Umbridge tries to discredit Harry
Although she knew there were unstated time constraints, Umbridge did not overly-rush herself in her quest to destroy Harry Potter. Umbridge believed in herself, but she knew she had not risen to near the heights of the Ministry through luck. She did not discount luck, but knew, in this case, she had to eliminate it from her enemy’s favor. That meant careful preparation if she was to snare her prey.
Others watched Umbridge as she prepared, and the tensions around most of Hogwarts racheted up, ruining many couples’ Valentine’s Day. That automatically lost Umbridge some of what little support she had with many of the female students, most of whom, while shocked at Pansy’s death, rather thought (although not out loud) that Pansy had been a rather stupid, ugly idiot who had obviously gone too far. Harry’s supporters within Slytherin had spread the ‘rumor’ that Pansy had forced Nott into a confrontation with Harry, who had still had Nott’s family saved despite the attack. As the remaining females who had at some time or another given the Dark Lord some support were now at least publically neutral, Umbridge would get little support from them now.
Harry’s most open supporters were often seen glaring at Umbridge whenever she was seen outside her little group of offices. Only direct orders from Harry not to harass her kept things from getting out of control.
The staff resented Umbridge’s presence, not forgetting how she had tried to invade their territory the previous September. Snape, of course, was the most interested in the developments. Should Harry fail to deal with Umbridge, Snape would have to rethink his current alliance. Should Harry have to deal with Umbridge inelegantly or too obviously, he would also have to rethink. Snape was certainly not against violence on principle, and he suspected that Harry was becoming to think of violence as an early option. Still, so long as Harry did not use violence against weak opponents, it was unlikely that the Boy was turning Dark. Snape was happy with a grey Harry.
Dumbledore was not happy with a grey Harry, especially one who could execute Pansy Parkinson – there was no doubt in his mind Harry had somehow done so. On the other hand, he recognized that, while not an active supporter of Voldemort, Umbridge was certainly a real threat to Harry’s main mission. After consideration, he decided not to ask Moody to be in the castle, and limited Tonks and Shacklebolt’s presence to between 10:30 at night to 6:30 in the morning. Harry had proven he could get around the three (not to mention Dumbledore), but the Headmaster decided he did not want to make things difficult for Harry. Hopefully, that would keep the bloodshed to a minimum.
If Umbridge’s mere presence was her opening salvo in the war of nerves, the first counter came Valentine’s night, when a new dish appeared on all the tables. There were only a few snickers, and Ron Weasley was heard to say, “Those are funny looking chicken legs.” Oddly, the entire great hall went quiet, as if on cue.
“Those aren’t chicken legs,” Hermione informed him. “Those are frog legs.”
Dozens of noses wrinkled at the idea, but Harry said, “Try ‘em; you’ll like ‘em.” Everyone seemed to watch Harry as he picked up a frog leg and ate the white flesh with relish.
At that point, an unidentifiable voices called out, “Yech! I don’t want to eat Umbridge legs!”
“She’s a toad,” a second voice scolded, “not a frog.”
“Oh, in that case, yum!”
Umbridge stood up, glaring and trying to find where those voices were coming from. At first, all she heard was laughter. Then, under the laughter but growing, she heard a chorus of, “Ribbit! Ribbet! Ribbet!” and other assorted croaks and calls.
Umbridge’s conflicted instincts battled for a moment, but as the chorus grew louder, and as Dumbledore and the rest of the staff merely sat there, passing out the frog legs, she left the great hall.
She was not pleased that frog legs were on the dinner menu every night thereafter while she was at Hogwarts.
“Do you two actually LIKE those things?” Ron asked Harry and Hermione after Umbridge had left.
“Very tasty,” Hermione said, delicately peeling the meat off the little bones with a fork.
“Just pretend they’re chicken,” Harry suggested.
Ron shrugged, and dug in.
Despite the distractions, Umbridge felt, three nights later, that she was at last ready to deal with the Boy. The idea that he might be useful, let alone necessary, to the fight against a possibly revived Dark Lord did not enter her head. She was determined to quash the idea of any return, and to pin the death and violence at Hogwarts and even the attack on Hogsmeade directly on Harry Potter. The fame of this Half-blood had been annoying while he was growing up; it could not be allowed to spread and create alternate ideas to the Purebloods’ control of the Ministry. All she had to do was add one more piece of crystal, in this case a ruby, to the runic crystal layout, and whomever was in the center of it would have to tell the complete truth, and would be physically under the power of the person in the control spot. Once completed, she would capture the boy on his way to his usual workout the next morning.
Umbridge squeaked in shock when the ruby flew out of her hand. She turned, wand out, in the direction of the ruby and started to cast a hex.
To her shock, her wand followed the ruby. Both flew into the hand of a strange figure – it was obviously male, but the figure did not appear dressed in black – it was black, totally black, moving in the torch-lit room.
Umbridge swore as she was levitated and she and the Shadow moved around the room. Her eyes went wide as she saw the positions they were heading towards. Sure enough, in a few seconds, the runic ritual area was completed – she was in the position of the subject, the Shadow was in the control area.
“My, my, Madam Whatever-Your-Title-Is-Tonight,” the voice mocked, “a Hindu truth ritual? This is a banned ritual, except when used by the High Brahmin Council, or in front of the Tribunes of the International Confederation.”
“I represent the Government,” Umbridge stated. “I can do no wrong in administering justice!”
“If you weren’t caught in your own web, I’d say you were lying,” the Shadow replied. “Since you are, you must just be stupid. You obviously don’t know what justice means.”
“I demand you release me!”
“And I demand you tell me everything you have ever done to bend or break the laws, even if they were done with, to your blind eyes, the right of the Ministry behind them! Your memory crystals will record everything! Start talking!”
And Umbridge talked. She started talking at 7:50 that night, and talked for over ten hours, since the Shadow kept her to the main facts and rarely asked for any details, other than names of accomplices. He was shocked at just how corrupt the Ministry was, and how unlikely the system was too change, at least in the short-term, without even more bloodshed than he could stomach. He was certainly surprise at Umbridge’s bigoted stupidity – to believe that a Muggle could steal a child’s magic was beyond comprehension, but then Umbridge also thought a werewolf could infect someone at any time just by kissing them.
That started a chain of thought, which would allow ‘the Shadow’ to solve several problems at once if he could get everything arranged.
The experience exhausted Umbridge, especially since she kept trying to fight her own creation. When the Shadow released her, therefore, she just collapsed. She did not notice anything beyond her own confused physical reactions until she felt a slight but sharp pain on either side of where her spinal cord entered the skull. “What. . . ?” was all she managed to say before a wave of calmness took her over, a feeling not unlike the Imperious, but still somewhat different. Umbridge realized that whatever was happening, her consciousness was separated from her body.
“Rest, little toad,” the Shadow whispered, “while I duplicate the memory crystals – and add the layer of new runes to your little ritual that will allow me to get rid of you.” He sighed, hoping these conflicts would soon be over.
Later that day, copies of Umbridge’s confessions would appear in both the British Minister’s office and the MLES, while other copies went to ‘The Prophet’ and ‘The Quibbler’ in Britain. Copies were also sent to the International and the ten largest-circulating Magical newspapers outside of Britain. The scandals would be rocking the Wizarding world for months, and numerous agents and members of various illegal and/or bigoted groups were exposed, as were corrupt officials all around the world.
In the end, it cannot be said that the officials who took over after the scandals settled down were honest and open-minded. However, in general, they were at least somewhat less-corrupt and slightly less-bigoted. In addition, several prisoners, who were in Azkaban or in other prisons at the behest of the British Ministry, were released, as it was shown they had only been kept in prison out of political vendettas. Sirius Black would be officially pardoned then as well.
However, all that would take through August to occur.
Breakfast was nearly finished when Dolores Umbridge marched into the great hall and stood in the door. The ‘ribbits’ barely started, and then died out. Umbridge was acting too oddly for the mocking to reign over the confusion and speculation.
At that point, Umbridge took a deep breath and announced, “Dumbledore! I have sinned against you and against the wizards and witches of magical Britain! I have decided to confess my misdeeds and remove myself! You will find copies of the evidence of my sins in the suite I forced you to open for me.” With that, she turned and marched out.
“Come on!” Ron shouted, “let’s see what the Toad does!” Despite the protests from many of the staff, especially McGonagall, the students poured out of the great hall until only Harry, Snape, and Dumbledore remained.
Harry finished his cup of hot chocolate and looked at the other two. “Shall we see what’s happening?” The pair followed Harry out. They were not going to let Harry out of their sight.
The trio soon caught up with the crowd. Umbridge was standing at the edge of the Forbidden Forrest, one arm raised to stop the others from coming too close. She nodded at the approaching Headmaster. One by one, heads turned to take in Harry and Dumbledore.
Harry sighed, pulled out a wand, and swore, “I solemnly swear, on my life and magic, that I had nothing to do with this.” After the flash, Harry put his wand away and shouted, “Well, Madam Umbridge, what now?”
Umbridge stepped out of the protection of the Hogwarts wards and instantly a chill was felt. Dumbledore started to pull his wand, but Harry shook his head. Dumbledore hesitated, but then decided he had to follow through. Snape then grabbed a hold of the Headmaster’s wrist, preventing Dumbledore from fully drawing his wand, much to the old man’s astonishment. At the same moment, the Shadow appeared out of the shadows of the forest, causing the crowd to gasp. A dementor appeared from behind the Shadow, gathered Umbridge into its arms, and to the horror of everyone, quickly gave Umbridge the kiss.
The dementor released the now-motionless body and bowed to the Shadow. Then, in a voice which sent chills through most of the present, the dementor spoke.
“Lord of Death on Earth, we thank you for this last meal. As agreed, most of the Brethren will now leave to return to the netherworld from which we came. The rest of us swear to stay on the Isle of Azkaban so long as there are evil doers there we may be near at least one hour a day.” The dementor bowed again. “We thank you for not sending us all deeper into hell.”
With that, the dementor returned into the forest.
A few gasps were heard as other shapes appeared out of the shade. These turned out to be two acromantulas, which led the body into the forest. The Shadow bowed to the students and then disappeared.
“I wish I knew how you do this,” Snape growled, low so that only Harry could hear the words.
Harry didn’t react to Snape. Instead, he turned to Dumbledore and asked, “So, Headmaster . . . what do we do now?”
Dumbledore’s mouth was moving, but no sounds were coming out.
Meanwhile, in the forest, the two spiders, still leading Umbridge’s body, scuttled past a centaur. The Shadow came to the space a few seconds later.
“Pluto diminishes,” Bane said, not looking at the Shadow.
“Do you object?” the Shadow asked.
“No, Harry Potter,” the centaur quickly replied. He loathed wizards; this was the first one he both feared and respected. “The spiders do not belong here, any more than we should be in their lands. I admit I do not understand how this will work, but I do not need to know.”
“Only a few of the spiders will die,” Harry warned the centaur. “The ones who feed directly on Umbridge, and even then not for a week or more unless they are already ill. The others will be rendered sterile over the next few weeks. The process cannot jump species, so no other beings or animals will be affected. And, even if they have contact with others of their kind, the process will end in a month or so.”*
Bane merely nodded. “The spiders will die out as we can now out-compete them since they can not so quickly replace themselves; the dementors are mostly returning to their ancestral demon-lairs. . . .”
“And Grawp has been moved to a new giant reserve in Idaho,” Harry said with satisfaction.
“Why?” Bane asked, curious despite himself.
“The giants have nearly destroyed themselves,” Harry retorted. “A few of the smaller and less aggressive male giants have been separated out, along with the more intelligent females. Hopefully, their off-spring will be more capable of surviving together.”
Bane nodded. “We will be moving deeper into the Forest. Please do not turn your attention to us.” Bane snorted and left.
“Good riddance,” Harry muttered, and left to straighten out the time line.
*The basic idea on how to treat this group of spiders is taken from ‘Wizard’s Fall’ by Bobmin.
That night, after several moments of silence, Harry glared at Snape. “Did you want to talk to me, or was there some other reason you gave me another phony detention?”
“I have admit, I am nearly speechless with admiration,” Snape admitted.
Harry made a face. “I know you didn’t want to just suck up,” Harry pointed out.
Snape flushed slightly, but said, “I told the Dark Lord about your idea for getting the faux Prophecy a few weeks ago. He has apparently finally had it retrieved. Is there anything I need to know about it?”
“Finally!” Harry said.
Snape scowled. “You could have said it was important!”
Harry just gave Snape a bemused look.
Snape thought a moment. “Look, I wouldn’t have told Dumbledore if you had told me not to!”
“It was more natural this way,” Harry answered. “As for the faux prophecy, well, let’s just say it gave Volde some information to test – he won’t like the results.”
Snape just managed not to blurt out a demand for the information.
“He should have reached the end of the possible times he can split his soul. He’s already done it one more time than anyone else has successfully done it, according to the so-called-experts. What he didn’t know, and that the Headmaster did, was that my scar was a Horcrux.”
“I’m surprised it hasn’t faded,” Snape admitted.
Harry smirked. “Muggle stage make-up.” Snape looked surprised. “In any event, he won’t want to try and kill me or have me killed. He needs to figure a sane way to remove the Horcrux.”
“And if he does?”
Harry shrugged. “Then you’ll be ordered to kidnap me. Until then, he has to play nice. You still need to get Nagini to eat some poisoned mice.”
“Oh . . . I set that trap a few days ago. That business with Umbridge made it impossible to talk to you before now.”
“What does Riddle think of ‘the Shadow’?” Harry asked, curious.
“He’d love to know how the Shadow did it, as do we all,” Snape admitted.
Harry merely smiled and left.
“Actually, we’d love to know how you accomplished some of these things, too,” Hermione admitted after Harry told her and Luna about his evening.
“You could figure it out,” Luna pointed out. “You are being too trusting of what you see.”
“I suppose you could explain all of Harry’s tricks,” Hermione snapped.
“All? No, of course not. However, the bi-location means either Harry has tamed a screw-tailed tricorn, or has a time-turner,” Luna said off-hand.
“Or something similar, if more accurate,” Harry murmured.
“Good point,” Luna agreed, “although I am still betting that’s misdirection and it’s a tricorn. As for the oaths . . . Harry, can you do wandless magic?”
“A few spells, but nothing too powerful,” Harry answered. “Well, I can banish things pretty well.”
“How many wands and wand-like sticks do you have in your robes, Harry?” Luna asked.
“My Ollivander’s wand, the Elder wand, what one of my mentor’s called a throw-away, and a stick that looks like the Ollivander wand,” Harry admitted.
“So you pull out the stick, say the oath without casting magic, and give a light show?” Hermione asked, incredulous. “I’m surprised you get away with it!”
“The magical always fall for sleight-of-hand,” Harry said with a shrug. “They think it’s magic, because they know magic is real. It took you in, and you are more intelligent, more observant, and far less gullible than nearly anyone else. ”
Hermione’s jaw dropped. After a moment, she managed to shut her mouth, took a deep breath, and said, “I am not angry with either of you. Just at myself.”
“There are reasons why the magical fear Muggles learning about us,” Luna said softly. “If they don’t know about us, then we can use magic to confuse them. When they know about magic, then we can only try to overpower them – and they outnumber us more than 1000 to 1 worldwide, closer to 3,000 to one in Britain.”
Hermione merely nodded. She took another deep breath and then asked, “May I ask who the other group was who rescued you this summer, besides the American technomages?”
“I never said if it was the American or Australian technomages,” Harry pointed out. “As for the other group, well, if I told you they call themselves, ‘the Gang’, does that give you a clue.”
“Doug and Dinsdale?” Luna asked, impressed
“Doug and Dins. . . .” Hermione stomped her foot in anger. “Harry James Potter! You are not going to ever convince me that these people are led by Doug and Dinsdale Piranha!”
“How do you know about them?” Luna asked, confused. “Few do in the magical world, and fewer in the Muggle.”
“They’re fictional! And from a comedy sketch!”
“Actually,” Harry answered, “they aren’t brothers. Doug is a Muggle-born, Dinsdale is a Half-blood. They do look a lot alike, and took the names from the comedy sketch.”
Hermione managed to control her breathing after a few moments, but then asked, “You work with mobsters?”
Harry shrugged. “Smugglers, for the most part. They operate on the fringes of both worlds. And Voldemort would use them and then kill them if he knew more about them, just like he would destroy the magic the technomages are creating. That’s why they are allies, and helping me, even if they don’t particularly like each other.”
“Enlightened self-interest?” Luna asked.
“Glad something is enlightened ‘round here,” Hermione complained, to which Harry and Luna laughed.