'Less, I s'pose,' said Ron, looking slightly alarmed.
They had their Herbology exam on Wednesday (other than a small bite from a Fanged Geranium, Harry felt he had done reasonably well); and then, on Thursday, Deience Against the Dark Arts. Here, tor the first time, Harry felt sure he had passed. He had no problem with any of the written questions and took particular pleasure, during the practical examination, in performing all the counter-jinxes and defensive spells right in front of Umbridge, who was watching coolly from near the doors into the Entrance Hall.
'I dunno - '
Ron gave a nervous laugh.
'Oh, I don't think it will make any difference,' said Neville, still more miserably. 'Gran's always telling Professor Marchbanks I'm not as good as my dad . . . well . . . you saw what she's like at St Mungo's
'Hermione, we wanted to buy that!' shouted Ron.
'She clearly wanted to avoid another scene like Trelawney's,' said Ernie Macmillan sagely, squeezing over to join them.
Dinner was a subdued affair that night. Harry and Ron did not talk much, but ate with gusto, having studied hard all day. Hermione, on the other hand, kept putting down her knife and fork and diving under the table for her bag, from which she would seize a book to check some fact or figure. Ron was just telling her that she ought to eat a decent meal or she would not sleep that night, when her fork slid from her limp fingers and landed with a loud tinkle on her plate.
'She'll be fine, remember she got a hundred and twelve per cent on one of our Charms tests?' said Ron.
Harry and Hermione nodded and they hastened towards the double doors into the Entrance Hall, slowing down as they stepped over the threshold to walk sedately past the examiners. Harry thought Professor Marchbanks must be the tiny, stooped witch with a face so lined it looked as though it had been draped in cobwebs; Umbridge was speaking to her deferentially. Professor Marchbanks seemed to be a little deaf; she was answering Professor Umbridge very loudly considering they were only a foot apart.
Harry put his eye back to his telescope and refocused it, now examining Venus. He looked down at his chart to enter the planet there, but something distracted him; pausing with his quill suspended over the parchment, he squinted down into the shadowy grounds and saw half a dozen figures walking over the lawn. If they had not been moving, and the moonlight had not been gilding the tops of their heads, they would have been indistinguishable from the dark ground on which they walked. Even at this distance, Harry had a funny feeling he recognised the walk of the squattest of them, who seemed to be leading the group.
His silver stag erupted from the end of his wand and cantered the length of the Hall. All of the examiners looked around to watch its progress and when it dissolved into silver mist Professor Tofty clapped his veined and knotted hands enthusiastically.
'Dreadful, dreadful,' said Ernie, shaking his head pompously. 'Well, I'm off to bed. Night, all.'
This,' said Hagrid, hastening over to where Harry and Herrmone stood, 'is Harry, Grawp! Harry Potter! He migh' be comin' ter visit yeh if I have ter go away, understand?'
'You ought not to have meddled, Hagrid,' said Magorian. 'Our ways are not yours, nor are our laws. Firenze has betrayed and dishonoured us.'
'Well, yeah - more out of temper than anything, though . . .' Ron frowned slightly. 'But you saw her chuck her broom away when she got back to the ground, didn't you?'
Hagrid's door had burst open and by the light flooding out of the cabin they saw him quite clearly, a massive figure roaring and brandishing his fists, surrounded by six people, all of whom, judging by the tiny threads of red light they were casting in his direction, seemed to be attempting to Stun him.
'Er - ' said Harry