Chapter 1 : Dolores Umbridge
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Before you begin this chapter, I would ask you to try to put aside your hatred of Umbridge. When it begins, she is an eleven-year-old girl, not the most hated fictional character across all fandoms! She is a victim, not a villain.
Whispering. There was always whispering. Dolores, the stupid one. Fat, ugly Dolores, the Sorting Hat's big mistake. There wasn't much ambition there, otherwise she'd take care of herself more. Brush her hair before going down to breakfast, were smart shoes and clean her nails. Dumpy Dolores, who wore boys' trainers and baggy sweaters, not fashionably baggy just casual and untidy. And her voice!
Dolores didn't listen at first - they'd get bored, and stop, or realise that they were wrong. Besides, what could she do? She didn't have any clothes like theirs. She'd always refused to get them - she liked to be comfy, and what was the point in shoes you couldn't walk in? As for her voice- she'd never noticed anything strange about it. Where she came from, pretty much everyone spoke like that.
When the summer holidays arrived, she waited desperately for an opening to ask to go shopping. She wouldn't get much - her parents though she had plenty of clothes to be going on with - but even just one pair of nice shoes would be a start. Anything smart would do, so she could prove she could look nice.
Why was it that nice clothes never came in her size? They just didn't look right on, and she left shop after shop empty-handed. Smart shoes were too narrow, or didn't come in small enough sizes. Then there was the issue that she had nothing to wear them with as she had no nice clothes, and if she got nice clothes she would need nice shoes to wear with them. Her parents would moan about paying for too much.
So she went back to school in September with just a new jumper and a couple of tops she had managed to pick up as well as her old casual clothes - they were an improvement, but nothing like the kind of things the other girls wore. Would it make them laugh less? No. No sense of style, they said, not even having the sense to hide the way she was ugly and fat. Bursting out of her clothes - and just look at her stuffing herself with cake.
How did they all manage to look so perfect? She tried to eat less, but it made no difference. She knew her clothes were too tight, but they were already wider than everyone else's - she knew because one day the girls in her dormitory picked them up and read the numbers on the labels out loud, and everyone laughed. When she looked in the mirror, she could see what they meant - she seemed all sagging fat, made worse by clothes stretched tight although they were supposed to be baggy. When she went shopping the next summer, she bought the same kind of clothes in the same size - she could get in them, and she didn't want the girls at school to read the labels out again and realise just how huge she really was.
They laughed at her voice, still, although she tried to talk like them. She couldn't tell the difference between hers and theirs, but there must be one. Apparently she sounded like a boy. How did one sound like a girl? She didn't know, but she tried, and they laughed more.
In third year she couldn't do up the fastenings on her widest pair of trousers. Mortified, she left the dormitory and found a quiet corner until the other students returned to their common rooms that night. She walked as quietly as she could, creeping up to the hospital wing. There were so many stairs! She stopped outside the door, breathing hard, and reached for the handle but couldn't turn it. How could she explain to anyone that she was too big for her clothes? Even Madam Pomfrey would laugh.
She lowered herself to sit on the stairs, and even that was an effort. She buried her head in her arms, trying to pull herself together. Madam Pomfrey had been nice to her when she was sick in first year, and when she'd twisted her ankle landing in flying lessons. Madam Pomfrey wouldn't tell anyone she'd been here- but what if there was a patient in there? And Madam Pomfrey might not say anything, but she would think it. Fat, ugly Dolores, greedily stuffing herself with cake, not caring how she looked.
She fell asleep sitting there, too-small clothes in a bag on her lap, leaning against the banisters. She was lucky the stairs didn't move - but perhaps they didn't bother when there weren't many people about to notice. Perhaps the castle was sleeping. Maybe it saw her and felt sorry for her - that was how pathetic she was. The building pitied her. Was she even sane?
Someone touched her shoulder gently, and she woke. A moment of confusion, then shame. Someone had seen her like this - she'd just plonked herself down to sleep on the stairs. Fat, ugly, mad Dolores. In ten minutes, the entire school would know. Maybe she should just leave.
"Dolores?" The voice was kind - mocking her, no doubt. "Get up, darling, and come inside before anyone else gets up. Did you want to talk to me?" Madam Pomfrey. Well, it was too late for Dolores to leave now. She struggles to her feet, the nurse helping her into the hospital wing. It was empty, and she was lead through to the office and helped to sit down. She was crying, but tried to pretend she wasn't - hopefully Madam Pomfrey wouldn't notice.
Of course she noticed, but unbelievably she didn't laugh. "What's wrong, sweetie? You can talk to me. I want to help you, and I won't tell anyone if you don't want me to." Dolores planned to pretend it was nothing, that she was just being silly, but somehow she found herself explaining everything. The nurse took the bag of clothes from her gently, placing them on the desk, and one by one she used magic to adjust the garments so they fitted.
"Don't be ashamed of your size. Not everyone is skinny, and it's not healthy to be as thin as some of those girls. Not pretty, either, and they'll realise that later. You're a bit bigger than perhaps you should be, particularly considering your height, but I've seen worse. Girls will be girls, I'm afraid, and I know you can't just block them out. Try not to let it bother you, and don't be afraid to come and see me."
Dolores didn't say much more, just a muttered thank-you before she edged towards the door. Madam Pomfrey watched her go with a sad smile. Dolores dressed sensibly, and didn't fuss too much over her body. The weight wasn't healthy, but it was better than the states some girls got themselves into over appearance.
Pity, thought Dolores. She'd been comforted, briefly, but of course all Madam Pomfrey's kindness had been pity. She didn't want pity - why should she be pitied? Why couldn't she be like everyone else, wearing nice clothes that fitted and talking like a girl not a man? She wouldn't go back, unless she was ill.
She didn't go to breakfast, although she was hungry. Other people managed without so much food as her, so she could do it too. At lunchtime, she was too hungry to stay away, but she filled her plate only with salad. The others would see her trying to look after her image. She never expected them to laugh.
Now she only went to meals when hardly anyone was there. Her stomach growled, and she hunted through the library for a spell to hide the sound. Every day she looked in the mirror - was she thinner? Was it working? Any change was barely noticeable, and as she lay in bed unable to sleep for hunger she wondered whether it was even possible for her to look like other girls.
The hunger seemed to fade a little as she got used to it. At breakfast time she went quickly in and out of the Great Hall, picking up just a piece of fruit and a piece of toast. That was all she ate each day. Somehow she couldn't concentrate in lessons, but then the girls had always said she was stupid. She was always the last one to master the spells - what was the point, anyway? So long as she knew how to do it, she should be fine if she ever actually needed the exam. It must just be the pressure of everyone watching her and laughing when she failed.
Was she losing weight? Maybe, a little, but normal seemed an impossible goal. She found an advert for a weight loss potion in the Daily Prophet and placed a mail order. When the package arrived, she locked herself in a cubicle in the bathroom before opening it. A large glass bottle. She eased off the cap with trembling fingers and gulped it down, holding her nose and not breathing until she'd swallowed it all. She retched silently, before trying to vanish the bottle. The spell failed, so she hid it at the bottom of her bag before unlocking the door. She felt sick, but no doubt it would pass. It was probably just her being pathetic.
In History of Magic, she began to feel strange. Her head spun, her eyesight blurring. Well, she hadn't had much sleep recently, and how many people managed to stay awake in History of Magic anyway? Her stomach seemed to coil and uncoil itself, and she felt sick, but she swallowed it down. Just the potion working - it just meant it was effective. She was used to her stomach cramping with hunger now, so she could stand it.
Her vision closed in, darkening. She was exhausted, and Binns' voice lulled everyone to sleep every lesson. They learnt what they needed from the textbooks at the end of the year. But this wasn't like normal falling asleep. That was her last thought before everything went black.
She was in bed. That was the first thing she noticed. She felt sick. Then she noticed that people were talking, quietly, although she couldn't concentrate on the words. Finally her eyes opened, and she was looking up at the white ceiling. She couldn't move - her body wouldn't cooperate - and everything looked blurry. Where was she? Someone came and looked down at her, a dark shape against the light, and she tried vaguely to place it. Emotionless, empty. She felt her stomach spasm, and felt sick again.
She was retching, and the person pushed her to lie on her side so that she the vomit could leave her mouth. She could smell it, the sharp tang, seeming to hang in the air even after it had been vanished. Her vision was returning, slowly. The hospital wing: that was where she was. The person was Madam Pomfrey, who was now supporting her head and pressing a vial of potion to her lips. She swallowed it instinctively, unable to care what it might be. She was allowed to lie back, and she drifted back out of consciousness.
When she woke again, her senses were stronger. She could move her head, at least, and look around. The table next to her bed was empty. She lay for a couple of minutes, staring up at the ceiling. It took her a while to realise what was bothering her - what was she doing here? The last thing she remembered was being in History of Magic. She'd felt a bit strange before that. She must be ill, and it seemed to be something serious because people didn't normally black out. Dragon pox, maybe - did she have spots? She couldn't see any of her body for the blankets, and her arms wouldn't respond.
She couldn't remember any of the others symptoms, so she didn't know. Madam Pomfrey would explain when she came back. And there were footsteps coming towards her now, and the nurse pushed through the curtains with a goblet of steaming potion. Dolores sipped it unresisting, although it burned her throat and tasted disgusting.
"I found the empty bottle in your bag - anything else I should know about? Other than that you haven't been eating." Madam Pomfrey scolded her gently, and it took Dolores a second to realise what she was referring to - the weight loss potion! She'd never managed to get rid of the bottle.
"What happened? Why-" Madam Pomfrey still hadn't told her what disease she'd got.
"Did you read the instructions on that potion of yours? It's supposed to be last two weeks - judging by the delivery date and the state you're in, you drank it all at once. You realise you're lucky to be alive?" Dolores hadn't thought of that. It was frightening - she wanted to lose weight, not die. Just because the other girls laughed at her didn't mean that she didn't enjoy life.
"Fortunately you had the bottle with you - Professor Slughorn was able to analyse the potion from the residue and brew an antidote before you deteriorated too far. But you'll be staying here for a few weeks, Dolores, and no more starving yourself! Proper meals and nutrient potions to top it up until you're back in a healthy state. If you're worried about your weight, I will make you a sensible diet and an exercise plan too. There's no reason for you to be as thin as some of those girls - a healthy medium is the best way to go."
Dolores pulled a face - adults liked "healthy mediums". Couldn't they see she wanted to be like the others - small, dainty, and well-dressed. She wasn't convinced by the idea of this exercise plan either - she could just imagine the way the others would gather to watch her sweating away. And laugh more than ever.
"You lost a lot of weight these past couple of days - and that is not an incentive to do it again! You might not be so lucky this time, and it isn't worth risking your life and spending weeks in the hospital wing to look like everyone else. Where's the interest, if you all look identical? When you're well enough to go out, you're going shopping - your old clothes don't fit anymore." For what felt like the first time this year, Dolores smiled. She still felt awful, but she could get clothes like everyone else.
"Can I have some magazines to look at? So I know what I want when I go shopping?"
"Right now, you're going to sleep. When you wake up, there'll be food and another nutrient potion, and if you eat it then maybe I'll let you have some for a few minutes." She'd be happy for Dolores taking an interest in anything. She understood the need to look at the fashions, too - it was obvious that it wasn't just weight that Dolores had been bullied over.
Before long, Dolores was sitting up in bed, then she had a chair by the window to read her magazines. She could see that she was thinner, more like other girls, but surely they didn't feel like this all the time - she felt weak, her legs trembling when at last she was allowed to stand. She didn't look beautiful, but like a person who had been sick. Her hair was as lank as ever, until Madam Pomfrey came to sit with her and brushed it. Dolores was looking at the pictures of the women in the magazine, and Madam Pomfrey looked over her shoulder.
"Would you like curls like that?" She used her wand to set ringlets , and was rewarded with a delighted smile. She didn't usually indulge students like this, but she knew that what Dolores really needed was kindness. She didn't understand the craze for curls, but she knew that a girl of Dolores' age cared about fashion.
They went to Hogsmeade on a sunny afternoon, and Dolores was allowed to pick out whatever she wanted. An entire new wardrobe - she didn't have to worry about it fitting with what she had already. She would have enjoyed it if she hadn't felt so weak. She tried to remember everything from the magazines, but concentration was difficult. She settled for the easy solution in the end. The girls had said she dressed like a boy. How to avoid that? Pink. Skirts, knitted cardigans, fluffy textures and high heels. Madam Pomfrey sighed to herself - a ridiculous wardrobe for a fourteen-year-old - but she interfered very little.
Finally, she suggested a visit to the pet shop. There were always interesting creatures there, worth a look. There was a white kitten curled up on a cushion, and Dolores was captivated the moment she saw its wide blue eyes and it mewed softly. The weakness was gone, and she went to it purposefully. It stretched to bump its head against her hand, and she petted it. When she looked around again, her eyes were shining.
When she left the shop five minutes later, the kitten was curled in a cage which she held in her arms. Her smile faded a little as they approached the gates of the school, but still Madam Pomfrey had never seen her so happy. Suddenly she stopped, put the cage down, and was violently sick by the side of the road. The nurse said nothing, just vanished the mess and conjured a goblet of water. Her legs wobbled as she climbed the stairs, and other students passed her in silence. She could feel their stares, but they didn't dare speak in front of Madam Pomfrey.
She collapsed into her chair by the window, staring out across the grounds without taking anything in. She'd been enjoying the outing enough not to notice how long she'd been standing. Somehow Madam Pomfrey saw it coming before she did and pushed a bowl onto her lap before she vomited. The house elves brought up food for both of them, and she was coaxed into choking down the first mouthfuls.
She'd given up on not eating - it would have been impossible anyway, under Madam Pomfrey's watchful eye - and in a way was relieved to have no choice. It was wasting all the trouble she'd gone to in losing the weight in the first place, but she enjoyed the Hogwarts food and had missed it. She could eat without feeling guilty - she had no choice, after all.
The kitten purred and rubbed against her hand when she let it out of the cage - she had a private room in the hospital wing now as she would be here for some time. Its fur was fine and soft, pure white. It was remarkably heavy when she picked it up, and as she cuddled it up, she realised it had no name.
She looked helplessly at the nurse. "What shall I call it? Is it a boy or a girl?" Madam Pomfrey laughed - well, Dolores couldn't see anything funny about the situation. Had the nurse found the entire day funny? Had she been laughing behind Dolores' back all day? It was a kind laugh, but to Dolores it suddenly seemed mocking.
"She's a girl. It's up to you what you call her - you must have some ideas." It was a challenge, and then she'd wait to hear what Dolores came up with, and when the ideas were rubbish she'd think Dolores was stupid. More stupid than she already did. Dolores wouldn't let her - she wracked her brains for something good.
The nurse left her to think, but Dolores still hadn't decided when she came back to remind her to go to bed. The kitten curled up next to her, and Dolores stroked her absent-mindedly. Soft, white, and sweet. If the kitten judged, she didn't show it. She was asleep, not even caring that her new owner was trying to name her.
"Angel." Dolores said the name out loud. There was no-one in the room to hear her except the kitten, who didn't stir. A pretty little angel - none of the other kittens would ever laugh at her. Dolores wished she was a kitten. But then she'd probably be a fat ugly one that no-one wanted, stuck in a muggle rescue centre. Angel wouldn't want to know her. But she wasn't a cat, and Angel was sleeping happily next to her. Maybe cats really weren't interested in that kind of thing. It made a nice change.
Angel grew quickly. From a tiny ball of fluff, she grew to, well- a large ball of fluff. Dolores slowly recovered - she'd never expected that moment when she drank the potion to affect her in this way for so long. In a way, it was a relief - no-one visited, so she didn't have to listen to them laughing. She might have enjoyed it if she hadn't felt so weak and sick. As the weeks passed, it became boring.
Teachers began to visit, teaching her privately. She had lost a lot of time - would she ever catch up? Later she was allowed to leave the hospital wing alone, heading to the offices or classrooms for these extra lessons. She walked straight forward, ignoring the stares and whispers that followed. Remedial lessons. In the common rooms and dormitories, in the corridors, at meals, they must be talking about her. Dumb Dolores, unable to go to lessons because she was so far behind. Couldn't even read instructions on a bottle.
She spent most of the summer in her room with just Angel for company. Her parents were shocked at what she'd done, and lectured her as though she were stupid - and as though they had some control over her. They acted like she would do it again if they didn't stop her - her mother wandered in and out of her room at intervals throughout the day, making sure she hadn't done anything stupid, and if she tried to go out they found excuses to keep her at home.
She had no intention of doing the same thing again. If she bought another potion, she would follow the instructions on the bottle. But why should she? She was afraid - Madam Pomfrey said that it could easily have killed her. She needed to be alright, to look after Angel. And she'd lost so much weight the first time, but no-one had seen her because she'd been stuck in the hospital wing.
Boarding the Hogwarts Express - was it a relief or not? She'd spent most of the time lying on her bed, often staring unseeingly at a textbook as she tried unsuccessfully to catch up. She couldn't stand to spend long in the same room as her parents, seeing them watch her warily. But what was there at school? More laughing, more remedial lessons, no doubt more meals under Madam Pomfrey's watchful eye and bitter-tasting nutrient potions.
She was pretty much normal weight, and when she looked in the mirror she saw that she was no longer the great mound of flesh she had been before. But what was the first comment she heard as she entered the station? Here come fatty. Fat, ugly Dolores. Still fat. And she realised that however hard she tried, they would never leave her alone. Her hair was set in perfect curls - Madam Pomfrey had taught her the spell - but no-one commented on that. Angel in the cage was the only one who didn't hiss with scorn. On the train, she found an empty compartment and opened the cage to let the kitten out onto her lap. No-one else joined her - they peered through the glass, laughed, and carried on.
The lady arrived with the trolley and out of habit Dolores bought herself cake and chocolate frogs. It was only after she had paid that she looked at the small pile and realised that this was what had made her so fat in the first place. But what was the point in resisting, it if made no difference to what anyone else said. She tucked most of the frogs into her bag for later - something she had never done before - but picked apart the cake and enjoyed the sticky sweetness when she finally licked the icing off her fingers. Angel nibbled at a stray crumb.
At the end of seventh year, Dolores did not join the heartfelt goodbyes of the other girls. She was the first out of the door, finally free to go somewhere where she wouldn't be judged. She would prove to them all that she wasn't stupid. She could finally leave the place where she'd been trapped for seven years, the embarrassment of her inability to read the instructions on a bottle, the shame of not knowing how to behave like a true Slytherin, and the laughter and whispers following her everywhere.
And Angel would come with her - she had no goodbyes to say, as her one friend would stay with her.
A/N: I'm not saying Umbridge's later actions were justified, but no-one is pure evil. She could have dealt with it differently, but she didn't. After writing this, I can no longer hate her.
In the next chapter, we move to Luna Lovegood.
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