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Antithesis

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Antithesis – 1. n. exact opposite, difference.  2. n. causing problem; opposition.  3. n. equilibrium.

 

                “You're going to pay.  I’m going to make you pay for what you've done to my father... You think you're such a big man, Potter.  You wait.  I'll have you.  You can't land my father in prison.”

 

                “I thought I just had.”

 

                Harry lied in his bed and stared up at the bland white ceiling of his room.  His very last conversation with Malfoy kept popping up in his mind ever since the Ministry owl had arrived.

 

                Ignoring the ache in his shoulder from where Vernon had recently wrenched it with one beefy hand, Harry reached over to his bedside table and fumbled for the slightly crumpled letter he had read several times already.

 

 Dear Mr. Potter,

 

Due to the recent events at the Department of Mysteries on the eighteenth of June, we are pleased to inform you of the Ministry's swift actions against the suspected Death Eaters captured in the aftermath, and we formally extend to you an invitation to attend their trial.

 

Furthermore, in addition to your attendance should you choose to present yourself, we would also like to request your testimony as a witness and participant of the battle.  Your statement would be optional but notably appreciated by those of the government seeking justice against the corrupt forces of You-Know-Who.

 

The trial will commence at the Ministry of Magic in Courtroom Ten at 10 a.m. on the seventeenth of July.

 

If you opt to attend, please send your reply no later than the sixteenth of July.

 

Thank you for your time,

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Hector Quincey

 

Council of Magical Law

 

Ministry of Magic

 

                Harry snorted, allowing his hand to drop back onto his bed, letter still clutched between his fingers.

 

                ‘Invitation’.  ‘Choose’.  ‘Request’.  ‘Optional’. ‘Appreciated’.

 

                Anymore sucking up and Harry just might vomit.  The Ministry was falling over themselves to please him now, and Harry wasn't even quite sure what that would achieve in the long run.  Did the idiots think that Harry could magically make Voldemort go away if the government bent over backwards for the Boy-Who-Lived?

 

                He also found it rather amusing that the trial would be taking place in the same chamber that his own hearing had been in.  His expulsion apparently ranked on the same level as Death Eater trials.  Fancy that.

 

                A single quiet chime sounded from his alarm clock and Harry heaved a sigh before pushing himself up, wincing as his ribs gave a nasty throb in protest.  It was time to make dinner.  He had lost track of time yesterday and Vernon had not been pleased when he had gotten home and Harry had still been cooking.

 

                Tossing the letter back onto the table, he headed for the door, easing it open and barely sparing the six locks more than a fleeting glance.  The Dursleys only locked him in after dinner now before Petunia would unlock the door again in the morning so he could make breakfast.  Of course, most of the time, none of the Dursleys were in after breakfast until late afternoon, so, depending on how lucky Harry was, he might or might not be locked in then as well.

 

                “Boy, make sure you don’t burn the food again!”  Petunia snapped sharply when he passed the living room.

 

                Harry nodded bleakly.  “Yes, Aunt Petunia.”

 

                He meandered on into the kitchen, mind drifting as it often did these days.

 

                He had shown the letter to the Dursleys several days ago.  Naturally, when Harry had revealed that he had already sent a response back that he would be attending and testifying, Petunia had looked horrified and Vernon’s face had turned the colour of puce.  In a miraculous leap of intelligence, both had realized that this meant that Harry would have some of his lot coming to pick him up for said trial.

 

                This revelation had come with several extra bruises and a split lip.  And then his uncle had had the nerve to drag Harry off the floor, sit him down at his desk, and dictate his every-three-days-to-make-sure-you're-alright letter (because apparently, there was no way Vernon would have the brains to make sure Harry only wrote what the overgrown walrus of a man wanted him to write) to the Order.

 

                Surprisingly or maybe not so surprisingly, Harry hadn't really cared about that.  He had been living with slaps and belts, missed meals and back-breaking chores for almost fifteen years of his life – he was used to keeping the rough treatment (he refused to call it abuse because it wasn't – it didn't happen regularly enough to call it that) under wraps.  It was part of everyday life for him.

 

                Still, it wasn't as if they could do anything beyond that, especially since Remus had already written back and promised that he and a few others would be swinging by on the seventeenth to escort him to the Ministry.

 

                I’ll have to redo my glamours or they might sense something, Harry thought glumly as his hands went through the motions of preparing that night’s dinner.  Stupid Dursleys have been even worse ever since they found out Sirius died.

 

                The automatic pain that sparked in his chest at the thought of his godfather seemed dulled somehow, as if Harry was feeling it from a long distance away.  He wasn't quite certain whether or not this was a good thing but he couldn't find it in himself to care at the moment.

 

                Why did Dumbledore have to send a bloody letter to the Dursleys anyway, informing them of Sirius’ death and giving them more ammunition against him now that they knew there was no mass murderer watching over him?  The blasted Headmaster had even said that he had known he would be condemning Harry to suffer ten ‘dark and difficult years’ – and didn't that still make his blood boil – so what in the name of Merlin did that fool of an old man think would happen?

 

                Harry took a deep breath, holding it for several heartbeats before releasing it again, the momentary spike of rage draining with his exhalation.  It had been like that ever since he had come back to this prison after his fifth year – his anger would rear its head now and then before dying a swift death once more and leaving him empty and wearier than a full day of doing chores would.

 

                With some effort, he dragged his thoughts back to the upcoming trial.  After he had sent his reply, the Ministry had answered with near-sycophantic gratitude and an assurance that no reporters would mob him upon his arrival.  Still, Harry half-expected to be welcomed with a fanfare come tomorrow.

 

                Not to mention that it still boggled his mind that Albus For-Your-Own-Good-My-Boy Dumbledore hadn't interfered and sent his own letter telling Harry that he wasn't allowed to go, but after some deliberation, Harry figured that after the temper tantrum he had thrown in the Headmaster’s office, the man didn't want to risk anymore falling-outs between them.  Shockingly enough, Dumbledore had even sent his own personal letter along with one from Gringotts informing him that everything Sirius had owned was now his, including Grimmauld Place, Kreacher, all of the Black vaults, and every other Black property across the continent.

 

                Harry had written back immediately to inform the Headmaster that Grimmauld Place was open for Order use and he didn't even want to think about Kreacher (the less said about that traitorous house-elf, the better).  Dumbledore had thanked him approvingly with a hell of a lot of ‘my boy’s’ thrown in and Harry had burnt that letter at the first opportunity.  It was as if the old man thought that everything had gone back to the way it had been before the end of Harry’s fifth year.

 

                Not that it mattered.  He had every intention of staying away from Dumbledore as much as possible this year, and all the years after that if he had anything to say about it.

 

It had occurred to him, one night in his bedroom when he couldn't sleep because of the nightmares, couldn't stretch his legs because of the Dursleys and the sextuple-locked door, and couldn't catch a breath of fresh air because of the newly reinstalled bars in his window and a windowpane on the outside, that Dumbledore was a man who hoarded secrets with more commitment than a dragon hoarded treasure did.  And it was stupid to trust people like that, people who weren’t capable of trusting in return because they needed everything to go their way.

 

                Harry had been stupid for far too long.

 

To be frank, avoiding Dumbledore wasn't something he was very concerned about.  He was no longer deluding himself that the man had his best interests in mind.  The Headmaster only cared about his Greater Good.  Harry knew that now, and really, Dumbledore could twinkle at him all he wanted, play the part of benevolent surrogate grandfather as much as he wanted, but the old man couldn't make Harry trust him.

 

Unless potions and or spells were involved.  Harry made a mental note to keep an eye out for anything of the sort.

 

More importantly however was... well, he couldn't really think of anything.  Voldemort might be one, but the oh-so-feared Dark Lord had been plaguing him since he was eleven years old – nothing Harry hadn't already been handling for the better part of his teens.

 

Besides that, Harry couldn't really think of anything else that could be worth getting hung up on.  Truth be told, he couldn't even muster up much enthusiasm about anything, whether that be classes or Quidditch or his friends.

 

That wasn't to say a part of him didn't miss the latter.  He had only heard once from Hermione, Ron, and Ginny (on the same letter implying that the three were probably already at Grimmauld Place or the Burrow together), and once each from Neville and Luna.  To be fair, that was actually a pretty good record for half a month of summer vacation.

 

Unlike last year though, Harry couldn't rally the indignant fury he had felt about being left out once again.  It didn't really matter anymore, did it?  He knew the prophecy now, but nothing had really changed.  All it meant was that he now knew why Voldemort wanted him dead so badly.

 

Aurors still stood guard outside the Dursleys’ house day in and day out (and didn't they get bored of that?).  Letters were still far and few in between.  And Harry was still shuffled back to his prison after witnessing yet another death.

 

It was times like these that he wondered where common sense had gone when it came to wizards and witches.  Muggles had therapists for people who had seen people killed in front of them, didn't they?  That didn't necessarily mean that Harry wanted someone to talk to – he didn't – but it was the principle of the matter.  Was it normal to give an adolescent a pat on the back after he had seen a fellow student and then his godfather die in front of him before packing him off back to people who would laugh themselves to death at the mere thought of giving him comfort?

 

Sometimes, he wondered what it would be like if he had told Hagrid on that fateful stormy night in that little hut on the rock no.

 

No, I don’t want to go to Hogwarts.  No, I don’t particularly care that my parents went to school there.  No, I don’t want anything to do with magic.

 

Where would he be now?  Would the Dursleys have treated him better if he had rejected magic?  Would he be starting to look into universities or colleges or jobs?

 

If nothing else, he would certainly have had less death-defying adventures.

 

“BOY!”

 

Harry started and almost dropped the pan he was holding, twisting around and holding it in front of him like a sword.  He hadn't heard Vernon’s car come in.

 

“Yes, sir?”  He enquired stiffly, eyeing the man for any signs of violence.

 

Vernon scowled at him as he lumbered over to his chair at the table.  “Some of your lot’s coming tomorrow.”

 

It wasn't a question.  Harry nodded anyway.

 

Vernon sneered.  Or rather, he tried to, but Harry thought it just made the man look constipated.  He wisely kept this thought to himself.

 

“And they’ll be picking you up the normal way?”  Vernon barked.

 

“If you mean coming up the driveway to the front door,” Harry said tonelessly.  “Then yes.”

 

For a man of his size, Vernon could move rather quickly when he wanted to.  A glancing blow to the side of Harry’s head made his eyes water as he stumbled back and narrowly missed burning himself on the stove.

 

“I don’t want any of your cheek!”  Vernon blustered, face beginning to redden as he took a threatening step forward into Harry’s space.  “Now you listen here – I don’t want any nonsense when they get here.  You’ll wait for them on the front step.  The moment you see them, you go.  If any of the neighbours catch so much as a glimpse of your lot, I’ll have your hide when you get back.  Am I understood?”

 

Not like you won’t anyway, Harry thought with sardonic cynicism.  Outwardly, he nodded mutely and held his breath until Vernon backed off and trudged out of the kitchen again, calling for Petunia in a much lighter tone.

 

Releasing a shaky breath, Harry turned back to the stove and weighed the pros and cons of burning dinner just to spite them.  He wouldn't get a beating tonight since Remus and the others would arrive tomorrow, but he’d be sure to get it later.

 

He found that he didn't really care about this either and promptly turned up the heat on the stove.  Vernon never went too far, and he’d have an entire day to cool down, perhaps even forget this incident.

 

Or maybe Harry would get lucky and the walrus would finally keel over from a heart attack.

 

A part of Harry’s brain pointed out that he probably shouldn't be thinking like this.

 

The rest of Harry told that part to shut up.  He could think whatever he wanted, especially if it kept his mind off of Sirius and throat-clogging guilt and Muggles being tortured because Voldemort couldn't think of anything more constructive to do.

 

Damn his cursed scar.

 

Harry rubbed a free hand over the still-tender mark and forced his thoughts back to the here and now.

 

He’d go to the trial tomorrow, make sure the captured Death Eaters would be locked away for good, maybe play up Gryffindor Potter for good measure and curse out a few of them, before returning to his monotonous life.

 

It might be good for him to see some of his enemies.  The hollow feeling that had taken over his chest and numbed the anger he was sure should still be simmering under his skin would definitely go away once he laid eyes on the bastards who grovelled at Voldemort’s feet, right?

 

Truthfully, he just wanted to stop feeling so tired all the time, so heavy.  Putting a few Death Eaters in prison and generally feeling like he was doing something worthwhile would surely go a long way towards that goal.

 

~1~

 

                “Are you alright, Harry?”

 

                Harry glanced listlessly up at Remus walking beside him as they entered the Ministry.  He tried for a reassuring smile but, judging by the werewolf’s concerned frown, missed by a mile.

 

                He settled for nodding instead.  He sensed that Remus wanted to say something more but Moody, at the head of their small delegation growled back at them, “We’re here.  Trial starts in fifteen minutes.  Potter, you can wait in this room until they call you in.”

 

                Harry nodded again, and when Remus shot him an odd sidelong look, he wracked his mind for whatever the Marauder seemed to be waiting for.

 

                ‘You’, Moody had implied.  Only Harry.  Right.

 

                “Are you not staying?”  Harry attempted to inject some curiosity into his tone.  This time, he figured he had been semi-successful.  At the very least, Tonks and Moody – though one could never really read Moody – didn't look like they thought anything was amiss even though Remus continued studying him like Harry was going to fall apart any second.

 

                “No time,” Moody grumbled.  “We have crowd control and Order business to attend to.”

 

                An electric blue eye pinned Harry with a startlingly intent gaze as its owner craned his head around and stared at him.

 

                “Longbottom’s already in there; you’ll have time to catch up,” Moody continued gruffly, and if Harry didn't know better, he would’ve thought that the ex-Auror was trying to cheer him up in his own awkward way.  “If you finish before we get back, don’t leave this room.  And for Merlin’s sake, when you do see us, remember to ask the security questions, clear?”

 

                That was more like it.  Harry nodded a third time, and belatedly, he wondered if he should have asked why Neville was here, but the time window for a question like that passed and he stepped towards the aforementioned room instead.  A hand on his shoulder – he had to force himself not to flinch – stopped him.

 

                “Harry,” Remus offered a quiet smile, still slightly strained with lingering sorrow but genuine enough for someone undoubtedly still mourning.  “We don’t have time now, but perhaps we can stop for a cup of tea later?  I'm sure you've missed having a friendly face to talk to at the Dursleys.”

 

                I'm not made of glass!  Harry wanted to shout in a sudden surge of seething resentment that left just as quickly as it came.  He swiftly agreed instead – time spent with Remus, even if the Marauder would only be pushing to know how Harry felt, still meant time away from his relatives.

 

                He waved a quick goodbye to Tonks, whose overall appearance didn't seem quite as vibrant with her hair coloured plain brown, and Moody, who nodded back curtly, before slipping into the waiting room and shutting the door behind him.

 

                He took a moment to simply lean against the door, eyes closed and a part of him wanting to just curl up in a bed and not get up for the next few days.

 

                “Um, Harry?  Are you okay?”

 

                His eyes flashed open.  He had forgotten that Neville was already in here.  The other Gryffindor was peering at him from a few feet away, looking uncertain but worried.

 

                Harry actually managed a more cheerful smile this time.  He had missed his friends.  “Hey, Neville.  Don’t worry; I'm just a bit tired.  Had to wake up early today.”

 

                Neville didn't look particularly convinced but he backed off and didn't press, something Harry was pathetically grateful for.

 

                “How’ve you been?”  Harry continued.

 

                Neville shrugged, a slightly bashful smile making its way onto his face.  “Well enough.  You wouldn't believe all the people staring at me on the way up here.  You know, because I know you.”

 

                Harry shot him a sharp look as they made their way over to a couple of chairs and sat down.  “They're staring at you because you were at the Ministry too.  Our little adventure there was all over the Daily Prophet, you must've seen it.  Hermione sent me a copy.”

 

                “Yes, I thought Gran would be angry about all the publicity," Neville’s eyes had brightened happily.  “But she was really pleased.  Says I'm starting to live up to my dad at long last.  She bought me a new wand, look!”

 

                He pulled it out and showed it to Harry.

 

“Cherry and unicorn hair,” He said proudly.  “I think it was one of the last Ollivander ever sold since he vanished next day.”

 

Harry blinked.  “Ollivander’s gone?”

 

                Neville looked startled before realization flooded his features.  “Er, yes.  It happened two days ago.  I guess you wouldn't have heard of that yet.  Shop's empty.  No sign of a struggle.  No one knows whether he left voluntarily or was kidnapped.”

 

                Harry hoped it was the former.  He knew it was the latter.

 

                He didn't voice any of this out loud though, choosing instead to glance around the room.  “So, the trial.  Are you testifying as well?”

 

                Neville nodded.  “I got a letter from the Ministry a week ago.  Gran said it was my choice, and I thought you’d come so I figured I’d come to back you up as well...”

 

                He trailed off, looking embarrassed.  Harry didn’t know why – it was always steadfast loyalty like Neville’s that humbled Harry more than anything else.

 

                “Thanks,” He said quietly, and Neville grinned back tentatively, looking puzzlingly relieved for a split second.  “Though I think they’re as good as convicted.  The Ministry just wants to make everything official.”

 

                “So that it looks like they’re doing something right and everything’s legal,” Neville agreed.

 

                “Exactly,” Harry found his gaze sliding to the door.  “So where are the others?”

 

                Neville frowned.  “I heard from Ron that his memories are still a bit fuzzy after his run-in with those brains so he can’t really testify, and Ginny and Luna are both apparently too young.”

 

                Harry mulled this over.  He had already known that Luna wasn't going to come since the blonde had explained as much in her letter.

 

                Ron, Ginny, and Hermione had probably been too busy moving from location to location and were no doubt still recovering from their injuries, not to mention Mrs. Weasley would sooner hex the Ministry official who would dare even suggest that her youngest child be pulled into a Death Eater trial before actually letting it happen.

 

                Doesn’t explain why Neville got word, a voice muttered slyly in the back of his mind.  Your letters are being monitored again.

 

                As if he hadn't already known that.

 

                “And Hermione-” Neville continued, stumbling a little.

 

                “-is a Muggleborn,” Harry finished.  “Her word’s not enough in a court filled with Purebloods.”

 

                “Yeah,” Neville made a face.  “So it’s just the two of us, especially since we both come from old Pureblood lines.  We hold more weight against people like Malfoy and the Lestranges.”

 

                Harry nodded.  “What about the Order?  Moody said they all have business to take care of.  Are none of them coming to the trial?”

 

                Neville looked a bit hesitant now.  “I’m not sure about that; I haven’t had much contact with the Order, though it was Mr. Shacklebolt and Ms. Vance who escorted me and Gran up here.  I guess they think it’s an open-and-shut case and there was no need to come as well.  They have raids to stop and the public to calm down.”

 

                Harry scoffed before he could bite it back.  “The public should’ve seen this coming a year ago.”

 

                A somewhat stilted silence descended on them.

 

                “Is Dumbledore coming?”  Harry asked, more to ward off the beginnings of awkwardness in the room than real interest in the answer.

 

                Neville shook his head.  “I heard from Mr. Shacklebolt that Dumbledore’s busy with the new Minister.  Oh, did you hear about...?”

 

                Harry nodded.  He’d heard about Rufus Scrimgeour.  It had been front-page headlines on the Daily Prophet that Hermione had sent.

 

                “Harry,” Neville looked nervous when Harry concentrated on him again.  “I know- I know it’s none of my business and you probably don’t even want to talk about it but- er, how are you doing? With- With everything, I guess.”

 

                Harry sighed and rubbed a palm over his scar.  Neville actually looked like he was waiting for Harry to snap at him for being nosy but still waiting stubbornly for an answer.

 

                It was this more than anything else that made Harry reply honestly.  Or as honestly as he could manage.

 

                “I’ll be fine, Nev,” Harry said, ignoring the fact that he might’ve been trying to convince himself more than Neville.  “The battle back in June – that’s the sort of thing I get into every year.”

 

                “I don’t mean the battle!” Neville burst out earnestly before reddening.  “I mean- what with your godfather and all, and Dumbledore-”

 

                “What do you mean ‘Dumbledore’?”  Harry interrupted, determinedly ignoring the mention of Sirius.  Even Neville wouldn't be given that much leeway.

 

                Neville shifted uncomfortably.  “Back in June, after the battle, Dumbledore told us that he had sent you back to Hogwarts to his office, and then he sent us to the Hospital Wing.  The others were all asleep by the time you came to the Hospital Wing but I was still- I was still awake.  And you looked... well you were either really angry or really upset.  Or both – I couldn't tell, but I’ve never seen you like that before and I figured if Dumbledore managed to do that, he can’t exactly be your favourite person at the moment.

 

                “That’s- That’s what I think anyway,” Neville added, flushing furiously as his gaze dropped to the ground.

 

                Harry’s eyebrows had risen.  He didn't think he had ever heard Neville say so much so directly and all in one go.

 

                “You’re right,” Harry said eventually, leaning back in his seat.  “Dumbledore’s not my favourite person right now.  But I’ll manage.”

 

                Neville looked at him carefully, and not for the first time, Harry found himself wondering if the other Gryffindor was more perceptive than people gave him credit for.

 

                “Does it have to do with-” Neville was certainly smart enough not to say ‘prophecy’ out loud, only jerking his head a little instead.

 

                Harry tilted his head, keeping his face blank.  He hadn't so much as mentioned the prophecy to anyone, not even Ron and Hermione.  All his friends assumed was that, since the prophecy had shattered, no one would be able to hear it anymore.

 

                “You don’t have to tell me,” Neville offered a somewhat crooked smile.  “I can tell that it’s important.  I just want you to know, Harry, that whatever happens, after last year and everything we’ve been through, whether it’s facing down V- Voldemort or even- even Dumbledore, I’ll- I’ll have your back, that’s all.”

 

                Neville swallowed and looked thoroughly embarrassed again.  It didn't stop the first glimmer of warmth since June from curling in Harry’s chest, as sappy as it sounded.

 

                Outwardly, he reached over and briefly pressed a loose fist against Neville’s shoulder.  “Thanks, Nev.”

 

                Neville blinked and then beamed.  There was no more time for words though when a door at the far end of the room swung open and a Ministry official strode in.

 

                Dark-haired and blue-eyed with a too-oily smile on his face, the man swept past Neville as if the Gryffindor was a hat stand before coming to a stop in front of Harry.

 

                “Mr. Potter!”  The man started in obsequious tones.  “I am Belarius Wiel, the court’s scribe for the day.  And let me say what an honour it is to have you here today!  Indeed, your testimony in court will prove to be quite valuable, and of course, we of the Ministry are truly grateful for your willingness-”

 

                Harry, having already stood up the moment the door had opened with Neville following suit, stamped down the old urge to scramble for words in the face of being confronted by a new obstacle.  He had stammered in front of Rita Skeeter and backed down when coping with Dumbledore, had fallen into a habit of disconnecting his brain from his mouth when anxious or startled or out of his depth, but while this summer so far had proven to be more exhausting than perhaps all the others combined, Harry had sworn he wouldn't freeze up anymore, would actually think and act, if only to avoid Dumbledore’s machinations.  If this new personal goal also kept his mind from straying back to all the regrets he held and the dark thoughts that crept up on him at night, all the better.

 

                This idiot seemed a good start.  No more holding back.

 

                “Let me get one thing straight, Mr. Wiel,” Harry cut off the man’s saccharine rambling.  “We, that is myself and Neville, are here today to testify and nothing else.  I don’t particularly care whether or not the Ministry is grateful for our statements, and I care even less for anything else you have to say.  So, if you please, if the trial is ready to begin, let’s not waste anymore time.”

 

                Over the flabbergasted official’s shoulder, Neville was staring at him with wide eyes and an open mouth.  A blink and a half later, the Gryffindor closed his mouth and a smile twitched in its place.  His shoulders squared like they had when Harry had led them to the Ministry, as if Neville was getting ready to take on the world all because Harry said it was time.

 

                Harry wasn't sure whether or not he should feel guilty about this as well.

 

                “O- Of course, Mr. Potter!”  Wiel deferred hastily.  The man had probably been told not to offend Harry.  “And Mr. Longbottom, naturally.  This way please.”

 

                The official bustled back towards the door and Neville fell into step on Harry’s right.

 

                They reached the door, and Harry only took one step through before he stopped, a familiar chill washing over him.

 

                “Harry?”  Neville had stopped as well, looking anxious even as a shiver seemed to wrack his frame.  “Is that- Is that Dementors?”

 

                “They brought them to the trial,” Harry muttered back, mind racing.  Why?  Why would they do that?

 

                “Mr. Wiel,” He called out even as he pulled his robes tighter around himself and they started down a hallway.  “Have Dementors been brought to the trial?”

 

                “Why yes they have,” Wiel waved a hand ahead where the Dementors were presumably stationed.  “Some of them have deserted and they will be hunted down, but the Ministry managed to round up quite a few and they have been brought under our control.  They have been brought here today to do their part against those convicted today.”

 

                “You’re handing out the Kiss sentence?”  Neville blurted out, shoulders tensing when Wiel turned an insipid smile on him.

 

                “As soon as they're convicted, Mr. Longbottom,” Wiel drew himself up.  “The Ministry is swift with its justice.  We don’t want trash like the Death Eaters running about longer than they have to.”

 

                Harry exchanged a glance with Neville behind the official’s back.  He hadn't expected this.  He had thought that the Death Eaters would simply be shuffled off to Azkaban (where they might or might not escape or Voldemort might or might not free them, depending on his mood, because Harry knew better than anyone that the Dark Lord could hold a grudge like no one else).

 

                Neville shrugged, a helpless gesture that conveyed they probably deserve it and what can we do.

 

                Harry nodded back slowly and said no more as Wiel opened another door and they were led into Courtroom Ten.

 

                His gaze is instantly drawn to the far end of the room, well away from everyone else, where three Dementors are hovering in a warded off area.  He inwardly shuddered just looking at them.

 

                He took in the Death Eaters next, lined up in the center of the room, shackled with iron chains, and surrounded by armed Aurors.  He caught sight of Lucius Malfoy, the Lestrange brothers, Dolohov, Rookwood, Macnair, Crabbe and Goyle Senior (The latter came as a surprise – Harry was fairly certain that Goyle hadn't been at the Department of Mysteries.  Had the Ministry decided to drag in known Death Eaters from the last war as well?), Nott, Mulciber, and two others that Harry couldn't remember the name of.

 

                All of them were standing like prisoners on death row, which was pretty much what they were, except death would’ve probably been more merciful.  Clad in grey-and-white-striped clothing and looking distinctly more Muggle now that they no longer wore robes, the Death Eaters looked haggard and petrified, and most of them had their eyes glued on the Dementors.

 

                Not all of them, as Harry had thought, and it was this that made something unpleasant twist in his gut.

 

                Because the gallery facing the bench where the judge, the jury, and a slew of other members were sitting was completely filled, mostly with prying public eyes wanting to see a Dementor in action but also with-

 

With families.  Families of the Death Eaters.

 

It wasn't hard to spot the telltale blond hair of his school enemy.  Arrogant Draco Malfoy was sitting at the front, grey-faced and blank-eyed and staring at his father as if the man would disappear if he so much as blinked.  His mother was beside him, not a hair out of place but looking more worn-down than Harry had ever thought possible for a Pureblood.

 

And Lucius Malfoy was standing beside Rabastan Lestrange, stiff-backed and the perfect picture of a Pureblood aristocrat even though his hair was unbound and nowhere near as sleek as usual and the prison clothes he was wearing probably wouldn't be fit to scrub Malfoy Manor’s toilets.

 

Even two weeks ago, just thinking about this man made Harry want to strangle something, but now, well, Harry still despised the Pureblood for what he had done to Ginny and his part at the Department of Mysteries but, again, he had to work on the anger issue, or lack thereof, dredge up the rush of acrimony instead of settling for the tiredtiredtired bitter tang that never seemed to get the hint and scram these days.

 

The last bit was only half the reason though, because Harry had to squint and tilt his head a few degrees to the left and even adjust his glasses a little before he could be certain of the glint of regret in Malfoy Senior’s eyes.   There was terror there too, and Harry couldn't blame him for that, but it was the regret that slammed home the fact that for all his vices, all his transgressions, all his crimes, Lucius Malfoy still had a family.

 

Harry glanced again at Draco Malfoy in the crowd, and the Slytherin’s mother as well, and he had to pinch himself to realize that this wasn't a dream – there was... love there.

 

Well hidden behind features that might as well have been carved out of stone but there nonetheless.  Harry was good at that – picking up emotions – if only because he had spent the better part of his childhood observing other kids with their parents and studying the Dursleys for signs of violence.

 

But there it was – love and regret and terror and sorrow, all mixed together to create a maelstrom of emotions that made the Malfoys more human to him than any of them had in all the years he had known of their existence.

 

And the sick feeling in Harry’s stomach grew until he couldn't stand looking at them anymore.

 

He turned to the sea of other pale faces in the crowd, most he only really knew the names of and little else other than who they were related to.

 

He picked out sixth-year Slytherin Aldric Lestrange, probably a nephew to the Lestrange brothers, sitting on the left with his expression shuttered.

 

And Crabbe and Goyle of course, but the former was acting as an anchor for his mother who had latched onto his hand with a white-knuckled grip while the latter was trying in vain to stop both his mother and what looked to be his younger sister from crying.

 

Huh.  And Harry had always thought that both boys had only had high enough IQ levels to walk around and follow Malfoy’s orders.

 

There were several others that he couldn't recall the names of, but he recognized Theodore Nott in the gallery, also alone and unexpectedly small despite his weedy height.

 

And there was Aurelia Rookwood, also Slytherin and either a third- or fourth-year come September.  Tears glistened in the girl’s eyes even as her tenuous control held them back.  She was sitting beside her mother, whose blue gaze stood out starkly against her pinched white face while her gaze seemed torn between her husband and the Lestrange brothers.  Harry knew Rodolphus was married to Bellatrix and he was pretty sure that Rabastan wasn't married at all so Aurelia was probably their niece, and her mother their sister.

 

Odd that so many children would mourn for the loss of people who really only amounted to murderers in Harry’s book until a few minutes ago.

 

Perhaps most surprisingly of all, Harry’s hated Potions Professor was here as well, sitting at the very back and cloaked in shadows so well that it came as a surprise that he had caught sight of the man at all.  A flutter of savage animosity welled up inside Harry but that too faded into something more passive.

 

Whether Snape was here purely for the trial, for Dumbledore and the Order’s purposes, for Voldemort’s purposes, or, depending on whether or not one of the rumours at Hogwarts was true, for the Malfoys as Draco Malfoy’s godfather, Harry didn't know.  But the man’s black, unreadable gaze was solely focused on the Death Eaters, never wavering from them even as people started turning to look at Harry and Neville.

 

A shoulder against his jostled him out of his observations and his eyes darted over to Neville, who looked about as pale as Harry felt.  He knew the other Gryffindor had seen the same thing he had.

 

“What do we do?”  Neville whispered as they were led down one aisle.

 

Harry sometimes wished people would stop asking him that.  Sooner or later, all of his friends, even logical Hermione, would turn to him with that question as if Harry would always somehow know best how to proceed in times of difficulty.

 

“What can we do?”  Harry returned in an undertone.  “They’re Death Eaters.”

 

“They’ll get the- the Kiss,” Neville pointed out needlessly.

 

Harry had been hoping to forget that bit.

 

Neither paid much attention as Wiel introduced them to the court and the judge, Hector Quincey, welcomed them graciously as Wiel guided them over to two seats at the front several feet away from the contingent of prisoners and Aurors.

 

“They deserve it,” Neville continued, sounding torn between convinced and wanting to be convinced.

 

Harry’s jaw tightened in memory of third year and Sirius, of death rattles and his mother’s desperate voice, of slimy scabbed hands closing around his throat and the sense of despair that had flooded his very soul in the face of those creatures, and he thought no, nobody deserved that.

 

If he concentrated hard enough right now, he could actually hear Lily Potter’s screams.  He valiantly tried to shut it out.

 

The trial began with the judge reading out the list of those to be tried and an overview of what had happened in June, and Harry noted that the two unknown Death Eaters were Avery and Jugson.

 

Wasn't there a Ravenclaw Avery a year above Harry?  A boy, he was sure, though he couldn't remember a name or a face.

 

He turned to look at the Malfoys again, eyed the thin line that Narcissa Malfoy’s mouth was set in, for the first time looking less like she was suppressing a sneer towards those around her and more like she was holding back tears, save that her eyes were bone dry.  The epitome of an upper-class lady even now.

 

Not that anyone else could see beneath it.  Anyone not connected to the Death Eaters in some way were sitting as far away as physically possible from those who were and sending condescending looks of abhorrence in their direction.

 

Frankly, Harry thought them little better than the ones they thought they were now superior to.

 

He looked again at Malfoy, at Crabbe and Goyle, at the other kids who were all around his age and pretending that they didn't care that their fathers or uncles or husbands were a testimony away from getting the Dementor’s Kiss.

 

                For a second, he felt like he was going to be violently ill, because there were two things he could do here, two choices laid out in front of him, the first being the one that everyone thought was right, and the second...

 

                The second wasn't particularly right either but here he was, twelve lives in the palm of his hand, all snuffed out like candles with a single word from him.  It was a heady amount of power and Harry had to wonder if this was what Voldemort felt, if this was what Dumbledore felt, and he wondered how they could stand it all the time.

 

                It made Harry want to throw up just thinking about it.  No one person should have that much control over another’s life.

 

                One last time, he surveyed the witches and wizards that the Light had already dismissed and condemned as Dark, and he made up his mind.

 

                If nothing else, he could at least depend on all the life debts he’d acquire today to keep a good few dozen Voldemort supporters from stabbing him in the back.

 

                (Then again, after today, how many would still be Voldemort supporters might just come into question.  It was quite clear that the Dark Lord had no intention of saving them.  The Dementors all followed Voldemort – the only reason for any of those things to be here was that Voldemort wanted them here.)

 

                Taking a deep breath, he looked to the side at Neville who was already staring back with a look that reminded Harry once again of an intuitive mind behind the clumsiness and self-conscious inadequacy that defined Neville Longbottom at first glance.

 

                “I won’t see them Kissed,” Harry said anyway under the swell of voices around him.

 

                Neville just bit his lip and released a shaky breath, but the dogged faith that Harry had no idea how he had gained remained burning steadily in the Gryffindor’s eyes.

 

                “Veritaserum’s illegal for anyone under seventeen,” Neville commented out of the blue.  “And even for adults, there are proper channels that you have to go through to apply it in a trial.  I don’t think they’ve even brought it to this one.”

               

                Harry blinked, and then understood.  “So I won’t be...?”

 

                Neville nodded minutely.  “And you're the Boy-Who-Lived.  Everyone expects you to do everything you can to get the Death Eaters convicted.  Gran says they’ll just call us up and ask us to tell our versions of the battle.  Open-and-shut case – no Veritaserum, no oaths, no vows.”

 

                Harry slowly straightened.  He had thought it before, multiple times – British wizards and witches really had no common sense.

 

                Neville didn't ask whether or not Harry could pull this off as the judge announced Harry and Neville as the testifiers today.

 

                “I’ll follow your lead,” The Gryffindor said simply, and Harry smiled at him, some of his nervous relief bleeding through before he squared his shoulders.

 

                “So, Mr. Potter, please come up to the stand,” Quincey had finally finished his spiel and Harry silently composed himself as he strode forward.  All eyes were on him now.

 

                “Your testimony then, Mr. Potter,” The judge smiled encouragingly.  “A means of insurance, of course.  These Death Eaters will get the Kiss in the end for their crimes.”

 

                Harry couldn't help it.  “The Kiss?”  He echoed.  How could anyone speak of something so horrific so easily?

 

                “Yes, yes,” The fucking judge was more than eager to assure, not noticing the disgust Harry was feeling.  “Do not worry yourself, Mr. Potter.  All Death Eaters will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

 

                This only served to cement Harry’s decision.

 

                “A Kiss seems a bit drastic for them then,” Harry smiled placidly at the judge, eyes glittering as his heart thumped in his chest.  “After all, the battle at the Department of Mysteries would’ve gone far worse if not for their intervention.”

 

                The entire courtroom was as silent as the grave.  Harry didn't need to turn around to know that most of the people in the chamber were downright mystified.

 

                “I- I beg your pardon, Mr. Potter?”  Quincey stuttered out at last.

 

                Harry stared unblinkingly at him.  “The battle in June.  That is what we are here for, yes?”

 

                Quincey nodded dumbly.

 

                Harry steeled himself and forced out the beginning of what would make or break today’s trial.  “My friends and I were lured to the Department of Mysteries by Voldemort-”

 

                Most of the room flinched or gasped or yelped, and Harry was certain that it was good enough to distract them from knowing exactly how Voldemort had lured them there.

 

                “-after receiving false information that my godfather Sirius Black-” His hands clenched inside the pockets of his robes but he didn't let himself falter.  “-had been captured.  Not long after finding out that it was a trap, several Death Eaters appeared in an attempt to capture us-”

 

                “Precisely!”  One member of the jury jumped in, jabbing a finger in the direction of the assembled prisoners.  “And we have caught them-”

 

                “-most of whom escaped in the aftermath,” Harry rode over the official, voice rising.

 

                Another ringing silence reigned.

 

                “Mr. Potter!”  Quincey surged to his feet, looking slightly wild-eyed.  “These people are Death Eaters-”

 

                “I did not say they were not,” Harry said calmly, because to say that they weren’t was really pushing it.  “Quite obviously, Rodolphus and Rabastan Lestrange are Death Eaters, as are Rookwood, Mulciber, and Dolohov.  After all, they only escaped Azkaban in January, with the help of the Dementors as well as Voldemort himself.”

 

                Another flinch rippled across the room.  Harry paid it no mind.

 

                Quincey tried again.  “Then it should be clear that-”

 

                “It should be clear,” Harry once again interrupted.  “That all of them have served time in the worst prison on the planet for fifteen years.”

 

                “And when they were let out,” Quincey snapped, face purpling.  “They set out at once to aid their Master-”

 

                “Well really, what would you have done?”  Harry said, keeping his voice nonchalant.  “One of the Darkest and most powerful wizards come knocking at your door, generously gives you your freedom, and evidently expects you to start serving him or die-”

 

                “Then if they really repented, they should’ve died!”  Quincey bellowed.

 

                Harry pinned the judge with an unimpressed stare.  “Would you have?”

 

                Quincey puffed out his chest.  “Of course!”

 

                “So you’re telling me,” Harry said, voice going flat and soft so that the judge would have to strain to hear him.  He pulled up one of the many memories he had of watching – being – Voldemort while the bastard tortured allies and enemies alike.  “That you would’ve stared down Voldemort’s-” Another flinch.  “-wand and stood your ground while he tortured you with the Cruciatus Curse for an indeterminable amount of time, would’ve continued standing up to him even while he threatened your family’s lives and allowed his other Death Eaters to take turns tearing your flesh apart and crushing your bones into irreparable fragments, perhaps raping your wife or making your children suffer right before your eyes, only to leave you on the brink of insanity, leave you just that much alive so that you wouldn't even have the kindness of a quick death after you have lost everything – you would go through all that when you don’t even have the balls to say his name?”

 

                Dead silence.  Harry seemed to be getting a lot of those today.

 

                Quincey was very, very pale.  He wasn't the only one.  More than one official looked like they might faint.

 

                Harry figured he had made a rather large impact and decided that full steam ahead was the best option to take next.

 

                “They did what they had to do to survive,” Harry continued in a more normal tone.  “Considering the fact that it has only been six months and the biggest offence they have committed is going to the Department of Mysteries to retrieve the prophecy that Voldemort-” Flinch.  It was starting to annoy.  “-wanted, a Dementor’s Kiss is rather extreme.  The others-”

 

                He broke off to wave a hand at Lucius Malfoy who looked a bit like he had been Confunded, Crabbe and Goyle Senior who were standing stock-still side by side (Harry really wished they would stop looking so dumbstruck), Nott Senior whose gaze was still fixed on his son sitting somewhere behind Harry but had gone unnaturally still, and all the others who hadn't been imprisoned fifteen years ago.

 

                “-are first-time offenders,” He declared.  “Though might I add that Mr. Goyle wasn’t even at the Ministry in June so I’m not sure what he’s doing here to be honest.  They all have the Dark Marks from the last war, but I believe the Ministry had found them not guilty because they were under the Imperius?”

 

                Quincey spluttered and the rest of the jury squirmed in their seats.  “We- That is- That is irrelevant to this case!  We are here because of the battle in June; if it is as you say, then why were they at the Ministry in the first place?”

 

                Right.  This part was crucial.

 

                “What better way to help out in the background than under the pretense of acting on Voldemort’s orders?”  Harry pointed out, not answering directly.  He wanted to keep the lies to a minimum.  “Yes, some of the actions that they took were illegal, but also unavoidable.  They certainly arrived sooner than the Order, and you Ministry people didn't even get there until it was over.”

 

                A vein throbbed in Quincey’s forehead as a wave of uneasy titters washed over the gallery.  Harry mentally patted himself on the back.  No wonder he drove Snape around the bend so easily.

 

                “Then how do you explain the fact that they duelled against the Order?!”  Another official shouted.  “You and your friends were injured, Mr. Potter!”

 

                Harry shrugged.  “Toss-up.  There was still a chance that they could continue staying under Voldemort’s radar.  They had to make things real, especially with their families on the line.  Most of them are Slytherins – Voldemort’s way of thinking is that all Slytherins are his to command.”

 

                His last words effectively stopped whatever Quincey had been about to say.  Nobody wanted to announce that they thought the same way as Voldemort after all.

 

                “Mr. Longbottom!”  A witch on the right spoke up, sounding mildly desperate.  “Surely you can... add on to some of Mr. Potter’s statements?  Perhaps he has some of his facts muddled up.”

 

                Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Neville approach, stepping up to stand shoulder to shoulder with him.

 

                “My testimony corroborates Harry’s,” Neville said determinedly, looking uncomfortable under the many stares around him but unwilling to back down.  “That’s exactly what happened.”

 

                Harry had to hand it to the Gryffindor as Neville proceeded to reiterate everything he had said with different wording.  Neville had always been one to pull through when it mattered.

 

                “LUCIUS MALFOY HEADED THE GROUP THAT TRIED TO TAKE THE PROPHECY!!”  Another woman finally shrieked, barely waiting for Neville to finish.  “WE HAVE A CLEAR STATEMENT FROM ALBUS DUMBLEDORE!”

 

                Harry threw a glance over at Malfoy Senior.  The man seemed to have recovered, though his face was now blank instead of haughtily cold as if he was only just holding his disbelief at bay.

 

                Mr. Malfoy, Harry inwardly shook his head at the man’s good luck.  What you failed to do at the Department of Mysteries was probably the best mistake you’ll ever make.

 

                “Mr. Malfoy was the one who smashed the prophecy,” Harry said plainly, and shocked murmurs rose up from the audience.  “There are several eyewitnesses who can attest to that, students and Death Eaters alike.  I think even a few Order members might’ve been there at the time.”

 

                The woman gaped at him, stunned.  “Lucius Malfoy- But- Dumbledore said-”

 

                “Headmaster Dumbledore did not arrive until the end,” Harry said smoothly with only a hint of an edge.  “How would he know all the details?  He is a very powerful wizard but even he isn’t all-knowing.”

 

                The judge and jury all looked at each other, muttering urgently to one another as their hands jerked in powerless dubiety.

 

                Harry scanned their faces.  Some, probably either Dark-inclined or just that stupid, looked ready to jump onboard with him, but there were just as many who were glowering ferociously.  Unfortunately for them, there was nothing they could do.  It was fact that Dumbledore hadn't been there from the start, but Harry had, and really, being the Boy-Who-Lived did have its perks.  His testimony couldn't exactly be refused.

 

                The trial was dragging on too long though.  It wouldn't do to have any Order members or, Merlin forbid, Dumbledore crashing the party.  Time to pull out his trump card.

 

                “Are you certain you wouldn't like to change your statement, Mr. Potter?”  Quincey bit out through gritted teeth.

 

                Harry smiled again.  “Yes, quite certain.  Do you not believe me?”

 

Quincey looked ready to say exactly that, damn the consequences, but Harry leaned forward and allowed his smile to widen.

 

“Or,” He carried on relentlessly.  “Will the Ministry yet again brand me a liar?”

 

Quincey closed his mouth so fast that Harry was sure he had bitten his tongue.

 

Harry knew he had won.  After an entire year of telling the world that Harry was a delusional fraud, only to be proven catastrophically wrong, the Ministry couldn't afford to do it again.  It would be political suicide for the entirety of the government body.

 

Secondly, everyone and their grandmother knew about the prophecy.  Not what it said of course, but judging by the open awe and finger-pointing that had followed him through the Ministry, as well as the articles that Hermione had sent him, the general public all honestly thought that Harry was the prophesized child, the Chosen One, the Wizarding World’s Saviour destined to defeat Voldemort for them, and desecrating an entire community’s symbol of hope in any way really wasn't the best of ideas.

 

Harry truly hated his fame, loathed it with a passion, but if he could twist it to his own purposes... well, he wasn't above that either.  Right now, Harry could probably get away with outright murder in broad daylight if he claimed that it was for defeating Voldemort in the long run.  The Ministry would be tripping over themselves to cover for him.

 

“O- Of course not, Mr. Potter, we would never-” Quincey backtracked, looking increasingly alarmed now.  He exchanged another round of distraught glances with the jury before raising his wand.  “N- Now that the testimonies have been heard, we will take a five-minute break to discuss the prisoners’ sentences.”

 

A privacy ward was raised and the Ministry officials all but lunged out of their seats, huddling together as they began arguing and sending occasional frantic looks in Harry’s direction.  Even the Aurors and other officials looked perplexed as to what should happen next.  This was not the clear-cut case they had expected.

 

“Think it’ll work?”  Neville mumbled under his breath.

 

Harry nodded slightly.  “Yeah.  It doesn't help that this is the first thing I’ve wanted after all of last year.  They're floating on the ‘Chosen One’s’ reputation right now to stay alive.  They'll be afraid to go directly against me in case I walk outside and tell the nearest reporter that the Ministry’s a bad job all around.”

 

“It is a bad job all around,” Neville remarked, and Harry almost did a double-take before a huff of laughter escaped him.

 

“True,” Harry acquiesced, keeping his features neutral.  “But we’ll keep that to ourselves unless the Ministry does something really stupid.”

 

Neville grinned back faintly.  It faded as his gaze flicked over Harry’s shoulder.  “They’re still rotten cowards.”

 

Harry inclined his head again, being careful not to look at the prisoners himself.  “I agree; I haven’t forgotten what they’ve done, but nobody deserves the Kiss.  ’Cept maybe Voldemort.”

 

“And Bellatrix,” Neville all but spat the name out and his eyes burned fiercely when he looked at Harry again.  “These Death Eaters are one thing, Harry, and even the Lestrange brothers are- but I won’t- I can’t do it for Bellatrix.”

 

“I wouldn't ask you to,” Harry said evenly, fighting down the abrupt roar of near-blinding rage when he thought of the woman who had killed-

 

Harry balled his hands into fists inside his robes as guilt rushed up his throat like bile, choking him as a stray thought entered his mind.

 

Why did Sirius have to play around with Bellatrix like that anyway? His godfather should've known that his cousin was both a psychotic bitch and an excellent duelist. Taunting someone like that in a life-or-death situation was just plain dumb, and as a result, Sirius had gotten too careless, allowing himself to get killed like that.

 

He’d never known it was possible to love someone and hate that same someone at the same time.

 

A shoulder pressed against his and Harry glanced up in surprise.  The understanding he found in Neville’s gaze made him relax, if only a little.  Bellatrix Lestrange had ruined more than one family – Neville could understand loss better than most.

 

“Order!”  Quincey barked over the din of numerous voices all discussing the probable outcome of the trial.  “The jury has come to a decision!”

 

The judge took his seat, peering over his glasses at Harry with understated agitation before clearing his throat.  In his peripheral vision, Harry saw the captured Death Eaters stir, all of them on edge as they waited for the verdict.

 

“Rodolphus Lestrange, Rabastan Lestrange, Antonin Dolohov, Augustus Rookwood, and Emeric Mulciber,” Quincey started.  “All found guilty.  You will be transported back to Azkaban to serve out the rest of your life sentences.”

 

The gallery exploded with noise as everyone tried to talk over everyone else, already weighing the fairness of bypassing the Dementor’s Kiss for the five Death Eaters.

 

Harry was quite satisfied with this.  No Kiss, but locked up all the same.  Beside him, Neville released the breath he had been holding, and several feet away, the twice-convicted Death Eaters all slumped, just a little, the tension running out of their emaciated frames.

 

Of course they’re relieved, Harry thought acerbically.  No Dementors in Azkaban anymore, and if they escape the Kiss, they’re bloody master will get them out sooner or later once the snake bastard’s finished throwing his tantrum.

 

You're the one who won’t make them disappear permanently, another voice reminded him scathingly.  The only thing you've got going for you is the fact that all of them will have to think twice before they attack you if they don’t want their magic stripped.

 

“Order!  Order in the court!”  Quincey yelled, firing off several loud bangs from his wand.  It still took the crowd several long seconds to settle down.

 

“As for the rest,” Quincey grimaced as if what he was going to say next was causing him physical pain.  But the man’s shifty-eyed gaze darted back to Harry before pronouncing, “Wulfric Goyle is cleared of all charges and will be released upon the trial’s conclusion.  Walden Macnair, Fingal Avery, Silas Nott, Rhys Jugson, and Roland Crabbe have all been found guilty and will be placed on strict house arrest for the next three years, with an additional probationary period of two years after that.  Lucius Malfoy will also be placed on house arrest for two years, with an additional probationary period of one year.  For the six newly-convicted, one-half of their family assets will be seized by the Ministry, including monies, properties, and heirlooms.  Permanent Tracking Charms will also be placed on your persons, and will not be removed until the end of your respective sentences.  Should you choose to violate any of these terms, you will be sent to Azkaban immediately.”

 

The room exploded into a garble of voices before Quincey even managed to finish the last word, a cacophonous roar of sound as the Light wizards in the gallery rounded on the Dark, and the Dark all but shoved their way forward towards the prisoners, near-overwhelmed by the turn of events but disinclined to waste a single second now that it was set in stone that the Dementor’s Kiss would not be applied.

 

The Aurors struggled to maintain some sense of regulation, only permitting the Death Eaters – with the exception of Goyle Senior who was grudgingly freed – to talk to their families between a wall of Aurors.

 

Harry said nothing as he watched, a flash of envy flitting through him when he saw Goyle’s younger sister throwing herself into her father’s arms, Theodore Nott standing as close to his father as physically possible, and even Narcissa Malfoy reaching out to clutch at her husband’s hand, the gesture not quite hidden from Harry’s line of sight for a fraction of a second, as Draco Malfoy hovered as near as he could to both his parents.

 

“Let’s get out of here,” Harry said at last, shoulders sagging as his brain told his body that this ordeal was over and the numb exhaustion that had been plaguing him for weeks set in once more.  Was he sick or something?

 

Neville nodded in vehement agreement and the two departed the stand.  Wiel was nowhere in sight but they knew the way out.

 

Harry didn't turn to look back as they slipped away.  He didn't want to catch the public’s confused reactions or the Ministry officials’ eager-to-please airs or even the triumphant contempt undoubtedly etched on each of the Death Eaters’ faces.

 

Too soft, they’d think.

 

“Gran might throw a fit,” Neville mused as they closed the side door behind them and muffled the dissonance inside Courtroom Ten.  “The Order might throw a fit.  Dumbledore might throw a fit.”

 

“Everybody’s going to throw a fit,” Harry grumbled wearily, carding a hand through his hair.  “It’ll be war on home turf.”

 

“I’ll follow your lead,” Neville repeated, and Harry turned to give him an assessing look.  He didn't ask why – it seemed more appropriate to simply take the other Gryffindor’s word at face value.

 

“How do you think Ron and Hermione will take it?”  He asked instead.  “And Ginny and Luna?”

 

“Luna won’t care,” Neville said instantly.  “She’ll understand.  Hermione... well she’s all about logic, right?  If she thinks about it... But Ron and Ginny... um....”

 

Neville trailed off clumsily.  Harry didn't need him to continue.  Ginny, he still wasn't sure, having only really known her for a year tops, but if she was anything like Ron...

 

Ron was going to blow a gasket.  If there was one person who hated Slytherins about as much as Snape hated Gryffindors, it was Ronald Weasley.

 

“Well,” Harry sighed.  “I’m used to being hated.  Let’s not worry about that until it comes up.”

 

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