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Weeks had passed since the climactic struggle below the castle and life seemed to have returned to normal. Elizabeth and her friends were going to class much as they had before all of the trouble had begun, but there was a difference in Elizabeth.

The formally soft spoken girl had become a very outspoken ally of those in need and could be counted on to come to the aid of others. One of the most astounding things that had happened was when she had gone to Professor McGonagall , Harry Potter and a representative of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement with a plea for the return of Maureen, Jeremy and Scorpius to school.

“Miss Blackwell, I need to be certain about what you are asking. Am I correct in believing that you want Miss Campbell, Mister Howellston and Mister Malfoy returned to school?”  Professor McGonagall asked after recovering from the shock of the request from the girl who sat before her.

“Professor McGonagall, haven’t we all learned a little about what can happen when one acts rashly. They all acted without much thought and have paid a price. Do we have to continue to punish them for something that is in the past?”

“But Miss Campbell wished to kill you and actually tried to do so.”

“I forgive her for that. She acted out of pain and misunderstanding. I could very well have done the same thing given similar circumstances.”

The adults were impressed with her arguments for leniency. She left the meeting satisfied that she had done all that she could when the Headmistress, Head of the Auror Department and representative agreed with her and said that they would make haste to help the former students return.

Elizabeth had become somewhat of a celebrity once again when the story relating her actions were made known to the students. While not as impressive as the battle that Harry Potter had fought against Voldemort it held many in awe as they realized that there was much more to this girl than they had realized.

One morning as the students were eating breakfast the doors to the Great Hall opened and the stunned students watched as the expelled students entered dressed in their school robes. Instead of immediately walking to their places at the Slytherin table they made their way to the podium that stood at the head of the room. Professor McGonagall met them and allof the students, save one, wondered what they were discussing as they spoke quietly for a moment. Finally, she stepped up to the podium to face the students.

“May I have your attention please? These students have requested the opportunity to address this gathering.”

The few students who were still whispering ceased as Maureen stepped up to the podium.

“I am so grateful for this opportunity to return to Hogwarts. I realize now that I was such a fool to attempt what I did and I am truly sorry for my actions. Elizabeth, I can never repay the kindness that you have shown my sister and I. You had no obligation to speak to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for me, but you did without thought of reward for yourself. My family and I are so grateful to you and I will never forget what you have done for me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

The entire student body whispered excitedly as she stepped down from the podium and Jeremy Howellston stepped forward.

“Elizabeth and Albus, I am so sorry for the stories that I helped spread around the school. I know that I hurt you both by doing so and I promise that I will never so anything like that again. I know that you don’t have to forgive me, but I am asking you to. Thank you, Elizabeth, for being my advocate when you went to Professor McGonagall on my behalf. It means a lot to me that you wanted to help.”

Elizabeth watched as the boy stepped away from the podium and was replaced by Scorpius Malfoy, who looked rather uncomfortable as he stood before the assembled students.

“Elizabeth, I want to thank you for asking Professor McGonagall to allow me to return. I know that I have been a hopeless git and understand the gravity of my actions. I never should have spread the stories that I did about you and Albus and promise that I will never do it again. I also never should have talked Maureen into trying what she did and then kept quiet while she was punished. Maureen," he said as he turned to the girl who stood next to him.  "I apologize also to you and your family. I have put you through hell and am truly ashamed for what I have done. I vow that I will take full advantage of the new beginning that has been given to me and do my best to be a better person.”

The entire Great Hall was completely silent and nearly remained that way until the door opened once again and James Potter stepped in. He strode to the podium that Scorpius had just vacated and took his place. All eyes were on this also unexpected presence and wondered what he would say.

“Elizabeth, I am so sorry for the stories that I spread about you and Albus. I realize now that you are in love with my brother and that I should leave you alone. I promise that I will never get in the way again and ask you both for your forgiveness.”

Professor McGonagall started to approach the podium, but stopped short as Elizabeth got up from her seat and walked to the head of the room. She looked at the girl as Elizabeth stepped up to the podium and then nodded silently. Elizabeth looked at the four students who stood near her and then back out at the seated students.

“I accept your apologies, but then there was never any chance that I wouldn’t. I have learned so much about myself during all of this and you have all been a part of that learning. Despite all that happened you are a part of my life and I could never put you out of it.”

“Maureen, I understood your anger at me, you felt that I was a threat to Slytherin because I was friends with your sister. But I never intended to be a threat, all that I wanted was to help someone in need and a friend. You don’t really have to apologize as I understood also that you were reacting out of anger and not really thinking about the consequences.”

“Jeremy, you got caught up in the schemes of another. I accept your apology and hope that we can be friends.”

“Scorpius, we have known each other most of our lives. Your family and mine are irrevocably intertwined, but we can never be anything more than schoolmates. I accept your apology and hope that you will understand my reasoning.”

The girl paused for a moment as she looked at James and then sighed deeply as she looked before speaking.

“James, I accept your apology, but you have hurt Albus and I far more deeply than any of the other three that stand with you. You betrayed your brother and myself while pretending to be a friend and purposely sought to deceive us by feigning concern about the stories. Did you honestly believe that we would never discover your part in this? It pains me to believe that someone who comes from a family that I love so much could do such a callous thing. I don’t understand your fixation on me and all that I want from you is that you accept the fact that I love your brother and that you do not interfere further.”

“Professor McGonagall,” she said as she looked back at the woman.

“Yes, Miss Blackwell.”

“I understand that points were taken from the Houses because of the difficulties.”

“Yes, expelled students cost their House points.”

“Can they be returned to the house that lost them? I would like all to have a fresh start. Perhaps we can all learn to get along now.”

“Very well, I return all of the points lost due to the expulsions and fighting. You all have Miss Blackwell to thank for her graciousness. But before you go, Miss Blackwell, I am awarding Gryffindor one hundred points for your outstanding display of compassion and understanding towards those who hurt you deeply. You have shown an incredible maturity today and I am impressed by it.”

The entire Great Hall erupted in applause as the five students walked back to their places to be greeted by enthusiastic housemates. None of them saw the single tear that ran down the cheek of Minerva McGonagall as she wondered at the spectacle that had taken place before her. She knew that many years would probably pass before Hogwarts saw anything like it again, if ever.

Many miles away, Artemis Trane looked around the cell that was his new home. He was not entirely sad that his freedom had ended. The healer had tended to his ancient injury and now his arm felt better than it had in years and he was living in a much more comfortable fashion than he had in the cave. But most importantly, his granddaughter knew that he existed and accepted him for who he was. Elizabeth had visited him many times and had expressed her love for him. Gone were the fears that she would feel hatred or loathing for him. Regardless of what happened to him when he went before the Wizengamot he felt relieved and unafraid.

He looked up as an officer stepped up to his cell and spoke to him.

“You have visitors, Artemis.”

The elderly man got up to follow the officer and was soon at the entrance to the visiting room. The door opened and he stepped through to see, not his granddaughter, but his daughter and wife. The women gasped at his appearance as he stepped into the room.

“Amanda, Victoria, you have come.”

“Artemis, you have changed over the years," his wife said.  "You can thank Elizabeth for contacting us, she pled your case and we wanted to abide by her wishes.”

“She is quite a young woman, Victoria. You should be very proud of her.”

“I am, Father. Why haven’t you come forward before now? The court might have been lenient and you would not have had to spend so many years in hiding.”

“I was not sure how I would be greeted by either of you. I was a wanted man and the fight that we had made your mother’s feelings clear. I knew that your mother feared for your safety, but I could never have and would never have harmed you or put you in danger.”

“Artemis, your actions hurt me deeply," his wife said.  "You knew that I had sworn that no Dark Wizard would ever be welcome in my home and yet you sided with Voldemort. The Aurors came to our home looking for you after the battle at Hogwarts and I endured questioning for hours until they believed me that I had not seen you in years. What made the power that he offered you so important?”

“I had always felt inadequate in your eyes. I never seemed to be able to stand with the best and was ashamed when you had to defend me in arguments. He offered me so much and it wasn’t until the day that we dueled that I understood what I had lost. It was never my intent to harm you or make you fear me.”

“Father, they say that you face life in Azkaban. Is there any chance that they will reduce your sentence?”

“We will know today. I go before the court in a few hours.”

“Will Elizabeth be here?”

“She has told me that she will be. She intends to testify for me as does her friend Beatrice.”

The women nodded silently as they regarded the man before them. He had aged over the years of hard living and hiding. No doubt he had worked hard to scrape out a bare bones life. They sat quietly as he told them about his years on the run and the way that he had lived. Both cried as they heard about how he had discovered Elizabeth and how they had built a relationship. He had done his best to protect the child from a very real threat to her life and had been willing to die to save her in the catacombs.

Several hours later, the women rose as his barrister arrived to speak to him before his trial. Artemis knew that his chances were slim even though he had submitted to the use of Veritaserum to discover the truth about his actions the night that James and Lily Potter had died. The wand that he had dropped on the battlefield had been entered into evidence even though he had not used it that night except to aid in the destruction of the protective shield that the defenders had erected.

He allowed himself to be led to the courtroom and placed in the chair that sat in the center of the room. Many of the faces that peered down at him were familiar and many had been his friends in the past. But he knew that there was no friendship in their minds now, they were here to listen to the evidence before them.

He gasped as Elizabeth and her friend Beatrice entered the room to be seated as witnesses. Harry Potter joined them as a witness and he began to feel a glimmer of hope. He looked up as Jonas Fletch took his place at the head of the room.

“Artemis Trane, you are charged with crimes against the Wizarding world including collusion with Voldemort and the murders of James Potter, Lily Potter and Ephraim Denzer. How do you plead?”

“While I cannot deny the fact that I was an ally of the Dark Lord, I had nothing to do with the murders of James Potter and his wife. I was in Godric’s Hollow that night, but I never entered the house. They had a small son,’ he said as he looked at Harry, “and I refused to harm a child. While I was at Hogwarts the night of the battle I took no part in the fight escept for using my wand to attempt to bring the protective shield down. I spent the majority of the battle unconscious on the field after I was stupefied. Yes, I killed Ephraim Denzer, but I did that after he attacked me when I went  to him after he betrayed me.”

“I surrendered peacefully to Harry Potter and freely handed over my wand that day in the catacombs under Hogwarts. I attempted no harm to Beatrice Campbell or her father who was unconscious and unable to defend himself. The only harm that I attempted that day was to the house elf who was menacing them. I dueled with the elf and was injured myself, I took no further part in that confrontation.”

“How do I plead? I plead guilty to foolishness for allying with the Dark Lord. I failed to take into account all that I might lose. My part in this sorry affair has cost me many years of happiness with my wife, child and my granddaughters. Had I been a wise man, I would have denounced the Dark Lord, but I didn’t.  I plead innocent of the murders of James and Lily Potter and have passed the test that the Veritaserum placed upon me. The only crime that I am truly guilty of is the killing of Ephraim Denzer.”

“Artemis Trane, your granddaughter Elizabeth has indicated that she wishes to speak on your behalf. Because of her tender years I ask if you will allow this testimony.”

“She has proven to be a wonderful young woman who is quite formidable. Yes, I will allow her to speak.”

Elizabeth rose, looked at her grandfather as he sat in the chair and then began to speak.

“My grandfather, in the short time that I have known him, has never offered to harm anyone. He put himself in great danger in the catacombs when he faced the elf and placed protective charms on this necklace that I am wearing as well as items that he gave me. While it is true that he has pled guilty to crimes, it is also true that he showed great compassion and courage when he refused to assist Voldemort in the murders of James and Lily Potter. It would have been incredibly easy for him to have taken an active role in the murders, but he resisted. He could have killed my grandmother and mother, but loved them too much to even consider harming them.”

“At Hogwarts, they tell us that everyone is worth helping if they need it. I have helped three students who had been expelled return to school. Not out of pity, but because it was the right thing to do. The right thing for the court today is to allow my grandfather to return to his home so that he can rebuild his life and enjoy his family. I ask that the court be lenient in whatever decision makes about my grandfather. I love him so much and cannot bear to lose him again.”

Those gathered about the room sat in stunned silence as the young girl sat back down. The tears in her eyes were apparent as she looked at the man who sat in the center of the room. A moment later, the room watched as Harry Potter rose to face the Wizengamot.

“I have searched for years for the man before us. Artemis Trane was among those most wanted by the Aurors. But, now that I look at him, I don’t see a monster or a murderer. I see a man who, like so many others that are still walking free, was seduced by the power that Voldemort offered. He was given a glimpse of supremacy and power, but failed to ask what it would cost him.”

“True, he did kill Ephraim Denzer, a known criminal himself. But how many of us assembled here wouldn’t consider a rash action if betrayed. Voldemort is gone, he has been destroyed, so why do we still fear the actions of so long ago. The man before us has been proven by the use of the reading of a wand left behind so many years ago and Veritaserum to have been innocent of horrible crimes. The office of the Aurors has dropped many of the charges against this man because of these revelations about the past.“

“The only crime that he can be charged with is the murder of Ephraim Denzer, whose wand was also read after the discovery of his death. The deceased also struck with an Unforgiveable Curse, the Cruciatis. While he was under the influence of the Veritaserum, Artemis Trane revealed that Ephraim Denzer had struck first. Now it becomes a matter of self-defense which cannot be tried with the possibility of a sentence in Azkaban.”

“Mister Potter, are you suggesting that the court must drop it’s case against this wizard?”

“I am.”

The gathering erupted in an uproar that was only silenced by a repeated pounding of the gavel. Then it fell completely silent as Beatrice stood up to face them.

“Mister Trane saved me that day in the catacombs. He saved my father as well. If he had not interfered Miles would have killed us both. I am not his grandchild, but he gave up his freedom and nearly his life to protect me and my father. He is a hero, not a villain. A villain would have let us die and then silently vanished into the shadows, but he stayed and fought a deranged and murderous elf. The danger to all was great, but he stayed. Perhaps this comes from the fact that he refuses to let harm come to a child. Whatever it is, I am truly grateful to him and I ask the court for leniency.”

Many hours later, after the opposing barristers presented their cases the Minister looked down at the accused

“Artemis Trane, do you have anything further to say before we decide your fate?”

“Only that I am very sorry for my actions and that I am very proud of my granddaughter,” he said before looking at his grandchild. “Elizabeth, you are a true gift to me and I will love you until the end of my days.”

The Minister looked around the room and then spoke to the assembled witches and wizards who filled the seats. Elizabeth felt her heart pounding as she took the words in.

“Very well, those in favor of conviction.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes, not wishing to see the forest of hands in the air. Then she heard the Minister asking for those who wished that the charges be dropped. Suddenly, Beatrice was shaking her and squealing and she opened her eyes to see a forest of hands voting for the charge of murder to be dropped. Then she heard the words that she had prayed for.

“The charges against the accused are dropped. Artemis Trane, you are free to go and move on with your life. Cherish your grandchildren and never lose sight again of how much they mean to you.”

“I will never forget any of this today. I will cherish everything about my life and those within it. Thank you!”

Elizabeth rushed from her seat to hug her grandfather as he rose. She was joined by her mother and grandmother as they embraced. Tears were flowing down her cheeks again.

But this time they were tears of happiness.
 

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