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And Harry fell again through the silver surface, landing this time right in front of a man he recognized at once.

It was a much younger Horace Slughorn. Harry was so used to him bald that he found the sight of Slughorn with thick, shiny, straw-colored hair quite disconcerting; it looked as though he had had his head thatched, though there was already a shiny Galleon-sized bald patch on his crown. His mustache, less massive than it was these days, was gingery-blond. He was not quite as rotund as the Slughorn Harry knew, though the golden buttons on his richly embroidered waistcoat were taking a fair amount of strain. His little feet resting upon a velvet pouffe, he was sitting well back in a comfortable winged armchair, one hand grasping a small glass of wine, the other searching through a box of crystalized pineapple.

Harry looked around as Dumbledore appeared beside him and saw that they were standing in Slughorns office. Half a dozen boys were sitting around Slughorn, all on harder or lower seats than his, and all in their mid-teens. Harry recognized Voldemort at once. His was the most handsome face and he looked the most relaxed of all the boys. His right hand lay negligently upon the arm of his chair; with a jolt, Harry saw that he was wearing Marvolos gold-and-black ring; he had already killed his father.

Sir, is it true that Professor Merrythought is retiring? he asked.

Tom, Tom, if I knew I couldnt tell you, said Slughorn, wagging a reproving, sugar-covered finger at Riddle, though ruining the effect slightly by winking. I must say, Id like to know where you get your information, boy, more knowledgeable than half the staff, you are.

Riddle smiled; the other boys laughed and cast him admiring looks.

What with your uncanny ability to know things you shouldnt, and your careful flattery of the people who matterthank you for the pineapple, by the way, youre quite right, it is my favorite

As several of the boys tittered, something very odd happened. The whole room was suddenly filled with a thick white fog, so that Harry could see nothing but the face of Dumbledore, who was standing beside him. Then Slughorns voice rang out through the mist, unnaturally loudly, youll go wrong, boy, mark my words.

The fog cleared as suddenly as it had appeared and yet nobody made any allusion to it, nor did anybody look as though anything unusual had just happened. Bewildered, Harry looked around as a small golden clock standing upon Slughorns desk chimed eleven oclock.

Good gracious, is it that time already? said Slughorn. Youd better get going, boys, or well all be in trouble. Lestrange, I want your essay by tomorrow or its detention. Same goes for you, Avery.

Slughorn pulled himself out of his armchair and carried his empty glass over to his desk as the boys filed out. Voldemort, however, stayed behind. Harry could tell he had dawdled deliberately, wanting to be last in the room with Slughorn.

Look sharp, Tom, said Slughorn, turning around and finding him still present. You dont want to be caught out of bed out of hours, and you a prefect

Sir, I wanted to ask you something.

Ask away, then, mboy, ask away

Sir, I wondered what you know about about Horcruxes?

And it happened all over again: The dense fog filled the room so that Harry could not see Slughorn or Voldemort at all; only Dumbledore, smiling serenely beside him. Then Slughorns voice boomed out again, just as it had done before.

I dont know anything about Horcruxes and I wouldnt tell you if I did! Now get out of here at once and dont let me catch you mentioning them again!

Well, thats that, said Dumbledore placidly beside Harry. Time to go.


:

  1. A bag of sweets had spilled out of Freds pocket and the contents were now rolling in every directionbig, fat toffees in brightly colored wrappers.
  2. A bright silver light appeared right ahead of him, moving through the trees. Whatever the source, it was moving soundlessly. The light seemed simply to drift toward him.
  3. A chill that had nothing to do with the iced champagne was stealing through Harrys chest.
  4. 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.
  5. A jet of silver light hit Malfoy in the stomach and he doubled up, wheezing.
  6. 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?
  7. A motherly-looking Healer wearing a tinsel wreath in her hair came bustling up the corridor, smiling warmly at Harry and the others.
  8. A paralyzing terror filled Harry so that he couldnt move or speak. His Patronus flickered and died.
  9. A porters cap pulled low over his mismatched eyes, Moody came limping through the archway pushing a trolley loaded with their trunks.
  10. 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.
  11. A violently purple, triple-decker bus had appeared out of thin air in front of them, narrowly avoiding the nearest lamppost, which jumped backwards out of its way.
  12. 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.




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Morfin looked slightly dazed and swayed a little, still clutching the edge of the table for support. He come back, see, he added stupidly. | And Harrys feet left the floor to fall, seconds later, back onto the rug in front of Dumbledores desk.

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