Chapter 52: Trial in Absence
"Let me see if I understand this fully," Gordon Freimann, the greying man opposite Sirius and Daphne said, stroking his short-cropped, silvery beard. "You wish for me to find a way in which the Misses Greengrass would be able to forsake their inheritance, thereby becoming more of a liability than an asset to any of the more… self-serving members of our political spheres, yet you also want to take control of Greengrass Elixirs."
"Sounds about right," Sirius deadpanned next to Daphne, seemingly oblivious to the challenge he had just posted, even for the experienced, and no doubt expensive, solicitor.
The rather professional seeming man grumbled a bit under his breath, something containing the words 'Blacks' and 'maniacs', as far as Daphne was able to make out, but quickly returned to his calm demeanour after that.
"From what you have told me, it should be possible to claim some of the property of the Greengrass family as damages due for the unprovoked attack on Lord Potter, both for his own position as well as his position as your heir, Lord Black," the solicitor laid out before them. The girl was not listening all that intently, though, completely assured that either Sirius, or perhaps Harry and Hermione, would handle it. No, looking at the 'Lord of Black' flinch each time someone used that honorific was much more amusing, and a much better way to drive away the ache inside her chest.
"The only problem might be any kind of preliminary contract made with the Malfoys," he continued. "While those are quite rare these days, as the old families seldom wish to betroth their children before they are able to sign on their thirteenth birthday, they are still quite legal, and it would be very much in character for Mr. Malfoy, if any of my earlier dealings with him are an indication. That contract being broken would give him reason to demand recompense."
That was a worrying thought, indeed, as far as Daphne was concerned. Sure, Sirius had taken mostly good care of her these last few months, but given the opportunity, would he not be stupid to forgo the very profitable company while leaving her to Draco? Or maybe he had gotten fond of her and would give up on Tori, instead?
"Stop it!" she chastised herself. "That's how fath… Xavier would think!"
Sirius, the very man whose decisions she was agonising about, was still supremely confident, something the solicitor seemed to be rather annoyed by.
"Lord Black," the experienced wizard said in exasperation. "I think you need to get some perspective on what you're hoping to achieve in all of this. Your original plan would work out without much of a problem, as far as I can tell. With both the girls foregoing their inheritance to become Blacks they would indeed become quite uninteresting for most families that would try to control them for selfish purposes, so that is going to happen, regardless."
The 'Lord Black' looked supremely smug at that.
"However," Freimann quickly rained on the parade. "Further than that, I don't get the feeling that you have a clear definition of your goals, as well as any fallback positions. In any negotiation, and that is what this will end up as, it is important to have secondary goals. Is it absolutely required that you take over Greengrass Elixirs, or would you be happy with a lump of Galleons?"
Sirius looked at her guiltily in that moment, almost as if regretting what he was going to say next. A mere second, Daphne had no idea what this was about. Then it dawned on her.
"It's okay, Sirius," she mumbled. "I understand it, the company's important. Just the right thing to get yours started; established networks of distributors and suppliers, a stable base of customers and…" She never finished what she was about to say; the horrified look on the Marauder's face stopped her. "That's what you were about to say, right? Why you looked at me like that. Look, I get it. With Xavier's attack, it would be easy to guilt-trip the Wizengamot into allowing you to take over guardianship for me and Astoria with you coming out looking like the hero. Then you can fulfil whatever contract Malfoy had with the Greengrasses and keep everything else…"
Her rambling was interrupted by a hand grabbing her shoulder, almost hard enough to bruise; yet it was a comforting weight. When Daphne looked up, it was to the vehement headshaking of Sirius Black.
"No, Daphne; I would never do that to you, or Astoria. Imagine what Hermione would do to me, if I did," the last thing had been said in jest, but a small shudder went through the man, nonetheless. It seemed like not only children could consider Hermione just a tad scary, sometimes. "I was sorry for this."
With that, he turned his attention back to the solicitor, who now actually seemed to be smiling, if rather thinly. "The girls are paramount. Get as much out of this as possible, but this is not the time for revenge. If Daphne and Astoria being safe means the loss of their family's company, I'll be happy to live with them being angry with me, later on," he declared forcefully. "Please, just make sure old Luci doesn't get everything he wanted. The Earldom of Greengrass should go vacant before it makes Malfoy even more powerful than he already is."
To Daphne herself, he added with a grin. "Maybe we'll have the pleasure of Black Enterprises ruining Greengrass Elixirs sometime in the future."
"In the case of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement against Xavier Greengrass, Earl of Greengrass-upon-the-Hills, this judicial sitting of the Wizengamot is called to order," Albus Dumbledore called the room to order. The upper echelons of the Wizengamot, namely the peers, had assembled in one of the largest chambers available to them, yet every inch of space was occupied. There were reporters, although their numbers were admittedly small given the disturbingly small number of news outlets the wizarding world had. Then again, a fourth pillar of government was hardly something people would expect to exist when even the first three were hopelessly intertwined.
"With his ongoing absence, the Lord Greengrass gives us no choice but to hold his trial in absentia. Representative of the accused, your charge is accused of murder, conspiracy to abduct a peer, casting of an unforgivable curse with the intent of causing grievous bodily harm. How do you plead on these charges?" the old wizard read out tiredly; the whole sorry business was clearly grating on his aging body.
The defender the case had been assigned to, a young witch barely out of her apprenticeship, stood up to face the stern visages of the gathered crowd, both those wearing the plum robes denoting their judicial standing in the matter, as well as the ones gathered in the visitors' gallery. Everyone could see that she had not taken this case of her own will, unhappy as she looked about being where she was. Still, she stood firm, something Rita had to admit she admired quite a bit. Everyone had the right of attorney if it came so far as to include a court, and this woman was in the room to fulfil that right. It would do nothing to protect her from the press, of course; "Defending a Murderer, Abetting a Killer!" sounded like a delightful headline.
"On behalf of my client, I plead guilty on the charges of conspiracy to abduct a peer and the use of an Unforgivable Curse," she began what would surely be the hardest thing she had done so far in her life. Many of the members of the very committee now hearing Xavier's case had had family on that train, and none of them were pleased with a woman being killed on the platform and in full view of children. "On the charge of murder, and in the name of my client, I plead not guilty."
The Dicta-Quill she had going was already scribbling away furiously, diligently recording everything that was being said, while the Quick-Quotes-Quill she had going on a different sheet of parchment was more… liberal in its interpretation of the facts. Of course, it was ultimately her interpretation of the facts, the quill being guided by her thoughts. A simple enchantment, not even sentient, would never reach her level of journalistic brilliance.
Of course, what Rita considered 'journalistic brilliance' was skirting just short of the line set by slander and defamation legislation.
"'I plead not guilty,' the young, inexperienced defender ended her impassioned defence of a man who has most publicly shown to be little more than a dangerous maniac, making this reporter wonder, for what reasons she has taken the case. Was she, perhaps, stronghanded into it, or might there have been a more sinister reason? Could she have been in on a plot to kill Mrs. Greengrass right from the start, making way for herself to snatch the new widower?" she read the last bit of what had been put downalready. It would sell well, if nothing else; after all, tragedy, death and Harry Potter were involved.
The involved parties, given the kind of trial it was, those were the prosecution in the form of some DMLE person (Madam Bones, as a witness, was precluded from taking on the role herself) and the still incredibly unhappy-looking public defender, then started to drone on for hours, trying to spin the facts their way. Eventually, even Rita started getting annoyed, despite the mountains of great material she was getting for her article; or maybe it would be articles. She did not really see, how much there was to deliberate as, despite his defender's valiant attempt, Xavier Greengrass just came off as more of a jerk, the more she talked about him.
When finally recess was called for everyone to attend lunch, she was deeply thankful for some lazy Wizengamot member in times long past, who had, self-serving as they often tended to be, pushed through procedural rules intended to limit trial times. While, from time to time, an old, exceptionally brutal crime being brought back up by its ongoing stint in court could be a real lifesaver during a gossip dry-spell, readers would eventually just tune that stuff out.
Still, after recess, the witnesses were expected to appear, and with them, a few of the more… interesting people of the day. In all honesty, Rita could not really decide whose testimony she was looking forward to more; Potter and the bushy-haired bitch? The Greengrass daughters? It would all be whipping her readers in a complete frenzy, as much was sure. And if the content was not frenzy-inducing enough, well, her own delivery could rectify that. Too bad she would have to toe the line far more than usual, seeing as she was still in somewhat of a precarious situation regarding her unique… ability.
"All rise for the Honourable Chief Warlock, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore," the court clerk announced at the end of the lunch break, to a mix of groans and excitement among the ranks of both visitors and members of the Wizengamot. The Chief Warlock himself just looked tired, really. Maybe worth a follow-up on her earlier coverage on his various recent failings…
With that, the proceedings went on with more boring babbling, an endless throng of witnesses being called by both prosecution and defence; parents who had been standing on the platform, now relaying both the event itself, as well as the intense amount of shock their children had suffered. Witnesses of the defence generally tended more to gravitate toward character witnesses, the young counsellor trying valiantly to depict the Greengrass patriarch as nothing more than a grieving father, driven mad by despair over his daughter's disappearance. In all honesty, Rita was not completely sure, which these witnesses were doing more of, helping Greengrass or damaging their own reputation. Of course, her own article would definitely add to that damage, as much was clear. The Granger girl had made sure the reporter was aware of her objective in that regard. Then again, she probably would have done it anyway. Finally, it was going into the late hours of the afternoon, the real reader-numbers gold was coming up.
"The prosecution calls Daphne Selena Greengrass to the stand," the clerk announced, to intense chatter amongst the people remaining on the visitors' gallery. "Be aware, Ms. Greengrass is underaged, and will therefore be treated according to the Wizengamot trial protocols, addendum F, subsections 2 and 3 regarding underage trial participants in general and underage witnesses in particular. Further be advised that the witness is the daughter of the accused and may not be forced to incriminate close relatives."
Her back ramrod straight, even though her eyes betrayed the girl's troubled emotions, the older of the two Greengrass daughters stepped into the huge bowl of the trial chamber, resplendent in black-and-green formal robes that both accentuated the fact that she had definitely entered puberty, yet were very reasonably cut for a young pureblood lady. In fact, Rita was quite sure that a lot of care had been taken in what the girl was wearing, striking a delicate balance between the kind of innocence that would let Xavier Greengrass' actions seem all the more heinous, robbing someone so young of their mother, while also projecting someone mature enough to make a range of choices for herself.
"You are Daphne Selena Greengrass, daughter Xavier Perseus and Anastasia Marie Greengrass, is that correct?" the clerk asked Daphne, who nodded in response.
"That is correct. Anastasia is… was my mother, Xavier is my biological father," she replied, taking special care to emphasise the word 'biological'. Not that Rita could fault her on that.
After that, word went to the prosecution, and what's-his-name immediately grabbed onto the opening presented to him in the way Daphne had subtly corrected the clerk. "Hello Daphne," the DMLE staffer said kindly, sparing the obviously distraught girl a small smile. "You stressed that you see the accused as your biological father. I assume that you do not want to assign him the role of anything more than that in your life?"
"I object!" the young counsellor for the defence interrupted before Daphne could even begin to answer. "Ms. Greengrass has not, as Wizengamot trial protocols, addendum F, subsection 2, paragraph 4 demands, been informed of her right to refuse an answer in her role as daughter of the defendant."
Dumbledore, growing increasingly, visibly annoyed with the whole thing, nodded in her direction, before switching his attention to the girl in the witness chair.
"Ms. Greengrass, are you aware that, due to your familial relation to the accused, you can refuse testimony at any point, should you feel anything you say could be used to further the case against your… biological father or incriminate any other close relative," the Chief Warlock explained. "You are still bound to tell the truth."
"Thank you, Chief Warlock," Daphne answered, a slight bristling to her body that someone less observant than Rita might have overlooked. Clearly, the Greengrass daughter was no fan of the old man. "I was informed of my rights, and still want to testify."
A grumbling went through the gathered mass of people; some of the more progressive parts of society sounding very much impressed by the poise and confidence with which the girl held herself, while some of the more… backwards-thinking people seemed to be very much underwhelmed by a pureblood child so brazenly announcing opposition to the head of her family.
"You may proceed, then," Dumbledore said wearily, waving his gnarled hand dismissively.
A predatory gleam shining in his eyes, the prosecutor turned his attention back to his witness, before he proceeded with his interrupted question.
"Same question as before, Ms. Greengrass," the DMLE staffer announced. "Please explain to us, why you chose to highlight the fact that you consider Xavier Greengrass to be only your biological father?"
The stiffness Rita had seen building in Daphne's back ratchet up another notch, as the girl looked balefully into the distance. "Because he wanted to use me as his political pawn, no matter my view on the matter, only so he himself could continue sitting on the fence."
Some hasty murmuring could be heard, especially from the traditionalists, many of whom were acting as eyes and ears for that creep, Malfoy; not surprising, really, given that he was both a frequent business partner, as well as the guy with access to all their dirty secrets for many of these people. Still, none of them dared speak out, the rules about dealing with underage witnesses surprisingly strict.
"I see," the prosecutor replied sagely, the compassion maybe a tad overplayed, but the onlookers, both Wizens and visitors seemed to be lapping it up. Good tidings for her readership numbers, then. "So then, am I correct in the assumption that it was due to your biological father's plans for you that you chose to run away, even as your schoolmates were on their way home for the winter holidays?"
"That is correct," the young woman replied, a little catch in her throat that Rita's Quick-Quotes-Quill promptly jotted down; overblown, of course.
"And you had planned this for quite some time, am I right?" what's-his-name went on, his tangent now becoming more obvious. "You had managed to acquire a tent, hide a complete set of clothes in the woods, even managed to throw off the aurors that came looking for you by wading along a river, despite the weather conditions?"
"You must have been rather motivated to do that, were you not?"
"I was terrified," Daphne replied, all the while looking longingly into the crowd of onlookers where, following the girl's gaze, Rita could spot Black in the hideous plum robes of office Wizengamot members were expected to wear. "That made me motivated enough."
"Thank you, that will be all," the prosecutor closed, a look of compassion on his face the reporter was not completely sure was meant that way; he just did not seem the type to be all that compassionate. He then turned back to the sea of plum, "As you can see, the witness was quite clearly terrified of her father. As I expressed in my opening statement, it my goal to show the kind of man the defendant is…"
It was already the black of night when finally, after a long and emotionally draining day, the group of five that contained Harry, Hermione, Sirius and, most importantly, Daphne and Astoria appeared with a pop in the arrival room aboard the Gwyneth. Seemingly against all her instincts, the older sister, at whom most of the attention had been directed, had fallen asleep somewhere between the end of the trial for her biological father and the endless parchmentwork that getting the two released into Sirius' custody had entailed, and none of them had had the heart to wake her after this nightmare of a day.
Truthfully, things had gotten as well as could be hoped for: Daphne and Astoria were declared wards of the Black family, not that anyone had really contested that after some less-than-subtle hints that any inheritance would be dismissed by the two sisters, and Xavier Greengrass had been found guilty (though that had never been in question), sentenced to life in Azkaban. The only reason the defence attorney had been able to prevent the Kiss, according to the lawyer Sirius had hired, was that she had somehow managed to engender a tiny sliver of sympathy within some of the members of the Wizengamot for a father, however a bad one he may have been, worried for his daughter. Even doing only that had highly impressed Freimann, who had proceeded to discreetly slip her a business card with a number on it that would most likely make many people very jealous.
And while Daphne was being led away, having awoken from the sensation of apparition, Astoria seemed to have other plans. Indeed, she was holding onto Harry's arm with a strength that belied her short frame and young age.
"Can I stay with you?" she mumbled sleepily, unknowingly putting the older boy in quite the difficult spot; depending on what she meant by 'staying with him', things might get a bit awkward. Sure, she might have sussed him out to be big brother material, the way she had clung to him during the day, but he still very much was an adult man, stuck inside a boy's body.
"What do you mean by staying with me?" Harry asked kindly; no sense in thinking of a response when he did not even know, what she was talking about.
"I…" the girl sniffled, only looking younger with how needily she looked up at him. "I don't want to sleep alone tonight. And when Sirius is now our… guardian and he's your godfather, you're kind of like my big brother, right? Big brothers can do that for their sisters, can't they?"
So, she did want to put him in that spot… great. Harry tightly pressed his eyelids closed and massaged his temples with the hand that was not being grabbed by his self-declared little sister.
"I don't think that's such a good idea," he finally said, silently, gently, so as not to upset her, make her think she was somehow unwanted; Merlin knew he was aware how that felt, and he never wanted to inflict it upon someone like Astoria. "I'll make you a deal: you can stay with me until you're asleep and then you can stay on a transfigured cot for the rest of the night, right with me in my room. Sound okay?"
Still holding onto his arm, she nodded almost happily, then dashed away, presumably to get ready for bed; for a girl so intent on exploring and chaos a lot of the time, she seemed to be rather well-behaved. Then again, who knew what the more traditional purebloods did to keep their children in line?
"That's so cute," Hermione enthused when they were finally alone, still standing in the bare arrival room. "It's incredible how trusting she still is, even after all of…" she made a rather unspecific gesture with her hands, yet with enough energy to have her lock bob, "…this."
Knowing that he probably looked slightly forlorn, Harry stepped up to his girlfriend, enveloped her in a light hug and kissed her chastely, really only a brush of the lips, before burying his face in the brown curls on her head.
"I know, Harry, I know."
AN: Hi all
So, I struggled with this chapter for a long time, and could not really see, how I would get out of it what I knew was possible. Now though, with the first part of my SW/HP crossover completely written, I kind of don't want to continue sitting in this narrative stupor any longer. Did it fulfil my hopes? No. Is it functional in moving the story forward? Probably.
Therefore, I shall now proceed to reread my own story, to get into the feeling of it once again (all the while cringing at one point or the other, considering how I would like to think my writing has evolved since I started on this) and then get back to writing on it.
That being said, this is something I do in my spare time, something that is obviously limited by my time-consuming course of study, and because I have fun with it; if I really start disliking a story I write (which I am not saying is happening here), then I will be dropping it. Nevertheless, I will also tell people I did it, and why.
So please, enjoy my latest work,