'Well?' she said. 'I have never seen such a disgraceful exhibition. Two on
one! Explain yourselves!'
'Malfoy provoked us,' said Harry stiffly.
'Provoked you?' shouted Professor McGonagall, slamming a fist on to her desk
so that her tartan tin slid sideways off it and burst open, littering the floor
with Ginger Newts. 'He'd just lost, hadn't he? Of course he wanted to provoke
you! But what on earth he can have said that justified what you two -'
'He insulted my parents,' snarled George. 'And Harry's mother.'
'But instead of leaving it to Madam Hooch to sort out, you two decided to
give an exhibition of Muggle duelling, did you?' bellowed Professor McGonagall.
'Have you any idea what you've -?'
Harry and George both wheeled round. Dolores Umbridge was standing in the
doorway wrapped in a green tweed cloak that greatly enhanced her resemblance
to a giant toad, and was smiling in the horrible, sickly, ominous way that Harry
had come to associate with imminent misery.
'May I help, Professor McGonagall?' asked Professor Umbridge in her most
poisonously sweet voice.
Blood rushed into Professor McGonagall's face.
'Help?' she repeated, in a constricted voice. 'What do you mean, help?'
Professor Umbridge moved forwards into the office, still smiling her sickly
'Why, I thought you might be grateful for a little extra authority'
Harry would not have been surprised to see sparks fly from Professor McGonagall's
'You thought wrong,' she said, turning her back on Umbridge.
'Now, you two had better listen closely. I do not care what provocation Malfoy
offered you, I do not care if he insulted every family member you possess, your
behaviour was disgusting and I am giving each of you a week's worth of detentions!
Do not look at me like that, Potter, you deserve it! And if either of you ever
Professor McGonagall closed her eyes as though praying for patience as she
turned her face towards Professor Umbridge again.
'I think they deserve rather more than detentions,' said Umbridge, smiling
still more broadly.
Professor McGonagall's eyes flew open.
'But unfortunately' she said, with an attempt at a reciprocal smile that
made her look as though she had lockjaw, 'it is what I think that counts, as
they are in my House, Dolores.'
'Well, actually, Minerva,' simpered Professor Umbridge, 'I think you'll find
that what I think does count. Now, where is it? Cornelius just sent it: I mean,'
she gave a false little laugh as she rummaged in her handbag, 'the Minister
just sent it: ah yes:"
She had pulled out a piece of parchment which she now unfurled, clearing
her throat fussily before starting to read what it said.
'Hem, hem: "Educational Decree Number Twenty-five".'
'Not another one!' exclaimed Professor McGonagall violently.
'Well, yes,' said Umbridge, still smiling. 'As a matter of fact, Minerva,
it was you who made me see that we needed a further amendment: you remember
how you overrode me, when I was unwilling to allow the Gryffindor Quidditch
team to re-form? How you took the case to Dumbledore, who insisted that the
team be allowed to play? Well, now, I couldn't have that. I contacted the Minister
at once, and he quite agreed with me that the High Inquisitor has to have the
power to strip pupils of privileges, or she - that is to say, I - would have
less authority than common teachers! And you see now, don't you, Minerva, how
right I was in attempting to stop the Gryffindor team re-forming? Dreadful tempers:
anyway, I was reading out our amendment: hem, hem: "the High Inquisitor will
henceforth have supreme authority over all punishments, sanctions and removal
of privileges pertaining to the students of Hogwarts, and the power to alter
such punishments, sanctions and removals of privileges as may have been ordered
by other staff members. Signed, Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic, Order of
Merlin First Class, etc., etc."'
She rolled up the parchment and put it back into her handbag, still smiling.
'So: I really think I will have to ban these two from playing Quidditch ever
again,' she said, looking from Harry to George and back again.
Harry felt the Snitch fluttering madly in his hand.
'Ban us?' he said, and his voice sounded strangely distant. 'From playing:
'Yes, Mr Potter, I think a lifelong ban ought to do the trick,' said Umbridge,
her smile widening still further as she watched him struggle to comprehend what
she had said. 'You and Mr Weasley here. And I think, to be safe, this young
man's twin ought to be stopped, too - if his teammates had not restrained him,
I feel sure he would have attacked young Mr Malfoy as well. I will want their
broomsticks confiscated, of course; I shall keep them safely in my office, to
make sure there is no infringement of my ban. But I am not unreasonable, Professor
McGonagall,' she continued, turning back to Professor McGonagall who was now
standing as still as though carved from ice, staring at her. The rest of the
team can continue playing, I saw no signs of violence from any of them. Well:
good afternoon to you.'
And with a look of the utmost satisfaction, Umbridge left the room, leaving
a horrified silence in her wake.
* * *
'Banned,' said Angelina in a hollow voice, late that evening in the common
room. 'Banned. No Seeker and no Beaters: what on earth are we going to do?'
It did not feel as though they had won the match at all. Everywhere Harry
looked there were disconsolate and angry faces; the team themselves were slumped
around the fire, all apart from Ron, who had not been seen since the end of
'It's just so unfair,' said Alicia numbly. 'I mean, what about
Crabbe and that Bludger he hit after the whistle had been blown? Has she
'No,' said Ginny miserably; she and Hermione were sitting on either side
of Harry. 'He just got lines, I heard Montague laughing about it at dinner.'
'And banning Fred when he didn't even do anything!' said Alicia furiously,
pummelling her knee with her fist.
'It's not my fault I didn't,' said Fred, with a very ugly look on his face,
'I would've pounded the little scumbag to a pulp if you three hadn't been holding
Harry stared miserably at the dark window. Snow was falling. The Snitch he
had caught earlier was now zooming around and around the common room; people
were watching its progress as though hypnotised and Crookshanks was leaping
from chair to chair, trying to catch it.
'I'm going to bed,' said Angelina, getting slowly to her feet. 'Maybe this
will all turn out to have been a bad dream: maybe I'll wake up tomorrow and
find we haven't played yet:'
She was soon followed by Alicia and Katie. Fred and George sloped off to
bed some time later, glowering at everyone they passed, and Ginny went not long
after that. Only Harry and Hermione were left beside the fire.
'Have you seen Ron?' Hermione asked in a low voice.
Harry shook his head.
'I think he's avoiding us,' said Hermione. 'Where do you think he-?'
But at that precise moment, there was a creaking sound behind them as the
Fat Lady swung forwards and Ron came clambering through the portrait hole. He
was very pale indeed and there was snow in his hair. When he saw Harry and Hermione,
he stopped dead in his tracks.
'Where have you been?' said Hermione anxiously, springing up.
'Walking,' Ron mumbled. He was still wearing his Quidditch things.
'You look frozen,' said Hermione. 'Come and sit down!'
Ron walked to the fireside and sank into the chair furthest from Harry's,
not looking at him. The stolen Snitch zoomed over their heads.
'I'm sorry,' Ron mumbled, looking at his feet.
'What for?' said Harry.
'For thinking I can play Quidditch,' said Ron. 'I'm going to resign first
'If you resign,' said Harry testily, 'there'll only be three players left
on the team.' And when Ron looked puzzled, he said, 'I've been given a lifetime
ban. So've Fred and George.'
'What?' Ron yelped.
Hermione told him the full story; Harry could not bear to tell it again.
When she had finished, Ron looked more anguished than ever.
This is all my fault -'
'You didn't make me punch Malfoy,' said Harry angrily.
'- if I wasn't so terrible at Quidditch -'
'- it's got nothing to do with that.'
'- it was that song that wound me up -'
'- it would've wound anyone up.'
Hermione got up and walked to the window, away from the argument, watching
the snow swirling down against the pane.
'Look, drop it, will you!' Harry burst out. 'It's bad enough, without you
blaming yourself for everything!'
Ron said nothing but sat gazing miserably at the damp hem of his robes. After
a while he said in a dull voice, 'This is the worst I've ever felt in my life.'
'Join the club,' said Harry bitterly.
'Well,' said Hermione, her voice trembling slightly. 'I can think of one
thing that might cheer you both up.'
'Oh yeah?' said Harry sceptically.
'Yeah,' said Hermione, turning away from the pitch-black, snow-flecked window,
a broad smile spreading across her face. 'Hagrid's back.'
Harry sprinted up to the boys' dormitories to fetch the Invisibility Cloak
and the Marauder's Map from his trunk; he was so quick that he and Ron were
ready to leave at least five minutes before Hermione hurried back down from
the girls' dormitories, wearing scarf, gloves and one of her own knobbly elf
'Well, it's cold out there!' she said defensively, as Ron clicked his tongue
They crept through the portrait hole and covered themselves hastily in the
Cloak - Ron had grown so much he now needed to crouch to prevent his feet showing
- then, moving slowly and cautiously, they proceeded down the many staircases,
pausing at intervals to check on the map for signs of Filch or Mrs Norris. They
were lucky; they saw nobody but Nearly Headless Nick, who was gliding along
absent-mindedly humming something that sounded horribly like 'Weasley is our
King'. They crept across the Entrance Hall and out into the silent, snowy grounds.
With a great leap of his heart, Harry saw little golden squares of light ahead
and smoke coiling up from Hagrid's chimney. He set off at a quick march, the
other two jostling and bumping along behind him. They crunched excitedly through
the thickening snow until at last they reached the wooden front door. When Harry
raised his fist and knocked three times, a dog started barking frantically inside.
'Hagrid, its us!' Harry called through the keyhole.
'Shoulda known!' said a gruff voice.
They beamed at each other under the Cloak; they could tell by Hagrid's voice
that he was pleased. 'Bin home three seconds: out the way, Fang: out the way,
yeh dozy dog:'
The bolt was drawn back, the door creaked open and Hagrid's head appeared
in the gap.
'Merlin's beard, keep it down!' said Hagrid hastily, staring wildly over
their heads. 'Under that Cloak, are yeh? Well, get in, get in!'
'I'm sorry!' Hermione gasped, as the three of them squeezed past Hagrid into
the house and pulled the Cloak off themselves so he could see them. 'I just
- oh, Hagrid!'
'It's nuthin', it's nuthin'!' said Hagrid hastily, shutting the door behind
them and hurrying to close all the curtains, but Hermione continued to gaze
up at him in horror.
Hagrid's hair was matted with congealed blood and his left eye had been reduced
to a puffy slit amid a mass of purple and black bruising. There were many cuts
on his face and hands, some of them still bleeding, and he was moving gingerly,
which made Harry suspect broken ribs. It was obvious that he had only just got
home; a thick black travelling cloak lay over the back of a chair and a haversack
large enough to carry several small children leaned against the wall inside
the door. Hagrid himself, twice the size of a normal man, was now limping over
to the fire and placing a copper kettle over it.
'What happened to you?' Harry demanded, while Fang danced around them all,
trying to lick their faces.
Told yeh, nuthin',' said Hagrid firmly. 'Want a cuppa?'
'Come off it,' said Ron, 'you're in a right state!'
'I'm tellin' yeh, I'm fine,' said Hagrid, straightening up and turning to
beam at them all, but wincing. 'Blimey, it's good ter see yeh three again -
had good summers, did yeh?'
'Hagrid, you've been attacked!' said Ron.
'Per the las' time, it's nuthin'!' said Hagrid firmly.
'Would you say it was nothing if one of us turned up with a pound of mince
instead of a face?' Ron demanded.
'You ought to go and see Madam Pomfrey, Hagrid,' said Hermione anxiously,
'some of those cuts look nasty.'
'I'm dealin' with it, all righ'?' said Hagrid repressively.
He walked across to the enormous wooden table that stood in the middle of
his cabin and twitched aside a tea towel that had been lying on it. Underneath
was a raw, bloody, green-tinged steak slightly larger than the average car tyre.