They hurried after him along the corridor, following the sound of his armor. Every now and then they spotted him running through a picture ahead.
"Be of stout heart, the worst is yet to come!" yelled the knight, and they saw him reappear in front of an alarmed group of women in crinolines, whose picture hung on the wall of a narrow spiral staircase.
Puffing loudly, the four of them climbed the tightly spiraling steps, getting dizzier and dizzier, until at last they heard the murmur of voices above them and knew they had reached the classroom.
"Farewell!" cried the knight, popping his head into a painting of some sinister-looking monks. "Farewell, my comrades-in-arms! If ever you have need of noble heart and steely sinew, call upon Sir Cadogan!"
"Yeah, we'll call you," muttered Ron as the knight disappeared, "if we ever need someone mental."
"What did I say," said Arth with a smug grin. "My shortcut of randomness would've have worked just as fine."
"You are also mental."
"The smartest and brightest of humans were all considered mental in their time."
"What in the bloody hell is that supposed to mean?"
"This generation of people holds stupid people like you."
"People call them NORMAL people."
"And normal people are stupid."
Ron sighed in defeat.
They climbed the last few steps and emerged onto a tiny landing, where most of the class was already assembled. There were no doors off this landing, but Ron nudged Arthur and pointed at the ceiling, where there was a circular trapdoor with a brass plaque on it.
"'Sibyll Trelawney, Divination teacher,'" Harry read. "How're we supposed to get up there?"
"Seriously? There is a trapdoor."
As though to rub it in even more, the trapdoor suddenly opened, and a silvery ladder descended right at Harry's feet.
Arth shook his head and started to climb the ladder.
"After you," said Ron, grinning, so Harry climbed the ladder first.
"Wimp," Harry muttered before climbing.
They emerged into the strangest-looking classroom he had ever seen. In fact, it didn't look like a classroom at all, more like a cross between someone's attic and an old fashioned tea shop.
At least twenty small, circular tables were crammed inside it, all surrounded by chintz armchairs and fat little poufs. Everything was lit with a dim, crimson light; the curtains at the windows were all closed, and the many lamps were draped with dark red scarves.
It was stiflingly warm, and the fire that was burning under the crowded mantelpiece was giving off a heavy, sickly sort of perfume as it heated a large copper kettle. The shelves running around the circular walls were crammed with dusty-looking feathers, stubs of candles, many packs of tattered playing cards, countless silvery crystal balls, and a huge array of teacups.
Ron appeared at Arth's shoulder as the class assembled around them, all talking in whispers.
"Where is she?" Ron said.
A voice came suddenly out of the shadows, a soft, misty sort of voice.
"Welcome," it said. "How nice to see you in the physical world at last."
Professor Trelawney moved into the firelight, and they saw that she was very thin; her large glasses magnified her eyes to several times their natural size, and she was draped in a gauzy spangled shawl. Innumerable chains and beads hung around her spindly neck, and her arms and hands were encrusted with bangles and rings.
Other than that, she looked plain.
"Sit, my children, sit," she said, and they all climbed awkwardly into armchairs or sank onto poufs. Arth, Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat themselves around the same round table.
"Welcome to Divination," said Professor Trelawney, who had seated herself in a winged armchair in front of the fire. "My name is Professor Trelawney. You may not have seen me before. I find that descending too often into the hustle and bustle of the main school clouds my Inner Eye."
Nobody said anything to this extraordinary pronouncement. Professor Trelawney delicately rearranged her shawl and continued, "So you have chosen to study Divination, the most difficult of all magical arts. I must warn you at the outset that if you do not have the Sight, there is very little I will be able to teach you. Books can take you only so far in this field..."
At these words, both Harry and Ron glanced, grinning, at Hermione and Arth, whom both heavily relied on books.
"Many witches and wizards, talented though they are in the area of loud bangs and smells and sudden disappearings, are yet unable to penetrate the veiled mysteries of the future," Professor Trelawney went on, her enormous, gleaming eyes moving from face to nervous face.
"It is a Gift granted to few. You, boy," she said suddenly to Neville, who almost toppled off his pouf. "Is your grandmother well?"
"I think so," said Neville tremulously.
"I wouldn't be so sure if I were you, dear," said Professor Trelawney, the firelight glinting on her long emerald earrings.
Professor Trelawney continued placidly. "We will be covering the basic methods of Divination this year. The first term will be devoted to reading the tea leaves. Next term we shall progress to palmistry. By the way, my dear," she shot suddenly at Parvati Patil, "beware a red-haired man."
Parvati gave a startled look at Ron, who was right behind her, and edged her chair away from him.
"In the second term," Professor Trelawney went on, "we shall progress to the crystal ball — if we have finished with fire omens, that is. Unfortunately, classes will be disrupted in February by a nasty bout of flu. I myself will lose my voice. And around Easter, one of our number will leave us forever."
A very tense silence followed this pronouncement, but Professor Trelawney seemed unaware of it.
"I wonder, dear," she said to Lavender Brown, who was nearest and shrank back in her chair, "if you could pass me the largest sil- ver teapot?"
Lavender, looking relieved, stood up, took an enormous teapot from the shelf, and put it down on the table in front of Professor Trelawney.
"Thank you, my dear. Incidentally, that thing you are dreading — it will happen on Friday the sixteenth of October."
Professor Trelawney then faced the crowd and faced Arth.
"Beware a clash of Scarlett, Gold, And Brown."
Arth raised an eye.