Disclaimer: Everything belongs to J.K. Rowling and associates. No money is being made from this fanfiction; it is purely for entertainment. So enjoy!
The Poison Tree
Chapter 1 - The Trial of Lucius Malfoy
She threw a filled vase at him when he told her. Harry scarcely dodged the crystal that flew by his head, letting it shatter against the wall behind him and leaving broken roses and water trailing down the wall. "How could you do this to me, Harry?" Hermione shrieked at him. "How could you?"
He held out his hands in earnest supplication. "Hermione, I'm not doing this to you, at all. I'm doing it for them. Narcissa Malfoy saved my life and Lucius Malfoy didn't fight at Hogwarts."
"Only because he had no wand!" she snapped back. "And do you really think she would have helped you if she thought they'd come out on top in all of this?"
"It doesn't matter. She did. She saved my life. I owe her my testimony to that at the very least."
"Saved your life?" she asked incredulously. "They were ready to hand you over to Voldemort!" She was talking about the Manor again. Her mind always seemed to go back there when the Malfoys were brought up.
"But they didn't. Snape used to work for Voldemort, but he changed. "
"The Malfoys are not Snape! Snape betrayed Voldemort to save the wizarding world. The Malfoys betrayed him to save themselves. They don't love anything!"
"They loved their son. Enough to betray Voldemort. He would have killed them for what they did. That counts for something to me." He looked away when he said it, more to himself than to her.
That counted for everything to Harry, she thought bitterly. But Narcissa was not Lily Potter, sacrificing her life for the love of her son. The Malfoys had deliberately put Draco in harm's way by choosing to serve a madman, by having him serve that madman in turn. All they had done was attempt to correct a problem they had caused in the first place. But was that really so different from what James and Lily had done? Choosing to join the Order and fight against Voldemort while they had a baby to protect?
"Fine then!" she snapped. "Tell them to let her off and throw the bastard in Azkaban where he belongs!"
"He says he regrets—"
"Oh, he'll say anything right now!" she said, her voice rising in exasperation. "And as soon as he's out he'll go right back to trying to pass his 'Keep the Mudbloods Out' laws!"
"Hermione, you're being unreasonable."
"You weren't tortured on his drawing room floor!" He was silent after that, watching her with a mixture of hurt and disappointment in his eyes. The sound of her laboured breathing hitching with tears was loud between them. That's what it all came down to in the end. It was easy for Harry to forget. He hadn't been laid out before them, watching their greedy nasty faces above her, as she writhed on the floor, Bella screaming crucio after crucio at her. Just because they hadn't cast it didn't make them any less guilty. She still woke screaming at night, that memory, that pain, forever seared into her being, creeping and climbing into every crevice of her mind when she least expected it. Her one consolation had been the thought of seeing the Malfoys sent to Azkaban for their crimes. And to have one of her best friends testify on their behalf... He should have been testifying against them, she thought bitterly, telling the Wizengamot of the torture she suffered at their hands, at how they had planned to hand them over to Voldemort. Her stomach twisted in response at his betrayal.
"I've asked them to reserve a seat for you at the trial," Harry said quietly. "I'll understand if you don't want to come."
Hermione turned away from him, biting back the tears that were springing to her eyes. "Get out, Harry. Just get out."
She didn't see him leave, but heard the quiet click of the door that told her he was gone. And then she hugged herself tightly and cried.
Hermione went to the trial. Her seat wasn't in the back as she'd hoped. Instead, it gave her a full view of the Malfoys and Harry sitting directly behind them. He offered her a weak smile as she sat down. She didn't return it.
Lucius Malfoy sat with his hands clasped in his lap and eyes downcast, looking every bit the chastised and remorseful party. His wife huddled close to his side, long blonde hair loose and sliding gracefully over her shoulders like a shimmering waterfall. Her face was the very picture of beauty and vulnerability. Well, that was a good ploy, Hermione thought bitterly. Use the beautiful wife to gain sympathy. Draco sat behind them, beside Harry. The fear and anxiety on his face was evident. It was real. It was probably the only real emotion among the three of them. She felt a twinge of pity for him.
The new Minister for Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, cleared his throat loudly, indicating that the trial was about to begin. "Step forward, Mr Malfoy." His deep voice boomed around the stone room.
Malfoy rose slowly from his chair, his hand lingering in his wife's for the last possible moment, before he made his way to the center of the room. The luxurious, embroidered robes he normally wore had been replaced by a noticeably cheaper, woollen version. His hands were bare, the whiteness in stark contrast to the black of his robes. They trembled visibly.
"The trial of the Lucius Abraxas Malfoy, of the Wiltshire Malfoys," Shacklebolt said, and the court scribe began taking notes. "On the twenty-first day of July, 1998, for offences of consorting with a dark wizard, murder of Muggles and Muggle-borns, and acts of dark wizardry, including casting Unforgivable Curses.
"Interrogators: Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister for Magic; John Dawlish, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Amanda Puckle, Court Scribe; Witness for the Defence... Harry James Potter," Shacklebolt finished slowly, as if amazed by his own words. He took a long hard look at Harry before turning back to Malfoy. "State your case, Mr Malfoy."
She could see him clearly now, his face pale and thin, his fine features more pronounced. His eyes were anxious and pleading, lips a thin, trembling line on his face. The expression was so at odds with the man she knew, she could scarcely believe they were the same person. "Lords and ladies of the Wizengamot," Malfoy began, "I stand here before you humbled and beaten by circumstance and fate..."
And his voice brought her back, back to that searing pain that tore through her like fire, tearing skin from muscle, muscle from bone, crushing bones to dust, suffocating with unbearable agony…
She shut her eyes, held her breath, and dug her nails into the palms of her hands until that burning memory receded back into its veiled corners.
He was still speaking.
"I stand before you as a father, a husband,"—at this he turned to look at his wife and son—"an invested member of this community, much like yourselves. A man led astray by temptation, by love for his people. I... " He paused. Hermione raised an eyebrow. Dramatic effect? "I am deeply remorseful for my transgressions against my peers. In my misguided support of a madman, I put my family at risk and have caused great harm to this community. My only ambition now is to make amends, to rebuild the wizarding world that we all know and love, to live peacefully with my family."
She resisted the urge to snort. No one could possibly be stupid enough to believe this.
"But know that I am as much victim as perpetrator." And Malfoy stood there now insisting that Voldemort had threatened his family, that he had become a prisoner in his own home, had only followed along in the desperate hope that Voldemort would spare his wife and child, all the while planning to bring about his downfall. If she hadn't seen the cold cruelty in his eyes when he had threatened them in the Department of Mysteries or the callousness he had treated her with when she'd been a prisoner in his home, she might have believed him too. But she had seen his true face, and knew this was just a well-scripted act. It took all her willpower to stay seated rather than leap to her feat and declare him for the liar that he was.
"You have been accused of casting Unforgivable Curses," Shacklebolt said when Malfoy had finished his statement. "How do you answer these charges?"
Malfoy took a breath, then looked directly at Shacklebolt, cool self-assurance written clearly in his eyes. "I have never cast an Unforgivable Curse, Minister. Had I still my wand, I am confident you would have discovered this for yourself. Since I was released from Azkaban by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, I was under house arrest and without a wand. Clearly, you must see that I had neither opportunity nor incentive to commit any crimes."
And here was the problem; Lucius Malfoy no longer had a wand to provide evidence. Priori Incantatem was always performed when a wizard was accused of a crime, and especially so when the crime was casting Unforgivable Curses. It was the strongest evidence one could have. It was virtually unheard of to convict a wizard when there was no wand. When Voldemort had destroyed Lucius Malfoy's wand, he had destroyed all evidence of Malfoy's crimes. He had also, inadvertently, given credibility to his story that he was Voldemort's prisoner rather than an accomplice.
In fact, Hermione half believed him. She didn't doubt he could have managed to perform whatever deeds Voldemort required without using Unforgiveable Curses. That was what sycophants were for. She had heard from her own sources that his previous incarceration in Azkaban had been on shaky grounds, and had only been accomplished out of the rampant fear of Voldemort and anyone associated with him.
"Mr Potter, is there anything you wish to add to Mr Malfoy's defence?" Shacklebolt asked, looking at Harry.
Harry stood and moved to take his place beside Malfoy. "Yes, Minister Shacklebolt. I know this may seem strange to you, but I have reason to defend the Malfoys because of the role they played in the final battle and the role they have played since."
Hermione's heart sank. He was really going to do it. No mention of her or what she had suffered, only how they had helped him to defeat Voldemort, as if the one action cancelled out the other.
"I saw the abuse Mr Malfoy suffered at Voldemort's hands. I heard him pleading to search for his son. He was truly not working for Voldemort when the Battle of Hogwart's began. To Mrs Malfoy, I owe my life. Her deception of Voldemort allowed me to escape and finally defeat him. That battle would have been very different if not for her intervention. I am forever in her debt."
"And you request leniency on Mr Malfoy's behalf?"
"Yes, Minister. As you know, Mr Malfoy has been extremely helpful and cooperative in the investigations of Death Eater activities. I believe he is truly reformed and sincere in his desire to assist the wizarding world in recovering from this tragedy. He has also taken a leadership role in setting an example for other pureblood families to follow. "
So that was it. He had found the right currency to buy favour with Harry. But she was damned if she was going to believe a word of it.
"Thank you, Mr Potter. I am well aware of Mr Malfoy's actions since that fateful day. Please return to your seats. We will take a recess to discuss the evidence and your statements."
Harry returned to his seat, but Malfoy lingered for a moment. And then he turned to her, a ghost of a smile on his lips, and gave a barely perceptible nod in her direction.
She felt her face grow hot with indignation or fear—she couldn't tell which. Her hands were trembling, gripping and ungripping the fabric of her robes in distress. She rose from her seat and nearly ran from the courtroom. Her heart was beating madly by the time she stopped at the end of an empty hallway. How was he able to affect her that way with just a glance? Humiliation rose like bile in her throat. She leaned heavily against the wall, closed her eyes, willing her breaths to calm. She needed to get this under control, to destroy any power he had over her.
Blood turned to ice in her veins. She clutched at the wall to steady herself, and turned slowly to meet his gaze.
Lucius Malfoy stood behind her, standing regally despite his inexpensive garb. There was the glint of a smile in his eyes.
"Miss Granger, I couldn't help but notice your discomfort." That perpetual fluttering of her heart had returned. She tried to control her face, refused to give away her fear to him. Behind him, she noticed an Auror standing a few feet away. But it wasn't as if he could do anything to her here, could he?
"I truly hope I am not the cause of it," he continued.
You bloody well know you are! she screamed silently. Outwardly, she simply glared. He stepped forward, and she stepped back in response.
"Please, allow me to make amends." His voice had lost the humbled and pleading tone he had used in the courtroom. Instead it had returned to that haughty arrogant drawl that was so familiar, that had featured in her dreams night after night. Before she could speak a word, he had snatched up her hand in his. It was surprisingly warm, and only then did she notice that every inch of her skin had gone cold.
"I am deeply grieved for the role that I played in your suffering." She moved to pull her hand from his, but his grip was iron. "I beg you forgive my most reprehensible actions and accept my sincere apologies."
"Let go," she hissed at him, but he held tighter still.
"I assure you I am a reformed man. Now," he murmured, his eyes avoiding hers, "the very thought of that day... haunts my dreams." And suddenly his gaze was fixed onto her with dark intensity. He lifted her hand to his lips and pressed a firm kiss to her knuckles. His lips were moist and warm against her skin, his breath ghosting over her flesh, leaving goosebumps in its wake. He was so close she could smell him.
His hands twisting in her hair, lifting her head. She was breathing in the scent of him, could feel the warmth of his body above her. Her eyes, half-focussed, looked up into icy grey hatred. He turned away. That deep, clipped voice above. "She's still conscious."
Hermione finally ripped her hand from his grasp. "Don't touch me!" It was louder than she had meant it to be, and she heard her voice echo through the hallway.
"Of course. Forgive me, dear girl." The last words lingered on his tongue. "I am being presumptuous." He was smiling at her now, his gaze devouring her.
She knew she was trembling visibly, that her eyes were screaming every terrified emotion at him that she had vowed not to give him. And she couldn't do a damn thing about it.
Malfoy bowed, his eyes never leaving her face, and turned to go.
"Don't think for a moment," she said to his back, steadying her voice with steely determination, "that I believe one word of your false apologies. You may have weaseled your way into Harry's good graces, but I know who you really are."
He stopped and looked over his shoulder at her. "I truly hope so, Miss Granger." And then he was gone in a rustle of sweeping robes.
Hermione sank to the floor, her shoulders shaking with unshed tears. She didn't dare go back into the courtroom.
A/N: Feedback would be greatly appreciated. :)