'So how come they promoted him?'
That's exactly what we wondered,' said Ron, who seemed very keen to keep
normal conversation going now that Harry had stopped yelling. 'He came home
really pleased with himself - even more pleased than usual, if you can imagine
that - and told Dad he'd been offered a position in Fudge's own office. A really
good one for someone only a year out of Hogwarts: Junior Assistant to the Minister.
He expected Dad to be all impressed, I think.'
'Only Dad wasn't,' said Fred grimly.
'Why not?' said Harry.
'Well, apparently Fudge has been storming round the Ministry checking that
nobody's having any contact with Dumbledore,' said George.
'Dumbledore's name is mud with the Ministry these days, see,' said Fred.
They all think he's just making trouble saying You-Know-Who's back.'
'Dad says Fudge has made it clear that anyone who's in league with Dumbledore
can clear out their desks,' said George.
'Trouble is, Fudge suspects Dad, he knows he's friendly with Dumbledore,
and he's always thought Dad's a bit of a weirdo because of his Muggle obsession.'
'But what's that got to do with Percy?' asked Harry, contused.
'I'm coming to that. Dad reckons Fudge only wants Percy in his office because
he wants to use him to spy on the family - and Dumbledore.'
Harry let out a low whistle.
'Bet Percy loved that.'
Ron laughed in a hollow sort of way.
'He went completely berserk. He said - well, he said loads of terrible stuff.
He said he's been having to struggle against Dad's lousy reputation ever since
he joined the Ministry and that Dad's got no ambition and that's why we've always
been - you know - not had a lot of money, I mean -'
'What?' said Harry in disbelief, as Ginny made a noise like an angry cat.
'I know,' said Ron in a low voice. 'And it got worse. He said Dad was an
idiot to run around with Dumbledore, that Dumbledore was heading for big trouble
and Dad was going to go down with him, and that he - Percy - knew where his
loyalty lay and it was with the Ministry. And if Mum and Dad were going to become
traitors to the Ministry he was going to make sure everyone knew he didn't belong
to our family any more. And he packed his bags the same night and left. He's
living here in London now.'
Harry swore under his breath. He had always liked Percy least of Ron's brothers,
but he had never imagined he would say such things to Mr Weasley.
'Mum's been in a right state,' said Ron dully. 'You know - crying and stuff.
She came up to London to try and talk to Percy but he slammed the door in her
face. I dunno what he does if he meets Dad at work - ignores him, I's'pose.'
'But Percy must know Voldemort's back,' said Harry slowly. 'He's not stupid,
he must know your mum and dad wouldn't risk everything without proof.'
'Yeah, well, your name got dragged into the row,' said Ron, shooting Harry
a furtive look. 'Percy said the only evidence was your word and: I dunno: he
didn't think it was good enough.'
'Percy takes the Daily Prophet seriously,' said Hermione tartly, and the
others all nodded.
'What are you talking about?' Harry asked, looking around at them all. They
were all regarding him warily.
'Haven't - haven't you been getting the Daily Prophet!' Hermione asked nervously.
'Yeah, I have!' said Harry.
'Have you - er - been reading it thoroughly?' Hermione asked, still more
'Not cover to cover,' said Harry defensively. 'If they were going to report
anything about Voldemort it would be headline news, wouldn't it?'
The others flinched at the sound of the name. Hermione hurried on, 'Well,
you'd need to read it cover to cover to pick it up, but they - um - they mention
you a couple of times a week.'
'But I'd have seen -'
'Not if you've only been reading the front page, you wouldn't,' said Hermione,
shaking her head. 'I'm not talking about big articles. They just slip you in,
like you're a standing joke.'
'What d'you -?'
'It's quite nasty, actually,' said Hermione in a voice of forced calm. They're
just building on Rita's stuff.'
'But she's not writing for them any more, is she?'
'Oh, no, she's kept her promise - not that she's got any choice,' Hermione
added with satisfaction. 'But she laid the foundation for what they're trying
to do now.'
'Which is what?' said Harry impatiently.
'OK, you know she wrote that you were collapsing all over the place and saying
your scar was hurting and all that?'
'Yeah,' said Harry, who was not likely to forget Rita Skeeters stories about
him in a hurry.
'Well, they're writing about you as though you're this deluded, attention-seeking
person who thinks he's a great tragic hero or something,' said Hermione, very
fast, as though it would be less unpleasant for Harry to hear these facts quickly.
'They keep slipping in snide comments about you. If some far-fetched story appears,
they say something like, "A tale worthy of Harry Potter", and if anyone has
a funny accident or anything it's, "Let's hope he hasn't got a scar on his forehead
or we'll be asked to worship him next" -'
'I don't want anyone to worship -' Harry began hotly.
'I know you don't,' said Hermione quickly, looking frightened. 'I know, Harry.
But you see what they're doing? They want to turn you into someone nobody will
believe. Fudge is behind it, I'll bet anything. They want wizards on the street
to think you're just some stupid boy who's a bit of a joke, who tells ridiculous
tall stories because he loves being famous and wants to keep it going.'
'I didn't ask - I didn't want - Voldemort killed my parents!' Harry spluttered.
'I got famous because he murdered my family but couldn't kill me! Who wants
to be famous for that? Don't they think I'd rather it'd never -'
'We know, Harry,' said Ginny earnestly.
'And of course, they didn't report a word about the Dementors attacking you,'
said Hermione. 'Someone's told them to keep that quiet. That should've been
a really big story, out-of-control Dementors. They haven't even reported that
you broke the International Statute of Secrecy. We thought they would, it would
tie in so well with this image of you as some stupid show-off. We think they're
biding their time until you're expelled, then they're really going to go to
town - I mean, if you're expelled, obviously,' she went on hastily. 'You really
shouldn't be, not if they abide by their own laws, there's no case against you.'
They were back on the hearing and Harry did not want to think about that.
He cast around for another change of subject, but was saved the necessity of
finding one by the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs.
Fred gave the Extendable Ear a hearty tug; there was another loud crack and
he and George vanished. Seconds later, Mrs Weasley appeared in the bedroom doorway.
'The meeting's over, you can come down and have dinner now. Everyone's dying
to see you, Harry. And who's left all those Dungbombs outside the kitchen door?'
'Crookshanks,' said Ginny unblusingly. 'He loves playing with them.'
'Oh,' said Mrs Weasley, 'I thought it might have been Kreacher, he keeps
doing odd things like that. Now don't forget to keep your voices down in the
hall. Ginny, your hands are filthy, what have you been doing? Go and wash them
before dinner, please.'
Ginny grimaced at the others and followed her mother out of the room, leaving
Harry alone with Ron and Hermione. Both of them were watching him apprehensively,
as though they feared he would start shouting again now that everyone else had
gone. The sight of them looking so nervous made him feel slightly ashamed.
'Look:' he muttered, but Ron shook his head, and Hermione said quietly, 'We
knew you'd be angry, Harry, we really don't blame you, but you've got to understand,
we did try to persuade Dumbledore -'
'Yeah, I know,' said Harry shortly.
He cast around for a topic that didn't involve his headmaster, because the
very thought of Dumbledore made Harry's insides burn with anger again.
'Who's Kreacher?' he asked.
The house-elf who lives here,' said Ron. 'Nutter. Never met one like him.'
Hermione frowned at Ron.
'He's not a nutter, Ron.'
'His life's ambition is to have his head cut off and stuck up on a plaque
just like his mother,' said Ron irritably. 'Is that normal, Hermione?'
'Well - well, if he is a bit strange, it's not his fault.'
Ron rolled his eyes at Harry.
'Hermione still hasn't given up on SPEW -'
'It's not SPEW!' said Hermione heatedly. 'It's the Society for the Promotion
of Elfish Welfare. And it's not just me, Dumbledore says we should be kind to
'Yeah, yeah,' said Ron. 'C'mon, I'm starving.'
He led the way out of the door and on to the landing, but before they could
descend the stairs -
'Hold it!' Ron breathed, flinging out an arm to stop Harry and Hermione walking
any further. They're still in the hall, we might be able to hear something.'
The three of them looked cautiously over the banisters. The gloomy hallway
below was packed with witches and wizards, including all of Harry's guard. They
were whispering excitedly together. In the very centre of the group Harry saw
the dark, greasy-haired head and prominent nose of his least favourite teacher
at Hogwarts, Professor Snape. Harry leant further over the banisters. He was
very interested in what Snape was doing for the Order of the Phoenix:
A thin piece of flesh-coloured string descended in front of Harry's eyes.
Looking up, he saw Ered and George on the landing above, cautiously lowering
the Extendable Ear towards the dark knot of people below. A moment later, however,
they all began to move towards the front door and out of sight.
'Dammit,' Harry heard Fred whisper, as he hoisted the Extendable Ear back
They heard the front door open, then close.
'Snape never eats here,' Ron told Harry quietly. Thank God. C'mon.'
'And don't forget to keep your voice down in the hall, Harry,' Hermione whispered.
As they passed the row of house-elf heads on the wall, they saw Lupin, Mrs
Weasley and Tonks at the front door, magically sealing its many locks and bolts
behind those who had just left.
'We're eating down in the kitchen,' Mrs Weasley whispered, meeting them at
the bottom of the stairs. 'Harry, dear, if you'll just tiptoe across the hall,
it's through this door here -'
'Tonks!' cried Mrs Weasley in exasperation, turning to look behind her.
'I'm sorry!' wailed Tonks, who was lying flat on the floor. 'It's that stupid
umbrella stand, that's the second time I've tripped over -'
But the rest of her words were drowned by a horrible, ear-splitting, blood-curdling
The moth-eaten velvet curtains Harry had passed earlier had flown apart,
but there was no door behind them. For a split second, Harry thought he was
looking through a window, a window behind which an old woman in a black cap
was screaming and screaming as though she were being tortured - then he realised
it was simply a life-size portrait, but the most realistic, and the most unpleasant,
he had ever seen in his life.
The old woman was drooling, her eyes were rolling, the yellowing skin of
her face stretched taut as she screamed; and all along the hall behind them,
the other portraits awoke and began to yell, too, so that Harry actually screwed
up his eyes at the noise and clapped his hands over his ears.
Lupin and Mrs Weasley darted forward and tried to tug the curtains shut over
the old woman, but they would not close and she screeched louder than ever,
brandishing clawed hands as though trying to tear at their faces.
'Filth! Scum! By-products of dirt and vileness! Half-breeds, mutants, freaks,
begone from this place! How dare you befoul the house of my fathers -'
Tonks apologised over and over again, dragging the huge, heavy troll's leg
back off the floor; Mrs Weasley abandoned the attempt to close the curtains
and hurried up and down the hall, stunning all the other portraits with her
wand; and a man with long black hair came charging out of a door facing Harry.
'Shut up, you horrible old hag, shut UP!' he roared, seizing the curtain
Mrs Weasley had abandoned.
The old woman's face blanched.
'Yoooou!' she howled, her eyes popping at the sight of the man. 'Blood traitor,
abomination, shame of my flesh!'
'I said - shut - UP!' roared the man, and with a stupendous effort he and
Lupin managed to force the curtains closed again.
The old woman's screeches died and an echoing silence fell. Panting slightly
and sweeping his long dark hair out of his eyes, Harry's godfather Sirius turned
to face him.
'Hello, Harry,' he said grimly, 'I see you've met my mother.'
CHAPTER FIVE -
The Order of the Phoenix
'My dear old mum, yeah,' said Sirius. 'We've been trying to get her down
for a month but we think she put a Permanent Sticking Charm on the back of the
canvas. Let's get downstairs, quick, before they all wake up again.'