Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince 21

I havent found one single explanation of what Horcruxes do! she told him. Not a single one! Ive been right through the restricted section and even in the most horrible books, where they tell you how to brew the most gruesome potions -nothing! All I could find was this, in the introduction to Magick Moste Evile listen of the Horcrux, wickedest of magical inventions, we shall not speak nor give direction I mean, why mention it, then? she said impatiently, slamming the old book shut; it let out a ghostly wail. Oh, shut up, she snapped, stuffing it back into her bag.

The snow melted around the school as February arrived, to be replaced by cold, dreary wetness. Purplish-grey clouds hung low over the castle and a constant fall of chilly rain made the lawns slippery and muddy. The upshot of this was that the sixth-years first Apparition lesson, which was scheduled for a Saturday morning so that no normal lessons would be missed, took place in the Great Hall instead of in the grounds.

When Harry and Hermione arrived in the Hall (Ron had come down with Lavender) they found that the tables had disappeared. Rain lashed against the high windows and the enchanted ceiling swirled darkly above them as they assembled in front of Professors McGonagall, Snape, Flitwick and Sprout the Heads of House and a small wizard whom Harry took to be the Apparition Instructor from the Ministry. He was oddly colourless, with transparent eyelashes, wispy hair and an insubstantial air, as though a single gust of wind might blow him away. Harry wondered whether constant disappearances and reappearances had somehow diminished his substance, or whether this frail build was ideal for anyone wishing to vanish.

Good morning, said the Ministry wizard, when all the students had arrived and the Heads of House had called for quiet. My name is Wilkie Twycross and I shall be your Ministry-Apparition Instructor for the next twelve weeks. I hope to be able to prepare you for your Apparition test in this time -

Malfoy, be quiet and pay attention! barked Professor McGonagall.

Everybody looked round. Malfoy had flushed a dull pink; he looked furious as he stepped away from Crabbe, with whom he appeared to have been having a whispered argument. Harry glanced quickly at Snape, who also looked annoyed, though Harry strongly suspected that this was less because of Malfoys rudeness than the fact that McGonagall had reprimanded one of his house.

by which time, many of you may be ready to take your test, Twycross continued, as though there had been no interruption.

As you may know, it is usually impossible to Apparate or Disapparate within Hogwarts. The Headmaster has lifted this enchantment, purely within the Great Hall, for one hour, so as to enable you to practise. May I emphasise that you will not be able to Apparate outside the walls of this Hall, and that you would be unwise to try.

I would like each of you to place yourselves now so that you have a clear five feet of space in front of you.

There was a great scrambiing and jostling as people separated, banged into each other, and ordered others out of their space. The Heads of House moved among the students, marshalling them into position and breaking up arguments.

Harry, where are you going? I demanded Hermione.

But Harry did not answer; he was moving quickly through the crowd, past the place where Professor Flitwick was making squeaky attempts to position a few Ravenclaws, all of whom wanted to be near the front, past Professor Sprout, who was chivvying the Hufflepuffs into line, until, by dodging around Ernie Macmillan, he managed to position himself right at the back of the crowd, directly behind Malfoy, who was taking advantage of the general upheaval to continue his argument with Crabbe, standing five feet away and looking mutinous.

I dont know how much longer, all right? Malfoy shot at him, oblivious to Harry standing right behind him. Its taking longer than I thought it would.

Crabbe opened his mouth, but Malfoy appeared to second-guess what he was going to say.

Look, its none of your business what Im doing, Crabbe, you and Goyle just do as youre told and keep a lookout!

! tell my friends what Im up to, if I want them to keep a lookout for me, Harry said, just loud enough for Malfoy to hear him.

Malfoy spun round on the spot, his hand flying to his wand, but at thai precise moment the four Heads of House shouted, Quiet! and silence fell again. Malfoy turned slowly to face the front.

Thank you, said Twycross. :Now then

He waved his wand. Old-fashioned wooden hoops instantly appeared on the floor in from of every student.

The important things to remember when Apparating are the three Ds! said Twycross. Destination, Determination, Deliberation!

Step one: fix your mind firmly upon the desired destination, said Twycross. In this case, the interior of your hoop. Kindly concentrate upon that destination now.

Everybody looked around furtively, to check that everyone else was staring into their hoop, then hastily did as they were told. Harry gazed at the circular patch of dusty floor enclosed by his hoop and tried hard to think of nothing else. This proved impossible, as he couldnt stop puzzling over what Malfoy was doing that needed lookouts.

Step two, said Twycross, focus your determination to occupy the visualised space! Let your yearning to enter it flood from your mind to every particle of your body!

Harry glanced around surreptitiously. A little way to his left, Ernie Macmillan was contemplating his hoop so hard that his face had turned pink; it looked as though he was straining to lay a Quaffle-sized egg. Harry bit back a laugh and hastily returned his gaze to his own hoop.

Step three, called Twycross, and only when I give the command lum on the spot, feeiing your way into nothingness, moving with deliberation 1. On my command, now one 1

Harry glanced around again; lots of people were looking positively alarmed at being asked to Apparate so quickly.

Harry tried to fix his thoughts on his hoop again; he had already forgotten what the three Ds stood for.


Harry spun on the spot, lost his balance and nearly fell over. He was not the only one. The whole Hall was suddenly full of staggering people; Neville was flat on his back; Ernie Macmillan, on the other hand, had done a kind of pirouetting leap into his hoop and looked momentarily thrilled, until he caught sight of Dean Thomas roaring with laughter at him.

Never mind, never mind, said Twycross dryly, who did not seem to have expected anything better. Adjust your hoops, please, and back to your original positions

The second atlem.pt was no better than the first. The third was just as bad. Not until the fourth did anything exciting happen. There was a horrible screech of pain and everybody looked around, terrified, to see Susan Bones of Hufflepuff wobbling in her hoop with her left leg still standing five feet away where she had started.

The Heads of House converged on her; there was a great bang and a puff of purple smoke, which cleared to reveal Susan sobbing, reunited with her leg but looking horrified.

Sphnching, or the separation of random body parts, said Wilkie Twycross dispassionately, occurs when the mind is insufficiently determined. You must concentrate continually upon your destination, and move, without hasie, but with deliberation thus.


Twycross stepped forwards, turned gracefully on the spot with his arms outstretched and vanished in a swirl of robes, reappearing at the back of the Hall. Remember the three Ds, he said, and try again one -two three -

But an hour later, Susans Splinching was still ihe most interesting thing that had happened. Twycross did not seem discouraged. Fastening his cloak at his neck, he merely said, Until next Saturday, everybody, and do not forget: Destination. Determination. Deliberation.

With that, he waved his wand, Vanishing the hoops, and walked out of the Hall accompanied by Professor McGonagall. Talk broke out at once as people began moving towards the Entrance Hall.

How did you do? asked Ron, hurrying towards Harry. I think I felt something the last time I tried a kind of tingling in my feet.

I expect your trainers are too small, Won-Won, said a voice behind them, and Hermione stalked past, smirking.

I didnt feel anything, said Harry, ignoring this interruption. But I dont care about that now-

What dyou mean, you dont care dont you want to leam to Apparate? said Ron incredulously.

Im not fussed, really. I prefer flying, said Harry, glancing over his shoulder to see where Malfoy was, and speeding up as they came into the Entrance Hall. Look, hurry up, will you, theres something I want to do

Perplexed, Ron followed Harry back to Gryffindor Tower at a run. They were temporarily detained by Peeves, who had jammed a door on the fourth floor shut and was refusing to let anyone pass until they set fire to their own pants, but Harry and Ron simply turned back and took one of their trusted short cuts. Within five minutes, they were climbing through the portrait hole.

Are you going to tell me what were doing, then? asked Ron, panting slightly.

Up here, said Harry, and he crossed the common room and led the way through the door to the boys staircase.

Their dormitory was, as Ham had hoped, empty. He flung open his trunk and began to rummage in it, while Ron watched impatiently.


Malfoys using Crabbe and Goyle as lookouts. He was arguing with Crabbe just now. I want to know aha.

He had found it, a folded square of apparently blank parchment, which he now smoothed out and tapped with [he tip of his wand.

I solemn!) swear that I am up to no good or Malfoy is, At once, the Marauders Map appeared on the parchments surface. Here was a detailed plan of every one of the castles floors and, moving around it, the tiny, labelled black dots that signified each of the castles occupants.

Help me find Malfoy, said Harry urgently.

He laid the map upon his bed and he and Ron leaned over it, searching.

There! said Ron, after a minute or so. Hes in the Slytherin common room, look with Parkinson and Zabini and Crabbe and Goyle

Harry looked down at the map, disappointed, but rallied almost at once.

Well, Im keeping an eye on him from now on, he said firmly. And the moment I see him lurking somewhere with Crabbe and Goyle keeping watch outside, itll be on with the old Invisibility Cloak and off to find out what hes-

He broke off as Neville entered the dormitory, bringing with him a strong smell of singed material, and began rummaging in his trunk for a fresh pair of pants.

Despite his determination 10 catch Malfoy out, Harry had no luck at all over the next couple of weeks. Although he consulted the map as often as he could, sometimes making unnecessary visits to the bathroom between lessons to search it, he did not once see Malfoy anywhere suspicious. Admittedly, he spotted Crabbe and Goyle moving around the castle on their own more often than usual, sometimes remaining stationary in deserted corridors, but at these times Malfoy was not only nowhere near them, but impossible to locate on the map at all. This was most mysterious. Harry toyed with the possibility that Malfoy was actually leaving the school grounds, but could not see how he could be doing it, given the very high leve! of security now operating within the castle. He could only suppose ihat he was missing Malfoy amongst the hundreds of tiny black dots upon the map. As for the fact that Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle appeared to be going their different ways when they were usually inseparable, these things happened as people got older Ron and Hermione, Harry reflected sadly, were living proof.

February moved towards March with no change in the weather except that it became windy as well as wet. To general indignation, a sign went up on all common-room noticeboards that the next trip into Hogsmeade had been cancelled. Ron was furious.

It was on my birthday! he said, i was looking forward to that!

Not a big surprise, though, is it? said Harry. Not after what happened to Katie.

She had still not returned from Si Mungos. What was more, further disappearances had been reported in the Daily Prophet, including several relatives of students at Hogwarts.

But now all Ive got to look forward to is stupid Apparition! said Ron grumpily. Big birthday treat

Three lessons on, Apparition was proving as difficult as ever, though a few more people had managed to Splinch themselves. Frustration was running high and there was a certain amount of ill-feeling towards Wilkie Twycross and his three Ds, which had inspired a number of nicknames for him, the politest of which were Dog-breath and Dung-head.

Happy birthday, Ron, said Harry, when they were woken on the first of March by Seamus and Dean leaving noisily for breakfast. Have a present.

He threw the package across on to Rons bed, where it joined a small pile of them that must, Harry assumed, have been delivered by house-elves in the night.

Cheers, said Ron drowsily, and as he ripped off the paper Harry got out of bed, opened his own crunk and began rummaging in it for the Marauders Map, which he hid after every use. He turfed out half the contents of his trunk before he found it hiding beneath the rolled-up socks in which he was still keeping his bottle of lucky potion, Felix Felicis.

Right, he murmured, taking it back to bed with him, tapping it quietly and murmuring, I solemnly swear that I am up to no good, so that Neville, who was passing the foot of his bed at the time, would not hear.

Nice one, Harry! said Ron enthusiastically, waving the new pair of Quidditch Keepers gloves Harry had given him.

No problem, said Harry absent-mindedly, as he searched the Slytherin dormitory closely for Malfoy. Hey I dont think hes in his bed

Ron did not answer; he was too busy unwrapping presents, every now and then letting out an exclamation of pleasure.

Seriously good haul this year! he announced, holding up a heavy gold watch with odd symbols around the edge and tiny moving stars instead of hands. See what Mum and Dad got me? Blimey, I think Ill come of age next year too

Cool, muttered Harry, sparing the watch a glance before peering more closely at the map. Where was Malfoy? He did not seem to be at the Slytherin table in the Great Hall, eating breakfast he was nowhere near Snape, who was sitting in his study he wasnt in any of the bathrooms or in the hospital wing

Want one? I said Ron thickly, holding out a box of Chocolate Cauldrons.

No thanks, said Harry, looking up. Malfoys gone again!

Cant have done, said Ron, stuffing a second Cauldron into his mouth as he slid out of bed to get dressed. Come on. if you dont hurry up youll have to Apparate on an empty-stomach might make it easier, I suppose

Ron looked thoughtfully ai the box of Chocolate Cauldrons, then shrugged and helped himself to a third.

Harry tapped the map with his wand, muttered, Mischief managed, though it hadnt been, and got dressed, thinking hard. There had to be an explanation for Malfoys periodic disappearances, but he simply could not think what it could be. The best way of finding out would be to tail him, bur even with the Invisibility Cloak this was an impractical idea; he had lessons, Quidditch practice, homework and Apparition; he could not follow Malfoy around school all day wilhout his absence being remarked upon, Ready? he said to Ron.

He was halfway to the dormitory door when he realised that Ron had not moved, but was leaning on his bedpost, staring out of the rain-washed window with a strangely unfocused look on his face.

Ron? Breakfast.

Im not hungry,

Harry stared ai him.

I thought you just said -?

Well, all right, Ill come down with you, sighed Ron, but I dont want to eat.

Harry scrutinised him suspiciously.

Youve just eaten half a box of Chocolate Cauldrons, havent you?

Its not that, Ron sighed again. You you wouldnt understand.

Fair enough, said Harry, albeit puzzled, as he turned to open the door.

Harry! said Ron suddenly.


Harry, I cant stand it!

You cant stand what? asked Harry, now starling to feel definitely alarmed. Ron was rather pale and looked as though he was about to be sick.

I cant stop thinking about her! said Ron hoarsely.

Harry gaped at him. He had not expected this and was not sure he wanted to hear it. Friends they might be, but if Ron started calling Lavender Lav-Lav, he would have to pui his foot down.

Why does that stop you having breakfast? Harry asked, trying to inject a note of common sense into the proceedings.

I dont think she knows I exist, said Ron with a desperate gesture.

She definitely knows you exist, said Harry, bewildered. She keeps snogging you, doesnt she?

Ron blinked.

Who are you talking about?

Who are you talking about? said Harry, with an increasing sense that all reason had dropped out of the conversation.

Romilda Vane, said Ron softly, and his whole face seemed to illuminate as he said it, as though hit by a ray of purest sunlight. They stared at each other for almost a whole minute, before Harry said, This is a joke, right? Youre joking.

T think Harry, I ihink I love her, said Ron in a strangled voice.

OK, said Harry, walking up to Ron 10 get a better look at the glazed eyes and the pallid complexion, OK say that again with a straight face.

I love her, repeated Ron breathlessly. Have you seen her hair, its all black and shiny and silky and her eyes? Her big dark eyes? And her -

This is really funny and everything, said Harry impatiently, but jokes over, all right? Drop it.

He turned to leave; he had got two steps towards the door when a crashing blow hit him on the right ear. Staggering, he looked round. Rons fist was drawn right back, his face was contorted with rage; he was about to strike again.

Harry reacted instinctively; his wand was out of his pocket and the incantation sprang to mind without conscious thought: Le\icorpus!

Ron yelled as his heel was wrenched upwards once more; he dangled helplessly, upside-down, his robes hanging off him.

What was that for? Harry bellowed.

You insulted her, Harry! You said it was a joke! shouted Ron, who was slowly turning purple in the face as all the blood rushed to his head.

This is insane! said Harry. Whats got into -?

And then he saw the box lying open on Rons bed and the truth hit him with the force of a stampeding troll.

Where did you get those Chocolate Cauldrons?

They were a birthday present! shouted Ron, revolving slowly in midair as he struggled to get free. I offered you one, didnt 1?

You just picked them up off the floor, didnt you?

Theyd fallen off my bed, all right? Let me go!

They didnt fall off your bed, you prat, dont you understand? They were mine, I chucked them out of my trunk when I was looking for the map. Theyre the Chocolate Cauldrons Romilda gave me before Christmas and theyre all spiked with love potion!

But only one word of this seemed to have registered with Ron.

Romilda? he repeated. Did you say Romilda? Harry do you know her? Can you introduce me?

Harry stared at the dangling Ron, whose face now looked tremendously hopeful, and fought a strong desire to laugh. A part of him the part closest to his throbbing right ear was quite keen on the idea of letting Ron down and watching him run amok until the effects of the potion wore off but on the other hand, they were supposed to be friends, Ron had not been himself when he had attacked, and Harry thought that he would deserve another punching if he permitted Ron to declare undying love for Romilda Vane.

Yeah, Ill introduce you, said Harry, thinking fast. Im going to let you down now, OK?

He sent Ron crashing back to the floor (his ear did hurt quite a lot), but Ron simply bounded to his feet again, grinning.

Shell be in Slughorns office, I said Harry confidently, leading the way to the door.

Why will she be in there? asked Ron anxiously, hurrying to keep up.

Oh, she has extra Potions lessons with him, said Harry, inventing wildly.

Maybe I could ask if I can have them with her? said Ron eagerly.

Great idea, said Harry. Lavender was waiting beside the portrait hole, a complication Harry had not foreseen.

Youre lace, Won-Won! she pouted. Ive got you a birthday-

Leave me alone, said Ron impatiently, Harrys going to introduce me to Romilda Vane.

And without another word to her, he pushed his way oui of the portrait hole. Harry tried to make an apologetic face to Lavender, but it might have turned out simply amused, because she looked more offended than ever as the Fat Lady swung shut behind them.

Harry had been slightly worried that Slughorn might be at breakfast, but he answered his office door at the first knock, wearing a green velvet dressing-gown and matching nightcap and looking rather bleary-eyed.

Harry, he mumbled. This is very early for a call I generally sleep late on a Saturday

Professor, Im really sorry to disturb you, said Harry as quietly as possible, while Ron stood on tiptoe, attempting to see past Slughorn into his room, but my friend Rons swallowed a love potion by mistake. You couldnt make him an antidote, could you? Id take him to Madam Pomfrey, but were not supposed to have anything from Weasleys Wizard Wheezes and, you know awkward questions

Td have thought you could have whipped him up a remedy, Harry, an expert potioneer like you? asked Slughorn. Er, said Harry, somewhat distracted by the fact that Ron was now elbowing him in the ribs in an attempt to force his way into the room, well, Ive never mixed an antidote for a love potion, sir, and by the time I get it right Ron mightve done something serious -

Helpfully, Ron chose this moment to moan, I cant see her. Harry is he hiding her?

Was this potion within date? asked Slughorn, now eyeing Ron with professional interest. They can strengthen, you know, the longer theyre kept.

That would explain a lot, panted Harry, now positively wrestling with Ron to keep him from knocking Slughorn over. Its his birthday, Professor, he added imploringly.

Oh, all right, come in, then, come in, said Slughorn, relenting. Ive got the necessary here in my bag, its not a difficult antidote

Ron burst through the door into Slughorns overheated, crowded study, tripped over a tasselled footstool, regained his balance by seizing Harry around the neck and muttered, She didnt see that, did she?

Shes not here yet, said Harry, watching Slughorn opening his potion kit and adding a few pinches of this and that to a small crystal bottle.

Thats good, said Ron fervently. How do I look?

Very handsome, said Slughorn smoothly, handing Ron a glass of clear liquid. Now drink that up, its a tonic for the nerves, keep you calm when she arrives, you know,

Brilliant, said Ron eagerly, and he gulped the antidote down noisily.

Harry and Slughorn watched him. For a moment, Ron beamed at them. Then, very slowly, his grin sagged and vanished, to be replaced by an expression of utmost horror.

Back to normal, then? said Harry, grinning. Slughorn chuckled. Thanks a lot, Professor.

Dont mention it, mboy, dont mention it, said Slughorn, as Ron collapsed into a nearby armchair, looking devastated. Pick-me-up, thats what he needs, Slughorn continued, now-bustling over to a table loaded with drinks. Ive got Butter-beer, Ive got wine, Ive got one last bottle of this oak-matured mead hmm meant to give that to Dumbledore for Christmas ah well he shrugged he cant miss what hes never had! Why dont we open it now and celebrate Mr Weasleys birthday? Nothing like a fine spirit to chase away the pangs of disappointed love

He chortled again and Harry joined in. This was the firsi time he had found himself almost alone with Slughorn since his disastrous first attempt to extract the true memory from him. Perhaps, if he could just keep Slughorn in a good mood perhaps if they got through enough of the oak-matured mead

There you are, then, said Slughorn, handing Harry and Ron a glass of mead each, before raising his own. Well, a very happy birthday, Ralph -

Ron - whispered Harry.

But Ron, who did not appear to be listening to the toast, had already thrown the mead into his mouth and swallowed it.

There was one second, hardly more than a heartbeat, in which Harry knew there was something terribly wrong and Slughorn, it seemed, did not.

and may you have many more Ron!

Ron had dropped his glass; he half-rose from his chair and then crumpled, his extremities jerking uncontrollably. Foam was dribbling from his mouth and his eyes were bulging from their sockets.

Professor! Harry bellowed. Do something]

But Slughorn seemed paralysed by shock. Ron twitched and choked: his skin was turning blue.

What but - spluttered Slughorn.

Harry leapt over a low table and sprinted towards Slughorns open potion kit, pulling out jars and pouches, while the terrible sound of Rons gargling breath filled the room. Then he found it the shrivelled kidney-like stone Slughorn had taken from him in Potions.

He hurtled back to Rons side, wrenched open his jaw and thrust the bezoar into his mouth. Ron gave a great shudder, a rattling gasp and his body became limp and still.



CHAPTER 19: Elf Tails



So, all in all, not one of Rons better birthdays? said Fred.

It was evening; the hospital wing was quiet, the windows curtained, the lamps lit. Rons was the only occupied bed. Harry, Hermione, and Ginny were sitting around him; they had spent all day waiting outside the double doors, trying to see inside whenever somebody went in or out. Madam Pomfrey had only let them enter at eight oclock. Fred and George had arrived at ten past.

This isnt how we imagined handing over our present, said George grimly, putting down a large wrapped gift on Rons bedside cabinet and sitting beside Ginny.

Yeah, when we pictured the scene, he was conscious, said Fred.

There we were in Hogsmeade, waiting to surprise him said George.

You were in Hogsmeade? asked Ginny, looking up.

We were thinking of buying Zonkos, said Fred gloomily. A Hogsmeade branch, you know, but a fat lot of good itll do us if you lot arent allowed out at weekends to buy our stuff anymon But never mind that now.

He drew up a chair beside Harry and looked at Rons pale face.

How exactly did it happen, Harry?

Harry retold the story he had already recounted, it felt like a hundred times to Dumbledore, to McGonagall, to Madam Pomfrey, to Hermione, and to Ginny.

and then I got the bezoar down his throat and his breathing eased up a bit, Slughorn ran for help, McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey turned up, and they brought Ron up here. They reckon hell be all right. Madam Pomfrey says hell have to stay here a week or so keep taking essence of rue

Blimey, it was lucky you thought of a bezoar, said George in a low voice.

Lucky there was one in the room, said Harry, who kept turning cold at the thought of what would have happened if he had not been able to lay hands on the little stone.

Hermione gave an almost inaudible sniff. She had been exceptionally quiet all day. Having hurtled, white-faced, up to Harry outside the hospital wing and demanded to know what had happened., she had taken almost no part in Harry and Ginnys obsessive discussion about how Ron had been poisoned, but merely stood beside them, clench-jawed and frightened-looking, until ai last they had been allowed in to see him.

Do Mum and Dad know? Fred asked Ginny. Theyve already seen him, they arrived an hour ago theyre in Dumbledores office now, but theyll be back soon

There was a pause while they all watched Ron mumble a little in his sleep.

So the poison was in the drink? said Fred quietly.

Yes, said Harry at once; he could think of nothing else and was glad for the opportunity to start discussing it again. Slughorn poured it out

Would he have been able to slip something into Rons glass without you seeing?

Probably, said Harry, but why would Slughorn want to poison Ron?

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