A number of small scuffles broke out in the corridors, culminating in a nasty incident in which a Gryffindor fourth year and a Slytherin sixth year ended up in the hospital wing with leeks sprouting out of their ears.
A lot of people have told me that this is their favorite, or at least one of their favorites, of the series, and I can definitely see why. Of the three I have read so far, this one has indeed been the best for sheer fun as well as for drama and tension: the mystery of Hermione's course load; the menacing presence of the Dementors; the tantalizing threat of Sirius Black; the sad story of Hagrid and his hippogriff; and, most amusingly and refreshingly, the first ever notes of skepticism as we're introduced to the "misty-voiced" Professor Trelawney's Divination class, which most students and many teachers seem to think is a lot of rubbish. Rowling is juggling a lot of balls in this one, and keeps them in the air most satisfactorily.
The structure of one school year per novel is starting to wear on me, though. I had resolved to read all of these in one long gulp, as I did, more or less, with A Song of Ice and Fire last year, but I'm starting to wonder if reading them this way is going to just give too much emphasis to the humdrum run of summer sucks/back to school/Halloween/Christmas/Easter/Final Exams and Quidditch Cup.
I keep going, though, because within that predictable framework, there is still a lot of amusement and charm to be had. Like the kids winding up in sickbay with leeks growing out of their ears. As far as I'm concerned, this is what J.K. Rowling does best: coming up with amusing little details like that to illustrate what life must be like among a hundred or so immature wizards, childish creatures with as-yet-unmeasured magical powers, kids being kids, but with wands and fake Latin and the possibility, at any time that someone might actually get turned into a toad. Or worse.
Which is to say that it remains true for me that the stuff going on along the sidelines of young Mr. Potter's adventures is way more interesting than the main events -- and while this particular volume was rather short on Weasley Twins and long on Hermione harrumph, it still had just enough in the way of entertaining little nuggets to keep me going, and leave me cracking into the next book, which, if I'm guessing right, is going to break from the school year tradition a bit, which makes me happy, but it also sounds likely to concern itself mostly with Quidditch, which does not. Um.