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        It was Luna and Dean. Seamus gave a great roar of delight and ran to hug his best friend.

        “Hi, everyone!” said Luna happily. “Oh, it’s great to be back!”

        “Luna,” said Harry distractedly, “what are you doing here? How did you — ?”

        “I sent for her,” said Neville, holding up the fake Galleon. “I promised her and Ginny that if you turned up I’d let them know. We all thought that if you came back, it would mean revolution. That we were going to overthrow Snape and the Carrows.”

        “Of course that’s what it means,” said Luna brightly. “Isn’t it, Harry? We’re going to fight them out of Hogwarts?”

        “Listen,” said Harry with a rising sense of panic, “I’m sorry, but that’s not what we came back for. There’s something we’ve got to do, and then —”

        “You’re going to leave us in this mess?” demanded Michael Corner.

        “No!” said Ron. “What we’re doing will benefit everyone in the end, it’s all about trying to get rid of You-Know-Who —”

        “Then let us help!” said Neville angrily. “We want to be a part of it!”










        There was another noise behind them, and Harry turned. His heart seemed to fail: Ginny was now climbing through the hole in the wall, closely followed by Fred, George, and Lee Jordan. Ginny gave Harry a radiant smile: He had forgotten, or had never fully appreciated, how beautiful she was, but he had never been less pleased to see her.

        “Aberforth’s getting a bit annoyed,” said Fred, raising his hand in answer to several cries of greeting. “He wants a kip, and his bar’s turned into a railway station.”

        Harry’s mouth fell open. Right behind Lee Jordan came Harry’s old girlfriend, Cho Chang. She smiled at him.

        “I got the message,” she said, holding up her own fake Galleon, and she walked over to sit beside Michael Corner.

        “So what’s the plan, Harry?” said George.

        “There isn’t one,” said Harry, still disoriented by the sudden appearance of all these people, unable to take everything in while his scar was still burning so fiercely.

        “Just going to make it up as we go along, are we? My favorite kind,” said Fred.








        “You’ve got to stop this!” Harry told Neville. “What did you call them all back for? This is insane —”

        “We’re fighting, aren’t we?” said Dean, taking out his fake Galleon. “The message said Harry was back, and we were going to fight! I’ll have to get a wand, though —”

        “You haven’t got a wand — ?” began Seamus.

        Ron turned suddenly to Harry.

        “Why can’t they help?”


        “They can help.” He dropped his voice and said, so that none of them could hear but Hermione, who stood between them, “We don’t know where it is. We’ve got to find it fast. We don’t have to tell them it’s a Horcrux.”








        Harry looked from Ron to Hermione, who murmured, “I think Ron’s right. We don’t even know what we’re looking for, we need them.” And when Harry looked unconvinced, “You don’t have to do everything alone, Harry.”

        Harry thought fast, his scar still prickling, his head threatening to split again. Dumbledore had warned him against telling anyone but Ron and Hermione about the Horcruxes. Secrets and lies, that’s how we grew up, and Albus . . . he was a natural. . . . Was he turning into Dumbledore, keeping his secrets clutched to his chest, afraid to trust? But Dumbledore had trusted Snape, and where had that led? To murder at the top of the highest tower . . .

        “All right,” he said quietly to the other two. “Okay,” he called to the room at large, and all noise ceased: Fred and George, who had been cracking jokes for the benefit of those nearest, fell silent, and all of them looked alert, excited.

        “There’s something we need to find,” Harry said. “Something — something that’ll help us overthrow You-Know-Who. It’s here at Hogwarts, but we don’t know where. It might have belonged to Ravenclaw. Has anyone heard of an object like that? Has anyone ever come across something with her eagle on it, for instance?”





        He looked hopefully toward the little group of Ravenclaws, to Padma, Michael, Terry, and Cho, but it was Luna who answered, perched on the arm of Ginny’s chair.

        “Well, there’s her lost diadem. I told you about it, remember, Harry? The lost diadem of Ravenclaw? Daddy’s trying to duplicate it.”

        “Yeah, but the lost diadem,” said Michael Corner, rolling his eyes, “is lost, Luna. That’s sort of the point.”

        “When was it lost?” asked Harry.

        “Centuries ago, they say,” said Cho, and Harry’s heart sank. “Professor Flitwick says the diadem vanished with Ravenclaw herself. People have looked, but,” she appealed to her fellow Ravenclaws, “nobody’s ever found a trace of it, have they?”

        They all shook their heads.

        “Sorry, but what is a diadem?” asked Ron.

        “It’s a kind of crown,” said Terry Boot. “Ravenclaw’s was supposed to have magical properties, enhance the wisdom of the wearer.”

        “Yes, Daddy’s Wrackspurt siphons —”

        But Harry cut across Luna.











        “And none of you have ever seen anything that looks like it?”

        They all shook their heads again. Harry looked at Ron and Hermione and his own disappointment was mirrored back at him. An object that had been lost this long, and apparently without trace, did not seem like a good candidate for the Horcrux hidden in the castle. . . . Before he could formulate a new question, however, Cho spoke again.

        “If you’d like to see what the diadem’s supposed to look like, I could take you up to our common room and show you, Harry? Ravenclaw’s wearing it in her statue.”

        Harry’s scar scorched again: For a moment the Room of Requirement swam before him, and he saw instead the dark earth soaring beneath him and felt the great snake wrapped around his shoulders. Voldemort was flying again, whether to the underground lake or here, to the castle, he did not know: Either way, there was hardly any time left.





        “He’s on the move,” he said quietly to Ron and Hermione. He glanced at Cho and then back at them. “Listen, I know it’s not much of a lead, but I’m going to go and look at this statue, at least find out what the diadem looks like. Wait for me here and keep, you know — the other one — safe.”

        Cho had got to her feet, but Ginny said rather fiercely, “No, Luna will take Harry, won’t you, Luna?”

        “Oooh, yes, I’d like to,” said Luna happily, and Cho sat down again, looking disappointed.

        “How do we get out?” Harry asked Neville.

        “Over here.”

        He led Harry and Luna to a corner, where a small cupboard opened onto a steep staircase.

        “It comes out somewhere different every day, so they’ve never been able to find it,” he said. “Only trouble is, we never know exactly where we’re going to end up when we go out. Be careful, Harry, they’re always patrolling the corridors at night.”

        “No problem,” said Harry. “See you in a bit.”









        He and Luna hurried up the staircase, which was long, lit by torches, and turned corners in unexpected places. At last they reached what appeared to be solid wall.

        “Get under here,” Harry told Luna, pulling out the Invisibility Cloak and throwing it over both of them. He gave the wall a little push.

        It melted away at his touch and they slipped outside: Harry glanced back and saw that it had resealed itself at once. They were standing in a dark corridor: Harry pulled Luna back into the shadows, fumbled in the pouch around his neck, and took out the Marauder’s Map. Holding it close to his nose he searched, and located his and Luna’s dots at last.

        “We’re up on the fifth floor,” he whispered, watching Filch moving away from them, a corridor ahead. “Come on, this way.”

        They crept off.






        Harry had prowled the castle at night many times before, but never had his heart hammered this fast, never had so much depended on his safe passage through the place. Through squares of moonlight upon the floor, past suits of armor whose helmets creaked at the sound of their soft footsteps, around corners beyond which who knew what lurked, Harry and Luna walked, checking the Marauder’s Map whenever light permitted, twice pausing to allow a ghost to pass without drawing attention to themselves. He expected to encounter an obstacle at any moment; his worst fear was Peeves, and he strained his ears with every step to hear the first, telltale signs of the poltergeist’s approach.

        “This way, Harry,” breathed Luna, plucking his sleeve and pulling him toward a spiral staircase.

        They climbed in tight, dizzying circles; Harry had never been up here before. At last they reached a door. There was no handle and no keyhole: nothing but a plain expanse of aged wood, and a bronze knocker in the shape of an eagle.




        Luna reached out a pale hand, which looked eerie floating in midair, unconnected to arm or body. She knocked once, and in the silence it sounded to Harry like a cannon blast. At once the beak of the eagle opened, but instead of a bird’s call, a soft, musical voice said, “Which came first, the phoenix or the flame?”

        “Hmm . . . What do you think, Harry?” said Luna, looking thoughtful.

        “What? Isn’t there just a password?”

        “Oh no, you’ve got to answer a question,” said Luna.

        “What if you get it wrong?”

        “Well, you have to wait for somebody who gets it right,” said Luna. “That way you learn, you see?”

        “Yeah . . . Trouble is, we can’t really afford to wait for anyone else, Luna.”

        “No, I see what you mean,” said Luna seriously. “Well then, I think the answer is that a circle has no beginning.”

        “Well reasoned,” said the voice, and the door swung open.










        The deserted Ravenclaw common room was a wide, circular room, airier than any Harry had ever seen at Hogwarts. Graceful arched windows punctuated the walls, which were hung with blue-and-bronze silks: By day, the Ravenclaws would have a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains. The ceiling was domed and painted with stars, which were echoed in the midnight-blue carpet. There were tables, chairs, and bookcases, and in a niche opposite the door stood a tall statue of white marble.

        Harry recognized Rowena Ravenclaw from the bust he had seen at Luna’s house. The statue stood beside a door that led, he guessed, to dormitories above. He strode right up to the marble woman, and she seemed to look back at him with a quizzical half smile on her face, beautiful yet slightly intimidating. A delicate-looking circlet had been reproduced in marble on top of her head. It was not unlike the tiara Fleur had worn at her wedding. There were tiny words etched into it. Harry stepped out from under the Cloak and climbed up onto Ravenclaw’s plinth to read them.

        “ ‘Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.’ ”

        “Which makes you pretty skint, witless,” said a cackling voice.

        Harry whirled around, slipped off the plinth, and landed on the floor. The sloping-shouldered figure of Alecto Carrow was standing before him, and even as Harry raised his wand, she pressed a stubby forefinger to the skull and snake branded on her forearm.







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