AN: Welcome (back) to the world of the Boomslang thief. I had not planned on publishing until after the holidays, but changed my mind and wanted to put a few chapters up to get some feedback. Just as a refresher: in the first book, Snape investigated the murder of a Durmstrang student during the tri-wizard tournament, exonerating Harry and finding the real culprit. In exchange, the trio confessed to the theft of his boomslang and were punished for it. In the process of the investigation Harry and Snape developed somewhat of a rapport, and Snape discovered that Harry had been abused at the Dursley's home. Snape promised he didn't have to go back, but then Dumbledore said that he had to in order to satisfy the magic. Snape had threatened to kidnap Harry and take him to Durmstrang, and as a compromise Harry would have to return to the Dursleys but have someone else with him at all times – starting with Snape and then moving onto other wizards, including the Weasley twins. This story will tell the story of the summer interwoven with the present story unfolding.

I also wanted to say that in a lot of ways this is also going to be a deeply personal story, in that I have struggled with how to handle the family members that hurt me so much in my childhood. I have gone through periods of time where I did want revenge on them, and then grown to understand that you don't have to seek revenge for revenge to happen. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed fanfic stories exploring all of the creative and utterly deserved vengeance dished out either by Harry or on Harry's behalf to the Dursleys, and honestly some of it is so well done I have nothing left to add. So in this story I want to explore a different sort of revenge, and one that has definitely shaped my adult life.

As always, I love interactions with my readers and welcome comments, corrections, criticisms, and ideas. Interacting with people is my favorite part of writing fanfiction. Abusive and immature posts, however, will be summarily deleted.

Disclaimer: There will be corporal punishment in this story, and I will not warn you about it ahead of time. If you are uncomfortable with this, stop reading now. Also, I call Delores Umbridge's instrument of torture a Black Quill instead of a Blood Quill because that's what the Harry Potter wiki calls it. I got some unhappy comments on a previous story with calling it a Black Quill, please know that that was a conscious choice (though if you must still correct me, that is your right). There is a major character death that is not in canon, so it's safe to say that this story is AU, but my best effort at keeping with the original characters just with some changed circumstances. And finally, I am not JK Rowling and do not intend to become her at any point in this story.

Harry looked from the inert form of his most hated professor to the standing form of his formerly hated professor and clutched the desk to remain standing. Then he realized that his hand was close to the blood-spattered tweed and he gasped audibly. He felt as if he couldn't breathe and the room began to swim.

"Go to my office now," Snape told him firmly, his voice stern but not harsh. "Say nothing to anybody until I am there."

Harry, feeling that speech was beyond him at the moment, obeyed woodenly. He couldn't even think about how to get to Snape's office, but his feet somehow found their way there. With practiced motion, he placed his palm on the door and it admitted him, recognizing his magical signature. Had it just been the night before that he had snuck down near curfew to ask Snape a question on his Potions homework? With his easy admittance it made it easier not to get caught, and Snape was used to receiving a visit from him at least a few times a week.

But now this was so different. There was no cheery fire and tea ordered for him so he could sit on a stuffed chair and chat amidst the surrounding potions debris, but rather a cold and empty office. And all he could see was Delores Umbridge's eyes – staring, empty and quite dead. He raced to the sink as his stomach violently emptied itself of its contents.

When Snape arrived back in his office, his eyes quickly took in the scene. He saw Harry curled up in a ball on the floor, his arms wrapped around his legs and rocking slightly. A befuddled Auror was trying to ask him questions, and seemed unable to get any response from the lad.

"If you want to interview him, I would suggest Auror Shacklebolt," Snape told him. "Mr. Potter has met him before, and he is far more likely to be able to question him. Or, at least to get some answers to those questions."

"He's busy with the, well, with the body," the auror answered with a bit of pretention in his voice.

"I would think the prime witness might allow for some shuffling around," Snape answered coolly.

"Don't you mean the prime suspect?" the auror answered.

"No, I mean witness," Snape repeated sternly. "Is that you, Andy Wiggleweld? I'm surprised they have made you an investigator so early. Apparently proficiency in potions is not necessary."

"I have improved," the auror answered, blushing and hating that he sounded like the schoolboy he was once again.

"That is good to hear," Snape nodded. "Now fetch Shacklebolt before I feel inclined to start subtracting points from Hufflepuff."

"But . . . I'm not even a student!" he protested. "That's unfair!"

"Indeed, it is," Snape answered somberly. "I hope your former house will not suffer too much based on your obstinacy."

With a huff and the body motions that he had used when reprimanded as a third year, Auror Wiggleweld left the room to fetch Shacklebolt.

"Quick Harry, we only have a moment," Snape whispered. "What happened?"

For a moment Snape worried that the boy wouldn't answer, that he was indeed in such a state of shock that words couldn't form. But he saw that Harry was able to shake his body a bit at Snape's command and looked at him.

"I walked in to the room and she was like that," Harry answered.

"Good," Snape answered.

"They're still going to think it's me," Harry answered with something near a sob.

"Why is that?"

In answer, Harry just held out his hand where livid words stood out on the back of his hand in cruel relief.

"The black quill," Snape breathed, hardly believing what he saw. "She did that to you?"

"It was the third time," Harry answered miserably. "It's what she does if you say things in class she doesn't like."

"Why ever did you not tell me? Or Dumbledore?" Snape hissed at him in anger. "Or even your bloody head of house?"

"McGonagall told me to keep my head down," Harry answered miserably, near tears. "And Dumbledore was already having trouble with her, I didn't want him sacked as well. I thought the best thing was to just endure it."

"I know you were abused at your last home, Harry, but this is ridiculous," Snape snapped at him while keeping his voice down. His mind put together seemingly innocent gestures and specific movements of Harry's hand when they'd been together, which Snape now realized was Harry hiding his hand from Snape's view. "You actively lied to me and hid this abuse! Were you not in this scrape I would be tempted to put you over my desk for such cheek in concealing this."

"She was alive when I left the room," Harry told him, nearing sobs. "I came back just twenty minutes later because I'd realized that I forgot my bag, and there she was . . ."

"Calm yourself and think," Snape ordered brusquely. "Shacklebolt will be here soon and any memory he has is subject to pensieve. So be very careful what you say."

"I am innocent," Harry looked up into Snape's eyes plaintively. "Please, sir, what do I need to be careful about?"

Before Snape could answer some snarky comment about how innocents get jailed regularly when the imposing form of Kingsley Shacklebolt entered the room in his richly colored robes.

"Gentlemen," he greeted them. "I understand that my presence has been requested for the interrogation."

"Indeed, the lad is quite frightened," Snape told him. "I thought because he had met you before that he would be more comfortable talking to you. But he is a bit shaken, so even that might be hard."

"Frightened, is he?" Shacklebolt asked with some degree of skepticism. Shaklebolt knew this was an act, that he was playing along with Snape to present Harry in the most sympathetic light possible.

"I imagine is was quite frightening to find your professor dead," Snape told him. "Let's see if he can tell us what he saw."

"I had detention with her earlier," Harry sniffed, looking pathetic. Snape relaxed a bit inwardly – it would take a harsh person indeed to condemn the boy when he looked like this. If he had been defiant and angry it would have been much worse. "I forgot my bag because, well, because my hand hurt so much. I was coming back to fetch it."

"You had the strap then?" Shacklebolt asked curiously. It was very unusual for a teacher to apply the strap to a student's hand, but not unheard of. Dumbledore had discouraged the practice, but from what Shacklebolt knew of Umbridge he wouldn't be surprised. "I had it myself a few time as a lad. It smarts."

"Not the strap," Harry told him. "It was a quill. It used my blood as ink and carved the letters in the back of my hand."

"A black quill at Hogwarts?" the normally composed auror asked in surprise. "Show me your hand."

Harry held out his injured hand, and felt the auror gently hold it and examine the cuts on it. "That looks quite painful," he sympathized with the boy. "What were you lying about?"

"I didn't lie," Harry told him. "This was the third time she did it, and for each time it was the same reason. I refuse to say that Voldemort is dead and insist he's alive. I have also requested better defense classes."

"Does Dumbledore know about this?" the auror asked gently, knowing a harsh question could spook the boy but hardly being able to hold down his anger at such blatent child abuse.

"I didn't tell anyone but my friends," Harry replied. "Hermione helped me with a potion."

"Which one?" Snape asked sharply.

"Not sure," Harry hedged, remembering where it had been pilfered from. "I believe Murtlap or something."

"Tell me the complete truth," Snape told him. "Do not hedge or dodge. Any snitching of ingredients is of no importance now."

"We, er, procured some pickled Murtlap," Harry confessed. "And I was just getting ready to soak my hand in it when I remembered my bag. I, er, didn't want Professor Umbridge to retire before I could get my homework so I went back to fetch it."

"Were there any witnesses to your whereabouts between the detention and your return?" Shacklebolt asked.

"No," Harry told them.

"There are numerous portraits between there and your common room," Snape informed him with a gimlet eye. "Why did they not see you?"

"I was, well, I may have cried a bit," Harry admitted. "It really hurt this time, worse than others. I didn't want anyone to see me, so I used my invisibility cloak. I snuck in when Dean Thomas went through the opening, then crept up for the Murtlap."

"And you returned the same way?" Snape pressed.

"I did," Harry admitted. "You see, it was getting close to curfew . . ."

"You have a very unfortunate alibi," Shacklebolt told him.

"I didn't know I would need one," Harry replied miserably.

"And plenty of motive for killing professor Umbridge," Shacklebolt continued.

"What motive?" Harry squeaked. "Wouldn't I have been better off doing it before she cut my hand up?"

"Revenge is often a crime of passion," Shacklebolt told him. "Not reason."

"Killing her would not have been the best revenge," Harry told him with a wry smile. "Professor Snape taught me that."

"Tell me what he taught you about revenge," Shacklebolt told him. "It would be helpful for me to know everything."

"Everything?" Harry echoed. "Are you sure?"

"Everything," Shacklebolt confirmed.

"It's a bit embarrassing," Harry told him. "It has to do with Professor Snape punishing me for getting revenge on the Dursleys."

"This is a murder investigation," Snape told him. "If you are anything but completely honest with the auror I will happily demonstrate in front of him the precursor to our conversation about revenge. I believe I still have that slipper handy."

Harry paled, believing Snape. "I'll tell," he agreed. "But this is hard enough as it is, so can I tell the whole story and answer questions after? I might lose the nerve if I'm interrupted."

"Go ahead," Shacklebolt agreed. "I won't interrupt."