The treetops of the Forbidden Forest swayed in a light breeze. Harry watched them, savouring the fresh air on his face, thinking about Quidditch later . . . then he saw it. A great, reptilian winged hcrse, just like the ones pulling the Hogwarts carriages, with leahery black wings spread wide like a pterodactyl's, rose up out of the trees like a grotesque, giant bird. It soared in a great circle, then plunged back into the trees. The whole thing had happened so quickly, Harry could hardly believe what he had seen, except that his heart was hammering madly.
'OK, everyone,' said Angelina, entering from the Captain's office, already changed. 'Let's gel to it; Alicia and Fred, if you can jus: bring out the ball crate for us. Oh, and there are a couple of people out there watching but I want you to just ignore them, all right?'
Come here, Ron, and see if Oliver's old robes fit you,' called Kade Bell, 'we can take off his name and put yours on instead . . .'
Percy and Padfoot
Harry reread the letter several times, trying to see it from the point of view of an outsider. He could not see how they would know what he was talking about - or who he was talking to - just from reading this letter. He did hope Sirius would pick up the hint about Hagrid and tell them when he might be back. Harry did not want to ask directly in case it drew too much attention to what Hagrid might be up to while he was not at Hogwarts.
'No,' she sighed, 'just some guff about the bass player in the Weird Sisters getting married.'
'There,' said Umbridge sweetly, 'we're getting better at controlling our temper already, aren't we? Now, you are going to be doing some lines for me, Mr Potter. No, not with your quill,' she added, as Harry bent down to open his bag. 'You're going to be using a rather special one of mine. Here you are.'
'Look, I don't think you should,' said Hermione seriously. 'You're both really behind on homework as it - '
Filch the caretaker came wheezing into the room. There were purple patches on his sunken, veined cheeks, his jowls were aquiver and his thin grey hair dishevelled; he had obviously run here. Mrs Norris came trotting at his heels, gazing up at the owls overhead and mewing hungrily. There was a restless shifting of wings from above and a large brown owl snapped his beak in a menacing fashion.
'Hey - I forgot - did she let you off for Friday?'
He stood up. His hand was stinging painfully. When he looked down at it he saw that the cut had healed, but that the skin there was red raw.
'Every evening since Tuesday . . . just on my own, though. I've been trying to bewitch Quaffles to fly at me, but it hasn't been easy and I don't know how much use it'll be.' Ron looked nervous and anxious. 'Fred and George are going to laugh themselves stupid when I turn up for the tryouts. They haven't stopped taking the mickey out of me since I got made a prefect.'
'Hi,' said Harry automatically.
They collected balls from the cupboard in the changing room and set to work, Ron guarding the three tall goalposts, Harry playing Chaser and trying to get the Quaffle past Ron. Harry thought Ron was pretty good; he blocked three-quarters of the goals Harry attempted to put past him and played better the longer they practised. After a couple of hours they returned to the castle for lunch - during which Hermione made it quite clear she thought they were irresponsible - then returned to the Quidditch pitch for the real training session. All their teammates but Angelina were already in the changing room when they entered.
'Well, I think I've made my point, Mr Potter. You may go.'
'I wish I was going to be there,' said Harry bitterly, as they set off together towards the common room.
'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.