Disclaimer: The characters and settings in this story are derived from J.K.'s Harry Potter series.
Chapter 7: Worse Than Potions
The trio arrived in the Great Hall after potions to see that the ceiling was a darker gray than it had been that morning and rain was lashing against the high windows. Once they entered all heads turned to Harry, no one had forgotten the Prophet article that morning and he felt that it would be a while before they did. Harry sat between Ron and Hermione and their fellow Gryffindors who were close friends surrounded them and started talking as if nothing were wrong and lunch seemed to be looking better.
About half way through lunch Cho walked over and yet no one stopped talking except for Ron and Hermione. “I’m sorry Harry, I kept asking so many questions but I didn’t know how hard it was. I didn’t know that the third task had been that bad and I understand now why you wouldn’t tell me about it, it must have been hard to tell those reporters about it.”
“I didn’t tell them, I told my guardians and Dumbledore and the headmaster took care of the article, I never saw a single reporter over the summer.”
“Oh, well, I’ll see you later I suppose.”
“Any time Cho.”
She left and Hermione nudged Harry in the ribs.
“What was that for?”
“She likes you, you know that? You could have been a little more supporting.”
“Ron is the only one that doesn’t see that and how could I have been any more supporting?”
“You could have tried to comfort her a little; I thought you liked her too.”
“I did, but now I can’t seem to see her as anything but Cedric’s girlfriend and we talked this morning about this as well you know.”
“You did? When?”
“Before you two came down, she’s an early riser too I guess.”
The remainder of lunch was finished and Harry and Ron went to Divination while Hermione went to her ancient runes class. Trelawney was as crazy as ever in her shawls and bug like glasses and she had them working on dream interpretation and when the class was over she assigned them a dream journal which they would be using every night to record their dreams. Then they met up with Hermione for their first lesson of Defense Against the Dark Arts with Professor Umbridge.
Even though the door was open when they arrived, Umbridge wasn’t there, so they found seats among everyone else and waited. It was a painstakingly long wait; Harry could feel every emotion in the room in addition to the never ending stares that had followed him all day. When at last the woman entered and all the eyes left Harry, he sighed and looked forward to the board where Umbridge had stopped.
“Now, I want all of you to write this down.” She waved her wand and words started to appear on the board. “Write it four times so as to let the message fully sink in. Your teaching in this class has been very… uneven and so we must start from the beginning. The goals for this year are as follows: One, understanding the principles underlying defensive magic.” This bit was already on the board and the next part was writing itself down. “Two, learning to recognize situations in which defensive magic can legally be used. And three, placing the use of defensive magic in a contest for practical use.”
Harry scowled at the lack of mention that involved using spells but he kept his mouth shut and kept writing each of the goals four times until he was done.
“Now, has everyone got a copy of Defensive Magical Theory by Wilbert Slinkhard?”
There were murmurs throughout the room but none were completely comprehensible, though Harry felt from the emotions in the room that they were all confirming the fact. Harry caught something about ‘Yes Professor Umbridge’ or ‘No Professor Umbridge’ and when the question was repeated a resounding chorus of, “Yes Professor Umbridge”, filled Harry’s ears.
“Good, please turn to page five and read chapter one, ‘Basics for Beginners’. There will be no need to talk.”
Harry flipped open the pages and let his eyes travel over them at a reasonable pace to make it seem as though he were truly reading, he had already skimmed though the first few chapters of most of his books. It didn’t take him long to realize that Ron wasn’t even trying to read and was simply staring at an open book and Hermione hadn’t even opened hers, she was sitting stiffly with her hand in the air and staring at Umbridge. With the book at the back of his mind he sat there and watched Hermione’s silent attempt to attract Umbridge’s attention and soon all of the class had given up reading to watch Hermione. Only then did Umbridge take notice as she had been clearly ignoring the raised hand this whole time.
“Is there something you don’t understand in the chapter dear?” she asked that too sweet voice.
“Actually I was wondering about your course aims. You see there’s nothing about using defensive spells.”
“And your name is –”
“Well Miss Granger, I’m sure you can see that there is nothing to threaten you in my class.”
“We’re not going to use magic?” Ron asked.
“Students who wish to speak in my class will raise their hands, Mr. –”
“Weasley.” Ron said, putting his hand into the air.
Harry dropped his head and looked at his book, once again pretending to read. He didn’t like where this conversation was going and if he could have Jumped out of that room, he would have.
When Umbridge turned her back on Ron, Hermione put her hand back up.
“Yes, Miss Granger?”
“Surely we should be learning defensive spells in Defense Against the Dark Arts, isn’t that the whole point of the class?”
“The Ministry appoints wizards much older and wiser than you to create these programs of study and this is the program which they have decided is best for you, the students. As you will be learning in a safe, risk-free way –”
“If we’re going to be attacked it won’t be in a –”
“Hand Mr. Weasley!”
Ron put his hand into the air again but she ignored it and turned away. Then Dean put his hand up along with several others in the class.
“And your name is?”
“Well, Mr. Thomas?”
“Why are you avoiding their questions?” he asked in reference to Ron and Hermione. “If we are attacked it won’t be in a safe and secure environment and why won’t we be practicing our spells in class?” he asked the last part over Umbridge’s own voice.
“I repeat; do you see any dangers my classes?”
“No, but –”
“I do not wish to criticize the way things have been run in this school, but your tutelage up until now in this area was inconsistent and inappropriate for your age group at best and you had dangerous professors and the most recent of which not only performed illegal curses in front of you, but on you as well. It is the view of the Ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be more than sufficient to get you through your upcoming O.W.L. examinations. And your name is?”
“Parvati Patil, and how will we pass the practical part of the exams if we don’t practice the spells?”
“The Ministry believes that theoretical knowledge is enough to get you through in the examination environment.”
“So you’re staying the first time we get to use the spells will be at the examinations?”
“Theory is all that is required to –”
“What good is theory in the real world?” Hermione argued.
“This is school Miss Granger, not the real world.”
“We won’t be in school forever! You’re supposed to prepare us for what’s out in the real world!”
“There’s nothing out in the real world Miss Granger.”
“What about what Harry went through? Surely you read the Prophet this morning, it was all true! There are Death Eaters out there and Voldemort as well, they’re dangers!” Over half the class, including Umbridge cringed at the name. “Just ask Harry!”
Umbridge looked to Harry for the first time that he had seen and he turned a page. “It seems Mr. Potter is the only one among you who is doing as I asked, very good Mr. Potter.”
“I’m not reading it,” Harry said, a lazy tone to his voice. “I skimmed through and it’s more than obvious that this Wilbert Slinkhard has never been in a duel before. This book might be appropriate for first years, and I’m sure you have them reading it too, but we’re fifth years, not first years, so this beginner… stuff, isn’t going to do us any good.” He looked up, his half closed green eyes having a strong effect over Umbridge, a trick he had learned from Tarragon when they met. “It’s clear that you have no intentions of teaching anyone here any sort of practical defense and that’s fine, I’m not going to try and change that, you’re too stubborn to listen to what anyone here has to say anyway. But if you expect us all to conform to these dumbed down lessons then you’re crazier than I am.”
“So you admit that you’re crazy?”
“We’ve all got leaks in our skulls; some are just bigger than others is all.”
“And do you, like your friends here, stand by that article in the prophet?”
“Facts don’t need anyone to stand by them. I say that the article was true, it’s up to you to believe it or not, I don’t care either way.”
“Is it not possible, Mr. Potter, that your two guardians influenced you into believing these events were true? You’re condition, as I understand it, was not very good when you came out of the tournament. Perhaps your memory was not as clear as you think it was.”
“You’re right, I was in pretty bad shape after the tournament, I spent nearly all of summer in a bed recovering, for a month I was even in a coma. But the more you keep talking, the bigger I think the leak in your head is.”
“Is it not possible Mr. Potter, than you were the one to kill Cedric Diggory?”
“Sure it is; I was the one to insist that he take the cup, if I had been more selfish I could have left him behind and taken the cup long before he ever got to the center of the maze. But I wasn’t the one to give the final blow.”
“Oh but you did, you’re a troubled teen, I know how your life was before you lived with your precious guardians, an abusive uncle, a life on the run, you like the attention you get here with all your titles and you’ll do anything to get more of it.”
“The past is the past professor, and anyone who wants a lack of privacy and respect can have my titles, I don’t care.”
“Harry!” Hermione hissed in his ear and grabbed a hold of his sleeve. “Is what she said true?”
“About my uncle beating me? Yeah, why else do you think I was taken away from him? I’ve come to terms with my past and it doesn’t haunt me like it did a few years ago, I’ll admit it to anyone who wants to know,” Harry said clearly so everyone could hear. “My uncle beat me when I was kid! I don’t care if people know.”
That was clearly not what Umbridge wanted to hear and Harry sent a silent thank you to Sky for berating him about his past life, she was the reason he didn’t care what people said anymore and he was in her debt.
“I don’t like attention as much as you seem to think Professor,” Harry said, focusing on her again.
“Is that so? Or perhaps once you got to taste what fame was like, you realized that you enjoyed it and so now you’ll do anything to get more of it, including killing poor Cedric Diggory.”
“Professor Umbridge…” Harry took a deep breath; he didn’t want to have to deal with this.
“Yes Mr. Potter?”
“Can I go to the bathroom?” he asked, putting on a cheerful smile and changing the tone of his voice a bit.
The anger and frustration rolling off of the woman made Harry grin wider, he hadn’t reacted how she wanted and that made a bit of his own anger seep away.
“No; return to reading the chapter, all of you!”
The rest of the class was a bore, no one was focused on the reading, they were all focused on Harry, as was obvious by the way they would all glance over at him every few seconds. Ron and Hermione were the worst; they were so impatient that Harry started becoming eager to leave. When at last the bell rang Harry was nearly dragged out of the classroom and down one of the secret passageways and anyone there was intimidated into leaving.
“Harry, why didn’t you tell us about this before?”Hermione demanded.
“About your uncle?”
“I didn’t realize I was required to tell you about it Hermione.” He knew he shouldn’t be angry with her for asking, and he didn’t care if people knew, but sharing the details was a whole different story. “If it makes you feel better I can tell you exactly how he broke my ribs, and my arm and my leg and how he worked me until I passed out every day. I can tell you how I would have envied a house elf when I was a kid and I can tell you exactly how cramped the cupboard under the stairs was because that’s where I slept until I started coming here. I can tell you all my darkest secrets if it will make YOU feel better.” He hadn’t meant for it to happen, but a bit of his anger seeped through and Hermione was on the verge of tears when he stopped talking.
“Harry, I didn’t… I’m sorry.”
“Don’t get mad at her mate,” Ron said; something inside him was angry. “We only wanted to know if it was true because we care about you.”
“Then care enough to leave my past alone, there are reasons why I don’t go around telling people about my life outside Hogwarts. This whole thing was supposed to be a secret, only four people in the wizarding world were supposed to know and now all of it will. I know I said I don’t care if people know, but it’s still not easy. I’ve talked it over with Sirius and Remus more times that I care to remember and I’ve come to terms with it, so forgive me if I don’t spill my guts and reduce myself to a dribbling mess for you.”
“Alright, as long as you’re okay we won’t say anything about it.”