Professor Umbridge left the blackboard and settled herself in the chair behind the teacher's desk, observing them all closely with those pouchy toad's eyes. Harry turned to page five of his copy of Defensive Magical Theory and started to read.
Rain pounded on the windowpanes as they strode along the empty corridors back to Gryffindor Tower. Harry felt as though his first day had lasted a week, but he still had a mountain of homework to do before bed. A dull pounding pain was developing over his right eye. He glanced out of a rain-washed window at the dark grounds as they turned into the Fat Lady's corridor. There was still no light in Hagrid's cabin.
'Rubbish,' said Fred.
'I wasn't going to,' said Hermione calmly.
'What?' said Harry. 'Why . . . oh yeah, Keeper tryouts!'
'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 Bowtruckle.
'Calm clown, Hermione, they're fine!' said Lee reassuringly as he walked from first-year to first-year, inserting purple sweets into their open mouths.
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.
'Hermione and me have stopped arguing,' he said, sitting down beside Harry.
'Using defensive spells?' Professor Umbridge repeated with a little laugh. 'Why, I can't imagine any situation arising in my classroom that would require you to use a defensive spell, Miss Granger. You surely aren't expecting to be attacked during class?'
'Your hand is not up, Mr Thomas!' trilled Professor Umbridge. 'Now, it is the view of the Ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be more than sufficient to get you through your examination, which, after all, is what school is all about. And your name is?' she added, staring at Parvati, whose hand had just shot up.
'Well now, your teaching in this subject has been rather disrupted and fragmented, hasn't it?' stated Professor Umbridge, turning to face the class with her hands clasped neatly in front of her. The constant changing of teachers, many of whom do not seem to have followed any Ministry-approved curriculum, has unfortunately resulted in your being far below the standard we would expect to see in your OWL year.
'Potter, you need to be careful.'
'Maybe you will if you don't shut up,' said Harry out of the side of his mouth.
'No we haven't,' Hermione said, 'we just - '
'I wouldn't bet on it,' Ron told her cuttingly. They might not count as clothes. They didn't look anything like hats to me, more like woolly bladders.'
'What I don't get,' said Harry through clenched teeth, laying down his knife and fork (his hands were shaking too much to hold them steady), 'is why they all believed the story two months ago when Dumbledore told them . . .'
'You cannot pass an OWL,' said Professor McGonagall grimly, 'without serious application, practice and study. I see no reason why everybody in this class should not achieve an OWL in Transfiguration as long as they put in the work.' Neville made a sad little disbelieving noise. 'Yes, you too, Longbottom,' said Professor McGonagall. There's nothing wrong with your work except lack of confidence. So . . . today we are starting Vanishing Spells. These are easier than Conjuring Spells, which you would not usually attempt until NEWT level, but they are still among the most difficult magic you will be tested on in your OWL.'