哈利·波特与混血王子
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


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    CHAPTER ONE THE OTHER MINISTER
    
    It was nearing midnight and the Prime Minister was sitting alone in his office, reading a long memo that was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind. He was waiting for a call from the President of a far distant country, and between wondering when the wretched man would telephone, and trying to suppress unpleasant memories of what had been a very long, tiring, and difficult week, there was not much space in his head for anything else. The more he attempted to focus on the print on the page before him, the more clearly the Prime Minister could see the gloating face of one of his political opponents. This particular opponent had appeared on the news that very day, not only to enumerate all the terrible things that had happened in the last week (as though anyone needed reminding) but also to explain why each and every one of them was the government’s fault.
    The Prime Minister’s pulse quickened at the very thought of these accusations, for they were neither fair nor true. How on earth was his government supposed to have stopped that bridge collapsing? It was outrageous for anybody to suggest that they were not spending enough on bridges. The bridge was fewer than ten years old, and the best experts were at a loss to explain why it had snapped cleanly in two, sending a dozen cars into the watery depths of the river below. And how dare anyone suggest that it was lack of policemen that had resulted in those two very nasty and well-publicized murders? Or that the government should have somehow foreseen the freak hurricane in the West Country that had caused so much damage to both people and property? And was it his fault that one of his Junior Ministers, Herbert Chorley, had chosen this week to act so peculiarly that he was now going to be spending a lot more time with his family?
    “A grim mood has gripped the country,” the opponent had concluded, barely concealing his own broad grin.
    And unfortunately, this was perfectly true. The Prime Minister felt it himself; people really did seem more miserable than usual. Even the weather was dismal; all this chilly mist in the middle of July. . . . It wasn’t right, it wasn’t normal. . . .
    He turned over the second page of the memo, saw how much longer it went on, and gave it up as a bad job. Stretching his arms above his head he looked around his office mournfully. It was a handsome room, with a fine marble fireplace facing the long sash windows, firmly closed against the unseasonable chill. With a slight shiver, the Prime Minister got up and moved over to the window, looking out at the thin mist that was pressing itself against the glass. It was then, as he stood with his back to the room, that he heard a soft cough behind him.
    He froze, nose to nose with his own scared-looking reflection in the dark glass. He knew that cough. He had heard it before. He turned very slowly to face the empty room.
    “Hello?” he said, trying to sound braver than he felt.
    For a brief moment he allowed himself the impossible hope that nobody would answer him. However, a voice responded at once, a crisp, decisive voice that sounded as though it were reading a prepared statement. It was coming — as the Prime Minister had known at the first cough — from the froglike little man wearing a long silver wig who was depicted in a small, dirty oil painting in the far corner of the room.
    “To the Prime Minister of Muggles. Urgent we meet. Kindly respond immediately. Sincerely, Fudge.”
    The man in the painting looked inquiringly at the Prime Minister.
    “Er,” said the Prime Minister, “listen. . . . It’s not a very good time for me. . . . I’m waiting for a telephone call, you see . . . from the President of —”
    “That can be rearranged,” said the portrait at once. The Prime Minister’s heart sank. He had been afraid of that.
    “But I really was rather hoping to speak —”
    “We shall arrange for the President to forget to call. He will telephone tomorrow night instead,” said the little man. “Kindly respond immediately to Mr. Fudge.”
    “I . . . oh . . . very well,” said the Prime Minister weakly. “Yes, I’ll see Fudge.”
    He hurried back to his desk, straightening his tie as he went. He had barely resumed his seat, and arranged his face into what he hoped was a relaxed and unfazed expression, when bright green flames burst into life in the empty grate beneath his marble mantelpiece. He watched, trying not to betray a flicker of surprise or alarm, as a portly man appeared within the flames, spinning as fast as a top. Seconds later, he had climbed out onto a rather fine antique rug, brushing ash from the sleeves of his long pin-striped cloak, a lime-green bowler hat in his hand.
    “Ah . . . Prime Minister,” said Cornelius Fudge, striding forward with his hand outstretched. “Good to see you again.”
    The Prime Minister could not honestly return this compliment, so said nothing at all. He was not remotely pleased to see Fudge, whose occasional appearances, apart from being downright alarming in themselves, generally meant that he was about to hear some very bad news. Furthermore, Fudge was looking distinctly careworn. He was thinner, balder, and grayer, and his face had a crumpled look. The Prime Minister had seen that kind of look in politicians before, and it never boded well.
    “How can I help you?” he said, shaking Fudge’s hand very briefly and gesturing toward the hardest of the chairs in front of the desk.
    “Difficult to know where to begin,” muttered Fudge, pulling up the chair, sitting down, and placing his green bowler upon his knees. “What a week, what a week . . .”
    “Had a bad one too, have you?” asked the Prime Minister stiffly, hoping to convey by this that he had quite enough on his plate already without any extra helpings from Fudge.
    “Yes, of course,” said Fudge, rubbing his eyes wearily and looking morosely at the Prime Minister. “I’ve been having the same week you have, Prime Minister. The Brockdale Bridge . . . the Bones and Vance murders . . . not to mention the ruckus in the West Country . . .”
    “You — er — your — I mean to say, some of your people were — were involved in those — those things, were they?”
    Fudge fixed the Prime Minister with a rather stern look. “Of course they were,” he said. “Surely you’ve realized what’s going on?”
    “I . . .” hesitated the Prime Minister.
    It was precisely this sort of behavior that made him dislike Fudge’s visits so much. He was, after all, the Prime Minister and did not appreciate being made to feel like an ignorant schoolboy. But of course, it had been like this from his very first meeting with Fudge on his very first evening as Prime Minister. He remembered it as though it were yesterday and knew it would haunt him until his dying day.
    He had been standing alone in this very office, savoring the triumph that was his after so many years of dreaming and scheming, when he had heard a cough behind him, just like tonight, and turned to find that ugly little portrait talking to him, announcing that the Minister of Magic was about to arrive and introduce himself.
    Naturally, he had thought that the long campaign and the strain of the election had caused him to go mad. He had been utterly terrified to find a portrait talking to him, though this had been nothing to how he felt when a self-proclaimed wizard had bounced out of the fireplace and shaken his hand. He had remained speechless throughout Fudge’s kindly explanation that there were witches and wizards still living in secret all over the world and his reassurances that he was not to bother his head about them as the Ministry of Magic took responsibility for the whole Wizarding community and prevented the non-magical population from getting wind of them. It was, said Fudge, a difficult job that encompassed everything from regulations on responsible use of broomsticks to keeping the dragon population under control (the Prime Minister remembered clutching the desk for support at this point). Fudge had then patted the shoulder of the still-dumbstruck Prime Minister in a fatherly sort of way.
    “Not to worry,” he had said, “it’s odds-on you’ll never see me again. I’ll only bother you if there’s something really serious going on our end, something that’s likely to affect the Muggles — the non-magical population, I should say. Otherwise, it’s live and let live. And I must say, you’re taking it a lot better than your predecessor. He tried to throw me out the window, thought I was a hoax planned by the opposition.”
    At this, the Prime Minister had found his voice at last. “You’re — you’re not a hoax, then?”
    It had been his last, desperate hope.
    “No,” said Fudge gently. “No, I’m afraid I’m not. Look.”
    And he had turned the Prime Minister’s teacup into a gerbil.
    “But,” said the Prime Minister breathlessly, watching his teacup chewing on the corner of his next speech, “but why — why has nobody told me — ?”
    “The Minister of Magic only reveals him- or herself to the Muggle Prime Minister of the day,” said Fudge, poking his wand back inside his jacket. “We find it the best way to maintain secrecy.”
    “But then,” bleated the Prime Minister, “why hasn’t a former Prime Minister warned me — ?”
    At this, Fudge had actually laughed.
    “My dear Prime Minister, are you ever going to tell anybody?”
    Still chortling, Fudge had thrown some powder into the fireplace, stepped into the emerald flames, and vanished with a whooshing sound. The Prime Minister had stood there, quite motionless, and realized that he would never, as long as he lived, dare mention this encounter to a living soul, for who in the wide world would believe him?
    The shock had taken a little while to wear off. For a time, he had tried to convince himself that Fudge had indeed been a hallucination brought on by lack of sleep during his grueling election campaign. In a vain attempt to rid himself of all reminders of this uncomfortable encounter, he had given the gerbil to his delighted niece and instructed his private secretary to take down the portrait of the ugly little man who had announced Fudge’s arrival. To the Prime Minister’s dismay, however, the portrait had proved impossible to remove. When several carpenters, a builder or two, an art historian, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had all tried unsuccessfully to prise it from the wall, the Prime Minister had abandoned the attempt and simply resolved to hope that the thing remained motionless and silent for the rest of his term in office. Occasionally he could have sworn he saw out of the corner of his eye the occupant of the painting yawning, or else scratching his nose; even, once or twice, simply walking out of his frame and leaving nothing but a stretch of muddy-brown canvas behind. However, he had trained himself not to look at the picture very much, and always to tell himself firmly that his eyes were playing tricks on him when anything like this happened.
    Then, three years ago, on a night very like tonight, the Prime Minister had been alone in his office when the portrait had once again announced the imminent arrival of Fudge, who had burst out of the fireplace, sopping wet and in a state of considerable panic. Before the Prime Minister could ask why he was dripping all over the Axminster, Fudge had started ranting about a prison the Prime Minister had never heard of, a man named “Serious” Black, something that sounded like “Hogwarts,” and a boy called Harry Potter, none of which made the remotest sense to the Prime Minister.
    “. . . I’ve just come from Azkaban,” Fudge had panted, tipping a large amount of water out of the rim of his bowler hat into his pocket. “Middle of the North Sea, you know, nasty flight . . . the dementors are in uproar” — he shuddered — “they’ve never had a breakout before. Anyway, I had to come to you, Prime Minister. Black’s a known Muggle killer and may be planning to rejoin You-Know-Who. . . . But of course, you don’t even know who You-Know-Who is!” He had gazed hopelessly at the Prime Minister for a moment, then said, “Well, sit down, sit down, I’d better fill you in. . . . Have a whiskey . . .”
    The Prime Minister rather resented being told to sit down in his own office, let alone offered his own whiskey, but he sat nevertheless. Fudge pulled out his wand, conjured two large glasses full of amber liquid out of thin air, pushed one of them into the Prime Minister’s hand, and drew up a chair.
    Fudge had talked for more than an hour. At one point, he had refused to say a certain name aloud and wrote it instead on a piece of parchment, which he had thrust into the Prime Minister’s whiskey-free hand. When at last Fudge had stood up to leave, the Prime Minister had stood up too.
    “So you think that . . .” He had squinted down at the name in his left hand. “Lord Vol —”
    “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named !” snarled Fudge.
    “I’m sorry. . . . You think that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is still alive, then?”
    “Well, Dumbledore says he is,” said Fudge, as he had fastened his pin-striped cloak under his chin, “but we’ve never found him. If you ask me, he’s not dangerous unless he’s got support, so it’s Black we ought to be worrying about. You’ll put out that warning, then? Excellent. Well, I hope we don’t see each other again, Prime Minister! Good night.”
    But they had seen each other again. Less than a year later a harassed-looking Fudge had appeared out of thin air in the cabinet room to inform the Prime Minister that there had been a spot of bother at the Kwidditch (or that was what it had sounded like) World Cup and that several Muggles had been “involved,” but that the Prime Minister was not to worry, the fact that You-Know-Who’s Mark had been seen again meant nothing; Fudge was sure it was an isolated incident, and the Muggle Liaison Office was dealing with all memory modifications as they spoke.
    “Oh, and I almost forgot,” Fudge had added. “We’re importing three foreign dragons and a sphinx for the Triwizard Tournament, quite routine, but the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures tells me that it’s down in the rule book that we have to notify you if we’re bringing highly dangerous creatures into the country.”
    “I — what — dragons?” spluttered the Prime Minister.
    “Yes, three,” said Fudge. “And a sphinx. Well, good day to you.”
    The Prime Minister had hoped beyond hope that dragons and sphinxes would be the worst of it, but no. Less than two years later, Fudge had erupted out of the fire yet again, this time with the news that there had been a mass breakout from Azkaban.
    “A mass breakout?” repeated the Prime Minister hoarsely.
    “No need to worry, no need to worry!” shouted Fudge, already with one foot in the flames. “We’ll have them rounded up in no time — just thought you ought to know!”
    And before the Prime Minister could shout, “Now, wait just one moment!” Fudge had vanished in a shower of green sparks.
    Whatever the press and the opposition might say, the Prime Minister was not a foolish man. It had not escaped his notice that, despite Fudge’s assurances at their first meeting, they were now seeing rather a lot of each other, nor that Fudge was becoming more flustered with each visit. Little though he liked to think about the Minister of Magic (or, as he always called Fudge in his head, the Other Minister), the Prime Minister could not help but fear that the next time Fudge appeared it would be with graver news still. The sight, therefore, of Fudge stepping out of the fire once more, looking disheveled and fretful and sternly surprised that the Prime Minister did not know exactly why he was there, was about the worst thing that had happened in the course of this extremely gloomy week.
    “How should I know what’s going on in the — er — Wizarding community?” snapped the Prime Minister now. “I have a country to run and quite enough concerns at the moment without —”
    “We have the same concerns,” Fudge interrupted. “The Brockdale Bridge didn’t wear out. That wasn’t really a hurricane. Those murders were not the work of Muggles. And Herbert Chorley’s family would be safer without him. We are currently making arrangements to have him transferred to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. The move should be effected tonight.”
    “What do you . . . I’m afraid I . . . What?” blustered the Prime Minister.
    Fudge took a great, deep breath and said, “Prime Minister, I am very sorry to have to tell you that he’s back. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back.”
    “Back? When you say ‘back’ . . . he’s alive? I mean —”
    The Prime Minister groped in his memory for the details of that horrible conversation of three years previously, when Fudge had told him about the wizard who was feared above all others, the wizard who had committed a thousand terrible crimes before his mysterious disappearance fifteen years earlier.
    “Yes, alive,” said Fudge. “That is — I don’t know — is a man alive if he can’t be killed? I don’t really understand it, and Dumbledore won’t explain properly — but anyway, he’s certainly got a body and is walking and talking and killing, so I suppose, for the purposes of our discussion, yes, he’s alive.”
    The Prime Minister did not know what to say to this, but a persistent habit of wishing to appear well-informed on any subject that came up made him cast around for any details he could remember of their previous conversations.
    “Is Serious Black with — er — He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?”
    “Black? Black?” said Fudge distractedly, turning his bowler rapidly in his fingers. “Sirius Black, you mean? Merlin’s beard, no. Black’s dead. Turns out we were — er — mistaken about Black. He was innocent after all. And he wasn’t in league with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named either. I mean,” he added defensively, spinning the bowler hat still faster, “all the evidence pointed — we had more than fifty eyewitnesses — but anyway, as I say, he’s dead. Murdered, as a matter of fact. On Ministry of Magic premises. There’s going to be an inquiry, actually. . . .”
    To his great surprise, the Prime Minister felt a fleeting stab of pity for Fudge at this point. It was, however, eclipsed almost immediately by a glow of smugness at the thought that, deficient though he himself might be in the area of materializing out of fireplaces, there had never been a murder in any of the government departments under his charge. . . . Not yet, anyway . . .
    While the Prime Minister surreptitiously touched the wood of his desk, Fudge continued, “But Black’s by-the-by now. The point is, we’re at war, Prime Minister, and steps must be taken.”
    “At war?” repeated the Prime Minister nervously. “Surely that’s a little bit of an overstatement?”
    “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has now been joined by those of his followers who broke out of Azkaban in January,” said Fudge, speaking more and more rapidly and twirling his bowler so fast that it was a lime-green blur. “Since they have moved into the open, they have been wreaking havoc. The Brockdale Bridge — he did it, Prime Minister, he threatened a mass Muggle killing unless I stood aside for him and —”
    “Good grief, so it’s your fault those people were killed and I’m having to answer questions about rusted rigging and corroded expansion joints and I don’t know what else!” said the Prime Minister furiously.
    “My fault!” said Fudge, coloring up. “Are you saying you would have caved in to blackmail like that?”
    “Maybe not,” said the Prime Minister, standing up and striding about the room, “but I would have put all my efforts into catching the blackmailer before he committed any such atrocity!”
    “Do you really think I wasn’t already making every effort?” demanded Fudge heatedly. “Every Auror in the Ministry was — and is — trying to find him and round up his followers, but we happen to be talking about one of the most powerful wizards of all time, a wizard who has eluded capture for almost three decades!”
    “So I suppose you’re going to tell me he caused the hurricane in the West Country too?” said the Prime Minister, his temper rising with every pace he took. It was infuriating to discover the reason for all these terrible disasters and not to be able to tell the public, almost worse than it being the government’s fault after all.
    “That was no hurricane,” said Fudge miserably.
    “Excuse me!” barked the Prime Minister, now positively stamping up and down. “Trees uprooted, roofs ripped off, lampposts bent, horrible injuries —”
    “It was the Death Eaters,” said Fudge. “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s followers. And . . . and we suspect giant involvement.”
    The Prime Minister stopped in his tracks as though he had hit an invisible wall. “What involvement?”
    Fudge grimaced. “He used giants last time, when he wanted to go for the grand effect,” he said. “The Office of Misinformation has been working around the clock, we’ve had teams of Obliviators out trying to modify the memories of all the Muggles who saw what really happened, we’ve got most of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures running around Somerset, but we can’t find the giant — it’s been a disaster.”
    “You don’t say!” said the Prime Minister furiously.
    “I won’t deny that morale is pretty low at the Ministry,” said Fudge. “What with all that, and then losing Amelia Bones.”
    “Losing who?”
    “Amelia Bones. Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. We think He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named may have murdered her in person, because she was a very gifted witch and — and all the evidence was that she put up a real fight.”
    Fudge cleared his throat and, with an effort, it seemed, stopped spinning his bowler hat.
    “But that murder was in the newspapers,” said the Prime Minister, momentarily diverted from his anger. “Our newspapers. Amelia Bones . . . it just said she was a middle-aged woman who lived alone. It was a — a nasty killing, wasn’t it? It’s had rather a lot of publicity. The police are baffled, you see.”
    Fudge sighed. “Well, of course they are,” he said. “Killed in a room that was locked from the inside, wasn’t she? We, on the other hand, know exactly who did it, not that that gets us any further toward catching him. And then there was Emmeline Vance, maybe you didn’t hear about that one —”
    “Oh yes I did!” said the Prime Minister. “It happened just around the corner from here, as a matter of fact. The papers had a field day with it, ‘breakdown of law and order in the Prime Minister’s backyard —’ ”
    “And as if all that wasn’t enough,” said Fudge, barely listening to the Prime Minister, “we’ve got dementors swarming all over the place, attacking people left, right, and center. . . .”
    Once upon a happier time this sentence would have been unintelligible to the Prime Minister, but he was wiser now.
    “I thought dementors guard the prisoners in Azkaban,” he said cautiously.
    “They did,” said Fudge wearily. “But not anymore. They’ve deserted the prison and joined He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. I won’t pretend that wasn’t a blow.”
    “But,” said the Prime Minister, with a sense of dawning horror, “didn’t you tell me they’re the creatures that drain hope and happiness out of people?”
    “That’s right. And they’re breeding. That’s what’s causing all this mist.”
    The Prime Minister sank, weak-kneed, into the nearest chair. The idea of invisible creatures swooping through the towns and countryside, spreading despair and hopelessness in his voters, made him feel quite faint.
    “Now see here, Fudge — you’ve got to do something! It’s your responsibility as Minister of Magic!”
    “My dear Prime Minister, you can’t honestly think I’m still Minister of Magic after all this? I was sacked three days ago! The whole Wizarding community has been screaming for my resignation for a fortnight. I’ve never known them so united in my whole term of office!” said Fudge, with a brave attempt at a smile.
    The Prime Minister was momentarily lost for words. Despite his indignation at the position into which he had been placed, he still rather felt for the shrunken-looking man sitting opposite him.
    “I’m very sorry,” he said finally. “If there’s anything I can do?”
    “It’s very kind of you, Prime Minister, but there is nothing. I was sent here tonight to bring you up to date on recent events and to introduce you to my successor. I rather thought he’d be here by now, but of course, he’s very busy at the moment, with so much going on.”
    Fudge looked around at the portrait of the ugly little man wearing the long curly silver wig, who was digging in his ear with the point of a quill. Catching Fudge’s eye, the portrait said, “He’ll be here in a moment, he’s just finishing a letter to Dumbledore.”
    “I wish him luck,” said Fudge, sounding bitter for the first time. “I’ve been writing to Dumbledore twice a day for the past fortnight, but he won’t budge. If he’d just been prepared to persuade the boy, I might still be . . . Well, maybe Scrimgeour will have more success.”
    Fudge subsided into what was clearly an aggrieved silence, but it was broken almost immediately by the portrait, which suddenly spoke in its crisp, official voice.
    “To the Prime Minister of Muggles. Requesting a meeting. Urgent. Kindly respond immediately. Rufus Scrimgeour, Minister of Magic.”
    “Yes, yes, fine,” said the Prime Minister distractedly, and he barely flinched as the flames in the grate turned emerald green again, rose up, and revealed a second spinning wizard in their heart, disgorging him moments later onto the antique rug.
    Fudge got to his feet and, after a moment’s hesitation, the Prime Minister did the same, watching the new arrival straighten up, dust down his long black robes, and look around.
    The Prime Minister’s first, foolish thought was that Rufus Scrimgeour looked rather like an old lion. There were streaks of gray in his mane of tawny hair and his bushy eyebrows; he had keen yellowish eyes behind a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles and a certain rangy, loping grace even though he walked with a slight limp. There was an immediate impression of shrewdness and toughness; the Prime Minister thought he understood why the Wizarding community preferred Scrimgeour to Fudge as a leader in these dangerous times.
    “How do you do?” said the Prime Minister politely, holding out his hand.
    Scrimgeour grasped it briefly, his eyes scanning the room, then pulled out a wand from under his robes.
    “Fudge told you everything?” he asked, striding over to the door and tapping the keyhole with his wand. The Prime Minister heard the lock click.
    “Er — yes,” said the Prime Minister. “And if you don’t mind, I’d rather that door remained unlocked.”
    “I’d rather not be interrupted,” said Scrimgeour shortly, “or watched,” he added, pointing his wand at the windows, so that the curtains swept across them. “Right, well, I’m a busy man, so let’s get down to business. First of all, we need to discuss your security.”
    The Prime Minister drew himself up to his fullest height and replied, “I am perfectly happy with the security I’ve already got, thank you very —”
    “Well, we’re not,” Scrimgeour cut in. “It’ll be a poor lookout for the Muggles if their Prime Minister gets put under the Imperius Curse. The new secretary in your outer office —”
    “I’m not getting rid of Kingsley Shacklebolt, if that’s what you’re suggesting!” said the Prime Minister hotly. “He’s highly efficient, gets through twice the work the rest of them —”
    “That’s because he’s a wizard,” said Scrimgeour, without a flicker of a smile. “A highly trained Auror, who has been assigned to you for your protection.”
    “Now, wait a moment!” declared the Prime Minister. “You can’t just put your people into my office, I decide who works for me —”
    “I thought you were happy with Shacklebolt?” said Scrimgeour coldly.
    “I am — that’s to say, I was —”
    “Then there’s no problem, is there?” said Scrimgeour.
    “I . . . well, as long as Shacklebolt’s work continues to be . . . er . . . excellent,” said the Prime Minister lamely, but Scrimgeour barely seemed to hear him.
    “Now, about Herbert Chorley, your Junior Minister,” he continued. “The one who has been entertaining the public by impersonating a duck.”
    “What about him?” asked the Prime Minister.
    “He has clearly reacted to a poorly performed Imperius Curse,” said Scrimgeour. “It’s addled his brains, but he could still be dangerous.”
    “He’s only quacking!” said the Prime Minister weakly. “Surely a bit of a rest . . . Maybe go easy on the drink . . .”
    “A team of Healers from St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries are examining him as we speak. So far he has attempted to strangle three of them,” said Scrimgeour. “I think it best that we remove him from Muggle society for a while.”
    “I . . . well . . . He’ll be all right, won’t he?” said the Prime Minister anxiously.
    Scrimgeour merely shrugged, already moving back toward the fireplace.
    “Well, that’s really all I had to say. I will keep you posted of developments, Prime Minister — or, at least, I shall probably be too busy to come personally, in which case I shall send Fudge here. He has consented to stay on in an advisory capacity.”
    Fudge attempted to smile, but was unsuccessful; he merely looked as though he had a toothache. Scrimgeour was already rummaging in his pocket for the mysterious powder that turned the fire green. The Prime Minister gazed hopelessly at the pair of them for a moment, then the words he had fought to suppress all evening burst from him at last.
    “But for heaven’s sake — you’re wizards! You can do magic ! Surely you can sort out — well — anything!”
    Scrimgeour turned slowly on the spot and exchanged an incredulous look with Fudge, who really did manage a smile this time as he said kindly, “The trouble is, the other side can do magic too, Prime Minister.”
    And with that, the two wizards stepped one after the other into the bright green fire and vanished.
    
    第一章 另一位部长
    
    差不多快到午夜了,首相独自坐在办公室里,读着一份长长的备忘录,但是他脑子里一片空白,根本不明白那上面写的是什么意思。他在等一个遥远国家的总统打来电话。他一方面怀疑那个倒霉的家伙到底会不会来电话,另一方面克制着对这一漫长而累人的一周的许多令人不快的回忆,所以脑子里便没有多少空间想别的事情了。他越是想集中精力阅读他面前的这张纸上的文字,越是清清楚楚地看见他的一个政敌幸灾乐祸的脸。这位政敌那天出现在新闻里,不仅一一列举了上个星期发生的所有可怕的事故(就好像有谁还需要提醒似的),而且还头头是道地分析了每一起事故都是由于政府的过失造成的。
    首相一想到这些指责,脉搏就加快了跳动,因为它们很不公正,也不符合事实。他的政府怎么可能阻止那座桥倒塌呢?有人竟然提出政府在桥梁建筑方面投资不够,这真让人忍无可忍。那座桥建成还不到十年,最出色的专家也无法解释它为什么会突然整整齐齐地断成两截,十几辆汽车栽进了下面深深的河水里。另外,有人竟然提出是警方力量不足,才导致了那两起传得沸沸扬扬的恶性谋杀案的发生,还说政府应该预见到西部那场给人们的生命和财产造成巨大损失的古怪飓风。还有,他的一位助理部长赫伯特·乔莱偏偏在这个星期表现怪异,说是要跟家人多待一些时间,这难道也是他的过错吗?
    “全国上下一片恐慌。”那位反对派最后这么总结道,几乎毫不掩饰脸上得意的笑容。
    不幸的是,事实确实如此。首相自己也感觉到了。人们确实显得比平常更加惶恐不安,就连天气也不如人意,还是七月中旬,就已弥漫着寒冷的雾气……这很不对头,很不正常……
    他翻到备忘录的第二页,发现后面的内容还很长,知道不可能把它看完,便索性放弃了。他把两只胳膊伸过头顶,郁闷地打量着他的办公室。这是一个很气派的房间,漂亮的大理石壁炉对着长长的框格窗,窗户关得很严实,挡住了外面不合季节的寒雾。首相微微打了个寒战,站起来走到窗户前,望着外面紧贴窗玻璃的薄薄的雾气。正当他背对房间站在那儿的时候,他听见身后传来一声轻轻的咳嗽。
    他僵住了,面前黑黑的窗玻璃里是他自己那张惊恐的脸。他熟悉这咳嗽声。他以前曾经听见过。他缓缓地转过身,面对着空荡荡的房间。
    “喂?”他说,努力使自己的声音听上去显得勇敢一些。
    那一瞬间,他明知道不可能,但心里还是隐约希望没人会答应他。然而,立刻有个声音做了回答,这个声音清脆、果断,好像在念一篇准备好的发言稿。首相听见第一声咳嗽时就知道,这声音来自那个戴着长长的银色假发、长得像青蛙一般的小个子男人,他是房间那头墙角里一幅肮脏的小油画上的人物。
    “致麻瓜首相。要求紧急会面。请立刻答复。忠实的,福吉。”油画里的男人询问地望着首相。
    “嗯,”首相说,“听着……这个时间对我不合适……我在等一个电话……是一位总统的——”
    “那可以重新安排。”肖像不假思索地说。
    首相的心往下一沉,他担心的就是这个。
    “但是我确实希望跟他通话——”
    “我们会让总统忘记打电话的事情。他会在明天晚上再打来电话。”小个子男人说,“请立即答复福吉先生。”
    “我……噢……好吧,”首相无可奈何地说,“行,我就见见福吉。”
    他匆匆走向办公桌,一边正了正领带。他刚刚坐定,把面部表情调整得如他希望的那样轻松、镇定自若,就见大理石壁炉下面空空的炉栅里突然冒出了鲜绿色的火苗。首相竭力掩饰住内心的惊讶和恐慌,眼睁睁地看着一个大胖子出现在火焰中间,像陀螺一样飞快地转个不停。几秒钟后,大胖子跨过炉栅,手里拿着一顶黄绿色的圆顶高帽,站到一方古色古香的精美地毯上,掸了掸他那件细条子斗篷袖子上的炉灰。
    “呵……首相,”康奈利·福吉说着,大步走了过来,伸出一只手,“很高兴跟你又见面了。”
    首相从心底里不愿回答这句客套话,便什么也没说。他一点儿也不愿意见到福吉,福吉以前的几次露面,除了令人特别惊慌外,一般意味着又要听到一些特别糟糕的消息了。况且,福吉这次显然显得忧心忡忡。他比以前瘦了,脸色更加晦暗,脑袋也秃得更厉害了,脸上看上去皱巴巴的。首相曾在政客们脸上看见过这种神情,一般来说,这不是一个好兆头。
    “我能帮你做点什么吗?”首相问,匆匆握了一下福吉的手,示意他坐到桌子前一把最硬的椅子上。
    “真不知道从哪儿说起,”福吉嘟嚷道,拉过椅子坐下,把那顶绿色的圆顶高帽放在膝盖上,“这个星期真够呛,真够呛啊……”
    “你这个星期也过得不顺心吗?”首相板着脸问,他想让对方明白,他自己需要操心的事情已经够多的了,不想再替福吉分担什么。
    “是啊,那还用说。”福吉说着疲倦地揉揉眼睛,愁闷地看着首相,“这个星期我跟你的遭遇差不多,首相。布罗克代尔桥……博恩斯和万斯的命案……更别提西部的那场动乱……”
    “你们——嗯——你们的——我是说——你们的一些人跟——跟这些事件有关,是吗?”
    福吉非常严厉地瞪着首相。“当然是这样。”他说,“你肯定明白是怎么回事?”
    “我……”首相迟疑着。
    正是这种状况,使他不太喜欢福吉的来访。他毕竟是堂堂的首相,不愿意有人让他感觉自己是个什么都不懂的小学生。可是,自他当上首相的第一个晚上与福吉的第一次见面起,情况就是这样。他还清楚地记得当时的情景,就好像是昨天刚发生的事情,他知道他至死也忘不了那段记忆。
    当时他独自站在这间办公室里,品味着经历了那么多年的梦想和精心谋划之后,终于获得成功的喜悦,突然,他听见身后传来一声咳嗽,就像今晚一样,他转身一看,是那幅丑陋的小肖像在跟他说话,通报说魔法部部长要来拜访他。
    自然地,他以为这是长期的竞选活动和选举的压力导致他的精神有点失常。他发现一幅肖像在跟他说话时确实惊恐极了,这还不算,后来又有一个自称是巫师的人从壁炉里跳了出来,跟他握手,他更是吓得不知所措。他一言不发,福吉友好地解释说如今仍有巫师秘密地生活在世界各地,还安慰他说这些事用不着他来操心,因为魔法部有责任管理整个巫师界,不让非巫师人群知道他们的存在。福吉说,这是一件相当艰巨的工作,简直无所不包,从规定如何认真负责地使用飞天扫帚,到控制和管辖所有的火龙(首相记得自己听到这里时,不由得紧紧抓住了桌子,以免自己摔倒)。福吉说完之后,还像慈父一样拍了拍仍然瞠目结舌的首相的肩膀。
    “不用担心,”他说,“你多半不会再见到我了。只有在我们那边出了严重的麻烦,有可能影响到麻瓜,就是那些非巫师人群的时候,我才会来打扰你。除此之外,你就顺其自然好了。对了,我还得说一句,你接受这件事的态度比你那位前任强多了。他以为我是他的政敌派来的一个骗子,要把我扔出窗外呢。”
    这时,首相终于找到机会能说话了。
    “这么说,你——不是骗子?”
    这是他仅存的一点渺茫的希望。
    “不是,”福吉温和地说,“对不起,我不是。你看。”
    说着他一挥魔杖,就把首相的茶杯变成了一只沙鼠。
    “可是,”首相注视着他的茶杯在啃他的下一次演讲稿,上气不接下气地说道,“可是,为什么——为什么没有人告诉过我——?”
    “魔法部部长只在执政的麻瓜首相面前暴露自己的身份。”福吉说着把魔杖重新插进了衣服里面,“我们认为这样最有利于保持隐蔽。”
    “可是,”首相用颤抖的声音说,“为什么前任首相没有提醒我——?”
    听了这话,福吉竟然笑出声来。
    “我亲爱的首相,难道你会去跟别人说吗?”
    福吉仍然呵呵地笑着,往壁炉里扔了一些粉末,然后跨进翠绿色的火苗,呼的一声就消失了。首相一动不动地怔在那里,他知道,只要他还活着,是绝对不敢跟任何人提起这场会面的,在这大千世界里,有谁会相信他呢?
    过了一段时间,他那颗受了惊吓的心才慢慢地平静下来。他曾经试图说服自己,那个什么福吉只是一个幻觉,是因为竞选活动弄得他心力交瘁,睡眠不足,才出现了这样的幻觉。为了摆脱所有会让他想起这场不愉快会面的东西,他把那只沙鼠送给了欢天喜地的侄女,还吩咐他的私人秘书把那个通报福吉来访的小个子丑八怪的肖像取下来。可令他大为沮丧的是,那幅肖像竟然怎么也弄不走。他们动用了几位木匠、一两个建筑工人、一位艺术史专家,还有财政大臣,费了九牛二虎之力想把它从墙上撬下来,都没有成功。最后首相不再尝试了,只是一门心思地希望那玩意儿在他任期之内一直保持静止和沉默。偶尔,他可以肯定他的眼角瞥见画像里的人在打哈欠或挠鼻子,有一两次甚至走出了画框,只留下空空的一片土灰色帆布。不过,首相训练自己不要经常去看那幅画像,每当出现这类蹊跷的事情时,他总是坚决地告诉自己是他的眼睛出现了错觉。
    后来,也就是三年前,就在一个像今天这样的夜晚,首相一个人待在办公室里,那幅画像又通报福吉即将来访,紧接着福吉就从壁炉里蹿了出来,浑身湿得像只落汤鸡,一副惊慌失措的样子。首相还没来得及问他为什么把水都滴在了阿克斯明斯特绒头地毯上,福吉就气冲冲地唠叨开了,说的是一座首相从来没听说过的监狱,一个被称作“小灰狼”布莱克的男人、一个听着像是霍格沃茨的什么东西,还有一个名叫哈利·波特的男孩,首相听得云里雾里,根本不知道他在说些什么。
    “……我刚从阿兹卡班过来。”福吉一边喘着粗气说,一边把圆顶高帽帽檐里的一大堆水倒进了他的口袋,“你知道的,在北海中央,这一路可真够呛……摄魂怪造反了——”他打了个寒噤,“——他们以前从来没有发生过越狱事件。总之,我必须上你这儿来一趟,首相。布莱克是个著名的麻瓜杀手,而是很可能准备加入神秘人一伙……当然啦,你连神秘人是谁都不知道!”他无奈地望了首相片刻,说道,“唉,坐下,坐下吧,我最好跟你详细说说……来一杯威士忌吧……”
    明明是在他这位首相的办公室,对方却吩咐他坐下,还请他喝他自己的威士忌。首相本来是很恼火的,但他还是坐下了。福吉抽出魔杖,凭空变出了两只大玻璃杯,里面满是琥珀色的液体,他把其中一杯推到首相手里,然后又拖过来一把椅子。
    福吉说了一个多小时。说到某个地方时,他竟不肯把一个名字大声说出来,而且写在一张羊皮纸上,塞进了首相那只不拿威士忌的手里。最后,福吉起身准备离开了,首相也站了起来。
    “这么说,你认为……”他眯起眼睛看了看手里的那个名字,“伏地——”
    “那个连名字都不能提的魔头!”福吉咆哮着说。
    “对不起……你认为那个连名字都不能提的魔头还活着,是吗?”
    “是啊,邓布利多是这么说的,”福吉说着把细条纹斗篷在下巴底下掖紧,“可是我们一直没有找到他。依我看,他只有得到支持才会构成危险,所以我们要担心的是布莱克。你会把那个警告公布出去的吧?太好了。行了,我希望我们不会再见面了,首相!晚安。”
    可是他们后来还是又见面了。不到一年,心烦意乱的福吉在内阁会议室里突然凭空显形,告诉首相说“鬼地奇”(至少听上去是这几个字)世界杯赛上出了乱子,有几个麻瓜被“牵扯”了进去,不过首相不用担心,虽然神秘人的标记又出现了,但那说明不了什么问题。福吉相信这只是一个孤立事件,而且就在他们说话的当儿,麻瓜联络办公室正忙着进行修改记忆的工作呢。
    “哦,我差点忘了,”福吉又说,“为了举办三强争霸赛,我们要从国外进口三条火龙和一头斯芬克司,这是惯例,不过神奇动物管理控制司的人告诉我,按照规定,如果我们把特别危险的动物带进这个国家,都需要向你通报一声。”
    “我——什么——火龙?”首相结结巴巴地问。
    “是啊,三条,”福吉说,“还有一头斯芬克司。好了,祝你顺心。”
    首相侥幸地希望不会再出现比火龙和斯芬克司更加可怕的东西了,然而他错了。不到两年,福吉又一次从火里冒了出来,这回带来的消息是:阿兹卡班发生了集体越狱。
    “集体越狱?”首相用沙哑的声音重复道。
    “不用担心,不用担心!”福吉大声说,一只脚已经跨进了火焰,“我们很快就会把他们一网打尽的——只是觉得应该让你知道而已!”
    还没等首相喊一声“喂,等一等!”福吉已经消失在一片绿色的火花里了。
    不管媒体和反对派们怎么说,首相并不是一个愚蠢的人。他注意到,虽说他们第一次见面时福吉向他拍胸脯保证过,但实际上他们现在经常见面,而且每次见面福吉都显得更加心神不宁。首相不太愿意想到那位魔法部部长(他在心里总是管福吉叫另一位部长),但他还是忍不住担心福吉下一次出现时,肯定会带来更加糟糕的消息。因此,当他看见福吉又一次从火里跨出来时,他觉得这是这个倒霉的星期里所发生的最糟糕的一件事了。福吉衣冠不整,神情烦躁,而且似乎对首相怎么会不明白他为什么来访感到很生气、很吃惊。
    “我怎么会知道——嗯——巫师界发生的事情呢?”首相这时候生硬地说,“我要管理一个国家,目前需要操心的事情已经够多的了——”
    “我们操心的事情是一样的。”福吉打断他的话说,“布罗克代尔桥并不是年久失修;那股风实际上并不是飓风;那几起谋杀案也不是麻瓜所为。还有,赫伯特·乔莱走了,他的家人反而会更安全。我们目前正安排把他转到圣芒戈魔法伤病医院。今天晚上就可以办妥。”
    “你们怎么……恐怕我……什么?”首相激动地咆哮起来。
    福吉深深地吸了一口气,说道:“首相,我非常遗憾地告诉你,他回来了。那个连名字都不能提的魔头回来了。”
    “回来了?你说他‘回来了’……他还活着?我的意思是——”
    首相在记忆中搜索着三年前那段可怕对话的具体内容,当时福吉跟他谈到那位人人谈之色变的巫师,那位十五年前犯下无数滔天大罪之后神秘失踪的巫师。
    “是啊,还活着,”福吉说道,“算是活着吧——我也说不清——一个不能被杀死的人还算活着吗?我搞不明白是怎么回事,邓布利多又不肯好好解释——可是不管怎么说,他肯定有了一具躯体,可以走路、说话,可以杀人了,所以我想,就我们所谈的话题来说,他确实是活着的。”
    首相听了这话,竟一时不知道该说什么好,但他有一个根深蒂固的习惯,不管谈论什么话题,他都要显示自己无所不知,因此他在记忆中苦苦搜寻他们前几次谈话的内容。
    “小灰狼布莱克跟——嗯——跟那个连名字都不能提的魔头在一起吗?”
    “布莱克?布莱克?”福吉心烦意乱地说,一边用手指飞快地转动着他的圆顶高帽,“你是说小天狼星布莱克吧?天哪,没有。布莱克死了。后来才发现,我们——嗯——我们在布莱克的事情上搞错了。他竟然是无辜的,也没有跟那个连名字都不能提的魔头勾结在一起。我是说,”他接着又分辩道,圆顶高帽在他的手里转得更快了,“所有证据都显示——有五十多位目击证人——可是,唉,正像我刚才说的,他死了。实际上是被杀害的。就在魔法部办公的地方。这件事肯定还要调查的……”
    听到这里,首相突然间对福吉产生了恻隐之心,这使他自己也大为吃惊。不过,他的同情转瞬即逝,立刻就被一种自我得意的心情所取代。他想到,他虽说不具备从壁炉里显形的本领,但是在他所管辖的政府部门里,还从来没出过命案呢……至少现在还没有……
    首相偷偷地敲了一下木头桌子①,福吉继续说道:“不过布莱克的事情已经过去了。现在的问题是,我们正处于战争之中,首相,必须采取一些措施。”
    “战争之中?”首相不安地重复了一遍,“这肯定有些夸大其辞吧。”
    “那个连名字都不能提的魔头的一些追随者,一月份从阿兹卡班越狱逃出来之后,又投奔到他那儿去了。”福吉的语速越来越快,圆顶高帽转得像飞一样,变成了一片模糊的黄绿色。“自从他们公开亮相以来,已经造成了很大的破坏。布罗克代尔桥——就是他给弄塌的,首相,他威胁说,除非我跟他站在一边,不然他就要大批屠杀麻瓜——”
    “天哪,那些人被害原来都是你的问题,而我却被逼着回答那些关于设备生锈、伸缩接头腐烂等等莫名其妙的问题!”首相气愤地说。
    “我的问题!”福吉涨红了脸,说道,“难道你是说,你会屈服于那样的威胁吗?”
    “也许不会,”首相说着站了起来,迈着大步在房间里走来走去,“但是我会想尽办法抓住那个威胁我的人,不让他犯下这样残暴的罪行!”
    “你以为我就没有做出种种努力吗?”福吉激动地问,“魔法部的每一位傲罗都在想方设法地寻找他,围捕他的追随者,直到今天!可是我们眼下谈论的,碰巧是有史以来最厉害的一位巫师,将近三十年来他一直逍遥法外!”
    “我想,你接着还会告诉我,西部的那场飓风也是他造成的吧?”首相问。他每走一步,心里的怒火就增长一分。他发现了所有那些可怕灾难的原因,却又不能告诉公众,这简直太令人生气了,如果真是政府的过失反倒还好一些。
    “根本就没有什么飓风。”福吉苦恼地说。
    “你说什么!”首相吼道,他已经忍不住在跺脚了,“大树连根拔起,屋顶被掀翻,路标变成了弯的,大批人员伤亡——”
    “这都是食死徒干的,”福吉说,“就是那个连名字都不能提的魔头的追随者。另外……我们还怀疑巨人也参与了。”
    首相猛地停住脚步,仿佛撞上了一堵看不见的墙。
    “什么也参与了?”
    福吉做了个苦脸。“上次他就利用了巨人,想把声势造得很大。现在,错误信息办公室②的人们正在加班加点地工作,我们还派出了好几批记忆注销员,修改所有那些亲眼目睹了事情经过的麻瓜们的记忆,神奇动物管理控制司的大多数工作人员都被派到萨默塞特去了,他们在那里四处搜寻,但没能找到巨人——真是一场灾难。”
    “这不可能!”首相气呼呼地说。
    “我不否认,部里现在人心惶惶,士气消沉。”福吉说,“这还不算,后来阿米莉亚·博恩斯又失踪了。”
    “谁失踪了?”
    “阿米莉亚·博恩斯,魔法法律执行司的司长。我们认为是那个连名字都不能提的魔头亲手杀害了她,因为她是一个很有天分的女巫——而且所有的迹象都表明她曾经奋力反抗过。”
    福吉清了清嗓子,然后,像是费了很大的劲,才停止了旋转他的圆顶高帽。
    “可是报纸上报道了那起命案,”首相暂时忘记了他的愤怒,说道,“我们的报纸。阿米莉亚·博恩斯……说她是一位单身的中年妇女,这是一起……一起恶性谋杀案,是吗?这件事已经传得沸沸扬扬。警察完全不知道从何入手。”
    福吉叹了口气。“唉,那是自然的。她是在一个从里面锁住的房间里被杀害的,是不是?我们倒完全清楚是谁干的,但这也不能帮助我们抓住那家伙。还有爱米琳·万斯,这件事你也许没有听说——”
    “我当然听说了!”首相说,“实际上,它就发生在离这儿不远的那个角落里。报纸拿这一点大做文章:在首相的后院里以身试法——”
    “就好像这些还不够糟糕似的,”福吉几乎没听首相说话,只是自顾自地说道,“现在摄魂怪到处都是,随时向人发起进攻……”
    在以前无忧无虑的日子里,首相会觉得这句话难以理解,但是现在他已经知道了许多事情。
    “我记得,摄魂怪是看守阿兹卡班犯人的?”他谨慎地问。
    “以前是这样,”福吉疲倦地说,“现在不是啦。他们离开了监狱,投靠了那个连名字都不能提的魔头。我必须承认这真是祸从天降。”
    “可是,”首相说,他心里渐渐产生了一种恐惧,“你不是告诉过我,它们这种生物是专门吸走人们的希望和快乐的吗?”
    “没错。而且它们还在不断繁衍,所以形成了这些迷雾。”
    首相双膝一软,跌坐在离他最近的一把椅子上。一想到这些无形的生物在城市和乡村飞来飞去,在他的选民中散布悲观绝望的情绪,他就感到自己快要晕倒了。
    “听我说,福吉——你必须采取措施!这是你作为魔法部部长的责任!”
    “我亲爱的首相啊,发生这么多事情之后,你真的认为我还能当魔法部部长吗?我三天前就下台了!整个巫师界两个星期来一直叫嚷着要我辞职。我在任这么多年,还从没见过他们这么团结一致!”福吉说着勉强地笑了一下。
    首相一时说不出话来。他对自己被置于这样一种境地感到愤慨,同时又对坐在对面的这个看上去萎缩了的男人心生同情。
    “非常抱歉。”最后他说道,“我能帮你做些什么吗?”
    “谢谢你的好意,首相,但没有什么了。我今晚是被派来向你通报最新事态发展的,并把你介绍给我的继任者。我本来以为他现在应该到了。当然啦,目前发生了这么多事,把他忙得够呛。”
    福吉扭头看了看肖像里那个戴着拳曲的长长的银色假发、长相丑陋的小个子男人,他正在用羽毛笔的笔尖掏耳朵。
    肖像里的男人发现福吉在看他,便说道:“他马上就来。他正在给邓布利多写信,很快就写完了。”
    “我祝他好运。”福吉说,语气第一次显得有些尖刻,“在过去的两个星期里,我每天给邓布利多写两封信,但他就是不肯改变主意。如果他愿意说服那个男孩,我恐怕还能……唉,说不定斯克林杰会比我顺利。”
    福吉显然很委屈地陷入了沉默,可是,肖像里的那个男人立刻打破了他的沉默,用打着官腔的清脆声音突然说话了。
    “致麻瓜首相。请求会面。事情紧急。请立即答复。魔法部部长鲁弗斯·斯克林杰。”
    “行,行,可以。”首相心绪烦乱地说道,炉栅里的火苗又一次变成了翠绿色,火焰中间出现了第二位滴溜溜旋转的巫师。他转了一会儿,走到了古色古香的地毯上。首相看着这情景,没有表露出害怕的样子。福吉站起身,首相迟疑了一下,也站了起来,注视着那个新来的人直起身子,掸掉黑色长袍上的炉灰,向左右张望着。
    首相一下子冒出一个荒唐的念头,觉得鲁弗斯·斯克林杰活像一头老狮子。他茶褐色的头发和浓密的眉毛里夹杂着缕缕灰色,金丝边眼镜后面是一双锐利的黄眼睛,尽管腿有点瘸,但走起路来却有一种大步流星的潇洒,使人立刻感觉到他是一个敏锐、强硬的家伙。首相认为他很能理解在这危机的时期,巫师界为什么希望斯克林杰而不是福吉当他们的首领。
    “你好。”首相彬彬有礼地说,向他伸出了手。
    斯克林杰草草地握了一下首相的手,眼睛在屋里扫来扫去,然后从长袍里抽出一根魔杖。
    “福吉把事情都告诉你了?”他一边问一边大步走到门口,用魔杖敲了敲锁眼。首相听见门锁咔哒一响。
    “嗯——是这样。”首相说,“如果你不介意的话,我希望不要锁门。”
    “我不愿意被人打搅。”斯克林杰不耐烦地说,“或被人监视。”他又加了一句,同时用魔杖指了指窗户,窗帘便都拉上了。“好了,我是个大忙人,我们就开门见山吧。首先,我们需要讨论一下你的安全问题。”
    首相尽量把腰板挺得直直的,回答道:“我对现有的安全措施很满意,非常感谢——”
    “可是,我们不满意。”斯克林杰打断了他的话,“如果首相大人中了夺魂咒,麻瓜们可就要遭殃了。你办公室外间的那位新来的秘书——”
    “我绝不会把金斯莱·沙克尔赶走的,如果这就是你的建议的话!”首相激动地说,“他效率极高,做的工作是其他人的两倍——”
    “那是因为他是个巫师,”斯克林杰说,脸上不带丝毫笑容,“一位训练有素的傲罗,专门派来保护你的。”
    “喂,慢着!”首相大喊起来,“你不能随便把你们的人安插到我的办公室来,谁为我工作由我来决定——”
    “我想你对沙克尔很满意吧?”斯克林杰冷冷地说。
    “是的——我是说,以前是——”
    “那就没有什么问题了,是吗?”斯克林杰问。
    “我……是啊,只要沙克尔的工作一直那么……嗯……那么出色。”首相软弱无力地说。
    可是斯克林杰似乎根本没有听见。
    “还有,关于赫伯特·乔莱——你的助理部长,”他继续说道,“就是那个模仿鸭子、逗得公众乐不可支的人。”
    “他怎么啦?”首相问。
    “这显然是他中了一个蹩脚的夺魂咒之后的反应。”斯克林杰说,“他的脑子被弄糊涂了,但并不排除他会有危险。”
    “他只是学了几声鸭子叫!”首相无力地辩解道,“多休息休息……少喝点酒……肯定就会……”
    “就在我们说话的这会儿,圣芒戈魔法伤病医院的一支医疗队正在给他做检查。到现在为止,他已经试图掐死他们中间的三个人了。”斯克林杰说,“我认为我们最好暂时把他从麻瓜社会转移出去。”
    “我……那么……他会好起来吗?”首相担忧地问。
    斯克林杰只是耸了耸肩膀,已经回身朝壁炉走去。
    “好了,我要说的就这么多。我会把事态的发展及时告诉你的,首相——或者,我也许很忙,抽不出时间亲自过来,那样我就派福吉上这儿来。他已经同意以顾问的身份留下来了。”
    福吉想挤出一个笑容,但没有成功,那样子倒像是患了牙痛。斯克林杰已经在口袋里翻找那种使火苗变绿的神秘粉末了。首相不抱希望地凝视了他俩片刻,然后,他整个晚上一直忍住没说的一句话终于脱口而出。
    “可是,看在老天的分儿上——你们是巫师!你们会施魔法!你们肯定能够解决——是啊——解决任何问题的!”
    斯克林杰在原地慢慢转过身,与福吉交换了一个疑惑的目光。福吉这次总算露出了笑容,和颜悦色地说:“问题是,另外一边也会施魔法呀,首相大人。”
    说完,两位巫师就先后跨入鲜绿色的火苗,消失不见了。
    ①这是世界上很多民族的习惯:如果说到或想到一些不吉利的事情,赶紧敲敲近旁的木制东西,事情就可避免发生。
    ②关于“错误信息办公室”的职责,请见《神奇动物在哪里》第19页,人民文学出版社,2001年10月版。
    

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