Roger was none too happy with me when I informed him I would not be making it to Quidditch tryouts because I had, indeed, been given a detention. He looked at me incredulously, muttered something about how he would have expected this kind of crap if he was captain of Gryffindor, and informed me that if he saw anyone in tryouts who was a decent enough beater then I was off the team.
“Like you could get a beater who stays out of trouble anyway,” I scoffed. “Seriously, Roger, our job is to hit large heavy objects at force in the direction of the opposition, with the sole aim of causing grievous bodily harm. Good luck finding someone who likes that idea and has never spent a moment in detention.”
I made my way to Umbridge’s office after dinner, not knowing what to expect from this particular detention. I pictured a horribly pink, frilly office and cups of oversweet tea where Umbridge would try to convince me that I was a naughty little girl who didn’t know her place in the world and needed to learn how to respect her elders.
“Hello, Miss Selwyn,” Umbridge said sweetly when I entered her office. Merlin’s pants, I wasn’t wrong about the décor—the walls were a pale pink colour, decorated almost extensively with pictures of kittens—kitten photographs, kitten paintings, plates with kittens painted on them, statues of kittens on the doily-covered desk in the centre of the room. I fought the urge to vomit, deciding I was more comfortable in Grimmauld Place than here.
“Good evening, Professor,” I said coolly, striding into the office and taking a seat across from her before she could attempt to tell me where to sit. I maintained eye contact the entire time, challenging her. She wasn’t used to being challenged, I had already seen that.
“Now, Miss Selwyn,” she began. “I’m sure you know why you’re here.”
“Well, yes,” I replied. “You have taken objection to my conduct in the classroom and have therefore chosen to employ a common and entirely inconstructive method of discipline to express your objection.”
“You think you’re clever, don’t you, Miss Selwyn?”
“With all due respect, Professor, with my marks in end-of-year exams having been to date no less than Exceeds Expectations for every subject, and taking my sorting into Ravenclaw House into consideration, I daresay I am justified in saying I am of considerable intellect, rather than it being, as you suggest, an assumption on my part based on pride and not fact.”
“You’re a very arrogant girl, Miss Selwyn.”
“Thank you, I do try.”
“Perhaps its time you learnt your place. Because, you see, Miss Selwyn, you are a fifteen-year-old Hogwarts student. You have achieved nothing apart from your prefect badge. And yet…Well, silly me, but you seem to give the impression that you think you are somehow better than witches and wizards who are at the very top of the wizarding world—”
“Certainly not,” I replied crisply. “I hold the professors of this school in the highest regard, particularly Professors Dumbledore, Snape, McGonagall and Flitwick. I would not for a moment consider myself anywhere near their league in terms of power, experience, knowledge, wisdom or expertise, nor do I expect to reach that level in my lifetime. I have no delusions of grandeur, Professor Umbridge.”
“The teachers at this school? The teachers at this school are not the top of the wizarding world! I was referring to—”
“With all due respect, Professor Dumbledore remains the nation’s most highly honoured wizard.”
“I was referring,” she continued, the only indication of hearing my comment being an even more icy look in her eye, “To the witches and wizards who make it their business to lead the nation, the Minister of Magic himself, and his closest advisors.”
“In my own view, Professor, the teachers at this school remain at the very pinnacle of the wizarding world.”
“That is your view,” Umbridge said, a patronising smile on her face and a tone to match it. “It’s normal for a child like yourself to look up to your teachers, perhaps even to think that they are the best witches and wizards in the country. When you will grow up, you will realise the importance of the Ministry.”
“All right, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister—can I call you that? I can’t see you as a Professor, I’m sorry, it’s a title that for me implies respect and it just doesn’t fit. Could we possibly get on with the detention? Much as I’ve enjoyed this enlightening discussion, of course.”
“You will be writing lines,” Umbridge said sweetly. “You will find parchment and a quill in front of you. You will have no need for ink.”
“What am I writing, and how many times?”
“You will write ‘I must show respect,’ as many times as I think it requires for you to learn the lesson.”
“Oh, I do show respect,” I replied, picking up the quill in front of me and beginning to form the words. “To those who deserve it, mind.”
A sharp cutting pain seared across my left hand, and I pushed away the urge to react. The letters I had just written were etching themselves into my skin, but I pressed determinedly on. A Blood Quill. I surreptitiously glanced at the clock; 8.13p.m. A plan forming in my mind, I continued to write, allowing no sign of pain or distress to cross my face. My eyes didn’t move from Umbridge’s and she soon glanced away, unnerved by my icy stare. The smallest of victories, but a victory nonetheless.
I filled almost two feet of parchment before Umbridge told me to stop. It was now 10.12, the words were stamped clearly on my bloodied hand and I felt like I was going to pass out from the pain. I checked the date on the calendar, muttering loud enough for Umbridge to hear, “Thursday 13 September, 2 hours, Class C.”
Class C referred to the different classifications of Dark magic punishable by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Class C was defined as, “a spell or object specifically designed to invoke suffering, whether it be physical, mental or emotional, where the victim will not be incapacitated for long periods of time. Effects are short term, with the exception of mild scarring. Long-term detrimental effects are classified under Classes A and B.”
I knew Umbridge would be watching my owls by tomorrow morning because of that comment, so I slipped out to the Owlery on my way back to Ravenclaw Tower, quickly jotting a note to my parents and sending it off with my owl, Starlet.
“What brings you out here so late at night?” Fred asked, leaning on the doorpost of the Owlery.
“I would ask you the same thing,” I said, startled, whipping around to face him.
Fred tapped the side of his nose. “Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies, Athena.”
“Then I employ the same philosophy.”
“How was detention with Umbridge?” he continued. “What did she make you do?”
I hesitated, debating whether to tell him or not. On the one hand, the more I could get the word out that Umbridge was using torture in detentions that qualified as Dark magic, the more weight a protest from parents and the wizarding community would have. On the other hand, I didn’t like talking about my own suffering; it was, for me, humiliating, and for some reason telling Fred Weasley would be more humiliating than anyone else I could think of.
“Lines,” I replied dismissively.
“Damn,” Fred muttered. “I bet George a Galleon she would be an absolute sadist.”
“I wouldn’t count it as lost just yet,” I muttered, stepping around him.
“Merlin’s arse, what the hell happened to your hand?” he asked. Before I could yank it away, he had seized my hand by the wrist and brought his wand light closer.
“Don’t ask me to elaborate.”
“This is her idea of lines?”
“Apparently so.” I kept my tone light and dismissive, even though I could physically feel my strength ebbing away. I hated it, I hated weakness, and I forced myself to walk forward, back down the steps, through the castle, up into Ravenclaw Tower to collapse safely in my dorm…
“Whoa, you all right?” Fred asked, startled, throwing an arm around me. “You nearly fell flat on your face then.”
“Apparently not,” I replied mildly, despite previously mentioned humiliation at own suffering which had me preferring the option of crawling unseen and unassisted to the hospital wing with the aid of a Disillusionment Charm.
“Sit down,” Fred suggested, waving his wand to clear the ground beneath us of owl crap. “That’s rather a lot of blood you’ve lost.”
“Yeah, well,” I muttered. “I didn’t manage to keep my letters going along the same lines every time. I suppose that’s okay though, means the words will be less readable if and when they scar.”
“I can’t believe how casual you’re being about this,” he commented. “‘Oh yeah, Umbridge made me cut my own hand to pieces in detention, and we had nachos for dinner.’ Bandage?” he offered, taking my hand before I could reply and winding a bandage around it which I guessed he had just conjured.
“I’m pretty accustomed to Dark magic by now,” I told him, hyperaware of how close he was, his hand on mine, I could feel the warmth from his body as he sat beside me; yet I had no desire to move away. I forced that realisation from my mind. Meaningless.
“That makes you sound like the child of a Death Eater, did you know that?” he commented.
“Upon reflection, you have a point. I meant I’ve seen the effects of it a lot more than most. Mum’s on first-name basis with all the staff on the fourth floor at St Mungo’s.”
“Hasn’t lost any limbs yet though, has she?”
“Yet,” I repeated wryly. “A happy concept. No, Mad-Eye Moody’s an extreme case. I’ve met all the Aurors and none of them have missing limbs or scarring like Moody’s. Not even Tonks, and we both know how clumsy she is.”
“Might become an Auror then,” he mused.
“You got how many OWLs?”
“Three,” he replied unashamedly. “I’m not even planning to do NEWT exams. I’ll probably leave as soon as Quidditch season is over.”
“And do what?”
“Open a joke shop. We’ve been looking at places in Diagon Alley—you didn’t hear that from me, though.”
“Disregarded. What’s the time?”
“Quarter to eleven, which means you were meant to be in Ravenclaw Tower forty-five minutes ago, you rebel.”
“Umbridge didn’t even let me out of her office till after ten, and besides, I’m a prefect, my curfew’s the same as yours.”
“At any rate, we should get out of the Owlery,” he said reasonably. “It’s cold, miles away from the towers and filled with shit. Are you okay to walk?”
“Nothing wrong with my feet,” I replied.
“You nearly fainted just before.”
“Did not,” I said defensively. “I was a bit shaky, that’s all.”
“You’re speaking to the inventor, tester and supplier of Fainting Fancies.” Fred stood, offering me his hand and pulling me to his feet. “Hospital wing or tower?”
I considered for a moment. “Hospital wing, then Madam Pomfrey will have evidence.”
“That, and you probably need the hospital wing. Lean on me, I’ll walk you there.”
His arm gripped mine and I felt my pulse quicken for a reason that had nothing to do with Umbridge or the narrow, steep stairs of the Owlery.