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Painted in the Worst Light

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Part I: Pre-Trial
Chapter One

 

"Shacklebolt wants to see you."

Harry pulled his toothbrush out of his mouth, rinsed, and looked in the mirror to meet Trainee Dalton's dark-eyed gaze. He mopped his face with a damp towel and scrubbed it over his hair before slipping his glasses on. "Did he say why?"

Dalton shook his shaggy blond head. "The message came from the commander. I don't know why the Minister wants to see you. Only that he does." His lip twisted into a mild sneer. "Probably some public appearance thing, but Commander Robards did say there's no need to rush. The Minister will be in his office for another hour or so."

Harry nodded and grabbed his deodorant, slathering it over his pits. Dalton hung around whilst Harry combed his hair, but when it finally became clear that Harry wasn't about to say anything further, he left.

Wearing nothing more than a towel slung low around his hips, Harry headed directly to his locker and dressed swiftly, paying little attention to the chatter of the other trainees going on around him. There were twenty students in his class and he was the youngest by a fair bit. The whole 'Saviour' thing aside, he had little in common with any of them, except a burning desire to protect the community for which he had given his life. That he didn't die was icing on the cake. He meant to die, and that was enough.

He pulled on his boots and gave his appearance a quick glance in the mirror. Black robes, conservatively cut. A pale grey shirt open at the throat. Black trousers and boots. He looked like he was in mourning. Perhaps he was. Merlin knew he'd lost enough. Cedric, Sirius, Dumbledore. Remus and Tonks. Fred. He and Ginny had decided right after his 18th birthday that they were both too young to consider a relationship. Ron had spent all of one month at the Academy before deciding he really had no desire to be an Auror and was working with George instead. Hermione was at Hogwarts for her seventh year and Harry was alone.

After rattling around Grimmauld Place for most of autumn, Harry decided he'd be much happier if he lived in the barracks at the Auror Academy with the rest of the trainees. He enjoyed, if that was the right word, the solitude his single room afforded him, but he could have done without the communal bathroom.

Harry slipped almost silently out of the locker room and took the Academy Floo to Level One of the Ministry building. It was a short walk from the lifts to the Minister's office and he plastered on his public smile as he entered the spacious anteroom. Crystal chandeliers hung from a high ceiling decorated with plaster medallions and the deep blue carpet absorbed the sound of his footsteps as he made his way to the glass topped desk that stood sentinel in front of ornately carved pale beech cabinets. Lights twinkled in the bevelled windows through which he saw rows upon rows of books and ledgers.

The witch who guarded Kingsley's door reminded Harry of a cross between McGonagall and a portrait of Scheherazade that hung on the fifth floor landing of the winding stair at Hogwarts. She had long, dark hair and loads of curves, and an attitude that would quell an angry hippogriff. "You can go straight in, Mr Potter. The Minister is expecting you."

"Thanks, Daveen." Soundlessly, he crossed the room and knocked very lightly on the door before pressing down on the latch.

Kingsley's office was smaller than one would expect. There were two comfortable couches set on either side of a low table arranged in front of a tall fireplace. Beyond the sitting area was a wide desk strewn with parchment. A heavy silver inkstand shone under the light of a beautiful cut-glass lantern, in which a blue flame danced brightly. Behind the desk was the portrait of George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham, who gazed upon Harry with frank interest, winked, and gave him a knowing smile.

Kingsley lifted his head from his paperwork and waved Harry towards the couch. "Pour yourself a cuppa if you're so inclined and have a seat. I'm nearly through with this memo."

Harry shot the portrait a quelling glance and scurried to the sofa, his footfall much louder on the silk Turkish carpet. "Did you want a cup, then?" he asked as he poured a splash of milk into a mug that looked as if it had been crafted for use instead of decoration.

"Milk and two sugars, thanks." Kingsley scribbled his name in the margin and tossed the quill onto the desk. He tilted his head back and scrubbed at his eyes for a moment before rising from a chair that appeared more ceremonial than comfortable. He saw Harry shake his head at the throne-like thing and snorted. "Remnants of Fudge. I'll replace it as soon as I have a moment."

"Why not transfigure it instead?"

Kingsley stretched. "The charms don't hold. I suspect it was Fudge's design. Rufus didn't care what he sat on as long as it held him." He stepped around the desk and sat opposite Harry, his broad hand reaching for the steaming mug in the centre of the table. "All I ask is a comfortable chair. How is training going?"

Harry looked over the rim of his cup, his green eyes shining. Here, with Shacklebolt, he could let down his guard. "It's brilliant. I'd no idea there was so much to policing, but I think I'm going to enjoy the work. We're starting the module on Field Medicine on Monday. Most of the Weasleys have already volunteered to let me practise on them."

Kingsley chuckled. "Arthur and Molly are as steady as the sunrise. And after Bill's years with the goblins, I doubt there's much that alarms him." He drank deeply and set the cup down, appearing weary beyond words. He offered a polite smile to Harry before saying, "Your instructors have been rather complimentary, and yes, before you ask, I've been checking up on you. It's not often the Minister himself has the opportunity to appoint a trainee to the program, but my faith in you was not misplaced."

Picking up a finger sandwich, Harry studied it for a moment before taking a bite to stall for time. "Sometimes I'm a bit sorry I didn't go back to Hogwarts to finish, but I'm managing all right, I suppose." It wasn't false modesty. Harry found some of the coursework so dense as to be almost impenetrable. He gobbled down the rest and eyed the plate for a moment before leaning back.

"Better than some, not as well as others," Kingsley allowed, "but no cause for shame, either. Eat up if you wish. There are plenty more where those came from. I recall training as being hungry work."

"Ta." Harry filled a small plate to overflowing and refreshed his tea, offering more to Kingsley who accepted eagerly. They chatted easily whilst Harry ate, discussing everything from the regulations on the misuse of Muggle artefacts to the obsessive need for writing reports that no one would ever read. "Quite honestly," said Harry as he finally unwound a little, "I'd no idea there were so many ways to abuse a Hoover."

"Rather fascinating what a wizard with a bit too much time on his hands can imagine," said Kingsley with a booming laugh. "As enjoyable as this has been, you must be wondering why I sent for you."

"It had crossed my mind. I can't imagine you find my difficulties with surveillance charms all that interesting." The easy peace vanished as Kingsley began to fiddle with the detritus of their informal meal and Harry felt his pulse quicken. A sense of dread crept over him, but he dismissed it as paranoia left over from the War.

"As you must be aware, the Death Eater trials have been underway for nearly a year and it's been a much more complicated process than any of us anticipated. It seems that Pius Thicknesse issued a blanket pardon for all Unforgivable Curses cast from the time You-Know-Who was resurrected until they were made legal under his administration."

Harry sat up so quickly that he spilt the tea he had forgotten he was holding. "What? You mean the Death Eaters are getting away with it? With killing Fred and Lupin and Tonks? With ruining Teddy's life? They were torturing people, Kingsley. They were murdering them! How can you let—"

"I'm not letting them get away with anything," interrupted Kingsley. "I said we can't lock them up for using Unforgivables, but Thicknesse always was an incompetent fool. As much as I'd love to throw them all in Azkaban and throw away the key, I have to follow the law and whilst Vol-" he stumbled over the name, "Voldemort was pulling the strings, our former Minister made Dark magic legal. As much as I'd like to wave my wand and say that doesn't count, it's not the way we do things."

Harry wanted to storm through the office, to throw things and shout at the top of his lungs about the unfairness of it all, but he sat quietly, his angry green eyes the only indicator of his unrest. "So how do we do things?"

"Every Death Eater was given the opportunity to select a Ministry employee to represent him at his trial before the Wizengamot. As you can imagine, many of them have selected Aurors with, shall we say, less than stellar reputations."

The Department of Magical Law Enforcement had suffered a tremendous blow to their reputation when the Death Eater Trials began. Many of the Aurors who had risen through the ranks during the final years of the first war had been seduced into turning a blind eye to the machinations of those who were merely suspected of Death Eater activity, but were exonerated after the Dark Lord's mysterious disappearance. Galleons greased palms and the Aurors somehow never caught wind of illegal activity unless it would further the purpose of those within Voldemort's inner circle.

"I remember seeing a few articles in the Prophet. There was a fair bit of concern that Lucius Malfoy would manage to avoid Azkaban entirely. Lucky for us, Voldemort decided he liked Malfoy Manor enough to use it as his headquarters and Mr Malfoy played host to a load of people who would rather not have visited." Short as it was, Harry's time in their dungeon had been most unpleasant.

"Precisely. We cannot prosecute the Death Eaters for their uses of Dark Magic. Nor can we prosecute them for their use of Unforgivables. But one thing I've learnt, Harry, is that the Death Eaters, whilst ambitious, were considerably less cunning than we gave them credit for being.

"Take the gangs of Snatchers, for instance. They had lists of people wanted by the Ministry, but there were no charges pending against any of them. Most of them were declared enemies for the 'crime' of having Muggle blood, but they never passed any laws that said that having Muggle blood was illegal. All the law said they had to do was register with the Committee. It didn't say anything about being held in the dungeons at Malfoy Manor or here at the Ministry for failure to appear."

Harry remembered it differently, but he wasn't Minister of Magic either and he still wasn't a sworn member of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. "Did you want me to investigate the backgrounds of the victims we pulled out of there? I'm certain we can convict some of them for kidnapping. The Snatchers, I mean. Not the people we rescued. Ron and Hermione and me, well, we found Griphook and Ollivander at Malfoy Manor along with Dean Thomas and Luna Lovegood. I know Luna and Ollivander are purebloods and I think Dean is as well."

"No, I'm afraid…no, you're right, Harry. We can—and will—convict the Snatchers on charges of kidnap, torture, wrongful imprisonment, and anything else we can think to add to the list, but I don't need you to conduct any investigations. You still have your training to complete and I can't have you out in the field quite yet. I have something else for you."

It was the way Kingsley was refusing to meet his eyes that made Harry nervous. "What is it you want me to do?" he asked slowly.

"Do you recall my saying that the Death Eaters could choose a current employee of the Ministry to represent them?"

Harry nodded as a cold ball of dread congealed in his stomach.

"There's no easy way to say this. Severus Snape has selected you to defend him. His trial is scheduled to begin on the 31st of May, which should give you adequate time to prepare."

Harry was propelled to his feet by pure rage and swept his hand along the table in a violent arc. Crumbs scattered as dainty little plates crashed against the wall. The teapot tumbled through the air to smash against Kingsley's desk. Tea sprayed all over the papers scattered on the top, the ink pooling in dark puddles on the parchment. Harry stormed through the office before flinging himself back down on the sofa, crossing his arms mutinously across his chest.

He truly did not know how he felt about Snape. Every time he thought he found it in his heart to forgive the man for his many (many, many) misdeeds, he would recall the innumerable times Snape managed to humiliate him or ignored him completely and his rage would spiral out of control again. All he wanted, or so he told himself, was Snape's respect, but it seemed as far out of reach as the stars.

Kingsley pulled his wand with a long-suffering sigh and waved it in the direction of his desk. With a sharp flick of his wand, the teapot mended and floated slowly back to the table. The plates pulled themselves back together again and organised themselves into a tidy stack. The crumbs vanished. "Worse, you cannot decline."

"I can't even say no?" Harry pulled himself up straight and rested his elbows on his knees. He buried his face in his hands for a moment, ducking his head to avoid smashing his spectacles against his nose. "Is there some sort of binding magical contract I should know about?"

"No, but the rules say that Snape can be represented by a Ministry employee of his choosing. He chose you. The only way to decline is to quit the Auror Corps, but if you do that, you won't be eligible for rehire, by the DMLE or any other department."

"This is utter crap." Harry looked up and dragged his hands through his messy hair. "Why did that fucker choose me?"

"I have no idea," admitted Kingsley. "I would have thought he'd ask someone who was in the Order, like Arthur Weasley for instance. You'll have a chance to ask him, though, when you interview him."

Interview? Harry leaned his head against the back of the couch. "I'll have to speak to him, won't I?" he groaned. "Hours upon hours with that greasy git." He lifted his head and cracked open an eye. "Can I put in for hazard pay?"

Kingsley frowned. "Forgive me, Harry, but I thought you wanted him to be exonerated. A full pardon. I was under the impression you were opposed to trying Snape at all."

"I am," exclaimed Harry. "The man's a hero. He was forced to do terrible things, but he did his best to see to it that no one suffered. It's just, well…" Harry's voice trailed off. He recalled a lecture from the earliest days of his training about ethics and professionalisms, how there would be times as an Auror that he would encounter people he absolutely could not stand but who needed the very best he could give them anyway. "We don't really get on all that well," he mumbled.

Kingsley laughed, a great booming sound that filled the room. "No one gets on with Severus Snape. If he's not puncturing holes in their inflated egos, he's reducing what little there is of their intellect to rubble. His tongue is more dangerous than his wand—and he's one of the most skilled wizards I've ever seen."

"Tell me about it. I wager he'll refer to me as a 'dunderhead' at least fifty times by the time the trial begins." Insolent, lazy, arrogant, just like his father. Harry had heard it all a hundred times over. Lucky him, he was about to hear it a hundred more. "What about my training?"

"As I understand it," said Kingsley, "you sit your first qualifying exams in the middle of March. Once the results come out, you receive your first posting. Rather than being assigned to one of the squadrons, you'll be assigned directly to the Ministry. Once the trial is over and Snape is sentenced, you'll be given your next assignment on the training rota.

"This won't hurt your career, Harry. Everyone in the Auror Corps at one time or another has to appear before the Wizengamot or work with the juridical officers assigned to the investigation of serious crime. And most of those officers have favourites that they request time and time again. If you have any aspirations towards heading the department, this experience will only serve you well."

Harry's eyebrows knitted together. "Yeah, that's what they said about the Triwizard Tournament. 'Fortune and glory'—and all I had to do was win the bloody thing. We both know how well that turned out." He sighed. "It sounds to me like this is little more than a formality in any case. You already have him convicted, so what's another nail in the coffin? Will Robards be interrogating him?"

Kingsley arched an eyebrow. "Have you not had the course on proceedings before the Wizengamot?"

Harry shook his head. "Not yet, but Arthur said my hearing for the use of underage magic was a trial, so I suppose I know how it works." Harry had also watched bits of several Death Eater trials that had taken place during the first war, but Kingsley didn't need to know he had fallen into a Pensieve he had no business being around.

"Then you saw the very end of the process," said Kingsley. "Ordinarily, the head of the department conducts the examination of the witness before the Wizengamot, but Robards is busy rebuilding, so that honour has passed to me."

Harry's eyes widened and he swallowed heavily. "You?"

Kingsley nodded and a grim smile curved his lips. "Welcome to the world of law enforcement."

~*~

The next few weeks were among the busiest Harry had ever known. Not only did he have his training at the Academy to contend with, but Kingsley had sent over the entire file on one Severus Tobias Snape.

To call it a file would be doing it an injustice. It was boxes and boxes of material collected by the Wizengamot and the investigative arm of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. There were statements taken under oath to read, phials and phials of memories to view, photographs to examine, and records to review. There was so much to learn that Harry's head swam every time he glanced at it.

For reasons Harry didn't quite understand, he was terribly conflicted about defending Snape. Ever since the Final Battle, Harry had descended into a state of profound confusion whenever the subject of Severus Snape arose. There was no question he despised the man on a personal level, but his animus was tempered by a rich vein of empathy. He understood on a visceral level why Snape had made the choices he had done and found himself wondering time after time if he'd have done half as well.

For all his virtues though, Snape was about as easy to love as a rabid hedgehog. He was all prickly quills and gnashing teeth and slashing claws. He hissed and fought anyone who would show him kindness and tore to shreds anyone who was the least bit threatening.

~*~

The final module of Harry's Auror training, the Juridical Traditions of the Wizengamot, brought with it some unwelcome surprises. He had a fair understanding of the hearing process from his own experience before the Wizengamot, but he had not known that the Investigation Department made regular appearances before the Wizengamot when it sat as a jury. The investigators also worked hand in glove with the Wizengamot Administrative Services, who compiled the various investigative data into reports which the Wizengamot relied upon in reaching their verdicts. That was how Fudge had known the specifics of Harry's actions the day he and his cousin had been attacked by Dementors in the alleyway near Privet Drive.

The process went something like this: a crime would occur. The investigators would interview witnesses and collect evidence. They would interrogate suspects and run down leads. At the conclusion of their investigation, all of their records were forwarded to the Wizengamot Administrative Services and a judicial officer, called an interrogator, would be assigned and would review the case file with the lead investigator. In the event of a major crime or one that was deemed to be 'politically sensitive', the Minister himself would serve as interrogator.

It was during the unit on witness testimony that Harry learnt that portraits were not allowed to provide testimony if they were an interested party to the proceedings. His heart sank. The lion's share of his defence rested on the testimony that Dumbledore's portrait would provide. All the plans that Dumbledore made, all the schemes he had launched, had been held very close to the vest. Dumbledore confided in very few people, but one of those had been Severus Snape. The rug had just been pulled out from under his case and he found himself grasping at straws.

"What does that even mean?" asked Harry during class when the subject of Interest came up, hoping against hope an exception existed. "Interested how?"

Terrence Patrickson, an elderly member of the Wizengamot who found teaching at the Academy more rewarding than his legislative work, lectured a bit on 'interest' as it pertained to legal proceedings. "Let's say a portrait witnesses a witch perform a dark ritual to cause her rival's business to fail. She conducts this ritual in a space away from her home and her business. In her home are several portraits, some of which know what she is doing and what her intent is. They want to see her succeed. They have an interest in our witch and cannot testify before the Wizengamot.

"But let's say she chose the place for her ritual poorly and her preparations and the ritual itself are seen by a small portrait she never noticed. This portrait doesn't know her, nor does she know it. That portrait has no interest in the outcome. It doesn't matter to its subject whether the witch is innocent or guilty. The Wizengamot can hear the portrait's testimony, whether it is probative or exculpatory, because it is thought to be an impartial witness. Would anyone care to venture why portrait testimony is frowned upon?"

A classmate of Harry's, Leigh Bates, raised her hand. "I would think it would be very difficult to question a portrait. They don't really have much body language to read so it would be too difficult to tell whether it is being truthful. "

"That is certainly a factor," said Patrickson. "Can anyone think of another reason why portrait testimony isn't favoured by the Wizengamot?"

There was a pause whilst several students flipped through their books to see if the answer lay somewhere in their readings. Harry thought it was likely in one of the footnotes he had glossed over, but it turned out there was an entire section he had no recollection of reading at all.

Quentin Watson, a Ravenclaw who had been some years ahead of Harry, raised his hand. "It says here because it is almost impossible to impeach the character of the portrait unless they are either well known or if they died within the past…" He skimmed over a paragraph. "Within the last ten years and you can find people who can provide some rebuttal testimony." He massaged his temples with long, thin fingers. "Why do we have to know this, again?"

Patrickson chuckled with delight, a high reedy sound that made Harry think a wheeze was hiding right behind it. "Why would a lowly Auror need to know how our legal system works? Is that your question, Mr Watson?"

Watson slumped down in his seat whilst Harry's classmates joined in the laughter. "An Auror is an officer of the law. We on the Wizengamot believe it would be useful for our Aurors to know what the law is and how the law works. That, Mr Watson, is why I have the privilege of having you in this module."

It was during the unit on the rights of a suspect that Harry discovered that, as Snape's defence advisor, he was not allowed to give testimony. In fact, unless it worked to the Ministry's advantage, anything Harry had said about Snape—any statements he'd made, any evidence he had provided—would be stricken. Once again, Harry found himself wondering why Snape had chosen him.