It was somewhere after dark when Tempest saw them and in that moment; she slid down off her couch to kneel before the fire.
"Er- Tempest?" said Ron uncertainly. "Why are you down there?"
"Because Sirius and Cat are in the fire," said Tempest, matter-of-fact. Actually they had been... They were gone now...
"Sirius's head?" Hermione repeated. "You mean like when he wanted to talk to you during the Triwizard Tournament? But he wouldn't do that now, it would be too- Sirius- Cat!"
She gasped, gazing at the fire; Ron dropped his quill. There in the middle of the dancing flames sat Sirius's head, long dark hair falling around his grinning face, beside him, squeezed close to fit was Cat's own grinning one, blonde hair mixing with Sirius's dark.
"I was starting to think you'd go to bed before everyone else had disappeared," he said. "I've been checking every hour."
"He moaned about it too," piped up Cat, "our knees are half-numb from kneeling."
Tempest laughed, shifting as close as she could to the fire without burning herself. "Get cushions or something... And I'll always be the last in the common room, I make a point of not going to bed before ten..."
"What if you were seen?" Exclaimed Hermione, surprising Tempest, she had all but forgotten that Hermione was there.
Tempest couldn't see Sirius's arms but she was pretty sure he waved her off. "I think a first year saw us before but thought we were just an odd piece of wood."
Tempest chuckled but Hermione didn't look amused. "But Sirius, this is taking an awful risk-" Hermione began.
"You sound like his mum," said Cat, head nodding in Ron's direction. "Anyway, Lyal, we got your letters and we figured there was too much to discuss that we couldn't put in a letter as it could be intercepted-"
"You didn't say you'd written to them!" said Hermione accusingly.
"Oh I'm sorry," drawled Tempest, bristling with indignation- what business of Hermione's was it? "do I have to ask your permission now?"
"Honestly, we would prefer a bit of privacy," hinted Sirius, looking past Tempest at Ron and Hermione.
"Oh," said Hermione, taken aback, she looked at Tempest like she wanted something then averted her eyes. "Yes, of course. Come on Ron." She got up, dragging Ron with her and the two left for their separate dormitories.
When it was just Tempest left, Cat and Sirius beamed at her again, "so your letters," said Sirius, "we need a better way of communicating, the Ministry is most likely intercepting all of your letters so the ones you sent were very good- don't think anyone could have gotten much damming information from them. Normal enough to make it seem like you aren't deliberately omitting information and giving them vague hints like Moody-"
"Oh Moody," said Tempest, remembering. "By the way, the bet-"
"The bet... Oh I won that." Sirius said smugly. "You said more than fifteen... He only said it twelve times. I get your Canons' poster."
"Damnit," scowled Tempest, "I will win the next bet."
"Lyal," said Cat very seriously, "I think you have a gambling problem."
"No, I don't!" Protested Tempest, then laughed.
"Right," said Sirius, sobering, "to the point- in case we're interrupted... Umbridge. I know her by reputation and while sure she's no Death Eater, regardless of how foul we know she is, she could be worse actually."
"Because she works in the ministry?" asked Tempest.
"Yes. She sits right by Fudge- Senior Undersecretary and all. Oh and here's more to fuel your hate of her, she's so scared of part-humans she loathes them. There's Remus and she campaigned to have merpeople rounded up and tagged last year too. Imagine wasting your time and energy persecuting merpeople when there are little toerags like Kreacher on the loose..."
"Ah Pads, you did admit in the holidays that Kreacher made unparalleled scrambled eggs... You'd miss them if he suddenly got heart failure and kneeled over."
Cat laughed and Sirius pursed his lips. "Maybe," he said grudgingly. "So what are Umbridge's lessons like?" he said, changing the subject. "Is she training you all to kill half-breeds?"
"No, she's not letting us use magic at all," said Tempest, "goes on about learning magical theory- by the way, your theory is a thousand times better- and all we do is read this textbook."
"Ah, well, that figures," said Sirius. "Our information from inside the Ministry is that Fudge doesn't want you trained in combat."
"Trained in combat?" repeated Tempest incredulously. "What does he think we're doing here, forming some sort of magical army?" Cat laughed with her at the analogy and Tempest was mildly tempted for a moment. An army...
"That's exactly what he thinks you're doing," said Sirius, "or rather, that's exactly what he's afraid Dumbledore's doing- forming his own private army, with which he will be able to take on the Ministry of Magic. Fudge thinks Dumbledore will stop at nothing to seize power. He's getting more paranoid about Dumbledore by the day. It's a matter of time before he has Dumbledore arrested on some trumped-up charge."
Tempest let out a long breath, the flames around Sirius and Cat's faces flaring up making the two of them shift slightly. "Sorry," said Tempest.
"It tickles more than anything else," said Cat, "by the way, I'm just going to take a moment to comment on how weird all of this is... I'm kneeling with my face in a fireplace!"
Tempest grinned at her, "I wouldn't know, you've actually fire called before me- I've never done it before."
"Really?" Said Cat, a sudden smile crossing her face.
"Yeah, next order of business," said Tempest, "Hagrid, is he still off in the mountains? I thought he was due back already."
"No," said Sirius, his brow furrowing. "But Madame Maxime was with him, we've been in touch with her and she says they got separated on the journey home- but there's nothing to suggest he's hurt or- well, nothing to suggest he's not perfectly okay."
"Hmm," said Tempest, "huh, in other news, this thing-" she traced her fingers absentmindedly down her scar, "-has been burning on and off the past week, seemingly without reason... I'd ask Dumbledore but he's still persistently ignoring me, so any ideas why it hurts?"
Sirius grimaced, "I'll ask next time he stops by. Magical scars do do that but this could be concerning... When's your next Hogsmeade weekend anyway? I was thinking, we'll see you new moon, but we could meet again. We got away with the dog disguise at the station, didn't we? I thought Cat and I could spend the day there with you."
"Mm tempting," said Tempest, "although I don't think Padfoot would be a good disguise this time, Malfoy recognized you at the platform, remember? It was all over the Daily Prophet later, we can't risk the same disguise." Lucius Malfoy. A conundrum Tempest didn't have time for.
"What about the Snuffles disguise?" asked Cat. "No one's seen through that yet."
"Yeah," agreed Sirius, "alright, Snuffles it is. Dumbledore won't be pleased but the old coot doesn't dictate everything."
"Much as he'd like to," snorted Tempest. "So, Cat, how're the potions lessons going?"
"Oh if you two geniuses want to talk, I'll be off, I wasn't kidding when I was complaining about my knees- I've forgotten what it's like to feel below them. I'm getting too old for this..." Sirius shot Tempest a parting smile then his face pulled back into the flames and disappeared with a pop.
"He being melodramatic?" Tempest asked, laughing.
"No, it really does hurt," said Cat, "but that doesn't matter... The lessons- well, he's turned up once, surprised the hell out of me. I was just crushing some mapeseed beans and his voice comes from the shadows telling me I'm doing it wrong. I didn't even notice him coming in and then he's instantly in full lecture mode-"
Tempest let out a sigh of relief. "So he's good then? He actually taught stuff?"
"Yeah," said Cat, "it wasn't a half-bad time, maybe he's just more antagonistic around you at school..."
"Oh that's not a surprise," laughed Tempest. "Just don't touch anything on my side of the lab."
Cat gave a sly smile. "I can promise that I personally haven't touched anything..."
Tempest groaned, "what did Sirius touch? No, Kreacher? No, Jr? Who was it?"
"No one," laughed Cat, "I'm messing with you, Lyal, your potions are fine."
"Right," said Tempest, relieved. "Take the finished ones if you need, that's all fine, just not the ones in stasis..."
"Yeah, yeah," said Cat, "anyway, Jr is all fine, but does he ever stop eating?"
"No," admitted Tempest, "what can I say? The hedgehog likes his lettuce and worms."
Cat sighed, "fine dining right there. Sirius is good by the way, he does get quite restless sometimes, that can't really be helped. I'd say he's pining after you-"
"Okay, that can't really be due to me," said Tempest, "what do you mean 'pining'?"
"Exactly what I said," deadpanned Cat. "He misses you a ton. Your letters arrived and you should have seen his face."
"Probably just human depravation. I mean it was better when it was the three of us but now it's just him and you in the house... And Dumbledore is most likely losing his patience with Sirius sneaking out." Tempest couldn't help but feel a shade warmer at Cat's words though. It wasn't just one sided. Sometimes in the past week when Tempest was missing Sirius so much it damned near hurt, she wondered if he missed her as much. But maybe he did.
"So how are you?" asked Cat.
"Fine," said Tempest simply. "A lot better since I've talk to you two. I miss you."
"And I you," replied Cat. "I'd talk for longer Lyal, but I have to second Sirius in saying that my legs are dying. I'll see you soon-"
"Looking forward to it," said Tempest, rocking back on her heels as Cat's face vanished in the same way that Sirius's had. Damn, her own legs had cramped something spectacular.
MINISTRY SEEKS EDUCATIONAL REFORM; DOLORES UMBRIDGE APPOINTED FIRST EVER HIGH INQUISITOR
"In a surprise move last night the Ministry of Magic passed new legislation giving itself an unprecedented level of control at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
'The Minister has been growing uneasy about goings-on at Hogwarts for some time,' said junior Assistant to the Minister, Percy Weasley. 'He is now responding to concerns voiced by anxious parents, who feel the school may be moving in a direction they do not approve of.'
This is not the first time in recent weeks that the Minister, Cornelius Fudge, has used new laws to effect improvements at the Wizarding school. As recently as 30th August, Educational Decree Number Twenty-two was passed, to ensure that, in the event of the current Headmaster being unable to provide a candidate for a teaching post, the Ministry should select an appropriate person.
'That's how Dolores Umbridge came to be appointed to the teaching staff at Hogwarts,' said Weasley last night. 'Dumbledore couldn't find anyone so the Minister put in Umbridge, and of course, she's been an immediate success, totally revolutionising the teaching of Defense Against the Dark Arts and providing the Minister with on-the-ground feedback about what's really happening at Hogwarts.'
It is this last function that the Ministry has now formalised with the passing of Educational Decree Number Twenty-three, which creates the new position of Hogwarts High Inquisitor.
'This is an exciting new phase in the Minister's plan to get to grips with what some are calling the falling standards at Hogwarts,' said Weasley. 'The Inquisitor will have powers to inspect her fellow educators and make sure that they are coming up to scratch. Professor Umbridge has been offered this position in addition to her own teaching post and we are delighted to say that she had accepted.'
The Ministry's new moves have received enthusiastic support from parents of students at Hogwarts.
'I feel much easier in my mind now that I know Dumbledore is being subjected to fair and objective evaluation,' said Mr. Lucius Malfoy, 41, speaking from his Wiltshire mansion last night. 'Many of us with our children's best interests at heart have been concerned about some of Dumbledore's eccentric decisions in the last few years and are glad to know that the Ministry is keeping an eye on the situation.'
Among those eccentric decisions are undoubtedly the controversial staff appointments previously described in this newspaper, which have included the employment of werewolf Remus Lupin, half-giant Rubeus Hagrid and delusional ex-Auror, 'Mad-Eye' Moody. Rumours abound, of course, that Albus Dumbledore, once Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, is no longer up to the task of managing the prestigious school of Hogwarts.
'I think the appointment of the Inquisitor is a first step towards ensuring that Hogwarts has a headmaster in whom we can all repose our confidence,' said a Ministry insider last night. 'Wizengamot elders Griselda Marchbanks and Tiberius Ogden have resigned in protest at the introduction of the post of Inquisitor to Hogwarts.
'Hogwarts is a school, not an outpost of Cornelius Fudge's office,' said Madam Marchbanks. 'This is a further, disgusting attempt to discredit Albus Dumbledore.'
'(For a full account of Madam Marchbanks's alleged links to subversive goblin groups, turn to page seventeen.) '
"Yeah turn to page seventeen-" Tempest snorted. "Even without Skeeter…"
"So this was what Percy meant," Ron said, glancing at Hermione.
"-and how we ended up with Umbridge! Fudge passed some 'Educational Decree,' and she was forced on us! He's even gives her the power to inspect the other teachers."
"What about this situation is funny in any way?" Hermione asked incredulously.
"I can't wait to see McGonagall inspected, Umbridge won't know what's hit her."
Against her will, Tempest felt a small smile creep up on her face. "Oh that would be fun…"
"Well, come on," said Hermione, jumping up, "we'd better get going, if she's inspecting Binns' class we don't want to be late…"
But Umbridge was not inspecting their History of Magic lesson, which was just as dull as the previous Monday, nor was she in Snape's dungeon when they arrived for double Potions.
They got their moonstone essays back though, and Tempest glanced down at the spiky black 'O' scrawled in the upper corner of the page. For some reason though she didn't feel the rush of satisfaction that she usually did when Snape was forced to give her 'O's'. In fact, she rather felt like she was half asleep, not really paying attention. After all, a petty grudge against a teacher who was biased against her father wasn't exactly on the top ten things she had to worry about at the moment. Tempest watched him finish giving back the other essays and sent him silent thanks for Cat.
"What did you get?" Ron muttered, nudging Tempest's arm.
Tempest didn't bother to reply, shoving her paper towards Ron.
"I got a 'P'."
"Don't let Hermione see." Tempest replied darkly.
"I have awarded you the grades you would have received if you presented this work in your OWL," Snape said with a smirk, overriding whatever Ron was about to say, his eyes fixed malevolently on him. "This should give you a realistic idea of what to expect in the examination."
Snape reached the front of the class and turned on his heel to face them. "The general standard of this homework was abysmal. Most of you would have failed had this been your examination. I expect to see a great deal more effort for this weeks essay on the various varieties of venom antidotes, or I shall have to start handing out detentions to those dunces who get a 'D'."
"At least you didn't get that." Tempest said, hoping she sounded sympathetic.
"Small consolation," Ron said, glancing across Tempest to Hermione.
Shrugging off Ron's moaning, Tempest started on Snape's Strengthening potion.
"Really, I would love to have gotten an'O'," Hermione said as they walked to the Great hall for lunch.
Ron was studying the floor as though it was the most interesting thing since chocolate lime ice cream. When neither Tempest nor Ron answered (Tempest not really listening) Hermione continued. "But at this rate I don't really expect the top grade, and it's not like he's marking to OWL standard, but a pass is encouraging at this stage, wouldn't you say?"
Ron mumbled something under his breath that put Tempest off lunch.
"Obviously, I'd have been thrilled if I'd got an 'O'-"
"Oh for heaven's sake, Hermione!" Tempest snapped, "If you want to know our marks then just ask! I got an 'O' if you have to know!"
"And I got a 'P'." Ron said, ladling soup into his bowl. "Happy?"
'Well, that's nothing to be ashamed of,' said Fred, who had just arrived at the table with and sat down on Tempest's right. "Nothing wrong with a good healthy 'P'."
'But," said Hermione, "doesn't 'P' stand for…"
"'Poor', yeah," said George. "Still, better than 'D', isn't it? 'Dreadful'?"
"So top grade's 'O' for 'Outstanding'," she was saying, "and then there's 'A' -"
"No, 'E'," George corrected her, "'E' for 'Exceeds Expectations'. And I've always thought Fred and I should've got 'E' in everything, because we exceeded expectations just by turning up for the exams."
They all laughed except Hermione, who ploughed on, "So, after 'E' it's 'A' for 'Acceptable', and that's the last pass grade, isn't it?"
"Yep," said Fred, dunking an entire roll in his soup, transferring it to his mouth and swallowing it whole. "Then you get 'P' for 'Poor'-" Ron raised both his arms in mock celebration - "and 'D' for 'Dreadful'."
"And then 'T'," George reminded him.
"'T'?" asked Hermione, looking appalled. "Even lower than a 'D'? What on earth does 'T' stand for?"
"'Troll'," said George promptly.
"You lot had an inspected lesson yet?" Fred asked them, beginning to eat.
"No"' said Hermione at once. "Have you?"
"Just now, before lunch," said George. "Charms."
"What was it like?" Hermione asked.
"Not that bad. Umbridge just lurked in the corner making notes on a clipboard. You know what Flitwick's like, he treated her like a guest, didn't seem to bother him at all. She didn't say much. Asked Angelina a couple of questions about what the classes are normally like, Angelina told her they were really good, that was it."
"I can't see old Flitwick getting marked down," said George, "he usually gets everyone through their exams all right…"
"Affable too," said Tempest. "Also, he's not antagonistic or in the Order like Minnie, so Umbridge would have no legitimate reason to find anything wrong with him."
Throughout the rest of the meal, Tempest was very aware of Hermione's eyes flickering between her and George, and she ignored them, favoring eating with gusto and refusing to stoke Hermione's beliefs.
If there really was something with George… then he'd tell her. She was perfectly happy with George just being her friend- he was one of the best friends she had ever had anyway, and she didn't want more than that.
He was the first person ever to make a promise to her and keep it… Even before Cat.
Don't worry… If you fall, I'll catch you.
And that was a first, because he had caught her.
George Weasley- Four years ago
"Okay, men," Oliver Wood began in the locker room where they were all changing into their scarlet Quidditch robes.
"And women," said Angelina.
"And women," Wood agreed. "This is it."
"The big one," said Fred, wiggling his eyebrows pointedly in George's direction.
"The one we've all been waiting for," George filled in, grinning back at his twin.
"We know Oliver's speech by heart," Fred told Tempest, the scrawny first year standing by his side, dressed in robes her size yet still hanging loosely over her frame, dwarfed by the impressive broom she held at her side. "We were on the team last year."
George thought he heard her reply, but missed it as Wood carried on, ignoring their antics.
"This is the best team Gryffindor's had in years. We're going to win. I know it."
George glanced at Tempest, who he thought looked as white as a sheet. Obviously as the Seeker she had a lot of pressure on her tiny shoulders.
"Don't worry," George said, falling into step beside Tempest as they all filed out onto the Quidditch Pitch. "If you fall, I'll catch you."
Tempest gave a rather nervous laugh, "Is that meant to be a reassurance or something to make me fall off?"
"It might be best if you believe the first," Fred piped up, coming up behind George. "My brother the joker… if you weren't on our team he'd have you in a headlock already."
"Or he could try," Tempest retorted, and George faltered slightly as he saw something flash in the girl's eyes, then it was gone and there was a slight smile playing about her lips and the shy and mysterious girl suddenly looked positively devious.
"Did you see that?" George hissed to Fred as they lined up in front of Hooch who was refereeing.
"See what?" Fred asked, adjusting his grip on his beater's bat.
"Potter," George said impatiently nudging his bat in Tempest's direction. "Just before- she looked almost evil."
"Well," Fred said, mounting his broom and waiting for the whistle. "This is the girl that took on a full grown mountain troll."
"Right," George said, mounting his own broom. "I forgot that."
The whistle blew and George kicked off the ground, eying the Slytherin beaters. They looked rather imposing, but from previous experience, George knew that just as they both resembled trolls, they were about as intelligent as a pair of trolls.
He set off instantly for the bludger closest to him, the smooth leather grip of the bat in his hand, and then he felt the satisfying shock as the bat hit the bludger with a powerful crack.
The bludger flew towards Flint, and George let a vicious grin creep across his face as he shot off alongside the Chasers, slamming the bludgers away from them as they spiraled around the field.
George could hear Lee commentating, and McGonagall growing increasingly annoyed.
George sent a bludger spinning towards Pasty or Pucey or whichever it was, and he heard Lee cheering him on, calling him Fred- but George didn't really mind, because as Angelina ducked the failing arms of the Slytherin keeper-
"GRFFINDORS SCORE!" Lee yelled, and the Gryffindors on the stands rose up in a wave of red and gold, deafening George.
"Fred, if you want to date that girl, I give you my full blessing!" George roared above the crowd.
"Good to know!" Fred yelled back, giving an underarm blow to a bludger that whistled by him, and sending it slamming into the gut of the Slytherin seeker.
"-and Potter has spotted the Snitch! Now, can someone tell me whether that there is a girl or a boy- because I cannot tell the difference-"
"Sorry, Professor, sorry, but she has seen the Snitch-"
George rolled his eyes, then ducked as Tempest shot by him, making him flatten against his broom. When had the girl gotten a Nimbus Two Thousand?
Then there was a resounding cry of outrage from the stands and George twisted on his broom to see Tempest swerve sideways as Flint almost crashed into her.
"Foul!" George found himself yelling along with the rest of Gryffindor as he saw Tempest do a three sixty roll in the air to merely stay on her broom.
That was when George started watching her.
Not in the creepy stalker way- he still had to keep an eye on the bludger and the Gryffindor Chasers at the same time, but it was almost fascinating following Tempest's path through the air. Wood had told her to stay out of the way of the Slytherin players to make her less of a target, but it was obvious that plan wasn't really working.
On the rare moments that the Slytherin beaters got a good shot in on the bludgers, they weren't aimed at the chasers anymore, all of them were directed at Tempest.
George yanked on the hilt of his broom, edging it upwards so that he could intercept the bludgers but Tempest wasn't staying still long enough, almost like her broom was trying to buck her off.
"What's going on?" George yelled up at her, ducking her leg, which missed his head by mere inches.
"Don't you think I should be the one asking that question?" Tempest yelled with impressive volume due to her size, and George was taken aback by the almost wild look in her eyes.
So this was Tempest Potter all shields and defences down. George rather liked this Tempest. She looked slightly unhinged with a flaming temper, which never failed with him.
"What's wrong with your broom?"
"What's wrong with your face?" Tempest retorted, "It's gone insane, that's what!"
She cussed with words George had never heard used in that context before as something whistled by his ear and the bludger missed Tempest's head by inches.
"Give me your bat!"
"Chuck me your bat!" Tempest shouted, her broom bucking about as though it had a personal grudge against her. "I can't duck damn bludgers and stay on this broom at the same time!"
"You're insane!" George yelled, "You need to get closer to the ground, you can't stay on much longer!"
"I. Can't. Control. The. Broom!" Tempest hollered back, "Isn't that bloody clear yet?"
George glanced around desperately, but amazingly enough, while the people on the stands were screaming incomprehensively, pointing at her, no one in the air seemed to see Tempest was being almost thrown off her broom…
George almost slipped off his own broom as the Slytherin beater slammed the bludger over towards Tempest and George abandoned all rationality as he drew his arm back, and instead of rounding on the Slytherin beater, he hurled his bat up to Tempest. He didn't even know if Tempest would be able to catch it, or whether her broom would send her directly into the path of the bat and knock her head clean off-
-and then Tempest leant sideways just as her broom gave another jolt, her wrist hit the edge of the bat, and then her fingers wrapped around the hilt of the bat, and in the same motion, she swung the bat one-handed into the bludger which was flying towards her. The bat met the bludger with a deafening crack, and the bludger sailed away in the direction of the Slytherin goalposts.
Tempest dropped the bat as her broom jerked to the side, and George swore he felt his heart leap into his mouth as Tempest's slipped and all four of her limbs left her broom, leaving her barely hanging on to the broom by the tips of her fingers.
George wasn't exactly sure what happened next, after all, it was too amazing to be true, yet too outlandish for him to imagine…
Tempest somehow managed to pull herself back up onto her broom using only the strength in her fingertips, and then she was balanced precariously on the balls of her feet, her arms outstretched, off the hilt of the broom, something that even the twins had never done, even on a steady broom-
-and then she jumped off her broom.
She jumped off her broom.
If the world had shrunk in the span of half a second, and narrowed down to the image of the completely mental girl freefalling through the air and the fact that if George remained where he was, she would miss him by several meters and meet a gruesome death by falling from around two hundred feet and hitting the ground, George wouldn't have been surprised.
Even the sound of the crowd screaming was muted now as George yanked his broom around, urging his too-slow broom around just so he could get directly underneath-
-and then the girl had slammed into him, and was sliding off the broom, and George grabbed her around the waist, somehow managing to drag her back on, only she was waving her left arm in the air, almost taking off George's head-
-and George caught a glimpse of gold in her palm, and then the entire Gryffindor team descended upon them cheering.
George landed, and Tempest was gone within seconds, swept away by the crowd, George only managing to catch a glimpse of her face; mouth mouthing a 'thank you.'
"What was that?" Fred asked, stumbling out of the crowd next to George.
George didn't reply for a moment, merely staring after Tempest. George shook his head, trying to clear it. "That, Fred… that's the girl I'm going to marry."
Divination. Yeah, that said it all.
Umbridge and Divination combined was some previously unknown realm, for Tempest found herself feeling very sorry for Trelawney.
"I almost felt bad for the crazy bat," Ron said, sitting down beside Hermione. "She could barely string two words together with the toad breathing down her neck."
Umbridge was humming and smiling to herself as the rest of the class sat down and all took out their copies of Defensive Magical Theory. Tempest and Ron took the time to convey everything that had happened in Divination to Hermione. She was indignant, something that Tempest had never thought that she would feel for the professor. Unfortunately before Hermione could begin grilling them for more information, Umbridge called for silence.
"Wands away," she instructed them all with a smile, and those people who had been hopeful enough to take them out, sadly returned them to their bags. "As we finished Chapter One last lesson, I would like you all to turn to page nineteen today and commence 'Chapter Two, Common Defensive Theories and their Derivation'. There will be no need to talk."
Still smiling her wide, self-satisfied smile, she sat down at her desk. The class gave an audible sigh as it turned, as one, to page nineteen.
On page nineteen, Tempest proceeded to finish what she had begun instead of her DADA homework- decorating the page with an intricate drawing of a dragon eating someone who looked suspiciously like Umbridge. That was until she realized that Hermione had her hand up.
Umbridge had noticed, too, and what was more, she seemed to have worked out a strategy for just such an eventuality. Instead of trying to pretend she had not noticed Hermione she got to her feet and walked around the front row of desks until they were face to face, then she bent down and whispered, so that the rest of the class could not hear, "What is it this time, Miss Granger?"
"I've already read Chapter Two," said Hermione.
"Well then, proceed to Chapter Three."
"I've read that too. I've read the whole book."
Umbridge blinked but recovered her poise almost instantly.
"Well, then, you should be able to tell me what Slinkhard says about counter-jinxes in Chapter Fifteen."
"He says that counter-jinxes are improperly named," said Hermione promptly. "He says 'counter-jinx' is just a name people give their jinxes when they want to make them sound more acceptable."
"Well I disagree," Tempest interrupted, her voice ringing in the silent classroom, making heads turn towards her. "Oh sorry, am I interrupting? I thought I was part of this conversation- anyway… ferro mittitur, the die is cast, Hermione do continue."
"Alright then," Hermione said, sounding rather amused. "So Mr. Slinkhard doesn't like jinxes does he? It's pretty clear. But I think that they can be very useful when they're used defensively."
"Oh, you do, do you?" said Umbridge, forgetting to whisper and straightening up. "Well, I'm afraid it is Mr. Slinkhard's opinion, and not yours, that matters within this classroom, Miss Granger."
"But –" Hermione began.
"That is enough," said Umbridge. She walked back to the front of the class and stood before them, all the jauntiness she had shown at the beginning of the lesson gone. "Miss Potter, Miss Granger, I am going to take ten points from Gryffindor house."
There was an outbreak of muttering at this.
"What for?" burst out Ron angrily.
"For disrupting my class with pointless interruptions," said Umbridge smoothly. "I am here to teach you using a Ministry-approved method that does not include inviting students to give their opinions on matters about which they understand very little. Your previous teachers in this subject may have allowed you more licence, but as none of them - with the possible exception of Professor Quirrell, who did at least appear to have restricted himself to age-appropriate subjects - would have passed a Ministry inspection."
Tempest gritted her teeth. "Well Quirrell's dead isn't he?" She said, "an unfortunate side effect of having Voldemort sticking out of the back of your head."
The pronouncement was followed by one of the loudest silences Tempest had ever heard. Then-
"I think another week's detentions would do you some good, Miss Potter," said Umbridge sleekly.
Well. Angelina would hate her.
Tempest thought that failing everything, she could become a seer.
Because Angelina was pissed.
Transfiguration was next and unquestionably Tempest's favourite class. It had Minnie.
Even the pink toad couldn't ruin Transfiguration, crouched in the corner as she was. Ron was snickering into his transfiguration book. "I can't wait to see Umbridge put in her place!" Tempest wasn't even ashamed to admit that she agreed.
Minnie swept into the room as she usually did, the class falling silent immediately. To everyone else, she looked exactly the same as she usually did- toad or no- but Tempest could tell by the severe line formed by her eyebrows that she was about as happy with the toads presence in her classroom as she would be with an actual toad in her tea. (And even then, perhaps the tea would have been more welcome)
Minnie got started immediately. "Mr Finnigan, kindly come here and hand back the homework - Miss Brown, please take this box of mice - don't be silly, girl, they won't hurt you - and hand one to each student-"
"Hem, hem," said Umbridge; using the same silly little cough she had used to interrupt Dumbledore on the first night of term.
Minnie ignored her.
Seamus handed back Tempest's essay, and Tempest glanced down at it, seeing she had gotten an EE. Huh. As much as Tempest skimmed by on the lessons, most of the time it was only secure in the knowledge that she would get top marks anyway. Perhaps Hermione was right, and she had to concentrate more on classwork…
An EE was still great- but Tempest was used to O's. If it had been something like Astronomy or Herbology, Tempest couldn't have cared less, but this was Transfiguration. And that was different.
"Right then, everyone," Minnie was saying, "listen closely - Dean Thomas, if you do that to the mouse again I shall put you in detention - most of you have now successfully Vanished your snails and even those who were left with a certain amount of shell have got the gist of the spell. Today, we shall be–"
"Hem, hem," said Umbridge.
"Yes?" said Minnie, turning round, her eyebrows no longer a severe line, rather a menacing arched bridge.
"I was just wondering, Professor, whether you received my note telling you of the date and time of your inspec-"
"Obviously I received it, or I would have asked you what you are doing in my classroom," said Minnie, turning her back firmly on Umbridge.
Tempest snorted with laughter, something she turned into a violent coughing fit as the eyes of both the teachers landed on her.
"As I was saying: today, we shall be practising the altogether more difficult Vanishment of mice. Now, the Vanishing Spell –"
"I wonder," said Minnie in cold fury, turning on Umbridge, "how you expect to gain an idea of my usual teaching methods if you continue to interrupt me? You see, I do not generally permit people to talk when I am talking."
Tempest had another violent outbreak of coughing, whereas Ron was red in the face, trying to hold in what he claimed to be a sneeze. Umbridge looked as though she had just been slapped in the face. She did not speak, but straightened the parchment on her clipboard and began scribbling furiously.
Looking supremely unconcerned, Minnie addressed the class once more. "As I was saying: the Vanishing Spell becomes more difficult with the complexity of the animal to be Vanished. The snail, as an invertebrate, does not present much of a challenge; the mouse, as a mammal, offers a much greater one. This is not, therefore, magic you can accomplish with your mind on your dinner. So - you know the incantation, let me see what you can do…"
Umbridge did not follow Minnie around the class as she had with Trelawney; perhaps she realised Minnie would hardly take that sitting down. She did, however, take many more notes while sitting in her corner, and when Minnie finally told them all to pack away, she rose with a grim expression on her face.
When Lavender passed around the box for the remains of the mice to be collected in, Tempest was rather pleased to note that she, along with Hermione had managed to vanish their whole mouse. Ron on the other hand still had a long wiggling mouse tail that kept trying to escape.
As the bell rang and they began filing out of the classroom, Tempest nodded for Ron and Hermione to go on ahead without her.
Umbridge had hung back too, and not noticing Tempest, approached Minnie's desk.
"How long have you been teaching at Hogwarts?" Umbridge asked.
"Thirty-nine years this December," said Minnie curtly, snapping her bag shut.
Umbridge made a note on her clipboard. "Very well," she said, "you will receive the results of your inspection in ten days' time."
"I can hardly wait," Minnie said in a coldly indifferent voice, and she strode off towards the door. "Yes, Miss Potter?"
Tempest shot Umbridge a look before following Minnie out of the classroom. "Um, well, Professor, I got an EE on the last homework task, and I was wondering-"
"Why your grade wasn't up to your usual standard?"
"Um yeah, that'd be it."
"Miss Potter, you do know that an EE is a perfectly good grade- above what is expected… as the grade states- Exceeds Expectations."
"Yeah," Tempest muttered, "But I was wondering that, if I wanted to improve my grade… back to its usual standard-"
"Then I suggest that you concentrate more on your studies and put more effort into your work." Minnie said. "As I am sure you have heard from various other teachers and myself, OWL year is far more challenging, and it requires far more work and concentration." Minnie paused for a moment, glancing up and down the hallway to make sure they were alone before letting out a tired breath.
"Tempest, while it is important to have both equal amounts of… fun and freedom as a teenager, but if you plan to do well this year, it is essential that you start taking classes more seriously."
"I'm serious," Tempest protested. "I live with serious," she amended with a laugh.
Minnie raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah, okay," Tempest sighed sheepishly, "I'll… I'll work on that..."
Minnie managed a tired smile. "I'll see you later Tempest."
As Minnie began walking off towards the staff room, Tempest couldn't help calling her back.
Tempest's mouth worked for a few moments, then she said; "I really enjoyed todays lesson."
Tempest was looking forward to the rest of the day without the toad, but unfortunately life didn't seem to be holding her very high in its favor at the moment, and walking down to Hagrid's hut, Tempest groaned at the sight of the dreaded pink cardigan.
"Why is the toad here?" she moaned, "Grubbly-Plank's filling in… she shouldn't need to be… evaluated is it?"
Hermione shrugged. "Well Professor Umbridge doesn't know for how long Hagrid will be gone, so she would probably want to evaluate Professor Grubbly-Plank anyway."
"Oh who cares," Ron said, "We might as well accept that she's going to be haunting us for a while... we might not like it, but we might get a few laughs when she decides to inspect Snape."
And Tempest had to laugh.
"You do not usually take this class, is that correct?" Was the first thing that Tempest heard as soon as she was within earshot. Both around the same height, they were standing near the trestle table where a group of captive Bowtruckles were scrabbling around for woodlice.
"Quite correct," said Grubbly-Plank, hands behind her back and bouncing on the balls of her feet. "I am a substitute teacher standing in for Professor Hagrid."
"Hmm," said Umbridge, dropping her voice, but still clearly audible. "I wonder - the Headmaster seems strangely reluctant to give me any information on the matter - can you tell me what is causing Professor Hagrid's very extended leave of absence?"
"And I'm sure you'd like to know." Tempest muttered under her breath.
"'Fraid I can't," said Grubbly-Plank breezily.
"Damn right she can't," Tempest mumbled, "That would be Order business."
"Yes Miss Potter?"
"Hmm?" Tempest looked up at the toad, "Oh sorry, I was just apologizing to this twig you see, because I stepped on it, and I thought it was a Bowtruckle- but it wasn't- so just ignore me."
She flashed Umbridge a smile.
Ron snorted with laughter, and Hermione seemed to be holding back a smile, but thankfully neither teacher noticed. Umbridge smiled with a sickening sweetness, then turned back to Grubbly-Plank. "Now, you were saying?"
"Oh yes, well, I don't know anything more about it than you do. Got an owl from Dumbledore, would I like a couple of weeks' teaching work. I accepted. That's as much as I know. Well… shall I get started then?"
"Yes, please do," said Umbridge, scribbling on her clipboard.
Instead of sitting (or standing, there weren't exactly any chairs around, and Tempest doubted that Umbridge would consent to sit on the ground) in the corner for the class, Umbridge took a different tact and wandered amongst the students, questioning them on magical creatures. Most people (and by that, Tempest meant the Gryffindors- the Slytherins for the most part seemed even more dense than usual) were able to answer well, thankfully holding up Hagrid's teachings.
"Overall," said Umbridge, returning to Professor Grubbly-Plank's side after a lengthy interrogation of Dean Thomas, "how do you, as a temporary member of staff - an objective outsider, I suppose you might say- how do you find Hogwarts? Do you feel you receive enough support from the school management?"
"Oh, yes, Dumbledore's excellent," said Professor Grubbly-Plank heartily. "Yes, I'm very happy with the way things are run, very happy indeed."
Looking politely incredulous, Umbridge made a tiny note on her clipboard and went on, "And what are you planning to cover with this class this year - assuming, of course, that Professor Hagrid does not return?"
"Oh, I'll take them through the creatures that most often come up in OWL," said Professor Grubbly-Plank. "Not much left to do - they've studied unicorns and Nifflers, I thought we'd cover Porlocks and Kneazles, make sure they can recognise Crups and Knarls, you know…"
"Well, you seem to know what you're doing, at any rate," said Umbridge, making a very obvious tick on her clipboard, and Tempest immediately made up her mind to find Fred and George later and plot revenge on the toad.
Umbridge's next question was to Goyle. "Now, I hear there have been injuries in this class?"
Goyle gave a stupid grin. Malfoy hastened to answer the question.
"That was me," he said. "I was slashed by a Hippogriff."
"A Hippogriff?" said Umbridge, now scribbling frantically.
"Well, thank you very much, Professor Grubbly-Plank, I think that's all I need here. You will be receiving the results of your inspection within ten days." Umbridge finished.
"Jolly good," said Professor Grubbly-Plank, and Umbridge set off back across the lawn to the castle.
Later that night, after she was done plotting with the twins, she sat down with Ron and Hermione in the otherwise deserted common room, staring into the flickering flames of the fireplace, wishing Cat or Sirius would appear.
She didn't even notice Hermione was talking to her, until a cushion hit her in the face. Tempest tossed the cushion back at Ron, before glancing at Hermione. "What?"
"Well, as I was saying," Hermione said pointedly, "We should do something about Umbridge."
"I suggest poison," Tempest said immediately.
"That's what Ron suggested," Hermione sighed.
"Hey! Great minds think alike!"
Hermione glared at the two of them before speaking again. "No. I meant something about what an awful teacher she is, and how we certainly won't be learning any Defense from her at all."
"So find a new teacher," Tempest mumbled, "Fudge won't let Dumbledore kick her out, so she's got the job indefinitely, if she can last the year."
"Well," Hermione said slowly, "Well, you know, I was thinking today… that yes… we should find a new teacher… just do it ourselves…."
"Well great," Tempest said. "Who'd you have in mind?"
There was a moment's silence. A light night breeze rattled the windowpanes behind Ron, the fire guttered and Tempest began laughing.
"You are off your rocker. Me? Teach? Hermione, I don't know, but have you ever seen me try to tutor a First year? It's not a pretty sight, and why, why in the world would you think of me of all people?"
"We need a teacher with experience- who can show us the spells- correct us if we're wrong…"
"And you thought of me?" Tempest asked incredulously. "Of all of the people to think of-"
"But it makes sense!" Hermione said, "I mean, you're part of the Order, and the only one we have regular access to and has time to teach us, you've spent the whole summer with Snuffles and he's taught you tons of stuff, and you've got so much experience fighting the Dark Arts, plus you're practically a magical prodigy!"
"Um, all of that stuff- hang on- how'd you mean- a 'magical prodigy'?"
"You know what," Ron said to Hermione, "She's clearly not as smart as we give her credit for, she's actually rather stupid. You really want her teaching us?" Smirking, he turned back to Tempest.
"So, let's think," he said, pulling a face like Goyle concentrating. "Uh… first year - you saved the Philosopher's Stone from You-Know-Who, and killed Quirrell-"
"Okay, I don't want murder or contradictory purposeful manslaughter to be on the list of reasons-"
"Second year," Ron interrupted, "You killed the Basilisk and destroyed Riddle."
"Okay, I'll give you that one, but still-"
"Third year," Ron said loudly, "You fought off a hundred Dementors at once-"
"And cast a corporeal Patronus when you were thirteen," Hermione said earnestly, "That's a record- I checked."
"So I can cast a Patronus- that's cool and all-"
"Last year," Ron said, almost shouting now, "you fought off You-Know-Who again, and made fun of him while doing it- I mean, name one other person who fought You-Know-Who in that graveyard and survived!"
"Um- Cedric Diggory?" Tempest said.
"Oh yeah, forgot about him," Ron muttered, "But that isn't the case! The point being, that you're obviously incredibly magically gifted and-"
"Okay!" Tempest yelled, effectively shutting them up. "Got it okay?" she took a breath, "Now thank you for all the compliments, very flattered and everything- but all of that I only did and learnt because I had to. Right there in the moment it just happened. Maybe it was me, maybe it was luck, maybe it was just death taking a vacation for a moment… For the moment I'm just going to ignore the fact that for all of that I had something swooping in at the last minute as a saviour and concentrate on what you just said I did- but what happened to me then- I can't just teach to someone else who hasn't been there- hasn't been in that situation with all of it happening…"
Hermione and Ron had stopped smirking and were staring at her, Ron's almost in awe, and Hermione with a strange sort of look on her face.
"So I could teach the spells, yeah, I could show you how to make a Death Eater tap dance, I can show you how to blow up gravestones, but the thing is- what saves your life, what gets you away, what buys you a second more of breathing… it's not what you're shown in a classroom in DADA- it doesn't happen like that. It's just you, and you don't know what's going to happen next… It's not guaranteed that life will throw you a rope- it's not the spells that will save you, I mean yeah, they're important, but if you freeze and just stand there- no matter how much I can try to prepare you… it won't-"
"Tempest, calm down!" Hermione said, "Don't you see? This is why we need you- you've been there- you know what it's like… what you just said… so maybe you can't teach us everything, but you know what it's like… what it's really like, facing… facing V-Voldemort."
It was the first time ever that Hermione had ever said Voldemort's name, and that, more than anything else, shut Tempest up.
"So." Tempest began again, "You're 100% serious about this?"
Hermione managed a smile. "Pretty much, yes. Besides, even if we're not prepared for You kno- Voldemort popping out of the shadows and trying to kill us, at least we'll be prepared for your OWLS."
"Well…" Tempest grimaced, "You aren't allowed to complain about my abysmal teaching skills."
"I won't," Hermione laughed.
"Or you," Tempest added.
"I can't make any promises!" Ron said, holding up his hands defensively.
"Yeah okay," Tempest said wryly. "Professor Potter… Hmm… Interesting."
"Oh please tell me we don't have to call you that!" Ron complained.
Tempest stroked her chin thoughtfully. "Nah, it makes me sound too stuffy… how about - Oh Great and Magnificent Teacher?"
"Way too long. What about, GMT?"
"Gmt?" Tempest raised an eyebrow. "You know what? I've got way too many nicknames anyway, so let's just stick with no titles at all, huh?"
"Yes please," Hermione said; "Now I'm off to bed- goodnight you two."
"Oh I'm coming!" Tempest said, standing from the couch. "You going up, Ron?"
Ron shook his head. "I'm a bit behind on homework… I'll probably fall asleep, but I need to do some of these essays… Hermione…?"
"Not this time," Hermione smiled, "Good to see you being responsible though."
"It's a miracle."
Tempest went up to their dormitory with Hermione, falling asleep after a long time lying in the dark. Her restless night was punctuated with odd dreams of long corridors leading to locked doors which led nowhere, and the next morning, Tempest woke with her scar prickling.