its keys
strewn across the floor. The wreckage of a f allen chandelier glittered
nearby. Cushions lay deflated, feathers oozing from slashes in their
sides; fragments of glass and china lay like powder over everything.
Dumbledore raised his wand even higher, so that its light was thrown
upon the walls, where something darkly red and glutinous was
spattered over the wallpaper. Harry ’s small intake of breath made
Dumbledore look around.
“Not pretty, is it? ” he said heavily. “Yes, something horrible has
happened here. ”
Dumbledore moved carefully into the middle of the room, scru -
tinizing the wreckage at his feet. Harry followed, gazing around,
half -scared of what he might see hidden behind the wreck of the pi -
ano or the overturned sofa, but there was no sign of a body. “Maybe
there was a fight and — and they d ragged him off, Pro - fessor? ” Harry
suggested, trying not to imagine how badly wounded a man would
have to be to leave those stains spattered halfway up the walls.
“I don ’t think so, ” said Dumbledore quietly, peering behind an
overstuffed armchair lying on its side.
“You mean he ’s — ?”
“Still here somewhere? Yes. ”
And without warning, Dumbledore swooped, plunging the tip of his
wand into the seat of the overstuffed armchair, which yelled, “Ouch! ”
 63 ‘

CHAPTER FOUR


“Good evening, Horace, ” said Dumbledore, straightening up again.
Harry ’s jaw dropped. Where a split second before there had been an
armchair, there now crouched an enormously fat, bald, old man who
was massaging his lower belly and squinting up at Dumble - dore with
an aggrieved and watery eye.
“There was no need to stick the wand in that hard, ” he said gruffly,
clambering to his feet. “It hurt. ”
The wandlight sparkled on his shiny pate, his prominent eyes, his
enormous, silver, walruslike mustache, and the highly polished
buttons on the maroon velvet jacket he was wearing over a pair of lilac
silk pajamas. The top of his head barely reached Dumbledore ’s chin.
“What gave it away? ” he grunted as he staggered to his feet, still
rubbing his lower belly. He seemed remarkably unabashed for a man
who had just been discovered pretending to be an armchair. “My dear
Horace, ” said Dumbledore, looking amused, “if the Death Eaters
really had come to call, the Dark Mark would have been set over the
house. ”
The wizard clapped a pudgy hand to his vast forehead. “The Dark
Mark, ” he muttered. “Knew there was something
. . . ah well. Wouldn ’t have had time anyway, I ’d only just put the
finishing touches to my upholstery when you entered the room .” He
heaved a great sigh that made the ends of his mustache flutter.
“Would you like my assistance clearing up? ” asked Dumbledore
politely.
“Please, ” said the other.
 64 ‘

HORACE SLUGHORN


They stood back to back, the tall thin wizard and the short round one,
and waved their wands in one identical sweeping motion.
The furniture flew back to its original places; ornaments re - formed in
midair, feathers zoomed into their cushions; torn boo ks repaired
themselves as they landed upon their shelves; oil lanterns soared onto
side tables and reignited; a vast collection of splintered silver picture
frames flew glittering across the room and alighted, whole and
untarnished, upon a desk; rips, crac ks, and holes healed everywhere,
and the walls wiped themselves clean.
“What kind of blood was that, incidentally? ” asked Dumbledore
loudly over the chiming of the newly unsmashed grandfather clock.
“On the walls? Dragon, ” shouted the wizard called Hor ace, as, with a
deafening grinding and tinkling, the chandelier screwed it - self back
into the ceiling.
There was a final plunk from the piano, and silence.
“Yes, dragon, ” repeated the wizard conversationally. “My last bottle,
and prices are sky -high at the moment. Still, it might be reusable. ”
He stumped over to a small crystal bottle standing on top of a
sideboard and held it up to the light, examining the thick liquid within.
“Hmm. Bit dusty. ”
He set the bottle back on the sideboard and sighed. It was then that
his gaze fell upon Harry.
“Oho, ” he said, his large round eyes flying to Harry ’s forehead
and the lightning -shaped scar it bore. “ Oho !”
 65 ‘

CHAPTER FOUR


“This, ” said Dumbledore, moving forward to make the intro - duction,
“is Harry Potter. Harry, this is an old friend and colleague of mine,
Horace Slughorn. ”
Slughorn turned on Dumbledore, his expression shrewd. “So that ’s
how you thought you ’d persuade me, is i t? Well, the answer ’s no,
Albus. ”
He pushed past Harry, his face turned resolutely away with the air of a
man trying to resist temptation.
“I suppose we can have a drink, at least? ” asked Dumbledore. “For
old time ’s sake? ”
Slughorn hesitated.
“All right then, one drink, ” he said ungraciously. Dumbledore smiled
at Harry and directed him toward a chair not unlike the one that
Slughorn had so recently impersonated, which stood right beside the
newly burning fire and a brightly glowing oil lamp. Har ry took the seat
with the distinct impression that Dumbledore, for some reason,
wanted to keep him as visible as possible. Certainly when Slughorn,
who had been busy with de - canters and glasses, turned to face the
room again, his eyes fell im - mediately u pon Harry.
“Hmpf, ” he said, looking away quickly as though frightened of
hurting his eyes. “Here — ” He gave a drink to Dumbledore, who had
sat down without invitation, thrust the tray at Harry, and then sank
into the cushions of the repaired sofa and a disgruntled si - lence. His
legs were so short they did not touch the floor.
“Well, how have you been keeping, Horace? ” Dumbledore asked.
“Not so well, ” said Slughorn at once. “Weak chest. Wheezy.
 66 ‘

HORACE SLUGHORN


Rheumatism too. Can ’t move like I used to. Well, that ’s to be ex -
pected. Old age. Fatigue. ”
“And yet you must have moved fairly quickly to prepare such a
welcome for us at such short notice, ” said Dumbledore. “You can ’t
have had more than three minutes ’ warning? ”
Slughorn said, half irritably, half proudly, “Two. Didn ’t hear my
Intruder Charm go off, I was taking a bath. Still, ” he added sternly,
seeming to pull himself back together again, “the fact remains that I ’m
an old man, Albus. A tired old man who ’s earned the right to a quiet
life and a few creature comforts. ”
He certainly had those, thought Harry, looking around the room. It
was stuffy and cluttered, yet nobody could say it was un - comfortable;
there were soft chairs and footstools, drinks and books, boxes of
chocolates and plump cushions. If Harry had not known who lived
there, he would have guessed at a rich, fussy old lady.
“You ’re not yet as old as I am, Horace, ” said Dumbledo re. “Well,
maybe you ought to think about retirement yourself, ” said Slughorn
bluntly. His pale gooseberry eyes had found Dum - bledore ’s injured
hand. “Reactions not what they were, I see. ” “You ’re quite right, ” said
Dumbledore serenely, shaking back his s leeve to reveal the tips of
those burned and blackened fingers; the sight of them made the back
of Harry ’s neck prickle unpleasantly. “I am undoubtedly slower than I
was. But on the other hand . . . ” He shrugged and spread his hands
wide, as though to say that age had its compensations, and Harry
noticed a ring on his unin - jured hand that he had never seen
Dumbledore wear before: It was large, rather clumsily made of what
looked like gold, and was set
 67 ‘

CHAPTER FOUR


with a heavy black stone that had cracked down the middle.
Slughorn ’s eyes lingered for a moment on the ring too, and Harry saw
a tiny frown momentarily crease his wide forehead.
“So, all these precautions against intruders, Horace . . . are they for th e
Death Eaters ’ benefit, or mine? ” asked Dumbledore. “What would
the Death Eaters want with a poor broken -down old buffer like me? ”
demanded Slughorn.
“I imagine that they would want you to turn your considerable talents
to coercion, torture, and murder ,” said Dumbledore. “Are you really
telling me that they haven ’t come recruiting yet? ” Slughorn eyed
Dumbledore balefully for a moment, then mut - tered, “I haven ’t given
them the chance. I ’ve been on the move for a year. Never stay in one
place more than a week. Move from Mug - gle house to Muggle house
— the owners of this place are on holi - day in the Canary Islands —
it’s been very pleasant, I ’ll be sorry to leave. It ’s quite easy once you
know how, one simple Freezing Charm on these absurd burglar
alarms they use instead of Sneako - scopes and make sure the
neighbors don ’t spot you bringing in the piano. ”
“Ingenious, ” said Dumbledore. “But it sounds a rather tiring ex -
istence for a broken -down old buffer in search of a quiet life. Now, if
you were to ret urn to Hogwarts — ”
“If you ’re going to tell me my life would be more peaceful at that
pestilential school, you can save your breath, Albus! I might have been
in hiding, but some funny rumors have reached me since Do - lores
Umbridge left! If that ’s how y ou treat teachers these days — ”
“Professor Umbridge ran afoul of our centaur herd, ” said Dum -
bledore. “I think you, Horace, would have known better than to
 68 ‘

HORACE SLUGHORN


stride into the forest and call a horde of angry centaurs ‘filthy half -
breeds. ’”
“That ’s what she did, did she? ” said Slughorn. “Idiotic woman. Never
liked her. ”
Harry chuckled and both Dumbledore and Slughorn looked round at
him.
“Sorry, ” Harry said h astily. “It’s just — I didn ’t like her either. ”
Dumbledore stood up rather suddenly.
“Are you leaving? ” asked Slughorn at once, looking hopeful. “No, I
was wondering whether I might use your bathroom, ” said
Dumbledore.
“Oh, ” said Slughorn, clearly disappointed. “Second on the left down
the hall. ”
Dumbledore strode from the room. Once the door had closed behind
him, there was silence. After a few moments, Slughorn got to his feet
but seemed uncertain what to do with himself . He shot a furtive look
at Harry, then crossed to the fire and turned his back on it, warming
his wide behind.
“Don ’t think I don ’t know why he ’s brought you, ” he said abruptly.
Harry merely looked at Slughorn. Slughorn ’s watery eyes slid over
Harry ’s scar, this time taking in the rest of his face.
“You look very like your father. ”
“Yeah, I ’ve been told, ” said Harry.
“Except for your eyes. You ’ve got — ”
“My mother ’s eyes, yeah. ” Harry had heard it so often he found it a bit
wearing.
“Hmpf. Yes, well. You shouldn ’t have favorites as a teacher, of
 69 ‘

CHAPTER FOUR


course, but she was one of mine. Your mother, ” Slughorn added, in
answer to Harry ’s questioning look. “Lily Evans. One of the bright -
est I ever taught. Vivacious, you know. Charming girl. I used to tell her
she ought to have been in my House. Very cheeky answers I used to
get back too. ”
“Which was your House? ”
“I was Head of Slytherin, ” said Slughorn. “Oh, now, ” he went on
quickly, seeing the expression on Harry ’s face and wagging a stubby
finger at him, “don ’t go holding that against me! You ’ll be Gryffindor
like her, I suppose? Yes, it usually goes in families. Not always, though.
Ever heard of Sirius Black? You must ha ve done — been in the papers
for the last couple of years — died a few weeks ago — ”
It was as though an invisible hand had twisted Harry ’s intestines and
held them tight.
“Well, anyway, he was a big pal of your father ’s at school. The whole
Black fam ily had been in my House, but Sirius ended up in Gryffindor!
Shame — he was a talented boy. I got his brother, Regulus, when he
came along, but I ’d have liked the set. ”
He sounded like an enthusiastic collector who had been outbid at
auction. Apparently l ost in memories, he gazed at the opposite wall,
turning idly on the spot to ensure an even heat on his backside. “Your
mother was Muggle -born, of course. Couldn ’t believe it when I found
out. Thought she must have been pure -blood, she was so good. ”
“One o f my best friends is Muggle -born, ” said Harry, “and she ’s the
best in our year. ”
“Funny how that sometimes happens, isn ’t it? ” said Slughorn.
 70 ‘

HORACE SLUGHORN


“Not really, ” said Harry coldly.
Slughorn looked down at him in surprise. “You mustn ’t think I ’m
prejudiced! ” he said. “No, no, no! Haven ’t I just said your mother was
one of my all -time favorite students? And there was Dirk Cresswell in
the year after her too — now Head of the Gob - lin L iaison Office, of
course — another Muggle -born, a very gifted student, and still gives
me excellent inside information on the goings -on at Gringotts! ”
He bounced up and down a little, smiling in a self -satisfied way, and
pointed at the many glittering pho tograph frames on the dresser, each
peopled with tiny moving occupants.
“All ex -students, all signed. You ’ll notice Barnabas Cuffe, editor
of the Daily Prophet, he ’s always interested to hear my take on the
day ’s news. And Ambrosius Flume, of Honeydukes — a hamper every
birthday, and all because I was able to give him an introduc - tion to
Ciceron Harkiss, who gave him his first job! And at the back — you ’ll
see her if you just crane your neck — that ’s Gwenog Jone s, who of
course captains the Holyhead Harpies. . . . People are always
astonished to hear I ’m on first -name terms with the Harpies, and free
tickets whenever I want them! ”
This thought seemed to cheer him up enormously. “And all these
people know where to find you, to send you stuff? ” asked Harry, who
could not help wondering why the Death Eaters had not yet tracked
down Slughorn if hampers of sweets, Quidditch tickets, and visitors
craving his advice and opinions could find him.
The smile slid from Slughorn ’s face as quickly as the blood from his
walls.
 71 ‘

CHAPTER FOUR


“Of course not, ” he said, looking down at Harry. “I have been out of
touch with everybody for a year. ”
Harry had the impression that the words shocked Slughorn him - self;
he looked quite unsettled for a moment. Then he shrugged. “Still . . .
the prudent wizard keeps his head down in such times. All very well
for Dumbledore to talk, but taking up a post at H og - warts just now
would be tantamount to declaring my public alle - giance to the Order
of the Phoenix! And while I ’m sure they ’re very admirable and brave
and all the rest of it, I don ’t personally fancy the mortality rate — ”
“You don ’t have to join the Order to teach at Hogwarts, ” said Harry,
who could not quite keep a note of derision out of his voice: It was
hard to sympathize with Slughorn ’s cosseted existence when he
remembered Sirius, crouching in a cave and living on rats. “Most of
the teachers ar en ’t in it, and none of them has ever been killed — well,
unless you count Quirrell, and he got what he de - served seeing as he
was working with Voldemort. ”
Harry had been sure Slughorn would be one of those wizards who
could not bear to hear Voldemort ’s name spoken aloud, and was not
disappointed: Slughorn gave a shudder and a squawk of protest, which
Harry ignored.
“I reckon the staff are safer than most people while Dumble - dore ’s
headmaster; he ’s supposed to be the only one Voldemort ever feared,
isn ’t he? ” Harry went on.
Slughorn gazed into space for a moment or two: He seemed to be
thinking over Harry ’s words.
“Well, yes, it is true that He -Who -Must -Not -Be -Named has never
sought a fight with Dumbledore, ” he muttered grudgingly.
 7 2 ‘

HORACE SLUGHORN


“And I suppose one could argue that as I have not joined the Death
Eaters, He -Who -Must -Not -Be -Named can hardly count me a
friend . . . in which case, I might well be safer a little closer to Albus.
. . . I cannot pretend that Amelia Bones ’s death did not shake me. . . .
If she, with all her Ministry contacts and protection . . . ” Dumbledore
reentered the room and Slughorn jumped as though he had forgotten
he was in the house.
“Oh, there you are, Al bus, ” he said. “You ’ve been a very long time.
Upset stomach? ”
“No, I was merely reading the Muggle magazines, ” said Dum - bledore.
“I do love knitting patterns. Well, Harry, we have tres - passed upon
Horace ’s hospitality quite long enough; I think it is time for us to
leave. ”
Not at all reluctant to obey, Harry jumped to his feet. Slughorn
seemed taken aback.
“You ’re leaving? ”
“Yes, indeed. I think I know a lost cause when I see one. ”
“Lost. . . ? ”
Slughorn seemed agitated. He twiddled his fat thumbs and fidg - eted
as he watched Dumbledore fasten his traveling cloak, and Harry zip
up his jacket.
“Well, I ’m sorry you don ’t want the job, Horace, ” said Dumble - dore,
raising his uninjured hand in a fare well salute. “Hogwarts would have
been glad to see you back again. Our greatly increased security
notwithstanding, you will always be welcome to visit, should you wish
to. ”
“Yes . . . well . . . very gracious . . . as I say . . . ”
“Good -bye, then. ”
 73 ‘

CHAPTER FOUR


“Bye, ” said Harry.
They were at the front door when there was a shout from behind
them.
“All right, all right, I ’ll do it! ”
Dumbledore turned to see Slughorn standing breathless in the
doorway to the sitting room.
“You will come out of retirement? ”
“Yes, yes, ” said Slughorn impatiently. “I must be mad, but yes. ”
“Wonderful, ” said Dumbledore, beaming. “Then, Horace, we shall
see you on the first of September. ”
“Yes, I daresay you wil l,” grunted Slughorn.
As they set off down the garden path, Slughorn ’s voice floated af - ter
them, “I’ll want a pay rise, Dumbledore! ”
Dumbledore chuckled. The garden gate swung shut behind them, and
they set off back down the hill through the dark and the swirling mist.
“Well done, Harry, ” said Dumbledore.
“I didn ’t do anything, ” said Harry in surprise.
“Oh yes you did. You showed Horace exactly how much he stands to
gain by returning t o Hogwarts. Did you like him? ” “Er . . . ”
Harry wasn ’t sure whether he liked Slughorn or not. He sup - posed he
had been pleasant in his way, but he had also seemed vain and,
whatever he said to the contrary, much too surprised that a
Muggle -born should ma ke a good witch.
“Horace, ” said Dumbledore, relieving Harry of the responsibil - ity to
say any of this, “likes his comfort. He also likes the company of the
famous, the successful, and the powerful. He enjoys the feel - ing that
he influences these people. He has never wanted to occupy
 74 ‘

HORACE SLUGHORN


the throne himself; he prefers the backseat — more room to spread
out, you see. He used to handpick favorites at Hogwarts, some -
times for their ambition or their brains, sometimes for their charm or
their talent, and he had an uncanny knack for choosing those who
would go on to become outstanding in their various fields. Horace
formed a kind of club of his favorites with himself a t the center,
making introductions, forging useful contacts between members, and
always reaping some kind of benefit in return, whether a free box of
his favorite crystalized pineapple or the chance to recommend the
next junior member of the Goblin Liaiso n Office. ”
Harry had a sudden and vivid mental image of a great swollen spider,
spinning a web around it, twitching a thread here and there to bring its
large and juicy flies a little closer.
“I tell you all this, ” Dumbledore continued, “not to turn yo u against
Horace — or, as we must now call him, Professor Slug - horn — but to
put you on your guard. He will undoubtedly try to collect you, Harry.
You would be the jewel of his collection; ‘the Boy Who Lived ’ . . . or,
as they call you these days, ‘the Ch osen One. ’”
At these words, a chill that had nothing to do with the sur - rounding
mist stole over Harry. He was reminded of words he had heard a few
weeks ago, words that had a horrible and particular
meaning to him: Neither can li ve while the other survives . . .
Dumbledore had stopped walking, level with the church they had
passed earlier.
“This will do, Harry. If you will grasp my arm. ” Braced this time,
Harry was ready for the Apparition, but still found it unpleasant.
Wh en the pressure disappeared and he found
 75 ‘

CHAPTER FOUR


himself able to breathe again, he was standing in a country lane beside
Dumbledore and looking ahead to the crooked silhouette of his
second favorite building in the world: the Burrow. In spite of the
feeling of dread that had just swept through him, his spirits could not
help but lift at the sight of it. Ron was in there . . . and so was Mrs.
Weasley, who could cook better than anyo ne he knew. . . .
“If you don ’t mind, Harry, ” said Dumbledore, as they passed through
the gate, “I’d like a few words with you before we part. In private.
Perhaps in here? ”
Dumbledore pointed toward a run -down stone outhouse where the
Weasleys kept the ir broomsticks. A little puzzled, Harry fol - lowed
Dumbledore through the creaking door into a space a little smaller
than the average cupboard. Dumbledore illuminated the tip of his
wand, so that it glowed like a torch, and smiled down at Harry.
“I hope you will forgive me for mentioning it, Harry, but I am pleased
and a little proud at how well you seem to be coping after everything
that happened at the Ministry. Permit me to say that I think Sirius
would have been proud of you. ”
Harry swallowed; his voice seemed to have deserted him. He did not
think he could stand to discuss Sirius; it had been painful enough to
hear Uncle Vernon say “His godfather ’s dead? ” and even worse to
hear Sirius ’s name thrown out casually by Slughorn.
“It was cruel, ” said Dumbledore softly, “that you and Sirius had such a
short time together. A brutal ending to what should have been a long
and happy relationship. ”
Harry nodded, his eyes fixed resolutely on the spider now climb - ing
Dumbledore ’s hat. He could tell that Dumb ledore understood,
 76 ‘

HORACE SLUGHORN


that he might even suspect that until his letter arrived, Harry had spent
nearly all his time at the Dursleys ’ lying on his bed, refusing meals, and
staring at the misted window, full of the chill emptiness that he had
come to associate with dementors.
“It’s just hard, ” Harry said finally, in a low voice, “to realize he won ’t
write to me again. ”
His eyes burned suddenly and he blinked. He felt stupid for ad -
mitting it, but the fact that he had had someone outside Hogwarts
who cared what happened to him, almost like a parent, had been one
of the best things about discovering his godfather . . . and now the
post owls would never bring him th at comfort again. . . . “Sirius
represented much to you that you had never known before, ” said
Dumbledore gently. “Naturally, the loss is devastat - ing. . . . ”
“But while I was at the Dursleys ’ . . . ” interrupted Harry, his voice
growing stronger, “I real ized I can ’t shut myself away or — or crack
up. Sirius wouldn ’t have wanted that, would he? And anyway, life ’s too
short. . . . Look at Madam Bones, look at Emmeline Vance. . . . It
could be me next, couldn ’t it? But if it is, ” he said fiercely, now lookin g
straight into Dumbledore ’s blue eyes gleam - ing in the wandlight, “I’ll
make sure I take as many Death Eaters with me as I can, and
Voldemort too if I can manage it. ”
“Spoken both like your mother and father ’s son and Sirius ’s true
godson! ” said Dumbledore, with an approving pat on Harry ’s back. “I
take my hat off to you — or I would, if I were not afraid of
showering you in spiders.
“And now, Harry, on a closely related subject . . . I gather that
you have been taking the Daily Prophet over the last two weeks? ”
“Yes, ” said Harry, and his heart beat a little faster.
 77 ‘

CHAPTER FOUR


“Then you will have seen that there have been not so much leaks as
floods concerning your adventure in the Hall of Prophecy? ” “Yes, ”
said Harry again. “And now everyone knows that I ’m the one — ”
“No, they do not, ” interrupted Dumbledore. “There are only two
people in the whole world who know the full contents of the
prophecy made about you and Lord Voldemort, and they are both
standing in this smelly, spidery broom shed. It is true, however, that
many have guessed, correctly, that Voldemort sent his Death Eaters to
steal a prophecy, and that the prophecy concerned you. “Now, I think
I am correct in saying that you have not told any - body that you know
what the prophecy said? ”
“No, ” said Harry.
“A wise decision, on the whole, ” said Dumbledore. “Although I think
you ought to relax it in favor of your friends, Mr. Rona ld Weasley and
Miss Hermione Granger. Yes, ” he continued, when Harry looked
startled, “I think they ought to know. You do them a disservice by not
confiding something this important to them. ”
“I didn ’t want — ”
“— to worry or frighten them? ” said Dumbledo re, surveying Harry
over the top of his half -moon spectacles. “Or perhaps, to confess that
you yourself are worried and frightened? You need your friends, Harry.
As you so rightly said, Sirius would not have wanted you to shut
yourself away. ”
Harry said nothing, but Dumbledore did not seem to require an
answer. He continued, “On a different, though related, subject, it is
my wish that you take private lessons with me this year. ”


 78 ‘

HORACE SLUGHORN


“Private — with you? ” said Harry, surprised out of his preoccu - pied
silence.
“Yes. I think it is time that I took a greater hand in your educa - tion. ”
“What will you be teaching me, sir? ”
“Oh, a little of this, a little of that, ” said Dumbledore airily. Harry
waited hopefully, but Dumbledore did not elaborate, so he asked
something else that had been bothering him slightly. “If I ’m having
lessons with you, I won ’t have to do Occlumency lessons with Snape,
will I? ”
“ Professor Snape, Harry — and no, you wi ll not. ”
“Good, ” said Harry in relief, “because they were a — ” He stopped,
careful not to say what he really thought. “I think the word ‘fiasco ’
would be a good one here, ” said Dum - bledore, nodding.
Harry laughed.
“Well, that means I won ’t see much of Professor Snape from now
on, ” he said, “because he won ’t let me carry on Potions unless I get
‘Outstanding ’ in my O.W.L., which I know I haven ’t.”
“Don ’t count your owls before they are delivered, ” said Dumble - dore
gravely. “Which, now I think of it, ought to be some time later today.
Now, two more things, Harry, before we part.
“Firstly, I wish you to keep your Invisibility Cloak with you at all times
from this moment onward. Even within Hogwarts itself. Just in case,
you understand me? ”
Harry nodded.
“And lastly, while you stay here, the Burrow has been given the


 79 ‘

CHAPTER FOUR


highest security the Ministry of Magic can provide. These measures
have caused a certain amount of inconvenience to Arthur and Molly
— all their post, for instance, is being searched at the Min - istry before
being sent on. They do not mind in the slightest, for their only
concern is your safety. However, it would be poor repay - ment if you
risked your neck while staying with them. ”
“I understand, ” said Harry quickly.
“Very well, then, ” said Dumbledore, pushing open the broom shed
door and stepping out into the yard. “I see a light in the kitchen. Let us
not deprive Mol ly any longer of the chance to de - plore how thin you
are. ”




















 80 ‘

C H A P T E R F I V E










AN EXCESS OF
PHLEGM




arry and Dumbledore approached the back door of the
H
Burrow, which was surrounded by the familiar litter of
old Wellington boots and rusty cauldrons; Harry could hear the soft
clucking of sleep y chickens coming from a distant shed. Dum - bledore
knocked three times and Harry saw sudden movement be - hind the
kitchen window.
“Who ’s there? ” said a nervous voice he recognized as Mrs. Weasley ’s.
“Declare yourself! ”
“It is I, Dumbledore, bringing Harry. ”
The door opened at once. There stood Mrs. Weasley, short, plump,

and wearing an old green dressing gown.
“Harry, dear! Gracious, Albus, you gave me a fright, you said not to
expect you before morning! ”
“We were lucky, ” said Dumbledore, ushering Harry over the
threshold. “Slughorn proved much more persuadable than I had
expected. Harry ’s doing, of course. Ah, hello, Nymphadora! ”
 81 ‘

CHAPTER FIVE


Harry looked around and saw that Mrs. Weasley was not alone,
despite the lateness of the hour. A young witch with a pale, heart -
shaped face and mousy brown hair was sitting at the table clutch - ing a
large mug between her hands.
“Hello, Professor, ” she s aid. “Wotcher, Harry. ”
“Hi, Tonks. ”
Harry thought she looked drawn, even ill, and there was some - thing
forced in her smile. Certainly her appearance was less color - ful than
usual without her customary shade of bubble -gum -pink hair.
“I’d better be off, ” she said quickly, standing up and pulling her cloak
around her shoulders. “Thanks for the tea and sympathy, Molly. ”
“Please don ’t leave on my account, ” said Dumbledore courte - ously,
“I cannot stay, I have urgent matters to discuss with Rufus
Scrimgeou r.”
“No, no, I need to get going, ” said Tonks, not meeting Dum -
bledore ’s eyes. “’Night — ”
“Dear, why not come to dinner at the weekend, Remus and Mad -Eye
are coming — ?”
“No, really, Molly . . . thanks anyway . . . Good night, every - one.
Tonks hurried past Dumbledore and Harry into the yard; a few paces
beyond the doorstep, she turned on the spot and vanished into thin air.
Harry noticed that Mrs. Weasley looked troubled. “Well, I shall see
you at Hogwarts, Harry, ” said Dumbledore. “Take c are of yourself.
Molly, your servant. ”
He made Mrs. Weasley a bow and followed Tonks, vanishing at
precisely the same spot. Mrs. Weasley closed the door on the empty
 82 ‘

AN EXCESS OF
PHLEGM


yard and then steered Harry by the shoulders into the full glow of the
lantern on the table to examine his appearance.
“You ’re like Ron, ” she sighed, looking him up and down. “Both of
you look as though you ’ve had Stretching Jinxes put on you. I swear
Ron ’s grown four inches since I last bought him school robes. Are you
hungry, Harry? ”
“Yeah, I am, ” said Harry, suddenly realizing just how hungry he was.
“Sit down, dear, I ’ll knock something up. ”
As Harry sat down, a furry ginger cat with a squashed fa ce jumped
onto his knees and settled there, purring.
“So Hermione ’s here? ” he asked happily as he tickled Crook - shanks
behind the ears.
“Oh yes, she arrived the day before yesterday, ” said Mrs. Weas - ley,
rapping a large iron pot with her wand. It bounced onto the stove with
a loud clang and began to bubble at once. “Everyone ’s in bed, of
course, we didn ’t expect you for hours. Here you are — ” She tapped
the pot again; it rose into the air, flew towar d Harry, and tipped over;
Mrs. Weasley slid a bowl neatly beneath it just in time to catch the
stream of thick, steaming onion soup.
“Bread, dear? ”
“Thanks, Mrs. Weasley. ”
She waved her wand over her shoulder; a loaf of bread and a knife
soared gracefully onto the table; as the loaf sliced itself and the soup
pot dropped back onto the stove, Mrs. Weasley sat down opposite
him.
“So you persuaded Horace Slughorn to take the job? ” Harry nodded,
his mouth so full of hot soup that he c ould not speak.
 83 ‘

CHAPTER FIVE


“He taught Arthur and me, ” said Mrs. Weasley. “He was at Hog - warts
for ages, started around the same time as Dumbledore, I think. Did
you like him? ”
His mouth now full of bread, Harry shrugged and gave a non -
committal jerk of the head.
“I know what you mean, ” said Mrs. Weasley, nodding wisely. “Of
course he can be charming when he wants to be, but Arthur ’s never
liked him much. The Ministry ’s litte red with Slughorn ’s old favorites,
he was always good at giving leg ups, but he never had much time for
Arthur — didn ’t seem to think he was enough of a highflier. Well, that
just shows you, even Slughorn makes mistakes. I don ’t know whether
Ron ’s told you in any of his letters — it’s only just happened — but
Arthur ’s been promoted! ”
It could not have been clearer that Mrs. Weasley had been burst - ing
to say this.
Harry swallowed a large amount of very hot soup and thought he
could feel his throa t blistering. “That ’s great! ” he gasped.
“You are sweet, ” beamed Mrs. Weasley, possibly taking his wa - tering
eyes for emotion at the news. “Yes, Rufus Scrimgeour has set up
several new offices in response to the present situation, and Arthur ’s
heading the Office for the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit
Defensive Spells and Protective Objects. It ’s a big job, he ’s got ten
people reporting to him now! ”
“What exactly — ?”
“Well, you see, in all the panic about You -Know -Who, odd things
have be en cropping up for sale everywhere, things that are supposed
to guard against You -Know -Who and the Death Eaters. You can
imagine the kind of thing — so -called protective potions that are
really gravy with a bit of bubotuber pus added, or instruc -
 84 ‘

AN EXCESS OF
PHLEGM


tions for defensive jinxes that actually make your ears fall off. . . . Well,
in the main the perpetrators are just people like Mundungus Fletcher,
who ’ve never done an honest day ’s work in their lives and are taking
advantage of how frightened everybody is, but every now and then
something really nasty turns up. The other day Arthur confiscated a
box of cursed Sneakoscopes that were almost certainly planted by a
Death Eater. So yo u see, it ’s a very important job, and I tell him it ’s
just silly to miss dealing with spark plugs and toasters and all the rest
of that Muggle rubbish. ” Mrs. Weasley ended her speech with a stern
look, as if it had been Harry suggest - ing that it was natur al to miss
spark plugs.
“Is Mr. Weasley still at work? ” Harry asked.
“Yes, he is. As a matter of fact, he ’s a tiny bit late. . . . He said he ’d be
back around midnight. . . . ”
She turned to look at a large clock that was perched awkwardly on top
of a pile of sheets in the washing basket at the end of the table. Harry
recognized it at once: It had nine hands, each in - scribed with the
name of a family member, and usually hung on the Weasleys ’ sitting
room wall, though its current position sug - gested th at Mrs. Weasley
had taken to carrying it around the house with her. Every single one of
its nine hands was now pointing at “mortal peril. ”
“It’s been like that for a while now, ” said Mrs. Weasley, in an un -
convincingly casual voice, “ever since You -Kno w-Who came back
into the open. I suppose everybody ’s in mortal danger now. . . . I don ’t
think it can be just our family . . . but I don ’t know anyone else who ’s
got a clock like this, so I can ’t check. Oh! ”
With a sudden exclamation she pointed at the cl ock ’s face. Mr.
Weasley ’s hand had switched to “traveling. ”
 85 ‘

CHAPTER FIVE


“He ’s coming! ”
And sure enough, a moment later there was a knock on the back door.
Mrs. Weasley jumped up and hurried to it; with one hand on the
doorknob and her face pressed against the wood she called softly,
“Arthur, is that you? ”
“Yes, ” came Mr. Weasley ’s weary voice. “But I would say that even if
I were a Death Eater, dear . Ask the question! ”
“Oh, honestly . . . ”
“Molly! ”
“All right, all right . . . What is your dearest ambition? ”
“To find out how airplanes stay up. ”
Mrs. Weasley nodded and turned the doorknob, but apparently Mr.
Weasley was holding tight to it on the other side, because the door
remained firmly shut.
“Molly! I ’ve got to ask you your question first! ”
“Arthur, really, this is just silly. . . . ”
“What do you like me to call you when we ’re alone together? ” Even by
the dim light of the lantern Harry could tell that Mrs. Weasley had
turned bright red; he himself felt suddenly warm around the ears and
neck, and hastily gulped soup, clattering his spoon as loudly as he
could against the bowl.
“Mollywobbles, ” whisper ed a mortified Mrs. Weasley into the crack at
the edge of the door.
“Correct, ” said Mr. Weasley. “Now you can let me in. ” Mrs. Weasley
opened the door to reveal her husband, a thin, balding, red -haired
wizard wearing horn -rimmed spectacles and a long and dusty traveling
cloak.
“I still don ’t see why we have to go through that every time you come
home, ” said Mrs. Weasley, still pink in the face as she helped
 86 ‘

AN EXCESS OF
PHLEGM


her husband out of his c loak. “I mean, a Death Eater might have
forced the answer out of you before impersonating you! ”
“I know, dear, but it ’s Ministry procedure, and I have to set an
example. Something smells good — onion soup? ”
Mr. Weasley turned hopefully in the direction o f the table.
“Harry! We didn ’t expect you until morning! ”
They shook hands, and Mr. Weasley dropped into the chair be - side
Harry as Mrs. Weasley set a bowl of soup in front of him too. “Thanks,
Molly. It ’s been a tough night. Some idiot ’s started sell - ing
Metamorph -Medals. Just sling them around your neck and you ’ll be
able to change your appearance at will. A hundred thou - sand
disguises, all for ten Galleons! ”
“And what really happens when you put them on? ” “Mostly you just
turn a fairly unpleasant orange color, but a cou - ple of people have
also sprouted tentaclelike warts all over their bodies. As if St. Mungo ’s
didn ’t have enough to do already! ”
“It sounds like the sort of thing Fred and George would find funny, ”
said Mrs. Weasley hesitantly. “Ar e you sure — ?”
“Of course I am! ” said Mr. Weasley. “The boys wouldn ’t do any -
thing like that now, not when people are desperate for protection! ”
“So is that why you ’re late, Metamorph -Medals? ”
“No, we got wind of a nasty backfiring jinx down in Elephan t and
Castle, but luckily the Magical Law Enforcement Squad had sorted it
out by the time we got there. . . . ”
Harry stifled a yawn behind his hand.
“Bed, ” said an undeceived Mrs. Weasley at once. “I’ve got Fred and
George ’s room all ready for you, you ’ll have it to yourself. ” “Why,
where are they? ”
“Oh, they ’re in Diagon Alley, sleeping in the little flat over their
 87 ‘

CHAPTER FIVE


joke shop as they ’re so busy, ” said Mrs. Weasley. “I must say, I didn ’t
approve at first, but they do seem to have a bit of a flair for business!
Come on, dear, your trunk ’s already up there. ”
“’Night, Mr. Weasley, ” said Harry, pushing back his chair.
Crookshanks leapt lightly from his lap and slunk out of the room.
“G ’night, Harry, ” said Mr. Weasley.
Harry saw Mrs. Weasley glance at the clock in the washing basket as
they left the kitchen. All the hands were once again at “mortal peril. ”
Fred and George ’s bedroom was on the second floor. Mrs. Weas - ley
pointed her wand at a lamp on the bedside table and it ignited at once,
bathing the room in a pleasant golden glow. Though a large vase of
flowers had been placed on a desk in front of the small window, their
perfume could not disguise the lingering s mell of what Harry thought
was gunpowder. A considerable amount of floor space was devoted to
a vast number of unmarked, sealed card - board boxes, amongst which
stood Harry ’s school trunk. The room looked as though it was being
used as a temporary warehous e. Hedwig hooted happily at Harry from
her perch on top of a large wardrobe, then took off through the
window; Harry knew she had been waiting to see him before going
hunting. Harry bade Mrs. Weasley good night, put on pajamas, and
got into one of the beds . There was something hard inside the
pillowcase. He groped inside it and pulled out a sticky
purple -and -orange sweet, which he recognized as a Puking Pastille.
Smiling to himself, he rolled over and was instantly asleep.
Seconds later, or so it seemed to Harry, he was awakened by what
sounded like cannon fire as the door burst open. Sitting bolt upright,
he heard the rasp of the curtains being pulled back: The
 88 ‘

AN EXCESS OF
PHLEGM


dazzling sunlight seemed to poke him hard in both eyes. Shielding
them with one hand, he groped hopelessly for his glasses with the
other.
“Wuzzgoinon? ”
“We didn ’t know you were here already! ” said a loud and excited voice,
and he received a sharp blow to the top of the head. “Ron, don ’t hit
him! ” said a girl ’s voice reproachfully. Harry ’s hand found his glasses
and he shoved them on, though the light was so bright he could hardly
see anyway. A long, loom - ing shadow quivered in front of him for a
momen t; he blinked and Ron Weasley came into focus, grinning down
at him.
“All right? ”
“Never been better, ” said Harry, rubbing the top of his head and
slumping back onto his pillows. “You? ”
“Not bad, ” said Ron, pulling over a cardboard box and sitting on it.
“When did you get here? Mum ’s only just told us! ”
“About one o ’clock this morning. ”
“Were the Muggles all right? Did they treat you okay? ” “Same as
usual, ” said Harry, as Hermione perched herself on the edge of his bed,
“they didn ’t talk to me much , but I like it better that way. How ’re you,
Hermione? ”
“Oh, I ’m fine, ” said Hermione, who was scrutinizing Harry as though
he was sickening for something. He thought he knew what was behind
this, and as he had no wish to discuss Sirius ’s death or any other
miserable subject at the moment, he said, “What ’s the time? Have I
missed breakfast? ”
“Don ’t worry about that, Mum ’s bringing you up a tray; she reckons
you look underfed, ” said Ron, rolling his eyes. “So, what ’s been going
on? ”
 89 ‘

CHAPTER FIVE


“Nothing much, I ’ve just been stuck at my aunt and uncle ’s, haven ’t
I?”
“Come off it! ” said Ron. “You ’ve been off with Dumbledore! ” “It
wasn ’t that exciting. He just wanted me to help him persuade this old
teacher to come out of retirement. His name ’s Horace Slughorn. ”
“Oh, ” said Ron, looking disappointed. “We thought — ” Hermione
flashed a warning look at Ron, and Ron changed tack at top speed.
“— we thought it ’d be something like that. ”
“You d id? ” said Harry, amused.
“Yeah . . . yeah, now Umbridge has left, obviously we need a new
Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, don ’t we? So, er, what ’s he
like? ”
“He looks a bit like a walrus, and he used to be Head of Slytherin, ”
said Harry. “Somet hing wrong, Hermione? ”
She was watching him as though expecting strange symptoms to
manifest themselves at any moment. She rearranged her features
hastily in an unconvincing smile.
“No, of course not! So, um, did Slughorn seem like he ’ll be a good
teacher? ”
“Dunno, ” said Harry. “He can ’t be worse than Umbridge, can he? ”
“I know someone who ’s worse than Umbridge, ” said a voice from the
doorway. Ron ’s younger sister slouched into the room, looking
irritable. “Hi, Harry. ”
“What ’s up with you? ” Ron asked.
“It’s her, ” said Ginny, plonking herself down on Harry ’s bed.
“She ’s driving me mad. ”
 90 ‘

AN EXCESS OF
PHLEGM


“What ’s she done now? ” asked Hermione sympathetically. “It’s the
way she talks to me — you ’d think I was about three! ” “I know, ” said
Hermione, dropping her voice. “She ’s so full of herself. ”
Harry was astonished to hear Hermione talking about Mrs. Weasley
like this and could not blame Ron for saying angrily, “Can ’t you two
lay off her for fiv e seconds? ”
“Oh, that ’s right, defend her, ” snapped Ginny. “We all know you can ’t
get enough of her. ”
This seemed an odd comment to make about Ron ’s mother. Starting
to feel that he was missing something, Harry said, “Who are you — ?”
But his question was answered before he could finish it. The bedroom
door flew open again, and Harry instinctively yanked the bedcovers up
to his chin so hard that Hermione and Ginny slid off the bed onto the
floor.
A young woman was standing in the doorw ay, a woman of such
breathtaking beauty that the room seemed to have become strangely
airless. She was tall and willowy with long blonde hair and appeared to
emanate a faint, silvery glow. To complete this vision of perfec - tion,
she was carrying a heavily laden breakfast tray.
“’Arry, ” she said in a throaty voice. “Eet ’as been too long! ” As she
swept over the threshold toward him, Mrs. Weasley was revealed,
bobbing along in her wake, looking rather cross. “There was no need
to bring up the tray, I was ju st about to do it myself! ”
“Eet was no trouble, ” said Fleur Delacour, setting the tray across
Harry ’s knees and then swooping to kiss him on each cheek: He felt
the places where her mouth had touched him burn. “I ’ave been
 91 ‘

CHAPTER FIVE


longing to see ’im. You remember my seester, Gabrielle? She never
stops talking about ’Arry Potter. She will be delighted to see you
again. ”
“Oh . . . is she here too? ” Harry croaked.
“No, no, silly boy, ” said Fleur with a tinkling laugh, “I mean next
summer, when we — but do you not know? ”
Her great blue eyes widened and she looked reproachfully at Mrs.
Weasley, who said, “We hadn ’t got around to telling him yet. ” Fleur
turned back to Harry, swinging her silvery sheet of hair so that it
whipped Mrs. Weasley across the face.
“Bill and I are going to be married! ”
“Oh, ” said Harry blankly. He could not help noticing how Mrs.
Weasley, Hermione, and Ginny were all determinedly avoiding one
another ’s gaze. “Wow. Er — congratulations! ”
She swooped down upon him and kissed him again. “Bill is very busy
at ze moment, working very ’ard, and I only work part -time at
Gringotts for my Eenglish, so he brought me ’ere for a few days to get
to know ’is family properly. I was so pleased to ’ear you would be
coming — zere isn ’t much to do ’ere, unless you like cooking and
chickens! Well — enjoy your breakfast, ’Arry! ” With these words she
turned gracefully and seemed to float out of the room, closing th e
door quietly behind her.
Mrs. Weasley made a noise that sounded like “tchah! ”
“Mum hates her, ” said Ginny quietly.
“I do not hate her! ” said Mrs. Weasley in a cross whisper. “I just think
they ’ve hurried into this engagement, that ’s all! ”
“They ’ve known each other a year, ” said Ron, who looked oddly
groggy and was staring at the closed door.
“Well, that ’s not very long! I know why it ’s happened, of course.
 92 ‘

AN EXCESS OF
PHLEGM


It’s all this uncertainty with You -Know -Who coming back, people
think they might be dead tomorrow, so they ’re rushing all sorts of
decisions they ’d normally take time over. It was the same last time he
was powerful, people eloping left, right, and center — ” “Including
you and Dad, ” said Ginny slyly.
“Yes, well, your father and I were made for each other, what was the
point in waiting? ” said Mrs. Weasley. “Whereas Bill and Fleur
. . . well . . . what have they really got in common? He ’s a hard -
working, do wn -to -earth sort of person, whereas she ’s — ”
“A cow, ” said Ginny, nodding. “But Bill ’s not that down -to - earth.
He ’s a Curse -Breaker, isn ’t he, he likes a bit of adventure, a bit of
glamour. . . . I expect that ’s why he ’s gone for Phlegm. ” “Stop calling
her that, Ginny, ” said Mrs. Weasley sharply, as Harry and Hermione
laughed. “Well, I ’d better get on. . . . Eat your eggs while they ’re warm,
Harry. ”
Looking careworn, she left the room. Ron still seemed slightly
punch -drunk; he was shaking his head experimentally like a dog trying
to rid its ears of water.
“Don ’t you get used to her if she ’s staying in the same house? ” Harry
asked.
“Well, you do, ” said Ron, “but if she jumps out at you unex - pectedly,
like then . . . ”
“It’s pathetic, ” said Hermione furiously, striding away from Ron as far
as she could go and turning to face him with her arms folded once she
had reached the wall.
“You don ’t really want her around forever? ” Ginny asked Ron
incredulously. When he merely shrugged, she sa id, “Well, Mum ’s
going to put a stop to it if she can, I bet you anything. ”
“How ’s she going to manage that? ” asked Harry.

 93 ‘

CHAPTER FIVE


“She keeps trying to get Tonks round for dinner. I think she ’s hoping
Bill will fall for Tonks instead. I hope he does, I ’d much rather have
her in the family. ”
“Yeah, that ’ll work, ” said Ron sarcastically. “Listen, no bloke in his
right mind ’s going to fancy Tonks when Fleur ’s around. I mean,
Tonks is okay -looking when she isn ’t doing stupid things to her hair
and her nose, but — ”
“She ’s a damn sight nicer than Phlegm, ’’ said Ginny
“And she ’s more intelligent, she ’s an Auror! ” said Hermione from the
corner.
“Fleur ’s not stupid, she was good enough to enter the Triwizard
Tournament, ” said Harry.
“Not you as well! ” said Hermione bitterly.
“I suppose you like the way Phlegm says ‘’Arry, ’ do you? ” asked Ginny
scornfully.
“No, ” said Harry, wishing he hadn ’t spoken , “I was just saying,
Phlegm — I mean, Fleur — ”
“I’d much rather have Tonks in the family, ” said Ginny. “At least she ’s
a laugh. ”
“She hasn ’t been much of a laugh lately, ” said Ron. “Every time I ’ve
seen her she ’s looked more like Moaning Myrtle. ”
“That ’s not fair, ” snapped Hermione. “She still hasn ’t got over what
happened . . . you know . . . I mean, he was her cousin! ” Harry ’s heart
sank. They had arrived at Sirius. He picked up a fork and began
shoveling scrambled eggs into his mouth, hoping to d eflect any
invitation to join in this part of the conversation. “Tonks and Sirius
barely knew each other! ” said Ron. “Sirius was in Azkaban half her life
and before that their families never met — ”
 94 ‘

AN EXCESS OF
PHLEGM


“That ’s not the point, ” said Hermione. “She thinks it was her fault he
died! ”
“How does she work that one out? ” asked Harry, in spite of himself.
“Well, she was fighting Bellatrix Lestrange, wasn ’t she? I think she
feels that if only she had finished her off, Bellatrix couldn ’t have killed
Sirius. ”
“That ’s stupid, ” said Ron.
“It’s survivor ’s guilt, ” said Hermione. “I know Lupin ’s tried to talk her
round, but she ’s still really down. She ’s actually having trouble with
her Metamorphosing! ”
“With her — ?”
“She can ’t change her appearance like she used to, ” explained
Hermione. “I think her powers must have been affected by shock, or
something. ”
“I didn ’t know that could happen, ” said Harry. “Nor did I, ” said
Hermione, “but I suppose if you ’re really de - pressed . . . ”
The door opened again and Mrs. Weasley popped her head in.
“Ginny, ” she whispered, “come downstairs and help me with the
lunch. ”
“I’m talking to this lot! ” said Ginny, outraged.
“Now! ” said Mrs. Weasley, and withdrew.
“She o nly wants me there so she doesn ’t have to be alone with
Phlegm! ” said Ginny crossly. She swung her long red hair around in a
very good imitation of Fleur and pranced across the room with her
arms held aloft like a ballerina.
“You lot had better come down quickly too, ” she said as she left.
 95 ‘

CHAPTER FIVE


Harry took advantage of the temporary silence to eat more breakfast.
Hermione was peering into Fred and George ’s boxes, though ev ery
now and then she cast sideways looks at Harry. Ron, who was now
helping himself to Harry ’s toast, was still gazing dreamily at the door.
“What ’s this? ” Hermione asked eventually, holding up what looked
like a small telescope.
“Dunno, ” said Ron, “but if Fred and George ’ve left it here, it ’s
probably not ready for the joke shop yet, so be careful. ”
“Your mum said the shop ’s going well, ” said Harry. “Said Fred and
George have got a real flair for business. ”
“That ’s an understatement, ” said Ron. “They ’re raking in the Galleons!
I can ’t wait to see the place, we haven ’t been to Diagon Alley yet,
because Mum says Dad ’s got to be there for extra security and he ’s
been really busy at work, but it sounds excellent. ”
“And what about Percy? ” asked Harry; the third -eldest Weasley
brother had fallen out with the rest of the family. “Is he talking to your
mum and dad again? ”
“Nope, ” said Ron.
“But he knows your dad was right all along now about Volde - mort
being back — ”
“Dumbledore says peop le find it far easier to forgive others for being
wrong than being right, ” said Hermione. “I heard him telling your
mum, Ron. ”
“Sounds like the sort of mental thing Dumbledore would say, ” said
Ron.
“He ’s going to be giving me private lessons this year, ” said Harry
conversationally.
 96 ‘

AN EXCESS OF
PHLEGM


Ron choked on his bit of toast, and Hermione gasped.
“You kept that quiet! ” said Ron.
“I only just remembered, ” said Harry honestly. “He told me last night
in your broom shed. ”
“Blimey . . . private lessons with Dumbledore! ” said Ron, look - ing
impressed. “I wonder why he ’s . . . ? ”
His voice tailed away. Harry saw him and Hermione exchange looks.
Harry laid down his knife and fork, his heart beating rather fast
considering that all he was doing was sitting in bed. Dumble - dore had
said to do it. . . . Why not now? He fixed his eyes on his fork, which
was gleaming in the sunlight streaming in to his lap, and said, “I don ’t
know exactly why he ’s going to be giving me lessons, but I think it
must be because of the prophecy. ”
Neither Ron nor Hermione spoke. Harry had the impression that
both had frozen. He continued, still speaking to his fork, “You know,
the one they were trying to steal at the Ministry. ”
“Nobody knows what it said, though, ” said Hermione quickly. “It got
smashed. ”
“Although the Prophet says — ” began Ron, but Hermione said,
“Shh! ”
“The Prophet ’s got it right, ” said Har ry, looking up at them both
with a great effort: Hermione seemed frightened and Ron amazed.
“That glass ball that smashed wasn ’t the only record of the prophecy.
I heard the whole thing in Dumbledore ’s office, he was the one the
prophecy was made to, so h e could tell me. From what it said, ” Harry
took a deep breath, “it looks like I ’m the one who ’s got to finish off
Voldemort. . . . At least, it said neither of us could live while the other
survives. ”
 97 ‘

CHAPTER FIVE


The three of them gazed at one another in silence for a moment. Then
there was a loud bang and Hermione vanished behind a puff of black
smoke.
“Hermione! ” shouted Harry and Ron; the breakfast tray slid to the
floor with a crash.
Hermione emerged, coughing, out of the smoke, clutching the
telescope and sporting a brilliantly purple black eye.
“I squeezed it and it — it punched me! ” she gasped. And sure enough,
they now saw a tiny fist on a long spring pro - truding from the end o f
the telescope.
“Don ’t worry, ” said Ron, who was plainly trying not to laugh, “Mum ’ll
fix that, she ’s good at healing minor injuries — ”
“Oh well, never mind that now! ” said Hermione hastily. “Harry, oh,
Harry . . . ”
She sat down on the edge of his bed again.
“We wondered, after we got back from the Ministry . . . Obvi - ously,
we didn ’t want to say anything to you, but from what Lucius Malfoy
said about the prophecy, how it was about you and Volde - mort, well,
we th ought it might be something like this. . . . Oh, Harry . . . ” She
stared at him, then whispered, “Are you scared? ” “Not as much as I
was, ” said Harry. “When I first heard it, I was
. . . but now, it seems as though I always knew I ’d have to face him in
the end. . . . ”
“When we heard Dumbledore was collecting you in person, we
thought he might be telling you something or showing you some -
thing to do with the prophecy, ” said Ron eagerly. “And we were kind
of right, weren ’t we? He wouldn ’t be giving you less ons if he thought
you were a goner, wouldn ’t waste his time — he must think you ’ve got
a chance! ”
 98 ‘

AN EXCESS OF
PHLEGM


“That ’s true, ” said Hermione. “I wonder what he ’ll teach you, Harry?
Really adv anced defensive magic, probably . . . powerful
countercurses . . . anti -jinxes . . . ”
Harry did not really listen. A warmth was spreading through him that
had nothing to do with the sunlight; a tight obstruction in his chest
seemed to be dissolving. He knew that Ron and Hermione were more
shocked than they were letting on, but the mere fact that they were still
there on either side of him, speaking bracing words of comfort, not
shrinking from him as though he were contaminated or dangerous,
was worth mor e than he could ever tell them.
“. . . and evasive enchantments generally, ” concluded Hermi - one.
“Well, at least you know one lesson you ’ll be having this year, that ’s
one more than Ron and me. I wonder when our O.W.L. re - sults will
come? ”
“Can ’t b e long now, it ’s been a month, ” said Ron. “Hang on, ” said
Harry, as another part of last night ’s conver - sation came back to him.
“I think Dumbledore said our O.W.L. results would be arriving
today! ”
“Today? ” shrieked Hermione. “ Today ? But why didn ’t you — oh
my God — you should have said — ”
She leapt to her feet.
“I’m going to see whether any owls have come. . . . ” But when Harry
arrived downstairs ten minutes later, fully dressed and carrying his
empty breakfast tray, it was to find Hermione sitting at the kitchen
table in great agitation, while Mrs. Weasley tried to lessen her
resemblance to half a panda.
“It just won ’t budge, ” Mrs. Weasley was saying anxiously, stand -
ing over Hermione with her wand in her hand and a copy of The
 99 ‘

CHAPTER FIVE


Healer ’s Helpmate open at “Bruises, Cuts, and Abrasions. ” “This
has always worked before, I just can ’t understand it. ”
“It’ll be Fred and George ’s idea of a funny joke, making sure it can ’t
come off, ” said Ginny
“But it ’s got to come off! ” squeaked Hermione. “I can ’t go around
looking like this forever! ”
“You won ’t, dear, we ’ll find an antidote, don ’t worry, ” said Mrs.
Weasley soothingly.
“Bill told me ’ow Fred and George are very amusing! ” said Fleur,
smiling serenely.
“Yes, I can hardly breathe for laughing, ” snapped Hermione. She
jumped up and started walking round and round the kitchen, twisting
her fingers together.
“Mrs. Weasley, you ’re quite, quite sure no owls have arrived this
morning? ”
“Yes, dear, I ’d have noticed, ” said Mrs. Weasley patiently. “But it ’s
barely nine, there ’s still plenty of time. . . . ”
“I know I messed up Ancient Runes, ” muttered Hermione feverishly,
“I definitely made at least one serious mistranslation. And the Defe nse
Against the Dark Arts practical was no good at all. I thought
Transfiguration went all right at the time, but looking back — ”
“Hermione, will you shut up, you ’re not the only one who ’s nervous! ”
barked Ron. “And when you ’ve got your eleven ‘Out - sta nding ’
O.W.L.s . . . ”
“Don ’t, don ’t, don ’t!” said Hermione, flapping her hands hyster -
ically. “I know I ’ve failed everything! ”
“What happens if we fail? ” Harry asked the room at large, but it was
again Hermione who answered.
 100 ‘

AN EXCESS OF
PHLEGM


“We discuss our options with our Head of House, I asked Pro - fessor
McGonagall at the end of last term. ”
Harry ’s stomach squirmed. He wished he had eaten less breakfast.
“At Beauxbatons, ” said Fleur complacently, “we ’ad a different way of
doing things. I think eet was better. We sat our examina - tions after six
years of study, not five, and then — ”
Fleur ’s words were drowned in a scream. Hermione was pointing
through the kitchen window. Three black specks were clearly visi - ble
in the sky, growing larger all the time.
“They ’re definitely owls, ” said Ron hoarsely, jumping up to join
Hermione at the window.
“And there are three of them, ” said Harry, hastening t o her other side.
“One for each of us, ” said Hermione in a terrified whisper. “Oh no . . .
oh no . . . oh no . . . ”
She gripped both Harry and Ron tightly around the elbows. The owls
were flying directly at the Burrow, three handsome tawnies, each of
whi ch, it became clear as they flew lower over the path leading up to
the house, was carrying a large square envelope.
“Oh no !” squealed Hermione.
Mrs. Weasley squeezed past them and opened the kitchen win - dow.
One, two, three, the owls soared through i t and landed on the table in
a neat line. All three of them lifted their right legs.
Harry moved forward. The letter addressed to him was tied to the leg
of the owl in the middle. He untied it with fumbling fin - gers. To his
left, Ron was trying to deta ch his own results; to his right, Hermione ’s
hands were shaking so much she was making her whole owl tremble.
 101 ‘

CHAPTER FIVE


Nobody in the kitchen spoke. At last, Harry managed to detach the
envelope. He slit it open quickly and unfolded the parchment inside.
Ordinary Wizarding Level Results
Pass Grades Fail Grades
Outstanding (O) Poor (P) Exceeds Expectations (E)
Dreadful (D) Acceptable (A) Troll (T)

Harry James Potter has achieved:
Astronomy A Care of Magical Creatures
E Charms E
Defense Against the Dark Arts O
Divination P Herbology E
History of Magic D
Potions E
Transfiguration E

Harry read the parchment through several times, his breathing
becoming easier with each reading. It was all right: He had always
known that he would fail Divination, and he had had no chance of
passing History of Magic, given that he had collapsed halfway through
the examination, but he had passed everything else! He ran his finger
down the grades . . . he had passed well in Transfiguration
 102 ‘

AN EXCESS OF
PHLEGM


and Herbology, he had even exceeded expectations at Po tions! And
best of all, he had achieved “Outstanding ” at Defense Against the
Dark Arts!
He looked around. Hermione had her back to him and her head bent,
but Ron was looking delighted.
“Only failed Divination and History of Magic, and who cares about
them? ” he said happily to Harry. “Here — swap — ” Harry glanced
down Ron ’s grades: There were no “Outstand - ings ” there. . . .
“Knew you ’d be top at Defense Against the Dark Arts, ” said Ron,
punching Harry on the shoulder. “We ’ve done all right, ha ven ’t we? ”
“Well done! ” said Mrs. Weasley proudly, ruffling Ron ’s hair. “Seven
O.W.L.s, that ’s more than Fred and George got together! ”
“Hermione? ” said Ginny tentatively, for Hermione still hadn ’t turned
around. “How did you do? ”
“I — not bad, ” said Her mione in a small voice. “Oh, come off it, ” said
Ron, striding over to her and whipping her results out of her hand.
“Yep — nine ‘Outstandings ’ and one ‘Exceeds Expectations ’ at
Defense Against the Dark Arts. ” He looked down at her, half -amused,
half -exaspe rated. “You ’re actually disappointed, aren ’t you? ”
Hermione shook her head, but Harry laughed. “Well, we ’re N.E.W.T.
students now! ” grinned Ron. “Mum, are there any more sausages? ”
Harry looked back down at his results. They were as good as he could
ha ve hoped for. He felt just one tiny twinge of regret. . . . This was the
end of his ambition to become an Auror. He had not
 103 ‘

CHAPTER FIVE


secured the required Potions grade. He had known all along that he
wouldn ’t, but he still felt a sinking in his stomach as he looked again at
that small black E.
It was odd, really, seeing that it had been a Death Eater in dis - guise
who had first told Harry he would make a good Auror, but somehow
the idea had taken hold of h im, and he couldn ’t really think of
anything else he would like to be. Moreover, it had seemed the right
destiny for him since he had heard the prophecy a few
weeks ago. . . . Neither can live while the other survives. . . . Wouldn ’t
he be living up to the prophecy, and giving himself the best chance of
survival, if he joined those highly trained wizards whose job it was to
find and kill Voldemort?



















 104 ‘

C H A P T E R S I X










DRACO ’ S
DETOUR




arry remained within the confines of the Burrow ’s gar -
H
den over the next few weeks. He spent most of his days
playing two -a-side Quidditch in the Weasleys ’ orchard (he and
Hermione against Ron and Ginny; Hermione was dreadful and Ginny
good, so they were reasonably well matched) and his eve - nings eating
triple helpings of everything Mrs. Weasley put in front of h im.
It would have been a happy, peaceful holiday had it not been for the
stories of disappearances, odd accidents, even of deaths now
appearing almost daily in the Prophet. Sometimes Bill and Mr.
Weasley brought home news before it even reached the paper. To Mrs.

Weasley ’s displeasure, Harry ’s sixteenth birthday celebrations were
marred by grisly tidings brought to the party by Remus Lupin, who
was looking gaunt and grim, his brown hair streaked l iberally with gray,
his clothes more ragged and patched than ever. “There have been
another couple of dementor attacks, ” he
 105 ‘

CHAPTER SIX


announced, as Mrs. Weasley passed him a large slice of birthday cake.
“And they ’ve found Igor Karkaroff ’s body in a shack up north. The
Dark Mark had been set over it — well, frankly, I ’m surprised he
stayed alive for even a year after deserting the Death Eaters; Sirius ’s
brother, Regulus, only managed a few days as far as I can reme mber. ”
“Yes, well, ” said Mrs. Weasley, frowning, “perhaps we should talk
about something diff — ”
“Did you hear about Florean Fortescue, Remus? ” asked Bill, who was
being plied with wine by Fleur. “The man who ran — ” “— the
ice -cream place in Diagon Alley ?” Harry interrupted, with an
unpleasant, hollow sensation in the pit of his stomach. “He used to
give me free ice creams. What ’s happened to him? ” “Dragged off, by
the look of his place. ”
“Why? ” asked Ron, while Mrs. Weasley pointedly glared at Bill. “Wh o
knows? He must ’ve upset them somehow. He was a good man,
Florean. ”
“Talking of Diagon Alley, ” said Mr. Weasley, “looks like Olli -
vander ’s gone too. ”
“The wandmaker? ” said Ginny, looking startled. “That ’s the one.
Shop ’s empty. No sign of a struggle. No one knows whether he left
voluntarily or was kidnapped. ”
“But wands — what ’ll people do for wands? ”
“They ’ll make do with other makers, ” said Lupin. “But Ollivan - der
was the best, and if the other side have got him it ’s not so good for
us. ”
The day after this rather gloomy birthday tea, their letters and
booklists arrived from Hogwarts. Harry ’s included a surprise: He had
been made Quidditch Captain.
 106 ‘

DRACO ’S DETOUR


“That gives you equal status with prefects! ” cried Hermione happily.
“You can use our special bathroom now and everything! ” “Wow, I
remember when Charlie wore one of these, ” said Ron, examining the
badge with glee. “Harry, this is so cool, you ’re my Captain — if you let
me back on the team, I suppose, ha ha. . . . ” “Well, I don ’t suppose we
can put off a trip to Diagon Alley much longer now you ’ve got these, ”
sighed Mrs. Weasley, looking down Ron ’s booklist. “We ’ll go on
Saturday as long as your father doesn ’t have to go into work again. I ’m
not going there without him. ”
“Mum, d ’you honestly think You -Know -Who ’s going to be hid - ing
behind a bookshelf in Flourish and Blotts? ” sniggered Ron.
“Fortescue and Ollivander went on holiday, did they? ” said Mrs.
Weas ley, firing up at once. “If you think security ’s a laughing mat - ter
you can stay behind and I ’ll get your things myself — ”
“No, I wanna come, I want to see Fred and George ’s shop! ” said Ron
hastily.
“Then you just buck up your ideas, young man, befo re I decide you ’re
too immature to come with us! ” said Mrs. Weasley angrily, snatching
up her clock, all nine hands of which were still pointing at “mortal
peril, ” and balancing it on top of a pile of just -laundered towels. “And
that goes for returning to Hogwarts as well! ”
Ron turned to stare incredulously at Harry as his mother hoisted the
laundry basket and the teetering clock into her arms and stormed out
of the room.
“Blimey . . . you can ’t even make a joke round here anymore. . . . ” But
Ron was ca reful not to be flippant about Voldemort over the next few
days. Saturday dawned without any more outbursts from Mrs.
Weasley, though she seemed very tense at breakfast. Bill, who
 107 ‘

CHAPTER SIX


would be staying at home with Fleur (much to Hermione and Ginny ’s
pleasure), passed a full money bag across the table to Harry. “Where ’s
mine? ” demanded Ron at once, his eyes wide.
“That ’s already Harry ’s, idiot, ” said Bill. “I got it out of your vault for
you, Harry, because it ’s taking about five hours for the public to get to
their gold at the moment, the goblins have tight - ened security so
much. Two days ago Arkie Philpott had a Probity Probe stuck up
his . . . Well, trust me, this way ’s easier. ”
“Thanks, Bill, ” said Harry, pocketing his gold.
“’E is always so thoughtful, ” purred Fleur adoringly, stroking Bill ’s
nose. Ginny mimed vomiting into her cereal behind Fleur. Harry
choked over his cornflakes, and Ron thumped him on the back.
It was an overcast, murky day. One of the special Ministry of Magic
cars, in which Harry had ridden once before, was awaiting them in the
front yard when they emerged from the house, pulling on their cloaks.
“It’s good Dad can get us these again, ” said Ron appreciatively,
stretching luxuriously as the car moved smoothly away from the
Burrow, Bill and Fleur waving from the kitchen window. He, Harry,
Hermione, and Ginny were all sitting in roomy comfort in the wide
backseat.
“Don ’t get used to it, it ’s only because of Harry, ” said Mr. Weas - ley
over his shoulder. He and Mrs. Weasley were in front with the
Ministry driver; the front passenger seat had obligingly stretched into
what resembled a two -seater sofa. “He ’s been given top -grade security
status. And we ’ll be joining up with additional security at the Leaky
Cauldron too. ”
Harry said nothing; he did not much fancy doing his shopping
 108 ‘

DRACO ’S DETOUR


while surrounded by a battalion of Aurors. He had stowed his
Invisibility Cloak in his backpack and felt that, if that was good
enough for Dumbledore, it ought to be good enough for the Min -
istry, though now he came to think of it, he was not sure the Mi nistry
knew about his cloak.
“Here you are, then, ” said the driver, a surprisingly short while later,
speaking for the first time as he slowed in Charing Cross Road and
stopped outside the Leaky Cauldron. “I’m to wait for you, any idea
how long you ’ll b e? ”
“A couple of hours, I expect, ” said Mr. Weasley. “Ah, good, he ’s
here! ”
Harry imitated Mr. Weasley and peered through the window; his heart
leapt. There were no Aurors waiting outside the inn, but instead the
gigantic, black -bearded form of Rubeu s Hagrid, the Hogwarts
gamekeeper, wearing a long beaverskin coat, beaming at the sight of
Harry ’s face and oblivious to the startled stares of pass - ing Muggles.
“Harry! ” he boomed, sweeping Harry into a bone -crushing hug the
moment Harry had stepped o ut of the car. “Buckbeak — Witherwings,
I mean — yeh should see him, Harry, he ’s so happy ter be back in the
open air — ”
“Glad he ’s pleased, ” said Harry, grinning as he massaged his ribs. “We
didn ’t know ‘security ’ meant you! ”
“I know, jus ’ like old times, innit? See, the Ministry wanted ter send a
bunch o ’ Aurors, but Dumbledore said I ’d do, ” said Hagrid proudly,
throwing out his chest and tucking his thumbs into his pockets. “Let ’s
get goin ’ then — after yeh, Molly, Arthur — ”
The Leaky Ca uldron was, for the first time in Harry ’s memory,
completely empty. Only Tom the landlord, wizened and toothless,
 109 ‘

CHAPTER SIX


remained of the old crowd. He looked up hopefully as they en - tered,
but before he could s peak, Hagrid said importantly, “Jus ’ passin ’
through today, Tom, sure yeh understand, Hogwarts busi - ness, yeh
know. ”
Tom nodded gloomily and returned to wiping glasses; Harry,
Hermione, Hagrid, and the Weasleys walked through the bar and out
into the chilly little courtyard at the back where the dustbins stood.
Hagrid raised his pink umbrella and rapped a certain brick in the wall,
which opened at once to form an archway onto a wind - ing cobbled
street. They stepped through the entrance an d paused, looking
around.
Diagon Alley had changed. The colorful, glittering window dis - plays
of spellbooks, potion ingredients, and cauldrons were lost to view,
hidden behind the large Ministry of Magic posters that had been
pasted over them. Most of these somber purple posters carried
blown -up versions of the security advice on the Ministry pam - phlets
that had been sent out over the summer, but others bore moving
black -and -white photographs of Death Eaters known to be on the
loose. Bellatrix Lestrang e was sneering from the front of the nearest
apothecary. A few windows were boarded up, including those of
Florean Fortescue ’s Ice Cream Parlor. On the other hand, a number
of shabby -looking stalls had sprung up along the street. The nearest
one, which had been erected outside Flourish and Blotts, under a
striped, stained awning, had a cardboard sign pinned to its front:
AMULETS
Effective Against Werewolves, Dementors, and Inferi
 110 ‘

DRACO ’S DETOUR


A seedy -looking little wizard was rattling armfuls of silver sym - bols
on chains at passersby.
“One for your little girl, madam? ” he called at Mrs. Weasley as they
passed, leering at Ginny. “Protect her pretty neck? ”
“If I were on duty . . . ” said Mr. We asley, glaring angrily at the amulet
seller.
“Yes, but don ’t go arresting anyone now, dear, we ’re in a hurry, ” said
Mrs. Weasley, nervously consulting a list. “I think we ’d better do
Madam Malkin ’s first, Hermione wants new dress robes, and Ron ’s
showing much too much ankle in his school robes, and you must need
new ones too, Harry, you ’ve grown so much — come on, everyone
— ”
“Molly, it doesn ’t make sense for all of us to go to Madam Mal - kin ’s,”
said Mr. Weasley. “Why don ’t those three go with Hagrid, an d we can
go to Flourish and Blotts and get everyone ’s school - books? ”
“I don ’t know, ” said Mrs. Weasley anxiously, clearly torn be - tween a
desire to finish the shopping quickly and the wish to stick together in a
pack. “Hagrid, do you think — ?”
“Don ’ fret, they ’ll be fine with me, Molly, ” said Hagrid sooth - ingly,
waving an airy hand the size of a dustbin lid. Mrs. Weasley did not
look entirely convinced, but allowed the separation, scur - rying off
toward Flourish and Blotts with her husband and Ginny w hile Harry,
Ron, Hermione, and Hagrid set off for Madam Malkin ’s.
Harry noticed that many of the people who passed them had the same
harried, anxious look as Mrs. Weasley, and that nobody was stopping
to talk anymore; the shoppers stayed together in their
 111 ‘

CHAPTER SIX


own tightly knit groups, moving intently about their business. No -
body seemed to be shopping alone.
“Migh ’ be a bit of a squeeze in there with all of us, ” said Hagrid,
stopping outside Madam Malkin ’s and bending down to peer through
the window. “I’ll stand guard outside, all right? ”
So Harry, Ron, and Hermione entered the little shop together. It
appeared, at first glance, to be empty, but no sooner had the door
swung shut behind them than they heard a familiar voice issuing from
behind a rack of dress robes in spangled green and blue.
“. . . not a child, in case you haven ’t noticed, Mother. I a m per -
fectly capable of doing my shopping alone. ”
There was a clucking noise and a voice Harry recognized as that of
Madam Malkin, the owner, said, “Now, dear, your mother ’s quite right,
none of us is supposed to go wandering around on our own anymore,
it’s nothing to do with being a child — ”
“Watch where you ’re sticking that pin, will you! ”
A teenage boy with a pale, pointed face and white -blond hair ap -
peared from behind the rack, wearing a handsome set of dark green
robes that glitte red with pins around the hem and the edges of the
sleeves. He strode to the mirror and examined himself; it was a few
moments before he noticed Harry, Ron, and Hermione reflected over
his shoulder. His light gray eyes narrowed.
“If you ’re wondering what the smell is, Mother, a Mudblood just
walked in, ” said Draco Malfoy.
“I don ’t think there ’s any need for language like that! ” said Madam
Malkin, scurrying out from behind the clothes rack hold - ing a tape
measure and a wand. “And I don ’t want wands dra wn in my shop
either! ” she added hastily, for a glance toward the door
 112 ‘

DRACO ’S DETOUR


had shown her Harry and Ron both standing there with their wands
out and pointing at Malfoy. Hermione, who was standing slightly
behind them, whispered, “No, don ’t, honestly, it ’s not worth it. . . . ”
“Yeah, like you ’d dare do magic out of school, ” sneered Malfoy.
“Who blacked your eye, Granger? I want to send them flowers. ”
“That ’s quite enough! ” said Madam Malkin sharpl y, looking over her
shoulder for support. “Madam — please — ”
Narcissa Malfoy strolled out from behind the clothes rack. “Put those
away, ” she said coldly to Harry and Ron. “If you at - tack my son again,
I shall ensure that it is the last thing you ever do .”
“Really? ” said Harry, taking a step forward and gazing into the
smoothly arrogant face that, for all its pallor, still resembled her sis -
ter ’s. He was as tall as she was now. “Going to get a few Death Eater
pals to do us in, are you? ”
Madam Malkin squealed and clutched at her heart. “Really, you
shouldn ’t accuse — dangerous thing to say — wands away, please! ”
But Harry did not lower his wand. Narcissa Malfoy smiled
unpleasantly.
“I see that being Dumbledore ’s favorite has given you a false sense of
security, Harry Potter. But Dumbledore won ’t always be there to
protect you. ”
Harry looked mockingly all around the shop. “Wow . . . look at that . . .
he ’s not here now! So why not have a go? They might be able to find
you a double cell in Azkaban with your loser of a husband! ”
 113 ‘

CHAPTER SIX


Malfoy made an angry movement toward Harry, but stumbled over
his overlong robe. Ron laughed loudly.
“Don ’t you dare talk to my mother like that, Potter! ” Malfoy snarled.
“It’s all right, Draco, ” said Narcissa, restraining him with her thin
white fingers upon his shoulder. “I expect Potter will be re - united
with dear Sirius before I am reunited with Lucius. ”
Harry raised his wand higher.
“Harry, no! ” moaned Hermione, grabbing his arm and attempt - ing to
push it down by his side. “Think. . . . You mustn ’t. . . . You ’ll be in such
trouble. . . . ”
Madam Malkin dithered for a moment on the spot, then seemed to
decide to act as though nothing was happeni ng in the hope that it
wouldn ’t. She bent toward Malfoy, who was still glaring at Harry.
“I think this left sleeve could come up a little bit more, dear, let me just
— ”
“Ouch! ” bellowed Malfoy, slapping her hand away. “Watch where
you ’re putting your pins, woman! Mother — I don ’t think I want these
anymore — ”
He pulled the robes over his head and threw them onto the floor at
Madam Malkin ’s feet.
“You ’re right, Draco, ” said Narcissa, with a contemptuous glance at
Hermione, “now I k now the kind of scum that shops here. . . . We ’ll
do better at Twilfitt and Tatting ’s.”
And with that, the pair of them strode out of the shop, Malfoy taking
care to bang as hard as he could into Ron on the way out.
“Well, really !” said Madam Malkin, sn atching up the fallen robes
 114 ‘

DRACO ’S DETOUR


and moving the tip of her wand over them like a vacuum cleaner, so
that it removed all the dust.
She was distracted all through the fitting of Ron ’s and Harry ’s new
robes, tried to sell Hermione wizard ’s dress robes instead of witch ’s,
and when she finally bowed them out of the shop it was with an air of
being glad to see the back of them.
“Got ev ’rything? ” asked Hagrid brightly when they reappeared at his
side.
“Just about, ” said Harry. “Did you see the Malfoys? ” “Yeah, ” said
Hagrid, unconcerned. “Bu ’ they wouldn ’ dare make trouble in the
middle o ’ Diagon Alley, Harry. Don ’ worry abou ’ them. ”
Harry, Ron, and Hermione exchanged looks, but before they could
disab use Hagrid of this comfortable notion, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and
Ginny appeared, all clutching heavy packages of books.
“Everyone all right? ” said Mrs. Weasley. “Got your robes? Right then,
we can pop in at the Apothecary and Eeylops on the way to Fred and
George ’s — stick close, now. . . . ”
Neither Harry nor Ron bought any ingredients at the Apothe - cary,
seeing that they were no longer studying Potions, but both bought
large boxes of owl nuts for Hedwig and Pigwidgeon at Eey - lops Owl
Emporium. Then, wit h Mrs. Weasley checking her watch every
minute or so, they headed farther along the street in search of
Weasleys ’ Wizard Wheezes, the joke shop run by Fred and George.
“We really haven ’t got too long, ” Mrs. Weasley said. “So we ’ll just
have a quick look ar ound and then back to the car. We must be close,
that ’s number ninety -two . . . ninety -four . . . ”
 115 ‘

CHAPTER SIX


“ Whoa, ” said Ron, stopping in his tracks.
Set against the dull, poster -muffled shop fronts around them, Fred
and George ’s windows hit the eye like a firework display. Casual
passersby were looking back over their shoulders at the win - dows,
and a few rather stunned -looking people had actually come to a halt,
transfixed. The left -hand window was dazzlingly full of an assortment
of goods that revolved, popped, flashed, bounced, and shrieked;
Harry ’s eyes began to water just looking at it. The right - hand window
was covered with a gigantic poster, pur ple like those of the Ministry,
but emblazoned with flashing yellow letters:
WHY ARE YOU WORRYING
ABOUT YOU -KNOW -WHO?
YOU SHOULD BE WORRYING
ABOUT U-NO -POO —
THE CONSTIPATION
SENSATION THAT ’S GRIPPING
THE NATION!

Harry started to laugh. He heard a weak sort of moan beside him and
looked around to see Mrs. Weasley gazing, dumbfounded, at the
poster. Her lips moved silently, mouthing the name “U-No -Poo. ”
“They ’ll be murdered in their beds! ” she whispered.
“No they w on ’t!” said Ron, who, like Harry, was laughing. “This is
brilliant! ”
And he and Harry led the way into the shop. It was packed with
customers; Harry could not get near the shelves. He stared around,
looking up at the boxes piled to the ceiling: Here were the Skiving
Snackboxes that the twins had perfected during their last, unfin -
 116 ‘

DRACO ’S DETOUR


ished year at Hogwarts; Harry noticed that the Nosebleed Nougat was
most popular, with only one battered box left on the shelf. There were
bins full of trick wands, the cheapest merely turning into rubber
chickens or pairs of briefs when waved, the most ex - pensive beating
the unwary user around the head and neck, and boxes of quills, which
came in Self -Inking, Spell -Checking, and Smart -Answer varieties. A
space cleared in the crowd, and Harry pushed his way toward the
counter, where a gaggle of delighted ten -year -olds was watching a tiny
little wooden man slowly as - ce nding the steps to a real set of gallows,
both perched on a box that read: reusable hangman — spell it or he ’ll
swing! “‘Patented Daydream Charms . . . ’”
Hermione had managed to squeeze through to a large display near the
counter and was reading the infor mation on the back of a box bearing
a highly colored picture of a handsome youth and a swooning girl who
were standing on the deck of a pirate ship. “‘One simple incantation
and you will enter a top -quality, highly realistic, thirty -minute
daydream, easy t o fit into the average school lesson and virtually
undetectable (side effects include vacant expression and minor
drooling). Not for sale to under -sixteens. ’ You know, ” said Hermione,
looking up at Harry, “that really is ex - traordinary magic! ”
“For tha t, Hermione, ” said a voice behind them, “you can have one
for free. ”
A beaming Fred stood before them, wearing a set of magenta robes
that clashed magnificently with his flaming hair.
“How are you, Harry? ” They shook hands. “And what ’s hap - pened
to your eye, Hermione? ”
 117 ‘

CHAPTER SIX


“Your punching telescope, ” she said ruefully.
“Oh blimey, I forgot about those, ” said Fred. “Here — ”
He pulled a tub out of his pocket and handed it to her; she un -
screwed it gingerly to reveal a thick yellow paste.
“Just dab it on, that bruise ’ll be gone within the hour, ” said Fred. “We
had to find a decent bruise remover. “We ’re testing most of our
products on ourselves. ”
Hermione looked nervous. “It is safe, isn ’t it? ” she asked.
“’Course it is, ” said Fred bracingly. “Come on, Harry, I ’ll give you a
tour. ”
Harry left Hermione dabbing her black eye with paste and fol - lowed
Fred toward the back of the shop, where he saw a stand of card and
rope tricks.
“Muggle magic tricks! ” said Fred happily, pointing them out. “For
freaks like Dad, you know, who love Muggle stuff. It ’s not a big earner,
but we do fairly steady business, they ’re great novelties.
. . . Oh, here ’s George. . . . ”
Fred ’s twin shook Harry ’s hand energetically.
“Giving him the tour? Come through the back, Harry, that ’s
where we ’re making the real money — pocket anything, you, and
you ’ll pay in more than Galleons !” he added warningly to a small boy
who hastily whipped his hand out of the tub labeled edible dark marks
— they ’ll make anyone sick!
George pushed back a curtain beside the Muggle tricks and Harry saw
a darker, less crowded room. The packaging on the products lining
these shelves was more subdued.
“We ’ve just developed this more serious line, ” said Fred. “Funny how
it happened . . . ”
 118 ‘

DRACO ’S DETOUR


“You wouldn ’t believe how many people, even people who work at
the Ministry, can ’t do a decent Shield Charm, ” said Ge orge. “’Course,
they didn ’t have you teaching them, Harry. ”
“That ’s right. . . . Well, we thought Shield Hats were a bit of a laugh,
you know, challenge your mate to jinx you while wearing it and watch
his face when the jinx just bounces off. But the Mi nistry bought five
hundred for all its support staff! And we ’re still getting massive
orders! ”
“So we ’ve expanded into a range of Shield Cloaks, Shield Gloves . . . ”
“. . . I mean, they wouldn ’t help much against the Unforgivable Curses,
but for minor to moderate hexes or jinxes . . . ”
“And then we thought we ’d get into the whole area of Defense
Against the Dark Arts, because it ’s such a money spinner, ” contin -
ued George enthusiastically. “This is cool. Look, Instant Darkness
Pow der, we ’re importing it from Peru. Handy if you want to make a
quick escape. ”
“And our Decoy Detonators are just walking off the shelves, look, ”
said Fred, pointing at a number of weird -looking black horn -type
objects that were indeed attempting to scu rry out of sight. “You just
drop one surreptitiously and it ’ll run off and make a nice loud noise
out of sight, giving you a diversion if you need one.
“Handy, ” said Harry, impressed.
“Here, ” said George, catching a couple and throwing them to Harry.
A young witch with short blonde hair poked her head around the
curtain; Harry saw that she too was wearing magenta staff robes.
 119 ‘

CHAPTER SIX


“There ’s a customer out here looking for a joke cauldron, Mr. Weasley
and Mr. Weasley, ” she said.
Harry found it very odd to hear Fred and George called “Mr.
Weasley, ” but they took it in their stride.
“Right you are, Verity, I ’m coming, ” said George promptly. “Harry,
you help yourself to anything you want, all rig ht? No charge. ”
“I can ’t do that! ” said Harry, who had already pulled out his money
bag to pay for the Decoy Detonators.
“You don ’t pay here, ” said Fred firmly, waving away Harry ’s gold.
“But — ”
“You gave us our start -up loan, we haven ’t forgotten, ” said George
sternly. “Take whatever you like, and just remember to tell people
where you got it, if they ask. ”
George swept off through the curtain to help with the cus - tomers,
and Fred led Harry back into the main part of the shop to fin d
Hermione and Ginny still poring over the Patented Daydream
Charms.
“Haven ’t you girls found our special WonderWitch products yet? ”
asked Fred. “Follow me, ladies. . . . ”
Near the window was an array of violently pink products around
which a cluster of excited girls was giggling enthusiastically. Hermi -
one and Ginny both hung back, looking wary.
“There you go, ” said Fred proudly. “Best range of love potions you ’ll
find anywhere. ”
Ginny raised an eyebrow skeptically. “Do they work? ” she asked.
“Certainly they work, for up to twenty -four hours at a time de -
pending on the weight of the boy in question — ”
 120 ‘

DRACO ’S DETOUR


“— and the attractiveness of the girl, ” said George, reappearing
suddenly at their side. “But we ’re not selling them to our sister, ” he
added, becoming suddenly stern, “not when she ’s already got about
five boys on the go from what we ’ve — ”
“Whatever you ’ve heard from Ron is a big fat lie, ” said Ginny calmly,
leaning forward to take a small p ink pot off the shelf. “What ’s this? ”
“Guaranteed ten -second pimple vanisher, ” said Fred. “Excellent on
everything from boils to blackheads, but don ’t change the sub - ject.
Are you or are you not currently going out with a boy called Dean
Thomas? ”
“Yes, I am, ” said Ginny. “And last time I looked, he was defi - nitely
one boy, not five. What are those? ”
She was pointing at a number of round balls of fluff in shades of pink
and purple, all rolling around the bottom of a cage and emit - ting
high -pitch ed squeaks.
“Pygmy Puffs, ” said George. “Miniature puffskeins, we can ’t breed
them fast enough. So what about Michael Corner? ”
“I dumped him, he was a bad loser, ” said Ginny, putting a finger
through the bars of the cage and watching the Pygmy Puffs crow d
around it. “They ’re really cute! ”
“They ’re fairly cuddly, yes, ” conceded Fred. “But you ’re moving
through boyfriends a bit fast, aren ’t you? ”
Ginny turned to look at him, her hands on her hips. There was such a
Mrs. Weasley -ish glare on her face that H arry was surprised Fred
didn ’t recoil.
“It’s none of your business. And I ’ll thank you, ” she added an -
grily to Ron, who had just appeared at George ’s elbow, laden with
merchandise, “not to tell tales about me to these two! ”
 121 ‘

CHAPTER SIX


“That ’s three Galleons, nine Sickles, and a Knut, ” said Fred, ex -
amining the many boxes in Ron ’s arms. “Cough up. ”
“I’m your brother! ”
“And that ’s our stuff you ’re nicking. Three Galleons, nine Sick - les.
I’ll knock off the Knut. ”
“But I haven ’t got three Galleons, nine Sickles! ” “You ’d better put it
back then, and mind you put it on the right shelves. ”
Ron dropped several boxes, swore, and made a rude hand ges - ture at
Fred that was unfortuna tely spotted by Mrs. Weasley, who had chosen
that moment to appear.
“If I see you do that again I ’ll jinx your fingers together, ” she said
sharply.
“Mum, can I have a Pygmy Puff? ” said Ginny at once. “A
what? ” said Mrs. Weasley warily.
“Look, they ’re so sweet. . . . ”
Mrs. Weasley moved aside to look at the Pygmy Puffs, and Harry, Ron,
and Hermione momentarily had an unimpeded view out of the
window. Draco Malfoy was hurrying up the street alone. As he passed
Weasleys ’ Wizard Wheezes, he glanced ov er his shoul - der. Seconds
later, he moved beyond the scope of the window and they lost sight of
him.
“Wonder where his mummy is? ” said Harry, frowning.
“Given her the slip by the looks of it, ” said Ron. “Why,
though? ” said Hermione.
Harry said nothing; he was thinking too hard. Narcissa Malfoy would
not have let her precious son out of her sight willingly; Mal - foy must
have made a real effort to free himself from her clutches.
 122 ‘

DRACO ’S DETOUR


Harry, knowing and loathing Malfoy, was sure the reason could not be
innocent.
He glanced around. Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were bending over the
Pygmy Puffs. Mr. Weasley was delightedly examining a pack of
Muggle marked playing cards. Fred and George were b oth helping
customers. On the other side of the glass, Hagrid was standing with
his back to them, looking up and down the street.
“Get under here, quick, ” said Harry, pulling his Invisibility Cloak out
of his bag.
“Oh — I don ’t know, Harry, ” said Hermione, looking uncer - tainly
toward Mrs. Weasley.
“Come on !” said Ron.
She hesitated for a second longer, then ducked under the cloak with
Harry and Ron. Nobody noticed them vanish; they were all too
interested in Fred and George ’s products. Harry, Ron, and Her -
mione squeezed their way out of the door as quickly as they could, but
by the time they gained the street, Malfoy had disappeared just as
successfully as they had.
“He was going in that direction, ” murmured Harry as quietly as
possibl e, so that the humming Hagrid would not hear them.
“C’mon. ”
They scurried along, peering left and right, through shop win - dows
and doors, until Hermione pointed ahead.
“That ’s him, isn ’t it? ” she whispered. “Turning left? ”
“Big surprise, ” whispered Ron .
For Malfoy had glanced around, then slid into Knockturn Alley and
out of sight.
“Quick, or we ’ll lose him, ” said Harry, speeding up.
 123 ‘

CHAPTER SIX


“Our feet ’ll be seen! ” said Hermione anxiously, as the cloak flapped a
little around their ankles; it was much more difficult hid - ing all three
of them under the cloak nowadays.
“It doesn ’t matter, ” said Harry impatiently. “Just hurry! ” But
Knockturn Alley, the side street devoted to the Dark Arts, looked
completely deserted. They peered into windows as they passed, but
none of the shops seemed to have any customers at all. Harry
supposed it was a bit of a giveaway in these dangerous and suspicious
times to buy Dark artifacts — or at least, to be see n buy - ing them.
Hermione gave his arm a hard pinch.
“Ouch! ”
“Shh! Look! He ’s in there! ” she breathed in Harry ’s ear. They had
drawn level with the only shop in Knockturn Alley that Harry had ever
visited, Borgin and Burkes, which sold a wide variety of sinister
objects. There in the midst of the cases full of skulls and old bottles
stood Draco Malfoy with his back to them, just visible beyond the
very same large black cabinet in which Harry had once hidden to avoid
Malfoy and his father. Judging by th e movements of Malfoy ’s hands,
he was talking animatedly. The proprietor of the shop, Mr. Borgin, an
oily -haired, stooping man, stood facing Malfoy. He was wearing a
curious expression of min - gled resentment and fear.
“If only we could hear what they ’re saying! ” said Hermione.
“We can! ” said Ron excitedly. “Hang on — damn — ”
He dropped a couple more of the boxes he was still clutching as he
fumbled with the largest.
“Extendable Ears, look! ”
“Fantastic! ” said Hermione, as Ron unraveled the long, flesh -
 124 ‘

DRACO ’S DETOUR


colored strings and began to feed them toward the bottom of the door.
“Oh, I hope the door isn ’t Imperturbable — ”
“No! ” said Ron gleefully. “Listen! ”
They put their heads together and listened intently to the ends of the
strings, through which Malfoy ’s voice could be heard loud and clear,
as though a radio had been turned on.
“. . . you know how to fix it? ”
“Possibly, ” said Borgin, in a tone that suggested he was unwill - ing to
commit himself. “I’ll need to see it, though. Why don ’t you bring it
into the shop? ”
“I can ’t,” said Malfoy. “It’s got to stay put. I just need you to tell me
how to do it. ”
Harry saw Borgin li ck his lips nervously.
“Well, without seeing it, I must say it will be a very difficult job,
perhaps impossible. I couldn ’t guarantee anything. ”
“No? ” said Malfoy, and Harry knew, just by his tone, that Mal - foy
was sneering. “Perhaps this will make you more confident. ” He
moved toward Borgin and was blocked from view by the cabinet.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione shuffled sideways to try and keep him in
sight, but all they could see was Borgin, looking very frightened.
“Tell anyone, ” said Malfoy, “and the re will be retribution. You know
Fenrir Greyback? He ’s a family friend. He ’ll be dropping in from time
to time to make sure you ’re giving the problem your full attention. ”
“There will be no need for — ”
“I’ll decide that, ” said Malfoy. “Well, I ’d better be off. And don ’t
forget to keep that one safe, I ’ll need it. ”
“Perhaps you ’d like to take it now? ”
 125 ‘

CHAPTER SIX


“No, of course I wouldn ’t, you stupid little man, how would I look
carrying that down the street? Just don ’t sell it. ”
“Of course not . . . sir. ”
Borgin made a bow as deep as the one Harry had once seen him give
Lucius Malfoy.
“Not a word to anyone, Borgin, and that includes my mother,
understand? ”
“Naturally, naturally, ” murmured Borgin, bowing again. Next
moment, the bell over the door tinkled loudly as Malfoy stalked out of
the shop looking very pleased with himself. He passed so close to
Harry, Ron, and Hermione that they felt the cloak flutter a round their
knees again. Inside the shop, Borgin remained frozen; his unctuous
smile had vanished; he looked worried.
“What was that about? ” whispered Ron, reeling in the Extend - able
Ears.
“Dunno, ” said Harry, thinking hard. “He wants something mended . . .
and he wants to reserve something in there. . . . Could you see what he
pointed at when he said ‘that one ’?”
“No, he was behind that cabinet — ”
“You two stay here, ” whispered Hermione.
“What are you — ?”
But Hermione had already ducked out from under the cloak. She
checked her hair in the reflection in the glass, then marched into the
shop, setting the bell tinkling again. Ron hastily fed the Extendable
Ears back under the door and passed one of the string s to Harry.
“Hello, horrible morning, isn ’t it? ” Hermione said brightly to Borgin,
who did not answer, but cast her a suspicious look. Hum -
 126 ‘

DRACO ’S DETOUR


ming cheerily, Hermione strolled through the jumble of object s on
display.
“Is this necklace for sale? ” she asked, pausing beside a glass - fronted
case.
“If you ’ve got one and a half thousand Galleons, ” said Mr. Borgin
coldly.
“Oh — er — no, I haven ’t got quite that much, ” said Hermi - one,
walking on. “And . . . what about this lovely — um — skull? ” “Sixteen
Galleons. ”
“So it ’s for sale, then? It isn ’t being . . . kept for anyone? ” Mr. Borgin
squinted at her. Harry had the nasty feeling he knew exactly what
Hermione was up to. Apparently Hermione felt she had been rumbled
too because she suddenly threw caution to the winds.
“The thing is, that — er — boy who was in here just now, Draco
Malfoy, well, he ’s a friend of mine, and I want to get him a birthday
present, but if he ’s already reserved anything, I obviously don ’t want
to get him the same thing, so . . . um . . . ”
It was a pretty lame story in Harry ’s opinion, and apparently Borgin
thought so too.
“Out, ” he said sharply. “Get out! ”
Hermione did not wait to be asked twice, but hurried to the d oor with
Borgin at her heels. As the bell tinkled again, Borgin slammed the
door behind her and put up the closed sign.
“Ah well, ” said Ron, throwing the cloak back over Hermione. “Worth
a try, but you were a bit obvious — ”
“Well, next time you can show me how it ’s done, Master of Mystery! ”
she snapped.
Ron and Hermione bickered all the way back to Weasleys ’
 127 ‘

CHAPTER SIX


Wizard Wheezes, where they were forced to stop so that they could
dodge undetected around a very anxious -looking Mrs. Weasley and
Hagrid, who had clearly noticed their absence. Once in the shop,
Harry whipped off the Invisibility Cloak, hid it in his bag, and joined in
with the other two when they insisted, in answer to Mrs. Weasley ’s
accusations, that they had been in the back room all along, and that
she could not have looked properly.
























 128 ‘

C H A P T E R S E V E N










THE SLUG
CLUB




arry spent a lot of the last week of the holidays ponder -
H
ing the meaning of Malfoy ’s behavior in Knockturn
Alley. What disturbed him most was the satisfied look on Malfoy ’s
face as he had left the shop. Nothing that made Malfoy look that
happy could be good news. To his slight annoyance, however, nei -
th er Ron nor Hermione seemed quite as curious about Malfoy ’s
activities as he was; or at least, they seemed to get bored of dis - cussing
it after a few days.
“Yes, I ’ve already agreed it was fishy, Harry, ” said Hermione a lit - tle
impatiently. She was sitti ng on the windowsill in Fred and George ’s

room with her feet up on one of the cardboard boxes and
had only grudgingly looked up from her new copy of Advanced
Rune Translation. “But haven ’t we agreed there could be a lot of
explanations? ”
“Maybe he ’s broken his Hand of Glory, ” said Ron vaguely, as he
 129 ‘

CHAPTER SEVEN


attempted to straighten his broomstick ’s bent tail twigs. “Remem - ber
that shriveled -up arm Malfoy had? ”
“But what about when he said, ‘Don ’t forget to keep that one
safe ’?” asked Harry for the umpteenth time. “That sounded to me like
Borgin ’s got another one of the broken objects, and Malfoy wants
both. ”
“You reckon? ” said Ron, now trying to scrape some dirt off his broom
handle.
“Yeah, I do, ” said Harry. When neither Ron nor Hermione an - swered,
he said, “Malfoy ’s father ’s in Azkaban. Don ’t you think Malfoy ’d like
revenge? ”
Ron looked up, blinking.
“Malfoy, revenge? What can he do about it? ”
“That ’s my point, I don ’t know! ” said Harry, frustrated. “But he ’s up
to something and I think we should take it seriously. His father ’s a
Death Eater and — ”
Harry broke off, his eyes fixed on the window behind Hermi - one, his
mouth open. A startling thought had just occurred to him. “Harry? ”
said Hermione in an anxious voice. “What ’s wrong? ” “Your scar ’s not
hurting again, is it? ” asked Ron nervously. “He ’s a Death Eater, ” said
Harry slowly. “He ’s replaced his father as a Death Eater! ”
There was a silence; then Ron erupted in laught er. “ Malfoy ? He ’s
sixteen, Harry! You think You -Know -Who would let Malfoy join? ”
“It seems very unlikely, Harry, ” said Hermione in a repressive sort of
voice. “What makes you think — ?”
“In Madam Malkin ’s. She didn ’t touch him, but he yelled and jerked
his arm away from her when she went to roll up his sleeve. It was his
left arm. He ’s been branded with the Dark Mark. ”
 130 ‘

THE SLUG CLUB


Ron and Hermione looked at each other.
“Well . . . ” said Ron, sounding thoroughly unconvinced. “I think he
just wanted to get out of there, Harry, ” said Hermi - one.
“He showed Borgin something we couldn ’t see, ” Harry pressed on
stubbornly. “Something that seriously scared Borgin. It was the Mark,
I know i t — he was showing Borgin who he was dealing with, you saw
how seriously Borgin took him! ”
Ron and Hermione exchanged another look.
“I’m not sure, Harry. . . . ”
“Yeah, I still don ’t reckon You -Know -Who would let Malfoy
join. . . . ”
Annoyed, but absolutely convinced he was right, Harry snatched up a
pile of filthy Quidditch robes and left the room; Mrs. Weasley had
been urging them for days not to leave their washing and pack - ing
until the last moment. On the landing he bumped into G inny, who
was returning to her room carrying a pile of freshly laundered clothes.
“I wouldn ’t go in the kitchen just now, ” she warned him. “There ’s
a lot of Phlegm around. ”
“I’ll be careful not to slip in it. ” Harry smiled.
Sure enough, when he entere d the kitchen it was to find Fleur sitting at
the kitchen table, in full flow about plans for her wedding to Bill, while
Mrs. Weasley kept watch over a pile of self -peeling sprouts, looking
bad -tempered.
“. . . Bill and I ’ave almost decided on only two b ridesmaids, Ginny
and Gabrielle will look very sweet togezzer. I am theenking of
dressing zem in pale gold — pink would of course be ’orrible with
Ginny ’s ’air — ”
 131 ‘

CHAPTER SEVEN


“Ah, Harry! ” said Mrs. Weasley loudly, cutting across Fleur ’s
monologue. “Good, I wanted to explain about the security arrange -
ments for the journey to Hogwarts tomorrow. We ’ve got Ministry cars
again, and there will be Aurors waiting at the station — ”
“Is Tonks goi ng to be there? ” asked Harry, handing over his
Quidditch things.
“No, I don ’t think so, she ’s been stationed somewhere else from what
Arthur said. ”
“She has let ’erself go, zat Tonks, ” Fleur mused, examining her own
stunning reflection in the back of a t easpoon. “A big mistake if you ask
— ”
“Yes, thank you, ” said Mrs. Weasley tartly, cutting across Fleur
again. “You ’d better get on, Harry, I want the trunks ready tonight, if
possible, so we don ’t have the usual last -minute scramble. ”
And in fact, their departure the following morning was smoother than
usual. The Ministry cars glided up to the front of the Burrow to find
them waiting, trunks packed; Hermione ’s cat, Crookshanks, safely
enclosed in his traveling basket; and Hedwig; Ron ’s owl, Pig - widgeon;
and Ginny ’s new purple Pygmy Puff, Arnold, in cages. “Au
revoir, ’Arry, ” said Fleur throatily, kissing him good -bye. Ron hurried
forward, looking hopeful, but Ginny stuck out her foot and Ron fell,
sprawling in the dust at Fleur ’s feet. Furious, red - faced, and
dirt -spattered, he hurried into the car without saying good -bye.
There was no cheerful Hagrid waiting for them at King ’s Cross Station.
Instead, two grim -faced, bearded Aurors in dark Muggle suits moved
forward the moment the ca rs stopped and, flanking the party,
marched them into the station without speaking. “Quick, quick,
through the barrier, ” said Mrs. Weasley, who
 132 ‘

THE SLUG CLUB


seemed a little flustered by this austere efficiency. “Harry had bet - ter
go first, with — ”
She looked inquiringly at one of the Aurors, who nodded briefly,
seized Harry ’s upper arm, and attempted to steer him toward the
barrier between platforms nine and ten.
“I can walk, thanks, ” said Harry irritably, je rking his arm out of the
Auror ’s grip. He pushed his trolley directly at the solid barrier,
ignoring his silent companion, and found himself, a second later,
standing on platform nine and three -quarters, where the scarlet
Hogwarts Express stood belching st eam over the crowd.
Hermione and the Weasleys joined him within seconds. With - out
waiting to consult his grim -faced Auror, Harry motioned to Ron and
Hermione to follow him up the platform, looking for an empty
compartment.
“We can ’t, Harry, ” said Hermio ne, looking apologetic. “Ron and I ’ve
got to go to the prefects ’ carriage first and then patrol the cor - ridors
for a bit. ”
“Oh yeah, I forgot, ” said Harry.
“You ’d better get straight on the train, all of you, you ’ve only got a few
minutes to go, ” said Mrs. Weasley, consulting her watch. “Well, have a
lovely term, Ron. . . . ”
“Mr. Weasley, can I have a quick word? ” said Harry, making up his
mind on the spur of the moment.
“Of course, ” said Mr. Weasley, who looked slightly surprised, but
followed Harry out of earshot of the others nevertheless. Harry had
thought it through carefully and come to the conclu - sion that, if he
was to tell anyone, Mr. Weasley was the right per - son; firstly, because
he worked at the Ministry and was therefo re in the best position to
make further investigations, and secondly,
 133 ‘

CHAPTER SEVEN


because he thought that there was not too much risk of Mr. Weasley
exploding with anger.
He could see Mrs. Weasley and the grim -faced Auror casting the pair
of them suspicious looks as they moved away.
“When we were in Diagon Alley, ” Harry began, but Mr. Weasley
forestalled him with a grimace.
“Am I about to discover where you, Ron, and Hermione disap -
peared to while you were supposed to be in the back room of Fred
and George ’s shop? ”
“How did you — ?”
“Harry, please. You ’re talking to the man who raised Fred and
George. ”
“Er . . . yeah, all right, we weren ’t in the back room. ”
“Very well, then, l et’s hear the worst. ”
“Well, we followed Draco Malfoy. We used my Invisibility Cloak. ”
“Did you have any particular reason for doing so, or was it a mere
whim? ”
“Because I thought Malfoy was up to something, ” said Harry, dis -
regarding Mr. Weasley ’s loo k of mingled exasperation and amuse -
ment. “He ’d given his mother the slip and I wanted to know why. ”
“Of course you did, ” said Mr. Weasley, sounding resigned. “Well?
Did you find out why? ”
“He went into Borgin and Burkes, ” said Harry, “and started bul - lying
the bloke in there, Borgin, to help him fix something. And he said he
wanted Borgin to keep something else for him. He made it sound like
it was the same kind of thing that needed fixing. Like they were a pair.
And . . . ”
Harry took a deep breath.
 134 ‘

THE SLUG CLUB


“There ’s something else. We saw Malfoy jump about a mile when
Madam Malkin tried to touch his left arm. I think he ’s been branded
with the Dark Mark. I think he ’s replaced his father as a Death Eater. ”
Mr. Weasley looked taken aback. After a moment he said, “Harry, I
doubt whether You -Know -Who would allow a sixteen - year -old — ”
“Does anyone really know what You -Know -Who would or wouldn ’t
do? ” asked Harry angrily. “Mr. Weasl ey, I ’m sorry, but isn ’t it worth
investigating? If Malfoy wants something fixing, and he needs to
threaten Borgin to get it done, it ’s probably something Dark or
dangerous, isn ’t it? ”
“I doubt it, to be honest, Harry, ” said Mr. Weasley slowly. “You see,
when Lucius Malfoy was arrested, we raided his house. We took away
everything that might have been dangerous. ”
“I think you missed something, ” said Harry stubbornly. “Well,
maybe, ” said Mr. Weasley, but Harry could tell that Mr. Weasley was
humorin g him.
There was a whistle behind them; nearly everyone had boarded the
train and the doors were closing.
“You ’d better hurry, ” said Mr. Weasley, as Mrs. Weasley cried, “Harry,
quickly! ”
He hurried forward and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley helped him load hi s
trunk onto the train.
“Now, dear, you ’re coming to us for Christmas, it ’s all fixed with
Dumbledore, so we ’ll see you quite soon, ” said Mrs. Weasley through
the window, as Harry slammed the door shut behind him and the train
began to move. “You make s ure you look after your - self and — ”
 135 ‘

CHAPTER SEVEN


The train was gathering speed.
“— be good and — ”
She was jogging to keep up now.
“— stay safe! ”
Harry waved until the train had turned a corner and Mr. and Mrs.
Weasley were lost to view, then turned to see where the others had got
to. He supposed Ron and Hermione were cloistered in the prefects ’
carriage, but Ginny was a little way along the corridor, chatting to
some friends. He made his way toward her, dra gging his trunk.
People stared shamelessly as he approached. They even pressed their
faces against the windows of their compartments to get a look at him.
He had expected an upswing in the amount of gaping and gawping he
would have to endure this term after all the “Chosen
One ” rumors in the Daily Prophet, but he did not enjoy the sensa -
tion of standing in a very bright spotlight. He tapped Ginny on the
shoulder.
“Fancy trying to find a compartment? ”
“I can ’t, Harry, I said I ’d meet Dean, ” said Ginny brightly. “See you
later. ”
“Right, ” said Harry. He felt a strange twinge of annoyance as she
walked away, her long red hair dancing behind her; he had become so
used to her presence over the summer that he had almost forgotten
that Ginny did not hang around with him, Ron, and Hermione while
at school. Then he blinked and looked around: He was surrounded by
mesmerized girls.
“Hi, Harry! ” said a familiar voice from behind him. “Neville! ” said
Harry in relief, turning to see a round -faced boy struggling toward
him.
 136 ‘

THE SLUG CLUB


“Hello, Harry, ” said a girl with long hair and large misty eyes, who was
just behind Neville.
“Luna, hi, how are you? ”
“Very well, thank you, ” said Luna. She was clutching a magazine to
her chest; large letters on the front announced that there was a pair of
free Spectrespecs inside.
“ Quibbler still going strong, then? ” asked Harry, who felt a cer -
tain fondness for the magazine, having given it an exclusive inter -
view the previous year.
“Oh yes, circulation ’s well up, ” said Luna happily. “Let ’s find seats, ”
said Harry, and the three of them set off along the train through
hordes of silently star ing students. At last they found an empty
compartment, and Harry hurried inside gratefully.
“They ’re even staring at us! ” said Neville, indicating himself and
Luna. “Because we ’re with you! ”
“They ’re staring at you because you were at the Ministry too, ” said
Harry, as he hoisted his trunk into the luggage rack. “Our
little adventure there was all over the Daily Prophet, you must ’ve
seen it. ”
“Yes, I thought Gran would be angry about all the publicity, ” said
Neville, “but she was really pleased. Says I ’m starting to live up to my
dad at long last. She bought me a new wand, look! ”
He pulled it out and showed it to Harry.
“Cherry and unicorn hair, ” he said proudly. “We think it was one of
the last Ollivander ever sold , he vanished next day — oi, come back
here, Trevor! ”
And he dived under the seat to retrieve his toad as it made one of its
frequent bids for freedom.
“Are we still doing D.A. meetings this year, Harry? ” asked Luna,
 137 ‘

CHAPTER SEVEN


who was detaching a pair of psychedelic spectacles from the middle
of The Quibbler.
“No point now we ’ve got rid of Umbridge, is there? ” said Harry,
sitting down. Neville bumped his head against the seat as he emerged
from under i t. He looked most disappointed.
“I liked the D.A.! I learned loads with you! ”
“I enjoyed the meetings too, ” said Luna serenely. “It was like having
friends. ”
This was one of those uncomfortable things Luna often said and
which made Harry feel a squirming mixture of pity and embarrass -
ment. Before he could respond, however, there was a disturbance
outside their compartment door; a group of fourth -year girls was
whispering and giggling together on the other side of the glas s. “You
ask him! ”
“No, you! ”
“I’ll do it! ”
And one of them, a bold -looking girl with large dark eyes, a prominent
chin, and long black hair pushed her way through the door.
“Hi, Harry, I ’m Romilda, Romilda Vane, ” she said loudly and
confidently. “Why don ’t you join us in our compartment? You
don ’t have to sit with them, ” she added in a stage whisper, indicat -
ing Neville ’s bottom, which was sticking out from under the seat again
as he groped around for Trevor, and Luna, who was now wearing her
fre e Spectrespecs, which gave her the look of a de - mented,
multicolored owl.
“They ’re friends of mine, ” said Harry coldly.
“Oh, ” said the girl, looking very surprised. “Oh. Okay. ”
And she withdrew, sliding the door closed behind her.
 138 ‘

THE SLUG CLUB


“People expect you to have cooler friends than us, ” said Luna, once
again displaying her knack for embarrassing honesty.
“You are cool, ” said Harry shortly. “None of them was at the Ministry.
They didn ’t fight with me. ”
“That ’s a very nice thing to say, ” beamed Luna. Then she pushed
her Spectrespecs farther up her nose and settled down to read The
Quibbler.
“We didn ’t face him, though, ” said Neville, emerging from un -
der the seat with fluff a nd dust in his hair and a resigned -looking
Trevor in his hand. “You did. You should hear my gran talk about
you. ‘That Harry Potter ’s got more backbone than the whole Ministry
of Magic put together !’ She ’d give anything to have you as a grand -
son. . . . ”
Harry laughed uncomfortably and changed the subject to O.W.L.
results as soon as he could. While Neville recited his grades and
wondered aloud whether he would be allowed to take a Trans -
figuration N.E.W.T. with only an “Acceptable, ” Harry watched him
without really listening.
Neville ’s childhood had been blighted by Voldemort just as much as
Harry ’s had, but Neville had no idea how close he had come to having
Harry ’s destiny. The prophecy could have referred to either of them,
yet, for his own inscrutable reasons, Voldemort had chosen to believe
that Harry was the one meant.
Had Voldemort chosen Neville, it would be Neville sitting op - posite
Harry bearing the lightning -shaped scar and the weight of the
prophecy. . . . Or would it? Would Neville ’s mother have died to save
him, as Lily had died for Harry? Surely she would. . . . But what if she
had been unable to stand between her son and Volde - mort? Would
there then have been no “Chosen One ” at all? An
 139 ‘

CHAPTER SEVEN


empty seat where Neville now sat and a scarless Harry who would
have been kissed good -bye by his own mother, not Ron ’s?
“You all right, Harry? You look funny, ” said Neville.
Harry started. “Sorry — I — ”
“Wrackspurt got you? ” asked Lun a sympathetically, peering at Harry
through her enormous colored spectacles.
“I — what? ”
“A Wrackspurt . . . They ’re invisible. They float in through your ears
and make your brain go fuzzy, ” she said. “I thought I felt one
zooming around in here. ”
She flapped her hands at thin air, as though beating off large invisible
moths. Harry and Neville caught each other ’s eyes and hastily began to
talk of Quidditch.
The weather beyond the train windows was as patchy as it had been all
summer; they passed through stretches of the chilling mist, then out
into weak, clear sunlight. It was during one of the clear spells, when
the sun was visible almost directly overhead, that Ron and Hermione
entered the compartment at last.
“Wish the lunch trolley would hurr y up, I ’m starving, ” said Ron
longingly, slumping into the seat beside Harry and rubbing his
stomach. “Hi, Neville. Hi, Luna. Guess what? ” he added, turning to
Harry. “Malfoy ’s not doing prefect duty. He ’s just sitting in his
compartment with the other Sl ytherins, we saw him when we passed. ”
Harry sat up straight, interested. It was not like Malfoy to pass up the
chance to demonstrate his power as prefect, which he had happily
abused all the previous year.
“What did he do when he saw you? ”
“The usua l,” said Ron indifferently, demonstrating a rude hand
 140 ‘

THE SLUG CLUB


gesture. “Not like him, though, is it? Well — that is” — he did the
hand gesture again — “but why isn ’t he out there bullying first years?
“Dunno, ” said Harry, but his mind was racing. Didn ’t this look as
though Malfoy had more important things on his mind than bullying
younger students?
“Maybe he preferred the Inquisitorial Squad, ” said Hermione. “Maybe
being a prefect seems a bit tame afte r that. ”
“I don ’t think so, ” said Harry. “I think he ’s — ”
But before he could expound on his theory, the compartment door
slid open again and a breathless third -year girl stepped inside. “I’m
supposed to deliver these to Neville Longbottom and Harry
P-Potter, ” she faltered, as her eyes met Harry ’s and she turned scar - let.
She was holding out two scrolls of parchment tied with violet ribbon.
Perplexed, Harry and Neville took the scroll addressed to each of
them and the girl stumbled back out of the co mpartment. “What is
it? ” Ron demanded, as Harry unrolled his.
“An invitation, ” said Harry.

Harry,
I would be delighted if you would join me for a bite of
lunch in compartment C.
Sincerely,
Professor H. E. F. Slughorn
“Who ’s Professor Slughorn? ” asked Neville, looking perplexedly at
his own invitation.
“New teacher, ” said Harry. “Well, I suppose we ’ll have to go, won ’t
we? ”
 141 ‘

CHAPTER SEVEN


“But what does he want me for? ” asked Neville nervously, as though
he was expecting detention.
“No idea, ” said Harry, which was not entirely true, though he had no
proof yet that his hunch was correct. “Listen, ” he added, seized by a
sudden brain wave, “let ’s go under the Invisibility Cloak, then we
might get a good look at Malfoy on the way, see what he ’s up to. ”
This idea, however, came to nothing: The corridors, which were
packed with people on the lookout for the lunch trolley, were im -
possible to negotiate while wearing the clo ak. Harry stowed it re -
gretfully back in his bag, reflecting that it would have been nice to
wear it just to avoid all the staring, which seemed to have increased in
intensity even since he had last walked down the train. Every now and
then, students woul d hurtle out of their compartments to get a better
look at him. The exception was Cho Chang, who darted into her
compartment when she saw Harry coming. As Harry passed the
window, he saw her deep in determined conver - sation with her friend
Marietta, who w as wearing a very thick layer of makeup that did not
entirely obscure the odd formation of pim - ples still etched across her
face. Smirking slightly, Harry pushed on. When they reached
compartment C, they saw at once that they were not Slughorn ’s only
invi tees, although judging by the enthusiasm of Slughorn ’s welcome,
Harry was the most warmly anticipated.
“Harry, m ’boy! ” said Slughorn, jumping up at the sight of him so that
his great velvet -covered belly seemed to fill all the remain - ing space in
the c ompartment. His shiny bald head and great sil - very mustache
gleamed as brightly in the sunlight as the golden
 142 ‘

THE SLUG CLUB


buttons on his waistcoat. “Good to see you, good to see you! And you
must be Mr. Longbottom! ”
Neville nodded, looking scared. At a gesture from Slughorn, they sat
down opposite each other in the only two empty seats, which were
nearest the door. Harry glanced around at their fellow guests. He
recognized a Slytherin fro m their year, a tall black boy with high
cheekbones and long, slanting eyes; there were also two seventh -year
boys Harry did not know and, squashed in the corner beside Slughorn
and looking as though she was not entirely sure how she had got there,
Ginny.
“Now, do you know everyone? ” Slughorn asked Harry and Neville.
“Blaise Zabini is in your year, of course — ”
Zabini did not make any sign of recognition or greeting, nor did Harry
or Neville: Gryffindor and Slytherin students loathed each other on
princip le.
“This is Cormac McLaggen, perhaps you ’ve come across each other
— ? No? ”
McLaggen, a large, wiry -haired youth, raised a hand, and Harry and
Neville nodded back at him.
“— and this is Marcus Belby, I don ’t know whether — ?” Belby,
who was thin and nervous -looking, gave a strained smile.
“— and this charming young lady tells me she knows you! ”
Slughorn finished.
Ginny grimaced at Harry and Neville from behind Slughorn ’s back.
“Well now, this is most pleasant, ” said Slu ghorn cozily. “A chance to
get to know you all a little better. Here, take a napkin. I ’ve packed my
own lunch; the trolley, as I remember it, is heavy on
 143 ‘

CHAPTER SEVEN


licorice wands, and a poor old man ’s digestive system isn ’t quite up to
such things. . . . Pheasant, Belby? ”
Belby started and accepted what looked like half a cold pheasant. “I
was just telling young Marcus here that I had the pleasure of teaching
his Uncle Damocles, ” Slughorn told Harry and Neville, now passing
around a basket of rolls. “Outstanding wizard, out - standing, and his
Order of Merlin most well -deserved. Do you see much of your uncle,
Marcus? ”
Unfortunately, Belby had just taken a large mouthful of pheas - ant; in
his haste to answer Slughorn he swallowed too fast, turned purple, and
began to choke.
“ Anapneo, ” said Slughorn calmly, pointing his wand at Belby,
whose airway seemed to clear at once.
“Not . . . not much of him, no, ” gasped Belby, his eyes streaming.
“Well, of course, I daresay he ’s busy, ” said Slughorn, looking
questioningly at Belby. “I doubt he invented the Wolfsbane Potion
without considerable hard work! ”
“I suppose . . . ” said Belby, who seemed afraid to take another bite of
pheasant until he wa s sure that Slughorn had finished with him.
“Er . . . he and my dad don ’t get on very well, you see, so I don ’t really
know much about . . . ”
His voice tailed away as Slughorn gave him a cold smile and turned to
McLaggen instead.
“Now, you, Cormac, ” sai d Slughorn, “I happen to know you see
a lot of your Uncle Tiberius, because he has a rather splendid pic - ture
of the two of you hunting nogtails in, I think, Norfolk? ”
“Oh, yeah, that was fun, that was, ” said McLaggen. “We went with
Bertie Higgs and Rufus Scrimgeour — this was before he be - came
Minister, obviously — ”
“ 144 ‘

THE SLUG CLUB


“Ah, you know Bertie and Rufus too? ” beamed Slughorn, now
offering around a small tray of pies; somehow, Belb y was missed out.
“Now tell me . . . ”
It was as Harry had suspected. Everyone here seemed to have been
invited because they were connected to somebody well - known or
influential — everyone except Ginny. Zabini, who was interrogated
after McLaggen, turne d out to have a famously beau - tiful witch for a
mother (from what Harry could make out, she had been married
seven times, each of her husbands dying mysteri - ously and leaving her
mounds of gold). It was Neville ’s turn next: This was a very
uncomfortable ten minutes, for Neville ’s parents, well -known Aurors,
had been tortured into insanity by Bellatrix Lestrange and a couple of
Death Eater cronies. At the end of Neville ’s interview, Harry had the
impression that Slughorn was reserving judgment on Neville, yet to
see whether he had any of his parents ’ flair.
“And now, ” said Slughorn, shifting massively in his seat with the
air of a compere introducing his star act. “Harry Potter! Where to
begin? I feel I barely scratched the surface when we met over the
summer! ” He contemplated Harry for a moment as though he was a
particularly large and succulent piece of pheasant, then said, “‘The
Chosen One, ’ they ’re calling you now! ”
Harry said nothi ng. Belby, McLaggen, and Zabini were all star - ing at
him.
“Of course, ” said Slughorn, watching Harry closely, “there have been
rumors for years. . . . I remember when — well — after that
terrible night — Lily — James — and you survived — and the
wo rd was that you must have powers beyond the ordinary — ” Zabini
gave a tiny little cough that was clearly supposed to
 145 ‘

CHAPTER SEVEN


indicate amused skepticism. An angry voice burst out from behind
Slughorn.
“Yeah, Zabini, because you ’re so talented . . . at posing. . . . ”
“Oh dear! ” chuckled Slughorn comfortably, looking around at Ginny,
who was glaring at Zabini around Slughorn ’s great belly. “You want to
be careful, Blaise! I saw this young lady perform the most marvelous
Bat -Bogey Hex as I was passing her carriage! I wouldn ’t cross her! ”
Zabini merely looked contemptuous.
“Anyway, ” said Slughorn, turning back to Harry. “ Such rumors
this summer. Of course, one doesn ’t know what to believe, the
Prophet has been known to print inaccuracies, make mistakes —
but there seems little doubt, given the number of witnesses, that
there was quite a disturbance at the Ministry and that you were
there in the thick of it all! ”
Harry, who could not s ee any way out of this without flatly lying,
nodded but still said nothing. Slughorn beamed at him. “So modest,
so modest, no wonder Dumbledore is so fond —
you were there, then? But the rest of the stories — so sensational, of
course, one doesn ’t know quite what to believe — this fabled
prophecy, for instance — ”
“We never heard a prophecy, ” said Neville, turning geranium pink as
he said it.
“That ’s right, ” said Ginny staunchly. “Neville and I were both
there too, and all this ‘Chosen One ’ ru bbish is just the Prophet
making things up as usual. ”
“You were both there too, were you? ” said Slughorn with great
interest, looking from Ginny to Neville, but both of them sat clam -
like before his encouraging smile.
 146 ‘

THE SLUG CLUB


“Yes . . . well . . . it is true that the Prophet often exaggerates, of
course. . . . ” Slughorn said, sounding a little disappointed. “I re -
member dear Gwenog telling me (Gwenog Jones, I mean, of course,
Captain of the Holyhead Harpies) — ”
He meandered off into a long -winded reminiscence, but Harry had the
distinct impression that Slughorn had not finished with him, and that
he had not been convinced by Neville and Ginny. The afternoon wore
on with more anecdotes about illustri ous wizards Slughorn had taught,
all of whom had been delighted to join what he called the “Slug Club ”
at Hogwarts. Harry could not wait to leave, but couldn ’t see how to do
so politely. Finally the train emerged from yet another long misty
stretch into a red sun - set, and Slughorn looked around, blinking in the
twilight.
“Good gracious, it ’s getting dark already! I didn ’t notice that they ’d lit
the lamps! You ’d better go and change into your robes, all of you.
McLaggen, you must drop by and borrow that book on nogtails.
Harry, Blaise — any time you ’re passing. Same goes for you, miss, ” he
twinkled at Ginny. “Well, off you go, off you go! ”
As he pushed past Harry into the darkening corridor, Zabini s hot him
a filthy look that Harry returned with interest. He, Ginny, and Neville
followed Zabini back along the train.
“I’m glad that ’s over, ” muttered Neville. “Strange man, isn ’t he? ”
“Yeah, he is a bit, ” said Harry, his eyes on Zabini. “How come you
ended up in there, Ginny? ”
“He saw me hex Zacharias Smith, ” said Ginny. “You remember that
idiot from Hufflepuff who was in the D.A.? He kept on and on asking
about what happened at the Ministry and in the end he annoyed me so
much I hexed him — when Slugh orn came in I
 147 ‘

CHAPTER SEVEN


thought I was going to get detention, but he just thought it was a really
good hex and invited me to lunch! Mad, eh? ”
“Better reason for inviting someone than because their mother ’s
famous, ” said Harry, scowling at the back of Zabini ’s head, “or be -
cause their uncle — ”
But he broke off. An idea had just occurred to him, a reckless but
potentially wonderful idea. . . . In a minute ’s time, Zabini was going to
reenter the Slytherin sixth -year compartment and Malfoy would be
sitting there, thinking himself unheard by anybody ex - cept fellow
Slytherins. . . . If Harry could only enter, unseen, be - hind him, what
might he not see or hear? True, there was l ittle of the journey left —
Hogsmeade Station had to be less than half an hour away, judging by
the wildness of the scenery flashing by the windows — but nobody
else seemed prepared to take Harry ’s sus - picions seriously, so it was
down to him to prove the m.
“I’ll see you two later, ” said Harry under his breath, pulling out his
Invisibility Cloak and flinging it over himself.
“But what ’re you — ?” asked Neville.
“Later! ” whispered Harry, darting after Zabini as quietly as pos - sible,
though the rattl ing of the train made such caution almost pointless.
The corridors were almost completely empty now. Nearly every - one
had returned to their carriages to change into their school robes and
pack up their possessions. Though he was as close as he could get to
Zabini without touching him, Harry was not quick enough to slip into
the compartment when Zabini opened the door. Zabini was already
sliding it shut when Harry hastily stuck out his foot to prevent it
closing.
 148 ‘

THE SLUG CLUB


“What ’s wrong with this thing? ” said Zabini angrily as he smashed the
sliding door repeatedly into Harry ’s foot.
Harry seized the door and pushed it open, hard; Zabini, still clinging
on to the handle, toppled over sideways into Gre gory Goyle ’s lap, and
in the ensuing ruckus, Harry darted into the com - partment, leapt onto
Zabini ’s temporarily empty seat, and hoisted himself up into the
luggage rack. It was fortunate that Goyle and Zabini were snarling at
each other, drawing all eyes onto them, for Harry was quite sure his
feet and ankles had been revealed as the cloak had flapped around
them; indeed, for one horrible moment he thought he saw Malfoy ’s
eyes follow his trainer as it whipped up - ward out of sight. But then
Goyle slammed the door shut and flung Zabini off him; Zabini
collapsed into his own seat looking ruffled, Vincent Crabbe returned
to his comic, and Malfoy, sniggering, lay back down across two seats
with his head in Pansy Parkinson ’s lap. Harry lay curled
uncomfortably under the cloak to ensure that every inch of him
remained hidden, and watched Pansy stroke the sleek blond hair off
Malfoy ’s forehead, smirking as she did so, as though anyone would
have loved to have been in her place. The lanterns swinging from the
carri age ceiling cast a bright light over the scene: Harry could read
every word of Crabbe ’s comic directly below him.
“So, Zabini, ” said Malfoy, “what did Slughorn want? ” “Just trying to
make up to well -connected people, ” said Zabini, who was still
glowering at Goyle. “Not that he managed to find many. ”
This information did not seem to please Malfoy.
“Who else had he invited? ” he demanded.
 149 ‘

CHAPTER SEVEN


“McLaggen from Gryffindor, ” said Zabini.
“Oh yeah, his uncle ’s big in the Ministry, ” said Malfoy.
“— someone else called Belby, from Ravenclaw — ” “Not
him, he ’s a prat! ” said Pansy.
“— and Longbottom, Potter, and that Weasley girl, ” finished Zabini.
Malfoy sat up very suddenly, knocking Pansy ’s hand aside.
“He invited Longbottom ?”
“Well, I assume so, as Longbottom was there, ” said Zabini
indifferently.
“What ’s Longbottom got to interest Slughorn? ”
Zabini shrugged.
“Potter, precious Potter, obv iously he wanted a look at ‘ the Cho -
sen One, ’” sneered Malfoy, “but that Weasley girl! What ’s so special
about her ?”
“A lot of boys like her, ” said Pansy, watching Malfoy out of the corner
of her eyes for his reaction. “Even you think she ’s good - looking,
don ’t you, Blaise, and we all know how hard you are to please! ”
“I wouldn ’t touch a filthy little blood traitor like her whatever she
looked like, ” said Zabini coldly, and Pansy looked pleased. Malfoy
sank back across her lap and allowed her to resume the stroking of his
hair.
“Well, I pity Slughorn ’s taste. Maybe he ’s going a bit senile. Shame, my
father always said he was a good wizard in his day. My father used to
be a bit of a favorite of his. Slughorn probably hasn ’t heard I ’m on the
train, or — ”
“I wouldn ’t bank on an invitation, ” said Zabini. “He asked me about
Nott ’s father when I first arrived. They used to be old
 150 ‘

THE SLUG CLUB


friends, apparently, but when he heard he ’d been caught at the
Ministry he didn ’t look happy, and Nott didn ’t get an invitation, did he?
I don ’t think Slughorn ’s interested in Death Eaters. ” Malfoy looked
angry, but forced out a singularly humorless laugh.
“Well, who cares what he ’s interested in? What is he, when you come
down to it? Just some stupid teacher. ” Malfoy yawned osten - tatiously.
“I mean, I might not even be at Hogwarts next year, what ’s it matter to
me if some fat old has -been likes me or not? ” “What do you mean,
you might not be at Hogwarts next year? ” said Pansy indignantly,
ceasing grooming Malfoy at once.
“Well, you never know, ” said Malfoy with the ghost of a smirk. “I
might have — er — moved on to bigger and better things. ” Crouched
in the luggage rack under his cloak, Harry ’s heart be - gan to race. What
would Ron and Hermione say about this? Crabbe and Goyle were
gawping at Malfoy; apparently they had had no inkling of any plans to
move on to bigger and better things. Even Zabini had allowed a look
of curiosity to mar his haughty fea - tures. P ansy resumed the slow
stroking of Malfoy ’s hair, looking dumbfounded.
“Do you mean — Him ?”
Malfoy shrugged.
“Mother wants me to complete my education, but personally, I don ’t
see it as that important these days. I mean, think about it. . . . When the
Dark Lord takes over, is he going to care how many O.W.L.s or
N.E.W.T.s anyone ’s got? Of course he isn ’t. . . . It ’ll be all about the
kind of service he received, the level of devotion he was shown. ”
“And you think you ’ll be able to do someth ing for him? ” asked
 151 ‘

CHAPTER SEVEN


Zabini scathingly. “Sixteen years old and not even fully qualified yet? ”
“I’ve just said, haven ’t I? Maybe he doesn ’t care if I ’m qualified.
Maybe the job he wants me to do isn ’t something that you need to be
qualified for, ” said Malfoy quietly.
Crabbe and Goyle were both sitting with their mouths open like
gargoyles. Pansy was gazing down at Malfoy as though she had never
seen anything so awe -inspiring.
“I can see Hogwarts, ” said Malfoy, clearly relishing the effect he had
created as he pointed out of the blackened window. “We ’d bet - ter get
our robes on. ”
Harry was so busy staring at Malfoy, he did not notice Goyle reaching
up for his trunk; as he swung it down, it hit Ha rry hard on the side of
the head. He let out an involuntary gasp of pain, and Malfoy looked up
at the luggage rack, frowning.
Harry was not afraid of Malfoy, but he still did not much like the idea
of being discovered hiding under his Invisibility Cloak by a group of
unfriendly Slytherins. Eyes still watering and head still throbbing, he
drew his wand, careful not to disarrange the cloak, and waited, breath
held. To his relief, Malfoy seemed to decide that he had imagined the
noise; he pulled on his robe s like the others, locked his trunk, and as
the train slowed to a jerky crawl, fastened a thick new traveling cloak
round his neck.
Harry could see the corridors filling up again and hoped that
Hermione and Ron would take his things out onto the platform for
him; he was stuck where he was until the compartment had quite
emptied. At last, with a final lurch, the train came to a com - plete halt.
Goyle threw the door open and muscled his way out
 152 ‘

THE SLUG CLUB


into a c rowd of second years, punching them aside; Crabbe and Zabini
followed.
“You go on, ” Malfoy told Pansy, who was waiting for him with her
hand held out as though hoping he would hold it. “I just want to check
something. ”
Pansy left. Now Harry and Malfoy were alone in the compart - ment.
People were filing past, descending onto the dark platform. Malfoy
moved over to the compartment door and let down the blinds, so that
people in the corridor beyond could not peer in. He the n bent down
over his trunk and opened it again.
Harry peered down over the edge of the luggage rack, his heart
pumping a little faster. What had Malfoy wanted to hide from Pansy?
Was he about to see the mysterious broken object it was so important
to mend ?
“ Petrificus Totalus !”
Without warning, Malfoy pointed his wand at Harry, who was
instantly paralyzed. As though in slow motion, he toppled out of the
luggage rack and fell, with an agonizing, floor -shaking crash, at
Malfoy ’s feet, the Invisibility Cloak trapped beneath him, his whole
body revealed with his legs still curled absurdly into the cramped
kneeling position. He couldn ’t move a muscle; he could only gaze up
at Malfoy, who smiled broadly.
“I thought so, ” he said jubilantly. “I heard Goyle ’s trunk hit you. And
I thought I saw something white flash through the air after Zabini
came back. . . . ”
His eyes lingered for a moment upon Harry ’s trainers. “You didn ’t
hear anything I care about, Potter. But while I ’ve got y ou here . . . ”
 153 ‘

CHAPTER SEVEN


And he stamped, hard, on Harry ’s face. Harry felt his nose break;
blood spurted everywhere.
“That ’s from my father. Now, let ’s see. . . . ”
Malfoy dragged the cloak out from under Harry ’s immobilized body
and threw it over him.
“I don ’t reckon they ’ll find you till the train ’s back in London, ” he said
quietly. “See you around, Potter . . . or not. ”
And taking care to tread on Harry ’s fingers, Malfoy left the
compartment.






















 154 ‘

C H A P T E R E I G H T










SNAPE
VICTORIOUS




arry could not move a muscle. He lay there beneath the
H
Invisibility Cloak feeling the blood from his nose flow,
hot and wet, over his face, listening to the voices and footsteps in the
corridor beyond. His immediate thought was that someone, surely,
would check the compartments before the train departed again. But at
once came the dispiriting realization that even if somebody looked
into the compartment, he would be neither seen nor heard. His best
hope was that somebody else would walk in and step on him.
Harry had never hated Malfoy more than as he lay there, like an absurd
turtle on its back, blood dripping sickeningly into his open mouth.

What a stupid situation to have landed himself in . . . and now the last
few footsteps were dying away; everyone was shuffling along the dark
platform outside; he could hear the scraping of trunks and the loud
babble of talk.
Ron and Hermione would think that he had left the train
 155 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHT


without them. Once they arrived at Hogwarts and took their places in
the Great Hall, looked up and down the Gryffindor table a few times,
and finally realized that he was not there, he, no doubt, would be
half way back to London.
He tried to make a sound, even a grunt, but it was impossible. Then he
remembered that some wizards, like Dumbledore, could perform
spells without speaking, so he tried to summon his wand,
which had fallen out of his hand, by sayin g the words “ Accio
Wand !” over and over again in his head, but nothing happened.
He thought he could hear the rustling of the trees that sur - rounded
the lake, and the far -off hoot of an owl, but no hint of a search being
made or even (he despised himself slightly for hoping it) panicked
voices wondering where Harry Potter had gone. A feeling of
hopelessness spread through him as he imagined the con - voy of
thestral -drawn carriages trundling up to the school a nd the muffled
yells of laughter issuing from whichever carriage Malfoy was riding in,
where he could be recounting his attack on Harry to Crabbe, Goyle,
Zabini, and Pansy Parkinson.
The train lurched, causing Harry to roll over onto his side. Now he
was staring at the dusty underside of the seats instead of the ceil - ing.
The floor began to vibrate as the engine roared into life. The Express
was leaving and nobody knew he was still on it. . . .
Then he felt his Invisibility Cloak fly off him and a voic e over - head
said, “Wotcher, Harry. ”
There was a flash of red light and Harry ’s body unfroze; he was able to
push himself into a more dignified sitting position, hastily wipe the
blood off his bruised face with the back of his hand, and raise his head
to look up at Tonks, who was holding the Invisibility Cloak she had
just pulled away.
 156 ‘

SNAPE VICTORIOUS


“We ’d better get out of here, quickly, ” she said, as the train win - dows
became obscured with steam and they began to move out of the
station. “Come on, we ’ll jump. ”
Harry hurried after her into the corridor. She pulled open the train
door and leapt onto the platform, which seemed to be sliding
underneath them as the t rain gathered momentum. He followed her,
staggered a little on landing, then straightened up in time to see the
gleaming scarlet steam engine pick up speed, round the cor - ner, and
disappear from view.
The cold night air was soothing on his throbbing no se. Tonks was
looking at him; he felt angry and embarrassed that he had been
discovered in such a ridiculous position. Silently she handed him back
the Invisibility Cloak.
“Who did it? ”
“Draco Malfoy, ” said Harry bitterly. “Thanks for . . . well . . . ” “No
problem, ” said Tonks, without smiling. From what Harry could see in
the darkness, she was as mousy -haired and miserable - looking as she
had been when he had met her at the Burrow. “I can fix your nose if
you stand still. ”
Harry did not think much of this idea; he had been intending to visit
Madam Pomfrey, the matron, in whom he had a little more
confidence when it came to Healing Spells, but it seemed rude to say
this, so he stayed stock -still and closed his eyes.
“ Episkey, ” said Tonks.
Harry ’s nose felt very hot, and then very cold. He raised a hand and
felt it gingerly. It seemed to be mended.
“Thanks a lot! ”
“You ’d better put that cloak back on, and we can walk up to the
school, ” said Tonks, still unsmiling. As Harry swung the cloak back
 157 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHT


over himself, she waved her wand; an immense silvery four -legged
creature erupted from it and streaked off into the darkness.
“Was that a Patronus? ” asked Harry, who had seen Dumbledore send
messages like this.
“Yes, I ’m sending word to the castle that I ’ve got you or they ’ll worry.
Come on, we ’d better not dawdle. ”
They set off toward the lane that led to the school.
“How did y ou find me? ”
“I noticed you hadn ’t left the train and I knew you had that cloak. I
thought you might be hiding for some reason. When I saw the blinds
were drawn down on that compartment I thought I ’d check. ”
“But what are you doing here, anyway? ” Harry a sked. “I’m stationed
in Hogsmeade now, to give the school extra pro - tection, ” said
Tonks.
“Is it just you who ’s stationed up here, or — ?” “No,
Proudfoot, Savage, and Dawlish are here too. ” “Dawlish,
that Auror Dumbledore attacked last year? ” “That ’s
right. ”
They trudged up the dark, deserted lane, following the freshly made
carriage tracks. Harry looked sideways at Tonks under his cloak. Last
year she had been inquisitive (to the point of being a lit - tle annoying at
times), she had laughed easily, she had made jokes. Now she seemed
older and much more serious and purposeful. Was this all the effect of
what had happened at the Ministry? He re - flected uncomfortably that
Hermione would have suggested he say something consoling about
Sirius to her, th at it hadn ’t been her fault at all, but he couldn ’t bring
himself to do it. He was far from blaming her for Sirius ’s death; it was
no more her fault than anyone
 158 ‘

SNAPE VICTORIOUS


else ’s (and much less than his), but h e did not like talking about Sirius
if he could avoid it. And so they tramped on through the cold night in
silence, Tonks ’s long cloak whispering on the ground behind them.
Having always traveled there by carriage, Harry had never before
appreciated just how far Hogwarts was from Hogsmeade Station.
With great relief he finally saw the tall pillars on either side of the gates,
each topped with a winged boar. He was cold, he was hun - gry, and he
was quite keen to leave this new, gloomy Tonks behind. But when he
put out a hand to push open the gates, he found them chained shut.
“ Alohomora !” he said confidently, pointing his wand at the pad -
lock, but nothing happened.
“That won ’t work on these, ” said Tonks. “Dumbledore bewitched
them him self. ”
Harry looked around.
“I could climb a wall, ” he suggested.
“No, you couldn ’t,” said Tonks flatly. “Anti -intruder jinxes on all of
them. Security ’s been tightened a hundredfold this summer. ” “Well
then, ” said Harry, sta rting to feel annoyed at her lack of helpfulness, “I
suppose I ’ll just have to sleep out here and wait for morning. ”
“Someone ’s coming down for you, ” said Tonks. “Look. ” A lantern
was bobbing at the distant foot of the castle. Harry was so pleased to
se e it he felt he could even endure Filch ’s wheezy criticisms of his
tardiness and rants about how his timekeeping would improve with
the regular application of thumbscrews. It was not until the glowing
yellow light was ten feet away from them, and Harry had pulled off his
Invisibility Cloak so that he could be
 159 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHT


seen, that he recognized, with a rush of pure loathing, the uplit hooked
nose and long, black, greasy hair of Severus Snape.
“Well, well, well, ” sneered Snape, taking out his wand and tap - ping
the padlock once, so that the chains snaked backward and the gates
creaked open. “Nice of you to turn up, Potter, although you have
evidently decided that the wearing of school robes would de - tract
from yo ur appearance. ”
“I couldn ’t change, I didn ’t have my — ” Harry began, but Snape cut
across him.
“There is no need to wait, Nymphadora, Potter is quite — ah — safe
in my hands. ”
“I meant Hagrid to get the message, ” said Tonks, frowning. “Hagrid
was late for the start -of -term feast, just like Potter here, so I took it
instead. And incidentally, ” said Snape, standing back to allow Harry
to pass him, “I was interested to see your new Patronus. ”
He shut the gates in her face with a loud clang and tapped the chains
with his wand again, so that they slithered, clinking, back into place.
“I think you were better off with the old one, ” said Snape, the malice
in his voice unmistakable. “The new one lo oks weak. ”
As Snape swung the lantern about, Harry saw, fleetingly, a look of
shock and anger on Tonks ’s face. Then she was covered in dark - ness
once more.
“Good night, ” Harry called to her over his shoulder, as he began the
walk up to the school with Snape. “Thanks for . . . everything. ” “See
you, Harry. ”
Snape did not speak for a minute or so. Harry felt as though his body
was generating waves of hatred so powerful that it seemed
 160 ‘

SNAPE VICTORIOUS


incredible that Snape could not feel them burning him. He had
loathed Snape from their first encounter, but Snape had placed him -
self forever and irrevocably beyond the possibility of Harry ’s for -
giveness by his attitude toward Sirius. W hatever Dumbledore said,
Harry had had time to think over the summer, and had concluded that
Snape ’s snide remarks to Sirius about remaining safely hidden while
the rest of the Order of the Phoenix were off fighting Volde - mort had
probably been a powerful factor in Sirius rushing off to the Ministry
the night that he had died. Harry clung to this notion, because it
enabled him to blame Snape, which felt satisfying, and also because he
knew that if anyone was not sorry that Sirius was dead, it was the man
now striding next to him in the darkness. “Fifty points from
Gryffindor for lateness, I think, ” said Snape. “And, let me see, another
twenty for your Muggle attire. You know, I don ’t believe any House
has ever been in negative figures this early in the term : We haven ’t
even started pudding. You might have set a record, Potter. ”
The fury and hatred bubbling inside Harry seemed to blaze white -hot,
but he would rather have been immobilized all the way back to
London than tell Snape why he was late.
“I suppose you wanted to make an entrance, did you? ” Snape
continued. “And with no flying car available you decided that bursting
into the Great Hall halfway through the feast ought to create a
dramatic effect. ”
Still Harry remained silent, though he tho ught his chest might explode.
He knew that Snape had come to fetch him for this, for the few
minutes when he could needle and torment Harry without anyone else
listening.
They reached the castle steps at last and as the great oaken front
 161 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHT


doors swung open into the vast flagged entrance hall, a burst of talk
and laughter and of tinkling plates and glasses greeted them through
the doors standing open into the Great Hall. Harry won - dered
whether he could slip his Invisibility Cloak back on, thereby gaining
his seat at the long Gryffindor table (which, inconve - niently, was the
farthest from the entrance hall) without being noticed. As though he
had read Harry ’s mind, however, Snape said, “No cloak. You can
walk in so that everyone sees you, which is what you wanted, I ’m
sure. ”
Harry turned on the spot and marched straight through the open
doors: anything to get away from Snape. The Great Hall, with its four
long House tables and i ts staff table set at the top of the room, was
decorated as usual with floating candles that made the plates below
glitter and glow. It was all a shimmering blur to Harry, however, who
walked so fast that he was passing the Huf - flepuff table before people
really started to stare, and by the time they were standing up to get a
good look at him, he had spotted Ron and Hermione, sped along the
benches toward them, and forced his way in between them.
“Where ’ve you — blimey, what ’ve you done to your face? ” sa id Ron,
goggling at him along with everyone else in the vicinity. “Why, what ’s
wrong with it? ” said Harry, grabbing a spoon and squinting at his
distorted reflection.
“You ’re covered in blood! ” said Hermione. “Come here — ”
She raised her wand, said “ Tergeo !” and siphoned off the dried
blood.
“Thanks, ” said Harry, feeling his now clean face. “How ’s my nose
looking? ”
“ 162 ‘

SNAPE VICTORIOUS


“Normal, ” said Hermione anxiously. “Why shouldn ’t it? Harry, what
happened? We ’ve been terrified! ”
“I’ll tell you later, ” said Harry curtly. He was very conscious that
Ginny, Neville, Dean, and Seamus were listening in; even Nearly
Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost, had come floating along the
bench to eavesdrop.
“But — ” said Hermione.
“Not now, Hermione, ” said Harry, in a darkly significant voice. He
hoped very much that they would all assume he had been in - volved in
something heroic, preferably involving a couple of Death Eaters and a
dementor. Of course, Malfoy wou ld spread the story as far and wide
as he could, but there was always a chance it wouldn ’t reach too many
Gryffindor ears.
He reached across Ron for a couple of chicken legs and a hand - ful of
chips, but before he could take them they vanished, to be re - placed
with puddings.
“You missed the Sorting, anyway, ” said Hermione, as Ron dived for a
large chocolate gateau.
“Hat say anything interesting? ” asked Harry, taking a piece of treacle
tart.
“More of the same, really . . . advising us all to unite i n the face of our
enemies, you know. ”
“Dumbledore mentioned Voldemort at all? ”
“Not yet, but he always saves his proper speech for after the feast,
doesn ’t he? It can ’t be long now. ”
“Snape said Hagrid was late for the feast — ”
“You ’ve seen Snape? How come? ” said Ron between frenzied
mouthfuls of gateau.
 163 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHT


“Bumped into him, ” said Harry evasively.
“Hagrid was only a few minutes late, ” said Hermione. “Look, he ’s
waving at you, Harry. ”
Harry looked up at the staff table and grinned at Hagrid, who was
indeed waving at him. Hagrid had never quite managed to comport
himself with the dignity of Professor McGonagall, Head of
Gryffindor House, the top of whose head came up to somewhere
between Hagrid ’s elbow and shoulder as they were sitting side by side,
and who was looking disapprovingly at this enthusiastic greet - ing.
Harry was surprised to see the Divination teacher, Professor
Trelawney, sitting on Hagrid ’s othe r side; she rarely left her tower
room, and he had never seen her at the start -of -term feast before. She
looked as odd as ever, glittering with beads and trailing shawls, her
eyes magnified to enormous size by her spectacles. Having al - ways
considered her a bit of a fraud, Harry had been shocked to discover at
the end of the previous term that it had been she who had made the
prediction that caused Lord Voldemort to kill Harry ’s parents and
attack Harry himself. The knowledge had made him even less eager to
find himself in her company, but thankfully, this year he would be
dropping Divination. Her great beaconlike eyes swiveled in his
direction; he hastily looked away to - ward the Slytherin table. Draco
Malfoy was miming the shattering of a nose to raucous laughter and
applause. Harry dropped his gaze to his treacle tart, his insides burning
again. What he would not give to fight Malfoy one -on -one . . .
“So what did Professor Slughorn want? ” Hermione asked. “To know
what really happened at the Ministry, ” said Harry. “Him and everyone
else here, ” sniffed Hermione. “People were interrogating us about it
on the train, weren ’t they, Ron? ”
 164 ‘

SNAPE VICTORIOUS


“Yeah, ” said Ron. “All wanting to know if you really are ‘the Chosen
One ’ — ”
“There has been much talk on that very subject even amongst the
ghosts, ” interrupted Nearly Headless Nick, inclining his barely
connected head toward Harry so that it wobbled dangerously on its
ruff. “I am considered something of a Potter a uthority; it is widely
known that we are friendly. I have assured the spirit community that I
will not pester you for information, however. ‘Harry Potter knows
that he can confide in me with complete confidence, ’ I told them. ‘I
would rather die than betra y his trust. ’”
“That ’s not saying much, seeing as you ’re already dead, ” Ron
observed.
“Once again, you show all the sensitivity of a blunt axe, ” said Nearly
Headless Nick in affronted tones, and he rose into the air and glided
back toward the far end of the Gryffindor table just as Dumbledore
got to his feet at the staff table. The talk and laughter echoing around
the Hall died away almost instantly.
“The very best of evenings to you! ” he said, smiling broadly, his arms
opened wide as though to embrace the whole room.
“What happened to his hand? ” gasped Hermione.
She was not the only one who had noticed. Dumbledore ’s right hand
was as blackened and dead -looking as it had been on the night he had
come to fetch Harry from the Dursleys. Whispers swept the room;
Dumbledore, interpreting them correctly, merely smiled and shook
his purple -and -gold sleeve over his injury. “Nothing to worry about, ”
he said airily. “Now . . . to our new students, welcome, to our old
students, welcome back! Another year full of magical education awaits
you . . . ”
“His hand was like that when I saw him over the summer, ”
 165 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHT


Harry whispered to Hermione. “I thought he ’d have cured it by now,
though . . . or Madam Pomfrey w ould ’ve done. ”
“It looks as if it ’s died, ” said Hermione, with a nauseated expres - sion.
“But there are some injuries you can ’t cure . . . old curses . . . and there
are poisons without antidotes. . . . ”
“. . . and Mr. Filch, our caretaker, has asked me to say that there is a
blanket ban on any joke items bought at the shop called Weasleys ’
Wizard Wheezes.
“Those wishing to play for their House Quidditch teams should give
their names to their Heads of Hous e as usual. We are also look - ing for
new Quidditch commentators, who should do likewise. “We are
pleased to welcome a new member of staff this year. Professor
Slughorn ” — Slughorn stood up, his bald head gleaming in the
candlelight, his big waistcoated be lly casting the table below into
shadow — “is a former colleague of mine who has agreed to resume
his old post of Potions master. ”
“Potions? ”
“ Potions ?”
The word echoed all over the Hall as people wondered whether they
had heard right.
“Potions? ” said Ron and Hermione together, turning to stare at Harry.
“But you said — ”
“Professor Snape, meanwhile, ” said Dumbledore, raising his voice so
that it carried over all the muttering, “will be taking over the position
of Defense Against the Dark Arts t eacher. ”
“No! ” said Harry, so loudly that many heads turned in his direc - tion.
He did not care; he was staring up at the staff table, incensed. How
could Snape be given the Defense Against the Dark Arts job
 166 ‘

SNAPE VICTO RIOUS


after all this time? Hadn ’t it been widely known for years that
Dumbledore did not trust him to do it?
“But Harry, you said that Slughorn was going to be teaching De -
fense Against the Dark Arts! ” said Hermione.
“I thought he was! ” said Harry, racking his brains to remember when
Dumbledore had told him this, but now that he came to think of it, he
was unable to recall Dumbledore ever telling him what Slughorn
would be teaching.
Snape, who was sitting on Dumbledore ’s right, did not stand up at the
mention of his name; he merely raised a hand in lazy ac -
knowledgment of the applause from the Slytherin table, yet Harry was
sure he could detect a look of triumph on the features he loathed so
much.
“Well, there ’s one good thing, ” he said savagely. “Snape ’ll be gone by
the end of the year. ”
“What do you mean? ” asked Ron.
“That job ’s jinxed. No one ’s lasted more than a year. . . . Quirrell
actually died doing it. . . . Personally, I ’m going to keep my fingers
crossed for another dea th. . . . ”
“Harry! ” said Hermione, shocked and reproachful. “He might just go
back to teaching Potions at the end of the year, ” said Ron reasonably.
“That Slughorn bloke might not want to stay long -term. Moody
didn ’t.”
Dumbledore cleared his throat. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were not
the only ones who had been talking; the whole Hall had erupted in a
buzz of conversation at the news that Snape had finally achieved his
heart ’s desire. Seemingly oblivious to the sensational nature of the
news he had just imparted, Dumbledore said nothing more
 167 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHT


about staff appointments, but waited a few seconds to ensure that the
silence was absolute before continuing.
“Now, as everybody in this Hall knows, Lord Voldemort and his
followers are once more at large and gaining in strength. ”
The silence seemed to tauten and strain as Dumbledore spoke. Harry
glanced at Malfoy. Malfoy was not looking at Dumbledore, but
making his fork hover in midair with his wand, as though he found the
headmaster ’s words unworthy of his attention.
“I cannot emphasize strongly enough how dangerous the present
situation is, and how much care each of us at Hogwarts must take to
ensure that we remain safe. The castle ’s magical fortifications have
been strengthened over the summer, we are protected in new and
more powerful ways, but we must still guard scrupulously against
carelessness on the part of any student or member of st aff. I urge you,
therefore, to abide by any security restrictions that your teachers might
impose upon you, however irksome you might find them — in
particular, the rule that you are not to be out of bed af - ter hours. I
implore you, should you notice anyt hing strange or suspicious within
or outside the castle, to report it to a member of staff immediately. I
trust you to conduct yourselves, always, with the utmost regard for
your own and others ’ safety. ”
Dumbledore ’s blue eyes swept over the students befo re he smiled
once more.
“But now, your beds await, as warm and comfortable as you could
possibly wish, and I know that your top priority is to be well - rested
for your lessons tomorrow. Let us therefore say good night. Pip pip! ”
With the usual deafening scraping noise, the benches were moved
back and the hundreds of students began to file out of the
 168 ‘

SNAPE VICTORIOUS


Great Hall toward their dormitories. Harry, who was in no hurry at all
to leave with the gawping crowd, nor to get near enough to Malfoy to
allow him to retell the story of the nose -stamping, lagged behind,
pretending to retie the lace on his trainer, allowing most of the
Gryffindors to draw ahead of him. Hermione had darted ahead to
fulfill her prefect ’s duty of shepherding the first years, but Ron
remained with Harry.
“What really happened to your nose? ” he asked, once they were at the
very back of the throng pressing out of the Hall, and out of earshot of
anyone e lse.
Harry told him. It was a mark of the strength of their friendship that
Ron did not laugh.
“I saw Malfoy miming something to do with a nose, ” he said darkly.
“Yeah, well, never mind that, ” said Harry bitterly. “Listen to what he
was saying before he found out I was there. . . . ”
Harry had expected Ron to be stunned by Malfoy ’s boasts. With what
Harry considered pure pigheadedness, however, Ron was
unimpressed.
“Come on, Harry, he was just showing off for Parkinson. . . . What
kind of mission would You -Know -Who have given him? ” “How
d’you know Voldemort doesn ’t need someone at Hog - warts? It
wouldn ’t be the first — ”
“I wish yeh ’d stop sayin ’ tha ’ name, Harry, ” said a reproachful voice
behind them. Harry looked over his shoulder to see Hagrid shaking
his head.
“Dumbledore uses that name, ” said Harry stubbornly. “Yeah, well,
tha ’s Dumbledore, innit? ” said Hagrid mysteriously. “So how come
yeh were late, Harry? I was worried. ”
 169 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHT


“Got held up on the train, ” said Harry. “Why were you late? ”
“I was with Grawp, ” said Hagrid happily. “Los ’ track o ’ the time. He ’s
got a new home up in the mountains now, Dumbledore fixed it —
nice big cave. He ’s much happier than he was in the forest . We were
havin ’ a good chat. ”
“Really? ” said Harry, taking care not to catch Ron ’s eye; the last time
he had met Hagrid ’s half -brother, a vicious giant with a talent for
ripping up trees by the roots, his vocabulary had comprised five words,
two of whi ch he was unable to pronounce properly.
“Oh yeah, he ’s really come on, ” said Hagrid proudly. “Yeh ’ll be
amazed. I ’m thinkin ’ o’ trainin ’ him up as me assistant. ”
Ron snorted loudly, but managed to pass it off as a violent sneeze.
They were now standing beside the oak front doors. “Anyway, I ’ll see
yeh tomorrow, firs ’ lesson ’s straight after lunch. Come early an ’ yeh
can say hello ter Buck — I mean, Witherwings! ” Raising an arm in
cheery farewell, he headed out of the front doors into the darkness.
Harry and Ron looked at each other. Harry could tell that Ron was
experiencing the same sinking feeling as himself.
“You ’re not taking Care of Magical Creatures, are you? ”
Ron shook his head. “And you ’re not either, are you? ”
Harry shook his head too.
“And Hermione, ” said Ron, “she ’s not, is she? ” Harry shook his head
again. Exactly what Hagrid would say when he realized his three
favorite students had given up his sub - ject, he did not like to think.



 170 ‘

C H A P T E R N I N E










THE HALF - BLOOD
PRINCE




arry and Ron met Hermione in the common room be -
H
fore breakfast next morning. Hoping for some support for
his theory, Harry lost no time in telling Hermione what he had
overheard Malfoy saying on the Hogwarts Express.
“But he was obviously showing off for Parkinson, wasn ’t he? ” in-
terjected Ron quickly, before Hermione could say anything. “Well, ”
she said uncertainly, “I don ’t know. . . . It would be like Malfoy to
make himself seem more important than he is . . . but that ’s a big lie to
tell. . . . ”
“Exactly, ” said Harry, but h e could not press the point, because so

many people were trying to listen in to his conversation, not to
mention staring at him and whispering behind their hands.
“It’s rude to point, ” Ron snapped at a particularly minuscule first -year
boy as they joined the queue to climb out of the portrait hole. The boy,
who had been muttering something about Harry
 171 ‘

CHAPTER NINE


behind his hand to his friend, promptly turned scarlet and toppled out
of the hole in alarm. Ron sniggered.
“I love being a sixth year. And we ’re going to be getting free time
this year. Whole periods when we can just sit up here and relax. ”
“We ’re going to need that time for studying, Ron! ” said Hermi - one,
as they set off d own the corridor.
“Yeah, but not today, ” said Ron. “Today ’s going to be a real doss, I
reckon. ”
“Hold it! ” said Hermione, throwing out an arm and halting a passing
fourth year, who was attempting to push past her with a lime -green
disk clutched tightly i n his hand. “Fanged Frisbees are banned, hand it
over, ” she told him sternly. The scowling boy handed over the
snarling Frisbee, ducked under her arm, and took off after his friends.
Ron waited for him to vanish, then tugged the Frisbee from
Hermione ’s gri p.
“Excellent, I ’ve always wanted one of these. ”
Hermione ’s remonstration was drowned by a loud giggle; Laven - der
Brown had apparently found Ron ’s remark highly amusing. She
continued to laugh as she passed them, glancing back at Ron over her
shoulder . Ron looked rather pleased with himself.
The ceiling of the Great Hall was serenely blue and streaked with frail,
wispy clouds, just like the squares of sky visible through the high
mullioned windows. While they tucked into porridge and eggs and
bacon, Harry and Ron told Hermione about their embar - rassing
conversation with Hagrid the previous evening.
“But he can ’t really think we ’d continue Care of Magical Crea -
tures! ” she said, looking distressed. “I mean, when has any of us ex -
pres sed . . . you know . . . any enthusiasm? ”
“That ’s it, though, innit? ” said Ron, swallowing an entire fried
 172 ‘

THE HALF -BLOOD
PRINCE


egg whole. “We were the ones who made the most effort in classes
because we like Hagrid. But he thinks we liked the stupid subject.
D ’you reckon anyone ’s going to go on to N.E.W.T.? ”
Neither Harry nor Hermione answered; there was no need. They
knew perfectly well that nobody in their year would want to continue
Car e of Magical Creatures. They avoided Hagrid ’s eye and returned his
cheery wave only halfheartedly when he left the staff table ten minutes
later.
After they had eaten, they remained in their places, awaiting Professor
McGonagall ’s descent from the staff t able. The distribu - tion of class
schedules was more complicated than usual this year, for Professor
McGonagall needed first to confirm that everybody had achieved the
necessary O.W.L. grades to continue with their chosen N.E.W.T.s.
Hermione was immediate ly cleared to continue with Charms, Defense
Against the Dark Arts, Transfiguration, Herbology, Arithmancy,
Ancient Runes, and Potions, and shot off to a first - period Ancient
Runes class without further ado. Neville took a lit - tle longer to sort
out; his round face was anxious as Professor McGonagall looked
down his application and then consulted his O.W.L. results.
“Herbology, fine, ” she said. “Professor Sprout will be delighted to see
you back with an ‘Outstanding ’ O.W.L. And you qualify for Defense
Aga inst the Dark Arts with ‘Exceeds Expectations. ’ But the problem
is Transfiguration. I ’m sorry, Longbottom, but an Acceptable ’ really
isn ’t good enough to continue to N.E.W.T level. I just don ’t think
you ’d be able to cope with the coursework. ” Neville hun g his head.
Professor McGonagall peered at him through her square spectacles.
 173 ‘

CHAPTER NINE


“Why do you want to continue with Transfiguration, anyway? I ’ve
never had the impression that you particularly enjoyed it. ” Neville
looked miserable and muttered something about “my grandmother
wants. ”
“Hmph, ” snorted Professor McGonagall. “It’s high time your
grandmother learned to be proud of the grandson she ’s got, rather
than the one she thinks she ought to have — particu larly after what
happened at the Ministry. ”
Neville turned very pink and blinked confusedly; Professor
McGonagall had never paid him a compliment before.
“I’m sorry, Longbottom, but I cannot let you into my N.E.W.T. class.
I see that you have an ‘Exceeds Expectations ’ in Charms, however —
why not try for a N.E.W.T. in Charms? ”
“My grandmother thinks Charms is a soft option, ” mumbled Neville.
“Take Charms, ” said Professor McGonagall, “and I shall drop
Augusta a line reminding her that just because she failed her
Charms O.W.L., the subject is not necessarily worthless. ” Smiling
slightly at the look of delighted incredulity on Neville ’s face, Profes -
sor McGonagall tapped a blank schedule with the tip of her wand and
handed it, now carrying details of his new classes, to Neville. Professor
McGonagall turned next to Parvati Patil, whose first question was
whether Firenze, the handsome centaur, was still teaching Divination.
“He and Professor Trelawne y are dividing classes between them this
year, ” said Professor McGonagall, a hint of disapproval in her voice; it
was common knowledge that she despised the subject of Divination.
“The sixth year is being taken by Professor Trelawney. ”
 174 ‘

THE HALF -BLOOD
PRINCE


Parvati set off for Divination five minutes later looking slightly
crestfallen.
“So, Potter, Potter . . . ” said Professor McGonagall, consulting her
notes as she turned to Harry. “Charms, Defense Agai nst the Dark
Arts, Herbology, Transfiguration . . . all fine. I must say, I was pleased
with your Transfiguration mark, Potter, very pleased. Now, why
haven ’t you applied to continue with Potions? I thought it was your
ambition to become an Auror? ”
“It wa s, but you told me I had to get an ‘Outstanding ’ in my O.W.L.,
Professor. ”
“And so you did when Professor Snape was teaching the subject.
Professor Slughorn, however, is perfectly happy to accept N.E.W.T
students with ‘Exceeds Expectations ’ at O.W.L. Do y ou wish to
proceed with Potions? ”
“Yes, ” said Harry, “but I didn ’t buy the books or any ingredients or
anything — ”
“I’m sure Professor Slughorn will be able to lend you some, ” said
Professor McGonagall. “Very well, Potter, here is your schedule. Oh,
by the way — twenty hopefuls have already put down their names for
the Gryffindor Quidditch team. I shall pass the list to you in due
course and you can fix up trials at your leisure. ”
A few minutes later, Ron was cleared to do the same subjects as Ha rry,
and the two of them left the table together.
“Look, ” said Ron delightedly, gazing at his schedule, “we ’ve got a free
period now . . . and a free period after break . . . and after
lunch . . . excellent !”
They returned to the common room, which was empty apart from a
half dozen seventh years, including Katie Bell, the only
 175 ‘

CHAPTER NINE


remaining member of the original Gryffindor Quidditch team that
Harry had joined in his first year.
“I thought you ’d get that, well done, ” she called over, pointing at the
Captain ’s badge on Harry ’s chest. “Tell me when you call trials! ”
“Don ’t be stupid, ” said Harry, “you don ’t need to try out, I ’ve
watched you play for five years. . . . ”
“You mustn ’t start off like that, ” she said warningly. “For all you
know, there ’s someone much better than me out there. Good teams
have been ruined before now because Captains just kept playing the
old faces, or letting in their friends. . . . ”
Ron looked a little uncomforta ble and began playing with the Fanged
Frisbee Hermione had taken from the fourth -year student. It zoomed
around the common room, snarling and attempting to take bites of
the tapestry. Crookshanks ’s yellow eyes followed it and he hissed
when it came too clo se.
An hour later they reluctantly left the sunlit common room for the
Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom four floors below.
Hermione was already queuing outside, carrying an armful of heavy
books and looking put -upon.
“We got so much homework for Runes, ” she said anxiously, when
Harry and Ron joined her. “A fifteen -inch essay, two transla - tions,
and I ’ve got to read these by Wednesday! ”
“Shame, ” yawned Ron.
“You wait, ” she said resentfully. “I bet Snape gives us loa ds. ” The
classroom door opened as she spoke, and Snape stepped into the
corridor, his sallow face framed as ever by two curtains of greasy black
hair. Silence fell over the queue immediately.
“Inside, ” he said.
 176 ‘

THE HALF -BLOOD
PRINCE


Harry looked around as they entered. Snape had imposed his
personality upon the room already; it was gloomier than usual, as
curtains had been drawn over the windows, and was lit by candle - light.
New pictures adorned the walls , many of them showing peo - ple who
appeared to be in pain, sporting grisly injuries or strangely contorted
body parts. Nobody spoke as they settled down, looking around at the
shadowy, gruesome pictures.
“I have not asked you to take out your books, ” said Snape, clos - ing
the door and moving to face the class from behind his desk;
Hermione hastily dropped her copy of Confronting the Faceless back
into her bag and stowed it under her chair. “I wish to speak to you,
and I want your fullest attention .”
His black eyes roved over their upturned faces, lingering for a fraction
of a second longer on Harry ’s than anyone else ’s.
“You have had five teachers in this subject so far, I believe. ”
You believe . . . like you haven ’t watched them all come and go,
Snape, hoping you ’d be next, thought Harry scathingly.
“Naturally, these teachers will all have had their own methods and
priorities. Given this confusion I am surprised so many of you scraped
an O.W.L. in this subject. I shall be even more surprised if all of you
manage to keep up with the N.E.W.T. work, which will be much more
advanced. ”
Snape set off around the edge of the room, speaking now in a lower
voice; the class craned their n ecks to keep him in view. “The Dark
Arts, ” said Snape, “are many, varied, ever -changing, and eternal.
Fighting them is like fighting a many -headed monster, which, each
time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than
before. You are fi ghting that which is unfixed, mutat - ing,
indestructible. ”
 177 ‘

CHAPTER NINE


Harry stared at Snape. It was surely one thing to respect the Dark
Arts as a dangerous enemy, another to speak of them, as Snape was
doing, with a loving caress in his voice?
“Your defenses, ” said Snape, a little louder, “must therefore be as
flexible and inventive as the arts you seek to undo. These pictures ”
— he indicated a few of them as he swept past — “give a fair r ep -
resentation of what happens to those who suffer, for instance, the
Cruciatus Curse ” — he waved a hand toward a witch who was clearly
shrieking in agony — “feel the Dementor ’s Kiss ” — a wiz - ard lying
huddled and blank -eyed, slumped against a wall — “or provoke the
aggression of the Inferius ” — a bloody mass upon the ground.
“Has an Inferius been seen, then? ” said Parvati Patil in a high -
pitched voice. “Is it definite, is he using them? ”
“The Dark Lord has used Inferi in the past, ” said Snape, “which
means you would be well -advised to assume he might use them again.
Now . . . ”
He set off again around the other side of the classroom toward his
desk, and again, they watched him as he walked, his dark robes
billowing behind him.
“. . . you are, I be lieve, complete novices in the use of nonverbal spells.
What is the advantage of a nonverbal spell? ”
Hermione ’s hand shot into the air. Snape took his time looking
around at everybody else, making sure he had no choice, before saying
curtly, “Very well — Miss Granger? ”
“Your adversary has no warning about what kind of magic you ’re
about to perform, ” said Hermione, “which gives you a split -second
advantage. ”
“An answer copied almost word for word from
The Standard Book
 178 ‘

THE HALF -BLOOD
PRINCE


of Spells, Grade Six, ” said Snape dismissively (over in the corner,
Malfoy sniggered), “but correct in essentials. Yes, those who progress
to using magic without shouting incantations gain an eleme nt of
surprise in their spell -casting. Not all wizards can do this, of course; it
is a question of concentration and mind power which some ” — his
gaze lingered maliciously upon Harry once more — “lack. ” Harry
knew Snape was thinking of their disastrous Occ lumency lessons of
the previous year. He refused to drop his gaze, but glow - ered at Snape
until Snape looked away.
“You will now divide, ” Snape went on, “into pairs. One partner
will attempt to jinx the other without speaking. The other will at -
tempt to repel the jinx in equal silence. Carry on. ”
Although Snape did not know it, Harry had taught at least half the
class (everyone who had been a member of the D.A.) how to perform
a Shield Charm the previous year. None of them had ever cast the
charm without speaking, however. A reasonable amount of cheating
ensued; many people were merely whispering the incantation instead
of saying it aloud. Typically, ten minutes into the lesson Hermione
managed to repel Neville ’s muttered Jelly - Leg s Jinx without uttering a
single word, a feat that would surely have earned her twenty points for
Gryffindor from any reasonable teacher, thought Harry bitterly, but
which Snape ignored. He swept between them as they practiced,
looking just as much like an overgrown bat as ever, lingering to watch
Harry and Ron strug - gling with the task.
Ron, who was supposed to be jinxing Harry, was purple in the face, his
lips tightly compressed to save himself from the temptation of
muttering the incantation. Harry had his wand raised, waiting on
tenterhooks to repel a jinx that seemed unlikely ever to come.
 179 ‘

CHAPTER NINE


“Pathetic, Weasley, ” said Snape, after a while. “Here — let me show
you — ”
He turned his wand on Harry so fast that Harry reacted instinc -
tively; all thought of nonverbal spells forgotten, he yelled, “Protego !”
His Shield Charm was so strong Snape was knocked off -balance and
hit a desk. The whole class had looked around and n ow watched as
Snape righted himself, scowling.
“Do you remember me telling you we are practicing nonverbal
spells, Potter? ”
“Yes, ” said Harry stiffly.
“Yes, sir. ”
“There ’s no need to call me ‘sir, ’ Professor. ”
The words had escaped him before he knew what he was saying.
Several people gasped, including Hermione. Behind Snape, how - ever,
Ron, Dean, and Seamus grinned appreciatively.
“Detention, Saturday night, my office, ” said Snape. “I do not
take cheek from anyone, Potter . . . not even ‘ the Chosen One. ’”
“That was brilliant, Harry! ” chortled Ron, once they were safely on
their way to break a short while later.
“You really shouldn ’t have said it, ” said Hermione, frowning at Ron.
“What made you? ”
“He tried to jinx me, in case you didn ’t notice! ” fumed Harry. “I had
enough of that during those Occlumency lessons! Why doesn ’t he use
another guinea pig for a change? What ’s Dumbledore playing at,
anyway, letting him teach Defense? Did you hear him talki ng
about the Dark Arts? He loves them! All that unfixed, indestructible
stuff — ”
“Well, ” said Hermione, “I thought he sounded a bit like you. ”
“Like me ?”
 180 ‘

THE HALF -BLOOD
PRINCE


“Yes, when you were telling us what it ’s like to face Voldemort. You
said it wasn ’t just memorizing a bunch of spells, you said it was just
you and your brains and your guts — well, wasn ’t that what Snape was
saying? That it really comes down to being brave and quick -thinking? ”
Harry was so disarmed that she had thought his words as well
worth memorizing as The Standard Book of Spells that he did not
argue.
“Harry! Hey, Harry! ”
Harry looked around; Jack Sloper, one of the Beaters on last year ’s
Gryffindor Quidditch team, was hurrying toward him hold - ing a roll
of parchment.
“For you, ” panted Sloper. “Listen, I heard you ’re the new Cap - tain.
When ’re you holding trials? ”
“I’m not sure yet, ” said Harry, thinking privately that Sloper would be
very lucky to get back on the team. “I’ll let you know. ” “Oh, right. I
was hoping it ’d be this weekend — ”
But Harry was not listening; he had just recognized the thin, slanting
writing on the parchment. Leaving Sloper in mid -sentence, he hurried
away wi th Ron and Hermione, unrolling the parchment as he went.
Dear Harry,
I would like to start our private lessons this Saturday.
Kindly come along to my office at 8 P.M. I hope you are enjoy -
ing your first day back at school.
Yours sincerely,
Albus Dumbledore
P.S. I enjoy Acid Pops.
 181 ‘

CHAPTER NINE


“He enjoys Acid Pops? ” said Ron, who had read the message over
Harry ’s shoulder and was looking perplexed.
“It’s the password to get past the gargoyle outside his study, ” said
Harry in a low voice. “Ha! Snape ’s not going to be pleased. . . . I won ’t
be able to do his detention! ”
He, Ron, and Hermione spent the whole of break speculating on what
Dumbledore would teach Harry. Ron thought it most likely to be
spectacular jinxes and hexes of the type the Death Eaters would not
know. Hermione said such things were illegal, and thought it much
more likely that Dumbledore wanted to teach Harry advanced
Defensive magic. After break, she went off to Arithmancy while
Harry and Ron returned to the common room, where they grudgingly
started Snape ’s homework. This turned out to be so complex that they
still had not finished when Hermione joined them for their after -lunch
free period (though she consider - ably speeded up t he process). They
had only just finished when the bell rang for the afternoon ’s double
Potions and they beat the fa - miliar path down to the dungeon
classroom that had, for so long, been Snape ’s.
When they arrived in the corridor they saw that there were only a
dozen people progressing to N.E.W.T. level. Crabbe and Goyle had
evidently failed to achieve the required O.W.L. grade, but four
Slytherins had made it through, including Malfoy. Four Raven - claws
were there, and one Hufflepuff, Ernie Macmillan, who m Harry liked
despite his rather pompous manner.
“Harry, ” Ernie said portentously, holding out his hand as Harry
approached, “didn ’t get a chance to speak in Defense Against the Dark
Arts this morning. Good lesson, I thought, but Shield
 182 ‘

THE HALF -BLOOD
PRINCE


Charms are old hat, of course, for us old D.A. lags . . . And how are
you, Ron — Hermione? ”
Before they could say more than “fine, ” the dungeon door opened
and Slughorn ’s belly preceded him out of the door. As they filed into
the room, his great walrus mustache curved above his beaming mouth,
and he greeted Harry and Zabini with particular enthusiasm.
The dungeon was, most unusually, already full of vapors and odd
smells. Harry, Ron, and Hermione sniffed interestedly as they passed
large, bubbling cauldrons. The four Slytherins took a table together, as
did the four Ravenclaws. This left Harry, Ron, and Hermione to share
a table with Ernie. They chose the one ne arest a gold -colored cauldron
that was emitting one of the most seductive scents Harry had ever
inhaled: Somehow it reminded him simulta - neously of treacle tart, the
woody smell of a broomstick handle, and something flowery he
thought he might have smelle d at the Burrow. He found that he was
breathing very slowly and deeply and that the potion ’s fumes seemed
to be filling him up like drink. A great contentment stole over him; he
grinned across at Ron, who grinned back lazily.
“Now then, now then, now th en, ” said Slughorn, whose massive
outline was quivering through the many shimmering vapors. “Scales
out, everyone, and potion kits, and don ’t forget your copies
of Advanced Potion -Making. . . . ”
“Sir? ” said Harry, raising his hand.
“Harry, m ’boy? ”
“I haven ’t got a book or scales or anything — nor ’s Ron — we didn ’t
realize we ’d be able to do the N.E.W.T., you see — ”
 183 ‘

CHAPTER NINE


“Ah, yes, Professor McGonagall did mention . . . not to worry, my
dear boy, not to worry at all. You can use ingredients from the store
cupboard today, and I ’m sure we can lend you some scales, and we ’ve
got a small stock of old books here, they ’ll do until you can write to
Flourish and Blotts. . . . ”
Slughorn stro de over to a corner cupboard and, after a moment ’s
foraging, emerged with two very battered -looking copies of Ad -
vanced Potion -Making by Libatius Borage, which he gave to Harry
and Ron along with two sets of tarnished scales.
“Now then, ” said Slughorn, returning to the front of the class and
inflating his already bulging chest so that the buttons on his waistcoat
threatened to burst off, “I’ve prepared a few potions for you to have a
look at, just out of interest, you know. These are the kind of thing you
ought to be able to make after completing your N.E.W.T.s. You ought
to have heard of ’em, even if you haven ’t made ’em yet. Anyone tell
me what this one is? ”
He indicated the cauldron nearest the Slytherin table. Harry raised
himself sli ghtly in his seat and saw what looked like plain water boiling
away inside it.
Hermione ’s well -practiced hand hit the air before anybody else ’s;
Slughorn pointed at her.
“It’s Veritaserum, a colorless, odorless potion that forces the drinker
to tell the truth, ” said Hermione.
“Very good, very good! ” said Slughorn happily. “Now, ” he con -
tinued, pointing at the cauldron nearest the Ravenclaw table, “this one
here is pretty well known. . . . Featured in a few Ministry leaflets lately
too . . . Who can — ?”
Hermione ’s hand was fastest once more.
 184 ‘

THE HALF -BLOOD
PRINCE


“It’s Polyjuice Potion, sir, ” she said.
Harry too had recognized the slow -bubbling, mudlike substance in the
second cauldron, but did not resent Hermione getting the credit for
answering the question; she, after all, was the one who had succeeded
in making it, back in their second year.
“Excellent, excellent! Now, this one here . . . yes, my dear? ” said
Slughorn, now looking slightly bemused, as Hermione ’s hand
punched the air again.
“It’s Amortentia! ”
“It is indeed. It seems almost foolish to ask, ” said Slughorn, who was
looking mightily impressed, “but I assume you know what it does? ”
“It’s the most powerful love potion in the world! ” said Hermione.
“Quite right! You recognized it, I suppose, by its distinctive
mother -of -pearl sheen? ”
“And the steam rising in characteristic spirals, ” said Hermione
enthusiastically, “and it ’s supposed to smell differently to each of us,
according to what attracts us, and I can smell freshly mown grass and
new parchment and — ”
But she turned slightly pink and did not complete the sentence. “May
I ask your name, my dear? ” said Slughorn, ignoring Her - mione ’s
embarrassment.
“Hermione Granger, sir. ”
“Granger? Granger? Can you possibly be related to Hector
Dagworth -Granger, who founded the Most Extraordinary Society of
Potioneers? ”
“No, I don ’t think so, sir. I ’m Muggle -born, you see. ” Harry saw
Malfoy lean close to Nott and whisper something;
 185 ‘

CHAPTER NINE


both of them sniggered, but Slughorn showed no dismay; on the
contrary, he beamed and looked from Hermione to Harry, who was
sitting next to he r.
“Oho! ‘One of my best friends is Muggle -born, and she ’s the best in
our year !’ I’m assuming this is the very friend of whom you spoke,
Harry? ”
“Yes, sir, ” said Harry.
“Well, well, take twenty well -earned points for Gryffindor, Miss
Granger, ” said Slughorn genially.
Malfoy looked rather as he had done the time Hermione had punched
him in the face. Hermione turned to Harry with a radiant expression
and whispered, “Did you really tell him I ’m the best in the year? Oh,
Harry! ”
“Well, what ’s so impressive about that? ” whispered Ron, who for
some reason looked annoyed. “You are the best in the year — I’d’ve
told him so if he ’d asked me! ”
Hermione smiled but made a “shhing ” gesture, so that they could hear
what Slughorn was saying. Ron looked slightly disgruntled.
“Amortentia doesn ’t really create love, of course. It is impossible
to manufacture or imitate love. No, this will simply cause a power - ful
infatuation or obsession. It is probably the most dangerous and
powerful potion in this room — oh yes, ” he said, nodding gravely at
Malfoy and Nott, both of whom were smirking skeptically. “When
you have seen as much of life as I have, you will not un - derestimate
the power of obsessive love. . . .
“And now, ” said Slughorn, “it is time for us to start work. ” “Sir, you
haven ’t told us what ’s in this one, ” said Ernie Macmil - lan, pointing at
a small black cauldron standing on Slughorn ’s desk. The potion within
was splashing about merrily; it was the
 186 ‘

THE HALF -BLOOD
PRINCE


color of molten gold, and large drops were leaping like goldfish above
the surface, though not a particle had spilled.
“Oho, ” said Slughorn again. Harry was sure that Slughorn had not
forgotten the potion at all, but had waited to be asked for dra -
matic effect. “Yes. That. Well, that one, ladies and gentlemen, is a
most curious little potion called Felix Felicis. I take it, ” he turned,
smiling, to look at Hermione, who had let out an audible gasp, “that
you know what Felix Felicis does, Miss Granger? ”
“It’s liquid luck, ” said Hermione excitedly. “It makes you lucky! ” The
whole class seemed to sit up a little straighten Now all Harry could see
of Malfoy was the back of his slee k blond head, because he was at last
giving Slughorn his full and undivided attention.
“Quite right, take another ten points for Gryffindor. Yes, it ’s a funny
little potion, Felix Felicis, ” said Slughorn. “Desperately tricky to make,
and disastrous to get wrong. However, if brewed correctly, as this has
been, you will find that all your endeavors tend to succeed . . . at least
until the effects wear off. ”
“Why don ’t people drink it all the time, sir? ” said Terry Boot eagerly .
“Because if taken in excess, it causes giddiness, recklessness, and
dangerous overconfidence, ” said Slughorn. “Too much of a good
thing, you know . . . highly toxic in large quantities. But taken sparingly,
and very occasionally . . . ”
“Have you ev er taken it, sir? ” asked Michael Corner with great
interest.
“Twice in my life, ” said Slughorn. “Once when I was twenty - four,
once when I was fifty -seven. Two tablespoonfuls taken with breakfast.
Two perfect days. ”
 187 ‘

CHAPTER NINE


He gazed dreamily into the distance. Whether he was playacting or not,
thought Harry, the effect was good.
“And that, ” said Slughorn, apparently coming back to earth, “is what
I shall be offering as a prize in this lesson. ”
There was s ilence in which every bubble and gurgle of the sur -
rounding potions seemed magnified tenfold.
“One tiny bottle of Felix Felicis, ” said Slughorn, taking a mi - nuscule
glass bottle with a cork in it out of his pocket and showing it to them
all. “Enough for twelve hours ’ luck. From dawn till dusk, you will be
lucky in everything you attempt.
“Now, I must give you warning that Felix Felicis is a banned sub -
stance in organized competitions . . . sporting events, for instance,
examinations, or elections. So t he winner is to use it on an ordinary
day only . . . and watch how that ordinary day becomes extraor - dinary!
“So, ” said Slughorn, suddenly brisk, “how are you to win my
fabulous prize? Well, by turning to page ten of Advanced Potion -
Making. We have a little over an hour left to us, which should be
time for you to make a decent attempt at the Draught of Living Death.
I know it is more complex than anything you have at - tempted before,
and I do not expect a perfect potion from any - body. The person who
does best, however, will win little Felix here. Off you go! ”
There was a scraping as everyone drew their cauldrons toward them
and some loud clunks as people began adding weights to their scales,
but nobody spoke. The concentration within the r oom was almost
tangible. Harry saw Malfoy riffling feverishly through
his copy of Advanced Potion -Making. It could not have been clearer
 188 ‘

THE HALF -BLOOD
PRINCE


that Malfoy really wanted that lucky day. Harry bent swiftly over the
tattered book Slughorn had lent him.
To his annoyance he saw that the previous owner had scribbled all
over the pages, so that the margins were as black as the printed
portions. Bending low to decipher the ingredients (even here, the
previous owner had made annotations and crossed things out) Harry
hurried off toward the store cupboard to find what he needed. As he
dashed back to his cauldron, he saw Malfoy cutting up valerian roots
as f ast as he could.
Everyone kept glancing around at what the rest of the class was doing;
this was both an advantage and a disadvantage of Potions, that it was
hard to keep your work private. Within ten minutes, the whole place
was full of bluish steam. H ermione, of course, seemed to have
progressed furthest. Her potion already resembled the “smooth, black
currant -colored liquid ” mentioned as the ideal halfway stage.
Having finished chopping his roots, Harry bent low over his book
again. It was really ver y irritating, having to try and decipher the
directions under all the stupid scribbles of the previous owner, who
for some reason had taken issue with the order to cut up the
sopophorous bean and had written in the alternative instruction:
Crush with flat side of silver dagger,
releases juice better than cutting.

“Sir, I think you knew my grandfather, Abraxas Malfoy? ” Harry
looked up; Slughorn was just passing the Slytherin table. “Yes, ” said
Slughorn, without looking at Malfoy, “I was sorry to
 189 ‘

CHAPTER NINE


hear he had died, although of course it wasn ’t unexpected, dragon pox
at his age. . . . ”
And he walked away. Harry bent back over his cauldron, smirk - ing.
He could tell that Malfoy had expected to be treated like Harry or
Zabini; perhaps even hoped for some preferential treatment of the
type he had learned to expect from Snape. It looked as though Malfoy
would have to rely on nothing but talent to win the bottle of Felix
Felicis.
The sopophorous bean was proving very difficult to cut up. Harry
turned to Hermione.
“Can I borrow your silver knife? ”
She nodded impatiently, not taking her eyes off her potion, which was
still deep purple, though accordi ng to the book ought to be turning a
light shade of lilac by now.
Harry crushed his bean with the flat side of the dagger. To his as -
tonishment, it immediately exuded so much juice he was amazed the
shriveled bean could have held it all. Hastily scooping it all into the
cauldron he saw, to his surprise, that the potion immediately turned
exactly the shade of lilac described by the textbook.
His annoyance with the previous owner vanishing on the spot, Harry
now squinted at the next line of instructions. According to the book,
he had to stir counterclockwise until the potion turned clear as water.
According to the addition the previous owner had made, however, he
ought to add a clockwise stir after every seventh counterclockwise stir.
Could the old owner be right twice?
Harry stirred counterclockwise, held his breath, and stirred once
clockwise. The effect was immediate. The potion turned palest pink.
“How are you doing that? ” demanded Hermione, who w as red -
 190 ‘

THE HALF -BLOOD
PRINCE


faced and whose hair was growing bushier and bushier in the fumes
from her cauldron; her potion was still resolutely purple.
“Add a clockwise stir — ”
“No, no, the book says counterclockwise! ” she snapped. Harry
shrugged and continued what he was doing. Seven stirs
counterclockwise, one clockwise, pause . . . seven stirs counter -
clockwise, one stir clockwise . . .
Across the table, Ron was cursing fl uently under his breath; his potion
looked like liquid licorice. Harry glanced around. As far as he could
see, no one else ’s potion had turned as pale as his. He felt elated,
something that had certainly never happened before in this dungeon.
“And time ’s . . . up! ” called Slughorn. “Stop stirring, please! ” Slughorn
moved slowly among the tables, peering into caul - drons. He made no
comment, but occasionally gave the potions a stir or a sniff. At last he
reached the table where Harry, Ron, Her - mione, and E rnie were
sitting. He smiled ruefully at the tarlike substance in Ron ’s cauldron.
He passed over Ernie ’s navy concoc - tion. Hermione ’s potion he gave
an approving nod. Then he saw Harry ’s, and a look of incredulous
delight spread over his face.
“The cle ar winner! ” he cried to the dungeon. “Excellent, excel - lent,
Harry! Good lord, it ’s clear you ’ve inherited your mother ’s tal - ent.
She was a dab hand at Potions, Lily was! Here you are, then, here you
are — one bottle of Felix Felicis, as promised, and us e it well! ”
Harry slipped the tiny bottle of golden liquid into his inner pocket,
feeling an odd combination of delight at the furious looks on the
Slytherins ’ faces and guilt at the disappointed expression on
Hermione ’s. Ron looked simply dumbfounded.
 191 ‘

CHAPTER NINE


“How did you do that? ” he whispered to Harry as they left the
dungeon.
“Got lucky, I suppose, ” said Harry, because Malfoy was within
earshot.
Once they were securely ensconced at the Gryffindor table for dinner,
however, he felt safe enough to tell them. Hermione ’s face became
stonier with every word he uttered.
“I s ’pose you think I cheated? ” he finished, aggravated by her
expression.
“Well, it wasn ’t exactly your own work, was it? ” she said stiffly. “He
only followed different instructions to ours, ” said Ron. “Could ’ve
been a catastrophe, couldn ’t it? But he took a risk and it paid off. ” He
heaved a sigh. “Slughorn could ’ve handed me that
book, but no, I get the one no one ’s ever written on. Puked on, by
the look of page fifty -two, but — ”
“Hang on, ” said a voice close by Harry ’s left ear and he caught a
sudden waft of that flowery smell he had picked up in Slughorn ’s
dungeon. He looked around and saw that Ginny had joined th em.
“Did I hear right? You ’ve been taking orders from something some -
one wrote in a book, Harry? ”
She looked alarmed and angry. Harry knew what was on her mind at
once.
“It’s nothing, ” he said reassuringly, lowering his voice. “It’s not like,
you kn ow, Riddle ’s diary. It ’s just an old textbook someone ’s scribbled
on. ”
“But you ’re doing what it says? ”
“I just tried a few of the tips written in the margins, honestly, Ginny,
there ’s nothing funny — ”
“Ginny ’s got a point, ” said Hermione, perking up at once. “We
 192 ‘

THE HALF -BLOOD
PRINCE


ought to check that there ’s nothing odd about it. I mean, all these
funny instructions, who knows? ”
“Hey! ” said Harry indignantly, as she pulled his copy of
Advanced Potion -Making out of his bag and raised her wand.
“ Specialis Revelio !” she said, rapping it smartly on the front cover.
Nothing whatsoever happened. The book simply lay there, look - ing
old and dirty and dog -eared.
“Finished? ” said Harry irritably. “Or d ’you want to wait and see if it
does a few backflips? ”
“It seems all right, ” said Hermione, still staring at the book sus -
piciously. “I mean, it really does seem to be . . . just a textbook. ”
“Good. Then I ’ll have it back, ” said Harry, snatching it off the table,
but it slipped from his hand and landed open on the floor. Nobody
else was looking. Harry bent low to retrieve the book, and a s he did so,
he saw something scribbled along the bottom of the back cover in the
same small, cramped handwriting as the in - structions that had won
him his bottle of Felix Felicis, now safely hidden inside a pair of socks
in his trunk upstairs.
This Boo k is the Property of the Half -Blood Prince.










 193 ‘

C H A P T E R T E N










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GAUNT




or the rest of the week ’s Potions lessons Harry continued to
F
follow the Half -Blood Prince ’s instructions wherever they de -
viated from Libatius Borage ’s, with the result that by their fourth
lesson Slughorn was raving about Harry ’s abilities, saying that he had
rarely taught anyone so talented. Neither Ron nor Hermione was
delighted by this. Although Harry had offered to share his book with
both of them, Ron had more difficulty deciphering the handwriting
than Harry did, and could not keep asking Harry to read aloud or it
might look suspicious. Hermione, meanwhile, was resolutely plowing
on with what she called the “official ” instruc - tions, but becoming

increasingly bad -tempered as they yielded poorer results than the
Prince ’s.
Harry wondered vaguely who the Half -Blood Prince had been.
Although the amount of homework they had been given prevented
him from reading the whole of his copy of Advanced Potion -Making,
he had skimmed through it sufficiently to see that there was barely
 194 ‘

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a page on which the Prince had not made additional notes, not all of
them concerned with potion -making. Here and there were direc - tions
for what looked like spells that the Prince had made up himself.
“Or herself, ” said Hermione irritably, overhearing Harry point - ing
some of these out to Ron in the common room on Satu rday evening.
“It might have been a girl. I think the handwriting looks more like a
girl ’s than a boy ’s.”
“The Half -Blood Prince, he was called, ” Harry said. “How many
girls have been Princes? ”
Hermione seemed to have no answer to this. She merely sc owled
and twitched her essay on The Principles of Rematerialization away
from Ron, who was trying to read it upside down.
Harry looked at his watch and hurriedly put the old copy of
Advanced Potion -Making back into his bag.
“It’s five to eight, I ’d better go, I ’ll be late for Dumbledore. ”
“Ooooh! ” gasped Hermione, looking up at once. “Good luck! We ’ll
wait up, we want to hear what he teaches you! ”
“Hope it goes okay, ” said Ron, and the pair of them watched Harry
leave through the portrait hole.
Harry proceeded through deserted corridors, though he had to step
hastily behind a statue when Professor Trelawney appeared around a
corner, muttering to herself as she shuffled a pack of dirty -looking
playing cards, reading them as she walked.
“Two of spades: conflict, ” she murmured, as she passed the place
where Harry crouched, hidden. “Seven of spades: an ill omen. Ten of
spades: violence. Knave of spades: a dark young man, possibly
troubled, one who dislikes the questioner — ”
Sh e stopped dead, right on the other side of Harry ’s statue.
 195 ‘

CHAPTER TEN


“Well, that can ’t be right, ” she said, annoyed, and Harry heard her
reshuffling vigorously as she set off again, leaving nothing but a whiff
of cooking sherry behind her. Harry waited until he was quite sure she
had gone, then hurried off again until he reached the spot in the
seventh -floor corridor where a single gargoyle stood against the wall.
“Acid Pops, ” said Harry, and the gargoy le leapt aside; the wall behind
it slid apart, and a moving spiral stone staircase was re - vealed, onto
which Harry stepped, so that he was carried in smooth circles up to
the door with the brass knocker that led to Dumble - dore ’s office.
Harry knocked.
“Come in, ” said Dumbledore ’s voice.
“Good evening, sir, ” said Harry, walking into the headmaster ’s office.
“Ah, good evening, Harry. Sit down, ” said Dumbledore, smil - ing. “I
hope you ’ve had an enjoyable first week back at school? ” “Yes,
thanks, sir, ” said Harry.
“You must have been busy, a detention under your belt already! ”
“Er, ” began Harry awkwardly, but Dumbledore did not look too
stern.
“I have arranged with Professor Snape that you will do your de -
tention next Saturday inste ad. ”
“Right, ” said Harry, who had more pressing matters on his mind than
Snape ’s detention, and now looked around surreptitiously for some
indication of what Dumbledore was planning to do with him this
evening. The circular office looked just as it always did; the delicate
silver instruments stood on spindle -legged tables, puff - ing smoke and
whirring; portraits of previous headmasters and
 196 ‘

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GAUNT


headmistresses dozed in their frames, and Dumbledore ’s magnifi -
cent phoenix, Fawkes, stood on his perch behind the door, watch - ing
Harry with bright interest. It did not even look as though
Dumbledore had cleared a space for dueling practice.
“So, Harry, ” said Dumbledore, in a businesslike voice. “You ha ve
been wondering, I am sure, what I have planned for you dur - ing these
— for want of a better word — lessons? ”
“Yes, sir. ”
“Well, I have decided that it is time, now that you know what
prompted Lord Voldemort to try and kill you fifteen years ago, fo r
you to be given certain information. ”
There was a pause.
“You said, at the end of last term, you were going to tell me
everything, ” said Harry. It was hard to keep a note of accusation from
his voice. “Sir, ” he added.
“And so I did, ” said Dumbledore placidly. “I told you everything I
know. From this point forth, we shall be leaving the firm founda - tion
of fact and journeying together through the murky marshes of
memory into thickets of wildest guesswork. From here on in, Harry, I
may be as woefully wrong as Humphrey Belcher, who be - lieved the
time was ripe for a cheese cauldron. ”
“But you think you ’re right? ” said Harry.
“Naturally I do, but as I have already proven to you, I make mis - takes
like the next man. In fact, being — fo rgive me — rather clev - erer
than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger. ”
“Sir, ” said Harry tentatively, “does what you ’re going to tell me have
anything to do with the prophecy? Will it help me . . . survive? ”
 197 ‘

CHAPTER TEN


“It has a very great deal to do with the prophecy, ” said Dumble - dore,
as casually as if Harry had asked him about the next day ’s weather,
“and I certainly hope that it will help you to survive. ” Dumbledore got
to his feet and walked around the desk, past Harry, who turned eagerly
in his seat to watch Dumbledore bend - ing over the cabinet beside the
door. When Dumbledore straight - ened up, he was holding a familiar
shallow stone basin etched with o dd markings around its rim. He
placed the Pensieve on the desk in front of Harry.
“You look worried. ”
Harry had indeed been eyeing the Pensieve with some appre - hension.
His previous experiences with the odd device that stored and revealed
thoughts and memories, though highly instructive, had also been
uncomfortable. The last time he had disturbed its contents, he had
seen much more than he would have wished. But Dumbledore was
smiling.
“This time, you enter the Pensieve with me . . . and, even more
un usually, with permission. ”
“Where are we going, sir? ”
“For a trip down Bob Ogden ’s memory lane, ” said Dumbledore,
pulling from his pocket a crystal bottle containing a swirling
silvery -white substance.
“Who was Bob Ogden? ”
“He was employed by the Dep artment of Magical Law Enforce -
ment, ” said Dumbledore. “He died some time ago, but not before I
had tracked him down and persuaded him to confide these recol -
lections to me. We are about to accompany him on a visit he made in
the course of his duties. If you will stand, Harry . . . ”
 198 ‘

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GAUNT


But Dumbledore was having difficulty pulling out the stopper of the
crystal bottle: His injured hand seemed stiff and painful. “Shall —
shall I, sir? ”
“No matter, Harry — ”
Dumbledore pointed his wand at the bottle and the cork flew out.
“Sir — how did you injure your hand? ” Harry asked again, look - ing at
the blackened fingers with a mixture of revulsion and pity. “Now is
not the moment for that story, Harry. Not yet. We have an
appointment with Bob Ogden. ”
Dumbledore tipped the silvery contents of the bottle into the
Pensieve, where they swirled and shimmered, neither liquid nor gas.
“After you, ” said Dumbledore, g esturing toward the bowl.
Harry bent forward, took a deep breath, and plunged his face into the
silvery substance. He felt his feet leave the office floor; he was falling,
falling through whirling darkness and then, quite sud - denly, he was
blinking in dazzling sunlight. Before his eyes had adjusted,
Dumbledore landed beside him.
They were standing in a country lane bordered by high, tangled
hedgerows, beneath a summer sky as bright and blue as a forget -
me -not. Some ten feet in front of them stood a sh ort, plump man
wearing enormously thick glasses that reduced his eyes to molelike
specks. He was reading a wooden signpost that was sticking out of the
brambles on the left -hand side of the road. Harry knew this must be
Ogden; he was the only person in sig ht, and he was also wearing the
strange assortment of clothes so often chosen by inex - perienced
wizards trying to look like Muggles: in this case, a frock coat and spats
over a striped one -piece bathing costume. Before
 199 ‘

C HAPTER TEN


Harry had time to do more than register his bizarre appearance,
however, Ogden had set off at a brisk walk down the lane.
Dumbledore and Harry followed. As they passed the wooden sign,
Harry looked up at its two arms. The one pointing back the way they
had come read: Great Hangleton, 5 miles. The arm pointing after
Ogden said Little Hangleton, 1 mile.
They walked a short way with nothing to see but the hedgerows, the
wide blue sky overhead and the swishing, f rock -coated figure ahead.
Then the lane curved to the left and fell away, sloping steeply down
a hillside, so that they had a sudden, unexpected view of a whole valley
laid out in front of them. Harry could see a vil - lage, undoubtedly
Little Hangleton, nestled between two steep hills, its church and
graveyard clearly visible. Across the valley, set on the opposite hillside,
was a handsome manor house surrounded by a wide expanse of
velvety green lawn.
Ogden had bro ken into a reluctant trot due to the steep down - ward
slope. Dumbledore lengthened his stride, and Harry hurried to keep
up. He thought Little Hangleton must be their final desti - nation and
wondered, as he had done on the night they had found Slughorn, wh y
they had to approach it from such a distance. He soon discovered
that he was mistaken in thinking that they were going to the village,
however. The lane curved to the right and when they rounded the
corner, it was to see the very edge of Og - den ’s frock coat vanishing
through a gap in the hedge. Dumbledore and Harry followed him
onto a narrow dirt track bordered by higher and wilder hedgerows
than those they had left behind. The path was crooked, rocky, and
potholed, sloping down - hill like the last one, and it seemed to be
heading for a patch of dark trees a little below them. Sure enough, the
track soon opened up
 200 ‘

THE HOUSE OF
GAUNT


at the copse, and Dumbledore and Harry came to a halt behind Ogden,
who had stopped and drawn his wand.
Despite the cloudless sky, the old trees ahead cast deep, dark, cool
shadows, and it was a few seconds before Harry ’s eyes discerned the
building half -hidden amongst the tangle of trunks. It seemed to him a
very strange location to choose for a house, or else an odd decision to
leave the trees growing nearby, blocking all light and the view of the
valley below. He wondered whether it was inhabited; its walls were
mossy and so many tiles had fallen off the roof tha t the rafters were
visible in places. Nettles grew all around it, their tips reaching the
windows, which were tiny and thick with grime. Just as he had
concluded that nobody could possibly live there, however, one of the
windows was thrown open with a clat ter, and a thin trickle of steam or
smoke issued from it, as though somebody was cooking. Ogden
moved forward quietly and, it seemed to Harry, rather cautiously. As
the dark shadows of the trees slid over him, he stopped again, staring
at the front door, to which somebody had nailed a dead snake.
Then there was a rustle and a crack, and a man in rags dropped from
the nearest tree, landing on his feet right in front of Ogden, who leapt
backward so fast he stood on the tails of his frock coat and stumbled.
“ You ’re not welcome. ”
The man standing before them had thick hair so matted with dirt it
could have been any color. Several of his teeth were missing. His eyes
were small and dark and stared in opposite directions. He might have
looked comical, but he did not; the effect was frighten - ing, and Harry
could not blame Ogden for backing away several more paces before
he spoke.
 201 ‘

CHAPTER TEN


“Er — good morning. I ’m from the Ministry of Magic — ”
“ You ’re not welcome. ”
“Er — I’m sorry — I don ’t understand you, ” said Ogden nervously.
Harry thought Ogden was being extremely dim; the stranger was
making himself very clear in Harry ’s opinion, particularly as he was
brandishing a wand in one hand and a short and rather blood y knife in
the other.
“You understand him, I ’m sure, Harry? ” said Dumbledore quietly.
“Yes, of course, ” said Harry, slightly nonplussed. “Why can ’t Ogden
— ?”
But as his eyes found the dead snake on the door again, he sud - denly
understood.
“He ’s speaking Parseltongue? ”
“Very good, ” said Dumbledore, nodding and smiling. The man in rags
was now advancing on Ogden, knife in one hand, wand in the other.
“Now, look — ” Ogden began, but too late: There was a bang, and
Ogden was on the ground, clutc hing his nose, while a nasty yellowish
goo squirted from between his fingers.
“Morfin! ” said a loud voice.
An elderly man had come hurrying out of the cottage, banging the
door behind him so that the dead snake swung pathetically. This man
was shorter than the first, and oddly proportioned; his shoulders were
very broad and his arms overlong, which, with his bright brown eyes,
short scrubby hair, and wrinkled face, gave him the look of a powerful,
aged monkey. He came to a halt beside the man with the k nife, who
was now cackling with laughter at the sight of Ogden on the ground.
 202 ‘

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GAUNT


“Ministry, is it? ” said the older man, looking down at Ogden.
“Correct! ” said Ogden angrily, dabbing his face. “And you, I take it,
are Mr. Gaunt? ”
“S’right, ” said Gaunt. “Got you in the face, did he? ”
“Yes, he did! ” snapped Ogden.
“Should ’ve made your presence known, shouldn ’t you? ” said Gaunt
aggressively. “This is private property. Can ’t just walk in here and not
expect my son to defend himself. ”
“Defend himself against what, man? ” said Ogden, clambering back to
his feet.
“Busybodies. Intruders. Muggles and filth. ”
Ogden pointed his wand at his own nose, which was still issuing large
amounts of what looked like yellow pus, and the flow stopped at once.
Mr. Gaunt spoke out of the corner of his mouth to Morfin.
“ Get in the house. Don ’t argue. ”
This time, ready for it, Harry recognized Parseltongue; even while he
could understa nd what was being said, he distinguished the weird
hissing noise that was all Ogden could hear. Morfin seemed to be on
the point of disagreeing, but when his father cast him a threatening
look he changed his mind, lumbering away to the cottage with an odd
rolling gait and slamming the front door behind him, so that the snake
swung sadly again.
“It’s your son I ’m here to see, Mr. Gaunt, ” said Ogden, as he mopped
the last of the pus from the front of his coat. “That was Morfin, wasn ’t
it? ”
“Ar, that was M orfin, ” said the old man indifferently. “Are you
pure -blood? ” he asked, suddenly aggressive.
“That ’s neither here nor there, ” said Ogden coldly, and Harry felt his
respect for Ogden rise. Apparently Gaunt felt rather

 203 ‘

CHAPTER TEN


differently. He squinted into Ogden ’s face and muttered, in what was
clearly supposed to be an offensive tone, “Now I come to think about
it, I ’ve seen noses like yours down in the village. ”
“I don ’t doubt it, if your son ’s been let lo ose on them, ” said Og - den.
“Perhaps we could continue this discussion inside? ” “Inside? ”
“Yes, Mr. Gaunt. I ’ve already told you. I ’m here about Morfin. We
sent an owl — ”
“I’ve no use for owls, ” said Gaunt. “I don ’t open letters. ” “Then you
can hardly complain that you get no warning of vis - itors, ” said Ogden
tartly. “I am here following a serious breach of Wizarding law, which
occurred here in the early hours of this morning — ”
“All right, all right, all right! ” bellowed Gaunt. “Come in the bleeding
house, then, and much good it ’ll do you! ”
The house seemed to contain three tiny rooms. Two doors led off the
main room, which served as kitchen and living room com - bined.
Morfin was sitting in a filthy armchair beside the smoking fire, twisting
a live adder between his thick fingers and crooning softly at it in
Parseltongue:

Hissy, hissy, little snakey,
Slither on the floor,
You be good to Morfin
Or he ’ll nail you to the door.

There was a scuffling noise in the corner beside the open win - dow,
and Harry realized that there was somebody else in the room, a girl
whose ragged gray dress was the exact color of the dirty stone
 204 ‘

THE HOUSE OF
GAUNT


wall behind her. She was standing beside a steaming pot on a grimy
black stove, and was fiddling around with the shelf of squalid - looking
pots and pans above it. Her hair was lank and dull and she had a plain,
pale, rather heavy face. Her eyes, like h er brother ’s, stared in opposite
directions. She looked a little cleaner than the two men, but Harry
thought he had never seen a more defeated - looking person.
“M ’daughter, Merope, ” said Gaunt grudgingly, as Ogden looked
inquiringly toward her.
“Good morning, ” said Ogden.
She did not answer, but with a frightened glance at her father turned
her back on the room and continued shifting the pots on the shelf
behind her.
“Well, Mr. Gaunt, ” said Ogden, “to get straight to the point, we have
reason to believe that your son, Morfin, performed magic in front of a
Muggle late last night. ”
There was a deafening clang. Merope had dropped one of the pots.
“ Pick it up !” Gaunt bellowed at her. “That ’s it, grub on the floor
like some filthy Mug gle, what ’s your wand for, you useless sack of
muck? ”
“Mr. Gaunt, please! ” said Ogden in a shocked voice, as Merope, who
had already picked up the pot, flushed blotchily scarlet, lost her grip
on the pot again, drew her wand shakily from her pocket, point ed it at
the pot, and muttered a hasty, inaudible spell that caused the pot to
shoot across the floor away from her, hit the op - posite wall, and crack
in two.
Morfin let out a mad cackle of laughter. Gaunt screamed, “Mend it,
you pointless lump, mend it !”
 205 ‘

CHAPTER TEN


Merope stumbled across the room, but before she had time to
raise her wand, Ogden had lifted his own and said firmly, “ Reparo. ”
The pot mended itself instantly.
Gaunt looked for a moment as though he was going to shout at
Ogden, but seemed to think better of it: Instead, he jeered at his
daughter, “Lucky the nice man from the Ministry ’s here, isn ’t it?
Perhaps he ’ll take you off my hands, perhaps he doesn ’t mind d irty
Squibs. . . . ”
Without looking at anybody or thanking Ogden, Merope picked up
the pot and returned it, hands trembling, to its shelf. She then stood
quite still, her back against the wall between the filthy window and the
stove, as though she wished for nothing more than to sink into the
stone and vanish.
“Mr. Gaunt, ” Ogden began again, “as I ’ve said: the reason for my visit
— ”
“I heard you the first time! ” snapped Gaunt. “And so what? Morfin
gave a Mug gle a bit of what was coming to him — what about it,
then? ”
“Morfin has broken Wizarding law, ” said Ogden sternly. “‘Morfin has
broken Wizarding law. ’” Gaunt imitated Ogden ’s voice, making it
pompous and singsong. Morfin cackled again. “He taught a filthy
Muggle a lesson, that ’s illegal now, is it? ” “Yes, ” said Ogden. “I’m
afraid it is. ”
He pulled from an inside pocket a small scroll of parchment and
unrolled it.
“What ’s that, then, his sentence? ” said Gaunt, his voice rising angrily.
“It is a summons t o the Ministry for a hearing — ”
 206 ‘

THE HOUSE OF
GAUNT


“Summons! Summons ? Who do you think you are, summoning
my son anywhere? ”
“I’m Head of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad, ” said Ogden.
“And you think we ’re scum, do you? ” screamed Gaunt, advanc - ing
on Ogden now, with a dirty yellow -nailed finger pointing at his chest.
“Scum who ’ll come running when the Ministry tells ’em to? Do you
know who you ’re talking to, you filthy little Mudblood, do you?
“I was under the impression that I was speaking to Mr. Gaunt, ” said
Ogden, looking wary, but standing his ground.
“That ’s right! ” roared Gaunt. For a moment, Harry thought Gaunt
was making an obscene hand gesture, but then realized that he was
showing Ogde n the ugly, black -stoned ring he was wearing on his
middle finger, waving it before Ogden ’s eyes. “See this? See this?
Know what it is? Know where it came from? Centuries it ’s been in our
family, that ’s how far back we go, and pure -blood all the way! Know
how much I ’ve been offered for this, with the Peverell coat of arms
engraved on the stone? ”
“I’ve really no idea, ” said Ogden, blinking as the ring sailed within an
inch of his nose, “and it ’s quite beside the point, Mr. Gaunt. Your son
has committed — ”
With a howl of rage, Gaunt ran toward his daughter. For a split second,
Harry thought he was going to throttle her as his hand flew to her
throat; next moment, he was dragging her toward Ogden by a gold
chain around her neck.
“See this? ” he bellowed at Og den, shaking a heavy gold locket at him,
while Merope spluttered and gasped for breath.
“I see it, I see it! ” said Ogden hastily.
 207 ‘

CHAPTER TEN


“ Slytherin ’s!” yelled Gaunt. “Salazar Slytherin ’s! We ’re his last liv -
ing descendants, what do you say to that, eh? ”
“Mr. Gaunt, your daughter! ” said Ogden in alarm, but Gaunt had
already released Merope; she staggered away from him, back to her
corner, massaging her neck and gulping for air.
“So! ” said Gaunt triumphantl y, as though he had just proved a
complicated point beyond all possible dispute. “Don ’t you go talk - ing
to us as if we ’re dirt on your shoes! Generations of purebloods,
wizards all — more than you can say, I don ’t doubt! ”
And he spat on the floor at Ogden ’s feet. Morfin cackled again.
Merope, huddled beside the window, her head bowed and her face
hidden by her lank hair, said nothing.
“Mr. Gaunt, ” said Ogden doggedly, “I am afraid that neither your
ancestors nor mine have anything to do with the matter in hand. I am
here because of Morfin, Morfin and the Muggle he ac - costed late last
night. Our information ” — he glanced down at his scroll of
parchment — “is that Morfin performed a jinx or hex on the said
Muggle, causing hi m to erupt in highly painful hives. ” Morfin giggled.
“ Be quiet, boy, ” snarled Gaunt in Parseltongue, and Morfin fell
silent again.
“And so what if he did, then? ” Gaunt said defiantly to Ogden. “I
expect you ’ve wiped the Muggle ’s filthy face clean for him, and his
memory to boot — ”
“That ’s hardly the point, is it, Mr. Gaunt? ” said Ogden. “This was an
unprovoked attack on a defenseless — ”
“Ar, I had you marked out as a Muggle -lover the moment I saw you, ”
sneered Gaunt, and he spat on the floor again.
“This discussion is getting us nowhere, ” said Ogden firmly. “It is
 208 ‘

THE HOUSE OF
GAUNT


clear from your son ’s attitude that he feels no remorse for his ac -
tions. ” He glanced down at his scroll of parchment again. “Morfin will
attend a hearing on the fourteenth of September to answer the charges
of using magic in front of a Muggle and causing harm and distress to
that same Mugg — ”
Ogden broke off. The jingling, clopping sounds of horses and loud,
laughing voices were drifting in through the open window. Apparently
the winding lane to the village passed very close to the copse where
the house stood. Gaunt froze, listening, his eyes w ide. Morfin hissed
and turned his face toward the sounds, his expres - sion hungry.
Merope raised her head. Her face, Harry saw, was starkly white.
“My God, what an eyesore! ” rang out a girl ’s voice, as clearly au - dible
through the open window as if she h ad stood in the room be - side
them. “Couldn ’t your father have that hovel cleared away, Tom? ”
“It’s not ours, ” said a young man ’s voice. “Everything on the other
side of the valley belongs to us, but that cottage belongs to an old
tramp called Gaunt, and his children. The son ’s quite mad, you should
hear some of the stories they tell in the village — ”
The girl laughed. The jingling, clopping noises were growing louder
and louder. Morfin made to get out of his armchair.
“ Keep your seat, ” said his fath er warningly, in Parseltongue.
“Tom, ” said the girl ’s voice again, now so close they were clearly right
beside the house, “I might be wrong — but has somebody nailed a
snake to that door? ”
“Good lord, you ’re right! ” said the man ’s voice. “That ’ll be th e son, I
told you he ’s not right in the head. Don ’t look at it, Cecilia, darling. ”
 209 ‘

CHAPTER TEN


The jingling and clopping sounds were now growing fainter again.
“‘Darling, ’” whispered Morfin in Parseltongue, looking at his
sister. “‘ Darling, ’ he called her. So he wouldn ’t have you anyway. ”
Merope was so white Harry felt sure she was going to faint.
“ What ’s that ?” said Gaunt sharply, also in Parseltongue, looking
from his son to his daughter. “What did you say, Morfin ?”
“ She likes looking at that Muggle, ” said Morfin, a vicious expres -
sion on his face as he stared at his sister, who now looked terrified.
“ Always in the garden when he passes, peering through the hedge at
him, isn ’t she? And last night — ”
Merope shook her head jerkily, imploringly, but Morfin went on
ruthlessly, “ Hanging out of the window waiting for him to ride home,
wasn ’t she ?”
“ Hanging out of the window to look at a Muggle ?” said Gaunt
quietly.
All three of the Gaunts seemed to have forgotten Ogden, who was
looking both bewildered and irritated at this renewed outbreak of
incomprehensible hissing and rasping.
“ Is it true ?” said Gaunt in a deadly voice, advancing a step or two
toward the terrified girl. “ My daughter — pure -blooded descendant
of Salazar Slytherin — hankering after a filthy, dirt -veined Muggle ?”
Merope shook her head frantically, pressing herself into the wall,
apparently unable to speak.
“ But I got him, Father !”
cackled Morfin. “ I got him as he went by
and he didn ’t look so pretty with hives all over him, did he, Merope ?”
“ You disgusting little Squib, you filthy little blood traitor !” roared
Gaunt, losing control, and his hands closed around his daughter ’s
throat.
 210 ‘

THE HOUSE OF
GAUNT


Both Harry and Ogden yelled “No! ” at the same time; Ogden
raised his wand and cried, “ Relashio !” Gaunt was thrown backward,
away from his daughter; he tripped over a chair and fell flat on his
back. With a roar of rage, Morfin leapt out of his chair and ran at
Ogden, brandishing his bloody knife and firing hexes indiscrimi -
nately from his wand.
Og den ran for his life. Dumbledore indicated that they ought to
follow and Harry obeyed, Merope ’s screams echoing in his ears.
Ogden hurtled up the path and erupted onto the main lane, his arms
over his head, where he collided with the glossy chestnut horse ridden
by a very handsome, dark -haired young man. Both he and the pretty
girl riding beside him on a gray horse roared with laughter at the sight
of Ogden, who bounced off the horse ’s flank and set off again, his
frock coat flying, covered from head to foo t in dust, running pell -mell
up the lane.
“I think that will do, Harry, ” said Dumbledore. He took Harry by the
elbow and tugged. Next moment, they were both soaring weightlessly
through darkness, until they landed squarely on their feet, back in
Dumbled ore ’s now twilit office.
“What happened to the girl in the cottage? ” said Harry at once, as
Dumbledore lit extra lamps with a flick of his wand. “Merope, or
whatever her name was? ”
“Oh, she survived, ” said Dumbledore, reseating himself behind his
desk and indicating that Harry should sit down too. “Ogden
Apparated back to the Ministry and returned with reinforcements
within fifteen minutes. Morfin and his father attempted to fight, but
both were overpowered, removed from the cottage, and subse -
quently convicted by the Wizengamot. Morfin, who already had a
record of Muggle attacks, was sentenced to three years in Azkaban.
 211 ‘

CHAPTER TEN


Marvolo, who had injured several Ministry employees in addition to
Ogden, received six months. ”
“Marvolo? ” Harry repeated wonderingly.
“That ’s right, ” said Dumbledore, smiling in approval. “I am glad to
see you ’re keeping up. ”
“That old man was — ?”
“Voldemort ’s grandfather, yes, ” said Dumbledore. “Marvolo, his son,
Morfin, and his daughter, Merope, were the last of the Gaunts, a very
ancient Wizarding family noted for a vein of insta - bility and violence
that flourished through the generations due to their habit of marrying
their own cousins. Lack of sense coupled with a great liking for
grandeur meant that the family gold was squandered several
generations before Marvolo was born. He, as you saw, was left in
squalor and poverty, with a very nasty temper, a fantastic amount of
arrogance and pride, a nd a couple of family heirlooms that he
treasured just as much as his son, and rather more than his daughter. ”
“So Merope, ” said Harry, leaning forward in his chair and star - ing at
Dumbledore, “so Merope was . . . Sir, does that mean she
was . . . Vo ldemort ’s mother ?”
“It does, ” said Dumbledore. “And it so happens that we also had a
glimpse of Voldemort ’s father. I wonder whether you noticed? ” “The
Muggle Morfin attacked? The man on the horse? ”
“Very good indeed, ” said Dumbledore, beaming. “Yes, that was Tom
Riddle senior, the handsome Muggle who used to go riding past the
Gaunt cottage and for whom Merope Gaunt cherished a secret,
burning passion. ”
“And they ended up married? ” Harry said in disbelief, unable to
imagine two people less likely to fall in love.
 212 ‘

THE HOUSE OF
GAUNT


“I think you are forgetting, ” said Dumbledore, “that Merope was a
witch. I do not believe that her magical powers appeared to their best
advantage when she was being terrorized by her father. Once Marvolo
and Morfin were safely in Azkaban, once she was alone and free for
the first time in her life, then, I am sure, she was able to give full rein to
her abilities and to plot her e scape from the desperate life she had led
for eighteen years.
“Can you not think of any measure Merope could have taken to make
Tom Riddle forget his Muggle companion, and fall in love with her
instead? ”
“The Imperius Curse? ” Harry suggested. “Or a lov e potion? ” “Very
good. Personally, I am inclined to think that she used a love potion. I
am sure it would have seemed more romantic to her, and I do not
think it would have been very difficult, some hot day, when Riddle was
riding alone, to persuade him to take a drink of water. In any case,
within a few months of the scene we have just witnessed, the village of
Little Hangleton enjoyed a tremendous scandal. You can imagine the
gossip it caused when the squire ’s son ran off with the tramp ’s
daughter, Merope .
“But the villagers ’ shock was nothing to Marvolo ’s. He returned from
Azkaban, expecting to find his daughter dutifully awaiting his return
with a hot meal ready on his table. Instead, he found a clear inch of
dus t and her note of farewell, explaining what she had done. “From all
that I have been able to discover, he never mentioned her name or
existence from that time forth. The shock of her de - sertion may have
contributed to his early death — or perhaps he had s imply never
learned to feed himself. Azkaban had greatly weakened Marvolo, and
he did not live to see Morfin return to the cottage. ”
 213 ‘

CHAPTER TEN


“And Merope? She . . . she died, didn ’t she? Wasn ’t Voldemort
brought up in an orphanage? ”
“Yes, indeed, ” said Dumbledore. “We must do a certain amount of
guessing here, although I do not think it is difficult to deduce what
happened. You see, within a few months of their runaway marriage,
Tom Riddle reappeared at the manor house in Little Hangleton
without his wife. The rumor flew around the neighbor - hood that he
was talking of being ‘hoodwinked ’ and ‘taken in. ’ What he meant, I am
sure, is that he had been under an enchant - ment that had now lifted,
though I dare say he did not dare use those precise words for fear of
being thought insane. When they heard what he was saying, however,
the villagers guessed that Merope had lied to Tom Riddle, pretending
that she was going to have his baby, and that he had married her for
this reason. ”
“But she did have his baby. ”
“But not until a year after they were married. Tom Riddle left her
while she was still pregnant. ”
“What went wrong? ” asked Harry. “Why did the love potion stop
working? ”
“Again, this is guesswork, ” said Dumbledore, “but I believe that
Merope, who was deeply in love with her husband, could not bear to
continue enslaving him by magical means. I believe that she made the
choice to stop giving him the potion. Perhaps, besotted as she was,
she had convin ced herself that he would by now have fallen in love
with her in return. Perhaps she thought he would stay for the baby ’s
sake. If so, she was wrong on both counts. He left her, never saw her
again, and never troubled to discover what became of his son. ”
 214 ‘

THE HOUSE OF
GAUNT


The sky outside was inky black and the lamps in Dumbledore ’s office
seemed to glow more brightly than before.
“I think that will do for tonight, Harry, ” said Dumbledore after a
moment or two.
“Yes, sir, ” said Harry.
He got to his feet, but did not leave.
“Sir . . . is it important to know all this about Voldemort ’s past? ”
“Very important, I think, ” said Dumbledore.
“And it . . . it ’s got something to do with the prophecy? ” “It
has everythin g to do with the prophecy. ”
“Right, ” said Harry, a little confused, but reassured all the same. He
turned to go, then another question occurred to him, and he turned
back again. “Sir, am I allowed to tell Ron and Hermione everything
you ’ve told me? ”
Dumbledore considered him for a moment, then said, “Yes, I think
Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger have proved themselves trust - worthy.
But Harry, I am going to ask you to ask them not to repeat any of this
to anybody else. It would not be a good idea if word got around how
much I know, or suspect, about Lord Voldemort ’s secrets. ”
“No, sir, I ’ll make sure it ’s just Ron and Hermione. Good night. ”
He turned away again, and was almost at the door when he saw it.
Sitting on one of the little spindle -legged ta bles that supported so
many frail -looking silver instruments, was an ugly gold ring set with a
large, cracked, black stone.
“Sir, ” said Harry, staring at it. “That ring — ”
“Yes? ” said Dumbledore.
 215 ‘

CHAPTER TEN


“You were wearing it when we visited Professor Slughorn that night. ”
“So I was, ” Dumbledore agreed.
“But isn ’t it . . . sir, isn ’t it the same ring Marvolo Gaunt showed
Ogden? ”
Dumbledore bowed his head. “The very same. ”
“But how come — ? Have you al ways had it? ”
“No, I acquired it very recently, ” said Dumbledore. “A few days
before I came to fetch you from your aunt and uncle ’s, in fact. ” “That
would be around the time you injured your hand, then, sir? ”
“Around that time, yes, Harry. ”
Harry hesitated. Dumbledore was smiling.
“Sir, how exactly — ?”
“Too late, Harry! You shall hear the story another time. Good night. ”
“Good night, sir. ”













 216 ‘

C H A P T E R E L E V E
N










HERMIONE ’
S HELPING
HAND


s Hermione had predicted, the sixth years ’ free periods were not the
hours of blissful relaxation Ron had antici - pated, but times in which
to attempt to keep up with the vast amount of homework they were
being set. Not only were they studying as though they had exams every
day, but the lessons them - selves had become more demanding than
ever before. Harry barely und erstood half of what Professor
McGonagall said to them these days; even Hermione had had to ask
her to repeat instructions once or twice. Incredibly, and to Hermione ’s
increasing resentment, Harry ’s best subject had suddenly become
Potions, thanks to the H alf -Blood Prince.
Nonverbal spells were now expected, not only in Defense Against the
Dark Arts, but in Charms and Transfiguration too. Harry frequently
looked over at his classmates in the common room or at mealtimes to
see them purple in the face and straining as though they had
overdosed on U -No -Poo; but he knew that they
 217 ‘

CHAPTER ELEVEN


were really struggling to make spells work without saying incanta -
tions aloud. It was a relief to get outside into the greenh ouses; they
were dealing with more dangerous plants than ever in Herbology, but
at least they were still allowed to swear loudly if the Venomous
Tentacula seized them unexpectedly from behind.
One result of their enormous workload and the frantic hours of
practicing nonverbal spells was that Harry, Ron, and Hermione had so
far been unable to find time to go and visit Hagrid. He had stopped
coming to meals at the staff table, an ominous sign, and on the few
occasion s when they had passed him in the corridors or out in the
grounds, he had mysteriously failed to notice them or hear their
greetings.
“We ’ve got to go and explain, ” said Hermione, looking up at Hagrid ’s
huge empty chair at the staff table the following Sa turday at breakfast.
“We ’ve got Quidditch tryouts this morning! ” said Ron. “ And
we ’re supposed to be practicing that Aguamenti Charm from Flitwick!
Anyway, explain what? How are we going to tell him we hated his
stupid subject? ”
“We didn ’t hate it! ” said Hermione.
“Speak for yourself, I haven ’t forgotten the skrewts, ” said Ron darkly.
“And I ’m telling you now, we ’ve had a narrow escape. You didn ’t hear
him going on about his gormless brother — we ’d have been teaching
Grawp how to tie his shoelaces if we ’d stayed. ”
“I hate not talking to Hagrid, ” said Hermione, looking upset. “We ’ll
go down after Quidditch, ” Harry assured her. He too was missing
Hagrid, although like Ron he thought that they were bet - ter off
without Grawp in their lives. “But tri als might take all morning, the
number of people who have applied. ” He felt slightly
 218 ‘

HERMIONE ’S
HELPING HAND

nervous at confronting the first hurdle of his Captaincy. “I dunno why
the team ’s this popular all of a sudden. ”
“Oh, come on, Harry, ” said Hermione, suddenly impatient. “It’s
not Quidditch that ’s popular, it ’s you! You ’ve never been more in -
teresting, and frankly, you ’ve never been more fanciable. ”
Ron gagged on a large piece of kipper. Hermione spared him one look
of disdain before turning back to Harry.
“Everyone knows you ’ve been telling the truth now, don ’t they? The
whole Wizarding world has had to admit that you were right about
Voldemort be ing back and that you really have fought him twice in the
last two years and escaped both times. And now they ’re calling you
‘the Chosen One ’ — well, come on, can ’t you see why people are
fascinated by you? ”
Harry was finding the Great Hall very hot all of a sudden, even though
the ceiling still looked cold and rainy.
“ And you ’ve been through all that persecution from the Ministry
when they were trying to make out you were unstable and a liar. You
can still see the marks on the back of your hand wher e that evil woman
made you write with your own blood, but you stuck to your story
anyway. . . . ”
“You can still see where those brains got hold of me in the Min - istry,
look, ” said Ron, shaking back his sleeves.
“And it doesn ’t hurt that you ’ve grown about a foot over the summer
either, ” Hermione finished, ignoring Ron.
“I’m tall, ” said Ron inconsequentially.
The post owls arrived, swooping down through rain -flecked windows,
scattering everyone with droplets of water. Most people were
rece iving more post than usual; anxious parents were keen to hear
from their children and to reassure them, in turn, that all was
 219 ‘

CHAPTER ELEVEN


well at home. Harry had received no mail since the start of term; his
only regular correspondent was now dead and although he had hoped
that Lupin might write occasionally, he had so far been dis - appointed.
He was very surprised, therefore, to see the snowy white Hedwig
circling amongst all the brown and gray owls. She landed in front of
him carrying a large, square package. A moment later, an identical
package landed in front of Ron, crushing beneath it his minuscule and
exhausted owl, Pigwidgeon.
“Ha! ” said Harry, unwrapping the parcel to reveal a new copy of
Advan ced Potion -Making, fresh from Flourish and Blotts.
“Oh good, ” said Hermione, delighted. “Now you can give that
graffitied copy back. ”
“Are you mad? ” said Harry. “I’m keeping it! Look, I ’ve thought it out
— ”
He pulled the old copy of Advanced Potion -Ma king out of his
bag and tapped the cover with his wand, muttering, “ Diffindo !”
The cover fell off. He did the same thing with the brand -new book
(Hermione looked scandalized). He then swapped the covers,
tapped each, and said, “Reparo !”
There sat the Prince ’s copy, disguised as a new book, and there sat the
fresh copy from Flourish and Blotts, looking thoroughly secondhand.
“I’ll give Slughorn back the new one, he can ’t complain, it cost nine
Galleons. ”
Hermione pressed her lips tog ether, looking angry and disap - proving,
but was distracted by a third owl landing in front of her
carrying that day ’s copy of the Daily Prophet. She unfolded it
hastily and scanned the front page.
 220 ‘

HERMIONE ’S
HELPING HAND

“Anyone we know dead? ” asked Ron in a determinedly casual voice;
he posed the same question every time Hermione opened her paper.
“No, but there have been more dementor attacks, ” said Hermi - one.
“And an arrest. ”
“Excellent, who? ” said Harry, thinking of Bellatrix Lestrange.
“Stan Shunpike, ” said Hermione.
“What? ” said Harry, startled.
“‘ Stanley Shunpike, conductor on the popular Wizarding con -
veyance the Knight Bus, has been arrested on suspicion of Death Eater activity. M r.
Shunpike, 21, was taken into custody late last night after
a raid on his Clapham home . . . ’”
“Stan Shunpike, a Death Eater? ” said Harry, remembering the spotty
youth he had first met three years before. “No way! ”
“He might have been put under the Imperius Curse, ” said Ron
reasonably. “You never can tell. ”
“It doesn ’t look like it, ” said Hermione, who was still reading. “It says
here he was arrested after he was overheard talking about the Death
Eaters ’ secret plans in a pub. ” She looked up with a troubled
expression on her face. “If he was under the Imperius Curse, he ’d
hardly stand around gossiping about their plans, would he? ”
“It sounds like he was trying to make out he knew more than he did, ”
said Ron. “Isn ’t he the one who claimed he was going to be - come
Minister of Magic when he was trying to chat up those veela? ” “Yeah,
that ’s him, ” said Harry. “I dunno what they ’re playing at, taking Stan
seriously. ”
“They probably want to look as though they ’re doing so me - thing, ”
said Hermione, frowning. “People are terrified — you know
 221 ‘

CHAPTER ELEVEN


the Patil twins ’ parents want them to go home? And Eloise Midgen
has already been withdrawn. Her father picked her up last night. ”
“What! ” said Ron, goggling at Hermione. “But Hogwarts is safer than
their homes, bound to be! We ’ve got Aurors, and all those extra
protective spells, and we ’ve got Dumbledore! ”
“I don ’t think we ’ve got him all the time, ” said Hermione very
quietly, g lancing toward the staff table over the top of the Prophet.
“Haven ’t you noticed? His seat ’s been empty as often as Hagrid ’s this
past week. ”
Harry and Ron looked up at the staff table. The headmaster ’s chair
was indeed empty. Now Harry came to thin k of it, he had not seen
Dumbledore since their private lesson a week ago.
“I think he ’s left the school to do something with the Order, ” said
Hermione in a low voice. “I mean . . . it ’s all looking serious, isn ’t it?
Harry and Ron did not answer, but Harry knew that they were all
thinking the same thing. There had been a horrible incident the day
before, when Hannah Abbott had been taken out of Herbol - ogy to be
told her mother had been found dead. They had not seen Ha nnah
since.
When they left the Gryffindor table five minutes later to head down to
the Quidditch pitch, they passed Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil.
Remembering what Hermione had said about the Patil twins ’ parents
wanting them to leave Hogwarts, Harry was unsurprised to see that
the two best friends were whispering to - gether, looking distressed.
What did surprise him was that when Ron drew level with them,
Parvati suddenly nudged Lavender, who looked around and gave Ron
a wide smile. Ron blinked at he r, then returned the smile uncertainly.
His walk instantly became some -
 222 ‘

HERMIONE ’S
HELPING HAND

thing more like a strut. Harry resisted the temptation to laugh, re -
membering that Ron had refrained from doing so after Malfoy had
broken Harry ’s nose; Hermione, however, looked cold and distant all
the way down to the stadium through the cool, misty drizzle, and
departed to find a place in the stands without wishing Ron good luck.
As Harry had expected, the trials took most of the morning. Half of
Gryffindor House seemed to have turned up, from first years who
were nervously clutching a selection of the dreadful old school
brooms, to seventh years who towered over the r est, looking coolly
intimidating. The latter included a large, wiry -haired boy Harry
recognized immediately from the Hogwarts Express.
“We met on the train, in old Sluggy ’s compartment, ” he said
confidently, stepping out of the crowd to shake Harry ’s hand .
“Cormac McLaggen, Keeper. ”
“You didn ’t try out last year, did you? ” asked Harry, taking note of the
breadth of McLaggen and thinking that he would probably block all
three goal hoops without even moving.
“I was in the hospital wing when they held the trials, ” said McLaggen,
with something of a swagger. “Ate a pound of doxy eggs for a bet. ”
“Right, ” said Harry. “Well . . . if you wait over there . . . ” He pointed
over to the edge of the pitch, close to where Hermi - one was sitting.
He thought he saw a flicker of annoyance pass over McLaggen ’s face
and wondered whether McLaggen expected pref - erential treatment
because they were both “old Sluggy ’s” favorites. Harry decided to
start with a basic test, asking all applicants for the team to divide into
gro ups of ten and fly once around the pitch. This was a good decision:
The first ten was made up of first years
 223 ‘

CHAPTER ELEVEN


and it could not have been plainer that they had hardly ever flown
before. Only one boy managed to remain airborne for more than a
few seconds, and he was so surprised he promptly crashed into one of
the goal posts.
The second group was comprised of ten of the silliest girls Harry had
ever encountered, who, when he blew his whistle, merely fell about
giggling and clutching one another. Romilda Vane was amongst them.
When he told them to leave the pitch, they did so quite cheerfully and
went to sit in the stands to heckle everyone else.
The third group had a pileup halfwa y around the pitch. Most of the
fourth group had come without broomsticks. The fifth group were
Hufflepuffs.
“If there ’s anyone else here who ’s not from Gryffindor, ” roared Harry,
who was starting to get seriously annoyed, “leave now, please! ”
There was a pause, then a couple of little Ravenclaws went sprinting
off the pitch, snorting with laughter.
After two hours, many complaints, and several tantrums, one in -
volving a crashed Comet Two Sixty and several broken teeth, Harry
had found himself three Chasers: Katie Bell, returned to the team after
an excellent trial; a new find called Demelza Robins, who was
particularly good at dodging Bludgers; and Ginny Weasley, who had
outflown all the competition and scored seventeen goals to boot.
Pleased though he was with his choices, Harry had also shouted
himself hoarse at the many complainers and was now en - during a
similar battle with the rejected Beaters.
“That ’s my final decision and if you don ’t get out of the way for the
Keepers I ’ll hex you, ” he bellowed.
 224 ‘

HERMIONE ’S
HELPING HAND

Neither of his chosen Beaters had the old brilliance of Fred and
George, but he was still reasonably pleased with them: Jimmy Peakes,
a short but broad -chested third -year boy who ha d managed to raise a
lump the size of an egg on the back of Harry ’s head with a ferociously
hit Bludger, and Ritchie Coote, who looked weedy but aimed well.
They now joined Katie, Demelza, and Ginny in the stands to watch
the selection of their last team m ember.
Harry had deliberately left the trial of the Keepers until last, hoping for
an emptier stadium and less pressure on all concerned. Unfortunately,
however, all the rejected players and a number of people who had
come down to watch after a lengthy breakfast had joined the crowd by
now, so that it was larger than ever. As each Keeper flew up to the goal
hoops, the crowd roared and jeered in equal measure. Harry glanced
over at Ron, who had always had a problem with nerves; Harry had
hoped that winning their final match last term might have cured it, but
apparently not: Ron was a delicate shade of green.
None of the first five applicants saved more than two goals apiece. To
Harry ’s great disappointme nt, Cormac McLaggen saved four penalties
out of five. On the last one, however, he shot off in completely the
wrong direction; the crowd laughed and booed and McLaggen
returned to the ground grinding his teeth.
Ron looked ready to pass out as he mounted his Cleansweep Eleven.
“Good luck! ” cried a voice from the stands. Harry looked around,
expecting to see Hermione, but it was Lavender Brown. He would
have quite liked to have hidden his face in his hands, as she did a
moment later, but thought that as th e Captain he ought to show
slightly more grit, and so turned to watch Ron do his trial. Yet he need
not have worried: Ron saved one, two, three, four,
 225 ‘

CHAPTER ELEVEN


five penalties in a row. Delighted, and resisting joining in the cheers of
the crowd with difficulty, Harry turned to McLaggen to tell him that,
most unfortunately, Ron had beaten him, only to find McLaggen ’s red
face inches from his own. He stepped back hastily.
“His sister didn ’t really try, ” said McLaggen menacingly. There was a
vein pulsing in his temple like the one Harry had often ad - mired in
Uncle Vernon ’s. “She gave him an easy save. ”
“Rubbish, ” said Harry coldly. “That was the one he nearly m issed. ”
McLaggen took a step nearer Harry, who stood his ground this time.
“Give me another go. ”
“No, ” said Harry. “You ’ve had your go. You saved four. Ron saved
five. Ron ’s Keeper, he won it fair and square. Get out of my way. ”
He thought for a mome nt that McLaggen might punch him, but he
contented himself with an ugly grimace and stormed away, growling
what sounded like threats to thin air.
Harry turned around to find his new team beaming at him.
“Well done, ” he croaked. “You flew really well — ”
“You did brilliantly, Ron! ”
This time it really was Hermione running toward them from the
stands; Harry saw Lavender walking off the pitch, arm in arm with
Parvati, a rather grumpy expression on her face. Ron looked extremely
pleased with himself and eve n taller than usual as he grinned at the
team and at Hermione.
After fixing the time of their first full practice for the following
Thursday, Harry, Ron, and Hermione bade good -bye to the rest of
 226 ‘

HERMIONE ’S
HELPING HAND

the team and headed off toward Hagrid ’s. A watery sun was trying to
break through the clouds now and it had stopped drizzling at last.
Harry felt extremely hungry; he hoped there would be some - thing to
eat at Hagrid ’s.
“I thought I was g oing to miss that fourth penalty, ” Ron was say - ing
happily. “Tricky shot from Demelza, did you see, had a bit of spin on
it — ”
“Yes, yes, you were magnificent, ” said Hermione, looking amused. “I
was better than that McLaggen anyway, ” said Ron in a high ly satisfied
voice. “Did you see him lumbering off in the wrong direc - tion on his
fifth? Looked like he ’d been Confunded. . . . ”
To Harry ’s surprise, Hermione turned a very deep shade of pink at
these words. Ron noticed nothing; he was too busy describ ing each of
his other penalties in loving detail.
The great gray hippogriff, Buckbeak, was tethered in front of Hagrid ’s
cabin. He clicked his razor -sharp beak at their approach and turned
his huge head toward them.
“Oh dear, ” said Hermione nervously. “He ’s still a bit scary, isn ’t he? ”
“Come off it, you ’ve ridden him, haven ’t you? ” said Ron. Harry
stepped forward and bowed low to the hippogriff without breaking
eye contact or blinking. After a few seconds, Buckbeak sank into a
bow too.
“How are you? ” Harry asked him in a low voice, moving for - ward to
stroke the feathery head. “Missing him? But you ’re okay here with
Hagrid, aren ’t you? ”
“Oi! ” said a loud voice.
Hagrid had come striding around the corner of his cabin wearing a
large flowery apron a nd carrying a sack of potatoes. His
 227 ‘

CHAPTER ELEVEN


enormous boarhound, Fang, was at his heels; Fang gave a booming
bark and bounded forward.
“Git away from him! He ’ll have yer fingers — oh. It ’s yeh lot. ” Fang
was jumping up at Hermione and Ron, attempting to lick their ears.
Hagrid stood and looked at them all for a split second, then turned
and strode into his cabin, slamming the door behind him.
“Oh dear! ” said Hermione, looking stricken.
“Don ’t worr y about it, ” said Harry grimly. He walked over to the door
and knocked loudly.
“Hagrid! Open up, we want to talk to you! ”
There was no sound from within.
“If you don ’t open the door, we ’ll blast it open! ” Harry said, pulling
out his wand.
“Harry! ” said Hermione, sounding shocked. “You can ’t pos - sibly
— ”
“Yeah, I can! ” said Harry. “Stand back — ”
But before he could say anything else, the door flew open again as
Harry had known it would, and there stood Hagrid, glowering down at
him and looking, despite the flowery apron, positively alarming.
“I’m a teacher! ” he roared at Harry. “A teacher, Potter! How dare yeh
threaten ter break down my door! ”
“I’m sorry, sir, ” said Harry, emphasizing the last word as he
stowed his wand inside his robes.
Hagrid looked stunned. “Since when have yeh called me ‘sir ’?”
“Since when have you called me ‘Potter ’?”
“Oh, very clever, ” growled Hagrid. “Very amusin ’. That ’s me
outsmarted, innit? All righ ’, come in then, yeh ungrateful little . . . ”
 228 ‘

HERMIONE ’S
HELPING HAND

Mumbling darkly, he stood back to let them pass. Hermione scurried
in after Harry, looking rather frightened.
“Well? ” said Hagrid grumpily, as Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat down
around his enormous wooden table, Fang laying his head im -
mediately upon Harry ’s knee and drooling all over his robes. “What ’s
this? Feelin ’ sorry for me? Reckon I ’m lonely or summat? ” “No, ” said
Harry at once. “We wanted to see you. ”
“We ’ve miss ed you! ” said Hermione tremulously. “Missed me, have
yeh? ” snorted Hagrid. “Yeah. Righ ’.” He stomped around, brewing up
tea in his enormous copper kettle, muttering all the while. Finally he
slammed down three bucket -sized mugs of mahogany -brown tea in
fro nt of them and a plate of his rock cakes. Harry was hungry enough
even for Hagrid ’s cooking, and took one at once.
“Hagrid, ” said Hermione timidly, when he joined them at the table
and started peeling his potatoes with a brutality that sug - gested that
ea ch tuber had done him a great personal wrong, “we re - ally wanted
to carry on with Care of Magical Creatures, you know. ” Hagrid gave
another great snort. Harry rather thought some bo - geys landed on the
potatoes, and was inwardly thankful that they were no t staying for
dinner.
“We did! ” said Hermione. “But none of us could fit it into our
schedules! ”
“Yeah. Righ ’,” said Hagrid again.
There was a funny squelching sound and they all looked around:
Hermione let out a tiny shriek, and Ron leapt out of his seat and
hurried around the table away from the large barrel standing in the
corner that they had only just noticed. It was full of what looked like
foot -long maggots, slimy, white, and writhing.
 229 ‘

CHAPTER ELEVEN


“What are they, Hagrid? ” asked Harry, trying to sound inter - ested
rather than revolted, but putting down his rock cake all the same.
“Jus ’ giant grubs, ” said Hagrid.
“And they grow into . . . ? ” said Ron, looking apprehensive. “They
won ’ grow inter nut hin ’,” said Hagrid. “I got ’em ter feed ter Aragog. ”
And without warning, he burst into tears.
“Hagrid! ” cried Hermione, leaping up, hurrying around the table the
long way to avoid the barrel of maggots, and putting an arm around
his shaking shoulders. “What is it? ”
“It’s . . . him . . . ” gulped Hagrid, his beetle -black eyes stream - ing as he
mopped his face with his apron. “It’s . . . Aragog. . . . I think he ’s
dyin ’. . . . He got ill over the summer an ’ he ’s not gettin ’ better. . . . I
don ’ know what I ’ll do if he . . . if he . . . We ’ve bin tergether so
long. . . . ”
Hermione patted Hagrid ’s shoulder, looking at a complete loss for
anything to say. Harry knew how she felt. He had known Ha - grid to
present a vicious baby dragon with a teddy bear, seen him croon over
giant scorpions with suckers and stingers, attempt to reason with his
brutal giant of a half -brother, but this was perhaps the most
incomprehensible of all his monster fancies: the gigantic talkin g spider,
Aragog, who dwelled deep in the Forbidden Forest and which he and
Ron had only narrowly escaped four years previously.
“Is there — is there anything we can do? ” Hermione asked, ig - noring
Ron ’s frantic grimaces and head -shakings.
“I don ’ think there is, Hermione, ” choked Hagrid, attempting
 230 ‘

HERMIONE ’S
HELPING HAND

to stem the flood of his tears. “See, the rest o ’ the tribe . . . Aragog ’s
family . . . they ’re gettin ’ a bit funny now he ’s ill . . . bit restive . . . ”
“Yeah, I think we saw a bit of that side of them, ” said Ron in an
undertone.
“. . . I don ’ reckon it ’d be safe fer anyone but me ter go near the colony
at the mo ’,” Hagrid finished, blowing his nose hard on his apron and
loo king up. “But thanks fer offerin ’, Hermione. . . . It means a lot. . . . ”
After that, the atmosphere lightened considerably, for although
neither Harry nor Ron had shown any inclination to go and feed giant
grubs to a murderous, gargantuan spider, Hagrid seemed to take it for
granted that they would have liked to have done and be - came his
usual self once more.
“Ar, I always knew yeh ’d find it hard ter squeeze me inter yer
timetables, ” he said gruffly, pouring them more tea. “Even if yeh
applied fer Tim e-Turners — ”
“We couldn ’t have done, ” said Hermione. “We smashed the en - tire
stock of Ministry Time -Turners when we were there last sum -
mer. It was in the Daily Prophet. ”
“Ar, well then, ” said Hagrid. “There ’s no way yeh could ’ve done it. . . .
I’m sorry I ’ve bin — yeh know — I’ve jus ’ bin worried abou ’
Aragog . . . an ’ I did wonder whether, if Professor Grubbly -Plank had
bin teachin ’ yeh — ”
At which all three of them stated categorically and untruthfully that
Professor Grubbly -Plank, who had subs tituted for Hagrid a few times,
was a dreadful teacher, with the result that by the time Hagrid waved
them off the premises at dusk, he looked quite cheerful.
 231 ‘

CHAPTER ELEVEN


“I’m starving, ” said Harry, once the door had closed behind them and
they were hurrying through the dark and deserted grounds; he had
abandoned the rock cake after an ominous crack - ing noise from one
of his back teeth. “And I ’ve got that detention with Snape tonight, I
haven ’t got much time for d inner. . . . ”
As they came into the castle they spotted Cormac McLaggen en -
tering the Great Hall. It took him two attempts to get through the
doors; he ricocheted off the frame on the first attempt. Ron merely
guffawed gloatingly and strode off into the Hall after him, but Harry
caught Hermione ’s arm and held her back.
“What? ” said Hermione defensively.
“If you ask me, ” said Harry quietly, “McLaggen looks like he
was Confunded this morning. And he was stan ding right in front
of where you were sitting. ”
Hermione blushed.
“Oh, all right then, I did it, ” she whispered. “But you should have
heard the way he was talking about Ron and Ginny! Any - way, he ’s got
a nasty temper, you saw how he reacted when he didn ’t get in — you
wouldn ’t have wanted someone like that on the team. ”
“No, ” said Harry. “No, I suppose that ’s true. But wasn ’t that dis -
honest, Hermione? I mean, you ’re a prefect, aren ’t you? ”
“Oh, be quiet, ” she snapped, as he smirked.
“What are you two doing? ” demanded Ron, reappearing in the
doorway to the Great Hall and looking suspicious.
“Nothing, ” said Harry and Hermione together, and they hurried after
Ron. The smell of roast beef made Harry ’s stomach ache with hunger,
but they ha d barely taken three steps toward the Gryffin -
 232 ‘

HERMIONE ’S
HELPING HAND

dor table when Professor Slughorn appeared in front of them,
blocking their path.
“Harry, Harry, just the man I was hoping to see! ” he boomed ge - nially,
twiddling the ends of his walrus mustache and puffing out his
enormous belly. “I was hoping to catch you before dinner! What do
you say to a spot of supper tonight in my rooms instead? We ’re having
a little party, just a few rising s tars, I ’ve got McLaggen com - ing and
Zabini, the charming Melinda Bobbin — I don ’t know whether you
know her? Her family owns a large chain of apothe - caries — and, of
course, I hope very much that Miss Granger will favor me by coming
too. ”
Slughorn mad e Hermione a little bow as he finished speaking. It was
as though Ron was not present; Slughorn did not so much as look at
him.
“I can ’t come, Professor, ” said Harry at once. “I’ve got a deten - tion
with Professor Snape. ”
“Oh dear! ” said Slughorn, his fa ce falling comically. “Dear, dear, I was
counting on you, Harry! Well, now, I ’ll just have to have a word with
Severus and explain the situation. I ’m sure I ’ll be able to per - suade
him to postpone your detention. Yes, I ’ll see you both later! ” He
bustled away out of the Hall.
“He ’s got no chance of persuading Snape, ” said Harry, the mo - ment
Slughorn was out of earshot. “This detention ’s already been
postponed once; Snape did it for Dumbledore, but he won ’t do it for
anyone else. ”
“Oh, I wish you could c ome, I don ’t want to go on my own! ” said
Hermione anxiously; Harry knew that she was thinking about
McLaggen.
 233 ‘

CHAPTER ELEVEN


“I doubt you ’ll be alone, Ginny ’ll probably be invited, ” snapped Ron,
who did not seem to have taken kindly to being ignored by Slughorn.
After dinner they made their way back to Gryffindor Tower. The
common room was very crowded, as most people had finished din -
ner by now, but they managed to find a free table and sat down; Ron,
who had been in a bad mood ever since the encounter with Slughorn,
folded his arms and frowned at the ceiling. Hermione
reached out for a copy of the Evening Prophet, which somebody
had left abandoned on a chair.
“Anything new? ” said Harry.
“Not really . . . ” Hermione had opened the newspaper and was
scanning the inside pages. “Oh, look, your dad ’s in here, Ron — he ’s
all right! ” she added quickly, for Ron had looked around in
alarm. “It just says he ’s been to visit the Malfo ys ’ house. ‘ This sec -
ond search of the Death Eater ’s residence does not seem to have yielded any results.
Arthur Weasley of the Office for the Detection and Confis - cation of Counterfeit
Defensive Spells and Protective Objects said that
his team had been acting upon a confidential tip -off. ’”
“Yeah, mine! ” said Harry. “I told him at King ’s Cross about Mal - foy
and that thing he was trying to get Borgin to fix! Well, if it ’s not at their
house, he must have brought whatever it is to Hogwarts with him — ”
“But how can he have done, Harry? ” said Hermione, putting down
the newspaper with a surprised look. “We were all searched when we
arrived, weren ’t we? ”
“Were you? ” said Harry, taken aback. “I wasn ’t!” “Oh no, of course
you weren ’t, I forgot you were late. . . . Well, Filch ran over all of us
with Secrecy Sensors when we got into the
 234 ‘

HERMIONE ’S
HELPING HAND

entrance hall. Any Dark object would have been found, I know for a
fact Crabbe had a shrunken head confiscated. So you see, Malfoy can ’t
have brought in anything dangerous! ”
Momentarily stymied, Harry watched Ginny Weasley playing with
Arnold the Pygmy Puff for a while before seeing a way around this
objection.
“Som eone ’s sent it to him by owl, then, ” he said. “His mother or
someone. ”
“All the owls are being checked too, ” said Hermione. “Filch told us so
when he was jabbing those Secrecy Sensors everywhere he could
reach. ”
Really stumped this time, Harry found no thing else to say. There did
not seem to be any way Malfoy could have brought a dangerous or
Dark object into the school. He looked hopefully at Ron, who was
sitting with his arms folded, staring over at Lavender Brown.
“Can you think of any way Malfoy — ?”
“Oh, drop it, Harry, ” said Ron.
“Listen, it ’s not my fault Slughorn invited Hermione and me to his
stupid party, neither of us wanted to go, you know! ” said Harry, firing
up.
“Well, as I ’m not invited to any parties, ” said Ron, getting to his feet
again, “I think I ’ll go to bed. ”
He stomped off toward the door to the boys ’ dormitories, leav - ing
Harry and Hermione staring after him.
“Harry? ” said the new Chaser, Demelza Robins, appearing sud - denly
at his shoulder. “I’ve got a message for you .”
“From Professor Slughorn? ” asked Harry, sitting up hopefully.
“No . . . from Professor Snape, ” said Demelza. Harry ’s heart
 235 ‘

CHAPTER ELEVEN


sank. “He says you ’re to come to his office at half past eight tonight to
do your detention — er — no matter how many party invita - tions
you ’ve received. And he wanted you to know you ’ll be sorting out
rotten flobberworms from good ones, to use in Potions and — and he
says there ’s no need to bring protective gloves. ”
“Rig ht, ” said Harry grimly. “Thanks a lot, Demelza. ”


























 236 ‘

C H A P T E R T W E L V
E










SILVER AND
OPALS



here was Dumbledore, and what was he doing? Harry
W
few weeks. He rarely appeared at meals anymore, and Harry was sure
Hermione was right in thinking that he was leaving the school for days
at a time. Had Dumbledore forgotten the lessons he was supposed to
be giving Harry? Dumbledore had said that the lessons were leading to
something to do with the prophecy; Harry had felt bolstered,
comfor ted, and now he felt slightly abandoned.

Halfway through October came their first trip of the term to
Hogsmeade. Harry had wondered whether these trips would still be
allowed, given the increasingly tight security measures around the
school, but was pleased to know that they were going ahead; it was
always good to get out of the castle grounds for a few hours. Harry
woke early on the morning of the trip, which was proving stormy, and
whiled away the time until breakfast by reading his
copy of Advanced Potion -Making. He did not usually lie in bed
 237 ‘

CHAPTER TWELVE


reading his textbooks; that sort of behavior, as Ron rightly said, was
indecent in anybody except Hermione, who was simply weird that
way. Harry felt, however, that the Half -Blood Prince ’s copy of Ad -
vanced Potion -Making hardly qualified as a textbook. The more
Harry pored over the book, the more he realized how much was in
there, not only the handy hints and shortcuts on potions that were
earning him such a glowing reputation with Slughorn, but also the
imaginative little jinxes and hexes scribbled in the margin s, which
Harry was sure, judging by the crossings -out and revisions, that the
Prince had invented himself.
Harry had already attempted a few of the Prince ’s self -invented spells.
There had been a hex that caused toenails to grow alarm - ingly fast (he
had tried this on Crabbe in the corridor, with very en - tertaining
results); a jinx that glued the tongue to the roof of the mouth (which
he had twice used, to general applause, on an un -
suspecting Argus Filch); and, perhaps most useful of all, Muffliato,
a spell that filled the ears of anyone nearby with an unidentifiable
buzzing, so that lengthy conversations could be held in class with - out
being overheard. The only person who did not find these charms
amusing was Hermione, who maintained a rigidly di sap - proving
expression throughout and refused to talk at all if Harry
had used the Muffliato spell on anyone in the vicinity.
Sitting up in bed, Harry turned the book sideways so as to ex - amine
more closely the scribbled instructions for a spell that seemed to have
caused the Prince some trouble. There were many crossings -out and
alterations, but finally, crammed into a corner of the page, the
scribble:
us (nvbl)
Levicorp
 238 ‘

SILVER AND OPALS


While the wind and sleet pounded relentlessly on the windows, and
Neville snored loudly, Harry stared at the letters in brackets.
Nvbl . . . that had to mean “nonverbal. ” Harry rather doubted he
would be able to bring off this particular spell; he was still having
difficulty with nonverbal spells, something Snape had been quick to
comment on in every D.A.D.A. class. On the other hand, the Prince
had proved a much more effective teacher than Snape so far. Pointing
his wand at nothing in particular, he gave it an upward
flick and said Levicorpus ! inside his head.
“Aaaaaaaargh! ”
There was a flash of light and the room was full of voices: Every -
one had woken up as Ron had let out a yell. Harry sent Advanced
Potion -Making flying in panic; Ron was dangling upside down in
midair as though an invisible hook had hoisted him up by the ankle.
“Sorry! ” yelled Harry, as Dean and Seamus roared with laughter, and
Neville picked himself up from the floor, having fallen out of bed.
“Hang on — I’ll let you down — ”
He groped for the potion book and riffled through it in a panic, trying
to find the right page; at last he located it and deciphered one
cramped word underneath the spell: Praying that this was the
counter -jinx, Harry thought Liberacorpus ! with all his might.
There was another flash of light, and Ron fell in a heap onto his
mattress.
“Sorry ,” repeated Harry weakly, while Dean and Seamus contin - ued
to roar with laughter.
“Tomorrow, ” said Ron in a muffled voice, “I’d rather you set the
alarm clock. ”
By the time they had got dressed, padding themselves out with
 239 ‘

CHAPTER TWELVE


several of Mrs. Weasley ’s hand -knitted sweaters and carrying cloaks,
scarves, and gloves, Ron ’s shock had subsided and he had decided that
Harry ’s new spell was highly amusing; so amusing, in fact, that he los t
no time in regaling Hermione with the story as they sat down for
breakfast.
“. . . and then there was another flash of light and I landed on the bed
again! ” Ron grinned, helping himself to sausages. Hermione had not
cracked a smile during this anecdote, and now turned an expression of
wintry disapproval upon Harry. “Was this spell, by any chance,
another one from that potion book of yours? ” she asked.
Harry frowned at her.
“Always jump to the wors t conclusion, don ’t you? ”
“Was it? ”
“Well . . . yeah, it was, but so what? ”
“So you just decided to try out an unknown, handwritten in -
cantation and see what would happen? ”
“Why does it matter if it ’s handwritten? ” said Harry, preferring not to
ans wer the rest of the question.
“Because it ’s probably not Ministry of Magic –approved, ” said
Hermione. “And also, ” she added, as Harry and Ron rolled their eyes,
“because I ’m starting to think this Prince character was a bit dodgy. ”
Both Harry and Ron shouted her down at once. “It was a laugh! ” said
Ron, upending a ketchup bottle over his sausages. “Just a laugh,
Hermione, that ’s all! ”
“Dangling people upside down by the ankle? ” said Hermi - one. “Who
puts their time and energy into making up spells like that? ”
 240 ‘

SILVER AND OPALS


“Fred and George, ” said Ron, shrugging, “it’s their kind of thing. And,
er — ”
“My dad, ” said Harry. He had only just remembered.
“What? ” said Ron and Hermione together.
“My dad used this spell, ” said Harry. “I — Lupin told me. ” This last
part was not true; in fact, Harry had seen his father use the spell on
Snape, but he had never told Ron and Hermione about that particular
excursion into the Pensieve. Now, however, a won - derful possibility
occurred to him. Could the Half -Blood Prince possibly be — ?
“Maybe your dad did use it, Harry, ” said Hermione, “but he ’s not the
only one. We ’ve seen a whole bunch of people use it, in case you ’ve
fo rgotten. Dangling people in the air. Making them float along, asleep,
helpless. ”
Harry stared at her. With a sinking feeling, he too remembered the
behavior of the Death Eaters at the Quidditch World Cup. Ron came
to his aid.
“That was different, ” he s aid robustly. “They were abusing it. Harry
and his dad were just having a laugh. You don ’t like the Prince,
Hermione, ” he added, pointing a sausage at her sternly, “because he ’s
better than you at Potions — ”
“It’s got nothing to do with that! ” said Hermio ne, her cheeks
reddening. “I just think it ’s very irresponsible to start performing
spells when you don ’t even know what they ’re for, and stop talking
about ‘the Prince ’ as if it ’s his title, I bet it ’s just a stupid nickname, and
it doesn ’t seem as though he was a very nice person to me! ”
“I don ’t see where you get that from, ” said Harry heatedly. “If he ’d
been a budding Death Eater he wouldn ’t have been boasting about
being ‘half -blood, ’ would he? ”
 241 ‘

CHAPTER TWELVE


Even as he said it, Harry remembered that his father had been
pure -blood, but he pushed the thought out of his mind; he would
worry about that later. . . .
“The Death Eaters can ’t all be pure -blood, there aren ’t enough
pure -blood wizards left, ” said He rmione stubbornly. “I expect most
of them are half -bloods pretending to be pure. It ’s only Muggle - borns
they hate, they ’d be quite happy to let you and Ron join up. ” “There is
no way they ’d let me be a Death Eater! ” said Ron in - dignantly, a bit of
sausag e flying off the fork he was now brandish - ing at Hermione and
hitting Ernie Macmillan on the head. “My whole family are blood
traitors! That ’s as bad as Muggle -borns to Death Eaters! ”
“And they ’d love to have me, ” said Harry sarcastically. “We ’d be best
pals if they didn ’t keep trying to do me in. ”
This made Ron laugh; even Hermione gave a grudging smile, and a
distraction arrived in the shape of Ginny.
“Hey, Harry, I ’m supposed to give you this. ”
It was a scroll of parchment with Harry ’s name written upon it in
familiar thin, slanting writing.
“Thanks, Ginny . . . It ’s Dumbledore ’s next lesson! ” Harry told Ron
and Hermione, pulling open the parchment and quickly read - ing its
contents. “Monday evening! ” He felt suddenly light and happy. “Want
to join us in Hogsmeade, Ginny? ” he asked.
“I’m going with Dean — might see you there, ” she replied, wav - ing
at them as she left.
Filch was standing at the oak front doors as usual, checking off the
names of people who had permission to go into H ogsmeade. The
process took even longer than normal as Filch was triple - checking
everybody with his Secrecy Sensor.
 242 ‘

SILVER AND OPALS


“What does it matter if we ’re smuggling Dark stuff OUT? ” de -
manded Ron, eyeing the long thin Secrecy Sensor with apprehen - sion.
“Surely you ought to be checking what we bring back IN? ” His cheek
earned him a few extra jabs with the Sensor, and he was still wincing as
they stepped out into the wind and sleet. The walk into Hogsmeade
was not enjoyable. Harry wrapped his scarf over his lower face; the
exposed part soon felt both raw and numb. The road to the village was
full of students bent double against the bitter wind. More than once
Harry wondered whether they m ight not have had a better time in the
warm common room, and when they finally reached Hogsmeade and
saw that Zonko ’s Joke Shop had been boarded up, Harry took it as
confirmation that this trip was not destined to be fun. Ron pointed,
with a thickly glove d hand, toward Honeydukes, which was mercifully
open, and Harry and Hermione staggered in his wake into the
crowded shop.
“Thank God, ” shivered Ron as they were enveloped by warm,
toffee -scented air. “Let ’s stay here all afternoon. ”
“Harry, m ’boy! ” said a booming voice from behind them. “Oh no, ”
muttered Harry. The three of them turned to see Pro - fessor Slughorn,
who was wearing an enormous furry hat and an overcoat with
matching fur collar, clutching a large bag of crystal - ized pineapple,
and occupying at least a quarter of the shop. “Harry, that ’s three of my
little suppers you ’ve missed now! ” said Slughorn, poking him genially
in the chest. “It won ’t do, m ’boy, I ’m determined to have you! Miss
Granger loves them, don ’t you? ” “Yes, ” said Hermione helpl essly,
“they ’re really — ”
“So why don ’t you come along, Harry? ” demanded Slughorn.
“Well, I ’ve had Quidditch practice, Professor, ” said Harry, who
 243 ‘

CHAPTER TWELVE


had indeed been scheduling practices every time Slughorn had sent
him a little, violet ribbon -adorned invitation. This strategy meant that
Ron was not left out, and they usually had a laugh with Ginny,
imagining Hermione shut up with McLaggen and Zabini.
“Well, I certainly expect you to win your first match after all this hard
work! ” said Slughorn. “But a little recreation never hurt any - body.
Now, how about Monday night, you can ’t possibly want to practice in
this weather. . . . ”
“I can ’t, Professor, I ’ve got — er — an appointment with Profes - sor
Dumbledore that evening. ”
“Unlucky again! ” cried Slughorn dramatically. “Ah, well . . . you can ’t
evade me forever, Harry! ”
And with a regal wave, he waddled out of the shop, taking as lit - tle
notice of Ron as though he had been a display of Cockroach Clusters.
“I can ’t believe you ’ve wriggled out of another one, ” said Hermi -
one, shaking her head. “They ’re not that bad, you know. . . . They ’re
even quite fun sometimes. . . . ” But then she caught sight of Ron ’s
expression. “Oh, look — they ’ve got deluxe sugar quills — those
would last hours! ”
Glad that Hermione had changed the subject, Harry showed much
more interest in the new extra -large sugar quills than he would
normally have done, but Ron continued to look moody and merely
shrugged when Hermione asked him where he wanted to go next.
“Let ’s go to the Three Broomsticks, ” said Harry. “It’ll be warm. ” They
bundled their scarves back over their faces and left the sweetshop.
The bitter wind was like knives on their faces after the sugary warmth
of Honeydukes. The street was not very busy; no -
 244 ‘

SILVER AND OPALS


body was lingering to chat, just hurrying toward their destinations.
The exceptions were two men a little ahead of them, standing just
outside the Three Broomsticks. One was very tall and thin; squint - ing
through his rain -washed glasses Harry recognized the barman who
worked in the other Hogsmeade pub, the Hog ’s Head. As H arry, Ron,
and Hermione drew closer, the barman drew his cloak more tightly
around his neck and walked away, leaving the shorter man to fumble
with something in his arms. They were barely feet from him when
Harry realized who the man was.
“Mundungus! ”
The squat, bandy -legged man with long, straggly, ginger hair jumped
and dropped an ancient suitcase, which burst open, releas - ing what
looked like the entire contents of a junk shop window.
“Oh, ’ello, ’Arry, ” said Mundungus Fletcher, with a most un -
conv incing stab at airiness. “Well, don ’t let me keep ya. ”
And he began scrabbling on the ground to retrieve the contents of his
suitcase with every appearance of a man eager to be gone. “Are you
selling this stuff? ” asked Harry, watching Mundungus grab an
assortment of grubby -looking objects from the ground. “Oh, well,
gotta scrape a living, ” said Mundungus. “Gimme that! ”
Ron had stooped down and picked up something silver. “Hang on, ”
Ron said slowly. “This looks familiar — ” “Thank you! ” said
Mundungus, snatching the goblet out of Ron ’s hand and stuffing it
back into the case. “Well, I ’ll see you all — OUCH! ”
Harry had pinned Mundungus against the wall of the pub by the throat.
Holding him fast with one hand, he pulled out his wand.
 245 ‘

CHAPTER TWELVE


“Harry! ” squealed Hermione.
“You took that from Sirius ’s house, ” said Harry, who was almost nose
to nose with Mundungus and was breathing in an unpleasant smell of
old tobacco and spirits. “That had the Black family crest on it. ”
“I — no — what — ?” spluttered Mundungus, who was slowly
turning purple.
“What did you do, go back the night he died and strip the place? ”
snarled Harry.
“I — no — ”
“Give it to me! ”
“Harry, you mustn ’t!” shrieked Hermione, as Mundungus started to
turn blue.
There was a bang, and Harry felt his hands fly off Mundungus ’s throat.
Gasping and spluttering, Mundungus seized his fallen case,
then — CRACK — he Disapparated.
Harry swore at the top of his voice, spinning on the spot to see where
Mundungus had gone.
“COME BACK, YOU THIEVING — !”
“There ’s no point, Harry. ”
Tonks had appeared out of nowhere, her mousy hair wet with sleet.
“Mundungus will probably be in Lon don by now. There ’s no point
yelling. ”
“He ’s nicked Sirius ’s stuff! Nicked it! ”
“Yes, but still, ” said Tonks, who seemed perfectly untroubled by this
piece of information. “You should get out of the cold. ”
She watched them go through the door of the Three Broom - sticks.
 246 ‘

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The moment he was inside, Harry burst out, “ He was nicking
Sirius ’s stuff !”
“I know, Harry, but please don ’t shout, people are staring, ” whis -
pered Hermione. “Go and sit down, I ’ll get you a drink. ”
Harry was still fuming when Hermione returned to their table a few
minutes later holding three bottles of butterbeer.
“Can ’t the Order control Mundungus? ” Harry demanded of the other
two in a furious whisper. “Can ’t they at least stop him steal - ing
everything that ’s not fixed down when he ’s at headquarters? ” “Shh! ”
said Hermione desperately, looking around to make sure nobody was
listening; there were a couple of warlocks sitting close by who were
staring at Harry with great interest, and Zabini was lolling against a
pillar not far away. “Harry, I ’d be annoyed too, I know it ’s your things
he ’s stealing — ”
Harry gagged on his butterbeer; he had momentarily forgott en that he
owned number twelve, Grimmauld Place.
“Yeah, it ’s my stuff! ” he said. “No wonder he wasn ’t pleased to see me!
Well, I ’m going to tell Dumbledore what ’s going on, he ’s the only one
who scares Mundungus. ”
“Good idea, ” whispered Hermione, clearly pleased that Harry was
calming down. “Ron, what are you staring at? ”
“Nothing, ” said Ron, hastily looking away from the bar, but Harry
knew he was trying to catch the eye of the curvy and attractive bar -
maid, Madam Rosmerta, for whom he had long nursed a soft spot. “I
expect ‘nothing ’s’ in the back getting more firewhisky, ” said
Hermione waspishly.
Ron ignored this jibe, sipping his drink in what he evidently
considered to be a dignified silence. Harry was thinking about Sir - ius,
and how he had hated those silver goblets anyway. Hermione
 247 ‘

CHAPTER TWELVE


drummed her fingers on the table, her eyes flickering between Ron
and the bar. The moment Harry drained the last drops in his bot - tle
she said, “Shall we call it a day and go back to school, then? ” The other
two nodded; it had not been a fun trip and the weather was getting
worse the longer they stayed. Once again they drew their cloaks tightly
around them, rearranged their scarves, pulled on the ir gloves, then
followed Katie Bell and a friend out of the pub and back up the High
Street. Harry ’s thoughts strayed to Ginny as they trudged up the road
to Hogwarts through the frozen slush. They had not met up with her,
undoubtedly, thought Harry, becau se she and Dean were cozily
closeted in Madam Puddifoot ’s Tea Shop, that haunt of happy couples.
Scowling, he bowed his head against the swirling sleet and trudged on.
It was a little while before Harry became aware that the voices of Katie
Bell and her friend, which were being carried back to him on the wind,
had become shriller and louder. Harry squinted at their indistinct
figures. The two girls were having an argument about something Katie
was holding in her hand. “It’s nothing to do with you, Leanne !” Harry
heard Katie say.
They rounded a corner in the lane, sleet coming thick and fast,
blurring Harry ’s glasses. Just as he raised a gloved hand to wipe them,
Leanne made to grab hold of the package Katie was holding; Katie
tugged it back and the packa ge fell to the ground.
At once, Katie rose into the air, not as Ron had done, suspended
comically by the ankle, but gracefully, her arms outstretched, as
though she was about to fly. Yet there was something wrong, some -
thing eerie. . . . Her hair was whipped around her by the fierce wind,
but her eyes were closed and her face was quite empty of
 248 ‘

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expression. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Leanne had all halted in their
tracks, watching.
Then, six feet above the ground, Katie let out a terrible scream. Her
eyes flew open but whatever she could see, or whatever she was
feeling, was clearly causing her terrible anguish. She screamed and
screamed; Leanne started to sc ream too and seized Katie ’s ankles,
trying to tug her back to the ground. Harry, Ron, and Hermione
rushed forward to help, but even as they grabbed Katie ’s legs, she fell
on top of them; Harry and Ron managed to catch her but she was
writhing so much they could hardly hold her. Instead they low - ered
her to the ground where she thrashed and screamed, appar - ently
unable to recognize any of them.
Harry looked around; the landscape seemed deserted. “Stay there! ” he
shouted at the others over the howling wind . “I’m going for help! ”
He began to sprint toward the school; he had never seen anyone
behave as Katie had just behaved and could not think what had caused
it; he hurtled around a bend in the lane and collided with what seemed
to be an enormous bear on its hind legs.
“Hagrid! ” he panted, disentangling himself from the hedgerow into
which he had fallen.
“Harry! ” said Hagrid, who had sleet trapped in his eyebrows and beard,
and was wearing his great, shaggy beaverski n coat. “Jus ’ bin visitin ’
Grawp, he ’s comin ’ on so well yeh wouldn ’ — ”
“Hagrid, someone ’s hurt back there, or cursed, or something — ”
“Wha? ” said Hagrid, bending lower to hear what Harry was say - ing
over the raging wind.
“Someone ’s been cursed! ” bell owed Harry.
 249 ‘

CHAPTER TWELVE


“Cursed? Who ’s bin cursed — not Ron? Hermione? ” “No, it ’s not
them, it ’s Katie Bell — this way . . . ” Together they ran back along the
lane. It took them no time to find the little group of people around
Katie, who was still writhing and screaming on the ground; Ron,
Hermione, and Leanne were all trying to quiet her.
“Get back! ” shouted Hagrid. “Lemme see her! ” “Something ’s
happened to her! ” sobbed Leanne. “I don ’t k now what — ”
Hagrid stared at Katie for a second, then without a word, bent down,
scooped her into his arms, and ran off toward the castle with her.
Within seconds, Katie ’s piercing screams had died away and the only
sound was the roar of the wind.
He rmione hurried over to Katie ’s wailing friend and put an arm
around her.
“It’s Leanne, isn ’t it? ”
The girl nodded.
“Did it just happen all of a sudden, or — ?”
“It was when that package tore, ” sobbed Leanne, pointing at the now
sodden brown -paper package on the ground, which had split open to
reveal a greenish glitter. Ron bent down, his hand out - stretched, but
Harry seized his arm and pulled him back.
“ Don ’t touch it !”
He crouched down. An ornate opal necklace was visib le, poking out
of the paper.
“I’ve seen that before, ” said Harry, staring at the thing. “It was on
display in Borgin and Burkes ages ago. The label said it was cursed.
Katie must have touched it. ” He looked up at Leanne, who
 250 ‘

SILVER AND OPALS


had started to shake uncontrollably. “How did Katie get hold of this? ”
“Well, that ’s why we were arguing. She came back from the bathroom
in the Three Broomsticks holding it, said it was a sur - prise for
somebody at Hogwarts and she had to deliver it. She looked all funny
when she said it. . . . Oh no, oh no, I bet she ’d been Imperiused and I
didn ’t realize! ”
Leanne shook with renewed sobs. Hermione patted her shoulder
gently.
“She didn ’t say who ’d gi ven it to her, Leanne? ” “No . . . she wouldn ’t
tell me . . . and I said she was being stupid and not to take it up to
school, but she just wouldn ’t listen and . . . and then I tried to grab it
from her . . . and — and — ”
Leanne let out a wail of despair.
“We ’d better get up to school, ” said Hermione, her arm still around
Leanne. “We ’ll be able to find out how she is. Come on. . . . ” Harry
hesitated for a moment, then pulled his scarf from around his face and,
ignoring Ron ’s gasp, carefully covered the necklace in it and picked it
up.
“We ’ll need to show this to Madam Pomfrey, ” he said. As they
followed Hermione and Leanne up the road, Harry was thinking
furiously. They had just entered the grounds when he spoke, unable to
keep his thoughts to himself any longer.
“Malfoy knows about this necklace. It was in a case at Borgin and
Burkes four years ago, I saw him having a good look at it while I was
hiding from him and his dad. This is what he was buying that day
when w e followed him! He remembered it and he went back for it! ” “I
— I dunno, Harry, ” said Ron hesitantly. “Loads of people go
 251 ‘

CHAPTER TWELVE


to Borgin and Burkes . . . and didn ’t that girl say Katie got it in the girls ’
bathroom? ”
“She said she came back from the bathroom with it, she didn ’t
necessarily get it in the bathroom itself — ”
“McGonagall! ” said Ron warningly.
Harry looked up. Sure enough, Professor McGonagall was hur - rying
down the stone steps through swi rling sleet to meet them. “Hagrid
says you four saw what happened to Katie Bell — upstairs to my
office at once, please! What ’s that you ’re holding, Potter? ”
“It’s the thing she touched, ” said Harry.
“Good lord, ” said Professor McGonagall, lo oking alarmed as she took
the necklace from Harry. “No, no, Filch, they ’re with me! ” she added
hastily, as Filch came shuffling eagerly across the entrance hall holding
his Secrecy Sensor aloft. “Take this necklace to Profes - sor Snape at
once, but be sure not to touch it, keep it wrapped in the scarf! ”
Harry and the others followed Professor McGonagall upstairs and
into her office. The sleet -spattered windows were rattling in their
frames, and the room was chilly despite the fire crackling in the grate.
Professor McGonagall closed the door and swept around her desk to
face Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the still sobbing Leanne.
“Well? ” she said sharply. “What happened? ”
Haltingly, and with many pauses while she attempted to control her
crying, Leanne tol d Professor McGonagall how Katie had gone to the
bathroom in the Three Broomsticks and returned holding the
unmarked package, how Katie had seemed a little odd, and
 252 ‘

SILVER AND OPALS


how they had argued about the advisability of agreeing to deliver
unknown objects, the argument culminating in the tussle over the
parcel, which tore open. At this point, Leanne was so overcome, there
was no getting another word out of her.
“All right, ” said Professor McGonagall, not unkindly, “go up to the
hospital wing, please, Leanne, and get Madam Pomfrey to give you
something for shock. ”
When she had left the room, Professor McGonagall turned back to
Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
“What happened when Katie touched the necklace? ” “She rose up in
the air, ” said Harry, before either Ron or Hermi - one could speak,
“and then began to scream, and collapsed. Profes - sor, can I see
Professor Dumbledore, please? ”
“The headmaster is away until Monday, Potter ,” said Professor
McGonagall, looking surprised.
“Away? ” Harry repeated angrily.
“Yes, Potter, away! ” said Professor McGonagall tartly. “But any - thing
you have to say about this horrible business can be said to me, I ’m
sure! ”
For a split second, Harry hesitated. Professor McGonagall did not
invite confidences; Dumbledore, though in many ways more
intimidating, still seemed less likely to scorn a theory, however wild.
This was a life -and -death matter, though, and no moment to wo rry
about being laughed at.
“I think Draco Malfoy gave Katie that necklace, Professor. ” On one
side of him, Ron rubbed his nose in apparent embar - rassment; on the
other, Hermione shuffled her feet as though quite keen to put a bit of
distance between h erself and Harry.
 253 ‘

CHAPTER TWELVE


“That is a very serious accusation, Potter, ” said Professor McGon -
agall, after a shocked pause. “Do you have any proof? ”
“No, ” said Harry, “but . . . ” and he told her about following Malfoy to
Borgin and Burkes and the conversation they had over - heard
between him and Mr. Borgin.
When he had finished speaking, Professor McGonagall looked slightly
confused.
“Malfoy took something to Borgin and Burkes for repair? ” “No,
Professor, he just wanted Borgin to tell him how to mend something,
he didn ’t have it with him. But that ’s not the point, the thing is that he
bought something at the same time, and I think it wa s that necklace
— ”
“You saw Malfoy leaving the shop with a similar package? ” “No,
Professor, he told Borgin to keep it in the shop for him — ” “But
Harry, ” Hermione interrupted, “Borgin asked him if he wanted to
take it with him, and Malfoy said no — ”
“Be cause he didn ’t want to touch it, obviously! ” said Harry angrily.
“What he actually said was, ‘How would I look carrying that down the
street? ’” said Hermione.
“Well, he would look a bit of a prat carrying a necklace, ” inter - jected
Ron.
“Oh, Ron, ” said Hermione despairingly, “it would be all wrapped up,
so he wouldn ’t have to touch it, and quite easy to hide inside a cloak,
so nobody would see it! I think whatever he reserved at Borgin and
Burkes was noisy or bulky, something he knew would draw att ention
to him if he carried it down the street — and in any case, ” she pressed
on loudly, before Harry could interrupt, “I asked Borgin about the
necklace, don ’t you remember? When I
 254 ‘

SILVER AND OPALS


went in to try and find out what Malfoy had asked him to keep, I saw
it there. And Borgin just told me the price, he didn ’t say it was already
sold or anything — ”
“Well, you were being really obvious, he realized what you were up to
within about five se conds, of course he wasn ’t going to tell you —
anyway, Malfoy could ’ve sent off for it since — ”
“That ’s enough! ” said Professor McGonagall, as Hermione opened
her mouth to retort, looking furious. “Potter, I appreciate you telling
me this, but we cannot p oint the finger of blame at Mr. Malfoy purely
because he visited the shop where this necklace might have been
purchased. The same is probably true of hundreds of people — ”
“— that ’s what I said — ” muttered Ron.
“— and in any case, we have put stringe nt security measures in place
this year. I do not believe that necklace can possibly have en - tered this
school without our knowledge — ”
“But — ”
“— and what is more, ” said Professor McGonagall, with an air of
awful finality, “Mr. Malfoy was not in Hogs meade today. ” Harry
gaped at her, deflating.
“How do you know, Professor? ”
“Because he was doing detention with me. He has now failed to
complete his Transfiguration homework twice in a row. So, thank you
for telling me your suspicions, Potter, ” she said as she marched past
them, “but I need to go up to the hospital wing now to check on Katie
Bell. Good day to you all. ”
She held open her office door. They had no choice but to file past her
without another word.
Harry was angry with the other two for siding with McGonagall;
 255 ‘

CHAPTER TWELVE


nevertheless, he felt compelled to join in once they started dis -
cussing what had happened.
“So who do you reckon Katie was supposed to give the necklace to? ”
asked Ron, as they climbed the stairs to the common room.
“Goodness only knows, ” said Hermione. “But whoever it was has had
a narrow escape. No one could have opened that package without
touching the necklace. ”
“It could ’ve been meant for loads of peop le, ” said Harry. “Dum -
bledore — the Death Eaters would love to get rid of him, he must be
one of their top targets. Or Slughorn — Dumbledore reckons
Voldemort really wanted him and they can ’t be pleased that he ’s sided
with Dumbledore. Or — ”
“Or you, ” sa id Hermione, looking troubled.
“Couldn ’t have been, ” said Harry, “or Katie would ’ve just turned
around in the lane and given it to me, wouldn ’t she? I was behind her
all the way out of the Three Broomsticks. It would have made much
more sense to deliver the parcel outside Hogwarts, what with Filch
searching everyone who goes in and out. I wonder why Mal - foy told
her to take it into the castle? ”
“Harry, Malfoy wasn ’t in Hogsmeade! ” said Hermione, actually
stamping her foot in frustration.
“He must have used an accomplice, then, ” said Harry. “Crabbe or
Goyle — or, come to think of it, another Death Eater, he ’ll have loads
better cronies than Crabbe and Goyle now he ’s joined up — ”
Ron and Hermione exchanged looks that plainly said There ’s no
point arguing with him.
“Dilligrout, ” said Hermione firmly as they reached the Fat Lady. The
portrait swung open to admit them to the common room. It was quite
full and smelled of damp clothing; many people
 256 ‘

SILVER AND OPALS


seemed to have returned from Hogsmeade early because of the bad
weather. There was no buzz of fear or speculation, however: Clearly,
the news of Katie ’s fate had not yet spread.
“It wasn ’t a very slick attack, really, when you stop and think about it, ”
said Ron, casually turfing a first year out of one of the good armchairs
by the fire so that he could sit down. “The curse didn ’t even make it
into the castle. Not what you ’d call foolproof. ” “You ’re right, ” said
Hermione, prodding Ron out of the chair with her foot and offering it
to the first year again. “It wasn ’t very well thought -out at all. ”
“But since when has Malfoy been one of the world ’s great thinkers? ”
asked Harry.
Neither Ron n or Hermione answered him.

















 257 ‘

C H A P T E R T H I R T E
E N










THE SECRET
RIDDLE



atie was removed to St. Mungo ’s Hospital for Magical
K
Maladies and Injuries the following day, by which time the
news that she had been cursed had spread all over the school, though
the details were confused and nobody othe r than Harry, Ron,
Hermione, and Leanne seemed to know that Katie herself had not
been the intended target.
“Oh, and Malfoy knows, of course, ” said Harry to Ron and Her -
mione, who continued their new policy of feigning deafness when -

ever Harry mentioned his Malfoy -Is-a-Death -Eater theory.
Harry had wondered whether Dumbledore would return from
wherever he had been in time for Monday night ’s lesson, but hav - ing
had no word to the contrary, he presented himself outside
Dumbledore ’s office at eight o ’clock, knocked, and was told to en - ter.
There sat Dumbledore looking unusually tired; his hand was as black
and burned as ever, but he smiled when he gestured to Harry
 258 ‘

THE SECRET RIDDLE


to sit down. The Pensieve was sitting on the desk again, casting sil -
very specks of light over the ceiling.
“You have had a busy time while I have been away, ” Dumble - dore
said. “I believe you witnessed Katie ’s accident. ”
“Yes, sir. How is she? ”
“Still very unwell, although she was relatively lucky. She appears to
have brushed the necklace with the smallest possible amount of skin:
There was a tiny hole in her glove. Had she put it on, had she even
held it in her ungloved hand, she would have died, perhaps instantly.
Luckily Professor Snape was able to do enough to prevent a rapid
spread of the curse — ”
“Why him? ” asked Harry quickly. “Why not Madam Pomfrey? ”
“Impertinent, ” said a soft voice from one of the portraits on the wall,
and Phineas Nige llus Black, Sirius ’s great -great -grandfather, raised his
head from his arms where he had appeared to be sleeping. “I would
not have permitted a student to question the way Hog - warts operated
in my day. ”
“Yes, thank you, Phineas, ” said Dumbledore quelli ngly. “Profes - sor
Snape knows much more about the Dark Arts than Madam Pomfrey,
Harry. Anyway, the St. Mungo ’s staff are sending me hourly reports,
and I am hopeful that Katie will make a full recov - ery in time. ”
“Where were you this weekend, sir? ” Harry asked, disregarding a
strong feeling that he might be pushing his luck, a feeling appar - ently
shared by Phineas Nigellus, who hissed softly.
“I would rather not say just now, ” said Dumbledore. “However, I
shall tell you in due course. ”
“You will? ” said Harry, startled.
 259 ‘

CHAPTER THIRTEEN


“Yes, I expect so, ” said Dumbledore, withdrawing a fresh bottle of
silver memories from inside his robes and uncorking it with a prod of
his wand.
“Sir, ” said Harry tentatively, “I met Mundungus in Hogsmeade. ” “Ah
yes, I am already aware that Mundungus has been treating your
inheritance with light -fingered contempt, ” said Dumbledore,
frowning a little. “He has gone to ground since you accosted him
outside the Three Broomsticks; I rather think he dreads facing me.
However, rest assured that he will not be making away with any more
of Sirius ’s old possessions. ”
“That mangy old half -blood has been stealing Black heirlooms? ” said
Phineas Nigellus, incensed; an d he stalked out of his frame,
undoubtedly to visit his portrait in number twelve, Grimmauld Place.
“Professor, ” said Harry, after a short pause, “did Professor
McGonagall tell you what I told her after Katie got hurt? About Draco
Malfoy? ”
“She told me of your suspicions, yes, ” said Dumbledore.
“And do you — ?”
“I shall take all appropriate measures to investigate anyone who might
have had a hand in Katie ’s accident, ” said Dumbledore. “But what
concerns me now, Harry, is our lesson. ”
Harry felt slightly resentful at this: If their lessons were so very
important, why had there been such a long gap between the first and
second? However, he said no more about Draco Malfoy, but watched
as Dumbledore poured the fresh memories into the Pen - sieve and
began swirling the stone basin once more between his long -fingered
hands.
“You will remember, I am sure, that we left the tale of Lord
 260 ‘

THE SECRET RIDDLE


Voldemort ’s beginnings at the point where the handsome Muggle,
Tom Riddle, had abandoned his witch wife, Merope, and returned to
his family home in Little Hangleton. Merope was left alone in London,
expecting the baby who would one day become Lord Voldemort. ”
“Ho w do you know she was in London, sir? ”
“Because of the evidence of one Caractacus Burke, ” said Dum -
bledore, “who, by an odd coincidence, helped found the very shop
whence came the necklace we have just been discussing. ”
He swilled the contents of the Pensieve as Harry had seen him swill
them before, much as a gold prospector sifts for gold. Up out of the
swirling, silvery mass rose a little old man revolving slowly in the
Pensieve, silver as a ghost but much more solid, with a thatch of hair
that compl etely covered his eyes.
“Yes, we acquired it in curious circumstances. It was brought in by a
young witch just before Christmas, oh, many years ago now. She said
she needed the gold badly, well, that much was obvious. Covered in
rags and pretty far along . . . Going to have a baby, see. She said the
locket had been Slytherin ’s. Well, we hear that sort of story all the time,
‘Oh, this was Merlin ’s, this was, his favorite teapot, ’ but when I looked
at it, it had his mark all right, and a few simple spells we re enough to
tell me the truth. Of course, that made it near enough priceless. She
didn ’t seem to have any idea how much it was worth. Happy to get ten
Galleons for it. Best bar - gain we ever made! ”
Dumbledore gave the Pensieve an extra -vigorous shake and Car -
actacus Burke descended back into the swirling mass of memory from
whence he had come.
“He only gave her ten Galleons? ” said Harry indignantly.
 261 ‘

CHAPTER THIRTEEN


“Caractacus Burke was not famed for his generosity, ” said Dum -
bledore. “So we know that, near the end of her pregnancy, Merope
was alone in London and in desperate need of gold, desperate enough
to sell her one and only valuable possession, the locket that was one of
Marvolo ’s treasured family heirlooms. ”
“But she could do magic! ” said Harry impatiently. “She could have got
food and everything for herself by magic, couldn ’t she? ” “Ah, ” said
Dumbledore, “perhaps she could. But it is my belief — I am guess ing
again, but I am sure I am right — that when her husband abandoned
her, Merope stopped using magic. I do not think that she wanted to be
a witch any longer. Of course, it is also possible that her unrequited
love and the attendant despair sapped her of her powers; that can
happen. In any case, as you are about to see, Merope refused to raise
her wand even to save her own life. ”
“She wouldn ’t even stay alive for her son? ”
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “Could you possibly be feeling sorry
for Lord Voldemort? ”
“No, ” said Harry quickly, “but she had a choice, didn ’t she, not like
my mother — ”
“Your mother had a choice too, ” said Dumbledore gently. “Yes,
Merope Riddle chose death in spite of a son who needed her, but do
not judge her too harshly, Harry. She was greatly weakened by long
suffering and she never had your mother ’s courage. And now, if you
will stand . . . ”
“Where are we going? ” Harry asked, as Dumbledore joined him at the
front of the desk.
“This time, ” said Dumbledore, “we are going to enter my
 262 ‘

THE SECRET RIDDLE


memory. I think you will find it both rich in detail and satisfyingly
accurate. After you, Harry . . . ”
Harry bent over the Pensieve; his face broke the cool surface of the
memory and then he was falling through darkness again. . . . Seconds
later, his feet hit firm ground; he opened his eyes and found that he
and Dumbledore were standing in a bustling, old - fashioned London
street.
“There I am, ” said Dumbledore brightly, pointing ahead of them to a
tall figure crossing the road in front of a horse -drawn milk cart.
This younger Albus Dumbledore ’s long hair and beard were auburn.
Having reached their side of the street, he strode off along the
pavement, drawing many curious glances due to the flamboy - antly cut
suit of plum velvet that he was wearing.
“Nice suit, sir, ” said Harry, before he could stop himself, but
Dumbledore merely chuckled as they followe d his younger self a short
distance, finally passing through a set of iron gates into a bare
courtyard that fronted a rather grim, square building surrounded by
high railings. He mounted the few steps leading to the front door and
knocked once. After a mom ent or two, the door was opened by a
scruffy girl wearing an apron.
“Good afternoon. I have an appointment with a Mrs. Cole, who, I
believe, is the matron here? ”
“Oh, ” said the bewildered -looking girl, taking in Dumbledore ’s
eccentric appearance. “Um . . . just a mo ’ . . . MRS. COLE! ” she
bellowed over her shoulder.
Harry heard a distant voice shouting something in response. The girl
turned back to Dumbledore. “Come in, she ’s on ’er way. ”
 263 ‘

CHAPTER THIRTEEN


Dumbledore stepped into a hallway tiled in black and white; the whole
place was shabby but spotlessly clean. Harry and the older
Dumbledore followed. Before the front door had closed behind them,
a skinny, harassed -looking woman came scurrying toward them. She
had a sharp -featured face that appeared more anxious than unkind,
and she was talking over her shoulder to another aproned helper as
she walked toward Dumbledore.
“. . . and take the iodine upstairs to Martha, Billy Stubbs has been
picking his sca bs and Eric Whalley ’s oozing all over his sheets —
chicken pox on top of everything else, ” she said to no - body in
particular, and then her eyes fell upon Dumbledore and she stopped
dead in her tracks, looking as astonished as if a giraffe had just crossed
her threshold.
“Good afternoon, ” said Dumbledore, holding out his hand.
Mrs. Cole simply gaped.
“My name is Albus Dumbledore. I sent you a letter requesting an
appointment and you very kindly invited me here today. ” Mrs. Cole
blinked. Apparently dec iding that Dumbledore was not a hallucination,
she said feebly, “Oh yes. Well — well then — you ’d better come into
my room. Yes. ”
She led Dumbledore into a small room that seemed part sitting room,
part office. It was as shabby as the hallway and the fu rniture was old
and mismatched. She invited Dumbledore to sit on a rick - ety chair
and seated herself behind a cluttered desk, eyeing him nervously.
“I am here, as I told you in my letter, to discuss Tom Riddle and
arrangements for his future, ” said Dumbl edore.
“Are you family? ” asked Mrs. Cole.
 264 ‘

THE SECRET RIDDLE


“No, I am a teacher, ” said Dumbledore. “I have come to offer Tom a
place at my school. ”
“What school ’s this, then? ”
“It is called Hogwarts, ” said Dumbledore.
“And how come you ’re interested in Tom? ”
“We believe he has qualities we are looking for. ” “You mean he ’s won
a scholarship? How can he have done? He ’s never been entered for
one. ”
“Well, his name has been down for our school since birth — ”
“Who registered him? His parents? ”
There was no doubt that Mrs. Cole was an inconveniently sharp
woman. Apparently Dumbledore thought so too, for Harry now saw
him slip his wand out of the pocket of his velvet suit, at the same time
picking up a piece of perfectly blank paper from Mrs. Cole ’s desktop.
“Here, ” said Dumbledore, waving his wand once as he passed her
the piece of paper, “I think this will make everything clear. ” Mrs.
Cole ’s eyes sli d out of focus and back again as she gazed in - tently at
the blank paper for a moment.
“That seems perfectly in order, ” she said placidly, handing it back.
Then her eyes fell upon a bottle of gin and two glasses that had
certainly not been present a few s econds before.
“Er — may I offer you a glass of gin? ” she said in an extra - refined
voice.
“Thank you very much, ” said Dumbledore, beaming. It soon became
clear that Mrs. Cole was no novice when it came to gin drinking.
Pouring both of them a generous measure, she drained her own glass
in one gulp. Smacking her lips frankly, she
 265 ‘

CHAPTER THIRTEEN


smiled at Dumbledore for the first time, and he didn ’t hesitate to pre ss
his advantage.
“I was wondering whether you could tell me anything of Tom Riddle ’s
history? I think he was born here in the orphanage? ” “That ’s right, ”
said Mrs. Cole, helping herself to more gin. “I re - member it clear as
anything, because I ’d just st arted here myself. New Year ’s Eve and
bitter cold, snowing, you know. Nasty night. And this girl, not much
older than I was myself at the time, came staggering up the front steps.
Well, she wasn ’t the first. We took her in, and she had the baby within
the hour. And she was dead in an - other hour. ”
Mrs. Cole nodded impressively and took another generous gulp of gin.
“Did she say anything before she died? ” asked Dumbledore.
“Anything about the boy ’s father, for instance? ”
“Now, as it happens, she did, ” said Mrs. Cole, who seemed to be
rather enjoying herself now, with the gin in her hand and an eager
audience for her story. “I remember she said to me, ‘I hope he looks
like his papa, ’ and I won ’t lie, she was right to hope it , because she was
no beauty — and then she told me he was to be named Tom,
for his father, and Marvolo, for her father — yes, I know, funny
name, isn ’t it? We wondered whether she came from a circus — and
she said the boy ’s surname was to be Riddle. And she died soon after
that without another word.
“Well, we named him just as she ’d said, it seemed so important to the
poor girl, but no Tom nor Marvolo nor any kind of Riddle ever came
looking for him, nor any family at all, so he stayed in the orphanage
and he ’s been here ever since. ”
Mrs. Cole helped herself, almost absentmindedly, to another
 266 ‘

THE SECRET RIDDLE


healthy measure of gin. Two pink spots had appeared high on her
cheekbones. Then she said, “He ’s a funny boy. ”
“Yes, ” said Dumbledore. “I thought he might be. ” “He was a funny
baby too. He hardly ever cried, you know. And then, when he got a
little older, he was . . . odd. ”
“Odd in what way? ” asked Dumbledore gently.
“Well, he — ”
But Mrs. Cole pulled up short, and there was nothing blurry or vague
about the inquisitorial glance she shot Dumbledore over her gin glass.
“He ’s definitely got a place at your school, you say? ”
“Definitely, ” said Dumbledore.
“And nothing I say can chang e that? ”
“Nothing, ” said Dumbledore.
“You ’ll be taking him away, whatever? ”
“Whatever, ” repeated Dumbledore gravely.
She squinted at him as though deciding whether or not to trust him.
Apparently she decided she could, because she said in a sud - de n rush,
“He scares the other children. ”
“You mean he is a bully? ” asked Dumbledore.
“I think he must be, ” said Mrs. Cole, frowning slightly, “but it ’s very
hard to catch him at it. There have been incidents. . . . Nasty
things . . . ”
Dumbledore did not press her, though Harry could tell that he was
interested. She took yet another gulp of gin and her rosy cheeks grew
rosier still.
“Billy Stubbs ’s rabbit . . . well, Tom said he didn ’t do it and I
don ’t see how he could have done, b ut even so, it didn ’t hang itself
from the rafters, did it? ”
 267 ‘

CHAPTER THIRTEEN


“I shouldn ’t think so, no, ” said Dumbledore quietly. “But I ’m jiggered
if I know how he got up there to do it. All I know is he and Billy had
argued the day before. And then ” — Mrs. Cole took another swig of
gin, slopping a little over her chin this time — “on the summer outing
— we take them out, you know, once a year, to the countryside or to
the seaside — well, Amy Be n- son and Dennis Bishop were never
quite right afterwards, and all we ever got out of them was that they ’d
gone into a cave with Tom
Riddle. He swore they ’d just gone exploring, but something hap -
pened in there, I ’m sure of it. And, well, there have been a lot of things,
funny things. . . . ”
She looked around at Dumbledore again, and though her cheeks were
flushed, her gaze was steady. “I don ’t think many people will be sorry
to see the back of him. ”
“You understand, I ’m sure, that we will not be keeping him per -
manently? ” said Dumbledore. “He will have to return here, at the very
least, every summer. ”
“Oh, well, that ’s better than a whack on the nose with a rusty poker, ”
said Mrs. Cole with a slight hiccup. She got to her feet, and Harry was
impressed to see that she was quite steady, even though two -thirds of
the gin was now gone. “I suppose you ’d like to see him? ”
“Very much, ” said Dumbledore, rising too.
She led him out of her office and up the stone stairs, calling out
instructions and admonitions to helpers and children as she passed.
The orphans, Harry saw, were all wearing the same kind of grayish
tunic. They looked reasonably well -cared for, but there was no
denying that this was a grim place in which to grow up.
“Here we are, ” said Mrs. Cole, as they turned off the second
 268 ‘

THE SECRET RIDDLE


landing and stopped outside the first door in a long corridor. She
knocked twice and entered.
“Tom? You ’ve got a visitor. This is Mr. Dumberton — sorry,
Dunderbore. He ’s come to tell you — well, I ’ll let him do it. ” Harry
and the two Dumbledores entered the room, and Mrs. Cole closed the
door on them. It was a small bare room with noth - ing in it except an
old wardrobe, a wooden chair, and an iron bed - stead. A boy was
sitting on top of the gray blankets, his legs stretched out in front of
him, holding a book.
There was no trace of the Gaunts in Tom Riddle ’s face. Merope had
got her dying wish: He was his handsome father in miniature, tall for
eleven years old, dark -haired, and pale. His eyes narrowed slightly as
he took in Dumbledore ’s eccentric appearance. There was a moment ’s
silence.
“How do you do, Tom? ” said Dumbledore, walking forward and
holding o ut his hand.
The boy hesitated, then took it, and they shook hands. Dum - bledore
drew up the hard wooden chair beside Riddle, so that the pair of them
looked rather like a hospital patient and visitor.
“I am Professor Dumbledore. ”
“‘Professor ’?” repea ted Riddle. He looked wary. “Is that like
‘doctor ’? What are you here for? Did she get you in to have a look
at me? ”
He was pointing at the door through which Mrs. Cole had just left.
“No, no, ” said Dumbledore, smiling.
“I don ’t believe you, ” said Riddle. “She wants me looked at, doesn ’t
she? Tell the truth! ”
He spoke the last three words with a ringing force that was
 269 ‘

CHAPTER THIRTEEN


almost shocking. It was a command, and it sounded as though he had
given it many times before. His eyes had widened and he was glaring at
Dumbledore, who made no response except to continue smiling
pleasantly. After a few seconds Riddle stopped glaring, though he
looked, if anything, warier still.
“Who are you? ”
“I have told you. My name is Professor Dumbledore and I work at a
school called Hogwarts. I have come to offer you a place at my school
— your new school, if you would like to come. ”
Riddle ’s reaction to this was most surprising. He leapt from the bed
and backed away from Dumbledore, looking furious.
“You can ’t kid me! The asylum, that ’s where you ’re from, isn ’t it?
‘Professor, ’ yes, of course — well, I ’m not going, see? That old cat ’s
the one who should be in the asylum. I never did anything to little
Amy Benson or Dennis Bishop, and you can ask them, they ’ll tell
you! ”
“I am not from the asylum, ” said Dumbledore patiently. “I am a
teacher and, if you will sit down calmly, I shall tell you about Hog -
warts. Of course, if you would rather not come to the school, no -
body will force you — ”
“I’d like to see them try, ” sneered Riddle.
“Hogwarts, ” Dumbledore went on, as though he had not heard
Riddle ’s last words, “is a school for people with special abilities — ”
“I’m not mad! ”
“I know that you are not mad. Hogwarts is not a school for mad
people. It is a school of magic. ”
There was silence. Riddle had frozen, his face expressionless, but his
eyes were flickering back and forth betw een each of Dumble - dore ’s,
as though trying to catch one of them lying.
 270 ‘

THE SECRET RIDDLE


“Magic? ” he repeated in a whisper.
“That ’s right, ” said Dumbledore.
“It’s . . . it ’s magic, what I can do? ”
“What is it that you can do? ”
“All sorts, ” breathed Riddle. A flush of excitement was rising up his
neck into his hollow cheeks; he looked fevered. “I can make things
move without touching them. I can make animals do what I want
them to do, without trainin g them. I can make bad things happen to
people who annoy me. I can make them hurt if I want to. ”
His legs were trembling. He stumbled forward and sat down on the
bed again, staring at his hands, his head bowed as though in prayer.
“I knew I was different, ” he whispered to his own quivering fin - gers.
“I knew I was special. Always, I knew there was something. ” “Well,
you were quite right, ” said Dumbledore, who was no longer smiling,
but watching Riddle intently. “You are a wizard. ” Riddle lifted his
head. His face was transfigured: There was a wild happiness upon it,
yet for some reason it did not make him better looking; on the
contrary, his finely carved features seemed somehow rougher, his
expression almost bestial.
“Are you a wiz ard too? ”
“Yes, I am. ”
“Prove it, ” said Riddle at once, in the same commanding tone he had
used when he had said, “Tell the truth. ”
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “If, as I take it, you are accept - ing
your place at Hogwarts — ”
“Of course I am! ”
“Then you will address me as ‘Professor ’ or ‘sir. ’”
 271 ‘

CHAPTER THIRTEEN


Riddle ’s expression hardened for the most fleeting moment be - fore
he said, in an unrecognizably polite voice, “I’m sorry, sir. I meant —
please, Professor, could you show me — ?”
Harry was sure that Dumbledore was going to refuse, that he would
tell Riddle there would be plenty of time for practical demonstrations
at Hogwarts, that they were currently in a building full of Muggles and
m ust therefore be cautious. To his great sur - prise, however,
Dumbledore drew his wand from an inside pocket of his suit jacket,
pointed it at the shabby wardrobe in the corner, and gave the wand a
casual flick.
The wardrobe burst into flames.
Riddle jumped to his feet; Harry could hardly blame him for howling
in shock and rage; all his worldly possessions must be in there. But
even as Riddle rounded on Dumbledore, the flames van - ished,
leaving the wardrobe completely undamaged.
Riddle stare d from the wardrobe to Dumbledore; then, his ex -
pression greedy, he pointed at the wand. “Where can I get one of
them? ”
“All in good time, ” said Dumbledore. “I think there is some - thing
trying to get out of your wardrobe. ”
And sure enough, a faint ra ttling could be heard from inside it. For the
first time, Riddle looked frightened.
“Open the door, ” said Dumbledore.
Riddle hesitated, then crossed the room and threw open the wardrobe
door. On the topmost shelf, above a rail of threadbare clothes, a small
cardboard box was shaking and rattling as though there were several
frantic mice trapped inside it.
“Take it out, ” said Dumbledore.
Riddle took down the quaking box. He looked unnerved.
 272 ‘

THE SECRET RIDDLE


“Is there anything in that box that you ought not to have? ” asked
Dumbledore.
Riddle threw Dumbledore a long, clear, calculating look. “Yes, I
suppose so, sir, ” he said finally, in an expressionless voice.
“Open it, ” said Dumbledore.
Riddle to ok off the lid and tipped the contents onto his bed without
looking at them. Harry, who had expected something much more
exciting, saw a mess of small, everyday objects: a yo -yo, a silver
thimble, and a tarnished mouth organ among them. Once free of the
bo x, they stopped quivering and lay quite still upon the thin blankets.
“You will return them to their owners with your apologies, ” said
Dumbledore calmly, putting his wand back into his jacket. “I shall
know whether it has been done. And be warned: Thiev ing is not
tolerated at Hogwarts. ”
Riddle did not look remotely abashed; he was still staring coldly and
appraisingly at Dumbledore. At last he said in a colorless voice, “Yes,
sir. ”
“At Hogwarts, ” Dumbledore went on, “we teach you not only to use
magi c, but to control it. You have — inadvertently, I am sure — been
using your powers in a way that is neither taught nor tolerated at our
school. You are not the first, nor will you be the last, to allow your
magic to run away with you. But you should know t hat Hog - warts can
expel students, and the Ministry of Magic — yes, there is a Ministry —
will punish lawbreakers still more severely. All new wizards must
accept that, in entering our world, they abide by our laws. ”
“Yes, sir, ” said Riddle again.
It w as impossible to tell what he was thinking; his face remained
 273 ‘

CHAPTER THIRTEEN


quite blank as he put the little cache of stolen objects back into the
cardboard box. When he had finished, he turned to Dumbledore and
said baldly, “I haven ’t got any money. ”
“That is easily remedied, ” said Dumbledore, drawing a leather
money -pouch from his pocket. “There is a fund at Hogwarts for those
who require assistance to buy books and robes. You might have to
buy some of yo ur spellbooks and so on secondhand, but — ” “Where
do you buy spellbooks? ” interrupted Riddle, who had taken the heavy
money bag without thanking Dumbledore, and was now examining a
fat gold Galleon.
“In Diagon Alley, ” said Dumbledore. “I have your list of books and
school equipment with me. I can help you find everything — ”
“You ’re coming with me? ” asked Riddle, looking up.
“Certainly, if you — ”
“I don ’t need you, ” said Riddle. “I’m used to doing things for myself,
I go round London on my own all the time. How do you get to this
Diagon Alley — sir? ” he added, catching Dumbledore ’s eye.
Harry thought that Dumbledore would insist upon accompany - ing
Riddle, but once again he was surprised. Dumbledore handed Riddle
the envelope contain ing his list of equipment, and after telling Riddle
exactly how to get to the Leaky Cauldron from the orphanage, he said,
“You will be able to see it, although Muggles around you —
non -magical people, that is — will not. Ask for Tom the barman —
easy enou gh to remember, as he shares your name — ”
Riddle gave an irritable twitch, as though trying to displace an irksome
fly.
“You dislike the name ‘Tom ’?”
 274 ‘

THE SECRET RIDDLE


“There are a lot of Toms, ” muttered Riddle. Then, as though he could
not suppress the question, as though it burst from him in spite of
himself, he asked, “Was my father a wizard? He was called Tom
Riddle too, they ’ve told me. ”
“I’m afraid I don ’t know, ” said Dumbledore, his voice gentle. “My
mother can ’t have been magic, or she wouldn ’t have died, ” said Riddle,
more to himself than Dumbledore. “It must ’ve been him. So — when
I’ve got all my stuff — when do I come to this Hogwarts? ”
“All the details are on the second piece of pa rchment in your en -
velope, ” said Dumbledore. “You will leave from King ’s Cross Sta -
tion on the first of September. There is a train ticket in there too. ”
Riddle nodded. Dumbledore got to his feet and held out his hand
again. Taking it, Riddle said, “I ca n speak to snakes. I found out when
we ’ve been to the country on trips — they find me, they whisper to me.
Is that normal for a wizard? ”
Harry could tell that he had withheld mention of this strangest power
until that moment, determined to impress.
“It i s unusual, ” said Dumbledore, after a moment ’s hesitation, “but
not unheard of. ”
His tone was casual but his eyes moved curiously over Riddle ’s face.
They stood for a moment, man and boy, staring at each other. Then
the handshake was broken; Dumbledore was at the door. “Good -bye,
Tom. I shall see you at Hogwarts. ”
“I think that will do, ” said the white -haired Dumbledore at Harry ’s
side, and seconds later, they were soaring weightlessly through
darkness once m ore, before landing squarely in the present - day
office.
“Sit down, ” said Dumbledore, landing beside Harry.
 275 ‘

CHAPTER THIRTEEN


Harry obeyed, his mind still full of what he had just seen. “He believed
it much quicker than I did — I mean, when you told him he was a
wizard, ” said Harry. “I didn ’t believe Hagrid at first, when he told
me. ”
“Yes, Riddle was perfectly ready to believe that he was — to use his
word — ‘special, ’” said Dumbledore.
“Did you know — then? ” asked Harry.
“Did I know that I had just met the most dangerous Dark wiz - ard of
all time? ” said Dumbledore. “No, I had no idea that he was to grow up
to be what he is. However, I was certainly intrigued by him. I returned
to Hog warts intending to keep an eye upon him, something I should
have done in any case, given that he was alone and friendless, but
which, already, I felt I ought to do for others ’ sake as much as his.
“His powers, as you heard, were surprisingly well -develope d for such
a young wizard and — most interestingly and ominously of all — he
had already discovered that he had some measure of con - trol over
them, and begun to use them consciously. And as you saw, they were
not the random experiments typical of young wi zards: He was already
using magic against other people, to frighten, to punish, to control.
The little stories of the strangled rabbit and the young boy and girl he
lured into a cave were most suggestive. . . .
‘ I can make them hurt if I want to. . . . ’”
“And he was a Parselmouth, ” interjected Harry. “Yes, indeed; a rare
ability, and one supposedly connected with the Dark Arts, although as
we know, there are Parselmouths among the great and the good too.
In fact, his ability to speak to serpents did not make me nearly as
uneasy as his obvious instincts for cru - elty, secrecy, and domination.
 276 ‘

THE SECRET RIDDLE


“Time is making fools of us again, ” said Dumbledore, indicating the
dark sky beyond the windows. “But before we part, I want to draw
your attention to certain features of the scene we have just witnessed,
for they have a great bearing on the matters we shall be discussing in
future meetings.
“Firstly, I hope you noticed Riddle ’s reaction when I ment ioned that
another shared his first name, ‘Tom ’?”
Harry nodded.
“There he showed his contempt for anything that tied him to other
people, anything that made him ordinary. Even then, he wished to be
different, separate, notorious. He shed his name, as you know, within
a few short years of that conversation and created the mask of ‘Lord
Voldemort ’ behind which he has been hidden for so long.
“I trust that you also noticed that Tom Riddle was already highly
self -sufficient, secretive, and, apparently, f riendless? He did not want
help or companionship on his trip to Diagon Alley. He pre - ferred to
operate alone. The adult Voldemort is the same. You will hear many
of his Death Eaters claiming that they are in his confi - dence, that they
alone are close to him, even understand him. They are deluded. Lord
Voldemort has never had a friend, nor do I be - lieve that he has ever
wanted one.
“And lastly — I hope you are not too sleepy to pay attention to this,
Harry — the young Tom Riddle liked to collect trophi es. You saw the
box of stolen articles he had hidden in his room. These were taken
from victims of his bullying behavior, souvenirs, if you will, of
particularly unpleasant bits of magic. Bear in mind this magpie -like
tendency, for this, particularly, will be important later. “And now, it
really is time for bed. ”
 277 ‘

CHAPTER THIRTEEN


Harry got to his feet. As he walked across the room, his eyes fell upon
the little table on which Marvolo Gaunt ’s ring had rested last time, but
the ring was no longer there.
“Yes, Harry? ” said Dumbledore, for Harry had come to a halt. “The
ring ’s gone, ” said Harry, looking around. “But I thought you might
have the mouth organ or something. ”
Dumbledore beamed at him, peering over the top of his half - moon
spectacles.
“Very astute, Harry, but the mouth organ was only ever a mouth
organ. ”
And on that enigmatic note he waved to Harry, who understood
himself to be dismissed.



















 278 ‘

C H A P T E R F O U R T E
E N










FELIX FELICIS



arry had Herbology first thing the following morning.
H
He had been unable to tell Ron and Hermione about
his lesson with Dumbledore over breakfast for fear of being over -
heard, but he filled them in as they walked across the vegetable patch
toward the greenhouses. The weekend ’s brutal wind had died out at
last; the weird mist had returned and it took them a little longer than
usual to find the correct greenhouse.
“Wow, scary thought, the boy You -Know -Who, ” said Ron qui - etly,
as they took their places around one of the gnarled Snargaluff stumps
that formed this term ’s proje ct, and began pulling on their protective
gloves. “But I still don ’t get why Dumbledore ’s showing you all this. I

mean, it ’s really interesting and everything, but what ’s the point? ”
“Dunno, ” said Harry, inserting a gum shield. “But he says it ’s all
important and it ’ll help me survive. ”
“I think it ’s fascinating, ” said Hermione earnestly. “It makes
 279 ‘

CHAPTER FOURTEEN


absolute sense to know as much about Voldemort as possible. How
else will you find out his weakn esses? ”
“So how was Slughorn ’s latest party? ” Harry asked her thickly through
the gum shield.
“Oh, it was quite fun, really, ” said Hermione, now putting on
protective goggles. “I mean, he drones on about famous ex -pupils a
bit, and he absolutely fawns on McLaggen because he ’s so well -
connected, but he gave us some really nice food and he introduced us
to Gwenog Jones. ”
“Gwenog Jones? ” said Ron, his eyes widening under his own
goggles. “The Gwenog Jones? Captain of the Holyhead Harpies? ”
“That ’s right, ” said Hermione. “Personally, I thought she was a bit full
of herself, but — ”
“ Quite enough chat over here! ” said Professor Sprout briskly,
bustling over and looking stern. “You ’re lagging behind, everybody
else has started, and Neville ’s already got his first pod! ”
They looked around; sure enough, there sat Neville with a bloody lip
and several nasty scratches along the side of his face, but clutching an
unpleasantly pulsating green object about the size of a grapefruit.
“Okay, Profe ssor, we ’re starting now! ” said Ron, adding quietly, when
she had turned away again, “should ’ve used Muffliato, Harry. ” “No,
we shouldn ’t!” said Hermione at once, looking, as she al - ways did,
intensely cross at the thought of the Half -Blood Prince and his spells.
“Well, come on . . . we ’d better get going. . . . ”
She gave the other two an apprehensive look; they all took deep
breaths and then dived at the gnarled stump between them.
It sprang to life at once; long, prickly, bramblelike vines flew out of the
top and whipped through the air. One tangled itself in
 280 ‘

FELIX FELICIS


Hermione ’s hair, and Ron beat it back with a pair of secateurs; Harry
succeeded in trapping a couple of vines and knotting them together; a
hole opened in the middle of all the tentaclelike branches; Hermione
plunged her arm bravely into this hole, which closed like a trap around
her elbow; Harry and Ron tugged and wrenched at the vines, forcing
the hole to open again, and Hermi - one snatched her arm free,
clutching in her fingers a pod just like Neville ’s. At once, the prickly
vines shot back inside, and the gnarled stump sat there looking like an
innocently dead lump of wood.
“You know, I don ’t think I ’ll be having any of these in my garden
when I ’ve got my own place, ” said Ron, pushing his goggles up onto
his forehead and wiping sweat from his face.
“Pass me a bowl, ” said Hermione, holding the pulsating pod at arm ’s
length; Harry handed one over and she dropped the pod into i t with a
look of disgust on her face.
“Don ’t be squeamish, squeeze it out, they ’re best when they ’re fresh! ”
called Professor Sprout.
“Anyway, ” said Hermione, continuing their interrupted conver -
sation as though a lump of wood had not just attacked them ,
“Slughorn ’s going to have a Christmas party, Harry, and there ’s no
way you ’ll be able to wriggle out of this one because he actually asked
me to check your free evenings, so he could be sure to have it on a
night you can come. ”
Harry groaned. Meanwhile, Ron, who was attempting to burst the pod
in the bowl by putting both hands on it, standing up, and squashing it
as hard as he could, said angrily, “And this is another party just for
Slughorn ’s favorites, is it? ”
“Just for the Slug Club, yes, ” said Hermione.
 281 ‘

CHAPTER FOURTEEN


The pod flew out from under Ron ’s fingers and hit the green - house
glass, rebounding onto the back of Professor Sprout ’s head and
knocking off her old, patched hat. Ha rry went to retrieve the
pod; when he got back, Hermione was saying, “Look, I didn ’t make
up the name ‘Slug Club ’ — ”
“‘Slug Club, ’” repeated Ron with a sneer worthy of Malfoy. “It’s
pathetic. Well, I hope you enjoy your party. Why don ’t you try
hooking up with McLaggen, then Slughorn can make you King and
Queen Slug — ”
“We ’re allowed to bring guests, ” said Hermione, who for some
reason had turned a bright, boiling scarlet, “and I was going to ask
you to come, but if you think it ’s that stupid then I won ’t bother! ”
Harry suddenly wished the pod had flown a little farther, so that
he need not have been sitting here with the pair of them. Unno - ticed
by either, he seized the bowl that contained the pod and be - gan to try
and open it by the noisiest and most energetic means he could think of;
unfortunately, he could still hear every word of their conversation.
“You were going to ask me? ” asked Ron, in a completely differ - ent
voice.
“Yes, ” said Hermione angr ily. “But obviously if you ’d rather I
hooked up with McLaggen . . . ”
There was a pause while Harry continued to pound the resilient pod
with a trowel.
“No, I wouldn ’t,” said Ron, in a very quiet voice. Harry
missed the pod, hit the bowl, and shatte red it.
“ Reparo, ” he said hastily, poking the pieces with his wand, and
the bowl sprang back together again. The crash, however, appeared to
have awoken Ron and Hermione to Harry ’s presence. Hermione
 282 ‘

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looked flustered and immediately started fussing about for her
copy of Flesh -Eating Trees of the World to find out the correct way
to juice Snargaluff pods; Ron, on the other hand, looked sheepish but
also rather pleased with himself.
“Hand that over, Harry, ” said Hermione hurriedly. “It says we ’re
supposed to puncture them with something sharp. . . . ”
Harry passed her the pod in the bowl; he and Ron both snapped their
goggles back over their eyes and dived, once more, for the stump.
It was not as though he was really surprised, thought Harry, as he
wrestled with a thorny vine intent upon throttling him; he had had an
inkling that this might happen sooner or later. But he was not sure
how he felt about it. . . . He and Cho were now to o em - barrassed to
look at each other, let alone talk to each other; what if Ron and
Hermione started going out together, then split up? Could their
friendship survive it? Harry remembered the few weeks when they
had not been talking to each other in the third year; he had not enjoyed
trying to bridge the distance between them. And then, what if they
didn ’t split up? What if they became like Bill and Fleur, and it became
excruciatingly embarrassing to be in their presence, so that he was
shut out for good ?
“Gotcha! ” yelled Ron, pulling a second pod from the stump just as
Hermione managed to burst the first one open, so that the bowl was
full of tubers wriggling like pale green worms.
The rest of the lesson passed without further mention of Slughorn ’s
party. Although Harry watched his two friends more closely over the
next few days, Ron and Hermione did not seem any different except
that they were a little politer to each other than usual. Harry supposed
he would just have to wait to see what
 283 ‘

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happened under the influence of butterbeer in Slughorn ’s dimly lit
room on the night of the party. In the meantime, however, he had
more pressing worries.
Katie Bell was still in St. Mungo ’s Hospital with no prospect of leaving,
which meant that the promising Gryffindor team Harry had been
training so carefully since September was one Chaser short. He kept
putting off replacing Katie in the hope that she would return, but their
opening match against Slythe rin was loom - ing, and he finally had to
accept that she would not be back in time to play.
Harry did not think he could stand another full -House tryout. With a
sinking feeling that had little to do with Quidditch, he cor - nered Dean
Thomas after Transfiguration one day. Most of the class had already
left, although several twittering yellow birds were still zooming around
the room, all of Hermione ’s creation; nobody else had succeeded in
conjuring so much as a feather from thin air. “Are you still interested
in playing Chaser? ”
“Wha — ? Yeah, of course! ” said Dean excitedly. Over Dean ’s
shoulder, Harry saw Seamus Finnigan slamming his books into his bag,
looking sour. One of the reasons why Harry would have pre - ferred
no t to have to ask Dean to play was that he knew Seamus would not
like it. On the other hand, he had to do what was best for the team,
and Dean had outflown Seamus at the tryouts.
“Well then, you ’re in, ” said Harry. “There ’s a practice tonight, seven
o’cloc k.”
“Right, ” said Dean. “Cheers, Harry! Blimey, I can ’t wait to tell Ginny! ”
He sprinted out of the room, leaving Harry and Seamus alone together,
an uncomfortable moment made no easier when a bird
 284 ‘

FELIX FELICIS


dropping landed on Seamus ’s head as one of Hermione ’s canaries
whizzed over them.
Seamus was not the only person disgruntled by the choice of Katie ’s
substitute. There was much muttering in the common room about the
fact that Harry had now chosen two of h is class - mates for the team.
As Harry had endured much worse mutterings than this in his school
career, he was not particularly bothered, but all the same, the pressure
was increasing to provide a win in the upcoming match against
Slytherin. If Gryffindor won, Harry knew that the whole House would
forget that they had criticized him and swear that they had always
known it was a great team. If they lost . . . well, Harry thought wryly, he
had still endured worse mutterings. . . .
Harry had no reason to r egret his choice once he saw Dean fly that
evening; he worked well with Ginny and Demelza. The Beat - ers,
Peakes and Coote, were getting better all the time. The only problem
was Ron.
Harry had known all along that Ron was an inconsistent player who
suf fered from nerves and a lack of confidence, and unfortu - nately,
the looming prospect of the opening game of the season seemed to
have brought out all his old insecurities. After letting in half a dozen
goals, most of them scored by Ginny, his technique be came wilder
and wilder, until he finally punched an oncoming Demelza Robins in
the mouth.
“It was an accident, I ’m sorry, Demelza, really sorry! ” Ron shouted
after her as she zigzagged back to the ground, dripping blood
everywhere. “I just — ”
“Panicked ,” Ginny said angrily, landing next to Demelza and ex -
amining her fat lip. “You prat, Ron, look at the state of her! ”
 285 ‘

CHAPTER FOURTEEN


“I can fix that, ” said Harry, landing beside the two girls, pointing
his wand at Demelza ’s mouth, and saying “ Episkey. ” “And Ginny,
don ’t call Ron a prat, you ’re not the Captain of this team — ” “Well,
you seemed too busy to call him a prat and I thought someone should
— ”
Harry forced himself not to laugh.
“In the air, everyone, let ’s go. . . . ”
Overall it was one of the worst practices they had had all term, though
Harry did not feel that honesty was the best policy when they were this
close to the match.
“Good work, everyone, I think we ’ll flatten Slyth erin, ” he said
bracingly and the Chasers and Beaters left the changing room looking
reasonably happy with themselves.
“I played like a sack of dragon dung, ” said Ron in a hollow voice
when the door had swung shut behind Ginny.
“No, you didn ’t,” said Harry firmly. “You ’re the best Keeper I tried
out, Ron. Your only problem is nerves. ”
He kept up a relentless flow of encouragement all the way back to the
castle, and by the time they reached the second floor, Ron was looking
marginally more cheerful. When Harry pushed open the tapestry to
take their usual shortcut up to Gryffindor Tower, however, they
found themselves looking at Dean and Ginny, who were locked in a
close embrace and kissing fiercely as though glued together.
It was as though somethi ng large and scaly erupted into life in Harry ’s
stomach, clawing at his insides: Hot blood seemed to flood his brain,
so that all thought was extinguished, replaced by a savage urge to jinx
Dean into a jelly. Wrestling with this sudden madness, he heard Ro n’s
voice as though from a great distance away.
 286 ‘

FELIX FELICIS


“Oi! ”
Dean and Ginny broke apart and looked around.
“What? ” said Ginny.
“I don ’t want to find my own sister snogging people in public! ” “This
was a deserted corridor till you came butting in! ” said Ginny.
Dean was looking embarrassed. He gave Harry a shifty grin that Harry
did not return, as the newborn monster inside him was roar - ing for
Dean ’s instant dismissal from the team.
“Er . . . c ’mon, Ginny, ” said Dean, “let ’s go back to the common
room. . . . ”
“You go! ” said Ginny. “I want a word with my dear brother! ” Dean
left, looking as though he was not sorry to depart the scene.
“Right, ” said Ginny, tossing her long red hair out of her face and
glaring at Ron, “let ’s get this straight once and for all. It is none of your
business who I go out with or what I do with them, Ron — ” “Yeah, it
is! ” said Ron, just as angrily. “D ’you think I want peo -
ple saying my sister ’s a — ”
“A w hat? ” shouted Ginny, drawing her wand. “A what, exactly? ”
“He doesn ’t mean anything, Ginny — ” said Harry automati - cally,
though the monster was roaring its approval of Ron ’s words.
“Oh yes he does! ” she said, flaring up at Harry. “Just because he’s
never snogged anyone in his life, just because the best kiss he’s ever
had is from our Auntie Muriel — ”
“Shut your mouth! ” bellowed Ron, bypassing red and turning
maroon.
“No, I will not! ” yelled Ginny, beside herself. “I’ve seen you with
Phlegm , hoping she ’ll kiss you on the cheek every time you see her,
 287 ‘

CHAPTER FOURTEEN


it’s pathetic! If you went out and got a bit of snogging done your - self,
you wouldn ’t mind so much that everyone else does it! ”
Ron had pulled out his wand too; Harry stepped swiftly between
them.
“You don ’t know what you ’re talking about! ” Ron roared, trying to get
a clear shot at Ginny around Harry, who was now standing in front of
her with his arms outstretched. “Just because I don ’t do it in public
— !”
Ginny screamed with derisive laughter, trying to push Harry out of the
way.
“Been kissing Pigwidgeon, have you? Or have you got a picture of
Auntie Muriel stashed under your pillow? ”
“You — ”
A streak of orange light flew under Harry ’s left arm and missed Ginny
by inches; Harry pushed Ron up against the wall.
“Don ’t be stupid — ”
“Harry ’s snogged Cho Chang! ” shouted Ginny, who sounded close to
tears now. “And Hermione snogged Viktor Krum, it ’s only you who
acts like it ’s something disgusting, Ron, and that ’s because you ’ve got
about as much experience as a twelve -year -old! ”
And with that, she stormed away. Harry quickly let go of Ron; the look
on his face was murderous. They both stood the re, breath - ing heavily,
until Mrs. Norris, Filch ’s cat, appeared around the cor - ner, which
broke the tension.
“C’mon, ” said Harry, as the sound of Filch ’s shuffling feet reached
their ears.
They hurried up the stairs and along a seventh -floor corri dor. “Oi, out
of the way! ” Ron barked at a small girl who jumped in fright and
dropped a bottle of toadspawn.
 288 ‘

FELIX FELICIS


Harry hardly noticed the sound of shattering glass; he felt dis - oriented,
dizzy; being struck by a lightning bolt must be something
like this. It’s just because she ’s Ron ’s sister, he told himself. You just
didn ’t like seeing her kissing Dean because she ’s Ron ’s sister. . . .
But unbidden into his mind came an image of that same de - serted
corridor with himself kissing Ginny instead. . . . The mon - ster in his
chest purred . . . but then he saw Ron ripping open the tapestry curtain
and drawing his wand on Harry, shouting things like “betrayal of
trust ” . . . “supposed to be my friend ” . . .
“D ’you think Hermione did snog Krum? ” Ron asked abruptly, as they
approached the Fat Lady. Harry gave a guilty start and wrenched his
imagination away from a corridor in which no Ron intru ded, in which
he and Ginny were quite alone —
“What? ” he said confusedly. “Oh . . . er . . . ”
The honest answer was “yes, ” but he did not want to give it. However,
Ron seemed to gather the worst from the look on Harry ’s face.
“Dilligrout, ” he said d arkly to the Fat Lady, and they climbed through
the portrait hole into the common room.
Neither of them mentioned Ginny or Hermione again; indeed, they
barely spoke to each other that evening and got into bed in si - lence,
each absorbed in his own thought s.
Harry lay awake for a long time, looking up at the canopy of his
four -poster and trying to convince himself that his feelings for Ginny
were entirely elder -brotherly. They had lived, had they not, like
brother and sister all summer, playing Quidditch , teasing Ron, and
having a laugh about Bill and Phlegm? He had known Ginny for years
now. . . . It was natural that he should feel protective . . . natural that he
should want to look out for her . . . want to rip
 289 ‘

CHAPTER FOURTEEN


Dean limb from limb for kissing her . . . No . . . he would have to
control that particular brotherly feeling. . . .
Ron gave a great grunting snore.
She ’s Ron ’s sister, Harry told himself firmly. Ron ’s sister. She ’s out -of-
bounds. He would not risk his friendship with Ron for anything.
He punched his pillow into a more comfortable shape and waited for
sleep to come, trying his utmost not to allow his thoughts to stray
anywhere near Ginny.
Harry awoke next morning feelin g slightly dazed and confused by a
series of dreams in which Ron had chased him with a Beater ’s bat, but
by midday he would have happily exchanged the dream Ron for the
real one, who was not only cold -shouldering Ginny and Dean, but
also treating a hurt an d bewildered Hermione with an icy, sneering
indifference. What was more, Ron seemed to have become, overnight,
as touchy and ready to lash out as the average Blast -Ended Skrewt.
Harry spent the day attempting to keep the peace between Ron and
Hermione with no success; finally, Hermi - one departed for bed in
high dudgeon, and Ron stalked off to the boys ’ dormitory after
swearing angrily at several frightened first years for looking at him.
To Harry ’s dismay, Ron ’s new aggression did not wear off over the
next few days. Worse still, it coincided with an even deeper dip in his
Keeping skills, which made him still more aggressive, so that during
the final Quidditch practice before Saturday ’s match, he failed to save
every single goal the Chasers aimed at him, but bellowed at everybody
so much that he reduced Demelza Robins to tears.
“You shut up and leave her alone! ” shouted Peakes, who was about
two -thirds Ron ’s height, though admittedly carrying a heavy bat.
 290 ‘

FELIX FELICIS


“ENOUGH! ” bellowed Harry, who had seen Ginny glowering in
Ron ’s direction and, remembering her reputation as an accom - plished
caster of the Bat -Bogey Hex, soared over to intervene be - fore things
got out of hand. “Peakes, go and pack u p the Bludgers. Demelza, pull
yourself together, you played really well today. Ron . . . ” he waited
until the rest of the team were out of earshot before saying it, “you ’re
my best mate, but carry on treating the rest of them like this and I ’m
going to ki ck you off the team. ”
He really thought for a moment that Ron might hit him, but then
something much worse happened: Ron seemed to sag on his broom;
all the fight went out of him and he said, “I resign. I ’m pathetic. ”
“You ’re not pathetic and you ’re not r esigning! ” said Harry fiercely,
seizing Ron by the front of his robes. “You can save any - thing when
you ’re on form, it ’s a mental problem you ’ve got! ” “You calling me
mental? ”
“Yeah, maybe I am! ”
They glared at each other for a moment, then Ron shook his head
wearily. “I know you haven ’t got any time to find another Keeper, so
I’ll play tomorrow, but if we lose, and we will, I ’m tak - ing myself off
the team. ”
Nothing Harry said made any difference. He tried boosting Ron ’s
confidence all through dinner, but Ron was too busy being grumpy
and surly with Hermione to notice. Harry persisted in the common
room that evening, but his assertion that the whole team would be
devastated if Ron left was somewhat undermined by the fact that the
rest of the team was sitting in a huddle in a distant corner, clearly
muttering about Ron and casting him nasty looks. Finally Harry tried
getting angry again in the hope
 291 ‘

CHAPTER FOURTEEN


of provoking Ron into a defiant, and hopefully goal -saving, attitude,
but this strategy did not appear to work any better than
encouragement; Ron went to bed as dejected and hopeless as ever.
Harry lay awake for a very long time in the darkness. He did not want
to lose th e upcoming match; not only was it his first as Cap - tain, but
he was determined to beat Draco Malfoy at Quidditch even if he could
not yet prove his suspicions about him. Yet if Ron played as he had
done in the last few practices, their chances of winning were very
slim. . . .
If only there was something he could do to make Ron pull him - self
together . . . make him play at the top of his form . . . some - thing that
would ensure that Ron had a really good day. . . .
And the answer came to Harry in one, sudden, glorious stroke of
inspiration.
Breakfast was the usual excitable affair next morning; the Slytherins
hissed and booed loudly as every member of the Gryffin - dor team
entered the Great Hall. Harry glanced at the ceiling and saw a clear,
pale blue sky: a good omen.
The Gryffindor table, a solid mass of red and gold, cheered as Harry
and Ron approached. Harry grinned and waved; Ron gri - maced
weakly and shook his head.
“Cheer up, Ron! ” called Lavender. “I kn ow you ’ll be brilliant! ”
Ron ignored her.
“Tea? ” Harry asked him. “Coffee? Pumpkin juice? ” “Anything, ” said
Ron glumly, taking a moody bite of toast. A few minutes later
Hermione, who had become so tired of Ron ’s recent unpleasant
behavior that she had not come down to breakfast with them, paused
on her way up the table.
 292 ‘

FELIX FELICIS


“How are you both feeling? ” she asked tentatively, her eyes on the
back of Ron ’s head.
“Fine, ” said Harry, who was concentrating on handing Ron a glass of
pumpkin juice. “There you go, Ron. Drink up. ”
Ron had just raised the glass to his lips when Hermione spoke sharply.
“Don ’t drink that, Ron! ”
Both Harry and Ron looked up at her.
“Why not? ” said Ron.
Hermione was now staring at Harry as though she could not be - lieve
her eyes.
“You just put something in that drink. ”
“Excuse me? ” said Harry.
“You heard me. I saw you. You just tipped something into Ron ’s
drink. You ’ve got the bottle in your hand right now! ”
“I don ’t know what you ’re talking about, ” said Harry, stowing the little
bottle hastily in his pocket.
“Ron, I warn you, don ’t drink it! ” Hermione said again, alarmed, but
Ron picked up the glass, drained it in one gulp, and said, “Stop bossing
me around, Hermione. ”
She looked scandalized. Bending low so that only Harry could hear
her, she hissed, “You should be expelled for that. I ’d never have
believed it of you, Harry! ”
“Hark who ’s talking, ” he whispered back. “Confunde d anyone
lately? ”
She stormed up the table away from them. Harry watched her go
without regret. Hermione had never really understood what a serious
business Quidditch was. He then looked around at Ron, who was
smacking his lips.
 293 ‘

CHAPTER FOURTEEN


“Nearly time, ” said Harry blithely.
The frosty grass crunched underfoot as they strode down to the
stadium.
“Pretty lucky the weather ’s this good, eh? ” Harry asked Ron.
“Yeah, ” said Ron, who was pale and sick -looking.
Ginny and Demelza were already wearing their Quidditch robes and
waiting in the changing room.
“Conditions look ideal, ” said Ginny, ignoring Ron. “And guess what?
That Slytherin Chaser Vaisey — he took a Blud ger in the head
yesterday during their practice, and he ’s too sore to play! And even
better than that — Malfoy ’s gone off sick too! ”
“ What ?” said Harry, wheeling around to stare at her. “He ’s ill?
What ’s wrong with him? ”
“No idea, but it ’s great for us, ” said Ginny brightly. “They ’re playing
Harper instead; he ’s in my year and he ’s an idiot. ”
Harry smiled back vaguely, but as he pulled on his scarlet robes his
mind was far from Quidditch. Malfoy had once before claimed he
could not play due to injury, but on that occasion he had made sure
the whole match was rescheduled for a time that suited the Slytherins
better. Why was he now happy to let a substitute go on? Was he really
ill, or was he faking?
“Fishy, isn ’t it? ” he said in an undertone to Ron. “Malfoy not
playing? ”
“Lucky, I call it, ” said Ron, looking slightly more animated. “And
Vaisey off too, he ’s their best goal scorer, I didn ’t fancy — hey! ” he
said suddenly, freezing halfway through pulling on his Keeper ’s g loves
and staring at Harry.
“What? ”
 294 ‘

FELIX FELICIS


“I . . . you . . . ” Ron had dropped his voice, he looked both scared and
excited. “My drink . . . my pumpkin juice . . . you didn ’t . . . ? ”
Harry raised his eyebrows, but said nothing except, “We ’ll be starting
in about five minutes, you ’d better get your boots on. ” They walked
out onto the pitch to tumultuous roars and boos. One end of the
stadium was solid red and gold; the other, a sea of g reen and silver.
Many Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws had taken sides too: Amidst all the
yelling and clapping Harry could distinctly hear the roar of Luna
Lovegood ’s famous lion -topped hat.
Harry stepped up to Madam Hooch, the referee, who was stand - ing
read y to release the balls from the crate.
“Captains shake hands, ” she said, and Harry had his hand crushed by
the new Slytherin Captain, Urquhart. “Mount your brooms. On the
whistle . . . three . . . two . . . one . . . ”
The whistle sounded, Harry and th e others kicked off hard from the
frozen ground, and they were away.
Harry soared around the perimeter of the grounds, looking around for
the Snitch and keeping one eye on Harper, who was zigzagging far
below him. Then a voice that was jarringly differe nt to the usual
commentator ’s started up.
“Well, there they go, and I think we ’re all surprised to see the team that
Potter ’s put together this year. Many thought, given Ronald Weasley ’s
patchy performance as Keeper last year, that he might be off the team,
but of course, a close personal friendship with the Captain does
help. . . . ”
These words were greeted with jeers and applause from the Slytherin
end of the pitch. Harry craned around on his broom to
 295 ‘

CHA PTER FOURTEEN


look toward the commentator ’s podium. A tall, skinny blond boy with
an upturned nose was standing there, talking into the magical
megaphone that had once been Lee Jordan ’s; Harry recognized
Zacharias Smith, a Hufflepuff player whom he heartily disliked. “Oh,
and here comes Slytherin ’s first attempt on goal, it ’s Urquhart
streaking down the pitch and — ”
Harry ’s stomach turned over.
“— Weasley saves it, well, he ’s bound to get lucky sometimes, I
suppose. . . . ”
“That ’s right, Smith, he is, ” muttered Harry, grinning to him - self, as
he dived amongst the Chasers with his eyes searching all around for
some hint of the elusive Snitch.
With half an hour of the game gone, Gryffindor were leading sixty
points to zero, Ron ha ving made some truly spectacular saves, some
by the very tips of his gloves, and Ginny having scored four of
Gryffindor ’s six goals. This effectively stopped Zacharias won - dering
loudly whether the two Weasleys were only there because Harry liked
them, an d he started on Peakes and Coote instead.
“Of course, Coote isn ’t really the usual build for a Beater, ” said
Zacharias loftily, “they ’ve generally got a bit more muscle — ” “Hit a
Bludger at him! ” Harry called to Coote as he zoomed past, but Coote,
grinnin g broadly, chose to aim the next Bludger at Harper instead,
who was just passing Harry in the opposite direc - tion. Harry was
pleased to hear the dull thunk that meant the Bludger had found its
mark.
It seemed as though Gryffindor could do no wrong. Again and again
they scored, and again and again, at the other end of the pitch, Ron
saved goals with apparent ease. He was actually smiling now, and
when the crowd greeted a particularly good save with a
 296 ‘

FELIX FELICIS


rousing chorus of the old favorite “Weasley Is Our King, ” he pre -
tended to conduct them from on high.
“Thinks he ’s something special today, doesn ’t he? ” said a snide voice,
and Harry was nearly knocked off his broom as Harper col - lided with
him hard and deliberately. “Your blood -traitor pal . . . ” Madam
Hooch ’s back was turned, and though Gryffindors be - low shouted in
anger, by the time she looked around, Harper had already sped off.
His shoulder aching, Harry raced after him, de - termined to ram him
ba ck. . . .
“And I think Harper of Slytherin ’s seen the Snitch! ” said Zacharias
Smith through his megaphone. “Yes, he ’s certainly seen something
Potter hasn ’t!”
Smith really was an idiot, thought Harry, hadn ’t he noticed them
collide? But next moment, hi s stomach seemed to drop out of the sky
— Smith was right and Harry was wrong: Harper had not sped
upward at random; he had spotted what Harry had not: The Snitch
was speeding along high above them, glinting brightly against the clear
blue sky.
Harry accelerated; the wind was whistling in his ears so that it
drowned all sound of Smith ’s commentary or the crowd, but Harper
was still ahead of him, and Gryffindor was only a hundred points up; if
Harper got there first Gryffindor had lost . . . and n ow Harper was feet
from it, his hand outstretched. . . .
“Oi, Harper! ” yelled Harry in desperation. “How much did Malfoy
pay you to come on instead of him? ”
He did not know what made him say it, but Harper did a dou - ble -take;
he fumbled the Snitch, let it slip through his fingers, and shot right
past it. Harry made a great swipe for the tiny, fluttering ball and caught
it.
 297 ‘

CHAPTER FOURTEEN


“YES! ” Harry yelled. Wheeling around, he hurtled back toward the
ground, the Snitch held high in his hand. As the crowd realized what
had happened, a great shout went up that almost drowned the sound
of the whistle that signaled the end of the game.
“Ginny, where ’re you going? ” yelled Harry, who had found him - self
trapped in the midst of a mass midair hug with the rest of the team,
but Ginny sped right on past them until, with an almighty crash, she
collided with the commentator ’s podium. As the crowd shrieked and
laughed, the Gryffindor team landed beside the wreckage of wood
under which Zacharias was feebly stirring; Harry heard Ginny saying
blithely to an irate Professor McGona - gall, “Forgot to brake,
Professor, sorry. ”
Laughing, Harry broke free of the rest of the team and hugged Ginny,
but let go very qu ickly. Avoiding her gaze, he clapped a cheering Ron
on the back instead as, all enmity forgotten, the Gryffindor team left
the pitch arm in arm, punching the air and waving to their supporters.
The atmosphere in the changing room was jubilant. “Party u p in the
common room, Seamus said! ” yelled Dean exu - berantly. “C’mon,
Ginny, Demelza! ”
Ron and Harry were the last two in the changing room. They were just
about to leave when Hermione entered. She was twisting her
Gryffindor scarf in her hands and loo ked upset but determined. “I
want a word with you, Harry. ” She took a deep breath. “You shouldn ’t
have done it. You heard Slughorn, it ’s illegal. ”
“What are you going to do, turn us in? ” demanded Ron. “What are
you two talking about? ” asked Harry, turning away to hang up his
robes so that neither of them would see him grinning. “You know
perfectly well what we ’re talking about! ” said Hermi -
 298 ‘

FELIX FELICIS


one shrilly. “You spiked Ron ’s juice with lucky potion at breakfast!
Felix Felicis! ”
“No, I didn ’t,” said Harry, turning back to face them both. “Yes you
did, Harry, and that ’s why everything went right, there were Slytherin
players missing and Ron saved everything! ”
“I didn ’t put it in! ” said Harry, grinning broadly. He slipped his hand
inside his jacket pocket and drew out the tiny bottle that Hermione
had seen in his hand that morning. It was full of golden potion and the
cork was still tightly sealed with wax. “I wanted Ron to think I ’d done
it, so I faked it when I knew you were look - ing. ” He looked at Ron.
“You saved everything because you felt lucky. You did it all yourself. ”
He pocketed the potion again.
“There really wasn ’t anything in my pumpkin juice? ” Ron said,
asto unded. “But the weather ’s good . . . and Vaisey couldn ’t play.
. . . I honestly haven ’t been given lucky potion? ”
Harry shook his head. Ron gaped at him for a moment, then
rounded on Hermione, imitating her voice. “ You added Felix Felicis
to Ron ’s juice this morning, that ’s why he saved everything ! See! I can
save goals without help, Hermione! ”
“I never said you couldn ’t — Ron, you thought you ’d been given
it too! ”
But Ron had already strode past her out of the door with his
broomstick over his shoulder.
“Er, ” said Harry into the sudden silence; he had not expected his plan
to backfire like this, “shall . . . shall we go up to the party, then? ”
“You go! ” said Hermione, blinking back tears. “I’m sick of Ron
at the mome nt, I don ’t know what I ’m supposed to have done. . . . ”
 299 ‘

CHAPTER FOURTEEN


And she stormed out of the changing room too. Harry walked slowly
back up the grounds toward the castle through the crowd, many of
whom shouted congratulations at him, but he felt a great sense of
letdown; he had been sure that if Ron won the match, he and
Hermione would be friends again im - mediately. He did not see how
he could possibly explain to Hermi - one that what she had done to
offend Ron was kiss Viktor Krum, not when the offense had occurred
so long ago.
Harry could not see Hermione at the Gryffindor celebration party,
which was in full swing when he arrived. Renewed cheers and clapping
greeted his appearance, and he was soon surrounded by a mob of
people congratulating him. What with trying to shake off the Creevey
brothers, who wanted a blow -by -blow match analysis, and the large
group of girls that encircled him, laughing at his least amusing
com ments and batting their eyelids, it was some time before he could
try and find Ron. At last, he extricated him - self from Romilda Vane,
who was hinting heavily that she would like to go to Slughorn ’s
Christmas party with him. As he was duck - ing toward the drinks table,
he walked straight into Ginny, Arnold the Pygmy Puff riding on her
shoulder and Crookshanks mewing hopefully at her heels.
“Looking for Ron? ” she asked, smirking. “He ’s over there, the filthy
hypocrite. ”
Harry looked into th e corner she was indicating. There, in full view of
the whole room, stood Ron wrapped so closely around Lavender
Brown it was hard to tell whose hands were whose.
“It looks like he ’s eating her face, doesn ’t it? ” said Ginny dispas -
sionately. “But I suppose he ’s got to refine his technique somehow.
Good game, Harry. ”
 300 ‘

FELIX FELICIS


She patted him on the arm; Harry felt a swooping sensation in his
stomach, but then she walked off to help herself to more butt erbeer.
Crookshanks trotted after her, his yellow eyes fixed upon Arnold.
Harry turned away from Ron, who did not look like he would be
surfacing soon, just as the portrait hole was closing. With a sink - ing
feeling, he thought he saw a mane of bushy brown hair whip - ping out
of sight.
He darted forward, sidestepped Romilda Vane again, and pushed
open the portrait of the Fat Lady. The corridor outside seemed to be
deserted.
“Hermione? ”
He found her in the first unlocked classroom he tried. She was sitting
on the teacher ’s desk, alone except for a small ring of twit - tering
yellow birds circling her head, which she had clearly just conjured out
of midair. Harry could not help admiring her spell - work at a time like
this.
“Oh, hello, Harry, ” she said in a brittle voice. “I was just prac - ticing. ”
“Yeah . . . they ’re — er — really good. . . . ” said Harry. He had no idea
what to say to her. He was just wondering whether there was any
chance that she had not noticed Ron, that she had merely left the
roo m because the party was a little too rowdy, when she said, in an
unnaturally high -pitched voice, “Ron seems to be enjoying the
celebrations. ”
“Er . . . does he? ” said Harry.
“Don ’t pretend you didn ’t see him, ” said Hermione. “He wasn ’t
exactly hiding i t, was — ?”
The door behind them burst open. To Harry ’s horror, Ron came in,
laughing, pulling Lavender by the hand.
 301 ‘

CHAPTER FOURTEEN


“Oh, ” he said, drawing up short at the sight of Harry and Hermione.
“Oops! ” said Lavender, and she backed out of the room, gig - gling.
The door swung shut behind her.
There was a horrible, swelling, billowing silence. Hermione was
staring at Ron, who refused to look at her, but said with an odd
mixture of bravado and awkwardness , “Hi, Harry! Wondered where
you ’d got to! ”
Hermione slid off the desk. The little flock of golden birds con - tinued
to twitter in circles around her head so that she looked like a strange,
feathery model of the solar system.
“You shouldn ’t leave Lavender waiting outside, ” she said quietly.
“She ’ll wonder where you ’ve gone. ”
She walked very slowly and erectly toward the door. Harry glanced at
Ron, who was looking relieved that nothing worse had happened.
 Oppugno !” came a shriek from th e doorway.
Harry spun around to see Hermione pointing her wand at Ron, her
expression wild: The little flock of birds was speeding like a hail of fat
golden bullets toward Ron, who yelped and covered his face with his
hands, but the birds attacked, peck ing and clawing at every bit of flesh
they could reach.
“Gerremoffme! ” he yelled, but with one last look of vindictive fury,
Hermione wrenched open the door and disappeared through it. Harry
thought he heard a sob before it slammed.





 302 ‘

C H A P T E R F I F T E E
N










THE
UNBREAKABLE
VOW



now was swirling against the icy windows once more; Christ -
S
delivered the usual twelve Christmas trees for the Great Hall; gar -
lands of holly and tinsel had been twisted around the banisters of the
stairs; everlasting candles glowed from inside the helmets of suits of

armor and great bunches of mistletoe had been hung at in - tervals
along the corridors. Large groups of girls tended to converge
underneath the mistletoe bunches every time Harry wen t past, which
caused blockages in the corridors; fortunately, however, Harry ’s
frequent nighttime wanderings had given him an unusually good
knowledge of the castle ’s secret passageways, so that he was able,
without too much difficulty, to navigate mistlet oe -free routes between
classes.
Ron, who might once have found the necessity of these detours a
cause for jealousy rather than hilarity, simply roared with laugh - ter
about it all. Although Harry much preferred this new laughing,
 303 ‘

CHAPTER FIFTEEN


joking Ron to the moody, aggressive model he had been enduring for
the last few weeks, the improved Ron came at a heavy price. Firstly,
Harry had to put up with the frequent presence of Laven - der Brown,
who seemed to regard any moment that she was not kissing Ron as a
moment wasted; and secondly, Harry found him - self once more the
best friend of two people who seemed unlikely ever to speak to each
other again.
Ron, whose hands and forearms still bore scr atches and cuts from
Hermione ’s bird attack, was taking a defensive and resentful tone.
“She can ’t complain, ” he told Harry. “She snogged Krum. So she ’s
found out someone wants to snog me too. Well, it ’s a free country. I
haven ’t done anything wrong. ”
Harry did not answer, but pretended to be absorbed in the book they
were supposed to have read before Charms next morning
( Quintessence : A Quest ). Determined as he was to remain friends
with both Ron and Hermione, he was spending a lot of time with his
mouth shut tight.
“I never promised Hermione anything, ” Ron mumbled. “I mean, all
right, I was going to go to Slughorn ’s Christmas party with her, but
she never said . . . just as friends . . . I ’m a free agent. . . . ”
Harry turned a page of Quint essence, aware that Ron was watch -
ing him. Ron ’s voice tailed away in mutters, barely audible over the
loud crackling of the fire, though Harry thought he caught the words
“Krum ” and “can ’t complain ” again.
Hermione ’s schedule was so full that Harry could only talk to her
properly in the evenings, when Ron was, in any case, so tightly
 304 ‘

THE UNBREAKABLE
VOW


wrapped around Lavender that he did not notice what Harry was
doing. Herm ione refused to sit in the common room while Ron was
there, so Harry generally joined her in the library, which meant that
their conversations were held in whispers.
“He ’s at perfect liberty to kiss whomever he likes, ” said Hermi - one,
while the librarian, Madam Pince, prowled the shelves behind them. “I
really couldn ’t care less. ”
She raised her quill and dotted an i so ferociously that she punc -
tured a hole in her parchment. Harry said nothing. He thought his
voice might so on vanish from lack of use. He bent a little lower
over Advanced Potion -Making and continued to make notes on
Everlasting Elixirs, occasionally pausing to decipher the Prince ’s
useful additions to Libatius Borage ’s text.
“And incidentally, ” said Hermione, after a few moments, “you need to
be careful. ”
“For the last time, ” said Harry, speaking in a slightly hoarse whisper
after three -quarters of an hour of silence, “I am not giving back this
book, I ’ve learned more from the Half -Blood Prince than Snape or
Slughorn have taught me in — ”
“I’m not talking about your stupid so -called Prince, ” said Her - mione,
giving his book a nasty look as though it had been rude to her. “I’m
talking about earlier. I wen t into the girls ’ bathroom just before I came
in here and there were about a dozen girls in there, including that
Romilda Vane, trying to decide how to slip you a love potion. They ’re
all hoping they ’re going to get you to take them to Slughorn ’s party,
an d they all seem to have bought Fred and George ’s love potions,
which I ’m afraid to say probably work — ”
 305 ‘

CHAPTER FIFTEEN


“Why didn ’t you confiscate them then? ” demanded Harry. It seemed
extraordinary that Hermione ’s m ania for upholding rules could have
abandoned her at this crucial juncture.
“They didn ’t have the potions with them in the bathroom, ” said
Hermione scornfully. “They were just discussing tactics. As I doubt
whether even the Half -Blood Prince ” — she gave the book another
nasty look — “could dream up an antidote for a dozen different love
potions at once, I ’d just invite someone to go with you, that ’ll stop all
the others thinking they ’ve still got a chance. It ’s tomorrow night,
they ’re getting desperate. ”
“There isn ’t anyone I want to invite, ” mumbled Harry, who was still
trying not to think about Ginny any more than he could help, despite
the fact that she kept cropping up in his dreams in ways that made him
devoutly thankful that R on could not perform Legilimency.
“Well, just be careful what you drink, because Romilda Vane looked
like she meant business, ” said Hermione grimly.
She hitched up the long roll of parchment on which she was writing
her Arithmancy essay and continued to scratch away with her quill.
Harry watched her with his mind a long way away. “Hang on a
moment, ” he said slowly. “I thought Filch had banned anything
bought at Weasleys ’ Wizard Wheezes? ”
“And when has anyone ever paid attention to what Filch has b anned? ”
asked Hermione, still concentrating on her essay.
“But I thought all the owls were being searched. So how come these
girls are able to bring love potions into school? ”
“Fred and George send them disguised as perfumes and cough
potions, ” said Hermione. “It’s part of their Owl Order Service. ” “You
know a lot about it. ”
 306 ‘

THE UNBREAKABLE
VOW


Hermione gave him the kind of nasty look she had just given his
copy of Advanced Potion -Making.
“It was all on the back of the bottles they showed Ginny and me in the
summer, ” she said coldly. “I don ’t go around putting potions in
people ’s drinks . . . or pretending to, either, which is just as bad. . . . ”
“Yeah, well, never mind that, ” said Harry qu ickly. “The point is, Filch
is being fooled, isn ’t he? These girls are getting stuff into the school
disguised as something else! So why couldn ’t Malfoy have brought the
necklace into the school — ?”
“Oh, Harry . . . not that again . . . ”
“Come on, why not? ” demanded Harry.
“Look, ” sighed Hermione, “Secrecy Sensors detect jinxes, curses, and
concealment charms, don ’t they? They ’re used to find Dark Magic and
Dark objects. They ’d have picked up a powerful curse, like the one
on that necklace, within sec onds. But something that ’s just been put in
the wrong bottle wouldn ’t register — and anyway, love potions aren ’t
Dark or dangerous — ”
“Easy for you to say, ” muttered Harry, thinking of Romilda Vane.
“— so it would be down to Filch to realize it wasn ’t a cough po - tion,
and he ’s not a very good wizard, I doubt he can tell one po - tion from
— ”
Hermione stopped dead; Harry had heard it too. Somebody had
moved close behind them among the dark bookshelves. They waited,
and a moment later the vulturelike co untenance of Madam Pince
appeared around the corner, her sunken cheeks, her skin like
parchment, and her long hooked nose illuminated unflatteringly by
the lamp she was carrying.
 307 ‘

CHAPTER FIFTEEN


“The library is now closed, ” she said. “Mind you return any -
thing you have borrowed to the correct — what have you been do -
ing to that book, you depraved boy ?”
“It isn ’t the library ’s, it ’s mine! ” said Harry hastily, snatching his
copy of Advanced Potion -Making off the table as she lunged at it
with a clawlike hand.
“Despoiled! ” she hissed. “Desecrated! Befouled! ” “It’s just a book
that ’s been written on! ” said Harry, tugging it out of her grip.
She looked as though she might have a seizure; Hermione, who had
hastily packed her things, grabbed Harry by the arm and frog -
marched him away.
“She ’ll ban you from the library if you ’re not careful. Why did you
have to bring that stupid book? ”
“It’s not my fault she ’s barking mad, Hermion e. Or d ’you think she
overheard you being rude about Filch? I ’ve always thought there
might be something going on between them. . . . ”
“Oh, ha ha . . . ”
Enjoying the fact that they could speak normally again, they made
their way along the deserted, lamp -lit corridors back to the common
room, arguing about whether or not Filch and Madam Pince were
secretly in love with each other.
“Baubles, ” said Harry to the Fat Lady, this being the new, festive
password.
“Sam e to you, ” said the Fat Lady with a roguish grin, and she swung
forward to admit them.
“Hi, Harry! ” said Romilda Vane, the moment he had climbed through
the portrait hole. “Fancy a gillywater? ”
 308 ‘

THE UNBREAKABLE
VOW


Hermione gave him a “what -did -I-tell -you? ” look over her shoulder.
“No thanks, ” said Harry quickly. “I don ’t like it much. ” “Well, take
these anyway, ” said Romilda, thrusting a box into his hands.
“Chocolate Cauldrons, they ’ve got firewhisky in them. My gran sent
them to me, but I don ’t like them. ”
“Oh — right — thanks a lot, ” said Harry, who could not think what
else to say. “Er — I’m just going over here with . . . ”
He hurried off behind Hermione, his voice tailing away feebly. “Told
you, ” said Hermi one succinctly. “Sooner you ask some - one, sooner
they ’ll all leave you alone and you can — ”
But her face suddenly turned blank; she had just spotted Ron and
Lavender, who were entwined in the same armchair.
“Well, good night, Harry, ” said Hermione, though it was only seven
o’clock in the evening, and she left for the girls ’ dormitory without
another word.
Harry went to bed comforting himself that there was only one more
day of lessons to struggle through, plus Slughorn ’s party, after which
he and Ron would depart together for the Burrow. It now seemed
impossible that Ron and Hermione would make up with each other
before the holidays began, but perhaps, somehow, the break would
give them time to calm down, think better of their behavio r. . . .
But his hopes were not high, and they sank still lower after en - during a
Transfiguration lesson with them both next day. They had just
embarked upon the immensely difficult topic of human Trans -
figuration; working in front of mirrors, they were supposed to be
changing the color of their own eyebrows. Hermione laughed
 309 ‘

CHAPTER FIFTEEN


unkindly at Ron ’s disastrous first attempt, during which he some - how
managed to give himself a spectacular handlebar mustache; Ron
retaliated by doing a cruel but accurate impression of Hermi - one
jumping up and down in her seat every time Professor McGon - agall
asked a question, which Lavender and Parvati found deeply amusing
and which reduced Hermione to the verge of tears again. She raced
out of the classroom on the bell, leaving half her things behind; Harry,
deciding that her need was greater than Ron ’s just now, scooped up
her remaining possessions and followed her.
He finally tracked her down as she emerged from a girls ’ bath - room
on the floor below. She was accompanied by Luna Lovegood, who
was patting her vaguely on the back.
“Oh, hello, Harry, ” said Luna. “Did you know one of your eye - brows
is bright yellow? ”
“Hi, Luna. Hermione, you left your stuff. . . . ” He
held out her books.
“Oh yes, ” said Hermione in a choked voice, taking her things and
turning away quickly to hide the fact that she was wiping her eyes on
her pencil case. “Thank you, Harry. Well, I ’d be tter get go - ing. . . . ”
And she hurried off, without giving Harry any time to offer words of
comfort, though admittedly he could not think of any. “She ’s a bit
upset, ” said Luna. “I thought at first it was Moaning Myrtle in there,
but it turned out to be Hermione. She said some - thing about that Ron
Weasley. . . . ”
“Yeah, they ’ve had a row, ” said Harry.
“He says very funny things sometimes, doesn ’t he? ” said Luna, as they
set off down the corridor together. “But he can be a bit un - kind. I
noticed t hat last year. ”
 310 ‘

THE UNBREAKABLE
VOW


“I s ’pose, ” said Harry. Luna was demonstrating her usual knack of
speaking uncomfortable truths; he had never met anyone quite like
her. “So have you had a good term? ”
“Oh, it ’s been all right, ” said Luna. “A bit lonely without the D.A.
Ginny ’s been nice, though. She stopped two boys in our
Transfiguration class calling me ‘Loony ’ the other day — ”
“How would you like to come to Slughorn ’s party with me tonight? ”
The words wer e out of Harry ’s mouth before he could stop them; he
heard himself say them as though it were a stranger speaking.
Luna turned her protuberant eyes upon him in surprise.
“Slughorn ’s party? With you? ”
“Yeah, ” said Harry. “We ’re supposed to bring guests, so I thought you
might like . . . I mean . . . ” He was keen to make his intentions perfectly
clear. “I mean, just as friends, you know. But if you don ’t want to . . . ”
He was already half hoping that she didn ’t want to. “Oh, no, I ’d love
to go with you as friends! ” said Luna, beaming as he had never seen
her beam before. “Nobody ’s ever asked me to a party before, as a
friend! Is that why you dyed your eyebrow, for the party? Should I do
mine too? ”
“No, ” said Harry firmly, “that was a mistake. I ’ll get Hermione to put
it right for me. So, I ’ll meet you in the entrance hall at eight o ’clock
then. ”
“AHA! ” screamed a voice from overhead and both of them jumped;
unnoticed by either of them, they had just passed right underneat h
Peeves, who was hanging upside down from a chande - lier and
grinning maliciously at them.
 311 ‘

CHAPTER FIFTEEN


“ Potty
asked Loony to go to the party ! Potty lurves Loony ! Potty
luuuuurves Looooooony !”
And he zoomed away, cackling and shrieking, “Potty loves Loony! ”
“Nice to keep these things private, ” said Harry. And sure enough, in
no time at all the whole school seemed to know that Harry Potter was
taking Luna Lovegood to Slughorn ’s party.
“You could ’ve taken anyone !” said Ron in disbelief over dinner.
“ Anyone ! And you chose Loony Lovegood? ”
“Don ’t call her that, Ron, ” snapped Ginny, pausing behind Harry on
her way to join friends. “I’m really glad you ’re taking her, Harry, she ’s
so excited. ”
And she moved on down the table to sit with Dean. Harry tried to feel
pleased that Ginny was glad he was taking Luna to the party, but could
not quite manage it. A long way along the table, Hermi - one was
sitting alone, playing with her stew. Harry notice d Ron looking at her
furtively.
“You could say sorry, ” suggested Harry bluntly. “What, and get
attacked by another flock of canaries? ” muttered Ron.
“What did you have to imitate her for? ”
“She laughed at my mustache! ”
“So did I, it was the stupidest thing I ’ve ever seen. ” But Ron did not
seem to have heard; Lavender had just arrived with Parvati. Squeezing
herself in between Harry and Ron, Laven - der flung her arms around
Ron ’s neck.
“Hi, Harry, ” said Parvati who, like him, looked faintly embar - rassed
and bored by the behavior of their two friends.
“Hi, ” said Harry. “How ’re you? You ’re staying at Hogwarts, then? I
heard your parents wanted you to leave. ”
 312 ‘

THE U NBREAKABLE
VOW


“I managed to talk them out of it for the time being, ” said Par - vati.
“That Katie thing really freaked them out, but as there hasn ’t been
anything since . . . Oh, hi, Hermione! ”
Parvati positively beamed. Harry could tell that she was feeling guilty
for having laughed at Hermione in Transfiguration. He looked around
and saw that Hermione was beaming back, if possi - ble even more
brightly. Girls were very strange sometimes.
“Hi, Parvati! ” said Hermione, ignoring Ron and Lavender com -
pletely. “Are you going to Slughorn ’s party tonight? ”
“No invite, ” said Parvati gloomily. “I’d love to go, though, it sounds
like it ’s going to be really good. . . . You ’re going, aren ’t you? ” “Ye s,
I’m meeting Cormac at eight, and we ’re — ”
There was a noise like a plunger being withdrawn from a blocked sink
and Ron surfaced. Hermione acted as though she had not seen or
heard anything.
“— we ’re going up to the party together. ”
“Cormac? ” said P arvati. “Cormac McLaggen, you mean? ”
“That ’s right, ” said Hermione sweetly. “The one who almost ” —
she put a great deal of emphasis on the word — “became Gryffin -
dor Keeper. ”
“Are you going out with him, then? ” asked Parvati, wide -eyed. “Oh —
yes — didn ’t you know? ” said Hermione, with a most
un -Hermione -ish giggle.
“No! ” said Parvati, looking positively agog at this piece of gossip.
“Wow, you like your Quidditch players, don ’t you? First Krum, then
McLaggen . . . ”
“I like really good Qu idditch players, ” Hermione corrected her,
still smiling. “Well, see you . . . Got to go and get ready for the
party. . . . ”

 313 ‘

CHAPTER FIFTEEN


She left. At once Lavender and Parvati put their heads together to
discuss this new development, with everything they had ever heard
about McLaggen, and all they had ever guessed about Her - mione.
Ron looked strangely blank and said nothing. Harry was left to ponder
in silence the depths to which girls would sink to g et revenge.
When he arrived in the entrance hall at eight o ’clock that night, he
found an unusually large number of girls lurking there, all of whom
seemed to be staring at him resentfully as he approached Luna. She
was wearing a set of spangled silver ro bes that were at - tracting a
certain amount of giggles from the onlookers, but other - wise she
looked quite nice. Harry was glad, in any case, that she had left off her
radish earrings, her butterbeer cork necklace, and her Spectrespecs.
“Hi, ” he said. “Shall we get going then? ”
“Oh yes, ” she said happily. “Where is the party? ” “Slughorn ’s office, ”
said Harry, leading her up the marble stair - case away from all the
staring and muttering. “Did you hear, there ’s supposed to be a
vampire coming? ”
“Rufus Scrimgeour? ” asked Luna.
“I — what? ” said Harry, disconcerted. “You mean the Minister of
Magic? ”
“Yes, he ’s a vampire, ” said Luna matter -of -factly. “Father wrote a very
long article about it when Scrimgeour first took over from Cornelius
Fudge, but he was forced not to publish by somebody from the
Ministry. Obviously, they didn ’t want the truth to get out! ”
Harry, who thought it most unlikely that Rufus Scrimgeour was a
vampire, but who was used to Luna repeating her father ’s bizarre
 314 ‘

THE UNBREAKABLE
VOW


views as though they were fact, did not reply; they were already
approaching Slughorn ’s office and the sounds of laughter, music, and
loud conversation were growing louder with every step they took.
Whether it had been built that way, or because he had used mag - ical
trickery to make it so, Slughorn ’s office was much larger than the
usual teacher ’s study. The ceiling and walls had been draped with
emerald, crimson, and gold hangings, so that it looked as though they
were all inside a vast tent. The room was crowded and stuffy and
bathed in the red light cast by an ornate golden lamp dangling from
the center of the ceiling in which real fairies were fluttering, each a
brilliant speck of light. Loud singing accompa - nied by what sounded
like mandolins issued from a distant corner; a haze of pipe smoke
hung over several elderly warlocks deep in conversation, and a
number of house -elves were negoti ating their way squeakily through
the forest of knees, obscured by the heavy silver platters of food they
were bearing, so that they looked like lit - tle roving tables.
“Harry, m ’boy! ” boomed Slughorn, almost as soon as Harry and Luna
had squeezed in thro ugh the door. “Come in, come in, so many
people I ’d like you to meet! ”
Slughorn was wearing a tasseled velvet hat to match his smoking
jacket. Gripping Harry ’s arm so tightly he might have been hoping to
Disapparate with him, Slughorn led him purposefully into the party;
Harry seized Luna ’s hand and dragged her along with him. “Harry, I ’d
like you to meet Eldred Worple, an old student of
mine, author of Blood Brothers: My Life Amongst the Vampires —
and, of course, his friend Sanguini. ”
Worple, wh o was a small, stout, bespectacled man, grabbed
 315 ‘

CHAPTER FIFTEEN


Harry ’s hand and shook it enthusiastically; the vampire Sanguini, who
was tall and emaciated with dark shadows under his eyes, merely
nodded. He looked rather bored. A gaggle of girls was standing close
to him, looking curious and excited.
“Harry Potter, I am simply delighted! ” said Worple, peering
shortsightedly up into Harry ’s face. “I was saying to Professor
Slughorn only the other day, ‘ Where is the biography of Harry Potter
for which we have all been waiting ?’”
“Er, ” said Harry, “were you? ”
“Just as modest as Horace described! ” said Worple. “But seri - ously ”
— his manner changed; it became suddenly businesslike — “I would
be delighted to write it myself — people are craving to know more
about you, dear boy, craving! If you were prepared to grant me a few
interviews, say in four - or five -hour sessions, why, we could have the
book finished within months. And all with very little effort on your
part, I assure you — ask Sanguini here if it isn ’t
quite — Sanguini, stay here !” added Worple, suddenly stern, for
the vampire had been edging toward the nearby group of girls, a rather
hungry look in his eye. “Here, have a pasty, ” said Worple, seizing one
from a passing elf and stuffing it into Sanguini ’s hand before turning
his attention back to Harry.
“My dear boy, the gold you could make, you have no idea — ” “I’m
definitely not interested, ” said Harry firmly, “and I ’ve just seen a
friend of mine, sorry. ”
He pulled Luna after him into the crowd; he had indeed just seen a
long mane of brown hair disappear between what looked like two
members of the Weird Sisters.
“Hermione! Hermione !”
“Harry! There you are, thank goodness! Hi, Luna! ”
 316 ‘

THE UNBREAKABLE
VOW


“What ’s happened to you? ” asked Harry, for Hermione looked
distinctly disheveled, rather as though she had just fought her way out
of a thicket of Devil ’s Snare.
“Oh, I ’ve just escaped — I mean, I ’ve just left Cormac, ” she said.
“Under the mistletoe, ” she added in explanation, as Harry continued
to look questioningly at her.
“Serves you right for coming with him, ” he told her severely. “I
thought he ’d annoy Ron most, ” said Hermione dispassion - ately. “I
debated for a while about Zacharias Smith, but I thought, on the
whole — ”
“ You considered Smith ?” said Harry, revolted.
“Yes, I did, and I ’m starting to wish I ’d chosen him, McLaggen makes
Grawp look a gentleman. Let ’s go this way, we ’ll be able to see him
coming, he ’s so tall. . . . ”
The three of them made their way over to the other side of the room,
scooping up goblets of mead on the way, realizing too late that
Professor Trelawney was standing there alone.
“Hello, ” said Luna politely to Professor Trelawney. “Good evening,
my dear, ” said Professor Trelawney, focusing upon Luna with some
difficulty. Harry could smell cooking sherry again. “I haven ’t seen you
in my classes lately. . . . ”
“No, I ’ve got Firenze this year, ” said Luna.
“Oh, of course, ” said Professor Trelawney with an angry, drunken
titter. “Or Dobbin, as I prefer to think of him. You would have
thought, would you not, that now I am returned to the school
Professor Dumbledore might have got rid of the horse? But no . . . we
share classes. . . . It ’s an insult, frankly, an insult. Do you know . . . ”
Professor Trelawney seemed too tipsy to have recognized Harry.
 317 ‘

CHAPTER FIFTEEN


Under cover of her furious criticisms of Firenze, Harry drew closer to
Hermione and said, “Let ’s get something straight. Are you plan - ning
to tell Ron that you interfered at Keeper tryouts? ”
Hermione raised her eyebrows. “Do you really think I ’d stoo p that
low? ”
Harry looked at her shrewdly. “Hermione, if you can ask out
McLaggen — ”
“There ’s a difference, ” said Hermione with dignity. “I’ve got no plans
to tell Ron anything about what might, or might not, have happened at
Keeper tryouts. ”
“Good, ” said Harry fervently. “Because he ’ll just fall apart again, and
we ’ll lose the next match — ”
“Quidditch! ” said Hermione angrily. “Is that all boys care about?
Cormac hasn ’t asked me one single question about myself, no, I ’ve
just been treated to ‘A Hund red Great Saves Made by Cormac
McLaggen ’ nonstop ever since — oh no, here he comes! ”
She moved so fast it was as though she had Disapparated; one
moment she was there, the next, she had squeezed between two
guffawing witches and vanished.
“Seen Hermione? ” asked McLaggen, forcing his way through the
throng a minute later.
“No, sorry, ” said Harry, and he turned quickly to join in Luna ’s
conversation, forgetting for a split second to whom she was talking.
“Harry Potter! ” said Professor Trelawney in deep, vi brant tones,
noticing him for the first time.
“Oh, hello, ” said Harry unenthusiastically.
“My dear boy! ” she said in a very carrying whisper. “The rumors! The
stories! ‘The Chosen One ’! Of course, I have known for a very long
time. . . . The omens were never good, Harry. . . . But why
 318 ‘

THE UNBREAKABLE
VOW


have you not returned to Divination? For you, of all people, the
subject is of the utmost importance! ”
“Ah, Sybill, we all think our subject ’s most important! ” said a loud
voice, and Slughorn appeared at Professor Trelawney ’s other side, his
face very red, his velvet hat a little askew, a glass of mead in one hand
and an enormous mince pie in the other. “But I don ’t think I ’ve ever
known such a natural at Potions! ” said Slughorn, re - garding Harry
with a fond, if bloodshot, eye. “Instinctive, you know — like his
mother! I ’ve only ever taught a few with this kind of ability, I can tell
you that, Sybill — why e ven Severus — ”
And to Harry ’s horror, Slughorn threw out an arm and seemed to
scoop Snape out of thin air toward them.
“Stop skulking and come and join us, Severus! ” hiccuped Slughorn
happily. “I was just talking about Harry ’s exceptional po - tion -making !
Some credit must go to you, of course, you taught him for five years! ”
Trapped, with Slughorn ’s arm around his shoulders, Snape looked
down his hooked nose at Harry, his black eyes narrowed. “Funny, I
never had the impression that I managed to teach Po tter anything at
all. ”
“Well, then, it ’s natural ability! ” shouted Slughorn. “You should have
seen what he gave me, first lesson, Draught of Living Death — never
had a student produce finer on a first attempt, I don ’t think even you,
Severus — ”
“Real ly? ” said Snape quietly, his eyes still boring into Harry, who felt a
certain disquiet. The last thing he wanted was for Snape to start
investigating the source of his newfound brilliance at Potions.
“Remind me what other subjects you ’re taking, Harry? ” as ked
Slughorn.
 319 ‘

CHAPTER FIFTEEN


“Defense Against the Dark Arts, Charms, Transfiguration,
Herbology . . . ”
“All the subjects required, in short, for an Auror, ” said Snape, with the
faintest sneer.
“Yeah, well, that ’s what I ’d like to do, ” said Harry defiantly.
“And a great one you ’ll make too! ” boomed Slughorn.
“I don ’t think you should be an Auror, Harry, ” said Luna unex -
pectedly. Everybody looked at her. “The Aurors are part of the
Rotfang Conspiracy, I thought e veryone knew that. They ’re work - ing
to bring down the Ministry of Magic from within using a com -
bination of Dark Magic and gum disease. ”
Harry inhaled half his mead up his nose as he started to laugh. Really,
it had been worth bringing Luna just for this. Emerging from his
goblet, coughing, sopping wet but still grinning, he saw something
calculated to raise his spirits even higher: Draco Malfoy being dragged
by the ear toward them by Argus Filch.
“Pro fessor Slughorn, ” wheezed Filch, his jowls aquiver and the
maniacal light of mischief -detection in his bulging eyes, “I discov -
ered this boy lurking in an upstairs corridor. He claims to have been
invited to your party and to have been delayed in setting out. Did you
issue him with an invitation? ”
Malfoy pulled himself free of Filch ’s grip, looking furious. “All right, I
wasn ’t invited! ” he said angrily. “I was trying to gate - crash, happy? ”
“No, I ’m not! ” said Filch, a statement at complete odds with the glee
on his face. “You ’re in trouble, you are! Didn ’t the headmaster say that
nighttime prowling ’s out, unless you ’ve got permission, didn ’t he, eh? ”
“That ’s all right, Argus, that ’s all right, ” said Slughorn, waving a
 320 ‘

THE UNBREAKABLE
VOW


hand. “It’s Christmas, and it ’s not a crime to want to come to a party.
Just this once, we ’ll forget any punishment; you may stay, Draco. ”
Filch ’s expression of outraged disappointment was perfectly pre -
dictable; but why, Harry wondered, watching him, did Malfoy look
almost equally unhappy? And why was Snape looking at Mal - foy as
though both angry and . . . was it possible? . . . a little afraid? But
almost before Harry had registered what he had seen, Filch had turned
and shuffled away, muttering under his breath; Malfoy had composed
his face into a smile and was thanking Slughorn for his generosity, and
Snape ’s face was smoothly inscrutable agai n. “It’s nothing, nothing, ”
said Slughorn, waving away Malfoy ’s thanks. “I did know your
grandfather, after all. . . . ”
“He always spoke very highly of you, sir, ” said Malfoy quickly. “Said
you were the best potion -maker he ’d ever known. . . . ” Harry st ared at
Malfoy. It was not the sucking -up that intrigued him; he had watched
Malfoy do that to Snape for a long time. It was the fact that Malfoy did,
after all, look a little ill. This was the first time he had seen Malfoy
close up for ages; he now saw th at Malfoy had dark shadows under his
eyes and a distinctly grayish tinge to his skin.
“I’d like a word with you, Draco, ” said Snape suddenly. “Oh, now,
Severus, ” said Slughorn, hiccuping again, “it’s Christ - mas, don ’t be
too hard — ”
“I’m his Head of H ouse, and I shall decide how hard, or other - wise,
to be, ” said Snape curtly. “Follow me, Draco. ”
They left, Snape leading the way, Malfoy looking resentful. Harry
stood there for a moment, irresolute, then said, “I’ll be back in a bit,
Luna — er — bath room. ”
 321 ‘

CHAPTER FIFTEEN


“All right, ” she said cheerfully, and he thought he heard her, as he
hurried off into the crowd, resume the subject of the Rotfang
Conspiracy with Professor Trelawney, who seemed sincerely inter -
ested.
It was easy, once out of the party, to pull his Invisibility Cloak out of
his pocket and throw it over himself, for the corridor was quite
deserted. What was more difficult was findin g Snape and Malfoy.
Harry ran down the corridor, the noise of his feet masked by the
music and loud talk still issuing from Slughorn ’s office be - hind him.
Perhaps Snape had taken Malfoy to his office in the dun - geons . . . or
perhaps he was escorting him back to the Slytherin common room. . . .
Harry pressed his ear against door after door as he dashed down the
corridor until, with a great jolt of excitement, he crouched down to the
keyhole of the last classroom in the corri - dor and heard voices.
“. . . cannot afford mistakes, Draco, because if you are ex - pelled — ”
“I didn ’t have anything to do with it, all right? ” “I hope you are telling
the truth, because it was both clumsy and foolish. Already you are
suspected of having a hand in it. ”
“Who suspects me? ” said Malfoy angrily. “For the last time, I didn ’t
do it, okay? That Bell girl must ’ve had an enemy no one knows about
— don ’t look at me like that! I know what you ’re do - ing, I ’m not
stupid, but it won ’t work — I can stop you! ”
There was a pause and then Snape said quietly, “Ah . . . Aunt Bellatrix
has been teaching you Occlumency, I see. What thoughts are you
trying to conceal from your master, Draco? ”
“I’m not trying to conceal anything from him, I just don ’t want
you butting i n!”
 322 ‘

THE UNBREAKABLE
VOW


Harry pressed his ear still more closely against the keyhole. . . . What
had happened to make Malfoy speak to Snape like this — Snape,
toward whom he had always shown respect, even liking? “So that is
why you have been avoiding me this term? You have feared my
interference? You realize that, had anybody else failed to come to my
office when I had told them repeatedly to be there, Draco — ”
“So put me in detention! Report me to Dumbledore! ” jeered Malfoy.
There was another pause. Then Snape said, “You know perfectly well
that I do not wish to do either of those things. ”
“You ’d better stop telling me to come to your office then! ” “Listen to
me, ” said Snape, his voice so low now that Har ry had to push his ear
very hard against the keyhole to hear. “I am trying to help you. I swore
to your mother I would protect you. I made the Unbreakable Vow,
Draco — ”
“Looks like you ’ll have to break it, then, because I don ’t need your
protection! It ’s my job, he gave it to me and I ’m doing it, I ’ve got a
plan and it ’s going to work, it ’s just taking a bit longer than I thought it
would! ”
“What is your plan? ”
“It’s none of your business! ”
“If you tell me what you are trying to do, I can assist you — ” “I’ve got
all the assistance I need, thanks, I ’m not alone! ” “You were certainly
alone tonight, which was foolish in the ex - treme, wandering the
corridors without lookouts or backup, these are elementary mistakes
— ”
“I would ’ve had Crabbe and Goyle with me if you hadn ’t put them in
detention! ”
 323 ‘

CHAPTER FIFTEEN


“Keep your voice down! ” spat Snape, for Malfoy ’s voice had risen
excitedly. “If your friends Crabbe and Goyle intend to pass their
Defense Against the Dark Arts O.W.L. this time around, they will
need to work a little harder than they are doing at pres — ” “What does
it matter? ” said Malfoy. “Defense Against the Dark Arts — it’s all just
a joke, isn ’t it, an act? Like any of us n eed pro - tecting against the Dark
Arts — ”
“It is an act that is crucial to success, Draco! ” said Snape. “Where do
you think I would have been all these years, if I had not known how to
act? Now listen to me! You are being incautious, wandering around at
night, getting yourself caught, and if you are placing your reliance in
assistants like Crabbe and Goyle — ”
“They ’re not the only ones, I ’ve got other people on my side, better
people! ”
“Then why not confide in me, and I can — ”
“I know what you ’re up to! You want to steal my glory! ” There was
another pause, then Snape said coldly, “You are speaking like a child.
I quite understand that your father ’s capture and imprisonment has
upset you, but — ”
Harry had barely a second ’s warning; he heard Malfoy ’s footsteps on
the other side of the door and flung himself out of the way just as it
burst open; Malfoy was striding away down the corridor, past the
open door of Slughorn ’s office, around the distant corner, and out of
sight.
Hardly daring to breathe, Harry remained crouched down as Snape
emerged slowly from the classroom. His expression unfath - omable,
he returned to the party. Harry remained on the floor, hid - den
beneath the cloak, his mind racing.
 324 ‘

C H A P T E R S I X T E E
N










A VERY
FROSTY
CHRISTMAS


o Snape was offering to help him? He was definitely offering to
S
help him ?”
“If you ask that once more, ” said Harry, “I’m going to stick this sprout
— ”
“I’m only checking! ” said Ron. They were standing alone at the
Burrow ’s kitchen sink, peeling a mountain of sprouts for Mrs. Weasley.
Snow was drifting past the window in front of them.
“ Yes, Snape was offering to help h im !” said Harry. “He said he ’d
promised Malfoy ’s mother to protect him, that he ’d made an Un -
breakable Oath or something — ”

“An Unbreakable Vow? ” said Ron, looking stunned. “Nah, he can ’t
have. . . . Are you sure? ”
“Yes, I ’m sure, ” said Harry. “Why, wh at does it mean? ”
“Well, you can ’t break an Unbreakable Vow. . . . ”
“I’d worked that much out for myself, funnily enough. What
happens if you break it, then? ”
 325 ‘

CHAPTER SIXTEEN


“You die, ” said Ron simply. “Fred and George tried to get me to make
one when I was about five. I nearly did too, I was holding hands with
Fred and everything when Dad found us. He went mental, ” said Ron,
with a reminiscent gleam in his eyes. “Only time I ’ve ever seen Dad as
angry as Mum. Fred reckons his left but - tock has never been the same
since. ”
“Yeah, well, passing over Fred ’s left buttock — ” “I beg your
pardon? ” said Fred ’s voice as the twins entered the kitchen.
“Aaah, George, look at this. They ’re using knives and everyth ing.
Bless them. ”
“I’ll be seventeen in two and a bit months ’ time, ” said Ron grumpily,
“and then I ’ll be able to do it by magic! ”
“But meanwhile, ” said George, sitting down at the kitchen table and
putting his feet up on it, “we can enjoy watching you demon - strate
the correct use of a — whoops -a-daisy! ”
“You made me do that! ” said Ron angrily, sucking his cut thumb.
“You wait, when I ’m seventeen — ”
“I’m sure you ’ll dazzle us all with hitherto unsuspected magical skills, ”
ya wned Fred.
“And speaking of hitherto unsuspected skills, Ronald, ” said George,
“what is this we hear from Ginny about you and a young lady called —
unless our information is faulty — Lavender Brown? ” Ron turned a
little pink, but did not look displeased as he turned back to the sprouts.
“Mind your own business. ”
“What a snappy retort, ” said Fred. “I really don ’t know how you think
of them. No, what we wanted to know was . . . how did it happen? ”
 326 ‘

A VERY
FROSTY
CHRISTMAS

“What d ’you mean? ”
“Did she have an accident or something? ”
“What? ”
“Well, how did she sustain such extensive brain damage? Care - ful,
now! ”
Mrs. Weasley entered the room just in time to see Ron throw the
sprout knife at Fred, who had turned it into a paper airplane with one
lazy flick of his wand.
“ Ron !” she said furiously. “Don ’t you ever let me see you throw -
ing knives again! ”
“I won ’t,” said Ron, “let you see, ” he added under his breath, as he
turn ed back to the sprout mountain.
“Fred, George, I ’m sorry, dears, but Remus is arriving tonight, so Bill
will have to squeeze in with you two. ”
“No problem, ” said George.
“Then, as Charlie isn ’t coming home, that just leaves Harry and Ron in
the attic, and if Fleur shares with Ginny — ”
“— that ’ll make Ginny ’s Christmas — ” muttered Fred. “— everyone
should be comfortable. Well, they ’ll have a bed, anyway, ” said Mrs.
Weasley, sounding slightly harassed.
“Percy definitely not showing his ugly face, then? ” asked Fred. Mrs.
Weasley turned away before she answered. “No, he ’s busy, I expect, at
the Ministry. ”
“Or he ’s the world ’s biggest prat, ” said Fred, as Mrs. Weasley left the
kitchen. “One of the two. Well , let ’s get going, then, George. ” “What
are you two up to? ” asked Ron. “Can ’t you help us with these sprouts?
You could just use your wand and then we ’ll be free too! ”
 327 ‘

CHAPTER SIXTEEN


“No, I don ’t think we can do tha t,” said Fred seriously. “It’s very
character -building stuff, learning to peel sprouts without magic,
makes you appreciate how difficult it is for Muggles and Squibs — ”
“— and if you want people to help you, Ron, ” added George,
throwing the paper airplane at him, “I wouldn ’t chuck knives at
them. Just a little hint. We ’re off to the village, there ’s a very pretty girl
working in the paper shop who thinks my card tricks are some - thing
marvelous . . . almost like real magic. . . . ”
“Gits, ” said Ron darkly, watching Fred and George setting off across
the snowy yard. “Would ’ve only taken them ten seconds and then we
could ’ve gone too. ”
“I couldn ’t,” said Harry. “I promised Dumbledore I wouldn ’t
wander off while I ’m staying here. ”
“Oh yeah, ” said Ron. He peeled a few more sprouts and then said,
“Are you going to tell Dumbledore what you heard Snape and Malfoy
saying to each other? ”
“Yep, ” said Harry. “I’m going to tell anyone who can put a stop to it,
and Dumbledore ’s top of the list. I migh t have another word with
your dad too. ”
“Pity you didn ’t hear what Malfoy ’s actually doing, though. ” “I
couldn ’t have done, could I? That was the whole point, he was
refusing to tell Snape. ”
There was silence for a moment or two, then Ron said, “’Cours e, you
know what they ’ll all say? Dad and Dumbledore and all of them?
They ’ll say Snape isn ’t really trying to help Malfoy, he was just trying to
find out what Malfoy ’s up to. ”
“They didn ’t hear him, ” said Harry flatly. “No one ’s that good an
actor, not even Snape. ”
“Yeah . . . I ’m just saying, though, ” said Ron.
 328 ‘

A VERY
FROSTY
CHRISTMAS

Harry turned to face him, frowning. “You think I ’m right, though? ”
“Yeah, I do! ” said Ron hastily. “Seriously, I do! But they ’re all
convinced Snape ’s in the Order, aren ’t they? ”
Harry said nothing. It had already occurred to him that this would be
the most likely objection to his new evidence; he could
hear Hermione now: Obviously, Harry, he was pretending to offer
help so he could trick Malfoy into telling him what he ’s doing. . . .
This was pure imagination, however, as he had had no opportu - nity
to tell Hermione what he had overheard. She had disappeared from
Slughorn ’s parry before he returned to it, or so he had been informed
by an irate McLaggen, and she had already gone to bed by the time he
returned to the common room. As he and Ron had left for the Burrow
early the next day, he had barely had time to wish her a happy
Christmas and to tell her that he had s ome very important news when
they got back from the holidays. He was not entirely sure that she had
heard him, though; Ron and Lavender had been saying a thoroughly
nonverbal good -bye just behind him at the time.
Still, even Hermione would not be able to deny one thing: Mal - foy
was definitely up to something, and Snape knew it, so Harry felt fully
justified in saying “I told you so, ” which he had done sev - eral times to
Ron already.
Harry did not get the chance to speak to Mr. Weasley, who was
working ve ry long hours at the Ministry, until Christmas Eve night.
The Weasleys and their guests were sitting in the living room, which
Ginny had decorated so lavishly that it was rather like sitting in a
paper -chain explosion. Fred, George, Harry, and Ron were th e only
ones who knew that the angel on top of the tree was
 329 ‘

CHAPTER SIXTEEN


actually a garden gnome that had bitten Fred on the ankle as he pulled
up carrots for Christmas dinner. Stupefied, painted gold, stuffed into a
miniature tutu and with small wings glued to its back, it glowered
down at them all, the ugliest angel Harry had ever seen, with a large
bald head like a potato and rather hairy feet. They were all supposed to
be listening to a Christmas bro adcast by Mrs. Weasley ’s favorite singer,
Celestina Warbeck, whose voice was warbling out of the large wooden
wireless set. Fleur, who seemed to find Celestina very dull, was talking
so loudly in the corner that a scowling Mrs. Weasley kept pointing her
wa nd at the volume con - trol, so that Celestina grew louder and louder.
Under cover of a par - ticularly jazzy number called “A Cauldron Full
of Hot, Strong Love, ” Fred and George started a game of Exploding
Snap with Ginny. Ron kept shooting Bill and Fleur covert looks, as
though hoping to pick up tips. Meanwhile, Remus Lupin, who was
thinner and more ragged -looking than ever, was sitting beside the fire,
star - ing into its depths as though he could not hear Celestina ’s voice.

Oh, come and stir my cauld ron,
And if you do it right,
I’ll boil you up some hot strong love
To keep you warm tonight.

“We danced to this when we were eighteen! ” said Mrs. Weasley,
wiping her eyes on her knitting. “Do you remember, Arthur? ”
“Mphf? ” said Mr. Weasley, whose head had been nodding over the
satsuma he was peeling. “Oh yes . . . marvelous tune . . . ” With an
effort, he sat up a little straighter and looked around at Harry, who was
sitting next to him.
 330 ‘

A VERY
FROSTY
CHRISTMAS

“Sorry about this, ” he said, jerking his head toward the wireless as
Celestina broke into the chorus. “Be over soon. ”
“No problem, ” said Harry, grinning. “Has it been busy at the
Ministry? ”
“Very, ” said Mr. Weasley. “I wouldn ’t mind if we were getting
anywhere, but of the three arrests we ’ve made in the last couple of
months, I doubt that one of them is a genuine Death Eater — only
don ’t repeat that, Harry, ” he added quickly, looking much more awake
all of a sudden.
“They ’re not still holding Stan Shunpike, are they? ” asked Harry. “I’m
afraid so, ” said Mr. Weasley. “I know Dumbledore ’s tried appealing
directly to Scrimgeour about Stan. . . . I mean, anybody who has
actually interviewed him agrees that he ’s about as much a Dea th Eater
as this satsuma . . . but the top levels want to look as though they ’re
making some progress, and ‘three arrests ’ sounds better than ‘three
mistaken arrests and releases ’. . . but again, this is all top secret. . . . ”
“I won ’t say anything, ” sa id Harry. He hesitated for a moment,
wondering how best to embark on what he wanted to say; as he
marshaled his thoughts, Celestina Warbeck began a ballad called “You
Charmed the Heart Right Out of Me. ”
“Mr. Weasley, you know what I told you at the statio n when we were
setting off for school? ”
“I checked, Harry, ” said Mr. Weasley at once. “I went and searched
the Malfoys ’ house. There was nothing, either broken or whole, that
shouldn ’t have been there. ”
“Yeah, I know, I saw in the Prophet that you ’d lo oked . . . but this
is something different. . . . Well, something more . . . ”
And he told Mr. Weasley everything he had overheard between
 331 ‘

CHAPTER SIXTEEN


Malfoy and Snape. As Harry spoke, he saw Lupin ’s head turn a lit - tle
toward him, taking in every word. When he had finished, there was
silence, except for Celestina ’s crooning.

Oh, my poor heart, where has it gone?
It’s left me for a spell . . .

“Has it occurred to you, Harry, ” said Mr. Weasley, “that Snape was
simply pretending — ?”
“Pretending to offer help, so that he could find out what Mal - foy ’s up
to? ” said Harry quickly. “Yeah, I thought you ’d say that. But how do
we know? ”
“It isn ’t our business to know, ” said Lupin unexpectedly. He had
turned his back on the fire now and faced Harry across Mr. Weasley.
“It’s Dumbledore ’s business. Dumbledore trusts Severus, and that
ought to be good enough for all of us. ”
“But, ” said Harry, “just say — just say Dumbledore ’s wrong a bout
Snape — ”
“People have said it, many times. It comes down to whether or not
you trust Dumbledore ’s judgment. I do; therefore, I trust Severus. ”
“But Dumbledore can make mistakes, ” argued Harry. “He says it
himself. And you ” — he looked Lupin straight in the eye — “do you
honestly like Snape? ”
“I neither like nor dislike Severus, ” said Lupin. “No, Harry, I am
speaking the truth, ” he added, as Harry pulled a skeptical expres - sion.
“We shall never be bosom friends, perhaps; a fter all that hap - pened
between James and Sirius and Severus, there is too much bitterness
there. But I do not forget that during the year I taught at
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Hogwarts, Severus made the Wolfsbane Potion for me every month,
made it perfectly, so that I did not have to suffer as I usu - ally do at
the full moon. ”
“But he ‘accidentally ’ let it slip that you ’re a werewolf, so you had to
leave! ” said Harry angrily.
Lupin shrugged. “The news would have leaked out anyway. We both
know he wanted my job, but he could have wreaked much worse
damage on me by tampering with the potion. He kept me healthy. I
must be grateful. ”
“Maybe he didn ’t dare mess with the potio n with Dumbledore
watching him! ” said Harry.
“You are determined to hate him, Harry, ” said Lupin with a faint smile.
“And I understand; with James as your father, with Sir - ius as your
godfather, you have inherited an old prejudice. By all means tell
Du mbledore what you have told Arthur and me, but do not expect
him to share your view of the matter; do not even expect him to be
surprised by what you tell him. It might have been on Dumbledore ’s
orders that Severus questioned Draco. ”

. . . and now you ’ve torn it quite apart
I’ll thank you to give back my heart!

Celestina ended her song on a very long, high -pitched note and loud
applause issued out of the wireless, which Mrs. Weasley joined in with
enthusiastically.
“Eez eet over? ” said Fleur loudly. “Thank goodness, what an ’or -
rible — ”
“Shall we have a nightcap, then? ” asked Mr. Weasley loudly, leaping to
his feet. “Who wants eggnog? ”
 333 ‘

CHAPTER SIXTEEN


“What have you been up to lately? ” Harry asked Lupin, as Mr.
Weasley bustled off to fetch the eggnog, and everybody else stretched
and broke into conversation.
“Oh, I ’ve been underground, ” said Lupin. “Almost literally. That ’s
why I haven ’t been able to write, Harry; sending letters to you would
have been something of a giveaway. ”
“What do you mean? ”
“I’ve been living among my fellows, my equals, ” said Lupin.
“Werewolves, ” he added, at Harry ’s look of incomprehension.
“Nearly all of them are on Voldemort ’s side. Dumbledore wanted a
spy and here I was . . . ready -made. ”
He sounded a little bitter, and perhaps realized it, for he smiled more
warmly as he went on, “I am not complaining; it is necessary work
and who can do it better than I? However, it has been diffi - cult
gaining thei r trust. I bear the unmistakable signs of having tried to live
among wizards, you see, whereas they have shunned normal society
and live on the margins, stealing — and sometimes killing — to eat. ”
“How come they like Voldemort? ”
“They think that, under his rule, they will have a better life, ” said
Lupin. “And it is hard to argue with Greyback out there. . . . ” “Who ’s
Greyback? ”
“You haven ’t heard of him? ” Lupin ’s hands closed convulsively in his
lap. “Fenrir Greyback is, perhaps , the most savage werewolf alive
today. He regards it as his mission in life to bite and to conta - minate
as many people as possible; he wants to create enough were - wolves to
overcome the wizards. Voldemort has promised him prey in return
for his services . Greyback specializes in children. . . . Bite them young,
he says, and raise them away from their parents, raise
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them to hate normal wizards. Voldemort has threatened to unleash
him upon people ’s sons and daughters; it is a threat that usually
produces good results. ”
Lupin paused and then said, “It was Greyback who bit me. ” “What? ”
said Harry, astonished. “When — when you were a kid, you mean? ”
“Yes. My father had offended him. I did not know, for a very long
time, the identity of the werewolf who had attacked me; I even felt pity
for him, thinking that he had had no control, know - ing by then how it
felt to transform. But Greyback is not like tha t. At the full moon, he
positions himself close to victims, ensuring that he is near enough to
strike. He plans it all. And this is the man Voldemort is using to
marshal the werewolves. I cannot pretend that my particular brand of
reasoned argument is maki ng much headway against Greyback ’s
insistence that we werewolves deserve blood, that we ought to
revenge ourselves on normal people. ”
“But you are normal! ” said Harry fiercely. “You ’ve just got a — a
problem — ”
Lupin burst out laughing. “Sometimes you re mind me a lot of James.
He called it my ‘furry little problem ’ in company. Many people were
under the impression that I owned a badly behaved rabbit. ”
He accepted a glass of eggnog from Mr. Weasley with a word of
thanks, looking slightly more cheerful. Harry, meanwhile, felt a rush of
excitement: This last mention of his father had reminded him that
there was something he had been looking forward to ask - ing Lupin.
“Have you ever heard of someone called the Half -Blood Prince? ”
“The Half -Blood what? ”
 3 35 ‘

CHAPTER SIXTEEN


“Prince, ” said Harry, watching him closely for signs of recogni - tion.
“There are no Wizarding princes, ” said Lupin, now smiling. “Is this a
title you ’re thinking of adopting? I should have thought be - ing ‘the
Chosen One ’ would be enough. ”
“It’s nothing to do with me! ” said Harry indignantly. “The Half -
Blood Prince is someone who used to go to Hogwarts, I ’ve got his old
Potions book. He wrote spells all over it, spells he invented. One of
them was Levicorpus — ”
“Oh, that one had a great vogue during my time at Hogwarts, ” said
Lupin reminiscently. “There were a few months in my fifth year when
you couldn ’t move for being hoisted into the air by your ankle. ”
“My dad used it, ” said Harry. “I saw him in the Pensieve, he used it on
Snape. ”
He tried to sound casual, as though this was a throwaway com - ment
of no real importance, but he was not sure he had achieved the right
effect; Lupin ’s smile was a little too understanding. “Yes, ” he said ,
“but he wasn ’t the only one. As I say, it was very popular. . . . You
know how these spells come and go. . . . ”
“But it sounds like it was invented while you were at school, ” Harry
persisted.
“Not necessarily, ” said Lupin. “Jinxes go in and out of fashion like
everything else. ”
He looked into Harry ’s face and then said quietly, “James was a
pureblood, Harry, and I promise you, he never asked us to call him
‘Prince. ’”
Abandoning pretense, Harry said, “And it wasn ’t Sirius? Or you? ”
 336 ‘

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“Definitely not. ”
“Oh. ” Harry stared into the fire. “I just thought — well, he ’s helped
me out a lot in Potions classes, the Prince has. ”
“How old is this book, Harry? ”
“I dunno, I ’ve never checked. ”
“Well, perhaps that will give you some clue as to when the Prince
was at Hogwarts, ” said Lupin.
Shortly after this, Fleur decided to imitate Celestina singing “A
Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love, ” which was taken by everyone,
once they had glimpsed Mrs. Weasley ’s expression, to be the cue to go
to bed. Harry and Ron climbed all the way up to Ron ’s attic bedroom,
where a camp bed had been added for Harry.
Ron fell asleep almost immediately, but Harry delved into his
trunk and pulled out his copy of Advanced Potion -Making before
getting into bed. There he turned its pages, searching, until he finally
found, at the front of the book, the date that it had been pub - lished. It
was nearly fifty years old. Neither his fa ther, nor his father ’s friends,
had been at Hogwarts fifty years ago. Feeling disappointed, Harry
threw the book back into his trunk, turned off the lamp, and rolled
over, thinking of werewolves and Snape, Stan Shunpike and the
Half -Blood Prince, and final ly falling into an uneasy sleep full of
creeping shadows and the cries of bitten children. . . .
“She ’s got to be joking. . . . ”
Harry woke with a start to find a bulging stocking lying over the end of
his bed. He put on his glasses and looked around; the tiny window was
almost completely obscured with snow and, in front of it, Ron was
sitting bolt upright in bed and examining what ap - peared to be a thick
gold chain.
 337 ‘

CHAPTER SIXTEEN


“What ’s that? ” asked Harry.
“It’s from Lavender, ” said Ron, sounding revolted. “She can ’t
honestly think I ’d wear . . . ”
Harry looked more closely and let out a shout of laughter. Dan - gling
from the chain in large gold letters were the words:
My Sweetheart

“Nice, ” he said. “Classy. You should definitely wear it in front of Fred
and George. ”
“If you tell them, ” said Ron, shoving the necklace out of sight under
his pillow, “I — I — I’ll — ”
“Stutter at me? ” said Harry, grinning. “Come on, would I? ” “How
could she think I ’d like something like that, though? ” Ron demanded
of thin air, looking rather shocked.
“Well, think back, ” said Harry. “Have you ever let it slip that you ’d like
to go out in public with the words ‘My Sweetheart ’ round your neck? ”
“Well . . . we don ’t really talk much, ” said Ron. “It’s mainly . . . ”
“Snogging, ” said Harry.
“Well, yeah, ” said Ron. He hesitated a moment, then said, “Is
Hermione really going out with McLaggen? ”
“I dunno, ” said Harry. “They were at Slughorn ’s party together, but I
don ’t think it went that well. ”
Ron looked slightly more cheerful as he delved deeper into his
stocking.
Harry ’s presents included a sweater with a large Golden Snitch
worked onto the front, hand -knitted by Mrs. Weasley, a large b ox of
Weasleys ’ Wizard Wheezes products from the twins, and a
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slightly damp, moldy -smelling package that came with a label read -
ing To Master, From Kreacher.
Harry stared at it. “D ’you reckon this is safe to open? ” he asked.
“Can ’t be anything dangerous, all our mail ’s still being searched at the
Ministry, ” replied Ron, though he was eyeing the parcel suspiciously.
“I didn ’t think of giving Kreacher anything. Do people usually give
their house -elves Christmas presents? ” asked Harry, prodding the
parcel cautiously.
“Hermione would, ” said Ron. “But let ’s wait and see what it is before
you start feeling guilty. ”
A moment later, Harry had given a loud yell and leapt out of his camp
bed; the package contained a large number of maggots. “Nice, ” said
Ron, roaring with laughter. “Very thoughtful. ” “I’d rather have them
than that necklace, ” said Harry, which sobered Ron up at once.
Everybody was wearing new sweaters when they all sat do wn for
Christmas lunch, everyone except Fleur (on whom, it appeared, Mrs.
Weasley had not wanted to waste one) and Mrs. Weasley herself, who
was sporting a brand -new midnight blue witch ’s hat glittering with
what looked like tiny starlike diamonds, and a s pec - tacular golden
necklace.
“Fred and George gave them to me! Aren ’t they beautiful? ” “Well, we
find we appreciate you more and more, Mum, now we ’re washing our
own socks, ” said George, waving an airy hand. “Parsnips, Remus? ”
“Harry, you ’ve got a m aggot in your hair, ” said Ginny cheerfully,
leaning across the table to pick it out; Harry felt goose bumps erupt up
his neck that had nothing to do with the maggot.
 339 ‘

CHAPTER SIXTEEN


“’Ow ’orrible, ” said Fleur, with an affected little shudder.
“Yes, isn ’t it? ” said Ron. “Gravy, Fleur? ”
In his eagerness to help her, he knocked the gravy boat flying; Bill
waved his wand and the gravy soared up in the air and returned meekly
to the boat.
“You are as bad as zat Tonks, ” said Fleur to Ron, when she had
finished kissing Bill in thanks. “She is always knocking — ”
“I invited dear Tonks to come along today, ” said Mrs. Weasley,
setting down the carrots with unnecessary force and glaring at Fleur.
“But she wouldn ’t come. Have you spoken to her lately, Remus? ” “No,
I haven ’t been in contact with anybody very much, ” said Lupin. “But
Tonks has got her own family to go to, hasn ’t she? ” “Hmmm, ” said
Mrs. Weasley. “Maybe. I got the impression she was plann ing to spend
Christmas alone, actually. ”
She gave Lupin an annoyed look, as though it was all his fault she was
getting Fleur for a daughter -in-law instead of Tonks, but Harry,
glancing across at Fleur, who was now feeding Bill bits of turkey off
her own fork, thought that Mrs. Weasley was fighting a long -lost battle.
He was, however, reminded of a question he had with regard to Tonks,
and who better to ask than Lupin, the man who knew all about
Patronuses?
“Tonks ’s Patronus has changed its form, ” he told him. “Snape said so
anyway. I didn ’t know that could happen. Why would your Patronus
change? ”
Lupin took his time chewing his turkey and swallowing before saying
slowly, “Sometimes . . . a great shock . . . an emotional up - heaval . . . ”
“It looked bi g, and it had four legs, ” said Harry, struck by a sud - den
thought and lowering his voice. “Hey . . . it couldn ’t be — ?”
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“Arthur! ” said Mrs. Weasley suddenly. She had risen from her chair;
her hand was pressed over her heart and she was staring out of the
kitchen window. “Arthur — it’s Percy! ”
“ What ?”
Mr. Weasley looked around. Everybody looked quickly at the window;
Ginny stood up for a better look. There, sure enough, was Percy
Weasley, striding across the snowy yard, his horn -rimmed glasses
glinting in the sunlight. He was not, however, alone. “Arthur, he ’s —
he ’s with the Minister! ”
And sure enough, the man Harry had seen in the Daily Prophet
was following along in Percy ’s wake, limping slightly, his mane of
graying hair and his black cloak flecked with snow. Before any of them
could say anything, before Mr. and Mrs. Weasley could do more than
exchange stunned looks, the back door opened and there stood Percy.
There was a moment ’s painful silence. Then Percy said rather stiffly,
“Merry Christmas, Mother. ”
“Oh, Percy !” said Mrs. Weasley, and she threw herself into his
arms.
Rufus Scrimgeour paused in the doorway, leaning on his walk - ing
stick and smiling as he observed this affecting scene.
“You must forgive this intrusion, ” he said, when Mrs. Weasley looked
around at him, beaming and wiping her eyes. “Percy and I were in the
vicinity — working, you know — and he couldn ’t re - sist dropping in
and seeing y ou all. ”
But Percy showed no sign of wanting to greet any of the rest of the
family. He stood, poker -straight and awkward -looking, and stared
over everybody else ’s heads. Mr. Weasley, Fred, and George were all
observing him, stony -faced.
 341 ‘

CHAPTER SIXTEEN


“Please, come in, sit down, Minister! ” fluttered Mrs. Weasley,
straightening her hat. “Have a little purkey, or some tooding. . . . I
mean — ”
“No, no, my dear Molly, ” said Scrimgeour. Harry guessed that he had
checked her name with Percy before they entered the house. “I don ’t
want to intrude, wouldn ’t be here at all if Percy hadn ’t wanted to see
you all so badly. . . . ”
“Oh, Perce! ” said Mrs. Weasley tearfully, reaching up to kiss him.
“. . . We ’ve o nly looked in for five minutes, so I ’ll have a stroll around
the yard while you catch up with Percy. No, no, I assure you I don ’t
want to butt in! Well, if anybody cared to show me your charming
garden . . . Ah, that young man ’s finished, why doesn ’t he ta ke a stroll
with me? ”
The atmosphere around the table changed perceptibly. Every - body
looked from Scrimgeour to Harry. Nobody seemed to find
Scrimgeour s pretense that he did not know Harry ’s name convinc -
ing, or find it natural that he should be chosen to accompany the
Minister around the garden when Ginny, Fleur, and George also had
clean plates.
“Yeah, all right, ” said Harry into the silence.
He was not fooled; for all Scrimgeour ’s talk that they had just been in
the area, that Percy wanted to look up his family, this must be the real
reason that they had come, so that Scrimgeour could speak to Harry
alone.
“It’s fine, ” he said quietly, as he passed Lupin, who had half risen from
his chair. “Fine, ” he added, as Mr. Weasley opened his mouth to
speak.
“Wonderful! ” said Scrimgeour, standing back to let Harry pass
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through the door ahead of him. “We ’ll just take a turn around the
garden, and Percy and I ’ll be off. Carry on, everyone! ”
Harry walked across the yard toward the Weasleys ’ overgrown,
snow -covered garden, Scrimgeour limping slightly at his side. He had,
Harry knew, been Head of the Auror of fice; he looked tough and
battle -scarred, very different from portly Fudge in his bowler hat.
“Charming, ” said Scrimgeour, stopping at the garden fence and
looking out over the snowy lawn and the indistinguishable plants.
“Charming. ”
Harry said nothing . He could tell that Scrimgeour was watching him.
“I’ve wanted to meet you for a very long time, ” said Scrimgeour, after
a few moments. “Did you know that? ”
“No, ” said Harry truthfully.
“Oh yes, for a very long time. But Dumbledore has been very
prote ctive of you, ” said Scrimgeour. “Natural, of course, natural, after
what you ’ve been through. . . . Especially what happened at the
Ministry . . . ”
He waited for Harry to say something, but Harry did not oblige, so he
went on, “I have been hoping for an occasion to talk to you ever
since I gained office, but Dumbledore has — most under - standably,
as I say — prevented this. ”
Still, Harry said nothing, waiting.
“The rumors that have flown around! ” said Scrimgeour. “Well, of
co urse, we both know how these stories get distorted . . . all these
whispers of a prophecy . . . of you being ‘the Chosen One ’. . . ” They
were getting near it now, Harry thought, the reason Scrim - geour was
here.
 343 ‘

CHAPTER S IXTEEN


“. . . I assume that Dumbledore has discussed these matters with
you? ”
Harry deliberated, wondering whether he ought to lie or not. He
looked at the little gnome prints all around the flowerbeds, and the
scuffed -up patch that marked the spot where Fred had caught the
gnome now wearing the tutu at the top of the Christmas tree. Finally,
he decided on the truth . . . or a bit of it.
“Yeah, we ’ve discussed it. ”
“Have you, have you . . . ” said Scrimgeo ur. Harry could see, out of the
corner of his eye, Scrimgeour squinting at him, so he pre - tended to
be very interested in a gnome that had just poked its head out from
underneath a frozen rhododendron. “And what has Dumbledore told
you, Harry? ”
“Sorry, but that ’s between us, ” said Harry. He kept his voice as
pleasant as he could, and Scrimgeour ’s tone, too, was light and
friendly as he said, “Oh, of course, if it ’s a question of confidences, I
wouldn ’t want you to divulge . . . no, no . . . and in any case, does it
really matter whether you are ‘the Chosen One ’ or not? ”
Harry had to mull that one over for a few seconds before re -
sponding. “I don ’t really know what you mean, Minister. ”
“Well, of co urse, to you it will matter enormously, ” said Scrim -
geour with a laugh. “But to the Wizarding community at large . . . it ’s
all perception, isn ’t it? It ’s what people believe that ’s important. ”
Harry said nothing. He thought he saw, dimly, where they were
heading, but he was not going to help Scrimgeour get there. The
gnome under the rhododendron was now digging for worms at its
roots, and Harry kept his eyes fixed upon it.
“People believe you are ‘the Chosen One, ’ you see, ” said Scrim -
geour. “They think you quite the hero — which, of course, you
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are, Harry, chosen or not! How many times have you faced He -
Who -Must -Not -Be -Named now? Well, anyway, ” he pressed on,
without waiting for a reply, “the point is, you are a symbol of hope for
many, Harry. The idea that there is somebody out there who
might be able, who might even be destined, to destroy He -Who -
Must -Not -Be -Named — well, naturally, it gives people a lift. And I
can ’t help but feel that, once you realize this, you might consider it,
well, almost a duty, to stand alongside the Ministry, and give everyone
a boost. ”
The gnome had just managed to ge t hold of a worm. It was now
tugging very hard on it, trying to get it out of the frozen ground. Harry
was silent so long that Scrimgeour said, looking from Harry to the
gnome, “Funny little chaps, aren ’t they? But what say you, Harry? ”
“I don ’t exactly u nderstand what you want, ” said Harry slowly.
“‘Stand alongside the Ministry ’ . . . What does that mean? ” “Oh, well,
nothing at all onerous, I assure you, ” said Scrim - geour. “If you were
to be seen popping in and out of the Ministry from time to time, for
instance, that would give the right impres - sion. And of course, while
you were there, you would have ample opportunity to speak to
Gawain Robards, my successor as Head of the Auror office. Dolores
Umbridge has told me that you cherish an ambition to becom e an
Auror. Well, that could be arranged very easily. . . . ”
Harry felt anger bubbling in the pit of his stomach: So Dolores
Umbridge was still at the Ministry, was she?
“So basically, ” he said, as though he just wanted to clarify a few points,
“you ’d like to give the impression that I ’m working for the Ministry? ”
 345 ‘

CHAPTER SIXTEEN


“It would give everyone a lift to think you were more involved,
Harry, ” said Scrimgeour, sounding relieved that Harry had cot - toned
on so quickly. “‘The Chosen One, ’ you know . . . It ’s all about giving
people hope, the feeling that exciting things are hap - pening. . . . ”
“But if I keep running in and out of the Ministry, ” said Harry, still
endeavoring to keep his voice frien dly, “won ’t that seem as though I
approve of what the Ministry ’s up to? ”
“Well, ” said Scrimgeour, frowning slightly, “well, yes, that ’s partly why
we ’d like — ”
“No, I don ’t think that ’ll work, ” said Harry pleasantly. “You see, I
don ’t like some of the th ings the Ministry ’s doing. Locking up Stan
Shunpike, for instance. ”
Scrimgeour did not speak for a moment but his expression hard - ened
instantly. “I would not expect you to understand, ” he said, and he was
not as successful at keeping anger out of his voice as Harry had been.
“These are dangerous times, and certain measures need to be taken.
You are sixteen years old — ”
“Dumbledore ’s a lot older than sixteen, and he doesn ’t think Stan
should be i n Azkaban either, ” said Harry. “You ’re making Stan a
scapegoat, just like you want to make me a mascot. ”
They looked at each other, long and hard. Finally Scrimgeour said,
with no pretense at warmth, “I see. You prefer — like your hero,
Dumbledore — to di sassociate yourself from the Ministry? ” “I don ’t
want to be used, ” said Harry.
“Some would say it ’s your duty to be used by the Ministry! ” “Yeah,
and others might say it ’s your duty to check that people really are
Death Eaters before you chuck them in pri son, ” said Harry, his
temper rising now. “You ’re doing what Barty Crouch
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did. You never get it right, you people, do you? Either we ’ve got
Fudge, pretending everything ’s lovely while people get murdered right
under his nose, or we ’ve got you, chucking the wrong people into jail
and trying to pretend you ’ve got ‘the Chosen One ’ work - ing for you! ”
“So you ’re not ‘the Chosen One ’?” said Scrimgeour. “I thought you
said i t didn ’t matter either way? ” said Harry, with a bitter laugh. “Not
to you anyway. ”
“I shouldn ’t have said that, ” said Scrimgeour quickly. “It was tactless
— ”
“No, it was honest, ” said Harry. “One of the only honest things
you ’ve said to me. You don ’t car e whether I live or die, but you do care
that I help you convince everyone you ’re winning the war against
Voldemort. I haven ’t forgotten, Minister. . . . ”
He raised his right fist. There, shining white on the back of his cold
hand, were the scars which Do lores Umbridge had forced him
to carve into his own flesh: I must not tell lies.
“I don ’t remember you rushing to my defense when I was trying to tell
everyone Voldemort was back. The Ministry wasn ’t so keen to be pals
last year. ”
They stood in silence as icy as the ground beneath their feet. The
gnome had finally managed to extricate his worm and was now
sucking on it happily, leaning against the bottommost branches of the
rhododendron bush.
“What is Dumbledore up to? ” said Scr imgeour brusquely. “Where
does he go when he is absent from Hogwarts? ”
“No idea, ” said Harry.
“And you wouldn ’t tell me if you knew, ” said Scrimgeour, “would
you? ”
 347 ‘

CHAPTER SIXTEEN


“No, I wouldn ’t,” said Harry.
“Well, then, I shall have to see whether I can ’t find out by other
means. ”
“You can try, ” said Harry indifferently. “But you seem cleverer than
Fudge, so I ’d have thought you ’d have learned from his mis - takes. He
tried interfering at Hogwarts. You might have noticed he ’s not
Minister anymore, but Dumbledore ’s still headmaster. I ’d leave
Dumbledore alone, if I were you. ”
There was a long pause.
“Well, it is clear to me that he has done a very good job on you, ” said
Scrimgeour, his eyes cold and hard behind his wire -rimmed glasses.
“Dumbledore ’s man through and through, aren ’t you, Potter? ” “Yeah,
I am, ” said Harry. “Glad we straightened that out. ”
And turning his back on the Minister of Magic, he strode back toward
the house.















 348 ‘

C H A P T E R S E V E N T
E E N










A SLUGGISH
MEMORY



ate in the afternoon, a few days after New Year, Harry, Ron, and
Ginny lined up beside the kitchen fire to return to Hog - warts. The
Ministry had arranged this one -off connection to the Floo Network to
return students quickly and safely to the school. On ly Mrs. Weasley
was there to say good -bye, as Mr. Weasley, Fred, George, Bill, and
Fleur were all at work. Mrs. Weasley dis - solved into tears at the
moment of parting. Admittedly, it took very little to set her off lately;
she had been crying on and off e ver since Percy had stormed from the
house on Christmas Day with his glasses splattered with mashed
parsnip (for which Fred, George, and Ginny all claimed credit).
“Don ’t cry, Mum, ” said Ginny, patting her on the back as Mrs.
Weasley sobbed into her sho ulder. “It’s okay. . . . ”
“Yeah, don ’t worry about us, ” said Ron, permitting his mother to
plant a very wet kiss on his cheek, “or about Percy. He ’s such a prat,

it’s not really a loss, is it? ”
 349 ‘

CHAPTER
SEVENTEEN


Mrs. Weasley sobbed harder than ever as she enfolded Harry in her
arms.
“Promise me you ’ll look after yourself. . . . Stay out of trou - ble. . . . ”
“I always do, Mrs. Weasley, ” said Harry. “I like a quiet life, you know
me. ”
She gave a watery chuckle an d stood back. “Be good, then, all of
you. . . . ”
Harry stepped into the emerald fire and shouted “Hogwarts! ” He had
one last fleeting view of the Weasleys ’ kitchen and Mrs. Weasley ’s
tearful face before the flames engulfed him; spinning very fast, he
caught blurred glimpses of other Wizarding rooms, which were
whipped out of sight before he could get a proper look; then he was
slowing down, finally stopping squarely in the fireplace in Professor
McGonagall ’s office. She barely glanced up from her work as he
clambered out over the grate.
“Evening, Potter. Try not to get too much ash on the carpet. ”
“No, Professor. ”
Harry straightened his glasses and flattened his hair as Ron came
spinning into view. When Ginny had arrived, all three of them
trooped out of McGonagall ’s office and off toward Gryffindor Tower.
Harry glanced out of the corridor windows as they passed; the sun was
already sinking over grounds carpeted in deeper snow than had lain
over the Burrow garden. In the distance, he could se e Hagrid feeding
Buckbeak in front of his cabin.
“Baubles, ” said Ron confidently, when they reached the Fat Lady,
who was looking rather paler than usual and winced at his loud voice.
“No, ” she said.
 350 ‘

A SLUGGISH MEMORY


“What d ’you mean, ‘no ’?”
“There is a new password, ” she said. “And please don ’t shout. ”
“But we ’ve been away, how ’re we supposed to — ?”
“Harry! Ginny! ”
Hermione was hurrying toward them, very pink -faced and wear - ing a
cloa k, hat, and gloves.
“I got back a couple of hours ago, I ’ve just been down to visit Hagrid
and Buck — I mean Witherwings, ” she said breathlessly. “Did you
have a good Christmas? ”
“Yeah, ” said Ron at once, “pretty eventful, Rufus Scrim — ” “I’ve got
some thing for you, Harry, ” said Hermione, neither looking at Ron
nor giving any sign that she had heard him. “Oh,
hang on — password. Abstinence. ”
“Precisely, ” said the Fat Lady in a feeble voice, and swung for - ward
to reveal the portrait hole.
“What ’s up with her? ” asked Harry.
“Overindulged over Christmas, apparently, ” said Hermione, rolling
her eyes as she led the way into the packed common room. “She and
her friend Violet drank their way through all the wine in that picture of
drunk monks do wn by the Charms corridor. Anyway . . . ”
She rummaged in her pocket for a moment, then pulled out a scroll of
parchment with Dumbledore ’s writing on it.
“Great, ” said Harry, unrolling it at once to discover that his next
lesson with Dumbledore was schedu led for the following night. “I’ve
got loads to tell him — and you. Let ’s sit down — ”
But at that moment there was a loud squeal of “Won -Won! ” and
Lavender Brown came hurtling out of nowhere and flung herself into
Ron ’s arms. Several onlookers sniggered ; Hermione gave a
 351 ‘

CHAPTER
SEVENTEEN


tinkling laugh and said, “There ’s a table over here. . . . Coming,
Ginny? ”
“No, thanks, I said I ’d meet Dean, ” said Ginny, though Harry could
not help noticing that she did not sound very enthusiastic. Leaving
Ron and Lavender locked in a kind of vertical wrestling match, Harry
led Hermione over to the spare table.
“So how was your Christmas? ”
“Oh, fine, ” she shrugged. “Nothing special. How was it at Won -
Won ’s?”
“I’ll tell you in a minute, ” said Harry. “Look, Hermione, can ’t you
— ?”
“No, I can ’t,” she said flatly. “So don ’t even ask. ” “I thought maybe,
you know, over Christmas — ” “It was the Fat Lady who drank a v at
of five -hundred -year -old wine, Harry, not me. So what was this
important news you wanted to tell me? ”
She looked too fierce to argue with at that moment, so Harry dropped
the subject of Ron and recounted all that he had overheard between
Malfoy and Sna pe. When he had finished, Hermione sat in thought for
a moment and then said, “Don ’t you think — ?”
“— he was pretending to offer help so that he could trick Mal - foy
into telling him what he ’s doing? ”
“Well, yes, ” said Hermione.
“Ron ’s dad and Lupi n think so, ” Harry said grudgingly. “But this
definitely proves Malfoy ’s planning something, you can ’t deny that. ”
“No, I can ’t,” she answered slowly.
“And he ’s acting on Voldemort ’s orders, just like I said! ”
 352 ‘

A SLUGGISH MEMORY


“Hmm . . . did either of them actually mention Voldemort ’s name? ”
Harry frowned, trying to remember. “I’m not sure . . . Snape definitely
said ‘your master, ’ and who else would that be? ”
“I don ’t know, ” said Hermione, biting her lip. “Maybe his father? ”
She stared across the room, apparently lost in thought, not even
noticing Lavender tickling Ron. “How ’s Lupin? ”
“Not great, ” said Harry, and he told her all about Lupin ’s mission
among the werewolves an d the difficulties he was facing. “Have you
heard of this Fenrir Greyback? ”
“Yes, I have! ” said Hermione, sounding startled. “And so have you,
Harry! ”
“When, History of Magic? You know full well I never lis - tened . . . ”
“No, no, not History of Ma gic — Malfoy threatened Borgin with
him! ” said Hermione. “Back in Knockturn Alley, don ’t you re -
member? He told Borgin that Greyback was an old family friend and
that he ’d be checking up on Borgin ’s progress! ”
Harry gaped at her. “I forgot! But this pro ves Malfoy ’s a Death
Eater, how else could he be in contact with Greyback and telling him
what to do? ”
“It is pretty suspicious, ” breathed Hermione. “Unless . . . ” “Oh, come
on, ” said Harry in exasperation, “you can ’t get round this one! ”
“Well . . . there is the possibility it was an empty threat. ” “You ’re
unbelievable, you are, ” said Harry, shaking his head. “We ’ll see who ’s
right. . . . You ’ll be eating your words, Hermione,
 353 ‘

CHAPTER
SEVENTEEN


just lik e the Ministry. Oh yeah, I had a row with Rufus Scrimgeour as
well. . . . ”
And the rest of the evening passed amicably with both of them
abusing the Minister of Magic, for Hermione, like Ron, thought that
after all the Ministry had put Harry through the previous year, they
had a great deal of nerve asking him for help now.
The new term started next morning with a pleasant surprise for the
sixth years: a large sign had been pinned to the common room no tice
boards overnight.

APPARITION LESSONS
If you are seventeen years of age, or will turn seventeen
on or before the 31st August next, you are eligible for a
twelve -week course of Apparition Lessons from a Min -
istry of Magic Apparition instructor. P lease sign below
if you would like to participate. Cost: 12 Galleons.

Harry and Ron joined the crowd that was jostling around the notice
and taking it in turns to write their names at the bottom. Ron was just
taking out his quill to sign after Hermion e when Lavender crept up
behind him, slipped her hands over his eyes, and trilled, “Guess who,
Won -Won? ” Harry turned to see Hermione stalking off; he caught up
with her, having no wish to stay behind with Ron and Lavender, but to
his surprise, Ron caught up with them only a little way beyond the
portrait hole, his ears bright red and his expression disgruntled.
Without a word, Hermione sped up to walk with Neville.
“So — Apparition, ” said Ron, his tone making it perfectly plain
 354 ‘

A SLUGGISH MEMORY


that Harry was not to mention what had just happened. “Should be a
laugh, eh? ”
“I dunno, ” said Harry. “Maybe it ’s better when you do it your - self, I
didn ’t enjoy it much when Dumbledore took me along for the ride. ”
“I forgot you ’d already done it. . . . I ’d better pass my test first time, ”
said Ron, looking anxious. “Fred and George did. ” “Charlie failed,
though, didn ’t he? ”
“Yeah, but Charlie ’s bigger than me ” — Ron held his arms out from
his body as though he was a gorilla — “so Fred and George didn ’t go
on about it much . . . not to his face anyway . . . ”
“When can we take the actual test? ”
“Soon as we ’re seventeen. That ’s only March for me! ” “Yeah, but you
wouldn ’t be able to Ap parate in here, not in the castle . . . ”
“Not the point, is it? Everyone would know I could Apparate if I
wanted. ”
Ron was not the only one to be excited at the prospect of Ap - parition.
All that day there was much talk about the forthcoming lesso ns; a
great deal of store was set by being able to vanish and reappear at will.
“How cool will it be when we can just — ” Seamus clicked his fingers
to indicate disappearance. “Me cousin Fergus does it just to annoy me,
you wait till I can do it back . . . He ’ll never have an - other peaceful
moment. . . . ”
Lost in visions of this happy prospect, he flicked his wand a lit - tle too
enthusiastically, so that instead of producing the fountain of pure
water that was the object of today ’s Charms lesson, he let out
 355 ‘

CHAPTER
SEVENTEEN


a hoselike jet that ricocheted off the ceiling and knocked Professor
Flitwick flat on his face.
“Harry ’s already Apparated, ” Ron told a slightly abashed Sea - mus,
after Professor Flitwick had dried himself off with a wave of
his wand and set Seamus lines: “ I am a wizard, not a baboon bran -
dishing a stick. ” “Dum — er — someone took him. Side -Along -
Apparition, you know. ”
“Whoa! ” whispered Seamus, and he, Dean, and Neville put their
heads a little closer to hear what Apparition felt like. For the rest of the
day, Harry was besieged with requests from the other sixth years to
describe the sensation of Apparition. All of them seemed awed, rather
than put off, when he told them how uncomfortable it was, and he
was still answering detailed questions at ten to eight that evening,
when he was forced to lie and say that he needed to return a book to
the library, so as to escape in time fo r his lesson with Dumbledore.
The lamps in Dumbledore ’s office were lit, the portraits of pre - vious
headmasters were snoring gently in their frames, and the Pen - sieve
was ready upon the desk once more. Dumbledore ’s hands lay on
either side of it, the ri ght one as blackened and burnt -looking as ever.
It did not seem to have healed at all and Harry wondered, for perhaps
the hundredth time, what had caused such a distinctive in - jury, but
did not ask; Dumbledore had said that he would know eventually and
th ere was, in any case, another subject he wanted to discuss. But
before Harry could say anything about Snape and Malfoy,
Dumbledore spoke.
“I hear that you met the Minister of Magic over Christmas? ”
“Yes, ” said Harry. “He ’s not very happy with me. ”
 35 6 ‘

A SLUGGISH MEMORY


“No, ” sighed Dumbledore. “He is not very happy with me either. We
must try not to sink beneath our anguish, Harry, but battle on. ”
Harry grinned.
“He wanted me to tell the Wizarding community that the Min - istry ’s
doing a wonderful job. ”
Dumbledore smiled.
“It was Fudge ’s idea originally, you know. During his last days in
office, when he was trying desperately to cling to his post, he sought a
meeting with you, hoping that you would give him your support — ”
“After everything Fudge did last year? ” said Harry angrily. “After
Umbridge ?”
“I told Cornelius there was no chance of it, but the idea did not die
when he left office. Withi n hours of Scrimgeour ’s appointment we
met and he demanded that I arrange a meeting with you — ” “So that ’s
why you argued! ” Harry blurted out. “It was in the
Daily Prophet. ”
“The Prophet is bound to report the truth occasionally, ” said
Dumbledore, “if only accidentally. Yes, that was why we argued. Well,
it appears that Rufus found a way to corner you at last. ”
“He accused me of being ‘Dumbledore ’s man through and through. ’”
“How very rude of him. ”
“I told him I was. ”
Dumbledore opened his mou th to speak and then closed it again.
Behind Harry, Fawkes the phoenix let out a low, soft, musi - cal cry. To
Harry ’s intense embarrassment, he suddenly realized
 357 ‘

CHAPTER
SEVENTEEN


that Dumbledore ’s bright blue eyes looked rather watery, and stared
hastily at his own knees. When Dumbledore spoke, how - ever, his
voice was quite steady.
“I am very touched, Harry. ”
“Scrimgeour wanted to know where you go when you ’re not at
Hogwarts, ” said Harry, s till looking fixedly at his knees.
“Yes, he is very nosy about that, ” said Dumbledore, now sound - ing
cheerful, and Harry thought it safe to look up again. “He has even
attempted to have me followed. Amusing, really. He set Dawlish to
tail me. It wasn ’t k ind. I have already been forced to jinx Dawlish once;
I did it again with the greatest regret. ”
“So they still don ’t know where you go? ” asked Harry, hoping for
more information on this intriguing subject, but Dumbledore merely
smiled over the top of hi s half -moon spectacles.
“No, they don ’t, and the time is not quite right for you to know either.
Now, I suggest we press on, unless there ’s anything else — ?” “There
is, actually, sir, ” said Harry. “It’s about Malfoy and Snape. ”
“ Professor Snape, Harry. ”
“Yes, sir. I overheard them during Professor Slughorn ’s party . . . well,
I followed them, actually. . . . ”
Dumbledore listened to Harry ’s story with an impassive face. When
Harry had finished he did not speak for a few moments, then said,
“Thank you fo r telling me this, Harry, but I suggest that you put it out
of your mind. I do not think that it is of great importance. ”
“Not of great importance? ” repeated Harry incredulously. “Pro -
fessor, did you understand — ?”
“Yes, Harry, blessed as I am with extraordinary brainpower, I
 358 ‘

A SLUGGISH MEMORY


understood everything you told me, ” said Dumbledore, a little sharply.
“I think you might even consider the possibility that I un - derstood
more than you did. Again, I am glad that you have con - fided in me,
but let me reassure you that you have not told me anything that causes
me disquiet. ”
Harry sat in seething silence, glaring at Dumbledore. What was going
on? Did this mean tha t Dumbledore had indeed ordered Snape to find
out what Malfoy was doing, in which case he had already heard
everything Harry had just told him from Snape? Or was he really
worried by what he had heard, but pretending not to be?
“So, sir, ” said Harry, in what he hoped was a polite, calm voice, “you
definitely still trust — ?”
“I have been tolerant enough to answer that question already, ” said
Dumbledore, but he did not sound very tolerant anymore. “My
answer has not changed. ”
“I should think not, ” said a snide voice; Phineas Nigellus was ev -
idently only pretending to be asleep. Dumbledore ignored him. “And
now, Harry, I must insist that we press on. I have more im - portant
things to discuss with you this evening. ”
Harry sat there feeling mutino us. How would it be if he refused to
permit the change of subject, if he insisted upon arguing the case
against Malfoy? As though he had read Harry ’s mind, Dumbledore
shook his head.
“Ah, Harry, how often this happens, even between the best of friends!
Each of us believes that what he has to say is much more important
than anything the other might have to contribute! ”
“I don ’t think what you ’ve got to say is unimportant, sir, ” said Harry
stiffly.
 359 ‘

CHAPTER
SEVENTEEN


“Well, you are quite right, because it is not, ” said Dumbledore briskly.
“I have two more memories to show you this evening, both obtained
with enormous difficulty, and the second of them is, I think, the most
important I have collected. ”
Harry did not s ay anything to this; he still felt angry at the re - ception
his confidences had received, but could not see what was to be gained
by arguing further.
“So, ” said Dumbledore, in a ringing voice, “we meet this eve - ning to
continue the tale of Tom Riddle, whom we left last lesson poised on
the threshold of his years at Hogwarts. You will remem - ber how
excited he was to hear that he was a wizard, that he refused my
company on a trip to Diagon Alley, and that I, in turn, warned him
against continued thievery when he arrived at school.
“Well, the start of the school year arrived and with it came Tom Riddle,
a quiet boy in his secondhand robes, who lined up with the other first
years to be sorted. He was placed in Slytherin House al - most the
moment that the Sorting Hat touched his head, ” contin - ued
Dumbledore, waving his blackened hand toward the shelf over his
head where the Sorting Hat sat, ancient and unmoving. “How soon
Riddle learned that the famous founder of the House could talk to
snakes, I do not k now — perhaps that very evening. The knowledge
can only have excited him and increased his sense of self -importance.
“However, if he was frightening or impressing fellow Slytherins with
displays of Parseltongue in their common room, no hint of it reached
the staff. He showed no sign of outward arrogance or ag - gression at
all. As an unusually talented and very good -looking or - phan, he
naturally drew attention and sympathy from the staff almost from the
moment of his arrival. He seemed polite, quiet,
 360 ‘

A SLUGGISH MEMORY


and thirsty for knowledge. Nearly all were most favorably im - pressed
by him. ”
“Didn ’t you tell them, sir, what he ’d been like when you met him at
the orphanage? ” asked Harry.
“No, I did not. Though he had shown no hint of remorse, it was
possible that he felt sorry for how he had behaved before and was
resolved to turn over a fresh leaf. I chose to give him that chance. ”
Dumbledore paused and looked inquiringly at Harry, who had opened
his mouth to speak. Here, again, was Dumbledore ’s ten - dency to trust
people in spite of overwhelming evidence that they did not deserve it!
But then Harry remembered something. . . .
“But you didn ’t really trust him, sir, did you? He told me . . . the
Riddle who came out of that diary said, ‘Dumbledore never seemed to
like me as much as the other teachers did. ’”
“Let us say that I did not take it for granted that he was trust - worthy, ”
said Dumbledore. “I had, as I have already indicated, re - solved to
keep a close eye upon him, and so I did. I cannot pretend that I
gleaned a great deal from my observations at first. He was very
guarded with me; he felt, I am sure, that in the thrill of dis - covering
his true identity he had told me a little too much. He was careful never
to reveal as much again, but he could not take back what he had let slip
in his excitement, nor what Mrs. Cole had con - fided in me. However,
he had the sense never to try and charm me as he charmed so many of
my colleagues.
“As he moved up the school, he gathered about him a group of
dedicated friends; I call them that, for want of a better term, although
as I have already indicated, Riddle undoubtedly felt no affection for
any of them . This group had a kind of dark glamour within the castle.
They were a motley collection; a mixture of the
 361 ‘

CHAPTER
SEVENTEEN


weak seeking protection, the ambitious seeking some shared glory,
and the thuggish gravitating toward a leader who could show them
more refined forms of cruelty. In other words, they were the fore -
runners of the Death Eaters, and indeed some of them became the
first Death Eaters after leaving Hogwarts.
“Rigidly contr olled by Riddle, they were never detected in open
wrongdoing, although their seven years at Hogwarts were marked by a
number of nasty incidents to which they were never satisfac - torily
linked, the most serious of which was, of course, the opening of the
Chamber of Secrets, which resulted in the death of a girl. As you know,
Hagrid was wrongly accused of that crime.
“I have not been able to find many memories of Riddle at Hog -
warts, ” said Dumbledore, placing his withered hand on the Pen - sieve.
“Few who knew him then are prepared to talk about him; they are too
terrified. What I know, I found out after he had left Hogwarts, after
much painstaking effort, after tracing those few who could be tricked
into speaking, after searching old records and questioni ng Muggle and
wizard witnesses alike.
“Those whom I could persuade to talk told me that Riddle was
obsessed with his parentage. This is understandable, of course; he had
grown up in an orphanage and naturally wished to know how he came
to be there. It see ms that he searched in vain for some trace of Tom
Riddle senior on the shields in the trophy room, on the lists of prefects
in the old school records, even in the books of Wiz - arding history.
Finally he was forced to accept that his father had never set f oot in
Hogwarts. I believe that it was then that he dropped the name forever,
assumed the identity of Lord Volde - mort, and began his
investigations into his previously despised

 362 ‘

A SLUGGISH MEMORY


mother ’s family — the woman whom, you will remember, he had
thought could not be a witch if she had succumbed to the shame - ful
human weakness of death.
“All he had to go upon was the single name ‘Marvolo, ’ which he knew
from those who ran the orphanage had been his mother ’s fa - ther ’s
name. Finally, after painstaking research through old books of
Wizarding families, he discovered the existence of Slytherin ’s
surviving line. In the summer of his sixteenth year, he lef t the or -
phanage to which he returned annually and set off to find his Gaunt
relatives. And now, Harry, if you will stand . . . ” Dumbledore rose, and
Harry saw that he was again holding a small crystal bottle filled with
swirling, pearly memory.
“I was v ery lucky to collect this, ” he said, as he poured the gleaming
mass into the Pensieve. “As you will understand when we have
experienced it. Shall we? ”
Harry stepped up to the stone basin and bowed obediently until his
face sank through the surface of th e memory; he felt the famil - iar
sensation of falling through nothingness and then landed upon a dirty
stone floor in almost total darkness.
It took him several seconds to recognize the place, by which time
Dumbledore had landed beside him. The Gaunts ’ ho use was now
more indescribably filthy than anywhere Harry had ever seen. The
ceiling was thick with cobwebs, the floor coated in grime; moldy and
rotting food lay upon the table amidst a mass of crusted pots. The only
light came from a single guttering can dle placed at the feet of a man
with hair and beard so overgrown Harry could see neither eyes nor
mouth. He was slumped in an armchair by the fire, and Harry
wondered for a moment whether he was dead. But
 363 ‘

CHAPTER
SEVENTEEN


then there came a loud knock on the door and the man jerked awake,
raising a wand in his right hand and a short knife in his left.
The door creaked open. There on the threshold, holding an old -
fashioned lamp, stood a boy Harry r ecognized at once: tall, pale,
dark -haired, and handsome — the teenage Voldemort. Voldemort ’s
eyes moved slowly around the hovel and then found the man in the
armchair. For a few seconds they looked at each other, then the man
staggered upright, the many e mpty bottles at his feet clattering and
tinkling across the floor.
“YOU! ” he bellowed. “YOU! ”
And he hurtled drunkenly at Riddle, wand and knife held aloft.
“ Stop. ”
Riddle spoke in Parseltongue. The man skidded into the table, sending
moldy pots crashing to the floor. He stared at Riddle. There was a
long silence while they contemplated each other. The man broke it.
“ You speak it ?”
“ Yes, I speak it, ” said Riddle. He moved forward into the room,
allowing the door to swing s hut behind him. Harry could not help but
feel a resentful admiration for Voldemort ’s complete lack of fear. His
face merely expressed disgust and, perhaps, disappoint - ment.
“ Where is Marvolo ?” he asked.
“ Dead, ” said the
other. “Died years ago, didn ’t he ?”
Riddle frowned.
“ Who are you, then ?”
“ I’m Morfin, ain ’t I ?”
 364 ‘

A SLUGGISH MEMORY


“ Marvolo ’s son ?”
“’ Course I am, then . . . ”
Morfin pushed the hair out of his dirty face, the better to see Riddle,
and Harry saw that he wore Marvolo ’s black -stoned ring on his right
hand.
“ I thought you
was that Muggle, ” whispered Morfin. “ You look
mighty like that Muggle. ”
“ What Muggle ?” said Riddle sharply.
“ That Muggle what my sister took a fancy to, that Muggle what lives
in the big house over the way, ” said Morfin, and he spat unexpectedly
upon the floor between them. “ You look right like him. Riddle. But
he’s older now, in ’e? He ’s older ’n you, now I think on it. . . . ”
Morfin looked slightly dazed and swayed a little, still clutching
the edge of the table for support. “ He come back, see, ” he added
stupidly.
Voldemort was gazing at Morfin as though appraising his possi -
bilities . Now he moved a little closer and said, “ Riddle came back ?”
“ Ar, he left her, and serve her right, marrying filth !” said Morfin,
spitting on the floor again. “ Robbed us, mind, before she ran off!
Where ’s the locket, eh, where ’s Slytherin ’s locket ?”
Voldemort did not answer. Morfin was working himself into a
rage again; he brandished his knife and shouted, “ Dishonored us,
she did, that little slut! And who ’re you, coming here and asking ques -
tions about all that? It ’s over, innit. . . . It ’s over. . . . ”
He looked away, staggering slightly, and Voldemort moved for - ward.
As he did so, an unnatural darkness fell, extinguishing Volde - mort ’s
lamp and Morfin ’s candle, extinguishing everything. . . . Dumbledore ’s
finger s closed tightly around Harry ’s arm and
 365 ‘

CHAPTER
SEVENTEEN


they were soaring back into the present again. The soft golden light in
Dumbledore ’s office seemed to dazzle Harry ’s eyes after that im -
penetrable darkness.
“Is that all? ” said Harry at once. “Why did it go dark, what hap -
pened? ”
“Because Morfin could not remember anything from that point
onward, ” said Dumbledore, gesturing Harry back into his seat. “When
he awoke next morning, he was lying on the floor, quite alone.
Marvolo ’s ring had gone.
“Meanwhile, in the village of Little Hangleton, a maid was run - ning
along the High Street, screaming that there were three bodies lying in
the drawing room of the big house: Tom Riddle Senior and his mother
and father.
“The Muggle authorities were perplexed. As far as I am aware,
they do not know to this day how the Riddles died, for the Avada
Kedavra curse does not usually leave any sign of damage. . . . The
exception sits before me, ” Dumbledore added, with a nod to Harry ’s
scar. “The Ministry, on the other hand, knew at once that this was a
wizard ’s murder. They also knew that a convicted Muggle - hater lived
across the valley from the Riddle house, a M uggle -hater who had
already been imprisoned once for attacking one of the murdered
people.
“So the Ministry called upon Morfin. They did not need to question
him, to use Veritaserum or Legilimency. He admitted to the murder
on the spot, giving details only the murderer could know. He was
proud, he said, to have killed the Muggles, had been awaiting his
chance all these years. He handed over his wand, which was proved
at once to have been used to kill the Riddles. And he permitted
himself to be led off to Azkaban without a fight.

 366 ‘

A SLUGGISH MEMORY


All that disturbed him was the fact that his father ’s ring had disap -
peared. ‘He ’ll kill me for losing it, ’ he told his captors o ver and over
again. ‘He ’ll kill me for losing his ring. ’ And that, apparently, was all he
ever said again. He lived out the remainder of his life in Azka - ban,
lamenting the loss of Marvolo ’s last heirloom, and is buried beside the
prison, alongside the ot her poor souls who have expired within its
walls. ”
“So Voldemort stole Morfin ’s wand and used it? ” said Harry, sit - ting
up straight.
“That ’s right, ” said Dumbledore. “We have no memories to show us
this, but I think we can be fairly sure what happened. Voldemort
Stupefied his uncle, took his wand, and proceeded across the valley to
‘the big house over the way ’ There he murdered the Muggle man who
had abandoned his witch mother, and, for good measure, his Muggle
grandparents, thus obliterating the last of the unworthy Riddle line
and revenging himself upon the father who never wanted him. Then
he returned to the Gaunt hovel, per - formed the complex bit of magic
that would implant a false mem - ory in his uncle ’s mind, laid Morfin ’s
wand beside its unconscious owner, pocketed the ancient ring he wore,
and departed. ”
“And Morfin never realized he hadn ’t done it? ”
“Never, ” said Dumbledore. “He gave, as I say, a full and boastful
confession. ”
“But he had this real memory in him all the time! ” “Yes, but it took a
great deal of skilled Legilimency to coax it out of him, ” said
Dumbledore, “and why should anybody delve further into Morfin ’s
mind when he had already confessed to the crime? However, I was
able to secure a visit to Morfin in the last weeks of his life, by which
time I was attempting to discover as much as I
 367 ‘

CHAPTER
SEVENTEEN


could about Voldemort ’s past. I extracted this memory with diffi -
culty. When I saw what it contained, I attempted to use it to secure
Morfin ’s release from Azkaban. Before the Ministry reached their
decision, however, Morfin had died. ”
“But how come the Ministry didn ’t realize that Voldemort had done
all that to Morfi n? ” Harry asked angrily. “He was underage at the time,
wasn ’t he? I thought they could detect underage magic! ” “You are
quite right — they can detect magic, but not the per - petrator: You will
remember that you were blamed by the Ministry for the Hover Cha rm
that was, in fact, cast by — ”
“Dobby, ” growled Harry; this injustice still rankled. “So if you ’re
underage and you do magic inside an adult witch or wizard ’s house,
the Ministry won ’t know? ”
“They will certainly be unable to tell who performed the m agic, ” said
Dumbledore, smiling slightly at the look of great indignation on
Harry ’s face. “They rely on witch and wizard parents to enforce their
offspring ’s obedience while within their walls. ”
“Well, that ’s rubbish, ” snapped Harry. “Look what happened here,
look what happened to Morfin! ”
“I agree, ” said Dumbledore. “Whatever Morfin was, he did not
deserve to die as he did, blamed for murders he had not commit - ted.
But it is getting late, and I want you to see this other memory befor e
we part. . . . ”
Dumbledore took from an inside pocket another crystal phial and
Harry fell silent at once, remembering that Dumbledore had said it
was the most important one he had collected. Harry noticed that the
contents proved difficult to empty into the Pensieve, as though they
had congealed slightly; did memories go bad?
“This will not take long, ” said Dumbledore, when he had finally

 368 ‘

A SLUGGISH MEMORY


emptied the phial. “We shall be back before you know it. Once more
into the Pensieve, then . . . ”
And Harry fell again through the silver surface, landing this time right
in front of a man he recognized at once.
It was a much younger Horace Slughorn. Harry was so used to him
bald that he found the sight of Slughorn with thick, shiny,
straw -colored hair quite disconcerting; it looked as though he had had
his head thatched, though there was already a shiny Galleon - sized
bald patch on his crown. His mustache, less massive than it was these
days, was gingery -blond. He was not quite as rotund as the Slughorn
Harry knew, though the golden buttons on his richly embroidered
waistcoat were taking a fair amount of strain. H is lit - tle feet resting
upon a velvet pouffe, he was sitting well back in a comfortable winged
armchair, one hand grasping a small glass of wine, the other searching
through a box of crystalized pineapple. Harry looked around as
Dumbledore appeared beside him and saw that they were standing in
Slughorn ’s office. Half a dozen boys were sitting around Slughorn, all
on harder or lower seats than his, and all in their mid -teens. Harry
recognized Voldemort at once. His was the most handsome face and
he looked t he most relaxed of all the boys. His right hand lay
negligently upon the arm of his chair; with a jolt, Harry saw that he
was wearing Marvolo ’s gold - and -black ring; he had already killed his
father.
“Sir, is it true that Professor Merrythought is retirin g? ” he asked.
“Tom, Tom, if I knew I couldn ’t tell you, ” said Slughorn, wag - ging a
reproving, sugar -covered finger at Riddle, though ruining the effect
slightly by winking. “I must say, I ’d like to know where you get your
information, boy, more knowledgea ble than half the staff, you are. ”
 369 ‘

CHAPTER
SEVENTEEN


Riddle smiled; the other boys laughed and cast him admiring looks.
“What with your uncanny ability to know things you shouldn ’t, and
your careful flattery of the people who matter — thank you for the
pineapple, by the way, you ’re quite right, it is my favorite — ” As
several of the boys tittered, something very odd happened. The whole
room was suddenly filled with a thick white fog, so that Harry could
see nothing but the face of Dumbledore, who was standing beside him.
Then Slughorn ’s voice rang out through the
mist, unnaturally loudly, “ You ’ll go wrong, boy, mark my words. ”
The fog cleared as suddenly as it had appeared and ye t nobody made
any allusion to it, nor did anybody look as though anything unusual
had just happened. Bewildered, Harry looked around as a small golden
clock standing upon Slughorn ’s desk chimed eleven o ’clock.
“Good gracious, is it that time already? ” said Slughorn. “You ’d better
get going, boys, or we ’ll all be in trouble. Lestrange, I want your essay
by tomorrow or it ’s detention. Same goes for you, Avery. ” Slughorn
pulled himself out of his armchair and carried his empty glass over to
his desk as the boys filed out. Voldemort, how - ever, stayed behind.
Harry could tell he had dawdled deliberately, wanting to be last in the
room with Slughorn.
“Look sharp, Tom, ” said Slughorn, turning around and finding him
still present. “You don ’t want to be caught out of bed out of hours,
and you a prefect . . . ”
“Sir, I wanted to ask you something. ”
“Ask away, then, m ’boy, ask away. . . . ”
“Sir, I wondered what you know about . . . about Horcruxes? ” And
it happened all over again: The dense fog filled the room
 370 ‘

A SLUGGISH MEMORY


so that Harry could not see Slughorn or Voldemort at all; only
Dumbledore, smiling serenely beside him. Then Slughorn ’s voice
boomed o ut again, just as it had done before.
“ I don ’t know anything about Horcruxes and I wouldn ’t tell you if I did! Now
get out of here at once and don ’t let me catch you mentioning
them again !”
“Well, that ’s that, ” said Dumbledore placidly beside Harry. “Time to
go. ”
And Harry ’s feet left the floor to fall, seconds later, back onto the rug
in front of Dumbledore ’s desk.
“That ’s all there is? ” said Harry blankly.
Dumbledore had said that this was the most important memory of all,
but he could not see what was so significant about it. Ad - mittedly the
fog, and the fact that nobody seemed to have noticed it, was odd, but
other than that nothing seemed to have happene d except that
Voldemort had asked a question and failed to get an answer.
“As you might have noticed, ” said Dumbledore, reseating him - self
behind his desk, “that memory has been tampered with. ” “Tampered
with? ” repeated Harry, sitting back down too. “Certainly, ” said
Dumbledore. “Professor Slughorn has meddled with his own
recollections. ”
“But why would he do that? ”
“Because, I think, he is ashamed of what he remembers, ” said
Dumbledore. “He has tried to rework the memory to show himself in
a better light, obliterating those parts which he does not wish me to
see. It is, as you will have noticed, very crudely done, and that is all to
the good, for it shows that the true memory is still there be - neath the
alterations.
 371 ‘

CHAPTER
SEVENTEEN


“And so, for the first time, I am giving you homework, Harry. It will
be your job to persuade Professor Slughorn to divulge the real
memory, which will undoubtedly be our most crucial piece of in -
formation of all. ”
Harry stared at him.
“But surely, sir, ” he said, keeping his voice as respectful as pos - sible,
“you don ’t need me — you could use Legilimency . . . or
Veritaserum. . . . ”
“Professor Slughorn is an extremely able wizard who will be ex -
pecting both, ” said Dumbledore. “He is much more accomplished at
Occlumency than poor Morfin Gaunt, and I would be aston - ished if
he has not carried an antidote to Veritaserum with him ever since I
coerced him into giving me this travesty of a recollecti on. “No, I think
it would be foolish to attempt to wrest the truth from Professor
Slughorn by force, and might do much more harm than good; I do not
wish him to leave Hogwarts. However, he has his weaknesses like the
rest of us, and I believe that you are the one person who might be able
to penetrate his defenses. It is most im - portant that we secure the true
memory, Harry. . . . How impor - tant, we will only know when we
have seen the real thing. So, good luck . . . and good night. ”
A little taken aback by the abrupt dismissal, Harry got to his feet
quickly. “Good night, sir. ”
As he closed the study door behind him, he distinctly heard Phineas
Nigellus say, “I can ’t see why the boy should be able to do it better
than you, Dumbledore. ”
“I wouldn ’t expe ct you to, Phineas, ” replied Dumbledore, and Fawkes
gave another low, musical cry.
 372 ‘

C H A P T E R E I G H T E
E N










BIRTHDAY
SURPRISES



he next day Harry confided in both Ron and Hermione
T
the task that Dumbledore had set him, though separately,
for Hermione still refused to remain in Ron ’s presence longer than it
took to give him a contemptuous look.
Ron thought that Harry was unlikely to have any trouble with
Slughorn at all.
“He loves you, ” he said over breakfast, waving an airy forkful of fried
egg. “Won ’t refuse you anything, will he? Not his little Potions Prince.

Just hang back after class this afternoon and ask him. ” Hermione,
however, took a gloomier view. “He must be deter - mined to hide
what really happened if Dumbledore couldn ’t get it out of him, ” she
said in a low voice, as they stood in the deserted,
snowy courtyard at break. “Horcruxes . . . Horcruxes . . . I ’ve never
even heard of them. . . . ”
“You haven ’t?” Harry was disappointed; he had hoped that
 373 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


Hermione might have been able to give him a clue as to what Hor -
cruxes were.
“They must be really advanced Dark Magic, or why would
Voldemort have wanted to know about them? I think it ’s going to be
difficult to get the information , Harry, you ’ll have to be very careful
about how you approach Slughorn, think out a strat - egy. . . . ”
“Ron reckons I should just hang back after Potions this after -
noon. . . . ”
“Oh, well, if Won -Won thinks that, you ’d better do it, ” she said,
flaring up at once. “After all, when has Won -Won ’s judgment ever
been faulty? ”
“Hermione, can ’t you — ?”
“ No !” she said angrily, and stormed away, leaving Harry alone
and ankle -deep in snow.
Potions lessons were uncomfortable enough these days, seeing as
Harry, Ron, and Hermione had to share a desk. Today, Hermione
moved her cauldron around the table so that she was close to Ernie,
and ignored both Harry and Ron.
“What ’ve you done? ” Ron mut tered to Harry, looking at Hermi -
one ’s haughty profile.
But before Harry could answer, Slughorn was calling for silence from
the front of the room.
“Settle down, settle down, please! Quickly, now, lots of work to get
through this afternoon! Golpalott ’s Third Law . . . who can tell me — ?
But Miss Granger can, of course! ”
Hermione recited at top speed: “Golpalott ’s-Third -Law -states -
that -the -antidote -for -a-blended -poison -will -be -equal -to -more -than -
the -sum -of -the -antidotes -for -each -of -the -separate -co mponents. ”
 374 ‘

BIRTHDAY SURPRISES


“Precisely! ” beamed Slughorn. “Ten points for Gryffindor! Now, if
we accept Golpalott ’s Third Law as true . . . ”
Harry was going to have to take Slughorn ’s word for it that Gol -
palott ’s Third Law was true, because he had not understood any of it.
Nobody apart from Hermione seemed to be following what Slughorn
said next either.
“. . . which means, of course, that assuming we have achieved correct
identification of the potion ’s ingredie nts by Scarpin ’s Revel - aspell,
our primary aim is not the relatively simple one of selecting antidotes
to those ingredients in and of themselves, but to find that added
component that will, by an almost alchemical process, trans - form
these disparate elem ents — ”
Ron was sitting beside Harry with his mouth half open, doo -
dling absently on his new copy of Advanced Potion -Making. Ron
kept forgetting that he could no longer rely on Hermione to help him
out of trouble when he failed to grasp what was goi ng on.
“. . . and so, ” finished Slughorn, “I want each of you to come and take
one of these phials from my desk. You are to create an an - tidote for
the poison within it before the end of the lesson. Good luck, and don ’t
forget your protective gloves! ”
Hermione had left her stool and was halfway toward Slughorn ’s desk
before the rest of the class had realized it was time to move, and by the
time Harry, Ron, and Ernie returned to the table, she had already
tipped the contents of her phial into her cauldr on and was kindling a
fire underneath it.
“It’s a shame that the Prince won ’t be able to help you much with this,
Harry, ” she said brightly as she straightened up. “You have to
understand the principles involved this time. No shortcuts or cheats! ”
 375 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


Annoyed, Harry uncorked the poison he had taken from Slug - horn ’s
desk, which was a garish shade of pink, tipped it into his cauldron, and
lit a fire underneath it. He did not have the faintest idea what he was
supposed to do next. He glanced around at Ron, who was now
standing there looking rather gormless, having copied everything
Harry had done.
“You sure the Prince hasn ’t got any tips? ” Ron muttered to Harry.
Harry pulled out his trusty cop y of Advanced Potion -Making and
turned to the chapter on antidotes. There was Golpalott ’s Third Law,
stated word for word as Hermione had recited it, but not a single
illuminating note in the Prince ’s hand to explain what it meant.
Apparently the Prin ce, like Hermione, had had no diffi - culty
understanding it.
“Nothing, ” said Harry gloomily.
Hermione was now waving her wand enthusiastically over her
cauldron. Unfortunately, they could not copy the spell she was do - ing
because she was now so good a t nonverbal incantations that she did
not need to say the words aloud. Ernie Macmillan, however,
was muttering, “ Specialis Revelio !” over his cauldron, which sounded
impressive, so Harry and Ron hastened to imitate him.
It took Harry only five minutes to realize that his reputation as the
best potion -maker in the class was crashing around his ears. Slughorn
had peered hopefully into his cauldron on his first circuit of the
dungeon, preparing to exclaim in delight as he us ually did, and instead
had withdrawn his head hastily, coughing, as the smell of bad eggs
overwhelmed him. Hermione ’s expression could not have been any
smugger; she had loathed being outperformed in every Potions class.
She was now decanting the mysteriou sly sepa -
 376 ‘

BIRTHDAY SURPRISES


rated ingredients of her poison into ten different crystal phials. More
to avoid watching this irritating sight than anything else, Harry bent
over the Half -Blood Prince ’s book and turned a few pages with
unnecessary force.
And there it was, scrawled right across a long list of antidotes:
Just shove a bezoar down their throats.

Harry stared at these words for a moment. Hadn ’t he once, long ago,
heard of bezoars? Hadn ’t Snape mentioned them in their first -
ever Potions lesson? “A stone taken from the stomach of a goat, which
will protect from most poisons. ”
It was not an answer to the Golpalott problem, and had Snape still
been their teacher, Harry would not have dared do it, but this was a
moment for desperate measures. He hastened toward the store
cupboard and rummaged within it, pushing aside unicorn horns and
tangles of dried herbs until he found, at the very back, a small
cardboard box on which had been scribbled the word bezoars.
He opened the box just as Slughorn called, “Two minutes left,
everyone! ” Inside were half a dozen shriveled brown objects, look - ing
more like dried -up kidneys than real stones. Harry se ized one, put the
box back in the cupboard, and hurried back to his cauldron.
“Time ’s . . . UP! ” called Slughorn genially. “Well, let ’s see how you ’ve
done! Blaise . . . what have you got for me? ”
Slowly, Slughorn moved around the room, examining th e vari - ous
antidotes. Nobody had finished the task, although Hermione was
trying to cram a few more ingredients into her bottle before
 377 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


Slughorn reached her. Ron had given up completely, and was merely
trying to avoid breathing in the putrid fumes issuing from his cauldron.
Harry stood there waiting, the bezoar clutched in a slightly sweaty
hand.
Slughorn reached their table last. He sniffed Ernie ’s potion and passed
on to Ron ’s with a grimace. H e did not linger over Ron ’s cauldron, but
backed away swiftly, retching slightly.
“And you, Harry, ” he said. “What have you got to show me? ” Harry
held out his hand, the bezoar sitting on his palm. Slughorn looked
down at it for a full ten seconds. Harr y won - dered, for a moment,
whether he was going to shout at him. Then he threw back his head
and roared with laughter.
“You ’ve got nerve, boy! ” he boomed, taking the bezoar and hold - ing
it up so that the class could see it. “Oh, you ’re like your mother.
. . . Well, I can ’t fault you. . . . A bezoar would certainly act as an
antidote to all these potions! ”
Hermione, who was sweaty -faced and had soot on her nose, looked
livid. Her half -finished antidote, comprising fifty -two in - gredients,
including a chu nk of her own hair, bubbled sluggishly behind
Slughorn, who had eyes for nobody but Harry.
“And you thought of a bezoar all by yourself, did you, Harry? ” she
asked through gritted teeth.
“That ’s the individual spirit a real potion -maker needs! ” said Slughorn
happily, before Harry could reply. “Just like his mother, she had the
same intuitive grasp of potion -making, it ’s undoubt - edly from Lily he
gets it. . . . Yes, Harry, yes, if you ’ve got a bezoar to hand, of course
that would do the trick . . . al though as they don ’t work on everything,
and are pretty rare, it ’s still worth know - ing how to mix antidotes. . . . ”
 378 ‘

BIRTHDAY SURPRISES


The only person in the room looking angrier than Hermione was
Malfoy, who, Harr y was pleased to see, had spilled something that
looked like cat -sick over himself. Before either of them could express
their fury that Harry had come top of the class by not do - ing any work,
however, the bell rang.
“Time to pack up! ” said Slughorn. “And an extra ten points to
Gryffindor for sheer cheek! ”
Still chuckling, he waddled back to his desk at the front of the
dungeon.
Harry dawdled behind, taking an inordinate amount of time to do up
his bag. Neither Ron nor Hermione wished him luck as they left; both
looked rather annoyed. At last Harry and Slughorn were the only two
left in the room.
“Come on, now, Harry, you ’ll be late for your next lesson, ” said
Slughorn affably, snapping the gold clasps shut on his dragon -skin
briefcase.
“Sir, ” said Harry, reminding himself irresistibly of Voldemort, “I
wanted to ask you something. ”
“Ask away, then, my dear boy, ask away. . . . ”
“Sir, I wondered what you know about . . . about Horcruxes? ”
Slughorn froze. His round face seemed to sink in upon i tself. He
licked his lips and said hoarsely, “What did you say? ”
“I asked whether you know anything about Horcruxes, sir. You see
— ”
“Dumbledore put you up to this, ” whispered Slughorn. His voice had
changed completely. It was not genial anymore, but shocked, terrified.
He fumbled in his breast pocket and pulled out a handkerchief,
mopping his sweating brow. “Dumbledore ’s shown you that — that
memory. Well? Hasn ’t he? ”
 379 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


“Yes, ” said Harry, deciding on the spot that it was best not to lie. “Yes,
of course, ” said Slughorn quietly, still dabbing at his white face. “Of
course . . . well, if you ’ve seen that memory, Harry, you ’ll
know that I don ’t know anything — anything ” — he repeated the
word forcefully — “about Horcruxes. ”
He seized his dragon -skin briefcase, stuffed his handkerchief back
into his pocket, and marched to the dungeon door.
“Sir, ” said Harry desperately, “I just thought there might be a bit more
to the memory — ”
“Did you? ” said Slughorn. “Then you were wrong, weren ’t you?
WRONG! ”
He bellowed the last word and, before Harry could say another word,
slammed the dungeon door behi nd him.
Neither Ron nor Hermione was at all sympathetic when Harry told
them of this disastrous interview. Hermione was still seething at the
way Harry had triumphed without doing the work properly. Ron was
resentful that Harry hadn ’t slipped him a bezo ar too.
“It would ’ve just looked stupid if we ’d both done it! ” said Harry
irritably. “Look, I had to try and soften him up so I could ask him
about Voldemort, didn ’t I? Oh, will you get a grip !” he added in ex -
asperation, as Ron winced at the sound of the name.
Infuriated by his failure and by Ron ’s and Hermione ’s attitudes, Harry
brooded for the next few days over what to do next about Slughorn.
He decided that, for the time being, he would let Slug - horn thin k that
he had forgotten all about Horcruxes; it was surely best to lull him into
a false sense of security before returning to the attack.
When Harry did not question Slughorn again, the Potions master
reverted to his usual affectionate treatment of him, and
 380 ‘

BIRTHDAY SURPRISES


appeared to have put the matter from his mind. Harry awaited an
invitation to one of his little evening parties, determined to accept this
time, even if he had to reschedule Quidditch practice. Unfor - tunately,
however, no such invitation arrived. Harry checked with Hermione
and Ginny: Neither of them had received an invitation and nor, as far
as they knew, had anybody else. Harry could not help wondering
whether this meant that Slughorn was not quite as forgetful as he
appeared, simply determined to give Harry no addi - tional
opportunities to question him.
Meanwhile, the Hogwarts library had failed Hermione for the first
time in livin g memory. She was so shocked, she even forgot that she
was annoyed at Harry for his trick with the bezoar.
“I haven ’t found one single explanation of what Horcruxes do! ” she
told him. “Not a single one! I ’ve been right through the re -
stricted section and even in the most horrible books, where they tell
you how to brew the most gruesome potions — nothing! All I could
find was this, in the introduction to Magick Moste Evile — listen —
‘Of the Horcrux, wickedest of magical invent ions, we shall not speak
nor give direction. . . . ’ I mean, why mention it then? ” she said
impatiently, slamming the old book shut; it let out a ghostly wail. “Oh,
shut up, ” she snapped, stuffing it back into her bag.
The snow melted around the school as February arrived, to be
replaced by cold, dreary wetness. Purplish -gray clouds hung low over
the castle and a constant fall of chilly rain made the lawns slip - pery
and muddy. The upshot of this was that the sixth years ’ first
Apparition lesson, which was scheduled for a Saturday morning so
that no normal lessons would be missed, took place in the Great Hall
instead of in the grounds.
When Harry and Hermione arrived in the Hall (Ron had come
 381 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


down with Lavender), they found that the tables had disappeared.
Rain lashed against the high windows and the enchanted ceiling
swirled darkly above them as they assembled in front of Professors
McGonagall, Snape, Flitwick, and Sprout — the Heads of Houses
— and a small wizard whom Harry took to be the Apparition in -
structor from the Ministry. He was oddly colorless, with transpar - ent
eyelashes, wispy hair, and an insubstantial air, as though a single gust
of wind might blow him away. Harry wondered wheth er con - stant
disappearances and reappearances had somehow diminished his
substance, or whether this frail build was ideal for anyone wish - ing to
vanish.
“Good morning, ” said the Ministry wizard, when all the stu - dents had
arrived and the Heads of Hou ses had called for quiet. “My name is
Wilkie Twycross and I shall be your Ministry Appari - tion instructor
for the next twelve weeks. I hope to be able to prepare you for your
Apparition Tests in this time — ”
“Malfoy, be quiet and pay attention! ” barked P rofessor McGon - agall.
Everybody looked around. Malfoy had flushed a dull pink; he looked
furious as he stepped away from Crabbe, with whom he ap - peared to
have been having a whispered argument. Harry glanced quickly at
Snape, who also looked annoyed, th ough Harry strongly suspected
that this was less because of Malfoy ’s rudeness than the fact that
McGonagall had reprimanded one of his House.
“— by which time, many of you may be ready to take your tests, ”
Twycross continued, as though there had been no inter - ruption.
“As you may know, it is usually impossible to Apparate or Disapparate
within Hogwarts. The headmaster has lifted this en -
 382 ‘

BIRTHDAY SURPRISES


chantment, purely within the Great Hall, for one hour, so as to en -
able you to practice. May I emphasize that you will not be able to
Apparate outside the walls of this Hall, and that you would be un - wise
to try.
“I would like each of you to place yours elves now so that you have a
clear five feet of space in front of you. ”
There was a great scrambling and jostling as people separated, banged
into each other, and ordered others out of their space. The Heads of
Houses moved among the students, marshaling them into position
and breaking up arguments.
“Harry, where are you going? ” demanded Hermione. But Harry did
not answer; he was moving quickly through the crowd, past the place
where Professor Flitwick was making squeaky attempts to position a
few Ravencl aws, all of whom wanted to be near the front, past
Professor Sprout, who was chivying the Huf - flepuffs into line, until,
by dodging around Ernie Macmillan, he managed to position himself
right at the back of the crowd, directly behind Malfoy, who was taki ng
advantage of the general upheaval to continue his argument with
Crabbe, standing five feet away and looking mutinous.
“I don ’t know how much longer, all right? ” Malfoy shot at him,
oblivious to Harry standing right behind him. “It’s taking longer than
I thought it would. ”
Crabbe opened his mouth, but Malfoy appeared to second -guess what
he was going to say. “Look, it ’s none of your business what I’m
doing, Crabbe, you and Goyle just do as you ’re told and keep a
lookout! ”
“I tell my friends what I ’m up to, if I want them to keep a look - out for
me, ” Harry said, just loud enough for Malfoy to hear him.
 383 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


Malfoy spun around on the spot, his hand flying to his wand, but at
that precise moment the four Heads of House shouted, “Quiet! ” and
silence fell again. Malfoy turned slowly to face the front again.
“Thank you, ” said Twycross. “Now then . . . ”
He waved his wand. Old -fashioned wooden hoops instantly ap -
peared o n the floor in front of every student.
“The important things to remember when Apparating are the three
D ’s!” said Twycross. “Destination, Determination, Delibera - tion!
“Step one: Fix your mind firmly upon the desired destination, ”
said Twycross. “In this case, the interior of your hoop. Kindly con -
centrate upon that destination now. ”
Everybody looked around furtively to check that everyone else was
staring into their hoop, then hastily did as they were told. Harry gazed
at the circular patch of dusty floor enclosed by his hoop and tried hard
to think of nothing else. This proved impossi - ble, as he couldn ’t stop
puzzling over what Malfoy was doing that needed lookouts.
“Step two, ” said Twycross, “focus your determination to occupy
the visualized space! Let your yearning to enter it flood from your
mind to every particle of your body! ”
Harry glanced around surreptitiously. A little way to his left, Ernie
Macmillan was contemplating his hoop so hard that his face had
turned pink; it looked as though he was straining to lay a Quaffle -sized
egg. Harry bit back a laugh and hastily returned his gaze to his own
hoop.
“Step three, ” called Twycross, “and only when I give the com -
 384 ‘

BIRTHDAY SURPRISES


mand . . . Turn on the spot, feeling your way into nothingness,
moving with deliberation ! On my command, now . . . one — ”
Harry glanced around again; lots of people were looking posi - tively
alarmed at being asked to Apparate so quickly.
“— two — ”
Harry tried to fix his thoughts on his hoop again; he had already
forgotten what the three D ’s stood for.
“— THREE! ”
Harry spun on the spot, lost balance, and nearly fell over. He was not
the only one. The whole Hall was suddenly full of stagger - ing people;
Neville was flat on his back; Ernie Macmillan, on the other hand, had
done a kind of pirouetting leap into his hoop and looked momentarily
thrilled, until he caught sight of Dea n Thomas roaring with laughter at
him.
“Never mind, never mind, ” said Twycross dryly, who did not seem to
have expected anything better. “Adjust your hoops, please, and back
to your original positions. . . . ”
The second attempt was no better than the f irst. The third was just as
bad. Not until the fourth did anything exciting happen. There was a
horrible screech of pain and everybody looked around, terrified, to see
Susan Bones of Hufflepuff wobbling in her hoop with her left leg still
standing five fee t away where she had started. The Heads of House
converged on her; there was a great bang and a puff of purple smoke,
which cleared to reveal Susan sobbing, reunited with her leg but
looking horrified.
“Splinching, or the separation of random body parts, ” said Wilkie
Twycross dispassionately, “occurs when the mind is insuffi -
ciently determined. You must concentrate continuously upon your
 385 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


destination, and move, without haste, but with deliberation . . .
thus. ”
Twycross stepped forward, turned gracefully on the spot with his
arms outstretched, and vanished in a swirl of robes, reappearing at the
back of the Hall.
“Remember the three D ’s,” he said, “and try again . . . one — two —
three — ”
But an hour later, Susan ’s Splinching was still the most interest - ing
thing that had happened. Twycross did not seem discouraged.
Fastening his cloak at his neck, he merely said, “Until next Sat -
urday, everybody, and do not forget: Destination. Determination.
Deliberation. ”
With that, he waved his wand, Vanishing the hoops, and walked out of
the Hall accompanied by Professor McGonagall. Talk broke out at
once as people began moving toward the entrance hall. “How did you
do? ” ask ed Ron, hurrying toward Harry. “I think I felt something the
last time I tried — a kind of tingling in my feet. ”
“I expect your trainers are too small, Won -Won, ” said a voice be -
hind them, and Hermione stalked past, smirking.
“I didn ’t feel anything, ” said Harry, ignoring this interruption. “But I
don ’t care about that now — ”
“What d ’you mean, you don ’t care? Don ’t you want to learn to
Apparate? ” said Ron incredulously.
“I’m not fussed, really, I prefer flying, ” said Harry, glancing over his
shoulder to see where Malfoy was, and speeding up as they came into
the entrance hall. “Look, hurry up, will you, there ’s something I want
to do. . . . ”
Perplexed, Ron followed Harry back to the Gryffindor Tower at
 386 ‘

BIRTHDAY SURPRISES


a run. They were temporarily detained by Peeves, who had jammed a
door on the fourth floor shut and was refusing to let anyone pass until
they set fire to their own pants, but Harry and Ron simply turned back
and took one of their trusted shortcuts. Within five minutes, they were
climbing through the portrait hole.
“Are you going to tell me what we ’re doing, then? ” asked Ron, panting
slightly.
“Up here, ” said Harry, and he crossed the common room and led the
way through the door to the boys ’ staircase.
Their dormitory was, as Harry had hoped, empty. He flung open his
trunk and began to rummage in it, while Ron watched impatiently.
“Harry . . . ”
“Malfoy ’s using Crabbe and Goyle as lookouts. He was arguing with
Crabbe just now. I want to know — aha. ”
He had found it, a folded square of apparently blank parchment,
which he now smoothed out and tapped with the tip of his wand.
“ I solemnly swear that I am up to no good . . . or Malfoy is any -
way. ”
At once, the Marauder ’s Map appeared on the parchment ’s sur - face.
Here was a detailed plan of every one of the castle ’s floors and,
moving around it, the tiny, labeled black dots that signified each of the
castle ’s occupants.
“Help me find Malfoy, ” said Harry urgently.
He laid the map upon his bed, and he and Ron leaned over it,
searching.
“ There !” said Ron, after a minute or so. “He ’s in the Slytherin
common room, look . . . w ith Parkinson and Zabini and Crabbe and
Goyle . . . ”
 387 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


Harry looked down at the map, disappointed, but rallied almost at
once.
“Well, I ’m keeping an eye on him from now on, ” he said firmly. “And
the moment I see him lurking somewhere with Crabbe and Goyle
keeping watch outside, it ’ll be on with the old Invisibility Cloak and
off to find out what he ’s — ”
He broke off as Neville entered the dormitory, bringing with him a
strong smell of singed material, and began rummaging in his trunk for
a fresh pair of pants.
Despite his determination to catch Malfoy out, Harry had no luck at
all over the next couple of weeks. Although he consulted the map as
often as he could, s ometimes making unnecessary visits to the
bathroom between lessons to search it, he did not once see Mal - foy
anywhere suspicious. Admittedly, he spotted Crabbe and Goyle
moving around the castle on their own more often than usual,
sometimes remaining stat ionary in deserted corridors, but at these
times Malfoy was not only nowhere near them, but impossible to
locate on the map at all. This was most mysterious. Harry toyed with
the possibility that Malfoy was actually leaving the school grounds,
but could n ot see how he could be doing it, given the very high level of
security now operating within the castle. He could only suppose that
he was missing Malfoy amongst the hundreds of tiny black dots upon
the map. As for the fact that Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle ap peared to
be going their different ways when they were usually inseparable, these
things happened as people got older — Ron and Hermione, Harry
reflected sadly, were living proof.
February moved toward March with no change in the weather except
that it be came windy as well as wet. To general indignation,
 388 ‘

BIRTHDAY SURPRISES


a sign went up on all common room notice boards that the next trip
into Hogsmeade had been canceled. Ron was furious.
“It was on my birthday! ” he said. “I was looking forward to that! ”
“Not a big surprise, though, is it? ” said Harry. “Not after what
happened to Katie. ”
She had still not returned from St. Mungo ’s. What was more,
further disappearances had been reported in the Daily Prophet, in-
cluding several relatives of students at Hogwarts.
“But now all I ’ve got to look forward to is stupid Apparition! ” said
Ron grumpily. “Big birthday treat . . . ”
Three lessons on, Apparition was proving as difficult as ever, though a
few more people had managed to Splinch themselves. Frustration was
running high and there was a certain amount of ill - feeling toward
Wilkie Twycross and his three D ’s, which had in - spired a number of
nicknames for him, the politest of which were Dogbreath and
Dunghead.
“Happy birthday, Ron, ” said Harry, when they were woken on the
first of March by Seamus and Dean leaving noisily for break - fast.
“Have a present. ”
He threw the package across onto Ron ’s bed, where it joined a small
pile o f them that must, Harry assumed, have been delivered by
house -elves in the night.
“Cheers, ” said Ron drowsily and, as he ripped off the paper, Harry got
out of bed, opened his own trunk, and began rummag - ing in it for the
Marauder ’s Map, which he hid aft er every use. He turfed out half the
contents of his trunk before he found it hiding beneath the rolled -up
socks in which he was still keeping his bottle of lucky potion, Felix
Felicis.
 389 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


“Right, ” he m urmured, taking it back to bed with him, tapping
it quietly and murmuring, “ I solemnly swear that I am up to no
good, ” so that Neville, who was passing the foot of his bed at the
time, would not hear.
“Nice one, Harry! ” said Ron enthusiastically, waving the new pair of
Quidditch Keeper ’s gloves Harry had given him.
“No problem, ” said Harry absentmindedly, as he searched the
Slytherin dormitory closely for Malfoy. “Hey . . . I don ’t think he ’s in
his bed. . . . ”
Ron d id not answer; he was too busy unwrapping presents, every now
and then letting out an exclamation of pleasure.
“Seriously good haul this year! ” he announced, holding up a heavy
gold watch with odd symbols around the edge and tiny mov - ing stars
instead of hands. “See what Mum and Dad got me? Blimey, I think I ’ll
come of age next year too. . . . ”
“Cool, ” muttered Harry, sparing the watch a glance before peer - ing
more closely at the map. Where was Malfoy? He did not seem to be at
the Slytherin table in the Great Hall, eating breakfast. . . . He was
nowhere near Snape, who was sitting in his study. . . . He wasn ’t in any
of the bathrooms or in the hospital wing. . . .
“Want one? ” said Ron thickly, holding out a box of Ch ocolate
Cauldrons.
“No thanks, ” said Harry, looking up. “Malfoy ’s gone again! ” “Can ’t
have done, ” said Ron, stuffing a second Cauldron into his mouth as he
slid out of bed to get dressed. “Come on, if you don ’t hurry up, you ’ll
have to Apparate on an em pty stomach. . . . Might make it easier, I
suppose . . . ” Ron looked thoughtfully at the box of Chocolate
Cauldrons, then shrugged and helped himself to a third.
 390 ‘

BIRTHDAY SURPRISES


Harry tapped the map with his wand, muttered, “Mischief man -
aged, ” though it hadn ’t been, and got dressed, thinking hard. There
had to be an explanation for Malfoy ’s periodic disappearances, but he
simply could not think what it could be. The best way of find - ing out
would be to tail him, but even with the Invisibility Cloak this was an
impractical idea: Harry had lessons, Quidditch prac - tice, homework,
and Apparition; he could not follow Malfoy around school all day
without his absence being remarked up on. “Ready? ” he said to Ron.
He was halfway to the dormitory door when he realized that Ron had
not moved, but was leaning on his bedpost, staring out of the
rain -washed window with a strangely unfocused look on his face.
“Ron? Breakfast. ”
“I’m not h ungry. ”
Harry stared at him.
“I thought you just said — ?”
“Well, all right, I ’ll come down with you, ” sighed Ron, “but I don ’t
want to eat. ”
Harry scrutinized him suspiciously.
“You ’ve just eaten half a box of Chocolate Cauldrons, haven ’t you? ”
“It’s not that, ” Ron sighed again. “You . . . you wouldn ’t under -
stand. ”
“Fair enough, ” said Harry, albeit puzzled, as he turned to open the
door.
“Harry! ” said Ron suddenly.
“What? ”
“Harry, I can ’t stand it! ”
 391 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


“You can ’t stand what? ” asked Harry, now starting to feel defi - nitely
alarmed. Ron was rather pale and looked as though he was about to be
sick.
“I can ’t stop thinking about her! ” said Ron hoarsely. Harr y gaped at
him. He had not expected this and was not sure he wanted to hear it.
Friends they might be, but if Ron started call - ing Lavender
“Lav -Lav, ” he would have to put his foot down. “Why does that stop
you having breakfast? ” Harry asked, trying to in ject a note of common
sense into the proceedings.
“I don ’t think she knows I exist, ” said Ron with a desperate gesture.
“She definitely knows you exist, ” said Harry, bewildered. “She keeps
snogging you, doesn ’t she? ”
Ron blinked. “Who are you talking about? ”
“Who are you talking about? ” said Harry, with an increasing
sense that all reason had dropped out of the conversation. “Romilda
Vane, ” said Ron softly, and his whole face seemed to illuminate as he
said it, as though hit by a ray of purest sunlight. They stared at each
other for almost a whole minute, before Harry said, “This is a joke,
right? You ’re joking. ”
“I think . . . Harry, I think I love her, ” said Ron in a strangled voice.
“Okay, ” said Harry, walking up to Ron to get a better look at the
glazed eyes and the pallid complexion, “okay. . . Say that again with a
straight face. ”
“I love her, ” repeated Ron breathlessly. “Have you seen her hair, it ’s
all black and shiny and silky . . . and her eyes? Her big dark eyes ? And
her — ”
 392 ‘

BIRTHDAY SURPRISES


“This is really funny and everything, ” said Harry impatiently, “but
joke ’s over, all right? Drop it. ”
He turned to leave; he had got two steps toward the door when a
crashing blow hit him on the right ear. Staggering, he looked around.
Ron ’s fist was drawn right back; his face was contorted with rage; he
was about to strike again.
Harry reacted instinctively; his wand was out of his pocket and
the incantation spr ang to mind without conscious thought: Levi -
corpus !
Ron yelled as his heel was wrenched upward once more; he dan - gled
helplessly, upside down, his robes hanging off him.
“ What was that for ?” Harry bellowed.
“You insulted her, Harry! You said it was a joke! ” shouted Ron, who
was slowly turning purple in the face as all the blood rushed to his
head.
“This is insane! ” said Harry. “What ’s got into — ?” And then he saw
the box lying open on Ron ’s bed, and the tr uth hit him with the force
of a stampeding troll.
“Where did you get those Chocolate Cauldrons? ” “They were a
birthday present! ” shouted Ron, revolving slowly in midair as he
struggled to get free. “I offered you one, didn ’t I? ” “You just picked
them up o ff the floor, didn ’t you? ”
“They ’d fallen off my bed, all right? Let me go! ” “They didn ’t fall off
your bed, you prat, don ’t you understand? They were mine, I chucked
them out of my trunk when I was look - ing for the map, they ’re the
Chocolate Cauldrons Romilda gave me before Christmas, and they ’re
all spiked with love potion! ”
But only one word of this seemed to have registered with Ron.
 393 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


“Romilda? ” he repeated. “Did you say Romilda? Harry — do you
know her? Can you introduce me? ”
Harry stared at the dangling Ron, whose face now looked
tremendously hopeful, and fought a strong desire to laugh. A part of
him — the part closest to his throbbing right ear — was quit e keen on
the idea of letting Ron down and watching him run amok until the
effects of the potion wore off. . . . But on the other hand, they were
supposed to be friends, Ron had not been himself when he had
attacked, and Harry thought that he would deserve another punching
if he permitted Ron to declare undying love for Romilda Vane.
“Yeah, I ’ll introduce you, ” said Harry, thinking fast. “I’m going to let
you down now, okay? ”
He sent Ron crashing back to the floor (his ear did hurt quite a lot),
but Ron simply bounded to his feet again, grinning.
“She ’ll be in Slughorn ’s office, ” said Harry confidently, leading the
way to the door.
“Why will she be in there? ” asked Ron anxiously, hurrying to keep up.
“Oh, she has extra Potions lessons with him, ” said Harry, in - venting
wildly.
“Maybe I could ask if I can have them with her? ” said Ron eagerly.
“Great idea, ” said Harry.
Lavender was waiting beside the portrait hole, a complication Harry
had not foreseen.
“You ’re late, Won -Won! ” she pouted. “I’ve got you a birthday — ”
“Leave me alone, ” said Ron impatiently. “Harry ’s going to intro - duce
me to Romilda Vane. ”
 394 ‘

BIRTHDAY SURPRISES


And without another word to her, he pushed his way out of the
por trait hole. Harry tried to make an apologetic face to Lavender, but
it might have turned out simply amused, because she looked more
offended than ever as the Fat Lady swung shut behind them. Harry
had been slightly worried that Slughorn might be at breakf ast, but he
answered his office door at the first knock, wear - ing a green velvet
dressing gown and matching nightcap and look - ing rather
bleary -eyed.
“Harry, ” he mumbled. “This is very early for a call. . . . I gener - ally
sleep late on a Saturday. . . . ”
“Professor, I ’m really sorry to disturb you, ” said Harry as quietly as
possible, while Ron stood on tiptoe, attempting to see past Slughorn
into his room, “but my friend Ron ’s swallowed a love po - tion by
mistake. Yo u couldn ’t make him an antidote, could you? I ’d take him
to Madam Pomfrey, but we ’re not supposed to have any - thing from
Weasleys ’ Wizard Wheezes and, you know . . . awk - ward
questions . . . ”
“I’d have thought you could have whipped him up a remedy, H arry,
an expert potioneer like you? ” asked Slughorn.
“Er, ” said Harry, somewhat distracted by the fact that Ron was now
elbowing him in the ribs in an attempt to force his way into the room,
“well, I ’ve never mixed an antidote for a love potion, sir, and by the
time I get it right, Ron might ’ve done something serious — ”
Helpfully, Ron chose this moment to moan, “I can ’t see her, Harry —
is he hiding her? ”
“Was this potion within date? ” asked Slughorn, now eyeing Ron with
professional interest. “They can strengthen, you know, the longer
they ’re kept. ”
 395 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


“That would explain a lot, ” panted Harry, now positively wrestling
with Ron to keep him from knocking Slughorn over. “It’s his birthday,
Professor, ” he added imploringly.
“Oh, all right, come in, then, come in, ” said Slughorn, relent - ing.
“I’ve got the necessary here in my bag, it ’s not a difficult antidote. . . . ”
Ron burst through the door into Slughorn ’s overheated, crowded
study, tripped ove r a tasseled footstool, regained his balance by seiz -
ing Harry around the neck, and muttered, “She didn ’t see that, did
she? ”
“She ’s not here yet, ” said Harry, watching Slughorn opening his
potion kit and adding a few pinches of this and that to a small crys - tal
bottle.
“That ’s good, ” said Ron fervently. “How do I look? ” “Very
handsome, ” said Slughorn smoothly, handing Ron a glass of clear
liquid. “Now drink that up, it ’s a tonic for the nerves, keep you calm
when she arrives, you know. ”
“Brilliant, ” said Ron eagerly, and he gulped the antidote down noisily.
Harry and Slughorn watched him. For a moment, Ron beamed at
them. Then, very slowly, his grin sagged and vanished, to be re - placed
by an expression of utmost horror.
“Back to norma l, then? ” said Harry, grinning. Slughorn chuck - led.
“Thanks a lot, Professor. ”
“Don ’t mention it, m ’boy, don ’t mention it, ” said Slughorn, as Ron
collapsed into a nearby armchair, looking devastated. “Pick - me -up,
that ’s what he needs, ” Slughorn contin ued, now bustling over to a
table loaded with drinks. “I’ve got butterbeer, I ’ve got wine, I ’ve got
one last bottle of this oak -matured mead . . . hmm . . .
 396 ‘

BIRTHDAY SURPRISES


meant to give that to Dumbledore for Christmas . . . ah, well . . . ” He
shrugged. “He can ’t miss what he ’s never had! Why don ’t we open it
now and celebrate Mr. Weasley ’s birthday? Nothing like a fine spirit to
chase away the pangs of disappointed love. . . .”
He chortled again, and Harry joined in. This was the first time he had
found himself almost alone with Slughorn since his disas - trous first
attempt to extract the true memory from him. Perhaps, if he could just
keep Slughorn in a good mood . . . per haps if they got through enough
of the oak -matured mead . . .
“There you are then, ” said Slughorn, handing Harry and Ron a glass of
mead each before raising his own. “Well, a very happy birthday, Ralph
— ”
“Ron — ” whispered Harry.
But Ron, who did not appear to be listening to the toast, had al - ready
thrown the mead into his mouth and swallowed it.
There was one second, hardly more than a heartbeat, in which Harry
knew there was something terribly wrong and Slughorn, it seemed, did
not.
“— and may you have many more — ”
“ Ron !”
Ron had dropped his glass; he half -rose from his chair and then
crumpled, his extremities jerking uncontrollably. Foam was drib - bling
from his mouth, and his eyes were bulging from their socket s.
“Professor! ” Harry bellowed. “Do something! ”
But Slughorn seemed paralyzed by shock. Ron twitched and choked:
His skin was turning blue.
“What — but — ” spluttered Slughorn.
Harry leapt over a low table and sprinted toward Slughorn ’s open
potion kit, pulling out jars and pouches, while the terrible
 397 ‘

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


sound of Ron ’s gargling breath filled the room. Then he found it —
the shriveled kidneylike stone Slughorn had taken from him in
Poti ons.
He hurtled back to Ron ’s side, wrenched open his jaw, and thrust the
bezoar into his mouth. Ron gave a great shudder, a rat - tling gasp, and
his body became limp and still.


























 398 ‘

C H A P T E R N I N E T E
E N










ELF TAILS



o.all in all, not one of Ron ’s better birthdays? ” said Fred.
S

It was evening; the hospital wing was quiet, the windows
curtained, the lamps lit. Ron ’s was the only occupied bed. Harry,

Hermione, and Ginny were sitting around him; they had spent all day
waiting outside the double door s, trying to see inside whenever
somebody went in or out. Madam Pomfrey had only let them en - ter at
eight o ’clock. Fred and George had arrived at ten past.
“This isn ’t how we imagined handing over our present, ” said George
grimly, putting down a large wrapped gift on Ron ’s bedside cabinet
and sitting beside Ginny.
“Yeah, when we pictured the scene, he was conscious, ” said Fred.
“There we were in Hogsmeade, waiting to surprise him — ” said
George.
“You were in Hogsmeade? ” asked Ginny, looking up. “We we re
thinking of buying Zonko ’s,” said Fred gloomily. “A Hogsmeade
branch, you know, but a fat lot of good it ’ll do us if
 399 ‘

CHAPTER NINETEEN


you lot aren ’t allowed out at weekends to buy our stuff anymore.
. . . But never mind that now. ”
He drew up a chair beside Harry and looked at Ron ’s pale face.
“How exactly did it happen, Harry? ”
Harry retold the story he had already recounted, it felt like a hundred
times to Dumbledore, to McGonagall, to Madam Pom - frey, to
Hermione, and to Ginny.
“. . . and then I got the bezoar down his throat and his breathing eased
up a bit, Slughorn ran for help, McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey
turned up, and they brought Ron up here. They reckon he ’ll be all
right. Madam Pomfr ey says he ’ll have to stay here a week or so . . .
keep taking essence of rue . . . ”
“Blimey, it was lucky you thought of a bezoar, ” said George in a low
voice.
“Lucky there was one in the room, ” said Harry, who kept turn - ing
cold at the thought of what would have happened if he had not been
able to lay hands on the little stone.
Hermione gave an almost inaudible sniff. She had been excep - tionally
quiet all day. Having hurtled, white -faced, up to Harry outside the
hospital wing and demanded to know w hat had hap - pened, she had
taken almost no part in Harry and Ginny ’s obses - sive discussion
about how Ron had been poisoned, but merely stood beside them,
clench -jawed and frightened -looking, until at last they had been
allowed in to see him.
“Do Mum a nd Dad know? ” Fred asked Ginny. “They ’ve already seen
him, they arrived an hour ago — they ’re in Dumbledore ’s office now,
but they ’ll be back soon. . . . ” There was a pause while they all watched
Ron mumble a little in his sleep.
 400 ‘

ELF TAILS


“So the poison was in the drink? ” said Fred quietly. “Yes, ” said Harry
at once; he could think of nothing else and was glad for the
opportunity to start discussing it again. “Slughorn poured it out — ”
“Would he h ave been able to slip something into Ron ’s glass without
you seeing? ”
“Probably, ” said Harry, “but why would Slughorn want to poi - son
Ron? ”
“No idea, ” said Fred, frowning. “You don ’t think he could have mixed
up the glasses by mistake? Meaning to get yo u? ”
“Why would Slughorn want to poison Harry? ” asked Ginny. “I
dunno, ” said Fred, “but there must be loads of people who ’d like to
poison Harry, mustn ’t there? ‘The Chosen One ’ and all that? ” “So you
think Slughorn ’s a Death Eater? ” said Ginny.
“Anything ’s possible, ” said Fred darkly.
“He could be under the Imperius Curse, ” said George. “Or he could
be innocent, ” said Ginny. “The poison could have been in the bottle,
in which case it was probably meant for Slug - horn himself. ”
“Who ’d want to kill Slughorn? ”
“Dumbledore reckons Voldemort wanted Slughorn on his side, ” said
Harry. “Slughorn was in hiding for a year before he came to Hogwarts.
And . . . ” He thought of the memory Dumbledore had not yet been
able to extract from Slughor n. “And maybe Voldemort wants him out
of the way, maybe he thinks he could be valuable to Dumbledore. ”
“But you said Slughorn had been planning to give that bottle to
Dumbledore for Christmas, ” Ginny reminded him. “So the poi - soner
could just as easily have been after Dumbledore. ”
 401 ‘

CHAPTER NINETEEN


“Then the poisoner didn ’t know Slughorn very well, ” said Her - mione,
speaking for the first time in hours and sounding as though she had a
bad head cold. “Anyone who knew Slughorn would have known there
was a good chance he ’d keep something that tasty for himself. ”
“Er -my -nee, ” croaked Ron unexpectedly from between them. They
all fell silent, watching him anxiously, but after muttering
incomprehensibly fo r a moment he merely started snoring.
The dormitory doors flew open, making them all jump: Hagrid came
striding toward them, his hair rain -flecked, his bearskin coat flapping
behind him, a crossbow in his hand, leaving a trail of muddy
dolphin -sized footp rints all over the floor.
“Bin in the forest all day! ” he panted. “Aragog ’s worse, I bin readin ’ to
him — didn ’ get up ter dinner till jus ’ now an ’ then Pro - fessor Sprout
told me abou ’ Ron! How is he? ”
“Not bad, ” said Harry. “They say he ’ll be okay. ” “No more than six
visitors at a time! ” said Madam Pomfrey, hur - rying out of her office.
“Hagrid makes six, ” George pointed out.
“Oh . . . yes . . . ” said Madam Pomfrey, who seemed to have been
counting Hagrid as several people due to his vastness. To cover her
confusion, she hurried off to clear up his muddy foot - prints with her
wand.
“I don ’ believe this, ” said Hagrid hoarsely, shaking his great shaggy
head as he stared down at Ron. “Jus ’ don ’ believe it . . . Look at him
lyin ’ there. . . . Who ’d wa nt ter hurt him, eh? ”
“That ’s just what we were discussing, ” said Harry. “We don ’t know. ”
 402 ‘

ELF TAILS


“Someone couldn ’ have a grudge against the Gryffindor Quid - ditch
team, could they? ” said Hagrid anxiously. “Firs ’ Katie, now Ron . . . ”
“I can ’t see anyone trying to bump off a Quidditch team, ” said
George.
“Wood might ’ve done the Slytherins if he could ’ve got away with it, ”
said Fred fairly.
“Well, I don ’t think it ’s Quidditch, but I think there ’s a connec - tion
between the attacks, ” said Hermione quietly.
“How d ’you work that out? ” asked Fred.
“Well, for one thing, they both ought to have been fatal and weren ’t,
although that was pure luck. And for another, neither the poison nor
the necklace seems to have reached the person who was supposed to
be killed. Of course, ” she added broodingly, “that makes the person
behind this even more dangerous in a way, be - cause they don ’t seem
to care how many people they finish off before they actually reach
their vic tim. ”
Before anybody could respond to this ominous pronouncement, the
dormitory doors opened again and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley hur - ried up
the ward. They had done no more than satisfy themselves that Ron
would make a full recovery on their last visit to t he ward; now Mrs.
Weasley seized hold of Harry and hugged him very tightly.
“Dumbledore ’s told us how you saved him with the be - zoar, ” she
sobbed. “Oh, Harry, what can we say? You saved Ginny
. . . you saved Arthur . . . now you ’ve saved Ron . . . ”
“Don ’t be . . . I didn ’t . . . ” muttered Harry awkwardly. “Half our family
does seem to owe you their lives, now I stop and think about it, ” Mr.
Weasley said in a constricted voice. “Well,
 403 ‘

CHAPTER NINETEEN


all I can say is that it was a lucky day for the Weasleys when Ron
decided to sit in your compartment on the Hogwarts Express, Harry. ”
Harry could not think of any reply to this and was almost glad when
Madam Pomfrey reminded them that there were only sup - posed to be
six visitors around Ron ’s bed; he and Hermione rose at once to leave
and Hagrid decided to go with them, leaving Ron with his family.
“It’s terrible, ” growled Hagrid into his beard, as the three of them
walked back along the corridor to the m arble staircase. “All this new
security, an ’ kids are still gettin ’ hurt. . . . Dumbledore ’s worried
sick. . . . He don ’ say much, but I can tell. . . . ”
“Hasn ’t he got any ideas, Hagrid? ” asked Hermione desperately.
“I ’spect he ’s got hundreds of ideas, brain like his, ” said Hagrid. “But
he doesn ’ know who sent that necklace nor put poison in that wine, or
they ’d’ve bin caught, wouldn ’ they? Wha ’ worries me, ” said Hagrid,
lowering his voice and glancing over his shoulder (Harry, for good
measure, checked the ceiling for Peeves), “is how long Hogwarts can
stay open if kids are bein ’ attacked. Chamber o ’ Secrets all over again,
isn ’ it? There ’ll be panic, more parents takin ’ their kids outta school,
an ’ nex ’ thing yeh know the board o ’ gover - nors . . . ”
Hagrid stopped talking as the ghost of a long -haired woman drifted
serenely past, then resumed in a hoarse whisper, “. . . the board o ’
governors ’ll be talkin ’ about shuttin ’ us up fer good. ” “Surely not? ”
said Hermione, looking worried.
“Gotta see it from their point o ’ view, ” said Hagrid heavily. “I mean,
it’s always bin a bit of a risk sendin ’ a kid ter Hogwarts, hasn ’ it? Yer
expect accidents, don ’ yeh, with hundreds of underage
 404 ‘

ELF TAILS


wizards all locked up tergether, but attempted murder, tha ’s
diff ’rent. ’S’no wonder Dumbledore ’s angry with Sn — ”
Hagrid stopped in his tracks, a familiar, guilty expression on what was
visible of his face above his tangled black beard. “What? ” said Harr y
quickly. “Dumbledore ’s angry with Snape? ” “I never said tha ’,” said
Hagrid, though his look of panic could not have been a bigger
giveaway. “Look at the time, it ’s gettin ’ on fer midnight, I need ter — ”
“Hagrid, why is Dumbledore angry with Snape? ” Harr y asked loudly.
“Shhhh! ” said Hagrid, looking both nervous and angry. “Don ’ shout
stuff like that, Harry, d ’yeh wan ’ me ter lose me job? Mind, I don ’
suppose yeh ’d care, would yeh, not now yeh ’ve given up Care of Mag
— ”
“Don ’t try and make me feel guilty , it won ’t work! ” said Harry
forcefully. “What ’s Snape done? ”
“I dunno, Harry, I shouldn ’ta heard it at all! I — well, I was comin ’
outta the forest the other evenin ’ an ’ I overheard ’em talk - ing — well,
arguin ’. Didn ’t like ter draw attention to meself, so I sorta skulked an ’
tried not ter listen, but it was a — well, a heated discussion an ’ it wasn ’
easy ter block it out. ”
“Well? ” Harry urged him, as Hagrid shuffled his enormous feet
uneasily.
“Well — I jus ’ heard Snape sayin ’ Dumbledore took too much fer
granted an ’ maybe he — Snape — didn ’ wan ’ ter do it any - more — ”
“Do what? ”
“I dunno, Harry, it sounded like Snape was feelin ’ a bit over - worked,
tha ’s all — anyway, Dumbledore told him flat out he ’d
 405 ‘

CHAPTER NINETEEN


agreed ter do it an ’ that was all there was to it. Pretty firm with him.
An ’ then he said summat abou ’ Snape makin ’ investigations in his
House, in Slytherin. Well, there ’s nothin ’ strange abou ’ that! ” Ha - grid
added hastily, as Harr y and Hermione exchanged looks full of
meaning. “All the Heads o ’ Houses were asked ter look inter that
necklace business — ”
“Yeah, but Dumbledore ’s not having rows with the rest of them, is
he? ” said Harry.
“Look, ” Hagrid twisted his crossbow uncomfortably in his hands;
there was a loud splintering sound and it snapped in two. “I know
what yeh ’re like abou ’ Snape, Harry, an ’ I don ’ want yeh ter go readin ’
more inter this than there is. ”
“Look out, ” said Hermione te rsely.
They turned just in time to see the shadow of Argus Filch loom - ing
over the wall behind them before the man himself turned the corner,
hunchbacked, his jowls aquiver.
“Oho! ” he wheezed. “Out of bed so late, this ’ll mean detention! ” “No
it won ’, Filch, ” said Hagrid shortly. “They ’re with me, aren ’ they? ”
“And what difference does that make? ” asked Filch obnoxiously. “I’m
a ruddy teacher, aren ’ I, yeh sneakin ’ Squib! ” said Hagrid, firing up at
once.
There was a nasty hissing noise as Filch sw elled with fury; Mrs. Norris
had arrived, unseen, and was twisting herself sinuously around Filch ’s
skinny ankles.
“Get goin ’,” said Hagrid out of the corner of his mouth. Harry did not
need telling twice; he and Hermione both hurried off; Hagrid ’s and
Filch ’s raised voices echoed behind them as they
 406 ‘

ELF TAILS


ran. They passed Peeves near the turning into Gryffindor Tower, but
he was streaking happily toward the source of the yelling, cack - ling
and calling,

When there ’s strife and when there ’s trouble
Call on Peevsie, he ’ll make double!

The Fat Lady was snoozing and not pleased to be woken, but swung
forward grumpily to allow them to clamber into the merci - fully
peaceful and empty common room. It did not seem that peo - ple
knew about Ron yet; Harry was very relieved: He had been
interrogated enough that day. Hermione bade him good night and set
off for the girls ’ dormitory. Harry, however, remained behind, taking a
seat beside the fire and looking down into the dying embers.
So Dumbledore had argued with Snape. In spite of all he had told
Harry, in spite of his insistence that he trusted Snape com - pletely, he
had lost his temper with him. . . . He did n ot think that Snape had tried
hard enough to investigate the Slytherins . . . or, perhaps, to investigate
a single Slytherin: Malfoy?
Was it because Dumbledore did not want Harry to do anything foolish,
to take matters into his own hands, that he had pret ended there was
nothing in Harry ’s suspicions? That seemed likely. It might even be
that Dumbledore did not want anything to distract Harry from their
lessons, or from procuring that memory from Slughorn. Perhaps
Dumbledore did not think it right to confid e suspicions about his staff
to sixteen -year -olds. . . .
“There you are, Potter! ”
 407 ‘

CHAPTER NINETEEN


Harry jumped to his feet in shock, his wand at the ready. He had been
quite convinced that the common room was empty; he had not been
at all prepared for a hulking figure to rise suddenly out of a distant
chair. A closer look showed him that it was Cormac McLaggen.
“I’ve been waiting for you to come back, ” said McLag gen, disre -
garding Harry ’s drawn wand. “Must ’ve fallen asleep. Look, I saw them
taking Weasley up to the hospital wing earlier. Didn ’t look like he ’ll be
fit for next week ’s match. ”
It took Harry a few moments to realize what McLaggen was talking
about .
“Oh . . . right . . . Quidditch, ” he said, putting his wand back into the
belt of his jeans and running a hand wearily through his hair. “Yeah . . .
he might not make it. ”
“Well, then, I ’ll be playing Keeper, won ’t I? ” said McLaggen.
“Yeah, ” said Harry. “Yeah, I suppose so. . . . ”
He could not think of an argument against it; after all, McLaggen had
certainly performed second -best in the trials. “Excellent, ” said
McLaggen in a satisfied voice. “So when ’s prac - tice? ”
“What? Oh . . . there ’s one tomorrow evening. ” “Good. Listen, Potter,
we should have a talk beforehand. I ’ve got some ideas on strategy you
might find useful. ”
“Right, ” said Harry unenthusiastically. “Well, I ’ll hear them to -
morrow, then. I ’m pretty tired now . . . see you . . .”
The news that Ron had been poisoned spread quickly next day, but it
did not cause the sensation that Katie ’s attack had done. Peo - ple
seemed to think that it might have been an accident, given that he had
been in the Potions master ’s room at the ti me, and that as
 408 ‘

ELF TAILS


he had been given an antidote immediately there was no real harm
done. In fact, the Gryffindors were generally much more interested in
the upcoming Quidditch match against Hufflepuff, for many of them
wanted to see Zacharias Smith, who played Chaser on the Hufflepuff
team, punished soundly for his commentary during the opening
match against Slytherin.
Harry, however, had never been le ss interested in Quidditch; he was
rapidly becoming obsessed with Draco Malfoy. Still checking the
Marauder ’s Map whenever he got a chance, he sometimes made
detours to wherever Malfoy happened to be, but had not yet detected
him doing anything out of the ordinary. And still there were those
inexplicable times when Malfoy simply vanished from the map. . . .
But Harry did not get a lot of time to consider the problem, what with
Quidditch practice, homework, and the fact that he was now being
dogged wherev er he went by Cormac McLaggen and Lavender
Brown.
He could not decide which of them was more annoying. McLaggen
kept up a constant stream of hints that he would make a better
permanent Keeper for the team than Ron, and that now that Harry
was seeing him play regularly he would surely come around to this
way of thinking too; he was also keen to criticize the other players and
provide Harry with detailed training schemes, so that more than once
Harry was forced to remind him who was Captain.
Meanwhile, Lavender kept sidling up to Harry to discuss Ron, which
Harry found almost more wearing than McLaggen ’s Quid - ditch
lectures. At first, Lavender had been very annoyed that nobody had
thought to tell her that Ron was in the hospital
 409 ‘

CHAPTER NINETEEN


wing — “I mean, I am his girlfriend! ” — but unfortunately she
had now decided to forgive Harry this lapse of memory and was keen
to have lots of in -depth chats with him about Ron ’s feelings, a most
uncom fortable experience that Harry would have happily forgone.
“Look, why don ’t you talk to Ron about all this? ” Harry asked, after a
particularly long interrogation from Lavender that took in everything
from precisely what Ron had said about her new dress robes to
whether or not Harry thought that Ron considered his re - lationship
with Lavender to be “serious. ”
“Well, I would, but he ’s always asleep when I go and see him! ” said
Lavender fretfully.
“Is he? ” said Harry, surprised, for he had found Ron perfe ctly alert
every time he had been up to the hospital wing, both highly interested
in the news of Dumbledore and Snape ’s row and keen to abuse
McLaggen as much as possible.
“Is Hermione Granger still visiting him? ” Lavender demanded
suddenly.
“Yeah, I thi nk so. Well, they ’re friends, aren ’t they? ” said Harry
uncomfortably.
“Friends, don ’t make me laugh, ” said Lavender scornfully. “She didn ’t
talk to him for weeks after he started going out with me!
But I suppose she wants to make up with him now he ’s all inter -
esting. . . . ”
“Would you call getting poisoned being interesting? ” asked Harry.
“Anyway — sorry, got to go — there ’s McLaggen coming for a talk
about Quidditch, ” said Harry hurriedly, and he dashed sideways
through a door pretending to be solid wall and sprinted
 410 ‘

ELF TAILS


down the shortcut that would take him off to Potions where,
thankfully, neither Lavender nor McLaggen could follow him.
On the morning of the Quidditch match against Hufflepuff, Harry
dropped in on the hospital wing before heading down to the pitch.
Ron was very agitated; Madam Pomfrey would not let him go down to
watch the match, feeling it would overexcite him.
“So how ’s McLaggen shaping up? ” he asked Harry nervously, ap -
parently forgetting that he had already asked the same question twice.
“I’ve told you, ” said Harry patiently, “he could be world -class and I
wouldn ’t want to keep him. He keeps trying to tell everyone what to
do, he thinks he could play every position better than the rest of us. I
can ’t wait to be shot of him. And speaking of getting shot of people, ”
Harry added, getting to his feet and picking up his Firebolt, “will you
stop pretending to be asleep wh en Lavender comes to see you? She ’s
driving me mad as well. ”
“Oh, ” said Ron, looking sheepish. “Yeah. All right. ” “If you don ’t
want to go out with her anymore, just tell her, ” said Harry.
“Yeah . . . well . . . it ’s not that easy, is it? ” said Ron. He p aused.
“Hermione going to look in before the match? ” he added casually.
“No, she ’s already gone down to the pitch with Ginny. ”
“Oh, ” said Ron, looking rather glum. “Right. Well, good luck. Hope
you hammer McLag — I mean, Smith. ”
“I’ll try, ” said Harr y, shouldering his broom. “See you after the
match. ”
He hurried down through the deserted corridors; the whole school
was outside, either already seated in the stadium or heading
 411 ‘

CHAPTER NINETEEN


down toward it. He was looking out of the windows he passed, try - ing
to gauge how much wind they were facing, when a noise ahead made
him glance up and he saw Malfoy walking toward him, ac - companied
by two girls, both of whom looked sulky and resentful. Malfoy
stopped short at the sight of Harry, then gave a short, humorless laugh
and continued walking.
“Where ’re you going? ” Harry demanded.
“Yeah, I ’m really going to tell you, because it ’s your business, Potter, ”
sneered Malfoy. “You ’d better hurry up, they ’ll be waiting for ‘the
Chosen Captain ’ — ‘the Boy Who Scored ’ — whatever they call you
these days. ”
One of the girls gave an unwilling giggle. Harry stared at her. She
blushed. Malfoy pushed past Harry and she and her friend fol - lowed
at a trot, turning the corner and vanishing from view.
Harry stood rooted on the spot and watched them disappear. This was
infuriating; he was already cutting it fine to get to the match on time
and yet there was Malfoy, skulking off while the rest of the school was
absent: Harry ’s best chance yet of discovering what Malfoy was up to.
The silent seconds trickled past, and Harry remained where he was,
frozen, gazing at the place where Malfoy had vanished. . . .
“Where have you been? ” demanded Ginny, as Harry sprinted into the
changing rooms. The whole team was changed and ready; Coote and
Peakes, the Beaters, were both hitting their clubs ner - vously against
their legs.
“I met Malfoy, ” Harry told her quietly, as he pulled his scarlet robes
over his head.
“So? ”
 412 ‘

ELF TAILS


“So I wanted to know how come he ’s up at the castle with a cou - ple
of girlfriends while everyone else is down here. . . . ”
“Does it matter right now? ”
“Well, I ’m not likely to find out, am I? ” said Harry, seizing his Firebolt
and pushing his glasses straight. “Come on then! ”
And without another word, he marched out onto the pitch to
deafening cheers and boos.
There was little wind; the clouds were patchy; every now and then
there were dazzling flashes of bright sunlight.
“Tricky conditions! ” McLaggen said bracingly to the team. “Coote,
Peakes, you ’ll want to fly out of the sun, so they don ’t see you coming
— ”
“I’m the Captain, McLaggen, shut up giving them instructions, ” said
Harry angrily. “Just get up by the goal posts! ”
Once McLaggen had marched off, Harry turned to Coote and Peakes.
“Make sure you do fly out of the sun, ” he told them grudgingly.
He shook hands with the Hufflepuff Captain, and then, on Madam
Hooch ’s whistle, kicked off and rose into the air, higher than the rest
of his team, streaking around the pitch in search of the Snitch. If he
could catch it good and early, there might be a cha nce he could get
back up to the castle, seize the Marauder ’s Map, and find out what
Malfoy was doing. . . .
“And that ’s Smith of Hufflepuff with the Quaffle, ” said a dreamy
voice, echoing over the grounds. “He did the commentary last time, of
course, and Ginny Weasley flew into him, I think proba - bly on
purpose, it looked like it. Smith was being quite rude about Gryffindor,
I expect he regrets that now he ’s playing them — oh,
 413 ‘

CHAPTER NINETEEN


look, he ’s lost the Quaffle, Ginny took it from him, I do like her, she ’s
very nice. . . . ”
Harry stared down at the commentator ’s podium. Surely no - body in
their right mind would have let Luna Lovegood commen - tate? But
even from above there was no mistaking tha t long, dirty -blonde hair,
nor the necklace of butterbeer corks. . . . Beside Luna, Professor
McGonagall was looking slightly uncomfortable, as though she was
indeed having second thoughts about this appointment.
“. . . but now that big Hufflepuff playe r’s got the Quaffle from her, I
can ’t remember his name, it ’s something like Bibble — no, Buggins
— ”
“It’s Cadwallader! ” said Professor McGonagall loudly from be - side
Luna. The crowd laughed.
Harry stared around for the Snitch; there was no sign of it. Mo - ments
later, Cadwallader scored. McLaggen had been shouting criticism at
Ginny for allowing the Quaffle out of her possession, with the result
that he had not noticed the large red ball soari ng past his right ear.
“McLaggen, will you pay attention to what you ’re supposed to be
doing and leave everyone else alone! ” bellowed Harry, wheeling
around to face his Keeper.
“You ’re not setting a great example! ” McLaggen shouted back,
red -faced and furious.
“And Harry Potter ’s now having an argument with his Keeper, ” said
Luna serenely, while both Hufflepuffs and Slytherins below in the
crowd cheered and jeered. “I don ’t think that ’ll help him find the
Snitch, but maybe it ’s a clever ruse. . . . ”
 414 ‘

ELF TAILS


Swearing angrily, Harry spun round and set off around the pitch again,
scanning the skies for some sign of the tiny, winged golden ball.
Ginny and Demelza scored a goal apiece, giving the red -and -
gold -clad supporters below something to cheer about. Then Cad -
wallader scored again, making things level, but Luna did not seem to
have noticed; she appeared singularly uninterested in such mun - dane
things as the score, and kept attempting to draw the c rowd ’s attention
to such things as interestingly shaped clouds and the pos - sibility that
Zacharias Smith, who had so far failed to maintain possession of the
Quaffle for longer than a minute, was suffering from something called
“Loser ’s Lurgy. ”
“Seventy -forty to Hufflepuff! ” barked Professor McGonagall into
Luna ’s megaphone.
“Is it, already? ” said Luna vaguely. “Oh, look! The Gryffindor
Keeper ’s got hold of one of the Beater ’s bats. ”
Harry spun around in midair. Sure enough, McLaggen, for rea - sons
bes t known to himself, had pulled Peakes ’s bat from him and
appeared to be demonstrating how to hit a Bludger toward an on -
coming Cadwallader.
“ Will you give him back his bat and get back to the goal posts !”
roared Harry, pelting toward McLaggen just as McLaggen took a
ferocious swipe at the Bludger and mishit it.
A blinding, sickening pain . . . a flash of light . . . distant screams . . . and
the sensation of falling down a long tunnel . . . And the next th ing
Harry knew, he was lying in a remarkably warm and comfortable bed
and looking up at a lamp that was throwing a circle of golden light onto
a shadowy ceiling. He raised
 415 ‘

CHAPTER NINETEEN


his head awkwardly. There on his left was a familiar -looking, freckly,
red -haired person.
“Nice of you to drop in, ” said Ron, grinning.
Harry blinked and looked around. Of course: He was in the hos - pital
wing. The sky outside was indigo streaked with crimson. The match
must have finished hours ago . . . as had any hope of cor - nering
Malfoy. Harry ’s head felt strangely heavy; he raised a hand and felt a
stiff turban of bandages.
“What happened? ”
“Cracked skull, ” said Madam Pomfrey, bustling up and pushing him
back against his pillows. “Nothing to worry about, I mended it at once,
but I ’m keeping you in overnight. You shouldn ’t over - exert yourself
for a few hours. ”
“I don ’t want to stay here overnight, ” said Harry angrily, sitting up and
throwing back his cov ers. “I want to find McLaggen and kill him. ”
“I’m afraid that would come under the heading of ‘overexer - tion, ’”
said Madam Pomfrey, pushing him firmly back onto the bed and
raising her wand in a threatening manner. “You will stay here until I
discharge y ou, Potter, or I shall call the headmaster. ”
She bustled back into her office, and Harry sank back into his pillows,
fuming.
“D ’you know how much we lost by? ” he asked Ron through
clenched teeth.
“Well, yeah I do, ” said Ron apologetically. “Final score was three
hundred and twenty to sixty. ”
“Brilliant, ” said Harry savagely. “Really brilliant! When I get hold of
McLaggen — ”
“You don ’t want to get hold of him, he ’s the size of a troll, ” said
 416 ‘

ELF TAILS


Ron reasonably. “Personally, I think there ’s a lot to be said for hex - ing
him with that toenail thing of the Prince ’s. Anyway, the rest of the
team might ’ve dealt with him before you get out of here, they ’re not
happy. . . . ”
There was a note of badly suppressed glee in Ron ’s voice; Harry could
tell he was nothing short of thrilled that McLaggen had messed up so
badly. Harry lay there, staring up at the patch of light on the ceiling, his
recently mended skull not hurting, prec isely, but feeling slightly tender
underneath all the bandaging.
“I could hear the match commentary from here, ” said Ron, his voice
now shaking with laughter. “I hope Luna always commen -
tates from now on. . . . Loser ’s Lurgy . . . ”
But Harry was still too angry to see much humor in the situa - tion,
and after a while Ron ’s snorts subsided.
“Ginny came in to visit while you were unconscious, ” he said, after a
long pause, and Harry ’s imagination zoomed into overdrive, rapidly
construct ing a scene in which Ginny, weeping over his life - less form,
confessed her feelings of deep attraction to him while Ron gave them
his blessing. . . . “She reckons you only just arrived on time for the
match. How come? You left here early enough. ” “Oh . . .” said Harry,
as the scene in his mind ’s eye imploded. “Yeah . . . well, I saw Malfoy
sneaking off with a couple of girls who didn ’t look like they wanted to
be with him, and that ’s the sec - ond time he ’s made sure he isn ’t down
on the Quidditch pitch wit h the rest of the school; he skipped the last
match too, remember? ” Harry sighed. “Wish I ’d followed him now,
the match was such a fiasco. . . . ”
“Don ’t be stupid, ” said Ron sharply. “You couldn ’t have missed a
Quidditch match just to follow Malfoy, you ’re the Captain! ”
 417 ‘

CHAPTER NINETEEN


“I want to know what he ’s up to, ” said Harry. “And don ’t tell me it ’s
all in my head, not after what I overheard between him and Snape — ”
“I never said it was all in your head, ” said Ron, hoisting himself up on
an elbow in turn and frowning at Harry, “but there ’s no rule saying
only one person at a time can be plotting anything in this place!
You ’re getting a bit obsessed with Malfoy, Harry. I mean, thinking
about missing a match just to follow him . . . ”
“I want to catch him at it! ” said Harry in frustration. “I mean, where ’s
he going when he disappears off the map? ”
“I dunno . . . Hogsmeade? ” suggested Ron, yawning. “I’ve never seen
him going along any of the secret passageway s on the map. I thought
they were being watched now anyway? ” “Well then, I dunno, ” said
Ron.
Silence fell between them. Harry stared up at the circle of lamp - light
above him, thinking. . . .
If only he had Rufus Scrimgeour ’s power, he would have been able to
set a tail upon Malfoy, but unfortunately Harry did not have an office
full of Aurors at his command. . . . He thought fleet - ingly of trying to
set something up with the D.A., but there again was the problem that
people would be missed from lesson s; most of them, after all, still had
full schedules. . . .
There was a low, rumbling snore from Ron ’s bed. After a while
Madam Pomfrey came out of her office, this time wearing a thick
dressing gown. It was easiest to feign sleep; Harry rolled over ont o his
side and listened to all the curtains closing themselves as she waved
her wand. The lamps dimmed, and she returned to her office; he heard
the door click behind her and knew that she was off to bed.
 418 ‘

ELF TAILS


This was, Harry reflected in the darkness, the third time that he had
been brought to the hospital wing because of a Quidditch in - jury.
Last time he had fallen off his broom due to the presence of
dementors around the pitch, and the time before that, all the bones
had been removed from his arm by the incurably inept Professor
Lockhart. . . . That had been his most painful injury by far . . . he
remembered the agony of regrowing an armful of bones in one night,
a discomfort not eased by the arrival of an un expected visi - tor in the
middle of the —
Harry sat bolt upright, his heart pounding, his bandage turban
askew. He had the solution at last: There was a way to have Malfoy
followed — how could he have forgotten, why hadn ’t he thought of it
before?
But the question was, how to call him? What did you do?
Quietly, tentatively, Harry spoke into the darkness.
“Kreacher? ”
There was a very loud crack, and the sounds of scuffling and
squeaks filled the silent room. Ron awoke with a yelp.
“What ’s going — ?”
Harry pointed his wand hastily at the door of Madam Pomfrey ’s
office and muttered, “ Muffliato !” so that she would not come run -
ning. Then he scrambled to the end of his bed for a better look at what
was going on.
Two house -elves were ro lling around on the floor in the middle of the
dormitory, one wearing a shrunken maroon jumper and sev - eral
woolly hats, the other, a filthy old rag strung over his hips like a
loincloth. Then there was another loud bang, and Peeves the Pol -
tergeist appe ared in midair above the wrestling elves.
 419 ‘

CHAPTER NINETEEN


“I was watching that, Potty! ” he told Harry indignantly, point - ing at
the fight below, before letting out a loud cackle. “Look at the ickle
creatures squabbling, bitey bitey, punchy punchy — ” “Kreacher will
not insult Harry Potter in front of Dobby, no he won ’t, or Dobby will
shut Kreacher ’s mouth for him! ” cried Dobby in a high -pitched voice.
“— kicky, scratchy! ” cried Peeves happily, now pelting bits of chalk at
the elves to enrage them further. “Tweaky, pokey! ” “Kreacher will say
what he likes about his master, oh yes, and what a master he is, filthy
friend of Mudbloods, oh, what would poor Kreacher ’s mistress say
— ?”
Exactly what Kreacher ’s mistress would have said they did not find
out, for at that moment Dobby sank his knobbly little fist into
Kreacher ’s mouth and knocked out half of his teeth. Harry and Ron
both leapt out of their beds and wrenched the two elves apart, though
they continued to try and kick and punch each other, egged on by
Peeves, who swooped around the lamp squealing, “Stick your fingers
up his nosey, draw his cork and pull his earsies — ”
Harry aimed his wand at Peeves and said, “ Langlock !” Peeves
clutched at his throat, gulped, then swooped from the room mak - ing
obscene gestures but unable to speak, owing to the fact that his tongue
had just glued itself to the roof of his mouth.
“Nice one, ” said Ron appreciatively, lifting Dobby into the air so that
his flailing limbs no longer made contact with Kreacher. “That was
another Prince hex, wasn ’t it? ”
“Yeah, ” said Harry, twisting Kreacher ’s wizened arm into a half nelson.
“Right — I’m forbidding you to fight each other! Well,
 420 ‘

ELF TAILS


Kreacher, you ’re forbidden to fight Dobby. Dobby, I know I ’m not
allowed to give you orders — ”
“Dobby is a free house -elf and he can obey anyone he likes and
Dobby will do whatever Harry Potter wants him to do! ” said Dobby,
tears now streaming down his shriveled little face onto his jumper.
“Okay then, ” said Harry, and he and Ron both released the elves, who
fell to the floor but did not continue fighting.
“Master called me? ” croaked Kreacher, sinking into a bo w even as he
gave Harry a look that plainly wished him a painful death. “Yeah, I
did, ” said Harry, glancing toward Madam Pomfrey ’s of -
fice door to check that the Muffliato spell was still working; there
was no sign that she had heard any of the commot ion. “I’ve got a job
for you. ”
“Kreacher will do whatever Master wants, ” said Kreacher, sink - ing so
low that his lips almost touched his gnarled toes, “because Kreacher
has no choice, but Kreacher is ashamed to have such a master, yes — ”
“Dobby will do it, Harry Potter! ” squeaked Dobby, his tennis -
ball -sized eyes still swimming in tears. “Dobby would be honored to
help Harry Potter! ”
“Come to think of it, it would be good to have both of you, ” said
Harry. “Okay then . . . I want you to ta il Draco Malfoy. ” Ignoring the
look of mingled surprise and exasperation on Ron ’s face, Harry went
on, “I want to know where he ’s going, who he ’s meeting, and what
he ’s doing. I want you to follow him around the clock. ”
“Yes, Harry Potter! ” said Dobby at once, his great eyes shining
 421 ‘

CHAPTER NINETEEN


with excitement. “And if Dobby does it wrong, Dobby will throw
himself off the topmost tower, Harry Potter! ”
“There won ’t be any need for that, ” said Harry hastily. “Master wants
me to follow the youngest of the Malfoys? ” croaked Kreacher.
“Master wants me to spy upon the pure -blood great -nephew of my
old mistress? ”
“That ’s the one, ” said Harry, foreseeing a great danger and de -
termining to prevent it immediately. “And you ’re forbidden to tip him
off, Kreacher, or to show him what you ’re up to, or to talk to him at
all, or to write him messages or . . . or to contact him in any way. Got
it? ”
He thought he could see Kreacher struggling to see a loophole in the
instr uctions he had just been given and waited. After a moment or two,
and to Harry ’s great satisfaction, Kreacher bowed deeply again and
said, with bitter resentment, “Master thinks of every - thing, and
Kreacher must obey him even though Kreacher would much ra ther be
the servant of the Malfoy boy, oh yes. . . . ”
“That ’s settled, then, ” said Harry. “I’ll want regular reports, but make
sure I ’m not surrounded by people when you turn up. Ron and
Hermione are okay. And don ’t tell anyone what you ’re doing. Just
stick to Malfoy like a couple of wart plasters. ”









 422 ‘

C H A P T E R T W E N T
Y










LORD
VOLDEMORT ’ S
REQUEST


arry and Ron left the hospital wing first thing on Mon -
H
day morning, restored to full health by the ministra -
tions of Madam Pomfrey and now able to enjoy the benefits of having
been knocked out and poisoned, the best of which was that Hermione
was friends with Ron again. Hermione even escorted them down to
breakfast, bringing with her the news that Ginny had argued with
Dean. The drowsing creature in Harry ’s chest sud - denly raised its
head, sniffing the air hopefully.
“What did they r ow about? ” he asked, trying to sound casual as they
turned onto a seventh -floor corridor that was deserted but for a very

small girl who had been examining a tapestry of trolls in tu - tus. She
looked terrified at the sight of the approaching sixth years an d
dropped the heavy brass scales she was carrying.
“It’s all right! ” said Hermione kindly, hurrying forward to help her.
“Here . . . ”
 423 ‘

CHAPTER TWENTY


She tapped the broken scales with her wand and said, “ Reparo. ”
The girl did not say thank you, but remained rooted to the spot as they
passed and watched them out of sight; Ron glanced back at her.
“I swear they ’re getting smaller, ” he said.
“Never mind her, ” said Harry, a little impatiently. “What did Ginny
and Dean row about, Hermione? ”
“Oh, Dean was laughing about McLaggen hitting that Bludger at
you, ” said Hermione.
“It must ’ve looked funny, ” said Ron reasonably. “It didn ’t look funny
at all! ” said Hermione hotly. “It looked ter - rible and if Coote an d
Peakes hadn ’t caught Harry he could have been very badly hurt! ”
“Yeah, well, there was no need for Ginny and Dean to split up over
it,” said Harry, still trying to sound casual. “Or are they still together? ”
“Yes, they are — but why are you so interested? ” asked Hermi - one,
giving Harry a sharp look.
“I just don ’t want my Quidditch team messed up again! ” he said
hastily, but Hermione continued to look suspicious, and he was most
relieved when a voice behind them called, “Har ry! ” giving him an
excuse to turn his back on her.
“Oh, hi, Luna. ”
“I went to the hospital wing to find you, ” said Luna, rummag - ing in
her bag. “But they said you ’d left. . . . ”
She thrust what appeared to be a green onion, a large spotted
toadstool, and a considerable amount of what looked like cat litter into
Ron ’s hands, finally pulling out a rather grubby scroll of parch - ment
that she handed to Harry.
 424 ‘

LORD
VOLDEMORT ’S
REQUEST

“. . . I ’ve been told to give you this. ”
It was a small roll of parchment, which Harry recognized at once as
another invitation to a lesson with Dumbledore.
“Tonight, ” he told Ron and Hermione, once he had unrolled it. “Nice
commentary last match! ” said Ron t o Luna as she took back the green
onion, the toadstool, and the cat litter. Luna smiled vaguely.
“You ’re making fun of me, aren ’t you? ” she said. “Everyone says I was
dreadful. ”
“No, I ’m serious! ” said Ron earnestly. “I can ’t remember enjoy - ing
commentary more! What is this, by the way? ” he added, hold - ing the
onionlike object up to eye level.
“Oh, it ’s a Gurdyroot, ” she said, stuffing the cat litter and the
toadstool back into her bag. “You can keep it if you like, I ’ve got a few
of them. They ’re really excellent for warding off Gulping Plimpies. ”
And she walked away, leaving Ron chortling, still clutching the
Gurdyroot.
“You know, she ’s grown on me, Luna, ” he said, as they set off again
for the Great Hall. “I know she ’s insane, but it ’s in a good — ” He
stopped talking very suddenly. Lavender Brown was stand - ing at the
foot of the marble staircase looking thunderous. “Hi, ” said Ron
nervously.
“C’mon, ” Harry muttered to Hermione, and they sped past, though
not before they had heard La vender say, “Why didn ’t you
tell me you were getting out today? And why was she with you? ”
Ron looked both sulky and annoyed when he appeared at break - fast
half an hour later, and though he sat with Lavender, Harry did not see
them exchange a word a ll the time they were together. Her - mione was
acting as though she was quite oblivious to all of this,
 425 ‘

CHAPTER TWENTY


but once or twice Harry saw an inexplicable smirk cross her face. All
that day she seemed to be in a particularly good mood, and that
evening in the common room she even consented to look over (in
other words, finish writing) Harry ’s Herbology essay, something she
had been resolutely refusing to do up to this point, because she had
known that Harry would then let Ron copy his work.
“Thanks a lot, Hermione, ” said Harry, giving her a hasty pat on the
back as he checked his watch and saw that it was nearly eight o’clock.
“Listen, I ’ve got to hurry or I ’ll be late for Dumble - do re. . . . ”
She did not answer, but merely crossed out a few of his feebler
sentences in a weary sort of way. Grinning, Harry hurried out through
the portrait hole and off to the headmaster ’s office. The gargoyle leapt
aside at the mention of toffee йclair s, and Harry took the spiral
staircase two steps at a time, knocking on the door just as a clock
within chimed eight.
“Enter, ” called Dumbledore, but as Harry put out a hand to push the
door, it was wrenched open from inside. There stood Pro - fessor
Trela wney.
“Aha! ” she cried, pointing dramatically at Harry as she blinked at him
through her magnifying spectacles. “So this is the reason I am to be
thrown unceremoniously from your office, Dumbledore! ” “My dear
Sybill, ” said Dumbledore in a slightly exasper ated voice, “there is no
question of throwing you unceremoniously from anywhere, but Harry
does have an appointment, and I really don ’t think there is any more
to be said — ”
“Very well, ” said Professor Trelawney, in a deeply wounded voice. “If
you will not banish the usurping nag, so be it. . . .
 426 ‘

LORD
VOLDEMORT ’S
REQUEST

Perhaps I shall find a school where my talents are better appreci -
ated. . . . ”
She pushed past Harry and disappeared down the spiral stair - case;
they heard her stumble halfway down, and Harry guessed that she had
tripped over one of her trailing shawls.
“Please close the door and sit down, Harry, ” said Dumbledore,
sounding rather tired.
Harry obeyed, noticing as he took his usual seat in front of
Dumbledore ’s desk that the Pensieve lay between them once more, as
did two more tiny crystal bottles full of swirling memory. “Professor
Trelawney still isn ’t happy Firenze is teaching, then? ” Ha rry asked.
“No, ” said Dumbledore, “Divination is turning out to be much more
trouble than I could have foreseen, never having studied the subject
myself. I cannot ask Firenze to return to the forest, where he is now an
outcast, nor can I ask Sybill Trelaw ney to leave. Be - tween ourselves,
she has no idea of the danger she would be in out - side the castle. She
does not know — and I think it would be unwise to enlighten her —
that she made the prophecy about you and Voldemort, you see. ”
Dumbledore heaved a deep sigh, then said, “But never mind my
staffing problems. We have much more important matters to dis - cuss.
Firstly — have you managed the task I set you at the end of our
previous lesson? ”
“Ah, ” said Harry, brought up short. What with Apparition le ssons and
Quidditch and Ron being poisoned and getting his skull cracked and
his determination to find out what Draco Malfoy was up to, Harry had
almost forgotten about the memory Dumbledore
 427 ‘

CHAPTER TWENTY


had asked him to extract from Professor Slughorn. “Well, I asked
Professor Slughorn about it at the end of Potions, sir, but, er, he
wouldn ’t give it to me. ”
There was a little silence.
“I see, ” said Dumbledore eventually, peering at Harry over the top of
his half -moon spectacles and giving Harry the usual sensa - tion that he
was being X -rayed. “And you feel that you have exerted your very best
efforts in this matter, do you? That you have exer - cised all of your
considerable ingenuity? That you have le ft no depth of cunning
unplumbed in your quest to retrieve the memory? ” “Well, ” Harry
stalled, at a loss for what to say next. His single at - tempt to get hold of
the memory suddenly seemed embarrassingly feeble. “Well . . . the day
Ron swallowed love poti on by mistake I took him to Professor
Slughorn. I thought maybe if I got Professor Slughorn in a good
enough mood — ”
“And did that work? ” asked Dumbledore.
“Well, no, sir, because Ron got poisoned — ”
“— which, naturally, made you forget all about trying to retrieve the
memory; I would have expected nothing else, while your best friend
was in danger. Once it became clear that Mr. Weasley was going to
make a full recovery, however, I would have hoped that you returned
to the task I set you. I thought I made it clear to you how very
important that memory is. Indeed, I did my best to im - press upon you
that it is the most crucial memory of all and that we will be wasting our
time without it. ”
A hot, prickly feeling of shame spread from the top of Harry ’s head all
the way down his body. Dumbledore had not raised his voice, he did
not even sound angry, but Harry would have preferred him to yell; this
cold disappointment was worse than anything.
 428 ‘

LORD
VOLDEMORT ’S
REQUEST

“Sir, ” he said, a little desperately, “it isn ’t that I wasn ’t bothered or
anything, I ’ve just had other — other things . . . ”
“Other things on your mind, ” Dumbledore finished the sen - tence
for him. “I see. ”
Silence fell between them again, the most uncomfortable silence
Harry had ever experienced with Dumbledore; it seemed to go on and
on, punctuated only by the little grunting snores of the por - trait of
Armando Dippet over Dumbledore ’s head. Harry felt strangely
diminished, as though he had shrunk a little since he had entered the
room. When he could stand it no longer he said, “Pro - fessor
Dumbledore, I ’m really sorry. I should have done more. . . . I should
have realized you wouldn ’t have asked m e to do it if it wasn ’t really
important. ”
“Thank you for saying that, Harry, ” said Dumbledore quietly. “May I
hope, then, that you will give this matter higher priority from now on?
There will be little point in our meeting after tonight unless we have
that memory. ”
“I’ll do it, sir, I ’ll get it from him, ” he said earnestly. “Then we shall say
no more about it just now, ” said Dumbledore more kindly, “but
continue with our story where we left off. You re - member where that
was? ”
“Yes, sir, ” said Harr y quickly. “Voldemort killed his father and his
grandparents and made it look as though his Uncle Morfin did it.
Then he went back to Hogwarts and he asked . . . he asked Pro - fessor
Slughorn about Horcruxes, ” he mumbled shamefacedly. “Very
good, ” said Dum bledore. “Now, you will remember, I hope, that I
told you at the very outset of these meetings of ours that we would be
entering the realms of guesswork and speculation? ” “Yes, sir. ”
 429 ‘

CHAPTER TWENTY


“Thus far, as I hope you agree, I have shown you reasonably firm
sources of fact for my deductions as to what Voldemort did until the
age of seventeen? ”
Harry nodded.
“But now, Harry, ” said Dumbledore, “now things become murkier
and stranger. If it was difficult to find evidence about the boy Riddle,
it has been almost impossible to find anyone prepared to reminisce
about the man Voldemort. In fact, I doubt whether there is a soul alive,
apart from himself, who could give us a full ac - count of his life since
he left Hogwarts. However, I have two last memories that I would like
to share with you. ” Dumbledore indi - cated the two little crystal
bottles gleaming beside the Pensieve. “I shall then be glad of your
opinion as to whether the conclusions I have drawn from them seem
likely. ”
The idea that Dumbledore valued his opinion this highly made Harry
feel even more deeply ashamed that he had failed in the task of
retrieving the Horcrux memory, and he shifted guiltily in his s eat as
Dumbledore raised the first of the two bottles to the light and
examined it.
“I hope you are not tired of diving into other people ’s memories, for
they are curious recollections, these two, ” he said. “This first one
came from a very old house -elf by the name of Hokey. Before we see
what Hokey witnessed, I must quickly recount how Lord Voldemort
left Hogwarts.
“He reached the seventh year of his schooling with, as you might have
expected, top grades in every exa mination he had taken. All around
him, his classmates were deciding which jobs they were to pursue
once they had left Hogwarts. Nearly everybody expected spectacular
things from Tom Riddle, prefect, Head Boy, winner of
 430 ‘

LOR D
VOLDEMORT ’S
REQUEST

the Award for Special Services to the School. I know that several
teachers, Professor Slughorn amongst them, suggested that he join the
Ministry of Magic, offered to set up appointments, put him in touch
with useful contacts. He r efused all offers. The next thing the staff
knew, Voldemort was working at Borgin and Burkes. ”
“At Borgin and Burkes? ” Harry repeated, stunned.
“At Borgin and Burkes, ” repeated Dumbledore calmly. “I think you
will see what attractions the place held for him when we have entered
Hokey ’s memory. But this was not Voldemort ’s first choice of job.
Hardly anyone knew of it at the time — I was one of the few in whom
the then headmaster confided — but Voldemort fir st approached
Professor Dippet and asked whether he could remain at Hogwarts as a
teacher. ”
“He wanted to stay here? Why? ” asked Harry, more amazed still. “I
believe he had several reasons, though he confided none of them to
Professor Dippet, ” said Dumb ledore. “Firstly, and very importantly,
Voldemort was, I believe, more attached to this school than he has
ever been to a person. Hogwarts was where he had been happiest; the
first and only place he had felt at home. ”
Harry felt slightly uncomfortable at these words, for this was ex - actly
how he felt about Hogwarts too.
“Secondly, the castle is a stronghold of ancient magic. Undoubt - edly
Voldemort had penetrated many more of its secrets than most of the
students who pass through the place, but he may ha ve felt that there
were still mysteries to unravel, stores of magic to tap. “And thirdly, as
a teacher, he would have had great power and in - fluence over young
witches and wizards. Perhaps he had gained the idea from Professor
Slughorn, the teacher with w hom he was on best terms, who had
demonstrated how influential a role a teacher
 431 ‘

CHAPTER TWENTY


can play. I do not imagine for an instant that Voldemort envisaged
spending the rest of his life at Hogwarts, but I do think that he saw it
as a useful recruiting ground, and a place where he might begin to
build himself an army. ”
“But he didn ’t get the job, sir? ”
“No, he did not. Professor Dippet told him that he was too young at
eighteen, but invited him to reapply in a few years, if he still wished to
teach. ”
“How did you feel about that, sir? ” asked Harry hesitantly. “Deeply
uneasy, ” said Dumbledore. “I had advised Armando against the
appointment — I did not give the reasons I have given you, for
Professor Dippet was very fond of Voldemort and con - vinced of his
honesty. But I did not want Lord Voldemort back at this school, and
especially not in a position of power. ”
“Which job did he want, sir? What subject did he want to teach? ”
Somehow, Harry knew the answer even before Dumbledore gave it.
“Defense Against the Dark Arts. It was being taught at the time by an
old Professor by the name of Galatea Merrythought, who had been at
Hogwarts for nearly fifty years.
“So Voldemort went off to Borgin and Burkes, and all the staff who
had admired him said what a waste it was, a brilliant young wizard like
that, working in a shop. However, Voldemort was no mere assistant.
Polite and handsome and clever, he was soon given particular jobs of
the type that only exist in a place like Borgin and Burkes, which
specializes, as you know, Harry, in objects with un - usual and powerful
properties. Voldemort was sent to persuade
 432 ‘

LORD
VOLDEMORT ’S
REQ UEST

people to part with their treasures for sale by the partners, and he was,
by all accounts, unusually gifted at doing this. ”
“I’ll bet he was, ” said Harry, unable to contain himself. “Well, quite, ”
said Dumbledore, with a faint smile. “And now it i s time to hear from
Hokey the house -elf, who worked for a very old, very rich witch by the
name of Hepzibah Smith. ”
Dumbledore tapped a bottle with his wand, the cork flew out, and he
tipped the swirling memory into the Pensieve, saying as he did so,
“After you, Harry. ”
Harry got to his feet and bent once more over the rippling silver
contents of the stone basin until his face touched them. He tum - bled
through dark nothingness and landed in a sitting room in front of an
immensely fat old lady wearing an elaborate ginger wig and a brilliant
pink set of robes that flowed all around her, giving her the look of a
melting iced cake. She was looking into a small jeweled mirror and
dabbing rouge onto her already scar let cheeks with a large powder
puff, while the tiniest and oldest house -elf Harry had ever seen laced
her fleshy feet into tight satin slippers. “Hurry up, Hokey! ” said
Hepzibah imperiously. “He said he ’d come at four, it ’s only a couple
of minutes to and he ’s never been late yet! ”
She tucked away her powder puff as the house -elf straightened up.
The top of the elf ’s head barely reached the seat of Hepzibah ’s chair,
and her papery skin hung off her frame just like the crisp linen sheet
she wore draped lik e a toga.
“How do I look? ” said Hepzibah, turning her head to admire the
various angles of her face in the mirror.
“Lovely, madam, ” squeaked Hokey.
 433 ‘

CHAPTER TWENTY


Harry could only assume that it was down in Hokey ’s contract that she
must lie through her teeth when asked this question, be - cause
Hepzibah Smith looked a long way from lovely in his opinion.
A tinkling doorbell rang and both mistress and elf jumped. “Quick,
quick, he ’s here, Hokey! ” cried Hepzibah an d the elf scurried out of
the room, which was so crammed with objects that it was difficult to
see how anybody could navigate their way across it without knocking
over at least a dozen things: There were cabi - nets full of little
lacquered boxes, cases ful l of gold -embossed books, shelves of orbs
and celestial globes, and many flourishing potted plants in brass
containers. In fact, the room looked like a cross between a magical
antique shop and a conservatory.
The house -elf returned within minutes, follo wed by a tall young man
Harry had no difficulty whatsoever in recognizing as Volde - mort. He
was plainly dressed in a black suit; his hair was a little longer than it had
been at school and his cheeks were hollowed, but all of this suited him;
he looked mo re handsome than ever. He picked his way through the
cramped room with an air that showed he had visited many times
before and bowed low over Hepzibah ’s fat little hand, brushing it with
his lips.
“I brought you flowers, ” he said quietly, producing a bunc h of roses
from nowhere.
“You naughty boy, you shouldn ’t have! ” squealed old Hepzibah,
though Harry noticed that she had an empty vase standing ready on
the nearest little table. “You do spoil this old lady, Tom. . . . Sit down,
sit down. . . . Where ’s Ho key? Ah . . . ”
The house -elf had come dashing back into the room carrying a tray of
little cakes, which she set at her mistress ’s elbow.
 434 ‘

LORD
VOLDEMORT ’S
REQUEST

“Help yourself, Tom, ” said Hepzibah, “I know how you love my
cakes. Now, how are you? You look pale. They overwork you at that
shop, I ’ve said it a hundred times. . . . ”
Voldemort smiled mechanically and Hepzibah simpered. “Well,
what ’s your excuse for visiting this time? ” she asked, bat - ting her
lashes.
“Mr. Burke would like to make an improved offer for the gob -
lin -made armor, ” said Voldemort. “Five hundred Galleons, he feels it
is a more than fair — ”
“Now, now, not so fast, or I ’ll think you ’re only here for my trin -
kets! ” pouted Hepzibah.
“I am ordered here because of them, ” said Voldemort quietly. “I am
only a poor assistant, madam, who must do as he is told. Mr. Burke
wishes me to inquire — ”
“Oh, Mr. Burke, phooey! ” said Hepzibah, waving a little hand. “I’ve
somethin g to show you that I ’ve never shown Mr. Burke! Can you
keep a secret, Tom? Will you promise you won ’t tell Mr. Burke I ’ve
got it? He ’d never let me rest if he knew I ’d shown it to you, and I ’m
not selling, not to Burke, not to anyone! But you, Tom, you ’ll
appreciate it for its history, not how many Galleons you can get for it. ”
“I’d be glad to see anything Miss Hepzibah shows me, ” said
Voldemort quietly, and Hepzibah gave another girlish giggle.
“I had Hokey bring it out for me. . . . Hokey, where are you ? I
want to show Mr. Riddle our finest treasure. . . . In fact, bring both,
while you ’re at it. . . . ”
“Here, madam, ” squeaked the house -elf, and Harry saw two leather
boxes, one on top of the other, moving across the room as if of their
own volition, though he knew the tiny elf was holding
 435 ‘

CHAPTER TWENTY


them over her head as she wended her way between tables, pouffes,
and footstools.
“Now, ” said Hepzibah happily, taking the boxes from the elf, laying
them in her lap, and preparing to open the topmost one, “I think
you ’ll like this, Tom. . . . Oh, if my family knew I was show - ing you. . . .
They can ’t wait to get their hands on this! ”
She opened the lid. Harry edged forward a little to ge t a better view
and saw what looked like a small golden cup with two finely wrought
handles.
“I wonder whether you know what it is, Tom? Pick it up, have a good
look! ” whispered Hepzibah, and Voldemort stretched out a
long -fingered hand and lifted the c up by one handle out of its snug
silken wrappings. Harry thought he saw a red gleam in his dark eyes.
His greedy expression was curiously mirrored on Hepzibah ’s face,
except that her tiny eyes were fixed upon Voldemort ’s hand - some
features.
“A badger, ” m urmured Voldemort, examining the engraving upon the
cup. “Then this was . . . ? ”
“Helga Hufflepuff ’s, as you very well know, you clever boy! ” said
Hepzibah, leaning forward with a loud creaking of corsets and ac -
tually pinching his hollow cheek. “Didn ’t I tell you I was distantly
descended? This has been handed down in the family for years and
years. Lovely, isn ’t it? And all sorts of powers it ’s supposed to pos -
sess too, but I haven ’t tested them thoroughly, I just keep it nice and
safe in here. . . . ”
She hooked the cup back off Voldemort ’s long forefinger and re -
stored it gently to its box, too intent upon settling it carefully back into
position to notice the shadow that crossed Voldemort ’s face as the
cup was taken away.
 436 ‘

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“Now then, ” said Hepzibah happily, “where ’s Hokey? Oh yes, there
you are — take that away now, Hokey. ”
The elf obediently took the boxed cup, and Hepzibah turned her
attention to the much flatter box in her lap.
“I think you ’ll like this even more, Tom, ” she whispered. “Lean in a
little, dear boy, so you can see. . . . Of course, Burke knows I ’ve got
this one, I bought it from him, and I daresay he ’d love to get it back
when I ’m gone. . . . ”
She slid back the fine filigree clasp and flipped open the box. There
upon the smooth crimson velvet lay a heavy golden locket. Voldemort
reached out his hand, without invitation this time, and held it up to the
light, staring at it.
“Slytherin ’s mark, ” he said q uietly, as the light played upon an
ornate, serpentine S.
“That ’s right! ” said Hepzibah, delighted, apparently, at the sight of
Voldemort gazing at her locket, transfixed. “I had to pay an arm and a
leg for it, but I couldn ’t let it pass, not a real treasure like that, had to
have it for my collection. Burke bought it, apparently, from a
ragged -looking woman who seemed to have stolen it, but had no idea
of its true value — ”
There was no mistaking it this time: Voldemort ’s eyes flashed scarlet
at the words, and Harry saw his knuckles whiten on the locket ’s chain.
“— I daresay Burke paid her a pittance but there you are. . . . Pretty,
isn ’t it? And again, all kinds of powers attributed to it, though I just
keep it nice and s afe. . . . ”
She reached out to take the locket back. For a moment, Harry thought
Voldemort was not going to let go of it, but then it had slid through
his fingers and was back in its red velvet cushion.
 437 ‘

CHAPTER TWENTY


“So there you are, Tom, dear, and I hope you enjoyed that! ” She
looked him full in the face and for the first time, Harry saw her foolish
smile falter.
“Are you all right, dear? ”
“Oh yes, ” said Voldemort quietly. “Yes, I ’m very well. . . . ” “I tho ught
— but a trick of the light, I suppose — ” said Hepzi - bah, looking
unnerved, and Harry guessed that she too had seen the momentary
red gleam in Voldemort ’s eyes. “Here, Hokey, take these away and
lock them up again. . . . The usual enchant - ments . . . ”
“Time to leave, Harry, ” said Dumbledore quietly, and as the lit - tle elf
bobbed away bearing the boxes, Dumbledore grasped Harry once
again above the elbow and together they rose up through oblivion and
back to Dumbledore ’s office.
“Hepzibah Smith died two days after that little scene, ” said
Dumbledore, resuming his seat and indicating that Harry should do
the same. “Hokey the house -elf was convicted by the Ministry of
poisoning her mistress ’s evening cocoa by accident. ”
“No way! ” said Harry angrily.
“I see we are of one mind, ” said Dumbledore. “Certainly, there are
many similarities between this death and that of the Riddles. In both
cases, somebody else took the blame, someone who had a clear
memory of having caused the death — ”
“Hokey confessed? ”
“She remembered putting something in her mistress ’s cocoa that
turned out not to be sugar, but a lethal and little -known poison, ” said
Dumbledore. “It was concluded that she had not meant to do it, but
being old and confused — ”
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“Voldemort modified her memory, just like he did with Morfin! ” “Yes,
that is my conclusion too, ” said Dumbledore. “And, just as with
Morfin, the Ministry was predisposed to suspect Hokey — ” “—
because she was a house -elf, ” said Harry. He had rarely felt more in
sympathy with the society Hermione had set up, S.P.E.W. “Precisely, ”
said Dumbledore. “She was old, she admitted to having tampered
with the drink, and nobody at the Ministry both - ered to inquire
further. As in the case of Morfin, by the time I traced her and managed
to extract this memory, her life was almost over — but her memory,
of course, proves nothing except that Voldemort knew of the
existence of the cup and the locket.
“By th e time Hokey was convicted, Hepzibah ’s family had real - ized
that two of her greatest treasures were missing. It took them a while to
be sure of this, for she had many hiding places, having al - ways
guarded her collection most jealously. But before they we re sure
beyond doubt that the cup and the locket were both gone, the
assistant who had worked at Borgin and Burkes, the young man who
had visited Hepzibah so regularly and charmed her so well, had
resigned his post and vanished. His superiors had no idea w here he
had gone; they were as surprised as anyone at his disap - pearance. And
that was the last that was seen or heard of Tom Rid - dle for a very long
time.
“Now, ” said Dumbledore, “if you don ’t mind, Harry, I want to pause
once more to draw your atten tion to certain points of our story.
Voldemort had committed another murder; whether it was his first
since he killed the Riddles, I do not know, but I think it was. This time,
as you will have seen, he killed not for revenge, but for gain. He wanted
the t wo fabulous trophies that poor, besotted,
 439 ‘

CHAPTER TWENTY


old woman showed him. Just as he had once robbed the other chil -
dren at his orphanage, just as he had stolen his Uncle Morfin ’s ring, so
he ran off now with Hepzibah ’s cup and locket. ”
“But, ” said Harry, frowning, “it seems mad. . . . Risking every - thing,
throwing away his job, just for those . . . ”
“Mad to you, perhaps, but not to Voldemort, ” said Dumble - dore. “I
hope you will u nderstand in due course exactly what those objects
meant to him, Harry, but you must admit that it is not dif - ficult to
imagine that he saw the locket, at least, as rightfully his. ” “The locket
maybe, ” said Harry, “but why take the cup as well? ” “It had b elonged
to another of Hogwarts ’s founders, ” said Dum - bledore. “I think he
still felt a great pull toward the school and that he could not resist an
object so steeped in Hogwarts history. There were other reasons, I
think. . . . I hope to be able to demons trate them to you in due course.
“And now for the very last recollection I have to show you, at least
until you manage to retrieve Professor Slughorn ’s memory for us. Ten
years separates Hokey ’s memory and this one, ten years during which
we can only gu ess at what Lord Voldemort was doing. . . . ” Harry got
to his feet once more as Dumbledore emptied the last memory into
the Pensieve.
“Whose memory is it? ” he asked.
“Mine, ” said Dumbledore.
And Harry dived after Dumbledore through the shifting silver mass,
landing in the very office he had just left. There was Fawkes
slumbering happily on his perch, and there behind the desk was
Dumbledore, who looked very similar to the Dumbledore standing
beside Harry, though both hands were whole and undamaged and his
face was, perhaps, a little less lined. The one difference between
 440 ‘

LORD
VOLDEMORT ’S
REQUEST

the present -day office and this one was that it was snowing in the past;
bluish flecks were drifting past the window in the dark and building up
on the outside ledge.
The younger Dumbledore seemed to be waiting for something, and
sure enough, moments af ter their arrival, there was a knock on the
door and he said, “Enter. ”
Harry let out a hastily stifled gasp. Voldemort had entered the room.
His features were not those Harry had seen emerge from the great
stone cauldron almost two years ago: They were not as snake - like, the
eyes were not yet scarlet, the face not yet masklike, and yet he was no
longer handsome Tom Riddle. It was as though his fea - tures had been
burned and blurred; they were waxy and oddly dis - torted, and the
whites of the eyes now had a permanently bloody look, though the
pupils were not yet the slits that Harry knew they would become. He
was wearing a long black cloak, and his face was as pale as the snow
glistening on his shoulder s.
The Dumbledore behind the desk showed no sign of surprise.
Evidently this visit had been made by appointment.
“Good evening, Tom, ” said Dumbledore easily. “Won ’t you sit
down? ”
“Thank you, ” said Voldemort, and he took the seat to which
Dumbledore h ad gestured — the very seat, by the looks of it, that
Harry had just vacated in the present. “I heard that you had be - come
headmaster, ” he said, and his voice was slightly higher and colder than
it had been. “A worthy choice. ”
“I am glad you approve, ” sa id Dumbledore, smiling. “May I of - fer
you a drink? ”
“That would be welcome, ” said Voldemort. “I have come a long way. ”
 441 ‘

CHAPTER TWENTY


Dumbledore stood and swept over to the cabinet where he now kept
the Pensieve, but which then was full of bottles. Having handed
Voldemort a goblet of wine and poured one for himself, he returned
to the seat behind his desk.
“So, Tom . . . to what do I owe the pleasure? ”
Voldemort did not answer at once, but me rely sipped his wine. “They
do not call me ‘Tom ’ anymore, ” he said. “These days, I am known as
— ”
“I know what you are known as, ” said Dumbledore, smiling pleasantly.
“But to me, I ’m afraid, you will always be Tom Riddle. It is one of the
irritating thing s about old teachers. I am afraid that they never quite
forget their charges ’ youthful beginnings. ”
He raised his glass as though toasting Voldemort, whose face re -
mained expressionless. Nevertheless, Harry felt the atmosphere in the
room change subtly: Dumbledore ’s refusal to use Voldemort ’s chosen
name was a refusal to allow Voldemort to dictate the terms of the
meeting, and Harry could tell that Voldemort took it as such.
“I am surprised you have remained here so long, ” said Volde - mort
after a short pause. “I always wondered why a wizard such as yourself
never wished to leave school. ”
“Well, ” said Dumbledore, still smiling, “to a wizard such as my - self,
there can be nothing more important than passing on ancient skills,
helping h one young minds. If I remember correctly, you once saw the
attraction of teaching too. ”
“I see it still, ” said Voldemort. “I merely wondered why you — who
are so often asked for advice by the Ministry, and who have twice, I
think, been offered the post of Minister — ”
 442 ‘

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“Three times at the last count, actually, ” said Dumbledore. “But the
Ministry never attracted me as a career. Again, something we have in
common, I think. ”
Voldemort inclined his head, unsmiling, and took another sip of wine.
Dumbledore did not break the silence that stretched between them
now, but waited, with a look of pleasant expectancy, for Voldemort to
talk first.
“I have returned, ” he said, after a little while, “later, perhaps, than
Professor Dippet expected . . . but I have returned, neverthe - less, to
request again what he once told me I was too young to have. I have
come to you to ask that you permit me to return to this cas - tle, to
teach. I thi nk you must know that I have seen and done much since I
left this place. I could show and tell your students things they can gain
from no other wizard. ”
Dumbledore considered Voldemort over the top of his own gob - let
for a while before speaking.
“Yes, I certainly do know that you have seen and done much since
leaving us, ” he said quietly. “Rumors of your doings have reached
your old school, Tom. I should be sorry to believe half of them. ”
Voldemort ’s expression remained impassive as he said, “Great - ness
inspires envy, envy engenders spite, spite spawns lies. You must know
this, Dumbledore. ”
“You call it ‘greatness, ’ what you have been doing, do you? ” asked
Dumbledore delicately.
“Certainly, ” said Voldemort, and his eyes seemed to burn red. “I have
experimented; I have pushed the boundaries of magic further, perhaps,
than they have ever been pushed — ”
 443 ‘

CHAPTER TWENTY


“Of some kinds of magic, ” Dumbledore corrected him quietly. “Of
some. Of others, you remain . . . forgive me . . . woefully ignorant. ”
For the first time, Voldemort smiled. It was a taut leer, an evil thing,
more threatening than a look of rage.
“The old argument, ” he said softly. “But nothing I have seen in the
world has supported your famous pronouncements that love is more
powerful than my kind of magic, Dumbledore. ”
“Perhaps you have been looking in the wrong places, ” suggested
Dumbledore.
“Well, then, what better place to start my fresh researches than here, at
Hogwarts? ” said Voldemort. “Will you let me return? Will you let me
share my knowledge with your students? I place myself and my talents
at your disposal. I am yours to command. ” Dumbledore raised his
eyebrows. “And what will become of
those wh om you command? What will happen to those who call
themselves — or so rumor has it — the Death Eaters? ”
Harry could tell that Voldemort had not expected Dumbledore to
know this name; he saw Voldemort ’s eyes flash red again and the
slitlike nostrils fl are.
“My friends, ” he said, after a moment ’s pause, “will carry on without
me, I am sure. ”
“I am glad to hear that you consider them friends, ” said Dum -
bledore. “I was under the impression that they are more in the or - der
of servants. ”
“You are mi staken, ” said Voldemort.
“Then if I were to go to the Hog ’s Head tonight, I would not find a
group of them — Nott, Rosier, Mulciber, Dolohov — awaiting your
return? Devoted friends indeed, to travel this far with you on
 444 ‘

LORD
VOLDEMORT ’S
REQUEST

a snowy night, merely to wish you luck as you attempted to secure a
teaching post. ”
There could be no doubt that Dumbledore ’s detailed knowledge of
those with whom he was traveling was even less welcome to
Voldemort; however, he rallied almost at once.
“You are omniscient as ever, Dumbledore. ”
“Oh no, merely friendly with the local barmen, ” said Dumble - dore
lightly. “Now, Tom . . . ”
Dumbledore set down his empty glass and drew himself up in his seat,
the tips of his fingers together in a very characteristic gesture.
“Let us speak openly. Why have you come here tonight, sur - rounded
by henchmen, to request a job we both know you do not want? ”
Voldemort looked coldly surprised. “A job I do not want? On the
contrary, Dumbledore, I want it very much. ”
“Oh, you want to come back to Hogwarts, but you do not want to
teach any more than you wanted to when you were eighteen. What is it
you ’re after, Tom? Why not try an open request for once? ” Vold emort
sneered. “If you do not want to give me a job — ”
“Of course I don ’t,” said Dumbledore. “And I don ’t think for a
moment you expected me to. Nevertheless, you came here, you asked,
you must have had a purpose. ”
Voldemort stood up. He looked less li ke Tom Riddle than ever, his
features thick with rage. “This is your final word? ”
“It is, ” said Dumbledore, also standing.
“Then we have nothing more to say to each other. ” “No, nothing, ”
said Dumbledore, and a great sadness filled his face. “The time is long
gone when I could frighten you with a
 445 ‘

CHAPTER TWENTY


burning wardrobe and force you to make repayment for your crimes.
But I wish I could, Tom. . . . I wish I could. . . . ”
For a second, Harry was on the verge of shouting a pointless warning:
He was sure that Voldemort ’s hand had twitched toward his pocket
and his wand; but then the moment had passed, Volde - mort had
turned away, the door was closing, and he was gone. Harry f elt
Dumbledore ’s hand close over his arm again and mo - ments later,
they were standing together on almost the same spot, but there was no
snow building on the window ledge, and Dum - bledore ’s hand was
blackened and dead -looking once more. “Why? ” said Harry at once,
looking up into Dumbledore ’s face. “Why did he come back? Did you
ever find out? ”
“I have ideas, ” said Dumbledore, “but no more than that. ”
“What ideas, sir? ”
“I shall tell you, Harry, when you have retrieved that memory from
Professor Slughorn, ” said Dumbledore. “When you have that last
piece of the jigsaw, everything will, I hope, be clear . . . to both of us. ”
Harry was still burning with curiosity and even though Dum - bledore
had walked to the door and was holding it open for him, he did not
move at once.
“Was he after the Defense Against the Dark Arts job again, sir? He
didn ’t say. . . . ”
“Oh, he definitely wanted the Defense Against the Dark Arts job, ”
said Dumbledore. “The aftermath of our little meeting proved th at.
You see, we have never been able to keep a Defense Against the Dark
Arts teacher for longer than a year since I refused the post to Lord
Voldemort. ”
 446 ‘

C H A P T E R T W E N T Y
- O N E










THE UNKNOWABLE
ROOM



arry wracked his brains over the next week as to how he
H
was to persuade Slughorn to hand over the true mem -
ory, but nothing in the nature of a brain wave occurred and he was
reduced to doing what he did increasingly these days when at a loss:
poring over his Potions book, hoping that the Prince would have
scribbled something useful in a margin, as he had done s o many times
before.
“You won ’t find anything in there, ” said Hermione firmly, late on

Sunday evening.
“Don ’t start, Hermione, ” said Harry. “If it hadn ’t been for the Prince,
Ron wouldn ’t be sitting here now. ”
“He would if you ’d just listened to Snape in our first year, ” said
Hermione dismissively.
Harry ignored her. He had just found an incantation ( “ Sectum -
sempra !”) scrawled in a margin above the intriguing words “For
 447 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -ONE


Enemies, ” and was itching to try it out, but thought it best not to in
front of Hermione. Instead, he surreptitiously folded down the corner
of the page.
They were sitting beside the fire in the common room; the only other
people awake were fellow sixth years. There had been a cer - tain
amount of excitement earlier when they had come back from dinner
to find a new sign on the notice board that announced the date for
their Apparition Test. Those who would be seventeen o n or before
the first test date, the twenty -first of April, had the option of signing
up for additional practice sessions, which would take place (heavily
supervised) in Hogsmeade.
Ron had panicked on reading this notice; he had still not man - aged to
Apparate and feared he would not be ready for the test. Hermione,
who had now achieved Apparition twice, was a little more confident,
but Harry, who would not be seventeen for an - other four months,
could not take the test whether ready or not. “At least yo u can
Apparate, though! ” said Ron tensely. “You ’ll have no trouble come
July! ”
“I’ve only done it once, ” Harry reminded him; he had finally managed
to disappear and rematerialize inside his hoop during their previous
lesson.
Having wasted a lot of time w orrying aloud about Apparition, Ron
was now struggling to finish a viciously difficult essay for Snape that
Harry and Hermione had already completed. Harry fully expected to
receive low marks on his, because he had disagreed with Snape on the
best way to t ackle dementors, but he did not care: Slughorn ’s memory
was the most important thing to him now. “I’m telling you, the stupid
Prince isn ’t going to be able to help you with this, Harry! ” said
Hermione, more loudly. “There ’s only

 448 ‘

THE UNKNOWABLE
ROOM


one way to force someone to do what you want, and that ’s the Im -
perius Curse, which is illegal — ”
“Yeah, I know that, thanks, ” said Harry, not looking up from the
book. “That ’s why I ’m looking for something different. Dumble - dore
says Veritaserum won ’t do it, but there might be something else, a
potion or a spell. . . . ”
“You ’re going about it the wrong way, ” said Hermione. “Only you can
get the memory, Dumbledore says. That must mea n you can persuade
Slughorn where other people can ’t. It ’s not a question of slipping him
a potion, anyone could do that — ”
“How d ’you spell ‘belligerent ’?” said Ron, shaking his quill very hard
while staring at his parchment. “It can ’t be B — U — M — ” “N o, it
isn ’t,” said Hermione, pulling Ron ’s essay toward her. “And ‘augury ’
doesn ’t begin O — R — G either. What kind of quill are you using? ”
“It’s one of Fred and George ’s Spell -Check ones . . . but I think the
charm must be wearing off. . . . ”
“Yes, it must, ” said Hermione, pointing at the title of his essay,
“because we were asked how we ’d deal with dementors, not ‘Dug -
bogs, ’ and I don ’t remember you changing your name to ‘Roonil
Wazlib ’ either. ”
“Ah no! ” said Ron, staring horror -struck at the parchment. “Don ’t say
I’ll have to write the whole thing out again! ”
“It’s okay, we can fix it, ” said Hermione, pulling the essay toward her
and taking out her wand.
“I love you, Hermione, ” said Ron, sinking back in his chair, rub - bing
his eyes wearily .
Hermione turned faintly pink, but merely said, “Don ’t let Lavender
hear you saying that. ”
 449 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -ONE


“I won ’t,” said Ron into his hands. “Or maybe I will . . . then she ’ll
ditch me . . . ”
“Why don ’t you ditch her if you want to finish it? ” asked Harry. “You
haven ’t ever chucked anyone, have you? ” said Ron. “You and Cho just
— ”
“Sort of fell apart, yeah, ” said Harry
“Wish that would happen with me and Lavender, ” said Ron gloomily,
watching Hermio ne silently tapping each of his mis - spelled words
with the end of her wand, so that they corrected themselves on the
page. “But the more I hint I want to finish it, the tighter she holds on.
It’s like going out with the giant squid. ” “There, ” said Hermion e,
some twenty minutes later, handing back Ron ’s essay.
“Thanks a million, ” said Ron. “Can I borrow your quill for the
conclusion? ”
Harry, who had found nothing useful in the Half -Blood Prince ’s notes
so far, looked around; the three of them were now the only ones left in
the common room, Seamus having just gone up to bed cursing Snape
and his essay. The only sounds were the crackling of the fire and Ron
scratching out one last paragraph on dement ors using Hermione ’s
quill. Harry had just closed the Half -Blood Prince ’s book, yawning,
when —
Crack.
Hermione let out a little shriek; Ron spilled ink all over his freshly
completed essay, and Harry said, “Kreacher! ”
The house -elf bowed low and addressed his own gnarled toes.
“Master said he wanted regular reports on what the Malfoy boy is
doing, so Kreacher has come to give — ”
 450 ‘

THE UNKNOWABLE
ROOM


Crack.
Dobby appeared alongside Kreacher, his tea -cozy hat askew. “Dobby
has been helping too, Harry Potter! ” he squeaked, cast - ing Kreacher a
resentful look. “And Kreacher ought to tell Dobby when he is coming
to see Harry Potter so they can make their re - port s together! ”
“What is this? ” asked Hermione, still looking shocked by these sudden
appearances. “What ’s going on, Harry? ”
Harry hesitated before answering, because he had not told Her -
mione about setting Kreacher and Dobby to tail Malfoy; house - elves
were always such a touchy subject with her.
“Well . . . they ’ve been following Malfoy for me, ” he said.
“Night and day, ” croaked Kreacher.
“Dobby has not slept for a week, Harry Potter! ” said Dobby proudly,
swaying where he stood.
Hermione looked indignant.
“You haven ’t slept, Dobby? But surely, Harry, you didn ’t tell him not
to — ”
“No, of course I didn ’t,” said Harry quickly. “Dobby, you can sleep,
all right? But has either of you found out anything? ” he has - tened to
ask, before Hermione could intervene again.
“Master Malfoy moves with a nobility that befits his pure blood, ”
croaked Kreacher at once. “His features recall the fine bones of my
mistress and his manners are those of — ”
“Draco Malfoy is a bad boy! ” squeaked Dobb y angrily. “A bad boy
who — who — ”
He shuddered from the tassel of his tea cozy to the toes of his socks
and then ran at the fire, as though about to dive into it;
 451 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -ONE


Harry, to whom this was not entirely unexpected, caught him around
the middle and held him fast. For a few seconds Dobby struggled,
then went limp.
“Thank you, Harry Potter, ” he panted. “Dobby still finds it dif - ficult
to speak ill of his old masters. . . . ”
Harry released him; Dobby straightened his tea cozy and said defiantly
to Kreacher, “But Kreacher should know that Draco Mal - foy is not a
good master to a house -elf! ”
“Yeah, we don ’t need to hear about you being in love with Malfoy, ”
Harry tol d Kreacher. “Let ’s fast forward to where he ’s actually been
going. ”
Kreacher bowed again, looking furious, and then said, “Master Malfoy
eats in the Great Hall, he sleeps in a dormitory in the dun - geons, he
attends his classes in a variety of — ”
“Dobby, you tell me, ” said Harry, cutting across Kreacher. “Has he
been going anywhere he shouldn ’t have? ”
“Harry Potter, sir, ” squeaked Dobby, his great orblike eyes shin - ing in
the firelight, “the Malfoy boy is breaking no rules that Dobby can
discover, but he is still keen to avoid detection. He has been making
regular visits to the seventh floor with a variety of other students, who
keep watch for him while he enters — ”
“The Room of Requirement! ” said Harry, smacking himself
hard on the forehead with Advanced Potion -Making. Hermione and
Ron stared at him. “That ’s where he ’s been sneaking off to! That ’s
where he ’s doing . . . whatever he ’s doing! And I bet that ’s why he ’s
been disappearing off the map — come to think of it, I ’ve never seen
the Room of Requirement on there! ”
“Maybe the Marauders never knew the room was there, ” said Ron.
 452 ‘

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ROOM


“I think it ’ll be part of the magic of the room, ” said Hermione. “If you
need it to be Unplottable, it will be. ”
“Dobby, have you managed to get in to have a look at what Mal - foy ’s
doing? ” said Harry eagerly.
“No, Harry Potter, that is impossible, ” said Dobby. “No, it ’s not, ”
said Harry at once. “Malfoy got into our h ead - quarters there last year,
so I ’ll be able to get in and spy on him, no problem. ”
“But I don ’t think you will, Harry, ” said Hermione slowly. “Mal - foy
already knew exactly how we were using the room, didn ’t he, because
that stupid Marietta had blabbed . He needed the room to become the
headquarters of the D.A., so it did. But you don ’t know what the room
becomes when Malfoy goes in there, so you don ’t know what to ask it
to transform into. ”
“There ’ll be a way around that, ” said Harry dismissively. “You ’ve
done brilliantly, Dobby. ”
“Kreacher ’s done well too, ” said Hermione kindly; but far from
looking grateful, Kreacher averted his huge, bloodshot eyes and
croaked at the ceiling, “The Mudblood is speaking to Kreacher,
Kreacher will pretend he cannot hear — ”
“Get out of it, ” Harry snapped at him, and Kreacher made one last
deep bow and Disapparated. “You ’d better go and get some sleep too,
Dobby. ”
“Thank you, Harry Potter, sir! ” squeaked Dobby happily, and he too
van ished.
“How good ’s this? ” said Harry enthusiastically, turning to Ron and
Hermione the moment the room was elf -free again. “We know where
Malfoy ’s going! We ’ve got him cornered now! ”
“Yeah, it ’s great, ” said Ron glumly, who was attempting to mop
 453 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -ONE


up the sodden mass of ink that had recently been an almost com -
pleted essay. Hermione pulled it toward her and began siphoning the
ink off with her wand.
“But what ’s all this about him going up there with a ‘variety of
students ’?” said Hermione. “How many people are in on it? You
wouldn ’t think he ’d trust lots of them to know what he ’s do - ing. . . . ”
“Yeah, that is weird, ” said Harry, frowning. “I heard him telli ng
Crabbe it wasn ’t Crabbe ’s business what he was doing . . . so what ’s he
telling all these . . . all these . . . ”
Harry ’s voice tailed away; he was staring at the fire. “God, I ’ve been
stupid, ” he said quietly. “It’s obvious, isn ’t it? There was a great vat of
it down in the dungeon. . . . He could ’ve nicked some any time during
that lesson. . . . ”
“Nicked what? ” said Ron.
“Polyjuice Potion. He stole some of the Polyjuice Potion Slug - horn
showed us in our first Potions lesson. . . . There aren ’t a w hole variety
of students standing guard for Malfoy . . . it ’s just Crabbe and Goyle as
usual. . . . Yeah, it all fits! ” said Harry, jumping up and starting to pace
in front of the fire. “They ’re stupid enough to do what they ’re told
even if he won ’t tell t hem what he ’s up to . . . but he doesn ’t want them
to be seen lurking around outside the Room of Requirement, so he ’s
got them taking Polyjuice to make them look like other people. . . .
Those two girls I saw him with when he missed Quidditch — ha!
Crabbe and Goyle! ”
“Do you mean to say, ” said Hermione in a hushed voice, “that that
little girl whose scales I repaired — ?”
“Yeah, of course! ” said Harry loudly, staring at her. “Of course!
Malfoy must ’ve been inside the room at the time, so she — what
 454 ‘

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ROOM


am I talking about? — he dropped the scales to tell Malfoy not to
come out, because there was someone there! And there was that girl
who dropped the toadspawn too! We ’ve been walking past him all the
time and not realizing it! ”
“He ’s got Crabbe and Goyle transforming into girls? ” guffawed Ron.
“Blimey . . . No wonder they don ’t look too happy these days.
. . . I ’m surprised they don ’t tell him to stuff it. . . . ”
“Well, they wouldn ’t, would they, if he ’s shown them his Dark Mark? ”
said Harry.
“Hmmm . . . the Dark Mark we don ’t know exists, ” said Hermi - one
skeptically, rolling up Ron ’s dried essay before it could come to any
more harm and handing it to him.
“We ’ll see, ” said Harr y confidently.
“Yes, we will, ” Hermione said, getting to her feet and stretching. “But,
Harry, before you get all excited, I still don ’t think you ’ll be able to get
into the Room of Requirement without knowing what ’s there first.
And I don ’t think you s hould forget ” — she heaved her bag onto her
shoulder and gave him a very serious look — “that
what you ’re supposed to be concentrating on is getting that memory
from Slughorn. Good night. ”
Harry watched her go, feeling slightly disgruntled. Once the door to
the girls ’ dormitories had closed behind her he rounded on Ron.
“What d ’you think? ”
“Wish I could Disapparate like a house -elf, ” said Ron, staring at the
spot where Dobby had vanished . “I’d have that Apparition Test in the
bag. ”
Harry did not sleep well that night. He lay awake for what felt like
hours, wondering how Malfoy was using the Room of Requirement
 455 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -ONE


and what he, Harry, would see when he went in there the following
day, for whatever Hermione said, Harry was sure that if Malfoy had
been able to see the headquarters of the D.A., he would be able to see
Malfoy ’s . . . what could it be? A meeting place? A hideout? A store -
room? A workshop? Harry ’s mind worked feverishly and his dreams,
when he finally fell asleep, were broken and disturbed by images of
Malfoy, who turned into Slughorn, who turned into Snape. . . . Harry
was in a state of great anticipation over breakfast the fol - lowing
morning; he had a free period before Defense Against the Dark Arts
and was determined to spend it trying to get into the Room of
Requirement. Hermione was rather ostentatiously show - ing no
interest in his whispered plans fo r forcing entry into the room, which
irritated Harry, because he thought she might be a lot of help if she
wanted to.
“Look, ” he said quietly, leaning forward and putting a hand
on the Daily Prophet, which she had just removed from a post owl,
to sto p her from opening it and vanishing behind it. “I haven ’t for -
gotten about Slughorn, but I haven ’t got a clue how to get that
memory off him, and until I get a brain wave why shouldn ’t I find out
what Malfoy ’s doing? ”
“I’ve already told you, you need to persuade Slughorn, ” said Her -
mione. “It’s not a question of tricking him or bewitching him, or
Dumbledore could have done it in a second. Instead of messing
around outside the Room of Requirement ” — she jerked the
Prop het out from under Harry ’s hand and unfolded it to look at the
front page — “you should go and find Slughorn and start appeal - ing
to his better nature. ”
“Anyone we know — ?” asked Ron, as Hermione scanned the
headlines.
 456 ‘

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ROOM


“Yes! ” said Hermione, causing both Harry and Ron to gag on their
breakfast. “But it ’s all right, he ’s not dead — it’s Mundungus, he ’s
been arrested and sent to Azkaban! Something to do with
impersonating an Inferius during an attempted burglary . . . and
someone called Octavius Pepper has vanished. . . . Oh, and how
horrible, a nine -year -old boy has been arrested for trying to kill his
grandparents, they think he was under the Imperius Curse. . . . ” They
finished their breakfast in silence. Hermione set off imme - diately for
Ancient Runes; Ron for the common room, where he still had to
finish his conclusion on Snape ’s dementor essay; and Harry for the
corridor on the seventh floor and the stretch of wall o pposite the
tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy teaching trolls to do ballet.
Harry slipped on his Invisibility Cloak once he had found an empty
passage, but he need not have bothered. When he reached his
destination he found it deserted. Harry was not sure whether his
chances of getting inside the room were better with Malfoy in - side it
or out, but at least his first attempt was not going to be com - plicated
by the presence of Crabbe or Goyle pretending to be an
eleven -year -old girl.
He closed his eyes a s he approached the place where the Room of
Requirement ’s door was concealed. He knew what he had to do; he
had become most accomplished at it last year. Concentrating
with all his might he thought, I need to see what Malfoy ’s doing in
here. . . . I need to see what Malfoy ’s doing in here. . . . I need to see
what Malfoy ’s doing in here. . . .
Three times he walked past the door; then, his heart pounding with
excitement, he opened his eyes and faced it —
But he was still looking at a stretch of mundanely blank wall.
 457 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -ONE


He moved forward and gave it an experimental push. The stone
remained solid and unyielding.
“Okay, ” said Harry aloud. “Okay . . . I thought the wrong thing. . . . ”
He pondered for a moment then set off again, eyes closed, con -
centrating as hard as he could.
I need to see the place where Malfoy keeps coming secretly. . . . I
need to see the place where Malfoy keeps coming secretly. . . .
After three walks past, he opened his eyes expectantly.
There was no door.
“Oh, come off it, ” he told the wall irritably. “That was a clear in -
struction. . . . Fine . . . ”
He thought hard for several minutes before striding off once more.
I need you to become the place you become for Draco Malfoy. . . .
He did not immediately open his eyes when he had finished his
patrolling; he was listening hard, as though he might he ar the door
pop into existence. He heard nothing, however, except the distant
twittering of birds outside. He opened his eyes.
There was still no door.
Harry swore. Someone screamed. He looked around to see a gaggle of
first years running back around t he corner, apparently un - der the
impression that they had just encountered a particularly foulmouthed
ghost.
Harry tried every variation of “I need to see what Draco Malfoy is
doing inside you ” that he could think of for a whole hour, at the end
of which he was forced to concede that Hermione might have had a
point: The room simply did not want to open for him. Frus - trated and
annoyed, he set off for Defense Against the Dark Arts,
 458 ‘

THE UNKNOWABLE
ROOM


pulling off his Invisibility Cloak and stuffing it into his bag as he went.
“Late again, Potter, ” said Snape coldly, as Harry hurried into the
candlelit classroom. “Ten points from Gryffindor. ”
Harry scowled at Snape as he flung himself into the seat beside Ron;
half the class was still on its feet, taking out books and orga - nizing
their things; he could not be much later than any of them. “Before we
start, I want your dementor essays, ” said Sna pe, wav - ing his wand
carelessly, so that twenty -five scrolls of parchment soared into the air
and landed in a neat pile on his desk. “And I hope for your sakes they
are better than the tripe I had to endure on resisting the Imperius
Curse. Now, if you wil l all open your books to page — what is it, Mr.
Finnigan? ”
“Sir, ” said Seamus, “I’ve been wondering, how do you tell the
difference between an Inferius and a ghost? Because there was
something in the paper about an Inferius — ”
“No, there wasn ’t,” said Snape in a bored voice.
“But sir, I heard people talking — ”
“If you had actually read the article in question, Mr. Finnigan, you
would have known that the so -called Inferius was nothing but a smelly
sneak thief by the name of Mundungus Fletcher. ”
“I thou ght Snape and Mundungus were on the same side, ” mut - tered
Harry to Ron and Hermione. “Shouldn ’t he be upset Mun - dungus
has been arrest — ”
“But Potter seems to have a lot to say on the subject, ” said Snape,
pointing suddenly at the back of the room, hi s black eyes fixed on
Harry “Let us ask Potter how we would tell the difference between an
Inferius and a ghost. ”
The whole class looked around at Harry, who hastily tried to
 459 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -ONE


recall what Dumbledore had told him the night that they had gone to
visit Slughorn.
“Er — well — ghosts are transparent — ” he said. “Oh, very good, ”
interrupted Snape, his lip curling. “Yes, it is easy to see that nearly six
years of magical education hav e not been
wasted on you, Potter. ‘ Ghosts are transparent. ’”
Pansy Parkinson let out a high -pitched giggle. Several other peo - ple
were smirking. Harry took a deep breath and continued calmly,
though his insides were boiling, “Yeah, ghosts are transparent, but
Inferi are dead bodies, aren ’t they? So they ’d be solid — ”
“A five -year -old could have told us as much, ” sneered Snape. “The
Inferius is a corpse that has been reanimated by a Dark wiz - ard ’s
spells. It is not alive, it i s merely used like a puppet to do the wizard ’s
bidding. A ghost, as I trust that you are all aware by now, is the imprint
of a departed soul left upon the earth . . . and of
course, as Potter so wisely tells us, transparent. ”
“Well, what Harry said i s the most useful if we ’re trying to tell them
apart! ” said Ron. “When we come face -to -face with one down a dark
alley, we ’re going to be having a shufti to see if it ’s solid, aren ’t we,
we ’re not going to be asking, ‘Excuse me, are you the imprint of a
de parted soul? ’”
There was a ripple of laughter, instantly quelled by the look Snape
gave the class.
“Another ten points from Gryffindor, ” said Snape. “I would ex - pect
nothing more sophisticated from you, Ronald Weasley, the boy so
solid he cannot Apparat e half an inch across a room. ”
“ No !” whispered Hermione, grabbing Harry ’s arm as he
opened
his mouth furiously. “There ’s no point, you ’ll just end up in deten -
tion again, leave it! ”

 460 ‘

THE UNKNOWABLE
ROOM


“Now open your books to page two hundred and thirteen, ” said
Snape, smirking a little, “and read the first two paragraphs on the
Cruciatus Curse. . . . ”
Ron was very subdued all through the class. When the bell sounded at
the end of the lesson, Lavender caught up with Ron and Harry
(Hermione mysteriously melted out of sight as she ap - proached) and
abused Snape hotly for his jibe about Ron ’s Appari - tion, but this
seemed to merely irritate Ron, and he shook her off by making a
detour into the boys ’ bathro om with Harry.
“Snape ’s right, though, isn ’t he? ” said Ron, after staring into a cracked
mirror for a minute or two. “I dunno whether it ’s worth me taking the
test. I just can ’t get the hang of Apparition. ”
“You might as well do the extra practice sessions in Hogsmeade and
see where they get you, ” said Harry reasonably. “It’ll be more
interesting than trying to get into a stupid hoop anyway. Then, if
you ’re still not — you know — as good as you ’d like to be, you can
postpone the test, do it with me over the summ — Myrtle, this is the
boys ’ bathroom! ”
The ghost of a girl had risen out of the toilet in a cubicle behind them
and was now floating in midair, staring at them through thick, white,
round glasses.
“Oh, ” she said glumly. “It’s you two. ”
“Who were you expecting? ” said Ron, looking at her in the mirror.
“Nobody, ” said Myrtle, picking moodily at a spot on her chin.
“He said he ’d come back and see me, but then you said you ’d pop
in and visit me too ” — she gave Harry a reproachful look — “and I
haven ’t seen you for months and months. I ’ve learned not to ex - pect
too much from boys. ”
 461 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -ONE


“I thought you lived in that girls ’ bathroom? ” said Harry, who had
been careful to give the place a wide berth for some years now. “I do, ”
she said, with a sulky little shrug, “but that doesn ’t mean
I can ’t visit other places. I came and saw you in your bath once,
remember? ”
“Vividly, ” said Harry.
“But I thought he liked me, ” she said plaintively. “Maybe if you two
left, he ’d come back again. . . . We had lots in common. . . . I ’m sure he
felt it. . . . ”
And she looked hopefully toward the door.
“When you say you had lots in common, ” said Ron, so unding rather
amused now, “d’you mean he lives in an S -bend too? ” “No, ” said
Myrtle defiantly, her voice echoing loudly around the old tiled
bathroom. “I mean he ’s sensitive, people bully him too, and he feels
lonely and hasn ’t got anybody to talk to, and he ’s not afraid to show
his feelings and cry! ”
“There ’s been a boy in here crying? ” said Harry curiously. “A young
boy? ”
“Never you mind! ” said Myrtle, her small, leaky eyes fixed on Ron,
who was now definitely grinning. “I promised I wouldn ’t tell anyon e,
and I ’ll take his secret to the — ”
“— not the grave, surely? ” said Ron with a snort. “The sewers,
maybe . . . ”
Myrtle gave a howl of rage and dived back into the toilet, caus - ing
water to slop over the sides and onto the floor. Goading Myrtle
seemed to have put fresh heart into Ron.
“You ’re right, ” he said, swinging his schoolbag back over his shoulder,
“I’ll do the practice sessions in Hogsmeade before I de - cide about
taking the test. ”
 462 ‘

THE UNKNOWABLE
ROOM


And so the following weekend, Ron joined Hermione and the rest of
the sixth years who would turn seventeen in time to take the test in a
fortnight. Harry felt rather jealous watching them all get ready to go
into the village; he missed making trips there, and it was a particularly
fine spring day, one of the first clear skies they had seen in a long time.
However, he had decided to use the time to attempt another assault
on the Room of Requirement.
“You ’d do better, ” said Hermione, when he confided this plan to Ron
and her in the entrance hall, “to go straight to Slughorn ’s of - fice and
try and get that memory from him. ”
“I’ve been trying! ” said Harry crossly, which was perfectly true. He
had lagged behind after every Potions lesson that week in an at - tempt
to corner Slughorn, but the Potions master always left the dungeon so
fast that Harry had not been able to catch him. Twice, Harry had gone
to his office and knocked, but received no reply, though on the second
occasion he was sure he had heard the q uickly stifled sounds of an old
gramophone.
“He doesn ’t want to talk to me, Hermione! He can tell I ’ve been trying
to get him on his own again, and he ’s not going to let it hap - pen! ”
“Well, you ’ve just got to keep at it, haven ’t you? ” The short queue of
people waiting to file past Filch, who was do - ing his usual prodding
act with the Secrecy Sensor, moved forward a few steps and Harry did
not answer in case he was overheard by the caretaker. He wished Ron
and Hermione both luck, then t urned and climbed the marble
staircase again, determined, whatever Her - mione said, to devote an
hour or two to the Room of Requirement. Once out of sight of the
entrance hall, Harry pulled the Ma - rauder ’s Map and his Invisibility
Cloak from his bag. Havi ng
 463 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -ONE


concealed himself, he tapped the map, murmured, “ I solemnly
swear that I am up to no good, ” and scanned it carefully.
As it was Sunday morning, nearly all the students were inside their
various common rooms, the Gryffindors in one tower, the
Ravenclaws in another, the Slytherins in the dungeons, and the
Hufflepuffs in the basement near the kitchens. Here and there a stray
person meandered around the library or up a corridor. . . . T here were
a few people out in the grounds . . . and there, alone in the
seventh -floor corridor, was Gregory Goyle. There was no sign of the
Room of Requirement, but Harry was not worried about that; if Goyle
was standing guard outside it, the room was open , whether the map
was aware of it or not. He therefore sprinted up the stairs, slowing
down only when he reached the corner into the corridor, when he
began to creep, very slowly, toward the very same little girl, clutching
her heavy brass scales, that Her mione had so kindly helped a fortnight
before. He waited until he was right be - hind her before bending very
low and whispering, “Hello . . . you ’re very pretty, aren ’t you? ”
Goyle gave a high -pitched scream of terror, threw the scales up into
the air, an d sprinted away, vanishing from sight long before the sound
of the scales smashing had stopped echoing around the corri - dor.
Laughing, Harry turned to contemplate the blank wall behind which,
he was sure, Draco Malfoy was now standing frozen, aware that
someone unwelcome was out there, but not daring to make an
appearance. It gave Harry a most agreeable feeling of power as he tried
to remember what form of words he had not yet tried.
Yet this hopeful mood did not last long. Half an hour later, hav - ing
tried many more variations of his request to see what Malfoy was up to,
the wall was just as doorless as ever. Harry felt frustrated
 464 ‘

THE UNKNOWABLE
ROOM


beyond belief; Malfoy might be just feet away from him, and there was
still not the tiniest shred of evidence as to what he was doing in there.
Losing his patience completely, Harry ran at the wall and kicked it.
“OUCH! ”
He thought he might have broken his toe; as he clutched it and
hopped on one foot, the Invisibility Cloak slipped off him. “Harry? ”
He spun around, one -legged, and toppled over. There, to his ut - ter
astonishment, was Tonks, walking toward him as though she
frequently strolled up this corridor.
“What ’re you doing here? ” he said, scrambling to his feet again; why
did she always have to find him lying on the floor?
“I came to see Dumbledore, ” said Tonks.
Harry thought she looked terrible: thinner than usual, her
mouse -colored hair lank.
“His office isn ’t here, ” said Harry, “it’s round the other side of the
castle, behind the gargoyle — ”
“I know, ” said Tonks. “He ’s not there. Apparently he ’s gone away
again. ”
“Has he? ” said Harry, putting his bruised foot gingerly back on the
floor. “Hey — you don ’t know wher e he goes, I suppose? ” “No, ” said
Tonks.
“What did you want to see him about? ”
“Nothing in particular, ” said Tonks, picking, apparently uncon -
sciously, at the sleeve of her robe. “I just thought he might know
what ’s going on. . . . I ’ve heard rumors . . . people getting hurt . . . ”
“Yeah, I know, it ’s all been in the papers, ” said Harry. “That lit -
tle kid trying to kill his — ”
 465 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -ONE


“The Prophet ’s often behind the times, ” said Tonks, who didn ’t
seem to be listening to him. “You haven ’t had any letters from any -
one in the Order recently? ”
“No one from the Order writes to me anymore, ” said Harry, “not
since Sirius — ”
He saw that her eyes had filled with tears.
“I’m sorry, ” he muttered awkwardly. “I mean . . . I miss him, as
well. . . . ”
“What? ” said Tonks blankly, as though she had not heard him.
“Well . . . I ’ll see you around, Harry . . . ”
And she turned abruptly and walked back down the corridor, leaving
Harry to stare after her. After a minute or so, he pulled the Invisibility
Cloak on again and resumed his efforts to get into the Room of
Requirement, but his heart was not in it. Finally, a hollow feeling in his
stomach and the knowledge that Ron and Hermione would soo n be
back for lunch made him abandon the attempt and leave the corridor
to Malfoy who, hopefully, would be too afraid to leave for some hours
to come.
He found Ron and Hermione in the Great Hall, already halfway
through an early lunch.
“I did it — well , kind of! ” Ron told Harry enthusiastically when he
caught sight of him. “I was supposed to be Apparating to out - side
Madam Puddifoot ’s Tea Shop and I overshot it a bit, ended up near
Scrivenshaft ’s, but at least I moved! ”
“Good one, ” said Harry. “How ’d you do, Hermione? ” “Oh, she was
perfect, obviously, ” said Ron, before Hermione could answer.
“Perfect deliberation, divination, and desperation or whatever the hell
it is — we all went for a quick drink in the Three Broomsticks after
and you should ’ve he ard Twycross going on

 466 ‘

THE UNKNOWABLE
ROOM


about her — I’ll be surprised if he doesn ’t pop the question soon — ”
“And what about you? ” asked Hermione, ignoring Ron. “Have you
been up at the Room of Requirement all this time? ”
“Yep, ” said Harry. “And guess who I ran into up there? Tonks! ”
“Tonks? ” repeated Ron and Hermione together, looking surprised.
“Yeah, she said she ’d come to visit Dumbledore. . . . ” “If you ask me, ”
said Ron once Harry had finished describing his conversation with
Tonks, “she ’s cracking up a bit. Losing her nerve after what happened
at the Ministry. ”
“It’s a bit odd, ” said Hermione, who for some reason looked very
concerned. “She ’s supposed to be guarding the school, why ’s she
suddenly abandoning her post to come and see Dumbledore when
he ’s not even here? ”
“I had a thought, ” said Harry tentatively. He felt strange about voicing
it; this was much more Hermione ’s territory than his. “You don ’t
think she can have been . . . you know . . . in love with Sirius? ”
Hermione stared at him.
“What on earth makes you say that? ”
“I dunno, ” said Harry, shrugging, “but she was nearly crying when I
mentioned his name . . . and her Patronus is a big four - legged thing
now. . . . I wondered whether it hadn ’t become . . . you know . . . him. ”
“It’s a thought, ” said Hermione slowly. “But I still don ’t know why
she ’d be bursting into the castle to see Dumbledore, if that ’s re - ally
why she was here. . . . ”
“Goes back to what I said, doesn ’t it? ” said Ron, who was now
shoveling mashed potato into his mouth. “She ’s gone a bit funny.
 467 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -ONE


Lost her nerve. Women, ” he said wisely to Harry, “they ’re easily
upset. ”
“And yet, ” said Hermione, coming out of her reverie, “I doubt
you ’d find a woman who sulked for half an hour because Madam
Rosmerta didn ’t laugh at their joke about the hag, the Healer, and
the Mimbulus mimbletonia. ”
Ron scowled.

























 468 ‘

C H A P T E R T W E N T Y -
T W O










AFTER THE
BURIAL



atches of bright blue sky were beginning to appear over the
P
lift Harry ’s mood. He had been thwarted, both in his attempts to find
out what Malfoy was doing, and in his efforts to start a conv er- sation
with Slughorn that might lead, somehow, to Slughorn hand - ing over
the memory he had apparently suppressed for decades. “For the last
time, just forget about Malfoy, ” Hermione told Harry firmly.
They were sitting with Ron in a sunny corner of t he courtyard after

lunch. Hermione and Ron were both clutching a Ministry of
Magic leaflet — Common Apparition Mistakes and How to Avoid
Them — for they were taking their tests that very afternoon, but by
and large the leaflets had not proved soothing to the nerves.
Ron gave a start and tried to hide behind Hermione as a girl came
around the corner.
“It isn ’t Lavender, ” said Hermione wearily.
 469 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -TWO


“Oh, good, ” said Ron, relaxing.
“Harry Potter? ” said the girl. “I was asked to give you this. ”
“Thanks . . . ”
Harry ’s heart sank as he took the small scroll of parchment. Once the
girl was out of earshot he said, “Dumbledore said we wouldn ’t be
having any more lessons until I got the memory! ” “Maybe he wants to
check on how you ’re doing? ” suggested Hermione, as Harry unrolled
the parchment; but rather than find - ing Dumbledore ’s long, narrow,
slanted writing he saw an untidy sprawl, very di fficult to read due to
the presence of large blotches on the parchment where the ink had
run.

Dear Harry, Ron, and Hermione,
Aragog died last night. Harry and Ron, you met him,
and you know how special he was. Hermione, I know
RXGKDYHOLNHGKLP,WZRXOGPHDQDORWWRPHLIou’d
nip down for the burial later this evening. I’m planning
on doing it round dusk, that was his favorite time of day.
I know RXUHQRWVXSSRVHGWREHRXWWKDWODWHEXWou
can use the cloak. Wouldn’t ask, but I can’t face it alone.
Hagrid
“Look at this, ” said Harry, handing the note to Hermione. “Oh, for
heaven ’s sake, ” she said, scanning it quickly and passing it to Ron, who
read it through looking increasingly incredulous.
“He ’s mental !” he sa id furiously. “That thing told its mates to eat
 470 ‘

AFTER THE BURIAL


Harry and me! Told them to help themselves! And now Hagrid ex -
pects us to go down there and cry over its horrible hairy body! ” “It’s
not just that, ” said Hermione. “He ’s asking us to leave the castle at
night and he knows security ’s a million times tighter and how much
trouble we ’d be in if we were caught. ”
“We ’ve been down to see him by night before, ” said Harry. “Yes, but
for something like this? ” said Hermione. “We ’ve risked a lot to help
Hagrid out, but after all — Aragog ’s dead. If it were a question of
saving him — ”
“— I’d want to go even less, ” said Ron firmly. “You didn ’t meet him,
Hermione. Believe me, being dead will have improved him a lot. ”
Harry took the note back and stared down at all the inky blotches all
over it. Tears had clearly fallen thick and fast upon the parchment. . . .
“Harry, you can ’t be thinking of going, ” said Hermione. “It’s
such a pointless thing to get dete ntion for. ”
Harry sighed. “Yeah, I know, ” he said. “I s ’pose Hagrid ’ll have to bury
Aragog without us. ”
“Yes, he will, ” said Hermione, looking relieved. “Look, Potions will
be almost empty this afternoon, with us all off doing our tests.
. . . Try and soften Slughorn up a bit then! ”
“Fifty -seventh time lucky, you think? ” said Harry bitterly.
“Lucky, ” said Ron suddenly. “Harry, that ’s it — get lucky! ”
“What d ’you mean? ”
“Use your lucky potion! ”
“Ron, that ’s — that ’s it! ” said Hermione, sounding stunned. “Of
course! Why didn ’t I think of it? ”
 471 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -TWO


Harry stared at them both. “Felix Felicis? ” he said. “I dunno . . . I was
sort of saving it. . . . ”
“What for? ” demanded Ron incredulously.
“What on earth is more important than this memory, Harry? ” asked
Hermione.
Harry did not answer. The thought of that little golden bottle had
hovered on the edges of his imagination for some time; vague and
unformulated p lans that involved Ginny splitting up with Dean, and
Ron somehow being happy to see her with a new boyfriend, had been
fermenting in the depths of his brain, unac - knowledged except during
dreams or the twilight time between sleeping and waking. . . .
“Harry? Are you still with us? ” asked Hermione. “Wha — ? Yeah, of
course, ” he said, pulling himself together. “Well . . . okay. If I can ’t get
Slughorn to talk this afternoon, I ’ll take some Felix and have another
go this evening. ”
“That ’s decided, then, ” said Hermione briskly, getting to her feet and
performing a graceful pirouette. “Destination . . . determina - tion . . .
deliberation . . . ” she murmured.
“Oh, stop that, ” Ron begged her, “I feel sick enough as it is — quick,
hide me! ”
“It isn ’t Lavender !” said Hermione impatiently, as another cou - ple of
girls appeared in the courtyard and Ron dived behind her. “Cool, ” said
Ron, peering over Hermione ’s shoulder to check. “Blimey, they don ’t
look happy, do they? ”
“They ’re the Montgomery sisters and of co urse they don ’t look happy,
didn ’t you hear what happened to their little brother? ” said Hermione.
 472 ‘

AFTER THE BURIAL


“I’m losing track of what ’s happening to everyone ’s relatives, to be
honest, ” said Ron.
“Well, their brother was attacked by a werewolf. The rumor is that
their mother refused to help the Death Eaters. Anyway, the boy was
only five and he died in St. Mungo ’s, they couldn ’t save him. ” “He
died? ” repeated Harry, shocked. “But surely werewolves d on ’t kill,
they just turn you into one of them? ”
“They sometimes kill, ” said Ron, who looked unusually grave now.
“I’ve heard of it happening when the werewolf gets carried away. ”
“What was the werewolf ’s name? ” said Harry quickly. “Well, the
rumor is that it was that Fenrir Greyback, ” said Hermione.
“I knew it — the maniac who likes attacking kids, the one Lupin told
me about! ” said Harry angrily.
Hermione looked at him bleakly.
“Harry, you ’ve got to get that memory, ” she said. “It’s all about
stopping Voldemort, isn ’t it? These dreadful things that are hap -
pening are all down to him. . . . ”
The bell rang overhead in the castle and both Hermione and Ron
jumped to their feet, looking terrified.
“You ’ll do fine, ” Harry told them both, as they headed toward the
entrance hall to meet the rest of the people taking their Ap - parition
Test. “Good luck. ”
“And you too! ” said Hermione with a significant look, as Harry
headed off to the dungeons.
There were only thre e of them in Potions that afternoon: Harry, Ernie,
and Draco Malfoy.
 473 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -TWO


“All too young to Apparate just yet? ” said Slughorn genially. “Not
turned seventeen yet? ”
They shook their heads.
“Ah well, ” said Slughorn cheerily, “as we ’re so few, we ’ll do some -
thing fun. I want you all to brew me up something amusing! ”
“That sounds good, sir, ” said Ernie sycophantically, rubbing his hands
together. Malfoy, on the other hand, did not crack a smile. “W hat do
you mean, ‘something amusing ’?” he said irritably. “Oh, surprise me, ”
said Slughorn airily.
Malfoy opened his copy of Advanced Potion -Making with a sulky
expression. It could not have been plainer that he thought this les - son
was a waste of ti me. Undoubtedly, Harry thought, watching him over
the top of his own book, Malfoy was begrudging the time he could
otherwise be spending in the Room of Requirement.
Was it his imagination, or did Malfoy, like Tonks, look thinner?
Certainly he looked paler ; his skin still had that grayish tinge, probably
because he so rarely saw daylight these days. But there was no air of
smugness, excitement, or superiority; none of the swagger that he had
had on the Hogwarts Express, when he had boasted openly of the
mis sion he had been given by Voldemort. . . . There could be only one
conclusion, in Harry ’s opinion: The mission, whatever it was, was
going badly.
Cheered by this thought, Harry skimmed through his copy of
Advanced Potion -Making and found a heavily corrected Half -Blood
Prince ’s version of “An Elixir to Induce Euphoria, ” which seemed not
only to meet Slughorn ’s instructions, but which might (Harry ’s heart
leapt as the thought struck him) put Slughorn into such a good mood
that he would be prepared to hand over that memory if Harry could
persuade him to taste some. . . .
 474 ‘

AFTER THE BURIAL


“Well, now, this looks absolutely wonderful, ” said Slughorn an hour
and a half later, clapping his hands together as he stared down
into the sunshine yellow contents of Harry ’s cauldron. “ Euphoria, I
take it? And what ’s that I smell? Mmmm . . . you ’ve added just a sprig
of peppermint, haven ’t you? Unorthodox, but what a stroke of inspi -
ration, Harry, of course, that would tend to counterbalance the occa -
sional side effects of excessive singing and nose -tweaking. . . . I really
don ’t know where you get these brain waves, my boy . . . unless — ”
Harry pushed the Ha lf-Blood Prince ’s book deeper into his bag with
his foot.
“— it’s just your mother ’s genes coming out in you! ”
“Oh . . . yeah, maybe, ” said Harry, relieved.
Ernie was looking rather grumpy; determined to outshine Harry for
once, he had most rashly invent ed his own potion, which had curdled
and formed a kind of purple dumpling at the bottom of his cauldron.
Malfoy was already packing up, sour -faced; Slughorn had pronounced
his Hiccuping Solution merely “passable. ”
The bell rang and both Ernie and Malfoy left at once. “Sir, ” Harry
began, but Slughorn immediately glanced over his shoulder; when he
saw that the room was empty but for himself and Harry, he hurried
away as fast as he could.
“Professor — Professor, don ’t you want to taste my po — ?” called
Ha rry desperately.
But Slughorn had gone. Disappointed, Harry emptied the caul - dron,
packed up his things, left the dungeon, and walked slowly back
upstairs to the common room.
Ron and Hermione returned in the late afternoon. “Harry! ” cried
Hermione as she climbed through the portrait hole. “Harry, I passed! ”
 475 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -TWO


“Well done! ” he said. “And Ron? ”
“He — he just failed, ” whispered Hermione, as Ron came
slouching into the room looking most morose. “It was really un - lucky,
a tiny thing, the examiner just spotted that he ’d left half an eyebrow
behind. . . . How did it go with Slughorn? ”
“No joy, ” said Harry, as Ron joined them. “Bad luck, mate, but you ’ll
pass next time — we can take it together. ”
“Yeah, I s ’pose, ” said Ron grumpily. “But half an eyebrow ! Like
that matters! ”
“I know, ” said Hermione soothingly, “it does seem really harsh. . . . ”
They spent most of their dinner roundly abusing the Apparition
examiner, and Ron looked fractionally more cheerful by the time they
set off back to the common room, now discussing the contin - uing
problem of Slughorn and the memory.
“So, Harry — you goi ng to use the Felix Felicis or what? ” Ron
demanded.
“Yeah, I s ’pose I ’d better, ” said Harry. “I don ’t reckon I ’ll need all of it,
not twelve hours ’ worth, it can ’t take all night. . . . I ’ll just take a
mouthful. Two or three hours should do it. ”
“It’s a great feeling when you take it, ” said Ron reminiscently. “Like
you can ’t do anything wrong. ”
“What are you talking about? ” said Hermione, laughing. “You ’ve
never taken any! ”
“Yeah, but I thought I had, didn ’t I? ” said Ron, as though ex -
plaining the obvious. “Same difference really . . . ”
As they had only just seen Slughorn enter the Great Hall and knew
that he liked to take time over meals, they lingered for a while in the
common room, the plan being that Harry should go to
 476 ‘

AFTER THE BURIAL


Slughorn ’s office once the teacher had had time to get back there.
When the sun had sunk to the level of the treetops in the Forbid - den
Forest, they decided the moment had come, and after check - ing
carefu lly that Neville, Dean, and Seamus were all in the common
room, sneaked up to the boys ’ dormitory.
Harry took out the rolled -up socks at the bottom of his trunk and
extracted the tiny, gleaming bottle.
“Well, here goes, ” said Harry, and he raised the little bottle and took a
carefully measured gulp.
“What does it feel like? ” whispered Hermione. Harry did not answer
for a moment. Then, slowly but surely, an exhilarating sense of infinite
opportunity stole through him; h e felt as though he could have done
anything, anything at all . . . and getting the memory from Slughorn
seemed suddenly not only pos - sible, but positively easy. . . .
He got to his feet, smiling, brimming with confidence. “Excellent, ” he
said. “Really excellent. Right . . . I ’m going down to Hagrid ’s.”
“What? ” said Ron and Hermione together, looking aghast. “No,
Harry — you ’ve got to go and see Slughorn, remember? ” said
Hermione.
“No, ” said Harry confidently. “I’m going to Hagrid ’s, I ’ve got a good
feeling about going to Hagrid ’s.”
“You ’ve got a good feeling about burying a giant spider? ” asked Ron,
looking stunned.
“Yeah, ” said Harry, pulling his Invisibility Cloak out of his bag. “I feel
like it ’s the place to be tonight, you know what I mean? ” “N o,” said
Ron and Hermione together, both looking positively alarmed now.
 477 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -TWO


“This is Felix Felicis, I suppose? ” said Hermione anxiously, hold -
ing up the bottle to the light. “You haven ’t got another little bottle full
of — I don ’t know — ”
“Essence of Insanity? ” suggested Ron, as Harry swung his cloak over
his shoulders.
Harry laughed, and Ron and Hermione looked even more alarmed.
“Trust me, ” he said. “I know what I ’m doing . . . or at least ” — he
strolled confidently to the door — “Felix does. ”
He pulled the Invisibility Cloak over his head and set off down the
stairs, Ron and Hermione hurrying along behind him. At the foot of
the stairs, Harry slid through the op en door.
“What were you doing up there with her ?” shrieked Lavender
Brown, staring right through Harry at Ron and Hermione emerg - ing
together from the boys ’ dormitories. Harry heard Ron splutter - ing
behind him as he darted across the room away from them. Getting
through the portrait hole was simple; as he approached it, Ginny and
Dean came through it, and Harry was able to slip be - tween them. As
he did so, he brushed accidentally against Ginny.
“ Don ’t push me, please, Dean, ” she said, sounding ann oyed.
“You ’re always doing that, I can get through perfectly well on my
own. . . . ”
The portrait swung closed behind Harry, but not before he had heard
Dean make an angry retort. . . . His feeling of elation in - creasing,
Harry strode off through the castle. He did not have to creep along,
for he met nobody on his way, but this did not surprise him in the
slightest: This evening, he was the luckiest person at Hogwarts.
Why he knew that going to Hagrid ’s was th e right thing to do,
 478 ‘

AFTER THE BURIAL


he had no idea. It was as though the potion was illuminating a few
steps of the path at a time: He could not see the final destination, he
could not see where Slughorn came in, but he knew that he was going
the right way to get that memory. When he reached the en - trance hall
he saw that Filch had forgotten to lock the front door. Beaming, Harry
threw it open and breathed in the smell of clean air and grass for a
moment before wa lking down the steps into the dusk.
It was when he reached the bottom step that it occurred to him how
very pleasant it would be to pass the vegetable patch on his walk to
Hagrid ’s. It was not strictly on the way, but it seemed clear to Harry
that this wa s a whim on which he should act, so he di - rected his feet
immediately toward the vegetable patch, where he was pleased, but
not altogether surprised, to find Professor Slughorn in conversation
with Professor Sprout. Harry lurked be - hind a low stone wall, feeling
at peace with the world and listening to their conversation.
“I do thank you for taking the time, Pomona, ” Slughorn was saying
courteously, “most authorities agree that they are at their most
efficacious if picked at twilight. ”
“Oh, I quite agree, ” said Professor Sprout warmly. “That enough for
you? ”
“Plenty, plenty, ” said Slughorn, who, Harry saw, was carrying an
armful of leafy plants. “This should allow for a few leaves for each of
my third years, and some to spare if anybod y over -stews them.
. . . Well, good evening to you, and many thanks again! ”
Professor Sprout headed off into the gathering darkness in the
direction of her greenhouses, and Slughorn directed his steps to the
spot where Harry stood, invisible.
 479 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -TWO


Seized with an immediate desire to reveal himself, Harry pulled off the
cloak with a flourish.
“Good evening, Professor. ”
“Merlin ’s beard, Harry, you made me jump, ” said Slughorn, stopping
dead in his tracks and looking wary. “How did you get out of the
castle? ”
“I think Filch must ’ve forgotten to lock the doors, ” said Harry
cheerfully, and was delighted to see Slughorn scowl.
“I’ll be reporting that man, he ’s more concerned about litter than
proper security if you ask me. . . . But why are you out here, Harry? ”
“Well, sir, it ’s Hagrid, ” said Harry, who knew that the right thing to
do just now was to tell the truth. “He ’s pretty upset. . . . But you won ’t
tell anyone, Professor? I don ’t want trouble for him. . . . ”
Slughorn ’s curiosity was evidently aroused. “Well, I can ’t promise
that, ” he said gruffly. “But I know that Dumbledore trusts Hagrid to
the hilt, so I ’m sure he can ’t be up to anything very dreadful. . . . ”
“Well, it ’s this giant spider, he ’s had it for years. . . . It lived in the
forest. . . . It could talk and everything — ”
“I heard rumors there were acromantulas in the forest, ” said Slughorn
softly, looking over at the mass of black tr ees. “It’s true, then? ”
“Yes, ” said Harry. “But this one, Aragog, the first one Hagrid ever got,
it died last night. He ’s devastated. He wants company while he buries
it and I said I ’d go. ”
“Touching, touching, ” said Slughorn absentmindedly, his large droopy
eyes fixed upon the distant lights of Hagrid ’s cabin. “But
 480 ‘

AFTER THE BURIAL


acromantula venom is very valuable . . . If the beast only just died it
might not yet have dried out. . . . Of course, I wouldn ’t want to do
anything insensitive if Hagrid is upset . . . but if there was any way to
procure some . . . I mean, it ’s almost impossible to get venom from an
acromantula while it ’s alive. . . . ”
Slughorn seemed to be talking more to himself than Harry n ow. “. . .
seems an awful waste not to collect it . . . might get a hun - dred
Galleons a pint. . . . To be frank, my salary is not large. . . . ” And now
Harry saw clearly what was to be done.
“Well, ” he said, with a most convincing hesitancy, “well, if you wanted
to come, Professor, Hagrid would probably be really pleased. . . . Give
Aragog a better send -off, you know . . . ”
“Yes, of course, ” said Slughorn, his eyes now gleaming with en -
thusiasm. “I tell you what, Harry, I ’ll meet you down there with a
bottle or two. . . . We ’ll drink the poor beast ’s — well — not health —
but we ’ll send it off in style, anyway, once it ’s buried. And I ’ll change
my tie, this one is a little exuberant for the occa - sion. . . . ”
He bustled back into the castle, and Harry sped off to Hagrid ’s,
delighted with himself.
“Yeh came, ” croaked Hagrid, when he opened the door and saw
Harry emerging from the Invisibility Cloak in front of him. “Yeah —
Ron and Hermione couldn ’t, though, ” said Harry. “They ’re really
sorry. ”
“Don ’ — don ’ matter . . . He ’d’ve bin touched yeh ’re here, though,
Harry. . . . ”
Hagrid gave a great sob. He had made himself a black armband out of
what looked like a rag dipped in boot polish, and his eyes
 481 ‘

CHAPTER
T WENTY -TWO


were puffy, red, and swollen. Harry patted him consolingly on the
elbow, which was the highest point of Hagrid he could easily reach.
“Where are we burying him? ” he asked. “The forest? ”
“Blimey, no, ” said Hagrid, wiping his streaming eyes on the bot - tom
of his shirt. “The other spiders won ’ let me anywhere near their webs
now Aragog ’s gone. Turns out it was on ’y on his orders they didn ’ eat
me! Can yeh believe that, Harry? ”
The honest answer was “yes ”; Harry recalled with painful ease the
scene when he and Ron had come face -to -face with the acro -
mantulas: They had been quite clear that Aragog was the only thing
that stopped them from eating Hagrid.
“Never bin an area o ’ the forest I couldn ’ go before! ” said Hagrid,
shaking his head. “It wasn ’ easy, gettin ’ Aragog ’s body out o ’ there, I
can tell yeh — they usually eat their dead, see. . . . But I wanted ter
give ’im a nice burial . . . a proper send -off . . . ”
He broke into sobs again and Harr y resumed the patting of his elbow,
saying as he did so (for the potion seemed to indicate that it was the
right thing to do), “Professor Slughorn met me coming down here,
Hagrid. ”
“Not in trouble, are yeh? ” said Hagrid, looking up, alarmed. “Yeh
shouldn ’ be outta the castle in the evenin ’, I know it, it ’s my fault — ”
“No, no, when he heard what I was doing he said he ’d like to come
and pay his last respects to Aragog too, ” said Harry. “He ’s gone to
change into something more suitable, I think . . . and he said he ’d bring
some bottles so we can drink to Aragog ’s mem - ory. . . .
“Did he? ” said Hagrid, looking both astonished and touched.
 482 ‘

AFTER THE BURIAL


“Tha ’s — tha ’s righ ’ nice of him, that is, an ’ not turnin ’ yeh in ei - ther.
I’ve never really had a lot ter do with Horace Slughorn before.
. . . Comin ’ ter see old Aragog off, though, eh? Well . . . he ’d’ve liked
that, Aragog would. . . . ”
Harry thought privately that what Aragog would have liked most
about Slu ghorn was the ample amount of edible flesh he pro - vided,
but he merely moved to the rear window of Hagrid ’s hut, where he
saw the rather horrible sight of the enormous dead spider lying on its
back outside, its legs curled and tangled.
“Are we going to bury him here, Hagrid, in your garden? ” “Jus ’
beyond the pumpkin patch, I thought, ” said Hagrid in a choked voice.
“I’ve already dug the — yeh know — grave. Jus ’ thought we ’d say a
few nice things over him — happy memories, yeh know — ”
His voice quivered and broke. There was a knock on the door, and he
turned to answer it, blowing his nose on his great spotted
handkerchief as he did so. Slughorn hurried over the threshold,
several bottles in his arms, and wearing a somber black cravat.
“Hag rid, ” he said, in a deep, grave voice. “So very sorry to hear of
your loss. ”
“Tha ’s very nice of yeh, ” said Hagrid. “Thanks a lot. An ’ thanks fer
not givin ’ Harry detention neither. . . . ”
“Wouldn ’t have dreamed of it, ” said Slughorn. “Sad night, sad night . . .
Where is the poor creature? ”
“Out here, ” said Hagrid in a shaking voice. “Shall we — shall we do it,
then? ”
The three of them stepped out into the back garden. The moon was
glistening palely through the trees now, and its rays mingled
 483 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -TWO


with the light spilling from Hagrid ’s window to illuminate Aragog ’s
body lying on the edge of a massive pit beside a ten -foot -high mound
of freshly dug earth.
“Magnificent, ” said Slughorn, approaching the spider ’s head, where
eight milky eyes stared blankly at the sky and two huge, curved pincers
shone, motionless, in the moonlight. Harry thought he heard the
tinkle of bottles as Slughorn bent over the pincers, ap - parently
examining the enormous hairy head.
“It’s not ev ’ryone appreciates how beau ’iful they are, ” said Ha - grid to
Slughorn ’s back, tears leaking from the corners of his crinkled eyes. “I
didn ’ know yeh were int ’rested in creatures like Aragog, Horace. ”
“Intere sted? My dear Hagrid, I revere them, ” said Slughorn, stepping
back from the body. Harry saw the glint of a bottle disap - pear
beneath his cloak, though Hagrid, mopping his eyes once more,
noticed nothing. “Now . . . shall we proceed to the burial? ” Hagrid
nodded and moved forward. He heaved the gigantic spi - der into his
arms and, with an enormous grunt, rolled it into the dark pit. It hit the
bottom with a rather horrible, crunchy thud. Hagrid started to cry
again.
“Of course, it ’s difficult for you, w ho knew him best, ” said Slughorn,
who like Harry could reach no higher than Hagrid ’s el - bow, but patted
it all the same. “Why don ’t I say a few words? ” He must have got a lot
of good quality venom from Aragog, Harry thought, for Slughorn
wore a satisfied smirk as he stepped up to the rim of the pit and said, in
a slow, impressive voice, “Farewell, Aragog, king of arachnids, whose
long and faithful friendship those who knew you won ’t forget! Though
your body will decay, your
 484 ‘

AFTER THE BURIAL


spirit lingers on in the quiet, web -spun places of your forest home.
May your many -eyed descendants ever flourish and your human
friends find solace for the loss they have sustained. ”
“Tha ’ was . . . tha ’ was . . . beau ’iful! ” howled Hagrid, and he collapsed
onto the compost heap, crying harder than ever. “There, there, ” said
Slughorn, waving his wand so that the huge pile of earth rose up and
then fell, with a muffled sort of crash, onto the dead spider, forming a
smooth mound. “Let ’s get inside and have a drink. Get on his other
side, Harry. . . . That ’s it. . . . Up you come, Hagrid . . . Well done . . . ”
They deposited Hagrid in a chair at the table. Fang, who had been
skulking in his basket during th e burial, now came padding softly
across to them and put his heavy head into Harry ’s lap as usual.
Slughorn uncorked one of the bottles of wine he had brought.
“I have had it all tested for poison, ” he assured Harry, pouring
most of the first bottle into one of Hagrid ’s bucket -sized mugs and
handing it to Hagrid. “Had a house -elf taste every bottle after what
happened to your poor friend Rupert. ”
Harry saw, in his mind ’s eye, the expression on Hermione ’s face if she
ever hear d about this abuse of house -elves, and decided never to
mention it to her.
“One for Harry . . . ” said Slughorn, dividing a second bottle be - tween
two mugs, “. . . and one for me. Well ” — he raised his mug high — “to
Aragog. ”
“Aragog, ” said Harry and H agrid together.
Both Slughorn and Hagrid drank deeply. Harry, however, with the way
ahead illuminated for him by Felix Felicis, knew that he
 485 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -TWO


must not drink, so he merely pretended to take a g ulp and then set the
mug back on the table before him.
“I had him from an egg, yeh know, ” said Hagrid morosely. “Tiny little
thing he was when he hatched. ’Bout the size of a Pekingese. ”
“Sweet, ” said Slughorn.
“Used ter keep him in a cupboard up at th e school until . . . well . . . ”
Hagrid ’s face darkened and Harry knew why: Tom Riddle had
contrived to have Hagrid thrown out of school, blamed for open - ing
the Chamber of Secrets. Slughorn, however, did not seem to be
listening; he was looking up at the ceiling, from which a number of
brass pots hung, and also a long, silky skein of bright white hair.
“That ’s never unicorn hair, Hagrid? ”
“Oh, yeah, ” said Hagrid indifferently. “Gets pulled out of their tails,
they catch it on branches an ’ stuff in the forest, yeh know . . . ”
“But my dear chap, do you know how much that ’s worth ?”
“I use it fer bindin ’ on bandages an ’ stuff if a creature gets in - jured, ”
said Hagrid, shrugging. “It’s dead useful . . . very strong, see. ”
Slughorn took another deep draught from his mug, his eyes moving
carefully around the cabin now, looking, Harry knew, for more
treasures that he might be able to convert into a plentiful sup - ply of
oak -matured mead, crystalized pineapple, and velvet smok - ing jackets.
He refilled Hagrid ’s mug and his own, and questioned him about the
creatures that lived in the forest these days and how Hagrid was able
to look after them all. Hagrid, becoming expan - sive under the
influence of the drink and Slughorn ’s flattering in - ter est, stopped
mopping his eyes and entered happily into a long explanation of
bowtruckle husbandry.
 486 ‘

AFTER THE BURIAL


The Felix Felicis gave Harry a little nudge at this point, and he noticed
that the supply of drink that Slughorn had brought was running out
fast. Harry had not yet managed to bring off the Re - filling Charm
without saying the incantation aloud, but the idea that he might not be
able to do it tonight was laughable: Indee d, Harry grinned to himself
as, unnoticed by either Hagrid or Slug - horn (now swapping tales of
the illegal trade in dragon eggs) he pointed his wand under the table at
the emptying bottles and they immediately began to refill.
After an hour or so, Hagr id and Slughorn began making extrav - agant
toasts: to Hogwarts, to Dumbledore, to elf -made wine, and to —
“Harry Potter! ” bellowed Hagrid, slopping some of his four -
teenth bucket of wine down his chin as he drained it.
“Yes, indeed, ” cried Slughorn a li ttle thickly, “Parry Otter, the Chosen
Boy Who — well — something of that sort, ” he mum - bled, and
drained his mug too.
Not long after this, Hagrid became tearful again and pressed the
whole unicorn tail upon Slughorn, who pocketed it with cries of, “To
friendship! To generosity! To ten Galleons a hair! ”
And for a while after that, Hagrid and Slughorn were sitting side by
side, arms around each other, singing a slow sad song about a dying
wizard called Odo.
“Aaargh, the good die young, ” muttered Hagrid, slumping low onto
the table, a little cross -eyed, while Slughorn continued to war - ble the
refrain. “Me dad was no age ter go . . . nor were yer mum an ’ dad,
Harry. . . ”
Great fat tears oozed out of the corners of Hagrid ’s crinkled eyes
again; he grasped Harry ’s arm and shook it.
 487 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -TWO


“Bes ’ wiz and witchard o ’ their age I never knew . . . terrible thing . . .
terrible thing . . . ”

And Odo the hero, they bore him back home
To the place that he ’d known as a lad,
sang Slughorn plaintively.
They laid him to rest with his hat inside out
And his wand snapped in two, which was sad.
“. . . terrible, ” Hagrid grunted, and his great shaggy head rolled
sideways onto his arms and he fell asleep, snoring deeply. “Sorry, ” said
Slughorn with a hiccup. “Can ’t carry a tune to save my life. ”
“Hagrid wasn ’t talking about your singing, ” said Harry quietly. “He
was talking about my mum and dad dying. ”
“Oh, ” said Slughorn, repressing a large belch. “Oh dear. Yes, that was
— was terrible indeed. Terrible . . . terrible . . . ”
He looked quite at a loss for what to say, and resorted to refilling their
mugs.
“I don ’t — don ’t suppose you remember it, Harry? ” he asked
awkwardly.
“No — well, I was only one when they died, ” said Harry, his eyes on
the flame of the candle flickering in Hagrid ’s heavy snores. “But I ’ve
found out pretty much what happened since. My dad died first. Did
you know that? ”
“I — I d idn ’t,” said Slughorn in a hushed voice. “Yeah . . . Voldemort
murdered him and then stepped over his body toward my mum, ” said
Harry.
 488 ‘

AFTER THE BURIAL


Slughorn gave a great shudder, but he did not seem ab le to tear his
horrified gaze away from Harry ’s face.
“He told her to get out of the way, ” said Harry remorselessly. “He told
me she needn ’t have died. He only wanted me. She could have run. ”
“Oh dear, ” breathed Slughorn. “She could have . . . she need n’t
. . . That ’s awful. . . . ”
“It is, isn ’t it? ” said Harry, in a voice barely more than a whisper. “But
she didn ’t move. Dad was already dead, but she didn ’t want me to go
too. She tried to plead with Voldemort . . . but he just laughed. . . . ”
“That ’s enough! ” said Slughorn suddenly, raising a shaking hand.
“Really, my dear boy, enough . . . I ’m an old man . . . I don ’t need to
hear . . . I don ’t want to hear . . . ”
“I forgot, ” lied Harry, Felix Felicis leading him on. “You liked her,
didn ’t you ?”
“Liked her? ” said Slughorn, his eyes brimming with tears once more.
“I don ’t imagine anyone who met her wouldn ’t have liked her. . . .
Very brave . . . Very funny . . . It was the most horrible thing. . . . ”
“But you won ’t help her son, ” said Harry. “She gave me her life, but
you won ’t give me a memory. ”
Hagrid ’s rumbling snores filled the cabin. Harry looked steadily into
Slughorn ’s tear -filled eyes. The Potions master seemed unable to look
away.
“Don ’t say that, ” he whispered. “It isn ’t a quest ion . . . If it were to
help you, of course . . . but no purpose can be served . . . ”
“It can, ” said Harry clearly. “Dumbledore needs information. I need
information. ”
 489 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -TWO


He knew he was safe: Felix was telling him that Slughorn would
remember nothing of this in the morning. Looking Slughorn straight
in the eye, Harry leaned forward a little.
“I am the Chosen One. I have to kill him. I need that memory. ”
Slughorn turned paler than ever; his shiny forehead gleamed with
sweat.
“You are the Chosen One? ”
“Of course I am, ” said Harry calmly.
“But then . . . my dear boy . . . you ’re asking a great deal . . . you ’re
asking me, in fact, to aid you in your attempt to destroy — ” “You
don ’t want to get rid of the wizard who killed Lily Evans? ” “Harry,
Harry, of course I do, but — ”
“You ’re scared he ’ll find out you helped me? ”
Slughorn said nothing; he looked terrif ied.
“Be brave like my mother, Professor. . . . ”
Slughorn raised a pudgy hand and pressed his shaking fingers to his
mouth; he looked for a moment like an enormously overgrown baby.
“I am not proud . . . ” he whispered through his fingers. “I am ashame d
of what — of what that memory shows. . . . I think I may have done
great damage that day. . . . ”
“You ’d cancel out anything you did by giving me the memory, ” said
Harry. “It would be a very brave and noble thing to do. ” Hagrid
twitched in his sleep and snored on. Slughorn and Harry stared at each
other over the guttering candle. There was a long, long silence, but
Felix Felicis told Harry not to break it, to wait. Then, very slowly,
Slughorn put his hand in his pocket and pulled out his wand. He put
his other hand inside his cloak and took out a small, empty bottle. Still
looking into Harry ’s eyes,
 490 ‘

AFTER THE BURIAL


Slughorn touched the tip of his wand to his temple and withdrew it, so
that a long, silver thread of memory came away too, clinging to the
wand tip. Longer and longer the memory stretched until it broke and
swung, silvery bright, from the wand. Slughorn lowered it into the
bottle where it coiled, then spread, swirling like gas. He corked the
bottle with a trembling hand and then passed it across the table to
Harry.
“Thank you very much, Professor. ”
“You ’re a good boy, ” said Professor Slughorn, tears trickling down his
fat cheeks into his walrus mustache. “And you ’ve got her eyes. . . . Just
don ’t think too badly of me once you ’ve seen it. . . . ” And he too put
his head on his arms, gave a deep sigh, and fell asleep.

















 491 ‘

C H A P T E R T W E N T Y -
T H R E E










HORCRUXES



arry could feel the Felix Felicis wearing off as he crept
H
back into the castle. The front door had remained un -
locked for him, but on the third floor he met Peeves and only nar -
rowly avoided detection by diving sideways through one of his
shortcuts. By the time he got up to the portrait of the Fat Lady and
pulled off his Invisibili ty Cloak, he was not surprised to find her in a
most unhelpful mood.
“What sort of time do you call this? ”
“I’m really sorry — I had to go out for something important — ”
“Well, the password changed at midnight, so you ’ll just have to sleep
in the corridor, won ’t you? ”

“You ’re joking! ” said Harry. “Why did it have to change at midnight? ”
“That ’s the way it is, ” said the Fat Lady. “If you ’re angry, go and take it
up with the headmaster, he ’s the one who ’s tightened security. ”
 492 ‘

HORCRUXES


“Fantastic, ” said Harry bitterly, looking around at the hard floor.
“Really brilliant. Yeah, I would go and take it up with Dumbledore if
he was here, because he ’s the one who wanted me to — ”
“He is here, ” said a voice behind Harry. “Professor Dumbledore
returned to the school an hour ago. ”
Nearly Headless Nick was gliding toward Harry, his head wob - bling
as usual upon his ruff.
“I had it from the Bloody Baron, who saw him arrive, ” said Nick. “He
app eared, according to the Baron, to be in good spirits, though a little
tired, of course. ”
“Where is he? ” said Harry, his heart leaping.
“Oh, groaning and clanking up on the Astronomy Tower, it ’s a
favorite pastime of his — ”
“Not the Bloody Baron — Du mbledore! ”
“Oh — in his office, ” said Nick. “I believe, from what the Baron said,
that he had business to attend to before turning in — ” “Yeah, he has, ”
said Harry, excitement blazing in his chest at the prospect of telling
Dumbledore he had secured the memory. He wheeled about and
sprinted off again, ignoring the Fat Lady who was calling after him.
“Come back! All right, I lied! I was annoyed you woke me up! The
password ’s still ‘tapeworm ’!”
But Harry was already hurtling back along the corridor and within
minutes, he was saying “toffee йclairs ” to Dumbledore ’s gar - goyle,
which leapt aside, permitting Harry entrance onto the spiral staircase.
“Enter, ” said Dumbledore when Harry knocked. He sounded
exhausted.
Harry pushed open the door. There was Dumbledore ’s office,
 493 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -THREE


looking the same as ever, but with black, star -strewn skies beyond the
windows.
“Good gracious, Harry, ” said Dumbledore in surprise. “To what do I
owe this very late pleasure? ”
“Sir — I’ve got it. I ’ve got the memory from Slughorn. ” Harry pulled
out the tiny glass bottle and showed it to Dumble - dore. For a
moment or two, the headmaster looked stunned. The n his face split in
a wide smile.
“Harry, this is spectacular news! Very well done indeed! I knew you
could do it! ”
All thought of the lateness of the hour apparently forgotten, he
hurried around his desk, took the bottle with Slughorn ’s memory in
his un injured hand, and strode over to the cabinet where he kept the
Pensieve.
“And now, ” said Dumbledore, placing the stone basin upon his desk
and emptying the contents of the bottle into it. “Now, at last, we shall
see. Harry, quickly . . . ”
Harry bowed o bediently over the Pensieve and felt his feet leave the
office floor. . . . Once again he fell through darkness and landed in
Horace Slughorn ’s office many years before.
There was the much younger Slughorn, with his thick, shiny,
straw -colored hair and his gingery -blond mustache, sitting again in the
comfortable winged armchair in his office, his feet resting upon a
velvet pouffe, a small glass of wine in one hand, the other rum -
maging in a box of crystalized pineapple. And there were the half -
dozen teenage boys sitting around Slughorn with Tom Riddle in the
midst of them, Marvolo ’s gold -and -black ring gleaming on his finger.
 494 ‘

HORCRUXES


Dumbledore landed beside Harry just as Riddle asked, “Sir , is it true
that Professor Merrythought is retiring? ”
“Tom, Tom, if I knew I couldn ’t tell you, ” said Slughorn, wag - ging his
finger reprovingly at Riddle, though winking at the same time. “I must
say, I ’d like to know where you get your information, boy , more
knowledgeable than half the staff, you are. ”
Riddle smiled; the other boys laughed and cast him admiring looks.
“What with your uncanny ability to know things you shouldn ’t, and
your careful flattery of the people who matter — thank you for the
pineapple, by the way, you ’re quite right, it is my favorite — ” Several
of the boys tittered again.
“— I confidently expect you to rise to Minister of Magic within
twenty years. Fifteen, if you keep sending me pineapple, I have ex -
cellent contac ts at the Ministry. ”
Tom Riddle merely smiled as the others laughed again. Harry noticed
that he was by no means the eldest of the group of boys, but that they
all seemed to look to him as their leader.
“I don ’t know that politics would suit me, sir, ” he said when the
laughter had died away. “I don ’t have the right kind of background,
for one thing. ”
A couple of the boys around him smirked at each other. Harry was
sure they were enjoying a private joke, undoubtedly about what they
knew, or suspected, regarding their gang leader ’s famous ancestor.
“Nonsense, ” said Slughorn briskly, “couldn ’t be plainer you come
from decent Wizarding stock, abilities like yours. No, you ’ll go far,
Tom, I ’ve never been wrong about a student yet. ”
 495 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -THREE


The small golden clock standing upon Slughorn ’s desk chimed eleven
o’clock behind him and he looked around.
“Good gracious, is it that time already? You ’d better get going, boys,
or we ’ll all be in trouble. Lestrange, I want your essay by to - morrow
or it ’s detention. Same goes for you, Avery. ”
One by one, the boys filed out of the room. Slughorn heaved himself
out of his armchair and carried his empty glass over to his desk. A
movement behind him made him look around; Riddle was still
standing there.
“Look sharp, Tom, you don ’t want to be caught out of bed out of
hours, and you a prefect . . . ”
“Sir, I wanted to ask you something. ”
“Ask away, then, m ’boy, ask away. . . . ”
“Sir, I wondered what you know about . . . about Horcruxes? ”
Slughorn stared at him, his thick fingers absentmindedly caress - ing
the stem of his wine glass.
“Project for Defense Against the Dark Arts, is it? ” But Harry could
tell that Slughorn knew perfectly well that this was not schoolwork.
“Not exactly, sir, ” said Riddle. “I came across the term while reading
and I didn ’t fully understand it. ”
“No . . . well . . . you ’d be hard -pushed to find a book at Hog - warts
that ’ll give you details on Horcruxes, Tom, that ’s very Dark stuff, very
Dark indeed, ” said Slughorn.
“But you obviously know all about them, sir? I mean, a wizard like you
— sorry, I mean, if you can ’t tell me, obviously — I just knew if
anyone could tell m e, you could — so I just thought I ’d ask — ”
It was very well done, thought Harry, the hesitancy, the casual
 496 ‘

HORCRUXES


tone, the careful flattery, none of it overdone. He, Harry, had had too
much experience of trying to wheedle information out of re - luctant
people not to recognize a master at work. He could tell that Riddle
wanted the information very, very much; perhaps had been working
toward this moment for weeks.
“Well, ” said Slugh orn, not looking at Riddle, but fiddling with the
ribbon on top of his box of crystalized pineapple, “well, it can ’t hurt to
give you an overview, of course. Just so that you understand the term.
A Horcrux is the word used for an object in which a per - son has
concealed part of their soul. ”
“I don ’t quite understand how that works, though, sir, ” said Riddle.
His voice was carefully controlled, but Harry could sense his
excitement.
“Well, you split your soul, you see, ” said Slughorn, “and hide part of it
in an object outside the body. Then, even if one ’s body is attacked or
destroyed, one cannot die, for part of the soul remains earthbound
and undamaged. But of course, existence in such a form . . . ”
Slughorn ’s face crumpled and Harry found himself rememb er-
ing words he had heard nearly two years before: “ I was ripped from
my body, I was less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost . . . but still,
I was alive. ”
“. . . few would want it, Tom, very few. Death would be pre - ferable. ”
But Riddle ’s hunger was now apparent; his expression was greedy, he
could no longer hide his longing.
“How do you split your soul? ”
“Well, ” said Slughorn uncomfortably, “you must understand
 497 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -THREE


that the soul is supposed to remain intact and whole. Splitting it is an
act of violation, it is against nature. ”
“But how do you do it? ”
“By an act of evil — the supreme act of evil. By committing murder.
Killing rips the soul apart. The wizard intent upon creat - ing a
Horcrux would use the damage to his advantage: He would encase the
torn portion — ”
“Encase? But how — ?”
“There is a spell, do not ask me, I don ’t know! ” said Slughorn, shaking
his head like an old elephant bothered by mosquitoes. “Do I look as
though I have tried it — do I look like a killer? ”
“No, sir, of course not, ” said Riddle quickly. “I’m sorry . . . I didn ’t
mean to offend . . . ”
“Not at all, not at all, not offended, ” said Slughorn gruffly. “It’s
natural to feel some curiosity about these things. . . . Wizards of a
certain caliber have always been drawn to that aspect of magic. . . . ”
“Yes, sir, ” said Riddle. “What I don ’t understand, though — just out
of curiosity — I mean, would one Horcrux be much use? Can you
only split your soul once? Wouldn ’t it be better, make you stronger, to
have your soul in more pieces, I mean, for instance, isn ’t seven the
most powerfully magical number, wouldn ’t seven — ?” “Merlin ’s
beard, Tom! ” yelped Slughorn. “Sev en! Isn ’t it bad enough to think of
killing one person? And in any case . . . bad enough to divide the
soul . . . but to rip it into seven pieces . . . ” Slughorn looked deeply
troubled now: He was gazing at Riddle as though he had never seen
him plainly be fore, and Harry could tell that he was regretting entering
into the conversation at all.
 498 ‘

HORCRUXES


“Of course, ” he muttered, “this is all hypothetical, what we ’re
discussing, isn ’t it? All academic . . . ”
“Yes, sir, of course, ” said Riddle quickly.
“But all the same, Tom . . . keep it quiet, what I ’ve told — that ’s to say,
what we ’ve discussed. People wouldn ’t like to think we ’ve been
chatting about Horcruxes. It ’s a banned subject at Hogwarts, you
know. . . . Dumbledore ’s particularly fierce about it. . . . ”
“I won ’t say a word, sir, ” said Riddle, and he left, but not before Harry
had glimpsed his face, which was full of that same wild hap - piness it
had worn when he had first found out that he was a w iz- ard, the sort
of happiness that did not enhance his handsome features, but made
them, somehow, less human. . . .
“Thank you, Harry, ” said Dumbledore quietly. “Let us go. . . . ” When
Harry landed back on the office floor Dumbledore was already sitting
down behind his desk. Harry sat too and waited for Dumbledore to
speak.
“I have been hoping for this piece of evidence for a very long time, ”
said Dumbledore at last. “It confirms the theory on which I have been
working, it tells me that I am right, and a lso how very far there is still
to go. . . . ”
Harry suddenly noticed that every single one of the old head - masters
and headmistresses in the portraits around the walls was awake and
listening in on their conversation. A corpulent, red - nosed wizard had
actually taken out an ear trumpet.
“Well, Harry, ” said Dumbledore, “I am sure you understood the
significance of what we just heard. At the same age as you are now,
give or take a few months, Tom Riddle was doing all he could to find
out how to make himself immortal. ”
 499 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -THREE


“You think he succeeded then, sir? ” asked Harry. “He made a
Horcrux? And that ’s why he didn ’t die when he attacked me? He had a
Horcrux hidden somewhere? A bit o f his soul was safe? ”
“A bit . . . or more, ” said Dumbledore. “You heard Voldemort: What
he particularly wanted from Horace was an opinion on what would
happen to the wizard who created more than one Horcrux, what
would happen to the wizard so determined to evade death that he
would be prepared to murder many times, rip his soul re - peatedly, so
as to store it in many, separately concealed Horcruxes. No book
would have given him that information. As far as I kn ow — as far, I
am sure, as Voldemort knew — no wizard had ever done more than
tear his soul in two. ”
Dumbledore paused for a moment, marshaling his thoughts, and then
said, “Four years ago, I received what I considered certain proof that
Voldemort had split his soul. ”
“Where? ” asked Harry “How? ”
“You handed it to me, Harry, ” said Dumbledore. “The diary, Riddle ’s
diary, the one giving instructions on how to reopen the Chamber of
Secrets. ”
“I don ’t understand, sir, ” said Harr y.
“Well, although I did not see the Riddle who came out of the di - ary,
what you described to me was a phenomenon I had never wit - nessed.
A mere memory starting to act and think for itself? A mere memory,
sapping the life out of the girl into whose ha nds it had fallen? No,
something much more sinister had lived inside that book. . . . a
fragment of soul, I was almost sure of it. The diary had been a
Horcrux. But this raised as many questions as it answered. “What
intrigued and alarmed me most was that that diary had been intended
as a weapon as much as a safeguard. ”
 500 ‘

HORCRUXES


“I still don ’t understand, ” said Harry.
“Well, it worked as a Horcrux is supposed to work — in other words,
the fragment of soul concealed inside it was kept safe and had
undoubtedly played its part in preventing the death of its owner. But
there could be no doubt that Riddle really wanted that diary read,
wanted the piece of his soul to inhabit or posse ss some - body else, so
that Slytherin ’s monster would be unleashed again. ” “Well, he didn ’t
want his hard work to be wasted, ” said Harry. “He wanted people to
know he was Slytherin ’s heir, because he couldn ’t take credit at the
time. ”
“Quite correct, ” sai d Dumbledore, nodding. “But don ’t you see,
Harry, that if he intended the diary to be passed to, or planted on,
some future Hogwarts student, he was being remarkably blasй about
that precious fragment of his soul concealed within it. The point of a
Horcru x is, as Professor Slughorn explained, to keep part of the self
hidden and safe, not to fling it into somebody else ’s path and run the
risk that they might destroy it — as indeed happened: That particular
fragment of soul is no more; you saw to that.
“The careless way in which Voldemort regarded this Horcrux seemed
most ominous to me. It suggested that he must have made — or been
planning to make — more Horcruxes, so that the loss of his first
would not be so detrimental. I did not wish to be - lieve it, bu t nothing
else seemed to make sense.
“Then you told me, two years later, that on the night that Volde - mort
returned to his body, he made a most illuminating and alarm -
ing statement to his Death Eaters. ‘ I, who have gone further than
anybody along the path that leads to immortality. ’ That was what you
told me he said. ‘ Further than anybody, ’ And I thought I knew what
that meant, though the Death Eaters did not. He was referring to
 501 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -THREE


his Horcruxes, Horcruxes in the plural, Harry, which I do not be - lieve
any other wizard has ever had. Yet it fitted: Lord Voldemort has
seemed to grow less human with the passing years, and the
transformation he has undergone se emed to me to be only explica - ble
if his soul was mutilated beyond the realms of what we might call
‘usual evil ’ . . . ”
“So he ’s made himself impossible to kill by murdering other peo -
ple? ” said Harry. “Why couldn ’t he make a Sorcerer ’s Stone, or steal
one, if he was so interested in immortality? ”
“Well, we know that he tried to do just that, five years ago, ” said
Dumbledore. “But there are several reasons why, I think, a Sor - cerer ’s
Stone would appeal less than Horcruxes to Lord Voldemort. “While
th e Elixir of Life does indeed extend life, it must be drunk regularly,
for all eternity, if the drinker is to maintain their immortality.
Therefore, Voldemort would be entirely dependent on the Elixir, and
if it ran out, or was contaminated, or if the Stone was stolen, he would
die just like any other man. Voldemort likes to operate alone,
remember. I believe that he would have found the thought of being
dependent, even on the Elixir, intolerable. Of course he was prepared
to drink it if it would take him ou t of the horrible part -life to which he
was condemned after attacking you, but only to regain a body.
Thereafter, I am convinced, he intended to continue to rely on his
Horcruxes: He would need nothing more, if only he could regain a
human form. He was alr eady im - mortal, you see . . . or as close to
immortal as any man can be. “But now, Harry, armed with this
information, the crucial mem - ory you have succeeded in procuring
for us, we are closer to the se - cret of finishing Lord Voldemort than
anyone has e ver been before. You heard him, Harry: ‘Wouldn ’t it be
better, make you stronger,

 502 ‘

HORCRUXES


to have your soul in more pieces . . . isn ’t seven the most powerfully
magical number . . . ’ Isn ’t seven the most powerfully magical number.
Yes, I think the idea of a seven -part soul would greatly appeal to Lord
Voldemort. ”
“He made seven Horcruxes? ” said Harry, horror -struck, while
several of the portraits on the walls made similar noises of shock and
outrage. “But they could be anywhere in the world — hidden —
buried or invisible — ”
“I am glad to see you appreciate the magnitude of the problem, ” said
Dumbledore calmly “But firstly , no, Harry, not seven Hor - cruxes: six.
The seventh part of his soul, however maimed, resides inside his
regenerated body. That was the part of him that lived a spectral
existence for so many years during his exile; without that, he has no
self at all. Th at seventh piece of soul will be the last that anybody
wishing to kill Voldemort must attack — the piece that lives in his
body. ”
“But the six Horcruxes, then, ” said Harry, a little desperately, “how
are we supposed to find them? ”
“You are forgetting . . . you have already destroyed one of them. And
I have destroyed another. ”
“You have? ” said Harry eagerly.
“Yes indeed, ” said Dumbledore, and he raised his blackened,
burned -looking hand. “The ring, Harry. Marvolo ’s ring. And a ter -
rible curse there wa s upon it too. Had it not been — forgive me the
lack of seemly modesty — for my own prodigious skill, and for
Professor Snape ’s timely action when I returned to Hogwarts, des -
perately injured, I might not have lived to tell the tale. However, a
withered h and does not seem an unreasonable exchange for a sev -
enth of Voldemort ’s soul. The ring is no longer a Horcrux. ”
 503 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -THREE


“But how did you find it? ”
“Well, as you now know, for many years I have made it my busi - ness
to discover as much as I can about Voldemort ’s past life. I have
traveled widely, visiting those places he once knew. I stumbled across
the ring hidden in the ruin of the Gaunts ’ house. It seems that once
Voldemort had succeeded in sealing a piece of his soul in - side it, he
did not want to wear it anymore. He hid it, protected by many
powerful enchantments, in the shack where his ancestors had once
lived (Morfin having been carted off to Az kaban, of course), never
guessing that I might one day take the trouble to visit the ruin, or that
I might be keeping an eye open for traces of magical concealment.
“However, we should not congratulate ourselves too heartily. You
destroyed the diary and I the ring, but if we are right in our theory of a
seven -part soul, four Horcruxes remain. ”
“And they could be anything? ” said Harry. “They could be old tin cans
or, I dunno, empty potion bottles. . . . ”
“You are thinking of Portkeys, Harry, which must be ordinary objects,
easy to overlook. But would Lord Voldemort use tin cans or old
potion bottles to guard his own precious soul? You are for - getting
what I have showed you. Lord Voldemort liked to collect trophies,
and he preferred objects with a powerful magical history. His pride,
his belief in his own superiority, his determination to carve for himself
a startling place in magical history; these things suggest to me that
Voldemort would have chosen his H orcruxes with some care,
favoring objects worthy of the honor. ”
“The diary wasn ’t that special. ”
“The diary, as you have said yourself, was proof that he was the
 504 ‘

HORCRUXES


Heir of Slytherin; I am sure that Voldemort considered it of stu -
pendous importance. ”
“So, the other Horcruxes? ” said Harry. “Do you think you know what
they are, sir? ”
“I can only guess, ” said Dumbledore. “For the reasons I have al - ready
given, I beli eve that Lord Voldemort would prefer objects that, in
themselves, have a certain grandeur. I have therefore trawled back
through Voldemort ’s past to see if I can find evidence that such
artifacts have disappeared around him. ”
“The locket! ” said Harry lo udly. “Hufflepuff ’s cup! ” “Yes, ” said
Dumbledore, smiling, “I would be prepared to bet — perhaps not my
other hand — but a couple of fingers, that they be - came Horcruxes
three and four. The remaining two, assuming again that he created a
total of six, ar e more of a problem, but I will hazard a guess that,
having secured objects from Hufflepuff and Slytherin, he set out to
track down objects owned by Gryffindor or Ravenclaw. Four objects
from the four founders would, I am sure, have exerted a powerful pull
over Voldemort ’s imagination. I can - not answer for whether he ever
managed to find anything of Ravenclaw ’s. I am confident, however,
that the only known relic of Gryffindor remains safe. ”
Dumbledore pointed his blackened fingers to the wall behind him,
where a ruby -encrusted sword reposed within a glass case. “Do you
think that ’s why he really wanted to come back to Hog - warts, sir? ”
said Harry. “To try and find something from one of the other
founders? ”
“My thoughts precisely, ” said Dumbledore. “But unfortunately, that
does not advance us much further, for he was turned away, or
 505 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -THREE


so I believe, without the chance to search the school. I am forced to
conclude that he never fulfilled his ambition of collecting four
founders ’ objects. He definitely had two — he may have found three
— that is the best we can do for now. ”
“Even if he got something of Ravenclaw ’s or of Gryffindor ’s, that
leaves a sixth Hor crux, ” said Harry, counting on his fingers. “Un - less
he got both? ”
“I don ’t think so, ” said Dumbledore. “I think I know what the sixth
Horcrux is. I wonder what you will say when I confess that I have
been curious for a while about the behavior of the snake, Nagini? ”
“The snake? ” said Harry, startled. “You can use animals as
Horcruxes? ”
“Well, it is inadvisable to do so, ” said Dumbledore, “because to
confide a part of your soul to something that can think and move for
itself is obviously a very risky b usiness. However, if my calcula - tions
are correct, Voldemort was still at least one Horcrux short of his goal
of six when he entered your parents ’ house with the inten - tion of
killing you.
“He seems to have reserved the process of making Horcruxes for
particularly significant deaths. You would certainly have been that. He
believed that in killing you, he was destroying the danger the prophecy
had outlined. He believed he was making himself invin - cible. I am
sure that he was intending to make his final Horcrux with your death.
“As we know, he failed. After an interval of some years, however, he
used Nagini to kill an old Muggle man, and it might then have
occurred to him to turn her into his last Horcrux. She underlines the
Slytherin connection, which enhances Lord Voldemort ’s mys - tique; I
think he is perhaps as fond of her as he can be of anything;
 506 ‘

HORCRUXES


he certainly likes to keep her close, and he seems to have an un - usual
amount of control over her, even for a Parselmouth. ”
“So, ” said Harry, “the diary ’s gone, the ring ’s gone. The cup, the
locket, and the snake are still intact, and you think there might be a
Horcrux that was once Ravenclaw ’s or Gryffindor ’s?”
“An admirably succinct and accurate summary, yes, ” said Dum -
bledore, bowing his head.
“So . . . are you still looking for them, sir? Is that where you ’ve been
going when you ’ve been leaving the school? ”
“Correct, ” said Dumbledore. “I have been lookin g for a very long
time. I think . . . perhaps . . . I may be close to finding an - other one.
There are hopeful signs. ”
“And if you do, ” said Harry quickly, “can I come with you and help
get rid of it? ”
Dumbledore looked at Harry very intently for a momen t before saying,
“Yes, I think so. ”
“I can? ” said Harry, thoroughly taken aback.
“Oh yes, ” said Dumbledore, smiling slightly. “I think you have earned
that right. ”
Harry felt his heart lift. It was very good not to hear words of caution
and protection for once. The headmasters and head - mistresses
around the walls seemed less impressed by Dumbledore ’s decision;
Harry saw a few of them shaking their heads and Phineas Nigellus
actually snorted.
“Does Voldemort know when a Horcrux is destroyed, sir? Can he feel
it? ” Harry asked, ignoring the portraits.
“A very interesting question, Harry. I believe not. I believe that
Voldemort is now so immersed in evil, and these crucial parts of
himself have been detached for so long, he does not feel as we do.
 507 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -THREE


Perhaps, at the point of death, he might be aware of his loss . . . but he
was not aware, for instance, that the diary had been destroyed until he
forced the truth out of Lucius Malfoy. When Voldemort discovered
that the diary had been mutilated and robbed of all its powers, I am
told that his anger was terrible to behold. ”
“But I thought he meant Lucius Malfoy to smuggle it into Hog -
war ts? ”
“Yes, he did, years ago, when he was sure he would be able to create
more Horcruxes, but still Lucius was supposed to wait for
Voldemort ’s say -so, and he never received it, for Voldemort van -
ished shortly after giving him the diary.
“No doubt h e thought that Lucius would not dare do anything with
the Horcrux other than guard it carefully, but he was counting too
much upon Lucius ’s fear of a master who had been gone for years and
whom Lucius believed dead. Of course, Lucius did not know what the
diary really was. I understand that Voldemort had told him the diary
would cause the Chamber of Secrets to reopen because it was cleverly
enchanted. Had Lucius known he held a portion of his mas - ter ’s soul
in his hands, he would undoubtedly have treated i t with more
reverence — but instead he went ahead and carried out the old plan
for his own ends: By planting the diary upon Arthur Weasley ’s
daughter, he hoped to discredit Arthur and get rid of a highly incrim -
inating magical object in one stroke. Ah, po or Lucius . . . what with
Voldemort ’s fury about the fact that he threw away the Horcrux for
his own gain, and the fiasco at the Ministry last year, I would not be
sur - prised if he is not secretly glad to be safe in Azkaban at the
moment. ” Harry sat in th ought for a moment, then asked, “So if all of
his
Horcruxes are destroyed, Voldemort could be killed? ”
“Yes, I think so, ” said Dumbledore. “Without his Horcruxes,

 508 ‘

HORCRUXES


Voldemort will be a mortal man with a maimed and diminished soul.
Never forget, though, that while his soul may be damaged be - yond
repair, his brain and his magical powers remain intact. It will take
uncommon skill and power to kill a wizard like Voldemor t even
without his Horcruxes. ”
“But I haven ’t got uncommon skill and power, ” said Harry, be - fore
he could stop himself.
“Yes, you have, ” said Dumbledore firmly. “You have a power that
Voldemort has never had. You can — ”
“I know! ” said Harry impatiently. “I can love! ” It was only with
difficulty that he stopped himself adding, “Big deal! ”
“Yes, Harry, you can love, ” said Dumbledore, who looked as though
he knew perfectly well what Harry had just refrained from saying.
“Which, gi ven everything that has happened to you, is a great and
remarkable thing. You are still too young to understand how unusual
you are, Harry. ”
“So, when the prophecy says that I ’ll have ‘power the Dark Lord
knows not, ’ it just means — love? ” asked Harry, fe eling a little let
down.
“Yes — just love, ” said Dumbledore. “But Harry, never forget that
what the prophecy says is only significant because Voldemort made it
so. I told you this at the end of last year. Voldemort singled you out as
the person who would be most dangerous to him —
and in doing so, he made you the person who would be most dan -
gerous to him! ”
“But it comes to the same — ”
“No, it doesn ’t!” said Dumbledore, sounding impatient now. Pointing
at Harry with his black, withered hand, he said, “You are setting too
much store by the prophecy! ”
 509 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -THREE


“But, ” spluttered Harry, “but you said the prophecy means — ” “If
Voldemort had never heard of the prophecy, would it have been
fulfilled? Would it have meant anything? Of course not! Do you think
every prophecy in the Hall of Prophecy has been ful - filled? ”
“But, ” said Harry, bewildered, “but last year, you said o ne of us would
have to kill the other — ”
“Harry, Harry, only because Voldemort made a grave error, and acted
on Professor Trelawney ’s words! If Voldemort had never mur - dered
your father, would he have imparted in you a furious desire for
revenge? Of course not! If he had not forced your mother to die for
you, would he have given you a magical protection he could not
penetrate? Of course not, Harry! Don ’t you see? Voldemort himself
created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any
idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them
realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be
one who rises against them and strikes back! Voldemort is no different!
Always he was on the lookout for th e one who would challenge him.
He heard the prophecy and he leapt into ac - tion, with the result that
he not only handpicked the man most likely to finish him, he handed
him uniquely deadly weapons! ” “But — ”
“It is essential that you understand this! ” said Dumbledore, standing
up and striding about the room, his glittering robes swooshing in his
wake; Harry had never seen him so agitated. “By attempting to kill you,
Voldemort himself singled out the remark - able person who sits here
in front of me, and gave him the tools for the job! It is Voldemort ’s
fault that you were able to see into his thoughts, his ambitions, that
you even understand the snakelike
 510 ‘

HORCRUXES


language in which he gives orders, and yet, Harry, despite your
privileged insight into Voldemort ’s world (which, incidentally, is a gift
any Death Eater would kill to have), you have never been se - duced by
the Dark Arts, never, even for a second, shown the slight - est desire to
become one of Voldemort ’s followers! ”
“Of course I haven ’t!” said Harry indignantly. “He killed my mum and
dad! ”
“You are protected, in short, by your ability to love! ” said Dum -
bledore loudly. “The only protection that can possibly work against
the lure of power like Voldemort ’s! In spite of all the temptation you
have endured, all the suffering, you remain pure of heart, just as pure
as you were at the age of eleven, when you stared into a mir - ror that
reflected your heart ’s desire, and it show ed you only the way to thwart
Lord Voldemort, and not immortality or riches. Harry, have you any
idea how few wizards could have seen what you saw in that mirror?
Voldemort should have known then what he was dealing with, but he
did not!
“But he knows it now. You have flitted into Lord Voldemort ’s mind
without damage to yourself, but he cannot possess you with - out
enduring mortal agony, as he discovered in the Ministry. I do not think
he understands why, Harry, but then, he was in such a hurry to
mutil ate his own soul, he never paused to understand the
incomparable power of a soul that is untarnished and whole. ”
“But, sir, ” said Harry, making valiant efforts not to sound argu -
mentative, “it all comes to the same thing, doesn ’t it? I ’ve got to try
and kill him, or — ”
“Got to? ” said Dumbledore. “Of course you ’ve got to! But not
because of the prophecy! Because you, yourself, will never rest until
you ’ve tried! We both know it! Imagine, please, just for a moment,
 511 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -THREE


that you had never heard that prophecy! How would you feel about
Voldemort now? Think! ”
Harry watched Dumbledore striding up and down in front of him, and
thought. He thought of his mother, his father, and Sirius. He thought
of Cedric Diggory. He thought of all the terrible deeds he knew Lord
Voldemort had done. A flame seemed to leap inside his chest, searing
his throat.
“I’d want him finished, ” said Harry quietly. “And I ’d want to do it. ”
“Of course you would! ” cried Dum bledore. “You see, the
prophecy does not mean you have to do anything! But the
prophecy caused Lord Voldemort to mark you as his equal. . . . In
other words, you are free to choose your way, quite free to turn your
back on the prophecy! But Voldemort continues to set store by the
prophecy. He will continue to hunt you . . . which makes it certain,
really, that — ”
“That one of us is going to end up killing the other, ” said Harry.
“Yes. ”
But he understood at las t what Dumbledore had been trying to tell
him. It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the
arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your
head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little
to choose between the two ways, but Dumble -
dore knew — and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce
pride, and so did my parents — that there was all the difference in
the world.



 512 ‘

C H A P T E R T W E N T Y -
F O U R










SECTUMSEMPR
A



xhausted but delighted with his night ’s work, Harry told Ron and
Hermione everything that had happened during
next morning ’s Charms lesson (having first cast the Muffliato spell
upon those nearest them). They were both satisfyingly impressed by
the way he had wheedled the memory out of Slughorn and pos - itively
awed when he told them about Voldemort ’s Horcruxes and
Dumbled ore ’s promise to take Harry along, should he find an - other
one.
“Wow, ” said Ron, when Harry had finally finished telling them
everything; Ron was waving his wand very vaguely in the direction of
the ceiling without paying the slightest bit of attention t o what he was
doing. “Wow. You ’re actually going to go with Dumbledore
. . . and try and destroy . . . wow. ”
“Ron, you ’re making it snow, ” said Hermione patiently, grab - bing his

wrist and redirecting his wand away from the ceiling from which, sure
enough, large white flakes had started to fall. Lavender
 513 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -FOUR


Brown, Harry noticed, glared at Hermione from a neighboring table
through very red eyes, and Hermione immediately let go of Ron ’s arm.
“Oh yeah, ” said Ron, looking down at his shoulders in vague surprise.
“Sorry . . . looks like we ’ve all got horrible dandruff now. . . . ”
He brushed some of the fake snow off Hermione ’s shoulder.
Lavender burst into tears. Ron looked immensely guilty and t urned his
back on her.
“We split up, ” he told Harry out of the corner of his mouth. “Last
night. When she saw me coming out of the dormitory with Hermione.
Obviously she couldn ’t see you, so she thought it had just been the
two of us. ”
“Ah, ” said Harry. “Well — you don ’t mind it ’s over, do you? ” “No, ”
Ron admitted. “It was pretty bad while she was yelling, but at least I
didn ’t have to finish it. ”
“Coward, ” said Hermione, though she looked amused. “Well, it was a
bad night for romance all ar ound. Ginny and Dean split up too,
Harry. ”
Harry thought there was a rather knowing look in her eye as she told
him that, but she could not possibly know that his insides were
suddenly dancing the conga. Keeping his face as immobile and his
voice as indif ferent as he could, he asked, “How come? ” “Oh,
something really silly . . . She said he was always trying to help her
through the portrait hole, like she couldn ’t climb in her - self . . . but
they ’ve been a bit rocky for ages. ”
Harry glanced over at Dea n on the other side of the classroom. He
certainly looked unhappy.
 514 ‘

SECTUMSEMPRA


“Of course, this puts you in a bit of a dilemma, doesn ’t it? ” said
Hermione.
“What d ’you mean? ” said Harry quickly.
“The Quidditch team, ” said Hermione. “If Ginny and Dean aren ’t
speaking . . . ”
“Oh — oh yeah, ” said Harry.
“Flitwick, ” said Ron in a warning tone. The tiny little Charms master
was bobbing his way toward them, and Hermione was the only one
who had manag ed to turn vinegar into wine; her glass flask was full of
deep crimson liquid, whereas the contents of Harry ’s and Ron ’s were
still murky brown.
“Now, now, boys, ” squeaked Professor Flitwick reproachfully. “A
little less talk, a little more action . . . Let me see you try. . . . ” Together
they raised their wands, concentrating with all their might, and pointed
them at their flasks. Harry ’s vinegar turned to ice; Ron ’s flask
exploded.
“Yes . . . for homework, ” said Professor Flitwick, reemerging from
und er the table and pulling shards of glass out of the top of his
hat, “ practice. ”
They had one of their rare joint free periods after Charms and walked
back to the common room together. Ron seemed to be pos - itively
lighthearted about the end of his relationship with Laven - der, and
Hermione seemed cheery too, though when asked what she was
grinning about she simply said, “It’s a nice day. ” Neither of them
seemed to have noticed that a fierce battle was ragin g inside Harry ’s
brain:
She ’s Ron ’s sister.
But she ’s ditched Dean!
 515 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -FOUR


She ’s still Ron ’s sister.
I’m his best mate!
That ’ll make it worse.
If I talked to him first —
He ’d hit you.
What if I don ’t care?
He ’s your best mate !
Harry barely noticed that they were climbing through the por - trait
hole into the sunny common room, and only vaguely regis - tered the
small group of seventh years clustered together there, until Hermione
cried, “Katie! You ’re back! Are you okay? ”
Harry stared: It was indeed Katie Bell, looking completely healthy and
surrounded by her jubilant friends.
“I’m really well! ” she said happily. “They let me out of St. Mungo ’s on
Monday, I had a c ouple of days at home with Mum and Dad and then
came back here this morning. Leanne was just telling me about
McLaggen and the last match, Harry. . . . ” “Yeah, ” said Harry, “well,
now you ’re back and Ron ’s fit, we ’ll have a decent chance of thrashing
Raven claw, which means we could still be in the running for the Cup.
Listen, Katie . . . ”
He had to put the question to her at once; his curiosity even drove
Ginny temporarily from his brain. He dropped his voice as Katie ’s
friends started gathering up their things; apparently they were late for
Transfiguration.
“. . . that necklace . . . can you remember who gave it to you now? ”
“No, ” said Katie, shaking her head ruefully. “Everyone ’s been asking
me, but I haven ’t got a clue. The last thing I remember was w alking
into the ladies ’ in the Three Broomsticks. ”
“You definitely went into the bathroom, then? ” said Hermione.
 516 ‘

SECTUMSEMPRA


“Well, I know I pushed open the door, ” said Katie, “so I suppose
whoever Imperiused me was standing just behind it. After that, my
memory ’s a blank until about two weeks ago in St. Mungo ’s. Listen,
I’d better go, I wouldn ’t put it past McGonagall to give me lines even
if it is my first day back. . . . ”
She caught up her bag and books and hurried after her friends, leaving
Harry, Ron, and Hermione to sit down at a window table and ponder
what she had told them.
“So it must have been a girl or a woman who gave Katie the necklace, ”
said Hermione, “to be in the ladies ’ bathroom. ”
“Or someone who looked like a girl or a woman, ” said Harry. “Don ’t
forget, there was a cauldron full of Polyjuice Potion at Hog - warts. We
know some of it got stolen. . . . ”
In his mind ’s eye, he watched a parade of Crabbes and Goyles prance
past, all transformed into girls.
“I think I ’m going to take another swig of Felix, ” said Harry, “and
have a go at the Room of Requirement again. ”
“That would be a complete waste of potion, ” said Hermione
flatly, putting down the copy of Spellman ’s Syllabary she had just
taken out of her bag. “Luck can only get you so far, Harry. The sit -
uation with Slughorn was different; you always had the ability to
persuade him, you just needed to tweak the circumstances a bit. Luck
isn ’t enough to g et you through a powerful enchantment, though.
Don ’t go wasting the rest of that potion! You ’ll need all the luck you
can get if Dumbledore takes you along with him . . . ” She dropped her
voice to a whisper.
“Couldn ’t we make some more? ” Ron asked Harry , ignoring
Hermione. “It’d be great to have a stock of it. . . . Have a look in the
book . . . ”
 517 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -FOUR


Harry pulled his copy of Advanced Potion -Making out of his bag
and looked up Felix Felicis.
“Blimey, it ’s seriously complicated, ” he said, running an eye down the
list of ingredients. “And it takes six months . . . You ’ve got to let it
stew. . . . ”
“Typical, ” said Ron.
Harry was about to put his book away again when he noticed
the corner of a page folded down; turning to it, he saw the Sectum -
sempra spell, captioned “For Enemies, ” that he had marked a few
weeks previously. He had still not found out what it did, mainly
because he did not want to test it around Hermione, but he was
considering trying it out on McLaggen next time he came up be - hind
him unawares.
The only person who was not particularly pleased to see Katie Bell
back at school was Dean Thomas, because he would no longer be
required to fill her place as Chas er. He took the blow stoically enough
when Harry told him, merely grunting and shrugging, but Harry had
the distinct feeling as he walked away that Dean and Seamus were
muttering mutinously behind his back.
The following fortnight saw the best Quidditch p ractices Harry had
known as Captain. His team was so pleased to be rid of McLaggen, so
glad to have Katie back at last, that they were flying extremely well.
Ginny did not seem at all upset about the breakup with Dean; on the
contrary, she was the life an d soul of the team. Her imita - tions of Ron
anxiously bobbing up and down in front of the goal posts as the
Quaffle sped toward him, or of Harry bellowing orders at McLaggen
before being knocked out cold, kept them all highly amused. Harry,
laughing with t he others, was glad to have an
 518 ‘

SECTUMSEMPRA


innocent reason to look at Ginny; he had received several more
Bludger injuries during practice because he had not been keeping his
eyes on the Snitch.
The battle still raged inside his head: Ginny or Ron ? Sometimes
he thought that the post -Lavender Ron might not mind too much if
he asked Ginny out, but then he remembered Ron ’s expression when
he had seen her kissing Dean, and was sure that Ron would c onsider it
base treachery if Harry so much as held her hand. . . . Yet Harry could
not help himself talking to Ginny, laughing with her, walking back
from practice with her; however much his conscience ached, he found
himself wondering how best to get her on her own. It would have
been ideal if Slughorn had given another of his little parties, for Ron
would not be around — but unfortu - nately, Slughorn seemed to have
given them up. Once or twice Harry considered asking for
Hermione ’s help, but he did not th ink he could stand seeing the smug
look on her face; he thought he caught it sometimes when Hermione
spotted him staring at Ginny or laughing at her jokes. And to
complicate matters, he had the nagging worry that if he didn ’t do it,
somebody else was sure to ask Ginny out soon: He and Ron were at
least agreed on the fact that she was too popular for her own good.
All in all, the temptation to take another gulp of Felix Felicis was
becoming stronger by the day, for surely this was a case for, as Her -
mione put it, “tweaking the circumstances ”? The balmy days slid
gently through May, and Ron seemed to be there at Harry ’s shoul - der
every time he saw Ginny. Harry found himself longing for a stroke of
luck that would somehow cause Ron to realize that not h- ing would
make him happier than his best friend and his sister falling for each
other and to leave them alone together for longer
 519 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -FOUR


than a few seconds. There seemed no chance of either while the fi- nal
Quidditch game of the season was looming; Ron wanted to talk tactics
with Harry all the time and had little thought for anything else.
Ron was not unique in this respect; interest in the Gryffindor -
Ravenclaw game was running extremely high throug hout the school,
for the match would decide the Championship, which was still wide
open. If Gryffindor beat Ravenclaw by a margin of three hundred
points (a tall order, and yet Harry had never known his team to fly
better) then they would win the Champions hip. If they won by less
than three hundred points, they would come second to Ravenclaw; if
they lost by a hundred points they would be third be - hind Hufflepuff
and if they lost by more than a hundred, they would be in fourth place
and nobody, Harry thoug ht, would ever, ever let him forget that it had
been he who had captained Gryffin - dor to their first
bottom -of -the -table defeat in two centuries.
The run -up to this crucial match had all the usual features: members
of rival Houses attempting to intimidat e opposing teams in the
corridors; unpleasant chants about individual players being rehearsed
loudly as they passed; the team members themselves ei - ther
swaggering around enjoying all the attention or else dashing into
bathrooms between classes to throw u p. Somehow, the game had
become inextricably linked in Harry ’s mind with success or failure in
his plans for Ginny. He could not help feeling that if they won by
more than three hundred points, the scenes of euphoria and a nice
loud after -match party might be just as good as a hearty swig of Felix
Felicis.
In the midst of all his preoccupations, Harry had not forgotten his
other ambition: finding out what Malfoy was up to in the
 520 ‘

SECTUMSEMPRA


Room of Requirement. He was still checking the Marauder ’s Map, and
as he was unable to locate Malfoy on it, deduced that Malfoy was still
spending plenty of time within the room. Although Harry was losing
hope that he would ever succeed in getting inside t he Room of
Requirement, he attempted it whenever he was in the vicinity, but no
matter how he reworded his request, the wall re - mained firmly
doorless.
A few days before the match against Ravenclaw, Harry found himself
walking down to dinner alone from the common room, Ron having
rushed off into a nearby bathroom to throw up yet again, and
Hermione having dashed off to see Professor Vector about a mistake
she thought she might have made in her last Arith - mancy essay. More
out of habit than anything, Ha rry made his usual detour along the
seventh -floor corridor, checking the Ma - rauder ’s Map as he went. For
a moment he could not find Malfoy anywhere and assumed he must
indeed be inside the Room of Requirement again, but then he saw
Malfoy ’s tiny, labeled dot standing in a boys ’ bathroom on the floor
below, accompanied, not by Crabbe or Goyle, but by Moaning Myrtle.
Harry only stopped staring at this unlikely coupling when he walked
right into a suit of armor. The loud crash brought him out of his
reverie; hurrying from the scene lest Filch turn up, he dashed down
the marble staircase and along the passageway below. Out - side the
bathroom, he pressed his ear against the door. He could not hear
anything. He very quietly pushed the door open.
Draco Malfoy was standing with his back to the door, his hands
clutching either side of the sink, his white -blond head bowed.
“Don ’t,” crooned Moaning Myrtle ’s voice from one of the cubi - cles.
“Don ’t . . . tell me what ’s wrong . . . I can help you. . . . ”
 521 ‘

CHAPTER
TWENTY -FOUR


“No one can help me, ” said Malfoy. His whole body was shak - ing. “I
can ’t do it. . . . I can ’t. . . . It won ’t work . . . and unless I do it soon . . .
he says he ’ll kill me. . . . ”
And Harry realized, with a shock so huge it seemed to root him to the
spot, that Malfoy was crying — actually crying — tears streaming
down his pale face into the grimy basin. Malfoy gasped and gulped and
then, with a great shudder, looked up into the crac ked mirror and saw
Harry staring at him over his shoulder. Malfoy wheeled around,
drawing his wand. Instinctively, Harry pulled out his own. Malfoy ’s
hex missed Harry by inches, shatter - ing the lamp on the wall beside
him; Harry threw himself sideways,
thought Levicorpus ! and flicked his wand, but Malfoy blocked the
jinx and raised his wand for another —
“No! No! Stop it! ” squealed Moaning Myrtle, her voice echoing loudly
around the tiled room. “Stop! STOP! ”
There was a loud bang and the bin be hind Harry exploded; Harry
attempted a Leg -Locker Curse that backfired off the wall be - hind
Malfoy ’s ear and smashed the cistern beneath Moaning Myr - tle, who
screamed loudly; water poured everywhere and Harry
slipped as Malfoy, his face contorted, cried , “ Cruci — ”
“ SECTUMSEMPRA !” bellowed Harry from the floor, waving his
wand wildly.
Blood spurted from Malfoy ’s face and chest as though he had been
slashed with an invisible sword. He staggered backward and collapsed
onto the waterlogged floor with a great splash, his wand falling from
his limp right hand.
“No — ” gasped Harry.
Slipping and staggering, Harry got to his feet and plunged
 522 ‘

SECTUMSEMPRA


toward Malfoy, whose face was now shining scarlet, his white hands
scrabbling at his blood -soaked chest.
“No — I didn ’t — ”
Harry did not know what he was saying; he fell to his knees be - side
Malfoy, who was shaking uncontrollably in a pool of his own blood.
Moaning Myrtle let out a deafening scream: “MURDER! MURDER
IN THE BATHROOM! MURDER! ”
The door banged open behind Harry and he looked up, terri - fied:
Snape had burst into the room, his face livid. Pushing Harry roughly
aside, he knelt over Malfoy , drew his wand, and traced it over the deep
wounds Harry ’s curse had made, muttering an in - cantation that
sounded almost like song. The flow of blood seemed to ease; Snape
wiped the residue from Malfoy ’s face and repeated his spell. Now the
wounds seemed to be knitting.
Harry was still watching, horrified by what he had done, barely aware
that he too was soaked in blood and water. Moaning Myrtle was still
sobbing and wailing overhead. When Snape had per - formed his
countercurse for the third time, he ha lf-lifted Malfoy into a standing
position.
“You need the hospital wing. There may be a certain amount of
scarring, but if you