"Double Jeopardy: The Department of Justice v. Harry Potter"
By Jordan "BluntJoey" Adorno
"But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!"- Amos 5:24
Author's Note: This is Alternate Universe as it includes everything up to Harry's trial in the Ministry in August of 1995, which is in Book Five. After that it is completely different.
PART ONE: Harry Potter still could not believe that yet again he was falsely accused of a crime. In August, Harry overturned his expulsion from Hogwarts by exonerating himself of a wrongful underage magic charge, but only thanks to the help of Albus Dumbledore and Arabella Figg. This time matters were, to say the least, exceedingly more difficult. Harry's entire life, not just his education, was at permanent risk unbelievably only three months later – in criminal court this time! On this very day, November first in fact, Harry's trial had officially left its preliminary stages, and now he was testifying in his own defense. In other words, Harry was seizing his best chance to exonerate himself yet again, this time of a far, FAR severer false charge: surreal as it was, Harry was really on trial for the first-degree murder of -
In truth, Harry had been forced to act in self-defense, because otherwise Snape would have murdered him, just as Snape had unquestionably premeditated it. But Snape, unsurprisingly perverted with arrogance, had underestimated Harry's abilities...
Right now, though, bothering Harry were the potential repercussions of egregious public slander, namely from the Daily Prophet. No one had forgotten Rita Skeeter's exploited articles painting Harry as "deranged", especially since the latest 'Prophet' slanders - that Harry killed Snape and vindictively blamed He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named for "attention" - recap convincingly. That alone, at least in Harry's mind, made an acquittal a slim-to-none chance...
'Probably I'll be sent to Azkaban for life next week, imprisoned by Dementors forever,' Harry kept dreading; automatically though, he then always tried scolding himself by remembering, 'No, I can't think like that right now, have to be hopeful somehow...'
Crucially, Harry Potter was moments away from the cross-examination of Dolores Umbridge, having first been interrogated on the stand by his defense attorney. And despite that she was a short and toad-like, somewhat elderly woman, Umbridge was greatly intimidating: for five years now Umbridge had been the incumbent Senior Undersecretary to the Minister, and for ten years now she'd been the incumbent Elite Prosecutor to the Minister, too. Needlessly said, this made her presence powerful. And although he'd confronted her wits in August - she'd voted to expel him after speaking out against him - it wasn't much help in making expectations. Obviously no prosecutor alive would favor Harry, the defendant, while trial was in session.
Uncertainties withstanding, on the other hand Albus Dumbledore himself was Harry's defense attorney, and Amelia Bones, who'd voted in Harry's favor in August, was the trial judge. At the very least, Harry felt pretty sure that in Bones' respect he could expect fairness, whereas in Dumbledore's he could positively expect utter brilliance, no doubt. Still, finalizing in Harry's afterthoughts was an uncomfortable feeling that it was just a little too spooky how these three figures were once again crucial instruments in determining his fate...
Misfortunately, already Judge Bones had ruled once in his disfavor by banning Veritaserum. She robustly explained, "Veritaserum is inappropriate in your trial, Mr. Potter, because the truth as you perceive it may hold you guilty or innocent subjectively. The letter of the law is all that matters in this courtroom, mind all of you. Therefore Veritaserum, which has a five percent inaccuracy rate to begin with, cannot be presented at trial." This had been her final ruling three days ago after not much deliberation. Both Harry and Umbridge had looked equably dismayed at the time, and he couldn't help feeling a little worried about judicial prejudice. Upliftingly, though, Dumbledore told Harry afterward that Bones' ruling indicated no bias; apparently Veritaserum was almost always inadmissible when defendants claimed self-defense. This made him feel much better about it.
Regardless, now at this beginning hour, Bones, Umbridge, and Dumbledore must work to ensure a unanimous verdict on Harry's behalf: as legalistic, twelve everyday witches and wizards, randomly selected by the Ministry of Magic, comprised the trial's jury, whom as a collective would standby and witness the trial in order to determine Harry's fate thereafter. Unfortunately, in Harry's mind a 'jury of his peers' right now meant twelve biased people who'd most certainly at least heard the slander about him – if they hadn't kept up with it themselves, that is!
But regardless of all indeterminable factors, it was paramount Harry's testimony compelled a "not guilty" verdict from the jury. At all costs, therefore, Harry planned on staying immune to Umbridge no matter what she had up her sleeve...
Harry held himself together as Umbridge cleared her throat and stepped several feet toward him. Once she was within ten feet, in her girlish voice Umbridge calmly said, "Harry James Potter, could you please tell us how you knew the victim, Severus Snape?"
Harry gulped harshly, clarifying nervously, "He was my Potions professor at Hogwarts, but he was NOT a victim at all! He was a co-conspirator of Vol- I mean, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and tried to kill me." He'd almost forgotten Dumbledore's reminder that saying 'Voldemort' would almost certainly offend the jury. But Harry thought he sounded good, confident of his words.
Umbridge smiled condescendingly. "In fact, for a full four years Severus Snape taught you, right Mr. Potter? You'd agree that's a long time to get to know someone, yes?" She spoke quite slyly, intimidating as ever.
Harry nodded silently.
Nodding back evenly, she continued sweetly, "Good. Mr. Potter, please tell the court, then, why you have made up such terrible lies about your professor. What provoked you to murder Mr. Snape, Potter? What did you think of him as your professor? And foremost - specifically, did you think well of his overall character? Remember Potter, you're under oath." Umbridge smiled at Harry arrogantly as she talked him down.
It frustrated Harry how Umbridge spoke like she was outsmarting a spoiled nephew of hers. 'That's a trick question!' Harry panicked mentally, indecisive. 'She's such a snake!'
Dumbledore did not stand for this, interjecting, "Objection: Relevancy! Miss Umbridge wishes to mislead the jury." The Headmaster remained well-composed, although he looked quite perturbed nonetheless.
Very politely, Umbridge reasoned to Judge Amelia Bones, "It goes to explore possible motives, Judge. Potter's opinion of Professor Snape has four years of relevancy."
Judge Bones made a quick decision. "Overruled! Ms. Umbridge is absolutely correct, Headmaster. Please continue with your witness, Ms. Umbridge."
Umbridge nodded graciously. Turning to Harry, she reemphasized herself. "Answer the question, Sir."
Noticing Dumbledore testily twitch, Harry hesitated. Puzzling his thoughts into shape first, he more ably persuaded, "Well, I never doubted that he deserved his 'Potions Master' entitlement. He was an expert of what he professed. But it is also undeniable how especially smudgy, how so totally boisterous, that Snape was toward me. I reckon my other professors would testify in agreement, too, given it was clear to everyone. Several years ago, as a matter of fact, Professor Dumbledore decided to explain to me that my father and Professor Snape were rivals at Hogwarts." Deliberating beforehand, Harry riskily added, "More importantly, though, Snape admitted he was a Death Eater before attempting to kill me. So with that in mind, I'm pretty certain old rivalries were not at issue here. Snape's utmost hatredfor me was the problem."
The jury uttered shocked noises, but Harry saw intrigue in their expressions. Umbridge noticed so too, and mirthlessly laughed as a defensive response. Appearing as though insulted by a ridiculous allegation, and as if speaking to a very small child, Umbridge sharply repudiated, "That's a poor lie, Potter. Professor Snape was never investigated for such activity in his many, many years at Hogwarts. Snape wasn't conspiring harm against you, young man! No, it is a childish resentment for a strict teacher that became your motive to murder Professor Snape. That's all we're here for, Potter, nothing more."
Harry glared furiously at her. He truly saw himself exploding from frustration before this ended. (This reminded him Umbridge was allowed to cross-examine him for two days!) Nevertheless, Harry fought her slander, refuting, "A poor lie? Please don't speak as though Snape was incapable of such deeds! With all due respects, can I please remind the jury of what circumstances proved he'd turned 'good' after years as a Death Eater!" The jury was entertaining him more than ever as he added cleverly, "Snape escaped punishment by coercing the only person You-Know-Who fears even today: Albus Dumbledore, my defender, who accepts now that Snape misled him all these years."
After Harry finished his compelling elaboration, Umbridge looked rather self-defeated, given she had opened the door for Harry herself. Enthused, Harry smiled at Umbridge more confidently, and enjoyed her glowering look of frustration in response. Harry had made the jurors listen to his words closely, and as proof of its danger, Umbridge's nice tone slipped just slightly as she followed this up contentiously. She remarked, "And why don't YOU, Mr. Potter, remind the jury that Mr. Snape passed pivotal information to our side that saved so many lives! He no doubt earned Minister Fudge's pardon that waived all criminal charges."
Umbridge was doing her best, her tone no less condescending, but she could not withstand the compelling sight of Albus Dumbledore fighting for Harry. It was like a smoking gun, almost anyway, as it kept the jury constantly reminded of Harry's persuasive words...
PART TWO: Regardless of Harry's slight upper-hand, nonetheless Umbridge managed to alarm him by swiftly changing the subject: randomly following some forgettable question, Umbridge plainly announced, "Alas, I move to discuss the night of the murder."
Effectively, Harry felt shock emanate all over his face as Judge Bones nodded approvingly. While he instantly faked passiveness again, Umbridge looked satisfied; she appropriately turned serious, no longer smiling, as to fit with the grim conversation. Reproachfully, Umbridge asked, "Mr. Potter, can you explain why you were inside Professor Snape's office at midnight in the first place?"
Harry sighed with frustration, so tired of repeating himself. "He caught me sneaking back to Gryffindor dormitory, my proper place. I had been with my girlfriend, Cho Chang, after hours and didn't have my Invisibility Cloak."
"So strange how Mr. Snape, acting quite out-of-character notably, happened to be wandering the corridors at that untimely hour, was it not, Mr. Potter?" Umbridge demeaned him, provoking disbelief.
But Dumbledore interfered before Harry could walk into her unavoidable trap, protesting, "Objection: Calls to speculation, Your Honor! Harry cannot answer that without direct access to Snape's thoughts."
This time Judge Bones gave Umbridge a scolding look. Relieving Harry, Bones agreed, "Sustained! You know better, Ms. Umbridge."
Umbridge made no attempt at a back-up plan. Instead, she actually apologized. "I stand corrected, pardon me. Anyhow, Potter, answer instead whether Snape appeared perfectly normal," she cleverly rephrased.
Harry, less hesitant, plainly admitted, "He acted like he would ordinarily, the smart option obviously." He felt good about his going about it, logically adding, "Wouldn't you expect him to behave inconspicuously, though? Honestly, Snape needed to lure me somewhere private to execute me, no doubt. Would YOU think it'd be wise to behave strangely, if it were you?"
Umbridge looked almost resigned, returning a fake smile that concealed discontentment. She paused, critically in thought for a moment as she regained her self-driving strength back to start. Only then did Umbridge confidently rebuff, "Aha - tell me, Potter, are you here as a truthful witness for the jury to consider, or as an imaginative storyteller?" Quickly laughing, Umbridge swiftly changed topics. "Now, try to be truthful, Mr. Potter: You allege that Snape escorted you to his office to schedule your detention, isn't that right?"
"Yes," Harry sounded at best half-patient.
"And then Professor Snape, as you relay it, actually attacked you the moment you stepped into his office. Correct?" Umbridge inquired doubtfully, confident, and as though she asked Harry about his imaginary friend.
Coolly, Harry gulped and repeated, "Yes."
"And what spell did he use? Surely you wouldn't have your wand equipped at the time, right Mr. Potter?" Umbridge asked suspiciously. She was desperate to discredit Harry, saying, "And likewise, Harry, you didn't notice him take out or aim his wand before his "surprise attack" upon you?"
"No, Snape hadn't turned on the lights. And it was the Cruciatus Curse that he unsuccessfully used, to be specific." His cool tone riveted the attention of the audience, his words becoming almost palpable.
Everyone in the courtroom let out a slight yelp or murmur of shock, causing Judge Bones' threatening warning. "Remain silent or I will clear the courtroom of everyone except the jury!"
Umbridge tried appearing unaffected by Harry's revelation, and inquired dryly, "Are you aware that Hogwarts' protection enchantments ensure the Ministry is notified if an Unforgivable Curse is used on its grounds?" Umbridge knew this fact could be disastrous to Harry's credibility, and coincidentally was able to use it with perfect timing.
"Yes, of course I know about that. But Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt found evidence that dark magic had made that protection dysfunctional. That's why the Ministry wasn't alerted-" Harry retorted defensively, assured.
Umbridge shook her head dismissively, interrupting his speech by correcting strongly, "That was speculated in an investigative report two days after the fact. The original report, conducted by Aurors just two hoursafter the fact, mentioned nothing of the sort." Pausing to let this hang in the air, Umbridge cornered him a moment later, patronizingly asking, "Why do YOUthink it was not in the original report, Harry? Hmm, Potter? Enlighten us." The coldhearted bitch smile wide and condescendingly straight at him, but only after passing a quick, pronouncedly reaching glance at the jury.
"Because Goyle was the lead investigator-and he is a Death Eater! That's why the report was tainted!" Harry exclaimed in frustration. Calming, he explained moreover, "But when Kingsley Shacklebolt, a well-acclaimed Auror, re-investigated the crime scene, dark magic was evident."
Umbridge, sensing danger, let out a loud laugh that nearly echoed throughout the courtroom. With utter disbelief, she indignantly said, "And you are qualified to make such an outrageous accusation?"
Indignant as ever, Harry started to fire back, "I'm literate for Merlin's—"
But Dumbledore stood up from his bench to interrupt Harry in mid-sentence importantly: the Headmaster motioned a plea to Judge Bones that, if honored, would be game-changing. "Your Honor, I move to temporarily suspend the People's cross-examination of Harry Potter. In justice's interest, it would be best if Mr. Potter returned to the stand after Kingsley Shacklebolt clarifies these details."
Umbridge rejected this motion completely, saying loudly, "He is merely trying to stop his client, who is very close to committing perjury!"
"Approach!" overruled Judge Bones in a loud tone. The attorneys did. After a private word with them, Judge Bones announced, "I have to consider Mr. Potter's right to a fair trial in my decision making. With that in mind, I feel that in order to avoid confusing the jury, it is best to hear first from Auror Shacklebolt himself. Therefore, I hereby grant the Defense's motion." She sounded objective as ever, unemotionally instructing, "Harry Potter, please step down from the witness stand. Now, given that Shacklebolt is not currently present, we are adjourned for today."
Harry was very grateful to be relieved of all the back-and-forth arguing. But he soon felt equally overwhelmed by this curious change, too. It was actually very specially invoked, as he would learn from Dumbledore, for suspending witness testimonies temporarily was generally exceptional to wizarding courtrooms; he also intrigued Harry, too, by noting that outside this apparently crucial discrepancy, the Muggle justice system was very similar. Thus, with this fact at mind, Harry already was beyond intrigued about Shacklebolt testifying tomorrow...
As it turned out, Harry's testimony would, given circumstantial complications, be further delayed: once Shacklebolt spoke in Harry's favor, Bones decided it was only fair that Goyle testified consecutively. This was interesting, for when first called upon by Umbridge, Goyle submitted well-versed answers. But Dumbledore's cross-examination of Goyle was so inflammatory: prior Death Eater activity - proved with corroborating witnesses and self-incriminatory past actions - was easier than ever for Dumbledore to utilize. Umbridge had thought Judge Bones would rule such allegations as prejudicial, but was sadly mistaken only a week ago at Bones' ruling: citing that Goyle was never tried in criminal court, his history wasn't a legal obstacle because Goyle's dark past was news in a court of law. Needlessly said, Umbridge was devastated to see Dumbledore ruin one of her vital witnesses with evidence of a VERY dark past, which discredited Goyle completely...
Character witnesses for both sides testified after the two Aurors consecutively. By Day Five, understandably Harry felt like a century had passed by, and wanted nothing more than to hear whichever juror was forefront announce, "Not guilty!" But the odds against a favorable verdict made him ambivalent about the trial's dragging length, surprisingly; what if the jury sent him to Azkaban to serve life (which today would be a big factor in, actually), and he was doomed to the incarceration of countless Dementors? Nonetheless, today three experts on forensic magic - St. Mungo's best healer and two top scientists - were testifying today. Neither side felt fully assured about it, as these witnesses were impersonal and totally detached emotionally. They were there to explain the forensics by using their advance knowledge.
Time, overly-suspenseful in its ticking, alone would tell...
But to Umbridge's apparent shock, the refreshing experts did NOT vilify Harry: their consistent testimonies firstly reminded the jury of Harry's injuries from the scene; secondly, they explained Harry's chosen spell didn't fit a case of premeditated murderer; thirdly, in disfavor to Harry, they noted the struggle at the scene was excessively violent, rougher than most self-defense acts. But overall, Harry found their opinions more favorable than not to his defense.
His positivity increased as the day ended, and on day six, Harry unexpectedly awoke with a good feeling about the way the trial's affairs were going. Nonetheless, it was frustrating for Harry how the day was wasted by more character witnesses from both sides, who just seemed to cancel out each other. The jury, rather distracted, was preoccupied with tomorrow for two central reasons: yes, finally they were returning home, but in addition, every single juror was quite anxious to see Harry return to the stand: Subconsciously, the jury absolutely needed Harry to tip the balance whichever way before their decision making could take accurate form -
Finally, alas, tomorrow Harry's every word would play a pertinent role in determining the fate of his life...
PART THREE: Harry was absolutely mind-blown when he took the witness stand the next day, because the anxiety, the apprehension, all of it felt ten times more unnerving than before. The number of reporters allowed inside the courtroom was much greater today since the trial was ending. It wasn't stage fright exactly that disturbed his senses, but rather a tricky feeling like the trial was starting all over again...
But time proceeded regardless: Umbridge walked toward him in cheery form, specially daunting him. In her condescending, annoying girlish tone, she comfortably restarted, postulating, "With the forensics now clear as ever, I am thrilled to return to our little chat, Potter, so tell us everything! How did Snape situate you into uncompromising, life-threatening danger, Mr. Potter? Take note that degree of danger is the requirement to justify self-defense under the law."
Hearing her deceptive emphasis on 'life-threatening', Harry concisely recollected, "Snape tried hitting me with the Cruciatus Curse a second time, but I dodged again. Then in a brief second I pulled my wand out and swiftly disarmed him, luckily. Given his wand was somewhere lost in the dark, Snape panicked, and reached for objects off his shelf, which he threw at me." Harry took a deep breath, concentrating hard on painting a picture. "He threw a snow globe that hit my forehead hard. Seeing me flinch, he slyly found his wand and re-equipped it fast." Harry paused, taking a recuperative deep breath; admittedly tear-eyed, Harry finished passionately, "That's when I almost died. Snape was mid-sentence in uttering 'Avada Kedavra' when I, thankfully a second ahead, uttered the first spell that came to mind, 'Incendio', which effectively set his robes on fire. Snape ended up losing balance while trying to put out the fire on his robes, and fell back hard against his bookshelf ... And then the entire shelf fell forward and crushed his entire body, unfortunately. But I didn't mean for it to be deadly, honest! I was going to either die or defend myself - please, you have to believe me!" Harry was barely keeping it together, but his candidness made his desperation sound honest as ever.
Climatically, in the eyes of the jury the cross-examination basically ended here. Umbridge quickly sensed their impatience to deliberate a verdict, and rested shortly thereafter. Still, Dolores Umbridge kept casting an intense, doubtful look at Harry as she returned to the People's bench...
Exactly twelve minutes later Judge Bones announced the beginning of Closing Arguments. Harry hadn't given too much thought to this aspect of the trial prior to now, precluding that post all the evidentiary showdowns there would be only a minor opportunity at that point to sway the jury's mind. Nonetheless, the consistently enthralling, all-manipulative sound of Umbridge's voice as she linearly lined-up the events of Snape's death in such a way that incriminated him made Harry very much feel that he'd underestimated the importance of Closing Arguments!
Still, as Dumbledore stood up and presented the Defense's Closing Arguments, much solace went through Harry's mind, for the compelling words and tone of Albus Dumbledore could not possibly be disregarded, at least not entirely, nor [hopefully] even halfway ignored — well, such was so if the rest of the trial was any indication of their trust in the Hogwarts Headmaster, anyway; the only way the jury's previous, transparent trustful regard toward Dumbledore each time he spoke could've vanished was if the defendant's "guilt" had begun to seem beyond obvious to them. Harry Potter, the forlornly innocent man on trial today, could only hope that Umbridge had not succeeded in making that kind of devastating damage work; he could only hope, in other words, that all the defamation and persecution that he'd suffered would appear correctly to the jury, appear to be a falsely pursued promulgation on the Prosecution's part, as was the truth...
Minutes thereafter, Harry half-lucidly heard the jury be excused to deliberate their verdict, and then fell into a dizzy, anxious daze. Harry, upon seeing them return, unsurprisingly thought they'd left just moments ago, although two hours had actually passed by. After all, he'd only been brought back to awareness because Dumbledore urgently patted his shoulder, scolding, "HARRY! Awake yourself, now!"
Harry, mortified that he'd drifted into his reverie, was nonetheless just in time to hear Judge Bones address him. She ordered perfunctorily, "Will the defendant please rise?" Both he and Dumbledore complied.
This was it, the culmination, the critical hour when the jury would announce his fate. Consequentially, Harry's chest and stomach wrenched in pain while a migraine nearly exploded his head. Harry felt like he was going to vomit as he faintly heard Judge Bones inquire, "Has the jury unanimously reached a verdict?"
From the sidelines, the jury, the all-pertinent, all-deciding third-party variable here, had spectated Harry's trial for a week. Mentally, Harry had always conceived them as a unit, never as individuals. And so, Harry was struck aback when the forefront juror, a middle-age, tall blonde witch, rose before Bones and loudly answered, "We have, Your Honor."
Harry felt so agitated by all these prolonging regulations, beyond anxious about the verdict —
Judge Bones nodded, explicitly noting, "If any member of the jury wishes to defy their original opinion, speak now." After a few moments passed silently, Bones asked them the ultimate, suspenseful question. "On the sole count of first-degree murder, how do you find the defendant, Mr. Harry James Potter?"
Harry felt more petrified than he'd ever imagined was possible as he waited a second longer...
Monumentally, the jury front-woman dispassionately iterated, "We find the defendant, Mr. Harry James Potter, not guilty in the interest of justice. The People have failed to beat the burden of reasonable doubt, Your Honor."
Harry thought he would die from elation as the bliss of vindication radiated every part of him. Upon those simple, plainly read words, justice had just defeated ignorance for Harry Potter once again! How lucky he was, and how extraordinary, too, for winning against two consecutive, falsifying allegations! After all, he, Harry Potter, hereby was a successor of a mutational, twisted form of, well, 'Double Jeopardy'!
Author's Endnote: I'm entertaining the idea of writing a spin-off to this story, in which Harry is tried for the "unjustifiable use of an Unforgivable Curse" following the events of Half-Blood Prince. We'll see.