Elizabeth was enjoying the final day of silence before students arrived back at Hogwarts, and was just considering transforming into a bird of some sort and going for a tour around the lake when she heard quick footsteps, and a breathy 'hem hem' from behind her. Turning, she saw a large bauble of bright, almost neon fuchsia coming towards her.
'Good day, Elizabeth,' Dolores Umbridge simpered, coming parallel with her quarry. 'Ah, it is a lovely day, isn't it?' She gestured to the lush green lawn on which they were walking and the lake which glimmered in the sunlight.
'Gorgeous,' she replied, shortening her stride to accommodate Umbridge's stubby legs (though, not enough to let her keep up with ease). 'To what do I owe this pleasure, Dolores?' Elizabeth was wary of the Ministry, especially since their point-blank refusal of Voldemort's return, their treatment of Dumbledore, and their attempt to get Harry expelled – to name only a few things.
'Just a little chat, just a little chat,' she panted, struggling to keep up with Elizabeth's brisk pace. 'I'm surprised, though. I would expect you to be away from the castle, visiting friends. Surely you have acquaintances outside the teaching staff?'
'Of course I do,' she replied, offering no further information. She would not make anything easy for Fudge's puppet.
'Did you not see it fit to visit them after school let out for the summer?'
'I did. I only just got back last night.'
'Oh? Where did you go?'
'Just visited some old family friends. Did some shopping. Travelled.' Elizabeth added nothing more, and Umbridge tried again.
'Romania is especially nice this time of year.'
'You didn't happen to visit, say, the Weasleys, or young Mr Potter?'
'I did visit Harry once the charges had been dropped. And after I heard young Mr Weasley had made prefect, I stopped by to congratulate him, of course. I also stopped by Malfoy Manor to congratulate young Mr Malfoy. And Miss Parkinson. Miss Abbot, Mr Macmillan, Miss Granger, Mr Goldstein, Miss Patil…'
'Yes, yes, thank you.' Dolores Umbridge shook her head, dissatisfied. 'But, you were at the courthouse on the day of Mr Potter's trial, were you not?'
'Obviously I was, as I am a member of the Wizengamot. Or did you forget?' She paused, and added, against her better judgement, 'By the way, why did we have a full court for such a trivial matter?'
'Ah, yes, you are a member. Which way did you vote?'
'Not guilty, of course. Which you would know, Dolores, as you were there yourself and you gave me quite the dirty look when I voted. I had to vote not guilty, as the evidence was clearly in Harry's favour, and I always know when people are lying to me.'
'That… and Legilimens.'
Umbridge shuffled uneasily, still trotting along determinedly, and muttered something about 'unreasonable use of power.'
Which only allowed Elizabeth a reason to snort out, '"Unreasonable use of power?" With what the Ministry is doing at the moment, I would come to assume that unreasonable uses of power are a speciality, not only approved but encouraged. And, from what Cornelius has told me, the Ministry would love to have the benefit of my powers more often than not. Or is that only when they can be used to justify your vendettas?'
Umbridge didn't reply for a moment, and then came out with, 'I think I should finish unpacking before supper. I assume you'll be eating with the staff this evening?'
'Oh yes, I always do.'
And with that, Dolores Umbridge shuffled off, back towards the castle.
'Minerva, do I really have to put up with that horrid woman all year?'
Elizabeth was sitting slumped in a chair opposite Professor McGonagall's desk before dinner, watching as the professor rearranged her office for the new school year.
'Yes, Elizabeth, we all do. It's too bad you couldn't've taken that post, however.'
'I know... it is rather, isn't it. Worst part is I won't learn a damn thing from observing her classes. This is the year I'm going to observe Defence Against the Dark Arts and I've read the books on her reading list. They're abysmal! The Ministry's just taking this too far. The fifth years that need to take their OWLs – they're going to do so poorly if they follow her regime. I mean, they won't actually do the spells until the exam! All she's going to do is make them read about the theory of magic – can you believe it? It's horrific. And the children who're just starting their education – they won't even have a decent set off. And the NEWT students! How can they do this? It's so pointless. They know that they're doing poorly. If they were doing everything right, they wouldn't need to interfere. The students' parents would be all for the Ministry and therefore they would have nothing to fear from Albus' influence.'
'Mhm.' Minerva was defiantly checking the nibs of a collection of no-nonsense quills, binning the ones which were no longer of use. She had heard all this before, of course, and had shared her opinion. She was, at this point, simply humouring her surrogate daughter.
'I'm not boring you, Minerva, surely.'
'Not boring, no. I actually find it quite entertaining listening you go on and on. Especially since I need to take the high road all year and tell the students they're being ridiculous, and that they should hold their tongues about a teacher, and Ministry employee to boot.' She smiled, set down her quills, and said, 'At the very least, or perhaps the very most, the students will have you to go to after classes for help and guidance.'
'But I'm not qualified to teach. I've only just started to learn.''You've been observing teaching methods for the last five years, and for eight years before that. I've never seen someone more eager to teach.' She looked over her glasses at Elizabeth and smiled. 'And if that toad of a woman can be hired to teach a class, then you, my dear,could most certainly teach a class!'