Chapter 31: Of trials and families
Of trials and familiesAN: So, the next part. It plays mostly in London at the Ministry. I hope you enjoy. Again thank you for the last review, I hope you won’t be too disappointed with the developments.
“Am I supposed to sleep with Spike?!” Buffy cried out in horror.
Helen automatically turned her head towards where Giles had disappeared, afraid he might have overheard the short conversation. “No! Merlin....” She placed both her hands on her hand, looking desperate. “I only... sorry, forget what I said, sometimes I should just... not talk-“
“Did it help? Sleeping with the enemy?” Buffy asked and she looked baffled.
Again Helen shot a glance towards the corridor, before saying in a low voice: “W-well, three years later we got married.”
Buffy stared at her with an open mouth: “Oh. My. God,” she said slowly, utterly perplexed, imaging her marrying Spike, just when Giles re-entered the kitchen.
“Your mother does have an interesting-uh... taste for art,” he said pointing at a strange statue of some African goddess in the anteroom. “Is everything alright?” He asked after a short pause when he noticed their odd expressions.
“Y-yes, yes, the best, I think we can now leave Buffy on her own, it’s quite late,” Helen said hastily and motioned towards the front door.
Buffy was still staring thoughtfully at the kitchen-knives.
“Buffy?” Giles addressed her.
“Hm? Yeah, you can go,” she said at last. “And thanks,” she added, then gave Helen an amused look and followed them to close the door behind them.
The following days seemed to have flown away in a high speed and Helen would not be able to put off a talk with Snyder for much longer. A couple of times she considered to just leave for London without letting him know, but she didn’t want to risk anything, she knew too, that a person under a love spell could be unpredictable. She was very nearly desperate when on an afternoon, a day before her departure she was summoned into his office without knowing the reason. Nevertheless she had the feeling that she wouldn’t be pleased.
When she reached Snyder’s office and knocked on the door, she heard him clearing his throat nervously, then saying: “Come in.”
She entered. Snyder was standing behind his desk, looking rather discomposed. “Please,” he exhaled, loosening the knot on his tie a little, and pointed at the armchair. She walked slowly towards it, fixing him with her eyes, trying to figure out what this was all about. The moment she sat down, Snyder almost ran over to her and knelt down right in front of her, grasping both her hands into his. Her eyes widened, as he began to whisper frantically: “I-I can’t hide it anymore... I don’t want to pretend... I-I love you. Terribly, desperately, I think if I have to spend one more day without you, I’ll explode...”
Helen opened her mouth, and closed it right away, utterly speechless. He took it as a good sign obviously, because he continued: “We should be together, don’t you think? I’m sure you can feel it too, that we are meant for each other...”
She stared at him blankly.
He smiled and it occurred to her that she hadn’t seen him smile this way before. It wasn’t his usual mean and spiteful grin that he was offering to his students occasionally, it was rather a maniac, moony smile. “Let us leave, let us flee somewhere far away, so that we can be together forever, just the two of us...”
Helen furrowed her brows, she was thinking hard, what to do or say. “I-I... I’m not sure...,” she said carefully, and when she saw his smile disappear, she hurried to add: “It’s all so sudden...”
And then she had an idea. Not a great one, or one she would be boasting about to her grandchildren, but right now it was her best shot.
“I know, I know, but can’t you see? We’d be perfect...,” Snyder whispered again in a conspiratory voice.
She smiled tensed. “Yes, perhaps... uhm... I need some time to think about it,” she said seriously.
“But-“ He wanted to object, but she cut him off, raising her index finger warningly, and gave him a stern look.
“It is a very serious step that we can’t do lightly,” she then said strictly and he was hanging on her lips. “Here’s what we do: You give me a few days off, to have my peace and to think carefully of things... there’s a lot that we need to plan...”
“Why? Can’t we just leave? No one will miss us,” he said eagerly.
Helen gave him an indulgent smile. “It’s not that simple. And I want us both to be absolutely sure that we want it-“
“I am sure, I never was this sure of anything before,” he replied, scanning her body hungrily. She fought the urge to vomit.
“I know you are, a-and I want me to be too, that’s why I need a little time-“
“You have waited for so long, a couple of more days won’t kill you. On the contrary,” she tried her best flirty look and licked her lips, hating herself at the same time, “it might strengthen the passion.” Yuck.
There was again the awkward smile on his face and he squeezed her hands, then raised them to his lips and kissed them. She was having the hardest time to keep a straight face and not to sicken at the touch. She jumped up. “Alright, I’ll be going then, I’ll leave tomorrow and I’ll be back in a week’s time,” she hurried towards the door, followed by Snyder’s loony glances.
“I’m already missing you, my sweet darling,” he said after her.
Helen shrugged from the disgust, in the doorway she turned around one last time, gave him the best smile she could manage, then closed the door and hurried away.
Later that day Giles and Helen were sitting in his apartment, he had cooked once again a splendid dinner that they were eating now, yet Helen’s mind was elsewhere. Giles noticed that she was not herself at all, she wasn’t exactly nervous, she just looked like something was bothering her. Tomorrow she should take a plane to fly to London to be there one day in advance as she wanted to talk to Kingsley before the trial. Obviously her thoughts were already focused on that whole event, so that she hardly spoke a word during the whole meal and as she was eating, her hand holding the fork was wandering between her plate and her mouth in a rather automatized way. When they finished, Giles cleared the dishes away, then came to stand right behind her and caught her left hand. She turned at him as if she had just awoken from a dream. He softly pulled her to get up. He could not help her face the trial, but there might be other ways to at least distract her for a moment.
“I think I know, what you need right now,” he said confidently and led her to the bathroom. There he let go of her hand and turned on the water to fill the tub.
Then he turned to her and she at least tried to smile. He pulled her closer into his arms and his hand found the zip of her skirt on her back and opened it slowly, then he carefully slipped his other hand in to take it off. She didn’t protest, in fact she looked like she would let him do just about anything right now – apart from thinking of and dreading the coming few days she felt she had no energy left to do anything else herself. Yet when the skirt fell to the floor and Giles’ hands wandered up over her shoulders to the front of her blouse and began to open its buttons, her lethargy began to crumble. The effects of the touch of his fingers were hard to ignore. She raised her head and this time a true, wide, although a little tired smile appeared on her face as her hands slid downwards to his belt.
In the early morning a cab took Helen to the small airport in Sunnydale from where she would take a plane to London via L.A. And it was again an early morning in London, when she landed at Heathrow and took a tube to Russell Square, then walked to her apartment to get at least a few hours of sleep before her meeting with Kingsley was due in the late afternoon.
“I understand now why you don’t want your... friends, the Watcher especially, involved or mentioned as long as we don’t know more about the connection between the Council and the Death Eaters. Yet I’m not sure I understand what you want from me, what you want me to do,” Kingsley finally spoke, after Helen had told him about the mysterious affair with the books of the Watchers Council.
Helen sighed, she was still tired and a little droopy from the jet leg. “To be honest I don’t know myself... I’m not sure what to do, but...,” she leant closer over his desk, “perhaps you could allow me to talk to Travers for a start.”
“You mean Secundus Travers? You can pay him a visit in Azkaban for all I care. If you think there’d be any use,” Kingsley offered.
Helen blushed. “I-ah... I can’t aparate that long a distance.”
“Can’t you?” Kingsley asked surprised. “How horrible for you... I didn’t know it was that bad,” he said thoughtfully and Helen cursed him in her head.
“Well, it is,” she said in a sharp voice. “Do you think it could be arranged for me to meet with him here, at the Ministry?”
Kingsley wondered for a moment. “I don’t see why not. But you’ll have to wait until the Lestrange-trial is over. People wouldn’t like having two notorious Death Eaters at the Ministry at the same time.”
Next morning Helen got up very early as the phone in her apartment was ringing. It was Giles who wanted to bolster her and cheer her up before she would leave to attend the hearing.
“You’ll be fine,” he said reassuringly. “And I will be thinking of you.”
“I thought you’re going to bed right now,” she replied amused.
“Well,” Giles paused, “those two things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive,” he said and Helen could almost see him turn pink. “However, call me when it’s over.”
“I will.” I love you.
She took a cab to the Ministry, she wanted to be there early enough, hoping to see George and the others to calm her nerves a little. And indeed, thankfully, in the atrium she ran into Hermione, Ron, George and Mrs. Weasley.
“Oh, hello, dear,” Molly greeted her brightly with a tight hug and a kiss. “How are you? Have you recovered alright from those dreadful attacks? Hermione told us Lestrange had battered you terribly. And where are you staying now? Didn’t you want to come to the Burrow? You could have stayed with us! Surely you must be lonely here in this awful city, all alone, why didn’t you floo? We were expecting you! You know Arthur and me – we’d be glad to have you,” she said reproachfully.
Helen didn’t know what to answer first. “No, no, please, I just didn’t want to bother you,” she saw Molly already raise to a protest and another offensive, “I have some errands here and at the Ministry and... you know I can’t aparate very far these days, so... it’s really more handy staying in London for the purposes. It’s really nothing else, you know I love the Burrow. And do give my best regards to Arthur.”
“Oh, he’ll be here, you’ll see him at the trial,” Molly replied cheerfully.
“Oh,” Helen seemed surprised, “him too.”
“Of course. Everyone’s coming,” Molly said as if it was all natural.
“How neat,” Helen said. She just hoped that everyone did not actually mean everyone
. Feeling paranoid already she looked around them and instantly got the impression that the atrium was much more filled with wizards and visitors than usually.
They proceeded towards the lifts to descend to the 10th floor where the courtrooms of the Wizengamot were situated. The lift got full, there were at least twenty people inside, Helen was sure that that was the maximum allowed capacity. She was standing right at the back, George right next to her.
They reached level 2. Two Ministry employees got out and three others entered the lift.
“So, how are you? Ready to face the vultures?” George asked with a gleeful grin.
Helen took a deep breath, skimming over the heads of the people in front of them. “Well,” she began, but stopped as the lift came to halt on level 3, to see whether anyone would get out. They didn’t. Instead a tall young wizard entered, looking at this watch. The lift moved again. “Right,” she turned back at George and frowned: “what were you saying?”
He smirked. “I was asking whether you were ready to face them all.”
Helen made an odd grimace. “Well, I don’t really have a choice, do I?”
“No, I guess not. Take it from the plus side: They all came here from near and far – just to see you, isn’t that nice?” He said cheerfully. “I mean – who except for Harry perhaps can say that they’re that
She glared at him. “You really know your stuff, don’t you?”
“Yeah, that’s what they say.”
“Why do they all have to be there?” Helen murmured as more wizards got in the lift.
“C’mon, Helen,” George said as if he was to state the obvious, “is it so hard to understand?”
She looked at him frowning. For her it was.
“Voldemort is dead, there are no baddies left, no villains, everything is fine and well-ordered again, neat and organized... They’re bored! This trial is probably the most exciting event of the past two years.”
“You make it sound like it’s a fair,” she said, watching the level-display. They would reach level 8 now. Surely all of these people did not come here to attend the sodding trial...
“It is,” George said, but Helen’s eyes were now fixed at the lift’s door which would open soon on the last floor before the level 10. The lift was now completely stodged. “On the other hand, if it cheers you up a bit, not everyone
will be there...” Not a single person left the lift on level 9, and two elderly wizards and a witch, by their robes recognizable as members of the Wizengamot, entered. “... Angelina won’t be coming, someone has to take care of the shop, and Ginny’s got exams and I doubt that anyone from the Hogwarts staff will be there...”
“Sorry?” Helen turned at him, her heart was already throbbing loudly, she was glad that she was standing at the back and wearing a hat as no one seemed to have recognized her as yet. “What were you asking?”
“Nothing really. Please, feel free to ignore me anytime,” George replied just as the lift stopped and a pleasant, almost obtrusive female voice announced: “You’ve reached now level 10. Here you’ll find the courtrooms of the Wizengamot. For the courts 1 to 3 turn left, for the courts 4 and five turn right. If you are attending a hearing in a witness-capacity, please register first in the registration office, room Nr. 1007 to your right. We wish you a pleasant stay.” Helen felt as if someone wanted to mock her with that last sentence. Her feet seemed to have grown into the floor of the elevator and she didn’t really mind. She didn’t want to leave it. But George gave her a gentle slap on her back.
“Come on, dear, we’ll show’em,” he said, showing determination for the both of them, and so Helen stepped forward at last.
They entered the registry office, the door was wide open, Hermione and Ron were already there, still waiting for a clerk that would go with them over the required formalities.
“I do hope Kingsley sorted out the Slayer/Watcher and the names-thing,” Helen said, “I completely forgot to ask him about it yesterday.”
“Don’t worry, he did,” George assured her.
Hermione was nodding too: “Yes, they did a spell, or they will perform it at the begin of the hearing from behind, Kingsley asked Arnold Peasegood, the obliviator, to jinx the names.”
“How?” Ron asked wondering.
“It is a little like a tabu-spell. Every time someone will want to say the real name, we will speak out a fake one, like... you’re having Martin
on your tongue, but due to the spell what comes out of your mouth will be... Peter
... It’s rather a complicated magic I understand.”
“It is,” Helen agreed. “But if done properly – and Peasegood used to be good at these things – then it might be the safest alternative, preventing any mishaps and slips, plus it includes everyone, so it can’t happen that one of us will say the fake name and Rodolphus could reveal the real one. He can’t counter us this way.”
“So. Are we all present?” They got interrupted by a small, kind looking old witch, who was beaming and twinkling at them and while she was putting down the necessary information and instructing them one by one as how to fill in the forms and how to behave during the trial in general, she was treating them like an old nurse would treat little children who were at a doctor’s, afraid and about to receive their first injection. Amazingly the effect of this treatment didn’t miss Helen and she was just beginning to feel a little better, safer and not so intimidated any more, almost like looking forward for the cookie or the praline the doctor would gave her afterwards, when she’d get through the procedure bravely enough, when the witch suddenly opened a side door of the office and pushed Helen, who was standing closest to it, through, saying, “So, off you go.”
“What the-?!” Helen cursed and turned back towards the registry, when already George, who’s been thrown out right after her, bumped into her. They both now raised their heads. They were standing in one corner of a large courtroom that seemed to be exploding filled with people. All the visitors’ banks were occupied, only now and there Helen could spot a free seat, but even these were mostly being saved for someone as it seemed. The room also was filled with noise, people were chatting with their neighbours about all sorts of things and as there were hundreds of them, it was quite deafening. Helen’s eyes were wandering over the faces. There was something wrong with the picture, she thought. This was supposed to be a trial, a hearing where one of the most dangerous Death Eaters, responsible for some of the most vicious crimes and the causer of terrible atrocities would be sentenced, for the second time, to spend what would hopefully be a long rest of his life in Azkaban. It was hardly an understatement to say that one could consider this a serious matter and an earnest occasion. Yet judging by many expressions on the faces of the present wizards, even from the short shreds of their dialogues...“Man, did you see the new Firebolt? We’ve been to the exhibition with Maud last Saturday, an amazing broomstick, I’ll tell ya.”
“Yeah, I don’t know... I’m kinda grown with me old Nimbus, he’s never let me down ever...”
“I’m desperate,” said a middle-aged witch who just came in and took a seat that her friend had saved for her, “Rosie, my owl – since a couple of days she’s been pooing on my windowsill outside the living room...”
“Really? How annoying,” her friend sympathized with her.
“You can say that out loud. Yesterday I did the mistake of letting the window open for a moment and when I came back I found a huge pile on the inner sill.”
“And I have no idea what I’m accused of having committed!”
“I read about these things... hang on, were you perhaps sending some wrackspurts? The Quibbler said that the Owls hate those and they get that way...”
Another married couple were obviously talking about someone seated a few rows below, the wife had accused her husband of staring at another witch’s breast that seemed to be very well proportioned, too well in the eyes of the wife. “Phh, I bet those aren’t even real.”
The husband allowed himself another glance under the pretext of checking. “What makes you think so? They look fairly real to me,” he murmured and when Helen looked at his wife, she thought that he was already walking on a very thin ice with that last remark.
“Oh, Archie, please,” she said impatiently, “no way. There are tons of potions nowadays, drink them and your boobs will grow like weed.”
The husband frowned at the odd comparison and turned his eyes away from the other witch.
“And it’s not always easy to stop them,” the wife added spitefully.
She gave George an incredulous look, but he shrugged merely. “I told ya. It’s a nice gathering, isn’t it? All I’m missing are some picnic baskets and some awful folk music.”
“I still don’t get it. It’s Rodolphus Lestrange,” Helen shook her head.
“Well, he’s old news. He hasn’t been very active since his escape, hasn’t killed, tortured or disfigured anyone lately, or at least no one we’d know about,” George was contemplating, “unlike in the first battle, and that was twenty years ago. His victims from that time are... well, dead mostly – I guess they were dead then as well, but, I mean there are far less people concerned this time, those who would have personal interest in seeing him sentenced aren’t that numerous,” he lowered his voice a little, “besides I heard that some of the relatives of the earlier victims – one is dad’s friend – they would not come because it’s too painful for them, they didn’t attend Lestrange’s trial then and they won’t now, they don’t really want to set eyes on him again.”
Helen nodded thoughtfully.
“Aah, Helen,” a female voice sounded behind them. It was Brunhilda Ogden, who used to work at the Auror’s office with Helen after the battle, though Helen never liked her much. “You look so well! So... healthy, it’s so nice to see you’re up and about again,” she said in a loud voice and several people sitting in the first rows close to where they were standing turned their heads now. Some seemed now to have recognized Helen and yet again among these some began to whisper and point at her to others.
“Yes, thank you, Brunny,” Helen said, remembering that her former colleague hated the nickname, “I’m very well actually.”
Brunhilda gave her a crooked smile and wanted to say something else, but Helen cut her off: “I believe that’s Angus over there waving you to come,” she nodded with her head towards the upper rows. “Bye, it was so nice to see you,” she added and turned back at George: “So, pardon the interruption, George, you were saying?”
George looked at her amused. “See? You’ll be fine. If you can handle all of them like that, I don’t see what you’re afraid of.”
Helen sighed again heavily, then took off her hat at last.
“State your name, date and place of birth and your occupation, please,” the Ministry clerk, a tall, grey-haired witch asked her as Helen was seated in the witness stand.
“Helena McGregor, born in Vernio, Italy in May 1968, I currently teach history and arts at a muggle high-school in Rainyhill
At first Helen, Hermione, Ron and George each gave their account on the events from February and answered the occasional questions of the Judges of the Wizengamot. After that Rodolphus Lestrange was questioned by several members of the Wizengamot. He was in a good mood, though Helen noticed now and then that between his gleeful smirks and mad laughters he looked tired and resigned. When asked what he was doing in Mexico, he simply said he was visiting friends, and as to what he was doing and where he had been staying during the last months of Voldemort’s reign, he only gave an arrogant grin without a reply. This was repeated couple of times and Helen saw some of the Wizengamot members exchange weird nodds and determined looks.
This way the whole hearing didn’t exceed three hours and when Elphias Doge, the honorary president of the Wizengamot announced the end, Helen was happy and relieved that it all went well, that even the spell providing the fake names of her Sunnydale friends seemed to have worked, although...
“Robert Miles?! Duffy Winters?! Sander Farris?! Wilma Gugenberg?!
” Helen was fretting and foaming at Kingsley. “Could you possibly have come up with something less original and more stupid?”
Kingsley looked at her apologetically. “I’m sorry, we did the names at the last minute. Still, it’s highly unlikely that anyone here knows them, so...”
“Yes, we can hope that.”
The next hearing was set for the other day, though neither Helen, nor George, Hermione nor Ron had an idea what the Judges of the Wizengamot were hoping to achieve this time, since Rodolphus made it quite clear that he would not answer any of their questions concerning his stay abroad. In the opinion of the four of them he should have been simply sent back to Azkaban, end of story. Nevertheless on the next day they again took their seats on the witness bank and waited for the hearing to start. Rodolphus had not been brought in and to their surprise it was Kingsley who addressed the audience now:
“Ladies and gentlemen, I will not beat around the bush much. We all were here yesterday and heard what Mr. Lestrange would – or rather would not – tell us. However, given his position among the Death Eaters there is a strong feeling among some of us that it might be crucial to employ all possible means at our hands to find out, especially concerning his mysterious task for You-Know-Who.”
Helen turned at the others, a question in her eyes, but it seemed that they neither knew what this was all about.
But then Kingsley continued: “And there certainly are means to find out,” he said slowly and firmly, underlining every word. And suddenly Helen thought she might know where this was going. Her eyes met Hermione’s, obviously the younger witch had guessed herself.
Kingsley looked into the audience shortly, then his eyes stopped at the four witnesses, before he turned his look back at the rows in the centre. “We are considering the use of veritaserum in this case,” he said.
For a brief moment there was silence in the room, but it only took a few seconds, then everyone seemed to have burst into frantic talks with their neighbours. Helen and Hermione stared at Kingsley in disbelief, George and Ron shrugged merely. Helen watched some of the Wizengamot members she had noticed yesterday nodding at each other, and now she realized why.
“You can’t do that,” she said loudly, yet only Kingsley and a few people in the front rows heard her. “There are wizarding laws,” she added and now the audience began to notice her.
Kingsley did not stop her, in fact he looked as if he had been expecting this and he nodded slightly to her that she may continue. She got up: “There are laws that clearly forbid the use of veritaserum in trials or in questionings, I did not think it would be necessary to remind you of that – in this place of all places.”
“But this is a special case!” Someone from the red-cloaked and red-caped Wizengamot members yelled.
“That’s not the point,” she said even louder. “There are reasons why it’s not permitted. Good reasons.”
“Aren’t you curious to know what Lestrange was doing all the time?” Someone else asked.
Helen suppressed a laughter. “Precisely, we are talking of Rodolphus Lestrange here, one of the best, if not the best and the fastest legilimens, trained by Voldemort himself. Do you really think you could get the truth out of him that easily? No. You would never know whether what he says is really what happened, you could never truly rely on his account even with the potion. There are ways, and I’m sure he’s no stranger to them, to secure oneself against it... Plus it would set an example, and some years later we’ll find ourselves handling all of the hearings as special cases, using the veritaserum as it suits us and without thinking, because it’s easier... No, I’m sorry, but this is wrong. It is probably not up to me, as you,” she looked at the Wizengamot, “already seem to have made up your mind, but know that I don’t support this,” she said calmly, then nodded at Kingsley and sat down again, she was done.
“They don’t need your support!” Someone shouted from the upper rows of the audience. “You were a nutcase two years ago!” Helen went pale. Few people laughed, and the fevered talks aroused again.
“Will you please leave this room?” Kingsley addressed the person who had spoken last. Helen did not turn around to see who it was. All the calm and the courage suddenly left her and she sank deeper into the bank she was sitting on. Hermione patted her on the shoulder clumsily.
“Please,” Elphias Doge said and hammered on his desk, “let the Minister finish.”
“Thank you. And thank you, Miss McGregor, for your remarks,” Kingsley began, “please note that we are aware of the delicacy of this step. And we do not wish to undertake it lightly. We have therefore decided to take a vote.” Again there were comments and cries from the audience, some obviously supportive, others dismissive.
“Oh, no,” Hermione murmured and rolled her eyes. She had already witnessed these “votes” at the Ministry during her internship, they all had been quite ridiculous, and if measured by any democratic standards they would fall flat. And so it should be this time as well.
First Kingsley asked every one present in the room (presuming boldly that all people attending the trial were interested in the case of Rodolphus Lestrange in one way or another and thus should be given the possibility to decide about his fate) who would wish to participate in the vote – that is who had a clear opinion on the matter including all fifty Wizengamot members – to put a note with his or her name into a goblet in the middle of the room. Afterwards the goblet would – similar to drawing lots – spit out 33 persons who then were allowed to hand in the actual vote.
Helen frowned at this peculiar vote proceeding. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to her, but without much further nagging she along with the others put her name into the shining goblet. As it seemed – and after overhearing some of the weird small-talks between the visitors yesterday Helen didn’t wonder – not everybody did so. There were quite a few wizards and witches, who remained sitting on their seats, watching and observing the others curiously.
Once the goblet had chosen all 33 wizards able to vote, only Ron off the four of them was among them.
“Yess!” He exclaimed pleased, when Elphias Doge read his name, as if he had won the highest prize in a tombola. Hermione gave him a hard look.
“I do hope for your sake that you will put the right thing on your vote, Ronald,” she hissed at him.
“Yes, or there will be no hanky-panky for two weeks, Ronald” George added in a strict tone. Helen hit him with her elbow.
“Don’t disappoint us,” Hermione said, more mildly this time and Ron appeared confused for a moment.
“Well, don’t look at me,” George murmured, “I’d vote all for it, so either way you’re gonna disappoint someone... then again, I’m used to it, so... do what you want.”
Ron turned at Helen at last, looking a bit helpless. “Do what you think is right,” she said calmly, “and that would be to vote against it, just so you know,” she added in a small voice.
“Ronald Weasley!” Elphias Doge repeated the name louder this time, and Ron finally hurried towards another smaller goblet to put his vote in.
Much to everyone’s surprise, but probably most to Helen’s the voters did decide against the use of veritaserum. It was close, fifteen had voted for it, eighteen against. Kingsley and some of the Wizengamot members looked clearly disappointed. At last they brought Rodolphus in to pronounce the sentence, which had been expected – life imprisonment in Azkaban. There were satisfied murmurs to be heard afterwards, especially among some elderly witches and wizards, who might have known Rodolphus or experienced his treatment in the far-off past.
Helen and the others were just leaving the courtroom when Rodolphus’ voice sounded inside her head: “I won’t be in jail forever, you know.” She turned around to look at him, but his lips weren’t moving as he yet continued: “And when I get out, I’ll finish with you, and your Mr. Miles
His voice nevertheless sent shiver through her, it was full of hatred, perky and – for someone who was going to spend the rest of his life among happiness-sucking dementors – unusually self-assured. But she managed to reply verbally. “Then I suggest you better hurry.”
The next day was a Sunday and Helen spent it walking through the streets of London, then in the evening she called Giles and when she hung up around two in the morning, she was astonished to realize that they had been talking – about all sorts of things, and strangely not about demons, monsters or other “work”, but about nice things, about normal things – for almost four hours.
On Monday Helen was supposed to meet Rebecca Gregson in her office. She had floo-ed the young witch about a week ago and asked her, if she could get or make a list of all the council-books, specifying in which household each of them had been found. She wasn’t really sure what she was expecting to discover, but she thought that it might be useful to get a better picture of which Death Eaters had been piling those books.
On Monday afternoon Edgar Thornton walked the narrow corridor on the fifth floor of the Ministry, leading to the office of Rebecca Gregson. She had asked him to come, she didn’t tell him why, but he assumed it had to do something with the infamous books from the Library of the Watchers Council. He knocked shortly at Ms. Gregson’s office door, then entered. A bit irritated he saw that Ms. Gregson was having another visitor, a woman, who got up from her armchair, just as Rebecca addressed him: “Ah, here you are.”
The other woman turned around now and Edgar Thornton blinked for a moment. It can’t be... Emily... Good Lord... The image in front of him took his breath away for a few seconds and he was trying to compose himself again. If he didn’t know better, he could swear that his younger sister was standing right there, in front of him, smiling friendly, a little shy perhaps, just the way she used to and as he could remember it from the better days... or even from the day when she had announced happily that she had got engaged to the muggle... Everything looked the same: the form of her mouth, the tiny dimples beneath her cheeks and on her chin, the high cheek bones, even the peculiar “Thornton” line of her brows, the pale delicate skin, and the very shade of her light brown hair – he wondered whether it too used to change its colour during the year as Emily’s did – dark brown in the summers, and light, almost with a touch of blond in the winters... But there were the eyes, the dark brown, almost black piercing eyes... Suddenly a strange feeling overcame him that he couldn’t quite class. Was it shame? Remorse? Guilt even? Those were all things he felt rarely as he never regretted anything, never questioned his or his family’s decisions, never doubted his and their actions.
“Helen, this is Mr. Thornton, my predecessor,” Rebecca introduced him.
It was as if someone washed away the smile from her face, he saw it and though he didn’t want to admit it – it hurt. She was taken entirely by surprise, that was obvious, and she looked as if she didn’t know how to react
The silence was becoming a little awkward, as Rebecca noticed Helen’s discomfort, and she forgot to introduce her. She couldn’t know that it wasn’t necessary, that the grey-haired old wizard knew very well that it was his niece standing opposite to him, the daughter of his little sister, whom he hasn’t met before.
He tried a smile and offered his hand: “Miss-ah...,” suddenly it occurred to him that he didn’t even remember the name of that muggle.
Helen hesitated for a brief moment, then took his hand, swallowed hardly, to keep the acerbity out of her voice: “Helen McGregor.”
An hour later the uncle and the niece were sitting in a London café, trying to have a conversation. Helen was watching the old man as he took her coat off and went to a wardrobe in a corner of the room to hang it there. He was very elegantly dressed, perhaps a bit old fashioned, but in a nice way. She also knew that he was supposed to be almost eighty years old, but – as was often the case with wizards – he looked much younger.
“How do you know about those books?” He asked when he returned and sat down at their table. He sounded rather curious than suspicious, yet Helen wasn’t sure how much she should tell, what would be wise or what Giles would want him to know. On the other hand he was in touch with Giles’ friend, James Robson, who knew there was a witch in Sunnydale and who would probably tell him sooner or later. So she settled for the truth, and – being glad to have something to say and not having to endure an embarrassing silence between them – she told him that while living in Sunnydale she got to know Giles, who was the watcher of the current vampire slayer and that they became friends (he need not to know the exact status of their relationship) and that at some point he happened to tell her about what Robson had found out.
“And you’ve come now to acquire some more details from Ms. Gregson?” He asked when she finished.
“No, well, not only. I had to come to attend the trial, so I thought I might stop by at her office as well,” she replied.
“The trial?” Edgar Thornton asked wondering.
“The Lestrange trial,” Helen said, assuming that he must know.
He furrowed his brows. “Lestrange? But isn’t she dead?”
Helen looked confused. “No, it’s Rodolphus Lestrange, husband of Bellatrix.” Was it possible that there was a person who didn’t know anything about it despite the wide publicity? There even was a special issue of the Prophet yesterday, dedicated only to Rodolphus’ life and “work”, the hearing and its outcome.
“Oh,” he raised his head, but his tone was suggesting that he didn’t really care. He must have noticed Helen’s short bewilderment, for he added casually: “You see I don’t read the papers.”
“Well,” she smiled, “it’s not that terrible a loss.”
“Yes, it really is not, is it? You would have thought that after their battle was fought and won they would finally get a grip of that Prophet.”
Helen would agree with him, but one word did strike her strange. It might have been a mere slip, yet the way he said it disturbed her nonetheless.
battle? You mean the battle of Hogwarts, the last war, our
battle,” she said.
“Your... battle,” he said and his calm, almost indulgent voice made her angry. “We
kept out of it,” he added and he made it sound as if that had been the wise, the sensible thing to do.
“How?” She asked, shaking her head. She did not understand.
“We didn’t participate in it, we were without any interests in the entire affair.”
?” She asked frowning at the strange, almost blasphemous choice of the word. The affair
had cost the lives of dozens of wizards, her friends, her brother...
“Yes. We Thorntons are impartial on principle.”
“You mean to say cowards.”
“No, we like to think of ourselves as... neutral.”
“Oh, for God’s sake, you’re not Switzerland! You’re... people!” She said loudly and a few muggles turned their heads curiously towards them. “How-how can you justify your existence at all? How can you live with yourself knowing that others died, that others fought for you so that you can live in that comfortable manor house forever more... what do you do all days sitting there?”
Edgar looked embarrassed around them, but not because he felt ashamed, but rather because he did not like the attention they were getting in the café. “Oh, we pursue our own occupations...,” he replied in a low voice.
“Like what? Collecting snuffboxes?” Helen was outraged now and wasn’t even really sure why. She got up, looked at him stubbornly, pressed her lips together, then paused for a second as if she was to say something more, but then just shook her head again, took her purse and left.So, this is the family then...
When she returned to her apartment after having walked for two hours to shake off the bitterness over the meeting with her uncle, she found a weird message in her voice mail. It was from Kingsley. He must have been speaking very loud, almost yelling into the speaker, overpronouncing every word: “Hi... Helen, this is Kingsley... I am calling you from Hermione’s... tele-phone.... Your floo isn’t working... I hope you will get this message, if not, call Hermione back... wait... I guess... that doesn’t make sense... well, you-you will get this message hopefully... I wanted to tell you that you can come to the Ministry tomorrow to speak with Travers. Two p.m., you can use one of the empty offices on the ninth floor. I asked Arthur and Ron to be there too, for security reasons... I hope you don’t mind. Otherwise let me know. I don’t think you should be alone with him... Alright. I’m done. Good bye...” There was some rustling, then Kingsley said: “Hermione? Where do I put this...” And that was the end.Good, that’s something at least
, Helen thought. Hopefully the meeting with a former Death Eater would be more fruitful than the one with her family. AN: Thanks for reading. Sorry for the unfortunate ending, I have already started the Travers-interview, but I have to give it some better thoughts, so I might need a few days to post the next one, but it will hopefully happen within a week :) anyways, let me know what you think of this chapter, it wasn’t easy writing a HP-verse chapter, I’m not sure whether I got the characters right or authentic enough, as some of them are quite OCs.