I never really understood exactly how quickly a human mind could formulate thoughts and conclusions when under extreme pressure. I mean, at each of the times I've faced down Tom I have been hectic, panicked and so scared my arse refused to cooperate with me for a week afterwards. But the horrifyingly unpleasant sensation of my stomach dropping so quickly focused my mind more than anything in recent memory. I swear that if my stomach fell any further I'd need surgery to get it replaced.
A faint voice in the back of my mind noted dispassionately that I would probably need to change my shorts rather sooner than originally expected.
"You possess a wand that cast an unforgivable Cruciatus curse?" demanded Malachi gleefully.
Well that's it then. Off to sunny old Azkaban for me. I don't suppose it will be quite as bad as it was for Sirius, since the dementors are everywhere but on the actual island. I wonder if all this would have turned out differently if Hermione hadn't managed to recover my wan-
"Was it cast before or after I was disarmed?" I blurted, saying the only thing possible that could buy me some time.
As much as I tried to focus, to mentally build a coherent defence, I simply couldn't force my mind to do anything other than rejoice at the change of expression on Malachi's face.
Though the bastard's expression remained fixed, there was a certain change behind his eyes that was most interesting to my panicking soul. I'd imagine that very same change had been visible in my eyes only seconds before. Next, though it remained on his thin-lipped face, the self-satisfied smirk lost its honest joy, becoming just an over-wide, sickly, put on smile.
But the best bit was when pure horror appeared in a manner he couldn't hide. The colour drained from his face like one of Ginny's blushes in reverse. His mouth opened as if to say something, allowing his chin to quiver slightly.
Oh, by all that is holy, that felt good.
The eruption of noise that followed from the crowd gave me a few more seconds in which to gather my wits. Not that I was able to see any way out of this one. I may have cast the curse after my wand had been taken from me, but it was also after Hermione had given it back.
Malachi was quick on his feet, I had to give him that. He quickly realised the difference between what I intimated had happened and what had actually occurred that night. I'm quite sure that given the chance, he'd have been able to crucify me.
But the very crowd to which he was playing came to my rescue. Presenting evidence showing The-Boy-Who-Lived cast an illegal spell would have been a story to knock Voldemort's return off the front page. But my off-hand comment about being disarmed had the rather beneficial effect of directing the crowd's ire onto my accuser.
Even with his magically magnified voice, he had no chance of overcoming the gallery.
Right up until a third wave of silence again swept over the audience members. Malachi gave me a superior look and tried to make the most of this break; but on discovering he too was silenced, an expression of resignation appeared.
"Order! You have been warned!" boomed Madam Bones, tiny flecks of spittle emerging at high speed from her furious mouth. "Security, clear the gallery!"
The animation of the crowd was rather amusing, as uniformed wizards drew their wands and began a rather complex series of wand movements. A shudder appeared to run through the gallery, and the assembled crowd began to flow backwards towards the various entrances. It took me a minute to realise the floor they were standing on was moving backwards just like a muggle escalator.
It took a surprisingly short time to clear the room, leaving only the Wizengamot, a panel of Ministry personnel, uniformed guards, Malachi and myself in the room. Malachi just glared at me, utter fury almost oozing from his blocked pores. Madam Bones had remained standing, her face still showing her displeasure.
"Mr. Malachi! Front and Center!" she shouted.
Looking rather like a first-year student heading off to a detention with Snape, the slimy git trudged over to the Wizengamot. In a low, hissing voices, several members began berating the lawyer. They spoke softly enough that only the odd word made it to me.
"You know, being around you is never dull."
I sighed at the familiar voice and turned to see Tonks back in her usual 'unusual' hairstyle. It clashed rather horribly with her uniform, though I suppose that was the effect she was after. "What are you doing here?" I snapped. "Weren't you relegated to driving duty?"
I'm sure Tonks would have liked to raise only one eyebrow, but she didn't have the muscle control to do it. "I've been charged with ensuring Arthur's security, and your's by extension." She tilted her head to one side and gave me a rather intense look. "What's up, Pup? What's the matter?"
"Nothing." I said shortly, turning back to watch Malachi get reamed. I certainly didn't want to miss a single second of that.
"Yeah, right. You're just acting like a complete little shit for fun and profit." she said easily. "You sure you didn't put your wand in your back pocket and blow off a buttock or something?"
"No. It's nothing you can fix or make better. Now piss off."
"Two quick words of advice, Harry." Tonks sounded disappointed, just like everyone else in the world. "It's OK to be angry, just don't dig yourself into a hole too deep to get out."
I yawned theatrically.
"Second, don't underestimate Malachi." she finished, turning to return to her post. "He was the Malfoy family's lawyer."
Wonderful. No wonder Mr. Weasley acted like that when the greasy fart introduced himself. I focused on Malachi, noting with regret that the Wizengamot had finished chastising him and had, in their wisdom, neglected to tear him a new one. Ah well, you can't get everything you want in life.
"Mr. Potter, I apologise for that rather unethical display by Julius." said Madam Bones, gracing the lawyer with one last withering glare. We are here this afternoon to discus the events leading up to your little soiree into the Ministry, but we would like to focus on what happened at Hogwarts prior to you and your friends leaving the grounds. Specifically, the actions of Dolores Umbridge."
I nodded, with not a little relief.
"Good. If you will just state for the record that you didn't in fact cast the Cruciatus curse in question, we can move on."
I sat alone in a rather unique office. It was large, as befitted a Department Head, but was so full of files, papers and boxes there was barely room for Madam Bones' high backed chair, her large oak desk, and two guest chairs. The guest chairs were nowhere near as comfortable as the one behind the desk looked.
I removed my glasses and ran a hand across my eyes, feeling far more alone now than any time in recent memory. Just three hours ago I had begged the world in the recesses of my mind to be left alone. Now my wish has come true, and I really didn't want it.
I managed to stay still as the door behind me opened. Madam Bones strode past me to sit in her chair, while Dumbledore sat next to me in the remaining free chair. I looked up at her and tilted my head to one side. Mr. Weasley moved over to one wall with less paper than the others and leaned against it. Kingsley Shacklebot and Mad-Eye Moody closed the door behind them and focused on me.
"Harry, this is extremely serious." Madam Bones started, using my given name for the first time. "The Headmaster assures me that you didn't learn to cast the Cruciatus curse at Hogwarts, that no professor would consent to teaching you. I have personally ensured there are no library texts which contain the information, not even in the restricted section. Therefore I do need to ask you this and I need you to answer truthfully. Who taught you to cast that curse?"
I shrugged. "No one. I mean, when Barty Crouch was masquerading as Alastor Moody he told us that what the incantation was. He even demonstrated it on a spider in class once. I've been threatened with it on occasion and even been on the receiving end a couple of times. But that was the first and only time I've tried to cast the spell."
It was gratifying to see the look of complete shock on her face, but what really made my day was the look of horror on Dumbledore's. I'd have given everything in my vault for a camera right now. Bugger, where is Colin when you need him?
"I'm sorry Harry, are you saying that you managed to cast one of the unforgivable curses on your first attempt?" Madam Bones squeaked, her normally booming voice a pale shadow of what it was during the interrogation.
I nodded. Shit, the colour in her face drained quicker than Malachi's. What is going on?
Dumbledore cleared his throat. "Harry, your professors have quite often spoken with me on the rather perplexing paradox that is your magical ability. As Amelia is aware, you were capable of casting a fully corporeal patronus at the age of just thirteen. Yet you had a rather stunning amount of difficulty in learning some other basic spells. The levitation charm for instance. Another example is the summoning spell, though you did use that one to rather spectacular effect during the-"
"Do you have a point?" I growled, not the least interested in his rambling.
Dumbledore took a deep breath. "Harry, it normally takes several weeks of practice for you to master a spell. This is quite normal and healthy. Remus informed me that it took months of intense practice and dedication before your patronus was strong enough to hold off a dementor. Casting a spell of the power the Cruciatus on your first attempt is unheard of, and does cast your other testimony into a rather unfavourable light."
I sneered at him. "That's OK, I'm more than used to that."
"What do you mean?" asked Madam Bones.
"Harry is referring to not being believed by many during the past year after-"
Again I interrupted him. "Since you know exactly what I mean, why don't you testify for me in future?"
He actually had the grace to look abashed. "I apologise, Harry."
I looked back at Kingsley and Moody, whose magical eye was fixed directly on me. I turned back to Madam Bones. "So, will I be able to go and at least get my toothbrush before being shipped off to Azkaban?"
Madam Bones blinked in surprise, looking more shocked now than before. "Why would you think you were going to Azkaban, Mr. Potter?"
Despite my sarcasm, I felt a huge weight lift from my heart. "Only because I figured that was standard procedure."
"Mr. Potter, if we determine that you have a charge to answer, you would only be sentenced to Azkaban should you be found guilty."
"Crap." I said flatly. "I know of two people you pricks sent to Azkaban without a trial. Both were innocent."
All four wizards in the room cleared their voice in unison, causing them all to blush to varying degrees. Madam Bones frowned at their reactions. Not being stupid, she knew they were trying to subtly stop me from telling her something. She continued to direct her questions to me though, ignoring the others. "To whom are you referring?"
"How about Hagrid?" I asked in a deceptively mild voice. "Sent to Azkaban because, and I quote, 'Got to be seen to be doing something.' Isn't that what Fudge said as he was having Hagrid carted away?" I rhetorically asked Dumbledore, still in the mild tone.
The old wizard closed his eyes. "Yes Harry, those were indeed Cornelius' words. I believe you've made your point."
"Oh you think so?" I challenged him.
"Yes." He replied all softness in his voice gone. "It appears that you may have failed to learn the lesson you have just undergone, Harry. When to speak, and when to keep quiet."
Madam Bones leaned back in her chair; looking at Dumbledore over steepled fingers. Her eyes flickered over each of the other men in the room before coming to land on me. "I take it the others in the room would be happier if you didn't talk about the other person you mentioned." she said dangerously. "While you are certainly entitled to retain that information, I would encourage you to tell me if there has been an injustice performed by the Ministry."
I shrugged. "Oh, I intend to tell you."
"Harry!" said Mr. Weasley in a strangled voice.
Madam Bones leant forward suddenly. "Mr. Potter, I have a vested responsibility to ensure the safety of the wizarding world. Despite what these gentlemen think, if someone has been incarcerated for a crime they did not commit, I want to know about it."
I stared back at her defiantly. "I think they are worried my 'testimony' will be put into an even more unfavourable light." I said, mimicking Dumbledore's voice.
Madam Bones leant back in her chair, her piercing eyes not leaving my own. After several uncomfortable minutes, she finally spoke, in a very slow and careful voice. "It has been, in the recent past, common practice for someone accused of a serious crime to be detained at Azkaban while their trial was arranged and performed. In almost all cases, the accused was found guilty. Rubeus Hagrid was an exception." She paused, thinking deeply. "I understand that it was through your own actions that he was exonerated. However, of the few people who have been detained at Azkaban and were subsequently found to be innocent, Mr. Hagrid is the only person with whom you should have had contact. All other inmates have been found guilty at trial. Except for-"
The expression on her face contorted into one of fear and disbelief. "No. Please no. Please tell me you have not had contact with Sirius Black?"
"My godfather?" I asked sweetly. "What is wrong with that?"
"Mr. Potter! Sirius Black is a mass-murderer! He betrayed your parents!"
I rolled my eyes. "Have anybody in a position of power actually listened to what I said happened when Voldemort returned?"
Madam Bones was breathing hard, still on the verge of panic. "Of course I have. What do you mean?"
I gave her a sour look. "Who murdered Cedric Diggory?"
She blinked. "Well, You-Know-Who, of course."
I shook my head and looked down at my hands. "No, he ordered Cedric's death. Peter Pettigrew killed him."
"Peter? But I thought-"
"Thought what?" I roared, suddenly leaping to my feet. I sensed Moody draw his wand behind me. "That I was making it up? That I was dreaming? What?"
She shrunk backwards from the neck, briefly resembling a tortoise, before remembering that she was the one in power. "Mr. Potter! I will not be spoken to in such a manner!"
"What does it take for you people to think?" I demanded, slamming my hand down on the desk. "What does it mean that Peter Pettigrew is alive and well and a Death Eater?"
Madam Bones blinked, then frowned. "That Black and Pettigrew were both supporters of the Dark Lord." she offered hopefully.
I groaned at the apparent stupidity these people had. Hermione was right, very few wizards in the world have the ability to think logically. "No, It means that Sirius convinced my father to change who would be their Secret Keeper at the last minute."
"Mr. Potter, Albus has already testified that Black was your parent's Secret Keeper."
I ran a hand across my eyes. Why the hell is this so hard to understand? "Yes, indeed he did. He knew Sirius was going to be my parent's Secret Keeper. Everyone knew that Sirius was going to be the Secret Keeper. Who better to trust than your best friend." I looked directly into Madam Bones' eyes. "Did it ever cross your tiny little mind that perhaps it was too obvious, that they decided to let everyone think that Sirius was the Secret Keeper?"
Madam Bones' eyes flickered over to Dumbledore, who gave her a grave nod. "So it was Pettigrew who betrayed your parents?" she asked in a small voice.
I nodded, not wanting to let her off that easily. "My godfather spent twelve years of his life in hell because you bastards didn't give him a trial. You just swept him under the carpet, because it was too difficult to deal with at the time. Hell, it just didn't fit in with your comfortable idea that everything worked out all right in the end. So you'll have to forgive me if I have so little fucking faith in the wizarding world's record when it comes to justice!"
I cut her off, just getting into my stride. "An innocent man has been through hell and back, while those who have a fucking tattoo burned into their arm are allowed to go around as free as a bird, just as long as they have the galleons to buy their way out of trouble. Fudge put Hagrid straight into Azkaban without any evidence at all, but let Lucius Malfoy whisper sweet nothings into his ear for a year after being told he was a fucking Death Eater, just because he gives a shit load of money to charity. My godfather died trying to protect me, killed by his own cousin, while some arseholes who work for the Ministry have done everything they could to make sure I needed to be protected in the first place!" I let my voice slowly build up.
"That is enough, Mr. Potter. I know you have been under a great deal of stress lately, but I will not tolerate this continuing verbal assault!"
I ignored Mr. Weasley and Dumbledore as they tried to get us to settle down. "It appears to be the only way to get anyone in the wizarding world to actually think!" I shouted even louder into her face. "You all just sit there, eyes shut to the outside world, hoping against hope that nothing untoward will interrupt your decade long nap! For fuck's sake, it took the bloody Dark Lord himself to make an appearance in front of Fudge, in the fucking Ministry building, before he actually did anything productive. Umbridge even went one step further, setting me up to look like a liar by setting a pair of dementors onto me!"
Silence descended. Madam Bones and I were all but nose-to-nose, breathing heavily and staring straight into each other's eyes. When she finally spoke, it was in a normal voice.
"I assume you can back up your claim that it was in fact Dolores Umbridge who sent the dementors after you?" she asked calmly.
"I have several witnesses to the fact." I replied just as calmly, slowly returning to my seat. It took a fair bit of effort to not smile at Mr. Weasley's sigh of relief. "Or do you accept memories in a pensieve as testimony?" I noticed my voice was a little raw. Not surprising really.
Wordlessly, Madam Bones stood and opened a cupboard behind her. She gently withdrew a large wooden box with an ornate keyhole on the front. Carefully, she sat it down on her desk, before producing the key from a chain around her neck.
The lock was obviously magical as well, since she mumbled something as she turned the key one way, then changed direction. Rather like opening a combination safe. The box opened, revealing a set of empty, unadorned bowls.
"We do not usually admit pensieve evidence as testimony, since memories have a tendency to be changed by the owner, making themselves look better, or at least making them look less bad. These are pensieves designed to hold memories of people on trial or witnesses until a verdict is handed down." she explained as she withdrew one of the ceramic bowls. She placed it in front of me gently. "While they cannot be admitted, it aids both the defence and prosecution to be able to re-examine the eye-witness memory of an event at different stages in a trial. Draw your wand, Mr. Potter. Place it against your temple." I nodded, drawing my wand from my sleeve. "Focus on the memory you wish us to see. Visualize the tip of your wand attaching itself to the scene."
I nodded again and followed her instructions. I closed my eyes and the scene flooded my mind. With a smile, I decided to put a little extra in. I would bet Madam Bones would be quite interested in discovering that I had been threatened with the Cruciatus curse from a Ministry official.
"Gently draw your wand away from your temple. That's it. You will feel the memory stretch as it is drawn out. Don't worry; you will retain it once the strand is removed."
The not entirely pleasant sensation was a bit like running your fingers down a strand of hair. I could feel the slight tugging at my scalp at the same time as allowing the thought to be pulled away.
The last second, feeling the silver memory strand break at the base was momentarily quite uncomfortable. I opened my mouth in a silent gasp as my train of thought returned with a rush. I looked at my wand, seeing a silvery strand clinging to the tip.
"Place it in here, quickly, before it dissipates." continued Madam Bones, gently pushing the small pensieve closer towards me. I nodded one last time, and lowered the strand into the bowl. It pooled quickly at the base, running together and forming a tiny puddle.
"Thank you, Mr. Potter. Let us see what you remember."
She prodded the tiny pool with her own wand, and the silvery forms of several people rose. The scene was horribly familiar to me, being as it was just before Snape left Umbridge's office.
With another prod, the figures began moving, Snape quickly closing the door behind him.
"I assume that was when Severus was asked to supply Dolores with Veritaserum?" queried Dumbledore. Madam Bones quickly tapped the side of the bowl, pausing the memory.
"She asked Professor Snape for Veritaserum?" queried Madam Bones. "She didn't submit a request to the Ministry?"
I shook my head with a sneer. "Of course not. She already tried to use it on me earlier in the year, but I sure as hell wasn't about to drink anything she gave me."
I heard a snort from behind me, and a soft growl of, "Good lad."
I looked back at Moody, and nodded to him. Of all the adults in my life at the moment, I guess Mad-Eye is the only one I don't feel angry towards. I almost chuckled at the thought. Being angry towards the man would no doubt decrease my life expectancy dramatically.
"I see." said Madam Bones. "I shall bring that up with her later. Shall we continue?"
I nodded along with the others, all just watching my own memory play out before me.
Madam Bones watched in disbelief as the Ministry appointed High Inquisitor talked herself into believing she could use the Cruciatus curse on a student to extract information. A silvery Hermione begged her not to, claiming that it was illegal. When the tiny silver Umbridge admitted to sending the dementors, Madam Bones gave a hiss of anger. When Umbridge claimed that it was done just to discredit me, there were at least three audible gasps in the room. The memory faded.
"That slimy- I don't believe- How could she?" she demanded of the world, slamming her palm down onto the desk.
"Let me guess." I said, not liking her reaction. "No one believe me before?"
"It's not like that." said Madam Bones absently. "Dolores hasn't testified yet. She claims that she doesn't remember the events that happened prior to being led into the forest. She claims that she was probably under the influence of the Imperius curse."
I raised an eyebrow. "I take it you no longer believe her?"
"No." said Madam Bones emphatically. "Someone under the Imperius does not stop to justify their actions, least of all to themselves. She was acting fully of her own accord."
She stood quickly, and began pacing back and forth behind her desk. The effect was ruined by the fact that with all the paper and files, she had to turn around after only three strides.
"Shacklebot!" she snapped, coming to a halt. "I want her detained at Azkaban until her trial, not in one of the holding wards at St. Mungo's. She needs to be in a far more secure facility. See to it, please."
Kingsley must have nodded and left, since I felt a tiny gust of cool air hit my back as I stared at her. She resumed her pacing, mumbling to herself. I could make out the odd comment; 'Can't believe-', '-bring down the entire Ministry', '-was she thinking?' all reached my ears.
Dumbledore spoke up. "While this is very damaging to both Dolores and the Ministry, we are here to deal with Harry."
"Ah, yes." said Madam Bones, shaking her head slightly.
"We are left in a rather unenviable position." Dumbledore continued. "Harry's use of the curse was illegal, though there are recent precedents where it has been allowed to be performed against Dark Wizards."
I gave an amused snort. "I don't suppose you could request that the alledged victim come down to the Ministry in person to register an official complaint? Maybe fill out some forms in triplicate? A few hundred perhaps?"
Madam Bones just glared at me and ignored my question. She sat down, and answered Dumbledore. "True, but that authority was given to trained aurors only. As much as Mr. Potter here can claim to have been in danger, and even given his remarkable OWL score in Defence, he is not by any means an auror. Not to mention the fact that the executive order allowing the use of the unforgivables was rescinded over a decade ago."
"That has not stopped those unfortunate enough to encounter any of Lord Voldemort's minions over the last few weeks from using them to defend themselves." Dumbledore said pointedly. "Since Minister Fudge's announcement of Voldemort's return, the Ministry has been quite reticent to prosecute any who were forced to use one of the unforgivables in self defence."
"Again, those were fully trained wizards, something Mr. Potter here is not." replied Madam Bones, frustration leaking into her voice. "If he is not charged, then use of such a curse spells the end of his formal education. Without a trial to determine whether or not casting the curse was justified, the governors will have no choice but to expel him."
I raised my eyebrows in surprise. "You mean that if I did stand trial-"
Madam Bones nodded. "And were found not guilty of casting the curse, or found to have cast it in self defence, you would be entitled to return to Hogwarts. If you were found guilty, you would more than likely be spending a few years in Azkaban." She shook her head. "However, if you don't appear at trial, the governors will be required to use only the information at their disposal, which at present is that you did in fact cast the spell. They will not have any information regarding the mitigating circumstances."
"Wonderful. I have to gamble with my freedom, if I want to go back to school?"
"Essentially." nodded Dumbledore, clearly unhappy.
I looked down at my hands, not quite sure how I felt. Relief at not being incarcerated featured prominently, mixed with my ever-present anger and combined with not a little dread. The fantasy of not going back to Hogwarts had been quite satisfying while I had taken for granted that I would actually be returning. But with the knowledge that I would not actually be going back, I felt... empty.
No more Quidditch. No more DA. No more chess games with Ron in front of the fire. No more sneaking into the kitchen at night for a midnight snack. No more Hogsmeade weekends.
No more Snape. Well, I suppose every cloud has a silver lining and all that. I just wish I wasn't struck by lightning every time I went looking for it.
Log in using your account with us
Retrieve your password
Simply enter your email address in below, and we will send you an email with a NEW password in it. Once you have logged in, you will be able to change your password to something a little easier to remember.