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Thank you to RESimon for being the incredible beta that she is.


CHAPTER SIXTY

"They'll enter from there," Sirius said, pointing somewhere into the shadows beyond them.

The large, circular courtroom was empty save for the few figures that sat around her on a long bench, seated high in the large chamber. Despite the dome shape of the room that was paved in dark stone that seemed specifically engineered to amplify every voice that spoke, their voices were muted where they sat. To their left, there was a lower row of benches, and to her right were rows of much higher benches, soon to be filled with shadowed figures, according to where Sirius' finger pointed.

In the center of the room was a lone chair, long chains extending from its arms to the ground that connected to nothing. Yet.

Sirius continued to speak, the low words he said drifting past her. Her eyes moved to her right, blurring as they focused on the wooden door that marked the exit a few steps beyond Arthur. Her husbands had insisted on her sitting closest to it with only Arthur on her other side, citing their concerns with her health. A position near the exit, and a half dozen alarm spells upon her husbands should anything with the baby's health go awry. Emergency potions for her in their pockets. The sickening curl of anticipation lingering in the air. The longer she looked at the exit, the louder the churn of her stomach became, reminding her of the strength she needed to draw upon at that moment. If it came to it, she would have to leave for their child. She wouldn't let it come to it. She forced her eyes back on her husband, watching the path of his finger as it drifted over the still empty benches to their right.

"Thompson will be the harshest," he said, the lines around his eyes drawn tight as he spoke. "She's been called upon to represent the voices of discontent, and is the de facto replacement of the Minister due to the concerns of nepotism in the ranks," he scoffed. Kingsley. Arthur. Nearly all of her other husbands were entitled to a seat on the Wizengamot in some form. "She will be harsh, but perhaps she won't be cruel. The rest will be, though. They feel that she will give deference to the family of the Savior, and will do anything to mitigate any kindness that she may show."

The low benches behind the chair that sat in the middle of the room surely couldn't have been for a panel of impartial jurors. If they'd ever used any — had they, in the past? They decried nepotism now, but she couldn't recall a time when she'd read about a trial that had used one. Instead, she had only heard of the discerning words of the rows of lawmakers and enforcers that hailed from the upper echelons of their society, their seats a birthright, their privilege immovable, their judgment implacable.

Her eyes went back to the high rows of empty seats, knowing that among the empty would be those which belonged to the members who had recused themselves from the trial and were instead seated next to her. Their row in the middle of the room was representative of both the audience and the accused, of the powerful and the powerless. From where she sat, she would have the perfect vantage point of all who wished to see the legacies of those that claimed the empty seats in their midst burn. As Lucius had once used his power and influence to sway even the direst of situations into his favor, she had no doubt that the swift hand of biased justice would slam down on him.

Beside her, Sirius was still speaking. "... The McNair vote may have normally gone in Lucius's favor, but his heir no longer holds such loyalties as dearly. His wife, the younger Ms. Greengrass, was once betrothed to Draco. It is unclear if he will try to curry favor with wealth as his late father once did, or if he'll make his disapproval of the Malfoys known. The young Ms. Bulstrode may take kindly to you in gratitude after your proposal, but there's no guarantee. The Avery representative will show no mercy. They've wanted to usurp my family generations, and a chance to usurp a Malfoy would delight them…"

She turned to him then, her entire body following the movement as if in slow motion as she forced her mouth open. "Why are you telling me this?"

Her eyes caught Severus', Kingsley the only buffer between him and Sirius. Kingsley had a faraway look on his face, while Severus' eyes blazed as he looked at Sirius. They flickered to hers and she shook her head slightly, watching as he reluctantly pulled back.

When she looked back at Sirius, his eyes were flashing with a dark intensity that she couldn't recall the last time she'd seen. "I'm telling you now so that they will never get the satisfaction of you reacting to the way they'll do everything in their power to destroy him at this trial. You are without a doubt one of the strongest women ever known, and I know that you're more than able to withstand the scrutiny of the entire Wizengamot smiling at the chance to watch your family burn. It doesn't mean you don't deserve preparation, either.

"A law that they enacted using a spell that you discovered forced the subsequent creation of the most powerful family in generations. They would love nothing more than to topple that which was created by chance under the guise of vanquishing nepotism. Lucius' trial postwar was closed. They are going to open it wide today and dissect every single thing he did and make it clear that him doing anything he did on behalf of the Order is of no consequence when weighed against the scales of morality that they claim to represent. But this goes beyond that. The fact that he has been granted a trial has done him no favors aside from publicizing his many sins. This is politics — and they want nothing more than to see him burn."

"He's right," Arthur said gently, stroking her back. "As much as it pains me to say it."

And none of it mattered. None of it mattered because Lucius wouldn't — couldn't? — speak the truth of what he'd done. She knew as well as he how truthful his words were: the deed could not be undone.

Her eyes fluttered shut as she took a deep breath before opening them and looking up at Sirius once more. "I love you," she said, reaching over and tangling her trembling fingers with his. Beyond him, her other husbands were silent, all watching the exchange with their eyes focused on her. She refused to let her gaze linger on theirs long enough to see the pity that they tried to bury deep—

A door across the room opened. The first of many plum-robed figures filed in, hoods pulled low as they made their way to their seats. The rows filled quietly, a dozen empty seats left while entirely too many filled. Despite their diminished population, the Wizengamot appeared only slightly sparse. Filled with those who'd hidden away from the war, returning to their places of privilege only after their society had already been decimated.

The moment the last of those occupying the high rows sat, a door at the bottom of the circular chamber opened. Lucius shuffled through, flanked on either side by an Auror. The room was silent save for the low scraping of his chains against the stone floor, the dozen steps he took to his seat feeling prolonged as the room watched his every step, trying to catch the look in his eyes where his head was held low. The moment he sat down in the lone chair in the middle of the room, the chains that hung at its side attached to him, the ones that had followed him into the room disappearing.

A woman stood behind a podium a dozen steps from Lucius with her hood still pulled low as she cleared her throat, the sound a sudden burst of unexpected noise that had Hermione's hand tightening in Sirius'. The silver W on the woman's robes gleamed as she pulled down her hood, looking around the room. Her long dark hair was slicked back in a tight bun, her features stiff as her eyes moved around the room.

Silence fell. Hermione looked down at where Lucius sat once more, his head held high, features proud and unflinching despite the roomful of people that scrutinized his every movement.

"Criminal trial of the sixteenth of July," the woman said, her amplified voice booming the date of Lucius' daughter's birth across the room in what felt like cruel irony as the scribe started scratching his quill across parchment, "into High Crimes Against Society committed by Lucius Abraxas Malfoy, resident at Malfoy Manor, Malfoy Estate, Wiltshire, England.

"As both the Minister and Deputy Minister have recused themselves from these proceedings, the interrogators are as follows: Agnes Cressida Thompson, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Daniel Victor Johnson, Court Scribe…"

Hermione almost laughed at the absurdity of it all. Her husbands had recused themselves over demands that nepotism would infringe upon the necessity of impartiality, yet as she looked up in the stands at where the members of the Wizengamot who had now pulled down their hoods, she saw only the contempt of a group that wished for nothing more than to convict a man whom they mutually agreed should have been convicted years ago. The unspoken judgment was already written across their faces, inextricable from the rebuke and disgust that twisted their faces. Perhaps, still, it was her in the wrong for viewing it as such, her rose-colored glasses irremovable now that she was bound in lifelong union with the convicted. But the look in his eyes only a half hour prior as he'd spoken his truth had seared itself in her memory, and she held fast to the innocence she'd seen reflected there.

It made their seats in the middle of both sides all the more fitting. A perfect vantage point of a man she loved, surrounded by all the reasons why she shouldn't. She'd gone from rebuking him for his crimes to loving him in a whirlwind. It was now, in a moment like this, that she understood how painful love could truly be. Where she'd once thought that the fissures that had continued to appear and spread across her heart the further he had broken it were the crux of her pain, now it felt as though she were being burned from the inside out. Her desperation to see him freed was eclipsed by the fact that the truth of what he'd done was as stark as the unearthly red glow of the poison that had brought them to this moment.

"… The charges are as follows: that he did knowingly, deliberately, and in full awareness of the illegality of his actions, come into possession of him a banned substance at some point on or before the 8th of July, which constitutes an offense under paragraph F for the decree Volatile and Banned Substances, 1771, and also under section 74 of the International Confederation of Wizards' Statute of Crimes Against Humanity." She paused to step away from her podium, peering at Lucius.

"You are Lucius Abraxas Malfoy, of Malfoy Manor, Malfoy estate, Wiltshire, England?"

For the first time, the low timbre of Lucius's voice rang through the courtroom. "I am."

Arthur snaked his fingers into hers, squeezing her hand. "If you need to go, just say the word," he whispered.

Hermione nodded mutely, unable to tear her eyes away from Lucius. He had yet to show even an inkling of emotion, his form reminiscent of a sculpture.

"You have been made to stand trial in this very courtroom previously, have you not?" Thompson asked, eyes sliding over a parchment she had materialized.

A murmur rippled through the room, and several cloaked figures leaned forward, frowns so deep that they appeared to be etching new lines into their skin.

"Yes."

Thompson hummed noncommittally. "Your most recent trial," she paused as if to take a breath, but Hermione caught the way she let the word recent hang in the air above them, suspended for emphasis— "was three years ago, was it not?"

"Indeed," he answered with an ease as smooth as if she had asked him how he preferred his tea.

A short silence fell as she paused to peer at him, her expression inscrutable. "At the time, the trial was sealed at the request of the Minister due to the sensitive nature of your actions and the high possibility of undue prejudice against you, as I understand?"

"Yes."

She took a step forward, tapping a finger against the parchment in her hands. "Due to the severe nature of your current charges, the unsealing of these records was deemed necessary. They are to be introduced as evidence which has been deemed to have no prejudicial effect as the crimes listed therein pertain directly to your moral character, which is at issue in this trial."

Lucius did not move in acknowledgment, only appearing to wait patiently for the woman's next words.

She arched an eyebrow but said nothing. "At the time, it was revealed that you appeared to have been working as a double agent of sorts for the Order of the Phoenix. Was this correct at the time?" She did nothing to hide the derision in her voice.

"Yes." It felt strange, somehow, even then, to hear him acknowledge it so plainly allowed whereas Hermione had all but forced it from him in the past.

This time, the silence stretched as Thompson dragged a slow finger up and down the parchment before pausing and looking at Lucius. "Mr. Malfoy," she said slowly, "What actions do you believe necessitated the sealing of this trial?"

At that, Lucius tilted his head slightly, arching her brow back at her. "Several."

Thompson crossed her arms. "And if you are asked to be specific?"

"It is an age-old difficulty, placing wartime actions on a scale of morality."

"A curious choice of words," she said. "You were a prolific member of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named's inner circle for several decades, yes?"

Lucius' lips flattened slightly. "Yes."

"And to the public, through the end of the final war just over three years ago?"

"Yes." Hermione wondered if his voice was tightening, or if it was solely her own throat, slowly restricting her airflow as she tried to suck in low, sharp breaths.

"And what is it that made you switch sides?"

"Necessity."

Thompson's mouth curved into something that lay between a smirk and a frown. "A word of several interpretations. And on your scale of morality, would you place your decision on the end of altruism? Desperation?"

Lucius continued to look at her defiantly. "Necessity is not a word so easily defined."

Thompson's lips thinned. "Murder. Where would you place that action on your fictional scale?" she asked. Something glinted in her eyes, and Hermione's heart fell into her stomach. She squeezed Sirius' hand and felt the pressure of Arthur's hand on her thigh.

"Morality is a scale dependent on action, not intention," Lucius answered steadily.

Thompson hummed, pausing for a moment as her eyes slid back down to the sheet between her fingers. "Do you measure yourself by your intentions, then, Mr. Malfoy?"

"I am not here to judge myself, but to be judged by you, if I am not mistaken?" Lucius clipped.

Thompson's eyes narrowed. She took another step forward, looking down upon Lucius. "Twenty-seven," she said slowly, cocking her head at him. She was slow, almost leisurely with her words, drawing out the tension of each one. "Twenty-seven, of various confirmed methods. Perhaps more via the use of the undetectable poison which was found in your possession. Are we to believe that all twenty-seven of the murders for which you were brought to trial were all well-intentioned and on behalf of the Order?"

There was a sudden implosion of noise in the room, the tension that had stifled it suddenly forced out as gasps and murmurs erupted. Hermione's eyes darted to the rows of Wizengamot members, ghosting over the looks that ranged from shocked to enraged before she looked away, trying to focus her eyes on Lucius alone—

He was as stoic as ever, his only movement his fingers tightening on the wooden arms of his seat.

Thompson's voice cut into the din as she charged forward. "Are we to believe that all of these murders were at the direct behest of the Order of the Phoenix?"

Lucius' jaw worked for a moment. "No."

Hermione's heart was erratic in her chest, flipping between flutters and thuds. Her hands felt slick, and she gripped Arthur's hand harder.

This time, both of Thompson's eyebrows shot up. "Then are we to believe that some were of your own decision?"

Hermione's head started to pound. She blinked rapidly as her vision began to blur, trying to keep her eyes focused on Lucius.

"Some were directed, while others were decisions that I was required to make on my own in order to further the Order's goals of winning the war."

Thompson started to speak, but the words sounded garbled as they reached Hermione's ears as Hermione's world started to tilt on its axis, spots of darkness clouding her vision. She stood suddenly, the action sending her lurching to one side. She felt the pressure of hands catching her, warmth at her side—

"I have to protect the baby," she slurred. "I have to go—"

She stumbled sideways, barely catching the blur of brown that marked the wooden door as she tried to make her way toward the exit. Everything around her blurred in waves, the door simultaneously before her and too far away. Everything grew loud, too loud as her head rattled and she felt herself fading. Her hand jammed uselessly into the folds of her robes she felt for the potion she had stashed in her pocket just in case. "It's my blood pressure," she said, gripping the arm of the person who held her. "It's too high, too fast— need to drink the potion—" She had to focus on her baby, but everything was fading —

Hermione blinked slowly as she came to to the sensation of a smooth liquid tinged with peppermint flooding down her throat. She swallowed reflectively, continuing to blink rapidly as she looked at her surroundings.

"Hermione?" Neville said, his voice laced with fear, "can you hear me?"

She tried to nod, the movement sluggish as she tried to focus on him. "I —" she croaked and coughed, trying to focus on the figure of her husband as he faded into focus before her. "I couldn't stay," she said softly, her voice barely above a whisper. "The baby is—"

"Shh," Arthur whispered. "You made the right decision. "

Severus stepped forward and tipped a glass of water to her lips, his eyes searching hers worriedly.

"The baby's alright," she said after a long sip. Her fingers ghosted over her stomach, rubbing it through her robes as she started to recite to herself, dragging her mind's eye away from the corridor they were gathered in and what was beyond the doors across from them. "The precautionary spell would have gone off if it wasn't. I only took the potion because of the sudden spike in my blood pressure, but it's fine," she rattled mechanically, magic sparking in the air as she ran her own diagnostics. "Fainting can be normal when this happens, and I never would have stayed long enough for the baby to be in danger—"

"We know," Severus said, catching her fingers. "It's you we worry for."

"I'm alright," she said. It was a truth of her physical state, at least.

"We understand," Kingsley said, his voice gentle as he addressed what she'd left unsaid.

Harry stepped into view. "Let's go home."

X

Hermione sighed, leaning back into Harry's touch as his fingers worked gentle circles across her scalp, combing gently through her tangled curls. Hermione's own fingers worked through Carina's white-blonde hair where she slumbered peacefully in her mother's arms. Soft light lit up the nursery, illuminating where James and Scorpius slumbered side by side on the push carpet, James' hand atop Scorpius' where he still held a crushed piece of birthday cake in his tiny fist. Padfoot hovered nearby, sniffing indignantly at where Crookshanks tried to lick at Scoprius' fist, pawing at the only remaining cake that hadn't yet been vanished.

Neville let out a short huff as he poked at the bag suspended in the air above where they sat, frowning at the tube attached that dripped a concentrated potion that flowed directly into Hermione's bloodstream through the needle she'd inserted into her arm. "Is it working?" he asked, poking at the bag once more. "I'm still not quite sure that Healer Johnson's concern wasn't misplaced—"

"It's fine," Harry assured him. "Slightly muggle, but perfectly acceptable."

"It helps," Hermione reassured him. "It's better this way, when you're pregnant. Gentler on the system." Hermione almost swallowed the word, feeling useless in the wake of the tumult they'd gone through.

Padfoot trotted up beside her, resting his head on the part of her lap that Carina didn't occupy. Hermione adjusted Carina until she could reach down and run her hand over his onyx fur. "It's her first birthday," Hermione said sadly, kissing Carina's head.

Neville sank down beside her, rubbing her shoulder. "She had a wonderful day," he assured her. "She didn't know."

"But we knew," Hermione answered, her voice breaking. "We all knew, and it's there— in the papers, our dead eyes in the pictures— once she's able to read, she'll always know. I wanted to give her the world, and instead I gave her this."

"Hermione," Harry called, his fingers still drifting through her hair in gentle strokes. "She spent it with her siblings. She laughed, and Pinky told me that she didn't cry once…" he trailed off, pressing a kiss to the top of Hermione's head.

She didn't answer. Her ring had turned a deep blue the moment she made contact with Sirius' fur, and she stared at it, transfixed.

"Talk to us," Neville prodded gently.

She continued to stare at her ring, eyes blurring with unshed tears and she pulled her hand away and watched it turn back into a diamond. She lifted it into the light, twisting it slightly. "When a normal diamond hits the light just right, its facets reflect little rainbows," she said, still slowly twisting it this way and that. "When mine hits the light, the little rainbows are the colors of your rings. Little facets of each of you, captured when the moment's just right," she whispered. She held her hand still, eyes blurring as she focused on the little emerald facets she'd captured. "I don't know if I'll ever see it turn green again. All I have left is this." Her chest burned as she recalled the way it had turned a rich emerald as he'd been pulled away by the Aurors, the unwavering confidence he'd held at the trial—

"You didn't abandon him," Neville said. "You left to protect your baby. He understands."

"But do you?" she said, her throat so tight that a strangled noise followed. "Because I don't. All I know is that he didn't do it because of who we thought he was, but for something else, something good, and I don't even know what so it changes nothing—"

The door to the nursery opened. There was a near intangible change to the air of the room with it, and she looked up to see Arthur and Kingsley standing in the doorway, each with tight expressions on their faces.

"What is it?" She hadn't even noticed the moment Sirius had transformed, but his large frame now stood before her, his broad shoulders laced with tension.

Arthur's jaw worked. "We're tardy because we've had a disagreement with the Wizengamot," he said, his voice tight. "It appears that there are two witnesses who came forward." He looked at Hermione as she stood, his eyes shining as they met hers. Her heart sank, her chest tight as she remembered the mountain of evidence in the form of a single vial that had already all but buried Lucius— "In favor of the defense."

Hermione's heart started to thud erratically, and she held Carina closer to herself as she tried to hold herself together. "I don't— I don't understand—" She tried to quash the way hope fluttered in her chest as she looked between her two husbands.

"They've been trying to suppress them," Kingsley said, fist tightening at his side. "Using arguments of them being unfit, the charges of a nature that hold him strictly liable for the offense no matter what arguments are made against them—"

"But?" Hermione pressed, clutching onto his words like a lifeline, ignoring the way the tube in her arm tugged as she crossed the room.

"But we pushed back. We…" he trailed off, hesitating as he searched her eyes for a moment, "we were able to press for a recess after your crisis, and it came to light during that time."

Something within her shuddered, and she placed a shaking kiss atop Carina's head.

Arthur gave her a small smile. "They testify tomorrow."