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The next morning, they find out what has made Voldemort so happy.
The Daily Prophet front page carries an article about the biggest Azkaban breakout ever: ten Death Eaters, including Antonin Dolohov, Augustus Rookwood, and Bellatrix Lestrange, have all escaped.
Harry is shocked to find that Fudge is blaming the breakout on Sirius.
Hermione replies, "he can hardly say, 'Sorry, everyone, Dumbledore warned me this might happen, the Azkaban guards have joined Lord Voldemort'" (25.14).
The Daily Prophet has further bad news: Broderick Bode, a Ministry employee who was laid up at St. Mungo's, has been killed by a Devil's Snare plant left at his bedside.
The plant was supposed to be a Christmas present.
Harry suddenly realizes that Bode was the man lying in bed next to Gilderoy Lockhart when they went to St. Mungo's to visit Mr. Weasley.
They were there when the plant was delivered!
Ron remembers that Bode was an Unspeakable, an employee of the Department of Mysteries.
Hermione rushes off mysteriously to send a letter, but she won't explain why.
Hagrid greets Ron and Harry in passing. He's still covered with bruises and cuts.
Hagrid is now on probation.
The news of the ten Death Eaters' escapes is all anyone can talk about.
Everyone is also wondering about Harry's response to the news, but Harry thinks the tone of the whispering about him is changing: "They sounded curious rather than hostile now, and once or twice he was sure he overheard snatches of conversation that suggested that the speakers were not satisfied with the Prophet's version of how and why ten Death Eaters had managed to break out of the Azkaban fortress" (25.48).
Professor Umbridge continues to try and clamp down on the school.
Her latest Educational Decree requires that, "Teachers are hereby banned from giving students any information that is not strictly related to the subjects they are paid to teach" (25.52).
Professor Umbridge also insists on being present at every session of Divination and Care of Magical Creatures, which is making Professor Trelawney crazy.
The only thing that Harry is really enjoying right now at school is the DA.
Everyone is working hard and improving, even Zacharias Smith.
Harry's Occlumency lessons are continuing, but he is not getting better – in fact, he is growing increasingly sensitive to Voldemort.
On Valentine's Day, Harry gets ready for his date with Cho.
That morning, Hermione gets a letter. She insists that Harry has to meet her at the Three Broomsticks at noon – he can even bring Cho, if he likes.
Ron can't go to Hogsmeade at all. The Gryffindor Quidditch team is having an all-day practice, since they are so terrible.
In Hogsmeade, Harry and Cho start off talking (relatively) easily about Quidditch.
Cho notices that there are no Dementors looking for the ten escaped Death Eaters. When Sirius Black escaped two years before, there were Dementors everywhere, but now, none.
Harry thinks to himself that the Dementors must be totally out of Ministry control if they're not even bothering to look around.
The date starts to go sour when they wind up at a cutesy little teashop called Madam Puddifoot's.
There are other couples there, which makes Harry feel self-conscious.
Harry tells Cho that he is supposed to meet Hermione at noon that day.
She gets very angry very quickly, and Harry can't figure out why.
Then, Cho starts to cry yet again. She actually asks Harry, "I've been meaning to ask you for ages ... did Cedric – did he - m - m - mention me at all before he died?" (25.141).
This is pretty much the last thing Harry wants to talk about, so he tries to change the subject.
Cho is upset that Harry doesn't understand how she's feeling.
She shouts, "Go on, leave! [...] I don't know why you asked me out in the first place if you're going to make arrangements to meet other girls right after me" (25.153).
Then she storms off in tears.
Harry is baffled and upset.
He heads over to the Three Broomsticks, where he finds Hagrid sitting by himself.
Hagrid seems to be in a grim mood and keeps talking about the importance of family.
Again, Harry has no clue what's going on.
Hermione waves Harry over. He finds her sitting with Luna Lovegood and journalist Rita Skeeter.
(Hermione has control over Rita Skeeter because she has found out that Skeeter is an unregistered Animagus. Skeeter's animal form is a beetle, and she has been using this form to spy on people for her stories. At the end of Book Four, Hermione demands that Skeeter not publish any lies about people for a full year in exchange for Hermione's silence about her Animagus form.)
Hermione's proposition is this: she wants Rita Skeeter to write an article.
This article will tell the exact truth about Harry's experiences at the end of last year when Voldemort rose again.
Obviously, the Daily Prophet won't run such a piece since (a) Fudge won't let them, and (b) "it's against the public mood" (25.211).
Hermione agrees, which is why they are going to print the article in the Quibbler.
Rita Skeeter laughs at the idea that anyone would believe anything that appears in a tabloid like the Quibbler.
Hermione agrees, "Some people won't [...] But the Daily Prophet's version of the Azkaban breakout had some gaping holes in it. I think a lot of people will be wondering whether there isn't a better explanation of what happened, and if there's an alternative story available, even if it is published in a – [...] well, an unusual magazine – I think they might be rather keen to read it" (25.214).