Chapter 7 – The Slug Club
Chapter-A-Longs are back this week! Yay! I’ve missed them!
In the last chapter, we saw Draco Malfoy behaving very suspiciously in Knockturn Alley. Harry wants to know more, but to his unending frustration, Ron and Hermione aren’t really that interested. This really surprises me, especially since Ron always wants to be suspicious of Malfoy and Hermione really should be smarter than this. All they know is that Borgin is supposed to be keeping something, possibly a broken item, safe because Malfoy wants it. Harry is also considering the fact that Draco’s father is now in Azkaban and has been outed as a Death Eater, which could easily mean that Draco wants to get revenge. This train of thought leads Harry to figure out something that could be quite important.
“He’s a Death Eater,” said Harry slowly. “He’s replaced his father as a Death Eater!”
There was a silence; then Ron erupted in laughter. “Malfoy? He’s sixteen, Harry! You think You-Know-Who would let Malfoy join?”
“It seems very unlikely, Harry,” said Hermione in a repressive sort of voice. “What makes you think –?”
“In Madam Malkin’s. She didn’t touch him, but he yelled and jerked his arm away from her when she went to roll up his sleeve. It was his left arm. He’s been branded with the Dark Mark.”
He also mentions that they had seen Draco showing Borgin something that instantly scared Borgin and made him treat Draco very seriously. Harry thinks that Draco showed Borgin the Dark Mark. Ron and Hermione still don’t think it’s likely that Voldy would start recruiting teenagers, but even the first time I read this, I strongly disagreed with that sentiment. Why wouldn’t he use teens? Especially when they can easily get into Hogwarts with no questions asked? I seriously doubt that Voldy’d be worried about them being too young to do his bidding.
Harry gets fed up trying to explain his point and heads downstairs, overhearing Mrs. Weasley getting really annoyed with Fleur going on and on about wedding plans. Mrs. Weasley wants to make sure that everything is set up for them to leave for Kings Cross the next day and everything goes perfectly according to plan for once. They have cars from the Ministry driving them again and extra security to make sure they get to the train. Once on the train, Ron and Hermione leave to go to the prefects’ car, but Harry takes the opportunity to talk to Mr. Weasley about what he saw Draco do in Knockturn Alley and his suspicions that Draco is a Death Eater now.
Mr. Weasley isn’t too sure about this, but at least he listens. He also tells Harry that when Lucius was arrested, they raided the Malfoy house and confiscated anything that could be dangerous. Harry says that they may have missed something. The train gets ready to depart, and Mrs. Weasley tells him that he will be coming back to them at Christmastime. Which makes me happy. Harry really needs a very Weasley Christmas.
Once on the train, Harry gets stared at, which he’s used to, but it’s definitely been kicked up a notch after all the “Chosen One” stuff from the papers over the summer. He doesn’t have Ron or Hermione to sit with, but catches up with Ginny briefly before she disappears to go find her boyfriend, Dean Thomas. Neville and Luna turn up and they and Harry find a compartment together. Neville is a bit surprised that he and Luna are being stared at too, not just because they are with Harry, but because they were also involved at the Ministry. They also talk about the upcoming school year.
“Are we still doing D.A. meetings this year, Harry?” asked Luna, who was detaching a pair of psychedelic spectacles from the middle of The Quibbler.
“No point now we’ve got rid of Umbridge, is there?” said Harry, sitting down. Neville bumped his head against the seat as he emerged from under it. He looked most disappointed.
“I liked the D.A.! I learned loads with you!”
“I enjoyed the meetings too,” said Luna serenely. “It was like having friends.”
Oh Luna! This makes me so sad!
They are interrupted by a group of girls, one of which who introduces herself as Romilda Vane. She invites Harry to sit with them, giving the impression that she and her friends don’t think much of Neville or Luna. Harry thinks very highly of them, though, and tells her that they are his friends. Romilda and her snotty attitude leave, and Luna tells Harry that people expect him to have cooler friends. Harry doesn’t care what people think anymore. Neville and Luna were there at the Ministry. They faced Death Eaters for him. They are plenty cool enough! Neville says that his grandmother speaks about Harry all the time, saying that he has “more backbone than the whole Ministry of Magic put together.” Which is very true, but also makes Harry feel a bit uncomfortable.
He feels very connected to Neville, knowing how close Neville came to having Harry’s fate. Voldemort and his followers took Neville’s parents away too, although in a different manner. And that prophecy . . . what would have happened if Voldemort had gone after the Longbottoms instead of the Potters that night? Harry’s life would have been very different, as would Neville’s, although he probably would have still been living with his grandmother. Harry would possibly have his parents, but that’s not entirely certain – plenty of people died during those early Voldemort years, and they were with the Order. They could have been killed another way.
It’s no use speculating on what might have been, but it’s really hard not to. Neville notices that Harry is acting a bit off. Luna blames it on something she calls a Wrackspurt, some sort of invisible creature that goes through your ears and makes your brain “go fuzzy.” Harry and Neville quickly change the subject.
Ron and Hermione arrive a few hours later. Ron mentions that Draco has decided to skip doing his prefect duties. This is highly unusual since he usually enjoys abusing his power over other students. Harry wonders if Draco is too preoccupied with his new Death Eater role, but before he can really talk much about it, a younger student shows up with messages for Harry and Neville.
I would be delighted if you would join me for a bite of lunch in compartment C.
Professor H.E.F. Slughorn
Neville is startled since he doesn’t even know who Slughorn is and has no idea why a teacher would want to invite him to lunch. Harry wants to try and sneak over to lunch under the Invisibility Cloak to see if he can catch a glimpse of Draco, but the corridors are way too crowded for that and way too many people are trying to look at Harry. Except for Cho Chang, who hid in her compartment when she saw Harry coming and started up a conversation with her friend, Marietta. Marietta, who sold out the D.A. and still has the pimples to prove it.
Harry and Neville are also not Slughorn’s only guests. He has also invited Blaise Zabini (a Slytherin in their year), two seventh years that Harry doesn’t know, and, oddly enough, Ginny. As they start lunch, Slughorn addresses one of the seventh years, Marcus Belby, and mentions that he knows his uncle, who is a very powerful wizard and who invented the Wolfsbane Potion. But Marcus doesn’t really talk much to his uncle, which makes Slughorn lose interest. He turns to the other seventh year, Cormac McLaggen, who apparently also has a well-connected uncle who is also friends with the new Minister of Magic.
Harry realizes that this is an example of Slughorn “collecting” students, like Dumbledore had warned him about. Zabini has a very rich and famous mother, which impresses Slughorn. Neville is interrogated next, which is a bit awkward since you really can’t talk about his famous parents without talking about what happened to them. Then it’s Harry’s turn. Slughorn is already impressed with him, as are most people given his “Chosen One” status, but Slughorn also thinks that Harry must have some sort of hidden powers to have survived all those years ago. A disapproving snort from Zabini draws snide comments from Ginny. Ginny wasn’t invited to lunch due to an influential family member, but because Slughorn saw her cast a very powerful Bat-Bogey Hex and was impressed. Harry really doesn’t want to talk much, but that doesn’t deter Slughorn in the slightest, especially when discussion turns to the events that happened at the Ministry last year.
“So modest, so modest, no wonder Dumbledore is so fond — you were there, then? But the rest of the stories — so sensational, of course, one doesn’t know quite what to believe — this fabled prophecy, for instance –”
“We never heard a prophecy,” said Neville, turning geranium pink as he said it.
“That’s right,” said Ginny staunchly. “Neville and I were both there too, and all this ‘Chosen One’ rubbish is just the Prophet making things up as usual.”
“You were both there too, were you?” said Slughorn with great interest, looking from Ginny to Neville, but both of them sat clamlike before his encouraging smile.
I know that deep down Slughorn is harmless, but he comes off as just being creepy sometimes! In any case, Slughorn continues name dropping for the rest of the trip, talking about all the famous and powerful wizards he had taught who had all joined what he called the “Slug Club” while they were at Hogwarts together. Clearly, he is starting that up again and looking for more students. After what seems like an eternity, Slughorn dismisses them to go and get ready to arrive at Hogwarts. Neville is particularly glad that it’s over. Ginny just thinks Slughorn is odd for not punishing her after hexing Zacharias Smith.
Harry is not paying much attention to them, but is instead watching Zabini heading back to the Slytherin compartment. He has an idea and immediately acts on it, slipping the Invisibility Cloak on, following after Zabini, and sneaking into the compartment with Draco and the Slytherins. In the process, Zabini gets knocked into Goyle, which makes it easy for Harry to get in and jump up into the luggage rack. Other than Goyle, the compartment holds Crabbe, Zabini, Draco and Pansy Parkinson. Also, Draco is laying across the seat with his head in Pansy’s lap while she strokes his hair, so I guess they’re dating now.
Draco asks about the summons to Slughorn’s car and isn’t too happy when Zabini tells him why he was sent for. Apparently Slughorn wasn’t interested in meeting with a Malfoy. He sneers about Belby, Neville and Ginny getting invited, but also mentions that he doesn’t care who Slughorn might be interested in since he may not even be at Hogwarts next year because he may have “moved on to bigger and better things.” Because if Voldemort takes over, he’s not going to care about Hogwarts grades. He’s going to want loyalty. And Draco has been given a job to do.
They start to get ready for Hogwarts and Harry gets smacked in the head by Goyle’s trunk, causing him to gasp a bit. Draco looks up briefly and Harry worries that he may have heard him. He also had looked vaguely in Harry’s direction when he had jumped up in the first place. As the Slytherins leave, Draco hangs back, telling them he needs to “check something.” Harry thinks that maybe Draco is trying to do something secretive, something that might have to do with the item he talked to Borgin about, but instead, Draco casts Petrificus Totalus right at him. He falls to the ground and Draco stomps on his face. Then Draco covers Harry up with the Invisibility Cloak so that he won’t be found and end up back in London.
Will Harry make it back to Hogwarts, or will he leave with the train? See you next time for Chapter 8!