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Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince 30



Thanks, said Ron. Er why do I need socks?

You need whats wrapped in them, its the Felix Felicis. Share it between yourselves and Ginny too. Say goodbye to her from me. Id better go, Dumbledores waiting -

No! said Hermione, as Ron unwrapped the tiny little bottle of golden potion, looking awestruck. We dont want it, you take it, who knows what youre going to be facing?

IIl be fine, Ill be with Dumbledore, said Harry. I want to know you lot are OK dont look like that, Hermione, Ill see you later And he was off, hurrying back through the portrait hole towards the Entrance Hall.

Dumbledore was waiting beside the oaken front doors. He turned as Harry came skidding out on to the topmost stone step, panting hard, a searing stitch in his side.

I would like you to wear your Cloak, please, said Dumbledore, and he waited until Harry had thrown it on before saying, Very good. Shall we go?

Dumbledore set off at once down the stone steps, his own travelling cloak barely stirring in the still summer air. Harry hurried alongside him under the Invisibility Cloak, still panting and sweating rather a lot.

But what will people think when they see you leaving, Professor? Harry asked, his mind on Malfoy and Snape.

That I am off into Hogsmeade for a drink, said Dumbledore lightly. I sometimes offer Rosmerta my custom, or else visit the Hogs Head or I appear to. It is as good a way as any of disguising ones true destination.

They made their way down the drive in the gathering twilight. The air was full of the smells of warm grass, lake water and wood smoke from Hagrids cabin. It was difficult to believe that they were heading for anything dangerous or frightening.

Professor, said Harry quietly, as the gates at the bottom of the drive came into view, will we be Apparating?

Yes, said Dumbledore. You can Apparate now, I believe?

Yes, said Harry, but I havent got a licence.

He felt it best to be honest; what if he spoiled everything by turning up a hundred miles from where he was supposed to go?

No matter, said Dumbledore, I can assist you again.

They turned out of the gates into the twilit, deserted lane to Hogsmeade. Darkness descended fast as they walked and by the time they reached the High Street night was falling in earnest. Lights twinkled from windows over shops and as they neared the Three Broomsticks they heard raucous shouting.

and stay out! shouted Madam Rosmerta, forcibly ejecting a grubby-looking wizard. Oh, hello, Albus youre out late

Good evening, Rosmerta, good evening forgive me, Im off to the Hogs Head no offence, but I feel like a quieter atmosphere tonight



A minute later they turned the corner into the side street where the Hogs Heads sign creaked a little, though there was no breeze. In contrast to the Three Broomsticks, the pub appeared to be completely empty.

It will not be necessary for us to enter, muttered Dumbledore, glancing around. As long as nobody sees us go now place your hand upon my arm, Harry. There is no need to grip too hard, I am merely guiding you. On the count of three one two three

 

Harry turned. At once, there was that horrible sensation that he was being squeezed through a thick rubber tube; he could not draw breath, every part of him was being compressed almost past endurance and then, just when he thought he must suffocate, the invisible bands seemed to burst open, and he was standing in cool darkness, breathing in lungfuls of fresh, salty air.

 

 

CHAPTER 26: The Cave

 

 

Harry could smell salt and hear rushing waves; a light, chilly breeze ruffled his hair as he looked out at moonlit sea and star-strewn sky. He was standing upon a high outcrop of dark rock, water foaming and churning below him. He glanced over his shoulder. A towering cliff stood behind them, a sheer drop, black and faceless. A few large chunks of rock, such as the one upon which Harry and Dumbledore were standing, looked as though they had broken away from the cliff face at some point in the past. It was a bleak, harsh view, the sea and the rock unrelieved by any tree or sweep of grass or sand.

What do you think? asked Dumbledore. He might have been asking Harrys opinion on whether it was a good site for a picnic.

They brought the kids from the orphanage here? asked Harry, who could not imagine a less cozy spot for a day trip.

Not here, precisely, said Dumbledore. There is a village of sorts about halfway along the cliffs behind us. I believe the orphans were taken there for a little sea air and a view of the waves. No, I think it was only ever Tom Riddle and his youthful victims who visited this spot. No Muggle could reach this rock unless they were uncommonly good mountaineers, and boats cannot approach the cliffs, the waters around them are too dangerous. I imagine that Riddle climbed down; magic would have served better than ropes. And he brought two small children with him, probably for the pleasure of terrorizing them. I think the journey alone would have done it, dont you?

Harry looked up at the cliff again and felt goose bumps.

But his final destination and ours lies a little farther on. Come.

Dumbledore beckoned Harry to the very edge of the rock where a series of jagged niches made footholds leading down to boulders that lay half-submerged in water and closer to the cliff. It was a treacherous descent and Dumbledore, hampered slightly by his withered hand, moved slowly. The lower rocks were slippery with seawater. Harry could feel flecks of cold salt spray hitting his face. Lumos, said Dumbledore, as he reached the boulder closest to the cliff face. A thousand flecks of golden light sparkled upon the dark surface of the water a few feet below where he crouched; the black wall of rock beside him was illuminated too. You see? said Dumbledore quietly, holding his wand a little higher. Harry saw a fissure in the cliff into which dark water was swirling. You will not object to getting a little wet?

No, said Harry.

Then take off your Invisibility Cloak there is no need for it now and let us take the plunge, And with the sudden agility of a much younger man, Dumbledore slid from the boulder, landed in the sea, and began to swim, with a perfect breaststroke, toward the dark slit in the rock face, his lit wand held in his teeth. Harry pulled off his cloak, stuffed it into his pocket, and followed. The water was icy; Harrys waterlogged clothes billowed around him and weighed him down. Taking deep breaths that filled his nostrils with the tang of salt and seaweed, he struck out for the shimmering, shrinking light now moving deeper into the cliff. The fissure soon opened into a dark tunnel that Harry could tell would be filled with water at high tide. The slimy walls were barely three feet apart and glimmered like wet tar in the passing light of Dumbledores wand. A little way in, the passageway curved to the left, and Harry saw that it extended far into the cliff. He continued to swim in Dumbledores wake, the tips of his benumbed fingers brushing the rough, wet rock.

Then he saw Dumbledore rising out of the water ahead, his silver hair and dark robes gleaming. When Harry reached the spot he found steps that led into a large cave. He clambered up them, water streaming from his soaking clothes, and emerged, shivering uncontrollably, into the still and freezing air.

Dumbledore was standing in the middle of the cave, his wand held high as he turned slowly on the spot, examining the walls and ceiling.

Yes, this is the place, said Dumbledore.

How can you tell? Harry spoke in a whisper.

It has known magic, said Dumbledore simply. Harry could not tell whether the shivers he was experiencing were due to his spine-deep coldness or to the same awareness of enchantments. He watched as Dumbledore continued to revolve on the spot, evidently concentrating on things Harry could not see. This is merely the antechamber, the entrance hall, said Dumbledore after a moment or two. We need to penetrate the inner place Now it is Lord Voldemorts obstacles that stand in our way, rather than those nature made

Dumbledore approached the wall of the cave and caressed it with his blackened fingertips, murmuring words in a strange tongue that Harry did not understand. Twice Dumbledore walked right around the cave, touching as much of the rough rock as he could, occasionally pausing, running his fingers backward and forward over a particular spot, until finally he stopped, his hand pressed flat against the wall. Here, he said. We go on through here. The entrance is concealed. Harry did not ask how Dumbledore knew. He had never seen a wizard work things out like this, simply by looking and touching; but Harry had long since learned that bangs and smoke were more often the marks of ineptitude than expertise. Dumbledore stepped back from the cave wall and pointed his wand at the rock. For a moment, an arched outline appeared there, blazing white as though there was a powerful light behind the crack.

Youve d-done it! said Harry through chattering teeth, but before the words had left his lips the outline had gone, leaving the rock as bare and solid as ever. Dumbledore looked around.

Harry, Im so sorry, I forgot, he said; he now pointed his wand at Harry and at once, Harrys clothes were as warm and dry as if they had been hanging in front of a blazing fire.

Thank you, said Harry gratefully, but Dumbledore had already turned his attention back to the solid cave wall. He did not try any more magic, but simply stood there staring at it intently, as though something extremely interesting was written on it. Harry stayed quite still; he did not want to break Dumbledores concentration. Then, after two solid minutes, Dumbledore said quietly, Oh, surely not. So crude.

What is it, Professor?

I rather think, said Dumbledore, putting his uninjured hand inside his robes and drawing out a short silver knife of the kind Harry used to chop potion ingredients, that we are required to make payment to pass.

Payment? said Harry. Youve got to give the door something?

Yes, said Dumbledore. Blood, if I am not much mistaken.

Blood?

I said it was crude, said Dumbledore, who sounded disdainful, even disappointed, as though Voldemort had fallen short of higher standards Dumbledore expected. The idea, as I am sure you will have gathered, is that your enemy must weaken him or herself to enter. Once again, Lord Voldemort fails to grasp that there are much more terrible things than physical injury.

Yeah, but still, if you can avoid it said Harry, who had experienced enough pain not to be keen for more.

Sometimes, however, it is unavoidable, said Dumbledore, shaking back the sleeve of his robes and exposing the forearm of his injured hand.

Professor! protested Harry, hurrying forward as Dumbledore raised his knife. Ill do it, Im He did not know what he was going to say younger, fitter?

But Dumbledore merely smiled. There was a flash of silver, and a spurt of scarlet; the rock face was peppered with dark, glistening drops.

You are very kind, Harry, said Dumbledore, now passing the tip of his wand over the deep cut he had made in his own arm, so that it healed instantly, just as Snape had healed Malfoys wound, But your blood is worth more than mine. Ah, that seems to have done the trick, doesnt it? The blazing silver outline of an arch had appeared in the wall once more, and this time it did not fade away: The blood-spattered rock within it simply vanished, leaving an opening into what seemed total darkness. After me, I think, said Dumbledore, and he walked through the archway with Harry on his heels, lighting his own wand hastily as he went.

An eerie sight met their eyes: They were standing on the edge of a great black lake, so vast that Harry could not make out the distant banks, in a cavern so high that the ceiling too was out of sight. A misty greenish light shone far away in what looked like the middle of the lake; it was reflected in the completely still water below. The greenish glow and the light from the two wands were the only things that broke the otherwise velvety blackness, though their rays did not penetrate as far as Harry would have expected. The darkness was somehow denser than normal darkness.

Let us walk, said Dumbledore quietly. Be very careful not to step into the water. Stay close to me. He set off around the edge of the lake, and Harry followed close behind him. Their footsteps made echoing, slapping sounds on the narrow rim of rock that surrounded the water. On and on they walked, but the view did not vary: on one side of them, the rough cavern wall, on the other, the boundless expanse of smooth, glassy blackness, in the very middle of which was that mysterious greenish glow. Harry found the place and the silence oppressive, unnerving.

Professor? he said finally. Do you think the Horcrux is here?

Oh yes, said Dumbledore. Yes, Im sure it is. The question is, how do we get to it?

We couldnt we couldnt just try a Summoning Charm? Harry said, sure that it was a stupid suggestion. But he was much keener than he was prepared to admit on getting out of this place as soon as possible.

Certainly we could, said Dumbledore, stopping so suddenly that Harry almost walked into him. Why dont you do it?

Me? Oh okay Harry had not expected this, but cleared his throat and said loudly, wand aloft, Accio Horcrux!

With a noise like an explosion, something very large and pale erupted out of the dark water some twenty feet away; before Harry could see what it was, it had vanished again with a crashing splash that made great, deep ripples on the mirrored surface. Harry leapt backward in shock and hit the wall; his heart was still thundering as he turned to Dumbledore.

What was that?

Something, I think, that is ready to respond should we attempt to seize the Horcrux.

Harry looked back at the water. The surface of the lake was once more shining black glass: The ripples had vanished unnaturally fast; Harrys heart, however, was still pounding.

Did you think that would happen, sir?

I thought something would happen if we made an obvious attempt to get our hands on the Horcrux. That was a very good idea, Harry; much the simplest way of finding out what we are facing.

But we dont know what the thing was, said Harry, looking at the sinisterly smooth water.

What the things are, you mean, said Dumbledore. I doubt very much that there is only one of them. Shall we walk on?

Professor?

Yes, Harry?

Do you think were going to have to go into the lake?

Into it? Only if we are very unfortunate.

You dont think the Horcrux is at the bottom?

Oh no I think the Horcrux is in the middle. And Dumbledore pointed toward the misty green light in the center of the lake.

So were going to have to cross the lake to get to it?

Yes, I think so. Harry did not say anything. His thoughts were all of water monsters, of giant serpents, of demons, kelpies, and sprites

Aha, said Dumbledore, and he stopped again; this time, Harry really did walk into him; for a moment he toppled on the edge of the dark water, and Dumbledores uninjured hand closed tightly around his upper arm, pulling him back. So sorry, Harry, I should have given warning. Stand back against the wall, please; I think I have found the place.

Harry had no idea what Dumbledore meant; this patch of dark bank was exactly like every other bit as far as he could tell, but Dumbledore seemed to have detected something special about it. This time he was running his hand, not over the rocky wall, but t hrough the thin air, as though expecting to find and grip something invisible.

Oho, said Dumbledore happily, seconds later. His hand had closed in midair upon something Harry could not see. Dumbledore moved closer to the water; Harry watched nervously as the tips of Dumbledores buckled shoes found the utmost edge of the rock rim. Keeping his hand clenched in midair, Dumbledore raised his wand with the other and tapped his fist with the point.

Immediately a thick coppery green chain appeared out of thin air, extending from the depths of the water into Dumbledores clenched hand. Dumbledore tapped the chain, which began to slide through his fist like a snake, coiling itself on the ground with a clinking sound that echoed noisily off the rocky walls, pulling something from the depths of the black water. Harry gasped as the ghostly prow of a tiny boat broke the surface, glowing as green as the chain, and floated, with barely a ripple, toward the place on the bank where Harry and Dumbledore stood.

How did you know that was there? Harry asked in astonishment.

Magic always leaves traces, said Dumbledore, as the boat hit the bank with a gentle bump, sometimes very distinctive traces. I taught Tom Riddle. I know his style.

Is is this boat safe?

Oh yes, I think so. Voldemort needed to create a means to cross the lake without attracting the wrath of those creatures he had placed within it in case he ever wanted to visit or remove his Horcrux.

So the things in the water wont do anything to us if we cross in Voldemorts boat?

I think we must resign ourselves to the fact that they will, at some point, realize we are not Lord Voldemort. Thus far, however, we have done well. They have allowed us to raise the boat.

But why have they let us? asked Harry, who could not shake off the vision of tentacles rising out of the dark water the moment they were out of sight of the bank.

Voldemort would have been reasonably confident that none but a very great wizard would have been able to find the boat, said Dumbledore. I think he would have been prepared to risk what was, to his mind, the most unlikely possibility that somebody else would find it, knowing that he had set other obstacles ahead that only he would be able to penetrate. We shall see whether he was right.

Harry looked down into the boat. It really was very small. It doesnt look like it was built for two people. Will it hold both of us? Will we be too heavy together?

Dumbledore chuckled. Voldemort will not have cared about the weight, but about the amount of magical power that crossed his lake. I rather think an enchantment will have been placed upon this boat so that only one wizard at a time will be able to sail in it.

But then ?

I do not think you will count, Harry: You are underage and unqualified. Voldemort would never have expected a sixteen-year-old to reach this place: I think it unlikely that your powers will register compared to mine. These words did nothing to raise Harrys morale; perhaps Dumbledore knew it, for he added, Voldemorts mistake, Harry, Voldemorts mistake Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth Now, you first this time, and be careful not to touch the water. Dumbledore stood aside and Harry climbed carefully into the boat. Dumbledore stepped in too, coiling the chain onto the floor. They were crammed in together; Harry could not comfortably sit, but crouched, his knees jutting over the edge of the boat, which began to move at once. There was no sound other than the silken rustle of the boats prow cleaving the water; it moved without their help, as though an invisible rope was pulling it onward toward the light in the center. Soon they could no longer see the walls of the cavern; they might have been at sea except that there were no waves.

Harry looked down and saw the reflected gold of his wandlight sparkling and glittering on the black water as they passed. The boat was carving deep ripples upon the glassy surface, grooves in the dark mirror

And then Harry saw it, marble white, floating inches below the surface. Professor! he said, and his startled voice echoed loudly over the silent water.

Harry?

I think I saw a hand in the water a human hand!

Yes, I am sure you did, said Dumbledore calmly.

Harry stared down into the water, looking for the vanished hand, and a sick feeling rose in his throat.

So that thing that jumped out of the water ? But Harry had his answer before Dumbledore could reply; the wandlight had slid over a fresh patch of water and showed him, this time, a dead man lying faceup inches beneath the surface, his open eyes misted as though with cobwebs, his hair and his robes swirling around him like smoke. There are bodies in here! said Harry, and his voice sounded much higher than usual and most unlike his own.

Yes, said Dumbledore placidly, but we do not need to worry about them at the moment.

At the moment? Harry repeated, tearing his gaze from the water to look at Dumbledore.

Not while they are merely drifting peacefully below us, said Dumbledore. There is nothing to be feared from a body, Harry, any more than there is anything to be feared from the darkness. Lord Voldemort, who of course secretly fears both, disagrees. But once again he reveals his own lack of wisdom. It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more. Harry said nothing; he did not want to argue, but he found the idea that there were bodies floating around them and beneath them horrible and, what was more, he did not believe that they were not dangerous.

But one of them jumped, he said, trying to make his voice as level and calm as Dumbledores. When I tried to Summon the Horcrux, a body leapt out of the lake.

Yes, said Dumbledore. I am sure that once we take the Horcrux, we shall find them less peaceable. However, like many creatures that dwell in cold and darkness, they fear light and warmth, which we shall therefore call to our aid should the need arise. Fire, Harry, Dumbledore added with a smile, in response to Harrys bewildered expression.

Oh right said Harry quickly. He turned his head to look at the greenish glow toward which the boat was still inexorably sailing. He could not pretend now that he was not scared. The great black lake, teeming with the dead It seemed hours and hours ago that he had met Professor Trelawney, that he had given Ron and Hermione Felix Felicis He suddenly wished he had said a better good-bye to them and he hadnt seen Ginny at all

Nearly there, said Dumbledore cheerfully. Sure enough, the greenish light seemed to be growing larger at last, and within minutes, the boat had come to a halt, bumping gently into something that Harry could not see at first, but when he raised his illuminated wand he saw that they had reached a small island of smooth rock in the center of the lake. Careful not to touch the water, said Dumbledore again as Harry climbed out of the boat.

The island was no larger than Dumbledores office, an expanse of flat dark stone on which stood nothing but the source of that greenish light, which looked much brighter when viewed close to. Harry squinted at it; at first, he thought it was a lamp of some kind, but then he saw that the light was coming from a stone basin rather like the Pensieve, which was set on top of a pedestal. Dumbledore approached the basin and Harry followed. Side by side, they looked down into it. The basin was full of an emerald liquid emitting that phosphorescent glow.

What is it? asked Harry quietly.

I am not sure, said Dumbledore. Something more worrisome than blood and bodies, however. Dumbledore pushed back the sleeve of his robe over his blackened hand, and stretched out the tips of his burned fingers toward the surface of the potion.

Sir, no, dont touch !

I cannot touch, said Dumbledore, smiling faintly. See? I cannot approach any nearer than this. You try.

Staring, Harry put his hand into the basin and attempted to touch the potion. He met an invisible barrier that prevented him coming within an inch of it. No matter how hard he pushed, his fingers encountered nothing but what seemed to be solid and flexible air.

Out of the way, please, Harry, said Dumbledore. He raised his wand and made complicated movements over the surface of the-potion, murmuring soundlessly. Nothing happened, except per haps that the potion glowed a little brighter. Harry remained silent while Dumbledore worked, but after a while Dumbledore withdrew his wand, and Harry felt it was safe to talk again.

You think the Horcrux is in there, sir?

Oh yes. Dumbledore peered more closely into the basin. Harry saw his face reflected, upside down, in the smooth surface of the green potion. But how to reach it? This potion cannot be penetrated by hand, Vanished, parted, scooped up, or siphoned away, nor can it be Transfigured, Charmed, or otherwise made to change its nature. Almost absentmindedly, Dumbledore raised his wand again, twirled it once in midair, and then caught the crystal goblet that he had conjured out of nowhere. I can only conclude that this potion is supposed to be drunk.

What? said Harry. No!

Yes, I think so: Only by drinking it can I empty the basin and see what lies in its depths.

But what if what if it kills you?

Oh, I doubt that it would work like that, said Dumbledore easily. Lord Voldemort would not want to kill the person who reached this island. Harry couldnt believe it. Was this more of Dumbledores insane determination to see good in everyone?

Sir, said Harry, trying to keep his voice reasonable, sir, this is Voldemort were

Im sorry, Harry; I should have said, he would not want to immediately kill the person who reached this island, Dumbledore corrected himself. He would want to keep them alive long enough to find out how they managed to penetrate so far through his defenses and, most importantly of all, why they were so intent upon emptying the basin. Do not forget that Lord Voldemort believes that he alone knows about his Horcruxes.

Harry made to speak again, but this time Dumbledore raised his hand for silence, frowning slightly at the emerald liquid, evidently thinking hard. Undoubtedly, he said, finally, this potion must act in a way that will prevent me taking the Horcrux. It might paralyze me, cause me to forget what I am here for, create so much pain I am distracted, or render me incapable in some other way. This being the case, Harry, it will be your job to make sure I keep drinking, even if you have to tip the potion into my protesting mouth. You understand?

Their eyes met over the basin, each pale face lit with that strange, green light. Harry did not speak. Was this why he had been invited along so that he could force-feed Dumbledore a potion that might cause him unendurable pain?

You remember, said Dumbledore, the condition on which I brought you with me?

Harry hesitated, looking into the blue eyes that had turned green in the reflected light of the basin.

But what if?

You swore, did you not, to follow any command I gave you?

Yes, but

I warned you, did I not, that there might be danger?

Yes, said Harry, but

Well, then, said Dumbledore, shaking back his sleeves once more and raising the empty goblet, you have my orders.

Why cant I drink the potion instead? asked Harry desperately.

Because I am much older, much cleverer, and much less valuable, said Dumbledore. Once and for all, Harry, do I have your word that you will do all in your power to make me keep drinking?

Couldnt ?

Do I have it?

But

Your word, Harry.

I all right, but

Before Harry could make any further protest, Dumbledore lowered the crystal goblet into the potion. For a split second, Harry hoped that he would not be able to touch the potion with the goblet, but the crystal sank into the surface as nothing else had; when the glass was full to the brim, Dumbledore lifted it to his mouth. Your good health, Harry.

And he drained the goblet. Harry watched, terrified, his hands gripping the rim of the basin so hard that his fingertips were numb.

Professor? he said anxiously, as Dumbledore lowered the empty glass. How do you feel?

Dumbledore shook his head, his eyes closed. Harry wondered whether he was in pain. Dumbledore plunged the glass blindly back into the basin, refilled it, and drank once more.

In silence, Dumbledore drank three gobletsful of the potion. Then, halfway through the fourth goblet, he staggered and fell forward against the basin. His eyes were still closed, his breathing heavy.

Professor Dumbledore? said Harry, his voice strained. Can you hear me?

Dumbledore did not answer. His face was twitching as though he was deeply asleep, but dreaming a horrible dream. His grip on the goblet was slackening; the potion was about to spill from it. Harry reached forward and grasped the crystal cup, holding it steady. Professor, can you hear me? he repeated loudly, his voice echoing around the cavern.





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