Title: Embers & Ashes
Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Tragedy
Main Characters: Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy, Hermione Granger
Secondary: Teddy Lupin, Scorpius Malfoy, Rose & Hugo Weasley, Sirius Black, James Potter, Lily Evans, Severus Snape & Remus Lupin
Pairings: Teddy/Victoire, Draco/Astoria, Ron/Hermione, Remus/Tonks, past Sirius/Harry, Draco/Harry, hinted James/Lily/Severus
Summary: Sirius and Harry were lovers in 5th year. With Sirius' death Harry attempted to keep going. Post-war he picks up a relationship with Draco Malfoy. When Ginny Weasley is murdered a furious Ron and Weasleys point fingers at Harry, who is thrown in Azkaban prison without a trial, very much like Sirius. However, circumstances have come up that will release Harry from Azkaban and three life sentences…
Warnings: Do I have to say it? SLASH. Partially AU after GoF. Sadly, CHARACTER DEATH! Implied mpreg, non-con. A long two-shot, trying for yet another alternate take on the classic cliché 'Harry in Azkaban'.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, the characters or anything else you recognize. They belong to J.K. Rowling. Read the warnings above & if you don't like, don't read. If you read this entire thing and then flame, it will only prove you're an idiot. OTHERWISE: Enjoy! Once this is done I'll go back to Guidedand Song, I promise!
Early July 2017-
Hermione Granger-Weasley made her way along the slick stone path, wrapping her warm cloak more firmly around her slender shoulders. She was alone, it was no secret that most of her in-laws would heartily disapprove of her destination. When she had casually mentioned her trip to her husband Ron the evening previous, he had given her a blank stare and continued to speak about the latest project in the Auror Department. He was not so foolish to try and stop her, he had learned that much at least after 17 years of marriage.
This trip was more of an impulse than anything, inspired by her 9 year old son Hugo asking about the black-haired man in a picture in her office. Where did things go wrong, that my children don't know you? She slipped on one of the smooth rocks and her foot momentarily hit water, jerking her out of her despairing thoughts. 'Clumsy Hermione,' an achingly familiar voice teased in her head, 'more comfortable with half the library on your shoulders than heels on your feet!'
For a moment she smiled and laughed softly, before shivering again and moving forward through the icy pelting rain that seemed to constantly cover Azkaban prison. The Dementors were long gone, banished back to their original plane of existence but the prison was still a miserable triangle-shaped hell on earth. Still, she was relieved to reach the massive stone overhang and get out of the wind and rain.
She stared at the moss-covered black walls, resisting a shudder. Even the dozen enormous torches in their high wall sconces couldn't banish all the shadows and darkness creeping from the prison. The last time Hermione had been here it was early July of the previous year, she'd just watched Teddy Lupin graduate from Hogwarts at the top of his class a few days before. Remus was no doubt bursting with pride over his Ravenclaw son, wherever he was now.
Gathering her courage Hermione strode into the prison, walking up to the warden's desk. The warden was a man with the ruddy features of one who enjoyed his hard drink and was nearly wider than he was tall, the little hair he had left (mostly in bushy eyebrows and a bristly moustache) was a nondescript brown in colour, streaked with grey.
"I am here to see Harry Potter," she said clearly when he looked at her.
Irritably he stood and made his way back to a counter, sorting through a massive pile of parchment, some yellowed with age. "Name?" he barked.
"Hermione Granger-Weasley," she replied coolly, eyes narrowing at his tone. She had always thought those who worked at the prison were an unpleasant lot, but this man was worse than the old warden and that was saying something.
He grabbed out two pieces of parchment and plunked one in front of her as he said brusquely, "Sign and date it where it says 'Visitation Date'."
She reached for the quill and looked down, noting that aside from a 'Luna Scamander' and 'George Weasley' hers was the only name in the list of former visits. George hadn't visited since Roxanne was born and Luna had visited twice in the last 14 years, the last had been 4 years ago. She signed and dated where indicated and before giving it back looked up to the top, where bold, black impersonal letters printed: Inmate Information.
Name: Harry James Potter. Birth date: 7/31/1980. Hair: Black. Eyes: Green. Wand: Snapped at trial. Sentencing: Three life sentences. Trial date: 5/21/2003. Convicted of: Murder, 3 Counts. The quick, efficient way of cataloguing rendered her childhood friend in such an austere way. It couldn't convey through parchment his quick, dry sense of humour or his love of flying. Nor could it convey the peace and fulfillment that working in the Auror Department had given him.
Once the paperwork was done she surrendered her wand and personal affects aside from a few photographs she managed to convince the guards were harmless. But really, what did they think he was going to do, make his way out of a wizarding prison by giving the guards paper cuts? Harry may have done some crazy things over the years, but he wasn't that crazy.
He was crazy enough to break into Gringotts and break us OUT on a dragon, she reminded herself with a small laugh. That was even more insane than arriving for school by flying car, which was still apparently a talked-about event at Hogwarts. It took about 15 minutes before she was ushered through a door into a small meeting room with a few stern reminders about the rules in the prison, which included a no-contact rule. This meant everything from a kiss on the cheek in greeting to hugs or holding hands.
Once inside the room she stared at Harry for a long moment, feeling her heart ache in sympathy, compassion and pity. She hid the last quite well, knowing that Harry hated pity above anything else in the world. Hatred, loathing, being purely ignored he could handle, but pity made him coldly bitter. Since he hadn't seen her yet, she could allow herself the emotion for a few minutes more. It would be hard not to pity Harry at this time.
He was so thin, his face sharp and angular due to lack of proper weight and nutrition. The formerly glossy hair fell limp and flat under the harsh lighting and fell to his waist in impossible tangles and snarls. The originally black prison outfit was a dark grey from age and wear and he was barefoot. Harry's skin was so pale it was almost transparent; she could see the veins in his hands. All colour appeared to have faded from his face aside from the dull evergreen eyes, surprisingly dark lips and dark, heavy shadows under his eyes. He was sitting on a cold metal chair with his feet chained to the floor and his wrists chained together with a mere few inches in-between.
However, the chains were unnecessary and only proved how much even the guards of Azkaban prison respected and feared Harry Potter still. Hermione stared at the heavy silver bracelets around his wrists which had rubbed the skin around them raw over the years. They had the Ministry logo imprinted on the top over the flat, round gold seal and flashed faintly with runes in flickering of the torches.
Those were 'restraining bracelets' and their ornamental appearance covered a barbaric purpose. A witch or wizard's magic normally was free to 'explore' around their body, covering a space of about a half-foot in any direction. This was called the magical aura. One of the explanations for Squibs was that when they were born their body sought to control the magic instead of releasing it around their body as normal and such they couldn't use it themselves, even if they could feel it. A 'restraining bracelet' did the exact same thing to a normal wizard, confining their magic to their body. Normally only one was necessary but the Ministry had authorised two in Harry's case due to his magical power, which a great deal of them feared even though Harry wasn't the type to abuse his strength.
"Harry," she spoke softly, attempting to not startle the man.
He looked up and appeared surprised to see her standing there. They stared at each other for a few long moments before he spoke in a harsh, rasping voice, "Hermione."
She smiled sadly at him and moved to a chair, bolted to the floor like his. This one was far enough from his that she could sit sideways on it, facing him. Once she had done so Hermione pulled the pictures from her pocket. It was unspoken routine that she wouldn't try and ask about him, life passed by in a dull, familiar routine day by day for him. She knew he was trying to spare her the details about how awful it was to be in here, but she could see it just by looking at her friend.
"Teddy just graduated from the initial Auror program," she said instead, making him give a small but genuine half-smile. "He's been assigned to Hannah for mentoring. Victoire is graduating this next spring; I know he's thinking about proposing."
He chuckled and she nearly winced at how rough the sound was. "Quicker about it than his father, isn't he?"
She laughed and nodded. "That's what Andromeda said as well. She's not doing too well Harry; I doubt she'll last much longer."
Harry sighed softly and said, "She was holding on for Teddy, making sure he could stand on his own."
"That's what I thought as well," Hermione replied quietly.
She handed him a picture of Rose and Hugo and said "This is the most recent picture I have of my two, Rose is going to Hogwarts this fall and she's very excited. Hugo is quite jealous; he won't be going for another three years."
Harry's lips quirked at the mentioning of her son. When she'd visited soon after his birth and showed Harry a picture of her baby boy he said, "Hugo, as in Victor Hugo? Clever Hermione, very clever."
"Draco's son is attending this year as well, isn't he? Scorpius, right?"
"Yes and yes," Hermione replied with a small laugh. "Scorpius Hyperion, a miniature aristocrat in the making. Rose met him a few years ago and they're on their way to becoming best friends if not more."
Harry grinned. "That would give Draco a heart-attack, not to mention Ron." The smile fell of his face as quickly as it appeared at the name of her husband. He closed his eyes and breathed rhythmically for a few minutes before opening them again.
Their conversation had nearly come to an end when Harry was overcome with a coughing fit. He waved her away before she could touch him and said in a hoarse voice, "Its fine Hermione. I get minor colds all the time in here. It's not the most sanitary of places, you know."
She started to laugh and abruptly stopped. Wide brown eyes were focused on Harry's hand that he had just lowered from his mouth, specifically to a small smear of red on his skin. Ignoring the guards and their rules she stood and touched first his hand and then his lips with a separate finger.
Her fingertip came away red and her eyes widened. "Blood," she whispered shakily, "you're coughing up blood Harry."
"Is that what that red stuff is?" he asked with a hint of sarcasm. "Hermione, please don't worry. I'm fine, I promise."
Hermione stared severely at her friend for a moment and nodded. Both knew the nod was simply to appease him, but Harry was in no shape or condition to get into a verbal argument with her. Also, by this point he simply didn't care.
She said goodbye to her friend and remained as the guards came and curtly undid the chains around his ankles, roughly grabbing him by an elbow and leading him back into the pitch interior of Azkaban prison. Hermione shivered again, however this time it wasn't from the cold.
Same Day, Malfoy Manor-
A few hundred miles but a mere two Apparition points from Azkaban prison Draco Lucius Malfoy, Lord and Patriarch of the House of Malfoy sat in his family room. He stared through secretly amused eyes at his son, who was waiting for an answer to his latest question and desperately attempting to appear as though he didn't care about the answer. He was doing fairly well if not for the fact he was about to dig a hole into the floor with the toe of his foot.
He took another lazy sip of his tea and set the cup down. He carefully poured another cup and added a squeeze of lemon and a cube of sugar, picking up the dainty silver spoon and stirring as carefully as he would have a volatile potion. Finally he decided to put his son out of his misery, if only so Astoria wouldn't yell about a hole in the expensive Persian rug under their feet.
"If and only if you do well in your test with your tutors we can go out for some flying time after dinner. And by well Scorpius," he added, drawing his suddenly happy and slightly hyper son's attention, "I mean at least Exceeds Expectations grade. After all, it's only History and Potions."
"Yes Father," Scorpius breathed, with every evidence of sincerity and earnestness in his young face.
Draco flicked one hand negligently and said, "Off with you."
Scorpius turned around and managed to walk all the way out of the family room before Draco heard him break into a quick jog. He smiled indulgently and restrained a laugh, wondering if it had been the same for his father all those years ago.
A small 'pop' alerted him to the arrival of a house elf. He turned his head slightly and said imperiously, "Yes?"
"Hermione Weasley wishes to speak with you, Master," the female squeaked out.
A single pale eyebrow arched and Draco thought about it for only a moment before replying, "Show her in here."
After the house elf disappeared he allowed himself a sour smile as he thought about why he was getting along with a muggleborn witch, let alone this particular muggleborn.
He stood and walked forward until he stood just a few feet from the fire, staring into its depths with intense, contemplative grey eyes. It all began, ended and encircled the wizard named Harry Potter. Aside from Hermione Weasley he was probably the only person to truly know the man behind the camera flashes and Daily Prophet headlines. Had someone told him this back when he was in school he would have laughed and scornfully asked if they'd had their head checked recently?
After the war Draco had been lost, attempting to push his way through a post-war life without any idea of how to live in peace. One particular event reverberated in his memory, that of Harry Potter turning around in the Room of Requirement and coming back for him despite the Fiendfyre. So he had sought out the One-Who-Defeated, as the papers had started calling him, wanting an explanation and finding himself genuinely curious about the answer.
After a bit of searching he'd finally located the elusive wizard at Grimmauld Place, the Black family home. He knew Potter had received it from the late Sirius Orion, the Lord of the pureblood house despite his estrangement from the family in his teens. He would remember his question and the startling answer until the day he died.
"Why did you save me, back at Hogwarts? You could have been killed by the Fiendfyre as well, like Vincent."
"Was that Crabbe's first name? I never did learn it, you know. And as for why I saved you, would you rather I hadn't?"
"No, I'm just trying to understand. After all, I did nothing to make you like me in school and everything to make you hate me."
"Even if I did hate you Malfoy, which I don't by the way, who am I to decide who lives and dies? In my opinion everyone deserved a chance then, aside from Voldemort, Bellatrix & Greyback."
It had been a far less arrogant and more surprising answer than he'd expected. It had been to his further surprise when later that year Potter had pushed for (and received), a post-mortem Order of Merlin, First Class and a Headmaster's portrait at Hogwarts for his godfather Severus Snape. To the resulting inquiry Potter's only response had been, "He deserved it and call me Harry would you? I've had enough of surnames to last a lifetime."
One particularly explosive conversation between Harry and the Weasel had revealed another startling fact. Weasel had been pushing Harry to resume his relationship with his sister Ginerva, adding that she 'wouldn't wait forever'. Harry had lost his temper and told Weasel she could 'go right ahead since I don't like girls anyway.'
Draco had caught up with Harry later that evening, well on his way through a dozen shots of firewhiskey. He'd drunk just enough to relax a little and when Draco had mentioned the accidentally eavesdropped conversation he'd snorted and replied, "Sure it was an accident, Draco?"
With just a little bit of persuading a surprising and shocking tale had unwoven. Really, who would have thought a barely 15-year-old Harry would fall into an apparently committed relationship with his own ex-convict godfather, who was 35 at the time? "That summer after his death was hell, Draco. He was my world and I led him to his death through my own foolishness. Dumbledore all but admitted that himself later."
About three months after that the pair were both in that same bar and had been drinking just enough to relax their own inhibitions. Draco still wasn't sure who had initiated that kiss, but he knew full well that he had been the one to take advantage of the situation. Waking up the next morning in bed with the raven-haired wizard had been pleasant and surprisingly soothing.
After the initial awkwardness that came from waking up next to a person one used to heartily dislike they had begun a casual relationship. It was only when his mother had Floo-called from France (where she and his father had moved to avoid coming under the critical eye of a new Ministry) and asked about his personal life that Draco realised, somewhat to his surprise, that somewhere along the line it had changed from casual to committed. Life with Harry was far quieter than Draco had expected after all the latter's exploits, but as Harry had explained, he'd had enough of those exploits to last seven lifetimes.
Their relationship had been exposed to others after a chance meeting and a simple kiss in a private section of Diagon Alley had been noticed by a loud, fuming Ronald Weasley and his indignant, teary-eyed sister. Harry had nearly come to blows with his friend and had dealt him a severe blow to his ego by openly turning his back on the pair and leaving Diagon Alley with Draco.
When the bushy-haired girl who had been a menace to his school years showed up later that evening Draco had been displeased, to put it mildly. At first she had acted as hot-headed as her then-fiancée before finally calming and listening to Harry with the rational, educated mind that Draco had always privately envied. It turned out Granger had already known about Harry and Sirius, having chanced upon the pair sharing a private kiss before departing for the beginning of their 5th year.
She had studied him with her caramel-brown eyes before finally saying, "If Harry trusts you than so do I. I can't say anything for Ronald or the Weasleys, but if you hurt him I'll make that slap look like child's play." The reminder of what had been his most embarrassing moment in 3rd year had almost been sufficient to make Draco blush.
And then that day had arrived. Three years had passed in comfortable routine before a married Ginerva Weasley-Thomas and her husband had been brutally murdered, along with their month-old son. Draco and Harry had read about it in the papers and Harry had been upset about it, Dean Thomas had been a dorm-mate of his in Hogwarts and Ginerva, for all her vain self-importance was the sister of a man he still considered a friend.
The appearance of three Aurors in his home had been enough of a surprise for Draco, but the major shock had come when they had pulled a warrant for Harry's arrest. Just a look at Harry showed his shock, he had blanched to the colour of bone and seemed unable to believe what he was hearing. Still, he handed over his wand calmly enough and left peacefully with the Aurors, showing just by his actions that he wasn't the one they wanted.
Draco had visited Harry in the Ministry of Magic on May 20th, 2003. The beginning of his trial was set for the next morning. Harry had been extremely pale, but calm enough to speak rationally. However, his words haunted Draco to this day.
"Draco, I fear that this is going to go badly. It's just like when we were in Hogwarts, when it was popular to hate me everyone took part in it with relish. If for some reason I'm right and I have never hoped so badly that I'm wrong, don't linger okay? Keep going with your life, marry that girl your mother has been pestering you to meet, have your family. If, Merlin forbid, they put me in Azkaban, don't come, please. I don't want you to come anywhere near that place, even for me."
Harry had been adamant and despite any argument Draco made he wouldn't vary his wish in any manner. The next morning Draco had dressed with shaking hands and proceeded to the Ministry of Magic, where the Minister had chosen to not give Harry Veritaserum. The backing for that had been his strength of will and the fact that no Imperio could hold him. He had been pronounced unanimously guilty on circumstantial evidence despite the fact Draco had told the Ministry he'd been nowhere near Ginerva Thomas at the time of her death. Their fear of Harry's strength and abilities had caused them to slap not one but two restraining bracelets on his wrists and he was given 3 life sentences in Azkaban prison in a black cell.
Draco had obeyed Harry's wishes, even with a strong desire to break one of them and go see the wizard. He'd married Astoria Greengrass and had his son, his precious Scorpius Hyperion, who reminded him a great deal of himself at that age. Scorpius' surprise friendship with Weasel and Granger's daughter Rose meant he saw a great deal of the witch over the past few years and every once in a while she'd quietly mention Harry after she'd been to visit him.
Draco was drawn out of his musings of the past when he heard footsteps behind him. Turning he saw Hermione Weasley, wearing a black cloak that was nearly soaked through over a neat, elegant woman's suit and skirt. Her professional attire was marred by a slightly worried frown. Shaking herself out of obviously tumultuous thoughts she said, "Good afternoon, Draco. How goes things since I saw you last?"
"Much the same," he drawled in his smooth voice. "You as well? Is Rose as excited as Scorpius about finally going to Hogwarts?"
Her lips twitched into a smile and she said, "Seeing as I'm not around your son every day, I can't tell you, but Rose is delighted and in her opinion this spring and summer can't pass by quickly enough, which is a change."
Her face fell for a moment and she finally spoke quite frankly. "I've just returned from Azkaban prison, I went to see Harry. I'm worried about him, Draco and I was wondering if your family library had anything about the restraining bracelets, possibly their effect on a wizard's body? He's quite ill and I have a feeling it's more than the common colds he's trying to pass it off as."
Draco's mouth thinned in concern and he thought for a long moment. "I can't think of anything offhand, but my family's library is quite large and I know there are parts of it I haven't explored yet. An indexing spell may help us."
"Us?" she replied, surprised.
He looked up into her brown eyes and said quietly, "It is only by Harry's wish that I haven't visited him and didn't wait for him all this time, Hermione. Besides," he added briskly, attempting to shake off the vulnerable moment, "you will need the help as some of the books are limited access to members of my family only."
She gave him a sharp look followed by a slight smile as she obviously found what she was searching for in his expression. "All right then," she replied. "Lead the way, Draco."
They set off down the cavernous halls as Draco mentally tried to shake the foreboding atmosphere that seemed to be settling around his shoulders.
Ministry of Magic (1 Week Later)-
Directly above the round benches in Courtroom Nine of the Ministry was, to any witch or wizard, a magnificent marble façade depicting moments in the history of Magical Britain and several enormous crystal chandeliers. Other than that, it was an empty space. To the living, in any case.
At the moment the courtroom was beginning to hum louder and louder with the murmurs of gathering occupants. The scene unfolding above would have been enough to send them into fits of laughter, if only they could see it. For without any visible means of transport several transparent figures were dropped into the air, though they appeared to be substantial to each other, if the groans from the pair on the bottom were any indicator.
"Get off of me, you imbeciles!" A transparent Severus Snape snapped impatiently, prompting muffled laughter from an equally gauzy Remus Lupin, the other being unfortunate enough to appear first.
To muffled laughter the group managed to sort themselves out; revealing James Potter, Lily Evans and Sirius Black along with the two now drawing themselves off an invisible floor with a few groans and grumbles. Lily Evans watched the pair with dancing eyes and couldn't resist the opportunity to tease her uptight friend. "Such vocabulary Sev, even when you're being flattened under the rest of us!"
The glare he gave her inevitably softened until he had to look away with a slight grumble. Lily snuck her arm through one of his and tugged a laughing James over with her. The two males shared an exasperated look over the shorted woman's transparent hair (which to them was its normal fiery red) before also sharing a soft laugh.
Sirius Black ambled over and sat down at their feet, dangling his legs over a ledge only they could see. He was joined by an amused Remus Lupin, who was by now used to the antics of the trio behind them. It had taken a while to get there however; Severus had been much his usual prickly self when he'd first died.
"Figured out where we are yet Padfoot?" he asked Sirius conversationally. This had happened on a few previous occasions, they had been dumped randomly throughout the magical world, usually near someone they all knew or for important events. The last had been Teddy's graduation and Hermione's overheard comment had been entirely right, Remus and Tonks (who had been present for that occasion), had been enormously proud of their son.
Sirius grimaced slightly and said, "Yuppers. We're in Courtroom Nine of the Ministry of Magic. This is a place I could have done without seeing again. It's something big too, seems like the whole Wizengamot is present."
That drew the attention of the trio and after a long survey James piped in with a, "You're right, Sirius. That's the whole Wizengamot. It looks like some sort of trial and—isn't that the Weasleys?" he asked, suddenly distracted.
The rest looked over in the indicated direction where, about 200 yards below them sat a group of red-heads. Severus groaned at the large amount and said, "I had hoped they wouldn't expand over the years but they seem to have exploded instead." He promptly hissed when Lily elbowed him in the ribcage for the slightly rude comment.
"Where's Hermione?" Remus asked, looking for the head of bushy brown hair. They knew Ron and Hermione had married, so it would seem logical that she would be sitting with her in-laws.
Severus looked around with his sharp black eyes and after a long second look said with a tone of disbelief, "She's sitting over next to my Godson."
Sirius immediately found the white-blonde hair that signified a Malfoy and sure enough, there was Hermione sitting next to his second-cousin, Draco. She was dressed in a professional looking blouse and slacks, he in the usual impressive pureblood attire in slate-grey. The years seemed to have been gentle on them both, Hermione especially appeared to have barely aged since he had seen her last. Draco's hairline had receded just slightly, to his amusement.
Before he could comment on it to the others the current Minister appeared and made their way up to the large podium, sitting in the comfortable chair before giving a couple of loud raps with the gavel. "Silence!"
The assembly slowly headed his word and took their seats, most with grave, quiet expressions on their faces. After a long moment of silence the Minister continued.
"Thank you. Now, I know some of you, if not all, have heard a form of rumor about the reason for our gathering today. I will take this moment to tell you the reason for this meeting is a request of appeal to the Wizengamot on the behalf of one of the current prisoners of Azkaban."
This appeared to have been the majority rumor, for a series of hissing whispers broke out.
"I wonder what poor soul got stuck in there this time," James commented. "Also if they're appealing themselves or another on their behalf. If it's someone else, then the prisoner involved has got to be confused. If they kept the usual routine from before, they haul the prisoner involved out of Azkaban and put them in a Ministry holding cell for each appeal, without telling them why they're pulled out of the cells."
Sirius snorted. "Poor sucker. I know they got rid of the Dementors, but Azkaban's miserable enough without the creatures."
He blatantly ignored the sympathetic glances from the others (excluding Severus, who knew he hated sympathy or pity). It had taken some time even after his death for his magic and health to be fully restored after his stay in the prison, unlike most thought you weren't automatically healed when you died.
"If you heard this specific rumor, then you also know the prisoner involved, who was given three life sentences 14 years ago for the murders of Dean Thomas, his wife Ginerva Weasley-Thomas and their month-old son Conrad."
Lily winced. "Oh, that has to be tough on Molly. Her only daughter was murdered along with her month-old grandson?"
"Speaking on behalf of the prisoner involved is Hermione Granger-Weasley, an Arguer for the courts and wife of Ronald Weasley, the departed Ginerva Weasley's brother."
Sirius looked over at Ron and winced. "Look at Ron's expression. He's not at all happy with Hermione at the moment."
Ron's gaze was as hard as ice and deep-seated hatred darkened the blue eyes and left something not-quite-human about him. Hermione meanwhile had been making her way down the stairs to stand directly in front of the chair, careful to meet the eye of every member of the Wizengamot as she did so.
Remus snorted and said, "An Arguer is the perfect career for her, she's a formidable presence and probably knows the law books better than the wizards that originally wrote them."
James laughed and said, "Sort of like our Lily, then?" He gave a slight yelp as the comment earned him an elbow in the side, same as Severus had a moment ago. Severus gave the other wizard a slight smirk which quickly slid off his face when Lily turned her fiery green stare on him.
Snorting at just how well Lily had the pair under control Sirius said, "I wonder who this prisoner is to get Hermione on his side?"
Hermione opened her mouth and began to speak. "14 years ago, the magical community here in Britain was shocked by the brutal murder of the Weasley-Thomas family. Ginerva Weasley-Thomas was my sister-in-law and a well-respected young woman. She was fairly popular amongst witches and wizards as well for her celebrated career as a Chaser for the Harpies."
"However, the actions of the body assembled before me today shocked me more than the crime itself. We had been encouraging the Ministry to exercise its new strength and crack down on the criminals of the magical world, but not at the expense of justice. We have placed another in Azkaban without Veritaserum. Did we not learn our lesson with the massive mistrial of Sirius Black after the first Voldemort War?"
Sirius groaned in exasperation. "They did that again? Like she said, when are they going to learn?"
"The only evidence against the wizard convicted was circumstantial at best and at worst outright false, yet due to your fear of his magical strength and strength of will you decided he could possibly lie under the Truth Serum. Then you placed him in Azkaban after a single session with not one but two restraining bracelets despite evidence that magical strength doesn't influence the bracelet's ability to block a wizard's aura!"
Severus blinked and said indignantly, "First of all, no one can break my Truth Serum; it doesn't matter if you can resist Imperio. Secondly, are these people idiots? One restraining bracelet is plenty, even if it was necessary."
"Now I am here to tell you that this body has done him a grave disservice. My appeal is for you to finally give him the serum you denied him at his original trial and release him. It doesn't matter whether or not he truly is guilty, of which I will never believe until I hear it from his lips."
There was a massive uproar at this point and Molly Weasley in particular looked furious at her daughter-in-law's comments. Ron's eyes had narrowed throughout her little speech and at this point resembled little more than slivers of dark blue.
"QUIET!" the Minister was finally forced to use a Sonorous to get things back under control. Once people were again seated and silent he turned to Hermione and said curtly, "Explain."
"A bit of background first, Minister. Restraining bracelets were created by the original Ministry of Magic, back before Azkaban prison was built and prisoners were held throughout the year here in Headquarters themselves. They force a wizard's aura to remain inside their body, instead of releasing it as normally happens for a magical child at birth. One is quite sufficient for this purpose, no matter a person's magical strength. In the book Auras & Ability it is plainly stated that prolonged use of restraining bracelets can be damaging to a wizard's health. They were never meant for long-term use."
Her voice had begun to quaver slightly. Hermione closed her eyes and they could see her taking in a few deep breaths. "Whomever this is they mean a great deal to Hermione," Remus commented.
"The one for whom I am appealing has had two restraining bracelets on his wrists for the last 14 years. In that time his magical aura has been restricted to his body only and in this case, his magical strength does go against him. That much power is not meant to be held in. After approximately 10 years his magic turned inward, 'devouring' in a sense his physical reserves to feed and expend some of the pent-up energy. Even if you removed the bracelets today, the damage has already been done. His magic has been restrained for too long and has turned on him. I visited him a week ago, Minister and he was coughing up blood. His magic is killing him. He will not last until the beginning of the new Hogwarts term, let alone the rest of his sentences. Since he is already dying, the least this body can do is bring him in for questioning and when he is proven innocent, let him die in peace and fresh air rather than that dark, lonely cell."
At the end of that long speech the quiet observers were shocked. Finally James spoke. "Not only is he probably innocent, but due to their actions he's terminally ill? You're right Sev, these people are idiots!"
Severus frowned and grumbled, "I hate being right sometimes, almost as much as I hate that bloody nickname you and Lily use!"
The Minister sat there for a long moment and just before he spoke a smooth voice interrupted. "Minister, if I may speak?"
It was Draco Malfoy, who had sat forward just enough to be totally cast in the light of the chandeliers, grey eyes glittering. Sirius opened his mouth to make a smart remark about the appeal being doomed when he noticed Ron's furious expression darkening even more at the blonde's presence.
Instead he said, "It seems for once Hermione and Draco are both on the same side. Did you lot notice George Weasley is missing as well?"
They looked around, eyes widening in surprise when they noticed the absent twin. "That's weird, I would have thought he'd be here when his sister's supposed murderer is being brought in for an appeal," Lily commented.
Sirius' eyes were caught by a bright electric blue and he noted the figure in the robes of an Auror with glee. "Looks like Teddy went through the Auror program!"
The others snapped around to look at Teddy, who was now standing by a doorway that led to the holding cells. He looked quite somber and impressive in the deep bronze robes of an Auror yet the glittering amber eyes were clearly anxious.
"He seems to know the prisoner involved as well," Remus commented, smiling proudly at his son.
Draco began to speak, drawing their attention back to the court proper. He was choosing his words with obvious care, keeping the nonchalant drawling tone to a minimum. "When the Ministry came to my Manor 14 years ago to arrest this prisoner, they sent 3 senior Aurors and a warrant. Despite the fact the Aurors obviously believed him guilty, he left without protest or any form of a fight. Does this seem the actions of a guilty man to you? I am hoping that this body wasn't listening too closely to Auror Weasley at this time. Not only was he personally involved in the case; he harbors a deep prejudice and discriminatory hatred toward the convicted for his sexual preferences. To speak plainly, the fact that the convicted is gay proved a rift in their friendship that couldn't be mended. If you were listening to a man so clearly biased, I would hope that you would want to fix your mistake before it is too late."
"Finally you learn subtlety, Draco," Severus muttered. "Now if only you could have learned that while in school, you wouldn't have given me such a headache."
Remus laughed slightly and said, "He's given us several clues. First of all, the prisoner is a man; secondly he's someone Draco knows well since he was residing at Malfoy Manor. Third he was a friend of Ron's until Ron found out about his homosexuality, which is highly prejudiced of Ron as Draco's said."
The Minister had frowned when Draco completed his speech and after several long moments he said to Teddy and another Auror they didn't know, "Bring him in. The Wizengamot is hereby officially opening the appeal case of the murders of Dean Thomas, Ginerva Thomas and their son. Convicted of the case 14 years ago is one 37-year-old Harry James Potter."
There was dead silence amongst the spectators as total shock hit before Sirius finally rasped, "What?"
Remus was likewise in shock and he said shakily, "They actually thought Harry capable of murder? Merlin, even if he's proven innocent they've ruined his life and practically killed him in the process!"
The trio behind them was still silent, though Lily was beginning to audibly hiss in fury. Remus winced, sensing an impending explosion of her temper.
The Wizengamot waited quietly, whispering amongst each other. The only ones completely silent were Draco and Hermione, who both were pale yet obviously determined. Suddenly James piped up with, "Am I the only one who's getting the impression Draco and Harry were more than friends at one point?"
Sirius frowned thoughtfully, considering James' words and Draco's speech. He privately hoped that was the case for his young love. After his unexpected death in the Ministry he had hoped with all his might Harry would keep going and live his life as well as he could. It didn't mean he wasn't aching in sadness for leaving his life behind when finally something had been going right, but he wanted Harry to be happy above all else.
His eyes darkened. The Ministry had to stick their noses in somewhere. Talk about gratitude huh? Harry had finally gotten rid of Voldemort, whom everyone else was too frightened of to take action and this was how they repaid him? Throwing him in prison without a backward glance a mere 5 years later? He snorted and thought, damn fools, all of them.
He was interrupted from his bitter thoughts by a soft sob from Lily. Looking to the doorway where Teddy had reappeared he almost did the same thing. From what he could see Harry looked worse than he had after 12 years with the Dementors still around. He was so shaky he could hardly walk and leaned heavily on Teddy's shoulder by the time he reached the solid metal chair. The moment he sat down the chains wrapped tightly around his shoulders, wrists and waist despite the presence of the glinting restraining bracelets on his thin wrists.
Despite his obvious confusion he remained quite calm, not meeting the gazes of anyone but the Minister of Magic, whose gaze he held without blinking or flinching. Draco Malfoy, Sirius noted, had paled drastically at Harry's appearance, which struck him as odd. Unless, and here he frowned, Draco hadn't seen Harry since his conviction.
"Do you know why you are here?" The Minister asked imperiously.
"No," Harry rasped out, "unless you finally decided to act like a governing body rather than a pack of fools."
James choked on his laughter behind Sirius and said, "Probably not the best time to antagonise them, Harry!"
The Minister stared down at him, ignoring the frowns and mutters from the Wizengamot. "It has come to our attention that not only may you be innocent of the crimes you were convicted of, but the restraining bracelets have resulted in a terminal illness."
Lily regained her voice. "Oh way to go, idiot! He said he had no idea and so you tell him he's going to die in front of a bunch of people who think him guilty anyway!"
Harry straightened up and stared the Minister in the face. "So you're trying to fix your mistake before I become yet another black mark in the history of the Ministry? How typical, you only admit your mistake when it's shoved in your face that you were wrong in the first place."
Remus groaned next to Sirius and said, "No matter what you say Lily, he get's that smart mouth from you, but it's definitely James' bad timing!"
"Hey!" the pair said in unison. Severus smirked but said nothing, though it was obvious he agreed with Remus.
"Will you submit to a questioning under Veritaserum?" the Minister asked curtly, once again ignoring the rising mutters and angry stares from the Wizengamot and most of the spectators.
Harry stared at him defiantly for a long moment and finally said, "Yes."
At the appearance of a red-headed man near the base of the courtroom stairs Sirius hissed in displeasure. "Looks like Prefect Percy still works for the Ministry."
James scowled behind his friend and said, "That's the one who turned his back on his family and told Ron to stop hanging out with my son because he was 'touched in the head' or something to that affect?"
"Yes," Sirius replied, still giving Percy a dagger-like glare. At the moment he was deeply wishing he wasn't a fragment of his former body so he could scare the crap out of that stupid idiot. His fingers had curled into fists and his lip had begun to curl in a snarl.
"You are nearly growling, Padfoot," Remus said mildly. "It's not going to do any good."
Sirius grumbled and growled under his breath as Percy approached Harry with a vial of the truth serum. He made sure to stop far enough away that he wasn't even brushing against Harry, who was watching him with narrowed green eyes.
Three drops later and the glassy-eyed look of one underneath the effect of Veritaserum settled on Harry's face. The Minister nodded curtly to a man on his left who began questioning him.
"Harry James Potter."
"House at Hogwarts?"
"Last time I owned a wand it was a stag, it could be a cat for all I know now."
Remus burst out laughing this time. "People tend to forget how the truth serum works. It only compels them to tell the truth, it doesn't force it from them. You have to love Harry's sarcasm by the way. He's not being nice about this."
Harry's reply got a few snickers around the courtroom and the questioner looked highly displeased.
"Were you the one that killed the Thomas family?"
"No," shocked whispers followed this answer.
"Did you have anything to do with the murders?"
"Do you know who was the killer?"
"When was the last time you spoke with a member of the Thomas family?"
"Ginerva cornered me in Gringotts and made a poor attempt to seduce me. It wouldn't have worked in any case, but she was rather adamant that I was 'faking' my sexuality."
Sirius snorted. "Take that, Molly. The Wizengamot as well, for that matter."
The questioner administered the antidote as the members of the Wizengamot sat in stunned silence; a few had tears running down their faces. Harry stared at them all with thinly-veiled contempt, green eyes narrow and flinty.
"A-" the Minister stopped and cleared his throat, beginning again once he'd gotten rid of the raspy whisper of shock. "A show of hands for not guilty?"
Every single hand rose. Once he had asked for guilty (procedure), he looked at Harry and said in a feeble imitation of his commanding voice from earlier, "The Wizengamot pronounces your appeal successful. You are free to go with the sincerest apologies of the court and compensation of 5,000,000 galleons. A member of the Auror Department will remove the restraining bracelets. Is there anything you would like to add for the court?"
Teddy had anticipated the move to release the cuffs and once that was done Harry stood, leaning lightly against him. At the Minister's question he looked up and said, "Yes, as a matter of fact, there is."
"Uh oh," Remus muttered. "I recognise that tone of voice. He's fed up with them and going to let them know it."
He straightened up to his full height, releasing his hold on Teddy as he did so. "19 years ago I was the one to kill Lord Voldemort as a not quite 18-year-old, barely qualified wizard. The rest of the Wizarding world cowered behind your shields and charms aside from the few known as the Order of the Phoenix. You accepted his policies when he took over the Ministry without question like the sheep you are and many of you thrived under the cruel and inhumane management. You said and did nothing when he took over the school and had children learning the Dark Arts and being punished with Unforgivables."
"When I finally killed that man all those years ago I felt hope for once, hope for a better future for the citizens of Wizarding Britain. 5 years later, when it was popular to believe me guilty as you did during the war and during school (for those of you whom I am ashamed to say I attended Hogwarts aside) you all flocked to do so. Despite the fact that the only person I have killed is one the rest of you were too afraid or weak to you believed me capable of murder. You have destroyed my life and if what you said is true, have given me a noticeably closer horizon than is usual in our world."
"So what I say to you is this, keep your bloody money and shove your apologies wherever you choose, there are several places I can think of offhand. Your track record so far makes me wonder if things truly have changed from the war, or if it is the same ugly inner workings under a shiny new face. This was not the magical world I put my life and happiness on the line to save and your actions the past few years have been a pretty poor form of thanks."
He fell silent finally, staring into the chastised, indignant or thoughtful faces of the Wizengamot. Turning to Teddy he muttered, "Mind helping me out of this room, Teddy? By the way, your dad is undoubtedly beaming from ear-to-ear, wherever he is."
Teddy flushed, though his face closely resembled what Harry had just described. He nodded and helped Harry turn toward the doors. Draco and Hermione had almost met up with them when a hand touched Harry's shoulder, stopping his weak progress.
To Sirius' fury, it was none other than Molly Weasley. With shaking hands she said, "Come Harry, let's get you home to the Burrow."
Harry wrenched his shoulder out of her grasp and said coldly, "Do not touch me. Your true colours are only too visible now, Molly. I do not forgive those who turned their backs on me, the only members of your family I do not blame are Bill, George, their families and of course my sister-at-heart Hermione and her two kids, whom I know only by pictures. You've been shoving your daughter in my direction since 2nd year and when that fairytale fell through you washed your hands of me. Don't you dare try to touch me and act as if nothing has changed."
"Er—if I were Molly I'd be backing off right about now. One's temper is a bit short after any amount of time in there," Sirius commented, startled beyond words by Harry's little tirade against Molly.
"Don't you dare talk to my mum like that!" Ronald snarled.
Harry sneered back and snapped, "What is it like Ron, to open your eyes from your perfect dream world where I was out of your hair and you had the spotlight? I would have been better off if I had never met you."
They watched as Draco quietly placed a hand on Harry's shoulder, drawing the flinty green stare. It seemed to fall away from him like water and he sighed softly. Teddy continued to carefully escort him out of the courtroom, assisted by Draco on Harry's opposite side as his defiant strength was failing him before he had left the courtroom.
The silent observers started to leave. Soon Sirius was the only one left. He stared sadly at the doorway where Harry had disappeared and said softly, "I'll be seeing you soon, Harry. You're okay for now, but I'll be waiting."
He disappeared as well, shimmering into a faint mist that evaporated completely in the light of the nearby chandelier.