'Hey, Harry,' said Dean, who was putting on a pair of pyjamas in the West Ham colours. 'Good holiday?'
'No,' said Hermione calmly. 'I told her to keep her big fat mouth shut about you, actually. And it would be quite nice if you stopped jumping down our throats, Harry, because in case you haven't noticed, Ron and I are on your side.'
'I'll tell you what it means,' said Hermione through gritted teeth. 'It means the Ministry's interfering at Hogwarts.'
Before Hermione could answer, a tall black girl with long braided hair had marched up to Harry.
Harry felt a rush of gratitude towards Neville. Nobody else said anything. Seamus got out his wand, repaired the bed hangings and vanished behind them. Dean got into bed, rolled over and fell silent. Neville, who appeared to have nothing more to say either, was gazing fondly at his moonlit cactus.
'You'll be singing a different tune soon enough, Hermione,' said Fred, thickly buttering a crumpet. 'You're starting your fifth year, you'll be begging us for a Snackbox before long.'
Hermione glared at him. Fred and George sniggered.
With a whoosh and a clatter, hundreds of owls came soaring in through the upper windows. They descended all over the Hall, bringing letters and packages to their owners and showering the breakfasters with droplets of water; it was clearly raining hard outside. Hedwig was nowhere to be seen, but Harry was hardly surprised; his only correspondent was Sirius, and he doubted Sirius would have anything new to tell him after only twenty-four hours apart. Hermione, however, had to move her orange juice aside quickly to make way gor a large damp barn owl bearing a sodden Daily Prophet in its beak.
'No password, no entrance,' she said loftily.
'A light silver vapour should now be rising from your potion,' called Snape, with ten minutes left to go.
'Those of you who have managed to read the instructions, fill one flagon with a sample of your potion, label it clearly with your name and bring it up to my desk for testing,' said Snape. 'Homework: twelve inches of parchment on the properties of moonstone and its uses in potion-making, to be handed in on Thursday.'
'Harry, I know it!' Someone panted up behind him and he turned to see Neville jogging towards him. 'Guess what it is? I'm actually going to be able to remember it for once - ' He waved the stunted little cactus he had shown them on the train. 'Mimbuius mimbletonia!'
'Come back, you scurvy dog! Stand fast and fight!' yelled Sir Cadogan in a muffled voice from behind his visor, but Harry merely walked on and when Sir Cadogan attempted to follow him by running into a neighbouring picture, he was rebuffed by its inhabitant, a large and angry-looking wolfhound.
Professor Umbridge did not seem to notice the restlessness of her audience. Harry had the impression that a full-scale riot could have broken out under her nose and she would have ploughed on with her speech. The teachers, however, were still listening very attentively, and Hermione seemed to be drinking in every word Umbridge spoke, though, judging by her expression, they were not at all to her taste.
'Then you're mad, too,' said Seamus in disgust.
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'About You-Know-Who. He said his "gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust - " '
'Excellent,' said Ron, with a kind of groan of longing, and he seized the nearest plate of chops and began piling them on to his plate, watched wistfully by Nearly Headless Nick.
'You got that stuff off, then?'
There was a great clattering and banging all around them; Dumbledore had obviously just dismissed the school, because everyone was standing up ready to leave the Hall. Hermione jumped up, looking flustered.