A/N: SEQUEL TO UNREQUITED SNOWFALL. References in this one won't make sense if you haven't read the last one =)
"Draco Lucius Malfoy. That is your full name, correct?" Minister for Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt asked of the young blonde-haired wizard chained to the chair in the centre of the room, staring up at the full room of Wizengamot officials. His pale skin was tinged with grey and his upper lip glistened with sweat, no doubt due to the fact that he'd spent the past three months locked up in Azkaban prison awaiting the trial that he was currently enduring.
"That's correct," Draco replied, his voice raspy and hoarse as though he hadn't used it much during his long incarceration.
"You are the son of Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, is that correct?" Kingsley continued, his voice seeming to boom in the otherwise silent room.
Hermione Granger was seated on one of the benches to the side of the trial room, watching the proceedings and nibbling on her bottom lip. And while she was almost certain that she was imagining things, she was also growing suspicious of the fact that Malfoy had now glanced in her direction seven times since he'd been brought into the room, in spite of the fact that his mother was seated the other side of the trial hall. She found herself staring back at him, noticing the many differences in his appearance to the last time she had seen him.
He was pale and drawn, his skin sallow and unclean because he'd spent so much time locked in prison. His hair was greasy and unkempt. It had grown since the last time she'd seen him and Hermione wondered how her felt about the fact for the first time in his life he'd appeared in public in a state that was less than appealing and far from respectable. He was garbed in the robes of an incarcerated criminal and Hermione could see the way his mother had already begun to weep as she was restrained and kept from going to the bound prisoner in the middle of the room.
Harry had told her once what it felt like to sit there on that chair in the middle of an entire Wizengamot gathering, knowing your fate was in their hands, and she felt a trickle of pity for Draco Malfoy take hold of her. It had to be daunting to be sitting there on the uncomfortable chair, chained to the awful thing with all eyes bearing down on him, including her own, while they debated about his fate by asking him ridiculous questions.
"Yes, I'm the only son of Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy. I was born on the fifth of June in 1980, and raised in Malfoy Manor in Wilshire. I attended Hogwarts from 1991 until 1998. Can we get on with the more important questions you have to ask me? This chair is uncomfortable," Malfoy replied and Hermione marvelled at his ability to still sound haughty after all this time.
"Very well," Kingsley replied, looking as though he didn't like being snapped at but also as though he'd like to get this trial over and done with as soon as possible. "Are you a Death Eater?"
"I was," Draco admitted, his gaze fixed on Kingsley as he answered, ignoring the gasps of shock and disapproval. Hermione had attended several trials over the past few months, providing her own account of anything she had experienced concerning each tried prisoner. Thus far all of them had vehemently denied being associated with Voldemort until they were given Veritaserum, which she knew Malfoy had no yet been given.
"You say that as though you believe it to be a thing of the past?" a pinched looking middle aged witch that Hermione didn't know inserted into the conversation.
"I became a Death Eater reluctantly and under duress when I turned sixteen," Malfoy replied and Hermione was mildly shocked by his blunt honesty and the fact that in spite of how nervous he must be, he still managed to sound positively bored.
"Reluctantly?" Kinsgely challenged.
"At the time the Dark Lord was using Malfoy Manor as his base of operations, where he incarcerated and tortured his victims, and where he and others murdered more than one of the unfortunate people to have been captured. I was underage and coerced into joining the Death Eaters as a means to redeem the Malfoy name in the eyes of the Dark Lord after my father failed to obtain the prophecy pertaining to Harry Potter and the Dark Lord from the Department of Mysteries during 1996. Had I refused what the Dark Lord and many of the Death Eaters believed to be a high honour, I'd have not lived out the summer of 1996."
"Prior to your alleged coercion into the Death Eater ranks, were you not a supporter of blood purity and prone to bullying and ridiculing students at Hogwarts who were muggle-born?" an unfriendly looking wizard with a comb-over demanded.
Hermione looked back at Malfoy to find him watching her rather than paying attention to the wizard who had questioned him.
"When I arrived at Hogwarts I was heavily influenced by the beliefs of my family, and often could be heard spouting unsavoury things pertaining to muggle-born students and their supposed inferiority. I knew nothing else because prior to my arrival at Hogwarts I had never met anyone not of pure or half-blood status and had been taught from birth that being a Malfoy and being a pureblood meant I was supposedly superior to those not of pure-blood in all regards, including magical ability and value to society," Malfoy replied his eyes dancing away from Hermione's and making Hermione wonder why he kept looking at her in the first place.
"We will now hear several accounts from students you bullied in this regard," Kingsely said, though he sounded disapproving of needing to interrogate people about some school-yard bullying, "The first and most prominent of these students is Hermione Granger."
Hermione was startled to hear her name being thrown around the court room and she realised with a jolt that she was about to be questioned over the silly, nasty things Malfoy had said to her during school.
"Miss Granger, you attended Hogwarts in the same year as Mr Malfoy, is that correct?" Kingsely said, turning his gaze to her. Hermione felt herself begin to grow nervous beneath the stare of all the Wizengamot as they turned to look at her.
"I did," She answered, her voice coming out a little squeaky. She had no idea why she was so nervous. She had been interrogated in regard to other Death Eaters who had stood trial before Draco, and had been required to provide far more disturbing and unsettling information about her capture by Snatchers and what Dolohov had done to her. There was just something about providing testimony in regard to one of her classmates that unnerved her. Especially one who had subsequently saved her life. For the time being she chose not to dwell on her other interactions with Draco that had hinted at a different nature beneath the one he displayed to the world.
The little red diary from her fifth year at Hogwarts felt heavy in her pocket as she found Malfoy suddenly watching her avidly. His expression was unreadable, but Hermione suspected he was rather resigned to the fact that he'd been an awful person.
"During your schooling, you were privy to interactions with Mr Malfoy, were you not?" Kingsely asked, clearly unaware of the way she'd clenched her hands together in her lap to keep them from shaking.
"Of course I was," Hermione said, suddenly understanding Malfoy's snippiness in regard to questions that were largely annoying and obvious in their answers. "During my time at Hogwarts I was often at odds with Draco due to the rivalry between him and Harry. More than once over that time we duelled in the corridors and said nasty things to one another. I don't really see how that is relevant to his trial now."
Hermione was saved the embarrassment of having people glare at her when Malfoy gave a low, dark chuckle of amusement at her answer.
"We are trying to establish Mr Malfoy's character, Miss Granger, and as such we must have testimony of his actions towards people he has just stated he believes himself to be superior to." The same pinched witch from earlier snapped in annoyance.
"I think you'll find he spoke in past tense when he referred to that superiority," Hermione pointed out, crossing her arms over her chest. She had no real idea why she was feeling so defensive, but there was something about the tenor of their questions that suggested to Hermione that they wanted to paint Malfoy in a particularly bad light in order to more easily convict him of crimes he'd committed under duress.
"During your time at Hogwarts, did Mr Malfoy ever refer to you in a derogatory way for your blood status?" Kinglsey asked, intervening when he saw the stubborn set of Hermione's jaw.
"From second year onwards he often called me a Mudblood, yes," Hermione confirmed, her voice tight with annoyance now.
"Can you give us some examples of other things he said to you or about you of that nature?" Kingsley pushed.
"His favourite, and rather unoriginal insult pertaining to me was usually 'filthy little mudblood'. During our second year, when the Chamber of Secrets was opened and students were being petrified, he also stated loudly that Mudbloods would be next. I believe there was also an incident where he was overheard saying that the last time the Chamber was opened a mudblood had died, and that he hoped that I would this time."
"Is this true, Mr Malfoy?" Kingsely asked, turning a frown on Draco.
"Yes," Malfoy replied, not bothering to offer any excuse for his actions.
"Miss Granger, your interaction with Mr Malfoy went beyond such comments, did it not?" Kinsgley asked and Hermione figured they must have a record of the school files pertaining to Malfoy.
"It did. During our third year I overheard Malfoy saying some particularly foul things, at which time I screamed at him and punched him in the face," Hermione admitted.
"You broke my nose that day," Draco inserted into conversation and Hermione wasn't the only one to jump in surprise to hear him addressing her.
"Mr Malfoy, you will be silent unless you have been asked a question," Kinsgley instructed him, "Miss Granger, were there any other incidents between you and Mr Malfoy?"
"Of course there were," Hermione said, growing perplexed "He was rivals with Harry. We often devolved to duelling in the corridors and hexing one another. In addition to that, we were from opposing and rival school houses. We were all stupid kids, of course things got out of hand."
"Thank you. We now turn our attention to Mr Potter. Harry, could you describe some of your interactions with Mr Malfoy during the time you were both at Hogwarts?" Kinglsey asked before any of the Wizengamot could antagonize Hermione further.
"I met Draco on the first day of school, when he introduced himself along with Crabbe and Goyle to me before the Sorting," Harry began, "He was a bit of a git, and his comments at the time suggested he believed that there were wizarding families that were better than others, and that I ought not make friends with what he considered the wrong sort. He also offered to assist me in that regard."
"He suggested his family and other families who are known to have supported Voldemort were better than others?" Kingsley confirmed.
"That's right. I told him I could make the decision for myself. That was when the rivalry between us began. For the most part Draco was a git and made lots of comments that were antagonistic during our schooling. Our opposing positions on the respective house Quidditch teams meant that we were often rude to one another in the corridors, especially in the lead up to a game between Gryffindor and Slytherin," Harry said, and Hermione felt some of her tension melt away at the way Harry was painting Malfoy not as some terrible villain but simply as a school yard rival. She didn't know why it bothered her so much that so many were predisposed to think the very worst of Draco Malfoy, but it did so. More than she cared to admit.
"We have a record here pertaining to the events in 1996 regarding you accusation that Mr Malfoy was behind the attack on a Miss Katie Bell. Can you elaborate on them?" Kingsley asked Harry seriously.
"During 1996, as Draco has already admitted, he was coerced into becoming a Death Eater. His task was to kill Professor Albus Dumbledore. He was unsuccessful in that venture, but his attempts to do so resulted in him cursing Katie and attempting to have her deliver a cursed necklace to Professor Dumbledore. It failed when the curse wasn't strong enough to keep her from wanting open the package herself."
"Mr Malfoy can you offer any information on that subject?" Kinglsey asked of Malfoy.
"It's the truth. I used the Imperius curse on Bell to have her carry the package to Dumbledore," Draco admitted, his gaze returning to Kinglsey.
"You admit then that you have used Unforgivable Curses in your capacity as a Death Eater?" the wizard with the comb-over asked, looking gleeful suddenly as though that alone would be enough to convict him.
"I don't think there's anyone in this room that hasn't used an Unforgivable curse at some stage during the war," Malfoy retorted coldly, "However, yes I have used Unforgivable curses."
"There was another incident of which you are suspected in which a second student almost died during your sixth year, Mr Malfoy. Do you have any knowledge of this? Kingsley asked.
"Yes." Malfoy sighed, looking annoyed now, "Ron Weasley was poisoned by accident when a bottle of poisoned Mead I had Imperioed Madame Rosemerta of the Threebroomsticks to sell to Horace Slughorn as a gift for Albus Dumbledore, was consumed by Weasley in the presence of Harry Potter and Horace Slughorn, as a pick-me-up after he ingested Love Potion."
"You gave Mr Weasley a Love Potion?" a haughty looking witch from the fifth row asked.
"Don't be ridiculous," Malfoy snapped, "He got it from elsewhere and was addled. Potter took him to Slughorn for the antidote and they drank the mead Slughorn was supposed to be giving as a gift to Dumbledore."
"So you were responsible for the fact that the poison was in the bottle?" Kingsley asked.
"Yes," Malfoy replied.
"We have an incident report here filed by Professor Snape, regarding a duel between you and Mr Potter in a bathroom, can you elaborate?" Kingsley questioned.
"What is there to elaborate on?" Malfoy rolled his eyes, "We duelled. In a bathroom."
"It says here you sustained life threatening injuries," Kingsley said.
"I did. Potter used a spell he didn't understand and almost killed me. I still have the scars," Malfoy replied, and Hermione knew he was a little bit smug that this line of questioning was portraying him as a victim.
"Prove it!" a crotchety looking wizard shouted, obviously not believing Harry could've done such a thing.
"That's a little difficult when to do so I need to lift my shirt, yet my hands are shackled to the chair," Malfoy pointed out even as Kingsley waved his wand to allow some movement in the chains. Hermione noticed that they still did not allow him to be freed from the shackles, just for the chains to length so he could lift his shirt, revealing several slashes of red across his pale and grimy skin.
"Mr Potter is it true you inflicted these marks on Mr Malfoy?" Kingsely asked, clearly still doubtful.
"Yes." Harry admitted grimly, "I chased him into the bathroom when he fled at the sight of Katie Bell returning to the school, making me all the more convinced of his guilt. A duel ensued, and I used the spell 'Sectumsempra' against Draco without realising what it did. I'd read it in a book in Professor Snape's writing. He'd invented the spell, which was designed to slash victims as though wielding an invisible sword from a distance. I didn't know what it did, only that it said 'for enemies' next to it. Had it not been for Snape's quick intervention, I'd have killed Draco that day due to the nature of the wounds and the blood loss he sustained from them."
Many in the chamber began to mutter at that and Hermione knew they were a little shocked by the idea of Harry admitting to being involved in such a thing. It was a point in Draco's favour that even the Saviour Harry Potter could make such a bad error in judgement.
"Mr Malfoy, you are also accused of assisting several Death Eaters to enter Hogwarts on the 30th of June in 1997. How do you plead?" Kingsley asked loudly, his voice drowning out the mutters and whispers in the room.
"Guilty," Draco answered, his voice losing its haughty tone and turning hoarse once more.
"How did you accomplish this? Hogwarts was heavily guarded at the time," Kingsley asked him.
"I spent most of sixth year repairing a Vanishing Cabinet in the Room of Requirement. It had a sister that linked to another Vanishing Cabinet in Borgin and Burkes, in Knockturn Alley. They formed a passage. When I mended it, several Death Eaters were able to enter the castle," Draco explained.
"What can you tell us about your mission to killed Albus Dumbledore, and the fact that you were unsuccessful?" Kingsely asked him then.
"After my father was arrested and taken to Azkaban, the Dark Lord insisted that the Malfoy family must redeem itself, and that in order to do so I was to be given the honour of becoming a Death Eater, earning the mark by murdering Professor Dumbledore." Draco said, "That night on the Astronomy Tower, I managed to disarm Dumbledore. He told me he'd known all along that it was me who had attack Katie and Madam Rosemerta; that he'd known about my mission because Snape had told him about it. He said he'd elected not to expel me because he knew that were the Dark Lord to know I'd been discovered, he'd have killed me. Dumbledore urged me to allow the Order of the Phoenix to protect me and my family."
"And then you killed him?" the pinched witch demanded.
"No. I was lowering my wand. I never wanted to kill him. I wanted to agree. To let the Order protect us. Unfortunately, Professor Snape had made an Unbreakable Vow with my mother stating that if I failed in my task, he would kill Dumbledore himself. My hope of the Order's protection died with the Headmaster," Draco said softy, looking haunted now.
"Is there anyone who can testify to that?" the wizard with the comb-over demanded.
"Yes," Harry spoke up at that when Malfoy began to look uncomfortable, "I was there the night Dumbledore was killed, trapped in a Full Body Bind jinx and hidden underneath an Invisibility cloak. Draco was lowering his wand and not intending to kill Dumbledore when the others arrived. I'm happy to provide the memory for viewing with a Pensieve."
Hermione watched the expression of surprise and then gratitude flicker across Malfoy's face to hear that someone could actually vouch for him. She shifted a little in her seat and froze when she suddenly found Malfoy's eyes fixed on her once more. She wondered idly why he kept staring at her.
"Mr Malfoy, in addition to the charges already mentioned, you are also charged with concealing Voldemort in your home, aiding in the detainment of Luna Lovegood, Garrick Ollivander, Dean Thomas, the goblin Griphook, Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. How do you plead?"
"Guilty," Draco replied dully, the flicker of hope that maybe he'd be released after all fizzling out in his eyes as his other crimes were dragged into the light. Several people in the chamber gasped and began to look accusing.
"Why didn't you report the captures to the Ministry or to the Order of the Phoenix?" Kingsely asked, his voice calling for quiet without actually needing to use the words.
"The Ministry was under Voldemort's control, and everyone on the Order of the Phoenix either disliked me or distrusted me. To do so would've resulted in my death," Malfoy said, looking angry now at the very idea of reporting such a thing.
"Why did you not aid in the escape of the aforementioned individuals?" Kinsgely asked.
"I did," Draco answered challengingly.
"When Potter, Weasley and Granger were brought to the Manor, Granger had hit Potter with a Stinging Jinx so he was nearly unrecognizable. Bellatrix wanted me to confirm it was Potter before summoning the Dark Lord. I knew it was him. I could see his scar and knew Granger and Weasley would be the only ones with him. I lied and told them I couldn't be sure and that I didn't think it was him."
"Is this true, Mr Potter?" the pinched witch asked.
"It's true. He had the opportunity to sell us all to Voldemort and he refused." Harry answered. "He also put up enough fight during our escape to appear that he'd tried, but he let me snatch his wand pretty easily."
"Very well," Kingsley said, "Mr Malfoy, we have established your character as being that of a sympathizer to the Dark Cause prior to your supposed coercion to join the ranks of the Death Eaters, casting you in a rather unfortunate light. Can you offer and reasoning that you believe shows moral character on your part and that expresses any kind of change in you from the time you began your schooling and Hogwarts to the time you joined the ranks of the Death Eaters?"
Draco seemed to deliberate for a time after that and Hermione found herself wondering what he would say.
"Her," He answered finally, his eyes lifting to fix on her once more and causing Hermione to blush under the scrutiny as he and everyone else watched her.
"I beg your pardon?" Kinsgely asked, clearly as confused as the rest of the inhabitants of the room.
"Her," he repeated, nodding towards Hermione.
"You're referring to Miss Granger as your reasoning for changing you beliefs?" Kingsley confirmed.
"Yes," Draco said, his eyes still fixed on Hermione.
"Could you elaborate?" a witch across the room with a severe bun asked in a reedy voice.
"She was a contradiction to everything I'd ever been taught," Draco said, his voice low and soft now, as though he weren't speaking to an entire court full of people ready to convict him for his crimes but simply speaking privately. With his gaze so fixed up on her and his tone that way, Hermione felt as though the moment was very intimate indeed, in spite of the many people's gazing jumping between her and the bound man in the chair.
"All my life, I'd been told that I was better than others because I was a pureblood; because I was a Malfoy. And until I went to Hogwarts, I believed it. I knew nothing else, and the company my family kept certainly suggested that it was the truth." Draco began softly, "And then I got to Hogwarts where I was in the same year as the brightest witch of the age, and she was muggle-born."
Hermione gulped nervously at the mention of her academic brilliance and at the way he held her gaze so intently.
"No matter how hard I tried, how much father berated me, how much I studied, I couldn't best her in a classroom. I couldn't outdo her. In the beginning, I resented her for it. It was a source of bruised pride to have my father loser his temper at me for being consistently bested by a muggleborn. It offended the core beliefs I'd had drummed into me all my life to know that for all that I was a pureblood and that I was a Malfoy, she was still better at magic than I was." Draco explained, his voice compelling now as he launched into the story that so many could no doubt relate to on some level. "She was a muggleborn. She was supposed to have poor control over her magic, and be weak in not just her ability to wield it, but to only have a little contained within her. Enough to get by but certainly not enough to best wizards and witches of pure descent."
Hermione wondered, as she stared back at him if this was how it had felt for all pureblood students who'd encountered her and others like her.
"How could it be so?" Draco intoned, "How could this be the case when all I'd ever known was those beliefs I'd had drummed into me. In the realm of my knowledge, a muggleborn like her shouldn't be better at me than anything, and as a result, ought to fear me. She never did."
Hermione felt caught the tiniest hint of a smile played at the corners of Draco's mouth as he said that.
"No matter how I degraded her and her friends, no matter how I tormented her, mocked her, ridiculed her for her incessant need to answer questions in class with such enthusiasm, no matter how cruel I was too her and how I called her names like 'filthy little mudblood' she never once, for even a moment believed herself to be anything less than my equal and almost certainly believed herself to be better than me in regard to moral character. She even broke my nose…" Draco chuckled at that and Hermione knew he was winning people over as he told his story.
"After that happened in third year, I knew there was a lot more to a person than simply the pureness of their blood that dictated the type and quality of witch or wizard a person was," Draco admitted, "An yet she was still a contradiction, even when I tried to listen to my father, and later to the other Death Eaters and the Dark Lord that mudbloods had stolen magic from witches and wizards. A constant reminder that everything I'd been taught, everything I was hearing, everything I'd ever known was all nothing but a lie concocted to make people think it really mattered, when the truth is, it doesn't.
It doesn't matter if a person is pureblood halfblood, muggleborn, half-breed or anything else. What matters are the choices we make. I'd made many by the time that summer of 1996 rolled around, as had my family and those mistakes were the reason I was caught in the situation where I had no choice but to become a Death Eater. I couldn't simply go to Dumbledore or the Order and confess that the Dark Lord was using the Manor as a base of operations, that we were holding Mr Ollivander and the others prisoner, that Professor Burbage and others had been murdered in my house. He was living there. He was almost constantly there, or never far from there. To go to the Order would've meant not only my death, but the death of my mother and father in punishment for my betrayal."
Draco paused for breath then and Hermione found herself still staring at him as he stared back as though he were only telling his tale to her, rather than to a room full of people while everyone wondered whether or not he deserved to spend even longer in prison.
"I did what I could to avoid detection and to avoid having to commit anything more heinous than necessary. I had all year during my sixth year to murder Albus Dumbeldore, and even he himself commented that my attempts had been half-hearted and pathetic, indicating to him that I really didn't want to do it. I could've at any time simply stood up while at dinner in the Great Hall and aiming a Killing curse his way. Were I my Aunt Bellatrix of the ark Lord, I'd have done so, but I'm not. I was just a scared kid, dragged into something I wanted no part of all because my family had been caught up in it before me and to betray the cause meant to sign their death certificates myself. And every time I didn't do something it was because of her."
He nodded indicatively at Hermione again.
"I'd see her across the Great Hall eating, or sitting across the classroom with her arm in the air ready to answer a question I usually didn't know the answer to, or across the corridor just walking along and I'd be reminded of all the reasons that everything I'd ever been taught was a lie and that I was on the wrong side of the war with no way to switch allegiance to the right one. I did what I could. I bumbled the attempts on Dumbledore's life. I stalled the repair of the Vanishing Cabinet to keep the Death Eaters out of Hogwarts as long as possible. I lied to everyone about who Harry was when he was caught. I warned others in my house and who were sympathetic away from staging attacks on muggleborns in the corridors that would lead to serious injury, telling them they'd be caught and reprimanded by the Dark Lord personally."
"You also bullied many," Ron pointed out from next to her.
"I had a fascade to maintain in the eyes of the other Death Eaters and the Dark Lord, lest my wavering loyalties be brought into question and examined, resulting in my untimely death," Draco argued quietly, never taking his eyes from Hermione's. "I did what I could, and it was all because one witch was a rather prominent contradiction to all I knew."
Hermione stared back at Draco for a long time in the silence that followed and it seemed she wasn't the only one ensnared by his tale and by the way he'd so shamelessly admitted to the court that Hermione Granger was the sole reason he'd changed his ways, amended his beliefs and done only what he had to in order to survive. He wore no blush of embarrassment, his tone bore no sly intent, his expression showed no hint of a lie.
"Is there anyone who can offer testimony for this change in your character before you were allegedly coerced into becoming a Death Eater?" the reedy voiced witch asked him in the silence that followed and Hermione could tell that the question had stumped him.
He had no way to prove that he'd changed, no way to show that he was acting out of moral conscience to stall the task he'd been give rather than simply out of cowardice.
It was in that moment that Hermione realised why he'd been constantly staring at her. The answer lay in the small, red-leather bound notebook concealed within the pocket of her robes and it was perhaps the only thing that might keep him from being convicted of his crimes, in spite of being underage at the time when he joined the ranks of the Death Eaters. She stared back at Draco for the longest time as they all sat in that tense moment of silence while Draco opened and closed his mouth, looking as though he was debating whether or not to admit the truth that only Hermione knew or if he should let that secret lay dormant, where it had been safely kept since the day she'd learned it.
"I can offer testament to his change in belief prior to becoming a Death Eater under duress," Hermione announced, getting to her feet slowly and reaching into her pocket to extract the diary she'd kept since fifth year. The small beacon of hope she'd held throughout the war that people could change.
All around the room, people began to whisper. Draco paused in his search for a person who might be able to offer testimony and looked up at her seriously, the same tiny smile she recognised from so long ago, the one he'd shown her the day he'd given her diary back to her after he'd drawn in it and apologised to her and for all intents and purposes, confessed to fancying her, back when they'd both been in fifth year.
"Miss Granger?" Kingsley asked, seeming shocked by her announcement and by the fact that she was offering to help Draco.
"During our fifth year at Hogwarts, Draco took something of mine from me under the pretence of assisting me one day when my bag split open between classes," Hermione began softly, "I didn't realise he'd done so at the time because I was too surprised to find him helping me and then accusing him of causing my bag to break in the first place, even though he didn't actually do it. The following lesson was Care of Magical Creatures and so I didn't require the thing he'd taken until that evening after dinner when I wanted to consult it regarding the homework I needed to be doing that day."
"What was it?" Kingsley asked and the sense of anticipation in the court room was palpable.
"This," Hermione said, pulling the notebook form her pocket and holding up the red leather bound book he'd drawn in so long ago.
Hermione could see the expressions on the faces of all the people in the room turning to confusion and wondering what any of that had to do with Draco's character and how she would be testifying that he'd changed before the war. All except Draco, who was staring at the book in wonder as though he couldn't quite believe his eyes.
"You've still got it?" he asked, his voice soft, in spite of the direction he'd been given not to speak unless spoken to.
"I thought I might need it," Hermione admitted, blushing a little as she began to push her way through the gathered people toward Kingsley at his lecturn.
"What does this notebook have to do with a change in Mr Malfoy's character, Miss Granger?" Kingsley asked her.
"Draco took the notebook from me overnight, avoiding me for most of the afternoon and until the following morning, where I confronted him in the corridors demanding its return." Hermione explained, "At the time, I didn't really think much over the idea of him having taken it, other than to be outrage because in addition to it being a book where I recorded my notes for my homework, it was also something of a diary, documenting some of my personal thoughts from the time. As you can imagine, given that I believed Draco to be a rival and certainly not a friend, I was anxious to see it returned and to swear him to secrecy over the things he'd seen in the book."
"I still say you were wasting your energies pining," Draco inserted into the conversation, proving with the simple statement that he knew something of the books contents.
"The point is that when he returned it to me, I frantically flipped through the pages, making sure he hadn't torn any out to be used against me later, and that he hadn't damaged or defaced my property," Hermione said quietly, "This was what I found."
Hermione flipped the book open to the pages he'd drawn on. To the comic where he'd drawn scenes of their school days, with Hermione the shining feature of each scene and him loitering in the background. She showed the pictures to Kingsley, marvelling again over the intricate details Draco had added to the picture, the details he could have only known about via time spent studying her. She showed Kingsley the scenes Draco had drawn of him in the library asking for a book she'd been using, the picture he'd drawn of her as an angel, the note he'd written at the bottom, apologising for being a git and confessing to fancying her.
"He did this?" Kingsley asked her seriously.
"Yes. During the winter of our fifth year," Hermione replied, "Well before he was forced to become a Death Eater."
"I see…" Kingsley said quietly, looking pensive for a moment. Hermione could tell that Draco was going to have to prove somehow that it was him.
"Do you want to tell everyone what I've just shown Kingsley?" She asked Draco softly, addressing him directly for the first time.
He stared back at her for a moment and the room held its collective breath, everyone on the edge of their seats.
"It was hard enough to tell you via the note," Draco admitted and Hermione felt a smile curl across her face when he blushed pink, "But since there's no other way to prove it was me, you've shown him the strip of comics I drew, all of which feature you as the main focus within them, in response to those you'd drawn that suggested you felt unnoticed and unappreciated by the git you fancied, who happened to fancy someone else. You've shown him that I drew a strip suggesting that the time I went up to you in the library and asked to use a book you were using, I wanted you to ask me to sit down beside you rather than have you simply hand it over with a scowl. You've also shown him the second, full page picture I drew of you with angel wings wearing the soft expression of fascination you wore whilst playing with that Bowtruckle in class that day even though it was so cold and I was such a git to you."
All around the room people began to whisper to themselves, wondering at this turn of events while Hermione noted that Harry and Ron both looked very shocked indeed.
"And the note?" Kingsely asked, studying the pictures carefully and noting that they did in fact depict what Draco had described.
"Do I have to?" Draco asked, his eyes widening and his cheeks darkening now over the idea of admitting aloud what he'd written in that not so long ago.
"I'm afraid so. The inscription is the most telling part of the entire testimony that you had changed your perspective and were in fact no longer prejudice against muggleborns." Kingsley told him, though he too smiled a little at Draco's embarrassment. Hermione felt her own cheeks turn pink for him when everyone held their breath and waited to hear what he'd written to accompany the drawings he'd done.
"I wrote a note to Hermione that stated: 'I'm sorry for what I've done to hurt you. You are like a soft snowfall, enchanting and utterly mesmerizing. Just because one git doesn't notice, does not mean the rest of us haven't.' and then I signed it with my initial," Draco recited word for word as though he were reading it off the page, "Basically I admitted that I'm in love with her."
The whole courtroom was silent in utter shock in the moments that followed, none more shocked than Hermione herself. She'd known, on some level back then that his note suggested he rather fancied her and that he was infatuated with her. But to hear him say the words "I'm in love" without using a past tense made Hermione stare at him in surprise and confusion.
"Minister, could I see that angel picture?" one of the guards of Azkaban asked suddenly into the silence, and Kingsely loked at Hermione for permission. When she nodded mutely, still too shocked to function, he handed the book over to the guard.
"I've seen this same image drawn on the wall of his cell at Azkaban, Minister. An exact replica, put there by Malfoy himself even though I told him to stop drawing on the walls."
Everyone seemed to be stunned after that and Draco shot Hermione that same lop-side half smile and a shrug that he'd shown her the day he'd given her the diary back, making her realise he had no intention of discussing the matter further, he'd just put that information out there in the universe for her to know and left it at that.
"Those in favour of conviction?" Kingsley asked, drawing the shocked attention of everyone. In spite of all the evidence submitted, there was still a small number a witches and wizards who raised their hands.
"Those in favour of clearing the accused of all charges?" He asked, and the majority of the inhabitants or the room, Hermione among them, raised their hands.
"Very well. Cleared of all charges. Mr Malfoy, you are free to go," Kinglsey announced.
Hermione watched the relief on his pointed face as the chains binding him fell away and Draco got slowly to his feet. His mother was already out of her seat and across the room, throwing herself at Draco and sobbing her relief. Meanwhile, amid the confusion as everyone started to clear out of the court room, the Azkaban guard handed the diary back to Hermione.
The last she saw of Draco Malfoy was as she was jostled out of the room by the flowing crowd, his mother still sobbing into his shoulder, his eyes fixed on Hermione and that vulnerable, half-smile on his face.