As Draco entered the courtroom the next day for his trial, he quickly scanned the crowd. There was only one person he wanted to see, but he knew she wasn't there.
Sure enough, he saw his mother, Potter, and Luna, like last time, but no Hermione.
On McLaggen's side of the courtroom, he saw Katie Bell, and his former Slytherin classmate, Blaise Zabini. Surprisingly, he didn't see Ronald Weasley. Draco hoped he had decided not to testify, after all.
Draco felt a strange sense of déjà vu as McLaggen began his opening statement, looking as pompous as ever. Steven countered with his statement, which was similar to Hermione's, and soon the trial was in full swing. Testimonies and memories began to be recounted, a horrible tribute to the most terrible moments in Draco's life.
Luna Lovegood was the first witness called to the stand. Thankfully, she steered clear of mentioning any strange magical creatures and painted a very lovely, although flowery, portrayal of Draco's inner goodness. Draco couldn't help but notice how Steven stared at her in awe at her calm, thoughtful answers to McLaggen's aggressive questions. He half expected Steven to applaud Luna as she stepped down from the stand.
Katie Bell took the stand, and Draco stiffened, averting his gaze as she described the terrible pain the cursed necklace caused her when she'd touched it. McLaggen asked a slew of questions, clearly sparing no detail. An angry hum spread throughout the courtroom as Katie explained how she had spent six months in the hospital recovering from the incident.
Next, Draco's mother shared several memories and statements explaining Lucius's strict pureblood beliefs that he had subjected Draco to all his life. While Draco could hear the pain and emotion in his mother's voice—so unusual for her—he feared her testimony would not carry much weight because the Malfoys were still so hated.
Following his mother's testimony, the Prosecution shared Draco's memory of him taking the Dark Mark, which they had subpoenaed. McLaggen seemed very pleased and paused a moment to relish the disapproving murmurs spreading through the courtroom before calling a new witness to the stand.
"…Mr. Blaise Zabini."
Draco frowned upon seeing his former Slytherin classmate stroll confidently up to the stand. The two had never been good friends, most likely because they had shared a similar arrogance. Zabini's dark eyes barely glanced Draco's way as he turned to McLaggen with an easy smile on his face, looking every bit the charmer.
"Mr. Zabini, how do you know the defendant?"
"We were classmates and roommates our entire time at Hogwarts."
"I see, and in your opinion, was the defendant a victim of his circumstances?"
"Not at all," Zabini said, flashing a pleasant smile. His handsome looks had only improved over the years, and Draco knew the crowd was eating up his testimony. "Draco never attempted to hide his views on Muggle-borns or how much he admired his father's beliefs. He was a Death Eater in the making the entire time I knew him, and I never saw him act or express otherwise."
"I see . . . and do any specific instances come to mind of the defendant's fervor to Voldemort's cause?"
"Yes, at the start of our sixth year—it was after Draco had taken the Dark Mark, although I didn't know that at the time. He bragged to me and a few other students about having been chosen by Voldemort for a special task. Said his age didn't matter because all Voldemort cared about was his level of devotion."
Draco frowned, sensing the glares of so many in the courtroom on him. He remembered the day well—the anger he'd felt about his father's name being disgraced, and the judgmental stares he had received from so many students when he'd boarded the Hogwarts Express. He had attempted to bolster his pride by telling himself it didn't matter—that he was above caring what his classmates thought about him, and they'd soon see what he was capable of.
Of course, that had not been how events had played out at all. Instead, he'd grown less confident and more desperate every passing day until the fateful night on the Astronomy Tower.
Knowing this, Steven wisely brought Harry Potter to the stand to share his memory of that very evening. Draco was relieved that Harry seemed to answer both Steven's and McLaggen's questions carefully, stating his belief that Draco had not been willing to kill Dumbledore in the Astronomy Tower.
Steven moved on to share the memory of Lucius's tirade at the Manor, after which Harry confirmed that he felt Draco had saved his life by not identifying him to his father that night.
As Potter stepped down, Draco's hands turned clammy, knowing witnesses for both sides were dwindling, and his fate was about to be decided very soon.
"The Defense would like to call forward . . . Miss Hermione Granger!"
An excited hubbub started throughout the room, and Draco looked up in shock to see Hermione walking confidently up to the stand. He'd had no idea she was there. Why was she even there? Steven hadn't told him she would be testifying.
Draco couldn't help but stare at her in wonder, knowing full well there would be pictures of his shocked expression all over The Daily Prophet tomorrow. Probably paired with a caption proclaiming him to be lovesick or some other such nonsense. But he didn't care. He wished she would look his way.
"Miss Granger," Steven asked, "could you tell me a little about your history with Draco Malfoy?"
"Of course," Hermione answered, smoothing her skirt. "We were in the same year at Hogwarts most of my time there."
"And what was your relationship like during that time?"
"Honestly, it was terrible. He bullied me and my friends."
"Could you tell me about your encounter with Mr. Malfoy at his family's home the night of April 10th, 1998?"
Hermione took a deep breath. Draco clenched his fists, feeling pained for her, knowing this was the first time she'd talked about the incident publicly. "Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley, and I were taken to Malfoy Manor by Snatchers. Draco Malfoy was there. As Harry already mentioned, Draco didn't identify him to his father . . . but he did identify me and Ron."
"And what happened after that?"
"Bellatrix Lestrange tortured me."
Outraged cries sounded throughout the room. Draco knew Hermione was sacrificing a lot by sharing this story for his sake. Not only was she giving up yet another piece of her privacy, but she was also being forced to, yet again, relive the terrible encounter.
"And did Mr. Malfoy assist in this torture?" Steven asked.
"He did not . . . in fact, he stopped it."
"He Stupefied me. Bellatrix thought I passed out. For a long time, that's what I thought too. It wasn't until recently, when I saw Draco Malfoy's memories, that I knew the truth."
"And do you think Mr. Malfoy's actions put him in danger?"
"Yes, I do . . . If Bellatrix had found out, she probably would have tortured or killed him."
"So why do you think Mr. Malfoy helped you? Were you two friends at the time?"
"No, we weren't friends. If anything, we were enemies." Hermione tucked a curl behind her ear. "I think the reason he did it is because, even then, despite everything he'd been taught to believe and everything he'd been groomed to become, he was still a good person. Deep down, he didn't want to hurt anyone or see them be hurt. He didn't want me to be hurt."
"Do you think that the same is true of Mr. Malfoy today?"
She nodded. "I do. With the exception that, today, he is even more aware of the type of man he is and the man he wants to be. He isn't a threat to anyone, and I am very proud to say, although we were not friends years ago, I do consider him a friend today."
"Thank you, Miss Granger."
As Hermione walked back to her seat, she finally looked Draco's way, sending him a reassuring smile. He couldn't help but return it.
Everything she'd just said about him—everything she believed about him—filled him with renewed hope. She wasn't angry with him. She hadn't forgotten about him. She wanted to be his friend. Perhaps the first real friend he'd ever had.
He kept that feeling in his heart as he stood up.
"The Prosecution calls to the stand, Mr. Draco Malfoy!"
"Mr. Malfoy, do you understand that once you drink the Veritaserum, you will be unable to answer anything but the truth on this stand?" Minister Shacklebolt asked.
"I do." Draco's voice rang out clearly as he faced the Wizengamot.
"Knowing this, would you still like to be questioned?"
"Very well, please proceed." Shacklebolt nodded, and Draco drank the small vial of clear liquid.
Hermione watched nervously as he placed the vial down and looked expectantly at McLaggen.
"Draco Malfoy," McLaggen said, looking thoroughly composed. "Did you on the night of June 30th, 1997, proceed to the Astronomy Tower at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with the intention of killing Albus Dumbledore?"
"Yes." Although Draco's voice was steady, Hermione could see his hands shaking slightly.
"And did you, during that same year, also make two other attempts on his life that almost killed two students?"
"Poor planning and hesitance aside, Mr. Malfoy, do you agree that your attempts at ending another man's life were premeditated and in line with your beliefs?"
"Yes . . . my beliefs at the time but not my beliefs now."
Hermione was relieved Draco had expanded his answer, and she could tell McLaggen was annoyed by the way his nostrils flared.
"With all due respect, Mr. Malfoy"—McLaggen waved a careless hand, although his smile was tight— "the court's job today is to decide whether you are guilty of crimes in the past, not to admire whatever new leaf you claim to have turned over. So, I will ask you again, were your attempts on Albus Dumbledore's life premeditated and in line with your beliefs?"
"And did you allow numerous Death Eaters and the vicious werewolf Fenrir Greyback access into Hogwarts that night?"
"I did, but I didn't know Greyback was going to be there."
"Oh, so a handful of Death Eaters were perfectly acceptable to set loose on innocent children?" McLaggen raised his eyebrows and turned toward the Wizengamot.
"That's not what I meant—"
McLaggen turned back to Draco, taking two large steps toward him. "And were you the one to disarm Albus Dumbledore so he was left defenseless in front of said Death Eaters, leaving the late Severus Snape no choice but to end his life?"
"Yes, I was."
"Now, let's go back a moment and talk about what led to that fateful night when an innocent life was taken. Tell the court, how did you feel upon first learning that Voldemort planned to initiate you into the Death Eaters?
Hermione silently cursed McLaggen, knowing he was purposely focusing on Draco's attitude before he had taken the Dark Mark as it would seem most damning to the Wizengamot. She could see Draco trying to fight it but the Veritaserum forced the truth out of him.
"I was excited, but I—"
"Ah, excited!" McLaggen turned toward the courtroom. "That hardly seems like the feelings of someone who was acting under duress." McLaggen took a moment to appreciate the disapproving murmurs of the crowd before addressing Draco again. "And were you excited at the prospect of killing Albus Dumbledore?"
"No! I never really wanted to kill him. I just thought I had to in order to keep my family safe."
"But yet, you bragged to your classmates about being given a special task by Voldemort, correct?"
"Yes." Draco grimaced. "Because I was a cocky teenager trying to impress his friends, and I was embarrassed by my father being locked up in Azkaban." He looked at his hands. "I was trying to convince myself that what I was going to do was right . . . but it wasn't."
"Yet somehow you still devoted almost your entire sixth year to the task . . ." McLaggen's shrewd eyes scanned the crowd, stopping when they reached Narcissa. "Your mother confirmed that she made an Unbreakable Vow with Professor Snape ensuring that he would help you. Why didn't you go to him?"
Draco shook his head. "I didn't trust him. I didn't trust anyone. And it was too risky . . . I had no way of knowing whether Voldemort would still kill my mother if I let Snape do it. She was just trying to protect me by making that vow. She wasn't thinking of her own safety. She was still within Voldemort's reach—I couldn't risk it."
McLaggen frowned. "But even Dumbledore offered to help you in his final moments. One of the most powerful wizards of all time. Why didn't you accept his offer? Surely you must have known he could have given you protection?"
"For me, maybe. But not for my mother or for . . . others. There was too much at stake at that point. The Death Eaters were in Hogwarts."
"Yes, they were . . . by your own hand. So instead of facing the consequences of your actions, you let an innocent life be taken and the safety of the entire school be jeopardized. Surely, you must have known that every student was in danger that night, including your so-called friends?"
Draco shook his head. "I was naive and shortsighted—Voldemort only said he wanted Dumbledore dead. I didn't even think that students might be targeted until it was too late."
The sound of a door opening behind her caused Hermione to turn her head. She gasped when she saw Ron slip in and take a seat on McLaggen's side of the courtroom. McLaggen turned as well, his eyes brightening when he saw Ron.
"No further questions, Minister," McLaggen said with a smile. He stepped down, and upon returning to his side of the courtroom, talked with Ron in a hushed whisper. Finally, he turned back looking quite pleased with himself.
"The Prosecution would like to call to the stand . . . Mr. Ronald Weasley!"
A/N: How do you guys think the trial is shaping up so far? How do you think things look for Draco? Sorry for drawing out the Ron drama! We will finally hear from him next chapter. Chapter Preview is live on my social media with a teaser of Ron's testimony. Click for links: FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and PINTEREST.
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