'It's best to know what the enemy is saying,' said Hermione darkly, and she unfurled the newspaper and disappeared behind it, not emerging until Harry and Ron had finished eating.
'He's having a go at my mother!' Seamus yelled.
Her voice was high-pitched, breathy and little-girlish and, again, Harry felt a powerful rush of dislike that he could not explain to himself; all he knew was that he loathed everything about her, from her stupid voice to her fluffy pink cardigan. She gave another little throat-clearing cough ('hem, hem') and continued.
'Well, now, you shouldn't take that attitude,' said Nick reprovingly. 'Peaceful co-operation, that's the key. We ghosts, though we belong to separate houses, maintain links of friendship. In spite of the competitiveness between Gryffindor and Slytherin, I would never dream of seeking an argument with the Bloody Baron.'
What d'you mean?' said Harry quickly.
'What's going on?'
'Settle down,' said Snape coldly, shutting the door behind him.
'What are you asking me for?' Harry retorted. 'Just read the Daily Prophet like your mother, why don't you? That'll tell you all you need to know.'
That's the bell,' said Harry dully, because Ron and Hermione were bickering too loudly to hear it. They did not stop arguing all the way down to Snapes dungeon, which gave Harry plenty of time to reflect that between Neville and Ron he would be lucky ever to have two minutes of conversation with Cho that he could look back on without wanting to leave the country.
'Still, it won't hurt to have some new blood, will it?' said Ron.
Ron looked positively alarmed.
'Oh, yes,' said Nick, who seemed glad of a reason to turn away from Ron, who was now eating roast potatoes with almost indecent enthusiasm. 'Yes, I have heard the Hat give several warnings before, always at times when it detects periods of great danger for the school. And always, of course, its advice is the same: stand together, be strong from within.'
We're not going to waste our last year here, though,' said Fred, looking affectionately around at the Great Hall. 'We're going to use it to do a bit of market research, find out exactly what the average Hogwarts student requires from a joke shop, carefully evaluate the results of our research, then produce products to fit the demand.'
'Look at today!' groaned Ron. 'History of Magic, double Potions,
His heart was beating rather fast. He felt vaguely as though something was closing in on him.
'I'll have a go at anyone who calls me a liar,' said Harry.
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.
'Cheers,' said Ron moodily, pocketing his timetable, 'but I think I'll take the lessons.'