Author: John Sexton
Genre: Harry Potter Slash
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Chapter Two ... The First Betrayal
Four people now joined Harry in the tiny room, including Dudley, who was a small crowd in his own right.
Harry was relieved that he'd managed to squeeze into the narrow space, between the wall and the wardrobe. There, at least, he was safe from being bumped again.
The room was very cramped, and the intruders struggled to find somewhere to stand, between the bed and the boxes and broken toys that were stacked up against the far wall.
"So this is the famous Harry Potter's room," snarled Percy, and the venom in his voice shocked Harry.
He'd never really been fond of Percy, not many people were; but it had mostly been a passive thing, until his behaviour at the Ministry last year. Now, Ron's brother or not, Harry loathed him.
"I told you, already..." snapped Dudley morosely.
"Right then," said Esmeralda MacLeish, "we'll go over this room when we've finished downstairs. But since we're in here," she added, eyeing the Spartan room with some distaste, "we might as well begin the interview.
"Jack," she quipped to Chesney, then nodded towards Dudley.
Jack took his cue, and ushered Dudley over to Harry's bed, indicating that he should sit down.
Dudley looked as if he was still in shock, he just nodded.
This surprised Harry, since Dudley had sounded so aggressive and so much like his old horrible self, from out in the hall.
Dudley slumped down onto the bed, which creaked noisily and sagged under his bulk. Jack sat on the end of the bed; the witch sat on the only chair, at the desk; while Percy pulled Harry's trunk out from the end of the bed, and sat on that.
As the others made themselves as comfortable as possible, given the cramped conditions, Dudley slumped back and pulled the pillow upright, to give his great bulk some support.
"Shit," Dudley cried in disgust, as he jerked up off the pillow, and held up Harry's soiled briefs, which were obviously still damp. He flicked them onto the floor in disgust, before rearranging himself against the pillow.
The others merely looked at him with a mix of amusement, disgust and, in the witch's case, apparent confusion.
Harry could barely contain himself, but the thought of his fate, should he make even the faintest sound, killed his amusement in a heartbeat.
"Now, Dudley," Jack began, "as I explained downstairs, we need to ask you to describe what happened to your father."
"Why?" snapped Dudley, quite aggressively, "you're all his lot, you just want to get Potter off... I know how your kind work!"
"Well," thought Harry, "so much for Dudders being in shock. He's just as big a tosser as ever."
"Let me assure you, Dudley," oozed Percy, "that we are not here to protect Potter. I have personally spent the last year trying to have him locked up!"
Harry went numb; though, in retrospect, he shouldn't have been at-all-surprised, after the events of the past twelve months. He knew that Percy was working for Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic; Harry knew that Fudge was out to get him. But hearing it from Percy's own mouth was almost too much to take.
Dudley eyed Percy suspiciously; Percy seemed to pick up on this. He leaned closer to Dudley and adopted a conspiratorial posture.
"It is your testimony that will make that possible."
This did not seem to convince Dudley, he merely eyed Percy even more suspiciously, but his interest had clearly been spiked.
"Madam MacLeish," cried Jack Chesney in alarm, "this is not right, Potter should be given the benefit of..."
"What you think, Chesney," snapped Percy impatiently, "is of little import in this matter. You are not a fully qualified Auror. You are here solely as a liaison to the Muggles, and that is purely due to your Muggle heritage and your availability on short notice. Your opinions are not required."
"I have finished my Auror training, Weasley," growled Jack in reply. "I graduate next week. But more importantly, you are not in charge of this investigation."
"Technically, that's true, Chesney," Percy sneered. "But," he added, as his voice took on a particularly nasty air of superiority, "I am here on behalf of the Minister for Magic, himself."
Percy's face quickly morphed into a cruel grin, and he pressed his point home with relish.
"It is my duty to ensure that the Minister's wishes are met on this matter."
Harry thought Percy looked and sounded just like the tosser he was. No wonder his family was not talking to him!
Jack simply looked agog, first at Percy, then at the witch, who did not seem to object to what Percy had declared.
Percy smiled triumphantly at Jack.
"Auror MacLeish knows her duty in this regard, Chesney. And, if you know what's good for you, you will do as you are told."
Jack looked at the senior Auror; but, when she would not meet his eyes, he slumped back down onto the lumpy mattress in defeat, with his elbows resting on his knees, and his head hung low.
Percy's triumphal demeanour grew, as he pushed his point home.
"The Minister has wanted Potter behind bars for some time, Chesney," he spat. "But Potter has evaded prosecution at every turn! Well that ends here, tonight! If we'd had our way twelve months ago, this boy," Percy turned towards Dudley, "would still have his father!"
Percy's satisfied smirk spiked Harry's anger and sent his pulse thumping. He could feel his Wild Magic welling inside of him; it felt like an orgasm, imminent but infuriatingly unpredictable. He was on the edge of losing it.
"We would have also avoided the injury to several of your own Aurors, last week, if Potter had been in custody. Instead he attacked the Ministry in the company of an escaped convict and mass murderer, and risked the lives of several young and impressionable children."
"You're barking, Weasley!" cried Jack, "that's not what happened and we all know it."
He looked across at the witch, but she again ignored him.
"Don't you dare call me a liar, Chesney," Percy snarled. "Two of those children were my youngest siblings, both of whom were nearly killed! They were lied to by Potter, and they were under his Imperious Curse."
Harry was convinced that he was going to be discovered at any moment. He did not believe that he could rein in his Wild Magic and keep it under control. His anger towards Percy was approaching boiling point.
"At any rate," Percy raved on, "one good thing emerged from that fiasco: the Wizarding World has one less Death Eater in its midst. Black was a murderer and a traitor, so I suppose, on that score, Potter did us a favour. But it hardly makes up for what he did to poor Diggory, or the pain and anguish he has caused poor Dolores Umbridge."
The wardrobe began to rattle. Harry closed his eyes and tried to bring his anger under control. But he couldn't concentrate; the more he tried the worse it became.
Harry knew that he was only seconds away from convicting himself in front of two Aurors and Fudge's stooge: he was dead meat.
Those words, "you're dead, Potter," rang out in Harry's head.
He recalled last Sunday... Malfoy! The memory of the blond, flanked by his goons, as he issued his threat, resurfaced with a vengeance. But rather than a rush of anger, Harry felt a sudden rush of intense shock and guilt...
Malfoy was crying, in Harry's mind's eye, and then he was falling... he had a great gash across his face and chest. Then Malfoy was threatening Dumbledore with his wand... another image... Hagrid was crying. Harry was back in the cabinet that he'd used to hide from Malfoy, in Borgin and Burke's, back in second year. Then Malfoy was flicking his wand at a similar cabinet, but not in Borgin and Burke's.
Suddenly Dumbledore was screaming at Harry, "KILL ME!" That was quickly followed by Harry watching himself scream, "Aguamenti!" over and over again.
Dead people were trying to drag Harry into a lake... images came more rapidly now... a fat wizard, with a large moustache, talking to a young Riddle, the same age as in Riddle's diary... the Dark Mark hovering over Hogwarts... Dumbledore's hand, blackened and lifeless... Snape yelling at Harry, "DON'T CALL ME COWARD!'... Fang howling, caught inside Hagrid's burning hut... Malfoy crying, "I can't do it, I can't."
Harry's mind was reeling, but the images kept flowing, faster and faster... Ron, jerking and twisting in agony, foaming at the mouth... Buckbeak attacking Malfoy... Snape pointing his wand at Dumbledore... the green flash of Snape's Killing Curse... Dumbledore falling backwards... his crumpled body at the foot of the Astronomy Tower... his funeral... Fawkes mournful lament... Harry's mother calling to him, "hang on, Harry, don't give up hope, My Darling!'...
It all became too much for Harry, he felt a painful lump in his chest, and he had to call upon all of his strength to resist the urge to scream.
None of it made sense, and only a few images: Buckbeak, his mum and Malfoy's threat were recognisable as events from his past; but they were ALL so vivid and real!
Harry's chest seemed to explode and, with an enormous burst of magical energy, the pain disappeared. Harry's mind became suddenly clear. He was aware of the four other people in the room, once again.
The three wizards all reacted at the same time, and Percy Weasley showed real alarm. Dudley, as usual, seemed oblivious.
Jack Chesney was the only one who looked straight in Harry's direction, just before he exchanged a knowing look with the witch; then he turned to Percy and sneered.
"You felt it too, didn't you, Weasley?" he quipped rhetorically, "you're not as inept as I thought."
Percy bristled, then looked from one to the other for an explanation.
"Just a shift in the wards, I suspect," said Jack offhandedly, "now that Potter has fled."
The witch looked at Jack suspiciously, but she chose not to say anything.
Percy seemed reluctant to accept the explanation, nevertheless, he too kept any suspicions to himself.
Harry was more anxious than ever, but oddly enough he now seemed to have his Magic under control.
The overwhelming feeling was one of emotional pain: Harry was gutted. He'd had no idea that Percy was so power-hungry and, worse still, that he felt such hatred towards Harry.
A great sadness fell on the traumatised young wizard, and he wondered how many other wizards and witches felt the same way, especially now.
Percy's voice snapped Harry out of these depressing thoughts.
"Dudley," Percy smiled at the great lump, "you can help us put Harry Potter where he belongs... behind bars."
Dudley sneered viciously.
"Tell me what I have to do," he snapped.
"Well," Percy mirrored the sneer, "you can begin by telling us what happened here tonight."
Harry was hardly surprised by Dudley's version of what had occurred downstairs. It was the same distorted view that Dudley had always had of Harry, only this was particularly nasty and every bit as vitriolic as Percy's tirade had been.
Harry was seriously dead meat, if either the Muggle or Wizard authorities ever got hold of him. He had what he'd come back for, and he had to get out of there as quickly as possible.
But he was stuck where he was, at least until this little session of the Star Chamber was over.
So Harry stayed put, and endured Dudley's venomous version of the events that had ultimately ended in Vernon Dursley's death.
Dudley proceeded without interruption, until...
"Then he screamed at my dad, and lightening shot out of his fingers... it was just like the emperor in Star Wars... and my dad began to writhe and scream in agony... it was horrible."
This description clearly alarmed all of the investigators, but Jack Chesney and Harry were obviously the only ones who understood the reference. The other two were confused.
"Emperor?" enquired MacLeish; "Star Wars?" cried Percy impatiently.
"It's a popular Muggle legend," Jack Chesney explained away the reference with an offhand wave of his wrist.
That seemed to satisfy the other two. But Jack was clearly disturbed and confused by Dudley's description.
"Don't you mean that light shot out of Potter's hands?" he asked the great lump on Harry's bed, "like a laser or a phaser?" he added for clarification.
Percy and MacLeish were even more confused.
"NO!" snapped Dudley angrily, "it was just like I said, just like the emperor in Star Wars. It was all squiggly... like lightening, it shot out of Potter's fingers and jerked around my dad like... like... ... ... one of those plasma balls!" he yelled, as his tiny brain latched onto the allusion.
Percy was fast losing his patience; MacLeish was totally lost.
"You have to catch him!" roared Dudley, "and lock him up, or kill him. He's a madman and he needs to be stopped!"
Jack Chesney was still not happy with Dudley's description of the attack. He ignored Dudley's demands, focusing instead on the nature of the Magic used in the attack.
"Are you sure it wasn't more like a beam of light, or maybe like a firework... a sky-rocket maybe?"
"NO! I TOLD YOU!" Dudley roared angrily, "I told you... it was just like in Star Wars," he repeated. "Potter screamed at my dad: "screw you!" he yelled, "then lightening flew out of his fingers and..."
"What did you say?" cried Percy excitedly.
"LIGHTENING FLEW OUT OF HIS FINGERS..." Dudley roared again, his patience totally depleted.
But Percy was oblivious to Dudley's anger, as he interjected with great urgency...
"No, no," he snarled impatiently, "before that. What did Potter SAY?"
Dudley looked confused, but replied, as requested, "he said: `screw you!' He screamed it, twice."
Percy looked suddenly excited.
"Are you sure?"
Dudley pouted and looked more stupid than usual, which was quite a feat in Harry's estimation. He shrugged his flabby shoulders and shook his fat head.
"Dunno," he replied, "that's what it sounded like."
A pit formed in Harry's stomach, as he thought he knew where this was heading, and he was not alone.
"I think we all know where you're going with this, Weasley," spat Jack Chesney, "but...before you try to run with it...you should know that `screw you' is a common phrase among Muggles. I can't believe that you haven't been on the receiving end of it before now, from a Muggle-born, or two... or three," Jack sneered.
Percy bristled. "I'll thank you to keep your..."
"Madam MacLeish," Jack cut across Percy.
He reached into his pocket to remove a small stone bowl, no bigger than an egg cup. He held it up to the witch.
"Surely we should take a statement from the witness, right now, before his testimony is tainted."
He had stressed the word in an accusatory tone, and he sneered at Percy.
"We are after the truth," snapped Percy defensively, "we're not here to record these events for posterity."
Harry immediately thought back to his trial at the Ministry last year, and Fudge's attempts to ignore any real evidence.
It seemed that Percy was an apt pupil.
"Besides," Percy sneered smugly, "this boy is a Muggle! It's common knowledge that a Pensieve can't record a Muggle's thoughts."
Jack Chesney smiled unpleasantly.
"You seem to have less understanding of Magic than your Minister, Weasley."
He held up the eggcup.
"This is the Personal Pensieve, model ARD-05. Latest in Auror equipment, and standard issue for all MLE officers. It can record Muggle memories; it can even record the memories of animals: dogs, cats, owls..."
Harry froze, Hedwig! He hoped she could convince Ron that she'd been obliviated!
"I would not be at-all-surprised if it could even record your thoughts, Weasley," Jack smirked at Percy, "as low as those thought processes might be."
"Gentlemen," interjected the witch, before the two younger wizards descended into physical violence, "I believe that we should record young Mr Dursley's memories of these events, provided he is willing, of course."
They all immediately transferred their attention to Dudley, who began to shift uneasily on the bed.
"What are you talking about?" he asked gingerly.
Jack quickly adopted his role as Muggle Liaison Officer. He smiled at Dudley.
"We have a way of recording memories, Dudley," he said cheerfully, "it's pretty much like how you use a video recorder, except that we use a wand, and store the memories in this little stone bowl."
He held the bowl out for Dudley to examine.
"You're not using that thing on me!" cried Dudley, in a near panic.
"It's really very simple, Dudley," said Jack, in a reassuring voice, "I'll show you."
Jack raised his wand to his temple, closed his eyes and squeezed them tight, as if he was concentrating really hard, which he surely was.
After a few seconds Jack drew the tip away; a wisp of silvery-white threads came with it, right out of his head. It was just as Harry remembered from Snape and Dumbledore's Pensieves.
Dudley was gob-smacked, but surprisingly not frightened by this display of Magic. Harry wondered if his cousin was still in shock.
"There you go, Dudley."
Jack's voice was very up-beat, as he smiled at Harry's great lump of a cousin.
"That's all there is too it."
"What was that white stuff?" Dudley demanded.
Jack smiled again.
"That was my memory of the last few minutes, I just stored it in this bowl," he said casually, as he pointed to the Pensieve. "I suppose you could say I just saved it, just like you might record and save a video," he added.
Then Jack pointed the tip of his wand into the silvery haze that swam in the tiny Pensieve.
"Now I can play it back, whenever I want."
Jack stirred the mist with his wand, and it began to swirl up above the tiny stone bowl.
It formed a small 3-D image that was immediately recognisable. It started with Madam MacLeish saying: "Gentlemen, I believe that we should record Master Dursley's memories..." and it finished with Jack's reassurance to Dudley: "It's really very simple, Dudley, I'll show you."
Harry was amazed that, rather than being frightened by the display, his cousin seemed impressed.
He decided that Dudley must indeed be in shock, because he simply couldn't imagine the great lump being anything but suspicious and fearful of anything to do with Harry's world.
"With your memory of what happened downstairs tonight, Dudley," cooed Percy, seductively, "we can put Potter away for good."
Dudley grew suddenly animated.
"You swear it's safe!" he demanded.
"Absolutely," Weasley assured him.
Percy pointed to the Pensieve.
"And with that as evidence, you won't have to appear before the Wiz..."
"A magistrate!" interjected Jack, suddenly performing his responsibility as Muggle liaison, "to give evidence," he added an obvious afterthought.
"Right," said Percy, "and you won't ever have to see another wizard again in your life."
"Well," snarled Dudley, "get cracking, then!"
"All right," said Jack with enthusiasm, "all I want you to do is close your eyes, and..."
"Why!" snapped Dudley suspiciously.
Harry was beginning to think that his cousin was over his shock.
"You don't have to close your eyes if you don't want to, Dudley," replied Jack in a calm voice. "It will make it easier to concentrate, that's all: it just helps to form a clearer picture."
Dudley did not respond, so Jack continued.
"All I really need you to do, is to think very clearly about what happened downstairs. Try to remember the events in the same order that they occurred, if you can, Dudley."
Harry's cousin merely nodded belligerently.
"All right, I'll count you down from five, to start... okay?" said Jack.
Dudley merely nodded again.
"I need you to tell me when you are finished, so that I'll know when to stop recording, okay?"
Again Dudley nodded, a little more defiantly each time.
"One final thing," said Jack apologetically, "you may feel a slight tingling sensation across your forehead, Dudley."
He paused when the great lump went suddenly rigid.
"It's perfectly natural, Dudley, it's just the electrical impulses of your brain becoming more focussed, okay?"
Harry was beginning to wonder if Dudley would get so pissed off with all this magic shit, that he'd just storm out of the room and refuse to cooperate. He also wondered if they, particularly Percy, would allow Dudley to do that?
Suddenly, Harry feared that Percy was capable of anything, anything that would gain him power and prestige, regardless of any moral issues.
He thought back to Umbridge, and the ease with which she had decided to use an Unforgivable on him, only last week.
But Harry was also very unsure whether or not he wanted them to record his cousin's memories. He didn't know what would be recorded.
Once again he found himself wishing that he'd paid more attention in class...
Would the Pensieve store what Dudley had actually seen happen, just as it had occurred, or would it be Dudley's twisted take on what he'd seen?
"At least," Harry reassured himself, "I'm lucky that Jack Chesney is here."
"Yeah, just get on with it!"
Dudley's gruff reply brought Harry's focus back to his dilemma, as it unfolded before his eyes.
The whole process went surprisingly smoothly and, when it was all done, Harry wondered what would be the effect of Dudley refusing to close his eyes?
Somewhere in the pit of his stomach, Harry knew that it would not be good, at least not for him.
To Harry's great surprise, Dudley seemed quite enthusiastic, once Jack started to replay his memory; the fact that it was Magic seemed to be the furthest thing from Dudley's mind.
However, the great lump's enthusiasm died very rapidly, as did Jack Chesney's.
"Why's it so fuzzy?" Dudley groused petulantly, above the scratchy sound of the still-running memory, "looks like the telly, when it's on the blink!"
He sounded extremely disappointed.
"I did suggest that you close your eyes, Dudley," replied Jack, in a rather conciliatory tone.
"Well, I'm not letting you do it again," Dudley snapped.
But, while Jack seemed deflated, Dudley annoyed, and the witch still indifferent, Percy had a sinister smirk on his ugly dial.
"I don't think it was a complete waste of time," the redhead drawled, almost absently, as his focus on the unfolding memory deepened.
Harry felt a sudden pang of genuine terror.
"Chesney," said Percy, in a voice that was both condescending and laced with bitter sarcasm, "be a good chap, and replay this from the beginning, and increase the sound, if you'd be so kind."
Harry could not help but race ahead of himself; he struggled to imagine what sinister plot had hatched in Percy's foul brain. He realised, just then, that he'd never known Percy, not really, not ever.
Everyone in the cramped bedroom watched Dudley's memory intently, this time around.
Just as Dudley had said, it was like the picture on the telly when a video was damaged.
The sound was also very patchy, with words incomplete and bits missing here and there. But you could still follow what was being said, from what was audible, in the same way that you could if you were talking right close to a passing train.
What stunned Harry was that Dudley's Pensieve memory was more what Harry remembered happening, rather than the version of events as Dudley had described them earlier.
Harry wasn't sure why that was, but it seemed to be relatively good news.
"Although," thought Harry glumly, "in the end, I doubt it will count for much."
It was at the exact same point where, earlier, Percy had interjected during Dudley's verbal description of the event, that he again interrupted, this time accompanied by his wand.
"Intermittere," he cried, and the image froze, like pause on a video.
"Reverto lente," he continued, and the memory began to reverse slowly.
When it had been rewound about twenty seconds, to just before Vernon had been thrown across the room, Percy ordered the Pensieve to freeze the image once again.
"I will operate my own Pensieve, Weasley, if you don't mind," snapped Jack.
"Of course, old man," replied Percy sarcastically, "just thought you ought to know that I'm not as inept as you'd like to think."
"Gentlemen," admonished the witch, who spoke for only the third time that Harry could remember, "I hate to intrude upon your schoolboy rivalry?" she hissed, "but we have work to do... serious work."
"Alright, Weasley," said Jack neutrally, "what is your point?"
"Continue your precious Pensieve memory from there, Chesney," replied Percy. His voice had an icy chill to it, "and pay close attention to what Potter says, immediately before the attack on his uncle," he spat.
Jack replayed the memory from where Petunia screamed, when all the framed snaps of Dudley had exploded.
The image began to flicker quite significantly.
Harry realised that it was the lights flickering in the memory.
Then Harry went cold, with what he heard next...
"...crew ... yo..." was all that was left of the sound of Harry's voice.
"...ot ... dew ... ay" came Vernon's angry retort.
"...CREW ... YO..." cried Harry a second time.
"There!" cried Percy, triumphantly, "did you hear that?"
He turned to face Dudley, as Jack paused the memory.
"Now, Dudley," he coaxed Harry's cousin, "I asked you earlier, if you were sure what Potter said, are you still sure?"
"What?" Dudley screwed up his face impatiently.
"Are you still sure of what Potter said to your father, there."
Percy pointed to the frozen image.
"Yeah," was Dudley's belligerent reply, "he said, `screw you,' what else could it have been?"
"Are you sure that it wasn't `Crucio?'" Percy appealed.
"Oh, for Merlin's..." Jack began, but relented, under the harsh glare that the witch directed at him.
"Why?" asked Dudley suspiciously, only briefly distracted by Jack's outburst.
"It would make a considerable difference," said Percy, "enough to put Potter away for good."
"What?" said Dudley sceptically, "are you saying that Potter could go to prison just for saying that word?"
"For life!" Percy confirmed enthusiastically, "no questions asked. So you see then, you couldn't be expected to know of that word, so it is understandable that you would think that he'd said something you thought you recognised."
"Yeah," said Dudley.
He nodded his head, and a cold smile mirrored Percy's own diabolical smirk of victory.
"Now that you put it that way," Dudley continued, "I think you're right, that is what he said," he smirked again, "definitely!"
"Auror MacLeish, Ma'am," Jack appealed to his superior.
Harry could sense Jack's seething anger below his measured tones.
"This is an abuse of power," Jack protested, "and a manipulation of evidence."
"I disagree, Auror Cadet Chesney," replied the witch authoritatively, "I think Mr Weasley has a point, and the quality of the memory is quite dubious."
"Not according to Weasley, Ma'am," said Jack bitterly, "he seems to think it's good enough to send Potter to... prison."
Jack had certainly only refrained from saying "Azkaban" for Dudley's benefit.
"Oh, I think we'll find more damning evidence than that, Chesney," hissed Percy menacingly.
After some argument, they proceeded to where Vernon had Harry pinned to the wall...
"G...off!" cried the indistinct image of Harry, "vad... a... v... ya..."
The sound was of such poor quality that even Harry had difficulty recalling what he'd actually said.
"So, what was Potter saying there, then?" Percy asked Dudley.
The great lump just shrugged his shoulders.
"Dunno," he grumbled, "I thought he said, `I've had enough of ya.' What do you reckon he was saying?" he asked Percy conspiratorially.
Jack shifted angrily on the bed; he was clearly struggling to maintain his silence.
"It sounded like `Avada Kedavra' to me," Percy returned Dudley's grin.
"And that would get Potter into trouble too?" asked Dudley eagerly.
"It's the worst of all crimes," Percy leered at his eager co-conspirator, "it would guarantee that he died in prison. Such an offence is Unforgivable."
"Then that's exactly what he said then," Dudley cried enthusiastically, "Abracadabra!"
"No," Percy corrected him, `Avada Kedavra.'"
"Adava Kevadera," Dudley pseudo-echoed, "yeah, that's what he said... too right!"
"This is preposterous!" cried Jack indignantly, "you're putting words in this buffoon's mouth!"
"AUROR CADET CHESNEY!" shrieked the witch, "you will treat the witness with respect."
"This memory cannot be used in this way," Jack moaned, "the quality is far too poor to be conclusive."
"At last we agree, Chesney," cried Percy with all the enthusiasm of one about to call "Check Mate!"
Harry cringed, in synch with Jack, who'd obviously just realised, like Harry, that Weasley had sprung his trap.
"I was just about to recommend that we take another recording," Percy said airily, "to verify these claims."
He turned to Dudley with a knowing look.
"I'm quite sure that, this time, if Dudley would be so kind as to close his eyes, we would have a much clearer memory to submit as evidence."
"Auror MacLeish," Jack protested vehemently, "such a recording would be inadmissible as evidence, the witness has been coached to change his account of the incident."
"That is absolutely preposterous, Chesney," cried Percy indignantly, "you, of all people, should appreciate the difficulties of Muggles understanding, and misunderstanding, our language and culture. I have merely done your job for you."
He smirked at Jack.
"I should think you would be grateful, but I can understand your embarrassment."
Percy gave the witch an uncompromising glare. MacLeish reddened slightly.
"I believe that Mr Weasley is right: we should record Dudley's memory of the event again," she smiled at Dudley, "if you are willing, of course."
"You can record my bowel movements, if it will put that queer behind bars," spat Dudley angrily.
Dudley closed his eyes this time around, as Auror MacLeish transferred his thoughts to her MLE issue Pensieve.
The result surprised no one in the room, including Dudley. Upon replay, the new recording was clearer, sharper and the quality of the sound was high.
What horrified Harry and Jack was that this time Harry's image clearly said "Crucio" and "Abracadabra."
The latter would have been laughable, if either Harry or Jack had seen the humour.
Jack was clearly furious, especially after Percy declared that the Wizengamot would accept the Abracadabra anomaly in the memory of a Muggle.
"I just don't understand your suicidal obsession with supporting Potter, Chesney," hissed Percy, "the boy is a deranged killer, just like Black. You seem determined to end your career before it begins."
Harry felt the Wild Magic surging through his veins once more. He could feel his anger rising; he was barely in control.
The room gave another shudder, and as the burst of magical energy pervaded the room, the wizards and witch reacted as before.
Once again Jack Chesney was the only one to look up at Harry's hiding place under his cloak, between the wall and the wardrobe.
Jack rose from the bed, stretched himself, then moved slowly, to stand against the wall right next to Harry!
He leaned his shoulder against the edge of the wardrobe, effectively cornering Harry and obscuring his hiding place from the view of the others. Jack's shoulder was set so that his arm was easily positioned behind his back.
Harry froze as Jack's strong hand clamped onto his arm. He panicked; he didn't know what to do. He could hear his own heart beating, thumping in his ear as loud as a kettle drum. But as Jack began to speak, his grip loosened slightly, before he squeezed Harry's forearm reassuringly.
"Well," replied Jack with calm dignity and strong resolve, "I'll tell you something, Weasley: we have an old saying in my family... that sport does not develop character, it reveals it. That was never more so than with Harry Potter."
"You aren't making any sense, Chesney," Percy snapped back.
"Some of the worst and most devious of all behaviour occurs on the sporting arena, Weasley," said Jack. "But with Potter you always got what you saw. He played hard, but he played fair.
"He was only a kid when I played against him, but he had the makings of someone special, even then. I respected him then, I respect him now, and I won't see him made a political pawn, only to be turned into a sacrificial nogtail for you and your master's greedy ends."
Percy sneered at Jack, but made no reply.
Harry's chest swelled with hope and admiration for Jack's defiant stand on his behalf. He gripped Jack's hand and squeezed it firmly, and was reassured as Jack squeezed his arm once more.
"I have evidence here," Jack held up his Pensieve with his free arm, "which you have threatened to suppress. I warn you now, Weasley, that if you make any attempt to tamper with this evidence, I will personally place you under arrest with the greatest pleasure, and drag you before the Wizengamot myself."
"Why do you care what happens to Potter, Chesney?" Percy said, his anger rising sharply.
"I told you, Weasley," Jack replied, but he remained calm, "I respect him, and I know that almost everything that has ever been written about Potter has been one continuous stream of lies."
"How could you possibly know that?" Percy flared.
"I told you, Weasley, I know him well enough to know his character, and like you, I still have a brother and a sister at Hogwarts. But unlike you, Weasley, my siblings still talk to me."
Percy was clearly stung by Jack's barb, he sat erect and glared.
"Do you mean to say: you believe your siblings over the Ministry?" he demanded.
"If, by `the Ministry' you mean Fudge or, Merlin forbid, you, Weasley," Jack laughed, "I'd believe Peeves before I'd believe either of you."
"I believe that you are biased, Chesney," Percy taunted.
"I don't know what happened here tonight," Jack declared, "other than a man is dead and this boy says that Potter did it. It is not my job to decide anything, but to report my findings, and I will not allow any evidence to be tainted or suppressed."
"You're blind, Chesney," spat Percy.
"I will always do my best to ensure that anyone, no matter who they are, receives the justice they deserve," said Jack sternly. "But this is not just anyone we're dealing with here. This is Harry Potter, and I'll be damned if I'll stand by and watch him be treated unfairly."
"You mean you'll do everything you can to subvert the wishes of the Ministry, and all because he's Harry Potter."
Percy spat the name with such venom that Harry shuddered, as if he'd just walked through one of Hogwarts' ghosts.
"What did Potter ever do to you, Weasley?" asked Jack angrily, "knock you back when you made a pass at him? God he must have been only a kid!" he exclaimed with over-dramatic horror.
"Auror Cadet Chesney," shrieked the witch, "this has gone far enough! I think you owe Mr Weasley an apology."
"Sacrificial nogtails will fly before I'll apologise to him or anyone as corrupt as him," snapped Jack.
He squeezed Harry's arm, before he moved to the far side of the wardrobe, revealing the others to Harry again.
Jack jerked his face towards Weasley, directing the witch's attention back to the focus of his disgust and contempt.
"He's got an agenda on Potter," Jack hissed.
He glared at Weasley, then turned to the witch angrily.
"And I want to know why!"
"The Minister for Magic made it very clear to both Mr Weasley and me," snapped the witch impatiently, "that Potter was not to be allowed to evade being brought to justice, as he has on so many previous occasions, mostly on technicalities."
"Shit!" cried Harry under his breath... "shit, shit, shit!" he repeated to himself, "I'm in it up to my neck."
He had to get out of there as soon as possible. He couldn't believe that so many people could be against him, and his heart sank with the pain of the betrayal.
Harry looked around the room, from the cramped space into which he had secreted himself. He hated the Dursley's residence. It had never been a home, let alone home to him, but suddenly it seemed no worse than the Wizarding World that he'd once hoped would be his home forever.
Harry had never been at home in the Wizarding World either, not really, not even from the start. From the very first day, people had been out to get him, and hurt him... from day one at Hogwarts... and every year it had become worse.
Auror MacLeish cleared her throat, which brought Harry back to the present with a jolt. She arranged her posture to look imperiously at Jack. She then directed her attention to Dudley.
"Well thank you, Dudley," she said eventually, "I'll go back downstairs with you now, dear. The police want to talk to you again in the kitchen."
As they made their way downstairs, Auror MacLeish left the door open.
Harry was tempted to make his escape, but with Jack and Weasley still in the room, he decided it was too risky.
"That's been the trouble with Potter all along," snapped Percy.
He directed all of his venom at Jack.
"He's been allowed to get away with everything, by everybody, especially people like you, all of his life. Well, Chesney, unlike you, I can see past the myth into the spoilt brat that he has been allowed to become."
"You're so blind, Weasley, you're the perfect stooge for Fudge," Jack spat back at Percy in anger.
Then he switched attention to the absent witch, in the direction of the open door.
"You both are," he cried.
"Look at this room, Weasley," Jack shouted, as he flushed.
He was fast losing his patience with the arrogant redhead.
"Look around you, you fool! Does this look like the room of a boy who is spoilt?"
Percy said nothing, much to Harry's surprise, he merely sneered at Jack with utter contempt writ large across his suddenly ugly dial.
"Haven't you heard anything that boy has said here tonight?"
Jack shook his head angrily.
"Potter deserves better than this. Besides he's too valuable to our side to be treated like this. You're agenda... or your Minister's agenda, is playing into Voldemort's hands!"
"Oh, surely not?" Percy drawled sarcastically.
Then he sneered at Jack who was quick to react.
"Potter has met Voldemort four times since he started at Hogwarts, and every time, including last week, he has survived."
"You can't possibly believe any of those fabrications," was Percy's condescending retort.
"Your Minister does, Weasley, at least according to that rag you seem so intent on quoting when it suits you," Jack hissed.
"Surely you don't subscribe to this `Chosen One' rubbish, Chesney," was Percy Weasley's rhetorical rejoinder.
A gruff snort was Jack's initial reaction, before he finally shook his head in disgust.
"Don't be a fool, Weasley," he muttered,
Percy was clearly affronted, but he seemed lost for words.
"Strange, isn't it, Weasley, that you choose to reject the Voldemort and Chosen One stories in that rag," said Jack calmly. "But you obviously subscribe to the rest of the unadulterated crap that it publishes. Makes me wonder just what part you played in those rumours. How many of those scandals did you start yourself, Weasley?"
Percy Weasley flared, but made no verbal riposte.
"Just so you realise, Weasley, I'll make sure that Potter gets a fair deal if it's the last thing I do."
"It may very well be the last thing you do... as an Auror, Chesney," Percy sneered, then grinned evilly, "cross me, and you cross the Minister."
Jack laughed deeply, but the underlying contempt still shone through.
"You're a fool! Fudge is dead in the water, Weasley."
He shot a smug look at Percy.
"With any luck you'll go down with him."
He sneered at the redhead, then smirked as he spat...
"No... you'd prefer to go down on him, wouldn't you, Percy!"
Weasley looked stung, and a little befuddled by Jack's prediction and his accusation.
Harry's initial reaction was a pang of regret at the tone in Jack's voice: it hurt Harry bitterly to think that he might be a homophobe like Dudley. But he remembered the sensation of holding Jack's hand, and the warmth that Harry still felt from that touch.
Hope rose for a second, as Harry contemplated the possibilities... if Jack was right... with Fudge out of the way, Harry would stand a better chance ... make that a bare chance ... of being given a fair... but he abandoned any pretence that such a thing was possible. He only had to listen to Percy and the witch, to know that he had more enemies than just that pompous arse, Fudge, lying in wait.
"Fascinating as your fantasies may be, Chesney," Percy said with patent contempt, "I have more important things to do. Potter is obviously on the run, and I have to alert the Minister."
"You're wasting your time, Weasley," said Jack dismissively, as he eye-balled the arrogant fool, "Potter was raised as a Muggle, unless you've forgotten. He'll disappear into their world as easily as his owl in a snow storm."
"You're not as clever as you think, Chesney," said Percy with a smirk, "he'll need money to survive out there as much as he would anywhere.
He'll have to go to Gringotts before he does anything else, and that's where he will find us waiting."
"Gringotts?" cried Jack incredulously, "you must be joking. I know you've never had any money, Weasley, but even you must know that the Goblins' first loyalty is to their customers."
"What sort of fool do you take me for, Chesney?" snapped Percy.
His face was now the colour of his hair. He'd obviously been stung by Jack's shot at his family's poverty.
"I do have a brother who works for them, you know," Percy spat.
"Would he be one of the ones who's still talking to you, Weasley, or have all of your family given up on you?"
Percy ignored Jack's attack as if it hadn't happened.
"The richer the client the more loyal the Goblin," said Percy authoritatively, "and Potter is one of the most wealthy."
"So, why even try to get them to help?"
"How did you ever become an Auror, Chesney?" said Percy dismissively. "Oh, that's right," he added quickly, with a vicious smirk, "you aren't one quite yet, are you? I don't intend to even enter the bank, Chesney, we'll simply wait outside, and nab Potter before he can produce his key."
Harry suddenly remembered his Gringotts key, it was buried in his trunk.
Jack eyed Percy with a look of patent contempt, before he spoke.
"Well, good luck, Weasley, but I think you'll find Potter one stride ahead of you, every step of the way."
He carefully sealed his portable Pensieve and held it up for Percy's benefit.
"I'll be taking very good care of this, Weasley. Don't think you're going to get away with your attempt to frame Potter."
Then Jack slipped it into his pocket, and made for the door.
As soon as Percy had followed Jack out of the room, Harry slipped out from between the wall and the wardrobe; he stretched with relief, after the cramped confines of his hiding place.
Harry then noticed, for the first time since he'd returned to the house, that he was still bleeding from the cut on his cheek, where Vernon had hit him.
He picked up his soiled pants, spat on a clean section of the material, and wiped some of the blood from his chin. Then he dropped the briefs to the floor and kicked them under the bed.
He retrieved his Gringotts key from his trunk, as well as his book bag, which he swung over his shoulder to hold his precious album.
A little more composed than when he'd fled the scene before, Harry collected a few items of clothing, and stuffed them into the book bag before making his way downstairs.
To Harry's great surprise, he made it down the stairs and along the hall without incident. He never even looked into the lounge room, nor stopped to eavesdrop on any further conversations.
Before Harry knew it, he was out the front door, across the lawn, and onto his broom.
Not until he was hovering safely over the scene again, did Harry think about breathing once more. He gasped and panted heavily with relief, unable to remember the last breath he'd taken since leaving the bedroom.
Still hovering over the surreal tableau, Harry gave serious thought to his next move. He'd been too preoccupied with just saving his skin, inside the house, but now he had to decide. It had to be London, it was the best place to hide. But what to do first, once he arrived there?
A mad, crazy idea crossed Harry's mind, and he baulked at first, at its audacity. Then his eyes lit up, but only for a brief moment before his innocent young face morphed into the cold hard determination of a seasoned warrior.
As Harry spun his broom towards the M3 and the Upper Thames, his mouth broadened into a confident smirk. He now had another, bolder reason to choose London: he was going to save himself... and his friends; all was not lost yet!