In Chapter 16, Harry agrees to Hermione’s idea of teaching a defense class, and . . . let’s just say there’s some interest. Let’s go!
It’s all a big mess, isn’t it, but there’s one silver lining. Harry has been thinking a lot about Hermione’s suggestion, that he help teach them defense. He admits as much when Hermione brings it up, backed up by Ron who thinks it’s a great idea. She points out all the things that Harry already knows how to do: he could throw off the Imperius Curse, he can produce a Patronus. Those are things that full-grown wizards can’t always do, and Harry does them with relative ease. Sure, there was a lot of luck involved in escaping Voldemort, but Harry has skills.
Oh, and we also find out that Hermione has been keeping in touch with Viktor Krum as a pen pal. Ron is NOT happy about that.
So Harry agrees. He will teach Ron and Hermione what he knows. The thing is, Hermione was thinking a bit bigger than that.
“Well,” said Hermione, now looking a mite anxious again. “Well . . . now, don’t fly off the handle again, Harry, please . . . But I really think you ought to teach anyone who wants to learn. I mean, we’re talking about defending ourselves against V-Voldemort — oh, don’t be pathetic, Ron — it doesn’t seem fair if we don’t offer the chance to other people.”
Harry doesn’t think anyone would want to learn from him, considering that most people think he’s nuts, but Hermione thinks there are probably quite a few people who will want to hear Harry’s side of things. They plan to meet during their next Hogsmeade weekend to go from there, mostly to make sure Umbridge doesn’t get wind of what their planning to do.
Harry is also very worried that, despite their last conversation, Sirius will try to visit him in Hogsmeade. He doesn’t want Sirius to get caught, especially when the Ministry is not on their side. It’s not the only thing Harry has to worry about though. Hermione has been talking to several people about meeting to learn more defense and she thinks there are a few who are interested. The day of the meeting, instead of going to their usual haunt, the Three Broomsticks, Hermione leads them to a small, rundown inn called the Hog’s Head. Definitely off the beaten track, the Hog’s Head.
The Hog’s Head bar comprised one small, dingy, and very dirty room that smelled strongly of something that might have been goats. The bay windows were so encrusted with grime that very little daylight could permeate the room, which was lit instead with the stubs of candles sitting on rough wooden tables. The floor seemed at first glance to be earthy, though as Harry stepped onto it he realized that there was stone beneath what seemed to be the accumulated filth of centuries.
It doesn’t sound like the most kid friendly place, but Hermione, as usual, has done her homework. Students are allowed to come to the Hog’s Head, so they aren’t out of bounds. Study groups are definitely allowed, which is technically what they are doing, right? Sort of? Even if it’s not exactly encouraged and sanctioned study?
They wait to see who will show up, and who does? A lot of people. Neville, Dean, Lavender, Parvati and Padma, Cho and one of her friends, Luna Lovegood, Katie Bell, Alicia Spinnet, Angelina Johnson, Colin and Dennis Creevey, Ernie Macmillan, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Hannah Abbott, another Hufflepuff girl Harry doesn’t know, three Ravenclaw boys, Ginny, a Hufflepuff boy, Fred and George, and Lee Jordan. That’s . . . that’s a lot! That’s 25 people!
Harry wants to know what Hermione has been saying. What do all these people want? Hermione kicks things off by welcoming them all and saying that they had the idea to find a way to really study Defense, especially since what Umbridge is teaching them is ridiculous. But it’s not just about passing her O.W.L.s, and it shouldn’t be for any of them. Because Voldemort is back. Hearing Voldy’s name has the predictable reaction, and the Hufflepuff boy, Zacharias Smith, gets a bit aggressive. He wants to know why they think Voldy is back and why they should believe Harry.
“What makes me say You-Know-Who’s back?” he asked, looking Zacharias straight in the face. “I saw him. But Dumbledore told the whole school what happened last year, and if you didn’t believe him, you don’t believe me, and I’m not wasting an afternoon trying to convince anyone . . .
“If you’ve come to hear exactly what it looks like when Voldemort murders someone I can’t help you,” Harry said. His temper, always so close to the surface these days, was rising again. He did not take his eyes from Zacharias Smith’s aggressive face, determined not to look at Cho. “I don’t want to talk about Cedric Diggory, all right? So if that’s what you’re here for, you might as well clear out.”
Harry is not up for putting up with any nonsense here. He’s done with it. Hermione takes over, asking if any of them want to learn defense and that they will need to figure out when and where to meet. The Hufflepuff girl asks Harry if it’s true that he can produce a corporeal Patronus. Turns out her name is Susan Bones, and Madam Bones at the Ministry is her aunt. The questions start coming: did Harry kill a basilisk with the sword in Dumbledore’s office? Did he save the Sorcerer’s Stone? How did he accomplish all the tasks in the Triwizard Tournament so well? Did he fight off a bunch of dementors?
Harry tries to say that he had help with all of that, but that just isn’t true. Harry, will you just admit that you’re awesome! Most of the table seems to think so (Zacharias being an exception) and they generally agree that they should take lessons from Harry. It will be hard to figure out how and when to meet, particularly since they have to schedule around three different Quidditch practice schedules, but they all agree that this is very important. Ernie Macmillan says that learning how to fight Voldemort is the most important thing they will do that year.
Hermione also tells them about how the Ministry is afraid that the school is being used by Dumbledore to train his personal army, which surprises most people. They finally decide to try and meet once a week. The problem is where can they meet. The library is probably out, and no teacher is going to want this to be done in their classroom and face Umbridge’s wrath. But they will figure that out later. First, Hermione decides to make everything official.
“I-I think everybody should write their name down, just so we know who was here. But I also think,” she took a deep breath, “that we all ought to agree not to shout about what we’re doing. So if you sign, you’re agreeing not to tell Umbridge — or anybody else — what we’re up to.”
Several students don’t look happy about this. This list would implicate anyone on it. Of course, they know that Hermione won’t just leave it laying around, but it’s still scary to think that they could get caught that easily. After everyone leaves, Hermione is pleased with how things went. She lets slip that the reason that the Ravenclaw boys came was because Michael Corner is dating Ginny. Ron is NOT happy about that. At all. Protective-Big-Brother Ron comes out! He’s also surprised because he thought Ginny had a crush on Harry. Hermione explains that she did, but finally gave it up. She still likes Harry, but only as a friend.
Speaking of teen romance, Hermione brings up Cho.
“Well,” said Hermione, smiling slightly, “she just couldn’t keep her eyes off you, could she?”
Hey, at least something is going right for our boy!
See you next time for Chapter 17!