By J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Chapter Twelve. Magic is Might
As August wore on, the square of unkempt grass in the middle of Grimmauld Place shriveled in the sun until it was brittle and brown. The inhabitants of number twelve were never seen by anyone in the surrounding houses, and nor was number twelve itself. The muggles who lived in Grimmauld Place had long since accepted the amusing mistake in the numbering that had caused number eleven to sit beside number thirteen.
And yet the square was now attracting a trickle of visitors who seemed to find the anomaly most intriguing. Barely a day passed without one or two people arriving in Grimmauld Place with no other purpose, or so it seemed, than to lean against the railings facing numbers eleven and thirteen, watching the join between the two houses. The lurkers were never the same two days running, although they all seemed to share a dislike for normal clothing. Most of the Londoners
who passed them were used to eccentric dressers and took little notice, though occasionally one of them might glance back, wondering why anyone would wear cloaks in this heat.
The watchers seemed to be gleaning little satisfaction from their vigil. Occasionally one of them started forward excitedly, as if they had seen something interesting at last, only to fall back looking disappointed.
On the first day of September there were more people lurking in the square than ever before. Half a dozen men in long cloaks stood silent and watchful, gazing as ever at houses eleven and thirteen, but the thing for which they were waiting still appeared elusive. As evening drew in, bringing with it an unexpected gust of chilly rain for the first time in weeks, there occurred one of those inexplicable moments when they appeared to have seen something interesting. The man with the twisted face pointed and his closest companion, a podgy, pallid man, started forward, but a moment later they had relaxed into their previous state of inactivity, looking frustrated and disappointed.
Meanwhile, inside number twelve, Harry had just entered the hall. He had nearly lost his balance as he Apparated onto the top step just outside the front door, and thought that the Death Eaters might have caught a glimpse of his momentarily exposed elbow. Shutting the front door carefully behind him, he pulled off the Invisibility Cloak, draped it over his arm, and hurried along the gloomy hallway toward the door that led to the basement, a stolen copy of the Daily Prophet clutched in his hand.
The usual low whisper of “Severus Snape” greeted him, the chill wind swept him, and his tongue rolled up for a moment.
“I didn’t kill you,” he said, once it had unrolled, then held his breath as the dusty jinx-figure exploded. He waited until he was halfway down the stairs to the kitchen, out of earshot of Mrs. Black and clear of the dust cloud, before calling, “I’ve got news, and you won’t like it.”
The kitchen was almost unrecognizable. Every surface now shone; Copper pots and pans had been burnished to a rosy glow; the wooden tabletop gleamed; the goblets and plates already laid for dinner glinted in the light from a merrily blazing fire, on which a cauldron was simmering. Nothing in the room, however, was more dramatically different than the house-elf who now came hurrying toward Harry, dressed in a snowy-white towel, his ear hair as clean and fluffy as cotton wool, Regulus’s locket bouncing on his thin chest.