In Chapter 11, we meet the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Let’s go!
Yeah, when the school weirdo claims that she can also see the scary skeleton horses, it’s not encouraging. And when I say school weirdo, that’s not a slight. I was my school’s weirdo, so I have they hold a special place in my heart.
On the carriage ride, they all discuss where Hagrid might be, since he wasn’t there to greet the first-years. Luna mentions that all of Ravenclaw thinks that Hagrid is not a good teacher and kind of a joke, which Ron takes great offense to. Don’t get me wrong, I love Hagrid – but he’s not a great teacher. He’s doing his best, though. I’m sure of that. Harry even tries to see if there are any lights or anything at Hagrid’s hut as they go by, but can’t see anything.
They arrive at the Great Hall, where Luna leaves to sit with the Ravenclaws and Ginny leaves to sit with some of her fourth year friends. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville sit down near Nearly-Headless Nick, Parvati and Lavender. Harry scans the teachers’ table looking for Hagrid again, but he’s not there either. They speculate that maybe he hasn’t come back from that mysterious mission that Dumbledore had sent him on. They also notice a new professor.
“It’s that Umbridge woman!”
“Who?” said Hermione.
“She was at my hearing, she works for Fudge!”
“Nice cardigan,” said Ron, smirking.
“She works for Fudge?” Hermione repeated, frowning. “What on earth’s she doing here, then?”
No time to speculate, as the first years have arrived. The Sorting Hat is on its stool and begins its yearly song, but with a decidedly more somber theme than in previous years. Where it usually just talks about the four Houses and the qualities they honor, now it mentions Hogwarts being in trouble and the urgent need to be united. According to Nearly-Headless Nick, this isn’t the first time the hat has done this, however he doesn’t have a chance to elaborate before the sorting begins. After the last first-year has been sorted, Dumbledore gives a brief welcome and tells them to begin.
Nick continues his explanation. The Sorting Hat always gives warnings at times when it feels the school is threatened, and those warnings are always the same: “Stand together, be strong from within.” Ron wonders how it knows if the school is in danger, considering the fact that it is a hat, although as Nick points out, it does live in Dumbledore’s office. I’m sure it hears lots of information from there. Harry can’t imagine getting buddy-buddy with the Slytherins, and I agree that it would be a stretch. I can’t imagine the Slytherins, any of the ones that we know anyway, offering a hand of friendship.
After they finish eating, Dumbledore stands again for a few announcements, mostly about the Forbidden Forest and the list of items Filch has that are not allowed on school property. He also announces that Professor Grubbly-Plank will be teaching Care of Magical Creatures, and Professor Umbridge, who will be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. Before he can go on, Umbridge clears her throat and stands up, intending to speak. Dumbledore immediately sits down and gives her a moment to do so, although the other teachers are not very happy about it. Umbridge addresses the students as though they are little kids, which makes Harry’s attention wane, but she also says some pretty interesting things.
“There again, progress for progress’s sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. A balance, then, between old and new, between permanence and change, between tradition and innovation . . . because some changes will be for the better, while others will come, in the fullness of time, to be recognized as errors of judgment. Meanwhile, some old habits will be retained, and rightly so, whearas others, outmoded and outworn, must be abandoned. Let us move forward, then, into a new era of openness, effectiveness, and accountability, intent on preserving what ought to be preserved, perfecting what needs to be perfected, and pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited.”
The boys don’t get a lot out of that, but Hermione does. As Dumbledore applauds politely and then continues his announcements, Hermione tells them what all that “waffle” means: the Ministry wants to interfere with how Hogwarts is run. Remember, Fudge was not happy when Dumbledore overruled him on Harry’s expulsion. Now he has someone who is perfectly positioned to be a Ministry mole, and we already know Umbridge is close to Fudge.
Hermione also reminds Ron that they are required to show the new Gryffindor first-years to their dorms. Harry immediately notices that some of the students are staring, pointing, and whispering about him. He realizes that, after the events of the Triwizard Tournament, he should have expected this. He did reappear with Cedric’s dead body right in front of the whole school. When he gets to his dorm with Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan, he learns that Seamus’s mom didn’t want him to come back. Turns out a lot of people are turning against not just Harry, but Dumbledore too, due to the stories being published in the paper.
Harry loses his temper, as does Seamus, but Ron breaks up their fight. Neville pipes up and says that he and his grandmother think the Daily Prophet is rubbish. They believe Harry and Dumbledore. As they all get ready for bed, Harry worries that maybe Dumbledore is angry at him for all the trouble that he’s caused, especially if Dumbledore has had people lashing out at him the whole summer for it. He also wonders how many other students are going to come at him the way Seamus did.
See you next time for Chapter 12!