Elusion

Chapter 15

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Harry stepped out of the fireplace and found himself 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. He had been here last year but it felt like a lifetime ago. So much had changed. He had lost so much. Halfway down the hall, Harry saw the Fountain of Magical Brethren.

He felt Narcissa appear beside him and they began moving. They joined the throng, wending their way between the Ministry workers, some of whom were carrying tottering piles of parchment, others battered briefcases, still others reading the Daily Prophet as they walked. Harry felt the gaze of several people following. He heard people whispering his name and gathering confirmation from their nearby fellows whether it was really Harry Potter or not.

Harry felt sick. This was all Voldemort's fault. They reached the security desk. A badly shaven wizard in peacock-blue robes looked up as they approached. Harry remembered him from last time and recalled that his name was Eric. Narcissa pinned him with a menacing glare and they passed through the golden gates.

They made their way to the elevators and waited for it arrive. With a great jangling and clattering a lift descended in front of them; the golden grille slid back and Harry and Narcissa moved inside it with the rest of the crowd. Harry found himself jammed against the back wall of the lift. Several witches and wizards were looking at him curiously. He stared at his feet to avoid catching anyone's eye. He just wanted to shout at them. Why couldn't people just mind their own business?

The grilles slid shut with a crash and the lift ascended slowly, chains rattling all the while. Harry felt grateful as the witches and wizards exited at various levels. But he also felt his heart sinking as he began to realize where the hearing was. He felt numb with grief when the cool female voice announced,

"Department of Mysteries."

Harry couldn't move. He didn't want to move. He couldn't bear to be here again. Narcissa grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the lift,

"Get a hold of yourself, Potter."

They sped up that wretched corridor. Harry's heart was beating erratically. He saw the plain black door, that he knew all too well. The door that had haunted his nightmares for a year and then eventually turned his life into a nightmare. Harry wanted to go through it. Maybe he would hear Sirius's voice among the whispers that originated from the veil. Maybe he could pass through the veil and meet Sirius. Narcissa Malfoy pulled Harry roughly towards the steps and away from the door

Harry realized that he had been crying. He wiped away the tears immediately. They reached the bottom of the steps and ran along yet another corridor that Harry recognized. The corridor bore a great resemblance to that which led to Snape's dungeon at Hogwarts, with rough stone walls and torches in brackets. The doors they passed here were heavy wooden ones with iron bolts and keyholes. They came to a halt outside a grimy dark door with an immense iron lock.

Courtroom ten, Harry recalled. The ministry was really bent on getting revenge. Harry stepped through the door. There was no point in delaying the inevitable. Harry looked around the familiar dungeon. The walls were made of dark stone, dimly lit by torches. He wasn't surprised to find that the benches that had been empty at his last hearing, were filled with witches and wizards among which Harry was easily able to spot Dumbledore along with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Remus, Ron, Hermione and Ginny. Harry looked away from them and looked up at the shadowy figures seated on the highest benches. Whispers and murmurs echoed through the courtroom as Harry silently made his way to the chair in the centre of the room. The chains clinked threateningly but did not bind him. Harry remembered how nervous he had been, the last time he had been seated here. But today he had nothing to be afraid of. These people couldn't take away anything from him. The whispers and murmurs grew louder. Harry had had enough of this and he spoke loudly,

"If you're done chattering, can we get this over with?"

The chatter died down and an ominous silence filled the courtroom. Harry looked up at the people seated at the bench above. In the very middle of the front row sat Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister of Magic. Harry felt anger bubbling through his veins when he saw Umbridge seated beside the Minister. The minister's expression grew sterner at Harry's remark and he spoke,

"Disciplinary hearing of the twenty second of July, into offenses committed under the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery and the International Statute of Secrecy by Harry James Potter, resident at number four, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey. The Interrogators: Rufus Scrimgeour, Minister of Magic; Amelia Susan Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Dolores…"

Harry interrupted him and spoke out,

"I am not a resident of Privet Drive anymore."

The minister looked indignant at being interrupted and was about to say something when Harry cut him off again,

"I really think that you should get rid of the toad sitting beside you."

Harry realized that he was enjoying this way too much. It was nice to get his feelings out. Besides what's the worst that they could do to him now. He looked up and realized that Umbridge was on her feet and she screeched,

"HOW DARE YOU?"

Harry chuckled and leaned back in his seat,

"You're not the only person sitting beside the Minister. It's not my fault that you thought that I referred to you as a toad."

She was about to shriek again when the Minister spoke,

"Enough. Mr. Potter, I shall hold you in contempt of court if you utter another disrespectful word. I don't have to remind you that your circumstances are dreadful enough already."

Harry rose to his feet,

"Yes, you don't have to remind me, Minister. But the thing is, I don't care. So, do your worst."

Harry sat back down in the chair. Harry felt pleased to realize that everyone looked flabbergasted. The whispering had begun anew. The minister spoke and everyone went silent,

"Do you plan on defending yourself, Mr. Potter?"

Harry shook his head,

"I'm here to hear my conviction."

Cries and shouts originated from the benches on either side and Dumbledore rose to his feet. He spoke,

"I shall act as the witness for the defence."

Harry nearly groaned out in exasperation and then spoke,

"I don't mean any offense, Professor. But I don't need a witness."

The Minister seemed pleased with that and spoke,

"The accused has denied your services, Albus. You may retake your seat."

Dumbledore sat back down and the Minister addressed Harry again,

"Are you aware of the charges against you?"

Harry nodded his head calmly,

"Yes, I'm aware."

The Minister shuffled the papers in front of him and then spoke,

"Do you deny the charges placed against you?"

Harry shook his head,

"No, I don't. I willingly and deliberately performed magic in a muggle neighbourhood despite the warnings that had been issued to me."

The Minister was about to speak when Harry felt his scar beginning to prickle. It didn't take him long to realize that Voldemort was here in the courtroom. That bastard was watching the show and Harry could tell that he wasn't pleased.

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