Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Biology :: 03 :: Honesty

03 • Honesty

— Azkaban Year One —

“I think the greatest rogues are they who talk most of their honesty.” Anthony Trollope.

Ron and Hermione walked side by side toward Dumbledore’s office in silence. The password was whispered to the gargoyle, which obliged by jumping to the side, letting them access the moving stair. At the top they continued on to the office door and Ron rapped three times.

“Come in,” was the muffled reply from within.

Ron opened the door, gesturing for Hermione to enter ahead of him, then entered himself. Closing the door, he took a seat next to her and looked to Dumbledore.

“Thank you both for coming. Tea, either of you?” Dumbledore waved a hand at the tea set on his desk.

Hermione replied, “No thank you, professor.”

Ron shook his head in negation of the offer.

Dumbledore peered over the rim of his glasses at the two of them, then sat back and steepled his fingers, arms braced against his sides. “This is a sad day. As you know from the report in The Daily Prophet, our attempts have been for naught. I trust, however, that the both of you tried diligently since we first spoke on this matter.”

Ron straightened up and said, “We did, professor! We tried to get him to talk to us about whatever was wrong, but—”

Hermione cut in, “But he never said much of anything besides thinking he might be working too hard. He said he’d spoken to you and that you’d brushed him off. I realized at that point that there had to be something seriously wrong to have said such a thing.”

She huffed slightly and continued. “He seemed all right for a while after that. More like himself. But then Halloween got closer, and you know how upset he gets during that time of the year. Did he . . . say anything afterward? About what happened?”

Dumbledore gave her a long look then poured himself a cup of tea, squeezing a wedge of lemon into it before stirring and taking a sip. “He did not. He was still unconscious when he was removed from the school.”

“He never woke up?!” Ron shouted.

“I’ll thank you to moderate your tone, Mr Weasley,” said Dumbledore. “He was unconscious from the time he was subdued during the incident until he was removed. He will wake up in Azkaban.”

“Why was he taken there, professor? Couldn’t some other place have been found?” asked Hermione.

“That was the very subject of an Order meeting, Miss Granger. The outcome should be apparent.”

“How is Harry is supposed to get better in that place? I mean, if he really has lost his grip on reality, Azkaban will hardly make it any better,” she pointed out logically.

“There are times when even my hands are tied, Miss Granger. I know you are aware of that after your years here at Hogwarts. If Harry is indeed insane, or if Voldemort has found a way to force his will into him, he is a danger to us all, and quite likely already lost to us.” He took another sip of his tea as the two students looked down.

“Is there nothing we can do?” asked Hermione finally.

“Not at present, and if Minister Fudge is correct, there may never be,” said Dumbledore gravely. “Do you have any idea what set him off? Did either of you two see?”

“Well,” said Hermione, “I think it was when Goyle bumped into me. I turned my head to see who it was and saw a licorice stick pointed at me. He shouted at me to stop mangling his food, even though it was his fault. The next thing I knew, Harry was throwing curses around like mad.”

“I think, given that evidence, that we can safely say that Harry has become delusional.” There was no trace of a twinkle in Dumbledore’s eyes.

*

Remus sat at the far end of the table, almost hidden in the shadows. At the very end of the table sat Snape, likewise nearly hidden. Dumbledore took his pride of place at the head, bathed in a pool of pearly light. Remus thought that Albus had made sure of the quality of light, using it as a way to intensify his reputation as the leader of the Light.

Remus was not foolish enough to voice that opinion, however. He discounted a large part of what he’d read in The Daily Prophet. He was still trying to decide how he felt about what had happened with Harry. He felt, whether it was rational or not, that he owed it to Harry to give this his utmost attention; he had failed Sirius, he should do more for Harry than simply assume the reports were correct.

So it was that he attended the Order meeting and stayed silent unless expressly asked a question, or for his opinion. He had nothing to report, and was willing to venture no opinion when the subject of Harry arose. Snape was almost as silent as he; his contacts among the Death Eaters willing to talk to him had given him nothing to work with. The most he did when Harry was mentioned was to smirk even more broadly than normal. Still, Remus could not be sure if that was an honest reaction. It took an extremely unforgiving man to settle the sins of the father on the son. He didn’t think Snape would tell him if he asked.

What concerned him more was that the members of the Order were acting like the world had ended because Harry was out of commission. Worse was the slowly prevailing attitude that Harry was definitely insane. It might be wrong of him, but Remus was placing the blame for the shift squarely on the shoulders of Albus Dumbledore.

Even if he wasn’t now, after time in Azkaban he would be with the dementors back in charge.

*

The pain in his scar woke him, that and the knowledge that someone was intensely happy. His first thought was that the beds in the infirmary had undergone a serious drop in quality. His second thought was that it must be night and that someone must be in with pneumonia due to the rattling breathing he was hearing from somewhere nearby.

He didn’t really want to open his eyes, but the noise was starting to get on his already frayed nerves. And now that he was more or less awake, he really wanted to know if Ron and Hermione were all right. Reluctantly he cracked open one eye, noting the depressing grey light that greeted him, and opened the other so he could see more clearly. He fumbled to one side for his glasses and was rewarded with scraped knuckles.

He jerked in surprise and sat up, fumbling to the other side. His hand met only air. Without being able to see clearly, how was he supposed to tell what was going on?

“You realize, of course, that sometimes I despair of you ever having an original thought.”

Harry groaned in annoyance while pulling at his hair.

“I hate to say it, but that didn’t make it any less messy.”

“All right. I guess it just wouldn’t be a normal day anymore if you weren’t having a go at me. Did you have a suggestion or something?”

“Naturally. You can’t see clearly, so fix it.”

“Fix it.”

“Yes, fix it.”

“Are you sure you don’t come with an instruction manual?”

No answer was forthcoming so Harry sighed and took the expedient route, concentrating on his flawed eyesight. He felt a curious tingling and opened them, only vaguely surprised to realize that he could see perfectly.

Perfectly dim, grey light. Perfectly grey granite walls and a door fashioned from sturdy iron bars. Certainly not the infirmary. “So, this is what it comes down to.”

“I’m afraid so.”

“I guess I did a lousy job with Dumbledore. Do you suppose he let . . . well, I assume Fudge was responsible, and Dumbledore let him do it because I refuse to be happy in ignorance.” Harry pushed himself off the cot and paced to the door, angling his head to peer down the hallway in either direction.

The rattling breathing was easily explained when he saw a dementor gliding toward him. He immediately retreated to his cot and sat down mumbling, “Bloody hell.”

It appeared moments later at his cell door, practically pressing up against the bars in anticipation of a meal sucked from the recesses of Harry’s mind. He waited for the icy sensation of its presence to manifest and for the horrific memories to flash before his eyes, but they never came.

Harry’s eyes widened in surprise, and he started to laugh like he had at the estate. Had any human been within hearing distance they would have assumed he was either mad or Voldemort himself in an ecstatic mood.

The dementor finally turned and drifted off during Harry’s hysteria. By the time he’d gotten control of himself there was a tray shoved through the bottom of the door containing a dish each of water and bread. A fitting meal for a prisoner not expected to live long.

The routine was soon set in his mind; meals were brought twice a day, always bread and water, with the exception of once each week when he received gruel as well. Why they bothered he wasn’t sure. Only one person had ever escaped Azkaban. Most inmates either killed themselves to be rid of the memories, or were driven crazy and then suicided.

He knew how Sirius had survived, but Sirius had known he was innocent. Bellatrix and her lot were another story. He reasoned that those already insane might not be affected in quite the way the Ministry would want. Even so, it did not explain how she and the others had managed to avoid being reduced to the level of squib after so many years, as it was well known that dementors were supposed to leech the magic from their victims over time.

Apparently, he need not fear any of the effects. Harry would have asked the voice, but decided that it was probably a side-effect of the book, and he would only risk another attack of sarcasm if he dared.

He considered escaping. Not knowing what his friends thought made him cautious. If he would not find shelter in their arms he was not sure it was worth the attempt. Until and unless someone came to visit him, he would stay right where he was. At least this misery was a constant, with little to no surprises.

He could simply hide away at the estate. He could transform his appearance and hide in plain sight. He had a gut feeling though that it would be worth his time to stay.

Magic wasn’t supposed to be possible in Azkaban; prisoners didn’t have wands. Luckily for Harry it was not an issue. He kept track of the days on the wall next to his cot. One small mark per day he stayed, safe within the walls of the infamous prison.

*

Remus walked along Diagon Alley with a heavy heart. He had come to the conclusion that Harry could not possibly have been responsible for the things he’d done. It was unthinkable that after everything he’d endured, that his mind had snapped because of pain from his scar. He’d had odd dreams since his fourth year, visions of Voldemort torturing people and battled him and his minions personally on more than one occasion. Harry had learned to face all of that with stoic resignation.

A shout turned his attention outward. One of the Weasley twins was hailing him from the door of their shop. Remus changed direction and went to greet the redhead.

“Remus! I’m glad to see you,” said the younger man. “Do you have time to come visit a bit? It’s about Harry.” His voice had dropped to the level of a whisper and he’d glanced around as though looking for eavesdroppers.

Remus hesitated. “I guess that depends,” he finally ventured.

“Please, Remus. Just hear us out. We don’t want people to overhear this,” the redhead whispered urgently.

Remus sighed. “Fine. But if I don’t like what I’m hearing, I’ll be on my way.”

The redhead nodded and stepped back into the shop, holding the door. Remus walked in and waited as the door was closed, then followed the younger man to one of the back rooms where his twin waited. The sales clerk they passed never batted an eyelid.

After an exchange of glances the first twin closed and locked the door, then protected the door and room with imperturbable and silencing charms. Once the two were standing side by side, they began.

“It’s like this. We think you’re one of the few people who may see things the way we do, so we’re taking a chance on talking to you about what we think.”

“Precisely, Fred. Half the family is now convinced that Harry is nuttier than a fruitcake or channeling You-Know-Who, and we don’t agree.”

Fred nodded. “There must be some other explanation.”

Remus heaved a sigh of relief and gave them a crooked smile, then sobered. “I was afraid of that. I knew that—never mind. How bad is it?”

“Bill and Charlie don’t seem to have formed an opinion, but mum and dad think he’s crackers. Percy has for ages anyway. Ron’s been convinced, but I think that’s as much due to Hermione’s logic as mum’s words,” said George.

“Even Ginny believes it. Maybe it’s her way of compensating for Harry never returning her feelings. If he’s now insane, maybe he always was, and that explains everything. Well, to her at least,” said Fred, rolling his eyes.

Remus gave both of them a long look. “For those who see Albus as nigh well infallible, I can see why opinions have shifted the way they have.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and went on. “I was thinking of going to Azkaban next visiting day to see him. Is there anything you want me to pass along for you two?”

Fred and George exchanged a glance.

“That we stand by him,” said George.

“That his share of the profits is being rolled back into development since the Ministry went after his money in Gringotts,” said Fred.

“Sorry, his share of the profits?”

The twins beamed. “Harry was our original investor. He gave us his Tri-Wizard winnings.”

Remus squeezed his eyes shut and massaged his forehead with long fingers. “Oh dear God,” he choked out, nor sure if what he felt coming on was laughter or tears. “It figures,” he finally said, opening his eyes again. “I’ve never understood why you two weren’t inducted into the Order.”

Fred snorted. “Because we’re too frivolous, unfocused, and left school early, I hear.”

“Not to mention inventive, brilliantly creative and probably well-suited for a number of things which could be quite valuable to the cause,” countered Remus. “It’s no matter, I suppose. I’ll tell Harry what you’ve said, and not mention it to anyone else. It isn’t my business who you tell.”

The twins grinned and nodded as one.

*

The ride to the island was creepy. No one manned any oars, nor worked lines to keep the longboat on course. It guided itself without any visible means at all, and creaked ominously as it moved through the water. One got the feeling it might collapse at any moment and send its passengers to a watery death.

Remus had waited until the gate to the dock had opened itself, signaling that visitors were allowed to cross to the island, then boarded the longboat for the trip. He was unsurprised to find he was alone in his desire to enter Azkaban.

He disembarked at the other side and strode up the rickety dock, his only companions the crashing of the waves against the bare rock of the island and the creak of rotting boards with each step. He idly wondered how often the dock was refurbished, and how many people had been dropped into the sea when parts of it collapsed.

The entrance was as imposing as it was bleak, a combination of dull grey granite and basalt that extended from the side of the fortress. After he was processed inside by one of the few human guards he was reminded between malicious chuckles not to stray too close to any of the dementors during his visit.

The guard produced a small sphere of blue light and released it, telling Remus to follow it well, or be lost, then promptly turned away. The blue light pulsed several times then zipped off down the corridor and Remus wisely hastened to follow it.

After many twisted corridors, stairs both up and down, and cells filled with a mixture of screaming or moaning prisoners, Remus was relieved to finally arrive at Harry’s cell. So far as Remus could tell, Harry was the only inmate secured in this block, which meant no one would be likely to overhear their conversation.

He skipped to the side as the blue sphere dipped and a three-legged stool appeared. After a look at the sphere, which was innocently swaying in circles and leaving behind trails of sparks, Remus pulled the stool close to the cell door and sat down.

“Harry?” he asked quietly.

Something detached itself from the shadows and approached the bars, then dropped to the floor. “Come to gloat?” asked a slightly hoarse voice.

“Harry, oh no, please. It’s Remus, Harry.”

The figure raised its head to expose a set of piercing green eyes and a blank expression. “Who sent you.” The tone was flat and expressionless.

“Harry, no one sent me. I had to come. I can’t believe they did this to you, let this happen.”

Green eyes stared at him; Remus felt as though they were boring a hole through his skull with their intensity. Then suddenly, Harry smiled. “All right, Remus?”

“Harry?”

“I can promise you I’m not mad, Moony. No more so than usual, anyway.”

Remus took a moment to study him through the bars. Even the short amount of time had had an effect; the lines on Harry’s face were far more pronounced.

“I assume Fudge was the front man behind sending me here,” Harry commented.

Remus cocked his head to one side. “Yes, you could say that.”

“And I assume that Dumbledore didn’t do a thing to stop him,” Harry continued calmly.

Remus blinked and nodded slowly. “Harry . . . what are your thoughts on Dumbledore?”

“Him? He’s a manipulative bastard. And, I’d say I need some work on my acting skills considering where I’m sitting now.”

“I don’t understand.”

Harry smirked and linked his hands behind his head. “I know things about Dumbledore that would horrify him. But, as I’m stuck in here, I don’t think he’d be too worried if he knew. After all, if I’m not mad now, everyone expects I will be now that the dementors are back as guards. Let’s just say that I wasn’t as circumspect as I should have been.”

Remus wasn’t happy with the brevity of the answer, but let it pass. It was more important right now to assure that Harry was all right.

“And will you? It’s not as though you have the advantage Snuffles did. . . .”

“Go mad? Not hardly.” Harry gave him a sly look. “Occlumency is useful against more than just dark lords and grudge-holding gits, Moony. Then again, perhaps the solitude will send me over the edge. Who can tell?”

Remus scratched his head; that hadn’t sounded right for some reason. “The twins send their regards,” he offered, trying to change the subject.

Harry brightened considerably. “Did they? Please let them know I’m happy to hear from them and that I hope the shop is doing well.”

“From what I can see it is. They did ask me to tell you that they’ve been plowing your share of the profits back into development though.”

“Ministry nicked my vault, eh?” Harry laughed. “Or can they not do that? I know Sirius still had his. . . . Ask them to be careful, Moony.”

The sphere swooped in close and started pulsing, causing Harry to look at Remus with an indecipherable expression. “And Moony, you be careful too. Don’t let them use you. Any of them.”

The sphere started to edge away down the hall, pause to pulse, then move further along. Remus swore under his breath and took one last look at Harry. “Yes, Harry. I’ll be back next time I’m allowed.”

Then he raced off after the sphere.

*

It was three months later when Azkaban allowed for visitors next. Remus would have preferred coming monthly, but that wasn’t the way things worked. Harry didn’t look much different than he had the first time and he seemed as lucid as before, which reassured Remus to no end.

He’d spent quite a bit of time reading up on dementors and occlumency during the interim, and between Order business. He was sure that Harry hadn’t been entirely honest with him the last time.

“Harry?”

“Hello, Moony. It’s good to see you again.” Harry’s voice was rusty from disuse, but otherwise fine. He once again sat himself before the bars of his door and subjected Remus to that piercing gaze before smiling in welcome. “So what’s the news from the outside? Voldemort fallen off a cliff yet?”

Remus gave him a sharp glance and said, “No, but several of his Death Eaters have been taken down and brought here after trial. Seems Amelia Bones is taking things quite seriously, throwing around veritaserum like it’s water. The funny thing is no one can figure out who nabbed them.”

“I bet that buttered Voldemort’s toast on the wrong side, didn’t it.”

“You sound as though you expected that kind of an answer, Harry.”

“Just because I’m here doesn’t mean I can’t still see things, Moony,” Harry said patiently. “I know when he’s upset. I reckoned something had to have happened to get that kind of reaction. What about the school then?”

“It’s fine. He and his haven’t gone near it that we know of. Classes go on as usual,” he supplied, wondering if Harry would want to hear about anyone specific.

He did not, however. He asked about no one except the twins. Remus took it as given that if a person, no matter who it was, didn’t believe in Harry, then he wasn’t going to ask about them.

“Moony, I’m curious. What are your thoughts on Professor Snape?” Harry tilted his head to one side and asked.

“Snape?” Why Snape? “Well, I don’t know. He had a textbook reaction to the news of your incarceration, but who can tell what’s going on in his head. I haven’t exactly asked him about his thoughts lately. Why do you ask?”

“As I said, I’m curious. Curious to know just which side Snape is really on, curious to know if he’s a puppet of Albus’s or if he’s in this for himself.”

“Short of slipping him veritaserum or digging around in his head, I’m not sure how I could find out, Harry.”

“If anything catches your notice, keep it in mind, okay?”

They moved on to more inconsequential topics for the remainder of their time together. When the sphere began to pulse Remus stood up with a sigh.

“I’ll be back in July, Harry,” he said before starting to follow the sphere.

“Just remember something, Moony. If you start running into trouble, let me know. I mean it.”

*

The day was warm and sunny, barely a cloud in the sky, making it perfect for the ceremony. As it was, Remus was sitting at the very back, fanning himself with his program and wishing they’d get this over with. He was only here to observe and see if anything peculiar happened. Voldemort had been far too quiet thus far and it worried him a great deal.

An outburst of applause captured his wandering thoughts and he looked up to see Albus Dumbledore step up to the podium and raise his hands for silence. Once the crowd had settled down he began to speak.

“It is with great pleasure that I once again stand here to congratulate and applaud another fine group of students who are poised on the brink of graduation and entry into the adult world.”

“But before I speak more on that, I must say a few words I wish I did not have to. It is well known that a very bright, capable student of Hogwarts was taken from us under bad circumstances. It is with every regret that I say that Voldemort has once again demonstrated his particular kind of power in having wrested Harry Potter from our midst.”

Dumbledore raised his hands again for silence as the crowd began murmuring darkly.

“I ask that you remember all that Mr Potter has done for us in the past, and mourn that the twisted machinations of Voldemort finally succeeded in bringing him low. I, more than any other, wish that he could be here today as a graduate of this fine institution.”

“But now, let us move on to brighter subjects. It is the end of another year here at Hogwarts. . . .”

Remus quietly stood and slipped away from his seat, unwilling to hear any more.

*

The next time he visited he felt distinctly uneasy. Albus had been making some rather odd statements of late and it was starting to worry him. Remus had been unpleasantly surprised when Albus had begun speaking with him about his visits to Azkaban, pointing out that it could further damage his reputation to be doing so.

“It is not wise for one already under the onus of the werewolf curse to be known as the friend of a madman,” Albus had said. “It reflects badly on you, my old friend.”

It was all Remus could do at the time not to simply walk away. Instead he had replied, “Perhaps.”

Albus had gone on further to suggest that Remus take more care if he were determined to continue his visits as even he would not be able to stay the hand of public demand should the worst come to pass.

He related all of this to Harry once he’d arrived, paying close attention to the play of emotion on the young man’s face as the somewhat bitter words tripped off his tongue.

Harry graced him with the kind of smile that seemed to promise that everything would be all right. When he spoke, though, he simply said, “I understand. If you’re still having issues the next time you visit, speak on it again. I expect you’ll continue to be careful. By the way, how are the twins?”

“They’re doing fine. I’ve been thinking a bit about them and how they have the brains and talent to do more than they are, if they wanted to. The thing is, maybe it’s all good how it is. They provide laughter and that’s precious by itself.”

“Perhaps,” replied Harry thoughtfully. “If I think of any suggestions to pass on, be sure that I will do so. Has anything else interesting happened recently?”

“Another few Death Eaters were captured. Much the same thing as before. I don’t know if he’s recruiting a lot of low-talent people or if the person catching them is very cunning. Even so, their numbers never quite seem to decrease, so I expect he’s still pulling new people in.”

Harry nodded. “He’s very pleased about something, or someone. I can’t tell just what though. Not yet, anyway.”

“The only other thing of note was the speech Albus made at the graduation ceremony. He seemed quite sorrowful about you and laid the blame for your insanity squarely on the shoulders of Voldemort. He said, and I quote,

‘. . .the twisted machinations of Voldemort finally succeeded in bringing him low.’

I left shortly thereafter.”

A smile formed on Harry’s face, slowly at first, then became wide. The laughter followed, the kind that made Remus doubt for a split second Harry’s sanity. As it trickled off into quiet chuckles, Remus could see the subtle signs of pain, and resolved not to doubt again.

Before he was made to leave, Remus let Harry know he would not be able to visit the next open day due to the full moon, but that he would arrive for the next. It would be six months before he could see Harry again.