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"You naughty boy, you shouldn't have!" squealed old Hepzibah, though Harry noticed that she had an empty vase standing ready on the nearest little table. "You do spoil this old lady, Tom. ... Sit down, sit down. . . . Where's Hokey? Ah ..."

"Well, I would, but he's always asleep when I go and see him!" said Lavender fretfully.

"Yeah — Ron and Hermione couldn't, though," said Harry. "They're really sorry."

'Ready?' he said to Ron.

"Good one," said Harry. "How'd you do, Hermione?"


"Why don't you ditch her if you want to finish it?" asked Harry.

"Look out," said Hermione tersely.

"Look at this," said Harry, handing the note to Hermione. "Oh, for heaven's sake," she said, scanning it quickly and passing it to Ron, who read it through looking increasingly incredulous. "He's mental" he said furiously. "That thing told its mates to eat Harry and me! Told them to help themselves! And now Hagrid ex-pects us to go down there and cry over its horrible hairy body!"

He threw the package across on to Ron's bed, where it joined a small pile of them that must, Harry assumed, have been delivered by house-elves in the night.

It was when he reached the bottom step that it occurred to him how very pleasant it would be to pass the vegetable patch on his walk to Hagrid's. It was not strictly on the way, but it seemed clear to Harry that this was a whim on which he should act, so he di-rected his feet immediately toward the vegetable patch, where he was pleased, but not altogether surprised, to find Professor Slughorn in conversation with Professor Sprout. Harry lurked be-hind a low stone wall, feeling at peace with the world and listening to their conversation.


Harry was in a state of great anticipation over breakfast the following morning; he had a free period before Defense Against the Dark Arts and was determined to spend it trying to get into the Room of Requirement. Hermione was rather ostentatiously showing no interest in his whispered plans for forcing entry into the room, which irritated Harry, because he thought she might be a lot of help if she wanted to.

Dumbledore set down his empty glass and drew himself up in his seat, the tips of his fingers together in a very characteristic gesture.

"How good is this?" said Harry enthusiastically, turning to Ron and Hermione the moment the room was elf-free again. "We know where Malfoy's going! We've got him cornered now!"

"So I wanted to know how come he's up at the castle with a couple of girlfriends while everyone else is down here. ..."

Cheered by this thought, Harry skimmed through his copy of Advanced Potion-Making and found a heavily corrected Half-Blood Prince's version of "An Elixir to Induce Euphoria," which seemed not only to meet Slughorn's instructions, but which might (Harry's heart leapt as the thought struck him) put Slughorn into such a good mood that he would be prepared to hand over that memory if Harry could persuade him to taste some. . . .


of it before?


"I'm losing track of what's happening to everyone's relatives, to be honest," said Ron.


Harry ignored her. He had just found an incantation “Sectum-sempra!" scrawled in a margin above the intriguing words "For enemies," and was itching to try it out, but thought it best not to in front of Hermione. Instead, he surreptitiously folded down the corner of the page. They were sitting beside the fire in the common room; the only other people awake were fellow sixth years. There had been a cer-tain amount of excitement earlier when they had come back from dinner to find a new sign on the notice board that announced the date for their Apparition Test. Those who would be seventeen on or before the first test date, the twenty-first of April, had the option of signing up for additional practice sessions, which would take place (heavily supervised) in Hogsmeade.


He broke into sobs again and Harry resumed the patting of his elbow, saying as he did so (for the potion seemed to indicate that it was the right thing to do), "Professor Slughorn met me coming down here, Hagrid.",


Voldemort smiled mechanically and Hepzibah simpered. .|,!;