|SIYE Time:18:10 on 21st January 2019|
The Weight of the After
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Category: Post-HBP, Post-DH/AB
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance
Warnings: Mild Language, Violence
Summary: As the trials against those complicit in Voldemort's regime begin, Ginny Weasley must come to terms with the worst year of her life- on record. But not every war story should be told.
Hitcount: Story Total: 2401; Chapter Total: 401
Awards: View Trophy Room
Thanks for reading! Please review and reblog. xx
Chapter 2: If the Nightmare is as Bad as the Reality, is Your Imagination Just Dull?
August 18th, 1998
Ginny hurries through the guest entrance into the Ministry of Magic, cursing herself for letting the time get away from her. She left the Burrow plenty early, but she still managed to find herself running late. She doesn’t know how it happened.
(Lie. It happened because she spent much of the previous hour crammed in the red velvet corner of a small muggle cafe near the Ministry, a steaming cup of coffee slowly diminishing into cold bean water as she let her imagination off the leash, conjuring up images of an unfriendly, thin barrister with an intimidating mustache who probed at her most brutal memories. When she managed to shut the door on her reverie, it was lucky ((lucky?)) that the wall she was zoning out on was the one with the clock, because she only had seventeen minutes until the trial began.)
She taps her foot impatiently as the Watchwizard weighs her wand, letting her eyes wander about the atrium ahead of her. Why isn’t there a quicker system by now? Why does she still have to relinquish her most valuable thing to someone else’s clutches? Why are her hands shaking so uncontrollably?, her mind screams, as she stands in line next to her anxiety-ridden father, waiting to prove that she is a true, safe, good pureblood, and she gapes in horror at the remodelled atrium, the sickening realisation that the grotesque marble carvings below the giant witch and wizard are supposed to be muggles coming up her throat like bile–
“Miss. Miss, yer wand.”
Her focus snaps back to the Watchwizard, and she snatches her wand from his burly hands, smiling distractedly. She breathes heavily through her nose, trying to rein herself in, digging out her tried and true coping mechanism. Facts and figures, a voice whispers in her head, the voice of the wizened old mystic woman that her parents made her see when she was twelve and fading fast. Facts and figures. The elevator is on the other end of the atrium, maybe 90 tiles; fifty steps? She walks briskly through the cavernous hall– now a different scene, completely razed and gutted– counting each click-clack of her shoes that echoes in the wide open space.
Eleven, twelve, thirteen. To her right, a commissioned team of artists pore over blueprints of the planned statue to memorialise those lost in the war. Dean Thomas is among them, but she turns away, not wanting to be recognised or spoken to by anyone.
Twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight. To her left, the walls are littered with missing person posters, tacked up haphazardly, so many of them that they’re overlapping each other. They are heinous, they can’t not be, with “HAVE YOU SEEN ME?” crudely splashed across the top of each one, accompanied by pictures and descriptions of the long disappeared, the long dead. And there, there’s little Danny Keller and his big cheeks, and Diana Lowry, who always borrowed her purple lipstick, and dark braided hair framing a dimpled face with a stubborn smile….
Ginny fixes her gaze on her boots the rest of the way. Click, clack, click. Forty-four, forty-five, forty-six.
When the cool female voice announces her arrival on the trial floor, the doors slide open to reveal a long corridor, not unlike the one she and the others travelled down on their doomed mission to rescue Sirius. Was that only two years ago? Too many things have happened since then to be squashed into twenty-six measly months of her life.
A familiar face comes into her vision, and she has to double check that her mind isn’t slipping into another vivid memory. But no, Neville Longbottom is actually striding towards her, happiness clear on his face. His smile is contagious, and it allows something suspiciously like joy to bloom in her chest. She’s spent so much time in the last few months wishing there was someone she could talk to, and she could kick herself now. Neville served as her rock, her confidante, and her brother-in-arms throughout one of the worst years of her life. Why hasn't she seen him or talked to him in almost two months?
She speeds up to meet him, and when she throws her arms around his shoulders, he makes a surprised oof sound, as if he’s shocked that she’s that excited to see his face. It’s so typical of him; she squeezes him tighter.
"Missed you," he mumbles into her shoulder.
"Me too," she replies. They pull back and grin at each other.
"Sorry I've not been in touch, but–” he says guiltily, scratching the back of his head in a familiar, nervous way, "but with everything going on with your family, and my Gran's not in fit form..." he trails off.
"No, I know," she says. And she does.
"So. How is everyone?" he says after a beat, and the real concern in his voice tugs at her heart.
"They’re…" her mouth twists, searching for the right words, "as to be expected." For others curious about her family, she had been stopping there. But Neville would never be satisfied with that, and she surprises herself by wanting to tell him.
"Mum and dad…” she starts, but she can’t explain, doesn’t have the right to.
“Bill's alright, but he's always alright. He and Fleur are throwing themselves into married life now that there's not a snake-buggering git out there destroying the world. And Charlie's back in Romania already." At Neville's raised eyebrows, she explains, "on top of everything, he took Tonks, you know... dying pretty hard. They were best mates in school and were near in love with each other at one point, I think. So, he had to get out." He nods soberly, but she moves on quickly before the image of Tonk’s bubblegum pink hair and infectious smile starts bleeding through her blockades. She shakes it off. "Percy's doing everything he can to get back in our good books, which he deserves. Well no," she backtracks and shakes her head, "he doesn't, but it's... nice to see him really trying."
She steels herself for the second half of the list, her usual stepladder of brothers stunted by a gaping hole that her subconscious still has trouble remembering. "George is– George is–” she takes a deep breath, finding the words, "George is a bloody shadow. He's been gutted from the inside out, without– without Fred. We all have." It’s hard most days to even say his name, but she pushes herself through and shakes it off. Fred would expect better from her than to shy away with grief, and anyway, what right does she have to let it consume her? "Ron and Hermione are leaning on each other, which is both brilliant and bloody disgusting at the same time if you ask me."
Neville gives a loud, fond laugh. "Merlin, I'm glad those two finally got their heads out of their arses. I always thought she was either going to kiss him or kill him, and I was nervous for either outcome. Come to think of it, I'm still nervous." They both know the next name that will come out of Neville's mouth. "And Harry?"
She shrugs, her new standard emotional response. "I dunno. Fine, I guess. Beating himself up about everything and being bloody noble, so the usual."
"Have you two sorted things out?"
Ginny snorts and rolls her eyes, "that's like asking a man with no arms if his nose itches. I've got bigger problems. Besides, sexual tension is always hilarious. Now that Ron and Hermione have resolved theirs," she shudders, "we've got to pick up the slack."
Despite himself, Neville wrinkles up his nose in pretend disgust, which makes her giggle. But then his eyes narrow, scrutinising her. "What about you," he says, "how are you?"
"I'm fine, Neville," she tells him firmly, not liking where the conversation is going.
"Hmm," he responds.
She rolls her eyes again. "Well, my brother and a bloody profound number of my friends are dead and terrible things have happened, so I'm obviously not fine, but I'm… fine," she finishes, rather less eloquently than she intended on. He raises an eyebrow.
“Hmm,” he says again.
"What?" she snaps, suddenly annoyed.
"Nothing.” He holds both of his hands up in defense. “I had been wondering how you were processing your grief, but I can see now that you're doing it by not grieving at all," he says bluntly.
"That doesn't make any sense," she hisses at him, eyes blazing. "And I have grieved. I've just moved it along, because I've got bigger problems." That’s the second time she’s said that in the space of thirty seconds; she just hopes he hasn't noticed.
Seeing that he isn't going to get any further with this conversation, Neville backs down and switches gears. A wise choice. "Well anyway, thank Merlin you're here. When I got picked for this trial, I thought you might be here too, but I was a bit nervous it was just gonna be me. I– I mean, don't get me wrong, i– it's not like I want you to be reliving this shite, but–”
"Neville," she cuts him off, her annoyance at him forgotten the moment he started his typical stammering, "I'm glad you're here too. At least we don't have to do this bloody trial alone."
"And it's not just you and me," he says, grimly. "They've roped in some of the others to speak as well."
"Really?" she says, surprised for a moment and then not at all. "Are they who I think they are?"
"Probably,” he shrugs.
A horrific thought passes through her mind. “I hope they didn’t bother someone like Parvati or anyone else before they narrowed down their targets.”
Neville flinches. “Not targets, Ginny. Witnesses. And from what I hear, everyone told them to come to us first.”
He checks his watch– eleven minutes to ten o'clock. "Come on then," he says, motioning towards the intimidating double-doors at the end of the corridor, their brass handles oozing austerity. She follows him through into a courtroom the size and style that she expected. Like most, it’s circular, lined with rows of benches, with one area sectioned off for the overseeing Wizengamot officials, one for the prosecution team, and one for the defense team. The section of benches behind the prosecution is where she assumes she'll be sitting until she takes the stand as a witness. At the very center are two chairs, the chains attached to each arm rattling threateningly. The room is, unfortunately, quite full of people already.
She scans the room for familiar faces. Kingsley Shacklebolt smiles at her from the officials' benches, and the new head of Department of Magical Law Enforcement, a tall muggle-born woman with black curly hair named Violet Almasi– who Kingsley dug out of hiding and hand-picked in the rush to find new department heads after the collapse of Voldemort's regime– stands next to him, frowning impressively at her surroundings. She recognises several other Ministry officials that she has met through her father or through the Order of the Phoenix, including Hestia Jones who– Ginny jerks in surprise– is scrutinising papers in the prosecution box. A vaguely familiar man with neat, dark hair, an upturned nose and a permanent sneer is setting up shop in the defense box; not quite her vision of an austere mustached man, but not any better either.
She continues to scan the room, and a stab of anger rages through her gut.
"Oh bloody buggering hell," she growls through gritted teeth, because her eyes have landed on none other than Rita Skeeter, hair immaculately coiffed, quick-quotes-quill and notepad already poised to destroy lives.
"What? Oh," Neville says, catching sight of Rita as well.
"She shouldn't be here. I swear, Neville, if she twists anything I am going to go off.” Oh, the things she would do, wants to do; out her as a beetle, dust off the old bat-bogey, chuck a can of lead paint in her face–
She jumps and turns to see Hannah Abbott, Anthony Goldstein and Seamus Finnigan heading over to her and Neville. Her rage fades as quickly as it came, and she rushes forward to her friends, tackling each of them in a tight hug. She even takes the time to give Seamus a sassy pat on the cheek.
"Blimey," he winks in response. "Flirting with me already Miss Weasley? That's a good sign."
She rolls her eyes. "It really is good to see you all," she says honestly. Circumstances be damned.
"Yeah well," Anthony smirks, rocking back on his heels with his hands in his pockets, "it wouldn't be a proper gathering for us if we weren't serving justice and fighting the good fight, would it?"
Ginny matches his smirk, "Oh I’ve missed you."
He mimes vomiting. “I’d say the same, but I’m afraid I’d choke to death on the sentiment.”
Hannah scoffs and elbows past Anthony, pushing her blonde fringe out of her eyes and grinning at Ginny. "You look awful," she says brightly as she grabs Ginny into a hug.
"Mhm. I can always count on you for that extra boost in confidence," Ginny retaliates, tugging on Hannah’s long wavy tresses, but ruins it by clutching her back just as hard. Sweet, kind, tough Hannah, who tried her best to patch the gaping wound that was left in Ginny after so many losses. She hadn't known that rebelling against a repressive and violent regime would bring her closer to people like Seamus and Anthony either, but total abject misery really does love company.
She gently disentangles herself from Hannah, the reason they’re in the courtroom re-inserting itself into her mind. "So, do any of you know what's in store for us today?" Ginny asks them once they settle down.
"Er– no," says Neville. "I've never understood how this… law stuff works, if I’m being honest," he confesses.
"They sent 'round the info right before you got here, look," Seamus says, thrusting a piece of parchment into her hands. Spiky, official writing is accompanied by a seal she has never seen before: a rotating image of the earth in black and white, with two crossed wands underneath, shooting sparks in opposite directions.
International Wizarding Court of Justice, Special Court Tribunal for the Second English Wizarding War (SCTEW)
Hearing 7: War Crimes Committed Against Wizards and Witches of All Blood Status at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, During the Second English Wizarding War, 1996-1998.
Hearing Date: Eighteenth of August, 1998
Magistrates: W.E. Ruxanda Ivanova, W.E. Shira D. Klein, W.E. Kingsley L. Shacklebolt, W.E. Dominic Esnaider
Accused: Amycus Obsidius Carrow, Alecto Morgana Carrow
Chief Prosecution: Hestia Clarice Jones
Chief Defense: Dorian Julius Parkinson
Witnesses: Seamus Colin Finnigan, Anthony Isaac Goldstein, Neville Francis Longbottom, Ginevra Molly Weasley
Her full name always looks strange on paper, in its proper ye-olde-magick way, but it’s especially peculiar alongside such fancy language.
"I don't know who half of these people are on here, do you?" she asks the group at large.
"Nope," Seamus says.
"Don't look at me, I'm only here for moral support," Hannah says, hands up. Neville shakes his head. Even Anthony shrugs his shoulders, running a hand through his thick light brown hair in frustration.
"I do," says a very familiar voice.
Ginny whips around, knowing all too well who she will find, glee and (more) guilt crashing in her haphazardly, like asymmetric cymbals. Hermione is standing before her, arms crossed, eyes narrowed. It’s a surprisingly intimidating display for an eighteen-year-old girl who is too thin and still a bit peaky after nearly a year on the run.
"Hi," Ginny says, as tentatively as she ever gets.
"Hi," Hermione responds, face unchanging.
"Hi Hermione," Seamus interjects, waving his hand in front of her face. Neville gives a tentative wave from behind him.
"Hi," she says again, not taking her eyes off Ginny.
"Always nice to be appreciated," Seamus grumbles. Hannah smacks the back of his head.
"How do you always manage to make everything about you?" she asks him, shaking her head in amazement.
"Why didn't you tell me you were going to be here today?" Hermione's stern voice cuts through the squabble.
"Oh okay, so we're skipping the pleasantries and going right in, got it," Ginny replies, her guilt dissipating out of pure spite.
"I forgot!" she lies, badly.
Hermione ignores her. "Imagine how you might feel if you came into the department that you're helping rebuild from scratch this morning to find that one of the items on the agenda is a hearing on torture, in which your friend was testifying, and you had no idea?" Her voice steadily rises in pitch throughout her tirade, reaching a shrill level by the time she finishes speaking.
"Alright, I'm sorry!" Ginny exclaims. Hermione raises her eyebrows at Ginny, clearly expecting more, but that’s all she has to say. It’s all she ever has to say; she might as well get the words ‘I’m sorry’ tattooed on her forehead, and point to it whenever anyone spoke to her.
"I'm sorry," she says again. She should see if there are any appointments available today at the Diagon Alley tattoo parlour.
"What are you testifying about?" Hermione demands, dread washing over her face.
"It’s– look," she flaps her hands in Hermione’s direction, "we can talk more about this later, but will you fill us in on the details? Please?" Ginny asks, hoping to distract her. Ginny knows Hermione doesn't want to give up the conversation so soon, but her overwhelming urge to inform takes over.
"The International Confederation of Wizards has taken jurisdiction, and they've created an international court tribunal, seeing as our court system has been completely dismantled. It's a lot like the system muggles use after their wars or violent conflict. They have generously allowed us control over prosecution and defense," her jaw clenches at the word ‘defense’, "and Kingsley has been allowed to be an observing magistrate because he's shown incredible impartiality throughout the hearings. He is not, however, allowed to contribute to the ruling.”
“The other magistrates are employed by the ICW. Ruxanda Ivanova from Russia and Shira Klein from the US were both celebrated human rights barristers before they became magistrates. They’re renown professionals, and have worked together before; they were on the team that successfully took down the Tunisian Wizard Criminal Syndicate case in 1992. Dominic Esnaider comes from a line of ICW magistrates from Argentina– his father was instrumental in drafting the Berne treaty between the Romanian and Bulgarian vampire clans in 1977." She rattles it off so quickly that Hannah, who hasn't seen Hermione's lecture style in a while, is practically gaping at her, brow furrowed in confusion. Anthony, consummate Ravenclaw that he is, nods in complete understanding.
"And what of the prosecution and defense?" he asks Hermione, the two of them looking ready to get into an intellectual tete a tete.
"Prosecution is led by Hestia Jones, member of the Order of the Phoenix," she turns her eyes on Ginny, clearly on the same wavelength, "Yes, I didn't know either, but I suppose it was a bit foolish of us to assume her only job was working for the Order." Ginny shrugs and nods in agreement.
"Then defense is led by Dorian Parkinson–”
"Oh, I wonder whose father he is," Ginny deadpans.
Hermione smiles sarcastically. "Indeed. The Parkinson's have managed to get away scot-free, even with Pansy trying to sell Harry out to Voldemort," she clenches her teeth. "But Dorian Parkinson was never a Death Eater, despite his ties, and he's got a squeaky clean record. They can't hold him to anything but old established prejudices, so here he is, representing them. Plus, the Carrows won't speak to any barrister but him, so we're stuck." There’s clear hatred in Hermione's voice; there is nothing she hates more than bigotry disguised as bureaucracy.
"Anyway," she continues, brushing it off, "I expect they'll be interviewing you all at once instead of one by one. That's what they did for Ron, Harry and me, and for the hearings I've sat in with multiple witnesses."
"Oh good, that’s good," says Hannah, relieved. "I hoped you all wouldn't be interrogated on your own." She glances at Ginny briefly, but no, not now, not now, not ever. Ginny shakes her head very slightly, not making eye contact.
"Well, hopefully it won't turn into an interrogation. But I suppose that'll depend on how far they let Dorian Parkinson off the leash," Anthony idly scratches his beard, eyeing the pompous man with an air of dislike.
"We won't let him go that far," Ginny says confidently, and suddenly, she’s warm with adrenaline like it’s minutes before a Quidditch match. If this is a game, then she’s about to plunge headfirst into it. Her mouth quirks dangerously, "this is gonna be fun."
Seamus shakes his head. "You know, Weasley, you scare me sometimes."
The second he finishes speaking, the doors on the other side of the courtroom open with a stupendous clang. Ron and Harry stride in, scanning the room as if they’re already trained Aurors and not recent recruits. Anxiety floods through her as Harry's eyes find hers, and his defiant expression plainly says, what are you gonna do about it? Ginny glares back and turns to the others.
"I take it back," she says flatly, "this is going to be shite."
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