Ron pulls Hermione aside Friday morning. They’re in the common room, waiting for Harry to come down so they can head to breakfast. Ron speaks softly so that the other Gryffindors don’t overhear.
“Hermione, when Harry gets here, take a look at his hand.”
“Why?” she asks.
Harry appears in the doorway to the boy’s dormitory, pulling his bag higher up on his shoulder.
“I didn’t tell you anything!” Ron says quickly.
Harry spots them in the corner and joins them.
“Morning,” he says.
“Morning,” Hermione replies. She skims Harry’s hands with her eyes, but doesn't see anything.
“Let’s go, shall we?” says Ron. He starts toward the portrait hole, missing Hermione’s questioning look.
It takes until lunchtime for Hermione to see what Ron was talking about. There are angry red scratches scabbed over on the back of Harry’s right hand.
“Ooh, Harry, that looks horrible,” Hermione says. “What happened?”
Ron, who had been shooting Hermione anxious, furtive glances all morning, looks relieved that she’s caught on.
“What?” Harry asks, immediately putting both his hands under the table. “What does?”
“Your hand,” she says. “Let me see.”
“It’s nothing,” he replies, holding out his left hand. “See?”
“The other one, Harry,” Hermione sighs.
He glares at his plate, but silently holds it out. Hermione takes his hand gently, turning it over to see. The scratches are long and thin, too regular to be accidental. They almost look like…words.
“Harry—” she begins, but Harry cuts her off.
“I don’t want to talk about it, Hermione.” He glances up at the staff table, then pulls his hand back and looks determinedly at his lap.
Hermione look up at the teachers, too. Professor Umbridge is watching her, a smug smile on her wide mouth. A cold realization makes Hermione’s heart begin to race.
“I’ll see you in class,” Harry says abruptly. He gets up, swings his bag onto his shoulder, and walks away.
“Harry, wait!” Hermione calls. She jumps up to follow. Ron gets halfway out of his seat, but Hermione says, “Let me handle this,” and he sinks back.
“Sure,” he says faintly. “See you in class.”
She catches up to Harry at the foot of the marble staircase.
“Harry, hold on!”
He turns, but only reluctantly. “What is it?” he asks, annoyed. “I want to go to the bathroom.”
“That’s from your detention, isn’t it?” Hermione accuses. “I thought it was lines, Harry.”
“I don’t want to talk about this.”
“We need to. Wait!”
He’s moving again, rolling his shoulders in agitation. Hermione follows, feeling her chest constrict in sympathy. They get up to the second floor before Harry rounds on her.
“Stop following me!”
“Harry, I want to help you.”
“I don’t need help. Just leave me alone.”
“Please, I just want to know what happened,” Hermione says.
He looks away. “It’s nothing.”
She moves a little closer. “It’s not nothing, Harry.”
He sighs, looking down the stairs again.
“Let’s sit down,” Hermione suggests. She starts to head onto the second floor. Much to her relief, Harry follows.
Hermione turns a corner and takes a seat on a window ledge, glad that everyone is at lunch and the hallway is deserted. Harry sits beside her, rubbing his hands together.
“It is lines,” he says. Hermione bites her tongue and waits, watching his face. Harry glances up at her, then continues. “But whatever I write.... It gets cut into my hand.”
Hermione experiences a blinding moment of fury. She’s never felt this way before. There is no fear. She takes a deep breath.
“She makes me write, ‘I must not tell lies.’”
Hermione takes another breath, and the fury subsides. Tears fill her eyes and she whispers, “Oh, Harry.”
“It’s fine,” he protests. “Don’t cry, Hermione.”
“Harry, this isn’t right. Hogwarts can’t let this happen.” She brushes the annoying tears out of her eyes. “This is torture.”
“I can handle it. I mean, it’s nothing on the Cruciatus Curse, right?”
She jumps up. “You don’t deserve this, Harry. I’m going to Professor McGonagall.”
“No,” Harry says firmly, and she stops two steps away. “I don’t want anyone else involved.”
“No, really, Hermione. This is between me and Umbridge. And I don’t want to give her the satisfaction of knowing that she’s gotten to me.”
“Gotten to you?” Hermione asks. “Harry, if the other teachers knew—”
“They won’t,” he says. “Please, Hermione.”
She frowns. “What if one of the first years gets detention? What if Colin says something she doesn’t like, and she starts doing this to him? Or Dennis, or Ginny?”
Harry looks uncomfortable. “They’re not stupid,” he says.
“Would you let something like this happen to them?” Hermione presses.
“It’s not,” he answers. “Happening to them, I mean.”
Hermione starts to argue further, but Harry hastens to say, “If one of them gets detention, I’ll do something. But until then, it’s just me and Umbridge. Please, Hermione.”
She sighs, but nods. “Alright, Harry. That’s your decision.”
After classes end that day, Hermione goes to the library. She stays there until curfew, and then makes her way back to Gryffindor Tower.
Saturday morning dawns crisp and bright. Hogwarts wakes slowly, its occupants meandering to the Great Hall in sleepy waves.
Hermione rises early. She packs her bag carefully, goes down the stairs to the common room, and leaves Gryffindor Tower. She peeks into the Great Hall; most of the teachers eat at the same time. Umbridge is sitting in her spot at the high table. Hermione turns and goes back up the marble staircase.
Twenty minutes later, Dolores Umbridge finishes scanning the Great Hall for troublemakers and returns to her office. Outside it, she finds one of the sweetest things she has ever seen in her life.
Hermione Granger, her wand pointing at Umbridge’s office door. Pointing at a sign, newly affixed to it. A sign that reads: Dolores Umbridge Is Here To Teach You Lies.
“What are you doing, dear?” Umbridge asks in her most honeyed tone.
Hermione whips around. Umbridge smiles. The girl puts her wand back into her pocket. She doesn’t say anything.
“Did you put this up?” Umbridge asks, stalking a little closer. Hermione doesn’t respond. Umbridge points her wand at the door. “Finite.”
It should make the sign pop off, negating whatever adherent spell the girl used. But it doesn’t. Umbridge tries again, with more concentration.
“Finite.” The sign remains.
“I used a Permanent Sticking Charm,” Hermione says smugly.
Umbridge turns to her slowly, zeroing in on her target. “I see,” she says.
Hermione squares her shoulders.
“I am giving you detention, starting right now,” Umbridge tells her. “Come into my office.”
Hermione follows her inside, looking at the atrocious kitten plates on the walls. She could almost vomit just looking at them, or maybe that’s her nerves.
Hermione sits at the unoccupied table beside Umbridge’s desk. There’s a piece of parchment on it. Umbridge reaches into her desk and slams a quill down in front of her.
“I want you to write ‘I am a stupid Muggleborn,’” Umbridge says. “You really shouldn’t have wasted time making the charm permanent. You could have gotten away. I would have found you though, of course.” She smiles. “Start writing, Miss Granger.”
Hermione steels herself and lifts the short, sharp-tipped red quill. She presses down deliberately and writes I am a stupid Muggleborn. She bites her lips together when the words open on the back of her hand, cut there as cleanly as though by a doctor. She swallows as the wounds heal over, and writes the message again.
Filch arrives about half an hour later. He and Umbridge contemplate the door for a while, and finally decide they have no choice but to remove it and replace it with a new one. He takes it off its hinges and walks off down the hallway with the door in his arms.
Despite the now-constant stinging in her hand, Hermione smiles.
Students begin to walk by. They saw Filch carrying the door, just as she had hoped. The rumors begin to spread. Hermione Granger is doing detention in Umbridge’s office. It’s Umbridge versus Hermione, go check it out. They’ve got the door open.
And so students peer into the room as they traipse slowly past. They ogle, staring from Hermione to Umbridge. And Hermione waves to them with the blood red quill and her bloody hand. The students gape at her.
Finally Filch returns with a new door cannibalized from an unused classroom. He fits it into the doorframe, and Hermione is left with only Umbridge for company.
She forces her to stay the entire day. By three, Hermione’s hand is no longer healing. Blood drips down her hand, smearing the words on the page. The pain isn’t contained in just her hand anymore; it’s moved up almost to her shoulder.
Hermione thinks she understands, now, why Harry didn’t want her to tell anyone. This was a battle of wills. The kind no child should ever have to experience with a person of authority. The kind she would not let her friends suffer.
Dinnertime comes around, and Hermione’s feeling a bit dizzy. She’s on her third piece of parchment, and already it’s unintelligible from the bloodstains. She wonders if the words will scar onto her hand.
Umbridge pushes back her chair and comes over to Hermione.
“Hand,” she says.
Hermione lays the quill down and glares at Umbridge. The rage she felt the day before comes back, and she imagines herself pushing Umbridge over, running out of the office, and telling everyone in the school what this monster was doing.
Umbridge takes her hand, inspecting it with a small smile on her face.
“I’m afraid that’s not quite good enough yet, Miss Granger,” she says. “You’ll come back here tomorrow morning. Off you go.”
Hermione turns mechanically. She picks up her bag, and with her body between herself and Umbridge, she takes the bloody quill and leaves.
Harry and Ron are waiting for her outside. It’s a surprise to see them. That wasn’t part of her plan. She bites her lip as they stand up and come to her.
“Are you okay?”
“Let me see,” Harry says. He reaches for her hand, but she draws it back.
“Harry, please go get Professor McGonagall,” she says quietly. “Tell her I’ll be in the Hospital Wing. Ron, come help me?”
They both nod. Harry takes off at a run. Maybe the paleness of Hermione’s face has him worried. Ron walks at her side as she heads numbly upstairs.
“Are you okay?” he asks in a low voice.
“I think Madam Pomfrey will give me Essence of Dittany,” she answers.
Ron stares at her.
When they reach the Hospital Wing, Ron pushes the door open.
“Madam Pomfrey!” he calls. “We need you! Please!”
Hermione walks to the nearest bed and sits down, cradling her hand against her chest. The world spins around her. She swallows against the bile in her mouth.
Suddenly Madam Pomfrey stands in front of her. “—Granger?” she says.
“W-what?” Hermione asks.
“What’s wrong with her?” Ron asks.
“Please go wait outside, Mr. Weasley,” Madam Pomfrey says. “I have to take care of my patient.”
Ron gives Hermione a worried look, and then steps away.
“What happened?” Madam Pomfrey asks her gently.
Hermione holds out her hand, still numb. Madam Pomfrey takes it, staring at the blood, the deep black cuts underneath. She gasps a little. Hermione closes her eyes.
She holds out her other hand, still clutching the quill. Madam Pomfrey takes it and stares at it for several unfathomable moments.
Hermione looks up at her with tears in her eyes. Madam Pomfrey’s face turns steely. She flicks her wand, and a cart flies toward them from her office. One drop of purple potion, and the burning in Hermione’s hand disappears completely. She takes a deep breath.
“I need to take some pictures of this,” the matron says apologetically.
Hermione nods. “I need you to.”
Madam Pomfrey summons a camera from her office. There’s dust on it, which she brushes off before tapping it with her wand. The camera lifts itself into the air and snaps a picture of Hermione sitting on the bed. It keeps clicking as Madam Pomfrey continues her ministrations.
She siphons the blood away with just a flick of her wand. Underneath, the cuts are still oozing, but the words are clear. She taps them with her wand, and the bleeding stops. Two drops of Dittany, and they’ve healed completely. The skin looks a little irritated, but she soothes a balm of Murtlap Essence over it and then wraps Hermione’s whole hand in clean white bandages. The whole time, the camera clicks away, capturing the evidence that Hermione needed the world to see.
Finally, the care is done. Hermione looks at her spotless, now-tingling hand. She swallows hard. She cries. Madam Pomfrey sits down on the bed beside her and holds her in a strong grip. She brings a bottle up to Hermione’s lips, and lets her take a sip. Almost immediately, the shivers wracking her whole body begin to calm. She takes a deep breath.
There’s a knock on the Hospital Wing door. It opens, and Professor McGonagall strides in, closely followed by Harry and Ron, who both look sick with worry.
“What happened?” Professor McGonagall asks, sweeping toward them.
“I think you should summon the Headmaster,” Madam Pomfrey says. She gestures at the camera.
McGonagall looks from Hermione, still breathing deeply in Madam Pomfrey’s embrace, to the hovering camera. She takes it and holds it to her eye. Her lips press together as she sees the images it contains, her expression becoming more and more dangerous.
Harry and Ron come to Hermione’s side. Harry sits next to her while Ron pulls up a chair in front.
“Are you okay?” Harry asks.
Hermione shakes her head, but tries to smile through watery eyes.
“You shouldn’t have done this,” Harry says, sounding both worried and awed at the same time.
“I had to do something,” Hermione whispered. “She couldn’t get away with it, Harry.”
McGonagall finishes looking at the pictures and lowers the camera. Her face is murderous. She points her wand at the door and a silvery cat Patronus bursts out. Its paws slam the floor as it bounds away.
Hermione leans into Harry. Madam Pomfrey stands up, and Ron takes her place. The three of them sit on the bed, and wait for whatever the professors are going to do.
McGonagall approaches them. “Hermione,” she says softly. Her nostrils are still thin and her lips pursed, but her eyes are soft. “I need you to tell me what happened.”
Hermione tells the story. She explains that she found out that Umbridge’s detention methods were thoroughly abominable, and that she needed to do something. She tells of researching Permanent Sticking Charms in the library last night, fashioning a sign to really tick Umbridge off, and then waiting until she knew she would be caught to put it up. She mentions all the witnesses who saw her in Umbridge’s detention because of the missing door. Finally, she points to the quill on the cart where Madam Pomfrey had placed it. McGonagall looks like she wants to crush it in her hands.
The hospital doors open again, and now Dumbledore is striding toward them. So Hermione retells her story from the beginning. Dumbledore listens raptly, but as she makes her way through the tale, Hermione senses the anger radiating from him. His face remains intent and encouraging, but the hairs on her arms and the back of her neck stand up. Hermione has not had much reason to be this close to Dumbledore. She finds she does not like it.
When she has finished, Dumbledore stands up from his conjured chair.
“I am so sorry that this was done to you, Miss Granger,” he says. “You have acted nobly, and for that I award you fifty House points.”
“And ten points for proper execution of a Permanent Sticking Charm,” McGonagall adds fiercely.
Hermione looks down at her bandaged hand. “Professors,” she says softly, because she’s really not sure she wants to say this. She steels herself and continues. “I didn’t do this for the points. Obviously I didn’t want to be hurt like this. Just….” She takes a breath and meets McGonagall’s ferocious eyes. “Make sure she doesn’t do this ever again.”
Dumbledore nods, and there’s something dangerous in his expression.
Later that evening, students see the Minister of Magic striding up the great lawn, accompanied by two Aurors and his scribe, Percy Weasley. Rumors about their visit begin to circulate immediately. Fred and George, claiming they had followed their elder brother in the hopes of jinxing him while his back was turned, tell the story—to anyone who would listen—of their daring eavesdropping raid outside Dumbledore’s office. There they sat, waiting and listening, and overheard, quite by accident you see, McGonagall’s furious voice making it quite clear that Umbridge, and Fudge, had crossed a line that was unforgivable.
Umbridge is fired from Hogwarts that night. Even the Minister signs off on it. He has to, especially because there’s already a copy of the photographs heading to the Daily Prophet. The Aurors escort Umbridge from the grounds, and Fudge and Dumbledore are left in an uncomfortable stalemate.
Madam Pomfrey keeps Hermione overnight to spare her any interrogation from her fellow students. She permits Harry and Ron to stay later than usual in the Hospital Wing, but finally around eight o’clock, she asks them to leave.
“We’ll see you in the morning!” Ron says from the doorway.
“Good night,” Hermione says to them.
“Hermione?” Harry asks. “Thanks.”
She smiles, and they two of them leave. Madam Pomfrey makes sure she’s settled for the night before retiring to her quarters. Hermione knits for a while, waiting until almost midnight to be sure the matron is asleep. Then she speaks into the silence.
There’s a loud crack and the elf appears. He looks around and then bows to Hermione.
“Did it work, Miss?” he asks.
“Yes,” Hermione smiles. “Thank you for your help, Dobby.” She holds out the purple hat she has just knit. “I made this for you.”
The elf accepts it as though it is a precious treasure. “Anything for one of Harry Potter’s friends,” he says proudly. “It was an honor.”
“Mine, too,” Hermione says. “Do you think you could do me one more favor, Dobby?”
“Dobby will try,” he says.
“Filch took the sign and the door somewhere,” Hermione says. “I think it’d be a nice thing to have in the Gryffindor common room, don’t you?”
A wide smile covers the elf’s face. “Dobby will do it, Miss!” and he Disapparates with another crack.
When Hermione returns to Gryffindor Tower the next day, she is welcomed by a storm of applause, the delicious smell of elf-made food, and a graffitied door just waiting for a Permanent Sticking Charm.
With her House-mates cheering her on, she bewitches the door high up onto the wall, and fixes it there forever.