Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince 28

Of course, this puts you in a bit of a dilemma, doesnt it? said Hermione.

What dyou mean? said Harry quickly.

The Quidditch team, said Hermione. If Ginnyand Dean arent speaking

Oh oh yeah, said Harry.

Flitwick, said Ron in a warning tone. The tiny little Charms master was bobbing his way toward them, and Hermione was the only one who had managed to turn vinegar into wine; her glass flask was full of deep crimson liquid, whereas the contents of Harrys and Rons were still murky brown.

Now, now, boys, squeaked Professor Flitwick reproachfully. A little less talk, a little more action Let me see you try

Together they raised their wands, concentrating with all their might, and pointed them at their flasks. Harrys vinegar turned to ice; Rons flask exploded.

Yes for homework, said Professor Flitwick, reemerging from under the table and pulling shards of glass out of the top of his hat, practice.

They had one of their rare joint free periods after Charms and walked back to the common room together. Ron seemed to be positively lighthearted about the end of his relationship with Lavender, and Hermione seemed cheery too, though when asked what she was grinning about she simply said, Its a nice day. Neither of them seemed to have noticed that a fierce battle was raging inside Harrys brain:

Shes Rons sister.

But shes ditched Dean!

Shes still Rons sister.

Im his best mate!

Thatll make it worse.

If I talked to him first

Hed hit you.

What if I dont care?

Hes your best mate!

Harry barely noticed that they were climbing through the portrait hole into the sunny common room, and only vaguely registered the small group of seventh years clustered together there, until Hermione cried, Katie! Youre back! Are you okay?

Harry stared: It was indeed Katie Bell, looking completely healthy and surrounded by her jubilant friends.

Im really well! she said happily. They let me out of St. Mungos on Monday, I had a couple of days at home with Mum and Dad and then came back here this morning. Leanne was just telling me about McLaggen and the last match, Harry

Yeah, said Harry, well, now youre back and Rons fit, well have a decent chance of thrashing Ravenclaw, which means we could still be in the running for the Cup. Listen, Katie

He had to put the question to her at once; his curiosity even drove Ginny temporarily from his brain. He dropped his voice as Katies friends started gathering up their things; apparently they were late for Transfiguration.

that necklace can you remember who gave it to you now?

No, said Katie, shaking her head ruefully. Everyones been asking me, but I havent got a clue. The last thing I remember was walking into the ladies in the Three Broomsticks.

You definitely went into the bathroom, then? said Hermione.

Well, I know I pushed open the door, said Katie, so I suppose whoever Imperiused me was standing just behind it. After that, my memorys a blank until about two weeks ago in St. Mungos. Listen, Id better go, I wouldnt put it past McGonagall to give me lines even if it is my first day back

She caught up her bag and books and hurried after her friends, leaving Harry, Ron, and Hermione to sit down at a window table and ponder what she had told them.

So it must have been a girl or a woman who gave Katie the necklace, said Hermione, to be in the ladies bathroom.

Or someone who looked like a girl or a woman, said Harry. Dont forget, there was a cauldron full of Polyjuice Potion at Hog-warts. We know some of it got stolen

In his minds eye, he watched a parade of Crabbes and Goyles prance past, all transformed into girls.

I think Im going to take another swig of Felix, said Harry, and have a go at the Room of Requirement again.

That would be a complete waste of potion, said Hermione flatly, putting down the copy of Spellmans Syllabary she had just taken out of her bag. Luck can only get you so far, Harry. The situation with Slughorn was different; you always had the ability to persuade him, you just needed to tweak the circumstances a bit. Luck isnt enough to get you through a powerful enchantment, though. Dont go wasting the rest of that potion! Youll need all the luck you can get if Dumbledore takes you along with him She dropped her voice to a whisper.

Couldnt we make some more? Ron asked Harry, ignoring Hermione. Itd be great to have a stock of it Have a look in the book

Harry pulled his copy of Advanced Potion-Making out of his bap, and looked up Felix Felicis.

Blimey, its seriously complicated, he said, running an eye down the list of ingredients. And it takes six months Youve got to let it stew

Typical, said Ron.

Harry was about to put his book away again when he noticed the corner of a page folded down; turning to it, he saw the Sectum-sempra spell, captioned For Enemies, that he had marked a few weeks previously. He had still not found out what it did, mainly because he did not want to test it around Hermione, but he was considering trying it out on McLaggen next time he came up behind him unawares.

The only person who was not particularly pleased to see Katie Bell back at school was Dean Thomas, because he would no longer be required to fill her place as Chaser. He took the blow stoically enough when Harry told him, merely grunting and shrugging, but Harry had the distinct feeling as he walked away that Dean and Seamus were muttering mutinously behind his back.

The following fortnight saw the best Quidditch practices Harry had known as Captain. His team was so pleased to be rid of McLaggen, so glad to have Katie back at last, that they were flying extremely well.

Ginny did not seem at all upset about the breakup with Dean; on the contrary, she was the life and soul of the team. Her imitations of Ron anxiously bobbing up and down in front of the goal posts as the Quaffle sped toward him, or of Harry bellowing orders at McLaggen before being knocked out cold, kept them all highly amused. Harry, laughing with the others, was glad to have an innocent reason to look at Ginny; he had received several more Bludger injuries during practice because he had not been keeping his eyes on the Snitch.

The battle still raged inside his head: Ginny or Ron? Sometimes he thought that the post-Lavender Ron might not mind too much if he asked Ginny out, but then he remembered Rons expression when he had seen her kissing Dean, and was sure that Ron would consider it base treachery if Harry so much as held her hand

Yet Harry could not help himself talking to Ginny, laughing with her, walking back from practice with her; however much his conscience ached, he found himself wondering how best to get her on her own. It would have been ideal if Slughorn had given another of his little parties, for Ron would not be around but unfortunately, Slughorn seemed to have given them up. Once or twice Harry considered asking for Hermiones help, but he did not think he could stand seeing the smug look on her face; he thought he caught it sometimes when Hermione spotted him staring at Ginny or laughing at her jokes. And to complicate matters, he had the nagging worry that if he didnt do it, somebody else was sure to ask Ginny out soon: He and Ron were at least agreed on the fact that she was too popular for her own good.

All in all, the temptation to take another gulp of Felix Felicis was becoming stronger by the day, for surely this was a case for, as Hermione put it, tweaking the circumstances? The balmy days slid gently through May, and Ron seemed to be there at Harrys shoulder every time he saw Ginny. Harry found himself longing for a stroke of luck that would somehow cause Ron to realize that nothing would make him happier than his best friend and his sister falling for each other and to leave them alone together for longer than a few seconds. There seemed no chance of either while the final Quidditch game of the season was looming; Ron wanted to talk tactics with Harry all the time and had little thought for anything else.

Ron was not unique in this respect; interest in the Gryffindor-Ravenclaw game was running extremely high throughout the school, for the match would decide the Championship, which was still wide open. If Gryffindor beat Ravenclaw by a margin of three hundred points (a tall order, and yet Harry had never known his team to fly better) then they would win the Championship. If they won by less than three hundred points, they would come second to Ravenclaw; if they lost by a hundred points they would be third behind Hufflepuff and if they lost by more than a hundred, they would be in fourth place and nobody, Harry thought, would ever, ever let him forget that it had been he who had captained Gryffindor to their first bottom-of-the-table defeat in two centuries.

The run-up to this crucial match had all the usual features: members of rival Houses attempting to intimidate opposing teams in the corridors; unpleasant chants about individual players being rehearsed loudly as they passed; the team members themselves either swaggering around enjoying all the attention or else dashing into bathrooms between classes to throw up. Somehow, the game had become inextricably linked in Harrys mind with success or failure in his plans for Ginny. He could not help feeling that if they won by more than three hundred points, the scenes of euphoria and a nice loud after-match party might be just as good as a hearty swig of Felix Felicis.

In the midst of all his preoccupations, Harry had not forgotten his other ambition: finding out what Malfoy was up to in the Room of Requirement. He was still checking the Marauders Map, and as he was unable to locate Malfoy on it, deduced that Malfoy was still spending plenty of time within the room. Although Harry was losing hope that he would ever succeed in getting inside the Room of Requirement, he attempted it whenever he was in the vicinity, but no matter how he reworded his request, the wall remained firmly doorless.

A few days before the match against Ravenclaw, Harry found himself walking down to dinner alone from the common room, Ron having rushed off into a nearby bathroom to throw up yet again, and Hermione having dashed off to see Professor Vector about a mistake she thought she might have made in her last Arithmancy essay. More out of habit than anything, Harry made his usual detour along the seventh-floor corridor, checking the Marauders Map as he went. For a moment he could not find Malfoy anywhere and assumed he must indeed be inside the Room of Requirement again, but then he saw Malfoys tiny, labeled dot standing in a boys bathroom on the floor below, accompanied, not by Crabbe or Goyle, but by Moaning Myrtle.

Harry only stopped staring at this unlikely coupling when he walked right into a suit of armor. The loud crash brought him out of his reverie; hurrying from the scene lest Filch turn up, he dashed down the marble staircase and along the passageway below. Outside the bathroom, he pressed his ear against the door. He could not hear anything. He very quietly pushed the door open.

Draco Malfoy was standing with his back to the door, his hands clutching either side of the sink, his white-blond head bowed.

Dont, crooned Moaning Myrtles voice from one of the cubicles. Dont tell me whats wrong I can help you

No one can help me, said Malfoy. His whole body was shaking. I cant do it I cant It wont work and unless I do it soon he says hell kill me

And Harry realized, with a shock so huge it seemed to root him to the spot, that Malfoy was crying actually crying tears streaming down his pale face into the grimy basin. Malfoy gasped and gulped and then, with a great shudder, looked up into flu-cracked mirror and saw Harry staring at him over his shoulder.

Malfoy wheeled around, drawing his wand. Instinctively, Harry pulled out his own. Malfoys hex missed Harry by inches, shattering the lamp on the wall beside him; Harry threw himself sideways, thought Levicorpus! and flicked his wand, but Malfoy blocked the jinx and raised his wand for another

No! No! Stop it! squealed Moaning Myrtle, her voice echoing loudly around the tiled room. Stop! STOP!

There was a loud bang and the bin behind Harry exploded; Harry attempted a Leg-Locker Curse that backfired off the wall behind Malfoys ear and smashed the cistern beneath Moaning Myrtle, who screamed loudly; water poured everywhere and Harry slipped as Malfoy, his face contorted, cried, Cruci

SECTUMSEMPRA! bellowed Harry from the floor, waving his wand wildly.

Blood spurted from Malfoys face and chest as though he had been slashed with an invisible sword. He staggered backward and collapsed onto the waterlogged floor with a great splash, his wand falling from his limp right hand.

No gasped Harry.

Slipping and staggering, Harry got to his feet and plunged toward Malfoy, whose face was now shining scarlet, his white hands scrabbling at his blood-soaked chest.

No I didnt

Harry did not know what he was saying; he fell to his knees beside Malfoy, who was shaking uncontrollably in a pool of his own blood. Moaning Myrtle let out a deafening scream: MURDER! MURDER IN THE BATHROOM! MURDER!

The door banged open behind Harry and he looked up, terrified: Snape had burst into the room, his face livid. Pushing Harry roughly aside, he knelt over Malfoy, drew his wand, and traced it over the deep wounds Harrys curse had made, muttering an incantation that sounded almost like song. The flow of blood seemed to ease; Snape wiped the residue from Malfoys face and repeated his spell. Now the wounds seemed to be knitting.

Harry was still watching, horrified by what he had done, barely aware that he too was soaked in blood and water. Moaning Myrtle was still sobbing and wailing overhead. When Snape had performed his countercurse for the third time, he half-lifted Malfoy into a standing position.

You need the hospital wing. There may be a certain amount of scarring, but if you take dittany immediately we might avoid even that Come

He supported Malfoy across the bathroom, turning at the door to say in a voice of cold fury, And you, Potter You wait here for me.

It did not occur to Harry for a second to disobey. He stood up slowly, shaking, and looked down at the wet floor. There were bloodstains floating like crimson flowers across its surface. He could not even find it in himself to tell Moaning Myrtle to be quiet, as she continued to wail and sob with increasingly evident enjoyment.

Snape returned ten minutes later. He stepped into the bathroom and closed the door behind him.

Go, he said to Myrtle, and she swooped back into her toilet at once, leaving a ringing silence behind her.

I didnt mean it to happen, said Harry at once. His voice echoed in the cold, watery space. I didnt know what that spell did.

But Snape ignored this. Apparently I underestimated you, Potter, he said quietly. Who would have thought you knew such Dark Magic? Who taught you that spell?

I read about it somewhere.


It was a library book, Harry invented wildly. I cant remember what it was call

Liar, said Snape. Harrys throat went dry. He knew what Snape was going to do and he had never been able to prevent it

The bathroom seemed to shimmer before his eyes; he struggled to block out all thought, but try as he might, the Half-Blood Princes copy of Advanced Potion-Making swam hazily to the forefront of his mind.

And then he was staring at Snape again, in the midst of this wrecked, soaked bathroom. He stared into Snapes black eyes, hoping against hope that Snape had not seen what he feared, but

Bring me your schoolbag, said Snape softly, and all of your schoolbooks. All of them. Bring them to me here. Now!

There was no point arguing. Harry turned at once and splashed out of the bathroom. Once in the corridor, he broke into a run toward Gryffindor Tower. Most people were walking the other way; they gaped at him, drenched in water and blood, but he answered none of the questions fired at him as he ran past.

He felt stunned; it was as though a beloved pet had turned suddenly savage; what had the Prince been thinking to copy such a spell into his book? And what would happen when Snape saw it? Would he tell Slughorn Harrys stomach churned how Harry had been achieving such good results in Potions all year? Would he confiscate or destroy the book that had taught Harry so much the book that had become a kind of guide and friend? Harry could not let it happen He could not

Whereve you ? Why are you soaking ? Is that blood. Ron was standing at the top of the stairs, looking bewildered at , the sight of Harry.

I need your book, Harry panted. Your Potions book. Quick give it to me

But what about the Half-Blood

Ill explain later!

Ron pulled his copy of Advanced Potion-Making out of his bag and handed it over; Harry sprinted off past him and back to the common room. Here, he seized his schoolbag, ignoring the amazed looks of several people who had already finished their dinner, threw himself back out of the portrait hole, and hurtled off along the seventh-floor corridor.

He skidded to a halt beside the tapestry of dancing trolls, closed his eyes, and began to walk.

I need a place to hide my book I need a place to hide my book I need a place to hide my book

Three times he walked up and down in front of the stretch of blank wall. When he opened his eyes, there it was at last: the door to the Room of Requirement. Harry wrenched it open, flung him self inside, and slammed it shut.

He gasped. Despite his haste, his panic, his fear of what awaited him back in the bathroom, he could not help but be overawed by what he was looking at. He was standing in a room the size of a large cathedral, whose high windows were sending shafts of light down upon what looked like a city with towering walls, built of what Harry knew must be objects hidden by generations of Hogwarts inhabitants. There were alleyways and roads bordered by tetering piles of broken and damaged furniture, stowed away, perhaps, to hide the evidence of mishandled magic, or else hidden by castle-proud house-elves. There were thousands and thousands of books, no doubt banned or graffitied or stolen. There were winged catapults and Fanged Frisbees, some still with enough life in them to hover halfheartedly over the mountains of other forbidden items; there were chipped bottles of congealed potions, hats, jewels, cloaks; there were what looked like dragon eggshells, corked bottles whose contents still shimmered evilly, several rusting swords, and a heavy, bloodstained axe.

Harry hurried forward into one of the many alleyways between all this hidden treasure. He turned right past an enormous stuffed troll, ran on a short way, took a left at the broken Vanishing Cabinet in which Montague had got lost the previous year, finally pausing beside a large cupboard that seemed to have had acid thrown at its blistered surface. He opened one of the cupboards creaking doors: It had already been used as a hiding place for something in a cage that had long since died; its skeleton had five legs. He stuffed the Half-Blood Princes book behind the cage and slammed the door. He paused for a moment, his heart thumping horribly, gazing around at all the clutter Would he be able to find this spot again amidst all this junk? Seizing the chipped bust of an ugly old warlock from on top of a nearby crate, he stood it on top of the cupboard where the book was now hidden, perched a dusty old wig and a tarnished tiara on the statues head to make it more distinctive, then sprinted back through the alleyways of hidden junk as fast as he could go, back to the door, back out onto the corridor, where he slammed the door behind him, and it turned at once back into stone.

Harry ran flat-out toward the bathroom on the floor below, cramming Rons copy of Advanced Potion-Making into his bag as he did so. A minute later, he was back in front of Snape, who held out his hand wordlessly for Harrys schoolbag. Harry handed it over, panting, a searing pain in his chest, and waited.

One by one, Snape extracted Harrys books and examined them., Finally, the only book left was the Potions book, which he looked at very carefully before speaking.

This is your copy of Advanced Potion-Making, is it, Potter?

Yes, said Harry, still breathing hard.

Youre quite sure of that, are you, Potter?

Yes, said Harry, with a touch more defiance.

This is the copy of Advanced Potion-Making that you purchased from Flourish and Blotts?

Yes, said Harry firmly.

Then why, asked Snape, does it have the name Roonil Wazlib written inside the front cover?

Harrys heart missed a beat. Thats my nickname, he said.

Your nickname, repeated Snape. ; Yeah thats what my friends call me, said Harry.

I understand what a nickname is, said Snape. The cold, black eyes were boring once more into Harrys; he tried not to look into them. Close your mind Close your mind But he had never learned how to do it properly

Do you know what I think, Potter? said Snape, very quietly. I think that you are a liar and a cheat and that you deserve detention with me every Saturday until the end of term. What do you think, Potter?

I I dont agree, sir, said Harry, still refusing to look into Snapes eyes.

Well, we shall see how you feel after your detentions, said Snape. Ten oclock Saturday morning, Potter. My office.

But sir said Harry, looking up desperately. Quidditch the last match of the

Ten oclock, whispered Snape, with a smile that showed his yellow teeth. Poor Gryffindor fourth place this year, I fear

And he left the bathroom without another word, leaving Harry to stare into the cracked mirror, feeling sicker, he was sure, than Ron had ever felt in his life.

I wont say I told you so, said Hermione, an hour later in the common room.

Leave it, Hermione, said Ron angrily.

Harry had never made it to dinner; he had no appetite at all. He had just finished telling Ron, Hermione, and Ginny what had happened, not that there seemed to have been much need. The news had traveled very fast: Apparently Moaning Myrtle had taken it upon herself to pop up in every bathroom in the castle to tell the story; Malfoy had already been visited in the hospital wing by Pansy Parkinson, who had lost no time in vilifying Harry far and wide, and Snape had told the staff precisely what had happened. Harry had already been called out of the common room to endure fifteen highly unpleasant minutes in the company of Professor McGonagall, who had told him he was lucky not to have been expelled and that she supported wholeheartedly Snapes punishment of detention every Saturday until the end of term.

I told you there was something wrong with that Prince person, Hermione said, evidently unable to stop herself. And I was right, wasnt I.

No, I dont think you were, said Harry stubbornly.

He was having a bad enough time without Hermione lecturing him; the looks on the Gryffindor teams faces when he had told them he would not be able to play on Saturday had been the worst punishment of all. He could feel Ginnys eyes on him now but did not meet them; he did not want to see disappointment or anger there. He had just told her that she would be playing Seeker on Saturday and that Dean would be rejoining the team as Chaser in her place. Perhaps, if they won, Ginny and Dean would make up during the post-match euphoria The thought went through Harry like an icy knife

Harry, said Hermione, how can you still stick up for that book when that spell

Will you stop harping on about the book! snapped Harry. The Prince only copied it out! Its not like he was advising anyone to use it! For all we know, he was making a note of something that had been used against him!

I dont believe this, said Hermione. Youre actually defending

Im not defending what I did! said Harry quickly. I wish I ; hadnt done it, and not just because Ive got about a dozen detentions. You know I wouldntve used a spell like that, not even on Malfoy, but you cant blame the Prince, he hadnt written try this out, its really good he was just making notes for himself, wasnt he, not for anyone else

Are you telling me, said Hermione, that youre going to go back ?

And get the book? Yeah, I am, said Harry forcefully. Listen, without the Prince Id never have won the Felix Felicis. Id never have known how to save Ron from poisoning, Id never have

got a reputation for Potions brilliance you dont deserve, said Hermione nastily.

Give it a rest, Hermione! said Ginny, and Harry was so amazed, so grateful, he looked up. By the sound of it, Malfoy was trying to use an Unforgivable Curse, you should be glad Harry had something good up his sleeve!

Well, of course Im glad Harry wasnt cursed! said Hermione, clearly stung. But you cant call that Sectumsempra spell good, Ginny, look where its landed him! And Id have thought, seeing what this has done to your chances in the match

Oh, dont start acting as though you understand Quidditch, snapped Ginny, youll only embarrass yourself.

Harry and Ron stared: Hermione and Ginny, who had always got on together very well, were now sitting with their arms folded, glaring in opposite directions. Ron looked nervously at Harry, then snatched up a book at random and hid behind it. Harry, however, little though he knew he deserved it, felt unbelievably cheerful all of a sudden, even though none of them spoke again for the rest of the evening.

His lightheartedness was short-lived. There were Slytherin taunts to be endured next day, not to mention much anger from fellow Gryffindors, who were most unhappy that their Captain had got himself banned from the final match of the season. By Saturday morning, whatever he might have told Hermione, Harry would have gladly exchanged all the Felix Felicis in the world to be walking down to the Quidditch pitch with Ron, Ginny, and the others. It was almost unbearable to turn away from the mass of students streaming out into the sunshine, all of them wearing rosettes and hats and brandishing banners and scarves, to descend the stone steps into the dungeons and walk until the distant sounds of the crowd were quite obliterated, knowing that he would not be able to hear a word of commentary or a cheer or groan.

Ah, Potter, said Snape, when Harry had knocked on his door and entered the unpleasantly familiar office that Snape, despite teaching floors above now, had not vacated; it was as dimly lit as ever and the same slimy dead objects were suspended in colored potions all around the walls. Ominously, there were many cob-webbed boxes piled on a table where Harry was clearly supposed to sit; they had an aura of tedious, hard, and pointless work about them.

Mr. Filch has been looking for someone to clear out these old files, said Snape softly. They are the records of other Hogwarts wrongdoers and their punishments. Where the ink has grown faint, or the cards have suffered damage from mice, we would like you to copy out the crimes and punishments afresh and, making sure that they are in alphabetical order, replace them in the boxes. You will not use magic.

Right, Professor, said Harry, with as much contempt as he could put into the last three syllables.

I thought you could start, said Snape, a malicious smile on his lips, with boxes one thousand and twelve to one thousand and fifty-six. You will find some familiar names in there, which should add interest to the task. Here, you see

He pulled out a card from one of the topmost boxes with a flourish and read, James Potter and Sirius Black. Apprehended using an illegal hex upon Bertram Aubrey. Aubreys head twice normal size. Double detention. Snape sneered. It must be such a comforting thing that, though they are gone, a record of their great achievements remains.

Harry felt the familiar boiling sensation in the pit of his stomach. Biting his tongue to prevent himself retaliating, he sat down in front of the boxes and pulled one toward him.

It was, as Harry had anticipated, useless, boring work, punctuated (as Snape had clearly planned) with the regular jolt in the stomach that meant he had just read his father or Siriuss names, usually coupled together in various petty misdeeds, occasionally accompanied by those of Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew. And while he copied out all their various offenses and punishments, he wondered what was going on outside, where the match would have just started Ginny playing Seeker against Cho

Harry glanced again and again at the large clock ticking on the wall. It seemed to be moving half as fast as a regular clock; perhaps Snape had bewitched it to go extra slowly? He could not have been here for only half an hour an hour an hour and a half

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