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Entry #3

Discussion in 'Summer 2022 Flash Competition' started by Xiph0, Jul 12, 2022.

  1. Xiph0

    Xiph0 Yoda Admin

    Dec 7, 2005
    West Bank
    Title: Indemnity

    Azkaban was closed for good on 2 May 2005. By then, it was already too late for several of the most high-profile criminals. Fenrir Greyback had died not two years after the Battle of Hogwarts. Dolohov had followed soon after. Their bodies never left Azkaban. But enough remained of the old crowd to rouse the sleepy memories of the survivors, re-open wounds that had never quite healed.

    It was necessary, Kingsley argued, for the wizarding community to sever ties with the dark forces that had terrorised its own citizens. Wizengamot convened for 23 days before emerging with a narrow vote in favour of the referendum.

    Azkaban’s last inhabitants were the Dementors. The entire island was surrounded by a task force of every Ministry official capable of conjuring a Patronus. They rotated in and out by broom over a period of several months. Deprived of sustenance, the Dementors eventually cannibalised themselves.

    Umbridge was among the last prisoners who were extracted and moved to an abandoned castle on the Isle of Lismore. She’d undergone a staggering metamorphosis. Like the others, she wore the signs of disrepair that Azkaban carved into all its inhabitants. Her eyes, bloodshot and watery, bulged out from a sunken face. All her excess flesh seemed to have evaporated, giving her the appearance of a melted down candle.

    Her eyes found him immediately. She watched him warily, thin-lipped and colourless as she was ushered in and strapped into the lone chair in the middle of the chamber. Her feet didn’t quite make it to the floor and dangled uselessly off the chair. Harry thought he’d never seen a more pitiful person in his life. He’d woken up that morning and considered the old scars on his hand. But anger slipped out of his grip like a handful of sand at sight of her now, a frail old woman, utterly alone and defenceless.

    Her gaze flitted around restlessly, searching each face for any hint of mercy before latching onto him. “P-p-please,” she begged, “I was only f-following orders. I was under duress! They would have killed me!”

    It was an awful noise—that shrill, girlish voice. He shook his head and at his signal, the Obliviator raised her wand and tapped it calmly on Umbridge’s head.

    “No!” Umbridge cried out, the only sound to pierce the silence that had fallen over the room. She struggled violently against her restraints. Then, very suddenly, a vacant expression settled like a mask over her face and she fell limp in her seat.

    She deserved this, he reminded himself, looking back down at the scar on his hand. A vivid memory came to mind: the image of her gloating victoriously down at a terrified woman surrounded by Dementors.

    In the wake of the new legislation, he’d received letters from countless strangers who laid their sorrows out before him, struggling to make something comprehensible out of the bits and pieces that remained of their lives. Hermione reminded him every now and then that he was a hero regardless of how squeamish he felt about it—the hero, in fact. The sort of hero that defined an entire era and was immortalised in textbooks and Chocolate Frogs (his most noteworthy achievement, according to Ron). People felt that they knew him on a personal level. They valued his opinions, wanted to know how he felt about murderers walking free.

    He hadn’t known how to respond. But this wasn’t freedom. She would never be able to create new memories nor recall old ones. She had no past and she had no future. She would never be able to use magic again. Surely this was enough. Obliviation to this degree was more than amnesia; it was total annihilation of the self. They’d stripped her of everything it meant to be Dolores Umbridge. It was quick and painless. And most importantly, it allowed them to walk away with a clear conscience. No souls would be torn apart for the sake of justice.

    “Dolores,” he called softly.

    She glanced around with a sort of detached curiosity as if expecting someone else to answer him. No one did, of course. And after a moment, she lost interest and began playing with the chains around her wrists.

    He nodded wearily at the caregivers who’d been waiting in the wings. They attended to her gently as if she were a child. One of them knelt before her, explaining every action in low, soothing tones. Nevertheless, she seemed to be overwhelmed. Slack-faced bewilderment shifted into terror and she began to cry softly.

    “Oh dear,” she murmured, clutching at her face with two trembling hands. “Oh dear. I seem—where am I? Who? Who are you? Why am I here? I shouldn’t be here.” She broke off and started to weep in earnest only to backtrack a few moments later when she forgot the source of her distress.

    “Where am I? What is this?” she babbled as they wheeled her out the door.

    The session closed with Yaxley who was too proud to do anything but sneer openly at the chamber. He didn’t weep like Umbridge, nor did he laugh uncontrollably like the Carrow twins. He seemed to engage in a brief struggle with his thoughts, producing a garbled sound before clamping his lips shut. He settled into his seat with a mutinous expression on his face. They couldn’t get a word out of him after that.

    It seemed they were reduced to the simplest components of their personalities—Yaxley and his pride, the Carrows and their empty-headed sadism, Umbridge and her fear of helplessness.

    There was a flash of cameras as he stepped out of the building. He glanced over his shoulder appraisingly. It made a pretty picture. The old castle was awash with the golden glow of the sunset. A salt wind blew in, gently ruffling the manicured fields and the apple trees that were just beginning to blossom.

    “Mr. Potter!” one of the reporters shouted. “Can you share a comment for our readers?”

    Harry turned, catching a brief glimpse of Rita Skeeter with her predatory gaze. He took no small amount of pleasure in sweeping past her before she even had the chance to open her mouth. Dennis Creevey was there too, wearing a familiar camera around his neck.

    “This is a fresh start,” Harry said quietly.

    Dennis gave him a small, tired smile.
  2. Shinysavage

    Shinysavage Madman With A Box ~ Prestige ~

    Nov 16, 2009
    High Score:
    Interesting. It's nicely written, and a pretty clever take on how to get rid of Azkaban while dealing with the dangerous prisoners - certainly not one I've seen before, although admittedly I don't read much HP fic other than competition entries these days. There's a nice murkiness to it as well, assuming I'm not just reading too much into it - certainly, I'm not convinced that the Obliviation is quite as morally acceptable as Harry says it is. Kudos, too, for managing something I'd hitherto thought impossible, and inspiring a degree of sympathy for Umbridge.
  3. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Jan 6, 2009
    The South
    1061 words, well done
  4. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

    Aug 31, 2011
    Cyber City Oedo
    High Score:
    Nice and dark, making excellent use of the short story format by leaving the reader space to fill in how they got here or if it's really morally more acceptable to utterly destroy someone's mind rather than rending their immortal soul from their body or just killing them. It's a death of the mind rather than the body, I suppose, which frankly I find far more terrifying.

    Honestly, excellent stuff. Wish I could've written it myself.

  5. haphnepls

    haphnepls Seventh Year

    Mar 26, 2019
    I'm not quite sold on this one.

    It's hard to objectively comment on a story with such short format, when I don't agree with fundamentals of it, but it's not the discussion for here and now, so I won't even try to get into that rabbit hole. Sure, it's your story, your AU that might've been canon for all I know, but as far as I'm concerned, it's just not there.

    The writing itself is rather well done, pace slowly picking up to it's crescendo and delivering the needed last note to wrap the story around.

    On the other hand, in terms of genres, I'm sorry to say I'm not sold on them either. It sets a heavy tone, yet the darkness of such decision and their consequences is missing. It argues the morale and the time needed to come up with such nasty, troubling decisions, yet it misses the afterthought of the resolution that might never come.

    I feel the story, I truly am, I just don't think it's quite there.
  6. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Jan 6, 2009
    The South
    Interesting way of getting rid of dementors—harass and starve them using patronuses over the course of months. Clever.

    Melted down candle, heh. I like how the old anger slipped away upon seeing her as she was now.

    Not sure how I feel about the new punishment—annihilation of self. I see that in media sometimes and so often it is pronounced as a ‘better’ option than death (or in this case dementors). I’ve no complaints about governments/people making that argument, but I do like stories where someone influential points out that hey, it’s not really any better. Just people want to tell themselves it’s better or more humane so they can live with themselves.


    Anyway. I’m not sure things tie together properly for me, but it’s close.

    I think what you were going for was for the line “It’s a Fresh Start” to imply more than it does. I don’t feel like Umbridge, Yaxley, and the others are getting a fresh start. I feel that they’ve been murdered and all their abilities/knowledge/self erased.

    There’s no ‘fresh start’ from that, at least how you’ve written it. I think if you tweaked what that spell did, and emphasized it was a new one that didn’t exist in canon, you could adjust what it does slightly to make this tie together better.

    Then the removal of dark reliance / dementors, changes in Britain, Harry maybe accepting/changing something about how he sees the world, PLUS the spell changing how criminals are handled forever?

    Fresh start indeed.

    Still I liked this one. Simple to read but still engaging.
  7. James

    James Unspeakable

    Jan 22, 2015
    Ugh, I have… mixed feelings.

    Overall idea: great, but terrible. It's a tragedy, I guess? Basically a death sentence, with the whole "good side" doing a make believe that since body still lives, it isn't really. But they won't be capable of creating new memories - ever, so it'll be a string of days, where they'll be scared, confused, and basically… innocent? Horrible.

    As for wording, it was okay, if somewhat unfeeling. Was that a point? Or should it lean to "what a horrible end" or "a glorious end"? I don't know.

    The only thing that was very meh for me was the anger slipping like a sand through the fingers, it just doesn't feel like a fitting metaphore.
  8. Mr. Mixed Bag

    Mr. Mixed Bag Seventh Year

    Jun 18, 2021
    The ease with which the dementors are dealt with bothers me. I know it's only a device to get to the story you actually want to tell, but it feels very cheap. Sort of like if it were really that easy, why were they so often described as unkillable? Anyway. On to more important things.

    The prose was difficult for me to get into, specifically at the start. A lot of the terse, straight-to-the-point sentences that read like a report, which may well've been intentional but still made it a bit of a slog. This abated once Harry's thoughts grew more into the story, and was practically nonexistent by the time you reach the courtroom scene itself.

    I think a lot of your physical details are very well chosen. Umbridge's post-obliviation actions especially were wonderfully vivid, and striking. That you got it all done in two-thirds the wordcount impresses me more than I can properly express.

    Also, kudos for how close you get to Harry's mind. You, more than the two prior entries I've read, really stuck to the prompt with that. Love the way we get Harry's view of the process alongside the one we build for ourselves, and the room it allows to agree or disagree with him.
  9. peche

    peche Squib

    May 20, 2022
    Really dense with description, could do with more dialogue. The ending feels a bit sudden and leaves a lot to be desired. I think Harry’s observations are well-captured and congruent with his canon personality. That said, Harry doesn’t do much but observe. It’s clear he’s a few years into his Ministry career, so perhaps you could have filled in the blanks with more of his thoughts/job history, especially in the exposition which remains the weaker half of the piece

    You’ve laid out a morally ambiguous situation with a lot of subtle hints regarding Harry’s ambivalence and fatigue from post-Voldemort restoration. That requires a patience/thoughtful reading from your audience, but some may find it boring or overly polarizing.
  10. Niez

    Niez Competition Winner CHAMPION ⭐⭐

    Jun 26, 2018
    Behind you
    Very strong entry all around. The prose is effective and feels appropiate to the tone of the story (although I would not use 'desrepair' to describe a person - that's more for cars imo) and the story has emotional impact despite its short lenght. Every part of it feels very purposeful and I appreciate it. My only caveat is that you and I seem to have radical different ideas on appropiate punishment for criminals, or at least me and your Harry, which results in him readings like a very different Harry than the one we know from the books. I will explain.

    We have these two lines from the story:
    As far as I can tell these lines suggests that in the political decision of closing Azkaban, some people, 'survivors', opposed personality death for the prisoners as alternative for imprisonment as being too lenient, and that, furthermore, Harry was pressured to position himself pollitically one way or the other.

    To me this seems baffling, because personality death is not only a far worse punishment than imprisonment, even in Azkaban, its also a punishment that, ironically, eerily resembles the dementor's kiss. And we're meant to be horrified by the dementor's kiss in the books, a punishment reserved for the worst of the worst, literally called worse than death if I recall correctly, because it leaves the person an empty liveless husk, and yet it doesn't kill them, meaning their soul cant go into the afterlife and yaddi yadda. And yet, in your story, every single prisoner, is given the equivalent of a dementor's kiss - personality death, and yet, everyone is kinda down with it? And the ones who don't are because they dont want 'murderers walking free'. Like, I can see it because who knows, maybe wizarding society is super bloodthirsty (including Hermione, lol) but it raises my little eyebrow.

    What does more than raise my little eyebrow is the second point; how could Harry be possibly down with this (and still be Harry)?

    Now, to your credit, the above does show him have some serious concerns as to what is going on. He seems like he's convincing himsef that was is happening is not like super fucked up.

    But then we have this again. 'Surely this was enough'. Who thinks this isn't enough? Why is Harry leaning towards the side that thinks that personality death is too lenient? Harry m'boy, don't you remember the whole Sirius plotline from book three?

    And then we have this final line which to me is anthithetical to Harry's character. No, this isn't a fresh start. Umbridge is going to spend the rest of her life next to Lockhart in St. Mungo's and also Umbridge is dead. She's dead. They've literally executed her in front of you and you're like ok with it.

    Perhaps I'm overthinking it, but if so it speaks to your credit. The best entry of the lot, in my opinion, despite the above.
  11. Jibril

    Jibril Headmaster

    Jun 7, 2006
    50.26°N, 19.02°E
    While the concept is interesting and feels pretty much how it would be handled in canon it just didn't grab me. he writing is good, precise, and moves to the conclusion, but beyond that there's nothing interesting for me.
  12. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye Seventh Year

    May 29, 2020
    Away with the fairies
    I like the way you write, I think you have a very good grasp of both story-telling and of when to add details to make things come alive. Very impressive.

    Murky dark angst feat. revenge as genres do nothing for me, unfortunately, unless they’re mixed with humour or a failed epic romance, so I’m the wrong audience for this. It doesn’t grip me in the intentional way. It also means I overfocus on the morals you’ve included, and found they don’t make sense to me. Don’t think they’d make sense to canon Harry either. Or maybe you’re trying to show that there’s more to the story with the way you end it. Hmm. For me personally, a different ending, even making it dystopian might have saved it, e.g. where you end by showing Harry and co are just husks of themselves because of prolonged dementor exposure when they got rid of them or something like that. Nah, nevermind, I’m just the wrong audience I think.
  13. FitzDizzyspells

    FitzDizzyspells Seventh Year DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Dec 4, 2018
    This was good. Creative, dark. I’m not totally sure I buy a Harry Potter who would’ve endorsed a plan like this, although I guess I can imagine him deciding that it’s better than execution.

    I would’ve liked you to explore more of how this plan came about and how people had to bring Harry on board. I’d like to see him grappling with it more, which would’ve brought more interesting conflict to this story.