'Visitor to the Ministry, you are required to submit to a search and present your wand for registration at the security desk, which is located at the far end of the Atrium '
The law's on your side,' said Lupin quietly. 'Even underage wizards are allowed to use magic in life-threatening situations.'
'Yes, sir,' said an eager voice Harry knew. Ron's brother Percy was sitting at the very end of the front bench. Harry looked at Percy, expecting some sign of recognition from him, but none came. Percy's eyes, behind his horn-rimmed glasses, were fixed on his parchment, a quill poised in his hand.
Mr Weasley stumbled to a halt outside a grimy dark door with an immense iron lock and slumped against the wall, clutching at a stitch in his chest.
'Always?' boomed Madam Bones. 'You have produced a Patronus before now?'
They were talking as though they hardly knew each other and when Harry opened his mouth to say hello to Kingsley, Mr We ashy stood on his foot. They followed Kingsley along the row and into the very last cubicle.
The members of the Wizengamot were muttering. All eyes were now on Dumbledore. Some looked annoyed, others slightly frightened; two elderly witches in the back row, however, raised their hands and waved in welcome.
'Yes,' said Harry, feeling both impatient and slightly desperate, 'it's a stag, it's always a stag.'
The Chair recognises Dolores Jane Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister,' said Fudge.
'Here,' said Kingsley brusquely to Mr Weasley, shoving a sheaf of parchment into his hand. 'I need as much information as possible on flying Muggle vehicles sighted in the last twelve months. We've received information that Black might still be using his old motorcycle.'
'Yes, but - '
'Level Seven, Department of Magical Games and Sports, incorporating the British and Irish Quidditch League Headquarters, Official Gobstones Club and Ludicrous Patents Office.'
'Yes,' said Harry nervously.
He had expected it to be empty, but when he reached the door he heard the soft rumble of voices on the other side. He pushed it open and saw Mr and Mrs Weasley, Sirius, Lupin and Tonks sitting there almost as though they were waiting for him. All were fully dressed except Mrs Weasley, who was wearing a quilted purple dressing gown. She leapt to her feet the moment Harry entered.
'You don't normally walk to work, do you?' Harry asked him, as they set off briskly around the square.
Harry looked surreptitiously through the doorways as they passed. The Aurors had covered their cubicle walls with everything From pictures of wanted wizards and photographs of their families, to posters of their favourite Quidditch teams and articles from the Daily Prophet. A scarlet-robed man with a ponytail longer than Bill's was sitting with his boots up on his desk, dictating a report to his quill. A little further along, a witch with a patch over one eye was talking over the top of her cubicle wall to Kingsley Shacklebolt.
Dumbledore was striding serenely across the room wearing long midnight-blue robes and a perfectly calm expression. His long silver beard and hair gleamed in the torchlight as he drew level with Harry and looked up at Fudge through the half-moon spectacles that rested halfway down his very crooked nose.
'Down here, down here,' panted Mr Weasley, taking two steps at a time. The lift doesn't even come down this far . . . why they're doing it down there I , . .'
Snape might refer to their work as 'cleaning', but in Harry's opinion they were really waging war on the house, which was putting up a very good fight, aided and abetted by Kreacher. The house-elf kept appearing wherever they were congregated, his muttering becoming more and more offensive as he attempted to remove anything he could from the rubbish sacks. Sirius went as far as to threaten him with clothes, but Kreacher fixed him with a watery stare and said, 'Master must do as Master wishes,' before turning away and muttering very loudly, 'but Master will not turn Kreacher away, no, because Kreacher knows what they are up to, oh yes, he is plotting against the Dark Lord, yes, with these Mudblood and traitors and scum . . .'