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And it happened all over again: The dense fog filled the room so that Harry could not see Slughorn or Voldemort at all; only Dumbledore, smiling serenely beside him. Then Slughorn's voice boomed out again, just as it had done before.
Harry turned a page of Quintessence, aware that Ron was watching him. Ron's voice trailed away in mutters, barely audible over the loud crackling of the fire, though Harry thought he caught the words "Krum" and "Can't complain" again.
But his hopes were not high, and they sank still lower after enduring a Transfiguration lesson with them both next day. They had just embarked upon the immensely difficult topic of human transfiguration; working in front of mirrors , they were suposed to be changing the color of their own eyebrows. Hermione laughed unkindly at Ron's disastrous first attempt, during which he somehow managed to give himself a spectacular handlebar mustache; Ron retaliated by doing a cruel but accurate impression of Hermione jumping up and down in her seat every time Profe s sor McGonagall asked a question, which Lavender and Parvati found deeply amusing and which reduced Hermione to the verge of tears again. She raced out of the classroom on the bell, leaving half her things behind; Harry, deciding that her need was greater than Ron's just now, scooped up her remaining po ssessions and followed her.
"Hermione! Hermione !"
He finally tracked her down as she emerged from a girl's bathroom on the floor below. She was accompanied by Luna Lovegood, who was patting her vaguely on the back.
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.
"You go!" said Hermione, blinking back tears. "I'm sick of Ron at the moment, I don't know what I'm supposed to have done. . . ."
Slughorn froze. His round face seemed to sink in upon itself. He licked his lips and said hoarsely, 'What did you say?' 'I asked whether you know anything about Horcruxes, sir. You see -'
"But how come the Ministry didn't realize that Voldemort had done all that to Morfin?" Harry asked angrily "He was underage at the time, wasn't he? I thought they could detect underage magic!" "You are quite right — they can detect magic, but not the perpetrator: You will remember that you were blamed by the Ministry for the Hover Charm that was, in fact, cast by —"
He tried to sound casual, as though this was a throwaway com-ment of no real importance, but he was not sure he had achieved the right effect; Lupins smile was a little too understanding.
"And incidentally," said Hermione, after a few moments, "you need to be careful."
"Harry, I'd like you to meet Eldred Worple, an old student of mine, author of ' Blood Brothers: My L ife Amongst the Vampires' - and, of course, his friend Sanguini."
"It is pretty suspicious," breathed Hermione. "Unless . . ." "Oh, come on," said Harry in exasperation, "you can't get round this one!"
Harry hardly noticed the sound of shattering glass; he felt dis-oriented, dizzy; being struck by a lightning bolt must be something like this. It's just because she's Ron’s sister, he told himself. You just didn't like seeing her kissing Dean because she's Ron's sister. . . .