Ignition - Harry Potter.
Last Episode: "Hey look," Neville said as Harry exchanged a relieved look with Hermione, "Is that our new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor? I hope they're better than Lockhart". His eyes followed Neville's as Hermione let out a curious noise, and for the first time since his powers had manifested he felt his blood run cold.
Sitting at the staff table talking to the Headmaster, was Dolores Umbridge.
"But she can't be here!"
"I know," Harry agreed.
"I thought you said you had a restraining order against her?"
"I do," Harry confirmed, it was in his trunk right now actually, Madam Bones had made sure to send him a copy of it so he knew the rules.
"But then how can she teach here?"
"No idea," Harry denied, looking at neither Hermione nor Neville who were standing in the doorway waiting for him.
"Are you going to go to Dumbledore?"
"Merlin no," Harry refused. He could trust Dumbledore as far as he could throw him without magic.
"I'm owling Madam Bones," Harry defended, finally looking up from his scratching quill as he turned to face the scowling Hermione, "She'll be able to do something about this, she has to be able to do something about this!"
"Can I get a restraining order against Professor Snape?" Neville asked aloud suddenly, making Harry freeze.
"Has Snape ever attempted to get your soul sucked out by dementors, then tried to expel you over it?" Harry asked bluntly, Neville paling a bit as he stared at Harry in shock. "There's no 'real' proof that she sent the dementors after me, but it's not a coincidence that she faked an expulsion over the Patronus Charm at that precise time out of all the spells she could have chosen. She then changed the time of my trial and put it before the full Wizengamot illegally, she was fired from the Ministry two weeks ago," he clarified when Neville didn't blink. "Madame Bones then passed a restraining order preventing her from coming near me or interacting with me in any way".
"Maybe not then," Neville mumbled, the sharp look Hermione sent him making Harry sigh.
"Sorry, he muttered slowly, turning away from his friends to continue writing his letter. "I'm just on edge, how can she even be here?" he asked the air, ignoring the soft calming hoot coming from Hedwig, his owl patiently waiting by the window.
"Maybe… maybe they found a loophole?" Hermione suggested thoughtfully, their professional distance temporarily on hold to deal with Umbridge. "In the fine print or the wording? Some kind of clause that allows her to breach the terms of the order in special circumstances, if she works in the same building as you maybe?"
Pausing mid-word in his letter, Harry dropped his head and groaned. "I didn't read the fine print," he admitted, "I started to but I got bored so I stopped after reading the part defining spell range. She's not allowed to be within spell range of me," he clarified when Hermione frowned, "Spells dissipate after a while, Sirius said it had something to do with the magic of the spell falling apart when travelling too far. She's not allowed to be within medium spell range of me".
"How far is that? Precisely?"
Harry shrugged, "Not as long as the Great Hall," he said thoughtfully, "But still long enough that if I sit too close to the middle of Gryffindor table she can't sit at the staff table. And definitely too close for her to be able to teach me in a class".
"So what are you going to do?" Neville asked.
"I'm going to send this letter to Madam Bones, and then I'm going to enjoy my free period," Harry deadpanned, "I'd like to see Dumbledore try force me into a classroom with a woman I have a restraining order against".
"I don't think he would," Hermione argued tightly. "We don't agree with each other about him, I know, but I don't think he would do something so blatantly bad. Everything he's done so far has been for your sake, but you both don't see eye to eye about what that is".
"We doesn't see eye to eye about what is for my sake?" Harry asked coldly, "At least I'm willing to try. If he started talking to me then maybe we could see eye to eye, but he won't even look at me!"
Hermione's jaw clenched. "We're not talking about this," she declared bluntly, "We agreed that we weren't going to talk about this remember?"
Staring at her for a moment and ignoring Neville's confused expression, Harry nodded slowly and turned away from her. "Right, sorry," he mumbled, returning to the letter.
He and Hermione had come to a rather tentative arrangement last night. They would simply be friends again, even though as not close as they once were. And in return neither of them would try convince the other towards their side of the 'war', Harry could (and did) swear up and down that Dumbledore didn't have his best interests at heart, and Hermione could (and also did) insist that Dumbledore did the best he could and that it was only logical that not everyone would be happy with him. But as long as they did that when the other wasn't around, they could return to their hesitant friendship.
Harry still thought that she was wrong for following Dumbledore's orders during the holidays, but since Hermione was admitting that maybe he was right, he was willing to give them a chance to return to their old friendship.
It was awkward, but it was worth it in the long run.
"Here Hedwig," Harry began, quickly rereading the letter once more before rolling it up for his owl, "Madam Bones. Obviously," he added when Hedwig shot him an unsurprised look, his snowy friend snatching the letter in her talons before diving out of the window and shooting off into the sky gracefully.
"What are you going to do?" Neville asked slowly, "It'll take her most of the day to get to the Ministry of Magic, you'll still have to put up with Umbridge today".
"No I won't," Harry denied smugly, "Because the restraining order is magically bounding, she can't claim she didn't know I was too close because the contract will warn her somehow".
"Besides," Hermione added, surprisingly un-bushy hair bouncing over her shoulders as she shook her head, "She may have thought she'd get away with your trial, but there's no way she's dumb enough to have a go at Harry on the first day of school when she's already been caught once. No court would let her get away with that".
Snorting as a thought crossed his mind, Harry grinned at Neville. "If I show up to Defence then she can't, we'd have a free period".
"Don't even think about it," Hermione warned. "She may not be a good person, or someone at all appropriate to hire for a school, but we still need to learn".
"Especially since You-Know-Who is back," Neville agreed, making the girl beam at him happily. "The book she assigned is a bit dull though," he added.
"I said we needed to learn, not that she needed to teach us," Hermione clarified, looking a little embarrassed by her confession. "If her lesson plan is anything like the book, then this year Defence against the Dark Arts will be a class for self-study like History of Magic," she said, "And you will both be studying, OWLs are this year after all".
Nodding quickly when Hermione shot him a warning look, Harry stretched and grinned evilly, pushing himself away from the windowsill and heading towards the staircase down into the castle.
"Where are you going?" the girl asked, shocked by his sudden movement.
"To breakfast," Harry called over his shoulder, "Come on, if we want a seat right next to the staff table then we better hurry".
"If he sits next to the staff table then where is Umbridge going to sit?" Neville asked, his voice bouncing down the stairs after Harry.
"I think that's the idea".
"Are you done, Mister Potter? If so, could you please come with me?"
Blinking up at Professor McGonagall with the best expression of innocence that he could muster up on such short notice, Harry smiled politely but looked towards the stack of steaming pancakes in front of him. "What is this about, Professor?" he asked slowly, "Because I don't think I'm that full at the moment".
The Professor's lips just tightened as her eyes narrowed at him. "I think we both know what this is about, Mr Potter," she said sternly, not looking like she was in the mood for him to try anything. "And while I appreciate your desire to ensure you eat a full and healthy breakfast," McGonagall continued, hunching over so she could lower her voice casually, "I think you'll find there is a clause in your Protection Order that says if you're caught abusing the Order then it will be revoked".
Harry froze – he really needed to finish reading that thing – and glanced at his plate again. "I guess I can wait until lunch," he decided, "I'm probably not as hungry as I think I am".
"A wise choice," Professor McGonagall agreed, straightening up and gesturing towards the entrance to the Great Hall, sweeping off and leaving Harry to hurry through the clear space left in her wake. "I know you and I do disagree on certain things that have happened recently, Mr Potter," the woman said quietly as they turned into an empty hallway, "But I cannot stress to you the importance of keeping this Order valid. The Headmaster happens to believe the same as Madam Bones, that the coincidence of the dementor attack and the contents of the fake letter is no coincidence at all".
Almost running into the Professor's back as she stopped suddenly and turned to face him, Harry watched as his Head of House sighed, looking her age as she ran a hand down her face. "The Headmaster requested that I beg something of you before we reach his office," she admitted. "He wants you to think on the ancient proverb 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend'. While he acknowledges that the two of you have disagreed on things in the past, he – and I – wish for you to understand the potential for danger that Dolores Umbridge brings. You heard the Sorting Hat's song last night?"
"For our Hogwarts is in danger / From external, deadly foes / And we must unite inside her / Or we'll crumble from within," McGonagall quoted, eyes not moving from Harry's face. "You have a common enemy, and if you don't stand together you'll fall divided".
With that the Professor was turning and continuing on her path as some laughing Ravenclaws moved past the entrance to their corridor. Staring after her for a moment, Harry thought on her words, quickly catching up and walking beside her silently. He couldn't deny that she had a point, he couldn't exactly fight Voldemort – not that he really wanted to do that – on his own. And while Umbridge wasn't a threat that quite reached Voldemort's level of sheer evilness, unless he wanted to just incinerate her, he'd need help taking her down a non-fatal way. And Dumbledore was nothing if not a politician.
"Okay," he blurted, nodding his head with a confidence he wasn't so sure he felt. "Does he have a plan?"
"If he does then he hasn't shared it with me," Professor McGonagall admitted after a weighted pause.
Biting back the sarcastic 'Of course he hasn't' that immediately leapt to the tip of his tongue, Harry shrugged. "Then I guess I'll have to improvise," he mumbled, ignoring the startled look he was sent as they rounded the corner to find Dumbledore's gargoyle waiting for them at the far end of the corridor.
"Before you start that, there is something you need to do first," the Professor said slowly. "It should be obvious that Professor Umbridge-" she spat the name like it was a disease "-is waiting for us inside the Headmaster's office. For the two of you to be able to inhabit the same room for the length of this conversation, you need to verbally give her permission to approach you".
"Do I have to mean it?"
Professor McGonagall shot him a look before turning on her heel and striding off towards the gargoyle, forcing Harry to sigh and chase after her. "Do I need to say it to her face? Or can I say it anytime?" he asked instead.
"You need to be clear and precise," McGonagall explained, "And she needs to hear your voice, so if you wouldn't mind saying it the moment we step into the office. Thankfully the contract won't punish her if, for example, she is on the floor above you completely unaware of your presence. The moment she confirms that, yes you are directly beneath her, then she will be forced to either move or get your permission to be that close to you. Magical contracts like this are rather complicated," she added with a sniff, "But you are not the first to attend Hogwarts with one red vine".
Blinking in confusion at the rather random sentence ending, Harry jumped slightly as the gargoyle moved suddenly, realising it must have been a password as Professor McGonagall gestured him up the stairs.
"Just try to behave," she whispered, "Don't egg her on, try not to even look at her".
Mentally promising to try his best to follow Professor McGonagall's request, Harry knocked on the door once and opened it, clearing his throat and stepping into the room. "I give you permission to be around me for the duration of this meeting," he announced, earning an approving noise from behind him as he fought down a scowl at the sight of both Cornelius Fudge and Lucius Malfoy standing in the office.
Ignoring the dark glare being sent at him from the pink blob in the matching armchair, Harry stepped further into the room as Professor McGonagall's hand nudged at his back. "You wanted to see me, Headmaster?" he asked politely, reminding himself of the old man's quote and 'suggestion'. He was especially willing to work with the old man now that he knew Malfoy was here, if the platinum blonde was involved then so was Voldemort, there were no doubts about that.
Although, it was strangely pleasing when he glanced around and saw that the Headmaster's office hadn't changed one bit since he'd last been in it. There were still countless silver objects puffing and turning away on the small table by the door, and he got the faintest whiff of smoke from the empty perch by the window. And that didn't count the rows of portraits on the walls of the unashamedly eavesdropping former Headmasters and Headmistresses of Hogwarts.
"Ah, Mister Potter, yes," Dumbledore agreed cheerfully, having either forgiven Harry already or being just as willing to pretend everything was perfect as Harry was. "I wished to inform you as to the change in your timetable this year due to your situation. Professor McGonagall has already prepared a smaller classroom for you to use while studying Defence against the Dark Arts, to limit contact between yourself and Professor Umbridge".
"Now see here, Albus," Malfoy piped up immediately, sneering at Harry for a moment before turning to face the Headmaster fully. "I see no reason for the boy to get special treatment. He will attend the same classes and have the same teachers as everybody else".
"And just what do you think you're doing here, Malfoy?" Professor McGonagall interrupted, "As I recall you were dismissed from the Board of Governors years ago. This meeting does not concern you".
"Actually I'll think you'll find it does, Minerva," the smug blonde corrected, "Don't you agree, Minister?"
"Of course I do," Fudge sneered in a pale imitation of Malfoy. "After all, my old friend here has recently been appointed as the Ministry of Magic's official representative on the Board of Governors. But what are you doing here Minerva?"
Professor McGonagall's eyebrow rose tightly as she rose up to her full height, almost tripling her intimidating aura as she looked down her nose at the pudgy Minister for Magic. "I'm here in my official capacity as Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts, Cornelius," she growled out, the man beginning to shrink back with a look of regret, "A position I held long before you even started at Hogwarts, as you well know".
"Quite," Malfoy drawled, stepping forward to cover his 'old friend's ass, Harry narrowing his eyes as he watched the man's hand caress the snake-head of the cane Harry knew the Death Eater's wand was hidden within. "I was called here because of your complaint about Dolores' appointment here at the school due to her disagreements with a student. I'm here now," he continued, Harry already knowing where this was going, "And I see no reason to remove Dolores from her rightful position for one mere school boy".
"How is she supposed to teach me if she's not legally allowed to talk to me?" Harry questioned quickly as he heard an intake of breath from beside him, being too smart to turn his back on Umbridge but not wanting to be able to see her.
"Simple," Fudge declared, having regained what little bravery he had as he stepped forward, "I am here as Minister for Magic to order you to recant your accusations against Dolores and repeal the Order of Protection you hold against her".
Harry didn't even need to think about it for a moment before he was replying with an amused "No". Shaking his head as the Minister gaped at him, clearly unprepared for Harry to argue with him, he moved closer to where Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore were waiting and turned back to face the three stooges.
"I said 'No'," Harry repeated bluntly.
"And quite rightly, I believe," Dumbledore cut in behind Harry as Fudge's mouth opened again, a swishing of robes indicating that the man had stood up from behind his desk. "Being underage, had her false accusations and frauds been successful, Mr Potter's wand would have been snapped and his memories erased," he explained in that calm voice that always seemed to captivate Harry when he was the focus of it. "Committing such unlawful actions are normally punishable by a life sentence in Azkaban, and here you stand ordering her victim to allow her to go free so she can teach in a position she is not legally permitted to hold?"
"Actually, Headmaster, I think you'll find Dolores to be more than qualified to teach," Malfoy corrected.
"Having taught Ms Umbridge myself, I highly doubt so," Dumbledore shot back with a smile. "But I had been talking about her lifetime ban from seeking employment at any Ministry position, and was it not the Ministry that placed her here?"
Stiffening as Umbridge finally spoke up, Harry refused to look at her as the stout woman let out a high pitched "Hem hem,"and pushed herself out of her chair. "The wondrous Minister had nothing to do with my coming here," she corrected, Harry feeling her eyes boring into the side of his head, "I was approached by Lord Malfoy here who wished to put my name forward for the position, that the Ministry of Magic allowed the Board of Governors to bypass your approval to interview and approve candidates for the role is irrelevant. After all, Albus, as you are so fond of reminding Cornelius, Hogwarts is not under Ministry control, therefore my unjust punishment does not apply here".
Frozen in place as he went over her claim, Harry glanced back at the Headmaster to see what he already knew reflected in the man's sky blue eyes.
Umbridge was staying.
She and the Minister had found a fool-proof way of getting her into the school without tripping the limitations of either the Order of Protection or her formal punishment by the Wizengamot. And the moment Fudge managed to force him to drop the Order, Harry knew that Umbridge would be dragging him by the throat into detention, likely where there would 'accidentally' just 'happen' to be a dementor or two waiting. It wouldn't be the first time after all.
"Be that as it may," Dumbledore countered, nothing in his voice or face showing the frustration he must be feeling at the situation, "That does not justify the Minister for Magic attempting to force her victim into rescinding a legal Order of Protection to ensure she does not bring further harm to him".
"Dolores never tried to harm the boy! He is merely lying for the attention!" Fudge exclaimed.
"I'm sorry, but weren't you there when she was found guilty in front of the whole Wizengamot after evidence was given against her?" Harry blurted, unable to help himself as Fudge went the same sickly white colour as his Aunt Petunia went whenever he brought up magic around her.
"I think that is a marvellous point, Mister Potter," Professor McGonagall agreed stiffly, "I believe that asking for a separate room to study Defence against the Dark Arts during class time is a highly acceptable request, especially considering your circumstances. Which is why I fully support the Headmaster's decision and have already prepared such a room for you, I am also prepared to give up some of my own time to mark your work and prepare your lesson plans".
"Thank you," Harry said hesitantly, staring at his Head of House in shock for a moment before relaxing slightly at the look in her eyes. "Thank you," he repeated more strongly, smilingly gratefully at her and nodding his head to show he accepted the apology shining in her green eyes.
She still supported the Headmaster, but it was good to see that like Mrs Weasley she wasn't willing to give up all her morals when it came to him. Harry wouldn't be surprised if he soon noticed that she was standing up against Snape for him.
Okay he would be surprised, but it would be the pleasant type of surprise and not the bad kind.
"Absolutely not!" Fudge argued, slashing his hand through the air dramatically. "No student will be given special treatment! No matter their supposed fame".
"I'm sure the Board of Governors will agree with you completely, Minister," Malfoy began, looking like he'd already won.
"Then you won't have any problems with me summoning them here to vote on the issue, would you Lucius?" Professor Dumbledore agreed slyly, an expression flashing across Malfoy's face that suggested he'd swallowed a fly. "After all, I'm sure Minerva's grading will be much harsher on Mr Potter than Dolores' would be, considering that out of the two Minerva is the only one who passed her Defence against the Dark Arts NEWT".
Hearing a muffled angry noise coming from Umbridge, Harry risked a peek to reveal that her face had gone a red that even 'Uncle' Vernon would be jealous of, as she shot dark glares at both the apparently unaware Headmaster and the sweetly smiling Professor McGonagall. It seemed that – unluckily for Harry – Umbridge was quick to anger, which would probably explain her attempt on Harry's life (something he still wanted revenge for) and subsequent fraud charges. She would have assumed she'd get away with it and that the Minister would back her even if she didn't.
"I see no reason to waste their time, or mine," Malfoy denied simply, the steel to his voice betraying his anger.
"Precisely!" Fudge continued, not seeing the way Malfoy's lips pressed together or his eyes flashed at his interruption. "So repeal this ridiculous Order of yours, Potter, and we'll be on our way!"
"Alright," Harry agreed with a shrug, making the man perform a double-take in shock. "I'll repeal the Order of Protection if she gets the proper legal punishment she would normally get for her crimes. There would be no 'special treatment'," he promised making Fudge smirk and rise up to his rather pitiful full height as he opened his mouth to agree. "I'll lose any protection I have from her, and she'll go straight to Azkaban for the fraud and the attempts to get my wand snapped and my memories wiped. No special treatment for either of us," he continued as the man's mouth fell open in shock and his eyes bulged comically.
"Deal?" he asked innocently, smiling his politely smile as he held his hand out to the Minister.
"I think not," Umbridge refused, stomping across to stand in front of the Minister defensively. "And that will be a hundred points from Gryffindor for disrespecting the Minister for Magic," she added spitefully.
"But of course due to your relationship with Mr Potter I think it would hardly be appropriate for you to be able to assign punishments to him," Dumbledore mused from behind Harry, "Don't you agree Dolores?"
"Hardly," the toad spat.
"Excellent, we are in agreement," Dumbledore said quasi-cheerfully. "I will personally check every single punishment you assign Mr Potter to prevent any accusations of biased teaching from being levied against you, and I suppose might as well check those of Mr Potter's friends too in case they attempt to claim you're punishing them for being associated with him".
Umbridge's eye twitched.
Harry hated her twice-fold now. Nobody targeted his friends to get to him, nobody. He'd willingly gone up against a basilisk with nothing more than a sword because his best friend's sister was in danger. He'd jumped on a troll's back to save Hermione, and they hadn't even been friends yet. Harry swore he'd just break down and curse Umbridge in the corridors if she tried to hurt his friends to punish him.
"That is more than fair, Headmaster," Professor McGonagall agreed quickly, shooting down any argument from Fudge or Umbridge, even as Malfoy stood there clearly recognising he'd lost this battle before it had begun.
"Is there anything else you wished to discuss, Minister? Mister Malfoy?" the Headmaster questioned, Harry glancing over in time to see the man returning to his seat behind his desk with a grandfatherly smile on his face. "No? Then I'm sure you would like to show yourself out," he suggested with a gesture to his fireplace, "After all, we're all busy men, are we not?"
"Indeed we are," Malfoy drawled slowly, pausing slightly between each word. "Await my next visit, Albus, I'm sure with the way you run this school it'll be soon".
"Too soon, I'm sure," Dumbledore deadpanned, eyes twinkling.
As the sneering blonde was engulfed by green flames, the Headmaster turned to face Fudge who stared at him for a moment longer before sniffing indignantly, turning a glare on Harry and exchanging a knowing look with Umbridge before sweeping through the fireplace himself.
"Hem hem," Umbridge coughed. "I shall return to my office," she declared coldly, "Prepare for my lessons. Which I am very qualified to teach," she added with a scowl at Professor McGonagall.
The door slamming shut behind her left Harry standing alone with Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall, the silence hanging in the air as they all stared at three separate unoccupied areas of the office. When no one spoke, Harry shifted on his feet and started towards the door. He had an Order of Protection to read and friends to update, and he was sure the Professors would be busy as well, so he wouldn't keep them for what would obviously be a very awkward conversation.
"I'm glad to see you were able to put aside your dislike for me, Mr Potter," the Headmaster's voice rang out, making him freeze halfway across the office. "It is encouraging that the collapse of our relationship has not prevented us from working together. The Ministry is not a foe we can face alone".
Staring at the door, Harry just nodded his head once, knowing that Professor Dumbledore had seen the gesture and knew what it meant.
"Mr Potter," Professor McGonagall added the moment he took a step forward, the woman moving around Dumbledore's desk to stand beside him. "Report to my classroom after Divination ends today," she instructed, "You will be studying in a room coming off my class from now own. And you will be studying," she added warningly, narrowing her eyes to slits, "I will tolerate no more slacking off or misbehaving than I would if you were in my classroom, keep that in mind, Mr Potter".
"Of course Professor," Harry promised immediately, not having planned to slack off or misbehave at all.
When the Professor nodded and returned to the Headmaster's desk, Harry started moving towards the door again, a quiet murmur starting up behind his back as McGonagall said something in a whisper and Dumbledore responded.
'The enemy of my enemy is my friend'.
Oh to hell with it.
Pausing in the doorway, Harry glanced over his shoulder to where Dumbledore was exchanging a look with Professor McGonagall. "I don't trust you," he admitted bluntly, making his Head of House look to him in shock as the Headmaster's eyes dropped to his desk. "I don't trust you and I don't really like you right now, but I don't like Voldemort more. We may not be on the same team, but we're on the same side. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and while you're not my friend, you're definitely not my enemy either. So just… just don't lie to me anymore".
Throwing open the door and starting down the staircase before either of them could respond, Harry shook his head as the door closed on its own behind him. Listen to him, being understanding and compromising, Hermione would be proud.