Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize. Just playing around a little in Jo's garden, trying to manipulate her characters to do what I want them to.
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize. Just playing around a little in Jo's garden, trying to manipulate her characters to do what I want them to.
Right, so I thought that someone should have found out about the detentions Umbridge gave Harry (other than Ron and Hermione, that is), and it really bothered me that no one ever did. This is my take on what should've happened. It's not a missing scene, as I know it doesn't fit in with what really happened in Order of the Phoenix, but hey, that's what fan fiction's for.
The last dinner before Harry's return to Hogwarts was a pleasant one. Mr. Weasley's homecoming had taken the edge off the day's stressful events (specifically Snape's visit) and relieved the air of silent tension that had settled over the household during the Christmas holiday. Harry remained quiet through the meal but listened to everyone else's conversations contentedly. He was unsure of when he'd see Sirius again, and he tried to make the time pass as slowly as possible, simply enjoying the warm atmosphere.
Hermione and Ginny finished before the rest of the table and excused themselves to finish up their packing before bed. Not long afterwards, Mrs. Weasley shooed Ron and the twins away with firm instructions to pack their own trunks, not that they went very quietly. Harry had made to follow them, but Mrs. Weasley had insisted he stay to eat a bit more as she thought he was looking thin. Harry had inwardly rolled his eyes but found, as he still sat at the table nearly half of an hour later, that he was really quite enjoying himself. He was currently listening to Sirius and Lupin debate the subject of what had been their worst punishment during their days at Hogwarts.
Harry sat with his head propped up in his left hand, grinning at the two Marauders. Tonks was sitting a few seats down, across from Mr. Weasley. She was listening, amused, as he enthusiastically described his experience with Muggle "stitches". Mrs. Weasley bustled about the basement kitchen, clearing the table and setting the dirty dishes to scrubbing themselves.
"No," Sirius insisted, "It was definitely that detention I got for sneaking firewhisky into the Quidditch Cup party. McGonagall was furious." Sirius had started the conversation mainly for Harry's entertainment, but both men had gotten deeply involved in the dispute.
"I still think it was the one all four of us got because you decided to turn Severus's hair pink for Easter," said Lupin, taking a sip from his goblet. Harry snorted at this. He would've given half the money in his Gringotts vault to have seen the look on Snape's face when his greasy hair turned a nice shade of fuchsia.
Sirius smiled fondly at the memory, "Ah, yes, he did look quite stunning, didn't he? But I had the other detention with old Snivellus, remember? That was bad enough in itself."
The day was catching up with Harry, and he was beginning to feel tired. He yawned widely but covered it up by scratching his nose, not wanting to be sent up to bed yet. He didn't often get to hear Sirius and Lupin talk like this.
"Yes," said Remus in mock-agreement, "perhaps that's because you're the one who had to help him scrub the boys' toilets. James and I, on the other hand, had quite the laugh. I still have the pictures, you know." Lupin grinned over at Harry and winked before looking back at Sirius.
And then he did a double take.
The flickering light from the fireplace was reflecting off of Harry's pale skin, accentuating pearly white scars on the back of his right hand. Before Harry could react, Lupin's hand shot out and grabbed him round the wrist, pulling the boy's hand toward himself. All drowsiness gone, Harry was now fully alert. Panic gripped him as he realized exactly what it was Lupin had seen: the words on the back of his hand, spelling out 'I must not tell lies'. Harry's eyes went wide and he desperately tried to pull back, but Lupin wouldn't let go.
"Remus, what are you – ?" Sirius began, but Lupin cut him off.
"What is this, Harry?" he asked, looking up from Harry's hand. The mirth had left his eyes. Harry struggled against Lupin and managed to rip his arm out of the werewolf's grasp. He jumped up from the table and made straight for the door. But it wouldn't budge. Harry wheeled around sharply and saw that Lupin had his wand out and pointed at the door. He'd locked it. Everyone was staring at him.
"Let me go!" Harry said crossly.
"No," Lupin said simply. He beckoned Harry back over. Harry stood defiantly for a few moments before reluctantly admitting there really wasn't another option. He walked slowly back to the table. Lupin grabbed hold of his wrist again. "Sit." Glaring at his former professor, he sat down. "Harry. What is this?" he asked again firmly, looking him straight in the eye. Harry dimly registered that Tonks and the Weasleys were looking over at them. Sirius was now looking at Harry's hand and the confusion on his face was quickly morphing into anger.
Harry felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to find Mrs. Weasley standing beside him, staring down at the scarred skin with an expression of horror.
"It's nothing," Harry said finally. "Really." He looked pointedly at the table. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Tonks get up and move to look over Sirius's shoulder at Harry's hand. Mr. Weasley came to stand next to his wife. Harry could feel his face flushing hotly with embarrassment. He tried futilely to pull his hand back, but Lupin held fast.
"Harry." It was Sirius this time. "Look at me." Slowly and reluctantly, Harry lifted his eyes to meet his godfather's. "What happened to your hand? Tell me now." Harry could tell Sirius was trying hard to keep his voice even.
"I can't," Harry said quietly, dropping his gaze again. Silence.
Then Lupin spoke again. "Did you do it yourself?"
"No!" Harry exclaimed, looking up sharply. "Well…yes…sort of. Look, just forget about it."
"We bloody well will not forget about it!" Sirius said forcefully. "I don't know if you've noticed or not but you happen to have something carved into the back of your hand. And I, for one, would like to know how it got there!" Sirius was seething. He knew his godson hadn't had those scars before school started; that meant it had happened at Hogwarts. He couldn't fathom Harry doing that himself, so someone had done it to him. And when he found out who it was…well, he fancied becoming the murderer the Wizarding world believed he was.
When Harry remained silent, Lupin tried again. "Harry, you need to tell us how this happened. I'll get Dumbledore if I have to."
"And I know he'd be able to get it out of you," Sirius growled.
"No!" Harry insisted hurriedly, "I mean…you shouldn't bother him…please…it's not a big deal, I swear."
"If it's not a big deal, then you won't have any problem telling us what this is all about, will you?" said Tonks.
Harry considered. If he didn't confess, this little incident would certainly find its way back to Dumbledore, and Harry was determined to keep this from the old wizard. If the headmaster couldn't even do him the courtesy of looking him in the face, he didn't deserve to know anything about what was going on in Harry's life at the moment. But if he told them the truth about Umbridge, there was a slight chance they would decide Dumbledore didn't really need to know. A very slight chance, yes, but a chance nevertheless, and Harry would take anything he could get.
Harry sighed. "If I tell you, do you promise not to overreact?"
Sirius looked as if he was about to say something, but Lupin spoke first. "All we can promise is that we'll hear you out before doing anything."
Harry debated for a split second, then visibly steeled himself. "Do you…have you ever heard of a quill that doesn't…er…use ink?"
"What are you talking about, 'doesn't use ink'? What use would that be?" Tonks asked, perplexed.
"Well, what I mean is…it uses something else instead." Harry looked at Sirius, willing him to understand, to not make him explain. Sirius stared back, uncomprehending. Mentally sighing, Harry looked away again. "It needs…blood to work."
"Blood?" Mrs. Weasley repeated, looking shocked. Harry nodded.
None of them appeared to know what he was talking about, except for Mr. Weasley who spoke for the first time. "Oh, yes, I've seen a few of them pass through the Ministry. They were confiscated during some of the raids we performed a few years ago. Nasty little things."
Arthur saw the questioning looks from the other adults and proceeded to explain. "They look like normal quills only, like Harry says, they need blood to write properly. When the writer sets one to parchment, it draws the blood from the hand they're using and carves the words into the back of…" Arthur Weasley paled and looked at Harry with a strange expression on his face, "…the hand."
Harry had been forced to use one of those blasted things.
Rage boiled up inside of him. Harry Potter, the boy who had stayed with his family every summer since he'd started Hogwarts, the boy who had already been unfairly ridiculed and slandered by The Daily Prophet because he was "telling lies"…the boy who, just days ago, had saved his life. Arthur could only think of a few people who would think they could get away with something like that at Hogwarts.
Mr. Weasley looked around at everyone else. They seemed to have realized the implications too, for they all looked slightly sick. Arthur glanced at his wife; whatever Sirius tried to tell her, she considered Harry one of her own. She loved him just as much as their other children and worried about him constantly…they both did, come to it. He knew she was fighting back tears. Her grip on Harry's shoulder seemed to have tightened.
"Who?" Sirius managed to grind out through clenched teeth. Harry mumbled something incoherent. "What?"
"Umbridge," Harry said quietly.
Sirius abruptly rose from his seat. "I'll kill her!" he growled, drawing his wand.
"You'll do no such thing, Sirius. For heaven's sake, sit down!" Lupin said, even though he himself sounded like he wouldn't mind having a go at Hogwarts' current Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Sirius didn't move. The fist that clutched his wand grew white around the knuckles. "If you step foot in that castle, you'll get caught and thrown back in Azkaban. Then you won't be any help to anybody, least of all Harry." Sirius considered this, and then slowly sat back down. It seemed to take a lot of effort.
"But why?" Tonks whispered into the stony silence.
Harry shrugged. "I keep saying Voldemort's back, and she doesn't like it. Thinks I'm just trying to get attention and cause trouble. So she gave me detention for it. She told me I had lines. And I did...sort of..."
Harry felt Lupin release his arm, and he pulled it back gratefully, crossing his arms over his chest. In the midst of the silence, he glanced up at them all. Sirius, Lupin, and Mr. Weasley looked absolutely livid. Mrs. Weasley's eyes were moist with unshed tears, but her lips were pressed into a tight line and her jaw quivered with anger. Tonks seemed about to sick up.
"How many...detentions have you had?" Sirius snapped.
"Erm…I've been two weeks so far," Harry said uncharacteristically timidly. His godfather's wild hair combined with the sunken face and now angry grey eyes served to make the man look almost as deranged as he had done on the day Harry had met him.
"And exactly how long do they last?" Mr. Weasley questioned. Harry looked over at him and met the most furious face the man had ever shown him. Very aware that everyone was still staring at him, Harry became incredibly interested in his fingernails.
"Six or seven hours," he said, trying (and failing spectacularly) to sound casual.
"Six or seven hours!" Tonks burst out.
Still not looking at any of them, Harry nodded.
"Why the hell didn't you tell anyone!" Sirius roared.
Harry bristled. This wasn't their fight, it was his. His and Umbridge's. And he had decided when it started that he wasn't going to pander to her. "Because she wanted me to!" Harry said loudly, letting his anger surface. "And I wasn't about to give her the satisfaction of knowing I'd gone and blubbered to someone about it! She's just trying to get to me."
"Trying to get to you!" exclaimed Tonks. "She's gone and sliced you up like a Christmas turkey!"
"It's not like I could have told anyone anyway," Harry said, ignoring the mental image the Metamorphmagus had brought up. "She wouldn't have admitted to it. And I'm not exactly considered the most reliable person at the moment, am I? I tell all kinds of horrible stories, just to get attention, remember?" he said, referring to poisonous articles The Daily Prophet had printed, telling the public he was both mentally unstable and a chronic liar.
"We have to inform Dumbledore," Lupin concluded after a moment's silence.
"What, no!" Harry insisted. "You can't!"
"Harry," said Mr. Weasley, "There's nothing at all we can do about this if we don't go to Dumbledore. He's the only one with enough power to straighten this out."
"It's not worth it," Harry protested, "I don't want all that trouble."
"Trouble?" Sirius said indignantly, "She's torturing you, Harry! This has to stop."
Harry paused. "I just…don't want anything to be harder than it has to be. If someone tries to do something about Umbridge, she'll find a way to get out of it. And she'll come down harder on the school when she does, to make up for it. There's no point," he finished wearily.
"And what exactly do you intend to do if she gives you another detention?" Lupin asked.
Harry grimaced at the thought but shrugged. "I'll handle it…it'll be fine."
Sirius snorted bitterly and opened his mouth to say something, but Mrs. Weasley beat him to it. "Harry Potter!" she cried reproachfully, "This very well is not fine - it is wrong and extremely serious! She's hurting you!" Tears were threatening to leave her eyes now, but she managed to keep her voice from trembling. Harry felt her hand run through the hair on the back of his head.
He looked up at her but couldn't keep eye contact and looked down again, saying softly, "I'll just keep quiet, then…stay out of her way."
Molly Weasley sighed in frustration, but Sirius started talking again. "Harry, you have to tell Dumbledore about this. There's no way around it. Talk to him or we will," he said firmly. "Understand?"
"Alright, alright, I'll talk to him," Harry said absently, moving to get up from the table.
Harry was very surprised when Mr. Weasley grabbed his arm and forced him back into his seat. The man took on a firm voice that he reserved for his children on rare occasions, when the situation not only called for Molly's fiery temper but also rigid discipline. "Oh no you don't, Harry. I've heard you talk like that before, and you don't mean it one bit. You're not getting away with it this time."
Harry stared at him, astonished at seeing this side of the normally quiet Mr. Weasley. He eventually looked down and his shoulders sagged in defeat. "What do you all want me to do, then?" he groaned.
"You have to tell him, Harry," Lupin said. He leaned forward. "What is it you're so afraid of?"
"I'm not afraid of anything," Harry answered defensively, "I just don't think it's important enough to bother him."
"He's the headmaster of Hogwarts," Lupin pointed out. "It's his responsibility to make sure that things like this are taken care of. You won't be bothering him at all. Besides," he added gently, "he wouldn't want anything like this happening to you."
Harry bit his lip and thought carefully. "Alright, then, I promise." They all looked disbelieving. "I will!" he said indignantly.
Harry hated lying to them, but he had no other choice. This wasn't any of their business anyway! And it especially wasn't any of Dumbledore's. It was between him and Umbridge. Despite what everyone else thought, he wasn't a child...he could handle a little pain. He just hoped no one else decided to say something to the old headmaster.
Sirius surveyed him carefully, then sighed. "Alright, Harry. Go on, go to bed. You have to get up early tomorrow."
Lupin flicked his wand and the lock clicked on the kitchen door. Harry couldn't help himself; he sighed in relief. He rose from the table, and it was all he could do not to run from the kitchen.
Silence lingered over the group after Harry had gone. None of them had ever imagined that something like this could have happened at Hogwarts, right under Dumbledore's nose. The children were supposed to be safe at Hogwarts…it was supposed to be the safest place in Wizarding Britain.
And now Harry had come home for Christmas and revealed that a sadistic tyrant had hurt him. Or rather, forced him to hurt himself. The knowledge that Harry, Hermione, and the Weasley children would be returning all too soon into the clutches of said tormenter did nothing whatsoever in the way of calming them.
Tonks quietly bid the others goodnight before reluctantly heading up the stairs to the entrance hall. They heard the front door open and close. The Weasleys went up to bed soon after. Sirius and Remus were left, still sitting at the table. Remus got up and went about making tea while Sirius remained slumped in his chair, staring fixedly at the table in front of him.
All he could think about was strangling that despicable toad. How dare she harm Harry! It was sick, what she had done. Sirius had known Umbridge was bad news, from the way she treated half-breeds and the like…how she treated werewolves, like Remus. He had been furious when he'd found out that she would be teaching at Hogwarts. But now…now she was right up there with the Death Eaters as far as he was concerned. She had hurt Harry, scarred him…like he needed any more scars. Death would be too good for her, Sirius reasoned. If she was to be properly punished, she would suffer, like she'd made Harry suffer.
But Sirius knew his horrible thoughts were the closest he would get to seeing her in pain at the moment. Remus was right: there was nothing he could do about it.
Behind him, Sirius heard a muttered "bugger this" and when Remus returned to the table, he plunked down, not tea, but two glasses and a bottle firewhisky. Sirius poured them both a drink in silence and tossed his back, relishing the burning in his throat. Remus, however, sipped his slowly, lost in thought. After they had sat in silence for a quarter of an hour, Remus rose again and took his glass to the sink. "I'm off to bed, then."
Sirius stood up and stretched, popping his back. "Yeah...me too." But they both knew where it was they were going.
Sirius led the way up the dark staircase and stopped at the second landing, pressing his ear to the door. When he didn't hear any movement, he opened the door, careful not to let it squeak, and stepped into the room. Remus followed and shut the door quietly behind them. They turned around.
There was Harry, fast asleep. He lay flat on his back, the blanket pulled up to just below his waist, revealing a white T-shirt and dark pyjama bottoms. He looked to be sleeping peacefully for now. Sirius glanced over at Ron's bed. The only thing he could see was a huge lump with a bit of red hair sticking out. Sirius knew Ron was a very heavy sleeper; they didn't have to worry about waking him up.
Sirius moved quietly across the room to stand beside Harry's bed, afraid that if he sat down he'd wake his godson. But Remus came to stand on the other side. "Go ahead, Padfoot, he won't notice."
Sirius sat down slowly, never taking his eyes from Harry's face. Remus did the same. They looked on silently for long minutes, watching as Harry's chest rose and fell with breath. But the boy's brow soon began to furrow and he became tense in his sleep. His breathing quickened and he turned his head away, as if attempting to shield his face from an unknown danger. He cried out suddenly, and his back arched slightly as he turned his face the other way.
Tentatively, Sirius reached out and hovered his hand over Harry's messy hair. Harry cried out again; it sounded as though he were in pain. Sirius began to run his hand through the raven hair, trying to soothe the nightmares from his godson's mind. Harry hands were trembling now; Remus reached over. He hesitantly touched Harry's mutilated hand, tracing the words 'I must not tell lies'.
Harry relaxed after a few moments and his tensed muscles went limp. Remus stopped and rested his hand instead on the boy's arm, rubbing it absently in an unconscious attempt to further comfort him. Sirius continued running his hand through Harry's hair. No longer in the throes of a nightmare, Harry seemed to appreciate what Sirius was doing; he tipped his head up into Sirius's hand, the tiniest of smiles tugging at the corners of his mouth.
Sirius smiled sadly himself. "Poor kid. He's never had someone before. Someone to…be there, like Lily and James should have been..."
"Yes," said Remus. "He looks happy, which, unfortunately, is rare. I don't think his aunt and uncle were ever any comfort to him…by what I've heard from Molly and Arthur and Albus, he had a rather starved childhood."
Sirius's face clouded over. "I don't know why Dumbledore insists we have to keep sending him back there. He deserves far better."
"You want him to live with you," Remus said simply.
"Yeah…I just want to be around him, Moony." Remus noticed the almost pleading note to Sirius's voice. "I hardly even know him."
"He wants to live with you, too…I know he does."
Sirius snorted. "Why would he want to live in a gloomy house with a convicted murderer?"
"Because he trusts you, and you're a link to the parents he's never known. I'm quite certain he'd rather live with you in…I don't know, a cave than live with those Dursleys." Remus smiled. "He likes you."
"He really is barmy, then."
Remus grinned. "Well, he does want to spend his time with you. Likes to be with his own kind, I suppose," he joked. Sirius glared at him without any real heat. They turned back to Harry and watched him quietly.
"He worries about you," Remus said seriously.
Sirius raised an eyebrow. "Shouldn't I be the one worrying about him?"
Remus shrugged. "I think he knows something of what you feel. He understands more than anyone else what it's like to be trapped in a depressing house, with little contact from the outside world." He paused. "I believe he's afraid of what it's doing to you. He doesn't want you to end up doing anything stupid, I suppose."
"He has his friends. What does he need me for?" Sirius said grudgingly.
"You're different, Sirius," Remus explained. "You're his family."
"He doesn't think that–"
"Yes, he does." Remus cut across him. "I can see it. You could too if you weren't so thick-headed."
Sirius thought about this. He definitely considered Harry his family. He loved him…had loved him from the moment he'd held the boy in his arms as a newborn. Although he'd had his doubts, he'd hoped that Harry felt the same way. He could tell that Remus wasn't lying, and it made him happier than he'd been in a very long time. He moved his hand from Harry's hair to the side of the boy's face, not wanting to lose contact. A funny warmth spread through his chest when Harry leaned into the touch.
Remus gripped Sirius's shoulder. "He needs you. And you need him. Just…try to think twice before you do something that might take that away from either of you."
Sirius nodded, knowing there was no arguing with the man. Still holding his hand against Harry's face, Sirius reached out with his other and took Harry's in his own. He looked down and rubbed his thumb over the terrible words. Hold on, Harry, he thought, we'll get through this, I know we will. Sirius felt Remus squeeze his shoulder comfortingly.
He looked up as the werewolf leaned forward to run his own hand once through Harry's hair and whisper, "Goodnight, Harry." He rose from the bed and waited for Sirius.
Sirius placed Harry's scarred hand back on the bed and bent forward, his face close to his godson's. He hesitated only slightly before leaning down all the way and pressing a light kiss to Harry's forehead. He stroked the messy black hair once more before rising from the bed himself.
He turned to see Remus grinning at him. Sirius scowled. "What?"
Remus held his hands up in a defensive gesture. "Absolutely nothing."
Remus threw him a knowing look and bid his friend goodnight before leaving the room. Sirius turned back to Harry and pulled the covers gently over the boy until they reached his chin. He patted the blanket fondly, and then made his own way across the room. He paused at the open door and looked back at his sleeping godson. He gave a small smile. "Goodnight, Harry…" he whispered. "I love you." With that, Sirius slipped out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him.
Harry rolled over in the midst of sleep…and smiled.
I'm not sure about you, but I sometimes like to pretend that Sirius lived through OotP. It doesn't give the Harry-Sirius moments a sad note that way. So, in defiance of reality, I almost wrote this in the mindset that Sirius doesn't die…you can read it any way you prefer but a living, breathing Sirius tends to make me happy.
Anyway, thank you very much for putting up with me for this long! Now, if you can bear it a bit longer, you just might have time to review! Seriously, I want to know what you thought of this, even if it's just one word.
Update: Good news (if you liked this, that is) - I'm planning on continuing this story! I want After Dinner Discussions to sort of stand on its own, but I'm eventually going to post a continuation/sequel to it under a different title. Will probably be called Revolution.
Until next time…