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Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince 5



Its just hard, Harry said finally, in a low voice, to realize he wont write to me again.

His eyes burned suddenly and he blinked. He felt stupid for admitting 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 that 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 realized I cant shut myself away or or crack up. Sirius wouldnt have wanted that, would he? And anyway, lifes too short Look at Madam Bones, look at Emmeline Vance It could be me next, couldnt it? But if it is, he said fiercely, now looking straight into Dumbledores blue eyes gleaming in the wandlight, Ill 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 fathers son and Siriuss true godson! said Dumbledore, with an approving pat on Harrys 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.

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 Im 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 anybody 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. Ronald 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 didnt want

to worry or frighten them? said Dumbledore, 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.

Private with you? said Harry, surprised out of his preoccupied silence.

Yes. I think it is time that I took a greater hand in your education.

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 ho asked something else that had been bothering him slightly.

If Im having lessons with you, I wont have to do Occlumency lessons with Snape, will I?

Professor Snape, Harry and no, you will 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 Dumbledore, nodding.

Harry laughed.

Well, that means I wont see much of Professor Snape from now on, he said, because he wont let me carry on Potions unless I get Outstanding in my OWL., which I know I havent.

Dont count your owls before they are delivered, said Dumbledore 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 i imes 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 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 Ministry before being sent on. They do not mind in the slightest, for their only concern is your safety. However, it would be poor repayment 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 Molly any longer of the chance to deplore how thin you are.

 

 

CHAPTER 5: An Excess Of Phlegm

 

 

Harry and Dumbledore approached the back door of the Burrow, which was surrounded by the familiar litter of old Wellington boots and rusty cauldrons; Harry could hear the soft clucking of sleepy chickens coming from a distant shed. Dumbledore knocked three times and Harry saw sudden movement behind the kitchen window.

Whos there? said a nervous voice he recognized as Mrs. Weasleys. 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. Harrys doing, of course. Ah, hello, Nymphadora!

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 clutching a large mug between her hands.

Hello, Professor, she said. Wotcher, Harry.

Hi, Tonks.

Harry thought she looked drawn, even ill, and there was something forced in her smile. Certainly her appearance was less colorful than usual without her customary shade of bubble-gum-pink hair.

Id better be off, she said quickly, standing up and pulling her cloak around her shoulders. Thanks for the tea and sympathy, Molly

Please dont leave on my account, said Dumbledore courteously, I cannot stay, I have urgent matters to discuss with Rufus Scrimgeour.

No, no, I need to get going, said Tonks, not meeting Dumbledores 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 care 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 yard and then steered Harry by the shoulders into the full glow of the lantern on the table to examine his appearance.

Youre like Ron, she sighed, looking him up and down. Both of you look as though youve had Stretching jinxes put on you. I swear Rons 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, Ill knock something up.

As Harry sat down, a furry ginger cat with a squashed face lumped onto his knees and settled there, purring.

So Hermiones here? he asked happily as he tickled Crookshanks behind the ears.

Oh yes, she arrived the day before yesterday, said Mrs. Weasley, rapping a large iron pot with her wand. It bounced onto the stove with a loud clang and began to bubble at once. Everyones in bed, of course, we didnt expect you for hours. Here you are

She tapped the pot again; it rose into the air, flew toward Harry, and tipped over; Mrs. Weasley slid a bowl nearly beneath it just in lime 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 could not speak.

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 noncommittal 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 Arthurs never liked him much. The Ministrys littered with Slughorns old favorites, he was always good at giving leg ups, but he never had much time for Arthur didnt seem to think he was enough of a highflier. Well, that just shows you, even Slughorn makes mistakes. I dont know whether Rons told you in any of his letters its only just happened but Arthurs been promoted!

It could not have been clearer that Mrs. Weasley had been bursting to say this.

Harry swallowed a large amount of very hot soup and thought he could feel his throat blistering. Thats great! he gasped.

You are sweet, beamed Mrs. Weasley, possibly taking his watering eyes for emotion at the news. Yes, Rufus Scrimgeour has set up several new offices in response to the present situation, and Arthurs heading the Office for the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells and Protective Objects. Its a big job, hes got ten people reporting to him now!

What exactly?

Well, you see, in all the panic about You-Know-Who, odd things have been 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 instructions for defensive jinxes that actually make your ears fall off Well, in the main the perpetrators are just people like Mundungus Hotelier, whove never done an honest days 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 you see, its a very important job, and I tell him its 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 suggesting that it was natural to miss spark plugs.

Is Mr. Weasley still at work? Harry asked.

Yes, he is. As a matter of fact, hes a tiny bit late He said hed 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 inscribed with the name of a family member, and usually hung on i he Weasleys sitting room wall, though its current position suggested that 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.

Its been like that for a while now, said Mrs. Weasley, in an un-convincingly casual voice, ever since You-Know-Who came back into the open. I suppose everybodys in mortal danger now I dont think it can be just our family but I dont know anyone else whos got a clock like this, so I cant check. Oh!

With a sudden exclamation she pointed at the clocks face. Mr. Weasleys hand had switched to traveling.

Hes 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. Weasleys 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! Ive got to ask you your question first!

Arthur, really, this is just silly

What do you like me to call you when were 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, whispered 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 dont see why we have to go through that every time you come home, said Mrs. Weasley, still pink in the face as she helped her husband out of his cloak. I mean, a Death Eater might have forced the answer out of you before impersonating you!

I know, dear, but its Ministry procedure, and I have to set an example. Something smells good onion soup?

Mr. Weasley turned hopefully in the direction of the table.

Harry! We didnt expect you until morning!

They shook hands, and Mr. Weasley dropped into the chair beside Harry as Mrs. Weasley set a bowl of soup in front of him too.

Thanks, Molly. Its been a tough night. Some idiots started selling Metamorph-Medals. Just sling them around your neck and youll be able to change your appearance at will. A hundred thousand 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 couple of people have also sprouted tentacle like warts all over their bodies. As if St. Mungos didnt have enough to do already!

It sounds like the sort of thing Fred and George would find funny, said Mrs. Weasley hesitantly. Are you sure ?

Of course I am! said Mr. Weasley. The boys wouldnt do anything like that now, not when people are desperate for protection!

So is that why youre late, Metamorph-Medals?

No, we got wind of a nasty backfiring jinx down in Elephant 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. Ive got Fred and Georges room all ready for you, youll have it to yourself.

Why, where are they?

Oh, theyre in Diagon Alley, sleeping in the little flat over their joke shop as theyre so busy, said Mrs. Weasley. I must say, I didnt approve at first, but they do seem to have a bit of a flair for business! Come on, dear, your trunks already up there.

Night, Mr. Weasley, said Harry, pushing back his chair. Crookshanks leapt lightly from his lap and slunk out of the room.

Gnight, 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 Georges bedroom was on the second floor. Mrs. Weasley 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 smell of what Harry thought was gunpowder. A considerable amount of floor space was devoted to a vast number of unmarked, sealed cardboard boxes, amongst which stood Harrys school trunk. The room looked as though it was being used as a temporary warehouse.

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 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 didnt know you were here already! said a loud and excited voice, and he received a sharp blow to the top of the head.

Ron, dont hit him! said a girls voice reproachfully.

Harrys hand found his glasses and he shoved them on, though I he light was so bright he could hardly see anyway. A long, looming shadow quivered in front of him for a moment; 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? Mums only just told us!

About one oclock 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 didnt talk to me much, but I like it better that way. Howre you, Hermione?

Oh, Im 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 Siriuss death or any other miserable subject at the moment, he said, Whats the time? Have I missed breakfast?

Dont worry about that, Mums bringing you up a tray; she reckons you look underfed, said Ron, rolling his eyes. So, whats been going on?

Nothing much, Ive just been stuck at my aunt and uncles, havent I?

Come off it! said Ron. Youve been off with Dumbledore!

It wasnt that exciting. He just wanted me to help him persuade this old teacher to come out of retirement. His names 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 itd be something like that.

You did? said Harry, amused.

Yeah yeah, now Umbridge has left, obviously we need a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, dont we? So, er, whats he like?

He looks a bit like a walrus, and he used to be Head of Slytherin, said Harry. Something 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 hell be a good teacher?

Dunno, said Harry. He cant be worse than Umbridge, can he?

I know someone whos worse than Umbridge, said a voice from the doorway. Rons younger sister slouched into the room, looking irritable. Hi, Harry.

Whats up with you? Ron asked.

Its her, said Ginny, plonking herself down on Harrys bed. Shes driving me mad.

Whats she done now? asked Hermione sympathetically.

Its the way she talks to me youd think I was about three!

I know, said Hermione, dropping her voice. Shes so full of herself.

Harry was astonished to hear Hermione talking about Mrs. Weasley like this and could not blame Ron for saying angrily, Cant you two lay off her for five seconds?

Oh, thats right, defend her, snapped Ginny. We all know you cant get enough of her.

This seemed an odd comment to make about Rons 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 doorway, 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 perfection, 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 just about to do it myself!

Eet was no trouble, said Fleur Delacour, setting the tray across Harrys knees and then swooping to kiss him on each cheek: He felt the places where her mouth had touched him burn. I ave been 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 hadnt 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 anothers 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 isnt 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 the 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 theyve hurried into this engagement, thats all!

Theyve known each other a year, said Ron, who looked oddly groggy and was staring at the closed door.

Well, thats not very long! I know why its happened, of course. Its all this uncertainty with You-Know-Who coming back, people think they might be dead tomorrow, so theyre rushing all sorts of decisions theyd 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? Hes a hardworking, down-to-earth sort of person, whereas shes

A cow, said Ginny, nodding. But Bills not that down-to-earth. Hes a Curse-Breaker, isnt he, he likes a bit of adventure, a bit of glamour I expect thats why hes gone for Phlegm.

Stop calling her that, Ginny, said Mrs. Weasley sharply, as Harry and Hermione laughed. Well, Id better get on Eat your eggs while theyre 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.

Dont you get used to her if shes staying in the same house? Harry asked.

Well, you do, said Ron, but if she jumps out at you unexpectedly, like then

Its 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 dont really want her around forever? Ginny asked Ron incredulously. When he merely shrugged, she said, Well, Mums going to put a stop to it if she can, I bet you anything.

Hows she going to manage that? asked Harry.

She keeps trying to get Tonks round for dinner. I think shes hoping Bill will fall for Tonks instead. I hope he does, Id much rather have her in the family.

Yeah, thatll work, said Ron sarcastically. Listen, no bloke in his right minds going to fancy Tonks when Fleurs around. I mean, Tonks is okay-looking when she isnt doing stupid things to her hair and her nose, but

Shes a damn sight nicer than Phlegm? said Ginny.

And shes more intelligent, shes an Auror! said Hermione from the corner.

Fleurs 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 Any, do you? asked Ginny scornfully.

No, said Harry, wishing he hadnt spoken, I was just saying, Phlegm I mean, Fleur

Id much rather have Tonks in the family, said Ginny. At least shes a laugh.

She hasnt been much of a laugh lately, said Ron. Every time Ive seen her shes looked more like Moaning Myrtle.

Thats not fair, snapped Hermione. She still hasnt got over what happened you know I mean, he was her cousin!

Harrys heart sank. They had arrived at Sirius. He picked up a fork and began shoveling scrambled eggs into his mouth, hoping to deflect 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

Thats not the point, said Hermione. She thinks it was her limit he died!

How does she work that one out? asked Harry, in spite of himself.

Well, she was fighting Bellatrix Lestrange, wasnt she? I think she feels that if only she had finished her off, Bellatrix couldnt have killed Sirius.

Thats stupid, said Ron.

Its survivors guilt, said Hermione. I know Lupins tried to talk her round, but shes still really down. Shes actually having trouble with her Metamorphosing!

With her?

She cant change her appearance like she used to, explained Hermione. I think her powers must have been affected by shock, or something.

I didnt know that could happen, said Harry.

Nor did I, said Hermione, but I suppose if youre really depressed

The door opened again and Mrs. Weasley popped her head in. Ginny, she whispered, come downstairs and help me with the lunch.

Im talking to this lot! said Ginny, outraged.

Now! said Mrs. Weasley, and withdrew.

She only wants me there so she doesnt 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.

Harry took advantage of the temporary silence to eat more breakfast. Hermione was peering into Fred and Georges boxes, though every now and then she cast sideways looks at Harry. Ron, who was now helping himself to Harrys toast, was still gazing dreamily at the door.

Whats this? Hermione asked eventually, holding up what looked like a small telescope.

Dunno, said Ron, but if Fred and George left it here, its probably not ready for the joke shop yet, so be careful

Your mum said the shops going well, said Harry. Said Fred and George have got a real flair for business.

Thats an understatement, said Ron. Theyre raking in the Galleons! I cant wait to see the place, we havent been to Diagon Alley yet, because Mum says Dads got to be there for extra security and hes 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?





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