CHAPTER-A-LONG: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Chapter 19

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Chapter 19: Elf Tails

We pick up with Ron in the hospital wing, having survived whatever was in the drink that Slughorn gave him. I wonder, did anyone who read this the first time think that Slughorn had poisoned Ron on purpose? I never did, mostly because Slughorn seems so hapless most of the time, but I wonder if anyone else did. Harry, Hermione, Ginny and the Weasley twins are with Ron, the twins having brought Ron’s birthday present with them to Hogsmeade.

Harry relates what happened again, feeling incredibly lucky that Slughorn happened to have a bezoar laying around. Ron would have definitely died otherwise. Hermione is especially upset, which is understandable since her and Ron’s relationship is still pretty tense. It would have been horrible for Ron to have died with all of that unresolved. She doesn’t say much, but the rest of the speculate on whether Slughorn could have been trying to either poison Ron or Harry, since he could either be a Death Eater or under the Imperius curse. How would they know? It’s also possible that someone else was trying to poison Slughorn when he was given the bottle. Also, Slughorn had said that the mead was for Dumbledore, so maybe Dumbledore was the target.

Hagrid arrives to check on Ron and joins the conversation of what or who could possibly be behind all of this. Hagrid points out that the two attacks have both been towards Gryffindor Quidditch players, which might just be a coincidence, but Hermione pipes up to show that there are several similarities between the attacks.

“Well, for one thing, they both ought to have been fatal and weren’t, although that was pure luck. And for another, neither the poison nor the necklace seems to have reached the person who was supposed to be killed. Of course,” she added broodingly, “that makes the person behind this even more dangerous in a way, because they don’t seem to care how many people they finish off before they actually reach their victim.”

That’s a cheerful thought, isn’t it.

Arthur and Molly arrive after having met with Dumbledore. Molly is beside herself, as is to be expected. She hugs Harry sobbing, mentioning that he’s saved Arthur and Ginny previously.

“Half our family does seem to owe you their lives, now I stop and think about it,” Mr. Weasley said in a constricted voice. “Well, all I can say is that it was a lucky day for the Weasleys when Ron decided to sit in your compartment on the Hogwarts Express, Harry.”

BRB, about to go SOB now!!

Madam Pomfrey shoos some of the people out of the hospital wing, since they have exceeded her limit of six people. Harry, Hermione and Hagrid leave the Weasleys and continue discussing the situation. With all of the fear that led to the additional security this year anyway, the fact that people are still getting attacked isn’t a good sign. Hagrid says that even Dumbledore is worried and they are all afraid that the board of governors will shut the school down. Hagrid also let slip that Dumbledore was angry with Snape.

Harry, of course, jumps on this. Hagrid tries to back pedal, but it’s no use. He tells Harry about a conversation that he overheard between Dumbledore and Snape, where Snape told Dumbledore that he took too much for granted and that he, Snape, didn’t want to do “it” anymore. Hagrid thought it just sounded like Snape felt overworked. Dumbledore also talked to Snape about making investigations into Slytherin students, but as Hagrid points out, the other Heads of House were also told to do this after the necklace incident.

They are interrupted by Filch and Harry and Hermione set off quickly for their common room. There, Harry is surprised by Cormac McLaggen.

“I’ve been waiting for you to come back,” said McLaggen, disregarding Harry’s drawn wand. “Must’ve fallen asleep. Look, I saw them taking Weasley up to the hospital wing earlier. Didn’t look like he’ll be fit for next week’s match.”

It took Harry a few moments to realize what McLaggen was talking about.

“Oh . . . right . . . Quidditch,” he said, putting his wand back into the belt of his jeans and running a hand wearily through his hair. “Yeah . . . he might not make it.”

“Well then, I’ll be playing Keeper, won’t I?” said McLaggen.

“Yeah,” said Harry. “Yeah, I suppose so . . .”

McLaggen is such an ass. He sees a fellow classmate, a fellow GRYFFINDOR, rushed to the hospital wing on death’s door, and all he thinks about is that now he can be on the Quidditch team? Seriously? Unfortunately, since McLaggen technically came in second at the tryouts, Harry can’t think of a reason to say no.

The next day, everyone hears about what happened to Ron, but it doesn’t have the same amount of buzz. Since he was in the Potion master’s office, it is assumed that maybe it was an accident, especially since he got an antidote so quickly. More attention is paid to the upcoming Quidditch match, but Harry is to distracted by his continuing hunt for Draco Malfoy. He has continued to keep tabs on Malfoy via the Marauder’s Map, but so far hasn’t seen anything suspicious, except for the times when Malfoy seemed to disappear off the map completely.

The other problem, or rather problems, Harry has is Cormac McLaggen and Lavender Brown. McLaggen won’t shut up about Quidditch, criticizing the way Harry runs the team, and Lavender won’t stop asking about Ron, especially since she is miffed that she wasn’t notified when he first arrived in the hospital wing. Harry tells her to talk to Ron about her feelings, but apparently Ron is always asleep when Lavender comes to visit. Harry finds this odd, since Ron has always been wide awake when he visits, but it seems like Ron has been pretending to be asleep to avoid talking to her. Lavender is also not to happy about the fact that Hermione is still visiting him.

On the morning of the Gryffindor-Hufflepuff Quidditch match, Ron is irritated because Madam Pomfrey won’t let him go. He asks Harry how McLaggen has been doing, clearly worried about being replaced, but he has nothing to fear. Harry is so frustrated with McLaggen he’s about to take him out himself. Harry also tells Ron that he can’t keep avoiding Lavender because she’s about to drive him crazy.

As Harry walks down to the Quidditch pitch, he runs into Malfoy, who is walking toward him with two girls who don’t look particularly happy to be there.

“Where’re you going?” Harry demanded.

“Yeah, I’m really going to tell you, because it’s your business, Potter,” sneered Malfoy. “You’d better hurry up, they’ll be waiting for ‘the Chosen Captain’ — ‘the Boy Who Scored’ — whatever they call you these days.”

One of the girls gave an unwilling giggle. Harry stared at her. She blushed. Malfoy pushed past Harry and she and her friend followed at a trot, turning the corner and vanishing from view.

So Malfoy is skulking around the castle with two girls while everyone else is down at the Quidditch match. That’s not suspicious at all, is it. Harry wishes he could investigate, but he has a game to play. McLaggen keeps trying to tell the other players what to do and Harry has to tell him off. The best part of this whole match is that they got none other than Luna Lovegood to do the commentary. It is literally one of the best things ever.

“And that’s Smith of Hufflepuff with the Quaffle,” said a dreamy voice, echoing over the grounds. “He did the commentary last time, of course, and Ginny Weasley flew into him, I think probably on purpose, it looked like it. Smith was being quite rude about Gryffindor, I expect he regrets that now he’s playing them — oh, look, he’s lost the Quaffle, Ginny took it from him, I do like her, she’s very nice . . .”

And it just keeps getting better.

” . . . but now that big Hufflepuff player’s got the Quaffle from her, I can’t remember his name, it’s something like Bibble — no, Buggins –“

“It’s Cadwallader!” said Professor McGonagall loudly from beside Luna. The crowd laughed.

I love Luna so much!

McLaggen keeps being terrible, from yelling at Ginny to actually taking one of the beater’s bats to try and show the beater how to hit a Bludger. In doing so, he accidentally hits the Bludger right at Harry, which immediately knocks Harry unconscious and he wakes up in the hospital wing with Ron.  Ron is in unusually good spirits, considering that the Gryffindors lost by so many points. He’s just so happy that his position on the team is secure, given the fact that the entire team is angry at McLaggen. He also really enjoyed listening to Luna’s commentary.

Ginny had come to check on Harry while he was still out cold and she had mentioned to Ron that Harry had just barely made it in time for the match. Ron asks why, since he left in plenty of time to get there, and Harry tells him about Malfoy’s weird behavior. Harry wishes he could have someone follow Malfoy, but gives up on that idea. The only people he knows of who might be willing to help would be members of the D.A., but they are all busy with their own lives.

In the middle of the night, he gets an idea. Hesitantly, he calls out for Kreacher. It works, sort of. Kreacher appears, but so does Dobby and Peeves. Dobby and Kreacher were fighting because Dobby overheard Kreacher saying something mean about Harry. Peeves was just enjoying the show. Harry tells Kreacher that he has a job for him, which Kreacher begrudgingly says he HAS to do since Harry is his master. Dobby is willing to do whatever Harry asks him and offers his services as well.

“Come to think of it, it would be good to have both of you,” said Harry. “Okay then . . . I want you to tail Draco Malfoy.”

Ignoring the look of mingled surprise and exasperation on Ron’s face, Harry went on, “I want to know where he’s going, who he’s meeting, and what he’s doing. I want you to follow him around the clock.”

Dobby is more than happy to take on this task. Kreacher seems less so. He knows who Malfoy is, calls him the “pure-blood great-nephew” of Mrs. Black, his old mistress. Harry cuts him off right there.

“That’s the one,” said Harry, foreseeing a great danger and determining to prevent it immediately. “And you’re forbidden to tip him off, Kreacher, or to show him what you’re up to, or to talk to him at all, or to write him messages or . . . or to contact him in any way. Got it?”

It’s actually pretty smart of Harry to think of this. I have no doubt that Kreacher, left to his own devices, would run right to Malfoy and tell him what’s going on. Harry continues that he wants regular updates, but it can’t be when there are other people around besides Ron and Hermione. Also smart. Actually, this whole plan is a really good idea.

See you next time for Chapter 20!

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