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Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince 13



Ar, well then, said Hagrid. Theres no way yeh couldve done it Im sorry Ive bin yeh know Ive jus bin worried about 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 substituted 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.

Im 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 cracking noise from one of his back teeth. And Ive got that detention with Snape tonight, I havent got much time for dinner.

As they came into the castle they spotted Cormac McLaggen entering 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 Hermiones 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 standing 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! Anyway, hes got a nasty temper, you saw how he reacted when he didnt get in you wouldnt have wanted someone like that on the team.

 

No, said Harry. No, I suppose thats true. But wasnt that dishonest, Hermione? I mean, youre a prefect, arent 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 Harrys stomach ache with hunger, but they had barely taken three steps toward the Gryffindor table when Professor Slughorn appeared in front of them, blocking their path.

Harry, Harry, just the man I was hoping to see! he boomed genially, 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? Were having a little party, just a few rising stars, Ive got McLaggen coming and Zabini, the charming Melinda Bobbin I dont know whether you know her? Her family owns a large chain of apothecaries and, of course, I hope very much that Miss Granger will favor me by coming too.



Slughorn made 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 cant come, Professor, said Harry at once. Ive got a detention with Professor Snape.

Oh dear! said Slughorn, his face falling comically. Dear, dear, I was counting on you, Harry! Well, now, Ill just have to have a word with Severus and explain the situation. Im sure Ill be able to persuade him to postpone your detention. Yes, Ill see you both later! He bustled away out of the Hall.

Hes got no chance of persuading Snape, said Harry, the moment Slughorn was out of earshot. This detentions already been postponed once; Snape did it for Dumbledore, but he wont do it for anyone else.

Oh, I wish you could come, I dont want to go on my own! said Hermione anxiously; Harry knew that she was thinking about McLaggen.

I doubt youll be alone, Ginnyll 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 dinner 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 dads in here, Ron hes all right! she added quickly, for Ron had looked around in alarm. It just says hes been to visit the Malfoys house. This second search of the Death Eaters residence does not seem to have yielded any results. Arthur Weasley of the Office for the Detection and Confiscation 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 Kings Cross about Malfoy and that thing he was trying to get Borgin to fix! Well, if its 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, werent we?

Were you? said Harry, taken aback. I wasnt!

Oh no, of course you werent, I forgot you were late. Well, Filch ran over all of us with Secrecy Sensors when we got into the entrance hall. Any Dark object would have been found, I know for a fact Crabbe had a shrunken head confiscated. So you see, Malfoy cant 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.

Someones 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 nothing 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, its 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 Im not invited to any parties, said Ron, getting to his feet again, I think Ill go to bed.

He stomped off toward the door to the boys dormitories, leaving Harry and Hermione staring after him.

Harry? said the new Chaser, Demelza Robins, appearing suddenly at his shoulder. Ive got a message for you.

From Professor Slughorn? asked Harry, sitting up hopefully.

No from Professor Snape, said Demelza. Harrys heart sank. He says youre to come to his office at half past eight tonight to do your detention er no matter how many party invitations youve received. And he wanted you to know youll be sorting out rotten flobberworms from good ones, to use in Potions and and he says theres no need to bring protective gloves.

Right, said Harry grimly. Thanks a lot, Demelza.

 

 

CHAPTER 12: Silver and opals

 

 

Where was Dumbledore, and what was he doing?

Harry caught sight of the headmaster only twice over the next 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, comforted, 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 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 Princes copy of Advanced 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 was earning him such a glowing reputation with Slughorn, but also the imaginative little jinxes and hexes scribbled in the margins, 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 Princes self-invented spells. There had been a hex that caused toenails to grow alarmingly fast (he had tried this on Crabbe in the corridor, with very entertaining results); a jinx that glued the tongue to the roof of the mouth (which he had twice used, to general applause, on an unsuspecting 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 disapproving 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 examine 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:

Levicorpus (nvbl)

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: Everyone 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 Ill 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 the 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 continued to roar with laughter.

Tomorrow, said Ron in a muffled voice, Id rather you set the alarm clock.

By the time they had got dressed, padding themselves out with several of Mrs. Weasleys hand-knitted sweaters and carrying cloaks, scarves, and gloves, Rons shock had subsided and he had decided that Harrys new spell was highly amusing; so amusing, in fact, that he lost 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 worst conclusion, dont you?

Was it?

Well yeah, it was, but so what?

So you just decided to try out an unknown, handwritten incantation and see what would happen?

Why does it matter if its handwritten? said Harry, preferring not to answer the rest of the question.

Because its probably not Ministry of Magic approved, said Hermione. And also, she added, as Harry and Ron rolled their eyes, because Im 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, thats all!

Dangling people upside down by the ankle? said Hermione. Who puts their time and energy into making up spells like that?

Fred and George, said Ron, shrugging, its 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 wonderful possibility occurred to him. Could the Half-Blood Prince possibly be ?

Maybe your dad did use it, Harry, said Hermione, but hes not the only one. Weve seen a whole bunch of people use it, in case youve forgotten. 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 said robustly. They were abusing it. Harry and his dad were just having a laugh. You dont like the Prince, Hermione, he added, pointing a sausage at her sternly, because hes better than you at Potions

Its got nothing to do with that! said Hermione, her cheeks reddening. I just think its very irresponsible to start performing spells when you dont even know what theyre for, and stop talking about the Prince as if its his title, I bet its just a stupid nickname, and it doesnt seem as though he was a very nice person to me!

I dont see where you get that from, said Harry heatedly. If hed been a budding Death Eater he wouldnt have been boasting about being half-blood, would he?

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 cant all be pure-blood, there arent enough pure-blood wizards left, said Hermione stubbornly. I expect most of them are half-bloods pretending to be pure. Its only Muggle-borns they hate, theyd be quite happy to let you and Ron join up.

There is no way theyd let me be a Death Eater! said Ron indignantly, a bit of sausage flying off the fork he was now brandishing at Hermione and hitting Ernie Macmillan on the head. My whole family are blood traitors! Thats as bad as Muggle-borns to Death Eaters!

And theyd love to have me, said Harry sarcastically. Wed be best pals if they didnt 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, Im supposed to give you this.

It was a scroll of parchment with Harrys name written upon it in familiar thin, slanting writing.

Thanks, Ginny Its Dumbledores next lesson! Harry told Ron and Hermione, pulling open the parchment and quickly reading its contents. Monday evening! He felt suddenly light and happy. Want to join us in Hogsmeade, Ginny? he asked.

Im going with Dean might see you there, she replied, waving 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 Hogsmeade. The process took even longer than normal as Filch was triple-checking everybody with his Secrecy Sensor.

What does it matter if were smuggling Dark stuff OUT? demanded Ron, eyeing the long thin Secrecy Sensor with apprehension. 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 might not have had a better time in the warm common room, and when they finally reached Hogsmeade and saw that Zonkos 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 gloved 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. Lets stay here all afternoon.

Harry, mboy! said a booming voice from behind them.

Oh no, muttered Harry. The three of them turned to see Professor Slughorn, who was wearing an enormous furry hat and an overcoat with matching fur collar, clutching a large bag of crystalized pineapple, and occupying at least a quarter of the shop.

Harry, thats three of my little suppers youve missed now! said Slughorn, poking him genially in the chest. It wont do, mboy, Im determined to have you! Miss Granger loves them, dont you?

Yes, said Hermione helplessly, theyre really

So why dont you come along, Harry? demanded Slughorn.

Well, Ive had Quidditch practice, Professor, said Harry, who 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 the hard work! said Slughorn. But a little recreation never hurt any body. Now, how about Monday night, you cant possibly want to practice in this weather

I cant, Professor, Ive got er an appointment with Professor Dumbledore that evening.

Unlucky again! cried Slughorn dramatically. Ah, well you cant evade me forever, Harry!

And with a regal wave, he waddled out of the shop, taking as little notice of Ron as though he had been a display of Cockroach Clusters.

I cant believe youve wriggled out of another one, said Hermione, shaking her head. Theyre not that bad, you know Theyre even quite fun sometimes But then she caught sight of Rons expression. Oh, look theyve 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.

Lets go to the Three Broomsticks, said Harry. Itll 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; nobody 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; squinting through his rain-washed glasses Harry recognized the barman who worked in the other Hogsmeade pub, the Hogs Head. As Harry, 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, releasing what looked like the entire contents of a junk shop window.

Oh, ello, Arry, said Mundungus Fletcher, with a most unconvincing stab at airiness. Well, dont 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 Rons hand and stuffing it back into the case. Well, Ill 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.

Harry! squealed Hermione.

You took that from Sinuss 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 mustnt! shrieked Hermione, as Mundungus started to turn blue.

There was a bang, and Harry felt his hands fly off Mundunguss 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 !

Theres no point, Harry. Tonks had appeared out of nowhere, her mousy hair wet with sleet.

Mundungus will probably be in London by now. Theres no point yelling.

Hes nicked Siriuss 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 Broomsticks. The moment he was inside, Harry burst out, He was nicking Siriuss stuff!

I know, Harry, but please dont shout, people are staring, whispered Hermione. Go and sit down, Ill get you a drink.

Harry was still fuming when Hermione returned to their table a few minutes later holding three bottles of butterbeer.

Cant the Order control Mundungus? Harry demanded of the other two in a furious whisper. Cant they at least stop him stealing everything thats not fixed down when hes 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, Id be annoyed too, I know its your things hes stealing

Harry gagged on his butterbeer; he had momentarily forgotten that he owned number twelve, Grimmauld Place.

Yeah, its my stuff! he said. No wonder he wasnt pleased to see me! Well, Im going to tell Dumbledore whats going on, hes 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 barmaid, Madam Rosmerta, for whom he had long nursed a soft spot.

I expect nothings 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 Sirius, and how he had hated those silver goblets anyway. Hermione drummed her fingers on the table, her eyes flickering between Ron and the bar. The moment Harry drained the last drops in his bottle 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 their gloves, then followed Katie Bell and a friend out of the pub and back up the High Street. Harrys 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, because she and Dean were cozily closeted in Madam Puddifoots 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. Its nothing to do with you, Leanne! Harry heard Katie say.

They rounded a corner in the lane, sleet coming thick and fast, blurring Harrys 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 package 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, something eerie Her hair was whipped around her by the fierce wind, but her eyes were closed and her face was quite empty of 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 scream too and seized Katies ankles, trying to tug her back to the ground. Harry, Ron, and Hermione rushed forward to help, but even as they grabbed Katies 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 lowered her to the ground where she thrashed and screamed, apparently unable to recognize any of them.

Harry looked around; the landscape seemed deserted.

Stay there! he shouted at the others over the howling wind. Im 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 beaverskin coat. Jus bin visitin Grawp, hes comin on so well yeh wouldn

Hagrid, someones hurt back there, or cursed, or something

Wha ? said Hagrid, bending lower to hear what Harry was saying over the raging wind.

Someones been cursed! bellowed Harry.

Cursed? Whos bin cursed not Ron? Hermione?

No, its not them, its 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!

Somethings happened to her! sobbed Leanne. I dont know 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, Katies piercing screams had died away and the only sound was the roar of the wind.

Hermione hurried over to Katies wailing friend and put an arm around her.

Its Leanne, isnt 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 outstretched, but Harry seized his arm and pulled him back.

Dont touch it!

He crouched down. An ornate opal necklace was visible, poking out of the paper.

Ive 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 had started to shake uncontrollably. How did Katie get hold of this?

Well, thats why we were arguing. She came back from the bathroom in the Three Broomsticks holding it, said it was a surprise for somebody at Hogwarts and she had to deliver it. She looked all funny when she said it Oh no, oh no, I bet shed been Imperiused and I didnt realize!





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