Author's Note: As per the Teacher Attack! challenge by Dhruva, "Harry is being abused by any teacher of Hogwarts and rescued by Snape. It could be Umbridge or Lockhart or any other likely candidates."
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Umbridge slowly placed Harry's copy of The Quibbler back on the table next to his plate. Her face had blanched in fury, and the lips were compressed into a thin, angry line. "You will follow me to my office, Mr. Potter," she said evenly. With that, she turned and left the Great Hall, and Harry was left staring at the retreating back of her pink cardigan.
Angrily, he began stuffing his things back into his satchel. Ron and Hermione were watching him with identical looks of concern on their faces.
Hermione spoke up confidently. "Don't worry, Harry. She can't do anything to you; you didn't break any rules."
"Since when has that mattered?" Harry snapped at her, shoving his Defence book in so hard that the cover bent backwards. I can't stand any more detentions, he thought miserably. The marks on the back of his hand began to twitch in anticipation.
He strode out of the Great Hall, his ears burning from the stares of too many students. Umbridge was nowhere in sight; he shifted the satchel on his shoulder and began the long trudge to her office.
Harry dreaded the impending interview, which was sure to be unpleasant. What he'd said to Hermione was true; Umbridge didn't need any excuses, especially where he was concerned. It was obvious that no one was going to stop her. Still, Harry did not regret his decision for one second, for a wonder. For what was probably the only time in his life, Harry knew without a doubt that he'd done the right thing.
That, however, did not stop his heart from racing as he mounted the steps to Umbridge's office door. The thought of another detention made his stomach churn. In the excitement of finally being able to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth about that night in the graveyard, Harry had not given much thought to Umbridge's inevitable . . . well, umbrage. Without that mental preparation, the thought of dealing with her and her quill for even one more evening made him want to smash every object in the room. He wanted to rip his bag open and tear everything apart, starting with the sodding Dick and Jane Defence book. What a relief it would be to scream and stomp, throwing a tantrum like a two-year-old.
Instead, Harry shifted his bag again and knocked sedately on the office door. It was painted pink, he noted in disgust. Would there be anything at Hogwarts not painted pink before long?
"Come in," came the girlish voice of the toad. Harry braced himself for pink overload before opening the door and crossing the threshold.
The High Inquisitor was sitting at her desk, a pink-flowered teacup resting before her. Gone was her earlier anger; the woman now wore a sedate smile that unnerved Harry badly. Umbridge happy was not a good thing.
"Sit down," she said pleasantly. Harry sat at the small table in front of her desk, the one he usually occupied for detention. He stared at the lace doily in front of him. "Mr. Potter, you made a very poor decision when you flouted my authority," Umbridge said in that fake-sweet voice of hers.
"Oh, did I miss something? Is that Educational Decree #278? 'Students are forbidden to give interviews on You-Know-Who to The Quibbler?'" he asked snidely, not bothering to conceal his disgust.
"You have been warned about lying," she said, still with that infuriating smile. "It seems your myriad punishment lines have failed to produce the desired effect."
"That article was the truth, and you know it," Harry said, enunciating each word. "And whether or not, I didn't break any school rules. It wasn't even done on school property. The headmaster would agree."
Her smile never faltered. "Oh, Mr. Potter," she said, inserting a factitious note of sadness into her voice, "I'm afraid that your beloved Dumbledore has no say in this. Since becoming High Inquisitor, the Minister has given me complete authority to punish naughty boys and girls."
Naughty. Was she for real? "Well, whatever. So when do you want me for detention?"
"You will not be serving detention, Mr. Potter," she said, satisfaction evident in her tone. "Detentions obviously have no effect on you, if you continue to behave like a naughty child."
Harry's face burned with fury at her persistent use of the word "naughty." The urge to break something returned. "What, then?" he asked through clenched teeth.
"Temper, temper," she clucked. Always, that smug little smirk of hers. Harry's hand itched to pull out his wand and wipe it off her face, but he didn't know a curse Dark enough for this horrid woman. He'd settle for using Bombarda on those gamboling kittens. "So sad, really. Your relatives and teachers have done nothing to curb that attitude of yours." She stood up and walked around the desk, standing in front of Harry's seated form. "Children need consistency."
"I'm not a child," Harry protested hotly. He couldn't even believe he was arguing with the beaming nutter in front of him. But her tone. She was infuriating. She talked to him like he was two years old! He wished he'd blown up the kittens, after all.
"Now, Harry," she said sweetly. "You are a child. And it hurts that everyone expects you to take on so much responsibility, doesn't it? Deep down . . ." She paused for effect. "Deep down, you want someone who cares enough to punish you when you're bad."
Harry's face burned crimson. I want out of here, he thought frantically. Something's wrong, so wrong. Her eyes . . .
Umbridge gave a delicate little sigh and shrugged her pink shoulders. "I want to help you, Mr. Potter," she said. "It's nothing short of tragic that your parents aren't around to raise you. The Minister recognises that; he's asked me to take you under my wing, so to speak. We both feel that you need a responsible adult to guide you. If I were your mother, I'd have — "
"If you were my mother?!" Harry yelled, standing up in a burst of fury. His emerald eyes were suddenly blazing like the basilisk's in the Chamber of Secrets. This was the last straw. Imagine this horrid toad comparing herself to his beautiful, brilliant mother! "You are not my mother, and you'll never be anybody's mother!" he shouted, slamming his fists down on the table.
It happened so quickly that he hadn't time to duck; Harry's cheek suddenly erupted in fire as her hand tore across it, leaving a blazing imprint behind. It's probably pink, too, he thought hysterically. Someone help me, she's gone off her nut . . .
Umbridge's eyes were snapping, and she was breathing like an enraged dragon. Harry refused to drop his gaze, however, and soon her mouth oozed back into a simpering smile as she regained her previous equanimity.
"Right, then," she said softly, before backing up a few steps and clasping her hands in front of her. "You've only proven my point," she continued, shaking her head sadly. "Detention has done nothing for your disrespect of authority or your temper. And as I've explained to Cornelius, desperate times call for desperate measures."
Harry swallowed. "Meaning?"
"You will be caned, Mr. Potter."
Harry slowly sat down again. The room was silent enough that a pin could have been heard dropping on the floor. Even the kittens refrained from meowing.
Finally, Harry found his voice. "You can't . . . that isn't . . ."
"I most certainly can, and it is, in fact, allowed. You children think that just because Dumbledore doesn't approve of caning, you're somehow immune to it. Dumbledore is no longer making the decisions; students' punishments are at my discretion," she gloated. "And I have decided to cane you, Mr. Potter. Perhaps that will teach you some respect, if nothing else will."
She walked over to her desk and opened the wide top drawer. Harry's heartbeat spiked as she took out a long, whippy cane and swished it experimentally. This isn't happening, he thought desperately. Please tell me it's not happ —
"Stand up, young man," Umbridge commanded. Her eyes glinted with a feverish light. Harry stood up shakily as she advanced on him; his eyes never left the cane in her hand. She can't, his mind protested. It just can't happen. . . . His eyes caught the framed photo of the Minister on her desk. But it will.
"Push in your chair." He obeyed mutely. "Now," she said, moving the furniture across the room with a flick of her wand, "Hold out your right hand, Mr. Potter." He hesitated, and her smile grew wider. "You've just earned another stroke. Need I ask you again?"
Harry slowly extended his right hand, palm up, to about chest level. He tried to think how the cane would hit him; it would be better to pull down on his thumb, wouldn't it?
"You shall count each stroke as I give it," Umbridge purred, "and if you move or forget to count, that stroke must be taken again." She ran her fingers along the length of the rattan, staring at Harry. The seconds ticked by; what was she waiting for? He stared back, eyes flinty.
Finally, she sighed and stepped forward so she was in position to start the punishment. "Manners," she clucked. "He can't even spare a simple 'Yes, ma'am.'"
Harry bit back a retort and gritted his teeth, trying not to let his hand tremble.
Umbridge raised the cane; he heard it whistle in the air before striking his palm with a thwack! Had Harry's teeth not been clenched so, he would surely have cried out. He'd never imagined how much it would hurt. His hand felt as if he'd gripped a poker that had been lying in the fire.
As he watched, the skin began forming a weal, first pink, then almost immediately darkening to red, with an abnormally white edge. Just in time, Harry remembered that he was to count the strokes. "One," he said through his clenched teeth. The sting was actually worsening over time; he wished he knew how many she planned to give.
But Harry would die before giving in to this woman. If it killed him, he'd keep quiet.
She smiled, of course. "Very good," she trilled before raising the cane again.
Thwack! The fleshy parts of Harry's palm were getting the brunt; there was absolutely no way to hold his hand perfectly flat. His head spun dangerously at the searing pain. "T-two."
The pain only intensified as the seconds ticked by. He couldn't stop his eyes from prickling with tears, and he could only desperately hope that none would fall. To prevent it, he searched his mind for some happy thought, but came up empty. Sirius was locked up at Grimmauld, he couldn't play Quidditch, Dumbledore couldn't stand the sight of him, and Snape with the Occ —
Thwack! Another stroke landed practically in the same place as the last. Bloody hell . . . "Three." Harry felt an involuntary whimper vibrate in the back of his throat, but thankfully, Umbridge didn't appear to have heard. She seemed disappointed at his stoicism as she lowered the cane to her side.
"The last stroke was for disobeying me," she said. "What do you think, Mr. Potter? Has my cane gotten through to you better than detention?"
Harry slowly lowered his arm. His hand felt as if he'd pressed it to a hot stove, and it pulsed in time with his pounding heart. He longed to clench the fist to rid it of the horrible pain, but refused to give her the satisfaction. Umbridge was looking at him with a satisfied smirk on her face. Since Harry could tell she expected an answer, and refusing to speak would likely earn him another cut, he replied, somewhat insolently, "Yes, ma'am."
"Wonderful!" she said brightly. "This is going splendidly."
Harry stared at her in confusion. Going?
"Oh, we are not finished," she said, her smile, if it were even possible, intensifying. "Left hand, please."
Harry wanted to scream. His right hand was throbbing like a beating heart, and she was about to do the same to his left?! I can't stand it, he thought miserably. I just can't take any more . . .
But there was no help for it. No one would be coming to the rescue. Even if he could get out of her office (and no doubt she'd stop him if he tried to leave), McGonagall and even Dumbledore could do nothing to this horrible woman. Dumbledore wouldn't want to, anyway; he obviously wanted nothing to do with the Boy Who Lived. Harry fought back tears of rage as he raised his left arm, again offering his palm. This time, he couldn't stop his hand from shaking, but he was damned if he'd cry.
"Well, I'm impressed," Umbridge said brightly. "All those detentions I wasted on you, and it turns out all you needed was a little taste of the stick." She playfully snapped the cane against Harry's dangling right hand, and he flinched as it touched his stinging welts.
"The Minister will be so pleased," she mused happily. Harry closed his eyes as he saw the cane being raised again, and once again he set his jaw in anticipation, waiting for the descent. Thwack! The first blazing stripe cut his palm, and his breath whistled a bit between his teeth. "One," he said, unable to keep a tremor from his voice. He watched as though fascinated as a livid ridge formed across the translucent skin.
She paused for some time. Harry's breath was hitching, but he stared straight ahead, refusing to think. Snape would have been proud; by sheer force of will, Harry had managed to totally clear his mind in a way he'd never been able to during those sodding Occlumency lessons.
Finally, Umbridge lifted the stick for the last time. She let out a triumphant "Hmph!" as it swished through the air. Thwack!
"Two!" Harry hissed; the last crack had hit just below the baseline of his knuckles. It felt as if his fingers had been cut off; his hand suddenly became the centre of his universe. He hunched forward the slightest bit, his breath coming in ragged gasps, and the fingers stiffly curled inward.
Despite the warning she'd given not to move, Umbridge seemed happy with his reaction, which meant he was spared a penalty stroke. She practically skipped back to her desk with the cane, fingering it with apparent reverence before replacing it in the open top drawer. Harry used the few seconds her back was turned to swipe quickly at his eyes with his cuff; despite his best efforts, the last stroke had brought real tears.
Umbridge turned back around, looking positively giddy. She walked back over to where Harry stood, clucking softly. "I think that made my point nicely, didn't it?"
Harry barely heard her through a haze of pain. His hands were practically numb. No, numb would have been preferable to this. He certainly couldn't move his fingers, but they were paralysed from pain, not frozen. Desperately, he resisted the urge to rub them on the sides of his trousers. The cow was still smiling, as if she could read his thoughts.
"Yes, it hurts very much, doesn't it?" she purred. Harry didn't answer. Her perfume was making his head whirl.
"Now, Mr. Potter," she continued sweetly. Harry recoiled as she took firm hold of his upper arm and began leading him across the office. "You will stand in this corner with your nose to the wall until I give you permission to leave. I want you to think long and hard about that temper of yours."
Harry looked at her in disgust. She couldn't be serious. Stand in the corner?
She gripped his chin in her hand. He felt the cool metal of her rings pressing against his skin, and her pink fingernails were pinching him something fierce. He held her gaze defiantly, hoping his eyes weren't still wet. "Perhaps you need another taste of my cane?" she asked hopefully. Harry shook his head mutely. Her face fell. "Then you'll do as I say."
Harry obeyed, leaning forward until his nose touched the wall. His toes were pressed against the side walls, which were, of course, painted pink. He could see a bit of cobweb just inside his field of vision. As the moments ticked by, Harry found the pain in his hands was worsening now that he had nothing to focus on but the blank walls. It was agony to stand there and feel them throbbing, yet be helpless to do anything about it. Oddly, he was closer to crying now than when she'd been punishing him. His nose was itching, and tears of rage and frustration were prickling his eyes at being forced into this humiliating position.
After what seemed an eternity, Umbridge gave Harry permission to turn around. He saw that she must have reset the clocks to mess with him; as if he'd believe that only forty minutes had passed since he'd left the Great Hall. "Come here to me," Umbridge commanded. Harry slowly walked over to where she sat. She reached out and took his right hand, the one with marks on both sides now. Her stubby fingers traced first the scars that spelled I must not tell lies, then turned his hand so the palm faced upward. He flinched as her fingernails dug into the fresh weals. She smiled as she admired her handiwork, then looked up at him in satisfaction.
"You may go," she said softly. "You found out today what will happen from now on whenever you are naughty."
Harry still didn't blink. Umbridge let his hand drop, and Harry went to collect his satchel. He forced himself to grab the strap with his swollen, aching hand as if nothing had happened, though his stomach lurched with the agony it caused; he was so close to leaving without having broken down.
"I would be very careful if I were you, Mr. Potter," came Umbridge's simper, and Harry felt a fresh surge of hatred. "I won't hesitate to repeat this performance if necessary."
Biting back a retort, Harry turned to leave.
"What do you say?"
He stopped. "Pardon?"
"I've just taken time out of my busy schedule to give you some much-needed discipline," Umbridge said sweetly. "Something no one has ever bothered to do for you. Therefore," she giggled, "I expect some gratitude."
Harry stared at her in shock. Was she mental? She expected him to thank her for turning his hands to raw meat? Just like Voldemort, he thought with a sickening pang. He wanted me to beg him not to kill me in the graveyard. I wouldn't do it then to save my life. And I still won't. Without deigning to answer, Harry turned and left, shutting the door quietly behind him.
Harry's hands, now throbbing like the fires of Mordor, disoriented him so badly that he wandered aimlessly for some time. Finally, he found a bathroom and nudged the door open with his foot. Once inside, he checked under the stalls for feet. Satisfied he was alone, Harry dropped his bag near one of the sinks and stared dubiously at the tap. These old fixtures were hard to manipulate under normal circumstances, but he could never grip the handle with his hands the way they were. Finally, Harry gently pulled out his wand and cast a Cushioning Charm around the tap. The light touch still made him wince, but Harry was able to turn the water on and run it over his hands.
It felt so good that Harry could have stayed like that all day, but eventually he closed the tap and shook the water droplets off his hands. The water had run colder and colder until Harry's fingers were a bit numb, which was an improvement. But, perhaps in a delayed reaction from the tense atmosphere in Umbridge's office, Harry was horrified to feel his eyes brimming over. It didn't feel like he was about to start blubbing or anything, but he couldn't leave the bathroom like this.
Standing over his satchel, Harry rested his head against the cool stone wall. That felt so good . . . maybe if he just stayed like that for a while . . .
Harry didn't even hear the footsteps approaching, and the door opened so abruptly that he didn't have time to hide. Harry fought to keep from looking around; perhaps whoever it was would finish their business and leave without bothering him. And, although Harry wouldn't put anything past her just now, he was fairly certain Umbridge would not have followed him into the men's room.
Harry groaned and pressed his forehead even harder against the stones. His Invisibility Cloak was upstairs. The castle was sealed up by anti-Apparition wards, and he didn't even know how to Apparate, when it came to that. But he'd give anything to be able to disappear right now. Because it would be Snape.