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J.K.Rwling >> Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix (page 46)


BY ORDER OF THE HIGH INQUISITOR OF HOGWARTS

All student organisations, societies, teams, groups and dubs are henceforth disbanded.

An organisation, society, team, group or club is hereby defined as a regular meeting of three or more students.

Permission to re-form may be sought from the High Inquisitor (Professor Umbridge).

No student organisation, society, team, group or club may exist without the knowledge and approval of the High Inquisitor.

Any student found to have formed, or to belong to, an organisation, society, team, group or club that has not been approved by the High Inquisitor will be expelled.

The above is in accordance with Educational Decree Number Twenty-four.

Signed: Dolores Jane Umbridge, High Inquisitor

Harry and Ron read the notice over the heads of some anxious-looking second-years.

'Does this mean they're going to shut down the Gobstones Club?' one of them asked his friend.

'I reckon you'll be OK with Gobstones,' Ron said darkly, making the second-year jump. 'I don't think we're going to be as lucky, though, do you?' he asked Harry as the second-years hurried away.

Harry was reading the notice through again. The happiness that had filled him since Saturday was gone. His insides were pulsing with rage.

This isn't a coincidence,' he said, his hands forming fists. 'She knows.'

'She can't,' said Ron at once.

There were people listening in that pub. And let's face it, we don't know how many of the people who turned up we can trust: any of them could have run off and told Umbridge:'

And he had thought they believed him, thought they even admired him:

'Zacharias Smith!' said Ron at once, punching a fist into his hand. 'Or - I thought that Michael Corner had a really shifty look, too -'

'I wonder if Hermione's seen this yet?' Harry said, looking round at the door to the girls' dormitories.

'Let's go and tell her,' said Ron. He bounded forwards, pulled open the door and set off up the spiral staircase.

He was on the sixth stair when there was a loud, wailing, klaxon-like sound and the steps melted together to make a long, smooth stone slide like a helter-skelter. There was a brief moment when Ron tried to keep running, arms working madly like windmills, then he toppled over backwards and shot down the newly created slide, coming to rest on his back at Harry's feet.

'Er - I don't think we're allowed in the girls' dormitories,' said Harry, pulling Ron to his feet and trying not to laugh.

Two fourth-year girls came zooming gleefully down the stone slide.

'Oooh, who tried to get upstairs?' they giggled happily, leaping to their feet and ogling Harry and Ron.

'Me,' said Ron, who was still rather dishevelled. 'I didn't realise that would happen. It's not fair!' he added to Harry, as the girls headed off for the portrait hole, still giggling madly. 'Hermione's allowed in our dormitory, how come we're not allowed -?'

'Well, it's an old-fashioned rule,' said Hermione, who had just slid neatly on to a rug in front of them and was now getting to her feet, 'but it says in Hogwarts: A History, that the founders thought boys were less trustworthy than girls. Anyway, why were you trying to get in there?'

'To see you - look at this!' said Ron, dragging her over to the noticeboard.

Hermione's eyes slid rapidly down the notice. Her expression became stony.

'Someone must have blabbed to her!' Ron said angrily.

They can't have done,' said Hermione in a low voice.

'You're so naive,' said Ron, 'you think just because you're all honourable and trustworthy -'

'No, they can't have done, because I put a jinx on that piece of parchment we all signed,' said Hermione grimly. 'Believe me, if anyone's run off and told Umbridge, we'll know exactly who they are and they will really regret it.'

'What'll happen to them?' said Ron eagerly.

'Well, put it this way' said Hermione, 'it'll make Eloise Midgeon's acne look like a couple of cute freckles. Come on, let's get down to breakfast and see what the others think: I wonder whether this has been put up in all the houses?'

It was immediately apparent on entering the Great Hall that Umbridge's sign had not only appeared in Gryffindor Tower. There was a peculiar intensity about the chatter and an extra measure of movement in the Hall as people scurried up and down their tables conferring on what they had read. Harry, Ron and Hermione had barely taken their seats when Neville, Dean, Fred, George and Ginny descended upon them.

'Did you see it?'

'D'you reckon she knows?'

'What are we going to do?'

They were all looking at Harry. He glanced around to make sure there were no teachers near them.

'We're going to do it anyway of course,' he said quietly.

'Knew you'd say that,' said George, beaming and thumping Harry on the arm.

The prefects as well?' said Fred, looking quizzically at Ron and Hermione.

'Of course,' said Hermione coolly.

'Here come Ernie and Hannah Abbott,' said Ron, looking over his shoulder. 'And those Ravenclaw blokes and Smith: and no one looks very spotty.'

Hermione looked alarmed.

'Never mind spots, the idiots can't come over here now, it'll look really suspicious - sit down!' she mouthed to Ernie and Hannah, gesturing frantically to them to rejoin the Hufflepuff table. 'Later! We'll - talk - to - you - later!'

I'll tell Michael,' said Ginny impatiently, swinging herself off her bench, 'the fool, honestly:'

She hurried off towards the Ravenclaw table; Harry watched her go. Cho was sitting not far away, talking to the curly-haired friend she had brought along to the Hog's Head. Would Umbridge's notice scare her off meeting them again?

But the full repercussions of the sign were not felt until they were leaving the Great Hall for History of Magic.

'Harry! Ron!'

It was Angelina and she was hurrying towards them looking perfectly desperate.

'It's OK,' said Harry quietly, when she was near enough to hear him. 'We're still going to -'

'You realise she's including Quidditch in this?' Angelina said over him. 'We have to go and ask permission to re-form the Gryffindor team!'

'What?' said Harry.

'No way,' said Ron, appalled.

'You read the sign, it mentions teams too! So listen, Harry: I am saying this for the last time: please, please don't lose your temper with Umbridge again or she might not let us play any more!'

'OK, OK,' said Harry, for Angelina looked as though she was on the verge of tears. 'Don't worry, I'll behave myself:'

'Bet Umbridge is in History of Magic,' said Ron grimly, as they set off for Binns's lesson. 'She hasn't inspected Binns yet: bet you anything she's there:'

But he was wrong; the only teacher present when they entered was Professor Binns, floating an inch or so above his chair as usual and preparing to continue his monotonous drone on giant wars. Harry did not even attempt to follow what he was saying today; he doodled idly on his parchment ignoring Hermiones frequent glares and nudges, until a particularly painful poke in the ribs made him look up angrily.

'What?'

She pointed at the window. Harry looked round. Hedwig was perched on the narrow window ledge, gazing through the thick glass at him, a letter tied to her leg. Harry could not understand it; they had just had breakfast, why on earth hadn't she delivered the letter then, as usual? Many of his classmates were pointing out Hedwig to each other, too.

'Oh, I've always loved that owl, she's so beautiful,' Harry heard Lavender sigh to Parvati.

He glanced round at Professor Binns who continued to read his notes, serenely unaware that the class's attention was even less focused upon him than usual. Harry slipped quietly off his chair, crouched down and hurried along the row to the window, where he slid the catch and opened it very slowly.

He had expected Hedwig to hold out her leg so that he could remove the letter and then fly off to the Owlery but the moment the window was open wide enough she hopped inside, hooting dolefully. He closed the window with an anxious glance at Professor Binns, crouched low again and sped back to his seat with Hedwig on his shoulder. He regained his seat, transferred Hedwig to his lap and made to remove the letter tied to her leg.

Only then did he realise that Hedwig's feathers were oddly ruffled; some were bent the wrong way, and she was holding one of her wings at an odd angle.

'She's hurt!' Harry whispered, bending his head low over her. Hermione and Ron leaned in closer; Hermione even put down her quill. 'Look - there's something wrong with her wing -'

Hedwig was quivering; when Harry made to touch the wing she gave a little jump, all her feathers on end as though she was inflating herself, and gazed at him reproachfully.

'Professor Binns,' said Harry loudly, and everyone in the class turned to look at him. 'I'm not feeling well.'

Professor Binns raised his eyes from his notes, looking amazed, as always, to find the room in front of him full of people.

'Not feeling well?' he repeated hazily.

'Not at all well,' said Harry firmly getting to his feet with Hedwig concealed behind his back. 'I think I need to go to the hospital wing.'

'Yes,' said Professor Binns, clearly very much wrong-footed. 'Yes: yes, hospital wing: well, off you go, then, Perkins:'

Once outside the room, Harry returned Hedwig to his shoulder and hurried off up the corridor, pausing to think only when he was out of sight of Binns's door. His first choice of somebody to cure Hedwig would have been Hagrid, of course, but as he had no idea where Hagrid was his only remaining option was to find Professor Grubbly-Plank and hope she would help.

He peered out of a window at the blustery, overcast grounds. There was no sign of her anywhere near Hagrid's cabin; if she was not teaching, she was probably in the staff room. He set off downstairs, Hedwig hooting feebly as she swayed on his shoulder.

Two stone gargoyles flanked the staff-room door. As Harry approached, one of them croaked, 'You should be in class, Sonny Jim.'

This is urgent,' said Harry curtly.

'Ooooh, urgent, is it?' said the other gargoyle in a high-pitched voice. 'Well, that's put us in our place, hasn't it?'

Harry knocked. He heard footsteps, then the door opened and he found himself face to face with Professor McGonagall.

'You haven't been given another detention!' she said at once, her square spectacles flashing alarmingly.

'No, Professor!' said Harry hastily.

'Well then, why are you out of class?'

'It's urgent, apparently,' said the second gargoyle snidery.

'I'm looking for Professor Grubbly-Plank,' Harry explained. 'It's my owl, she's injured.'

'Injured owl, did you say?'

Professor Grubbly-Plank appeared at Professor McGonagall's shoulder, smoking a pipe and holding a copy of the Daily Prophet.

'Yes,' said Harry, lifting Hedwig carefully off his shoulder, 'she turned up after the other post owls and her wing's all funny, look -'

Professor Grubbly-Plank stuck her pipe firmly between her teeth and took Hedwig from Harry while Professor McGonagall watched.

'Hmm,' said Professor Grubbly-Plank, her pipe waggling slightly as she talked. 'Looks like something's attacked her. Can't think what would have done it, though. Thestrals will sometimes go for birds, of course, but Hagrid's got the Hogwarts Thestrals well-trained not to touch owls.'

Harry neither knew nor cared what Thestrals were; he just wanted to know that Hedwig was going to be all right. Professor McGonagall, however, looked sharply at Harry and said, 'Do you know how far this owl's travelled, Potter?'

'Er,' said Harry. 'From London, I think.'

He met her eyes briefly and knew, by the way her eyebrows had joined in the middle, that she understood 'London' to mean 'number twelve, Grimmauld Place'.

Professor Grubbly-Plank pulled a monocle out of the inside of her robes and screwed it into her eye, to examine Hedwig's wing closely. 'I should be able to sort this out if you leave her with me, Potter,' she said, 'she shouldn't be flying long distances for a few days, in any case.'

'Er - right - thanks,' said Harry, just as the bell rang for break.

'No problem,' said Professor Grubbly-Plank gruffly, turning back into the staff room.

'Just a moment, Wilhelmina!' said Professor McGonagall. 'Potters letter!'

'Oh yeah!' said Harry, who had momentarily forgotten the scroll tied to Hedwig's leg. Professor Grubbly-Plank handed it over and then disappeared into the staff room carrying Hedwig, who was staring at Harry as though unable to believe he would give her away like this. Feeling slightly guilty, he turned to go, but Professor McGonagall called him back.

'Potter!'

'Yes, Professor?'

She glanced up and down the corridor; there were students coming from both directions.

'Bear in mind,' she said quickly and quietly, her eyes on the scroll in his hand, 'that channels of communication in and out of Hogwarts may be being watched, won't you?'

Title: Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix
Author: J.K.Rwling
Viewed 243812 times

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