They followed Professor McGonagall past the silent figures of Neville, Dean and Seamus, out of the dormitory down the spiral stairs into the common room, through the portrait hole and off along the Fat Lady's moonlit corridor. Harry felt as though the panic inside him might spill over at any moment; he wanted to run, to yell for Dumbledore; Mr Weasley was bleeding as they walked along so sedately and what if those fangs (Harry tried hard not to think 'my fangs') had been poisonous? They passed Mrs Norris, who turned her lamplike eyes upon them and hissed faintly but Professor McGonagall said, 'Shoo!' Mrs Norris slunk away into the shadows, and in a few minutes they had reached the stone gargoyle guarding the entrance to Dumbledore s office.
'Don't blame you, mate,' said Ron, looking alarmed at the very thought.
Professor McGonagall looked round at Harry, frowning slightly.
Professor McGonagall rapped three times with the griffin knocker and the voices ceased abruptly as though someone had switched them all off. The door opened of its own accord and Professor McGonagall led Harry and Ron inside.
'You'd think a bit of kissing would cheer her up,' said Ron, grinning.
Harry considered for a moment.
'Your dad! He's been bitten, it's serious, there was blood everywhere . . .'
'I'm not sayin',' said Hagrid happily. 'I don' want ter spoil the surprise.'
'I really like you, Harry.'
Harry gave a half-hearted shrug. In truth, he didn't know whether he was all right or not. 'What's up?' said Ron, hoisting himself up on his elbow to get a clearer view of Harry. What's happened?'
They pulled off their robes and put on pyjamas in silence; Dean, Seamus and Neville were already asleep. Harry put his glasses on his bedside table and got into bed but did not pull the hangings closed around his four-poster; instead, he stared at the patch of starry sky visible through the window next to Neville's bed. If he had known, this time last night, that in twenty-four hours' time he would have kissed Cho Chang . . .
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'Ginny Weasley,' said Katie.
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'No - come on!' said Hagrid, looking a little anxious now. 'I mean, a dog'll bite if yeh bait it, won' it - but Thestrals have jus' got a bad reputation because o' the death thing - people used ter think they were bad omens, didn' they? Jus' didn' understand, did they?'
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'No,' said Harry, 'it was Dobby the house-elf.'
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'Hagrid . . . please . . .' said Hermione, a note of real desperation in her voice. 'Umbridge is looking for any excuse to get rid of
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'What's that supposed to mean?' said Ron indignantly. 'What sort of person cries while someone's kissing them?'
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He turned and strode straight into the Forest. Nobody seemed much disposed to follow. Harry glanced at Ron and Hermione, who sighed but nodded, and the three of them set off after Hagrid, leading the rest of the class.
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'It's Ron's dad,' he said, sitting up again. 'He's been attacked by a snake and it's serious, I saw it happen.'