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Fragile Things by paper_xtigers
Chapter 8: Ch. 7 - The Hearing and The Verdict
Ch. 7 - The Hearing and The Verdict
The morning of my hearing, I woke promptly at five-thirty as fully and completely as if someone had thrown a bucket of ice cold water on me. For awhile I just laid there willing myself to fall back to sleep for a few more hours; Mr. Potter and I didn’t have to leave until close to eight. Knowledge that my hearing was looming closer and closer still filled every inch of me with dread. There was a very real possibility that by the end of the day I would no longer be enrolled at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
And quite frankly, that terrified me.
By six, I couldn’t take it anymore and stood from my bed rubbing my hands over my face in anxiety. I dressed in grey slacks and white button down shirt, throwing a light green sweater vest over it. I couldn’t wear many of my blouses because the necklines would reveal the still healing gash across my chest. It had gotten better, the edges of it were shrinking in, but the surface of the healing wound itself was a grotesque shade of purple. I was not looking forward to having to explain away the scar in my future.
As I went about getting ready, I tried to ignore the presence of the letter sitting on my nightstand. Three days ago Sirius, James and I received our Hogwart’s letters. James’ letter came, to the shock of everyone in the room, with a new shiny Head Boy badge while mine came with a letter from Dumbledore, saying that it was being sent because he had full confidence that I would be cleared and allowed to finish my schooling. It was nice, his vote of confidence, but it didn’t make me feel any better.
I drew my hair into a high pony tail and smeared black eyeliner against the edges of my top and bottom lashes. As I exited my room I picked up my high heels not wanting to make too much noise when I walked into the kitchen and tried to roll up my sleeve with my free hand. I had expected to be the only one up, but to my surprise I was not. Everyone had been awake before me, even Sirius and James. Mr. and Mrs. Potter were already fully dressed while James and Sirius were still in their night clothes.
“Come and eat!” Mrs. Potter said urgently.
“I’m really not hungry this morning,” I told her, taking my usual seat at the breakfast bar, diagonally from Sirius. “How long have you two been awake?”
Sirius blinked slowly, squeezing the bridge of his nose. He looked as exhausted as I felt. “Probably not much longer than you. You’re not the only one nervous about this, you know.”
“What do you want for breakfast, dear?” Mrs. Potter wondered, clearly ignoring my earlier comment about not being hungry. She hadn’t even looked at me when she asked, and I realized she needed something to do with herself for all the nervous energy that was probably coursing through her. “Oatmeal? Bacon and eggs? Pancakes?”
“Pancakes would be great, Mrs. Potter, thank you,” I told her in an attempt to placate her. She had to feel like she was at least easing someone’s nerves.
The kitchen was silent while Mrs. Potter cooked the pancakes, not even venturing to ask what anyone else wanted. I was grateful for the silence because my insides were twisting and turning and generally making me feel sick. I opted for orange juice instead of coffee that morning, I was already jittery enough without the added effects of the caffeine. Mrs. Potter placed a short stack of three pancakes in front of me and some syrup and I tried to eat, really I did, but it was like chewing sponge.
“I wish we could come with you,” James said, coming to lean against the bar next to me.
“I’m a big girl James, I think I’ve more than proven I can take care of myself,” I told him, thinking of the Death Eater who’s life I took. Of him struggling for his last breaths, his hand gripping the pant leg of my pajamas. I shook away the image, taking a bite of pancake.
“Doesn’t mean you have to,” he quipped, making a face at me.
“How’re you feeling?” Sirius asked, his eyes raking over my face.
I shrugged, “Tired mostly. I just want this over with.”
“It will be soon. I have no doubt that in a few hours you’ll be absolved,” Mr. Potter spoke up.
I said nothing, merely reverted to trying to roll up my sleeve again. I heard Sirius disguise a laugh as a cough as he watched me. I glanced up giving him an irritated look - rolling up your own sleeves was a little more difficult than rolling up someone else’s. Sirius reached across the counter between us and snatched my arm, pulling it toward him. He undid the work I did on my sleeve and proceeded to roll the fabric up over itself until it sat at my elbow before doing the same thing with the other one.
“Thank you,” I said, taking my left arm back, ignoring the way his fingertips brushed along my forearm as I did so.
“I really don’t even see why this is necessary,” Mrs. Potter was saying, making me take my eyes away from Sirius’. “You had every right to defend yourself! In any matter, just stay calm and be polite.”
I nodded, pushing the half-eaten plate of pancakes away from me feeling suddenly sick. What I had eaten sat heavy in my stomach and I tried to dissolve it by downing the last of my orange juice. I took a deep breath, placing my elbows on the countertop and interlacing my fingers so I could lean my forehead against my hands.
After awhile, Mr. Potter cleared his throat, “Elaina, we should get going.”
Sighing, I slid from my stool taking a moment to rotate my shoulders which were hard as rocks from all the stress I’d been under the last couple weeks. James stepped up to me and opened his arms, seeming unsure if I would accept his show of affection. But I smiled gently at him and took a step forward, encircling my arms around his back as his came around my shoulders.
I felt him sigh from the way his chest heaved. “You’ll be okay, you’ve got to,” said James, squeezing me.
I stepped away from him, not expecting Sirius to have come around the breakfast bar, but the other boy took a step forward and opened his arms the way James had. As I went to hug him the way I had hugged James, Sirius swept his arms under mine so they came around my waist making the only place for mine to go being around his neck while I had to raise to the balls of my feet. For just a moment it was a tad uncomfortable as I associated this kind of embrace with couples, but I relaxed as I took in the familiar comforting scent that helped lull me into sleep when it should have been elusive the very first night I was there.
“Good luck,” he whispered in my ear as he pulled away, pausing for a moment to lightly press his lips to my temple.
Sirius took a step back to stand beside James and I almost laughed looking at the pair of them. The worry, anxiety and stress on both of their faces was staggering, etched in the lines of their brows and painted in the shadows under their eyes. It made me acutely aware of just how much they meant what they said when they offered me their friendship, and in truth it was rather unsettling, that they had offered me their friendship and had not asked for anything in return. Could I really have come to mean so much to them in just the short amount of time I’d lived with them that the idea of me not returning to Hogwart’s for my seventh year upset them to this degree?
“I’ll let you know how it goes,” I told them, sliding into my high heels.
I turned and followed Mr. Potter into the living room. He stepped in front of the fireplace and took a round, glass container from the mantle, turning toward me. I took a handful of the Floo Powder and stepped into the fireplace.
“Where am I saying?” I asked.
“Ministry of Magic, London” he replied.
I nodded and took a deep breath, “Ministry of Magic, London!”
I threw down the powder and took another breath, holding this one in my chest so I wouldn’t choke on soot as the Potter’s living room spiraled away from me.
I stepped out of one of the several arrival fireplaces set up in the Ministry’s Atrium, brushing the soot from my clothing. I heard the fire rush behind me and a moment later Mr. Potter stepped out repeating my actions of dusting off his robes.
“C’mon, you’ve got to go to the Visitor’s Station,” Nathan said, steering me forward with his hand between my shoulder blades.
We pushed our way through the throngs of people making their to and from, many of them wearing unpleasant expressions due to the time of day. I had been to the Ministry many times since my father worked there and knew my way around pretty well, so I wasn’t gawking at everything I saw. Even if I had never been to the Ministry before, I think my nerves would have made it impossible for me to look anywhere but straight ahead of me.
We reached the Visitor’s Station, a booth set against a far wall, where a bored looking witch in bright blue robes was listlessly flipping through a magazine when we approached. With a sigh, the witch closed her magazine and looked up at us.
“Welcome to the Ministry of Magic, how can I help you?” she asked in monotone, picking up a quill and looking at Mr. Potter expectantly.
“I’m escorting a visitor,” Mr. Potter said, flashing his Ministry ID. “Elaina Cochran, she’s here for a disciplinary hearing.”
The witch nodded as he spoke, scratching something on the parchment in front of her. “Alright, just give me a moment,” she said, turning away and picking up the parchment. She opened a door on the wall behind her and entered the room. A couple of minutes later, after several whirring and clanking noises she appeared again and presented me with a square silver badge with Elaina Cochran, Disciplinary Hearing on it.
“Please attach this to the front of your robes,” she said, not even bothering to notice I wasn’t wearing robes. But nonetheless, I took the badge and pinned it to the front of my vest. “Also please remember that you are required to submit to a search and present your wand for registration at the security desk at the far end of the Atrium.”
“Thank you,” Nathan told her.
“The Ministry of Magic wishes you a pleasant day!” I couldn’t help but grin at the clearly overly cheery and sarcastic way she bid us farewell. Clearly she hated her job.
Mr. Potter and I made our way back through the throngs of people, past the golden fountain. We approached a desk with a sign hung over it that read SECURITY. Another overly enthused wizard in the same blue robes sat with his feet thrown up on the desk and his hands latched behind his head.
“Hello,” he greeted us at least a little more personable than the woman at the Visitor’s Station.
“I’m escorting a visitor,” Nathan said, motioning toward me.
“Alright, step over here please,” he said standing from the desk. I stepped closer to him as he picked up the Probity Probe and passed it over my back then my front. He nodded, putting that back down and turned to me again, “Wand please.”
“It was confiscated,” I told him.
“Ah, alright then, give me a moment.” He went back behind the desk and opened a drawer taking out a thick tome and flipping through it. “What’s your name?”
He ran his finger down the page he opened to. “Ah, here we go. Elaina Cochran, disciplinary hearing on the fifteenth of August. Wand: mahogany, ten and a half inches, sphinx claw core, been in use six years. Is that right?”
I nodded, “Yes.”
“Okay then,” he said, making a mark on the page. “Good luck at your hearing.”
Mr. Potter took me by the shoulder and steered me away from the security desk. He kept a firm hand on my shoulder as we were jostled and bumped by the passing crowds until we were waiting for the lifts. This is actually happening, I realized as we waited. Not only was I about to go to a disciplinary hearing before the Wizengamot, but I was also about to find out who had replaced my father as the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Already I felt myself become embittered toward whoever had been given the post because no one would be able to compare to my father; he had been the best Head Auror in fifteen years. Although part of me had hoped they would give the position to Derek.
“Mr. Potter, where is my hearing exactly?” I wondered once we were on the lifts.
“Courtroom Five,” he replied tightly.
It seemed that the closer my hearing came, the more nervous Mr. Potter became as well. I would have been flattered over Mr. Potter’s worry for the outcome of my hearing, but in truth it was a little disconcerting. If he was this nervous, then part of him didn’t believe that I would be cleared. Thankfully though, once inside the lifts Mr. Potter kept himself calm as it descended although he did attempt to crack his knuckles frequently even when the joints made no noise (a nervous habit I noticed James had inherited as well).
The lift finally stopped on the ninth level and announced our arrival to the Department of Mysteries as the gates slid open. I had never been down here, but the depressing atmosphere of the dark blank walls and the absence of windows was making my situation seem more and more hopeless. I followed Mr. Potter down a flight of stairs to the left that opened up into yet another corridor.
“Alright, here we are,” Mr. Potter announced, stopping before a large dark wooden door.
“… You’re not coming!?” I cried in a panic.
Nathan shook his head, “I’m not allowed.” He pulled me into his arms and hugged me for a moment, “Make your parents proud,” he said releasing me and opening the door.
With dread consuming me and the very distinct feeling that I was going to vomit, I tried to hold my head high as I walked into the courtroom. I knew I was a little early, but Mr. Potter hadn’t wanted to risk me being late and who knows, maybe they would be impressed that I was so punctual for my hearing. I blinked stepping from the darkened hallway into the lit circular room with benches on either side. A few people were scattered here and there chatting amongst themselves and a few of them I recognized as my father’s colleagues.
“Ah, Miss Cochran you’re a tad early I see,” a voice rang out.
“I didn’t want to risk being late,” I replied, walking to stand on a raised platform in the middle of the room enclosed on three sides by railings.
I looked up to the highest set of benches where the Wizengamot sat, about fifty in number all wearing purple robes with an elaborate silver W on the left hand side. I could faintly make-out many of their haughty expressions as they looked down their noses at me.
In the very center sat a man I recognized as the Minister of Magic, Ivan Holt. He was an older man with severely graying hair, and a swallow pointed face. And although right then he looked intimidating, all I ever heard my father say about him was that he was a very good and fair man.
“Very well then,” Holt said. “The accused being present, I think we’re ready to begin.” He cleared his throat and began speaking in a loud voice, “Disciplinary hearing of the fifteenth of August,” out of the corner of my eye I saw the court scribe begin furiously scribbling everything the Minister said, “into offenses committed under the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery by Elaina Guinevere Cochran… Interrogators: Ivan Holt, Minister of Magic; Bartemius Crouch, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Millicent Bagnold, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister. Court Scribe, Amelia Bones…”
The Minister paused and looked down at me for a moment, “Do you have any witnesses or anyone to represent you?”
As I took a breath to answer that no, I did not, two people stepped along either side of me. “Witness for the defense, Derek Perkins -”
“- And Albus Dumbledore.”
I almost collapsed out of sheer relief. The presence of Derek on my left and Dumbledore on my right filled me with the confidence I seemed to have long since forgotten. But I gripped the railing in front of me tightly as a thought occurred to me. Dumbledore was the Chief Warlock, for all intents and purposes the head of the Wizengamot. So what was he doing being a witness in my disciplinary hearing?
“Ah, Albus!” the Minister said, an odd sort of twinkle in his eyes. “Here I was under the impression that you weren’t feeling well today.”
“Quite the contrary Minister,” he replied easily. “I am simply here to assist a student I hold in high regards. I’ll not see her wand snapped for what she did.”
The respect and affection I felt toward my headmaster in that moment was overwhelming. He was willing to forgo his duties to the Ministry and the Wizengamot to assist in one of his student’s defense. It was then I vowed to do whatever he asked of me in the future, no matter the cost.
The Minister nodded, “Understandable, understandable. Now onto the charges.” Holt then went into a long winded reading of the charges I was facing. As he read the list of spells, some of which I should not, at my age, be able to accurately cast I watched many people’s eyebrows raise in surprise. The two people who remained unsurprised however were Derek and Dumbledore.
“Now, Miss Cochran, would you please be so kind as to explain what happened on the night in question, June 30th?” The Minister said.
I took a deep breath, wondering how to go about telling them what happened without the vividness in which I had lived it. I had to stick to the facts, the emotions I had attached to the night my parents were killed wouldn't do me any good now. “Death Eaters attacked my home, they were there to try and convince my father to join Voldemort’s ranks.” I watched a tremor of fear go through the members of the Wizarding court, but I thought I saw Dumbledore smile the slightest bit. “My father refused at which point I was personally attacked --”
“If you’ll look at the report in front of you, you’ll see that all of Elaina’s injuries were documented,” Derek said beside me. “The story she told when she was taken in was consistent with the evidence and state of her home when we arrived.”
Without missing a beat, I continued, noticing the way my voice had begun to shake. “My mother stopped the Death Eater from his attack on me, and she was then killed. It was at this time I picked up the Death Eater’s wand as it had fallen from his hand when my mum knocked into him. I levitated a chair and knocked two of them down --”
“How many Death Eaters were there?” Crouch wondered. I looked to the man who had taken over my father’s post, trying not to sneer at him. In my eyes no one would be fit to hold the position he now did except my father.
“There were four,” I replied, then turned my attention away from him and continued. “After that, my father killed the Death Eater who had his wand on him using muggle self-defense techniques and took the wand. He knocked out the fourth Death Eater and then shouted at me to leave --”
“And why didn’t you?” the only female, Millicent Bagnold, among them then asked.
“Is that what I should have done?” I countered. “Left my father to die by the hands of two Death Eaters? Or should I have fought? I had just lost my mother and I was not going to lose my father as long as I had something to say about it.”
There was a moment of silence as the members of the Wizengamot murmured amongst themselves.
“And we see that you fought,” Holt said, holing up a sheet of parchment. This must’ve been the list of spells I cast that night. “There are quite a few spells and curses on here that you should not know, let alone have the internal fortitude to cast… where did you learn them?”
“My father. He was always a bit paranoid that something would happen to me because of his position in the Ministry, he taught me how to defend myself with a wand and without. The spells, jinxes and curses he only taught me in theory - the wand movements, the correct incantation, etcetera. I never used any of them before the night my home was attacked.”
“I think,” Dumbledore suddenly said beside me, “that Miss Cochran has given adequate defense of her reason for doing underage magic. It is what any one of us would have done given the same circumstances, is she to be punished for defending her life? She understands that she broke the law, but I believe there has been a revision to the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery that says an underage wizard is able to defend themselves, with magic, in life threatening situations. I think we’d all consider what happened a life threatening situation.”
“Very well,” Holt said. “Miss Cochran, do you have anything else to say for yourself?”
I thought for a moment. This was supposed to be my plea for them to absolve me of my crime, to beg for my “freedom”. But I raised my head and met the Minister’s eyes and said, rather defiantly, “I am not ashamed of what I did and no matter the outcome of this hearing, I would do it again.”
The Wizengamot suddenly broke into hushed and urgent whispers. I looked at where my hands had not left the rail in front me, gripping it so tightly I was sure the rail would have a permanent imprint of my palms. I hadn’t expected this to be over so quickly, though I was thankful that I did not have to reveal the fact that I was incapable of lying to such a large group of people to get them to believe me. My heart was beating in a terrible cadence against my ribs as we waited for their verdict. I was rather regretting my last words, the brash tone of my voice. Mrs. Potter had told me to stay calm and be polite and throughout the whole hearing I had been curt and matter-of-fact.
Heated whispers rose, these people thought I was getting special treatment because of who my father was. The tone of their voices, though I couldn’t make out what they were saying, was proof of that. Other whispers were more calm as they spoke, full of reason and I only hoped these voices defending me were enough to clear my name.
Then the whispering abruptly stopped. I swallowed thickly in the tense silence and waited for someone to speak. “Those in favor of clearing the accused of all charges?” Crouch called out. I heard the shifting of fabric as people raised their hands, but I could not bring myself to look up and see how many. “And those in favor of conviction?”
I returned to the Potter’s rather in a daze after hearing the verdict of my hearing. Mr. Potter headed into the kitchen where his wife was preparing dinner (I had to stay at the Ministry for the rest of the day with Mr. Potter), while I headed to my room. I ignored the thundering steps on the stairs as I did so.
I entered my room, took off my vest and unbuttoned a few buttons on my dress shirt. And it was as I was taking off my shoes that my bedroom door burst open and two hormone ruled boys came barging in.
“So, what was the verdict!?” James demanded eagerly.
“Do you get to go back to Hogwart’s?” Sirius asked immediately after.
I ignored them, placing my shoes on the floor of my closet. How was I going to tell them this? Out of the corner of my eye I could see that the two of them were bouncing on the balls of their feet from anxiety and practically bursting with curiosity. But as they took in my silence, their eagerness was diminishing being replaced with horror.
“There’s no way they expelled you! That’s bullshit!” James shouted after another moment of silence.
Sirius took a defeated seat on the edge of my bed, “They didn’t expel you, did they, Elaina?” Again I didn’t answer, and he said, the irritation evident in his voice, “Elaina! Did they?”
“So James,” I said blithely, turning to him. “I heard that you’ll be needing another chaser or two, do you think I have a chance?”
Okay, as we can see Elaina was cleared of all charges! Then again, did anyone really thing I was going to expel her? Come now.
Anway, a few notable facts regarding this chapter:
- Barty Crouch Sr. is in fact the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement during Voldemort's first rise. It is not until he condemns his son to Azkaban in 1982 that he is removed from the position. (Source: HP Lexicon)
- I made up the Minister's name for this time period. The Lexicon doesn't give any information on who the Minister for this time period is. The woman I mentioned, Millicent Bagnold, will become the Minister in 1980 and hold the position until 1990 when Fudge is elected. (Source: HP Lexicon)
The reason I'm mentioning all of this (and keep mentioning the Lexicon) is because I am trying to stay as close to canon as I possibly can with an OC. Obviously some things I have to take a creative license with, but I will always mention when I do.
I also had OotP beside me while writing this chapter. I wanted to be as acurate as I could regarding the Hearing and proceedings. Granted, Harry's was biased and I do believe he would have been convicted if Dumbledore hadn't shown up. Also, since Elaina's hearing was not being treated as a criminal hearing, I opted for leaving out the chair with the chains.
Thank you everyone that reviewed last chapter! :) Keep it up, yeah?
Til next time!