The Unknowable Room (HBP)

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The Unknowable Room is the twenty-first chapter of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.


It is Sunday evening; only sixth-years sit in the Gryffindor common room. The date of their Apparition test has just been announced on the notice board: April 21. Those who turn seventeen until then are allowed to sign up for additional practice sessions in Hogsmeade.

Ron panics, not yet having figured out how to Apparate; Hermione's succeeded twice, and is more confident. Harry's managed to do so once (in their last lesson), but he does not qualify, and can only be tested after July 31.

Harry unsuccessfully tries to come up with ways to obtain the memory from Slughorn. He tries perusing his copy of Advanced Potion-Making looking for ideas, much to Hermione's exasperation. When he points out that, if it weren't for the Half-Blood Prince, Ron wouldn't be alive, she reminds him that Snape taught them about the bezoar in their first year (PS8).

Harry finds the incantation Sectumsempra on the book, with "For enemies" written above it. He folds the corner of the page, planning to try it out later.

Ron is trying to finish an essay for Defence Against the Dark Arts. Harry's already done it (so has Hermione), and expects to receive low marks for having disagreed with Snape regarding the best way to defeat Dementors.

Hermione insists that the only way to force someone to do what he wants is the Imperius Curse, and Harry's wondering whether some potion other than Veritaserum—which, according to Dumbledore, won't work—or a spell will work. Hermione says that only Harry can get it, which means that persuasion will have to be the key.


Meanwhile, Ron is having troubles with his essay. The Spell-Check Quill from Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes he's using is misspelling several words, including 'belligerent' (B — U — M —), 'augury' (O — R — G —), 'Dementors' (Dug-bogs) and Ron's own name (Roonil Wazlib); its charm is wearing off.

Hermione volunteers to fix his essay with her wand. Ron says, "I love you, Hermione," and she blushes, recommending, "Don't let Lavender hear you saying that."

"I won't. Or maybe I will, and then she'll ditch me."

Harry suggests that Ron ditch her already, but the Weasley replies that Harry's never done so, and cannot know how hard it is ("The more I hint I want to finish it, the tighter she holds on. It's like going out with the giant squid"). He wishes the relationship would fall apart, like what happened with Harry and Cho.

Hermione finishes correcting the essay and lends her quill so that Ron can finish writing it.

Harry looks around: they are the last ones in the common room; Seamus has just gone to bed, cursing Snape and the essay. He closes Advanced Potion-Making and is about to go to bed.

Elf tails

A cracking noise comes out of nowhere; Kreacher arrives to report regarding Draco, and is soon followed by Dobby. Ron, startled, spills ink all over his essay.

Dobby complains that Kreacher did not warn him that he would come to report. The house-elves say that they have been tailing Draco without ceasing; Dobby hasn't slept in a week. Hermione is indignant, and Harry quickly instructs Dobby that he can, of course, sleep.

Kreacher reports first, saying, "Mister Malfoy moves with a nobility that befits his pure blood. His features recall the fine bones of my mistress and his manners are those of—"

Dobby interrupts him. "Draco Malfoy is a bad boy! A bad boy who — who —" he shudders and is about to dive into the fire when Harry catches him. "Thank you, Harry Potter. Dobby still finds it difficult to speak ill of his old masters. But Kreacher should know that Draco Malfoy is not a good master to a house-elf!"

Kreacher's information is useless, related only to Draco's routine. Dobby adds that Malfoy hasn't been going anywhere he oughtn't, to the elf's knowledge, but he is trying hard to avoid being detected. He goes to the seventh floor frequently, accompanied by other students, who watch him while he enters the Room of Requirement.

Harry realises that that is why Draco's been disappearing off the Marauder's Map. Ron wonders if the Marauders didn't know of its existence, and Hermione points out that the place is probably unplottable if a person wishes it to be.

Doby says that it is impossible to enter the room to see what Draco's doing. Harry disagrees; Malfoy stormed the DA headquarters the previous year (OP27). Hermione is of the same opinion as the elf, because in that case Draco knew exactly what they were using the place for, because of Marietta Edgecombe's betrayal, and because of that he could ask it to become precisely what it was for the rebel students.

Harry thanks Dobby. Hermione congratulates Kreacher as well, and the elf is horrified and determined to ignore the Mudblood speaking to him. Harry orders him to disappear, and Dobby to get some sleep. Both elves vanish.


Harry is ecstatic. Ron doesn't seem to care much about the information they've received—the ink has destroyed his essay. Hermione once again uses magic, and siphons the ink off with her wand. She comments that it would be odd for Draco to share details of whatever he's up to with several students.

Harry remembers that Draco told Crabbe off for being nosy (HBP18), and realises that Malfoy must've nicked some Polyjuice Potion during their first Potions class (HBP9). He has, therefore, been using Crabbe and Goyle as lookouts, disguised as girls: Harry and Hermione have met them (HBP14, HBP19, HBP20). The two Slytherins were probably convinced when Malfoy showed them his Dark Mark (Hermione still doubts it exists).

She bids them good night. Ron is still mulling over the upcoming Apparition Test, and gives Harry no more attention.

Harry stays awake for a long time that night, wondering what Draco's been up to in the Room of Requirement.


The following morning, he has a free period before Defence Against the Dark Arts, and plans to use it to enter the Room. Hermione ignores his conjectures, and is of the opinion that Harry should focus on Slughorn instead.

She is reading the Daily Prophet, and mentions that Mundungus Fletcher has been sent to Azkaban for impersonating an Inferius in a burglary attempt. Octavius Pepper has vanished. A nine-year-old boy tried to kill his grandparents, probably under the effect of the Imperius Curse.

After breakfast, Hermione goes to Ancient Runes; Ron goes to the common room to finish his essay, and Harry, to the deserted seventh floor. He puts on his Invisibility Cloak, and tries to think of several variations of "I need to see what Malfoy's doing there," with no success: the wall behind the door remains solid, and sometimes the door doesn't even appear.

Harry swears loudly in frustration, and several first-years who are passing by are terrified, afraid that they have run into a foul-mouthed ghost. He continues trying to enter for an hour, after which he gives up and leaves to Defence Against the Dark Arts.

Most of the class still hasn't sat down, but Snape tells him off for his tardiness anyway, and takes ten points from Gryffindor.

Inferi and ghosts

Snape collects the Dementor essays with his wand (probably using a non-verbal Summoning Charm) and sneers, "I hope for your sakes they are better than the tripe I had to endure on resisting the Imperius Curse."

Seamus interrupts him before the lesson can start, and asks what the difference between an Inferius and a ghost is—there was, according to him, something in the paper about Inferi. Snape corrects him: there wasn't; "if you had actually read the article in question, Mr. Finnigan, you would have known that the so-called Inferius was nothing but a smelly sneak thief by the name of Mundungus Fletcher."

Harry mutters to Ron and Hermione that Snape should've been upset by the arrest, considering he and Dung are on the same side. Severus notices him talking, and asks him to reply to Seamus' question instead.

Harry makes an effort to remember what Dumbledore's told him on the subject (HBP4) and comes up with, "Er — well — ghosts are transparent —"

"Oh, very good. Yes, it is easy to see that nearly six years of magical education have not been wasted on you, Potter. 'Ghosts are transparent.'"

Pansy Parkinson giggles, and many other smokes.

"Yeah," Harry continues, "ghosts are transparent, but Inferi are dead bodies, aren't they? So they'd be solid —"

"A five-year-old could have told us as much. The Inferius is a corpse that has been reanimated by a Dark wizard's spell. It is not alive, it is merely used like a puppet to do the wizard's bidding. A ghost, as I trust that you are all aware by now, is the imprint of a departed soul left upon the earth, and of course, as Potter so wisely tells us, transparent."

"Well, what Harry said is the most useful if we're trying to tell them apart!" Ron intervenes. "When we come face-to-face with one down a dark alley, we're going to be having to look to see if it's solid, aren't we, we're not going to be asking, 'Excuse me, are you the imprint of a departed soul?'"

Snape takes ten more points from Gryffindor, and mocks Ron for being so solid that he can't even Apparate. Hermione prevents Harry from arguing further.

Severus orders everyone to open their books to page 213, and begin reading about the Cruciatus Curse. Ron is quiet the rest of the class. When it ends, Lavender approaches the Trio (Hermione disappears at once) and starts speaking ill of Snape for offending Ron.

Ron and Harry make their way to the boys' bathroom in order to avoid Lavender.


Ron stares into a cracked mirror for a while before admitting that he is unable to learn Apparition. Harry advises him to wait until the practice lessons in Hogsmeade are worried—in any case, it is always possible for Ron to take the test in July as well.

Suddenly, Moaning Myrtle arrives. She is sad to see that it is Ron and Harry, and not another boy who had promised to come and see her. "But then you said you'd pop in and visit me too, and I haven't seen you for months and moths. I've learned not to expect too much from boys."

Harry points out that she lives in the girls' bathroom (a place he's studiously avoided for years). "I do, but that doesn't mean I can't visit other places. I came and saw you in your bath once, remember?"

"Vividly," Harry replies (GF25).

"But I thought he liked me. Maybe if you two left, he'd come back again. We had lots in common. I'm sure he felt it."

Ron wonders if the boy "lives in an S-bend too."

"No. I mean he's sensitive, people bully him too, and he feels lonely and hasn't got anybody to talk to, and he's not afraid to show his feelings and cry!"

Harry is curious to find out that a boy's been crying there. Myrtle announces that she's promised not to tell anyone. Ron mocks her with the use of the expression "take [a] secret to the grave," and the ghost dives back into a toilet.

Ron seems to have been cheered up by the encounter, and promises to go to Hogsmeade.

New attempts

The following weekend, Ron and Hermione go to Hogsmeade. Meanwhile, Harry focuses on trying to enter the Room of Requirement. Hermione tries to convince him to get the memory from Slughorn instead.

Harry says he's been trying: he's stayed behind in every Potions class to talk to the teacher, but Horace hurried out of the classroom before the boy could have a chance. Harry also went to his office twice, to no avail—one time, he heard the sound of an old gramophone. She maintains that he should insist.

Filch prods all outgoing students with his Secrecy Sensor, and Harry bids farewell to his friends.

Harry uses the Marauder's Map and the Invisibility Cloak to get to the seventh floor. He notices that most students are in their common rooms: Gryffindors in one tower, Ravenclaws in another, Slytherins in the dungeons, Hufflepuffs in the basement near the kitchens. The only person in the seventh floor is Gregory Goyle.

Harry sees the same little girl carrying brass scales that Hermione helped. Harry quietly approaches her from behind and whispers, "Hello... you're very pretty, aren't you?"

Goyle lets out a high-pitched scream and runs away. Laughing, Harry faces the wall, trying to imagine a way of entering the Room.


Sad Tonks, fanart by Makani.

Harry kicks the wall in frustration; it hurts a lot, and Harry removes the Invisibility Cloak, clutching his toe. He then notices that Tonks is there, looking worse than usual (thinner, with lank, mouse-coloured hair); she says she's come to talk to Dumbledore. The headmaster is not there, however.

The boy asks her if she knows where Albus has been going; she doesn't. He wonders what she wanted to talk about ("Nothing in particular. I just thought he might know what's going on. I've heard rumours ... people getting hurt."), and remembers the last news he saw at the Daily Prophet. Tonks points out that the Prophet is not usually on the top of things, and asks him if he's received letters from anyone in the Order lately.

"No one from the Order writes to me anymore, not since Sirius—"

Her eyes moisten, and he apologises. "What?" she asks blankly. "Well. I'll see you around, Harry."

Harry stares after her for a while. Afterwards, he continues trying to enter the Room of Requirement. He eventually gives up and goes to the Great Hall for lunch, where he meets Ron and Hermione.

Ron happily informs Harry of his success: he was supposed to Apparate to the front of Madam Puddifoot's Teashop and wound up near Scrivenshaft, but he Apparated nonetheless. Hermione was, of course, perfect ("Perfect deliberation, divination and desperation or whatever the hell it is," according to Ron), and Wilkie Twycross loved her. Everyone went to the Three Broomsticks for a drink after the lesson.

The pair is surprised to hear of Tonks' presence. Ron is of the opinion that Tonks has been going insane since the Battle of the Department of Mysteries (OP35). Hermione is concerned, since Tonks is supposed to be guarding the school (HBP8).

Harry suggests that she may have been in love with Sirius, based on Tonks' new four-legged Patronus and supposing that it is a big dog. Regardless of that, Hermione finds it odd that she would enter the castle just to see Dumbledore.

"Women," Ron points out to Harry, "they're easily upset."

"And yet I doubt you'd find a woman who sulked for half an hour because Madam Rosmerta didn't laugh at their joke about the hag, the Healer and the Mimbulus mimbletonia," Hermione retorts.

Ron scowls.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
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