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A Time to Live by ladymblack
Chapter 8 : Chapter 8: The Trials
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 18


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Chapter 8: Trials and Tribulations

 

The next day was spent cleaning up from the party and trying to put the house back to rights.  They were enjoying their lunch at the Burrow when an official notice from the office of the Minister arrived for Harry.

Harry,

Some of the trials will begin Monday morning if you would kindly present yourself to Courtroom Ten.  I tried to arrange as many of the trials that you wished to attend to be set for that day.  We’re putting off the Malfoy trials for last and they probably won’t be until the end of the summer, at the earliest.  We’ll be able to talk in my office during lunch, hopefully.

Sincerely,

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Minister of Magic

“Why are they making you go through this, Harry?” Molly fussed, “Haven’t you been through enough, without dragging you into the trials?”

“Well, I know better than most who was under the Imperius Curse and who wasn’t, don’t I?  Sharing a soul with Voldemort may have been the most horrible experience possible, but it wound up coming in handy.  If I can help to clear those who are innocent and condemn those who are guilty, shouldn’t I do so?” Harry asked her.

Molly bit her lip in response and said, “I suppose so, Harry.  I have to say that it’s very generous of you to lend your time in this way.”

He could tell that she didn’t fully approve, but she wouldn’t say anything more against it.

The rest of the weekend passed quietly.  They spent their time playing with Teddy or heading down to the orchard for a spontaneous Quidditch Match.

Monday morning at Grimmauld Place found Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny all preparing themselves for a day at the Ministry.  They’d donned their formal robes, since Ron had said this would be expected in the courtroom.  At breakfast, Kreacher forced them all to eat second, third and fourth helpings.  It was obvious that he was extremely nervous about them going to the Ministry.  Harry couldn’t blame the poor elf.  The last time they’d gone to the Ministry they’d not returned for over nine months.

“Don’t worry, Kreacher.  We were invited this time; they won’t try to arrest us.  We’ll be home in time for dinner, I promise,” Harry said, trying to reassure the elf as they all entered the Floo.

Entering the Ministry, the foursome dusted off their robes before lending their wands at the help desk for inspection.  Activity in the room had ceased as all of the wizards turned to watch Harry and his friends continue through the Atrium.  They noticed as they passed that the horrendous statue that had been there previously was gone.  In its place was a black marble phoenix with red flames rising around it.  This was, Harry knew, a monument to Dumbledore, whose portrait sat next to it.  Upon closer inspection, they could see a long list next to Dumbledore’s portrait which bore the names of Voldemort’s victims, from both the first and second wars.  Tears sprang to their eyes as they recognized many of them.  Dumbledore smiled sadly at them, but did not speak.

Finally Ginny nudged Harry and they all walked away from the monument silently.  They headed into one of the lifts, which was thankfully empty.  Harry then led them down the stairs, having been the only one to have visited Courtroom Ten before, for his own trial.

When they entered the courtroom, all eyes in the room turned to them.  Every witch and wizard of the Wizengamot got to his or her feet to applaud their arrival, many with tears of gratitude in their eyes.  Kingsley called for silence, and indicated for them to take their seats.  Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny sat down in designated seats for onlookers.

“First on the list today, Albert Runcorn,” Kingsley said, consulting a piece of parchment.  To his right sat Arthur and to his left Percy, who had continued with his position as Court Scribe.  A few seats down from them sat Malfada Hopkirk, Hermione cringing as she noticed the witch (remembering having impersonated the woman not too long before).

The man that Harry had become with the Polyjuice Potion on his last trip to the Ministry came forward, flanked by two guards.

“You are hear-by accused of being a Death Eater and creating the Muggle-born Commission to kill and imprison muggleborns.  How do you plead?” Kingsley asked, the usual calming voice gone, to be replaced with cold-hearted disdain.

“I plead not guilty.  I only did so on orders.  I was forced to act,” Runcorn said, although it seemed obvious to Harry that he had been more than happy to perform his duty.

“What evidence do you have of this?” Kingsley asked him.

“I was placed under the Imperius Curse,” Runcorn told him, his eyes narrowed.

Kingsley looked over to Harry, “Would you like to testify?”

Harry nodded and stood, “Yes, Minister, thank you.  While impersonating Runcorn, it seemed very obvious to me that I was feared by most of the workers in this building.  I was also told by the muggleborns who were on trial at the time that I personally had submitted their names for questioning.  I would also say that Runcorn saying he was under orders and then saying that he was under the Imperius Curse is a contradiction in terms.  If he was under orders, then he must have been a Death Eater.  This would indicate that he wasn’t under the Imperius Curse.  Does he have the Dark Mark?”

One of the guards ripped Runcorn’s sleeve back to indicate the snake and skull on his inner arm.

Kingsley nodded and said, “Very well.  All in favor of releasing the prisoner?”

Not many hands rose into the air.  Kingsley continued, “All in favor of a lifetime sentence in Azkaban?”

Almost every hand was raised at this, and Kingsley indicated for the guards to remove the prisoner from the room.  There were a few more trials before another that Harry wanted to be present for.

“Next, Dolores Umbridge,” Kingsley read off.  The short squat witch entered the room, with her head held high.

“Madam Umbridge, you are hear-by accused of complicity with the Muggle-born Commission.  You are further accused of inappropriate behavior during your time at Hogwarts,” Kingsley told her.  “How do you plead?”

She smiled sweetly and in her sickening voice said, “Not guilty.”  She looked over to Harry and gave him an appraising stare.

“We will address these accusations in order of occurrence.  While teaching at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as well as heading said school, it has come to our attention that you used corporal punishment against the students,” Kingsley said, several members of the Wizengamot gasping.

“And what evidence do you have of that?” Umbridge asked, her voice getting higher and sweeter, a sure sign of danger.

“Aside from documents that were found in your office, we also have a number of eyewitnesses.  One of them is here today to give testimony.  Would you like to hear from him?” Kingsley asked, indicating Harry.

Umbridge’s mouth dropped a bit in surprise, but she quickly recovered herself.  “The boy is unbalanced and should be seeking psychiatric help.  You would take his testimony?  He is not even a member of the Wizengamot.”

Malfada Hopkirk’s eyebrows rose sharply, “Actually, Minister, if I recall correctly, the Potters have a seat in the Wizengamot.  It has obviously been vacant for some time, but Harry is now of age and the eldest member of that family.  May I make a motion to suggest he be allowed to take his seat if he wishes, even though he’s not quite completed his schooling?”

Kingsley looked at Malfada with a smile on his face, “Absolutely, I second the motion.  All those in favor?”

Most of the Wizengamot agreed although it wasn’t unanimous.

“Please place your wand on that podium over there, Mr. Potter,” Kingsley said.  Harry rose from his seat to do as he was instructed.  It glowed red for a moment while everyone rose from their chairs to watch.  Then the podium turned green.

“Very well, Mr. Potter, it would seem that you may take your family’s seat in the Wizengamot.  Please take that seat at the top of the stairs,” Malfada said.  Harry was a bit surprised by all of this and was gratified to see that Ron, Hermione and Ginny also had looks of shock on their faces.  Harry took the seat that was indicated to him.

“Very well, Madam Umbridge, I think that should cover your worries that Mr. Potter isn’t a member of this organization.  I think you should also consider the fact that he has managed to succeed in ridding the world of an evil presence.  I see no evidence that he is unbalanced and I think that the Wizengamot qualifying podium would have detected such a thing,” Malfada now said to Umbridge.  “What further excuse do you have for your actions?”

Umbridge now had a distinctly worried expression on her face but then she gave her toad-like grin and said sweetly, “I was acting under the orders of Mr. Fudge, who was the Minister of Magic at the time in question.”

Harry rolled his eyes and stood, “If I may, Minister?”  At Kingsley’s nod, Harry continued, “I think that the first evidence indicating her treatment of the students is pretty obvious.  Anyone who would like to look at the back of my hand will be able to see the scars that she inflicted.  There are many more students out there with similar scars that I’m sure would be happy to testify.  I was put in detention for two weeks for announcing that Cedric Diggory had been killed by Voldemort.  During those detentions I was forced to write ‘I will not tell lies’ with a quill that used my blood to form the words onto parchment.  Those words are still discernable on my hand.  Many more students were subjected to similar treatment in detention with Umbridge.  I think that Mr. Fudge was not aware of this, nor would he have approved of it had he known. 

Also, during my first visit to this courtroom I was put on trial for having used a Patronus to get rid of two Dementors near my aunt’s house.  The day before the return of Voldemort was recognized by the Ministry of Magic, Umbridge told us that she had sent the Dementors to silence me.  They’d been given orders to perform the Kiss, to keep me from proclaiming Voldemort’s return.”  There was a collective gasp as everyone looked from Harry to Umbridge in disbelief.  Some witches and wizards were standing now, shaking with rage and shouting vehement objections to such an action.  They quieted as Harry continued, “She laughed at this confession, saying that Fudge didn’t know what she’d done but that he was happy at the chance to expel me from school.  Then, during this same discussion she decided that it would be best to use the Cruciatus Curse to loosen my tongue about the whereabouts of Sirius Black and Albus Dumbledore.  She said that what Fudge didn’t know couldn’t hurt him.  Admittedly she was stopped before she was able to use this curse.”

“Do you have anything else to say in your defense, Madam Umbridge?” Kingsley asked her stoically.  She shook her head, remembering all of the notes she’d kept on what she’d done that year.  If they had raided her office, they now had all of those documents.  Kingsley continued, “Now onto your actions of the past year.  You were in full support of all of the legislation and your votes indicate as such.  How do you plead to these?”

“Not guilty,” Umbridge trilled.  “All I did was act in the proper way.  It was time that someone took the Ministry in hand to cleanse it of the filth.  You will regret overturning these magnificent laws.”

“Very well, I think that your statement should be sufficient evidence for us,” Kingsley said.  “Is there anyone here present that doesn’t think Madam Umbridge should be sentenced to a lifetime in Azkaban?”

No one voted for this, and many in the room looked disgusted, angry or as though they might be sick looking at Umbridge.  Umbridge was removed from the room as she muttered and cursed at them.

“Lunch?” Arthur suggested.  There had been four trials so far that morning and it was nearing noon.  This suggestion was agreed to readily.  The Wizengamot began to rise and head toward the doors.  Many of them were whispering excitedly and looking over at Harry.  Having had enough experience of this occurrence, Harry didn’t let it bother him.  He walked over to join his friends.  Ron kept giving him a strange look.  They all joined Kingsley in his office for a brief respite.

“Harry, I can’t believe you were voted into the Wizengamot!” Ron exclaimed, once the door was shut.

“Voted?  I didn’t see anyone vote.  That weird podium just turned red, then green and Hopkirk told me I should sit in my family seat.  I don’t get it,” Harry said, looking over to Hermione for an explanation.  It was obvious that she didn’t understand either as she shrugged her shoulders.

“Placing your wand on the podium does two things.  It calculates your power as a wizard as well as your integrity; that was indicated by red.  I have to say that I haven’t heard of it turning red since Dumbledore took his seat.  The rest of the Wizengamot then voted with their own wands, hence the podium turning green.  This was their agreement to accept you into the Wizengamot,” Kingsley explained to Harry.  Mme. Hopkirk had told him this on the lift earlier, he said, not being old enough himself to remember Dumbledore joining the Wizengamot.

Harry shifted in his seat, “Is this based on the power of the wand?”

“It is partially based on the spells that the wand has performed, yes,” Kingsley explained.

“Well, that’s a problem, because this wand has performed of its own accord.  Those weren’t my spells,” Harry said.  Everyone looked shocked at this announcement.

Finally Hermione said, “Harry, you know that can’t be true.  We’ve been over this before.  Wands can’t just perform magic on their own.  They need to be wielded by a wizard.”

“Yes, Hermione, but Dumbledore explained that to me.  He said that because of the Priori Incantatum my wand had imbibed some of Voldemort’s power.  When he tried to attack me last summer during that battle in the sky, my wand recognized him and sent some of his own magic back at him.  It really wasn’t me.  That’s why Lucius Malfoy’s wand broke,” Harry told her.

“When did he tell you this, Harry?” Hermione asked, astounded.

“When he was in Limbo, Hermione, at King’s Cross,” Ginny told her, now having gotten the full story from Harry.

“You took the time to ask him that?” Hermione responded, looking worried.

Harry laughed, “No time passed here on earth while I was at King’s Cross.  I made him explain everything that I needed him to at that time.”

“The other thing you might remember, Hermione, is how I repaired my wand.  Is it possible that some of the power from the other wand may have transferred to this one?” Harry asked her.  “I noticed some slight differences with the holly wand while Ron and I were practicing.”

Hermione, Ron and Ginny’s heads all snapped to attention as they looked at him.  Hermione seemed to contemplate this for a moment before speaking.  “I suppose it’s possible, but that wouldn’t mean that your wand isn’t indicating your own power.  Are you forgetting that you are the master of both wands?  I think that if you weren’t powerful enough to wield the other wand then it wouldn’t have accepted you as its master in the first place.”

Harry was about to retort, but Kingsley interrupted as everyone else had looks of confusion on their faces.  “I don’t understand.  What’s all this about the other wand? What other wand?  I don’t remember Dumbledore saying anything about it.”

Ron chose to answer and said, “Well, I don’t suppose we should have said anything at all about it in front of you guys, but let’s just say that it’s nothing to concern yourself with.  Even Hermione and I were somewhat tempted by certain ‘objects.’  It wouldn’t do for anyone else, even you guys, to know about them.”

Harry found it almost comical that now it was them trying to protect everyone else from information that they thought could be detrimental.  It seemed that the world had been turned upside down.  Ron was now trying to protect his parents and his older brothers; refusing to satisfy their curiosity for their own safety.

Arthur seemed to have caught on though and said, “This wouldn’t have anything to do with our conversation after we returned from Diagon Alley regarding the Tale of the Three Brothers, would it?  You aren’t actually referring to the Elder Wand, are you?”

The four shared looks of horror before Harry quickly said, “No, of course not!  This has nothing to do with that!”

“Don’t take us for fools!” Percy exclaimed.  “You were just talking about that wand, and your reaction to what Dad just asked confirms it!”

Rather than letting them all fantasize about the situation, Hermione said, “Okay, well that information cannot, and I mean cannot, leave this room.  This is even more serious than the horcruxes.  We didn’t want anyone getting any ideas of pursuing Voldemort’s notion of immortality.  The Hallows are even more dangerous than that.  The stone is gone and the Invisibility Cloak is in safe hands.  Those were probably the least desired objects of the three. 

The Elder wand, on the other hand, is a nasty bit of work.  It’s been known as the Deathstick, but also the Wand of Destiny or more commonly the Elder Wand.   Dumbledore was its last master, although we aren’t entirely certain of how he managed to take it from Grindelwald.  Then Draco Malfoy became the master when he disarmed Dumbledore on the Astronomy Tower.  When Harry wrested Draco’s hawthorn wand out of his hand a few months ago Harry became the wand’s master.  Voldemort broke into Dumbledore’s tomb and killed Snape to try to gain mastership, but he was too late.  That was how Harry defeated Voldemort.  The wand wouldn’t go against its master’s wishes neither in the forest nor in the Great Hall.  After the battle, Harry repaired his holly wand with the Elder Wand.  That’s why we now think it may have imbibed some of that wand’s qualities.  The Elder Wand is gone, but we aren’t going to be telling you where it is, so don’t bother asking.  Let’s just say that it’s gone and no one else will be able to master it.”

Arthur, Percy and Kingsley all looked shell-shocked as they stared at Hermione and then Harry in amazement.

“I think you’re right, Hermione.  We will never speak of it again,” Kingsley said quietly.

Harry turned back to Kingsley and said, “So, you see, I don’t know if this wand is a true representation of whatever power I supposedly have.”

“Yes, Harry, but at the same time we also have no indication otherwise.  There is no other example of your connection with Voldemort to base any assumption on and I agree with Hermione that if indeed your wand has taken power from the Elder Wand that it was rightfully done.  It could only happen if you were the wand’s true master.  I would say that you have extraordinary power, personally.  Few could have withstood all that you have without buckling under the pressure.  Besides, I think it best that you participate with the Wizengamot.  You have always shown yourself to be capable of treating others fairly.  In the end, that’s what’s really important for a judicial body, not power,” Kingsley said.  It was obvious that he really wanted Harry there to help see that people were dealt with appropriately.  Harry could see his point and so relented.

“I was also wondering if I could take the apparition test,” Harry confessed, changing the subject.  “I’m afraid I’ve been apparating illegally for the past year and that’s probably not a good thing.”

Kingsley and Arthur laughed.  “Sure, Harry, I’ll see if we can set up a test for you later today.”

“I was also wondering if we could have a list of the Death Eaters that are still at large, so that we’ll know who we’re still looking for,” Harry told him quietly, once they were in the lift.  Kingsley nodded and said that he would have a list compiled for him by the end of the day.

The rest of the afternoon passed swiftly, trial after trial.  Many of them didn’t involve Harry or any of the others, but they remained in their seats.  Harry occasionally gave his opinion or made a request.  This wasn’t necessarily received well by all of the other members of the Wizengamot.  Harry could see certain members shaking their heads occasionally when he spoke, but most of them seemed to trust him, even respect him.  Many seemed to defer to him after awhile if there wasn’t a complete consensus on something.  Harry wasn’t so sure he was comfortable with this new sense of power.  He wasn’t sure if they were truly weighing what he said or what they perceived him to be, but he didn’t want anyone to be wrongfully imprisoned or anyone dangerous allowed back into the public.  In the end, he just gave his honest opinion and hoped that it would make a difference.

At the end of the day, Kingsley ushered Harry and Ron into his office to discuss official business.  Arthur and Percy went home to the Burrow, but Hermione and Ginny said they’d wait in the Atrium for the men to return.

“I’ve got this list for you.  These are the people that we know were Death Eaters that aren’t in custody,” Kingsley said, handing over a piece of parchment to Harry and Ron.

They both perused it for a moment.  “Dolohov!  Greyback!  The Carrows!” Ron exclaimed as they read the names.

“I know.  Dolohov, it seems, escaped before Voldemort was killed.  I think that he was afraid that Harry would be successful and knew he’d be sent back to Azkaban.  The Carrows, on the other hand, are a mystery.  They were tied up in Ravenclaw tower, right?” Kingsley said, Harry nodding.  “But by the time that we went to retrieve them they were gone.  Someone must have released them, I’m sorry to say.  So they’re still at large as well.  Otherwise, it’s somewhat comforting that there are only about two dozen Death eaters unaccounted for.”

They discussed tactics again for a little while before Harry said, “I noticed the absence of the Dementors.  Is it safe to assume that they will no longer guard the prison?”

“I have to agree with Dumbledore on that one.  They’re too dangerous to use for such a task.  I’ve been talking with Charlie about using dragons and we’re working on some special spells and enchantments to keep prisoners within the walls of Azkaban.  The Dementors have been rounded up and sent far away,” Kingsley said in response.  “Well, you two, I think that about sums it up,” he said.

Harry and Ron joined their ladies in the Atrium.  They’d been surrounded by well-wishers and admirers, reluctantly signing autographs and shaking hands.  The Apparition tester was there waiting for them.  He told Harry that he’d test him Apparating back to his house.  Hermione and Ginny took the Floo with Ron back to Grimmauld Place.  Harry appeared a few moments later, with the Apparition tester right behind him.  Kreacher was racing towards them.  Kreacher wrapped his arms and legs around Harry exclaiming, “Master returned!  Thank Merlin!”

Harry managed to pry the eager elf off himself and said, “Yes, Kreacher.  I’m afraid that I’ll have to continue going back to the Ministry every day though, at least until school.  You’re going to have to get used to it.  It’s not a dangerous place any longer.”

“Yes, Master Harry.  Kreacher heard Master saying what a great man the new Minister of Magic is, so he will trust Master’s judgment.  Now, everyone, shoes off, hands cleaned and please sit in the dining room for dinner,” Kreacher said, taking their traveling cloaks to hang them on pegs and pushing them out of the room.

“You did fine,” the wizard who’d been testing Harry said, laughing at the elf’s behavior.  He handed Harry a piece of parchment and told him that he’d have a permanent copy sent to him later in the week.

They entered the dining room to find the rest of the Weasleys along with Andromeda and Teddy waiting to greet them.  Molly rushed over, pulling Harry into one of her signature hugs with tears in her eyes.

“We decided to join you folks for dinner tonight.  So everything went well, Harry?  Arthur and Percy said that you have some important news to tell us, but they wouldn’t tell us what it is,” Molly said, letting him go.

Harry had a confused look at Molly’s words.  “What are you talking about?”

“Harry, I think you should tell her of the position you now hold at the Ministry,” Percy urged.

Then it dawned on Harry that Arthur and Percy were talking about his role in the Wizengamot.  He sat down in his seat, everyone else following suit as soup appeared before them.

“Well, it would seem that I will hold my family’s seat in the Wizengamot,” Harry told them, digging into his pea soup.  He briefly recited the events.

“That’s wonderful, Harry!” Andromeda exclaimed.

“Merlin’s beard, Harry, I knew you were a powerful wizard, but it’s still a bit of a shock,” George said, looking at Harry as though for the first time.

Harry rolled his eyes and said, “It’s only because of the power Voldemort left in my wand.  It has nothing to do with me personally.  Kingsley thought it would be a good idea for me to stay with the Wizengamot to help maintain justice.  There’s nothing else to it.”  He deliberately left out the part about the Elder Wand.  It had been a mistake, in the first place, to discuss it in Kingsley’s office.

“Harry, that’s not what Kingsley said.  I was there, remember.  He doesn’t reckon it only has to do with Voldemort, but the skill you have as well.  I distinctly heard him say something to that effect,” Percy reminded him.  “I wouldn’t be surprised if they ask you to take Dumbledore’s former seat as Chief Warlock eventually.  You made some very interesting points today.  Like Kingsley said, no one has seen that podium turn red since Dumbledore.” 

Harry once more shifted uncomfortably.  The family, accustomed to Harry’s behavior when reminded of his more noteworthy deeds, decided to shift topics to deflect Harry’s look of embarrassment.  The rest of the meal passed amicably, Harry and Ginny each taking their turns with Teddy.  Harry hadn’t realized how much he’d missed the boy while they were gone and reveled in playing with him for awhile in the drawing room before Andromeda scooped him up to head back to the Burrow.

Harry and Ginny retreated to their room after the company had departed.  As they changed Harry said, “I wasn’t sure of what to do earlier.  If I hadn’t taken a chance with joining the Wizengamot and then accepted the position, I might not have been able to ensure that that evil woman was put away.  Are you upset that I didn’t talk to you about it first?”

She gave him a puzzled look and said, “No, Harry, of course not.  It would be expected of you to take your family’s seat.  It’s not like this will generally take a great deal of your time, at least not under ordinary circumstances.  Right now, the Wizengamot will be convening every day until the trials are over and done with, but generally speaking they only meet a few times a week or so for major trials and votes.  I have to agree with Kingsley.  I think you’ll make a great asset to that body.  They need someone who is unafraid to speak his mind.  Although many of them may not have agreed with the corrupt government they found themselves a part of these past few years, most weren’t willing to stick up for what was right.  That, in fact, was partly why Dumbledore was kicked off of the Wizengamot in the first place.  They placed too much importance in the Minister of Magic himself, and not enough in the justice that they were supposed to be preserving.  That’s why Kingsley thinks that you will be an excellent addition.  You aren’t easily corrupted.  You think with your heart.”

Harry let her words sink in for a few moments before replying, “I don’t know.  It scared me a bit, the way so many of them just bowed to my judgment.  I couldn’t tell if they were affected by the words I said or if it was just that I said them.”

“Well, I think people are always going to look to you for an opinion.  The way you’ve handled yourself through the years indicates to most people that you stick to your convictions.  Hermione’s taught you to try to be logical, although that doesn’t always work for you.  Ultimately, I believe that people will find that if they listen to you they won’t be steered wrongly,” she told him.

“But I don’t always know what’s right!  How can I?  If people blindly follow me, how does that help anyone?  Besides that, everyone makes mistakes.  Dumbledore himself made mistakes.  I’ve seen his mistakes, and he was right.  With his greater intelligence, his mistakes tended to be monstrously larger.  I…I don’t need or want that kind of responsibility,” Harry finished, lamely, in his opinion.  The events of the day kept weighing on him.  He kept seeing the many faces turned in his direction, looking for guidance.  He also remembered the doubt that had plagued him throughout his time in hiding, wondering whether or not Dumbledore had truly steered him in the right direction.

Ginny looked at him, a bit sadly.  She wasn’t sure of how to reassure him.  She also didn’t want to add to the responsibility he already felt for the past seven years that still haunted him constantly.  But in the end she could only tell him the truth and so replied, “I don’t know that you have much choice, Harry.  You could walk away and say that you want nothing to do with it.  But, regardless of your choice, people will always look to you.”

She let that hang in the air for a few moments before adding, “Before seeing you at Hogwarts a few weeks ago, the last time I saw you was over the summer.  Meeting you in the Room of Requirement I saw a completely different man.”

Harry started at this and said, indignantly, “I’m the same person I’ve always been.”

Ginny shook her head and continued, “No, Harry, you’d found the leadership within you.  You may not like hearing it!” she shouted, knowing that he was about to interrupt.  “You had a new conviction that was…palpable for all to see.  Everyone automatically looked to you for guidance.  Do you remember when my parents said that I had to remain behind during the battle?  When I looked to you, you shook your head.  As much as I hated it, I automatically took your confirmation as an absolute.”

She looked at him straight in the eye, catching his concern over his action at the time.  So she continued, “I had to trust you.  That’s what you needed.  You didn’t need me to argue over something that ultimately would be so small.  I think I also knew that you needed to know that I was safe in order to do what you had to do.  That and that alone was the reason that I agreed.”

Harry was floored by this.  Even though he’d finally given Ginny every detail he possibly could since that night, he hadn’t been sure that she truly understood.  He then realized that she always knew what he was thinking, almost from the moment he met her.

After quite a few moments of silence he finally said, “Thanks, Gin.  Just promise that you’ll always be here to keep me in check.  Don’t ever let my head overrule my heart.  Don’t let me take the power that has been granted to me for wrongdoing.”

Ginny smiled at him with love in her eyes and said, “Harry, I will always be there to help you, but I don’t think you ever have to worry about those things happening.  You make wise decisions and you always look to your loved ones for support.”

He held her softly in his arms, dismissing these worries from his mind, knowing that she would always be there.  His mind wandered to thinking about the fact that they’d be returning to school shortly.

“Harry?” she asked.

“Yeah?”

“Harry, I know that we’ll still have Teddy on the weekends and everything, but I still worry about him.  We see him every day right now.  How hard is it going to be when we can’t?”

Harry pulled her face towards him to look into her eyes, “Ginny, we’ll manage.  He’s better with Andromeda.  She needs him.  She has no one else and he’ll give her a comfort that no one else can.  He’ll always be a very important part of our lives and we’ll always treat him as our own child.”

“I know, I just wonder if we’re wrong about not raising him ourselves.  I miss him so much,” Ginny told him.

“I miss him too.”

“He makes me wonder about our own children,” she confessed.

Harry smiled widely and asked, “Our own children?  Who said anything about us having children?”

She punched him in the ribs.  Pretending to rub the bruise on his chest Harry said, “You know I was joking!  Of course I want kids.  I can’t wait to have our own family.  It’s all I’ve ever wanted, but I think that we should wait until we’re a bit older.  I think we might find it difficult to raise a kid while you’re still going to school.”

She giggled and leaned in to kiss him.  They’d been sharing a bed for almost a month at that point, but had been cautious.  In the beginning, it was because they had Teddy, who always seemed to have the worst timing.  Even once Teddy was gone, they’d usually fallen into bed so exhausted from the day’s activities that they’d simply gone to sleep.  Tonight however, Ginny began to deepen the kiss, pulling Harry’s nightshirt up to caress the scars on his chest.  Not arguing, Harry responded in kind.  They were once again kissing as they had the previous summer on his birthday, this time with no interruption.

Feeling that things couldn’t progress any further, Harry finally pushed her away slightly and said, “Gin, you’ve got to leave.”

“What?” she asked, hurt appearing on her face.

“Ginny, unless you want those babies we were talking about, you’ve got to leave right now.  We can’t go any further,” Harry tried to explain in a strained voice.

“Don’t worry, Harry,” Ginny said.  She grabbed her wand and tapped herself, muttering an incantation.  “We’re all set.  No babies tonight.”

She reached out for him, but his brows were knitted in confusion, “What did you just do?”

“Contraceptive Charm, Hermione showed me,” she said in explanation.

“Oh,” Harry said, comprehension dawning on his face.  “Are you sure we’re ready to take this step?”

“Harry, didn’t you ask me to marry you?  I think we’re ready for this step.  We need this,” she said.  He kissed her to indicate his agreement.  They proceeded to make her his and him hers totally and completely.

Harry awoke the next morning feeling replete.  He felt a sense of happiness and completion that was new to him as he watched Ginny, waiting for her eyes to open.  He didn’t hurry her, but just reveled in the delight of watching her sleep.

When Ginny’s eyes fluttered open she immediately noticed Harry leaning over her, watching her.  She smiled and muttered, “Morning.”

“Quite an amazing night, eh?” he asked, unsure of how to proceed now.

She giggled and said, “How about an amazing morning?”

Harry glanced at the clock to see that he didn’t need to be back at the Wizengamot for another 3 hours and nodded, grinning widely.

“You know that we’re going have to sleep in the dorms again once we get back to school, Harry?” Ginny asked him awhile later.

“Don’t the head boy and girl have private dorms?” Harry asked, wriggling his eyebrows at her.

“Oh yeah….wait a minute….does that mean?” she asked.  Harry nodded.  “I knew it!  I knew that if they were going to appoint a Head Boy and Girl for the semester, you and Hermione would get it!  I’m right, aren’t I?”

“Yeah,” Harry admitted, “Minerva insisted.  Well, I’d really better get up now, or else I’ll be late for the trials.”

He sighed as he pulled on his dressing gown to go down to the kitchen.  Ginny asked him to send Hermione in when he passed her and Ron’s room, not bothering to rise herself.

“Is there anything wrong?” he asked, with concern.

“No, I just need to talk to her, Harry,” Ginny said.  He shrugged and went next door to knock.  Hermione was alone in the room and he told her to go talk to Ginny.  She raised her brows in interest but didn’t say anything to him before heading for his and Ginny’s room.

Wondering whether he’d ever understand women, Harry headed downstairs to the basement.  Winky was pouring coffee for Ron, who was already sitting there with the morning edition of the Daily Prophet.

“Hey,” he said, looking up.  “What’s up with you?”

Harry was a bit dazed and said, “Huh?”

Ron gave him a suspicious look and asked, “Harry?  What’s going on?  I heard some strange things coming out of your room last night, but Hermione wouldn’t let me investigate.”

Harry felt his face turn red, as he closed his eyes, silently thanking Hermione.  He’d have to discuss casting the Muffliato Charm over their room with Ginny.

“No way, dude!  No way!  She’s not even of age, she’s still got a year left at school, and you promised to be a gentleman! No way!” Ron raged, taking in Harry’s embarrassment.

Now Harry began to feel angry as well.  “Ron, it’s really none of your business.  We’re engaged.  We’re going to be married, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“That’s really not the point,” Ron began.

Harry interrupted him, “Who do you think taught her the Contraceptive Charm?”

“I…well…it’s not…it’s just,” Ron spluttered, now turning red as well.

“Please,” Harry said, holding up his hand.  “I really don’t want to know the details.  Hermione’s like a sister to me, but I trust you.  I just don’t want to hear about it.”

Ron seemed mollified by this and his blush faded a bit.  “Sorry, Harry, force of habit, I guess.  You’re right.”

Ron returned to his paper, while Kreacher placed their breakfasts in front of them.

“You have to go back to court again today, don’t you?” Ron asked, from behind the newspaper.

“Yeah, but like Kingsley said, maybe it’s good for someone who hasn’t been thoroughly corrupted by the Ministry to be a part of the proceedings,” Harry said, recognizing his duty.

Ron put his paper down and looked at Harry thoughtfully, “You know, I thought you made some really good points yesterday.  Everyone really looked up to you.  It was almost like they really saw you as taking Dumbledore’s place.  I think Kingsley’s probably right anyway, about an outsider having better insight.”

“I also want to talk to whoever is in charge of the war-relief fund today as well,” Harry said, picking up the sports section to look at the Quidditch scores.

“Harry, I can understand if you don’t want to answer this, but exactly how much money wound up in your vault once everything was totaled?” Ron asked him.

Harry looked at Ron a bit warily.  He wasn’t sure if Ron would be able to handle the answer.  Harry finally said, “I have no problem telling you, but there’s a condition.”

“What’s the condition?” Ron asked; his confusion apparent.

“That you accept 10% of the total, and have Bill set up an account for you and Hermione,” Harry told him.  Ron looked a bit skeptical but nodded.  “Very well, there were 50 million galleons in it, so you and Hermione now have 5 million for yourselves.  I expect you to use it.”

Ron gulped, “You weren’t kidding, when you told Kingsley that you’d only given a small portion to that charity fund.”

“Nope.”

“5 million galleons!  Blimey, Harry, we can’t take it,” Ron said.

“You already agreed to.  If you don’t want to spend it on yourselves, at least put it aside for your children and grandchildren.  I’ll be giving quite a bit to your nieces and nephews, as they’ll be mine and Ginny’s as well.  You won’t have to worry about them,” Harry said.

“Merlin!  How am I going to explain this to Hermione?” Ron asked, suddenly looking fearful.

“The truth?” Harry asked, laughing.  “Your curiosity overcame you and you were forced into it!”

Ron gave a nervous giggle and smiled slightly.  Harry checked his watch and realized that he was going to be late if he didn’t change soon.  He ran up to his bedroom to throw on the new plum robes he had received for the Wizengamot the previous day, Hermione and Ginny giggling on the bed.  He ran over to give Ginny a peck on the cheek.

“Have a good day at work, Harry,” she said, smiling at him.  He tried to smile back, but he was beginning to feel nervous again and didn’t quite succeed.  He left to return to the basement and took the Floo to the Ministry.

After the day’s trials had ended, Harry walked into the office of Mr. Cartwright, who was in charge of the war-relief program. 

“I have to say, Mr. Potter, I was a bit shocked when the Minister told me of the contribution you were making,” he said to Harry.

“Well, as it was mostly my friends’ and my fault that we weren’t able to get rid of Voldemort sooner, I feel a certain responsibility to help those who were hurt by the war.  Now, Kingsley said that you would be seeing to it that all victims would be taken care of, correct?”  Harry belatedly realized he probably shouldn’t have referred to the Minister of Magic so familiarly with someone he didn’t know, but it was too late to take it back.

Mr. Cartwright’s eyes widened slightly, but replied “Yes, he told me that you wanted all wizards, magical creatures and muggles to be included for aid.  I have to say that there will probably be a substantial amount of funds left over even once we’ve taken care of everyone.  May I send whatever isn’t needed back to you, Mr. Potter?”

Harry considered this briefly, before saying, “Actually, Mr. Cartwright, why don’t you put anything left over into another charity.  I really don’t need the money and I’m sure that someone else could.”

“Very well, we’ll see what happens.  Would you like to see the list I’ve made?  There are checks next to those people to whom funds have been given so far,” he said, handing Harry the parchment.

“Thank you.  If there’s anything else you need, or if funds wind up short I ask that you contact me,” Harry said.  The wizard nodded and Harry took his leave.

As Harry headed out, he realized that he had begun to feel more comfortable in his new role and readily gave his opinion when he felt it necessary.  For the most part, he was happy with how the Wizengamot meted justice.

Harry left the Ministry with Arthur and Percy to head to the Burrow.  They had all agreed to meet at the house for dinner.

“How’d it go?” Ginny asked Harry as he took his seat beside her.

“Not too bad.  So far so good,” Harry told her, taking Teddy from Andromeda.

“Could I have everyone’s attention for a few minutes?” Bill said, towards the end of the meal, gaining silence from the family.

“I’d like to announce that Fleur is going to have a baby,” he said, his pride apparent on his scarred visage.  Squeals of delight rose from the table, as everyone took in the news.  Molly broke into tears as she ran over to Fleur to hug her and then Bill. 

“Oh, and in the middle of all of this!  I’m all a dither!” Molly declared, pulling out a few bottles of elf-made wine to celebrate.  Cheers and toasts erupted around the table, everyone enjoying the idea of a new addition to the family, the first grandchild.  Talk continued, discussing baby names.

This brought something to mind that Harry kept forgetting to ask Hermione about.

“So, do house elves get married?” he asked her.

She looked thoughtful for a moment and replied, “I don’t think so.  I’m pretty sure that they tend to just mate.  Thanks to the way we’ve enslaved them, they aren’t able to come and go as they please, so it’s not like they could ever live with a spouse.  Why do you ask?”  Then she seemed to figure it out on her own and said with an astonished voice, “Do you think there’s something going on with Kreacher and Winky?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure there is,” Harry told her and explained what he and Ron had accidentally overheard.

“Perhaps you should just ask him if he would like to marry her,” Hermione suggested.  “I don’t think it’ll be something he thinks of on his own.  I mean, I know you’ve encouraged him to tell you what he wants, but it’ll probably be a long time before he’s comfortable doing so.”

Harry thought that this sounded like a good idea and resolved to ask Kreacher when he had a chance.

Amid the chaos, Fawkes suddenly appeared at Harry’s elbow.  He pulled the parchment from the bird’s beak, Ron looking at him.  He stood up immediately, handing Teddy to Ginny.

“What’s going on?” Ginny asked, somewhat fearful.

“We need to get to Malfoy Manor,” Harry said, passing the parchment to Ron.

“Bloody Hell!” Ron exclaimed, reading the letter.

“Ron!  Watch your language!” Molly intoned.

Ron ignored her and addressed Harry, “What should we do?”

“Well, first things first.  Kreacher!” Harry said, as the elf appeared.  “Can you get me my Invisibility Cloak, please?”

Noting the urgency in Harry’s voice Kreacher didn’t hesitate but disappeared instantly.  Harry then scrawled on the back of the parchment and handed it back to Fawkes, who also disappeared.  Then Harry conjured a Patronus and sent it to Kingsley.

Kreacher appeared with the cloak and handed it to Harry.  Fawkes came back a few moments later and Harry looked at Ron.

“We’ll be back later, Ginny.  We don’t have time to explain right now,” Harry told her, kissing her on the cheek.  She nodded, Harry feeling the apprehension in her body.  Ron too kissed Hermione before they both walked out of the Burrow to apparate.

Ginny sighed and Hermione patted her shoulder.

“What the hell is going on here?” Molly demanded of her daughter and Hermione, who she also considered to be like a daughter to her.

Ginny and Hermione shared a look.  Molly’s use of an expletive indicated the level of her fury.  Ginny decided to take the initiative since it was her mother interrogating them. “Mum, they’re trying to round up the remaining Death Eaters that managed to escape capture.  Ron and Harry are helping to spearhead the operation.”

They all closed their eyes for the explosion.  This assumption wasn’t unfounded as Molly’s voice rose to catastrophic levels, “What? How could they? They just barely managed to stay alive last year!  They have no idea what they’re doing!  How could Kingsley allow this?  And to think I trusted him!  I thought he’d actually be better than the other Ministers!”

“Molly,” Hermione began, trying to soothe the woman she looked at as a second mother, “Harry and Ron are training to be Aurors.  First of all, they know what they’re doing.  I wouldn’t tell you that unless I was absolutely certain.  They’re excellent when it comes to battle and they’ll be fine.  Secondly, this is a good way for them to prove themselves to the Ministry within their guidelines.  You just saw Harry send a Patronus, and I can guarantee you it was headed directly to Kingsley, who will be there with them.”

“I don’t care!  This is ridiculous!  They’re just boys.  They’re not men.  What if they’re killed?  What if something happens to them?” Molly begged, breaking down.  Ginny gave Teddy to Andromeda.  Arthur gathered his wife into his arms, shortly before Hermione and Ginny reached her.

“Mum, this is something they need to do.  This is the career path that they’ve chosen.  Hermione and I have decided to support them.  That is what they need.  I knew that Harry would feel the need to hunt down the remaining Death Eaters.  It’s who he is, what he is.  It is partly his way of assuaging the guilt,” Ginny said softly, trying to explain the situation to her mother.

“He shouldn’t feel guilty,” Molly said then, pulling herself together.  “I don’t understand why he feels the need to take the burden of the world on his shoulders.”

Hermione and Ginny shared a look, once again.  They both understood Harry’s self-inflicted guilt, but trying to put it into words was another story.

“I think it started with his parents,” Hermione said softly, turning away so that the others wouldn’t see the tears forming in her eyes.  “Then there was Cedric.  Then there was Sirius.  It all snowballed from there.  He feels himself to be personally responsible for not being able to get rid of Voldemort quickly enough.  We all know that the true blame lies at Voldemort’s feet, but I don’t know that we will ever be able to fully convince Harry of that.”

Wiping her eyes, she turned back to face the family.  Ginny looked at her sadly, knowing the truth of her words.

“Remember what I said about Dolohov earlier?” Ginny asked her.  Hermione nodded and stared off into space.

“What about Dolohov?” George asked.

“He disappeared.  They don’t have him in custody, and from what Harry’s told me, he’s not one of the Death Eaters that Malfoy’s been able to recruit,” Hermione confessed.

“Dolohov got Remus, didn’t he?” Andromeda asked, tears appearing in her eyes as she held Teddy a bit tighter.  Everyone just nodded, consumed by their own renewed grief.  He had slain Remus and while Tonks was momentarily distracted Bellatrix had taken the chance to kill her niece.

Kreacher finally spoke up, not having left, “Mrs. Wheezy, take the family into the sitting room.  Kreacher and Winky will take care of the kitchen.  Do not worry about Master Harry.  Master Harry is the greatest wizard alive.  He shall not fail.”

They all obeyed Kreacher’s orders and went into the sitting room to keep vigil.


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A Time to Live: Chapter 8: The Trials

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