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He gazed dreamily into the distance. Whether he was playacting or not, thought Harry, the effect was good.
The post owls arrived, swooping down through rain-flecked windows, scattering everyone with droplets of water. Most people were receiving more post than usual; anxious parents were keen to hear from their children and to reassure them, in turn, that all was well at home. Harry had received no mail since the start of term; his only regular correspondent was now dead and although he had hoped that Lupin might write occasionally, he had so far been disappointed. He was very surprised, therefore, to see the snowy white Hedwig circling amongst all the brown and gray owls. She landed in front of him carrying a large, square package. A moment later, an identical package landed in front of Ron, crushing beneath it his minuscule and exhausted owl, Pigwidgeon.
"What's that, then, his sentence?" said Gaunt, his voice rising angrily.
"I don't believe you," said Riddle. "She wants me looked at, doesn't she? Tell the truth!"
"All the details are on the second piece of parchment in your envelope," said Dumbledore. "You will leave from King's Cross Station on the first of September. There is a train ticket in there too."
"So how was Slughorn's latest party?" Harry asked her thickly through the gum shield.
There was a scraping as everyone drew their cauldrons toward them and some loud clunks as people began adding weights to their scales, but nobody spoke. The concentration within the room was almost tangible. Harry saw Malfoy riffling feverishly through his copy of Advanced Potion-Making., It could not have been clearer that Malfoy really wanted that lucky day. Harry bent swiftly over the tattered book Slughorn had lent him.
"You're not welcome."
"Yes, thank you, Phineas," said Dumbledore quellingly. "Professor Snape knows much more about the Dark Arts than Madam Pomfrey, Harry. Anyway, the St. Mungo's staff are sending me hourly reports, and I am hopeful that Katie will make a full recovery in time."
Merope shook her head jerkily, imploringly, but Morfin went on ruthlessly, "Hanging out of the window waiting for him to ride home, wasn't she?"
"Harry, Harry, just the man I was hoping to see!" he boomed ge-nially, twiddling the ends of his walrus mustache and puffing out his enormous belly, "I was hoping to catch you before dinner! What do you say to a spot of supper tonight in my rooms instead? We're having a little party, just a few rising stars, I've got McLaggen com-ing and Zabini, the charming Melinda Bobbin — I don't know whether you know her? Her family owns a large chain of apothe-caries — and, of course, I hope very much that Miss Granger will favor me by coming too."
"I am here, as I told you in my letter, to discuss Tom Riddle and arrangements for his future," said Dumbledore.
Harry had known all along that Ron was an inconsistent player who suffered from nerves and a lack of confidence, and unfortu-nately, the looming prospect of the opening game of the season seemed to have brought out all his old insecurities. After letting in half a dozen goals, most of them scored by Ginny, his technique became wilder and wilder, until he finally punched an oncoming Demelza Robins in the mouth.
Chapter 12: Silver and opals
"I've seen that before," said Harry, staring at the thing. "It was on display in Borgin and Burkes ages ago. The label said it was cursed. Katie must have touched it." He looked up at Leanne, who had started to shake uncontrollably. "How did Katie get hold of this?"