Гарри Поттер и Принц Полукровка

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

By J.K. Rowling
CHAPTER ONE

The Other Minister

It was nearing midnight and the Prime Minister was sitting alone in his office, reading a long
memo that was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind.
He was waiting for a call from the President of a far distant country, and between wondering
when the wretched man would telephone, and trying to suppress unpleasant memories of what
had been a very long, tiring, and difficult week, there was not much space in his head for
anything else. The more he attempted to focus on the print on the page before him, the more
clearly the Prime Minister could see the gloating face of one of his political opponents. This
particular opponent had appeared on the news that very day, not only to enumerate all the terrible
things that had happened in the last week (as though anyone needed reminding) but also to
explain why each and every one of them was the government’s fault.

The Prime Minister’s pulse quickened at the very thought of these accusations, for they were
neither fair nor true. How on earth was his government supposed to have stopped that bridge
collapsing? It was outrageous for anybody to suggest that they were not spending enough on
bridges. The bridge was fewer than ten years old, and the best experts were at a loss to explain
why it had snapped cleanly in two, sending a dozen cars into the watery depths of the river
below. And how dare anyone suggest that it was lack of policemen that had resulted in those two
very nasty and well-publicized murders? Or that the government should have somehow foreseen
the freak hurricane in the West Country that had caused so much damage to both people and
property? And was it his fault that one of his Junior Ministers, Herbert Chorley, had chosen this
week to act so peculiarly that he was now going to be spending a lot more time with his family?

“A grim mood has gripped the country,” the opponent had concluded, barely concealing his own
broad grin.

And unfortunately, this was perfectly true. The Prime Minister felt it himself; people really did
seem more miserable than usual. Even the weather was dismal; all this chilly mist in the middle
of July… It wasn’t right, it wasn’t normal…

He turned over the second page of the memo, saw how much longer it went on, and gave it up as
a bad job. Stretching his arms above his head he looked around his office mournfully. It was a
handsome room, with a fine marble fireplace facing the long sash windows, firmly closed against
the unseasonable chill. With a slight shiver, the Prime Minister got up and moved over to the
window, looking out at the thin mist that was pressing itself against the glass. It was then, as he
stood with his back to the room, that he heard a soft cough behind him.

He froze, nose to nose with his own scared-looking reflection in the dark glass. He knew that
cough. He had heard it before. He turned very slowly to face the empty room.

“Hello?” he said, trying to sound braver than he felt.

For a brief moment he allowed himself the impossible hope that nobody would answer him.
However, a voice responded at once, a crisp, decisive voice that sounded as though it were
reading a prepared statement. It was coming — as the Prime Minister had known at the first
cough — from the froglike little man wearing a long silver wig who was depicted in a small,