'It means they're not real fans, they're just jumping on the bandwagon - '
The point,' Hermione pressed on loudly, 'is that this sort of thing is exactly what Dumbledore was talking about. You-Know-Who's only been back two months and we've already started fighting among ourselves. And the Sorting Hat's warning was the same: stand together, be united - '
There was an appreciative laugh and an outbreak of applause as Dumbledore sat down neatly and threw his long beard over his shoulder so as to keep it out of the way of his plate - for food had appeared out of nowhere, so that the five long tables were groaning under joints and pies and dishes of vegetables, bread and sauces and flagons of pumpkin juice.
'Seamus reckons Harry's lying about You-Know-Who,' said Ron succinctly, when Harry did not respond.
Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan had reached the dormitory first and were in the process of covering the walls beside their beds with posters and photographs. They had been talking as Harry pushed open the door but stopped abruptly the moment they saw him. Harry wondered whether they had been talking about him, then whether he was being paranoid.
The Gryffindor common room looked as welcoming as ever, a cosy circular tower room full of dilapidated squashy armchairs and rickety old tables. A fire was crackling merrily in the grate and a few people were warming their hands by it before going up to their dormitories; on the other side of the room Fred and George Weasley were pinning something up on the noticeboard. Harry waved goodnight to them and headed straight for the door to the boys' dormitories; he was not in much of a mood for talking at the moment. Neville followed him.
'Excellent,' said Ron, with a kind of groan of longing, and he seized the nearest plate of chops and began piling them on to his plate, watched wistfully by Nearly Headless Nick.
'Have you always supported them, or just since they started winning the league?' said Ron, in what Harry considered an unnecessarily accusatory tone of voice.
'My parents are Muggles, mate,' said Dean, shrugging. They don't know nothing about no deaths at Hogwarts, because I'm not stupid enough to tell them.'
Professor McGonagall was now moving along the table handing out timetables.
'Why on earth were you attacking her about her Quidditch team?'
'Yes, it is, but it's not the only worthwhile thing,' said Hermione thoughtfully, 'I mean, if I could take SPEW further . . .'
He got into bed and made to pull the hangings closed around him, but before he could do so, Seamus said, 'Look . . . what did happen that night when . . . you know, when . . . with Cedric Diggory and all?'
'We have had two changes in staffing this year. We are very pleased to welcome back Professor Grubbly-Plank, who will be taking Care of Magical Creatures lessons; we are also delighted to introduce Professor Umbridge, our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.'
'Anyway, it's a nightmare of a year, the fifth,' said George. 'If you care about exam results, anyway. Fred and I managed to keep our peckers up somehow.'
There was a short pause.
Neither of the others answered; all three of them knew that Snape and Harry's mutual enmity had been absolute from the moment Harry had set foot in Hogwarts.
Unfortunately, Ron's mouth was packed to exploding point again and all he could manage was 'Node iddum eentup sechew,' which Nick did not seem to think constituted an adequate apology. Rising into the air, he straightened his feathered hat and swept away from them to the other end of the table, coming to rest between the Creevey brothers, Colin and Dennis.
'Well, I think it's a pity we're not trying for a bit of inter-house unity,' said Hermione crossly.