Chapter 19 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Elf Tails
Ron is in the Hospital Wing with Hermione, Ginny, and Harry at his bedside. Fred and George, who were in Hogsmeade investigating opening a Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes shop, are also there. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley arrive and express their sincere gratitude to Harry for continually saving Weasley lives.
Hagrid, who is also visiting Ron, says Aragog is getting worse. He lets slip to Harry and Hermione that Hogwarts could be closed due to the increasingly dangerous incidents. He also overheard Dumbledore and Snape arguing over something Snape no longer wanted to do. Dumbledore firmly reminded Snape that the latter gave his word. There was also a reference about Snape's investigations in Slytherin, which Hagrid assumes is about the cursed necklace. Hagrid's information deepens Harry's suspicions about Snape.
Later, Harry grudgingly agrees to Cormac McLaggen's request to replace Ron as Keeper. Meanwhile, Harry continues watching Draco's movements on the Marauder's Map, though he is beset with classes, homework, Quidditch practice, and Cormac repeatedly pestering him with strategy ideas. Lavender also constantly pesters him about Ron, saying that he is always asleep whenever she visits.
On his way to the next Quidditch match, Harry notices Draco and two sulky-looking girls heading into the castle. Harry is certain that Draco is going to his usual hidden place, and sorely wants to follow, but he is already late. Harry is astonished that Luna has been appointed as the Quidditch match commentator; her dreamy game description has everyone laughing, except Professor McGonagall. McLaggen, attempting to micromanage the team, borrows a Beater's club and accidentally hits a Bludger at Harry, cracking his skull and landing him in the infirmary with Ron.
While recovering in the infirmary, Harry realizes he can order Kreacher to trail Draco. He summons, the Black family House-elf that he inherited with Number 12, Grimmauld Place. Kreacher appears, along with Dobby. The two are fighting, apparently because Kreacher made insulting remarks about Harry. Harry instructs the two elves to trail Draco Malfoy and to bring him regular reports on everywhere Malfoy goes and what he does. He forbids Kreacher from warning Malfoy in any way. Kreacher sulkily obeys, saying he would prefer having Draco as his master.
Harry's quick thinking saved Ron from certain death. Although Hermione continually chastises Harry for using the Half-Blood Prince's methods, in this instance, she is grateful for what the Prince taught him. Hermione's silent vigil by Ron's sickbed is mute testament to her feelings about him; that he may feel the same is evidenced by his response to her voice, when she finally speaks.
Someone obviously knew that Slughorn intended to give Dumbledore the mead and poisoned it to murder him. It is also possible that the cursed necklace that nearly killed Katie Bell was also intended for Dumbledore. Harry remains convinced that Draco perpetrated the attacks, but he lacks specific proof tying Draco to either object. Though Draco was at Borgin & Burkes where Harry saw the necklace, many other people could also have been there. Regardless, Harry becomes more determined than ever to uncover what Draco is doing.
Though Harry's suspicions as to who was the intended recipient or the delivery agent of either the necklace or the mead is the only proof we have, it would be useful to consider these objects' source.
Draco and the two sulky girls that are often with him is another interesting point. It is unusual for Draco to have girls, particularly younger ones, as companions. Why would he suddenly have sidekicks so different from his usual hangers-on, Crabbe and Goyle?
Although he is magically bound to obey Harry, Kreacher is less than trustworthy and remains loyal to the Black family, and by extension, the Malfoys (through Narcissa), which is why Harry specifically orders him to reveal nothing to Draco. Harry may have been a bit careless in his instructions, however. Although Harry orders Kreacher to reveal nothing to Draco, Kreacher is clever and devious enough that he could bypass his master's orders by relaying information to Draco through someone else. Kreacher previously manipulated Sirius Black's orders after he told Kreacher to "leave", which Kreacher twisted into meaning he should leave Grimmauld Place. He then visited Narcissa Malfoy, providing her with valuable information about Sirius and Harry.
- Why might Hogwarts close?
- Why is Ron always asleep when Lavender visits him in the hospital wing?
- Why did Harry have Kreacher, rather than Dobby, tail Draco? Why does Dobby participate?
- How did Kreacher come to Hogwarts?
- What agreement might Dumbledore and Snape have? Why would Snape want to back out?
- What might Snape be investigating in Slytherin House? Is he a reliable source to do this?
Hagrid's concerns about Aragog are well-founded. Aragog will die shortly, and Hagrid will invite Harry to his funeral. With a little magical help, Harry will be able to use this event to retrieve Slughorn's memory that Dumbledore needs. However, the next lesson with Dumbledore will occur before this happens, and Dumbledore will be disappointed that Harry has been unable to retrieve the memory.
The argument that Hagrid overheard between Snape and Dumbledore will be revisited in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, where it is essentially heard in its entirety. Snape threatened to renege on his promise to Dumbledore to kill him in order to spare Draco, under orders from Voldemort, from carrying out this task. Dumbledore believes Snape will follow through, as he presumably knows that Snape has made an Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa; still, the threat is real and must be addressed, as Snape could, presumably, somehow convince Draco to kill Dumbledore rather than doing it himself. Hagrid felt that Dumbledore was not his usual self, and seemed angrier than usual. By this time, the curse that had destroyed Dumbledore's hand was gaining force, though bottled up in his hand, for eight months; no doubt it was causing discomfort, and continuous pain can make anyone, even someone as patient as Dumbledore, rather testy.
We know from Katie's friend Leanne, that the cursed necklace that injured Katie Bell was given to her at The Three Broomsticks. Though there is no proof, it is possible that this may have been aimed at Dumbledore, along with the poisoned mead. Whatever its eventual destination, it seems likely that the mead's source would be The Three Broomsticks; Slughorn is unlikely to trust the Hog's Head for his needs, he is too much the aesthete. This points to a center of malevolence in the Three Broomsticks; we discover later that that center is Madam Rosmerta, placed under the Imperius curse by Draco Malfoy.
In the previous chapter, during the Apparition lesson, we heard Crabbe complaining to Malfoy about something Malfoy requires him to do. That turns out to be Malfoy having him and Goyle use Polyjuice Potion to transform into small girls, and stand guard outside the Room of Requirement while Malfoy worked inside on his project for Voldemort. In the next chapter, Dobby and Kreacher will report to Harry that Draco has been in the Room of Requirement; Harry correctly guesses that Crabbe and Goyle appeared on the Marauders' Map loitering in a hallway because they were guarding that doorway. The two sulky-looking girls accompanying Draco prior to the Quidditch match are almost certainly the disguised Crabbe and Goyle, likely upset because they are unable to retain their muscular physiques while guarding the door, and annoyed at the prospect of an hour or more of boredom.
While Kreacher is devious, and claims he would much prefer to have Draco as his master rather than Harry, he is unable to avoid Harry's restriction on informing Draco that he is being tailed. Possibly, this is because Dobby has volunteered to provide the same report, and Kreacher knows that he cannot avoid Dobby. Kreacher's report to Harry will, however, be valueless, consisting only of praise for Draco and insults for Harry. Dobby's account informs Harry where Draco is going, though not what he is doing there.