The Golden Age

Disclaimer: Obviously, I own nothing but my own thoughts. Harry Potter and his world are the property of J.K.Rowling.

In the wake of victory, Harry struggles with questions of forgiveness and revenge, and learns the darkest secrets of the wizarding world. A few vignettes as he participates in the Restoration.

1. Justice: Harry and Shacklebolt

"I want to see some punishment!" Harry shouted. His glasses had fogged over. Absently, he took them off and wiped them, pacing furiously around Shacklebolt's new office. A pale face caught the corner of his eye, and he looked up startled, trying to see who was eavesdropping.

It was his own face, reflected in a mirror: chalky-pale, gleaming with sweat. The mirror was an old, rippling one, the anthropomorphic frame murmuring concerns for the "poor boy's" health.

"Looking a bit peaky, love," it cooed. "Have another cuppa. Look, he's got chocolate biccies with it. You'll feel better after you eat."

Harry grimaced and looked away. The first glimpse of the white face in the mirror had disturbed him. It looked too much like something he wanted to forget so completely that it would never appear again, even in dreams.

Shacklebolt studied him silently. Talking about the Reconciliation Commission seemed to push the boy—no, young man—into irrational outbursts. He let Harry sulk while he finished his tea, and then continued as if he had never been interrupted.

"Wide scale investigation and prosecution are simply not an option, Harry—"

"After the first war, Crouch went after the Death Eaters—"

"—And we all know how well that worked out."

Harry stopped pacing and subsided into a chair, head in his hands.

Shacklebolt pushed a tea cup over. "Drink it down. I want you to sit and listen to me. The Ministry is compromised, top to bottom. Only a few people in the entire wizarding world have nothing to be ashamed of. Nearly every one is implicated, one way or another—they were afraid, their families were threatened, they were tricked—"

"It should be easy enough to sort out—" Harry argued. Shacklebolt silenced him with a gesture.

"No. It's not. We've had a dozen suicides since the Battle. Some Death Eaters and their sympathizers, yes, but also some poor sods who were forced to do things that they can't bear to live with—"

"They had a choice. People always have a choice."

"Maybe so." He leaned forward, pinning Harry with a dark unwavering stare. "But the question is, what did they have to choose between? Collaboration, or having their children tortured? Is that a valid choice? What about the ones under Imperius? Do you think lifting the curse made everything all right for them, when they realized the things they'd done? What about husbands and wives who betrayed each other? Are trials going to help them?"

"The Carrows—"

"The Carrows can be dealt with by ordinary legal means. What they did can be prosecuted without any reference to Voldemort."

"The Malfoys—"

"Prosecuting the Malfoys will bog us down for years. What we've got is a family whose home was occupied by Voldemort—" he waved his hand at Harry's angry exclamation. "You told me you saw this for yourself. Did they look like happy hosts to you? And how were they treated? I seem to recall that you saw Bellatrix putting Lucius under the Cruciatus?"

"—He deserved it!"

"I'm telling you, Harry, that this would only make people sympathetic—to them. All the Malfoys have severe curse damage, and that's the sort of evidence that makes a huge impression in court. You don't understand how deeply Voldemort penetrated into every corner of our society. There are only a few thousand of us to begin with. We've lost nearly a twelfth of our population due to this war. If you start prosecuting on the basis of sympathies, or collaboration, or association, we won't have enough witches and wizards left! They'll all bloody well be locked up, or Kissed, or have their heads stuck on pikes, or whatever it is you think will satisfy you. We'll have informers coming to us with stories about their neighbors, or about business rivals—is that the sort of world you want to build? I tell you, the Reconciliation Commission is the only way to go."

Harry was not convinced. He looked away. Somehow, waking up the day after the battle had made him hope that everything sad was going to come untrue. Instead, they all faced a limping Ministry, filled with shamed witches and wizards who hardly dared to believe that Voldemort was gone.

"They're traumatized, Harry," Shacklebolt told him softly. "And so are you. We can't set the world right with anger and vengeance. The muck sticks to all of us, one way or another."

"Not all of us! Look at Hermione—"

"All right. Let's look at Hermione. We have evidence that she used an Unforgivable Curse at Gringott's—"

"She had to—"

"And speaking of Unforgivables, there are witnesses who saw you put the Cruciatus on Carrow. Are you sure you want to open Pandora's Box? Because know this: you start and there's no finishing it. You can't enforce the law for one wizard and not another, or we'll end up with something ugly beyond belief."

A shiver, and a weary shake of the head. Harry whispered, "We have a responsibility to the dead."

"Will punishing the guilty bring them back?"

"No. But they may—rest easier." He shut his eyes, "I know. I know. We have a responsibility to the living, too."

Shacklebolt smiled faintly. "Yes. Even the ones we don't like. It's too big, Harry. We can't have vengeance. We can't even hope for justice. We can only forgive, and start over."

"I don't know. Maybe I can forgive them, someday. But do you really think they can forgive us?"

Note: In another story I estimate the wizarding population at about 12, 000. Based on a rough guestimate of the casualties throughout the HP books, I'd guess that well over a thousand have been killed or have emigrated to a safer place. That would be like the U.S. losing twenty-five million people. Since the wizarding world is already tiny, the casualties would be traumatic.

This story is both a response to and subversion of canon. Despite all the twists it takes, I listed Harry and Hermione as the major characters for a reason.

Next-- Secrets: Harry and Hermione