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". , . We've only looked in for five minutes, so I'll have a stroll around the yard while you catch up with Percy. No, no, I assure you I don't want to butt in! Well, if anybody cared to show me your charming garden . . . Ah, that young man's finished, why doesn't he take a stroll with me?"
"I'll be seventeen in two and a bit months' time," said Ron grumpily, "and then I'll be able to do it by magic!"
Morfin looked slightly dazed and swayed a little, still clutching the edge of the table for support. "He come back, see," he added stupidly.
"I'm not trying to conceal anything from him, I just don't want you butting in !" Harry pressed his ear still more closely against the keyhole. . . . What had happened to make Malfoy speak to Snape like this — Snape, toward whom he had always shown respect, even liking?
"Shut your mouth!" bellowed Ron, bypassing red and turning maroon.
"Oh - yes - didn't you know?" said Harmione, with a most un-Hermione-ish giggle.
Harry spun around to see Hermione pointing her wand at Ron, her expression wild: The little flock of birds was speeding like a hail of fat golden bullets toward Ron, who yelped and covered his face with his hands, but the birds attacked, pecking and clawing at every bit of flesh they could reach.
"Sir, I wondered what you know about. . . about Horcruxes?"
Harry did not get the chance to speak to Mr. Weasley, who was working very long hours at the Ministry, until Christmas Eve night. The Weasleys and their guests were sitting in the living room, which Ginny had decorated so lavishly that it was rather like sitting in a paper-chain explosion. Fred, George, Harry, and Ron were the only ones who knew that the angel on top of the tree was actually a garden gnome that had bitten Fred on the ankle as hr pulled up carrots for Christmas dinner. Stupefied, painted gold, stuffed into a miniature tutu and with small wings glued to il.s back, it glowered down at them all, the ugliest angel Harry had ever seen, with a large bald head like a potato and rather hairy feet.
"I never promised Hermione anything , " Ron mumbled. "I mean, all right, I was going to go to Slughorn's Christmas party with her, but she never said... just as friends... I'm a free agent..."
"And a great one you'll make too!" boomed Slughorn.
"I'm definitely not interested," said Harry firmly, "and I've just seen a friend of mine, sorry." He pulled Luna after him into the crowd; he had indeed just seen a long mane of brown hair disappear between what looked like two members of the Weird Sisters.
"Some would say it's your duty to be used by the Ministry!" "Yeah, and others might say its your duty to check that people really are Death Eaters before you chuck them in prison," said Harry, his temper rising now. "You're doing what Barty Crouch
"I thought maybe, you know, over Christmas —"
"Not necessarily," said Lupin. "Jinxes go in and out of fashion like everything else."
It was a much younger Horace Slughorn. Harry was so used to him bald that he found the sight of Slughorn with thick, shiny, straw-colored hair quite disconcerting; it looked as though he had had his head thatched, though there was already a shiny Galleon-sized bald patch on his crown. His mustache, less massive than it was these days, was gingery-blond. He was not quite as rotund as the Slughorn Harry knew, though the golden buttons on his richly embroidered waistcoat were taking a fair amount of strain. His little feet resting upon a velvet pouffe, he was sitting well back in a comfortable winged armchair, one hand grasping a small glass of wine, the other searching through a box of crystalized pineapple.
'Good morning,' said the Ministry wizard, when all the stu-dents had arrived and the Heads of House had called for quiet. 'My name is Wilkie Twycross and I shall be your Ministry-Apparition Instructor for the next twelve weeks. 1 hope to be able to prepare you for your Apparition test in this time -'。