Sunday, November 14, 2010

‘There,’ said Umbridge sweetly

, ‘we're getting better at controlling our temper already, aren't we? Now, you are going to be doing some lines for me, Mr Potter. No, not with your quill,’ she added, as Harry bent down to open

his bag. ‘You're going to be using a rather special one of mine. Here you are.’

She handed him a long, thin black quill with an unusually sharp point.

‘I want you to write, I must not tell lies,’ she told him softly.

‘How many times?’ Harry asked, with a creditable imitation of politeness.

‘Oh, as long as it takes for the message to sink in,’ said Umbridge sweetly. ‘Off you go.’

She moved over to her desk, sat down and bent over a stack of parchment that looked like essays for marking. Harry raised the sharp black quill, then realised what was missing.

‘You haven't given me any ink,’ he said.

‘Oh, you won't need ink,’ said Professor Umbridge, with the merest suggestion of a laugh in her voice.

Harry placed the point of the quill on the paper and wrote: I must not tell lies.

He let out a gasp of pain. The words had appeared on the parchment in what appeared to be shining red ink. At the same time, the words had appeared on the back of Harry's right hand, cut into his skin as though traced

there by a scalpel - yet even as he stared at the shining cut, the skin healed over again, leaving the place where it had been slightly redder than before but quite smooth.

Harry looked round at Umbridge. She was watching him, her wide, toadlike mouth stretched in a smile.


‘Nothing,’ said Harry quietly.

He looked back at the parchment, placed the quill on it once more, wrote I must not tell lies, and felt the searing pain on the back of his hand for a second time; once again, the words had been cut into his skin; once again,

they healed over seconds later.

And on it went. Again and again Harry wrote the words on the parchment in what he soon came to realise was not ink, but his own blood. And, again and again, the words were cut into the back of his hand, healed, and

reappeared the next time he set quill to parchment.

Darkness fell outside Umbridge's window. Harry did not ask when he would be allowed to stop. He did not even check his watch. He knew she was watching him for signs of weakness and he was not going to show any, not

even if he had to sit there all night, cutting open his own hand with this quill ...

‘Come here,’ she said, after what seemed hours.

He stood up. His hand was stinging painfully. When he looked down at it he saw that the cut had healed, but that the skin there was red raw.

‘Hand,’ she said.

He extended it. She took it in her own. Harry repressed a shudder as she touched him with her thick, stubby fingers on which she wore a number of ugly old rings.

‘Tut, tut, I don't seem to have made much of an impression yet,’ she said, smiling. ‘Well, we'll just have to try again tomorrow evening, won't we? You may go.’

Harry left her office without a word. The school was quite deserted; it was surely past midnight. He walked slowly up the corridor, then, when he had turned the corner and was sure she would not hear him, broke into a run.

He had not had time to practise Vanishing Spells, had not written a single dream in his dream diary and had not finished the drawing of the Bowtruckle, nor had he written his essays. He skipped breakfast next morning to

scribble down a couple of made-up dreams for Divination, their first lesson, and was surprised to find a dishevelled Ron keeping him company.

‘How come you didn't do it last night?’ Harry asked, as Ron stared wildly around the common room for inspiration. Ron, who had been fast asleep when Harry got back to the dormitory, muttered something about ‘doing other

stuff, bent low over his parchment and scrawled a few words.

‘That'll have to do,’ he said, slamming the diary shut. ‘I've said I dreamed I was buying a new pair of shoes, she can't make anything weird out of that, can she?’

They hurried off to North Tower together.

‘How was detention with Umbridge, anyway? What did she make you do?’

Harry hesitated for a fraction of a second, then said, ‘Lines.’

‘That's not too bad, then, eh?’ said Ron.

‘Nope,’ said Harry.

‘Hey—I forgot— did she let you off for Friday?’

‘No,’ said Harry.

Ron groaned sympathetically.
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