Hello! With this fic, I wish to explore the themes of abuse and trauma, and to write Harry bonding over trauma with other characters, Snape in particular (no slash; probably mentor/ parental-like bond). The Snape/ Harry relationship will probably need some time to be developed though – I feel it's necessary in the scenario I envision, because I don't want their bond to come too fast or to feel forced and plan to develop Harry's links with other characters as well.
And I do not intend to focus on romantic or sexual relationships. It might be present sporadically, but as I said, not between Snape and Harry at all (nor between Snape and any teenager for that matter, no judgment towards people who like reading that but it's not my jam). So if you're looking for something where romance is at the core of the story, well, sorry, wrong fic. (Although I guess my summary did not exactly hint a romance-focused fic anyway haha)
Important warning for violence/ physical abuse (not sexual abuse though). And slight warning for language, I guess? I never really understood the point of this last one outside of children's stories; here in particular, in my opinion, if you're old enough to read something about violence and abuse, you're old enough to read a swear word, but well, better safe than sorry, so be aware that my characters might use a swear word once in a while.
TLDR: trauma-centred, warning for violence/ abuse, slight language warning, no Snape/ Harry slash, not romance-centred.
I hope you'll enjoy this story!
Harry curled up into a ball on his bed, not even able to find the strength to undress and put his pajamas on. He wanted to convince himself that he had been through worse. That things could still be okay. But the burning pain on his hand, on his arm, and now on his back – he felt broken.
Harry was always telling Ron and Hermione that he had gotten used to the Blood Quill by now. And it was not completely false; sure, his hand was aching for days after each detention with Umbridge, and the thought of the words "I must not tell lies" on his skin made him feel almost physically sick, but still, Harry knew that it was not so bad. This much he could manage. After all, he had been through worse pain at the Dursleys' without complaining, right? And at least with the detentions he was able to tell his friends what was happening. They were incredibly supportive – actually way more so than what Harry deserved, in his opinion. He was but a useless mess these days, and he often wondered why Ron and Hermione were burdening themselves with hanging out with him.
This train of thoughts was always awful though, leading him to gruesome scenarios about how his friends would all end up abandoning him, and Harry tried to escape these ideas. But his mind was stuck with the memories of his evenings with Umbridge. The Blood Quill was okay – well, not really okay, just… not too bad. Bearable, more or less. But his last detention… With Dumbledore gone – Harry felt sick in his stomach just thinking back about it, it's my fault, again, bad things always happen because of me – with Hagrid on the run and McGonagall in St Mungo after having been hit in the chest by four Stunning Spells… Umbridge probably felt that no one could oppose her now. And she was right. Not that Harry would have turned to an adult for help, had there been anyone he could still contact. He could never totally ignore the voice in his head which said that he deserved to be punished in some way, that his suffering was nothing more than a fair retribution for the unhappiness he always brought to those around him. And there was also the shame of admitting that he had let someone mistreat him. If people knew, they would surely see him as some sort of victim, and Harry did not need "weak" or "pitiful" to be added to "deranged freak" and "Boy-Who-Lied", among the list of derogatory terms he was fairly certain most people used to describe him.
Harry tried to move to a more comfortable position on his bed, but his pain grew even more acute. In the past weeks, his detentions had become worse, and this night had reached a new extreme.
Things had started to get worse shortly after the march mid-term exams during which McGonagall had been incapacitated. Umbridge had informed Harry that the punishments he had received so far did not seem effective enough, and that the Blood Quill had been modified to correct his behaviour in a more appropriate way. Harry shivered as he remembered his fear and the sadistic smile on the new Headmistress' lips. He had picked up the quill and started writing. At first, it was nothing more than the usual sharp pain in his hand as he watched the words being engraved deeper into his skin. But as he was starting his third line, he had felt his forearm starting to hurt as well. Harry remembered lifting his eyes to meet Umbridge cruel and self-satisfied glance.
"Is something wrong, Mr Potter? A statement to make about how all the rumors you spread about You-Know-Who are blatant lies designed to draw attention on yourself, maybe?"
"There is nothing wrong, Headmistress", Harry had replied, making a huge effort to keep an even tone. He would die rather than allow her to see just how much pain he was in.
"Then keep writing. And do not stop again before I order you to or you'll earn another detention".
Angry beyond words – he had not even stopped, she was the one who had interrupted his punishment to taunt him! – he had needed to gather every last bit of self-control he could find to answer nothing more than "Yes, Headmistress".
As he was resuming writing his lines, he understood how the Blood Quill had been modified. The lines he traced on parchment with his blood were now cut alternatively in the skin of his hand and of his forearm. There was not even a predictable alternance he could use to somehow prepare himself for the next cut – it seemed entirely random, one time on his hand, three times on his arm, five times on his hand, seven times on his arm, two times on his hand… Harry had felt dizzy and wondered whether it was from the ever-growing pain, from exhaustion, from the increasing blood loss, or a mix of all those things.
He had had to endure this for what had seemed to be hours, and the next two detentions had been just as bad, the Quill carving words in his skin in two places seeming to become Umbridge's new norm for Harry.
But even that was more bearable than what she had done tonight. Harry shivered again, still curled up on his bed. The pain in his back seemed to become sharper and sharper, and he tried his best to forget the humiliation and the lash of the belt. To no avail, of course.
Could she have known? Even Ron and Hermione were not aware of just how bad his relatives where treating him – there was no way Umbridge, of all people, could have known, right? It was probably just his usual bad luck that she had chosen this particular method of punishment.
When he had arrived in her disgusting pink office earlier this evening, Umbridge seemed to be gloating. Harry felt a shudder down his spine. Her perversely joyful expectancy being more visible than usual could not be a good sign. He sat and started writing as ordered, but after watching him as he traced a few lines and tried his best not to show his pain, Umbridge suddenly said: "I think we should have a little chat, shouldn't we, dear boy? Oh, no, keep writing, I am positively sure that we can combine business with pleasure." A high-pitched chuckle accompanied her last sentence and despite the ache in his arm and hand, Harry couldn't help rolling his eyes in disgust.
"No no no, I won't have any of that, Mr Potter!" Umbridge said as if she were talking to a naughty five-year old. "You are not to roll your eyes at your elders, under any circumstances, is that understood?"
Harry had to refrain himself from rolling his eyes again and muttered "yeah", but quickly corrected himself and said, "yes, Headmistress". He had already been punished several times for not addressing her as she saw fit, and he really wasn't eager to sit through yet another detention.
"Hum. You see, that's precisely what we should discuss. No matter how much I try to educate you, no notions of respect seem to be able to penetrate this thick skull of yours. And – she added with a perverse grin – you don't even properly thank me for my efforts!"
His eyes widening in disbelief, Harry could only utter: "I beg your pardon?"
"You heard me perfectly. I think it's time you start acting like a well-behaved child and thank me for the time I spend helping you correct your disastrous temper, don't you agree? Oh, and again – please resume writing your lines, I never allowed you to stop."
Harry felt sick in his stomach. He remembered being hit by Petunia with a frying pan for having dropped a plate he was supposed to wash, and then being forced to thank her for being so indulgent as to forbid him to eat for only one day. He remembered Vernon ordering him to fetch a belt in the man's bedroom and then requiring that he kneel to ask for a punishment. He remembered all these times his relatives had ordered him to show gratitude for the beatings they had just inflicted him. He remembered the anger, the humiliation, the pain, and he wanted to scream. But Harry's eyes met Umbridge self-satisfied, sadistic smirk, and he knew she would not drop the idea.
Is it really worth another detention? She'll just punish me more or start blackmailing me again if I refuse to say it.
"Thank you, Headmistress", he managed to declare, his voice neutral but his eyes overflowing with rage and contempt.
"Thank you for what?" Umbridge asked with a vicious smile.
Seriously!? His fists clenching so hard that for a second he feared he might break the awful quill, Harry answered: "for taking time to educate me."
Umbridge shook his head, falsely sorry. "That won't do, Mr. Potter. I want to hear: Thank you, Headmistress, for giving an underserving child a well-needed lesson in discipline. I am grateful for my punishment." She paused. "Actually, I think that from now on, you should repeat this at the end of every detention. You wouldn't want to express your gratitude unproperly, would you? How does that sound?"
Sounds like I would rather be thrown naked in a pit full of Blast-Ended Skrewts. But what was the point? He had been talking back to her for several months now, only earning more and more painful nights of detention. He could keep mouthing, of course, but he knew by now that she would just keep hurting him, night after night, or threaten to hurt his friends, until he would finally accept to look obedient. And it was not as if anyone could – or would, for that matter – protect Harry.
Well, maybe Sirius would try. Or Mrs. Weasley. You could have said something during the Christmas Holidays, you know. Ron had tried to convince him to do so, but the family had so much on their plate already with what had happened to Mr. Weasley… Harry refused to bring even more trouble. And he did not want Sirius to worry. Or to be angry and try something stupid. Or to think Harry was weak. Besides, things were not as bad, back then. She had not been giving him that many detentions, before the holidays.
But now she found a pretext to do so at least once a week, usually twice. And Harry was stuck. He could not contact anyone on the outside, thanks to Umbridge's surveillance of owl post, and there was no one left inside the castle to help him. With a murderous glance, Harry repeated after her "Thank you, Headmistress, for giving an underserving child a well-needed lesson in discipline. I am grateful for my punishment."
She beamed. "See, that was not so hard, was it? But I'm afraid it's not nearly enough".
Harry had to muster every ounce of bravery he could find to prevent himself from reacting when he saw what she had just pulled out of her drawer. A belt.
The woman's sadistic grin widened. "Take off your robe now, Mr Potter."
Take off your robe now, Mr Potter.
Harry froze. He felt as if his body did not belong to him anymore; as if he were watching himself from a distance, not totally involved in what was currently happening. Surely, she couldn't… It was not possible, not here, in Hogwarts, it was probably a nightmare, yes, it had to be a nightmare. There was no way she could beat him with that, right? Sure, Uncle Vernon sometimes did hit him with his belt, but that was different, it was just how things were at the Dursleys, just something he had to endure before being allowed to return to his real life. But to be beaten in Hogwarts? The first place where he had really felt safe, felt at home?
"Is there something wrong with your ears, Mr Potter? I asked you to take off your robe." Umbridge shook her head. "And now I am forced to repeat myself. You see, that's exactly the kind of insolent behaviour these detentions should prevent. But you never seem to learn. I'm hoping the belt would help you remember your lesson, though." she added with a cruel smile.
Panic was taking over Harry's whole body. He could not feel anything. Even his rage and the utter disgust he had for the woman sitting across him seemed to have disappeared in this instant, replaced by a crippling fear. Umbridge's voice seemed to come from very far away. Slowly, he started to do as he was ordered. Come on Harry, you've survived worse, he tried telling himself. But his heart pounding hard in his chest and his inability to control his own movements seemed to disagree.
"Faster, please. Or do you wish to be here all night?" Umbridge asked, perverse joy in her voice.
Don't show her how you feel. She would be way too happy to see you scared.
Like an automaton, Harry finished taking off his robes and put it on the left of the desk. Being half-naked in front of that woman was making him feel sick with humiliation. Sure, only his back and chest were bare, she had not ordered him to take off the black trousers which Hogwarts' students wore under the robes, but still. Her vicious look made him feel so very small and vulnerable.
Umbridge waved her wand, muttering a few words, and the belt started floating behind the stool Harry was sitting on. He shivered. Maybe she was bluffing? Maybe she just wanted to frighten him, or to have him begging her. He would not do that, though. He would not give her the satisfaction to see how afraid he was. But could he reason with her? Maybe she did not intent to hit him for real, it had to be illegal… Right?
"Professor, please…" he started. But he was interrupted by a lash of the belt and could not help a cry to escape his lips. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Sure, Harry, "that has to be illegal" was brilliant reasoning. She pretty obviously has no problem having you writing lines with you own blood, why would beating you with a belt be any less okay? You're such a moron, why did you have to say anything? Now it looks like you were about to beg. In front of him, Umbridge was exulting. Harry heard the metallic sound the buckle of the belt made as it moved behind him and his whole body tensed, waiting for the next strike. This time, he managed not to utter a sound, despite the pain. The toad-shaped woman was staring at him with delight and he wanted so much to punch her in the face. The belt struck his back again, almost on the same spot. Tears of pain were forming behind his eyes, but he managed to stay quiet again. After three more lashes, however, a moan escaped him, widening Umbridge's smile even more. She had not said anything, and Harry wondered how many more blows he would have to endure. Please make her stop soon. Please make her stop soon. Please. Please, he inaudibly prayed to no one in particular. Silent tears were now running down his cheeks. But he would not ask her to stop. Or say anything at all. Harry tried his best to keep his face defiant despite the pain and to let Umbridge see the hatred in his eyes as he imagined the many, many ways he wanted to hurt her. It took a dozen more lashes for the professor to resume speaking.
"Is it painful, Mr Potter?"
He wanted nothing more than to answer something like, "Not as much as having to hear your shrill voice, bitch," but his sense of self-preservation took over and he said: "Yes, Headmistress."
"Good. Now go back to writing your lines."
Harry stared her in shock. But he said nothing. Here again, what would have been the point? The boy leant towards the desk and picked up the Blood Quill. He vaguely thought about trying to put his robes back on, but he knew that feeling the fabric on his bruised skin would only bring him more pain. Harry had barely started writing when he felt two new blows on his back. A cry of pain and surprise escaped his lips, and he looked at Umbridge.
"You gave no verbal indication that you had heard my command. When I order you to do something, I expect you to answer "yes, Headmistress", in a clear voice, is that understood?"
She watched him as if waiting for something and the belt hit him again. "And you did not even apologize for your rudeness… Really, it almost looks like you actually want to be punished further. I can fix that, of course, if you wish."
Clenching his fists so hard his knuckles were turning white, Harry said: "I'm sorry, Headmistress. I did not mean to disrespect you. It won't happen again."
She nodded. "I believe the belt should stay behind you for what's left of your detention, don't you think?"
"I… You're the one who's in charge, Headmistress," Harry managed to answer.
She beamed viciously. "I know I am. Your lines now. And do not stop again until I tell you to."
Harry took a deep breath. Yelling at her won't help, yelling at her won't help, yelling at her won't help, he repeated to himself, before answering "Yes, Headmistress," with a loathing glare. He then obeyed and resumed butchering his own skin. The boy rapidly understood that the belt hitting him at random moments was now supposed to be part of the punishment, but he could not suppress a cry of pain anymore every time it met his bruised back. There was no discernable pattern dictating the frequency of the blows. At times a few lashes were succeeding each other fast, but there were also relatively long intervals during which the belt did not move, or only moved to startle Harry with its sound, without actually whipping his flesh. He knew that she was doing that on purpose, that preventing him from knowing when or where from the next lash would come was designed to maintain him in a state of constant tension and fear, and he hated that it was working so well.
Besides his back, Harry's hand and arm were extremely painful by now, and having to keep hurting himself more and more despite all his instincts screaming him to stop was taking all of Harry's willpower. But he would not ask for mercy. He had never given her that satisfaction before, and he was not about to start today.
Finally, Umbridge asked: "Do you feel you've learned your lesson?"
Harry replied: "Yes, Headmistress," but tried his best not to be too hopeful. She was not above asking that as a ruse. Was it just a way to make him think it could be over, only to inflict him more pain afterwards?
"Then I think we might call it a night. But before, I believe you have something you want to tell me, haven't you?"
Harry gave her a blank look. Yes, there are several things I want to tell you, you vile, sadistic cunt. What more did she want now? But the cruel grin on her face helped him understand. He was supposed to thank her. Harry wondered for a second if he would not actually prefer getting more blows. But as he had paused hesitantly, the belt hit him once more. The pain was excruciating. Sure, he could try to resist, insult her even, but to what end? She would hurt him more, give him more detentions, until he would accept to humiliate himself further. Come on, Harry. It's just a stupid sentence. She can force you to say things, but she can't force you to mean it.
"Thank you, Headmistress, for teaching me a lesson in discipline. I am grateful for my punishment," Harry said, trying his best to hide his rage and his disgust.
"I believe the proper phrasing was, 'Thank you, Headmistress, for giving an underserving child a well-needed lesson in discipline. I am grateful for my punishment.' Don't you ever learn? But I might be lenient for tonight if you apologize properly, like the well-behaved boy you regrettably are not."
Harry clenched his jaw. "I am sorry, Headmistress." Sorry that I have to see your ugly face and to listen to your nonsense, he mentally added. But he knew he was expected to put more efforts in his apology. "I meant no offense, I tried to remember the words you had used but I forgot some of them. My apologies. I won't let this happen again."
"Hum. Make sure of that," Umbridge said, and she flicked her wand. The belt hit Harry three more times, making him cry out in pain. "I hope this will help you remember," she added in vicious joy.
Unable to contain silent tears of humiliation, Harry repeated: "Thank you, Headmistress, for giving an underserving child a well-needed lesson in discipline. I am grateful for my punishment."
"Good. Since you brought all of this on yourself, you are obviously not allowed to go to the Hospital Wing for any injuries related to your detention. No off you go."
As Harry was making slow movements to put his robes back on without causing himself too much pain, Umbridge waved her wand-free hand in his direction, making "shoo, shoo" noises as if he were a small animal, adding to his humiliation. Trying his best to ignore the burning ache in his body, Harry hurried up and almost ran to get out of Umbridge's office, afraid to loudly burst in tears if he had to spend one more second with the awful Headmistress.
Once in the corridor, he let his feet guide him to the nearest empty classroom, entered it, sat on the floor and began to sob violently. Pain, humiliation and shock were mixing inside Harry, preventing him from aligning any coherent thoughts. He was not sure why he was crying; he just knew that he felt about to explode, and his body seemed to have decided that in this instant, tears were the only available option to stop him from bursting in a million pieces.
Harry did not know if he had been there for a long time when he suddenly heard footsteps. He prayed that whoever this was would go by without noticing him, but the person had seemingly heard him. The door opened, revealing the blond head of a Slytherin. With Harry's luck, not just any Slytherin. The questioning look on Draco Malfoy's face quickly became a gleeful smirk when he realized who was the crying mess in front of him.
"Oooh, did baby Potter lose his plushie? Do you need someone to tuck you in your bed?"
"Yeah, sure. Just go away, Malfoy." Harry said, exhaustion audible in his voice. His tone did not even betray anger. He felt too tired to care.
Malfoy seemed slightly unsettled by Harry's reaction and shrugged. "There's no fun in beating a man who is already down. Why don't you just go back to your dorm, baby Potter, it's past curfew. Oh, which reminds me – ten points from Gryffindor!" he added, pointing his Inquisitorial Squad badge with a forced wink.
Harry slowly got up on his feet, trying not to show how painful the movement was. He had no desire to engage in any sort of argument with Malfoy in this moment, nor had he the energy to find something to answer.
"Is that blood on your hand, Potter?"
Harry flinched and covered his hand with his sleeve. "None of your business."
Malfoy shrugged again and said: "I was just asking in order to be able to congratulate whoever did that to you." But he seemed slightly ill-at-ease.
Harry did not reply and hurried his way up the stairs. He was relieved to find the Common Room almost empty already and prayed that Ron would be asleep. Harry had been insisting in the past few weeks that neither Ron nor Hermione had to wait for him to come back from his detentions before going to bed, and they had reluctantly ended up listening to him at times. But Hermione never failed to leave him some Murtlap essence, and Ron often put on Harry's bed table some sweets or an extra portion of dessert he kept from the dinner. The boy sighed. His friends' attentions were always bringing a warm sensation in his chest, but he also felt awful for being so bad at masking his problems, thus forcing them to try and comfort him. Ron and Hermione frequently seemed worried about him, and they never appeared completely convinced by his repeated claims that he was perfectly fine. Guilt creeped back in Harry's mind. Why did he always have to be such a burden to those around him?
Arriving in his dormitory, Harry had been glad to see that the other boys were all asleep. He had fallen down on his bed, unable to do anything else. He kept reliving everything in his head. What could he have done to prevent the beating from happening? Surely, if he had been smarter, if he had behaved differently… If he were not a freak…
Did he deserve to be hurt? Sure, Umbridge was unfair and a terrible person, but she was not wrong in her usual statement that he was always creating trouble. Maybe I deserve that. Maybe she's right, I need to be punished. I'm the reason Voldemort came back, even if she doesn't believe that. I'm the reason Cedric died. Maybe if I had been a better person…
Still curled up on his bed, he thought about trying to move at least a little, to apply Murtlap essence on his hand and arm, but even that was a lot. Harry was exhausted. He vaguely wondered whether the Murtlap essence could also ease the pain on his back, but he was unsure this would work, and knew that there would probably not be enough of it anyway. Besides, did he really deserve a pain reliever of any sort? Freaks should not be cared for. Uncle Vernon yelled that when Harry was in pain. As a child, he had sometimes tried to ask for help, or begged to be treated for some of his worst injuries, but his uncle always said that. Freaks should not be cared for. Harry had learned to stop asking, but his uncle still repeated that from times to times. Freaks should not be cared for. Whenever Harry thought about turning to someone else for help, he could hear his uncle's voice. Freaks should not be cared for. And now, 'Since you brought all of this on yourself, you are obviously not allowed to go to the Hospital Wing'. You brought all of this on yourself. Umbridge's and Uncle Vernon's words were swirling in Harry's head.
He knew that wallowing in self-pity was pointless, but in this moment, he felt so terribly alone. There was no way he would confess to Ron and Hermione that Umbridge had beaten him with a belt. He was just too ashamed. And they did not need more reasons to worry about him. Besides, if they knew everything, wouldn't they think he was just too damaged? Too much trouble? Too weak? Not worthy to spend time with? What if upon learning what Umbridge had done to him, what his uncle had done to him so many times before, what a mess he was, what a freak he was… they didn't want anything to do with him anymore? Harry had managed to survive beatings from the Dursleys on his own for years, he would get through this alone as well. Or at least that's what he was trying to tell himself. But he was not sure it was true.
A/N: I would love to hear your thoughts! I have several ideas to continue this story, and the next chapter is almost written already, so I should update soon, but I would be really glad to read your reviews, especially since it's the first fic I'm publishing.
My main concern here was to avoid writing Harry too OOC; but I believe the high number of detentions (ore more accurately, torture sessions) with Umbridge that I mention would explain Harry's behaviour here. And I know that my character might sounds a bit more insecure than canon Harry, but I see it as a consequence of the abuse he has lived through. And honestly, I always thought that canon Harry was way too emotionally stable for someone whose childhood was so full of neglect. I still intent to try and write him in character as much as possible, but without disregarding the psychological consequences of abuse. Please do tell me what you think of it though!
(Also, I know that in canon McGonagall is actually injured later during the school year, but I need both her and Dumbledore gone for the role I want Snape to play. Basically, I'm respecting the canon events from book 5 but slightly rearranging the chronology in some cases.)