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The Wages of Sin by thegirllikeme
Chapter 1 : The Wages of Sin
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 24


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“Mr. Weasley, you may take your seat.”

The courtroom remains in its revered silence as the ginger-haired, young man moves his tall, slightly gangly frame from the witness stand. Eyes follow him as he glides towards the audience, twitching nervously when he feels the eyes of the Wizengamot when he passes their section. He moves closer to the audience, towards the table where the defense sits, and he eyes the man, the one we are here for. He allows a flicker of unconstrained enmity to pour from his gaze and to contort his face with a look of powerful, disgusted hatred. He does not know what a mistake he's made, but I see it. I know it. And by the suspicious, curious glances a few of the Wizengamot give to one another, I know that they have noted it too.

His error is great. He has shown such intense hate, a hate strong enough to turn the genteel man into a seething monster, a hate strong enough to cause him to lie, to cheat, and to do anything to put the man he hated—innocent or not—behind bars. The defendant's reaction is perfect, for he does not smile smugly, showing he feels no shame for what he has done—illegal or not. He does not square his shoulders in a sign of confidence or a silent knowing that none of the charges will stick to him. Instead, he closes his eyes, but not in an expression of guilt that would have only served to lock him away, but an expression which conveys pain of the worst kind. For a brief moment, the defendant's shoulders slump and his head droops just enough that his pale hair slides into his eyes, making him look utterly broken. He is a sad sight, even sadder when he looks up and mouths two words that seem to be a heartfelt apology for all that he has done, all he has claimed that he didn't have any choice but to do.

“I'm sorry.”

Yes, Lucius Malfoy is a good actor; the best, perhaps. But Ronald Weasley is not good at withholding his emotions. As soon as he sees Mr. Malfoy's show, the anger only grows until it's as crackling and as fiery as his red hair, and he takes a tiny step towards Mr. Malfoy, who in turn recoils. Mr. Weasley pauses as though guessing his mistake, and he glances uncertainly back at me, as though asking permission. I shake my head, subtly, discreetly, firmly, and I hope he gets the message.

He does, for he steps back and moves quickly back into the audience, sitting in between Hermione Granger, who take his hand and smiles encouragingly, conveying to him that he did well, and Harry Potter, who does nothing but stare straight ahead, his face full of so many conflicting emotions that his features are unreadable.

Mr. Weasley's scene was brief, a minute at the most, but in its wake it has dealt immeasurable damage. The near violent movement, near attack upon Lucius Malfoy, has been branded into the minds of the Wizengamot. They are once again exchanging looks and scowling after Mr. Weasley as though they are marveling at what hate like that could cause the young man to do. Lie, comes quickly to their mind, as they think of Mr. Weasley's time on the witness stand when he spoke a near identical testimony as Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, and his sister, Ms. Weasley. Nearly word for word, with, perhaps, the exception of Miss Granger, who seemed more thorough and exact with her description, they told the tale of the episode at the Department of Ministries, the last time that Mr. Malfoy had been arrested. They only did what was to be expected, but their stories are so identical that it leaves the question in mind: a case of multiple witnesses or a well rehearsed, completely made-up speech? And with so many uncharacteristic similarities, the latter seems more likely.

And Mr. Malfoy's reaction is impeccably timed, flawlessly acted, perfectly done to hurt my side more. He stares blankly at the tabletop as though too emotionally spent to even move. The Wizengamot see a shattered, heartbroken man. They see what Lucius Malfoy desires them to see. Every single man and woman sitting and preparing to judge the man knew that this was a court of law, a place where judgment should be based upon evidence, not emotion. Sometimes, though, in a trial between truth and subtle lies, emotion – such a fake and unpredictable thing – is all that is truly left to examine.

Especially when the one they are judging claimed he was Imperius-ed and threatened until no other option remained but to do You-Know-Who's—no, Voldemort's, as we call him now that he's dead—bidding.

Yes, this is the most esteemed court in the wizarding world, and Mr. Malfoy has them wrapped around his finger. I search their eyes, wondering how many of them he has bought off, and what price they folded for. Those who do not have Mr. Malfoy's Galleons rotting in their greedy pockets, he has blinded as surely as if he has cast a Confounding Charm upon them. They fell into his trap, and still they do not realize that they are right where he wants them.

But I know. I am no fool. I am one of the most successful wizarding lawyers; my record is impeccable—I have never lost a case. That is perhaps why Harry Potter sought me out for this case, because he knew I could see right through the games, the performance that Mr. Malfoy plays so well. And I do. I know what kind of a man he truly is, a man who believes the entire world is his play thing, and everyone can be bought for the proper price. He is a liar, an arrogant git, but he is no fool. He is a murderer, the lowest of scum, and, worst of all, he is a Death Eater.

I know he belongs behind the cell bars of Azkaban. I know that my side is the right one. But our side is weak. I know it; I have known it from the beginning. I find myself looking over my shoulder at Harry Potter. Once again, his face shows so many emotions that they overload one another, making his expression unfathomable, but I can guess what he is feeling. This is not the first Death Eater trial he has been to, but in a way, its verdict has the most meaning for him. Why else can he be returning diligently to the same spot every day, even though he has been forbidden to take the stand?

It was our biggest loss when the defense made a plea that they discontinue Mr. Potter's privilege to take the stand. The lawyer claimed that it would cause too much friction, saying that Mr. Potter is a celebrity, a hero to the wizarding world, and therefore, the Wizengamot will be more eager to believe his testimony no matter how...counterfactual it actually is. The Wizengamot voted, hands sneaking into air—no doubt belonging to the ones that had Mr. Malfoy's bribe carefully pocketed—and the plea passed. The thing I was counting on slipped out of my loose fingers, and my chances of winning this case decreased considerably.

Every second, every witness through this trial has been another blow to the shins, making me buckle until I know now, that I am on my knees. I am fighting a battle I am not stupid enough to believe we still have hope of winning. I am right where the defense wants me, but I will not anyone see it. I will continue to play my part, do my all, until this trial is finished. Even if this is destined to be the only trial I've ever lost, I will see it through.

Because Lucius Malfoy is not the only seasoned actor in this courtroom.

My eyes move to the defense lawyer, my reputable opponent. If I am first on the greatest lawyer list, he is quite easily second. He is the one who weaseled Mr. Malfoy out of his first trial, and he has promised to do it a second time. He is responsible for countless villains going free; he is a lawyer of the greatest, lowest sort. But I know his moves well enough to know what he is going to do next. He stands, shuffling through his folder absently—for he does not need the information in them, and he finally looks at the judge. It is his turn to call a witness, and I know the name he will say before it leaves his tongue.

“Defense calls Draco Malfoy.”

A pale, blond boy stands awkwardly from his chair and follows his summons. He does not glance at either side of him as he walks toward the witness stand, not even when Mr. Weasley takes an opportunity to glare menacingly at him. His eyes are fixed upon his feet as though he is making sure that they continue moving forward, instead of turning as if fleeing from the task at his hand. The task is to lie for his father. A task to save his father from the crimes that the young Mr. Malfoy knows full well that he committed.

I wonder if he is comfortable with that idea. I wonder if his hesitation is an act like his father's, or if it truly is something felt deep within, stemming from an inescapable act that they both had committed. Draco Malfoy, himself, was just cleared of similar charges, though Draco was accused of being involved in the murder of Albus Dumbledore. However, as I witnessed that trial from the audience, I perceived that the boy was quite earnest when he said that he'd only done it because Voldemort would have murdered his family if he hadn't. Mr. Potter's own testimony confirmed it, stating that not only had Draco said that on the same night when Dumbledore was killed, but he was, ultimately, incapable of preforming the act. I can only hope that I am right about Mr. Malfoy's son. May there be one Death Eater who actually regrets his acts.

As he passes, Draco does not even glance at his father, though Mr. Malfoy is making every attempt he can to discreetly meet his son's eyes, to give him a firm gaze to remind him of what is at stake, and what Draco is to do. I know Draco has not forgotten. It is impossible to forget such a deed.

Grasping together his emotions, Draco suddenly appears to be a different man. As he lowers himself into the seat and is sworn in, he squares his pointed jaw so that it reads every bit of Slytherin determination, and yet, he allows a bit of himself to appear vulnerable—like a son who is terrified that his innocent father might be put back into Azkaban, and yet he is trying to be strong. Yes, he has been practicing a long time for this. I know it is planned out, even as I watch the defense lawyer confidently walk to the witness stand, clutching an unneeded folder of information. He stops before the stand, gives Draco a small smile, and then gets down to the business at hand.

“Mr. Malfoy, state your relationship with my client.”

These are mandatory questions that everyone knows the answer to. I tune them out as Draco replies without hesitance. “He's my father.” A few, unnecessary questions follow, and I find myself refocusing when the real questions began.

“To you knowledge, was your father ever employed as a Death Eater in the service of Voldemort?” He almost cringes when the name is said. Hearing the name will take some getting used to.

The answer to that question is known. It has been proven time and time again, but Draco's reply is still most important. I lean forward an inch, setting my chin against steepled fingers and listening intently.

“Yes,” Draco says firmly, but he is not finished. “But not of his own free will.”

“I see,” says the lawyer with a nod. He is not looking at his witness; he is looking at the audience, meeting their eyes and silently asking if they were watching carefully, because he was about to win this case. “And was there any reason to suspect that he had been Imperius-ed?”

Once again, Draco does not even pause, doesn't take his eyes away from the lawyer, doesn't show a flicker of deceit. “There were times when he didn't seem himself, yes.”

The lawyer paces a few steps, showing his excitement and passion for this particular act in his exquisite play, and as he speaks, a single hand moves in a small, circular motion as though he can not speak without moving his hands as well. “Would you care to elaborate for me?”

Draco takes a deep breath as though preparing to jump into a lengthy speech. “He would always seem to withdraw himself and, when he didn't, he would be on edge.” His tone is too easy, too professional, too well-rehearsed, and he seems to realize it. In just the nick of time, he straightens it out, adds a bit of a melancholy note to his voice. He lets his eyes fall from the lawyer to the wood of the stand as though the grain is fascinating, and then forces himself to stumble over a few words. “And-and he would disappear for days at a time. When he would return, he was vague as to what he had done, so vague I doubt he remembers it clearly himself. He just seemed--” Here Draco pauses, and he appears to be searching diligently, heartbreakingly for the right world that would express the horrific situation. Finally, he says, “Different.”

A few more questions are asked, and every answer carefully spins a web of lies that displays a scene of sorrow and anguish, a tale of a family used disgracefully by an evil lord who had already torn so many families asunder. It is a story that the undecided members of the Wizengamot cling to, a story that, perhaps, is not so different from their own. A family pulled apart with You-Know-Who to blame is something quite familiar.

Finally, the lawyer winds down his testimony and prepares to finish with one last question. The one that holds the greatest effect upon those gathered. “Mr. Malfoy, do you--” he begins, his voice so strong and dramatic that it pierces the entire room, before quickly adds, “--and please remember that you are under oath--”

Ah, yes, remind the Wizengamot of that detail, I think sarcastically to myself as I hold back a doubtful scoff. I know that getting the truth would be so much simpler if they chose to use Veritaserum. No oath short of an Unbreakable Vow has the power to hold them to honesty. The Wizengamot reason that it is unnecessary, that people can counter it with the right spell and knowledge. I reason that a quick search and confiscation of any potions and their wands would do the trick. But in the end, the Wizengamot are above that, they say. They call it morals; I call it stupidity.

But I do not allow my mind to stay on this for long, for I must listen.This is vital, so important that I can taste the excitement of it in the air, crackling and bubbling, and making me hold my breath.

“Mr. Malfoy, do you believe that this man--” And the defense points a long, stiff finger at Lucius Malfoy, who has a small smile on his face as though tearfully proud that his son had done so well. “--your father--” His eyes turn back to Draco expectantly as he finishes his question. “--is innocent?”

I know I can object, can claim that the question is irrelevant, and can state that his answer can only be biased. I do not, though it is a choice others would not comprehend. I do not care; my decision is made and my eyes are on Draco.

It seems as though Draco did not know this question would be asked, or rather perhaps it is just that no matter how long he knew this was coming, it is impossible to prepare himself. Because, though he does not appear shocked or afraid, but neither does he appear calm, confident, with a touch of insincerity. Instead he appears like nothing, like he has completely gone from himself, as though he is no more than an impenetrable, unfeeling shell.

But something is being felt behind those blank, gray eyes. If not, he would have answered. Instead, he stares past the lawyer and into the depths of his father's eyes. His father nods encouragingly, genuine love and pride in his eyes, but it fades as Draco still does not speak. I think I understand why. Because Draco knows, better than anyone in this room, that the man before him is far from guiltless. His father is a murderer, a liar, and a cruel man. Most unforgivable in Draco's mind, he is a man who manipulates everyone, but no one more so than he manipulates those he claims to love.

It is as though the courtroom is holding its breath, for in the silence as the room waits for young Mr. Malfoy's response, seconds stretch for what must be eternity, making Draco's hesitance seemed to last forever. Finally, Draco's eyes trail back to the attorney, taking their length time on the journey.

“Yes,” he says at last, his voice soft, but firm, and so sincere it can not be doubted, even if the owner of the words does. “Yes, of course, I do.”

The defense lawyer gives a small smile, the corner of his eyes surveying the Wizengamot as one particular woman takes out a tissue and dabs the edges of her eyes with it. The lawyer has done what he intended to do. He has moved the court into silence by showing a broken boy who still needs his father. Lie or not, it has worked.

I am standing as soon as my opponent states that he has no further questions. I quickly began to cross examine the witness and demand, as kindly as I can make myself sound, any question that comes to mind. I am talented and practiced at thinking on my feet, but still no manner of quick pondering or questioning aids me. Draco sticks to his story like glue, never changing a syllable of it. He does no yield, he does not break, and he does not falter, like I knew he never would. So, I do what I knew I would eventually have to do.

I give up. I fail. I say, “No further questions, your honor,” and I return to my seat, only to be asked to call a witness. I stand and speak up, knowing that this was my answer. I had known it was coming all that day. I knew this was the final day, the end to this pointless struggle. “The prosecution has no further witnesses.”

The defense rests, and it is now the part that I generally love the most: the closing argument, the time that I typically shine at. Today, however, I know it will be different, but I keep the dread from my face, I hold in the hopelessness. I will keep my appearances, I will seem to speak my best, and I shall prove my point to as many as possible. I am not weak, and I will not go out seeming so.

I make my way around the table, to the center of the floor so that all eyes are upon me. I feel them, knowing that they are giving me their attention, but that their ears will not truly hear me. They are stopped up by Mr. Malfoy's carefully spread lies and shiny, gold galleons. Nonetheless, I will try. It is what is expected of me.

I point out the evidence that has been shown. I plead that the Wizengamot will put faith in the solid fact instead of in the testimonies that can so easily be lies. As I tell them this, as I rehash all that we have learned, I am painfully aware that I am pointing out a lack of the solid evidence. There is no true sign that he is lying. No witnesses that can honestly claim that he had killed someone. No one that could even prove that he was not, indeed, under the Imperious Curse. I avoid rehashing the detail of what Hermione Granger had very honestly, but carelessly, stated when it had been her turn on the stand. That the night of the final battle itself, she had never once seen Mr. Malfoy fighting alongside fellow Death Eaters, but instead, he had searched for his son. I know my opponent will not be so purposely absentminded.

I wind my argument to a closing, punctuating the last few words with just enough of a professional enthusiasm. I return to my chair, and lower myself into it, knowing it is the last time I will do so during this case. My moment to shine is gone without me so much as providing a flicker of light into the minds of those listening.

With an arrogant smirk that quickly disappears from his face, the defense lawyer takes his stand in the center of his stage, ready to give the performance of a lifetime. An act it is, nothing more than a string of fictional lies and half-truths. Nonetheless, I can feel that the Wizengamot are far more attentive than they were when I spoke. A few are leaning forward, ready to cling to his words, and I am unsure whether this is a performance from those who have been paid off or a genuine eagerness from those who truly wish to be convinced that Mr. Malfoy is innocent.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the Wizengamot,” the defense lawyer begins, his voice that is filled with the right mixture of confidence and humility exploding through the transfixed audience. “I ask you to look at my client now and tell me what you see.” As though he is a king and they are his subjects, they look at Mr. Malfoy, who sits frozen on his chair. “I ask you if, given the evidence that has been revealed during this trial, can rightly claim that he deserves to be sent to Azkaban? Was his seemingly cruel actions in the Ministry an act of his own malicious will or a sign of the Imperious-ed will of Voldemort that was exaggerated by a group of terrified teenagers?”

That's right, I think to myself. Do not call them liars. Let the Wizengamot assume that for themselves.

“Ask yourselves,” he continues, “if this man is a criminal or a victim. We all know the power that Voldemort held. Some of us have witnessed it ourselves. Some of us have felt it. Some of us have found ourselves under the control of his mighty power. Are we so certain that this man, here, was not controlled by the height of Voldemort's strength?

“And lastly, ask yourselves what, on that most fateful night when so many lost their life against that dreaded monster of a man, this man was doing. Was he torturing Muggleborns? Slaying the innocent? Doing whatever he could to aid You-Know-Who?” He gave a lengthy pause, meeting the eyes of the judge and the rest of the Wizengamot. “You know as well as I, by countless testimonies and, not the least of which, by Ms. Granger's own words, that he was not doing any of that. Rather, he was looking for his son, trying to unite and defend the family that had already taken so many blows. Is that something to incriminate him with? No. Rather I believe it shows my client, Mr. Lucius Malfoy, to be of the highest character.

“So--” He walks to Mr. Malfoy side and turns to face the Wizengamot, one hand resting supportively on his client's shoulder. “--vote in favor to send him to Azkaban, but let it be on you conscious, because I believe we all know what kind of a man Mr. Malfoy truly is.”

With an air of finality, he sits regally into his chair, leaving the court in silence.

I try not to think too heavily on the speech, because I know too well how it will have moved the Wizengamot. Failure is not a feeling that I want to feel, and guilt is not a beloved emotion either. So I sit silently, as unfeeling as a calloused stone, and wait as the Wizengamot exchange expressions, as the last of them form their choices in their minds. The honorable Minster of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, finally clears his throat, and I tense expectantly, knowing this is the moment that I both look forward to and dread completely: the verdict.

“All those in favor of clearing Mr. Malfoy of all charges?”

Hands rise in a tidal wave, and I refuse to count them, refuse to even look at the faces of the greedy and the deceived.

“All those in favor of conviction?”

Hands boldly climb into the air, but they are few. Too few.

The explosion of the Shacklebolt's voice boomed throughout the air, announcing, quite grudgingly, the fate of the trial. “I hereby declare that Lucius Malfoy is to be cleared of all charges.” The Minister meets Mr. Malfoy's eyes, and adds, insincerely, “Congratulations, Mr. Malfoy.”

There was a sort of unsurprised smile on Mr. Malfoy's face, and I simply stare at him, not yet allowing myself to register what has happened. I blankly watch as Mr. Malfoy and his lawyer shake hands enthusiastically, and Mrs. Malfoy runs to give her husband a fierce hug. I take in Draco Malfoy as he slowly walks to join his family, as though he is unsure about how he should feel about this. I look at Mr. Potter and his group of friends who have a mixture of horror, sadness, disbelief, and anger on their faces. None seem more disappointed than Mr. Potter himself, for his head falls into his hands as he allows out a low, fierce groan.

That is when I know what has happened. I feel it in the very core of my being. The man who has committed so many crimes, harmed so many people, and done all of this of his own free will, is walking free to continue to spread his darkness throughout the world. He is the worst kind of man, the man who believes that the world is his play thing and all the people in it has a price that he is more than willing to pay. And he is free. I have lost, and all I feel is relief, grateful that this fight that could never be won is finally at an end.

I watch as the Malfoy family leaves the room, nearly chased by Rita Skeeter as she tries to gather his thoughts and as her Quick Quotes Quill hovers at her side. Mr. Malfoy merely laughs and promises a personal interview later, before accepting his wand from an Auror and stepping out of the courtroom. Rita Skeeter is disappointed, but seems to accept it because she stops. Her eyes look around the room greedily, searching for someone else to interrogate. I stand before her eyes can fix on me. I have no desire for nosy interviews by annoying women whose only desire was to pry into the life of others. Besides, there are certain matters to be discussed with Mr. Malfoy. It has always been my practice to meet with the opposing client, but never before have I been faced someone who was not headed to Azkaban. Never before have I been the one who has lost.

I will face him, nonetheless.

Mr. Potter steps in the way, not rudely, but making clear he would like a word. Yet, as I stop and look at him, he does not speak. I know what he wants. I know what he is thinking. I know that he believes that I am a poor lawyer, but I am not, and I know that, so the look of disappointment he gives me does not scratch the surface of my being. Logically, it should. I should feel sorrowful, and knowing how I should act, I do as I should.

I apologize. “I'm sorry that I was unable to send Mr. Malfoy where he rightfully belongs.” I stick out my hand as though hoping he will show there are no hard feelings.

He glances my hand, as though unsure if it held a wand, and then, slowly, took it, giving it one firm shake. “It's all right. I'm sure you did your best.”

His voice is not completely convincing, but I do not mind. I know his opinion should matter to me, like it did to all others, but I am not others. To others this is the Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One, the great wizard who defeated Voldemort. To me, however, he is just another client.

I release his hand, give him a fond farewell, a halfway meant 'it was a pleasure working for you', and walk away. I move out to the hall and towards the door where I expect the Malfoys to be, but the voices stop me from entering. I stand still, just before the ajar door, pressing myself close to the wall so that the shadow of my presence will go unseen, but through the small gap I hear and see everything.

“What...what are you saying, Draco?” Mrs. Malfoy is pressing her dainty hand over her small mouth, horror corrupting the perfect beauty of her face.

“You heard me,” her son retorts in a cold, drawled voice that is barely holding back the anger. But he is not addressing his beloved mother. His eyes are fixed upon his father who looks shocked, but is hiding it well beyond his facade of self-control. “You...” He pauses as though asking himself once again if he truly wants to continue, truly wants to do this, but he only hesitates for a moment, and, now, his voice is stronger than ever. “You used me.”

“You listen to me, young man,” Mr. Malfoy says to his son sternly, a slightly angry tone in his voice. “What I did, I did for the good of this family.”

“You leave this family out of it,” Draco snaps back. “What you did was for yourself and yourself only. And you know it!”

A sense of rage flares across Mr. Malfoy's face, and he takes a step closer to Draco, who fights to hide a cringe. “No son of mine is going to speak to me like this. I love you and...”

Draco squares his back, the Slytherin determination appearing once more in his eyes. He seems not to want to appear weak, appears to want his way more than anything, and feels brave enough to stand up to his father...for the first time in his life. “And if that's true, than that makes it worse. I never wanted to get up on that stand. Never.

Mr. Malfoy seems taken aback, as though it is suddenly occurring to him that this situation was far more serious than he first thought. This is no teenage throwing a defiant rebellion that will pass in a few moments. This was a man who is tired of the person who tried to force him to become something that Draco is no longer sure that he ever wanted to be. This seems to dawn on Mr. Malfoy, because he goes from authoritative to utterly silent.

But Mrs. Malfoy does not remain still. “B-but, Draco,” she stutters, tears beginning to fill her eyes in desperation as her ears take in the horrible things that her son was saying. The very thought that Draco hated his father seems to be tearing her to pieces. “Surely you're not saying that you would have preferred that your father go to Azkaban.”

“Why not?” Draco scowls. “It's where he belongs. I know what kind of a man you are, Father. I know you are far from innocent.”

The low blow hits Mr. Malfoy with disfavor, and suddenly he goes from stunned silence to snarling back just as angrily. Never before had father and son looked more alike than when they are now glaring at each other, equal looks of displeasure and temporary dislike on their faces. “Then you know that you too belong in Azkaban,” he says cruelly, and Draco's face contorts in something that looks like pain and guilt at that clearly constant memory. “After all, you served the Dark Lord too.”

Whatever it was—agony or guilt—it is gone now, as suddenly as though it has never once been there. His sneer is back in place, and he is hissing like a deadly snake, “Served? No, Father. I wasn't his servant; I was his slave. I hated the Dark Lord.” Passion is in his voice as the ghost of a powerful hate for the man who he was forced to serve returns to crackle in his cold, gray eyes. “I hated him from the day he threatened this family. I hated him from the day he set out to punish me for your mistake. I served him to protect this family. I did, but where were you?” A demented, wicked smirk spreads across Draco's features as he prepares to answer his own question. “Ah, yes, I remember. You were in Azkaban.”

Mr. Malfoy fingers are balling into fists at his sides, and rage fills him so completely that his shoulders tremble with the effort to maintain self-control and not give his son the whipping that he knows the impotent boy deserves. “Listen you me, you little--”

Draco has no more tolerance for his father, and he cuts him off with a sharp interruption.“No, for once in your pathetic life you're going to listen to me,” he snarled. “Since the time of my birth, you've been telling me what to do and what to think. Learn the Dark Arts. Serve the Dark Lord. Lie to the Wizengamot.” He shook his head furiously. “But I'm a Malfoy, and I don't take orders from anyone anymore. Not even you.”

Mr. Malfoy has had enough. He knows that control over his son is no longer his, and nothing infuriates the bullheaded Slytherin more than knowing that he has lost power over something that he has always thought as his. So, his sanity seems to flee him, until all that remains is the anger that flows through his bloodstream with a boiling sense of heat. Thoughtlessly, furiously, he reaches his hand into his pocket and jerks out his wand, pointing it menacingly and threatening his own flesh and blood. His lips are moving, and seeing this, Draco pulls at his robes in a desperate and flustered attempt at finding his own wand, but his hand can't seem to find his pocket for the longest moment. However, my hand has found mine, my fingers wrapping around the wood of my wand. I do not draw it and I do not interfere. I will not unless it is absolutely necessary, because I know what it would cost me.

Draco's hand is slipping into his pocket, and Mr. Malfoy is starting to say the last syllable of a horrific curse, when Mrs. Malfoy puts herself between the deadly, pointed weapon and her son. Tears stream down her face and sobs rattle her shoulders. Her cheeks are red, and her eyes puffy, her beauty diminished by her own broken heart. The sight of his beloved wife in such a state stopped Mr. Malfoy cold. “Please...” she pleads through hard sobs. “Please...stop.”

Mr. Malfoy and Draco both look at her, and it is clear, that no matter how much damage has been dealt between father and son that day, the love for Mrs. Malfoy has not lessoned on either side, for they stare at her stunned and perhaps a little guilty. As she buries her face into her hands, Mr. Malfoy lowers his wand, pocketing it, and, at the same time, Draco releases his wand, withdraws his hand from his pocket, and makes a move towards his mother. Mr. Malfoy is there before him, wrapping his arms around his wife and holding her close. Over her shoulder, he is glaring furiously at Draco.

“Look what you have done,” he growled accusingly.

Draco stumbles a stunned step backwards as though he suffered a blow into his stomach. He fixes a guilty, helpless look at his mother's trembling back and mumbles, “But I...I didn't mean...I didn't want her to...” Then he squares his shoulder, angry again. Perhaps at his father. Perhaps at himself for what he did to his mother, or perhaps just his own confusion. Whatever the reason, the anger controls him, and, giving one last glare to his father, he hurries out of the room.

I do not have time to move, to hide, to keep him from seeing me, and when he throw open the door and storms out to the hall, his eyes immediately meet mine. Our locked gazes hold for a time that seems like eternity and from the moment he first spotted me, I know that he has guessed that the truth. He knows I heard everything, that I stood here the whole time and listened. He does not hex me for my eavesdropping; he does not even say a word. Instead, he gives one last glance to the room, hesitates for a moment, and then, with the determination of a Slytherin, Draco Malfoy walks down the hall and away from his family.

Whether or not he will rethink his decision and his opinions, I am not sure. Whether or not he will ever return to the family he did so much for, I cannot guess, though, I know one thing. Whether or not he ever does, it will be by his own choice, because he is a Malfoy, and no one is going to control him now.

I wait for a long time, until I am sure that Mrs. Malfoy's tears have stopped flowing and until I am positive that they will not believe that I have been spying. Then, when I am certain, I rap quietly on the door frame and stick my head in. “Mr. Malfoy, may I have a word?”

Mrs. Malfoy and Mr. Malfoy are now sitting side-by-side by a table, and upon my entrance, they both stand. Mrs. Malfoy is put back together, not a single hair out of place and not a single streak of red marking her lovely face. It is as though nothing traumatic has happened to this family, and by the smiles on their face, they are carefully appearing that they are still celebrating Mr. Malfoy's freedom and feeling the joy that it has caused.

Mr. Malfoy seems to realize immediately why I am here, because he does not question me though he has turned serious. He only turns to his wife and says, “Narcissa, would you mind?”

She does not need to question her husband on what he is truly asking her. She is well practiced at following his wishes, and giving him a tentatively smile, she nods her head and sweeps out of the room, closing the door behind her. I turn my attention completely to Mr. Malfoy, meeting his eyes. A sense of discomfort has come over me. I am one of the most respected men in my practice, skillful at the art of performance,yet I can not help but feeling unease now as though just being in his presence in a criminal act all of it's own. But it is not regret I feel. It is a sense of urgency. To get this done and over with; that is all I want.

I extend my hand to him, looking completely solemn and genuine as I say, “Congratulations on your victory, Lucius.”

He smiles, the grin conveying his demented sense of arrogant happiness, and he sets his hand in mine. I feel the cold object press into my palm, and I try to resist shivering, knowing I was so close. “Thank you, Camden.”

I hate being on first name basis with the likes of him, but right now, in the solitude of this room, there is no denying our previous acquaintance. We are not friends, and I will always despise him, but we know each other. We know each other well.

“I must admit,” he goes on, still holding tightly onto my hand, “that I could not have done it with out you. My only regret is that you could not represent my side, like you did so well the first time I was set free.”

Yes, I will admit that I made many mistakes, and that is one of them. One that Mr. Potter, thankfully, knows nothing about. That was a long time ago. Now I am smarter and wiser. I know where the true profit is. I know the best side. “Make no mistake about that,” I start savagely. “This time, I know where you belong. I know what kind of a man you are.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Malfoy with a deep, satisfactory nod, “and I know kind of a man you are.”

With that, he releases his hold on me, and I angrily whip my hand away, wrapping my fingers around the cool object one in his own palm. I feel relief, because I know it is finished. My task is done, and I am free to go.

“Nice doing business with you,” Mr. Malfoy says with a haughty smirk.

I turn, push the object deep inside my pocket, and move towards the door. Before I exit, before I leave Mr. Malfoy forever in my past, where he belongs, I leave him with one final goodbye.

“As always, Mr. Malfoy.”

I make my way down the hallway, my steps slow and deliberate, but with an air of contentedness and finality, carrying me far away from this place where I lost my first case in the history of my occupation, though, I have not failed. To fail is to not achieve the goal that I had placed for myself, and the success of that achievement is in the depths of my pocket being toyed with absently with my bored fingers. I feel the shape, rounded at the end, with a length of metal filled with grooves, bumps, and twists. A perfect, freshly made key that will unlock a vault at Gringotts that holds twenty thousand Galleons, just as I deserve for weakening my side, for making sure that there was no chance that Lucius Malfoy would not go free.

I smile and marvel at the strange irony of it. For all of Mr. Malfoy's stupidity, inconsistencies, faulty morals, and missteps, he is right about one thing, the very thing I taught him so well.

Everyone has their price.

Even me.




Author's Note: As you will be able to tell if you have read any of my other stories, you'll be able to tell that this story really isn't what I usually write--not just the plot, but the way I wrote the story as well. Well, let me explain myself. This story was originally written for the MNFF August Oneshot competition. The goal: to write the story of Lucius Malfoy's trial. After all, JK had said in an interview that Lucius Malfoy had weaseled his way out of Azkaban once again. So, for this competition I decided to really challenge myself. I decided to write completely differently than I normally do, so, since I generally write in third person, I wrote in first person, and since I generally write in past tense, I wrote in present. That's the bottom line of this explanation: I wanted to make things hard on myself.

Oh, and how did the story do? Well, you can imagine that after writing so differently I didn't really expect anything to come of it. It was the experience that mattered most (though that didn't stop me from hoping a tiny bit). And, to my surprise, I actually did place.

I took first.




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