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'But where are you going to get the gold to start a joke shop?' Hermione asked sceptically. 'You're going to need all the ingredients and materials - and premises too, I suppose . . .'
'Out of order, am I?' shouted Seamus, who in contrast with Ron was going pale. 'You believe all the rubbish he's come out with about You-Know-Who, do you, you reckon he's telling the truth?'
He had been stupid not to expect this, he thought angrily as he walked through the much emptier upstairs corridors. Of course everyone was staring at him; he had emerged from the Triwizard maze two months previously clutching the dead body of a fellow student and claiming to have seen Lord Voldemort return to power. There had not been time last term to explain himself before they'd all had to go home - even if he had felt up to giving the whole school a detailed account of the terrible events in that graveyard.
'Yeah, it was OK,' chuckled Dean. 'Better than Seamus's, anyway, he was just telling me.'
Harry said nothing. He threw his wand down on to his bedside table, pulled off his robes, stuffed them angrily into his trunk and pulled on his pyjamas. He was sick of it: sick of being the person who is stared at and talked about all the time. If any of them knew, if any of them had the faintest idea what it felt like to be the one all these things had happened to . . . Mrs Finnigan had no idea, the stupid woman, he thought savagely.
'Oh, yeah,' said Ron. 'Bound to be, isn't it? OWLs are really important, affect the jobs you can apply for and everything. We get career advice, too, later this year, Bill told me. So you can choose what NEWTs you want to do next year.'
'Says who?' said George, looking astonished.
'Because we're prefects!' said Hermione, as they climbed out through the portrait hole. 'It's up to us to stop this kind of thing!'
'Dumbledore didn't even mention how long that Grubbly-Plank woman's staying,' he said, as they made their way across to the Gryffindor table.
'After this year, of course, many of you will cease studying with me,' Snape went on. 'I take only the very best into my NEWT Potions class, which means that some of us will certainly be saying goodbye.'
'Not really,' said Ron slowly. 'Except . . . well . . .'
'So do I, but I still couldn't tell you exactly what - '
'Yes, it is, but it's not the only worthwhile thing,' said Hermione thoughtfully, 'I mean, if I could take SPEW further . . .'
Terrified? I hope I, Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, have never been guilty of cowardice in my life! The noble blood that runs in my veins -'
Seamus looked for a few seconds as though detention would be a reasonable price to pay to say what was going through his mind; but with a noise of contempt he turned on his heel, vaulted into bed and pulled the hangings shut with such violence that they were ripped from the bed and fell in a dusty pile to the floor. Ron glared at Seamus, then looked at Dean and Neville.
'No,' said Harry very quietly.
Just as Harry, Ron and Hermione had predicted, Snape could hardly have set them a more difficult, fiddly potion. The ingredients had to be added to the cauldron in precisely the right order and quantities; the mixture had to be stirred exactly the right number of times, firstly in clockwise, then in anti-clockwise directions; the heat of the flames on which it was simmering had to be lowered to exactly the right level for a specific number of minutes before the final ingredient was added.