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Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince 34



Very well, said Professor McGonagall, glancing out of the window at the grounds, checking to see whether the Minister was yet approaching, then I must agree with Filius that the right thing to do is to consult the governors, who will make the final decision.

Now, as to getting students home there is an argument for doing it sooner rather than later. We could arrange for the Hogwarts Express to come tomorrow if necessary -

What about Dumbledores funeral? said Harry, speaking at last.

Well said Professor McGonagall, losing a little of her briskness as her voice shook. I I know that it was Dumbledores wish to be laid to rest here, at Hogwarts -

Then thats whatll happen, isnt it? said Harry fiercely.

If the Ministry thinks it appropriate, said Professor McGonagall. No other headmaster or headmistress has ever been -

No other headmaster or headmistress ever gave more to this school, growled Hagrid.

Hogwarts should be Dumbledores final resting place, said Professor Flitwick.

Absolutely, said Professor Sprout.

And in that case, said Harry, you shouldnt send the students home until the jfunerals over. Theyll want to say -

The last word caught in his throat, but Professor Sprout completed the sentence for him. Good-bye.

Well said, squeaked Professor Flitwick. Well said indeed! Our students should pay tribute, it is fitting. We can arrange transport home afterward.

Seconded, barked Professor Sprout. ]

I suppose yes said Slughorn in a rather agitated voice, while Hagrid let out a strangled sob of assent.

Hes coming, said Professor McGonagall suddenly, gazing down into the grounds. The Minister and by the looks of it. hes brought a delegation

Can I leave, Professor? said Harry at once.

He had no desire at all to see, or be interrogated by, Rufus Scrimgeour tonight.

You may, said Professor McGonagall. And quickly.

She strode toward the door and held it open for him. He sped down the spiral staircase and off along the deserted corridor; he-had left his Invisibility Cloak at the top of the Astronomy Tower, but it did not matter; there was nobody in the corridors to see him pass, not even Filch, Mrs. Norris, or Peeves. He did not meet another soul until he turned into the passage leading to the Gryffindor common room.

Is it true? whispered the Fat Lady as he approached her. It is really true? Dumbledore dead?

Yes, said Harry.

She let out a wail and, without waiting for the password, swung forward to admit him.

As Harry had suspected it would be, the common room was jam-packed. The room fell silent as he climbed through the portrait hole. He saw Dean and Seamus sitting in a group nearby: This meant that the dormitory must be empty, or nearly so. Without speaking to anybody, without making eye contact at all, Harry walked straight across the room and through the door to the boys dormitories.



As he had hoped, Ron was waiting for him, still fully dressed, sitting on his bed. Harry sat down on his own four-poster and for a moment, they simply stared at each other.

Theyre talking about closing the school, said Harry.

Lupin said they would, said Ron.

There was a pause.

So? said Ron in a very low voice, as though he thought the furniture might be listening in. Did you find one? Did you get it? A a Horcrux?

Harry shook his head. All that had taken place around that black lake seemed like an old nightmare now; had it really happened, and only hours ago?

You didnt get it? said Ron, looking crestfallen. It wasnt there?

No, said Harry. Someone had already taken it and left a fake in its place.

Already taken ?

Wordlessly, Harry pulled the fake locket from his pocket, opened it, and passed it to Ron. The full story could wait It did not matter tonight nothing mattered except the end, the end of their pointless adventure, the end of Dumbledores life

R.A.B., whispered Ron, but who was that?

Dunno, said Harry, lying back on his bed fully clothed and staring blankly upwards. He felt no curiosity at all about R.A.B.: He doubted that he would ever feel curious again. As he lay there, he became aware suddenly that the grounds were silent. Fawkes had stopped singing. And he knew, without knowing how he knew it, that ilie phoenix had gone, had left Hogwarts for good, just as Dumbledore had left the school, had left the world had left Harry.

 

 

CHAPTER 30: The White Tomb

 

 

All lessons were suspended, all examinations postponed. Some students were hurried away from Hogwarts by their parents over the next couple of days the Patil twins were gone before breakfast on the morning following Dumbledores death and Zacharias Smith was escorted from the castle by his haughty-looking father. Seamus Finnigan, on the other hand, refused point-blank to accompany his mother home; they had a shouting match in the Entrance Hall which was resolved when she agreed that he could remain behind for the funeral. She had difficulty in finding a bed in Hogsmeade, Seamus told Harry and Ron, for wizards and witches were pouring into the village, preparing to pay their last respects to Durnbledore.

Some excitement was caused among the younger students, who had never seen it before, when a powder-blue carriage the size of a house, pulled by a dozen giant winged palominos, came soaring out of the sky in the late afternoon before the funeral and landed on the edge of the Forest. Harry watched from a window as a gigantic and handsome olive-skinned, black-haired woman descended the carriage steps and threw herself into the waiting Hagrids arms. Meanwhile a delegation of Ministry officials, including the Minister for Magic himself, was being accommodated within the castle. Harry was diligently avoiding contact with any of them; he was sure that, sooner or later, he would be asked again to account for Dumbledores last excursion from Hogwarts.

Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny were spending all of their time together. The beautiful weather seemed to mock them; Harry could imagine how it would have been if Durnbledore had not died, and they had had this time together at the very end of the year, Ginnys examinations finished, the pressure of homework lifted and hour by hour, he put off saying the thing that he knew he must say, doing what he knew it was right to do, because it was too hard to forgo his best source of comfort.

They visited the hospital wing twice a day: Neville had been discharged, but Bill remained under Madam Pomfreys care. His scars were as bad as ever; in truth, he now bore a distinct resemblance to Mad-Eye Moody, though thankfully with both eyes and legs, but in personality he seemed jusi the same as ever. All that appeared to have changed was that he now had a great liking for very rare steaks.

so eet ees lucky e is marrying me, said Fleur happily, plumping up Bills pillows, because ze British overcook their meat, I ave always said this.

I suppose Im just going to have to accept that he really is going to marry her, sighed Ginny later that evening, as she, Harry, Ron and Hermione sat beside the open window of the Gryffindor common room, looking out over the twilit grounds, Shes not that bad, said Harry. Ugly, though, he added hastily, as Ginny raised her eyebrows, and she let out a reluctant giggle.

Well, I suppose if Mum can stand it, I can.

Anyone else we know died? Ron asked Hermione, who was perusing the Evening Prophet.

Hermione winced at the forced toughness in his voice.

No, she said reprovingly, folding up ihe newspaper. Theyre still looking for Snape, but no sign

Of course there isnt, said Harry, who became angry every lime this subject cropped up. They wont find Snape till they find Voldemort, and seeing as theyve never managed to do that in all this time

Im going to go to bed, yawned Ginny. I havent been sleeping thai well since well I could do with some sleep.

She kissed Harry (Ron looked away pointedly), waved al the other two and departed for the girls dormitories. The moment the door had closed behind her, Hermione leaned forwards towards Harry with a most Hermione-ish look on her face.

Harry, I found something ou( this morning, in the library

R.A.B.? said Harry, silling up straight.

He did not feel the way he had so often felt before, excited, curious, burning to get to the bottom of a mystery; he simply knew that the task of discovering the truth about the real Horcrux had to be completed before he could move a little further along the dark and winding path stretching ahead of him, the path that he and Dumbledore had set out upon together, and which he now knew he would have to journey alone. There might still be as many as four Horcruxes out there somewhere and each would need to be found and eliminated before there was even a possibility that Voldemort could be killed. He kept reciting their names to himself, as though by listing them he could bring them within reach: the locket the cup the snake something of Gryffindors or Ravenclaws the locket the cup the snake something of Gryffindors or Ravenclaws

This mantra seemed to pulse through Harrys mind as he fell asleep at night, and his dreams were thick with cups, lockets and mysterious objects that he could not quite reach, though Dumbledore helpfully offered Harry a rope ladder that turned to snakes the moment he began to climb

He had shown Hermione the note inside the locket the morning after Dumbledores death, and although she had not immediately recognised the initials as belonging to some obscure wizard about whom she had been reading, she had since been rushing off to the library a little more often than was strictly necessary for somebody who had no homework to do.

No, she said sadly, Ive been trying, Harry, but I havent found anything there are a couple of reasonably well-known wizards with those initials Rosalind Antigone Bungs Rupert Axebanger Brookstanton but they dont seem to fit at all. Judging by that note, the person who stole the Horcrux knew Voldemort, and I cant find a shred of evidence that Bungs or Axebanger ever had anything to do with him no, actually, its about well, Snape.

She looked nervous even saying the name again.

What about him? asked Harry heavily, slumping back in his chair.

Well, its just that I was sort of right about the Half-Blood Prince business, she said tentatively.

Dyou have to rub it in, Hermione? How tTyou think I feel about that now?

No no Harry, I didnt mean that! she said hastily, looking around to check that they were not being overheard. Its just that I was right about Eileen Prince once owning the book. You see she was Snapes mother!

I thought she wasnt much of a looker, said Ron. Hermione ignored him.

I was going through ihe rest of the old Prophets and there was a tiny announcement about Eileen Prince marrying a man called Tobias Snape, and then later an announcement saying that shed given birth to a -

murderer, spat Harry.

Well yes, said Hermione. So I was sort of right. Snape must have been proud of being half a Prince, you see? Tobias Snape was a Muggie from what it said in the Prophet

Yeah, that fits, said Harry. Hed play up the pure-blood side so he could get in with Lucius Malfoy and the rest of them hes just like Voldemort. Pure-blood mother, Muggie father ashamed of his parentage, trying to make himself feared using the Dark Arts, gave himself an impressive new name Lard Voldemort the Half-Blood Prince how could Dumbledore have missed -?

He broke off, looking out of the window. He could not stop himself dwelling upon Dumbledores inexcusable trust in Snape but as Hermione had just inadvertently reminded him, he, Harry, had been taken in just the same in spite of the increasing nastiness of those scribbled spells, he had refused to believe ill of the boy who had been so clever, who had helped him so much

Helped him it was an almost unendurable thought, now

I still dont get why he didnt turn you in for using that book, said Ron. He mustve known where you were getting it ali from.

He knew, said Harry bitterly. He knew when I used Secfumsempra. He didnt really need Legilimency he might even have known before then, with Slughom talking about how brilliant I was at Potions shouldnt have left his old book in the bottom of that cupboard, should he?

But why didnt he turn you in?

I dont ihink he wanted to associate himself with that book, said Hermione. I dont think Dumbledore would have liked it very much if hed known. And even if Snape pretended it hadnt been his, Slughom would have recognised his writing at once. Anyway, the book was left in Snapes old classroom, and Ill bet Dumbledore knew his mother was called Prince.

I shouldve shown the book to Dumbledore, said Harry. All that lime he was showing me how Voldemort was evil even when he was at school, and I had proof Snape was, too -

Evil is a strong word, said Hermione quietly.

You were the one who kept telling me the book was dangerous!

Im trying to say, Harry, that youre pulling too much blame on yourself. I thought the Prince seemed to have a nasty sense of humour, but I would never have guessed he was a potential killer

None of us couldve guessed Snape would you know, said Ron.

Silence fell between them, each of them lost in their own thoughts, but Harry was sure that they, like him, were thinking about the following morning, when Dumbledores body would be laid to rest. Harry had never attended a funeral before; there had been no body to bury when Sirius had died. He did not know what to expect and was a little worried about what he might see, about how he would feel. He wondered whether Dumbledores death would be more real to him once the funeral was over. Though he had moments when the horrible fact of it threatened to overwhelm him, there were blank stretches of numbness where, despite the fact that nobody was talking about anything else in the whole castle, he still found it difficult 10 believe that Dumbledore had really gone. Admittedly he had not, as he had with Sirius, looked desperately for some kind of loophole, some way that Dumbledore would come back he felt in his pocket for the cold chain of the fake Horcrux, which he now carried with him everywhere, not as a talisman, but as a reminder of what it had cost and what remained still to do.

Harry rose early to pack the next day; the Hogwarts Express would be leaving an hour after the funeral. Downstairs he found the mood in the Great Hall subdued. Everybody was wearing their dress robes and no one seemed very hungry. Professor McGonagall had left the thronelike chair in the middle of the staff table empty. Hagrids chair was deserted too: Harry thought thai perhaps he had not been able to face breakfast; but Snapes place had been unceremoniously filled by Rufus Scrimgeour. Harry avoided his yellowish eyes as they scanned the Hall; Harry had the uncomfortable feeling that Scrimgeour was looking for him. Among Scrimgeours entourage Harry spotted the red hair and horn-rimmed glasses of Percy Weasley. Ron gave no sign that he was aware of Percy, apart from stabbing pieces of kipper with unwonted venom.

Over at the Slytherin table Crabbe and Goyle were mutter ing together. Hulking boys though they were, they looked oddly lonely without the tall, pale figure of Malfoy between them, bossing them around. Harry had not spared Malfoy much thought. His animosity was all for Snape, but he had not forgotten the fear in Malfoys voice on that Tower top, nor the fact that he had lowered his wand before the other Death Eaters arrived. Harry did not believe that Malfoy would have killed Dumbledore. He despised Malfoy still for his infatu ation with the Dark Arts, but now the tiniest drop of pity mingled with his dislike. Where, Harry wondered, was Malfoy now, and what was Voldemort making him do under threat of killing him and his parents? ? >.

Harrys thoughts were interrupted by a nudge in the ribs from Ginny. Professor McGonagall had risen to her feet and the mournful hum in the Hall died away at once.

It is nearly time, she said. Please follow your Heads of House out into the grounds. Gryffindors, after me.

They filed out from behind their benches in near silence. Harry glimpsed Slughorn at the head of the Slytherin column, wearing magnificent long emerald-green robes embroidered with silver. He had never seen Professor Sprout, Head of the Hufflepuffs, looking so clean; there was not a single patch on her hat, and when they reached the Entrance Hall, they found Madam Pince standing beside Filch, she in a thick black veil that fell to her knees, he in an ancient black suit and tie reeking of mothbails.

They were heading, as Harry saw when he stepped out on to the stone steps from the front doors, towards the lake. The warmth of the sun caressed his face as they followed Professor McGonagall in silence to the place where hundreds of chairs had been set out in rows. An aisle ran down the centre of them: there was a marble table standing at the front, all chairs facing it. It was the most beautiful summers day.

An extraordinary assortment of people had already settled into half of the chairs: shabby and smart, old and young. Most Harry did not recognise, but there were a few that he did, including members of the Order of the Phoenix: Kingsley Shacklebolt, Mad-Eye Moody, Tonks, her hair miraculously returned to vividest pink, Remus Lupin, with whom she seemed to be holding hands, Mr and Mrs Weasley, Bill supported by Fleur and followed by Fred and George, who were wearing jackets of black dragonskin. Then there was Madame Maxime, who took up two-and-a-half chairs on her own, Tom, the landlord of the Leaky Cauldron, Arabella Figg, Harrys Squib neighbour, the hairy bass player from the wizardmg group the Weird bisters, hrnie Frang, dnver ol the Knight Bus, Madam Malkin, of the robe shop in Diagon Alley, and some people whom Harry merely knew by sight, such as the barman of the Hogs Head and the witch who pushed the trolley on the Hogwarts Express. The castle ghosts were there too, barely visible in the bright sunlight, discernible only when they moved, shimmering insubstantially in the gleaming air.

Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny filed into seats at the end of a row beside the lake. People were whispering to each other; it sounded like a breeze in the grass, but the birdsong was louder by far. The crowd continued to swell; with a great rush of affection for both of them, Harry saw Neville being helped into a seat by Luna. They alone of all the DA had responded to Hermiones summons the night that Dumbledore had died, and Harry knew why: they were the ones who had missed the DA most probably the ones who had checked their coins regularly in the hope that there would be another meeting

Cornelius Fudge walked past them towards the front rows, his expression miserable, twirling his green bowler hat as usual; Harry next recognised Rita Skeeter, who, he was infuriated to see, had a notebook clutched in her red-talloned hand; and then, with a worse jolt of fury, Dolores Umbridge, an unconvincing expression of grief upon her toadlike face, a black velvet bow set atop her iron-coloured curls. At the sight of the centaur Firenze, who was standing like a sentinel near the waters edge, she gave a start and scurried hastily into a seat a good distance away.

The staff were seated at last. Harry could see Scrimgeour looking grave and dignified in the front row with Professor McGonagall. He wondered whether Scrimgeour or any of these important people were really sorry that Dumbledore was dead. But then he heard strange music and he forgot his dislike of the Ministry in looking around for the source of it. He was not the only one: many heads were turning, searching, a little alarmed.

In there, whispered Ginny in Harrys ear.

And he saw them in the clear green sunlit water, inches below the surface, reminding him horribly of the Inferi; a chorus of merpeople singing in a strange language he did not understand, their pallid faces rippling, their purplish hair flowing all around them. The music made the hair on Harrys neck stand up and yet it was not unpleasant. It spoke very clearly of loss and of despair. As he looked down into the wild faces of the singers he had the feeling that they, at least, were sorry for Dumbledores passing. Then Ginny nudged him again and he looked round.

Hagrid was walking slowly up the aisle between the chairs. He was crying quite silently, his face gleaming with tears, and in his arms, wrapped in purple velvet spangled with golden stars, was what Harry knew to be Dumbledores body. A sharp pain rose in Harrys throat at this sight: for a moment, the strange music and the knowledge that Dumbledores body was so close seemed to take all warmth from the day. Ron looked white and shocked. Tears were falling thick and fast into both Ginny and Hermiones laps.

They could not see clearly what was happening at the front. Hagrid seemed to have placed the body carefully upon the table. Now he retreated down the aisle, blowing his nose with loud trumpeting noises that drew scandalised looks from some, including, Harry saw, Dolores Umbridge but Harry knew that Dumbledore would not have cared. He tried to make a friendly gesture to Hagrid as he passed, but Hagrids eyes were so swollen it was a wonder he could see where he was going. Harry glanced at the back row to which Hagrid was heading and realised what was guiding him, for there, dressed in a jacket and trousers each the size of a small marquee, was the giant Grawp, his great ugly boulder-like head bowed, docile, almost human. Hagrid sat down next to his half-brother and Grawp palled Hagrid hard on the head, so that his chair legs sank into the ground. Harry had a wonderful momentary urge to laugh. But then the music stopped and he turned to face the front again.

A little tufty-haired man in plain black robes had got to his feet and stood now in front of Dumbledores body. Harry could not hear what he was saying. Odd words floated back to them over the hundreds of beads. Nobility of spirit intellectual contribution greatness of heart it did not mean very much. It had little to do with Dumbledore as Harry had known him. He suddenly remembered Dumbledores idea of a few words: nitwit, oddment, blubber and tweak 1, and again, had to suppress a grin what was the matter with him?

There was a soft splashing noise to his left and he saw that the merpeople had broken the surface to listen, too. He remembered Dumbledore crouching at the waters edge two years ago, very close to where Harry now sat, and conversing in Mermish with the Merchieftainess. Harry wondered where Dumbledore had learned Mermish. There was so much he had never asked him, so much he should have said

And then, without warning, it swept over him, the dreadful truth, more completely and undeniably than it had until now. Dumbledore was dead, gone he clutched the cold locket in his hand so tightly that it hurt, but he could not prevent hot tears spilling from his eyes: he looked away from Ginny and the others and stared out over the lake, towards the Forest, as the little man in black droned on there was movement among the trees. The centaurs had come to pay their respects, too. They did not move into the open but Harry saw them standing quite still, half-hidden in shadow, watching the wizards, their bows hanging at their sides. And Harry remembered his first nightmarish trip into the Forest, the first time he had ever encountered the thing that was then Voldemort, and how he had faced him, and how he and Dumbledore had discussed fighting a losing battle not long thereafter. It was important, Dumbledore said, to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then could evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated

And Harry saw very clearly as be sal there under the hot sun bow people who cared about him had stood in front of him one by one, his mother, his father, his godfather, and finally Dumbledore, all determined to protect him; but now that was over. He could not let anybody else stand between him and Voldemort; he must abandon for ever the illusion he ought to have lost at the age of one: that the shelter of a parents arms meant that nothing could hurt him. There was no waking from his nightmare, no comforting whisper in the dark that he was safe really, that it was all in his imagination; the last and greatest of his proteclors had died and he was more alone than he had ever been before.

The little man in black had stopped speaking at last and resumed his seat. Harry waited for somebody else to get to their feet; he expected speeches, probably from the Minister, but nobody moved.

Then several people screamed. Bright, white flames had erupted around Dumbledores body and the table upon which it lay: higher and higher they rose, obscuring the body. White smoke spiralled into the air and made strange shapes: Harry thought, for one heart-stopping moment, that he saw a phoenix fly joyfully into the blue, but next second the fire had vanished. In its place was a white marble tomb, encasing Dumbledores body and the table on which he had rested.

There were a few more cries of shock as a shower of arrows soared through the air, but they fell far short of the crowd. It was, Harry knew, the centaurs tribute: he saw them turn tail and disappear back into the cool trees. Likewise the mer-people sank slowly back into the green water and were lost from view.

Harry looked ai Ginny, Ron and Hermione: Rons face was screwed up as though the sunlight was blinding him. Hermiones face was glazed with tears, but Ginny was no longer crying. She met Harrys gaze with the same hard, blazing look that he had seen when she had hugged him after winning the Quidditch Cup in his absence, and he knew that at that moment they understood each other perfectly, and that when he told her what he was going to do now, she would not say Be careful, or Dont do it, but accept his decision, because she would not have expected anything less of him. And so he steeled himself to say what he had known he must say ever since Dumbledore had died.

Ginny, listen he said very quietly, as the buzz of conversation grew louder around them and people began to get to their feet. I cant be involved with you any more. Weve got to stop seeing each other. We cant be together.

She said, with an oddly twisted smile, Its for some stupid, noble reason, isnt it?

Its been like like something out of someone elses life, these last few weeks with you, said Harry. But I cant we cant Ive got things to do alone now.

She did not cry, she simply looked at him, Voldemort uses people his enemies are close to. Hes already used you as bait once, and that was just because youre my best friends sister. Think how much danger youll be in if we keep this up. Hell know, hell find out. Hell try and get to me through you.

What if I dont care? said Ginny fiercely.

I care, said Harry. How do you think Id feel if this was your funeral and it was my fault

She looked away from him, over the lake.

T never really gave up on you, she said. Not really. I always hoped Hermione told me to get on with life, maybe go out with some other people, relax a bit around you, because I never used to be able to talk if you were in the room, remember? And she thought you might take a bit more notice if I was a bit more myself.

Smart girl, that Hermione, said Harry, trying to smile. I just wish Id asked you sooner. We coukTve had ages months years maybe

But youve been too busy saving the wizarding world, said Ginny, half-laughing. Well I cant say Im surprised. I knew this would happen in the end. I knew you wouldnt be happy unless you were hunting Voldemort. Maybe thats why I like you so much.

 

Harry could not bear to hear these things, nor did he think his resolution would hold if he remained sitting beside her. Ron, he saw, was now holding Hermione and stroking her hair while she sobbed into his shoulder, tears dripping from the end of his own long nose. With a miserable gesture, Harry got up, turned his back on Ginny and on Dumbledores tomb and walked away around the lake. Moving felt much more bearable than sitting still: just as setting out as soon as possible to track down the Horcruxes and kill Voldemort would feel better than waiting to do it

Harry!

He turned. Rufus Scrimgeour was limping rapidly towards him around the bank, leaning on his walking stick.

Ive been hoping to have a word do you mind if I walk a little way with you?

No, said Harry indifferently, and set off again.

Harry, this was a dreadful tragedy, said Scrimgeour quietly, I cannot tell you how appalled I was to hear of it. Dumbledore was a very great wizard. We had our disagreements, as you know, but no one knows better than I -





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