|SIYE Time:10:00 on 22nd March 2018|
When Harry Missed the Trick Step
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Characters:Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance
Summary: Ever wondered what would have happened if Harry's foot hadn't sunk into the trick step, when he went to investigate Barty Crouch's sudden appearance in Snape's office in his fourth year? Read on to find out! Compliant till a part of the chapter "The Egg and the Eye" of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Chapter 10 up - please read and review!
Hitcount: Story Total: 14404; Chapter Total: 989
And here it is – the build-up to the long awaited trial of Sirius Black. This isn’t the trial itself, mind you – that’s in the next chapter, because combining it with this would have made it way too long, and I need to do more research on the legal procedures that are prevalent in Muggle and wizarding Britain. Can’t afford to be sloppy there, can I?
Please read and review!
P.S. I apologise – I have taken the description of the Ministry almost verbatim from OotP – JKR’s wordings and imagery are too good to be altered.
When Harry Missed the Trick Step
Chapter 10: The Trial of Sirius Orion Black — Part I
Previously on “When Harry Missed the Trick Step”…
Even years later, Harry would not forget the sensation — the utterly amazing feeling — of his first ever kiss with Ginny Weasley. Her lips were soft and inviting, and after a brief moment’s hesitation, she responded just as enthusiastically, moving in tandem with his own. It was heaven, surely it had to be — for nothing else on earth could feel this exquisite, this unbelievable —
They finally broke apart — in the middle of a crowd that was still jumping up and down and celebrating the victory. He looked down at Ginny, their arms still around each other — she was grinning widely, her eyes sparkling with happiness.
‘Finally,’ she whispered softly.
Harry grinned goofily back at her. ‘Yeah. Finally.’
She giggled, and hugged him tightly, which he returned with equal fervour. He closed his eyes, revelling in the victory, the feeling of the girl in his arms, and the sweet flowery scent from her soft hair…
He had done it. He had beaten Krum. He had finally kissed Ginny.
What could possibly go wrong?
As it turned out, contrary to popular belief, not much did go wrong.
Harry spent the final week leading up to Sirius’ trial basking in the euphoria of beating Viktor Krum in a Quidditch match — by actually catching the Snitch before the Bulgarian star Seeker — even though he knew that Krum was leagues better than him. This had, of course, resulted in a lot of people comparing him to Aidan Lynch and how he was already better than him. Harry made sure to downplay a lot of the flattery coming his way, by pointing out that not getting tricked by Krum’s Wronski Feint did not make him a better Seeker than Lynch — the latter had, after all, won a Quidditch World Cup.
‘But Lynch got ploughed twice! You didn’t even fall for Krum’s Feint!’
‘Yes, but —’ Harry would say.
‘And you managed to fool Krum with a Feint of your own!’
‘Yes, but —’
‘And you caught the Snitch before he did!’
‘Yes, but —’
But despite the repeated denials, Harry was unable to convince anyone that he had just had a better game than Krum on that Sunday morning, and Krum would probably have played a lot better had he had his Bulgarian national team with him. After all, form was temporary, but class was permanent. To his dismay, however, Krum had flat out refused that excuse.
‘It vos a very good game,’ he had said when they had met on the pitch after the match. ‘You fly better than me.’
‘You just had an off-day,’ Harry had tried to assure him, slightly apprehensive of Krum getting disgruntled that he had beaten by a school-boy four years his junior. On the contrary, Krum had grinned widely at him.
‘I flew like this at the World Cup,’ he had said. ‘You are better than me and Lynch. You should think of playing professionally. A lot of good teams vould vont to have you.’
Harry had had no veritable response for that, settling instead for shrugging half-heartedly.
In any case, the school had been ecstatic at the fact that their representative team had beaten Krum’s chosen seven in Quidditch, and had made their feelings about it quite known: on Sunday evening, the team had entered the Great Hall for dinner to a thunderous reception of cheers and a standing ovation. Harry had turned quite red at the applause, especially when it had been interspersed with calls of ‘Go Harry!’ and ‘Harry’s Seven is the best!’
Of course, his blush had only intensified — to the point of him resembling a ripe tomato — when the occupants of the Gryffindor table had begun ribbing him for his kiss with Ginny on the pitch. Of course, there had been no way of denying it - even if he had wanted to — what with the number of witnesses for it after all. While there had been no immediate reactions to it after he had kissed her, the news had spread pretty quickly, such that by dinner, everyone knew that he, Harry Potter, was together with Ginny Weasley.
Harry had not paid too much attention to the rumours and the teasing that had come his and Ginny’s way during the rest of that Sunday — over the years, he had gotten a grasp of the fickle nature of the memories of Hogwarts students when it came to gossip and rumours of this sort, and he knew that it would not last long. A week, at most, after which most of them would have found a new topic to chat about.
No, what he had been more worried about was the reaction of Ron to this new development between his best friend and his younger sister.
Fred and George had been, unsurprisingly, understanding about the whole thing — even going so far as to pulling him and Ginny into a messy four-way hug, and then loudly suggesting a couple of less-known, out-of-the-way broom cupboards in the castle for them to undertake, as Fred had succinctly put it, ‘their anatomical explorations.’ Both Harry and Ginny, along with the rest of the onlookers in the immediate vicinity, had turned a remarkable shade of scarlet at his words; something which Fred had been aiming to achieve, if his devious smirk and wink was anything to go by.
His mischievous expression was immediately wiped out though, once Ginny had recovered well enough from her embarrassment, to suggest that she could advertise their less than savoury activities with Angelina and Alicia respectively to the entire school, causing them to back off almost at once and cease their teasing. The fact that Ginny had threatened them with her Bat-Bogey Hex was probably a major factor as well.
Harry had not had the opportunity to speak to Ron about this until the next day, Monday morning, just as they were waking up to get back to their classes. Ron had been missing for almost the entire Sunday after the match had finished, leading Harry to worry that he was mad at him for kissing Ginny. This mood had continued till dinner, until Ginny herself had gently pointed out that even Hermione had been absent the entire time, something which Harry had not noticed.
‘Oh,’ Harry had said. ‘Where do you think they are?’
‘Probably doing the same thing as what we did on the pitch,’ Ginny had suggested with a smirk, one that had only increased as she spotted a slightly dishevelled Hermione enter the Great Hall rather late for dinner, followed by an equally unkempt Ron. Harry’s discomfort at the thought of his two best friends doing...that, had caused Ginny to giggle; he had not wanted to think about that, at all.
Now, as he waited for Ron to finish brushing his teeth and get out of the bathroom, he only hoped that the red-head would not find his relationship with Ginny uncomfortable and unwanted.
‘Hey Ron,’ he said, sitting on the edge of his bed as Ron exited the bathroom.
Harry had no idea what he was supposed to say next, so he racked his brains desperately, trying to think of the best and most gentle way to break the news to Ron. Nothing, apart from just telling Ron outright, seemed to present itself as a viable option.
‘Ron, I…I — err — just wanted to let you know that — err —’
Ron looked up quizzically from near his bed, where he had pulling out a fresh set of laundered robes from his trunk.
Ron raised an eyebrow. ‘Sorry.’
Calm down, he’s not going to curse you!
‘Ron…Ginny and I are together.’
Ron looked at him. ‘Okay…so?’
Harry blinked and stared at his best friend. Had he just — did he just say —
‘So?’ repeated Harry, nonplussed. ‘I was just worried if — um — if you were okay with it.’
‘Oh,’ said Ron slowly. After a bit, he said, ‘Should I be?’
Harry was completely thrown-off by this reaction from Ron. He had expected a raging, storming rant from him, yelling at him about things like ‘betrayal of trust’, ‘violation of my sister’, ‘uncomfortable and disturbing situation for me’, and the likes. He had definitely not expected a calm and collected Ron, responding to him with a level-head and — was he smirking?
‘You’re winding me up,’ said Harry suddenly, and finally, Ron couldn’t take it anymore; he burst out laughing, almost falling onto the floor near his bed in his mirth. His loud laugh had stirred the other boys — Dean, Seamus, and Neville — causing them to wake up with disgruntled, half-asleep expressions.
‘What in Hades’ name is that noise?’ demanded Seamus, rolling over on his bed in an attempt to go back to sleep.
Neither Harry nor Ron responded — the latter was, in any case, in no shape to reply at all in the midst of his laughter. Harry got up from his bed and strode over to Ron’s, waiting for his hilarity to subside so that Ron could explain.
And then, I’m going to kick his arse.
Ron finally returned to normal after another minute, looking at Harry with a wide grin on his face.
‘Oh, you should have seen the look on your face — it was priceless,’ he stammered out, just managing to control himself from another fit of laughter.
Harry glared at him, but he soon saw the funny side of it, and grinned back at Ron.
‘So…’ he said, his grin slowly fading away. ‘You’re alright with it?’
Ron gave him a genuine smile, quite unlike the mischievous smirk he had sported a while earlier, and the wide, happy grin after that. No, this was a proper, sincere smile, one that reached his best friend’s blue eyes, which were sparkling with happiness.
‘Yeah, of course I am,’ said Ron. ‘Rather you than anyone else, to be honest.’
‘Really?’ said Harry, with no small amount of relief, and a hint of surprise at Ron’s words. ‘I’d thought — well, I’d expected you would —’
‘Get all jealous and angry at you?’ finished Ron wryly. ‘Nah, I learnt my lesson from when — you know — we weren’t talking.’ Harry nodded quickly; those three weeks last year was as uncomfortable for him as it was for Ron, and he had no desire to relive it. ‘Our friendship is worth more than that, Harry.’
Harry stared at him, and then he smirked knowingly. ‘You talked to Hermione too, didn’t you?’
Ron chuckled. ‘Yeah I did. Smart girl, that Hermione is,’ he added, a smile on his face which Harry was pretty sure had nothing to do with his recent nonplussed expression. ‘She said that you’re the only one we could trust with Ginny, and that getting angry with you would ruin things between us, and between me and Ginny.’
‘She’s not wrong,’ mused Harry. ‘Remind me to thank her later.’
Ron grinned again. ‘Yeah, I will. In any case, Ginny’s old enough to take care of herself, and to make her own decisions.’
‘She’s been old enough since her first year and the diary happened, Ron,’ reminded Harry. ‘She hates being coddled and babied, I’m surprised it took you this long to figure it out.’
‘Yeah, well, Hermione explained it to me,’ he admitted sheepishly, ‘but that’s not the point.’
‘The point is, even if she is old enough to decide for herself, she’s still my younger sister. And if you hurt her,’ said Ron, trying — and in Harry’s view, failing — to adopt a menacing tone, ‘I will have to kick your arse.’
Harry nodded, desperately trying not to laugh out loud at Ron’s attempt at playing the ‘big brother’; he tried to control the twitches of the corners of his mouth as he replied in a solemn tone, ‘I would never dream of hurting her, Ron, trust me.’
And despite the hilarity of the situation, Harry meant every word: he did not know what he felt for her, but he was sure he would never hurt Ginny, nor would he allow anyone else to hurt her.
‘Good,’ said Ron firmly. ‘Just wanted to tell you that.’
‘Right,’ Harry nodded again, a smirk threatening to ghost across his face. ‘Now, it’s my turn to say the same to you.’
Harry finally allowed the smirk on his face. ‘Hermione’s like my sister, so if you ever think of hurting her, I will have to kick your arse.’ He paused, and then added for good measure, ‘And so would Ginny.’
The mention of Ginny’s wrath had Ron visibly gulping nervously — not one of her brothers, save Bill and probably Percy, were willing to get on her wrong side. It was always better to have Ginny as an ally, rather than a foe.
‘Hang on,’ said Ron slowly, frowning in thought, ‘how did you know about —’
‘You and Hermione?’ finished Harry; at Ron’s nod, he continued. ‘After last Thursday, when we were watching the sunset, it’s been quite obvious. Plus,’ he added, ‘I think your late entry for dinner last night, along with the way you two looked, confirmed that beyond a doubt.’
Ron turned almost as red as his hair as the implications of Harry’s words sunk in. He covered his face in his hands. ‘Merlin, Fred and George are never going to let me live it down,’ he said in a muffled voice.
Harry patted his back in commiseration. ‘I don’t think they saw it, although I wouldn’t put it past them to have figured it out already.’
Ron just groaned in response.
Apart from the euphoria at beating Krum in Quidditch, and at finally being able to spend some time alone with Ginny in public, the week — and the next weekend — passed in a blaze of classes, homework, research and trials for the Patronus Charm, and their nightly training sessions for learning new hexes and curses. Homework was becoming especially difficult — adopting the reason that they were to take their O.W.L.s soon, the teachers had begun setting them more and more challenging assignments.
With all of this going on, Harry was exceptionally glad with the end of the week, and that he could finally relax over the weekend — probably spending some quality time with Ginny. Soon, however, the relief was replaced by anxiety — the onset of the weekend meant that Sirius’ trial was just four days away.
The change in his visage did not go unnoticed, though.
‘Harry?’ asked Hermione in a concerned tone as she looked up at him in the library. ‘Are you alright?’
He started a bit, before returning her gaze, and attempting to school his features to appear relaxed. ‘I’m fine.’
Hermione raised her eyebrow questioningly.
‘Alright,’ he conceded. ‘Just a little anxious for Wednesday, is all.’
‘Don’t worry, Harry,’ said Neville; he had just returned from placing back on the correct shelves, all the reference books they had used for completing their Herbology essay. ‘Like I said, Cyrus Greengrass is a really good lawyer. Sirius will get off, I’m sure.’
Harry nodded, but he still could not shake off the sense of foreboding he felt whenever he thought about the trial.
‘When do you have visit him?’ asked Ginny, shutting her Ancient Runes textbook. ‘Cyrus Greengrass I mean.’
‘Tuesday afternoon,’ said Hermione promptly. ‘Professor Dumbledore and Professor Lupin will be going with us — we’re staying at the Leaky Cauldron on Tuesday night.’
The bit about their accommodations for the night before the trial was news to Harry — he knew they had to meet Mr Greengrass in the afternoon, but had assumed that they would return to school, before travelling to the Ministry of Magic early next morning.
‘Professor Lupin informed me of this after our research session today,’ elaborated Hermione. ‘He told me to tell you two this.’
Harry and Ron nodded, with the former’s worries about the trial not lessening at all.
Tuesday morning dawned surprisingly dull and dreary — Harry felt it quite reflected his anxious mood as he ate his breakfast. The enchanted ceiling in the Great Hall depicted an overcast, cloudy sky, with the sun barely threatening to escape from its fluffy prison above. Though breezy, there was no hint of rain; although, as Hermione had once said, Britain’s weather was one thing that even Professor Trelawney, in her actual prediction trance, would not be able to forecast with certainty.
The sound of hundreds of owls whooshing in with the post for that morning caused Harry to look up instinctively, but there was no post from Hedwig. Ginny joined them just then, greeting Harry with a soft kiss, and the others with a ‘Good morning’, before settling herself next to him and loading her plate with food.
Harry finished his breakfast just as one of the last owl stragglers landed in front of Hermione, delivering her copy of the Daily Prophet. Hermione untied the paper from its leg, dropped two Knuts into the small pouch tied to its other leg, and offered the bedraggled owl a piece of toast from her plate, which it accepted with a soft hoot. Ron had, meanwhile, snagged the paper from her grasp and was perusing it as though looking for something.
‘That’s odd,’ came his voice from behind the paper; seconds later, he folded it up and handed it back to Hermione. ‘There’s no word of Sirius’ surrender or trial in today’s paper.’
Part of the reason for Harry’s slightly dismal and anxious mood was the fact that, after more than a year on the run, Sirius had finally surrendered himself to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement on Monday evening. Lupin, who had Flooed to the Ministry in the evening to be present at that time, had returned with the news later that night: Sirius had presented his wand to the Aurors, personally surrendered to Madam Bones, and was now kept in a Ministry holding cell, quite separate and far away from both Pettigrew and Crouch Junior.
‘He’s going to be fine,’ Lupin had said in an attempt to reassure Harry, who was looking quite fearful and worried. ‘Madam Bones has assigned a security detail to him, comprising of only those Aurors who she trusts completely.’
Harry had felt slightly relieved after hearing that, but even Ginny’s comforting hug and kisses could not entirely quell his apprehension over the fact that Sirius was now back in Ministry custody, and was at the mercy of the Aurors.
‘I supposed Madam Bones wanted it to be kept quiet,’ said Ginny. ‘If word got out that he was in Ministry custody, but awaiting a trial, the public outcry would be too much to handle.’
Harry nodded. ‘That makes sense, I suppose.’
The morning’s lessons seemed to pass too quickly for Harry’s liking, and before he knew it, it was already lunch time, and then, all of a sudden, it was time for him, Ron, and Hermione to leave. They had made sure to have an early lunch, so that they could leave the common room with their bags for their stay at the Leaky Cauldron without attracting too much attention.
Harry descended the steps from the boys’ dormitories first; Ron was still looking for some items, having neglected to pack over the weekend; Neville was helping him; and Hermione had declared her need for a shower before their meeting with Cyrus Greengrass. As he reached the base of the steps, he found Ginny waiting for him near the fire. The light from the flickering fire caught her brown eyes in a way that Harry found absolutely enchanting; she straightened as he approached her, and opened her arms in a silent invitation.
Harry crossed the room, dropped his bag onto an armchair, and reaching her, sank into her hug. They stayed that way for quite some time; Harry was simply clutching onto her for support, as she ran both her hands up and down his back in a soothing, comforting gesture. He pulled back slightly, and leaned in to capture her lips in a kiss — one that spoke of desire for comfort, help, and reassurance. He could feel her responding to him with everything he sought for, her hands moving to encircle his neck as his rested at the small of her back.
They broke apart when the need for air became too much, both of them flushed from the kiss, and panting for oxygen; but their faces were still inches away from each other, tempting Harry to give her small kisses now and then.
‘Promise me that you’ll be safe,’ whispered Ginny after what he supposed was their tenth kiss; Harry was almost tempted to smirk with pride at her swollen lips, but restrained himself as he caught sight of her worried expression.
‘I’ll be fine, Gin,’ he murmured back. ‘I’ll be with Dumbledore and Lupin, I’ll be okay. It’s Sirius I’m worried about.’ He gave an involuntary slight shudder at that — which he felt was completely justified: Sirius’ fate now rested in the hands of some unknown Aurors, and then, the Wizengamot tomorrow.
Ginny pulled back and stared at him, her brown eyes trying to reach his own in a telepathic conversation that only couples could ever hope to achieve. He could see her conveying her assurance of Sirius’ safety to him through those beautiful eyes of hers, and despite the fact that it was logically not possible for her to have any influence on the matter, he was grateful for her faith and belief.
She gently kissed the tip of his nose. ‘He’ll be fine, too. Madam Bones won’t allow anything to happen to him.’ She paused, her eyes shifting downwards, which Harry had understood as a sign of her own anxiety. ‘I’m just worried about you.’
Harry put his hand under her chin and gently lifted it up, so that he was staring into those magnificent, swirling depths of brown once again. He tilted his head and bent to kiss her once again — and this time, as he moved his lips against her tender ones, he looked to give her reassurance, comfort, and an unspoken promise that he would return, unscathed. And this time, it was nothing like their previous ones — it had more desire, passion, and dare he think it —
A soft clearing of a throat caused them to break apart; turning around, they saw Hermione, Ron, and Neville standing near the long couch. Ron and Neville looked a little embarrassed, but Hermione was smiling at the pair.
‘We have to leave, Harry,’ said Hermione softly, despite the fact that no one else was in the common room.
Harry nodded. He turned back to Ginny, cupped her face in his hands, and placed a kiss on her forehead. ‘I’ll be back tomorrow. Don’t worry.’
Ginny chuckled wanly, her arms still wrapped around him and squeezing him tighter. ‘Just stay safe,’ she said.
He grinned at her, and let his arms drop from around her, before making his way to the portrait hole, where Ron and Hermione were. He clapped Neville on the back as he passed, while Ginny went to hug Hermione and her brother. Harry noticed her whispering something in his ear as she did so, but decided not to ask Ron about it. With their goodbyes complete, the three of them exited the common room to proceed to Dumbledore’s office, leaving Ginny and Neville behind — they were not going to participate in the trial, and having the two of them return from the Headmaster’s office alone would be bound to raise some questions and trigger some unwanted rumours.
They encountered no one on their way to the third floor corridor leading to the ugly stone gargoyle guarding the office of the Headmaster. Ron and Hermione, who had never been to this part of the castle before, looked around in interest — Hermione more than Ron — as they came to a halt before the statue.
A noise behind them made them jump and look around: Lupin was striding up the corridor, carrying his own bag and what looked like a Muggle ring-file — it was full of parchment and paper punched and bound tightly together. Lupin himself looked quite tired and drained — it took a few moments for Harry to realize that the full moon had just passed the previous Friday; Lupin was probably still recovering from the after-effects of his transformation, despite the Wolfsbane Potion.
‘Hello, you three,’ he greeted them as he drew nearer. ‘Shall we?’ He indicated the gargoyle.
Harry nodded, and turned to the statue. ‘Fizzing Whizbee.’
The gargoyle gave an ungainly forward jerk of its head, and jumped aside, revealing the rising spiral staircase that was winding its way up; the four of them quickly took to the stairs as it circled upwards to the oaken double doors. Lupin rapped the door with the griffin-shaped knocker, and after a ‘Come in!’, they stepped inside.
‘Blimey,’ breathed Ron in wonderment.
‘Wow,’ sighed Hermione.
Lupin and Harry exchanged a grin as Ron and Hermione stared around the office with amazement, awe, and in Hermione’s case, undisguised curiosity. Harry knew the feeling — even after so many visits to Dumbledore’s home at Hogwarts, he had the feeling he would never ever get tired of looking around. There were just so many things to see.
‘Good afternoon, Miss Granger, Mr Weasley,’ said Dumbledore from behind his desk, and the two of them jumped at being addressed directly. Hermione, in particular, had turned rather pink with embarrassment, no doubt due to her open stares at the items and portraits adorning the office. Dumbledore’s genial, yet knowing smile at her probably did not help either.
‘And a good afternoon to you both, Harry and Remus,’ continued Dumbledore; Harry and Lupin returned the greetings with smiles of their own.
‘I trust you had a fulfilling lunch?’ asked Dumbledore, opening one of the drawers in his ornate desk and pulling out what looked like a sweet jar. He took off the lid and offered it to the four of them. ‘Sherbet lemon? I find that it has a particularly profound effect when consumed right after a sumptuous meal.’ All of them politely declined the offer, leaving Dumbledore to pick one out from the jar and pop it into his mouth.
They stood in silence for a while, the calm stillness of the office proving to be a rather effective balm against the anxiety that gripped their minds over what was to transpire over the next thirty-six hours, with Mr Cyrus Greengrass and then the Wizengamot. Harry noticed most of the occupants of the portraits — all of them of former Heads of Hogwarts — looking down at the four new people in the office with unabashed interest. Hermione was observing the portraits and reading the names under each of them — or at least of those she could see from her position without having to twist her neck too much.
‘We must leave,’ announced Dumbledore at last; he stood up, headed for the fireplace at the other side of the room, and threw a handful of Floo power into the fire. It roared and crackled, before flaring high up, and turning a brilliant shade of green.
At Dumbledore’s signal, Lupin stepped forward and into the fire, hand grasped tightly around the bag and the file of parchment and papers. ‘Leaky Cauldron!’ he said in a clear and firm voice, and with a soft whoosh, disappeared out of sight.
One by one, Harry, Ron, and Hermione entered the emerald flames and copied Lupin’s actions; Harry, who had gone last, began spinning as soon as he’d finished uttering his destination; through the myriad of flames, soot and ash, he caught glimpses of various other households and establishments — and then he felt himself slowing down, and with a sudden jerk, stopped spinning; the abrupt action caused him to almost fall out of the fireplace and flat on his face, and was saved from breaking his glasses by Ron, who caught him just in time.
‘Oh, shut up,’ grumbled Harry, as Ron snickered beside him. Hermione gave a half-hearted glare at Ron’s apparent lack of tact, but she too looked quite amused at Harry’s annoyance with the Floo, while Lupin used his wand to siphon off the soot and ash clinging to Harry’s robes.
A moment later, another whoosh indicated the last arrival through the Floo, and Dumbledore stepped out gracefully from the fire, which reverted to its usual scarlet and orange blaze. As the Headmaster took the time to wave the dust from the Floo travel out of his robes, while striking up a quick conversation with Tom, the wizened toothless landlord, Harry took the opportunity to look around.
Harry had last visited the Leaky Cauldron in the summer before his third year; at that time, he had stayed here for two whole weeks when he had run away from Privet Drive after accidentally inflating Aunt Marge. Even now, almost two years later, the establishment looked the same: a number of patrons sat crowded around the bar, having their mid-day drink, while even more people occupied the numerous tables, most of whom had their faces either covered with hoods or balaclavas, while the dim light from the floating candles provided only the barest amount of illumination, as required for Tom and his workers to serve food and drink for their late lunches. At the far side, light filtered in through the grimy windows, leaving a scattered trail due to the dust in the air.
Every now and then, the main door would open, allowing them to have a glimpse of Charing Cross Road and Muggle London beyond it; and with almost the same regularity, the back door would open, leading to an area lined with rubbish bins and a huge brick wall.
Harry waved at Tom as he finished speaking with Dumbledore; the landlord returned the wave with a toothless smile. The five of them then headed out the back door; reaching the brick wall, Dumbledore took out his wand, tapped the third brick from the left above the rubbish bin, and stepped back. The brick he’d tapped quivered, wiggled and then jumped aside, leaving a small hole — it grew bigger and bigger, ultimately forming the archway to Harry’s second favourite place in the wizarding world.
Diagon Alley was not as busy as Harry had seen it during his stay two summers ago — he supposed it had something to do with the fact that at that point in time, there had been a lot of shopping done by parents and students for the upcoming school year at Hogwarts. With school now in progress, the Alley was relatively peaceful — Harry could only see a few people going about with their shopping, presumably after having a nice lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, or one of the other eateries situated in the Alley.
As fascinating as it was, they did not stop to look around; Dumbledore led them at a brisk pace down the Alley, with Lupin bringing up the rear; while the werewolf looked quite alert and watchful, the Headmaster was quite happily humming a tune. Harry noticed Hermione’s eyes widening in surprise as the tune drifted over from Dumbledore; she hurriedly whispered that he had been humming Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, and that she hadn’t expected Professor Dumbledore to know of Muggle classical music.
‘He likes sherbet lemons, Hermione,’ grinned Harry, ‘what did you expect?’
Past Eeylops’ Owl Emporium, past Flourish and Blotts, past Madam Malkins’ Robe for All Occasions…on and on they walked till the very end of the main street of the Alley, where they finally stood before the imposing white building of Gringotts bank, the wizarding bank run by goblins. At the bank, Dumbledore turned left; a few paces later, he stopped in front of a small office on the ground floor. By all accounts, it appeared to be a normal office — there was an unassuming brown door, and the window was quite clean, with the words imprinted on it leaving them in no doubt as to whose office it was.
Greengrass and Associates
‘1976?’ said Harry. ‘Weren’t lawyers around much earlier than that?’
‘Cyrus Greengrass was one of the first wizarding lawyers to set up a separate practice,’ explained Lupin. ‘Prior to that, most lawyers were either employed by the Ministry of Magic, or served dual roles as Ministry workers, and as independent lawyers.’
‘Does he have partners, then?’ asked Hermione.
‘He did,’ said Lupin. ‘Nathaniel Davis and Declan Boot had started the firm with him. Unfortunately, Declan was killed in 1983, when a few rogue Death Eaters broke into his house and attacked him.’ Hermione gasped in horror, while Harry and Ron looked pale. ‘Apparently they were angry that he had not agreed to represent their comrades in a recently concluded trial. His wife and son survived, however; I believe Mr Terry Boot is in your year in Ravenclaw.’
Harry vaguely remembered seeing a boy with short, cropped hair, and of average height, responding to Professor Flitwick’s attendance calls during their Charms classes with the Ravenclaws. Until then, apart from Neville, he had had no idea of other families who had also been affected by Voldemort’s reign of terror.
‘And Mr Davis?’ asked Hermione.
‘He’s still a partner, I believe. I have never met him, though his daughter, Tracey, is quite a charming student of Slytherin House.’
Ron gave a half-confused, half-disgusted look, as though he could not comprehend how a Slytherin student could ever be charming. Hermione gave him a look that clearly said, ‘Behave!’ but before she could ask another question, Dumbledore cleared his throat.
‘I believe we should make our way inside.’ And so, following the old wizard, the four of them stepped inside.
And Harry’s jaw dropped.
From the outside, the office looked like any other commercial establishment — unassuming, normal, and judging by the size of the door and the building it was in, quite small. Inside, however, was a different story altogether.
The first thought that came to Harry’s mind was that it looked like a mansion.
The second thought was that this was certainly not possible without magic.
The third thought was that he loved magic.
They had entered a huge area — rather like a sitting room of a large house — adorned with a magnificent chandelier, its many candles emitting soft light that illuminated the room. Other small candle-brackets were affixed on to the circular walls — they provided a break between the numerous tapestries, portraits and paintings that were hung. The floor was richly carpeted in emerald green: in front of them was a comfortable looking settee, two single armchairs and a long couch — all in dark grey and surrounding an ornate glass-topped table. Two other chairs — straight-backed ones — stood near the main door.
Across the room were three doors, leading to the individual offices of the partners. Cyrus Greengrass had taken the office in the middle — a show of power, no doubt, to reaffirm who the real head of the firm was. To the left was Nathaniel Davis’ office, while the one to the right — although it did not have a nameplate — was surely that of Declan Boot, at least while he had been alive.
Surprisingly, there was no receptionist — Harry had half expected Cyrus Greengrass to have had one, given the location and the décor of the office. He supposed Mr Greengrass preferred to step out and receive his clients on his own — a more hands-on and personal approach.
His assumption was proved to be true when the middle door opened, and Cyrus Greengrass exited his office to greet them.
Harry’s first and immediate impression of wizarding Britain’s arguably most well-known lawyer was that he was not someone to be trifled with. Tall — though not as much as Dumbledore — and imposing, Cyrus Greengrass carried himself with an air of regal standing — a man who knew he was important, and made sure that others knew it as well. He was slightly built — either that, or the fine silk robes he was wearing were too tight for his frame — but the years of desk work and practice had evidently taken their toll on him: his long and wavy brown hair was greying around the edges, and he was sporting a small belly.
His face, however, drew the attention of everyone in the room; it seemed as though it would be more suited for an Auror of the Ministry — there were multiple thin scars criss-crossing along his cheeks and forehead, while an extremely prominent one ran from above his left eyebrow to finish just near the bridge of his rather sharp nose. Harry had almost dropped his bag in shock, and he knew Hermione had stifled a gasp of horror upon seeing that visage. His eyes, though, appeared smart and knowledgeable — the grey irises flecked with black streaks gave the impression that he was scrutinising each and every one of them, while simultaneously drinking up the knowledge gleaned from his observations.
Harry noticed he walked with the slightest of limps — as though his leg was almost healed, but not just yet — as he crossed the room and shook Dumbledore’s hand. He greeted Lupin in a similar fashion — Harry recalled that Lupin had been present during Sirius’ negotiations for the appointment of Mr Greengrass — before turning to the students.
‘These will be them, then?’ he said; his voice was deep yet clear — an impressive baritone.
Lupin nodded. ‘That’s Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley, and Hermione Granger,’ he said, indicating each one of them in turn.
Mr Greengrass did not offer his hand to shake; he did, however, look each of them over as Lupin pointed them out. When he reached Hermione, he frowned slightly. ‘Granger…related to Hector Dagworth-Granger?’
Harry had no clue who this Hector Dagworth-Granger was; clearly, neither did Ron, if his confused expression was anything to go by. Hermione seemed to know who it was, though, and she shook her head.
But before she could say anything, Lupin interrupted, ‘No, I don’t think she is,’ he said genially, but there was a sense of finality in his tone.
Harry stared at Lupin, who was smiling at Mr Greengrass — but it was not his usual, friendly smile. It was thinner than usual, and appeared to be conveying a lot more than what could have been said in words. Mr Greengrass was looking between Hermione and Lupin, his brow furrowed, before matching Lupin’s gaze with his own stare. He nodded once, and then indicated the seats behind him.
‘Please, have a seat. We have much to discuss.’
As they moved to take their seats, Harry glanced at Hermione and gave her a questioning look. Hermione shrugged in response; clearly she had no idea why Lupin had done whatever he’d done.
‘Tea, anybody?’ offered Mr Greengrass, but everyone declined. ‘Very well, very well…’
He stood up suddenly from his seat on the armchair and hurried to his office; half a minute, he returned just as urgently, a large sheaf of parchment tucked beneath his left arm. He deposited the parchment on the desk, and began rifling through them.
‘Yes, this is it,’ he said at last, pulling out a piece of parchment and placing it on the top of the others. ‘I’d started making my notes and observations, based on my discussions with Lord Black last week, but this would need to be supplemented by the witness accounts…yes…’
He waved his wand, and a rather handsome looking quill zoomed into his hand, accompanied by a bottle of ink that came to rest near the parchment. He twirled the quill around in his fingers as he looked at each of them in turn.
‘Let us begin.’
The discussion with Cyrus Greengrass lasted all afternoon, and well into the late hours of the evening; so much that by the time they had bid Mr Greengrass goodbye, night had fallen upon Diagon Alley. Lights from the many shops spilled out onto the main street, while flaming torches hung in brackets at regular intervals in the Alley added to the illumination, along with the white light from the waning moon in the sky above.
Despite having acquiesced to Mr Greengrass’ offer of tea later during the discussions — which was accompanied by biscuits and crumpets — they found themselves feeling extremely hungry as they exited the office. Harry attributed it to the rather intense and draining conversation with Mr Greengrass as they — Harry, Ron, Hermione and Lupin — gave him information regarding their encounter with his godfather in the Shrieking Shack. For some unknown reason, however, Dumbledore had chosen to give his information regarding Sirius in private — they had disappeared into Mr Greengrass’ office for fifteen minutes, leaving Harry, Ron, and Hermione under the watchful care of the tired-looking werewolf.
‘Well, the witness accounts do corroborate with each other,’ Mr Greengrass had observed at the end of it all. ‘We should be able to present a good defence before the Wizengamot tomorrow.’
Now, as they trudged past Flourish and Blotts, Harry wondered why they had not been given an assurance of a victory by the imposing lawyer. When he posed this question, Lupin shook his head.
‘Lawyers will represent and argue on behalf of their client, to the best of their ability, knowledge, and skill,’ he said, neatly stepping aside to allow a group of witches to hurry past. ‘Ultimately, however, the fate rests with the Wizengamot.’
Harry stared at him, nearly walking headlong into a street-vendor’s cart. ‘So that means…Sirius could still be…’
‘Yes, he could, but it’s a very remote possibility. The evidence in Sirius’ favour is too iron-clad, there will be an uproar if they do find him guilty.’
‘Wouldn’t put it past Fudge or Lucius Malfoy, to be honest,’ muttered Harry; his opinion of Fudge had decreased ever since the fiasco with Buckbeak’s attempted execution, and then Sirius’ capture later that night; the man seemed to be concerned only with what the people thought of him, instead of doing what was the best course of action.
‘Oh, Cornelius tried very hard to cancel this trial,’ said Dumbledore, falling into step beside Lupin.
‘He did?’ said Hermione, although she did not sound too surprised, as she too shared Harry’s sentiments regarding the Minister for Magic.
‘Oh yes,’ said Dumbledore with a smile. ‘Fortunately, however, the Chief Warlock can overrule the Minister’s objections when a motion for a trial is submitted, and supported by two members of the Wizengamot.’
‘Oh yeah,’ said Ron with dawning comprehension. ‘Dad told us about this. So Madam Bones submitted the motion, then?’
‘She did indeed, Mr Weasley,’ concurred Dumbledore. ‘Her motion was submitted in the dual capacity as the Regent for House Bones, and as the Head of the DMLE.’
‘Sorry — Regent?’ asked Harry.
‘A representative,’ replied Hermione promptly. ‘I’m assuming she holds the seat on the Wizengamot in Susan’s place?’
‘Very good, Miss Granger. Were we in school, I would have awarded you five points for Gryffindor,’ said Dumbledore, and Hermione glowed at the praise. ‘Yes, while Miss Susan Bones is the heir to House Bones, she is as yet a minor, and is therefore unable to discharge her duties as a member of the Wizengamot. Amelia takes up that role, in addition to being the Head of the DMLE.’
‘And who seconded the motion?’ asked Ron.
‘I believe it was Augusta Longbottom, Neville’s grandmother, and Dr Mahendra Patil, father of the Patil sisters.’
‘Wow,’ said Ron. ‘I didn’t know the Patils had a seat on the Wizengamot.’
‘The Patils have long been associated with the Potters and Longbottoms, if I’m not mistaken. Dr Patil has continued his father’s tradition of bridging the wizarding Healers and Muggle doctors — he holds a prominent position in both St. Mungo’s, and in a reputed Muggle hospital here in London.’
Harry found this quite fascinating, but something Dumbledore said intrigued him.
‘Susan is the heir to House of Bones? How come?’
It was Lupin who answered. ‘Her father — Amelia’s brother — was killed in one of the more brutal Death Eater raids, just before Voldemort fell. Her mother and elder brother were murdered as well.’
Harry swallowed uncomfortably, yet again reminded of the fact that he was not the only one who had suffered due to the actions of Voldemort and his Death Eaters — although he had had more cause than most.
‘Hang on...’ he said, as the dots suddenly connected. ‘Do I have a seat on the Wizengamot, then? Who’s been acting as the Regent for House Potter?’
Dumbledore looked at him. ‘I had meant to tell you this next summer when you turned fifteen — when some of your privileges as the heir to House Potter are activated by the Wizengamot and the goblins of Gringotts — but no matter.’ He sighed as they finally approached the brick wall that masked the back entrance to the Leaky Cauldron. ‘You do have a seat on the Wizengamot, Harry. You will be able to assume it once you are seventeen. In your stead, I have been acting as the Regent for House Potter.’
Harry blinked, and stared at his Headmaster. He had been mildly surprised to find out that he too had a seat on the Wizengamot, but the fact the Dumbledore himself had been acting as its Regent…
‘As I said, I would have preferred to inform you of this on your next birthday. In any case, there are a lot more details and intricacies associated with a seat on the Wizengamot and with the concept of Regency. It would be for the best if we discussed all of this over the summer.’
Harry finally found his voice and his coherence. ‘Yes, of course, Professor.’
‘Thank you, Harry,’ said Dumbledore kindly. ‘A word of caution, however: it would not be wise for this detail to be made public. There are some who may not take too kindly to such news.’
Dumbledore nodded, and just as Lupin had done earlier in the day, tapped the brick on the wall with his wand to reveal the archway back into the Leaky Cauldron. They stepped through it, and entered the pub, now almost full of customers. Harry could see Tom and his employees rushing about to fulfil the various orders placed.
‘I will be returning to Hogwarts tonight,’ said Dumbledore, turning to them. ‘Professor Lupin will be staying here with you — Tom has already allotted rooms for you all. I will see you at the Ministry tomorrow. Stay safe.’ He nodded to the four of them, tipped his hat to the passing Tom, and disappeared into the green flames of the Floo.
‘C’mon,’ muttered Ron, barely audible over the noise in the pub, ‘let’s get some seats.’
They found a table near the back of the room, relatively secluded from the main source of the chatter in the middle of the room. Quite efficiently, Tom brought their orders within a few minutes; they ate their meal in silence, each lost in their own thoughts about the day just passed, or what awaited them the next day.
After they finished, Tom brought them the keys to their rooms — Harry was quite amused to note that he had been given room number eleven once more, the same as where he had stayed two summers earlier. Tom seemed to have done it on purpose, if his toothless grin and wink was anything to go by.
Too tired from the day’s events to talk or do anything else, the four of them bid each other goodnight and went off to their separate rooms. Harry shut the door to his room, changed into his pyjamas, and immediately collapsed onto the bed — within seconds of his head hitting the pillow, he was asleep.
Harry’s sleep was anything but peaceful, however — his sub-consciousness seemed to want to play extremely dirty tricks on him, and decided to trigger dreams of Sirius’ trial the next day, all of which ended in Sirius’ being convicted as guilty, and either being thrown back into Azkaban, or being sentenced to the Dementor’s Kiss. He woke up after the horrible conclusion of each scenario, and it took him a few seconds to realize that he was still in his bed at the Leaky Cauldron, and that the trial hadn’t yet happened.
Finally, he managed to get some uninterrupted sleep by around four in the morning, and woke up at half-past seven feeling extremely lethargic and drained. The hot shower did him some favours though, allowing him to gain a semblance of orientation and energy before heading down for breakfast.
To his amazement, both Ron and Hermione were already downstairs at the main parlour, waiting for Tom to bring them their breakfast. He saw them holding hands, and immediately thought of Ginny, and how he wished she could have been here too, at least for moral support. Pushing those melancholy thoughts away, he joined their table, greeted them, and placed his order for breakfast.
Lupin joined them as Tom brought them their plates, and they finished eating in silence, just like they had done for dinner. Harry, especially, felt a little peaky; the fact that Sirius’ trial — something he had longed and wished for ever since he’d gotten to know the truth about his godfather — was to take place in a few hours, was exciting and frightening at the same time. Truthfully, he felt more frightened than excited — there were so many things that could go wrong during the trial.
Lupin must have noticed his discomfort and fear, for he patted Harry on the back and, with an encouraging smile and nod, told him to finish his meal, which he did so with some difficulty.
Once they were done, they grabbed their bags and exited the Leaky Cauldron into the Muggle world.
Harry had never been to Muggle London before — the Dursleys had never bothered to take him out anywhere, and he had never had any reason to go there once he’d re-joined the wizarding world. This trip, however, was necessary: Lupin had told them that they would need to enter the Ministry of Magic through the visitor’s entrance, which existed in the Muggle world. Fortunately for them, the entrance was just a few roads away from the Leaky Cauldron — a reasonable walking distance for them.
The hustle and bustle of London passed them by as they walked along Charing Cross Road. Hermione kept their minds off the upcoming trial by pointing out the various famous buildings that she had either visited, or had read about in a book.
They took a left onto Shaftesbury Avenue, passing by a rather imposing building with the letters “HSBC” on the topmost floor. That was replaced by a smaller building, a fire station, then a row of what looked like Chinese restaurants — Hermione explained that this was the part of London known as Chinatown — a hotel and two theatres on the right, and then Lupin directed them to take a right onto Rupert Street.
Five minutes later, they arrived at a road named Tisbury Court, located in an area which contained some shabby-looking Muggle office buildings. The road they were on had a pub, some of those dingy buildings, and an overflowing dumpster. Nothing seemed to suggest that the Ministry of Magic — the main governing body of wizarding Britain — was located here; indeed, Harry, and Hermione, going by her expression, had expected a more impressive location.
They walked till almost the end of Tisbury Court, where Lupin suddenly stopped in front of an old telephone box that was missing several panes of glass, and stood in front of a heavily graffittied wall.
‘Right, here we are,’ he said, opening the door to the telephone box. ‘Ladies first, Hermione.’
Looking extremely sceptical about the entire thing, Hermione entered the box, followed by the rest of them. It was an extremely tight fit; Ron was trying quite hard not to squeeze her against the sides of the box. Harry, who was wondering what this was all about, noticed the telephone apparatus, which was hanging crookedly from the wall, as though a vandal had tried to rip it off.
Lupin, who had entered last and was furthest from the telephone, stretched his hand and reached past Harry and Ron for the receiver. To Harry’s utter bewilderment, Lupin held the receiver in his hand, and with his other, reached for the dial and began dialling — six, two, four, four, two.
Harry thought Lupin had lost his mind; so too, did Ron and Hermione for that matter. They stared at Lupin as he dialled the number, wondering why on earth he was dialling a five digit number, especially by using a clearly out-of-order apparatus.
So naturally, all the three of them jumped as a cool female voice sounded inside the telephone box, not from the receiver in Lupin’s hand, but as loudly and plainly as though an invisible woman were standing right beside them.
‘Welcome to the Ministry of Magic. Please state your name and business.’
What on earth…
He wasn’t the only one; Ron looked astonished, while Hermione’s mouth had fallen open at the absurdity of it all. The visitor’s entrance to the Ministry of Magic was a disused Muggle telephone box, in the middle of Muggle London!
‘Hmm,’ said Lupin thoughtfully, considering the receiver in his hand; he ultimately brought it up to his face to speak into the mouthpiece. ‘Remus Lupin, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger. We’re here as witnesses for the trial before the Wizengamot…’
‘Thank you,’ said the cool female voice. ‘Visitors, please take the badge and attach it to the front of your robes.”
There was a click and a rattle, and Harry saw four small things slide out of the metal chute where returned coins usually appeared. He picked them up: they were square silver badges with writing on them; Harry glanced at the top-most one: it had the words Remus Lupin, Witness for a Trial. Silently, he handed out the badges to the others, before pinning his own to the front of his robes.
‘Visitors to the Ministry, you are required to submit to a search and present your wand for registration at the security desk, which is located at the far end of the Atrium.”
The floor of the telephone box shuddered. They were sinking slowly into the ground. Harry watched apprehensively as the pavement rose up past the glass windows of the telephone box until darkness closed over their heads. Then he could see nothing at all; he could only hear a dull grinding noise as the telephone box made its way down through the earth. After about a minute, though it felt much longer to Harry, a chink of golden light illuminated his feet and, widening, rose up his body, until it hit him in the face and he had to blink to stop his eyes from watering.
‘The Ministry of Magic wishes you a pleasant day,’ said the woman’s voice.
The door of the telephone box sprang open and Lupin stepped out of it, followed by Harry, Ron, and Hermione, whose mouths had fallen open.
They were standing at one end of a very long and splendid hall with a highly polished, dark wood floor. The peacock-blue ceiling was inlaid with gleaming golden symbols that were continually moving and changing like some enormous heavenly notice board. The walls on each side were panelled in shiny dark wood and had many gilded fireplaces set into them. Every few seconds a witch or wizard would emerge from one of the left-hand fireplaces with a soft whoosh; on the right-hand side, short queues of wizards were forming before each fireplace, waiting to depart.
Halfway down the hall was a fountain. A group of golden statues, larger than life-size, stood in the middle of a circular pool. Tallest of them all was a noble-looking wizard with his wand pointing straight up in the air. Grouped around him were a beautiful witch, a centaur, a goblin, and a house-elf. The last three were all looking adoringly up at the witch and wizard. Glittering jets of water were flying from the ends of the two wands, the point of the centaur’s arrow, the tip of the goblin’s hat, and each of the house-elf’s ears, so that the tinkling hiss of falling water was added to the pops and cracks of Apparators and the clatter of footsteps as hundreds of witches and wizards, most of whom were wearing glum, early-morning looks, strode toward a set of golden gates at the far end of the hall.
Harry noticed Hermione scowling in obvious disapproval at the depiction of the house-elf in the fountain, and he couldn’t blame her — it seemed quite degrading, especially after all the research by Hermione and Natalie had revealed that the intelligence of house-elves was on a different plane altogether, and could not be compared to that of witches or wizards.
Lupin was looking around in a bit of confusion, then he brightened up. ‘This way,’ he said, joining the large crowd wending their way between the Ministry workers, some of whom were carrying tottering piles of parchment, others battered briefcases, still others reading the morning edition of the Daily Prophet as they walked past. As they reached the fountain, Harry caught a glimpse of silver Sickles and bronze Knuts glinting up at him from the bottom of the pool. A sign placed near the pool read —
All proceeds from the Fountain of Magical Brethren will be given to
St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries
If they clear Sirius, I’ll put in twenty galleons.
‘They said we have to give our wand for registration or something,’ said Hermione. ‘Any idea where that is?’
They looked around; the stream of Ministry workers moving towards the gates was buffeting and jostling against them, making it hard to see through. Ron, who was the tallest, stood up on tiptoe, and signalled to Lupin.
‘I think it’s over there,’ he said, pointing to a point across the huge hall.
Following Ron’s directions, they re-joined the crowd, apologizing profusely to the grumpy looking Ministry workers as they cut across to the other side. They emerged in front of a desk, over which hung a sign saying SECURITY. A badly shaven wizard in peacock-blue robes sat behind the desk, reading the Daily Prophet.
‘Seems like this is it,’ said Hermione a little apprehensively.
Lupin walked up to the wizard, who looked up and put down his paper.
‘We’re visitors to the Ministry, for a trial,’ he said.
‘Step over here,’ said the wizard in a bored voice.
Lupin stepped up to stand next to the desk; the wizard held up a long golden rod, thin and flexible as a car aerial, and passed it up and down his front and back.
‘Wand,’ he grunted at Lupin, putting down the golden instrument and holding out his hand.
Lupin produced his wand from his robes. The wizard dropped it onto a strange brass instrument, which looked something like a set of scales with only one dish. It began to vibrate. A narrow strip of parchment came speeding out of a slit in the base. The wizard tore this off and read the writing upon it.
‘Ten and one-quarter inches, unicorn hair core, been in use twenty-four years. That correct?’
‘That it is.’
‘I keep this,’ said the wizard, impaling the slip of parchment on a small brass spike. ‘You get this back.’ He thrust the wand out to Lupin, who pocketed it.
One by one, they all went through the procedure of being scanned by the golden rod, and having their wands being examined. Harry was intrigued by the fact that Hermione’s wand had a core of dragon heartstring, made of vine wood.
‘That’s the lot, is it?’ asked the wizard, as he returned Harry’s wand.
‘Yes, thank you,’ said Lupin, taking Harry and Ron by their shoulders.
‘Hang on…’ said the wizard slowly, his eyes raking over the partially covered scar on Harry’s forehead, to the badge on his chest.
Lupin gave the wizard no chance to say anything further; Ron had grabbed Hermione’s hand, and the werewolf steered the three of them to re-join the slightly thinner crowd heading through the golden gates. They emerged into yet another hall, albeit a slightly smaller one, where at least twenty lifts stood behind wrought golden grilles. They joined the crowd behind one of them. A tall, bald, black wizard with a single golden hoop in his ear was speaking in a deep, slow voice to a young-looking witch; she had a pale heart-shaped face, dark twinkling eyes and short spiky hair that was a violent shade of violet.
Harry blinked, then nudged Ron and pointed out the witch to him. Ron blinked, shook his head, and pointed her out to Hermione. Hermione stared at the witch.
‘Who dyes their hair violet?’ asked Ron in a horrified whisper, as the queue in which the wizard and witch were in began moving forward into the lift that had just clanged to a halt from above.
Lupin overheard Ron’s whisper; he turned to look at what the three teenagers were staring at, and chuckled softly.
‘Tonks,’ he said, with what Harry thought was a wistful air.
‘Her name is Tonks,’ elaborated Lupin as their lift came jangling and clattering into view; the four of them entered the lift by themselves. ‘She’s an Auror, works for Madam Bones.’
‘She’s an Auror?’ asked Hermione, looking quite astonished. ‘She looks so young!’
‘She is,’ said Lupin, and Harry detected a faint trace of pride in his voice. ‘She qualified as an Auror last summer — she graduated from Hogwarts the year before you lot started.’
‘You know her, then?’ asked Harry, quite impressed. He had considered becoming an Auror after Hogwarts, although after his victory over Krum, the prospect of a professional Quidditch career did look quite inviting too. In any case, to become an Auror within three years of graduation — at the age of twenty — was quite an impressive feat.
‘We’ve met before,’ said Lupin shortly, and Harry knew, by that tone, that Lupin and this Tonks person had done more than just ‘met’ in the past.
‘Department of Mysteries,’ said the same cool female voice Harry had heard in the telephone box earlier.
‘Department of Mysteries?’ asked Hermione interestedly. ‘Why are we down here?’
‘They’re using the Courtrooms down here for the trial — that’s what Amelia told us yesterday,’ said Lupin. They walked along a corridor with bare walls, with no windows or doors, except for a plain black one set at the very end of the corridor.
‘The Department of Mysteries has courtrooms for trials?’
Lupin, who was looking around distractedly for something, did not immediately register the question from Hermione. Harry presumed he was wondering as to where to go.
‘Are we supposed to go through there, Professor?’ he asked, pointing at the plain black door.
‘What — no. No, no, no, not through there,’ replied Lupin, his eyes widening at the sight of the door, as though he had just seen it for the first time. ‘No, it should be here somewhere…aha!’
Lupin pointed at a small crevasse to the left of the lifts, where there was a flight of steps leading downwards. They followed his lead and descended the stone stairs; at the bottom, they proceeded along yet another corridor, which bore a strong resemblance to the corridor leading to Snape’s dungeons at Hogwarts, with rough stone walls and torches in brackets.
Up ahead, near the end of the corridor, they could just make out the silhouettes of people standing around, their low voices echoing softly against the stone. Harry spotted the outline of Albus Dumbledore standing farthest away from them, conversing in low tones with another, much shorter wizard.
Urgent footsteps behind them caused to turn around; the black man and the young witch, Tonks, were hurrying up the corridor — they passed them and rushed to join the small clustered group.
Harry noticed Dumbledore look up at the hurried footsteps, greet the new arrivals, and then catch sight of the four of them midway. He murmured something to his companion, and then strode down the corridor to greet them.
‘Ah, good, good, just in time,’ he said pleasantly. He gestured to the crowd behind him, who were now disappearing to the left. ‘The trial is just about to start, you should step inside now.’
Remus nodded, and led them down the remainder of the corridor to join the crowd. As the group thinned, they saw an opening into a room, which up till then had been shut by a grimy dark door with an immense iron lock and iron door handle. And at that instant, as they were about to cross the threshold themselves, Harry uttered a silent plea of hope — that Sirius would be free by the end of it all.
And as he stepped inside the enormous courtroom, Harry gasped out in horror.
To be continued…
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