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J.K.Rwling >> Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix (page 40)


'NO!' said Harry and Hermione together, very loudly.

'Sirius, didn't you see the Daily Prophet?' said Hermione anxiously.

'Oh, that,' said Sirius, grinning, 'they're always guessing where I am, they haven't really got a clue -'

'Yeah, but we think this time they have,' said Harry. 'Something Malfoy said on the train made us think he knew it was you, and his father was on the platform, Sirius - you know, Lucius Malfoy - so don't come up here, whatever you do. If Malfoy recognises you again -'

'All right, all right, I've got the point,' said Sirius. He looked most displeased. 'Just an idea, thought you might like to get together.'

'I would, I just don't want you chucked back in Azkaban!' said Harry.

There was a pause in which Sirius looked out of the fire at Harry, a crease between his sunken eyes.

'You're less like your father than I thought,' he said finally, a definite coolness in his voice. The risk would've been what made it fun for James.'

'Look -'

'Well, I'd better get going, I can hear Kreacher coming down the stairs,' said Sirius, but Harry was sure he was lying. I'll write to tell you a time I can make it back into the fire, then, shall I? If you can stand to risk it?'

There was a tiny pop, and the place where Sirius's head had been was flickering flame once more.

- CHAPTER FIFTEEN -

The Hogwarts High Inquisitor

They had expected to have to comb Hermione's Daily Prophet carefully next morning to find the article Percy had mentioned in his letter. However, the departing delivery owl had barely cleared the top of the milk jug when Hermione let out a huge gasp and flattened the newspaper to reveal a large photograph of Dolores Umbridge, smiling widely and blinking slowly at them from beneath the headline.

MINISTRY SEEKS EDUCATIONAL REFORM

DOLORES UMBRIDGE APPOINTED

FIRST EVER HIGH INQUISITOR

'Umbridge - "High Inquisitor"?' said Harry darkly, his half-eaten piece of toast slipping from his fingers. 'What does that mean?' Hermione read aloud:

'In a surprise move last night the Ministry of Magic passed new legislation giving itself an unprecedented level of control at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

'"The Minister has been growing uneasy about goings-on at Hogwarts for some time," said junior Assistant to the Minister, Percy Weasley. "He is now responding to concerns voiced by anxious parents, who feel the school may be moving in a direction they do not approve of."

'This is not the first time in recent weeks that the Minister, Cornelius Fudge, has used new laws to effect improvements at the

wizarding school. As recently as 30ih August, Educational Decree Number Twenty-two was passed, to ensure that, in the event of the current Headmaster being unable to provide a candidate for a teaching post, the Ministry should select an appropriate person. '"That's how Dolores Umbridge came to be appointed to the teaching staff at Hogwarts," said Weasley last night. "Dumbledore couldn't find anyone so the Minister put in Umbridge, and of course, she's been an immediate success -"'

'She's been a WHAT?' said Harry loudly. 'Wait, there's more,' said Hermione grimly.

'"- an immediate success, totally revolutionising the teaching of Defence Against the Dark Arts and providing the Minister with on-the-ground feedback about what's really happening at Hogwarts."

'It is this last function that the Ministry has now formalised with the passing of Educational Decree Number Twenty-three, which creates the new position of Hogwarts High Inquisitor.

'"This is an exciting new phase in the Minister's plan to get to grips with what some are calling the falling standards at Hogwarts," said Weasley. "The Inquisitor will have powers to inspect her fellow educators and make sure that they are coming up to scratch. Professor Umbridge has been offered this position in addition to her own teaching post and we are delighted to say that she has accepted."

'The Ministry's new moves have received enthusiastic support from parents of students at Hogwarts.

"T feel much easier in my mind now that I know Dumbledore is being subjected to fair and objective evaluation," said Mr Lucius Malfoy, 4I, speaking from his Wiltshire mansion last night. "Many of us with our children's best interests at heart have been concerned about some of Dumbledore's eccentric decisions in the last few years and are glad to know that the Ministry is keeping an eye on the situation."

'Among those eccentric decisions are undoubtedly the controversial staff appointments previously described in this newspaper, which have included the employment of werewolf Remus Lupin, half-giant Rubeus Hagrid and delusional ex-Auror, "Mad-Eye" Moody.

'Rumours abound, of course, that Albus Dumbledore, once Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, is no longer up to the task of managing the prestigious school of Hogwarts.

'"I think the appointment of the Inquisitor is a first step towards ensuring that Hogwarts has a headmaster in whom we can all repose our confidence," said a Ministry insider last night.

'Wizengamot elders Griselda Marchbanks and Tiberius Ogden have resigned in protest at the introduction of the post of Inquisitor to Hogwarts.

'"Hogwarts is a school, not an outpost of Cornelius Fudge's office," said Madam Marchbanks. "This is a further, disgusting attempt to discredit Albus Dumbledore."

'(For a full account of Madam Marchbanks's alleged links to . subversive goblin groups, turn to page seventeen.)'

Hermione finished reading and looked across the table at the other two.

'So now we know how we ended up with Umbridge! Fudge passed this "Educational Decree" and forced her on us! And now he's given her the power to inspect the other teachers!' Hermione was breathing fast and her eyes were very bright. 'I can't believe this. It's outrageous!'

'I know it is,' said Harry. He looked down at his right hand, clenched on the table-top, and saw the faint white outline of the words Umbridge had forced him to cut into his skin.

But a grin was unfurling on Ron's face.

'What?' said Harry and Hermione together, staring at him.

'Oh, I can't wait to see McGonagall inspected,' said Ron happily. 'Umbridge won't know what's hit her.'

'Well, come on,' said Hermione, jumping up, 'we'd better get going, if she's inspecting Binns's class we don't want to be late:'

But Professor Umbridge was not inspecting their History of Magic lesson, which was just as dull as the previous Monday, nor was she in Snape's dungeon when they arrived for double Potions, where Harry's moonstone essay was handed back to him with a large, spiky black 'D' scrawled in an upper corner.

'I have awarded you the grades you would have received if you presented this work in your OWL,' said Snape with a smirk, as he swept among them, passing back their homework. This should give you a realistic idea of what to expect in the examination.'

Snape reached the front of the class and turned on his heel to face them.

The general standard of this homework was abysmal. Most of you would have failed had this been your examination. I expect to see a great deal more effort for this weeks essay on the various varieties of venom antidotes, or I shall have to start handing out detentions to those dunces who get a 'D'.

He smirked as Malfoy sniggered and said in a carrying whisper, 'Some people got a "D"? Ha!'

Harry realised that Hermione was looking sideways to see what grade he had received; he slid his moonstone essay back into his bag as quickly as possible, feeling that he would rather keep that information private.

Determined not to give Snape an excuse to fail him this lesson, Harry read and reread every line of instructions on the blackboard at least three times before acting on them. His Strengthening Solution was not precisely the clear turquoise shade of Hermione's but it was at least blue rather than pink, like Neville's, and he delivered a flask of it to Snape's desk at the end of the lesson with a feeling of mingled defiance and relief.

'Well, that wasn't as bad as last week, was it?' said Hermione, as they climbed the steps out of the dungeon and made their way across the Entrance Hall towards lunch. 'And the homework didn't go too badly, either, did it?'

When neither Ron nor Harry answered, she pressed on, 'I mean, all right, I didn't expect the top grade, not if he's marking to OWL standard, but a pass is quite encouraging at this stage, wouldn't you say?'

Harry made a non-committal noise in his throat.

'Of course, a lot can happen between now and the exam, we've got plenty of time to improve, but the grades we're getting now are a sort of baseline, aren't they? Something we can build on:"

They sat down together at the Gryffmdor table.

'Obviously, I'd have been thrilled if I'd got an "O" -'

'Hermione,' said Ron sharply 'if you want to know what grades we got, ask.': -'

'I don't - I didn't mean - well, if you want to tell me -'

'I got a "P",' said Ron, ladling soup into his bowl. 'Happy?'

'Well, that's nothing to be ashamed of,' said Fred, who had just arrived at the table with George and Lee Jordan and was sitting down on Harry's right. 'Nothing wrong with a good healthy "P".'

'But,' said Hermione, 'doesn't "P" stand for:"

'"Poor", yeah,' said Lee Jordan. 'Still, better than "D", isn't it? "Dreadful"?'

Harry felt his face grow warm and faked a small coughing fit over his roll. When he emerged from this he was sorry to find that Hermione was still in full flow about OWL grades.

'So top grade's "O" for "Outstanding",' she was saying, 'and then there's "A" -'

'No, "E",' George corrected her, '"E" for "Exceeds Expectations". And I've always thought Fred and I should've got "E" in everything, because we exceeded expectations just by turning up for the exams.'

They all laughed except Hermione, who ploughed on, 'So, after "E" it's "A" for "Acceptable", and that's the last pass grade, isn't it?'

'Yep,' said Fred, dunking an entire roll in his soup, transferring it to his mouth and swallowing it whole.

Then you get "P" for "Poor"-' Ron raised both his arms in mock celebration - 'and "D" for "Dreadful".'

'And then "T",' George reminded him.

'T"?' asked Hermione, looking appalled. 'Even lower than a "D"? What on earth does "T" stand for?'

'Troll",' said George promptly.

Harry laughed again, though he was not sure whether or not George was joking. He imagined trying to conceal from Hermione that he had received T's in all his OWLs and immediately resolved to work harder from now on.

'You lot had an inspected lesson yet?' Fred asked them.

'No,' said Hermione at once. 'Have you?'

'Just now, before lunch,' said George. 'Charms.'

'What was it like?' Harry and Hermione asked together.

Fred shrugged.

'Not that bad. Umbridge just lurked in the corner making notes on a clipboard. You know what Flitwick's like, he treated her like a guest, didn't seem to bother him at all. She didn't say much. Asked Alicia a couple of questions about what the classes are normally like, Alicia told her they were really good, that was it.'

'I can't see old Flitwick getting marked down,' said George, 'he usually gets everyone through their exams all right.'

'Who've you got this afternoon?' Fred asked Harry.

Trelawney -'

'A "T" if ever I saw one.'

'- and Umbridge herself.'

'Well, be a good boy and keep your temper with Umbridge today' said George. 'Angelina'll do her nut if you miss any more Quidditch practices.'

But Harry did not have to wait for Defence Against the Dark Arts to meet Professor Umbridge. He was pulling out his dream diary in a seat at the very back of the shadowy Divination room when Ron elbowed him in the ribs and, looking round, he saw Professor Umbridge emerging through the trapdoor in the floor. The class, which had been talking cheerily fell silent at once. The abrupt fall in the noise level made Professor Trelawney, who had been wafting about handing out copies of The Dream Oracle, look round.

'Good afternoon, Professor Trelawney,' said Professor Umbridge with her wide smile. 'You received my note, I trust? Giving the time and date of your inspection?'

Professor Trelawney nodded curtly and, looking very disgruntled, turned her back on Professor Umbridge and continued to give out books. Still smiling, Professor Umbridge grasped the back of the nearest armchair and pulled it to the front of the class so that it was a few inches behind Professor Trelawney's seat. She then sat down, took her clipboard from her flowery bag and looked up expectantly, waiting for the class to begin.

Title: Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix
Author: J.K.Rwling
Viewed 196990 times

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