'Who are you?' said Ron, rather rudely.
It was as though boiling water was rising rapidly inside him; a burning sensation that was causing his face to smart in the cold - had he been that obvious?
He was suddenly so tired he was tempted to sink back into his armchair and sleep there, but instead he forced himself to his feet and followed Ron upstairs. His restless night was punctuated once more by dreams of long corridors and locked doors and he awoke next day with his scar prickling again.
'When did this - when did she -?'
'And did you kill a Basilisk with that sword in Dumbledore's office?' demanded Terry Boot. That's what one of the portraits on the wall told me when I was in there last year . . .'
'Isn't it obvious?' she said. 'I'm talking about you, Harry.'
A large sign had been affixed to the Grffindor noticeboard, so large it covered everything else on it - the lists of secondhand spellbooks for sale, the regular reminders of school rules from Argus Filch, the Quidditch team training timetable, the offers to barter certain Chocolate Frog Cards for others, the Weasleys' latest advertisement for testers, the dates of the Hogsmeade weekends and the lost and found notices. The new sign was printed in large black letters and there was a highly official-looking seal at the bottom beside a neat and curly signature.
'No, no, I'm not talking about Lupin,' said Hermione. 'He's too busy with the Order and, anyway, the most we could see him is during Hogsmeade weekends and that's not nearly often enough.'
'You - are - a - prefect,' snarled Hermione.
'A couple of people?' said Harry hoarsely to Hermione. 'A couple of people?'
'Actually I haven't,' said Hermione coolly. 'You beat me in our turd year - the only year we both sat the test and had a teacher who actually knew the subject. But I'm not talking about test results, Harry. Think what you've clone!'
When Harry continued to look worried, Hermione said, 'Listen, Ron and I have been sounding out people who we thought might want to learn some proper Defence Against the Dark Arts, and there are a couple who seem interested. We've told them to meet us in Hogsmeade.'
'No,' said Harry, 'no, OK, I know I did bits of it without help, but the point I'm trying to make is - '
First came Neville with Dean and Lavender, who were closely followed by Parvati and Padma Patil with (Harry's stomach did a back-flip) Cho and one of her usually-giggling girlfriends, then (on her own and looking so dreamy she might have walked in by accident) Luna Lovegood; then Katie Bell, Alicia Spinnet and Angelina Johnson, Colin and Dennis Creevey Ernie Macmillan, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Hannah Abbott, a Hufflepuff girl with a long plait clown her back whose name Harry did not know; three Ravenclaw boys he was pretty sure were called Anthony Goldstein, Michael Corner and Terry Boot, Ginny, closely followed by a tall skinny blond boy with an upturned nose whom Harry recognised vaguely as being a member of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team and, bringing up the rear, Fred and George Weasley with their friend Lee Jordan, all three of whom were carrying large paper bags crammed with Zonko's merchandise.
The barman glared at him for a moment, then, throwing down his rag irritably as though he had been interrupted in something very important, he started passing up dusty Butterbeers from under the bar.
'Well, time's ticking on,' said Fred briskly, getting to his feet. 'George, Lee and I have got items of a sensitive nature to purchase, we'll be seeing you all later.'
Well . . . that's the plan, anyway,' said Hermione. 'If you want to join us, we need to decide how we're going to -
'Are you trying to weasel out of showing us any of this stuff?' said Zacharias Smith.
He was frowning slightly, apparently thinking. Then he said, 'That's an idea.'