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Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince 31



Dumbledore panted and then spoke in a voice Harry did not recognize, for he had never heard Dumbledore frightened like this.

I dont want Dont make me

Harry stared into the whitened face he knew so well, at the crooked nose and half-moon spectacles, and did not know what to do.

dont like want to stop moaned Dumbledore.

You you cant stop, Professor, said Harry. Youve got to keep drinking, remember? You told me you had to keep drinking. Here Hating himself, repulsed by what he was doing, Harry forced the goblet back toward Dumbledores mouth and tipped it, so that Dumbledore drank the remainder of the potion inside.

No he groaned, as Harry lowered the goblet back into the basin and refilled it for him. I dont want to I dont want to Let me go

Its all right, Professor, said Harry, his hand shaking. Its all right, Im here

Make it stop, make it stop, moaned Dumbledore.

Yes yes, thisll make it stop, lied Harry. He tipped the contents of the goblet into Dumbledores open mouth. Dumbledore screamed; the noise echoed all around the vast chamber, across the dead black water.

No, no, no, no, I cant, I cant, dont make me, I dont warn to

Its all right, Professor, its all right! said Harry loudly, his hands shaking so badly he could hardly scoop up the sixth goblei ful of potion; the basin was now half empty. Nothings happening to you, youre safe, it isnt real, I swear it isnt real take this, now, take this And obediently, Dumbledore drank, as though it was an antidote Harry offered him, but upon draining the goblet, he sank to his knees, shaking uncontrollably.

Its all my fault, all my fault, he sobbed. Please make it stop, I know I did wrong, oh please make it stop and Ill never, never again

This will make it stop, Professor, Harry said, his voice cracking as he tipped the seventh glass of potion into Dumbledores mouth.

Dumbledore began to cower as though invisible torturers surrounded him; his flailing hand almost knocked the refilled goblet from Harrys trembling hands as he moaned, Dont hurt them, dont hurt them, please, please, its my fault, hurt me instead

Here, drink this, drink this, youll be all right, said Harry desperately, and once again Dumbledore obeyed him, opening his mouth even as he kept his eyes tight shut and shook from head to foot. And now he fell forward, screaming again, hammering his fists upon the ground, while Harry filled the ninth goblet.

Please, please, please, no not that, not that, Ill do anything

Just drink, Professor, just drink



Dumbledore drank like a child dying of thirst, but when he had finished, he yelled again as though his insides were on fire. No more, please, no more

Harry scooped up a tenth gobletful of potion and felt the crystal scrape the bottom of the basin. Were nearly there, Professor. Drink this, drink it

He supported Dumbledores shoulders and again, Dumbledore drained the glass; then Harry was on his feet once more, refilling the goblet as Dumbledore began to scream in more anguish than ever, I want to die! I want to die! Make it stop, make it stop, I want to die!

Drink this, Professor. Drink this

Dumbledore drank, and no sooner had he finished than he yelled, KILL ME!

This this one will! gasped Harry. Just drink this Itll be over all over! Dumbledore gulped at the goblet, drained every last drop, and then, with a great, rattling gasp, rolled over onto his face.

No! shouted Harry, who had stood to refill the goblet again; instead he dropped the cup into the basin, flung himself down beside Dumbledore, and heaved him over onto his back; Dumbledores glasses were askew, his mouth agape, his eyes closed. No. said Harry, shaking Dumbledore, no, youre not dead, you said it wasnt poison, wake up, wake up Rennervate! he cried, his wand pointing at Dumbledores chest; there was a flash of red light but nothing happened. Rennervate sir please

Dumbledores eyelids flickered; Harrys heart leapt, Sir, are you ?

Water, croaked Dumbledore.

Water, panted Harry. Yes He leapt to his feet and seized the goblet he had dropped in the basin; he barely registered the golden locket lying curled beneath it.

Aguamenti! he shouted, jabbing the goblet with his wand. The goblet filled with clear water; Harry dropped to his knees beside Dumbledore, raised his head, and brought the glass to his lips but it was empty. Dumbledore groaned and began to pant. But I had some wait Aguamenti! said Harry again, pointing his wand at the goblet. Once more, for a second, clear water gleamed within it, but as he approached Dumbledores mouth, the water vanished again. Sir, Im trying, Im trying! said Harry desperately, but he did not think that Dumbledore could hear him; he had rolled onto his side and was drawing great, rattling breaths that sounded agonizing. Aguamenti Aguamenti AGUAMENTI!

The goblet filled and emptied once more. And now Dumbledores breathing was fading. His brain whirling in panic, Harry knew, instinctively, the only way left to get water, because Voldemort had planned it so He flung himself over to the edge of the rock and plunged the goblet into the lake, bringing it up full to the brim of icy water that did not vanish. Sir here! Harry yelled, and lunging forward, he tipped the water clumsily over Dumbledores face.

It was the best he could do, for the icy feeling on his arm not holding the cup was not the lingering chill of the water. A slimy white hand had gripped his wrist, and the creature to whom it belonged was pulling him, slowly, backward across the rock. The surface of the lake was no longer mirror-smooth; it was churning, and everywhere Harry looked, white heads and hands were emerging from the dark water, men and women and children with sunken, sightless eyes were moving toward the rock: an army of the dead rising from the black water.

Petrificus Totalus! yelled Harry, struggling to cling to the smooth, soaked surface of the island as he pointed his wand at the Inferius that had his arm. It released him, falling backward into the water with a splash; he scrambled to his feet, but many more Inferi were already climbing onto the rock, their bony hands clawing at its slippery surface, their blank, frosted eyes upon him, trailing waterlogged rags, sunken faces leering.

Petrificus Totalus! Harry bellowed again, backing away as he swiped his wand through the air; six or seven of them crumpled, but more were coming toward him. Impedimenta! Incarcerous! A few of them stumbled, one or two of them bound in ropes, but those climbing onto the rock behind them merely stepped over or on the fallen bodies. Still slashing at the air with his wand, Harry yelled, Sectumsempra! SECTUMSEMPRA! But though gashes appeared in their sodden rags and their icy skin, they had no blood to spill: They walked on, unfeeling, their shrunken hands outstretched toward him, and as he backed away still farther, he felt arms enclose him from behind, thin, fleshlcv. arms cold as death, and his feet left the ground as they lifted him and began to carry him, slowly and surely, back to the water, anil he knew there would be no release, that he would be drowned, and become one more dead guardian of a fragment of Voldemorts shattered soul

But then, through the darkness, fire erupted: crimson and gold, a ring of fire that surrounded the rock so that the Inferi holding Harry so tightly stumbled and faltered; they did not dare pass through the flames to get to the water. They dropped Harry; he hit the ground, slipped on the rock, and fell, grazing his arms, then scrambled back up, raising his wand and staring around.

Dumbledore was on his feet again, pale as any of the surrounding Inferi, but taller than any too, the fire dancing in his eyes; his wand was raised like a torch and from its tip emanated the flames, like a vast lasso, encircling them all with warmth. The Inferi bumped into each other, attempting, blindly, to escape the fire in which they were enclosed

Dumbledore scooped the locket from the bottom of the stone basin and stowed it inside his robes. Wordlessly, he gestured to Harry to come to his side. Distracted by the flames, the Inferi seemed unaware that their quarry was leaving as Dumbledore led Harry back to the boat, the ring of fire moving with them, around them, the bewildered Inferi accompanying them to the waters edge, where they slipped gratefully back into their dark waters.

Harry, who was shaking all over, thought for a moment that Dumbledore might not be able to climb into the boat; he staggered a little as he attempted it; all his efforts seemed to be going into maintaining the ring of protective flame around them. Harry seized him and helped him back to his seat. Once they were both safely jammed inside again, the boat began to move back across the black water, away from the rock, still encircled by that ring of fire, and it seemed that the Inferi swarming below them did not dare resurface.

Sir, panted Harry, sir, I forgot about fire they were coming at me and I panicked

Quite understandable, murmured Dumbledore. Harry was alarmed to hear how faint his voice was.

They reached the bank with a little bump and Harry leapt out, then turned quickly to help Dumbledore. The moment that Dumbledore reached the bank he let his wand hand fall; the ring of fire vanished, but the Inferi did not emerge again from the water. The little boat sank into the water once more; clanking and tinkling, its chain slithered back into the lake too. Dumbledore gave a great sigh and leaned against the cavern wall.

I am weak he said.

Dont worry, sir, said Harry at once, anxious about Dumbledores extreme pallor and by his air of exhaustion. Dont worry, Ill get us back Lean on me, sir

And pulling Dumbledores uninjured arm around his shoulders, Harry guided his headmaster back around the lake, bearing most of his weight.

The protection was after all well-designed, said Dumbledore faintly. One alone could not have done it You did well, very well, Harry

Dont talk now, said Harry, fearing how slurred Dumbledores voice had become, how much his feet dragged. Save your energy, sir Well soon be out of here

The archway will have sealed again My knife

Theres no need, I got cut on the rock, said Harry firmly. Just tell me where

Here

Harry wiped his grazed forearm upon the stone: Having received its tribute of blood, the archway reopened instantly. They crossed the outer cave, and Harry helped Dumbledore back into the icy seawater that filled the crevice in the cliff.

Its going to be all right, sir, Harry said over and over again, more worried by Dumbledores silence than he had been by his weakened voice. Were nearly there I can Apparate us both back Dont worry

I am not worried, Harry, said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. I am with you.

 

 

CHAPTER 27: The Lightning-Struck Tower

 

 

Once back under the starry sky, Harry heaved Dumbledore on to the top of the nearest boulder and then to his feet. Sodden and shivering, Dumbledores weight still upon him, Harry con centrated harder than he had ever done upon his destination: Hogsmeade. Closing his eyes, gripping Dumbledores arm as tightly as he could, he stepped forwards into that feeling of horrible compression.

He knew it had worked before he opened his eyes: the smell of salt, the sea breeze had gone. He and Dumbledore were shivering and dripping in the middle of the dark High Street in Hogsmeade. For one horrible moment Harrys imagination showed him more Inferi creeping towards him around the sides of shops, but he blinked and saw that nothing was stirring; all was still, the darkness complete but for a few streetlamps and lit upper windows.

We did it, Professor! Harry whispered with difficulty; he suddenly realised that he had a searing stitch in his chest. We did it! We got the Horcrux!

Dumbledore staggered against him. For a moment, Harry thought that his inexpert Apparition had thrown Dumbledore off-balance; then he saw his face, paler and damper than ever in the distant light of a streetlamp.

Sir, are you all right?

Ive been better, said Dumbledore weakly, though the corners of his mouth twitched. That potion was no health drink

And to Harrys horror, Dumbledore sank on to the ground.

Sir its OK, sir, youre going to be all right, dont worry -

He looked around desperately for help, but there was nobody to be seen and all he could think was that he must somehow get Dumbledore quickly to the hospital wing.

We need to get you up to the school, sir Madam Pomfrey

No, said Dumbledore. It is Professor Snape whom I need but I do not think I can walk very far just yet

Right sir, listen Im going to knock on a door, find a place you can stay then I can run and get Madam -

Severus, said Dumbledore clearly. I need Severus

All right then, Snape but Im going to have to leave you for a moment so I can -

Before Harry could make a move, however, he heard run ning footsteps. His heart leapt: somebody had seen, somebody knew they needed help and looking around he saw Madam Rosmerta scurrying down the dark street towards them on high-heeled, fluffy slippers, wearing a silk dressing-gown embroidered with dragons.

I saw you Apparate as I was pulling my bedroom curtains! Thank goodness, thank goodness, I couldnt think what to but whats wrong with Albus?

She came to a halt, panting, and stared down, wide-eyed, at Dumbledore.

Hes hurt, said Harry. Madam Rosmerta, can he come into the Three Broomsticks while I go up to the school and get help for him?

You cant go up there alone! Dont you realise havent you seen -?

If you help me support him, said Harry, not listening to her, I think we can get him inside -

What has happened? asked Dumbledore. Rosmerta, whats wrong?

The the Dark Mark, Albus.

And she pointed into the sky, in the direction of Hogwarts. Dread flooded Harry at the sound of the words he turned and looked.

There it was, hanging in the sky above the school: the blaz ing green skull with a serpent tongue, the mark Death Eaters left behind whenever they had entered a building wherever they had murdered

When did it appear? asked Dumbledore, and his hand clenched painfully upon Harrys shoulder as he struggled to his feet.

Must have been minutes ago, it wasnt there when I put the cat out, but when I got upstairs -

We need to return to the castle at once, said Dumbledore. Rosmerta, and though he staggered a little, he seemed wholly in command of the situation, we need transport brooms -

Ive got a couple behind the bar, she said, looking very frightened. Shall I run and fetch -?

No, Harry can do it.

Harry raised his wand at once.

Accio Rosmertas brooms.

A second later they heard a loud bang as the front door of the pub burst open; two brooms had shot out into the street and were racing each other to Harrys side, where they stopped dead, quivering slightly, at waist height.

Rosmerta, please send a message to the Ministry, said Dumbledore, as he mounted the broom nearest him. It might be that nobody within Hogwarts has yet realised anything is wrong Harry, put on your Invisibility Cloak.

Harry pulled his Cloak out of his pocket and threw it over himself before mounting his broom; Madam Rosmerta was already tottering back towards her pub as Harry and Dumbledore kicked off from the ground and rose up into the air. As they sped towards the castle, Harry glanced sideways at Dumbledore, ready to grab him should he fall, but the sight of the Dark Mark seemed to have acted upon Dumbledore like a stimulant: he was bent low over his broom, his eyes fixed upon the Mark, his long silver hair and beard flying behind him in the night air. And Harry, too, looked ahead at the skull, and fear swelled inside him like a venomous bubble, compressing his lungs, driving all other discomfort from his mind

How long had they been away? Had Ron, Hermione and Ginnys luck run out by now? Was it one of them who had caused the Mark to be set over the school, or was it Neville, or Luna, or some other member of the DA? And if it was he was the one who had told them to patrol the corridors, he had asked them to leave the safety of their beds would he be responsible, again, for the death of a friend?

As they flew over the dark, twisting lane down which they had walked earlier, Harry heard, over the whistling of the night air in his ears, Dumbledore muttering in some strange language again. He thought he understood why as he felt his broom shudder for a moment when they flew over the boundary wall into the grounds: Dumbledore was undoing the enchantments he himself had set around the castle, so that they could enter at speed. The Dark Mark was glittering directly above the Astronomy Tower, the highest of the castle. Did that mean the death had occurred there?

Dumbledore had already crossed the crenellated ramparts and was dismounting; Harry landed next to him seconds later and looked around.

The ramparts were deserted. The door to the spiral staircase that led back into the castle was closed. There was no sign of a struggle, of a fight to the death, of a body.

What does it mean? Harry asked Dumbledore, looking up at the green skull with its serpents tongue glinting evilly above them. Is it the real Mark? Has someone definitely been Professor?

In the dim green glow from the Mark Harry saw Dumbledore clutching at his chest with his blackened hand.

Go and wake Severus, said Dumbledore faintly but clearly. Tell him what has happened and bring him to me. Do noth ing else, speak to nobody else and do not remove your Cloak. I shall wait here.

But -

You swore to obey me, Harry go!

Harry hurried over to the door leading to the spiral staircase, but his hand had only just closed upon the iron ring of the door when he heard running footsteps on the other side. He looked round at Dumbledore, who gestured to him to retreat. Harry backed away, drawing his wand as he did so.

The door burst open and somebody erupted through it and shouted: Expelliarmus!

Harrys body became instantly rigid and immobile, and he felt himself fall back against the Tower wall, propped like an unsteady statue, unable to move or speak. He could not understand how it had happened Expelliarmus was not a Freezing Charm Then, by the light of the Mark, he saw Dumbledores wand flying in an arc over the edge of the ramparts and understood Dumbledore had wordlessly immobilised Harry, and the second he had taken to perform the spell had cost him the chance of defending himself.

Standing against the ramparts, very white in the face, Dumbledore still showed no sign of panic or distress. He merely looked across at his disarmer and said, Good evening, Draco.

Malfoy stepped forwards, glancing around quickly to check that he and Dumbledore were alone. His eyes fell upon the second broom.

Who else is here?

A question I might ask you. Or are you acting alone?

Harry saw Malfoys pale eyes shift back to Dumbledore in the greenish glare of the Mark.

No, he said. Ive got back-up. There are Death Eaters here in your school tonight.

Well, well, said Dumbledore, as though Malfoy was show ing him an ambitious homework project. Very good indeed. You found a way to let them in, did you?

Yeah, said Malfoy, who was panting. Right under your nose and you never realised!

Ingenious, said Dumbledore. Yet forgive me where are they now? You seem unsupported.

They met some of your guard. Theyre having a fight down below. They wont be long I came on ahead. I Ive got a job to do.

Well, then, you must get on and do it, my dear boy, said Dumbledore softly.

There was silence. Harry stood imprisoned within his own invisible, paralysed body, staring at the two of them, his ears straining to hear sounds of the Death Eaters distant fight, and in front of him, Draco Malfoy did nothing but stare at Albus Dumbledore who, incredibly, smiled.

Draco, Draco, you are not a killer.

How do you know? said Malfoy at once.

He seemed to realise how childish the words had sounded; Harry saw him flush in the Marks greenish light.

You dont know what Im capable of, said Malfoy more forcefully, you dont know what Ive done!

Oh, yes, I do, said Dumbledore mildly. You almost killed Katie Bell and Ronald Weasley. You have been trying, with increasing desperation, to kill me all year. Forgive me, Draco, but they have been feeble attempts so feeble, to be honest, that I wonder whether your heart has been really in it

It has been in it! said Malfoy vehemently. Ive been work ing on it all year, and tonight -

Somewhere in the depths of the castle below Harry heard a muffled yell. Malfoy stiffened and glanced over his shoulder.

Somebody is putting up a good fight, said Dumbledore conversationally. But you were saying yes, you have managed to introduce Death Eaters into my school which, I admit, I thought impossible how did you do it?

But Malfoy said nothing: he was still listening to whatever was happening below and seemed almost as paralysed as Harry was.

Perhaps you ought to get on with the job alone, suggested Dumbledore. What if your back-up has been thwarted by my guard? As you have perhaps realised, there are members of the Order of the Phoenix here tonight, too. And after all, you dont really need help I have no wand at the moment I cannot defend myself.

Malfoy merely stared at him.

I see, said Dumbledore kindly, when Malfoy neither moved nor spoke. You are afraid to act until they join you.

Im not afraid! snarled Malfoy, though he still made no move to hurt Dumbledore. Its you who should be scared!

But why? I dont think you will kill me, Draco. Killing is not nearly as easy as the innocent believe so tell me, while we wait for your friends how did you smuggle them in here? It seems to have taken you a long time to work out how to do it.

Malfoy looked as though he was fighting down the urge to shout, or to vomit. He gulped and took several deep breaths, glaring at Dumbledore, his wand pointing directly at the latters heart. Then, as though he could not help himself, he said, I had to mend that broken Vanishing Cabinet that no ones used for years. The one Montague got lost in last year.

Aaaah.

Dumbledores sigh was half a groan. He closed his eyes for a moment.

That was clever there is a pair, I take it?

The others in Borgin and Burkes, said Malfoy, and they make a kind of passage between them. Montague told me that when he was stuck in the Hogwarts one, he was trapped in limbo but sometimes he could hear what was going on at school, and sometimes what was going on in the shop, as if the Cabinet was travelling between them, but he couldnt make anyone hear him in the end he managed to Apparate out, even though hed never passed his test. He nearly died doing it. Everyone thought it was a really good story, but I was the only one who realised what it meant even Borgin didnt know I was the one who realised there could be a way into Hogwarts through the Cabinets if I fixed the broken one.

Very good, murmured Dumbledore. So the Death Eaters were able to pass from Borgin and Burkes into the school to help you a clever plan, a very clever plan and, as you say, right under my nose

Yeah, said Malfoy who, bizarrely, seemed to draw courage and comfort from Dumbledores praise. Yeah, it was!

But there were times, Dumbledore went on, werent there, when you were not sure you would succeed in mending the Cabinet? And you resorted to crude and badly judged measures such as sending me a cursed necklace that was bound to reach the wrong hands poisoning mead there was only the slightest chance I might drink

Yeah, well, you still didnt realise who was behind that stuff, did you? sneered Malfoy, as Dumbledore slid a little down the ramparts, the strength in his legs apparently fading, and Harry struggled fruitlessly, mutely, against the enchantment binding him.

As a matter of fact, I did, said Dumbledore. I was sure it was you.

Why didnt you stop me, then? Malfoy demanded.

I tried, Draco. Professor Snape has been keeping watch over you on my orders -

He hasnt been doing your orders, he promised my mother -

Of course that is what he would tell you, Draco, but -

Hes a double-agent, you stupid old man, he isnt working for you, you just think he is!

We must agree to differ on that, Draco. It so happens that I trust Professor Snape -

Well, youre losing your grip, then! sneered Malfoy. Hes been offering me plenty of help wanting all the glory for himself wanting a bit of the action What are you doing? Did you do the necklace, that was stupid, it could have blown everything - But I havent told him what Ive been doing in the Room of Requirement, hes going to wake up tomorrow and itll all be over and he wont be the Dark Lords favourite any more, hell be nothing compared to me, nothing!

Very gratifying, said Dumbledore mildly. We all like* appreciation for our own hard work, of course but you must have had an accomplice, all the same someone in Hogsmeade, someone who was able to slip Katie the the aaaah Dumbledore closed his eyes again and nodded, as though he was about to fall asleep.

of course Rosmerta. How long has she been under the Imperius Curse?

Got there at last, have you? Malfoy taunted.

There was another yell from below, rather louder than the last. Malfoy looked nervously over his shoulder again, then back at Dumbledore, who went on, So poor Rosmerta was forced to lurk in her own bathroom and pass that necklace to any Hogwarts student who entered the room unaccompanied? And the poisoned mead well, naturally, Rosmerta was able to poison it for you before she sent the bottle to Slughorn, believing that it was to be my Christmas present yes, very neat very neat poor Mr Filch would not, of course, think to check a bottle of Rosmertas tell me, how have you been communicating with Rosmerta? I thought we had all methods of communication in and out of the school monitored.

Enchanted coins, said Malfoy, as though he was compelled to keep talking, though his wand hand was shaking badly. I had one and she had the other and I could send her messages -

Isnt that the secret method of communication the group that called themselves Dumbledores Army used last year? asked Dumbledore. His voice was light and conversational, but Harry saw him slip an inch lower down the wall as he said it.

Yeah, I got the idea from them, said Malfoy, with a twisted smile. I got the idea of poisoning the mead from the Mudblood Granger, as well, I heard her talking in the library about Filch not recognising potions

Hogsmeade, someone who was able to slip Katie the the aaaah Dumbledore closed his eyes again and nodded, as though he was about to fall asleep.

of course Rosmerta. How long has she been under the Imperius Curse?

Got there at last, have you? Malfoy taunted.

There was another yell from below, rather louder than the last. Malfoy looked nervously over his shoulder again, then back at Dumbledore, who went on, So poor Rosmerta was forced to lurk in her own bathroom and pass that necklace to any Hogwarts student who entered the room unaccompanied? And the poisoned mead well, naturally, Rosmerta was able to poison it for you before she sent the bottle to Slughorn, believing that it was to be my Christmas present yes, very neat very neat poor Mr Filch would not, of course, think to check a bottle of Rosmertas tell me, how have you been communicating with Rosmerta? I thought we had all methods of communication in and out of the school monitored.

Enchanted coins, said Malfoy, as though he was compelled to keep talking, though his wand hand was shaking badly. I had one and she had the other and I could send her messages -

Isnt that the secret method of communication the group that called themselves Dumbledores Army used last year? asked Dumbledore. His voice was light and conversational, but Harry saw him slip an inch lower down the wall as he said it.

Yeah, I got the idea from them, said Malfoy, with a twisted smile. I got the idea of poisoning the mead from the Mudblood Granger, as well, I heard her talking in the library about Filch not recognising potions





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