At five o'clock that evening he knocked on Professor Umbridge's office door
for what he sincerely hoped would be the final time, and was told to enter.
The blank parchment lay ready for him on the lace-covered table, the pointed
black quill beside it.
'You know what to do, Mr Potter,' said Umbridge, smiling sweetly at him.
Harry picked up the quill and glanced through the window. If he just shifted
his chair an inch or so to the right: on the pretext of shifting himself closer
to the table, he managed it. He now had a distant view of the Gryffindor Quidditch
team soaring up and down the pitch, while half a dozen black figures stood at
the foot of the three high goalposts, apparently awaiting their turn to Keep.
It was impossible to tell which one was Ron at this distance.
I must not tell lies, Harry wrote. The cut in the back of his right hand
opened and began to bleed afresh.
I must not tell lies. The cut dug deeper, stinging and smarting.
I must not tell lies. Blood trickled down his wrist.
He chanced another glance out of the window. Whoever was defending the goalposts
now was doing a very poor job indeed. Katie Bell scored twice in the few seconds
Harry dared to watch. Hoping very much that the Keeper wasn't Ron, he dropped
his eyes back to the parchment shining with blood.
I must not tell lies.
I must not tell lies.
He looked up whenever he thought he could risk it; when he could hear the
scratching of Umbridges quill or the opening of a desk drawer. The third person
to try out was pretty good, the fourth was terrible, the fifth dodged a Bludger
exceptionally well but then fumbled an easy save. The sky was darkening, and
Harry doubted he would be able to see the sixth and seventh people at all.
I must not tell lies.
I must not tell lies.
The parchment was now dotted with drops of blood from the back of his hand,
which was searing with pain. When he next looked up, night had fallen and the
Quidditch pitch was no longer visible.
'Let's see if you've got the message yet, shall we?' said Umbridges soft
voice half an hour later.
She moved towards him, stretching out her short ringed fingers for his arm.
And then, as she took hold of him to examine the words now cut into his skin,
pain seared, not across the back of his hand, but across the scar on his forehead.
At the same time, he had a most peculiar sensation somewhere around his midriff.
He wrenched his arm out of her grip and leapt to his feet, staring at her.
She looked back at him, a smile stretching her wide, slack mouth.
'Yes, it hurts, doesn't it?' she said softly.
He did not answer. His heart was thumping very hard and fast. Was she talking
about his hand or did she know what he had just felt in his forehead?
'Well, I think I've made my point, Mr Potter. You may go.'
He caught up his schoolbag and left the room as quickly as he could.
Stay calm, he told himself, as he sprinted up the stairs. Stay calm, it doesn't
necessarily mean what you think it means:
'Mimbulus mimbletonia!' he gasped at the Fat Lady, who swung forwards once
A roar of sound greeted him. Ron came running towards him, beaming all over
his face and slopping Butterbeer down his front from the goblet he was clutching.
'Harry, I did it, I'm in, I'm Keeper!'
'What? Oh - brilliant!' said Harry, trying to smile naturally, while his
heart continued to race and his hand throbbed and bled.
'Have a Butterbeer.' Ron pressed a bottle on him. 'I can't believe it - where's
'She's there,' said Fred, who was also swigging Butterbeer, and pointed to
an armchair by the fire. Hermione was dozing in it, her drink tipping precariously
in her hand.
'Well, she said she was pleased when I told her,' said Ron, looking slightly
'Let her sleep,' said George hastily. It was a few moments before Harry noticed
that several of the first-years gathered around them bore unmistakeable signs
of recent nosebleeds.
'Come here, Ron, and see if Oliver's old robes fit you,' called Katie Bell,
'we can take off his name and put yours on instead:'
As Ron moved away, Angelina came striding up to Harry.
'Sorry I was a bit short with you earlier, Potter,' she said abruptly. 'It's
stressful this managing lark, you know, I'm starting to think I was a bit hard
on Wood sometimes.' She was watching Ron over the rim of her goblet with a slight
frown on her face.
'Look, I know he's your best mate, but he's not fabulous,' she said bluntly.
'I think with a bit of training he'll be all right, though. He comes from a
family of good Quidditch players. I'm banking on him turning out to have a bit
more talent than he showed today, to be honest. Vicky Frobisher and Geoffrey
Hooper both flew better this evening, but Hoopers a real whiner, he's always
moaning about something or other, and Vicky's involved in all sorts of societies.
She admitted herself that if training clashed with her Charms Club she'd put
Charms first. Anyway, we're having a practice session at two o'clock tomorrow,
so just make sure you're there this time. And do me a favour and help Ron as
much as you can, OK?'
He nodded, and Angelina strolled back to Alicia Spinnet. Harry moved over
to sit next to Hermione, who awoke with a jerk as he put down his bag.
'Oh, Harry, it's you: good about Ron, isn't it?' she said blearily. 'I'm
just so-so - so tired,' she yawned. 'I was up until one o'clock making more
hats. They're disappearing like mad!'
And sure enough, now that he looked, Harry saw that there were woolly hats
concealed all around the room where unwary elves might accidentally pick them
'Great,' said Harry distractedly; if he did not tell somebody soon, he would
burst. 'Listen, Hermione, I was just up in Umbridge's office and she touched
Hermione listened closely. When Harry had finished, she said slowly 'You're
worried You-Know-Who's controlling her like he controlled Quirrell?'
'Well,' said Harry, dropping his voice, 'it's a possibility, isn't it?'
'I suppose so,' said Hermione, though she sounded unconvinced. 'But I don't
think he can be possessing her the way he possessed Quirrell, I mean, he's properly
alive again now, isn't he, he's got his own body, he wouldn't need to share
someone else's. He could have her under the Imperius Curse, I suppose:"
Harry watched Fred, George and Lee Jordan juggling empty Butterbeer bottles
for a moment. Then Hermione said, 'But last year your scar hurt when nobody
was touching you, and didn't Dumbledore say it had to do with what You-Know-Who
was feeling at the time? I mean, maybe this hasn't got anything to do with Umbridge
at all, maybe it's just coincidence it happened while you were with her?'
'She's evil,' said Harry flatly. Twisted.'
'She's horrible, yes, but: Harry, I think you ought to tell Dumbledore your
It was the second time in two days he had been advised to go to Dumbledore
and his answer to Hermione was just the same as his answer to Ron.
'I'm not bothering him with this. Like you just said, its not a big deal.
It's been hurting on and off all summer - it was just a bit worse tonight, that's
'Harry, I'm sure Dumbledore would want to be bothered by this -'
'Yeah,' said Harry, before he could stop himself, 'that's the only bit of
me Dumbledore cares about, isn't it, my scar?'
'Don't say that, it's not true!'
'I think I'll write and tell Sirius about it, see what he thinks -'
'Harry, you can't put something like that in a letter!' said Hermione, looking
alarmed. 'Don't you remember, Moody told us to be careful what we put in writing!
We just can't guarantee owls aren't being intercepted any more!'
'All right, all right, I won't tell him, then!' said Harry irritably. He
got to his feet. 'I'm going to bed. Tell Ron for me, will you?'
'Oh no,' said Hermione, looking relieved, 'if you're going that means I can
go too, without being rude. I'm absolutely exhausted and I want to make some
more hats tomorrow. Listen, you can help me if you like, it's quite fun, I'm
getting better, I can do patterns and bobbles and all sorts of things now.'
Harry looked into her face, which was shining with glee, and tried to look
as though he was vaguely tempted by this offer.
'Er: no, I don't think I will, thanks,' he said. 'Er- not tomorrow. I've
got loads of homework to do:'
And he traipsed off to the boys' stairs, leaving her looking slightly disappointed.
- CHAPTER FOURTEEN -
Percy and Padfoot
Harry was first to wake up in his dormitory next morning. He lay for a moment
watching dust swirl in the ray of sunlight coming through the gap in his four-posters
hangings, and savoured the thought that it was Saturday. The first week of term
seemed to have dragged on for ever, like one gigantic History of Magic lesson.
Judging by the sleepy silence and the freshly minted look of that beam of
sunlight, it was just after daybreak. He pulled open the curtains around his
bed, got up and started to dress. The only sound apart from the distant twittering
of birds was the slow, deep breathing of his fellow Gryffindors. He opened his
schoolbag carefully, pulled out parchment and quill and headed out of the dormitory
for the common room.
Making straight for his favourite squashy old armchair beside the now extinct
fire, Harry settled himself down comfortably and unrolled his parchment while
looking around the room. The detritus of crumpled-up bits of parchment, old
Gobstones, empty ingredient jars and sweet wrappers that usually covered the
common room at the end of each day was gone, as were all Hermione's elf hats.
Wondering vaguely how many elves had now been set free whether they wanted to
be or not, Harry uncorked his ink bottle, dipped his quill into it, then held
it suspended an inch above the smooth yellowish surface of his parchment, thinking
hard: but after a minute or so he found himself staring into the empty grate,
at a complete loss for what to say.
He could now appreciate how hard it had been for Ron and Hermione to write
him letters over the summer. How was he supposed to tell Sirius everything that
had happened over the past week and pose all the questions he was burning to
ask without giving potential letter-thieves a lot of information he did not
want them to have?
He sat quite motionless for a while, gazing into the fireplace,: then, finally
coming to a decision, he dipped his quill into the ink bottle once more and
set it resolutely on the parchment.
Hope you're OK, the first week back here's been terrible, I'm really glad
it's the weekend.
We've got a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Umbridge.
She's nearly as nice as your mum. I'm writing because that thing I wrote to
you about last summer happened again last night when I was doing a detention
We're all missing our biggest friend, we hope he'll be back soon.
Please write back quickly.
Harry reread the letter several times, trying to see it from the point of
view of an outsider. He could not see how they would know what he was talking
about - or who he was talking to - just from reading this letter. He did hope
Sirius would pick up the hint about Hagrid and tell them when he might be back.
Harry did not want to ask directly in case it drew too much attention to what
Hagrid might be up to while he was not at Hogwarts.
Considering it was a very short letter, it had taken a long time to write;
sunlight had crept halfway across the room while he had been working on it and
he could now hear distant sounds of movement from the dormitories above. Sealing
the parchment carefully, he climbed through the portrait hole and headed off
for the Owlery.
'I would not go that way if I were you,' said Nearly Headless Nick, drifting
disconcertingly through a wall just ahead of Harry as he walked down the passage.
'Peeves is planning an amusing joke on the next person to pass the bust of Paracelsus
halfway down the corridor.'
'Does it involve Paracelsus falling on top of the persons head?' asked Harry.
'Funnily enough, it does,' said Nearly Headless Nick in a bored voice. 'Subtlety
has never been Peeves's strong point. I'm off to try and find the Bloody Baron:
he might be able to put a stop to it: see you, Harry'.
'Yeah, bye,' said Harry and instead of turning right, he turned left, taking
a longer but safer route up to the Owlery. His spirits rose as he walked past
window after window showing brilliantly blue sky; he had training later, he
would be back on the Quidditch pitch at last.
Something brushed his ankles. He looked down and saw the caretaker's skeletal
grey cat, Mrs Norns, slinking past him. She turned lamplike yellow eyes on him
for a moment before disappearing behind a statue of Wilfred the Wistful.
'I'm not doing anything wrong,' Harry called after her. She had the unmistakeable
air of a cat that was off to report to her boss, yet Harry could not see why;
he was perfectly entitled to walk up to the Owlery on a Saturday morning.
The sun was high in the sky now and when Harry entered the Owlery the glassless
windows dazzled his eyes; thick silvery beams of sunlight crisscrossed the circular
room in which hundreds of owls nestled on rafters, a little restless in the
early-morning light, some clearly just returned from hunting. The straw-covered
floor crunched a little as he stepped across tiny animal bones, craning his
neck for a sight of Hedwig.