Chapter 9 : Snape's Trial
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Tobias entered the den at a run, having heard Harry calling from all the way across the house, where he had been working at his drafting table in his study. The row house was bigger on the inside than it looked, thanks to space warp spells, and had many more rooms than a normal house. As soon as he caught sight of Harry, alone on the hearth, soot-stained with his hair sticking up, holding onto Severus' bag for dear life, he knew something terrible had happened. "Harry! Where's Sev? You look like hell, kid. Were the memories that bad?"
"No. But some . . . some magic police came and they arrested Severus for . . . for kidnapping me!" Harry blurted. "And there was this other wizard, at first he looked like Severus' boss, but then he changed and Severus called him . . .umm . . .called him Gilbert M-Malfoy. They wanted to take me with them but I knew I had to warn you so I ran, and I took Severus' bag with me because it's got a lot of information in it. We have to get Severus out of jail, Toby! Before a Dementor Kisses him!"
Tobias' mind was spinning, but even so he kept his head. "Harry, be calm. Dementors don't Kiss people unless they're sentenced to death. That much I know for a fact. All right, son. I want you to sit down here on the couch and tell me everything that happened tonight. Start at the beginning."
Harry obeyed, sinking down on the couch and slowly telling his story.
Tobias listened intently. "And you say the memories are in here and Lily's will?"
"Yes, sir. I saw Severus put them in here."
"Good. With them we can get him out of jail, or whatever they call it. I'll need to talk to Kingsley. Harry, I'll need you to firecall the Auror Department and ask to speak with Kingsley Shacklebolt. He'll know what to do."
"I can do that, sir."
"Good. Do it now, please. I can't stand the thought of Sev being locked up in that hellhole. We have to get him out of there. And bugger bloody Gil Malfoy, the rotten traitor! I'll bet my drafting tools he's affiliated with Death Eaters. I never liked the bastard, even before he hurt Sev."
Harry slid off the couch and used the Floo Network again, contacting Magical Law Enforcement and asking for Auror Shacklebolt.
Once Harry had told him what had happened, Kingsley Apparated to Spinner's End. Severus had keyed the wards to his magical signature, which was impossible to fake, since every wizard's was unique like a set of fingerprints. Kingsley was a tall well-built wizard with skin the color of fine teakwood, inherited from his Kenyan mother. He wore his official red with navy trim Auror uniform with style, but his face was grave.
He greeted Tobias respectfully, then said, "You do know you're harboring a fugitive, Toby?" He indicated Harry with a jerk of his head.
"Only according to the Ministry and bloody Gil Rothschild-Malfoy," Tobias growled, his gray eyes flashing with temper. "If not for Sev's Sight, the kid here would have died of dehydration and magical drain in the cupboard and there would go your sainted hero. You ought to be thanking him on your knees, Shacklebolt, not arresting him!"
"Yeah," Harry added. "He saved my life. Nobody else gave a damn! Why don't you arrest Gil Malfoy, he's a nasty git?"
Kingsley held up his hands. "Peace, my friends! I'm not the enemy here. Why don't we sit down and discuss what happened?"
Twenty minutes later, Kingsley had heard the whole story, from both Tobias and Harry's point of view. "The kidnapping charge, Malfoy might make that stick, since Sev didn't report immediately that he had removed Harry from Privet Drive, but like you said, Toby, there were extenuating circumstances. Plus, from what you've told me, Harry, your relatives were totally unsuitable to be your guardians and something should have been done years ago." Kingsley shook his head. "However, we all trusted Albus Dumbledore's judgment, and assumed he knew what was best. There was much to admire about the man, but some of his decisions were rather, shall we say, backwards? When you last saw Sev, Harry, was he conscious?"
"I don't know . . . he helped me escape, but then just before I left, I think I saw him lying on the floor. But he didn't attack the Aurors, sir. They attacked him, and that Malfoy creep, he tried to pick up my wand when he knocked it out of my hand and it . . .hurt him. My wand, I mean. It burned his fingers."
Kingsley's eyebrows rose . "I have never heard of a wand doing that before. May I see it?"
Harry removed the Celestial Wayfarer from his sleeve.
Kingsley took it reverently. "Ah, so it has finally chosen a master. This wand had become legendary and all of us in the Department swore it would never find a wizard to wield it. And you say it scorched Gilbert's fingers? That can mean only one thing. That he is a dark wizard, for the Wayfarer will not tolerate dark magic."
"What are you saying? That a dark wizard arrested my son?"
"We did not know he was one, but yes. I will do my best to get Sev released, though it may take awhile. But this discovery will put any claims Gilbert makes into doubt. We have much evidence in our favor, as well as Harry's own testimony, to show that he was rescued from an abusive environment, and also that Severus was acting under a Vow of Obligation. Together with Lily's will, we can show that Severus has legal rights to protect and shelter Harry and if we play our cards right, we can get the kidnapping charge overturned."
"Will he go to trial?" asked Tobias.
"I'm afraid that is what Gilbert is pushing for. He has much influence with the Wizengamut. He is the only son of a pureblood House and affiliated with the Malfoys as their foster son. He has money and connections. But if he does, all our evidence will be able to be presented, and you and Harry stand as witnesses."
"Will he need a barrister?"
"Yes, and I can obtain one for him. Erica Zabini has won many a case for the Auror Department and she has no love for Gilbert Rothschild-Malfoy."
"Good. Just let me know how much the retainer is," said Tobias. "How soon can you start the ball rolling, old friend?"
"It has already started," Kingsley said. "I'll be in touch with you again, Toby." He rose to his feet. "Harry, because you are an orphan, the Ministry may insist you be removed from Spinner's End—"
"No!" Harry cried.
"They can just kiss my arse," Tobias said.
"Toby, if the order becomes official, it might be wise to cooperate, to show that you respect Ministry policy," Kingsley cautioned. "If that happens, please know that I shall take Harry into my own custody and ensure nothing happens to him."
"But won't the Minister just take him from you too?"
"Not if Harry invokes the sacred Auror Protection Bond," Kingsley said, his white teeth glinting like diamonds. "Once he does that, I am bound to defend him with my life and my magic, for a period of seventy-two hours. Long enough to make it through the trial. I must go, I need to brief Erica about this case. Sit tight and don't do anything until you hear from me."
An instant later he was gone.
Tobias stared at the spot where Kingsley had been moments before and muttered, "Bloody Gil Malfoy! I should have bashed his brains out when I had the chance."
Harry hung his head. He couldn't help but feel guilty, that it was his fault Severus had gotten arrested. "I'm sorry, sir."
"What are you apologizing for?" Tobias turned to look at the eleven-year-old. "Don't go blaming yourself, kid. Gil has always borne a grudge against Severus, he was jealous of how much Eileen loved her son, and jealous that a mere half-blood had more magic than he ever would, and was smarter to boot. You aren't to feel responsible for any of this, understand?"
"But it's because of me that they arrested him."
"No, it's not. Gil has been searching for years for a way to get Severus discredited in the wizarding community. But he's not going to succeed. Because you and I are going to show him what it means to mess with a Snape, the stinking coward!"
"By telling the truth," answered the elder Snape. "Why don't you go upstairs and take a shower? Then I think we ought to eat a little."
Harry agreed, even though the last thing he wanted right then was food. His stomach was in knots over Severus. Severus had told him about Azkaban and the Dementors, and Harry was terrified they might set a Dementor on Severus and call that an accident. He hoped that Kingsley could do something to protect Severus.
Kingsley and the Auror barrister, Erica Zabini, called for a meeting down at headquarters the next morning. Kingsley had used all of his influence to pull strings and get Severus transferred to a minimum security cell in Azkaban, which meant that no Dementors roamed the halls, and only one guarded the entrance to the block, otherwise human guards were in charge of the prisoners. A round-the-clock Dementor patrol was only necessary with maximum security prisoners, which Severus was not.
Tobias was extremely grateful to Kingsley for that small bit of mercy, he had been unable to sleep all night imagining the horrible things his son was forced to endure from those creatures. Harry had remained awake too, afraid to go to sleep for fear of nightmares, and he finally had found Tobias on the couch and curled up next to him, falling asleep after two o'clock in the morning.
Tobias shook hands with Erica, a lively young woman with her dark hair done up in a fancy chignon, she had bright brown eyes and a friendly demeanor, but once she sat down across the table, she was all business.
"Gilbert has used his connections to get the trial slated for the day after tomorrow, I'm sure he feels that a speedy trial would benefit him. That doesn't leave us much time, but we can work with it. I'll need depositions from both of you, and Harry, you'll need to sign a consent form since you're underage. I'll also need to contact that mediwitch—Pomfrey is her name? She can provide accurate medical testimony for our case."
Once they had signed the required forms, Erica took their statements, and she also submitted the vials of memories and Lily's will to the court for evidence. She reassured them that it was safe, once presented to the court as evidence, it was free from tampering by magic or destruction by non-magical means, since it would be in a sealed vault. "My opposing council will have access to it for the case, but he can only view it, and not remove it from the vault or do anything else with it. Tampering with evidence is a sure way to get his whole case tossed out the window and land himself in Azkaban, and Damon Priest isn't stupid."
It was then that Kingsley brought up the other matter which had been keeping Harry awake last night. "Harry, I'm sorry to tell you this, but the Minister has insisted that you be released into my custody for the time being. Please do not be alarmed, all that means is that you must stay with me at my parents' home for two days, until the trial, and depending on the results, if Severus is named guardian, you may return here."
Harry looked very upset. Even though he liked Kingsley, he didn't know the Auror, and was frightened that if he left the sanctuary of Spinner's End, he would never return to it. "Do you promise? Because they have to let Severus be my guardian, right? It's what my mum wanted. He's supposed to be my godfather."
Kingsley nodded and Erica smiled at him. "Don't worry, Harry. As soon as this mess is settled, you'll be back here quicker than you can say Quidditch."
"Why don't you go up and pack, son?" Tobias suggested gently. He hated the fact that Harry had to leave, but he knew he couldn't win this battle.
Harry left the table then. He prayed that they were right, because if not, he didn't know how he would survive.
The next day it was all over the papers, how Unspeakable Snape had "stole" away Harry Potter. Of course, not everyone believed the hyped up story, plenty of people had seen Snape and Harry in Diagon Alley, and they remarked on how happy Harry had seemed, not at all as if he were being held against his will like the article described. Harry read it and was incensed, claiming the whole thing was nothing but lies. "How can anyone believe this trash?" he demanded angrily to Kingsley over breakfast the next morning. "Severus didn't kidnap me, he rescued me! I was dying because I used too much magic and he found me and saved me!"
"You should relax, Harry. What you say is true and you can testify to it at the trial." Kingsley said, he felt sorry for the boy, who seemed lost and lonely without Severus and Tobias, though he never complained and was unfailingly polite to him and to his parents, Oliver and Kioni.
Harry just nodded politely. "Have you heard anything about Severus? How he is? I mean, I know it must be awful in there, but they haven't hurt him or anything?"
"Erica went to visit him yesterday, Harry," Kingsley soothed. "She said he is fine, he was not injured and his magic is still as strong as ever, and he cannot wait to defend himself at the trial. He is quite determined to beat Gilbert Malfoy at his own game and win the Wizengamut's approval to gain custody."
Harry was glad to hear that at least the Unspeakable wasn't hurt or in any danger. "Only one more day till the trial," he reminded Kingsley.
"Yes. Oh, before I forget, make sure you bring your wand with you. Erica thinks we can use it to expose Gilbert Malfoy for what he truly is."
"How did he explain away his burned hand?"
"It was healed before I saw him again. But if we can get the Wizengamut to order him to pick up your wand as a test of loyalty to the Light . . ." Kingsley smiled, hard and sharp.
Now all that was left was the waiting.
Harry sat quietly next to Kingsley and Tobias in the large round stone room, upon a rather hard bench. He tried not to fidget, knowing it would look bad if he did so, but he had a rather large bruise on his backside from falling out of the fireplace two days before. He hadn't told anyone, he was too embarrassed, but it did make sitting on the hard bench uncomfortable. Harry was wearing his new school robes and a new outfit, all of which had been bought by the man Gil Malfoy claimed had kidnapped him. The Celestial Wayfarer was tucked into his pocket. He rubbed his palms nervously on his knees and waited for them to bring in the accused.
In front of him, in a crescent shaped array, were the leading members of the Wizengamut, the body of wizards and witches who ruled the wizarding world and had the power to condemn Severus to Azkaban and deny him his rightful place as Harry's guardian. They were all in black, save for a squat lady wearing bright pink, she reminded him of a cross between Marge and Petunia. Kingsley had said she was Fudge's Undersecretary, Delores Umbridge. Harry eyed them warily, not trusting them one iota.
In the middle of the chamber was a chair with several length of silver chain wrapped about the back and the arms, it looked rather like a torture device. Kingsley had called that the Chair of Judgment, and it was where Severus would be sitting while the barristers questioned him. Further to the right was a wooden dock where witnesses stood and a high podium where the presiding judge, Aberforth Dumbledore, stood. Abe was the brother of the late Albus Dumbledore, and though he was considered an eccentric by some, he was from one of the oldest families and had a reputation for being fair-minded and able to see all sides of an issue. He ran a pub called the Hog's Head in Hogsmeade and while the beer was not the best quality, Abe's ear was always ready to listen and offer advice to those who wanted it. Since he was not affiliated with any public or political office, he was perfect to judge this case.
"Bring in the accused," Abe told his deputy, and the wizard in the iron gray robes departed, reappearing at the entrance to the round chamber, prodding a tall man wearing rumpled black robes. Severus' hands were manacled in front of him, but he walked down the aisle towards the chair in the center without hesitation.
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. Then he caught sight of Gilbert Malfoy, who was impeccably dressed, sitting next to Minister Fudge, who was glaring at Severus fit to kill. Next to him sat his solicitor, Damon Priest.
Severus walked over to the chair and sat down gracefully, not even flinching when the chains reached out and bound him.
Suddenly Erica stood up. "Is that really necessary? The accused is already bound with Manacles of Suppression, he hardly needs the chain on the chair, Your Honor. Might I submit a request to allow Mr. Snape to remain unbound as a courtesy? He's hardly going to leave."
Aberforth considered. "Very well. Release him!" he clapped two times and the chains fell away.
First the prosecution rose, and Damon Priest stated the case against Snape, insisting that he had unlawfully removed a minor from his home and held him in his home without informing the Ministry about his new house guest.
"He is therefore charged with kidnapping a Ministry ward, none other than the famous Harry Potter. He then proceeded to use young Harry in his experiment in the Department of Mysteries, hardly the actions of a responsible adult. Furthermore, Snape has always been fascinated with the Dark Arts—"
"Objection, Your Honor!" Erica stood up and faced her opponent. "Speculation. There is no proof that my client was ever a user of dark magic. He is a Ministry employee and it is well known that employees are strictly screened before their applications for jobs are accepted."
"Sustained. Mr. Priest, please stick to the facts at hand," Abe reprimanded. "That statement shall be stricken from the record."
Priest bowed to Aberforth in apology, then resumed his opening statement. "It is our intention to show that Severus Snape is also an unfit guardian for one Harry Potter, that he seeks only to use the boy for his own advantage, and Harry would be better off as a ward of the Ministry."
Harry shifted, wanting badly to shout that was a bunch of batshit, but Kingsley laid an arm on his shoulder. Tobias also put a finger to his lips, indicating Harry should hold his tongue. The irritated boy subsided, wondering when he would get the chance to tell his side of the story, the true side.
"Thank you, counselor. Miss Zabini, your turn."
Erica rose and walked in front of the Wizengamut. She was dressed in a smart skirt and ruffled blouse with a deep blue robe. "Lords and ladies of the Wizengamut, it is my intent to show you that Severus Snape, Unspeakable in the Department of Mysteries, has been wrongfully accused of kidnapping Harry Potter and using him as an experimental guinea pig. Severus Snape has legal grounds to present a case for guardianship and also has the welfare of this boy, whom we all regard as a savior, at heart. He is the best, perhaps the only, guardian for young Harry, and I shall show you why this is so."
Erica stopped, turned, and then made her way back to where Severus was sitting in the chair. "Mr. Snape, will you state for the record how you knew that Harry Potter was being neglected and was in fact in danger of losing his life through magical drain?"
"I have inherited the gift of Second Sight from my Prince ancestors, and my Sight warns of impending tragedy, which I can sometimes avert if I can interpret my dreams correctly and in a timely fashion. I had been having the same vision for two nights prior to the day I acted and went to Privet Drive. This vision was particularly vivid, for not only was I shown Harry, trapped in a cupboard, but I could both feel and see what he saw and felt. After the second time the vision was shown to me, I knew I had to act, but was at a loss where to start, as the vision did not give me a map showing where the boy was. However, the next morning on my way to work, an owl dropped a letter and I picked it up. It was a Hogwarts letter, addressed to Harry Potter, the Cupboard Under the Stairs . . ."
Gasps followed that statement.
"That's a rather odd address, don't you think?" Erica asked. "Surely one that should make one pause and think. Which is exactly what Mr. Snape did. He read the address, recognized it as a connection to his vision, and then acted upon it. As a Seer, he has the right to follow up any vision if he deems it necessary. Which this certainly was. Mr. Snape, can you describe what you found upon going to Privet Drive, the home of Harry's maternal aunt and uncle, who were chosen as guardians upon the death of his parents?"
Severus told them everything, stressing that Harry's magic had hidden him from the Death Eaters, but also that he would have died from the poor treatment he had received at the hands of his relatives, as well as from overusing his magic.
"My first priority was saving Harry's life and getting him well. Once that was accomplished, I had every intention of coming forward and requesting permission to become the boy's legal guardian." Severus told them.
Damon came forward. "And did this care also include using Mr. Potter as a volunteer to test your new Memory Draught?"
"Originally, it was never my intention to have Harry test my potion, but he asked because he suffered from nightmares, and wished to banish them by recalling the memories which caused them."
"And did you seek permission from your Head to bring a minor into the study?"
"No, but I did have him sign a consent form and he was monitored at all times by me."
"And these memories you say you extracted . . . what were they? Typical little boy fears of the dark? Spiders? A spanking, perhaps?" Damon was very sarcastic, sneering, and some of the Wizengamut tittered at his wit.
"No, they were memories that no child should ever have within them," declared Severus coldly, longing to get up from the chair and bash the smug grin off Gil's face. "Memories of seeing his mother slain by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Memories of being locked in the dark in a broom cupboard for days without food, water, or a place to relieve himself."
There were more shocked murmurs from the wizards and witches across from Harry.
"Your Honor, Harry's memories were submitted as evidence labeled Exhibit A," Erica informed Aberforth. "They are available to be viewed with the Pensieve in your quarters."
"Your Honor, I move that those memories be declared inadmissible due to the fact that they were extracted without consent of an adult." Damon stated.
"Your Honor, there is no law that states a volunteer has to be an adult to consent to try a Memory Regression potion." Erica countered. "The potion had already been tested upon the required number of adults and minors and was ready for public consumption. The patent was pending, but even so, consent was recorded and freely given."
Aberforth was silent for several minutes, and Priest looked like he was gloating. But then the younger Dumbledore said, "The evidence will stand. The law states that free consent is all that is needed to participate in a study."
"But how do we know consent was freely given?" queried Damon. "The young Potter might have been coerced by his kidnapper."
"You may question Mr. Potter about that, Mr. Priest. Do you have any further questions for Mr. Snape?"
"No, Your Honor. I now call Gilbert Rothschild-Malfoy to the stand. Mr. Malfoy was the one who alerted us to Mr. Snape's grave breach of misconduct and will testify to the character of said defendant as to his suitability to raise a child."
Gilbert Malfoy walked haughtily to the stand and was sworn in.
Priest began to question Gil about how he had learned of the kidnapping, and also how well he knew the accused. "I was his stepfather, I had married his mother, Eileen Prince, when he was four. He lived with me until he was ten and upon the demise of his mother I sent him back to his Muggle father. He was a most ungovernable child, disobedient, temperamental, and totally lacking in manners and discipline."
"I see. Would you say that as an adult, Severus Snape still possesses those characteristics?"
"Objection! Leading the witness. Mr. Malfoy cannot claim to know the adult Severus Snape as he has not communicated with him in over twenty years." Erica pointed out.
"Is that so, Mr. Malfoy?" queried Aberforth.
"Yes, Your Honor. We parted ways and I had no desire to see the wretched brat again."
"Then how would you know what sort of man Severus Snape had become?" Erica asked. "People change and grow up, Mr. Malfoy. Let me ask you a question, sir. You pointed out that your stepson was disobedient and disrespectful. How did you punish your stepson when he defied you?"
"The usual way, of course," drawled Malfoy.
"And what way would that be?"
"I thrashed him, of course. It's the only sort of lesson a half-blood like him understands."
"I see. And, from your statement, I can presume that you do not . . . respect half-bloods? Are you prejudiced, Mr. Malfoy? Do you believe that half-bloods are beneath you?"
"Do you honestly expect me to answer that?" Gil sneered.
"You are under oath, Mr. Malfoy," Erica snapped. "And you will show respect for me, as legal counsel, even though I too am a half-blood, or else I shall press charges."
"Very well, Miss Zabini. As a pureblood descendant of the noble House of Rothschild and adopted son of the honorable House of Malfoy, I am committed to seeing that my bloodline stays pure and unsullied by mongrel half-breeds like Severus Snape. I never wanted the brat in my house, but was forced to take him in as a favor to his mother."
"Then you admit that you had bias towards Severus Snape when you brought him into your home? And that you still harbor feelings of resentment and superiority towards him?"
Gil hesitated. "If by that you mean was I reluctant to accept an unruly hellion into my home, then yes. I would have preferred to start my marriage unencumbered by another man's offspring."
"Counselor, where is this line of questioning going? Gilbert Malfoy is not on trial here," said Damon.
"This line of questioning establishes the bias and credibility of your witness to give an accurate and unbiased assessment of my client's character. Clearly, Mr. Malfoy harbors no love for his former stepson and his bias might have cast aspersions on Severus Snape's character that are unjust. No further questions."
Erica then called Kingsley Shacklebolt and Tobias and Madam Pomfrey to the stand to vouch for Severus. Madam Pomfrey told them of Harry's malnutrition and needle phobia, and stated she suspected he had been neglected and abused by his dead relatives. She stressed how Severus had been compassionate with Harry over his fear of needles, and was concerned over the boy's physical and mental health. Tobias' story of how Harry had come to live with the Snapes corroborated what Severus had said and he also stated that Gilbert Malfoy had been abusive to his son as a child and his testimony was worthless.
Finally she called Harry to the stand and asked him to tell the court, in his own words, what his life had been like with his relatives and how it had changed since Severus had taken him away from Privet Drive. Harry spoke in a quiet yet firm voice, looking the judge and the Wizengamut right in the eyes. "You all know about how I killed You-Know-Who as a baby, I didn't remember what happened until Severus let me take the potion that brought that memory up so I could look at it. I never knew my mum, but she was Severus' best friend. She also wanted him as my godfather, but my dad didn't, and chose Sirius Black instead. But my mum wanted Severus as a second choice and she altered her will to make him my guardian if she and my dad and Mr. Black died. I wasn't supposed to ever go and live with the Dursleys. See, Mum knew her sister hated magic and wizards and wouldn't have wanted me. But her new will was misplaced, and Severus only found it a few days ago, in the back of a drawer in the Department of Mysteries.
"So I ended up with Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon and Dudley, and they . . . they didn't treat me well. They lied to me about how my parents died and told me magic didn't exist. I wasn't allowed to even mention the word around them. Whenever I did magic by accident, they punished me and told me I was a no-good freak."
"How did they punish you, Harry?" asked Erica gently.
"They . . . sometimes they would make me clean the whole house, but most times they threw me in the cupboard for a few days. Sometimes, like the time I accidentally ended up on the school roof, Uncle Vernon would wallop me with his belt. He . . .he told me I deserved it for being a freak. One time Aunt Petunia swung a frying pan at my head when I asked her about my mum as a kid. They never wanted to talk about my parents. They told the neighbors I was a liar and I stole and was a delinquent so nobody would believe me if I ever told about what they did to me or mentioned anything about magic."
"Harry, did your aunt or uncle ever hug you? Ever tell you they loved you?"
"No. Why would they love a freak? They had Dudley to love. I was just in the way."
Erica questioned him about the Death Eater attack. Harry told her as much as he could remember. Then she asked him about Severus and how he was treated at Spinner's End.
"He treated me like I mattered. Like I was worth something. Him and Toby both. No one has ever done that for me before. He saved me, I would have died if he hadn't come and gotten me out of the cupboard. He didn't kidnap me, he rescued me. And then he gave me a room of my own, not a cupboard, and clothes, not Dudley's cast offs, and he even let me eat at the table, real food, not scraps dug out of the rubbish bin. He let me used the good soap in the shower, not the floor cleaner. He took me to the Healer's, he helped me when I had nightmares, he even took me to see my parents' graves. He taught me how to fly on a broom. He never hit me or called me a freak that was too stupid to live. Not even when I talked back him or was a cheeky brat."
"So you think that Severus Snape is a good person?"
"And if you had to choose someone to live with, would you choose Severus Snape?"
"Yes. I . . .I trust him. He's not like the rest of you people, who look at me and see some kind of hero. He sees me. Just Harry. He didn't need to do all those things for me, he could have done what you say he ought to, and given me over to the Ministry. But he didn't. He promised my mum he would look after me, and he kept his word. He's worth ten of that prig over there and the lot of you!" Harry declared passionately. "He even paid for my school things, including my wand. Oh, and that Malfoy wizard, when he came to take me away, he tried to pick up my wand and it burned him."
"Harry, will you tell the court what wand chose you?" Erica prompted when the muttering had died down.
Harry withdrew the wand from his sleeve. "This is the Celestial Wayfarer, at least that's what Mr. Ollivander called it."
Now the room exploded in shocked whispers.
"He told me that my wand will never tolerate the touch of evil. So since it burned Mr. Malfoy there, doesn't that make him evil?" Harry asked ingenuously.
"That's a damn lie!" spat Gil, glaring daggers at Harry. "You put the boy up to this, Zabini!"
"Me? All I did was ask him about his wand."
"You're trying to defame my honorable Name, you harpy!"
"Mr. Malfoy, control yourself!" Aberforth said.
Gil subsided, breathing heavily.
"Your Honor, I submit that Gilbert Malfoy is a fraud and a liar, as well as a dark wizard. On the night that he came to arrest my client and take Harry away, he revealed his true colors. He is a Metamorphmagus who disguised himself as Augustus Rookwood, Head of the Department of Mysteries, in order to gain access to the vault where Severus and Harry were. He admitted freely to Severus that he murdered Rookwood, Augustus did not die by accident during an explosion as was thought—he was set up. Furthermore, it's also suspected that he had Sirius Black killed as well. His intention was to murder Severus and then take custody of Harry for his true master . . .He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named." Erica declared.
"That's a filthy lie, hag!"
"Is it? I call for Trial By Ordeal. If what I have said is false and you are innocent as you claim, then you won't mind picking up the Celestial Wayfarer, now will you?"
Malfoy blanched. "You can't do this! I'm not on trial, my bloody stepson is!"
Erica met his eyes coldly. "Based on the evidence I have heard, you may well find yourself in a cell in Azkaban should Mr. Snape press charges of assault against you. For crimes both past and present. It's a simple request, Malfoy. Why do you hesitate? What do you have to hide?"
Malfoy looked about, his air that of a desperate animal caught in a trap. "Nothing! I have nothing to hide!"
"Then, Gilbert Rothschild-Malfoy, take up the Celestial Wayfarer and let the Light of the Heavens judge you," intoned Aberforth.
Trapped, Gil approached and hesitantly touched the wand.
As before, there came a flash of blue light and Gil found himself clutching his hand, which was burnt and blackened. He drew his wand and pointed it at Harry. "Pestilential brat!" he roared. "Nobody move, or your precious Boy-Who-Lived is history!"
Everyone froze, including Kingsley and the team of Aurors standing just inside the doors.
Everyone except Tobias, who had had the foresight to bring his revolver, figuring things might get ugly and he would need to defend himself or his family.
He drew in one quick motion, his gun arm hidden by Kingsley's cloak. Then he moved, extending his gun an inch beyond the big Auror and firing.
There was no real sound for Tobias had been a Black Ops sergeant and had a silencer on his gun. But he hit his target.
Gilbert Rothschild-Malfoy dropped dead on the floor in front of Harry, drilled neatly through the head.
"Waste of a good bullet," Tobias spat.
For one moment there was utter silence. Then one of the witches said, "What on earth did you hit him with, sir? Is he dead?"
"Yes, ma'am. Dead as a doornail. Not many people survive a direct bullet to the head." Tobias replied. "He's been needing that ever since he hurt my son. I held my hand then because of Eileen, but not any more. Sorry if I stepped on anybody's toes, but it was him or Harry."
Kingsley stood up then and began to clap. Slowly the other witches and wizards followed suit.
Harry remained where he was for a moment, unsure of what to do. He grabbed his wand and tucked it up his sleeve. Then he ran across the room and hugged Severus.
When all the uproar had died down, that was where they found him, pressed close to Severus, who couldn't hug him back because of the manacles.
"Order! Order in the court!" Aberforth said, banging his gavel. "Umm . . .Mad-Eye, get that piece of trash out of my courtroom."
The Auror and his team hustled to obey.
Aberforth grinned. "I've always wanted to do that," he muttered half to himself. "Ahem! I'll call for a recess so we can . . .err . . .decide on a verdict. It shouldn't take too long. Oh, and thanks, Mr. Snape. It's too bad you don't have magic, then we could recruit you."
He winked, then disappeared into the jury chambers, where they would decide Severus' fate.
Some thirty minutes later the Wizengamut emerged, and Aberforth stepped up to the bench. "Severus Tobias Snape, the jury declares you Not Guilty of all charges. Furthermore, based upon the last will and testament of Lily Evans Potter and the preference of Harry James Potter, the jury has agreed to grant you full legal custody of Harry James Potter and all his assets until he comes of age. Case dismissed!" He happily banged the gavel down again. "I wonder if they'll let me keep this? It'll look nice above the bar." he muttered wistfully. Then he pointed his wand and the Manacles of Suppression fell off Severus' wrists.
Everyone was clapping and cheering, but Severus had eyes only for one small dark-haired boy. He hugged Harry tightly and whispered, "Well done, my son. And now we can go home to Spinner's End. Where we belong."
Harry gripped him hard about the waist, his emerald eyes glinting with tears. Tears that he did not bother to wipe away, for he was too happy to notice them. At last he had what he had dreamed of all those lonely nights in the cupboard. A home and a person he could trust, who would love him no matter what. "Okay, Sev. Let's go home."
And so they did.
The next morning an article ran in the Prophet about the trial and also another matter that had finally been resolved. Sirius Black Declared Innocent, Pettigrew Responsible for Potters' Deaths! Treachery Revealed At Last Due to Snape's Memory Regression Potion!
It detailed how Harry had recalled a final conversation between Lily, James, and Sirius deciding to make Pettigrew their Secret Keeper, and how Sirius had not betrayed them. Aurors were scouring the countryside, searching for the fugitive rat, and hoped to bring him in soon. A reward of 1000 Galleons was posted for anyone who knew his whereabouts or might have seen him.
"Hope they catch the miserable rat," Tobias muttered over his second cup of coffee.
"They will. Or else he'll remain a rat to the end of his days, and save us the trouble of bringing him to trial." Severus said, drinking his tea.
"I hope a cat eats him for breakfast," Harry said. "Speaking of cats, can I have a cat for my birthday? Or an owl, maybe?" He gave Severus a pleading glance.
"We'll see. Right now you need to practice brewing a Swelling Solution."
"Aww, Sev! Do I have to? Can't I go flying first?"
Severus frowned down at him. "Harry James Potter, you know that potions come before flying. Or you should."
"I know," Harry said, his eyes sparkling with mischief. "If I finish early, then can I go flying?"
Severus sighed. "We'll see."
Harry smiled. He knew that Severus' "we'll see" was as good as a "yes". Then he followed his new guardian over to the fireplace, so they could Floo to Severus' lab. Since the trial, Harry had been given a button to wear that gave him access to the Department of Mysteries so long as Severus was with him. He was currently the youngest Unspeakable on record, though the title was honorary, at least until he came of age, and his guardian, who was now Head of the Department, inducted him formally into their ranks.
Harry considered it an honor to follow in the footsteps of Severus Snape, the Unspeakable who had given him everything he had ever wanted and more.
The night before first term:
"Are you certain you have everything?" Severus asked Harry for maybe the thirtieth time that night, checklist in hand.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Merlin, Sev, we've already gone over this three times! I'm fine. I have everything I need or want and if I need anything, I'll write you." He showed Severus his neat packed trunk, with everything neatly arranged.
Severus peered inside, then nodded briefly. "All right. If you've forgotten something, write as quickly as possible and I will send it to you. If you have trouble with a subject, ask a teacher for help. Don't wait till the end of term and then find out you're failing. I expect you to do well in school, Harry. Concentrate on your studies, then go flying on your broom if you need to."
"Yes, sir. What about Quidditch?"
Severus grimaced. "First years aren't allowed to have brooms at school or try out for the Quidditch team. After homework you can fly."
"How without my broom?"
"The school provides brooms.
"Oh. Severus, what House will I be in? Do you care?"
"You're Sorted by the Sorting Hat, and the Hat will determine what House is best. Whatever House chooses you is fine with me. You do not have to be in Slytherin or Gryffindor to make me proud."
Harry was relieved. That had been one of the things that had concerned him. That and making friends at school, but he wasn't going to whine to his guardian about that, like a little girl.
"If you need anything, you will Floo or write me immediately," Severus ordered. "And I do mean anything, Harry."
Harry snickered. "Relax, Severus. You're being a worrywart."
Severus snorted and mussed his ward's hair. "Cheeky brat!"
"You like me that way," answered his ward with a smirk.
"You had better not get in trouble at school, young man." Severus lectured.
"I'll try not to. I don't wanna be grounded and without a broom over the holiday." Harry promised.
"Good. Study hard, get good marks, and don't backtalk your teachers. That's all I ask of you."
"I can do that," Harry assured him.
"Off to bed with you now. It's late and you need to get an early start tomorrow."
Harry headed off to brush his teeth and change, though he was so excited he thought he would never fall asleep. But he was asleep before Severus said goodnight.
The Unspeakable brushed a hand over his ward's hair. Then he left, going downstairs to talk to Tobias.
His father looked up from the Daily Prophet he'd been reading. "Sev, have you read about Fudge resigning? He says he cannot in good conscience retain his post after making major mistakes with trusting corrupt officials and failing Harry Potter by not checking up on him."
Severus' eyebrows rose. "I told you, Dad, he would resign. Too much bad press and muttering. Did they say who would replace him?"
"No. Not yet."
"Hopefully they choose someone with brains this time," Severus said wryly. He sat down on the couch and ran his fingers through his hair over and over.
Tobias recognized the signs and said, "Got the jitters over Harry going away to school, huh?"
"No. . . .I mean yes . . . I don't know what's wrong with me. He's not the first boy to leave home and go away to school."
"Ah, but he's your first."
Severus shook his head. "I'm acting like a fool. He's very excited to go, talked about nothing else tonight."
"And that makes you feel bad."
"No, not bad, just . . . concerned. I told him he didn't have to go, that I could tutor him, but . . .he wants to. I just hope his schooldays are different from mine."
"No reason to think they won't be. Sev, he's not you, and there's no Marauders, and no dark wizard to fight. Besides, we've both taught him what to do about bullies. He's smart, he'll follow our advice. I know it's hard, Sev. I was nervous as all hell when you were going away to Hogwarts at first. I felt like I was going to turn inside out. But you have to let him go, Sev. It's been a month and half since we took him in, and he's adjusted well. It's time to let him go."
"What if it's a mistake, sending him there?"
"Then we withdraw him. Simple as that. There's no law that says you can't tutor Harry at home, right?"
"Right." Severus scowled into the fire. "I can't believe I'm acting like this."
Tobias laughed, his eyes twinkling. "Ah, Sev. Welcome to fatherhood." He clapped his son on the back. "It's the province of every parent to worry when their kid leaves home."
"Does it ever go away?"
"No. I still worry a little about you, Sev. But it does get a little easier. Trust me."
Severus huffed a bit, thinking that if this was how he felt when Harry went to Hogwarts, how much worse would it be when Harry moved out and got married? By then he might need a Calming Draught. Get a grip, Snape! He shouted inwardly. But it was no use. He was going to miss Harry something terrible.
September 1st, 1991
"Harry Potter!" McGonagall called.
Harry set down his carrier with his large orange and black tom cat, Jack-o-lantern, which had been a birthday present from Tobias, and the cage with his new Arctic owl, Sheherezad, "Sherry" for short, his gift from Severus and walked over to where the Sorting Hat sat upon the stool. He knew what to expect, for Severus had told him about the Hat, but not where the Hat would put him. Would he be a Gryffindor, like his parents, full of courage and daring? Or would he be like his guardian and godfather, ambitious and cunning, like a Slytherin?
He walked up and lifted the Hat gently, sat down on the stool, and placed the Hat on his head. It was too large and the brim covered his eyes. Then he waited for the Hat to speak.
Well, now let's see.
There's plenty of courage in your family tree,
But courage isn' t your only forte.
You have ambition and cunning too,
Perhaps the House of your guardian suits you?
Hmmm . . .you pose a difficult puzzle,
Smart, ambitious, and courageous,
But your heart is pure, your spirit kind,
Loyalty and love the ties that bind.
Like the Celestial Wayfarer I find,
The House that suits you best,
Loyal and true, hardworking yet tough
Better be . . .
Harry removed the Hat from his head amid several shocked looks and after retrieving his two familiars, walked over to the table sporting the yellow and black badger banner above it. He had to admit, he was surprised at the Hat's choice, but the more he thought about it, the more right it seemed. While he could be brave and valiant, and he wanted to do well and make Severus proud, the things he valued most were the love of his family and his loyalty to his guardian.
He took a seat next to a girl named Hannah Abbott, said hello, then shook hands with his prefect, and introduced himself to a boy named Justin and another one called Cedric. They were all happy to meet him and he started to relax, then turned to watch the rest of the Sorting. He couldn't wait to tell Sev and Toby about his new House. He couldn't wait for the school year to start, it was sure to be one he would never forget.
Were you surprised by the outcome of the trial?
How about the Sorting?
Hope you enjoyed this little fic, and maybe I might return to this AU and write some more one day. Thanks for reading and please leave a review!