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Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince 33



The locket they had managed to steal so many hours before had fallen out of Dumbledores pocket. It had opened, perhaps due to the force with which it hit the ground. And although he could not feel more shock or horror or sadness than he felt already, Harry knew, as he picked it up, that there was something wrong-He turned the locket over in his hands. This was neither as large as the locket he remembered seeing in the Pensieve, nor were there any markings upon it, no sign of the ornate S that was supposed to be Slytherins mark. Moreover, there was nothing inside but for a scrap of folded parchment wedged tightly into the place where a portrait should have been.

Automatically, without really thinking about what he was doing, Harry pulled out the fragment of parchment, opened it, and read by the light of the many wands that had now been lit behind him:

To the Dark Lord I now I will be dead long before you read this but I want you to know that it was I who dicovered your secret. I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can.

I face death in the hope that when you meet your match you will be mortal once more.

R.A.B.

Harry neither knew nor cared what the message meant. Only one thing mattered: This was not a Horcrux. Dumbledore had weakened himself by drinking that terrible potion for nothing. Harry crumpled the parchment in his hand, and his eyes burned with tears as behind him Fang began to howl.

 

 

CHAPTER 29: The Pheonix Lament

 

 

C mere, Harry

No.

Yeh can stay here, Harry Come on, now No.

He did not want to leave Dumbledores side, he did not want to move anywhere. Hagrids hand on his shoulder was trembling. Then another voice said, Harry, come on.

A much smaller and warmer hand had enclosed his and was pulling him upward. He obeyed its pressure without really thinking about it. Only as he walked blindly back through the crowd did he realize, from a trace of flowery scent on the air, that it was Ginny who was leading him back into the castle. Incomprehensible voices battered him, sobs and shouts and wails stabbed the night, but Harry and Ginny walked on, back up the steps into the entrance hall. Faces swam on the edges of Harrys vision, people were peering at him, whispering, wondering, and Gryffindor rubies glistened on the floor like drops of blood as they made their way toward the marble staircase.

Were going to the hospital wing, said Ginny.

Im not hurt, said Harry. !

Its McGonagalls orders, said Ginny. Everyones up there, Ron and Hermione and Lupin and everyone -



Fear stirred in Harrys chest again: He had forgotten the inert figures he had left behind.

Ginny, who else is dead?

Dont worry, none of us.

But the Dark Mark Malfoy said he stepped over a body -

He stepped over Bill, but its all right, hes alive.

There was something in her voice, however, that Harry knew boded ill.

Are you sure?

Of course Im sure hes a a bit of a mess, thats all. Greyback attacked him. Madam Pomfrey says he wont wont look the same anymore

Ginnys voice trembled a little.

We dont really know what the aftereffects will be I mean, Greyback being a werewolf, but not transformed at the time.

But the others There were other bodies on the ground

Neville and Professor Flitwick are both hurt, but Madam Pomfrey says theyll be all right. And a Death Eaters dead, he got hit by a Killing Curse that huge blond one was firing off everywhere Harry, if we hadnt had your Felix potion, I think wed all have been killed, but everything seemed to just miss us -

They had reached the hospital wing. Pushing open the doors, Harry saw Neville lying, apparently asleep, in a bed near the door. Ron, Hermione, Luna, Tonks, and Lupin were gathered around another bed near the far end of the ward. At the sound of the doors opening, they all looked up. Hermione ran to Harry and hugged him; Lupin moved forward too, looking anxious.

Are you all right, Harry?

Im fine Hows Bill?

Nobody answered. Harry looked over Hermiones shoulder and saw an unrecognizable face lying on Bills pillow, so badly slashed and ripped that he looked grotesque. Madam Pomfrey was dabbing at his wounds with some harsh-smelling green ointment. Harry remembered how Snape had mended Malfoys Sectumsempra wounds so easily with his wand.

Cant you fix them with a charm or something? he asked the matron.

No charm will work on these, said Madam Pomfrey. Ive tried everything I know, but there is no cure for werewolf bites.

But he wasnt bitten at the full moon, said Ron, who was gazing down into his brothers face as though he could somehow force him to mend just by staring. Greyback hadnt transformed, so surely Bill wont be a a real ? :

He looked uncertainly at Lupin.

No, I dont think that Bill will be a true werewolf, said Lupin, but that does not mean that there wont be some contamination. Those are cursed wounds. They are unlikely ever to heal fully, and and Bill might have some wolfish characteristics from now on.

Dumbledore might know something thatd work, though, Ron said. Where is he? Bill fought those maniacs on Dumbledores orders, Dumbledore owes him, he cant leave him in this state -

Ron Dumbledores dead, said Ginny.

No! Lupin looked wildly from Ginny to Harry, as though hoping the latter might contradict her, but when Harry did nor, Lupin collapsed into a chair beside Bills bed, his hands over his face. Harry had never seen Lupin lose control before; he felt as though he was intruding upon something private, indecent. He turned away and caught Rons eye instead, exchanging in silence a look that confirmed what Ginny had said.

How did he die? whispered Tonks. How did it happen?

Snape killed him, said Harry. I was there, I saw it. We arrived back on the Astronomy Tower because thats where the Mark was Dumbledore was ill, he was weak, but I think he realized it was a trap when we heard footsteps running up the stairs. He immobilized me, I couldnt do anything, I was under the Invisibility Cloak and then Malfoy came through the door and disarmed him -

Hermione clapped her hands to her mouth and Ron groaned. Lunas mouth trembled.

more Death Eaters arrived and then Snape and Snape did it. The Avada Kedavra. Harry couldnt go on.

Madam Pomfrey burst into tears. Nobody paid her any attention except Ginny, who whispered, Shh! Listen!

Gulping, Madam Pomfrey pressed her fingers to her mouth, her eyes wide. Somewhere out in the darkness, a phoenix was singing in a way Harry had never heard before: a stricken lament of terrible beauty. And Harry felt, as he had felt about phoenix song before, that the music was inside him, not without: It was his own grief turned magically to song that echoed across the grounds and through the castle windows.

How long they all stood there, listening, he did not know, nor why it seemed to ease their pain a little to listen to the sound of their mourning, but it felt like a long time later that the hospital door opened again and Professor McGonagall entered the ward. Like all the rest, she bore marks of the recent battle: There were grazes on her face and her robes were ripped.

Molly and Arthur are on their way, she said, and the spell of the music was broken: Everyone roused themselves as though coming out of trances, turning again to look at Bill, or else to rub their own eyest shake their heads. Harry, what happened? According to Hagrid you were with Professor Dumbledore when he when it happened. He says Professor Snape was involved in some - Snape killed Dumbledore, said Harry.

She stared at him for a moment, then swayed alarmingly; Madam Pomfrey, who seemed to have pulled herself together, ran forward, conjuring a chair from thin air, which she pushed under McGonagall.

Snape, repeated McGonagall faintly, falling into the chair. We all wondered but he trusted always Snape I cant believe it

Snape was a highly accomplished Occlumens, said Lupin, his voice uncharacteristically harsh. We always knew that.

But Dumbledore swore he was on our side! whispered Tonks. I always thought Dumbledore must know something about Snape that we didnt .

He always hinted that he had an ironclad reason for trusting Snape, muttered Professor McGonagall, now dabbing at the corners of her leaking eyes with a tartan-edged handkerchief. I mean with Snapes history of course people were bound to wonder but Dumbledore told me explicitly that Snapes repentance was absolutely genuine-Wouldnt hear a word against him!

Id love to know what Snape told him to convince him, said Tonks.

I know, said Harry, and they all turned to look at him. Snape passed Voldemort the information that made Voldemort hunt down my mum and dad. Then Snape told Dumbledore he hadnt realized what he was doing, he was really sorry hed done it, sorry that they were dead.

They all stared at him.

And Dumbledore believed that? said Lupin incredulously. Dumbledore believed Snape was sorry James was dead? Snape hated James

And he didnt think my mother was worth a damn either, said Harry, because she was Muggle-born Mudblood, he called her

Nobody asked how Harry knew this. All of them seemed to be lost in horrified shock, trying to digest the monstrous truth of what had happened.

This is all my fault, said Professor McGonagall suddenly. She looked disoriented, twisting her wet handkerchief in her hands. My fault. I sent Filius to fetch Snape tonight, I actually sent for him to come and help us! If I hadnt alerted Snape to what was going on, he might never have joined forces with the Death Eaters. I dont think he knew they were there before Filius told him, I dont think he knew they were coming.

It isnt your fault, Minerva, said Lupin firmly. We all wanted more help, we were glad to think Snape was on his way

So when he arrived at the fight, he joined in on the Death Eaters side? asked Harry, who wanted every detail of Snapes duplicity and infamy, feverishly collecting more reasons to hate him, to swear vengeance.

I dont know exactly how it happened, said Professor McGonagall distractedly. Its all so confusing Dumbledore had told us that he would be leaving the school for a few hours and that we were to patrol the corridors just in case Remus, Bill, and Nymphadora were to join us and so we patrolled. All seemed quiet. Every secret passageway out of the school was covered. We knew nobody could fly in. There were powerful enchantments on every entrance into the castle. I still dont know how the Death Eaters can possibly have entered

I do, said Harry, and he explained, briefly, about the pair of Vanishing Cabinets and the magical pathway they formed. So they got in through the Room of Requirement.

Almost against his will he glanced from Ron to Hermione, both of whom looked devastated.

I messed up, Harry, said Ron bleakly. We did like you told us: We checked the Marauders Map and we couldnt see Malfoy on it, so we thought he must be in the Room of Requirement, so me, Ginny, and Neville went to keep watch on it but Malfoy got past us.

He came out of the room about an hour after we started keeping watch, said Ginny. He was on his own, clutching that awful shriveled arm -

His Hand of Glory, said Ron. Gives light only to the holder, remember?

Anyway, Ginny went on, he must have been checking whether the coast was clear to let the Death Eaters out, because the moment he saw us he threw something into the air and it all went pitch-black -

Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, said Ron bitterly. Fred and Georges. Im going to be having a word with them about who they let buy their products.

We tried everything, Lumos, Incendio, said Ginny. Nothing would penetrate the darkness; all we could do was grope our way out of the corridor again, and meanwhile we could hear people rushing past us. Obviously Malfoy could see because of that hand thing and was guiding them, but we didnt dare use any curses or anything in case we hit each other, and by the time wed reached a corridor that was light, theyd gone.

Luckily, said Lupin hoarsely, Ron, Ginny, and Neville ran into us almost immediately and told us what had happened. We found the Death Eaters minutes later, heading in the direction of the Astronomy Tower. Malfoy obviously hadnt expected more people to be on the watch; he seemed to have exhausted his supply of Darkness Powder, at any rate. A fight broke out, they scattered and we gave chase. One of them, Gibbon, broke away and headed up the tower stairs -

To set off the Mark? asked Harry.

He must have done, yes, they must have arranged that before they left the Room of Requirement, said Lupin. But I dont think Gibbon liked the idea of waiting up there alone for Dumbledore, because he came running back downstairs to rejoin the fight and was hit by a Killing Curse that just missed me.

So if Ron was watching the Room of Requirement with Ginny and Neville, said Harry, turning to Hermione, were you ?

Outside Snapes office, yes, whispered Hermione, her eyes sparkling with tears, with Luna. We hung around for ages outside it and nothing happened We didnt know what was going on upstairs, Ron had taken the map-It was nearly midnight when Professor Flitwick came sprinting down into the dungeons. He was shouting about Death Eaters in the castle, I dont think he really registered that Luna and I were there at all, he just burst his way into Snapes office and we heard him saying that Snape had to go back with him and help and then we heard a loud thump and Snape came hurtling out of his room and he saw us and and - What? Harry urged her.

I was so stupid, Harry! said Hermione in a high-pitched whisper. He said Professor Flitwick had collapsed and that we should go and take care of him while he while he went to help fight the Death Eaters - She covered her face in shame and continued to talk into her fingers, so that her voice was muffled. We went into his office to see if we could help Professor Flitwick and found him unconscious on the floor and oh, its so obvious now, Snape must have Stupefied Flitwick, but we didnt realize, Harry, we didnt realize, we just let Snape go!

Its not your fault, said Lupin firmly. Hermione, had you not obeyed Snape and got out of the way, he probably would have killed you and Luna.

So then he came upstairs, said Harry, who was watching Snape running up the marble staircase in his minds eye, his black robes billowing behind him as ever, pulling his wand from under his cloak as he ascended, and he found the place where you were all fighting

We were in trouble, we were losing, said Tonks in a low voice. Gibbon was down, but the rest of the Death Eaters seemed ready to fight to the death. Neville had been hurt, Bill had been savaged by Greyback It was all dark curses flying everywhere The Malfoy boy had vanished, he must have slipped past, up the stairs then more of them ran after him, but one of them blocked the stair behind them with some kind of curse Neville ran at it and got thrown up into the air -

None of us could break through, said Ron, and that massive Death Eater was still firing off jinxes all over the place, they were bouncing off the walls and barely missing us

And then Snape was there, said Tonks, and then he wasnt -

I saw him running toward us, but that huge Death Eaters jinx just missed me right afterward and I ducked and lost track of things, said Ginny.

I saw him run straight through the cursed barrier as though it wasnt there, said Lupin. I tried to follow him, but was thrown back just like Neville

He must have known a spell we didnt, whispered McGonagall. After all he was the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher I just assumed that he was in a hurry to chase after the Death Eaters whod escaped up to the tower

He was, said Harry savagely, but to help them, not to stop them and Ill bet you had to have a Dark Mark to get through that barrier so what happened when he came back down?

Well, the big Death Eater had just fired off a hex that caused half the ceiling to fall in, and also broke the curse blocking the stairs, said Lupin. We all ran forward those of us who were still standing anyway and then Snape and the boy emerged out of the dust obviously, none of us attacked them -

We just let them pass, said Tonks in a hollow voice. We thought they were being chased by the Death Eaters and next thing, the other Death Eaters and Greyback were back and we were fighting again I thought I heard Snape shout something, but I dont know what -

He shouted, Its over, said Harry. Hed done what hed meant to do.

They all fell silent. Fawkess lament was still echoing over the dark grounds outside. As the music reverberated upon the air, unbidden, unwelcome thoughts slunk into Harrys mind Had they taken Dumbledores body from the foot of the tower yet? What would happen to it next? Where would it rest? He clenched his fists tighdy in his pockets. He could feel the small cold lump of the fake Horcrux against the knuckles of his right hand.

The doors of the hospital wing burst open, making them all jump: Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were striding up the ward, Fleur just behind them, her beautiful face terrified.

Molly Arthur - said Professor McGonagall, jumping up and hurrying to greet them. I am so sorry -

Bill, whispered Mrs. Weasley, darting past Professor McGonagall as she caught sight of Bills mangled face. Oh, Bill!

Lupin and Tonks had got up hastily and retreated so that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley could get nearer to the bed. Mrs. Weasley bent over her son and pressed her lips to his bloody forehead.

You said Greyback attacked him? Mr. Weasley asked Professor McGonagall distractedly. But he hadnt transformed? So what does that mean? What will happen to Bill?

We dont yet know, said Professor McGonagall, looking helplessly at Lupin.

There will probably be some contamination, Arthur, .said Lupin. It is an odd case, possibly unique We dont know what his behavior might be like when he awakens

Mrs. Weasley took the nasty-smelling ointment from Madam Pomfrey and began dabbing at Bills wounds.

And Dumbledore said Mr. Weasley. Minerva, is it true Is he really ?

As Professor McGonagall nodded, Harry felt Ginny move beside him and looked at her. Her slightly narrowed eyes were fixed upon Fleur, who was gazing down at Bill with a frozen expression on her face.

Dumbledore gone, whispered Mr. Weasley, but Mrs. Weasley had eyes only for her eldest son; she began to sob, tears falling onto Bills mutilated face.

Of course, it doesnt matter how he looks Its not r-really important but he was a very handsome little b-boy always very handsome and he was g-going to be married!

And what do you mean by zat? said Fleur suddenly and loudly. What do you mean, he was going to be married?

Mrs. Weasley raised her tear-stained face, looking startled. Well -only that-

You theenk Bill will not wish to marry me anymore? demanded Fleur. You theenk, because of these bites, he will not love me?

No, thats not what I -

Because e will! said Fleur, drawing herself up to her full height and throwing back her long mane of silver hair. It would take more zan a werewolf to stop Bill loving me!

Well, yes, Im sure, said Mrs. Weasley, but I thought perhaps given how how he -

You thought I would not weesh to marry him? Or peraps, you hoped? said Fleur, her nostrils flaring. What do I care how he looks? I am good-looking enough for both of us, I theenk! All these scars show is zat my husband is brave! And I shall do zat! she added fiercely, pushing Mrs. Weasley aside and snatching the ointment from her.

Mrs. Weasley fell back against her husband and watched Fleur mopping up Bills wounds with a most curious expression upon her face. Nobody said anything; Harry did not dare move. Like everybody else, he was waiting for the explosion.

Our Great-Auntie Muriel, said Mrs. Weasley after a long pause, has a very beautiful tiara goblin-made which I am sure I could persuade her to lend you for the wedding. She is very fond of Bill, you know, and it would look lovely with your hair.

Thank you, said Fleur stiffly. I am sure zat will be lovely.

And then, Harry did not quite see how it happened, both , women were crying and hugging each other. Completely bewildered, wondering whether the world had gone mad, he turned around: Ron looked as stunned as he felt and Ginny and Hermione were exchanging startled looks.

You see! said a strained voice. Tonks was glaring at Lupin. She still wants to marry him, even though hes been bitten! She doesnt care!

Its different, said Lupin, barely moving his lips and looking suddenly tense. Bill will not be a full werewolf. The cases are completely -

But I dont care either, I dont care! said Tonks, seizing the front of Lupins robes and shaking them. Ive told you a million times

And the meaning of Tonkss Patronus and her mouse-colored hair, and the reason she had come running to find Dumbledore when she had heard a rumor someone had been attacked by Greyback, all suddenly became clear to Harry; it had not been Sinus that Tonks had fallen in love with after all.

And Ive told you a million times, said Lupin, refusing to meet her eyes, staring at the floor, that I am too old for you, too poor too dangerous

Ive said all along youre taking a ridiculous line on this, Remus, said Mrs. Weasley over Fleurs shoulder as she patted her on the back.

I am not being ridiculous, said Lupin steadily. Tonks deserves somebody young and whole.

But she wants you, said Mr. Weasley, with a small smile. And after all, Remus, young and whole men do not necessarily remain so.

He gestured sadly at his son, lying between them.

This is not the moment to discuss it, said Lupin, avoiding everybodys eyes as he looked around distractedly. Dumbledore is dead

Dumbledore would have been happier than anybody to think that there was a little more love in the world, said Professor McGonagall curtly, just as the hospital doors opened again and Hagrid walked in.

The little of his face that was not obscured by hair or beard was soaking and swollen; he was shaking with tears, a vast, spotted handkerchief in his hand.

Ive Ive done it, Professor, he choked. M-moved him. Professor Sprouts got the kids back in bed. Professor Flitwicks lyin down, but he says hell be all righ in a jiffy, an Professor Slughorn says the Ministrys bin informed.

Thank you, Hagrid, said Professor McGonagall, standing up at once and turning to look at the group around Bills bed. I shall have to see the Ministry when they get here. Hagrid, please tell the Heads of Houses Slughorn can represent Slytherin that I want to see them in my office forthwith. I would like you to join us too.

As Hagrid nodded, turned, and shuffled out of the room again, she looked down at Harry. Before I meet them I would like a quick word with you, Harry. If youll come with me

Harry stood up, murmured See you in a bit to Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, and followed Professor McGonagall back down the ward. The corridors outside were deserted and the only sound was the distant phoenix song. It was several minutes before Harry became aware that they were not heading for Professor McGonagalls office, but for Dumbledores, and another few seconds before he realized that of course, she had been deputy headmistress Apparently she was now headmistress so the room behind the gargoyle was now hers.

In silence they ascended the moving spiral staircase and entered the circular office. He did not know what he had expected: that the room would be draped in black, perhaps, or even that Dumbledores body might be lying there. In fact, it looked almost exactly as it had done when he and Dumbledore had left it mere hours previously: the silver instruments whirring and puffing on their spindle legged tables, Gryffindors sword in its glass case gleaming in the moonlight, the Sorting Hat on a shelf behind the desk, the Fawkess perch stood empty, he was still crying his lament to the grounds. And a new portrait had joined the ranks of the dead headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts: Dumbledore was slumbering in a golden frame over the desk, his half-moon spectacle perched upon his crooked nose, looking peaceful and untroubled.

After glancing once at this portrait, Professor McGonagall made an odd movement as though steeling herself, then rounded the desk to look at Harry, her face taut and lined.

Harry, she said, I would like to know what you and Professor Dumbledore were doing this evening when you left the school.

I cant tell you that, Professor, said Harry. He had expected the question and had his answer ready. It had been here, in this very room, that Dumbledore had told him that he was to confide the contents of their lessons to nobody but Ron and Hermione.

Harry, it might be important, said Professor McGonagall.

It is, said Harry, very, but he didnt want me to tell anyone.

Professor McGonagall glared at him. Potter Harry registered the renewed use of his surname in the light of Professor Dumbledores death, I think you must see that the situation has changed somewhat -

I dont think so, said Harry, shrugging. Professor Dumbledore never told me to stop following his orders if he died. But -

Theres one thing you should know before the Ministry gets here, though. Madam Rosmertas under the Imperius Curse, she was helping Malfoy and the Death Eaters, thats how the necklace and the poisoned mead -

Rosmerta? said Professor McGonagall incredulously, but before she could go on, there was a knock on the door behind them and Professors Sprout, Flitwick, and Slughorn traipsed into the room, followed by Hagrid, who was still weeping copiously, his huge frame trembling with grief.

Snape! ejaculated Slughorn, who looked the most shaken, pale and sweating. Snape! I taught him! I thought I knew him!

But before any of them could respond to this, a sharp voice spoke from high on the wall: A sallow-faced wizard with a short black fringe had just walked back into his empty canvas. Minerva, the Minister will be here within seconds, he has just Disapparated from the Ministry.

Thank you, Everard, said Professor McGonagall, and she turned quickly to her teachers.

I want to talk about what happens to Hogwarts before he gets here, she said quickly. Personally, I am not convinced that the school should reopen next year. The death of the headmaster at the hands of one of our colleagues is a terrible stain upon Hogwartss history. It is horrible.

I am sure Dumbledore would have wanted the school to remain open, said Professor Sprout. I feel that if a single pupil wants to come, then the school ought to remain open for that pupil.

But will we have a single pupil after this? said Slughorn, now dabbing his sweating brow with a silken handkerchief. Parents will want to keep their children at home and I cant say I blame them. Personally, I dont think were in more danger at Hogwarts than we are anywhere else, but you cant expect mothers to think like that. Theyll want to keep their families together, its only natural.

I agree, said Professor McGonagall. And in any case, it is not true to say that Dumbledore never envisaged a situation in which Hogwarts might close. When the Chamber of Secrets reopened he considered the closure of the school and I must say that Professor Dumbledores murder is more disturbing to me than the idea of Slytherins monster living undetected in the bowels of the castle

We must consult the governors, said Professor Flitwick in his squeaky little voice; he had a large bruise on his forehead but seemed otherwise unscathed by his collapse in Snapes office. We must follow the established procedures. A decision should not be made hastily.

Hagrid, you havent said anything, said Professor McGonagall. What are your views, ought Hogwarts to remain open?

Hagrid, who had been weeping silently into his large, spotted handkerchief throughout this conversation, now raised puffy red eyes and croaked, I dunno, Professor thats fer the Heads of House an the headmistress ter decide

Professor Dumbledore always valued your views, said Professor McGonagall kindly, and so do I.

Well, Im stayin, said Hagrid, fat tears still leaking out of the corners of his eyes and trickling down into his tangled beard. Its me home, its bin me home since I was thirteen. An if theres kids who wan me ter teach em, Ill do it. But I dunno Hogwarts without Dumbledore He gulped and disappeared behind his handkerchief once more, and there was silence.





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