Sunday, November 14, 2010

‘No ... I mean, something about what a dreadful

teacher she is, and how we're not going to learn any Defence from her at all,’ said Hermione.

‘Well, what can we do about that?’ said Ron, yawning. ’ ‘S too late, isn't it? She's got the job, she's here to stay. Fudge'll make sure of that.’

‘Well,’ said Hermione tentatively. ‘You know, I was thinking today ...’ she shot a slightly nervous look at Harry and then plunged on, ‘I was thinking that— maybe the time's come when we should just—just do it ourselves.’

‘Do what ourselves?’ said Harry suspiciously, still floating his hand in the essence of Murtlap tentacles.

‘Well—learn Defence Against the Dark Arts ourselves, said Hermione.

‘Come off it,’ groaned Ron. ‘You want us to do extra work? D'you realise Harry and I are behind on homework again and it's only the second week?’

‘But this is much more important than homework!’ said Hermione.

Harry and Ron goggled at her.

‘I didn't think there was anything in the universe more important than homework!’ said Ron.

‘Don't be silly, of course there is,’ said Hermione, and Harry saw, with an ominous feeling, that her face was suddenly alight with the kind of fervour that SPEW usually inspired in her. ‘It's about preparing ourselves, like Harry

said in Umbridge's first lesson, for what's waiting for us out there. It's about making sure we really can defend ourselves. If we don't learn anything for a whole year—’

‘We can't do much by ourselves,’ said Ron in a defeated voice. ‘I mean, all right, we can go and look jinxes up in the library and try and practise them, I suppose—’

‘No, I agree, we've gone past the stage where we can just learn things out of books,’ said Hermione. ‘We need a teacher, a proper one, who can show us how to use the spells and correct us if we're going wrong.’

‘If you're talking about Lupin ...’ Harry began.

‘No, no, I'm not talking about Lupin,’ said Hermione. ‘He's too busy with the Order and, anyway, the most we could see him is during Hogsmeade weekends and that's not nearly often enough.’

‘Who, then?’ said Harry, frowning at her.

Hermione heaved a very deep sigh.

‘Isn't it obvious?’ she said. ‘I'm talking about you,Harry.’

There was a moment's silence. A light night breeze rattled the windowpanes behind Ron, and the fire guttered.

‘About me what?’ said Harry.

‘I'm talking about you teaching us Defence Against the Dark Arts.’

Harry stared at her. Then he turned to Ron, ready to exchange the exasperated looks they sometimes shared when Hermione elaborated on far-fetched schemes like SPEW. To Harry's consternation, however, Ron did not

look exasperated.

He was frowning slightly, apparently thinking. Then he said, ‘That's an idea.’

‘What's an idea?’ said Harry.

‘You,’ said Ron. ‘Teaching us to do it.’

‘But ...’

Harry was grinning now, sure the pair of them were pulling his leg.

‘But I'm not a teacher, I can't—’

‘Harry, you're the best in the year at Defence Against the Dark Arts,’ said Hermione.

‘Me?’ said Harry now grinning more broadly than ever. ‘No, I'm not, you've beaten me in every test—’

‘Actually I haven't,’ said Hermione coolly. ‘You beat me in our third year—the only year we both sat the test and had a teacher who actually knew the subject. But I'm not talking about test results, Harry. Think what you've


‘How d'you mean?’

‘You know what, I'm not sure I want someone this stupid teaching me,’ Ron said to Hermione, smirking slightly. He turned to Harry.

‘Let's think,’ he said, pulling a face like Goyle concentrating. ‘Uh ... first year—you saved the Philosopher's Stone from You-Know-Who.’

‘But that was luck,’ said Harry, ‘it wasn't skill—’

‘Second year,’ Ron interrupted, ‘you killed the Basilisk and destroyed Riddle.’

‘Yeah, but if Fawkes hadn't turned up, I—’

‘Third year,’ said Ron, louder still, ‘you fought off about a hundred dementors at once—’

‘You know that was a fluke, if the Time-Turner hadn't—’

‘Last year,’ Ron said, almost shouting now, ‘you fought off You-know-Who again—’

‘Listen to me!’ said Harry, almost angrily, because Ron and Hermione were both smirking now. ‘Just listen to me, all right? It sounds great when you say it like that, but all that stuff was luck—I didn't know what I was doing half

the time, I didn't plan any of it, I just did whatever I could think of, and I nearly always had help—’

Ron and Hermione were still smirking and Harry felt his temper rise; he wasn't even sure why he was feeling so angry.

‘Don't sit there grinning like you know better than I do, I was there, wasn't I?’ he said heatedly. ‘I know what went on, all right? And I didn't get through any of that because I was brilliant at Defence Against the Dark Arts, I got

through it all because— because help came at the right time, or because I guessed right—but I just blundered through it all, I didn't have a clue what I was doing—STOP LAUGHING!’

The bowl of Murtlap essence fell to the floor and smashed. He became aware that he was on his feet, though he couldn't remember standing up. Crookshanks streaked away under a sofa. Ron and Hermione's smiles had


‘You don't know what it's like!You—neither of you—you've never had to face him, have you? You think it's just memorising a bunch of spells and throwing them at him, like you're in class or something? The whole time you're

sure you know there's nothing between you and dying except your own—your own brain or guts or whatever—like you can think straight when you know you're about a nanosecond from being murdered, or tortured, or

watching your friends die— they've never taught us that in their classes, what it's like to deal with things like that—and you two sit there acting like I'm a clever little boy to be standing here, alive, like Diggory was stupid, like he

messed up—you just don't get it, that could just as easily have been me, it would have been if Voldemort hadn't needed me—’

‘We weren't saying anything like that, mate,’ said Ron, looking aghast. ‘We weren't having a go at Diggory, we didn't—you've got the wrong end of the—’

He looked helplessly at Hermione, whose face was stricken.

‘Harry,’ she said timidly, ‘don't you see? This ... this is exactly why we need you ... we need to know what it's r-really like ... facing him ... facing V-Voldemort.’

It was the first time she had ever said Voldemort's name and it was this, more than anything else, that calmed Harry. Still breathing hard, he sank back into his chair, becoming aware as he did so that his hand was throbbing

horribly again. He wished he had not smashed the bowl of Murtlap essence.

‘Well ... think about it,’ said Hermione quietly. ‘Please?’

Harry could not think of anything to say. He was feeling ashamed of his outburst already. He nodded, hardly aware of what he was agreeing to.

Hermione stood up.

‘Well, I'm off to bed,’ she said, in a voice that was clearly as natural as she could make it. ‘Erm ... night.’

Ron had got to his feet, too.

‘Coming?’ he said awkwardly to Harry.

‘Yeah,’ said Harry. ‘In ... in a minute. I'll just clear this up.’

He indicated the smashed bowl on the floor. Ron nodded and left.

‘Reparo,’ Harry muttered, pointing his wand at the broken pieces of china. They flew back together, good as new, but there was no returning the Murtlap essence to the bowl.

He was suddenly so tired he was tempted to sink back into his armchair and sleep there, but instead he forced himself to his feet and followed Ron upstairs. His restless night was punctuated once more by dreams of long

corridors and locked doors and he awoke next day with his scar prickling again.

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