'Kindly keep your voices down, girls!' said Professor Grubbly-Plank sharply,
scattering a handful of what looked like brown rice among the stick-creatures,
who immediately fell upon the food. 'So - anyone know the names of these creatures?
'Bowtruckles,' said Hermione. They're tree-guardians, usually live in wand-trees.'
'Five points for Gryffindor,' said Professor Grubbly-Plank. 'Yes, 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?'
'Woodlice,' said Hermione promptly which explained why what Harry had taken
to be grains of brown rice were moving. 'But fairy eggs if they can get them.'
'Good 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 you'd 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 body-parts labelled by the end of the lesson.'
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.
'Where's Hagrid?' he asked her, while everyone else was choosing Bowtruckles.
'Never you mind,' 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
'Maybe,' said Malfoy in an undertone, so that only Harry could hear him,
'the stupid great oaf's got himself badly injured.'
'Maybe you will if you don't shut up,' said Harry out of the side of his
'Maybe he's been messing with stuff that's too big for him, if you get my
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 Hagrid's 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.
'Dumbledore would know if some thing had happened to Hagrid,' said Hermione
at once. 'It's just playing into Malfoy's hands to look worried; it tells him
we don't know exactly what's going on. We've got to ignore him, Harry. Here,
hold the Bowtruckle for a moment, just so I can draw its face:'
'Yes,' came Malfoy's clear drawl from the group nearest them, 'Father was
talking to the Minister just a couple of days ago, you know, and it sounds as
though the Ministry's really determined to crack down on sub-standard teaching
in this place. So even if that overgrown moron does show up again, he'll probably
be sent packing straightaway.'
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 Hermione's handkerchief, and Malfoy's
derisive laughter still ringing in his ears.
'If he calls Hagrid a moron one more time:' said Harry through gritted teeth.
'Harry, don't go picking a row with Malfoy, don't forget, he's a prefect
now, he could make life difficult for you:'
'Wow, I wonder what it'd be like to have a difficult life?' 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.
'I just wish Hagrid would hurry up and get back, that's all,' said Harry
in a low voice, as they reached the greenhouses. 'And don't say that Grubbly-Plank
woman's a better teacher!' he added threateningly.
'I wasn't going to,' said Hermione calmly.
'Because she'll never be as good as Hagrid,' said Harry firmly, fully aware
that he had just experienced an exemplary Care of Magical Creatures lesson and
was thoroughly annoyed about it.
The door of the nearest greenhouse opened and some fourth-years spilled out
of it, including Ginny.
'Hi,' she said brightly as she passed. A few seconds later, Luna Lovegood
emerged, trailing behind the rest of the class, a smudge of earth on her nose,
and her hair tied in a knot on the top of her head. When she saw Harry, her
prominent eyes seemed to bulge excitedly and she made a beeline straight for
him. Many of his classmates turned curiously to watch. Luna took a great breath
and then said, without so much as a preliminary hello, 'I believe He Who Must
Not Be Named is back and I believe you fought him and escaped from him.'
'Er - right,' said Harry awkwardly. Luna was wearing what looked like a pair
of orange radishes for earrings, a fact that Parvati and Lavender seemed to
have noticed, as they were both giggling and pointing at her earlobes.
'You can laugh,' Luna said, her voice rising, apparently under the impression
that Parvati and Lavender were laughing at what she had said rather than what
she was wearing, 'but people used to believe there were no such things as the
Blibbering Humdinger or the Crumple-Horned Snorkack!'
'Well, they were right, weren't they?' said Hermione impatiently. There weren't
any such things as the Blibbering Humdinger or the Crumple-Horned Snorkack.'
Luna gave her a withering look and flounced away, radishes swinging madly
Parvati and Lavender were not the only ones hooting with laughter now.
'D'you mind not offending the only people who believe me?' Harry asked Hermione
as they made their way into class.
'Oh, for heaven's sake, Harry, you can do better than her,' said Hermione.
'Ginny's told me all about her; apparently, she'll only believe in things as
long as there's no proof at all. Well, I wouldn't expect anything else from
someone whose father runs The Quibbler.'
Harry thought of the sinister winged horses he had seen on the night he had
arrived and how Luna had said she could see them too. His spirits sank slightly.
Had she been lying? But before he could devote much more thought to the matter,
Ernie Macmillan had stepped up to him.
'I want you to know, Potter,' he said in a loud, carrying voice, 'that it's
not only weirdos who support you. I personally believe you one hundred per cent.
My family have always stood firm behind Dumbledore, and so do I.'
'Er - thanks very much, Ernie,' said Harry, taken aback but pleased. Ernie
might be pompous on occasions like this, but Harry was in a mood to deeply appreciate
a vote of confidence from somebody who did not have radishes dangling from their
ears. Ernie's words had certainly wiped the smile from Lavender Brown's face
and as he turned to talk to Ron and Hermione, Harry caught Seamuss expression,
which looked both confused and defiant.
To nobody's surprise, Professor Sprout started their lesson by lecturing
them about the importance of OWLs. Harry wished all the teachers would stop
doing this; he was starting to get an anxious, twisted feeling in his stomach
every time he remembered how much homework he had to do, a feeling that worsened
dramatically when Professor Sprout gave them yet another essay at the . end
of class. Tired and smelling strongly of dragon dung, Professor Sprout's preferred
type of fertiliser, the Gryffindors trooped back up to the castle an hour and
a half later, none of them talking very much; it had been another long day.
As Harry was starving, and he had his first detention with Umbridge at five
o'clock, he headed straight for dinner without dropping off his bag in Gryffindor
Tower so that he could bolt something down before facing whatever she had in
store for him. He had barely reached the entrance of the Great Hall, however,
when a loud and angry voice yelled, 'Oi, Potter!'
'What now?' he muttered wearily, turning to face Angelina Johnson, who looked
as though she was in a towering temper.
'I'll tell you what now,' she said, marching straight up to him and poking
him hard in the chest with her finger. 'How come you've landed yourself in detention
for five o'clock on Friday?'
'What?' said Harry. 'Why: oh yeah, Keeper tryouts!'
'Now he remembers!' snarled Angelina. 'Didn't I tell you I wanted to do a
tryout with the whole team, and find someone who fitted in with everyone! Didn't
I tell you I'd booked the Quidditch pitch specially? And now you've decided
you're not going to be there!'
'I didn't decide not to be there!' said Harry, stung by the injustice of
these words. 'I got detention from that Umbridge woman, just because I told
her the truth about You-Know-Who.'
'Well, you can just go straight to her and ask her to let you off on Friday,'
said Angelina fiercely, 'and I don't care how you do it. Tell her You-Know-Who's
a figment of your imagination if you like, just make sure you re there!'
She turned on her heel and stormed away.
'You know what?' Harry said to Ron and Hermione as they entered the Great
Hall. 'I think we'd better check with Puddlemere United whether Oliver Wood's
been killed during a training session, because Angelina seems to be channelling
'What d'you reckon are the odds of Umbridge letting you off on Friday?' said
Ron sceptically, as they sat down at the Gryffindor table.
'Less than zero,' said Harry glumly, tipping lamb chops on to his plate and
starting to eat. 'Better try, though, hadn't I? I'll offer to do two more detentions
or something, I dunno:" He swallowed a mouthful of potato and added, 'I hope
she doesn't keep me too long this evening. You realise we've got to write three
essays, practise Vanishing Spells for McGonagall, work out a counter-charm for
Flitwick, finish the Bowtruckle drawing and start that stupid dream diary for
Ron moaned and for some reason glanced up at the ceiling.
'And it looks like it's going to rain.'
'What's that got to do with our homework?' said Hermione, her eyebrows raised.
'Nothing,' said Ron at once, his ears reddening.
At five to five Harry bade the other two goodbye and set off for Umbridge's
office on the third floor. When he knocked on the door she called, 'Come in,'
in a sugary voice. He entered cautiously, looking around.
He had known this office under three of its previous occupants.
In the days when Gilderoy Lockhart had lived here it had been plastered in
beaming portraits of himself. When Lupin had occupied it, it was likely you
would meet some fascinating Dark creature in a cage or tank if you came to call.
In the impostor Moody's days it had been packed with various instruments and
artefacts for the detection of wrongdoing and concealment.
Now, however, it looked totally unrecognisable. The surfaces had all been
draped in lacy covers and cloths. There were several vases full of dried flowers,
each one residing on its own doily, and on one of the walls was a collection
of ornamental plates, each decorated with a large technicolour kitten wearing
a different bow around its neck. These were so foul that Harry stared at them,
transfixed, until Professor Umbridge spoke again.
'Good evening, Mr Potter.'
Harry started and looked around. He had not noticed her at first because
she was wearing a luridly flowered set of robes that blended only too well with
the tablecloth on the desk behind her.
'Evening, Professor Umbridge,' Harry said stiffly.
'Well, sit down,' she said, pointing towards a small table draped in lace
beside which she had drawn up a straight-backed chair. A piece of blank parchment
lay on the table, apparently waiting for him.
'Er,' said Harry, without moving. 'Professor Umbridge. Er - before we start,
I - I wanted to ask you a: a favour.'
Her bulging eyes narrowed.
'Well, I'm: I'm in the Gryffindor Quidditch team. And I was supposed to be
at the tryouts for the new Keeper at five o'clock on Friday and I was - was
wondering whether I could skip detention that night and do it - do it another
He knew long before he reached the end of his sentence that it was no good.
'Oh, no,' said Umbridge, smiling so widely that she looked as though she
had just swallowed a particularly juicy fly. 'Oh, no, no, no. This is your punishment
for spreading evil, nasty, attention-seeking stories, Mr Potter, and punishments
certainly cannot be adjusted to suit the guilty one's convenience. No, you will
come here at five o'clock tomorrow, and the next day, and on Friday too, and
you will do your detentions as planned. I think it rather a good thing that
you are missing something you really want to do. It ought to reinforce the lesson
I am trying to teach you.'