Caught in the act

Dolores Umbridge hopes she finally has the evidence to sink Harry

Extract from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

by J.K. Rowling

‘The purpose of Potter’s meeting with these students,’ continued Professor Umbridge, ‘was to persuade them to join an illegal society, whose aim was to learn spells and curses the Ministry has decided are inappropriate for school-age –’

‘I think you’ll find you’re wrong there, Dolores,’ said Dumbledore quietly, peering at her over the half-moon spectacles perched halfway down his crooked nose.

Harry stared at him. He could not see how Dumbledore was going to talk him out of this one; if Willy Widdershins had indeed heard every word he had said in the Hog’s Head there was simply no escaping it.

‘Oho!’ said Fudge, bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet again. ‘Yes, do let’s hear the latest cock-and-bull story designed to pull Potter out of trouble! Go on, then, Dumbledore, go on – Willy Widdershins was lying, was he? Or was it Potter’s identical twin in the Hog’s Head that day? Or is there the usual simple explanation involving a reversal of time, a dead man coming back to life and a couple of invisible Dementors?’

Percy Weasley let out a hearty laugh.

‘Oh, very good, Minister, very good!’

Harry could have kicked him. Then he saw, to his astonishment, that Dumbledore was smiling gently, too.

‘Cornelius, I do not deny – and nor, I am sure, does Harry – that he was in the Hog’s Head that day, nor that he was trying to recruit students to a Defence Against the Dark Arts group. I am merely pointing out that Dolores is quite wrong to suggest that such a group was, at that time, illegal. If you remember, the Ministry Decree banning all student societies was not put into effect until two days after Harry’s Hogsmeade meeting, so he was not breaking any rules at all in the Hog’s Head.’

Percy looked as though he had been struck in the face by something very heavy. Fudge remained motionless in mid-bounce, his mouth hanging open.

Umbridge recovered first.

‘That’s all very fine, Headmaster,’ she said, smiling sweetly, ‘but we are now nearly six months on from the introduction of Educational Decree Number Twenty-four. If the first meeting was not illegal, all those that have happened since most certainly are.’

‘Well,’ said Dumbledore, surveying her with polite interest over the top of his interlocked fingers, ‘they certainly would be, if they had continued after the Decree came into effect. Do you have any evidence that any such meetings continued?’

As Dumbledore spoke, Harry heard a rustle behind him and rather thought Kingsley whispered something. He could have sworn, too, that he felt something brush against his side, a gentle something like a draught or bird wings, but looking down he saw nothing there.

‘Evidence?’ repeated Umbridge, with that horrible wide toadlike smile. ‘Have you not been listening, Dumbledore? Why do you think Miss Edgecombe is here?’

‘Oh, can she tell us about six months’ worth of meetings?’ said Dumbledore, raising his eyebrows. ‘I was under the impression that she was merely reporting a meeting tonight.’

‘Miss Edgecombe,’ said Umbridge at once, ‘tell us how long these meetings have been going on, dear. You can simply nod or shake your head, I’m sure that won’t make the spots worse. Have they been happening regularly over the last six months?’

Harry felt a horrible plummeting in his stomach. This was it, they had hit a dead end of solid evidence that not even Dumbledore would be able to shift aside.

‘Just nod or shake your head, dear,’ Umbridge said coaxingly to Marietta, ‘come on, now, that won’t re-activate the jinx.’

Everyone in the room was gazing at the top of Marietta’s face. Only her eyes were visible between the pulled-up robes and her curly fringe. Perhaps it was a trick of the firelight, but her eyes looked oddly blank. And then – to Harry’s utter amazement – Marietta shook her head.

Umbridge looked quickly at Fudge, then back at Marietta.

‘I don’t think you understood the question, did you, dear? I’m asking whether you’ve been going to these meetings for the past six months? You have, haven’t you?’

Again, Marietta shook her head.

‘What do you mean by shaking your head, dear?’ said Umbridge in a testy voice.

‘I would have thought her meaning was quite clear,’ said Professor McGonagall harshly, ‘there have been no secret meetings for the past six months. Is that correct, Miss Edgecombe?’

Marietta nodded.

‘But there was a meeting tonight!’ said Umbridge furiously. ‘There was a meeting, Miss Edgecombe, you told me about it, in the Room of Requirement! And Potter was the leader, was he not, Potter organised it, Potter – why are you shaking your head, girl?’

‘Well, usually when a person shakes their head,’ said McGonagall coldly, ‘they mean “no”. So unless Miss Edgecombe is using a form of sign-language as yet unknown to humans –’

Professor Umbridge seized Marietta, pulled her round to face her and began shaking her very hard. A split second later Dumbledore was on his feet, his wand raised; Kingsley started forwards and Umbridge leapt back from Marietta, waving her hands in the air as though they had been burned.

‘I cannot allow you to manhandle my students, Dolores,’ said Dumbledore and, for the first time, he looked angry.

‘You want to calm yourself, Madam Umbridge,’ said Kingsley, in his deep, slow voice. ‘You don’t want to get yourself into trouble, now.’

‘No,’ said Umbridge breathlessly, glancing up at the towering figure of Kingsley. ‘I mean, yes – you’re right, Shacklebolt – I – I forgot myself.’

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

By J.K. Rowling

Did you enjoy this extract from ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix'?
Get the book from the Pottermore Shop