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And Harrys feet left the floor to fall, seconds later, back onto the rug in front of Dumbledores desk.

Thats all there is? said Harry blankly.

Dumbledore had said that this was the most important memory of all, but he could not see what was so significant about it. Admittedly the fog, and the fact that nobody seemed to have noticed it, was odd, but other than that nothing seemed to have happened except that Voldemort had asked a question and failed to get an answer.

As you might have noticed, said Dumbledore, reseating himself behind his desk, that memory has been tampered with.

Tampered with? repeated Harry, sitting back down too.

Certainly, said Dumbledore. Professor Slughorn has meddled with his own recollections.

But why would he do that?

Because, I think, he is ashamed of what he remembers, said Dumbledore. He has tried to rework the memory to show himself in a better light, obliterating those parts which he does not wish me to see. It is, as you will have noticed, very crudely done, and that is all to the good, for it shows that the true memory is still there beneath the alterations.

And so, for the first time, I am giving you homework, Harry. It will be your job to persuade Professor Slughorn to divulge the real memory, which will undoubtedly be our most crucial piece of information of all.

Harry stared at him.

But surely, sir, he said, keeping his voice as respectful as possible, you dont need meyou could use Legilimency or Veritaserum

Professor Slughorn is an extremely able wizard who will be expecting both, said Dumbledore. He is much more accomplished at Occlumency than poor Morfin Gaunt, and I would be astonished if he has not carried an antidote to Veritaserum with him ever since I coerced him into giving me this travesty of a recollection.

No, I think it would be foolish to attempt to wrest the truth from Professor Slughorn by force, and might do much more harm than good; I do not wish him to leave Hogwarts. However, he has his weaknesses like the rest of us, and I believe that you are the one person who might be able to penetrate his defenses. It is most important that we secure the true memory, Harry How important, we will only know when we have seen the real thing. So, good luck and good night.

A little taken aback by the abrupt dismissal, Harry got to his feet quickly. Good night, sir.

As he closed the study door behind him, he distinctly heard Phineas Nigellus say, I cant see why the boy should be able to do it better than you, Dumbledore.

I wouldnt expect you to, Phineas, replied Dumbledore, and Fawkes gave another low, musical cry.

BIRTHDAY SURPRISES

The next day Harry confided in both Ron and Hermione the task that Dumbledore had set him, though separately, for Hermione still refused to remain in Rons presence longer than it took to give him a contemptuous look.


:

  1. A chill that had nothing to do with the iced champagne was stealing through Harrys chest.
  2. A few moments later, Mr. Weasley came into the warm living room carrying his dinner on a tray. He looked completely exhausted.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. A whistling in Harrys ear told him the Bludger had just missed him again; he turned right over and sped in the opposite direction.
  6. After a few minutes progress up the dark tunnel, a distant sound of slowly shifting rock reached Harrys ears.
  7. An aged witch stood in front of him, holding a tray of what looked horribly like whole human fingernails. She leered at him, showing mossy teeth. Harry backed away.
  8. And Harry fell again through the silver surface, landing this time right in front of a man he recognized at once.
  9. And pulling Dumbledores uninjured arm around his shoulders, Harry guided his headmaster back around the lake, bearing most of his weight.
  10. And something vast, green, and glittering erupted from the patch of darkness Harrys eyes had been struggling to penetrate; it flew up over the treetops and into the sky.
  11. And to Harrys horror, a voice answered, and the voice seemed to come from Quirrell himself.




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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. | Ron thought that Harry was unlikely to have any trouble with Slughorn at all.

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