Coming back for our O.W.L year

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Cassia's POV

"What d'you reckon Mr. Malfoy was doing talking to Fudge?" Harry whispered as we made our way to the door. We would have asked if we were allowed to leave, but everyone was ignoring us except the toadlike witch who had been sitting to Fudge's right. For some reason, she wouldn't stop gazing down at us.

Ignoring her, I pulled open the door. "My guess? Trying to sway the verdict by bribing Fudge, which doesn't surprise me."

"You mean he's done that before?" Cedric asked.

"Unfortunately," Harry replied. "It's because of him that Draco's on the Slytherin Quidditch team."

"Bought them all the latest Nimbus models -- the 2001s -- just to secure Draco's position as the Seeker," I added.

"Damn..." Cedric muttered. "That guy's a snake." We came out into the corridor, where Mr. Weasley had been waiting.

"Dumbledore didn't say --"

"Cleared," Harry said, pulling the door closed behind us, "of all charges!"

Beaming, Mr. Weasley seized Harry by the shoulders.

"Harry, that's wonderful! Well, of course, they couldn't have found you guilty, not on the evidence, but even so, I can't pretend I wasn't --"

But Mr. Weasley broke off, because the courtroom door had just opened again. The Wizengamot were filing out.

"Merlin's beard!" he exclaimed wonderingly, pulling Harry aside to let them all pass, while Cedric and I simply stepped back. "You were tried by the full court?"

I nodded. "Unfortunately..."

One or two of the wizards nodded to Harry and I as they passed and a few, including Madam Bones, said "Morning, Arthur," to Mr. Weasley, but most averted their eyes. Cornelius Fudge and the toadlike witch were almost the last to leave the dungeon. Fudge acted as though the five of us were part of the wall, but again, the witch looked almost appraisingly at Harry and I as she passed. Last of all to pass was Percy. Like Fudge, he completely ignored his father and us; he marched past clutching a large roll of parchment and a handful of spare quills, his back rigid and his nose in the air. The lines around Mr. Weasley's mouth tightened slightly, but other than this he gave no sign that he had seen his third son.

I hope Percy comes to his senses soon, I thought as Mr. Weasley led us back down the corridor. I glanced at Harry and noticed he seemed a bit shaken. "Harry, are you okay?" I asked.

He nodded and then shook his head. "I didn't like the way that woman was looking at us."

"The one to Fudge's right? With the toadlike face?" Cedric questioned.

"Yeah. Her eyes went from Cassia to me. I couldn't tell why she was watching us, though," Harry said.

The lift arrived; it was empty except for a flock of memos that flapped around Mr. Weasley's head as he pressed the button for the Atrium and the doors clanged shut. He waved them away irritably.

"Mr. Weasley," Harry said slowly, "if Fudge is meeting Death Eaters like Malfoy, if he's seeing them alone, how do we know they haven't put the Imperius Curse on him?"

"Don't think it hadn't occurred to us, Harry," said Mr. Weasley quietly, "But Dumbledore thinks Fudge is acting of his own accord -- which, as Dumbledore says, is not a lot of comfort..."

"...and he's making the wrong decisions because he's afraid of losing his job," I finished.

Mr. Weasley nodded in reply. "Best not talk about it any more just now..."

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