**Author's Note: Just a few things about this story I'm about to weave. This is a story that's stuck in my head and had to be written immediately, so strongly did I feel about it. That rarely happens for me, and I want to do this right, so if updates are slow, you have my sincerest apologies. The format for this story is a bit unusual—for every chapter in third-person, it will be prefaced and post-scripted by Ginny. No more of my interference… Now, happy reading.**
CHAPTER ONE- The Silence of the Guilty
"I'm guilty, you know."
These should be the first words you hear from him, as they are the first words I heard from him in this, the real world, the big world beyond school. Beyond safety.
Perhaps those words mean I'm getting ahead of myself—after all, so much happened before I finally got those words, but it's hard for me to put it all together sometimes. It is, after all, a big story.
It's a story of hatred, of prejudice and bigotry, of ridiculous hypocrisy, of the willful ignorance of many. That's barely the start of it—these are only the faults of the good.
The faults of the damned number much more, and they are much more complex.
Now that we've started it the way I want to, perhaps we should start it correctly. I beg of you, before this becomes objectified and analyzed, do not judge too harshly, for judgment is not yours to wield.
If it had been less tragic, it would have been a scandal. After all, who refuses to speak at their own trial? Who says not a word, only staring fixedly—menacingly, many said—at the floor as he is declared guilty against crimes barely utterable by decent human tongues?
Unspeakable or no, those crimes were whispered in every alleyway and every shop, every place still open after the final death rattle of the war, the final death rattle, it was hoped, of Lord Voldemort, the Dark Lord, the curse over the wizarding people.
"I hard he's been helping his father since he was seven."
"I heard 'e's been behind it all along, even more than his batty old man!"
Many things were heard, many fabricated and some true, but none were ever confirmed, for the young man on trial kept completely silent, never looking at those who judged him, never showing anger, grief, or even recognition at what was going on.
In all the papers, he was The Mute Murderer, or The Damned Soul, or the Horrible Heir.
He spoke not a word, neither in defense nor atonement, and when they donned him in the bright scarlet robes of the newly refigured Azkaban, he showed no recognition of the change in his life.
Perfect silence. Perfect emotionlessness. Perfect evil, some said. And some said nothing as the young man was taken to the new Azkaban, the pet project of Arthur Weasley. It was the only thing in his long, harried, and unsuccessful life that had truly panned out. In a world where ambition equaled evil more often than not, Arthur Weasley had chosen to remain unerringly good, leaving ambition for those better suited to it. But when the Dementors ran wild, negating all sense of order in the wizarding justice system, hopeful faces turned to Arthur for a remedy, and for once, he did not disappoint.
It gave a delicious sort of justice to the proceedings, this horrible, conscienceless young man being taken into a prison forged by that which he loathed most. It was irony, some said, predatory gleams in their eyes.
In the aftermath of a war, people like to see punishment. They long to point fingers. They yearn to blame and then put the blamed away, for then there is peace of mind.
Then they can sleep at night, knowing insurrection has been put down and nothing like it can ever be replicated.
And so it was in Azkaban, now a strange hybrid of wizard prison and Muggle penitentiary, that they put Draco Malfoy, he who had wounded many, he who had ended the Longbottom line, he whose soul was eternally damned.
Crowds wielding cameras stood outside the gates, longing to get a shot of him, of the man who had nothing to say for himself, so evil were his actions. Pale, pampered skin stood out starkly from cardinal-colored robes; platinum hair fell in twin curves around his downcast face, and picture after picture was shot. In every photo, he moves, he paces, occasionally he glances up through the strands of hair obstructing his vision, but he never speaks, and he never looks the cameras dead-on.
What sorts of actions were these, people wondered. What sort of man was this boy who had once possessed everything?
For now, he was an imprisoned man, trapped what seemed to be three stone walls and one thick glass wall, trapped behind quadruple-thick curses and security borne of goblin skill, his wand broken but his spirit—possibly—still intact.
And he gave nothing away to those who wondered.
It wasn't a broken home, precisely—it could never be called that. But since the end of the war, things had been quieter than they'd ever been, only the twins able to act normally. Fred and George Weasley coped better than the rest of their family combined—perhaps because they had one another, or perhaps because they'd always had the soundest coping mechanism. Laughter had carried them through many hard moments, and they wouldn't depend on anything else now.
Though there was ordinarily some commotion in the household, even a somber household, today things were quiet.
Today he was going to prison, and though no one in the Burrow spoke of him, they were all thinking about him.
The thoughts in the household were varied, but most were grimly victorious. After all, hadn't the youngest Weasley male suffered hugely at the hands of the bastard? Hadn't Ron spent the last month in St. Mungo's, pain still wracking him in great, shuddery waves?
And they'd all seen it happen, every last member of the Weasley family engaged in skirmishes around them, had seen the classmates square off as though attempting to rectify years of wrongs with one last duel. The Dark Prince and the Golden Trio's Third had been grimly serious at that moment, and the Dark Prince had prevailed.
Now he was paying for his prevalence.
"It's not enough," Molly finally burst out, breaking the silence they'd all held over breakfast. "This… humane prison," she spat the words as though ridding her mouth of a particularly vile poison, small sparks of blame showering over her hapless husband.
It had been his idea, after all, to try something a bit more humane than sucking the souls out of the imprisoned.
Arthur understood her anger, however, as his eyes touched on his youngest son, and he merely covered his wife's hand with his own. Ron's face was still pale, his cheeks hollow with the massive weight loss he'd undergone, the normally bright eyes wary. Occasionally he would shiver as though cold, his eyes wincing shut with the remnants of the curse.
"I-It's not so bad," he managed, dredging up a shadow of a grin as he extended a shaking hand over the table to snag a piece of bread. "It could be w-worse."
Ginny glanced up at her brother, and then quickly back down at her plate. Yes, it could be worse, she supposed. Neville Longbottom had gotten the worst of it, immediate death with no hope of reanimation. The last of a great wizarding family, the brave, beautiful boy who had hoped to avenge his parents.
He'd fought well before Draco Malfoy had killed him.
She could see him in her mind's eye, his platinum hair for once mussed, sticking to his face with sweat and blood that ran from a wound along his hairline, his strange, silvery eyes fierce as he'd clashed with anyone and everyone who'd gotten in his way. It had been a mess, to put it mildly, every witch and wizard who had chosen a side gathered outside Hogwarts, where it had all came to an end. Of course it had all came to an end there—it was the center of it all, where it had all started, where it had all perpetuated year after year until finally coming to a head. In the melee, Virginia had fought as bravely as any other, for once lacking the protection of the six knights of Weasley.
It had been a battlefield full of soldiers with their generals trapped inside—one evil beyond comprehension, the other too good to comprehend any other way, one old and one young, one gleeful with the smell of blood coming through the many windows, the other sickened by the loss.
And when Virginia Weasley had stepped in Draco Malfoy's way, he had not clashed with her, and what she had seen in his eyes was not battle-readiness.
What she had seen in his eyes was fear and survival, and then he had turned away, wand to wand with another wizard.
And then had come Ron, and then Neville, and then the whole thing ended in a shower of light from the windows of the school, light so bright it had many staggering to their knees, and many of the Death Eaters had fled.
He had not, and now he was caught.
It wasn't that clear cut at the time, that morning at the breakfast table. All I really knew absolutely, unequivocally, was that my heart ached for my brother, for the losses he had suffered, for the pain he had endured. I ached for each of the scrapes and scars on the faces of my family.
But underneath that ache, that ever-present, seemingly eternal, seemingly unmatchable ache, were the memories of all I'd seen that day, all those I had known, and I was confused. I was not given the easy convenience of rage.
Perhaps that is because I am not a particularly vengeful woman.
Or perhaps it is because I understand the silence of the guilty.