'Did she seriously just interrupt Dumbledore?' Harry whispered to Neville when their new defence professor started to talk in a silly sweet voice.
'Looks that way,' Neville shrugged. It seemed like he had decided to ignore Umbridge after her first two lines, just like Harry and most of the student population. 'Not a good way to make friends at Hogwarts. Anyway, did your parents also warn you about her?'
'Yeah, apparently she has a lot of influence at the ministry. Dad told me not to draw too much attention since it could hurt our family's position. Or at least, our side… or something like that,' Harry replied.
'Something like that, yeah,' Neville grinned back at him.
'Thank you very much, Professor Umbridge, that was most illuminating,' Dumbledore said, Harry and Neville immediately stopped chatting. 'Now, as I was saying, Quidditch tryouts will be held…'
'Yes, it certainly was illuminating,' said Hermione in a low voice.
'It was?' Harry wondered.
'There was some important stuff hidden in the waffle,' said Hermione grimly. 'How about: 'progress for progress's sake must be discouraged'? How about: 'pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited'?'
'Well, what does that mean?' asked Neville.
'I'll tell you what it means,' said Hermione through gritted teeth. 'It means the Ministry's interfering at Hogwarts.'
'Well, we knew that already. I mean, since that stupid rule that kept James away from Hogwarts,' Neville shrugged. 'But anyway, we should go and gather the first-years.'
'Oh, right!' Hermione jumped up immediately. Neville followed a bit slower.
'I'm still somewhat surprised that you didn't make prefect, Harry,' Susan said when the two new prefects were out of earshot. 'I mean, I know Neville is going to do a great job, but you are the leader of the DA and all that.'
'Oh well, I don't really mind. Enough on my head already, you know?' actually, that was the main reason that he wasn't a prefect now. Dumbledore had visited Lionfire Hall a few days before the Hogwarts letters arrived. They had discussed their plans to have Harry duel Dumbledore, but that was delayed as well now that Umbridge was prowling around.
Still, the headmaster had asked Harry if he wanted to be a prefect, or if he preferred to focus on all his other duties and pastimes instead. He had quickly agreed that he could do without the badge. And like Susan said, Neville would be a great perfect. He saw no reason to tell anyone about Dumbledore's visit though, every now and then Neville could be terribly unsure about himself. So he didn't need to get any stupid ideas about being second choice as a prefect. Not that Dumbledore had told Harry he would definitely get the badge if he wanted it, but it felt that way.
'I guess,' Susan nodded. 'Anyway, back to the common room? Or are you going to meet with Daphne first?'
'No, she wanted to head to the Slytherin common room immediately. Prepare for their DA meetings,' Harry replied while shaking his head. Daphne and Tracey seemed determined to start up the Slytherin DA as soon as possible. He guessed that was a smart idea, but right now it gave him another reason to dislike their new defence professor.
They were 'lucky' enough to have their first defence lesson on their first day. After a boring history class and a very difficult potions class they arrived in the defence classroom. 'Well, good afternoon!' professor Umbridge said, when finally the whole class had sat down.
A few people mumbled 'good afternoon' in reply.
'Tut, tut,' said Professor Umbridge. 'That won't do, now, will it? I should like you, please, to reply 'Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge'. One more time, please. Good afternoon, class!'
'Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge,' they chanted back at her.
'There, now,' said Professor Umbridge sweetly. 'That wasn't too difficult, was it? Wands away and quills out, please.'
Many of the class exchanged gloomy looks; the order 'wands away' had never yet been followed by a lesson they had found interesting.
Harry shoved his wand back inside his bag and pulled out quill, ink and parchment. Professor Umbridge opened her handbag, extracted her own wand, which was an unusually short one, and tapped the blackboard sharply with it; words appeared on the board at once: Defence Against the Dark Arts A Return to Basic Principles
'Well now, your teaching in this subject has been rather disrupted and fragmented, hasn't it?' stated Professor Umbridge, turning to face the class with her hands clasped neatly in front of her. 'The constant changing of teachers, many of whom do not seem to have followed any Ministry-approved curriculum, has unfortunately resulted in your being far below the standard we would expect to see in your OWL year.'
'You will be pleased to know, however, that these problems are now to be rectified. We will be following a carefully structured, theory-centred, Ministry-approved course of defensive magic this year. Copy down the following, please.'
She rapped the blackboard again; the first message vanished and was replaced by the 'Course Aims'.
For a couple of minutes the room was full of the sound of scratching quills on parchment. When everyone had copied down Professor Umbridge's course aims she asked, 'Has everybody got a copy of Defensive Magical Theory by Wilbert Slinkhard?'
There was a dull murmur of assent throughout the class.
'I think we'll try that again,' said Professor Umbridge. 'When I ask you a question, I should like you to reply, 'Yes, Professor Umbridge', or 'No, Professor Umbridge'. So: has everyone got a copy of Defensive Magical Theory by Wilbert Slinkhard?'
'Yes, Professor Umbridge,' rang through the room, Harry wondered if Umbridge really believed that all of them were only five years old.
'Good,' said Professor Umbridge. 'I should like you to turn to page five and read 'Chapter One, Basics for Beginners'. There will be no need to talk.'
Professor Umbridge left the blackboard and settled herself in the chair behind the teacher's desk, observing them all closely with those pouchy toad's eyes. Harry turned to page five of his copy of Defensive Magical Theory and started to read.
It was desperately dull, quite as bad as listening to Professor Binns. This was an achievement in itself.
He felt his concentration sliding away from him; he had soon read the same line half a dozen times without taking in more than the first few words. Several silent minutes passed. Next to him, Ron was absent-mindedly turning his quill over and over in his fingers, staring at the same spot on the page. Harry looked right and received a surprise to shake him out of his torpor. Hermione had not even opened her copy of Defensive Magical Theory. She was staring fixedly at Professor Umbridge with her hand in the air.
Harry could not remember Hermione ever neglecting to read when instructed to, or indeed resisting the temptation to open any book that came under her nose. He looked at her enquiringly, but she merely shook her head slightly to indicate that she was not about to answer questions, and continued to stare at Professor Umbridge, who was looking just as resolutely in another direction.
After several more minutes had passed, however, Harry was not the only one watching Hermione. The chapter they had been instructed to read was so tedious that more and more people were choosing to watch Hermione's mute attempt to catch Professor Umbridge's eye rather than struggle on with 'Basics for Beginners'. When more than half the class were staring at Hermione rather than at their books, Professor Umbridge seemed to decide that she could ignore the situation no longer.
'Did you want to ask something about the chapter, dear?' she asked Hermione, as though she had only just noticed her.
'Not about the chapter, no,' said Hermione.
'Well, we're reading just now,' said Professor Umbridge, showing her small pointed teeth. 'If you have other queries we can deal with them at the end of class.'
'I've got a query about your course aims,' said Hermione.
Professor Umbridge raised her eyebrows. 'And your name is?'
'Hermione Granger,' said Hermione.
'Well, Miss Granger, I think the course aims are perfectly clear if you read them through carefully,' said Professor Umbridge in a voice of determined sweetness.
'Well, I don't,' said Hermione bluntly. 'There's nothing written up there about using defensive spells.'
There was a short silence in which many members of the class turned their heads to frown at the three course aims still written on the blackboard. 'Using defensive spells?' Professor Umbridge repeated with a little laugh. 'Why, I can't imagine any situation arising in my classroom that would require you to use a defensive spell, Miss Granger. You surely aren't expecting to be attacked during class?'
'We're not going to use magic?' Ron exclaimed loudly.
'Students raise their hands when they wish to speak in my class, Mr.?'
'Weasley,' said Ron, thrusting his hand into the air.
Professor Umbridge, smiling still more widely, turned her back on him. Harry and Hermione immediately raised their hands too. Professor Umbridge's pouchy eyes lingered on Harry for a moment before she addressed Hermione.
'Yes, Miss Granger? You wanted to ask something else?'
'Yes,' said Hermione. 'Surely the whole point of Defence Against the Dark Arts is to practise defensive spells?'
'Are you a Ministry-trained educational expert, Miss Granger?' asked Professor Umbridge, in her falsely sweet voice.
'Thank Merlin, no,' Harry whispered.
'Well then, I'm afraid you are not qualified to decide what the 'whole point' of any class is. Wizards much older and cleverer than you have devised our new programme of study. You will be learning about defensive spells in a secure, risk-free way -'
'What use is that?' said Harry. 'If we're going to be attacked, it won't be in a-'
'Hand, Mr. Potter!' sang Professor Umbridge.
Harry thrust his fist in the air. Again, Professor Umbridge promptly turned away from him, but now several other people had their hands up, too.
'And your name is?' Professor Umbridge said to Dean.
'Well, Mr. Thomas?'
'Well, it's like Harry said, isn't it?' said Dean. 'If we're going to be attacked, it won't be risk free.'
'I repeat,' said Professor Umbridge, smiling in a very irritating fashion at Dean, 'do you expect to be attacked during my classes?'
'No, but -'
Professor Umbridge talked over him. 'I do not wish to criticize the way things have been run in this school,' she said, an unconvincing smile stretching her wide mouth, 'but you have been exposed to some very irresponsible wizards in this class, very irresponsible indeed ‐ not to mention,' she gave a nasty little laugh, 'extremely dangerous half‐breeds.'
'If you mean Professor Lupin,' piped up Dean angrily, 'he was the best we ever-'
'Hand, Mr. Thomas! As I was saying, you have been introduced to spells that have been complex, inappropriate to your age group and potentially lethal. You have been frightened into believing that you are likely to meet Dark attacks every other day -ʹ
'No we haven't,' Hermione said, 'we just -'
'Your hand is not up, Miss Granger!'
Hermione put up her hand. Professor Umbridge turned away from her.
'It is my understanding that my predecessor not only performed illegal curses in front of you, he actually performed them on you.'
'Well, he turned out to be a maniac, didn't he?' said Dean hotly. 'Mind you, we still learned loads.'
'Your hand is not up, Mr. Thomas!' trilled Professor Umbridge. 'Now, it is the view of the Ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be more than sufficient to get you through your examination, which, after all, is what school is all about. And your name is?' she added, staring at Parvati, whose hand had just shot up.
'Parvati Patil, and isn't there a practical bit in our Defence Against the Dark Arts OWL? Aren't we supposed to show that we can actually do the counter‐curses and things?'
'As long as you have studied the theory hard enough, there is no reason why you should not be able to perform the spells under carefully controlled examination conditions,' said Professor Umbridge dismissively.
'Without ever practising them beforehand?' said Parvati incredulously. 'Are you telling us that the first time we'll get to do the spells will be during our exam?'
'I repeat, as long as you have studied the theory hard enough you should be fine,' Umbridge replied, to a vast number of unbelieving frowns. Then she finally looked at Harry, who had not lowered his fist the whole time.
'And what good's theory going to be in the real world?' Harry wondered.
Professor Umbridge looked up. 'This is school, Mr. Potter, not the real world,' she said softly.
'Isn't the purpose of a school to prepare us for the real world though?' Harry asked, he tried to stay polite. After all, he had promised his parents not to cause too much trouble with Umbridge. But he could hardly ignore her.
'There are no dangers out there that require dangerous spellcasting at Hogwarts,' Umbridge calmly replied.
This was such utter nonsense that Harry didn't immediately know how to reply. Dean took his silence to shout: 'That's ridiculous! What about that attack during the third task last year?'
'Hand, Mr. Thomas! And detention tonight,' Umbridge snapped.
For a moment Harry wanted to retrieve his wand to curse the pink horror, but he restrained himself. Just like the rest of his classmates, who all kept staring at their books while fighting against drowsiness for the remainder of the class.
'The common room is too small,' Susan dryly commented to Harry while all Gryffindors were trying to find some space to exchange spells with their opponents.
'No, really?' Harry replied before shaking his head. 'Sorry. I guess we'll have to divide the house in two and have two meetings each week.'
'Split by year? Or split each year in half?' Susan wondered.
Harry considered both options for a few moments. 'By year I guess. The differences between first and seventh-years are getting to big anyway. We might as well make a group of fifth to seventh and one of first to fourth.'
'Sounds fine to me,' Susan nodded. 'I guess that means two of us will be at each meeting? It would be best to rotate a bit, but I think you should work with the fifth-years and higher all the time.'
'Because you will learn more that way. And like it or not, you are the one that needs to be prepared,' Susan replied in such a firm tone that Harry didn't want to argue with her. Beside that, he guessed she had a point. 'Anyway, you have a nice idea to quieten this unruly mob?'
Harry grinned while he admired the full-blown chaos in the Gryffindor common room. Before he could work out a plan their head of house suddenly walked into the common room. 'What is the meaning of all this noise? I could hear you in my office,' she snapped.
Almost immediately everybody stopped and Harry used the sudden silence to reply. 'We decided to do our DA meetings by house, now that Umbridge doesn't allow our regular DA meetings. But I guess we'll have to split in two groups, the common room is a bit small.'
'I see,' McGonagall nodded. She looked thoughtful for a few seconds. 'Good work, I guess. Just use silencing charms next time. We don't want professor Umbridge to find out about this while she walks through the hallways,' Harry was sure that he was not the only one who felt surprised by McGonagalls unspoken support of their actions. Usually, she always supported other professors. He was less surprised about who she turned to next. 'Mr. And Mr. Weasley, -yes I mean the two of you, so stop looking at your younger brother- what is this?'
Fred and George looked at the pile of papers that she waved around. Eventually they both shrugged and Fred replied: 'It looks like our transfiguration essay, why?'
'Because it's brilliant. Care to explain why your homework is suddenly so much better?'
'We worked on that during the summer,' George answered.
'It was pure coincidence that we could use it for our first essay,' Fred added.
'And most of the groundwork is actually from Hermione,' George said.
'I've no idea what they did,' Hermione quickly said when McGonagall suddenly turned to her.
'They devised a way to transfigure multiple objects at once by using another object,' she quickly browsed through the papers. 'Ah yes, by snapping a fake wand in two. Their idea is that the hair colour of every person in the area will turn red and gold. You don't know anything about that?'
'Well, no. Tracey and I, -Tracey Davis I mean, from Slytherin- worked out a way to transfigure multiple objects at once a few years ago. But we never thought about using items to start the transfiguration. Isn't changing hair colour a charm though? Although I guess there is some overlap… Anyway, it does offer some possibilities,' Hermione admitted while gazing at the thick pile of paper in McGonagall's hands.
'It's only a copy Hermione, you can have our notes,' Fred smiled.
'In fact, we were going to discuss things with you and Tracey, but we are just working out some details,' George said.
McGonagall shook her head. 'That may be, but from now on I'll expect this level of quality for all your essays, understood?'
'We'll try our best,' George calmly replied. McGonagall's disbelieving look was hardly flattering, nor alone.
'What? It is our NEWT year after all,' Fred said.
'And certain potential investors explained to us why we should score as many NEWTs as we can,' George explained.
'Yeah, and with high grades,' Fred added before sadly shaking his head. 'So that means more homework and less pranks.'
George, who had looked like he was attending a funeral after Fred's words, suddenly lighted up. 'Beside Umbridge's class of course. That's useless anyway.'
'Definitely,' Fred smiled. 'Beside that, it's the perfect location to contact the market for our joke shop. It's not like we can interrupt anything important during that class.'
McGonagall shook her head once more, 'Well, I'm not sure if I agree with your reasons. But I'm looking forward to two new model students,' Fred and George looked horrified. 'Anyway, I'll let you carry on. And remember, silencing charms.'
After she left everybody started to complain to Fred and George though, they all found it unfair that pranks would be focused on the seventh-year DADA classes. Fred and George only smirked.
A/N: Way too slow update, sorry about that. But it seemed like pretty much everything that could delay an update happened during the last few weeks. I'll try and return to weekly updates, but I have the feeling that I said that before during this story;)
Anyway, I'm sure you noticed that I copied part of canon to describe the sorting and the first DADA class, although there are a few big differences. Mainly because Harry is not that messed-up without the whole fiasco after the third task and the ensuing Prophet-campaign.