Draco had never attended a hearing, nor had he set foot inside one of the many great rooms tin which they were conducted. For years, he would believe that they were always filled to the brim with people, squirming and pushing past one another for better views, and throwing vicious glances at the accused.
Upon arriving at the Ministry, he and Pansy were lead to one of the largest chamber rooms that Draco had ever seen, and sat within a blocked-off section of chairs. Unlike the rest of the room, where the chairs and walls were hidden by a sea of faces and bodies, their section was barely half-filled.
Pansy sat beside him, her rigid body a scant few inches apart from his own. Stoic, she stared straight ahead, challenging the glaring crowd. Her hand, hidden by a thick wooden barrier that separated them from the well of the room, sought his and held on. He felt as though his bones were being forcibly fused together, but he ignored it and mimicked her stance, sitting straight-backed and proud. It was as though something as trivial as his posture might be able to restore the power of his name.
They’d arrived just as the last few witches and wizards were trailing in, and within ten minutes, there was not an open centimetre of space except for the judges’ chairs and the witness bench. Even their section filled, nearly to its full capacity, until one of the only few pairs of seats remaining was just to the left of Draco. Somehow, he assumed that they would remain unoccupied, having convinced himself that most of the others here would know that he had avoided the very fate that they were now about to face. Once more, his resentment for Harry Potter welled up, and he found himself gritting his teeth and squeezing Pansy’s hand back.
He might have allowed the thought of Harry Potter to pull him back into the train of thought that he’d been experiencing that morning, if he had not happened to look up and see a familiar face making her way down his aisle of chairs, delicately sliding past the knees of former Death Eaters. All traces of tartan had vanished– this Headmistress McGonagall wore a drab set of robes in dark blue and the confident, stern expression that she was known for. He was so surprised to see her making her way towards him that almost missed the girl that she was pushing ahead of her. He might not have noticed the girl at all, had she not taken the empty seat next to him.
She wore an outfit that resembled the girls’ uniforms from Hogwarts, but was without signia or colour that might indicate which house she belonged to. She was much too old to be a first year, and even if she was, it was already mid-September and she would have been sorted already, so Draco couldn’t think of a plausible reason for her strange apparel. By the expression on her face– a nervousness tinged with bitterness– he guessed that if she had a house badge, it would read Slytherin.
No sooner had McGonagall and her young charge taken their seats than the grand entrance doors were closed. The sound, a resonating boom, seemed to fill each nook and cranny of the room, drowning out the sound of a hundred excited onlookers whispering, and silencing them as it faded. Draco jerked his head to the front where two or three dozen men and women in dark robes came filing in, each filling a designated seat and opening their thick yellowing folders in what seemed to be a synchronised motion. Except for the sound of their rustling, the room was silent.
Rufus Scrimgeour, current Minister of Magic, was the last to enter. He walked slowly, the clicking of his shoes echoing with each step. When he finally eased down into his seat– a well-cushioned, red throne in the very centre of the group– there seemed to be a sigh that was exhaled from every onlooker. Those who came to rejoice at the downfall of evil looked upon him as a God. Those who came to be sentenced sighed in resignation. There was nothing left to do but wait and hope, secretly resenting and cursing every step that had brought them to the seats that they occupied now.
Draco scanned the group of judges critically, mentally running through their names in his mind to see how many of them his father had mentioned in passing. Nearly a quarter of them had, at one point in time, been family friends or business associates of Draco’s father. At least three of them could be connected to the Dark Lord, if anyone had bothered trying. As Draco looked them over, a small black chair in the rightmost corner of the room caught his attention. Due to a convenient alcove, the man sitting there was almost completely obstructed from view– Draco himself might not have seen him if he had been one seat further to the left.
Harry Potter, looking haggard and sorrowful, hunched over with his elbows rested upon his knees, was watching over them. Draco stared at him for nearly five minutes, willing him to look over and catch his eye so that they might acknowledge one another. He wanted to tell him, without a word, that he had performed a senseless act of sentimentality, but Potter never turned his head. Finally, Rufus Scrimgeour began to speak.
“Addams,” he said crisply, without the intonation to suggest that it was a question. It wasn’t, really. It was a command to stand up and be noted, and it was followed by a sallow-looking man several seats away from Draco. There was a faint hiss from the crowd, and out of the corner of his eye, he could see Pansy’s cheeks beginning to flush.
That was a woman, thick and shapeless, still clinging to the hand of a friend as she rose and was counted. Draco squinted at her. He was almost sure that he’d met her once, long ago when he was a child, and was told not to pay her any mind. As far as he knew, the closest she’d ever come to a Death Eater was when she’d accidentally bumped into one during a dinner party.
“Falcom,” Scrimgeour read on, his face emotionless. “Greengrass.”
The schoolgirl on Draco’s left stiffened immediately, and the audacious thought that she was here to be tried flitted across Draco’s mind. She couldn’t be much older than fifteen. It wasn’t until he caught a glimpse of a middle-aged woman, fair and slender, rising behind him that he realized that the girl must have just been family.
The list continued, sweeping through nearly ten other names before it finally reached “Parkinson” and Pansy dropped his hand so that she could stand and receive her own dose of humiliation. He couldn’t help being impressed with the way she carried herself– so self-assured and arrogant, it was as if her account at Gringotts hadn’t been closed, as if her name and reputation still carried the same weight with the wizarding world that it had just four months ago.
Draco’s eyes flicked back to Potter, who had obviously been jolted out of his self-pity at the sound of a classmate’s name. His eyes were fixed with wonder on Pansy, who eased back into her chair with a weak sigh and found Draco’s hand again.
“Let us note that all called witches and wizards have been accounted for,” Scrimgeour said officially, tucking a sheet of parchment underneath several others. “And upon that, we shall begin the hearings with the case of Damien Addams.”
The man rose, edging past the others in his row with short, jerky movements. Draco wondered if he was nothing more than a hired actor– paid to fit the role of a villain. His sunken face, large, pointed nose and shabby suit screamed out for a guilty verdict. To the sniffling, uneducated mass of onlookers, the man looked as though he he’d spent his entire life performing curses in the Dark Lord’s name. To Draco, the suggestion of this man’s identity was an insult– there couldn’t be a drop of pure blood in his veins.
No sooner had the man scuttled over to his solid little chair than a squat, wrinkled woman in the front row of the judges demanded that he repeat his name and age. The man blinked, surprised, and stammered out his reply.
“D-Damian Addams. Forty-Nine.”
His response seemed to be the cue that the judges had been waiting for. Without pause, they began to fire off their questions like hexes, meant to do little but trip him up and force him into contradicting himself. Draco could hardly follow their trains of thought, and his own heart was beating ferociously within minutes of the interrogation.
Once, during dinner, his father had made a joke to his mother about the nature of the Ministry’s questioning. He said, proudly, that in times of war, it was no longer meant to prove guilt or innocence. It was meant to simultaneously create doubt and blind faith. The one being accused was meant to follow the path of his own words, creating trip wires and traps for himself. He was meant to hold his wavering logic up to the unfailing justice and righteousness of the Ministry, and want to fall down in shame. Draco’s father had smiled, telling them both that the method had sprung out of the Dark Lord’s cunning. He had claimed that it was proof– proof that there were no sides, no good or evil, and that anyone who claimed otherwise was a fool.
When they were finished, Addams was sniffling as if he were a small child. He nodded, almost gratefully, when he was informed that his sentence would be reported after the judges had the opportunity to meet and discuss his case at the end of the day. As Addams shuffled back to his seat, Draco’s gaze flicked back upwards to Harry Potter. The boy’s face was hidden by his hands, and the gesture filled Draco with such a sense of vindictive pleasure that he managed to block the next several trials from his mind. He might not have tuned back in until Pansy’s, were it not for the girl beside him.
Her sudden stiffening jerked him out of his thoughts. They were, by that point, so crammed into their small section that her leg was pressed firmly against his. It was a closeness that they had both disregarded, most probably because there were other, more pressing matters, which made that small discomfort seem insignificant.
The girl leaned forward with a quick thrust of her shoulders and looped her small hands around the wooden barrier in front of her. She clutched it so tightly that it seemed as though her bony knuckles were only moments away from bursting through the pale skin that stretched over them.
“Celestria Greengrass,” Scrimgeour called in his low, rumbling voice. Draco was vaguely aware of the sophisticated woman behind him rising and walking forward, but for the moment, his attention was truly fixed on the girl’s hands. He couldn’t see her face– a thick sheet of blonde hair hid it from his view, but the expression in her hands was enough. She had something to worry about, and the judges knew it. Their interrogation method changed– they didn’t ask questions any more, but fired off statements that they knew would be confirmed.
“You were sympathetic to the cause of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”
“You participated in, or supported the kidnap, torture and murder of Ministry employees, as well as civilians.”
“You withheld vital information from authorities.”
“You used your position to create panic, weakness, and fear within the population.”
The list of accusations went on, eventually becoming nothing more than the same question repeated over and over, with slight changes in the syntax or phrasing. The woman sat straight-backed and confident in her chair, deaf to the sounds of the crowd behind her. Her answers were always the same– a single word of confirmation, given immediately upon request. The girl beside Draco began shaking, and he noticed McGonagall struggling, trying to decide whether to place her hand encouragingly on the girl’s back or not.
There was a general feeling that seemed to sweep through the room that this woman would be considered the worst criminal of the lot of them. Somehow, perhaps because of her gender, she had slipped through the first months of trials and was now juxtaposed against those who had done little more than harbour thoughts of support for the Dark Lord. She hadn’t been a Death Eater– few women had actually gone so far as to mark their arms– but her loyalty to the Dark Lord was undeniable. By the time the interrogation began to come to a close, the dozens of judges were darting meaningful glances to one another.
“I want to leave,” whispered the girl beside him suddenly. When he glanced over at her again, he thought for a moment that she had addressed that comment to him, because she had not turned her head in McGonagall’s direction.
“I don’t want to watch this anymore,” she said, her small, cultured voice making a valiant attempt at firmness. He noted that there was a Scottish accent hidden somewhere in her voice, which lit up the tail ends of her words. “I want to go back now.”
Professor McGonagall did not protest. Most likely, the girl had been the one demanding to be allowed to go in the first place. When they stood, Celestria Greengrass followed them with her eyes, wearing disappointment on her face like a mask.
Draco watched them too, with the mild hope of catching a glimpse of the girls’ face and placing her identity, but once she was standing she kept her eyes steadily fixed on the doors, and the side profile that he might have gotten was still covered by her long hair.
“What was that?” Draco whispered, knowing too well that even in the midst of her fear and nervousness, Pansy would never miss a chance to gossip. He watched her dark eyes flick critically over the departing figure, soaking in information until she was saturated enough to begin dispensing it.
“Astoria Greengrass,” she reported unemotionally. “She’s just been made an orphan.”
Author's Note: Thanks to all of you who've read so far. I'm fairly excited to do a story about Draco and Astoria-- he's such a unique character and she's really not much more than an empty slate. I'd like to hear your thoughts so far, so please don't hesitate to review.