Harry still wasn't fully keeping up with the news, but Neville was, and he told Harry about some of the things which showed up in the Daily Prophet when he thought Harry might be interested – and, in turn, Harry shared anything that seemed to be worth sharing when it showed up in the Quibbler.
Since Neville was quite good at telling when Harry might be interested, it seemed like a good system to Harry. That meant that he knew about it when a writer signing themselves as 'Dogged of Dogwarts' pointed out that, really, the Defence Against the Dark Arts education system at Hogwarts had been an inconsistent mess for a long time now and for someone to be complaining about it being done in an unusual way this particular year was itself a little bit unusual.
Sirius had a fairly good point, Harry thought, but he was aware he might be a little bit biased.
In the Defence Club that Tuesday, which mostly involved fourth and fifth years, Harry was the one who started the explanation.
"We're going to be doing the Disarming Charm today," he said. "Who knows how to cast that one?"
Lots of hands or wands went up, about two thirds of the students attending. A few were a bit more hesitant, and Harry nodded.
"It's not a very hard spell, which is good," he said. "The incantation is Expelliarmus, and it has a red jet that moves quite fast. One of the reasons we're going to be practicing with it is that it's a nice safe spell – it can knock you backwards a bit, but unlike a Stunning Charm you can be hit by lots of them and it doesn't get dangerous."
Ginny had her hand up, and Harry was about to see what her question was but Draco beat him to it. "Weasley."
"You might need to be more specific," Ron said.
Ginny made a rude gesture at him, then went back to her question. "Is that because it's safer to practice hitting targets with a charm like that?"
"Of course," Draco drawled. "Being hit by three Disarming Charms at once would be annoying, but being hit by even one blasting curse would be far worse."
"So first we're going to have everyone casting the spell at the wall, to make sure they have the words and the wand movement right. Then everyone's going to pair off, and make sure they can properly disarm someone..."
A few people did need correction – Colin had to go over the spell three times before he was finally able to cast a jet of light that was red instead of a funny sort of yellow colour, and Draco observed that if he cast a spell like that in a proper duel then it was a coin flip whether their opponent ended up with smelly armpits or a missing finger – but once that was over Harry made sure everyone was pairing off.
"Check with whoever you're paired up with to see who's younger," he told them. "The person who's younger is going to be disarming first. On three… one, two-"
The door opened.
Harry said 'three', and more than a dozen people said 'Expelliarmus!' all at once. Red spells went flashing out, several wands went flying, and only a couple of people caught them.
Everyone else was looking at the door.
There was a slightly startled looking man standing there who Harry vaguely remembered from a few years ago, and a few more crowded behind him.
"Mr. Pucey," Draco said, with a relaxed smile. "Quite a surprise."
That was where Harry remembered the man from – he was one of the board of governors.
"Draco?" asked Mr. Malfoy, from behind Mr. Pucey. "Don't stand in the door, Grosvenor."
Mr. Pucey stepped inside, followed by Mr. Malfoy, several more of the members of the school board, Professor Umbridge, and Professor Dumbledore smiling his kind smile at the rear.
"There's quite a lot of them here, I must say!" said a witch who Harry sort of remembered was called Amritt. "Is this all of the ones in your club?"
"We had to split into groups to make it easier," Harry said. "There's two days each for first to third years, fourth and fifth years, and sixth and seventh years."
"My goodness, that must be most of the school," an older gentleman said.
"That's not the point," Mr. Pucey said. "The point is that this is dangerous and unsupervised!"
"Dear me, Grosvenor," Dumbledore opined, sounding faintly befuddled. "You must have excellent eyesight, because all I see is a room full of young wizards along with several Prefects. Please, elaborate."
"Well, Headmaster," Professor Umbridge began – to Harry's surprise, she was using the same I-think-you're-five tone she used in class – but this time she was talking to someone who had to be several decades older than her. "Until I came in, there were no teachers in the room, and until we all came in there were no adults in the room. So that's unsupervised, wouldn't you agree?"
Dumbledore put a finger to his chin. "Do you know, I don't believe there's any rule requiring adult supervision for any clubs or societies. Or indeed prefects."
He cast around, then his gaze lighted on Zacharias Smith. "Do tell me, what kind of supervision do you have during Quidditch practice? I believe you take part?"
"Well, we don't really have anyone," Zacharias said. "Unless you mean that Cedric is always there?"
"Of course, Dumbledore, you must realize that that argument doesn't make a great deal of sense," Mr. Malfoy observed.
"Yes, of course," Professor Umbridge agreed.
"It makes perfect sense to me," Draco said. "It's not as if we're doing anything dangerous. I'm more likely to get hurt doing Quidditch."
Harry noticed that Ron had turned away from the school board members and looked like he was trying to adjust for some kind of seismic shift in his world view.
"Very amusing, of course, but you must surely be joking," Mr. Pucey said. "Casting spells like this, especially with a dragon in charge! Preposterously dangerous!"
Harry was about to reply, but Draco cleared his throat.
"Mr. Pucey?" he said. "It's actually Potter who suggested we should be practicing using spells on one another mostly using Disarming Charms and other safe spells."
"This is all very amusing," Professor Umbridge said, though she didn't sound like it. "But what matters is that this is an unsafe and unauthorized school club."
"I quite agree that Mr. Potter's species doesn't matter," Amritt volunteered. "But I don't think this club is unsafe and I certainly don't think it's unauthorized."
"Of course it is," Professor Umbridge replied. "I haven't authorized it!"
"I think you will find, Dolores, that I have," Dumbledore informed her. "While I am aware that as the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher you can set your own curriculum, you will also find that there is no school rule – nor has there ever been – forbidding students from learning material more advanced than what they happen to be covering in class that year."
He smiled. "Perhaps we should leave Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Potter to run their club by themselves, and go upstairs to have something to drink? I believe I may still have some of a lovely type of tea called Earl Grey, which I believe was invented by a Muggle lord."
The rest of the Defence Club carried on without interruption, or mostly without interruption anyway. Luna turned out to be quite good at the Disarming Charm, though when she cast it on Tracy at one point instead of getting Tracy's wand she got her shoes.
"I don't think that's how the spell is supposed to work," Tracy said. "Is it?"
She looked around, seeing Harry (who'd been watching). "Was that one of those times where someone makes a mistake, or one of the times when someone does something weird and insightful?"
"That depends on whether you're trying to do what you do, I think," Harry judged. "Or sometimes it doesn't, but it depends on whether the thing you're trying to do is useful?"
"It seems simple to me," Luna said pleasantly. "It's a disarming charm, so it means you get whatever it is the other person has which is a weapon. And Daddy told me that a Muggle leader banged his shoe on a table once, so it sounds like a weapon to me."
Harry wasn't sure what Luna meant by that, but he wasn't willing to bet it hadn't happened.
"Does that work on anything?" Daphne asked. "That could be helpful. I've got a little sister."
"Do sisters take things of yours?" Luna said. "That sounds very impolite. Though I imagine using magic on them wouldn't help much either."
She pondered, then raised her wand. "Do you mind if I try something?"
"Go ahead, you can try it on Daphne," Tracy said.
"Why can't she try it on Harry?" Daphne asked.
"Because when it doesn't work I won't know if it doesn't work or if it would work if it wasn't for using it on a dragon, of course," Luna said. "I could try it on Tracy if you want."
"I don't like the sound of that plan," Tracy said.
She glanced around, then snagged Colin. "Why don't you try it on the Gryffindor?"
"Hey!" Colin protested.
"That doesn't sound very Gryffindor," Tracy told him. "Gryffindors are good for anything, right?"
"Well… we're supposed to be," Colin admitted. "But..."
"There you go, then," Tracy said. "You can try it on the Gryffindor."
"You don't have to if you don't want to," Harry assured Colin.
The Muggle-born boy looked a bit torn, then swallowed and nodded slightly.
"Good," Luna told him, then rummaged in her pocket and pulled out something that looked vaguely familiar to Harry.
"What's that?" he asked, just ahead of Daphne who was about to say the same thing.
"It's a dream catcher," Luna told them. "I thought I'd see if it caught daydreams, but it doesn't seem to be very good. I've had it in there since September and there isn't a single daydream caught in it. Hold this, please."
Colin took it, looking just confused now.
Luna pointed her wand at him. "Expelliarmus!"
The red jet of light hit Colin, and his tie flew off.
"Were you trying to disarm him of the dream catcher?" Tracy asked. "Or do you just want to gradually undress everyone in the room?"
Daphne's ears went slightly pink.
"Because if you do then I know someone you could cast it at next," Tracy went on.
"Oh, no, that was just the first part of the test," Luna explained. "Expelliarmus!"
This time the dream catcher went flying, and Luna caught it.
"I thought so," Luna said, satisfied. "It's all about what you think of as a weapon."
Harry tried, next, giving the dream catcher back to Colin and then trying to disarm him of it. It didn't work, though, and that left everyone looking puzzled.
Except Luna, that was. "It's not enough to want to take it, Harry. You have to think of it as a weapon."
She pointed at the dream catcher. "The second time, I was really quite sure that that was an affront to my liberty to dream about whatever it was I wanted."
Harry wasn't sure if he could be that sure about something. Perhaps it depended on the context, though.
"What an evening," Ron sighed, once the Club was over and they were back in the common room.
"Why's that?" Dean asked. "Did something unusual happen?"
"You could say that," Ron replied. "Professor Umbrage came into our club to complain, with what seemed like half the board of governors – including Malfoy's dad."
"You mean Draco's dad, Ron," Hermione corrected. "They're both Malfoys. Unless you meant that Draco's grandfather was there and I didn't see him."
"I mean Draco's dad, then," Ron said. "He calls me Weasley even though there's way more of us than there are Malfoys. Even when me and Ginny and Fred and George are all in the same room."
"That's probably because he sees you as interchangeable, or something," Dean suggested. "Anyway, Mr. Malfoy was there?"
"Yeah, and it was weird," Ron said. "Someone said that it was dangerous, and then Malf – um, then Draco said that it was safer than Quidditch. It was really weird, and then Draco said that Harry was the one who'd made it safer because he was the one having them cast less dangerous spells instead of more dangerous ones."
He shook his head slowly. "I'm just… really not used to Draco being helpful."
"Maybe it's teenage rebellion?" Neville suggested. "His dad's a first-class git, but maybe that means he's being not a git?"
"Or maybe it's a Slytherin thing," Hermione said. "You know, he's doing something which benefits him, it just happens to benefit you as well."
"Oh, thank Merlin," Ron sighed. "I was beginning to think that the castle was going to turn upside down next."
He paused. "...though, now I think about it, the Twins aren't pranking a teacher they deeply dislike, I've done more teaching than the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor this year and there's a griffin in Slytherin. So maybe it already has."
"I think we'd have noticed by now," Neville said, then promptly went flying towards the ceiling. He shifted into Lapcat on the way up, twisting to land on his feet next to the chandelier with a hollow thump, and levelled a flat feline glare at Fred Weasley.
"Sorry," Fred said, his wand half-out. "Couldn't resist."
"I'm not going to take points off," Harry said, getting his own wand out. "But I am going to tell you to catch him when I end that spell."
Draco told Harry a few days later that he'd sent a letter to Mr. Pucey – the one who'd been the most annoyed out of the school board – asking what spells the man had learned in his Fifth Year for OWLs.
He seemed quite proud of it, and Harry agreed that it was a good idea to ask someone what spells they'd learned in fifth year. It took him a moment longer to realize something else, and then he said that it was also a good idea to ask Mr. Pucey because he'd been annoyed about the idea of learning dangerous spells. So it meant that Mr. Pucey couldn't complain about them learning those spells.
"Not bad, Potter," Draco said, after that. "You might learn something if you keep it up for long enough."
Harry's guess was that that was probably about politics or something.
As the term wore on, Halloween got closer. People seemed to relax a little, which meant that Harry had to stop a few groups trying to sneak things into the castle (for some reason dungbombs were popular) and the Quidditch teams were more and more focused on the upcoming matches that would start in the very early days of November.
The first birthday of Ollie, Sally and Gary came around, as well, and a gratifying number of students from all four houses and all seven years turned up to attend a birthday party celebration that Hagrid had put together. The presents were mostly practical things (meaning things that were edible by normal-dragon standards, usually, or tools to help Hagrid and Nora keep them clean such as a wire brush) or things like Muggle children's toys or dog toys but made much, much larger and more durable.
Ollie in particular liked a length of knotted ship's hawser with a knot tied in it, which he worried at for about an hour before managing to unpick the knot.
He then looked a bit disappointed, and went to Hagrid to get the knot tied again. This time it lasted about half an hour, and the third time it was about ten minutes.
Because Harry had watched one of those nice television documentaries by David Attenborough during the summer holiday, he decided that that was the sort of thing that Charlie would like to know about. Especially when Ollie watched very closely when Hagrid patiently tied the knot again, and then picked it apart before tying it back together himself.
Sally and Gary, by contrast, spent the whole of that time playing catch.
"Harry!" Fred said, on the morning of Halloween.
"Harry!" George reiterated, or agreed, or possibly said. "What would you think if – just for the duration of the feast – Professor Umbridge just happened to croak every time she opened her mouth?"
"We worked out how we could do it," Fred told him. "We call them Tongue Toad Treats."
"One of the many products we've designed and are planning on selling in the joke shop," George agreed. "Once the joke shop exists."
"It doesn't, yet," Fred confirmed. "We're still working on development."
"It'd be against the rules," Harry said, and wasn't sure whether or not to feel guilty about how that seemed like something to regret. "And I thought you said you weren't going to give her anything she could use?"
"Oh, we're not going to do it," George said.
He pulled into his pocket and got out a roll of parchment. "We're calling this the Coulda list. Every time we come up with something new we could have done to prank our Defence Professor, well..."
"On it goes," Fred agreed. "And by the way, we think she's a Professor because she professes to be a teacher."
"Makes you wonder where the word came from, doesn't it?" George mused.
Harry was more curious about something else. "Don't you think that's sort of unfair? Because you have to get the spell to actually affect her, and she's probably not going to be fooled the same way twice."
"Worked that out too," Fred reported. "For the Tongue Toad Treats, they still work when they're powderized."
"You mean you can make dried frog pills?" Harry asked, ears perking up.
"By Jove, I didn't think of that," Fred admitted. "That's from those Disc world books, isn't it?"
"Yeah," George agreed. "They're what they give the Bursar. He's usually crazy, but with the pills he's… well, a bit like Dumbledore. So still a bit crazy, but good at maths."
Harry was fairly sure that that meant George had read the relevant books. Or at least, that he'd read them more recently.
"Anyway, she's got a supply of tea," Fred went on. "And the best way to get someone to have a potion in their tea is?"
Harry frowned, thinking about that.
It seemed like saying the tea was the thing you should put the powder in was the obvious answer, and because of that Harry didn't think that was the answer that either Fred or George were looking for.
"The milk?" he guessed.
"Not bad, but you're forgetting what sort of person she is," Fred told him. "The best way to get someone to have a potion in their tea is to make them think it's in something else, like the cordial."
"George, that was the right answer," George said.
"Well, yes, but he is a prefect," Fred countered.
"But how could you be sure she'd have tea that day?" Harry checked. "She might have something else, especially on halloween."
"Hmm, good point," Fred admitted. "We might need to go back to the drawing board on that one."
"At least we agreed with the Smiths that sneaking in in animal forms didn't count any more," George said.
Harry must have looked quizzical, because George elaborated. "It's not just us doing this. Taira and Anna are as well – we swap lists once a week. They had a really clever one last week about making her chair rise up an inch every time she went hem hem."
"Stroke of genius," Fred agreed.
"Utterly impeccable," George said.
"We were saving it for Christmas," Fred concluded. "Shame, really."
George snapped his fingers. "What about giving her classroom an echo effect, so anything she says just keeps bouncing around the room for minutes on end?"
"I see where you're coming from, Fred," Fred agreed. "Let's see if we can work this one out."
"Should be done by lunchtime," George guessed.
Halloween, as always, meant a lot of decorations went up around the school. There was a generally spooky theme, like bats flying through the halls and cobwebs arranged artfully in the Entrance Hall (Harry had heard that an acromantula team from the Forbidden Forest had done it, and since he'd heard it from Hagrid that meant it was probably true).
He'd had a reason to give it some thought, though, when one of the first-years pointed out that for Muggles a lot of the things that were considered spooky were things that witches and wizards had all year around anyway – or knew were false, in the case of things like witches all having green faces.
Harry didn't know where that one could have even got started.
The highlight of the day, though, was the Halloween Feast. It was important enough that the usual Defence Club got skipped for the day by mutual agreement, and the House-Elves went to special pains to make sure that everyone had something they really loved.
For Melody, for example, there was something which Hermione said was called sanquette and which the young vampire dug into with gusto, explaining that it was one of those foods like black pudding which was made with a lot of blood as an ingredient. Then Dean took about half of the nearest tray of stuffing, added plenty of bread sauce, and Neville said something about bubble-head charms being needed tonight.
Harry had one of the dishes with a little dragon flag on, as he did about every second or third dinner. This one was sort of like a lasagna except that the flat sheets of pasta had been replaced by sheets of thin, splintery rock. It was a bit like a much softer version of slate, except that the sheets were quite transparent when there was a light on the other side.
"Sometimes I think they're experimenting on you, mate," Ron said, cutting into the deep crust of a chicken pie.
"They're usually pretty tasty results," Harry replied with a shrug of his wings.
He licked around inside his mouth a bit, frowning. "There's all little splintery bits now, though, I might have to rinse my mouth out to get them."
"Sounds like what everyone else normally has to deal with," Ginny shrugged.
The main course then gave way to dessert, and taking pride of place on the table near Harry was a giant bat-shaped cake.
"Who wants a wing?" Fred asked, picking up a knife, and cut the first slice.
Inside, and unusually, it turned out that it was layered vertically instead of horizontally. There was no buttercream, either, with the place of the buttercream being taken by liquid caramel and melted chocolate that stayed perfectly stood up along with the brownie and sponge layers instead of flooding out onto the plate.
"Well, I don't know how they did it, but it looks tasty," Neville summarized, taking a slice and digging into it with a spoon. The chocolate rippled a bit like jelly, then Neville put it in his mouth, and he closed his eyes for a few seconds with a pleased smile.
"That chocolate's lemon flavoured," he explained.
"Lemon, right," George said. "You're sure?"
"Pretty sure," Neville replied, but took another spoonful. Everyone was watching him now, and this time he blinked in surprise.
"...how did they do that? That's apple."
"We thought we'd lend our talents to the dessert selection," George explained. "It's a bit like those pipe bombs, but not."
Ron eyed his own slice with faint suspicion. "What's the caramel, then?"
"Just caramel, they can't all be tricks," Fred told him.
Apparently willing to take that on trust, or at least take a gamble on it, Ron took a spoonful.
"...it's nice," he concluded.
"Well, our dear brother would know if food is nice," Fred said.
"Is that because he has good taste, or just from sheer experience?" Ginny checked.
Ron held up his index finger, swallowed, and said "Oi!"
As a general rule, unless it was fourth year (at least, as far as Harry was concerned, though that might be different for other students), Halloween brought the beginning of the Quidditch season. The first match was Slytherin versus Gryffindor, and four out of the seven players on the starting lineup of the Gryffindor team were Animagi with the surname 'Weasley'.
And all of them were nervous.
"What if the game goes on for hours?" Ron asked. "I haven't played a long game before."
"You've done long training sessions, though," Dean told him.
"One of them was just last Saturday," Neville agreed.
"Right, but staying focused for hours is different," Ron said.
"We can wake you up with a Bludger if you have trouble," Fred suggested. "I'm more worried about the new Slytherin Beaters."
"What, Malf-" Ron began, looked at Hermione (who was smiling tolerantly at him), and corrected himself. "Draco's friends, um, Crabbe and Goyle?"
"Vincent and Gregory," Harry supplied, in case Ron had forgotten their first names.
"Them, right," Ron agreed. "Why them?"
"They might not be the most academically gifted students, but that doesn't matter much for Beaters," George said.
"It might even help, given how well you two do," Ginny said.
She sighed. "But, well-"
"Ginny, you did pretty well in your first year on the team, and that was before you became an Animagus of a bird especially known for diving out of the sky at high speed to catch things," Harry interrupted.
He switched to looking at the others. "And Ron, you'll do fine. So long as you don't beat yourself up over a little mistake, you won't make any big ones."
After a few seconds of pause, George raised his hand. "What about us, coach?"
"You've been doing this since before I knew magic existed," Harry reminded them. "And the team won in your first year on it."
"He's got a point," Fred said.
"All right, you lot, come on," Katie said, standing up a few tables away. "We'd better get down and get ready."
At five minutes to two that afternoon, everyone was either in their seats or just shuffling along to find one next to their friends. Harry had arrived a bit earlier than most and secured a stand, one which was now occupied by plenty of people, and Neville was just taking his own spot when there was an extremely loud but diffident cough.
"Excuse me?" Professor Dumbledore asked, his magically amplified voice interrupting dozens of conversations all around the pitch. "I was wondering if, before this Quidditch match, I might say a few words on behalf of Professor Flitwick."
He paused. "Well, just one word, actually. You see, Professor Flitwick tells me that he's heard about some of the things they do in America before sports games, and while it is a Muggle idea I think it might be quite enjoyable for us to do a version. So the word is – flypast."
The word was still echoing when Nora came into view.
She was in front, wings held out and rippling slightly as the air flowed over them, and the three yearling dragons followed her in a kind of triangular formation. They were a bit lower, as well, and while Nora passed perhaps fifty feet over the highest parts of the stadium both flanking dragons – Ollie and Gary – were only about ten feet from hitting something.
As they passed over the stadium itself, all three of the youngsters spat out simultaneous jets of flame. Ollie's flame was red-fringed-with-gold over the Gryffindor end, Gary's was green-and-silver over the Slytherin end, and a magically unaltered blue jet from Sally completed the spectacle.
Cheering swept the stands along with a burst of spontaneous applause, and Professor Dumbledore said a very hearty thank you to all four of them.
"That was dragonish?" Hermione asked.
"Probably," Harry replied. "I understood it, anyway."
"And allow me also to thank Professor Snape for the potions which gave us those wonderful pyrotechnics," Dumbledore added. "Perhaps we shall have to make it a tradition, by doing it next week as well. But now, as I'm sure you've all been waiting for it – the game itself, please."
Harry knew it had been more than a year since the last proper Quidditch game – there'd only been training and pick-up games – but you wouldn't have been able to tell it from the play that was on display. The Slytherin Quidditch team immediately got possession of the ball and started passing it around, but then they were intercepted when a pass from Adrian to Cassius intersected with a Bludger and the Quaffle went rocketing off into the air.
Alicia took possession just ahead of the third Slytherin Chaser, Graham, but then had to almost stop in the air to avoid being hit by the other Bludger (launched by Vincent) and throw it below her in the vague direction of Katie in case Graham got a hold of it. Ginny went zipping past at high speed, getting in the way of Adrian catching the Quaffle, and then Katie managed to snag the ball and do a roll to avoid Cassius tackling her.
Angelina flew down to escort Katie, then dropped back and to the side to give Katie options on getting past the Keeper – Miles – and when the three Slytherin Chasers formed up in a blocking position to stop Katie entering the goal area Katie just threw it straight up in the air for Angelina to take and fly home to score.
Harry was keeping track so far, but then the next play started it all over again in a different variation. One minute a ferocious Bludger duel was taking place between Fred, George, Vincent and Gregory that ended with Katie dodging them both, the next Adrian was taking a shot on goal that Ron blocked with the brushes of his Nimbus 2001 – either because there was nothing else he could get in the way in time, or because doing something with a brush tail was just a squirrel thing to do.
Ginny climbed so high she was nearly a speck then came stooping down after a prospective Snitch – one which was in a completely different place to the real Snitch, but it got a Bludger sent her way to distract her and distracted everyone else on the Slytherin team long enough to let Gryffindor score a goal. Not to be outdone, Draco zipped up and intercepted a Quaffle pass with the tip of his broomstick, though that provoked a five minute rule discussion in which it was concluded that it was 'not a penalty, but don't do it again because it's hard enough to keep track normally'.
The scores crept higher a bit at a time. Gryffindor scored the first two goals, but then Slytherin started to score as well, and while Gryffindor was able to keep up a lead that wavered back and forth around three goals they were never really at the point of breaking away. Slytherin's Keeper was being consistent, missing or saving about the same rate of balls for the whole match so far, but Ron kept having stretches of brilliance where he got every single Quaffle mixed in with runs where two or three went through in a row.
To his credit, though, he seemed to be taking what Harry said about not beating himself up to heart, and he always did rally.
After a bit more than an hour, the scores had risen to the point that Gryffindor had a fifty-point lead – though that wasn't a very large advantage, in a way, because Slytherin had two hundred and twenty points to the Gryffindor two hundred and seventy.
It had started raining, a light drizzle instead of a big dramatic thunderstorm, and Harry's wings were spread to provide umbrellas – his friends all had Warming Charms on, but being rained on could still be quite unpleasant – while Dean had doused himself in bluebell flames to make certain he was properly heated.
"Isn't there a charm to stop yourself getting wet?" Neville asked. "There has to be, surely."
Hermione frowned, thinking about it. "I think most wizards use umbrellas. There is the impervious charm?"
"Already got that on my robes," Neville said. "That stops my robes getting wet, but it doesn't help me much."
He paused. "Well, it helps a bit."
"What about the Bubble-Head Charm?" Harry suggested. "That stops your head getting wet when it's entirely immersed in water."
Taking a breath, he cast it, and smiled as the bubble of clear air developed around him. "There we go."
"Are you telling me nobody's ever tried that before?" Dean asked.
"It probably just didn't make it into the textbooks," Hermione guessed, casting the charm on herself.
Everyone else looked at her. There was a cheer as Gryffindor scored, but after having to cheer about two dozen times in the last hour the cheer was getting slightly desultory.
"What?" she asked.
"Are you sure you're feeling well?" Tanisis checked.
Hermione huffed. "Honestly. If someone discovers a new use for a spell and doesn't share it, it doesn't end up getting written about. People can only write about what they know."
"Look!" June called, drawing their attention to the game.
Ginny was diving out of the sky again, and this time she wasn't going anywhere near the Quaffle. Draco leaned over his broom and accelerated as well, looking briefly up and down along the line Ginny was taking, then dropped into a dive that gradually got steeper. He was lower down, closer to the pitch, and that meant that wherever Ginny was going Draco was going to get there first.
"He doesn't-" Harry began, realizing that if Draco had seen the Snitch he'd be aiming straight for it instead of flying like that, and before he finished the words Ginny jumped off her broom.
Between one heartbeat and the next she blurred into the form of Perry, wings half-bent to give her the maximum manoeuvrability at her high speed, and swerved out of her dive in a half-corkscrew that took her far away from the path she'd been taking and that Draco had been following.
Her talons flashed, and she caught the Golden Snitch by the base of both wings.
Then her broom hit the ground with a whud, trembling back and forth like a dart, which made everyone realize what they'd just seen and start cheering.
"That is such a Gryffindor way to catch the Snitch," Tanisis snorted.
"Yes," Luna agreed. "Tricking your opponent into going in the wrong direction is very Gryffindor."
"...all right, you don't have to be that sarcastic," the sphinx grumbled.
Cedric sought out Harry in Defence Club a couple of days later, and told him that he'd been keeping in touch with both Fleur and Krum (from last year's Triwizard Tournament) by owl.
That sounded like a nice thing to Harry, and when he said that Cedric gave him an easy smile.
"We thought it was good," he replied, then rummaged in one of his pockets.
"The weird thing is, though, Fleur sent me these yesterday."
It turned out that 'these' were photographs. Lots and lots of photographs, in an envelope that had clearly had something magical done to it to make them fit, and they all seemed to be the sort of photo that you took by accident while picking up your camera.
Photographs of ceilings, without anything interesting on the ceilings. Wardrobes with clothes in, mostly the powder-blue robes that Beauxbatons tended to use as uniforms. Cupboards, containing the normal sorts of things Harry would expect in a cupboard.
"She said you'd understand," Cedric added, and Harry frowned for a moment before brightening.
"Oh, right, these are photos of where there aren't any dragons," he explained.
Cedric didn't seem to get it, so Harry elaborated. "There's this book where there's lots of dragons hiding at Beauxbatons, but nobody ever notices them because they're a little bit good at hiding and all the wizards – everyone, even visitors – are really, really bad at finding them out. It's hilarious."
He looked down at the photos, flicking from one to another, then frowned. "The problem is, this doesn't really prove anything."
"It doesn't?" Cedric asked, though he sounded amused rather than puzzled now.
"Well, it proves that sometimes wizards look up," Harry corrected himself. "Or witches. But just because there are photos of places where dragons aren't doesn't show that there aren't any dragons there at other times. It could have been a dragon who took the photos."
"And the whole book is like that?" Cedric asked, and got a nod. "I'll have to check it out."
He clapped his hands sharply, raising his voice and turning away from Harry a bit. "Okay! What I think we should do for the rest of today's club is work on some simple point casting. If some of you don't know, that's casting a spell without waving your wand – it's a bit harder but you still have the words to focus it. A lot of people end up doing it anyway because, well, they forget to wave the wand when casting a spell normally..."
On the last day of that week, or the second to last day of that week (it was Saturday, and Harry was never sure what Sunday counted as), they had a Hogsmeade day. For Harry that meant a day to visit Sirius (and Remus) in Dogwarts for a few hours, and the late afternoon found him curled up in a chair near the fire with the radio quietly playing in the background.
"A lot of these chairs seem like they're good as dog baskets," Remus chuckled. "I only just noticed that."
"Well, it is Dogwarts," Sirius replied.
Then some oom-pa oom-pa music started playing on the radio, and Sirius sat up. "Oh, I recognize this one – turn it up, Remus!"
Remus duly did so, and Harry perked up an ear to listen.
Apparently it was a radio show that was 'the antidote to Panel Games', and featured a pianist and a chairman. And was very popular, from all the cheering from the audience.
It was a little bit odd – Harry didn't get some of the jokes from the chairman, because while he'd run into a lot of words in a lot of books none of them had informed him what a 'spiv' was – but when they started to sing one song to the tune of another (sometimes quite badly) it was just impossible not to laugh.
On the whole, Harry had that odd sort of feeling where he got some of the jokes and felt like he wanted to get the rest of them as well. It was a pleasant sort of feeling.
I'm sorry, I haven't a clue.
For the Hufflepuff-Ravenclaw match then they'll swap so that Sally and Nora do blue-bronze and yellow-black flames respectively.