Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. I make no profit from this work of fiction.

Author's note: This is a flashfic (definition is 1,000 words or less) for each chapter.

I hope everyone enjoys the story. Even if you don't, if you have anything constructive to say, I'll be very happy to take your comments under consideration.

I've learned that the greatest capacity and conundrum of man is love.

"Mister Lockhart, are you prepared to provide your testimony?"

I was incredibly nervous. Feeling the sweat coating my palms as I walked forward to stand before the tribunal of wizards, I imagined that someone, at some point, must have confused nervousness and love.

"You understand, Mister Lockhart, why you've been called to testify today?" I felt my heartbeat rapidly increase even as I nodded. "Very well then. Take the wand." My hand closed around the thin wood, and something familiar but foreign jolted through me. I heard my voice reciting the words, repeating everything back to the head wizard.

The next half hour of my life passed in a haze. I heard my voice, but didn't listen to the words coming from my mouth. My mind was far more focused on the sensation coursing through my hand as it continued to clutch the wand. It was odd, having my breath seemingly ripped from my lungs even as I tried to speak. Ignoring the feeling was impossible.

"Thank you, Mister Lockhart."

Despite my affinity for the glorious magic coursing through me as I held the wand, I did hand it over to the mediwizard who approached me to take it. It didn't take the most knowledgeable wizard to recognize the first signs of what could easily lead to obsession. It occurred to me, even as I waited for the hearing to conclude, that it might be very easy for that sensation to be confused with love. Perhaps that explained a great deal.

I shook the thoughts from my mind, my attention returning once more to the hearing itself. Mister Potter had escorted his blonde friend in earlier. She stood before them giving her own accounting of events as she knew them, and I had to admit that I did have a fondness for her lilting speech. I couldn't help but smile as I listened to her voice.

"So, Miss Lovegood, you're saying that Mister Lockhart did not request the tomes as the mediwizard has testified?"

My eyes snapped open at the dreadful tone in the Chief Warlock's voice. He seemed predisposed to condemn me. After what I had read about my past life, I could hardly blame him.

"Should a star light the flame of a candle?" I watched the Chief Warlock's eyebrows furrow and hoped she would not cause herself any trouble. "I can only answer for what I have myself witnessed, good sir. When merlins call, do you think a gannet answers?" The wizard's cheeks pinkened, and were it possible, I imagine steam would have poured readily from his ears.

The more I listened to her, the more I realized that the blonde wasn't spinning them in circles the way the Chief Warlock seemed to believe. She was answering them very precisely, and I realized that I loved her for it. Not in the way that I felt the desire for the magic I knew to be coursing through my veins, awakened by the touch of that wand. No, I loved her with the fondness of one who is admired for their wisdom.

Mister Potter, however, did not seem to share my affinity. Seeing the redness spread from the Chief Warlock's face into his neck, the young man stepped forward and excused the blonde. I didn't fully understand why he gave an excuse as 'having another of her episodes,' but the gathered wizards accepted it, nodding and waving Mister Potter away. The blonde did not seem at all pleased.

The wizards conferred amongst themselves, a Muffliato charm having been cast to protect their deliberations. Once they had all taken their seats again several moments later, I was very grateful that the horrid buzzing ceased.

"Mister Lockhart." I stood once more, looking the Chief Warlock in the eye. He seemed a bit perplexed by that, though I was at a loss as to why. "It is the decision of this court that you will not be held accountable for the presence of the dark magic tomes which were found in your rooms. Madame Gudgeon's written testimony is corroborated by that provided before this court today." A great wave of relief washed through me.

"The medical staff of St. Mungo's cannot cure you, Mister Lockhart." He paused, taking a deep breath. "It is the decision of this court, therefore, that you will be permitted to leave the Janus Thickey Ward. Perhaps you can build for yourself a new life. Given your previous trespasses, restrictions will be placed upon both you and any wand in your possession."

My knees buckled, and I barely managed to catch myself before I impacted the floor. Was he truly saying that I would be permitted to leave the white-washed, too-bright hell to which the public had consigned me? My ears buzzed as I gasped for air at the mere thought. Blood and magic mixed together as they rushed through my veins, and I felt lightning arcing over my skin. Was he giving me freedom?

In that brief moment, I felt as though I could define the indefinable. Love was not a combination of emotions resulting in biological responses. Instead – at least for me – it was the absence of agony, and the promise of hope.