Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Reading Chamber of Secrets at Hogwarts

Chapter Fourteen: Cornelius Fudge

by Arider12 1 Reviews

Reading Chapter Fourteen: Cornelius Fudge

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: PG - Genres: Drama - Characters: Harry - Published: 2013/01/13 - Updated: 2013/01/14 - 6242 words - Complete

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Remus flipped the page and looked up. “Well Minister, it looks like you get your own chapter.”

Chapter Fourteen: Cornelius Fudge” He read and Fudge shifted in his seat. If this was about what he thought it was, there would be a great deal of apologizing on his behalf.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione had always known that Hagrid had an unfortunate liking for large and monstrous creatures.

“Unfortunate?” Ron interrupted. “Of all the words, you chose unfortunate?”

“I was trying to be tactful!” Harry snapped, still seething over his brief spat with Umbridge.

During their first year at Hogwarts he had tried to raise a dragon in his little wooden house, and it would be a long time before they forgot the giant, three-headed dog he'd christened "Fluffy."

“Three-headed dog?” Mrs. Weasley said faintly. “What in Merlin’s name was a three-headed dog doing in a school?”

“Out of curiosity, what ever happened to that dog?” George wondered, completely disregarding his mother’s comment.

“Sent ‘im off ter a friend of mine up north,” Hagrid said, waving a large hand.

And if, as a boy, Hagrid had heard that a monster was hidden somewhere in the castle, Harry was sure he'd have gone to any lengths for a glimpse of it. He'd probably thought it was a shame that the monster had been cooped up so long, and thought it deserved the chance to stretch its many legs;

Hagrid nodded, not quite realizing that many people say this as a bad thing.

Harry could just imagine the thirteen-year-old Hagrid trying to fit a leash and collar on it. But he was equally certain that Hagrid would never have meant to kill anybody.

“An’ he never did!” Hagrid said firmly.

Harry half wished he hadn't found out how to work Riddle's diary. Again and again Ron and Hermione made him recount what he'd seen, until he was heartily sick of telling them and sick of the long, circular conversations that followed.
"Riddle might have got the wrong person," said Hermione. "Maybe it was some other monster that was attacking people..."

“Yes and yes,” Harry answered.

"How many monsters d'you think this place can hold?" Ron asked dully.

“So far we’re up to six…no wait seven,” Harry said, silently counting off on his fingers. “Or did you mean only things in the school? Cause I can think of one right off the top of my head.”

"We always knew Hagrid had been expelled," said Harry miserably. "And the attacks must've stopped after Hagrid was kicked out. Otherwise, Riddle wouldn't have got his award."
Ron tried a different tack.
"Riddle does sound like Percy - who asked him to squeal on Hagrid, anyway?"

“Err the monster did kill someone Ron,” Remus pointed out. Then he read ahead and looked over at Hermione.

"But the monster had killed someone, Ron," said Hermione.

“That’s just getting weird,” Fred laughed.

"And Riddle was going to go back to some Muggle orphanage if they closed Hogwarts," said Harry. "I don't blame him for wanting to stay here..."

“Still don’t.” Harry grumbled.

"You met Hagrid down Knockturn Alley, didn't you, Harry?"
"He was buying a Flesh-Eating Slug Repellent," said Harry quickly.
The three of them fell silent. After a long pause, Hermione voiced the knottiest question of all in a hesitant voice.

“Knottiest?” Hermione asked Harry with an eyebrow raised.

“Or did you mean naughtiest?” George questioned in the same tone.

“Maybe it was the naughtiest knot?” Fred asked.

“Weasley!” McGonagall snapped and seven heads snapped towards her. “I meant – oh never mind,” she sighed and gestured for Remus to keep reading.

"Do you think we should go and ask Hagrid about it all?"
"That'd be a cheerful visit," said Ron. "Hello, Hagrid. Tell us, have you been setting anything mad and hairy loose in the castle lately?'"

“That’s not how you should have started it Ron!” Ginny said shaking her head.

“Yeah you should have said something about a fifty year old monster that he knew slash raised!” George agreed, ducking the slap that Ginny aimed for the back of his head.

“Not what I meant you git,” she said with a smile.

In the end, they decided that they would not say anything to Hagrid unless there was another attack, and as more and more days went by with no whisper from the disembodied voice, they became hopeful that they would never need to talk to him about why he had been expelled.

“Of course we wouldn’t be that lucky,” Ron sighed. “Follow the spiders…unbelievable.”

It was now nearly four months since Justin and Nearly Headless Nick had been Petrified, and nearly everybody seemed to think that the attacker, whoever it was, had retired for good. Peeves had finally got bored of his "Oh, Potter, you rotter" song,

“No!” Harry said sharply at the pleading looks he was getting from the twins.

“Oh but Harry just think at how well it would fit with recent events!” Fred pleaded.

“We could change the dance routine of course,” George added. “I mean, that was so three years ago!”

Ernie Macmillan asked Harry quite politely to pass a bucket of leaping toadstools in Herbology one day, and in March several of the Mandrakes threw a loud and raucous party in greenhouse three. This made Professor Sprout very happy.

“It meant that they were almost out of adolescence, all that was left was to wait for them to start switching pots,” Sprout said with a smile.

"The moment they start trying to move into each other's pots, we'll know they're fully mature," she told Harry. "Then we'll be able to revive those poor people in the hospital wing."
The second years were given something new to think about during their Easter holidays. The time had come to choose their subjects for the third year, a matter that Hermione, at least, took very seriously.

“Of course you did,” Ginny said with an eye roll.

“Hey it could affect our whole future!” Hermione defended, wondering why Remus was chuckling softly.

"...it could affect our whole future," she told them.

“Some things never change?” Remus told her and she crossed her arms and huffed.

Harry and Ron as they pored over lists of new subjects, marking them with checks.
"I just want to give up Potions," said Harry.
"We can't," said Ron gloomily. "We keep all our old subjects, or I'd've ditched Defense Against the Dark Arts."
"But that's very important!" said Hermione, shocked.

Several people shook their heads. “Not the way Lockhart teaches it,” Neville said grimly.

"Not the way Lockhart teaches it," said Ron. "I haven't learned anything from him except not to set pixies loose."

“Well they aren’t so bad if you know a freezing charm,” Remus pointed out.

“But he hadn’t taught us that,” Ron argued back.

Neville Longbottom had been sent letters from all the witches and wizards in his family, all giving him different advice on what to choose.

“I doubt half of them had ever even met me,” Neville said out loud. “I certainly had never heard of them,” he admitted.

Confused and worried, he sat reading the subject lists with his tongue poking out, asking people whether they thought Arithmancy sounded more difficult than the study of Ancient Runes.

“Both sounded pretty bad actually,” Neville admitted.

“I like Ancient Runes,” Luna said suddenly. “It’s a very fun class.”

Dean Thomas, who, like Harry, had grown up with Muggles, ended up closing his eyes and jabbing his wand at the list, then picking the subjects it landed on. Hermione took nobody's advice but signed up for everything.

“How were you going to manage that?” Fred and George echoed.

Harry and Hermione shared a grin. “Third book.” They answered.

Harry smiled grimly to himself at the thought of what Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia would say if he tried to discuss his career in wizardry with them. Not that he didn't get any guidance: Percy Weasley was eager to share his experience.

“Of course he was,” Ron sighed loudly and Percy blushed.

"Depends where you want to go, Harry," he said. "It's never too early to think about the future, so I'd recommend Divination. People say Muggle Studies is a soft option, but I personally think wizards should have a thorough understanding of the non-magical community, particularly if they're thinking of working in close contact with them - look at my father, he has to deal with Muggle business all the time.

“What happened to that understanding?” Mr. Weasley mused sadly and for the first time, a flicker
of remorse could be seen on Percy’s face, though everyone was too busy ignoring him to see it.

My brother Charlie was always more of an outdoor type, so he went for Care of Magical Creatures. Play to your strengths, Harry."
But the only thing Harry felt he was really good at was Quidditch.

“Not true,” Hermione said shaking her head.

“Yeah mate, you’re excellent at getting into trouble,” Ron said happily.

“I don’t go looking for trouble though!” Harry said exasperatedly. “It –”

“We know,” Ginny interrupted. “Trouble finds you.” She gave him a smile and squeezed his hand and Harry found himself smiling back. “I’m glad it does though,” she said softly. “Otherwise…”

“Me too,” Harry whispered back.

In the end, he chose the same new subjects as Ron, feeling that if he was lousy at them, at least he'd have someone friendly to help him.

“Lot of help you turned out to be,” Harry teased.

“I could say the same about you!” Ron faked an outraged huff.

Their glares at each other lasted only a minute before they broke down laughing.

Gryffindor's next Quidditch match would be against Hufflepuff. Wood was insisting on team practices every night after dinner, so that Harry barely had time for anything but Quidditch and homework.

“Those were the worst times,” George agreed, shaking his head.

“Yeah, especially since –” Fred continued but Harry cut across him.

“Not everyone knows.”

However, the training sessions were getting better, or at least drier,

“Thank goodness,” Fred mumbled.

and the evening before Saturday's match he went up to his dormitory to drop off his broomstick feeling Gryffindor's chances for the Quidditch cup had never been better.

“And now you jinxed it,” George commented.

But his cheerful mood didn't last long. At the top of the stairs to the dormitory, he met Neville Longbottom, who was looking frantic.
"Harry - I don't know who did it - I just found--"

“What? What happened?” Luna asked eagerly, having been one of the only people that hadn’t heard about the break-in.

Watching Harry fearfully, Neville pushed open the door.
The contents of Harry's trunk had been thrown everywhere. His cloak lay ripped on the floor. The bedclothes had been pulled off his four-poster and the drawer had been pulled out of his bedside cabinet, the contents strewn over the mattress.

“What were they looking for thought I wonder?” Remus mused.

Harry laughed. “Well if you kept reading, you might find out.”

Harry walked over to the bed, open-mouthed, treading on a few loose pages of Travels with Trolls. As he and Neville pulled the blankets back onto his bed, Ron, Dean, and Seamus came in. Dean swore loudly.

“You know before that, I never really saw Dean as the swearing type,” Ron said offhandedly. “Seamus yes, Dean? No.”

"What happened, Harry?"

“Well if he knew what happened, he wouldn’t have been standing in a pile with a clueless expression now would he?” Fred asked sarcastically.

“Hey! My face wasn’t clueless!” Harry argued.

“It kinda was mate,” Ron admitted.

“Thanks Ron.”

“Anytime.”

"No idea," said Harry. But Ron was examining Harry's robes. All the pockets were hanging out.
"Someone's been looking for something," said Ron.

“No duh.”

“Shut up.”

"Is there anything missing?"
Harry started to pick up all his things and throw them into his trunk. It was only as he threw the last of the Lockhart books back into it that he realized what wasn't there.

“The diary?” Remus asked.

“How’d you know?” Harry asked in surprise.

“Two reasons, one it was the only thing linked to the chamber so someone connected to the chamber would want it back.”

“And two?” Instead of answering, Remus read the next sentence.

"Riddle's diary's gone," he said in an undertone to Ron.

“Oh.”

"What?"
Harry jerked his head toward the dormitory door and Ron followed him out. They hurried down to the Gryffindor common room, which was half-empty, and joined Hermione, who was sitting alone, reading a book called Ancient Runes Made Easy.

“You weren’t even taking the class yet!” Ginny exclaimed.

“I was preparing,” Hermione said simply.

Hermione looked aghast at the news.
"But - only a Gryffindor could have stolen - nobody else knows our password--"
"Exactly," said Harry.

“Sorry,” Ginny whispered.

“Hey you were trying to save me, there’s nothing to be sorry for,” Harry told her softly and she gave him a warm smile that lit up her whole face and made her look even more beautiful. Wait, what?

They woke the next day to brilliant sunshine and a light, refreshing breeze.

“As Wood would say,” Fred began.

“Perfect Quidditch conditions!” George finished in an incredibly accurate Oliver Wood impression.

"Perfect Quidditch conditions!" said Wood enthusiastically at the Gryffindor table, loading the team's plates with scrambled eggs. "Harry, buck up there, you need a decent breakfast."

“Did he eat anything himself?” Neville asked.

“Nope,” Harry answered. “He always made sure we ate to the point of being sick while he nibbled on a piece of toast. Hypocrite.”

Harry had been staring down the packed Gryffindor table, wondering if the new owner of Riddle's diary was right in front of his eyes. Hermione had been urging him to report the robbery,

“You should have,” McGonagall said sternly but Harry shrugged.

“I had my reasons not to Professor.”

but Harry didn't like the idea. He'd have to tell a teacher all about the diary, and how many people knew why Hagrid had been expelled fifty years ago? He didn't want to be the one who brought it all up again.

“See?”

As he left the Great Hall with Ron and Hermione to go and collect his Quidditch things, another very serious worry was added to Harry's growing list. He had just set foot on the marble staircase when he heard it yet again.

“Oh no,” Ginny whispered, having remembered who had been attacked that day.

"Kill this time... let me rip... tear..."

“’Kill this time’?” Remus repeated weakly. “Please tell me it didn’t.”

“It didn’t,” Harry reassured him, but the frown on his pale face was still worrying.

He shouted aloud and Ron and Hermione both jumped away from him in alarm.
"The voice!" said Harry, -looking over his shoulder. "I just heard it again - didn't you?"
Ron shook his head, wide-eyed. Hermione, however, clapped a hand to her forehead.

“I think she knows.” George said seriously.

“You think?” Fred replied sarcastically.

"Harry - I think I've just understood something! I've got to go to the library!"

“Did you figure out what it was or how it was travelling?” Remus asked Hermione.

“Well mostly the first, but only the second later.” Hermione said and Remus ‘hmm’d.

“That’s the one thing I haven’t figured out yet,” he admitted.

“You know what the monster is?” Harry repeated. “How? When?”

“Since the double attack, and I pieced certain things together.” Remus answered before returning
to reading.

And she sprinted away, up the stairs.
"What does she understand?" said Harry distractedly, still looking around, trying to tell where the voice had come from.
"Loads more than I do," said Ron, shaking his head.

“Everyone understands more than you do Ron,” George said shaking his head.

“Yeah,” Fred agreed. “Even our little sister.”

“Oi!” Both Ron and Ginny yelled indignantly.

"But why's she got to go to the library?"

“That’s what Hermione does,” Neville said. “She always finds out stuff in the library.”

"Because that's what Hermione does," said Ron, shrugging. "When in doubt, go to the library."

“See? Neville agrees with me!”

“No one disagreed Ronald.”

Harry stood, irresolute, trying to catch the voice again, but people were now emerging from the Great Hall behind him, talking loudly, exiting through the front doors on their way to the Quidditch pitch.
"You'd better get moving," said Ron. "It's nearly eleven - the match--"

“Yes because a match is so much more important than someone maybe dying.” Ginny said trying to keep her voice level.

“To Oliver it was,” Harry said seriously.

Harry raced up to Gryffindor Tower, collected his Nimbus Two Thousand, and joined the large crowd swarming across the grounds, but his mind was still in the castle along with the bodiless voice, and as he pulled on his scarlet robes in the locker room, his only comfort was that everyone was now outside to watch the game.

Remus paled as he read that last bit and he looked over at Hermione out of the corner of his eyes. Not everyone…

The teams walked onto the field to tumultuous applause. Oliver Wood took off for a warm-up flight around the goal posts; Madam Hooch released the balls. The Hufflepuffs, who played in canary yellow, were standing in a huddle, having a last-minute discussion of tactics.
Harry was just mounting his broom when Professor McGonagall came half marching, half running across the pitch, carrying an enormous purple megaphone.

“Why was that purple anyway?” Harry asked.

Professor McGonagall shrugged. “Professor Dumbledore produced it for me,” she admitted and Harry then turned to look at Dumbledore who merely chuckled and shook his head.

Harry's heart dropped like a stone.
"This match has been cancelled," Professor McGonagall called through the megaphone, addressing the packed stadium. There were boos and shouts. Oliver Wood, looking devastated, landed and ran toward Professor McGonagall without getting off his broomstick.

“He seems to do that a lot,” Luna commented airily.

"But, Professor!" he shouted. "We've got to play - the cup - Gryffindor--"

“He also says that a lot,” Fred added on to Luna’s statement.

Professor McGonagall ignored him and continued to shout through her megaphone:
"All students are to make their way back to the House common rooms, where their Heads of Houses will give them further information. As quickly as you can, please!"
Then she lowered the megaphone and beckoned Harry over to her.
"Potter, I think you'd better come with me..."

“How could you suspect him that time?” George asked. “He was at the pitch!”

“If you allow Mr. Lupin to continue reading Mr. Weasley, you will understand.”

Wondering how she could possibly suspect him this time,

“Ha!” George said triumphantly but quickly closed his mouth after a stern glare was sent his way.

Harry saw Ron detach himself from the complaining crowd; he came running up to them as they set off toward the castle. To Harry's surprise, Professor McGonagall didn't object.
"Yes, perhaps you'd better come, too, Weasley..."
Some of the students swarming around them were grumbling about the match being canceled; others looked worried. Harry and Ron followed Professor McGonagall back into the school and up the marble staircase. But they weren't taken to anybody's office this time.

“I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing…” Neville said worriedly.

“Neither did we,” Ron admitted with a shrug.

"This will be a bit of a shock," said Professor McGonagall in a surprisingly gentle voice as they approached the infirmary.

“Now I know that’s a bad thing,” Neville said with a frown.

"There has been another attack... another double attack."
Harry's insides did a horrible somersault. Professor McGonagall pushed the door open and he and Ron entered. . Madam Pomfrey was bending over a fifth-year girl with long, curly hair. Harry recognized her as the Ravenclaw they'd accidentally asked for directions to the Slytherin common room.

Percy frowned at that. Hearing that it had been Penelope that had been attacked had been one of the worst moments in his life. Second only to when Ginny had been taken into the chamber.

And on the bed next to her was--
"Hermione!" Ron groaned.
Hermione lay utterly still, her eyes open and glassy.

Remus let out a slightly relieved breath. “Thank goodness.” When he looked up, people were starring at him questioningly. “Did you all miss the ‘kill this time’?” He questioned sharply. “Compared to death, I’d say that petrification isn’t that bad and Professor Sprout had the Mandrakes to restore them but there would be no restoring if she had been killed.”

"They were found near the library," said Professor McGonagall. "I don't suppose either of you can explain this? It was on the floor next to them..."
She was holding up a small, circular mirror.

“You did figure it out!” Remus said looking at Hermione. “Thank Merlin you did.”

“Yeah,” Hermione agreed. “It was close.”

Harry and Ron shook their heads, both staring at Hermione.
"I will escort you back to Gryffindor Tower," said Professor McGonagall heavily. "I need to address the students in any case."
"All students will return to their House common rooms by six o'clock in the evening. No student is to leave the dormitories after that time. You will be escorted to each lesson by a teacher. No student is to use the bathroom unaccompanied by a teacher.

“Talk about an invasion of privacy,” Fred said making a face.

All further Quidditch training and matches are to be postponed. There will be no more evening activities."
The Gryffindors packed inside the common room listened to Professor McGonagall in silence. She rolled up the parchment from which she had been reading and said in a somewhat choked voice, "I need hardly add that I have rarely been so distressed. It is likely that the school will be closed unless the culprit behind these attacks is caught.

“Woah, déjà vu,” Ron said.

Harry nodded. “That’s what I thought too.”

I would urge anyone who thinks they might know anything about them to come forward."
She climbed somewhat awkwardly out of the portrait hole, and the Gryffindors began talking immediately.
"That's two Gryffindors down, not counting a Gryffindor ghost, one Ravenclaw, and one Hufflepuff, " said the Weasley twins'friend Lee Jordan, counting on his fingers. "Haven't any of the teachers noticed that the Slytherins are all safe? Isn't it obvious all this stuff's coming from Slytherin? The Heir of Slytherin, the monster of Slytherin - why don't they just chuck all the Slytherins out?"

“Because Potter, not everyone is as biased as you are.”

“That’s a bit hypocritical Severus,” Remus pointed out.

“I still agree with Lee,” Ron muttered. “No Slytherins sounds good to me.”

“Well that would make everyone else’s lives easier,” Harry agreed dryly.

he roared, to nods and scattered applause.
Percy Weasley was sitting in a chair behind Lee, but for once he didn't seem keen to make his views heard. He was looking pale and stunned.

“I was,” Percy said in a low voice.

"Percy's in shock," George told Harry quietly. "That Ravenclaw girl - Penelope Clearwater - she's a prefect. I don't think he thought the monster would dare attack a prefect."

Percy shook his head. “That wasn’t it,” he said softly.

But Harry was only half-listening. He didn't seem to be able to get rid of the picture of Hermione, lying on the hospital bed as though carved out of stone. And if the culprit wasn't caught soon, he was looking at a lifetime back with the Dursleys. Tom Riddle had turned Hagrid in because he was faced with the prospect of a Muggle orphanage if the school closed. Harry now knew exactly how he had felt.

“When you’re looking for an escape, you’ll do anything to get it,” Harry sighed.

"What're we going to do?" said Ron quietly in Harry's ear. "D'you think they suspect Hagrid?"

“We did.” Fudge admitted. “But only because of his past record.”

“So if you only suspect people based on their past records,” Harry began in an innocent tone.
“Does that mean that I have a past record of being a liar sir?”

Fudge wisely chose not to reply.

"We've got to go and talk to him," said Harry, making up his mind. "I can't believe it's him this time, but if he set the monster loose last time he'll know how to get inside the Chamber of Secrets, and that's a start."

“Not the one I was hoping for though,” Harry admitted.

"But McGonagall said we've got to stay in our tower unless we're in class--"
"I think," said Harry, more quietly still, "it's time to get my dad's old cloak out again."
Harry had inherited just one thing from his father:

“Actually, you inherited two things,” Remus pointed out, interrupting himself.

“Well yeah but I didn’t know about my other birthright until third year,” Harry said. “And unless I’m mistakenly, I didn’t have it for long.”

“I gave it back!” Remus said with a smirk.

a long and silvery Invisibility Cloak. It was their only chance of sneaking out of the school to visit Hagrid without anyone knowing about it. They went to bed at the usual time, waited until Neville, Dean, and Seamus had stopped discussing the Chamber of Secrets and finally fallen asleep, then got up, dressed again, and threw the cloak over themselves.
The journey through the dark and deserted castle corridors wasn't enjoyable. Harry, who had wandered the castle at night several times before, had never seen it so crowded after sunset. Teachers, prefects, and ghosts were marching the corridors in pairs,

“I don’t think the pairs would have helped,” Luna said. “There had already been two double attacks. Perhaps you should have tried threes?”

staring around for any unusual activity. Their Invisibility Cloak didn't stop them making any noise, and there was a particularly tense moment when Ron stubbed his toe only yards from the spot where Snape stood standing guard. Thankfully, Snape sneezed at almost exactly the moment Ron swore.

“Bless you!” Fred and George said to Snape cheerily, knowing that their good mood would put him in an even worse mood.

It was with relief that they reached the oak front doors and eased them open.
It was a clear, starry night. They hurried toward the lit windows of Hagrid's house and pulled off the cloak only when they were right outside his front door.
Seconds after they had knocked, Hagrid flung it open. They found themselves face-to-face with him aiming a crossbow at them.

“Why a crossbow out of curiosity?” Hermione asked Hagrid.

He shrugged. “It works well fer the forest and the like,” he answered.

“Plus it looks more threatening than his umbrella.” Ron stage whispered.

Fang the boarhound barked loudly behind him.
"Oh," he said, lowering the weapon and staring at them. "What're you two doin' here?"
"What's that for?" said Harry, pointing at the crossbow as they stepped inside.
"Nothin'- nothin'-" Hagrid muttered. "I've bin expectin'- doesn'matter - Sit down - I'll make tea--"
He hardly seemed to know what he was doing. He nearly extinguished the fire, spilling water from the kettle on it, and then smashed the teapot with a nervous jerk of his massive hand.

“Why are you so nervous Hagrid?” Neville asked.

“You’ll see Neville,” Harry told his friend, seeing that Hagrid wasn’t going to answer.

"Are you okay, Hagrid?" said Harry. "Did you hear about Hermione?"
"Oh, I heard, all righ'," said Hagrid, a slight break in his voice.
He kept glancing nervously at the windows. He poured them both large mugs of boiling water (he had forgotten to add tea bags) and was just putting a slab of fruitcake on a plate when there was a loud knock on the door.

“Would that be you Minister?” Remus asked politely since he had been wondering why a chapter would be named after the man if he wasn’t even in it.

Fudge nodded sheepishly.

Hagrid dropped the fruitcake. Harry and Ron exchanged panic stricken looks, then threw the Invisibility Cloak back over themselves and retreated into a corner. Hagrid checked that they were hidden, seized his crossbow, and flung open his door once more.
"Good evening, Hagrid."
It was Dumbledore. He entered, looking deadly serious, and was followed by a second, very odd-looking man.

Harry snickered at the indignant expression on Fudge’s face.

The stranger had rumpled gray hair and an anxious expression, and was wearing a strange mixture of clothes: a pinstriped suit, a scarlet tie, a long black cloak, and pointed purple boots. Under his arm he carried a lime-green bowler.

Now Fred and George were trying to cover their chuckles under their mother’s watchful eye.

"That's Dad's boss!" Ron breathed. "Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic!"
Harry elbowed Ron hard to make him shut up.
Hagrid had gone pale and sweaty. He dropped into one of his chairs and looked from Dumbledore to Cornelius Fudge.
"Bad business, Hagrid," said Fudge in rather clipped tones. "Very bad business. Had to come. Four attacks on Muggle-borns. Things've gone far enough. Ministry's got to act."

“But he didn’t do anything!” Neville exclaimed. “Even last time there was only Riddle’s proof, and he could have been lying!”

“The Ministry is good at not taking everything into consideration,” Harry said. “Or giving trials,” he added, thinking about Sirius.

“The Ministry looks into each of its cases very carefully Mr. Potter,” Umbridge hissed. “And they do not make mistakes!” Whether by choice or subconscious, she somehow missed the sheepish and nervous Minister next to her.

"I never," said Hagrid, looking imploringly at Dumbledore. "You know I never, Professor Dumbledore, sir--"
"I want it understood, Cornelius, that Hagrid has my full confidence," said Dumbledore, frowning at Fudge.
"Look, Albus," said Fudge, uncomfortably. "Hagrid's record's against him. Ministry's got to do something - the school governors have been in touch--"

“So just because of his record you’re accusing him?” Hermione said angrily.

“Miss Granger,” Umbridge began. “It must be taken into consideration that because of his…status, Hagrid would have been under suspicion anyway.”

“Just because he’s half giant!” Hermione exploded. “Just because he’s different!”

“Miss Granger you do not understand –”

“Oh shut up!” Hermione exclaimed and many jaws dropped in shock.

“Miss Granger!” McGonagall said sternly, though everyone could plainly see that she was pleased with Hermione’s statement.

"Yet again, Cornelius, I tell you that taking Hagrid away will not help in the slightest," said Dumbledore. His blue eyes were full of a fire Harry had never seen before.

“I’ve seen it since though,” Harry said quietly, thinking back to when Dumbledore confronted Barty Crouch Jr. He shivered.

"Look at it from my point of view," said Fudge, fidgeting with his bowler. "I'm under a lot of pressure. Got to be seen to be doing something. If it turns out it wasn't Hagrid, he'll be back and no more said. But I've got to take him. Got to. Wouldn't be doing my duty--"

“Your duty by taking innocent people to prison?” Harry commented in an undertone.

"Take me?" said Hagrid, who was trembling. "Take me where?"
"For a short stretch only," said Fudge, not meeting Hagrid's eyes. "Not a punishment, Hagrid, more a precaution. If someone else is caught, you'll be let out with a full apology--"

“As though that would make everything better,” Ron snorted.

"Not Azkaban?" croaked Hagrid.
Before Fudge could answer, there was another loud rap on the door.
Dumbledore answered it. It was Harry's turn for an elbow in the ribs; he'd let out an audible gasp.
Mr. Lucius Malfoy strode into Hagrid's hut, swathed in a long black traveling cloak, smiling a cold and satisfied smile. Fang started to growl.

“I agree with Fang,” George said and Fred nodded, as did Mr. Weasley.

"Already here, Fudge," he said approvingly. "Good, good..."
"What're you doin' here?" said Hagrid furiously. "Get outta my house!"
"My dear man, please believe me, I have no pleasure at all in being inside your - er - d'you call this a house?" said Lucius Malfoy, sneering

“What is it with Malfoys and the sneers?” Ginny wondered. “Is it like a family trait or something?”

as he looked around the small cabin. "I simply called at the school and was told that the headmaster was here."
"And what exactly did you want with me, Lucius?" said Dumbledore. He spoke politely, but the fire was still blazing in his blue eyes.
"Dreadful thing, Dumbledore," said Malfoy lazily, taking out a long roll of parchment, "but the governors feel it's time for you to step aside. This is an Order of Suspension - you'll find all twelve signatures on it. I'm afraid we feel you're losing your touch. How many attacks have there been now? Two more this afternoon, wasn't it? At this rate, there'll be no Muggle-borns left at Hogwarts, and we all know what an awful loss that would be to the school."

“Like you care,” Harry growled, glaring at the book in Remus’ hands.

"Oh, now, see here, Lucius," said Fudge, looking alarmed, "Dumbledore suspended - no, no - last thing we want just now."
"The appointment - or suspension - of the headmaster is a matter for the governors, Fudge," said Mr. Malfoy smoothly. "And as Dumbledore has failed to stop these attacks--"
"See here, Malfoy, if Dumbledore can't stop them," said Fudge, whose upper lip was sweating now, "I mean to say, who can?"
"That remains to be seen," said Mr. Malfoy with a nasty smile. "But as all twelve of us have voted--"

“And how many had to be threatened for that to happen?” Mr. Weasley wondered loudly.

Hagrid leapt to his feet, his shaggy black head grazing the ceiling.
An' how many did yeh have ter threaten an' blackmail before they agreed, Malfoy, eh?" he roared.

“I agree Hagrid,” Mr. Weasley said, smiling up at the man.

"Dear, dear, you know, that temper of yours will lead you into trouble one of these days, Hagrid," said Mr. Malfoy. "I would advise you not to shout at the Azkaban guards like that. They won't like it at all."
"Yeh can' take Dumbledore!" yelled Hagrid, making Fang the boarhound cower and whimper in his basket. "Take him away, an' the Muggle-borns won' stand a chance! There'll be killin' next!"

“Thankfully not,” Ginny said softly.

"Calm yourself, Hagrid," said Dumbledore sharply. He looked at Lucius Malfoy.
"If the governors want my removal, Lucius, I shall of course step aside--"
"But -" stuttered Fudge.
"No!" growled Hagrid.
Dumbledore had not taken his bright blue eyes off Lucius Malfoy's cold gray ones.
"However," said Dumbledore, speaking very slowly and clearly so that none of them could miss a word, "you will find that I will only truly have left this school when none here are loyal to me... Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it."

“Did you know sir?” Harry asked plainly, speaking about all of it. That Harry and Ron were there, that Harry would face Riddle in the Chamber…

“I had my suspicions yes,” Dumbledore sighed and Harry nodded curtly. At least now he was getting some answers.

For a second, Harry was almost sure Dumbledore's eyes flickered toward the corner where he and Ron were hidden.
"Admirable sentiments," said Malfoy, bowing. "We shall all miss your - er - highly individual way of running things, Albus, and only hope your successor will manage to prevent any - ah - killins."
He strode to the cabin door, opened it, and bowed Dumbledore out. Fudge, fiddling with his bowler, waited for Hagrid to go ahead of him, but Hagrid stood his ground, took a deep breath, and said carefully, "If anyone wanted ter find out some stuff, all they'd have ter do would be ter follow the spiders. That'd lead em right. That's all I'm sayin'."

“Follow the spiders!” Ron groaned. “Follow the bloody spiders! What sort of advice is that?” By the end of his short tirade, is voice had become something akin to a whimper.

Fudge stared at him in amazement.
"All right, I'm comin', said Hagrid, pulling on his moleskin overcoat. But as he was about to follow Fudge through the door, he stopped again and said loudly, "An' someone'll need ter feed Fang while I'm away."

“That was really not suspicious at all Hagrid,” Harry said sarcastically.

The door banged shut and Ron pulled off the Invisibility Cloak.
"We're in trouble now," Ron said hoarsely. "No Dumbledore. They might as well close the school tonight. There'll be an attack a day with him gone."
Fang started howling, scratching at the closed door.

“I don’t blame him,” Remus said closing the book. “That’s the end of that chapter at least, not many to go now.”

“Can we have dinner first though?” Ron asked as his stomach growled.

“An excellent idea Mr. Weasley,” Dumbledore said approvingly. “Why don’t we agree to meet back here in an hour?” He suggested and there was a murmured agreement.
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