Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chapter 16 In The Hog's 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.’

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