Hermione and Ron were already there and waved to Harry as he entered the Great Hall. Hermione was looking over Ron's shoulder as he examined his schedule, scowling. Harry sat down, and Ron said, still frowning, "Ugh. Divination first and then Transfiguration. What a horrible day. I'm sick of inventing disasters and pretending I'm going to die all the time," he added with a quick glance at Harry's expression, "Of course, that is better than having that miserable old gadfly predict your death to the world daily. And Transfiguration," Ron groaned. McGonagall's going to give us loads of homework! She's been on our case since the beginning of last year for the OWL's! Imagine her this year! I don't think I can bear it. Hermione assumed a "that's good for you look" as Harry reached over and grabbed a waffle. Ron continued, "And tomorrow, we have double Potions with Snape and the Malfoy git," Ron gagged. "I can't believe this. What a way to start off the second day of school." He looked as though Percy had become Headmaster of Hogwarts. Harry was silent as Hermione and Ron argued about the point of OWL's ("They're good for you!" "They may be good for YOU, but they disgust ME!"). He glanced over to the Ravenclaw table and saw Cho talking to her friends. She doesn't seem too upset, thought Harry. Cho caught him looking at her and gave him a small smile. Harry grinned and turned back to Hermione and Ron.
After breakfast, Ron and Harry left Hermione to go to Divination. They climbed up the usual tall case of stairs and up the trap door. Harry wrinkled his nose at the familiar musty smell and stuffy air of the classroom. He and Ron spotted a couple of puffs in the corner and sat down. Lavender waved to Ron; they had gotten rather close after the ball. Ron blushed scarlet as his ears went bright. He focused his eyes on a pinch bug on the windowsill as Harry tried to hide his laughter. Parvati smiled at Harry; she had been much nicer to him since he had become famous again. Professor Trelawney came in wearing her faraway look and misty eyes that seemed as though she were under a trance. Ron smirked as she threw Harry a pitiful look.
"Good morning, class. I am glad you have decided to continue your career in the Divination field. Sometimes, it does get a bit difficult and too much for one to handle," Professor Trelawney emphasized the last words. Harry threw her a killing look, realizing that she was referring to Hermione, who had quit Divination several years back. "This year," continued Professor Trelawney, "we will be working with palm reading and eventually leading into actual predictions. I am sure that many of you will be seeing glimpses of your inner eye, as I often do." Ron snorted into the puff.
The class started with reading from their palm books and trying out palm readings on a partner. Harry and Ron were in the middle of their attempts when they heard a sigh behind them. Professor Trelawney walked up to them looked sadly at Harrys hand. "That is a death line, my boy. It is rare, but indicates tragedy and danger. I am afraid you will be having a rough year." Harry said with enthusiasm in a low voice so Professor Trelawney wouldn't hear, "Great! I'm really looking forward to being confronted with hardships this year. It's just what I need to boost my self-confidence. Do you think I'll see Voldemort again? Oohh...I hope so!" With that, Harry turned his back to Professor Trelawney and took Ron's hand in his own. "Ron, this is a death line too! You and I are going to have a lot of fun this year!" Professor Trelawney seemed to hear that and gave Harry a dirty look before walking over to Parvati and Lavenders table. Ron made a face at her behind. Seamus Finnigan laughed and gave Harry and Ron the thumbs up sign. They spent the rest of the class creating "palm lines" that indicated the worst to come ("and this means you will be beaten up by Malfoy three times at Quidditch!" "No! That's a 'Blasted End Skrewt' line! You're going to get one for a pet!" Ron looked at his hand in horror after Harry said that, squinting to make sure there really was no line.). They were given no homework for the first day and came out chock full of miseries and woes they were to endure that year. Hermione met the two of them at the stairs and they walked to Transfiguration together.
Hermione looked happily at them, "Arithmancy is getting more and more interesting. We're on magical loci and hexatones right now! I wish you two would come, it's fascinating!"
Ron said, "I wish you would give up on trying to get us to go to your classes. By your descriptions, I don't think I could survive one Arithmancy class without falling asleep right smack on my desk. I'd rather eat a spider." Ron shuddered. Hermione looked rather hurt and put down. They were silent the rest of the way to Transfiguration.
Professor McGonagall was exactly as Ron had dreaded. "This year, you will be preparing hard for the OWL's. I, and all the other teachers, will be giving you extra homework to assist you in your studying process. I am expecting very high scores from all of you," she said briskly. "As a help session, you will all be having a Study Hall after dinner before bed. It will give you time to complete your homework and ask us any questions." Ron groaned, but quickly was silenced by Professor McGonagall's look. The rest of the class was spent by copying notes and practicing on transfiguring a quill into a parchment. For homework, they were given four essays of two foot in length each, rewriting an article from the Daily Prophet called "The Truth About Transfiguration", and one hundred pages to read from "Transfiguring Transfiguration". Even Hermione looked a bit overwhelmed at the amount of homework administered to them. Harry was highly disappointed, as the homework would preclude any chances of being able to visit Hagrid. He also had Quidditch practice the next morning. A bit stressed by all the work, Harry entered the Great Hall for lunch.
Dinner that night was rather subdued and quiet. There was a gloom about the Great Hall as the students ate, each dreading the upcoming Study Hall for different reasons. Harry, Ron, and Hermione had wanted to take the chance to visit Hagrid at his hut and were depressed to discover they wouldn't be able to tell him about their first few days. Even Fred and George seemed to be out of jokes. Only Dumbledore and the teachers sat merrily and chattered on normally. Harry slowly munched on his food, feeling lethargic and lazy. They had had a whole day of classes. Didn't they deserve a break? What was the big deal about OWL's anyway? he thought sullenly. Hermione was indifferent to the added class; she didn't seem upset, but she certainly wasn't exuberant. She bore Ron's complaints wearily. All supper, he talked in a bitter rage of the new schedule. Harry and Hermione didn't have the heart to tell him off. Someone, however, did. "I bet it was all McGonagall's idea, she's always wanted-" "RON," Neville interrupted, "Shut up." Ron raised his eyebrows, but went quiet nevertheless. Harry and Hermione were thoroughly surprised at Neville's boldness but didn't dare encourage him in front of Ron.
Dessert didn't seem to taste as good, either. The dreaded Study Hall seemed to put a cover over any excitement they might have felt. The Slytherins had lost their jeers and jaunts, and even Malfoy was poking sulkily at his food. Finally, the long dinner ended and everyone sluggishly dragged themselves out of the Great Hall.
Harry, Hermione, and Ron went to the Gryffindor common room to get their books. The Fat Lady was asleep and very upset to be woken up. "Phoenix feathers," Harry said dully. The Fat Lady swung open the portrait door with a bang and the three friends stepped in. They gathered their books and set off to Study Hall.
Unfortunately for Harry, they had Study Hall with Hufflepuff. As Study Hall was for homework, no talking was required. The only Hufflepuff that talked to Harry willingly was Justin, although a few did manage to force smiles at him. If Harry didn't have Ron and Hermione to talk to, Study Hall would have been a soporific hour to endure. Seamus Finnigan, having finished his work, did fall asleep and was awoken by a harsh Professor McGonagall who gave him a long lecture about the benefits of study time.
Hermione was done with her work quickly within forty-five minutes. Harry was on his last essay when he heard a large groan. Ron heaved a sigh and put down his quill. "I don't suppose I'll ever finish this load. I'm only halfway through my third essay and I still have to rewrite the article," he said, flexing his fingers.
"Don't worry, Ron. You'll finish. We'll help you. It's not that hard," Hermione responded eagerly and leaned over to help him.
"Why don't you just let me see your parchment? That would be the best help for me at this moment, please?" He put on his best sad face and forced his mouth down.
"No," Hermione said sternly. "No. I'll help you with yours, but I'm not letting you cheat. How do you ever expect to learn if you don't do it yourself?"
Ron gave in. "Fine, fine. If you say so. But help me with this." Hermione pulled her chair over and talked patiently as though to a toddler about the ways to transfigure a parchment into a quill. Harry sat at his end of the table, facing them and thinking resentfully. He looked down at his unfinished essay and his scribbled handwriting. Why didn't Hermione offer to help him? True, he didn't ask, but Hermione often offered to help Ron even when he didn't ask. Harry's normal boyish grin eventually turned into a slight frown. Hermione noticed this small change and said hurriedly, "Do you need help too, Harry? Because if you do, I'll help you as soon as I'm done telling Ron about changing frog spawn into seeds, which I don't believe he'll EVER understand," she added indignantly and scowled at Ron.
"No, it's okay. I think I get it," Harry said, trying not to sound disconcerted. He flicked his dark messy hair out of his brilliant eyes and looked back down to his essay. Hermione bit her lip and glanced at him. When he refused to look back at her, she turned to Ron and continued to explain the transfiguration rather uncertainly.
When the first Study Hall was over, the three of them, all quite sleepy, trudged back to the common room and slouched in. Harry bid Hermione good night a bit awkwardly as Ron gave a huge yawn, and the two boys went up the stairs to the boy's dormitory.