J.K.Rwling >> Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix (page 43)

Ron and Hermione were still smirking and Harry felt his temper rise; he wasn't even sure why he was feeling so angry.

'Don't sit there grinning like you know better than I do, I was there, wasn't I?' he said heatedly. 'I know what went on, all right? And I didn't get through any of that because I was brilliant at Defence Against the Dark Arts, I got through it all because - because help came at the right time, or because I guessed right - but I just blundered through it all, I didn't have a clue what I was doing - STOP LAUGHING!'

The bowl of Murtlap essence fell to the floor and smashed. He became aware that he was on his feet, though he couldn't remember standing up. Crookshanks streaked away under a sofa. Ron and Hermione's smiles had vanished.

'You don't know what it's like! You - neither of you - you've never had to face him, have you? You think it's just memorising a bunch of spells and throwing them at him, like you're in class or something? The whole time you're sure you know there's nothing between you and dying except your own - your own brain or guts or whatever -like you can think straight when you know you're about a nanosecond from being murdered, or tortured, or watching your friends die -they've never taught us that in their classes, what it's like to deal with things like that - and you two sit there acting like I'm a clever little boy to be standing here, alive, like Diggory was stupid, like he messed up - you just don't get it, that could just as easily have been me, it would have been if Voldemort hadn't needed me -'

'We weren't saying anything like that, mate,' said Ron, looking aghast. 'We weren't having a go at Diggory, we didn't - you've got the wrong end of the -'

He looked helplessly at Hermione, whose face was stricken.

'Harry,' she said timidly, 'don't you see? This: this is exactly why we need you: we need to know what it's r-really like: facing him: facing V-Voldemort.'

It was the first time she had ever said Voldemort's name and it was this, more than anything else, that calmed Harry. Still breathing hard, he sank back into his chair, becoming aware as he did so that his hand was throbbing horribly again. He wished he had not smashed the bowl of Murtlap essence.

'Well: think about it,' said Hermione quietly. 'Please?'

Harry could not think of anything to say. He was feeling ashamed of his outburst already. He nodded, hardly aware of what he was agreeing to.

Hermione stood up.

'Well, I'm off to bed,' she said, in a voice that was clearly as natural as she could make it. 'Erm: night.'

Ron had got to his feet, too.

'Coming?' he said awkwardly to Harry.

'Yeah,' said Harry. 'In: in a minute. I'll just clear this up.'

He indicated the smashed bowl on the floor. Ron nodded and left.

'Reparo,' Harry muttered, pointing his wand at the broken pieces of china. They flew back together, good as new, but there was no returning the Murtlap essence to the bowl.

He was suddenly so tired he was tempted to sink back into his armchair and sleep there, but instead he forced himself to his feet and followed Ron upstairs. His restless night was punctuated once more by dreams of long corridors and locked doors and he awoke next day with his scar prickling again.


In the Hogs Head

Hermione made no mention of Harry giving Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons for two whole weeks after her original suggestion. Harry's detentions with Umbridge were finally over (he doubted whether the words now etched into the back of his hand would ever fade entirely); Ron had had four more Quidditch practices and not been shouted at during the last two; and all three of them had managed to Vanish their mice in Transfiguration (Hermione had actually progressed to Vanishing kittens), before the subject was broached again, on a wild, blustery evening at the end of September, when the three of them were sitting in the library, looking up potion ingredients for Snape.

'I was wondering,' Hermione said suddenly, 'whether you'd thought any more about Defence Against the Dark Arts, Harry.'

'Course I have,' said Harry grumpily, 'can't forget it, can we, with that hag teaching us -'

'I meant the idea Ron and I had -' Ron cast her an alarmed, threatening kind of look. She frowned at him, '- Oh, all right, the idea I had, then - about you teaching us.'

Harry did not answer at once. He pretended to be perusing a page of Asiatic Anti-Venoms, because he did not want to say what was in his mind.

He had given the matter a great deal of thought over the past fortnight. Sometimes it seemed an insane idea, just as it had on the night Hermione had proposed it, but at others, he had found himself thinking about the spells that had served him best in his various encounters with Dark creatures and Death Eaters - found himself, in fact, subconsciously planning lessons:

'Well,' he said slowly, when he could no longer pretend to find Asiatic Anti-Venoms interesting, 'yeah, I - I've thought about it a bit.'

'And?' said Hermione eagerly.

'I dunno,' said Harry, playing for time. He looked up at Ron.

'I thought it was a good idea from the start,' said Ron, who seemed keener to join in this conversation now that he was sure Harry was not going to start shouting again.

Harry shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

'You did listen to what I said about a load of it being luck, didn't you?'

'Yes, Harry,' said Hermione gently, 'but all the same, there's no point pretending that you're not good at Defence Against the Dark Arts, because you are. You were the only person last year who could throw off the Imperius Curse completely, you can produce a Patronus, you can do all sorts of stuff that full-grown wizards can't, Viktor always said -'

Ron looked round at her so fast he appeared to crick his neck. Rubbing it, he said, 'Yeah? What did Vicky say?'

'Ho ho,' said Hermione in a bored voice. 'He said Harry knew how to do stuff even he didn't, and he was in the final year at Durmstrang.'

Ron was looking at Hermione suspiciously.

'You're not still in contact with him, are you?'

'So what if I am?' said Hermione coolly, though her face was a little pink. 'I can have a pen-pal if I -'

'He didn't only want to be your pen-pal,' said Ron accusingly.

Hermione shook her head exasperatedly and, ignoring Ron, who was continuing to watch her, said to Harry, 'Well, what do you think? Will you teach us?'

'Just you and Ron, yeah?'

'Well,' said Hermione, looking a mite anxious again. 'Well: now, don't fly off the handle again, Harry, please: but I really think you ought to teach anyone who wants to learn. I mean, we're talking about defending ourselves against V-Voldemort. Oh, don't be pathetic, Ron. It doesn't seem fair if we don't offer the chance to other people.'

Harry considered this for a moment, then said, 'Yeah, but I

doubt anyone except you two would want to be taught by me. I'm a nutter, remember?'

'Well, I think you might be surprised how many people would be interested in hearing what you've got to say' said Hermione seriously. 'Look,' she leaned towards him - Ron, who was still watching her with a frown on his face, leaned forwards to listen too - 'you know the first weekend in October's a Hogsmeade weekend? How would it be if we tell anyone who's interested to meet us in the village and we can talk it over?'

'Why do we have to do it outside school?' said Ron.

'Because,' said Hermione, returning to the diagram of the Chinese Chomping Cabbage she was copying, 'I don't think Umbridge would be very happy if she found out what we were up to.'

* * *

Harry had been looking forward to the weekend trip into Hogsmeade, but there was one thing worrying him. Sirius had maintained a stony silence since he had appeared in the fire at the beginning of September; Harry knew they had made him angry by saying they didn't want him to come - but he still worried from time to time that Sirius might throw caution to the winds and turn up anyway. What were they going to do if the great black dog came bounding up the street towards them in Hogsmeade, perhaps under the nose of Draco Malfoy?

'Well, you can't blame him for wanting to get out and about,' said Ron, when Harry discussed his fears with him and Hermione. 'I mean, he's been on the run for over two years, hasn't he, and I know that can't have been a laugh, but at least he was free, wasn't he? And now he's just shut up all the time with that ghastly elf.'

Hermione scowled at Ron, but otherwise ignored the slight on Kreacher.

The trouble is,' she said to Harry, 'until V-Voldemort - oh, for heaven's sake, Ron - comes out into the open, Sirius is going to have to stay hidden, isn't he? I mean, the stupid Ministry isn't going to realise Sirius is innocent until they accept that Dumbledore's been telling the truth about him all along. And once the fools start catching real Death Eaters again, it'll be obvious Sirius isn't one: I mean, he hasn't got the Mark, for one thing.'

'I don't reckon he'd be stupid enough to turn up,' said Ron bracingly. 'Dumbledore'd go mad if he did and Sirius listens to Dumbledore even if he doesn't like what he hears.'

When Harry continued to look worried, Hermione said, 'Listen, Ron and I have been sounding out people who we thought might want to learn some proper Defence Against the Dark Arts, and there are a couple who seem interested. We've told them to meet us in Hogsmeade.'

'Right,' said Harry vaguely, his mind still on Sirius.

'Don't worry, Harry' Hermione said quietly. 'You've got enough on your plate without Sirius, too.'

She was quite right, of course, he was barely keeping up with his homework, though he was doing much better now that he was no longer spending every evening in detention with Umbridge. Ron was even further behind with his work than Harry, because while they both had Quidditch practice twice a week, Ron also had his prefect duties. However, Hermione, who was taking more subjects than either of them, had not only finished all her homework but was also finding time to knit more elf clothes. Harry had to admit that she was getting better; it was now almost always possible to distinguish between the hats and the socks.

The morning of the Hogsmeade visit dawned bright but windy. After breakfast they queued up in front of Filch, who matched their names to the long list of students who had permission from their parents or guardian to visit the village. With a slight pang, Harry remembered that if it hadn't been for Sirius, he would not have been going at all.

When Harry reached Filch, the caretaker gave a great sniff as though trying to detect a whiff of something from Harry. Then he gave a curt nod that set his jowls aquiver again and Harry walked on, out on to the stone steps and the cold, sunlit day.

'Er - why was Filch sniffing you?' asked Ron, as he, Harry and Hermione set off at a brisk pace down the wide drive to the gates.

'I suppose he was checking for the smell of Dungbombs,' said Harry with a small laugh. 'I forgot to tell you:'

And he recounted the story of sending his letter to Sirius and Filch bursting in seconds later, demanding to see the letter. To his slight surprise, Hermione found this story highly interesting, much more, indeed, than he did himself.

'He said he was tipped off you were ordering Dungbombs? But who tipped him off?'

'I dunno,' said Harry, shrugging. 'Maybe Malfoy, he'd think it was a laugh.'

They walked between the tall stone pillars topped with winged boars and turned left on to the road into the village, the wind whipping their hair into their eyes.

'Malfoy?' said Hermione, sceptically. 'Well: yes: maybe:'

And she remained deep in thought all the way into the outskirts of Hogsmeade.

'Where are we going, anyway?' Harry asked. The Three Broomsticks?'

'Oh - no,' said Hermione, coming out of her reverie, 'no, it's always packed and really noisy. I've told the others to meet us in the Hog's Head, that other pub, you know the one, it's not on the main road. I think it's a bit: you know: dodgy: but students don't normally go in there, so I don't think we'll be overheard.'

They walked down the main street past Zonko's Wizarding Joke Shop, where they were not surprised to see Fred, George and Lee Jordan, past the post office, from which owls issued at regular intervals, and turned up a side-street at the top of which stood a small inn. A battered wooden sign hung from a rusty bracket over the door, with a picture on it of a wild boar's severed head, leaking blood on to the white cloth around it. The sign creaked in the wind as they approached. All three of them hesitated outside the door.

'Well, come on,' said Hermione, slightly nervously. Harry led the way inside.

It was not at all like the Three Broomsticks, whose large bar gave an impression of gleaming warmth and cleanliness. The Hog's Head bar comprised one small, dingy and very dirty room that smelled strongly of something that might have been goats. The bay windows were so encrusted with grime that very little daylight could permeate the room, which was lit instead with the stubs of candles sitting on rough wooden tables. The floor seemed at first glance to be compressed earth, though as Harry stepped on to it he realised that there was stone beneath what seemed to be the accumulated filth of centuries.

Title: Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix
Author: J.K.Rwling
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