Dinner in the Great Hall that night was not a pleasant experience for Harry. The icon

Dinner in the Great Hall that night was not a pleasant experience for Harry. The

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Dinner in the Great Hall that night was not a pleasant experience for Harry. The

news about his shouting match with Umbridge had travelled exceptionally fast

even by Hogwartsʹ standards. He heard whispers all around him as he sat eating

between Ron and Hermione. The funny thing was that none of the whisperers

seemed to mind him overhearing what they were saying about him. On the

contrary, it was as though they were hoping he would get angry and start

shouting again, so that they could hear his story first‐hand.

ʹHe says he saw Cedric Diggory murdered…ʹ

ʹHe reckons he duelled with You‐Know‐Who…ʹ

ʹCome off it…ʺ

ʹWho does he think heʹs kidding?ʹ


ʹWhat I donʹt get,ʹ said Harry through clenched teeth, laying down his knife and

fork (his hands were shaking too much to hold them steady), ʹis why they all

believed the story two months ago when Dumbledore told them…ʹ

ʹThe thing is, Harry, Iʹm not sure they did,ʹ said Hermione grimly. ʹOh, letʹs get

out of here.ʹ

She slammed down her own knife and fork; Ron looked longingly at his halffinished

apple pie but followed suit. People stared at them all the way out of the


ʹWhat dʹyou mean, youʹre not sure they believed Dumbledore?ʹ Harry asked

Hermione when they reached the first‐floor landing.

ʹLook, you donʹt understand what it was like after it happened,ʹ said Hermione

quietly. ʹYou arrived back in the middle of the lawn clutching Cedricʹs dead

body… none of us saw what happened in the maze… we just had Dumbledoreʹs

word for it that You‐Know‐Who had come back and killed Cedric and fought


ʹWhich is the truth!ʹ said Harry loudly.

ʹI know it is, Harry, so will you please stop biting my head off?ʹ said Hermione

wearily. ʹItʹs just that before the truth could sink in, everyone went home for the

summer, where they spent two months reading about how youʹre a nutcase and

Dumbledoreʹs going senile!ʹ

Rain pounded on the windowpanes as they strode along the empty corridors

back to Gryffindor Tower. Harry felt as though his first day had lasted a week,

but he still had a mountain of homework to do before bed. A dull pounding pain

was developing over his right eye. He glanced out of a rain‐washed window at

the dark grounds as they turned into the Fat Ladyʹs corridor. There was still no

light in Hagridʹs cabin.

ʹ^ Mimbulus mimbletonia,ʹ said Hermione, before the Fat Lady could ask. The

portrait swung open to reveal the hole behind it and the three of them scrambled

through it.

The common room was almost empty; nearly everyone was still down at dinner.

Crookshanks uncoiled himself from an armchair and trotted to meet them,

purring loudly, and when Harry, Ron and Hermione took their three favourite

chairs at the fireside he leapt lightly on to Hermioneʹs lap and curled up there

like a furry ginger cushion. Harry gazed into the flames, feeling drained and


ʹHow can Dumbledore have let this happen?ʹ Hermione cried suddenly, making

Harry and Ron jump; Crookshanks leapt off her, looking affronted. She pounded

the arms of her chair in fury, so that bits of stuffing leaked out of the holes. ʹHow

can he let that terrible woman teach us? And in our OWL year, too!ʹ

ʹWell, weʹve never had great Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers, have we?ʹ

said Harry. ʹYou know what itʹs like, Hagrid told us, nobody wants the job; they

say itʹs jinxed.ʹ

ʹYes, but to employ someone whoʹs actually refusing to let us do magic! Whatʹs

Dumbledore playing at?ʹ

ʹAnd sheʹs trying to get people to spy for her,ʹ said Ron darkly.

ʹRemember when she said she wanted us to come and tell her if we hear anyone

saying You‐Know‐Whoʹs back?ʹ

ʹOf course sheʹs here to spy on us all, thatʹs obvious, why else would Fudge have

wanted her to come?ʹ snapped Hermione.

ʹDonʹt start arguing again,ʹ said Harry wearily, as Ron opened his mouth to

retaliate. ʹCanʹt we just… letʹs just do that homework, get it out of the way…ʹ

They collected their schoolbags from a corner and returned to the chairs by the

fire. People were coming back from dinner now. Harry kept his face averted

from the portrait hole, but could still sense the stares he was attracting.

ʹShall we do Snapeʹs stuff first?ʹ said Ron, dipping his quill into his ink. ʺThe

properties… of moonstone… and its uses … in potion‐making…ʹʺ he muttered,

writing the words across the top of his parchment as he spoke them. There.ʹ He

underlined the title, then looked up expectantly at Hermione.

ʹSo, what are the properties of moonstone and its uses in potion‐making?ʹ

But Hermione was not listening; she was squinting over into the far corner of the

room, where Fred, George and Lee Jordan were now sitting at the centre of a

knot of innocent‐looking first‐years, all of whom were chewing something that

seemed to have come out of a large paper bag that Fred was holding.

ʹNo, Iʹm sorry, theyʹve gone too far,ʹ she said, standing up and looking positively

furious. ʹCome on, Ron.ʹ

ʹ1 ‐ what?ʹ said Ron, plainly playing for time. ʹNo ‐ come on, Hermione ‐ we canʹt

tell them off for giving out sweets.ʹ

ʹYou know perfectly well that those are bits of Nosebleed Nougat or ‐ or Puking

Pastilles or ‐ʹ

ʹFainting Fancies?ʹ Harry suggested quietly.

One by one, as though hit over the head with an invisible mallet, the first‐years

were slumping unconscious in their seats; some slid right on to the floor, others

merely hung over the arms of their chairs, their tongues lolling out. Most of the

people watching were laughing; Hermione, however, squared her shoulders and

marched directly over to where Fred and George now stood with clipboards,

closely observing the unconscious first‐years. Ron rose halfway out of his chair,

hovered uncertainly for a moment or two, then muttered to Harry, ʹSheʹs got it

under control,ʹ before sinking as low in his chair as his lanky frame permitted.

Thatʹs enough!ʹ Hermione said forcefully to Fred and George, both of whom

looked up in mild surprise.

ʹYeah, youʹre right,ʹ said George, nodding, ʹthis dosage looks strong enough,

doesnʹt it?ʹ

ʹI told you this morning, you canʹt test your rubbish on students!ʹ

ʹWeʹre paying them!ʹ said Fred indignantly.

ʹI donʹt care, it could be dangerous!ʹ

ʹRubbish,ʹ said Fred.

ʹCalm down, Hermione, theyʹre fine!ʹ said Lee reassuringly as he walked from

first‐year to first‐year, inserting purple sweets into their open mouths.

ʹYeah, look, theyʹre coming round now,ʹ said George.

A few of the first‐years were indeed stirring. Several looked so shocked to find

themselves lying on the floor, or dangling off their chairs, that Harry was sure

Fred and George had not warned them what the sweets were going to do.

ʹFeel all right?ʹ said George kindly to a small dark‐haired girl lying at his feet.

ʹI ‐ I think so,ʹ she said shakily.

ʹExcellent,ʹ said Fred happily, but the next second Hermione had snatched both

his clipboard and the paper bag of Fainting Fancies from his hands.

ʹIt is NOT excellent!ʹ

ʹCourse it is, theyʹre alive, arenʹt they?ʹ said Fred angrily.

ʹYou canʹt do this, what if you made one of them really ill?ʹ

ʹWeʹre not going to make them ill, weʹve already tested them all on ourselves,

this is just to see if everyone reacts the same ‐ʹ

ʹIf you donʹt stop doing it, Iʹm going to ‐ʹ

ʹPut us in detention?ʹ said Fred, in an Iʹd‐like‐to‐see‐you‐try‐it voice.

ʹMake us write lines?ʹ said George, smirking.

Onlookers all over the room were laughing. Hermione drew herself up to her full

height; her eyes were narrowed and her bushy hair seemed to crackle with


ʹNo,ʹ she said, her voice quivering with anger, ʹbut I will write to your mother.ʹ

ʹYou wouldnʹt,ʹ said George, horrified, taking a step back from her.

ʹOh, yes, I would,ʹ said Hermione grimly. ʹ1 canʹt stop you eating the stupid

things yourselves, but youʹre not to give them to the first‐years.ʹ

Fred and George looked thunderstruck. It was clear that as far as they were

concerned, Hermioneʹs threat was way below the belt. With a last threatening

look at them, she thrust Fredʹs clipboard and the bag of Fancies back into his

arms, and stalked back to her chair by the fire.

Ron was now so low in his seat that his nose was roughly level with his knees.

Thank you for your support, Ron,ʹ Hermione said acidly.

ʹYou handled it fine by yourself,ʹ Ron mumbled.

Hermione stared down at her blank piece of parchment for a few seconds, then

said edgily, ʹOh, itʹs no good, I canʹt concentrate now. Iʹm going to bed.ʹ

She wrenched her bag open; Harry thought she was about to put her books

away, but instead she pulled out two misshapen woolly objects, placed them

carefully on a table by the fireplace, covered them with a few screwed‐up bits of

parchment and a broken quill and stood back to admire the effect.

ʹWhat in the name of Merlin are you doing?ʹ said Ron, watching her as though

fearful for her sanity.

Theyʹre hats for house‐elves,ʹ she said briskly, now stuffing her books back into

her bag. ʹI did them over the summer. Iʹm a really slow knitter without magic but

now Iʹm back at school I should be able to make lots more.ʹ

ʹYouʹre leaving out hats for the house‐elves?ʹ said Ron slowly. ʹAnd youʹre

covering them up with rubbish first?ʹ

ʹYes,ʹ said Hermione defiantly, swinging her bag on to her back.

Thatʹs not on,ʹ said Ron angrily. ʹYouʹre trying to trick them into picking up the

hats. Youʹre setting them free when they might not want to be free.ʹ

ʹOf course they want to be free!ʹ said Hermione at once, though


her face was turning pink. ʹDonʹt you dare touch those hats, Ron!ʹ

She turned on her heel and left. Ron waited until she had disappeared through

the door to the girlsʹ dormitories, then cleared the rubbish off the woolly hats.

ʹThey should at least see what theyʹre picking up,ʹ he said firmly. ʹAnyway…ʹ he

rolled up the parchment on which he had written the title of Snapeʹs essay,

ʹthereʹs no point trying to finish this now, I canʹt do it without Hermione, I

havenʹt got a clue what youʹre supposed to do with moonstones, have you?ʹ

Harry shook his head, noticing as he did so that the ache in his right temple was

getting worse. He thought of the long essay on giant wars and the pain stabbed

at him sharply. Knowing perfectly well that when the morning came, he would

regret not finishing his homework that night, he piled his books back into his


ʹIʹm going to bed too.ʹ

He passed Seamus on the way to the door leading to the dormitories, but did not

look at him. Harry had a fleeting impression that Seamus had opened his mouth

to speak, but he sped up and reached the soothing peace of the stone spiral

staircase without having to endure any more provocation.


The following day dawned just as leaden and rainy as the previous one. Hagrid

was still absent from the staff table at breakfast.

ʹBut on the plus side, no Snape todayʹ said Ron bracingly.

Hermione yawned widely and poured herself some coffee. She looked mildly

pleased about something, and when Ron asked her what she had to be so happy

about, she simply said, The hats have gone. Seems the house‐elves do want

freedom after all.ʹ

ʹ1 wouldnʹt bet on it,ʹ Ron told her cuttingly. They might not count as clothes.

They didnʹt look anything like hats to me, more like woolly bladders.ʹ

Hermione did not speak to him all morning.

Double Charms was succeeded by double Transfiguration. Professor Flitwick

and Professor McGonagall both spent the first fifteen minutes of their lessons

lecturing the class on the importance of OWLs.

ʹWhat you must remember,ʹ said little Professor Flitwick squeakily perched as

ever on a pile of books so that he could see over the top of his desk, ʹis that these

examinations may influence your futures for many years to come! If you have

not already given serious thought to your careers, now is the time to do so. And

in the meantime, Iʹm afraid, we shall be working harder than ever to ensure that

you all do yourselves justice!ʹ

They then spent over an hour revising Summoning Charms, which according to

Professor Flitwick were bound to come up in their OWL, and he rounded off the

lesson by setting them their largest ever amount of Charms homework.

It was the same, if not worse, in Transfiguration.

ʹYou cannot pass an OWL,ʹ said Professor McGonagall grimly, ʹwithout serious

application, practice and study. I see no reason why everybody in this class

should not achieve an OWL in Transfiguration as long as they put in the work.ʹ

Neville made a sad little disbelieving noise. ʹYes, you too, Longbottom,ʹ said

Professor McGonagall. Thereʹs nothing wrong with your work except lack of

confidence. So… today we are starting Vanishing Spells. These are easier than

Conjuring Spells, which you would not usually attempt until NEWT level, but

they are still among the most difficult magic you will be tested on in your OWL.ʹ

She was quite right; Harry found the Vanishing Spells horribly difficult. By the

end of a double period neither he nor Ron had managed to vanish the snails on

which they were practising, though Ron said hopefully he thought his looked a

bit paler. Hermione, on the other hand, successfully vanished her snail on the

third attempt, earning her a ten‐point bonus for Gryffindor from Professor

McGonagall. She was the only person not given homework; everybody else was

told to practise the spell overnight, ready for a fresh attempt on their snails the

following afternoon.

Now panicking slightly about the amount of homework they had to do, Harry

and Ron spent their lunch hour in the library looking up the uses of moonstones

in potion‐making. Still angry about Ronʹs slur on her woolly hats, Hermione did

not join them. By the time they reached Care of Magical Creatures in the

afternoon, Harryʹs head was aching again.

The day had become cool and breezy, and as they walked down the sloping lawn

towards Hagridʹs cabin on the edge of the Forbidden Forest, they felt the

occasional drop of rain on their faces. Professor Grubbly‐Plank stood waiting for

the class some ten yards from Hagridʹs front door, a long trestle table in front of

her laden with twigs. As Harry and Ron reached her, a loud shout of laughter

sounded behind them; turning, they saw Draco Malfoy striding towards them,

surrounded by his usual gang of Slytherin cronies. He had clearly just said

something highly amusing, because Crabbe, Goyle, Pansy Parkinson and the rest

continued to snigger heartily as they gathered around the trestle table and,

judging by the way they all kept looking over at Harry, he was able to guess the

subject of the joke without too much difficulty.

ʹEveryone here?ʹ barked Professor Grubbly‐Plank, once all the Slytherins and

Gryffindors had arrived. ʹLetʹs crack on then. Who can tell me what these things

are called?ʹ

She indicated the heap of twigs in front of her. Hermioneʹs hand shot into the air.

Behind her back, Malfoy did a buck‐toothed imitation of her jumping up and

down in eagerness to answer a question. Pansy Parkinson gave a shriek of

laughter that turned almost at once into a scream, as the twigs on the table leapt

into the air and revealed themselves to be what looked like tiny pixie‐ish

creatures made of wood, each with knobbly brown arms and legs, two twiglike

fingers at the end of each hand and a funny flat, barklike face in which a pair of

beetle‐brown eyes glittered.

ʹOooooh!ʹ said Parvati and Lavender, thoroughly irritating Harry. Anyone would

have thought Hagrid had never shown them impressive creatures; admittedly,

the Flobberworms had been a bit dull, but the Salamanders and Hippogriffs had

been interesting enough, and the Blast‐Ended Skrewts perhaps too much so.

ʹKindly keep your voices down, girls!ʹ said Professor Grubbly‐Plank sharply,

scattering a handful of what looked like brown rice among the stick‐creatures,

who immediately fell upon the food. ʹSo ‐ anyone know the names of these

creatures? Miss Granger?ʹ

ʹBowtruckles,ʹ said Hermione. Theyʹre tree‐guardians, usually live in wand‐trees.ʹ

ʹFive points for Gryffindor,ʹ said Professor Grubbly‐Plank. ʹYes, these are

Bowtruckles, and as Miss Granger rightly says, they generally live in trees whose

wood is of wand quality. Anybody know what they eat?ʹ

ʹWoodlice,ʹ said Hermione promptly which explained why what Harry had taken

to be grains of brown rice were moving. ʹBut fairy eggs if they can get them.ʹ

ʹGood girl, take another five points. So, whenever you need leaves or wood from

a tree in which a Bowtruckle lodges, it is wise to have a gift of woodlice ready to

distract or placate it. They may not look dangerous, but if angered they will try

to gouge at human eyes with their fingers, which, as you can see, are very sharp

and not at all desirable near the eyeballs. So if youʹd like to gather closer, take a

few woodlice and a Bowtruckle ‐ I have enough here for one between three ‐ you

can study them more closely. I want a sketch from each of you with all bodyparts

labelled by the end of the lesson.ʹ

The class surged forwards around the trestle table. Harry deliberately circled

around the back so that he ended up right next to Professor Grubbly‐Plank.

ʹWhereʹs Hagrid?ʹ he asked her, while everyone else was choosing Bowtruckles.

ʹNever you mind,ʹ said Professor Grubbly‐Plank repressively, which had been

her attitude last time Hagrid had failed to turn up for a class, too. Smirking all

over his pointed face, Draco Malfoy leaned across Harry and seized the largest


ʹMaybe,ʹ said Malfoy in an undertone, so that only Harry could hear him, ʹthe

stupid great oafʹs got himself badly injured.ʹ

ʹMaybe you will if you donʹt shut up,ʹ said Harry out of the side of his mouth.

ʹMaybe heʹs been messing with stuff thatʹs too big for him, if you get my drift.ʹ

Malfoy walked away, smirking over his shoulder at Harry, who felt suddenly

sick. Did Malfoy know something? His father was a Death Eater after all; what if

he had information about Hagridʹs fate that had not yet reached the ears of the

Order? He hurried back around the table to Ron and Hermione who were

squatting on the grass some distance away and attempting to persuade a

Bowtruckle to remain still long enough for them to draw it. Harry pulled out

parchment and quill, crouched down beside the others and related in a whisper

what Malfoy had just said.

ʹDumbledore would know if some thing had happened to Hagrid,ʹ said

Hermione at once. ʹItʹs just playing into Malfoyʹs hands to look worried; it tells

him we donʹt know exactly whatʹs going on. Weʹve got to ignore him, Harry.

Here, hold the Bowtruckle for a moment, just so I can draw its face…ʹ

ʹYes,ʹ came Malfoyʹs clear drawl from the group nearest them, ʹFather was talking

to the Minister just a couple of days ago, you know, and it sounds as though the

Ministryʹs really determined to crack down on sub‐standard teaching in this

place. So even if that overgrown moron does show up again, heʹll probably be

sent packing straightaway.ʹ


Harry had gripped the Bowtruckle so hard that it had almost snapped, and it had

just taken a great retaliatory swipe at his hand with its sharp fingers, leaving two

long deep cuts there. Harry dropped it. Crabbe and Goyle, who had already been

guffawing at the idea of Hagrid being sacked, laughed still harder as the

Bowtruckle set off at full tilt towards the Forest, a little moving stick‐man soon

swallowed up among the tree roots. When the bell echoed distantly over the

grounds, Harry rolled up his blood‐stained Bowtruckle picture and marched off

to Herbology with his hand wrapped in Hermioneʹs handkerchief, and Malfoyʹs

derisive laughter still ringing in his ears.

ʹIf he calls Hagrid a moron one more time…ʹ said Harry through gritted teeth.

ʹHarry, donʹt go picking a row with Malfoy, donʹt forget, heʹs a prefect now, he

could make life difficult for you…ʹ

ʹWow, I wonder what itʹd be like to have a difficult life?ʹ said Harry sarcastically.

Ron laughed, but Hermione frowned. Together, they traipsed across the

vegetable patch. The sky still appeared unable to make up its mind whether it

wanted to rain or not.

ʹI just wish Hagrid would hurry up and get back, thatʹs all,ʹ said Harry in a low

voice, as they reached the greenhouses. ʹAnd
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