Dolores Umbridge yawned and stretched under the thick green and silver comforter. She strained her ears for sound, but the girls' dormitory was silent. She parted the heavy green curtains which surrounded her four-poster bed and surveyed the room. The other beds were empty. Her roommates had already gone to breakfast.
Dolores' gaze rested on the large, long-haired orange cat which was snoozing at the foot of her bed. She swiftly grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and yanked it towards her. The cat made a wild, desperate struggle to elude her grasp, but it was all in vain. He had been declawed and his teeth had been filed down. Resigned to his fate, he gave an angry growl as the girl squeezed him tightly to her chest.
"Oh, Mr. Binkles, wasn't that nice of the girls to let me sleep in! They are so considerate! I'd better hurry and get dressed or I'll miss breakfast."
Dolores swung her feet over the side of the bed and slipped them into a pair of fluffy pink slippers which were neatly placed by her night table. They matched her fuzzy pink pajamas which were imprinted with a pattern of bright pink, sad-eyed kittens. She smoothed out the folds of her black school robe. Black was such an ugly color. No softness or prettiness about it. At least she could accessorize it with some pretty ribbons and jewelry.
"Be smart and take care of yourself, but never forget that you are a girl! Your femininity is a powerful asset! Remember, you can win people over with sweetness." Her mama had given Dolores this piece of advice, along with other words of wisdom before sending her off to Hogwarts. She had also given her the big, leather-bound book which Dolores kept with her at all times.
Dolores brushed her hair and carefully tied a large pink satin bow into her light brown curls. She was a short, squat girl with a broad face and large mouth. "Toad face" was the name that she had heard the children in the other Houses whisper at her. She had made careful notations of their names in her book.
Dolores was happy to see that she wasn't the last person entering the Great Hall for breakfast. Other students were also making their way into the room, some still yawning and in a sleep disheveled state. A sleepy-eyed Gryffindor Sixth Year bumped up against her, blinking stupidly, his robe rumpled and his hair uncombed. What a slob. So impolite--he had not even begged her pardon for roughly bumping against her. He needed to be taught some manners and be made more aware of his lack of grooming.
"Diffindo!" she said softly as she pointed her wand at his back. The seam of his robes split cleanly down the center. He continued to shuffle along, yawning and oblivious that his bare legs and underwear were exposed to everyone in the Great Hall. He'd catch on soon enough, judging by the giggles and outright guffaws of the other diners as he passed their tables.
Dolores spotted her roommates clustered at the left end of the Slytherin table. There was still food on the table. They were chatting and laughing, unaware that she was making her way towards them.
"Petrella Knightly just sent me an owl this morning and told me that she is engaged! She's my cousin, so she asked me to be a bridesmaid. My aunt has written to a famous designer in Paris who will be designing her dress and the gowns of the entire bridal party." Druella Rosier was holding court, as usual. Her eyes and lips looked dark against her white skin and pale blonde hair. She smiled her satisfied, superior smile as the other girls cooed and complimented her.
Dolores sat down and the table went silent.
"Well, isn't that nice, Druella! A wedding! I do like weddings, but I've only attended one. That was when your older sister was married, Sabina. It was so lovely, wasn't it?"
"Yes, it was," Sabina Selwyn mumbled into her oatmeal. She was Dolores' third cousin.
"So, your aunt is getting a designer from Paris? The dressmakers here are not to her taste?"
Druella gave Dolores an icy stare but did not answer. Laura Ward glared at her with undisguised loathing. Dolores helped herself to poached eggs on toast and a grapefruit half.
"Oh, look what a lovely shade of pink this is!" she exclaimed. "Wouldn't it be pretty if the bridesmaids gowns were this shade of pink?"
"No, that would be awful!" Laura Ward snapped. "That shade of pink is girlish and insipid! Druella's cousin has better taste!"
"They will most certainly not be pink!" Druella stood up. "Sabina, come with me. You too, Laura. I missed Potions yesterday and I need to get the notes before class begins."
"I heard that you're getting the notes from Cygnus Black," Dolores remarked as she buttered her toast.
"Who told you that?" Druella cried.
"Oh, it really doesn't matter, does it? I mean it isn't a secret that you like him. Or is it?" Dolores looked up and smiled sweetly. Druella pursed her lips, turned on her heel and strode out of the Great Hall, followed by Sabina and Laura. Dolores watched as they left.
"It's all the fault of Laura Ward," she said more to herself, but also for the benefit of Hortense Baddock. Hortense was the only other girl whom Druella had excluded. She was tall, wide and spotty. The thick lenses of her glasses magnified her large pale eyes.
"Huh? Are you talking to me, Dolores?"
"Things should be happy in our little group," Dolores went on, ignoring Hortense's question. "Do you remember what the prefect said on the very first night? She said that we would be like family! Slytherin sisters!"
"Yes, that is what Pandora said," Hortense nodded.
"We should be, but we are not. It is all because of Laura Wart!" Dolores said emphatically.
"You mean Laura Ward?"
"No, Laura Wart. She is a wart, a nasty blemish on Slytherin House." Dolores leaned in closer to Hortense. "Do you know that she's a half-blood?"
"Is she? Dolores, do you know that for certain?"
"I certainly do. Do you know what I hate more than anything else, Hortense? People who tell lies." Dolores sighed and shook her head.
"Laura has been telling lies since we first met her. Do you see how she slavishly follows Druella around, pretending that she is as pure-blooded as the rest of us?"
Hortense stared, her mouth agape. Dolores smiled benignly at her.
"Of course it isn't Druella and Sabina's faults. They are being duped. If it weren't for Laura and her poisonous lies, we would all be good friends. At least Druella, Sabina and I would be good friends," Dolores said pleasantly. She smiled serenely at Hortense, who stared back, mouth still agape.
The History of Magic class was the perfect place to get things done. While the ghostly Professor Binns droned on about obscure wizards, witches and events, the students read magazines, passed notes, slept or completed homework from other classes. Dolores updated the entries in her big leather-bound book.
The book contained the names of several Hogwarts students, all with notations in Dolores' spidery script. Some of the names had check marks next to them.
"Violet Davies--Second Year Ravenclaw. Made a frog face at me in the Charms hallway. In the infirmary for two days, suffering from Conjunctivitis Curse." There was a check mark next to this name.
"Paul Redford--Third Year Gryffindor. Hates cats. Started sprouting ginger fur on his face, along with ears and a tail after drinking a goblet of pumpkin juice with dinner. Rushed to the infirmary." There was a check mark next to this name as well.
"Rubeus Hagrid--Groundskeeper. May have some giant blood in him. Doesn't appear to be completely human. A crime and sin against the natural order."
"Barnaby and Betty Kirkland--First Year Hufflepuffs. Twin Mudbloods. Too many Mudbloods in Hogwarts this year, but most are in Hufflepuff. None known in Slytherin--must look into this."
The name of "Laura Ward--Second Year Slytherin" had several notations next to it. In big bold red letters at the end was one word: "Liar!" It was underlined several times.
Dolores hated liars. Her father was a liar--a big, fat liar. He had lied to her mother numerous times, about the state of his funds and the steadiness of his work. Her mother had thrown him out of the house years ago after she had discovered that he had been fired from his latest job. He had lived in a room above the Slytherin Club for a short time before moving to a less fashionable address on Knockturn Alley. Dolores had not seen him in years. She did not want to see him. She had thrown away the few letters he had sent to her by owl. He had not written to her since she had started school at Hogwarts. She wondered briefly if he was still alive, but didn't really care.
"We will manage fine without him, sweetheart," Mama had told her. "We do not tolerate liars. They are just as bad as Mudbloods. Keep your enemies in check, Dolores! Remember that preemptive measures are your best defense!"
Mama had given her the big leather-bound book so that she could keep records of her allies and enemies. It was quite useful. A check mark indicated that the enemy had been avenged. A question mark indicated a possible ally. A star indicated a desirable with whom she wished to ally herself.
Druella and Sabina both had stars next to their names. They were both from wealthy pure-blood families. Dolores was also a pure-blood. By right she should have been part of their inner-circle. She blamed her exclusion on Laura.
Laura Ward presented a conundrum. She was standing in the way of Dolores' plan, but she was a Slytherin. What was it that their prissy prefect, Pandora Lloyd-Jones had said to them that first night? Slytherins stuck together and looked out for each other. Speak no ill of a fellow or sister Slytherin, and do them no harm.
Dolores drummed her fingers irritably as she stared at Laura's name and the numerous hurts and insults that she had endured since they had been sorted into Slytherin. Laura had ingratiated herself with Druella and Sabina, leaving Dolores with dunderheaded Hortense. Certainly Laura was not abiding by the Slytherin code. Well, what was she to do then? The girl had not left her with a viable choice. She was also a disgusting liar. Imagine, trying to pass herself off as a pure-blood when her father was a Mudblood!
Dolores had found out this bit of information by chance. Mama had been having tea with one of her Selwyn cousins when the woman had made an off-hand remark.
"Thank goodness Celia Ward's little girl Laura was sorted into Slytherin! I know that she was anxious considering that the girl's father was a Mudblood!" Mrs. Selwyn smirked as she sipped her tea.
"Whatever became of him?" Mrs. Umbridge inquired as she passed a plate of biscuits.
"Who knows? The marriage didn't last and Celia had to return in disgrace to her family with a new baby and a lifetime of regrets and "I told you so" comments. She was quite relieved when Laura was sorted into Slytherin. She's hoping that it will give her daughter a fresh start in society."
"That's hoping large. A half-blood in Slytherin will always be second class. It looks like the girl is keeping her blood status a secret. I certainly would in her situation!" Mrs. Umbridge remarked. She passed a cup of tea to Dolores, smiling as she did so. Dolores quietly drank in all of the information, along with her tea.
The students jumped as the bell rang. Dolores gathered her book and headed off towards the library. She hoped that the special book was where she had left it.
There was only a short period of time left before her next class. She quietly entered the library and passed down the rows until she came to the one that she wanted. All of the tomes concerning the History of Magic were here. It was not a popular section with either students or staff, and was an ideal hiding place for the book that she wanted.
On the bottom shelf, tucked behind Volumes I and II of the Great Troll Wars was an old book. The dark brown cover was cracked and flaking, the pages fragile. It was a book that she had taken from home. An old book that had been in her family for generations. A book that would have gotten her expelled from Hogwarts if it were found in her possession. Better to keep it safe in the library. If it were ever found here there was no way that it could ever be associated with her.
Dolores found the page that she wanted. She read the spell over and over until she had memorized it by heart. Satisfied, she tucked the book away behind the large tomes.
That evening Dolores complained of a bad stomach. She looked pale, flushed and sweaty as she waddled off towards the infirmary. She was not in her bed the next morning.
"I hope that it isn't anything catching," Hortense thought as she made her way to Potions class. Dolores had sicked up in the lavatory--that was not a good sign. As she neared the classroom, a small parcel on the ground caught her eye.
Hortense crouched down to pick it up. It was a student's Potions kit, complete with small glass vials, measuring spoons and a small silver knife for chopping roots. She examined the name embossed on the front of the pouch: "L. Ward."
Hortense lumbered over to the table where the other Second Year Slytherin girls were sitting. Class had already begun and they were measuring and chopping ingredients for the Potions. Professor Slughorn had his back turned to them as he directed the chalk to mark out the homework instructions on the blackboard.
"Here you are, Laura," she said as she handed the kit to Laura. "You must've dropped these outside."
"Thank you, Hortense. I was looking for that this morning--it must have fallen out of my bag yesterday."
"Where's Dolores?" Sabina asked.
"She complained of a bad stomach last night. She went to the infirmary and hasn't returned."
"Well, Potions will certainly be a lot more pleasant without her!" Druella remarked. "So, Laura, will you be joining us this season for my Christmas party? We missed you last year."
"Perhaps, I'll have to see," Laura murmured as she concentrated on slicing roots for the potion.
"All of my pure-blood friends and their mothers attended, except you. I recall that you were ill? You and your mother should be able to come this year. Mother has already reserved a room and prepaid for the guests at the Slytherin Club. It just would not do to be short again this year."
Laura frowned as she continued to saw at the roots. Hortense glumly added the ingredients to her cauldron. Neither she nor Dolores had been invited, either last year or this year to the elegant soiree.
"Why isn't this knife cutting?" Laura said in frustration.
"You will be attending, won't you, Laura? I mean you are a pure-blood, aren't you?"
Laura looked up indignantly at Druella, knife poised in mid-air.
"Of course I'm a pure-blood! Why would you ask?"
When Hortense was questioned about what happened next, she had trouble describing it. Partly because it happened so fast, partly because it was so horrible she wished to obliterate it from her mind.
Still grasping the knife, Laura's hand shot into her mouth and began sawing away at her tongue. A scream erupted from her throat, but it was more of a hideous groan as she struggled to pull the knife out of her mouth. Blood bubbled from her lips, streaming onto the table.
Druella screamed; Sabina fainted. Hortense remained frozen to the spot. She watched in horror as Eliot Pucey wrestled with Laura's arms in a desperate attempt to pull the knife out of her mouth. Patrick Farley tried casting several counter-curses.
"They're not working!" he cried in panic.
"Stand aside, stand aside--what in the name of Merlin is going on!" Professor Slughorn made his way through the crowd of panicked students to see what the commotion was. He pointed his wand and uttered a counter-curse in a commanding tone. Laura collapsed to the floor. The bloody knife clattered at her side.
"Don't touch that!" Professor Slughorn bellowed. He picked it up with his handkerchief. "Pucey, Farley--take that girl to the infirmary! Class is dismissed!
All of the Slytherin students assembled in the Common Room two nights later. A sober-eyed Professor Slughorn informed them that Laura would not be returning to Hogwarts.
"Is she all right, Professor?" Pandora Lloyd-Jones asked.
"The healers were able to restore her tongue," Professor Slughorn replied.
"Most of it," he thought to himself. The girl's tongue was in shreds and she had to be rushed to St. Mungo's. The healer had told him that she would have a perpetual speech impediment.
"If any of you have any information about this incident, please report it to me or any of the faculty immediately! This was no prank! It was black magic!"
He had examined the knife and attempted to trace it to the offender's wand. It led him to the wand of Derek Pritchard, who was recovering from a concussion in the infirmary after being struck by a bludger during Quidditch practice. He had been unconscious the evening before and had only awoken the morning of the prank.
"A switch of the wand," Slughorn thought grimly. "The question is by whom?"
The nurse in the infirmary could not help. Several students had reported to her that evening suffering from uncontrollable vomiting and she had not taken notice of anyone going near Pritchard's bed. She could not recall anyone entering or leaving the infirmary during the pandemonium.
"What type of black magic, Professor?" It was Gilbert Goyle who asked this question. Typical of him to be more interested in the dark spell than the condition of the victim. Slughorn frowned.
"It is not necessary for you to know the particulars, Mr. Goyle. It was a very old dark spell where the victim's tongue would be attacked if a falsehood was uttered."
"Remember what I have said! This school is supposed to be a safe haven, not an arena for the Dark Arts!"
The Second Year girls silently trudged back to their dormitory. Hortense felt ill. Although she had been cleared of any wrong-doing, she had been the one who had handed the cursed kit to Laura. Who could hate the girl so much to do her such serious harm?
"I'm back," a sweet, wheedling voice exclaimed as the girls entered the room. Dolores sat on her bed, clutching her enormous orange cat.
"I heard what happened to Laura. How terrible!" Dolores' voice was sad, but there was no regret in her eyes.
"It was ghastly," Hortense said. Her eyes filled with tears. "That knife wouldn't stop cutting her and no one could stop it. Professor Slughorn said that someone put a dark spell on the knife so that it would cut the tongue of anyone who lied!"
Hortense choked on a sob and looked up at Dolores. The girl's face was the epitome of false piety.
"She couldn't have!" Hortense thought. "She was the one who said that Laura was a liar--but she was sick in the infirmary!"
The fog cleared from the slow girl's mind and she stared at Dolores in fear.
"I know that you did it," her eyes said. "I don't know how, but I know that you did it."
"Yes, you may think what you like, but where is your proof? Where are your witnesses? Fuck all you can do about that," Dolores' stare replied in return.
It had seemed so easy, but she had carefully covered her tracks. A few drops of Endless Vomit in the cups of the unsuspecting victims at dinnertime had provided the proper chaotic atmosphere in the infirmary. She had taken a very small dose too, so that no suspicions would be aroused. It was nasty, but Mama had always said that sometimes you had to suffer a bit in order to achieve your goal. Laura's kit was in her pocket. She had nicked it after Potions class when the girl wasn't looking.
She had cast the spell on the knife with the unconscious boy's wand while the nurse was busy with the retching students. She had quietly sneaked out of the infirmary and left it outside the Potions classroom. No one noticed when she made her way back to her infirmary bed. After she was released she performed a quick Incendio spell on the big leather-bound book. It was a pity to destroy so many records, but she was not taking any chances. Once things were back to normal she could start over again.
"We'll be short two people again this year at the party!" Druella remarked in frustration. "This is awful!"
"Did you say something, Dolores?" Druella asked irritably.
"Well, Druella, if your mother has already prepaid for the party, Mama and I would be happy to attend," Dolores replied in her honeyed voice.
"Very well," Druella sighed with a shrug. " At least the two places won't go to waste."
"Oh thank you, Druella! I am so looking forward to it!" Dolores said happily.
She looked over at Hortense. The girl's eyes were wide with fear. Good. The slow-witted girl was too stupid and afraid to report her, and with good reason.
"You cannot use magic to make anyone love you," Mama had said. "However there are any number of spells that can make them fear you. Remember dear, fear is just one form of respect."
Fear. That was the kind of respect that Dolores craved. That was the kind of respect that she demanded and that she would earn.