Usual Disclaimers Apply
Masquerade of the Damned
-n. and often the good suffer, and the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which is more annoying.
The worst had yet to come.
He did not need anyone to remind him of that. Stifling anger reared its ugly head, and a flurry of unbidden thoughts chased themselves around Harry's brain. For a second, his senses were completely overwhelmed, and he was filled with a rage so powerful that he could almost taste Malfoy's blood. Teach him to tear open my mind- He pushed the man away and stumbled into the room. Just as the door closed however, he saw Lucius smile. Devil - and by then, fear had crept up his spine. The smile continued to taunt him, even now. The small secret they shared…
The suite was as bland as everything in the ministry. Beautiful yet detached. It wasn't really there. The same could be said with all else. That it was just a dream that he'd sooner forget, or if not, wake up from. What exactly had Tom done to him?
Harry entered the en-suite bathroom, by now so immersed in his thoughts that he barely registered the décor. He approached the large bathtub, turning the tap so that scalding water began to fill the large tub up. He didn't bother to turn on the cold water.
Steam rose up and swirled around the bathroom, as if to calm his raging emotions. Harry felt a sudden, perverse urge to laugh at how fast his world had turned upside down when he made that deal with Tom. Back then, it was a choice of who was to live or die. He had gotten a great deal more than what he bargained for. Take her place? That was the only thing he could remember. Everything else was a flurry of movement. And Lips.
Harry submerged himself in the water and let the air escape his lungs in big bubbles of air. He told himself he hated the other raven-haired teen. It was just-? Unfair. Tom forced him to feel things that weren't even his to begin with. Why else would Harry be running back to him when he was scared. The small thought made him choke.
Harry brought his hands to his face and gasped, breathing heavily. He swore to himself that he'd fight this as long as he could. Harry pushed his head back to lean against the edge of the tub and pondered if there was any meaning to all this.
As a child, he was never one to submit to the whims of others. Especially if he knew it wouldn't do him any good. But this really made him think. He curled his fingers on his hair, pulling it gently. He knew. It was fate laughing him. His fingers dug unto his palms, and fire crawled on his scalp. It was pain. It was as if the world disappeared and all that remained was that single thought. He slowly loosened his hold on his hair.
A puppet. A tool. That's what he was all in all …and if he was going to suffer just because of such an insignificant thing - just because he happened to have that lightning-bolt scar on his forehead…
The questions slowly ate him and everything led into a dead end. The dead end was his life. Yes. He would have… He should have died that night. It was his chance and he didn't take it! He was so tired of this, being pushed and pulled and played with.
Overcome, Harry grabbed the many bottles that rested on the edge of the marble tub and threw them at the wall.
The bottles shattered.
Jasmine, lilacs and oil spilled on the floor. Fragments of glass splayed on the ground. He trailed his hands on the floor and idly picked up one of the broken pieces. He held the glass in front of his face. It was beautiful in the flickering lights of the room. The broken pieces reminded him so much of his life. So much of what could have been and what was.
So beautiful. That he had to wake up in this little fairy tale, telling himself that in the end, bad guys die. The world won't stand for them. Certainly the good ones would all stand together and fight them. He didn't have to do it all the time. And it'll be beautiful. So beautiful. Never ending. But first, he wanted to –had to– break hem all apart – until they were all like him, with broken little pieces. Pretty ones with jagged edges that bit into skin when attempted to be pieced back together.
The sharp edge met flesh.
His gloved hands were holding the ladle in a tight grip. He stopped, roughly removed the gloves, and wiped his sweaty hands, proceeding to glare at the unfinished potion as if everything was its fault. As ridiculous as that was, he could not do anything but such. Even he was allowed his moments.
He'd been stuck in-between for years, and now he was slowly starting to realize that he made a mistake, that he should have chosen the Dark Lord. At least with the Dark Lord he knew what to expect, even if the Dark Lord was- what was that inane muggle saying?- 'Trigger happy.' Dumbledore, on the other hand, made decisions by himself and pulled at everyone's strings – manipulating them as he pleased without a care for the repercussions. Anything went, as long as it was beneficial for the greater good.
'For Salazar's sake, a MARAUDER, as a teacher in Hogwarts!' It was a preposterous notion, and it no doubt would be the death of him, if not his students. To top all that, a werewolf! How would the students react if they found out?
He should have expected this. The man had a half-giant as their Care of Magical Creatures professor. What was next? A Goblin? A Centaur? A merman? A faun? A Vampire? He wouldn't put it past the old man to attempt such. Severus hadn't had the heart to tell Albus that he was a fool for trying to improve the relationship of magical creatures and wizards.
He had simply promised to think on it, and not attack Lupin. Or poison his Wolfsbane. 'That is… as long as the werewolf behaves himself.'
He could throw in some silver, if the need arose – and it would all be blamed upon the sad unfortunate circumstance. Silver wasn't a poison – to most people. He was a Slytherin after all – he'd have to make the best of what he had and use it to his advantage.
The knowledge placated him a bit. Besides, the werewolf would be indebted to him. Albus wouldn't be able to call in his favours… for a while. He would let him brew in peace until the dead of the night and all he had to do was provide vials of Wolfsbane.
Was it worth it? Yes. If it would keep Albus away from him for even just a little while, then, yes. That would give him enough time to assure the demise of this would- be colleague of his.
Severus promised himself a drink later. There were some things that couldn't be cured by potion alone.
He grabbed the ladle and stirred the potion clockwise, waiting for that anticlimactic puff. He let it simmer for a few stiff intakes of breath, waiting until the fumes settled before adding crushed pixie eyes. He waited for the bubbling to reach the edge of the cauldron before stirring it once more, this time counter-clockwise. While doing this, he ground the moon flower petals on the silver mortar, adding them when they finally wrinkled to dust.
Seconds later, as if to add to his ever growing headache, he felt the characteristic tingle from the dark mark and wondered who on earth decided to call this time – knowing perfectly well that only the Inner Circle knew how to summon through the dark mark and of course, the Dark Lord himself. He weighed in his mind the pros and cons of attending and steadily decided that it was certainly much better to be left brewing his potions rather than partaking in some inane meeting about some equally insignificant plot to probably overthrow the ministry and kill Harry Potter. He knew that the Death Eaters were useless without the Dark Lord. Although, seeing the more recent events, the wizarding village in Wadspurt was clearly a message that they were far from useless. He had a hunch, but it would do him no good to dwell on theories that were long buried in the past.
He took his vials and set them upon the rack near the acid green potion, one of the vilest he ever dared. This one could very well render the person senseless by slowly eating away the brain. It was not reversible.
Given a few droplets, it could probably sharpen one's eyesight for a few months – to that of an owl's …incredibly useful- The other potion is complete.
He could not help but cringe in disgust at the remembered smell of burnt blood, the hum of dark magic, and a trace of Jasmine in the air.
Jasmine brought back a lot of regrets. He still couldn't forgive himself for her death.
Pushing the depressing thought aside, he turned back to his potions. Snape took the potion vials filled with orange, pink and acid green liquids back to the storage cupboard. Glancing at the perdo animum potion, he felt his eyebrows nit. Potter.
It was a difficult potion to make, one that even fifth years had trouble brewing correctly. If he could remember accurately, Potter had been able to brew one perfectly. Severus as been forced to give an E, although the potion was worthy of an O. It was one of the many enigmas surrounding the Potter brat. He knew that so many of last year's mysteries remained unresolved. There was a time when he was almost happy that the boy lost his Gryffindor streak, although, just to spite him, the Chamber of Secrets debacle proved otherwise.
He could remember the headache of brewing potion after potion just to make sure that James godforsaken spawn didn't die because of his own stupidity. If it weren't for his conscience, he would have left the boy for dead.
But then, Dumbledore confirmed that Dark Lord was dead, as was his pet snake. Now, thinking upon the brat and his latest mischief, if he could call it that, was bringing him another headache. Trust Potter not to let him breathe a single sigh of relief. He knew it had been a rather foolish idea to entrust the boy to his muggle relatives, but who was he to question Albus. Now, Potter had managed to land himself in Azkaban, in just a few weeks out of Hogwarts!
He muttered a spell to remove the stains on the table. He then picked up his cauldrons, but abruptly dropped them in surprise, his eyes widening ever so slightly. The mark stung! Severus hurriedly pushed back his left shirtsleeve. There, happily wriggling on his arm was the snake that bound him to him, his master. Through his momentary panic, he couldn't help but tell himself wryly that he had finally gotten his wish. He picked up the cauldrons and piled them to the side in a stack, one on top of another, before glaring at the offending mark – hoping it would top moving so he could halt all thoughts of chopping the appendage off. It would be a futile effort however, he knew.
He left the confines of his potions laboratory, his footsteps hurried, until he broke into a run. He braced himself when he reached the entrance to the Headmaster's office and spoke the password.
Once the gargoyle allowed him passage, the sound of multiple anxious voices reached his ears.
"The Ministry noticed the saturation of magic in the village, so they ordered it to be investigated. We've sent Ted and his team but we haven't heard from him since. All we found was his locket… and I'm afraid that he's most probably dead…"
"Don't be so hasty to draw to such grim conclusions, Amelia. We might never know."
"How sure are you that they are the ones responsible?" A man asked gruffly. "The Dark Mark was there, you saw it for yourself Arthur."
"But Albus! A whole village! Just in one night? How is that possible?" A hysterical voice cried.
"Oui, I agree with zat mademoiselle. I don't understand zis. You insist zat zis eez ze Dark Lord's doing, non? Chié difficile!" Snape chose that moment to enter. He seemed to glide, his robes billowing around him. Murmurs followed.
Dumbledore shifted in his seat. "Ah, Severus. You've come to join us?"
The potion master ignored all the disdainful looks shot at him. Half of the order members inside the circular office looked at him in askance of why he was there, when he was clearly uninvited. Well, it would make things easier.
"The mark is back." Without further ado, he pulled up his sleeve. Gasps of every kind followed. Snape had a very hard time suppressing the rather cruel smirk on his face.
"There's yer proof."
Hysteria hit the Minister's office that very night. Fudge had been enjoying the quiet of his office when his secretary had burst in, shouting something he could not quite catch. However, the word "DEAD" somehow caught his ears. His eyes swerved back to stare at the paper. It must be Black.
He allowed himself to breathe for a moment, before shouting at the inept fool of a secretary he'd had the misfortune of hiring.
"Who died for Merlin's sake? Slow down, I can't understand a word you're saying." The woman wiped both her hands on her robes and adjusted her glasses. "It's Harry Potter sir. He tried to kill himself."
The minister blanched. He stood up and the woman stared at him dazedly. "The alarms had gone off and we came upon the boy bathing in his own blood. Merlin… Merlin… the poor boy." Fudge approached the woman and shook her back to her senses. Something told him that the fool was telling the truth.
"Where is he?" He demanded, his voice a little higher, a little louder than he had intended. "Where is he?" He repeated again. His heart thudded wildly against his ribcage. He wanted to make sure that come tomorrow, he would still be in office. The prophet would have a field day. 'Harry Potter! DIED in the MINISTRY!' The woman squeaked pathetically. "He-he… St. Mungo's."
His knees wobbled and he had to grip the table to steady himself. He then cursed. He'd been told that the boy had been unstable, but he let him out of Azkaban. He had tried to make the boy feel grateful and indebted, and now the brat had tried to repay him by attempting to kill himself!
And then, the fear overrode the anger. What if somebody finds out? He… he had to take this into his own hands.
He threw the piece of paper that reported Sirius Black's escape towards the fire and told himself that he could do this. Stay calm. His fingers took his coat from the hanger. The secretary was looking at her hands, red hands. The brat! He refused to have his position taken. This might be Potter plotting against him. Lucius said as much and told him to watch for whatever the boy had in mind. He just hadn't expected this. It had gone too far. If it were any ordinary boy, he would have ignored it, but this was the boy-who-lived. His voice shook when someone finally answered his call.
"Rook! I want that order done right now… I- I will meet with you shortly." The day had been a total disaster. He fixed his loosened tie and assured himself, that he looked good.
"Dolores! Yes." He ignored the sweet girlish voice and cut off the woman from her speech. "You've heard of what happened this night? Yes? Do me a favour then, yes, and by any means necessary, make sure that this remains a – A secret."
There were times when rum had proven itself useful between work and problems such as these. He knew he would have fainted from the mere knowledge alone – yet he hadn't. Bless him. Dolores made a noncommittal response, and from the back of his mind, he knew he growled out, "Just do it!"
He'd have someone's head after this. Yes, he would fire someone tomorrow. This incompetence can't go on any longer! If everyone had just done their jobs correctly, none of this would have happened. Grabbing the floo powder, he set off to visit St. Mungo's. The portraits whispered to themselves, affronted by the facts and yet gossiping among themselves, despite Dolores' best efforts. It was the talk of the night. She had managed one thing though; bribing the prophet to keep things under wraps at the expense of making the trial public to everyone's eyes.
The jumble of bodies seemed synchronized in such a disjointed manner that from afar it would seem as if they were not but colours grinding and gnashing at each other. There was in fact, life, and the clicks of heels and hisses and voices and mutters formed music echoing back and forth. Walls seemed to breathe and constrict until the jumble was forced to squeeze through, when in fact they were all but getting smaller. It was a very busy day at the ministry.
Why? It had been announced in the paper that, the Boy-Who-Lived would be tried in court for murdering his muggle aunt. And on top of that that, the minister had announced the international bounty hunt for one Sirius Black, who had inadvertently escaped prison the day before.
There was an on-going bet on whether or not Harry Potter would be freed. Whichever was the case, Draco couldn't care less because he knew what was going to happen. His father, of course, kept him informed, but Draco was increasingly intrigued as to why, besides the fact that Potter was the bane of his existence and would remain as such...
He flashed a smirk in time for one of the photographers and followed the lead of Dolores, his father's acquaintance. They walked down to the lower levels of the ministry floors, where they took a small passage that saved them from the wrath of those swarming bodies.
"The trial might be delayed you say? Do enlighten me."
His father's voice carried out the dark passage. Dolores paused in her tracks, tapping the walls with her wand, in time with the click of her heels. "Yes, the minister had a small problem last night. Harry Potter tried to kill himself with a piece of shattered glass." She then murmured something of a curse to the 'attention-seeking-brat'.
Lucius raised his eyebrow at this, but remained impassive. "Ahhh." The walls rearranged themselves and light passed through.
Others weren't so fortunate as the Malfoys to have 'acquaintances', and such was Hermione and Ron, who had wanted to come early, yet still had to get through the swarm of people before they could reach the large towering doors of the Wizengamot's court room.
"Whoever had the idea to make this hearing public was completely out of their mind." Hermione heard Ron agree with a small noise at the back of his throat. They walked past the doors and found themselves opening another smaller set, in which Hermione had to stop to admire the room. It strongly reminded her of the opera houses that she and her mom visited in Rome, and Professor Snape's dungeons. The floor sloped downwards and there were a couple hundred chairs that formed a half circle of about twelve rows. She could find three isles that led to a set of stairs. Further down, past a shimmering barrier, there were three rows of similar chairs. Another floor below that, the Wizengamot sat in a cluster. In the middle, the minister was sitting on an elevated podium. At the very center of it all was an empty chair.
She took a step forward but a hand kept her from moving forward.
The stern voice to her right surprised her. "Hermione Granger, this one here with me is Ron Weasley."
"Take this and show it to that Auror." A hand pointed to a man standing in middle of the isle, before the barrier. Hermione eyed the piece of paper before nodding to herself. She and Ron took the small strip of paper, which promptly slid around their wrists, and watched in fascination as the paper seemed to turn into ink where a silvery thread wisped around.
"Come on Ron."
"What is this?" Ron found himself muttering.
Hermione replied, "It's what they call a magic stamp. It verifies your magic and your identity, like an id." Ron nodded. They passed the isle and showed their right wrists.
The Auror let them sign their names in the book and for a moment, the barrier before them shivered.
"You may pass." gesturing at the barrier.
"Hey look, I can see Malfoy over here." Ron pointed to one of the chairs on that level and abruptly scowled when the Malfoy heir sneered back at him.
"Ignore him Ron." Hermione muttered, pulling the boy towards the shimmering white veil. Upon passing through, they both shivered from contact, feeling as though they had been doused with cold water.
They were blessed however with what seemed to be silence, which was not much seeing an insult was immediately hurled towards them.
"So, it's the Mudblood and the useless sidekick again. Come to the trial just to see Potter get shipped to Azkaban?"
"Hush Draco." Lucius chastised his son but sent a rather unfriendly look back at the two Gryffindors. The muggleborn girl could only tighten her grip on her friend's arm and was rewarded by a grumble of pain. The Malfoy heir chuckled at their inelegant antics.
They were joined by the rest of the Weasleys and some other people who Hermione could not recognize on sight. Almost most of them were strangers, a few introduced themselves. Amongst them were Andromeda and her daughter, Nymphadora, who piped, "It's not Nymphadora. Call me Tonks!" A tired looking man with auburn hair introduced himself as Remus Lupin, their new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher and Neville had come together with his grandmother.
They were briefly surprised at the sight of two goblins and a suspicious looking group who held themselves in a bizarre manner. Hermione's unstated question was answered when somebody hissed the word "vampires" under his breath. As the witches and wizards poured in, the chairs became packed until some where forced to stand behind from the upper rows.
The doors closed. Minutes trickled by until one could feel the agitation, with all the murmurs and hisses of displeasure. The minister then pointed his wand at his throat and muttered the Sonorous charm.
"I must give my apologies if we are running behind schedule…" came Fudge's booming voice. "We are waiting for Mr Potter who is apparently suffering from some self-inflicted injuries. I assure you that the trial will in fact commence within an hour." He allowed himself a small smile and let the message sink in. Let them wonder how unstable their hero really was. Ruining Potter's credibility came second to his agenda. The first was making sure he would deal a crushing blow to the boy's psyche. With all the trouble he'd encountered just to make sure things went right, they'd gone wrong, because the damned boy wouldn't cooperate.
He held the cards today, he reminded himself. There was absolutely nothing to be afraid of. After thinking about it, with the help of large doses of calming draught, he had surmised that things would be simpler if he manipulated this certain truth against Harry Potter, which was what he did. Publicizing this trial was a good move after all, although his plans changed. It would be a little, no, far from the friendly one he had intended.
The minister pressed his hands together once more, glancing back at his companions and whispering something to Wenlock, who nodded her agreement.
It was certainly clear that the self-inflicted injuries were not in any way 'small', if Harry Potter was still being treated for whatever injury he had acquired. The reaction was divided. There were those who didn't care as long as the trial was going to proceed and there were those who simply hated the fact that they were supposed to wait for what seemed to be an eternity.
Then there was that small group who sat concerned by the fact that Harry Potter had injured himself. They knew that Harry wouldn't have enjoyed his brief stay in Azkaban. Anyone would have snapped within a week, and it certainly was not a place for a child, a barely thirteen year old boy, especially one with memories that were more horrid than those of a grown adult's.
The doors opened and Hermione breathed a heavy sigh of relief when Albus Dumbledore strode in, followed by Severus Snape and a few other people who she didn't recognize.
Their Headmaster, unlike all of his companions, strode inside, taking an opposite turn and nodding to an Auror, before being led down to the lowest level, at the very middle of the gathering.
"Albus Dumbledore. I'm glad you could make it."
Albus gave the minister his greeting, and it was impossible to tell if he meant it, or was simply complying with the prerequisite.
The doors of the court room once more opened, and Harry Potter shuffled in wearing a white hospital gown, attended by two medi-witches and surrounded by four Aurors. Lights danced dizzyingly around the room as cameras flashed.
Hermione called, but it seemed the boy couldn't hear her. He neither batted an eyelash nor made a motion to indicate that he heard his name being called. He just seemed forever intent on staring at his feet as they dragged him down to the last floor.
It was Dumbledore's voice that made him look up for the first time, and he blinked. He stared back at those blue eyes and silently pleaded for help.
"Do not worry my boy, we will get through this."
Harry nodded, and broke free from the medi-witches and hugged the man. Dumbledore patted the boy's back and whispered soothing words. They broke free when the minister cleared his throat.
Dumbledore looked away and gave the minister an inquiring stare.
"Before we begin, Mr. Potter, if you would take a seat. That is what the chair's purpose is, after all."
Harry did as he was told. He swatted the hands that came to support him and walked towards the aforementioned chair. Taking a seat, he released a surprised gasp when his upper half was bound tightly and his ankles got shackled to the ground. Bars then shot up from around the chair forming a cage and Harry gasped out loud.
"What is this?"
"So he speaks. That is what we call precaution, Mr. Potter, since we cannot trust you not to injure anyone, including yourself. Now," Fudge had nodded to himself and a scribe poised his quill over the parchment. Those of the Wizengamot trained their full attention on the boy, whether in interest or malice, no one could tell. Dumbledore opted to conjure himself a chair, of which the Minister had sent a scathing glance.
"This seventh of August, we are all gathered here to witness the public trial of one Harry James Potter, a resident of number four, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey. His offences: failure to uphold the International Statute of Secrecy together with the decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, and, homicide."
Harry swallowed. "Interrogators: Cornelius Oswald Fudge, Minister of Magic; Amelia Susan Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Dolores Jane Umbridge, senior Undersecretary to the Minister; Court scribe, Sonia Merle Wenlock."
"Witness for the defense: Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore."
Dumbledore nodded, and it would have seemed that the old man was confident, although he wasn't. The minister coughed before flicking open a page and reading the contents.
"The charges against the accused are as follows, deliberately using his magic with the plausible intent of murdering his muggle blood relative, Marjorie Dursley," Harry shook his head.
"And succeeding in doing so, with full knowledge that such use of magic risks the exposure of the Wizarding World, thus an offence under paragraphs C and D of the Decree of Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, 1875, and also under section thirteen of the International Confederation of Wizard's Statute of Secrecy.
"You are aware that in performing magic in front of a muggle, you are risking the exposure of the wizarding world, Mr Potter?"
"Yes, but that hardly is-"
"And yet, instead of merely complying with the ministry, you led them into chasing you where eighteen muggles had seen you perform magic, causing a muggle car to crash in the process?"
"Are you aware of the wreckage that was left due to your actions?"
Harry could not open his mouth this time.
"However you claim that this is all just an accident?"
Harry could only bite his lower lip and glare at the minister.
"Yes. It was just an accident." The Wizengamot muttered to their selves at this, wondering if the boy was brave, ill-mannered, or just plain idiotic. The minister raised his hand, telling them to let him speak first, before they voiced their thoughts upon the matter. Madam Bones shifted in her seat, while Dolores Umbridge, smirked.
"But it has come into our knowledge that you were abused by your muggle relatives. Was this aunt of yours– Marge was it? – one of those who abused you as well?"
Harry kept silent. The rest of the courtroom however, exploded in whispers over the alleged abuse that the boy suffered under his relatives. Before the Minister could call for order, the room fell quiet as Dumbledore jumped to Harry's defence.
"Cornelius, I've argued this with you. It is outrageous, for you to imply that Harry deliberately wanted to murder his aunt."
Fudge smiled. "If Mr Potter had no qualms of injuring himself, wouldn't it be the same for others?"
"No! It's not like that. You know already!" Cornelius leaned, content at observing the boy struggle at his bindings.
Dumbledore paused. What had Harry meant by that?
"She was choking me, and I couldn't do anything! …May -maybe it would really have been better if I had died that day, and now we wouldn't be having this-"
"Harry." Dumbledore commanded, before the boy permanently engrained himself as a suicidal lunatic in the Wizengamot's eyes.
The court scribe scribbled away, and it was that sound that rung for a few terse seconds until the Minister spoke. "But you have not answered my question Mr Potter. Did Marjorie Dursley abuse you or not, Harry?"
Harry shook his head.
"No? Speak, boy. So we can hear you."
"No, she didn't."
The minister seemed amused. "However, is not suffocating you another sort of abuse Mr. Potter? If she had treated you like this, wouldn't it be natural for you to seek perhaps, revenge to answer to her actions?"
"But I wouldn't kill her! I swear!"
Harry struggled against his bindings and bowed his head. From above, the reporters were having a field day while more and more people sympathized with the boy.
"However, she is dead now Mr. Potter. There is no changing that fact, and thus you have to accept the fact that you have indeed murdered Marjorie Dursley."
Uproar came from the stands, and the Aurors were forced to brandish their wands and shoot sparks at the ceiling, chasing the noise away.
"I- I m-murdered… Aunt Marge?"
Hermione had to pity the small voice that Harry used and she gripped Ron's hand into her own. For a moment, Harry looked absolutely defeated, his green eyes dull, hair matted and unwashed, and skin pale and unhealthy looking. For that moment, he looked as if he had lived a hundred years, and the bandages peeking out from under his shirtsleeves seemed hostile and over-white, displaying to the world all of Harry's weaknesses.
The moment passed, and Harry looked up at the Minister, his eyes alight with righteous fire.
"No. She deserved it."
"Harry!" Dumbledore discretely hissed.
Harry met the minister's eyes. "Anyone would have done the same. Even if I had wanted to kill her years ago, I wouldn't have done it if she hadn't been trying to kill me."
It was as if at that moment, he was back into that corner, his wand far from his reach and all he could think of was how he didn't want to die at the hands of the woman who had insulted his parents. No.
"I didn't mean it." Harry started thrashing around. Anger rose, swift and destructive, overriding even the desperate feeling of hopelessness and the bars around him started to swing and groan.
"I didn't… I didn't."
Dumbledore chose that moment to intervene. "I believe that the boy was only acting in his own defence. There have been several cases in the past that a similar thing has happened."
The minister frowned. "But never before has anyone died. I am not even sure that Marjorie Dursley was attempting to kill the boy that day. We have no witness, no proof that the boy is in fact telling the truth."
"Then why not submit him to veritaserum? The accused has the right to use it, if I'm not mistaken."
The Wizengamot seemed appalled at the idea. "Surely you would not force a child to drink such a potion when he is not even of age, Albus." Fudge challenged.
"If that is what it takes to prove to you that this boy is innocent then I have no qualms about this decision."
The Minister contemplated the situation pensively.
Dolores chose that moment to clear her throat. "Hem hem." The toad like woman stood up and gave Harry a sickly sweet smile before doing the same to Dumbledore, who remained unflappable.
"It has come to my knowledge that it was you, Albus Dumbledore, who entrusted the boy to his muggle relatives with prior knowledge that they would have loathed any semblance of magic, and thus the boy. You knew of the abuse Mr. Potter was suffering but you neither helped him nor did you inform anyone else, particularly the ministry, of what was happening.
"If you were truly concerned about the boy, you would have done something before this happened. Your inadequacy and lack of morals astounds me. Now you want to submit this boy to veritaserum, without any care for the unpleasant side-effects, which I'm sure, would not sit well with his present condition."
"That was unnecessary, Dolores." Fudge said, but inwardly pleased that Dolores had mentioned that small detail. Dumbledore shot him a scathing look, but quickly slipped a kinder expression on his face.
"The condition that would have been prevented if the ministry had properly taken care of him.
"And yet-" Dumbledore started once more, "Here you say to me that I am inadequate, that I lack morals when you," He continued. "-grown men and women, locked a child in prison, Azkaban of all places, when the law clearly states that such a happenstance would only be possible if and when the person in question is a criminal, who has been proven guilty by the Wizengamot." He raised his eyes, challenging the Minister for a rebuke. "Or was that law changed, the few days I had been suspended from my Position, Cornelius?"
He, in the middle of his question, had stood up and now, had a solemn look on his face. "The decisions I have made proved to be the safest," Dolores huffed at this. "-for this young lad, and were made in his best interest. Again, as I've said, Cornelius, whatever the boy has confessed, I am sure, is nothing but the truth, and to prove that fact, I have suggested veritaserum."
"How would you consider it safe, when for years, this boy was treated like a slave!"
Harry flinched at the degrading comment. He was not a slave. Never. It was as if something had clamped on his throat, preventing him from speaking.
"He was safest there, for I myself have placed blood wards, which I'm sure, would ward against anyone who had the intention of harming him."
"A blood ward, you say." The minister considered the valuable piece of information… a minor glitch in his plans.
The woman to the minister's right then clicked her tongue and adjusted her monocles. "I tire of this babbling. We have no choice but to use the serum, otherwise subject him to a wizard's oath."
She cleared her throat. "The decision is yours, Mr Potter. Would you allow the use of veritaserum, which will force the truth out of your mouth? Despite the fact that your body might react badly to the potion?"
Harry was looking at Albus, and there they were, the voices. Albus Dumbledore was the reason why he had been locked in the cupboard under the stairs, he already knew that. But for a blood ward… He turned back to Amelia, and gave a nod to Fudge.
"Whether the boy is lying or telling the truth, we will find out soon enough.
"Veritaserum it is."
The court proceeded to interrogate the boy. Harry just counted himself lucky that he knew what to expect, having already experienced such a violation –for there truly was no other word for that vile potion– of his privacy. When all questions had been laid out and answered, a surprising amount of disgusting facts were left out in the open. It was only with Dumbledore's interference that Harry was able to go through the trial, still preserving most of his secrets. The Congress took a small break and Harry's cage lowered itself down to the ground.
It was rather obvious that the Harry had strained himself, now deathly pale and shivering.
The Aurors pointed their wand on the shackles and bounds that held him in place and started removing them.
"Harry, my boy." Dumbledore offered him the antidote and Harry drank it without question.
"Is there anything you'd like to tell me, Harry?" Harry dropped the glass vial and it shattered on the floor. He forced his shaking fingers to still, clenching them into fists.
Harry turned his head away.
"The blood wards… what are they for?"
Dumbledore sighed. "This is neither the place nor time. You must-"
Harry cut him off with an empty laugh. "And when would you explain this to me? Why is it that I'm never told anything, even if it concerns me?"
The Aurors finished removing the binds. Dumbledore laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Don't touch me!" Harry hissed with a jerk, as if the mere touch of Dumbledore's fingers scalded him. Contempt ran across his mind, and though part of him realized that he should be ashamed for acting that way around Dumbledore, he couldn't bring himself to actually feel the emotion. Harry tried to inch away, ignoring the man and sinking even farther within himself.
"You… you want to save me, right Professor?"
Harry had wanted to add the word 'please' somewhere, but his pride stopped him. Dumbledore furrowed his brow at the bizarre question. Once more, there was the overwhelming sensation that Harry was decades older than he was in reality. For one instant, he sounded like a desperate, dying man. Dumbledore hesitated, barely, before telling the boy to look at him in the eye. He wanted to know.
Harry stopped moving altogether. What Dumbledore found was chilling. Harry's mind was a twisted reality, frozen and snow-blanketed, yet ravaged by fire and the tortured screams of a war-torn soul. In the heavens, the shattered remains of a great work of art floated. The glass was fragile and the beautiful order of things seemed to have been run over by a vehement storm. Suspicion rose within Dumbledore as he recalled the paradise the boy's mind had once been.
The flowers that had once bloomed and the trees that had been full of life were now all dead, crumbling at the gentlest of touches. The moon was red, flooding the scene with crimson light that touched everything save a small bed near a frozen pond, upon which a small photo album rested. He could not see anything else, except for a thick white fog that sunk the rest of Harry's mind into nothingness.
The thoughts were haphazardly strewn, and with luck, he found one that the boy had been vehemently screaming.
"I've done it before, but it's all because of-" Dumbledore probed further, but found the thoughts cut down, making it near-impossible to make sense of anything. "Must never-"
A momentary flash of red was all that Dumbledore saw before he was violently wrenched out of the confines of the boy's desecrated mind.
Harry staggered and felt a sharp pain in his chest.
Being naughty are we Harry?
I'm sorry Tom! I'm sorry… Please! I… I- I didn't mean it! I swear! Pain followed this. It started at his heart and spread out across his body, forcing him to choke back a scream.
Oh, I'm sure you didn't mean it, Harry, but I have told you that what you've done has not left me the slightest bit pleased. I'm going to let you go, but don't be relieved, foolish child, there's more to come. Harry found himself surrounded by a heavy blanket of comfort and then the intoxicating feel of what was Tom.
"I-" He staggered.
I will see you soon, Harry.
Then he was gone.
He flinched, when a hand attempted to help him. All he could feel was a painful combination of hollow emptiness and frustration. There was Dumbledore, who was looking away from him, and countless of bodies, eyes.
"Mr. Potter?" Harry blinked. The medi-witches started checking his vitals. He batted them away, more intent on leaving the place, away from all the stares. The effort was wasted, because the moment he moved, the world tipped treacherously. He was too weak to resist when the Auror- Matthew? He actually didn't know. – pulled him back.
Colours overtook his vision, churning and eddying sickening. Despite this, Harry was thankful he was seeing something besides white. His mind flashed to waking up in the hospital, where everything was a hostile, impersonal white. Seeing his heart beating beneath the ruined layer of skin, valiantly working while being prodded by wands. Wands moving inside his body. And spells. Myriads of them.
Dumbledore followed behind him, cautiously, having reached a disturbing conclusion.
"Harry! God, I was so scared!"
Hermione wrapped her arms around him.
Harry gasped. "Hermione?"
"How are you feeling?" Hermione asked- the obvious question.
"Would you believe me if I said I was alright?" Hermione chuckled then, and Ron joined her. Pretty soon, Mrs. Weasley's arms were around him, telling him how much she wanted to jinx the Minister for doing this to a sweet boy like him. It was Mrs. Weasley, right? Harry could distinguish nothing. Everything was just a blur of colours and sounds.
Harry was torn away from the gathering by one of the Aurors.
"Don't push me like that!" He growled, but the Aurors around him only laughed. He stumbled for a moment before trying to help himself to his feet. "There's something wrong with me…" he began, and then promptly started coughing up blood.
"This is bad, we should take him back!"
Harry was unaware of the spectacle he was making of himself. All he knew was that the camera flashes practically blinded him. Then that noise! His head ached so much.
"Harry!" Someone shrieking out his name was the last thing he heard before he doubled over in pain. Familiar blackness rose up around him, taking up everything, even though he wanted to stay.
"You're taking him back there! Let us come with him, please!" Hermione pleaded, and the medi-witches told her to go to room 0164, before whisking the boy away, casting a Mobliocorpus charm.
The Aurors who had accompanied him to the court room led him back outside with haste, apparating back to St. Mungo's. Dumbledore joined his staff, immersed in thoughts of the disturbing state of Harry's mind.
Many had thought that being Harry Potter was all fame, glory, and power. They all failed recognize the less than appealing loss of parents, becoming an orphan. He had lived when others hadn't, a cursed scar on his forehead, and a permanent label– a hero…
They had agreed that it was only fitting to leave the child's care to Albus Dumbledore, defeater of the Dark Lord, Grindelwald. The boy who vanquished He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was safe, coddled with warmth and joy and a family that was all too willing to have him.
This was not the reality of the situation. Countless people questioned Albus Dumbledore's sanity when he declared abuse as being the 'safest' choice for the boy. Wards, he said. It was true that wards were more effective if you had some sort of connection, especially by blood, or magic, or emotion. Whether or not the ward had been worth it was still under debate.
The muggle woman had insulted the young boy's parentage, and, of course, who wouldn't have retaliated? Dumbledore's decision resulted in the death of Marjorie Dursley.
Revealing these facts left no one in doubt of what the verdict would be – anything other than freedom would have resulted in a bloody rampage.
"There's something wrong about this, Ron." Hermione found herself fidgeting. "Don't you think, Harry… he's been acting sort of weird… No… I'm not saying now. Since before? Didn't you notice?"
Ron glanced back at the doors. He was too shocked to speak.
Draco was a ball of excitement, but he didn't allow it to show on his face. This was the moment he'd been waiting for.
The hand of the clock struck three. The court room was full once more.
Harry had been enerverated, his face unnaturally pale and his head lolling to the side.
"Given the evidence at hand, and the severity of such actions, the verdict for the accused is guilty." More than half of the people in the stands stood up and shouted their disagreement.
"How can you say that?"
"You mindless buffoons!"
"Yeah! You can't do this to him!"
Albus was surprised, having been fairly confident that the minister would not risk the public violently protesting a guilty verdict. The minister smiled thinly and waved his hand, signalling the Aurors to shoot sparks at the ceiling. The minister pointed his wand onto his throat and muttered the Sonorous charm once more.
"Harry Potter is guilty of all charges, however, let me finish." He tapped the podium and coughed.
"We believe that his imprisonment in Azkaban is punishment enough." Amelia smiled serenely. "Time served."
The crowd seemed appeased at this but a lot was still shouting incredulities. That the boy wasn't guilty and the ministry were a bunch of faggots.
"The boy, however, shall provide seventy-two hours of community service, along with a necessary change of guardians. Lucius Malfoy had been generous to offer such, abiding by Article fifteen, section five, page seventy-four of the International Confederation of Wizard's Book of Charters, 1745."
Albus saw the pieces come together and fought the growing idea inside his head.
"You cannot just hand the boy to whomever you chose, Cornelius! The child should sign the Magical Contract-"
"Which I can procure whenever I wish, Albus. Harry Potter, until he finds himself a suitable guardian that the ministry would approve of, will be placed under the care of Lucius Malfoy, for you have proven yourself unsuitable. His muggle relatives? Terribly so."
Albus knew that it wasn't within the Minister's power to decide, but with the whole Wizengamot against him, and Harry, he knew, certainly against whatever he originally had had in mind, it was a lost cause. The suspicion he had rose. Harry couldn't have signed that contract.
"I declare this trial finished. Mr. Potter, you are free to go."
The minister revelled in his small triumph, but his smile wore thin at the chaos that followed.
"You must have bribed your way Malfoy! No one in their right mind would think of giving Harry to you. Death Eater scum!" Arthur shouted. Molly stood behind him, tears in her eyes. Cameras flashed everywhere and arguments broke out above the stands.
"Is that an accusation I hear, you blood traitor?"
Lucius stood up and gave Arthur a look, ignoring the glares that were aimed at him. Draco followed suit. The young boy sneered.
"Well, at least my family has the means to bribe our way in, even though we didn't. It was no wonder your family was rejected. You can barely feed the children that you have."
Ron's face reddened. He rushed forward and growled. "You take that back Malfoy!"
Lucius murmured something and pushed his way out of the throng of people, not before brushing invisible flecks of dirt off his robes. Someone fired a curse.
Dumbledore looked at Harry, who seemed to have disappeared, replaced by a lifeless shell. Was he… dead? The mark! Sirius Black… And this… Malfoy, signing the contract. Harry Potter would never have done do that.
Only one person was ingenious enough to have orchestrated such a farce without him suspecting until the very end. Had he truly returned? Harry was in grave danger. Something had to be done.
Sonia Merle Wenlock adjusted her frizzy hair, successfully having escaped the chamber- with the help of the ministry's kind Aurors- and soothed the sting on her arm. As expected, the decision had been met with outrage. Many people complained that Lucius Malfoy was a Death Eater. Others thought that the whole situation proved that Lucius Malfoy was truly innocent- since the man had been rumoured to bribe his way out of Death Eater accusations- being more active with his charity works and liberal amounts of galleons put into the Ministry funds.
The decision was final however and for now, it was their victory. She sighed, fingering the black sphere in her pocket. Sonia Merle Wenlock. She laughed. All the Wenlocks were dead.
Vanishing into an alcove, she activated the portkey. Landing abruptly, she waved her hand around her person, grinning when the uncomfortable layer of spells were finally taken off. She kneeled in front of Him, still unable to believe how it had all happened, but found herself not caring because she was thoroughly enjoying herself.
A chorus of voices joined, and Tom Riddle, who was slowly fingering a yew wand, indulged everyone with a pleased smirk. He let waves of his magic work its way amongst his followers and stood pleased when they bowed themselves into submission. He had finally removed Harry from the clutches of the manipulative old codger, and he would see to it that the boy's trust would wane, until it was clear that he was the only choice Harry had.
He was sure that at some point, he had given himself away, but there was no proof, unless Dumbledore was willing to forcibly enter Harry's mind once more. Seeing such a thought as insignificant, he thought about other matters, like how the retrieval of his older self had gone, and their catch in Wadspurt. He waved his hand and motioned for his death eaters to stand. "Bring in the prisoners!"
A line of naked men and women were paraded in front of him. He eyed one in particular. The mudlood Auror who he'd reckoned was named, Tonks.
Revenge was sweet, but it could always get sweeter.
I got the quotation from Bertrand Russell. It seems to fit. Anyways, act 1 is finally finished… with, yes, I blink and stare stupidly at the monitor, another humongous word count. My longest chapter isn't beaten yet though, which amounts to 12-13k (edit: almost 16k now x3), but still. You've got admit, it's difficult to finish a trial without cutting some scenes.
Tom has his wand back! (Hyperventilates)... No, Wenlock isn't an OC but maybe she is, since she's supposedly Jugson.
ANYWAYS - thank you to loneangel1016 who helped me sort through my thoughts for this chapter. And thank you to Crim for her wonderful betaing – kukuku
If you have any other questions, or suggestions, or criticisms (I'd like more of that actually), feel free to click that violet button and type a review
Word count: (approx) 8641
Draft started: May 10, 2008
Draft finished: May 30, 2008
Revised: June 26, 2008