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Chapter 42 : At the Ministry
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His godparents hadn’t exactly been happy with that but at least they knew Harry would have a chance – or at least they hoped so – to present his defence.
In the meanwhile, the environment had grown tense at Grimmauld Place with everyone, especially Harry, silently wondering if he’d manage to get himself off the hook but always saying the opposite whenever speaking up. Only Alex, they assumed, in own his infant innocence and obliviousness, remained untouched by the tension, as he seemed to be as in a good mood as he usually was.
Finally, when the day of the hearing came, they went to the ministry incredibly early at Harry’s request. Ron, Hermione, Izzy and Ginny had wanted to go too, in order to testify in Harry’s defence but Dumbledore had stated that Sirius and Mia’s testimonies would be enough.
“He’s gonna be fine,” Sirius told his wife as they walked through the ministry’s main hallway, Harry a few steps ahead of them. “Hermione’s been reading law books at our place’s library and I’ve heard her saying at least half a dozen times that nearly all of them state that ‘underage magic can be justified if the underage witch or wizard’s life and/or well-being is at stake’.”
Mia sighed. “I think that has been established already, Sirius. And for reason they’ve tried to expel Harry anyway.”
“Fudge is not the law,” Sirius said. “I’ll make sure he knows that by the end of the hearing, Mia.”
She grasped his hand harder. “Sometimes I don’t know what will be worse: Harry not going to Hogwarts or going. With this bloody news at the Daily Prophet, people will be horrible to him.”
“He’s fifteen, Mia, and, from what I’ve know, people have been horrible to him – he’ll know how to handle himself,” Sirius told her just as they he saw Kingsley Shacklebolt approaching them in a hurried pace.
He and Mia kept walking as Kingsley made his way right by them and passed Sirius a ripped piece of parchment with something scribbled in it. He clutched the parchment in his fist and waited until he was farther ahead to read it, trying not to call too much attention.
Audience’s time and place have been changed to the Wizengamot court in the Dungeons at 8.30 AM.
“That son of a bitch,” Sirius mumbled, stopping. It was 8.25 already.
“What is it?” Mia asked him before he passed her the note.
That one had made it for Sirius. It was bad enough there would be an audience at all for something as mild as a self-defence underage magic case, but there was just no way he’d let them treat Harry like a criminal – be judged in the same pit as they were. If Fudge wanted to play dirty, he’d picked the wrong person to do it with. At some point, Harry had made his way past them and was reading the note in Mia’s hands too
“I won’t let this happen. You two stay here while I take care of this,” he told them before he walked away in a hurry.
Sirius made his way to the lift and down to the wizengamot, where he hoped to find Fudge. The lift, though faster than a muggle model, felt awfully slow as Sirius was in such a hurry, which only helped the fury he was feeling to raise even more. Then, when the lift finally stopped in the dungeons, he quickly walked the way to the wizengamot’s court room, in front of whose door he saw Fudge, standing cockily in his robes, talking to a fellow member of the court.
“Fudge!” he called, approaching the minister in long, heavy steps.
Fudge’s face turned to him and gave him sort of an annoyed look before whispering something to the other man, who left, glancing suspiciously at Sirius as well. “Black, I shouldn’t talk to you before the audien…”
“Forget the audience, Fudge. I’ve had enough of you. I think the whole bloody country has had enough of you but that’s a matter for another day,” he told the minister.
“This is not an appropriate way to adress…”
“Oh, shut up!” Sirius told him in an ‘I don’t have time for your crap’ tone. He lowered his voice to a calmer, but not a bit less firm, tone. “What I’m here to say is that I won’t allow this – you are taking this too far. I won’t allow my godson to be put in the middle of that courtroom and judged by the wizengamot as a criminal.”
“Then, he’ll be expelled,” Fudge said firmly.
“No, he won’t,” Sirius replied. “If you don’t want to believe Voldemort is back, then fine, don’t believe it – when people start getting killed then don’t come crying on us because we’ve told you so. But trashing a kid on a newspaper every bloody day because he’s said otherwise and trying to get him kicked out of school is way too much! You are ruining his life!”
Fudge’s face was red with fury – he wasn’t, in any way, used to have people standing up to him in such matters. “Black, you are stepping over the line,” he said through his teeth. “Things are simple – Potter has broken the Underage Magic restrictions and, according to the law, either he comes to the audience and proves, somehow, that he’s innocent, or he’ll be expelled from…”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible,” a familiar voice came from behind Sirius, who turned around to see Dumbledore arriving. The headmaster walked closer to them in a calm pace and his face didn’t show any expression until he reached them. “The Ministry does not have the power to expel Hogwarts students, Cornelius, as I reminded you two nights ago. Nor does it have the right to confiscate wands until charges have been successfully proven; again, as I reminded you on two nights ago. In your admirable haste to ensure that the law is upheld, you appear, inadvertently I am sure, to have overlooked a few laws yourself.”
“Laws can be changed,” Fudge remarked defiantly.
“Of course they can,” Dumbledore acknowledged. “And you certainly seem to be making many changes, Cornelius. Why, in the few short weeks since I was asked to leave the wizengamot, it has already become the practice to hold a full criminal trial to deal with a simple matter of underage magic! As Sirius has said, you are indeed going too far, Cornelius. Harry Potter has been charged with a specific offence and he has the right to present his defence in an audience that follows the usual procedure, as long as it is possible. In case you have forgotten said procedure, let me remind you: in a matter of underage magic, it is a simple audience behind closed doors and certainly not with the whole Wizengamot present or the minister himself leading the questioning. I believe what Sirius is demanding is for that right to apply.”
Sirius smiled in an audacious way. “Unless, like this ministry did years ago with some people, you want to ignore Harry’s rights and send him right to the punishment. I bet the International Confederation of Wizards would love to hear that. They’re the ones who usually sack ministers for incompetence, aren’t they?”
Fudge gritted his teeth and, if it was possible, his face became even redder. For a moment, he didn’t say a word, maybe trying to increase the tension, maybe just thinking. And then, he spoke. “Tell Potter to be in my office in fifteen minutes.”
“With his guardians and defence witnesses present, of course,” Dumbledore added. “It’s his right, Cornelius.”
Now, it looked as if Fudge was about to explode. “Fine! Bring the cat and the dog too if you want,” he snapped. “Now, if excuse me, I have things to do.” And he very rudely turned around, making his way into the court room, to call the audience off.
Sirius sighed. “That went well.”
Dumbledore nodded. “As well as it could have gone, I’d say. Cornelius has been trying to stretch his authority lately. I’m not sure if this confrontation will put an end to it out of fear or simply make him angrier.”
“Judging by his face, I’d bet on the last one,” Sirius said as they turned around to make their ways back to the lift.
For a moment, he was surprised to see Mia along with Harry standing at the end of the hallway, waiting for him. His wife looked rather worried, while Harry kept staring at a plain black door at the end of a corridor at his right.
“How did it go?” Mia asked him.
“Harry will get a private audience,” he told her. “But Fudge is not so happy about it.” His face shifted to a grin. “You should have seen the idiot’s face – he looked like he was ready to blow up.”
“Sirius!” she said, giving him a disapproving tone. It wasn’t that she didn’t feel happy with Fudge’s frustration. She was, however, aware that what Sirius had just pulled on him might have gone incredibly wrong.
“What? It was priceless,” he told her, before turning to Harry and seeing him still staring at the black door. “Harry, are you with us?”
The younger boy shivered in surprise for a moment before turning his eyes from the door to the Sirius. “Hum, yeah, I’m fine. It’s just…” he turned to Dumbledore. “That door… what does it lead to?”
Dumbledore coughed before answering. “To the Department of Mysteries, I believe.” He eyes his student as if trying to read something of him. “Why do you ask, Harry?”
Harry visibly gulped. “I… hum… I think I’ve seen that door before. In a dream I’ve been having lately.”
“A dream?” Mia inquired. “You mean a nightmare? Harry, you could have told us…”
He shook his head. “No, it wasn’t a nightmare. Just an odd dream. I thought it didn’t mean anything – sometimes I dream of flying socks and I’m sure it doesn’t mean a thing.”
“And how often do you have that dream?” Dumbledore inquired.
Harry shrugged. “I dunno. A month? It wasn’t long after we came back from Santa Lucia that it started. At least as far as I remember. I see the door but when I’m about to reach it, I wake up… But is there something bad in that department?”
“We wouldn’t be able to tell you, Harry,” Sirius told him and Dumbledore still looked at Harry thoughtfully. “It’s the Department of Mysteries. You’d have to ask an unspeakable and I doubt even one would tell you anything. Names are very literal in this place.”
The younger boy’s face fell in disappointment until Mia placed her hand softly on his shoulder. “Well, why don’t we just worry about your audience for now and think of that later?”
He sighed and nodded. “Yeah. I guess I should do that.”
Fudge’s office was certainly made in his owner’s image: it was large, ridiculously decorated and filled with all sorts of ugly, useless objects. The chairs Sirius, Mia and Harry were sitting on, though pompous, were ridiculously uncomfortable, which, along with Fudge’s lack of cordiality towards them, made the air in the office so heavy you could practically cut it with a knife.
Harry couldn’t help tapping his fingers on his knee and look down as the minister sat behind the desk, reciting a bunch of formalities and the charges for Percy Weasley, who sat in a corner of the room, to take note of. Amelia Bones sat on a chair by the minister’s side and, though she’d initially been named questioner and judge, Fudge had apparently taken over the first part of the job, though – Harry suspected due to some sort of rule he couldn’t quite cross – the power to decide Harry’s fate still remained with Madam Bones.
“Are you Harry James Potter?” Fudge asked, glaring at Harry over the parchment he’d been reading.
“Yes,” Harry said, feeling his throat dry.
“You’ve conjured a Patronus on the afternoon of the twenty-sixth of August?”
“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 -”
“Cornelius…” Dumbledore started.
“Knowing that you were in an area full of Muggles?” Fudge insisted, ignoring the headmaster.
“Yes! But I only used it because of the Dementors!” he said loudly, before anyone could interrupt him again.
“Dementors?” said Madam Bones after a moment of complete silence, her perfectly drawn eyebrows rising. “What do you mean, Mr. Potter?”
“I mean there were at least eight Dementors surrounding me and my friends! They were getting too close and we couldn’t run. I had to do something.”
“Ah,” Fudge said, smirking unpleasantly from his seat. “Yes. Yes, I thought we’d be hearing something like this.”
“Dementors in the centre of London?” Madam Bones said, in a tone of great surprise. “I don’t understand -”
“Don’t you, Amelia?” Fudge asked, 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…”
“No witnesses? His friends were all there!” Sirius remarked, glaring at the minister. “We saw them too. Who do you think that managed to send them all away? If you need all the witnesses here, just let me go fetch them – we’ll make a bloody party if you need.”
“Mr. Black, please. I believe we’ve understood your point,” Madam Bones told him with a look of disapproval, before turning to harry. “Can you tell us everything that happened, Mr. Potter?”
Harry nodded and proceeded to narrate what had happened. He made sure to change a few parts, mostly the ones that involved the order to avoid exposing it. Madam Bones didn’t interrupt him a single time and just nodded every few seconds.
“So, you casted the Patronus charm so…” she took a moment to think, “your adopted sister, Isabelle Black, and a friend, Ginevra Weasley, could go ask for help?” Bones asked in the end, trying to get the picture.
“Yes,” Harry confirmed. “We knew Sirius and aunt Mia were nearby, so they went to call for them.”
The woman nodded before turning to his godparents. “And when you came to help them did you see the Dementors?”
“Yes,” Mia told her immediately. “I didn’t count how many there were but they were surrounding them. Harry’s Patronus was already fading when we got there.”
Bonnes nodded again. “The Patronus…” she mumbled turning to Harry. “Mr. Potter, you are a fourth year. The Patronus charm if far ahead of you. I’m sure I am not the only person wondering how you have succeeded to produce a corporeal Patronus…”
Before he could explain, Mia placed a hand on his arm, silently telling him she’d do it – he’d done enough explaining for a whole month. “Remus Lupin, our friend and Harry’s former teacher, taught him the Patronus charm in his third year, when Dementors were positioned right outside of Hogwarts, because they had a very strong effect on him. I believe there’s no law against teaching students magic ahead of their year.”
“No, of course not. I’ll admit this was me being… impressed,” Bones confessed, a little embarrassed, before looking at Fudge. “Well, minister, I believe this is enough.”
“Enough? You can’t have possibly believed this… tale! It is clear they have spent hours training it! The witnesses are his family – certainly not to be believed!”
Madam Bones shot him another disapproving look, very worthy of McGonagall’s pride. “Minister, this is a simple case of underage magic. This is Mr. Potter’s first strike – he has not even received a warning before. Protocol says…”
“He’s flown to Hogwarts in a car when he was twelve!” Fudge protested. “He could have exposed the whole wizarding community! That is enough strike for me!”
Dumbledore stepped in this time. “’A twelve-year-old’s foolishness’ was what you called it back then, Cornelius. Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley have already been properly punished by the said foolishness in my school and by their parents as well. Two eyewitnesses have confirmed the Dementors were, indeed, threatening Mr. Potter and pensieve memories could easily confirm it, not to mention his friends – this was a case of self-defence.”
“He should have waited for adults to come,” Fudge insisted.
“There was no time!” Harry shouted.
“Watch your tone, Potter,” the minister told him, eyeing him with disdain. “You could have expos…”
Dumbledore interrupted him. “Cornelius, you certainly can’t ask a fifteen-year-old boy to sacrifice his soul to a Dementor in order to follow the law and protect our secrecy – especially when there are obiviators to erase those memories from muggles. Like Madam Bones was saying, protocol in a case of underage magic is to give the underage wizard a warning and to let him go, which, in a case of self-defence wouldn’t even apply, as it shouldn’t be considered an offence at all.”
“So, you just want us to let him go? That boy is a menace! Spreading lies about You-Know-Who’s alleged return to get the world’s…”
Harry stood up, looking angrily at the minister. “Those aren’t lies! I saw it! I wish I hadn’t, but I did!”
“…serious emotional issues,” Fudge kept saying. “He’s a walking bomb. Merlin knows what he might pull one of these days.”
“I’d shut up now if I were you, Fudge,” Sirius warned him through his teeth, just as Mia was pulling Harry onto his chair and trying to calm him down.
“Enough!” Madam Bones shouted, making everyone in the room cease talking. “That will be enough. Mr. Potter is not being judged for what he has or hasn’t said concerning he-who-must-not-be-named, so I suggest we leave that matter out of the discussion,” she said before turning to Fudge, clearly not happy with his attitude. “Minister, I still am the head of the Law Enforcement Department and it still is up to me to set the verdict.”
Fudge coughed. “Bones, I think…”
“This said,” Madam Bones continued, ignoring the minister’s intervention, “I’ll arrange for an inquiry to be made on the reason behind more than half a dozen Dementors being in the centre of Muggle London without the ministry’s knowledge. As for you, Mr. Potter, this was clearly a case of self-defence, so you are cleared of all charges. You may go.”
Relief rushed over Sirius, Mia and Harry at the same time. They couldn’t be more thankful for Amelia Bones’s intervention, as Fudge hadn’t seemed so inclined to clear Harry of the charges at all.
For a moment, all of them were unsure if they should leave the room or wait for something there but when they glanced at Dumbledore and saw him signalling to the door, they couldn’t leave the room fast enough.
Amelia Bones left the office right after them and quickly said goodbye to Dumbledore, after congratulating Harry for the Patronus one more time. Fudge hadn’t said a single word or moved from his chair ever since Bones had dictated Harry’s verdict and now remained shut in his office, along with Percy.
Dumbledore was also quick to excuse himself after they reached the ministry’s atrium, but not before giving them a warning. “You have seen Cornelius today – he was very set to banish Harry from the wizarding society. His refusal to believe Voldemort is growing into dangerous proportions. So, Harry, be careful.”
Harry then wasn’t sure if he’d become more terrified of what Fudge could do or more enlightened because now he had a little notion of how far the minister was willing to go. One thing he was sure of – whatever he did, he needed to be discrete.
“You know Fudge will have to get past us if he wants to mess with you this way again, don’t you?” Sirius asked him just seconds after the headmaster had left.
“I know,” Harry said with a sigh. “And thanks. I think this audience would have been a lot more difficult if you hadn’t been here.”
Mia gave him a smile and put one arm around his shoulders. “You don’t need to thank us for that. We wouldn’t have it any other way,” she told him as she walked him to one of the lit fireplaces in the atrium. “Now, I’m assuming you’ll want to go to the Burrow and join your friends there. I guess you deserve a break after all.”
Sirius and Mia made it back home a few minutes later and relieved Lulu from her babysitting duties and, after giving her a quick briefing on the events that surrounded the audience, they were left alone at home with their youngest son.
On the segment of floor that was in front of the sofa there seemed to be a sea of stuffed animals, in the middle of which little Alex sat happily banging a couple of stuffed toys together. He dropped them when he saw his parents approaching and squealed, pointing at them.
“I don’t remember him having this much stuffed toys,” Sirius said as sat on the sofa with an eyebrow rose.
Mia chuckled and walked closer to the baby, picking him up from the floor. Alex giggled as his mother lifted him, bringing one of this stuffed toys with him, a black dog that had always been his favourite. Mia kissed the little boy’s cheek softly before she sat by Sirius’s side, passing him the baby so he was sitting on his father’s lap. It still felt unbelievable that just in the day before he’d turned six months old – part of her felt like he’d just been born a week ago.
“So, you’re six months old. Can you talk already, mate?” Sirius asked the baby, who looked at him with a tiny frown and offered him the stuffed dog in replacement. Sirius accepted it with a chuckle and turned to Mia. “I’ll take that as a ‘no’.”
His wife chuckled. “He probably wouldn’t have much to say yet, anyway.”
“Of course he would – something in the lines of ‘my mom and dad are awesome’,” Sirius told her as he gave the stuffed dog back to his son. “We’re pretty great parents, aren’t we? Compared to the ones we had at our kid’s ages. We actually take care of our kids.”
Mia smiled. “Yeah, I guess we are great parents that way.”
A/N: I managed to update earlier this time (hopefully soon I'll be able do it in a regular basis)! Thank God! I hope you liked this - it was quite a ride writing it (and, once again, I've been slacking at school)... Feedback is welcome. Review!
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