J.K.Rwling >> Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix (page 19)

'I did it because of the Dementors!' he said loudly, before anyone could interrupt him again.

He had expected more muttering, but the silence that fell seemed to be somehow denser than before.

'Dementors?' said Madam Bones after a moment, her thick eyebrows rising until her monocle looked in danger of falling out. 'What do you mean, boy?'

'I mean there were two Dementors down that alleyway and they went for me and my cousin!'

'Ah,' said Fudge again, smirking unpleasantly as he looked around at the Wizengamot, as though inviting them to share the joke. 'Yes. Yes, I thought we'd be hearing something like this.'

'Dementors in Little Whinging?' Madam Bones said, in a tone of great surprise. 'I don't understand -'

'Don't you, Amelia?' said Fudge, still smirking. 'Let me explain. He's been thinking it through and decided Dementors would make a very nice little cover story, very nice indeed. Muggles can't see Dementors, can they, boy? Highly convenient, highly convenient: so it's just your word and no witnesses:'

'I'm not lying!' said Harry loudly, over another outbreak of muttering from the court. There were two of them, coming from opposite ends of the alley, everything went dark and cold and my cousin felt them and ran for it -'

'Enough, enough!' said Fudge, with a very supercilious look on his face. 'I'm sorry to interrupt what I'm sure would have been a very well-rehearsed story -'

Dumbledore cleared his throat. The Wizengamot fell silent again.

'We do, in fact, have a witness to the presence of Dementors in that alleyway,' he said, 'other than Dudley Dursley, I mean.'

Fudge's plump face seemed to slacken, as though somebody had let air out of it. He stared down at Dumbledore for a moment or two, then, with the appearance of a man pulling himself back together, said, 'We haven't got time to listen to more tarradiddles, I'm afraid, Dumbledore. I want this dealt with quickly -'

'I may be wrong,' said Dumbledore pleasantly, 'but I am sure that under the Wizengamot Charter of Rights, the accused has the right to present witnesses for his or her case? Isn't that the policy of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Madam Bones?' he continued, addressing the witch in the monocle.

'True,' said Madam Bones. 'Perfectly true.'

'Oh, very well, very well,' snapped Fudge. 'Where is this person?'

'I brought her with me,' said Dumbledore. 'She's just outside the door. Should I -?'

'No - Weasley, you go,' Fudge barked at Percy, who got up at once, ran down the stone steps from the judge's balcony and hurried past Dumbledore and Harry without glancing at them.

A moment later, Percy returned, followed by Mrs Figg. She looked scared and more batty than ever. Harry wished she had thought to change out of her carpet slippers.

Dumbledore stood up and gave Mrs Figg his chair, conjuring a second one for himself.

'Full name?' said Fudge loudly, when Mrs Figg had perched herself nervously on the very edge of her seal.

'Arabella Doreen Figg,' said Mrs Figg in her quavery voice.

'And who exactly are you?' said Fudge, in a bored and lofty voice.

'I'm a resident of Little Whinging, close to where Harry Potter lives,' said Mrs Figg.

'We have no record of any witch or wizard living in Little Whinging, other than Harry Potter,' said Madam Bones at once. That situation has always been closely monitored, given: given past events.'

'I'm a Squib,' said Mrs Figg. 'So you wouldn't have me registered, would you?'

'A Squib, eh?' said Fudge, eyeing her closely. 'We'll be checking that. You'll leave details of your parentage with my assistant Weasley. Incidentally, can Squibs see Dementors?' he added, looking left and right along the bench.

'Yes, we can!' said Mrs Figg indignantly.

Fudge looked back down at her, his eyebrows raised. 'Very well,' he said aloofly. 'What is your story?'

'I had gone out to buy cat food from the corner shop at the end of Wisteria Walk, around about nine o'clock, on the evening of the second of August,' gabbled Mrs Figg at once, as though she had learned what she was saying by heart, 'when I heard a disturbance down the alleyway between Magnolia Crescent and Wisteria Walk. On approaching the mouth of the alleyway I saw Dementors running -'

'Running?' said Madam Bones sharply. 'Dementors don't run, they glide.'

That's what I meant to say,' said Mrs Figg quickly, patches of pink appearing in her withered cheeks. 'Gliding along the alley towards what looked like two boys.'

'What did they look like?' said Madam Bones, narrowing her eyes so that the edge of the monocle disappeared into her flesh.

'Well, one was very large and the other one rather skinny -'

'No, no,' said Madam Bones impatiently. 'The Dementors: describe them.'

'Oh,I said Mrs Figg, the pink flush creeping up her neck now. They were big. Big and wearing cloaks.'

Harry felt a horrible sinking in the pit of his stomach. Whatever Mrs Figg might say, it sounded to him as though the most she had ever seen was a picture of a Dementor, and a picture could never convey the truth of what these beings were like: the eerie way they moved, hovering inches over the ground; or the rotting smell of them; or that terrible rattling noise they made as they sucked on the surrounding air:

In the second row, a dumpy wizard with a large black moustache leaned close to whisper in the ear of his neighbour, a frizzy-haired witch. She smirked and nodded.

'Big and wearing cloaks,' repeated Madam Bones coolly, while Fudge snorted derisively. 'I see. Anything else?'

'Yes,' said Mrs Figg. 'I felt them. Everything went cold, and this was a very warm summer's night, mark you. And I felt: as though all happiness had gone from the world: and I remembered: dreadful things:'

Her voice shook and died.

Madam Bones's eyes widened slightly. Harry could see red marks under her eyebrow where the monocle had dug into it.

'What did the Dementors do?' she asked, and Harry felt a rush of hope.

They went for the boys,' said Mrs Figg, her voice stronger and more confident now, the pink flush ebbing away from her face. 'One of them had fallen. The other was backing away, trying to repel the Dementor. That was Harry. He tried twice and produced only silver vapour. On the third attempt, he produced a Patronus, which charged down the first Dementor and then, with his encouragement, chased the second one away from his cousin. And that that is what happened,' Mrs Figg finished, somewhat lamely.

Madam Bones looked down at Mrs Figg in silence. Fudge was not looking at her at all, but fidgeting with his papers. Finally, he raised his eyes and said, rather aggressively, That's what you saw, is it?'

That is what happened,' Mrs Figg repeated.

'Very well,' said Fudge. 'You may go.'

Mrs Figg cast a frightened look from Fudge to Dumbledore, then got up and shuffled otf towards the door. Harry heard it thud shut behind her.

'Not a very convincing witness,' said Fudge loftily.

'Oh, I don't know,' said Madam Bones, in her booming voice. 'She certainly described the effects of a Dementor attack very accurately. And I can't imagine why she would say they were there if they weren't.'

'But Dementors wandering into a Muggle suburb and just happening to come across a wizard?' snorted Fudge. The odds on that must be very, very long. Even Bagman wouldn't have bet -'

'Oh, I don't think any of us believe the Dementors were there by coincidence,' said Dumbledore lightly.

The witch sitting to the right of Fudge, with her face in shadow, moved slightly but everyone else was quite still and silent.

And what is that supposed to mean?' Fudge asked icily.

'It means that I think they were ordered there,' said Dumbledore.

'I think we might have a record of it if someone had ordered a pair of Dementors to go strolling through Little Whanging!' barked Fudge.

'Not if the Dementors are taking orders from someone other than the Ministry of Magic these days,' said Dumbledore calmly. 'I have already given you my views on this matter, Cornelius.'

'Yes, you have,' said Fudge forcefully, 'and I have no reason to believe that your views are anything other than bilge, Dumbledore. The Dementors remain in place in Azkaban and are doing everything we ask them to.'

Then,' said Dumbledore, quietly but clearly, 'we must ask ourselves why somebody within the Ministry ordered a pair of Dementors into that alleyway on the second of August.'

In the complete silence that greeted these words, the witch to the right of Fudge leaned forwards so that Harry saw her for the first time.

He thought she looked just like a large, pale toad. She was rather squat with a broad, flabby face, as little neck as Uncle Vernon and a very wide, slack mouth. Her eyes were large, round and slightly bulging. Even the little black velvet bow perched on top of her short curly hair put him in mind of a large fly she was about to catch on a long sticky tongue.

The Chair recognises Dolores Jane Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister,' said Fudge.

The witch spoke in a fluttery, girlish, high-pitched voice that took Harry aback; he had been expecting a croak.

'I'm sure I must have misunderstood you, Professor Dumbledore,' she said, with a simper that left her big, round eyes as cold as ever. 'So silly of me. But it sounded for a teensy moment as though you were suggesting that the Ministry of Magic had ordered an attack on this boy!'

She gave a silvery laugh that made the hairs on the back of Harry's neck stand up. A few other members of the Wizengamot laughed with her. It could not have been plainer that not one of them was really amused.

'If it is true that the Dementors are taking orders only from the Ministry of Magic, and it is also true that two Dementors attacked Harry and his cousin a week ago, then it follows logically that somebody at the Ministry might have ordered the attacks,' said Dumbledore politely. 'Of course, these particular Dementors may have been outside Ministry control -'

'There are no Dementors outside Ministry control!' snapped Fudge, who had turned brick red.

Dumbledore inclined his head in a little bow.

Then undoubtedly the Ministry will be making a full inquiry into why two Dementors were so very far from Azkaban and why they attacked without authorisation.'

'It is not for you to decide what the Ministry of Magic does or does not do, Dumbledore!' snapped Fudge, now a shade of magenta of which Uncle Vernon would have been proud.

'Of course it isn't,' said Dumbledore mildly. 'I was merely expressing my confidence that this matter will not go uninvestigated.'

He glanced at Madam Bones, who readjusted her monocle and stared back at him, frowning slightly.

'I would remind everybody that the behaviour of these Dementors, if indeed they are not figments of this boy's imagination, is not the subject of this hearing!' said Fudge. 'We are here to examine Harry Potter's offences under the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery!'

'Of course we are,' said Dumbledore, 'but the presence of Dementors in that alleyway is highly relevant. Clause Seven of the Decree states that magic may be used before Muggles in exceptional circumstances, and as those exceptional circumstances include situations which threaten the life of the wizard or witch him- or herself, or any witches, wizards or Muggles present at the time of the -'

'We are familiar with Clause Seven, thank you very much!' snarled Fudge.

'Of course you are,' said Dumbledore courteously. Then we are in agreement that Harry's use of the Patronus Charm in these circumstances falls precisely into the category of exceptional circumstances the clause describes?'

'If there were Dementors, which I doubt.'

'You have heard it from an eyewitness,' Dumbledore interrupted.

'If you still doubt her truthfulness, call her back, question her again. I am sure she would not object.'

'I - that - not -' blustered Fudge, fiddling with the papers before him. 'It's - I want this over with today, Dumbledore!'

'But naturally, you would not care how many times you heard from a witness, if the alternative was a serious miscarriage of justice,' said Dumbledore.

'Serious miscarriage, my hat!' said Fudge at the top of his voice. 'Have you ever bothered to tot up the number of cock-and-bull stories this boy has come out with, Dumbledore, while trying to cover up his flagrant misuse of magic out of school? I suppose you've forgotten the Hover Charm he used three years ago -'

That wasn't me, it was a house-elf!' said Harry.

'YOU SEE?' roared Fudge, gesturing flamboyantly in Harry's direction. 'A house-elf! In a Muggle house! I ask you.'

The house-elfin question is currently in the employ of Hogwarts School,' said Dumbledore. 'I can summon him here in an instant to give evidence if you wish."

'I - not - I haven't got time to listen to house-elves! Anyway, that's not the only - he blew up his aunt, for God's sake!' Fudge shouted, banging his fist on the judge's bench and upsetting a bottle of ink.

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