Chapter 1 of 24
Guilty until proven innocent
“Hello Neville, how are you doing?” Minister Fudge asked kindly as if he was talking to a favorite nephew.
Neville shrugged from the chair in the middle of the round courtroom in front of the whole Wizengamot, the Minister’s entourage which consisted of his Under-Secretary Dolores Umbridge and his assistant Percy Weasley, the defendant Severus Snape and his lawyer Ted Tonks. Neville was the first witness called by the prosecution in the trial of Severus Snape for Death Eater activity and murder. At the end of June Severus had answered a summon from Lord Voldemort to a graveyard in Little Hangleton. Now, you ask yourself, why would he answer, or even better, receive a summon from Lord Voldemort if he wasn’t a marked Death Eater? Maybe he is guilty and Fudge isn’t all that crazy.
If you thought that you would be severely mistaken. Severus Snape answered that summon because Harry Potter had been kidnapped along with Cedric Diggory, and not long after Severus felt his Dark Mark burn, signaling the return of Lord Voldemort. Now, Severus actually liked the quiet Hufflepuff, he was an okay student, but he wasn’t the main source of Severus’ worries that night. No, his worries were centered on one black haired, bespectacled boy with a lightning bolt scar on his forehead. Severus, former Death Eater, Greasy Git from the Dungeons, the fear of every Hogwarts student both past and present, became quite soft when said boy was involved. So, in an attempt to save his adopted nephew, the son of his first and only true love, Severus went to Voldemort and tried to convince him of his loyalties. Well…that didn’t go exactly as planned and Voldemort tried to kill Severus, but for Severus’ luck and horror Harry threw himself in front of the Killing Curse aimed at him. Due to a combination of Harry having a piece of Voldemort’s soul inside him and Voldemort using Harry’s blood in a ritual to get a body back, Harry did not die and Voldemort ended up dead by his own rebounded Killing Curse when it collided with a disarming charm from Harry.
And here you say, well now that Voldemort is dead all our heroes’ troubles are gone. And I answer; no. Why? Because there are idiots like Fudge in the world. After defeating Voldemort, Harry was attacked by a psychotic Azkaban escapee Bellatrix Lestrange and Severus killed her, defending Harry. Quite clear, if you ask me. Not according to Fudge though. In an attempt to prove that his supporters Alexander Nott and Lucius Malfoy were not loyal Death Eaters, and therefore save his reputation and post, Fudge declared that Voldemort hadn’t really been alive, and that Severus orchestrated the kidnap to try and resurrect Voldemort with a ritual. That it was an Inferi that all the witnesses saw in the graveyard that day and that Nott, Malfoy and every other Death Eater apprehended with the exception of Severus and Karkaroff were there to save Harry. He also proceeded to discredit Severus’ biggest supporters: Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter. Fudge pressured the Daily Prophet into printing articles that badmouthed Harry and Dumbledore, calling the first an attention-seeking liar who delved in the Dark Arts and saying the second was loosing his touch with age.
This is why we find ourselves here today, at the trial of Severus Snape, with Fudge questioning poor Neville Longbottom:
“Neville, we need your help. We heard Mr. Snape here is quite intimidating-“
“Madam Bones, Mr. Longbottom was not at the scene of the alleged crime and so I don’t see the relevance of his testimony,” Ted Tonks exclaimed from his seat next to Severus.
“I will have several witnesses who will prove this man is not the hero the defense is trying to portray Madam Bones. This serves to attest to the defendant’s character and inclinations,” Fudge roared pointing at Severus.
“I will permit your line of questions Minister,” Madam Bones, the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement said. “But please do remember that the Minister of Magic does not preside these proceedings. This situation is quite unusual and was formed by your demand, but I still have the maximum authority here. By demanding to prosecute this case you are putting yourself under my ruling no matter who you are.”
“Of course Madam Bones,” Fudge said with a false smile, “May I proceed?” She nodded and he turned kindly to Neville, “As I was saying, isn’t it true that Mr. Snape is intimidating and cruel towards his students? That he often threatens you to the point that, in your third year when you faced a Boggart, it turned into him?”
Neville opened his mouth and closed it. He glanced at Severus and biting his lips he answered, “Yes, but Harry said he was just playing a ro-“
“Yes or no answers will do Neville, thank you,” Fudge said. “Is it true that Mr. Snape often gives harsh and unfair detentions?”
“Yes,” Neville said in a small voice.
“And is it true that he especially persecutes Harry Potter and his group of friends, yourself included?”
“That’s all,” Fudge cut in.
Ted stood up and swooped down the stands toward Neville. When he arrived, he smiled gently.
“Neville, you were trying to elaborate on the Minster’s questions; you may do so now.”
“Harry said that Professor Snape was playing a role because he was a spy and he couldn’t be seen being fatherly to the Boy-Who-Lived. All Death Eaters hate Harry and if he didn’t seem to hate him they would suspect him of turning on them. And I believe Harry.”
“Why is that?”
“The morning after Harry was kidnapped, when he was in the Hospital Wing, we went to see if he was okay and Professor Snape was holding his hand as he slept. And you could see it in his face that he cared for Harry. I’d never seen him look like that. He smiled when he looked at Harry. I didn’t think Professor Snape knew how to smile,” he finished apologetically glancing at Snape who had a blank mask in place.
“Thank you Neville, you may leave,” Ted said friendly.
“Mr. Karkaroff, is Severus Snape a Death Eater?” Fudge asked.
“Yes,” Karkaroff answered from the chair that he was heavily chained to.
“Was he planning to kidnap Harry Potter in a ploy to bring back You-Know-Who from the dead?”
“Yes. He planned it all, we were only pawns.”
“And why did he kill Mrs. Lestrange?”
“Because she, like myself, would have testified of his guilt. I was lucky I was caught by an Auror before he could kill me.”
Ted rolled his eyes and Severus kept his sneer firm on his face. His black eyes surveyed Karkaroff with profound coldness that made Karkaroff shiver as their eyes met.
“Thank you,” Fudge said with a triumphant smile.
Ted got up and said to Madam Bones, “I request the witness be interviewed with Veritaserum.”
“Objection, the defense has no right to demand Veritaserum!” Fudge cried standing up.
“The defendant is obligated to be questioned with Veritaserum if the prosecution requests, but the witnesses to the defense are protected and it is against the law to force them to witness under Veritaserum,” Ted countered. “The witnesses called by the prosecution however are requested to submit if asked by the defense since they are attesting to the participation of a crime. Mr. Karkaroff is saying my client is the master mind of a kidnapping, my client has every right to make sure he is stating the truth.”
Madam Bones nodded and said, “I’ll allow it,” Fudge fumed and was about to protest when she cut him off, “I already warned you once Minister. There are rules to be followed.”
Ted smiled and waited for the Ministry official to administer the Veritaserum that had been tested both by the Defense Potions expert, who was in this case the defendant, and the Ministry’s Potions expert.
As Karkaroff’s eyes went unfocused Ted asked, “Was Severus Snape in any way involved in the planning of the events that happened on the 24th of June at the graveyard in little Hangleton?”
“Bellatrix Lestrange, Peter Pettigrew, myself, Barty Crouch Jr. and the Dark Lord.”
“You-Know-Who was involved? Wasn’t he dead?”
“No, the Dark Lord did not die in 1981. We all knew it, we still had the Mark and it grew darker and clearer this year. After Barty Crouch Jr. was revealed, I received a letter from the Dark Lord by owl saying he would give me a chance for forgiveness if I executed a task for him. The letter was a timed Portkey and it had instructions for me to meet him at a specific date in February, during a Hogwarts Hogsmeade weekend. I knew the Dark Lord would kill me for betraying him all those years ago. This was my best chance. If he was being truthful I could live and I knew he must have needed someone to complete whatever Barty and Pettigrew had been up to so I went. He had a semblance of a body he managed to create, but it wasn’t enough; he needed to be tended to all the time. He told me to turn the cup into a Portkey to take Potter to him so he could use the boy’s blood to regain a body. So I did and I put Victor under the Imperius so he would take Diggory and Delacour out of the way. When Viktor was caught by Potter and Diggory I knew I had to leave, so I started making my way out with the excuse of tending to my champion but instead I left Hogwarts grounds. When I felt the dark Mark burn, I Apparated to the Dark Lord. He had regained his body and received me well.”
“And how does Severus come into the picture?”
“Severus Apparated long after we were already there. The Dark Lord was playing with Potter. He was torturing him before he killed him and when Severus turned up, he forgot all about Potter. Severus tried to convince him that he was loyal but the Dark Lord didn’t believe him and shot the Killing Curse at him. Potter threw himself between the Dark Lord and Severus and took the curse. I don’t know how he survived but he did. I didn’t see what happened next because the battle started. I only saw the Dark Lord fall and my inattention cost me my capture.”
“Did you see Mr. Snape killing Bellatrix Lestrange?”
“Why did you lie before?”
“Because I made a deal; I testify against Snape and I’ll be out in ten years instead of life in Azkaban.”
“Thank you,” turning to the Wizengamot Ted said, “This proves Severus Snape is not a loyal Death Eater and therefore this trial is quite useless.”
Before Madame Bones could talk Fudge bellowed, “There is still the matter of Bellatrix Lestrange’s murder. And how can we be sure Karkaroff didn’t fight the Veritaserum?”
“Unfortunately, Mr. Tonks there are ways around the Veritaserum and there is still the matter of establishing why Mr. Snape killed another human being,” Madam Bones said as if she wasn’t all that sure this wasn’t a waste of time. “So we will proceed. But before we do so, I want to state that any deal has to go through the Wizengamot, meaning your deal Mr. Karkaroff is not valid and you will be sentenced only at your trial where we will be discussing with whom you made this deal.”
Still in a drugged haze as he was being hauled off the courtroom Karkaroff didn’t react. Later that day the Ministry guards would swear they heard howls of fury coming from Karkaroff’s cell.
Fudge’s witnesses were all in the same avenue; he called Draco Malfoy and Theodore Nott who attested that their Head of House was one nasty piece of work who hated Harry Potter. There wasn’t much Ted could do there. They weren’t outright lying just embellishing the truth, and as they were underage he could not force Veritaserum on them which would have only proved that Severus was stricter to every student except the Death Eaters’ children like the two witnesses. And he had already established that.
Fudge also called a few Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws who echoed Neville’s statements about Professor Snape’s strictness objectively without the added input the two Slytherins gave. Alexander Nott was not called to the stands even though he had previously been enrolled as a witness. Fudge said he was content with the testimonies he had; however, Ted knew that after the Karkaroff fiasco Fudge didn’t want Nott incriminating himself under Veritaserum.
“Auror Shacklebolt, you were present at the Little Hangleton graveyard on the night of the 24th of June correct?”
“Did you see Professor Snape kill Bellatrix Lestrange?”
“Did you see why he did it?”
“Yes, Severus was holding Harry, who was injured, at the time. Lestrange shot a cutting curse at Harry and was about to send a second hex when Severus slashed her throat with another cutting curse.”
“As an Auror why didn’t you arrest Professor Snape at that time if he had just killed another person in front of you?”
“It was a clear act of defense of others. Harry would have died if Snape hadn’t acted.”
“Thank you,” Ted smiled.
“Minister,” Madam Bones asked.
“The prosecution rests,” Fudge said with a scowl.
“How long have you known the defendant?”
“Is it true that you two hate each other?”
Shocked whispers were heard.
“Professor Black, please elaborate. The Snape-Black grudge is widely known even to people outside of Hogwarts,” Ted said.
“In our school years we hated each others’ guts. Neither of us would waste a good opportunity to hex the other. When I came to teach at Hogwarts and brought my son with me, Harry was three and he didn’t understand how people could hate each other. Severus is always scowling and bad tempered and Harry asked Remus why that was. Remus, ever the proper person, made up some excuse instead of just saying Severus was a git. I think he said that Severus was always in a bad mood because the dungeons were dark and gloomy. So Harry made Severus a picture to put some color in his dungeon. He kept making pictures and eventually Severus mellowed and remembered that Harry may be his rival’s son but he was also his best friend’s son. During the years, we started having a more civilized relationship because of this little person we both loved and it turned into a friendship. Of course, we were always careful not to let anyone know.”
“Why is this?”
“Severus is a spy for Dumbledore. He had to make the Death Eaters that evaded capture believe he was still faithful to be able to bring back information about them and what they were up to. He also needed to be able to go back to Voldemort when he returned in order to keep our side informed in case of another war. He couldn’t do that if he was my friend or if people knew he was the Boy-Who-Lived’s Uncle Sev.”
“So when Professor Snape belittled Harry in class he was playing a role? They both were?”
“Would you trust your son’s safety with Professor Snape?”
“I already have. Harry has spent time with Severus at his house many times. As a matter of fact, the Ministry has a register of one of those times when they mistook a House-elf doing magic for Harry doing magic and sent a warning.”
“I heard that the evening of the 24th of June was not the first time Professor Snape saved Harry’s life.”
“That’s correct. On the 4th of June of 1992, Severus saved Harry from Professor Quirrell who had, at that time, been sharing his body with Voldemort and had tried to steal the Philosopher’s stone that was guarded at Hogwarts and almost killed Harry in the process. Severus’ untimely arrival and promptness to take Harry to Madam Pomfrey saved Harry’s life.”
“Thank you Professor Black,” Ted said.
“Your brother Regulus Black was named as a Death Eater in the war’s trials wasn’t he Mr. Black?” Fudge asked.
“What does that have to do with anything?” Sirius asked icily.
“Answer the question Mr. Black.”
“Yes,” he hissed.
“And you were the late Bellatrix Lestrange’s cousin were you not?”
Fudge smiled, “Your father Orion Black was quite outspoken in his support for You-Know-Who back then. We were never able to prove any connection but he had no qualms in letting people know his views.”
“No he didn’t,” Sirius answered, trying his best to rein his temper that was escalating rapidly.
“Objection Madam Bones, the witness’ family history isn’t on trial here,” Ted called.
“Do you have a point Minister?” Madam Bones asked.
“Yes, I am trying to assert the witness’s credibility. He comes from a long line of Dark Wizards. Who’s to say he’s not a supporter of You-Know-Who that we didn’t know of and is trying to free his colleague with false allegations.”
“Sirius Black was a highly decorated Auror, Minister. I think he has already proven what side he is on,” Madam Bone said. “Unless you have questions pertinent to what happened on the 24th the witness is dismissed.”
“I haven’t,” Fudge said after a brief pause.
“You may go Mr. Black,” she said.
“He saved my life. He’s always been my Uncle, my mother’s best friend. I love him like I love my father. He made a mistake in his youth and he has spent years repaying that mistake. He is no Death Eater,” Harry finished his deposition. They had just watched many memories of Harry’s childhood that were projected out of a Pensieve. Severus playing with Harry, reading to him, and teaching him how to brew potions. Classical happy family moments. And after that they played the happenings of the graveyard from the moment Harry was transported to the graveyard to the moment he was transported out of it. Sirius had demanded Harry be taken out of the courtroom for that and his request had been granted. Harry had left his memories of the talk with his parents out.
Afterwards he came back and answered the same questions as the others in the company of his lawyer, Andromeda. Yes, it was all role playing. No Severus is not a Death Eater, etc. Now it was Fudge’s turn.
“Well yes Mr. Potter….Black,” Fudge said with a wicked smile. “That’s the word of one felon defending another now isn’t that?”
“What?” Harry asked astonished.
“Are you or are you not an Unregistered Animagus? Please remember that on the night of the 24th, during the Third Task of the Triwizard Tournament, I and hundreds of others saw you transform into a stag. So you are breaking the law-“
“Actually he isn’t,” Andromeda said calmly and Harry smirked. Oh, Fudge was going to get it now. He just sat back to enjoy the show.
“Mrs. Tonks, the law clearly states-“
“That to train as an Animagus one has to have at least one registered Animagus as their teacher and to submit the paperwork to either the Ministry or a schooling institution. Harry had; he was trained by Sirius Black and his paperwork stating it as an independent study was submitted to Minerva McGonagall, another registered Animagus, and Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The law further states that overage and out of school Wizards have up to three years after they master their first full transformation to register. Harry has mastered his in April, just a few months ago. Furthermore, Wizards that are still attending school have three years after they graduate said school, which means Harry still has six years before he is actually breaking the law. Punishment for being an unregistered Animagus is a hundred Galleons per year of failed register. I hardly call that being a felon.”
“But I do call it having a propensity to lie,” Fudge pointed out. “Failing to tell people he can turn into a stag. Letting some poor unsuspected person be lured by an animal when he is a wizard.”
“You have a very active imagination Minister. Harry merely followed, legally, a family tradition.”
“Yes, and what a tradition it is, was Sirius Black not an Unregistered Animagus who failed to make his due date?”
“By a few months, which is understandable since we were at war at the time, and as an Auror Professor Black tried to bring the Light side every advantage he could.”
“If I recall correctly Mr. Black’s fine was higher since he also failed to submit his study paperwork,” Dolores Umbridge said sweetly. “And everyone knows the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. As a matter of fact the Black family has quite an interesting history, wouldn’t you say Mrs. Tonks?”
“The Black family’s history, Madam Undersecretary is not in trial here. Nor is Harry. What is on trial here is the fact that Severus Snape went to that graveyard to save two innocent children and killed, in self-defense and defense of others, a known Death Eater and escaped felon.”
“Your sister,” Umbridge offered.
“Unfortunately,” Andromeda smiled. “We did share blood, and nothing else. I am actually quite grateful to Severus for stopping her from killing my beloved nephew no matter how he did it. Is his testimony finished?”
“There is still the matter of Diggory’s memory,” Fudge started.
“As I said previously, Harry isn’t in trial here and the Diggory’s are not pressing any charges. Far from it actually, so I am sorry to inform you that is not of your concern Minister. Do you have anything else to ask Harry pertaining Severus Snape’s innocence?”
“No, Severus Snape’s guilt is still to be seen,” Fudge said. “Witness dismissed.”
Andromeda helped Harry up and Sirius rushed up to assist her. Harry swayed and Sirius picked him up. They passed Severus and Ted, and Andromeda smiled. She couldn’t have asked for a better way of leaving the room. The sick Boy-Who-Lived-Twice leaving in his father’s arms after vehemently defending Severus. Most of the witches and Wizards of the Wizengamot would not forget to what lengths the boy went to defend his Uncle.
Dumbledore was called in and basically repeated what all the others had said. Fudge didn’t dare ask him anything, knowing he would have it turned around on him. He had already tried to disqualify Dumbledore as a witness because he was a member of the Wizengamot, but that had come back to nip him in the butt since he had already managed to disqualify Dumbledore as a judge and had him removed as Head of the Wizengamot because of his personal interest with the case. Now they were at the last testimony. Severus and Ted had requested Severus be interrogated under Veritaserum by both parties. Fudge fumed and argued but Madam Bones just reminded him it was Severus’ right.
“Are you a Death Eater?” Fudge asked.
“Yes,” Severus answered from the chair in the middle of the courtroom to where he was chained. Ted had protested the chains but Fudge argued that Severus was a suspected Death Eater and should be treated as such.
Fudge looked like Christmas had come early and he continued. “Did you kill Bellatrix Lestrange even though you are not an Auror?”
“That is all I had to ask,” he said happily, sure he had won.
“Are you a faithful Death Eater?” Ted asked.
Murmurs went around and Ted asked. “Why did you say you were a Death Eater?”
“I joined the Dark Lord by my free will and was marked. You can’t get unmarked.”
“But you were no longer faithful to You-Know-Who?”
“Were you working against him?”
“Were you working for his downfall?”
“Why did you go to that graveyard?”
“Harry and Cedric had disappeared as soon as they touched the Triwizard Cup. We had knowledge the Dark Lord had plans to kidnap Harry. When I felt my Mark Burn I knew he had come back and that he had Harry. So I answered my call and Apparated to the Dark Lord in hopes of bringing the boys back. I tried to convince the Dark Lord I had remained faithful so I could get an opportunity to save the boys.”
“What happened then?”
“He didn’t believe me and shot a Killing Curse at me. Harry jumped in front of me. I thought he was dead. I wanted to die with him so I just held him. I couldn’t believe it when, moments later, I felt his breathing and heard his heart beat. The Dark Lord shot another killing curse and Harry shot a disarming spell with his second wand that he had in his wand holster. The Dark Lord had been using Harry’s wand and the curse rebounded on Harry’s Expelliarmus because a wand won’t kill its master. The Dark Lord died. Bellatrix Lestrange went mad and cursed Harry. She was going to hex him again and I didn’t think twice. I was not going to lose my boy. I killed her.”
“Because I love Harry more than anything in this world.”
“Why are you so cruel to him then?”
“I have to be cruel in public. If people knew I loved him they would know I wasn’t faithful to the Dark Lord. If the Dark Lord had managed to come back we would have another war and the Light would need a spy.”
“Is your affection towards Harry the only thing you’ve had to hide?”
“Who is Sean Evans?”
“Sean Evans is an alias I created to be able to develop the Permanent Wolfsbane without raising suspicion towards my loyalties.”
“You mean you are the creator of the Permanent Wolfsbane?”
“The potion that helps werewolves keep their minds and prevents them from feeling immeasurable pain forever?”
“And you received no public recognition for this immense breakthrough?”
“All of this to serve the light?”
“Thank you Severus.”
“Veritaserum can be overcome, memories can be altered. There is no question that an accomplished wizard as Mr. Snape could easily do both and instruct his accomplices in the means to doing so. The fact is that Mr. Snape is a known Death Eater. He didn’t even try to deny he joined You-Know-Who by his own free will. He has always been a shady character and now has lured the Boy-Who-Lived into his activities. Yes, the boy defeated You-Know-Who as a baby, but after being raised by a man who comes from a known Dark family and having the influence of a known Death Eater growing up, can he be trusted? I say no. The defense is basing themselves on this boy’s word and memories. Can we trust him? Of course not. Severus Snape killed someone, and it doesn’t matter who he killed but why. And he did it to save his freedom, so she couldn’t talk about Snape’s sordid plans of resurrecting You-Know–Who. For that I request the Dementor’s kiss.”
Whispers went around and Severus and Ted paled. They were not expecting this. This whole trial had been ridiculous; Fudge hadn’t proved any of the accusations against Severus, he just raised doubt on the veracity of their defense. But unfortunately, Ted knew that in the Wizarding world it was usually guilty until proven innocent and not the other way around. So when he rose and walked to the front of the courtroom he prayed to all the gods he knew that he managed to convince the Wizengamot otherwise.
“Minister Fudge has been unable to prove his allegations. I have given you proof that not only has my client redeemed his past mistakes -- because that was what he made, a mistake of youth, but he was lured by the promise of power. When he realized what the cost was, he came back to the Light and risked his own life to grant us victory by giving us valuable information. When the Dark Lord was gone in 1981 he did not shed his role thinking his job done like many did. He did not rest. He kept it up knowing one day he would be needed, as he was, and thanks to that You-Know-Who was defeated. And for that he sacrificed everything. He is hated by most of his students because he had to keep his role. He is unable to demonstrate affection to those he loves publicly or get recognition for his conquests and his good acts. All people see is the façade he keeps. No one sees the man that brought relief to over seventy people already and will bring to hundreds more. He has earned the right to enjoy these things and not be deprived of his soul. A very rich soul. Yes he killed Bellatrix Lestrange, but he did so to defend a boy’s life, a boy who has already sacrificed much and to whom, together with Severus, we owe the final defeat of You-Know-Who. I urge you to be fair and do this man justice for the first time in his life.”