Harry remembered Hagrid mentioning this pub in his first year: 'Yeh get a
lot o' funny folk in the Hogs Head' he had said, explaining how he had won a
dragon's egg from a hooded stranger there. At the time Harry had wondered why
Hagrid had not found it odd that the stranger kept his face hidden throughout
their encounter; now he saw that keeping your face hidden was something of a
fashion in the Hog's Head. There was a man at the bar whose whole head was wrapped
in dirty grey bandages, though he was still managing to gulp endless glasses
of some smoking, fiery substance through a slit over his mouth; two figures
shrouded in hoods sat at a table in one of the windows; Harry might have thought
them Dementors if they had not been talking in strong Yorkshire accents, and
in a shadowy corner beside the fireplace sat a witch with a thick, black veil
that fell to her toes. They could just see the tip of her nose because it caused
the veil to protrude slightly.
'I don't know about this, Hermione,' Harry muttered, as they crossed to the
bar. He was looking particularly at the heavily veiled witch. 'Has it occurred
to you Umbridge might be under that?'
Hermione cast an appraising eye over the veiled figure.
'Umbridge is shorter than that woman,' she said quietly. 'And anyway, even
if Umbridge does come in here there's nothing she can do to stop us, Harry,
because I've double- and triple-checked the school rules. We're not out of bounds;
I specifically asked Professor Flitwick whether students were allowed to come
in the Hog's Head, and he said yes, but he advised me strongly to bring our
own glasses. And I've looked up everything I can think of about study groups
and homework groups and they're definitely allowed. I just don't think it's
a good idea if we parade what we're doing.'
'No,' said Harry dryly, 'especially as it's not exactly a homework group
you're planning, is it?'
The barman sidled towards them out of a back room. He was a grumpy-looking
old man with a great deal of long grey hair and beard. He was tall and thin
and looked vaguely familiar to Harry.
'What?' he grunted.
Three Butterbeers, please,' said Hermione.
The man reached beneath the counter and pulled up three very dusty, very
dirty bottles, which he slammed on the bar.
'Six Sickles,' he said.
I'll get them,' said Harry quickly, passing over the silver. The barman's
eyes travelled over Harry, resting for a fraction of a second on his scar. Then
he turned away and deposited Harry's money in an ancient wooden till whose drawer
slid open automatically to receive it. Harry, Ron and Hermione retreated to
the furthest table from the bar and sat down, looking around. The man in the
dirty grey bandages rapped the counter with his knuckles and received another
smoking drink from the barman.
'You know what?' Ron murmured, looking over at the bar with enthusiasm. 'We
could order anything we liked in here. I bet that bloke would sell us anything,
he wouldn't care. I've always wanted to try Firewhisky -'
'You - are - a - prefect,' snarled Hermione.
'Oh,' said Ron, the smile fading from his face. 'Yeah:'
'So, who did you say is supposed to be meeting us?' Harry asked, wrenching
open the rusty top of his Butterbeer and taking a swig.
'Just a couple of people,' Hermione repeated, checking her watch and looking
anxiously towards the door. 'I told them to be here about now and I'm sure they
all know where it is - oh, look, this might be them now.'
The door of the pub had opened. A thick band of dusty sunlight split the
room in two for a moment and then vanished, blocked by the incoming rush of
a crowd of people.
First came Neville with Dean and Lavender, who were closely followed by Parvati
and Padma Patil with (Harry's stomach did a back-flip) Cho and one of her usually-giggling
girlfriends, then (on her own and looking so dreamy she might have walked in
by accident) Luna Lovegood; then Katie Bell, Alicia Spinnet and Angelina Johnson,
Colin and Dennis Creevey, Ernie Macmillan, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Hannah Abbott,
a Hufflepuff girl with a long plait down her back whose name Harry did not know;
three Ravenclaw boys he was pretty sure were called Anthony Goldstein, Michael
Corner and Terry Boot, Ginny, closely followed by a tall skinny blond boy with
an upturned nose whom Harry recognised vaguely as being a member of the Hufflepuff
Quidditch team and, bringing up the rear, Fred and George Weasley with their
friend Lee Jordan, all three of whom were carrying large paper bags crammed
with Zonko's merchandise.
'A couple of people?' said Harry hoarsely to Hermione. 'A couple of people?'
'Yes, well, the idea seemed quite popular,' said Hermione happily 'Ron, do
you want to pull up some more chairs?'
The barman had frozen in the act of wiping out a glass with a rag so filthy
it looked as though it had never been washed. Possibly, he had never seen his
pub so full.
'Hi,' said Fred, reaching the bar first and counting his companions quickly,
'could we have: twenty-five Butterbeers, please?'
The barman glared at him for a moment, then, throwing down his rag irritably
as though he had been interrupted in something very important, he started passing
up dusty Butterbeers from under the bar.
'Cheers,' said Fred, handing them out. 'Cough up, everyone, I haven't got
enough gold for all of these:'
Harry watched numbly as the large chattering group took their beers from
Fred and rummaged in their robes to find coins. He could not imagine what all
these people had turned up for until the horrible thought occurred to him that
they might be expecting some kind of speech, at which he rounded on Hermione.
'What have you been telling people?' he said in a low voice. 'What are they
'I've told you, they just want to hear what you've got to say,' said Hermione
soothingly; but Harry continued to look at her so furiously that she added quickly,
'you don't have to do anything yet, I'll speak to them first.'
'Hi, Harry,' said Neville, beaming and taking a seat opposite him.
Harry tried to smile back, but did not speak; his mouth was exceptionally
dry. Cho had just smiled at him and sat down on Ron's right. Her friend, who
had curly reddish-blonde hair, did not smile, but gave Harry a thoroughly mistrustful
look which plainly told him that, given her way, she would not be here at all.
In twos and threes the new arrivals settled around Harry, Ron and Hermione,
some looking rather excited, others curious, Luna Lovegood gazing dreamily into
space. When everybody had pulled up a chair, the chatter died out. Every eye
was upon Harry.
'Er,' said Hermione, her voice slightly higher than usual out of nerves.
'Well - er - hi.'
The group focused its attention on her instead, though eyes continued to
dart back regularly to Harry.
'Well: erm: well, you know why you're here. Erm: well, Harry here had the
idea - I mean' (Harry had thrown her a sharp look) 'I had the idea - that it
might be good if people who wanted to study Defence Against the Dark Arts -
and I mean, really study it, you know, not the rubbish that Umbridge is doing
with us -' (Hermione's voice became suddenly much stronger and more confident)
'- because nobody could call that Defence Against the Dark Arts -' ('Hear, hear,'
said Anthony Goldstein, and Hermione looked heartened) '- Well, I thought it
would be good if we, well, took matters into our own hands.'
She paused, looked sideways at Harry, and went on, 'And by that I mean learning
how to defend ourselves properly, not just in theory but doing the real spells
'You want to pass your Defence Against the Dark Arts OWL too, though, I bet?'
said Michael Corner, who was watching her closely.
'Of course I do,' said Hermione at once. 'But more than that, I want to be
properly trained in defence because: because:" she took a great breath and finished,
'because Lord Voldemort is back.'
The reaction was immediate and predictable. Cho's friend shrieked and slopped
Butterbeer down herself; Terry Boot gave a kind of involuntary twitch; Padma
Patil shuddered, and Neville gave an odd yelp that he managed to turn into a
cough. All of them, however, looked fixedly, even eagerly, at Harry.
'Well: that's the plan, anyway' said Hermione. 'If you want to join us, we
need to decide how we're going to -'
'Where's the proof You-Know-Who's back?' said the blond Hufflepuff player
in a rather aggressive voice.
'Well, Dumbledore believes it -' Hermione began.
'You mean, Dumbledore believes him,' said the blond boy, nodding at Harry.
'Who are you?' said Ron, rather rudely.
'Zacharias Smith,' said the boy, 'and I think we've got the right to know
exactly what makes him say You-Know-Who's back.'
'Look,' said Hermione, intervening swiftly, 'that's really not what this
meeting was supposed to be about -'
'It's OK, Hermione,' said Harry.
It had just dawned on him why there were so many people there. He thought
Hermione should have seen this coming. Some of these people - maybe even most
of them - had turned up in the hopes of hearing Harry's story firsthand.
'What makes me say You-Know-Who's back?' he repeated, looking Zacharias straight
in the face. 'I saw him. But Dumbledore told the whole school what happened
last year, and if you didn't believe him, you won't believe me, and I'm not
wasting an afternoon trying to convince anyone.'
The whole group seemed to have held its breath while Harry spoke. Harry had
the impression that even the barman was listening. He was wiping the same glass
with the filthy rag, making it steadily dirtier.
Zacharias said dismissively, 'All Dumbledore told us last year was that Cedric
Diggory got killed by You-Know-Who and that you brought Diggory's body back
to Hogwarts. He didn't give us details, he didn't tell us exactly how Diggory
got murdered, I think we'd all like to know -'
'If you've come to hear exactly what it looks like when Voldemort murders
someone I can't help you,' Harry said. His temper, always so close to the surface
these days, was rising again. He did not take his eyes from Zacharias Smith's
aggressive face, and was determined not to look at Cho. 'I don't want to talk
about Cedric Diggory, all right? So if that's what you're here for, you might
as well clear out.'
He cast an angry look in Hermione's direction. This was, he felt, all her
fault; she had decided to display him like some sort of freak and of course
they had all turned up to see just how wild his story was. But none of them
left their seats, not even Zacharias Smith, though he continued to gaze intently
'So,' said Hermione, her voice very high-pitched again. 'So: like I was saying:
if you want to learn some defence, then we need to work out how we're going
to do it, how often we're going to meet and where we're going to -'
'Is it true,' interrupted the girl with the long plait down her back, looking
at Harry, 'that you can produce a Patronus?'
There was a murmur of interest around the group at this.
'Yeah,' said Harry slightly defensively.
'A corporeal Patronus?'
The phrase stirred something in Harry's memory.
'Er - you don't know Madam Bones, do you?' he asked.
The girl smiled.
'She's my auntie,' she said. 'I'm Susan Bones. She told me about your hearing.
So - is it really true? You make a stag Patronus?'
'Yes,' said Harry.
'Blimey, Harry!' said Lee, looking deeply impressed. 'I never knew that!'
'Mum told Ron not to spread it around,' said Fred, grinning at Harry. 'She
said you got enough attention as it was.'
'She's not wrong,' mumbled Harry, and a couple of people laughed.
The veiled witch sitting alone shifted very slightly in her seat.
'And did you kill a Basilisk with that sword in Dumbledore's office?' demanded
Terry Boot. That's what one of the portraits on the wall told me when I was
in there last year:'
'Er - yeah, I did, yeah,' said Harry.
Justin Finch-Fletchley whistled; the Creevey brothers exchanged awestruck
looks and Lavender Brown said 'Wow!' softly. Harry was feeling slightly hot
around the collar now; he was determinedly looking anywhere but at Cho.
'And in our first year,' said Neville to the group at large, 'he saved that
Philological Stone -'
'Philosopher's,' hissed Hermione.
'Yes, that - from You-Know-Who,' finished Neville.
Hannah Abbott's eyes were as round as Galleons.
'And that's not to mention,' said Cho (Harry's eyes snapped across to her;
she was looking at him, smiling; his stomach did another somersault) 'all the
tasks he had to get through in the Triwizard Tournament last year - getting
past dragons and merpeople and Acromantula and things:'
There was a murmur of impressed agreement around the table. Harry's insides
were squirming. He was trying to arrange his face so that he did not look too
pleased with himself. The fact that Cho had just praised him made it much, much
harder for him to say the thing he had sworn to himself he would tell them.
'Look,' he said, and everyone fell silent at once, 'I: I don't want to sound
like I'm trying to be modest or anything, but: I had a lot of help with all