Chapter 23 : A Second Trial
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It is extremely difficult to explain the emotions that pass through one's conscience when they sit in front of the entire ministry for a second time, being tried for a crime one didn't commit. Perhaps he deserved such a thing, but it was his own personal preference that if he be sent to Azkaban it before something he did. Perhaps the use of the three unforgivable curses, associating oneself with the Dark Lord, or murder would be the cause. Any of these would be perfectly legitimate. The notions that he be sentenced for attacking poor Colin Creevy made his blood boil. If he got convicted everyone he knew would hate him and his life would be beyond repair. Thus it would be fair to say Tom didn't know the meaning of hate before he met Bartholomew Crouch.
The man sat in the judges chair, his hair greased back neatly staring down at Tom icily. It gave him no trouble to return the loathing glare. A year ago he would have averted his gaze in shame, he had nothing to be sorry for this time around.
"Tom Marvelo Riddle the third," Crouch bellowed," You have been summoned here today on account of the disturbances that have been occurring at Hogwarts. What do you plead?"
The man was blunt, Tom would give him that much, "Not guilty," he said confidently back to the court room. Tom watched as Crouch's lip curled slightly.
"This is your fourth trial, Mr. Riddle," Crouch began.
"To the contrary, this is my second. I believe you termed our other two visits checkups, of purely a precautionary manner," Tom interrupted. He glanced over his shoulder at Dumbledore who stood behind his metal chair with a stoic expression plastered across his face. For a brief moment their eyes met and the man gave him a subtle nod.
"Very well this is your second trial then," Crouch replied unhappily, "My point here is that you are obviously a troubled child." Tom opened his mouth to interrupt again but Crouch raised his voice dramatically first, "Ladies and gentleman of the ministry a little over a year ago this young man was found in the custody of Augustine York. This convicted death eater has committed more crimes than any other man to have ever graced Azkaban. I warned everyone then. I told everyone that the boy was destined to follow in his father's footsteps. What's more is that York isn't even his true father. This boy is the son of he-who-must-not-be-named. The chamber of secrets has been opened. Is it so hard to believe that this child may have been the descendent of Salazar Slytherin with such parentage?"
Crouch exchanged a subtle gloating look with Dumbledore, challenging him to top such an argument.
Dumbledore's mouth turned into a slight smile, "Well I agree it is undeniable that Mr. Riddle hasn't come from a difficult bloodline. I don't see how this is relevant though."
Crouch stared at him, dumfounded, "How couldn't they be relavant?" he demanded," Whoever opened the chamber was the heir of Slytherin. Both York and You-know-who came from some kind of pure blood line. Both of their families have been in Slytherin since the school started. It is extreamly possible that he could be the descendant of Salazar Slytherin."
"I would like to call Severus Snape to the witness stand," Dumbledore said in response.
Crouch narrowed his eyes at Dumbledore suspiciously as Snape strolled into the room, standing at the other side of Tom. Tom hadn't expected to see Snape here and he studied the man's face carefully. He seemed to be avoiding eye contact with Tom as his cold gaze studied the jury distastefully. Tom cringed inwardly, Snape knew him better than any other living person on earth. The man had looked into his past and seen the memories that plagued him. Knowledge like that was powerful. Perhaps powerful enough to keep Tom out of Azkaban; however, it wasn't the type of knowledge that Tom wanted the ministry to see. He had retained his own secrets up until this point in time. They wouldn't be secrets much longer.
Crouch's mouth twitched," Professor Snape," he greeted in a less then welcoming tone. With that the questioning began.
"Why don't you explain the encounter that you had with Tom in the beginning of the school year Severus," Dumbledore urged.
"Just before the start of the school year Tom came to me asking for me to tutor him," Snape said
"What did you say," Dumbledore asked.
"I said no," Snape responded, "I had no desire to spend any more time educating ungrateful young wizards who cannot seem to grasp the concept of listening."
"Mr. Riddle insisted though," Dumbledore supplied.
"He wished to know the art of Occlemency," Snape said, "The boy wouldn't leave until I had agreed. As expected Mr. Riddle was incompetent, unable to find any success. We have been meeting every week since school began. The boy hasn't managed to prevent me from entering his mind in any form. His inability is derived from his lack of control over his ever so delicate emotions. These meetings are quite pointless as he has made no progress; however, I have continued to indulge him." Tom frowned slightly. Snape was lying, he had made progress. In their last meeting he had pushed him out for an entire five seconds. Tom followed the man's cold gaze to Crouch and he understood. It was of utmost importance that the jury believes that Snape had seen into Tom's mind.
"Why is this important to Mr. Riddle's case," Dumbledore asked politely.
"The day that the first message was written on the wall, and Mr. Filch's cat was petrified the boy was with me. He had been giving another pathetic attempt at the art. After he failed miserably for what must have been the twentieth time I dismissed him. He then walked directly to the Great Hall and had dinner. The cat was discovered when the students were dismissed. It is impossible that he could've petrified the thing. On top of this I have seen the boy's deepest and most pitiful thoughts. If he had so much as known that he was the heir of Slytherin I can assure you I would know," Snape explained.
When he finished a murmur passed through the crowd as they took in Snape's words. Crouch was now the one fighting an uphill battle.
Dumbledore's eyes scanned the jury examining their faces carefully before speaking, "Now Barty as you can see it is impossible our young Tom could've done anything to harm poor ."
Crouch's cheeks were turning red now; he managed to keep calm though. "May I ask why Mr. Riddle was out of bed at such a late hour?" he asked in a somewhat hostile tone.
"I had run out of the bandages I use to cover my dark mark," Tom explained," It was dark though and I made a wrong turn. Next thing I knew I saw someone frozen in the hallway. I went to go see who it was when Filch showed up and started accusing me of all these things I didn't do." He conveniently left out the part where he heard some kind of strange voice.
"If you wish to hear more Barty," Dumbledore started," I can assure you Mr. Riddle is quite admirable. He gets Outstandings in all of his classes, follows all of the rules. I don't think you could've asked for more from him. Shall we vote then?"
Crouch glared hatefully at Dumbledore, "All in favor of guilty," he called. Of the many people that sat in the jury only seven of them raised their hand, "All in favor of innocent." It seemed Tom would be let off the hook this time.
"Then I think we are done here," Dumbledore said amiably.
Crouch stood speechless with unhappiness," I have one last proposal," he announced. "Although you have managed to delude most of my colleagues into thinking that the boy is beyond fault, I assure you I haven't been fooled. The boy's a risk. It is undeniable. If he is found again in an undesirable position I would like him in Azkaban immediately. If then your problems persist afterwards he will be released. What do you say minister?"
Dumbledore's expression immediately hardened. The minister had simply been watching prior to this point. The man sat next to Crouch with an unreadable mask of indifference lying across his face. By asking the minister his opinion on this proposal, Crouch had managed to dance around the jury issue. The minister's word was law; if he agreed then Crouch's proposal would become law that second.
"Yes I believe that is fair," he said strongly.
Tom frowned. It seemed he would have to be slightly more cautious for the rest of the year.
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