Spying on the Slytherins

Zabini reports to Malfoy on the Slug Club recruitment drive while Harry listens in

Extract from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

By J.K. Rowling

The corridors were almost completely empty now. Nearly everyone had returned to their carriages to change into their school robes and pack up their possessions. Though he was as close as he could get to Zabini without touching him, Harry was not quick enough to slip into the compartment when Zabini opened the door. Zabini was already sliding it shut when Harry hastily stuck out his foot to prevent it closing.

‘What’s wrong with this thing?’ said Zabini angrily as he smashed the sliding door repeatedly into Harry’s foot. Harry seized the door and pushed it open, hard; Zabini, still clinging on to the handle, toppled over sideways into Gregory Goyle’s lap and, in the ensuing ruckus, Harry darted into the compartment, leapt on to Zabini’s temporarily empty seat and hoisted himself up into the luggage rack. It was fortunate that Goyle and Zabini were snarling at each other, drawing all eyes on to them, for Harry was quite sure his feet and ankles had been revealed as the Cloak had flapped around them; indeed, for one horrible moment he thought he saw Malfoy’s eyes follow his trainer as it whipped upwards out of sight; but then Goyle slammed the door shut and flung Zabini off him, Zabini collapsed into his own seat looking ruffled, Vincent Crabbe returned to his comic and Malfoy, sniggering, lay back down across two seats with his head in Pansy Parkinson’s lap. Harry lay curled uncomfortably under the Cloak to ensure that every inch of him remained hidden, and watched Pansy stroke the sleek blond hair off Malfoy’s forehead, smirking as she did so, as though anyone would have loved to have been in her place. The lanterns swinging from the carriage ceiling cast a bright light over the scene: Harry could read every word of Crabbe’s comic directly below him.

‘So, Zabini,’ said Malfoy, ‘what did Slughorn want?’

‘Just trying to make up to well-connected people,’ said Zabini, who was still glowering at Goyle. ‘Not that he managed to find many.’

This information did not seem to please Malfoy.

‘Who else had he invited?’ he demanded.

‘McLaggen from Gryffindor,’ said Zabini.

‘Oh yeah, his uncle’s big in the Ministry,’ said Malfoy. ‘– someone else called Belby, from Ravenclaw –’

‘Not him, he’s a prat!’ said Pansy.

‘– and Longbottom, Potter and that Weasley girl,’ finished Zabini.

Malfoy sat up very suddenly, knocking Pansy’s hand aside. 'He invited Longbottom?

'Well, I assume so, as Longbottom was there,’ said Zabini indifferently.

‘What’s Longbottom got to interest Slughorn?'

Zabini shrugged.

‘Potter, precious Potter, obviously he wanted a look at the Chosen One,’ sneered Malfoy, ‘but that Weasley girl! What’s so special about her?’

‘A lot of boys like her,’ said Pansy, watching Malfoy out of the corner of her eyes for his reaction. ‘Even you think she’s good-looking, don’t you, Blaise, and we all know how hard you are to please!’

‘I wouldn’t touch a filthy little blood traitor like her whatever she looked like,’ said Zabini coldly, and Pansy looked pleased. Malfoy sank back across her lap and allowed her to resume the stroking of his hair.

‘Well, I pity Slughorn’s taste. Maybe he’s going a bit senile. Shame, my father always said he was a good wizard in his day. My father used to be a bit of a favourite of his. Slughorn probably hasn’t heard I’m on the train, or –’

‘I wouldn’t bank on an invitation,’ said Zabini. ‘He asked me about Nott’s father when I first arrived. They used to be old friends, apparently, but when he heard he’d been caught at the Ministry he didn’t look happy, and Nott didn’t get an invitation, did he? I don’t think Slughorn’s interested in “Death Eaters.’

Malfoy looked angry, but forced out a singularly humourless laugh.

‘Well, who cares what he’s interested in? What is he, when you come down to it? Just some stupid teacher.’ Malfoy yawned ostentatiously. ‘I mean, I might not even be at Hogwarts next year, what’s it matter to me if some fat old has-been likes me or not?'

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

By J.K. Rowling