J.K.Rwling >> Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix (page 47)

'I -' said Harry, but the flood of students rolling along the corridor was almost upon him. Professor McGonagall gave him a curt nod and retreated into the staff room, leaving Harry to be swept out into the courtyard with the crowd. He spotted Ron and Hermione already standing in a sheltered corner, their cloak collars turned up against the wind. Harry slit open the scroll as he hurried towards them and found five words in Sirius's handwriting:

Today, same time, same place.

'Is Hedwig OK?' asked Hermione anxiously, the moment he was within earshot.

'Where did you take her?' asked Ron.

To Grubbly-Plank,' said Harry. 'And I met McGonagall: listen:"

And he told them what Professor McGonagall had said. To his surprise, neither of the others looked shocked. On the contrary, they exchanged significant looks.

'What?' said Harry, looking from Ron to Hermione and back again.

Well, I was just saying to Ron: what if someone had tried to intercept Hedwig? I mean, she's never been hurt on a flight before, has she?'

'Who's the letter from, anyway?' asked Ron, taking the note from Harry.

'Snuffles,' said Harry quietly.

'"Same time, same place?" Does he mean the fire in the common room?'

'Obviously,' said Hermione, also reading the note. She looked uneasy. 'I just hope nobody else has read this:'

'But it was still sealed and everything,' said Harry, trying to convince himself as much as her. 'And nobody would understand what it meant if they didn't know where we'd spoken to him before, would they?'

'I don't know,' said Hermione anxiously, hitching her bag back over her shoulder as the bell rang again, 'it wouldn't be exactly difficult to re-seal the scroll by magic: and if anyone's watching the Floo Network: but I don't really see how we can warn him not to come without that being intercepted, too!'

They trudged down the stone steps to the dungeons for Potions, all three of them lost in thought, but as they reached the bottom of the steps they were recalled to themselves by the voice of Draco Malfoy who was standing just outside Snape's classroom door, waving around an official-looking piece of parchment and talking much louder than was necessary so that they could hear every word.

'Yeah, Umbridge gave the Slytherin Quidditch team permission to continue playing straightaway, I went to ask her first thing this morning. Well, it was pretty much automatic, I mean, she knows my father really well, he's always popping in and out of the Ministry: it'll be interesting to see whether Gryffindor are allowed to keep playing, won't it?'

'Don't rise,' Hermione whispered imploringly to Harry and Ron, who were both watching Malfoy, faces set and fists clenched. 'It's what he wants.'

'I mean,' said Malfoy, raising his voice a little more, his grey eyes glittering malevolently in Harry and Ron's direction, 'if it's a question of influence with the Ministry, I don't think they've got much chance: from what my father says, they've been looking for an excuse to sack Arthur Weasley for years: and as for Potter: my father says it's a matter of time before the Ministry has him carted off to St Mungo's: apparently they've got a special ward for people whose brains have been addled by magic.'

Malfoy made a grotesque face, his mouth sagging open and his eyes rolling. Crabbe and Goyle gave their usual grunts of laughter; Pansy Parkinson shrieked with glee.

Something collided hard with Harry's shoulder, knocking him sideways. A split second later he realised that Neville had just charged past him, heading straight for Malfoy.

'Neville, no!'

Harry leapt forward and seized the back of Neville's robes; Neville struggled frantically, his fists flailing, trying desperately to get at Malfoy who looked, for a moment, extremely shocked.

'Help me!' Harry flung at Ron, managing to get an arm around Neville's neck and dragging him backwards, away from the Slytherins. Crabbe and Goyle were flexing their arms as they stepped in front of Malfoy, ready for the fight. Ron seized Neville's arms, and together he and Harry succeeded in dragging Neville back into the Gryffindor line. Neville's face was scarlet; the pressure Harry was exerting on his throat rendered him quite incomprehensible, but odd words spluttered from his mouth.

'Not: funny: don't: Mungo's: show: him:'

The dungeon door opened. Snape appeared there. His black eyes swept up the Gryffindor line to the point where Harry and Ron were wrestling with Neville.

'Fighting, Potter, Weasley, Longbottom?' Snape said in his cold, sneering voice. Ten points from Gryffindor. Release Longbottom, Potter, or it will be detention. Inside, all of you.'

Harry let go of Neville, who stood panting and glaring at him.

'I had to stop you,' Harry gasped, picking up his bag. 'Crabbe and Goyle would've torn you apart.'

Neville said nothing; he merely snatched up his own bag and stalked off into the dungeon.

'What in the name of Merlin,' said Ron slowly, as they followed Neville, 'was that about?'

Harry did not answer. He knew exactly why the subject of people who were in St Mungo's because of magical damage to their brains was highly distressing to Neville, but he had sworn to Dumbledore that he would not tell anyone Neville's secret. Even Neville did not know Harry knew.

Harry, Ron and Hermione took their usual seats at the back of the class, pulled out parchment, quills and their copies of One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi. The class around them was whispering about what Neville had just done, but when Snape closed the dungeon door with an echoing bang, everybody immediately fell silent.

'You will notice,' said Snape, in his low, sneering voice, 'that we have a guest with us today.'

He gestured towards the dim corner of the dungeon and Harry saw Professor Umbridge sitting there, clipboard on her knee. He glanced sideways at Ron and Hermione, his eyebrows raised. Snape and Umbridge, the two teachers he hated most. It was hard to decide which one he wanted to triumph over the other.

'We are continuing with our Strengthening Solution today. You will find your mixtures as you left them last lesson; if correctly made they should have matured well over the weekend - instructions -' he waved his wand again '- on the board. Carry on.'

Professor Umbridge spent the first half hour of the lesson making notes in her corner. Harry was very interested in hearing her question Snape; so interested, that he was becoming careless with his potion again.

'Salamander blood, Harry !' Hermione moaned, grabbing his wrist to prevent him adding the wrong ingredient for the third time, 'not pomegranate juice!'

'Right,' said Harry vaguely, putting down the bottle and continuing to watch the corner. Umbridge had just got to her feet. 'Ha,' he said softly, as she strode between two lines of desks towards Snape, who was bending over Dean Thomas's cauldron.

'Well, the class seem fairly advanced for their level,' she said briskly to Snape's back. Though I would question whether it is advisable to teach them a potion like the Strengthening Solution. I think the Ministry would prefer it if that was removed from the syllabus.'

Snape straightened up slowly and turned to look at her.

'Now: how long have you been teaching at Hogwarts?' she asked, her quill poised over her clipboard.

'Fourteen years,' Snape replied. His expression was unfathomable. Harry, watching him closely, added a few drops to his potion; it hissed menacingly and turned from turquoise to orange.

'You applied first for the Defence Against the Dark Arts post, I believe?' Professor Umbridge asked Snape.

'Yes,' said Snape quietly.

'But you were unsuccessful?'

Snape's lip curled.


Professor Umbridge scribbled on her clipboard.

'And you have applied regularly for the Defence Against the Dark Arts post since you first joined the school, I believe?'

'Yes,' said Snape quietly, barely moving his lips. He looked very angry.

'Do you have any idea why Dumbledore has consistently refused to appoint you?' asked Umbridge.

'I suggest you ask him,' said Snape jerkily.

'Oh, I shall,' said Professor Umbridge, with a sweet smile.

'I suppose this is relevant?' Snape asked, his black eyes narrowed.

'Oh yes,' said Professor Umbridge, 'yes, the Ministry wants a thorough understanding of teachers' - er - backgrounds.'

She turned away, walked over to Pansy Parkinson and began questioning her about the lessons. Snape looked round at Harry and their eyes met for a second. Harry hastily dropped his gaze to his potion, which was now congealing foully and giving off a strong smell of burned rubber.

'No marks again, then, Potter,' said Snape maliciously, emptying Harry's cauldron with a wave of his wand. 'You will write me an essay on the correct composition of this potion, indicating how and why you went wrong, to be handed in next lesson, do you understand?'

'Yes,' said Harry furiously. Snape had already given them homework and he had Quidditch practice this evening; this would mean another couple of sleepless nights. It did not seem possible that he had awoken that morning feeling very happy. All he felt now was a fervent desire for this day to end.

'Maybe I'll skive off Divination,' he said glumly, as they stood in the courtyard after lunch, the wind whipping at the hems of robes and brims of hats. I'll pretend to be ill and do Snape's essay instead, then I won't have to stay up half the night.'

'You can't skive off Divination,' said Hermione severely.

'Hark who's talking, you walked out of Divination, you hate Trelawney!' said Ron indignantly.

'I don't hate her,' said Hermione loftily. 'I just think she's an absolutely appalling teacher and a real old fraud. But Harry's already missed History of Magic and I don't think he ought to miss anything else today!'

There was too much truth in this to ignore, so half an hour later Harry took his seat in the hot, overperfumed atmosphere of the Divination classroom, feeling angry at everybody. Professor Trelawney was yet again handing out copies of The Dream Oracle. Harry thought he'd surely be much better employed doing Snape's punishment essay than sitting here trying to find meaning in a lot of made-up dreams.

It seemed, however, that he was not the only person in Divination who was in a temper. Professor Trelawney slammed a copy of the Oracle down on the table between Harry and Ron and swept away, her lips pursed; she threw the next copy of the Oracle at Seamus and Dean, narrowly avoiding Seamus's head, and thrust the final one into Neville's chest with such force that he slipped off his pouffe.

'Well, carry on!' said Professor Trelawney loudly, her voice high-pitched and somewhat hysterical, 'you know what to do! Or am I such a sub-standard teacher that you have never learned how to open a book?'

The class stared perplexedly at her, then at each other. Harry, however, thought he knew what was the matter. As Professor Trelawney flounced back to the high-backed teacher's chair, her magnified eyes full of angry tears, he leaned his head closer to Ron's and muttered, 'I think she's got the results of her inspection back.'

'Professor?' said Parvati Patil in a hushed voice (she and Lavender had always rather admired Professor Trelawney). 'Professor, is there anything - er - wrong?'

'Wrong!' cried Professor Trelawney in a voice throbbing with emotion. 'Certainly not! I have been insulted, certainly: insinuations have been made against me: unfounded accusations levelled: but no, there is nothing wrong, certainly not!'

She took a great shuddering breath and looked away from Parvati, angry tears spilling from under her glasses.

'I say nothing,' she choked, 'of sixteen years of devoted service: it has passed, apparently, unnoticed: but I shall not be insulted, no, I shall not!'

'But, Professor, who's insulting you?' asked Parvati timidly.

The Establishment!' said Professor Trelawney, in a deep, dramatic, wavering voice. 'Yes, those with eyes too clouded by the mundane to See as I See, to Know as I Know: of course, we Seers have always been feared, always persecuted: it is - alas -our fate.'

She gulped, dabbed at her wet cheeks with the end of her shawl, then she pulled a small embroidered handkerchief from her sleeve, and blew her nose very hard with a sound like Peeves blowing a raspberry.

Ron sniggered. Lavender shot him a disgusted look.

'Professor,' said Parvati, 'do you mean: is it something Professor Umbridge -?'

'Do not speak to me about that woman!' cried Professor Trelawney, leaping to her feet, her beads rattling and her spectacles flashing. 'Kindly continue with your work!'

And she spent the rest of the lesson striding among them, tears still leaking from behind her glasses, muttering what sounded like threats under her breath.

': may well choose to leave: the indignity of it: on probation: we shall see: how she dares:'

'You and Umbridge have got something in common,' Harry told Hermione quietly when they met again in Defence Against the Dark Arts. 'She obviously reckons Trelawney's an old fraud, too: looks like she's put her on probation.'

Umbridge entered the room as he spoke, wearing her black velvet bow and an expression of great smugness.

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