Waiting in a dimly lit library of Slytherin decor that was nearly the size of the Dursley's house in Surrey, Harry tensed slightly as Bellatrix neared the opposite side of the grand white oak desk that he sat at. He didn't know what it was other than the outlandish nature of her appearance, but there was something about this woman that made him particularly nervous, something that she seemed to notice as she situated herself across from him.
Staring up at the boy for a moment, she revealed a crude smile that either exuded affection or malevolence, one that was difficult to interpret until she spoke.
"There is no need to fear me...not you at least," she quipped as she maintained her smile and quickly licked her upper lip in a rather quirky manner. "I have waited a long time for this Pot-...er, Harry...though I admit, not quite like this..."
Not having the soothing effect she had hoped for, Harry only managed to respond with a slightly nervous tenor, "What...do you mean? Not like this?"
"Well..." she began as she girlishly leaned her head to the side in thought, "You surprise me, that's all. I thought you'd be more like your father... Siding with Dumbledore at every turn, not pausing a moment to think of your true heritage and what it means to the world around you...insufferably-"
"I'm not my father," Harry stated firmly with a glint of unwavering determination in his eyes.
"Well I can see that..." Bellatrix replied humorously as she once again stole a quick glance at the snake wrapped around the boy's shoulders.
"I never even knew who he was..." Harry went on, gaining more confidence and perceptible anger in each word he spoke. "Dumbledore made sure of that didn't he? The only person I know that had anything good to say about him was some...some drunken gamekeeper that sounded dumber than my cousin Dudley. The Malfoys said that my father was brainwashed...why would I want to be like that?"
Bellatrix's mouth was half open by now with her jaw angled in a fairly crooked position, slowly becoming infatuated with the boy in front of her. In all her years, she had never expected the savior of the wizarding world to denounce the great James Potter. But then again, she thought to herself, 'why wouldn't he?' After all, Lucius and Draco had told him most of what he now knew about the man after offering a safe-haven from muggle abuse, whose fault was none other than Albus Dumbledore's - the man his father so willingly followed.
Quickly snapping out of her daze, Bellatrix quickly answered, "You wouldn't...I mean, well...he was a powerful wizard..." she managed in reluctance, "which should always be respected, but he was also young...naive, foolish...and Dumbledore took advantage of him...Sad really...He could have been great you know," Bellatrix finished in a near whisper, somehow managing a twinge of sympathy for the fallen Potter, knowing it would only fuel the boy's hatred for the headmaster.
Not knowing how to respond, Harry prolonged a moment of silence in which Bellatrix carefully regarded the boy and his familiar once more, just as Lucius had the day before. He was more than a mere pleasant surprise to her or any dark family that might happen to cross his path in the coming days, but instead closer to a potential godsend. According to what Lucius had told her, which included a report of the pensive that he examined, both his life and his character to some degree was akin to that of her beloved Tom Riddle. The only major difference - and advantage - was that Harry was still fresh and innocent and had yet to make any impactful choices in his young life. For Bellatrix, this scenario transformed an enemy into an absolute adoration before her eyes, almost as if Lord Voldemort now had the chance of being reincarnated within the very boy that led to his destruction. The only aspect that was unclear to her was why Dumbledore had unwisely chosen to risk his queen for an unlikely checkmate.
"Anyway...Lucius said that you received your wand yesterday?" she asked, suddenly breaking the moment of silence.
Harry only nodded in response.
"Allow me to examine it," Bellatrix requested in her most amiable tone.
Remaining silent, Harry obeyed and leaned over the desk with his wand in hand, becoming slightly more comfortable with the woman across from him.
"So this is it then," Bellatrix whispered while she ran her fingers down the wand and grasped its handle as if she had just uncovered a sacred relic, "The dark lord's brother..."
"Yes ma'am," Harry responded.
Unexpectedly, Bellatrix's face contorted into a frown at the boy's response, but instead of expressing any displeasure she instead issued a command.
"Rise," she directed, instantly handing the wand back over to Harry as she followed her impulsive instincts. "I'm going to test you."
Harry wasn't even half-way to his feet when she started to give directions like a lunatic.
"Point your wand at me...Go on! Pretend that I'm your cousin Dudley...or whoever you despise...hate. Whomever you would like to seek revenge on, Potter!" she continued with an intentionally antagonizing tone. "It's one of the easiest defensive spells you'll learn...just a push of your wand, no movement, and 'stupefy!" she screamed as she stood up and brandished her wand.
As she had planned, the jet of red light missed Harry by inches, provoking him to follow her directions and defend himself to the best of his ability. It was only a second later when Harry repeated the incantation and movement with an expression of fury, sending a thick stream of red light rushing towards her.
His spell traveled so quickly that Bellatrix barely had time to deflect it, but once she did she was left with a wicked grin that could have resembled that of a ten year old enjoying a stolen lollipop.
"Very good Harry..." she applauded before adopting a more reserved and sincere tenor for the startled boy, who was still standing in his defensive stance. "You know, they say only a prodigy could manage such a spell on their first attempt...at such a tender age...just like the dark lord."
Harry, who began to partially understand why Bellatrix had just cast a spell in his direction, lowered his wand and relaxed a bit, feeling indescribably more confident than he ever had before.
"Do not refer to me as ma'am...Harry," Bellatrix nearly scolded, "I am your Aunt Bella...and you should address me as such."
Unaware of how he should respond once again, Harry only nodded his head in consent.
"Good... its about time we start your lesson, come on and sit over here near your auntie," she ordered with another wicked smile as she quickly slapped her lap, almost as if calling a dog - leaving no doubt where she wanted him to sit.
No longer particularly surprised by the witch's erratic behavior and now far less bewildered and timid than he was just five minutes ago, Harry went over to sit in Bellatrix's lap as she pulled out a black leather-bound book titled Decline of the Pureblood Heir.
"Now...where to begin..."
Twelve days later a murmuring chatter of tension and fear filled the chamber of circuit court number one, a similarly furnished setting as the ministry's corridors with jet black marble floors and highly ornate mahogany furniture lining the perimeter of the court stage. Not far below the white domed ceiling - which contributed to a grand and overdramatized character of the atmosphere - sat Cornelius Fudge and the entire Wizengamot staff in their lofted balconies, all looking imperiously below at the plaintiff and defendant who both appeared armed and ready with their respective accusations and defenses. If it hadn't been for the Wizengamot's decision to make the trial open to the public, the case likely would have been over nearly an hour ago. As it was, however, the carefully selected and final members of the audience were just now being seated.
"Order! Order please!" an impatient Minister Fudge roared as he repeatedly pounded his gavel.
It took several moments, but finally the room settled down and gave its undivided attention to the minister and the Wizengamot above them.
"Now..." the minister spoke tirelessly, almost as if he were addressing school children, "as you all know...or should know, whatever specific...evidence," he worded carefully," you are privy to witnessing here today will remain confidential and within the confines of this room. It is indeed unusual that such a high profile case be opened to the public, but after careful review...we have come to the conclusion that it would be wise if certain members of the ministry...as well as a number of high standing citizens... were here to corroborate certain generalities and facts if the defendant is indeed found guilty. There has never been a standard protocol regarding a case of this nature...as we are venturing into unchartered territory due to the possible crime committed and the very nature of the individuals involved."
Cornelius paused for a moment to glance down at a seated Albus Dumbledore before moving on with his introduction, exclusively for effect.
"Therefore...I feel compelled to restate the unique circumstances of this case and the preventative measures that have been devised so that everyone has a clear understanding as we move forward. First, every single individual in this room that has accepted their invitation by making themselves present here today... is now under a binding magical oath to keep whatever specific evidence they might witness confidential and within the confines of this court chamber. To put plainly... if you leave here today and speak to another witness of this very same case, a loved one, a friend, or complete stranger... the oath will be considered broken. If you fear that you are endangering yourself by being subjected to such an oath then you may leave now and it will henceforth be terminated... meaning you may go on with your daily lives without worry."
Peering about the room with a keen eye for over a full minute, Cornelius noticed that not a soul budged from their seat.
"Very well then... While I applaud each and every one of you for your courage, let there be no mistake... you have been warned," Cornelius skimmed the audience members once again before continuing. "There will be two...I repeat two...'yes' or 'no' questions you are both able and encouraged to answer when leaving here today. Those two questions are whether or not the subject of this trial - Harry James Potter - was abused or not abused...and whether he was abused or not abused under the custody of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. Be warned again... you will not be entitled to your own opinion, but instead be bound to the court's verdict. Any elaboration will be considered a violation of the oath...Secondly," Minister Fudge continued without delay," it will be made plain to the public that the faces, voices, and address of the potential abusers will be edited from the evidence submitted-"
At this, Cornelius was quickly interrupted by a smattering of boos and outcry from many in the audience before he was able to move on.
"This...is for your own safety!" he shouted in effort to quiet everyone. "You will only endanger yourself with such knowledge. Besides... we live in a civilized society. It is the auror's job to serve justice, not the wild and emotional retribution of a mere citizen. And finally," the minister spoke in a more agitated voice, not waiting for a second, "you must understand that there have been a number of aspects within the evidence that have been completely omitted. Particularly disturbing aspects..." Minister Fudge shot another glare of disdain towards Dumbledore before finishing, "This has been done for the wellbeing of the child. You will be privy only to the most basic and fundamental facts of the case, enabling you to truthfully answer the aforementioned questions to the public and press.. Now...I warn you again...this is your last chance to vacate the room and relieve yourself of the binding oath placed upon you, otherwise the trial will commence immediately."
Allowing his eyes to wander about the room once again, Fudge saw that no one was willing to change their mind. After a deep inhale, he pounded his gavel to signal that the trial was underway.
"Plaintiff...the court is yours."
"Thank you minister," Lucius responded courteously as he walked to the center of the court stage and casually pushed back his sleek blond hair while clearing his throat for a lengthy speech, leaving Ragnook seated in his chair as a symbol of objectivity. After all, the Malfoy elder had practiced law during his day before moving on to the political ranks, and he believed that if anyone should have the pleasure of bringing down Dumbledore, it should be him.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," he began formally, "Minister Fudge here has been gracious enough to outline the unique circumstances and preventative measures taken within this trial. However...allow me to impress upon you further the gravity of the situation we have before us. I will ask you to ask yourselves... how is it that the savior of the wizarding world ended up in the hands of muggles? Albus Dumbledore will argue that such fame and fortune during the youth of one's childhood would be damaging...and so it might. Yet... the child in question was left under the custody of our esteemed headmaster, and by lawful extension whatever harm may have befallen his ward is his responsibility...disregarding the wretched muggles that perpetrated the crime. While I would argue that hiding a wizard's heritage from him in the muggle world is crime enough," Lucius darkened his sinister eyes into a nasty glare towards Dumbledore at these words, "there is unfortunately a much more troubling matter at stake. Not just maltreatment my good people... but severe abuse. By the evidence I lay forward here today, you will witness a wizarding child, the savior of our world... being treated in a manner consistent with a lowly house-elf."
Taking a vial containing a thick silvery substance from his pocket, Lucius held it up so that the entire audience and Wizengamot could see what was in his hands while Minister Fudge levitated a large stone basin towards him.
"As some of you may have anticipated," Lucius went on, "what I am holding before you are the tragic memories of Harry... James... Potter, already having been submitted and accepted as evidence of the prosecution. However disturbed you may become, I ask you to keep your silence during the viewing."
With no further delay, he poured the pensive into the stone basin before he removed his wand and placed it at the very the surface of the gaseous liquid. Gradually, the substance began to swirl and gather around the tip of the wand until it was concentrated into a glimmering silver ball. Then, with one swift motion Lucius flicked his wand upward, suspending the pensive in midair as it transformed into a panoramic view for all the audience and Wizengamot members to see. Within seconds the memories started to flash before their eyes.
Horror was struck into the audience at once as they saw a scrawny seven year old boy crouched into the corner of a broom closet with tears trickling down his cheeks. The images passed at maximum speed as several days passed within the memories, displaying a bruised and beaten boy infrequently eating small portions of stale bread and cheese that was shoved under the door of his cramped cupboard. A few minutes later the projected memories illustrated his aunt hitting the boy over the head with a hot frying pan while he served a plump redheaded family breakfast, knocking the savior of the wizarding world unconscious as he was quickly dragged back to the broom closet under the stairs by his feet. The memories then began to decelerate as it manifested several more severe beatings he was subjected to by both his aunt and uncle in an explicit fashion. As a whole, if anything was profoundly indisputable within the memories that were flashing before the Wizengamot's eyes, it was that the boy was lucky to have not sustained any permanent physical injuries.
There was an outburst of whispering among the audience and Wizengamot members as the stream of memories came to a close, even a few cries for Dumbledore's head were heard among them. Minister Fudge, who wore a face flushed with anger, pounded his gavel once more to silence the room and allow Lucius to finish his line of accusations.
"Minister...may I approach the defendant?" he asked as he walked towards Dumbledore, hardly waiting for Cornelius's affirmative hand gesture.
"Very well...Mr. Dumbledore!" Lucius shouted as he stopped within feet of the old man, refusing to refer to him as a professor or headmaster. "I am going to ask you a very short series of questions in which I will require a yes or no answer. Any elaboration will be taken as a refusal to cooperate with the line of questioning, which you will have the opportunity to refute during your defense...And before I begin, I feel the need to remind you sir that you are under magical oath...Now...According to ministry records, you are the current guardian of Harry James Potter, correct?"
"...I am," Dumbledore sighed.
"And you were aware of your ward's abusive upbringing?"
"...Not entirely..." Dumbledore responded, somehow maintaining his usual condescending tenor.
"Did you ever attempt to intervene in the boy's life in order to stop the abusive nature of his upbringing?"
"No...no I did not."
"Is there anyone else that knew of the family that the child was raised by? And how many?"
"Well...Yes, a few..." Dumbledore exhaled in uncharacteristic frustration.
"Aw...and did they know of the boy's abusive childhood?"
"...Not that I am aware of."
Smiling triumphantly, Lucius continued in an amused demeanor, "Seems there are to be more investigations around the corner...doesn't it?"
Dumbledore, who was clearly ready to begin his defense, remained silent in refusal to respond to Lucius' provocation.
"Lastly Mr. Dumbledore...Am I right in assuming that you are the individual that is solely responsible for his arrival at this particularly abusive muggle household after the death of his parents?"
Dumbledore remained silent once again until he noticed the glares from most of the Wizengamot members. It seemed to take several moments before he shut his eyes and responded with a quiet, "Correct."
"Ladies and gentlemen...I do not believe any elaboration or further proof of this man's heinous crime is at all necessary... I rest my case minister," Lucius finished with another victorious grin and a conspicuous measure of delight in his voice.
"Very well then...Defendant! On your feet!" Minister Fudge demanded in a rather unpleasant tone in Dumbledore's direction. "You will have two and half minutes for your defense. Begin."
Normally, there would be a standard protocol to follow within an ordinary trial, which would allow the defense whatever reasonable amount of time they needed to state their case. Nevertheless, the particularly unique set of circumstances underlying Harry Potter's case allowed Fudge to devise an entirely separate set of procedures, ones that heavily favored the plaintiff. After he had seen the pensive in his office for the first time, and once Lucius had persuaded him of the political benefits - regarding greater autonomy of the minister's position- that would result in Dumbledore's guilt, Cornelius had decided that it was in his best interest to shape the court trial into a mere formality for the public. After all, Dumbledore's guilt was a certainty to anyone who viewed the pensive and there was no greater threat to his seat as minister than the headmaster himself.
As Dumbledore took off his half moon spectacles while he tirelessly rose for the defense, he seemed rather calm for a person that was inevitably doomed to prison within minutes.
"My good people," he began intimately, "what you have witnessed is indeed a tragedy. It breaks my heart to see a child of any descent or ancestry receiving such animosity at the hands of any parent or guardian. And I do not deny that it was I... and no other...that placed him there. However...Ask yourselves... would you rather have a murdered child six feet under or one that is here with us today after enduring the tragic past we have all just seen? This...my friends, was the reality of Harry Potter's young life. I had hoped to conceal the reasons for his placement under the abusive house hold he was lodged in, but under the circumstances... I can see that I have no other choice..."
Grasping his forehead with his hand and closing his eyes, Dumbledore inhaled deeply in what appeared to be a critical moment of contemplation. No one else in the room had noticed, but during this moment Bellatrix Lestrange and Harry Potter quietly appeared at the very back entrance of the court room - just in time to see justice served.
"The night that the dark lord vanished did not mark the end of his time. Lord Voldemort," he pronounced boldly, eliciting gasps and paled faces from the audience, "is still at large. He may be too weak to carry on as of this moment, and he may be in hiding as he bides his time for another opportunity to strike yet again...but I can promise you all here today, he will rise again...his reincarnation will come to pass... And Harry Potter must be alive to confront him...there is no other way. When his mother sacrificed herself for the boy, she invoked an ancient magic...one that Voldemort could not foresee, and one that extended protection to the boy as long as he lived under the roof of a blood relative. While both the Blacks and Malfoys have relations to the boy...Sirius was incarcerated in Azkaban while the Malfoys..." he paused to smile at Lucius, "were under investigation of the ministry for having become death eaters. It is also possible that they were simply too distant in familial relations for the wards to be activated. The muggle family you saw today was the only family he had left... it was the lesser of two evils... for the greater good. I can only hope that you may understand this... That is all."
As Dumbledore sat back down, another smattering of angry hisses and cries of outrage filled the court chamber. The entire Wizengamot had begun to whisper back and forth to each other as Cornelius' face went pale with an incredulous expression pasted to his face. If it hadn't been for Lucius' initiative to stand up and close the prosecution, the minister might have done it for him.
"Just what we might expect from Albus Dumbledore... one...big...lie, just to spark our curiosity enough to keep his guilt at bay," he stated flatly, not truly believing a word that Dumbledore had spoken. After all, unless the headmaster knew something that Lucius did not (which he doubted), then he was of absolute certainty that Lord Voldemort was indeed dead. "But...for the sake of this trial, let us entertain his well rehearsed fallacy... shall we? What he has told us is that due to some ancient magic invoked by Harry Potter's mother... an ordinary and abusive muggle house hold instantly became an impenetrable fortress for the boy, something that outstripped the magical capacities of Hogwarts... a school charmed with all sorts of wards and ancient magics that have kept children safe for thousands of years...Mr. Dumbledore, were you blind to the fact that he very easily could have become a ward of the school? Or were you so incredibly prejudice that you could not even consider a family such as mine...the Malfoys, who would never allow any harm to befall the boy... take care of him?"
It was the sincere tone within the last sentence that perturbed Dumbledore as he sat with a calculating gaze, fearing what Lucius might eventually have planned for the boy.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Lucius switched topics immediately," Allow us to get back to the case at hand. If what Mr. Dumbledore spoke of is not a complete lie...which I doubt...it is pure speculation that he would have no better knowledge of than you and I. Do not let fear cloud your judgement. The wizarding world could have offered numerous safe havens for the boy if any harm were to come to him, and it is our duty to remove this man from Hogwarts where he has undue influence over our children. The heinous crime he committed was of arrogance, irresponsibility, and negligence in the extreme. For all of this man's apparent grace... his grand display of sweeping justice... or his facade of genuine incorruptibility...his flaws run deeper than any ordinary man's. And now... he has allowed those flaws to inflict a history of pain and violence upon the savior of the wizarding world. It is our job to put him where he belongs... behind bars."
Lucius shook his head in disgust before he sat back down, looking straight at Dumbledore before he spoke his last words of the trial "Shame on you old man...Shame on you."
There was utter silence in the court chamber until a gradual applause came roaring to life with heckling insults and aspersions thrown about in a hectic manner. It had quickly become a disappointed chamber of astonishment into one of unbridled contempt for the long grey haired wizard known as Albus Dumbledore.
Cornelius, who had allowed the heckling to continue for a few minutes, pounded his gavel for silence as he quickly gathered the votes from the various Wizengamot members behind him. It had only taken those few minutes of heckling for the votes to be tallied up, but once they were the room had already come to a hushed and voiceless arena of anticipation, all anxious to see justice served once and for all.
Adorning his spectacles, Cornelius sat back and read a small piece of parchment in front of him until he looked up at Dumbledore and began to read the verdict out loud.
"Being merciful as I am...I will make this quick for you Albus... You are hereby found guilty of guardian negligence, assistance of child abuse, and the complicity in conspiratorial efforts on a voted count of forty seven to three...You will await your sentencing to Azkaban in a high security prison at Nurmengard...Guards!" Minister Fudge barked furiously. "Take this man out of my sight!"
It was a glorious moment for most everyone in the room as two hooded wizards followed by a dementor approached Albus Dumbledore with shackles in their hands. Yet, as the guards neared within feet of Dumbledore everyone's attention was suddenly caught by a bird call that echoed throughout the chamber. Turning his head, Lucius saw an exotic pink phoenix swoop down from the balconies towards Dumbledore, who turned to wink at Harry Potter before clapping his hands above his head and vanishing in a bright fire of purple flames.