The Professors' Supper
'Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome, welcome, to another year at Hogwarts!' Dumbledore announced at the yearly end-of-summer staff supper. 'It is so good to see you all back from summer holiday, and before we tuck in to this feast, I would like to welcome our newest member of staff, whom I'm sure you all know, Professor Dolores Umbridge. She has taken up the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.' There was a vague, unenthusiastic round of applause, and Umbridge waved from her spot at the table. 'There will be time enough for announcements after supper, so enjoy while you still can eat without having to watch out for projectile potatoes and puddings!'
Everyone chuckled, and did just that, talking and laughing as they took morsels of the scrumptious, steaming dishes which had just appeared on golden platters before them.
'How was your walk around the lake this afternoon, Elizabeth?' Snape asked, smirking. He already knew the answer.
'Horrific, thank you,' she replied coolly, her eyes shooting over to where Umbridge sat, and then back to him. 'She's really something, you know that?'
'Yes, I believe I do.'
'And you know that if she knew my alliance to Harry, then…'
'Well, don't give her a chance to find out,' Snape muttered, stabbing a piece of chicken rather forcefully and popping it into his mouth.
'But… but Severus, I'm worried.' Her voice dropped to an almost-whisper, and she continued, 'I can't very well play favourites with Harry with the possibility of her having me chucked out.'
'She will not have you thrown out. She cannot have you thrown out. You are a rightful resident of this castle. It was her precious Ministry that put you here in the first place.'
'Like that would stop her.' She had stopped eating, and was fidgeting with a napkin in her lap.
'But Cornelius Fudge would,' Snape assured her, setting down his fork and putting his hand subtly on hers under the table. 'Even he cannot say there are not Death Eaters at large after the incident at the World Cup last year. So here you will stay. Besides, the Prophet would have a field day. "Ministry ejects outstanding student teacher and Wizengamot Member from her home of fifteen years."'
'If you insist on being stubborn, I will not stop you. But she can have nothing on you.'
'Except my connection to Albus.'
'Except for that. But that is the Ministry's own fault. They did ask him to adopt you.'
'Yes, I suppose. But they're horrid, they're just-'
'Elizabeth,' a high, girlish voice called from the other end of the table. 'Join our discussion, will you, dear, on the new Defence curriculum. I understand you will be observing my classes.'
'Indeed I shall, Dolores. And I'm sure I cannot begin to express an opinion on your curriculum until I see it in action.'
'Of course you can!' Umbridge simpered. 'You've observed every teacher in every class taught here, as both a student and a teacher. And I know you've seen the booklist, because you need your own copies if you want to keep up!'
'Yes, I actually read the books on that list after I bought them. They're…' Elizabeth paused, looking for the correct words to civilly describe Defensive Magical Theory. '… remarkable, certainly.'
'You've read them already? Excellent! Then I just might let you take over a class or two!'
'I'm looking forward to it.'
'Did you like the subject matter?'
Again, she had to plan her answer. Her mind pausing on Chapter One: Basics for Beginners, she replied, 'It's useful for the first year students, naturally. I wonder, though, if it isn't moving a little… backwards for the older students.'
'Backwards?' Umbridge shot a wide, cheery grin at Elizabeth, and the young woman was tempted to look into her thoughts to see what sort of impact her comments were making.
'"Basics for Beginners" for students who are most certainly not beginners.' Elizabeth kept her voice calm and respectful, not looking for a disagreement, though not willing to give up her principals for this malicious old toad. 'Although I do agree that the students have had a, shall we say, fragmented education in this particular subject, should we not still be moving forward, instead of back?' Elizabeth then noticed that the entirety of the staff had stopped their other conversations to listen to the sparring match between herself and Umbridge. Even Filch had stopped feeding the squirming Mrs Norris from the table.
'But what is there to build on if these children know nothing of the subject to begin with? There is no point.'
'Of course there is. Their last professors were, despite their short span here, rather good teachers. And the teachers who remain,' she nodded towards the large group surrounding her, 'have taught them about other branches of magic which are applicable to Defence. And besides, one does not need a steady education to learn effectively. I am a perfect example of this: I had the exact same education as these children, and I earned high enough NEWTs to become an Auror without even going through training! If we disallow them a proper education, one that is fit for their age group, how will we – how can we – expect them to succeed after their schooling is done?'
'They will study theory, and therefore they will learn.'
'You really believe teenagers will learn from theory?'
Most of the other teachers around the table laughed, and Professor Vector chuckled, 'She's got you there, Dolores.'
Umbridge shot Elizabeth a sugary sweet smile down the table and said, 'Well, well, well, perhaps you're not ready to govern a class.'
Elizabeth's jaw dropped quite unceremoniously, and was about to reply quite contemptuously. She was saved the task, however, when most of the table burst out in Elizabeth's defence (all having had her take or teach their classes prior).Before Umbridge could decipher one teacher's complaints from another, however, Dumbledore cleared his throat and stood. Everyone fell silent, and turned to listen. 'I'm sure there are things all of us must learn, the young most of all, and the old, perhaps, even more.' He paused, smiled, and continued, 'But I digress. Everyone, the students arrive tomorrow and I do believe that we all want to be well rested for that happy hour. So, my advice is to go rest and enjoy your final moments free of late assignments, excuses, and Weasleys – because we are sure to have a quite amusing year, what with this being Misters Fred and George's last at the castle.' Everyone smiled, even Filch, who was most certainly thinking that after this year he would not have to deal with the twins ever, ever again. 'I would wish everyone a goodnight, and if anyone is in need of me, I would ask them to come up to my office in an hour's time.' He strode around the table as everyone pushed back their chairs, and motioned for Elizabeth to follow.