Eighty-Five – Dumbledore's Army; The Lion and the Serpent
If this isn't good news, Albus, I swear –
Oh, but it is good news!
WONDERFUL! Let's hear it!
Per your request, I spoke with Dolores about reforming the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Congratulations, the first match of the season will be Gryffindor versus Slytherin.
That's great! Thank you, Albus! I tried to reason with her, but of course she wouldn't have that.
Now you've got to make sure that this whole event doesn't come back to haunt us.
I've spoken with Johnson. She'll keep everything under control.
I certainly hope so.
"Got Potter's owl all fixed up," said Grubbly-Plank upon entering the staffroom late at night.
"Professor Grubbly-Plank has Harry Potter's owl?" squeaked a voice near the fireplace. "Is Harry Potter's owl been harmed?"
"Potter's owl had a mishap while delivering a message, Dobby," said McGonagall, glaring at a copy of The Daily Prophet Umbridge had abandoned only moments ago, when she left for her office. "Leave her with me, Wilhelmina. I'll have Potter come get her from my office in the morning."
"Oh, Professor McGonagall! Dobby is very much willing to deliver Harry Potter's owl!" the elf squealed joyfully, the various hats on top of his head wobbling dangerously and threatening to fall. "Dobby is needing to clean the Gryffindor Tower and can bring the owl to Harry Potter directly!"
"Thanks, Dobby," said Grubbly-Plank, somewhat uneasily, "but there's no hurry. Potter can just pick – "
Hedwig, it seemed, did not agree with the decision at which Grubbly-Plank had arrived. The snowy white owl leapt from the Care of Magical Creatures instructor's shoulder and sat herself comfortably on the stack of hats atop Dobby's head.
Dobby smiled widely and swiveled his large eyes upward in an effort to somehow see the bird above him.
"Well, go on then, Dobby," said McGonagall. "It seems Hedwig is eager to get back to her owner."
The owl hooted in agreement and ruffled its feathers happily.
Dobby left the staffroom gleefully.
"He's a strange one, that Dobby," Grubbly-Plank commented.
"You don't know the half of it," said McGonagall.
Sprout entered the staffroom and slammed the door behind herself. "If this accursed rain doesn't stop soon we'll have a second lake on the grounds!" she fussed as she pulled off her mud-soaked boots. Her robes were drenched and her fly away hairs stuck to her forehead.
"Rough day, Pomona?" McGonagall asked, her lips twitching at the ridiculous appearance of her colleague.
"If you don't make that smirk go away, Minerva, I'll wipe it off your face for you," Sprout threatened.
"What's happened to change your happy-go-lucky attitude, Pomona?" Grubbly-Plank asked.
"I haven't been able to accomplish a single thing all day because of this rain," Sprout said as she flopped down onto a couch. "I can't hear my students, and my students can't hear me, the rain is so loud. I've been cold and sopping wet all day, and – "
"You know you've got this marvelous thing called a wand, right, Pomona?" McGonagall asked.
"Very clever, Minerva," said Sprout, narrowing her eyes. "I'm not going to waste the first ten minutes of class drying myself off when I'll just have to go back outside in less than an hour. I think there ought to be some sort of roofed walkway that – "
"Oh, how you amuse me, Pomona," McGonagall commented.
"What's this filth doing out on the table?" Sprout asked, glaring at The Prophet unfolded before her. She prodded it cautiously with her foot, as if it might come alive and attack her.
"Dolores was here just a few minutes ago," Grubbly-Plank answered.
"And of course, she was reading the most recent article ridiculing Dumbledore," Sprout huffed. "She'll end up singing a different tune by the end of the year, I'm sure of it!"
"What do you mean by that?" Grubbly-Plank asked.
"She means, Wilhelmina, that You-Know-Who isn't going to sit quietly in the shadows forever," McGonagall said dismally. "The Ministry's only doing him favors now by ignoring his return. I doubt it will be long before Cornelius, Dolores, and all the rest of them have to eat their words and do what Dumbledore suggested they start in June. By then, it'll be too late, of course. He'll have the upper hand."
"I think," said Grubbly-Plank, somewhat uneasily, "that I ought to get to bed. Goodnight."
"Well that was a genius move, Minerva!" Sprout hissed once the door closed behind Grubbly-Plank. "You keep talking that bluntly and you'll join Sybill on probation!"
"She can't have the whole staff on probation at once," McGonagall countered carelessly. "Don't worry about me, Pomona."
"She'll have to get rid of you, and replace you, before she goes for Dumbledore," said Sprout. "She knows you'd raise a ruckus otherwise. If for no other reason, Minerva, you need to keep your position so Dumbledore keeps his. Think on that a bit, will you?"
Alright, Severus, I've kept quiet long enough!
Quite the contrary, Minerva. I've greatly appreciated your silence and highly recommend that you keep it up.
Your team is cursing mine in the corridors!
Pah. What evidence have you?
I've got fourteen witnesses that saw your Keeper jinx one of my Chasers!
And I've got an entire student body expressing their amazement that the great Minerva McGonagall has decided against giving them homework for the week!
Well at least I'm being fair about it and not giving ANYONE homework! My team can hardly get on the pitch to practice!
Is it my fault that you're not hurrying fast enough to schedule time for your team?
I have scheduled time! Adequate time! But, strangely enough, the schedules I sign up on seem to disappear and be replaced with ones with YOUR signature!
What are you accusing me of?!
Not you, one of your team! They've never been much for abiding by the rules, but cursing players and disrespecting their professors? That's just a BIT much! You need to talk to them and tell them to keep it on the field!
What seems to be the problem here?
Nothing, Dolores. Simply a discussion between Heads of House.
There is no evidence to any wrongdoings of my team, Minerva. I will abide by fact, rather than speculation, and will see you on the pitch come Saturday.
Rest assured, Severus, if I see ANY of your students pull their wands out between classes, I'll be giving them detention!
That hardly seems fair.
You're one for rules, Dolores, so you ought to know that magic is prohibited in the corridors, and why would a student have their wand out other than to perform magic? I WILL NOT tolerate attacks on my team, Severus, make note of THAT!
Nor will I, Minerva.
You put your team in line, and I'll keep mine in line. Deal?
I AM keeping my team in line!
FINE! If you're going to be so stubborn and pig-headed about it, I'll deal with the issue myself! My team will beat yours though, as they always do! That Cup is staying in MY office!
"Your keeper looks like he's about to faint," Snape said in greeting as McGonagall seated herself for breakfast on game day.
McGonagall looked out and found Ron Weasley. He was paler than she had ever seen him and refusing to eat. "No Weasley has ever disappointed their Quidditch team before, and I doubt that's about to change," McGonagall said airily, though she began praying silently that Ron would gather himself.
"Filius, why can't your house ever behave normally?" Sprout asked, nodding her head towards Luna Lovegood, who had constructed a large lion hat that roared and wore it proudly through the hall.
"That's not because she's in my house," said Flitwick with a sigh. "That's because she's got Xenophilius for a father. I'll admit I'm curious to find out what she used to make that hat, though. It's quite impressive."
"Severus," said McGonagall slowly, her eyes narrowing. "What are those badges your house is wearing?"
"Is my team not allowed to be festive on game day now?" Snape growled.
McGonagall and Snape glared at each other a moment longer before each returned to their food.
Before long, the Great Hall began to empty as everyone headed for the Quidditch Pitch.
"Is Lee Jordan still doing commentary?" Sprout asked McGonagall as they stepped on the frozen grass.
"Yes," said McGonagall exasperatedly. "I didn't have the heart to replace him his last year here."
"A decision I'm sure you'll come to regret soon enough," said Sprout loftily.
"Well, he'll keep you well occupied, at least," Flitwick said cheerily. "Have you thought of who might do it next year?"
"I'm kind of taking things one day at a time here, Filius."
"Simply curious," said Flitwick.
McGonagall took her usual seat in the stands beside the commentator's microphone. She watched Johnson and Montague shake hands, and her stomach started to do all sorts of flips as both teams took to the air. Hardly any time passed before she found herself having to snap at Lee Jordan.
"And it's Johnson, Johnson with the Quaffle, what a player that girl is, I've been saying it for years but she still won't go out with me – "
"JORDAN!" McGonagall shouted at her student, hearing her voice echo through the pitch.
"Just a fun fact, Professor," said Jordan with a wide smile, "adds a bit of interest – and she's ducked Warrington, she's passed Montague, she's – ouch- been hit from behind by a Bludger from Crabbe… Montague catches the Quaffle, Montague heading back up the pitch and – nice Bludger there from George Weasley, that's a Bludger to the head for Montague, he drops the Quaffle, caught by Katie Bell, Katie Bell of Gryffindor reverse passes to Alicia Spinnet and Spinnet's away – "
McGonagall had to focus all her efforts into not biting her nails. She had somehow blocked out Jordan and was simply focusing on watching the game. The first goal would be crucial, and Gryffindor needed to get it to buoy their spirits, especially Ron's. He looked rather like a ghost at his end of the pitch.
Jordan suddenly stopped commentating, and McGonagall refocused her ears to hear Slytherin singing.
Weasley cannot save a thing,
He cannot block a single ring,
That's why Slytherins all sing;
Weasley is our King.
McGonagall felt her nostrils flare dangerously and scanned the pitch until her gaze finally landed on Snape. She became determined to give him an earful when she saw him next. Encouraging one's team was perfectly acceptable, but Slytherin's behavior was unsportsmanlike, and certainly not befitting of any Hogwarts student.
Jordan started speaking even more loudly into his microphone, doubtless trying to wash out the sound of Slytherin. His attempts were for naught, however. Even with a microphone, there was no way he could drown out nearly one hundred and fifty students at a Quidditch match.
McGonagall slammed her fist onto the seat beside her as Angelina attempted a goal and was blocked by Slytherin's keeper. Slytherin had the ball, and they were clearly determined to get that first goal.
"Slytherin Score!" called Jordan after Ron let the Quaffle fly through his arms. "So that's ten-nil to Slytherin – back luck, Ron…"
As Slytherin began singing louder, McGonagall desperately wanted to put her face into her hands. Not only had Slytherin scored the first goal, but she knew that Ron's confidence, whatever he might have had when he took to the sky, was gone.
McGonagall's hopes grew smaller and smaller as Ron let in three more goals. She consoled herself with the idea that, as the Slytherin team was busy singing along to their horrible chant with the rest of their house, they would become overconfident and begin slipping up.
Finally, Angelina Johnson put the Quaffle through one of Slytherin's hoops, earning Gryffindor ten points and greatly encouraging the house.
Shortly after, McGonagall's eyes flew to Harry as he streaked across the field, Malfoy right beside him. McGonagall could not help but cheer as she saw Harry's hand clasp around the Snitch. Slytherin was defeated and –
McGonagall joy turned at once to utter rage as Crabbe swung his bat after the whistle, hitting Harry with a Bludger that took him off his broom.
"Oh, let it go, Minerva," said Sprout cheerily, slapping McGonagall's shoulder and breaking her focus. "Rolanda will deal with Crabbe. You know how low her tolerance is for – What is it, Filius?"
Flitwick, who had been tugging on Sprout's sleeve, pointed down onto the pitch.
McGonagall felt her blood boil as she saw Harry swing his fist into Malfoy's stomach. Quite suddenly, both he and George Weasley were on Malfoy, punching every bit of him they possibly could. McGonagall was so enraged she could not move, nor could she think. It wasn't until Hooch broke up the fight and glanced to the Head of Gryffindor that McGonagall realized she would have to deal with the issue.
Without a word, McGonagall descended from her seat and strode back to her office to find Harry and George outside her door. "In!" she said furiously, pointing to the door.
Without looking at her students, McGonagall stomped behind her desk and, feeling her hand shaking, ripped the Gryffindor scarf she had donned earlier from her neck.
"Well?" she said. "I have never seen such a disgraceful exhibition. Two onto one! Explain yourselves!"
"Malfoy provoked us," said Harry stiffly.
"Provoked you?" McGonagall shouted. She swung her fist onto her desk rather than at her students. She heard something clatter to the floor, but could not bring herself to care about it. "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."
Under different circumstances, McGonagall might have been more sympathetic, but staging a fight before the whole school was not a situation that permitted such emotions.
"But instead of leaving it to Madam Hooch to sort out, you two decided to give an exhibition of Muggle dueling, did you?" As McGonagall's throat began to ache, she realized she had lost control of the volume of her voice. "Have you any idea what you've - ?"
Later, McGonagall would reflect on what a miracle it was that she had not whipped out her wand and cursed Dolores Umbridge into the next century.
"May I help, Professor McGonagall?" asked Professor Umbridge in her most poisonously sweet voice.
McGonagall felt as though someone had set fire to her face. "Help?" she repeated in a constricted voice, beginning to fear what might happen. "What do you mean, 'help'?"
Umbridge displayed the audacity to step forward into the office, smile upon her face. "Why, I thought you might be grateful for a little extra authority."
And, just like that, McGonagall came to regret asking Dumbledore for help in reforming the Gryffindor team. Umbridge seemed to have drawn the conclusion that McGonagall was incapable of handling situations on her own.
"You thought wrong," said McGonagall. She turned her back on Umbridge, surprised to find herself facing her students. She did not recall walking across her office at any point in time, but must have, as she now stood between them and Umbridge. "Now, you two had better listen closely," she said to them dangerously. "I do not care what provocation Malfoy offered you, I do not care if he insulted every family member you possess, your behavior was disgusting and I am giving each of you a week's worth of detention. Do not look at me like that, Potter, you deserve it! And if either of you ever – "
McGonagall closed her eyes and gave herself a moment to regain control before pivoting slowly to face Umbridge. "Yes?" she tried to say politely.
"I think they deserve rather more than detentions," said Umbridge, smiling still more broadly.
McGonagall felt her eyes pop, and only then registered that Umbridge had exchanged her usual pink garb for green. "But fortunately," she said, attempting a smile that she was sure looked more terrifying than anything, "it is what I think that counts, as they are in my House, Dolores."
"Well, actually, Minerva," simpered 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 little false laugh as she rummaged in her handbag, which was still disgustingly pink and clashed horribly with her outfit, "the Minister just sent it. …Ah yes…"
A thousand thoughts flew through McGonagall's mind at once, from wondering if Umbridge was somehow trying to make her jealous of having Ministry connections, to contemplation of what might happen to a toad that falls from a great height without a wand.
"Hem, hem… 'Educational Decree Number Twenty-five …"
"Not another one!" McGonagall felt the words burst out of her mouth before she had any thought of stopping them.
"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?"
Only McGonagall's subconscious processed Umbridge's next few statements. Her conscious mind was filled with remorse, rage, and worst of all, a sense of helplessness. She only tuned her full mind back in when Umbridge began reading the actual decree.
"'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 any staff members. Signed, Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic, Order of Merlin First Class, etc., etc., …'"
McGonagall desperately wished she were only having a nightmare, but if she were, she surely would have woken by now.
"So… I really think I will have to ban these two from playing Quidditch ever again," said Umbridge after rolling up her parchment.
"Ban us?" said Harry distantly. "From playing…ever again?"
"Yes, Mr. Potter. I think a lifelong ban ought to do the trick."
McGonagall felt as though she were about to retch as the smile on Umbridge's face grew wider at the expressions of horror upon the boys' faces.
"You and Mr. Weasley here," Umbridge continued. "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. The rest of the team can continue playing. I saw no signs of violence from any of them. Well… good afternoon to you."
Umbridge left, seeming happier than ever before.
McGonagall stood, unmoving, for what had to have been a full two minutes before she trusted herself to do anything. "Leave," she told her students hoarsely. "And if you have any sense in your bodies at all, don't say another word to me."
Harry and George rose and left, seeming incapable of speech at all.
In a daze, McGonagall covered the Quidditch Cup in her office with a piece of cloth and fell into her chair, wondering how on earth Hogwarts had gotten to its current state, and how much further it had yet to fall.
No, I'm not dead. Just have lots of other things to do besides fanfic. Sorry, my lovelies, but real life likes to punch people in the face and keep them from fun things sometimes. :(
Anywho! Here's your update! Be sure to let me know what you think. Brownie points for those who hate Umbridge as much as I do!