She gave Ron yet another kiss on the cheek, sniffed loudly, and bustled from
Fred and George exchanged looks.
'You don't mind if we don't kiss you, do you, Ron?' said Fred in a falsely
'We could curtsey, if you like,' said George.
'Oh, shut up,' said Ron, scowling at them.
'Or what?' said Fred, an evil grin spreading across his face. 'Going to put
us in detention?'
I'd love to see him try,' sniggered George.
'He could if you don't watch out!' said Hermione angrily.
Fred and George burst out laughing, and Ron muttered, 'Drop it, Hermione.'
'We're going to have to watch our step, George,' said Fred, pretending to
tremble, 'with these two on our case:'
'Yeah, it looks like our law-breaking days are finally over,' said George,
shaking his head.
And with another loud crack, the twins Disapparated.
Those two!' said Hermione furiously, staring up at the ceiling, through which
they could now hear Fred and George roaring with laughter in the room upstairs.
'Don't pay any attention to them, Ron, they're only jealous!'
'I don't think they are,' said Ron doubtfully, also looking up at the ceiling.
They've always said only prats become prefects: still,' he added on a happier
note, 'they've never had new brooms! I wish I could go with Mum and choose:
she'll never be able to afford a Nimbus, but there's the new Cleansweep out,
that'd be great: yeah, I think I'll go and tell her I like the Cleansweep, just
so she knows
He dashed from the room, leaving Harry and Hermione alone.
For some reason, Harry found he did not want to look at Hermione. He turned
to his bed, picked up the pile of clean robes Mrs Weasley had laid on it and
crossed the room to his trunk.
'Harry?' said Hermione tentatively.
'Well done, Hermione,' said Harry, so heartily it did not sound like his
voice at all, and, still not looking at her, 'brilliant. Prefect. Great.'
Thanks,' said Hermione. 'Erm - Harry - could I borrow Hedwig so I can tell
Mum and Dad? They'll be really pleased - I mean prefect is something they can
'Yeah, no problem,' said Harry, still in the horrible hearty voice that did
not belong to him. Take her!'
He leaned over his trunk, laid the robes on the bottom of it and pretended
to be rummaging for something while Hermione crossed to the wardrobe and called
Hedwig down. A few moments passed; Harry heard the door close but remained bent
double, listening; the only sounds he could hear were the blank picture on the
wall sniggering again and the wastepaper basket in the corner coughing up the
He straightened up and looked behind him. Hermione had left and Hedwig had
gone. Harry hurried across the room, closed the door, then returned slowly to
his bed and sank on to it, gazing unseeingly at the foot of the wardrobe.
He had forgotten completely about prefects being chosen in the fifth year.
He had been too anxious about the possibility of being expelled to spare a thought
for the fact that badges must be winging their way towards certain people. But
if he had remembered: if he had thought about it: what would he have expected?
Not this, said a small and truthful voice inside his head.
Harry screwed up his face and buried it in his hands. He could not lie to
himself; if he had known the prefect badge was on its way, he would have expected
it to come to him, not Ron. Did this make him as arrogant as Draco Malfoy? Did
he think himself superior to everyone else? Did he really believe he was better
No, said the small voice defiantly.
Was that true? Harry wondered, anxiously probing his own feelings.
I'm better at Quidditch, said the voice. But I'm not better at anything else.
That was definitely true, Harry thought; he was no better than Ron in lessons.
But what about outside lessons? What about those adventures he, Ron and Hermione
had had together since starting at Hogwarts, often risking much worse than expulsion?
Well, Ron and Hermione were with me most of the time, said the voice in Harry's
Not all the time, though, Harry argued with himself. They didn't fight Quirrell
with me. They didn't take on Riddle and the Basilisk. They didn't get rid of
all those Dementors the night Sirius escaped. They weren't in that graveyard
with me, the night Voldemort returned:
And the same feeling of ill-usage that had overwhelmed him on the night he
had arrived rose again. I've definitely done more, Harry thought indignantly.
I've done more than either of them!
But maybe, said the small voice fairly, maybe Dumbledore doesn't choose prefects
because they've got themselves into a load of dangerous situations: maybe he
chooses them for other reasons: Ron must have something you don't:
Harry opened his eyes and stared through his fingers at the wardrobe's clawed
feet, remembering what Fred had said: 'No one in their right mind would make
Ron a prefect:'
Harry gave a small snort of laughter. A second later he felt sickened with
Ron had not asked Dumbledore to give him the prefect badge. This was not
Ron's fault. Was he, Harry, Ron's best friend in the world, going to sulk because
he didn't have a badge, laugh with the twins behind Ron's back, ruin this for
Ron when, for the first time, he had beaten Harry at something?
At this point Harry heard Ron's footsteps on the stairs again. He stood up,
straightened his glasses, and hitched a grin on to his face as Ron bounded back
through the door.
'Just caught her!' he said happily. 'She says she'll get the Cleansweep if
'Cool,' Harry said, and he was relieved to hear that his voice had stopped
sounding hearty. 'Listen - Ron - well done, mate.'
The smile faded off Ron's face.
'I never thought it would be me!' he said, shaking his head. 'I thought it
would be you!'
'Nah, I've caused too much trouble,' Harry said, echoing Fred.
'Yeah,' said Ron, 'yeah, I suppose: well, we'd better get our trunks packed,
It was odd how widely their possessions seemed to have scattered themselves
since they had arrived. It took them most of the afternoon to retrieve their
books and belongings from all over the house and stow them back inside their
school trunks. Harry noticed that Ron kept moving his prefects badge around,
first placing it on his bedside table, then putting it into his jeans pocket,
then taking it out and lying it on his folded robes, as though to see the effect
of the red on the black. Only when Fred and George dropped in and offered to
attach it to his forehead with a Permanent Sticking Charm did he wrap it tenderly
in his maroon socks and lock it in his trunk.
Mrs Weasley returned from Diagon Alley around six o'clock, laden with books
and carrying a long package wrapped in thick brown paper that Ron took from
her with a moan of longing.
'Never mind unwrapping it now, people are arriving for dinner, I want you
all downstairs,' she said, but the moment she was out of sight Ron ripped off
the paper in a frenzy and examined every inch of his new broom, an ecstatic
expression on his face.
Down in the basement Mrs Weasley had hung a scarlet banner over the heavily
laden dinner table, which read:
RON AND HERMIONE
She looked in a better mood than Harry had seen her all holiday.
'I thought we'd have a little party, not a sit-down dinner,' she told Harry,
Ron, Hermione, Fred, George and Ginny as they entered the room. 'Your father
and Bill are on their way, Ron. I've sent them both owls and they're thrilled,'
she added, beaming.
Fred rolled his eyes.
Sirius, Lupin, Tonks and Kingsley Shacklebolt were already there and Mad-Eye
Moody stumped in shortly after Harry had got himself a Butterbeer.
'Oh, Alastor, I am glad you're here,' said Mrs Weasley brightly, as Mad-Eye
shrugged off his travelling cloak. 'We've been wanting to ask you for ages -
could you have a look in the writing desk in the drawing room and tell us what's
inside it? We haven't wanted to open it just in case it's something really nasty.'
'No problem, Molly:'
Moody's electric-blue eye swivelled upwards and stared fixedly through the
ceiling of the kitchen.
'Drawing room:' he growled, as the pupil contracted. 'Desk in the corner?
Yeah, I see it: yeah, it's a Boggart: want me to go up and get rid of it, Molly?'
'No, no, I'll do it myself later,' beamed Mrs Weasley, 'you have your drink.
We're having a little bit of a celebration, actually:' She gestured at the scarlet
banner. 'Fourth prefect in the family!' she said fondly, ruffling Ron's hair.
'Prefect, eh?' growled Moody, his normal eye on Ron and his magical eye swivelling
around to gaze into the side of his head. Harry had the very uncomfortable feeling
it was looking at him and moved away towards Sirius and Lupin.
Well, congratulations,' said Moody, still glaring at Ron with his normal
eye, 'authority figures always attract trouble, but I suppose Dumbledore thinks
you can withstand most major jinxes or he wouldn't have appointed you:'
Ron looked rather startled at this view of the matter but was saved the trouble
of responding by the arrival of his father and eldest brother. Mrs Weasley was
in such a good mood she did not even complain that they had brought Mundungus
with them; he was wearing a long overcoat that seemed oddly lumpy in unlikely
places and declined the offer to remove it and put it with Moody's travelling
Well, I think a toast is in order,' said Mr Weasley, when everyone had a
drink. He raised his goblet. To Ron and Hermione, the new Gryffindor prefects!'
Ron and Hermione beamed as everyone drank to them, and then applauded.
'I was never a prefect myself,' said Tonks brightly from behind Harry as
everybody moved towards the table to help themselves to food. Her hair was tomato
red and waist-length today; she looked like Ginny's older sister. 'My Head of
House said I lacked certain necessary qualities.'
'Like what?' said Ginny, who was choosing a baked potato.
'Like the ability to behave myself,' said Tonks.
Ginny laughed; Hermione looked as though she did not know whether to smile
or not and compromised by taking an extra large gulp of Butterbeer and choking
'What about you, Sirius?' Ginny asked, thumping Hermione on the back.
Sirius, who was right beside Harry, let out his usual bark-like laugh.
'No one would have made me a prefect, I spent too much time in detention
with James. Lupin was the good boy, he got the badge.'
'I think Dumbledore might have hoped I would be able to exercise some control
over my best friends,' said Lupin. 'I need scarcely say that I failed dismally.'
Harry's mood suddenly lifted. His father had not been a prefect either. All
at once the party seemed much more enjoyable; he loaded up his plate, feeling
doubly fond of everyone in the room.
Ron was rhapsodising about his new broom to anybody who would listen.
': nought to seventy in ten seconds, not bad, is it? When you think the Comet
Two Ninety's only nought to sixty and that's with a decent tailwind according
to Which Broomstick?'
Hermione was talking very earnestly to Lupin about her view of elf rights.
'I mean, it's the same kind of nonsense as werewolf segregation, isn't it?
It all stems from this horrible thing wizards have of thinking they're superior
to other creatures:"
Mrs Weasley and Bill were having their usual argument about Bill's hair.
': getting really out of hand, and you're so good-looking, it would look
much better shorter, wouldn't it, Harry?'
'Oh - I dunno -' said Harry, slightly alarmed at being asked his opinion;
he slid away from them in the direction of Fred and George, who were huddled
in a corner with Mundungus.
Mundungus stopped talking when he saw Harry, but Fred winked and beckoned
'Its OK,' he told Mundungus, 'we can trust Harry, he's our financial backer.'
'Look what Dung's got us,' said George, holding out his hand to Harry. It
was full of what looked like shrivelled black pods. A faint rattling noise was
coming from them, even though they were completely stationary.
'Venomous Tentacula seeds,' said George. 'We need them for the Skiving Snackboxes
but they're a Class C Non-Tradeable Substance so we've been having a bit of
trouble getting hold of them.'
Ten Galleons the lot, then. Dung?' said Fred.
'Wiv all the trouble I went to to get 'em?' said Mundungus, his saggy, bloodshot
eyes stretching even wider. 'I'm sorry, lads, but I'm not taking a Knut under
'Dung likes his little joke,' Fred said to Harry.
'Yeah, his best one so far has been six Sickles for a bag of Knarl quills,'
'Be careful,' Harry warned them quietly.
'What?' said Fred. 'Mum's busy cooing over Prefect Ron, we're OK.'
'But Moody could have his eye on you,' Harry pointed out.
Mundungus looked nervously over his shoulder.
'Good point, that,' he grunted. 'All right, lads, ten it is, if you'll take
'Cheers, Harry!' said Fred delightedly, when Mundungus had emptied his pockets
into the twins' outstretched hands and scuttled off towards the food. 'We'd
better get these upstairs:'