J.K.Rwling >> Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix (page 16)

Weasley kept them all working very hard over the next few days. The drawing room took three days to decontaminate. Finally, the only undesirable things left in it were the tapestry of the Black family tree, which resisted all their attempts to remove it from the wall, and the rattling writing desk. Moody had not dropped by Headquarters yet, so they could not be sure what was inside it.

They moved from the drawing room to a dining room on the ground floor where they found spiders as large as saucers lurking in the dresser (Ron left the room hurriedly to make a cup of tea and did not return for an hour and a half). The china, which bore the Black crest and motto, was all thrown unceremoniously into a sack by Sirius, and the same fate met a set of old photographs in tarnished silver frames, all of whose occupants squealed shrilly as the glass covering them smashed.

Snape might refer to their work as 'cleaning', but in Harry's opinion they were really waging war on the house, which was putting up a very good fight, aided and abetted by Kreacher. The house-elf kept appearing wherever they were congregated, his muttering becoming more and more offensive as he attempted to remove anything he could from the rubbish sacks. Sirius went as far as to threaten him with clothes, but Kreacher fixed him with a watery stare and said, 'Master must do as Master wishes,' before turning away and muttering very loudly, 'but Master will not turn Kreacher away, no, because Kreacher knows what they are up to, oh yes, he is plotting against the Dark Lord, yes, with these Mudbloods and traitors and scum:'

At which Sirius, ignoring Hermione's protests, seized Kreacher by the back of his loincloth and threw him bodily from the room.

The doorbell rang several times a day, which was the cue for Sirius's mother to start shrieking again, and for Harry and the others to attempt to eavesdrop on the visitor, though they gleaned very little from the brief glimpses and snatches of conversation they were able to sneak before Mrs Weasley recalled them to their tasks. Snape flitted in and out of the house several times more, though to Harry's relief they never came face to face; Harry also caught sight of his Transfiguration teacher Professor McGonagall, looking very odd in a Muggle dress and coat, and she also seemed too busy to linger. Sometimes, however, the visitors stayed to help. Tonks joined them for a memorable afternoon in which they found a murderous old ghoul lurking in an upstairs toilet, and Lupin, who was staying in the house with Sirius but who left it for long periods to do mysterious work for the Order, helped them repair a grandfather clock that had developed the unpleasant habit of shooting heavy bolts at passers-by. Mundungus redeemed himself slightly in Mrs Weasley's eyes by rescuing Ron from an ancient set of purple robes that had tried to strangle him when he removed them from their wardrobe.

Despite the fact that he was still sleeping badly, still having dreams about corridors and locked doors that made his scar prickle, Harry was managing to have fun for the first time all summer. As long as he was busy he was happy; when the action abated, however, whenever he dropped his guard, or lay exhausted in bed watching blurred shadows move across the ceiling, the thought of the looming Ministry hearing returned to him. Fear jabbed at his insides like needles as he wondered what was going to happen to him if he was expelled. The idea was so terrible that he did not dare voice it aloud, not even to Ron and Hermione, who, though he often saw them whispering together and casting anxious looks in his direction, followed his lead in not mentioning it. Sometimes, he could not prevent his imagination showing him a faceless Ministry official who was snapping his wand in two and ordering him back to the Dursleys': but he would not go. He was determined on that. He would come back here to Grimmauld Place and live with Sirius.

He felt as though a brick had dropped into his stomach when Mrs Weasley turned to him during dinner on Wednesday evening and said quietly, 'I've ironed your best clothes for tomorrow morning, Harry, and I want you to wash your hair tonight, too. A good first impression can work wonders.'

Ron, Hermione, Fred, George and Ginny all stopped talking and looked over at him. Harry nodded and tried to keep eating his chop, but his mouth had become so dry he could not chew.

'How am I getting there?' he asked Mrs Weasley, trying to sound unconcerned.

'Arthur's taking you to work with him,' said Mrs Weasley gently.

Mr Weasley smiled encouragingly at Harry across the table.

'You can wait in my office until it's time for the hearing,' he said.

Harry looked over at Sirius, but before he could ask the question, Mrs Weasley had answered it.

'Professor Dumbledore doesn't think it's a good idea for Sirius to go with you, and I must say I -'

'- think he's quite right,' said Sirius through clenched teeth.

Mrs Weasley pursed her lips.

'When did Dumbledore tell you that?' Harry said, staring at Sirius.

'He came last night, when you were in bed,' said Mr Weasley.

Sirius stabbed moodily at a potato with his fork. Harry lowered his own eyes to his plate. The thought that Dumbledore had been in the house on the eve of his hearing and not asked to see him made him feel, if it were possible, even worse.


The Ministry Of Magic

Harry awoke at half past five the next morning as abruptly and completely as if somebody had yelled in his ear. For a few moments he lay immobile as the prospect of the disciplinary hearing filled every tiny particle of his brain, then, unable to bear it, he leapt out of bed and put on his glasses. Mrs Weasley had laid out his freshly laundered jeans and T-shirt at the foot of his bed. Harry scrambled into them. The blank picture on the wall sniggered.

Ron was lying sprawled on his back with his mouth wide open, fast asleep. He did not stir as Harry crossed the room, stepped out on to the landing and closed the door softly behind him. Trying not to think of the next time he would see Ron, when they might no longer be fellow students at Hogwarts, Harry walked quietly down the stairs, past the heads of Kreacher's ancestors, and down into the kitchen.

He had expected it to be empty, but when he reached the door he heard the soft rumble of voices on the other side. He pushed it open and saw Mr and Mrs Weasley, Sirius, Lupin and Tonks sitting there almost as though they were waiting for him. All were fully dressed except Mrs Weasley, who was wearing a quilted purple dressing gown. She leapt to her feet the moment Harry entered.

"Breakfast," she said as she pulled out her wand and hurried over to the fire.

"M - m - morning, Harry," yawned Tonks. Her hair was blonde and curly this morning. "Sleep all right?"

"Yeah," said Harry.

"I've b - b - been up all night," she said, with another shuddering yawn. "Come and sit down ..."

She drew out a chair, knocking over the one beside it in the process.

"What do you want, Harry?" Mrs Weasley called. "Porridge? Muffins? Kippers? Bacon and eggs? Toast?"

"Just - just toast, thanks," said Harry.

Lupin glanced at Harry, then said to Tonks, "What were you saying about Scrimgeour?"

"Oh ... yeah ... well, we need to be a bit more careful, he's been asking Kingsley and me funny questions ..."

Harry felt vaguely grateful that he was not required to join in the conversation. His insides were squirming. Mrs Weasley placed a couple of pieces of toast and marmalade in front of him; he tried to eat, but it was like chewing carpet. Mrs Weasley sat down on his other side and started fussing with his T-shirt, tucking in the label and smoothing out the creases across his shoulders. He wished she wouldn't.

"... and I'll have to tell Dumbledore I can't do night duty tomorrow, I'm just too tired," Tonks finished, yawning hugely again.

"I'll cover for you," said Mr Weasley. "I'm OK, I've got a report to finish anyway.

Mr Weasley was not wearing wizards' robes but a pair of pinstriped trousers and an old bomber jacket. He turned from Tonks to Harry.

"How are you feeling?"

Harry shrugged.

"It'll all be over soon," Mr Weasley said bracingly. In a few hours' time you'll be cleared."

Harry said nothing.

The hearing's on my floor, in Amelia Bones's office. She's Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and the one who'll be questioning you."

"Amelia Bones is OK, Harry," said Tonks earnestly. "She's fair, she'll hear you out."

Harry nodded, still unable to think of anything to say.

"Don't lose your temper," said Sirius abruptly. "Be polite and stick to the facts."

Harry nodded again.

"The law's on your side," said Lupin quietly. "Even underage wizards are allowed to use magic in life-threatening situations."

Something very cold trickled down the back of Harry's neck; for a moment he thought someone was putting a Disillusionment Charm on him, then he realised that Mrs Weasley was attacking his hair with a wet comb. She pressed hard on the top of his head.

"Doesn't it ever lie flat?" she said desperately.

Harry shook his head.

Mr Weasley checked his watch and looked up at Harry.

"I think we'll go now," he said. "We're a bit early but I think you'll be better off at the Ministry than hanging around here."

"OK," said Harry automatically, dropping his toast and getting to his feet.

"You'll be all right, Harry," said Tonks, patting him on the arm.

"Good luck," said Lupin. I'm sure it will be fine."

"And if it's not," said Sirius grimly "I'll see to Amelia Bones for you ..."

Harry smiled weakly. Mrs Weasley hugged him.

"We've all got our fingers crossed," she said.

"Right," said Harry. "Well ... see you later then."

He followed Mr Weasley upstairs and along the hall. He could hear Sirius's mother grunting in her sleep behind her curtains. Mr Weasley unbolted the door and they stepped out into the cold, grey dawn.

"You don't normally walk to work, do you?" Harry asked him, as they set off briskly around the square.

"No, I usually Apparate," said Mr Weasley, "but obviously you can't, and I think it's best we arrive in a thoroughly non-magical fashion ... makes a better impression, given what you're being disciplined for ..."

Mr Weasley kept his hand inside his jacket as they walked. Harry knew it was clenched around his wand. The run-down streets were almost deserted, but when they arrived at the miserable little underground station they found it already full of early-morning commuters. As ever when he found himself in close proximity to Muggles going about their daily business, Mr Weasley was hard put to contain his enthusiasm.

"Simply fabulous," he whispered, indicating the automatic ticket machines. "Wonderfully ingenious."

"They're out of order," said Harry, pointing at the sign.

"Yes, but even so ..." said Mr Weasley, beaming at them fondly

They bought their tickets instead from a sleepy-looking guard (Harry handled the transaction, as Mr Weasley was not very good with Muggle money) and five minutes later they were boarding an underground train that rattled them off towards the centre of London. Mr Weasley kept anxiously checking and re-checking the Underground Map above the windows.

"Four more stops, Harry ... Three stops left now ... Two stops to go, Harry ..."

They got off at a station in the very heart of London, and were swept from the train in a tide of besuited men and women carrying briefcases. Up the escalator they went, through the ticket barrier (Mr Weasley delighted with the way the stile swallowed his ticket), and emerged on to a broad street lined with imposing-looking buildings and already full of traffic.

"Where are we?" said Mr Weasley blankly, and for one heart-stopping moment Harry thought they had got off at the wrong station despite Mr Weasley's continual references to the map; but a second later he said, "Ah yes ... this way, Harry," and led him down a side road.

"Sorry," he said, "but I never come by train and it all looks rather different from a Muggle perspective. As a matter of fact, I've never even used the visitors' entrance before."

The further they walked, the smaller and less imposing the buildings became, until finally they reached a street that contained several rather shabby-looking offices, a pub and an overflowing skip. Harry had expected a rather more impressive location for the Ministry of Magic.

"Here we are," said Mr Weasley brightly, pointing at an old red telephone box, which was missing several panes of glass and stood before a heavily graffitied wall. "After you, Harry."

He opened the telephone-box door.

Harry stepped inside, wondering what on earth this was about. Mr Weasley folded himself in beside Harry and closed the door. It was a tight fit; Harry was jammed against the telephone apparatus, which was hanging crookedly from the wall as though a vandal had tried to rip it off. Mr Weasley reached past Harry for the receiver.

"Mr Weasley, I think this might be out of order, too," Harry said.

"No, no, I'm sure it's fine," said Mr Weasley, holding the receiver above his head and peering at the dial. "Let's see ... six ..." he dialled the number, "two ... four ... and another four ... and another two ..."

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