SIYE Time:21:47 on 20th May 2024
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The Unexpected Detention
By Forge2

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Category: SIYE Challenges new, The Detention Challenge (2023-1)
Genres: General
Warnings: Violence
Story is Complete
Rating: PG
Reviews: 3
Summary: ***Winner of the Most Unexpected and the People's Choice Award in the Detention Challenge (2023-1)*** Harry can't believe he's been given a detention for such a minor offense. And when he arrives to find Ginny there, too, he's convinced that he's somehow misjudged his professor. But once things get started, both students may admit that the detention wasn't at all what they expected.
Hitcount: Story Total: 2407
Awards: View Trophy Room

Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights ? J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.

Author's Notes:
My first ever SIYE Challenge submission and my first non-Missing Moment one-shot. Centered around some serious conversation regarding trauma.


As Harry trudged toward the Defense classroom, his eyes wandered to the beautiful spring Saturday that was tantalizing him from just outside the closed windows. He’d seen the rest of the Gryffindor team flying through their drills on the quidditch pitch, morosely remembering Wood’s diatribe when he’d informed his captain that he’d be missing practice for detention. Though that exceedingly loud one-way conversation had been several days prior, Harry felt like his ears were still ringing.

His eyes narrowed as he thought about the unfairness of it all. Professor Lupin had been the best Defense teacher of the past three years by a wide margin. Of course, that wasn’t a challenging bar to clear; Lockhart was a fraud who was completely obsessed with himself and tried to Obliviate him and Ron while Quirrell had Voldemort attached to the back of his head and had almost killed Harry. Outdoing the two of them was nothing to brag about.

But Lupin had been cool! He’d made Defense both fun and interesting, especially during practical lessons like the boggart class. Harry had even gotten private training on how to cast a Patronus, which was coming along slowly but surely. In their last session, Lupin had explicitly said how proud he was of Harry’s progress and how he believed that a breakthrough was coming soon. And not that he’d ever admit it aloud, but Harry had found that he rather enjoyed jostling with Hermione for the best marks in Defense.

Which left Harry wondering as he plodded up the last few stairs to the Defense corridor: Why would Lupin give him detention for such a stupid reason?

Yes, he’d been talking to Ron a bit more than he should have in class on Tuesday, but no more than Lavender and Parvati! And if people were going to get detention for such a small infraction, Ron was just as guilty, if not more. It wasn’t Harry’s fault that he’d laughed at his best mate’s exaggerated picture of Snape and Madam Pince in a poorly-drawn embrace!

Harry turned the last corner before reaching the Defense classroom to see red hair atop a small figure standing outside of the door to Lupin’s room. If the professor was assigning detention to both him and Ginny, maybe Harry hadn’t gotten the right read on the man from the beginning.

Forcing a small smile onto his face, Harry called out to her as he walked toward where she stood with shoulders drooped. “Hey, Gin. Didn’t expect to see you here.”

The girl clearly hadn’t heard him approaching and she jumped slightly at the sound of his voice. “Oh! Hi, Harry. You’ve got detention, too?”

“Yeah, but it was complete rubbish. I doubt even Snape would’ve done more than take points for talking a bit in class. What are you in for?”

“Same. Colin and I were talking finishing up a conversation from before class, but Professor Lupin seemed really out of sorts and assigned me detention without even giving a warning.” She released a long, slow breath. “Mum and Dad are going to be furious…”

“I dunno about that,” said Harry, trying to be reassuring. “I’ve only seen the one Howler from your Mum, and I know that Ron’s been in detention with me several times. Plus the twins end up with one every few weeks. I doubt they’ll make a big deal of it.”

“Yeah, but things are different with me…” Her voice trailed off. “Yknow. After last year and everything.”

Harry couldn’t imagine the loving Weasley parents treating Ginny worse because of the stuff with the diary; as far as he was concerned, Ginny’s Mum and Dad were the best parents he’d ever known. Before he could attempt to soothe the misgivings of his friend’s little sister, the door to the classroom opened to reveal Professor Lupin sporting a warm smile and kindness in his eyes.

“Right on time, you two. Come right in and have a seat!”

The professor’s demeanor was jarring to Harry, who sensed none of the apparent frustration that he’d felt in their last class period. He warily sat in the front row with Ginny slipping into the spot next to him. Lupin closed the door behind them and walked to his desk, hopping up to seat himself on top of it.

“Excellent! I get the distinct feeling you’re both a bit confused about why you’re in detention with me today, considering that neither of you did much to deserve punishment. Is that a fair assumption?”

Lupin was smiling as his eyes darted back and forth between the two students. Even though the question felt genuine to Harry and not like a trap, he only nodded a little as he eyed the professor with suspicion. One of Ginny’s brows was raised high enough that it might have been trying to hide in the long, red hair.

“Figured as much. Thought it was likely that neither of you is used to detentions unless you get crossways with Professor Snape. I should probably apologize since it didn’t occur to me that you’d have quidditch practice today, Harry. By the time I figured it out, I’d already told Ginny when we would be doing the detention.”

Harry felt more and more confused with every sentence his professor spoke. Since when did a professor apologize for assigning detention? And why did it matter if he’d already told Ginny about the time?

“Today won’t be a normal detention by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d like to share a bit of personal context before I explain what we’ll be doing.” Lupin drew in a deep breath as his eyes softened. “Without going into too much detail, I experienced an extremely traumatic event during my childhood that left me feeling exceedingly damaged and isolated. Those feelings remained strong until I began at Hogwarts and started to share bits of that trauma with close friends, including Harry’s father and mother, and a few trusted professors.”

Lupin’s whole body seemed to slump as he was recounting this piece of his history, but he managed a sad smile before continuing.

“Though none of my friends had experienced the same thing as me, their steadfast care buoyed me more than I can put into words. I will readily admit that in the years since losing James and Lily, much of the pain and isolation has reared its ugly head again. I relied heavily on a small contingent of friends, but I lost those connections for a variety of reasons. Trauma has a way of drawing one further into one’s self, and it often leads to isolation.

“Which brings me to the two of you. From my observation during our terms together, both of you have some strong bonds that have helped you as you’ve processed the challenging situations into which you’ve been thrust. Ginny, you seem to lean on Colin’s company most, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione are thick as thieves more often than not.”

Lupin was right, thought Harry. Having Ron and Hermione around was a big deal in keeping him feeling relatively good about life. It wasn’t as if they spent much time talking about everything they’d been through together, but knowing that his friends understood was meaningful. He wasn’t exactly sure if the professor wanted a response, but he took it as a good sign that Lupin smiled a bit more when Harry nodded his head.

“The challenge lies in how hard it can be to talk about traumatic things with friends who haven’t experienced some sort of trauma themselves. In my case, I held back about what happened to me until a few of my friends put the pieces together and confronted me.” Lupin paused as if he were searching for the right way to explain something without giving away too much. “One of them recognized my signs of trauma because he’d gone through some of his own. If I’m honest, I might never have opened up to them otherwise, because they seemed like everything in their lives was mostly fine.”

With a sigh, he continued. “But that doesn’t really apply to your situations, because the traumas you each experienced are more public. Harry, most of our world knows at least part of your story, and it doesn’t take much asking around to hear a version of what happened to you last year, Ginny. That’s a lot different than having something bad happen to you that can be hidden until you feel comfortable sharing it with someone you trust.

“I’m quite pleased that both of you already have a few good friends, but I am a bit concerned that neither of you has done much processing of what you’ve been through. I could be wrong about that, but Professor McGonagall, Madam Pomfrey, or Professor Dumbledore seem like the most likely people to talk to regarding the challenges you’ve faced. After speaking with each of them, none reported having much conversation with you beyond a basic and brief explanation of relevant details.”

Lupin rubbed his hand across his face as he grasped for words, looking as though he’d said something wrong. “In retrospect, I shouldn’t have coerced you into this conversation by using a detention. I apologize if I’m overstepping my bounds as a professor by bringing up your past traumas, but I’ve also found that many people will ignore this kind of thing unless confronted with it, as my friends did for me during my time at Hogwarts.

“You’ve both been put through so much and my intention is not to dredge up pain unnecessarily. If this is too much or you think me out of line, I will gladly excuse you from detention and not impose myself upon you again. I had simply hoped that after building what I consider a strong student-professor bond with each of you through our extra lessons, that I could be helpful to each of you in another way, too.”

Now presented with an opportunity to leave, part of Harry thought about how nice it would be to sprint over to his dorm room and grab his Firebolt so he could catch the last half of practice with the team. Yet there was such an earnestness etched onto his professor’s face that he dismissed the thought. Lupin had chosen to give up a good deal of his own personal time to train Harry to use the Patronus. And he’d been friends with both Harry’s parents. Even if he wasn’t so sure about the emotions and trauma talk, he could stay for a while.

“I’ll stick around,” said Harry tentatively. “As long as you don’t make me sign your fan mail like Lockhart did last year.”

Ginny laughed, and the sound seemed unfamiliar to Harry. He wasn’t sure if he’d ever really heard her laugh. “Same here,” she replied and Harry felt pleased that she wasn’t leaving.

“Alright, sounds like a plan,” said the professor with a little more spirit. “From our classes and the private tutoring, it seems like both of you are carrying around some unfounded guilt. But if you’re as stubborn as I was, and probably still am, hearing me tell you a bunch of reasons why it’s not your fault would be about as helpful as asking Filch to loosen up.” Harry snorted, even though he couldn’t deny the professor’s assertion.

“Here’s my idea,” Lupin leaned back on his desk with both of his arms behind him to support his weight. “You’ve both dealt with terrible situations and come through remarkably well. And you’re both absolutely hard-headed. So what about this: Harry, I want you to think about what you would want to say to Ginny if she felt guilty about everything from last year. Ginny, I want you thinking about what you’d say to Harry if he was feeling like he was a burden on people around him because of what happened to his parents or the ways trouble seems to find him. You can jot down what kind of message you’d want to convey and how you’d use your own experience to counter the arguments the other might come up with. Understand the assignment?”

Harry had a sinking feeling in his stomach from Lupin’s instructions to Ginny, but he figured that at least he’d gotten the easier end of the deal. It’s not like it was her fault she’d been possessed by Voldemort and forced to do all that stuff. He grabbed a parchment from his bag as his professor deftly levitated one quill and inkpot onto his desk and another to Ginny.

He could hear Ginny’s quill begin to scratch almost immediately, as he dipped his into the inkpot. If she was going to go all out on her hopeless errand, Harry reasoned that he should definitely put some effort into what he wrote. If Lupin was right about it helping her feel less unwarranted guilt, it’d easily be worth the time spent in detention.

Time slipped by quickly as he wrote. The premise seemed rather silly to Harry since there wasn’t any chance Ginny could really be harboring those kinds of feelings, but he still felt decent about what he’d messily scrawled when Lupin interrupted his thoughts.

“Looks like the two of you were able to do a good job,” said Professor Lupin, his smile a little bit wistful. “How about we start with Harry… Would you mind telling Ginny if you think she’s at fault for the events of last year?”

Her face burned scarlet, but Harry was still glad to go first. “Sure, that’s simple. It’s not you’re fault if someone possesses you and does bad stuff. You didn’t know the diary was trying to manipulate you, but you tried to get rid of it once you figured out it was bad news. If I hadn’t accidentally found it, that woulda been it. Plus, Riddle told me in the Chamber that you’d fought him all year. He’s possessed and controlled who knows how many full-grown witches and wizards through the years, but you fought him for months as a First Year! If the diary had ended up with someone else who didn’t fight as hard, who knows how many people would’ve been killed.”

Harry had been speaking directly to Ginny, even though her eyes were cast down at her desk. He glanced at his parchment, which reminded him of a different point he’d meant to make. “Oh, yeah! And if you were mad at yourself because you wrote in the diary in the first place, then you’ve kinda gotta be mad at me, too, ‘cause I wrote in it and let it affect how I was thinking, too. The diary showed me when Riddle confronted Hagrid, and that made me think it coulda been him, even though I should’ve known Hagrid wouldn’t ever hurt someone.” Ginny still hadn’t made eye contact, so Harry looked at Professor Lupin who was smiling proudly.

“Well put, Harry. Would it be fair to say that you don’t hold Ginny responsible?”

“Of course not,” Harry replied with something between a laugh and a huff. “It wasn’t her fault.”

“You almost died because of me!” Ginny’s watery eyes were filled with pain as she shot a hurt look at him. “I could’ve killed all those people! Colin, Hermione, Penelope, and Justin… Even Sir Nicolas and Mrs. Norris! And the spiders in the Forbidden Forest almost killed you and Ron, then you were both in the Chamber and could’ve died!”

Ginny’s chest was heaving as she laid bare her insecurities and guilt. Harry was taken aback by her outburst and looked at her as if she was speaking an obscure foreign language.

“But none of that was you. Riddle was possessing you!” said Harry a little more forcefully. A thought occurred to him that he figured might help Ginny understand, but he didn’t fully know if it was relevant. “Professor Lupin, didn’t Voldemort use mind control on people and make them do terrible things for him?”

The professor nodded gravely. “Yes, that was one of the worst things about the war. He could force his enemies to commit acts they would never consider otherwise.”

“See? There it is, Ginny. Just because Riddle controlled you doesn’t mean you were the one responsible for what happened.”

“I didn’t fight hard enough,” she whispered quietly, turning her head away from Harry and the professor. “I let him use me to hurt people.”

“One of my dear friends, Marlene, was placed under the Imperius Curse. It removed her free will and replaced it with orders to kill her entire family. She was a good, kind strong person who loved her family, but she wasn’t able to fight off the control. After it was done, his followers murdered her, too.”

The admission left both students in a state of shocked horror. Lupin wiped his eyes with a sleeve before he continued.

“Ginny, I know you meant no disrespect to Marlene by blaming yourself for what happened, but perhaps you can see it differently when it involves someone else. Had my friend survived after being forced to commit such an act against the people she loved most dearly, would you have laid even an ounce of blame at her feet?”

A small voice in the back of Harry’s head was pleading with Ginny to get it, to make the connection. He didn’t dare say anything. He didn’t even breathe.

A single, grief-filled sob overtook Ginny as tears flowed freely down her cheeks, but she shook her head vigorously back and forth. “No, it wasn’t her fault…”

“And if it wasn’t Marlene’s fault?” Lupin’s eyes were shining hopefully as he watched Ginny attempt to regain her composure.

“Then I shouldn’t blame myself, either,” she replied quietly.

“That’s right, Ginny. I’m sure it’s hard for you to believe at times, but that’s the honest truth.” The professor’s voice was soft but sure as he handed her a handkerchief to dry her eyes. Harry nodded along supportively as Ginny took a few deep breaths. Lupin gave her a few moments before he addressed her again. “If you feel like stopping here, there’s no shame in that. But if you’re up for sharing what you were writing for Harry, the floor is yours.”

Harry had forgotten about her assignment while they’d been talking to and about Ginny. His hands fidgeted as he watched her pick up her parchment from the corner of his eye. There was a rush of color to his face and his eyes focused on a spot on the stone floor.

Ginny sniffled once more before she started to speak. “Would it be alright if I just read what I wrote? I’m not exactly sure if I did it right…”

“Sure, Ginny,” said Lupin with a warmth in his voice. “Whatever you feel best doing.”

She gathered herself up and sat a little straighter as she began to read. “I can’t really understand what it was like for you growing up. From what I’ve heard from Ron and the twins after they broke you out of your Aunt and Uncle’s house, they seem like really horrible people, but it’s sometimes hard to know if they’re exaggerating or not. But it seems like they aren’t treating you very well.

“But no matter what they think, the people who really know you don’t think you’re a burden. Ron and Hermione obviously like hanging out with you, and the Gryffindors in my year have talked about how you’re kinder to us than most of the older students. The whole Gryffindor quidditch team appreciates you a lot, and Fred and George said you’re a better Seeker than Charlie, which is a big deal.

“You’ve got a really strong sense of what’s right and wrong, and you won’t sit around and hope things get better on their own. You didn’t have to try to protect the stone, but it was the right thing to do, so it was important to you. Nobody would have blamed you if you just kept your head down last year, but you tried to figure out what was happening, even when that meant sneaking into the Forbidden Forest and almost getting eaten by spiders. You even risked your life to save me.”

She glanced in his direction before averting her eyes back to her parchment. She folded it in half but kept her eyes down.

“I guess what I kept coming back to was that I hope you don’t feel guilty about any of that kind of stuff because it’s not your fault. Even though things haven’t always been easy for you, I like that you’re still a good person, and I’m grateful you chose to come after me. It means more than I can say.”

Ginny’s words had been very kind, but it was as if Harry was incapable of absorbing them. She was technically right that there were people who thought a bit too highly of him; more than he would have been able to list off the top of his head. But he’d only been trying to help out. Sure, he’d gotten lucky enough with the Basilisk to not die, mostly because of Fawkes. But he almost ruined everything by even showing up in front of the Mirror of Erised and he lost the quidditch cup by being knocked out at the end of First Year and probably sealed another defeat by losing it when the dementors came last term. Plus, he’d almost gotten his friends killed multiple times.

“Excellent job writing that, Ginny,” said Lupin. “Though judging by Harry’s face, I’m not sure he believes it yet.”

“It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, ‘cause that was really kind and all…” began Harry, trying to choose his words carefully. “It’s just that, I dunno, I think you’re giving me too much credit. Like with the stone, Dumbledore had a foolproof plan to protect it. The only reason Quirrell got as close as he did was because I came in and messed things up. If I hadn’t been unconscious from all that, we might have won the quidditch cup, then this year I ruined our chances by getting scared by the dementors.

“And in the Chamber, it was more Fawkes than me. He was the one to blind the snake and bring me the sword, and I still got bit and he had to use his tears to save me. And even then, he brought the diary to me so I could destroy it.”

Harry nervously ran his fingers through his hair as he groped for words. He didn’t notice the small smirk on his professor’s face as his fingers ruffled through his already-unruly locks.

“It could have just as easily been Ron on the other side of the cave-in, and I bet he would’ve found a way to save you, too. Or maybe a professor who wasn’t as worthless as Lockhart would have figured it out in time. It’s not that big of a deal that I was the one who happened to be there.”

“Not a big deal?” said Ginny incredulously. “Come on, Harry! Be serious. Even if some other students cared enough to search for me or a professor found the entrance to the Chamber, which had been hidden for centuries, nobody else could’ve gotten inside without speaking Parseltongue.”

She had a point, thought Harry, but that didn’t change the fact that he’d been exceptionally lucky. He started to reiterate that point but was cut off.

“And you know what? That’s not even the most impressive part! The big deal is that you care about doing what’s right enough to get into so many situations like this! There are plenty of adults and older students better equipped to do something about all the ridiculous stuff that happens around here, but you keep choosing to jump in anyway!

Ginny had lost the passivity that had gripped her earlier, instead speaking with conviction and more than a little fire.

“Like with Hermione and the troll! You could have told a Prefect or gotten a professor, but you thought that wouldn’t be fast enough. So you and my brother took on a mountain troll when you probably didn’t know how to cast more than two spells yet!”

With frustration in his voice and a little red growing on his cheeks, Harry shot back, “Which was incredibly stupid! Ron and I got so lucky, just like with the stone, and in the forest, and in the Chamber.”

“Maybe you got a little lucky,” said Ginny in a quiet voice dripping with emotion. “But I got really lucky that you cared enough to try. If you weren’t the kind of person who cares about doing the right thing, even when it’s hard, I’d be dead.”

Her assertion stopped him in his tracks. It occurred to Harry that going back and forth with someone who could level that kind of argument was probably not going to end well for him.

“Ginny, may I ask you a clarifying question?” Lupin looked very pleased with how things were going, which irked Harry. It was all well and good when they were helping Ginny, but he didn’t want to have to explain how he wasn’t really a hero. “I’m sure we both think more highly of what Harry has accomplished than his frustratingly overactive level of humility allows. What interests me is what you said there at the end about the kind of person he is, rather than the specific things he’s done.”

Ginny nodded and spoke clearly. “Harry cares about people a lot. And he chooses to act on it, even when it’s not the smartest thing to do. That’s what I admire most. Even if he hadn’t been able to save me, the fact that he tried would have still said a lot about who he is.”

“Harry, I must say that I believe she has a point. There must certainly be a great deal of luck and happenstance that allowed you to be in a position to choose to try to save the stone, to seek out Hermione, and to follow Ginny into that Chamber. But the extraordinary thing about you, much more than the outcomes of those situations, is that you consistently choose to put yourself in harm’s way to try to help others. Selflessness is an exceedingly rare quality that you have shown time and time again.”

“I really like that you keep coming out on top, even when things look really bad, but I think your best quality is that you care so much,” said Ginny, her brown eyes shining. “Tell me, if somebody else had been down in the Chamber, would you still have gone after them? If it was another First Year who wasn’t your best mate’s sister?”

Harry thought about it for a few seconds. “Well, I might not have rushed down there with just Ron and Lockhart. Maybe I would have tried to convince another professor who actually knew what they were doing…”

“But if that didn’t work? Would you still have gone in?”

“Well, yeah. I mean… It’d just be the right thing to do, y’know?”

Lupin chuckled to himself, smiling at the two students in front of him. “Harry, I know it’s hard for you to understand, but that response is just wildly uncommon. Most people wouldn’t risk themselves for someone else like that. So even if you choose to keep downplaying the things you’ve done while trying to help others, I want you to at least be honest with yourself about this: you are a good person who tries to help the people around you. That’s important and worth remembering.”

It wasn’t as if Harry was shocked to have his propensity for helping others pointed out, but he hadn’t thought of it in quite that way. Sure, he’d gotten into some really bad situations, but most of the time it was because he thought it’d help someone.

“Well, I must say that this detention went far better than I expected,” said the professor. He clapped his hands together once and hopped down from his perch on the desk. “I didn’t really specify an amount of time for you two to serve, so I think I should let you enjoy the rest of your Saturday. I would like to encourage both of you to find opportunities to talk about this kind of thing, especially with other people who know you well enough to tell you if you’re being too hard on yourself. Added points if it’s someone who has also gone through some trauma because those conversations can help everyone involved.

“And I’m available to talk more if you’re interested. I won’t resort to assigning detention in the future, but I’d be more than happy to chat with either of you again. Just let me know.”

He opened the door inward to allow his two students to leave. He gave both of them a genuine smile as they exited. “Oh, and for what it’s worth… I’m really proud of the two of you for sharing with each other and with me. Ten points to each of you for showing true Gryffindor courage by doing something challenging that benefitted someone else. Vulnerability is hard, but you each practiced it well.”

It was nearly lunchtime, so Harry and Ginny walked toward the Great Hall together. The silence between them was slightly uncomfortable, but Harry couldn’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t sound idiotic after an experience like their detention. They crossed paths with a few other students but no one either of them knew very well.

Not far from the Great Hall, Harry thought her heard Ginny say something under her breath. “Sorry, didn’t catch that?”

“I just wanted to say thanks for all the stuff you said back there,” Ginny said quietly. “It really meant a lot.”

“Oh, yeah. Not a problem at all. To be honest, I had no idea you felt that guilty. If I’d known, I would’ve said something sooner.” Harry glanced at her as she walked alongside him. “What you said meant a lot, too. Do you still have the parchment you were writing on?”

She nodded as she rummaged in her back before producing a folded parchment.

“Would you be up for swapping it with me?” asked Harry tentatively. “Might be nice to have that next time I start feeling down, and I’d feel better knowing that you had what I wrote if you get any more guilty feelings that need to be chased away.”

Ginny’s smile was radiant as she handed him her parchment and carefully stowed his into her bag. “I think I’m going to try to go chat with him again,” she said brightly as they entered the bustling Great Hall. “Without the detention, of course.”

“I think I might do the same,” replied Harry. A thought occurred to him that he wanted to act on, but for some reason felt his face begin to slightly heat up as he spoke. “If you ever wanted to err… Hang out with Hermione, Ron, and me… I’m sure we’d all like getting to spend time with you.”

Harry didn’t know why he was stumbling over his words, but Ginny either didn’t notice or chose to let it slide. “That sounds really great, Harry. I’ll take you up that!”

She slid into a seat across from Colin as Harry continued walking toward Ron and Hermione. He plopped down across from them but looked back down the table for a quick moment and caught Ginny’s eye.

They both smiled.
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