Harry sat outside the grimy, dark door of courtroom ten, kicking his shoes against the floor and trying to settle his nervous stomach. The door was just as he remembered, adorned with an immense iron lock and very intimidating. Two hit wizards stood on either side of it, protecting against any attempted unauthorized intrusion of any sort. Harry knew that there were at least four more inside and a fair number of Aurors as protection for the Minister.
The irony was not lost on him that it had been this very courtroom where he'd been tried four years ago for the use of underage magic while Lucius Malfoy waited outside to hear the result. It hadn't been a pleasant experience, he thought with a slight shiver.
The cold hallway, rough stone walls, and torches in brackets reminded him of the Hogwarts dungeon. A place that he'd never been particularly fond of, mainly because of a particular teacher there. He dragged his memories as far away from Snape as he could for the moment. He needed all his wits about him now. It just wouldn't do, losing his focus trying to puzzle out Severus Snape. His constant antagonist. His saviour.
He massaged his eyes instead, trying to recall the speech he'd written for the majority of the previous evening. He'd only managed to scrawl a few pitiful lines, and he'd ended up frustrated and exhausted despite working long into the night. Whenever he'd had a thought to write down it had come out awkward and forced. It'd been like trying to hold water in a broken sieve for hours. His last attempt had actually burst into flame after a spurt of accidental magic. Well, partially accidental, he thought with a grim smile. He'd eventually given it up as a bad job and decided to wing it before returning to the Burrow long after everyone else had gone to bed. After only being asleep for what felt like two minutes, Ron was shaking him awake again.
He'd arrived on time dressed in his black formal robes. A clerk from the court had requested that he wait outside for his summons and explained the procedure to him. Once inside, he' be asked to answer all the questions presented by the court. When they had finished, he was to leave the courtroom immediately and wait for further instructions outside.
Horace Slughorn and Madam Rosmerta had sat nearby in their own allocated areas. Unable to speak to Harry or each other in case they colluded to make their testimonies match up.
Harry had been hoping to catch a glimpse of the Malfoys on their way in, but they'd already been ensconced inside, surrounded by security. Harry had no doubt that the chains which he' been lucky enough to forgo when he'd been tried were now being put to use.
Rosmerta was summoned first, followed shortly by Slughorn. They both returned to their seats outside in the hallway after some time, looking a bit frazzled.
It was nerve wracking sitting around doing nothing while he waited to be called. The hit wizards next to him stared inscrutably at the walls straight ahead of them, their wands out and pointed towards the floor. Since telling him where to sit, they'd stood completely silent and as still as statues. He wondered idly how they did it.
Like Aurors, hit wizards were also tasked with taking down dark wizards and acting as soldiers of the wizarding world, but they were used far more sparingly in public situations. They mainly specialized in combat situations, but they were well known for having less stringent acceptance levels than the Aurors. In the past, a few people had even joined up with hit wizard squads after dropping out of the Auror mentorship program, but it was a rare occurrence. This was due, in a large part, to how rarely the Aurors had chosen to recruit new candidates. While the hit wizards had a fearsome reputation, they were generally considered to be slightly less balanced and less intelligent than their weren't trained to act independently or deal with members of the public to the same extent as Aurors, so they were rarely used in a security capacity. However, Auror numbers being what they were, the hit wizards were being forced into some jobs in order to make up the deficit.
Harry had heard rumors about the friendly rivalry that existed between the groups. Working in similar areas of expertise, there were occasional disputes over the jurisdiction of cases which of course occasionally led to them stepping on eachother's toes. Apparently, the Aurors generally came out on top in these disputes due to their greater status in the Ministry, but each disagreement was ferocious.
"Potter," one of the hit wizards called, causing Harry to start slightly, "they're ready for you."
Harry stood and straightened his robes before taking a deep breath and heading towards the doors, which the hit wizards were drawing open. Slughorn gave him an encouraging smile from across the room before he was whisked away inside the courtroom.
The dark stone walls of the court seemed to absorb the light that briefly filtered in behind him, giving the already dim room a foreboding feel to it. Harry couldn't help but gulp as he glanced around the room at the serious looking witches and wizards arrayed there. He'd never liked the way they towered over the floor in their benches. It reminded him of a coliseum filled to the brim with people who saw this sort of thing as entertainment. A modern gladiatorial ring where words clashed instead of swords but the outcome of a bout could be just the same. Death.
The Malfoys sat in the middle of the room, chained to their respective chairs, as their solicitor shuffled through some papers next to them anxiously. His hair was ruffled and he was sweating profusely which was quite an achievement in the chilly darkened room.
Draco looked up as Harry passed by them, his face pale and his eyes surrounded by dark circles. His face lacked it's usual sneer, and his eyes looked, if anything, terrified. It was disconcerting to see his once hated rival brought so low.
If Draco looked bad though, then Lucius looked dead. His normally lustrous white blond hair hung lank and tangled around his face, clumps clearly missing in places. His entire frame appeared withered and shrunken, and his shoulders hunched and bent. Even his face was haggard and covered in small sores that made him look like a beggar. His yellowed teeth could be seen behind his cracked and bloodied lips as he leered at Harry madly. Clearly Azkaban, stress, and torture hadn't done him any favours. He bent over and coughed violently, breaking their brief eye contact as he hacked up a large clump of phlegm which he promptly spat on the floor. Harry couldn't help but gawk at what the Malfoy patriarch had become. Gone was the steely-eyed, dignified, and controlled adversary he'd faced. Here were his broken remains.
Lady Malfoy seemed to have fared significantly better than her husband. While Narcissa looked like she'd been living rough for a few weeks, she'd somehow managed to avoid contracting the haunted look that her son and husband had gained. She always had more steel than the two of them combined anyway, thought Harry wryly as he walked towards the seat a hit wizard indicated to him.
As Harry was seated against the wall, facing the Malfoys and the front majority of the courtroom he took a moment to examine his feelings. He wasn't sure if he pitied the Malfoys or not, but they'd certainly fallen on hard times. The fall from grace was always harder the higher you were, and the Malfoys had been at the pinnacle of society once upon a time.
"Mr. Potter," called Elphias Doge in a high-pitched wheezy voice from the seat which had formerly been occupied by Madam Bones. "Thank you for joining us today."
Harry just nodded, his mouth too dry to answer properly as he shifted in his chair trying to get comfortable. He could see Kingsley, sitting to Elphias' right, nod to him slightly in acknowledgement.
"We've called you today to give testimony against the Malfoys. Lucius and Draco Malfoy are being charged with being supporters of the Dark Lord and Death Eaters, as you know, and Narcissa is being charged as an accomplice. We need to hear from you about the Malfoys' actions in regards to what you know about their involvement as Death Eaters, their part in Dumbledore's attempted murder and, later, in his actual death, their role in the kidnapping of Mr. Ollivander, and, finally, their use of Unforgivable Curses. Lucius has already been convicted once and escaped Azkaban, but he and his family are claiming yet again that they renounced the Dark Lord before his death. Do you understand these charges, Harry?"
"Yes, I understand," said Harry quietly. His voice somehow echoed throughout the chamber, carrying to the very farthest corners.
"So, Mr. Potter, what can you tell us in regards to these charges?" asked Elphias, his cloud of white hair obscuring the people behind him.
Harry breathed deeply and licked his lips before launching into what he knew about the Malfoy's movements and involvement with the Death Eaters over the past year after Lucius' escape from Azkaban. He also briefly covered the short amount of time he, Ron, and Hermione had spent captured in their manor house with Mr. Ollivander and Luna, but mainly, he tried to focus on building the story around their falling stature within the group. The culmination of this ending with Voldemort's confiscation of Lucius' wand.
He also told them that Draco had admitted casting an Imperius curse on Madam Rosmerta and then subsequently used her to try and murder Dumbledore. He went through everything he knew about all of the various plots that had failed to assassinate Dumbledore. So far nothing he'd said would absolve them of any of their crimes, and the court listened quietly, nodding along and scribbling notes as he spoke. Everything was just as they suspected. No one interrupted him like they had when he'd previously been here. Even the Malfoy's defendant seemed leery of asking him any questions, lest they damn his employers anymore.
The Malfoys watched him silently, their faces becoming more and more lined and hopeless by the minute as they saw their grave being dug before their very eyes. Only Narcissa had the courage to look him in the eye as a single tear coursed down her face. She'd been the only one holding out hope that Harry would save them. Draco had begun to snivel, a picture of abject misery.
It was time to turn things on their head. He paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts. "Is that all, Mr. Potter?" asked Elphias, eager to move on with the trial now that they had the evidence they needed.
"No, sir," replied Harry evenly. "I believe I have a few more pieces of information that may help the court in its decision."
"Very well then, continue," said Elphias in his high pitched voice, giving a small sigh before waving for Harry to go on as he settled back into his chair.
"Despite everything the Malfoys have done, they are also responsible for saving my life on two occasions. Both of which allowed me to defeat Voldemort. Without them, I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now."
The Malfoys' heads whipped up so fast that Harry was sure they'd gotten whiplash as the court gasped around them. Narcissa's eyes had lit up with a triumphant glimmer as she nodded her thanks to him, while Draco was squinting through tears and looking as if someone had thrown a drowning man a potential lifeline. Lucius was the only one of the three who looked at him in disbelief. His pale grey eyes had gone wide in surprise, clearly unable to fathom Harry's mercy. The solicitor had frozen in shock, his mouth hanging open, not quite believing what he was hearing.
"W- What's this?" Elphias grumbled, stumbling over his words as he tried to comprehend what he'd just heard. Kingsley just watched passively, having already heard the story himself. He'd been willing to leave the decision of the Malfoys' fates in Harry's hands. It gave Harry a warm feeling to know that the old Auror and now Minister still trusted him so much.
"It's true, sir. When we were first captured by snatchers and brought to the Malfoy Manor, I believe that Draco recognized me but deliberately lied to his aunt, Bellatrix Lestrange, about my identity. She would have summoned Voldemort immediately and that would have been the end. Later, in the forbidden forest, after a complex bit of magic that knocked both Voldemort and I off our feet, Narcissa saved my life. I was presumed dead, and when Narcissa was asked to confirm it, she lied to Voldemort himself and told him I was, knowing that I wasn't."
"There's more, sir," said Harry, interrupting him. "I know for a fact that Draco Malfoy was being manipulated into attempting to kill Dumbledore as punishment for his father's failure. Voldemort hoped that he'd be captured or killed in the attempt, thus teaching his followers a lesson. Under threat for his own and his family's lives, he agreed to the task. Dumbledore was aware of his involvement in the plot for months, but was unwilling to try to stop him due to the repercussions the Malfoy family would have faced after any such action. When confronted with a weaponless Dumbledore on the tower, Draco was unable to kill him, and I believe he would have let him go if he'd had been given the time. While he's still partially responsible for Dumbledore's death, the headmaster had planned a series of contingency plans with Professor Snape to stop Draco from being the one to kill him anyway."
"Snape was the one who killed him though," shouted a wizard from somewhere off to the side as the muttering around the courtroom grew to a loud buzz.
"He did. But it was planned. I discovered this fact myself only after the Battle of Hogwarts, and I'm still a little unsure of the details, but the truth remains that Severus Snape was only obeying Dumbledore's orders. He killed him because Dumbledore wanted it to be him rather than Draco. He was trying to save Draco's soul." The statement caused an outrage as witches and wizards shouted questions and their disbelief down at him in equal measures.
"Order," roared Doge after casting a sonorous charm and pounding his gavel down multiple times. Harry couldn't help but think that he sounded rather like a broken squeaky toy repeating the same phrase over and over again. The courtroom eventually began to settle, and the Malfoys watched him with renewed hope in their eyes. He had become their saviour, riding in on a white horse.
Elphias was looking older than ever as he banged his gavel down one final time. "I must say that this is the most unusual trial I've ever seen, Mr. Potter. Most unconventional. As the key witness in this trial, you've turned the prosecution against the Malfoys on its head. I think that will conclude your part in this trial, unless you have anything further to say?"
Harry sighed. "Only this. I don't think the Malfoys should go to Azkaban. As much as I hate to admit it, they did try and redeem themselves, and there's something to be said for that."
"Thank you, Mr. Potter. We will take that into consideration," said Elphias, dismissing him with a wave of his hand. The hit wizard escorted Harry outside the courtroom and then resumed his position guarding the door.
Harry momentarily slumped back into his seat outside. He felt lighter, like a burden had been lifted off of his chest, but it also felt like he'd just run a marathon. He was completely drained emotionally, and now he couldn't quite remember what he was supposed to do. Did he go? Or stay and wait for the ruling? Was he supposed to wait outside or upstairs? He'd forgotten the protocol, and the hit wizards weren't giving him any hints with their stony faces. Slughorn and Rosmerta remained in their seats though. Guess I'll wait here then, he thought numbly, slouching back into the chair.
I did the right thing, he told himself over and over again. He just hoped it was true.
Hours later, the grim-looking door next to him burst open. Harry jumped to his feet, his eyes seeking a familiar face in the crowd now exiting the courtroom. Witches and wizards left in small groups, all abuzz with whispers and murmurs. He scanned their faces without success until he spotted a larger group led by two of the Minister's Auror guards approaching him. He could just barely see Kingsley trying to calm a red-faced wizard who seemed like he was about to have an aneurysm.
"Kingsley," he called over the din. "What's going on? What happened?" His stomach had been roiling anxiously waiting for the ruling.
Kingsley managed to extricate himself out of the clutches of the animatedly gesticulating man and moved towards Harry with his group.
"Walk with me," said Kingsley quickly, sweeping Harry along with him as he put his arm around Harry's shoulders.
"What was the verdict?" asked Harry again nervously.
Kingsley frowned. "It's complicated."
"What do mean complicated?" asked Harry, starting to get frustrated by the lack of clear responses.
"Wait until we get to my office, and I promise I'll tell him everything," said Kingsley quietly, his deep reassuring voice putting Harry at ease.
Their group moved quickly through the empty corridors of the Department of Mysteries, heading through areas that Harry had never seen before. They arrived, finally, at an isolated lift in a back corridor.
"For the Minister's private use," explained Kingsley, seeing the look of confusion on Harry's face.
After going up the lift to the correct floor, they moved quickly through back corridors until they they arrived in the Minister's office. After his personal bodyguards had swept the room for any trace of tampering or ambush, Kingsley ordered them to wait outside the door with a wave of his hand. Harry followed him quietly into the office, biting his tongue as he did so. If he was going to be an Auror he'd have to learn to exercise a bit more control of his tongue he realized briefly.
He took a moment to examine the office around him. It was tastefully decorated with fine wood tables, armchairs, and furniture, while the floor was covered in a lush blue carpet that seemed to be made of air if he was to judge by the amount of bounce in his step. The room felt tastefully luxurious without being gaudy.
"Like what I've done with the place?" asked Kingsley as he sat down heavily behind his desk with a sigh.
"It's looks comfortable," said Harry pleasantly, trying not to let irritation colour his tone.
"Firewhiskey, Harry? Or do you prefer Scotch?" he asked, gesturing to a table of alcohol.
"Scotch I guess," mumbled Harry. He'd heard muggles speak about it, and he knew it was similar to Firewhiskey, but he didn't really know what the difference was.
Kingsley waved his wand absently, causing a decanter to pour two healthy glasses of a honey-colored liquid with an ice cube that then floated towards them.
"This was a present from the Prime Minister after I told him we'd finally gotten rid of Voldemort," said Kingsley, presenting Harry with a glass. "I've got to say it's grown on me."
Harry fought the urge to interrupt him with about a million questions and chose instead to just nod as he took the glass. Kingsley took a long sniff of the liquid before taking a hefty gulp.
"I suppose you're wondering why I'm taking so long to tell you what happened at the trial," said Kingsley slowly. Harry just nodded again stiffly, not trusting himself to speak.
"You've got to understand, Harry, what just happened in that courtroom has never happened before."
"What do you mean 'it' hasn't happened before?" asked Harry tightly. The last thing he enjoyed was being strung along, but he also knew Kingsley wouldn't do it without reason.
"All of it." Kingsley sighed again and took another gulp, draining the glass. "A case that was meant to be a relative cakewalk all of a sudden became the trial of the century."
Harry stayed silent, waiting for him to get to his point.
"A convicted Death Eater and escapee from Azkaban was just defended by Harry Potter. Not to mention the fact that his family has been well known antagonizes and enemies of yours for years. No key witness in a case like this has ever suggested that the accused be granted clemency. Everyone knew the Malfoys' were guilty, and no one expected you to defend them. "
"Didn't you?" asked Harry. He had, after all, told Kingsley about what Narcissa had done for him in the forest.
Kingsley hesitated for a moment. "I didn't know," he said honestly. "I thought it was a possibility, but knowing your history with the Malfoys? I thought you were going to give them the boot. Why didn't you?"
"I couldn't," said Harry with a shrug, looking at his shoes. "It just didn't feel right."
"That's alright, lad. You did the right thing," said Kingsley soothingly. "I know Dumbledore would have been proud."
At that Harry looked up sharply. Kingsley didn't notice, however, as he had actually gotten up to pour himself another drink this time. He poured a small measure before hesitating and adding another generous splash.
"That being said though, we've got a complicated ruling. The Wizengamot couldn't agree on a solution for hours. Half of them still wanted to lock the Malfoys up and throw away the key. About a quarter of them had been bought off before the trial or have old connections with the Malfoys. The rest were swayed by your argument. We had deadlock for quite awhile there, and it was looking more and more like Doge was going to have to make an executive decision as head of the Wizengamot. I knew he was still going to jail them though," Kingsley paused, taking another sip.
"And?" asked Harry, exasperated. Kingsley was in serious danger of being Jinxed at this point if he didn't spill the beans quickly. The man's flair for the dramatic was intolerable.
"Let's just say I had a plan in case you did decide testify in their favour. I made a suggestion. A compromise if you will."
"What'd you suggest?"
"I simply said that they should be allowed their freedom on three conditions. First, that they have their titles stripped. No one who commits treason should be allowed to hold a title anymore. Secondly, that they have their land, property, and assets seized and used to pay for war damages. And, finally, that they had to provide information that leads to the capture of more Death Eaters or disbandment of the Death Cult."
Harry whistled appreciatively. It was unheard of to have a wizard's titles stripped and land seized. Then again, it was also unheard of that a twice proven Death Eater and escapee from Azkaban was let off the hook.
"How'd that go down?" asked Harry.
"Like you can imagine. The court was up in arms. Everyone was changing votes. Initially, many of those who'd sided with the Malfoys even went against it. It was chaos. I think even Lucius was contemplating telling the court just to ship them all off to Azkaban, consequences be damned."
Harry could only imagine how opposed some members of the Wizengamot must have been. The precedent that the case would set would hit the pureblood families right where it hurt. Their legacy. If the Ministry was suddenly capable of stripping titles, assets, and land it would mean that no one was truly above the law anymore. Kingsley had maneuvered them brilliantly into a corner. By using one of their own against them, he'd forced through a possibly watershed solution that could affect the future of magical Britain forever. It was the perfect trojan horse.
"What happened?" he asked, awed by the sheer audacity and brilliance of the plan.
"What always happens," said Kingsley with a wry chuckle as he took another sip. "They argued for hours. The Malfoys' solicitor said the sentence was too harsh. Many said it wasn't harsh enough. At one point, there was a fist fight too. In the end, though, it went through though, but only by two votes."
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. They were finally getting somewhere.
"Lucius did make one make one single demand though in return for the information he would provide," said Kingsley softly, looking up to meet Harry's gaze.
"Did he ask for his favorite cane or something?" asked Harry baffled.
"No. He said the only person he would talk to was you."
Hey guys! Super short chapter,I know. sorry this is such a short chapter but it just felt like a natural stopping point. Hope you enjoy this one though and the first glance at the Malfoys. Like I've said before if you have any advice for me I would love to hear it and feel free to review. Just wanted to say thanks to all the guests who've reviewed and some of the users as well. It's really special to hear from you guys and I wanted to say how unbelievably grateful I am to you all:). Literally makes my day when I see I have a new review!
As for future updates. Sorry to say but the pace is definitely going to slow down a bit. I've eaten my cushion up the last 4 weeks or so since starting my new job and I'm only half way through the next chapter. I'm thinking about making my chapters slightly smaller to keep focus and get them out quicker. Sorry! I too wish I was a full time writer, but at the end of the day you gotta pay the bills. And move countries. And sign a new lease. And save up for that next holiday. Ah life. On a sidenote don't move to Hong Kong if you don't want to be reallllyyyy busy.
Tell me what your thinking though, I'm all ears!