'I - what?' said Ron, plainly playing for time. 'No - come on, Hermione - we can't tell them off for giving out sweets.'
'Feel all right?' said George kindly to a small dark-haired girl lying at his feet.
Thank you for your support, Ron,' Hermione said acidly.
'And she's trying to get people to spy for her,' said Ron darkly.
'Well, good afternoon!' she said, when finally the whole class had sat down.
He took one.
'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.
'You will be pleased to know, however, that these problems are now to be rectified. We will be following a carefully structured, theory-centred, Ministry-approved course of defensive magic this year. Copy down the following, please.'
Professor Umbridge pulled a small roll of pink parchment out of her handbag, stretched it out on the desk, dipped her quill into a bottle of ink and started scribbling, hunched over so that Harry could not see what she was writing. Nobody spoke. After a minute or so she rolled up the parchment and tapped it with her wand; it sealed itself seamlessly so that he could not open it.
'But Hermione says she thinks it would be nice if you stopped taking out your temper on us,' said Ron.
Professor Umbridge, smiling still more widely, turned her back or. him. Harry and Hermione immediately raised their hands too. Professor Umbridge's pouchy eyes lingerec. on Harry for a moment before she addressed Hermione.
They should at least see what they're picking up,' he said firmly. 'Anyway . . .' he rolled up the parchment on which he had written the title of Snape's essay, 'there's no point trying to finish this now, I can't do it without Hermione, I haven't got a clue what you're supposed to do with moonstones, have you?'
'Get out of it, Peeves.'
Professor Umbridge talked over him. 'I do not wish to criticise the way things have been run in this school,' she said, an unconvincing smile stretching her wide mouth, 'but you have been exposed to some very irresponsible wizards in this class, very irresponsible indeed - not to mention,' she gave a nasty little laugh, 'extremely dangerous half-breeds.'
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 Hermione's lap and curled up there like a furry ginger cushion. Harry gazed into the flames, feeling drained and exhausted.
'Everyone here?' barked Professor Grubbly-Plank, once all the Slytherins and Gryffindors had arrived. 'Let's crack on then. Who can tell me what these things are called?'
'You're leaving out hats for the house-elves?' said Ron slowly. 'And you're covering them up with rubbish first?'
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'No, but - '
'Well, Miss Granger, I think the course aims are perfectly clear if you read them through carefully' said Professor Umbridge in a voice of determined sweetness.