Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Biology :: 07 :: The Truth Will Out

07 • The Truth Will Out

“Truth does not consist in never lying but in knowing when to lie and when not to do so.” — Samuel Butler.

Albus arrived at the head table for breakfast in the great hall as he had done for many years gone by. He sat in his usual seat, gave his usual greetings, and only then noticed that Severus was not there. He frowned slightly at this omission. All the professors knew quite well his views on mealtime behavior, and Snape was certainly not an exception despite his eccentricities. He would have to deal with it later on.

Students filing in were chattering sleepily and rubbing their eyes, likely still tired from the festivities of the evening before. It was a wonder in his opinion that any of them were able to eat the morning after Halloween, given their tendency toward an excess of sweets. With a purely mental shrug he filled his own plate and began to eat.

When the morning post arrived his copy of The Daily Prophet came with it. His own operatives had been on the look out for suspicious activities and Kingsley had sent him a brief note regarding a break-in at Azkaban, but had been unable to provide detailed information as his presence was needed at the Ministry.

So it was that he settled in to read the front page news.

Azkaban Assaulted

Late last night a contingent of Death Eaters, and reportedly You-Know-Who himself, broke into the fortress prison. From evidence gathered from those captured in the attack, their target was both to free their fellow Death Eaters and to remove Harry Potter.

Readers are reminded that Potter was placed in Azkaban on 4 November 1997 under suspicious circumstances. Officials at the Ministry were notoriously tight-lipped at the time of his incarceration.

Captured in the attack were five Death Eaters, two of which were previously incarcerated. Thomas Avery, the brothers Rabastan and Rudolphus Lestrange, Michael Shipton, and Horton Oakley were all questioned and immediately sentenced to life imprisonment.

Killed in the attack were escaped Death Eaters Bellatrix Lestrange and Lucius Malfoy, along with Niall Montrose. You-Know-Who escaped the conflict, along with Mr Potter. Their whereabouts are currently unknown.

Aurors are on full alert for the escapees and urge citizens to not attempt to apprehend anyone personally. Report any and all suspicious activity to the Ministry immediately.

Albus forgot himself enough to scowl. He folded the paper abruptly and placed it on the table next to his plate, not bothering to read what he expected to be a sappy side story on the much maligned Harry Potter. Truly there were days when he thought reporters like Rita Skeeter should be tossed into Azkaban as well.

The fact remained that Harry was missing; the question was, was he insane, or out for revenge? Albus considered that updating the school’s wards against Harry might not be such a bad idea, assuming he could get the castle to cooperate. One of the teachers could certainly teach the front doors to recognize the boy—well, young man—and sound the alarm. That would not, however, cover the other entrances to the castle, and especially the secret passages.

Moments later a slight noise off to the left made Albus turn his head in time to see Severus slipping into his seat at the end of the table. He was in the process of casting a stern look at Snape when the spreading silence in the room distracted him. He turned back to the hall only to see an auror racing up between the tables toward him, an anxious look on his reddening face.

The auror skidded to a stop in front of him, gasping for breath, and thrust out a note before turning and heading back out at a dead run.

Albus raised his brows in surprise as he took and opened the note, taking in a request for his presence at the Ministry on an extremely urgent matter. He tucked it into his robes and turned to Minerva.

“I must go, though for what I do not yet know. I will be at the Ministry.”

He stood and left through the side door, not waiting for a response. When he was clear of the apparition wards, he apparated to the Ministry and was immediately met by a nameless auror, who led him straight to the interrogation rooms.

He was not prepared for what he saw, the body of Voldemort laid out on a table as though it were a bier.

Hours later when he returned to Hogwarts, he called all of the professors to his office to inform them of the morning’s events. They each took the news in different ways. Some openly cried, while others, like Severus, maintained a blank face, perhaps too much in shock to process what they were hearing.

When he was finished with his recital, he dismissed them with the exception of the potions master.

“So, Severus. The time has come at last,” he began placidly. “Given that Voldemort is indeed dealt with, I feel it is only right that I release you from your vow. It, after all, no longer applies.”

Snape nodded, appearing unwilling to speak.

It didn’t really matter in his opinion. Even though he was about to remove his mark, Severus would still die. By all accounts, Voldemort had somehow been kissed by a dementor. Everyone knew that those kissed never lasted all that long; lack of water alone would kill faster than a lack of food. So, either way, one of his liabilities would be handled in the course of time; Snape’s dark mark would make sure of it.

He and all the others so marked would die a probably excruciating death when the time came. There had long been conjecture that the dark mark would transfer the life energy of those marked to their master if he needed it, killing them in the process in order to keep Voldemort alive that much longer. Albus did not want some unexpected backlash to hit him through his own mark when Voldemort breathed his last and Severus died of it.

The ritual was tiring more than difficult; Albus felt his age most keenly by the time he was done. Severus looked to not be in much better shape despite his much younger years, hunched over on the floor and breathing heavily. Once they had both recovered to a degree, he packed Severus off and rested further. When the time came, he went on down to the great hall for dinner. He forgot entirely his earlier plans to ward the castle against Harry.

*

Severus had woken the night before from a dream of nightmarish proportions, the pain enough to shock him awake. The surprise came when he realized that the pain was real, and not his twisted subconscious punishing him for his life as it had done so often in the past. His arm felt afire; it was every moment of his marking times ten, or a level of crucio much favored by the Dark Lord. He soon passed into blessed unconsciousness.

When he had woken, still clutching his arm, he could not for a moment remember what had happened. But as his sleepy brain caught up to wakefulness, he released his grip and looked feverishly at his arm. His now unmarked arm.

For a split second he was suffused with transcendent rapture.

His intellect set in, and the questions began to flow like water in his mind. How was it possible that his mark was gone? The Dark Lord did not willingly release his servants; any fool knew that.

He glanced around the room, noting that aside from the fact that his bed looked like a war zone, nothing was out of place. As his eyes came to rest on his clock though, he cursed under his breath and struggled out of his coverings. He thrust himself into the first clothes that came to hand, fumbling with buttons and ties, until finally casting a quick cleansing charm over himself.

He left his rooms at a dead run, slowing only when he stood before the door leading to the head table’s dais in the great hall. Mere minutes later he watched in unexpressed confusion as an auror raced up to the head table, thrust a note at Albus, then ran off again like a rabbit.

He used the experience of years of spying to hold steady his expression against Albus’s remarks later in his office, and then through the pain of a second removal. Albus, for all his conniving and manipulations, had laid a gentler yoke upon his shoulders it seemed.

Why he had not mentioned that his dark mark was already gone was a purely Slytherin matter. It was, he thought, a foolish thing to do to admit that he was free but for the headmaster’s fetters. He could well imagine Albus refusing to release him, forcing him to follow in death, should he know beforehand that the dark mark was already removed. A last line of defense, if you will.

He was not surprised when a special edition of The Daily Prophet was sent out that evening, arriving during dinner.

Dark Lord Defeated

Interim Minister of Magic Amelia Bones held a press conference earlier today stating unequivocally that You-Know-Who is no longer a threat.

The body of You-Know-Who was delivered early this morning to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement by none other than the same man who has been capturing Death Eaters for the past several years, Salazar Slytherin.

“After close examination the Ministry is able to report that [You-Know-Who] has suffered what appears to be the dementor’s kiss. How this happened we have no idea,” said Madam Bones in part of her speech to the press.

“The Ministry will continue to investigate the body and inform the public of any developments as they happen. While we will not disclose the current whereabouts of his body, we can assure the public that he is no longer a threat of any kind to the wizarding community.”

No doubt the Ministry is concerned that the remaining Death Eaters at large might try to recover their master.

An insider at the Ministry told the Daily Prophet that Salazar left another of his infamous notes, this time with the words, “Thus is the name and house of Slytherin redeemed.”

Slytherin’s whereabouts are unknown at this time. Readers are reminded that not all dark forces have been captured and to please report any suspicious activity to the Ministry immediately.

By the time Severus was through reading the bare-bones article, the hall had erupted in cheering and crying, prompting the headmaster to call for silence long enough to announce that classes were cancelled for the remainder of the week in celebration.

Severus, no longer enslaved by two masters, left for his quarters when dinner was done with a light heart for the first time in decades.

*

Harry strode confidently down Diagon Alley, pausing occasionally to examine the contents of shop windows and shake his head over the latest models of racing brooms, wondering what prices they went for. No one paid him the least bit of attention, which was hardly surprising considering his mousy brown hair, hazel eyes, and overall nondescript appearance.

When he had had his fill of the bustle around him, he stopped long enough to secure a copy of The Daily Prophet, then found himself a seat in the Leaky Cauldron and ordered a cup of tea and a sandwich. The main story carried little in the way of real news, just a rather fluffy piece on people’s reactions to Voldemort’s defeat, taken from people who happened to be in Diagon Alley at the time. Harry was skimming the article when several names caught his attention, causing him to backtrack and read more carefully.

“We’d had such a bad let down before because of Harry Potter. We’d thought for a while there that all our hopes had been dashed. But when you look at it realistically, no one ever should have expected a single boy to be strong enough, or powerful enough, to have handled this. He’d only survived in the past because of luck, or our help.” Miss Granger shrugged at this point and went on to say, “Salazar, on the other hand, is quite a different story.”

Harry smirked at her assessment, the skipped down to read what Ron had been quoted saying.

“Oi, yeah. I can’t tell you how relieved I am that this is all over. Wish I could shake the guy’s hand. He’s bloody brilliant.”

Harry had to restrain himself from laughing outright. There were a few minor comments quoted here and there from people he’d once considered his friends, but they and others focused more on the fact that Voldemort was no longer a threat. It did not surprise him in the least to read that Albus Dumbledore still urged caution when it came to any dealings with Salazar.

“How very interesting,” he murmured to himself, then folded the paper, set it aside, and finished his meal. A few minutes later he was back at the hidden estate.

Much later on found Harry sitting in the garden, gazing up at the sky with the faint suggestion of a smile gracing his lips. He knew that while he had finally taken down Voldemort, through guile more than a straightforward thrust, that it was not quite enough.

Snape would be fine, that much he assumed to be truth, though perhaps it would not be so bad of an idea as to check. For himself, however, he would have to try just a little bit harder. He could live out the remainder of his life at Sanctuary; he knew that. None of the residents would betray his trust, but that wasn’t good enough. Even he was curious as to how he’d been put in such a state as to be shunted off to Azkaban at the first opportunity.

He could postulate for days, but it would likely get him nowhere fast. After much contemplation he pulled himself to his feet and headed to the memory pool to review the early days of his seventh year at Hogwarts. It didn’t help . . . much. But he was left with a lingering sense of something familiar. Of all the students he’d known even passing well, there was only one who went out of his way to aggravate Harry.

He left the memory pool and went to the bedroom he’d claimed as his own, changing into his Salazar persona’s guise and a fresh set of clothing. From there he warped directly to the dungeons of Hogwarts, right outside Snape’s office, fading into invisibility as quickly as he arrived.

It was early yet, but hopefully he would be lucky enough to catch the man alone, rather than with some student in detention. He listened at the door but heard nothing, and so walked on silent feet to the potions classroom to listen again. Still nothing. Taking a chance, he warped himself into Snape’s office, landing just inside the door.

Snape was seated at his desk, hair falling around his face as he graded papers. Salazar cleared his throat softly, watching as Snape’s head snapped up violently and the man reached for his wand.

“You won’t be needing that, I assure you,” he said as he walked forward, fading back into view with each step. He could detect the faint widening of the professor’s eyes at his appearance. “I just had the odd question or two for you. That’s all.”

Either Snape didn’t consider him a threat, or his reputation had gained enough in stature that Snape didn’t expect to win if it came to a duel. The professor slowly lowered his wand and raised his brow quizzically.

“First let me ask if you are suffering any ill effects from the removal of your dark mark.”

Snape’s face slackened slightly as he straightened in his chair, his posture more than making up for the lack of rigidity in his expression. “I am well.”

“Excellent, my dear fellow. I would hate to think I had caused you any lingering pain for my efforts. Don’t worry, I shan’t keep you long. I have only one other question for you.”

Snape nodded in acquiescence.

“Any idea where a fellow might find a certain Draco Malfoy?” Salazar was quite curious to see the reaction to that question, never having really known just how Snape felt about the boy. “I’m just perishing to have a chat with him.”

Snape’s only sign of surprise was to blink. “Who are you anyway?” he asked in a sidestep maneuver.

“Does it really matter? Someone once said, ‘Truth does not consist in never lying but in knowing when to lie and when not to do so.’ I simply wish to solve the final mystery on my list of good deeds. Of course if our young Mr Malfoy is a Death Eater as I suspect, I would have to turn him over once he’d enlightened me.”

“And what mystery would that be, pray tell.”

“I doubt very much it would interest you. You never liked the person I wish to help from all accounts,” he countered.

Snape’s face creased slightly in the barest of frowns.

“If you haven’t any idea simply say so and I’ll be on my way. I’m sure you have more pressing matters to attend to,” he said calmly.

“You said your efforts. What did you mean?”

“My dear fellow, I should think that would be obvious. It was certainly not Riddle’s idea to remove your mark. For that matter, did our dear headmaster remove his?”

Snape frowned again. “He did. Why did you assure my release?”

He was quite a stubborn fellow in Salazar’s opinion. Maybe it was true that a Slytherin never gave something for nothing. “I thought you deserved it. I am well aware of the situation you were in and did what I could to assist you. Perhaps now, if you are not so far gone from your years in servitude as to be empty, you can live something akin to a normal life. But really, we must stop with all these pesky tangents. About Mr Malfoy. . . ?”

“There are a number of places he could be. I would suggest you start with Malfoy Manor and if that doesn’t work then. . . .” Snape rambled off a list of possible locations, mercifully short.

“Splendid,” he said brightly. “You have my gratitude.” The last thing he did before fading from view was to smile and accord Snape a half bow. Then he warped away.

His timing was impeccable; the evening meal was always served fashionably late at Sanctuary. Seeing that no one was in the lesser library Salazar headed directly to the dining room and was happy to see Remus and Blaise just seating themselves.

He breezed in with a smile and sat down. “Evening, gentlemen. I trust you are both well.”

Blaise gave him a pointed look and said, “So tell me, Salazar, how did you do it?”

“Pardon?” He dealt with his napkin in the usual fashion then looked up with innocently wide eyes.

“Don’t be coy,” said Remus. “The Daily Prophet pegs you as the one to deliver Voldemort and they say he was given the dementor’s kiss.”

“Did they really? Sounds like that trip to Azkaban didn’t turn out quite like he expected. A terrible, yet fitting tragedy, don’t you think?”

“Salazar,” said Blaise warningly as Remus rolled his eyes in exasperation.

“It was just one of those things,” he said deprecatingly. “Imagine my delight when I found him, drooling like a baby.”

“You found him,” said Remus flatly.

Salazar nodded and then brightened when food appeared on the table, immediately reaching out to fill his plate.

“If you found him, I don’t suppose you also found Harry?”

“I have a very good idea of where Harry is, now that you mention it. Would you like me to make sure?” Salazar carefully sliced into his steak and mushed on some potato before popping it into his mouth.

“If you would be so kind, yes. I’m worried about him even more now that he’s gone missing.” That much was clear from the undercurrents in Remus’s voice.

Salazar glanced over at Blaise and hesitated, getting a quirked brow in response.

“Don’t suppose you know much about a Mr Draco Malfoy do you?”

“You mean aside from his pure-blood mania?” said Blaise in a terse voice.

“Not fond of him?”

“Hardly. I do know that he became Voldemort’s potions master.”

“Splendid. Just the kind of thing I like to hear. Wouldn’t want you getting upset with me over a little thing like a friend going to prison.”

He noticed Remus smirk and toss a look of satisfaction toward Blaise, who stoically ignored him.

*

That Draco was at Malfoy Manor he found somewhat bewildering. He wasn’t sure if it was stupidity or arrogance. Narcissa was nowhere to be found, so Salazar proceeded with his plans. He had Draco disarmed and strapped to a chair when he let three drops of veritaserum fall on his tongue. After it had taken effect, Salazar began his series of questions.

“What is your full name?”

“Draco Lucius Malfoy,” came the monotone response.

“Are you a Death Eater?”

“Yes.” So far, so good.

“Were you involved with Harry Potter’s seeming descent into madness?”

“Yes.” Bingo. Case solved?

“In what way were you involved?”

“I created an experimental potion and used it on him.”

“How did you dose him, and how often?”

“Every six days I arranged for the potion to be slipped into his food.”

“What was the purpose of the potion?”

“It was intended to induce hallucinations and to increase the victim’s sense of paranoia to the point that they acted rashly and without thought.” I see.

“How come no traces were ever found in Harry’s body on examination?”

“The formula I finally used dissipates rapidly after it’s been ingested. By the time the victim is subjected to a medical scan, nothing is left to be detected.” How thrilling.

“Where is Peter Pettigrew, also known as Wormtail?”

“At Riddle Manor.”

Salazar smiled and dashed off a note at the nearby desk. He folded it neatly and turned back to Malfoy, tucking the paper into the pocket of the young man’s shirt. After placing a hand on Malfoy’s shoulder he warped them to the Ministry, set off the alarm, then warped alone to Riddle Manor to capture the rat.

*

He was lazing about the hidden estate’s garden when Hedwig arrived with a letter for him. Knowing that it had to have come from either Remus or Blaise, Harry had no trepidation in opening it. Inside was a short note and the front page of The Daily Prophet. The headline told him all he needed to know about his recent antics. Both he and Sirius had been declared innocent. He skimmed it quickly, pausing to snort at the part where reparations were promised.

He tossed the paper aside and turned his attention to the note.

Harry,

I can only pray that Hedwig, of all owls, can find you wherever you are. Salazar has told us that he thinks he knows where you are, but has not been back to tell us anything yet.

Has he contacted you? Tell me where I can meet you so I can bring you home with me.

Love,
Remus

He looked up to see Hedwig getting a drink from a birdbath and smiled. “I need to write a reply, girl. You rest while I go take care of this.”

She hooted at him agreeably and ruffled her wings, so he turned and went inside.

*

Remus was scowling, and with good reason. Albus had declared in the latest of Order meetings (one that he’d called on horribly short notice) that he could not completely endorse an attempt to locate Harry Potter. It was possible, he had said, that the time spent in Azkaban could have seriously unbalanced him, making him into what he had heretofore been accused of.

Snape had been atypically quiet during Albus’s comments, which fired Remus’s curiosity, but it was not enough to overcome his disgust at the headmaster’s continued malignment of Harry. Luckily it had lasted only through the lunch hour, and Remus was able to escape before his temper got the better of him.

He had almost reached the front doors when a whispery voice stopped him in his tracks. Turning slowly, he came face to face with a very transparent, very much afloat, ghost of Sirius.

“S-Sirius?” he stammered.

“In the fle—yeah, Moony.”

“Can you follow me anywhere? Even if you have no idea where I am?” he asked uncertainly, but knowing he didn’t want to speak further in a place like Hogwarts.

“Sure can.”

Back at Sanctuary he spent what felt like hours explaining everything that had happened since the beginning of Harry’s seventh year, finally concluding that Harry (and he) had been found innocent of the trumped up charges Fudge had used. He was about to explain how it had come about when Hedwig flew into the room and landed on the table. She stuck out one leg and hooted at him importantly.

“Hang on . . . let me see what this is.”

Dear Remus,

Please don’t worry. I have seen Salazar and he’s going to bring me to Sanctuary very soon. I’ll see you before you know it.

Love,
Harry

“Well, that’s a relief. Harry should be here soon. Now let me tell you about the past few days. . . .”

At least with Sirius as a ghost Remus didn’t need to worry about the results of the man’s notorious temper. As it was, the best he could manage was shouting, cursing, and railing about the unfairness of it all.

“But, Padfoot, he’s okay. For whatever reason—and I never did get him to explain that—the dementors didn’t affect him. He was fine the last time I saw him, I swear. Ragged and badly in need of a bath, but fine.”

“That’s beside the point,” Sirius growled. “And who is this Salazar guy anyway.”

“You mean little old me?” asked a third voice, causing both man and ghost to whip around. “Always a pleasure, Remus,” Salazar went on, casting a plainly curious glance at Sirius. “Who’s your new friend? Never occurred to me to ward against ghosts.”

“Salazar!” exclaimed Remus.

Salazar accorded him a mocking little half bow. “At your service, dear fellow.”

“Look here, no offense, but where the hell is Harry!?”

*

Salazar was at a bit of a crossroads, and he honestly wasn’t sure what to do. He knew that Harry needed to appear here soon, but at what cost? He’d been declared innocent, and the game of half-truths and outright lies could end. Still, he had no idea how Remus, Blaise, and Sirius would react. Would they in turn feel betrayed by his choices, or brush aside the deception as having been expedient? Further still, how would Blaise react to finding out that the man who’d saved him and had been flirting with him all this time was in fact the Boy Who Lived?

For that matter, how the hell had Sirius come back as a ghost? Sir Nicholas had seemed quite certain all those years ago that it was simply not possible. He decided to sidestep the issue for the moment. “Harry? He’s safe, collecting his thoughts, trying to come to terms with being vindicated.”

Remus swore and threw his hands up in the air while Sirius crossed his ghostly arms and glared.

“Where’s Blaise, by the way?” he asked.

“The garden. Why?” asked Remus.

“There are some things I need to talk to him about,” he said vaguely, then shrugged slightly and turned, tossing a wave over his shoulder as he left the room.

He found Blaise sitting outside, tackling yet another puzzle in yet another book. Seeing it always made him feel a little bit better, that Blaise was not above such muggle things. He’d obviously heard Salazar’s approach, having looked up with a warm smile.

“Hello, Salazar,” Blaise said, tucking his pencil into the book and closing it.

He dropped to the grass in front of Blaise and returned the smile. “I was wondering. . . .”

“Yes?”

He sighed, causing a concerned expression to cross Blaise’s face. “I was wondering about a few things, you see. For instance, how do you feel about people? Our kind, their kind, rich people, poor people, heritage. . . .”

Blaise crinkled his brow and looked at him oddly. “This is about who you are, isn’t it?”

He rolled a shoulder in a kind of half shrug.

“I don’t think it matters,” said Blaise firmly.

“Care to elaborate?”

“Okay. You know I’m a pure-blood. You know I was in Slytherin. But it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a part of who I am, and not something I had any control over it. I’ve met a lot of people and it seems to me that the ones who generally come off the worst are pure-bloods.”

“How so?”

“Because people are a product of their upbringing. There’s far too many people out there who think that purity of blood somehow puts them a head above everyone else. On the other hand, I’ll admit that I don’t quite know what to think about muggle-borns and half-bloods. I mean, if I knew that it was hurting the wizarding world, then maybe I’d be against them too. But I don’t know that, so I sit the fence, just like I tried to with the whole Voldemort thing.”

“I see. As in people who believe that the infusion of muggle blood only weakens our magic?”

Blaise nodded. “Yes, but that doesn’t mean those people they rant about are bad people. I get the feeling that you’re trying to tell me you aren’t a purist’s view of a pure-blood, at the very least.”

“Mmm. All right. Harry is coming here soon.”

“Oh?” said Blaise with a smile. “I never did have a chance to talk with him, you know, before.”

He arched a brow and said, “Sounds like you regret that.”

Blaise laughed. “It’s hardly the done thing for a Slytherin to walk right up and say hello. My housemates would have crucified me, or at least most of them.”

“What will you do when he gets here?” he asked.

“Hope he’s able to see past houses.” Blaise smiled briefly before sobering. “Are you . . . going to disappear on us?”

“Would you miss me?” he asked and aimed what he hoped was a flirtatious smile at Blaise.

“I think you know I would.”

“Even if it turns out you can’t handle who I am?”

“It’s true I don’t know much about you, but what I do has all been good.”

“That doesn’t really answer the question,” he pointed out.

“No, but that’s something we won’t know until the time comes,” Blaise said quite reasonably.

“And if you react so badly that I have to obliviate you?”

“Then I guess you go back to whatever life you led before you came into ours, and I’m left wondering. I think I trust you enough to believe you’d do the right thing, Salazar.”

He smiled and rose from the grass. I hope so, he thought. “I may as well. If you react badly, at least I’ll know not to tell Remus. One moment while I check something.” He communed with the wards of the estate long enough to determine that Moony and Padfoot were still in the lesser library and that he would be warned if they moved, then opened his eyes and stared at Blaise. “Here goes nothing.”