“You know, Minerva,” Professor Dumbledore said thoughtfully to Professor McGonagall,
“I think all this merits a good feast. Might I ask you to go and alert the kitchens?”
“Right,” said Professor McGonagall crisply, also moving to the door. “I'll leave
you to deal with Potter and Weasley, shall I?”
“Certainly,” said Dumbledore.
She left, and Harry and Ron gazed uncertainly at Dumbledore. What exactly had
Professor McGonagall meant, deal with them? Surely—surely—they weren't about to
“I seem to remember telling you both that I would have to expel you if you broke
any more school rules, said Dumbledore.
Ron opened his mouth in horror.
“Which goes to show that the best of us must sometimes eat our words,” Dumbledore
went on, smiling. “You will both receive Special Awards for Services to the School
and—let me see—yes, I think two hundred points apiece for Gryffindor.”
Ron went as brightly pink as Lockhart's valentine flowers and closed his mouth
“But one of us seems to be keeping mightily quiet about his part in this dangerous
adventure,” Dumbledore added. “Why so modest, Gilderoy?”
Harry gave a start. He had completely forgotten about Lockhart. He turned and
saw that Lockhart was standing in a corner of the room, still wearing his vague
smile. When Dumbledore addressed him, Lockhart looked over his shoulder to see who
he was talking to.
“Professor Dumbledore,” Ron said quickly, “there was an accident down in the
Chamber of Secrets. Professor Lockhart—”
“Am I a professor?” said Lockhart in mild surprise. “Goodness. I expect I was
hopeless, was I?”
“He tried to do a Memory Charm and the wand backfired,” Ron explained quietly
“Dear me,” said Dumbledore, shaking his head, his long silver mustache quivering.
“Impaled upon your own sword, Gilderoy!”
“Sword?” said Lockhart dimly. “Haven't got a sword. That boy has, though.” He
pointed at Harry. “He'll lend you one.”
“Would you mind taking Professor Lockhart up to the infirmary, too?” Dumbledore
said to Ron. “Id like a few more words with Harry...”
Lockhart ambled out. Ron cast a curious look back at Dumbledore and Harry as
he closed the door.
Dumbledore crossed to one of the chairs by the fire.
“Sit down, Harry,” he said, and Harry sat, feeling unaccountably nervous.
“First of all, Harry, I want to thank you,” said Dumbledore, eyes twinkling again.
“You must have shown me real loyalty down in the Chamber. Nothing but that could
have called Fawkes to you.”
He stroked the phoenix, which had fluttered down onto his knee. Harry grinned
awkwardly as Dumbledore watched him.
“And so you met Tom Riddle,” said Dumbledore thoughtfully. “I imagine he was
most interested in you...”
Suddenly, something that was nagging at Harry came tumbling out of his mouth.
“Professor Dumbledore... Riddle said I'm like him. Strange likenesses, he said...”
“Did he, now?” said Dumbledore, looking thoughtfully at Harry from under his
thick silver eyebrows. “And what do you think, Harry?”
“I don't think I'm like him!” said Harry, more loudly than he'd intended. “I
mean, I'm—I'm in Gryffindor, I'm...”
But he fell silent, a lurking doubt resurfacing in his mind.
“Professor,” he started again after a moment. “The Sorting Hat told me I'd—I'd
have done well in Slytherin. Everyone thought I was Slytherin's heir for a while...
because I can speak Parseltongue...”
“You can speak Parseltongue, Harry,” said Dumbledore calmly, “because Lord Voldemort—who
is the last remaining ancestor of Salazar Slytherin—can speak Parseltongue. Unless
I'm much mistaken, he transferred some of his own powers to you the night he gave
you that scar. Not something he intended to do, I'm sure...”
“Voldemort put a bit of himself in me?” Harry said, thunderstruck.
“It certainly seems so.”
“So I should be in Slytherin,” Harry said, looking desperately into Dumbledore's
face. “The Sorting Hat could see Slytherin's power in me, and it—”
“Put you in Gryffindor,” said Dumbledore calmly. “Listen to me, Harry. You happen
to have many qualities Salazar Slytherin prized in his handpicked students. His
own very rare gift, Parseltongue—resourcefulness—determination—a certain disregard
for rules,” he added, his mustache quivering again. “Yet the Sorting Hat placed
you in Gryffindor. You know why that was. Think.”
“It only put me in Gryffindor,” said Harry in a defeated voice, “because I asked
not to go in Slytherin...”
“Exactly,” said Dumbledore, beaming once more. “Which makes you very different
from Tom Riddle. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more
than our abilities.” Harry sat motionless in his chair, stunned. “If you want proof,
Harry, that you belong in Gryffindor, I suggest you look more closely at this.”
Dumbledore reached across to Professor McGonagall's desk, picked up the blood-stained
silver sword, and handed it to Harry. Dully, Harry turned it over, the rubies blazing
in the firelight. And then he saw the name engraved just below the hilt.
“Only a true Gryffindor could have pulled that out of the hat, Harry,” said Dumbledore
For a minute, neither of them spoke. Then Dumbledore pulled open one of the drawers
in Professor McGonagall's desk and took out a quill and a bottle of ink.
What you need, Harry, is some food and sleep. I suggest you go down to the feast,
while I write to Azkaban—we need our gamekeeper back. And I must draft an advertisement
for the Daily Prophet, too,” he added thoughtfully. “We'll be needing a new Defense
Against the Dark Arts teacher... Dear me, we do seem to run through them, don't
Harry got up and crossed to the door. He had just reached for the handle, however,
when the door burst open so violently that it bounced back off the wall.
Lucius Malfoy stood there, fury in his face. And cowering behind his legs, heavily
wrapped in bandages, was Dobby.
“Good evening, Lucius,” said Dumbledore pleasantly.
Mr. Malfoy almost knocked Harry over as he swept into the room. Dobby went scurrying
in after him, crouching at the hem of his cloak, a look of abject terror on his
The elf was carrying a stained rag with which he was attempting to finish cleaning
Mr. Malfoys shoes. Apparently Mr. Malfoy had set out in a great hurry, for not only
were his shoes half-polished, but his usually sleek hair was disheveled. Ignoring
the elf bobbing apologetically around his ankles, he fixed his cold eyes upon Dumbledore.
“So!” he said “You've come back. The governors suspended you, but you still saw
fit to return to Hogwarts.”
“Well, you see, Lucius,” said Dumbledore, smiling serenely, “the other eleven
governors contacted me today. It was something like being caught in a hailstorm
of owls, to tell the truth. They'd heard that Arthur Weasleys daughter had been
killed and wanted me back here at once. They seemed to think I was the best man
for the job after all. Very strange tales they told me, too... Several of them seemed
to think that you had threatened to curse their families if they didn't agree to
suspend me in the first place.”
Mr. Malfoy went even paler than usual, but his eyes were still slits of fury.
“So—have you stopped the attacks yet?” he sneered. “Have you caught the culprit?”
“We have,” said Dumbledore, with a smile.
“Well?” said Mr. Malfoy sharply. “Who is it?”
“The same person as last time, Lucius,” said Dumbledore. “But this time, Lord
Voldemort was acting through somebody else. By means of this diary.”
He held up the small black book with the large hole through the center, watching
Mr. Malfoy closely. Harry, however, was watching Dobby.
The elf was doing something very odd. His great eyes fixed meaningfully on Harry,
he kept pointing at the diary, then at Mr. Malfoy, and then hitting himself hard
on the head with his fist.
“I see...” said Mr. Malfoy slowly to Dumbledore.
“A clever plan,” said Dumbledore in a level voice, still staring Mr. Malfoy straight
in the eye. “Because if Harry here”—Mr. Malfoy shot Harry a swift, sharp look—”and
his friend Ron hadn't discovered this book, why—Ginny Weasley might have taken all
the blame. No one would ever have been able to prove she hadn't acted of her own
Mr. Malfoy said nothing. His face was suddenly mask-like.
“And imagine,” Dumbledore went on, “what might have happened then... The Weasleys
are one of our most prominent pure-blood families. Imagine the effect on Arthur
Weasley and his Muggle Protection Act, if his own daughter was discovered attacking
and—killing Muggle-borns... Very fortunate the diary was discovered, and Riddle's
memories wiped from it. “Who knows what the consequences might have been otherwise...”
Mr. Malfoy forced himself to speak.
“Very fortunate,” he said stiffly.
And still, behind his back, Dobby was pointing, first to the diary, then to Lucius
Malfoy, then punching himself in the head.
And Harry suddenly understood. He nodded at Dobby, and Dobby backed into a corner,
now twisting his ears in punishment.
“Don't you want to know how Ginny got hold of that diary, Mr. Malfoy?” said Harry.
Lucius Malfoy rounded on him.
“How should I know how the stupid little girl got hold of it?” he said.
“Because you gave it to her,” said Harry. “In Flourish and Blotts. You picked
up her old Transfiguration book and slipped the diary inside it, didn't you?”
He saw Mr. Malfoy's white hands clench and unclench.
“Prove it,” he hissed.
“Oh, no one will be able to do that,” said Dumbledore, smiling at Harry. “Not
now that Riddle has vanished from the book. On the other hand, I would advise you,
Lucius, not to go giving out any more of Lord Voldemort's old school things. If
any more of them find their way into innocent hands, I think Arthur Weasley, for
one, will make sure they are traced back to you...”
Lucius Malfoy stood for a moment, and Harry distinctly saw his right hand twitch
as though he was longing to reach for his wand. Instead, he turned to his house-elf
“We're going, Dobby!”
He wrenched open the door and as the elf came hurrying up to him, he kicked him
right through it. They could hear Dobby squealing with pain all the way along the
corridor. Harry stood for a moment, thinking hard. Then it came to him —
“Professor Dumbledore,” he said hurriedly. “Can I give that diary back to Mr.
“Certainly, Harry,” said Dumbledore calmly. “But hurry. The feast, remember...”
Harry grabbed the diary and dashed out of the office. He could hear Dobby's squeals
of pain receding around the corner. Quickly, wondering if this plan could possibly
work, Harry took off one of his shoes, pulled off his slimy, filthy sock, and stuffed
the diary into it. Then he ran down the dark corridor.
He caught up with them at the top of the stairs.
“Mr. Malfoy,” he gasped, skidding to a halt, “I've got something for you—”
And he forced the smelly sock into Lucius Malfoy's hand.
“What the -?”
Mr. Malfoy ripped the sock off the diary, threw it aside, then looked furiously
from the ruined book to Harry.
You'll meet the same sticky end as your parents one of these days, Harry Potter,”
he said softly. “They were meddlesome fools, too.
He turned to go.
“Come, Dobby. I said, come.”
But Dobby didn't move. He was holding up Harry's disgusting, slimy sock, and
looking at it as though it were a priceless treasure.
“Master has given a sock,” said the elf in wonderment. “Master gave it to Dobby.”
“What's that?” spat Mr. Malfoy. “What did you say?”
“Got a sock,” said Dobby in disbelief. “Master threw it, and Dobby caught it,
and Dobby—Dobby is free. “
Lucius Malfoy stood frozen, staring at the elf Then he lunged at Harry.
“You've lost me my servant, boy!”
But Dobby shouted, “You shall not harm Harry Potter!”
There was a loud bang, and Mr. Malfoy was thrown backward. He crashed down the
stairs, three at a time, landing in a crumpled heap on the landing below. He got
up, his face livid, and pulled out his wand, but Dobby raised a long, threatening
“You shall go now,” he said fiercely, pointing down at Mr. Malfoy. “You shall
not touch Harry Potter. You shall go now.”
Lucius Malfoy had no choice. With a last, incensed stare at the pair of them,
he swung his cloak around him and hurried out of sight.
“Harry Potter freed Dobby!” said the elf shrilly, gazing up at Harry, moonlight
from the nearest window reflected in his orb-like eyes. “Harry Potter set Dobby
“Least I could do, Dobby,” said Harry, grinning. “Just promise never to try and
save my life again.”
The elf's ugly brown face split suddenly into a wide, toothy smile.
“I've just got one question, Dobby,” said Harry as Dobby pulled on Harry's sock
with shaking hands. “You told me all this had nothing to do with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,
“It was a clue, sir,” said Dobby, his eyes widening, as though this was obvious.
“Was giving you a clue. The Dark Lord, before he changed his name, could be freely
named, you see?”
“Right,” said Harry weakly. “Well, Id better go. There's a feast, and my friend
Hermione should be awake by now...”
Dobby threw his arms around Harry's middle and hugged him.
“Harry Potter is greater by far than Dobby knew!” he sobbed. “Farewell, Harry
And with a final loud crack, Dobby disappeared.
Harry had been to several Hogwarts feasts, but never one quite like this. Everybody
was in their pajamas, and the celebration lasted all night. Harry didn't know whether
the best bit was Hermione running toward him, screaming “You solved it! You solved
it!” or Justin hurrying over from the Hufflepuff table to wring. his hand and apologize
endlessly for suspecting him, or Hagrid turning up at half past three, cuffing Harry
and Ron so hard on the shoulders that they were knocked into their plates of trifle,
or his and Ron's four hundred points for Gryffindor securing the House Cup for the
second year running, or Professor McGonagall standing up to tell them all that the
exams had been canceled as a school treat (“Oh, no!” said Hermione), or Dumbledore
announcing that, unfortunately, Professor Lockhart would be unable to return next
year, owing to the fact that he needed to go away and get his memory back. Quite
a few of the teachers joined in the cheering that greeted this news.