"We can still leave, you know," Peter says, looking around furtively. "It's not too late. We have family in Romania. Friends. They'll-"
"We don't have any friends," Derek interrupts coldly. "Not anymore. Not after..." he leaves it unsaid, because it doesn't need to be said. They don't have any friends because everyone assumes they either helped the Dark Lord too much, or not enough. The white hats hated them and the dark wizards hated them.
It was kind of novel being so universally hated on both sides of the aisle.
It had been a year. The Aurors had waited an entire goddamn year before they came for him. Derek had started thinking that keeping their heads down and with the little bit they'd helped at the end had been enough to skirt prosecution. That their disgrace, all loss of social standing and the inability to show their faces in polite society was enough.
He'd thought they'd been left to rot in the Hale castle, Derek and Peter each other's only company which was probably a worse punishment than any the Auror's could think up.
He'd been wrong.
It had arrived by Raven, dark blue paper in a black envelope and even though he knew better, a Hale should have known better, Derek touched the thing which meant he then had a compulsion on him to adhere to the summons, but they hadn't been finished there. The compulsion only lasted up until he'd put his foot on the first step of the Ministry building and then it had vanished. Derek had thought he'd be compelled all the way into the trial room but instead they wanted him to walk to his own fate under his own power.
Or try to run.
They were probably hoping he'd try to run.
No one was about. It was ten fifteen on a Wednesday and the Department of Magical Law Enforcement foyer was empty, save for a bored-looking house elf sweeping and paying them no mind. It was tempting, listening to Peter's whispered urging, to turn around and make a bolt for it, apparate to some far-off corner of the globe and hope for the best.
Maybe that's what they wanted, for him to disappear, to be rid of him. The thought straightens his spine and makes the second step easier. They're going to have to look him in the eyes, they are going to have to pass judgement.
They'll have to do it, actually sentence a Hale to Azkaban.
The third and forth steps are even easier still and by the fifth he's striding, Peter scuttling behind him and possibly only just barely resisting the urge to tug on Derek's robes, to try and wheedle and cajole him away. Peter is more than likely only worried about his own hide, though, Derek a domino they have to knock down before Peter can be toppled after.
The fact that Stiles had been some overblown chosen one, famous before he'd even stepped foot in Hogwarts and sickeningly doted on by the more soft-headed teachers, only made him a more irresistible target for Derek. When Derek met him, Stiles was small, insignificant and sporting a very unfortunate hair cut that looked like he'd fashioned it himself after ramming a bowl firmly on his head. He didn't look like someone who would bring about the demise of the most powerful dark wizard in the history of the world.
Over the years, he'd gotten less scrawny and a better haircut but that didn't change the fact that he was always so infuriatingly... less.
Derek tells himself he's only looking for Stiles because he'd heard that Stiles had attended some of these hearings previously. He didn't always speak, but when he did it was in support of the wizards being tried, the ones who'd had a change of heart or tried to redeem themselves at the end, or who'd possibly been on the dark path through no fault of their own but at the behest of other family members or because they feared retribution. Derek could possibly claim that he'd been tugged along in Peter's wake instead of choosing the dark path for himself, not to mention his sister Cora had actually saved Stiles' life at the last battle which should have scored the Hales a few points at least in the positive column. There was every reason to believe that Derek might be graced by Stiles' presence, but it seemed not as he scanned the gathered crowd and didn't spot a single spikey-headed mess among them.
Coward, Derek thinks, his fists tightening.
Peter looks pale and drawn when Derek flicks his gaze in his Uncle's direction, a little sweaty and a lot jittery like he wants nothing more than to apparate the hell out of there, which is impossible in the judgement chamber, the room counter-cursed against apparition of any kind. Derek's actually surprised that Peter had followed him so meekly inside the judgement chamber, instead half-expecting Peter to wait for him outside so he'd have more of a chance to make a break for it if Derek was taken into custody.
Perhaps he wasn't the only one that had been under a compulsion.
"Admit nothing," Peter whispers out of the corner of his mouth. "They will want you to hang yourself. Don't do their work for them."
"Thanks," Derek replies dryly, fighting the urge to roll his eyes at Peter's dramatics. He might be terrified and destined for Azkaban, but he also wants to maintain some level of dignity.
He doesn't recognize the wizard that bustles in and seats himself at the high table at the front of the room, but when the man drops his nameplate in front of him with a flick of his hand, Derek fights the urge to groan aloud. With a name like Norman Brown, the man is most likely muggle-born and therefore probably already biased against someone like Derek. He'd probably had someone like Derek pull his metaphorical pig tails at school and had been nursing a grudge for years, able to exact revenge now that he had a position of power.
The man derails Derek's dark thoughts by smiling at him genially before shuffling through the parchments in front of him and muttering, "Now, what do we have here then?"
"Derek Hale," Sheriff Stilinski provides helpfully when the shuffling of parchments seems to become never-ending. Brown nods and renews his pawing through paperwork with gusto and a little more targeted fervor.
"H-a-l-e?" Brown spells out, finally plucking one piece of parchment free and squinting at it. There's dead silence for a few moments, up until Derek realizes that he's the one that's supposed to confirm the spelling of his last name.
"Yes," he gets out through gritted teeth, wondering if this is all some bizarre performance meant as a final humiliation before his inevitable imprisonment.
"Right you are, then," Brown says and flattens out the parchment with a couple of swipes of his meaty hands, elbowing the rest straight off his table with a rustle and clatter. Sheriff Stilinski's eyes wince, but the rest of his face remains expressionless.
"Ah, okay, hmm," Brown says, putting a finger up to his lips and tapping when he's done reading something Derek thinks probably should have been read before his trial.
"I'm sorry, but-" Derek starts to protest, jolting into silence when Stilinski throws him a stern look.
"Oh, right, bad business, huh?" Brown says, looking up at Derek and his eyes crinkling like they're sharing some kind of joke.
Derek is very deeply confused.
"Ye-es?" Derek finally offers when Brown keeps staring at him.
"Yes! Wasn't there meself, but seemed to be all be very upsetting."
Derek throws another look at Sheriff Stilinski and the man has a hand over his face, either hiding laughter or exasperation, he's not sure which. "Quite," Derek allows.
"Still, good of your sister to do what she did. She here?" Brown asks and looks around like Cora might be hiding, ready to pop up at any moment as a surprise witness.
"She's in South America," Derek says, because both he and Peter had agreed that Cora was the member of the family that needed to be away from all of this the most. Derek would have preferred Cora by his side over his Uncle of course, since Peter wasn't exactly the best person to have stand by you when you want someone to believe you aren't evil.
"Ah, lovely place, so I've heard," Brown offers. "So, you didn't do much killing then?"
"I didn't kill anyone," Derek blurts, horrified. There's some rumblings from the gallery and Derek can't tell if they're murmurs of disapproval, disbelief or anything else.
"That's good, then. Had a few this morning that had, y'know," Brown says and draws a finger across his throat with a grimace. "Had no choice about them, did I?"
"Choice?" Derek gets out faintly.
"Well, I'd been told I had leeway, but if you'd killed someone, that would've been that, straight to that Azkaban place with you," Brown continues, steepling his fingers and gazing at Derek with eyes that are canny enough that Derek is led to believe that maybe Brown isn't as dense as he's putting on.
"Leeway?" Derek prompts, sensing an opening.
"I told your lot about community service and they were dubious, but they agreed that if there were some grey area in the case, that I could use my discretion."
"Community service?" Derek repeats, perplexed. He knows what the two words mean independently but hasn't the foggiest idea what they do smashed together. It all sounds disconcertingly... muggle.
Derek starts to get a very bad feeling about all of this. It increases as he watches Brown gesture and be handed another thick pile of folders that he shuffles through before coming up with one with a noise of triumph.
"I think a year would be sufficient," Brown says, putting the file down and drumming his fingers on it like it's all decided. Derek swallows hard, thinking perhaps he is going to be imprisoned after all, but then Brown adds, "We'd have to check with the school, but I'm sure it will be fine."
"What's happening right now?" Derek asks, frowning.
"Community Service," Brown repeats, like that's going to help Derek understand. "Twelve months. Better than Azkaban from what I hear. It'll fly by and you might even enjoy yourself."
"Twelve months of what?"
"Oh, sorry! Didn't I say? Teaching, at the school. Hogwarts, right?"
"Teaching what?" Derek asks, suddenly wondering if the Hale's really are as untouchable as Peter always claims, blessed and charmed. The only position at Hogwarts that's consistently vacant is the Defense Against the Dark Arts post and Derek can think of a million things worse than teaching that class for a year. Like Brown said, it might even be fun.
"Uh, they call it... what's it... I had it here a second ago," Brown says, flipping through the folder and then, "Ah, right-o. Muggle Studies."
Derek just blinks at him and wonders if it's too late to ask to be sent to Azkaban.