'Hem, hem,' said Professor Umbridge, employing the same silly little cough
she had used to interrupt Dumbledore on the first night of term. Professor McGonagall
ignored her. Seamus handed back Harry's essay; Harry took it without looking
at him and saw, to his relief, that he had managed an 'A'.
'Right then, everyone, listen closely - Dean Thomas, if you do that to the
mouse again I shall put you in detention - most of you have now successfully
Vanished your snails and even those who were left with a certain amount of shell
have got the gist of the spell. Today, we shall be -'
'Hem, hem,' said Professor Umbridge.
'Yes?' said Professor McGonagall, turning round, her eyebrows so close together
they seemed to form one long, severe line.
'I was just wondering, Professor, whether you received my note telling you
of the date and time of your inspec-'
'Obviously I received it, or I would have asked you what you are doing in
my classroom,' said Professor McGonagall, turning her back firmly on Professor
Umbridge. Many of the students exchanged looks of glee. 'As I was saying: today,
we shall be practising the altogether more difficult Vanishment of mice. Now,
the Vanishing Spell -'
'I wonder,' said Professor McGonagall in cold fury, turning on Professor
Umbridge, 'how you expect to gain an idea of my usual teaching methods if you
continue to interrupt me? You see, I do not generally permit people to talk
when I am talking.'
Professor Umbridge looked as though she had just been slapped in the face.
She did not speak, but straightened the parchment on her clipboard and began
Looking supremely unconcerned, Professor McGonagall addressed the class once
'As I was saying: the Vanishing Spell becomes more difficult with the complexity
of the animal to be Vanished. The snail, as an invertebrate, does not present
much of a challenge; the mouse, as a mammal, offers a much greater one. This
is not, therefore, magic you can accomplish with your mind on your dinner. So
- you know the incantation, let me see what you can do:'
'How she can lecture me about not losing my temper with Umbridge!' Harry
muttered to Ron under his breath, but he was grinning - his anger with Professor
McGonagall had quite evaporated.
Professor Umbridge did not follow Professor McGonagall around the class as
she had followed Professor Trelawney; perhaps she realised Professor McGonagall
would not permit it. She did, however, take many more notes while sitting in
her corner, and when Professor McGonagall finally told them all to pack away,
she rose with a grim expression on her face.
'Well, it's a start,' said Ron, holding up a long wriggling mouse-tail and
dropping it back into the box Lavender was passing around.
As they filed out of the classroom, Harry saw Professor Umbridge approach
the teacher's desk; he nudged Ron, who nudged Hermione in turn, and the three
of them deliberately fell back to eavesdrop.
'How long have you been teaching at Hogwarts?' Professor Umbridge asked.
Thirty-nine years this December,' said Professor McGonagall brusquely, snapping
her bag shut.
Professor Umbridge made a note.
'Very well,' she said, 'you will receive the results of your inspection in
ten days' time.'
'I can hardly wait,' said Professor McGonagall, in a coldly indifferent voice,
and she strode off towards the door. 'Hurry up, you three,' she added, sweeping
Harry, Ron and Hermione before her.
Harry could not help giving her a faint smile and could have sworn he received
one in return.
He had thought that the next time he would see Umbridge would be in his detention
that evening, but he was wrong. When they walked down the lawns towards the
Forest for Care of Magical Creatures, they found her and her clipboard waiting
for them beside Professor Grubbly-Plank.
'You do not usually take this class, is that correct?' Harry heard her ask
as they arrived at the trestle table where the group of captive Bowtruckles
were scrabbling around for woodlice like so many living twigs.
'Quite correct,' said Professor Grubbly-Plank, hands behind her back and
bouncing on the balls of her feet. 'I am a substitute teacher standing in for
Harry exchanged uneasy looks with Ron and Hermione. Malfoy was whispering
with Crabbe and Goyle; he would surely love this opportunity to tell tales on
Hagrid to a member of the Ministry.
'Hmm,' said Professor Umbridge, dropping her voice, though Harry could still
hear her quite clearly. 'I wonder - the Headmaster seems strangely reluctant
to give me any information on the matter - can you tell me what is causing Professor
Hagrid's very extended leave of absence?'
Harry saw Malfoy look up eagerly and watch Umbridge and Grubbly-Plank closely.
'Fraid I can't,' said Professor Grubbly-Plank breezily. 'Don't know anything
more about it than you do. Got an owl from Dumbledore, would I like a couple
of weeks' teaching work. I accepted. That's as much as I know. Well: shall I
get started then?'
'Yes, please do,' said Professor Umbridge, scribbling on her clipboard.
Umbridge took a different tack in this class and wandered amongst the students,
questioning them on magical creatures. Most people were able to answer well
and Harry's spirits lifted somewhat; at least the class was not letting Hagrid
'Overall,' said Professor Umbridge, returning to Professor Grubbly-Plank's
side after a lengthy interrogation of Dean Thomas, 'how do you, as a temporary
member of staff- an objective outsider,
I suppose you might say - how do you find Hogwarts? Do you feel you receive
enough support from the school management?'
'Oh, yes, Dumbledore's excellent,' said Professor Grubbly-Plank heartily.
'Yes, I'm very happy with the way things are run, very happy indeed.'
Looking politely incredulous, Umbridge made a tiny note on her clipboard
and went on, 'And what are you planning to cover with this class this year -
assuming, of course, that Professor Hagrid does not return?'
'Oh, I'll take them through the creatures that most often come up in OWL,'
said Professor Grubbly-Plank. 'Not much left to do - they've studied unicorns
and Nifflers, I thought we'd cover Porlocks and Kneazles, make sure they can
recognise Crups and Knarls, you know:'
'Well, you seem to know what you're doing, at any rate,' said Professor Umbridge,
making a very obvious tick on her clipboard. Harry did not like the emphasis
she put on 'you' and liked it even less when she put her next question to Goyle.
'Now, I hear there have been injuries in this class?'
Goyle gave a stupid grin. Malfoy hastened to answer the question.
That was me,' he said. 'I was slashed by a Hippogriff.'
'A Hippogriff?' said Professor Umbridge, now scribbling frantically.
'Only because he was too stupid to listen to what Hagrid told him to do,'
said Harry angrily.
Both Ron and Hermione groaned. Professor Umbridge turned her head slowly
in Harry's direction.
'Another nights detention, I think,' she said softly. 'Well, thank you very
much, Professor Grubbly-Plank, I think that's all I need here. You will be receiving
the results of your inspection within ten days.'
'Jolly good,' said Professor Grubbly-Plank, and Professor Umbridge set off
back across the lawn to the castle.
* * *
It was nearly midnight when Harry left Umbridge's office that night, his
hand now bleeding so severely that it was staining the scarf he had wrapped
around it. He expected the common room to be empty when he returned, but Ron
and Hermione had sat up waiting for him. He was pleased to see them, especially
as Hermione was disposed to be sympathetic rather than critical.
'Here,' she said anxiously, pushing a small bowl of yellow liquid towards
him, 'soak your hand in that, it's a solution of strained and pickled Murtlap
tentacles, it should help.'
Harry placed his bleeding, aching hand into the bowl and experienced a wonderful
feeling of relief. Crookshanks curled around his legs, purring loudly, then
leapt into his lap and settled down.
'Thanks,' he said gratefully, scratching behind Crookshanks's ears with his
'I still reckon you should complain about this,' said Ron in a low voice.
'No,' said Harry flatly.
'McGonagall would go nuts if she knew -'
'Yeah, she probably would,' said Harry dully. 'And how long do you reckon
it'd take Umbridge to pass another decree saying anyone who complains about
the High Inquisitor gets sacked immediately?'
Ron opened his mouth to retort but nothing came out and, after a moment,
he closed it again, defeated.
'She's an awful woman,' said Hermione in a small voice. 'Awful. You know,
I was just saying to Ron when you came in: we've got to do something about her.'
'I suggested poison,' said Ron grimly.
'No: I mean, something about what a dreadful teacher she is, and how we're
not going to learn any Defence from her at all,' said Hermione.
'Well, what can we do about that?' said Ron, yawning. "S too late, isn't
it? She's got the job, she's here to stay. Fudge'll make sure of that.'
'Well,' said Hermione tentatively. 'You know, I was thinking today:' she
shot a slightly nervous look at Harry and then plunged on, 'I was thinking that
- maybe the time's come when we should just - just do it ourselves.'
'Do what ourselves?' said Harry suspiciously, still floating his hand in
the essence of Murtlap tentacles.
'Well - learn Defence Against the Dark Arts ourselves,' said Hermione.
'Come off it,' groaned Ron. 'You want us to do extra work? D'you realise
Harry and I are behind on homework again and it's only the second week?'
'But this is much more important than homework!' said Hermione.
Harry and Ron goggled at her.
'I didn't think there was anything in the universe more important than homework!'
'Don't be silly, of course there is,' said Hermione, and Harry saw, with
an ominous feeling, that her face was suddenly alight with the kind of fervour
that SPEW usually inspired in her. 'It's about preparing ourselves, like Harry
said in Umbridge's first lesson, for what's waiting for us out there. It's about
making sure we really can defend ourselves. If we don't learn anything for a
whole year -'
'We can't do much by ourselves,' said Ron in a defeated voice. 'I mean, all
right, we can go and look jinxes up in the library and try and practise them,
I suppose -'
'No, I agree, we've gone past the stage where we can just learn things out
of books,' said Hermione. 'We need a teacher, a proper one, who can show us
how to use the spells and correct us if we're going wrong.'
'If you're talking about Lupin:' Harry began.
'No, no, I'm not talking about Lupin,' said Hermione. 'He's too busy with
the Order and, anyway, the most we could see him is during Hogsmeade weekends
and that's not nearly often enough.'
'Who, then?' said Harry, frowning at her.
Hermione heaved a very deep sigh.
'Isn't it obvious?' she said. 'I'm talking about you, Harry.'
There was a moment's silence. A light night breeze rattled the windowpanes
behind Ron, and the fire guttered.
'About me what?' said Harry.
'I'm talking about you teaching us Defence Against the Dark Arts.'
Harry stared at her. Then he turned to Ron, ready to exchange the exasperated
looks they sometimes shared when Hermione elaborated on far-fetched schemes
like SPEW To Harry's consternation, however, Ron did not look exasperated.
He was frowning slightly, apparently thinking. Then he said, That's an idea.'
'What's an idea?' said Harry.
'You,' said Ron. Teaching us to do it.'
Harry was grinning now, sure the pair of them were pulling his leg.
'But I'm not a teacher, I can't -'
'Harry, you're the best in the year at Defence Against the Dark Arts,' said
'Me?' said Harry, now grinning more broadly than ever. 'No I'm not, you've
beaten me in every test -
'Actually, I haven't,' said Hermione coolly. 'You beat me in our third year
- the only year we both sat the test and had a teacher who actually knew the
subject. But I'm not talking about test results, Harry. Think what you've done!'
'How d'you mean?'
'You know what, I'm not sure I want someone this stupid teaching me,' Ron
said to Hermione, smirking slightly. He turned to Harry.
'Let's think,' he said, pulling a face like Goyle concentrating. 'Uh: first
year - you saved the Philosopher's Stone from You-Know-Who.'
'But that was luck,' said Harry, 'it wasn't skill -'
'Second year,' Ron interrupted, 'you killed the Basilisk and destroyed Riddle.'
'Yeah, but if Fawkes hadn't turned up, I -'
Third year,' said Ron, louder still, 'you fought off about a hundred Dementors
at once -'
'You know that was a fluke, if the Time-Turner hadn't -'
'Last year,' Ron said, almost shouting now, 'you fought off You-Know-Who
'Listen to me!' said Harry, almost angrily, because Ron and Hermione were
both smirking now. 'Just listen to me, all right? It sounds great when you say
it like that, but all that stuff was luck - I didn't know what I was doing half
the time, I didn't plan any of it, I just did whatever I could think of, and
I nearly always had help -'