Harry was dragging his feet with every step but he occasionally had to to scurry ahead to keep up with Professor McGonagall. This day was going from bad to worse. He jammed his hands into his pockets and took a deep breath to keep his tears at bay. All he needed was to arrive at the Headmaster's office already crying.
Lupin had taken him back to his dorm the night before, told him to rest and that he would need to talk to professor McGonagall in the morning. Harry had thought there was no way he could fall asleep with his bottom still throbbing and knowing he had to tell the head of his house he had cheated on her test the next day. He was surprised, then, when he woke with a start early this morning having slept quite soundly. He determined that it was best to go meet his doom immediately. He dressed quickly so as not to wake Ron or the others and left Gryffindor tower and headed toward McGonagall's office. She was usually there in the morning preparing for her classes.
At the door, however, his courage had failed. He had stood outside leaning against the hard stone for what seemed like ages. Perhaps he should simply leave her a note and then jump from the highest tower in the castle! he thought miserably. She is going to kill me anyway. He was so lost in thought and misery that he had jumped when the door opened and McGonagall stepped into the hall.
"Oh, Mister Potter, what are you doing here?"
"Er...I need to talk to you, professor"
She had us ushered him into her office and he had spilled it out. He had been expecting her to rant and rave at him. He had pictured her turning red with rage so when she had stared at him with a look of disappointment and disbelief he was practically undone. He wanted to burst into tears on the spot. When she did speak she was calm and she made her disappointment clear with words that practically broke Harry's heart. He had let her down so badly. She trusted him and he had betrayed her trust. Why couldn't she just cane him and stop looking at him in that way. But that was not to be. After she had expressed her disappointment she told him that Hogwarts policy dictated that cheating was a matter to be handled by the Headmaster. He would be receiving a zero on the exam but the rest of his punishment was not up to her.
So here they were. She was taking him to Dumbledore. Harry looked up and noticed he had fallen behind again and to he took a few quick steps to catch up.
"Turkish delight" said professor McGonagall and Harry's heart rate increased. They were almost there. In just a few moments one more person he looked up to and admired will know how badly he messed up and would be disappointed in him. He didn't know if he could take it.
"Wait here, Potter." McGonagall left him outside the door and entered Dumbledore's office. Harry slumped against the wall and listened to the blood pounding in his ears. What would Dumbledore do to him? Would he be expelled? Would he be banned from quiddich? Would he be caned? This was awful. He would never, never, never, never, NEVER, cheat again as long as he lived!!
The door opened and Harry pushed himself away from the wall and looked up at McGonagall. "The Headmaster will see you now, Mister Potter" she said and headed down the corridor. When she passed Harry she put a supporting hand on his shoulder and gave it a light squeeze and then she left him alone. Harry felt his heart lighten with that simple touch. Maybe she would forgive him. He stepped into the office and shut the heavy door behind him.
"Ah Harry!" said Dumbledore with light tone when he had entered. "Up to face the music early this morning, are we? That is the best way, to be sure, get it done straight off. Come, sit down." If Harry had been shocked by McGonagall's reaction he was even more shocked by this! He blinked a few times and then walked quickly forward and sat in the chair before the desk where Dumbledore was seated.
"Well, Harry, Minerva informs me that you have fallen prey to that old temptation to look better than are. It is powerful lure to be sure. We all fall to it sometimes. We try to hide our faults, we talk like we know what we are talking about. I have just one question, Harry. I need to you be honest with me about this. Did you go into the exam planning to cheat?"
Harry looked up quickly. "No, Sir! I wouldn't do that. I mean, I didn't even really plan on doing it during the exam but I was having trouble with the last two short essays. My mind was completely blank. I looked up as I was trying to think of something and I saw Hermio...er...someone's paper was right there where I could see it. I saw the answers before I could hardly help it! I knew I shouldn't write them down. I am so sorry. I even didn't write them for a minute but time was running out and I couldn't leave them blank...so..." He trailed off figuring Dumbledore knew the rest.
"As I suspected, Mr. Potter. You have made a grave error in judgement but not a premeditated one. Did you explain this to professor McGonagall?"
"N..no, Sir. I didn't think...would it matter?"
"I think that she probably assumed that when you said 'cheating' you meant something a bit more calculated. I will explain it to her."
Harry was relieved and determined to explain to Lupin, as well.
"I am sure professor McGonagall expressed to you why cheating is not acceptable behavior?" He gave Harry a quizzical look.
"Good, good! That saves me a great deal of trouble. I also imagine that a certain werewolf has been told?"
"Yes, sir" Harry said looking glum at the memory of that encounter.
Dumbledore gave a faint smile. "So, I assume from your expression that Remus also expressed his displeasure about your behavior?"
"..yes..." Harry said weakly feeling the blood rush to his cheeks. He was sure Dumbledore could guess how Remus had punished him.
"Right!" said Dumbledore, almost gleefully. "Than that means all the hard things are out of the way. All we need to do is finish your punishment and you can put this all behind you."
Dumbledore rose from his chair and walked to the front of the desk where he leaned casually against it. "Alright, Harry, you confessed,which was very brave of you, I am quite proud. Since you confessed I will give you a choice of punishments. We, of course, have the standard cane. Probably a good choice if you like keeping with tradition. I also have a paddle that I received as a gift from the Headmaster of the Salem School of Witchcraft in America. I find it to be a little easier on the buttocks than the cane so you might want to consider this option."
Harry couldn't believe that Dumbledore was discussing his choosing a spanking implement like he was selecting a new racing broom!
"For both of those you will go over the desk, Harry, and keep your trousers up. You may also select the ruler which is much lighter and the sting won't last for nearly as many days..."
DAYS!! Thought Harry. This is not good.
"However, with the ruler you will be put over my lap and your trousers come down, which, I imagine, adds a great deal to that feeling of embarrassment that we all try to avoid."
Harry was staring like a deer in the headlights of an muggle automobile.
"So, what will be be Harry?"
"Come, Harry, make a choice. I do have a school to run today."
"Excellent choice, Harry! Alright, up you go. Robes off please."
Harry stood and removed his robes mechanically and placed them on the chair. He couldn't quite believe this was happening. There was no yelling, no lecturing, no looks of disappointment, just...a PADDLING. Oh Merlin!!
Dumbledore had gone to a small closet and returned with a dark wooden paddle with a Hogworts crest emblazoned on it. He moved the chair harry had been sitting in further away from the desk. Harry assumed this was to provide more swinging room..OH MERLIN!!
"Over you go, Harry, grip the far side."
Harry moved slowly toward the large oak desk and slowly bent over stretching to reach the far side.
"Feet back just a bit, if you would, and spread them apart a little more, lad"
Harry stifled a groan as he assumed the desired position. He was keenly aware of how very prominent this placed ones bottom for chastisement and it was quite humiliating, trousers up or not!
"Very good, lad, now make sure to stay in position, will you?"
"Here we go then, Harry! Ten of the best. Are you ready, son?"
Harry did not think this was a fair question at all! "Yes, sir"
SMACK! The paddle landed hard.
SMACK! The burn was building Harry squeezed his eyes tight
SMACK! The paddle landed at the tops of Harry's thighs and he let out small moan.
SWAT! The paddle came down in the exact same spot and Harry's eyes started to water of their own accord.
SWAT! Harry went up on his toes and gripped the edge of the desk more firmly to make sure he stayed in place.
SMACK! "Ahhhh" Harry wriggled as if trying to shake the sting from his bottom
SMACK! "Mmmmm..." Harry was struggling to keep his composure.
SWAT! Once again the paddle landed on the sensitive sit spot and Harry cried out and let the tears come. Dumbledore placed a hand on Harry's back to lend support and make sure he stayed in place.
SMACK!! Dumbledore landed the final hardest swat, put down the paddle, and began to pat Harry's back. Harry had collapsed on the desk in tears. All the guilt that had been building up in him over the last few days poured out of him through his tears. Dumbdledore waited patiently for a few moments and then he helped Harry to stand.
As soon as Harry stood up Dumbledore wrapped his arms around him, his voluminous robes encircling Harry like a blanket. Harry returned the embrace awkwardly at first, but then he suddenly tightened his arms and laid his head into Dumbledore's chest. Dumbledore forgave him, he knew it. Everything would be alright, again.
Dumbledore released Harry but kept his hands on his shoulders. His eyes were sparkling. "Alright, then, Harry?"
"Y..es, Sir" nodded Harry trying to control that strange hitching breath that happens after you have been crying.
"Good boy. You may miss your morning classes but I think you have herbology in the afternoon is that correct?"
"That shouldn't require much sitting so you should be able to attend. For now, why don't you go back to your room and get some rest. The tower should be empty unless anyone is skiving off classes."
Harry knew that Dumbledore was trying to make sure Harry would not have to face anyone for a while. Harry nodded and turned toward the door.
"Oh, and Harry?" Harry turned back "We all make mistakes but I expect you to learn from them. If you ever are brought to me for cheating again.." Dumbledore's voice was stern for the first time since Harry had entered the room. "..I will not be so lenient. Do you understand.?" Dumbledore was giving him a look over his half-moon glasses that made Harry shiver.
Suddenly the twinkle was back. "Good lad, off you go!"
Harry closed the door behind him and immediately put his hands back to cautiously survey the damage. "hisssss...ahhh...LENIENT?! I don't think so." Harry made his way stiffly back to the dormitory. He could feel the sting with each new step. Curse that American Headmaster and his ruddy paddle!!