Until Proven Innocent
K+ - Drama – HP, SS - Complete
Disclaimer: Not guilty, yer Honour.
A/N: Written for the Potions and Snitches Fic Fest for Challenge #9 (Snape is arrested and Harry is the only one who can prove him innocent).
I have a feeling that the normal (Muggle) legal system would take an awful lot longer than this for the trial to go through. But this is the wizarding system, and who knows how weird that is? That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it. And anyway, Fudge is pushing it through (why? because he's Fudge. 'Nuff said).
It was still hard to look at the teachers' table in the Great Hall and see Umbridge sitting in Dumbledore's place. Harry stabbed angrily at his dinner, but was distracted from his resentment by Ginny, whose hair suddenly turned bright green.
Alerted by the laughter around her, she realised something was up; Hermione explained, since Ron and Harry were too busy laughing. "I'm going to kill them," Ginny scowled. "All right, who's been buying off the twins?" Her neighbours hastily denied all knowledge while Hermione cast a counter spell, her incantation masked by Ron's laughter.
"Close your mouth, Ron," Hermione said with irritation. "I don't want to see your dinner."
Ron's mouth closed with a snap and he dug at his shepherd's pie, scowling. "Who asked—"
The doors to the Great Hall burst open with a bang, causing everyone to turn around in surprise, and half a dozen aurors strode in, oozing the self-righteous self-importance that Harry was beginning to associate with Ministry workers. It was enough to make him question his half-formed desire to become an auror and work for people like Fudge. Aurors were cool, but he didn't want to turn out like that.
Umbridge looked unsurprised by the intrusion, watching primly as the group marched up the hall. The rest of the school watched in confusion, staring at the aurors as they encircled Snape. Ron's fork was frozen half-way to his mouth while Ginny's mashed potatoes dripped on her robes. Hermione was muttering something indecipherable under her breath, about the only thing Harry could hear other than the firm tread of the aurors' combat boots.
"Severus Snape," boomed the auror leader portentously, "you are under arrest for the murder of Adrian Prewitt, Morgan Marlow, and three Muggles." ("You don't have to say Muggles as if they don't count," Hermione grumbled.)
"Yes!" Ron cheered quietly as a bewildered Snape was led away. Harry wanted to join in, but he saw the despair on Snape's face, McGonagall's worry, and Umbridge's smug satisfaction and couldn't be comfortable.
"But this isn't right," Hermione said in quiet panic, under cover of the loud chatter that sprang up in the aurors' wake. "He wouldn't— they can't— It must have been a setup – but he was supposed to be safe, he was the one no one would suspect." She turned to Harry, staring fixedly at him. "This is wrong," she said. "This is wrong."
Harry could feel Dumbledore's plans to save the world all collapsing around them.
"Harry, you have to do it," Hermione insisted. "The trial's next week!"
Harry ignored her, staring unseeingly at dark little Petrose, with his pointed nose and even more pointed goatee, as the man espoused with quiet, intense enthusiasm on the potion they were to make. He didn't miss Snape's scowling presence at all, he thought darkly.
"Harry, are you listening to me?"
"We're supposed to be listening to the teacher, Hermione," he hissed tightly.
"This is more important," she huffed, and Harry and Ron turned to gape at her. Petrose continued unheedingly. Caught beneath their disbelieving stares, her cheeks reddened. "It is! They won't just put him in Azkaban, he'll be Kissed."
"Git deserves it," Ron muttered, but not loudly enough for Hermione to hear him.
Cold hands, reaching for Dudley – darkness, screaming, despair – crushing chill pushing down down down— Harry shook his head and began to mechanically copy down the notes that Petrose was writing on the board.
"He's innocent, Harry, and you know it. You have to tell them. You're the only one who can save him."
"If she wanted me to," he snapped, "McGonagall would've said something."
"You have to tell them."
"They won't listen to me," he snarled, temper flaring so he only just managed to keep his voice down. "I'm deranged and attention-seeking, remember?"
"He's innocent, Harry." She stared at him, eyes wide and earnest and pleading, and he wondered how she could care so much about Snape. "Like Sirius."
Low blow. He turned away and closed his eyes, remembering Sirius trapped in Grimmauld Place and so eager to talk to him, so happy to see him, still stuck there even now.
"He's saved your life," she persisted, undaunted by having to address the back of his head. "You can't let him be Kissed, Harry."
"Is everything all right there, Miss Granger?" Petrose asked, and she flushed and ducked her head. Malfoy, recovered now from the shock of losing his Head of House, sniggered, and Harry and Ron scowled at him.
"You have to, Harry," Hermione made a last plea under cover of getting her cauldron. "It's the right thing to do."
Harry concentrated on making his potion, trying to forget Snape existed, to forget the newspaper articles that had filled the Prophet this last week.
Hogwarts' Professor Arrested!
Respected pillar of the Wizarding community Lucius Malfoy was strolling the streets of Wizarding Birmingham with friends three nights ago when he witnessed a suspicious figure following a pair of wizards into the Muggle region. Following the figure, he was stunned to find himself unwilling witness to the swift, violent murder of two wizards and three Muggles.
Although not quick enough to capture the murderer, Mr Malfoy was able to retrieve evidence which lead aurors directly to Severus Snape, Potions Professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hogwarts has recently been the scene of numerous scandals, including the flight from justice of Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, the discovery of Gamekeeper Hagrid's giant heritage, and the attention-seeking lies of Harry Potter. Mr Malfoy, who was unjustly removed from the Board of Directors two years ago, said he believes a thorough restructuring of the school is needed. High Inquisitor Delores Umbridge has begun the process, but this latest scandal suggests the rot goes deep.
Professor Snape denies the allegations, but has offered no alibi for the night in question. The trial will be...
"Don't forget," Petrose called over the noise of students hastily packing their bags. "Four feet on the properties of Veritaserum by Monday!"
Hermione began her fussing again the instant they were free of Potions. "Harry-"
"Yes, all right," he snapped. "I'll do it, all right?"
She smiled, and it struck him that, despite her nagging, she'd never actually doubted he would. It shook him that she would have that much faith in him. He didn't.
"Do you have to, Harry?" Ron sighed as they left the dungeons. "Just think, no more Snape, ever."
"You can't want him dead just to save a few house points!" Hermione said, scandalised.
"Of course not just that," Ron said promptly. "To save house points, escape detention, not get yelled at for being a Gryffindor or for breathing, wipe the smirk off Malfoy's face, keep-"
"I'm not doing it for Snape," Harry interrupted sharply. "I'm not letting the dementors get another innocent."
Hermione looked ready to argue, but Ron sighed. "I guess you're right, mate. Still, it seems a shame."
The stars blinked sleepily through the windows into the almost empty commonroom as Hermione helped Harry write the letter to Amelia Bones (she wrote it, and he copied it out in his best writing) while Ron lay on one of the couches and tossed up Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans and tried to catch them in his mouth.
"This is going to be so embarrassing," Harry muttered, rolling up the letter and scowling at Ron when a badly thrown bean bounced onto the table.
"You're doing the right thing, Harry," Hermione said as he attached the roll of parchment to Hedwig's leg.
"Harry always does the right thing," Ron informed her complacently. "'S what makes him a hero. Hah!" He managed to catch another bean. Harry picked up the one from the table and threw it at him.
Ron threw it back, and soon a bean war waged while Hermione scolded them for making work for the house elves.
Apparently the name Harry Potter still meant something even when the papers were filled with lies about him (Harry sometimes thought he'd like to never hear that name again). Strange as it seemed to him, he was listened to. Madam Bones was willing to let Harry have his say and had arranged everything: portkeys, permission to leave school, entry into the courtroom. He was going to be a part of Snape's trial next week – whether he wanted to or not.
McGonagall had been dubious.
"Don't you want to save him?" Harry had asked with curiosity.
Her lips had thinned and she hadn't answered.
("She doesn't want you to give away the Order," Hermione said knowingly. Harry wondered if anyone but Hermione and Ron trusted him any more.)
It was McGonagall who insisted he go and visit Snape. Harry wasn't sure what this was in aid of (maybe she thought Snape could change his mind? fat chance), and he was pretty sure it wouldn't be allowed in the Muggle justice system. Witnesses shouldn't be visiting the accused, should they? But wizards were odd at times, so he shrugged, tuned out Hermione's enthusiastic comparison of Muggle and wizard legal systems, and braced himself for a visit (despite his fervent protests) to Azkaban.
It was cold. That was the only complaint he would allow. Cold, and the boat ride was wet. He shuddered as he stared up at the looming edifice, more cliff than building, a grey finger of rock squatting gloomily under a grey sky and girt by a rough grey sea. It was cold, and the closer the boat bobbed to the island, the colder it got. That was all he told Ron and Hermione about later: the cold and the greyness and the roiling sea.
He wouldn't allow himself to remember the screaming that shivered through his bones, or the voices of his parents. He wouldn't remember the flashes of Cedric dying and his parents dying and Voldemort's high, harsh laugh. He wouldn't remember the dementors gliding out of the way at the end of the corridors, letting the cold little group scuttle through the prison unmolested. He wouldn't remember the insane laugh of a prisoner who reached out to them through the bars of his cell door with thin, prying fingers and wild black eyes and begged for death. He wouldn't let himself remember. It wasn't prison. It was torture. And he wasn't even a prisoner.
Snape was completely composed, his usual scowling self as he sat primly on his bunk. It was strangely reassuring to find him as hateful as ever, even in the dingy horror of Azkaban. He sneered at Harry when he looked through the door. "Come to gloat, Potter?"
Still not sure why he was here, Harry looked at his auror guide for help but she had stepped away and wouldn't meet his eyes. "I - I'm going to testify at your trial, Professor."
"With Lucius's testimony, they'll hardly need yours."
"I'm telling them you were with me."
That got a reaction. Snape sprang to his feet and stalked forward, coming to a halt directly in front of him. If there hadn't been bars in the way, Harry thought the man might have tried to strangle him. He forced himself not to flinch back. "You will not, Potter," Snape ordered in a harsh whisper. "You will not risk the security of our entire organisation to satisfy your ego-stroking."
"You'll be Kissed!" Harry hissed back.
"Of course, I should have guessed. You couldn't resist the opportunity to play the hero. I don't need you, Potter. This is not a game, and you have absolutely no comprehension of the depths of this affair. You are risking everything and you have no idea what you're doing. This is no time for school-boy heroics, Potter. Get out. If I ever see you again I will-" He caught himself.
"Do you want to die?" Harry demanded fiercely. "Go on, be a martyr, see where it gets you. You'll be dead!"
"So instead you'll ruin every chance we have of winning," Snape spat, barely audible. The auror glanced over at them, bored and uninterested, and went back to contemplating the stone work. "I'm not a fool, Potter; this has nothing to do with me: you just want to get yourself back in the limelight."
"I've never left it in five years," Harry snarled, "and I'd rather fight Voldemort than be in it."
"Don't say that name! And don't lie to me, Potter, I'm not a part of your fan club, I can see right through you. You're just an arrogant, egocentric little boy who thinks he can move in a world more complicated than he could ever dream. Just like your father, parading your moronic, useless heroism in front of an adoring public."
"You shut up about my father! I'm testifying! I don't care what you say, I'm going to save your stupid, miserable life, even if it's not worth saving, because no one deserves to be punished for something they didn't do."
Snape winced, and looked away. "You know nothing, Potter," he grated. "Nothing. Get out."
Harry jumped back, startled by the man's violence. The auror stepped forward hastily, wand out, but Snape snarled incoherently and whirled about (even his prison robes billowed), retreating to his bunk and not looking at them.
Apparently the interview was over. The auror ushered Harry away.
A week later he stood in front of the Wizengamot once more, only this time it was Snape who sat, bound, in the chair (glaring at Harry, unsurprisingly) and there were people sitting in the audience seats all around them. Harry stood a little to one side, so he could see both the Wizengamot up behind the audience and Snape. At the back of the crowd to the right was an unfamiliar face - but even with brown hair and brown eyes and a different nose Harry recognised Dumbledore. He tried very hard not to be angry; the man wouldn't even look at Harry, but he risked everything to come here and support Snape.
"The Wizengamot recognises Harry Potter." Fudge sneered at him, as if asking why he was wasting their time, but after surviving Snape's ire for five years, the sneer of a prim little man in a pin-striped robe wasn't particularly scary. Being the focus of an entire roomful of people, on the other hand, was nerve-wracking. "Please state your reasons for appearing at this trial." Lucius Malfoy was sitting in the front row, clearly bored, and looked down his nose at Harry.
"I said this in my letter," he said uneasily, searching for Bones in the forbidding row of faces that was the Wizengamot. She smiled slightly at him from just beside Fudge and nodded, and he felt a little better. Why couldn't Hermione have done this? She'd know what to say.
"For the record, Mr Potter," Fudge said patronisingly.
The bloom of anger washed away his nervousness, and Harry glared at Fudge then moved his glare to Percy, recording the proceedings once more. "Because Professor Snape can't have done what Mr Malfoy and the aurors say he did. I know he didn't because he was with me at quarter to eight that day. He was with me almost all evening and he never left the room."
There were murmurs. Snape scowled at him. Mr Malfoy scowled too.
Fudge looked put-out that no one was instantly dismissing Harry's words. "You were together?" The malicious inflection he put on the word 'together' got him some shocked looks from his fellow Wizengamot members, and Harry's initial flare of anger melted into dark amusement. Fudge really did have it out for him, didn't he? Snape, he was pleased to see, looked a little sick.
"Minister, please," murmured the greying lady at his elbow, looking prudish.
Fudge pulled himself together. "Mr Potter, why were you with the accused at that time?"
He wished he could say detention, he really did, but he knew that it would easily get out that it was a lie. Malfoy, for one, would eagerly tell anyone it wasn't true. "I wanted to be an auror but I need Potions for that and my grades aren't very good." It was only half true, but he felt his cheeks warm as people whispered. Where ever Malfoy was, he was sniggering; Mr Malfoy hid a smile behind a white hand. "Professor Snape was kind enough," and he managed to keep his sarcasm from his tone, "to give me tutoring. I had a lesson with him that day from seven to nine-thirty."
The Wizengamot whispered back and forth, and murmurs in the crowd behind him surged like the ocean waves around Azkaban. Snape's eyes darted about as if trying to follow them.
"Minister," Mr Malfoy said smoothly, his voice breaking across the waves of whispers, "the boy could easily be lying. Someone could have induced him to make this statement." He looked significantly at Fudge. "You know what the Prophet has been saying about him."
Several of the Wizengamot nodded sagely, and Harry's anger flared up yet again. He wanted nothing more than to get his hands around the man's neck, but with difficulty he managed to stay still and even to keep his expression almost blank. Snape glared at him.
"He doesn't look deranged to me," opined someone behind him. "Nice looking lad." Harry wasn't sure whether to laugh, cry, or break something. He did nothing.
"Very true," Fudge said to Mr Malfoy with false piety, clearly glad to be able to do something about Harry's testimony. Why was he so determined to convict Snape? Mr Malfoy must have put him up to it, though Harry couldn't think why. How much money was Fudge getting for this? What did Voldemort think about all this? Was this some kind of elaborate scheme to rid himself of a spy? "Do you wish to retract your statement, Potter?"
Go to hell. "No."
"Then I move for the use of Veritaserum. A show of hands?"
Most of the hands went up along the bench, and Snape closed his eyes. Fudge smiled smugly. "Motion carried. Mr Potter?"
No, no, no! Not someone else able to tear out his secrets! Snape glared at him in clear warning; Harry ignored him. "On the understanding that you will only ask questions related to this trial, I agree." If he backed out now then they'd think he was a liar. He wasn't a liar! There was no way he was going to let Fudge win this, no way he was going to follow Snape's orders; now that he'd started this he was not giving up.
"Of course," Fudge said glibly, and Harry knew that there was no way this was going to stay on topic. He hesitated, not sure what to do. Snape's glare intensified.
"As Mr Potter's teacher," came a sharp voice behind him, "and therefore currently a guardian of sorts for him, I will stand by with a silencing spell in case some unwanted question is... accidentally asked." Harry smiled up at Professor McGonagall with relief, lifting his chin a little in unconscious defiance as Fudge looked dismayed.
"Of - of course, Professor. The Wizengamot recognises Professor Minerva McGonagall."
"You're doing well, Potter," she said quietly.
A bored-looking wizard brought out the Veritaserum in a little blue bottle, carefully tipping a few drops into a glass of water and passing it to him. Harry stared at it a moment. Oh, he was not going to enjoy this. He gulped it down hastily before he could change his mind. It had no flavour, but the water almost seemed more viscous than normal and harder to swallow. That was probably just nerves, though. A calmness flooded through him, wrapping around his mind and pushing back the anger that had been plaguing him since before the start of school and forcing it behind a wall of serenity. He felt more like himself than he had in some time.
"State your name," said the bored-looking wizard. Harry rather liked him, if only because he didn't seem to care about his scar.
"Harry Potter." Wow, he hadn't consciously meant to say that! He hurriedly tried to take control of his own mouth. He knew from the assignment Petrose had given them that if asked a question under Veritaserum you had to tell the truth. He just hadn't realised what that would be like.
"What is your age?"
"Sixteen." There, he'd almost meant to say that one. It was a bit like the Imperious, except that he couldn't actually shake it off. He felt like a puppet; he didn't like it.
"Your current address?"
"Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
"Please answer no to the following questions. Are you male?"
"Nyes." Well, that was weird.
"He's fighting it!" Fudge accused.
The bored-looking wizard rolled his eyes. "That's a normal response, Minister. I am asking him to lie and the serum forces him to tell the truth. Remember, Mr Potter, say no. Are you sixteen?"
"N-" He choked. "At the moment." Hah, he was getting a bit of control. Snape looked at him oddly.
"Is your name Potter?"
"He's fine," the wizard said. "Ask your questions." He wandered off out of the way, but not before offering Harry a reassuring wink.
"Why didn't you just give Snape Veritaserum?" Harry asked curiously. "Wouldn't that make everything simple?" He heard McGonagall's sharp intake of breath, though her face remained stern and disinterested. Snape glared.
"Veritaserum is only legal when the drinker agrees to it," Fudge said triumphantly. "Professor Snape refused, as only a guilty man would."
Harry realised he'd made a huge tactical error, but just shrugged lightly as he thought furiously. "No, I guess that makes sense. Professor Snape is a very private man."
"And you're not?" asked some sharp-faced witch he didn't know.
McGonagall looked at him questioningly, raising her wand, but he clenched his fists at his side and shook his head, managing to answer levelly. "I am at least as private a person as Sn- Professor Snape. But I am not allowed privacy because everyone thinks my life is theirs to pry into and organise however they please! Professor Snape isn't used to his life being on display. Mine always is, no matter how much I hate it." Okay, he hadn't meant to say quite that much. Stupid Veritaserum. He tried to ignore McGonagall's sympathetic look. A couple of the Wizengamot looked ashamed, though, so maybe he hadn't said anything too bad.
"We are getting off topic," McGonagall said sharply, but her hand rested comfortingly on his shoulder. "Please take Mr Potter's statement so that he can return to school."
"Mr Potter," Fudge said triumphantly, "please repeat what you told the Wizengamot earlier. Why do you claim Professor Snape is innocent?" He really believed Harry couldn't do it! What was his problem?
"Professor Snape," he said clearly, voice ringing out into the sudden, expectant hush, "could not have committed the crimes he is accused of because he was teaching me between seven and nine-thirty p.m. on the day in question."
Silence. Then everyone seemed to be talking at once. Fudge stared at Harry in disbelief for a minute before finally restoring some order by shooting sparks into the air. "Mr Potter..." He seemed to be searching for some way to disprove Harry's words. "What was he teaching you?"
Snape looked panicked, and McGonagall's hand tightened on his shoulder, but it was a legitimate question. He could feel the Veritaserum trying to force him to be honest, but it would be satisfied with less...
"He called it Remedial Potions," Harry said truthfully. "Mostly to make me feel bad, I think." The hand on his shoulder tightened further then relaxed. Snape scowled, but Harry thought he saw relief in his dark eyes.
While Fudge blustered uncertainly, Bones smiled at Harry. "Mr Potter, you don't have to answer this question, but I am curious. My niece goes to Hogwarts." He nodded. "The animosity between you and Professor Snape is apparently legendary. So why did you come here today?"
McGonagall looked a question at him, but Harry shook his head at her. "Because it doesn't matter if we hate each other," he told Bones. "He's innocent."
"Why do you hate each other?" asked a little old man curiously.
"I hate him because he never gave me cause to do anything else. I can't speak for Professor Snape, sir."
"Why did he tutor you if you hate each other?" accused the greying lady at Fudge's elbow.
"Because whatever his faults may be," Harry said frigidly, beginning to seriously dislike her, "Snape - Professor Snape - is a man of duty."
"You know he was a Death Eater under Lord - Thingy," Fudge said desperately. The crowd gasped and whispered. Snape tensed.
"I know he was accused," Harry said calmly. "From what I understand, he wasn't convicted."
"And anyway, he can't be a Death Eater."
Most of the Wizengamot blinked at him in confusion while Snape scowled uncertainly. "Why not?" one of them asked finally. Yes!
"Because," Harry said deliberately, even more clearly than when he'd stated Snape's innocence, "he wasn't in the graveyard when Voldemort was resurrected and called his remaining Death Eaters to him."
And the crowd goes wild!
Harry smiled tightly as the room absolutely erupted with babble. This time Fudge made no attempt to silence them, staring at Harry as if he'd just found a dragon making tea in his kitchen. But Harry had been asked a clear question under Veritaserum. There could be no doubt he told the truth. Voldemort was back. Harry wasn't a liar, he wasn't dangerously deranged, he had been telling the truth.
It was Amelia Bones who finally called the room to order after rapid consultation with her fellows. Fudge was wailing all manner of nonsense, completely useless and apparently on the verge of a breakdown.
I told you! Harry thought at him viciously. We warned you! Voldemort was back and now Fudge was going to pay for not listening.
"This trial is adjourned," Bones said forcefully, ignoring Fudge's hysterics. "Severus Snape, based upon the testimony of Mr Potter-"
"He's lying!" shrieked Fudge. His neighbours shifted away from him uncomfortably.
"-you are free to go." She nodded to an auror, who let Snape out of the chair. "As for what you have just told us, Mr Potter," she glanced at Fudge briefly ("He's not back! He's not!"), "we will need to discuss this further. Thank you for bringing this to our attention." She smiled slightly. "You are a very courageous young man, Mr Potter. Thank you for acting on your convictions."
The Wizengamot began talking again, and McGonagall turned Harry away, ushering him towards the door. People were already shouting his name, desperate for him to talk to them. Someone's camera flashed, and an auror plunged through the crowd towards the culprit. Snape passed them with an angry sweep of his robes, glaring at Harry. "I still hate you, Potter."
Harry shrugged, and let McGonagall urge him on. He'd done what he had to do: he'd saved Snape and he'd finally gotten people to believe him about Voldemort. He could feel the Veritaserum wearing off and anger creeping back in. It was a shame, he'd rather liked not having to be angry. Still, it wasn't a bad day's work, really. He couldn't wait to tell Ron and Hermione how it had gone.
Okay, now I have no idea how the rest of OotP would go...