By Jim Caple
Page 2

The newest book in the Harry Potter series -- "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" -- goes on sale at midnight Friday. As usual, the book's plot has been carefully kept secret from mere Muggles but never fear -- the Page 2 spies obtained an advance copy. As the following chapter shows, Hogwarts' student wizards are another year older and beginning to show interest in more adult pastimes. …

Hermione lit the votive candles on her night stand, followed by a stick of incense. She turned off the light, turned up the R&B music and turned toward Harry. She removed his glasses and stared longingly into his eyes. "You have such beautiful eyes. I'm not sure why it took me so long to notice," she said, kissing him softly on the lips. She backed away slightly and pulled off her sweater, revealing her recently developed bosom. "Is that the new Nimbus 2000 or are you just happy to see me?" she whispered breathlessly in Harry's ear …

"HARRY! HARRY!"

Harry opened his eyes. Just a dream. He wiped his eyes, put on his glasses and looked toward the doorway. Hermione stood there impatiently. And, he was sad to see, she was fully clothed.

"What's the matter?" Harry asked, imagining he and Hermione performing the act We Must Not Name, or at least not until Book Seven.

"I'm worried about Ron," Hermione replied in the supercilious manner that made Harry want to lick her shoes and whimper with delight. "He spends hour after hour at Hagrid's every afternoon and evening but when I ask him what he does there, he gets very uncomfortable and evasive."

"Perhaps he is just surfing the Net for por--" Harry suggested, stopping himself before he revealed too much about his own personal habits. "I mean, maybe he's just doing some research for our Double Potions class."

Hermione peered into the hallway for spies and Harry took advantage of the opportunity to get a good long look at her rear end. He noticed how it was so much more appealing than Aunt Petunia's. What fat butts all the Dursleys had!

"I think he's in serious trouble," Hermione said in a whisper as she sat next to Harry on the bed. Harry cupped his mouth with his right hand and exhaled, trying to smell his breath. Oh, why hadn't he brushed his teeth the night before? "Why do you say that?" he squeaked.

"Because I heard Draco Malfoy tell him, 'You owe me 20,000 galleons and if you don't pay up by Friday, I'm going to cut off your ears and bury them with Sirius.'"

Draco Malfoy. The very thought of his blond-haired rival made Harry cringe. And yet, for some reason, it also made him imagine his rival from Slytherin wearing a leather vest and chaps.

"C'mon Harry," Hermione said, "We must find him immediately."

The two raced to Hagrid's hut where their great, burly friend wore a worried expression when he answered the door. He looked as if he hadn't slept since Book Three. Spiders, cockroaches and mice crawled through his beard.

"Thank heavens you've come," Hagrid rumbled. "He was at it all night again."

"At what?" Harry asked.

Hagrid passed wind that rattled the windows and peeled the wallpaper, and said, "Why, online poker, of course. He's been doing little else the entire semester. There he is now."

Ron was sitting in his underwear at a computer, staring at a Texas Hold 'em game on the monitor and eating paste from a jar. He was pale and smelled faintly of sour milk. Hermione grabbed his hand and attempted to drag him out of the room. "We're taking you home before Professor Dumbledore finds out about this and expels you."

"Hold on, Hermione," Ron replied, picking at his toe jam. "I'm about to win this hand."

The three students peered anxiously at the computer screen and saw the six of clubs pop up on the turn, followed by a jack of diamonds on the river. "Drat," Ron complained while digging out lint from his belly button. "I was so close again. If only it had been a five of spades on the turn and a three of hearts on the river, I would have won!"

"Ron," Hermione cried, "you've got a serious gambling problem. How much have you lost so far?"

"Not that much, Hermione. Only about 58,000 galleons. All I have to do is win a couple hands and I'll be fine."

Harry whistled at the amount. Fifty-eight thousand galleons! "Where did you get all that money to gamble? Your family is poor."

"Draco gave it to me," Ron responded. "He's really not such a bad sort after you get to know him a bit, Harry. Why, he's giving me a 16.9 percent interest rate and I don't have to pay him again until the 19th."

"Ron, this is the 22nd. You're three days overdue."

"I am? Oh, dear," Ron said, wetting himself at the thought. "What am I to do, Harry? If I don't pay Draco that money, he's going to cut my ears off. Oh, darn! My nose is bleeding over the keyboard again!"

"There, there, Ron. It will be all right," Hermione said. She put her arms around her friend and rocked him gently, making Harry so jealous he considered gambling his way into a debt of 58,000 galleons.

"But what can we do?" Harry wailed.

"There's only one thing that can be done," Hermione said. "We'll pool all our money together and then place it on Slytherin for the next Quidditch match."

"Bet on Slytherin? Why? They're not going to beat Gryffindor."

"Not if you throw the game," Hermione said, winking and running her tongue over her top lip. "You wouldn't have a problem doing that, would you?"

Jim Caple is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His first book, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes," is on sale now at bookstores nationwide. It also can be ordered through his Web site, Jimcaple.com.


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