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They spent most of their dinner roundly abusing the Apparition examiner, and Ron looked fractionally more cheerful by the time they set off back to the common room, now discussing the continuing problem of Slughorn and the memory.

"Use your lucky potion!"

"1 won't," said Ron into his hands. "Or maybe I will, then she'll ditch me."

The whole class looked around at Harry, who hastily tried to recall what Dumbledore had told him the night that they had gone to visit Slughorn. "Er — well — ghosts are transparent —" he said.

"I have ideas," said Dumbledore, "but no more than that."


"Oh, he definitely wanted the Defense Against the Dark Arts job," said Dumbledore. "The aftermath of our little meeting proved that. You see, we have never been able to keep a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for longer than a year since I refused the post to Lord Voldemort."

Harry stood rooted on the spot and watched them disappear. This was infuriating; he was already cutting it fine to get to the match on time and yet there was Malfoy, skulking off while the rest of the school was absent: Harry's best chance yet of discovering what Malfoy was up to. The silent seconds trickled past, and Harry remained where he was, frozen, gazing at the place where Malfoy had vanished. . . .

"If you ask me," said Ron once Harry had finished describing his conversation with Tonks, "she's cracking up a bit. Losing her nerve after what happened at the Ministry."

"But I thought he liked me," she said plaintively. "Maybe if you two left, he'd come back again. We had lots in common. I'm sure he felt it."

"Make sure you do fly out of the sun," he told them grudgingly.


Harry gaped at him. He had not expected this and was not sure he wanted to hear it. Friends they might be, but if Ron started calling Lavender 'Lav-Lav', he would have to pui his foot down.

"What were you doing up there with her!” shrieked Lavender Brown, staring right through Harry at Ron and Hermione emerging together from the boys' dormitories. Harry heard Ron splutter-ing behind him as he darted across the room away from them.

"I hope you are not tired of diving into other people's memories, for they are curious recollections, these two," he said. "This first one came from a very old house-elf by the name of Hokey. Before we see what Hokey witnessed, I must quickly recount how Lord Voldemort left Hogwarts.

"Ah," said Harry, brought up short. What with Apparition lessons and Quidditch and Ron being poisoned and getting his skull cracked and his determination to find out what Draco Malfoy was up to, Harry had almost forgotten about the memory Dumbledore had asked him to extract from Professor Slughorn. "Well, I asked Professor Slughorn about it at the end of Potions, sir, but, er, he wouldn't give it to me." There was a little silence.

"Never bin an area o' the forest I couldn' go before!" said Hagrid, shaking his head. "It wasn' easy, gettin' Aragog's body out o' there, I can tell yeh — they usually eat their dead, see. . . . But I wanted ter give 'im a nice burial... a proper send-off. . ."


'Harry ...'


"Ron, that's — that's it!" said Hermione, sounding stunned. "Of course! Why didn't I think of it?"


'You've just eaten half a box of Chocolate Cauldrons, haven't you?'


'I'm not fussed, really. I prefer flying,' said Harry, glancing over his shoulder to see where Malfoy was, and speeding up as they came into the Entrance Hall. 'Look, hurry up, will you, there's something I want to do ...',


The short queue of people waiting to file past Filch, who was do-ing his usual prodding act with the Secrecy Sensor, moved forward a few steps and Harry did not answer in case he was overheard by the caretaker. He wished Ron and Hermione both luck, then turned and climbed the marble staircase again, determined, whatever Her-mione said, to devote an hour or two to the Room of Requirement.;