“You’re fired,” Umbridge’s voice echoed in the room, chilling them all to the bone.
There were a few seconds when nobody said anything, just staring at the woman’s face in disbelief. Fired. That word didn’t even make that much sense in Sirius’s mind, after repeating it for the… what? Hundredth time?
“This is impossible!” McGonagall jumped in their defence. “You can’t fire two teachers without a cause, Dolores! Not even as headmistress!” She turned to Fudge. “I believe there still isn’t a decree that allows you to fire staff over a personal grudge! Cornelius, you certainly can’t allow this – this game of yours is turning a fine educational institution into a circus!”
Fudge coughed and refused to meet her eyes. “I believe Dolores must have a good reason to want Mr. and Mrs. Black out of the school. Don’t you, Dolores?”
Umbridge gritted her teeth, seemingly caught by surprise. “Why, certainly! I… I believe they… they shouldn’t be allowed to teach their own daughter and ward. That will obviously lead to favouritism!”
“What?!” Mia and Sirius echoed in disbelief.
“That’s mad!” Harry shouted, shooting up. “Aunt Mia has never made things even slightly easier for me or Izzy in her classes! She’s a good teacher! Treats everyone the same””
“Sit down and be quiet, Potter,” Umbridge snarled before turning her face to Fudge. “Potter’s opinion is clearly biased by the connection, Cornelius. Surely you can’t take it under consideration. It is obvious they would favour their own!”
“Of course, of course,” Fudge accepted.
Mia fumed. “Then how the hell do you explain firing Sirius, who doesn’t teach our kids at all?! Flying lessons are for first years only and, in case you’ve forgotten, you’ve kicked Harry out of the Quidditch team, so no partial refereeing either.”
“Well, we don’t need a teacher for a position that no longer exists,” Umbridge informed her with a sick smile. “That’s right. I’m eliminating the position of Quidditch Coach and referee. It is simply superfluous. I believe the first years simply don’t need flying lessons – if they want to know how to fly, I believe there are external classes they can sign into during their summer break. And certainly another member of the staff will be more than willing to referee the games.”
“That’s a bunch of rubbish!” Sirius shouted angrily. “You just want us out of your way to mess with Harry as you like!”
“Mr. Black, watch your tone, please,” Fudge said quietly.
“You can put the tone where the sun doesn’t shine,” Sirius told him with a glare.
“That is enough!” Umbridge shouted. “Insulting everyone won’t make you any less fired, Mr. Black,” she said with satisfaction.
McGonagall pursed her lips at that before voicing her thoughts. “Quite a manoeuvre you’ve arranged to have two of the finest members of this school’s staff fired, Dolores. But tell me, who will you find to replace Amelia as the History of Magic teacher in such short notice?”
For a moment, the new headmistress’s face was blank and everyone saw she hadn’t thought of that. Then, the victorious smile returned. “That is my business to solve, isn’t it? Not yours to care about, Minerva.” She cleared her throat and turned to Sirius and Mia. “The two of you can go to your offices and pack whatever you have there. You have an hour to do it. Then, Mr. Filch will walk you out of school grounds and you are not to return unless you are called. As for you, Mr. Potter, be in my office for detention by five in the afternoon for the rest of the week,” Umbridge continued. “You can all go.”
“Actually, I have something to say first,” Sirius told her, taking a step in the desk’s direction and leaning so his eyes met hers as coldly as he could manage. “Mark my words. One day, for some reason that I am sure will be more than legitimate, you will be sent to Azkaban and, one day, I will make the courtesy of going back to that place just so I can stand in front of your cell and laugh at how pathetic you’ve become.”
The woman’s eyes were wide open and her words came out as a yell. “Get out!”
He pulled back, satisfied with himself and made his way back to Mia. She glared coldly at the new headmistress just as badly as he had. “I’m crossing my fingers for the DADA teacher’s curse to strike again. Ten times more badly that it ever has.”
That’s my woman, Sirius thought, circling her tense shoulders with his arm before he turned his face to his godson. “Come along, kid.”
Harry, still a bit pale, got up and followed Sirius to the door, passing as his godfather held the door open for him, Mia and McGonagall, who apparently was done with Umbridge as well, to pass. He was about to close it when he stopped himself and peeked inside again. “By the way, if you hurt any of those kids – mine or anyone else’s –, you’ll be sorry.” And then he closed the door with a loud bang, making something crack in the inside.
“Sirius, Aunt Mia, I… I’m so sorry,” Harry apologized several minutes later, when they were about to part ways: Harry and McGonagall to the Gryffindor tower, Sirius and Mia to their offices. “This is all my fault!”
“No,” Mia said, shaking her head. “Harry, it’s not.”
“…if I hadn’t been caught and Dumbledore hadn’t taken the blame…”
“It would have happened sooner or later,” Sirius told him. “Remember this is Umbridge we’re talking about. She would have found an excuse to get us out of her way, kid.”
McGonagall agreed. “Unfortunately, your godfather is right, Potter. And I’m afraid I will be the next in line for her, since I don’t deny that my loyalties are to Albus.”
“It’s just disgusting,” Mia said, angrily. “What the ministry is doing to this school, to you, Harry, is just sick. All because that coward Fudge is trying to cover his arse. So, don’t even think that this is remotely your fault, Harry James Potter.”
He sighed. “But what are you going to do now?”
“Well, we didn’t exactly need these jobs for the money,” Sirius said with a sigh. “I suppose we’ll wait until the end of the term before thinking of switching back careers. Like your godmother’s said before, we hope the DADA curse hits her badly this year.” He could swear for a moment that McGonagall’s expression was of hope when she heard those words.
Mia let out a sigh and tried to calm herself down a little, griping her own upper arms with her hands. “You should go back to your dorm now, Harry. If you need to talk to us, you know how to do it.” And then, she reached to give Harry a hug, using the opportunity to whisper something. “I won’t ask you to sit quiet while she treats you like something below human, Harry. But whatever you do, be careful.”
She felt him nod against her shoulder and pulled away, a little more relived, though not a bit less angry at Umbridge and Fudge. She bit her lower lip in frustration as Sirius gave Harry a bloke-hug, apparently whispering something to him too.
McGonagall let out a breath. “I honestly hope this matter is solved soon but, in any case, it was an honour working with you. Unpredictably so in some ways,” she said, giving Sirius the same look she used to give him when he got in trouble with James, “but still an honour.” She turned around to walk away and Harry said a quick ‘bye’ to them before following her and then the two were gone.
“Come on,” Sirius told his wife quietly. “You look like you need a break. And I guess I do too.”
She shook her head. “I can’t… I just can’t believe she…”
“Me neither,” he told her.
It took an amazing amount of self-control for him not to turn on his heels and go back there to curse the living hell out of Umbridge and Fudge. However, he just couldn’t resist making a detour when he and Mia were near the DADA classroom and office.
“S… Sirius! What are you doing?! This isn’t the right way!” Mia asked as she followed him. “Wait, where are you going?” But the question answered itself in her mind as soon as her eyes landed on the door that led to Umbridge’s classroom. And she grabbed her husband’s arm, making him turn to her.
“Mia, you won’t be able to talk me out of this,” Sirius warned.
She shook her head. “Believe me, I won’t try to talk you out of it. Just tell me… how much will it piss her off?”
“She’ll be pulling her hair off once she finds out,” he promised her and she let go of his arm, her lips curling so slightly it was barely noticeable. But Sirius pulled her back and kissed her lips passionately and, for a moment, just a moment, he felt his anger towards Umbridge draining away. “Why don’t you go ahead to your office and I’ll meet you there?” he asked in a whisper when their lips came apart. “It won’t take long.”
When Harry entered the Gryffindor common room, nearly all eyes fell on him. Every member of the D.A. that belonged to his house circled him, popping all sorts of questions from ‘were you expelled?’ to ‘when and where’s the next meeting?’. It was absolute madness with everyone talking at the same time – at some point, he stopped being able to tell the voices apart.
“Alright, everyone shut up!” he clearly heard Ginny yelling over all the voices. “Let him speak!”
After that, nobody dared to open their mouths and breathe a word and he gave Ginny a thankful look, in between his embarrassment. That kiss had completely mashed up his brains, as great as it might have felt... He tried to brush the thoughts out of his head and cleared his throat. “You’re all clear – Umbridge doesn’t know who belonged to the D.A. other than me,” he announced. “And no, I wasn’t expelled for it but I don’t think we should have any meetings for the time being. You’ll know the rest soon enough.”
The loud voices returned as soon as he finished, though this time they weren’t directed to him. The general feeling of relief and the distraction, allowed Harry to use the opportunity to sneak away from the crowd.
As expected, Ron and Hermione were waiting for him right outside the crowd, this time along with Ginny and Izzy.
He nodded. “Let’s go to my dorm – there’s too many people here.”
In their eagerness to find out what had happened, it took them less than two minutes to climb up several flights of stairs to the fifth-year’s boys’ dorm room. Just as Hermione closed the door, placing a locking charm on it, they all looked at him expecting him to say something. And Harry didn’t leave them waiting long: he briefed them on how he’d been caught, the whole discussion with Umbridge, Dumbledore taking the blame and escaping. He decided to let them vent a little before even mentioning Sirius and Mia had been sacked as well…
“Dumbledore will be back before long,” Ron told them confidently. “They couldn’t keep him away in our second year and they won’t be able to this time.”
“In your second year they kept him away long enough to cause damage,” Ginny replied. “It wasn’t until I went down to the chamber…”
“Until Tom possessed you into going,” Harry corrected her automatically. Funny, just seconds ago he’s had no clue of what to do about her, with her or around her. Now that had just came out so easily…
“Never mind who caused it,” she said, brushing it off. “It wasn’t until someone had been taken down there that they saw how stupid they’d been by sending Dumbledore away. This time around its different – Fudge is making a power play and Umbridge couldn’t be happier with it.”
“Oh, I expect she really fancies herself sitting up there in the Heads office,” Hermione said in annoyance, sitting on one of the bed. “Lording it over all the other teachers, the stupid puffed-up, power-crazy old…” she stopped herself and took a deep breath. “Now there’s no end to what she can do.”
“But what about you?” Izzy asked her brother. “I find it hard to believe she’d just let you off the hook.”
“Oh, she didn’t,” he said, making his way t the window and looking out of it. “She gave me detention and I suppose from now on she’ll turn my life into a nightmare.”
“You know Mom and Dad will never let her,” Izzy said confidently.
He froze and knew immediately that there was just no way of delaying it more. His throat felt dry and he thought he might not be able to say it… But he had to. Harry turned to face her slowly, seeing her sitting on his bed by Ginny’s side. “Hum, Iz… they… she…” he took a deep breath. “The first thing Umbridge did when Fudge named her headmistress was… firing them.”
She didn’t quite understand what he meant at first. “Firing who?”
Hermione’s showed shock, matched by her voice when she spoke. “Hum, Izzy I think he means your… your parents.”
She got up with a jump, disbelief all over her expression. “My parents? Mum and Dad? No, she can’t have a reason to fire them.” Her face turned to Harry. “You don’t mean them, do you? Tell me it wasn’t them.”
He nodded. “It was – she made up completely ridiculous reasons to fire them but nobody could stop her. Not even McGonagall!”
“Blimey, that’s mad,” Ron said under his breath.
“She obviously didn’t want anyone standing between you and her, Harry,” Hermione stated, pacing now. “What cause did she say exactly?”
“Favouritism. To Izzy and I,” he told her.
“What? That is completely ridiculous! They’ve never… Oh, I’m sure what she did was illegal at some rate, I could verify…”
Ginny stood up as well. “She’s Fudge’s pet, Hermione… or maybe the other way around. My point is that he’d change the law to back her up if the need came, Hermione.”
“He’s done it before time and time again,” Harry agreed, his face looking down. “It will never end.”
The silence that followed was solemn. They’d been low before: with the philosopher’s stone, the chamber, the dementors chasing Sirius and the tournament. But they’d always believed there would be an end to it. This time, they didn’t. It would only get worse and worse until they hit the bottom…
“I want to go see them,” Izzy spoke up. “Harry, let me borrow the invisibility cloak. I want to go see Mum and Dad. I need to see them before they go, a least!”
“I know. But I’ll be going with you,” he told her. “Sirius told me to bring you to them too.” His godfather had whispered that request to him when they’d shared a farewell hug.
“Good, then let’s go.”
“Hold your horses for a minute, Iz. We need to let the common room empty a bit before. There’s people everywhere – wouldn’t they find it odd to be bumped by a hard invisible thing?”
“Well, it’s past eleven,” Ginny said before turning to Ron and Hermione. “You guys are prefects – aren’t you supposed to send people to their dorms by this time?”
Hermione nodded. “I suppose we’ll get going to do it, then. Come along, Ron.”
“Can’t you do it by yourself?”
She grabbed his arm and used her wand to unlock the door and pull it open. “You’re a prefect! Act like one!” Hermione told Ron, all but dragging him out behind her.
Izzy followed seconds later, saying she was going to her own dorm to change out of her uniform into more comfortable clothes. And when she closed the door behind her, Harry and Ginny were left alone in the room.
Harry stood still first, wondering what to do or say, now that they it was just the two of them. They needed to talk about that kiss, he knew. There was no denying he had a thing for her. But what if the kiss had meant nothing to her? He had to ask. Or else he’d go mad thinking of it. “Ginny, hum… what was that back in the Room of Requirement? The… er, kiss?”
She bit her lower lip. “Sort of sudden, wasn’t it?”
“Hum, yeah,” he agreed. “But why did you…? You know.”
Better come clean and get on with it, Ginny decided. She’d been the one straightforward, hadn’t she? “Well, I’ve wanted to kiss you for a while. And in the middle of all that mess… I figured there was no time like the present.”
“You’ve wanted to kiss me…” he mumbled. “For a while.”
“Yep,” she confirmed.
She raised her eyebrows. “What do you mean ‘why’?”
“Alright, it didn’t come out the way I was planning. What I mean was… did you just want to kiss me? Just a kiss? Because last time I checked you were dating Michael Corner.”
“I went out on one disastrous date with him nearly two months ago and we’ve barely talked ever since. And you know why I went out with him?”
He shook his head.
“Because I wanted you to ask me out already! I wanted you jealous!”
“Jealous?” he asked in disbelief. So he’d been pining for her all that time thinking she had another bloke and she was just trying to make him… jealous?
“Yes! Merlin, sometimes you’re just as thick as Ron is,” Ginny stated, frustrated. “I was going to take matters in my hands this Saturday, believe me. Ask you out myself – no ‘no’ for an answer. I kissed you because I care about you and I want you to be my… boyfriend. You get me like very few people do and you were in my life for the best and the worst. Maybe I’m wrong but I feel like I get you too. If you don’t want this, it’s fine. Just don’t leave me hanging here – either pull me up or let me fall down.”
He sighed – just when one thought the whole world was dark, a little redhead light burst out… He’d spent several moments thinking of what to say in return but no words sounded good enough. So, he gave up on words and used actions instead. He sealed it with a kiss.
“What do you mean you’ve ‘sealed’ her classroom and her office?” Mia asked her husband in confusion.
“I mean that where there used to be doors and windows to Umbridge’s classroom and office, now there’s just thick stone wall. Unbreakable by anyone but the person who cast it, by the way,” Sirius explained, pleased with himself. "James was the one who came up with this spell, I’ll admit. To keep that annoying Remington bloke from Slytherin locked in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom for a day. Brilliant. Anyway, I don’t think she’ll like finding out that all her possessions are locked in there.”
“If there’s anyone who deserves it, it is her,” Mia said through her teeth before she levitated the last books into the box. “That… that…”
“Harpy?” Sirius provided.
“Yes, that bloody vicious harpy! How can someone let her near children, let alone be their headmistress?!” she told him indignantly. “I hate her. I don’t think I’ve ever hated anyone but Voldemort or Death Eaters before. But I hate that bitch. And I hate her even more because she lets out parts of me that scare me. At the office I just wanted to grab any one of Dumbledore’s things and use it to turn her face into a bloody cake! That’s not me!”
“You weren’t the only one to think that, love,” he assured her just as the door of the office burst open, apparently by nobody's hand and was closed again.
“What the…” Mia mumbled before the kids slipped from under the invisibility cloak that had once belonged to James Potter. “Izzy, Harry! What are you doing here?”
“Don’t blame them. I asked Harry to bring her,” Sirius confessed, moving to the door so he could lock it and avoid any undesired guests. “So we could see Izzy before going away.”
“Sirius…” Mia started.
“She really didn’t want you to leave without saying goodbye, Aunt Mia,” Harry told her, making an effort to hide his smile. It felt wrong to be so happy in such an occasion… He’d tell them about Ginny in another time.
“I’ll really miss having around, Mom,” Izzy told her mother, making her way to her and hugging her. “Things are going to be bad without you two here and with her ruling us all.”
She sighed and rubbed her daughter’s back. “We know, honey, we know. That’s what makes us feel worst,” she told Izzy before she pulled away and moved to hug her father tightly too. Mia made her way to Harry, then and couldn’t help giving him a thankful look for bringing Izzy there. Deep down, she knew she’d have felt at a loss if she hadn’t said goodbye to her daughter too.
“You know that you can always count on us, Izzybel,” her father assured her. “If anything happens, believe me, she won’t be able to keep us out of this school, not even with a full army of aurors. It’s a promise.” He kissed her forehead and pulled away then. “You have that two-way mirror I gave you. Use it to talk to us. Once a day, at least. We may not be here to help but there are still people we trust in the inside.”
“We will,” Harry promised.
“I’ve already told Harry to be careful,” Mia told her daughter. “And I’ll say the same to you now.”
“But don’t let that keep you from making her reign into he…” His words died as loud bangs sounded on the door and Umbridge furiously yelling from the other side for them to open it. “Quick, hide under the cloak. Wait for everyone to leave before you come out, okay?”
They nodded and moved to one of the corners of the room, covering themselves with the invisibility cloak. It was only after they were sure that the kids couldn’t be seen at all that Mia moved to go open the door, only to find a livid Umbridge standing there. Her hair was messy, her eyes insanely wide open.
“Where is my classroom?!” she yelled, stepping in.
Mia faked a flawless confused look. “What do you mean, professor? It is here on the first floor. See, just follow that corridor on your left, then turn…”
“I know where my classroom is! But it is gone!” the woman yelled before glaring at Sirius, who didn’t seem to be paying attention, simply closing the box of books. “Where have you hidden it, Black? Give it back!”
Sirius shrugged. “I’m not sure of what you’ve been drinking but I can assure that an office is something a little too big to ‘hide’. Well, we’d love to stay and chat but we’ve been fired. Got to leave the premises in a few minutes, according to your orders,” he informed her, lifting the carton box and grabbing the broomstick he’d gotten from his office earlier.
“Nobody is walking through this door until you tell me what you’ve done to my office!” the new headmistress shouted. “Where. Is.It?”
Sirius turned on his heels and winked at where he knew his kids were hiding before he looked at Mia. “Guess we’re taking the floo then.”
“It’s faster, anyway,” Mia agreed, following him with another box. “Good luck with the office, Dolores.” And before Umbridge could react, the two of them were gone.
From their spot under the invisibility cloak, Izzy and Harry saw the woman’s face red as a tomato. Then, she grabbed a jar that rested on a table and threw it against a wall with a grunt, breaking it into a million pieces. After she left, Harry and Izzy turned to each other and snorted. Their parents did know how to make an exit.
A/N: Well, I barely had time to write this week because I was so stuffed with school work so, when the weekend came it was write, write, write, Annie. And I ended up with a 4100 words long chapter... again. Well, let's hope you liked it. After this, I'm planning to jump into the build up for the Department of Mysteries. I'd say five, six chapters more to this part... Feed me with some feedback! Review!