A/N: TRIGGER WARNING: Violence, Torture, Implied Rape. I don't think any of you would be reading this story if you were subject to these triggers, but better safe than sorry. Enjoy your Schadenfreude.
As far as torture chambers went, Harry wasn't very impressed.
Not that Harry had the opportunity to examine many – or any – torture chambers before. But still, it was obvious this room had seen better days. A thick layer of dust covered most of the room. There were numerous stains from ages past. And of the few torture instrument left, most seemed rusted beyond use. Only one seemed to be in any working order, possibly hastily cleaned by the Minions, upon which rested their prisoner. Although "rested" was probably not the right term. Umbridge was straining feebly against the manacles of the rack, and began yelling at Harry the moment she saw him.
"You detestable ingrate! How dare you!? I demand you release me this instant! I am Delores Jane Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic. I could have you and your mongrel creatures put to death without a second thought!" A minute had yet to pass, and Harry could already feel his head throbbing with pain.
Scowling, he strode over to the still screaming woman and shoved his gauntleted hand against her throat. The insults came to a choking halt, and the toad glared up at Harry with a mixture of fear and insolence. "I wouldn't be talking about power, Umbridge. You have none right now. And if you still value your life, you'll show a bit more respect to those who hold your life in their hands."
He released his hold on Umbridge, who sputtered and coughed, gasping for air. "Your voice… We've met before, haven't we? Who are you?"
"Well, I'd hoped to put off the reveal for a bit longer, but since you asked, I suppose I'll tell you. After all, the only thing you ever taught me was that I must not tell lies."
Harry could see the comprehension dawning on her face even as he pulled off his helmet. "Potter?! You… What…?" Harry could practically see her mind reeling from the information, but he wanted to get moving along; he wanted this to be over with already.
"What's the matter? Centaur got your tongue?"
The outrage and color on Umbridge's face could have rivaled his Uncle Vernon's. "You insolent brat! I knew from the moment I laid eyes on you that you were nothing but rouble. Just an ill-tempered narcissistic gloryhound with no regard for others. Let me go, or by Merlin, you'll beg for the days when scars were the only thing you had to worry about."
"Your threats don't frighten me, Umbridge," Harry replied coldly. "They never did, not even two years ago, however hard you tried to make me submit. You're nothing but a lapdog, using the power of others to do whatever you want. Without them, you're helpless. However, you're a lapdog with connection. Connections and information. Both of which I want. Now, I will give you this choice one time and one time only; you can either cooperate with me, or we can do this the hard way."
Umbridge sneered in defiance, even as Harry stepped closer to the rack. "The hard way? Is that supposed to intimidate me, Potter? You don't have the courage to do such a thing. Even your disgusting Mudblood friend was more – "
Umbridge's own blood-curdling scream cut off the rest of her sentence, as Harry suddenly felt a burning rage empower him, a blast of blue energy streaming between his outstretched arm and Umbridge's body. Still seething, he cut the thread, leaving her coughing violently from the pain of her now raw throat, shaking in agony. Such pain, such power… and it had lasted less than a second. But Harry was feeling far too vindictive to brood over such a thing at the moment. It was too powerful to squeeze the retribution out of Umbridge he desired. Thankfully, torture wasn't limited to physical means.
"Speaking of Hermione, I did a little research into Centaurs last year." Umbridge was suddenly very alert, staring at Harry even as her breath quickened. "It didn't take long to learn just what Centaurs do to the women they take captive. You do too, I'm sure." He could see the utter fear in the woman's mind now, reliving that painful day in her memory. "At first, I was in denial. Hermione mustn't have known, couldn't have known such a thing and still left you at their mercy. But even then, I knew better. Hermione Granger is the brightest witch of her age. She knows everything there is to know about anything. That day, I was reminded to never, ever cross my best friend. So tell me, Umbridge," Harry leaned in, close enough to whisper in her ear, ignoring the growing terror in her eyes, the quick and ragged breaths. The words and questions spilled out of his mouth without thought, they came so naturally, "How did it feel when they violated you? Was it painful? I rather hope so. Or maybe you enjoyed it in some sick way. Was it your first time? I don't even know if you have a husband. Maybe you spread your legs for Fudge in order to get your esteemed position in the Ministry. How did it feel, Umbridge, to be split wide open by every single filthy half-breed Centaur in that herd and have them pour their seed into you? Maybe when I'm finished with you, I'll return you to them."
The terrified response was barely audible. "Go to hell."
Harry only smiled back. "We're already there. But now the time has come; you refused to cooperate, so now I will get my information the hard way."
Umbridge's eyes flared with a sudden frantic gleam. "W-wait! Please no! I'll tell you anything you want, work for you inside the Ministry. Anything! Anything!"
"Too late, Umbridge. You're a liability now, and you have done too much evil in the past. Torturing children, suppressing the truth, destroying anyone in your path to power. And now you will pay for it."
"But you can't do this." Tears were now flowing freely down Umbridge's pudgy face. "You're Dumbledore's golden boy, The-Boy-Who-Lived."
"Times change. I can't win this war by being some kind of Scion of Light, to never do anything that isn't good." An odd thought occurred to him, which he voiced. "I must be a Harbinger of Justice and Vengeance. I must and will use any means possible to succeed. And you, Umbridge, will be my first condemned and my first tool. Congratulations."
Umbridge's pleas for mercy become more and more desperate, but Harry was deaf to her cries. He raised his hand, and unleashed the Evil Presence into Umbridge, the room filling with the echoes of her screams once more. He wasn't sure if it was his imagination, but Harry thought he could literally feel Umbridge's soul in his hands. Baring his teeth, he drove his will into it, fueling every blow with another memory. Umbridge calling him a liar. UmbridgeUmbridge forcing him to carve lines into his own hand. Umbridge trying to dose him with Veritaserum. He didn't notice the screams peter out as Umbridge muttered, "Command me, Lord," enthralled as he was with the memories. Dumbledore forced to flee before the persecution of Fudge and Umbridge. Hagrid and McGonagall attacked in the dead of the night by a cadre of Aurors and Umbridge. Hermione desperate face full of tears when Harry had been threatened with torture by Umbridge. Nothing existed for Harry but the burning desire to destroy the writched thing so that it would never harm anyone again.
Wihtout warning, Harry felt a hand yank his arm back. The Evil Presence broke, and Umbridge's body went limp, though still breathing. Incense, Harry followed the momentum of his arm, the back of his fist colliding viciously with something, sending it flying backwards. As it collapsed on the ground, Harry's sense slowly returned.
A petite figure.
Painfully, he watched Luna struggle to her feet. Before he could so much as stammer out an apology, she had darted out of the room. He heard a sob as she rounded the corner. Stunned, Harry collaped to his knees, his temper fleeing him instantly. "What have I done?"
"Almost killed our informant, that's what." Harry wasn't even startled by Gnarl's sudden appearance at his side. The old Minion almost looked disappointed or aggravated. "Mistress Luna became worried by your rather potent outburst of anger and came to check in on you. When you refused to answer he ror release your grip on the toad woman, she decided to force you to do so. Not the best idea, in my experience, to interrupt an Overlord, but I suppose it was effective nonetheless."
A moment of silence passed between the two, until Harry had gathered his thoughts. "Gnarl, I want you to pump Umbridge for information. Anything she knows about the Ministry, Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and other magical communities throughout the world. No need to torture her now, right?"
"Quite, m'Lord. The toad is now your thrall, and will bow to your every whim. I assume you'll be in your Quarters?"
Harry nodded as he stood. "I have to apologize to Luna. To fix this. I trust you, Gnarl."
Ignoring Gnarl's huffed line about how trust had been the downfall of some Overlord or another, and made his way to the door slowly. Even as he thought of how to approach Luna after what had happened, his thoughts couldn't help but stray toward his bushy-haired friend that had come up during his session with Umbridge.
What would Hermione think of me now?
Hermione Granger sneezed.
She sniffed, turning toward the voice. "Thanks, Dean." She finished erecting the wards, as Dean did the same with the tent. A beam of light broke through the canopy of the forest, splashing on Hermione's face, and she covered her eyes.
Hermione had gone on the run not long after the wedding. She had hoped to seek refuge with the Weasleys, but when the reports of violence against Muggleborns – death and worse – kept increasing with the Ministry nothing but a puppet and the Aurors powerless to act, she knew that it was only a matter of time. With the Weasleys being put under observation, she would've been an easy target. So she had fled in the middle of the night, leaving them behind. Even Ron.
Dean looked up from his work, smiling at Hermione and waving her over. She had run across him a few days past, and since then they had been travelling together. His mother was a Muggle and his father had died early on, so he had no way of knowing whether he was Half-Blood or not. They both agreed it was like to matter little either way. Regardless, there was safety in numbers. All they could do was keep moving and keep safe.
And yet… Hermione could never stop thinking about Harry, even as she ran for her life. She could've run away, could have easily blended into the Muggle world and escaped across to the rest of Europe. But she stayed, because she knew Harry was still out there somewhere. Looking for the Horcruxes, all alone. Even if she wasn't physically with him, she couldn't abandon him, not when she might encounter him as she had Dean.
A light touch on her shoulder brought Hermione out of her reverie. "You alright, Hermione? You wandered off for a bit."
"I'm fine, Dean, thanks." A pause, as they both looked out into the forest, always alert for any signs of others. "Just thinking about Harry."
Dean's hand squeezed her slightly, a gesture of support. "He'll save us, don't worry. He's Harry. He's saved everyone at least once a year. Though I imagine he'll have a bit harder time without his genius friend." They shared a light chuckle. Though the two of them never let go of their tension, any respite was always welcome. Dean turned back toward the tent, leaving Hermione to her thoughts.
Then one of them hit her rather strongly.
Should she? Harry had said Dumbledore wanted the information kept a secret from as many people as possible, lest it fall in the wrong hands. But what point was there in keeping a secret when knowing it could help save the world? No, she had to tell him. Otherwise, they would be doing worse than nothing.
Dean looked up with a questioning look in his eyes as Hermione threw open the tent flap. "Have you ever heard of Horcruxes, Dean?"
A/N: I hope you enjoyed reading that scene as much as I did writing it. Harry is slowly walking away from the Light. There's still plenty of growing, though, so don't think he's going Evil just yet. For those of you who did get the Flumpawumps reference, well done. If you didn't there is a story on this site - a Luna/Harry fic - called "Evacuation of the Flumpawumps." It's just a silly little smut fic, but enjoyable all the same. Til next time, dear readers. Show me your love with reviews!