'Right then,' said Professor McGonagall, looking up at the hourglasses on the wall. 'Well, I think Potter and his friends ought to have fifty points apiece for alerting the world to the return of You-Know-Who! What say you, Professor Snape?'
'Why?' said Hermione, looking startled.
He wiped the mirror clear again and said, so that every syllable rang clearly through the room:
He helped himself to a handful of Chocolate Frogs from the immense pile on his bedside cabinet, threw a few to Harry, Ginny and Neville and ripped off the wrapper of his own with his teeth. There were still deep welts on his forearms where the brain's tentacles had wrapped around him. According to Madam Pomfrey, thoughts could leave deeper scarring than almost anything else, though since she had started applying copious amounts of Dr Ubbly's Oblivious Unction there seemed to have been some improvement.
'Bet Dumbledore wishes he could've got rid of Trelawney for good,' said Ron, now munching on his fourteenth Frog. 'Mind you, the whole subject's useless if you ask me, Firenze isn't a lot better . . .'
'I - er - heard she's going out with someone else now,' said Hermione tentatively.
For a long time, neither of them spoke. Somewhere far beyond the office walls, Harry could hear the sound of voices, students heading down to the Great Hall for an early breakfast, perhaps. It seemed impossible that there could be people in the world who still desired food, who laughed, who neither knew nor cared that Sirius Black was gone for ever. Sirius seemed a million miles away already; even now a part of Harry still believed that if he had only pulled back that veil, he would have found Sirius looking back at him, greeting him, perhaps, with his laugh like a bark . . .
Harry did not need telling twice; he thrust his wand back inside his robes and headed straight for the front doors without another glance at Snape and Malfoy.
'Yeah,' growled Moody. 'About how he's treated when he's at your place.'
'It hasn't really started yet,' sighed Hermione gloomily, folding up the newspaper again. 'But it won't be long now
'All righ', Harry!' he said, beaming, when Harry approached the fence. 'Come in, come in, we'll have a cup o' dandelion juice . . .
Harry was surprised to find that this information did not hurt at all. Wanting to impress Cho seemed to belong to a past that was no longer quite connected with him; so much of what he had wanted before Sirius's death felt that way these days . . . the week that had elapsed since he had last seen Sirius seemed to have lasted much, much longer; it stretched across two universes, the one with Sirius in it, and the one without.
Harry looked at her and the new feeling of pity intensified rather painfully.
There was Mad-Eye Moody, looking quite as sinister with his bowler hat pulled low over his magical eye as he would have done without it, his gnarled hands clutching a long staff, his body wrapped in a voluminous travelling cloak. Tonks stood just behind him, her bright bubble-gum-pink hair gleaming in the sunlight filtering through the dirty glass of the station ceiling, wearing heavily patched jeans and a bright purple T-shirt bearing the legend The Weird Sisters. Next to Tonks was Lupin, his face pale, his hair greying, a long and threadbare overcoat covering a shabby jumper and trousers. At the front of the group stood Mr and Mrs Weasley, dressed in their Muggle best, and Fred and George, who were both wearing brand-new jackets in some lurid green, scaly material.
'Madam Pomfrey says she's just in shock,' whispered Hermione.
'Hello,' said Luna vaguely, glancing around at him as she stepped back from the notice.
'But you did!' said Harry angrily. 'You came back - you're dead and you didn't disappear - '
A most peculiar expression stole over Nearly Headless Nick's face as he inserted a finger in the stiff ruff at his neck and tugged it a little straighter, apparently to give himself thinking time. He desisted only when his partially severed neck seemed about to give way completely.
'Yes,' said Dumbledore.