The summer holiday had been a confusing one for the eager, young girl with long, curly red hair; sitting in her back garden, in the shade of a large beech tree with a thick book propped up on her bent knees. Being Muggle-born keeps one out of the loop even with having the Daily Prophet delivered by Owl Post, but nowadays it was of no use at all. At the end of her fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry one of her fellow pupils had been murdered by Voldemort, the most evil and powerful wizard in fourteen years. At least that was what Dumbledore had told the school. It delivered quite a shock to the peppy red-head who had been fortunate enough to have been out of viewing range when Harry Potter returned from the maze clutching the corpse of the dead Hufflepuff boy, Cedric Diggory.
Gasps and murmurs filled the Great Hall at the announcement during the end of term feast, but Milo neither gasped nor flinched at the name of Voldemort and she was too shocked to murmur. However, she felt the danger that every other witch and wizard in the school felt at this moment: terror. Voldemort was back and already killing innocents. Harry Potter survived. He always survived, and that gave her hope. Not because Harry was a great wizard - she'd heard that he wasn't too scholarly even though he had Hermione "Know-It-All" Granger as one of his best mates - but because he was an ordinary wizard to whom bad things seemed to happen; and she was a year older. If he could go into a battle unprepared and turn out okay, then she reckoned she could too. This thought kept her hopeful through the summer as she realized that the Ministry wasn't taking Harry or Dumbledore seriously and that the wizarding world would be in even more danger now, than ever, being so unprepared.
All of these thoughts were carried away with the faint breeze on the last day of summer that brought a tawny owl delivering her long-awaited textbook list from Hogwarts. Milo tore open the envelope and scanned the list quickly before running into the house waving it in the air. "Mum! Dad! My booklist is here!" she squealed delighted.
Milo jumped out of the carriage that had carried her classmates and herself to the front doors of the castle and ran up the stairs into the Great Hall. She then took her time to walk across the Hall past the Slytherine, Gryffindor, and Hufflepuff house tables and chose a seat directly in the center of the Ravenclaw table on the side facing the staff. She smiled up at the professors who were already seated and waved to all of them, including a new one who wore a pretty pink hairband in her hair, and, a returning substitute, Professor Grubly-Plank. I wonder where Hagrid is. Off finding new magical creatures, I suppose.
A short while passed before the rest of the school filled the tables and the new students were sorted. After being fed and watered, Milo gave the Headmaster her complete attention, despite a student interrupting him with a noisy clearing of their throat; who turned out not to be a student but the new professor: Dolores Umbridge. Milo looked on with interest and listened as best she could to the boring speech the woman gave. Every passing minute gave Milo a new respect for the headmaster's speeches which were always short, strange, and to the point. Finally, they were ordered to go to bed and she couldn't wait to oblige with the feast resting heavily in her stomach.
Milo swung her backpack at her side as she skipped through the halls and down the many staircases toward her first lesson of the day, Defense Against the Dark Arts. She was quite excited to see what the Ministry woman had prepared to teach them as she must know many useful spells to aid in a battle against evil. As usual, she took the seat nearest the front and center of the room so that she could be closest to the professor. She'd been called an Eager Beaver from time to time, but she took it as a compliment. There was nothing wrong with being excited to learn new things.
Professor Umbridge was
already at her desk, the lesson plan on the board.
1. Understanding the principles underlying defensive magic.
2. Learning to recognize situations in which defensive magic can legally be used.
3. Placing the use of defensive magic in a context for practical use.
Milo read it once, twice, three times, and then promptly raised her hand. The professor did not bother looking up from the papers on her desk until the bell rang for class to begin, but Milo kept her hand up patiently.
"Good morning, Class," Professor Umbridge said as she stood, walking straight toward Milo in the middle of the room.
"Good morning," a few students mumbled, with sleep still lingering in their voices. Some of the students were staring at Milo with questioning expressions. Those who hadn't been looking certainly were now, for above the others, Milo greeted the professor with a broad grin and gusto that rivaled her own in order to catch her attention. Umbridge, who seemed to be ignoring the hand, had stood directly in front of the student to Milo's left.
Used to being ignored,
Milo started to jiggle her foot rhythmically, but, other than that, showed no
signs of growing inpatient.
"Tut, tut," said Professor Umbridge, "that won't do. I should like you, please, to reply 'Good morning, Professor Umbridge.' One more time, please. Good morning, class!"
"Good morning, Professor Umbridge," the class repeated back, Milo with the same enthusiasm as before.
"There, now, that wasn't too difficult, was it?" said Professor Umbridge, "Wands away and quills out please."
Milo dropped her hand only long enough to wrap her hair into a bun and secure it with her wand, as one would with a decorative chopstick, and place a sunny yellow quill on her desktop before returning her hand to the hair.
"Professor Umbridge, may I ask you a question?" she said as the rest of the students settled back down.
Umbridge glanced down at her with a thin smile and said tersely, "No. Questions can wait until I've given the lesson."
"Well... it isn't really a question, more of a comment."
"Comments can wait as well. Now," the professor said returning her attention to the class at large, "Your teaching in this subject has been rather disrupted and fragmented, hasn't it? You will be pleased to know, however, that these problems are now to be rectified. We will be following a carefully structured, theory-centered, Ministry-approved course of defensive magic this year. Copy down the following, please." She gestured to the board stating the course aims. As Umbridge shifted to return to her desk, Milo's hand shot back into the air, narrowly missing the professor's nose as she was considerably short.
Professor Umbridge couldn't ignore her this time. She glanced at the wand handle sticking out of dark red hair, and then addressed Milo. "You are to be writing right now. Where is your parchment, Miss..."
"Porter, Ma'am," Milo said lowering her hand.
"Well, please copy down the course aims, Miss Porter."
"But you said to wait until-"
"I give the lesson, yes. This is a precursor to the lesson, Miss Porter. I will address you when I am ready for your question." Professor Umbridge's face was still smiling but her voice was now business-like rather than the girlish pitch she normally used.
Milo nodded and returned the smile, and then pulled out a fresh sheet of parchment and began to write.
When the class had
finished writing the course aims, Milo being last because of her interruption, Professor
Umbridge set the class to reading the first chapter of their text book. Milo
opened her book but did not read. Instead her gaze was fixed on the remnants of
what she supposed had been a crude poem written by Peeves the poltergeist that
Professor Umbridge had missed in her haste to erase it. Milo could make out
"-ad", "sad", and another "-ad".
She spent a great deal of time thinking up what it could have been that Peeves
had been writing as it was more interesting than reading from her textbook for
the entire hour.
Milo jerked out of her reverie and looked over at Professor Umbridge who was staring at her from across her desk with an intense glare and a thinner, strained smile. "Miss Porter, you-."
"Oh, right," Milo said as she remembered what she had been waiting to tell the professor. "I wanted to say earlier-"
"Miss Porter, you are meant to be reading," Umbridge said.
Milo's face fell. "Right, well, I can't. You see that's what I was trying to tell you earlier."
Umbridge raised a pencil-thin eyebrow. "Are you trying to tell me, Miss Porter, that you do not have the ability to read?"
Milo chuckled at the misunderstanding and shook her head with a light-hearted smile. "No, of course not. I only meant-"
"Good. Please do so. The chapter is to be finished by the end of class."
"But I can't, Professor, not with-"
"I thought we had already established that you can, Miss Porter. Which is it? Can you or can you not read?"
"I can, but, you're not letting me finish. I only mean to say-" By now, the class was too distracted by the back and forth between Professor Umbridge and Milo to concentrate on their reading; they looked on with amusement.
"I've had enough of this. 10 points from Ravenclaw. It will be 20 if you don't start reading this minute."
Milo looked down at her book and sighed, then looked back up at Umbridge. "But... Professor... You didn't even let me finish."
Umbridge took a deep breath that made her chest swell like a bullfrog and let out an exasperated sigh. "Fine. What is it?"
Milo smiled again. "I only wanted to say that you missed a spot erasing the board this morning, and I can't concentrate on anything else once I notice something like that."
Professor Umbridge glared at Milo, and then erased the entire board with a furious swipe of her wand. Milo heaved her own sigh, a sigh of relief, and then leaned against the back of her chair and began to read.
She had only finished
the first paragraph of the text when the bell rang for the end of class. As she
stuffed her book, quill, and parchment into her bag, Milo heard the familiar
"heh, hem" and looked up to see Professor Umbridge standing in front
of her desk.
"Yes, Professor?" she said with an earnest smile.
"You are to finish your reading as homework," the professor instructed, "and you will report to me tonight at 5 o'clock sharp for detention."
Instead of feeling disappointed or angry, Milo was elated. "Detention on my first day?" she said with wide-eyed awe. "That must be a record. I've gotta tell the Twins! Thanks, Professor Umbridge!"