a/n This is the first in a series of stories written with an original character, Eleanor Howard. She exists within the tapestry of the story, and does not directly impact the plot. 'Incompetent Inquisitor' is my first fic, and I am currently cleaning up some issues with word flow now that I have completed it. The second story is now on site, 'Profile of a True Gryffindor'. This is Eleanor's story of her life at Hogwarts. I write from the view of a person with her same disabilities, so I know how it is to live with chronic headaches and seizures on a daily basis. I also write from the point of a person who is an educator who has seen it all. Email me or leave a comment!
Profile of an Incompetent Inquisitor
Chapter One: Rumored Nervous Breakdown
"What the hell is the Ministry coming to now!"
The morning seemed so easy until a purple memo glides into my office to announce that Potter is being tried in Court Room Ten. This is a little excessive for a bit of under-age magic. Most of those complaints go to Amelia Bones' office not to a full trial. As I look down upon the signatures ordering the inquiry, my blood boils. I want to know why a teenager is getting treated like some dark wizard.
I storm out of my office, slamming the door so violently my name plate falls off the wall. From the corner of my vision, I see heads poking out of cubicals and offices as I pass the other employees in the hall. As I impatiently stab at the lift button, I attempt to compose myself, but I am failing to contain my temper. The last thing I need to do is blow up at the Minister and his Senior Under Secretary. I've already had several encounters with Dolores Umbridge's brand of office discipline. As Head of Internal Affairs I enjoy some immunity from her harassment, it doesn't stop her from making my job a complete pain in the arse.
I make it to the Minister's suite to find a flurry of activity, but Percy Weasley is blocking my way to Fudge's office.
"Eleanor, where do you think you are going?" he asks, while stepping in my way, and folds his arms.
"It's none of your business, Percy," I snap. I move to the other side, and he steps in my way again. "Percy, push off!"
"Well, I cannot add you to his calendar if I don't know the nature of your inquiry." Percy has nasty little smirk on his face. This is not the Percy I knew since he was a small child.
"That expression always makes my skin crawl."
"I want to know why there is a need for the Wizengamot to treat Potter like a deranged killer." I attempt to retain composure so I won't throttle him on the spot.
"I will pass along your protest to the Minister, but he is not taking trivial requests until next Thursday," he tells me in a bored tone. He puts his nose down into a file he has been reading, pretending that I do not exist. "Now if you don't mind, you should be managing your own department, shouldn't you? You wouldn't want to see a note put in your file again."
"I used to change his nappies when he was a baby. Now, he is treating me like gum caught on his shoe."
"I am going to put a note in your file because of your insubordinate and unprofessional behavior. I'll send you a copy next Thursday." I give Percy a look that should have stripped the paint off of the wall. Turning on my heel, I walk back to my office before I say anything I might regret.
I manage to make it back to my office, and take several deep breaths. I decide to use a sticking charm to put my nameplate back up. This time, nobody is brave enough to see what I am doing in the hallway.
"My oath is to maintain the integrity and ethics of the enforcement of the law, so failure is not an option. I can quote chapter and verse of most of the laws in the Wizarding World; however, I feel with confidence that the new legislation is for Fudge's benefit."
Fudge has Dolores watching my every move and censoring the memos in the different departments. Last month, she ripped up a note sent by Arthur Weasley asking for a possible profile on his "exploding toilet" problem. My job entailed not only babysitting the Department of Magical Enforcement but preparing psychological profiles of crimes. I have saved the Department man-hours and Floo Powder. Minister Fudge has his little spies in the office on the lookout for any signs of rebellion. We have been walking on eggshells since the Triwizard Tournament. Fudge is dictating what cases the Aurors can look into, sending Kingsley's Department on a wild pixie chase and complying with our offices's proceedures have fallen on deaf ears. I am not allowed to look into possible abuses of several of the Aurors in the Department; they're accusations of the uses of Unforgivable Curses, misuse of truth potions, memory charms, and arresting people without due process. Every time I was given a complaint, the witnesses would disappear or suddenly come up with amnesia.
"Hem, hem. Eleanor, I would like to know why you are sticking your nose into the Minster's business. I am warning you not to interfere in the Potter case," Dolores says, tapping her foot impatiently on the floor.
"What has me interested is that you are bypassing my office. I am here to protect both Law Enforcement and the citizens of the community. Punishment should fit the crime, so what is next? Let's make it a life sentence in Azkaban for littering," I say, trying to control my impulse to curse her.
"Eleanor, I am ordering you to stay out of this," she says, her face purples, and her voice is becoming shaky.
"That one statement did it. Dolores Umbridge is overstepping her bounds, and told me for the last time what I can and cannot do. This is going to be fun."
"Dolores, you have five seconds to get out of this office!" I yell, pointing at the door, and she remains immobile. "Dolores, I said out!"
"Eleanor, be very careful, I would not like to see anything happen to you," she threatens in a whisper.
"I'm going to really let her have it."
"Dolores, who really pulls the strings around here? Why does Lucius Malfoy spend most of his free time with Fudge planning fundraisers for St. Mungo's?" I ask without fear of any consequences."I was arresting people like Malfoy, and now he runs riot in the Ministry."
I realize can do little to help the present situation as a so-called Ministry Official. I walk over to my desk, conjure a box, and begin to pack up my office. "I will owl my resignation in the morning, because I refuse to be part of a system that is picking on a school boy and an old man to cover up its own stupidity," I tell her, emphasizing each word like a hammer blow.
"Telling her off makes me feel so much better."
I take the box and walk out of my office door; Dolores is still stunned by the events that have taken place in front of her.
I stop, lean back into the door and whisper, "Dolores, I forgot I have something to tell you, Voldemort is back." I walk away relived that I am out of this situation and grinning at my final dig at the "Princess in Pink."
Dolores's explosion of anger at the mention of that name follows me down the hallway. "You-Know-Who is not back!" I hear her screech from my office.
It's been two weeks since my dramatic exit from the office. The Daily Prophet made it front page news with the headline, "Eleanor A. Howard Head of Internal Affairs Resigns" in three-inch high type. The following article discussed rumors that I am in St. Mungo's suffering a tragic nervous breakdown.
Kinglsey Shacklebolt sent a get-well card and flowers to the house. Kingsley and I have worked together for fifteen years and found him to be one of the few people I could trust to vent my anger about Dolores. I hate having to leave him endure Dolores without back up; however, the look on his face when the Howler landed on his desk must have been priceless.
I feel a bit cut off from the world; the impact of what I have done is hitting me hard. I have abandoned the public and left them at the mercy of the Ministry's "spin doctoring" of the Tri Wizard fiasco. I have spent the last two weeks sending letters to the other Ministries abroad. A letter came from a friend in America. It states the Federal Bureau of Wizardy Law Enforcement is reviewing my references, but Fudge is refusing to respond. I need to get the paper work from home to be able to work in another country.
"I know Dolores is twisted enough to prevent me from getting on with my life."
Another depressing few weeks have passed and I sit in the kitchen wallowing in self-pity as I cry into my coffee. This is a road I have traveled before, and that route almost proved fatal.
A loud banging noise comes from the front room window causing me to spill coffee down my front. I walk over to investigate what has caused my dog, Daisy, to bark.
Daisy the Wonder Mutt is running up to front window to guard us from the killer barn owl sitting on the window ledge. I chase Daisy away from her potential snack, and I remove the envelope containing a familiar seal.
Eleanor A. Howard
I have heard that you have left the Ministry due to a difference in opinion with the present administration. I am aware that you are seeking employment from another agency, but I wish for you to come back to Hogwarts to teach until you find other employment. The Muggle Studies teacher has retired this year, and I am hard pressed for a person to fill this position.
I must be truthful when I tell you that Dolores Umbridge has taken the Dark Arts position. The Ministry brought her in, because I am having trouble finding a teacher that is brave enough to take it. I would like to extend you the privilege of bringing your pets. We have an excellent stable area for Ozzy. Several other teachers have their own horses, and I am certain Ozzy will make a fine addition. There are plenty of distractions to keep Daisy, your Jack Russell Terrier happy.
Please owl me as soon as possible. I would like to arrange transportation of your property and pets to Hogwarts before the term begins.
"God, help us to prepare for the nightmare to come. I wonder how Severus will handle this one. He does not suffer fools, and Dolores is one ingredient shy of a potion."
I am forced to shake myself out of my musings and write my response.
I am going to accept your generous offer. Thank you for allowing me to bring the pets. I am not too worried about Dolores, I am sure she won't last a year. Maybe she will succumb to the "One Year Itch" found in the Dark Arts position. On the other hand, the students will eat her alive her first day of school. How is Severus Snape taking my return? I do not think he liked the crowd I was hanging around, or who I was hanging out with. I remember he was making it difficult when Remus taught there, and I do not think that his attitude towards me will be any better.
A scant week has passed, and I am a bit disoriented standing in the driveway to the school. Daisy has already discovered the gnomes living on the grounds, and she is going on an unscheduled safari.
It looks like the Welcoming Committee is coming to greet me. To my amusement, it is composed of Severus Snape and Argus Filch. Filch walks over, snatches my bag, turns, and walks away as if I have a raging case of dragon pox. Daisy ends her hunting expedition for bigger prey in the form of Filch's boots.
"If you will follow me Eleanor, I will show you, and that furry Bludger to your quarters," Severus drawls. He is unable to force himself to look at me.
I walk quickly to cut in front to ask the burning question. "So are you going to call me 'Nell' or Professor Howard?"
"Eleanor, I will not call you 'Nell'. It will imply that we have a friendly relationship and I find that rather repulsive," he says with a lack of expression on his face.
"Grow-up, Severus, I have!" I shout, following in his wake.
As we walk into the Entrance Hall, I feel like I am a student again. The sights and sensations are almost overwhelming.
The Great Hall seems to be three times larger than I remember. The occupant of a picture gallops up to greet and welcome me back. I loved the painting and would visit the Master of the Hounds daily. The statue of "Borus the Bizarre" still stands in front of the stairs leading to the Ravenclaw dormitories; I have to laugh at the carved warts on his stone skin.
I walk to a set of doors that lead to the Staff Wing. Two large paneled doors open to reveal the most opulent hallway I have ever seen. There is beautiful tapestry with swans swimming effortlessly in a deep blue lake, and another with knights fighting a fierce battle on horseback.
"Now, I see what Remus was talking about. It was every students wish to get the passwords and walk into this area of the Castle."
Since I am the most junior teacher, I have the smallest set of rooms; however, the combined area is larger than my house in the larger unfamiliar space, Daisy runs around inspecting every little corner for mice or a stray gnome.
"There is a meeting in the Staff Room at Five and then dinner. "Oh, don't forget to see Madam Pomfrey before the meeting," he tells me with a sneer on his face.
I will bet a goblin at Gringotts that Severus is trying to hit a nerve to make me lose my temper like I did at the ministry, or he could be giving me a twisted welcome on his behalf.
My first seizure took place at the age of twelve in the Gryffindor Common Room. First, the air felt as if it was being sucked out of the room, and I could not breathe. Second, I felt as if I had fallen down a deep well, losing the ability to see. Finally, I began to cry uncontrollably and shake violently. When the seizure was over, Remus Lupin and another student dragged me to the Hospital Wing.
After a nasty seizure in potions, the Slytherins thought it was cute to hit me with a barrage of Stinging hexes. They would yell that I needed the Hospital Wing. I had a standing reservation in Moaning Myrtle's toilet as we both shared stories of humiliation. One day out of the blue, I began to fight back.
My revenge took the form of color change charms, sticking unsuspecting Slytherins upside down on a ceiling and a spell that put Severus in a tutu and toe shoes. Eventually, the Slytherins began to avoid me. They were afraid that I would turn the entire House into a version of a ballet troupe.
"I guess I might as well get this over with. Poppy Pomfrey hates it when people are late."
I slowly walk towards the Hospital Wing feeling like a child again, because it looks the same as when I left school. There many times I had to stay and recover; however, Remus Lupin was the founding member of the "Hogwarts Hospital Wing's Frequent Flyer Club." When we were there recovering from an illness or seizure, he would tutor me so I did not fall behind. I need to do him some justice and face the dreaded Hospital Wing. A smiling face greets me as I walk through the door to my former prison cell
"I don't care if Remus is a werewolf, he is my friend and I love him dearly."
I owe him a great debt, because he taught me never to give in to despair. I learned that I should tackle life head on and not look back. When I tried to hasten the departure from this world, he was there to rescue me.
"I did not have any siblings, but I have Remus."
"Nell, I was wondering when I would see you this week?"Madam Pomfrey inquires with a smile. The warmer her welcome, the faster the urge to run is growing at a rapid rate.
I brought with me a stupid manila envelope containing all the hidden secrets of my health. "Here it is Madam Pomfrey, the Envelope of Doom," I say, wishing the floor would swallow me whole as the discussion begins.
"Call me, Poppy. You are a teacher here not a student," she says. I wish she would drop the motherly look on her face.
"Everything about the care and feeding of one Eleanor April Howard," I whisper to myself, while she guides me in and gives me the once over.
"I don't know what is worse, being in the same room as Dolores or being poked and interrogated by Poppy Pomfrey?"
When she pronounces me fit to work, I leave the Hospital Wing as if it were on fire.
This staff meeting goes down on the "Top Ten Total Low Points" in my life. Severus Snape is sitting in a chair with an air of contempt when I catch his eye. He developed rabid hatred of anyone associated with Remus Lupin and putting him in that ballerina costume has not helped the situation.
Severus leaves his throne in the corner, and says," Eleanor, I wonder how you have been since your breakdown, and I am pleased about your release from St. Mungo's," he says with a smirk, sitting down in the corner of the room.
It's getting chilly in here. The stillness in the room is broken by the creak of a door, and I wonder if a Dementor is entering the room.
The right hand automatically pulls a wand out of my sleeve, waiting for something horrible to happen. I am already flicking through my mental book of spells.
"Step one is a happy thought: Severus after the Swan Lake Affair. He did look adorable in that tutu. Come on, Nell. Get a grip on yourself!"
"Step two: Expect... Damn, just Dolores. I should have started with a Banishing Charm."
I am disappointed as I lower my wand and place it back in my sleeve.
"Snape looked better in that tutu than she does in that tacky cardigan; that shade of pink does not flatter her figure!"
Of course, Dolores abruptly hijacks the meeting from Minerva McGonagall. When Dolores takes center stage, it is like getting a gift from least loved relatives. I know I am going to get something, but I know I am not going to like it. She rambles of some nonsense about stopping progress for progress's sake, and the Ministry is looking out for all of us.
"If one person asks her a question, I will transfigure them into a turnip"
Dinner with Dolores Jane Umbridge, I cannot think of a more miserable way to end my day. It is considered tradition to eat together in the Great Hall the week before the Feast. I spend most of my time watching the others. Dolores is digging into her dessert looking like a niffler on the hunt for a diamond. Severus, like everyone else is picking at his dinner and wishing it would all end. I decide to feign a migraine to make a graceful exit. The staff will not question me, because no one wants to see me sick the first week of school. Just when I think the horror is over, I open my bedroom door, I discover that Daisy decided to unpack for me. There are robes, underwear, socks, and every other bit of clothing I own strewn everywhere. To rub salt in the wound, she has made herself at home sleeping on my dress robes.
"I am too tired to deal with it," I sneer at Daisy. She looks back at me with a sappy terrier grin, rolls over, and resumes her slumber belly up on my clothing.
I am feeling so relaxed as I roll over in bed on a glorious late August morning; Daisy, the "Amazing Canine Alarm Clock" is demanding my presence at her food bowl by jumping on my head and attacking my hair. She will not let me sleep past six o'clock in the morning. I decide to skip my own breakfast and head straight to my office. The thought of having to unpack my boxes and trunks from my office at the Ministry is traumatizing, because I am still having pangs of guilt for leaving. As I am looking through the box I used to pack up my belongings at the Ministry. If Dolores caught wind that I found evidence that could see several Ministry officials sacked.
"I want to destroy Fudge's 'Dog and Pony Show' in a tableau which Dolores has a supporting role." I begin to flick my way though the folders.
I lock them in a small compartment I found under my new office desk in a compartment I found while looking for anything left behind from my predecessor.
"I want to bring down Fudge and ruin his little kingdom."
The next box has my photos that were on the desk of my former office. The most favorite is a picture of Kingsley Shacklebolt at last year's department Christmas Party wearing a gaudy "Santa" hat.
"It goes to prove that Kingsley cannot hold his Ogden's Fire Whiskey."
Daisy plays in a photo taken at the beach two years ago. In a silver frame, I see a picture of "Ozzy, the Wonder Horse" being awarded first place at a horse show several months ago.
"I cannot wait until Ozzy shows up. Dolores hates anything with fur and teeth and she would die rather to walk into a stable."
The syllabus decisions are not that difficult to make; the recommended reading is tossed in the dustbin. The approved list went out before being hired, but I think they are a waste of good paper and ink.
"How many trees gave their lives for this rubbish?"
It is time the children of the Wizarding World stop treating this course as a joke. The first lesson will be an assessment of what they little did know. The last professor that had this course was a bit behind the times. The books include illustrations of a Muggle lifting a box, an automobile and the picture of a rotary phone. I can lift a box without magic, any idiot can drive a car, and phones are becoming wireless. The Wizarding World looks at Muggle life as if it were in the Stone Age. It does not hurt to learn to use a computer, and be able to understand paper money.
"Survival skills are needed these days and that is what I am going to teach."