She turned red as Ron looked round at her with a defiant expression on his lace.
Harry's head jerked upwards. There were hands in the air, many of them . . . more than half! Breathing very fast, he tried to count, but before he could finish, Madam Bones had said, 'And those in favour of conviction?'
Fred and George exchanged looks.
Mr Weasley broke off in mid-sentence. They had just reached the ninth-level corridor and Cornelius Fudge was standing a few feet away from them, talking quietly to a tall man with sleek blond hair and a pointed, pale face.
Mrs Weasley returned from Diagon Alley around six o'clock, laden with books and carrying a long package wrapped in thick brown paper that Ron took from her with a moan of longing.
He had forgotten completely about prefects being chosen in the fifth year. He had been too anxious about the possibility of being expelled to spare a thought for the fact that badges must be winging their way towards certain people. But if he had remembered . . . if he had thought about it . . . what would he have expected?
'What's going on?'
'No!' Mrs Weasley moaned. 'No . . . riddikulus! Riddikulus! RID-DIKULUS!'
'[ don't think he'll be able to, Ron,' said Mrs Weasley, setting a huge plate of roast chicken down in front of Harry. 'He's really very busy at the moment.'
He did not know why it had been such a shock; he had seen pictures of his parents before, after all, and he had met Wormtail . . . but to have them sprung on him like that, when he was least expecting it . . . no one would like that, he thought angrily . . .
'His . . . but . . . Ron, you're not . . .?'
'Did you - did you get - ?'
'Just caught her!' he said happily. 'She says she'll get the Cleansweep if she can.'
'Look what Dung's got us,' said George, holding out his hand to Harry. It was full of what looked like shrivelled black pods. A faint rattling noise was coming from them, even though they were completely stationary.
'Prefect, eh?' growled Moody, his normal eye on Ron and his magical eye swivelling around to gaze into the side of his head. Harry had the very uncomfortable feeling it was looking at him and moved away towards Sirius and Lupin.
'I don't think private matters between myself and the Minister are any concern of yours, Potter,' said Malfoy, smoothing the front of his robes. Harry distinctly heard the gentle clinking of what sounded like a full pocket of gold. 'Really, just because you are Dumbledore's favourite boy, you must not expect the same indulgence from the rest of us . . . shall we go up to your office, then, Minister?'
'Original Order of the Phoenix,' growled Moody. 'Found it last night when I was looking for my spare Invisibility Cloak, seeing as Podmore hasn't had the manners to return my best one . . . thought people might like to see it.'
'And about time too,' said Fred.
'What's the matter?' said Fred impatiently, moving around Ron to look over his shoulder at the parchment.