Chapter 21 / Fudge
‘Regrettable, but all the same, Minerva -’ Cornelius Fudge was saying loudly.
‘You should never have brought it inside the castle!’ yelled Professor McGonagall. ‘When Dumbledore finds out -’
The hospital doors burst open. We stared at the doors as Bill pulled back the screen. Fudge came striding up the ward. Professors McGonagall and Snape were at his heels.
‘Where's Dumbledore?’ Fudge demanded of Mrs. Weasley.
‘He's not here,’ said Mrs. Weasley angrily. ‘This is a hospital wing. Minister, don't you think you'd do better to -’
But the door opened, and Dumbledore came sweeping up the ward.
‘What has happened?’ said Dumbledore sharply, looking from Fudge to Professor McGonagall. ‘Why are you disturbing these people? Minerva, I'm surprised at you - I asked you to stand guard over Barty Crouch -’
‘There is no need to stand guard over him anymore, Dumbledore!’ she shrieked. ‘The Minister has seen to that!’
I stared at McGonagall. I had never seen her lose control like this. There were angry blotches of color in her cheeks, and a hands were balled into fists; she was trembling with fury.
‘When we told Mr. Fudge that we had caught the Death Eater responsible for tonight's events,’ said Snape, in a low voice, ‘he seemed to feel his personal safety was in question. He insisted on summoning a dementor to accompany him into the castle. He brought it up to the office where Barty Crouch -’
‘I told him you would not agree, Dumbledore!’ McGonagall fumed. ‘I told him you would never allow dementors to set foot inside the castle, but -’
‘My dear woman!’ roared Fudge, ‘as Minister of Magic, it is my decision whether I wish to bring protection with me when interviewing a possibly dangerous -’
But Professor McGonagall's voice drowned Fudge's.
‘The moment that - that thing entered the room,’ she screamed, pointing at Fudge, trembling all over, ‘it swooped down on Crouch and - and -’
I felt a chill in my stomach as Professor McGonagall struggled to find words to describe what had happened. Nobody needed her to finish her sentence. We knew what the dementor must have done. It had administered its fatal kiss to Barty Crouch. It had sucked his soul out through his mouth. He was worse than dead.
‘By all accounts, he is no loss!’ blustered Fudge. ‘It seems he has been responsible for several deaths'.’
‘But he cannot now give testimony, Cornelius,’ said Dumbledore. He was staring hard at Fudge, as though seeing him plainly for the first time. ‘He cannot give evidence about why he killed those people.’
‘Why he killed them? Well, that's no mystery, is it?’ blustered Fudge. ‘He was a raving lunatic! From what Minerva and Severus have told me, he seems to have thought he was doing it all on You-Know-Who's instructions!’
‘Lord Voldemort was giving him instructions, Cornelius,’ Dumbledore said. ‘Those peoples deaths were mere by-products of a plan to restore Voldemort to full strength again. The plan succeeded. Voldemort has been restored to his body.’
Fudge looked as though someone had just swung a heavy weight into his face. Dazed and blinking, he stared back at Dumbledore as if he couldn't quite believe what he had just heard. He began to sputter, still goggling at Dumbledore.
‘You-Know-Who . . . returned? Preposterous. Come now, Dumbledore ...’
‘As Minerva and Severus have doubtless told you,’ said Dumbledore, ‘we heard Barty Crouch confess. Under the influence of Veritaserum, he told us how he was smuggled out of Azkaban, and how Voldemort - learning of his continued existence from Bertha Jorkins - went to free him from his father and used him to capture Harry. The plan worked, I tell you. Crouch has helped Voldemort to return.’
‘See here, Dumbledore,’ said Fudge, and I was astonished to see a slight smile dawning on his face, ‘you - you can't seriously believe that You-Know-Who - back? Come now, come now . . . certainly, Crouch may have believed himself to be acting upon You-Know-Who's orders - but to take the word of a lunatic like that, Dumbledore ...’
‘When Harry touched the Triwizard Cup tonight, he was transported straight to Voldemort,’ said Dumbledore steadily. ‘He witnessed Lord Voldemort's rebirth. I will explain it all to you if you will step up to my office. I am afraid I cannot permit you to question Harry tonight.’
Fudge's curious smile lingered. He glanced at Harry, then looked back at Dumbledore, and said, ‘You are - er - prepared to take Harry's word on this, are you, Dumbledore?’
There was a moment's silence, which was broken by Sirius growling. His hackles were raised, and he was baring his teeth at Fudge. I raised my hand to him and nodded him to be quiet.
‘Certainly, I believe Harry,’ said Dumbledore. His eyes were blazing now. ‘I heard Crouch's confession, and I heard Harry's account of what happened after he touched the Triwizard Cup; the two stories make sense, they explain everything that has happened since Bertha Jorkins disappeared last summer.’
Fudge still had that strange smile on his face. Once again, he glanced at Harry before answering.
‘You are prepared to believe that Lord Voldemort has returned, on the word of a lunatic murderer, and a boy who . . . well...’
My hands turned to fists. ‘Don’t even -’
‘You've been reading Rita Skeeter, Mr. Fudge,’ Harry said quietly.
We all jumped. None of us had realized that Harry was awake. Fudge reddened slightly, but a defiant and obstinate look came over his face.
‘And if I have?’ he said, looking at Dumbledore. ‘If I have discovered that you've been keeping certain facts about the boy very quiet? A Parselmouth, eh? And having funny turns all over the place -’
‘I assume that you are referring to the pains Harry has been experiencing in his scar?’ said Dumbledore coolly.
‘You admit that he has been having these pains, then?’ said Fudge quickly. ‘Headaches? Nightmares? Possibly - hallucinations?’
‘Listen to me, Cornelius,’ said Dumbledore, taking a step toward Fudge, and once again, he seemed to radiate that indefinable sense of power that I had felt after Dumbledore had Stunned young Crouch. ‘Harry is as sane as you or I. That scar upon his forehead has not addled his brains. I believe it hurts him when Lord Voldemort is close by, or feeling particularly murderous.’
Fudge had taken half a step back from Dumbledore, but he looked no less stubborn.