18: To Climb a Mountain You First Must Take One Step
Harry’s face broke into a real grin. “Are you okay?” asked Harry.
“Of course! It takes a lot more than that to hurt me. Anyway, how are you?”
“I’m...” Harry had opened his mouth to reply when he recalled Moody cautiously verifying Harry’s identity back on Privet Drive.
“Er... Nymphadora, what did you break in my aunt’s kitchen last August?”
“Don’t call me Nymphadora, Harry, you know I hate it! I broke a plate when we arrived and before you came downstairs!”
It was true, but Harry was still cautious. “And why did Remus ask for a glass of water?” challenged Harry.
“Nice one, Harry!” Tonks smiled. “Remus didn’t, but Mad-Eye did. He needed it to clean that accursed eyeball of his.”
Harry breathed out an enormous sigh of relief.
“Good questions, Harry! Mad-Eye was right. You do have the makings of an Auror. Yes, I know it was Barty Crouch who originally told you that, but Minerva told us your hopes after your career talk with her and we all reckon you’d be excellent.”
“If I live that long!” Harry’s good mood at seeing Tonks was evaporating fast.
“Right then, to business!” said Tonks detecting Harry’s more serious frame of mind.
“Committal Proceedings are set for next Monday to be held at the local Magistrates Court. The doctor says you should be fit enough to attend Court by then. You’ll be taken by ambulance with an armed escort.... What?”
Tonks’ voice trailed off. Harry shook his head.
“Sorry. It’s just that I’m not used to seeing you like this.”
“Harry, would this help?” Tonks screwed up her face in pained concentration. Immediately her hair turned a violent shade of violet, then switched to vibrant bubblegum pink.
Harry smiled once more. Another grimace crossed Tonks’ face as her hair returned, not a moment too soon, back to black. The door opened. Jenny stepped in and closed the door behind her.
“NOTTY! Is it really you?”
Now it was Jenny’s turn to look gob smacked.
“TONKS! Is that you?”
The two young women clung to each other for a moment, both smiling like mad.
“Well, Harry, I think your chances of getting out of this mess have just about doubled,” said Jenny.
“You two know each other?” quizzed Harry.
“Know each other?” they chorused. “We’re family!”
“Well, sort of. My mum and Tonks’ mum are second cousins once removed... or something anyway. Never could get my head around the family tree. We used to live right across the street from each other.”
“That was before....” Jenny’s eyes looked mournful for a moment.
“As I was saying...” continued Tonks. “I am your solicitor, Harry, and as such I’ll be with you for the Committal Proceedings on Monday. It’s set for...” She picked up her briefcase, opened it and took out a file extracting a document, which she consulted. “11.00 a.m., in the Magistrates Court. You won’t have to say anything, just acknowledge your identity, then you’ll be taken to Saltmarsh Prison, Hospital Wing on Remand.”
“Can’t the Order get me out of here, Tonks?” Tonks sent him a warning look. Harry was puzzled, but kept silent.
“I’ll be just outside if you need me,” said Jenny leaving the two alone once more.
“Harry, just because Jenny and I know each other doesn’t mean she knows about the Order! You really have to be more careful.”
“But I thought?” Harry was even more confused now. “Her grandmother is a member, isn’t she?” Harry had a moment of panic. He had told the old lady everything – well, almost everything. Was she not to be trusted?
“Oh, Eleanor’s a member all right, Harry. How did you think I came to be here? She contacted Dumbledore by fire the moment she got home. The situation is in hand, and you must try not to worry.”
“But what about the Ministry? Won’t the Magical Law Enforcement Squad be informed?”
“Not necessarily. You have been charged with the murder of Muggles, by a Muggle police officer under Muggle laws. True, the cause of death will be very difficult to prove in a Muggle Court of Law – did you know the Avada Kedavra Curse leaves no marks on its victims? Unfortunately there were witnesses who saw the act committed!”
“Does Bill Weasley still think it was me?” The Weasleys were the only true family Harry had, and their good opinion of him mattered very much to Harry.
“Bill? Oh, good Lord. No, Harry, I don’t think he really believed it even when he saw what he supposedly saw. Do you know he set out to try to find you himself as soon as it happened? He spent days riding around on that old bike of Sirius’ trying to pick up your trail. He was determined to prove himself wrong!”
Harry had just opened his mouth to ask about Ginny when Jenny and her Sergeant re-entered the room.
“Excellent timing, Sergeant,” Tonks stated commandingly. “We’re all finished here. Well, I’ll see you on Monday, Mr. Potter. Until then.” She tuned to face the two police officers. “Sergeant, Constable.” Tonks nodded her head in parting and left the room at the same time as another PC entered.
“PC Wrightson reporting, Sergeant.”
“Excellent timing, Wrightson,” the Sergeant exclaimed parroting Tonks’ parting shot. Jenny just raised her eyebrows to Harry in acknowledgement.
“Cantwell and I will be leaving now you’re here. Got a lot of paperwork to see to back at the station in connection with Potter here. Don’t let the lad’s appearance fool you. He’s been charged with four counts of murder.”
“Sir. Yes, sir,” snapped Wrightson. He turned to look at Harry with a sneer on his face of which Snape would have been proud.
Before the end of the day Harry the Doctor came to visit his patient the murderer.
“Well, I never. A murderer, eh? And an English one at that!”
“I never murdered anyone!” Harry exclaimed. “But then again I suppose that’s what they all say.”
“Well, my job’s to heal the body – not the soul. So how’re you feeling?” Harry the Doctor had asked this as he lifted up Harry’s wrist to check his pulse. “Hmm. It’s racing a bit. Any pain?”
“Not especially. I do feel a bit light-headed, but that’s all.”
“From what I understand you’ve not been eating much. Are you hungry now? I might be able to get Staff to rustle you up something.”
“I do fancy a mug of hot chocolate,” replied Harry. After all Lupin and Dumbledore always recommended chocolate after a stressful or trying experience?
“Sounds good to me. Let’s see what’s available.” Doctor Harry strode from the room.
It seemed like no time at all until Doctor Harry was back holding two mugs of steaming hot chocolate.
“Now drink it all up! Doctor’s orders.” The two Harrys smiled at each other over the rims of their mugs.
“I told her, you know.”
“Jenny. I told her you fancied her.”
The young doctor spluttered hot chocolate over Harry’s bed covers. “You what? You told her?”
“Uh huh!” Harry smiled his most devilish smile.
“And... er... what did she...”
Oh, this was such fun! Harry fully appreciated the twins’ joy as they teased Ron and Ginny. Harry tried to think how Fred and George would wind up Percy when he first showed his interest in Penelope Clearwater.
But he couldn’t do it.
Fred and George could sometimes be almost malicious in their teasing of their siblings, but looking at his namesake’s earnest and hopeful expression, his desire to torment melted away. He looked straight into his eyes and said, “I think she fancies you, too. Haven’t you noticed the looks she keeps giving you and how she starts to blush each time you speak to her? You make her nervous, and I think she likes that.”
“I make her nervous?” the Doctor asked in all seriousness.
Harry nodded. “She also liked the way you always looked at me when you spoke to me, even though you believed I couldn’t understand a word you said. Jenny said it showed how compassionate and understanding you were.”
“She said that? She really said that?” Now Doctor Harry was blushing.
They’d finished their drinks, the mugs sitting side-by-side on Harry’s locker. “Do you need anything to help you sleep? I can write you up for something.”
At Harry’s puzzled expression he elaborated. “I can prescribe a sleeping tablet if you need one.”
Harry nodded his agreement. As much as he’d like to see and to talk to Ginny, he felt he needed to think through the day’s events alone first. Doctor Harry took the prescription chart from the casenotes at the foot of Harry’s bed. He scribbled something on it, adding his signature with a final flourish.
“They’ll do final observations and drugs round in about ten minutes. I’ve written you up a mild sedative. It should help you to sleep soundlessly tonight.”
“Thanks,” muttered Harry. He’d rather his sleep was dreamless, not soundless. The last thing he needed was Voldemort popping into his head.
Trying hard to recall Snape's instructions on how to clear his mind of all thought before sleeping, Harry concentrated on his Occlumency as never before.
Slowly, so very slowly, Harry drifted off to sleep.
Just as had happened to Harry before when facing unpleasant or stressful tasks, so it was that the weekend seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. All too soon it was Monday morning, and Harry was sitting waiting for his escort of armed police officers to take him to Court.
Harry had awoken earlier than was usual in the hospital. Tea was as usual brought in by the ward’s domestic staff, otherwise known as Olive; once she knew Harry could speak English, she made a point of chatting to him each time she came into his room. She told Harry he reminded her of her grandson. “He’s skin and bones, too! She never gives him enough to eat – poor little mite! Says too many kids end up obese these days. But Darren’s hardly got any flesh on him! Catches every bug doing the rounds, too! ’Taint healthy I say.” This tirade usually ended with her producing some treat, sometimes a few extra biscuits or a piece of fruit especially for Harry.
At first Harry was surprised; he’d have thought Olive would have been one to steer clear of a suspected murderer instead of trying to take him under her wing.
“Murder! Bah! What nonsense! That lad’s got nothing but a good heart. He’s never hurt no one.” Harry had heard Olive make this surprising statement to the Staff Nurse who had tried – and failed – to warn Olive of the danger in spending too much time with the accused murderer. Harry wondered at the time how Olive would have reacted had she heard Trelawney’s prophecy that he must become just that: a murderer or a victim.
Harry was healing well physically. All the catheters had long since been removed, and much to Harry’s relief, he had been allowed to have a proper bath for the first time in what seemed like forever. Fortunately attending a boarding school meant Harry felt little or no embarrassment about stripping off in front of others. He’d gotten over that in his first few months at Hogwarts. It did seem somewhat odd to have an armed policeman standing and watching while he bathed and one who did not believe in small talk.
Harry would have loved to be able to enjoy a nice long soak, but it was not to be. There were many other patients waiting to use the too few bathrooms, so it was a quick in, scrub and out again. The worse part was having to walk the length of the ward handcuffed to the policeman with all the faces turning to look and stare at the Teenage Killer in their midst.
Only Olive seemed sure of Harry’s innocence. He knew not why, but he was extremely grateful for her friendship. Olive was sitting on the end of Harry’s bed making idle chit-chat when Tonks made an unexpected visit just after breakfast.
“Morning, Mr. Potter. Thought I’d stop by and bring you some clean clothes for you to wear today. It is my understanding that the clothes you had been wearing at the time of your accident had to be cut off by the paramedics who attended the scene. So here we are!”
A carrier bag was placed on the bed. Harry tipped the contents out so he could examine them. Tonks had chosen a pair of plain black trousers and a pure white button-down shirt together with plain black trainers, socks and boxers. As it was still the middle of summer there was no jacket, jumper or sweatshirt.
There was also a small wash-bag containing a few basic toiletries, including toothpaste, toothbrush and a comb. Harry pulled the last item out and made vain attempts to get his unruly hair to behave. Olive just giggled. She sounded more like a schoolgirl than a grandmother.
“Oh, I’d give up if I were you!” she said laughingly.
“I know. It’s a losing battle. My mate Ron’s mum even tries wetting it first, but it makes no difference, it still ends up standing on end!”
“Why don’t you try growing it long then? If you do that then you could tie it back in a ponytail.”
The suggestion from Olive made Harry reply, “Are you serious? Ron’s mum’s always telling her son Bill to cut his. I thought older ladies were supposed to prefer the ‘short back and sides look’.”
“Not me, Harry. My Stan, God rest his soul, had a good head of hair until the day he died. It was grey, of course, but he had his hair long, but then most bikers do! Had some lovely tattoos, too, did Stan.” Olive gave a little wistful sniffle at the memory of her late husband.
“Biker? Don’t tell me...” Harry had to smile at the idea of Olive on a motorbike.
“Oh, yes, but them’s tales for another time, Harry. I’d better leave so you can get changed.” Olive turned to Tonks. “You, too, young lady. The lad needs his privacy!”
“Oh. Right. Of course. I’ll be just outside.” The two women left Harry to get ready for his second trial.
Harry had dressed in the clothes supplied by Tonks. For the first time in his life Harry had Muggle clothes that actually fitted him and fitted him well. He thought his appearance would have pleased Mrs. Weasley. He recalled her saying ‘first impressions matter’ or words to that effect. As it was still quite wet from his bath and hair wash, Harry’s hair looked as smart as it ever did. By the time he got to the court it would probably be its usual messy state. Some things not even magic could fix.
Perhaps he would try growing it long; Ginny certainly liked Bill’s long hair, perhaps she’d like Harry’s.
The harsh sound of handcuffs being opened brought Harry’s thoughts back to the here and now. Dr. McGregor had insisted that in view of his recent injuries of two broken ribs, a collapsed lung, severe concussion and numerous deep lacerations and contusions, as well as a dislocated left shoulder, there was no way that he would allow Harry to travel other than in a wheelchair and accompanied by at least two nurses.
So it was that Harry sat in the wheelchair when two male nurses brought it into the room. The duty PC was informed that both men were also trained Mental Health Nurses and as such were used to dealing with violent and aggressive patients. Harry wanted to laugh at this, but he decided against it as it still hurt his healing ribs when he did.
There he was, the proverbial 9 stone weakling, recovering from a collapsed lung, both wrists cuffed together and his left ankle handcuffed to the wheelchair. Some threat!
It was like his introduction to the wizarding world, his reputation preceded him and the reality was much less (in his opinion) than the reputation led to expect.
In this reality he was being treated as a cold, calculating killer of the entire family who so generously took him into their home and their hearts. At least that was how he was being portrayed in the tabloid press. They were almost as bad as Rita Skeeter, Harry decided.
The entourage made their way out of the ward and along a blue-painted corridor to a lift that they took to the ground floor. Along another corridor with more staring faces and then finally, out through double automatic doors to a waiting ambulance. Harry could see a police car in front of them and another one behind.
It was ridiculous!
Who did they think he was? Harry Houdini and not just Harry Potter?
Last year he told Lucius Malfoy that he was ‘good at escaping,’ but he couldn’t see any way to escape from this mess.
The tail-lift of the ambulance was lowered and Harry was wheeled on; the lift rose and the wheelchair secured in the back.
The traffic was surprisingly heavy still considering it was 10.30 a.m. and well past rush hour. Harry heard the regular tick-tick of the vehicle’s indicators as it joined the main flow of traffic. All too soon they were at their destination, the back doors were being opened and the wheelchair clamp released.
The Combined Court House was a very bright modern building with finishing, window frames and doors in a bright vivid blue. Its cheerful exterior was adorned by a huge relief showing the Royal Coat of Arms. Harry thought its façade was in stark contrast to his mood that was deep and dark with despair.
What was going to happen to him?
Tonks had warned Harry that he may only have a Remand Hearing today, in which case it was likely that he would be returned to the hospital rather than the prison as they had thought at first. Harry’s doctors had apparently stated that he was not yet sufficiently healed to permit his on-going care to be managed by a prison hospital; therefore he should be returned to the hospital.
Harry’s dark mood had painted a blacker picture – one in which Bill Weasley and other faceless witnesses proclaimed his inescapable guilt. At these times Harry imagined himself being clapped in irons and led off screaming to start a life sentence behind bars in a Muggle prison.
As these depressing thoughts whirled through Harry’s mind he was being wheeled to a block of a dozen holding cells in the rear of the building.
Clean and spotless they may have been, but at the sound of the heavy metal door clanging shut behind him, Harry’s heart sank right through his boots. Though he could not see his own reflection, Harry knew all the colour had drained from his face.
Inevitably Harry’s thoughts turned to Sirius. How had he survived twelve years behind bars? Like Harry, Sirius had been innocent of the crimes for which he had been imprisoned.
Life was just so unfair!
Well, at least they don’t have Dementors in Muggle prisons, Harry rationalised, the only glimmer of light in this whole depressing scenario.
All too soon Harry’s wait was over. The small hatch on the door of Harry’s cell opened; a uniformed Court Officer stood there looking unemotionally at Harry.
“Potter. You’re up next.”
The hatch was closed and secured, the key turned in the lock once more. Silently the door opened and the Court Officer entered.
As he wheeled Harry to the Court Room, the Officer filled him as to the procedure that would be followed.
The Court was a Magistrates Court with no Judges on the bench, just Magistrates who ruled on cases, passing those as appropriate on to the High Court. Minor cases were dealt with at this level and only the more serious cases referred on the High Courts that were presided over by robed and bewigged Judges.
Harry nodded his understanding, not trusting himself to speak.
By now they were approaching the door into the Court Room itself. Somehow, Harry didn’t know quite why, he had expected the room to be deserted as it had been for his Ministry hearing.
Instead it was full to bursting point.
It was perhaps fortunate that Harry was already sitting down because he felt that his legs would give way at any moment. The wheelchair was pushed towards the dock. One of Harry’s regular police guards (thank goodness it wasn’t Jenny, thought Harry) stepped forward and without the slightest sign of familiarity bent to unlock the handcuffs securing Harry’s ankles to the wheelchair.
No attempt was made, however, to unlock the handcuffs securing his wrists; as a result when Harry tried to stand up, he ended up stumbling forward and only prevented himself falling over with the greatest difficulty.
The spectators in the Court were all whispering quite loudly. He was certain he caught the word ‘Muggle’ and guessed that there were some members of the wizarding world here to see the fall of the Boy Who Lived. Well, Harry thought, they were likely to get their wish.
There were a number of what Harry presumed to be Court Officials, sitting near the front of the courtroom, behind large tables covered with leather-bound books.
The Court Usher asked for everyone to stand as a door opened at the back of the courtroom and two men and one woman entered wearing very ordinary business clothes. They looked more like bank managers rather than people who would decide his fate, thought Harry.
The Usher declared that the Court was now in-session, and everyone sat down.
Tonks, once more looking most unlike her usual self, was seated at a table near the front of the courtroom facing the Bench as the presiding Magistrates were called.
A tall, bespectacled man with very blond hair stood up and identified himself as Peter Sampson of the Crown Prosecution Service. From the briefing Tonks had given Harry before they left the hospital, Harry knew it was this man’s job to prove there was a case to answer and that there was sufficient evidence that Harry be tried for that charge.
Tonks then stood and identified herself as Miss Dora Tonks, a solicitor engaged by the accused to act on his behalf and to show there was no case to answer and therefore no charge to be defended.
These opening statements puzzled Harry.
No case to answer?
What could that mean?
The Dursleys were all dead, surely that meant someone did it – even though Harry knew he hadn’t. There was no time for all the possibilities to sink in, as the most senior of the Magistrates obviously required just that question to be answered.
Tonks stood and faced the Bench.
“Madam Chairman, you ask how I can question the validity of the charges brought against my client, Mr. Harry James Potter. I have evidence that would bring serious doubt not upon the fact of the death of the Dursley family, but about its cause.”
Tonks went on to explain, “It is usual, is it not, for a case of sudden death to be brought first to the Coroner’s Court to determine the cause of death? I am at a loss to understand why in the case of the deaths of the Dursley family this course was not followed. Upon my own investigation and with verification by independent and bona-fide sources, I can prove not only that Mr. Potter is innocent of the charges laid against him, but also that indeed there was no one to blame for those untimely deaths, except the Dursley family themselves.”
At this pronouncement loud muttering and murmuring from the crowded public benches caused the Chairman of the Bench to call repeatedly for order. Harry could see the reporters scribbling in notebooks or dictating quietly into hand-held dictation machines. A Court artist had turned from his sketch of Harry sitting in the dock to start a new sketch of the public reaction.
Through it all, Harry sat there dumbfounded, a large lump sitting in his throat until he felt that he wouldn’t be able to speak if he was asked to.
The Chairman of the Bench looked at Tonks over the top of her rimless glasses much as Professor McGonagall was in the habit of doing; Harry hoped that she would exhibit the same over-riding sense of fairplay that his Head of House did. When she spoke it was brief and to the point. “Please explain what is meant by not following the usual course? Surely a Coroner’s Inquest into these deaths has already taken place and a verdict recorded?”
“Indeed not, Madam Chairman. You will find no ruling in these deaths at all in the Court records presented today,” replied Tonks, as clearly and as succinctly as any professional solicitor.
“Tut, tut! This is most irregular,” stated the Chairman. The Bench then turned as one to face the Crown Prosecution Service Solicitor whose blond head could be seen bent low over the stacks of papers in front of him.
“Mr. Simpson, what say you? Have these deaths been confirmed as illegal or not?” asked the clearly astonished Chairman.
The CPS Solicitor barely glanced up as he ploughed through the reams of paper in front of him. “I really can’t understand it, Madam. I can only say that I thought the Inquest had been held. I’d been sure...” His voice trailed away to nothing.
“This is outrageous! In all my years on the Bench I have never seen such an ill-prepared and ill-presented case. This young man has been charged with no less than four counts of murder and now you tell me that you have yet to prove conclusively that any crime was in fact committed?”
“Madam Chairman. If I may make a statement?” queried Tonks in her most formal and deferential manner.
“Certainly you may, young woman. I have no doubt that the defence at least is fully prepared and conversant with pertinent facts.” As she spoke, the Chairman continued to glower at the CPS Solicitor.
“Thank you, Madam. You are most gracious. In my extensive preparations for today’s hearing I called upon the services of an expert witness. With the Court’s permission and in order to prevent a miscarriage of justice, may I call for Mr. Stephen Andrew Deller to take the stand?”
“Certainly,” came the very rapid response from the Bench.
The Court Usher then called for the witness to come forward.
A very rotund middle-aged man with jet black, obviously dyed, hair and wearing a bright red waistcoat and matching bow-tie stepped towards the front of the Court. The Usher indicated where the witness was to stand and administered the Oath.
Tonks stood once more and addressed the florid-faced man who, after confirming his identity, went on to describe his occupation as a Forensic Pathologist.
“Would I be correct in assuming, Mr. Deller, that in your role as a Forensic Pathologist you are familiar with death and its many causes?” questioned Tonks.
“Just so. I have over thirty years experience as a qualified physician and twenty-two years as a Coroner in New Zealand before coming back to England to care for my aged mother. It has been my duty to determine the cause of death in over 1800 cases in that time.” It was obvious that Mr. Deller was very accustomed to presenting evidence to a Court of Law.
“And what, Mr. Deller, were you able to determine at Number 4 Privet Drive, in the county of Surrey?” asked Tonks.
Deller replied, “I was asked to assess the scene of death and to determine beyond any shadow of a doubt the cause or causes of death of the four individuals whose bodies were found at that address, seated still at the dining table.”
“And what did your preliminary investigations show?” continued Tonks.
For the next half an hour Harry, along with everyone else in the Courtroom, sat in utter silence while Dr. Deller described each corpse’s (Harry recoiled each time the word was used!) condition at time of death. He went on to list, with nauseating attention to detail, what samples were removed and then what tests were then carried out on said samples. He seemed to relish his role and dramatically waved his arms and hands as he described just how he removed the organs, one-by-one, to determine the cause of death.
By the time Dr. Deller had finished, even the Chairman of the Bench looked a little green around the edges when she asked, “And what, in your expert opinion, was the cause of death?”
“Ah! Well, that’s the funny thing. They all seemed to be perfectly healthy apart from the fact that they were all dead!” stated Deller with a somewhat inappropriate grin on his face.
Harry groaned inwardly. This was getting them nowhere!
“So then I started to examine samples removed from the scene and from the stomachs of the corpses.” (There was that awful word again! thought Harry.)
“Eureka! I had found it!” Dr. Deller reminded Harry suddenly of a stage magician, for at his exclamation he had pulled a bright red handkerchief from his top pocket with such a theatrical flourish that Harry half expected him to produce a dove from its midst at any second. Instead, the doctor used it to mop his sweating brow before exclaiming in a hammy stage whisper...
The doctor’s piggy little eyes travelled over everyone in the Courtroom, and when he looked straight into Harry’s eyes, he felt a strange and comforting presence in the back of his mind.
“Don’t give up, Harry. All is not lost. Help is to hand closer than you think.”Harry felt the sentiment rather than heard the words themselves. Had Deller used Legillimency on Harry as their eyes met? The oppressive weight of worries on Harry suddenly felt a lot lighter.
“Poison? But you implied that the Dursleys were not killed illegally? Now you say they were poisoned! For goodness sake, man, cut out the theatrical presentation and answer a simple question. Were Vernon, Petunia, Dudley and Marjorie Dursley murdered or not?”
“My apologies, good lady. I must admit my showmanship does carry me away on occasion. The Dursleys most certainly were poisoned, but after stringent and exacting analysis of the stomach contents and the remains of the shared evening meal, I can conclusively prove the cause of death.
“Miss Dursley brought with her to Privet Drive a quantity of goats’ milk and goats’ milk cheese given to her by one Colonel Fubster, a neighbour and friend of Miss Dursley. On the evening of her arrival, Mrs. Petunia Dursley used both the goats’ milk and cheese as ingredients in a home-cooked cauliflower cheese dish which she served as an accompaniment to that evening’s meal.”
“And this is relevant how?” This question came not from the Chairman of the Bench this time but a tiny, quiet and non-descript man sitting on her left.
“I’m coming to that!” snapped Dr. Deller, who obviously disliked the interruption.
The tiny Magistrate muttered an almost silent, “Sorry!” before Deller continued his narrative.
“Under normal conditions the cheese and milk would have been perfectly safe for consumption. Unfortunately Colonel Fubster’s goats had been fed grain as part of their daily diet and their grain had been stored in less than ideal conditions. A fungus had contaminated the feedstuff upon which the poor unfortunate beasts had been feeding. This fungus crossed into the milk produced by these creatures. The goats themselves had been displaying somewhat erratic behaviour, but the Colonel had been in the habit of consuming somewhat more in the way of alcoholic beverages than was perhaps good for him. Thus he was oblivious to the dangers. He hated the taste of the animals’ milk and cheese and never consumed it himself.”
“So you’re saying that the cheese and milk contained this poison and that alone was the cause of death in these four cases?” The voice of the tiny Magistrate was quiet, but every person in the Courtroom turned to look at him. It looked as though it had taken every ounce of courage he had to speak up.
“What do you mean? It makes perfect sense!” blustered Deller.
“But surely the accused, Harry Potter, was also a resident of the house on the evening in question. Would he not also have partaken of the...” He looked down at his handwritten notes. “...cauliflower cheese? Why then were only four people poisoned and the fifth unaffected?”
“Good question, Bradshaw!” acknowledged the Chairman. “Well?” she demanded. “What do you say to that?”
Dr. Deller looked flustered for a moment, but then started to look through an enormous pile of papers. After much consultation he eventually had to shrug his shoulders. “Sorry, I have no idea.”
Harry’s heart sank. He had been pinning his hopes on Dellar’s testimony and now it looked as though they’d been dashed.
Wait a minute, thought Harry. He indicated to Tonks that he needed to speak to her.
“Madam Chairman, may I request a short recess? My Client is still recovering from some very severe injuries and is finding the stresses of this hearing to be most arduous.”
“Court will adjourn for one hour for lunch,” the Chairman announced.
“All rise!” stated the Usher, as the occupants of the Court stood then slowly filed out.
Harry was allowed to use the wheelchair for his return to the holding cell. Tonks followed him in to the tiny room and sat on the bunk built into the wall.
“Tonks, I’d just like to say thanks, you’re being brilliant today,” he said. “Even if things go against me, I really appreciate...”
“Harry! Shut it, will you! You sound as though we’re losing. You heard Deller – it was the goats’ milk. The CPS is going to have to prove you knew it was harmful and to prove you knowingly fed it to the Dursleys! It’s all about proof, Harry, and they’re going to be hard pressed to prove anything. Especially when we know the TRUE cause of death had nothing to do with goats or cheese! You just can’t prove Avada Kedavra as a cause of death in a Muggle court!”
“Oh. You mean they didn’t really eat cauliflower cheese for dinner?” queried Harry.
“Harry, give over, of course not, but you know they didn’t. You were there, after all!” said Tonks incredulously.
“Now you’ve got to be joking. After what happened at dinner last time Aunt Marge came to stay?” Harry stated expecting a nod of understanding from Tonks, but she just looked mystified.
“What do you mean, Harry?”
“Didn’t Dumbledore tell you? I well I ... sort of ... lost control of my magic. I blew her up until she was floating on the ceiling.” Harry stammered out his reply, having the good grace to look abashed.
“You didn’t? Honestly?”
Harry nodded sheepishly. “I didn’t mean to do it. The Accidental Magic Reversal Squad had to puncture her and modify her memory and everything. I thought I was going to be arrested then, but it was all covered up in the wake of Sirius’ escape from Azkaban.”
Tonks nodded her understanding.
“So that’s why Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon kept me as far away from Aunt Marge as possible. The night she arrived I was kept working in the garden until they had their meal. All I got was a slice of cold toast left over from breakfast and a couple of over-ripe bananas. Oh, and I found a Mars bar Dudley had hidden from Aunt Petunia in the garden shed.”
“So you didn’t eat any of the cauliflower cheese?”
“Nope! Not a mouthful!”
“Then I think we’re home and dry, Harry!” Tonks gathered up all her papers back into her briefcase. Before she left the tiny cell, she placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder and gave him a ‘thumbs up’ sign.
Another Court Officer had brought a meal for Harry. It was on a steel tray divided into compartments, and a disgusting looking brown mess in one compartment was accompanied by a gloopy cream coloured mess in another. Harry thought it was supposed to be savoury minced beef with mashed potatoes. It looked and smelled revolting.
The dessert was a sort-of-set green stuff that Harry presumed was a lime jelly, but looked like Bubotuber pus and smelled just as bad. The cutlery was made of plastic, not metal, and the only other item he was given was a mug of tea; it was hot and strong. Harry held it in his hands until it had cooled enough to drink. The warmth radiated through him, making him suddenly sleepy. He lay down on the bench and fell asleep immediately.