In Chapter 12, Harry and his friends attend their first day of classes and have their first encounter with Professor Umbridge. Let’s go!
Harry will have to figure out how to deal with the fact that even some of his friends don’t believe him. Seamus won’t even look at him right now. It’s got to be frustrating. Poor kid.
Guess who’s also frustrated: Hermione. The targets of her ire? Fred and George, who have taken to posting advertisements for people willing to test their latest inventions. She wants Ron to join her in talking to them about this, but Ron is understandably hesitant. Hermione also notices that Harry is not happy.
“Seamus reckons Harry’s lying about You-Know-Who,” said Ron succinctly, when Harry did not respond.
Hermione, whom Harry had expected to react angrily on his behalf, sighed.
“Yes, Lavender thinks so too,” she said gloomily.
“Been having a nice little chat with her about whether or not I’m a lying, attention-seeking prat, have you?” Harry said loudly.
“No,” said Hermione calmly, “I told her to keep her big fat mouth shut about you, actually. And it would be quite nice if you stopped jumping down Ron’s and my throats, Harry, because if you haven’t noticed, we’re on your side.”
That’s my girl, Hermione! Harry has every right to be upset, but not to take it out on the people who are trying to help him. He really needs to remember who his true friends are. Hermione reminds him what Dumbledore had said at the end of last year, that Voldemort is good at making people suspicious and untrusting of each other, and that their best way of fighting him is through friendship and trust. Ron can’t believe how much Hermione remembers EVERYTHING. It’s a gift, Ron. Just be grateful you’ve got her around.
They briefly wonder about how long Professor Grubbly-Plank will be staying, but Hermione points out that maybe Dumbledore didn’t bring it up so that there wouldn’t be too much attention drawn to the fact that Hagrid was off doing something super secret. There is also a brief conversation with Angelina Johnson, who has been named Gryffindor Quidditch Captain now that Oliver Wood has graduated. They are having tryouts for a new Keeper for the team.
McGonagall passes out their new class schedules, which makes Ron lament that the twins haven’t started selling their Skiving Snackboxes yet.
“Do mine ears deceive me?” said Fred, arriving with George and squeezing onto the bench beside Harry. “Hogwarts prefects surely don’t wish to skive off lessons?”
“Look what we’ve got today,” said Ron grumpily, shoving his schedule under Fred’s nose. “That’s the worst Monday I’ve ever seen.”
“Fair point, little bro,” said Fred, scanning the column. “You can have a bit of Nosebleed Nougat cheap if you like.”
“Why’s it cheap?” said Ron suspiciously.
“Because you’ll keep bleeding till you shrivel up, we haven’t got an antidote yet,” said George, helping himself to a kipper.
Yeah, there’s a reason why students may not want to sign up to be testers. Hermione brings it up that they can’t advertise on the bulletin boards at school, which they don’t like at all. They tell Hermione that she will want a Snackbox soon, because fifth year means they have to take their O.W.L.s – big tests that could determine what they do next at school. It’s a very stressful time. Fred and George didn’t do terribly well on their exams, but they don’t think it’s important, considering their plans. They didn’t even want to come back to school, but thought their mom would be upset if they dropped out. And they are right. Mrs. Weasley would not be happy about that at all.
The twins leave after giving a rather cryptic answer as to where they are getting the money to start their joke shop. Remember, Harry had given them his Triwizard winnings at the end of last year, but hadn’t told anyone. He’s not ready for any of them to know yet, either. This brings up a discussion about what they want to do after they leave school, since the twins seem to have their future planned. Ron and Harry think they want to be Aurors, but Hermione isn’t sure. She would rather do something along the lines of S.P.E.W.
Their first day continues. A boring class in History of Magic, as usual. Harry gets a chance to talk to Cho, but is interrupted by Ron and Hermione bickering. Snape’s class is a joy as usual, and by “joy” I mean “torturous.” Harry gets his potion wrong and Snape brings it up in front of the whole class, because of course he does. Harry snaps at Ron and Hermione and, later, Ron confronts him about it.
“Hermione and me have stopped arguing,” he said, sitting down beside Harry.
“Good,” grunted Harry.
“But Hermione says she thinks it would be nice if you stopped taking out your temper on us,” said Ron.
“I’m not –”
“I’m just passing on the message,” said Ron, talking over him. “But I reckon she’s right. It’s not our fault how Seamus and Snape treat you.”
Many people don’t like this book because Harry is just angry all the time. They think it isn’t in character. To me, it makes Harry seem more real. Of course he’s angry! He’s been through a lot, and very few people are sticking up for him. It is nice that his friends are still being supportive, while still calling him on his bad behavior.
Divination is next, where they are going to be trying to interpret dreams. Ron and Harry don’t really know what to do, so they just start making stuff up, as per usual. After class, Ron laments about how much homework they already have on the first day. Fred and George were right about fifth year – it’s rough! And it’s about to get rougher.
Defense is next, with their new teacher, Professor Umbridge. She starts off the class basically treating them like little kids. In her opinion, their teaching has been a bit sporadic, and so her class will be a return to basics. Her course aims:
- Understanding the principles underlying defensive magic.
- Learning to recognize situations in which defensive magic can legally be used.
- Placing the use of defensive magic in a context for practical use.
Their only assignment for the day is to read the first chapter, but Hermione quickly raises her hand and points out that Umbridge’s course aims don’t say anything about actually using magic. Which they don’t. Umbridge point blank ignores several of the students’ questions or comments, basically telling them that there is no need to worry about being attacked in her classroom, so there is no reason to actually practice defensive spells. In her opinion, this class has been taught by a myriad of teachers who have led the students to believe they will be attacked at any moment. As long as they learn the theory of the spells, they will have learned enough. Parvati is incredulous that the first time they actually cast their defensive spells will be during their O.W.L.s. Harry is about to lose it.
“And what good’s theory going to be in the real world?” said Harry loudly, his fist in the air again.
Professor Umbridge looked up.
“This is school, Mr. Potter, not the real world,” she said softly.
“So we’re not supposed to be prepared for what’s waiting out there?”
“There is nothing waiting out there, Mr. Potter.”
“Oh yeah?” said Harry. His temper, which seemed to have been bubbling just beneath the surface all day, was reaching boiling point.
“Who do you imagine wants to attack children like yourselves?” inquired Professor Umbridge in a horribly honeyed voice.
“Hmm, let’s think . . .” said Harry in a mock thoughtful voice, “maybe Lord Voldemort?”
Yep. That’s it. Harry has had enough. That’s for sure. And having this teacher being willfully ignorant of the dangers of the outside world is more than he can take. And I will say, although as I said before, she was too pretty for the part, Imelda Staunton plays the role of Umbridge perfectly in the films. Wasn’t quite toad-like enough, but still. Her simpering little voice and self-righteous attitude was just perfect.
Umbridge takes ten points away from Gryffindor for Harry’s outburst, but Harry is not letting this go. He continues to push, to stand up for what he saw and what he did. Umbridge gives him detention and proceeds to address the class to say that the rumors that “a certain Dark wizard” has returned is a flat out lie. She also tells the students that if anyone talks to them about Dark wizards returning, they should come to her straightaway. Harry pulls out the big guns.
“So according to you, Cedric Diggory dropped dead of his own accord, did he?” Harry asked, his voice shaking . . .
“Cedric Diggory’s death was a tragic accident,” she said coldly.
“It was murder,” said Harry. He could feel himself shaking. He had hardly talked to anyone about this, least of all thirty eagerly listening classmates. “Voldemort killed him, and you know it.”
This is so ballsy! And terrifying! I also think it’s sad that Harry hasn’t talked to anyone about this. Do they have therapists in the wizarding world? I’ve been saying it all along, but this boy sure does need one, with everything he’s been through.
Umbridge gives Harry a piece of parchment and sends him to McGonagall. The note basically explains what Harry did in class and says that he has been assigned detention every evening this week.
“Is it true that you shouted at Professor Umbridge?”
“Yes,” said Harry.
“You called her a liar?”
“You told her He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back?”
Professor McGonagall sat down behind her desk, frowning at Harry. Then she said, “Have a biscuit, Potter.”
I love her so much! She can’t interfere with another teacher’s punishment, but she has her own ways of making sure that Harry knows that she’s on his side. By giving him cookies. She also helps Harry realize that this is more than just about whether or not he or Umbridge are telling the truth or telling lies. More than ever, Harry needs to control himself. She asks if he remembers what Umbridge said at the feast, and when Harry sort of answers, McGonagall is grateful that at least Harry listens to Hermione.
We all are, Minerva. We all are.
See you next time for Chapter 13!