Chapter 44 : Tension Rising
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The first day of classes started early and, for those who still hadn’t run into Umbridge that day, namely Mia, it was going rather well. Her first class, that had coincidently been with Izzy, had gone great with the students in general welcoming her back gladly and some, mostly the girls, asking endless questions about her baby, which couldn’t help making her and the proud big sister in the room smile.
“So, what do you have next, girls?” Mia asked her daughter as she and Ginny finished packing their books in their bags after her class.
“A free period, I think,” Izzy told her, before checking the schedule McGinagall had given her that morning. “Yeah, free period. What on Earth are we going to do with a free period in the first day of classes? We don’t even have homework.”
“Oh, sweetheart, if lack of homework is the problem, I’m sure I can help,” Mia offered in an amused tone.
Izzy narrowed her eyes at her mother. “You know what I mean, Mom. I’m not asking for homework.”
Mia faked a disappointed sigh. “Well, I guess then you might be interested in knowing that your father’s first flying lesson starts in a few minutes, at the courtyard by the divination tower.”
“Really? This soon?” Ginny asked in surprise. “It’s the first day of classes. We had a couple of weeks before we started.”
“He wants to see how much those kids know before anything,” Mia explained quickly. “And I have a feeling he might like a little support in his first class – he was a little jittery this morning before we came to the school. I’d do it myself but a half-day schedule doesn’t give a person many breaks.”
“Oh, we can’t miss it!” Izzy said. “Dad teaching first years how to fly must be something worth seeing.”
Her mother smiled – she’d had a feeling Izzy would say that. “Well, then wish him good luck for me, would you? And make sure you don’t get too caught up with it and end up late for your next class.”
“It’s Potions,” Ginny pointed out, getting hold of her bag to leave. “We’d be mad if we got there a minute late – Snape gives the worst detentions. Especially if Izzy or Harry are the ones to step a toe over of the line.”
Mia recognized Ginny had a point there but chose not to say anything on that matter. She believed that remaining as neutral as possible between Sirius and Snape was the best choice now that she had to work with both, though she was naturally biased towards her own husband’s side. Just that morning they’d run into each other and brawled like twelve-year-olds – only thing missing was insulting each other’s mothers. “Well, just keep that in mind. Hurry if you want to catch him before the class starts.”
“Yeah, we’ll see you later, Mom. Bye,” Izzy said.
“Bye, honey,” Mia said before they walked out of the room.
Izzy and Ginny hurried down the corridor just as a group of first-year Slytherins were passing, probably trying to figure out where they were supposed to have their next class. The sun was shining outside when they left the castle a couple of minutes later – the last weeks of summer showing themselves.
Sirius wasn’t hard to find, inspecting with a grin what Izzy assumed to be his new broomstick and standing by two lines of about ten other broomsticks each lying neatly on the floor. He didn’t notice them approach until they were barely a yard away, so entranced he was in the new broomstick.
He raised an eyebrow them when he saw them. “And what are you two doing here, Misses Black and Weasley? Don’t you have classes or something? Should I give you detention for skiving?”
Izzy chuckled – her father giving detention to them. Unlikely. “Actually, we have a free period and just thought we couldn’t miss watching your first class.” Then she faked a hurt expression. “Of course, if you want us gone…”
“Hey, the mock-hurt expression thing is mine,” Sirius joked, raising his eyebrow further.
“Well, I’m your daughter,” she replied. “I probably got it for you so I have the right to use it too.”
He chuckled. “Hum, I don’t know… But I’ll let you get away with it this once.”
Ginny coughed, staring intently at his broomstick. “I’m sorry, is that… is that the new Nimbus Arrow, chaser edition?”
Sirius grinned. “Well, yes it is. You have a nice eye for racing brooms, Ginny,” he said, impressed.
“Are you kidding me? I’ve been dreaming of that broom ever since it was publicized. That line is the first with specific models for each quidditch position,” she said before looking up at him, confused. “It was just launched for public sale this morning. How come you have it already?”
“Well, I did get up really early today and bribed the store-owner into letting me buy it before it was open for business,” he pointed out with a grin. “It’s a beauty, isn’t it? Mia calls it a death trap but that’s just her non-quidditch appreciator soul talking.”
“It looks fast,” Izzy said, getting a better look of it. “Are you going to use it today?”
Sirius shrugged. “Depends on how those kids handle themselves today. Speaking of whom…” he turned to the bunch of first years by the castle’s entrance. “There they are – is it me or first years get smaller every year?”
“They do, don’t they?” Izzy agreed. “At this rate, Alex will only reach my waist by the time he’s supposed to come here.”
Sirius frowned. “Merlin, don’t joke about that. That kid will be tall and handsome like his Dad.”
“And as awfully confident too, apparently,” Ginny added with a chuckle.
“What can I say? Confidence runs in our blood,” he replied, grinning. “You girls go find a place to sit. I’ve got to get started with the kids.”
They wished him good luck one last time before moving to a stone bench a few yards away to watch.
The group of first years was all Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. Those kids couldn’t act more different from each other: some looked incredibly confident with the class, others were uninterested, others looked rather clueless and, finally, more than a quarter of them looked terrified, staring at the broomsticks as if they were axes that would come to life and chop off their heads.
“Ah, first flying lesson,” a familiar voice said from their side. “The memories it brings…”
“Too bad we didn’t have such a cool instructor,” another voice, just as familiar as the other one, added.
Ginny and Izzy turned to their heads to them, only to see Fred and George standing by the bench.
“What are you doing here?” Ginny asked them.
“Gin-Gin,” Fred started.
“Don’t call me that!”
He ignored her. “Gin-Gin, you can probably imagine that with three OWLs each, our NEWT level schedule is very light,” Fred said.
George nodded in agreement. “We were planning to invest these two free hours in our prank-business but then we saw the notice of the first-year’s flying lesson back on the common room’s board and we just knew we could miss it… especially with a Marauder teaching.”
“So, scoot over and make space for us,” Fred said.
The girls moved, trying to fit four people on the bench, which revealed itself a rather hard task. “Ah, George, move your arse back to that side – Ginny’s practically falling out and I’m squeezing here,” Izzy said, trying to move, unwillingly pressed against him like they were canned sardines.
“Well, we’re not so great back here either,” George replied, in the same situation.
“Just let me enlarge this thing,” Fred said, pointing his wand at the bench. “Everyone stay still unless you want your arse to grow to the size of the moon!” He muttured a spell and, moments later, the bench stretched about two yards, enabling them to finally feel comfortable.
Eventually, they were able to look again at the group of first years being taught by Sirius, who already had their broomsticks in hand and were preparing to get on them. As soon as one of the girls get on hers, the broomstick started to float her over the floor until she was about three feet under the ground and rotated so the poor girl was hanging upside down from it.
“Ah, they still haven’t replaced that one,” Fred said with a snort.
“What do you mean?” Ginny asked.
“Didn’t anyone end up in the air too soon or upside down in your class?” he asked.
Izzy nodded. “Colin did.”
“Well, it happens every year,” George explained. “Something is wrong with that broom and there’s always a poor sod getting the scare of their short lives. Pretty great to see, though.”
They resumed watching as Sirius helped the hysterical girl down to the ground without freaking out and then tapping his wand on the broom repeatedly, as if trying to fix it. Izzy smiled proudly at her father – he was a good teacher. In fact, she wished he’d been the one to teach her how to fly instead of Lulu, not that she’d been that bad. She had a feeling it might have been something nice. But he hadn’t been able to be there due to his wrong imprisonment and that was something she’d always feel sad for.
Suddenly, she noticed someone else watching from one of the first floor windows. She recognized Umbridge, despite the horrible pink outfit that made her look more like a pig than anything else. Umbridge was watching her father’s class, as if plotting something. And Izzy couldn’t help feeling nervous about it.
Hours later, Mia finished her fourth and last class of the day, little before one in the afternoon, and retired to her office in order to arrange her things before going to lunch. But she wasn’t left alone for long. Little over a minute after she’d entered her office, a fake cough came from the doorway, making her look up at it to see Umbridge standing there.
“Professor Umbridge,” Mia said, trying to keep an even voice, despite the hatred she cultivated for the woman. “How can I help you?”
Umbridge stepped into the room with a fake smile covering her face, closing the door behind her and making her way to one of the chairs in front of Mia’s desk. “Professor Black, if you could spare me a few minutes to talk, I was hoping we could have a chance to get to know each other – yesterday we had such little time to talk. I think it’s important to get to know my colleagues.”
“The first of September is always a busy day,” she replied as she absently closed the books she’d used earlier when preparing her classes.
“Yes, it seems it is,” Umbridge agreed, sitting down. “I came here to your quarters right after the banquet last night but apparently you were gone. I wasn’t aware that you didn’t live in the castle and had such an… irregular schedule until Professor Dumbledore informed me this morning.”
Deep down, Mia felt that her last sentence had a slight tone of accusation in it but she didn’t let it show in her reply, which was very straight to the point. “Yes. He’s probably told you that I have an infant son back home – the school rules allow partial schedules for Professors with families at home, so I wouldn’t call it irregular.”
“Of course, of course,” Umbridge said immediately, faking regret. “I’ve made an unfortunate choice of words. I hope you won’t take it as an offense, Amelia. I can call you Amelia, can’t I?”
She nearly bit her inner lip but simply nodded. Don’t let her know you see her as an enemy, Mia told herself.
“So, Amelia, you took over this job three years ago, right?”
“Yes, I have,” Mia said. “From Professor Binns. Dumbledore thought it was time for a replacement.”
“But you were a healer back then, weren’t you?” Umbridge asked. “I’m apologize for my curiosity but I couldn’t help asking around. I was simply wondering why Dumbledore would choose a healer to teach History of Magic. The subjects don’t seem alike at all.”
It was becoming harder and harder to pretend she was alright with the whole questioning, but Mia kept making an effort. “I always had top grades at the subject when I was a student – Dumbledore knew I was good at it and that I was looking for a change of career.”
“Hum, so it had nothing to do with your daughter, Isabelle, I believe and your godson Harry Potter attending the school at that time?” the woman asked, giving Mia another fake smile.
It had, but that’s none of your business, Mia thought. She just wanted the woman to leave so she could be in peace. “Of course not,” Mia said in a slightly annoyed tone – maybe she’d get a hint and leave.
“I’m sorry if this sounds like an interview but I believe knowing why a colleague has chosen the teaching career is the first step for a good work relationship,” the new teacher said calmly. “Well, let’s just change the subject. Life had been hard for you, hasn’t it? Losing your parents – Susan and Phillip, such… competent people –, thinking for years the father of your child was a cold-blooded murderer…”
“I never thought that,” Mia snapped. This time she hadn’t been able to help it at all – she’d touched a nerve. Susan and Phillip Davis were not her parents, but she didn’t have to know that. However, accusing of doubting Sirius’s innocence was too much. “I knew Sirius since he was eleven, probably knew him better than many people. At any time I’d have bet my life he was innocent.”
“Oh, I am very sorry if I have offended you, Amelia,” Umbridge apologized, not meaning it at all. “It’s just that… very few people would have the faith you had in your husband. Some may still have doubts of his innocence…”
Yeah, and I just bet you’re one of them, Mia thought as she heard that. How she wanted to launch herself at that insufferable woman’s throat.
“…especially now with this situation concerning your godson. Such a troubled boy he must be,” she continued.
“Harry is as untroubled as any boy under the circumstances that surround him can be,” Mia assured her in a tight tone. “Unlike some people have been saying, he’s not needy because of his upbringing or anything else for that matter. He grew up with people who loved and cared for him. He’s a good boy, not the liar you make him sound like.”
“Well, I’m not sure how that explains his behaviour in my class, not even an hour ago,” Umbridge told her calmly. “I’m afraid he acted so… insolently that I had to give him detention until the end of the week.”
Mia narrowed her eyes. She wondered for a moment if there was steam coming out of her ears because she felt so damn angry she might as well be boiling. She was pretty sure the only teacher Harry would even consider being remotely rude to was Snape. But considering the conversation they’d just had, she wouldn’t be admired if Umbridge had said something to set him off. “If he’s anything close to troubled, which I doubt, it is because of the way he’s being treated lately. As for the detention, I’ll speak to Harry about it when I can. Now, Professor, if you don’t mind, I need to hurry. I’d like to get home before three.”
“Of course, of course,” Umbridge said, sitting up. She was satisfied enough for having annoyed Mia already. “It was a pleasure talking to you. I look forward to see Mr. Potter in detention starting tomorrow.” When Mia finally glared up at her, the woman was gone. “Bitch, Mia muttered under her breath, moments before a pale Harry came in.
“She’s told you already, hasn’t she?” he was nervously. “I swear I was coming here to tell you about the detention but when I arrived I heard her voice inside. I couldn’t help it – she started saying Voldemort being back was a lie, Cedric had been an accident…”
“Harry,” Mia said, making him stop talking. “Come in, close the door and sit down.”
He nodded and did as she said, not saying a word and letting her be the first one to speak.
His godmother sighed before saying anything. “I’ve just wasted several minutes of my life talking to that woman. Don’t you think I’ve already realized what a fake she is? Just calm down and tell me what happened.”
Harry nodded again. “She came into the class and told us to read our books. Books! She’s not going to teach us any practical defence and several people started asking her about that. She kept insisting we didn’t need any practical because we were kids and nobody would attack us. Then I told her Voldemort would but she kept denying he was back, saying that I was lying… and I kept insisting he was! I may have called her a liar at some point. She got really angry, kicked me out of class to McGonagall’s office and gave me detention.”
Mia had to purse her lips not to curse Umbridge’s existence in front of him. And then the woman had had the nerve to go interrogate her. “What did McGonagall say?”
Harry shrugged. “She didn’t seem very angry about the detention itself but she told me to be careful – not to push Umbridge too hard. She thinks she’s a spy. Hermione said the same yesterday at the banquet.”
“Yeah, that’s not so hard to figure out,” Mia mumbled with a sigh, leaning against the back of her chair. “If this serves you any comfort, I don’t think she likes me either. About the detention, I don’t have the power to make it go away, Harry.”
He nodded. “That’s fine…” He didn’t want Umbridge to think he couldn’t take her on his own. “I really just wanted you to hear it from me first. Guess I wasn’t successful.”
She gave her godson a soft smile. “What matters is that you tried, Harry. So, apart from this, how are things going?”
Harry visibly frowned. “Most people think I’m a loony but I guess that’s not really news… It gets pretty annoying when there’s one of them in my dorm – Seamus Finnegan. His mother didn’t want to send him back because of what she’d read in the papers about me. Ron and Neville are with me and Dean’s mostly neutral – he said Seamus’s mother was being even more protective than usual after his baby sister was born back in July… I dunno, this all feels really weird.”
“It will get better,” Mia promised him. It had to or else they’d go mad, she thought before getting up. “Now, come on. It’s time for lunch. We wouldn’t want you to go to your afternoon classes with an empty stomach.”
He chuckled and got up, following her out of the office, which she locked after leaving. They hadn’t walked for two minutes before Sirius appeared around the corner, coming in their direction.
“Ah, there you are, Mia. I was starting to think you’d made a run on me. And Harry, Ron and Hermione were looking for you,” Sirius told them. “What’s with the long faces?”
“Not-so-pleasant altercations with Umbridge,” Mia said. “She gave Harry detention until the end of the week.”
Her husband raised an eyebrow and turned to Harry. “Anything I should be proud of?”
“I called her a liar,” Harry said, making his godfather grin.
Sirius grinned and ruffled his godson’s hair playfully. “That’s my boy.” He then looked at his wife again. “And what did she do to you?”
“We talked,” Mia told him shortly in a tone that let him know the talk hadn’t been such a pleasant thing.
“Well, how about we skip lunch and go home right now? That way you won’t have to see her ugly face before tomorrow,” Sirius suggested, guessing that was just what she needed.
“That sounds great, actually,” Mia accepted before turning to Harry. “Will you be alright, not? You know you can use two-way mirror to contact us about anything while we’re gone. I think Izzy has it with her.”
Harry nodded. “I know. And thanks. For, you know, not being angry with the detention.”
Mia shook her head. “You were just doing what was right. But listen to McGonagall, Harry. Be careful with Umbridge.”
“I’ll try,” he promised.
“And don’t refrain yourself from mentioning your dislike for her to Fred and George,” Sirius added, his look showing he was plotting something. “Tell them to make sure I can provide them with an alibi for whatever they do.”
Harry snorted while Mia elbowed him, more lightly than she usually did. She couldn’t really blame him for wanting to Umbridge’s head on a stick – she definitely wanted that too…
“Well, I should go look for Ron and Hermione now,” Harry said. “See you tomorrow, then?”
They nodded. “Tomorrow,” Sirius said before his godson walked away, leaving him alone with Mia. They started walking back to her office, from where there was a secret floo connection made by Dumbledore specifically to their house. “So, how bad was the talk with Umbridge?”
Mia looked at him and sighed. “Really bad. Very passive-agressive. She wanted to know why I’d become a teacher, how I felt about your innocence, Harry… all with little accusations in between the lines. She simply doesn’t give a damn about if we know she’s on us or not. She makes it hard for anyone not to hate her.”
“She was watching my flying class earlier,” Sirius told her. “I barely noticed it but Izzy saw her looking the whole time through a window and told me later.”
"Oh, how did the class go?” she asked, remembering it.
“Pretty well - a little strange with kids turning upside down and all...” he mumbled. “And, well, there was this ugly pig/toad crossbreed watching.”
She sighed as she unlocked her office again and stepped in, followed by Sirius. “Well, I guess it’s not that unexpected that she hates us – we’re Harry’s guardians and she doesn’t like him a bit. Logics say she wouldn’t like us too. But still, it’s bad.”
“Going to you and throwing accusations, openly or not… oh, I hope Fred and George get her good – Merlin, I’ll give a pound of gold each if they do,” Sirius said. And how he wished to be able to witness it…
“Sirius, you have to be careful with her too,” Mia warned him with a serious expression on her face. “She’s connected to the ministry and Merlin knows she may be dangerous. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
He shook his head and reached down for her, kissing her brow. “Nothing will happen to me, Mia. I promise. Now, let’s get home, okay?”
She nodded. “I love you. And I love it when you take care of me. Makes me feel better.”
Sirius grinned, his thumb rubbing her cheek. “It’s my job. Besides, you took care of me before – when I came back from Azkaban. Oh, and I don’t think I need to tell you again that I love you too. Just stop worrying about Umbridge – there’s two of us and only one of her. Do you really think she can beat us?”
A/N: Half a day earlier... hopefully now that christmas is coming I'll be able to go back to my every five days posts (pray, because I am too). I hope you liked this one. It is ridiculously large again but I really didn't feel like breaking this chapter in two. Hope you liked it :D Feedback is sooo welcome. Review!
Oh, by the way, just wanted to say that after the battle of the Dep. of Mysteries I'll probably start a new volume of this story. It will be pretty much the same as this one, continuing from where I leave this one, but this will help me organizing the mess of notes I have on this story (you'd all go mad if you saw the amount of post-its and scraps of paper I have on my board... I know, sort of obsessive but that's the way I work). Leave comments on this if you want, saying wether you agree or not. I'm still in the deciding phase, though I'm inclined to go ahead with the two volume thing instead of a really big one.
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