'No,' he said heavily, 'you know she won't let us.'
'Quite a period,' said Professor Umbridge, making a note on her clipboard. 'So it was Professor Dumbledore who appointed you?'
'So top grade's "O" for "Outstanding",' she was saying, 'and then there's "A" - '
He had thought that the next time he would see Umbridge would be in his detention that evening, but he was wrong. When they walked down the lawns towards the Forest for Care of Magical Creatures, they found her and her clipboard waiting for them beside Professor Grubbly-Plank.
'Hermione, you are honestly the most wonderful person I've ever met,' said Ron weakly, 'and if I'm ever rude to you again - '
'Well, come on,' said Hermione, jumping up, 'we'd better get going, if she's inspecting Binns's class we don't want to be late . . .'
'Yeah,' said Ron, rubbing slightly bloodshot eyes and throwing his fifth spoiled bit of parchment into the fire beside them. 'Listen . . . shall we just ask Hermione if we can have a look at what she's done?'
'You know, we probably should try and get more homework done during the week, Harry muttered to Ron, as they finally laid aside Professor McGonagall's long essay on the Inanimatus Conjurus Spell and turned miserably to Professor Sinistra's equally long and difficult essay about Jupiter's many moons.
'I think another week's detentions would do you some good, Mr Potter,' said Umbridge sleekly.
'OK, write that down,' Hermione said to Ron, pushing his essay and a sheet covered in her own writing back to Ron, 'then add this conclusion I've written for you.'
'Hermione,' said Ron sharply, 'if you want to know what grades we got, ask.'
'Well, that's nothing to be ashamed of,' said Fred, who had just arrived at the table with George and Lee Jordan and was sitting down on Harry's right. 'Nothing wrong with a good healthy "P".'
'Of course,' she said sweetly, making yet another note. 'Well, if you could just predict something for me, then?' And she looked up enquiringly, still smiling.
They had expected to have to comb Hermione's Daily Prophet carefully next morning to find the article Percy had mentioned in his letter. However, the departing delivery owl had barely cleared the top of the milk jug when Hermione let out a huge gasp and flattened the newspaper to reveal a large photograph of Dolores Umbridge, smiling widely and blinking slowly at them from beneath the headline.
'Are you telling me,' she said, lowering her voice so that the group of curious Ravenclaws behind them could not hear, that after the warning I gave you last Monday you lost your temper in Professor Umbridge's class again?'
'Well,' he said, trying to sound as though he found the whole thing a joke, 'if you want to - er - what is it?' - he checked Percy's letter - 'Oh yeah - "sever ties" with me, I swear I won't get violent.'
'Was he lousy?'
Harry looked up at Ron.