Author's Notes: Written for the Fourth Fic Exchange at the Bellatrix Lestrange: The Dark Lord's Most Faithful Forum. I wrote for White Eyebrow, who requested a fic that fits into the crawlspaces of canon, and specifically "Professor Trelawney and Dolores Umbridge shake hands (I'll leave the circumstances up to the assignee)."
Sybill Trelawney had her head in her hands and a bottle of sherry open in front of her when Dolores climbed into her tower room, and though she parted her fingers to peer at her, she didn't rise to greet her.
"What?" she mumbled.
She looked resigned, limp, and Dolores could tell that she was bracing herself for the news that she had surely known was coming ever since her first inspection.
"Do cheer up, dear," Dolores said sweetly. "I've brought you some very good news."
Sybill's head snapped up immediately. She rose to her feet and Dolores wrinkled her nose at the scent of alcohol that hung around her – it was all she could do not to wave her hand in front of her nose to waft the smell away.
"Good news?" she asked breathlessly. Her eyes were even wider than usual. "What good news?"
"The absolutely magnificent news," said Dolores brightly, "that as of today, I will no longer be inspecting your classes."
"But- but–" The news seemed to stun Sybill, and rightly so. "Does- does that mean…"
"You are no longer on probation."
"I- I am no longer on probation?" she repeated, and Dolores didn't think that she had ever seen such a look of relief on anyone's face. She almost hummed with the pleasure of knowing that, in just a second, it would be wiped firmly away.
"Oh, no, you're not," she said, smiling sweetly. "I think you've quite thoroughly proven what sort of professor you are, and given that, I simply wouldn't feel right keeping you on probation for any longer."
Sybill let out a long, shaky sigh, and then, in what could only be described as a fit of emotion, reached out and grabbed Dolores's hand. She brought it to her lips, kissed one pudgy finger after the other, and then shook it vigorously.
"Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you," she mumbled. Tears had begun to seep from the corners of her eyes, and behind her glasses, they were magnified so well that Dolores could watch each drop of water form and slip down the sides of her nose. She wiped them away and gave Dolores a watery smile. "I- truth be told, I had become quite nervous. You certainly gave me reason to think that I'd be sacked."
"Yes, I did." Dolores tipped her head to the side, smiling her widest smile at Sybill, who seemed to barely register. She had moved back, and she reached for a bottle of sherry off a shelf.
"Would you care for a drink?" she asked, and Dolores shook her head and let out a simpering little giggle. Oh, but she had been waiting for this for a terribly long time.
"No, I couldn't possibly," she said. "And as a matter of fact, I really think it would be best if you didn't have a drink either. You see, you have…" She glanced around the tower room, at the dozens of crystal balls, the silk shawls draping every surface, the little tables and chairs crammed into corners that were not quite big enough for them. "You have quite a bit of packing to do."
Sybill went stiff. "Packing?"
"Oh, yes." Dolores reached into the pocket of her cardigan and retrieved a slip of parchment. She held it out to Sybill and waved it back and forth lightly. "Here, you'd best have a look at it yourself."
All the blood had drained from Sybill's face, which, with her tangled hair, over-large eyes and the smell of decay and alcohol in the tower room, gave her the intense impression of a rotting corpse. Her hand quivered terribly as she reached out and pulled the letter from Dolores's fingers.
"W- what is–" she began nervously, but Dolores waved away her questions.
"Read it yourself, dear," she said, and didn't even bother to suppress the little giggle that bubbled up. But it was plentifully clear that Sybill already knew what the paper would say – perhaps she really did have some precognition after all, or perhaps she just wasn't quite as profoundly stupid as she made herself out to be. Her hands were shaking so terribly that she couldn't even get the parchment unfolded.
She had barely glanced at it before she collapsed. She sank to her knees and her head fell forward as if all the muscles in her neck had finally realized that it was not worth their while to go on supporting a head so full of silly thoughts. The parchment slipped from her fingers and onto the floor, and Dolores glanced down at it for just long enough to read for herself – again – the tidily printed lie, we are sorry to inform you…
Dolores had never been less sorry to inform anyone of anything in her life.
"Come on, now, get up," she said, and she didn't even bother trying to keep the glee out of her voice. "I want you out of this castle by midnight tonight, so if you want to keep any of your…" She glanced around the tower, "prized possessions, I suggest you start packing right away–"
"I won't!" Sybill cried. "You can't force me to go!"
"I think you'll find that I can." Dolores drew her wand – Sybill winced, but why on earth would Dolores have hexed her when she could get rid of her so much more easily like this? – and flicked it towards a trunk on the side of the tower room. The trunk's lid burst open to reveal several more bottles of sherry and some haphazardly folded clothes. Dolores directed her wand at a collection of star charts on a table, then at a beautifully clouded crystal ball, and one after another, items flew into the trunk. The star charts made it in unscathed, but the crystal ball smashed against the side of the trunk.
"Oh, terribly sorry," Dolores simpered, but Trelawney wasn't listening now. She had pulled herself into a corner, drawn her knees up to her chest, and was rocking back and forth like a child suppressing a tantrum.
"Can't throw me out- can't- Hogwarts is my–"
"Do stop that," Dolores all but sang. "You're being removed for your own good, and the good of your students – surely you want what's best for your students, don't you?"
Sybill didn't acknowledge her.
"Very well. If you won't leave of your own accord…" The lid of the trunk came down with a sharp snap, and with one last flick of her wand, Dolores propelled both it and Sybill towards the trapdoor. Sybill cried out and scrabbled for a grip on something that would not give way, but came up only with handfuls of shawls.
Dolores let the trunk fall unceremoniously through the trapdoor onto the stairs beneath, and let Sybill grab onto the rope ladder and scramble down herself before she followed. Sybill was sobbing openly now – loud and ugly sobs that didn't become her any more than her old, falsely airy demeanour had. By the time Dolores had managed to climb down the ladder after her, she had found a suit of armour and wrapped her arms around it, clearly in some vain belief that holding onto that would stop her from being moved any more.
She really was a stubborn brat. Dolores inwardly sighed – she had so hoped that Sybill would just go trudging off into the night, never to be seen again when she realized that she had no place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry after all. It would have been so much more satisfying that way, not to mention easier. But if Sybill wanted to resist, then she was clearly at the disadvantage. She hadn't even drawn her wand.
"This will hurt, dear," Dolores said sweetly, and she didn't even bother to hide her smile as she sent Sybill – and her trunk with her – sailing back from the suit of armour and tumbling down the stairs. What would it matter if the ex-Divination teacher ended up with a few bruises, a few broken bones? The Minister would never allow accusations of brutality to come up against his Senior Undersecretary.
Dolores hummed to herself as she followed Sybill down the stairs.
Things really were terribly easy with the Minister on her side.