|SIYE Time:19:24 on 16th October 2018|
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: 2205; Chapter Total: 382
Awards: View Trophy Room
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Chapter 4: The Tempestuous Balance Between Prosecution and Defense is a Little Disgusting
There is a solace in magic, a preciousness that Ginny didn’t recognise or care about- not at first. Magic bloomed in her early, even for her family, and the moment she first felt the vibrant strands of power reverberating through her, she acted like it had always been there, like turning grass blue and making bubbles pop out of her ears was something she’d always had the power to do. From the beginning, magic was no more than a feature of her body, no different from the freckles on her face and the stubborn cracking sound her ankle always made.
It’s funny how perspective changes when Tom Riddle decimates your soul.
But then, as the old saying goes, perspective really changes when Tom Riddle decimates your soul.
She’d fought so hard, for months and months, only for the single droplet of life that remained in her to slowly drain away as she lay in that chamber, the brutally handsome boy looming over her becoming more and more solid with each passing moment. And then there was nothing at all, and then Harry Potter was grabbing her arm and calling her name, swathed in the brilliant golden light that she used to imagine when she pictured him. But he was real, he was really there, and the diary was nothing more than a clot of dirty wet parchment with vile black ink bleeding from its wounds. Her magic surged back into her in a transcendent rush, and she had never been taught how to be religious but it had been like a benediction, more holy than she’d thought possible, and nothing like the way it was before.
It was an impossible fight, crawling back to the natural way she’d had with her magic before, but she would never, could never, take it for granted in the way she had so foolishly done. She resolved to protect it at all costs, wrapping herself in layer after layer of every powerful spell she could find, until it was a cocoon; until it was a fortress. She had somehow, by the grace of something, been allowed to keep the gleaming brilliance that was magic, and the endless ways she could use it astounded her, warming her soul even in the most wretched of times.
Now, tied to a wooden chair by a circling Amycus Carrow, wand unreachable, right eye swelling and lip bleeding sluggishly, she can't help but, for the first time in her life, resent magic, and the endless ways it could be used against her.
"My my," Amycus sneers in his oily voice, stopping his vulture-like path and facing her, leaning so close they are almost nose to nose. "You been a careful one, ‘aven't you? Slippin' through our fingers for months. But we got you now, hmm? Red-handed." He knots his fingers in her hair when he says "red," and laughs to himself.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Ginny says, gritting her teeth in equal parts anger and pain.
"Oh no?" Amycus mocks, cocking his head to the side. "Caught out after hours, dilly-dallyin' outside the kitchen?"
"I was hungry." Ginny shrugs, not caring if he believes her. He laughs, and the hair on the back of her neck prickles in disgust.
"No, I don't think so," he growls. "What were you doin’ down there? Sneakin' some food to the mudbloods you're keeping hidden away?"
"Mudbloods?" Ginny asks, angrily, adding an ounce of despair for performance flair. "There’s not a single drop of muggle-born blood left. And the ones you didn’t hand over are the ones you already killed. Isn't that what you told them? Or is that another pathetic lie? I know your master doesn’t like it when you lie." Amycus' smug expression falters, if only for a moment, and she goes in with the advantage. "I've even heard that you're keeping one, for fun. Such a shame, Carrow, for that poor Muggle-born to be at the mercy of someone as embarrassing as you." He snarls with outrage and backhands her, hard, across the face.
She spits out the resulting blood, coughing slightly. "I don't know if any of them are alive," she tells him, "but I know for damn sure I'll find them before you do."
"So no mudbloods then," Amycus straightens back up, veering away from the subject quickly. Ten points for her. "Tryin' to turn the filthy little house elves against us? Poison our food?"
Ginny actually laughs at that, which earns her another heavy blow. "No," she says, and she shakes her head once she regains her bearings. "I told you, I was hungry." His dim interrogation tactics are already failing; it’s only a matter of time before he throws one more cruciatus at her then lets her go. She’s already planning her mission report to the D.A. in her head when Amycus' mouth drags up, slowly, into a malicious leer. Her stomach drops–
Ginny jerks in surprise at the sound of Neville's voice. She turns to him as he moves his elbow away from her ribs, where he clearly intended to jab her. She raises her eyebrows; he shrugs.
"You were miles away. I called your name about five times," he explains, squinting at her in concern. "They're about to do opening statements."
"Oh– I– oh," she says numbly, shaking herself out of her daze. Damn it. Four double doors, sixteen chandeliers, two hundred seats….
"Bloody vile, the way Carrow talks to you," Seamus whispers across Anthony to her. "I almost forgot." And Ginny will have none of that, forgetting.
"Lucky you," she replies.
Across the courtroom, Hestia stands in a sweep of black robes, and makes her way towards the center. With every stride she takes, the prickling presence of raw adrenaline grows higher and higher in Ginny, that fight-or-flight instinct that has kept her alive thus far, the one that she both fears and fears she craves. Neville's hand grows sweaty in hers, but she only squeezes it tighter.
Hestia carefully tucks a strand of silky black hair behind her ear, and clears her throat.
"Esteemed witches and wizards,” she begins, rich voice steady and commanding,“I stand before you with the grave task of opening this historic trial.” She stands at what would be soldier's attention, if not for the one pointy-toed high heel jutted forward, at an angle; cynically, Ginny wonders if Hestia has ever felt more important in her life.
"Today, we as a unified confederation of people, as proponents of the rights of man, must condemn beyond redemption the actions of the witch and wizard seated before you. Actions so malignant, so destructive, that neither our world nor the world at large can survive them being repeated. Actions based on beliefs invalidated by progress and truth, carried out to shame and destroy those that are identical to us down to their very bones. Actions that are a shameful representation of humankind, and make a mockery of human kindness."
Hestia pauses. Her words simmer, bouncing like the beam of a curse through the charged atmosphere. Did she rehearse this speech, as if it were lines in a particularly grim political play? Ginny pictures it quite well; Hestia, standing in front of an ornate floor length mirror with those pointy heels on, practicing which facial expression will work best for which child's death she’ll be exploiting. At this wild thought, Ginny pulls all the stops and mentally berates herself. Hestia is on their side; even the nastiest voice in her head agrees with that. There’s no use in further alienating the people who are supporting her.
"Amycus and Alecto Carrow, Death Eaters and followers of Voldemort," she pauses again, but this time it’s probably in order to let the ridiculous, arbitrary gasps and shudders at the name dwindle off, "have loyally served a twisted ideal that has infected wizarding society for far too long, and through their hysteria are responsible for the discrimination, torture, disappearances and presumed deaths of muggle-borns and so called 'blood traitors' alike, many of whom have suffered irreparable damage to their bodies and minds, some of whom are gone forever."
Gone forever. Mental images of everyone she’s lost flit behind her eyes like a roll of film, before grinding to a halt, naturally, on Colin Creevey. The memory is as bright and blinding as the flashes from the coveted camera she found lying next to his body. She shakes her head violently, trying to beat away the remnants of the all-consuming dread that rocketed through her when she knelt down and looked into the familiar sight of his unseeing eyes, and her first thought was that she had once again become the monster of their childhood. A thought that, in the midst of a battle, was followed by instant, intoxicating relief when she realised that she wasn't to blame, not that time.
Death is everywhere; death, she’s had to handle in spades. But she doesn't want to remember that upon discovering the remains of the bright, happy boy she grew up with slumped on the floor, like a marionette with its strings cut, the only thought she could string together was that, at least, it wasn't because of her.
"Ginny, stop," Anthony murmurs. He presses his fingers to her wrist in a brief, comforting gesture, and she nods to show him that she’s fine. She is fine. Twenty stained glass windows. Five different colours in the glass; purple, yellow, blue, red and green.
“This trial today is not for you to make a decision of their guilt, for they are guilty, as much as they are breathing. No, what this trial will determine is how light the crosses that we all bear will be going forward.” Hestia clasps her hands close to her heart. "We have arrived, tired and trembling, to the other side of a steep and unforgiving mountain. And as we bury our dead and hold tight to our loved ones, it serves as a comfort to see our tormentors held responsible. But make no mistake, we can never go back. There is no righting this wrong. There can never be reconciliation. And while these wretched souls are unquestionably responsible, the blame is on us all." As she rounds out her last syllable, the courtroom erupts with murmurs and the sounds of people shifting uncomfortably in their seats.
"Yes, the blame is on us all," she repeats, raising her voice over the clatter, her face impassive.
"The old story goes that humans never learn, that we are cursed to revolve in a loop of hatred and pain, in one endless war disguising itself in different names; part one, part two, the great, the terrible... But just as we have made this world, we can also change it. We can break this tired cycle. And the only chance we have to make amends, to set ourselves on a proper path, is justice."
The murmurs, louder now, continue as Hestia makes her way back to the prosecution bench.
"Jesus," Anthony whispers. "Where are we?" The others hum in agreement, and it’s warranted; that was a speech for the ages. But– blame it on a year and a half of first-hand experience with some of the shittiest parts of humanity– she sees the cracks in the china already forming. She glances over towards the Confederation; heads adorned with ceremonial caps are bent in quiet conversations, while billowing sleeves of robes fall back to reveal hands cupped over ears as if these people are notorious town gossips and not celebrated leaders of the world.
She leans over to Neville. "That was a risk, incriminating everyone like that. It isn't going to win us any sympathy."
He looks at her incredulously. "Win us sympathy?" he repeats in a low voice, "Ginny, these people are on our side!"
"We can't be sure of that," she insists, shaking her head. Neville’s eyebrows knit together in confusion.
"But– the war is over. We don't need to be looking around every corner anymore. This is... this is it, isn't it? Our chance to get everything right. I know it's been a hell of a year, and nearly everyone tried to kill us," he adds, and shrugs when she rolls her eyes at that huge, ridiculous understatement, "but we're alive and it's over and, well, we've ... we've won." He’s more and more uncertain about what he’s saying as he goes on. He gives her a look of a decidedly different kind of confusion. "Haven't we?" he asks.
"I don't know," she answers quietly. “I… I don’t know.” That’s it– that’s the thing. She’d marched through the war like a dutiful tin soldier, convinced that Voldemort’s death would be the bell toll of victory, that the moment his corpse hit the floor would bring chirping birds and angelic choirs, foolish as it sounds. But is this what winning really is? Certainly, victory is not supposed to feel like this, and it isn’t supposed to look like the faces and physical descriptions of hundreds of missing muggle-borns, spending months on the front pages of all the newspapers, many her fellow students, some of them she’s already buried like treasure, deep in her subconscious.
"That’s not what war is. There are no winners," Anthony says. "Just those who’ve lost, and those who’ve lost more."
"Merlin, that cheers me right up," Seamus grumbles.
Anthony doesn’t respond. His eyes track Dorian Parkinson as he rises from his place to deliver his statement. Ginny swears that they’re rimmed with red.
Guilt slams into her like a brick; she’s been so selfish, too busy cooped up in her own mind that she didn’t even think to ask... but by the look of Anthony’s face, maybe she shouldn’t even try.
She leans over to Neville and says, as quietly as she can, “Has he heard any word about–”
“I haven’t,” Anthony interrupts bluntly, catching her out like he always does. “So as far as I know, dead. Just like everyone else.”
“We can't know that ye–,” she starts to say, but stops when she hears a hesitant noise from her other side. She turns to Neville, waiting to be filled in.
“It was in last week’s Prophet” he tells her, with a weary frown, and she appreciates that he doesn’t question why she hasn’t been keeping up with the news. “The ministry’s put a hold on all open missing person cases. They’ve– they’ve moved the muggle-borns that haven’t been located yet from missing to presumed dead until proven otherwise.”
At this discovery, she expects despair, and it does come eventually, trickling in, fuzzy and desensitised. But there’s something else lurking behind it that she can’t quite identify, some sort of stubborn rejection of Neville’s words, entrenched in a certainty that has no basis she can find.
“No,” she mutters slowly, and her right hand comes up, almost subconsciously, to press at her temple. “That isn’t right.”
“Bloody awful, is what it is. All those people...” Seamus trails off, his eyes drifting towards the bench of D.A. members, where Dean has just taken a seat between Susan and Padma.
“No,” Ginny repeats, and she looks at Neville, hoping he’ll help her hash out the mental soup that’s sloshing about in her brains. “That isn’t right.”
“Yeah, well. Forget that right now,” Anthony says, clearly wanting nothing more to do with the subject. “Parkinson’s about to speak.”
Parkinson makes a show of straightening his lapel and taps his oxford-clad foot in a staccato rhythm against the floor, clearly waiting for the noise to die down. It makes a flat, unpleasant sound, like the tearing of cellophane or a moth repeatedly hitting a light.
Like Hestia, he clears his throat before he begins, but it resembles the hem hem she loathes to recall but loves to mock from the dreaded Umbridge days. Ginny does a quick run-through of every terrible person she's ever met, mulling over something; are they all alike? Do they have a secret meeting every other week in which they discuss what sort of mannerisms they should perfect in order to terrorise people in just the right way?
"My dear fellow witches and wizards," Parkinson cuts through her train of thought, in a voice that sounds like Mrs. Skower’s cleaning solution personified. "I am honoured to be in the presence of people of such profound excellence and eminence, who have done us Britons such a service to come here today, from far across the reaches of the world, to put this deeply troubling matter to rest, once and for all."
"Blimey, laying it on thick for these bastards," Seamus mutters.
“These are politicians; this is how they expect to be addressed,” Anthony sneers, ever a poor man’s revolutionary. But he’s right; an elderly wizard and witch in the back row have both adjusted their comically large ear trumpets more firmly into place, clearly interested in what such a flattering, proper gentleman like Parkinson could have to say.
"Wizarding Britain has suffered through unconscionable toil in these past three years, devastating its proud people, and its hard-earned global reputation. And as the dust settles, as we as a community try to piece our lives back together again, the tide of hatred has not ebbed, but rather has risen,” he lifts his arms wide as if giving a sermon, “against the noble houses of ancient wizardry in this great nation. There is no denying my clients’ involvement in some relatively compromising misdeeds, just as there is no denying that the Dark Lord created this ... difficult atmosphere. But his worst casualties are the meek followers that he has left behind, to take responsibility for his transgressions. Amycus and Alecto Carrow are but victims of his creed.”
"Oh Merlin," Neville groans, wearing the same look of disdain that appears on at least a third of the faces in the crowd, a look that is no doubt mirrored on her face. And though there are audible gasps and whispers, there’s far less racket than during Hestia’s accusation. Interesting. Parkinson seems to think so too; his lips twitches briefly, before returning to his dramatic, solemn demeanor. He reaches one thin hand towards the Carrows, a sympathetic frown pasted on his face as if they are the last two children at a closing orphanage.
“Inherently simple in nature, they have been indoctrinated from birth to follow the Dark Lord's teachings, to adhere to the customs and norms that surrounded them, caught in a current that their feeble minds couldn’t escape even if they tried.” At such an utterly condescending remark, she can’t stop from glancing at the Carrows, but what’s there leaves her unsettled: carefully blank faces, without an inkling of the defensive snarls that she was expecting. Amycus is hardly a mastermind, but Alecto… Alecto is righteous, wrathful rage, spitefully punishing to all that dare to look down on her. Ginny’s brain is screaming in resistance (though the first look was much harder), but she keeps focus on Alecto, searching. And then Ginny sees it, in the slightly angled position of Alecto’s head, in the careful looseness of her hands in her lap.
“And now, the war has been fought, their values have been demonised, and their stories will be immortalised by the victors. But, who are we to cast them as evil? Who are we to say that they were not blank rolls of parchment, corrupted by a force they could not avoid? It serves logic to suggest that these ‘crimes’ we are examining today were simply orders that they were compelled to follow upon the threat of exile, or even death. When the evidence is laid out, it is clear that Amycus and Alecto Carrow bear as much responsibility as those who acted under the Imperius curse, or indeed, any who have found themselves unwillingly possessed by the Dark Lord’s power. Why, even amongst those proclaimed as the heroes of our world, it is a much more common affliction than we are led to believe.”
Gasps of disbelief and indignation rise through the courtroom, scattered, piling on top of each other. But Ginny barely hears them over the furious throb of blood that surges through her body, a pulsing tattoo on her eardrums. Her teeth grind so hard against each other it’s almost painful, and it takes all of her strength, all of the involuntary practice controlling her powers she had for months and months, not to accidentally set something on fire or smash the windows. A few people in the room have swivelled in their seats to ogle at Harry, but there’s no doubt in her mind that Parkinson’s cattle prod is all for her, no doubt that it’s an attempt to hit her where it hurts. And it does, like a charm. Among the fiery mess inside her head, the only structured thought she cobbles together is god, Pansy Parkinson’s got a big fucking mouth.
“These poor, wayward souls do not deserve to be locked up for the rest of their lives for being swept under someone else's misdeeds, like leaves carried away in the wind. No, what they truly deserve is rehabilitation, re-education and reconciliation.” Parkinson turns and faces the courtroom, and makes a point to slowly scan everyone present from left to right, his accusatory expression aimed at one and all. “And let us remember, as we make our judgements, that in this bright new, tolerant world of ours, we must have perspective. And we must consider the question: under the same circumstances, would any of you have done any different?"
He bows his head in the tight, practiced way Ginny has seen every Slytherin pureblood work to master since the age of eleven, and makes his way back to his seat, ignoring the glares and– to her horror– deep looks of consideration that follow him along the way. Disappointment hooks into her spine; one of these days she’ll learn not to be constantly let down by human beings.
"Never mind," Anthony says, clearly going through the same range of emotions as her but making a more successful attempt at looking simply annoyed. "Still in bloody Kansas."
"What is a Kansas?" Neville asks, absentmindedly, as he glares towards Parkinson.
"Well. That wasn’t surprising at all." Ginny says, her voice strangely calm to her own ears. "Alecto’s still running the whole game."
Anthony growls. “It’s a classic defense, is what it is. They were just following– they’re too simple to know be– I mean, Christ .” He’s rambling, more to himself than anyone, as rattled as a bird in an upturned cage. “It’s just ‘the banality of evil.' A page right out of the bloody book. Though,” he lets out a hysterical half-laugh, and shakes his head, “fifty quid says he didn’t read until the end.”
Ginny, Neville and Seamus all stare at Anthony.
“Well, I dunno what the bloody hell you’re on about because all I heard was straight shite,” Seamus grouses, shuffling down in his seat with pure disgust on his face. “I mean, ‘deeply troubling matter,’ ‘difficult atmosphere’... barely pretending like we don’t already know that he’s a snake shagger. But his hard-on for himself really did me in. D’you reckon he recited that while wanking off last night?”
Neville wrinkles his nose at Seamus. “You’ve always had such a way with words.”
In another life, this is where Ginny would join in, pull an outrageous face and deepen her voice to imitate Seamus. Instead, a cold shiver trickles down her back, accompanied by the same churning in her stomach that she used to get when she didn't study for History of Magic exams. Only that was in the Before, where everything was only a little bleak and fraught with terror, and this is the After, where she wakes up in the middle of the night to the echoes of young voices screaming. None of them really know what they’re about to do. None of them are even in the right state of mind to handle this. That’s clearer than ever, with her tolerance window for looking in the direction of the Carrows teetering at fifteen seconds.
"I– I don't think we know what we're in for,” she says quietly. “We haven’t thought this through."
Seamus snorts. “Glad you’ve finally arrived in what I like to call ‘the panic zone.’ I’ve been here the entire time. Wait five minutes and I’ll forget why I’m even in this fucking room.”
She looks to Neville. His jaw is set, already prepared for battle, but he shrugs. “You make the calls, Ginny. If you say go, we’ll go.” Anthony and Seamus nod in agreement. “But we didn’t know what we were in for during the war either, so I don’t think we can walk away now. We have to do this.” And Ginny doesn't care what anyone says; Neville Longbottom is the bravest man she’s ever known.
“The prosecution summons Seamus Finnigan, Anthony Goldstein, Neville Longbottom and Ginny Weasley to the stand.”
The vantage point from the witness stand leaves nothing to the imagination. Now, facing the entire courtroom, she has no choice but to notice everything; every pitying look, every raised eyebrow doubting her story, every sneer, every look of contempt. She longs for the wooden bench that gave her some semblance of ignorance. What’s worse, she won’t be able to avoid eye contact with someone she cares about if she tries; not any member of the D.A., not Hermione, not her brothers, and certainly not Harry.
“Mr. Finnigan, Goldstein and Longbottom, Miss Weasley,” Hestia nods to each of them, “let me first say on behalf of the Ministry that we thank you for being here today, and cooperating with the Confederation–”
“We’re not here for you.”
To some, it might be surprising to hear Neville, the once timid boy who trembled in fear under much lesser scrutiny, interrupt Hestia like that, in a room splitting at the seams with authority figures. But those people are idiots, and must not know anything about him, not really, not like Ginny does.
Neville’s cheeks colour at the frozen silence and the sea of eyes trained on him, but he simply shrugs. “We’re– we’re not here for the Ministry or the Confederation.” He points towards the people they fought back-to-back with, who they lied and compromised for, and says, simply, “We’re here for them. And for the people we left behind.”
“Hear, hear,” Seamus says, clapping Neville on the back. Neville rolls his eyes.
Hestia clears her throat awkwardly, and replies, “Yes, well… we thank you. Now, if you would please–”
“Wait,” Ginny interrupts, and it comes out in the lower timbre that she adopted over the past year, a tone she dissolves into as comfortably as if she’s climbing into a well-worn jumper. Obediently, all attention shifts to her. That, on the other hand, isn’t something she’ll ever get used to.
“I would like to make something clear.” She pauses, preparing for the first real, unadulterated truth to come out of her mouth in ages. And to the masses, no less. “It is important that the world knows what happened to us, but this won't be easy for anyone that is trying to believe that last year at Hogwarts was like any other year,” and she can’t help herself, so she doesn’t; she stares directly at Harry, meeting his stubborn gaze, “or who will take the chaos we climbed out of to mean that they should feel guilty for not being there. What happened was violent. What happened was violence. If you are not prepared for that, then take the opportunity I am giving you. Leave.”
She doesn’t know what she’s expecting, but the whole room holds its breath, until one, two, three, four, five, six people take the lifeline she’s thrown them and hurry towards the door, shoulders bent in a useless effort to blend in. Predictably, and unfortunately, all of the people she expects to remain do so. She’s never seen so many sets of shoulders squared in determination at once.
“Alright, let us begin,” Hestia says, and she clears her throat again, valiantly trying to regain control of the room. She casts one arm towards the four of them in a jab-like movement, her ornamental robes making an audible swoosh sound. Both she and Neville flinch at the movement, and once she recovers she glances around nervously, hoping no one else noticed.
“Anthony Goldstein, Neville Longbottom and Seamus Finnigan were just in their fourth year at Hogwarts, Ginny Weasley only in her third, when Harry Potter suddenly appeared on the stadium grounds during the third task of the Triwizard Tournament in a traumatising scene, clutching the body of fellow student Cedric Diggory, and announcing to the world that Voldemort had returned,” The entire courtroom moves as one body to gape at Harry, who shrunk low in his seat the moment his name was mentioned.
“They were between the ages of fifteen and seventeen when Albus Dumbledore, arguably the last obstacle standing in the way between relative peace and all-out war, was killed. Sitting here today, all still under the age of nineteen, they have experienced more hardship than many people will in their lifetimes.” Anthony and Ginny glance at each other out of the corner of their eyes: is it that simple? Could all that they experienced really be compressed into three short sentences?
“These four heroes,” Hestia says– Seamus barely contains a snort– “and many of their schoolmates, valiantly took up the resistance against Voldemort, fighting for Hogwarts and our world at large. Today, they will tell you their stories; the trials, tribulations and terrors they’ve faced at the hands of the Carrows and others, starting from the very beginning of the Death Eater occupation of Hogwarts.”
There’s another beat of suffocating silence. Then, Anthony clears his throat and raises his hand pointedly. “Sorry, but– you know, with all due respect– terror has surrounded us all for a stupidly long amount of time,” he says, gesturing to the whole courtroom. “And the occupation didn’t start at Hogwarts. It began before we even got there.”
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