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 favorite 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 humorless 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?”

“What do you mean, you might not be at Hogwarts next year?” said Pansy indignantly, ceasing grooming Malfoy at once.

“Well, you never know,” said Malfoy with the ghost of a smirk. “I might have—er—moved on to bigger and better things.”

Crouched in the luggage rack under his cloak, Harry’s heart began to race. What would Ron and Hermione say about this? Crabbe and Goyle were gawping at Malfoy; apparently they had had no inkling of any plans to move on to bigger and better things. Even Zabini had allowed a look of curiosity to mar his haughty features. Pansy resumed the slow stroking of Malfoy’s hair, looking dumbfounded.

“Do you mean—Him—”