'Is it true,' interrupted the girl with the long plait down her back, looking at Harry, 'that you can produce a Patronus?'
In twos and threes the rest of the group took their leave, too.
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.
'Oh, I'll take them through the creatures that most often come up in OWL,' said Professor Grubbly-Plank. 'Not much left to do - they've studied unicorns and Nifflers, I thought we'd cover Porlocks and Kneazles, make sure they can recognise Crups and Knarls, you know . . .'
She was quite right, of course, he was barely keeping up with his homework, though he was doing much better now that he was no longer spending every evening in detention with Umbridge. Ron was even further behind with his work than Harry, because while they both had Quidditch practice twice a week, Ron also had his prefect duties. However, Hermione, who was taking more subjects than either of them, had not only finished all her homework but was also finding time to knit more elf clothes. Harry had to admit that she was getting better; it was now almost always possible to distinguish between the hats and the socks.
'Well . . . think about it,' said Hermione quietly. 'Please?'
as a regular meeting of three or more students.
'Does this mean they're going to shut down the Gobstones Club?' one of them asked his friend.
'Yeah,' said Ron, 'McGonagall might let us have hers, she did when Harry was practising for the Tri wizard.'
'No,' said Harry drily, 'especially as it's not exactly a homework group you're planning, is it?'
'You did listen to what I said about a load of it being luck, didn't you?'
They walked between the tall stone pillars topped with winged boars and turned left on to the road into the village, the wind whip-, ping their hair into their eyes.
' 'Fraid I can't,' said Professor Grubbly-Plank breezily. 'Don't know anything more about it than you do. Got an owl from Dumbledore, would I like a couple of weeks' teaching, work. I accepted. That's as much as I know. Well . . . shall I get started then?'
'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.'
Well . . . that's the plan, anyway,' said Hermione. 'If you want to join us, we need to decide how we're going to -
'Hmm,' said Professor Umbridge, dropping her voice, though Harry could still hear her quite clearly. 'I wonder - the Headmaster seems strangely reluctant to give me any information on the matter - can you tell me what is causing Professor Hagrid's very extended leave of absence?'
Signed: Dolores Jane Umbridge, High Inquisitor
'Here,' she said anxiously, pushing a small bowl of yellow liquid towards him, 'soak your hand in that, it's a solution of strained and pickled Murtlap tentacles, it should help.'