Basics for Beginners
'Are you ready for today's class, Elizabeth?' Dolores Umbridge asked, striding up towards the teacher's desk.
'Oh, of course,' she replied, pulling out her wand, and her own copy of Defence Against the Dark Arts: A Return to Basic Principles.
Glancing at her movement, Dolores told her, 'You'll be needing neither of those.'
'What do you – ?'
'I believe it would be best if you took the first few classes disguised. Of course I've heard how talented of an Animagus you are. Is there any way you could, perhaps, be an animal for the duration of the class? It would allow me to get to know the students without your interfering.'
'Without my – '
'Yes. Now, I'll just keep your things here behind the desk, shall I, and you can sit somewhere as something inconspicuous?'
Shocked by Dolores' saccharine smile, Elizabeth nodded mutely and, transforming into a songbird, sat upon a bust of Devlin the Devious at the back of the classroom.
When the students entered, Elizabeth attempted to catch the attention of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, but they were, apparently, too distracted by the vibrant pink of Umbridge's cardigan to take note of the stone-grey bird chirping above them.
The class began with a tedium that would make even the most dedicated student's eyes droop. Indeed, Elizabeth noticed, Hermione hadn't even opened her book, and her hand was already in the air. After a surprisingly long while, Umbridge finally acknowledged her.
'Do you want to ask something about the chapter, dear?'
'Not about the chapter, no,' Hermione replied, a touch of displeasure in her voice.
'Well, we're reading just now. If you have other queries we can deal with them at the end of class.' Her tone was definite, but Hermione persisted.
'I've got a query about your course aims...'
The first half of the class was painful; Elizabeth could not help but cringe. From her vantage point, she could see Umbridge get more and more upset though her discourse with Harry and, though she could only see his back, she could imagine the look of stubbornness and anger that would be gracing his features.
When she sent the boy out, Elizabeth wanted desperately to follow. Especially when, as he stormed out of the room, Harry finally glanced up. She knew, though, how many problems that would cause for herself and Dumbledore, and knew, also, that he would want to hear precisely what transpired between Umbridge and the class after Harry's departure.
'Now, ladies and gentlemen,' Umbridge began, standing. 'What you have been told is a lie – '
Elizabeth noted by their movements that Ron had started talking, but Hermione had hushed him.
' – A lie spread by a young man who is looking for attention. Now, if any of you have concerns about this, or about the rumors he is spreading, please feel very free to come and talk to me. I want us to be the best of friends, and as your friend, I would like you to tell me when something is troubling you.' She smiled sweetly at the class again, and returned to her seat.
'But - !'
'I suggest,' she continued, sweetly covering Dean's voice, 'you continue to read chapter one of Basics for Beginners.' She smiled. 'Now.'
Turning, Harry saw Elizabeth moving from opposite Professor McGonagall's door. 'Hi, Elizabeth.'
'Are you alright?' she asked, catching up to him and lowering her voice considerably.
'Yeah, McGonagall was really good about it.'
'I don't mean her. I figured she would understand. I meant what Umbridge said. Are you alright?'
'I'm fine. Not that you helped.' He started walking again, and she matched her pace to his.
'You were there. Why didn't you step in or something?'
'Did you hear nothing of what McGonagall said to you just now?'
'Obviously. But I mean, she can't expel you.'
'Of course she can! I'm not a student, I was hired by the school. I can be un-hired, especially if a teacher complains about me, or I am accused of inappropriate fraternisation with a student. You have to keep the future in mind, Harry. It doesn't matter what she says right now, as long as we're working to counter her in other ways.'
'Easy for you to say!' Harry's stride increased, and Elizabeth jogged to catch up. 'It's not you who's been called names and… and ridiculed the last few weeks. I'm a joke! And after what happened last June – '
'Harry! Don't you think I know?! We've gone through this! But why does it matter what some bias Ministry employee says, so long as you know we're working to make sure everyone knows the truth?'
'It just… it just, does, ok?' he replied sharply, turning abruptly so she crashed into him. And before Elizabeth could reply, he snapped, 'I have homework before my detention tomorrow, so I better go.'
'But, Harry – ''Mimbulus Mimbletonia.'