In Chapter 17, Umbridge makes things more difficult at Hogwarts and reveals that she may have heard about their little meeting. Let’s go!
It’s nice to have a sense of optimism for once, isn’t it! Between the enthusiasm of the people wanting to join their little “study group,” and Cho’s obvious admiration, Harry is feeling pretty good right now.
That feeling can’t last forever. Ugh.
As Harry and Ron head downstairs, they notice that a sign has been posted: Educational Decree Number Twenty-Four.
All Student Organizations, Societies, Teams, Groups, and Clubs are henceforth disbanded. An Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club is hereby defined as a regular meeting of three or more students.
Permission to re-form may be sought from the High Inquisitor (Professor Umbridge). No Student Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club may exist without the knowledge and approval of the High Inquisitor.
Any student found to have formed, or belong to, an Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club that has not been approved by the High Inquisitor will be expelled.
Harry knows that this can’t just be a coincidence. Somehow, someway, Umbridge knows about their meeting down at the Hog’s Head and is taking steps to make sure that future meetings won’t happen. Ron wants to tell Hermione right away about it, but finds that he can’t go up the stairs to the girls’ dorms – it turns into a slide and he falls off! Heeheehee! He’s a bit miffed at the double standard, since Hermione has come up to the boys’ dorms several times, but the founders assumed that boys were less trustworthy, so no visits to the girls’ room for you, Ron!
Hermione is not happy about the recent turn of events, but knows that none of the people at the meeting told on them. How? She jinxed the paper they all signed. If someone snitched, believe me, we’d know. Still, she is very much determined not to give up. As are Ernie and Hannah and the Ravenclaw boys, although Hermione has to deter them from talking about it in the Great Hall. Really? You just found out that any gatherings will be suspicious, so . . . you decide to talk about it in front of ALL THE TEACHERS?
Another nasty part of this rule? Angelina has to go and ask permission to re-form the Quidditch team. It’s included. She begs Harry to behave himself in Umbridge’s class so Umbridge doesn’t have any more ammunition against them, which Harry hastily agrees to.
They go to History of Magic class, which is very dull and boring as usual, but are interrupted by the arrival of Hedwig with a letter. But something’s not right.
He had expected Hedwig to hold out her leg so that he could remove the letter and then fly off to the Owlery, but the moment the window was open wide enough she hopped inside, hooting dolefully. He closed the window with an anxious glance at Professor Binns, crouched low again, and sped back to his seat with Hedwig on his shoulder. He regained his seat, transferred Hedwig to his lap, and made to remove the letter tied to her leg.
It was only then that he realized that Hedwig’s feathers were oddly ruffled; some were bent the wrong way, and she was holding one of her wings at an odd angle.
It is nice that Professor Binns is oblivious to, well, everything. Harry says that he is sick and asks to go to the hospital wing in order to take care of Hedwig. Normally he would take her to Hagrid, so he figures that his best bet would be Professor G-P. He heads to the staffrom, where the gargoyles give him a hard time, but the door is finally opened by Professor McGonagall, who lets him in to see G-P, who says that she will be able to take care of Hedwig.
Look, I really like Grubbly-Plank. She’s a capable teacher with a straight-forward, no nonsense attitude that I respect. I just wish Hagrid was back.
McGonagall calls Harry back to make sure that he got his letter, but to also warn him that communication in and out of Hogwarts is being watched. Which means someone attacked Hedwig to get her letter. Oh no. Oh no you didn’t. Look, Harry & Co. can take care of themselves, but you do NOT go and attack innocent animals. That is NOT allowed! The letter is in Sirius’s handwriting, saying “Today, same time, same place.” Hermione is worried that somehow they are all being watched, both owl letters and the Floo Network. They are afraid to let Sirius talk to them, but they also don’t know how to warn him either.
Outside Snape’s classroom, Malfoy is being a jerk as always. He mentions, loud enough for everyone to hear of course, that the Slytherin Quidditch team was immediately given permission to play. He wonders if the Gryffindor team will be so lucky, especially given the people on the team.
“I mean,” said Malfoy, raising his voice a little more, his gray eyes glittering malevolently in Harry and Ron’s direction, “if it’s a question of influence with the Ministry, I don’t think they’ve got much chance . . . From what my father says, they’ve been looking for an excuse to sack Arthur Weasley for years . . . And as for Potter . . . My father says it’s a matter of time before the Ministry has him carted off to St. Mungo’s . . . apparently they’ve got a special ward for people whose brains have been addled by magic . . .”
Hermione is trying to make sure that Harry and Ron don’t jump up and take Malfoy’s very obvious bait, but it’s not Harry and Ron go after him. It’s Neville. Poor, sweet Neville. You can’t make fun of this sort of thing in front of him, not with what happened to his parents. Granted, Malfoy probably doesn’t know about that, but still. Harry and Ron pull Neville back, and it’s just then that Snape opens the door and sees what’s going on. He accuses Harry, Ron and Neville of fighting and takes ten points from Gryffindor. Because of course he does. Snape doesn’t feel right if he can’t take at least fifty points from Gryffindor before breakfast.
Ron doesn’t understand what set Neville off, but Harry does. He remembers.
Snape’s class is up for inspection today, so Harry has to sit through a class with not one, but two of his most hated teachers. Umbridge starts questioning him about his classes, how long he’s been teaching (fourteen years), and why he has constantly applied for the D.A.D.A. post each year only to be turned down repeatedly. Snape is rightly offended by this line of questioning and takes his frustrations out on Harry. In Snape’s defense, Harry’s potion did turn out awful.
Harry wants to skip Divination, but Hermione points out that he’s already missed one class today and really shouldn’t miss two. In Divination, Trelawney is not in a good mood at all. It is clear she’s gotten her results back from Umbridge’s inspection. She explodes when Parvati asks if anything is wrong.
“Wrong!” cried Professor Trelawney in a voice throbbing with emotion. “Certainly not! I have been insulted, certainly . . . Insinuations have been made against me . . . Unfounded accusations levelled . . . but no, there is nothing wrong, certainly not . . .”
She took a great shuddering breath and looked away from Parvati, angry tears spilling from under her glasses.
“I say nothing,” she choked, “of sixteen years’ devoted service . . . It has passed, apparently, unnoticed . . . But I shall not be insulted, no, I shall not!”
Trelawney is a kook, but she’s a harmless one. And she doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.
Angelina tells them that night that Quidditch practice has been cancelled. Umbridge hasn’t given them permission to re-form the team yet, saying she needs time to consider. Harry protests that he behaved himself today, that she gave the Slytherin team permission right away, and that it isn’t fair. Which it’s not, but Umbridge is not interested in being fair. She’s interested in being an authoritarian jerk. Harry tries to work on homework, but is too worried about Sirius’s attempt to speak with them. Instead, they all watch Fred and George demonstrating their wares. Hermione dismisses their tricks as being useless, but Ron notices that the twins have already made 26 Galleons. That’s not nothing, Hermione!
Later that night, after everyone else has gone up to bed, Sirius appears in the common room fire. Turns out he has heard about their little “study group” meeting at the Hog’s Head. He tells them to choose their meeting places more carefully, as the Three Broomsticks would have been better. It was crowded and noisy, which would have made it harder for them to be overheard. Also, Mundungus was disguised as a witch in the Hog’s Head, keeping tabs on Harry, which is how Sirius found out about it. Actually, the whole Order knows.
“First of all, Ron — I’ve sworn to pass on a message from your mother.”
“Oh yeah?” said Ron, sounding apprehensive.
“She says on no account whatsoever are you to take part in an illegal secret Defense Against the Dark Arts group. She says you’ll be expelled for sure and your future will be ruined. She says there will be plenty of time to learn how to defend yourself later and that you are too young to be worrying about that right now. She also . . . advises Harry and Hermione not to proceed with the group, though she accepts that she has no authority over either of them and simply begs them to remember that she has their best interests at heart.”
So Mrs. Weasley is worried. Sirius, on the other hand, thinks the group is a great idea, not just for learning about defense, but to stick it to the establishment! When he was in school, he and Harry’s dad would never have put up with this! Even though last year, Sirius told Harry not to take risks, this year things have changed. Voldemort is back, and that raises all the stakes. Hermione is worried about getting expelled, even though this was her idea to start with, but Sirius puts it very plainly.
“Well, better expelled and able to defend yourselves than sitting safely in school without a clue.”
A fair point. Gotta look at the big picture here.
Sirius asks where they think they can meet and suggests the Shrieking Shack. Hermione says that would be difficult because there’s so many of them. He suggests another secret passageway that he knew about, but Harry says Fred and George told him it had caved in. Sirius thinks for a moment, and then vanishes from the fire, replaced with a groping hand wearing rings . . . just like Umbridge. They make a run for it, all the while Umbridge is reaching through the fire for Sirius.
See you next time for Chapter 18!
I have most of the books in the series but have only read the first two. I keep meaning to continue but they are large books and I have so many waiting to be read. Maybe I should try to do one every other month.