The Quibbler issue with Harry’s interview came out in the beginning of March and on the very same day it was made available and sold out, Umbridge confiscated every issue she could find in the school and had Fudge writing a decree saying that if anyone was found with it, they’d be expelled. Little did she know that people always found ways to smuggle the magazine into school or keep it hidden in the most creative ways.
As Hermione had predicted, ever since the article was published, the environment in school improved drastically for Harry. People called him a liar or an attention-junkie anymore – some had even apologized. That along with the occlumency classes taught by Dumbledore himself, which had helping keeping the nightmares away, made him believe things were turning for better… that was, despite Umbridge giving him detentions for anything including breathing ‘too loud’.
Days passed and, by the end of the first week of March, bad news came: Umbridge had sacked the first teacher, Trelawney. It wasn’t much of a surprise, as the woman had done dreadfully in her inspection but it did shatter the illusion that teachers couldn’t be touched. To nearly everyone’s relief, before the ministry could appoint a new spy for a teacher, Dumbledore had hired Firenze, one of the centaurs from the forest that Harry had met in his first year.
Time kept passing and April arrived, bringing another DA meeting. These days, the Room of Requirement had even more people than it used to before as a bunch of the students who used to think Harry was mad had joined the group.
That meeting, Harry announced he would continue teaching them the Patronus Charm, after he’s given them the basics in the end of the previous lesson. He’d always be thankful to Moony, who, in his book, had been the best of all DADA teachers, for having taught him that charm.
By the middle of the lesson, as expected, only a few were succeeding in conjuring Patronuses.
“This bloody thing is hard,” Izzy nearly growled, shaking her wand in frustration as, for tenth time, the pale silver smoke coming out of her wand wouldn’t get a clear form.
Ginny’s smoke seemed to a bit more dense and to be growing two pairs of legs but it lasted only a few seconds. “I can’t believe Harry’s mastered this in his third year.” She huffed and lowered her wand before turning to Izzy. “Speaking of him, Dean Thomas has asked me to go on a date with him this weekend in Hogsmeade.”
Izzy raised an eyebrow. “What does that have to do with Harry at all?”
“I’ll get there, don’t worry,” Ginny told her with a grin. “Like I was saying, Dean has asked me out. I had to turn him down, though, because I’m not going to Hogsmeade.”
Izzy’s face turned abruptly to her friend with eyebrows rose. “You’re not? Why not?”
“Because Umbridge has forbidden Harry from going out at Hogsmeade weekends when she found out about the interview,” she explained. “And I happen to have plans for a date with him. See now how Dean asking me out had to do with Harry?”
Izzy’s eyes opened wide. “Wait. Rewind a bit! Since when do you have plans for a date with Harry? Wait… does he know about it at all?”
Ginny shook her head. “Not yet. As that git godbrother of yours won’t ask me – not even when I was rubbing Michael Corner on his face! –, I’ll have to take matters in my own hands.”
“And when exactly are you going to ask him?” Izzy asked, still surprised.
“Eventually… maybe about ten to twenty minutes before the date – I’m counting on the surprise element for him to bee too stunned to refuse. Plus, it won’t give Ron much time to be an arse.”
Her friend looked at her in disbelief. “This is one of those moments when I think you’re mental. But what the hell are you going to do in a date inside Hogwarts, anyway?”
“It’s a big place – I’m sure we’ll find stuff to do. You should start thinking of getting yourself a date as well, Iz. The last time you went out on one, it was the Yule ball with Ron.”
Izzy made a face. “That was hardly a date – he spent the whole time fuming over Hermione and didn’t even dance with me. And for the record, I already have a date – Justin Finch-Fletchley. He’s asked me before the meeting.”
“Justin Finch-Fletchley? You don’t even know him!”
“Well, after the date I will.”
Ginny narrowed her eyes. “And you call me mental.”
Before Izzy could say anything, they heard someone coughing behind them and turned to see one of the twins – it was odd just seeing one of them. “Well, well, well, girls, slacking on the training to talk about boys? Mom would bend you over her knee for this, Gin-Gin.”
“No, she wouldn’t,” Ginny replied. “But she would do it to you if she knew you and Fred are using the first years to test your products, George.”
“But you won’t tell her because we’re your favourite brothers. And what makes you think I’m George?”
She chuckled. “Because if you’re Fred, then George is hitting on your girlfriend as we speak.” She pointed at a corner where one of the twins was whispering something on Angelina’s ear, making her laugh as she tried to cast the Patronus charm. “See?”
“Well, that bastard! I shall place puking pastilles in his breakfast tomorrow! It won’t be pretty.”
Izzy rolled her eyes. “Cut the chase – we know you’re George. Fred is better at lying than you are, anyway.”
He narrowed his eyes at her. “First, that’s not true – I lie just as brilliantly as he does. Second, one would think my sister and the daughter of a Marauder would have a better sense of humour.”
“We have a good sense of humour – you just can’t face the truth,” Izzy corrected him with a grin. “What do you want, anyway?”
“Well, Fred there is trying to convince Angie to help him check the interior of broom cupboard after this meeting is over so I kindly thought of coming here and grace you with my presence.”
“Oh, we’re not worthy,” Ginny said dramatically. “Anyway, did you manage to cast a Patronus already?”
He shook his head. “Our fearless leader over there makes it look easy. At least one of you won’t be dating a wimp.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?” Izzy asked, narrowing her eyes at him.
“Look at Finch-Fletchley,” George told her, nodding at the boy, who seemed to be stressing over his wand to a point of tears. “First of all, his name is weird to say with the hyphen in the middle. Second, he’s already been to the Hospital Wing five times this term for stressing over the OWLs.”
“People have a right to give in to stress sometimes!”
“Five times in a term is a little more than ‘sometimes’,” Ginny had to agree with her brother.
George faked a sighed. “But I’m sure your date will be great – just make sure you take a big enough skirt so he can hide under it when he has another breakdown. Then, you’ll be covered.”
“Oh, shut up,” Izzy said, annoyed mostly because he sort of had a point. “It’s not like I’m going to marry him or anything.” But she considered finding an excuse to cancel the date. “Now, excuse me, I have a Patronus to conjure.”
She turned her back to George and Ginny and grabbed her wand. Izzy tried to clear her mind of the stupid date, which, to her own annoyance, took longer than it should have.
Then, she made an effort to concentrate and to think of happy memories – seeing her father for the first time, her parents getting married, her baby brother being born… And the smoke that came out of her wand was thicker than before and it seemed to be struggling to grow four legs. Izzy grinned for a moment but it started to vanish before she could really get what it was. She turned to George and Ginny. “What was it? Did you see what it was?”
“I think… I think it was your dad,” the prankster replied with chuckle.
She frowned in confusion. “My dad? He doesn’t have four legs!”
“Oh, you didn’t notice the other pair?” George replied jokingly.
“He means his Animagus form, genius!” Ginny told her with a laugh.
“Hum… I guess you’re right, then,” she mumbled. “I sort of looked a bit like…” Izzy stopped talking when they heard the Room of Requirement’s room opening and closing and everything suddenly falling dead silent. Seconds later, over all the silence, Harry’s voice came in hushed tones talking with another squeaky, trembling one.
What’s was going on? She took slow steps towards the middle of the room, where Harry stood, as the few Patronuses that some students had managed to conjure faded slowly into silvery mist, which made the whole environment much darker. By her godbrother’s side there was a house-elf whom she recognized as Dobby, who’d caused all that trouble in her first year.
“Harry Potter… she… she…” the elf was stuttering before oddly punching himself on the nose, punishing himself for being unable to finish.
Izzy shivered. She’d never gotten used to house elves doing that – one of the first things her mother had ordered Kreacher to do when they’d moved into Grimmauld Place nearly five years ago had been for to never use self-punishment. And, mirroring Mia’s past actions, she watched as Harry grabbed Dobby’s arm to stop him from punching himself again
“Who’s ‘she’, Dobby?” There was a pause when Harry looked thoughtful. “Umbridge?” he asked, horrified.
Dobby nodded and then tried to bang his head on Harry’s knees, nearly sobbing. Harry bent and grabbed him by the shoulders.
“Stop it! What about her?” He paused again. “She hasn’t found out about this… about us… about the D.A.? Is she coming?”
But everyone in the room knew the answer before the elf confirmed it to Harry verbally. And everyone also froze, Izzy included. They were in trouble. They were so in trouble!
“What are you waiting for?” Harry shouted at everyone. “RUN!”
And the panic started. Everyone pushed their way to the door at the same time, causing a huge mess, people falling and only few exiting at a time. From her place, Izzy noticed Colin Creevy dragging his younger brother, Dennis, who kept falling, with his frantic movements.
“Izzy! Gin!” She heard Harry shouting at her and Ginny, who had, at some point, joined her again. Izzy turned her head and saw him running to them. “Don’t go back to the dorm. Hide in the library!”
“You’re coming too!” Ginny demanded.
He shook his head. “Only after everyone leaves. I’ll meet you in a few minutes, okay? Go there – it’s just half past eight in the evening – nobody will suspect you from being at the library. Go!”
But before they did, right in front of Izzy’s eyes, Ginny reached for Harry and kissed him right on the lips. Just like that. It didn’t last endless seconds but it was enough to leave him behind stunned as they started their run towards the door. “You had to do that now?!” Izzy shouted at her friend.
“I saw a chance – I took it!” Ginny replied.
They managed to reach the library a few minutes later without being caught and then, they waited for Harry. But minutes and minutes passed and he didn’t come.
Then, they knew he’d been caught.
Sirius and Mia had been having a pretty good time until they’d received Dumbledore’s urgent message that night.
Alex had been sleeping, they’d had more clothes off than on and their lips were very far from being apart… until Dumbledore’s phoenix had arrived. And though Mia resented the ruddy bird, as soon as she’d read the note telling them to come to Hogwarts ASAP, she’d felt a weight in her heart. Something very wrong was going on.
They walked along the school’s corridors in a run and reached Dumbledore’s office in record time – crowding the secret passage that lead to the headmaster’s office there were several Slytherin students – Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, Parkinson and others – that openly belonged to the Inquisitorial Squad. Whatever was happening, Umbridge was certainly in it.
On their way up the staircase to Dumbledore’s office, they passed a weepy Ravenclaw student that Mia recognized as Cho Chang’s best friend Marietta Edgecombe, whose face seemed to be covered with acne spelling the word ‘Snitch’. She was being accompanied by Percy Weasley downstairs, who didn’t even bother to acknowledge them.
As soon as they reached the office, Sirius and Mia found it packed with people. Dumbledore stood behind his desk, looking calmly at a red faced Umbridge, a nervous Harry with McGonagall by his side and a very offended-looking Fudge, flanked by two aurors: one they didn’t recognize and Kingsley, who shot them an alarming look.
“What is going on?” Mia asked in a loud tone.
Fudge turned his face to them and pursed his lips angrily. “What’s going on, Professor Black, is that we’ve found out about your godson’s personal militia.”
“We’re not a militia!” Harry shouted. “We weren’t even breaking any school rules, we just…”
Umbridge turned to him sharply, raising her wand slightly. “Shut up, Potter, before I…”
Sirius got hold of his own wand. “Point your wand at him, Professor, and you will see what I can do with mine.”
“Black,” Kingsley warned him under his breath. “Lower your wand. This isn’t the time or place.”
Mia touched his arm, only imagine in how much trouble he’d get if he hexed a ministry official. “Sirius,” she whispered.
“Mine isn’t going down until hers does,” he replied.
McGonagall coughed. “Dolores, for Merlin’s sake,” she told the spy.
Umbridge gave Fudge a glance, who responded with a nod and then, her wand came down, as did Sirius’s.
“So what’s this ‘militia’ madness?” Mia asked. “Minister, you can’t honestly believe a fifteen year boy would create some sort of… armed force.”
“Oh, but he did,” Fudge spat. “You don’t even know what sort of scallywag you’ve been raising.”
“Don’t you call my son that!” Mia warned him, feral. She gave Harry a glance and, seeing his nervous face, reassured him. “He’s a good boy. Any parent would be proud to have him!”
“So you say!”
“Why don’t you cut the crap and go on?” Sirius suggested, also edgy. “I’d love to hear that conspiracy theory of yours. Muggles have committed people to the loony bit for less than that.”
The minister shot daggers with his eyes but didn’t respond, Instead, he looked at Umbridge. “Dolores.”
The woman smiled sadistically – she was enjoying the commotion. “Yes,” she said. “Miss Edgecombe tipped me off about this ‘meeting’ and I proceeded at once to the seventh floor, accompanied by certain trustworthy students, so as to catch those red-handed. It appears that they already knew of our arrival because when we reached the seventh floor they were running in every direction.”
“Any idea who warned them?” Fudge asked
Umbridge shook her head, to Harry’s relief – Dobby was safe, then. “Unfortunately, Potter is the only one we managed to catch when he was running away. Miss Parkinson went into the room to search and found what I believe used to be a list of members on the board. Sadly, it is ripped – someone must have taken the rest – and we’ve only got the header and a bit of Potter’s name in it,” she withdrew from her pocket a ripped piece of parchment that used to be the top of the list and handed it to Fudge. “That is all there was left of it. The moment I saw it, I knew what we were dealing with.”
“So, a group of kids were gathered in a room,” Sirius concluded. “I could name you about twenty different reasons for it. What says they weren’t having, I dunno, a birthday party? Or maybe a friendly tournament of exploding snap?”
“Black, how stupid do you think we are?” Fudge asked.
“I’m not sure there is a word to classify just how much, Minister,” Sirius replied. “Enormously is the closest I can think of.”
Dumbledore coughed. “Sirius, let’s leave the insult trading for later, shall we? I think we all are curious to find out where this is leading.”
Fudge pursed his lips for the fifth time at least and took a moment to read the ripped piece or parchment that Umbridge had given him as she smiled. “Oh… by the thunder…” He looked up at Dumbledore and clutched his wand in his hand. “See what they’ve named themselves? Dumbledore’s Army.”
Dumbledore reached out and took the piece of parchment from Fudge. Then he looked up, smiling. “Well, the game is up,” he said simply, sitting back. “Would you like a written confession from me, Cornelius, or will a statement before these witnesses suffice?”
Sirius and Mia looked at each other, confusion all over their faces. There was just no way, none at all, Dumbledore was behind that defence association created by Harry all those months ago. They knew it had been the kids’ idea. Was Dumbledore selfless enough to let himself take the blame?
“Statement?” said Fudge slowly. “What… I don’t…?”
“Albus, you can’t be serious!” McGonagall said in surprise.
“Dumbledore’s Army,” Dumbledore said, still smiling as he waved the ripped piece of parchment before Fudge’s face. “Not Potter’s Army.”
“No!” Harry shouted. “No! Professor Dumbledore…!”
“Harry, it’s not worth keeping this up,” Dumbledore told him calmly. “You were only being faithfully to me and to this school.”
In a way, Mia thought, Dumbledore seemed to be pleased with Harry’s rebellion. It was as if he was… thanking him. Several uncomfortable minutes followed, during which the headmaster made up before their very eyes an incredibly elaborated lie that not only set off Fudge’s biggest fears of a conspiracy against his ruling but also cleared Harry of nearly all responsibility in ‘a ploy to take the minister down’.
The whole toom remained silent, stunned, after Dumbledore was finished. Sirius and Mia were certain that if they hadn’t known the truth beforehand, they would have fallen straight into the lie. It was Fudge who broke the silence, please with the turn of events.
“Very well. Albus Dumbledore, you will now be escorted back to the Ministry, where you will be formally charged with High Treason, then sent to Azkaban to await trial!”
“Ah,” Dumbledore said calmly. “Yes, I thought we might hit that little problem.”
“Problem?” Fudge asked, his voice vibrating with joy from seeing the headmaster out of his way. “I see no problem at all, Dumbledore!”
“Well,” Dumbledore told him apologetically, getting up. “I’m afraid I do. You seem to be labouring under the delusion that I am going to… what is the expression? Come quietly? I am afraid I am not going to come quietly at all, Cornelius. I have absolutely no intention of being sent to Azkaban.”
Fudge stared at Dumbledore with a very stunned expression on his face and Umbridge’s face was so red that Sirius thought – hoped – it might blow up any minute.
“So,” Fudge said nearly mockingly, “you intend to take on Dawlish, Shacklebolt, Dolores and myself single-handed, do you, Dumbledore?”
“Merlin’s beard, no,” said Dumbledore, smiling, “not unless you are foolish enough to force me to.”
“I’d like to see that,” Sirius whispered to Mia – in the middle of it all, the whole trouble was worth that terrified look on Fudge’s plump face.
“Enough of this rubbish!” The minister shouted. “Dawlish! Shacklebolt! Take him!”
And then everything was a blur. There had been a streak of silver light, several bangs and sounds of breaking glass, people shouting and then… Fudge, Umbridge, Kingsley, and Dawlish lay motionless on the floor.
“Are you all alright?” Dumbledore asked, still calmly.
“Hum, yes,” Mia said, a bit confused. “Professor, how did you…”
“Ah, a trick I have learned with my long years of life, Amelia,” Dumbledore informed her. “Do apologize to Kingsley for me? I had to hex him or it would be suspicious. He was a great help by changing Miss Edgecombe’s memories before. The lie might have not worked if he hadn’t.”
Sirius stared at the unconscious ministry officials. “What are you going to do with them now? Lock them in the dungeons?”
“No, Sirius. I’m afraid this is my time to make an exit.”
“But, Albus…” McGonagall started to protest.
The headmaster shook his head. “It is necessary. But worry not – I’ll be in contact. You need to look after this school now, Minerva. It is likely you won’t be appointed my successor but keep an eye open on the sidelines because this is about to get worse.” Then, he nodded at the unconscious bodies. “Now, they will all awake very soon and it will be best if they don’t know that we had time to communicate. You must act as though no time has passed, as though they were merely knocked to the ground. They will not remember.”
Harry rose from his chair, looking down. “Professor, I… I’m sorry…”
Dumbledore shook his head. “Don’t apologize, Harry. I knew about that group of yours from the beginning – if I didn’t believe it was a brilliant idea, I’d have put a stop to it. But listen to me, Harry,” he said urgently. “You must continue to train Occlumency as hard as you can, do you understand me? Practice it every night before sleeping like I thought you. Remember, close your mind.”
Dawlish stirred just as the headmaster finished and then Fawkes circled the office and reached Dumbledore, who raised his hand and grasped the phoenix’s tail. There was a flash of fire and the pair of them were gone.
“Where is he?” Fudge shouted, his face red as a tomato as he pushed himself up from the floor. “Where is he?”
“He… he just vanished,” Mia lied smoothly, faking surprise.
“Was here just a second ago,” Sirius added, mimicking his wife’s acting. “How did he do that?”
“Well, he can’t have Disapparated!” cried Umbridge. “You can’t do it from inside this school!”
“The stairs!” Dawlish shouted and flung himself upon the door, followed closely by Kingsley.
Fudge’s face wasn’t as red as before. His expression was somewhere between pleased for having Dumbledore out of his way and frustrated for not being able to lock him in a cell. “Well, Dolores,” he said. “I believe it is the best if you replace Dumbledore as Headmistress from now on.”
The triumphant smile on the woman’s face sickened Sirius, Mia, Harry and McGonagall. Now, they were in for hell, without a doubt. None of them could imagine how bad it might be.
The new headmistress illustrated the promotion by moving behind Dumbledore’s desk and taking a seat on his chair… like an evil queen. Pleased with herself, she cleared her throat. “Well, shall I take my first action as such now?” She turned to face Sirius and Mia, her eyes full of joy. “You two…” Umbridge took a small pause for the suspense and smiled sweetly at them. “You’re fired.”
A/N: I bet you were not expecting this... Things are getting pretty gloomy now and with Umbridge leading the school... even worse. Next chapter will pick up from here, don't worry. i have a very busy week ahead - wish me luck finding time to write. But even even if I have to spend a whole night doing it, you'll have next chapter at least in a week. Send some feedback. Review!