'Well,' he sighed, 'Hagrid hasn't been sacked yet, has he? He's hung on this long, maybe he'll hang on till the end of term and we won't have to go near Grawp at all.'*
The castle grounds were gleaming in the sunlight as though freshly painted; the cloudless sky smiled at itself in the smoothly sparkling lake; the satin green lawns rippled occasionally in a gentle breeze. June had arrived, but to the fifth-years this meant only one thing: their OWLs were upon them at last.
Their teachers were no longer setting them homework; lessons were devoted to revising those topics the teachers thought most likely to come up in the exams. The purposeful, feverish atmosphere drove nearly everything but the OWLs from Harry's mind, though he did wonder occasionally during Potions lessons whether Lupin had ever told Snape that he must continue giving Harry Ooclumency tuition. If he had, then Snape had ignored Lupin as thoroughly as he was now ignoring Harry. This suited Harry very well; he was quite busy and tense enough without extra classes with Snape, and to his relief Hermione was much too preoccupied these days to badger him about Occlumency; she was spending a lot of time muttering to herself, and had not laid out any elf clothes for days.
She was not the only person acting oddly as the OWLs drew steadily nearer. Ernie Macmillan had developed an irritating habit of interrogating people about their revision practices.
'How many hours d'you think you're doing a day?' he demanded of Harry and Ron as they queued outside Herbology, a manic gleam in his eyes.
'I dunno,' said Ron. 'A few.' 'More or less than eight?' 'Less, I s'pose,' said Ron, looking slightly alarmed.
'I'm doing eight,' said Ernie, puffing out his chest. 'Eight or nine. I'm getting an hour in before breakfast every day. Eights my average. I can do ten on a good weekend day. I did nine and a half on Monday. Not so good on Tuesday - only seven and a quarter. Then on Wednesday - ' Harry was deeply thankful that Professor Sprout ushered them into greenhouse three at that point, forcing Ernie to abandon his recital.
Meanwhile, Draco Malfoy had found a different way to induce panic.
'Of course, it's not what you know,' he was heard to tell Crabbe and Goyle loudly outside Potions a few days before the exams were to start, 'it's who you know. Now, Father's been friendly with the head of the Wizarding Examinations Authority for years - old Griselda Marchbanks - we've had her round for dinner and everthing . . .' 'Do you think that's true?' Hermione whispered in alarm to Harry and Ron.
'Nothing we can do about it if it is,' said Ron gloomily.