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The State of Things by peppersweet
Chapter 1: prologue / the trial
He sometimes wondered what it was like for her. He was jealous, he supposed. She’d got out early. She’d left him behind before the going really got tough. She’d left him before the mansion was repossessed, before the economy turned, before the riots and the deaths and before London became a darker place. By then, it was too late for him.
The dazzling promise of her new life in France, away from London and away from him and everything of the old world – would she even have crossed his mind? Perhaps, as she’d left, she’d been thinking of him. He had a singular image of her boarding the Underground train that would have taken her away, her hair falling into her eyes as it did – perhaps she’d been thinking of him then, in her last hour on English soil. Or maybe it had been her plan to leave him all along. He’d be sorely disappointed if she hadn’t thought of him at all. They came together in a pair, she with him and him with her. But she had promised to write. She had promised.
Then the thin newspaper came that Sunday morning. Her life had been condensed into a square inch three pages from the back, a thumbnail of miniscule text that described her as bright, vivacious, one of the last of the old Pureblood families, even though blood status didn’t mean anything by that point. Survived, it seemed, by nobody. The last of the Parkinson line. Death by drowning.
Maybe, as books told him, she’d seen her life flash before her eyes, and he’d been there, buried somewhere in her blurred memories. It was a degrading way to go, he thought, choked underwater, hair spread out like a halo about her head, the hands of a murderer she’d never know holding her down like they were lovers. But maybe – his last scrap of hope – she’d thought of him in that moment, his name amongst the last words she breathed once she realised it was pointless, once she stopped holding her breath and let go.
Then he thought about it more and finally realised: as the waters closed over her head, there was time only to scream.
His Aunt had said that the chair of Courtroom Ten was a throne. As the enchanted chains slid over his arms, Draco Malfoy thought that this could not be further from the truth.
‘Do you confirm that you are Draco Malfoy, aged twenty-one, of thirty five Lincoln Road, London?’
‘Very well. We shall begin.’
Upon these words, the chain’s constricted around Draco’s wrists. The cold metal bit into his skin. He’d been through this before, but never as a defendant. For the past three years he’d been a regular at the witness stand, testifying against those who’d been fellow Death Eaters in the past. His parents were first before the jury, and after three months of intensive questioning, Lucius Malfoy had been sent to Azkaban for life. The list of crimes against him was too long for even the fastidious journalists of the Daily Prophet to recall, although Draco knew it by heart. Use of the unforgivable curses, assault, conspiracy to murder, even murder itself – an itemised, clinical life story of a father Draco now felt he had barely known except in the pages of newspapers. His mother had been saved by the testimony of Potter, Saint Potter, who moved a jury to tears with his tale of just what had gone on in the forest that night. She now lived a quiet existence in the last shard of the Malfoy estate, which had been broken up and torn asunder for compensation, damages, court costs. This last shard was where he now lived, too. Pansy had ridiculed him for it; twenty one, and still living with mother. But Pansy wasn’t around to joke about that anymore.
There were others he’d given evidence against. He was now recognised, not only by the Wizengamot and the various jury members that came and went, but by the Daily Prophet, and the other newspapers and magazines that followed the war crimes trial saga obsessively. The papers described him as a ‘pale, grim-looking figure, always giving evidence in the same deadpan tone’. He even saw the courtroom artist’s impressions of himself amongst the others. Right next to a chalked portrait of Avery, his own pointed face stared into the distance, the face expressionless, illegible, almost anonymous. For a second he thought the artist had forgotten to use colour, the portrait sketched in greyscale, but then he remembered to look in a mirror and saw himself, flesh-and-blood, in the same monochrome. The trials ripped energy out of him. Now it was his turn.
‘Draco Malfoy, you are called here today on charges of assault, grievous bodily harm, use of the unforgiveable curses and of being a member of the society for dark magic known as the Death Eaters, and for receiving and carrying out orders for the dark wizard known as Lord Voldemort. How do you plead?’
He did not have a lawyer to argue his case, but he’d had three years to work out his answer.
‘Very well. Mr Beverly, you can start.’
One of the prosecuting members of the Wizengamot stepped down from his seat and towards the raised platform where the Judge sat. Stern and severe-looking, Mr Beverly’s iron-grey hair and moustache were poker-straight, and his eyes were a piercing shade of blue that made Draco squirm in his seat.
‘Mr Malfoy, when were you invited to join the Death Eaters?’
Draco had answered this one before. ‘When I was sixteen.’
‘Who asked you to join?’
This one had been answered too. ‘I believe my parents were pressured into making me join by the Dark Lord.’
‘Do you know why?’
‘He had a mission for me. To redeem the family.’
‘What was this mission?’
‘To kill Albus Dumbledore.’
This confession was not new, and it did not draw a collective gasp from the watching crowd as it had the first time.
‘And did you carry out this mission?’
‘No, I did not.’
‘Why did the family have to redeem itself?’
‘My father failed the mission to capture the prophecy about Potter and the Dark Lord.’
‘And why were you chosen for this mission? Surely Lord Voldemort would have chosen a more trustworthy, competent Death Eater to kill such a powerful wizard?’
‘It was supposed to be a punishment. He knew I would never be able to do it. That…that was torture for my parents.’
‘Mr Malfoy, let’s put this in perspective,’ Mr Beverly had a twisted sort of smile on his face, and Draco knew, as he had before, that nobody believed his story. ‘Lord Voldemort, choosing a sixteen year old as the would-be assassin of Albus Dumbledore? Surely, you must see that this very idea is preposterous, Mr Malfoy. You told us this very same story three years ago.’
Draco swallowed and considered his next answer. Dumbledore had believed him. Potter had believed him. But this was a trial for one of the worst Wizarding wars in history, and the public was braying for blood. He knew that any answer he gave would be wrong in their eyes, that they would do anything to condemn him.
‘You have to understand. It was supposed to be a failure. That was the point. It was supposed to punish us. I was supposed to fail.’
‘But Lord Voldemort did choose a more capable wizard, Mr Malfoy. As I’m sure we all know, he chose Severus Snape, who murdered Albus Dumbledore years ago. As far as I am convinced,’ he turned, now, to the intent faces of the jury. ‘Your story about being chosen by Lord Voldemort is nothing more than…well, nothing more than fiction.’
‘That’s not true! He chose me because I was going to fail.’
‘Were the terms of this, erm-’ Mr Beverly cast a glance around the assembled Wizengamot with a smirk upon his lips, ‘-mission agreed upon your induction into the Death Eaters?’
‘So could it be said that your joining the Death Eaters was motivated by the desire to kill Albus Dumbledore?’
The point was absurd. Draco shook his head, but felt, strangely, too weary to argue back.
‘No. I joined because I needed to take the place of my father.’
‘And why was that? Why did you have to take his place?’
‘It was…the family name. Honour.’
‘Could you be more specific?’
‘We were ruined. About to lose everything. I did it for my family’s honour.’
‘And this...honour, presumably, would be restored by the murder of the greatest wizard to have ever lived?’
There was the slightest murmur through the court. Draco lifted his eyes slightly towards the very back bench of the courtroom and saw this year’s artist, her head ducked behind a large board. He supposed that the evening’s daily prophet would print another sketch of him in drab monotone, with maybe the merest dash of colour in his cheeks.
‘Yes. That was what I had to do.’
‘Mr Malfoy, at what age did you decide that you wanted to be a death eater?’
‘I was eleven.’
‘Did the Death Eaters seem great to you?’
‘At the time...yes.’
‘Did the idea of reckless violence, murder and terror appeal to you?’
‘Well...I was young. Yes, it did.’
‘And what did you want, ultimately, from being a Death Eater?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Mr Malfoy, you must be more specific.’
The word was scarcely louder than a breath, although each and every person in the courtroom caught it.
Mr Beverly turned to the assembled court, arms spread wide. ‘Wizards and Witches of the Wizengamot, there you have it. Draco Malfoy wanted to be a murderer, and his wild imagination and desire to kill and have ultimate power lead to only one solution – the murder of Albus Dumbledore. He fooled himself all along, thinking himself chosen, as if he was Lord Voldemort’s prized-’
‘That’s not true,’ Draco muttered. But already whispers were rippling through the court, and he turned his eyes to the jury, only to be met by cold, hard glares. They had as good as decided.
‘Order,’ the Chief Warlock called, and the whispers died away. ‘Mr Beverly, are you finished?’
‘Yes,’ with a satisfied smile, Mr Beverly turned and paced back to his seat.
There was a call of ‘Court adjourned’ from the Chief Warlock and, at once, murmurs and whispers shot through the assembled witches and wizards again. Draco shook the chains off as they receded back into the arms of the chair and strode off towards the exit. The dull hum voices grew quieter as he stalked the long corridor towards the lifts. The doors to the court hadn’t been opened yet, and he was desperate to leave before the crowd caught up with him. He had nobody to accompany him, not a soul that would wish to see him out of courtroom ten.
He wanted, more than anything, to vanish. Apparition would be the simplest way, but he’d never had a chance to get his apparition licence. He’d considered a disillusionment charm to disguise himself on more than one occasion but, in light of the trials, they Ministry had put a trace on him. Concealment was suspicious behaviour, only a way of proving his guilt. The few lonely sickles in his pocket hardly amounted to enough for Floo Powder, and he admitted defeat as he stepped into the lift. Like every other time, he would have to cross the Ministry atrium, swarming with people, and then find the nearest muggle underground station and make his own way home. It was easy enough to modify the same train ticket, day in, day out…
The lift finally clanked into the atrium. The door shuddered back; Draco took a deep breath, and then left.
Heads turned in his direction, and a tense, expectant sort of quiet fell over the atrium. He didn’t dare move, staring at the assembled camp of journalists, photographers, and assorted hangers-on, all waiting for a definitive outcome to the trials that had gone on too long. Towards the entrance, a group of protesters waited, threatening faces leering out at him.
He started to walk. From his left, a photographer rushed up, immersed in a cloud of purple smoke as he clicked away at the shutter release furiously. Behind him, a journalist was brandishing a quill, shouting ‘Mr Malfoy! Mr Malfoy! Do you have anything to say to the The Daily Prophet?’
There were more of them. Men and women, left, right, and centre, were pushing their way forwards, calling out the name of their publication and requesting his opinion. Like vultures, they circled around him, calls for information of the trials and the Death Eaters pressing in on him as he pushed his way through, mumbling ‘No comment, no comment,’ over and over. Nobody heard, and as he drew closer to the exit, the crowd grew thicker and he was forced to stop altogether.
A witch darted in front of him, her pink-taloned hands clutched around a crisp new notebook. With a bright flash, the photographer behind her snapped a picture, and Draco was left blinking, blinded, as the woman leant in close and said, ‘Mr Malfoy, I’m from The Herald, and we’re running a feature on the trials, if you’d care to give us a few words-’
‘That’s enough!’ someone suddenly shouted. A girl had jumped in front of him; the bright spot burned into his retinas obscured her face, but he could see a disarray of frizzy hair and a pair of ink-stained, nail-bitten hands waving in the air. ‘Mr Malfoy has nothing to say to you today!’
‘And who might you be?’ the journalist from The Herald scoffed. ‘I believe I asked him, not you-’
‘I’m his spokeswoman,’ the girl announced, and she pulled on Draco’s arm, dragging him through the crowd. ‘Move along!’ she yelled. ‘Nothing to see!’
He blinked furiously, waiting for his full vision to return, but he still couldn’t see the girl’s face fully – a girl, definitely, not a woman. Despite her confident voice and quick pace, the hand on his arm shook; she seemed young, even slightly frail.
‘Who are you? Where are you taking me?’ he demanded, in a low voice, as she pulled him clear of the protesters and into an empty phone box. The door slammed shut behind them, and she hammered on the keypad. It started to slide into the ceiling.
‘Shouldn’t you be thanking me?’ she said, haughtily. ‘I got you out of there, didn’t I?’
‘I didn’t need your help,’ he snapped. ‘I was fine by myself.’
She laughed bitterly. ‘Oh, sure you were.’
‘Thanks, I suppose,’ he stared glumly at the floor of the phone box, the spot of light in front of his eyes from the photographer’s flash vanishing. He sneaked a glance at the girl, who, up close, looked strangely familiar. Her lips were thin, chapped, pressed together, whether in amusement or annoyance he couldn’t tell. Her eyes – a dull shade of grey – were wide, and strands of hair hung into her face. Beneath the dull eyes there were unmistakeable dark shadows, and he watched her stifle a yawn as the lift finally slid into place in the muggle world.
She placed a hand on the door of the phone box, as if to leave, but then turned back to Draco with a sigh.
‘Look, to be honest, I didn’t actually mean to dash in and save the day like that. I’m a hack too. Wondered if you’d like to give me an interview.’
‘I certainly admire your nerve,’ he said darkly. The girl smiled and pushed the door open.
‘Could you just give me some answers? I’m not from the Prophet, I promise.’
‘Oh no, I know what you’re thinking,’ she said, suddenly, her face serious. ‘I work for a small paper. Sympathetic, if you must know. The Spark. It’s absolutely horrendous that the Wizengamot are giving such unfair trials, and last year I signed up as a member of the Freedom and Justice movement – The Spark is the official paper, by the way – and the movement’s designed to take back the basic Wizarding rights of victims of the warped justice system after the unbelievably biased nature of the trials, and the heavy use of Veritaserum and Dementors in the imprisonment process.’
After reeling this off, the girl stood there, breathing heavily, her eyes glinting. Draco rolled his eyes.
‘So you’re one of those Death Eater sympathy movement types I’ve read about?’ he pushed past her to leave the phone box. ‘You haven’t got a chance in hell. Sorry.’
‘We’re trying!’ she caught his sleeve and pulled him back. ‘And we’re not a Death Eater sympathy movement!’
He jerked his arm out of her grasp. ‘Think about it, you know, supporting scum-’
‘I’m just trying to help! I believe in rights and equal justice and fair trials for all, Death Eaters or not, just give me a chance to get a few answers out of you then I won’t bother you again.’
Draco stared down at her, conscious of the close proximity of the two of them in the lift, and stepped aside.
‘Oh, alright. I’ll give you half an hour. No more.’
‘No less,’ she smiled. ‘There’s this pub on Knockturn alley next to the apothecary, can you make tonight? Eight?’ Draco opened his mouth to speak, but she cut across. ‘Diagon Alley is too expensive, and I’ve got to get back to the office now. I forget the name of the place, but it’s got a black door and the barman only has one leg.’
‘Right. Okay. Eight o’clock at a pub you can’t even remember the name of, but you know that the barman is a cripple.’
‘Exactly. I’ll see you there?’
Before waiting for an answer, the girl turned to walk away.
‘Hang on a minute, who are you?’ Draco called after her. ‘You can’t expect me to turn up at some pub not even knowing what your bloody name is-’
She turned around, a smile playing across her thin lips again. ‘I’m Astoria Greengrass. You used to be friends with my sister, Daphne,’
Draco let his face relax into a slight smile, realising Astoria’s familiarity at last. ‘Yeah, I remember. How is Daphne?’
‘She’s a politician now,’ Astoria said.
‘Like a good Slytherin, then.’
‘Yes,’ Astoria laughed. ‘Same for me.’
And me, he thought. It was what Slytherins inevitably became, if you believed popular legend; politicians, hacks, criminals.
‘I should be going,’ Astoria said. ‘See you later.’
‘Right. See you.’
She turned and set off down the road, vanishing from view in seconds.
It had been two years since he'd seen Daphne Greengrass. Daphne was inextricably linked with Pansy, and memories of Pansy were still too raw to contemplate. It was the same with anyone from his old life. It was too difficult to speak to them, to see them as anyone other than the gaunt shades of themselves they'd been in seventh year. He found he couldn't trust anyone anymore. His parents had been the greatest betrayal, when he'd discovered that every word had been a lie, that he'd been branded with the dark mark as repayment for their failures - that was difficult, too. Visiting his father Azkaban was the worst. He felt he'd do anything to get him out of there, to redeem him once and for all - and yet at the sight of him, he couldn't help but be reminded of that last year in the Manor before it was repossessed.
Draco shut the door of phone box behind him.
Merlin, he thought. What did we all become?
a/n: I promised myself I'd never rewrite this. And, er, now I'm rewriting it. I've changed a lot, bringing certain characters back to life and changing others beyond recognition. I also hope that this new version will be shorter and a bit less of a chore to write. Also, while this fic is quite political and...and stuff, I by no means call myself an expert on politics, and if any of it seems woefully misjudged, it probably is. It's good to be back revising something that I've barely even thought about for a long time, and I hope I can stick it out to the end.
Thank you for reading ♥