'Still not finished?' she said, poking her head into the cupboard.
'I'd love to see him try' sniggered George.
'. . . getting really out of hand, and you're so good-looking, it would look much better shorter, wouldn't it, Harry?'
Down in the basement Mrs Weasley had hung a scarlet banner over the heavily laden dinner table, which read:
'No, I just think he's been very lonely for a long time,' said Hermione simply.
Then the whispering stopped. Harry wanted to look up at the judges, but found that it was really much, much easier to keep examining his laces.
He was spared the trouble of inventing an object he had not packed. Sirius had just said, 'What's that you've got there, Mad-Eye?' and Moody had turned towards him. Harry crossed the kitchen, slipped through the door and up the stairs before anyone could call him back.
Crack. Dead twins. Crack. Dead Percy. Crack. Dead Harry . . .
'Oh, Alastor, I am glad you're here,' said Mrs Weasley brightly, as Mad-Eye shrugged off his travelling cloak. 'We've been wanting to ask you for ages - could you have a look in the writing desk in the drawing room and tell us what's inside it? We haven't wanted to open it. just in case it's something really nasty.'
'Harry, that's wonderful! Well, of course, they couldn't have found you guilty, not on the evidence, but even so, I can't pretend I wasn't - '
'That's a bit harsh, Hermione,' said Ron, frowning as he attempted to prise off a bit of mould that had attached itself firmly to his finger, 'you wouldn't want to be stuck inside this house without any company.'
Mrs Weasley let out a shriek just like Hermione's.
That's Dumbledore's brother Aberforth, only time I ever met him, strange bloke . . . that's Dorcas Meadowes, Voldemort killed her personally . . . Sirius, when he still had short hair . . . and . . . there you go, thought that would interest you!'
But maybe, said the small voice fairly, maybe Dumbledore doesn't choose prefects because they've got themselves into a load of dangerous situations . . . maybe he chooses them for other reasons . . . Ron must have something you don't . . .
Moody's electric-blue eye swivelled upwards and stared fixedly through the ceiling of the kitchen.
'Not a really good one!' Ron hastened to add. 'Just - just a new one for a change , . .'
'Those two!' said Hermione furiously, staring up at the ceiling, through which they could now hear Fred and George roaring with laughter in the room upstairs. 'Don't pay any attention to them, Ron, they're only jealous!'
None of the others had noticed a thing; all of them were now helping themselves to food while gloating over Harry's narrow escape; Fred, George and Ginny were still singing. Hermione looked rather anxious, but before she could say anything, Ron had said happily, 'I bet Dumbledore turns up this evening, to celebrate with us, you know.'