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All lessons were suspended, all examinations postponed.

Some students were hurried away from Hogwarts by their parents over the next couple of days — the Patil twins were gone before breakfast on the morning following Dumbledore’s death, and Zacharias Smith was escorted from the castle by his haughty-looking father.


Seamus Finnigan, on the other hand, refused point-blank to accompany his mother home; they had a shouting match in the entrance hall that was resolved when she agreed that he could remain behind for the funeral. She had difficulty in finding a bed in Hogsmeade, Seamus told Harry and Ron, for wizards and witches were pouring into the village, preparing to pay their last respects to Dumbledore.


Some excitement was caused among the younger students, who had never seen it before, when a powder-blue carriage the size of a house, pulled by a dozen giant winged palominos, came soaring out of the sky in the late afternoon before the funeral and landed on the edge of the forest. Harry watched from a window as a gigantic and handsome olive-skinned, black-haired woman descended the carriage steps and threw herself into the waiting Hagrid’s arms.


Meanwhile a delegation of Ministry officials, including the Minister of Magic himself, was being accommodated within the castle. Harry was diligently avoiding contact with any of them; he was sure that, sooner or later, he would be asked again to account for Dumbledore’s last excursion from Hogwarts.


Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were spending all of their time together. The beautiful weather seemed to mock them; Harry could imagine how it would have been if Dumbledore had not died, and they had had this time together at the very end of the year, Ginny’s examinations finished, the pressure of homework lifted . . . and hour by hour, he put off saying the thing that he knew he must say, doing what he knew was right to do, because it was too hard to forgo his best source of comfort.


They visited the hospital wing twice a day: Neville had been discharged, but Bill remained under Madam Pomfrey’s care. His scars were as bad as ever — in truth, he now bore a distinct resemblance to Mad-Eye Moody, though thankfully with both eyes and legs — but in personality he seemed just the same as ever. All that appeared to have changed was that he now had a great liking for very rare steaks.


“. . . so eet ees lucky ’e is marrying me,” said Fleur happily, plumping up Bill’s pillows, “because ze British overcook their meat, I ’ave always said this.”

“I suppose I’m just going to have to accept that he really is going to marry her,” sighed Ginny later that evening, as she, Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat beside the open window of the Gryffindor common room, looking out over the twilit grounds.



“She’s not that bad,” said Harry. “Ugly, though,” he added hastily, as Ginny raised her eyebrows, and she let out a reluctant giggle.

“Well, I suppose if Mum can stand it, I can.”

“Anyone else we know died?” Ron asked Hermione, who was perusing the Evening Prophet.

Hermione winced at the forced toughness in his voice.





“No,” she said reprovingly, folding up the newspaper. “They’re still looking for Snape but no sign . . .”

“Of course there isn’t,” said Harry, who became angry every time this subject cropped up. “They won’t find Snape till they find Voldemort, and seeing as they’ve never managed to do that in all this time . . .”



“I’m going to go to bed,” yawned Ginny. “I haven’t been sleeping that well since . . . well . . . I could do with some sleep.”

She kissed Harry (Ron looked away pointedly), waved at the other two, and departed for the girls’ dormitories. The moment the door had closed behind her, Hermione leaned forward toward Harry with a most Hermione-ish look on her face.

“Harry, I found something out this morning, in the library.”

“R.A.B.?” said Harry, sitting up straight.





He did not feel the way he had so often felt before, excited, curious, burning to get to the bottom of a mystery; he simply knew that the task of discovering the truth about the real Horcrux had to be completed before he could move a little farther along the dark and winding path stretching ahead of him, the path that he and Dumbledore had set out upon together, and which he now knew he would have to journey alone. There might still be as many as four Horcruxes out there somewhere, and each would need to be found and eliminated before there was even a possibility that Voldemort could be killed.


He kept reciting their names to himself, as though by listing them he could bring them within reach: the locket . . . the cup . . . the snake . . . something of Gryffindor’s or Ravenclaw’s . . . the locket . . . the cup . . . the snake . . . something of Gryffindor’s or Ravenclaw’s . . .


This mantra seemed to pulse through Harry’s mind as he fell asleep at night, and his dreams were thick with cups, lockets, and mysterious objects that he could not quite reach, though Dumbledore helpfully offered Harry a rope ladder that turned to snakes the moment he began to climb. . . .


He had shown Hermione the note inside the locket the morning after Dumbledore’s death, and although she had not immediately recognized the initials as belonging to some obscure wizard about whom she had been reading, she had since been rushing off to the library a little more often than was strictly necessary for somebody who had no homework to do.


“No,” she said sadly, “I’ve been trying, Harry, but I haven’t found anything. . . . There are a couple of reasonably well-known wizards with those initials — Rosalind Antigone Bungs . . . Rupert ‘Axebanger’ Brookstanton . . . but they don’t seem to fit at all. Judging by that note, the person who stole the Horcrux knew Voldemort, and I can’t find a shred of evidence that Bungs or Axebanger ever had anything to do with him. . . . No, actually, it’s about . . . well, Snape.”


She looked nervous even saying the name again.

“What about him?” asked Harry heavily, slumping back in his chair.

“Well, it’s just that I was sort of right about the Half-Blood Prince business,” she said tentatively.

“D’you have to rub it in, Hermione? How d’you think I feel about that now?”

“No — no — Harry, I didn’t mean that!” she said hastily, looking around to check that they were not being overheard. “It’s just that I was right about Eileen Prince once owning the book. You see . . . she was Snape’s mother!”






“I thought she wasn’t much of a looker,” said Ron. Hermione ignored him.

“I was going through the rest of the old Prophets and there was a tiny announcement about Eileen Prince marrying a man called Tobias Snape, and then later an announcement saying that she’d given birth to a —”

“— murderer,” spat Harry.

“Well . . . yes,” said Hermione. “So . . . I was sort of right. Snape must have been proud of being ‘half a Prince,’ you see? Tobias Snape was a Muggle from what it said in the Prophet.”





“Yeah, that fits,” said Harry. “He’d play up the pure-blood side so he could get in with Lucius Malfoy and the rest of them. . . . He’s just like Voldemort. Pure-blood mother, Muggle father . . . ashamed of his parentage, trying to make himself feared using the Dark Arts, gave himself an impressive new name — Lord Voldemort — the Half-Blood Prince — how could Dumbledore have missed — ?”


He broke off, looking out the window. He could not stop himself dwelling upon Dumbledore’s inexcusable trust in Snape . . . but as Hermione had just inadvertently reminded him, he, Harry, had been taken in just the same. . . . In spite of the increasing nastiness of those scribbled spells, he had refused to believe ill of the boy who had been so clever, who had helped him so much. . . .

Helped him . . . it was an almost unendurable thought now.



“I still don’t get why he didn’t turn you in for using that book,” said Ron. “He must’ve known where you were getting it all from.”

“He knew,” said Harry bitterly. “He knew when I used Sectumsempra. He didn’t really need Legilimency. . . . He might even have known before then, with Slughorn talking about how brilliant I was at Potions. . . . Shouldn’t have left his old book in the bottom of that cupboard, should he?”



“But why didn’t he turn you in?”

“I don’t think he wanted to associate himself with that book,” said Hermione. “I don’t think Dumbledore would have liked it very much if he’d known. And even if Snape pretended it hadn’t been his, Slughorn would have recognized his writing at once. Anyway, the book was left in Snape’s old classroom, and I’ll bet Dumbledore knew his mother was called ‘Prince.’ ”



“I should’ve shown the book to Dumbledore,” said Harry. “All that time he was showing me how Voldemort was evil even when he was at school, and I had proof Snape was too —”

“ ‘Evil’ is a strong word,” said Hermione quietly.

“You were the one who kept telling me the book was dangerous!”




“I’m trying to say, Harry, that you’re putting too much blame on yourself. I thought the Prince seemed to have a nasty sense of humor, but I would never have guessed he was a potential killer. . . .”

“None of us could’ve guessed Snape would . . . you know,” said Ron.



Silence fell between them, each of them lost in their own thoughts, but Harry was sure that they, like him, were thinking about the following morning, when Dumbledore’s body would be laid to rest. He had never attended a funeral before; there had been no body to bury when Sirius had died. He did not know what to expect and was a little worried about what he might see, about how he would feel.


He wondered whether Dumbledore’s death would be more real to him once it was over. Though he had moments when the horrible fact of it threatened to overwhelm him, there were blank stretches of numbness where, despite the fact that nobody was talking about anything else in the whole castle, he still found it difficult to believe that Dumbledore had really gone.


Admittedly he had not, as he had with Sirius, looked desperately for some kind of loophole, some way that Dumbledore would come back. . . . He felt in his pocket for the cold chain of the fake Horcrux, which he now carried with him everywhere, not as a talisman, but as a reminder of what it had cost and what remained still to do.


Harry rose early to pack the next day; the Hogwarts Express would be leaving an hour after the funeral. Downstairs, he found the mood in the Great Hall subdued. Everybody was wearing their dress robes and no one seemed very hungry. Professor McGonagall had left the thronelike chair in the middle of the staff table empty.


Hagrid’s chair was deserted too; Harry thought that perhaps he had not been able to face breakfast, but Snape’s place had been unceremoniously filled by Rufus Scrimgeour. Harry avoided his yellowish eyes as they scanned the Hall; Harry had the uncomfortable feeling that Scrimgeour was looking for him. Among Scrimgeour’s entourage Harry spotted the red hair and horn-rimmed glasses of Percy Weasley. Ron gave no sign that he was aware of Percy, apart from stabbing pieces of kipper with unwonted venom.


Over at the Slytherin table Crabbe and Goyle were muttering together. Hulking boys though they were, they looked oddly lonely without the tall, pale figure of Malfoy between them, bossing them around. Harry had not spared Malfoy much thought. His animosity was all for Snape, but he had not forgotten the fear in Malfoy’s voice on that tower top, nor the fact that he had lowered his wand before the other Death Eaters arrived.


Harry did not believe that Malfoy would have killed Dumbledore. He despised Malfoy still for his infatuation with the Dark Arts, but now the tiniest drop of pity mingled with his dislike. Where, Harry wondered, was Malfoy now, and what was Voldemort making him do under threat of killing him and his parents?


Harry’s thoughts were interrupted by a nudge in the ribs from Ginny. Professor McGonagall had risen to her feet, and the mournful hum in the Hall died away at once.

“It is nearly time,” she said. “Please follow your Heads of Houses out into the grounds. Gryffindors, after me.”



They filed out from behind their benches in near silence. Harry glimpsed Slughorn at the head of the Slytherin column, wearing magnificent, long, emerald green robes embroidered with silver.


He had never seen Professor Sprout, Head of the Hufflepuffs, looking so clean; there was not a single patch on her hat, and when they reached the entrance hall, they found Madam Pince standing beside Filch, she in a thick black veil that fell to her knees, he in an ancient black suit and tie reeking of mothballs.


They were heading, as Harry saw when he stepped out onto the stone steps from the front doors, toward the lake. The warmth of the sun caressed his face as they followed Professor McGonagall in silence to the place where hundreds of chairs had been set out in rows. An aisle ran down the center of them: There was a marble table standing at the front, all chairs facing it. It was the most beautiful summer’s day.


An extraordinary assortment of people had already settled into half of the chairs; shabby and smart, old and young. Most Harry did not recognize, but a few he did, including members of the Order of the Phoenix: Kingsley Shacklebolt; Mad-Eye Moody; Tonks, her hair miraculously returned to vividest pink; Remus Lupin, with whom she seemed to be holding hands; Mr. and Mrs. Weasley; Bill supported by Fleur and followed by Fred and George, who were wearing jackets of black dragon skin.


Then there was Madame Maxime, who took up two and a half chairs on her own; Tom, the landlord of the Leaky Cauldron in London; Arabella Figg, Harry’s Squib neighbor; the hairy bass player from the Wizarding group the Weird Sisters; Ernie Prang, driver of the Knight Bus; Madam Malkin, of the robe shop in Diagon Alley; and some people whom Harry merely knew by sight, such as the barman of the Hog’s Head and the witch who pushed the trolley on the Hogwarts Express. The castle ghosts were there too, barely visible in the bright sunlight, discernible only when they moved, shimmering insubstantially on the gleaming air.


Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny filed into seats at the end of a row beside the lake. People were whispering to each other; it sounded like a breeze in the grass, but the birdsong was louder by far. The crowd continued to swell; with a great rush of affection for both of them, Harry saw Neville being helped into a seat by Luna. Neville and Luna alone of the D.A. had responded to Hermione’s summons the night that Dumbledore had died, and Harry knew why: They were the ones who had missed the D.A. most . . . probably the ones who had checked their coins regularly in the hope that there would be another meeting.


Cornelius Fudge walked past toward the front rows, his expression miserable, twirling his green bowler hat as usual; Harry next recognized Rita Skeeter, who, he was infuriated to see, had a notebook clutched in her red-taloned hand, and then, with a worse jolt of fury, Dolores Umbridge, an unconvincing expression of grief upon her toadlike face, a black velvet bow set atop her iron-colored curls. At the sight of the centaur Firenze, who was standing like a sentinel near the water’s edge, she gave a start and scurried hastily into a seat a good distance away.


The staff was seated at last. Harry could see Scrimgeour looking grave and dignified in the front row with Professor McGonagall. He wondered whether Scrimgeour or any of these important people were really sorry that Dumbledore was dead. But then he heard music, strange, otherworldly music, and he forgot his dislike of the Ministry in looking around for the source of it. He was not the only one: Many heads were turning, searching, a little alarmed.


“In there,” whispered Ginny in Harry’s ear.

And he saw them in the clear green sunlit water, inches below the surface, reminding him horribly of the Inferi: a chorus of merpeople singing in a strange language he did not understand, their pallid faces rippling, their purplish hair flowing all around them. The music made the hair on Harry’s neck stand up, and yet it was not unpleasant.



It spoke very clearly of loss and of despair. As he looked down into the wild faces of the singers, he had the feeling that they, at least, were sorry for Dumbledore’s passing. Then Ginny nudged him again and he looked around.


Hagrid was walking slowly up the aisle between the chairs. He was crying quite silently, his face gleaming with tears, and in his arms, wrapped in purple velvet spangled with golden stars, was what Harry knew to be Dumbledore’s body. A sharp pain rose in Harry’s throat at this sight: For a moment, the strange music and the knowledge that Dumbledore’s body was so close seemed to take all warmth from the day. Ron looked white and shocked. Tears were falling thick and fast into both Ginny’s and Hermione’s laps.



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