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Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince 35



What do you want? asked Harry flatly.

Scrimgeour looked annoyed but, as before, hastily modified his expression to one of sorrowful understanding.

You are, of course, devastated, he said. I know that you were very close to Dumbledore. I think you may have been his favourite ever pupil. The bond between the two of you -

What do you want? Harry repeated, coming to a halt.

Scrimgeour stopped too, leaned on his stick and stared at Harry, his expression shrewd now.

The word is that you were with him when he left the school the night that he died.

Whose word? said Harry.

Somebody Stupefied a Death Eater on top of the Tower after Dumbledore died. There were also two broomsticks up there. The Ministry can add two and two, Harry.

Glad to hear it, said Harry. Well, where I went with Dumbledore and what we did is my business. He didnt want people to know.

Such loyalty is admirable, of course, said Scrimgeour, who seemed to be restraining his irritation with difficulty, bul Dumbledore is gone, Harry. Hes gone.

He will only be gone from the school when none here are loyal to him, said Harry, smiling in spite of himself.

My dear boy even Dumbledore cannot return from the-

I am not saying he can. You wouldnt understand. But Ive got nothing to tell you.

Scrimgeour hesitated, then said, in what was evidently supposed to be a tone of delicacy, The Ministry can offer you all sorts of protection, you know, Harry. I would be delighted to place a couple of my Aurors at your service -

Harry laughed.

Voldemort wants to kill me himself and Aurors wont stop him. So thanks for the offer, but no thanks.

So, said Scrimgeour, his voice cold now, the request I made of you at Christmas -

What request? Oh yeah the one where I tell the world what a great job youre doing in exchange for

for raising everyones morale! snapped Scrimgeour.

Harry considered him for a moment.

Released Stan Shunpike yet?

Scrimgeour turned a nasty purple colour highly reminiscent of Uncle Vernon.

I see you are -

Dumbledores man through and through, said Harry. Thats right.

Scrimgeour glared at him for another moment, then turned and limped away without another word. Harry could see Percy and the rest of the Ministry delegation waiting for him, casting nervous glances at the sobbing Hagrid and Grawp, who were still in their seats. Ron and Hermione were hurrying towards Harry, passing Scrimgeour going in the opposite direction; Harry turned and walked slowly on, waiting for them to catch up, which they finally did in the shade of a beech tree under which they had sat in happier times.



What did Scrimgeour want? Hermione whispered.

Same as he wanted at Christmas, shrugged Harry. Wanted me to give him inside information on Dumbledore and be the Ministrys new poster boy.

Ron seemed to struggle with himself for a moment, then he said loudly to Hermione, Look, let me go back and hit Percy!

No, she said firmly, grabbing his arm.

Itll make me feel better!

Harry laughed. Even Hermione grinned a little, though her smile faded as she looked up at the castle.

I cant bear the idea that we might never come back. she said softly. How can Hogwarts close?

Maybe it wont, said Ron. Were not in any more danger here than we are at home, are we? Everywheres the same now. Id even say Hogwarts is safer, there are more wizards inside to defend the place. What dyou reckon, Harry?

Im not coming back even if it does reopen, said Harry.

Ron gaped at him, but Hermione said sadly, I knew you were going to say that. But then what will you do? 1

Im going back to the Dursleys once more, because Dumbledore wanted me to, said Harry. But itll be a short visit, and then Ill be gone for good.

But where will you go if you dont come back to school?

I thought I might go back to Godrics Hollow, Harry muttered. He had had the idea in his head ever since the night of Dumbledores death. For me, it started there, all of it. Ive just got a feeling I need to go there. And I can visit my parents graves, Id like that.

And then what? said Ron.

Then Ive got to track down the rest of the Horcruxes, havent I? said Harry, his eyes upon Dumbledores white tomb, reflected in the water on the other side of the lake. Thats what he wanted me to do, thats why he told me all about them. If Dumbledore was right and Im sure he was -there are still four of them out there. Ive got to find them and destroy them and then Ive got to go after the seventh bit of Voldemorts soul, the bit thats still in his body, and Im the one whos going to kill him. And if I meet Severus Snape along the way, he added, so much trie better tor me, so mucn the worse for him.

There was a long silence. The crowd had almost dispersed now, the stragglers giving the monumental figure of Grawp a wide berth as he cuddled Hagrid, whose howls of grief were still echoing across the water.

Well be there, Harry, said Ron.

What?

At your aunt and uncles house, said Ron. And then well go with you, wherever youre going.

No - said Harry quickly; he had not counted on this, he had meant them to understand that he was undertaking this most dangerous journey alone.

You said to us once before, said Hermione quietly, that there was time to turn back if we wanted to. Weve had time, havent we?

Were with you whatever happens, said Ron. But, mate, youre going to have to come round my mum and dads house before we do anything else, even Godrics Hollow.

Why?

Bill and Fleurs wedding, remember?

Harry looked at him, startled; the idea that anything as normal as a wedding could still exist seemed incredible and yet wonderful.

Yeah, we shouldnt miss that, he said finally.

His hand closed automatically around the fake Horcrux, but in spite of everything, in spite of the dark and twisting path he saw stretching ahead for himself, in spite of the final meeting with Voldemort he knew must come, whether in a month, in a year, or in ten, he felt his heart lift at the thought that there was still one last golden day of peace left to enjoy with Ron and Hermione.

The End.





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