Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The door had flown open

The door had flown open! He was through it at last, inside a black-walled, black-floored circular room lit with blue-flamed candles, and there were more doors all around him—he needed to go on—but which door ought he to



Harry opened his eyes. He was flat on his back again with no memory of having got there; he was also panting as though his really had run the length of the Department of Mysteries corridor, really had sprinted through the

black door and found the circular room.

‘Explain yourself!’ said Snape, who was standing over him, looking furious.

‘I ... dunno what happened,’ said Harry truthfully, standing up. There was a lump on the back of his head from where he had hit the ground and he felt feverish. ‘I've never seen that before. I mean, I told you, I've dreamed

about the door ... but it's never opened before ...’

‘You are not working hard enough!’

For some reason, Snape seemed even angrier than he had done two minutes before, when Harry had seen into his teacher's memories.

‘You are lazy and sloppy, Potter, it is small wonder that the Dark Lord—’

‘Can you tell me something, sir?’ said Harry, firing up again. ‘Why do you call Voldemort the Dark Lord? I've only ever heard Death Eaters call him that.’

Snape opened his mouth in a snarl—and a woman screamed from somewhere outside the room.

Snape's head jerked upwards; he was gazing at the ceiling.

‘What the—?’ he muttered.

Harry could hear a muffled commotion coming from what he thought might be the Entrance Hall. Snape looked round at him, frowning.

‘Did you see anything unusual on your way down here, Potter?’

Harry shook his head. Somewhere above them, the woman screamed again. Snape strode to his office door, his wand still held at the ready, and swept out of sight. Harry hesitated for a moment, then followed.

The screams were indeed coming from the Entrance Hall; they grew louder as Harry ran towards the stone steps leading up from the dungeons. When he reached the top he found the Entrance Hall packed; students had

come flooding out of the Great Hall, where dinner was still in progress, to see what was going on; others had crammed themselves on to the marble staircase. Harry pushed forwards through a knot of tall Slytherins and saw

that the onlookers had formed a great ring, some of them looking shocked, others even frightened. Professor McGonagall was directly opposite Harry en the other side of the Hall; she looked as though what she was watching

made her feel faintly sick.

Professor Trelawney was standing in the middle of the Entrance Hall with her wand in one hand and an empty sherry bottle in the other, looking utterly mad. Her hair was sticking up on end, her glasses were lopsided so that

one eye was magnified more than the other; her innumerable shawls and scarves were trailing haphazardly from her shoulders, giving the impression that she was falling apart at the seams. Two large trunks lay on the floor

beside her, one of them upside-down; it looked very much as though it had been thrown down the stairs after her. Professor Trelawney was staring, apparently terrified, at something Harry could not see but which seemed to

be standing at the foot of the stairs.

‘No!’ she shrieked. ‘NO! This cannot be happening ... it cannot ... I retuse to accept it!’

‘You didn't realise this was coming?’ said a high girlish voice, sounding callously amused, and Harry, moving slightly to his right, saw that Trelawney's terrifying vision was nothing other than Professor Umbridge. ‘Incapable

though you are of predicting even tomorrows weather, you must surely have realised that your pitiful performance during my inspections, and lack of any improvement, would make it inevitable that you would be sacked?’

‘You c—can't!’ howled Professor Trelawney, tears streaming down her face from behind her enormous lenses, ‘you c—can't sack me! I've b—been here sixteen years! H— Hogwarts is m—my h—home!’

‘It was your home,’ said Professor Umbridge, and Harry was revolted to see the enjoyment stretching her toadlike face as she watched Professor Trelawney sink, sobbing uncontrollably, on to one of her trunks, ‘until an hour

ago, when the Minister for Magic countersigned your Order of Dismissal. Now kindly remove yourself from this Hall. You are embarrassing us.’

But she stood and watched, with an expression of gloating enjoyment, as Professor Trelawney shuddered and moaned, rocking backwards and forwards on her trunk in paroxysms of grief. Harry heard a muffled sob to his left

and looked around. Lavender and Parvati were both crying quietly, their arms round each other. Then he heard footsteps. Professor McGonagall had broken away from the spectators, marched straight up to Professor

Trelawney and was patting her firmly on the back while withdrawing a large handkerchief from within her robes.

‘There, there, Sybill ... calm down ... blow your nose on this ... it's not as bad as you think, now ... you are not going to have to leave Hogwarts ...’

‘Oh really, Professor McGonagall?’ said Umbridge in a deadly voice, taking a few steps forward. ‘And your authority for that statement is ... ?’

‘That would be mine,’ said a deep voice.

The oaken front doors had swung open. Students beside them scuttled out of the way as Dumbledore appeared in the entrance. What he had been doing out in the grounds Harry could not imagine, but there was something

impressive about the sight of him framed in the doorway against an oddly misty night. Leaving the doors wide open behind him he strode forwards through the circle of onlookers towards Professor Trelawney, tear-stained and

trembling, on her trunk, Professor McGonagall alongside her.

‘Yours, Professor Dumbledore?’ said Umbridge, with a singularly unpleasant little laugh. ‘I'm afraid you do not understand the position. I have here—’ she pulled a parchment scroll from within her robes ‘—an Order of

Dismissal signed by myself and the Minister for Magic. Under the terms of Educational Decree Number Twenty-three, the High Inquisitor of Hogwarts has the power to inspect, place upon probation and sack any teacher she—

that is to say, I—feel is not performing to the standards required by the Ministry of Magic. I have decided that Professor Trelawney is not up to scratch. I have dismissed her.’

To Harry's very great surprise, Dumbledore continued to smile. He looked down at Professor Trelawney, who was still sobbing and choking on her trunk, and said, ‘You are quite right, of course, Professor Umbridge. As High

Inquisitor you have every right to dismiss my teachers. You do not, however, have the authority to send them away from the castle. I am afraid,’ he went on, with a courteous little bow, ‘that the power to do that still resides with

the Headmaster, and it is my wish that Professor Trelawney continue to live at Hogwarts.’

At this, Professor Trelawney gave a wild little laugh in which a hiccough was barely hidden.

‘No—no, I'll g —go, Dumbledore! I sh—shall—leave Hogwarts and s—seek my fortune elsewhere—’

‘No,’ said Dumbledore sharply. ‘It is my wish that you remain, Sybill.’

He turned to Professor McGonagall.

‘Might I ask you to escort Sybill back upstairs, Professor McGonagall?’

‘Of course,’ said McGonagall. ‘Up you get, Sybill ...’

Professor Sprout came hurrying forwards out of the crowd and grabbed Professor Trelawney's other arm. Together, they guided her past Umbridge and up the marble stairs. Professor Flitwick went scurrying after them, his

wand held out before him; he squeaked ‘Locomotor trunks!’ and Professor Trelawney's luggage rose into the air and proceeded up the staircase after her, Professor Flitwick bringing up the rear.
Professor Umbridge was standing stock still, staring at Dumbledore, who continued to smile benignly.

‘And what,’ she said, in a whisper that carried all around the Eintrance Hall, ‘are you going to do with her once I appoint a new Divination teacher who needs her lodgings?’

‘Oh, that won't be a problem,’ said Dumbledore pleasantly. ‘You see, I have already found us a new Divination teacher, and he will prefer lodgings on the ground floor.’

‘You've found— ?’ said Umbridge shrilly. ‘You've found? Might I remind you, Dumbledore, that under Educational Decree Number Twenty-two—’

‘The Ministry has the right to appoint a suitable candidate if—and only if—the Headmaster is unable to find one,’ said Dumbledore. ‘And I am happy to say that on this occasion I have succeeded. May I introduce you?’

He turned to face the open front doors, through which night mist was now drifting. Harry heard hooves. There was a shocked murmur around the Hall and those nearest the doors hastily moved even further backwards, some

of them tripping over in their haste to clear a path for the newcomer.

Through the mist came a face Harry had seen once before on a dark, dangerous night in the Forbidden Forest: white-blond hair and astonishingly blue eyes; the head and torso of a man joined to the palomino body of a


‘This is Firenze,’ said Dumbledore happily to a thunderstruck Umbridge. ‘I think you'll find him suitable.’

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