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Innocent by MarauderLover7
Chapter 15 : St Mungo's
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5

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“Padfoot,” was the first thing Harry said. He opened his eyes and was dazzled by bright, fiery lights. He snapped his eyes shut again. He’d seen enough fire.

“Young Master, Master Harry.” His ears were still ringing, so it sounded funny, but Harry recognised the voice.

“Kreacher?” Harry asked, aware of shcoucuffling footsteps around him. Harry opened his eyes to see Kreacher looking terrified, wringing his hands together. He looked perilously close to tears. “What?” Harry croaked, recognising the hallway of Grimmauld Place. It was just the two of them.

“Kreacher?” Harry’s voice was bordering on hysteric. “Kreacher, where’s Padfoot?! Kreacher!? Kreacher where is he!?” The old elf came to pat Harry’s back awkwardly and Harry appreciated the gesture but his back was far too sore to be petted.

“Kreacher is only following orders-” the elf began, his ears quivering.

“Where’s Padfoot?!” Harry demanded, trying to look around the elf.

“Master is saying to bring Young Master to safety,” Kreacher said, flinching.

“You mean- You didn’t- He’s not- He’s not still there?!” The elf nodded slowly. “Why didn’t you bring him with us?!” Harry shouted, his temper flaring. “He was right there!” Only he hadn’t been; he and the Inferius had been blown back by the blast as surely as Harry had.

“Master is calling Kreacher and telling him to take Master Harry home, to be safe,” Kreacher said, sniffing.

“No!” Harry shouted, his voice cracking. “No, he can’t have stayed! That’s why I distracted them in the first place! So that he’d get out! So we’d both get out!”

“Kreacher is just doing what he’s being told,” the elf wailed.

“I don’t care! You should never have left him!” Harry yelled. “I didn’t nearly die just to leave him there!” The lamps on the walls shattered. “It’s not fair! He was supposed to make it out!” He turned to the elf. “Take me back!”

Kreacher screwed his face up. He was obviously fighting conflicting orders. Finally, his face relaxed. “Master is saying to be keeping Master Harry safe-”

“I don’t give a damn! Take me back. Please!” Harry added desperately.

“Kreacher musn’t be doing that, oh no,” the elf said with more conviction now. Harry eyed his wand, which had slipped out of his fingers when they arrived. Fine. Fine, I’ll go myself, then, he thought, determined, but then Kreacher snatched it up. “Kreacher promised,” Kreacher said, sniffing again.

“We can’t just leave him!” Harry shouted, reaching for it with his good arm. His back twinged. “Give me my wand! How am I supposed to fight them when you’ve got my wand!?” Kreacher vanished with a CRACK! and when he returned a few seconds later, Harry’s wand was not with him. “Kreacher!” Harry bellowed. “Take me back!”

“Kreacher cannot be doing that, oh no,” the elf said sadly. “Kreacher is to be keeping Master Harry safe.”

Harry still couldn’t move his left arm and he didn’t have his wand but his magic was flaring out; the remaining lamps shattered, as did the majority of the crystals on the chandelier. They rained down on Harry and Kreacher and the elf hurriedly fabricated a shield to protect them. Harry wouldn’t have cared if the crystal had hit them.

“Take me back,” he ordered.

“No,” Kreacher said, folding his arms.

“We can still save him!” Harry said urgently. He couldn’t even stand up but he’d fight somehow. Kreacher’s eyes filled with tears and he shook his ugly head. “It’s not too late!” Kreacher looked uncomfortable. “It’s not! Take me back! I can help him!”

The front door burst open and Mrs Black’s horrid portrait dropped off the wall and she started screaming. More crystal fell and this time it did hit them. Kreacher stared, wide-eyed and pressed a hand to a cut on his cheek. Slowly, he raised his other hand and the door closed.

Harry was fuming, but the elf would not be persuaded. “No,” he’d say each time. Harry knew he’d have to punish himself for it but he didn’t really care. Kreacher had left Padfoot to die. He deserved it. Mrs Black screamed on.

“I’ll walk then,” he said and tried to stand, but he didn’t seem able to. Kreacher watched him try and fail to stand for a bit; each time he fell, gasping, and once he landed on his left arm and couldn’t stop himself from screaming. Kreacher sat with him and patted his right hand - since everything else hurt - until Harry was able to move again.

“Can you help me get into the study?” he said stiffly, since he couldn’t do it himself. Kreacher looked delighted to have an order he could follow and let Harry grab his arm.

They reappeared in the middle of the room and even the smooth landing had Harry hissing in pain. Kreacher flapped about uselessly, not sure what was wrong. Harry wasn’t sure himself, and only knew he was sore. The furniture had all been overturned and quite a few books had come off the shelves. Harry would fix that later.

“The window seat, please,” Harry said. “I want to know when Padfoot gets home.”

Kreacher looked at him worriedly but levitated him over to the window seat and set him down as gently as possible. Harry peered out at the street, half expecting to see Padfoot striding up at any moment. He didn’t let the other half of him tell him about its expectations. Kreacher hovered nearby, peeking out occasionally too, but mostly he was sneaking worried looks at Harry. Finally, he announced he was going to get Harry something to eat.

“I forbid you to punish yourself,” Harry called after him. He was still angry Kreacher hadn’t taken him back but his anger wasn’t at Kreacher anymore, just at the circumstances, and at Padfoot for getting himself left behind.

Padfoot still wasn’t home after three hours of waiting. Had Harry felt up to it, he would have been pacing. He was feeling terrible, though, inside and out. Every part of him ached and he didn’t think he’d ever felt so tired in his entire life. He felt guilty and nauseated and physically hurt as well; he was bruised everywhere and his throat was sore from being strangled.

His left arm still wasn’t working. It wasn’t broken, Harry didn’t think, but he didn’t know what was wrong with it. It’s all right. Padfoot will fix it when he gets home. He’d told Kreacher the same thing too, whenever the elf expressed any concern over Harry’s wellbeing.

Harry had also written out Regulus’ note from memory; he could still hear Padfoot’s voice asking for water, and reading the letter and he’d decided writing it down might make it go away. It hadn’t, but it had been worth a try. He’d had Kreacher search the library for anything on Horcruxes, but since neither of them knew what they were, they weren’t sure where to look and in the end, Harry had decided that could wait until Padfoot got home as well.

Harry fell asleep just after midnight, but not for long - he’d dreamed he was back in the cave and set one of the armchairs on fire. Kreacher had brought him more food which Harry turned down and they’d both sat by the window until morning. Hedwig had joined them at some point and perched on Harry’s knee. She’d shed all of her baby feathers now and while Harry appreciated her company, it wasn’t the company he wanted just then. He wanted his godfather.

“Kreacher, can you heal this?” Harry asked, wearily, pointing to a particularly painful bruise.

Kreacher shook his head. “Kreacher has been thinking... Kreacher talked to Mistress... Kreacher thinks Master Harry might be needing to see Healers.”

“No,” Harry said stubbornly. “It’s fine. Padfoot can heal me when he gets home.” Kreacher patted his knee - the one Hedwig wasn’t resting on - and wandered out.

By mid-morning, Harry was starting to think he might need healing. He could walk again - just - but his back was stiff and bruised and his arm was starting to ache in a way Harry was fairly sure wasn’t healthy. He called Kreacher back and asked him to retrieve the letter to Remus from Padfoot’s bedroom. As he’d hoped, there was an address on it. Outskirts of Peaslake, Padfoot had written. Small cottage at the edge of Hurtwood Forest.

Harry decided to leave the letter behind - Padfoot would be back, so there was no need to transfer Harry into anyone else’s care. He didn’t bother taking anything with him - chances were it would be confiscated before it had a chance to be useful - and so just after lunch, Harry hobbled out of the study and into the hallway, where Kreacher was repairing the chandelier.

“Kreacher,” Harry said quietly. Kreacher wandered over. “Can you take me to Remus Lupin’s cottage at the edge of Hurtwood Forest? It’s on the outskirts of Peaslake. Drop me and come home.” Kreacher nodded. “Wait for Padfoot - tell him where I’ve gone as soon as he gets home-” Harry’s voice wavered. “-all right?”

Kreacher offered Harry his arm.

*                     *                    *

Harry woke up disoriented. He was somewhere white, but his last memory was of Remus Lupin’s doorstep.

“What?” he tried to say, though it came out garbled. His throat felt scratchy and someone pushed a cup of water into his hand. He took a sip, but all he could hear was Padfoot begging for water and the cup slipped out of his hand. He asked after his godfather but no one answered him and he fell asleep not long after.

*                     *                    *

The next time he opened his eyes it was to see who was fighting. He’d yet to work out where he was but there was a door and through it he could see two men arguing. One was a tall man with sandy hair - Harry thought he resembled what he remembered of Remus but couldn’t be sure - while the other was equally tall with platinum blond hair and a haughty expression.

“Excuse me,” Harry said quietly. The sandy haired man - it was indeed Remus - spun quickly. The other man grabbed his arm but Remus pushed him off.

“If you’ll excuse me, Lucius,” Remus said coolly.

“He’s only allowed one visitor at a time,” the blond - Lucius - said.

“Yes,” Remus agreed, “and that would be me.”

“You work for me,” Lucius snapped.

“To find Harry. And I’ve done that. He’s right there.” Remus closed the door in Lucius’ face. “How do you feel?” Remus asked kindly, sitting down beside Harry’s bed.

“Tired,” Harry said, yawning; now that things were quiet again, he thought he could go back to sleep. “It’s nice to finally meet you, though, sir.”

“Remus is fine, thank you, Harry.”

“Nice to meet you anyway.” He held out a limp hand, which Remus shook gently. “What happened?” Harry asked, staring at the older wizard’s hand. His question came out garbled but Remus understood.

He flushed and shook his sleeve forward a few inches to cover the worst of the scarring. Now that Harry looked, there were scars on his face, too. Like mine, Harry thought sleepily, though there wasn’t any particular shape to Remus’, he had far more, and his were better healed; Harry’s scar still looked fresh, even after almost eight years. “An... incident when I was younger,” he said finally. “Nothing you need to be worried about.”

“Okay,” Harry murmured and yawned again. “Why’m I so tired?”

“Healing potions tend to take a lot out of you,” Remus said, with a slight smile. “And the younger you are, the worse it is, I’m afraid.”

“I’m not young,” Harry murmured sleepily. “I’m nine.”

“I know,” Remus said. “But...”

Harry didn’t hear the rest, but that was when the dreams of the cave started.

*                     *                    *

Harry woke on a number of other occasions - to drink potions for the Healers - he’d decided he was in St Mungo’s - to eat, to go to the bathroom, or to talk to Remus. To begin with, the conversations were short and fairly awkward – Remus had wanted to know why, in his sleep, he shouted, “Fire, they hate fire,” (a statement that was usually followed by Harry’s accidental magic flaring and something catching fire) and “Take me back! I can help him!”; Harry had pretended not to remember the dreams, but he didn’t think Remus bought the lie.

Despite that, they had quickly warmed to each other; Harry’s only other company was a fussy Healer and the silent Aurors who guarded his door.

Lucius - the man Remus had fought with - had visited once but Harry hadn’t liked him - his cold demeanour and colder eyes were rather off-putting - and had pretended to fall asleep. Lucius had stopped talking and left not long after.

Harry had had other visitors while he slept. Two he’d been disappointed to miss; Dumbledore, for obvious reasons, and also one of Remus’ friends, who’d come by with a change of robes. Harry would have liked to meet one of the friends of his parents’ old friend.

Two, he’d been relieved to have slept through; one from a hoarde of reporters from various publications (Remus told him they’d been terribly upset to find him asleep) and one from a Ministry woman from the Department of Management and Control of Magical Children.

He and Remus were joking about Healers, the terrible hospital food and bad tasting potions in no time, and then they moved onto more substantial conversations like what had happened after Harry arrived at his house, what sorts of things Harry could look forward to at Hogwarts in two year’s time, what sorts of things Harry liked to do and what things Remus liked to do.

They never spoke about Padfoot, or Harry’s life after leaving the Dursleys and Harry got the idea that Remus had been told not to talk about it, rather than made the decision on his own; he’d just about swallowed his tongue when Harry asked him if Padfoot had been in the papers.

“No,” Remus replied quickly. His brown eyes darted to the door and then back to Harry. “No one’s heard anything.” Harry wasn’t sure if that was good or bad, given the last time he’d seen his godfather, he was trying to fight off several Inferi. He’s safe. He has to be... But then why hasn’t he tried to visit, or sent Kreacher with a message? an annoying little voice in the back of his head asked. What if he’s not all right? “How are you feeling?”

“Fine,” Harry said. “Why am I still here?”

“Because no one knows what to do with you,” Remus said, smiling slightly. “Short of locking you up in a vault at Gringotts, we don’t know how to keep you safe.”

“Safe? Am I in danger?”

Remus shifted. “You clearly don’t see Sirius as a threat, Harry, but the rest of us-”

“He’s not dangerous,” Harry said hotly.

“You’re the only one that can vouch for that,” Remus said gently.

“That’s because you didn’t listen the first time,” Harry muttered. “You tried to capture him.”

Remus’ expression flickered. “I’d be willing to talk to him now,” he said. Harry couldn’t tell if he was lying or not. “If you could set up a meeting place for the two-”

“Three,” Harry corrected quietly. “Three of us.”

“Harry, that wouldn’t be safe,” he said.

“Yeah, because I might get in the way while you try to curse him!” Harry said.

“Harry-” Remus began. Harry glared at him and Remus sighed loudly and closed his mouth. Harry rolled over into his pillows. “Harry,” Remus said again a moment later. Harry ignored him and made a quiet snoring sound. “I know you’re awake,” Remus told him, but Harry ignored him.

“Remus.” The speaker was behind Harry and though he didn’t turn around to see who it was, he was curious about the owner of the deep, calm voice.

“Sir,” Remus said.

“He’s asleep?”

“He was pretending to begin with, but I think he might be now. Then again, maybe not; he usually chatters. A lot like James, really.”

The other man let out a quiet sigh. “I’d hoped to speak with him before tomorrow.”

Tomorrow? Harry wondered, his breath catching. He remembered to let out a snore, just in case Remus was paying attention.

“Should I wake him up?” Remus asked.

“No, let him sleep for now. If you could fetch me once he’s awake, though-”

“Of course.”

Harry made another snoring sound. “Has he said anything?”

“Not really. Something about Sirius being a wonderful godfather. He saw right through my offer to meet up with him. It was strange, though, sir, because he said something about getting in the way if I tried to curse him.”

“Words and actions are two very different things, Remus.”

“I know, sir, but when I found them in London it was similar; Harry was trying to protect Sirius, not get away from him.” The other man made a thoughtful sound. “It’s just... strange.” They were both quiet - Harry snored - and then Remus said, “Sir, do you think it’s possible we might be missing something? Children are perceptive. If-”

“There was a time where you too would have stepped between Sirius and a curse,” the man said gently. “And a child is far easier to lie to than a friend of ten years.”

“Right,” Remus said, his voice oddly thick. “I’m sorry, it was a stupid question.”

“I’ve yet to hear a stupid question, and I do not think there is anything wrong with wishful thinking, dear boy, but one must remind himself not to drift out of reality.” There was a sigh, but Harry couldn’t tell who it had come from. “Our ability to use magic has enabled us to see possibilities where muggles perhaps could not,” the man said, “but it has also blinded us to impossibilities, which muggles, I’m afraid, are all too capable of seeing.”

The other man left shortly after - Harry heard him exchange a few polite words with the Aurors outside - but Remus stayed behind. His breathing was very slow and very deep, and every now and then he would make a soft shuddering sound. It took Harry a moment to realise he was crying. Harry almost moved to speak to him but bit down on his tongue and snored again.

He had a lot to think about.

*                     *                    *

Harry gasped and opened his eyes. The cave faded into his hospital room. Remus was snoring quietly in the chair beside the bed, and the empty chair beside his was smoking. Harry muttered a curse he’d heard Padfoot use once and tossed his glass of water on it. It hissed. Harry sighed and collapsed back into his pillows.

Remus’ watch said it was eleven o’clock but in Harry’s sterile hospital room, it was impossible to tell whether it was morning or night because there were no windows.

Harry had come to a conclusion about two things. Firstly, he needed to get home and back to Padfoot, who might or might not be there and who might or might not be alive. Secondly, he would do what he could for Remus. From the conversation he’d overheard the night before, he was confident Remus would be willing to listen to the truth and perhaps even believe it.

Padfoot had given him specific instructions never to talk to anyone about it until they had Peter as proof, or - Merlin forbid - Padfoot was caught and needed to testify. If the truth was spread around, people would have time to find reasons why it couldn’t have happened, and Padfoot would be sent back to Azkaban. Harry had decided, though, that Remus deserved to know and thought - whether he believed it or not - that he would keep the story quiet.

He eyed Remus, wondering if it would be rude to wake him up. He cleared his throat. Remus snorted quietly and mumbled something. Harry’s eyes narrowed and he cleared his throat again, louder this time. Remus twitched and his eyes opened slowly.

“I must have dozed off,” he said, smoothing his creased robes.It occurred to Harry that Remus had been wearing those same robes for three days now and the ones he’d been wearing before that had been the ones he’d been in when Harry arrived on his doorstep. “Have you been home since you brought me here?”

“No, but Matt’s planning to come by at some point today with a clean set of robes,” Remus said with a smile. His smile faded and was replaced by a more intense look. “I don’t think I’ve told you, but did you know you have your mother’s eyes?”

“I’ve been told,” Harry said, with a smile as he noted Remus’ suspiciously bright eyes. “And I look like Dad, right?”

“Right,” Remus said, smiling again. He got up and stretched. “I’m just going to go let Dumbledore know you’re awake and then I’ll be back; he’s been waiting to speak with you all morning. Would you like anything?” He eyed the smouldering chair. “More water?”

“Yes, please,” Harry said. “And food?”

Remus chuckled and left. Harry’s thoughts drifted to Padfoot again and whether he was home. Surely he was... if not... No, he has. He’s there. He’s the one waiting on me, now, surely. Either way I won’t know until I get home... If Remus believed him, he could probably borrow a few sickles for the Knight Bus and be at Grimmauld in a few hours.

Remus returned not long after with a cup of water and a packet of crisps, both of which he offered to Harry. “Here.” Harry stared at the water, hearing Padfoot’s begging, but he really was thirsty and he downed it all in a mouthful. The crisps didn’t last long either. “Do you enjoy living with your godfather?” Remus asked carefully.

Harry’s eyebrows rose; he hadn’t been expecting Remus to talk about this, but it would certainly lead into the conversation he needed to have.

“Well, yeah.”

Remus seemed to be expecting a longer answer. When Harry didn’t offer anything else he asked, “Does he tell you much about your parents?”

Harry nodded. “Loads. I feel... almost like I know them, now, I guess.” Harry thought Remus had been surprised to hear that too, though he hid it well.

“Is that good or bad?”

He shrugged. “Both. It was weird to not know anything about them but then, the more I learn, the more I miss what I could have had, I suppose.”

Remus’ smile was sad. A frown flickered over his worn features before he hid it behind a calm expression. “Not know anything about them?”

“The Dursleys weren’t about to talk about it,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. “I didn’t even know what magic was until I met Padfoot. The Dursleys told me Dad was a drunkard and that Mum was a freak; not right in the head was Uncle Vernon’s way of putting it.”

“James- a- a drunkard?!” Remus exclaimed. He didn’t seem to know whether to laugh, cry or hit something.

“Padfoot told me he was an Auror and Mum was a Healer.”

“At least he was honest about something,” Remus muttered.

“He’s been honest about a lot of things,” Harry said, folding his arms.

“You do know that Sirius – Padfoot to you-”

“And you,” Harry couldn’t help adding.

“That was a long time ago,” Remus said quietly. “Did he tell you he broke out of prison?”

“It was one of the first things he told me when I met him.”

“You do know that breaking out of prison is illegal, don’t you, Harry?” Remus said strictly. Padfoot always had said he’d been one to follow rules.

“Well, yeah, but not in this case.”

“What do you mean?”

“He shouldn’t have gone to prison in the first place,” Harry said, “so, really, he’s not breaking any laws by leaving a place he’s not supposed to be.”

“Why wasn’t he supposed to be there?”

Harry’s heart began to race. This is it... “Because he didn’t do it.”

“I’m afraid I can’t agree with you there,” Remus said, anger seeping into his voice.

“He was framed!”

“By who?” Remus asked, sounding curious though his tone was still hard.

“Peter,” Harry spat.

“Peter?” Remus said, sounding too surprised to be angry. “Peter’s dead. Sirius... he... killed him.” Harry opened his mouth to protest but Remus pressed on. “There was a charm set up, called the Fidelius Charm. What it does is-”

“I know what a Fidelius Charm is,” Harry said, fighting to hide a smile.

Remus frowned. “Then Sirius must have told you he was the Secret Keeper. He was the only person who knew and could reveal James and Lily’s location.”

“He wasn’t. They swapped.”

“Who swapped?”

“Padfoot. He thought Peter would be the perfect Secret Keeper because no one would suspect him. He planned for Voldemort to come after him, but even if he was caught, Mum and Dad would be safe.”

“Sirius told you that Peter was the Secret Keeper?” Remus repeated. Harry nodded. “Did he tell you he was at my house the night Lily and James were...?”

“Who, Peter?”

“No, Sirius.”

“Yeah, he said you were sick.” Remus’ eyebrows disappeared into his hairline. Harry ignored this. “He left because he had a bad feeling about Peter and wanted to see that everything was okay... and it wasn’t.”

“Peter’s dead, though,” Remus said.

“He isn’t.”

“Peter wasn’t a spy. He wasn’t brave enough.”

“Yeah, so no one would suspect him.”

“Sirius was the Secret Keeper,” Remus said. “Everyone knew... it was always going to be him.”

“Which is why he swapped,” Harry said. “I mean, it’s a bit pointless if everyone knows, isn’t it?”

“Peter’s dead,” Remus repeated, looking quite flustered. “Sirius is guilty.”

“Remus?” There was an old, bearded man standing in the doorway of Harry’s room. “Are you feeling well?”

“I think I need some fresh air,” Remus said, getting up. Harry couldn’t blame him. Padfoot always said his life had ended that Halloween night and Harry was fairly sure Remus’ had too. Talking about it couldn’t be any easier for Remus than it was for Padfoot.

“Moony,” Harry called as he left. Remus stiffened and turned. Harry looked suspiciously at the old man, not yet sure whether he could trust him or not. “He’s not dead. You just think he is because it wasn’t... er... Peter... who got away.”

“Harry, I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean,” Remus said, looking tired.

“It was Wormtail,” Harry said significantly.

“Wormtail?” Remus repeated. “As in Wormtail?”

Harry glanced at the old man again. “He... erm... ratted them out,” he said, trying to be cryptic, yet make sure Remus understood.

It seemed Remus did. “You’re sure?” he asked, having gone exceptionally pale. He looked close to fainting, but there was also something in his brown eyes that hadn’t been there all week. It looked suspiciously like hope.

“Positive,” Harry said. The old man was looking between them, confused.

“So... man’s best friend...?”

“Was just that,” Harry said nodding. “The best friend.”

“And all that time spent in... the kennel...?”

“He shouldn’t have been there.” Remus nodded and fled the room.

“Well, you two certainly had a lot to say to each other,” the bearded man said, taking Remus’ empty seat.

“Yes, sir,” Harry replied, since he didn’t know the man’s name.

“He’s been keeping you company, I believe?” Suddenly, Harry recognised the voice. This was the man who had come to talk to Remus while Harry had pretended to sleep.

“Yes, sir.”

“Why is it you went to his home last week, Harry?” the man asked, leaning forward. His blue eyes seemed to see through Harry.

“He was a friend of my parents’,” Harry said uneasily. And Padfoot’s.

“He was indeed. He, your father, another boy called Peter-” Harry managed to suppress a growl just in time. “-and Sirius Black were thick as thieves, to coin a muggle phrase.”

“You knew them too?” Harry asked, interested. It seems everyone in the Wizarding world knew my parents.

“I did. I was the Headmaster at the school they attended.”

“You’re Dumbledore,” Harry said.

“I am indeed,” Dumbledore said, his blue eyes twinkling. It seemed hard to believe that this cheerful, grandfatherly man could be the same one Padfoot had always talked about with reverence. That he was the only man Voldemort had ever feared. The old man sighed. “I must admit, I was hoping to meet you under better circumstances.”

“I wasn’t planning to meet you for a few years, yet,” Harry said, a little apologetically.

“And yet here we are. Odd how these things happen, isn’t it?” Dumbledore said pleasantly. Two women and a man appeared in the doorway. The man was short and round, with rumpled grey hair and a lime green bowler hat. He was wearing the oddest assortment of clothing Harry had ever seen; a pinstriped suit, scarlet tie, a long blue travelling cloak and bright purple boots.

One of the witches accompanying him looked equally strange; she was a short, squat witch who looked rather like a toad, and must have been in her early thirties but she was dressed like a six-year-old girl, with a pink bow in her curly hair and a matching dress and cardigan ensemble. The other witch had a square jaw, short blond hair that was turning grey, and was wearing a plain black robe with buttons that reached her throat.

“Oh my,” said the square-jawed witch when she spied Harry. The look of shock and sadness she wore softened her tough expression immediately. “He looks so much like James.” Harry was beginning to think his father had known everyone there was to know. The witch shook herself. “Sorry. My name is Amelia Bones, Mr Potter. I’m from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.”

“Hi,” Harry said, wiping his sweaty palms on his blanket.

“Dolores Umbridge,” the other witch said in a girlish voice. “Department of Management and Control of Magical Children, and Junior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic.” Harry nodded, fairly sure it was her visit he’d pretended to sleep through.

“Cornelius Fudge, Mr Potter,” said the wizard, puffing out his chest. “Minister for Magic.”

“Nice to meet you, sir,” Harry said, feeling very nervous now.

“We have a few questions, for you, Harry,” Amelia Bones said, conjuring herself a chair beside Dumbledore’s. Dolores Umbridge conjured one for herself, and one for the Minister. “Do you need to use the bathroom or have something to eat or drink before we begin?”

“No, I’m all right, thanks.”

Amelia Bones nodded and produced a blank piece of parchment, a quill and a little pot of ink from somewhere in her robes. “Very well. Now, some of this may be difficult for you to talk about, but please try to answer to the best of your ability.”

“Answer what?” Harry asked warily.

“Some questions we have,” Bones said patiently. “Please try to answer to the best of your ability.”

Harry swallowed. “All right.”

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