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"Petrificus Totalus!" yelled Harry, struggling to cling to the smooth, soaked surface of the island as he pointed his wand at the Inferius that had his arm. It released him, falling backward into the water with a splash; he scrambled to his feet, but many more Inferi were already climbing onto the rock, their bony hands clawing at its slippery surface, their blank, frosted eyes upon him, trailing waterlogged rags, sunken faces leering.
Fawkes the phoenix looked round, his bright black eyes gleaming with reflected gold from the sunset beyond the window. Dumbledore was standing at the window look-ing out at the grounds, a long, black travelling cloak in his arms.
Blood spurted from Malfoy's face and chest as though he had been slashed with an invisible sword. He staggered backward and collapsed onto the waterlogged floor with a great splash, his wand falling from his limp right hand.
"There's no need, I got cut on the rock," said Harry firmly. "Just tell me where. . . ."
Ron pulled his copy of Advanced Potion-Making out of his bag and handed it over; Harry sprinted off past him and back to the common room. Here, he seized his schoolbag, ignoring the amazed looks of several people who had already finished their dinner, threw himself back out of the portrait hole, and hurtled off along the seventh-floor corridor.
They had one of their rare joint free periods after Charms and walked back to the common room together. Ron seemed to be positively lighthearted about the end of his relationship with Lavender, and Hermione seemed cheery too, though when asked what she was grinning about she simply said, "It's a nice day." Neither of them seemed to have noticed that a fierce battle was raging inside Harry's brain:
"Oh, don't start acting as though you understand Quidditch," snapped Ginny, "you'll only embarrass yourself."
'... but then we were rudely interrupted by Severus Snape!'
'How can I have hung round with you for five years and not think girls are clever?' said Harry, stung by this. 'It's the way he writes. I just know the Prince was a bloke, I can tell. This girl hasn't got anything to do with it. Where did you get this, anyway?'
"Sir," said Harry, trying to keep his voice reasonable, "sir, this is Voldemort we're —"
"I don't quite understand how that works, though, sir," said Riddle.
'Yeah, and the Saturday after that, and the Saturday after that,' sighed Harry. 'And he's hinting now that if I don't get all the boxes done by the end of term, we'll carry on next year.'
"Are you telling me," said Hermione, "that you're going to go back — ?"
Chapter 24: Sectumsempra
"I am not worried, Harry," said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. "I am with you."