'Listen to me!' said Harry, almost angrily, because Ron and Hermione were both smirking now. 'Just listen to me, all right? It sounds great when you say it like that, but all that stuff was luck - I didn't know what I was doing half the time, I didn't plan any of it, I just did whatever I could think of, and I nearly always had help - '
Ron, who had been draining the last few drops from his Butterbeer bottle, gagged and sprayed Butterbeer down his front.
'Let's think,' he said, pulling a face like Goyle concentrating. 'Uh . . . first year - you saved the Philosopher's Stone from You-Know-Who.'
There was a murmur of impressed agreement around the table. Harry's insides were squirming. He was trying to arrange his face so that he did not look too pleased with himself. The fact that Cho had just praised him made it much, much harder for him to say the thing he had sworn to himself he would tell them.
'Do what ourselves?' said Harry suspiciously, still floating his hand in the essence of Murtlap tentacles.
'No, I agree, we've gone past the stage where we can just learn things out of books,' said Hermione. 'We need a teacher, a proper one, who can show us how to use the spells and correct us if we're going wrong.'
'Yeah,' said Harry slightly defensively.
'I didn't think there was anything in the universe more important than homework!' said Ron.
'He said he was tipped off you were ordering Dungbombs? But who tipped him off?'
'Hi, Harry' said Neville, beaming and taking a seat opposite him.
'So what if I am.?' said Hermione coolly, though her face was a little pink. 'I can have a pen-pal if I - '
Harry remembered Hagrid mentioning this pub in his first year: 'Yeh get a lot o' funny folk in the Hog's Head,' he had said, explaining how he had won a dragon's egg from a hooded stranger there. At the time Harry had wondered why Hagrid had not found it odd that the stranger kept his face hidden throughout their encounter; now he saw that keeping your face hidden was something of a fashion in the Hog's Head. There was a man at the bar whose whole head was wrapped in dirty grey bandages, though he was still managing to gulp endless glasses of some smoking, fiery substance through a slit over his mouth; two figures shrouded in hoods sat at a table in one of the windows; Harry might have thought them Dementors if they had not been talking in strong Yorkshire accents, and in a shadowy corner beside the fireplace sat a witch with a thick, black veil that fell to her toes. They could just see the tip of her nose because it caused the veil to protrude slightly.
'Oh, yes, Dumbledore's excellent,' said Professor Grubbly-Plank heartily. 'Yes, I'm very happy with the way things are run, very happy indeed.'
'When did this - when did she -?'
'Why do we have to do it outside school?' said Ron.
The morning of the Hogsmeade visit dawned bright but windy. Alter breakfast they queued up in front of Filch, who matched their names to the long list of students who had permission from their parents or guardian to visit the village. With a slight pang, Harry remembered that if it hadn't been for Sirius, he would not have been going at all.
'You just said this group was the most important thing you'd do this year,' Harry reminded him.