Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter; no money is being made from this or other stories that I write about these characters, or in this world.
A/N: And now begins the illusive sequel to A Boy, Lost. This is meant to be read after ABL, but I suppose if you're just really impatient, you can go ahead and read this and pretty much figure out what's going on. I'm straying a bit from the set-up of ABL in that this story will be told from multiple points of view, although it will still focus on Harry. Also, this story will contain multiple pairings for multiple people, so please do not think that any pairing that exists at any given time will exist throughout the story. So if you are really attached to any specific pairing, please take this as fair warning that if either or both of those characters are in this story, there is a good chance that either or both of them will wind up shagging or at least snogging someone else.
As always, feedback is greatly appreciated.
XIXIX "The Ministerial Inquisition" XIXIX
Through their twin bond, Harry knew Ginny was sleeping restlessly at the Burrow. No doubt Harry's emotions were troubling her. He briefly considered blocking them from her so she could get some rest, but they had an unspoken agreement of sorts to never close their link more than was necessary. So far, 'necessary' usually meant 'while Harry is shagging his boyfriend.' It was awkward for them both whenever Ginny shared in that particular experience.
Ginny had blocked the link once when she was having cramps, but Harry had protested, preferring to have cramps himself, than to be distanced from his twin. Harry had blocked their link once to wallow in the memory of the hideousness of the Final Battle, but Ginny had protested, saying that they especially needed to be close at times when they were feeling down.
Sitting in his room at Number 12 Gimmauld Place, Harry told himself again what he and Ginny often told themselves when it came to their bond—they kept it so open in order to watch each other's backs, so to speak. And truth be told, they did still worry about each other even though the two of them were quite possibly the safest witch and wizard on Earth at this point. But the fact of the matter was, they clung to each other through the bond as a constant source of reassurance that they were both still alive and well.
So Harry kept their bond open and tapped his fingers on the desk. He was nervous about beginning the Ministerial proceedings, but he was far more anxious to get them over with. It was for this reason alone that he had been awake since 4:00, and ready to leave since 4:30.
Harry's hearing wasn't until this afternoon at 2:00. The Ministry had surely decided that was a good time because he should be able to finish his account of what happened during the Final Battle Against You-Know-Who just in time for the evening edition of the Daily Prophet.
Harry had sighed darkly when he received the owl that asked him to come and give his testimony. They were "offering him an opportunity to share the story of the amazing events" or some such nonsense. The last thing Harry wanted to do was to share something so horrific with a roomful of gawking witches and wizards. He didn't want to talk about it at all. And he hated the way that they made it sound like he actually had a choice in the matter, when he knew he was only a hair's breadth away from being called to trial for using an Unforgivable. He wouldn't be convicted, of course. It would all be for show. But one way or another, they were going to get Harry's story from him.
Harry began to pace, thinking that it might make the time pass faster than simply drumming his fingers.
There had been several eyewitness accounts of how Harry had cast the Killing Curse in the end, but only a very few people knew the extent of what Harry had had to do in order to destroy Voldemort completely. Only a very few people knew what Harry actually was. He wondered if there would be any way to get around speaking the whole truth today. He somehow doubted it.
But what worried him more than his hearing this afternoon was Severus Snape's trial at 8:30am. It was an actual trial, with witnesses and presiding judges and everything. There had been no move to arrest the Potions Master for the charges posed against him of being a Death Eater. He had been allowed to finish out the school year at Hogwarts—teaching children. And yet, someone had had the audacity to still bring formal charges against him, and drag him through a trial. This had the potential to be far worse than Harry's non-trail hearing.
Severus had told Harry that he didn't have to come. He said Dumbledore would take care of everything and Severus would rather that Harry spend the time preparing himself for his own ordeal in the afternoon. Harry had stated very matter-of-factly that that was why he wanted to go—for research purposes to prepare himself for his own ordeal. Severus had dropped the argument after that, even though he knew better than to believe such a clearly fabricated reason.
Harry paused in front of the full-length mirror on his closet door (a gift from Draco). He had trouble recognizing himself sometimes. His hair was still short, although it was looking more on the messy side, and less on the spiky side, lately. He had new glasses, but they looked the same as his old ones, save for the eyes behind them. They were older, wiser. His lightening bolt scar was still one of his most prominent features. He had grown a bit over the past year, but was still on the shorter side of medium height, with a thin Seeker's build. Harry had always looked like this, more or less. But still, he looked so alien to himself. He looked so… unlike Severus.
Harry sat himself back at his desk and once again began tapping his fingers. The pacing hadn't really worked. The one hand on his clock still read, "Go back to bed."
At 6:15, he headed downstairs to make some tea, but found that Remus Lupin was already sitting in the kitchen nursing a cup. Remus had put on a little weight over the past year, so that he didn't look so worn and haggard. He also had some newer clothes than the raggedy ones he used to wear. Harry suspected that Sirius had left a chunk of money for his friend, but he never asked. He and Remus never talked about Sirius Black if they could help it.
Sirius' name had been quietly, but officially, cleared shortly after the Final Battle. Ministry officials could no longer dispute his innocence of having killed Peter Pettigrew once the rat's body was found on the battlefield fifteen and a half years after his supposed murder. In the end, Wormtail's traitorous and cowardly devotion to Voldemort had cost him his life, but had returned some honor (as well as a considerable fortune) to Sirius Black's name. Harry had officially inherited 12 Grimmauld Place and a good amount of money, but he would trade it all and everything else he had in a heartbeat if he could get his godfather back.
"Can't sleep either?" asked Remus as he stood up to prepare Harry's tea.
"No," said Harry softly. He slid into the seat across the table and smiled faintly as Remus served him. Remus always made the best tea.
"How long did it last, last time?" asked Harry once Remus had resettled himself at the table.
"How long did what last?"
"The 'Ministerial Inquisition'," answered Harry dryly.
Remus smiled and shook his head once at Harry's choice of title for the Death Eater Trials. "Too long," he said. "A few years, I suppose." He sipped his cup. "Really, I don't know if it's actually worse this time, or if my tolerance has just waned over the years for all this overboard, paranoid bullshit."
Harry shrugged and said, "I don't remember them being this bad, but then, last time it wasn't an election year when it all started."
Remus narrowed his eyes at him for a moment in confusion, but then realized that Harry was thinking back through Severus' memories. It was hard sometimes to remember how much older Harry's mind was than his nearly seventeen-year-old body. His bond with Severus stemmed from an accident in their Legilimency lessons, and Harry now remembered both his own life, and that of Severus Snape.
"But then again," continued Harry, "Severus did kind of bury himself in his Potions Master's studies after he was cleared last time. He purposefully didn't pay attention to the trials."
Remus nodded. "I remember he disappeared for quite some time. I didn't hear about him again until Albus hired him. It was as though he didn't want to be around to see what the intelligence he had gathered accomplished."
Harry made a face. "He didn't want to see what it failed to accomplish. Lucius went free. They didn't even call the LeStranges to trial until after the Longbottoms…" Harry furrowed his brow as he trailed off in thought. Was the Ministry trying to overcompensate now for failures of the past? And would Severus have to pay now for mistakes made by others a generation ago?
They sat in a pensive silence for some time before Harry said without hope, "Maybe we won't have to testify under veritaserum."
Remus looked up. "You won't have to, Harry. No one would even think of subjecting you to that."
Harry's eyes darkened as he caught what Remus meant. "I was referring to Severus and I, but you mean that you'll have to take it," he said flatly.
"Yes," said Remus, sipping his tea again and trying to sound casual, "I suppose I will."
"It's not your trial, though," argued Harry, who still wanted to believe that some amount of fairness still existed.
"Harry," he said reasonably, "I'm a werewolf. You know there's still a lot of discrimination in the Ministry against people in my position. They'll find a way to get me under veritaserum, just in case they can figure out a way to link one more half-breed," he spat out the word, "with Voldemort."
Harry said nothing. He hadn't yet told Remus about what he was, what he had become thanks to the bond Voldemort created with him when the madman had failed to murder him as a baby. Now would be a good time, but Harry just couldn't bring himself to speak the words.
Silence settled upon them again. Remus refilled their cups. "Is Ginny coming?" he asked eventually.
"Yeah," said Harry. "Actually she's already up. Do you mind if she comes by?"
"Not at all."
"Good, because she's on her way."
Just then, there was a rushing sound in the other room, and a hard step on the floor as Ginny maintained her balance stepping out of the fireplace. She was coughing and hacking from the dust of her travels as she walked into the kitchen. Harry jumped up to hug her hello.
Ginny had her long red hair pulled into a single braid, which trailed halfway down her back. She was as tall as Harry, and would probably wind up taller. But she wasn't lanky like her brother Ron. She had a purpose about her movements, which gave her an air of power and charisma. Add to that her infectious Weasley grin, and it was no wonder that half the school would follow her to the ends of the Earth, even the way she looked right now, covered in soot. Harry helped her dust off her robes.
"I guess I need to clean out the floo, huh?" said Remus by way of greeting. "My housekeeping skills are only about on par with Kreacher."
"Ew," said Ginny as she slid down into the chair next to Harry. "That's pretty bad, Remus. This place was awful when we first got here. Please," she begged dramatically, "Please don't let it get back to that state."
Remus grinned. "No, see, that was your opening to tell me how wonderful the place looks, and that the floo really isn't that dirty."
Ginny began to examine her nails and whistle, pretending she hadn't heard him.
"Keep it up," he said. "No tea for you."
"Oh Remus!" she gushed. "The house is gorgeous! Everything's so clean… especially the tea cups, I see. And the kettle… sparkly."
"Knock it off," said Remus. "Would you like some tea, then?"
Ginny batted her eyes innocently. "Why, that would be lovely. Thank you." She leaned her head over on Harry's shoulder. "You know," she said, "Not that you need it of course, but Dobby was hinting that he wouldn't mind coming to work here if you're interested."
Harry turned his head to glare down at her.
"Oh?" said Remus over his shoulder. "What did he say?"
Ginny looked to Harry to tell the story. Harry sighed. "He said that he loves Hogwarts and Professor Dumbledore, sir." Ginny giggled at Harry's monotone imitation of Dobby's titling of everyone. "And that he wishes that I could stay there forever, but he knows that I have a house on Gimmauld Place that would need very much cleaning and any House Elf would be lucky for that job, whether they were free or not, and that if Dobby had that job he would even work for free again… and he went on for like half an hour about it."
Ginny was still laughing. "I finally had to pry Harry away from him. We were about to miss the train."
"Sounds like he just wants to stay with you, Harry," said Remus.
Harry agreed. "Well that's not going to happen here," he muttered.
"It's your house."
Harry shook his head. "I'm just visiting you here. Hogwarts is my home for now, and after that… who knows?"
Remus looked like he was setting himself for another argument about the house, but Harry didn't feel like getting into again just now. He wanted to sign the house over to Remus, but Remus wouldn't let him, arguing that it was his inheritance and that he might feel differently about it someday. Harry rather thought that he wouldn't. So just as Remus opened his mouth, Harry changed the subject.
"Ginny, you're still tired. Why are you up so early?"
Ginny shrugged unconcernedly. "Too much noise in my head," she said playfully. "You think too much."
"Sorry," said Harry. "I was—" she cut him off before he said 'going to block the bond.'
"I'm glad you didn't. I couldn't have—" he cut her off before she said, 'slept right if you had.'
"I know," he said. "I didn't."
Remus watched them idly. It was only a week into summer vacation, but by now he was already used to the twins' conversations. They very often didn't finish sentences with each other, although they were usually polite enough to speak in English rather than their twin language.
"Anyway," Ginny looked up brightly. "How are we going this morning? Should we step out the front door to take the Knight Bus and get swamped by however many hundreds of adoring fans are waiting outside, or should we queue up to floo in and be swamped by fans while we stumble into the Ministry Atrium?"
Harry was suddenly reminded of his last visit to the Ministry on the night that his godfather died. He had flashbacks fairly often of the worst events of his life. He and Ginny figured that such flashbacks had something to do with his 'encounter with the Dementor,' as they referred to it, on the night of the Final Battle. It could also do with the fact that he had one hell of a lot of bad memories for a seventeen-year-old. He and Ginny had decided not to worry about his flashbacks unless they became a problem.
Ginny squeezed Harry's hand. Harry looked up and said simply, "I don't want to go back there."
"Well then," she reasoned, "We should take the floo in."
Harry gave her a weird look. "Ginny, that doesn't make any sense."
"Okay, okay…" she groaned. "The truth is that I just remembered about Stan, that pimply guy on the Knight Bus. He always flirts with me, and he's so strange."
Harry smiled. Ginny really did have a way about lifting his spirits.
At 8:00, they queued up to floo into the Ministry Atrium, and actually didn't have to wait too long before they could go through. Remus insisted on going first to make sure that everything was fine on the other side. Harry insisted on going second, because he didn't want people to think that he was such a superstar that he needed 'his people' to go before him and get everything ready for him. He didn't need to say this aloud of course. Ginny understood, and teased him about it through their link so that Remus wouldn't hear.
Harry remembered to keep his elbows tucked, but he hadn't yet gotten a hang of not falling as he exited a floo. Luckily for him, Remus had gotten a hang of catching him, and swiftly pulled him to his feet. Ginny stepped out a moment later, once again stepping hard, but maintaining her balance. She flashed a grin at Harry, but then the smile dropped from her face.
'Great,' thought Harry. 'Here it comes.'
He turned to find that a crowd was swarming toward them. Ginny hadn't been exaggerating when she joked about their masses of fans. Wherever Ginny and Harry were, so were there people. Lots of people. Adoring people who wanted to touch them, and get autographs, and become their friends, and share stories, and take pictures.
Of course, these fans were the reason that Harry and Ginny were currently the two safest people on Earth. If anyone made any move to harm them, their adoring fans would turn into rabid fans, who would gladly rip the offending party limb from limb with their bare hands.
All the same, it was hard for Harry to always be surrounded by so many people. He didn't know if he was relieved or annoyed when he saw that Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge was among them. He would pull Harry out of the crowds, but not until after a good photo op. Fudge rushed toward him, his face plastered with his huge politician smile.
"Harry Potter! By Merlin, what an honor to have you here at such an early hour!" He took hold of Harry's hand and yanked him around so they stood next to each other like old friends. Several bright flashes signified that there were reporters handy to capture the moment. Harry rolled his eyes without meaning to, and several people in the crowd laughed appreciatively. He suddenly felt like the cute newborn on display with everyone oohing and ahhing over his every slightest move.
"Now, Harry," continued Fudge gushingly, "You absolutely must allow me to escort you to my office where you can spend the day with myself and other top Ministry officials…" He attempted to lead Harry toward the elevators, but Harry stood firm.
"No thank you, sir," he said in a carefully powerful, but steady, tone. "I'm here for this morning's trial."
Fudge's smile flickered for only an instant. "Nonsense, Harry. You aren't on trial. The wizarding world merely wants to hear your testimony of the events of…"
"Professor Snape's trial," he cut in. "The professor was invaluable in preparing me for the Final Battle. I will miss his trial under no circumstances."
Several flashbulbs went off, and Harry saw more than one reporter frantically watching a Quick Quotes Quill. 'Good,' he thought. 'If public opinion is behind him there is a much smaller chance he'll be prosecuted.'
"Well I believe," said Fudge with a smile, "That Severus Snape has asked that his students not attend his trial."
Harry rather doubted that. While Severus may not particularly want his students to see him on trial, he would never bother to make that stipulation. He would find details like that to be a useless vanity when compared to the much larger consequences of the trial. Harry opened his mouth to say as much, but Fudge cut him off.
"And I was also hoping that you would attend this morning's press conference." He turned to the press and winked. "We've got quite a surprise for you this morning…" he said with over-exaggerated suggestion.
The ever-growing crowd laughed appreciatively, and Harry felt a budding dread inside him. With all his worries about the Ministerial Inquisition, he had forgotten all about this press conference. The press was speculating that they were going to declare May 9th, the day of the Final Battle, "Harry Potter Day."
Harry willed himself not to slap his hand to his forehead, and instead replied calmly, but firmly, "Thank you, sir, but no. I really must show support to my professor and friend. It is the very least I can do for him, after all that he has done for me."
Fudge opened his mouth to protest, but a murmuring spread through the crowd. Through their bond, Harry could tell that Severus had just arrived through the floo. Harry turned to peer over the Minister's shoulder. Fudge turned as well to see what all the commotion was, and looked less than pleased when he saw Severus Snape coming toward them through the crowd.
'Sev, help!' thought Harry dramatically through the link. 'They're trying to name a day after me.'
Severus cast a glare at him through the crowd, clearly, to Harry at least, trying to keep from laughing. Harry relaxed a little. If Severus was calm enough to recognized Harry's attempts at humor, then maybe this day wouldn't be so bad after all.
"Oh, here comes the professor now," said Harry to Fudge.
Fudge cleared his throat significantly, and one of his aides immediately jumped forward. "Minister Fudge, sir," said the young woman importantly, consulting a clipboard. "You have a meeting in two minutes; we really must be on our way."
"Thank you, Glenda," said Fudge, all business once again. He turned to Harry. "Duty calls, I'm afraid. But I'll be in touch." He was then swept away in a flurry of media, political aides, and photographs, just before Severus arrived at the scene.
Severus was quite striking today. He was tall and lean, with pale skin and dark hair. Dressed in formal black business robes, he most definitely stood out as a rather imposing figure in the Ministry Atrium. On impulse, Remus put his hand protectively on Harry's shoulder. Remus was doing better, but he had not yet gotten completely over his shock and displeasure from learning of Harry and Severus' bond.
Beside Severus was Draco Malfoy, wearing pale blue business dress robes and a calculating Malfoy expression on his face. Harry smiled to himself about that. Draco had been pretty well shaken up by the events of the Final Battle. It had taken a couple of months for his boyfriend to get more or less back to his old self. He was still a bit on the introverted side, and was caught up in somewhat of an identity crisis—what with the Malfoy name being mud, and Draco having been written out of his inheritance. But his wit had reappeared at the end of the school year, and judging by the expression on his face, his cunning was back as well. Harry knew that that look meant there was something Draco wanted that he was determined to get.
Harry stepped forward to greet the two men. He leaned close to Draco and whispered, "What are you up to?"
Draco raised an eyebrow and said neutrally, "I swear I haven't the slightest idea what you are talking about."
Harry cut him a look. "Why don't I believe you?"
"Trust issues, clearly," said Draco knowledgeably. "You might want to talk to someone about that.
Harry grinned and someone flashed a photograph, unpleasantly reminding him where he was. Ginny and Severus, who had both been talking with Remus, looked up with concern when they felt the sudden shift in Harry's mood. But it was nothing, really.
"It's almost time," said Severus calmly. "We ought to check our wands and head to the proceedings."
The dungeon courtroom was even larger and more cavernous than Harry remembered, but one thing remained the same—the large draconian chair that sat front center, complete with huge metal chains and restraints for the hands and feet of the person on trial. Harry couldn't look at it. He didn't want to think about Severus sitting there, locked in place like an animal.
"There are worse things to be than an animal," said Severus in low tones over Harry's shoulder.
"Like what?" asked Harry, looking back to him.
"Like guilty," said Severus. "Which I am not, so everything will surely turn out just fine in the end."
"Oh, you believe the verdict really depends on your innocence, do you?" asked Harry.
"Not really," said the Potions Master, as they walked forward. "I'm just trying to maintain my positive role-model image."
Harry and Draco both smirked at the sarcasm. Then Ginny leaned over and said, "Speaking of role models, I hear they're going to make 'Prince Severus Snape' books next."
Harry and Severus both coughed out laughter. Ginny grinned her triumph. She could usually get a laugh out of Harry, but had not yet succeeded with her Potions Professor. Remus and Draco watched with baffled expressions as Severus quickly pulled himself together. They were both unaware of the 'Prince Harry Potter' books that Ginny had read as a little girl.
Draco's eyes flashed with jealousy at whatever inside joke Harry was sharing with his two bondmates. "Humor," he sighed pointedly. "The last refuge of a scoundrel."
Harry shot him an annoyed look for that jab at Severus, but simply said, "I think you mean prayer."
Draco shrugged. "Whatever."
If Severus was bothered by that interaction, he didn't let on, not even through his bond with Harry. He simply strode forth to the front of the room and took a seat in the first row of chairs that was set up for the audience made up of the witnesses, the media, and the merely curious.
Draco filed into the seat next to Severus, followed by Harry, then Ginny, then Remus. Only a few scattered witches and wizards were in the room yet, and no one that Harry recognized.
"Where are Nicolas and Perenelle?" asked Harry, to no one in particular. "They're always early."
Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel had both helped to train Harry last year in wandless spellcasting and in controlling his Legilimency with Voldemort. Perenelle especially had worked closely with Severus in Harry's training, before the Flamels left on a tour of the world in search of foreign allies in the war.
"They've been banned from the proceedings," said Severus.
"What?!" hissed Harry in outrage. "But they'd be better character witnesses than anyone," he protested.
"They would also have an effect on the presiding judges, with their 'sweeter emotions'," Severus replied neutrally.
"You mean they'd be too influential against your prosecution seeing as how they recruited half the world to join the fight against Voldemort," said Harry.
"That too." The Potion's Master's face was hard, but otherwise without expression.
"And I suppose Dumbledore cannot testify since it would be a conflict of interests, what with him leading the Wizengamot."
"Correct," said Severus. "Which is why he has suspended himself from the Wizengamot in order to represent me."
Harry glanced around room, which was steadily filling up. "Then where is he?"
"Oh, you know how he likes to make an entrance," drawled Draco.
Harry nodded, acknowledging the point. He noticed, as witches and wizards continued to file into the courtroom, that he now recognized many of them from the Order of the Phoenix. Also, Hogwarts teachers began to arrive, and then Slytherin students and some of their families. Word had apparently gotten around that the Ministry would likely want to make an example of Severus Snape, and everyone had met the call remarkably with an outpouring of support. With several minutes to go before the scheduled time of trial, already there was standing room only, and still people came.
'Mad-Eye Moody is here,' thought Harry to Severus. 'I thought he hated you.'
'He does,' Severus thought in return. 'But we work well together regardless. He is one of the few people who understood the lengths to which the Death Eaters would go to accomplish their purposes. He has already spent a good deal of time trying to get the charges against me dropped.'
"Well, what do you know?" mused Harry aloud.
"What do you mean?" asked Draco.
"Moody came out to support Severus." He motioned over his shoulder to where Mad-Eye Moody stood with his back to the wall.
Draco scowled at him. "No doubt that crackpot is just here to escort the Professor to Azkaban after the trial."
Harry narrowed his eyes and wondered if his boyfriend was still sore at Moody because his imposter had transfigured Draco into a ferret in fourth year. He was about to ask when Ginny nudged him sharply and thought to him, 'Offensive question—not a good time.'
Harry accepted her wise counsel and remained silent. Ginny wasn't exactly an expert on relationships, having never dated anyone for very long, but she did know people. And her advice had helped Harry enormously in navigating his relationship with Draco. He had long ago learned to listen to what she said.
Just then, the doors in the back of the room opened and a hush filled the room, followed immediately by an excited murmur. Albus Dumbledore had arrived. Harry was amazed at how relieved he felt at that moment. He was also amazed that a room full of Order members and Hogwarts teachers and students would be so excited to see such a familiar face. He supposed that Dumbledore simply offered people a feeling of stability in uncertain situations.
The crowd parted in tides as the pleased-looking Headmaster made his way forward. When he reached the seat on the opposite side of Severus than where Draco sat, he pulled out his wand and transfigured the sturdy brown wood into squashy purple plush and sat down contentedly, his eyes twinkling.
"Severus, my boy," he said with a smile, "I'm afraid it looks as though only about half of your witnesses have arrived yet. But I am sure that the ones further down the list will be here in plenty of time before they are called to testify."
Severus turned to the headmaster impassively and clarified, "Am I to assume that you have asked everyone in this room to testify on my behalf?"
"Oh no!" said Dumbledore, his eyes alight. "I left Harry off the witness list. I figured he had enough to worry about what with having his own hearing this afternoon."
Ginny laughed aloud as she turned around to look at the many dozens of witches and wizards filling the courtroom. If this was only half, Dumbledore's witness list must have been at least two hundred long, maybe three. This was a high-profile case. There was no way the Professor would be convicted of being a Death Eater with so many people willing and able to testify on his behalf.
The Wizengamot entered, and Harry groaned to realize that the prosecuting witch was Delores Umbridge. But even as seriously as she tried to make everything, the trial quickly became somewhat of a joke as witch after wizard came forth and repeated over and over that Severus Snape was a spy and not a real Death Eater. Umbridge had testimony from other Death Eaters that Severus was a servant of the Dark Lord, but Dumbledore was adamant that he had used that position, at great risk to himself, to gather intelligence for both the Order and the Ministry (submitted anonymously). And of course, the Death Eaters' attempts to kill him at Hogwarts after he quit his service of Death Eater Spy had been highly publicized. Severus had been on the top of Death Eater hit lists once it was discovered that he was a traitor to Voldemort.
After the first dozen and a half witnesses, an old witch with brilliant silver hair leaned forward and said softly, "Delores, Albus, might we just assume that all two hundred and eighty-seven witnesses will vouch for Professor Snape's innocence?"
"That is why they are here," agreed Dumbledore with a smile.
Umbridge looked less convinced. "Madam McWhortle, surely you have looked over this obscene list of character witnesses. They range from lunatics to drunks to werewolves. It will certainly be necessary to establish the character of each one individually…"
"We are not here to establish their character, Delores," sighed the elderly witch. "We are here to establish the guilt or innocence of Severus Snape. I, for one, believe we should drop all charges as we do not even have a clear accusation of his having been a Death Eater by anyone other than former Death Eaters who have very publicly tried to kill him."
The other presiding witches and wizards nodded their heads in agreement. "Quite right, Bonnie," said a portly wizard. "This trial is a mockery of our justice system. There are many, many others out there whose innocence is far more questionable. Severus Snape may not seem a friendly fellow, but he is very clearly a respected member of our wizarding world."
"Severus Snape was a Death Eater!" squeaked Umbridge. "Numerous accounts have said as much."
"And Albus Dumbledore," continued Bonnie McWhortle pointedly, "Has testified numerous times that he was working undercover, and there is not a witch or wizard in this world who could seriously and reasonably dispute the word of Albus Dumbledore."
Umbridge opened her mouth to argue, but the portly wizard called out, "Here, here!" Umbridge huffed, but he continued regardless, "All in favor of dropping all charges?"
The call of "Aye" was nearly unanimous, excepting only Umbridge.
The portly wizard nodded and declared. "It is then decided. I motion we break for an early lunch."
"Motion seconded," called out McWhortle as the room broke out into applause. Umbridge stormed out, her face red and grimacing.
Severus stood tall in the midst of the cheers and reached out his hand to shake Dumbledore's hand officiously. But Dumbledore would have none of that. He pulled Severus into a hug, patting him happily on the back. Severus allowed it, and even hugged him back, much to everyone else's surprise. But then he made a point to glare at the swarming well-wishers as though daring anyone else to try it. No one did. What followed were forty-five minutes of handshakes and polite words of congratulations, during which time Draco pulled Harry away and out of the courtroom.
"Thank Merlin that's over," sighed Harry, leaning casually against the wall in the hallway.
Draco shrugged. "You didn't really think that Dumbledore would allow Severus to be taken to Azkaban, did you?"
"Well…" Harry paused. "I hoped not, at any rate."
"Yeah, well, Dumbledore may be crazy, but he's not stupid. And he's as loyal to his followers as they are to him."
Harry shivered. "Dumbledore doesn't have followers," he said, thinking of the clear distinction between the people who worked with the headmaster and the people who were subservient to the Dark Lord.
"Sure he does," said Draco easily. "Hopelessly devoted followers. You saw how people came together when he asked."
"Asked. Not demanded. Not ordered."
"Whatever. I never realized it before I went to live with him, but Severus is completely devoted to the man. Why else would he have put himself in so much danger for so many years?"
Harry remained silent, thinking over his memories of Severus' life. There were a lot of reasons, actually. But devotion certainly was one of them. But Severus was so devoted to Dumbledore because Dumbledore had never once let him down. Not in any way that mattered. Not in anything that was at all important. And even the little things all had very good reasons behind them.
"Yeah, I suppose Dumbledore is rather loyal," mused Harry.
Malfoy nodded. "Anyway, I knew you were probably stressed out about the trial, so I wanted to wait until afterwards for this…"
Harry thought back to the calculating look in Draco's eyes this morning. He should have known there was a surprise in store for him. He lips parted in a shy smile and he waited.
"How does a vacation sound to you?" Harry narrowed his eyes slightly in confusion. "Some time away from everyone? I know how much you hate being in the limelight, so how would you like to get away from the rest of the world for a little while?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Severus owns some property in Figueres, Spain. He said I could take you there after all this is over. We could leave tonight if you wanted. Just you and me."
Harry's heart skipped a beat. "For how long?" he asked, hoping he was keeping his voice neutral.
"I don't know… a week, a month… all summer. However long you like."
Harry's mouth went dry. A week without Ginny. A summer without Ginny. He could feel the darkness again—the loathsome feeling of the Dementor. It was pulling him downward and Harry remembered the pain beyond pain as Ginny was held under the Cruciatus Curse. He remembered the half-person hell he felt as he blocked his link with her completely, cutting her off from him in a way that shouldn't be possible.
"Harry!" Ginny was running forward. "There you are! I've been looking all over for you." She was looking at him searchingly, probing him through their bond to make sure he was okay, but trying to hide her concern from Malfoy. Harry didn't want anyone to know about his flashbacks. He didn't want Draco to worry.
"I'm right here," he said calmly. "What's up?"
"Oh, um…" Ginny glanced briefly at Malfoy, who was frowning slightly but didn't seem to get what exactly had just happened. "My family's here, and Hermione. They were in the two hundred-thirties on the witness list, but I think we're all going to go back to the Burrow for brunch. You wanna come, Malfoy?"
"Actually," he began pointedly, "Harry and I were just…"
"Come on," said Harry eagerly, not wanting to continue their previous conversation at this time. "We'll invite Severus. You haven't been to the Burrow yet. And you promised you'd come."
Draco looked into Harry's pleading eyes and sighed. "All right," he said.
A moment later, Severus stepped up, his quick eyes darting around for signs of trouble or distress. "What's wrong?" he asked, looking at Harry.
"Oh, Professor, good. You're here." Ginny turned and gave him a significant look that said Harry was fine and not to say anything right now. "Would you like to come to the Burrow for a celebratory brunch?"
Severus paused. Then he nodded his head formally and said, "That would be acceptable."
At the Burrow, Molly Weasley made a point of getting Harry away from Remus so that she could insist he come to stay with the Weasleys for the remainder of the summer. She had started up a conversation with Remus and Severus about Remus' Wolfsbane, which had perked Hermione's interest. As soon as Molly saw that Hermione was grilling the two of them intently for information, she pulled Harry into the kitchen.
"Now, you've got a very nice house over there," she said, talking to Harry while she orchestrated the cooking of brunch for a dozen people. "And I know that Remus takes very good care of you and that he means well, but really, Harry dear. You should come and spend some time with your family."
Harry opened his mouth, but Molly continued, intent that his next word would be an agreement and that he would not speak until he was fully convinced.
"I mean, you and Ginny really ought to be closer—you spend so much time together anyway. I can't even keep track of her anymore—she's gone through the floo most days as soon as she's up, as though eight hours of sleeping is just too long to spend away from her twin. And you and Ron are like brothers—you've been friends so long—and the house is so quiet since Fred and George got their apartment in London…"
"What's going on in here?" asked Remus suspiciously, sticking his head through the door to the kitchen.
"Nothing at all, Remus dear," said Molly, flashing a grin. "Would you care to put some tea on?"
Remus cut a look to Harry, who smiled up at him, before turning back to Molly. She was trying to maintain an innocent look, but Remus wasn't fooled.
"Now Molly," he began as though reprimanding a small child. "We agreed that I get 'custody' of Harry for the first half of the summer." Harry had gathered several parental figures over the years, and they oftentimes argued good-naturedly over who got to act as parent when.
Molly laughed and swatted him with an oven mitt. "I just hate for him to be so far away, is all!"
"He's over here every day! How much closer do you need him to be?"
"In Fred and George's old room…"
Harry decided to leave the two to duke it out amongst themselves. He slid out of the chair Molly had placed him in and headed out of the kitchen to see what was going on in the rest of the house.
Hermione was still talking animatedly with Severus about the theory and practice of brewing Wolfsbane. Hermione absorbed knowledge like a sponge, and was always excited about any bit she could get. In class, Severus had always acted as if this annoyed him to no end, but in the living room of the Burrow, Harry could see what pleasure he took in teaching an eager student.
Hermione had her hair pulled back out of her face. She nodded regularly, her intense eyes focused on her professor as though nothing else existed. Her slender frame was poised at attention. Her back was to her boyfriend, who sat across the room with his father.
Arthur Weasley had enlisted his son Ron's help in figuring out a way to elevate the whole house without damaging any of the structure or interior. A couple of Tremor Moles had apparently decided to nest and lay eggs underneath the foundation of the house, which was fine except for the fact that when the eggs hatched the resulting earthquakes could potentially be powerful enough to bring the whole house down. Already, random rumblings had resulted in some broken lamps and dishes, not to mention a bit of a fright.
Fred and George had offered to "take care of the problem", but Arthur had insisted that he and Ron would be able to lift the house and relocate the Tremor Mole family before things got too explosive. Harry had bought Arthur's reasoning that Ron's amazing strategizing skills would allow for a more humane solution than whatever Fred and George had in mind, but then Ginny mentioned how it was nice to see her brother in the land of the living again, and Harry realized that Arthur was using the Tremor Moles as an excuse to spend some quality time with his son, who had pulled into himself after the Final Battle.
Harry felt through his link that Ginny was upstairs talking with Bill and Charlie. He headed out back to see where Fred and George had disappeared to with his boyfriend. In the back yard, the twins were huddled close with Draco, whispering excitedly. Harry had a bad feeling about that. Whenever the twins were excited, trouble would surely follow. But he never got a chance to find out what they were up to because their conversation broke off as he approached. And before he could pry, Molly was calling that it was time to eat.
The dining room, and dining room table, had been magically expanded to seat twelve, but only eleven appeared. "Where's Bill?" asked Molly as everyone settled.
A wonder flitted through Harry's head briefly that Molly could pick out the one missing person out of so many so quickly.
"He had to go," said Charlie, not quite casually. Harry looked over to Ginny, who was looking away from everyone, and he understood immediately.
Bill wasn't doing so well either. He had lost his fiancé, Fleur Delacour, during the war, and was having a hard time dealing with his loss. Harry had heard stories of the bond between Veela and their mates, and he wondered if the stories held true for quarter-Veela, and he wondered if Bill had been her mate. But those were things one just doesn't ask. Harry shielded the thoughts from Ginny so she wouldn't feel like she had to explain.
"Well that's a shame," said Molly, also not quite casually. "Eat up, everybody."
As conversations started up, Draco leaned over to Harry and asked again about the vacation. Harry suggested that they talk about it later, and then asked Remus if he and Molly had yet worked out the details of his life, trying to indicate to Draco that where he spent the summer was out of his hands. He knew Draco wouldn't buy it, but it might help him to delay for a while the inevitable conversation that they needed to have about how much Harry relied on his bondmates at this point in his life. Draco would not be happy, but Harry couldn't help that.
Molly insisted that everyone come back for dinner just before the brunch party broke up. Harry, Ginny, and Remus made their way back to the Ministry for Harry's 2:00 hearing, and Draco and Severus made their way back to Snape Manor, promising to return for dinner.
Harry's testimony was on the fourth floor in a much smaller room than the dungeon that had held Severus' trial. It was a closed hearing, so Ginny and Remus were not allowed to come inside with him. They waited in the Ministry Atrium. As Harry walked through the door, he only prayed that this would be quick and painless.
As he left, he sighed to himself because the hearing had indeed been quick and painless. He made his way to the Ministry Atrium where Ginny bounded toward him, flinging her arms around him.
"Why did you close your link?" she demanded. "What the hell happened in there?!"
"They asked a few questions, and that was it," replied Harry automatically. He hadn't expected Ginny's agitation.
"It must have been more than a few questions," said Remus wearily. "It's been four hours."
Harry checked his watch. It read, "Time for dinner."
"Oh," he said. "It didn't seem that long. It was actually a pretty easy time."
They know what I am.
Ginny startled and looked at him hard. "What was that?"
Harry blinked at her. "What was what?"
"There was… something. Almost like a thought, but I didn't quite catch it."
Harry shrugged. "I don't know. Come on, let's go."
Ginny's arm was snaked around Harry's back as they headed to the fireplaces, and Harry flung his arm around her shoulder. When the reached the floo, he found himself unwilling to let her go. He felt a mild panic in his chest like something terrible would happen if they stepped apart, even for a moment to floo to the Burrow.
Ginny looked at him. "Are you sure you're okay?" she asked uncertainly.
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine," he said. He took his arm back and stepped into the first fireplace, and a moment later fell onto his knees in front of Ron and Hermione.
Hermione grinned at him. "You should have let Remus go first," she said as she dragged him to his feet. "He's gotten quite good at catching you, I've noticed."
Ron laughed and they stepped out of the way for Ginny and Remus to come through.
"We got the Evening Prophet half an hour ago," said Ron. "Your story made front page, of course, although it was surprisingly slim on details."
"Oh, and you have a day named after you now," said Hermione as though she was telling him the time.
Harry rolled his eyes and groaned. Ginny laughed at him. Remus went through to the kitchen to check out the article in the paper, wondering aloud how they had gotten the story so fast when the hearing had only just ended.
"Anyway, how was it, mate?" asked Ron. "Were you testifying the whole time, or did they have you sign autographs too?"
"They asked a few questions, and that was it," said Harry. "It was actually a pretty easy time."
Ginny made a face at his repetitive words. "What did they ask you?"
Harry opened his mouth to answer, but another rush from the floo alerted them to Draco's arrival. Harry smiled and pecked his boyfriend on the mouth.
"Hey, where's Severus?" he asked after a moment's time failed to produce another arrival.
"Oh," said Draco. "He couldn't make it. He said he wanted to rest. I don't think he slept much last night," he added in an undertone.
Harry felt an inexplicable hurt as he looked at the fireplace. He wanted Severus to be there. He felt another bit of panic. He needed to see Severus right now.
"Harry?" said Ginny worriedly.
He glanced around quickly and then announced, "I'm going to go get him before he closes the floo. I'll be back in a minute."
And without further ado, and despite a noise of protest from Draco, Harry threw down some floo powder, stepped into the fireplace and stated, "Snape Manor."
He felt his knees crack against the floor, and it hurt a little more this time since they were already a bit sore. He looked around, but the room was empty.
"Sev?" he called out, reaching out with his bond as well. Severus seemed so far away suddenly, but he was only in the kitchen. Harry made his way toward him quickly, and was met halfway. His bondmate was wearing casual robes, clearly settling himself in for a comfortable night at home.
Severus looked him up and down, as though searching for signs of injury, but Harry seemed to be okay. "Is something the matter?" he asked.
"No, I was just wondering why you weren't coming to dinner," Harry replied.
They know about our bond.
Severus' eyes flashed. "What was that?" he demanded.
Harry looked at him blankly and waved him off. "I don't know. Will you come to dinner at the Burrow? Molly is expecting you."
Severus eyed him. "I firecalled the Weasleys and hour ago. How was your hearing? What happened?"
"They asked me a few questions, and that was it," said Harry.
"Did they?" asked Severus. He opened their bond completely, probing Harry with Legilimency as well, but Harry resisted. It made him feel dizzy.
"Stop," he said. "It's okay. It was actually a pretty easy time."
Severus just looked at him for a moment, and then put his hand on Harry's shoulder protectively. "Harry," he began, but Harry cut him off.
"Please just leave it alone," he said. "Come to dinner."
Severus paused for a moment, looking into the eyes of his young bondmate. He seemed to be okay. He would certainly be able to tell if something was wrong through their bond, but he hadn't felt anything all afternoon. And there was nothing unusual about that. Harry didn't cling to him the way he clung to his twin. They often went hours without contacting each other.
Severus squeezed his shoulder and nodded. "Just let me change and I'll come through."
A/N: I know, I know, I'm off from canon as to when the election year is, but it fits into this story better than it would have fit into A Boy, Lost, so please just go with it. Also, I know some of the relationships will seem a bit OOC for the first few chapters, but I promise it will make sense soon enough, and if not, then please, by all means, call me on it. I may not change it, but it does me good to know what my readers are thinking.