Chapter 20 : The trial
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“Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked tentatively.
Laura set her jaw and nodded. “I want to see them get punished,” she said, a determined look on her face. “I feel like I owe it to Mary.”
Sirius sighed. He’d thought she’d be like this, and when she was like this she also kept talking about fighting. And he didn’t want her to fight. If she fought, she might get hurt, or worse, and that was something he’d do anything to prevent. She’d already as good as told Dumbledore that she wanted to join the Order, even though they’d been told that any decisions would not be accepted until they knew full well what they were getting into, and he was concerned that going to the trial would spur her on even more.
It was with some trepidation that they entered the courtroom on the lowest floor of the Ministry. Being a small trial of some minor Death Eaters, for the murders of people who weren’t well known, there wasn’t a huge amount of interest from the general public in this case, but there were a few faces in the crowd they knew. Sebastian Quirke, for example, was sitting stoically near the front, fingering something in his lap, flanked by some of his friends from Ravenclaw. He looked up as they entered and nodded in recognition, but didn’t do anything else and it was clear that he wanted to be alone, or good as alone, for this process.
Laura found them a couple of seats, not worrying about saving them for anyone else. James and Lily would be coming later, once they’d sorted something out for Lily’s parents, and while Moony, Wormtail and the girls should be arriving shortly they would be able to find their own spots. Even though Sirius knew that Laura would be stronger with more people around her, from the way she was gripping his hand he thought that she at least figured that his presence was enough.
He looked around the room, seeing even more familiar faces. Dumbledore was there, which surprised him, though perhaps the fact that it was one of his students had influenced him. Sirius grinned to himself as he thought of what else Dumbledore might do over the summer … aside from running the Order, that was. Somehow he couldn’t see him going to Brighton and doing some sea-bathing like everyone else wanted to. There were also a few more people he recognised, though he didn’t necessarily know their names. They were people he’d seen around when they’d spoken to Dumbledore about the Order, people who were involved in the fight against Voldemort but who he hadn’t really met yet. Aurors, perhaps, or other Ministry workers. He’d find out eventually.
Soon enough the defendants were led in by Dementors and strapped into the chairs in the middle of the room. Once the dungeon had recovered from the requisite chill the creatures had brought with them, a man with severely-cut dark hair and a toothbrush moustache stood up from his position near Dumbledore and spoke, his voice resonating around the chamber.
“Leon Wilfred Bletchley and Felicity Jemima Gamp, you have been brought here in front of the Council of Magical Law today to answer charges of the wilful murders of Beverley Anne Macdonald, Andrew Stuart Macdonald and Mary Louise Macdonald, on the night of Wednesday 29 March 1978. How do you plead?”
“Who’s he, do you know?” Sirius whispered in Laura’s ear.
“Barty Crouch, I think,” she responded. “Dad says he’s leading all the Death Eater trials.”
Sirius had heard the name but didn’t know much about the man, not beyond his enviable record of convictions of accused Death Eaters. He wasn’t sure he liked him much – there seemed a ruthlessness about him that, while it was probably useful in trials of Voldemort’s supporters, couldn’t be classified an endearing quality. Put another way, he reminded Sirius uncomfortably of his father.
The two defendants just sat there sullenly as the charges were read out, refusing to plead either guilty or not guilty. This meant that a full trial had to be held, potentially a long and protracted one, depending on how much evidence there was against them.
“This could take a while,” he whispered. “You comfortable?”
Laura smiled wryly. “As comfortable as I’ll ever be,” she responded. “I didn’t really come here for comfy lounge chairs and cushions.” She glared at the defendants in the middle of the room, a dark hatred in her eyes, and he was momentarily pleased that she’d never had cause to look at him like that. It was something he wasn’t used to in her and he wasn’t sure that he liked it – though he had to admit, it probably meant she’d be good in a fight. Much as he didn’t want her getting hurt, that scorn and determination would probably make her an asset for the Order.
Assuming they all joined up, of course. Though, the way things were going, he couldn’t see any of them backing out. Much as he’d like her to stay safe, there was no way Laura wasn’t going to be volunteering in this war.
They watched as a procession of witnesses came forward: Tom from the Leaky Cauldron, who testified that he’d heard Bletchley and Gamp discussing the raid on the Macdonald house two days before it actually happened; a woman named Dorcas Meadowes who claimed to have been shadowing Bletchley for months and could place him and Gamp in the vicinity of the crime on the night in question; an Auror named John Dawlish who was first on the scene once the call had gone out. Sirius moved uncomfortably on his seat – he’d been right, it was a long, drawn-out process and the hard wooden benches were taking their toll on his back.
“How’re you going?” James asked Laura at the pub that night. They’d seen about half the witnesses who were to be called and had congregated to discuss the day’s events.
“I think they did it,” she said. “Though there’s not much proof, really, is there? It’s all circumstantial.”
“Tell me about it,” Lily said wryly. “If this is all they’ve got, they might struggle for a conviction. It’s all speculation and hearsay.”
Sirius shook his head. “Somehow,” he said, “I don’t think that’s going to bother Barty Crouch all that much.”
Remus laughed. “Know something we don’t, Padfoot?”
He shook his head again. “Just a gut feeling,” he said. “Put it this way – I wouldn’t want to be the one on trial if he was presiding over it.”
He still didn’t like Crouch, though aside from the similarities to Orion Black he had no real reason for that. There was just something that rubbed him the wrong way. The man seemed to have an almost pathological hatred of Death Eaters … and while Sirius could understand that, he wasn’t sure that someone with such a bias was the best person to be running criminal trials.
“I hope he convicts them,” Laura said with hatred in her voice. “If they did it, then they deserve to suffer.”
Sirius put an arm around her. “If they’re found guilty they’ll be sent to Azkaban. Yes, I think they’ll suffer.”
“Let’s just hope they’ve got a bit more evidence than they showed today, then,” James said, downing his drink. “Otherwise we’ll have that nagging thing in the back of our heads that says, maybe they were innocent.”
Laura shook her head again stubbornly. “I still think they did it,” she said firmly. “I know what you mean, James, but even with what we saw today, I’d still be happy to see them on the boat.”
Lily gave her hand a squeeze. “I know,” she said in an understanding tone. “You just need it to be over, don’t you.”
Sirius noticed tears in Laura’s eyes and pulled her close to him again. She succumbed to the embrace and then turned to Lily. “Yes,” she agreed. “I do.”
The next day was much the same as the first. Witnesses were called and interrogated, inconsistencies picked out and explained, Crouch losing his cool occasionally as the defendants refused to speak. Again, the evidence was mostly circumstantial – no one had actually seen them cast the Unforgivables that had killed Mary, Andrew and Mrs Macdonald – but there was, according to Crouch, apparently enough.
“You are facing life in Azkaban,” he boomed at them once the final witness – a man called Octavius Pepper, who was apparently the last person to see the Macdonalds alive, even after Laura had spoken to them via Floo – had given his testimony. “Do you have anything to add in your defence?”
The two defendants stared stonily at him, their mouths steadfastly closed. It seemed that they weren’t going to say anything, no matter what.
“We have heard the evidence against you, and are about to deliver our verdict.” He paused dramatically. “I pronounce you guilty as charged,” Crouch shouted, loathing and disgust evident on his face. “Take them away.”
Beside him, Laura breathed out heavily, her eyes fixed on the Dementors who were leading the two prisoners to their fate. “And so it ends,” she murmured once they’d left the room and the air felt more breathable again. “It seems weird, somehow.”
Around them, people were getting up from their seats and making their own way to the exit of the courtroom. Another trial over, they were making the most of the opportunity to stretch their legs before the next one began.
“Do you still think they did it?” Sirius asked.
Laura nodded. “Probably. Though I agree with Lily, the proof wasn’t very overwhelming. I was surprised he was as decisive as he was.”
“Barty Crouch has a strong record of putting Death Eaters away,” Sirius pointed out as they too stood up to make their way out, nodding again at Sebastian Quirke and the others in the room they knew. “It wouldn’t surprise me if not all of them were guilty.”
Laura nodded again. “I do think these two were,” she said. “But you might have a point.” She hurled an ugly look at the prison chairs in the middle of the room. “I’m glad they were found guilty, though,” she went on venomously. “Doing that to Mary, who never hurt anyone … it’s the least they deserve.”
“Wouldn’t be nice,” Sirius agreed. “A lifetime with the Dementors at Azkaban. But I think I agree with you. They deserve it.” He pulled her towards him and wrapped his arms around her. “And we’ve got a bit of closure.”
She held onto him tightly. “I think that’s what’s nicest about it,” she agreed, talking to his chest, tears in her eyes again, though he was sure this was more to do with relief than anything else. “It’s all over,” she went on thickly. “Mary can finally rest in peace.”
Author’s note: I quite like this one, perhaps because of all the foreshadowing it enabled me to do. I had a few people wanting to see the trial when it was talked about in HTM and it did seem like something that should be covered – after all, it was a pretty big event. This is also the first one in this collection that takes place after they leave school so it allows for a bit of a different dynamic, which I also quite enjoyed writing. Hope you enjoyed it too. :)
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