Harry nodded.

There he showed his contempt for anything that tied him to other people, anything that made him ordinary. Even then, he wished to be different, separate, notorious. He shed his name, as you know, within a few short years of that conversation and created the mask of Lord Voldemort behind which he has been hidden for so long.

I trust that you also noticed that Tom Riddle was already highly self-sufficient, secretive, and, apparently, friendless? He did not want help or companionship on his trip to Diagon Alley. He preferred to operate alone. The adult Voldemort is the same. You will hear many of his Death Eaters claiming that they are in his confidence, that they alone are close to him, even understand him. They are deluded. Lord Voldemort has never had a friend, nor do I believe that he has ever wanted one.

And lastlyI hope you are not too sleepy to pay attention to this, Harrythe young Tom Riddle liked to collect trophies. You saw the box of stolen articles he had hidden in his room. These were taken from victims of his bullying behavior, souvenirs, if you will, of particularly unpleasant bits of magic. Bear in mind this magpie-like tendency, for this, particularly, will be important later.

And now, it really is time for bed.

Harry got to his feet. As he walked across the room, his eyes fell I upon the little table on which Marvolo Gaunts ring had rested last I time, but the ring was no longer there.

Yes, Harry? said Dumbledore, for Harry had come to a halt.

The rings gone, said Harry, looking around. But I thought you might have the mouth organ or something.

Dumbledore beamed at him, peering over the top of his halfw moon spectacles.

Very astute, Harry, but the mouth organ was only ever a mouth organ.

And on that enigmatic note he waved to Harry, who understood himself to be dismissed.


Harry had Herbology first thing the following morning. He had been unable to tell Ron and Hermione about his lesson with Dumbledore over breakfast for fear of being overheard, but he filled them in as they walked across the vegetable patch toward the greenhouses. The weekends brutal wind had died out at last; the weird mist had returned and it took them a little longer than usual to find the correct greenhouse.

Wow, scary thought, the boy You-Know-Who, said Ron quietly, as they took their places around one of the gnarled Snargaluff stumps that formed this terms project, and began pulling on their protective gloves. But I still dont get why Dumbledores showing you all this. I mean, its really interesting and everything, but whats the point?

Dunno, said Harry, inserting a gum shield. But he says its all important and itll help me survive.

I think its fascinating, said Hermione earnestly. It makes absolute sense to know as much about Voldemort as possible. How else will you find out his weaknesses?

So how was Slughorns latest party? Harry asked her thickly through the gum shield.

Oh, it was quite fun, really, said Hermione, now putting on protective goggles. I mean, he drones on about famous exploits a bit, and he absolutely fawns on McLaggen because hes so well connected, but he gave us some really nice food and he introduced us to Gwenog Jones.

Gwenog Jones? said Ron, his eyes widening under his own goggles. The Gwenog Jones? Captain of the Holyhead Harpies?

Thats right, said Hermione. Personally, I thought she was a bit full of herself, but

Quite enough chat over here! said Professor Sprout briskly, bustling over and looking stern. Youre lagging behind, everybody else has started, and Nevilles already got his first pod!

They looked around; sure enough, there sat Neville with a bloody lip and several nasty scratches along the side of his face, but clutching an unpleasantly pulsating green object about the size of a grapefruit.

Okay, Professor, were starting now! said Ron, adding quietly, when she had turned away again, shouldve used Muffliato, Harry.

No, we shouldnt! said Hermione at once, looking, as she always did, intensely cross at the thought of the Half-Blood Prince and his spells. Well, come on wed better get going


  1. A chill that had nothing to do with the iced champagne was stealing through Harrys chest.
  2. A dark figure came bustling toward them, and Harry saw a glint of silver to the light of their wands. They had found Gryffindors sword.
  3. A mixture of gratitude and shame welled up in Harry. Had Lupin forgiven him, then, for the terrible things he had said when they had last met?
  4. A motherly-looking Healer wearing a tinsel wreath in her hair came bustling up the corridor, smiling warmly at Harry and the others.
  5. A paralyzing terror filled Harry so that he couldnt move or speak. His Patronus flickered and died.
  6. A seam had split on Hermiones bag. Harry wasnt surprised; he could see that it was crammed with at least a dozen large and heavy books.
  7. A vivid image of the shrieking, spitting portrait of Siriuss mother that hung in the hall of number twelve, Grimmauld Place flashed into Harrys mind. I bet there has, he said.
  8. A whistling in Harrys ear told him the Bludger had just missed him again; he turned right over and sped in the opposite direction.
  9. A young witch with short blonde hair poked her head around the curtain; Harry saw that she too was wearing magenta staff robes.
  10. After a few minutes progress up the dark tunnel, a distant sound of slowly shifting rock reached Harrys ears.
  11. After a good nights sleep, Harry felt nearly back to normal.
  12. After glancing once at this portrait, Professor McGonagall made an odd movement as though steeling herself, then rounded the desk to look at Harry, her face taut and lined.

<== | ==>
Harry obeyed, his mind still full of what he had just seen. | She gave the other two an apprehensive look; they all took deep breaths and then dived at the gnarled stump between them.

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