New Class 02
I dropped into the chair next to Daphne in the defense classroom after parting ways with Astoria, the smirk still etched on my face.
She arched an eyebrow at me. "Someone is in a good mood."
"Professor Flitwick is a fun opponent."
"I almost don't want the details," Daphne murmured. "You look terrifying right now."
While I hadn't been able to figure out a trick to make the Cheering Charms work, I had been able to get something for the voice throwing 'spell' without any effort. The only real difficulty with that one had been doing it close enough to a wall or a table so that no one noticed the swarm of bugs I had drawn together to imitate my voice. I was still curious as to why I could make do with fewer bugs or why they actually sounded exactly like my voice now instead of 'The Voice of The Legion', as Lisa had called it.
My ring probably had something to do with it - considering it had warmed up when I had gotten going. Maybe my hitchhiker was enjoying the bit of misdirection 'magic' here too?
That thought should probably terrify me, instead of making me feel warm and fuzzy…
I glanced down at my ring, directing a thread of thought towards it. Hey, Power, did you help me pretend to be magical? Nothing happened, not that I had expected a response. Are you Cthulhu? Maybe that would get a response.
You know there's a big difference between 'tactical misdirection', and 'pranking misdirection'. If you're Cthulhu, I don't feel comfortable with you helping; I feel like you'd be helping for reasons more approaching the latter situation rather than the former. I have some major issues with pranks. Still nothing. I'm also a bit worried about long-term sanity concerns if you're Cthulhu.
Now that got a response. My ring warmed but cooled down almost immediately afterwards.
That's not very informative, I groused. It didn't help that I noticed Trevor entering into my range as he hopped along one of the corridors above us too.
Still nothing? You're a bit of a jerk. You know that right?
Whatever I was connected to was annoying and apparently not interested in talking much. And I…apparently didn't mind this nearly as much as I knew I should. A bit of a hurt ego was not the same as an existential crisis. I should be gnashing my teeth or tearing my hair out…maybe not my hair. I liked my hair.
I was more worried about my hair than my quiet hitchhiker. Fuck.
I almost would have preferred Cthulhu…
Before I could even start to dive into the myriad roiling emotions that revelation was stirring up, the door to the office at the front of the classroom opened, and admitted a portly, pink-clad woman. I frowned, dimly remembering this rotund blight from the feast at the beginning of the semester.
I could deal with my own issues later. Parahumans had gotten by perfectly fine with their hitchhikers before I ever started trying to talk to mine through a magic ring.
My life was messed up.
Shaking my head, I pushed aside my thoughts and focused on Dolores Umbridge. My first close-up impressions of her were in stark contrast to Flitwick. This woman seemed like a transplanted Blackwell - if Blackwell's mother had been some kind of humanoid frog. And if her 'speech' from the meal at the beginning of the semester was anything to go by, then that comparison was more apt than I would have liked. I hadn't paid all that much attention to her at the time, and now I was going to have to compensate for that. Why a woman like that would deign to teach kids was beyond me. They were all alike from my experience. Dealing with her was going to be a nightmare.
Ah, well, if it got really bad then I could always just flip between Astoria and Daphne and never have to actually sit in on her classes. I wasn't getting paid enough to deal with this sort of crap again.
"Good afternoon, class," Umbridge said. Wow, even her voice was too sweet. She was a fly trap that didn't bother trying to hide that it was going to eat the flies. You had to practice to sound that syrupy. "Eh hem. I said, good afternoon, class."
The students just stared at her, some blinking, others crossing their arms.
"The correct response is: Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge." She was smiling, but the expression was straight off of Sophia's warped visage. I moved a few more bugs into the room and sent them towards the ceiling and the corners to hide. There was no harm in being prepared. "Good afternoon, class."
"Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge," several half-hearted mumbles echoed back.
She tsked. "Well, that will do for today I suppose. I am certain that we will learn to improve as the year moves on." Oh god, her laughter was even worse. I'd take nails on a chalkboard over this. Yeah, I wasn't coming back to these classes at all.
"Now, if you will all open your books and read through Chapters 1 and 2 that should take us through the period. Please raise your hand if you have any questions about the material."
I frowned as I leaned over Daphne and glanced at the book on the desk. "Wasn't that the utterly useless one?" I murmured.
Apparently I wasn't quiet enough as Umbridge cocked her head at me, her smile cracking. "Something to add, Miss Hebert? I believe you should be raising your hand if you have a comment."
Oh for…No. No, I was not dealing with Blackwell 2.0 again. Hell, this was Blackwell and Quinlan combined into some unholy lovechild. I didn't let my disgust show - much - as I crossed my arms and very deliberately set them on the desktop. "I was just asking for confirmation that this was the same book that was considered completely and totally useless, except as kindling, Ma'am. Now that I can get a clear look at the cover, I can see that it is indeed the very same one I was thinking of."
Umbridge blinked. "Excuse me child, but this book is the only Ministry of Magic approved text currently in use in the entire school. Something that is certain to be corrected in short order. Hogwarts must be brought up to the Ministry's standards from the depths it has fallen to under the current leadership." She leaned forward, and sneered at me. "Moreover, I was under the impression that you couldn't even use magic." If I hadn't already had bugs near her I probably would have missed her muttered comment of, "filthy squib."
My bugs flew a little faster, but I didn't let myself react visibly to her barb. Instead, I just smiled and met her gaze. "As a highly paid professional, ma'am, I believe I am far more qualified to espouse an opinion on the matter of defense than a gaggle of bureaucrats who, last I heard, had been bested by a simple terrorist group."
"How dare you imply that you know more than the Ministry of Magic," Umbridge hissed. Oh, the sweetness was gone from her voice. Good.
"I'm literally being paid to be the bodyguard for two teenagers and I've defeated foes who had the government quaking in their boots before. You're extolling the virtues of a book that I wouldn't wipe my ass with. Whoever wrote this had no idea what he was talking about, and was just filling pages with nonsense to get a government contract at the lowest bid."
"Miss Hebert, it is quite clear that you do not understand anything about how real witches and wizards work, or what we do or do not write about. You should not speak out of turn on subjects of which you do not know. Do not shame your…employer further by continuing to speak on this."
Did she just…imply I was a slave? Was that what she was trying to say? How the hell was I supposed to respond to that?
A hand shot into the air from a few tables over. The girl was a Gryffindor and she was sitting next to Harry. She didn't bother to wait for Umbridge to call on her - clever girl, Umbridge never did say that you had to actually be addressed once your hand was up. "Professor, I fully agree with Miss Hebert. There is barely any discussion of the theory anywhere in this text and there are no practical topics at all!"
Umbridge's faltering smile suddenly flared back to life, morphing into a full on smirk as she centered her gaze on the brunette. "Why, Miss Granger, whatever would you need practical instructions for? You would never use that!"
"What?!" The indignation in the girl's reply was enough to make me wince.
"So, what?" I cut in. "Fifteen years ago you just stood around and let terrorists fire deadly spells at you? That explains why this school is so empty…and the state of your country as a whole, I guess."
"I'm certain that the fools in your home country were able to perform so much better, little girl." She ground out, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Considering no one even knows of your…species, why, they must have all died out," Umbridge gasped as she held a hand over her mouth, doing little to hide the giggle. "Such poor dears, they did such a fantastic job of running their country that they all killed themselves off!"
Fuck this bitch. My bugs swarmed into the surrounding classrooms as I tried to figure out how to defend capes without having capes actually in this universe to back up my claims.
"Professor," Granger said, drawing Umbridge's attention back towards her. "What if we are directly attacked? We need to know how to defend ourselves! It happened just last year at the Quidditch World Cup!"
Umbridge's lip twisted as she scowled in my direction, though by the time she had turned back to Granger her smirk was firmly cemented back in place. "Why, if there should ever be a problem then you should call for the Aurors, Miss Granger. The Ministry will handle all issues that arise!"
'Let us handle everything, we'll report it to the right people. You don't need to worry. We'll handle it. We're the authorities. We can deal with it. Even though we never, ever have and never, ever will.'
The bugs in the dungeons and on the grounds started frantically weaving more and more intricate webs. I also found myself growing aware of more of the castle than I had been when walking into the room a few minutes ago.
"…This is completely ridiculous! How are we supposed to study for exams?!"
Oh there was a doxy nest under one of the bathroom floors - a false floor. Well, wasn't that interesting. That was neat. I could focus on that. Did doxies have a hive cluster setup or were they too intelligent for me to control? My ring warmed up and the faint impression of the creatures sharpened into laser-focus.
"…So you're saying that we should just let Voldemort and his Death Eaters kill us when they are standing right in front of us then?" That was Harry yelling now. I should pay more attention to the class again.
"Idiot," Daphne muttered.
"Mr. Potter. You are lying."
"I am not!"
"Shut up, idiot," Daphne muttered.
The false floor under the bathroom was far larger than I had expected. I sent a few of the doxies to explore the giant cavern. There were very few bugs as a whole down there, not enough to get a good picture of it and I wanted to move the hive back towards the main castle, not deeper underground. I'd have to explore it later.
My main body was shaking now and my eyes were screwed shut. I had gotten the doxies moved to a new nest closer to the dungeons though and I had finally found the Gryffindor Common Room. That was nice. This class wasn't an entire waste of time.
The yelling finally quieted; a minute later my fists unclenched, and the breath I had been holding slowly leaked out too. I barely noticed as Daphne took my hand in hers, dabbing a napkin on my sticky palms. After a moment, she murmured something under her breath, and my hand warmed. I glanced down, just in time to see thin cuts on my palms sealing shut, my ring burning hot.
Yay. Now I have a Brute rating too, just what I always wanted. Too bad it was a fake Brute rating from magic I couldn't control.
I didn't meet Daphne's eyes until the class ended half an hour later. Umbridge was the first to leave the room and almost everyone ran out afterwards too. Soon enough, it was just me, Daphne, Granger, and Harry left. The redheaded boy that had been on the other side of Harry had bolted from the room as soon as the class was dismissed and I didn't blame him at all. I'd have followed him if I had been more composed. Granger looked like she was trying to get Harry to calm down from his outburst earlier, while Daphne wasn't letting me go without me talking to her.
Sighing, I twisted my head, raising one hand, palm out. "Thanks," I murmured.
"You're welcome," she replied, her voice soft. "What happened?"
"I've…met people like her. People who pretend they're going to do something, lord it over you, and then smile and laugh while they shred the report paperwork in the other room, not caring at all that you can see them doing it."
"I'm not coming back to this class with you again, Daphne," I stated. Standing, I grabbed for my bag and straightened my tie. "For her safety and everyone else's too." I bit my cheek and looked her in the eyes. "I'll keep a watch on you while you're in here, and I'll do the same with Astoria, but I can't actually sit in here. I would end up doing something that everyone would regret before the week was out."
"Maybe not that even that long." I brushed past her. Stopping besides Harry, I grabbed his arm. "Don't let the bitch beat you down. I took it for a year and half and it almost broke me. Don't let her win, don't give her an inch. Don't take any punishment she gives you."
Harry met my eyes. "What are you saying, Taylor?"
"I'm saying: learn from my mistakes. I tried to take the high ground and I just wound up dying inside. Fight back. Find me later, or call for me and I'll find you. I'm not letting this - person - destroy magic for me. It's fucking magic. Nobody gets to poison magic, nobody."
Harry searched my eyes, after what felt like an eternity, he reached up clasping my hand. "I know exactly how you feel. Let me talk to a few friends, we'll see what we can do. Greengrass, are you interested in joining the resistance?"
"Taylor, we need to talk," she hissed, grabbing my arm. Leaning down, Daphne hissed in Harry's ear, quietly enough that I needed my bugs to hear, "Not in her bloody classroom, idiot!"
Harry paled, swallowing hard as his head whipped around to stare about the room. I let Daphne drag me out into the hallway where she forced me against the wall, breathing hard.
"Okay, look, I get that you have some deep-seated issues. I'm really, really sorry that those were enflamed here - especially since you were in such a good mood before - but you can't do that! Not there! If you're going to organize an insurrection you have to do it the right way, Taylor. You start it in corridors or hidden rooms, or taverns. You -"
"She was petting her cats and talking to her portrait of a man in a green bowler hat, Daphne. I'm upset, I'm not an idiot," I said, sighing. "And, Granger, you can stop eavesdropping and waiting for a good segue. Hi, I'm Taylor, we haven't met, nice to meet you."
The brunette walked out of the room, grimacing, while Daphne hurriedly stepped back from me.
"Your senses are even better than the rumors suggested, I don't normally put any stock in them, but this time…," Granger said. "I apologize, I didn't mean to…"
"I'm Hermione." She held out her hand which I quickly shook. Glancing back, she inclined her head to the door. "Thank you for what you said to Harry. He's not been in a good place this year and I think you may have helped lift his spirits a little. Normally, I would not agree with rebelling against a professor, but Umbridge is not really a professor, is she? How can she be if she doesn't want to teach." She bit her lip, and glanced back towards the classroom. "Did you mean what you said about being able to see that she couldn't spy on us?"
"Well I meant she wasn't. I don't know if she could or not."
Daphne rubbed at her temple. "She could. Well, any competent witch could at least. That probably rules out Umbridge, but it is never smart to discount your opponent out of hand. Let us table this discussion until we can convene at a more appropriate venue. Granger, can you keep your friend under control for two weeks? We should have a Hogsmeade trip then and it would be much safer to plan things outside the castle."
I held up a hand. "What if I can find a hidden room in the castle?"
Both of them blinked at me. Harry finally came out of the room as well, hitching his bag over his shoulder and walked up to us, falling into our little circle.
Hermione broke the silence first. "Taylor, while I appreciate the effort, I don't think there are any rooms that Harry and I don't know of…"
"How about a room under a false floor in a bathroom? Seems pretty hidden to me."
Harry and Hermione both seemed to stop breathing while Daphne just stared at me.
"Taylor," Harry said slowly, "I think that you are a very dangerous person, and that we are all going to be good friends. Hermione, Ron, and I will come find you later, after dinner, and we are going to have a far longer talk. Is that okay?"
I nodded, and watched silently as he and Hermione left, leaving me alone with Daphne, her arms crossed and her foot tapping the ground impatiently.
"I can explain."
"You don't owe me an explanation," she said. "But what you do owe me, is reassurance that you're going to be alright. You've just decided to join up with Mr. Nearly-Dies-Every-Single-Bloody-Year." Her arms dropped to her side. "Taylor, you barely know how Magical Britain works, I'm just…worried about you."
I smiled, looping my arm through hers and started pulling her towards the next class. "I appreciate the concern, Daph. I'm pretty sure I can count the number of people who care about me on one hand with fingers left over. And most of those are in a different - err - continent."
A small ghost of a grin graced her lips and she picked up her pace to match mine. "Well, at least one of those people is here now. And don't you forget it."
"Wouldn't dream of it, Daphne."
I had issues, but I did still have friends here too. That was an okay trade off. I could make this work.
AN: So here we see Taylor in her unnatural habit, relaxing, enjoying life, beginning an...insurrection? Already? Oh Taylor...come on girl...let's not escalate quite...that...fast...oh there she goes.