Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince 26

Harry took out the rolled-up socks at the bottom of his trunk and extracted the tiny, gleaming bottle.

Well, here goes, said Harry, and he raised the little bottle and look a carefully measured gulp.

What does it feel like? whispered Hermione.

Harry did not answer for a moment. Then, slowly but surely, an exhilarating sense of infinite opportunity stole through him; he felt as though he could have done anything, anything at all and getting the memory from Slughorn seemed suddenly not only possible, but positively easy

He got to his feet, smiling, brimming with confidence.

Excellent, he said. Really excellent. Right Im going down to Hagrids.

What? said Ron and Hermione together, looking aghast.

No, Harry youve got to go and see Slughorn, remember? said Hermione.

No, said Harry confidently. Im going to Hagrids, Ive got a good feeling about going to Hagrids.

Youve got a good feeling about burying a giant spider? asked Ron, looking stunned.

Yeah, said Harry, pulling his Invisibility Cloak out of his bag. I feel like its the place to be tonight, you know what I mean?

No, said Ron and Hermione together, both looking positively alarmed now.

This is Felix Felicis, I suppose? said Hermione anxiously, holding up the bottle to the light. You havent got another little bottle full of I dont know

Essence of Insanity? suggested Ron, as Harry swung his cloak over his shoulders.

Harry laughed, and Ron and Hermione looked even more alarmed.

Trust me, he said. I know what Im doing or at least he strolled confidently to the door Felix does.

He pulled the Invisibility Cloak over his head and set off down the stairs, Ron and Hermione hurrying along behind him. At the foot of the stairs, Harry slid through the open door.

What were you doing up there with her! shrieked Lavender Brown, staring right through Harry at Ron and Hermione emerging together from the boys dormitories. Harry heard Ron spluttering behind him as he darted across the room away from them.

Getting through the portrait hole was simple; as he approached it, Ginny and Dean came through it, and Harry was able to slip between them. As he did so, he brushed accidentally against Ginny.

Dont push me, please, Dean, she said, sounding annoyed. ; Youre always doing that, I can get through perfectly well on my own

The portrait swung closed behind Harry, but not before he had heard Dean make an angry retort His feeling of elation increasing, Harry strode off through the castle. He did not have to creep along, for he met nobody on his way, but this did not surprise him in the slightest. This evening, he was the luckiest person at Hogwarts.

Why he knew that going to Hagrids was the right thing to do, he had no idea. It was as though the potion was illuminating a few steps of the path at a time. He could not see the final destination, he could not see where Slughorn came in, but he knew that he was going the right way to get that memory. When he reached the entrance hall he saw that Filch had forgotten to lock the front door. Beaming, Harry threw it open and breathed in the smell of clean air and grass for a moment before walking down the steps into the dusk.

It was when he reached the bottom step that it occurred to him how very pleasant it would be to pass the vegetable patch on his walk to Hagrids. It was not strictly on the way, but it seemed clear to Harry that this was a whim on which he should act, so he directed his feet immediately toward the vegetable patch, where he was pleased, but not altogether surprised, to find Professor Slughorn in conversation with Professor Sprout. Harry lurked behind a low stone wall, feeling at peace with the world and listening to their conversation.

I do thank you for taking the time, Pomona, Slughorn was saying courteously, most authorities agree that they are at their most efficacious if picked at twilight.

Oh, I quite agree, said Professor Sprout warmly. That enough for you?

Plenty, plenty, said Slughorn, who, Harry saw, was carrying an armful of leafy plants. This should allow for a few leaves for each of my third years, and some to spare if anybody over-stews them Well, good evening to you, and many thanks again!

Professor Sprout headed off into the gathering darkness in the direction of her greenhouses, and Slughorn directed his steps to the spot where Harry stood, invisible.

Seized with an immediate desire to reveal himself, Harry pullet I off the cloak with a flourish.

Good evening, Professor.

Merlins beard, Harry, you made me jump, said Slughotn, stopping dead in his tracks and looking wary. How did you get out of the castle?

I think Filch mustve forgotten to lock the doors, said Harry cheerfully, and was delighted to see Slughorn scowl.

Ill be reporting that man, hes more concerned about litter than proper security if you ask me But why are you out then, Harry?

Well, sir, its Hagrid, said Harry, who knew that the right thing to do just now was to tell the truth. Hes pretty upset But you wont tell anyone, Professor? I dont want trouble for him

Slughorns curiosity was evidently aroused. Well, I cant promise that, he said gruffly. But I know that Dumbledore trusts Hagrid to the hilt, so Im sure he cant be up to anything very dreadful

Well, its this giant spider, hes had it for years It lived in the forest It could talk and everything

I heard rumors there were acromantulas in the forest, said Slughorn softly, looking over at the mass of black trees. Its true, then?

Yes, said Harry. But this one, Aragog, the first one Hagrid ever got, it died last night. Hes devastated. He wants company while he buries it and I said Id go.

Touching, touching, said Slughorn absentmindedly, his large droopy eyes fixed upon the distant lights of Hagrids cabin. But acromantula venom is very valuable If the beast only just died it might not yet have dried out Of course, I wouldnt want to do anything insensitive if Hagrid is upset but if there was any way to procure some I mean, its almost impossible to get venom from an acromantula while its alive

Slughorn seemed to be talking more to himself than Harry now. seems an awful waste not to collect it might get a hundred Galleons a pint To be frank, my salary is not large

And now Harry saw clearly what was to be done. Well, he said, with a most convincing hesitancy, well, if you wanted to come, Professor, Hagrid would probably be really pleased Give Aragog a better send-off, you know

Yes, of course, said Slughorn, his eyes now gleaming with enthusiasm. I tell you what, Harry, Ill meet you down there with a bottle or two Well drink the poor beasts well not health but well send it off in style, anyway, once its buried. And Ill change my tie, this one is a little exuberant for the occasion

He bustled back into the castle, and Harry sped off to Hagrids, delighted with himself.

Yen came, croaked Hagrid, when he opened the door and saw Harry emerging from the Invisibility Cloak in front of him.

Yeah Ron and Hermione couldnt, though, said Harry. Theyre really sorry.

Don don matter Hedve bin touched yehre here, though, Harry

Hagrid gave a great sob. He had made himself a black armband out of what looked like a rag dipped in boot polish, and his eyes were puffy, red, and swollen. Harry patted him consolingly on the elbow, which was the highest point of Hagrid he could easily reach.

Where are we burying him? he asked. The forest?

Blimey, no, said Hagrid, wiping his streaming eyes on the bottom of his shirt. The other spiders won let me anywhere near their webs now Aragogs gone. Turns out it was only on his orders they didn eat me! Can yeh believe that, Harry?

The honest answer was yes; Harry recalled with painful ease the scene when he and Ron had come face-to-face with the aero-mantulas. They had been quite clear that Aragog was the only thing that stopped them from eating Hagrid.

Never bin an area o the forest I couldn go before! said Hagrid, shaking his head. It wasn easy, gettin Aragogs body out o there, I can tell yeh they usually eat their dead, see But I wanted ter give im a nice burial a proper send-off

He broke into sobs again and Harry resumed the patting of his elbow, saying as he did so (for the potion seemed to indicate that it was the right thing to do), Professor Slughorn met me coming down here, Hagrid.

Not in trouble, are yeh? said Hagrid, looking up, alarmed. Yeh shouldn be outta the castle in the evenin, I know it, its my fault

No, no, when he heard what I was doing he said hed like to come and pay his last respects to Aragog too, said Harry.

Hes gone to change into something more suitable, I thinkand he said hed bring some bottles so we can drink to Aragogs mem-ory

Did he? said Hagrid, looking both astonished and touched. Thas thas righ nice of him, that is, an not turnin yeh in either. Ive never really had a lot ter do with Horace Slughorn before Comin ter see old Aragog off, though, eh? Well hedve liked that, Aragog would

Harry thought privately that what Aragog would have liked most about Slughorn was the ample amount of edible flesh he provided, but he merely moved to the rear window of Hagrids hut, where he saw the rather horrible sight of the enormous dead spider lying on its back outside, its legs curled and tangled.

Are we going to bury him here, Hagrid, in your garden?

Jus beyond the pumpkin patch, I thought, said Hagrid in a choked voice. Ive already dug the yeh know grave. Jus thought wed say a few nice things over him happy memories, yeh know

His voice quivered and broke. There was a knock on the door, and he turned to answer it, blowing his nose on his great spotted handkerchief as he did so. Slughorn hurried over the threshold, several bottles in his arms, and wearing a somber black cravat.


Hagrid, he said, in a deep, grave voice. So very sorry to hear of your loss.

Thas very nice of yeh, said Hagrid. Thanks a lot. An thanks fer not givin Harry detention neither

Wouldnt have dreamed of it, said Slughorn. Sad night, sad night Where is the poor creature?

Out here, said Hagrid in a shaking voice. Shall we shall we do it, then?

The three of them stepped out into the back garden. The moon was glistening palely through the trees now, and its rays mingled with the light spilling from Hagrids window to illuminate Aragogs body lying on the edge of a massive pit beside a ten-foot high mound of freshly dug earth.

Magnificent, said Slughorn, approaching the spiders head, where eight milky eyes stared blankly at the sky and two huge, curved pincers shone, motionless, in the moonlight. Harry thougln he heard the tinkle of bottles as Slughorn bent over the pincers, apparently examining the enormous hairy head.

Its not evryone appreciates how beauiful they are said H grid to Slughorns back, tears leaking from the corners of his crinkled eyes. I didn know yeh were interested in creatures like Aragog, Horace.

Interested? My dear Hagrid, I revere them, said Slughorn, stepping back from the body. Harry saw the glint of a bottle disappear beneath his cloak, though Hagrid, mopping his eyes once more, noticed nothing. Now shall we proceed to the burial?

Hagrid nodded and moved forward. He heaved the gigantic spider into his arms and, with an enormous grunt, rolled it into the dark pit. It hit the bottom with a rather horrible, crunchy thud. Hagrid started to cry again.

Of course, its difficult for you, who knew him best, said Slughorn, who like Harry could reach no higher than Hagrids elbow, but patted it all the same. Why dont I say a few words?

He must have got a lot of good quality venom from Aragog, Harry thought, for Slughorn wore a satisfied smirk as he stepped up to the rim of the pit and said, in a slow, impressive voice, Farewell, Aragog, king of arachnids, whose long and faithful friendship those who knew you wont forget! Though your body will decay, your spirit lingers on in the quiet, web-spun places of your forest home. May your many-eyed descendants ever flourish and your human friends find solace for the loss they have sustained.


Tha was tha was beauiful! howled Hagrid, and he collapsed onto the compost heap, crying harder than ever.

There, there, said Slughorn, waving his wand so that the huge pile of earth rose up and then fell, with a muffled sort of crash, onto the dead spider, forming a smooth mound. Lets get inside and have a drink. Get on his other side, Harry Thats it Up you come, Hagrid Well done

They deposited Hagrid in a chair at the table. Fang, who had been skulking in his basket during the burial, now came padding softly across to them and put his heavy head into Harrys lap as usual. Slughorn uncorked one of the bottles of wine he had brought.

I have had it all tested for poison, he assured Harry, pouring most of the first bottle into one of Hagrids bucket-sized mugs and handing it to Hagrid. Had a house-elf taste every bottle after what happened to your poor friend Rupert.

Harry saw, in his minds eye, the expression on Hermiones face if she ever heard about this abuse of houseelves, and decided never to mention it to her.

One for Harry said Slughorn, dividing a second bottle between two mugs, and one for me. Well he raised his mug high to Aragog.

Aragog, said Harry and Hagrid together. Both Slughorn and Hagrid drank deeply. Harry, however, with the way ahead illuminated for him by Felix Felicis, knew that he must not drink, so he merely pretended to take a gulp and then set the mug back on the table before him.

I had him from an egg, yeh know, said Hagrid morosely. Tiny little thing he was when he hatched. Bout the size of a Pekingese

Sweet, said Slughorn.

Used ter keep him in a cupboard up at the school until well

Hagrids face darkened and Harry knew why: Tom Riddle had contrived to have Hagrid thrown out of school, blamed for opening the Chamber of Secrets. Slughorn, however, did not seem to be listening; he was looking up at the ceiling, from which a number of brass pots hung, and also a long, silky skein of bright white hair.

Thats not unicorn hair, Hagrid?

Oh, yeah, said Hagrid indifferently. Gets pulled out of their tails, they catch it on branches an stuff in the forest, yeh know

But my dear chap, do you know how much thats worth?

I use it fer bindin on bandages an stuff if a creature gets in jured, said Hagrid, shrugging. Its dead useful very strong.

Slughorn took another deep draught from his mug, his eyes moving carefully around the cabin now, looking, Harry knew, for more treasures that he might be able to convert into a plentiful su ply of oak-matured mead, crystalized pineapple, and velvet smoking jackets. He refilled Hagrids mug and his own, and questioned him about the creatures that lived in the forest these days and how Hagrid was able to look after them all. Hagrid, becoming expansive under the influence of the drink and Slughorns flattering interest, stopped mopping his eyes and entered happily into a long explanation of bowtruckle husbandry.

The Felix Felicis gave Harry a little nudge at this point, and he noticed that the supply of drink that Slughorn had brought was running out fast. Harry had not yet managed to bring off the Re-filling Charm without saying the incantation aloud, but the idea that he might not be able to do it tonight was laughable: Indeed, Harry grinned to himself as, unnoticed by either Hagrid or Slug-liorn (now swapping tales of the illegal trade in dragon eggs) he pointed his wand under the table at the emptying bottles and they immediately began to refill.

After an hour or so, Hagrid and Slughorn began making extravagant toasts: to Hogwarts, to Dumbledore, to elf-made wine, and to-

Harry Potter! bellowed Hagrid, slopping some of his fourteenth bucket of wine down his chin as he drained it.

Yes, indeed, cried Slughorn a little thickly, Parry Otter, the Chosen Boy Who well something of that sort, he mumbled, and drained his mug too.

Not long after this, Hagrid became tearful again and pressed the whole unicorn tail upon Slughorn, who pocketed it with cries of, To friendship! To generosity! To ten Galleons a hair!

And for a while after that, Hagrid and Slughorn were sitting side by side, arms around each other, singing a slow sad song about a dying wizard called Odo.

Aaargh, the good die young, muttered Hagrid, slumping low onto the table, a little cross-eyed, while Slughorn continued to warble the refrain. Me dad was no age ter go nor were yer mum an dad, Harry

Great fat tears oozed out of the corners of Hagrids crinkled eyes again; he grasped Harrys arm and shook it

Bes wiz and witchard o their age I never knew terrible thing terrible thing

And Odo the hero, they bore him back home To the place that hed known as a lad, sang Slughorn plaintively.

They laid him to rest with his hat inside out.

And his wand snapped in two, which was sad.

terrible, Hagrid grunted, and his great shaggy head rolled sideways onto his arms and he fell asleep, snoring deeply.

Sorry, said Slughorn with a hiccup. Cant carry a tune to save my life.

Hagrid wasnt talking about your singing, said Harry quietly. He was talking about my mum and dad dying.

Oh, said Slughorn, repressing a large belch. Oh dear. Yes, that was was terrible indeed. Terrible terrible

He looked quite at a loss for what to say, and resorted to refilling their mugs.

I dont dont suppose you remember it, Harry? he asked awkwardly.

No well, I was only one when they died, said Harry, his eyes on the flame of the candle flickering in Hagrids heavy snores. But Ive found out pretty much what happened since. My dad died first. Did you know that?

I I didnt, said Slughorn in a hushed voice.

Yeah Voldemort murdered him and then stepped over his body toward my mum, said Harry.

Slughorn gave a great shudder, but he did not seem able to tear his horrified gaze away from Harrys face.

He told her to get out of the way, said Harry remorselessly. He told me she neednt have died. He only wanted me. She could have run.

Oh dear, breathed Slughorn. She could have she neednt Thats awful

It is, isnt it? said Harry, in a voice barely more than a whisper. But she didnt move. Dad was already dead, but she didnt want me to go too. She tried to plead with Voldemort but he just laughed

Thats enough! said Slughorn suddenly, raising a shaking hand. Really, my dear boy, enough Im an old man I dont need to hear I dont want to hear

I forgot, lied Harry, Felix Felicis leading him on. You liked her, didnt you?

Liked her? said Slughorn, his eyes brimming with tears once more. I dont imagine anyone who met her wouldnt have liked her Very brave Very funny It was the most horrible thing

But you wont help her son, said Harry. She gave me her life, but you wont give me a memory.

Hagrids rumbling snores filled the cabin. Harry looked steadily into Slughorns tear-filled eyes. The Potions master seemed unable to look away.

Dont say that, he whispered. It isnt a question If it were to help you, of course but no purpose can be served

It can, said Harry clearly. Dumbledore needs information. I need information.

He knew he was safe: Felix was telling him that Slughorn would remember nothing of this in the morning. Looking Slughorn straight in the eye, Harry leaned forward a little.

I am the Chosen One. I have to kill him. I need that memory.

Slughorn turned paler than ever; his shiny forehead gleamed with sweat.

You are the Chosen One? . . I.

Of course I am, said Harry calmly.

But then my dear boy youre asking a great deal youre asking me, in fact, to aid you in your attempt to destroy-

You dont want to get rid of the wizard who killed Lily Evans?

Harry, Harry, of course I do, but

Youre scared hell find out you helped me?

Slughorn said nothing; he looked terrified.

Be brave like my mother, Professor

Slughorn raised a pudgy hand and pressed his shaking fingers to his mouth; he looked for a moment like an enormously overgrown baby.

I am not proud he whispered through his fingers. I am ashamed of what of what that memory shows I think I may have done great damage that day

Youd cancel out anything you did by giving me the memory, said Harry. It would be a very brave and noble thing to do.

Hagrid twitched in his sleep and snored on. Slughorn and Harry stared at each other over the guttering candle. There was a long, long silence, but Felix Felicis told Harry not to break it, to wait. Then, very slowly, Slughorn put his hand in his pocket and pulled out his wand. He put his other hand inside his cloak and took out a small, empty bottle. Still looking into Harrys eyes, Slughorn touched the tip of his wand to his temple and withdrew it, so that a long, silver thread of memory came away too, clinging to the wand tip. Longer and longer the memory stretched until it broke and swung, silvery bright, from the wand. Slughorn lowered it into the bottle where it coiled, then spread, swirling like gas. He corked the bottle with a trembling hand and then passed it across the table to Harry.

Thank you very much, Professor.

Youre a good boy, said Professor Slughorn, tears trickling down his fat cheeks into his walrus mustache. And youve got her eyes Just dont think too badly of me once youve seen it

And he too put his head on his arms, gave a deep sigh, and fell asleep.



CHAPTER 23: Horcruxes



Harry could feel the Felix Felicis wearing off as he creeped back into the castle. The front door had remained un locked for him, but on the third floor he met Peeves and only narrowly avoided detection by diving sideways through one of his shortcuts. By the time he got up to the portrait of the Fat Lady and pulled off his Invisibility Cloak, he was not surprised to find her in a most unhelpful mood.

What sort of time do you call this?

Im really sorry I had to go out for something important

Well, the password changed at midnight, so youll just have to sleep in the corridor, wont you?

Youre joking! said Harry. Why did it have to change at midnight?

Thats the way it is, said the Fat Lady. If youre angry, go and take it up with the headmaster, hes the one whos tightened security.

Fantastic, said Harry bitterly, looking around at the hard floor. Really brilliant. Yeah, I would go and take it up with Dumbledore if he was here, because hes the one who wanted me to

He is here, said a voice behind Harry. Professor Dumbledore returned to the school an hour ago.

Nearly Headless Nick was gliding toward Harry, his head wobbling as usual upon his ruff.

I had it from the Bloody Baron, who saw him arrive, said Nick. He appeared, according to the Baron, to be in good spirits, though a little tired, of course.

Where is he? said Harry, his heart leaping,

Oh, groaning and clanking up on the Astronomy Tower, its a, favorite pastime of his

Not the Bloody Baron Dumbledore!

Oh in his office, said Nick. I believe, from what the Baron said, that he had business to attend to before turning in

Yeah, he has, said Harry, excitement blazing in his chest at the prospect of telling Dumbledore he had secured the memory. He wheeled about and sprinted off again, ignoring the Fat Lady who was calling after him.

Come back! All right, I lied! I was annoyed you woke me up! The passwords still tapeworm!

But Harry was already hurtling back along the corridor and within minutes, he was saying toffee eclairs to Dumbledores gargoyle, which leapt aside, permitting Harry entrance onto the spiral staircase.

Enter, said Dumbledore when Harry knocked. He sounded exhausted. Harry pushed open the door. There was Dumbledores office, looking the same as ever, but with black, star-strewn skies beyond the windows.

Good gracious, Harry, said Dumbledore in surprise. To what do I owe this very late pleasure?

Sir Ive got it. Ive got the memory from Slughorn.

Harry pulled out the tiny glass bottle and showed it to Dumbledore. For a moment or two, the headmaster looked stunned. Then his face split in a wide smile.

Harry, this is spectacular news! Very well done indeed! I knew you could do it!

All thought of the lateness of the hour apparently forgotten, he hurried around his desk, took the bottle with Slughorns memory in his uninjured hand, and strode over to the cabinet where he kepi the Pensieve.

And now, said Dumbledore, placing the stone basin upon the desk and emptying the contents of the bottle into it. Now, at last. we shall see. Harry, quickly

Harry bowed obediently over the Pensieve and felt his feet leave the office floor Once again he fell through darkness and landed in Horace Slughorns office many years before. There was the much younger Slughorn, with his thick, shiny, straw-colored hair and his gingery-blond mustache, sitting again in the comfortable winged armchair in his office, his feet resting upon a velvet pouffe, a small glass of wine in one hand, the other rummaging in a box of crystallized pineapple. And there were the half dozen teenage boys sitting around Slughorn with Tom Riddle in the midst of them, Marvolos gold-and-black ring gleaming on his finger.

Dumbledore landed beside Harry just as Riddle asked, Sir is it true that Professor Merrythought is retiring?

Tom, Tom, if I knew I couldnt tell you, said Slughorn, wagging his finger reprovingly at Riddle, though winking at the same time. I must say, Id like to know where you get your information, boy, more knowledgeable than half the staff, you are.

Riddle smiled; the other boys laughed and cast him admiring looks.

What with your uncanny ability to know things you shouldnt, and your careful flattery of the people who matter thank you for the pineapple, by the way, youre quite right, it is my favorite Several of the boys tittered again. I confidently expect you to rise to Minister of Magic within twenty years. Fifteen, if you keep sending me pineapple, I have excellent contacts at the Ministry.

Tom Riddle merely smiled as the others laughed again. Harry noticed that he was by no means the eldest of the group of boys, but that they all seemed to look to him as their leader.

I dont know that politics would suit me, sir, he said when the laughter had died away. I dont have the right kind of background, for one thing.

A couple of the boys around him smirked at each other. Harry was sure they were enjoying a private joke, undoubtedly about what they knew, or suspected, regarding their gang leaders famous ancestor.

Nonsense, said Slughorn briskly, couldnt be plainer you come from decent Wizarding stock, abilities like yours. No, youll go far, Tom, Ive never been wrong about a student yet.

The small golden clock standing upon Slughorns desk chimed eleven oclock behind him and he looked around.

Good gracious, is it that time already? Youd better get going boys, or well all be in trouble. Lestrange, I want your essay by in morrow or its detention. Same goes for you, Avery.

One by one, the boys filed out of the room. Slughorn heaved himself out of his armchair and carried his empty glass over to his desk. A movement behind him made him look around; Riddle was still standing there.

Look shar p, Tom, you dont want to be caught out of bed out of hours, and you a prefect

Sir, I wanted to ask you something. - Ask away, then, mboy, ask away

Sir, I wondered what you know about about Horcruxes?

Slughorn stared at him, his thick ringers absentmindedly clawing the stem of his wine glass.

Project for Defense Against the Dark Arts, is it?

But Harry could tell that Slughorn knew perfectly well that this was not schoolwork.

Not exactly, sir, said Riddle. I came across the term while reading and I didnt fully understand it.

No well youd be hard-pushed to find a book at Hogwarts thatll give you details on Horcruxes, Tom, thats very Dark stuff, very Dark indeed, said Slughorn.

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