In Chapter 13, we find out just how sinister Dolores Umbridge really is, and it’s super creepy. Let’s go!
As if we couldn’t hate this character more. Ugh!
This chapter starts off in the Great Hall during dinner. The rumor mill of Hogwarts has kicked into overdrive as news spreads of the argument between Harry and Umbridge, and from the sound of things, no one is buying his story. Everyone seems content to think that Harry is an attention-seeking jerk who is making up stories about Voldemort. Harry doesn’t understand why they feel this way, when they all believed him at the end of the last school year. Hermione has her doubts about that.
“Look, you don’t understand what it was like after it happened,” said Hermione quietly. “You arrived back in the middle of the lawn clutching Cedric’s dead body . . . None of us saw what happened in the maze . . . We just had Dumbledore’s word for it that You-Know-Who had come back and killed Cedric and fought you.”
“Which is the truth!” said Harry loudly.
“I know it is, Harry, so will you please stop biting my head off?” said Hermione wearily. “It’s just that before the truth could sink in, everyone went home for the summer, where they spent two months reading about how you’re a nutcase and Dumbledore’s going senile!”
Okay, sure. They had two months of hearing that. But they’ve had four years of going to school with Harry and getting to know what kind of person he is. The one shouldn’t cancel out the other and all the other students are being jerks. Except the nice ones.
They head back to the common room, talking about how their D.A.D.A. teachers have always been a problem, and that it seems like the job is jinxed. Which it is, but that’s not the point. It is pretty bad that they have someone now who isn’t even letting them use spells, especially for their O.W.L. year, and someone who is trying to get the students to spy on Harry and anyone who supports him.
As they sit and work on their homework, Hermione notices Fred and George in the corner of the room with a bunch of first year students. She is none too happy about it, especially when all of the first years fall to the floor.
“That’s enough!” Hermione said forcefully to Fred and George, both of whom looked up in mild surprise.
“Yeah, you’re right,” said George, nodding, “this dosage looks strong enough, doesn’t it?”
The first years are fine. Lee Jordan, who’s also helping the twins, gives them all the other half of the candy and they all wake up. Hermione still gives them a lecture and, when Fred and George brush off any potential punishments she might dole out, she threatens to write to Mrs. Weasley. That sets them straight, or at least makes them stop doing it. Hermione isn’t particularly happy that Ron didn’t back her up, but I don’t think that Ron wants twin trouble in his life right now.
Then Hermione, before she heads up to bed, reveals another plan she has, this time to help house-elves. She learned to knit over the summer and made them some little hats, which she proceeds to hide among some garbage on the table. Her hope is that the house-elves will be freed when they pick up the “clothes.” Would that really work though? Does clothing being their bond of enslavement mean they can’t touch clothes at all? Do they not do laundry? If I ever had a house-elf, you better believe I would command it to do laundry. Laundry is the bane of my existence.
Ron doesn’t like the fact that she’s basically tricking them into freedom, but Hermione doesn’t listen, because why wouldn’t they want to be free? I’m actually with Ron on this one. After she leaves, Ron doesn’t move the hats, but moves all the stuff hiding them so that at least they could make the choice themselves instead of accidentally picking up an item that would lose them their jobs.
The next day, the hats are gone, so Hermione is happy. Maybe some of them wanted freedom after all!
It’s another busy day full of classes giving way too much homework and lecturing the students on how important the O.W.L. tests are, including their first class with Professor Grubbly-Plank. After class, Harry tries to ask her about Hagrid, but she brushes him off. Draco Malfoy, not one to miss an opportunity to be a jerk, decides to get involved.
“Maybe,” said Malfoy in an undertone, so that only Harry could hear him, “the stupid great oaf’s got himself badly injured.”
“Maybe you will if you don’t shut up,” said Harry out of the side of his mouth.
“Maybe he’s been messing with stuff that’s too big for him, if you get my drift.”
Now, this could just be Malfoy being Malfoy, but Harry knows that Malfoy Senior is a Death Eater and could very well have heard information regarding whatever Hagrid was trying to do for Dumbledore. So great. One more thing to worry about.
As they leave class, they pass by Ginny’s fourth year class leaving the greenhouses, which also includes Luna Lovegood. She sees Harry and immediately comes up to him.
Luna took a great breath and then said, without so much as a preliminary hello: “I believe He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back, and I believe you fought him and escaped from him.”
“Er — right,” said Harry awkwardly. Luna was wearing what looked like a pair of orange radishes for earrings, a fact that Parvati and Lavender seemed to have noticed, as they were both giggling and pointing at her earlobes.
“You can laugh!” Luna said, her voice rising, apparently under the impression that Parvati and Lavender were laughing at what she had said rather than what she was wearing. “But people used to believe there were no such things as the Blibbering Humdinger or the Crumple-Horned Snorkack!”
Okay, so it’s nice that Harry has someone else who believes him, but he’s not sure if Luna is the best spokesperson. He is also interrupted by Ernie Macmillan, who loudly proclaims his support as well. This seems to carry a bit more weight, considering that Ernie is one of the prefects for Hufflepuff and is, well, not a weirdo (sorry Luna). It certainly gets a reaction from Lavender and from Seamus, two Gryffindors who have been skeptical towards Harry so far.
Harry can’t worry about that though. He has his detention with Umbridge to deal with. He arrives at her office, which he had seen before when Lockhart and when Lupin were there, but the place has been completely remade. Lots of lace doilies, lots of flowers, and lots of ornamental plates hanging on the walls with pictures of kittens on them. Basically, it looks like a demented grandma’s sitting room. Harry tries to be polite though, since he wants to ask if he can reschedule one of his detentions due to it conflicting with the new Gryffindor Quidditch tryouts, but Umbridge isn’t about to give him any leeway on, well, anything really.
It’s not even that she’s mean. It’s that she enjoys and thrives on having power over people. There’s part of this scene where Harry is fuming because of the tryouts and Umbridge just smiles at him, knowing that he is completely powerless in front of her and reveling in her amount of control. She’s such a sociopath, it’s sickening. At least the detention doesn’t seem to arduous. No tromping out to the Forbidden Forest or scrubbing out cauldrons. Just writing lines using a special quill. And by “special,” I mean sadistic and evil.
“You haven’t given me any ink,” he said.
“Oh, you won’t need ink,” said Professor Umbridge with the merest suggestion of a laugh in her voice.
Harry placed the point of the quill on the paper and wrote: I must not tell lies.
He let out a gasp of pain. The words had appeared on the parchment in what appeared to be shining red ink. At the same time, the words had appeared on the back of Harry’s right hand, cut into his skin as though traced there by a scalpel — yet even as he stared at the shining cut, the skin healed over again, leaving the place where it had been slightly redder than before but quite smooth.
So yeah. This “special” quill is cutting open Harry’s hand and basically making him write the lines in his own blood. That is dark, Rowling.
The next day, Harry feels so behind in homework, but is slightly comforted by the fact that Ron is also scrabbling to get it done. When asked why he didn’t do it the night before, Ron gives a dodgy answer. So now we have that to worry about. The day of classes does not go well at all, since he isn’t prepared, plus Angelina Johnson is super angry that he won’t be at tryouts to help pick the new Keeper. Ron and Hermione both try to placate Harry by telling him that at least the detention isn’t that bad, that at least it’s only lines. Little do they know.
The second detention hurts even worse, and by the third one, the words won’t disappear from the back of his hand. This crazy woman has permanently scarred the back of Harry’s hand to try and prove her misguided point. It’s sick.
On the way back, he runs into Ron, who is trying to hide is broom behind his back. Turns out the reason he hasn’t been doing homework is because he’s been going out flying to practice for the Quidditch tryouts. Aw Ron! He didn’t want to say anything because he thinks the twins will tease him about it. During their conversation though, Ron catches a glimpse of Harry’s hand and is absolutely horrified, and rightfully so. Harry reluctantly confesses what Umbridge’s detentions have really been like, and Ron wants Harry to go to McGonagall or Dumbledore. Harry doesn’t want to give Umbridge the satisfaction, which I understand, but still. This is abuse. It should be reported. Would anything be done about it? It would depend on how much control the Ministry is trying to exert over Hogwarts and Dumbledore, I guess.
For his final detention, it hurts. Really hurts.
I must not tell lies, Harry wrote. The cut in the back of his right hand opened and began to bleed afresh.
I must not tell lies. The cut dug deeper, stinging and smarting.
I must not tell lies. Blood trickled down his wrist.
Remember, she is enjoying this! Aaaaaaggggghhhhhh!
He tries to see the Quidditch pitch out the window, but even though he can sort of see, it’s hard to make out anything going on. Finally, as she dismisses him, something really weird happens.
“Let’s see if you’ve gotten the message yet, shall we?” said Umbridge’s soft voice half an hour later.
She moved toward him, stretching out her short be-ringed fingers for his arm. And then, as she took hold of him to examine the words now cut into his skin, pain seared, not across the back of his hand, but across the scar on his forehead. At the same time, he had a most peculiar sensation somewhere around his midriff.
Okay Potterphiles. Was this ever explained? What the heck just happened? I don’t remember if this came up again in later books, or if Jo ever said what this all meant. The pain in his scar was usually Voldy related, but Umbridge isn’t connected to Voldy right now, is she? And what’s with the “sensation” in his “midriff?” If anyone knows, please tell me in comments because I am stumped on this one.
After Harry returns to the common room, he finds out that Ron has been selected as the new Gryffindor Keeper! Yay! It’s about time Ron has something good happen for a change. Angelina tells Harry that she didn’t think Ron was the best at tryouts, but he seemed like he would bring less drama and would just fit in better. Hermione, who has dosed off at this point, wakes up and explains that she has been up late making more hats for house-elves, who have been apparently taking them since they keep disappearing. The hats, not the house-elves.
Harry tells Hermione about the scar hurting in Umbridge’s office and they try to figure out what could have happened. Is Umbridge being possessed by Voldemort, like Quirrell was? Is she under the Imperius Curse and that’s why she’s so evil? Hermione wants Harry to tell Dumbledore, but Harry doesn’t want to bother him about something like this, even though I agree with Hermione that Dumbledore would want to know. Harry also wants to write to Sirius, but this isn’t a good thing to put in a letter that could get intercepted. It just leaves Harry to stew about it and try to figure things out on his own.
See you next time for Chapter 14!