In Chapter 21, Hagrid teaches his first lesson and the D.A. has their last meeting before the holidays. Let’s go!
Harry and Ron keep getting behind in the mounds and mounds of homework they have. Hermione, in the meantime, makes a bunch of lesson plans for Hagrid and tries to get him to promise to teach them instead of whatever else he’s got. He also won’t tell her what he’s planning.
“No,” said Hermione miserably. “He says he wants them to be a surprise. I tried to explain about Umbridge, but he just doesn’t get it. He kept saying nobody in their right mind would rather study knarls than chimaeras — oh I don’t think he’s got a chimaera,” she added at the appalled look on Harry and Ron’s faces, “but that’s not for lack of trying from what he said about how hard it is to get eggs . . . I don’t know how many times I told him he’d be better off following Grubbly-Plank’s plan, I honestly don’t think he listened to half of what I said.”
He also still won’t say why he looks so beat up. Hagrid remains a mystery. He is, however, very happily received the next morning at breakfast, from some of the people anyway. Harry knows that G-P is probably a better teacher, but he won’t admit it to Hagrid.
As they walk down to Hagrid’s first class, Harry is really, really worried. It gets worse when Hagrid tells them they are going into the Forbidden Forest. Malfoy in particular is freaked out, but remember, he had his own scares out in the Forest back in their first year.
As they walk out, Hagrid tells them that they will call the creatures. A few minutes later, Harry sees one of the scary skeletal horses that he had seen pulling the carriages. Harry feels better knowing that they are actually real, but not everyone can see them. In fact, it looks like only two other people can see them – Neville and a Slytherin boy. The rest of the class freaks out as what looks like invisible creatures eat from a haunch of meat Hagrid had brought.
Hagrid explains that they are called thestrals. Parvati thinks that they are really unlucky, since Trelawney had told them so. Personally, I think Trelawney can find bad luck in everything everywhere. You can only see them if you have seen someone die. The Hogwarts herd doesn’t do much except for pull the school carriages and occasionally provide transport for Dumbledore when he doesn’t want to Apparate.
Then something worse luck than thestrals arrives: Umbridge. And she is awful.
“Oh yeah,” said Hagrid brightly. “Glad yeh found the place all righ’! Well, as you can see — or, I dunno — can you? We’re doin’ thestrals today –”
“I’m sorry?” said Umbridge loudly, cupping her hand around her ear and frowning. “What did you say?”
Hagrid looked a little confused.
“Er — thestrals!” he said loudly. “Big — er — winged horses, yeh know!”
He flapped his gigantic arms hopefully. Professor Umbridge raised her eyebrows at him and muttered as she made a note on her clipboard, “has . . . to . . . resort . . . to . . . crude . . . sign . . . language . . .”
This goes on the entire lesson, with Umbridge making little comments to make Hagrid sound mentally deranged. She also says that the Ministry has classified thestrals as “dangerous.” The Slytherins are not helping, saying that Hagrid is hard to understand because he grunts all the time and acting like Hagrid is scary.
After class, Hermione is absolutely incensed. It’s all about Umbridge’s hatred of half-breeds. The same reason why she passed the anti-werewolf legislation. She also slips and says that she wishes that she could see them, but one she sees Harry’s face, she realizes what that really meant.
As December arrives, Ron and Hermione are super busy with prefect duties. Hermione wishes she had more time to knit hats before she leaves for Christmas so that all the elves can be free. Harry doesn’t want to tell her that Dobby has been taking them all. Harry also doesn’t want to stay at school for the holidays, since everyone was leaving, but is surprised by Ron’s announcement that Harry will be coming with him back to the Burrow for Christmas instead! Yay! Christmas with the Weasleys! What could be better!
They have one last D.A. meeting before the holiday break. The house-elves had decorated the place with mistletoe and baubles everywhere. Angelina also announces that she has replaced the banned Quidditch players — Ginny is the new Seeker. They all practice and review what they had learned over the past year, but no one has worked as hard as Neville.
They practice for an hour and then depart, all except for Cho, who hangs back. Harry approaches her and realizes that she’s crying.
She shook her head and wiped her eyes on her sleeve. “I’m — sorry,” she said thickly. “I suppose . . . it’s just . . . learning all this stuff . . . It just makes me . . . wonder whether . . . if he’d known it all . . . he’d still be alive . . .”
Yeah, that’s just what Harry wants to hear, his crush talking about her dead boyfriend. Not that Harry doesn’t care about what happened to Cedric — he does. A lot. He had nightmares about it all summer. He assures Cho that Cedric did know a lot of stuff, that he was really good. But it was Voldemort. If Voldemort wants to kill you, then you will be dead. That’s it.
Cho apologizes for bringing up Cedric, knowing that Harry probably doesn’t want to talk about it. Which Harry doesn’t, let’s be honest. Cho also tells him that he’s a really good teacher, that she’s learned a lot. Then she points upwards. To the mistletoe.
“I really like you, Harry.”
He could not think. A tingling sensation was spreading throughout him, paralyzing his arms, legs, and brain.
She was much too close. He could see every tear clinging to her eyelashes . . .
It’s sort of a fade to black situation, although the next paragraph says that he returned to the common room a half an hour later. A half an hour! Hee hee! Ron and Hermione are the only ones there. Ron is clueless as usual, but Hermione is pretty sure she knows what happened. She asks him, and he confirms it, which makes Ron bust out laughing. He asks how it was, but Harry can just say that it was “wet” because Cho was crying.
Ron thinks it’s because Harry is bad at kissing, but Hermione says that Cho has been crying a lot these days. Cho has been handling a lot right now. For starters she is participating in the D.A. against the wishes of her parents. Hermione explains to the boys that Cho also feels very conflicted because of Cedric and Harry. She liked Cedric, but she also likes Harry, but she feels bad that Harry saw Cedric die. It’s making her feel very conflicted and bringing up all the feelings that she had been trying to suppress. Also she’s been flying poorly and is afraid that she might get thrown off the Quidditch team.
A slightly stunned silence greeted the end of this speech, then Ron said, “One person can’t feel all that at once, they’d explode.”
“Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have,” said Hermione nastily, picking up her quill again.
Really, there is a lot of emotional baggage attached to this first kiss. Which is unfortunate. A first kiss should just be awkward and exciting. Hermione asks if he plans to see Cho again, like for a date, and Harry isn’t sure. Hermione also reveals that she’s writing a letter to Viktor. As in Krum. Ron is none too happy about that. Ha ha. Ron, will you just admit that you like her? Please?
That night, Harry has weird dreams about Cho, but soon the dream morphs into another dream. A dream where Harry is sliding along the floor on his stomach. He sees a man sitting on the floor ahead of him and really wants to bite him. He tries to resist the impulse, but then the man jumped up and drew his wand. So Harry bites him several times and blood is everywhere.
Harry wakes up right away, his forehead hurting so bad that he can barely see. He remembers the dream though. He remembers being a snake and biting someone. And not just anyone. Mr. Weasley.
“Your dad,” he panted, his chest heaving. “Your dad’s . . . been . . . attacked . . .”
“What?” said Ron uncomprehendingly.
“Your dad! He’s been bitten, it’s serious, there was blood everywhere . . .”
Ron tries to tell him that it was just a dream. Neville runs for help. Harry is in really bad shape. He’s retching on the floor and his head still hurts, although not as bad as it did when he first woke up. Neville returns with McGonagall and Harry tries to explain it to her. He’s not lying, he’s not making this up, and he’s not crazy.
And because she’s awesome, McGonagall believes him. She immediately takes him to Dumbledore.
See you next time for Chapter 22!
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Aw, thanks! I enjoy writing them.