Hufflepuffs discuss the heir

Harry interrupts a group of Hufflepuff students, who are speculating that he might be the heir of Slytherin

Extract from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

By J.K. Rowling

A group of the Hufflepuffs who should have been in Herbology were indeed sitting at the back of the library, but they didn’t seem to be working. Between the long lines of high bookshelves, Harry could see that their heads were close together and they were having what looked like an absorbing conversation. He couldn’t see whether Justin was among them. He was walking towards them when something of what they were saying met his ears, and he paused to listen, hidden in the Invisibility section.

‘So anyway,’ a stout boy was saying, ‘I told Justin to hide up in our dormitory. I mean to say, if Potter’s marked him down as his next victim, it’s best if he keeps a low profile for a while. Of course, Justin’s been waiting for something like this to happen ever since he let slip to Potter he was Muggle-born. Justin actually told him he’d been down for Eton. That’s not the kind of thing you bandy about with Slytherin’s heir on the loose, is it?’

‘You definitely think it is Potter, then, Ernie?’ said a girl with blonde pigtails anxiously.

‘Hannah,’ said the stout boy solemnly, ‘he’s a Parselmouth. Everyone knows that’s the mark of a Dark wizard. Have you ever heard of a decent one who could talk to snakes? They called Slytherin himself Serpent-tongue.’

There was some heavy murmuring at this, and Ernie went on, ‘Remember what was written on the wall? Enemies of the Heir Beware. Potter had some sort of run-in with Filch. Next thing we know, Filch’s cat’s attacked. That first-year, Creevey, was annoying Potter at the Quidditch match, taking pictures of him while he was lying in the mud. Next thing we know, Creevey’s been attacked.’

‘He always seems so nice, though,’ said Hannah uncertainly, ‘and, well, he’s the one who made You-Know-Who disappear. He can’t be all bad, can he?’

Ernie lowered his voice mysteriously, the Hufflepuffs bent closer, and Harry edged nearer so that he could catch Ernie’s words.

‘No one knows how he survived that attack by You-Know-Who. I mean to say, he was only a baby when it happened. He should have been blasted into smithereens. Only a really powerful Dark wizard could have survived a curse like that.’ He dropped his voice until it was barely more than a whisper, and said, ‘That’s probably why You-Know-Who wanted to kill him in the first place. Didn’t want another Dark Lord competing with him. I wonder what other powers Potter’s been hiding?’

Harry couldn’t take any more. Clearing his throat loudly, he stepped out from behind the bookshelves. If he hadn’t been feeling so angry, he would have found the sight that greeted him funny: every one of the Hufflepuffs looked as though they had been Petrified by the sight of him, and the colour was draining out of Ernie’s face.

‘Hello,’ said Harry. ‘I’m looking for Justin Finch-Fletchley.’

The Hufflepuffs’ worst fears had clearly been confirmed. They all looked fearfully at Ernie.

‘What do you want with him?’ said Ernie, in a quavering voice.

‘I wanted to tell him what really happened with that snake at the Duelling Club,’ said Harry.

Ernie bit his white lips and then, taking a deep breath, said, ‘We were all there. We saw what happened.’

‘Then you noticed that, after I spoke to it, the snake backed off?’ said Harry.

‘All I saw,’ said Ernie stubbornly, though he was trembling as he spoke, ‘was you speaking Parseltongue and chasing the snake towards Justin.’

‘I didn’t chase it at him!’ Harry said, his voice shaking with anger. ‘It didn’t even touch him!’

‘It was a very near miss,’ said Ernie.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

By J.K. Rowling