The Sugar Quill
Author: Suburban House Elf (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Harry Potter and the Flowers of Mimas  Chapter: Chapter 2: The Tasteless Things Some People Hang on Walls
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Chapter 2: The Tasteless Things Some People Hang on Walls

 

In times of wet weather, all the dampness in Hogwarts Castle seeped into Slytherin House.  It stayed there, even when the weather was fine outside.  So, although the night was bright and starry, Snape’s shoes splashed through a thin rivulet of slimy water that was trickling down the stairs beside him.  He reached a patch of wall where the stones were particularly mossy and dank, and announced, “Semper Callidus.”

 

The secret doorway to the Slytherin dungeons creaked opened. Snape stepped into the cavernous tunnel that served as a common room.  The space was opulently decorated, yet the smell of mildew permeated the leather armchairs and wafted from the silk tapestries.  The room was also, as Snape had expected, deserted.

 

He crossed to the fireplace, his eyes fixed on the disappointingly empty silver frame hanging there.  A plaque below the frame indicated that the portrait of Phineas Nigellus, the least popular Headmaster of Hogwarts and the last to be chosen from Slytherin House, should have occupied the painting.  Snape tapped the plaque impatiently with his index finger.

 

It was only then that he noticed the dead owl on the mantelpiece.

 

The bird was skeletally thin and its plumage was disheveled.  It appeared to have been living rough for some time before its very recent demise.  Snape prized a messily scrawled letter, which was addressed to him, from the owl’s stiff claw. He read:

 

Deer Sevvarus,

 

My family have desided to do a spot of Noondoo hunting this yeer.  We aint coming back from Affcria so my gurl woant be gowing back to school.

 

Sylvester

 

P.S. If you see the D.L., tell him I’m reelly, reelly sorry.

P.P.S. You can keep the owl if it livvs.

 

“That must be from one of the Greengrasses,” a snide voice remarked.  The Potions Master looked up to see the supercilious features of Phineas Nigellus, now returned to his portrait, reading over Snape’s shoulder.

 

“It is,” said Snape.

 

“The whole family is totally illiterate.  His great-grandfather couldn’t spell ‘bat’.”  Phineas Nigellus ran a silk-gloved finger over one of his long, dark eyebrows.  “So, I dare say, losing the daughter will be no great loss to Slytherin.  What was her name again?”

 

“Queenie,” Snape said.  Then he added uncertainly, “Or was it Daphne?”  As a student, Miss Greengrass had been so obedient and innocuous that Snape had hardly paid her any mind the whole five years she had been at Hogwarts.

 

But, he had not expected to lose the Greengrass girl. Sylvester and his inoffensive wife had run a small magical menagerie in Dorking for decades.  The Aurors might have brought him in for questioning once or twice, but Sylvester Greengrass’ days in Lord Voldemort’s service had been so brief, so inconsequential and so long ago, that Snape refused to believe anybody would care any more.  Yet despite all this, Sylvester had fled in apparent fear of his life.

 

“It sounds as though he’d rather fight a Nundu than face the Dark Lord,” Phineas said in a sneering tone.

 

“Who wouldn’t?” Snape breathed.

 

“Are you going to tell the Aurors where he is?”

 

In answer, Snape dropped the letter into the fire.  The ornamental silver snakes, which slithered along the edges of the fireguard, hissed their approval.  Then he pointed his wand at the remains of the owl and whispered, “Evanesco.”  Leaning closer to the portrait, Snape asked, “Are all the students at dinner?”

 

“All but one.” The former Headmaster rolled his eyes melodramatically. “Little Mary’s crying in her room again.”

 

Among the three weedy, pathetic first years that the Sorting Hat had recently foisted on Slytherin, Mary Floyd was perhaps the most contemptible.  Short for her age, with a round, babyish face, Miss Floyd was horribly prone to homesickness.  Her cow-brown eyes seemed permanently overflowing with tears.  After a week and a half, Professor Snape was thoroughly sick of it.  He swore under his breath.

 

“Oh, but she’s got a bit more than usual to cry about tonight,” Phineas Nigellus explained happily.  “She received some biscuits and sweets from home today.  Young Mr Malfoy wasn’t too keen when she refused to hand them over.  So he’s given her a nice, pink snout.”

 

“Serves her right, the little oddball,” Snape muttered.  He wasn’t even sure why he found Miss Floyd’s ululations so irritating.  Maybe it was because, when so many people had fear of death looming over them, he had no pity to spare for the inconsequential woes of small children.

 

“Now, be careful, Snivellus,” Phineas said with a smirk.  “Don’t forget how much Albus Dumbledore loves all his little oddballs.  Who knows, he might even make her Head of House one day.”

 

Snape was keen to change the subject.  “The Headmaster told me you have a message.”

 

“Really?” The wizard in the portrait tried to sound surprised.  He pulled at his pointed beard ruminatively.  “Oh yes,” he said lazily. “Now, let me see?  What was it?”

 

“About visiting Lucius Malfoy,” Snape whispered urgently.  The pudding course had probably already been served upstairs, and there was no time left to play Phineas Nigellus’ infuriating games.

 

“That’s right! Lucky you, eh? Going back to see your old chums in Azkaban!” Phineas spoke so loudly that Snape held his hand up to the portrait’s painted lips. When he lowered them again, the former Headmaster wore a wicked grin.

 

“You’re to take the boy to Narcissa on Friday morning,” Phineas said.

 

“At Malfoy Manor?” Snape kept a (wholly unauthorised) Portkey for Malfoy Manor in his rooms.  He had not used it for some years.

 

“No, no.”  Phineas waved a hand dismissively.  “They’d never allow that.  You have to go down to the Magical Law Enforcement Office branch in Hogsmeade.  The authorities are setting up a Portkey from there.  Narcissa will send a servant to tell you when she’s ready.”

 

“And that’s it?”  Snape did not expect his assignment would be so simple.

 

“Well, obviously, Dumbledore would like to know if Lucius has anything interesting to say.”

 

“He’s already been questioned by the Aurors.”  By the best Aurors, too, Snape thought.  Kingsley Shacklebolt had been unable to gain any information from Lucius at all.  However, Shacklebolt’s investigation had been dealt a blow when his decision to use Veritaserum was overturned.  The Wizengamot had accepted Garfield Barwick’s argument that the truth serum would exacerbate Lucius’ spattergroit problem.

 

“Well, his guard might be down in the company of a master of deception such as your good self.” This flattery was accompanied by an insincere smile.  “Especially, if you give him the impression that you’re ready to go along with his schemes.”

 

“I’m supposed to help him escape?”  Snape could not see how anything less would regain Lucius’ trust.  He doubted that Malfoy would be willing to ever forgive his absence at the Department of Mysteries that fateful Thursday night, even if Snape presented Lucius with the keys to Azkaban and Dumbledore’s head on a silver platter.

 

Phineas tut-tutted.  “You’re not thinking with your usual subtlety, dear boy.  Lucius seems very keen at the moment to stay just where he is.  But, you should provide him with any other assistance he asks for.  And, a discreet word with Narcissa wouldn’t go astray, either.”

 

“Narcissa Malfoy has never been involved -”

 

Phineas Nigellus had risen from his chair and was walking to the edge of his frame.  “I believe I’ve said enough,” he stated curtly.  “Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to Professor Moody’s office.  You haven’t been up there this term, have you?”

 

Snape frowned and shook his head.  This was the first time in fifteen years that he had not applied to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts.  He had given up all hope of winning the post.  He did not expect he would have any business in the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor’s office ever again.

 

“It’s much more pleasant up there, now that those dreadful kittens on plates have been removed.  I’ve arranged to spend the evening playing backgammon with a quite civilised portrait of a vampire.”  As Phineas Nigellus left his frame, he murmured, “But I ask you – kittens!  I can hardly fathom the tasteless things some people hang on walls.”

 

Snape resolved to retire to his rooms early, but when he passed the stairs to the girls’ dormitory the sound of sobbing stopped him.  With a heavy sigh, he drew his wand and made his way to the first years’ rooms.  His only consoling thought was that, since Draco Malfoy had cast the jinx on Miss Floyd, the spell would no doubt be a weak one.  It should be a simple thing to fix.

 

*       *       *       *       *       *       *

 

By the time the main course was served, Harry Potter no longer expected Ron or Hermione to be joining him for dinner.  He had chosen a seat a little way down the Gryffindor table from Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas, on the excuse of saving his two best friends a place.  But the truth was he did not mind eating alone.

 

Harry had become accustomed to solitude after two lonely months at Privet Drive.  The Dursleys, particularly his aunt, had treated him with jittery respect – almost as though he was an unexploded bomb.  They had been happy to let him remain in his room for days on end and to give him a wide berth when he emerged.  After his encounter with Mad-Eye Moody and the luggage trolley, Uncle Vernon had no objection to any number of “ruddy owls” befouling his windowsills.  When Fred and George Weasley went so far as to send Harry a box of Weasleys’ Wildfire Whiz-bangs for his birthday, all Uncle Vernon did was turn purple in silence, as the fireworks burnt his hydrangeas to a crisp and then swept a path of fiery destruction all the way to Magnolia Crescent.  

 

So, Harry received many long, informative letters over the summer, and he wrote enough taciturn ones to keep his friends from worrying.  Hedwig fetched him a copy of the Daily Prophet every morning.  He shook his head in disbelief when he read the newspaper’s polls, confirming that Fudge’s popularity had reached an all time high.  Sometimes, through his bedroom window, he spied Mrs Figg and a cohort of scraggy cats patrolling the alleyway.  Once or twice he noticed Mundungus Fletcher leaning on the front fence.  But nobody gave him the news he needed to hear.

 

Nobody told him that it was safe to leave.

 

Harry reflected miserably that, in years gone by, he would not have stayed put and waited for the “all clear” message.  He would not have remained docile until it was time to be escorted to Kings Cross Station, flanked by Remus Lupin (under an Invisibility Cloak) and Mundungus (in a blonde wig and an extremely frumpy dress).  He would have marched out the front door and stuck out his wand for the Knight Bus.  But, in earlier years, he had always been ready to act before thinking things through.  And that’s why Sirius is dead.

 

There had been so much time for wondering, “What if?” over the summer.  Harry had watched the veil of the stone archway flutter a thousand times in his mind.  But each time, the veil went still again and Sirius was gone.  There was no way he could repair the damage he had done.

 

So as the sticky warmth of July was replaced by an even wetter August - as the seventh month died - Harry found himself thinking of the veil and the arch less frequently.  Instead, he remembered an ancient stone bowl decorated with runes.  A woman’s misty form twirled above it.  He remembered her voice, harsh and hoarse.  And he played her words over and over in his thoughts – and either must die at the hand of the other, for none can live while the other survives.

 

Last April, Harry had known which career he wanted to follow.  He was certain that he wanted to be an Auror.  Now it was autumn, and outwardly Harry was on his way to achieving his goal.  He was even reading Potions at a N.E.W.T. level, despite only obtaining an “A” on his O.W.L. examination.  Harry knew that Professor McGonagall must have had a hand in this; Snape’s sour expression every time Harry entered the Potions dungeon confirmed it.  But, Harry had come to realise that he was not just going to be an Auror.  As Sybill Trelawney had prophesised, Harry was also going to be a murderer.  If he did not become a murderer, then any other choice of career he might make would be remarkably short-lived.

 

One problem Harry had encountered when deciding on his career of murderer was that the prerequisite knowledge was never clearly spelt out.  How could he learn to kill?  Not from paying attention in lessons, Harry thought glumly.  He had hoped that, with Professor Moody as teacher, Defence Against the Dark Arts classes would become more practical.  His hopes had only been partly fulfilled.  In the first lesson of the year, Moody had promised to teach them a whole raft of defensive spells – stronger Shield Charms, better Disarming Spells and ways to fight off a vast array of curses.  But, unlike the “other” Professor Moody, who had taught Harry in fourth year, the lesson plan did not include teaching Harry’s class how to attack.  When Neville had raised his hand and mumbled something about “Unforgiveables,” Moody had been adamant that such wickedness would not be taught in his class.

 

“If you lot want to learn that sort of evil clap-trap,” Moody had growled, his magical eye revolving to scan the whole class, “you might as well go and join the Death Eaters now.”

 

Therefore, Harry had been forced to resort to less orthodox ways of filling in the gaps in his education.  He had written a letter to the sort of people who didn’t mind bending a rule or two.  And he was relieved when, just that morning, a package had arrived from them.  While he sat and picked at a baked potato, he hoped that Ron would be done with his prefect duties soon.  Because he was counting on Ron having some time after dinner, so that they could open the package together and Harry could explain his plan.

 

The main course platters were vanishing along the length of the House tables, and delectable trays of puddings were appearing in their places.  Ron and Hermione hurried into the Great Hall, both looking very cross.

 

“Oily git!” Ron said as he sat down and reached for a treacle tart.

 

“Glad to see you too, mate,” Harry responded.  Ron had already stuffed half the tart in his mouth by the time Hermione took her seat.

 

“Notchoo – Shnape offcorz,” Ron explained between chews.  He spat a volley of moist crumbs as he pronounced, “Prat.”

 

“Well, I’m used to him being unfair, but I thought he was more astute than that,” Hermione whispered bitterly.  She stabbed a slice of flan with a fork, skewered a stewed apricot and held it midway to her lips. “Ten house points from us, and not even a reprimand for Malfoy. He can’t go on favouring Death Eaters’ sons.  People will start to question his loyalties.”

 

“He hasn’t got any loyalty to question.”  Ron licked his fingers and reached for another tart.  “Bill reckons he’s shonky, through and through.  So do Fred and George, and they’re all in the Order.  Fred says he’d trust Snape as far as he could comfortably spit out a rat.”  Then Ron pushed the tart into his mouth, whole.

 

“Dumbledore trusts him,” Harry said quietly.  Ron’s eyes bulged and watered, possibly because he disagreed violently, but more probably because the tart had gone down the wrong way.  While he thumped his best friend between the shoulder blades, Harry reflected that he had as much, if not more, reason to hate Snape in sixth year as he had in any of his earlier years at Hogwarts.  But even though he hated Snape unreservedly, Harry had also come to begrudgingly accept that he had no real reason to mistrust the Potions Master.

 

“Dumbledore might not be able to save Snape from himself this year,” Hermione murmured darkly, as she passed Ron a glass of water.  “Fudge is terrifically popular, and anybody who ever once looked like a Death Eater is being rounded up.”

 

Ron gave an enormous, retching cough that attracted the attention of most of the students in the Great Hall.  Luna Lovegood looked up from the far end of the Ravenclaw table.  Noticing Ron, she rose and strolled over to him.

 

“That sounds nasty,” Luna said dreamily, running her finger along her chain of Butterbeer corks.  A bronze and blue badge dangled from the necklace.  Harry could still not get used to the idea that Luna was a prefect.  Quite a few Ravenclaw students were looking over their shoulders at her, as though they did not wish to believe it either.

 

Luna had also accessorised her uniform with a pair of large, rectangular earrings.  These spun frenetically on short chains below her earlobes. “I’m not surprised,” Luna continued. “The house-elves put Bundimun secretion in the treacle to thicken it - ”

 

“They do not!” Hermione interrupted angrily.

 

Luna’s prominent, pale eyes stared unblinkingly at Ron.  “It must make the treacle taste rather odd, too.”

 

“Of course it would – it’s highly poisonous!”  Hermione’s eyebrows had knitted together into a most unfriendly expression.  “So, putting it in food is just, well, it’s not possible.”

 

Luna looked down, as though she had just realised that Hermione was sitting there.  “Lots of peculiar things get put in food by house-elves, you know.   My dad interviewed a woman whose daughter ate a Moke.”

 

“Oh, yes?” Hermione hissed, her eyes narrowing “But your father also interviewed a woman who saw Lord Voldemort buying cheese from the Tesco on Salisbury’s Castle Street.”

 

Luna failed to recognise the insult.  She nodded sagely and said, “The Quibbler thinks its readers have a right to know these things.  Everybody needs to keep a sharp eye out, you know.”  She pinched one of her earrings between her thumb and forefinger, so that it stopped its rapid twirling.  Harry saw that it had a message written on it, which read: BE ALERT, BE ALARMED, Dob in a Death Eater Today.

 

It’s one of the fridge magnets,” Harry said.  He immediately wished he hadn’t.  Ron had only just managed to stop gasping for breath, but now he turned pink again to the tips of his ears.

 

Ron had never been one for letter writing but the subject of the fridge magnets had filled some of his longest letters to Harry that summer.  It had all begun with Arthur Weasley’s birthday, which was early in July.  Percy had been invited back to the Burrow for a family supper and had shown such obsequious contrition towards his parents that, according to Ron’s first letter, all the other Weasley children had wanted to puke. Even more maddening, Percy had failed to react in his normal, pompous way when Fred and George had offered him a Fainting Fancy after dinner or when Ginny had put a Doxy in his pocket.  Obviously, Percy was prepared to do anything to get back into his family’s good graces.

 

He needn’t have bothered with the turn-the-other-cheek-humble-pie rubbish, Ron had written, because Mum and Dad welcomed him back with open arms.  It was like he’d been lost, or something.  Mum couldn’t stop grabbing him, and hugging him, all the way through dinner.  And Dad kept talking about Ministry business and politics as though Percy was his best friend in the world.  Neither of them seemed to mind that Percy’s the glob of Lobalug’s spit who’d stabbed them in the back.

 

Unfortunately, somehow, in the course of the conversations about Ministry business and politics, the subject of fridge magnets arose.  Arthur Weasley had started a collection of fridge magnets that he had picked up, here and there.  He showed Percy a wide selection, mounted in a glass topped display case, of magnets touting the services of plumbers, catteries, dentists, hairdressers and florists.  As Ron explained:

 

Dad just kept going on about how brilliant they were for advertising stuff.  And, I guess Percy was too busy smarming up to Dad to notice that he always keeps his magnets under glass.

 

Percy’s star at the Ministry had been rising rapidly up until the summer.  Fudge had even given him the job of preparing all the guides to personal and home defence that the Ministry was planning to provide, free of charge, to every wizard household.  These guidebooks were nearly ready to be distributed in mid-July, when Percy had his big idea.  He contacted a Muggle manufacturer and arranged for them to make enough fridge magnets to include a couple in each package of the guidebooks, and he sent them to every wizarding home in Britain.

 

Harry had read about the fridge magnet fiasco in the newspaper before Ron’s letter arrived.  But, the tone of Ron’s message was something he would never forget:

 

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!  The stupid stupid twit! I mean, everyone knows what magnets do when there’s too much magic about.  It’s worse than eckeltricity!  Mum opened the parcel and the magnets shot out and nearly chopped off old Errol’s foot.  The mad things kept flying around the kitchen (the magnets, not Errol), quicker and quicker and Mum   was trying to swat them away with a feather duster and then they got onto the crockery shelf and smashed everything.  So, Mum’s shouting out, “Reparo! Reparo!” and chasing the magnets like they’re the Golden Snitches from hell.  But, casting spells only made things worse and soon the magnets were dive-bombing Mum’s head and knocked her wand clear across the room.  Finally, Ginny opened a window and she and I managed to hit them out with Fred and George’s Beaters’ bats.  But they kept crashing into the glass for hours, until Dad came home from work and caught them both in a jam jar.  Now, they’ve taken pride of place in his collection.

 

Luna let go of her earring, and it began to whir like a frenzied gyroscope again.  “People sent them in to The Quibbler with letters of complaint.  Dad’s got a filing cabinet full of them - it jumps all around his office.” She began to giggle, but then stopped very suddenly and said in a low voice, “Do you know, a little boy in Walthamstowe named Billy Gudgeon lost an eye?”

 

“Yes, we know,” Hermione said quietly.

 

“And I think that chap at the Ministry who sent them out lost his job,” Luna said vaguely.

 

“No.  He didn’t,” Ron said defiantly.  In fact, this was not entirely true.  Percy had been removed from his post as Assistant Secretary of the newly created Department of Civil Defence.  But, Arthur had pulled every string in the Ministry he could grasp and called in every favour, until he finally arranged for Percy to be rehired, at a greatly reduced salary, by the Ludicrous Patents Office.  Harry was impressed by the loyalty Ron now showed to his brother.  It appeared that the young Weasleys were once again prepared to accept Percy into their hearts, since fate had punished him sufficiently for his very great misdeeds.

 

Apparently Hermione also noticed the reddening of Ron’s ears.  “Er, I think we’d better get back to work,” she said as she pushed her flan aside.  “Do you have the Spellotape we asked you for?”

 

Luna looked as though she was trying to focus on something tiny which was floating in the air near Harry’s nose.  “Spellotape?”

 

“For the posters,” Hermione said with great restraint.  “We asked you to bring it to us.  Before dinner.”

 

“I think I saw a roll of Spellotape in a classroom.”  Luna sounded most uncertain.

 

“Well, we can borrow some more from Madam Pince’s office,” Hermione said briskly.  She stood up and added, “Come on, Ron.”  Ron reached for another tart, but thought better of it, and followed Hermione from the table.

 

Harry was not sure what to say to Luna, or whether she expected him to say anything at all. She was still gazing at nothing in particular.  “I, er, think I’ll go to the library too,” he said in a hurried way.

 

“Bye, then,” Luna said.  She began to hum as she drifted back towards her house table.

 

Harry walked quickly to the doors of the Great Hall, and once outside rushed to catch up with his friends.  They were not very far ahead.

 

“Yes, I know she’s a nutter,” Ron was saying as Harry approached.  “But I’m still telling you, those tarts tasted weird.”

 

“And I suppose you’ll be telling me next that You-Know-Who likes cheese,” Hermione said with a sniff.

 

“No,” Ron said thoughtfully.  “But Scabbers used to love it.  You don’t think - you know – Wormtail?”

 

Hermione stopped walking and bestowed a withering look on Ron.  “Scabbers was a rat.  Of course he liked cheese.”  She turned to Harry and asked, “You don’t believe that girl’s blibbering stories, do you?”

 

Harry shrugged.  “As far as Voldemort goes, The Quibbler’s guess is as good as mine.”  He walked along beside his friends, not talking to or listening to them, but thinking about Lord Voldemort.  He did not believe that The Quibbler knew the whereabouts of the most evil wizard on earth.  But, the magazine seemed to know as much as the Ministry of Magic, or even the Order of the Phoenix.  Wherever Voldemort was, he was well hidden.

 

“Are you coming to the library too, Harry?” Hermione asked.  They had already walked past the Gryffindor Tower staircase.

 

“I’ve got some Divination stuff to look up,” Harry explained.  Ron, who had discontinued his Divination study that year, seemed very pleased to hear it.

 

“What’s Trelawney got you working on?” Ron said as he rubbed his hands together with glee.  He continued in an impersonation of the Divination teacher’s mystical whisper.  “Horoscopes for your twenty closest living relations?  Dream diary for the next seventeen months?  How about a nice essay on logomancy?”

 

“It’s not for Trelawney,” Harry said.  One of the worst things about Divination that year was that the subject had been divided between two teachers.  Sybill Trelawney had returned to her old position, but Firenze had not left his.  So, the school had split the course between what it called “Human Predictive Methods,” such as palmistry, tea leaves reading, crystal ball gazing and the like (taught by Trelawney) and “Reading the Signs of Nature,” which was taught by Firenze.  Both teachers appeared to think it was their right to teach astrology too, even though they went about it in completely different ways.

 

Ron could not understand why Harry had wanted to persevere with Divination.  But then, Harry had never fully explained the contents of the glass orb, which they had tried to take from the Hall of Prophecies, to Ron.

 

“But, Firenze never used to set homework!” Ron exclaimed, in his normal voice.

 

“I think we should expect more homework for every subject this year.  These are N.E.W.T. level courses,” Hermione said didactically.

 

“Well, it’s not even actually homework,” Harry explained.  “Firenze said we were going to do some scatomancy tomorrow.  I just thought I’d check what that means.”

 

Hermione screwed up her nose and offered a definition of “scatomancy.”  Harry groaned in horror, but Ron laughed uproariously.

 

“Well, if that’s what it is,” Ron said, still grinning broadly, “I reckon you should go back to Gryffindor and get a bloody good rest before tomorrow.  You’ll need your strength.”

 

“Yeah.”  Harry was not relishing the prospect of tomorrow’s visit to classroom eleven at all.  Then, he remembered the unopened parcel in his school trunk.  He asked Ron, “Will you be finished soon?”

 

“As soon as I can figure out how to stick something to an unstickable wall,” Ron answered grimly.

 

“Which means we could be quite some time,” Hermione firmly said.

 

They had reached the statue of Boniface the Boring, just outside the door to the library.  Ron and Hermione went inside.  Harry dithered at the doorway for a little while, but then turned back.  As Harry turned, Boniface rolled his bronze eyes and said, “Well, it took you long enough to make up your mind.”

 

It looked as though Harry would be opening his post on his own.

 

//
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