The Many Faces Go To War 4

“The Many Faces Go To War: Chapter 4”
By = Fayanora

Chapter Four: Dolores Umbridge

Notes: This is the second chapter of the sequel to “The Many Faces of Har---er, Adira Potter.” If you haven't read that series yet, this one isn't going to make much sense. Also, a reminder for anyone who forgot: the person formerly known as Harry still exists, she's just transgender in this one, her new name is Adira, nicknamed “Addy.”

NOTE: THIS HAS BEEN CHANGED AGAIN, because Reasons. Hopefully for the last time = From now on, 'Single quotes with no italics' will be Adira/Addy, ~Text in tildes~ will be Chandra, (Parentheses for Al,) [Brackets will be Hypatia], % Percentage symbols for Iliana %, # Pound signs for Mother/Avani, # * Asterisks for Zoey, * and {curly brackets for Tier.} Apologies for any confusion this may cause, I know some of it contradicts earlier formatting, but I tried to minimize that.

Text in 'Italics and British quotes' is Parseltongue.

J. K. Rowling owns this sandbox, I'm only playing in it.

Sorry for the long wait. Life happens.

*FAYANORA*

[[One last note: Please re-read above notes, changes to formatting have been made.]]

Iliana was astonished the next morning to find she was still herself. She got up and got ready, then went down with Ron, Hermione, and Neville to breakfast. They paused briefly as Hermione read and then took down a sign by the Weasley twins offering gold for testers of their products.

“They are the limit,” said Hermione grimly, taking down the sign, which Fred and George had pinned up over a poster giving the date of the first Hogsmeade weekend in October. “We’ll have to talk to them, Neville.”

Neville looked nervous. “Do we have to?”

“Neville,” said Iliana, “the twins aren't going to hurt you. Just talk to them, make them understand they can't test their products on humans. They need to test them on animals first.”

“Iliana!” shouted Hermione.

“What? That's how science works. You test on animals first, and if it works on them without the side effects being too bad, then you move on to human trials.”

“Well I don't like it.”

“Bet you like it better than testing directly on human volunteers, though.”

Hermione sighed. “Yes, fine. You're right.”

“I still don't fancy talking to them,” Neville said. “I don't really know why I was made a prefect.”

“What happened to the confident Neville from the train who faced down Malfoy like it was no problem?”

“That was Malfoy. The twins are much older and better at magic. Their grades aren't wonderful, but they're a lot better at magic than they let on.”

“So? They're not going to hurt you. And if they won't listen to you, threaten to tell their mother. Or threaten to sic me or Al on them.”

Neville laughed at that.

“Oh all right,” he finally said. “I'll talk to them when I see them.”

“Don't forget, Neville, I'll be there too,” Hermione said.

Neville nodded, smiling.

As they walked down the corridor full of talking portraits, Iliana turned to Hermione.

“What's wrong, Hermione? You've felt upset since before we found that sign.”

“Nothing's wrong, Iliana,” she said too quickly and too glibly.

“Don't lie to an empath, Hermione, it's like lying to a legilimens.”

She sighed. “Fine, okay. Lavender Brown believes the Daily Prophet. About you. She buys that rubbish about you and Cedric being in on the whole thing together, even thinks Cedric helped you get your name in the goblet, and that you're dangerous. I told her to shut her fat mouth, but it's still upsetting.”

Iliana shrugged. “It's Lavender Brown. She believes everything that old fraud Trelawney says. We know she's gullible.”

“Yes, but it's a symptom of a bigger problem. I'm honestly confused why you're not upset about it yourself.”

“I've been through worse. Plus, I had a talk with Dean and Seamus last night about it. His mum and dad believe the Prophet, too. They think we're dangerous because we're a multiple. But I set Seamus straight on the issue, and he's going to write to his parents to tell them he believes me.”

“Oh. Well, that's progress. Good. Maybe you can talk to Lavender, too. If she'll let you near her, the fraidy cat.”

“I'll try. Dean and Seamus did point out we're a bit unfriendly. I explained it was because of not having friends growing up, and then the whole school turning on us at least twice. But I've done some thinking, and I think there'd be a lot less of that if people knew the truth about us.”

“Whadda ya mean?” Ron asked.

“I mean, I think I need to expose my past. Sure the Dursleys were arrested for child abuse, but that didn't stick around long in the news. I'm sure people have forgotten by now. And it's not like the contents of the trial were made public. I'm sure most people still think I was raised in a castle like a spoiled brat and the Dursleys were occasional visitors that abused me when they were there. I need to tell them the truth.”

“How're you gonna do that?”

“I'm going to ask Healer Young for some help finding a trustworthy news outlet and reporter to tell my story to. I need to talk with him again anyway, after Voldemort rising. We've been having nightmares again. And we killed some of those Death Eaters. I'm not as bothered by it as I was with Quirrell, since I'm older and Healer Young helped me realize that I was defending my own life. But still, nightmares you know. So I'll owl him later.”

“Are you also gonna talk to the reporter about You-Know-Who?” Ron asked.

“I... I don't know. Maybe I should. And if I do, I can see if I can get Cedric’s input as well. There's probably still going to be people convinced we're colluding together, but it's worth a try.”

Iliana stopped, realizing they were at the Griffindor table just in time to avoid running into it with her shins. She looked up at the staff table. Professor Grubbly-Plank was chatting to Professor Sinistra, the Astronomy teacher, and Hagrid was once again conspicuous only by his absence. The enchanted ceiling above them echoed her mood; it was a miserable rain-cloud gray.

“Dumbledore didn’t even mention how long that Grubbly-Plank woman’s staying,” she said.

“Maybe …” said Hermione thoughtfully.

“What?” said both Iliana and Ron together.

“Well … maybe he didn’t want to draw attention to Hagrid not being here.”

“What d’you mean, draw attention to it?” said Ron, half laughing. “How could we not notice?”

Before Hermione could answer, a tall black girl with long, braided hair had marched up to Iliana.

“Hi, Angelina.”

“Hi,” she said, “good summer?”

“Not particularly,” Iliana said. “And you?”

“Er... fine I guess. Anyway, I hear you're the new Quidditch Captain.”

“Oh, right. Yes, I am. Thanks for reminding me. I guess if Wood is gone, we need a new Keeper, right?”

“Yeah. So when are tryouts?”

“Dunno yet. But I'll talk with McGonagall, see if I can schedule them for this coming weekend.”

Angelina grinned, but also looked nervous. “Great. I'll check back with you later, okay?”

“You could, but I think I'll just make signs to post on the bulletin board when I have the date and time set. Maybe I can get Luna to help, she's an artist.”

“Er, okay. See you later, Iliana!”

“You too, Angelina.”

As they sat down and started putting food on their plate, Iliana said, “You know, Wood's major flaw was we never had alternates in our lineup. Whenever I got in the Hospital Wing before a match, we couldn't play. Well that's silly. So I'm going to include alternates in the tryouts. I think I'll ask Ginny to try out. She'd make a pretty good Chaser, I think.”

“Good thinking, Iliana,” Ron said.

“Yes. Other teams do that, I think,” Hermione said.

“Exactly. So we should, too.”

“I’d forgotten Wood had left,” said Hermione vaguely, buttering some toast. “I suppose that will make quite a difference to the team?”

“I s’pose,” said Iliana, taking the bench opposite. “He was a good Keeper.”

“Still, it won’t hurt to have some new blood, will it?” said Ron.

Iliana sensed excitement and nerves from Ron and glanced at him before taking a bite of eggs. Did he want to try out? She didn't know what she thought about that. It could be good for Ron, but he had confidence issues. She hoped he was good at it, if he tried out.

With a whoosh and a clatter, hundreds of owls came soaring in through the upper windows. They descended all over the Hall, bringing letters and packages to their owners and showering the breakfasters with droplets of water; it was clearly raining hard outside. Hedwig was nowhere to be seen, but Iliana was hardly surprised; her only correspondent was Remus, now that he was fired, and she doubted Remus would have anything new to tell her after only twenty-four hours apart. Hermione, however, had to move her orange juice aside quickly to make way for a large damp barn owl bearing a sodden Daily Prophet in its beak.

“Still giving money to the enemy, I see,” she commented.

Hermione glowered at her. “We need to see what the enemy are saying about us. If that means giving them some money, then that's what we do,” said Hermione darkly, and she unfurled the newspaper and disappeared behind it, not emerging until Iliana and Ron had finished eating.

“Nothing,” she said simply, rolling up the newspaper and laying it down by her plate. “Nothing about you or Dumbledore or Cedric or anything.”

Iliana shrugged.

Neville sat down next to them and started putting food on his plate.

“Hi, Neville.”

“Hi, Iliana, Hermione.”

They were all almost done with their meals when McGonagall came along to hand out the class schedules.

“Look at today!” groaned Ron. “History of Magic, double Potions, and Divination. Snape, Trelawney, and that Umbridge woman all in one day! Oh well, it could be worse. At least we've got the afternoon free.”

“My schedule is different from yours, Ron. I've been taking Ancient Runes. I don't have a free afternoon, I have double Ancient Runes instead.”

“Glad I didn't take that,” Ron said. “Damn, we don't have Defense Against the Dark Arts until Thursday morning!”

“I wonder what Sirius will be like as a teacher?” Iliana said.

“Yeah, it's gonna be murder waiting that long to find out. I wish Fred and George’d hurry up and get those Skiving Snackboxes sorted.”

“Why hello there, little brother,” said one of the twins, as both began sitting down next to Ron.

“Hi, Fred,” Iliana said, looking right at him.

Fred stared at her. “How'd you know it was me?”

“Empath,” she said, pointing at her head. “And lots of experience with it. I can tell the two of you apart now. You have slightly different empathic auras.”

“Damn. That's inconvenient, isn't it George?”

“Right it is,” George said. “Anyway, Ron, what's this about you wanting to skip 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. Even the free afternoon doesn't really make up for it.”

“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.

“Cheers,” said Ron moodily, pocketing his schedule, “but I think I’ll take the lessons.”

Hermione nudged Neville. He sighed.

“Fred, G-George,” he said nervously. “You c-can't test your products on students, even if you're paying them. And you can't advertise for testers on the Griffindor notice board.”

“Says who?” said George, looking astonished.

“S-says me, and Hermione,” Neville said, pointing to his Prefect badge.

“Oh really?” said George. “And what are you gonna back that badge up with, Sir Longbottom?”

Neville grinned, and with his wand he did a swish and flick at a kipper, whispering “Wingardium Leviosa.” The entire bowl of kippers flew so hard into the air that it hit the enchanted ceiling and broke, showering them with kippers, kipper juice, and broken shards of ceramic bowl.

Neville hastily stood up to clean the mess with his wand, but George stopped him.

“Neville, I'll get it. I don't want your wand thinking I'm dirt and making me vanish or get the flesh cleaned off my skeleton.”

Iliana heard laughter from the Slytherin table as Malfoy had seen what happened. George soon had the mess cleaned up and the broken shards gathered up.

“Reparo,” he said at the pile of shards, repairing the bowl with magic.

“Thanks, George,” Neville muttered.

Fred and George stood up and bowed respectfully to Neville.

“Prefect Longbottom, we will take the signs down by the end of the day,” they said in twin stereo. “You have our word.”

“Anyway,” George said as they sat down again. “You lot will be wanting Skiving Snack-boxes soon enough. It's your fifth year.”

“And why would starting fifth year mean I want a Skiving Snackbox?” asked Hermione.

“Fifth year’s O.W.L. year,” said George.

“So?”

“So you’ve got your exams coming up, haven’t you? They’ll be keeping your noses so hard to that grindstone they’ll be rubbed raw,” said Fred with satisfaction.

“Half our year had minor breakdowns coming up to O.W.L.s,” said George happily. “Tears and tantrums … Patricia Stimpson kept coming over faint. …”

“Kenneth Towler came out in boils, d’you remember?” said Fred reminiscently.

“That’s ’cause you put Bulbadox Powder in his pajamas,” said George.

“Oh yeah,” said Fred, grinning. “I’d forgotten. … Hard to keep track sometimes, isn’t it?”

“Anyway, it’s a nightmare of a year, the fifth,” said George. “If you care about exam results anyway. Fred and I managed to keep our spirits up somehow.”

“Yeah … you got, what was it, three O.W.L.s each?” said Ron.

“Yep,” said Fred unconcernedly. “But we feel our futures lie outside the world of academic achievement.”

“We seriously debated whether we were going to bother coming back for our seventh year,” said George brightly, “now that we’ve got —”

They froze as Iliana glared at them. They'd been about to mention Al gave them money from their half of the Triwizard winnings.

“— now that we’ve got our O.W.L.s,” George said hastily. “I mean, do we really need N.E.W.T.s? But we didn’t think Mum could take us leaving school early, not on top of Percy turning out to be the world’s biggest prat.”

“We’re not going to waste our last year here, though,” said Fred, looking affectionately around at the Great Hall. “We’re going to use it to do a bit of market research, find out exactly what the average Hogwarts student requires from his joke shop, carefully evaluate the results of our research, and then produce the products to fit the demand.”

“But where are you going to get the gold to start a joke shop?” asked Hermione skeptically. “You’re going to need all the ingredients and materials — and premises too, I suppose.”

Iliana did not look at the twins. Her face felt hot; she deliberately dropped her fork and dived down to retrieve it. She heard Fred say overhead, “Ask us no questions and we’ll tell you no lies, Hermione. C’mon, George, if we get there early we might be able to sell a few Extendable Ears before Herbology.”

“What did that mean?” said Hermione, looking from Iliana to Ron. “ ‘Ask us no questions …’ Does that mean they’ve already got some gold to start a joke shop?”

Ron shrugged. “I dunno. But I suppose if they're selling their products at school, they might be getting gold that way.”

“Yes, but enough to fund premises?”

Iliana decided it was time to steer the conversation out of these dangerous waters.

“D’you reckon it’s true this year’s going to be really tough? Because of the exams?”

“Oh yeah,” said Ron. “Bound to be, isn’t it? O.W.L.s are really important, affect the jobs you can apply for and everything. We get career advice too, later this year, Bill told me. So you can choose what N.E.W.T.s you want to do next year.”

“D’you know what you want to do after Hogwarts?” Iliana asked the other three, as they left the Great Hall shortly afterward and set off toward their History of Magic classroom.

“Not really,” said Ron slowly. “Except … well …”

He looked slightly sheepish.

“What?” Iliana urged him.

“Well, it’d be cool to be an Auror,” said Ron in an offhand voice.

“My mum and dad were Aurors,” said Neville. “Gran would probably want me to be one, too.”

“No offense to your Gran, Neville, but she needs to stop trying to recreate her son in you and just let you do what you want. What do YOU want to do after Hogwarts?”

“Er... well... I'd like to raise magical plants professionally, start my own supply company. I've also been experimenting with different fertilizer mixes, trying to create the perfect blend. That'd be big business if I can manage it.”

“I think you'll do brilliantly at that, Neville,” Iliana said.

“What about you, Iliana? What do you and the others want to do for a career?”

“I dunno. Maybe play Quidditch professionally for a while. But we'd need a fall-back career. Um...”

She had almost said that Hypatia would want to be a ward master, ward-cracker, or even a curse-breaker.

“Um... I think it'd be cool to be a curse-breaker.”

“Well you're taking Ancient Runes,” Hermione said, “so that's good. And you're good at Defense Against the Dark Arts, despite the curse on the position.”

“You'd need to take Arithmancy, though,” Neville said. “I know because I was reading about Aurors, and curse-breaker is a related career. But you aren't taking Arithmancy.”

“Er... that's because I've been taking it as a self-study,” she said.

“You have? Are you going to take your Arithmancy O.W.L. then?”

[Yes, I am,] Hypatia informed her.

“Yes, I am,” Iliana said aloud.

“Well you need an N.E.W.T. in it, too. Which you can only take if you get at least an Acceptable on your O.W.L.,” Hermione said.

After a moment of thought, Iliana said, “I also wouldn't mind being a professional Potioneer.”

“P-potions?” Neville said, sounding terrified. “Really?”

She shrugged. “Yeah, Snape's been okay around me lately. Still doesn't like Al or Zoey, but he's fine around me.”

She stopped there, not wanting to reveal she was taking private lessons with him.

“Huh. Well okay,” Neville said, sounding like he thought she was a bit mad for that.

~

When they entered the History of Magic classroom they found Professor Umbridge already seated at the teacher’s desk, wearing the fluffy pink cardigan of the night before and the black velvet bow on top of her head. Iliana was again reminded forcibly of a large fly perched unwisely on top of an even larger toad.

The class was quiet as it entered the room; Professor Umbridge was, as yet, an unknown quantity and nobody knew yet how strict a disciplinarian she was likely to be.

“Well, good afternoon!” she said when finally the whole class had sat down.

A few people mumbled “Good afternoon,” in reply.

“Tut, tut,” said Professor Umbridge. “That won’t do, now, will it? I should like you, please, to reply ‘Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge.’ One more time, please. Good afternoon, class!”

“Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge,” they chanted back at her.

“There, now,” said Professor Umbridge sweetly. “That wasn’t too difficult, was it? Wands away and quills out, please.”

Many of the class exchanged gloomy looks; the order “wands away” had never yet been followed by a lesson they had found interesting. Iliana shoved her wand back inside her bag and pulled out quill, ink, and parchment. Professor Umbridge opened her handbag, extracted her own wand, which was an unusually short one, and tapped the blackboard sharply with it; words appeared on the board at once:

History of Magic: An Unbiased Look

'Well this doesn't bode well,' Adira thought at the others.

[No it doesn't,] Hypatia thought, [since there's no such thing as an unbiased history.]

“Well now, your teaching in this subject has been rather disrupted and fragmented, hasn’t it?” stated Professor Umbridge, turning to face the class with her hands clasped neatly in front of her. “Years of sub-standard teaching by a very boring ghost first, and then you were taught by a werewolf.”

“What?” Dean said, alarmed. “No we weren't! We were taught by Professor Lupin!”

“I did not see your hand, Mr. Thomas. We raise our hand when we wish to speak in this class.”

Dean and several other people raised their hands. She called on Seamus.

“Whadda ya mean 'taught by a werewolf'? Professor Umbridge,” he hastened to add.

Umbridge grinned maliciously. “Well you see, Mr. Finnigan, the Ministry recently passed a law protecting children from being taught by dangerous beasts like Professor Lupin, who is on the werewolf reg--”

“Professor Lupin isn't dangerous!” Iliana said.

Professor Umbridge turned to Iliana. “Mr. Potter, I did not see your hand.”

“Who are you talking to?” Iliana said. “I'm not a Mister. I'm a Ms.”

Ignoring Iliana, Umbridge said, “As I was saying, our country has a registry of all known werewolves, and Mr. Lupin is on that registry. Therefore, when the new legislation passed, he was fired from his position as History Professor, where he can no longer warp the minds and threaten the bodies of innocent young souls such as yourselves.”

There was a lot of muttering about this, but since nobody was talking very loudly, she turned back to the board and ignored the mutters.

“As I was saying before these interruptions, your previous teachers were a boring ghost who turned this lesson into a joke among the students, and then he was replaced by a dangerous criminal who--”

“Lupin was not a criminal!” Iliana had stood up to say this, but she wasn't in control. Before Umbridge's eyes, she became Adira instead.

“Mister Lupin was a werewolf, Mr. Potter, and as such--”

“Being a werewolf doesn't make him a criminal. It makes him ill. He was perfectly nice and safe 28 days out of the month, and the school board knew as well as Dumbledore that he was a werewolf, they had him hidden safely away from students during the full moon!”

“Ten points from Griffindor, Mister Potter, and if you do not sit down and be quiet, I shall have to put you in detention for disrupting the class!”

“Stop calling me 'Mister'! I am not a boy! If Al or Chandra or Tier were here now, then you'd be right. But Iliana, Zoey, and I are girls!”

“Oh indeed? So then the history books are wrong, are they, when they call you the boy who lived?”

“Yes, actually, they are in fact wrong on that point.”

“So you are questioning facts, are you?”

“I don't dispute what they call me in the history books. But when they call me a boy, they're wrong. I've never been a boy.”

“God does not make mistakes, Mister Potter.”

“I don't believe in God, and even if I did, it's not God who made the mistake, it was the Healers who labeled me by the wrong gender.”

“Mister Potter, according to Ministry records, you are a boy named Mr. Harry James Potter. Presumably this means you were born with... certain attributes... that caused you to be properly labeled as a baby boy.”

“Your information is wrong. I got a name and gender change summer before last. Those 'certain attributes' are no longer true for me. But we were talking about Professor Lupin.”

“Yes. And you have been disrupting class, Mr. Potter. I did warn you not to do that. So I shall see you in detention. Tomorrow evening at five o'clock. My office.”

“Maybe there wouldn't be any disruptions if you didn't say things that are blatantly false!”

Professor Umbridge grew very cold all of a sudden. “Mr. Potter, it is not I who has a problem telling taradiddles. That is your issue, telling people that a certain deceased dark lord has returned from the grave--”

“Voldemort never properly died. His powers just broke, and he was only recently able to repair them. I saw him, and so did Cedric Diggory! We fought him! But you and Fudge have your heads so far up your own arses that you can see your own tonsils!”

At Voldemort's name, Ron had gasped; Lavender Brown uttered a little scream; Neville slipped sideways off his stool. Professor Umbridge, however, did not flinch. She was staring at Adira with a grimly satisfied expression on her face.

“MISTER POTTER! Please come to the front of the class.”

Angrily, Adira stormed to the front of the class.

Professor Umbridge pulled a small roll of pink parchment out of her handbag, stretched it out on the desk, dipped her quill into a bottle of ink, and started scribbling, hunched over so that Adira could not see what she was writing. Nobody spoke. After a minute or so she rolled up the parchment and tapped it with her wand; it sealed itself seamlessly so that she could not open it.

“Take this to Professor McGonagall, dear,” said Professor Umbridge, holding out the note to him.

She took it from the evil woman without saying a word, grabbed her bag, and left the room, not even looking back at Ron and Hermione, and slamming the classroom door shut behind her. She walked very fast along the corridor, the note to McGonagall clutched tight in her hand, and turning a corner walked slap into Peeves the Poltergeist, a wide-faced little man floating on his back in midair, juggling several inkwells.

“Why, it’s Potty Wee Potter!” cackled Peeves, allowing two of the inkwells to fall to the ground where they smashed and spattered the walls with ink; Adira jumped backward out of the way with a snarl.

“Get out of it, Peeves.”

“Oooh, Crackpot’s feeling cranky,” said Peeves, pursuing Adira along the corridor, leering as he zoomed along above her. “What is it this time, my fine Potty friend? Hearing voices? Seeing visions? Speaking in” — Peeves blew a gigantic raspberry — “tongues?”

“I said, leave me ALONE!” Adira shouted, running down the nearest flight of stairs, but Peeves merely slid down the banister on his back beside her.
 
“Oh, most think they're barking, the Potty pipsqueak,
But some are more kindly and think they're unique,
But Peevesy knows better and says that they're a freak —”
 
“LANGLOCK!” she shouted the incantation, pointing a finger and only then realizing she still had her wand in her bag. But the spell worked anyway, Peeves's tongue was glued to the roof of his mouth. He took off flying away from Adira. She felt satisfaction at this; nobody called her the f-word and got away with it. The rage she'd felt at that, Peeves was lucky she didn't know any spells to destroy poltergeists.

A door to her left flew open and Professor McGonagall emerged from her office looking grim and slightly harassed.

“What on earth are you shouting about, Potter?” she snapped, as Peeves angrily zoomed out of sight. “Why aren’t you in class?”

“I’ve been sent to see you,” said Adira stiffly.

“Sent? What do you mean, sent?”

She held out the note from Professor Umbridge. Professor McGonagall took it from her, frowning, slit it open with a tap of her wand, stretched it out, and began to read. Her eyes zoomed from side to side behind their square spectacles as she read what Umbridge had written, and with each line they became narrower.

“Come in here, Potter.”

She followed McGonagall inside her study. The door closed automatically behind her.

“Well?” said Professor McGonagall, rounding on him. “Is this true?”

“No idea. Between Professor Umbridge being a liar and the fact it's sealed, I don't know what it says. She didn't let me see what she'd written.”

“Is it true that you told Professor Umbridge that she and Fudge had their heads up their arses?”

“Yes, Professor.”

“Is it true you disrupted class?”

“Dean started it. She was outing Professor Lupin and calling him a dangerous beast, implying he'd been here to hurt kids and outright saying he was warping our minds. Then she kept mis-gendering me, so I corrected her on that. But yes, I suppose I was being disruptive.”

“Did you call her a liar?”

“Not in so many words, but yes, I said she was saying false things.”

“You told her He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back?”

“Yes.”

Professor McGonagall sat down behind her desk, frowning at Adira. Then she said, “Have a biscuit, Potter.”

“Have — what?”

“Have a biscuit,” she repeated impatiently, indicating a tartan tin of cookies lying on top of one of the piles of papers on her desk. “And sit down.”

Confused, she sat down and took a Ginger Newt.

Professor McGonagall set down Professor Umbridge’s note and looked very seriously at Adira.

“Potter, you need to be careful.”

Adira swallowed her mouthful of Ginger Newt and stared at her. Her tone of voice was not at all what Adira was used to; it was not brisk, crisp, and stern; it was low and anxious and somehow much more human than usual.

“Misbehavior in Dolores Umbridge’s class could cost you much more than House points and a detention.”

“What do you — ?”

“Potter, use your common sense,” snapped Professor McGonagall, with an abrupt return to her usual manner. “You know where she comes from, you must know to whom she is reporting.”

The bell rang for the end of the lesson. Overhead and all around came the elephantine sounds of hundreds of students on the move.

“It says here she’s given you detention every evening this week, starting tomorrow,” Professor McGonagall said, looking down at Umbridge’s note again.

“Every evening this week! But I need to schedule tryouts! I was hoping to ask you about scheduling them this coming Saturday. Can't you do anything to overrule her?”

“No I cannot. Listen, Potter; Fudge's support is fading. He's fighting a losing battle between you and Cedric and Dumbledore all saying the same thing. But he can still make life difficult for you before he's ousted. More importantly, Professor Umbridge can make your life very difficult. And for now, she has the might of the Ministry behind her. So do be careful. Keep your head down in her classes and your mouth shut.”

“I---”

“I mean it, Potter. Channel your inner Slytherin if you must – yes, I know you almost got picked for that, and no the Hat didn't tattle; the headmaster told me. But I mean it; keep quiet, keep a low profile until Fudge and Umbridge are gone. I doubt they'll last to the end of the year at this rate. Can you do that?”

“But--”

“She is your teacher and has every right to give you detention. You will go to her room at five o’clock tomorrow for the first one. Just remember: Tread carefully around Dolores Umbridge.”

“So I just let her smear Lupin and tell lies about Voldemort?”

“Yes, Potter, you do. She's in power for now. Fighting her directly is pointless. And I expect you to be ready to have Quidditch tryouts the Saturday after next. I will be scheduling them for that time, and if you don't find some way to be there, to avoid being in detention next week, then I will strip you – Iliana, I mean – of the Captaincy and give it to someone else. Someone not in your lot. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”

Adira deflated. “Yes, Professor McGonagall.”

“Good. Now have another biscuit and go on to your next class. Here is a note, in case you are late.”

“It's a double period,” Adira reminded her.

“Then go back to History of Magic and keep your head down and your mouth shut in her class for the foreseeable future.”

“Yes, I'll do that,” she said, taking another Ginger Newt.

[And I'll help you, I suppose,] Hypatia told her in her head. [Can't have these detentions messing with my own free time.]

'Thanks.'

~

Dinner that night wasn't pleasant for Adira. Everyone was talking about Professor Lupin and how he was a werewolf, or else talking about how Adira had called Umbridge a liar and said You-Know-Who was back, and/or about how they were mad. The funny thing was that none of the whisperers seemed to mind her overhearing what they were saying about her — on the contrary, it was as though they were hoping she would get angry and start correcting people again, so that they could hear the story firsthand.

“Potter reckons she and Diggory dueled You-Know-Who!”

“Yeah, she reckons he never properly died, was just weak and hiding all these years!”

“So where is he now, then? If he was back, there'd be no doubt! He'd be killing people! It'd be war!”

“Come off it.”

“Who does she think she’s kidding?”

“Puh-lease!”

She just ignored the whispers, trying to practice keeping her mouth shut. She'd managed the second half of History of Magic by grinding her teeth whenever Umbitch said something that was a nasty lie, which was frequently. It was plain Umbridge was trying to goad her so she could punish them even more for being liars.

Hypatia had helped, too. Whenever Umbridge had asked her questions directly, Hypatia had answered for them. Umbridge had looked disappointed that they weren't taking the bait. That disappointment had been mildly satisfying.

Not satisfying enough to make up for the rest of the class, though. Umbridge had laid out her course aims, and it looked like the whole course was going to be her talking about how non-human sentient beings were all dangerous beasts, giving all sorts of historical justification for why goblins and centaurs and so on had subhuman intellects and were all violent monsters. She'd already implied that the only reason Goblins didn't murder every human in the world was they were outnumbered by good pure-blooded wizards and witches working to keep the darkness at bay.

“Fudge must be better at being a politician than we thought,” she commented, “if he's still got people convinced we're lying. Of course, I suppose having full control over the country's only newspaper helps.”

“I want to know how Dumbledore let this happen,” Hermione said. “How is that woman a teacher? Surely there are other, better teachers for History of Magic.”

“Not in this country,” Adira said. “Binns was teaching here for so long even Sirius remembers him, so there's at least two generations of magicals in this country taught to hate history. Almost makes me wonder if Voldemort cursed that position, too.”

“Whadda ya mean?” Ron asked.

“'Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,'” she quoted. “And Voldemort is like Grindlewald all over again, isn't he?”

“Oh. Yeah, I can see that.”

Silently, she wondered what Voldemort's status was. Had he been killed and resurrected again yet? Snape had said Bellatrix was convinced of the necessity of starting over, and that they had a couple months at best before he was back to full power.

In the common room later, they saw the twins looking annoyed at Neville from where they sat. But the signs were down, and it didn't look like the twins were doing anything more than talking with each other at one of the tables.

“Wow. I guess I'm better at this Prefect stuff than I thought I'd be.”

“Yes. But what's the reckoning the twins will just get better at hiding their rule breaking?”

“I dunno, Adira, but I'm going to keep trying to get them in line.”

'We've created a monster,' Adira thought of Neville with amusement.

~

In Charms the next day, Professor Flitwick helped Neville learn how to restrict the amount of magic he put into his spells, since he no longer needed to be overcompensating for a wand that didn't suit him. By the end of the lesson, Neville was making good progress on that front.

The teachers were starting to lecture on the importance of the O.W.L.s. After helping Neville, Flitwick had started in on that, mentioning their future careers. Then they'd revised a lot. McGonagall gave a similar lecture about O.W.L.s and careers, then had them start on Vanishing spells. By the end of the double period, only Hermione and Neville had managed to Vanish their snails, which had most everyone in the class even more impressed with him than they'd been earlier in Charms when he'd sent every book in the room flying at him, being saved from death by bludgeoning or paper-cuts by Hermione's quick thinking with a Banishing Charm at the last second. For the first time that anyone could remember, Neville had no homework in Transfiguration, due to his success with the snail.

At lunch, Adira and Ron joined Hermione in the library, the former two slightly panicky about the amount of homework they had to do. By the time they reached Care of Magical Creatures, Adira had a headache.

The day had become cool and breezy, and, as they walked down the sloping lawn toward Hagrid’s cabin on the edge of the Forbidden Forest, they felt the occasional drop of rain on their faces. Professor Grubbly-Plank stood waiting for the class some ten yards from Hagrid’s front door, a long trestle table in front of her laden with many twigs. As the trio reached her, from behind they heard Draco Malfoy and his two troll-like bodyguards laughing about something. Adira sighed. She just was so tired of all the drama between the two of them. She tried her best to ignore him and his bookends.

On the table, the twigs turned out to be pixie-ish creatures called Bowtruckles, which looked like humanoid stick bugs and ate wood lice or fairy eggs if they could get them. They would have to feed them wood lice and make drawings of them with body parts labeled.

The class surged forward around the trestle table. Addy deliberately circled around the back so that she ended up right next to Professor Grubbly-Plank.

“Where’s Hagrid?” she asked the teacher, while everyone else was choosing bowtruckles.

“Never you mind,” said Professor Grubbly-Plank repressively, which had been her attitude last time Hagrid had failed to turn up for a class too. Smirking all over his pointed face, Draco Malfoy leaned across Addy and seized the largest bowtruckle.

Addy probed the professor with her empathic sense, but didn't get anything really useful from that, so she just grabbed a bowtruckle.

“Maybe,” said Malfoy in an undertone, so that only Addy could hear him, “the stupid great oaf’s got himself badly injured.”

Addy sighed. “Why do you keep trying to pick fights with us, Malfoy? When has that ever gone well for you?”

Malfoy glared at her briefly, then smirked at her. “Maybe the oaf's been messing with stuff that’s too big for him, if you get my drift.”

“Malfoy, I genuinely am tired of the drama between us. Can you maybe just mind your own business for once in your life rather than try to goad me all the time?”

(Maybe he fancies you,) Al thought at her. (He's always seemed a bit too keen on getting your attention. Maybe he's of the opinion that any attention is better than none.)

'I hope you're wrong about that, Al,' she thought back.

“Why shouldn't I?” Malfoy said. “Every time you attack me is more ammunition for the day I finally decide to strike and press charges.”

“Listen, I've been thinking about that over the summer, and I'm sorry. We're all sorry, for the things we've done to you over the years. We got carried away and escalated things in our anger. We're trying to be better now. It would be a lot easier to do that if you would stop trying to goad us. Truce?”

He smirked at her. “You're only saying that because I'm blackmailing you.”

She sighed. “That's not what blackmailing is. Too many other people know about all that for it to be blackmailing. And anyway, your threat doesn't worry me. No, I am 100% serious about this Malfoy: we genuinely are sorry for going overboard, and scaring you, getting you in trouble, embarrassing you, and hurting you over the years. Would you believe I really want a truce if I swore on my magic to that effect?”

Malfoy looked suspicious and disbelieving, but the offer of a magical oath had given him pause.

“A magical oath, you say? You'd really do something as... as risky as swearing on your magic to not attack me?”

“We'd have to word the oath to avoid you taking advantage of it. I'd swear to not attack first, and that if you attack me, I only attack with equal or lesser force than you attacked me with. You know, no longer escalating. But I'd want something from you, too. A promise you'll stop goading me.”

He sneered. “You want me to swear on my magic to that? You're mad if you think I'd do that.”

“Nothing so extreme as that. There are lesser oaths, right? Oaths that cause you pain to break them but don't risk your magic and don't cause any permanent harm, right? It'd be a motivation to encourage you to be less of an arse, but it wouldn't be anything too onerous to break.”

“Hmm... it's a decent offer. But I do kind of like goading you, even at the risk of being attacked.”

“Are you some kind of masochist?”

“No. It's just fun getting you angry. And I keep hoping you'll get in trouble. But since that doesn't seem to be happening, I---”

“Mr. Malfoy, Ms. Potter, what are you two doing? This is no time for talking, you need to be drawing your bowtruckles,” chided Grubbly-Plank.

“We'll talk later, Potter,” Malfoy promised.

“Indeed. Temporary truce for now?”

“Twenty-four hours sound good?”

“Mr. Malfoy, Ms. Potter, I'm warning you both!”

“One moment, Professor.” He turned back to Addy. “Acceptable?”

“Yes. Agreed.”

They shook on it, then went back to their work.

[A step in the right direction,] Hypatia thought at them. [I approve.]

When returning to Ron and Hermione, Addy told them that she'd offered a truce, and Malfoy had accepted a temporary one until they could hash out a longer term one. Ron, predictably, didn't trust Malfoy. She assured him she'd remain wary, which seemed to help.

Then, to change the subject, she mentioned what Malfoy had said before her truce offer, about Hagrid. They were all agreed it meant Malfoy knew about Hagrid's mission to the giants, but they couldn't decide if he knew where Hagrid was now or not.

As they left Care of Magical Creatures, they caught Ginny and Luna coming out of one of the greenhouses. Luna had a smudge of earth on her nose and her hair tied in a knot on the top of her head. She immediately made a beeline for Addy.

“Hi Ginny, hi Luna!”

“Hey Addy,” Ginny said brightly.

“Hello, Addy,” Luna said, sounding faintly disappointed. “Say hello to Iliana for me, please?”

“Okay. She says 'hi, Luna, and...'” Addy trailed off, her cheeks turning red. “I'm not saying that, Iliana.”

“Saying what?” Luna asked.

Addy's cheeks turned redder at having spoken that last bit aloud. “Er... okay fine, she wants me to say 'kisses and hugs' from her.”

Luna brightened. “Kisses and hugs back to you as well, Iliana.” Then she blew a kiss in Addy's direction. Addy felt her left arm reach out to 'catch' the blown kiss.

“Right. She heard it. You er, do know she can hear you pretty much any time any of the rest of us are driving, right?”

“I know. It was just an expression.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“Anyway, I really wanted to say before all these witnesses that I believe you and Cedric Diggory about You-Know-Who being back.”

“Thanks, Luna.”

“Ha!” scoffed someone Addy didn't recognize. “Like the belief of a madwoman counts for anything! Especially since she's your girlfriend.”

Ernie Macmillan stepped forward in front of the stranger and said, “I want you to know, Potter,” he said in a loud, carrying voice, “that it’s not only wei-- er... people with unconventional beliefs who support you. I personally believe you one hundred percent. My family have always stood firm behind Dumbledore, and so do I.”

“Er — thanks very much, Ernie,” said Addy, taken aback but pleased. Ernie might be pompous on occasions like these, but Addy was in a mood to deeply appreciate a vote of confidence from somebody who was a lot more respected in the school than Luna was. Iliana loved Luna, and Addy liked Luna as a friend, but her public support really wasn't worth much, they had to admit. Though if even Luna didn't believe them, that would have gone a long way against them, come to that.

Ernie’s words had certainly wiped the smile from Lavender Brown’s face, which was good.

“Aye,” said Seamus, who was there too. “And you've got my support as well.”

“Me too,” said Dean. “Honestly, the Ministry is losing ground quickly. Two witnesses, I don't know why they're bothering to deny it.”

This got a lot of people talking, and by the sound of it, they'd forgotten about Cedric. Apparently a summer's worth of propaganda could make people forget important details like that.

To nobody’s surprise, Professor Sprout started their lesson by lecturing them about the importance of O.W.L.s. Addy wished all the teachers would stop doing this; she was starting to get an anxious, twisted feeling in her stomach every time she remembered how much homework she had to do, a feeling that worsened dramatically when Professor Sprout gave them yet another essay at the end of class. Tired and smelling strongly of dragon dung, Professor Sprout’s preferred brand of fertilizer, the Griffindors trooped back up to the castle an hour and a half later, none of them talking very much; it had been another long day.

As Addy was starving, and she had her first detention with Umbridge at five o’clock, she headed straight for dinner without dropping off her bag in Gryffindor Tower so that she could bolt something down before facing whatever Umbridge had in store for her. She had barely reached the entrance of the Great Hall, however, when a loud and angry voice said, “Oy, Potter!”

“What now?” she muttered wearily, turning to face Angelina Johnson, who looked as though she was in a towering temper.

“I’ll tell you what now,” she said, marching straight up to her and poking her hard in the shoulder with her finger. “How come you’ve landed yourself in detention for five o’clock on Friday?”

“Oh, the tryouts. I'm sorry, I didn't do it on purpose. McGonagall's already yelled at us about it, we'll be good in her class from now on.”

“I hope so! I don't want us to lose because you couldn't keep your temper in her class!”

“Why do you care so much?”

“Because I like Quidditch, and I was looking forward to tryouts this weekend! Also, it's my final year!”

“Right. Anyway, I'm hoping to have them Saturday after next. McGonagall scheduled them for then, and told us that if we're in detention that weekend, someone else will be Captain.”

“Good. And while you're at it, if you could stop attacking people who annoy you, that would be nice. We don't need you getting detentions from anyone, not just her.”

Addy sighed. “Yeah, okay, I already know we've been kind of horrible but we've never attacked anyone just because they annoyed us. If we did, we'd have attacked most of the students in the school.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh I dunno, the year that everyone thought I was the Heir of Slytherin for no other reason than I'm a Parselmouth comes to mind. So does 'Support the real Hogwarts Champion' last year. No, the only people we've attacked were Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, and Skeeter. We shouldn't have done it, it was escalation, but saying that we attack anyone who annoys us is patently false!”

“Alright, alright, don't get your knickers in a twist.”

“I'll try to calm down,” Addy said. “In that vein, when we do get the chance to do tryouts, I'm trying out people for alternates as well. And if anyone proves to be better than the main players, well... let's just say everyone's positions on the team aren't so assured anymore.”

Angelina looked shocked, then a little worried and sad.

“Is this some kind of punishment? Look, I'm sorry I--”

“It's not punishment. It's just something Wood should have done. The alternates, at the very least. Someone knocks out one of our players and we have to either play on without them or we lose or forfeit, and that's no good at all. As to checking for better players, well that's just a good idea. I don't think we're going to find anyone better than you and the other chasers, and I find it unlikely anyone could even equal the Weasley twins at Beating, but,” she shrugged. “Gotta try, cuz you never know.”

Angelina seemed happier at this. “Good to hear. I'll let the others from last year's team know.”

“Right. And I'll try to work out a time to get Luna's help on those signs. For now, I need to eat before my detention.”

“Okay. See you later, Addy.”

Adira waved back vaguely as she started to wolf down food with an undignified haste that would have made Ron embarrassed. In fact, Ron did indeed look embarrassed at her.

“You know, you should ask Umbridge to let you off on Friday, so you can get tryouts done sooner.”

“Oh yes, and give her more ammunition. She's already very Snape-like in her loathing of me, I'm not giving her something else to lord over me. You saw her face, she was positively delighted to punish me. Anything that makes me unhappy gives her glee. I know the type all too well. So no, I won't be asking her that.”

Ron shrugged. “Whatever.”

Addy swallowed a mouthful of potato and added, “I hope she doesn’t keep me too long this evening. You realize we’ve got to write three essays, practice Vanishing Spells for McGonagall, work out a countercharm for Flitwick, finish the bowtruckle drawing, and start that stupid dream diary for Trelawney? I've also got Ancient Runes homework.”

Ron moaned and for some reason glanced up at the ceiling.

“And it looks like it’s going to rain.”

“What’s that got to do with our homework?” said Hermione, her eyebrows raised.

“Nothing,” said Ron at once, his ears reddening.

Addy got up from the table and left for her detention, thinking about who would be best to have in the driver's seat for the detention. Al was too hot-headed, she hoped he'd be shoved down into the Basement during this. She didn't trust herself, Zoey, Iliana, or Tier to do it either. Hypatia was still a secret, and Mother had never come Out. That left the hilarious option of Chandra.

Shaking her head and grinning, she switched places with Chandra, the body transforming to conform to Chandra's self-image.

Chandra calmly made the trek down to Umbridge's office and knocked on it. When he knocked on the door she said, “Come in,” in a sugary voice. He entered cautiously, looking around.

The surfaces had all been draped in lacy covers and cloths. There were several vases full of dried flowers, each residing on its own doily, and on one of the walls was a collection of ornamental plates, each decorated with a large technicolor kitten wearing a different bow around its neck. These were so foul that Chandra stared at them, transfixed, until Professor Umbridge spoke again.

'It is as though the God of Cuteness was violently ill from both ends,' Chandra thought to himself.

When he came into view, Umbridge's sadistic happiness that tainted the air soured into confusion.

“Who are you?”

He looked around, and didn't see the source of the voice.

“I wonder the same thing of you, disembodied voice.”

She stood up, which he only noticed because he spotted the movement out of the corner of his eye; she really was absurdly short. He had not noticed her at first because she was wearing a luridly flowered set of robes that blended only too well with the tablecloth on the desk behind her.

“I am Chandra Rahasyamay, of the Collective of Potter. Are you Dolores Umbridge?”

She glared at him. Then the glare became a girlish grin. “Well, I am glad to see you are back to your proper gender presentation at least, Mr. Potter.”

'She presumes much,' he thought.

What he said, instead, was, “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate.”

Umbridge looked very confused at this, then angry. In her sweetest, little-girliest voice, she said, “Please speak English, Mr. Potter.”

He waved her concern away. “It is ashes in a hurricane.”

Apparently not knowing what to say to this, she opted to ignore it instead.

“Well, sit down,” she said, pointing toward a small table draped in lace beside which she had drawn up a straight-backed chair. A piece of blank parchment lay on the table, apparently waiting for him.

Chandra sat down and looked at her. “I await thy instruction, milady.”

Looking conflicted about his use of archaic language for a moment, probably trying to decide if he was being sarcastic or not, she ignored that.

“You are going to be doing some lines for me, Mr. Potter. No, not with YOUR quill,” she added, as Chandra bent down to open his bag. “You’re going to be using a rather special one of mine. Here you are.”

She handed him a long, thin black quill with an unusually sharp point. He took it in his right hand, which for him was his off hand. She didn't notice a momentary blank look in his eyes upon touching the black quill. Nor would she have known the significance of this if she had. He set it down on the table in front of himself.

“I want you to write ‘I must not tell lies,’ ” she told him softly.

“I am incapable of falsehoods. Silence I can do, but to tell a falsehood is anathema to my nature. I can only tell a falsehood if I believe the information to be true.”

“There you go telling lies again, Mr. Potter. Everyone can lie, lying is not against anyone's nature, so--”

“Including yours?” he asked.

“Pardon?”

“If your position is that lying is in everyone's nature, it logically follows that lying is in your nature as well. And the Minister's, as well.”

Her face turned red as she glared at him. But instead of shouting at him, she calmed down and smiled in that falsely sweet way of hers.

“What I meant to say is that all children and teenagers can and do lie. But that is beside the point, I--”

“'Beside the point'? Something said here is parallel to your point? I have never understood that aphorism. If something is beside the point, it is parallel to the point. And another aphorism is 'drawing parallels' between things, meaning finding similarities between them. If something either you or I said is 'beside the point,' then logically it must be parallel to the point, and thus relevant to the point.”

Umbridge closed her eyes as though summoning patience, then opened them, her grin distinctly forced now. “I meant that this is... not the point. The point is that you are here to be punished for telling lies, and so--”

“You think I am lying? Well I can understand that. You do work with politicians all day long. But I am willing to testify under Veritaserum to the truth of Voldemort being back in power. Surely this will ease your worries about my veracity?”

She stared at him, utterly at a loss for words.

“I am also willing to provide Pensieve memories of the event, so you may witness it yourself.”

Umbridge turned around and made quite a big deal of looking for something. If his read of her emotions was accurate, what she was looking for was an excuse to think of a way out of the corner she'd painted herself into, with his help.

Chandra was no idiot; he knew full well she didn't really want the truth. What she wanted was for him to comply with Fudge's version of the truth, for whatever reason. And unless she thought of something really clever to get herself out of this dilemma, she would now have to admit that to him. At the same time, she had to know she and Fudge were losing ground. The winds would shift eventually, were already shifting, and she had to choose whether or not to go along with Fudge's denial or instead find a way to make Fudge come out of this whole debacle smelling like a rose.

Finally, she turned back to him, smiling in a way that he knew meant bad news.

“Mr. Potter, you are here to be punished for calling me a liar, and for using a foul word when you told me that I and the Minister had our heads up our... well... bottoms.”

“That was Adira Potter, not me. But I can bring her forward to apologize to you. What she said was in the heat of anger, and we have been trying to be better about controlling our anger.”

“Mr. Potter, while your offer of an apology is appreciated, you are still here to be punished. And punished you shall be.”

“Why?”

“'Why?' What do you mean, 'why'?”

Chandra paused a moment, considering the sarcastic response, but instead said, “Is not the point of punishment to correct misbehavior? And is not the first step in that correction getting the individual to understand that what they did was wrong? I have admitted we were wrong, and apologized on behalf of the others. Does this not negate the need for punishment?”

“MR. POTTER! I am not here to have philosophical discussions with you. I am here to punish you for your misbehavior in class. Even if you are repentant, which I doubt, it would not hurt to let the point sink in a bit more. So enough back sass! You will take this quill I have given you, and you will write, 'I must not tell lies,' until the message has sunken in.”

“Should I take this to mean you do not wish to know the truth? I have, after all, offered to tell the truth under Veritaserum, and offered Pensieve memories.”

Umbridge was rubbing her face with two balled fists, her eyes closed. Waves of frustration radiated from her like a burning heat.

Finally she stopped and said, “In that case, you will write, instead, 'I must maintain the status quo.'”

Chandra's head turned to the side like a curious bird or dog. “Why?”

“BECAUSE I TOLD YOU TO! Now DO IT!”

Chandra tried to think of what to say or do next. He could comply, and calm her down, or he could continue to irritate her in the hopes she would kick him out of the office. He preferred the latter option, but there was a risk of her giving him even more detention. However, if he made her so irritated with him that she never wanted to see him again if she could help it, she might not do that.

“I'm not sure I understand the point of this exercise. Again, punishment is supposed to correct misbehavior, but you have failed to provide a logical destination for your correction of my behavior. What precisely do you mean by 'status quo'? The status quo these last few months has been Dumbledore, myself, and Cedric Diggory telling everyone about Voldemort being back and the Ministry trying to suppress that knowledge. By that logic, I should continue to tell my side of the story, in order to maintain the status quo.”

Umbridge was gripping her desk so hard her hands were white. He could hear her grinding her teeth. His own face remained, as it had through this whole encounter, impassive.

“Alright then,” she said through gritted teeth. “Then write 'I will not contradict my teachers.'”

“Why that phrase?”

“Because contradicting teachers is disrespecting them. And for someone as detail-oriented as yourself, Mr. Potter, is is far less likely you'll be able to twist my meaning to your own ends.”

“Ah yes, that does make much more sense. Thank you for the clarification, Professor Umbridge.”

He picked up the thin black quill with his left hand, of course. She noticed this at once.

“Correct me if I am wrong,” she said, feeling like she was lying about that desire, “but I thought you were right-handed, Mr. Potter?”

“Oh, the others are all dexter. I am not. I assure you, it is the only thing sinister about me.” The corner of his mouth twitched as he said this.

She sighed. Then, looking at the quill again, she smiled evilly. “You may proceed, then, Mr. Potter.”

He pulled the parchment underneath the quill, arranging it for writing with his left hand. Then he paused.

“You haven't provided me any ink, Professor.”

Her grin grew even more malevolent. “You won't need ink with this pen, Mr. Potter.”

“Ah, a self-inking pen. How considerate of you, Professor Umbridge.”

Once more he prepared to write the lines she'd assigned. Then he paused again. “How many times shall I write it?”

“Until I tell you to stop, Mr. Potter.”

“I see. Well please do not keep me too long, I have homework and studying to complete.”

“Just write until I tell you to stop. And no more procrastination!”

He put the quill to the parchment, but again paused.

“What if something a teacher says or writes on the board is a mistake? Am I to allow the mistake to sit there, staring at me? What if a teacher demands to know why I allowed a mistake to remain unremarked upon?”

She smiled sweetly. “If you do not start writing what I told you to write, Mr. Potter, I shall have to give you a month's worth of detentions.”

“A thousand apologies, Professor Umbridge.”

He once more set the quill to the parchment. He paused, mainly because he knew it would drive her batty, and when he felt the spike of irritation from her, he finally started to write 'I must not contradict my teachers.' She watched him eagerly, waiting for a reaction.

As he knew it would from the moment he touched it – thus feeling every enchantment that lay upon it – the quill cut into the skin on his right hand with magic, and wrote the line out in blood. Having been prepared for this with occlumency, he gave no reaction at all to this. For all that could be judged by his face or other body language, it might as well have been a perfectly normal self-inking quill. Only someone as skilled at reading body language as Alastair would have been able to spot the minuscule subconscious 'tells.'

Umbridge continued watching him, and every moment that passed without a reaction from him deepened her confusion and disappointment, he could feel her emotions as thick on the air as fresh-cooked bacon smelled to a dog. The quill hurt, of course; but much harder to control than his reaction to the pain of the blood quill was his amused reaction to her frustration, anger, and confusion at his lack of reaction. He couldn't tell a falsehood, that much was true, but body language didn't count.

“Mr. Potter,” she interrupted him after ten minutes.

He looked up. “Yes, Professor?”

“Do you not notice anything... unusual... about the quill? Or the ink it uses?”

His face showed a confusion he didn't feel, and he looked perplexedly at the quill and ink as though trying to work out what she was going on about. After a few moments, he spoke again, confusion in his voice.

“Well now that you mention it, Professor Umbridge, it is a bit dark red. Is it perhaps the quill you use to correct homework and tests?”

Her confusion and anger were mounting, but he still did not let on what he was sensing from her, nor his own feelings.

“No, Mr. Potter, it is not the quill I use to correct coursework. It is too dark a red for that.”

“I see. Then I am at a loss as to what is unusual about the quill.”

She searched his face and eyes for any sign that he was lying. She didn't find any, he could feel that as well as see it in her own face. And she was not at all happy about this. Her disappointment was as palpable as would be that of a small child told that Christmas had been canceled.

“Proceed then, Mr. Potter.”

Giving her a look like he was utterly baffled about why she'd interrupted him with such nonsense, he shrugged and went back to writing 'I must not contradict my teachers' with the blood quill. As he did, he mused that he was, in a way, giving her exactly what she wanted. That is, he wasn't contradicting her, or sassing her. Not as far as she could tell, anyway. He was just 'genuinely' confused by what she'd said. As he thought through all the different possible ways the rest of this encounter could go, the series of possibilities stemming from seeming to obey the words he was carving into his skin became amusing enough he decided to stick with it for now.

After an hour of feeling her increasingly jumbled mess of conflicted emotions, heavily flavored with confusion and dissatisfaction, she finally spoke again.

“Mr. Potter, surely you don't expect me to believe you haven't noticed that's blood you're writing in? Or that the quill is cutting into your skin to do it?”

He blinked at her, the very image of innocent perplexity. “Blood? Cuts?” He looked at the page, then at his hand. “Huh. I guess you're right. I wonder how I failed to notice that.”

“Yes, Potter. And what do you feel about that, now that you've noticed it?”

He shrugged again, looking her right in the eyes. “A clever solution to the lack of ink, if a bit unorthodox. Shall I continue?”

Chandra imagined how the others would have guffawed at her expression, were they active now. But Mother had made them sleep for now.

Even funnier than her expression was her emotions. Confusion, disappointment, annoyance, sheer bewilderment, frustration... there were so many feelings coming from her, it was hard to sort them all out. Nay, it was nearly impossible. She was so lost right now. How was she to enjoy being cruel to someone who didn't seem to even notice it?

Suddenly her emotions took on a cold, logical feeling. She must have had some kind of idea, and judging by the emotions surrounding it, it wasn't one he would like at all. But she was predominantly thoughtful, planning something out in her head, and for now she just waved vaguely at him.

“No no, Mr. Potter,” she said vaguely. “You may stop for now. But be in my office tomorrow at 5 pm for your next detention.”

He shrugged again, putting down the quill, and grabbed his things.

Chandra nodded in her direction before leaving, and said, “Thank you, Professor Umbridge. May the rest of your week be as pleasant as you are.”

Then he left, amused by her continued confusion. As he walked down the corridor, he felt her surreptitiously watching him for some sign of a delayed reaction. He had to admit she was good at this; if he hadn't been an empath, he wouldn't have known she was there at all.

Chandra paused outside of the Fat Lady's portrait and glanced at his hand out of the corner of his eye. It had healed, the quill healing the cuts every time, but the area was slightly red. With a moment's thought, he made the red vanish from his skin.

Hermione and Neville looked up from their homework. Ron was nowhere to be seen.

“Chandra? You're back from detention already?”

Chandra grinned at them. “Yes. I successfully irritated and frustrated her into releasing me early.”

He then proceeded to tell them in detail about the whole thing. He was doing fine until he got to the part about the quill. At that point, he felt something redirect what he had intended to say, so that he was relating the rest of it as though the quill had been entirely normal. This didn't surprise him, though it was irritating.

Hypatia, angry, said in their mind, [There's a compulsion charm on that quill. We won't be able to tell anyone she was torturing a student with a blood quill until I can find the right spell to counteract it.]

'Not even Sirius?' asked Adira.

[No, not even him. The compulsion charm won't let us. In fact, I think it's the reason Al isn't very angry about what happened. If he got as angry as he liked, he'd have to tell someone why. I think the spell is preventing him from even getting into that situation to begin with.]

~ The compulsion took effect the moment we touched the quill, ~ Chandra informed them.

'Damn that woman!'

“Well that's brilliant,” Neville said, laughing. Chandra was momentarily confused until he remembered his friends couldn't hear the internal conversation they'd just had.

“It's kind of odd, though,” Hermione said. “I mean yes, I can see how your feigned ignorance and faked emotions could have worn her down some, but to completely let you off the hook after only less than two hours... there's something very odd about that.”

Chandra shrugged. “Who knows what precisely went through Sorrow And Enmity's mind? I am an empath, not a legilimens.”

Neville started to laugh at this. “'Sorrow And Enmity'? Merlin's pants, that's hilarious!”

“It is a direct translation of her name. 'Dolores' means 'Sorrow,' and 'Umbridge' sounds like 'umbrage,' which is similar to 'enmity.'”

Hermione shook her head. “I can't believe she didn't recognize that line from Dante's Inferno.”

“Huh?” Neville said. “What's that?”

“The Italian phrase that Chandra quoted at her, it was from an epic poem by Dante, called 'The Divine Comedy.' It's about a man who gets a tour of Hell and Heaven. The line was Italian for 'Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.' It was written over the gates of Hell.”

“And that's Muggle literature?”

“Really old Muggle literature, as it was written in the 14th century, but yes. I'm surprised you haven't heard about it, it's famous and dates from well before the Statute of Secrecy.”

“So,” Neville said, thinking, “Chandra looked at her office and said, in Italian, 'Abandon hope, all ye who enter here?'”

“Yes.”

Neville snorted at this. Hermione said, “That's hilarious, Chandra!”

“Thank you, Fuzzy Reading Girl.”

Neville looked interested at this. “Do you have a nickname for everyone?”

“No. I have many such nicknames for people, though.”

Hermione glowered at him while the two boys laughed. “I don't really like that nickname,” she said.

“Hagrid is 'Big Fuzzy Father.' Or sometimes 'Tall Father.' I can come up with another one for you,” he said to Hermione. “How about... Library Lion Girl?”

“That one's pretty accurate too, Hermione,” Neville said.

“It's acceptable,” Hermione said, going back to her homework.

“Can I get one, Chandra?” Neville asked.

Chandra considered Neville for several minutes. Then he took Neville's hand, looking like he was feeling for something in Neville.

“'Mustard Seed,'” Chandra finally said. Neville just looked confused.

“The Bible, Matthew 17:20. 'Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.'”

“Um... I don't know if I like that one, Chandra. I like the sentiment behind it, but not the nickname itself. I don't think anyone will realize it's me you're talking about with that nickname.”

“Okay. I will try to think of a better one later,” Chandra said. “For now, I believe I shall tell Brave Father of the Black House what transpired today.”

He went up to his room, then, to do precisely that.

In his head, he heard Iliana say, 'We've all voted, and every class with Umbridge is going to be attended by Chandra from now on.'

~ I am amenable to that, ~ Chandra responded.

Endnote: Anyone with ideas for what Chandra's nickname for Neville should be, let me know. I'm drawing a blank.



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