Author's notes: As some of you may have noticed, this fic hasn't been updated in quite some time (cough5yearscough). However, as I'm tying up all my loose ends, this is one of the stories I very much wanted to finish. I'm working In seriousness towards original writing, and have two novels in progress, but before I even attempt publication, I felt it was only fair to try and finish off some of my old stories.
FT is a special story for me. I know it has its flaws, and goodness only knows it's been a trial to actually write for all the emotion that went into it, but I want to see it through to the end. It's the hardest fanfic I've ever had to write, and I'm grateful for all the support I've had, given the subject matter.
I'm sorry it took so long, but thank you for bearing with me.
The trial was set for a weekday, some two weeks away. It hardly came as a surprise to Hermione that the news broke and spread rapidly about the arrest of Lucius Malfoy, to say nothing of the fact his son had been discreetly withdrawn from attendance at Hogwarts at his mother's behest.
Much to Hermione's relief, the reason for Malfoy's arrest seemed to have been kept quiet, though she knew it wouldn't be long until it would be impossible to hide the truth.
All the same, now that she had support, it didn't feel like such a nightmare. Ron had been given exceptional permission to stay with her in her rooms, and when he and Harry weren't able to be with her, Lavender and Parvati distracted her in the most ridiculous ways.
Ron returned one afternoon to find her standing on a small pedestal, wearing what felt like a circus tent. She bit her lip to stop herself laughing at the look on Ron's face, his mouth hanging open in confusion.
"I'm sorry, Parvati," she said, stepping down carefully. "I don't think scarlet and green maternity robes suit me."
"I'll say," Ron agreed. "You looked like a Christmas tree!"
"Doesn't he say the most romantic things?" Lavender simpered, helping Hermione out of the robes. Hermione offered a quick smile, though it wasn't quite as convincing as she hoped it would be.
Parvati's eyes danced. "I think that's his subtle code for 'phwoar'," she said, opening a bag to help Lavender pack away the robes. "Think we should leave the lovebirds to snuggle?"
"Is that a code for 'to discuss how much we've been torturing her with our mum's old clothes'?" Lavender said mischievously. "Because, to be honest, mum looked like a beach ball when she was about to drop me."
"It was kind of you to get a hold of them," Hermione said. She was rubbing her belly distractedly, and looked up in surprise when Ron's arm settled around her shoulder. It drew another wan smile from her. Ever since he'd found out the truth, he had been paying her a lot more attention.
"But yeah," he said, looking down at her, his expression making her feel all warm. "I think snuggle sounds about right."
To her surprise, the two girls didn't giggle. They exchanged looks, then headed for the door at once, carrying their bags. "We'll find you something better," Lavender promised. "Less rainbow-assault."
Hermione nodded, leaning into Ron.
"You okay?" he murmured, as soon as the door closed.
"Fine," she whispered.
"Lying," he said quietly.
Grudgingly, she nodded, letting him guide her over to the sofa. He sat down and pulled her into his lap. Unresisting, she nestled against him, tucking her head against his shoulder. "I didn't think it would affect me like this," she admitted quietly. "The robes."
He kissed her forehead. "You really did look like Christmas puked all over you," he said, gently teasing, but it didn't ease away the unpleasant knot that had clenched up her insides.
He wrapped his arms around her. "You changing your mind?"
She shook her head, but she wasn't sure anymore. She walked her fingers across his chest, tugging at bobbles in the wool of his jumper. It was simple before: keep things secret. Now, the truth was out, and not many months from now, the thing, the person growing inside her would be out too.
She was startled when she felt his hand tug the edge of her jumper, and slip under. A shiver of panic ran down her spine and she froze, staring up at him, when his bare hand touched her skin. Her heart jolted violently against her ribs and she tried to push away from him.
"It's okay," he soothed, gently, his voice calm. "Not doing anything. Just seeing this little lump of a person you have."
"Ron, please," she whispered. She felt sick to her stomach, knowing she was reacting as if he could, as if he would…
He withdrew his hand just as gently and kissed her forehead again. "Sorry," he said softly, as she tried to steady her breathing. "Can hardly believe there's anything there. Not even a little bump."
"Little bump," she whispered, her voice trembling so hard she could barely form words. "I can feel it."
To her own surprise, she took his hand in both of her smaller ones, and lifted on top of her jumper. It felt safer, there, not on skin. The swell was there, soft, curving out very gently, almost enough to be imagined. He spread his fingers wide, as if he could cover the whole thing with his hand, and he rubbed in a slow circle.
She covered his hand with hers, holding it still, watching their fingers overlap. "I'm so scared, Ron," she whispered.
"You got through the worst," he said. He wrapped her up in his arms, always so long and gangly, but perfect for their current purpose. "You did all that on your own, and you're not on your own anymore."
She wanted to laugh, but it came out closer to a sob. "No. I have the baby."
He kissed her hair, her forehead, even the bridge of her nose, and rocked her in his warm, safe, loving arms. "I wasn't kidding," he murmured, "when I said I'd be here to help you. That little person in there's going to have the best mum in the world."
"And the worst dad," she whispered. She looked up at him, wondering if it would make her sound like the most terrible person in the world when she asked, "Ron, what if I can't forget where it came from?"
He moved his hand to her belly again, gently. "Nothing can change where it started from," he said quietly, "but it's your choice what you want to do. You know there are options. And I know you've been thinking about them."
She nodded, rubbing her eye with her fist. There was the obvious choice, one she had already failed to make.
Then there was giving it away to someone who might or might not be kind to it. Whenever she was faced with that choice, she remembered how pale and still Harry had been when it was mentioned. She remembered what he had told her about his own flesh and blood, the people who were meant to protect him. It might not happen, but the very thought was enough to make her clutch at the tiny bump protectively.
And finally, there was the choice she kept coming back to: keeping and raising her rapist's child, and trying to love it, even though it might have his face, and his manner, and be nothing of her and all of him.
"Whatever happens, you're in there too," Ron said, as if he was reading her mind. "Could be a tiny little bookworm waiting to be handed a copy of Hogwarts: A History." She couldn't help but giggle at the image. "Neville was babbling about something about dominant genes or some Muggle science whatsits. I think he was using it about peas, but it still works: smart and strong like you, taught by you, is going to be a hell of a lot better than anything that Malfoy could make."
Though it warmed her to know what he was trying to do, it didn't help. "That's not how it works, Ron," she murmured.
He hugged her again. "I know," he said softly. "Still, s'true. You're a good influence, you know." He gave her a squeeze. "You even got me and Harry through our OWLs and NEWTs and didn't hex us to kingdom come. The bump'll be lucky to have you."
She touched it again, tentatively. "I don't want to hate it."
"How about we cross that bridge when we get there?" he said. "We have other things to worry about before that."
She didn't talk about it, and out of uncertainty, he and Harry didn't broach the subject. All she knew was that whenever it did come up, both of them were more protective than she had ever seen them.
"My parents wanted to be there," she said quietly. "Moral support. I don't think it would be a good idea. Not knowing the Malfoys' friends."
"Mum'll be there," he said. "And dad too, I bet. They could take care of them. If you wanted."
Tears stung Hermione's eyes. "I don't want them to go to any trouble," she said, trying to keep her voice even. "They shouldn't make a fuss."
"Hermione," he sighed, shaking his head mournfully. "You might be the smartest person I know, but you're a bit thick in the head sometimes." He tilted her chin up. "You might not like it, but you're part of the family now and you're stuck with us." He pecked her lightly on the lips. "So there."
Hermione stared at him, then threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly.
The day of the trial suited her mood perfectly.
Sleet was lashing down from a sky so pale it was almost white, and a bitter wind whipped at the windows, rattling the panes. Ron insisted on bringing her breakfast, but she only picked at it, and he had to nudge her encouragingly to even take a mouthful. Nightmares had kept her awake half the night, and she had no doubts he was as tired as she was.
She dressed without thinking. The buttons of her blouse fastened up to her neck. The woolly sleeves of her jumper lined up with the cuffs of the blouse. The skirt pressed and neat, falling just below her knees. Her shoes shone. She had polished them until they gleamed. It seemed important at the time.
When she looked in the mirror, she barely recognised herself.
Someone tapped at the door, and Ron opened it before she even turned. "Harry."
Harry slipped into the room. "You okay?"
She stared at him blankly for a moment. "Not especially."
Harry and Ron moved as one, and she was enclosed in between them, only a little bit stifled by jumper and the smell of freshly-cleaned and deodorised boy. She didn't complain, only pulling them both closer, a wall between her and the world.
"We'll be there with your all the way," Harry promised. "They won't let us in the witness stand, but we'll be in the court, and we'll be right beside you as soon as you're done."
"I know," she whispered. "I'm just afraid of what they're going to try to do."
"Malfoy took you hostage on Hogwarts grounds and pretty much admitted to everything anyway," Ron pointed out reasonably. "They only have to go to trial to prove that due whats-it thing."
"Process, Ron," Hermione murmured, her head against his shoulder. "I really hope I'm not sick all over the witness stand."
"Come on," Harry suggested, taking her hand. His fingers were warm around her own hand which felt like it was made of ice. "We'll see if Pomfrey can get your something to settle your stomach. I think she would feel better knowing that she could do something to help."
With Ron's arm around her shoulder, and Harry holding her hand, Hermione let herself be steered out into the corridor. They probably looked quite ridiculous, she realised, but right now, she couldn't think of any place she would rather be.
Madam Pomfrey seemed unsurprised when they entered the infirmary. She insisted that Hermione sit, which only made her feel more self-conscious about the reason they were going to trial in the first place.
"I'm not made of glass," she insisted quietly.
"Of course not, dear," Madam Pomfrey said, pouring several concoctions into a gleaming goblet. "But you'll learn that taking the weight off your feet while you can is a blessing, given your condition."
Hermione took the goblet, looking into the shimmering, pale-green liquid. "My condition," she echoed.
"You okay?" Harry asked, crouching down beside the chair.
She looked at him. "Everyone in the school is going to know soon," she said, "aren't they? I don't think this is something that can stay hidden."
Ron squeezed her shoulder. "So what if they do?" he said. "Not like it was your fault."
Hermione nodded and sipped the potion. The warmth slid down her throat, easing the unpleasant, bitter burn at the back of her throat, but it did nothing to calm her racing thoughts. The Aurors had promised her anonymity, and she knew none of her friends would ever breathe a word of what had happened to her, but a pregnancy wasn't going to be an easy thing to hide, especially not at Hogwarts.
The automatic speculation would come down to Harry or Ron. They were the obvious candidates, and she didn't mind which was subject to more speculation, as long as no one got closer to the truth.
What, though, was to stop Malfoy or his allies from leaking the truth? After all, if they were ignorant about the inability of Muggleborns to prevent unwanted pregnancies, that meant others in the Wizarding world could also be unaware. They might use that. They could throw her to the wolves, let her be torn apart, preying on the ignorance to blame Hermione herself, to say she wanted to be violated, to be pregnant. They could say she lured Malfoy into it. Even used magic to make him defy his principles.
The cup was trembling in her hands, and she jolted when Ron hugged her.
"Sickle for your thoughts?" he asked softly.
"Daydreaming," she replied weakly.
"Looked more like a day-mare," Harry murmured, his hand resting on her knee. "Hermione, no one will blame you for any of this. He was in the wrong. You're the victim. Don't forget that."
She was startled to realise she was crying, hot tears rolling down her cheeks. "I know," she whispered. "But my mind is going in circles, about what I could have done to stop it. If I really want to stop it, I should have been able to." She shivered, stifling a sob. "I shouldn't have let it happen."
Harry glanced up at Ron, and then they were both hugging her again.
"You can tell your brain that it's being ridiculous, from me," Ron murmured, nuzzling the top of her head. "You didn't want it to happen. You fought. He was just stronger and nastier than you. You didn't deserve any of it."
"Hermione," Harry interrupted, "You told him to stop, didn't you?" She nodded, hiding her face from him. "You didn't want him to do it, did you?" She shook her head. "You tried to get away from him, didn't you?"
"Hermione, he attacked you." Harry's fingertips lifted her chin, making her look at him. His eyes really were very green. "It's as simple as that. You didn't deserve it or provoke it or anything. Sometimes, no matter how hard we fight, it's not enough. He's the one in the wrong here."
"And he's just a bastard," Ron added.
"A bastard," Harry agreed.
She hastily wiped at her cheeks with her fingers, and when that seemed insufficient, Ron and Harry both produced handkerchiefs in various stages of decay. She couldn't help giggling weakly as they unfolded them and compared them.
"Here," Harry said, giving her his. "You're less likely to catch something."
"Thanks, I'm sure," Ron grumbled, though Hermione could feel him smile against her hair.
The Ministry of Magic once fascinated Hermione, but now, she felt small and insignificant in a place too big, too distant and too unsympathetic. Dozens of people were coming and going when she, Ron, Harry and Professor Dumbledore emerged from the floo network.
The Headmaster was to be a witness as well, but she was grateful that he had not tried to school her in what should be said or how she should act.
All he had said, before they left Hogwarts, was that the truth was her defence and that would be enough. Hearing it from him had comforted her, oddly, but now, in the Ministry, the truth no longer felt like it would be enough.
She tightened her grip on Ron's hand, and she knew he was looking down at her as they walked, concerned. She wished she could tell him he didn't need to worry, but that would have been nonsense. She kept her head down instead, admiring the way the distant lights reflected off the floor and her very shiny shoes.
They got a lift to themselves, descending towards the court rooms, and Hermione leaned against Ron as the lift rattled onwards. She offered Harry a wan smile, when he caught and squeezed her other hand as the lift shuddered to a halt.
"I am afraid we must part ways here, Miss Granger," Dumbledore murmured as they emerged into the gleaming black corridor. Two Aurors were waiting for them. "Mr Potter and Mr Weasley cannot accompany us into the witness chamber."
She nodded, licking her lips nervously. "I'll be able to see you all?"
"From the gallery," Ron promised. "I'll wave or something." He pulled her into a quick, warm hug. "You'll be fine. Just tell them the truth and there's no way he'll get away with it."
She nodded, then accepted a hug from Harry. He murmured close to her ear, "And if anything does go wrong, we'll find him and hex him into oblivion for you."
She laughed weakly. "Harry."
He pressed his cheek to hers. "Truth," he murmured. "He's not getting away with this."
She blinked hard, her eyes itching again, and pushed him away. "Go on. You'll be late."
Reluctantly, both the boys turned and headed towards the main doors of the courtroom, leaving her standing beside Dumbledore, feeling even smaller than ever. A long-fingered hand came to rest on her shoulder.
"Come, Miss Granger," he murmured. "We must take our place."
What followed was a blur of court protocol and paperwork. She tried to listen, to pay attention, but words washed over her like a wave on the shore, barely there then gone. She put quill to paper several times, but could not have said what she was signing, and when a cup was placed in her hand, she stared at it in confusion.
Then, she understood. She had said, once, that she would freely speak under veritaserum, if it was required. The liquid was the same colour, and though she had never taken the potion before, she knew it to be odourless and flavourless.
Dumbledore murmured. "You can drink, if you feel it will strengthen you."
She swirled the cup. "Will it harm the baby?" she said quietly. He shook his head. Without hesitation, she drained the contents of the cup and handed it back to the Auror.
"I commend your bravery," the Professor said quietly, as the Aurors withdrew.
"It isn't brave," Hermione replied, looking down at her hands. "It's necessary."
He laid his hand gently on her shoulder again, and they waited in silence for their names to be called. She was summoned first, and rose on legs that were trembling. Her footsteps echoed all the way to the high ceilings as she was led from the waiting chamber to the vast court room.
Members of the Wizengamot were in attendance, which was no surprise given the status of the Malfoy bloodline. They seldom sat in trials for crimes that were not magical in nature, and had no real reason to be there, save for solidarity with one of an older house.
One of the Aurors led her to the podium, and she tried to grip the rail as she mounted the steps, her hands sliding on the polished brass. Her palms were cold with sweat, and she breathed deeply, trying to swallow down a fresh surge of nausea.
Only when she was seated in the witness stand did she lift her head. To her left, the Chief Justice was seated at a higher podium, looking severe and unsympathetic. Directly opposite her, the group she assumed to be Jurors were seated in three rows, staring at her in a way that made her feel like something lying on a dissection table.
Thankfully, to her right, the gallery was open, and she caught sight of Ron, seated alongside both their parents and Harry. Her mother was white and looked nervous, but she offered Hermione an encouraging smile and nod. It took a little effort, but Hermione managed to offer the same in return. Ron raised a clenched fist in what Hermione could only imagine was a gesture of solidarity.
Only then did she look down into the heart of the chamber.
In the middle of the black-and-white tiled floor, Lucius Malfoy was seated in a formidable, high-backed wooden chair, bound with both magical and physical restraints. He looked haggard, his hair pulled back in a ponytail, and though he was dressed in formal robes, he looked as if he had slept in them for several days.
He didn't look at her, for which Hermione was immensely grateful. She looked away from him, and at the inside of the podium she was sitting within. The wood was polished and gleaming, and she placed the toes of her shoes carefully against the base. Carefully, she folded her hands in her lap, clasping them together to keep them from trembling.
When the Chief Justice spoke her name, she drew a deep breath before she looked up at him. Calm. Steady. She managed to keep her voice from shaking as she confirmed her name and answered several questions set to prove her identity. She returned her gaze to a point on the inside of her podium, then, focussing on a screw. It was easier to be calm when she had somewhere to concentrate.
The questions about the attack, when they came, were direct and to the point.
If she put the location to one side, she could almost treat it as if were an exam. Simple questions put forward that required succinct and clear answers, with extra credit for showing working. She knew the answers. She could detail every moment from the arrival of Lucius Malfoy to her room until the moment he left.
With the veritaserum aiding her, the words flowed smoothly. She wondered if that was why her voice didn't break. The fear was still there, but she didn't stumble, didn't stammer, every word as clear as crystal.
There were other sounds too, she noticed distractedly. She could hear her own words ring in her ears, echoing, but she could also hear the rustle of papers, of robes shifting, even the rasping breathing of a heavyset wizard in the group opposite her. Somewhere, distantly, she registered a sob. It sounded like her mother.
Finally, when the questions stopped, she dared a glance towards the gallery. Ron's face was pale under his red hair, but he nodded at her, and mouthed "Well done". Harry offered a tight, little smile. She could see her parents holding onto one another's hands. Her mother's face was shining with tears.
On the main floor, there were footsteps. Hermione looked down to see a formally-attired witch, with a stern, thin face and small, square spectacles, standing beside Malfoy. The man had barely moved, but the woman was looking straight at her.
When the woman started asking questions, the cool aggression of them startled Hermione enough to make her heart pound rapidly against her breastbone. She asked all the things Hermione had been afraid of: had she enticed Malfoy into her company, did she take pleasure in their encounter, and - in what could only be an attempt at incrimination - how could she possibly have fallen pregnant and elected to keep her alleged assailant's child if it was not a child born of mutual pleasure.
Hermione's fingers were laced together so tightly she was sure she would hear the bones snap at any moment. She stared at the woman, then forced her attention to Malfoy, who had lifted his head an inch or two.
He was the one to blame: a man who hated anyone who was not born of pureblood. A man who had probably tortured and killed Muggles for entertainment. A man who based a person's worth on where they came from.
The room was so still that they could have heard a pin drop, waiting for an answer.
"I chose to keep the baby, my baby," she said slowly and clearly, "because unlike Mister Malfoy, I don't think an innocent child should be blamed for its origins."
It felt as if a great weight had been lifted away from her then, as the words echoed through the chamber.
"Thank you, Miss Granger," the Chief Justice said gravely. "You may step down."
Her legs were shaking more as she descended than they had before. It was as if all the tension which had been gathered in her body was escaping, taking balance, coordination and the simple ability to stand upright with it.
Ron met her by the door and pulled her into a warm hug. There was a bench close to the wall, and he guided her to sit, and she started to laugh, shakily. It had to be relief, she thought, as the laughter gave way to tears and then to silent, gulping sobs.
"You were amazing," Ron murmured, smoothing her hair. "Sounded like you were calm as anything."
"S-sounded like," she said in a shaky whisper. "I was sure I was going to burst into tears of throw up or something."
"But you didn't, and it's over with," he said, kissing her on the forehead. "Come on. Let's get you back to the witness room. Dumbledore was just called to the stand, so it should be empty for now."
It wasn't empty, though.
Standing by the empty fireplace, Narcissa Malfoy was gazing emotionlessly at the ornate mantle clock. Her hands were folded behind her, and she only glanced over her shoulder when they entered the room.
Ron ignored her, taking Hermione over to one of the comfortable chairs, then hurrying over to a table and pouring her a glass of butterbeer. He sat down attentively beside her, holding the cup when she didn't immediately claim it.
Hermione's gaze was fixed on Malfoy's wife. She was speaking against her husband, which was unexpected. All the same, Hermione couldn't help wondering against her motives. The woman's expression was neutral, unreadable, and she barely moved, except to let her hands fall by her sides.
Ron pressed the butterbeer into Hermione's hands, and with his free hand, he rubbed her back. "You should drink," he said. "It's good for calming the nerves. I could even get you some chocolate, if you want."
"I'm fine, Ron," she murmured, watching Narcissa. To placate him, she sipped a little of the frothy drink.
The only sound in the room was the tick of the clock. Narcissa Malfoy paced across the room, adding the click of her heels to the quiet. She stayed on the far side of the room, though, as if crossing the middle of the room would put her too close to them for comfort.
Hermione wondered what the woman could be thinking. Maybe it was simply a case of the wrath of a woman scorned. After all, even if it was through coercion to rape a Muggleborn, Narcissa's husband had still had sexual contact with another woman. That would be enough to make any woman furious. Hermione doubted it was because of the assault. Narcissa Malfoy did not seem the least sympathetic about that.
When the door opened, the creak of the hinges broke the tense silence. Hermione looked around, as an Auror indicated to Narcissa that she was now due to take the stand.
To her own surprise, Hermione said quietly, "Mrs Malfoy."
Cool eyes flicked towards her, disdain visible in them.
Narcissa Malfoy's thin upper lip curled up, and she folded her arms over her chest. "Thank me?" she said in a chilly voice. "This is not about you, you filthy little Mudblood. This is about my husband sullying me."
"Don't you dare…" Ron snarled, leaping to his feet.
"Puff and preen all you want, little boy," Narcissa said, eyes flashing. "Your Mudblood whore has tainted my family name and reputation. My husband was a fool to obey, ruining what dignity he had left. He will not have the chance to do so again."
She turned and swept out, imperious as a Queen.
Hermione stared blankly after her.
"What a grade-A bitch," Ron snorted, outraged.
"You know," Hermione said vaguely, "I'm a little relieved she's not actually cross with me. Imagine what a bitch she would be if she was."
Ron stared at her. "After what she called you?"
Hermione offered him a small, tired smile. "I've been called that often enough now, Ron," she said. "I think she's the first person who doesn't care what happened to me, and more about what happened to herself." She shook her head, dazed. "I didn't know Mudblood was contagious."
"I am Mudblood and proud of it," Hermione interrupted, her voice stronger. "I think I've proved we're capable of being better people than anyone." She breathed deeply, then exhaled. "I'm done, now. I've said my piece, and they know I used veritaserum, so it was all truth."
"They gave me veritaserum before I came in. It made it easier for me to speak."
Ron shook his head. "Don't mean to break a spell," he said, "but that was all you. They probably gave you something to calm your nerves. They don't allow veritaserum in the trials. It's still classed as a potentially dangerous substance, since the dosage has to be precise. They had a case where someone was telling the truth, but only about the things he was hallucinating when he took too big a dose."
Hermione stared at him. "That was all me?"
He nodded and kissed the tip of her nose. "My tough old girl."
She punched him lightly in the belly, smiling truly for the first time in months.