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Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince 15



I am not from the asylum, said Dumbledore patiently. I am a teacher and, if you will sit down calmly, I shall tell you about Hogwarts. Of course, if you would rather not come to the school, nobody will force you

Id like to see them try, sneered Riddle.

Hogwarts, Dumbledore went on, as though he had not heard Riddles last words, is a school for people with special abilities

Im not mad!

I know that you are not mad. Hogwarts is not a school for mad people. It is a school of magic.

There was silence. Riddle had frozen, his face expressionless, but his eyes were flickering back and forth between each of Dumbledores, as though trying to catch one of them lying.

Magic? he repeated in a whisper.

Thats right, said Dumbledore.

Its its magic, what I can do?

What is it that you can do?

All sorts, breathed Riddle. A flush of excitement was rising up his neck into his hollow cheeks; he looked fevered. I can make filings move without touching them. I can make animals do what I want them to do, without training them. I can make bad things happen to people who annoy me. I can make them hurt if I want to.

His legs were trembling. He stumbled forward and sat down on the bed again, staring at his hands, his head bowed as though in prayer.

I knew I was different, he whispered to his own quivering fingers. I knew I was special. Always, I knew there was something.

Well, you were quite right, said Dumbledore, who was no longer smiling, but watching Riddle intently. You are a wizard.

Riddle lifted his head. His face was transfigured: There was a wild happiness upon it, yet for some reason it did not make him better looking; on the contrary, his finely carved features seemed somehow rougher, his expression almost bestial.

Are you a wizard too?

Yes, I am.

Prove it, said Riddle at once, in the same commanding tone he had used when he had said, Tell the truth.

Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. If, as I take it, you are accepting your place at Hogwarts

Of course I am!

Then you will address me as Professor or sir.

Riddles expression hardened for the most fleeting moment before he said, in an unrecognizably polite voice, Im sorry, sir. I meant please, Professor, could you show me ?

Harry was sure that Dumbledore was going to refuse, that he would tell Riddle there would be plenty of time for practical demonstrations at Hogwarts, that they were currently in a building full of Muggles and must therefore be cautious. To his great surprise, however, Dumbledore drew his wand from an inside pocket of his suit jacket, pointed it at the shabby wardrobe in the corner, and gave the wand a casual flick.



The wardrobe burst into flames.

Riddle jumped to his feet; Harry could hardly blame him for howling in shock and rage; all his worldly possessions must be in there. But even as Riddle rounded on Dumbledore, the flames vanished, leaving the wardrobe completely undamaged.

Riddle stared from the wardrobe to Dumbledore; then, his expression greedy, he pointed at the wand. Where can I get one of them?

All in good time, said Dumbledore. I think there is something trying to get out of your wardrobe.

And sure enough, a faint rattling could be heard from inside it. For the first time, Riddle looked frightened.

Open the door, said Dumbledore.

Riddle hesitated, then crossed the room and threw open the wardrobe door. On the topmost shelf, above a rail of threadbare clothes, a small cardboard box was shaking and rattling as though there were several frantic mice trapped inside it.

Take it out, said Dumbledore.

Riddle took down the quaking box. He looked unnerved.

Is there anything in that box that you ought not to have? asked Dumbledore.

Riddle threw Dumbledore a long, clear, calculating look. Yes, I suppose so, sir, he said finally, in an expressionless voice.

Open it, said Dumbledore.

Riddle took off the lid and tipped the contents onto his bed without looking at them. Harry, who had expected something much more exciting, saw a mess of small, everyday objects: a yo-yo, a silver thimble, and a tarnished mouth organ among them. Once free of the box, they stopped quivering and lay quite still upon the thin blankets.

You will return them to their owners with your apologies, said Dumbledore calmly, putting his wand back into his jacket. I shall know whether it has been done. And be warned: Thieving is not tolerated at Hogwarts.

Riddle did not look remotely abashed; he was still staring coldly and appraisingly at Dumbledore. At last he said in a colorless voice, Yes, sir.

At Hogwarts, Dumbledore went on, we teach you not only to use magic, but to control it. You have inadvertently, I am sure been using your powers in a way that is neither taught nor tolerated at our school. You are not the first, nor will you be the last, to allow your magic to run away with you. But you should know that Hogwarts can expel students, and the Ministry of Magic yes, there is a Ministry will punish lawbreakers still more severely. All new wizards must accept that, in entering our world, they abide by our laws.

Yes, sir, said Riddle again.

It was impossible to tell what he was thinking; his face remained quite blank as he put the little cache of stolen objects back into the cardboard box. When he had finished, he turned to Dumbledore and said baldly, I havent got any money.

That is easily remedied, said Dumbledore, drawing a leather money-pouch from his pocket. There is a fund at Hogwarts for those who require assistance to buy books and robes. You might have to buy some of your spellbooks and so on secondhand, but

Where do you buy spellbooks? interrupted Riddle, who had taken the heavy money bag without thanking Dumbledore, and was now examining a fat gold Galleon,

In Diagon Alley, said Dumbledore. I have your list of books and school equipment with me. I can help you find everything

Youre coming with me? asked Riddle, looking up.

Certainly, if you

I dont need you, said Riddle. Im used to doing things for myself, I go round London on my own all the time. How do you get to this Diagon Alley sir? he added, catching Dumbledores eye.

Harry thought that Dumbledore would insist upon accompanying Riddle, but once again he was surprised. Dumbledore handed Riddle the envelope containing his list of equipment, and after telling Riddle exactly how to get to the Leaky Cauldron from the orphanage, he said, You will be able to see it, although Muggles around you non-magical people, that is will not. Ask for Tom the barman easy enough to remember, as he shares your name

Riddle gave an irritable twitch, as though trying to displace an irksome fly.

You dislike the name Tom?

There are a lot of Toms, muttered Riddle. Then, as though he could not suppress the question, as though it burst from him in spite of himself, he asked, Was my father a wizard? He was called Tom Riddle too, theyve told me.

Im afraid I dont know, said Dumbledore, his voice gentle.

My mother cant have been magic, or she wouldnt have died, said Riddle, more to himself than Dumbledore. It mustve been him. So when Ive got all my stuff when do I come to this Hogwarts?

All the details are on the second piece of parchment in your envelope, said Dumbledore. You will leave from Kings Cross Station on the first of September. There is a train ticket in there too.

Riddle nodded. Dumbledore got to his feet and held out his hand again. Taking it, Riddle said, I can speak to snakes. I found out when weve been to the country on trips they find me, they whisper to me. Is that normal for a wizard?

Harry could tell that he had withheld mention of this strangest power until that moment, determined to impress.

It is unusual, said Dumbledore, after a moments hesitation, but not unheard of.

His tone was casual but his eyes moved curiously over Riddles face. They stood for a moment, man and boy, staring at each other. Then the handshake was broken; Dumbledore was at the door.

Good-bye, Tom. I shall see you at Hogwarts.

I think that will do, said the white-haired Dumbledore at Harrys side, and seconds later, they were soaring weightlessly through darkness once more, before landing squarely in the present-day office.

Sit down, said Dumbledore, landing beside Harry.

Harry obeyed, his mind still full of what he had just seen.

He believed it much quicker than I did I mean, when you told him he was a wizard, said Harry. I didnt believe Hagrid at first, when he told me.

Yes, Riddle was perfectly ready to believe that he was to use his word special, said Dumbledore.

Did you know then? asked Harry.

Did I know that I had just met the most dangerous Dark wizard of all time? said Dumbledore. No, I had no idea that he was to grow up to be what he is. However, I was certainly intrigued by him. I returned to Hogwarts intending to keep an eye upon him, something I should have done in any case, given that he was alone and friendless, but which, already, I felt I ought to do for others sake as much as his.

His powers, as you heard, were surprisingly well-developed for such a young wizard and most interestingly and ominously of all he had already discovered that he had some measure of control over them, and begun to use them consciously. And as you saw, they were not the random experiments typical of young wizards: He was already using magic against other people, to frighten, to punish, to control. The little stories of the strangled rabbit and the young boy and girl he lured into a cave were most suggestive I can make them hurt if I want to

And he was a Parselmouth, interjected Harry.

Yes, indeed; a rare ability, and one supposedly connected with the Dark Arts, although as we know, there are Parselmouths among the great and the good too. In fact, his ability to speak to serpents did not make me nearly as uneasy as his obvious instincts for cruelty, secrecy, and domination.

Time is making fools of us again, said Dumbledore, indicating the dark sky beyond the windows. But before we part, I want to draw your attention to certain features of the scene we have just witnessed, for they have a great bearing on the matters we shall be discussing in future meetings.

Firstly, I hope you noticed Riddles reaction when I mentioned that another shared his first name, Tom?

Harry nodded.

There he showed his contempt for anything that tied him to other people, anything that made him ordinary. Even then, he wished to be different, separate, notorious. He shed his name, as you know, within a few short years of that conversation and created the mask of Lord Voldemort behind which he has been hidden for so long.

I trust that you also noticed that Tom Riddle was already highly self-sufficient, secretive, and, apparently, friendless? He did not want help or companionship on his trip to Diagon Alley. He preferred to operate alone. The adult Voldemort is the same. You will hear many of his Death Eaters claiming that they are in his confidence, that they alone are close to him, even understand him. They are deluded. Lord Voldemort has never had a friend, nor do I believe that he has ever wanted one.

And lastly I hope you are not too sleepy to pay attention to this, Harry the young Tom Riddle liked to collect trophies. You saw the box of stolen articles he had hidden in his room. These were taken from victims of his bullying behavior, souvenirs, if you will, of particularly unpleasant bits of magic. Bear in mind this magpie-like tendency, for this, particularly, will be important later.

And now, it really is time for bed.

Harry got to his feet. As he walked across the room, his eyes fell I upon the little table on which Marvolo Gaunts ring had rested last I time, but the ring was no longer there.

Yes, Harry? said Dumbledore, for Harry had come to a halt.

The rings gone, said Harry, looking around. But I thought I you might have the mouth organ or something.

Dumbledore beamed at him, peering over the top of his halfw moon spectacles.

Very astute, Harry, but the mouth organ was only ever a mouth organ.

And on that enigmatic note he waved to Harry, who understood himself to be dismissed.

 

 

CHAPTER 14: Felix Felicis

 

 

Harry had Herbology first thing the following morning. He had been unable to tell Ron and Hermione about his lesson with Dumbledore over breakfast for fear of being overheard, but he filled them in as they walked across the vegetable patch toward the greenhouses. The weekends brutal wind had died out at last; the weird mist had returned and it took them a little longer than usual to find the correct greenhouse.

Wow, scary thought, the boy You-Know-Who, said Ron quietly, as they took their places around one of the gnarled Snargaluff stumps that formed this terms project, and began pulling on their protective gloves. But I still dont get why Dumbledores showing you all this. I mean, its really interesting and everything, but whats the point?

Dunno, said Harry, inserting a gum shield. But he says its all important and itll help me survive.

I think its fascinating, said Hermione earnestly. It makes absolute sense to know as much about Voldemort as possible. How else will you find out his weaknesses?

So how was Slughorns latest party? Harry asked her thickly through the gum shield.

Oh, it was quite fun, really, said Hermione, now putting on protective goggles. I mean, he drones on about famous exploits a bit, and he absolutely fawns on McLaggen because hes so well connected, but he gave us some really nice food and he introduced us to Gwenog Jones.

Gwenog Jones? said Ron, his eyes widening under his own goggles. The Gwenog Jones? Captain of the Holyhead Harpies?

Thats right, said Hermione. Personally, I thought she was a bit full of herself, but

Quite enough chat over here! said Professor Sprout briskly, bustling over and looking stern. Youre lagging behind, everybody else has started, and Nevilles already got his first pod!

They looked around; sure enough, there sat Neville with a bloody lip and several nasty scratches along the side of his face, but clutching an unpleasantly pulsating green object about the size of a grapefruit.

Okay, Professor, were starting now! said Ron, adding quietly, when she had turned away again, should ve used Muffliato, Harry.

No, we shouldnt! said Hermione at once, looking, as she always did, intensely cross at the thought of the Half-Blood Prince and his spells. Well, come on wed better get going

She gave the other two an apprehensive look; they all took deep breaths and then dived at the gnarled stump between them.

It sprang to life at once; long, prickly, bramblelike vines flew out of the top and whipped through the air. One tangled itself in Hermiones hair, and Ron beat it back with a pair of secateurs; Harry succeeded in trapping a couple of vines and knotting them together; a hole opened in the middle of all the tentaclelike branches; Hermione plunged her arm bravely into this hole, which closed like a trap around her elbow; Harry and Ron tugged and wrenched at the vines, forcing the hole to open again, and Hermione snatched her arm free, clutching in her fingers a pod just like Nevilles. At once, the prickly vines shot back inside, and the gnarled stump sat there looking like an innocently dead lump of wood.

You know, I dont think Ill be having any of these in my garden when Ive got my own place, said Ron, pushing his goggles up onto his forehead and wiping sweat from his face.

Pass me a bowl, said Hermione, holding the pulsating pod at arms length; Harry handed one over and she dropped the pod into it with a look of disgust on her face.

Dont be squeamish, squeeze it out, theyre best when theyre fresh! called Professor Sprout.

Anyway, said Hermione, continuing their interrupted conversation as though a lump of wood had not just attacked them, Slughorns going to have a Christmas party, Harry, and theres no way youll be able to wriggle out of this one because he actually asked me to check your free evenings, so he could be sure to have it on a night you can come.

Harry groaned. Meanwhile, Ron, who was attempting to burst the pod in the bowl by putting both hands on it, standing up, and squashing it as hard as he could, said angrily, And this is another party just for Slughorns favorites, is it?

Just for the Slug Club, yes, said Hermione.

The pod flew out from under Rons fingers and hit the green house glass, rebounding onto the back of Professor Sprouts head and knocking off her old, patched hat. Harry went to retrieve the pod; when he got back, Hermione was saying, Look, I didnt make up the name Slug Club

Slug Club,repeated Ron with a sneer worthy of Malfoy. Its pathetic. Well, I hope you enjoy your party. Why dont you try hooking up with McLaggen, then Slughorn can make you King and Queen Slug

Were allowed to bring guests, said Hermione, who for some reason had turned a bright, boiling scarlet, and I was going to ask you to come, but if you think its that stupid then I wont bother!

Harry suddenly wished the pod had flown a little farther, so that he need not have been sitting here with the pair of them. Unnoticed by either, he seized the bowl that contained the pod and began to try and open it by the noisiest and most energetic means he could think of; unfortunately, he could still hear every word of their conversation.

You were going to ask me? asked Ron, in a completely different voice.

Yes, said Hermione angrily. But obviously if youd rather I hooked up with McLaggen

There was a pause while Harry continued to pound the resilient pod with a trowel.

No, I wouldnt, said Ron, in a very quiet voice.

Harry missed the pod, hit the bowl, and shattered it.

Reparo, he said hastily, poking the pieces with his wand, and the bowl sprang back together again. The crash, however, appeared to have awoken Ron and Hermione to Harrys presence. Hermione looked flustered and immediately started fussing about for her copy of Flesh-Eating Trees of the World to find out the correct way to juice Snargaluff pods; Ron, on the other hand, looked sheepish but also rather pleased with himself.

Hand that over, Harry, said Hermione hurriedly. It says were supposed to puncture them with something sharp

Harry passed her the pod in the bowl; he and Ron both snapped their goggles back over their eyes and dived, once more, for the stump. It was not as though he was really surprised, thought Harry, as he wrestled with a thorny vine intent upon throttling him; he had had an inkling that this might happen sooner or later. But he was not sure how he felt about it He and Cho were now too embarrassed to look at each other, let alone talk to each other; what if Ron and Hermione started going out together, then split up? Could their friendship survive it? Harry remembered the few weeks when they had not been talking to each other in the third year; he had not enjoyed trying to bridge the distance between them. And then, what if they didnt split up? What if they became like Bill and Fleur, and it became excruciatingly embarrassing to be in their presence, so that he was shut out for good?

Gotcha! yelled Ron, pulling a second pod from the stump just as Hermione managed to burst the first one open, so that the bowl was full of tubers wriggling like pale green worms.

The rest of the lesson passed without further mention of Slughorns party. Although Harry watched his two friends more closely over the next few days, Ron and Hermione did not seem any different except that they were a little politer to each other than usual. Harry supposed he would just have to wait to see what happened under the influence of butterbeer in Slughorns dimly lit room on the night of the party. In the meantime, however, he had more pressing worries.

Katie Bell was still in St. Mungos Hospital with no prospect of leaving, which meant that the promising Gryffindor team Harry had been training so carefully since September was one Chaser short. He kept putting off replacing Katie in the hope that she would return, but their opening match against Slytherin was looming, and he finally had to accept that she would not be back in time to play.

Harry did not think he could stand another full-House tryout. With a sinking feeling that had little to do with Quidditch, he cornered Dean Thomas after Transfiguration one day. Most of the class had already left, although several twittering yellow birds were still zooming around the room, all of Hermiones creation; nobody else had succeeded in conjuring so much as a feather from thin air.

Are you still interested in playing Chaser?

Wha ? Yeah, of course! said Dean excitedly. Over Deans shoulder, Harry saw Seamus Finnegan slamming his books into his bag, looking sour. One of the reasons why Harry would have preferred not to have to ask Dean to play was that he knew Seamus would not like it. On the other hand, he had to do what was best for the team, and Dean had outflown Seamus at the tryouts.

Well then, youre in, said Harry. Theres a practice tonight, seven oclock.

Right, said Dean. Cheers, Harry! Blimey, I cant wait to tell Ginny!

He sprinted out of the room, leaving Harry and Seamus alone together, an uncomfortable moment made no easier when a bird dropping landed on Seamuss head as one of Hermiones canaries whizzed over them.

Seamus was not the only person disgruntled by the choice of Katies substitute. There was much muttering in the common room about the fact that Harry had now chosen two of his classmates for the team. As Harry had endured much worse mutterings than this in his school career, he was not particularly bothered, but all the same, the pressure was increasing to provide a win in the upcoming match against Slytherin. If Gryffindor won, Harry knew that the whole House would forget that they had criticized him and swear that they had always known it was a great team. If they lost well, Harry thought wryly, he had still endured worse mutterings

Harry had no reason to regret his choice once he saw Dean fly that evening; he worked well with Ginny and Demelza. The Beaters, Peakes and Coote, were getting better all the time. The only problem was Ron.

Harry had known all along that Ron was an inconsistent player who suffered from nerves and a lack of confidence, and unfortunately, the looming prospect of the opening game of the season seemed to have brought out all his old insecurities. After letting in half a dozen goals, most of them scored by Ginny, his technique became wilder and wilder, until he finally punched an oncoming Demelza Robins in the mouth.

It was an accident, Im sorry, Demelza, really sorry! Ron shouted after her as she zigzagged back to the ground, dripping blood everywhere. I just

Panicked, Ginny said angrily, landing next to Demelza and examining her fat lip. You prat, Ron, look at the state of her!

I can fix that, said Harry, landing beside the two girls, pointing his wand at Demelzas mouth, and saying Episkey. And Ginny, dont call Ron a prat, youre not the Captain of this team

Well, you seemed too busy to call him a prat and I thought someone should

Harry forced himself not to laugh.

In the air, everyone, lets go

Overall it was one of the worst practices they had had all term, though Harry did not feel that honesty was the best policy when they were this close to the match.

Good work, everyone, I think well flatten Slytherin, he said bracingly, and the Chasers and Beaters left the changing room looking reasonably happy with themselves.

I played like a sack of dragon dung, said Ron in a hollow voice when the door had swung shut behind Ginny.

No, you didnt, said Harry firmly. Youre the best Keeper I tried out, Ron. Your only problem is nerves.

He kept up a relentless flow of encouragement all the way back to the castle, and by the time they reached the second floor, Ron was looking marginally more cheerful. When Harry pushed open the tapestry to take their usual shortcut up to Gryffindor Tower, however, they found themselves looking at Dean and Ginny, who were locked in a close embrace and kissing fiercely as though glued together.

It was as though something large and scaly erupted into life in Harrys stomach, clawing at his insides: Hot blood seemed to flood his brain, so that all thought was extinguished, replaced by a savage urge to jinx Dean into a jelly. Wrestling with this sudden madness, he heard Rons voice as though from a great distance away.

Oi!

Dean and Ginny broke apart and looked around. What? said Ginny.

I dont want to find my own sister snogging people in public! This was a deserted corridor till you came butting in! said Ginny.

Dean was looking embarrassed. He gave Harry a shifty grin that Harry did not return, as the newborn monster inside him was roaring for Deans instant dismissal from the team.

Er cmon, Ginny, said Dean, lets go back to the common room

You go! said Ginny. I want a word with my dear brother! Dean left, looking as though he was not sorry to depart the scene.

Right, said Ginny, tossing her long red hair out of her face and glaring at Ron, lets get this straight once and for all. It is none of your business who I go out with or what I do with them, Ron Yeah, it is! said Ron, just as angrily. D you think I want people saying my sisters a

A what? shouted Ginny, drawing her wand. A what, exactly? He doesnt mean anything, Ginny said Harry automatically, though the monster was roaring its approval of Rons words. Oh yes he does! she said, flaring up at Harry. Just because hes never snogged anyone in his life, just because the best kiss hes ever had is from our Auntie Muriel

Shut your mouth! bellowed Ron, bypassing red and turning maroon.

No, I will not! yelled Ginny, beside herself. Ive seen you with Phlegm, hoping shell kiss you on the cheek every time you see her, its pathetic! If you went out and got a bit of snogging done your self, you wouldnt mind so much that everyone else does it!

Ron had pulled out his wand too; Harry stepped swiftly between them.

You dont know what youre talking about! Ron roared, trying to get a clear shot at Ginny around Harry, who was now standing in front of her with his arms outstretched. Just because I dont do it in public !

Ginny screamed with derisive laughter, trying to push Harry out of the way.

Been kissing Pigwidgeon, have you? Or have you got a picture of Auntie Muriel stashed under your pillow? You

A streak of orange light flew under Harrys left arm and missed Ginny by inches; Harry pushed Ron up against the wall.

Dont be stupid

Harrys snogged Cho Chang! shouted Ginny, who sounded close to tears now. And Hermione snogged Viktor Krum, its only you who acts like its something disgusting, Ron, and thats because youve got about as much experience as a twelve-year-old!

And with that, she stormed away. Harry quickly let go of Ron; the look on his face was murderous. They both stood there, breathing heavily, until Mrs. Norris, Richs cat, appeared around the corner, which broke the tension.

Cmon, said Harry, as the sound of Filchs shuffling feet reached their ears.

They hurried up the stairs and along a seventh-floor corridor. Oi, out of the way! Ron barked at a small girl who jumped in fright and dropped a bottle of toadspawn.

Harry hardly noticed the sound of shattering glass; he felt disoriented, dizzy; being struck by a lightning bolt must be something like this. Its just because shes Rons sister, he told himself. You just didnt like seeing her kissing Dean because shes Rons sister

But unbidden into his mind came an image of that same deserted corridor with himself kissing Ginny instead The monster in his chest purred but then he saw Ron ripping open the tapestry curtain and drawing his wand on Harry, shouting things like betrayal of trust supposed to be my friend

Dyou think Hermione did snog Krum? Ron asked abruptly, as they approached the Fat Lady. Harry gave a guilty start and wrenched his imagination away from a corridor in which no Ron intruded, in which he and Ginny were quite alone What? he said confusedly. Oh er The honest answer was yes, but he did not want to give it. However, Ron seemed to gather the worst from the look on Harrys face.





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