Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Biology :: 08 :: Deceptions Revealed

08 • Deceptions Revealed

“While all deception requires secrecy, all secrecy is not meant to deceive.” — Sissela Bok.

Forgoing any of the theatrics so fondly used by Tonks, he initiated a transformation. Salazar could feel his body tingling with the changes that were taking place. Throughout it all he kept his gaze directly on Blaise, whose face became more wide-eyed by the second. When the tingling at last stopped, Harry summoned a faint smile and braced himself for the coming reaction.

Blaise, thankfully, was too polished to gape. Finally he said, “How—but—and you. . . .”

Harry snapped his fingers and changed back into Salazar, just in case they should be interrupted. “Yes?”

“Right. Okay. I can handle this. You’re still the same person,” Blaise muttered, more to himself than Salazar. “I’m sorry, this is a lot to take in.”

He nodded and shifted his weight. “Are you okay?”

Blaise looked down for a moment in thought and said, “Yes, I think I am. This is crazy, but I really think I am.” He looked back up with a tentative smile curving his lips. “I’m willing to try if you are.”

Salazar extended his hand, smiling when Blaise took it and allowed himself to be drawn to his feet.

“But—wait a minute.” Blaise crinkled his brow again and looked at Salazar quizzically. “Everyone always assumed it would be Harry Potter who defeated Voldemort. But Salazar was the one to deliver him. Why?”

He chuckled and replied with a shrug, “That’s easy, Blaise. Since the day I stepped into the Leaky Cauldron for the first time I’ve been a celebrity. People loved me for something that happened when I was a baby, and hated me when it seemed convenient. I’m not sure I want Harry Potter to take the credit. Right now, Salazar will.”

He let his thumb caress the back of Blaise’s hand for a moment, then grinned. “So, care to come protect me when I break the news to Remus and he tries to kill me for worrying him half to death?”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“One warning, though, we have a new guest. My godfather, Sirius Black.” At Blaise’s look of surprise he added, “He’s a ghost. Don’t ask—I’m still wondering myself.”

He reluctantly released Blaise’s hand and stepped around the bench, then walked toward the house. He cast one look over his shoulder to make sure Blaise was following before continuing on to the lesser library. There he found Remus and Sirius embroiled in what was probably a continuation of their earlier discussion, and seated himself on the couch. Blaise sat beside him and gave him a tentative pat on the leg.

Both sets of elder eyes turned toward them.

“Well?” asked Remus. “When do we get to see Harry?”

Salazar sighed and rolled his eyes, glancing at Blaise to see an amused smirk, then back to the expectant faces of the Marauders. “Fine. But don’t get your knickers in a twist, eh?”

Sirius managed to say, “What the hell is that suppo—” before abruptly shutting his mouth when Salazar shifted into Harry’s form.

A full minute passed, in which Harry could see a combination of relief and anger build up on Remus’s face, until he finally rushed over and yanked him off the couch into a crushing hug. “I’m not going to yell, Harry, but I don’t understand. If you could leave Azkaban at any time, why did you stay there? Why didn’t you just live here?”

“I was safe in Azkaban, Moony. In Azkaban, no one could possibly believe that I and Salazar were the same person. I just had to stay there and wait. I knew that Voldemort would come eventually, and he did.”

“But you could have died,” Remus mumbled into his neck before loosing his grip and stepping back a little.

“That was always the case, Moony. You know that. And it’s done, it’s over with.”

“It sounds to me like my godson pulled off the biggest prank in history, and got away with it,” inserted Sirius, a strange silver gleam in his eyes.

“Yes, and fooled even me, despite all my suspicions,” Remus said before glancing over at Blaise. “You don’t exactly look shocked by this. I expect that was what the garden was about?”

Blaise grinned up at him.

Harry pulled away from Remus slightly and looked over at his godfather’s ghost. “I don’t know how or why, but I’m more happy than I can express at seeing you again.”

“I couldn’t very let you bumble around by yourself, though I think I got here a little late,” Sirius said, scratching his head.

“Speaking of which,” interjected Remus, “why did it take so long?”

“I’ll tell you, but only if Harry promises to enlighten everyone on what we don’t know.” Sirius crossed his arms defiantly and tapped his translucent foot an inch above the floor.

“Fine,” Harry replied. “But I’m hungry—no offense, Sirius—so why don’t we talk and eat at the same time?”

After much squeaking, bouncing, and hugging after seeing Harry as Harry, Dobby saw fit to provide a huge meal in the dining room for them. Harry felt a little uncomfortable being back in his own skin outside of Azkaban, having grown somewhat used to interacting with people (aside from Remus) as the much more confident Salazar. He was inclined to think that perhaps the idea of Harry Potter rarely, or never, being seen in public again wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

As it turned out, Sirius’s time through the veil had been a difficult one. It had not killed him immediately, as most people in the know had suspected. He had died the slow and tedious way, his body finding surcease due to lack of water long before the effects of starvation had had a chance to kill him. However, through it all he had not stopped thinking of his godson and the trust he held. And so it was that when he did die, he was able to escape the limbo of his existence as a ghost.

“I ended up in the Department of Mysteries. I guess it’s not so surprising . . . right outside the veil. At the time I wasn’t really sure where I was, never mind when, so I wandered around for a bit. Scared one poor guy half to death, but I don’t think he got a very good look at me. It was Arthur, I know that now, but I couldn’t remember at the time.”

Harry and the others did their level best not to spit out the food they were industriously eating at the thought, and to refrain from choking.

“Anyway . . . I found out what year it was from a calendar on one of the desks, and that didn’t seem right. The time gap was huge! Then again, I doubt anyone really understands the veil, so I finally got it into my head to go to Hogwarts. I mean, where else? So I drifted off there hoping my head would straighten itself out, or I’d at least see someone I knew.”

Remus smiled briefly at that point.

“I’d been there for a while, lurking around trying not to be noticed by strangers when I noticed a very pissy looking Moony storming toward the front doors. We came here and he brought he up to date on what’s happened since I disappeared. And now, Harry James Potter, I believe you have some explaining to do.”

“Who me, my dear Padfoot?” he said with a slight smirk.

“Yes, you. Now get to it or I’ll haunt you for the rest of your life.”

Harry sighed gustily. “Before I get to that, I have to ask you a question.”

A silvery brow quirked upward, so Harry continued. “Did you ever . . . suspect anything? I mean, about Dumbledore?”

Sirius blinked at him, then seemed to notice that none of their faces were anything but serious. “Well, no. But . . . I get the feeling you’re trying to tell me something.”

Harry grimaced. “One more question, and this goes for all of you. And, please don’t start shouting when I say it, okay? I want you to hear me out, and think about it.”

They nodded uncertainly and waited.

“Knowing what I know, I sort of think that Snape has as much right to hear some of this as you all do. He has as much reason to hate Dumbledore as I do, but for different reasons. And you two have your own reasons for not trusting the man. So, do you think it would be a mistake to include him when I explain everything? If you honestly do then I’ll just send him a thank you present for everything he’s done for me and leave it at that.”

“A present!?” shouted Sirius. “What the hell for?”

Harry glared at Sirius for a moment, then relented. “He saved my life a number of times, and he is the one who told me—well, Salazar—where to look for Malfoy so I could get my name cleared. I think at the least he deserves some token of appreciation.”

He sighed again and ran a hand through his hair. “Look, you guys talk it over. I’m going to talk to a few snakes about some venom and I’ll be back later, okay? I promise I’m not trying to get out of explaining. I’m just delaying it a little bit.”

He stood up and shifted back into Salazar, preparing to warp out.

Blaise stopped him with a hasty, “Wait!” then followed up quickly with, “I don’t care if Snape comes. But I would like to go on your trip with you. I haven’t been out of here in ages.”

Salazar glanced quickly at Remus and Sirius, then nodded to Blaise. “Go grab a cloak and meet me in the garden. I have to go get some supplies.” Then he warped to the hidden estate and collected a number of unbreakable phials and a case to put them in, along with several other small items. After collecting Blaise from Sanctuary, he warped them to a jungle.

“Uh, this isn’t the UK anymore is it?”

Salazar shook his head. “I didn’t want to be anywhere near those two when they started a shouting match over Snape. Besides, there’s only one poisonous snake native to Britain, and I had more in mind than a single kind of venom. Anyway, it’s the wrong time of the year at home.”

Several hours later and a full collection of phials, Salazar warped them back to Sanctuary, well pleased with himself. It had taken a while for Blaise to get used to him hissing in Parseltongue, but once he’d settled down he’d found the trip quite entertaining.

He shifted back into what they knew as Harry and stored his collection of potion ingredients in a room upstairs, then went back down to see his friends.

Sirius was looking rather mutinous and Remus aggrieved, but neither was arguing with the other.

“I see the house is still standing,” said Harry in a chipper voice as he sat beside Blaise. “Have we come to any kind of a decision?”

Sirius huffed as Remus said, “Yes, we have. If you really think he should be here, then we won’t object.”

“Well, then I suppose I should write a note to go with that stuff and have Salazar drop it off with Snape, along with an invitation. If he ends up saying no, that’s his business.” Harry jumped up again after squeezing Blaise’s knee and said, “I’ll be back before dinner. This shouldn’t take long.” Then he hurried upstairs.

Seating himself at the desk in the room he’d chosen for himself, he uncapped the inkwell and began to write.

Professor Snape,

Please find enclosed a token of my appreciation for the many times you have been there to watch my back during my years at Hogwarts.

I know it isn’t much, but I think you’ll be pleased with the contents of the phials. I had a hard time convincing the donors to agree with my request in some cases, but it all worked out in the end.

If you’d ever like refills, I’d be happy to gather additional quantities.

There’s something more, but I think I’ll let Salazar broach that subject.

Sincerely,
Harry

He blew gently across the parchment until the ink dried, then folded the note and slipped it into an envelope and attached it to the case. Glancing at the clock he saw that Snape should have already finished dinner, so he shifted back to Salazar and grabbed the case, went invisible, then warped to the man’s office.

His luck held; Snape was sitting at his desk grading papers and no one else was present. As before he cleared his throat softly to alert the other man, then stepped forward and into view.

“I didn’t expect to see you again,” said Snape evenly.

“One never can be too careful, my dear fellow,” he replied. “Not with Dumbledore wanting my head on a pike anyway.”

“May I ask why you’ve come?”

“Of course you may. I have something for you from an old acquaintance by way of thanks.” He stepped forward slowly and placed the case on the desk, then backed up a few paces.

Snape gave him a piercing look as he reached for the attached envelope, then looked down to open it and read the enclosed note. He looked momentarily puzzled, then opened the case gingerly, reaching in to remove one of the phials and read the label.

“Merlin,” he breathed, replacing the phial and investigating the others. “How did he manage to get all of this?” Snape glanced up at Salazar.

“Oh, you might say I helped him a little with the logistics, but aside from that, it was all his idea and doing. I believe he thought you would appreciate this over what might be construed as empty words.”

“I see. He seems awfully lucid for having been in Azkaban for almost three years. And what is this other thing he alludes to?” Snape asked with a hint of curiosity.

Salazar carefully suppressed a smile, thinking that it was rather nice to see Snape acting almost human for once. “You are cordially invited to a discussion about events of the past, specifically pertaining to information held both separately and in common about, oh . . . a number of things you’d quite probably find fascinating.”

“Such as,” came the guarded response.

“Some history, some dastardly deeds by a certain well-known personage of the light, and the stories of several people who have had their lives interfered with by same said personage, to varying degrees. Not to mention what’s likely to become a planning session on how best to deal with said personage to see that he gets what’s coming to him.”

“And this group would consist of?”

“I’m afraid that might be the sticking point. But they’re well aware you might not agree to come. In light of that, I should point out that Harry’s gift to you is not a bribe. Anyway, my dear fellow, they would be Mr Potter, Mr Lupin, Mr Zabini, and the ghost of Mr Black.”

“Not you?”

“My time is almost up, dear fellow. I can’t be hanging around forever you know. Dumbledore isn’t the only one who’s ready to curse me on sight and ask questions later. But if you do decide to go, I will be the one transporting you. Finding your way back is as easy as apparating.”

“I see. I’ll have to think about this. When would they like to meet?”

“Sunday, as that would be a free day for you, and give you until then to decide. I’ll be waiting behind the Three Broomsticks from 9 to 10 in the morning. If you do not appear during that hour, I’ll assume you don’t wish to come.”

Snape nodded. “I will see you then, or not.”

Salazar sketched him a half bow and disappeared, then warped back to Sanctuary. As it was going on dinner time, he went directly to the dining room, joining the others as they filed into the room. After sitting down he said, “He’s thinking about it.”

*

When Sunday morning arrived, Harry was relieved. He’d been dodging questions since he’d arrived, refusing to explain anything until he knew whether or not Snape would be joining them. He really didn’t want to have to explain things twice, and he wanted to hear Snape’s thoughts on Dumbledore if possible.

Shortly before 9 o’clock he slipped away from the others to his room. The wards were reset to accommodate Snape (should he come) and Harry shifted back to Salazar. The only part he wasn’t looking forward to was if and when it came out that Harry was Salazar to Snape. The man had been an unyielding bastard for so many years that Harry wasn’t sure that knowledge would sit well, no matter how much he’d appeared to like the gift.

He warped to behind the Three Broomsticks and settled in to wait. Snape rounded the corner approximately half an hour later.

“A pleasure to see you, my dear fellow. Ready to go?” There was no sense in having second thoughts at this point.

Snape nodded so Salazar waved his hand, causing a warp portal to appear. “After you.”

After another curious look, Snape stepped through, and Salazar was right behind him, landing in the garden. Salazar led him into the house and to the lesser library, gesturing for him to take a seat.

“Would you care for anything? Tea?”

“Tea would be fine, thank you.”

Salazar snapped his fingers and Dobby appeared, causing Snape to start with surprise. Yet another interesting reaction in Salazar’s opinion.

“Dobby, could you inform the others that Professor Snape has arrived, and then bring some tea and biscuits?”

Dobby glanced over at Snape before answering, “Of course, Master. Right away, Master!” He popped out immediately and was back with a huge tray before the others arrived. He poured out for Snape and Salazar then disappeared.

A moment later Blaise and Remus arrived with Sirius floating behind them. Salazar immediately pulled Remus off to the side for a quick consultation.

“Um, do you think I should just come out and tell him I’m Harry, or disappear and have Harry come in?” he whispered.

“You may as well be honest with him.”

Salazar nodded, grimaced slightly, then cleared his expression and turned around. He took his usual spot on the couch, picked up his tea, and had a sip. He could always obliviate the man if necessary.

As Blaise and Remus poured for themselves, Snape finally brought up the obvious. “I thought you said you would not be here, Salazar. And where is Mr Potter?”

Salazar set down his cup, glanced at Blaise, who smiled, then turned his attention to Snape. “It’s like this. Harry is here already. I’m him.” And to forestall any bitingly sarcastic remarks about his vision, he shifted back to Harry.

Surprisingly Snape didn’t so much as bat an eye, but rather said, “I see you have some interesting talents, Mr Potter. Why, exactly, am I here? You were quite vague the other day when I asked.”

“Because I think you have as much right to know what I’m going to explain as this lot. I think you may have as much reason to distrust and possibly despise Albus Dumbledore as I do. Given that, I felt you had the right to know who Salazar was, especially after you helped the other evening when I asked about Malfoy.”

“And you told me you had everything to do with the removal of my dark mark,” countered Snape.

“True, but I didn’t need to tell you that. It simply would have taken me more time to track down Malfoy without your help.”

“Yet you did.”

“Harry, this wrangling is delightful, but could you please stop torturing us and start filling us in?” said Sirius stiffly.

He rolled his eyes at his godfather and stood up. “Okay, okay. I need to go get a pensieve first. I’ll be right back.”

He warped to the hidden estate and got a pensieve and the piece of paper he’d used to confirm his parentage, then warped back to the group and sat down again, placing the pensieve on the low table. He fetched out his wand and used it a number of times to place memories into the device.

“It’s easier this way,” he explained during the process. “Some of it is difficult to explain.”

When he was finished he started at the beginning, back during the summer between his sixth and seventh years. Avoiding the letter from his father and the book entirely, he explained that he’d been having disturbing dreams for the first part of the summer, dreams that called into question a number of things about himself. He told that during that time he also discovered that he was a metamorphmagus.

“It was the dreams that started me believing that Dumbledore was a lot different than he appeared to be, and what finally made me do some checking on the questions that were raised. But before I get to that bit of evidence, I want you to view the first set of memories so you can see what I mean.”

He tapped the pensieve with his wand, making it display the memory of Dumbledore coming to his crib and removing several of the hairs from his head. From there he moved on to displaying the much longer memory of when Dumbledore had returned to feed baby Harry a potion.

“As you can see, that’s enough to make anyone a bit nervy. So I went with the logical course of action. I made a potion to determine my parents without question.” He paused when Snape snorted, flashed him a cheeky smile, and went on. “The results were illuminating, to say the least.”

He pulled the parchment from his pocket and handed it to Blaise, who read it and gasped, then handed it off to Snape, and from there it went to Remus, with Sirius hovering over Moony’s shoulder.

“So. Dumbledore told me a long time ago that he thought Voldemort transferred some of his powers to me the night he gave me this scar. To say that he understated the case would be redundant. He obviously knew what I’d only just found out, and taken pains to make sure it never got discovered.”

“So this is where you began to seriously distrust Albus,” said Remus.

“Yeah. When I went to see him after I got to school, I asked him why, if I was supposed to be the one that defeated Voldemort, I wasn’t getting any kind of special training aside from the Occlumency lessons, and he brushed me off. I asked him about the special power I was supposed to have, and he sidestepped. You know how he is. But I never said a word about that parchment. I guess I shouldn’t have confronted him though, seeing as how I ended up in Azkaban shortly thereafter, and he didn’t do a thing to stop it I bet.”

Both Remus and Snape shook their heads, but it was Snape who spoke. “No, he did not. Though he called a meeting of the Order to discuss the situation after your second episode, it was quite clear to me that he had no intention of spiriting you away to safety.”

“At the end of fifth year, when I destroyed his office, he told me of a prophecy that Trelawney had supposedly made about me. I suspect it was faked, or at least altered.” He shrugged. “Doesn’t really matter, since I fulfilled it anyway.”

“What did it say?” asked Blaise.

Harry tapped the pensieve again. An image of Trelawney appeared, rotating above the device as she spoke the words that had so burdened Harry after the death of his godfather.

“I mean, every year it was just one more thing, another set of evasions, and always my life in danger. I started wondering if he’d been conditioning me from the start by sending Hagrid with his stories about evil Slytherins. But anyway . . . so, Malfoy was drugging me, and Dumbledore let me hang. So there I am in Azkaban with nothing better to do except sit and stare at the walls. Luckily, I’d already figured out I could fix my vision, so I wasn’t half blind.”

“I’d wondered about that, but I never got around to asking,” said Remus.

“I think I got a bit hysterical when the dementors first came. I was waiting to see my parents die over and over again, but it didn’t happen. Nothing happened. They got bored or something and stopped bothering me after a while. They only ever showed up to deliver food.”

“And why do you suppose that might be?” inquired Snape silkily.

“I honestly don’t know.” He shot an apologetic look at Remus before saying, “I know, I said it was because of Occlumency, but it was convenient at the time. When Remus first came to visit I didn’t know what to think, but that turned out okay. As I recall, neither one of us was too happy with Dumbledore.”

Snape had snorted again, but Harry ignored it.

“It was a little after Moony visited the first time that I realized I could leave Akzaban whenever I damned well pleased.” He glanced over at Snape. “You noticed I didn’t exactly apparate, though I’m licensed. Whatever it is, apparition wards can’t stop it.”

He realized his tea had gone cold and paused to heat it back up and take a sip, then grimaced at the resulting taste.

“I didn’t think it was such a good idea to just escape. People knew Moony had visited me, and I didn’t want anyone asking him awkward questions, and certainly not that I was perfectly fine even if the accommodations weren’t great. So I came up with a different idea. I started tracking down Death Eaters and bringing them in. I just wasn’t running around as Salazar yet. It was also around then that I started getting real curious about you, Professor Snape.”

At Snape’s pointed look he said, “I just was. I wanted to know what your part in all this was. You’d always been there watching my back whether I realized it or not, and I started wondering if you were just as much of a pawn as I’d been, that’s all.”

“Moony was starting to catch a lot of flak from Dumbledore so I decided to do something about it. I came here and fiddled the wards, slapped a name over the front door, then warped to Hogwarts to track down Dobby and Winky, and hopefully my stuff. I convinced them to come work for me and brought them here, letting them get the place back into shape. Then I went back to Azkaban. On my birthday I peeked in on Voldemort and watched him initiate seven new people, one of which was Malfoy.”

He grimaced at the memory. “If you want to see it, you can. Up to you, but I wouldn’t recommend it.”

Nobody jumped at the suggestion so Harry moved on.

“My next visit was from Weasley and Granger. Remus couldn’t come because of the full moon. They’d fallen for Dumbledore’s explanation of things and spent the whole time ranting at me. Not long after that I brought in Flint. It was the first time I went as Salazar. Maybe it sounds silly but. . . . ”

He paused and took a deep breath. “It’s like this—and the only person I ever told this was Dumbledore—when I was sorted, the hat badly wanted to place me in Slytherin house, but I refused.” He had the satisfaction of seeing Snape start slightly out of the corner of his eye.

“I figured, when I decided to be more visible, that I might as well be Slytherin, you know? Like I told Moony one visit, it had to be a kick in the pants to Voldemort when the news of what I was doing and said filtered in, what with him being the Heir and all. Anyway. . . .”

He tapped the pensieve and replayed the memory for them, getting a good number of chuckles at his actions of that evening.

“After Moony’s next visit, and I found out where he was transforming, I kidnapped him on the full moon and brought him here. Told the house-elves to look after him.” He shot a look at Remus. “You started getting really suspicious at that point. I told you about the initiate names, you passed them on, and Dumbledore stopped giving you grief.”

He frowned in thought. “Let me see . . . I nabbed Travers and Dolohov, then I kidnapped Blaise and brought him here next.”

“And thank Merlin for that!” said Blaise with a laugh.

“Why is that, Mr Zabini?” asked Snape.

“Well, like I told Remus, the Death Eaters were giving me a really hard time trying to recruit me and I was starting to think I’d have to leave the country. I have no idea how Harry found out, but he did, and got me to safety. I haven’t stepped foot off this estate until the other day when we went snake wrangling.”

“Some of the Death Eaters are notorious gossips when they don’t realize someone is listening in,” offered Harry. “Uh, let’s see. Around the time the OWS was formed I made my first normal visit here as Salazar, upset Remus a bit, then left. Started having dinner here before I’d go pick up and deliver more Death Eaters to the Ministry. I liked the company, not to mention the food.”

He grinned at no one in particular and continued. “I needed to get real evidence for my suspicions about Peasegood, so I followed him around several times until I got lucky and he met up with the Notts. I hauled all three of them in. Then I heard a bit from Moony about you, professor, and had that to mull over. Anyway, I started getting the feeling Voldemort was up to something, so I checked in and caught him planning the assault on Azkaban, so I made preparations.”

“I cannot wait to hear this,” said Snape with a tinge of sarcasm.

“Occlumency was the first part. Everybody besides Moony thought I was mad as a hatter, so I had to make sure that if Voldemort used Legilimency on me, he’d believe it too. So I built a wall, but placed what I wanted him to see in front of it. And I was right, he did check, and he never looked beyond the façade.”

“What exactly happened that night? You told us as Salazar that you found Voldemort already kissed.”

“Heh. Um. . . .” Harry tapped the pensieve again, and sat back as they watched his performance that night. He knew they’d be wondering about that kiss, but he had the perfect answer ready for them even if it was a blatant lie. Extensive potions research had to count for something after all.

Remus looked a little traumatized when the memory ended (just as Harry had dragged Voldemort out of sight) and Blaise didn’t look much better. Snape merely looked thoughtful, and Sirius was swaying from side to side in agitation.

He turned to Blaise and said quite seriously, “I hope this doesn’t change anything.”

Blaise was saved from having to respond for the moment by Remus cutting in. “I think we’d all like to know why the kiss was necessary.”

“Sure, Moony. Like I said before, I knew he’d come eventually. I mean, I had to be a fat target sitting in there, right? So I did a lot of research, and when the time came I was ready. I found myself a nifty little potion that works on contact, was fast, but that I could protect myself against. When he kissed me, it knocked him out. The second I saw the opportunity, I dragged him around the corner and hauled him off to the dementors. They didn’t affect me, but he was fair game.”

Harry shrugged. “They took care of the problem of his soul coming back, and then I warped us out of there, took control of his body, and broke the bond between him and Snape.” He glanced over at the professor and said, “I didn’t think you deserved to die. I did the same with the bond between me and Voldemort, though that was a bit more complex. I didn’t want to take any chances.”

He felt a hand on his leg and looked at Blaise once more. “You did what you had to, and it worked.”

Harry smiled winsomely and covered Blaise’s hand with his own. “I’m glad to hear you say that.”

“Then what?” interrupted Sirius rudely.

“Oh,” he said, not taking his eyes off Blaise. “After that, I spent several hours in the bath to wash off Azkaban, and Voldemort. I felt . . . filthy.” He didn’t think anyone would mistake his meaning. “The next morning I warped the body to the Ministry and watched as all hell broke loose. Later that night I visited Professor Snape, came here for dinner, went and got Malfoy, then Pettigrew. And that’s it.”

“I can’t believe such a simple plan worked,” commented Remus. “I think everyone’s always expected some huge blow-out of a battle with hundreds of people getting . . . well, you know.”

“Yes, but I didn’t want that. It was safer if it was just me and them. Right now, though, I really think something needs to be done about Dumbledore. We’ve all been screwed over by him in one way or another.”

Snape cast an inquiring gaze at his former Slytherin.

“I went to Dumbledore when they were trying to recruit me. I wanted his help, or his protection. He suggested I go along with it so I could spy for him. That was when I started thinking of leaving the country. I freely admit that I’m not so brave as to agree to something like that. I didn’t want to mess up and die and I knew if I didn’t leave soon I wouldn’t have a choice.”

“Perhaps we should adjourn for now and each think on the matter. Arrange to meet on another day to discuss Albus specifically,” suggested Snape reasonably.

Harry looked around and sensed no dissent. “I don’t see why not. The wards accept you, so you can apparate here any time you like, professor. Owl post is blocked except for Hedwig so. . . .”

“I will return as soon as it is convenient, and would give Albus no cause for suspicion,” he replied smoothly and stood. After bowing his head slightly in parting, he apparated away.