Author's Notes: I live! I apologize for the lack of updates, but it's been a crazy, hectic, but awesome spring. Hope everyone's still following…props to all readers and reviewers for sticking with it.
There was a inconsistency with OotP in TSD: Book 1 that several people pointed out to me. Ron took the Knight Bus back to Grimmauld Place when they picked up Hermione in the summer, but in OotP he says that he's always wanted to go on the Knight Bus when they take it back to Hogwarts after Christmas. In order to cover my ass, I try to explain the discrepancy in this chapter. Hokey, I know, but I gave it a shot.
Monday, 8 January
Well, after lots of goodbyes, a very long hug from Mrs. Weasley, a few bad jokes regarding snakes from Mr. Weasley, and a very turbulent bus ride, we're back at school. Tonks and Lupin were acting very strangely yesterday, though. They practically shoved us onto the Knight Bus and were acting rather nervous and fidgety the whole ride. Tonks even threatened to curse the conductor into oblivion when he almost yelled out Harry's name.
"I've always wanted to go on this thing," Ron said happily to Ginny as we got on. I gave him a strange look - after all, we took the Knight Bus to Grimmauld Place when he came to get me in the summer - but didn't say anything. Tonks, Harry, Ron, and I went up to the second level, and Lupin stayed with Ginny and the twins on the first level. The conductor followed us upstairs, apparently not overly concerned that Tonks (who was disguised as an older woman with gray hair yesterday) had just threatened to curse him stupid.
"You keeping well, then, Harry?" said the teenaged conductor, who had evidently met Harry before. "I seen your name in the paper loads over the summer, but it weren't never nothing very nice. I said to Ern, I said, he didn't seem like a nutter when we met him, just goes to show, doesn't it?"
Well, I suppose that's encouraging. At least there are some people out there who don't think Harry is a madman. If Harry could only talk to those people…tell them what really happened, try to get them on our side…I mean, the Ministry has the Daily Prophet so they can spread all the lies and rumours that they want. There's no way for Harry to get the truth out to the people who have doubts about what the Prophet is saying. How long are they going to keep up the lies, I wonder? Will there actually have to be killings before Fudge finally admits that he was wrong?
Sorry. That was rather dark and grim-sounding. I hope to goodness that it doesn't come to that…
Anyways, I've been on the Knight Bus three times now, and I think that this ride was the worst. I don't know if it's because Tonks paid the driver off to get us to Hogwarts in a hurry, or if it's because we took it in the day (every other time I've taken it at night, when they have beds instead of chairs) or what, but this ride rivaled even that horrible experience with Tonks driving Mabel the car. The chairs kept falling over and knocking into one another, people's things kept flying out of their arms and spilling all over the place, and at some point Pigwidgeon's cage burst open, so he was zooming about the whole time, hooting happily. Feeling slightly ill, I turned to Ron while Harry was talking to the conductor.
"What was that all about when we got on? You've taken the Knight Bus before," I said, frowning.
"Oh, yeah, I know," Ron replied, grabbing onto a candle bracket for support as the driver cut a corner. Three lampposts and a mailbox had to leap out of the way. "It's because Ginny…well, when we came to get you in the summer, I think I told you that she was fairly ticked that she couldn't come along."
Ron was thrown forward out of his chair. Shaking his head, he picked himself up and wobbled back to his seat. "Well, when Mum said I could go and she couldn't, she got really angry at me and started ranting about how you're her friend too, and how everyone in the family still treats her like she's four years old - "
Ron groaned as he picked himself up off the floor again.
"She was really that angry?" I couldn't picture cool, calm Ginny throwing a temper tantrum.
"Well, this was right after the whole thing with Percy, and at that point she and the twins were still really angry that Mum wouldn't let them do anything for the Order, so…I think she just got fed up with everyone treating her like a kid," Ron shrugged.
This time both of us were thrown out of our seats. Ron groaned and got up first, then offered a hand to pull me up.
"So I sort of lied to her and made up this excuse that she couldn't come because we were taking a Muggle car, and Dad didn't want to charm it bigger because of Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Law Number Something Something, so there wasn't enough room for her," Ron grinned slightly. "But really, Mum just didn't want her coming. Ginny's the youngest, and she's the only girl…Mum worries about her."
Ron swore as he got up and detached Pigwidgeon from his back, where he had happily perched while Ron was lying on the floor. "So yeah, Ginny thinks we took a Muggle car to your house and that I've never been on the Knight Bus before. Although I'm sorry I told her that I've always wanted to ride this thing. It wasn't this bad last - "
My chair teetered precariously, and Ron toppled backwards out of his. " - time," he finished as he got up. "I think I'll tell her that - "
" - I've changed my mind," Ron said through clenched teeth as he picked himself up and wearily sat back down. "I never want to ride on this thing again."
Tonks still seemed preoccupied and nervous when we got off the Knight Bus in front of Hogwarts. She kept casting careful looks up and down the road, and was rather abrupt when she said goodbye to Ginny and I. Hmm. I wonder if something's happened? They'd tell us, wouldn't they?
Anyways, despite Umbridge and despite my misgivings, it is rather good to be back at Hogwarts. I mean, I'll miss Tonks and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and I'm sorry that Sirius has to stay at Grimmauld Place all alone now, but even with Umbridge around, Hogwarts still feels…safe. Oh, I know Grimmauld Place is very safe too, being under Fidelius and all, but Dumbledore is at Hogwarts, and as long as we're in the same place as Dumbledore, I feel like nothing bad can happen to Harry. Plus, Mrs. Black was driving me mad.
As soon as we walked into the Gryffindor common room, I felt a sense of relief and peacefulness, even though Parvarti and Lavender immediately started questioning me about my Christmas with Ron, and even though Neville spent all night avoiding Ron, Harry, Ginny, and I. He didn't speak to us at breakfast, either. I don't know if we should mention what we saw in the closed ward…no, it's probably best we don't. Neville will talk about it when he's ready.
Double potions this morning, though, and Umbridge this afternoon…we'll see how long my current fondness for Hogwarts lasts.
Argh, I cannot believe this…first day back and Umbridge has already saddled us with mountains of homework. And not the sort of homework that is conducive to our learning, either - it's nothing more than pointless busy work. I was planning to spend tonight doing some O.W.L. revision, perhaps knitting a few more house elf hats (I'm getting really good at them; last night I managed to make a few with patterns on them!) but instead, Ron and I are going to go to the library and attempt to plow through Umbridge's stupid excuse for an assignment. What is this stupid excuse for an assignment, you ask?
Summarize each and every chapter of Slinkhard.
"I don't understand…do you want us to make notes on the chapter, or do further research on the topics covered in the chapter…?" I asked when she gave us the assignment today.
"Miss Granger, you will kindly raise your hand before speaking out in my class," Umbridge said in that fake, sugary tone of hers. I glared at her and then raised my hand as insolently as possible. That is to say, I flung my hand into the air carelessly while rolling my eyes.
"Yes, Miss Granger?"
"Could you define what exactly you are looking for in this assignment?"
"I think I defined the assignment quite clearly, but very well," Umbridge said with a forced smile. "I would like a parchment's length summary of every chapter of Slinkhard we have covered thus far."
There was a cry of protest from everyone in the room.
"A parchment's length! But we've read twelve chapters! That's twelve pieces of parchment!" Dean protested.
"Mr. Thomas, as I told Miss Granger earlier, in this classroom you raise your hand before - "
"And we're going to have to read them all over again in order to summarize them!" Parvarti cried.
"I think you would all benefit from a second read-through of the material," Umbridge said coldly.
"No, we would all benefit from actually doing magic in this bloody class," Ron muttered under his breath, doodling on the cover of his textbook. Hooray for defacing Slinkhard!
"What was that, Mr. Weasley?" Umbridge snapped.
"I said, 'When is the assignment due?', Professor Umbridge," Ron lied.
Umbridge regarded him suspiciously, then announced, "Wednesday in class."
The cry of protest that arose after this statement was so loud and ardent that Umbridge had to threaten the entire class with detention before we would settle down. Hm, I wonder if she even has that many Scar Quills.
Wednesday in class! That's two days! We have other courses, other homework, other responsibilities, and of course, a secret Defense club to run behind her back. Who has time to summarize twelve chapters of Slinkhard!
That's why once the fifth year Gryffindors got back to the common room after classes, we decided to each do a chapter or two, and then share summaries. Normally I would be against this sort of blatant cheating, but it's a ridiculous assignment, and it's not as if Umbridge is going to actually read them, anyway. Hopefully Ron and I can get our respective chapters done tonight. Harry has Occlumency with Snape, so depending on how long that takes, he might have to do it tomorrow…
Speaking of which, I have to go meet Ron in the library.