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Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince 32



Please do not use that offensive word in front of me, said Dumbledore.

Malfoy gave a harsh laugh.

You care about me saying Mudblood when Im about to kill you?

Yes, I do, said Dumbledore, and Harry saw his feet slide a little on the floor as he struggled to remain upright. But as for being about to kill me, Draco, you have had several long minutes now. We are quite alone. I am more defenceless than you can have dreamed of finding me, and still you have not acted

Malfoys mouth contorted involuntarily, as though he had tasted something very bitter.

Now, about tonight, Dumbledore went on, I am a little puzzled about how it happened you knew that I had left the school? But of course, he answered his own question, Rosmerta saw me leaving, she tipped you off using your ingenious coins, Im sure

 

Thats right, said Malfoy. But she said you were just going for a drink, youd be back

Well, I certainly did have a drink and I came back after a fashion, mumbled Dumbledore. So you decided to spring a trap for me?

We decided to put the Dark Mark over the Tower and get you to hurry up here, to see whod been killed, said Malfoy. And it worked!

Well yes and no said Dumbledore. But am I to take it, then, that nobody has been murdered?

Someones dead, said Malfoy and his voice seemed to go up an octave as he said it. One of your people I dont know who, it was dark I stepped over the body I was* supposed to be waiting up here when you got back, only your Phoenix lot got in the way

Yes, they do that, said Dumbledore.

There was a bang and shouts from below, louder than ever; it sounded as though people were fighting on the actual spiral staircase that led to where Dumbledore, Malfoy and Harry stood, and Harrys heart thundered unheard in his invisible chest someone was dead Malfoy had stepped over the body but who was it?

There is little time, one way or another, said Dumbledore. So let us discuss your options, Draco.

My options! said Malfoy loudly. Im standing here with a wand Im about to kill you -

My dear boy, let us have no more pretence about that. If you were going to kill me, you would have done it when you first Disarmed me, you would not have stopped for this pleasant chat about ways and means.

I havent got any options! said Malfoy, and he was sud denly as white as Dumbledore. Ive got to do it! Hell kill me! Hell kill my whole family!

I appreciate the difficulty of your position, said Dumbledore. Why else do you think I have not confronted you before now? Because I knew that you would have been murdered if Lord Voldemort realised that I suspected you.



Malfoy winced at the sound of the name.

I did not dare speak to you of the mission with which I knew you had been entrusted, in case he used Legilimency against you, continued Dumbledore. But now at last we can speak plainly to each other no harm has been done, you have hurt nobody, though you are very lucky that your unintentional victims survived I can help you, Draco.

No, you cant, said Malfoy, his wand hand shaking very badly indeed. Nobody can. He told me to do it or hell kill me. Ive got no choice.

Come over to the right side, Draco, and we can hide you more completely than you can possibly imagine. What is more, I can send members of the Order to your mother tonight to hide her likewise. Your father is safe at the moment in Azkaban when the time comes we can protect him too come over to the right side, Draco you are not a killer

Malfoy stared at Dumbledore.

But I got this far, didnt I? he said slowly. They thought Id die in the attempt, but Im here and youre in my power Im the one with the wand youre at my mercy

No, Draco, said Dumbledore quietly. It is my mercy, and not yours, that matters now.

Malfoy did not speak. His mouth was open, his wand hand still trembling. Harry thought he saw it drop by a fraction But suddenly footsteps were thundering up the stairs and a second later Malfoy was buffeted out of the way as four people in black robes burst through the door on to the ramparts. Still paralysed, his eyes staring unblinkingly, Harry gazed in terror upon four strangers: it seemed the Death Eaters had won the fight below.

A lumpy-looking man with an odd lopsided leer gave a wheezy giggle.

Dumbledore cornered! he said, and he turned to a stocky little woman who looked as though she could be his sister and who was grinning eagerly. Dumbledore wandless, Dumbledore alone! Well done, Draco, well done!

Good evening, Amycus, said Dumbledore calmly, as though welcoming the man to a tea party. And youve brought Alecto too charming

The woman gave an angry little titter.

Think your little jokesll help you on your death bed, then? she jeered.

Jokes? No, no, these are manners, replied Dumbledore.

Do it, said the stranger standing nearest to Harry, a big, rangy man with matted grey hair and whiskers, whose black Death Eaters robes looked uncomfortably tight. He had a voice like none that Harry had ever heard: a rasping bark of a voice. Harry could smell a powerful mixture of dirt, sweat and, unmistakeably, of blood coming from him. His filthy hands had long yellowish nails.

Is that you, Fenrir? asked Dumbledore.

Thats right, rasped the other. Pleased to see me, Dumbledore?

No, I cannot say that I am

Fenrir Greyback grinned, showing pointed teeth. Blood trickled down his chin and he licked his lips slowly, obscenely.

But you know how much I like kids, Dumbledore.

Am I to take it that you are attacking even without the full moon now? This is most unusual you have developed a taste for human flesh that cannot be satisfied once a month?

Thats right, said Greyback. Shocks you, that, does it, Dumbledore? Frightens you?

Well, I cannot pretend it does not disgust me a little, said Dumbledore. And, yes, I am a little shocked that Draco here invited you, of all people, into the school where his friends live

I didnt, breathed Malfoy. He was not looking at Greyback; he did not seem to want to even glance at him. I didnt know he was going to come -

I wouldnt want to miss a trip to Hogwarts, Dumbledore, rasped Greyback. Not when there are throats to be ripped out delicious, delicious

And he raised a yellow fingernail and picked at his front teeth, leering at Dumbledore.

I could do you for afters, Dumbledore

No, said the fourth Death Eater sharply. He had a heavy, brutal-looking face. Weve got orders. Dracos got to do it. Now, Draco, and quickly.

Malfoy was showing less resolution than ever. He looked terrified as he stared into Dumbledores face, which was even paler, and rather lower than usual, as he had slid so far down the rampart wall.

Hes not long for this world anyway, if you ask me! said the lopsided man, to the accompaniment of his sisters wheezing giggles. Look at him whats happened to you, then, Dumby?

Oh, weaker resistance, slower reflexes, Amycus, said Dumbledore. Old age, in short one day, perhaps, it will happen to you if you are lucky

Whats that mean, then, whats that mean? yelled the Death Eater, suddenly violent. Always the same, werent yeh, Dumby, talking and doing nothing, nothing, I dont even know why the Dark Lords bothering to kill yeh! Come on, Draco, do it!

But at that moment, there were renewed sounds of scuffling from below and a voice shouted, Theyve blocked the stairs Reducto! REDUCTO!

Harrys heart leapt: so these four had not eliminated all opposition, but merely broken through the fight to the top of the Tower, and, by the sound of it, created a barrier behind them Now, Draco, quickly! said the brutal-faced man angrily.

But Malfoys hand was shaking so badly that he could barely aim.

Til do it, snarled Greyback, moving towards Dumbledore with his hands outstretched, his teeth bared.

I said no! shouted the brutal-faced man; there was a flash of light and the werewolf was blasted out of the way; he hit the ramparts and staggered, looking furious. Harrys heart was hammering so hard it seemed impossible that nobody could hear him standing there, imprisoned by Dumbledores spell -if he could only move, he could aim a curse from under the Cloak Draco, do it, or stand aside so one of us - screeched the woman, but at that precise moment the door to the ramparts burst open once more and there stood Snape, his wand clutched in his hand as his black eyes swept the scene, from Dumbledore slumped against the wall, to the four Death Eaters, including the enraged werewolf, and Malfoy.

Weve got a problem, Snape, said the lumpy Amycus, whose eyes and wand were fixed alike upon Dumbledore, the boy doesnt seem able -

But somebody else had spoken Snapes name, quite softly.

Severus

The sound frightened Harry beyond anything he had experienced all evening. For the first time, Dumbledore was pleading.

Snape said nothing, but walked forwards and pushed Malfoy roughly out of the way. The three Death Eaters fell back without a word. Even the werewolf seemed cowed.

Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face.

Severus please

Snape raised his wand and pointed it directly at Dumbledore.

Avada Kedavra!

A jet of green light shot from the end of Snapes wand and hit Dumbledore squarely in the chest. Harrys scream of horror never left him; silent and unmoving, he was forced to watch as Dumbledore was blasted into the air: for a split second he seemed to hang suspended beneath the shining skull, and then he fell slowly backwards, like a great rag doll, over the battlements and out of sight.

 

 

CHAPTER 28: Flight of the Prince

 

 

Harry felt as though he too were hurtling through space; it had not happened It could not have happened

Out of here, quickly, said Snape.

He seized Malfoy by the scruff of the neck and forced him through the door ahead of the rest; Greyback and the squat brother and sister followed, the latter both panting excitedly. As they vanished through the door, Harry realized he could move again. What was now holding him paralyzed against the wall was not magic, but horror and shock. He threw the Invisibility Cloak aside as the brutal-faced Death Eater, last to leave the tower top, was disappearing through the door.

Petrificus Totalus!

The Death Eater buckled as though hit in the back with something solid and fell to the ground, rigid as a waxwork, but he had barely hit the floor when Harry was clambering over him and running down the darkened staircase.

Terror tore at Harry;s heart He had to get to Dumbledore and he had to catch Snape Somehow the two things were linked He could reverse what had happened if he had them both together Dumbledore could not have died

He leapt the last ten steps of the spiral staircase and stopped where he landed, his wand raised. The dimly lit corridor was full of dust; half the ceiling seemed to have fallen in; and a battle was raging before him, but even as he attempted to make out who were fighting whom, he heard the hated voice shout, Its over, time to go! and saw Snape disappearing around the corner at the far end of the corridor; he and Malfoy seemed to have forced their way through the fight unscathed. As Harry plunged after them, one of the fighters detached themselves from the fray and flew at him: it was the werewolf, Fenrir. He was on top of Harry before Harry could raise his wand: Harry fell backward, with filthy matted hair in his face, the stench of sweat and blood filling his nose and mouth, hot greedy breath at his throat -

Petrificus Totalus!

Harry felt Fenrir collapse against him; with a stupendous effort he pushed the werewolf off and onto the floor as a jet of green light came flying toward him; he ducked and ran, headfirst, into the fight. His feet met something squashy and slippery on the floor and he stumbled: There were two bodies lying there, lying facedown in a pool of blood, but there was no time to investigate. Harry now saw red hair flying like flames in front of him: Ginny was locked in combat with the lumpy Death Eater, Amycus, who was throwing hex after hex at her while she dodged them: Amycus was giggling, enjoying the sport: Crucio Crucio you cant dance forever, pretty-

Impedimenta! yelled Harry.

His jinx hit Amycus in the chest: He gave a piglike squeal of pain, was lifted off his feet and slammed into the opposite wall, slid down it, and fell out of sight behind Ron, Professor McGonagall, and Lupin, each of whom was battling a separate Death Eater. Beyond them, Harry saw Tonks fighting an enormous blond wizard who was sending curses flying in all directions, so that they ricocheted off the walls around them, cracking stone, shattering the nearest window -

Harry, where did you come from? Ginny cried, but there was no time to answer her. He put his head down and sprinted forward, narrowly avoiding a blast that erupted over his head, showering them all in bits of wall. Snape must not escape, he must catch up with Snape -

Take that! shouted Professor McGonagall, and Harry glimpsed the female Death Eater, Alecto, sprinting away down the corridor with her arms over her head, her brother right behind her. He launched himself after them but his foot caught on something, and next moment he was lying across someones legs. Looking around, he saw Nevilles pale, round face flat against the floor. Neville, are you ?

Mall right, muttered Neville, who was clutching his stomach, Harry Snape n Malfoy ran past

I know, Im on it! said Harry, aiming a hex from the floor at the enormous blond Death Eater who was causing most of the chaos. The man gave a howl of pain as the spell hit him in the face: He wheeled around, staggered, and then pounded away after the brother and sister. Harry scrambled up from the floor and began to sprint along the corridor, ignoring the bangs issuing from behind him, the yells of the others to come back, and the mute call of the figures on the ground whose fate he did not yet know

He skidded around the corner, his trainers slippery with blood; Snape had an immense head start. Was it possible that he had already entered the cabinet in the Room of Requirement, or had the Order made steps to secure it, to prevent the Death Eaters retreating that way? He could hear nothing but his own pounding feet, his own hammering heart as he sprinted along the next empty corridor, but then spotted a bloody footprint that showed at least one of the fleeing Death Eaters was heading toward the front doors perhaps the Room of Requirement was indeed blocked He skidded around another corner and a curse flew past him; he dived behind a suit of armor that exploded. He saw the brother and sister running down the marble staircase ahead and aimed jinxes at them, but merely hit several bewigged witches in a portrait on the landing, who ran screeching into neighboring paintings. As he leapt the wreckage of armor, Harry heard more shouts and screams; other people within the castle seemed to have awoken

He pelted toward a shortcut, hoping to overtake the brother and sister and close in on Snape and Malfoy, who must surely have reached the grounds by now. Remembering to leap the vanishing step halfway down the concealed staircase, he burst through a tapestry at the bottom and out into a corridor where a number of bewildered and pajama-clad Hufflepuffs stood.

Harry! We heard a noise, and someone said something aboui the Dark Mark - began Ernie Macmillan.

Out of the way! yelled Harry, knocking two boys aside as he sprinted toward the landing and down the remainder of the marble staircase. The oak front doors had been blasted open, there were smears of blood on the flagstones, and several terrified students stood huddled against the walls, one or two still cowering with their arms over their faces. The giant Gryffindor hourglass had been hit by a curse, and the rubies within were still falling, with a loud rattle, onto the flagstones below.

Harry flew across the entrance hall and out into the dark grounds: He could just make out three figures racing across the lawn, heading for the gates beyond which they could Disapparate by the looks of them, the huge blond Death Eater and, some way ahead of him, Snape and Malfoy

The cold night air ripped at Harrys lungs as he tore after them; he saw a flash of light in the distance that momentarily silhouetted his quarry. He did not know what it was but continued to run, not yet near enough to get a good aim with a curse Another flash, shouts, retaliatory jets of light, and Harry understood: Hagrid had emerged from his cabin and was trying to stop the Death Eaters escaping, and though every breath seemed to shred his lungs and the stitch in his chest was like fire, Harry sped up as an unbidden voice in his head said: not Hagrid not Hagrid too

Something caught Harry hard in the small of the back and he fell forward, his face smacking the ground, blood pouring out of both nostrils: He knew, even as he rolled over, his wand ready, that the brother and sister he had overtaken using his shortcut were closing in behind him

Impedimenta! he yelled as he rolled over again, crouching close to the dark ground, and miraculously his jinx hit one of them, who stumbled and fell, tripping up the other; Harry leapt to his feet and sprinted on after Snape.

And now he saw the vast outline of Hagrid, illuminated by the light of the crescent moon revealed suddenly behind clouds; the blond Death Eater was aiming curse after curse at the gamekeeper; but Hagrids immense strength and the toughened skin he had inherited from his giantess mother seemed to be protecting him. Snape and Malfoy, however, were still running; they would soon be beyond the gates, able to Disapparate Harry tore past Hagrid and his opponent, took aim at Snapes back, and yelled, Stupefy!

He missed; the jet of red light soared past Snapes head; Snape shouted, Run, Draco!and turned. Twenty yards apart, he and Harry looked at each other before raising their wands simultaneously.

Cruc

But Snape parried the curse, knocking Harry backward off his feet before he could complete it; Harry rolled over and scrambled back up again as the huge Death Eater behind him yelled, Incendio! Harry heard an explosive bang and a dancing orange light spilled over all of them: Hagrids house was on fire.

Fangs in there, yer evil ! Hagrid bellowed.

Cruc - yelled Harry for the second time, aiming for the figure ahead illuminated in the dancing firelight, but Snape blocked the spell again. Harry could see him sneering.

No Unforgivable Curses from you, Potter! he shouted over the rushing of the flames, Hagrids yells, and the wild yelping of the trapped Fang. You havent got the nerve or the ability -

Incarc-Harry roared, but Snape deflected the spell with an almost lazy flick of his arm.

Fight back! Harry screamed at him. Fight back, you cowardly-

Coward, did you call me, Potter? shouted Snape. Your father would never attack me unless it was four on one, what would you call him, I wonder? Stupe-

Blocked again and again and again until you learn to keep your mouth shut and your mind closed, Potter! sneered Snape, deflecting the curse once more. Now come! he shouted at the huge Death Eater behind Harry. It is time to be gone, before the Ministry turns up -

Impedi -

But before he could finish this jinx, excruciating pain hit Harry; he keeled over in the grass. Someone was screaming, he would surely die of this agony, Snape was going to torture him to death or madness -

No! roared Snapes voice and the pain stopped as suddenly as it had started; Harry lay curled on the dark grass, clutching his wand and panting; somewhere overhead Snape was shouting, Have you forgotten our orders? Potter belongs to the Dark Lord we are to leave him! Go! Go!

And Harry felt the ground shudder under his face as the brother and sister and the enormous Death Eater obeyed, running toward the gates. Harry uttered an inarticulate yell of rage: In that instant, he cared not whether he lived or died. Pushing himself to his feet again, he staggered blindly toward Snape, the man he now hated as much as he hated Voldemort himself -

Sectum

Snape flicked his wand and the curse was repelled yet again; but Harry was mere feet away now and he could see Snapes face clearly at last: He was no longer sneering or jeering; the blazing flames showed a face full of rage. Mustering all his powers of concentration, Harry thought, Levi -

No, Potter! screamed Snape. There was a loud BANG and Harry was soaring backward, hitting the ground hard again, ;un\ this time his wand flew out of his hand. He could hear Hagrid yelling and Fang howling as Snape closed in and looked down on him where he lay, wandless and defenseless as Dumbledore hadl been. Snapes pale face, illuminated by the flaming cabin, was suffused with hatred just as it had been before he had cursed Dumbledore.

You dare use my own spells against me, Potter? It was I who invented them I, the Half-Blood Prince! And youd turn my inventions on me, like your filthy father, would you? I dont think so no

Harry had dived for his wand; Snape shot a hex at it and it flew feet away into the darkness and out of sight.

Kill me then, panted Harry, who felt no fear at all, but only rage and contempt. Kill me like you killed him, you coward -

DONT - screamed Snape, and his face was suddenly demented, inhuman, as though he was in as much pain as the yelping, howling dog stuck in the burning house behind them CALL ME COWARD!

And he slashed at the air: Harry felt a white-hot, whiplike something hit him across the face and was slammed backward into the ground. Spots of light burst in front of his eyes and for a moment all the breath seemed to have gone from his body, then he heard a rush of wings above him and something enormous obscured the stars. Buckbeak had flown at Snape, who staggered backward as the razor-sharp claws slashed at him. As Harry raised himself into a sitting position, his head still swimming from its last contact with the ground, he saw Snape running as hard as he could, the enormous beast flapping behind him and screeching as Harry had never heard him screech Harry struggled to his feet, looking around groggily for his wand, hoping to give chase again, but even as his fingers fumbled in the grass, discarding twigs, he knew it would be too late, and sure enough, by the time he had located his wand, he turned only to see the hippogriff circling the gates. Snape had managed to Disapparate just beyond the schools boundaries.

Hagrid, muttered Harry, still dazed, looking around. HAGRID?

He stumbled toward the burning house as an enormous figure emerged from out of the flames carrying Fang on his back. With a cry of thankfulness, Harry sank to his knees; he was shaking in every limb, his body ached all over, and his breath came in painful stabs.

Yeh all righ, Harry? Yeh all righ? Speak ter me, Harry

Hagrids huge, hairy face was swimming above Harry, blocking out the stars. Harry could smell burnt wood and dog hair; he put out a hand and felt Fangs reassuringly warm and alive body quivering beside him.

Im all right, panted Harry. Are you? Course I am take moren that ter finish me.

Hagrid put his hands under Harrys arms and raised him up with such force that Harrys feet momentarily left the ground before Hagrid set him upright again. He could see blood trickling down Hagrids cheek from a deep cut under one eye, which was swelling rapidly.

We should put out your house, said Harry, the charms Aguamenti

Knew it was summat like that, mumbled Hagrid, and he raised a smoldering pink, flowery umbrella and said, Aguamenti!

A jet of water flew out of the umbrella tip. Harry raised his wand arm, which felt like lead, and murmured Aguamenti too: Together, he and Hagrid poured water on the house until the last flame was extinguished.

Snot too bad, said Hagrid hopefully a few minutes later, looking at the smoking wreck. Nothin Dumbledore won be able to put righ

Harry felt a searing pain in his stomach at the sound of the name. In the silence and the stillness, horror rose inside him.

Hagrid

I was bindin up a couple o bowtruckle legs when I heard em coming, said Hagrid sadly, still staring at his wrecked cabin. Theyll bin burnt ter twigs, poor little things

Hagrid

But what happened, Harry? I jus saw them Death Eaters run-nin down from the castle, but what the ruddy hell was Snape doin with em? Wheres he gone was he chasin them?

He Harry cleared his throat; it was dry from panic and the smoke. Hagrid, he killed

Killed? said Hagrid loudly, staring down at Harry. Snape killed? Whatre yeh on abou, Harry?

Dumbledore, said Harry. Snape killed Dumbledore.

Hagrid simply looked at him, the little of his face that could be seen completely blank, uncomprehending.

Dumbledore wha, Harry?

Hes dead. Snape killed him

Don say that, said Hagrid roughly. Snape kill Dumbledore don be stupid, Harry. Whas made yeh say tha?

I saw it happen.

Yeh couldn have.

I saw it, Hagrid.

Hagrid shook his head; his expression was disbelieving but sympathetic, and Harry knew that Hagrid thought he had sustained a blow to the head, that he was confused, perhaps by the aftereffects of a jinx

What musta happened was, Dumbledore musta told Snape ter go with them Death Eaters, Hagrid said confidently. I suppose hes gotta keep his cover. Look, lets get yeh back up ter the school. Come on, Harry

Harry did not attempt to argue or explain. He was still shaking uncontrollably. Hagrid would find out soon enough, too soon As they directed their steps back toward the castle, Harry saw that many of its windows were lit now. He could imagine, clearly, the scenes inside as people moved from room to room, telling each other that Death Eaters had got in, that the Mark was shining over Hogwarts, that somebody must have been killed

The oak front doors stood open ahead of them, light flooding out onto the drive and the lawn. Slowly, uncertainly, dressing-gowned people were creeping down the steps, looking around nervously for some sign of the Death Eaters who had fled into the night. Harrys eyes, however, were fixed upon the ground at the foot of the tallest tower. He imagined that he could see a black, huddled mass lying in the grass there, though he was really too far away to see anything of the sort. Even as he stared wordlessly at the place where he thought Dumbledores body must lie, however, he saw people beginning to move toward it.

Whatre they all lookin at? said Hagrid, as he and Harry approached the castle front, Fang keeping as close as he could to their ankles. Whas that lyin on the grass? Hagrid added sharply, heading now toward the foot of the Astronomy Tower, where a small crowd was congregating. See it, Harry? Right at the foot of the tower? Under where the Mark Blimey yeh don think someone got thrown ?

Hagrid fell silent, the thought apparently too horrible to express aloud. Harry walked alongside him, feeling the aches and pains in his face and his legs where the various hexes of the last half hour had hit him, though in an oddly detached way, as though somebody near him was suffering them. What was real and inescapable was the awful pressing feeling in his chest

He and Hagrid moved, dreamlike, through the murmuring crowd to the very front, where the dumbstruck students and teachers had left a gap.

Harry heard Hagrids moan of pain and shock, but he did not stop; he walked slowly forward until he reached the place where Dumbledore lay and crouched down beside him. He had known there was no hope from the moment that the full Body-Bind Curse Dumbledore had placed upon him lifted, known that it could have happened only because its caster was dead, but there was still no preparation for seeing him here, spread-eagled, broken: the greatest wizard Harry had ever, or would ever, meet.

Dumbledores eyes were closed; but for the strange angle of his arms and legs, he might have been sleeping. Harry reached out, straightened the half-moon spectacles upon the crooked nose, and wiped a trickle of blood from the mouth with his own sleeve. Then he gazed down at the wise old face and tried to absorb the enormous and incomprehensible truth: that never again would Dumbledore speak to him, never again could he help-The crowd murmured behind Harry. After what seemed like a long time, he became aware that he was kneeling upon something hard and looked down.





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