It took some time to dislodge Fawkes from Umbridge and clean up the freshly- spilled cauldron of Felix Felicis. The whole process would have gone a lot quicker if the Inquisitorial Squad hadn’t just stood by and laughed. At least our traitor, Edgecomb, had the excuse that she was trying to hide her pimply face.
Umbridge adjusted her badly-shredded robes. “Hem hem.”
“Yes, Professor?” I asked, distracted by the phoenix digging its claws into my shoulder and hissing at Umbridge. Apparently, he liked her.
Umbridge said, “Would you like to explain, Mr. Potter, just what all of this is?”
“We weren’t learning anything in class, so we decided to form a study group. We call it the Defense Against the Dark Arts Study Group for Not Failing Our OWLs. Or the DADASGNF OWLs for short.”
“Most of us call it the DA,” Ginevra chirped.
“Unfortunately, that’s as many letters as they can remember,” I said.
Umbridge smiled tightly. “I suppose I’m not surprised at this behavior from you, Mr. Potter. As I’m certain _you know, this subversive organization goes against _several of the High Inquisitor’s proclamations.”
“Are you talking about yourself in the third person? I think that’s the first sign of insanity,” I said. I never do that when talking about myself. Or any of my other selves.
She continued, lips pinched, “…nor has it gained my approval…”
“According to school rules, it has,” I interrupted. “As your apprentice and therefore teaching assistant, I am allowed to schedule additional classes for struggling students. Which, due to your complete dearth of talent in the realm of teaching, is all of them.”
Umbridge gave a breathy little sigh. “Mr. Potter, regardless of your worrying delusions, you are not my apprentice.”
“See, that’s where you’re wrong. Hermione?”
Hermione glanced up from her place hunched over the library’s table. “There are actually several passages in the Hogwarts Rulebook which ensure that professors cannot overburden their charges with out-of-class work. This includes writing assignments, such as those served during your detentions.”
“We passed the allowable point for a normal student months ago. In fact, I warned you that, if you gave me one more detention, I would be your apprentice. And then you did that. According to magic, that’s consent.”
“It is!” Ginevra enthusiastically agreed.
“That’s completely ridiculous,” Umbridge hissed. “You can’t just create an apprenticeship without anyone knowing about it.”
“No, of course not,” I said. “That would be silly. However, everyone here hates you because you’re an awful person. I tried to fix that, but, upon consultation with my companions, I have come to the baffling conclusion that you just don’t care. ‘Everyone’ luckily includes Albus Dumbledore, who signed off on my apprenticeship.”
Umbridge giggled, a deeply unsettling sound. “So the headmaster is involved in this illicit –”
I growled in annoyance, Fawkes echoing the noise. “No, it’s me. Entirely me. Dumbledore will not steal my credit for this.”
Ginevra laid a hand on my empty, and therefore less dangerous, shoulder. “Also, it’s technically on the up-and-up, since Harry’s your apprentice, and you haven’t forbidden him from doing anything.”
Umbridge’s eyes gleamed, reminding me uncomfortably of Dumbledore. “In that case, you’re no longer allowed to lead this little group of yours.”
“As my master, you have the right to give me that order,” I acknowledged. “And I have the right to pass on leadership to my apprentice, Neville Longbottom. Neville?”
Neville grinned. “I’d be glad to. Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
I shrugged. “We’ve only got a month left before OWLs. How much damage could you do?”
“An idiot like that,” Malfoy drawled. “You’d be surprised.”
Neville raised his sword menacingly. I gestured for him to stand down. “Don’t worry. He’s only saying that because he’s in love with Hermione.”
Hermione and Malfoy squawked in indignation, then glared at each other for daring to do so at the same moment. Young love: I’ll never understand it.
Umbridge’s face slowly grew pink as we ignored her. She cried, “I’m disbanding this group this instant!”
“You can do that,” I said. “The real question is: Would that be a good decision for you?”
After the sixth time, it seemed that Umbridge had finally come to recognize when I’d set a trap for her. She raised her eyebrows. “What, precisely, does that mean?”
“You are also technically a member of the DADASGNF OWLs. I’m still not entirely sure how Ginevra got your signature, but it’s on the same contract as Edgecomb’s,” I said.
Edgecomb peaked up at us, revealing the word SNEAK written across her face. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”
I raised a hand to silence her. “Therefore, your betrayal will be met with the same consequences, along with whatever Hermione has added during this conversation…”
“I’m thirteen punishments in, but I’m still working on the loss of magic clause,” Hermione said. Ron handed her another inkwell, and she stopped writing for a moment to smile at him.
“You really expect me to believe that a fifteen-year-old girl managed this?”
“Sixteen,” Ginevra corrected.
“I learned a great deal from the Goblet of Fire. Also, the Ravenclaws helped,” Hermione said. Edgecomb whimpered, burying her face in her hands.
Ron said, “I think she’s done with the squib part.”
Umbridge paled. “I shall not allow –”
“I would be careful about what you say next,” I advised her. “I’m not certain what Hermione’s definition of ‘betrayal’ is, but I have no doubt that the results will be disturbing to us all.”
“She’s bloody scary, sometimes,” Ron said, a goofy grin on his face.
Umbridge finally acknowledged defeat. “How do I get out of it?”
“There’s no way out once your signature is on the contract, since it was signed with your blood,” Hermione said thoughtfully. “Of course, it only has so extensive of a range.”
Umbridge’s nose wrinkled as if she’d tasted something sour. “Fine. I’ll leave Hogwarts.”
“Oh, it’s not that small. You’d need to go to the Continent, at least” – Fawkes squawked angrily, and Hermione continued – “Although I might have overpowered it a bit. Staying out of Europe would be safest.”
I smirked. “You should probably go. There’s a clause which allows Hermione to activate the betrayal clause at any time, and she, like Dumbledore, hates you.”
Fawkes accompanied Umbridge on her way out, screeching and scratching all the way.
After the Inquisitorial Squad departed and Edgecomb returned to the Hospital Wing, there was no longer a need to present a united front.
I shooed Hermione towards the library. “Hermione, I’m your best friend and I support you regardless of who you are, but that would be a lot easier if you would stop lying to yourself and everyone around you.”
Hermione laughed. “I’m presuming this isn’t what it sounds like.”
I sighed. Clearly I was going to have to spell this out for her. “You maimed Edgecomb.”
“It’ll go away when she leaves Hogwarts,” she muttered. “Besides, she deserves it. Bloody sneak.”
“Hermione, they used Veritaserum on her. And they only managed that because she’d gone to the Hospital Wing after Neville tried to use magic again,” I said. His stubbornness would be the death of us all.
Hermione stuttered, “Sh-she what? I mean, I didn’t realize that the contract would have that effect unless the betrayal was willing. I just wanted –”
“Vengeance,” I finished gravely. “You wanted vengeance for an act that hadn’t even been committed yet.”
“I didn’t want people to betray us,” Hermione said.
I shook my head, sighing, “See, that would have made sense if you’d actually told people about the betrayal clause. Then, it would serve as a deterrent. But you didn’t tell anyone. I know; I checked with Ginevra.”
Hermione began sniffling. She always does this, hoping to distract from her misdeeds.
I said, “I think that you didn’t tell anyone because you wanted someone to betray us just so you could hurt them without consequence.”
“You’re wrong. I’ll fix Edgecomb,” Hermione said. “It shouldn’t be too hard to reverse-engineer…”
“No, see, this is the problem. You’re trying to convince everyone that you’re a good person, but you’re just innately malicious. Rather than fight your inner evil, you’re ignoring it. That isn’t healthy.”
Hermione ran away crying, still clinging to her denial.
Ron waited for Neville to wave him on with his sword before nervously approaching me. “Uh, mate, I was just with Hermione. She seems pretty upset. She says you think she’s evil or something?”
“No,” I said.
He grinned, speaking before I was finished. “Well, that’s a relief ‘cause –”
“I know she’s evil.”
Ron gaped. “Hermione’s not evil. She’s actually pretty nice.”
“She usually curbs her urges,” I said, “and that’s admirable. But she’s getting worse with time. If she keeps denying it, then people are going to get hurt. Important people. People who aren’t Edgecomb.”
“But she follows a lot of rules, way more than us, and she’s really upset when we break them,” Ron said.
I shook my head. “When Hermione does break rules, however, she has no distinction between stupid ones and basic human decency. Remember when she wanted to kidnap and interrogate those Slytherins? Or when she tortured that reporter?”
Clearly, Hermione had already obliviated him, covering up her crimes by erasing all evidence that they’d ever occurred. Of course, she’d been wise enough not to try such tampering with me.
“Well, those things happened. Hermione usually follows the rules because she doesn’t have a moral code.”
“She does! She cares about House Elves and stuff,” Ron said.
I snorted. “Ron, the House Elves don’t care about themselves. They’re perfectly happy where they are, but Hermione is interfering because of some weird Muggle rule against slavery. Someone who understood moral nuance would realize that the most humane thing is to leave them be.”
Ron wrinkled his Weasley face, grumbling, “Are you doing that thing where you say something and then you argue about it and give lots of evidence. Then, later, it turns out you’re just wrong and you made up all the evidence?”
“No. I’m definitely right this time,” I assured him.
Ron seemed very confused and somewhat deflated. I set a hand on his shoulder, motioning Neville to do the same. He used the sword, but that was close enough.
I smiled. “Look, we all have innate parts of our nature that we may only work around. Hermione is evil, you are a Weasley, and I am so good at lying that I sometimes fool myself.”
Ron’s mouth fell open. “You know about that?”
“Well, yeah, people have mentioned it. I can’t cite any specific examples, but I presume it’s happened.”
“Ron’s not a werewolf!” Ginevra shouted.
Right, yes, I had often lied to cover for Ron’s lycanthropy.
I continued, “The point is that Hermione, when not guided by rules, automatically does things that are incredibly cruel without even noticing.”
Ron shook his head. “Right, I should probably go talk to Hermione. She’ll explain why you’re wrong. At least, I hope she will.”
“You shouldn’t think something just because she tells you to,” I said.
Ron should think things because I tell him to.
The next morning, Hermione still wasn’t speaking to me, stubbornly eating breakfast at the very edge of the Gryffindor table.
“She can’t last for long,” Ginevra assured me. “We’re her only friends. The Ravenclaws are scared of her now, you’ve prejudiced her enough against Hufflepuffs that she’s never gotten to know any, and the only Slytherin she talks to is Malfoy. The social isolation should get to her in a couple of days.”
Ron said, “I wish she would talk to _one _of us, at least. I didn’t even call her evil, really.”
“She’s talking to me,” Neville muttered into his eggs.
Luna hummed in agreement. “She’s talking to me, too, I think. But she just said that Fudge didn’t have an army of Heliopaths because they don’t exist. So now I’m not talking to her until she or Ron apologizes.”
“Why should I have to apologize?” Ron grumbled.
I sighed, shaking my head. “Eventually, Hermione will realize that we’re doing this for her own good. For now, we’ll simply have to put up with her stubbornness.”
An angry barn owl descended upon our table with the morning rush, clicking its beak at Luna, who smiled and gave it a knut. Ron said, “I thought your Da owned the Quibbler.”
“He does,” Ginevra said as Luna carefully removed the paper from the owl’s claws.
“Then why do you get the Prophet?”
“Most of it isn’t true,” Luna said, “but it’s good for a laugh.”
I nodded. “Right, that makes sense. Also, I’ve been meaning to ask: Why are you at the Gryffindor table?”
“Hermione says that it’s not against any rules” – she glanced at the Prophet – “Oh, it’s about us.”
Ginevra grinned, hopping a little in her seat, and took a swig of pumpkin juice.
Ron grabbed the paper from Luna, revealing the headline: Umbridge attacks apprentice; flees country; resigns in disgrace.
A very Weasley frown crossed Ron’s face. “Ginny, what did you do?”
“I apologized,” Ginevra said.
“You what?” I said.
“I sent a letter for you to Rita Skeeter, apologizing on the behalf of Dumbledore for lying to us all and Hermione for trying to kill her.”
“Without my permission?”
“Well, I figured that, if it didn’t work, we could always say that I was a minion of one of your political enemies,” she said. “It did, though, so I’m your publicist now! Of course, I did have to make a few concessions to get this article through. You have to do an interview this summer, and Skeeter gets to attend our wedding.”
I glanced up from the paper. “What was that last demand?”
She beamed. “You’ve got an interview.”
“Right,” I muttered. “I can do that.”
Neville whistled, looking at his own edition. “There was a break-in at the Ministry, and it doesn’t even get mentioned until the third page.”
“Apparently, it was a total bloodbath,” one of the other Gryffindors chimed in. “Probably Sirius Black’s fault.”
“Oh, right!” Ginevra said. “I forgot to mention that I also apologized to the Prophet’s editor.”
I frowned. “Huh, I don’t think I’ve done anything to him.”
“He didn’t, either,” she said. “He was really flattered.”
I stalked about the Malfoy parlor, sneering down at the brunette kneeling on the floor. “Bellatrix, you have once again failed me. Not only were you unable to find the Prophecy, but you were also incredibly unsubtle about your search. Now everyone knows of your mission.”
Bellatrix pouted. “But, my lord, I didn’t leave a single witness.”
“Yes, I’m aware that you killed everyone in the building” – I massaged my brow – “I’m glad you had a nice time, but that is, again, not what I asked you to do. Luckily, you can redeem yourself.”
“I’ll do anything, my lord,” she sighed.
“The old fool is already interviewing for next year’s Defense professor.”
Her eyes shone as I explained my plan.
“Dumbledore is interviewing for the DADA position,” I said.
Ginevra’s eyes widened. “Really? I didn’t hear about that at all.”
I smirked. “Yes, well, I had a dream about it.”
Down the table, Hermione huffed into her textbook. This was the closest she’d come to talking to me in the past few days, so I considered it progress.
I continued, “I asked Snape this morning, and he assures me that it’s true. I can only assume that the dream was prophetic and that my diligent study of Divination has finally paid off.”
“So you’re gonna go see who the next person who wants to kill us is?” Ron asked.
I stared at him.
He shrugged. “Well, it’s true. Isn’t it?”
Neville frowned. “If Dumbledore hires a professor now, then does that mean that he’ll be gone by _this _June or this time next year? Or can he go for most of next year, too?”
I shrugged. “Magic is mysterious.”
“While you’re visiting Dumbledore, you should probably get official backing for the DA, too,” Ginevra said. “Now that Umbridge is gone, we don’t have any professor sponsoring us.”
“Technically, I’m still a teaching assistant until Dumbledore hires a new professor,” I said. “I might be able to get something more permanent, though. Ginevra, what’s the current password to Dumbledore’s office?”
Ginevra grinned. “Chocolate Frogs.”
The blonde witch skipped up the revolving staircase, oblivious to my invisible presence behind her. It was difficult to say if this was the result of her incompetence or my immense skill. Probably both.
I sank to the floor of Dumbledore’s office, leaning against a wall as the witch flounce into a chair with an obnoxious giggle. Claws digging into my shoulder, Fawkes also watched. His beady, black eyes seemed hungry as it darted between Dumbledore and the blonde.
“Oh, I’m so glad to meet you, Headmaster,” the witch gushed.
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “Congratulations, Miss Farfelu.”
“Tee-hee,” Farfelu giggled. “Why are you congratulating me?”
Dumbledore clapped his hand together, beaming. “You’re our newest Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, of course!”
“I…I don’t, tee-hee, understand. I thought this was an interview.”
“I don’t believe that’s necessary, dear girl. You seem perfectly suited to the position.”
Farfelu pouted. “But I’m not sure about taking it. I mean, I haven’t even talked to my husband yet, and he’s wanted the position forever.”
“Tell him to apply next year,” Dumbledore said brightly. “Although, if I recall correctly, your resume mentioned that you were unmarried.”
“I am. He’s…He’s, um, tee-hee…dead.”
Dumbledore nodded. “I see. Encourage him to apply anyway. We have quite a few ghosts on staff, and – as my dear friend Cuthbert Binns always says – being dead is no reason to stop living.”
“I’ll, tee-hee, tell him that,” the blonde murmured. “Still, I’m not sure I’m interested.”
Dumbledore manipulated his features into a crestfallen expression. “I’m very sorry, my dear, but I’m afraid you’ve already agreed.”
Farfelu leapt to her feet, whipping out her wand to point it at Dumbledore’s nose. The old man watched calmly, still smiling.
“What did you do?” Farfelu growled and then, after a short pause, added, “Tee- hee.”
“It was in the contract that you signed earlier, you see.”
The blonde sat down with a huff. “The one that I had to sign to get the interview?”
Dumbledore nodded. “Indeed. I’m afraid it had a clause that you would be the DADA teacher for a full school year, with your continued employment based upon my discretion.”
“But that wasn’t in the contract at all, tee-hee!” she cried.
“It was invisible and written in the margins. But I’m afraid that it is magically binding.”
At that moment, Fawkes darted off my shoulder and out of the invisibility cloak, headed straight for Dumbledore’s face. Dumbledore absentmindedly set up a shield. He turned to his new professor, explaining, “He’s really very fond of me.”
The blonde pushed back her chair with a loud screech, though that only garnered the phoenix’s attention. It gave her a hard stare, then turned back to pecking at Dumbledore’s shield.
“This is all so very sudden,” she said. “I’d hoped to get a tour of the castle first and maybe meet some of my future colleagues.”
“No worries, you can do all of that now that you’ve been hired,” Dumbledore reassured her. “Severus would gladly show you –”
“I don’t suppose you could spare Sybill Trelawney? I’ve been dying to meet her since I was just a girl, you know.”
Farfelu batted her eyes, the gesture sending a familiar shiver down my spine. It was identical to a flirting Bellatrix. I should know. With all the love potions she’s fed me, I’ve spent a cumulative fifteen minutes infatuated with her.
Dumbledore glanced in my direction but said, “Yes, I believe Sybill’s class should be ending shortly. Do you need an escort?”
“Tee-hee! No, I’m fine, thanks.” Farfelu skipped out of Dumbledore’s office and down the revolving staircase.
Dumbledore turned his attention towards my corner of the room, quirking an eyebrow. “Mr. Potter, don’t you have Potions at this time?”
I whipped off the cloak, grumbling, “I don’t know why I should attend if Snape doesn’t.”
“He is covering for Umbridge’s Defense classes and cannot attend,” Dumbledore said.
“I offered to take over the class,” I said. “Permanently, if possible.”
“I applaud your ambition, but I cannot hire a professor who has yet to take his OWLs.”
I stood up and approached his desk. “I’ll have taken my OWLs by the time next term starts.”
“I would prefer it if you took your NEWTs as well,” Dumbledore said, obviously devising requirements solely to keep me from my dream. “Also, I’ve already chosen a professor for next term.”
I frowned. “Oh, come on, she’s obviously a Death Eater.”
“Why would you think that?” Dumbledore had to raise his voice over Fawkes’s increasingly furious attacks on his shield.
“Well, you hired her, for a start,” I said. “You always hire Death Eaters: Quirrel, Moody, Hagrid, Lupin –”
Dumbledore said, “Professor Lupin was not a Death Eater.”
I snorted. “Werewolf Rights was a founding principle of the Death Eaters. All the werewolves worked for Voldemort.”
“I can assure you that Professor Lupin worked for me.”
“He was probably a spy then,” I said.
In fact, I’m pretty sure he was. I had plenty of spies in the Order of the Phoenix.
“And you ignored my Light professors, such as Gilderoy Lockhart,” Dumbledore said.
I stared at him gravely, and even the phoenix slowed its assault. “I think we both know that there won’t be any more Lockharts. He was the bravest man I ever knew.”
Dumbledore sighed, smoothing down his magenta robes. “Nevertheless, I suspect that Professor Farfelu will be a wonderful teacher and may even be willing to continue your apprenticeship –”
There was a whoosh of green flame from Dumbledore’s fireplace, and Severus’s enormous head dourly regarded us. “Headmaster, it appears that Farfelu has abducted your Divination professor and fled the castle.”
Dumbledore paused for a moment. “You’re certain that someone else did not abduct both of them?”
Severus raised an eyebrow. “I presume you’re going to fire her.”
“I suppose that would be wise…Yes, I believe I will.” Dumbledore stroked his beard to comfort himself.
Severus climbed out of the fireplace, the soot hidden by his black robes. “I suspected this would happen. I didn’t warn you because I didn’t actually expect you to hire her. After all, she was obviously a Death Eater.”
“See?” I said. “Even Snape agrees with me, and he would know: He’s a Death Eater, too.”
Severus snorted. “She tried to curse a student for walking beside her, and she bears an uncanny resemblance to Bellatrix Lestrange.”
“To be fair,” I said. “Most wizards are related. They could just be cousins or something.”
“Also, her only reference was Lucius Malfoy,” he continued.
“He was quite complimentary,” Dumbledore said.
Severus watched Dumbledore with a calculating glint in his eyes. “Since I am now the only applicant –”
“I applied,” I said.
“The only applicant…” Severus ground out. “I presume that you will finally allow me to assume my desired position?”
Dumbledore said, “Well, I suppose. I don’t know where I’ll get another Potions professor, though. There aren’t many Potions Masters around, these days.”
There was no danger of Severus breaking the curse because he was a terrible teacher. Still, I refused to admit defeat. “I could teach Potions.”
“Potter, you’re failing the class,” Severus drawled.
“Right, and that’s not your fault at all,” I said.
“You still haven’t taken your OWLs,” Dumbledore reminded me.
“Fine,” I spat. “Divination, then. I’m great at Divination. I saw all of this coming.”
“…and then they just kicked me out without even listening to what I had to say. For all they knew, I could have given a prophecy that said how to defeat the Dark Lord, but I wasn’t going to tell them because they were total gits…Hermione? You’re not being a very good friend right now. You’ve got the listening part right, I suppose, but you haven’t tried to comfort me at all…I’ve been talking for ten minutes.”
It would be a lot easier to have this conversation if she hadn’t barricaded herself inside Myrtle’s loo. Hermione’s muffled voice called, “Go away, Harry.”
“See, you’re talking now, but you’re also being unnecessarily cruel.”
I said, “Oh, you’re still upset about the ‘evil’ thing. It’s been over a week. I assumed you’d gotten over that by now…Hey! I know something that’ll cheer you up: Voldemort kidnapped Trelawney!”
“Why would that make me happy? I’m not evil.”
I idly twirled my wand between my fingers, grinning. “No, you’re not thinking this through. Voldemort captured her because she’s a seer. He doesn’t know her like we do. He thinks she’s good. He’ll listen to everything she says.”
More silence. I thought, perhaps wishfully, that it was a thoughtful one. “Remember what happened during my third Divination class? It’ll be a lot like that, but Voldemort won’t be throwing stunners. I figure he’ll take out half his ranks in a week.”
I had to strain to hear Hermione through the door. “Harry, why do you think that Voldemort wants Trelawney because she’s a seer? Why do you think he’ll listen to her at all?”
“I had a dream about it.”
She snorted derisively. “Honestly, Harry, you can’t assume something just because…Wait, did this dream happen before or after Trelawney was kidnapped?”
“A few days before,” I said.
Hermione hummed, and I could hear her getting to her feet. “This dream involved Voldemort?”
“Yeah. Most of my dreams do,” I said.
She spoke slowly. “In these dreams, are you an invisible observer or –”
“No, I’m very involved. Actually, come to think of it, I might be Voldemort” – after a moment, I clarified – “in those dreams.”
I could hear Hermione’s building excitement. “And this is new, isn’t it? Just the last year or so?”
“They’re a lot more vivid,” I admitted.
The door swung open, then, and Hermione emerged with a Cheshire-cat grin. She hurried past me, shouting, “I’ll be in the library!”
I smirked. I knew the Trelawney thing would cheer her up.
The Room of Requirement was quiet with only Neville, Ginevra, Ron, and I inside. There was no gaggle of practicing students, no Hermione making lesson plans, and the latest Felix Felicis brewing disaster had been mopped up a few hours earlier. Even Fawkes had returned to Dumbledore, content to watch and periodically attack him. The room darkened to match our somber mood.
“The last DA meeting,” Ginevra sighed. “It’s been a good run.”
Neville said, “We can always do it again next year.”
Ginevra giggled. “Maybe we won’t have to. Our new Defense professor might actually be good!”
We all burst out into laughter, of which mine was the loudest and longest- lasting. The Room of Requirement’s walls shivered merrily along with us, and we watched it fondly.
Ron said, “It’s kinda pathetic that it’s just us here. We could have gotten a bunch more people to come if Hermione had let me get Firewhiskey from the twins.”
Ginevra sent a Stinging Hex towards Ron. Neville was technically in the way, but he automatically twisted to avoid it. Ron glared at the younger Weasley. “What was that for?”
The redhead beamed. “Hermione isn’t here, so I’m covering for her.”
Neville smiled, ducking his head slightly as if to hide it. “It’s funny. Before, she wasn’t talking to you guys because you called her evil. Now, she’s not talking to anyone because she’s in the middle of another project.”
“Everything’s back to normal, then,” I said happily. “Except that Umbridge is gone. So it’s better.”
Ginevra said, “Can you believe we actually saved her life?”
“Well, all the Defense professors either die or leave. We made sure that she left, so that means that she didn’t die,” she explained.
Neville’s face darkened. “She probably would have died in the Bellatrix Lestrange attack.”
That incident had actually been pretty tame for Bellatrix. Only three students were sent to the Hospital Wing.
Ron grinned. “Heh. I guess we beat the curse, then.”
A dreamy voice spoke from behind us. “Actually, we were the curse.”
“Luna!” I cried. “How have you been?”
“Thinking,” Luna said. “I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out your secret.”
I laughed condescendingly but quickly erected a Silencing Charm. Obliviating one person is difficult enough. I didn’t need to add Neville and his insane dodging abilities into the mix. “Go on, then.”
Luna took a deep breath before saying, “When you were a little baby, did Voldemort accidentally put part of his soul in you, causing both of your souls to merge, so that you have all of his memories and will never acknowledge that you’re not the same person because it’s too central to your self-image?”
I blinked in shock, unable to properly address the pure insanity that is Luna Lovegood. “I…no! Why would you ever think that?”
“Well, it’s just that you talk about doing terrible things a lot, but then you rarely do.”
“You’re wrong again,” I said.
Luna pouted, crossing her arms. “I give up, then.”
I sighed. If I didn’t give her some sort of explanation, she might think up something closer to the truth. Or, worse, talk to Hermione about it. “Why can’t I just be an eccentric genius, who is otherwise perfectly normal?”
She hummed thoughtfully. “Well, I suppose you could be, but that doesn’t seem very narratively satisfying.”
“Luna, this isn’t a story,” I said.
Luna said, “Oh. Right. I forget sometimes.”
Chuckling, I slung an arm around her shoulders and canceled the Silencing Charm. The others were waiting by the door, and the dummies waved goodbye as we closed it behind us. With that, our end-of-the-year meeting of the DADASGNF OWLs came to a close.
I waved one of Dobby’s cakes in front of my best minion, careful to keep it hidden from Pince’s suspicious gaze. The frizzy hair parted to reveal a sniffing nose, then wide, dark rimmed eyes. Hermione Granger looked like something from the Forbidden Forest.
“Hermione,” I said. “You still understand English, right?”
Hermione eyes brightened, and she indignantly said, “Of course I understand English!”
“Good, I’d begun to fear you’d gone feral,” I said.
Hermione rolled her eyes, breaking a chunk of cake from the slice in front of her. She dropped it onto her tongue with a blissful sigh. I frowned. “Have you eaten at all in the past few days?”
“Of course,” she said.
“Really? Are you sure you haven’t forgotten? Because that seems like something you would do. You’ve either been here or taking your OWLs for the past week, and I haven’t seen you in the Great Hall…”
Hermione smiled. “Careful there, Harry, I might start to think you cared.”
“Oh, thank you for the warning,” I said. I wouldn’t want to give her a false impression, after all. Honesty is very important in a master/minion relationship.
“Really, though, I have eaten. The House Elves have been sneaking in food after hours.”
“…and you’ve been sleeping here. Yes, I’m aware” – I waved off her explanations – “I admire your dedication to never leaving the library. I have similar feelings about Hogwarts. But I do need my invisibility cloak back.”
Hermione rifled through her bag in search of the starry fabric. “Any particular reason?”
“Primarily that it’s mine,” I said.
“…Right,” she murmured, handing it to me.
Hermione turned back to her open book, rapidly flipping pages. I glanced around the nearly-abandoned library and said, “The Leaving Feast is starting soon. I presume you’re coming?”
“Can’t. Madame Pince doesn’t loan out library books this late in the year.”
I scowled. “You have to come! It’s the last feast of the year.”
“Yes, that is what ‘Leaving Feast’ means.” Hermione flipped another page.
“All of our friends are going to be there.”
I said, “I’m giving a speech.”
Hermione ignored me.
“If you don’t put down the book and come with me, I’ll tell Pince that you’ve been eating in the library.”
Her head jerked up in horror. “But, Harry –”
“So that’s a yes then?”
“But I haven’t figured out what’s wrong with you,” she whined.
“People have been trying to figure that one out for decades,” I said. “You’re not going to manage it in one night.”
“But, your visions –”
“Can remain a mystery until September,” I said. “Unless you want me to plant crumbs between some of the books’ pages?”
With a pout, Hermione shut the tome. “You’re evil.”
I smirked. “Well, that makes two of us, then.”
She chased me across the castle, hexing all the way. Still, they were only mildly painful, and we ended our flight in the Great Hall.
Dumbledore was finishing his end of term speech when Hermione and I arrived.
“Before we fill our bellies, Harry Potter would like to say a few words.”
I nodded towards Dumbledore and strode to the front of the room. Smiling at the crowd’s uneasy murmuring, I said, “Hello, fellow students. As you all know, Umbridge apprenticed me earlier in the school year. Since she has fled the continent, that leaves me in charge of her former duties. I’ve already gotten rid of the educational decrees…”
The students cheered.
“…and reinstated Professor Snape…”
A few groans responded to that statement. I had been reluctant to rehire the man, but, though there were many legitimate reasons to fire him, being a werewolf was not one of them.
“Now, it has come time to destroy the last of Umbridge’s unwelcome additions to this school” – in the crowd, Draco Malfoy scowled – “I would like to officially disband the Inquisitorial Squad.”
The silver I’s on the members’ robes poofed away in a cloud of smoke while the rest of the school celebrated.
“I have more to say,” I said. “You see, I have a few last-minute points to announce…”
Albus Dumbledore had set a dangerous precedent.
“…Some students decided to go above and beyond the requirements of their professors. When faced with a terrible teacher, they chose to learn outside of the classroom. Under the tutelage of me, Harry Potter, they have learned much and are likely the only students who didn’t fail their OWLs this year. As such, I would like to award a hundred points to each student who participated in my study group.”
The Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Gryffindor hourglasses filled with gems. I smirked. “I believe this calls for a change of decorations. Congratulations, Ravenclaw!”
With a flick of my wand, the room turned bronze and blue. There was cheering at all four tables. Presumably, this is because the Slytherins knew exactly what we were going to do to them after they won. Of course, the Weasley twins were conspicuously absent from the Gryffindor table, so the Slytherins’ relief would be short-lived.
I cleared my throat. “One last thing.”
The Hall immediately quieted down as I turned to the Slytherin table.
“That, Draco, is how you cheat.”
“Is this place any safer, Madame Trelawney?” I asked, pacing the length of our latest headquarters. This only took about thirty seconds, and I stepped on no less than three followers along the way.
Trelawney raised a hand to her cheek. “Oh, it is difficult, you know, to call upon the whispers of fate. She is a fickle thing.”
Lucius anxiously looked out the window. “My lord, I don’t think that this location is particularly safe.”
I waved away his concerns. “Nonsense. Our oracle will inform us of any danger.”
He said, “My home has far greater protections. If we had remained there –”
“We all would have died. Trelawney saw the Grim in her teacup. We’ve been over this.”
Trelawney danced around my followers, who lounged on the floor, and placed her crystal ball on a roughly-constructed, wooden table. She peered into its depths, humming thoughtfully. We leaned forward, awaiting her visions.
Her voice was high and breathy. “Yes. Yes, this shall do…”
Bellatrix dove for the only bed, hissing and hexing until everyone else had scrambled to the floor. Nagini had formed some sort of nest in the fireplace. Lucius summoned a House Elf to “make the place livable.” Hagrid watched, bemused, from a gargantuan chair.
Trelawney’s eyes were round and wide behind her glasses. She whispered, “At least, for now.”
Groaning, my Death Eaters settled in for a night at Hagrid’s hut.
A/N: In this chapter, Harry asserts that Remus, a werewolf, must be a Death Eater. One might assume that this is because Harry is insane (a not unreasonable assumption and one well worth keeping in mind for future events). However, it’s worth noting that the Order of the Phoenix made this *exact same assumption* in canon.
I assume it went something like this:
“Hey, guys, I hear we’ve got a spy!”
“That’s incredibly dangerous to us all. We’d better use Veritaserum or Legilimency to find out who he or she is so that we can stop future, traitorous deeds.”
“Yeah, I guess we could do that. Or we could just stop telling Remus things.”
“That is a sound and perfectly reasonable plan. How could it ever go wrong?”
…and then the plot of Harry Potter happened. Whoops.< Previous Next >