You are currently viewing The Legacy of Merlin Chapter Forty-Two

The Legacy of Merlin Chapter Forty-Two

Hermione sat between Harry and Ron, picking at her food listlessly. She spent the entire night tossing and turning, unable to sleep, knowing the fate that awaited her. Every time she closed her eyes she thought about what Professor McGonagall and the Headmaster said, how this could be her last day at Hogwarts, and the looks of disappointment on their faces.

She didn’t want to get expelled. Could she really go back home and forget about magic? Could she even find another a magical school that would accept her after this? Would her parents even allow her to attend after they found out what she had done?

She glanced up at the teacher’s table, looking at her head of house, feeling a fresh wave of guilt as she stared up at her. She remembered the way she looked at her in the common room last night, when she figured out it was her that stole the test. Professor McGonagall hadn’t looked at her the same way since. ‘Can I even fix this?’ she asked herself despondently.

Her only comfort through all of this was the knowledge she wouldn’t go through this alone. Harry was going to be with her when Lord Niven arrived, and so would Draco.

Hermione watched as an owl floo into the great hall and her heart sank. She watched as it landed in front of the Headmaster. A moment later, the Headmaster, Professor Snape, and Professor McGonagall all rose to their feet. She watched as Snape made his way to Draco, and he stood up, following him to the door.

“It’s time,” McGonagall said as she stood in front of Harry and Hermione. She hadn’t slept a wink, spending most of the night awake, wondering about her own fate. She already knew Hermione was guilty, but she wasn’t sure yet about Harry. He hadn’t shown the same guilt as Hermione, and didn’t have any motivation to cheat. He was already at the top of the student ranking and had nothing to gain by doing this.

If he turned out to be innocent, she hoped the accusation wouldn’t be held over his head, or hurt his reputation, but the decision was out of her hands.

Hermione and Harry rose to their feet as they followed their professor out of the great hall. They could already hear the whispers from the other students, seeing them all leave together, all but confirming something important happened. They all knew it wouldn’t be long before the Hogwarts rumor mill sussed out everything.

The walk back up the Headmaster’s office was a quiet one, just like the previous night. When they arrived in the office, Harry, Hermione, and Draco sat in their chairs in front of the Headmaster’s desk while Professor Snape and McGonagall stood behind them.

“Lord Niven will be here in a moment,” Albus said as he sat behind his desk. “I suggest, for your sakes, you answer all his questions truthfully,” he added, underscoring the severity of their situation.

A moment later, the fireplace roared to life as a figure stepped through. “Father,” Draco said in surprise. He sent a letter home yesterday explaining what happened, but hadn’t received any response from his father.

“Lord Malfoy,” Albus greeted the former death eater. He was as impeccably dressed as always, but didn’t have the usual false smile plastered on his face. The one that never quite reached his eyes. He looked as angry as he had ever seen him, all without saying a single word.

Lucius looked around the headmaster’s office, noting how little the office had changed from his own school days before his eyes settled on his son. He didn’t know what he was more disappointed about. The fact that he had to cheat in the first place, or that he wasn’t smart enough to do so without getting caught.

Ignoring his son’s greeting, he looked at the other two students sitting beside him. He didn’t recognize the girl, or have any idea what noble family she belonged to. ‘Probably a minor one,’ he thought, dismissing her entirely.

Then his eyes settled on the one he did recognize. Harry Potter, brother of the girl-who-lived, and the boy who solved Merlin’s Cypher. Their families had been on opposite sides of the war, but from what he remembered about the boy’s father, he hadn’t expected very much from his son. He wondered how a man like that could be blessed with a daughter that was hailed as the savior, and a son who had achieved so much in such a short amount of time.

His gaze finally settled again on his own offspring, feeling a sneer work its way onto his face as Draco looked up at him hopefully. ‘Probably expects me to get him out of his mess,’ he thought, irritated. After a moment, he let out a sigh of frustration, knowing he would have to do exactly that. Allowing the family name to be tarnished was not an option, regardless of how much his son deserved to learn this lesson the hard way.

“Headmaster,” Lucius greeted. “I received a letter from my son explaining what happened, and I was hoping we could put this misunderstanding behind us without involving the Department of Education,” he said, already having an idea of what it would cost him politically to get Draco out of this mess.

“I’m afraid such a thing is not an option at this stage,” Albus said regretfully. It was an opportunity he would have normally jumped on, getting Malfoy and his faction to support one of proposals, but it was out of his hands as well. After Lord Niven became involved, it wasn’t worth the risk to make any back room deals. “Lord Niven will arrive shortly. You are, of course, welcomed to stay and observe as a member of the Hogwarts board, and Draco’s father, but it will be Lord Niven that decides the appropriate punishments, not me.”

“Very well,” Lucius said, grinding his teeth at the new complication. He sat down in the chair that appeared behind him as he thought about the letter Draco sent him. He had already confessed to stealing the test in his letter. Frustratingly, Draco hadn’t thought to include any details about Potter or whoever the girl was in his letter.

A moment later, the fireplace roared to life again as Lord Niven appeared, brushing the soot of his cloak as he stepped through the fireplace. “Hello everyone,” he said, looking at each of the room’s occupants in turn. “I’m sure Headmaster Dumbledore has already explained the reason for this meeting, so let’s get started.”

“If I may, Lord Niven,” Albus said, standing up. “This is already quite a large group. Perhaps it would be better if we used my meeting room,” he said, gesturing to the door at the side of his office.

“Yes,” Lord Niven smiled. “Excellent idea,” he said as they all followed the Headmaster into the meeting room.

The room was large, with a window overlooking the forbidden forest, and a rectangular table dominating the room. The decorations were sparse, just a few pictures hanging on the walls, and a book shelf in the corner.

Hermione, Harry, and Draco sat on one side of the table as the Headmaster, Lucius, and Professor’s Snape and McGonagall, took a seat on the other side of the table.

Hermione gulped, looking down nervously as the four adults stared back at them.

“Before we begin. I must ask, Professor Snape, what is the reason for your presence here?” Lord Niven asked.

“I’m here as Mr. Malfoy’s head of house,” Severus explained, clearly annoyed by the question.

“Your presence isn’t required,” Lord Niven said, secretly enjoying tweaking the nose of his former classmate. “Mr. Malfoy is already here to represent his son’s interest, is he not?” He added, looking at Lucius questioningly.

Severus and Lucius shared a look before Severus stood up, his robes billowing around as he left without a word.

“In the interests of time,” Lord Niven said, addressing everyone else. “I believe we should dispense with the formalities. I received an anonymous letter stating that the first year standardized transfiguration has been stolen, along with a few of the questions from the test as proof. Headmaster Dumbledore has already searched each of your trunks and found two copies of the test. Does anyone have anything they would like to add before we begin?” He asked, looking around the room.

“Yes, I do,” Lucius said, taking the opportunity to get his son out of this mess. “My son is already one of the top students for his year. He had no reason to cheat, and I know for a fact he has spent a great deal of time preparing for this test. I believe it’s obvious what’s happened.”

“And what might that be?” Albus asked, interested to see how Malfoy planned to get his son out of this.

“No doubt one of the other students was jealous of my son’s natural talents and framed him by breaking into his trunk and placing the test inside. My son achieved the score he did purely on his own talents, nothing more. His grades throughout the school year are proof enough of that,” Lucius reiterated.

Draco watched as his father spoke, seeing how easily and convincingly he could lie through his teeth. He sat back, wondering if his father could actually convince Lord Nevin, even though it was not the outcome he needed.

Before Lord Niven could respond, the door to the meeting room opened as Ted Tonks walked in, briefcase in hand.

“Ted,” Harry smiled, seeing his barrister.

“Harry, good to see you,” Ted smiled in return. “Sorry I’m late. I had to shuffle some meetings around to clear my schedule.”

“Thanks,” Harry said gratefully, knowing he hadn’t given Ted much notice about what was going on.

“And you are?” Lord Niven asked, pretending not to know the man’s name.

“My name is Ted Tonks. I’m Harry Potter’s barrister, and acting barrister for Hermione Granger in this matter, Lord Niven,” Ted introduced himself.

“Very well, take a seat, and we’ll continue,” Lord Niven said with an unreadable expression on his face.

Hermione looked up at Ted, then Harry gratefully as Ted sat down, glad that she would have one of the adults in her corner as well.

“Lord Malfoy just finished telling us his son was framed, and the test found in his trunk was planted there as part of a plot to discredit him. Are you asserting the same for both your clients?” Lord Niven asked, baiting Tonks to see how he would react.

“No Lord Niven,” Ted replied immediately. “Hermione Granger has already confessed to stealing the test and keeping it in her school trunk. Harry Potter, however, passed the test on his own, and did not steal the test,” Ted replied, seeing the trap Lord Niven had laid out.

“I see,” Lord Niven replied, scribbling down a note on a piece of parchment. He had hoped Tonks would take the bait, and follow along with what Malfoy had said, but he had clearly done his homework. He would have to find another way to put the man off balance.

He knew very well that Ted Tonks had made a name for himself by securing a position as representation for Harry Potter, and as Potter rose in prominence, so did he. He could see now that it wasn’t just luck. The man was obviously skilled at what he did and came prepared.

“I’m going to start by interviewing each of you,” Lord Niven said, glancing at Minerva, Harry, Hermione, and Draco, “to find out what happened, and who exactly was involved. After that I’ll make my judgment. We’ll start with you, Professor McGonagall. The rest of you may leave the room until I call for you,” he added, dismissing everyone else.

“I’m acting as representation for my son, Lord Niven,” Lucius said smoothly. “To do that effectively, I will need to hear what Professor McGonagall has to say.”

“I agree with Lord Malfoy,” Ted added. “This process should be as transparent, considering the severity of your accusations, Lord Niven.”

“I remind you both that this is not the Wizengamot,” Lord Niven said, knowing that he would have to assert some authority, otherwise they would walk all over him. “You are here as a curtesy, nothing more.”

“Respectfully, Lord Niven, I disagree,” Ted countered. “My client, Harry Potter, has an impeccable reputation with the wizarding public. He has numerous philanthropic projects, both in operation now, and planned for the future. Your investigation itself is tantamount to an accusation against my client. If this process is anything less than fair and transparent, I will be forced to bring legal action against the Department of Education. That will also include bringing this to the attention of the Minister.”

“The Minister?” Lord Niven asked with a raised eyebrow, impressed despite himself by Ted’s defense of his client, and his not-so-subtle threat against his job.

“Yes,” Ted continued. “Minister Fudge counts Harry Potter as a close friend. He was instrumental in pushing through the paperwork for Harry’s scholarship program so that it could begin this year. He’s also invited Harry and his scholarship students to the Ministry Christmas party.”

Lucius watched Ted, a smirk forming on his face as he put Niven in his place. Niven was a born bureaucrat, barely even a lord, only qualifying a decade ago because of his pureblood family history and the death of several prominent family lines during the war.

“Very well put, Mr. Tonks,” Lucius added. “I can say much the same for my son as well. It is not just him that your investigation will affect, buy the reputation of the Malfoy family as a whole,” he continued, his tone taking a menacing edge, leaving his obvious threat unspoken as locked eyes with Niven.

Lord Niven looked down for a moment, thinking about how to proceed. Taking into account the confession Granger made, and the two copies of the test they recovered, he had expected this to go differently. He cursed himself for not considering the political pressures Lord Malfoy and Tonks would apply, but he couldn’t show weakness, not with two sharks circling around him looking for blood.

“Rest assured,” Lord Niven said, locking eyes with both Malfoy and Tonks. “My investigation and subsequent judgment will be nothing less than fair and impartial. But it is I alone who will decide the appropriate punishment. Mr. Potter, Miss Granger, and Mr. Malfoy,” he said, looking at the three students. “Please wait outside. You will be called individually after I have spoken to Professor McGonagall.”

Harry, Hermione, and Draco stood up, each glancing at the adults in the room before making their way outside and shutting the door.

“Thank you Harry,” Hermione said, grateful to have an adult in her corner as well.

“I told you Hermione,” Harry said. “Everything is going to be ok. Ted will make sure you don’t get expelled.”

“Where does this leave us?” Draco asked, wondering what he should do when it was his turn to talk to Niven.

Harry cast a muffling spell around them to make sure no one would overhear them. “The plan hasn’t changed. We need Lord Niven to punish you both for cheating, without expelling you or Hermione. When you speak to him, you need to tell him everything you said before. Hermione, you need to tell them both you and Draco worked together on this. Lord Malfoy is going to try to trip you up, but Ted will be there to help you,” he promised.

“And what should I do?” Draco asked. “My father won’t like it if I just confess.”

“Hermione’s accusation and the test in your trunk will be enough,” Harry assured him. “Ted said he has a plan to get you both through this, trust him,” Harry replied, canceling the muffling charm.

“Please take a seat on the other side of the desk, Professor McGonagall,” Lord Niven asked.

Minerva stood up from her seat and moved to the other side of the desk, feeling very much like a student again, but in far more trouble than she had ever managed in her school days.

“Please take us through what happened from your perspective, Professor,” Lord Niven instructed patiently.

Minerva sighed, getting her thoughts together. “I noticed something was wrong about a week ago. When I went to my office to retrieve some essays to grade something seemed off. I looked around the room, noticing it wasn’t how I left it. On a hunch, I opened my desk drawer, the one that contained the transfiguration test. One of the pages was stuck in the wood. That’s when I realized someone had circumvented the wards on my desk.”

“And how did they do that?” Lord Niven pressed. He remembered having Professor McGonagall as a teacher himself, and couldn’t fathom how a ward created by her could be circumvented by first years, regardless of how talented they were for their age.

Minerva’s face flushed with embarrassment as she thought about how easy it was in retrospect. “The ward was on the desk drawer itself, not the whole desk,” she explained. “The students transfigured a hole in the desk from the other side to reach the drawer.”

Lucius looked at his former professor, and couldn’t help taking the opportunity to make a dig at her. “This is quite surprising,” he said. “How could a transfiguration professor of your standing have missed something so obvious?”

Albus sighed mentally as he heard Minerva’s testimony. He was still annoyed with her for not telling him about this immediately. He hated the fact that he was relegated to a mere observer in these proceedings, his presence a mere curtesy. Anything related to a Department of Education test was completely out of hands.

Minerva bit her tongue, biting back her angry response. She knew Malfoy was trying to bait her, but she refused to give him what he wanted. “…It was a lapse in judgment,” she replied. “I didn’t consider all the possibilities when I constructed my ward.”

Ted remained silent as he watched Minerva’s interrogation. Casting a negative light on her wouldn’t really affect his defense of Harry or Hermione one way or the other, and Harry had mentioned in his letter to not make her situation any worse than it already was.

“When you became a teacher at Hogwarts, you were given the option to have a ward specialist cast one for you. My records show you elected to cast the ward yourself,” Lord Niven said, looking up from his scrolls. “Why is that?”

Minerva took a moment to gather her thoughts, realizing how this made her look. None of the other professors used the ward specialist either. All of them took it as a point of pride to create their own ward. Added to that, the overly restrictive nature of the specialist’s wards, and all the false alarms they generated.

Ward specialists never considered all the students that would enter her office for various reasons, or the multitude of spells cast on a daily basis on the same floor setting it off. She knew, however, she couldn’t say any of that, not without making herself look worse.

“There is no excuse for that,” Minerva admitted. “I believed I could create a ward that would keep out the students on my own. I was wrong.”

Albus clenched his jaw at Minerva’s next statement, seeing how badly things were going. He had invested a lot of time and effort in Minerva over the years, and things were not looking good for her. If Niven dismissed her from her position it would be a disaster for him. The amount of time it would take to recruit another transfiguration professor of her skill, new head of house, and deputy would take up far too much of his time.

“Well, I can at least appreciate your candor, Professor,” Lord Niven replied. “But what I don’t understand is why you didn’t immediately bring this to the attention of the Department of Education. Why did you choose to hide it until after you received my letter?”

Minerva dreaded that question, knowing that it would only make her look worse, but she had to tell the truth. She didn’t know what Lord Niven knew, or the contents of the letter he received. If he caught her in a lie, her career was as good as finished.

“I conducted my own investigation,” Minerva answered. “I thought I could find the students responsible before the test date, or at the very least after I graded the tests. My intention was always to bring this to the attention of the Department of Education.”

“This is another lapse in judgment for you, professor. Dare I ask, is there any other lapses in judgment I should be made aware of?” Lord Niven asked, scribbling down some more notes.

“No Lord Niven,” Minerva said, looking down at her desk, realizing that keeping this to herself had been another costly mistake.

“Alright, let’s move on,” Lord Niven continued. “You graded the tests, and you sent me a list of the three students you believed scored higher than expected on their tests. All three of them scored 100%. I can see why you suspected them, but were there any other students who scored higher than expected that did not receive a perfect score?”

Minerva rubbed her face tiredly, considering the question. She didn’t really want to accuse any of her other students, but she was also fighting for her job. “There were some students that scored a little higher than expected, as well as some students that scored a little lower than expected,” she said, finding a middle ground. “But considering the effort they put into their studies, I don’t believe any of them would have cheated to achieve the results they did.”

“I’ll need a copy of all the first year tests, as well as their current grades to review for myself,” Lord Niven replied.

“You’ll have them today,” Minerva promised.

“Tell me about the students you named, and why you suspect them,” Lord Niven asked.

“Hermione Granger is a gifted student, but I believe she would have scored a ninety-four, or a ninety-five at most,” Minerva replied.

“I see,” Lord Niven said, making another note, knowing full well the questions got progressively harder with each question. Even a score in the low ninety’s or high eighty’s would have been enough to impress. He couldn’t figure out for the life of him why the girl would have done what she did. “She is the one that confessed to stealing the test. Did she name anyone else that helped her, or did she act alone?”

“She didn’t say,” Minerva replied, considering her mixed feeling for her former favorite student.

“No matter,” Lord Niven replied. “I’ll ask her myself. Tell me about Draco Malfoy.”

Lucius observed the byplay between Niven and McGonagall. Anything McGonagall said about Draco, he would have to manage very carefully.

“Draco Malfoy is another good student,” Minerva admitted. “Based on his previous performance, he would have scored in the mid nineties, but no higher than ninety-two percent.”

“Professor McGonagall, you mentioned earlier that some students studied more than others and achieved a higher score. Isn’t it possible that my son did the same? After all, it’s only another eight percent, is it not? He is one of the top ranked students, as you said,” Lucius asked, hoping to cast some doubt on McGonagall’s assessment.

“Your son is a very gifted student, brilliant in fact,” Minerva replied honestly. “He’s really pushed himself this term, but the test is designed specifically for a first year to not get a perfect score. Each question is progressively harder than the last. The last five questions deal heavily with theory that is not specifically covered in first year texts.”

“But those texts are freely available in the Hogwarts Library to all students,” Lucius pointed out. “I know my son, and considering the competition in the student rankings this year, he would have certainly read ahead of the curriculum. Can you say beyond a shadow of a doubt that my son could not have achieved a perfect score on the test on his own?”

Minerva thought about the question. She knew Malfoy was doing it to cast doubt on her claims, but she couldn’t dismiss the question out of hand, and took her time before responding. “…Yes,” she finally replied. “His other classwork, both practical and written, would have shown a deeper understanding of transfiguration required to get a perfect score. His work did not show that.”

Lucius mentally cursed at McGonagall’s response, knowing that he couldn’t push further with it, not without Draco having to show an understanding of the questions, something he knew full well his son was incapable of.

“That leaves Mr. Potter,” Lord Niven said.

Minerva again thought deeply about what to say about Harry. He didn’t have a copy of the test in his trunk, but he got a perfect score none the less. She considered how she would have reacted if she didn’t know the test was stolen and how Harry would have likely scored. There was no question he would score highly, and she expected him to outscore the other first years, but she couldn’t conclusively say he would get a perfect score either.

“Mr. Potter is the most gifted and intelligent first year I have ever encountered in all my years of teaching,” Minerva answered truthfully. “This is in terms of both practical spell casting and theory. I have no doubt he would score higher than any of the other first years. I can’t conclusively say he could get a perfect score, but if any first year were capable of it, it would be him.”

Lord Niven scribbled down a few more notes about Potter. Minerva’s response had not been what he expected. It would complicate what he set out to do today. “Alright, I think I have everything I need from you, Professor. We’ll move onto the children next, starting with Hermione Granger. Would you please retrieve her?”

“Of course,” Minerva replied, standing up from her seat as she made her way to the door. “Miss Granger, Lord Niven is ready to speak with you.”

Hermione looked up at her head of house. She knew she would be the first one called in. She was the only one that confessed, and would be the quickest to pass judgment on.

“It’ll be ok Hermione,” Harry said squeezing her shoulder comfortingly. “Just tell the truth, and you’ll get through this.”

Hermione nodded, taking one last look at her friends before she followed Professor McGonagall into the meeting room and sat down.

“Miss Granger,” Lord Niven said. “You’ve already confessed to stealing the test, but I’d like you to take me through your reasons for doing so.”

Hermione took a deep breath, preparing herself, as she considered what she needed to get across. “Before I came to Hogwarts, I was always the top student in my school. I always had the highest grades, and I believed that would continue here as well.”

“I was wrong,” she continued, still finding it a bitter pill to swallow. “No matter how hard I tried, how much I studied, how far I read ahead of the curriculum, it didn’t matter. I could only trade second and third place in the student rankings with Draco. Harry,” she said, shaking her head as she thought about how easily he maintained his spot at the top. “He was at least three steps ahead of me, and every day I watched the gap widen between us.”

“From what I see, you still held the second spot in the ranking more often than not,” Lord Niven pointed out. “Second place is still a very high accolade. You would have done very well for yourself, so why did you see the need to cheat?”

Hermione bit her lip, thinking about the best way to explain how she felt at the time. “I did some research,” she said. “A muggle born almost never achieves the top spot in the student ranking for any year, but even when they do, they never achieve the same results as a pureblood, or even half blood. They get fewer internship opportunities, and far less employment opportunities after Hogwarts. Muggle-born’s simply don’t have the same network of friends or family members to achieve the same results, and it’s far worse for any muggle-born below fifth place in the rankings.”

“I looked at Harry, and I saw someone that had all the connections, and all the accolades to do whatever he wanted. He didn’t even need the opportunities his student ranking would give him. I thought that if I could beat him, just once I would get noticed too, and maybe I would get a fraction of the opportunities that just fell into his lap.”

Lord Niven took a moment to digest what Granger told him. None of what she said was even remotely untrue, but he was surprised that a first year had put it all together. What happened to muggle-born after Hogwarts wasn’t exactly hidden, but at the same time it was never spoken of either.

“That explains your reasoning for stealing the test, but not how,” Lord Niven said.

“I knew that Professor McGonagall had the test in her office,” Hermione continued. “I waited until after curfew and snuck into her office. The only place it could have been was her desk drawer,” she said, unable to meet Professor McGonagall’s eyes. “I knew it had to be warded, so I transfigured a hole in the desk and made a copy of the test. Then I left.”

“And you did this on your own?” Lord Niven asked with a raised eyebrow, skeptical of at least this part of the story.

Hermione continued to look down at the floor, remembering what Ron told her. She couldn’t just tell him that Draco was involved. He wouldn’t believe her if she just said it. She had to make him work to get the answer.

‘Got you,’ Lord Niven thought, smirking inwardly. “Miss Granger, the answers you give me now, and your truthfulness will determine in large part what your punishment will be, and if you will continue to be a student of Hogwarts, so I will ask you again. Did you do this all on your own, or did you have an accomplice?”

“…I don’t think I can answer that question,” Hermione said, looking away. She knew she had to sell this, otherwise Draco wouldn’t be able to leave the study group.

“Miss Granger,” Lord Niven said, faking a sigh as he added some more pressure, bluffing about the letter he received. “I received a letter yesterday morning telling me everything. I already know you stole the test and the name of your accomplice. You are only confirming what I already know. You will not protect them by remaining silent.”

Hermione didn’t look up and hid her face, not trusting the expression on her face to give her away. “…Draco,” she said softly. “We came up with the plan together while we were studying.”

Lucius clenched his jaw as Granger mentioned Draco as he struggled to think of something to say to discredit her, but couldn’t. Added to that, the letter Niven had in his possession. It could be a bluff, but he couldn’t risk making it worse.

“Then you both took the test,” Lord Niven continued. “Each of you scored one hundred percent. Why didn’t you get a few questions wrong so that it wouldn’t be so obvious?” He asked, wanting to sate his own curiosity.

“We couldn’t,” Hermione continued. “The whole point was to beat Harry. We knew we wouldn’t do that with anything less than a perfect score.”

“I see,” Lord Niven said, scribbling down a few more notes. “I think I have everything I need from you. Please send in Mr. Malfoy next.”

Hermione stood up, taking one last look at Ted. He hadn’t said anything in her defense, but Harry told her to trust him.

She opened the door, looking at Draco. “They want to see you next,” she said.

Draco nodded before taking a deep breath and stepped inside. He sat down on the chair most recently occupied by Hermione and prepared himself for his own interrogation.

“Draco Malfoy,” Lord Niven started. “I’ve just heard Miss Granger’s version of events, and now I would like to hear yours.”

Draco glanced up at his father, meeting his eyes, wondering what he expected him to say. He knew what was at stake if he was found innocent, but he was also afraid of his father’s reaction as well.

The seconds ticked by as he thought about what to say, weighing all the options, but in the end he couldn’t bring himself to disappoint his father anymore than he already had.

“.. I don’t know what happened,” Draco said, his voice shaky at first, but growing confident as he continued. “I don’t know how the test ended up in my trunk, but I didn’t cheat. I earned my grade.”

“Draco, are their students in your house with enough skill to open the lock on your trunk?” Lucius asked, weaving a new narrative to get his son out of this mess.

“Yes father, several,” Draco replied, seeing where his father was going with this.

“And do you know of anyone in your house that would be jealous of your success?” He continued. “Or perhaps anyone that has a grudge against our family?”

Draco thought about the question. At the best of times, it was difficult to understand the real motivations of his house mates, or their personal feelings towards him. “…I can’t think of anyone specific that would want to, but there are a few older students that could get into my trunk if they wanted to.”

“Do you believe you studied enough to pass the test on your own?” Lucius asked.

“Yes,” Draco replied, knowing it was the answer his father wanted to hear, even though it put him dangerously close to a position he didn’t want to be in.

Lord Niven frowned as he guessed Malfoy’s strategy, cast enough doubt on the letter, and Granger’s testimony. Then push the narrative that anyone could have placed the test in his trunk. It wasn’t a bad plan, but it was something he was ready for, and knew how to counter.

“So that is your testimony, then?” Lord Niven asked. “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Draco replied.

“Very well,” Lord Niven said. “I’ve prepared some questions that were not on the test. For someone that achieved a perfect score, you should have no problem answering them,” he said, pulling out a document from his robes.

“Excuse me, Lord Niven,” Lucius interrupted, his eyes widening as his bluff was called. “How can we even be sure these questions are on the same level as the test my son wrote? For all we know, whoever wrote those questions could have a grudge against my family too.”

“An excellent point,” Lord Niven replied, allowing Lord Malfoy to think he had scored a victory before reversing it on him. “Professor McGonagall, please review these questions, and confirm they’re on the same level of difficulty as the last five questions of the test.”

Minerva took that paper from Lord Niven’s outstretched hand, quickly skimming through the questions before handing them back. “Yes, Lord Niven. These questions would be appropriate for the first year transfiguration test.”

Despite how infuriating this situation was, Albus couldn’t help the smile that tugged at the corner of his lips. Malfoy had been a thorn in his side on the Wizengamot for years. Watching him fumble his way through this without his normal tools at his disposal was at least amusing.

“Good,” Lord Niven smiled as he took the paper. “Let’s get started then. Mr. Malfoy. Describe for me the principle of Equivalent Exchange, and its limitations in detail.”

Draco thought hard, trying to remember what he could about the principle, but could only remember the very basics of it. “…When one object is transformed into another, the object gains attributes from the new object, but also looses attributes from its original form.”

“What is your assessment of his answer, professor?” Lord Niven asked, looking at Minerva.

“Mr. Malfoy’s answer is correct. This would earn him one point, however he didn’t sufficiently expand on the answer to get the full five points this question would award,” Minerva replied.

“Oh?” Lord Niven asked with a raised eyebrow. “What else would Mr. Malfoy have to include in his answer to be awarded full points?”

“He should have provided an example,” Minerva rattled off. “Something to the effect of transfiguring a stone into a large diamond. The size increase would dictate a proportional increase in the spell’s complexity, the magical energy expended, or a decrease in the spell’s duration.”

“Inherent limitations of the transfiguration,” Minerva continued. “Certain transformations would be impossible due to the magical energy requirements. There is only so much magical energy one can use before they’ve depleted their magic, and magical exhaustion sets in, and finally, the risk of backfire. The higher the complexity, the higher the risk of instability leading to the object suddenly reverting to its original form or becoming unstable, resulting in injuries or even death.”

Draco felt his face flush as he looked down in embarrassment. He had known his answer was incomplete, but Equivalent Exchange wasn’t mentioned on the test he wrote, and he didn’t remember anything more about it than the basic answer he gave.

Lord Niven scribbled something else down on his parchment before he looked at Draco again. “Thank you, Mr. Malfoy. I think I have everything I need to make my decision. Please send Mr. Potter in next.”

He had been prepared to ask another two questions to give Draco an opportunity to prove himself, and remove any doubt, but his surface level answer spoke for itself.

Lucius watched his son leave the room, a look of consternation on his face, having expected a better answer from his son after all the studying he had supposedly been doing.

A part of him acknowledged that this was not his arena. The amount of pressure he could exert here was limited. It was not a Wizengamot matter, so his normal avenues were closed to him. He idly wondered if he could come to some private arrangement with Niven to sweep this all under the rug.

Lucius glanced at Tonks, seeing how calm he was. He said nothing in the Granger girl’s defense, even though he was acting as her barrister, nor had he said anything about Potter. He knew enough about the man’s reputation to know he had a plan to get them out of this, but for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out what that plan was. If Niven decided Draco was cheating, it would cast a bad light on Potter, regardless of his own guilt. It would hurt Potter’s reputation, and that was his greatest asset. Tonks could not let that happen, no matter the cost.

Draco stepped outside, finding Hermione and Harry sitting down and talking quietly. “They want to see you, Potter,” he said, taking a seat, and watching as Harry walked through the door. He wished he had the same confidence in himself that Potter did, wondering how he managed to pass the transfiguration test without the aid of the stolen test.

“Mr. Potter, please take a seat,” Lord Niven said as he gestured to the chair in front of him. “I’d like you to start by explaining your version of events.”

“I studied the material and looked at a few books in the library,” Harry answered calmly.

Albus watched Harry speak, impressed by how unflappable the boy was, even more so than their first unfortunate meeting. ‘He’ll make an excellent addition to the Wizengamot,’ he thought. ‘With my guidance there’s no limit to what he can achieve.’

“That’s all?” Lord Niven asked. “You didn’t join in with Miss Granger and Mr. Malfoy’s plan?”

“No,” Harry shook his head. “I wasn’t aware of any of that.”

“Do you associate with Miss Granger or Mr. Malfoy outside of classes?” Lord Niven pressed.

“I do with Hermione,” Harry answered. “Draco has also recently joined us to exercise in the morning, but we don’t really talk then either.”

“Exercise?” Lord Niven asked, a puzzled look on his face. “Why would you do that?”

“It was in a book I read before I started at Hogwarts,” Harry replied. “It suggested that physical exercise would help with magical development, so I thought I would try it.”

“I see,” Lord Niven said, scribbling down another note. “Who else joins you to do these exercises?”

“There’s been a few classmates that tried it, but the ones who join me regularly are Ron, Neville, Hermione, and Sally,” Harry answered truthfully.

“Professor McGonagall,” Niven said, turning to face the transfiguration professor. “How did those students perform on the test?”

“They all performed well,” Minerva acknowledged, “but within the range I expected from them.”

Lord Niven nodded before turning to face Harry again. “I’ll be frank with you, Mr. Potter. Even with your current standing in the student rankings, I don’t believe any first year could earn a perfect score on the test, and what’s more,” he bluffed. “The letter I received informing me about the situation specifically named you, Mr. Malfoy, and Miss Granger as the perpetrators.”

“That proves the letter you received wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on,” Harry replied confidently, knowing the exact contents of the letter already, and seeing it for the bluff it was.

Ted couldn’t help the smirk that formed on his face at Harry’s response. Niven had tried to bluff him, only to have it turned back around on him. Adding Lord Malfoy’s assertions to the mix, the letter seemed less and less like the silver bullet that Lord Niven believed it to be.

Lord Niven kept his face impassive at Harry’s response, but knew he had seen through his ploy to throw him off balance, but he pressed on, hoping he would let something slip. “You said earlier that you associate with Miss Granger,” he said. “What sorts of activities would that be?”

“We study for tests, do classwork, play games. I do the same with rest of my year mates as well,” Harry replied, knowing he was fishing now.

“Did you have any inclination of what Miss Granger was planning?” Lord Niven asked.

“No,” Harry lied. “She didn’t mention anything about it to me until yesterday, when we met with the professors.”

“Yet you called in your own barrister to defend her, even after she admitted her guilt,” Lord Niven pointed out. “Why is that?”

“I knew that something was bothering Hermione the last few days, especially,” Harry replied. “I didn’t know what it was, but she seemed distracted, less focused than she usually is. I asked her about it, but she brushed me off.”

“After what I found out yesterday, it all made sense. I believe Hermione made a mistake, and she’s sorry for what she’s done, something she won’t repeat in the future. We were told that expulsion was a possibility, and I think the wizarding world is a better place with Hermione in it than without,” Harry added.

“That’s it?” Lord Niven asked, skeptically. “Those were nice words, don’t get me wrong, but that can’t be all there is to it,” he said, wondering what else Harry was hiding.

“You’re right,” Harry replied, causing Niven to smirk in triumph. “I wanted to help her because she’s my friend. I think she’s a good person who made a mistake, which she regrets, but that one mistake doesn’t define who she is. I want her to have the opportunity to move forward from this.”

Lord Niven sighed as the smirk fell from his face. He understood now why Tonks hadn’t said a word in Harry’s defense. He didn’t need to. Harry was far more intelligent and insightful than many adults he’d met. He had no other cards to play, nothing else he could do to put him off balance before he asked him the test question.

“I have a list of questions that were written, but not used on the final draft of the transfiguration test,” Lord Niven said, holding up the paper. “I will ask you one of them to test your skill level. Professor McGonagall will grade your answer.”

Harry nodded, “I’m ready.”

“Explain the concept of Magical Entropy and how it can be minimized in detail,” Lord Niven asked.

Harry nodded, thinking about the lessons he’s learned from Merlin and the books he’d read in the library on the topic.

“Magical Entropy refers to the decline in stability of a transfiguration. It suggests that even what we deem as permanent transfigurations reverts or degrades over time. It happens so slowly that it is difficult for us to detect in our lifetimes.”

“With all else being equal, the complexity of the transfiguration has a direct effect on the level of entropy,” Harry continued. “The more complex the transfiguration, the faster the entropy.”

“There are two main ways to minimize entropy, magical power, and the skill of the caster. An increase in magic used will stabilize the structure, reducing entropy as will the skill of the caster by creating more complex magical structures to better handle the flow of magic.”

Lord Niven looked to Professor McGonagall for her assessment, but already knew Harry had answered the question correctly and with enough detail to get full marks, if not very close to it.

“That is correct, Mr. Potter,” Minerva confirmed. “Given the level of detail in your answer, it is more than sufficient for full marks.”

Lord Niven scribbled down a few more notes before speaking. “I believe I have everything I need to make my decision. I will just have to review my notes and the student grades to come to a decision. Professor Dumbledore? May I use your meeting room to go over my notes?”

“Of course,” Dumbledore replied. “Is there anything I can do to assist you?”

“No,” Lord Niven said, shaking his head, “but thank you. I just need some privacy to make my decision.”

“Yes, of course,” Dumbledore replied, feeling annoyed at the dismissal of his former student. If he had known at the time, he would be elevated to lordly status, he would have made more of an effort to cultivate a relationship with him.

“Does he want us to go back in?” Hermione asked as everyone left the meeting room.

“No,” Harry shook his head. “He’s still deciding.”

“Look at the time,” Albus said, glancing down at his watch. “It’s almost lunchtime. Lord Niven will take some time to make his decision. Let’s head downstairs for lunch. I’m sure you’re all hungry.”

Hermione cast one more look at the closed door to the meeting room before she followed everyone outside, hoping that Lord Niven would have an answer for them soon.

Hi! What did you think of the new chapter? I wanted to try another version of a courtroom chapter, like I did with Fudge vs James. Niven’s decision and the fallout from it will be in the next chapter. Do you want to see more scenes like this in the future or would it be better to move the main plot along?

thanks for reading and supporting me,


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