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Mrs. Cole's eyes slid out of focus and back again as she gazed intently at the blank paper for a moment.
"Magic?" he repeated in a whisper.
"No, sir, I'll make sure it's just Ron and Hermione. Good night."
"Mr. Gaunt, your daughter!" said Ogden in alarm, but Gaunt had already released Merope; she staggered away from him, back to her corner, massaging her neck and gulping for air.
"What did you do, go back the night he died and strip the place?" snarled Harry.
"Harry, m'boy!" said a booming voice from behind them.
"Hand that over, Harry," said Hermione hurriedly. "It says we're supposed to puncture them with something sharp. . . ."
"Well, you were being really obvious, he realized what you were up to within about five seconds, of course he wasn't going to tell you — anyway, Malfoy could've sent off for it since —"
"Sir, how exactly — ?"
"He might have been put under the Imperius Curse," said Ron reasonably. "You never can tell."
"Right," said Dean. "Cheers, Harry! Blimey, I can't wait to tell Ginny!"
"He's got no chance of persuading Snape," said Harry, the mo-ment Slughorn was out of earshot. "This detentions already been postponed once; Snape did it for Dumbledore, but he won't do it for anyone else."
"What?" said Ron and Hermione together.
"There are a lot of Toms," muttered Riddle. Then, as though he could not suppress the question, as though it burst from him in spite of himself, he asked, "Was my father a wizard? He was called Tom Riddle too, they've told me."
The sky outside was inky black and the lamps in Dumbledore's office seemed to glow more brightly than before.
He pulled the old copy of Advanced Potion-Making out of his bag and tapped the cover with his wand, muttering, "Dijjindo!" The cover fell off. He did the same thing with the brand-new book (Hermione looked scandalized). He then swapped the covers, tapped each, and said, "Reparo!"
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.