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SIYE Time:22:11 on 18th November 2017


These Cuts I Have
By melindaleo

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Category: Post-DH/AB
Characters:All
Genres: Drama
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 475
Summary: The war has been won, yet the aftershocks continue. The scattered survivors are left to pick up the pieces and find ways to move on. Join the various members of the extended Weasley family as they struggle to rebuild and cope with the consequences. And of course there are still Death Eaters left to find.
Hitcount: Story Total: 86610; Chapter Total: 3207
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Hope you enjoy!




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Chapter Twenty-Three
Trials and Tribulations



Ron and Harry stared up at the gleaming chandelier in the center of the marble lobby at Gringotts. It sparkled magnificently, casting bright prisms of light around the cavernous main hall. It was the first time they’d been back since their break-in, but there was no sign any damage had been done. Ron felt slightly off-balance as he warily checked all the shadowy corners. The last time he’d been here, he’d been under disguise and following Hermione, who was Polyjuiced as Bellatrix Lestrange. He’d left on a dragon. This time he was here for simple banking.

Life was weird.

Goblins worked busily behind the counter, but as of yet, none had taken notice of their presence. Ron wondered if there would be a scene, but Bill had promised to be on-hand to ensure there would be no trouble.

Ron glanced over at Harry’s profile. His friend looked pale and wary, his eyes darting quickly at all corners of the bank. He was definitely on edge. Ron hoped Bill wouldn’t keep them waiting long.

They’d come into Diagon Alley after class with plans to visit the Quidditch shop. Harry needed a new broom in order to meet with the Auror Quidditch team on Friday night. Excitement bubbled in Ron’s stomach at the thought, and he knew Harry was just as excited by the prospect of playing Quidditch again.

Although he hadn’t said anything, Ron knew Harry had slept badly the night before. Ron had heard him groaning in his sleep, but he still took it as a good sign. If Harry was no longer casting a Silencing Charm when he went to bed, it meant the nightmares had improved.

Ron had been plagued with nightmares since the war, as well. He usually woke up in a panic after watching Harry die, or listening to Hermione scream in pain. He wished those images would fade but didn’t think they ever would.

Harry put a hand to his chest, grimacing as he took a deep breath. Ron had noticed him doing this several times during class, as well.

“You all right?” he asked quietly.

Harry nodded, dropping his hand immediately. “Chest cold,” he said shortly. “Ginny showed me where your mum keeps some Pepper-Up Potion. I think it’s wearing off,” he said.

Before Ron could reply, Bill emerged from a door to their right and waved them over. Ron thought he looked highly respectable in his pressed, Gringotts robes.

“Oi,” he said easily. “I was beginning to wonder if you were going to show.”

“Pierce kept us longer than expected,” Harry replied.

“Yeah, ‘cause Benson had trouble mastering a Tracking Charm,” Ron grumbled.

He didn’t think Benson would’ve had nearly the trouble with the charm if she’d just paid attention instead of flirting with Tate. To be fair, he knew his temper was shorter because he was so anxious to get to Quality Quidditch Supplies, however.

Harry grinned. “I think Pierce is trying to cram in as much as possible before the trials,” he said.

“They start tomorrow, right?” Bill asked.

“Some of the smaller ones do, but they’ll be closed sessions,” Harry replied. “The first big one is Umbridge next week. I think it’ll draw a big crowd.”

“We’re listed as witnesses on that one,” Ron said. He, Harry and Hermione were all scheduled to testify against their former Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Ron could hardly wait until she got what was coming to her.

“All right, let’s get this done. First, here you go, Ron,” Bill said, handing Ron several parchments.

“What’s this?” Ron asked.

“I started the paperwork to get you your own vault, you’ll just need to sign when you go to the counter,” Bill replied.

“A vault?” Ron asked faintly, staring at the parchment. It hadn’t occurred to him, despite the fact both George and the Ministry were paying him.

“I got mine right after I started work. It’ll help you to save if it’s not in your pocket all the time,” Bill said. “You can have your pay deposited directly to your account.”

Ron’s insides felt warm as he puffed out his chest. The idea of having his own vault pleased him greatly. Hermione didn’t even have her own vault, yet. Ron could hardly wait to tell her.

Bill led them over to the counter where Ron and Harry each approached a goblin. Bill went with Harry, while Ron placed his parchment on the counter.

“I want to get a vault,” he said, his voice cracking embarrassingly.

The goblin looked over his spectacles before looking over the parchment. It took several moments and Ron tried his best not to fidget. “Sign here,” he said, his voice low and gravelly. Ron signed his name, feeling important.

“Wand, please,” the goblin said, sounding rather bored.

Ron handed over his wand, and said, “I’d like my pay from the Ministry deposited directly to my account. I’m in the Auror training program.”

He felt stupid after he said it, and the goblin didn’t look impressed. Ron glanced nervously over at Bill and Harry. Bill was talking animatedly with the goblin, but Harry looked tense. Ron knew his friend had been worried about his reception. While Ron watched, Harry pressed his hand to his chest again.

“Here’s your key,” the goblin said, startling him as he pushed a small vault key towards Ron. “There is a fine if you lose it. Your vault is number 759.”

Ron took the shiny key, staring happily at it.

“Thanks,” he said, but the goblin was already looking for the next customer. Ron walked over to where Harry and Bill were still standing.

“Everything go okay?” he asked.

“Got a lecture about respecting bank property,” Harry said, scowling.

“They had to feel they were in control,” Bill said easily. “You did good.”

Harry nodded, his scowl fading. “Did you get a vault?” he asked.

“Yep, vault number 759 belongs to Ronald B. Weasley,” Ron said proudly.

“Nicely done,” Bill said, as a goblin with long, wispy white hair approached. “This is Eargit. He’ll be taking us to your vault, Harry.”

Bill nodded at the goblin who returned the gesture. “Which vault are you visiting?” he asked.

“My vault,” Harry replied.

“They are both yours, Mr. Potter,” Eargit said condescendingly. “To which would you like to go?”

Harry grimaced. “Not the Black vault,” he said tersely.

“Very well. Follow me,” Eargit said, leading them through a door behind the counter into a stone corridor lined with rail tracks.

Ron had ridden in the carts before when he’d gone to his parents’ vault, but he never enjoyed it. The crazy ride they’d had when they broke into Gringotts and ended up getting dumped out of one hadn’t improved that impression. Eargit whistled for a cart, and the three wizards piled in behind the goblin. The ride seemed much longer than it took to get to the Weasley’s vault, Ron thought, glad when it ended. He and Bill followed Harry as he opened his vault.

Ron stared, stunned at the piles and piles of Knuts, Sickles and Galleons. They stretched back as far as his eye could see. Ron had never seen so much money in one place, and his mouth dropped open as his eyes bugged. Bill nudged him sharply with his elbow, and Ron noticed Harry looked rather embarrassed.

Ron had always known Harry had money, and if he’d come to Harry’s vault even a year ago, he’d have been jealous. Nastily jealous. But now, Ron had the memory of the confrontation on Privet Drive, and how callously his relatives spoke about him. Harry might be rich in one way, but he was completely destitute in others.

Ron, along with his father and brothers, had returned from Privet Drive vowing to never reveal they’d been there to any of the others. It wasn’t nearly what the Dursleys deserved, but the publicity of bringing them to trial would hurt Harry just as much.
And Harry had been through enough.

“What’s this?” Harry asked, moving toward some documents on a lighted pedestal to the left. He frowned as he picked them up, his eyes roving over the wording.

“What is it?” Ron asked.

Harry, who had been pale to start with, lost his remaining color as his back went rigid. “It’s the deed to the house in Godric’s Hollow,” he said flatly.

Ron wondered why he’d never noticed it there before. The pedestal was rather prominent.

“It would’ve been placed there when you came of age,” Bill said. “Have you been here since then?”

Harry shook his head absently, absorbed in whatever was written on the documents. “No. I was wanted, remember?”

Bill nodded, grimacing. “The property is yours, but you don’t have to decide anything right now,” he said gently. “You can just leave it as is.”

Harry shuddered slightly as he put the papers down. Ron could tell he was disturbed — who could blame him, really? — but he didn’t want Harry to sink into melancholy.

“Come on, mate. Grab some gold, and let’s go get you a broom. It’s unnatural that you haven’t splurged on anything yet. I’d have never been able to control myself,” Ron said.

The only thing he ever remembered Harry splurging on was sweets on the train before first year.

Harry shrugged and filled his money-bag. “When I first got the vault, I didn’t know how much it would cost to get through seven years of school.”

Ron’s gut twisted uncomfortably. The only thought he’d ever had about money was the fact he never had any. It had never occurred to him that Harry had been supporting himself on his own all that time. There was a lot he’d never noticed, and it made him feel like a heel.

“There’re several new brooms over at Quality Quidditch Supplies. If you get there and realize you didn’t get enough, you can also have it drawn from your vault,” Bill said.

“Okay. Thanks, Bill… er… for everything,” Harry said awkwardly.

Bill shrugged. “Can’t seem to stop myself being a big brother,” he said easily. “All right, are you two all set now?”

Ron really wanted to go see his vault, despite knowing there wasn’t much in it at the moment. Still, he thought it was better to get Harry out of the bank before he could begin to dwell on unpleasant memories.

There was Quidditch to think about.

“Want to come to the Quidditch shop with us, Bill?” Ron asked, climbing back into the cart.

“Thanks, but no. Fleur is expecting me for dinner,” Bill said.

They said their goodbyes, and Ron and Harry strolled down the street. Harry kept his head low, trying not to draw attention. Ron reckoned it was a losing battle, but he hoped they’d get to look at some brooms before it happened.

“You can always get another Firebolt,” Ron said. “It’s still top of the line, but there’s a new one called the Nimbus Flash that’s been getting rave reviews from—”

Ron suddenly realized he was walking alone. He turned around and saw Harry standing on the sidewalk staring up at Eeylops Owl Emporium. Ron walked back to him.
“Oh, yeah, you need an owl, don’t you? Want to go in?” he asked.

Harry shook his head. “I’ll have to get one once Ginny goes to Hogwarts, but not yet. I think I’ll let her pick one out,” he said, looking away.

Harry stuffed his hands in his pockets and began to walk. He’d been really fond of Hedwig, and Ron knew her loss had upset him more than he’d admitted. Ron didn’t like to admit how much he liked his pets, either.

“You’ve got a birthday coming up. Maybe someone will get you one?” Ron said, planning on telling Ginny about it when they got home. She’d been harping about what to get him for days.

“Hagrid gave me Hedwig for my eleventh birthday,” Harry said wistfully.

“So, it’s sort of a birthday tradition, then,” Ron said, pushing open the door to the Quidditch shop.

They both were drawn like moths to flame at a display in the center of the store. Fortunately, the shop was near empty this close to closing, and the few customers at the counter hadn’t noticed them.

Harry pressed his hand to his chest as he stared at the brooms, again wincing when he took a deep breath.

“You’d better remember to have some Pepper-Up before the try-outs on Friday if that cold is still bothering you,” Ron said.

“He didn’t say it was a try-out,” Harry replied.

“Yeah, but it is,” Ron said confidently.

Ron studied the lines on the new Nimbus, appreciating the thickness of the handle. The grip looked suburb. He noticed Harry’s eyes had been drawn back to the Firebolt.

“We’re just about to close, so if you’ve made a decision…” the clerk said, clearly wanting them to leave so he could go home. He stopped short when they both turned toward his voice, stuttering, “Mr. Potter! Mr. Weasley! It’s an honor to have you here.”

His eyes darted up to Harry’s forehead as he exuberantly shook their hands. The clerk behind the desk walked over, as well.

“We didn’t know you were coming,” the first clerk said. “What can we do for you?”

“Harry needs a new broom,” Ron said, enjoying the attention much more than Harry.

“The new Nimbus Flash is our most recent best seller. It’s sturdy enough for the Beater position,” the clerk said enthusiastically. The other clerk walked over and locked the door, turning the sign to the closed position.

“Which position do you play, Mr. Potter?” the first clerk asked.

“Seeker,” Harry replied.

“The Nimbus is a fantastic broom, but for the Seeker position, I’d still recommend the Firebolt. It’s sleek and built for speed whilst the Nimbus works better for Beaters and Keepers because it can’t be knocked off course as easily,” the clerk said knowledgeably.

“I’m certain either company would be delighted with your interest. They would most likely ask you to come in for a test run, Mr. Potter,” the desk clerk said, staring transfixed at Harry’s scar.

“No,” Harry said quickly. “I want to buy and choose my own broom. I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t mention to the Daily Prophet that I was here.”

“Of course, Mr. Potter, anything you say. And you, Mr. Weasley? Are you interested in a new broom?” the clerk asked.

“Not today,” Ron replied.

The second clerk handed Harry each of the brooms to examine. Harry compared the weight of each carefully. He took his time, poking at the bristles and running his hand along the wood before handing the Nimbus to Ron.

“I’ll take the Firebolt,” Harry said. “I had one before, and it’s a great broom.”

“The speed is impressive,” the clerk agreed.

Ron felt the solidness of the Nimbus instantly and could understand why Harry would prefer the lighter Firebolt. A Seeker needed speed, while strength was important to a Keeper. Perhaps if he made the team, he’d think about an upgrade, as well.

Harry left the shop with his moneybag considerably lighter, but a broom in hand and a smile on his face. Ron wished Friday would hurry up and arrive.


*****

It was a struggle to get through class on Friday from the moment it started. Harry’s mind was on what would happen afterwards, even before he sat down to take his test on Stealth and Tracking. Fortunately, he and Ron had abundant experience on the matter, so Harry breezed through the test without difficulty.

He’d slept badly the night before, plagued by nightmares and a stabbing pain in his chest. He was no longer having nightmares every night, and the intensity level of the ones he did have had decreased, but every now and again, one would sneak up on him and catch him unawares. The pain in his chest was more troubling. The ache in his lungs had made breathing difficult, and Harry had suffered in silence, trying to stifle his hacking cough until morning light filled Ron’s orange bedroom.

He’d finally pulled himself out of bed, gasping as pain shot fire through his lungs. He’d gone downstairs and taken a dose of Pepper-Up Potion from Mrs. Weasley’s potion kit. Ginny had shown him where it was kept, and he had to admit, it had done its job. He’d sat through class all day without a twinge of pain. It worked so well, he’d brought a second dose with him to take right before Quidditch.

As the day was nearing its end, the pain in his chest was returning, and he absently ran his hand along it. He’d never had a cold last this long, and he thought it might be time to get it checked out. Not before Quidditch, however.

It wasn’t as if it bothered him all day, it was mostly the nights that had got bad. His chest would tighten painfully, making his breathing fast and erratic, almost as if his lungs were constricting. And his cough was getting deeper. Still, Pepper-Up quelled it, and Harry really didn’t want anyone to notice. He’d shown enough weakness recently, he didn’t want to be sick, too.

If it didn’t clear up over the weekend, he’d see the Mediwitch at the Ministry on Monday. Decision made, he gathered his belongings and waited for Inspector Pierce to dismiss them. His leg bounced in anticipation. He could hardly wait to fly.

He, Ginny and Ron had taken turns testing out his new broom on the Quidditch pitch, and Harry felt as if it was welcoming an old friend. Ron knew where Opachinski Glen was, and he’d brought his broom to class, as well.

Ginny had given him a searing kiss for luck that morning, and Harry was eager for the try-out to go well in hopes his congratulatory kiss would be just as good. Despite his request to the shop-keeper, his picture was on the cover of the Daily Prophet the day after he’d purchased his new broom. The shop-keeper had kept his word about not revealing which broom Harry had chosen, but the fact he’d been in the shop seemed to be enough for the paper to run with it.

Then Witch Weekly ran an article speculating why Ginny wasn’t with him, and hinting that they were on the rocks. Harry was disgusted. The papers implied trouble whenever they were spotted together — once even accusing Ginny of two-timing him — and now they insinuated trouble when she wasn’t with him. Harry thought they just wanted scandal. What was it about his life that it seemed to follow him?

“All right,” Inspector Pierce said. “There will be no class on Monday, and the schedule will be sporadic next week. As I’m certain you are all aware, Dolores Umbridge goes on trial next Monday. Some of you, and many of the Ministry, will be testifying, and I’m certain several of you will want to be there. I’ll send an owl to let you know our schedule next week, but again, no class on Monday.”

All of the students who had been at Hogwarts under Umbridge scowled, but squared their shoulders resolutely. Even Cormac McLaggan looked determined.

Harry planned to attend the trial along with Ron, Hermione and Ginny.

“I think most of us will be here, anyway,” Violet Benson said. “Who doesn’t want to see that bitch get held accountable?”

Harry glanced at her sharply. “What did she do to you?” he asked.

“My best friend was Muggle-born,” Violet answered tersely. Harry had never seen Violet without her trademark flirtatious grin, and it was somehow disturbing. He didn’t need to ask what had happened to her friend.

“I won’t be here,” Rory said in a bored voice. “I can find better things to do with a free day off.”

“I’m going,” Susan said. “My auntie told me stories of the havoc she created even before her reign at Hogwarts. She was always drawn to whoever was in power.”

“You must be a witness about casting your Patronus during one of the Muggle-born trials, right, Harry?” Duncan Tate asked. “That was all over the papers.”

“And about starting the resistance against Umbridge at Hogwarts,” Lisa added.

“For someone so reserved, you certainly do find a way to make yourself the center of attention, don’t you, Potter,” Rory replied witheringly.

“Some people step up to do the right thing while others just stand by,” Ron snarled.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rory demanded, firing up.

“Take your disagreements outside,” Inspector Pierce said firmly. “My time is over, and I’m not playing referee to a bunch of children. Class dismissed.”

Harry quickly grabbed his bag and moved toward the door. He wasn’t going to be drawn into an argument with Rory before his Quidditch try-out. Both Ron and Cormac followed him out the door whilst the rest of the class gathered their things.

“That git,” Ron said, obviously still peeved.

“He has a point,” Cormac said. “You do get special attention.”

“Do you need something, McLaggan, or are you just following us to be a general nuisance?” Harry asked.

“I’ve got a date,” Cormac said pompously. “What’s your hurry?”

Harry opened his mouth to respond, but Ron elbowed him sharply in his ribs. Harry staggered as pain ripped through his chest. Fortunately, it went unnoticed by the other two.

“Our plans are none of your business. Go have fun on your date,” Ron said.

Cormac sneered. “And you two enjoy your… plans,” he said, a clear insinuation in his words.

Ron’s ears turned red, but Harry grabbed his arm and let Cormac walk away. He knew Ron was pleased that Cormac didn’t know about the Quidditch try-out, and he thought it was better that way. Ron would do much better without Cormac there. The arrogant wizard could still make Ron insecure, despite the fact Ron’s Quidditch skills had grown exponentially.

Of course, neither of them had played in over a year.

“Let’s do this,” Ron said resolutely, his ears still red.

They Apparated to the Glen, which was located just outside the city limits in a wooded area. The Ministry used it for its matches, and the entire area was covered in Muggle-Repelling Charms. They were told each department had scheduled practice times. Hans Rickman was already there, and he walked over to meet them, along with another, familiar wizard.

“I think you know Kenneth Trowler,” Hans said, indicating the short, sturdy wizard with dull blonde hair standing next to him. Kenneth had been in Fred and George’s year at Hogwarts, and he also assisted Inspector Pierce in training the new recruits.

“Hello, Inspector Trowler,” Harry said.

“I didn’t know you’d be here,” Ron said blankly.

Kenneth smiled tightly. “You can call me Ken during Quidditch only,” he said. “We lost our Seeker during the battle. You’ve got big shoes to fill. I’ve seen your matches at Hogwarts, so I know you can play.”

Harry nodded respectfully. “We lost a lot of good people during the battle.” He was proud of himself for managing not to flinch.

“Ken is a Chaser, along with Abby and Elin,” Hans said, nodding toward the two witches who were flying above and tossing a Quaffle. “Owen Savage is our Keeper, but he’s not here yet. He prefers to play Beater, anyway, so let’s see how you do. We might have a spot for both of you.”

Ron stood up straight. “What do you want us to do?” he asked.

“We can just toss the Quaffle around until Owen gets here. He’s bringing along a few other Aurors who play for us whenever someone can’t make a match. We’re going to have a scrimmage to see how you do. Usually we scrimmage with the Unspeakables, but we didn’t want them getting a peek until we knew how you could perform,” Hans said.

“Here, Harry, you can practice with this,” Ken said casually, as he revealed a Snitch he’d been hiding in his hand and let it go without warning.

Harry dropped his bag where he stood and mounted his broom. He lifted off and felt the wind ruffling through his hair as his new broom accelerated. The Snitch dove suddenly, as if it knew it was being chased. Harry barely managed to stop himself whooping with glee as he dove after it.

The broom handled exactly as his old, beloved Firebolt had, seeming to understand his every need and meeting it. The speed was intoxicating, and Harry felt a thrill as the ground zoomed up to meet him. He reached out, grasping the struggling Snitch just before impact. He levelled off, feeling his feet graze the grass, and lifted back into the air like a shot.

When he returned the Snitch to Ken, he noticed both witches had stopped in the air and were watching intently. Hans Rickman’s grin nearly split his face. Harry thought he looked rather eerie and made a note to himself not to make him smile again.

“Told you he was good,” Ken said smugly.

“That was impressive,” one of the witches said, flying down to join them. She was tall, with sun-streaked hair and a beak-like nose.

“I think we’ve found ourselves a Seeker,” the other, shorter witch said.

“I knew some of the hype around your exploits had to be true,” Hans said enthusiastically. “We’re going to finally give those Unspeakables a run for it. We’ve got the youngest Seeker in a Century and the savior of the Wizarding world on our team.”

“Yeah. When Voldemort took out my Firebolt, I knew he had to go,” Harry said sarcastically.

The others snickered, but Hans roared with delight. Even Ken tried to hide a smirk. When Owen arrived with a group of seasoned, tough-looking Aurors, the scrimmage began. Owen Savage was an impressive looking wizard, even taller than Ron, with a deep scar on his chin. His language was abrasive, and his eyes scanned the surrounding area constantly. Harry had heard his name before, and he half-expected him to shout out, “Constant Vigilance!”

Harry and Ron were put on opposite teams, but Harry tried to look over as much as he could to see how his friend was doing. Ron had looked extremely nervous at first, but as the match wore on, and he’d saved more and more goals, his confidence increased. They were currently on their second match since Harry had caught the Snitch a mere ten minutes into the first one.

By the end of the match, the sky was darkening and insects had begun taking over the glen. Harry’s Pepper-Up Potion was wearing off, and stabbing pains were shooting through his chest with each breath. He’d seen the Snitch twice already, but since he was enjoying himself so much, he hadn’t wanted it to end. Now, he thought it was time to wrap it up. He’d go to bed early and take it easy over the weekend. Hopefully that would enable him to finally shake off this cold.

Scanning the glen, he saw a glimmer of gold near the goal hoops Ron was covering. He flew toward him lazily, keeping the Snitch in sight. When he was close enough, he pushed the Firebolt to its limit, zooming by Ron and grabbing the Snitch in a blur of color.

Once they’d all converged on the ground, the Aurors laughed with one another jovially, pleased with the results.

“All right, practice times haven’t been posted yet, but I’ll add your names to the roster,” Hans said, obviously pleased.

“And I can finally play effin’ Beater?” Owen Savage asked in his raspy voice.

“You can finally play effin’ Beater,” Hans agreed. “Usually we wrap up with a pint at the Leaky Cauldron, but since it’s Friday, several of these buggers have dates, so we’ll have to make it next time.”

Ron looked disappointed, but Harry was glad. It would have been bad form to refuse an offer to go out with the blokes, but he really didn’t feel up to it. Besides, he was looking forward to his congratulatory kiss when he arrived back at The Burrow.


*****


Hermione wriggled impatiently on her seat in the crowded courtroom at the Ministry of Magic. She was seated in the balcony, jammed so tightly on the bench between Ron and Ginny that she could hardly breathe. The trial was taking place in courtroom ten, a much larger courtroom than the one that had been used for the Muggle-born Registration hearings, and it was packed to capacity. There was a row of reporters seated on another bench, recording the names of all who entered.

Hermione knew she’d be called to testify, and she wanted to sound confident in her statement. She’d written down everything she could remember from her dealings with Dolores Umbridge, and she frantically reviewed those notes now. The dim lighting in the courtroom made the pages difficult to read.

Ron fidgeted next to her, drumming his fingers on his bouncing leg. He was too tall to get comfortable in these cramped quarters. On her other side, Ginny craned her neck, looking up and down the rows of spectators, occasionally nodding to someone she knew. Hermione saw her staring down a nosy reporter on occasion. On Ginny’s other side, Harry sat stiff and rather pale, absently twisting a stray thread on his sleeve.

He didn’t look well, and Hermione was concerned. Over the weekend, he’d reluctantly admitted he’d developed a chest cold. Mrs. Weasley had insisted he take it easy. She’d plied him with chicken soup and Pepper-Up Potion, but he still looked worn down, and this morning he was plagued with a hacking cough.

In the past, Hermione had never needed to take more than a few doses of Pepper-Up Potion to cure whatever ailed her. The fact Harry’s illness was lingering — in fact, seemed worse — was troubling. He’d promised them all that he’d visit the Mediwitch at the conclusion of today’s trial.

Before she had time to give it any further consideration, a heavy door on the side of the courtroom opened, and Dolores Umbridge was led inside. She walked regally, head in the air as if the entire proceedings were beneath her. Her robes were neatly pressed, and she wore her trademark black velvet bow in her curly hair. Hermione loathed that bow as much as she loathed the pink cardigan that she could see peeking out from the collar of Umbridge’s robes. Dolores Umbridge’s personality was incongruous with soft pink and bows, despite her penchant for wearing them.

Umbridge’s heels clicked loudly on the stone floor as she walked to the ominous-looking chair in the center of the floor. Once she sat, chains wrapped around her wrists and ankles with a heavy, clanking sound. She looked at them disdainfully before raising her eyes to the group in plum-colored robes staring down at her.

Kingsley Shacklebolt sat in the center of the Wizengamot, and he stood as he began to speak. “Before we begin, I want to remind our many spectators that this is a criminal hearing, and you will be expected to behave with decorum. Any disruption and you will be escorted from the room immediately,” he said, his deep, booming voice echoing loudly against the courtroom’s stone walls.

Percy sat near the end of the row, scribbling furiously in his position as court scribe.

Hermione watched Umbridge’s face closely as Kingsley listed the charges against her. She tried to appear bored and aloof, but Hermione knew her well enough to see the tell-tale signs of irritation.

Dolores was sweating.

Hermione turned back to the Interrogators. The man sitting next to Kingsley was introduced as Gawain Robards, Ron and Harry’s boss. His hair was greying along the sides, and his dark eyes were alert as he stared down at the accused. Hermione could understand Umbridge’s nervousness. Hermione wouldn’t like anyone staring at her like that, either.

Harry tried to stifle a cough, drawing Hermione’s attention back to him. He’d sat forward in his seat, straining to catch every word. He, too, had a light sheen of sweat across his brow.

A young witch stood, approaching the center of the floor. She wore plain robes with her brown hair tied back in a plait.

“Audrey Bates, representative for the defense,” she said firmly before taking the chair next to Umbridge. The two women nodded toward one another.

Gawain Robards stood, addressing the room. “We will begin assessing the long list of charges against Ms. Umbridge. I intend to show clearly a long history of an abuse of power.”

Hermione’s mind drifted back to Hogwarts, and the endless stream of Decrees instituted by Umbridge. She dug her fingernails into her palms as the outrage she’d felt then filled her once again. Umbridge hadn’t been a teacher, she’d been a dictator. She’d never actually taught them anything except how corrupt the Ministry actually was.

“I call to the stand a witness who was both at Hogwarts during the accused’s time there, and also present during a hearing of the Muggle-born Registration Committee. Miss Hermione Granger, please present yourself,” Gawain Robards called.

Hermione started. She’d thought Harry would be called first. She glanced over at him to gage his reaction, but he merely nodded. Heart thudding, Hermione squeezed past Ron and descended the stairs to the center of the courtroom.

“You are Hermione Jean Granger?” Robards asked.

“I am,” Hermione answered nervously.

“And Dolores Umbridge was your Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and eventual headmistress during your fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?” he continued.

“Well, technically, yes, but I don’t think she was really a professor. She never taught us anything useful, and I was never given a clear answer on her teaching credentials. We had to form a Defense group to teach ourselves in order to pass our OWLs,” Hermione said, scowling her disapproval.

“I would ask the witness to answer the questions rather than giving her opinions,” Audrey Bates said, frowning at Hermione.

“Ms. Granger tends to over-compensate to mask her insecurity,” Umbridge said in her little girl voice.

Hermione dug her nails into her palms.

“Yes, Miss Granger, please simply answer the question. During our investigation, you claimed that you felt Ms. Umbridge abused her power. Explain,” Robards asked.

Abashed, Hermione took a deep breath, trying to remember her notes exactly as she’d written them.

“She would issue Decrees forbidding us to meet in groups or allow the other teachers to talk to us while she tried to tamp down rumors of Voldemort’s return. She used students to spy on one another, and she attempted to use an Unforgiveable on a student,” Hermione stated, glancing up to see Harry’s reaction.

He stared ahead, stony-faced, that familiar emotionless mask clearly in place.

“I did no such thing,” Umbridge said, outraged. Audrey Bates mimed for her to remain quiet.

“There were other witnesses present,” Hermione said.

“On whom did she attempt the use of an Unforgiveable?” Robards asked.

“Harry Potter,” Hermione said. Gasps and whispers erupted around the courtroom, and the reporters thrummed with excitement in their chairs.

“He’d attempted to use the Floo in her office to make a call, and she caught him. When he refused to tell her who he was trying to call, she threatened him with the Cruciatus Curse,” Hermione said once the courtroom had quieted.

“So, she threatened him, but never actually used the spell, correct, Miss Granger?” Bates asked.

“She started casting the curse, but I interrupted her before she could finish. She was clearing saying, ‘Cru-’ before I stopped her. Ron and Ginny Weasley, Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood were all witnesses, along with several members of her Inquisitorial Squad who were holding our arms behind our backs.”

“But as Ms. Granger stated, I never actually used the curse on Mr. Potter,” Umbridge said, simpering.

Hermione’s skin crawled.

“And you recommended a potion to other students who’d suffered harm to their hands during detentions with Ms. Umbridge, did you not? An essence of Murtlap concoction?” Robards asked.

Hermione stilled, flustered. She’d thought Robards was going to ask Harry about his detentions. She hadn’t planned for this. She glanced up at Harry, but his expression remained indecipherable.

“Er… yes, I did,” she said.

“What did the potion do, exactly?” Robards asked.

“It helped to heal cuts,” she said.

“And where were these cuts?”

“On the backs of students’ hands. I know of two Gryffindors who returned with bloody hands after a detention with Umbridge,” Hermione said. In for a penny, in for a pound. She had to answer anyway, but she disliked talking about things Harry clearly didn’t want discussed.

Umbridge whispered furiously to her barrister.

“But you never actually had one of these detentions, correct, Miss Granger?” Audrey Bates asked.

“No. I just told other students how to care for their wounds,” Hermione said.

“Who were the two Gryffindors to whom you relayed this remedy?” Robards asked.

“Harry Potter and Lee Jordan,” Hermione said.

“Ms. Granger, you also entered the Ministry under Polyjuice potion and sat behind the front desk with Ms. Umbridge presiding over several Muggle-born hearings, did you not?” Robards asked.

Hermione didn’t know how long she was on the stand. She relayed everything she could remember about that frightening day in court, and their eventual escape from the Dementors along with the Cattermoles. When she was finally dismissed, her legs felt shaky. She returned to her seat, and Ron put his arm around her. She leaned into him gratefully.

“You did great,” Ron said, squeezing her reassuringly.

“I didn’t know he was going to ask about the detentions,” she said to Harry.

He shrugged. “With everything else she’s done, I’d forgotten about them. I don’t know who told Robards.”

“Well, the detentions were a big deal, and she used that quill on several students. It could’ve been any one of them, or their parents,” Hermione said.

“You know they’re going to ask you about the detentions, too, right?” Ginny asked, rubbing her thumb over the scar on Harry’s hand.

“I know,” Harry said. He reached up with his other hand and ran it along the back of his neck.

“They should have at least prepared us that was coming,” Hermione said huffily. She didn’t like being caught unawares.

“We’re not children, Hermione,” Harry said so wearily it led her to believe he’d never actually been a child.

“Did you see the Cattermoles?” Ron asked.

Hermione turned her head quickly. “No! Are they here?”

“Yeah,” Ron said pointing to the balcony across the room. “Two rows from the back.”

Hermione looked over, but before she could find them, Robards called a Ministry employee to the stand.

“I’m going to use the loo before it’s my turn,” Harry said, excusing himself.

Hermione noticed several members of the press following his progress, jotting notes as he left.

“He doesn’t look well,” Hermione commented.

“He doesn’t feel well, either,” Ginny replied. “Being nervous over having to testify doesn’t help. He promised to go see the Mediwitch before we leave.”

“I think he’s stressed. He needs a holiday,” Ron said.

Audrey Bates got up to speak. “Yes, Ms. Umbridge is responsible for trying these poor Muggles, but the Registration Committee was not her creation. This was a Ministry-sanctioned board, and she was completing the task assigned to her. Ms. Umbridge always followed orders and remained loyal to the Ministry she served. You cannot punish her for following the orders she’d been given. The Ministry was under the control of Dark wizards, and she was not the only employee to follow orders. You need to charge those involved in giving the orders rather than the servants following them.”

Hermione gritted her teeth. Yes, Umbridge was following orders, but when the order was killing innocents, it needed to be questioned. Hermione had no doubt Umbridge thrived on power and also felt herself above the people she terrorized. She used the law only when it suited her, and skirted it when it didn’t.

“I call Harry Potter to the stand,” Robards’ voice rang out across the courtroom. Murmurs filled the room, and the reporters once again started scribbling furiously.

Harry had just returned to the room, looking more alert than when he’d left. Hermione suspected he’d taken another dose of Pepper-Up. He was still pale, but he took his seat and gazed up at the Wizengamot unflinchingly.

“While at Hogwarts, you’ve stated Ms. Umbridge refused to believe Voldemort had returned and attempted to silence your belief that he had. Is this correct, Mr. Potter?” Gawain Robards asked.

“Voldemort had returned, but the Ministry at the time didn’t want to acknowledge it. Umbridge wanted to silence anyone she believed hindered the Ministry’s ultimate authority, even if the Ministry was wrong,” Harry said, and Hermione could hear the rage simmering beneath his words. She was reminded of Harry’s impotent fury during the duration of fifth year.

“And she would assign detentions to you for speaking up about Voldemort’s return?”

“Yes.”

“And what happened during these detentions?” Robards asked.

Harry rubbed his hand along the back of his neck, the first sign of discomfort Hermione had seen. “She assigned lines,” he said. “Only she insisted I use her quill.”

“Her quill?”

“Yes. It didn’t have ink, but she said to write with it anyway. When I started, I felt a sharp pain in the back of my hand. The quill wrote in my own blood,” Harry said, facing firmly ahead.

Again, gasps rang out across the courtroom. Hermione saw several people shudder and draw their hands close to their own bodies.

“What did she instruct you to write?” Robards asked.

“I must not tell lies,” Harry said flatly.

“Mr. Potter. Please present your hand to the court.”

Harry reluctantly raised his hand. Mr. Robards cast a spell that magnified the image of his hand above his head for the entire courtroom to see. His scar spelling out that hateful phrase was clearly visible.

The courtroom erupted in noise. Harry put his hand down, tucking it under his arm and the image disappeared. Kingsley had to shout for order to resume.

“May I present exhibit one?” Robards asked, handing an item to the Minister. “This is the quill confiscated from Ms. Umbridge’s residence. It does exactly as Mr. Potter described. I’ve found no evidence of the pre-existence of this item, so we can only assume it is an invention of Ms. Umbridge’s own making.”

Umbridge shifted in her chair, smiling uncomfortably at the Wizengamot.

“When you entered the courtroom under Polyjuice, was Ms. Umbridge presiding over the trial?” Robards asked.

“Yes,” Harry replied.

“Were there any other Ministry official in the room?”

“Just Hermione, who was acting as court scribe, and someone named Yaxley, who is a known Death Eater. There were also several Dementors,” Harry replied.

“And Umbridge was presiding?”

“Yes, she was the one in authority. She’d said there were ten trials that day, including Mrs. Cattermole,” Harry answered succinctly.

“And Mrs. Cattermole is the woman whom you helped to escape after conjuring your Patronus?” Robards asked.

“Yes. My Patronus is a stag, and it alerted others to my presence, so we had to get out quickly.”

“I wonder why you and your friends were at the Ministry under Polyjuice, Mr. Potter,” Umbridge said in her sickly, little girl voice.

“I was being called ‘Undesirable Number One.’ I didn’t think I could just wander in with my own face. You all seemed to be rather chummy with Voldemort at the time,” Harry said.

Umbridge frowned in displeasure. “But why did you come to the Ministry at all if you feared for your safety?” she asked in forced sweetness.

“We were seeking a way to destroy Voldemort,” Harry answered, refusing to be cowed.

“And you thought the solution was here at the Ministry,” Umbridge asked.

“Mr. Potter is not the one on trial here. We all know Mr. Potter defeated Voldemort, now we’re interested in your part in his plans,” Mr. Robards said.

“I just thought the Ministry would like to know that Mr. Potter appeared to be working against them,” she said, lowering her beady eyes.

“I think he had just cause at the time,” Kingsley Shacklebolt said firmly.

“Yes, but you frequently had disdain for the Ministry, didn’t you Mr. Potter?” Umbridge asked, smiling her toad-like smile.

“I had disdain for Fudge’s incompetency, if that’s what you mean,” Harry said, causing Umbridge’s smile to drop.

“And Thicknesse, whom you were serving under at the time, was a Death Eater. Did you want me to show respect to them?” Harry asked scathingly.

“Yet you are now working for the Ministry, and serving under the Minister with whom you’d collaborated in an illicit, underground scheme against the Ministry, correct?” Umbridge asked, narrowing her eyes.

“The Order of the Phoenix was attempting to fight Voldemort while the Ministry buried its head in the sand, yes,” Harry said bitingly.

“It seems to me the new authority at the Ministry is rewarding those working outside its jurisdiction, yet punishing those who upheld the laws of the time,” Umbridge simpered.

“Might I remind you again, neither Mr. Potter nor the Minister is on trial here, Ms. Umbridge,” Gawain Robards said, a hint of annoyance in his voice.

“Of course, of course. I was merely contrasting my ideals of serving the Ministry to the best of my abilities,” Umbridge replied, smiling.

They continued questioning Harry about every detail of the hearing, and once he finally left the witness chair, several more Ministry employees were called to testify, including Mr. Weasley. As the time wore on, Hermione’s worry increased. She’d believed the evidence against Umbridge was overwhelming, but the woman had always done a good job of twisting the facts to her advantage.

She was playing the victim, the loyal Ministry employee who merely tried to do a good job, and Hermione wasn’t certain how many on the Wizengamot believed her. How many of them had done what they’d had to in order to survive themselves?

As the afternoon progressed, Harry’s wheezing became more pronounced. Hermione leaned over to look at him after one coughing fit. His green eyes were dulled, his lids drooping. He definitely had something more than a common cold.

After the last of the witness testimony had been given, Gawain Robards stood once again. The hour was late, and Hermione felt stiff from sitting so long. Still, she was nervous, and she clutched Ron’s hand, fearing the outcome.

Umbridge appeared pleased. Her toad-like grin stretched across her squat face. The phrase ‘cat who swallowed the canary’ came to Hermione’s mind.

“Ms. Umbridge, while you claim to have done nothing more than follow orders, I believe this excuse is invalid. You knew what you were doing was wrong, and you’ve proven in the past by your own actions that you’re not opposed to going against the Ministry. You proved this when you used an illegal device of torture on students, when you attempted the use of an Unforgiveable, as well as sending Ministry-sanctioned Dementors to silence an opposing view. In light of these atrocious acts, I call for a lifetime sentence in Azkaban prison. Those in favor, please say aye,” Robards said, putting his own hand in the air.

A vast number of hands followed suit, and for the first time, Umbridge’s smile faltered. She glanced nervously at the faces of the Wizengamot.

“Those opposed?” Gawain Robards asked.

Not one member raised a hand. Hermione suspected the reporters who hovered their quills and nearly salivated to report the outcome might have something to do with it. Even if a few members sympathized, they wouldn’t want their names associated. She was too unpopular.

“Dolores Jane Umbridge, you have been found guilty and will be escorted to Azkaban immediately,” Kingsley Shacklebolt’s booming voice echoed throughout the courtroom.

Audrey Bates’ shoulders slumped as she took her seat. Umbridge appeared stunned. Her toad-like face sagged. She kept shaking her head as if to clear it, awaiting someone to tell her it was a joke. When two Aurors approached, she backed away, rattling the chains that held her.

“Nooo,” she screeched. “You can’t do this to me! I demand to be released. I had the authority.”

When the chains holding her unlatched, she tried to bolt for the door, but the Aurors quickly grasped her arms.

“No, no,” she moaned. “I served the Minister himself. You cannot do this to me.”

She continued kicking and screaming as they dragged her out through the heavy door.

Hermione hugged Ron, happy it was finally over. Umbridge’s pleas rang in her head, and she kept reminding herself that the woman truly deserved punishment for all she had done. Harry slumped against Ginny, his eyes shut tightly. Ginny watched the closed door long after Umbridge had left, a satisfied gleam in her eye.

They waited in their seats as the crowd began to clear. The reporters rushed out first to get their stories in, but Hermione suspected some would remain outside hoping for interviews.

“I thought she was going to get away with it for a few moments there,” Hermione said, still in shock that it was finally over.

“So did I,” Ron said. “Did you see the look on her face when she realized she was going to Azkaban, though?”

“Harry, I think we need to go see the Mediwitch now,” Ginny said, concern evident in her voice.

“Okay,” Harry whispered, his throat sounding painfully raw.

He pulled himself to his feet and swayed, a hacking cough overtaking his slim body. He had to grab the bench to stay on his feet. He gasped, struggling to catch his breath, as his hand clutched his chest.

“Harry!” Hermione shouted.

Harry’s eyes widened in panic as he wheezed, fighting to breathe. His knees gave out, and he collapsed to the floor, still clutching his chest and trying to breathe.

Those still remaining in the courtroom noticed the commotion and began crowding around, peering over shoulders to see what was happening.

“Give him some space,” Ron demanded angrily, panic hinging his voice.

“We need to get to the Mediwitch, but I don’t think he can stand,” Hermione said, her voice fraught with emotion.

“He can’t breathe,” Ginny said, trying to loosen Harry’s collar.

Hermione watched as Harry’s eyes fluttered closed, and he slumped motionless to the floor. Both Ginny and Ron reached to grab him, but the sickening crack as his head hit the floor was nauseating and seemed to echo around the courtroom.
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