Professor Umbridge's downfall

Hermione leads an oblivious Professor Umbridge to the centaurs in the Forest

Extract from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

by J.K. Rowling

‘Hermione, keep your voice down,’ Harry muttered, hurrying to catch up with her. ‘Anything could be listening in here –’

‘I want us heard,’ she answered quietly, as Umbridge jogged noisily after them. ‘You’ll see ...’

They walked on for what seemed a long time, until they were once again so deep into the Forest that the dense tree canopy blocked out all light. Harry had the feeling he had had before in the Forest, one of being watched by unseen eyes.

‘How much further?’ demanded Umbridge angrily from behind him.

‘Not far now!’ shouted Hermione, as they emerged into a dim, dank clearing. ‘Just a little bit –’

An arrow flew through the air and landed with a menacing thud in the tree just over her head. The air was suddenly full of the sound of hooves; Harry could feel the Forest floor trembling; Umbridge gave a little scream and pushed him in front of her like a shield –

He wrenched himself free of her and turned. Around fifty centaurs were emerging on every side, their bows raised and loaded, pointing at Harry, Hermione and Umbridge. They backed slowly into the centre of the clearing, Umbridge uttering odd little whimpers of terror. Harry looked sideways at Hermione. She was wearing a triumphant smile.

‘Who are you?’ said a voice.

Harry looked left. The chestnut-bodied centaur called Magorian was walking towards them out of the circle: his bow, like those of the others, was raised. On Harry’s right, Umbridge was still whimpering, her wand trembling violently as she pointed it at the advancing centaur.

‘I asked you who are you, human,’ said Magorian roughly.

‘I am Dolores Umbridge!’ said Umbridge in a high-pitched, terrified voice. ‘Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic and Headmistress and High Inquisitor of Hogwarts!’

‘You are from the Ministry of Magic?’ said Magorian, as many of the centaurs in the surrounding circle shifted restlessly.

‘That’s right!’ said Umbridge, in an even higher voice, ‘so be very careful! By the laws laid down by the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, any attack by half-breeds such as yourselves on a human –’

‘What did you call us?’ shouted a wild-looking black centaur, whom Harry recognised as Bane. There was a great deal of angry muttering and tightening of bowstrings around them.

‘Don’t call them that!’ Hermione said furiously, but Umbridge did not appear to have heard her. Still pointing her shaking wand at Magorian, she continued, ‘Law Fifteen “B” states clearly that “any attack by a magical creature who is deemed to have near-human intelligence, and therefore considered responsible for its actions –”’

‘“Near-human intelligence”?’ repeated Magorian, as Bane and several others roared with rage and pawed the ground. ‘We consider that a great insult, human! Our intelligence, thankfully, far outstrips your own.

‘What are you doing in our Forest?’ bellowed the hard-faced grey centaur Harry and Hermione had seen on their last trip into the Forest. ‘Why are you here?’

‘Your Forest?’ said Umbridge, shaking now not only with fright but also, it seemed, with indignation. ‘I would remind you that you live here only because the Ministry of Magic permits you certain areas of land –’

An arrow flew so close to her head that it caught at her mousy hair in passing: she let out an ear-splitting scream and threw her hands over her head, while some of the centaurs bellowed their approval and others laughed raucously. The sound of their wild, neighing laughter echoing around the dimly lit clearing and the sight of their pawing hooves was extremely unnerving.

‘Whose Forest is it now, human?’ bellowed Bane.

‘Filthy half-breeds!’ she screamed, her hands still tight over her head. ‘Beasts! Uncontrolled animals!’

‘Be quiet!’ shouted Hermione, but it was too late: Umbridge pointed her wand at Magorian and screamed, ‘Incarcerous!’

Ropes flew out of midair like thick snakes, wrapping themselves tightly around the centaur’s torso and trapping his arms: he gave a cry of rage and reared on to his hind legs, attempting to free himself, while the other centaurs charged.

Harry grabbed Hermione and pulled her to the ground; face down on the Forest floor, he knew a moment of terror as hooves thundered around him, but the centaurs leapt over and around them, bellowing and screaming with rage.

‘Nooooo!’ he heard Umbridge shriek. ‘Noooooo ... I am Senior Undersecretary ... you cannot – Unhand me, you animals ... nooooo!’

Harry saw a flash of red light and knew she had attempted to Stun one of them; then she screamed very loudly. Lifting his head a few inches, Harry saw that Umbridge had been seized from behind by Bane and lifted high into the air, wriggling and yelling with fright. Her wand fell from her hand to the ground, and Harry’s heart leapt. If he could just reach it –

But as he stretched out a hand towards it, a centaur’s hoof descended upon the wand and it broke cleanly in half.

‘Now!’ roared a voice in Harry’s ear and a thick hairy arm descended from thin air and dragged him upright. Hermione, too, had been pulled to her feet. Over the plunging, many-coloured backs and heads of the centaurs, Harry saw Umbridge being borne away through the trees by Bane. Screaming non-stop, her voice grew fainter and fainter until they could no longer hear it over the trampling of hooves surrounding them.


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

by J.K. Rowling