Chapter Five: Imperfectness
"But let justice well up as waters, and righteousness like a never-failing stream!" — Amos 5:24
In the very beginning moment in which Harry first felt himself regain consciousness, mostly he just remembered sensing, with pure great terror of course, that his entire body was overrun by utter, excruciating agony. A throbbing pain electrifying his skull made him momentarily believe his head was truly near explosion. His eyes were shut especially tight, and for several moments the ever-intensified suffering - sizzling throughout his every bone, pulsing through his veins, and molting in his bloodstream - actually prevented Harry from opening them in its overwhelming strength. Indeed, the very agitation of it, that which forced his heart to beat at what felt precisely to him like a speed deathly, made him convulse left and right several times, until in turn Harry finally realized that he was seated upright on some stone-based chair of a particularly uncomfortable sort.
When Harry at last did manage to unveil his eyes to his new surroundings, though, the pain combined with shock caused him to immediately wince. He couldn't believe his own now crestfallen eyes: Harry instantly knew he was inside the Ministry of Magic, down in a courtroom almost identical to the one used when he'd appealed his expulsion from Hogwarts two years ago (after having been forced to perform a Patronus Charm in order to save his cousin Dudley from a blitzed Dementor); it, too, he quickly realized, just as well resembled the ones from the memories of Death Eater trials in Dumbledore's Penseive, of which Harry had been privy to back in his fourth Hogwarts year. Puzzling all of this together mentally, Harry easily made the unavoidable, most educated (albeit horrifying) guess, that he was doomed to face a courtroom showdown extravaganza in which his life would inevitably be stolen unjustly from him.
Yes, if things were indeed as they seemed to be, it looked like Umbridge really wasn't kidding when she said his trial would come soon. The mere thought of this made Harry's stomach somersault, leaving him with a drawling sense of nausea. Given alone the depths of the Ministry's present corrupt state (to say the least!), Harry certainly stood no chance. There would be no vindication for him; there was no way whatsoever that he had even a minuscule chance at freedom, at seeing his innocence rightfully revealed to the wizarding world. As a matter of fact, it suddenly dawned on Harry, his very own words to Umbridge would become prophetic - he would be framed! Plain and simple. He knew it to be true, could feel it in his bones. He, Harry James Potter, was foredoomed to suffer a most injudicious fate, one that would leave him leading a life of permanent misery -
All the sudden a loud and pleasant-sounding laugh enveloped the room, startling Harry to a nervous tic, and then echoed loudly throughout the entire space of the vast courtroom several times. Though a bit shaken, Harry quickly recognized the unforgettable girlishness in the voice's tone and immediately knew without reservation the identity of the speaker. Positive indeed, when in fact a mere few seconds later the voice, this time several times reinforced, again sounded everywhere across the room's vast vicinity, Harry thus knew for sure that he was once more in the ominous presence of Dolores Umbridge.
"...You will face trial in this very courtroom, Potter, in only three days' time," Umbridge stated imperiously, her immodest tone most pleased and built on nothing but sheer apathy. "For the meantime, however, this grandiose area of space will suffice to serve as what we shall call 'the confessing room'. This, Potter, is your very last opportunity to outwardly plead to your guilt; if you so acquiesce hereof this legal passageway, thereupon there may perhaps be some extension of mercy to be mitigated in your sentencing." Empowering a particularly sinister high-form, the toad-like tyrant that was Dolores Umbridge even managed to boast a convincing self-belief in his supposed 'guilt' within her authoritative tone's dark conviction...
Incredulous as ever, Harry stared stone-faced at her in fixed, animate shock, remarkably reprieved of the static, barren fear encasing his watching eyes. Spontaneously shuddered off guard, thus, for a surreal moment, Harry felt a sensation that was like being knocked of wind cast through his diaphragm, greatly paining him. The perilous reality of matters without mercy daunted upon him with such extremity, it in itself became suffice to momentarily rob him of even his own ability to process thought. Gasping just to breath the already quite dense air, after one long moment Harry half-regained a grasp on himself, enough so that he was able to yell out, "Rubbish! BLOODY RUBBISH! I can't believe your daring, Umbridge. How dare you look me right in the eye and say that lie to me! As if you don't know every word of it is nothing but a huge web of you and your comrades' evil deception! Bloody hell, then again I reckon maybe you really could be so lost in all of your lies that you can't figure out what the truth is anymore!" Harry seethed with anger as he shouted these indignant words in something just scarce of a lisp in light of the uncontrollable grinding of his tightly-clenched teeth.
That Umbridge seriously had the audacity to engage in such mockery of him - especially given that she of course knew he was well aware of her direct participation from the beginning in orchestrating this entire ordeal - absolutely revolted Harry. It chilled him to the bone that all of this evilness had been colluded together in an effort to destroy him, especially since it was all seeming to work out perfectly too, no doubt! And to add only more insult to injury, in response to his useless protests, almost annoyed Harry's former Defense Against the Dark Arts professor remarked rather snidely, "Quiet, Potter. You're only making an even bigger fool of yourself. My God! You really are still the same stupid child that you've always been, aren't you, silly Harry? Ha!"
Fighting for air, a now maddened Harry screeched, "Oh, oh, I'll break you, Umbridge, just you wait!" His words were obviously meaningless so long as he was locked in her entrapment, but he didn't care. Harry tried almost barbarically to lift off the chair, but his efforts of course floundered. The dark magic which securely bound him to the cursed confinement of the chair was much too powerful. Quickly exhausting himself, Harry intently shifted his eyes away from Umbridge, her amused face too painful to glance at -
Then, very suddenly, two separate sets of footsteps could be heard emerging from opposite directions. Louder and louder, these new footsteps blended closer together in their repetitious echo as from opposing sides they broke proximity and neared closer to Harry, who sat trapped at the rough center of the room in his uncomfortable stone chair. One second longer and brand-new dark, towering silhouettes of indistinguishable human figures cast shadow over the area all around him. The footsteps from the left followed a pattern of sound fitting those of a lady's high heels, whereas the footsteps that sounded from the right were similar in their heavy step to the sturdy stomp of dragon-harnessed boots (particularly the Hungarian Horntail type too, he believed); two separate, unknown people, approaching him from two separate, unknown directions. Immediately succumbing to his bare animal instinct, Harry carefully put himself on full alert of all his senses; his paled eyes widened across the visible horizon while he sat still as possible and attempted to listen closer for any additional clues, not for a sheer millisecond allowing distraction from his wary observation...
Alas, the voice of Cornelius Fudge spontaneously revisited him, except now his acidic tone inflected a force even eviler than in Harry's worst nightmares: "Harry James Potter, have you made up your mind for certain already - seriously? Are you sure you're prepared to waive your right to plead guilty to the first-degree charge pending against you? Allow me to refresh your perspective, Potter - You used an Unforgivable Curse, for Merlin's Sake! The Cruciatus! Do you understand that under the code of modern wizarding law the penalty for such a crime is a life sentence in Azkaban?!" his deep voice bolstered sternly.
Yes, Cornelius Fudge had momentously strutted forward out from the shadows and positioned himself in proper face of Harry. Then, in just a startling second ten mere feet separated Harry from none other than the very unforgettable man that was Mr. Fudge himself, who, as always in his uniform pinstripe robes, seemed to have suddenly manifested out of thin air. The former Minister of Magic, wearing a big wide smile on his face that was almost maniacal-like in its excessive elation, had articulated these cold, barren words without hesitancy. He had no empathy or compassion whatsoever for Harry's terribly unjust situation, much less the capacity for guilt anywhere inside himself. Sly as a snake, Fudge even had the audacity to further add most condescendingly, "I mean come off it already, Potter - you're done! The evidence is overwhelmingly expository in your disfavor. All that would remain for a fair court of law to examine is clear-cut proof of your guilt." And just like that the new and cruel Elite Prosecutor to the Ministry's Justice Department laughed out in full lightheartedness, even demeaning to freely point his index finger at Harry.
(Otherwise stated in equable latent terms - of which Harry translated into acknowledgment not without a shrill chill - the laughing buffoon staring at him was, by matter of pure fact, officially the newly-named (never mind the fact that he was corrupt-as-can-be) executive director of all things in the Justice Department. And what exactly that would mean for he himself, Harry naturally next focused all his wonder: and yet, as he entertained the rather significant contemplation of this, Harry was led to find his skin cold as ice, everywhere fidgeted by goosebumps; for upon the re-solidified thought of how he was to be unjustly framed in the end, Harry Potter was made utmost horrified. Plain and simple.)
"...That'll be quite enough of that." Suddenly, a confident, strong directive female voice which Harry could almost swear he recognized had spontaneously filled the room, totally interrupting their bullying of Harry at least for the moment. Harry tilted his head swiftly forward, trying to avert the blockage of Fudge, who was inconveniently standing dead-center in his way, and just barely got a peak at the oncoming shadow. Dim as the silhouette had appeared before him, Harry no less was instantaneously filled with a burst of renewed hope, for the enlarging shadow belonged, he could already positively tell, to none other than Nymphadora Tonks!
Harry could not believe his eyes when, gasping for air and feeling the rush of his own rapid heartbeat, Tonks properly emerged from the shadows and immediately proceeded to stand a few feet beside Fudge. Although she did pay a respective glance in Harry's direction, it was only for a blink of a moment, because Tonks then turned into face-to-face proximity of Fudge and looked him dead-on, studying every inch of Harry's antagonist. Fudge automatically turned and stood her likewise eye-to-eye; a spectral sense of evenness, equality even, hung in the space between them for a brief moment.
Fudge, staring at her unflinchingly, was careful not to let his confident demeanor at all slip and reveal vulnerability upon Tonks' entrance. The entire time they'd been keeping Potter imprisoned thus far had been in their total and complete control every step of the way. Now, however, that changed as the legal recourse that they were forced to afford Potter - as such due process was necessary to be at Potter's liberty if they intended to succeed past public appearances - was officially kicking in. Nymphadora Tonks, one of the honorable few five-star Aurors in current service to the Ministry of Magic, had volunteered to act as Potter's defense council in light of her own less-known, acquired certification in criminal law, which would be required for this already very unwanted assignment. No one wanted to step up to defend Harry, not when his identity was being severely smeared time and again, nor when sympathy for the once-deemed "Chosen One" was never more frowned upon across the cabinets of the Ministry of Magic. Yet nevertheless, however, Tonks went out of her way to volunteer service, which made Fudge privately suspect her to be in cahoots with the "Order of the Phoenix" (a rumored large-scale, all-covert allegiance of Dumbledore and Potter's active supporters). Outward display of such unapologetic loyalty and belief in Potter was absolutely worthless, counterproductive even, in the times as of late.
And this unblemished devotion of Nymphadora Tonks to her mission of vindication for Harry Potter, needlessly said, did not in the slightest recede now, either: in prime-time mode, as a matter of fact, Tonks appeared fearless as she at last momentously confronted Fudge and Umbridge straight-on. Harry was relieved to find such notable promise in her efforts, touched as her relentless, affirmative composure silently expressed her intent to put an end to their entire unethical collusion. Remaining cool, calm, and collected as though unaware of the highly contentious atmosphere, Tonks passed a smile between Fudge and then Umbridge, who'd momentarily joined Fudge at his side. Almost looking pleased to see them, Tonks noted with sarcastic cheeriness, "Counselor Fudge, I am certain you know much too well how prohibited badgering defendants is, especially when acted upon in a manner which could unfairly influence or misguide his or her decisions regarding pivotal proceedings of the court. Surely, then, I assume you just suffered from a minor Freudian slip a few minutes ago when you could be heard mocking and pestering my client, Mr. Harry James Potter, for not choosing to plead 'guilty' to the current charges pending against him." But once she'd finished elaborating on the possibility that the two had committed a due process violation, never had Harry heard Tonks' voice sound more stern or warning in tone.
Cornelius Fudge twitched to a pale grimace as he swallowed the underlying danger which seeped through her tone as she articulated each word. Technically still new to his executive position in the Justice Department, Fudge couldn't dismiss her uncanny words without fear of a threat. Umbridge, however, wore a blank, totally undismayed glance, and smiled lightly as if for the sheer sake of cordiality. "Miss Tonks, all due respect to your merit, I've been doing this a little longer than you." Sounding one-hundred percent contained with herself, she then sarcastically added, "About, hmm, twenty-two years longer, isn't that correct?" Now her smile turned sweet as sugar.
Tonks glared at the Senior Undersecretary to the Minister's scoffing, folding her arms at her chest stiffly. "Well then perhaps you've been doing it too long for your own bloody good, Dolores. That you're getting too old for all this would surely explain your apparent absentmindedness of basic rules of ethics in our criminal justice system. You seem to have forgotten that defendants have rights, too." Tonks slammed Umbridge as she shot back these venomous words.
Harry was amazed at his friend's audacity, unable to suppress a gleeful look as he glimpsed Umbridge flinch back for a slight moment. But when he noticed the toad-like woman's ugly glare seemingly become a permanent part of her facial features, Harry openly laughed out at her despite arguable rashness of such a move. He realized to himself that he couldn't care less if Umbridge was greater-offended upon this; it was her self-assigned mission to destroy Harry in the end, no matter what, and her overzealous intention would not be affected by a mere laugh.
Fudge scowled at Tonks, also incredulous, and started to snidely remark, "No bother, Ms. Dolores. When this rookie is pitifully defeated by you in court next week, Ms. Tonks' pride will prove to have surely come before she took her fall, you mustn't forget." He spoke these supportive words almost as though Umbridge alone was in his presence.
Tonks looked furious for a heartbeat of a second, but then managed to laugh out haughtily with, "We'll see about that. Speaking of which, I am entitled to a private meeting with my client now." Gesturing pointedly to the passageway exit, Tonks made a satisfied slightly pretentious glance as to indicate it was time that Fudge and Umbridge set off.
The two attempted to maintain polite smiles as though to appear unaffected by Tonks' rude and demeaning treatment, but unhappiness wrinkled their faces. Regardless, with a diplomatic facade Umbridge sighed, shrugged her shoulders casually, and then answered without confrontation, "Very well then. Cornelius, let us go and have a little chat with the Minister before his press conference in Diagon Alley this afternoon."
Fudge smiled wide, genuinely receptive to her "choice" words, and then nearly jovial he promptly agreed, "Yes! Yes, that sounds lovely, Dolores."
And the two exchanged sly grins that were almost conspiratorial-like, followed by their small fit of giggles. Inadvertently (or perhaps not so inadvertently, then again), it felt to Harry like a silent reminder of how meaningful their specific influences were on the Minister of Magic. Together, the two looked forward and began leaving "innocently", proceeding towards the same passageway by which both Tonks and Fudge had come.
But Tonks was a bit cleverer than they gave her credit for. "Nice try, Umbridge. Release Harry from the Entrapment Curse. Now."
Umbridge's face fell disheartened upon hearing Tonks' very stern ultimatum, and this time Harry freely let out a loud, open laugh without a second thought to his rudeness.
Author's Endnote: Sorry for the long delay, but stay tuned because in Chapter Six the suspenseful trial at last begins!