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Chapter 24 : Boom Goes The Dynamite
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-Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
"Around the third hour, the weird stuff started," said Fred, fidgeting in his seat. "Snorky stopped trying to bribe us and he became all cheery and submissive."
"And he stopped struggling," Micah added. "I kicked him a few times but he thanked me."
Dobby Longbottom, who had set up an office in the surprisingly roomy cupboard under the stairs in Gryffindor Tower, leaned back in the chair he had nicked from the adjacent common room and pushed his fake glasses up his nose.
"Were you otherwise violent towards Snorky?" asked Doctor Dobby as calmly and methodically as a professional. He practically was, I suppose: Within one week of its release, D. Francis Longbottom's self-help book topped The Daily Prophet's bestsellers list and became a bona fide sensation in Wizarding Britain. No one knew who D. Francis Longbottom was, of course, but perhaps the mystery added to the appeal.
"No, not really," Freddie said earnestly. "Yeah, we tied him to a chair and held him hostage in the Shrieking Shack for seven hours, but Micah only kicked him what, a dozen times?"
"A baker's dozen, max," said Micah. "Or kidnapper's dozen, if you will."
Dobby looked at me for the first time since this session began. "James, I'm sorry, but I'm beginning to feel obligated to tell my dad about this, or at least the Wizengamot."
"Please, Dobby," I said, sitting on the floor by the door. "I brought Freddie and Micah to talk to you cos you're the smartest person I know, and I'm sure you can sort out whatever is wrong with Snorky."
Ever since Eleni Richelieu had enlisted Micah and Fred to masquerade as Aurors and kidnap Snorky Scamander, my arch nemesis hadn't been quite right. For one thing, he moved back into our dormitory, with all the other sixth-year Gryffindor boys, and he was kind and friendly to everyone. We had to get Snorky back to his rightful angry and haughty state of mind before one of the teachers noticed, and time was of the essence, especially since he was scheduled to commentate the Gryffindor v. Hufflepuff Quidditch match in seven days. (It would be the first match after the strike and the entire school was sure to attend, plus the Ministry's Quidditch Commissioner and several news reporters.)
"And you two," I said to Fred and Micah, "why in the world did you hold Snorky hostage for seven hours?"
"Tegan's mum wanted him good and scared," said Micah nonchalantly. "Plus, in our defence, it took Snorky six hours to recognise us through our disguises."
"Through your false moustaches?" I asked. "And how does that help your defence?"
"He was in his happy place by then and he's demonstrated no contempt towards us in the days to follow," said Micah. "Quite the contrary, we can't rid ourselves of the little bugger. Also, for the record, I still hate you, Potter, and I only kidnapped Snorky cos Ms Richelieu paid us five Galleons and I only agreed to be psychoanalysed by this insuffrable child cos you promised us sweets, you racist piece of bigotry."
"You'll get your bloody Chocolate Cauldrons when Dobby has fixed Snorky," I said, tired. "We have a Quidditch match in one week and Dobby, if anyone can help Snorky, it's you."
"Yes, I suppose you're right," Dobby finally said, "but I still don't approve of the kidnapping and whatever other felonies you lot committed for a reason you won't tell me."
"It was a very good reason," I insisted.
Dobby sighed. "The ends don't always justify the means, children, but it seems like Tegan's mum needs this lecture more than you do."
"Yeah, but she isn't here right now and the most anticipated Quidditch match of the year is fast approaching," said Freddie. "You've diagnosed James and J.D. and Pepe the Pyro, so Snorky should be a walk in the park!"
"Yes, I have performed a few miracles," said Dobby smugly. "All right, lads, I believe I can identify the exact affliction plaguing Snorky's consciousness."
"Let's have it, then!" I said.
"Unfortunately," Dobby said as he leafed through a thick, leatherbound book that said Freudian Psychoanalysis for Wizards, "it will almost definitely take longer than a week to bring Snorky back to his unpleasant, contemptible self."
"OUT WITH IT!" said me, Freddie, and Micah together.
Coolly, Dobby said, "It is my professional opinion that Snorky is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome."
"Pardon?" I said.
"That sounds like the name of a Swedish pop group," said Fred.
"Stockholm syndrome is a psychological condition in which an abductee develops an emotional bond with his or her captors and feels a sense of loyalty to them. It's a defence mechanism of the ego, and it's usually invoked by a particularly traumatic kidnapping," explained Dobby.
"I only kicked him a little!" said Micah. "He took Quidditch away for a really long time and I hate him!"
"Emotional bond?" I said to Dobby. "Like, Snorky loves Freddie and Micah, even though they held him hostage for seven hours?"
"'Love' is a stretch, but it appears that Snorky certainly cares for them," said Dobby. "It might not make much sense to you or me, but it's quite amazing how the mind will rationalise even the most horrific of situations. Although as I understand it, Stockholm syndrome is a more common result of lengthier kidnappings."
"So why the hell does Snorky love us for tying him to a chair in the Shrieking Shack for seven hours?" asked Fred.
"I have long suspected that Snorky has no superego to regulate his warring id and ego, and his normal disposition as a selfish twat indicates that his id usually wins out," said Dobby. "Apparently being held hostage has triggered his ego to overcompensate, tricking his id into believing the delusions of Stockholm Syndrome. Such an imbalance between the id and the ego would be enough to make anyone love you and Micah after being tied up for seven hours, Fred. Or was it three hours before he became submissive?"
"Enough with trying to understand Snorky's psyche!" said Micah. "You have to fix his brain before Saturday!"
"We're sorry we kidnapped him but we want the old, wretched Snorky back," said Freddie. "The new, loveable Snorky is getting on my last nerve."
"But Fred, I like the new me," said Snorky Scamander, who sat on the settee Dobby had managed to squeeze in the small end of the cupboard, daftly smiling the entire time. "You and Micah are so great and I love being friends with you."
"WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT KEEPING YOUR GROTESQUE MOUTH SHUT DURING THIS GODDAMN PSYCHOANALYSIS THING?" Micah shouted at Snorky. "Don't you DARE speak again unless spoken to, Scamander! And I BELIEVE you were told to address us as Misters Horowitz and Weasley!"
"I'm so sorry, Mr Horowitz!" cried Snorky, burying his head in his hands.
"See, Dobby?" I said. "We can't let Snorky commentate the Quidditch match in this condition and risk getting in trouble for a kidnapping that wasn't our idea! What's the cure for Stockholm Syndrome?"
He consulted his fancy psychology book. "I'm not entirely sure," said Dobby reluctantly. "They recommend waiting it out, but this is also a Muggle book from 1979."
"Waiting it out? WAITING IT OUT?" Micah screeched as he jumped up from his chair. "That's not fricking good enough, Longbottom! What kind of charlatan Psychological Healer are you?"
"Don't shout at Dobby!" I said. "He is most certainly not a charlatan!"
"Will you please shut up, James?" Freddie started. "If it wasn't for you we wouldn't even be in this shiteous predicament!"
"For Merlin's sake!" exclaimed Dobby. "I sincerely hope that when I'm sixteen, I don't devolve into an immature jackass like you lot have!"
Me and Fred looked at our respective feets in shame, but Micah said, "I didn't devolve into nothin'. I've always been an immature jackass."
"Your mother must be so proud," said Dobby dryly. "Returning to more pressing matters, I can devise for Snorky a particularly rigourous counselling programme, to be held with me and to be implemented over the course of this week, which will hopefully expedite the 'waiting it out' process that Micah is so opposed to and cure Snorky's Stockholm Syndrome before the Quidditch match."
Micah glared at Dobby. "Was that a shot at me, Longbottom?"
"What would this counselling programme entail, exactly?" Freddie asked. "You're not going to hurt Snorky, are you?"
"Preferably not, Dobs," I added. "We don't want any of this to be traceable to us, remember."
"Of course I'm not going to hurt Snorky," said Dobby incredulously. "Not everyone solves their problems by kicking them, you know. And Micah, that actually was a shot at you."
"Fair enough," said Micah.
"As I was saying, my plan is to delicately but expediently rid Snorky of his Stockholm Syndrome through some very intense therapy sessions," Dobby continued. "It won't be easy to cram a month of counselling into one week, and I don't expect that Snorky or I will attend many lessons or meals, but I am willing to try my very hardest to get Snorky into top form if he is willing to work very hard as well. How does that sound, Snorky?"
Snorky sat trembling on the couch and looked to Micah, who nodded at him, and said to Dobby, "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
Dobby shut the book he was holding and beamed. "All right, gentlemen, it seems we have a course of action! Clear out, clear out, except for Mr Scamander here. Oh, and James, might I have a quick word?"
Freddie and Micah exited the cupboard like the ghost of Voldemort was chasing them, while I hung back. Snorky sat obediently on his couch and Dobby Longbottom, at the opposite end of the room to Snorky, wore a pained expression.
"I'm pleased that you trust me as a confidant not just for yourself, but for J.D. and now Micah and Fred," Dobby said carefully, "but if I'm to invest so much time in counselling Snorky - and not even with all the time in the world could I guarantee a successful restoration of his self without a generous dollop of luck - I can't help but feel as if some sort of monetary compensation is in order."
"Oh," I said, feeling the traditional discomfort that accompanied this subject.
"Forgive my audacity," said Dobby, his cheeks reddening. "I'm happy to help you and your friends whenever you need someone to talk to - you all make for terribly interesting cases - but given the severity of Snorky's condition and the fact that I must neglect my homework and other obligations over the course of this week, I was hoping that I might be paid an appropriate and reasonable sum."
"Oh," I said. "I see where you're coming from... You're right, of course."
"Also, Snorky is a bit of an unpleasant fellow and his vendetta against my dad rubs me the wrong way," he added.
"Right," I said.
"So I hope my request doesn't make you uncomfortable," said Dobby. "Perhaps I just feel a tad overwhelmed after hearing all those felonies that Fred and Micah committed."
"No, Dobby," I said. "I've taken enough advantage of your generosity as it is. We'd love to pay you for any help you can give Snorky, but I'm afraid... I'm afraid that me and the lads have a slight cash flow problem. As in the cash flows more out than in, to the point that there's no more cash."
"Ah," said Dobby.
"Yes," I said.
Dobby Longbottom took off his fake psychoanalysing glasses and began to chew on one of the ends. "I'm sorry even to ask, because I do feel as if we've formed a friendship, James, but I wouldn't accept more than an extremely reasonable sum anyway--"
"It's the cash flow problem again," I interrupted. "We don't even have an extremely reasonable sum of money, if you put mine and J.D.'s and Freddie's and Micah's life savings together. I could ask Tegan but I hate asking her for money, or I could ask my mum and dad, but they'll certainly ask questions."
"I have money!" came a mousy voice from the opposite end of the cupboard. Snorky Scamander was sitting up straight and wearing a broad grin, like a child in the proverbial sweet shop.
"What was that, Snorky?" Dobby asked him.
"Please don't tell Micah or Fred that I spoke out of turn," Snorky said quickly, "because I promised I'd be a good boy, but I have loads of money hidden in a sock at the bottom of my trunk. I solicited quite a few bribes during the V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T. strike, at least several hundred Galleons worth. I don't trust the Gringotts goblins with it because I'm terribly prejudiced against half-breeds, but you're welcome to as much of it as you think appropriate, Dr Longbottom."
I looked at Dobby. "Well, that was easy."
He nodded. "I suppose it's logical for Snorky to pay for his own sessions," said Dobby. "Does everyone agree that five Galleons per hour is a reasonable fee? Excellent. Let's begin our first session, Snorky. If you'll please excuse us, James."
I tiptoed out of the cupboard and shut the door quietly behind me before heading up the stairs to the sixth-year boys' dormitory.
Upon opening the door to aforementioned dormitory, I discovered the sight of four lanky and disproportionate teenaged bodies lying upon my bed, each with their hands folded across their stomachs as if in prayer: Tegan was squeezed between J.D. and Micah with their heads on my pillows, and Freddie lay perpendicular at their six feet.
"Shenanigans!" I cried, out of confusion more than anything else.
But, as is typical for my Gryffies, they were not in the middle of some silent prayer: J.D. and Micah were shouting quite wildly at each other, in what was almost certainly one of their silliest arguments ever.
"Come off it!" said J.D.
"It's the truth, I'm telling you!" said Micah. "'Moot' means the opposite of what everyone thinks it means!"
"So you're saying that there's this worldwide conspiracy to prevent people from discovering the true definition of the word 'moot'?" J.D. scoffed.
"No, of course not," said Micah. "It's only developed in the past few decades because of the growing presence of America and their penchant for linguistic snafus."
"Can you even hear yourself right now?" said J.D.
"You used 'moot' incorrectly, meaning to no longer have any relevance," said Micah. "It actually means the opposite, to be worthy of argument or debate, but no one knows this because they hear everyone else use it the wrong way."
"Who cares?" said J.D. "If everyone on the planet uses 'moot' incorrectly, as you insist, then the definition of the word should change! Language should be fluid and reflect, I dunno, the way people actually use it!"
"That isn't the issue here!" said Micah. "You still used the wrong definition of 'moot' but you don't want to admit it."
"I'll decide this," said Tegan, extracting her wand from her pocket. "Accio dictionary!"
The room was absolutely still.
"Accio dictionary!" Tegan repeated.
Again, nothing happened.
"Merlin, do none of you even own a dictionary?" she asked.
"So it would seem," said Fred.
"Micah doesn't need a dictionary cos he already knows the definition of every bloody word known to wizardkind," said J.D. snidely.
"No, I only know the definition for 'moot' because I'm interested in the law," Micah said. "I'd like to become a lawyer, after I become a rich and famous Quidditch player, obviously."
"I can't believe you lot have four copies of Quidditch Through the Ages but not one dictionary!" said Tegan.
Before someone could incite another argument about the intricacies of the English language, I asked the twenty-four thousand Galleon question.
"What're you all doing on my bed?" I asked.
"It's closest to the stove," said Fred, "or the little door where most of the heat escapes, as it were. Anyway, it's the warmest."
"It also smells the least like a dead animal decaying in a pile of compost on a hot summer's day," said Tegan. "No offence to the rest of you swines."
"None taken," said J.D., Freddie, and Micah in unison.
"Lovely," said Tegan. "James, what did Dobby say about Snorky? Not that I care about his well being, because I don't, but since these stooges broke into verbal fisticuffs before the door swung shut behind them, we've not yet addressed anything of a relevant nature."
"That reminds me," I said, crossing over to Snorky's area of the room and rummaging through his trunk. Upon discovering a lumpy woollen sock, I held it aloft and continued, "Snorky's minted!"
Tegan regarded me sceptically. "Looks like a foul old sock to me."
"No, it's full of money," I said, shaking the coins satisfyingly and wedging a spot for myself between J.D. and Fred. "Remind me to give it to Dobby later. Oh, and Snorky has some personality disorder called the Helsinki Pestilence, but Dobby says he can sort him out before the Gryffinpuff match."
"Oh, that's good," said Tegan. "For you lot, I mean, not Snorky. Of course it's good for Snorky, but it's better to sweep this under the table before you're all arrested for kidnapping."
"Amen, sister," said Freddie serenely.
"I'm actually mildly impressed by your misguided efforts to save me from my pity date," said Tegan. "James's plans almost never come that close to success, so well done."
I felt a lump rise in my throat. "Thanks, but I really can't take credit for it. It was very much an, erm, a team effort."
"Aren't you usually the architect of all outrageous Gryffie plans?" she asked. "I mean, who else would give a care about my love life?"
"Not me," said J.D.
"Nor me," said Fred.
"I believe it's 'not I,'" said Micah.
"I don't care about your love life!" I said, my adolescent voice squeaking. "Maybe I was just a patsy! Why should I care? You're just my friend, with whom I share the most platonic of all bonds. I think, in a criminal investigation, the Wizengamot would discover that I was very much--"
"Does anyone have the time?" J.D. asked casually.
"Quarter to eight," replied Fred, glancing at his wristwatch.
"Bollocks," said J.D. "I have to be boyfriendly and meet Rosie at eight so that we can meet her inane friends for Ladies Night, which, I'm sorry to say, is when the four of them sit around the common room and drink non-alcoholic cocktails and pretend that their pathetic existences, minus Rosie's, are worth giving a damn about. Mind you, Rosie's the only one of them with a boyfriend so the entire discourse is comprised of how all men ought to have their good bits chopped off, which is exactly why I have to go, so Rosie can rub it in their sorry single faces that she has a fella and they don't, right. That and apparently we've been spending all our time with my friends and not hers cos of Quidditch training, like it wasn't even her idea that she should try out for Quidditch!"
It was then that Micah let out a very loud sigh, but we all decided to ignore him.
"I'm not going to rat you out, James," said Tegan. "Sure, you have reason to be distraught, considering that we were, uhhh, romantically involved for a time, and you always hatch ridiculous schemes when you're distraught, but I'd never want to get four of my closest friends in trouble for what could be interpreted as humanitarian work."
Micah gave another blatant sigh of ennui, but I was far more troubled by my guilt that Tegan appeared to have no idea that her mother was the true mastermind behind the unfortunate events that transpired this past Valentine's Day. I hadn't yet told her the truth, obviously, in part because she was sure to be furious with me but also because I wasn't sure that the truth needed to be told. She'd figured most of it out on her own anyway and really, the unabridged version of the truth would only hurt her. And possibly me, since Tegan was sure to hex me into next Tuesday for co-conspiring with her mother.
"Goddamn girlfriends with their goddamn friends and their goddamn fruit-flavoured virgin martinis," grumbled J.D.
It was Micah's third woeful sigh that garnered any sort of reaction from the rest of us, probably because it was closer to a spattergroitic coughing fit than either of his previous attempts.
Sounding tired and unamused, Fred inquired, "Micah, whatever is the matter?"
"Oh, nothing," he replied, his face forlorn and his tone full of exaggerated weltschmerz. "It's just that all this talk of J.D. and Rose's bliss reminds me of the special feelings I used to have for another Weasley cousin."
"Who you talking about, Mic?" asked Tegan.
"Madeleine!" said Micah. "Madeleine Weasley, daughter of Bill and some French bird, with whom I was amorously involved for an extended period of time?"
"Her?" said Fred.
"Nope, I haven't the foggiest recollection of that either, sorry," I said.
"Some friends you are," said Micah under his breath. "But I suppose it's just as well, because the flame that Madeleine ignited in my heart has gone cold and will probably never catch light again. Although sometimes," he turned his head towards Tegan, who was on his left, "I still yearn for the soft, gentle touch of a woman to ease the pain of knowing that I have forever lost the great love of my life."
Tegan grimaced and inched towards J.D. "I can't help you with that," she said hollowly.
"With what?" said Micah. "Oh, you mean... Oh God, no! Eughhh, why would you think that I... Ick, no thank you. God, if I'm ever that desperate... No, the very notion is too disgusting even on a hypothetical basis."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Tegan demanded.
"Uhhh," Micah said, "J.D., you're an eloquent man, perhaps you could assist with this."
"Sure," said J.D. "Tegan, the problem isn't that you're not beautiful, it's that you're plain. As a rule, men usually like attractive women."
"Teg, I love you like a brother," added Micah, "but an awkward, stringy little brother who everyone suspects is an adopted member of the family. Do you see the problem here?"
"For Merlin's sake!" said Tegan. "I doubt I'm half as ugly as you say I am, and even if I were, my so-called friends should stop objectifying me and all other women because everybody in our society objectifies women and that's why we have to starve ourselves to stay thin and get big fake boobs installed to remain sexually desirable and lose sight of our long-term goals to pop out half a dozen kids, who'll no doubt grow up to be conceited, misogynistic assholes like you two!"
Micah tutted. "Being opinionated makes you even less attractive, I'm afraid."
"Guys like their girls stupid," J.D. said. "Trust me - Rosie is the cleverest in her year and it's my least favourite thing about her."
Tegan scowled. "James, Freddie, a little help?"
"Ermmm," said Fred, "if it makes you feel any better, having you here makes the situation seem less gay - you know, four lads sharing a bed and all."
"Stop being mean to Tegan," I said. "She's gorgeous and if you can't see that, then...then maybe you need glasses!"
"Or maybe a peckerectomy, courtesy of one of Rose's stupid friends," Tegan added. "Thanks Potter - perhaps it's too little, too late, but I'll take it. And J.D. and Micah, suck it! James is proof that at least one male at one time found me to be at least somewhat attractive."
"You're so bloody defensive," said J.D. to himself.
"Honestly Teg, James isn't the best example of a red-blooded he-man," said Micah. "No offence, James. By the way, I have good news: I've completely forgiven you for a certain anti-Muggleborn slur you used in reference to me many moons ago. You bringing Snorky to Dobby Longbottom - although you essentially created the problem - might just save mine and Freddie's respective asses, and so I have realised that perhaps there is some good in you after all, provided you keep your hateful tongue in check. So in the spirit of taking the moral high road, I do formally and fully forgive you for any grievances committed against me, Micah J. Horowitz."
"Oh, good," I said, having forgotten that Micah was ever angry with me for calling him the M word.
"I'm not done!" said Tegan. "The objectification of women in magazines and in wizard rap and everywhere else in the media is absolute bullshit, and I happen to know that both of your mothers would kick your asses for perpetuating this poisonous mindset! And James and Freddie, your lack of any real support does not go unnoticed and moves each of you three places up on my Enemies List."
"Why am I on the list and J.D. and Micah aren't?" asked Fred.
"You need a list to keep track of your enemies?" I asked.
"Of course they're on my Enemies List, Weasley," said Tegan, "and they're currently ranked third and fourth, after Eleni and Lewd Wig. Yes, Potter, because how else am I supposed to remember why I hate the people I hate?"
"You do realise that your four best friends are on this list, yeah?" said J.D.
"Good grief, you're completely overreacting!" said Micah. "Look, I apologise if I hurt your feelings by saying that I'd never ever shag you, but you don't need to turn this into some hysterical feminist cause."
"Oh, now I'm hysterical?" Tegan demanded.
"Frankly, yes," said Micah.
Tegan scrambled off my bed and began to head for the door, but before exiting she whipped around in a great huff, pointed her wand at an unsuspecting Micah, and shouted, "Pantaloneus Tendo!"
With the most painful sort of cry any man can make, Micah screeched and he fell to the floor. The back band of his boxers had shot from out of his trousers and covered the majority of his head, indicating that Tegan's was an uncommonly severe Wedgie Jinx.
Freddie and I were frozen, but J.D. cackled wildly at Micah's misfortune. Micah, understandably, remained twitching and moaning on the floor.
"You think that's funny, dickhead?" Tegan demanded of J.D. "Eat pants!"
With another declaration of Pantaloneus Tendo, Tegan shot a burst of fluorescent green light at J.D. and, just like Micah, he fell to the floor, writhing and screaming in pain, with his skivvies pulled so high that they nearly covered his eyes.
Sighing contentedly, Tegan said, "That's more like it. I'm off to make the necessary adjustments to my Enemies List, ta!" and left the dormitory.
"Should we be grateful that she spared us?" Fred asked me as soon as Tegan slammed the door shut behind her.
"I s'pose," I said as J.D. and Micah each tried, umpteen times and always unsuccessfully, to take their undershorts from off of their heads.
"What kind of Wedgie Jinx is this?" Micah screamed.
"It's official," said J.D., still trying to unwedgie himself. "I hate women."
"That reminds me," said Freddie, looking at his watch. "You're five minutes late for Rosie's little soirťe."
"Fuck it," said J.D. "I've more important things to do, such as getting the circulation back to my balls."
"You know, I have no bloody idea how you two can go from arguing the definition of 'moot' one minute to ganging up on Tegan the next!" I shouted, standing up on my bed to better see the whimpering lads whom I was addressing. "You're supposed to be her friends - even if she was really ugly, which she most certainly is not, you shouldn't tell her that, cos then you're being a really shitty friend! I know you're both shallow and self-absorbed, but it's like you try to provoke her and hurt her feelings to make yourselves feel more masculine, or whatever! That's crap and you both should know better than that, and I'm... I'm disappointed in the both of you."
There were a few moments of silence before J.D. said, "Mate, she's gone. You've come to her rescue five minutes too late for her to see it."
Scowling, I sat on my bed and folded my arms, feeling absolutely miserable on the inside - not just because of what J.D. said, but because I couldn't shake off the guilt that I hadn't yet told Tegan the truth about Eleni's involvement in the events of that past Valentine's Day. I was afraid to tell her the truth because I was afraid she'd hate me for it, but lo and behold, now she hated me anyway, for completely unrelated reasons.
With Micah and J.D. having given up trying to unwedgie themselves, Freddie chuckled and said, "At least Quidditch comes back in seven days."
A/N: I am SO sorry for this inexcusably long wait. (That is, if I still have any readers left.) Life has become extremely busy and I'm afraid there's nothing I can do to change that, but I promise that I'll do the best I can to minimize the wait between chapters. Thank you so much for your continued patience, and thanks for reading.
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