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Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince 25



Harry slipped on his Invisibility Cloak once he had found an empty passage, but he need not have bothered. When he reached his destination he found it deserted. Harry was not sure whether his chances of getting inside the room were better with Malfoy inside it or out, but at least his first attempt was not going to be complicated by the presence of Crabbe or Goyle pretending to be an eleven-year-old girl.

He closed his eyes as he approached the place where the Room of Requirements door was concealed. He knew what he had to do; he had become most accomplished at it last year. Concentrating with all his might he thought, I need to see what Malfoys doing in here I need to see what Malfoys doing in here I need to see what Malfoys doing in here

Three times he walked past the door; then, his heart pounding with excitement, he opened his eyes and faced it but he was still looking at a stretch of mundanely blank wall. He moved forward and gave it an experimental push. The stone remained solid and unyielding.

Okay, said Harry aloud. Okay I thought the wrong thing He pondered for a moment then set off again, eyes closed, concentrating as hard as he could. I need to see the place where Malfoy keeps coming secretly I need to see the place where Malfoy keeps coming secretly After three walks past, he opened his eyes expectantly.

There was no door.

Oh, come off it, he told the wall irritably. That was a clear instruction. Fine. He thought hard for several minutes before striding off once more. I need you to become the place you become for Draco Malfoy

He did not immediately open his eyes when he had finished his patrolling; he was listening hard, as though he might hear the door pop into existence. He heard nothing, however, except the distant twittering of birds outside. He opened his eyes.

There was still no door.

Harry swore. Someone screamed. He looked around to see a gaggle of first years running back around the corner, apparently under the impression that they had just encountered a particularly foulmouthed ghost.

Harry tried every variation of I need to see what Draco Malfoy is doing inside you that he could think of for a whole hour, at the end of which he was forced to concede that Hermione might have had a point: The room simply did not want to open for him. Frustrated and annoyed, he set off for Defense Against the Dark Arts, pulling off his Invisibility Cloak and stuffing it into his bag as he went.

Late again, Potter, said Snape coldly, as Harry hurried into the candlelit classroom. Ten points from Gryfrindor. Harry scowled at Snape as he flung himself into the seat beside Ron. Half the class were still on their feet, taking out books and organizing their things; he could not be much later than any of them.



Before we start, I want your dementor essays, said Snape, waving his wand carelessly, so that twenty-five scrolls of parchment soared into the air and landed in a neat pile on his desk. And I hope for your sakes they are better than the tripe I had to endure on resisting the Imperius Curse. Now, if you will all open your books to page what is it, Mr. Finnigan?

Sir, said Seamus, Ive been wondering, how do you tell the difference between an Inferius and a ghost? Because there was something in the paper about an Inferius

No, there wasnt, said Snape in a bored voice.

But sir, I heard people talking

If you had actually read the article in question, Mr. Finnigan, you would have known that the so-called Inferius was nothing but a smelly sneak thief by the name of Mundungus Fletcher.

I thought Snape and Mundungus were on the same side, muttered Harry to Ron and Hermione. Shouldnt he be upset Mundungus has been arrest

But Potter seems to have a lot to say on the subject, said Snape, pointing suddenly at the back of the room, his black eyes fixed on Harry. Let us ask Potter how we would tell the difference between an Inferius and a ghost.

The whole class looked around at Harry, who hastily tried to recall what Dumbledore had told him the night that they had gone to visit Slughorn. Er well ghosts are transparent he said.

Oh, very good, interrupted Snape, his lip curling. Yes, it in easy to see that nearly six years of magical education have not been wasted on you, Potter. Ghosts are transparent.

Pansy Parkinson let out a high-pitched giggle. Several other people were smirking. Harry took a deep breath and continued calmly, though his insides were boiling, Yeah, ghosts are transparent, but Inferi are dead bodies, arent they? So theyd be solid

A five-year-old could have told us as much, sneered Snape. The Inferius is a corpse that has been reanimated by a Dark wizards spells. It is not alive, it is merely used like a puppet to do the wizards bidding. A ghost, as I trust that you are all aware by now, is the imprint of a departed soul left upon the earth, and of course, as Potter so wisely tells us, transparent.

Well, what Harry said is the most useful if were trying to tell them apart! said Ron. When we come face-to-face with one down a dark alley, were going to be having a look to see if its solid, arent we, were not going to be asking, Excuse me, are you the imprint of a departed soul? There was a ripple of laughter, instantly quelled by the look Snape gave the class.

Another ten points from Gryffindor, said Snape. I would expect nothing more sophisticated from you, Ronald Weasley, the boy so solid he cannot Apparate half an inch across a room.

No! whispered Hermione, grabbing Harrys arm as he opened his mouth furiously. Theres no point, youll just end up in detention again, leave it!

Now open your books to page two hundred and thirteen, said Snape, smirking a little, and read the first two paragraphs on the Cruciatus Curse.

Ron was very subdued all through the class. When the bell sounded at the end of the lesson, Lavender caught up with Ron and Harry (Hermione mysteriously melted out of sight as she approached) and abused Snape hotly for his jibe about Rons Apparition, but this seemed to merely irritate Ron, and he shook her off by making a detour into the boys bathroom with Harry.

Snapes right, though, isnt he? said Ron, after staring into a cracked mirror for a minute or two. I dunno whether its worth me taking the test. I just cant get the hang of Apparition.

You might as well do the extra practice sessions in Hogsmeade and see where they get you, said Harry reasonably. Itll be more interesting than trying to get into a stupid hoop anyway. Then, if youre still not you know as good as youd like to be, you can postpone the test, do it with me over the summer Myrtle, this is the boys bathroom!

The ghost of a girl had risen out of the toilet in a cubicle behind them and was now floating in midair, staring at them through thick, white, round glasses. Oh, she said glumly. Its you two.

Who were you expecting? said Ron, looking at her in the mirror.

Nobody, said Myrtle, picking moodily at a spot on her chin. He said hed come back and see me, but then you said youd pop in and visit me too she gave Harry a reproachful look and I havent seen you for months and months. Ive learned not to expect too much from boys.

I thought you lived in that girls bathroom? said Harry, who had been careful to give the place a wide berth for some years now.

I do, she said, with a sulky little shrug, but that doesnt mean I cant visit other places. I came and saw you in your bath once, remember?

Vividly, said Harry.

But I thought he liked me, she said plaintively. Maybe if you two left, hed come back again. We had lots in common. Im sure he felt it.

And she looked hopefully toward the door. When you say you had lots in common, said Ron, sounding rather amused now, dyou mean he lives in an S-bend too?

No, said Myrtle defiantly, her voice echoing loudly around the old tiled bathroom. I mean hes sensitive, people bully him too, and he feels lonely and hasnt got anybody to talk to, and hes not afraid to show his feelings and cry!

Theres been a boy in here crying? said Harry curiously. A young boy?

Never you mind! said Myrtle, her small, leaky eyes fixed on Ron, who was now definitely grinning. I promised I wouldnt tell anyone, and Ill take his secret to the

not the grave, surely? said Ron with a snort. The sewers, maybe. Myrtle gave a howl of rage and dived back into the toilet, causing water to slop over the sides and onto the floor. Goading Myrtle seemed to have put fresh heart into Ron. Youre right, he said, swinging his schoolbag back over his shoulder, Ill do the practice sessions in Hogsmeade before I decide about taking the test.

And so the following weekend, Ron joined Hermione and the rest of the sixth years who would turn seventeen in time to take the test in a fortnight. Harry felt rather jealous watching them all get ready to go into the village; he missed making trips there, and it was a particularly fine spring day, one of the first clear skies they had seen in a long time. However, he had decided to use the time to attempt another assault on the Room of Requirement.

Youd do better, said Hermione, when he confided this plan to Ron and her in the entrance hall, to go straight to Slughorns office and try and get that memory from him.

Ive been trying! said Harry crossly, which was perfectly true. He had lagged behind after every Potions lesson that week in an attempt to corner Slughorn, but the Potions master always left the dungeon so fast that Harry had not been able to catch him. Twice, Harry had gone to his office and knocked, but received no reply, though on the second occasion he was sure he had heard the quickly stifled sounds of an old gramophone.

He doesnt want to talk to me, Hermione! He can tell Ive been trying to get him on his own again, and hes not going to let it happen!

Well, youve just got to keep at it, havent you?

The short queue of people waiting to file past Filch, who was doing his usual prodding act with the Secrecy Sensor, moved forward a few steps and Harry did not answer in case he was overheard by the caretaker. He wished Ron and Hermione both luck, then turned and climbed the marble staircase again, determined, whatever Hermione said, to devote an hour or two to the Room of Requirement.

Once out of sight of the entrance hall, Harry pulled the Marauders Map and his Invisibility Cloak from his bag. Having concealed himself, he tapped the map, murmured, I solemnly swear that I am up to no good, and scanned it carefully.

As it was Sunday morning, nearly all the students were inside their various common rooms, the Gryffindors in one tower, the Ravenclaws in another, the Slytherins in the dungeons, and the Hufflepuffs in the basement near the kitchens. Here and there a stray person meandered around the library or up a corridor. There were a few people out in the grounds, and there, alone in the seventh-floor corridor, was Gregory Goyle. There was no sign of the Room of Requirement, but Harry was not worried about that; if Goyle was standing guard outside it, the room was open, whether the map was aware of it or not. He therefore sprinted up the stairs, slowing down only when he reached the corner into the corridor, when he began to creep, very slowly, toward the very same little girl, clutching her heavy brass scales, that Hermione had so kindly helped a fortnight before. He waited until he was right behind her before bending very low and whispering, Helloyoure very pretty, arent you?

Goyle gave a high-pitched scream of terror, threw the scales up into the air, and sprinted away, vanishing from sight long before the sound of the scales smashing had stopped echoing around the corridor. Laughing, Harry turned to contemplate the blank wall behind which, he was sure, Draco Malfoy was now standing frozen, aware that someone unwelcome was out there, but not daring to make an appearance. It gave Harry a most agreeable feeling of power as he tried to remember what form of words he had not yet tried.

Yet this hopeful mood did not last long. Half an hour later, having tried many more variations of his request to see what Malfoy was up to, the wall was just as doorless as ever. Harry felt frustrated beyond belief-=Malfoy might be just feet away from him, and there was still not the tiniest shred of evidence as to what he was doing in there. Losing his patience completely, Harry ran at the wall and kicked it.

OUCH!

He thought he might have broken his toe; as he clutched it and hopped on one foot, the Invisibility Cloak slipped off him.

Harry?

He spun around, one-legged, and toppled over. There, to his utter astonishment, was Tonks, walking toward him as though she frequently strolled up this corridor.

Whatre you doing here? he said, scrambling to his feet again; why did she always have to find him lying on the floor?

I came to see Dumbledore, said Tonks. Harry thought she looked terrible: thinner than usual, her mouse-colored hair lank.

His office isnt here, said Harry, its round the other side of the castle, behind the gargoyle

I know, said Tonks. Hes not there. Apparently hes gone away again.

Has he? said Harry, putting his bruised foot gingerly back on the floor. Hey you dont know where he goes, I suppose?

No, said Tonks.

What did you want to see him about?

Nothing in particular, said Tonks, picking, apparently unconsciously, at the sleeve of her robe. I just thought he might know whats going on. Ive heard rumors people getting hurt.

Yeah, I know, its all been in the papers, said Harry. That little kid trying to kill his

The Prophets often behind the times, said Tonks, who didnt seem to be listening to him. You havent had any letters from anyone in the Order recently?

No one from the Order writes to me anymore, said Harry, not since Sirius He saw that her eyes had filled with tears.

Im sorry, he muttered awkwardly. I mean I miss him, as well.

What? said Tonks blankly, as though she had not heard him. Well. Ill see you around, Harry.

And she turned abruptly and walked back down the corridor, leaving Harry to stare after her. After a minute or so, he pulled the Invisibility Cloak on again and resumed his efforts to get into the Room of Requirement, but his heart was not in it. Finally, a hollow feeling in his stomach and the knowledge that Ron and Hermione would soon be back for lunch made him abandon the attempt and leave the corridor to Malfoy who, hopefully, would be too afraid to leave for some hours to come.

He found Ron and Hermione in the Great Hall, already halfway through an early lunch.

I did it well, kind of! Ron told Harry enthusiastically when he caught sight of him. I was supposed to be Apparating to outside Madam Puddifoots Tea Shop and I overshot it a bit, ended up near Scrivenshafts, but at least I moved!

Good one, said Harry. Howd you do, Hermione?

Oh, she was perfect, obviously, said Ron, before Hermione could answer. Perfect deliberation, divination, and desperation or whatever the hell it is we all went for a quick drink in the Three Broomsticks after and you shouldve heard Twycross going on about her Ill be surprised if he doesnt pop the question soon

And what about you? asked Hermione, ignoring Ron. Have you been up at the Room of Requirement all this time?

Yep, said Harry. And guess who I ran into up there? Tonks!

Tonks? repeated Ron and Hermione together, looking surprised.

Yeah, she said shed come to visit Dumbledore.

If you ask me, said Ron once Harry had finished describing his conversation with Tonks, shes cracking up a bit. Losing her nerve after what happened at the Ministry.

Its a bit odd, said Hermione, who for some reason looked very concerned. Shes supposed to be guarding the school, why she suddenly abandoning her post to come and see Dumbledore when hes not even here?

I had a thought, said Harry tentatively. He felt strange about voicing it; this was much more Hermiones territory than his. You dont think she can have been you know in love with Sirius?

Hermione stared at him. What on earth makes you say that?

I dunno, said Harry, shrugging, but she was nearly crying when I mentioned his name, and her Patronus is a big four-legged thing now. I wondered whether it hadnt become you know him.

Its a thought, said Hermione slowly. But I still dont know why shed be bursting into the castle to see Dumbledore, if thats really why she was here.

Goes back to what I said, doesnt it? said Ron, who was now shoveling mashed potato into his mouth. Shes gone a bit funny. Lost her nerve. Women, he said wisely to Harry, theyre easily upset.

And yet, said Hermione, coming out of her reverie, I doubt youd find a woman who sulked for half an hour because Madam Rosmerta didnt laugh at their joke about the hag, the Healer, and the Mimbulus mimbletonia.

Ron scowled.

 

 

CHAPTER 22: After the Burial

 

 

Patches of bright blue sky were beginning to appear over the castle turrets, but these signs of approaching summer did not lift Harrys mood. He had been thwarted, both in his attempts to find out what Malfoy was doing, and in his efforts to start a conversation with Slughorn that might lead, somehow, to Slughorn handing over the memory he had apparently suppressed for decades.

For the last time, just forget about Malfoy, Hermione told Harry firmly.

They were sitting with Ron in a sunny corner of the courtyard after lunch. Hermione and Ron were both clutching a Ministry of Magic leaflet Common Apparition Mistakes and How to Avoid Them for they were taking their tests that very afternoon, but by and large the leaflets had not proved soothing to the nerves.

Ron gave a start and tried to hide behind Hermione as a girl came around the corner.

It isnt Lavender, said Hermione wearily.

Oh, good, said Ron, relaxing.

Harry Potter? said the girl. I was asked to give you this.

Thanks

Harrys heart sank as he took the small scroll of parchment. Once the girl was out of earshot he said, Dumbledore said we wouldnt be having any more lessons until I got the memory!

Maybe he wants to check on how youre doing? suggested Hermione, as Harry unrolled the parchment; but rather than finding Dumbledores long, narrow, slanted writing he saw an untidy sprawl, very difficult to read due to the presence of large blotches on the parchment where the ink had run.

Dear Harry, Ron and Hermione!

Aragog died last night. Harry and Ron, you met him and you know how special he was.

Hermione, I know youd have liked him.

It would mean a lot to me if youd nip down for the burial later this evening.

Im planning on doing it round dusk, that was his favorite time of day.

I know youre not supposed to be out that late, but you can use the cloak.

Wouldnt ask, but I cant face it alone.

Hagrid

Look at this, said Harry, handing the note to Hermione. Oh, for heavens sake, she said, scanning it quickly and passing it to Ron, who read it through looking increasingly incredulous. Hes mental he said furiously. That thing told its mates to eat Harry and me! Told them to help themselves! And now Hagrid expects us to go down there and cry over its horrible hairy body!

Its not just that, said Hermione. Hes asking us to leave the castle at night and he knows securitys a million times tighter and how much trouble wed be in if we were caught.

Weve been down to see him by night before, said Harry.

Yes, but for something like this? said Hermione. Weve risked a lot to help Hagrid out, but after all Aragogs dead. If it were a question of saving him

Id want to go even less, said Ron firmly. You didnt meet him, Hermione. Believe me, being dead will have improved him a lot.

Harry took the note back and stared down at all the inky blotches all over it. Tears had clearly fallen thick and fast upon the parchment

Harry, you cant be thinking of going, said Hermione. Its such a pointless thing to get detention for.

Harry sighed. Yeah, I know, he said. I spose Hagridll have to bury Aragog without us.

Yes, he will, said Hermione, looking relieved. Look, Potions will be almost empty this afternoon, with us all off doing our tests Try and soften Slughorn up a bit then!

Fifty-seventh time lucky, you think? said Harry bitterly.

Lucky, said Ron suddenly. Harry, thats it get lucky!

What dyou mean?

Use your lucky potion!

Ron, thats thats it! said Hermione, sounding stunned. Of course! Why didnt I think of it?

Harry stared at them both. Felix Felicis? he said. I dunno I was sort of saving it

What for? demanded Ron incredulously.

What on earth is more important than this memory, Harry? asked Hermione.

Harry did not answer. The thought of that little golden bottle had hovered on the edges of his imagination for some time; vague and unformulated plans that involved Ginny splitting up with Dean, and Ron somehow being happy to see her with a new boyfriend, had been fermenting in the depths of his brain, unacknowledged except during dreams or the twilight time between sleeping and waking

Harry? Are you still with us? asked Hermione.

Wha ? Yeah, of course, he said, pulling himself together. Well okay. If I cant get Slughorn to talk this afternoon, Ill take some Felix and have another go this evening.

Thats decided, then, said Hermione briskly, getting to her feet and performing a graceful pirouette. Destination determination deliberation she murmured.

Oh, stop that, Ron begged her, I feel sick enough as it is quick, hide me!

It isnt Lavender! said Hermione impatiently, as another couple of girls appeared in the courtyard and Ron dived behind her.

Cool, said Ron, peering over Hermiones shoulder to check. Blimey, they dont look happy, do they?

Theyre the Montgomery sisters and of course they dont look happy, didnt you hear what happened to their little brother? said Hermione.

Im losing track of whats happening to everyones relatives, to be honest, said Ron.

Well, their brother was attacked by a werewolf. The rumor is that their mother refused to help the Death Eaters. Anyway, the boy was only five and he died in St. Mungos, they couldnt save him.

He died? repeated Harry, shocked. But surely werewolves dont kill, they just turn you into one of them?

They sometimes kill, said Ron, who looked unusually grave now. Ive heard of it happening when the werewolf gets carried away.

What was the werewolfs name? said Harry quickly.

Well, the rumor is that it was that Fenrir Greyback, said Hermione.

I knew it the maniac who likes attacking kids, the one Lupin told me about! said Harry angrily.

Hermione looked at him bleakly.

Harry, youve got to get that memory, she said. Its all about stopping Voldemort, isnt it? These dreadful things that are happening are all down to him

The bell rang overhead in the castle and both Hermione and Ron jumped to their feet, looking terrified.

Youll do fine, Harry told them both, as they headed toward the entrance hall to meet the rest of the people taking their Apparition Test. Good luck.

And you too! said Hermione with a significant look, as Harry headed off to the dungeons.

There were only three of them in Potions that afternoon: Harry, Ernie, and Draco Malfoy.

All too young to Apparate just yet? said Slughorh genially, Not turned seventeen yet?

They shook their heads.

Ah well, said Slughorn cheerily, as were so few, well do something for fun. I want you all to brew me up something amusing!

That sounds good, sir, said Ernie sycophantically, rubbing his hands together. Malfoy, on the other hand, did not crack a smile. What do you mean, something amusing? he said irritably. Oh, surprise me, said Slughorn airily.

Malfoy opened his copy of Advanced Potion-Making with a sulky expression. It could not have been plainer that he thought this lesson was a waste of time. Undoubtedly, Harry thought, watching him over the top of his own book, Malfoy was begrudging the time he could otherwise be spending in the Room of Requirement.

Was it his imagination, or did Malfoy, like Tonks, look thinner! Certainly he looked paler; his skin still had that grayish tinge, probably because he so rarely saw daylight these days. But there was no air of smugness, excitement, or superiority; none of the swagger that he had had on the Hogwarts Express, when he had boasted openly of the mission he had been given by Voldemort There could be only one conclusion, in Harrys opinion: The mission, whatever it was, was going badly.

Cheered by this thought, Harry skimmed through his copy of Advanced Potion-Making and found a heavily corrected Half-Blood Princes version of An Elixir to Induce Euphoria, which seemed not only to meet Slughorns instructions, but which might (Harrys heart leapt as the thought struck him) put Slughorn into such a good mood that he would be prepared to hand over that memory if Harry could persuade him to taste some

Well, now, this looks absolutely wonderful, said Slughorn an hour and a half later, clapping his hands together as he stared down into the sunshine yellow contents of Harrys cauldron. Euphoria, I take it? And whats that I smell? Mmmm youve added just a sprig of peppermint, havent you? Unorthodox, but what a stroke of inspiration, Harry, of course, that would tend to counterbalance the occasional side effects of excessive singing and nose-tweaking I really dont know where you get these brain waves, my boy unless

Harry pushed the Half-Blood Princes book deeper into his bag with his foot.

its just your mothers genes coming out in you!

Oh yeah, maybe, said Harry, relieved.

Ernie was looking rather grumpy; determined to outshine Harry for once, he had most rashly invented his own potion, which had curdled and formed a kind of purple dumpling at the bottom of his cauldron. Malfoy was already packing up, sour-faced; Slughorn had pronounced his Hiccuping Solution merely passable.

The bell rang and both Ernie and Malfoy left at once. Sir, Harry began, but Slughorn immediately glanced over his shoulder; when he saw that the room was empty but for himself and Harry, he hurried away as fast as he could.

Professor Professor, dont you want to taste my po ? called Harry desperately.

But Slughorn had gone. Disappointed, Harry emptied the cauldron, packed up his things, left the dungeon, and walked slowly back upstairs to the common room.

Ron and Hermione returned in the late afternoon.

Harry! cried Hermione as she climbed through the portrait hole. Harry, I passed!

Well done! he said. And Ron?

He he just failed, whispered Hermione, as Ron came slouching into the room looking most morose. It was really unlucky, a tiny thing, the examiner just spotted that hed left half an eyebrow behind How did it go with Slughorn?

No joy, said Harry, as Ron joined them. Bad luck, mate, but youll pass next time we can take it together.

Yeah, I spose, said Ron grumpily. But half an eyebrow like that matters!

I know, said Hermione soothingly, it does seem really harsh

They spent most of their dinner roundly abusing the Apparition examiner, and Ron looked fractionally more cheerful by the time they set off back to the common room, now discussing the continuing problem of Slughorn and the memory.

So, Harry you going to use the Felix Felicis or what? Ron demanded.

Yeah, I spose Id better, said Harry. I dont reckon Ill need all of it, not twenty-four hours worth, it cant take all night Ill just take a mouthful. Two or three hours should do it.

Its a great feeling when you take it, said Ron reminiscently. Like you cant do anything wrong.

What are you talking about? said Hermione, laughing. Youve never taken any!

Yeah, but I thought I had, didnt I? said Ron, as though explaining the obvious. Same difference really

As they had only just seen Slughorn enter the Great Hall and knew that he liked to take time over meals, they lingered for a while in the common room, the plan being that Harry should go to Slughorn s office once the teacher had had time to get back there. When the sun had sunk to the level of the treetops in the Forbidden Forest, they decided the moment had come, and after checking carefully that Neville, Dean, and Seamus were all in the common room, sneaked up to the boys dormitory.





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