Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince 7

No they wont! 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, unfinished 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 expensive 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 ascending the steps to a real set of gallows, both perched on a box that read: Reusable hangman spell it or hell swing!

Patented Daydream Charms

Hermione had managed to squeeze through to a large display near the counter and was reading the information 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 to 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 extraordinary magic!

For that, 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 whats happened to your eye, Hermione?

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 unscrewed it gingerly to reveal a thick yellow paste.

Just dab it on, that bruisell be gone within the hour, said Fred. We had to find a decent bruise remover. Were testing most of our products on ourselves.

Hermione looked nervous. It is safe, isnt it? she asked.

Course it is, said Fred bracingly. Come on, Harry, Ill give you a tour.

Harry left Hermione dabbing her black eye with paste and followed 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. Its not a big earner, but we do fairly steady business, theyre great novelties Oh, heres George

Freds twin shook Harrys hand energetically.

Giving him the tour? Come through the back, Harry, thats where were making the real moneypocket anything, you, and youll pay in more than Galleons! he added warningly to a small boy who hastily whipped his hand out of the tub labeled:


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.

Weve just developed this more serious line, said Fred. Funny how it happened

You wouldnt believe how many people, even people who work at the Ministry, cant do a decent Shield Charm, said George. Course, they didnt have you teaching them, Harry.

Thats 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 Ministry bought five hundred for all its support staff! And were still getting massive orders!

So weve expanded into a range of Shield Cloaks, Shield Gloves

I mean, they wouldnt help much against the Unforgivable Curses, but for minor to moderate hexes or jinxes

And then we thought wed get into the whole area of Defense Against the Dark Arts, because its such a money spinner, continued George enthusiastically. This is cool. Look, Instant Darkness Powder, were 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 scurry out of sight. You just drop one surreptitiously and itll 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.

Theres 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, Im coming, said George promptly. Harry, you help yourself to anything you want, all right? No charge.

I cant do that! said Harry, who had already pulled out his money bag to pay for the Decoy Detonators.

You dont pay here, said Fred firmly, waving away Harrys gold.


You gave us our start-up loan, we havent 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 customers, and Fred led Harry back into the main part of the shop to find Hermione and Ginny still poring over the Patented Daydream Charms.

Havent 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. Hermione and Ginny both hung back, looking wary.

There you go, said Fred proudly. Best range of love potions youll find anywhere.

Ginny raised an eyebrow skeptically. Do they work? she asked.

Certainly they work, for up to twenty-four hours at a time depending on the weight of the boy in question

and the attractiveness of the girl, said George, reappearing suddenly at their side. But were not selling them to our sister, he added, becoming suddenly stern, not when shes already got about five boys on the go from what weve

Whatever youve heard from Ron is a big fat lie, said Ginny calmly, leaning forward to take a small pink pot off the shelf. Whats this?

Guaranteed ten-second pimple vanisher, said Fred. Excellent on everything from boils to blackheads, but dont change the subject. 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 definitely 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 emitting high-pitched squeaks.

Pygmy Puffs, said George. Miniature puffskeins, we cant 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 crowd around it. Theyre really cute!

Theyre fairly cuddly, yes, conceded Fred. But youre moving through boyfriends a bit fast, arent you?

Ginny turned to look at him, her hands on her hips. There was such a Mrs. Weasley-ish glare on her face that Harry was surprised Fred didnt recoil.

Its none of your business. And Ill thank you she added angrily to Ron, who had just appeared at Georges elbow, laden with merchandise, not to tell tales about me to these two!

Thats three Galleons, nine Sickles, and a Knut, said Fred, examining the many boxes in Rons arms. Cough up.

Im your brother!

And thats our stuff youre nicking. Three Galleons, nine Sickles. Ill knock off the Knut.

But I havent got three Galleons, nine Sickles!

Youd better put it back then, and mind you put it on the right shelves.

Ron dropped several boxes, swore, and made a rude hand gesture at Fred that was unfortunately spotted by Mrs. Weasley, who had chosen that moment to appear.

If I see you do that again Ill 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, theyre 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 over his shoulder. 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; Malfoy must have made a real effort to free himself from her clutches.

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 both 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 dont know, Harry, said Hermione, looking uncertainly 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 Georges products. Harry, Ron, and Hermione 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 possible, so that the humming Hagrid would not hear themCmon

They scurried along, peering left and right, through shop windows and doors, until Hermione pointed ahead.

Thats him, isnt 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 well lose him, said Harry, speeding up.

Our feetll be seen! said Hermione anxiously, as the cloak flapped a little around their ankles; it was much more difficult hiding all three of them under the cloak nowadays.

It doesnt 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 seen buying them.

Hermione gave his arm a hard pinch.


Shh! Look! Hes in there! she breathed in Harrys 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 the movements of Malfoys 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 mingled resentment and fear.

If only we could hear what theyre 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-colored strings and began to feed them toward the bottom of the door. Oh, I hope the door isnt Imperturbable

No! said Ron gleefully. Listen!

They put their heads together and listened intently to the ends of the strings, through which Malfoys 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 unwilling to commit himself. Ill need to see it, though. Why dont you bring it into the shop?

I cant, said Malfoy. Its got to stay put. I just need you to tell me how to do it.

Harry saw Borgin lick his lips nervously.

Well, without seeing it, I must say it will be a very difficult job, perhaps impossible. I couldnt guarantee anything.

No? said Malfoy, and Harry knew, just by his tone, that Malfoy 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 Maifoy, and there will be retribution. You know Fenrir Greyback? Hes a family friend. Hell be dropping in from time to time to make sure youre giving the problem your full attention.

There will be no need for

Ill decide that, said Malfoy. Well, Id better be off. And dont forget to keep that one safe, Ill need it.

Perhaps youd like to take it now?

No, of course I wouldnt, you stupid, little man, how would I look carrying that down the street? Just dont 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 around 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 Extendable 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 strings to Harry.

Hello, horrible morning, isnt it? Hermione said brightly to Borgin, who did not answer, but cast her a suspicious look. Humming cheerily, Hermione strolled through the jumble of objects on display.

Is this necklace for sale? she asked, pausing beside a glass-fronted case.

If youve got one and a half thousand Galleons, said Mr. Borgin coldly.

Oh er no, I havent got quite that much, said Hermione, walking on. And what about this lovely um skull?

Sixteen Galleons.

So its for sale, then? It isnt 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, hes a friend of mine, and I want to get him a birthday present, but if hes already reserved anything, I obviously dont want to get him the same thing, so um

It was a pretty lame story in Harrys 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 door 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 its done, Master of Mystery! she snapped.

Ron and Hermione bickered all the way back to Weasleys

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. Weasleys accusations, that they had been in the back room all along, and that she could not have looked properly.



CHAPTER 7: The Slug Club



Harry spent a lot of the last week of the holidays pondering the meaning of Malfoys behavior in Knockturn Alley. What disturbed him most was the satisfied look on Malfoys face as he had left the shop. Nothing that made Malfoy look that happy could be good news. To his slight annoyance, however, neither Ron nor Hermione seemed quite as curious about Malfoys activities as he was; or at least, they seemed to get bored of discussing it after a few days.

Yes, Ive already agreed it was fishy, Harry, said Hermione a little impatiently. She was sitting on the windowsill in Fred and Georges 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 havent we agreed there could be a lot of explanations?

Maybe hes broken his Hand of Glory said Ron vaguely, as he attempted to straighten his broomsticks bent tail twigs. Remember that shriveled-up arm Malfoy had?

But what about when he said, Dont forget to keep that one safe? asked Harry for the umpteenth time. That sounded to me like Borgins 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 answered, he said, Malfoys fathers in Azkaban. Dont you think Malfoyd like revenge?

Ron looked up, blinking.

Malfoy, revenge? What can he do about it?

Thats my point, I dont know! said Harry, frustrated. But hes up to something and I think we should take it seriously. His fathers a Death Eater and

Harry broke off, his eyes fixed on the window behind Hermione, his mouth open. A startling thought had just occurred to him.

Harry? said Hermione in an anxious voice. Whats wrong?

Your scars not hurting again, is it? asked Ron nervously.

Hes a Death Eater, said Harry slowly. Hes replaced his father as a Death Eater!

There was a silence; then Ron erupted in laughter. Malfoy? Hes 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 Malkins. She didnt 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. Hes been branded with the Dark Mark.

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 Hermione.

He showed Borgin something we couldnt see, Harry pressed on stubbornly. Something that seriously scared Borgin. It was the Mark, I know it he was showing Borgin who he was dealing with, you saw how seriously Borgin took him!

Ron and Hermione exchanged another look.

Im not sure, Harry

Yeah, I still dont 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 packing until the last moment. On the landing he bumped into Ginny, who was returning to her room carrying a pile of freshly laundered clothes.

I wouldnt go in the kitchen just now, she warned him. Theres a lot of Phlegm around.

Ill be careful not to slip in it. Harry smiled.

Sure enough, when he entered 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 bridesmaids, Ginny and Gabrielle will look very sweet togezzer. I am theenking of dressing zem in pale gold, pink would of course be orrible with Ginnys air!

Ah, Harry! said Mrs. Weasley loudly, cutting across Fleurs monologue. Good, I wanted to explain about the security arrangements for the journey to Hogwarts tomorrow. Weve got Ministry cars again, and there will be Aurors waiting at the station.

Is Tonks going to be there? asked Harry, handing over his Quidditch things.

No, I dont think so, shes 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 teaspoon. A big mistake if you ask.

Yes, thank you, said Mrs. Weasley tartly, cutting across Fleur again. Youd better get on, Harry, I want the trunks ready tonight, if possible, so we dont 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; Hermiones cat, Crookshanks, safely enclosed in his traveling basket; and Hedwig; Rons owl, Pig-widgeon; and Ginnys new purple Pygmy Puff, Arnold, in cages.

Au revoir, Any, 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 Fleurs 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 Kings Cross Station. Instead, two grim-faced, bearded Aurors in dark Muggle suits moved forward the moment the cars stopped and, flanking the party, marched them into the station without speaking.

Quick, quick, through the barrier, said Mrs. Weasley, who seemed a little flustered by this austere efficiency. Harry had better go first, with

She looked inquiringly at one of the Aurors, who nodded briefly, seized Harrys upper arm, and attempted to steer him toward the barrier between platforms nine and ten.

I can walk, thanks, said Harry irritably, jerking his arm out of the Aurors 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 steam over the crowd.

Hermione and the Weasleys joined him within seconds. Without 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 cant, Harry, said Hermione, looking apologetic. Ron and Ive got to go to the prefects carriage first and then patrol the corridors for a bit.

Oh yeah, I forgot, said Harry.

Youd better get straight on the train, all of you, youve 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 conclusion that, if he was to tell anyone, Mr. Weasley was the right person; firstly, because he worked at the Ministry and was therefore in the best position to make further investigations, and secondly, 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 disappeared to while you were supposed to be in the back room of Fred and Georges shop?

How did you?

Harry, please. Youre talking to the man who raised Fred and George.

Er yeah, all right, we werent in the back room. Very well, then, lets 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, disregarding Mr. Weasleys look of mingled exasperation and amusement. Hed 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 bullying 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.

Theres something else. We saw Malfoy jump about a mile when Madam Malkin tried to touch his left arm. I think hes been branded with the Dark Mark. I think hes 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 wouldnt do? asked Harry angrily. Mr. Weasley, Im sorry, but isnt it worth investigating? If Malfoy wants something fixing, and he needs to threaten Borgin to get it done, its probably something Dark or dangerous, isnt 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 humoring him.

There was a whistle behind them; nearly everyone had boarded the train and the doors were closing.

Youd better hurry! said Mr. Weasley, as Mrs. Weasley cried, Harry, quickly!

He hurried forward and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley helped him load his trunk onto the train.

Now, dear, youre coming to us for Christmas, its all fixed with Dumbledore, so well 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 sure you look after yourself and

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, dragging 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 sensation of standing in a very bright spotlight. He tapped Ginny on the shoulder.

Fancy trying to find a compartment?

I cant, Harry, I said Id 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.

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