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Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince 23



I was watching that, Potty! he told Harry indignantly, pointing 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 wont, or Dobby will shut Kreachers 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 Kreachers mistress say ?

Exactly what Kreachers mistress would have said they did not find out, for at that moment Dobby sank his knobbly little fist into Kreachers 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 making 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, wasnt it?

Yeah, said Harry, twisting Kreachers wizened arm into a half nelson. Right Im forbidding you to fight each other! Well, Kreacher, youre forbidden to fight Dobby. Dobby, I know Im 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 bow even as he gave Harry a look that plainly wished him a painful death.

Yeah, I did, said Harry, glancing toward Madam Pomfreys office door to check that the Muffliato spell was still working; there was no sign that she had heard any of the commotion. Ive got a job for you.

Kreacher will do whatever Master wants, said Kreacher, sinking 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 tail Draco Malfoy.

Ignoring the look of mingled surprise and exasperation on Rons face, Harry went on, I want to know where hes going, who hes meeting, and what hes doing. I want you to follow him around the clock.

Yes, Harry Potter! said Dobby at once, his great eyes shining with excitement. And if Dobby does it wrong, Dobby will throw himself off the topmost tower, Harry Potter!

There wont 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?

Thats the one, said Harry, foreseeing a great danger and determining to prevent it immediately. And youre forbidden to tip him off, Kreacher, or to show him what youre 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 instructions he had just been given and waited. After a moment or two, and to Harrys great satisfaction, Kreacher bowed deeply again and said, with bitter resentment, Master thinks of everything, and Kreacher must obey him even though Kreacher would much rather be the servant of the Malfoy boy, oh yes

Thats settled, then, said Harry. Ill want regular reports, but make sure Im not surrounded by people when you turn up. Ron and Hermione are okay. And dont tell anyone what youre doing. Just stick to Malfoy like a couple of wart plasters.

 

 

CHAPTER 20: Lord Voldemorts Request

 

 

Harry and Ron left the hospital wing first thing on Monday morning, restored to full health by the ministrations 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 Harrys chest suddenly raised its head, sniffing the air hopefully.

What did they row 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 tutus. She looked terrified at the sight of the approaching sixth years and dropped the heavy brass scales she was carrying.

Its all right! said Hermione kindly, hurrying forward to help her. Here

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 theyre 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 Bludgu at you, said Hermione.

It mustve looked funny, said Ron reasonably. It didnt look funny at all! said Hermione hotly. It looked terrible and if Coote and Peakes hadnt 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 Hermione, giving Harry a sharp look.

I just dont 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, Harry! giving him an excuse to turn his back on her. Oh, hi, Luna.

I went to the hospital wing to find you, said Luna, rummaging in her bag. But they said youd 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 Rons hands, finally pulling out a rather grubby scroll of parchment that she handed to Harry.

Ive 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 to Luna as she took back the green onion, the toadstool, and the cat litter. Luna smiled vaguely.

Youre making fun of me, arent you? she said. Everyone says I was dreadful.

No, Im serious! said Ron earnestly. I cant remember enjoying commentary more! What is this, by the way? he added, holding the onionlike object up to eye level.

Oh, its a Gurdyroot, she said, stuffing the cat litter and the toadstool back into her bag. You can keep it if you like, Ive got a few of them. Theyre really excellent for warding off Gulping Plimpies. And she walked away, leaving Ron chortling, still clutching the Gurdyroot.

You know, shes grown on me, Luna, he said, as they set off again for the Great Hall. I know shes insane, but its in a good He stopped talking very suddenly. Lavender Brown was standing at the foot of the marble staircase looking thunderous. Hi, said Ron nervously.

Cmon, Harry muttered to Hermione, and they sped past, though not before they had heard Lavender say, Why didnt you tell me you were getting out today? And why was she with you?

Ron looked both sulky and annoyed when he appeared at breakfast half an hour later, and though he sat with Lavender, Harry did not see them exchange a word all the time they were together. Hermione was acting as though she was quite oblivious to all of this, 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) Harrys 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 oclock. Listen, Ive got to hurry or Ill be late for Dumbledore

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 headmasters office. The gargoyle leapt aside at the mention of toffee eclairs, 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 Professor Trelawney.

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 exasperated voice, there is no question of throwing you unceremoniously from anywhere, but Harry does have an appointment, and I really dont 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

Perhaps I shall find a school where my talents are better appreciated

She pushed past Harry and disappeared down the spiral staircase; 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 Dumbledores desk that the Pensieve lay between them once more, as did two more tiny crystal bottles full of swirling memory.

Professor Trelawney still isnt happy Firenze is teaching, then? Harry 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 Trelawney to leave. Between ourselves, she has no idea of the danger she would be in outside 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 discuss. 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 lessons 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 had asked him to extract from Professor Slughorn. Well, I asked Professor Slughorn about it at the end of Potions, sir, but, er, he wouldnt 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 sensation 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 exercised all of your considerable ingenuity? That you have left 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 attempt to get hold of the memory suddenly seemed embarrassingly feeble. Well the day Ron swallowed love potion 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 impress 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 Harrys 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.

 

Sir, he said, a little desperately, it isnt that I wasnt bothered or anything, Ive just had other other things

Other things on your mind, Dumbledore finished the sentence 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 portrait of Armando Dippet over Dumbledores 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, Professor Dumbledore, Im really sorry. I should have done more I should have realized you wouldnt have asked me to do it if it wasnt 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.

Ill do it, sir, Ill 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 remember where that was?

Yes, sir, said Harry 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 Professor Slughorn about Horcruxes, he mumbled shamefacedly.

Very good, said Dumbledore. 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.

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 account of his life since he left Hogwarts. However, I have two last memories that I would like to share with you. Dumbledore indicated 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 seat 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 peoples 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 examination 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 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 refused 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 Hokeys memory. But this was not Voldemorts 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 first 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 Dumbledore. 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 exactly how he felt about Hogwarts too.

Secondly, the castle is a stronghold of ancient magic. Undoubtedly Voldemort had penetrated many more of its secrets than most of the students who pass through the place, but he may have 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 influence over young witches and wizards. Perhaps he had gained the idea from Professor Slughorn, the teacher with whom he was on best terms, who had demonstrated how influential a role a teacher 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 didnt 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 convinced 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 unusual and powerful properties. Voldemort was sent to persuade people to part with their treasures for sale by the partners, and he was, by all accounts, unusually gifted at doing this.

Ill bet he was, said Harry, unable to contain himself.

Well, quite, said Dumbledore, with a faint smile. And now it is 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 tumbled 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 scarlet 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 hed come at four, its only a couple of minutes to and hes never been late yet!

She tucked away her powder puff as the house-elf straightened up. The top of the elfs head barely reached the seat of Hepzibahs chair, and her papery skin hung off her frame just like the crisp linen sheet she wore draped like 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.

Harry could only assume that it was down in Hokeys contract that she must lie through her teeth when asked this question, because Hepzibah Smith looked a long way from lovely in his opinion.

A tinkling doorbell rang and both mistress and elf jumped.

Quick, quick, hes here, Hokey! cried Hepzibah and 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 cabinets full of little lacquered boxes, cases full 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, followed by a tall young man Harry had no difficulty whatsoever in recognizing as Voldemort. 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 more 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 Hepzibahs fat little hand, brushing it with his lips.

I brought you flowers, he said quietly, producing a bunch of roses from nowhere.

You naughty boy, you shouldnt 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 Wheres Hokey? Ah

The house-elf had come dashing back into the room carrying a tray of little cakes, which she set at her mistresss elbow.

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, Ive said it a hundred times

Voldemort smiled mechanically and Hepzibah simpered.

Well, whats your excuse for visiting this time? she asked, bat-ring her lashes.

Mr. Burke would like to make an improved offer for the goblin-made armor, said Voldemort. Five hundred Galleons, he feels it is a more than fair

Now, now, not so fast, or Ill think youre only here for my trinkets! 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. Ive something to show you that Ive never shown Mr. Burke! Can you keep a secret, Tom? Will you promise you wont tell Mr. Burke Ive got it? Hed never let me rest if he knew Id shown it to you, and Im not selling, not to Burke, not to anyone! But you, Tom, youll appreciate it for its history, not how many Galleons you can get for it.

Id 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 youre 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 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 youll like this, Tom Oh, if my family knew I was showing you They cant wait to get their hands on this!

She opened the lid. Harry edged forward a little to get 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 cup 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 Hepzibahs face, except that her tiny eyes were fixed upon Voldemorts handsome features.

A badger, murmured Voldemort, examining the engraving upon the cup. Then this was ?

Helga Hufflepuffs, as you very well know, you clever boy! said Hepzibah, leaning forward with a loud creaking of corsets and actually pinching his hollow cheek. Didnt I tell you I was distantly descended? This has been handed down in the family for years and years. Lovely, isnt it? And all sorts of powers its supposed to possess too, but I havent tested them thoroughly, I just keep it nice and safe in here

She hooked the cup back off Voldemorts long forefinger and restored it gently to its box, too intent upon settling it carefully back into position to notice the shadow that crossed Voldemorts face as the cup was taken away.

Now then, said Hepzibah happily, wheres 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 youll like this even more, Tom, she whispered. Lean in a little, dear boy, so you can see Of course, Burke knows Ive got this one, I bought it from him, and I daresay hed love to get it back when Im 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.

Slytherins mark, he said quietly, as the light played upon an ornate, serpentine S.

Thats 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 couldnt 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: Voldemorts eyes flashed scarlet at the words, and Harry saw his knuckles whiten on the lockets chain.

I daresay Burke paid her a pittance but there you are Pretty, isnt it? And again, all kinds of powers attributed to it, though I just keep it nice and safe

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.

So there you are, Tom, clear, 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, Im very well

I thought but a trick of the light, I suppose said Hepzibah, looking unnerved, and Harry guessed that she too had seen the momentary red gleam in Voldemorts eyes. Here, Hokey, take these away and lock them up again The usual enchantments

Time to leave, Harry, said Dumbledore quietly, and as the in tie elf bobbed away bearing the boxes, Dumbledore grasped Harry once again above the elbow and together they rose up through oblivion and back to Dumbledores 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 mistresss evening cocoa by accident.





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