The Flaw That Allows Evil In

The clock on the wall was tolling the hour; the sound resonated through the Atrium and drowned out the daily din of Apparition, Flooing, and many a conversation. The timepiece was designed to do so, to make itself heard over even the most distracting noises to alert everyone within the Ministry of the time.

Even far below the Atrium, underneath the steady stream of footsteps, the clock's chime called clear as a bell. Those who spent their days holed within the labyrinthine Department of Mysteries had learned to tune out the incessant annoyance; the Unspeakables, unspeakable as their duties may be, chose to regard the peal only twice a day – the signals for the beginning and end of the day's mysterious happenings that only they knew the details of.

Those who spent their time within the cold, marble courtrooms heard nothing from the clock. Thinking it would be an unnecessary distraction, the ten courtrooms – each large enough to hold the Wizengamot two times over – had been secured with a soundproof barrier. They were cut off from the rest of the world.

It was in one of these courtrooms that an Auror stood, twirling his wand around his fingers in agitation. In his other hand he held a manila file – a very worn, tatty thing that was straining at the seams with reports, news clippings, and photographs all collected and viewed several times within the last five years. The snapshot on the cover of the file – which had been secured on with a Permanent Sticking Charm, much to everyone's discomfort – was creased down the centre of the man's face, completely obscuring one of his key defining features. It hardly mattered, really; everyone knew what the photographed man looked like and just what the fold concealed.

The Auror looked up, brow furrowed, as the doors swung open. Another man, slightly shorter than the first yet wearing an equally grim expression, entered the large courtroom and glanced around before his eyes caught sight of the Auror. He swiftly crossed the room and stopped a few paces away from the other man, face somber.

"Good evening, Shacklebolt," the man said quietly, eyes finally falling on the folder in the hands of the Auror. "Though not exactly what one would call good, under the circumstances."

Shacklebolt nodded stiffly. "It's a good thing for us, Minister – for the Wizarding community. It needs to happen. Too many have suffered at his mercy – or lack thereof."

The minister spluttered. "I wasn't – I did not mean to imply – of course it is a good thing for our side in this blasted war! The entire magical population is in a state of panic – people dying, disappearing every day . . . but this may be enough to bring about an end to this."

Shacklebolt said nothing but continued to stare into the grey eyes of the photographed murderer. As he watched, they sparked with a level of deep-routed insanity he'd never seen before nor deemed possible. The light of the camera flash sliced through the manic gleam, intensifying it to an almost inhuman lunacy. The man was bound in tightly-coiled rope and secured to a stiff wooden chair. Despite the confinement, he was grinning sadistically at the camera as if mocking anyone who dared look at the resulting photograph.

Grimacing, Shacklebolt flipped the file over so as not to feel the mad eyes bearing into him. He glanced at the minister, hoping to avoid any further conversation, but the man was not paying him any attention.

Shacklebolt checked his watch and then sighed. The trial would start soon and he was not looking forward to it in the least. As he had told the minister, however, it was a necessary step toward securing the future of Wizarding society.

Without warning, the doors opened to reveal a procession of witches and wizards in plum cloaks. From the group, Shacklebolt found the figures of Albus Dumbledore and Alastor Moody as they took their places in the seats among the other members of the Wizengamot. Dumbledore caught his eye, a sad look on his wizened face. It seemed that he, too, was not going to enjoy the event.

The minister took his place in the middle of the front row, straightening his own robes as he checked the watch on his wrist with an air of impatience. Shacklebolt moved to stand by the door to await the arrival of the accused. It was his unfortunate duty to remain close to the prisoner during the trial to assure that nothing went awry. Every possible precaution was being employed for the convict – no amount of security seemed to be enough. Shacklebolt – as the leading Auror assigned to the case – was given the reins and expected to monitor him throughout his prosecution and onward to Azkaban, where he would surely end up by the end of the day.

"The proceedings are about to begin – he should be arriving shortly," the minister said to the room at large. "Are you ready?"

The thin, bespectacled wizard at the far end of the front bench coughed nervously before nodding, the hand holding his quill shaking slightly. He positioned the quill tip over the parchment and prepared to transcribe the event. The minister grunted in approval before turning to the papers in front of him.

Shacklebolt felt something rush past him like a gust of wind. He whipped around to see the luminous, smoky form of a civet pawing at the foot of the front bench. Shacklebolt glanced back toward the door the Patronus had come through, but as he looked back to the animal it opened its mouth and a cool voice filled the courtroom.

"We are coming." The civet's empty eyes flickered to Shacklebolt. "Don't drop your guard for a second – he's mad, but his attitude is disarming. We've already had one mishap bringing him down here. You know your responsibility is to keep him under control – we do not need any more deaths by his hand."

The civet blinked once before fading completely, leaving a silent room in its wake. Shacklebolt turned to the door, wondering what mishap could have happened when the man was bound, wandless, and under constant surveillance. Deciding he'd rather not dwell on the thought before having to get through the trial, Shacklebolt gripped his wand tightly in his sleeve.

He could feel the tension in the room as if it were tangible. He could hear the rustle of the Wizengamot's robes as the congregation shifted in their seats in obvious discomfort and apprehension. The world outside the room was entirely silent, however, and Shacklebolt cursed the enchantments that blocked all sound from the courtrooms. There was no way of knowing how much longer they had until they came face-to-face with a killer.

As if in answer to his thoughts, the door burst open once more. Seven Aurors formed a tight formation around a tall man with rope coiled around his waist, shoulders, and neck. All seven wands were trained on the incarcerated wizard as the group led him to the chair in the center of the room. When they reached the chair, one of the Aurors roughly pushed the prisoner into it by the shoulders before turning to Shacklebolt and beckoning him over.

The Auror, a man by the name of Gawain Robards, massaged his temple. "I swear, you can't spend more than ten minutes with this one before you're barking mad yourself. Watch him carefully, Shacklebolt."

Robards had the same cool voice that had issued from the civet. As Shacklebolt took his place at the prisoner's shoulder, he nodded toward his fellow Auror in acknowledgement.

The other six dissipated to stand near the walls and, in particular, the door. For the first time, Shacklebolt gazed upon the living face of the man he had not seen in the flesh for five years.

The man was tall and thin, a fact obvious even in his sitting position. His dark hair fell into his manic eyes – the only thing on his face that betrayed his mental state. Besides the eyes, he looked completely calm – even with the rope around his neck and the chair's chains entwined around his arms and legs. He looked back at Shacklebolt, mouth turned up in a small smile that the Auror found disconcerting. He turned away from the prisoner and looked to the minister, signaling his readiness to begin.

"Right," the minister began stiffly. The accused turned to look at him, eyes seeming to bore into his soul. The minister grew visibly flustered under the prisoner's watch. "Criminal trial of the seventeenth of December, year two thousand, under several offenses under innumerable sections of Wizarding law from nineteen-ninety-five to present."

The man who had committed said crimes quirked a brow but otherwise said nothing, face still flawlessly composed.

"State your name for the record," said the minister, finally addressing the wizard but refusing to look him in the eye.

The man's calm broke for a split second as a disconcerting smile spread across his face. "Potter."

The minister's voice turned frigid. "Your full name, if you please."

Again, the smile spread and grew to the point where it seemed to mock everyone in the room. "Potter, Harry James."

The minister took a moment to compose himself before continuing. "The charges against the accused are as follows: that he did knowingly and by his own will commit seventy-nine counts of murder using each of the three Unforgivable Curses under the direct orders of You-Know-Who. Thirty-six counts are for the use of the Cruciatus Curse alone, with an additional nine victims committed to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries after being driven clinically insane. This is of course for the magical offenses; the counts for the use of the Unforgivable Curses regarding Muggles are in the hundreds.

"You have been brought here before the Wizengamot so that we may pass judgment on you. The crimes for which you have been accused are such that we have rarely seen within this court."

He stopped speaking then, shuddering slightly. Shacklebolt felt his own hand tremble faintly as it clutched his wand, knuckles white.

Of all the Death Eaters the Council of Magical Law had tried and persecuted, this man – a wizard who was only twenty – had the most staggering number of offenses. Shacklebolt was willing to bet that even He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had a lesser death toll - he only reserved his personal Killing Curse for those he deemed worthy. The wizard sitting right beside him was the one who was sent to those who didn't deserve to be at the receiving end of You-Know-Who's wand.

The minister cleared his throat, drawing attention back to him. "For the purpose of this trial and the sake of my transcriber's writing hand, we will limit the offenses to the most recent:

"At exactly eleven fifty-three on the night of the fifteenth of December, the accused broke into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Weasley – both Ministry of Magic officials. Ronald Weasley, an Auror, was subjected to the Cruciatus Curse four times before being hit with the Killing Curse. Hermione Weasley, of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, was tortured by the Cruciatus Curse three times.

"The accused was apprehended by Aurors at the home and subdued accordingly, ultimately being put in a holding cell within the Ministry to await trail." The Minister finished, looking slightly nauseated. The assembled congregation was shifting uneasily, eyes shifting to look anywhere but at the young man who had so coldly committed the mentioned crime.

Shacklebolt's own gaze fell on the wizard in question to discern his reaction. Harry Potter's bottle-green eyes were searching the lengths of the chains binding him to the chair, almost like he was intensely bored with the trial that would determine his fate. It hadn't even fazed him that the aforementioned crime was the murder of his former best friend.

"Mr. Potter, what have you to say on the death of Ronald Weasley and the torturing of his wife?" The minster seemed a tad uncomfortable in addressing this criminal directly.

Harry looked up from his scrutiny of the chains and, upon catching the eyes of the minister, grinned. "Whatever the Dark Lord wishes."

His slightly rough voice broke as he laughed, the sound harsh and vicious. The courtroom shivered as a whole; Kingsley closed his eyes for a brief moment and grimaced.

"Am I to assume that you take full responsibility for these crimes?"

The laughter stopped abruptly as Harry narrowed his eyes at the minister, eyes colder than ice. "You could assume that, yes. Honestly, though, in what situation would it matter if I took responsibility or not? You have your evidence, you have your opinion – I knew my fate before I walked in here. It's always been that way for me."

Kingsley blinked, stunned by the words. He didn't really know why they sounded so strange to him – that is, until he thought back to the year Harry turned away from the fight against Voldemort and turned up at the Dark Lord's side.

Harry's fifth year had been riddled with accusations and doubts about the sanity he now so clearly lacked. The Ministry of Magic had done everything in its power to undermine his account of Voldemort's return. Now, as Harry sat facing the people who had been against him as the very person they'd painted him as, he couldn't help the bitterness. It was incredibly ironic.

The minister shuffled his papers, glancing at the Wizengamot behind him. "Right, erm . . . We have all the evidence and a confession. All those in favorr of a life sentence in Azkaban?"

Harry still hadn't managed to pin his mask of indifference back on his face; his eyes were darker and much more appropriate for someone who'd killed so many innocents. He looked positively frightening without the unconcerned air. As everyone in the benches raised their hands to damn the youth to a life of mental torture, his anger seemed to be affecting the very air around him.

The following events happened so quickly that Kingsley couldn't separate them from each other when he thought on it later. As Harry Potter was condemned to a life sentence in Azkaban, Kingsley was filled with confusing emotions – he had barely known the fifteen-year-old before he'd turned, and he certainly didn't feel any remorse for the sick-minded killer – but he felt a twinge of something he couldn't place. It unsettled him.

As the Aurors took Harry away, Kingsley stood and watched, frowning. The Wizengamot were talking amongst themselves, relief evident on all their faces, as they left the courtroom. The minister's own face mirrored the look, and as he approached Kingsley his face broke into a satisfied smile.

"Well, I'm glad that nasty business is over," he said, running his hand through his minimal amount of hair.

Kingsley nodded stiffly. "Yes, I think everyone is. I must go now, Minister – paperwork, you know."

The minister looked to the manila file Kingsley still held. "Quite right, I should have realized. Well, good day to you."

Kingsley walked out of the courtroom at a brisk pace, arriving at the lifts as quickly as he could without flat-out running. When he finally arrived in the Atrium, he allowed himself to slow and exhale loudly.

He'd thought that he'd be at least somewhat glad to be off the increasingly bloody case of Harry Potter. After five years of arriving at scenes that he had never seen the like of in all his years as an Auror, the Death Eater behind it was finally in the one place that he deserved to be – prison.

He wasn't feeling anything that he should be feeling, however. He was relieved, certainly – he'd seen enough of Potter's twisted spellwork to erase all hope of his redemption. But why were his insides knotting in confusion? Why wasn't he as pleased as the Wizengamot and the minister had been?

Brow knitted, Kingsley stepped up to one of the Ministry's designated Apparition areas and turned on the spot, disappearing instantly.

'All men begin as good men. What they are taught as children, what is expected of them as young men, is either the armor about that goodness or the flaw that allows evil in.' -DAVID WEBER, Off Armageddon Reef

A/N: This is weird. I started this a long time ago and kept going back to it over the span of almost three years. It was originally going to be more - I was never gonna write just an evil!Harry fic. See, the original idea was going to have two one-shots with the same court scene - one part the scene in this fic, and the other a fic with Auror Harry watching a trial. It was supposed to be this deep, thoughtful 'hey look at how this one small change in Harry's life affects everything oh-ho I'm so damn clever' sort of deal.

A personal policy of mine is to never read my fics before I post them. If I did, I would hate myself so much that I would never actually get around to posting anything. So I apologize for any mistakes or if it's just god-awful, but I haven't touched this particular document in about a year. Besides, I haven't posted since last August, so I was getting twitchy. I miss writing for fun as opposed to, you know, college essays on the introduction of psychosurgery.