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Harry Potter and the Time of Second Chances by Neville James
Chapter 28 : The Witness ( Part 2 )
 
Rating: 12+Chapter Reviews: 19


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A/N: Hello again! Still just me adding the other half. At least I had a half decent spot to cleave it, gah! I get so frustrated ... Well do enjoy. P.S. to all those interested, my year of unemployment will soon end, as I have just been hired at a summer camp in New York. First time worker in the States here = very excited. Today is just an awesome day! Take care everyone and leave me a happy note : D Kyle


Chapter 27: The Witness (Part 2)


The next morning found some of the most disheartened Gryffindors the castle had seen in years sitting quietly at the long table with forlorn expressions and nearly all empty dinnerware. The news of the trial had rapidly swept the castle, reminding every student of their recent losses and taking away the momentary excitement and enthusiasm that had been so thankfully instilled by the renewed dueling club.

Now Harry sat next to Marc and Neville, the blond boy wanting to do all he could for Ron in his time of need. As he had previously told Harry at St. Mungos, he fully intended to back his friend up if the opportunity arose. While Ron assured he was comforted by his friend’s support, he looked anything but as he rocked uneasily in his seat, refusing to eat anything placed on his plate.

The morning had begun with the dawn’s first lights illuminating the frantic form of Ron Weasley, pacing unnervingly in his dormitory. Harry had awoken second to find the Prefect muttering to himself about how terrible it would be should he land himself in Azkaban, noting most frequently the different ways his mother would kill him. It had taken nearly half an hour of reassurances from all of his roommates before Ron finally sat down, only to have an owl arrive with a note and send him pacing about once more, this time talking to himself loudly and describing some of the more detailed and unusual ways Mrs. Weasley would deal with him.

It turned out that only Ginny had the ability to soothe her older brother and now she was seated directly next to him with a hand on his shoulder while he swayed on the bench. Presently, she was trying to convince him to at least eat some toast, but he continued to explain that he would surely be sick if he did and therefore pushed the plate away again.

As breakfast came to a close, Professor Dumbledore announced to the students that they were to return to their common rooms and that lessons would be cancelled for the day. At nine o’clock should any students wish to attend the hearing, they were to return quietly and take a seat in a specially designated area as per Ron’s approval.

A clamour filled the hall as students began to amble toward the exit, Professor McGonagall’s voice barely being heard over the din.

‘Weasley, Weasley, Potter and Evans, if you could all please join me in the antechamber for a word. The Headmaster would like to go over a few things before the Wizengamot arrives,’ she said in her regular administrative voice, but coupled with her softened expression it made for a very rare yet reassuring sight.

The four teenagers walked solemnly behind their Transfiguration professor, and through a narrow doorway to find more than just the Headmaster awaiting them. Seated in various sized armchairs around the fire and all looking quite anxious were the rest of the Weasleys, Tonks and Kingsley, and a dark-haired woman Harry had never before seen.

The stranger stood next to the Headmaster and wore professional looking robes of deep purple. Her sleek black hair was pinned up neatly atop her head and as she turned to face the new arrivals Harry felt as though he had been hit in the gut. The woman’s large brown eyes and friendly flushed cheeks made her just as beautiful and approachable as her daughter.

‘Mister Weasley,’ the Headmaster said as a greeting, ‘I would like you to meet Marissa Chang. She has graciously volunteered her services to assist with your trial in any way that she can.’

‘Hello, pleasure to meet you,’ she offered her hand to Ron and then turned to Marc and Harry in turn. ‘Harry, how are you?’ she added when she shook his hand. ‘Cho’s told me so much about you.’

Harry smiled awkwardly at her for a moment before she turned back to Ron and began speaking a mile a minute about the many details of his trial.

‘I’ve read the extensive notes compiled for today’s trial, and honestly Mister Weasley, there is very little for you to worry about. Provided the statements made by yourself and your witnesses are true, the testimonials of Aurors Tonks and Shacklebolt will guarantee that you walk away entirely clear of charges.’

A collective sigh filled the large antechamber as all of the Weasley’s felt relief for their family member, though Ron did not seem as assured. Professor Dumbledore told Ron that he, Harry and Marc would now go over some preparatory questions alone with Mrs. Chang and that they would all see each other in a few moments for the trial. Harry watched nervously as each of the Weasleys either kissed or hugged Ron in a sign of luck and support before leaving the chamber to find seats in the hall.

As soon as they had gone, Mrs. Chang began asking questions that she would either be asking herself or that she anticipated the opposing witch or wizard to ask. Ron was rather taken aback by some of the more difficult and accusatory questions, flaring up in anger on more than one occasion.

‘I realise that you did not intend to murder someone Mister Weasley,’ Marissa Chang said politely as Ron made to stand up in anger once more, ‘but you need to be prepared when the Ministry official asks you a similar question. Reacting with rude outbursts and fits of anger will do nothing but reinforce the idea that you are a violent youth. It is the picture you will allow them to paint.’

Ron sniffed loudly but took his seat again and tried to calm himself. The red in his face was getting darker by the second and Harry feared that when the trial did begin, his face would be indiscernible from his hair. Mrs. Chang graciously gave Ron a break by asking Marc and Harry a few questions, mostly on what they had seen that night and then a little bit about Ron’s personality and other small things to boost his image. The hardest part for Harry was definitely reliving what was now one of the worst moments of his life. By the end of the session, though somewhat disheartened by the agonizing memories, Harry was feeling quite confident that his friend would be alright, and even Ron seemed to have visibly relaxed.

A soft knock on the door alerted them all that they were to take their places in the hall and a moment later the three boys followed Mrs. Chang through the door and into the magically enhanced Great Hall. At first Harry had barely recognized the room, having been magically doubled in size and filled with row upon row of spectator-like seats. Where the staff table usually sat at the head of the room, a single table and chair now sat, most likely the seat in which Ron would be questioned by the Ministry officials.

Harry was flooded with memories of his own trial when he looked up to the left and found the rows of seats filled with the very official looking members of the Wizengamot. In front of these rows sat three plush arm chairs, and Harry found himself extremely relieved to see them occupied by the Headmaster, Amelia Bones and Cornelius Fudge. While Fudge may have been insufferable, as far as Harry recalled, Amelia Bones had always been fair, something that would surely favor Ron’s case. Harry nodded politely to the three as he passed and received a curt nod in return from the short monocled woman. Fudge simply narrowed his eyes darkly.

Across form the Wizengamot were rows of seats housing the Hogwarts students that had come to witness the odd occurrence, which of course was everyone, and the hall was already filled with hushed whispers as the teenagers conversed about what they figured would result. The front most rows of this section had been reserved for the Weasleys and close friends, allowing Ron at least one entire wall of hope and support while he dealt with his nerves. Ron actually gave a small smile when Mad Eye Moody nodded his support from where he sat next to Arthur.

The space behind the main trial area was also filled with seats, most of them occupied now by students’ parents and what Harry assumed was the general wizarding public. Unsurprisingly, in the front row sat Rita Skeeter, her acid green quill at alert just waiting to scribble down some nasty and twisted version of the days sordid events. Among the crowd, Harry also found a couple of familiar faces like Madam Rosmerta and Mrs. and Mr. Honeyduke.

The three boys followed Mrs. Chang to one of two tables that sat in the middle of the hall and faced the single chair at the head of the room. Here they took their seats and Harry got his first look at the Official that would be questioning them. Unlike the wizard that had questioned Harry, Ron would be facing off with a very short but fierce looking woman with silver-blonde hair and piercing green eyes. Harry had never seen green eyes look as cold as the witch stared him down in a business-like fashion before moving her gaze onto the next two boys and finally back to her table and notes.

Dressed in flowing charcoal robes and armed with a facial expression that would have hushed Professor McGonagall, the Ministry witch cleared her throat impatiently to get the Wizengamot’s attention, and in the process stole away every last bit of hope that Mrs. Chang had just spent the last hour instilling in the boys.

‘If we could please get underway Minister,’ the woman said briskly. ‘There have already been far too many allowances for this trial so if we could please start before I am forced to believe it is truly a personal punishment.’

As she said this, the blonde woman looked over at Cho’s mother disdainfully and took on a very Malfoyesque look before looking back for the cue to begin.

‘Lovely to see you as well, Arianna,’ Mrs. Chang said politely, but Harry could tell that she was trying, and barely succeeding, to keep a smile on her face.

Fudge stood up at this point and it was clear to Harry that he was not at all pleased about the way things were unfolding. Hopefully it had been Dumbledore to suggest the ‘allowances’ previously mentioned by opposing council.

‘Welcome all to this unfortunate event,’ Fudge started, addressing mainly the Wizengamot and the rows of non-students, only glancing at them for a withering moment. ‘In the matter of Ronald Bilius Weasley, the Ministry of Magic has charged the sixteen year old with use of underage magic outside of school and more importantly the use of an Unforgivable curse. More specifically, the Avada Kedavra.’

Several shocked whispers ran through the crowd and Harry looked up to find some of the parents that had come shaking their heads in disapproval. He took slow steady breaths to keep his frustrations in check as the Minister continued the proceedings in an annoyed and almost grudging tone.

‘Today’s happenings are slightly unusual at best, and several alterations to the regular protocol have been made in an attempt to show the severity of the charges and to allow the public to understand the zero-tolerance policy enforced by the Ministry in such matters. To ensure a fair trial,’ he nearly ground the words through a closed jaw and glared pointedly at the Headmaster, ‘Mister Weasley has elected to choose his own representative in Mrs. Marissa Chang, who will be opposing to our own Miss Arianna Fairbanks. We shall hear from a number of witnesses and hear the telling of the accounts of the evening on which the charges occurred, at which time the Wizengamot shall discuss what they have heard and give a final ruling. I ask that everyone remain quiet throughout the entirety of the trial and now Mrs. Chang, if you could please start us off.’

Fudge hastily dropped back into his seat at this point and watched through narrowed eyes as Mrs. Chang stood up and walked into the cleared area at the head of the hall to address the Wizengamot.

‘Thank you Minister,’ she said offhandedly before smiling respectfully at the somber witches and wizards that would soon determine Ron’s fate. ‘I would like to begin by calling Ronald Weasley to the front for his initial account of what occurred on the evening of December twenty sixth.’

An old witch with a long graying plait nodded solemnly in approval and a moment later Ron had crossed the room and was sitting in the tiny table and chair, the focal point in the room.

‘Now, if you could please promise to tell the truth and nothing else, we can begin the questioning,’ Mrs. Chang said politely and smiled warmly at Ron, who as Harry had predicted, was already beet red and looking quite clammy.

‘Yes, ma’am,’ Ron choked out quietly.

‘Very well, could you please state your full name, age, and level of magical schooling completed to date.’

‘Ronald Bilius Weasley, sixteen, and fifth year at Hogwarts,’ he answered normally.

‘Very good, now can you tell me about the night of December twenty sixth?’ she dove right in with her first prepared question, something Ron unfortunately had not gotten used to.

Ron swallowed hard but nodded his head in assent before beginning his tale.

‘It all started with a great holiday,’ he said calmly. ‘We had a wonderful dinner with family and friends and as the night came to a close, we said goodbye to our friends and turned in for the evening. I had been asleep for only an hour I suppose when I was shaken awake by one of my roommates who told me that Herm-’ he paused and took a deep breath. ‘He said that Hermione was in danger and that we needed to help her.’

Harry looked over to find that Miss Fairbanks was madly scribbling notes on a stack of parchment, possibly even quicker than Rita’s quill could manage.

‘I instantly got ready to help and myself and my two roommates went to Hermione’s home to check and see if she was alright. Unfortunately when we got there we saw the Dark Mark already hovering above her home and ran as quickly as we could, hoping that we weren’t too late.’

He paused again here, and Harry could see that several people in the stands were looking sympathetic for the red-haired boy. His mother in particular looked torn at having to sit on the sidelines while her son was forced to relive such a horrid experience. Ron remained quiet for the next little while and only resumed the tale when prompted by Mrs. Chang.

‘What did you find at the Granger residence Mister Weasley?’ she asked softly.

‘I was the first to open the door and what I saw was truly horrible. The walls were covered in the burns and holes of deflected hexes and curses, clearly signs of a lengthy battle. At the end of the hallway I spotted two Death Eaters, both cloaked and wearing masks, but hovering over and training their wands at something on the corridor floor. It took me a moment to realise that it was Hermione, and when I did take in the severity of the situation I reacted the only way that I could. I needed to save Hermione.’

He fell silent again, now staring down at the floor with tears in his eyes. Harry wanted to be next to him so he could grab his shoulder in support or clap him on the back or anything really, but Mrs. Chang immediately went on with her questions.

‘Could you tell everyone the names of the roommates involved that evening please, Mister Weasley?’

‘Marcus Evans and Harry Potter,’ he replied quietly.

As he had expected, the instant his name was mentioned a low buzz filled the room, only to be extinguished by a glare from the Minister.

‘And were they both present for every moment of the evening?’ Mrs. Chang asked another of her prepared questions.

‘Yes, ma’am. They were barely a step behind me the entire time.’

‘Very well, now can you tell me what curse you used on the Death Eaters?’

‘I used the Avada Kedavra on the nearest figure, but the other disapparated,’ Ron said determinedly, showing that he far from regretted his decision. ‘I thought they would kill Hermione if I didn’t stop them.’

Mrs. Chang nodded and continued.

‘Once the other Death Eater left, what happened?’

‘I ran up to see if Hermione was alright. She was face down so I couldn’t tell. When I rolled her over I knew we were too late, and that’s when Aurors Tonks and Shacklebolt arrived.’

‘Before you shot your curse, did you believe that Miss Granger was still alive?’

‘Of course I did,’ Ron said loudly, ‘I had to believe I could save her.’

‘Thank you Mister Weasley,’ Mrs. Chang said kindly before turning to the Wizengamot and justifying the actions. ‘As you have just heard, Mister Weasley was not acting out of anger, but rather in defense of one of his best friends. He did not know that she was dead until after her body was turned over, meaning that he had no reason to believe she was helpless.’

Several members gave small nods, indicating that Mrs. Chang should continue. Ron was allowed back to his regular seat and Tonks was called to the stand next.

‘Can you verify that what Mister Weasley has said is true?’ she asked confidently.

‘Absolutely,’ the purple-haired Auror said gravely. ‘Kingsley and I arrived as quickly as we could, only to find that Hermione was already dead along with a Death Eater.’

Tonks answered Mrs. Chang’s questions easily, all of which were repeated and verified by a testimonial by Kingsley a few moments later. After each person was asked to return to their seats, Harry could feel a weight lifted off his shoulders and could tell by the look on Ron’s face that he too was beginning to calm down. Marc was called next and he answered Mrs. Chang’s questions just as easily as the others, furthering the strength in Ron’s obvious innocence.

Harry was asked to take the tiny seat next, and just as he had expected he would, he felt a flush enter his cheeks the instant all eyes were on him. He tried to focus on the friendly faces of the Weasley’s or the Professors sitting behind them. He even tried to concentrate on some of the other students but found it difficult when he saw the uncertain glances he received from some of the public. There seemed to be an equal amount of friendly faces and doubtful ones filling the crowd, something that made Harry realise his palms were sweating.

‘If you could please state your full name, age and last year of magical education completed,’ he heard his first question.

‘Harry James Potter, sixteen, fifth year Hogwarts,’ he answered coolly and waited for the next bit.

‘Very well, now can you confirm what Mister Weasley said to be true?’

‘Absolutely. Ron was only trying to protect Hermione by using the curse. I saw it all just like Marc did, and if Ron didn’t react quickly it’s quite possible that Marc and I would have been the next targets. He was a brilliant defense,’ Harry said quite loudly, watching skeptically as Rita’s acid quill scratched zealously across her notepad.

‘Very good Mister Potter, you may return to your seat,’ Mrs. Chang said with a smile, pointing toward their table.

‘Actually Mister Potter, you can stay right where you are and save yourself the trip,’ Arianna Fairbanks interrupted for the first time. ‘Seeing as how Mrs. Chang is out of witnesses, I had might as well start with you.’

Marissa Chang threw her a scathing look, but quickly turned to Harry and gave him a small nod of consent, causing him to retake the tiny seat and await a new barrage of questions. Miss Fairbanks waited until Cho’s mother had retaken her seat with Ron and Marc before stepping onto the floor and pacing back and forth with her notes several times.

‘Mister Potter,’ she began in a very clinical tone, ‘can you please tell me where you were staying over Christmas holidays?’

‘At the Nest with the Weasleys ma’am. That’s in Hogsmeade,’ he answered truthfully, unsure of where this question was going.

‘In Hogsmeade?’ she repeated sounding very interested. ‘I see. And where exactly is the Granger residence located?’

Harry visibly slumped as he realised what she was getting at. Marc had used an illegal portkey for the three of them to get there, but apparently they still did not know who created it.

‘In London,’ he answered more quietly.

‘So how is it, Mister Potter, that three underage wizards made the trip from Hogsmeade village all the way over to London?’ Miss Fairbanks now asked with a hinted smile.

‘If I remember correctly, a portkey did the trick nicely,’ he replied with a near identical smile, the sarcasm nearly pouring from him. ‘Shall I describe it for you?’ he added unnecessarily, getting snickers from the students’ stands but winning a glare from the questioner.

‘And how exactly did three underage wizards know to create a Portkey?’ she pressed on, ignoring Harry’s early onset of difficulty.

‘I’m afraid I’m not sure,’ he answered truthfully. ‘I was far too concerned for Hermione to even think about it.’

A sniff from Miss Fairbanks and a small smirk from Mrs. Chang told him that this was the right answer.

‘Very well. Please explain to me how you were able to know of Miss Granger’s predicament from all the way in Hogsmeade village. As far as I know, her home was not connected to the Floo network, and she did not send for help.’

Harry deflated once more, struck completely off guard by the last question. What was he to say? He could not very well explain that he had a prophetic dream in which he saw Hermione’s screaming face and the forms of the Death Eaters. If he did that, they would most likely cart him off to St. Mungos before the trial even ended.

‘I just knew,’ he finally answered very seriously.

‘I’m afraid that’s not good enough,’ Miss Fairbanks said coldly. ‘You expect all these people to believe that you just knew your friend was in danger and then risked your life and the lives of your roommates, while performing underage magic to save her?’

‘Yes,’ he replied just as icily. ‘You can believe what you like, but the fact that you’re skeptical about it only tells me that you have never had a true friend for whom you cared so deeply, their well being or lack there of was enough to interrupt your thoughts.’

‘Stay on topic Potter,’ she hissed at this and flipped through her notes once more.

‘When Mister Weasley attacked the Death Eater using the Killing curse, had the attacker done anything to indicate he might pose a threat?’

‘What?’ Harry asked incredulous, his surprise filling the air. ‘Pose a threat! It was a bloody Death Eater, with a wand trained on Hermione on the floor. If there’s something more threatening Miss Fairbanks, please enlighten me,’ he shouted disgustedly.

The short blonde woman gave another sniff and narrowed her eyes before turning to address the Wizengamot.

‘I will now move on to Marcus Evans, as this witness is no longer being cooperative and is trying in every way to derail this trial.’

Harry fumed in his seat as he saw the many nods of the members agreeing to have him sent back to his seat, before dropping loudly next to Ron and watching as Marc took his place. Mrs. Chang put a hand on his shoulder and told him not to worry about it before turning her attention back to Fairbanks’ next victim.

‘Mister Evans,’ she started once again very professionally. ‘In your opinion, how would you describe Mister Weasley’s temperament?’

‘I suppose it’s quite good. He’s been a friend to me since the day I met him, and he’s always been there for me. He’s a pretty good mate to any of his friends really,’ Marc said with a smile in Ron’s direction.

‘And how long exactly have you known him?’ he was then asked.

‘Since the start of year,’ Marc said more quietly now, beginning to understand what would come next.

‘Well that’s not very long now is it? Why did you just meet this year?’ she pressed.

‘Because I just transferred to Hogwarts for this fifth year,’ he said mechanically.

‘From where did you transfer?’ she asked with a false interest, reminding Harry greatly of Umbridge’s insincere sweetness and making him want to hex her right there.

‘Durmstrang,’ he said plainly.

‘Ah, Durmstrang,’ Fairbanks echoed the name loudly and with a pitying tone. ‘I see. I suppose that would explain how you knew to create a Portkey. Very tricky magic those are.’

‘I didn’t learn it at Durmstrang, and they’re really not that difficult for a competent caster,’ he threw her a glare.

‘Where did you learn it then?’ she asked sternly.

‘I learned on my own,’ he ground out. ‘It doesn’t take a genius to learn from watching a parent for ten years. Now did you want to discuss pumpkin pasties, because I watched my mum make those all my life as well?’

Another round of snickers filled the hall, causing Miss Fairbanks to once again remove the witness and replace him with another. Tonks and Kingsley were both questioned next, and despite the woman’s attempts to discredit them, they refused to indulge her with emotional responses. By the end of their questioning, the room was very convinced that the image the Aurors had walked in on was one with two very dead bodies.

Finally Ron was called to the front for his final questioning, and Harry was definitely beginning to worry as he watched the tall Weasley take his seat in the tiny chair and stare at the floor determinedly. Things were not going as well as they had hoped, and now Mrs. Chang was reviewing her notes rather hectically; not the most reassuring of acts.

Harry looked over to the plush chairs, hoping for even the slightest of encouragements from the Headmaster or even Ms. Bones, but was shocked to find the old wizard had left. He spun his head around, his eyes searching every inch of the room as Ron’s questioning began, still unable to find any hint of where Dumbledore may have gotten to. Did he not feel this was important enough?

‘Mister Weasley,’ Fairbanks started in a much more brisk tone than she had with the others. ‘You performed the Avada Kedavra on a human being, effectively murdering him on the spot. Is this true?’

Ron looked up at her with fury in his eyes, and Harry could tell this was the response she was looking for. He tried to get Ron’s attention, luckily making eye contact and shaking his head in warning before the blue-eyed boy responded.

‘No ma’am,’ Ron ground out. ‘I did not murder anyone. I used the curse in defense for Hermione and the others in the room.’

Arianna threw a scathing look over her shoulder at Harry before continuing.

‘I’m afraid that simply is not good enough Mister Weasley. Any number of curses could have been employed to incapacitate the attackers, and from what I’ve heard from the witnesses, Miss Granger was already dead when you arrived. Is this not true?’

‘I didn’t know she was dead,’ Ron shouted, red-faced and clearly furious. ‘I thought I could still save her, so I tried! That is not illegal!’ he added, slamming his fists down on the table in a fit. ‘My best friend is dead and you’re all worried about the poor Death Eater. It makes me sick!’

Harry closed his eyes as Miss Fairbanks dismissed Ron with a smile and took her seat once more at her table. After a few moments of reviewing their notes, both Miss Fairbanks and Mrs. Chang got to their feet and approached the Wizengamot. They spoke in hushed tones for a moment before the entire group excused themselves into the antechamber to further deliberate.

Harry, Ron and Marc were now sitting alone at their table, most eyes still watching each of them with calculating gazes, wondering if they were lying or if perhaps they were telling the truth. From the looks in the crowd, Harry decided that the majority of people agreed with Ron’s actions and hoped that the Wizengamot felt the same way. Both boys reassured Ron one last time of his safety, before the door to the antechamber reopened and the group emerged, closely followed by a perturbed looking Ms. Bones and a very smug Minister for Magic. As though that was not enough, Mrs. Chang stormed back to their table looking furious and Miss Fairbanks looked all too pleased with herself. Harry noticed at the same time that the Headmaster has reentered the hall and was also retaking his seat.

Harry watched him for a moment as the whispers began to die down in anticipation of what would come next, but he found that the expression on the old man’s face was foreign to him, leaving a very unsettled feeling in the pit of his stomach. Dumbledore’s face was unreadable for the first time in Harry’s life, and hard as he tried he could not get the man to look his way; it began to feel like fifth year all over again. Dumbledore was staring meaningfully at something across the room, and when Harry finally followed his gaze over to the Hogwarts stands he was very surprised to see Severus Snape sitting in the back row with Professors Sharpbane and Black.

Harry was about to nudge Ron and Marc to let them know, but was prevented as the Minister stood to give the deliberation.

‘Thank you all for being so patient,’ he began with an undersized smile, brushing the sleeve of his lime green jacket unconsciously. ‘It has been thoroughly discussed, and as expected the Wizengamot have come to the rightful conclusion that Mister Weasley did indeed use excessive force in a situation that did not call for such drastic measures. While there was some debate on the sentencing, it has been agreed that three years in Azkaban will be sufficient-’

The old man’s words were drowned out suddenly by an uproar of angry shouts and protests, most of them coming from the Weasleys, Professors and students. Harry had gotten to his feet along with Marc and both were now being held back by Kingsley, Moody and Charlie to prevent them hitting the Minister. Ron sat quietly in his seat, looking stunned and unsure of what to do as Mrs. Chang tried to console him.

‘SILENCE!’ Fudge’s magically enhanced voice boomed over the hall, stopping nearly everyone from shouting obscenities in his direction. ‘The decision has been made.’

Amelia Bones got to her feet now and everyone stared at her expectantly, hoping that as the head of the Magical Law Enforcement Department, she might overturn the ruling.

‘While I do not agree with the decision made,’ she said in her low gruff voice, ‘Mister Weasley is not able to present us with a witness who can say with certainty that Miss Granger was alive. The two Aurors present have made it abundantly clear that the young Miss was dead and that leaves us no choice but to look at the Unforgivable as an act of violence and vengeance. I truly am sorry Mister Weasley, but my hands are tied.’

‘Surely there is something that can be done. The boy is after all under age Cornelius,’ Dumbledore finally stood and made his presence known. Harry was afraid that he would not.

‘You listen here Dumbledore,’ Fudge trembled in anger, his face becoming as red as it usually did when the short man confronted the Headmaster. ‘The decision has been made, and no amount of coercion from you will change that. Unless you have somebody up your sleeve who was there that night and who can clearly show to the world that Miss Granger was alive when the curse was shot, the boy will be in Azkaban tonight!’

Dumbledore smiled at him then and surprised everyone by taking his seat.

‘If that’s what it will take, very well Cornelius.’

As if on cue the large ornate doors to the Great Hall swung open and every head turned to watch amd gasp as Dumbledore’s witness strode in, wand gripped firmly in hand and an expression to kill. Harry watched through disbelieving eyes as she made her way purposefully toward the stands, and if he had not known her better, he would have thought that Hermione was out for blood.



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