Act I - Trials of Summer
Chapter 32-The Trial Part 5
The Wizengamot was in chaos.
"The Minister of Magic?" Griselda replied distastefully, banging the gavel. "Are you accusing the Minister of Magic of bribery charges?"
Harry rolled his eyes. That Cornelius Fudge was open to bribery was perhaps the worst-kept secret in Wizarding Britain. Of course, only a fool would make an open statement about that fact in front of the entire Wizengamot, lest they be slapped with a defamation case and a heavy penalty, not to mention making a direct enemy of the Minister and his lobby. Harry knew next to nothing about politics, but even he knew not to make a perilous statement like that in public.
But Pius Thicknesse hadn't reached where he had in life by trying to appease everyone.
"Oh no," the wily attorney replied, "I'm accusing Minister Fudge of being an accomplice in the Illegal Smuggling of Magical Beasts, as per Act 52 of the Wizengamot Penal Code."
"That's based on just speculation, Defense Counsel, not found evidence," Marchbanks snapped.
Pius chuckled. "Good, because we're about to find evidence."
He strode across the room and stood facing the acting Chief Warlock. "Evidence 4F contains a memo from the Department of Magical Transportation, citing a note of 'permission' from the Office of the Minister of Magic, asking for allowance for portkey travel between wards. Evidence 4G is a note from the office of the Senior Undersecretary of the Minister of Magic, 'authorizing' the formal request made by the Department of Magical Transportation in the interests of 'efficacy' and 'ease of management."
"I object," Fudge cried out, "Amos Diggory isn't on trial. Harry Potter is. This is a vile attempt at trying to digress away from the court's attention."
"Overruled," Marchbanks snapped, "I want to see where this goes."
Fudge breathed faster.
He was a wily politician who neither boasted of high wizarding skills, nor power, nor an ancient bloodline backing him from a corner. Just a common Pureblood name with a couple of generations under the belt, rising the Ministry ranks through one paper-pusher after another. A man that had used just his intellect and his sharp aptitude at playing at people's emotions to get where he wanted. A man that had risen to the highest echelons of the Ministry of Magic and held his position despite the constant turmoils that shook the world around him.
He was not powerful, but he was far from weak. And he was ruthless.
An ambitious man that would stop at nothing to hold the Minister's seat from slipping away. Even if it meant crossing unacceptable boundaries.
That was the man that Pius Thicknesse had cornered in front of the entire Wizengamot.
And because of that, Fudge was furious.
And he was losing control.
This, Harry thought, is probably the best situation you have here, Harry.
Pius strode to the center of the stage again. "Evidence 4H contains a memo addressed to Mr. Amos Diggory, from the Office of the Minister of Magic, offering him a fully paid vacation to Greece for being a hardworking member of the Ministry."
"What—" Amos Diggory stammered, "No, I got that as recognition for my own hard work during my Ministry career!"
Pius smiled at him predatorily. "Of course, which is why you have received none such 'paid vacations' in your entire forty-four years of Ministry service. Isn't that right, Mr. Diggory?"
The portly man at least had the decency to shut up.
"It's not badgering if I have proof!" Pius asserted, whirling around, "Evidence 4J, a copy of Mr. Diggory's records from the Ministry Treasury and the Department of Employees' Records. Mr. Diggory has submitted eight requests in the past, citing presumptuous reasons for tax exemption, demand for bonuses, and a pay rise in the last two years. The Minister's office rejected every single one of them, and yes, they were signed by Cornelius Fudge. I have submitted affidavits from his co-workers in the DRCOMC, claiming that Mr. Diggory wanted his son Cedric Diggory into the Triwizard Tournament because it would increase his standing in the Ministry."
Pius went on with the flow. "Now, as Mr. Fudge pointed out, dead men tell no tales. So I'll have to ask the 'living' to testify in their stead."
He whirled around to face Fudge. "What do you say, Ministry Prosecutor? Are those adequate grounds for a veritaserum questioning?"
The whiplash from Pius's statement seemed to shock the Minister.
"Verita — What on earth—" The man babbled, before turning towards the acting Chief Warlock in haste, "Mr. Thicknesse is simply trying to misdirect everyone from the current case. This trial is about Harry Potter and his role in the murder of several of our esteemed pureblood members. Mr. Thicknesse is trying to distract this Body using blind speculation."
"Blind speculation? Is that what this is?" Pius gave a sweeping gaze across the entire chamber. "I have a witness that will immediately clear my client of the accusations on his person. However, Minister Fudge has not only acted against the law by putting my client under duress, but he has also spearheaded acute defamation against my client for the past two months. I'm simply trying to right a wrong here."
"Defense Counsel," Marchbanks noted, "As enlightening as this has been, Mr. Fudge has a valid objection. This case pertains to Harry Potter and the death of thirteen purebloods. Unless absolutely necessary, there will be no more accusations on anything unrelated to this case. Am I clear?"
"Crystal," Pius replied, perfectly happy with the turn of events. "Unless, of course, the Prosecution has anything more enlightening to say about my client's dark past or upbringing that is also unrelated to today's events."
Fudge glared at him murderously.
"That said, I'm using my discretionary powers as Acting Chief-Warlock to order the DMLE to register the Evidence as supplied by the Defense Counsel and settle for a trial against Mr. Fudge and associates."
She paused for a moment.
"However, I realize the gravity of such a monumental accusation in the highest office of our government. While a Chief Warlock does not have the authority to suspend a sitting Minister, it falls under my discretionary powers to allow a vote among the members of the Wizengamot, electing an Interim Minister of Magic until the accusations are proved baseless or the sitting Minister is declared guilty and removed from office."
Silence rang in the chamber at her words.
Griselda Marchbanks, Harry mused, was a remarkably neutral judge. A rather rare thing, considering what he knew of Wizarding Britain.
She didn't pick a side. However, that also meant she'd pick the weaknesses of both sides whenever she saw them.
Harry wondered if Dumbledore was behind these events somehow. After all, he was the one that had offered the seat to Marchbanks.
"Bu—But—!" Fudge stammered, "there is no solid proof. This is just conjecture."
"Not quite," Marchbanks countered, "The Defense Counsel has provided evidence to support their accusation. As Mr. Thicknesse offered, there are grounds for a Veritaserum questioning. If you are willing, we can get it done and remove this stain on your reputation right now."
Fudge's chest started heaving, and his eyes got wider. From Harry's peripheral vision, he noticed Lucius Malfoy summon what seemed like an ordinary courtroom attendant and whisper into the man's ear. The attendant then strode off and took the circular route to walk down the stairs in Fudge's direction.
What is that man planning to do now?
"Minister Fudge?" He heard Marchbanks repeat, "would you be willing to undergo Veritaserum questioning?"
Fudge looked like a deer in the headlights. He glanced at Lucius Malfoy, then at Diggory, and then at a dozen unfamiliar faces in the crowd, as if trying to confirm something. Harry wasn't sure if it was fear or resignation or panic on his face, but he finally exhaled and shook his head.
Griselda had a stern expression on her face. "Very well. Minister Cornelius Fudge is well within his rights to demand a proper trial and time to prepare for it. I offer fourteen days. Following it, on the twenty-sixth of August, 1995, the Wizengamot shall hear his case. Until then, I declare the Office of the Minister of Magic to be held in stasis. As per the powers vested upon me by the authority of Chief Warlock, I declare this as a failure in the constitutional machinery of Wizarding Britain, and impose the Bane of Discordia."
Silence rang abound in the chamber for two excruciatingly long seconds.
And then it erupted.
"ARE YOU SERIOUS?"
"THIS IS TYRANNY! WE WILL NEVER AGREE TO—"
The shouts continued on and on. Harry mentally thanked Sirius for giving him a short and succinct course on Wizengamot policies as part of the preparation for the Trial. The Bane of Discordia was an imposition on the Wizengamot, declared into action by the Chief Warlock, proclaiming a staunch failure in constitutional machinery, and vesting the DMLE Director with the authority to take control of the Executive wing of the government. The Bane of Discordia implied a serious breach of the System and allowed the DMLE Director to employ her powers to identify the issue, often using very harsh measures. Depending upon the severity of the situation, the Bane could be dissolved through the nomination and subsequent election of an Interim Minister, or they could devolve it into the state of a full-scale constitutional Emergency.
The last time they had employed the Bane had been in 1980 when Minister Minchum had been sent to prison for aiding the terror that was Lord Voldemort using Ministry-mandated funds. Barty Crouch had taken up the power of the Bane to allow the DMLE to spot and incarcerate Death Eaters in the Ministry systematically.
It was how they had captured Augustus Rookwood.
Harry glanced at Amelia Bones, or rather, at the knowing smirk on her lips. He wondered if the willy woman knew if the situation would end up this way. There was no doubt in his mind that she'd be capitalizing on this opportunity like a great white in a shoal of carp.
More and more clearly frustrated, members of the Wizengamot yammered in protest.
The acting Chief-Warlock lifted her wand and fired bright orange fireworks.
"This Body shall bear witness to the reports made by the DMLE Director on the Wizengamot Sitting on the Twenty-Sixth of August. I will leave it to her discretion to choose an appropriate Ministry Prosecutor to lead the charges against Cornelius Fudge and associates. Depending on the reports, Wizarding Britain will either nominate and elect an Interim Minister of Magic till the next Polls, or enter a state of Constitutional Emergency."
Bloody Hell. Shit had not just hit the fan. It had blasted it with the strongest Reductor curse until it was sand on the floor.
An Emergency? That would basically enforce DMLE Rule upon the nation until it settled the matter. Just like the Fast-Track Death Eater Trials back in 1981. Fleur had made him go through segments from those portions to prepare him for the trial.
It made Harry wonder. Just how much of this had Pius planned? Sirius had Malfoy ready to vote in his favor. Thicknesse clearly had a witness to guarantee a quick and easy acquittal for him, and yet he insisted on playing the long game. Harry had originally thought it to be the attorney's spiteful and roundabout way of getting back at him, but maybe he had it wrong.
Maybe it wasn't about him at all.
It was about Fudge.
The Wizengamot had already made up their minds before the trial had started. Both sides had their vote banks ready to vote in their favor, with the neutral ones swaying in whatever direction the Trial went. But with the Bane hanging over everyone's heads like a sword, and the obvious 'Death Eater' associations of the dead purebloods, Harry couldn't help but wonder just how many among the jury would vote against him, knowing it would attract Bones' attention.
Briefly, he thought about Emma. Emma had admitted to being a forensics expert and serving as Harry's healer on orders of the DMLE Director. The same person was now pushed into the position of absolute authority with this new turn of events. And by Pius's own statements, he had gained an independent opinion on the state of the deceased purebloods by a professional under orders of the DMLE.
The strings kept going round and round.
Like a web.
And it all centered on one singular person.
The DMLE Director herself.
Just how much had Amelia Bones banked on this trial?
The more the Trial went on, he became increasingly convinced that the trial wasn't really about him at all. He was just the puppet in the game, a conveniently placed distraction to lure people's attention while a whole different ball game was being played around him.
A pawn placed on a board of checkers while people played chess all around him.
"Now then, with that matter out of the way, we can finally get back to the original topic at hand," the acting-Chief Warlock sighed. No doubt the day's events were getting to her. Honestly, Harry wouldn't mind if the trial ended already.
Or at least, another recess in the interim. After all the stuff that Fudge had pulled out of his arse and the stellar performance, Pius had given in front of the entire Wizengamot, not to mention the declaration of the Bane, a break for both sides would not have been rejected.
Meanwhile, the attendant came forward and whispered something in Fudge's ears. Given the way the man stiffened, Harry could only wonder what had transpired.
It was then that Marchbanks made her conclusions known.
"From what we've seen so far, Harry Potter has had a rather interesting past, connecting him with several inexplicable cases of unknown magical feats, or if the Prosecution is to be believed, baseless rumors started by a famous kid to cash in his fame. A lot of information about Harry Potter's past involvements is murky, but he did none of them out of malice, but out of perceived necessity. However…."
She turned to Pius. "The Defense Counsel has affirmed that he has a witness that will clear all the confusion about what transpired on the night of the Third Task. Unless there is any other point or witnesses relevant to the case, I suggest the Defense Counsel move ahead and summon his witness."
Pius leaned against Harry's podium and crossed his arms. "I agree. The day keeps lengthening. With no further delay, I'd like to call on my witness—"
Every single eye turned at Fudge's sudden interruption. The portly man gathered himself and approached the bench. "Chief Warlock, I wish to sidebar with the opposing counsel!"
Harry met Pius's eyes for a fleeting second.
Pius showed no signs of recognition and turned around. "What is this? A last-minute plea for a lesser sentence?"
"The Defense Counsel offered us a chance to settle twice. This time, I'm offering one."
"In the interests of symmetry, should I simply not disregard it with the same apathy as you did?"
"I believe it will be beneficial for us both, Mr. Thicknesse," Fudge replied, gaining a little of his confidence back. The man turned to the Bench. "Chief Warlock, respected jury, the Prosecution requests a recess. I and the Defense Counsel would need to sit down and discuss and probably come to an arrangement."
"Now?" Griselda looked frustrated. "Mr. Thicknesse?"
Pius cupped his chin thoughtfully. "The way I think, there is no case. But, I'm a great believer in second chances. I see no trouble in meeting the Prosecution in an out-of-court settlement before things move on to its conclusion."
Harry blinked. Was this — No way! No fucking way—
"Are you sure?" The sudden precipitous claim surprised even Marchbanks. Fudge was in a terrible situation, all things considered, and Pius had a witness to dispel the man's case without so much as a second question. Pius acting out like this simply made no sense.
Which, Harry mused, only spoke of the awesomeness of the man's plan.
"The Prosecution accepts," Fudge jumped on the line. "I'm sure we can come to a most pleasant compromise—"
"Chief Warlock," Amelia Bones called out, "Apologies for speaking out of turn, but it's essential I state this now. I'm not sure how this untimely settlement will solve matters, but a grave injustice has been done. People have died, laws breached; serious accusations made against the existing government. I humbly request that the Evidence submitted to this Body be kept in DMLE custody for further investigation."
"Of course," Marchbanks agreed easily.
Translation. Pius and Fudge could dance however they wanted. But Amelia Bones had gotten the apple, and she wasn't letting it out of her grasp any time soon.
"That's perfectly fine by me," Pius replied. "But Mr. Fudge has shown such willingness to settle, so perhaps an hour of negotiation?"
Marchbanks flicked her wand to cast a Tempus charm. It was already five in the evening.
"The Defense Counsel and the Prosecution have thirty minutes to discuss and come to an arrangement. Should the arrangement fail, the Defense Counsel will summon his official witness and prove his client's innocence. If they come to an arrangement, I will consider the case resolved."
She banged the gavel. "Dismissed."
Fudge looked constipated and ready to cry foul, but said nothing while the Jury vacated the courtroom. Fudge looked around with a constipated expression on his face as Lucius Malfoy casually walked out without so much as a glance in his direction. Really, even though they were on opposing sides and knowing what the man had done, Harry couldn't help but feel conflicted between whether to feel pity or amused at the man's fate.
Pius… settled for being amused.
And Harry stopped being able to fight back the maniac's grin that had been struggling to get loose from his face.
Fudge might not have known it, but the game was over.
Harry had won.
Two days before the Trial…
Pius ruined a perfectly pleasant moment of some firewhiskey bonding by saying — "I sent an anonymous tip-off to Fudge, about Bancroft testifying as our witness."
That kicked Harry completely out of his mental zone and suddenly realized the burning in his throat and his heavy breathing. There were still two days before the Trial and Pius was making him go over specific sections of the law that he'd need to know for the trial.
"...What?" Harry asked, flabbergasted. "Why?"
"We… cannot have Macmillan testify in court, or at least, not under Veritaserum."
And just like that, Harry was wide awake.
"As the Headmaster of Hogwarts is so fond of saying, the truth is a beautiful and dangerous thing, and must be handled with great caution. Bancroft testifying in court certainly gets the judge to rule in our favor, but it destroys the entire political system of Wizarding Britain. If questioned under Veritaserum, he'd have the names of You-Know-Who's entire Inner Circle, his primary benefactors, his established contacts abroad — everything."
Harry studied him. It stretched the ideal symmetry of his face tight with tension. His eyes, which were bluish-gray, were tinting towards reflective silver.
"And… that's a bad thing?"
Pius sighed. "Your case differs from others. The people that perished that night — were members of influential houses and purebloods of varying degrees of opulence. Some of them had major contributions to our world, businesses that helped the economy stay stabilized. Connections that brought in trade from the other countries. Families that would have already been up in arms if not for Fudge steering the wheel."
"I didn't ask them to murder me—" Harry began hotly.
"No one says you did. Those people tried to commit something evil, and it backfired on them. But these are purebloods and nobles. Their Houses won't allow this to smear their reputation. Logic, fairness, hypocrisy — none of that matters."
"The names he will utter — it's going to throw a splinter into the brimming cauldron. Lucius Malfoy, Alexander Nott, Ignatius Burke, Septimus Parkinson — you'll have half the Wizengamot up there in arms, casting deadly curses at the other half. By the time you'd have things settled down, the Wizengamot would be in ruins, not to mention the Dark Lord would direct his rage at you."
Harry thought of his own ideas for the Wizengamot. Between him, Sirius and Fleur, they had come up with something that would 'shake the pot' heavily. If nothing else, Pius's plan would act as a balancing reagent to the instability he was going to inject into it.
"There's no point winning the battle if it costs you the war. As it stands, the Trial will shake the pot heavily, but in a controlled fashion. The aim here is to get Mr. Potter acquitted free of charges, not to throw the country in a civil war because, trust me, having Macmillan testify is going to do exactly that."
"But MacMillan is our best shot at proving—"
"Wrong," Pius replied, "There are like a hundred and forty-six ways I could prove your innocence. MacMillan is simply the largest nail in the coffin. A nail that can do us just as much damage as it can do our opponent."
Pius arched an eyebrow.
Harry backpedaled. "I mean, I get the entire Wizengamot thing, but you said 'damage to us'. How's that?"
Pius stared at him for a silent moment and nodded.
"Perceptive," He said, "Tell me, Harry, do you remember the night at the cemetery? More precisely, those deaths….?"
There was a universe of caution in that ellipsis.
And just like that, Harry knew what the man was talking about. In some corner of his mind, Harry had always believed that back in that cemetery, he had transformed into that thing, and butchered through the crowd, just like he had done to Walburga Black's wraith. There was a reason Kreacher called him a demon, why the house-elves of the Greengrass estate were one step from attacking him, their orders from the Lord of the House keeping them from tearing him to bits.
There must have been something on his face that made Pius nod. "I see. Do you know 'how' you did that?"
"I have some ideas, yes."
"Is it an animagus form of some sort?"
"Not that I know of…" Harry trailed. "But—"
Pius raised his hand. "It's better you do not tell me. Plausible deniability if things go south. The fact is, the Department viewed Bancroft's memories of that night. One viewer, an aging member of the BRAIN division, died of cardiac arrest right after."
That made Harry jerk his head towards him in shock.
"Croaker's opinion is that the memory is too volatile and dangerous to be viewed in public. He says that the corruptive energies coming out of that… creature could be deleterious to an average viewer, by something so casual as watching it. He said that no one that doesn't have a minimum level of Occlumency training should be allowed to view it. If we produce Bancroft in the Wizengamot, and Chief Warlock asks for his memory—"
Pius squinted down at his own feet. "That is why I leaked the information out. There is no doubt Lucius Malfoy would share his own memory with Fudge. Between the two, they will demand the memory to be shown in public. Between the explosive testimony and the memory, we'll be left with a war zone at the end."
Harry stared at him in frustration for a moment and sighed. "What do we do?"
"Nothing," Pius replied, "You do precisely nothing. If my plans go right, then it will be Minister Fudge doing all the work for us."
The room selected for negotiation was, ironically enough, the Minister's office.
On one side of the room sat Pius Thicknesse, with Harry Potter and Sirius Black on his left and Penelope Clearwater on his right. Sirius looked absolutely annoyed. Frankly, Harry was surprised he wasn't acting out.
On the other side sat Cornelius Fudge and Dolores Umbridge. The former was angry, disgruntled, and looked like he was ready to do unspeakable things than be in that room. The latter looked clearly out of place.
"So then," Pius replied with all the dryness of the Sahara, "The Bane of Discordia will be active right after this trial. I cannot take away any evidence I have officially submitted, and my witness, Bancroft Macmillan, is completely willing to reveal the name of every single Death Eater in the Dark Lord's Inner Circle. Already you've lost plenty of them earlier, but now, you stand to lose everything."
He crossed his arms and relaxed back into his chair. "So, what do you offer?"
Editor: Solo Starfish, the best goddamn starfish the world has ever seen.
Okay, so first things first. Apologies for the delay. The BlackStaff was suffering from serious muse issues. And a couple of plot bunnies that just wouldn't leave his head. And some IRL stuff that's he still trying to sort through. Whatever. This update is the one you should have gotten on 1st August, so you will get the next update soon. Not sure if it'll be on 15th, but we estimate it'll hit before 20th.
Also, we're also working on correcting the issues our readers have pointed in the reviews. Don't worry. This story is here to stay.
Back to your regularly scheduled AN...
If you enjoyed the chapter and our stories, you can support us by giving us feedback as reviews, favorites, and follows. You can also support us on ? ﾝﾒﾶ? ﾝﾓ𝒫𝒶𝓉𝓇𝑒𝑜𝓃 where you can read ahead and view our original works. If you want to talk to us directly, share feedback, or ask us questions, you may have you can join us on our Discord Server.
You can find links to all of our stories, our 𝒫𝒶𝓉𝓇𝑒𝑜𝓃, and our Discord at:
𝒫𝒶𝓉𝓇𝑒𝑜𝓃𝓈 can read up to 4 chapters ahead of the current release.
Thanks once again, and we hope you continue to enjoy our stories.
~The BlackStaff and NightMarE~