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– CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE –
The Unknowable Room
Harry racked his brains over the next week as to how he was to persuade Slughorn to hand over the true memory, but nothing in the nature of a brainwave occurred and he was reduced to doing what he did increasingly these days when at a loss: poring over his Potions book, hoping that the Prince would have scribbled something useful in a margin, as he had done so many times before.
‘You won’t find anything in there,’ said Hermione firmly, late on Sunday evening.
‘Don’t start, Hermione,’ said Harry. ‘If it hadn’t been for the Prince, Ron wouldn’t be sitting here now.’
‘He would if you’d just listened to Snape in our first year,’ said Hermione dismissively.
Harry ignored her. He had just found an incantation (Sectumsempra!)
scrawled in a margin above the intriguing words ‘For Enemies’, and was itching to try it out, but thought it best not to in front of Hermione. Instead, he surreptitiously folded down the corner of the page.
They were sitting beside the fire in the common room; the only other people still up were fellow sixth-years. There had been a certain amount of excitement earlier when they had come back from dinner to find a new sign on the noticeboard that announced the date for their Apparition test. Those who would be seventeen on or before the first test date, the twenty-first of April, had the option of signing up for add-itional practice sessions, which would take place (heavily supervised) in Hogsmeade.
Ron had panicked on reading this notice; he had still not managed to Apparate and feared he would not be ready for the test. Hermione, who had now achieved Apparition twice, was a little more confident, but Harry, who would not be seventeen for another four months, could not take the test whether ready or not.
‘At least you can Apparate, though!’ said Ron tensely. ‘You’ll have no trouble come July!’
‘I’ve only done it once,’ Harry reminded him; he had finally managed to disappear and rematerialise inside his hoop during their previous lesson.
Having wasted a lot of time worrying aloud about Apparition, Ron was now struggling to finish a viciously difficult essay for Snape that Harry and Hermione had already completed. Harry fully expected to receive low marks on his, because he had disagreed with Snape on the best way to tackle Dementors, but he did not care: Slughorn’s memory was the most important thing to him now.
‘I’m telling you, the stupid Prince isn’t going to be able to help you with this, Harry!’ said Hermione, more loudly. ‘There’s only one way to force someone to do what you want, and that’s the Imperius Curse, which is illegal -‘
‘Yeah, I know that, thanks,’ said Harry, not looking up from the book. ‘That’s why I’m looking for something different. Dumbledore says Veritaserum won’t do it, but there might be something else, a potion or a spell…’
‘You’re going about it the wrong way,’ said Hermione. ‘Only you can get the memory, Dumbledore says. That must mean you can persuade Slughorn where other people can’t. It’s not a question of slipping him a potion, anyone could do that -‘
‘How d’you spell “belligerent”?’ said Ron, shaking his quill very hard while staring at his parchment. ‘It can’t be B – U – M -‘
‘No, it isn’t,’ said Hermione, pulling Ron’s essay towards her. ‘And “augury” doesn’t begin O – R – G either.