Intrigued, Harry flicked the envelope open and pulled out the sheaf of parchment inside. More curly silver writing on the front page said: Feel out of step in the world of modern magic? Find yourself making excuses not to perform simple spells? Ever been taunted for your woeful wandwork? There is an answer! Kwikspell is an all-new, fail-safe, quick-result, easy-learn course. Hundreds of witches and wizards have benefited from the Kwikspell method! Madam Z. Nettles of Topsham writes: "I had no memory for incantations and my potions were a family joke! Now, after a Kwikspell course, I am the center of attention at parties and friends beg for the recipe of my Scintillation Solution!" Warlock D. J. Prod of Didsbury says: "My wife used to sneer at my feeble charms, but one month into your fabulous Kwikspell course and I succeeded in turning her into a yak! Thank you, Kwikspell!"
Fascinated, Harry thumbed through the rest of the envelope's contents. Why on earth did Filch want a Kwikspell course? Did this mean he wasn't a proper wizard? Harry was just reading "Lesson One: Holding Your Wand (Some Useful Tips)" when shuffling footsteps outside told him Filch was coming back. Stuffing the parchment back into the envelope, Harry threw it back onto the desk just as the door opened.
Filch was looking triumphant.
"That vanishing cabinet was extremely valuable!" he was saying gleefully to Mrs. Norris. "We'll have Peeves out this time, my sweet -"
His eyes fell on Harry and then darted to the Kwikspell envelope, which, Harry realized too late, was lying two feet away from where it had started.
Filch's pasty face went brick red. Harry braced himself for a tidal wave of fury. Filch hobbled across to his desk, snatched up the envelope, and threw it into a drawer.
"Have you - did you read -?" he sputtered.
"No," Harry lied quickly.
Filch's knobbly hands were twisting together.
"If I thought you'd read my private - not that it's mine - for a friend - be that as it may - however -"
Harry was staring at him, alarmed; Filch had never looked madder. His eyes were popping, a tic was going in one of his pouchy cheeks, and the tartan scarf didn't help.
"Very well - go - and don't breathe a word - not that - however, if you didn't read - go now, I have to write up Peeves' report - go -"
Amazed at his luck, Harry sped out of the office, up the corridor, and back upstairs. To escape from Filch's office without punishment was probably some kind of school record.
"Harry! Harry! Did it work?"
Nearly Headless Nick came gliding out of a classroom. Behind him, Harry could see the wreckage of a large black-and-gold cabinet that appeared to have been dropped from a great height.
"I persuaded Peeves to crash it right over Filch's office," said Nick eagerly. "Thought it might distract him -"
"Was that you?" said Harry gratefully. "Yeah, it worked, I didn't even get detention. Thanks, Nick!"
They set off up the corridor together. Nearly Headless Nick, Harry noticed, was still holding Sir Patrick's rejection letter.
"I wish there was something I could do for you about the Headless Hunt," Harry said.
Nearly Headless Nick stopped in his tracks and Harry walked right through him. He wished he hadn't; it was like stepping through an icy shower.
"But there is something you could do for me," said Nick excitedly. "Harry - would I be asking too much - but no, you wouldn't want -"
"What is it?" said Harry.
"Well, this Halloween will be my five hundredth deathday," said Nearly Headless Nick, drawing himself up and looking dignified.
"Oh," said Harry, not sure whether he should look sorry or happy about this. "Right."
© 1999 by J. K. Rowling. Reprinted by permission of Scholastic Inc.
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