:






Chapter twenty five



The Seer Overheard

The fact that Harry Potter was going out with Ginny Weasley seemed to interest a great number of people, most of them girls, yet Harry found himself newly and happily impervious to gossip over the next few weeks. After all, it made a very nice change to be talked about because of something that was making him happier than he could remember being for a very long time, rather than because he had been involved in horrific scenes of Dark magic.

'You'd think people had better things to gossip about,' said Ginny, as she sat on the common-room floor, leaning against Harry's legs and reading the Daily Prophet. Three Dementor attacks in a week, and all Romilda Vane does is ask me if it's true you've got a Hippogriff tattooed across your chest.'

Ron and Hermione both roared with laughter. Harry ignored them.

'What did you tell her?'

' ? told her it's a Hungarian Horntail,' said Ginny, turning a page of the newspaper idly. 'Much more macho.'

Thanks,' said Harry, grinning. 'And what did you tell her Ron's got?'

'A Pygmy Puff, but I didn't say where.'

Ron scowled as Hermione rolled around laughing.

'Watch it,' he said, pointing wamingly at Harry and Ginny. 'Just because I've given my permission doesn't mean I can't withdraw it -'

"Tour permission",' scoffed Ginny. 'Since when did you give me permission to do anything? Anyway, you said yourself you'd rather it was Harry than Michael or Dean.'

'Yeah, 1 would,' said Ron grudgingly. 'And just as long as you don't start snogging each other in public -'

'You filthy hypocrite! What about you and Lavender, thrashing around like a pair of eels all over the place?' demanded Ginny.

But Ron's tolerance was not to be tested much as they moved into June, for Harry and Ginny's time together was becoming increasingly restricted. Ginny's O.W.L.s were approaching and she was therefore forced to revise for hours into the night. On one such evening, when Ginny had retired to the library and Harry was sitting beside the window in the common room, supposedly finishing his Herbology home-work but in reality reliving a particularly happy hour he had spent down by the lake with Ginny at lunch-time, Hermione dropped into the seat between him and Ron with an unpleasantly purposeful look on her face.

'I want to talk to you, Harry.'

'What about?' said Harry suspiciously. Only the previous day, Hermione had told him off for distracting Ginny when she ought to be working hard for her examinations.

The so-called Half-Blood Prince.'

'Oh, not again,' he groaned. 'Will you please drop it?'



He had not dared to return to the Room of Requirement to retrieve his book, and his performance in Potions was suffering accordingly (though Slughorn, who approved of Ginny, had jocularly attributed this to Harry being lovesick). But Harry was sure that Snape had not yet given up hope of laying hands on the Prince's book, and was determined to leave it where it was while Snape remained on the lookout.

'I'm not dropping it,' said Hermione firmly, 'until you've heard me out. Now, I've been trying to find out a bit about who might make a hobby of inventing Dark spells -'

'He didn't make a hobby of it -'

'He, he - who says it's a he?'

'We've been through this,' said Harry crossly. 'Prince, Hermione, Prince!'

'Right!' said Hermione, red patches blazing in her cheeks as she pulled a very old piece of newsprint out of her pocket and slammed it down on the table in front of Harry. 'Look at that! Look at the picture!'

Harry picked up the crumbling piece of paper and stared at the moving photograph, yellowed with age; Ron leaned over for a look, too. The picture showed a skinny girl of around fifteen. She was not pretty; she looked simultaneously cross and sullen, with heavy brows and a long, pallid face. Underneath the photograph was the caption: Eileen Prince, Captain of the Hogwarts Gobstones Team.

'So?' said Harry, scanning the short news item to which the picture belonged; it was a rather dull story about inter-school competitions.

'Her name was Eileen Prince. Prince, Harry.'

They looked at each other and Harry realised what Hermione was trying to say. He burst out laughing.

'No way.'

'What?'

'You think she was the Half-Blood ...? Oh, come on.'

'Well, why not? Harry, there aren't any real princes in the wizarding world! It's either a nickname, a made-up title somebody's given themselves, or it could be their actual name, couldn't it? No, listen! If, say, her father was a wizard

whose surname was "Prince", and her mother was a Muggle, then that would make her a "half-blood Prince"!'

'Yeah, very ingenious, Hermione ...'

'But it would! Maybe she was proud of being half a Prince!'

'Listen, Hermione, I can tell it's not a girl. I can just tell.'

The truth is that you don't think a girl would have been clever enough,' said Hermione angrily.

'How can I have hung round with you for five years and not think girls are clever?' said Harry, stung by this. 'It's the way he writes. I just know the Prince was a bloke, I can tell. This girl hasn't got anything to do with it. Where did you get this, anyway?'

The library,' said Hermione, predictably. There's a whole collection of old Prophets up there. Well, I'm going to find out more about Eileen Prince if I can.'

'Enjoy yourself,' said Harry irritably.

'I will,' said Hermione. 'And the first place I'll look,' she shot at him, as she reached the portrait hole, 'is records of old Potions awards!'

Harry scowled after her for a moment, then continued his contemplation of the darkening sky.

'She's just never got over you outperforming her in Potions,' said Ron, returning to his copy of One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi.

'You don't think I'm mad, wanting that book back, do you?'

'Course not,' said Ron robustly. 'He was a genius, the Prince. Anyway ... without his bezoar tip ...' he drew his finger significantly across his own throat, 'I wouldn't be here to discuss it, would I? I mean, I'm not saying that spell you used on Malfoy was great -'

'Nor am I,' said Harry quickly.

'But he healed all right, didn't he? Back on his feet in no time.'

'Yeah,' said Harry; this was perfectly true, although his conscience squirmed slightly all the same. Thanks to Snape ...'

'You still got detention with Snape this Saturday?' Ron continued.

'Yeah, and the Saturday after that, and the Saturday after that,' sighed Harry. 'And he's hinting now that if I don't get all the boxes done by the end of term, we'll carry on next year.'

He was finding these detentions particularly irksome because they cut into the already limited time he could have been spending with Ginny. Indeed, he had frequently wondered lately whether Snape did not know this, for he was keeping Harry later and later every time, while making pointed asides about Harry having to miss the good weather and the varied opportunities it offered.

Harry was shaken from these bitter reflections by the appearance at his side of Jimmy Peakes, who was holding out a scroll of parchment.

Thanks, Jimmy ... hey, it's from Dumbledore!' said Harry excitedly, unrolling the parchment and scanning it. 'He wants me to go to his office as quick as 1 can!'

They stared at each other.

'Blimey,' whispered Ron. 'You don't reckon ... he hasn't found ...?'

'Better go and see, hadn't I?' said Harry, jumping to his feet.

He hurried out of the common room and along the seventh floor as fast as he could, passing nobody but Peeves, who swooped past in the opposite direction, throwing bits of chalk at Harry in a routine sort of way and cackling loudly as he dodged Harry's defensive jinx. Once Peeves had vanished, there was silence in the corridors; with only fifteen minutes left until curfew, most people had already returned to their common rooms.

And then Harry heard a scream and a crash. He stopped in his tracks, listening.

'How - dare - you - aaaaargh!'

The noise was coming from a corridor nearby; Harry sprinted towards it, his wand at the ready, hurtled round another corner and saw Professor Trelawney sprawled upon the floor, her head covered in one of her many shawls, several sherry bottles lying beside her, one broken.

'Professor -'

Harry hurried forwards and helped Professor Trelawney to her feet. Some of her glittering beads had become entangled with her glasses. She hiccoughed loudly, patted her hair and pulled herself up on Harry's helping arm.

'What happened, Professor?'

'You may well ask!' she said shrilly. 'I was strolling along, brooding upon certain Dark portents 1 happen to have glimpsed ...'

But Harry was not paying much attention. He had just noticed where they were standing: there on the right was the tapestry of dancing trolls and, on the left, that smoothly impenetrable stretch of stone wall that concealed -

'Professor, were you trying to get into the Room of Requirement?'

'... omens I have been vouchsafed - what?'

She looked suddenly shifty.

The Room of Requirement,' repeated Harry. 'Were you trying to get in there?'

'I - well - I didn't know students knew about -'

'Not all of them do,' said Harry. 'But what happened? You screamed ... it sounded as though you were hurt...'

'I - well,' said Professor Trelawney, drawing her shawls around her defensively and staring down at him with her vastly magnified eyes. 'I wished to - ah - deposit certain um - personal items in the Room ...' And she muttered something about 'nasty accusations'.

'Right,' said Harry, glancing down at the sherry bottles. 'But you couldn't get in and hide them?'

He found this very odd; the Room had opened for him, after all, when he had wanted to hide the Half-Blood Prince's book.

'Oh, I got in all right,' said Professor Trelawney, glaring at the wall. 'But there was somebody already in there.'

'Somebody in -? Who?' demanded Harry. 'Who was in there?'

' ? have no idea,' said Professor Trelawney, looking slightly taken aback at the urgency in Harry's voice. 'I walked into the Room and I heard a voice, which has never happened before in all my years of hiding - of using the Room, I mean.'

'A voice? Saying what?'

'I don't know that it was saying anything,' said Professor Trelawney. 'It was ... whooping.'

'Whooping?'

'Gleefully,' she said, nodding.

Harry stared at her.

'Was it male or female?'

' ? would hazard a guess at male,' said Professor Trelawney.

'And it sounded happy?'

'Very happy,' said Professor Trelawney sniffily.

'As though it was celebrating?'

'Most definitely.'

'And then -?'

'And then I called out, "Who's there?"'

'You couldn't have found out who it was without asking?' Harry asked her, slightly frustrated.

The Inner Eye,' said Professor Trelawney with dignity, straightening her shawls and many strands of glittering beads, 'was fixed upon matters well outside the mundane realms of whooping voices.'

'Right,' said Harry hastily; he had heard about Professor Trelawney's Inner Eye all too often before. 'And did the voice say who was there?'

'No, it did not,' she said. 'Everything went pitch black and the next thing I knew, I was being hurled headfirst out of the Room!'

'And you didn't see that coming?' said Harry, unable to help himself.

'No, I did not, as I say, it was pitch -' She stopped and glared at him suspiciously.

'I think you'd better tell Professor Dumbledore,' said Harry. 'He ought to know Malfoy's celebrating - I mean, that someone threw you out of the Room.'

To his surprise, Professor Trelawney drew herself up at this suggestion, looking haughty.

The Headmaster has intimated that he would prefer fewer visits from me,' she said coldly. I am not one to press my company upon those who do not value it. If Dumbledore chooses to ignore the warnings the cards show -'

Her bony hand closed suddenly around Harry's wrist.

'Again and again, no matter how I lay them out -'

And she pulled a card dramatically from underneath her shawls.

'- the lightning-struck tower,' she whispered. 'Calamity. Disaster. Coming nearer all the time ...'

'Right,' said Harry again. 'Well ... I still think you should tell Dumbledore about this voice and everything going dark and being thrown out of the Room ...'

'You think so?' Professor Trelawney seemed to consider the matter for a moment, but Harry could tell that she liked the idea of retelling her little adventure.

'I'm going to see him right now,' said Harry. 'I've got a meeting with him. We could go together.'

'Oh, well, in that case,' said Professor Trelawney with a smile. She bent down, scooped up her sherry bottles and dumped them unceremoniously in a large blue and white vase standing in a nearby niche.

'I miss having you in my classes, Harry,' she said soulfully, as they set off together. 'You were never much of a Seer ... but you were a wonderful Object...'

Harry did not reply; he had loathed being the Object of Professor Trelawney's continual predictions of doom.

'I am afraid,' she went on, 'that the nag - I'm sorry, the centaur - knows nothing of cartomancy. I asked him - one Seer to another - had he not, too, sensed the distant vibrations of coming catastrophe? But he seemed to find me almost comical. Yes, comical!'

Her voice rose rather hysterically and Harry caught a powerful whiff of sherry even though the bottles had been left behind.

'Perhaps the horse has heard people say that I have not inherited my great-great-grandmother's gift. Those rumours have been bandied about by the jealous for years. You know what I say to such people, Harry? Would Dumbledore have let me teach at this great school, put so much trust in me all these years, had I not proved myself to him?'

Harry mumbled something indistinct.

'I well remember my first interview with Dumbledore,' went on Professor Trelawney, in throaty tones. 'He was deeply impressed, of course, deeply impressed ... I was staying at the Hog's Head, which I do not advise, incidentally - bed bugs, dear boy - but funds were low. Dumbledore did me the courtesy of calling upon me in my room at the inn. He questioned me ... I must confess that, at first, I thought he seemed ill-disposed towards Divination ... and I remember I was starting to feel a little odd, I had not eaten much that day ... but then ...'

And now Harry was paying attention properly for the first time, for he knew what had happened then: Professor Trelawney had made the prophecy that had altered the course of his whole life, the prophecy about him and Voldemort.

'... but then we were rudely interrupted by Severus Snape!'

'What?'

'Yes, there was a commotion outside the door and it flew open, and there was that rather uncouth barman standing with Snape, who was waffling about having come the wrong way up the stairs, although I'm afraid that I myself rather thought he had been apprehended eavesdropping on my interview with Dumbledore - you see, he himself was seeking a job at the time, and no doubt hoped to pick up tips! Well, after that, you know, Dumbledore seemed much more disposed to give me a job, and I could not help thinking, Harry, that it was because he appreciated the stark contrast between my own unassuming manners and quiet talent, compared to the pushing, thrusting young man who was prepared to listen at keyholes - Harry, dear?'

She looked back over her shoulder, having only just realised that Harry was no longer with her; he had stopped walking and they were now ten feet from each other.

'Harry?' she repeated uncertainly.

Perhaps his face was white, to make her look so concerned and frightened. Harry was standing stock-still as waves of shock crashed over him, wave after wave, obliterating everything except the information that had been kept from him for so long ...

It was Snape who had overheard the prophecy. It was Snape who had carried the news of the prophecy to Voldemort. Snape and Peter Pettigrew together had sent Voldemort hunting after Lily and James and their son ...

Nothing else mattered to Harry just now.

'Harry?' said Professor Trelawney again. 'Harry - I thought we were going to see the Headmaster together?'

'You stay here,' said Harry through numb lips.

'But, dear ... I was going to tell him how I was assaulted in the Room of-'

'You stay here!' Harry repeated angrily.

She looked alarmed as he ran past her, round the corner into Dumbledore's corridor, where the lone gargoyle stood sentry. Harry shouted the password at the gargoyle and ran up the moving spiral staircase three steps at a time. He did not knock upon Dumbledore's door, he hammered; and the calm voice answered 'Enter' after Harry had already flung himself into the room.

Fawkes the phoenix looked round, his bright black eyes gleaming with reflected gold from the sunset beyond the window. Dumbledore was standing at the window looking out at the grounds, a long, black travelling cloak in his arms.

'Well, Harry, I promised that you could come with me.'

For a moment or two, Harry did not understand; the conversation with Trelawney had driven everything else out of his head and his brain seemed to be moving very slowly.

'Come ... with you ... ?'

'Only if you wish it, of course.'

'If I...'

And then Harry remembered why he had been eager to come to Dumbledore's office in the first place.

'You've found one? You've found a Horcrux?'

'I believe so.'

Rage and resentment fought shock and excitement: for several moments, Harry could not speak.

'It is natural to be afraid,' said Dumbledore.

'I'm not scared!' said Harry at once, and it was perfectly

 

true; fear was one emotion he was not feeling at all. 'Which Horcrux is it? Where is it?'

'I am not sure which it is - though I think we can rule out the snake - but I believe it to be hidden in a cave on the coast many miles from here, a cave I have been trying to locate for a very long time: the cave in which Tom Riddle once terrorised two children from his orphanage on their annual trip; you remember?'

'Yes,' said Harry. 'How is it protected?'

'I do not know; I have suspicions that may be entirely wrong.' Dumbledore hesitated, then said, 'Harry, I promised you that you could come with me, and I stand by that promise, but it would be very wrong of me not to warn you that this will be exceedingly dangerous.'

'I'm coming,' said Harry, almost before Dumbledore had finished speaking. Boiling with anger at Snape, his desire to do something desperate and risky had increased tenfold in the last few minutes. This seemed to show on Harry's face, for Dumbledore moved away from the window, and looked more closely at Harry, a slight crease between his silver eyebrows.

'What has happened to you?'

'Nothing,' lied Harry promptly.

'What has upset you?'

'I'm not upset.'

'Harry, you were never a good Occlumens -'

The word was the spark that ignited Harry's fury.

'Snape!' he said, very loudly, and Fawkes gave a soft squawk behind them. 'Snape's what's happened! He told Voldemort about the prophecy, it was him, he listened outside the door, Trelawney told me!'

Dumbledore's expression did not change, but Harry thought his face whitened under the bloody tinge cast by the setting sun. For a long moment, Dumbledore said nothing.

'When did you find out about this?' he asked at last.

'Just now!' said Many, who was refraining from yelling with enormous difficulty. And then, suddenly, he could not stop himself. 'AND YOU LET HIM TEACH HERE AND HE TOLD VOLDEMORT TO GO AFTER MY MUM AND DAD!'

Breathing hard as though he were fighting, Harry turned away from Dumbledore, who still had not moved a muscle, and paced up and down the study, rubbing his knuckles in his hand and exercising every last bit of restraint to prevent himself knocking things over. He wanted to rage and storm at Dumbledore, but he also wanted to go with him to try and destroy the Horcrux; he wanted to tell him that he was a foolish old man for trusting Snape, but he was terrified that Dumbledore would not take him along unless he mastered his anger ...

'Harry,' said Dumbledore quietly. 'Please listen to me.'

It was as difficult to stop his relentless pacing as to refrain from shouting. Harry paused, biting his lip, and looked into Dumbledore's lined face.

'Professor Snape made a terrible -'

'Don't tell me it was a mistake, sir, he was listening at the door!'

'Please let me finish.' Dumbledore waited until Harry had nodded curtly, then went on. 'Professor Snape made a terrible mistake. He was still in Lord Voldemort's employ on the night he heard the first half of Professor Trelawney's prophecy. Naturally, he hastened to tell his master what he had heard, for it concerned his master most deeply. But he did not know - he had no possible way of knowing - which boy Voldemort would hunt from then onwards, or that the parents he would destroy in his murderous quest were people that Professor Snape knew, that they were your mother and father -'

Harry let out a yell of mirthless laughter.

'He hated my dad like he hated Sirius! Haven't you noticed, Professor, how the people Snape hates tend to end up dead?'

'You have no idea of the remorse Professor Snape felt when he realised how Lord Voldemort had interpreted the prophecy, Harry. I believe it to be the greatest regret of his life and the reason that he returned -'

'But he's a very good Occlumens, isn't he, sir?' said Harry, whose voice was shaking with the effort of keeping it steady. 'And isn't Voldemort convinced that Snape's on his side, even now? Professor ... how can you be sure Snape's on our side?'

Dumbledore did not speak for a moment; he looked as though he was trying to make up his mind about something. At last he said, 'I am sure. I trust Severus Snape completely.'

Harry breathed deeply for a few moments in an effort to steady himself. It did not work.

'Well, I don't!' he said, as loudly as before. 'He's up to something with Draco Malfoy right now, right under your nose, and you still -'

'We have discussed this, Harry,' said Dumbledore, and now he sounded stern again. 'I have told you my views.'

'You're leaving the school tonight and I'll bet you haven't even considered that Snape and Malfoy might decide to -'

To what?' asked Dumbledore, his eyebrows raised. 'What is it that you suspect them of doing, precisely?'

'I ... they're up to something!' said Harry and his hands curled into fists as he said it. 'Professor Trelawney was just in the Room of Requirement, trying to hide her sherry bottles, and she heard Malfoy whooping, celebrating! He's trying to mend something dangerous in there and if you ask me he's fixed it at last and you're about to just walk out of school * without -'

'Enough,' said Dumbledore. He said it quite calmly, and yet Harry fell silent at once; he knew that he had finally crossed some invisible line. 'Do you think that I have once left the school unprotected during my absences this year? I have not. Tonight, when I leave, there will again be additional protection in place. Please do not suggest that I do not take the safety of my students seriously, Harry.'

'I didn't -' mumbled Harry, a little abashed, but Dumbledore cut across him.

' ? do not wish to discuss the matter any further.'

Harry bit back his retort, scared that he had gone too far, that he had ruined his chance of accompanying Dumbledore, but Dumbledore went on, 'Do you wish to come with me tonight?'

'Yes,' said Harry at once.

'Very well, then: listen.'

Dumbledore drew himself up to his full height.

'I take you with me on one condition: that you obey any command I might give you at once, and without question.'

'Of course.'

'Be sure to understand me, Harry. I mean that you must follow even such orders as "run", "hide" or "go back". Do I have your word?'

'I - yes, of course.'

'If 1 tell you to hide, you will do so?'

'Yes.'

'If I tell you to flee, you will obey?'

'Yes.'

'If I tell you to leave me, and save yourself, you will do as I tell you?'

'I -'

'Harry?'

They looked at each other for a moment.

'Yes, sir.'

'Very good. Then I wish you to go and fetch your Cloak and meet me in the Entrance Hall in five minutes' time.'

Dumbledore turned back to look out of the fiery window; the sun was now a ruby-red glare along the horizon. Harry walked quickly from the office and down the spiral staircase. His mind was oddly clear all of a sudden. He knew what to do.

Ron and Hermione were sitting together in the common room when he came back. 'What does Dumbledore want?' Hermione said at once. 'Harry, are you OK?' she added anxiously.

'I'm fine,' said Harry shortly, racing past them. He dashed up the stairs and into his dormitory, where he flung open his trunk and pulled out the Marauder's Map and a pair of balled-up socks. Then he sped back down the stairs and into the common room, skidding to a halt where Ron and Hermione sat, looking stunned.

'I haven't got much time,' Harry panted, 'Dumbledore thinks I'm getting my Invisibility Cloak. Listen ...'

Quickly he told them where he was going, and why. He did not pause either for Hermione's gasps of horror or for Ron's hasty questions; they could work out the finer details for themselves later.

'... so you see what this means?' Harry finished at a gallop. 'Dumbledore won't be here tonight, so Malfoy's going to have another clear shot at whatever he's up to. No, listen to me!" he hissed angrily, as both Ron and Hermione showed every sign of interrupting. 'I know it was Malfoy celebrating in the Room of Requirement. Here -' He shoved the Marauder's Map into Hermione's hand. 'You've got to watch him and you've got to watch Snape, too. Use anyone else who you can rustle up from the DA. Hermione, those contact Galleons will still work, right? Dumbledore says he's put extra protection in the school, but if Snape's involved, he'll know what Dumbledore's protection is, and how to avoid it - but he won't be expecting you lot to be on the watch, will he?'

'Harry -' began Hermione, her eyes huge with fear.

' ? haven't got time to argue,' said Harry curtly. Take this as well -' He thrust the socks into Ron's hands.

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

'You need what's wrapped in them, it's the Felix Felicis. Share it between yourselves and Ginny too. Say goodbye to her from me. I'd better go, Dumbledore's waiting -'

'No!' said Hermione, as Ron unwrapped the tiny little bottle of golden potion, looking awestruck. 'We don't want it, you take it, who knows what you're going to be facing?'

'I'Il be fine, I'll be with Dumbledore,' said Harry. 'I want to know you lot are OK ... don't look like that, Hermione, I'll see you later

And he was off, hurrying back through the portrait hole towards the Entrance Hall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Yes,' said Harry, 'but I haven't got a licence.'

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

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

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

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

'Good evening, Rosmerta, good evening ... forgive me, I'm off to the Hog's Head ... no offence, but I feel like a quieter atmosphere tonight...'

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

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

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


Chapter twenty six

The Cave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No," said Harry.

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

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

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

"Yes, this is the place," said Dumbledore.

"How can you tell?" Harry spoke in a whisper.

"It has known magic," said Dumbledore simply. Harry could not tell whether the shivers he was experiencing were due to his spine-deep coldness or to the same awareness of

enchantments. He watched as Dumbledore continued to revolve on the spot, evidently concentrating on things Harry could not see. "This is merely the antechamber, the entrance hall," said Dumbledore after a moment or two. "We need to penetrate the inner place. . . . Now it is Lord Voldemort's obstacles that stand in our way, rather than those nature made. . . ."

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

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

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

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

"What is it, Professor?"

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

"Payment?" said Harry. "You've got to give the door something?"

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

"Blood?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh yes," said Dumbledore. "Yes, I'm sure it is. The question is, how do we get to it?"

"We couldn't... we couldn't just try a Summoning Charm?" Harry said, sure that it was a stupid suggestion. But he was much keener than he was prepared to admit on getting out of this place as soon as possible.

"Certainly we could," said Dumbledore, stopping so suddenly that Harry almost walked into him. "Why don't you do it?"

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

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

"What was that?"

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

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

"Did you think that would happen, sir?"

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

"But we don't know what the thing was," said Harry, looking at the sinisterly smooth water.

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

"Professor?"

"Yes, Harry?"

"Do you think we're going to have to go into the lake?"

"Into it? Only if we are very unfortunate."

"You don't think the Horcrux is at the bottom?"

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

"So we're going to have to cross the lake to get to it?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Is ... is this boat safe?"

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

"So the things in the water won't do anything to us if we cross in Voldemort's boat?"

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

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

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

Harry looked down into the boat. It really was very small. "It doesn't look like it was built for two people. Will it hold both of us? Will we be too heavy together?"

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

"But then ?"

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

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

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

"Harry?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What is it?" asked Harry quietly.

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

"Sir, no, don't touch !"

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

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

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

"You think the Horcrux is in there, sir?"

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

"What?" said Harry. "No!"

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

"But what if what if it kills you?"

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

"Sir," said Harry, trying to keep his voice reasonable, "sir, this is Voldemort we're "

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

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

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

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

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

"But what if?"

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

"Yes, but"

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

"Yes," said Harry, "but "

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

"Why can't I drink the potion instead?" asked Harry desperately.

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

"Couldn't ?"

"Do I have it?"

"But"

"Your word, Harry."

"I all right, but"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I don't want. . . Don't 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.

". . . don't like . . . want to stop . . ." moaned Dumbledore.

"You . . . you can't stop, Professor," said Harry. "You've 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 Dumbledore's 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 don't want to. ... I don't want to. . . . Let me go. . . ."

"Its all right, Professor," said Harry, his hand shaking. "Its all right, I'm here "

"Make it stop, make it stop," moaned Dumbledore.

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

"No, no, no, no, I can't, I can't, don't make me, I don't warn to. . . ."

"It's all right, Professor, it's 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. "Nothing's happening to you, you're safe, it isn't real, I swear it isn't 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 I'll never, never again ..."

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

Dumbledore began to cower as though invisible torturers surrounded him; his flailing hand almost knocked the refilled goblet from Harry's trembling hands as he moaned, "Don't hurt them, don't hurt them, please, please, its my fault, hurt me instead ..."

"Here, drink this, drink this, you'll 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, I'll 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. "We're nearly there, Professor. Drink this, drink it. ..."

He supported Dumbledore's 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 .. . It'll 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; Dumbledore's glasses were askew, his mouth agape, his eyes closed. "No." said Harry, shaking Dumbledore, "no, you're not dead, you said it wasn't 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; Harry's 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, I'm trying, I'm 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!"





sdamzavas.net - 2020 . ! , ...