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J.K.Rwling >> Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix (page 18)


"We haven't got a window," said Mr Weasley apologetically, taking off his bomber jacket and placing it on the back of his chair. "We've asked, but they don't seem to think we need one. Have a seat, Harry, doesn't look as if Perkins is in yet."

Harry squeezed himself into the chair behind Perkins's desk while Mr Weasley riffled through the sheaf of parchment Kingsley Shacklebolt had given him.

"Ah," he said, grinning, as he extracted a copy of a magazine entitled The Quibbler from its midst, "yes ..." He flicked through it. "Yes, he's right, I'm sure Sirus will find that very amusing - oh dear, what's this now?"

A memo had just zoomed in through the open door and fluttered to rest on top of the hiccoughing toaster. Mr Weasley unfolded it and read it aloud.

"'Third regurgitating public toilet reported in Bethnal Green, kindly investigate immediately.' This is getting ridiculous ..."

"A regurgitating toilet?"

"Anti-Muggle pranksters," said Mr Weasley, frowning. "We had two last week, one in Wimbledon, one in Elephant and Castle. Muggles are pulling the flush and instead of everything disappearing - well, you can imagine. The poor things keep calling in those - pumbles, I think they're called - you know, the ones who mend pipes and things."

"Plumbers?"

"Exactly, yes, but of course they're flummoxed. I only hope we can catch whoever's doing it."

"Will it be Aurors who catch them?"

"Oh no, this is too trivial for Aurors, it'll be the ordinary Magical Law Enforcement Patrol - ah, Harry, this is Perkins."

A stooped, timid-looking old wizard with fluffy white hair had just entered the room, panting.

"Oh, Arthur!" he said desperately, without looking at Harry. "Thank goodness, I didn't know what to do for the best, whether to wait here for you or not. I've just sent an owl to your home but you've obviously missed it - an urgent message came ten minutes ago -"

"I know about the regurgitating toilet," said Mr Weasley.

"No, no, it's not the toilet, it's the Potter boy's hearing - they've changed the time and venue - it starts at eight o'clock now and it's down in old Courtroom Ten -"

"Down in old - but they told me - Merlin's beard!"

Mr Weasley looked at his watch, let out a yelp and leapt from his chair.

"Quick, Harry, we should have been there five minutes ago!"

Perkins flattened himself against the filing cabinets as Mr Weasley left the office at a run, Harry close on his heels.

"Why have they changed the time?" Harry said breathlessly, as they hurtled past the Auror cubicles; people poked out their heads and stared as they streaked past. Harry felt as though he'd left all his insides back at Perkins's desk.

"I've no idea, but thank goodness we got here so early, if you'd missed it, it would have been catastrophic!"

Mr Weasley skidded to a halt beside the lifts and jabbed impatiently at the 'down' button.

"Come ON!"

The lift clattered into view and they hurried inside. Every time it stopped Mr Weasley cursed furiously and pummelled the number nine button.

Those courtrooms haven't been used in years," said Mr Weasley angrily. "I can't think why they're doing it down there - unless -but no -"

A plump witch carrying a smoking goblet entered the lift at that moment, and Mr Weasley did not elaborate.

"The Atrium," said the cool female voice and the golden grilles slid open, showing Harry a distant glimpse of the golden statues in the fountain. The plump witch got out and a sallow-skinned wizard with a very mournful face got in.

"Morning, Arthur," he said in a sepulchral voice as the lift began to descend. "Don't often see you down here."

"Urgent business, Bode," said Mr Weasley, who was bouncing on the balls of his feet and throwing anxious looks over at Harry.

"Ah, yes," said Bode, surveying Harry unblinkingly. "Of course."

Harry barely had emotion to spare for Bode, but his unfaltering gaze did not make him feel any more comfortable.

"Department of Mysteries," said the cool female voice, and left it at that.

"Quick, Harry," said Mr Weasley as the lift doors rattled open, and they sped up a corridor that was quite different from those above. The walls were bare; there were no windows and no doors apart from a plain black one set at the very end of the corridor. Harry expected them to go through it, but instead Mr Weasley seized him by the arm and dragged him to the left, where there was an opening leading to a flight of steps.

"Down here, down here," panted Mr Weasley, taking two steps at a time. The lift doesn't even come down this far ... why they're doing it down there I ..."

They reached the bottom of the steps and ran along yet another corridor, which bore a great resemblance to the one that led to Snape's dungeon at Hogwarts, with rough stone walls and torches in brackets. The doors they passed here were heavy wooden ones with iron bolts and keyholes.

"Courtroom ... Ten ... I think ... we're nearly ... yes."

Mr Weasley stumbled to a halt outside a grimy dark door with an immense iron lock and slumped against the wall, clutching at a stitch in his chest.

"Go on," he panted, pointing his thumb at the door. "Get in there."

"Aren't - aren't you coming with -?"

"No, no, I'm not allowed. Good luck!"

Harry's heart was beating a violent tattoo against his Adam's apple. He swallowed hard, turned the heavy iron door handle and stepped inside the courtroom.

- CHAPTER EIGHT -

The Hearing

Harry gasped; he could not help himself. The large dungeon he had entered was horribly familiar. He had not only seen it before, he had been here before. This was the place he had visited inside Dumbledore's Pensieve, the place where he had watched the Lestranges sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban.

The walls were made of dark stone, dimly lit by torches. Empty benches rose on either side of him, but ahead, in the highest benches of all, were many shadowy figures. They had been talking in low voices, but as the heavy door swung closed behind Harry an ominous silence fell.

A cold male voice rang across the courtroom.

'You're late.'

'Sorry,' said Harry nervously 'I - I didn't know the time had been changed.'

That is not the Wizengamot's fault,' said the voice. 'An owl was sent to you this morning. Take your seat.'

Harry dropped his gaze to the chair in the centre of the room, the arms of which were covered in chains. He had seen those chains spring to life and bind whoever sat between them. His footsteps echoed loudly as he walked across the stone floor. When he sat gingerly on the edge of the chair the chains clinked threateningly, but did not bind him. Feeling rather sick, he looked up at the people seated at the bench above.

There were about fifty of them, all, as far as he could see, wearing plum-coloured robes with an elaborately worked silver 'W on the left-hand side of the chest and all staring down their noses at him, some with very austere expressions, others looks of frank curiosity.

In the very middle of the front row sat Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic. Fudge was a portly man who often sported a lime-green bowler hat, though today he had dispensed with it; he had dispensed, too, with the indulgent smile he had once worn when he spoke to Harry. A broad, square-jawed witch with very short grey hair sat on Fudge's left; she wore a monocle and looked forbidding. On Fudge's right was another witch, but she was sitting so far back on the bench that her face was in shadow.

'Very well,' said Fudge. The accused being present - finally -let us begin. Are you ready?' he called down the row.

'Yes, sir,' said an eager voice Harry knew. Ron's brother Percy was sitting at the very end of the front bench. Harry looked at Percy, expecting some sign of recognition from him, but none came. Percy's eyes, behind his horn-rimmed glasses, were fixed on his parchment, a quill poised in his hand.

'Disciplinary hearing of the twelfth of August,' said Fudge in a ringing voice, and Percy began taking notes at once, 'into offences committed under the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery and the International Statute of Secrecy by Harry James Potter, resident at number four, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey.

'Interrogators: Cornelius Oswald Fudge, Minister for Magic; Amelia Susan Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Dolores Jane Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister. Court Scribe, Percy Ignatius Weasley -'

'Witness for the defence, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore,' said a quiet voice from behind Harry, who turned his head so fast he cricked his neck.

Dumbledore was striding serenely across the room wearing long midnight-blue robes and a perfectly calm expression. His long silver beard and hair gleamed in the torchlight as he drew level with Harry and looked up at Fudge through the half-moon spectacles that rested halfway down his very crooked nose.

The members of the Wizengamot were muttering. All eyes were now on Dumbledore. Some looked annoyed, others slightly frightened; two elderly witches in the back row, however, raised their hands and waved in welcome.

A powerful emotion had risen in Harry's chest at the sight of Dumbledore, a fortified, hopeful feeling rather like that which phoenix song gave him. He wanted to catch Dumbledore's eye, but Dumbledore was not looking his way; he was continuing to look up at the obviously flustered Fudge.

'Ah,' said Fudge, who looked thoroughly disconcerted. 'Dumbledore. Yes. You - er - got our - er - message that the time and -er - place of the hearing had been changed, then?'

'I must have missed it,' said Dumbledore cheerfully. 'However, due to a lucky mistake I arrived at the Ministry three hours early, so no harm done.'

'Yes - well - I suppose we'll need another chair - I - Weasley, could you -?'

'Not to worry, not to worry,' said Dumbledore pleasantly; he took out his wand, gave it a little flick, and a squashy chintz armchair appeared out of nowhere next to Harry. Dumbledore sat down, put the tips of his long fingers together and surveyed Fudge over them with an expression of polite interest. The Wizengamot was still muttering and fidgeting restlessly; only when Fudge spoke again did they settle down.

'Yes,' said Fudge again, shuffling his notes. 'Well, then. So. The charges. Yes.'

He extricated a piece of parchment from the pile before him, took a deep breath, and read out, The charges against the accused are as follows:

That he did knowingly, deliberately and in full awareness of the illegality of his actions, having received a previous written warning from the Ministry of Magic on a similar charge, produce a Patronus Charm in a Muggle-inhabited area, in the presence of a Muggle, on the second of August at twenty-three minutes past nine, which constitutes an offence under Paragraph C of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, I875, and also under Section I3 of the International Confederation of Warlocks' Statute of Secrecy.

'You are Harry James Potter, of number four, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey?' Fudge said, glaring at Harry over the top of his parchment.

'Yes,' Harry said.

'You received an official warning from the Ministry for using illegal magic three years ago, did you not?'

'Yes, but -'

'And yet you conjured a Patronus on the night of the second of August?' said Fudge.

'Yes,' said Harry, 'but -'

'Knowing that you are not permitted to use magic outside school while you are under the age of seventeen?'

'Yes, but -'

'Knowing that you were in an area full of Muggles?'

'Yes, but -'

'Fully aware that you were in close proximity to a Muggle at the time?'

'Yes,' said Harry angrily, 'but I only used it because we were -'

The witch with the monocle cut across him in a booming voice.

'You produced a fully-fledged Patronus?'

'Yes,' said Harry, 'because -'

'A corporeal Patronus?'

'A - what?' said Harry.

'Your Patronus had a clearly defined form? I mean to say, it was more than vapour or smoke?'

'Yes,' said Harry, feeling both impatient and slightly desperate, 'it's a stag, it's always a stag.'

'Always?' boomed Madam Bones. 'You have produced a Patronus before now?'

'Yes,' said Harry, 'I've been doing it for over a year.'

'And you are fifteen years old?'

'Yes, and -'

'You learned this at school?'

'Yes, Professor Lupin taught me in my third year, because of the -'

'Impressive,' said Madam Bones, staring down at him, 'a true Patronus at his age: very impressive indeed.'

Some of the wizards and witches around her were muttering again; a few nodded, but others were frowning and shaking their heads.

'It's not a question of how impressive the magic was,' said Fudge in a testy voice, 'in fact, the more impressive the worse it is, I would have thought, given that the boy did it in plain view of a Muggle!'

Those who had been frowning now murmured in agreement, but it was the sight of Percy's sanctimonious little nod that goaded Harry into speech.

Title: Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix
Author: J.K.Rwling
Viewed 190969 times

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