Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Biology :: 10 :: Cavalcade of Sin

10 • Cavalcade of Sin

“Regard the cavalcade of sin,
Remorse for foolish action done,
That pass like ghosts regardless, in
A human image made....”

— Philip Larkin

He flopped into a chair with no attempt at grace; his mind was focused on only one thing. When the evening meal appeared he pounced on it like a starving man and filled his plate quickly. Only then did he bother to look up and smile at his companions.

However, he was quickly diverted by the delicious scents of the food. Shaking out his napkin and placing it across his lap, he proceeded to wield his knife and fork with calm assurance, attacking his dinner with relish. When at last he was full, he let the silverware clatter onto the plate and sat back.

“So, that was interesting,” he commented.

“Do tell,” requested Blaise cheerfully.

“Yes, do. I want to hear about this latest prank,” said Sirius, who was floating up near the chandelier.

“Well, I had to use a bit of persuasion on the editor at The Daily Prophet to print the letter, but eventually he decided it was better to do so than to make me angry. I stuck around long enough to make sure of it, then went off to visit dear old Dumbledore.”

“You’re obviously fine, so I won’t ask if that was a prudent course of action. Why’d you go?” asked Remus.

He shrugged and said, “Felt like it. I guess I wanted the old coot to know that someone was aware of his machinations and see how he’d react. Well, that and to hand deliver a copy of the paper.” He reached into the pocket of his cloak and pulled out two copies, handing one each to Remus and Blaise.

The editor of The Daily Prophet, in all his wisdom, had added an introduction to the letter assuring readers that he himself had seen all the proof he needed to be sure of the identity of the writer. Harry didn’t care; some people would refuse to believe that Salazar was him regardless.

When Harry finally trudged up the stairs to bed he realized that Blaise was right behind him. When he opened the door to his room, Blaise followed him in and shut it quietly.

“Blaise?” asked Harry uncertainly.

“I want to stay with you tonight, Harry,” Blaise said softly. “I’m not asking for much, just to wake up in the morning beside you.”

Despite all his poise and flirtatious prowess as Salazar, Harry could feel heat rising in his cheeks. He tried to hide his nervousness by quipping, “But we haven’t even kissed yet.”

Blaise chuckled and stepped closer. “No, but I’m sure we will when you get around to it. May I stay?”

Harry ducked his head briefly, wishing with almost painful intensity that he was not quite so inexperienced. He didn’t answer in words, just nodded and began stripping off his clothes. When he was clad in nothing but a pair of nondescript black boxers he slid under the covers on the bed.

A glance at Blaise showed the other man to be shedding clothes quickly, and it was only moments before he too slipped into bed. The lights went out a moment later, plunging the room into darkness.

*

Breakfast was a cheerful affair; Harry had brought out his pensieve again and shown everyone his trip to The Daily Prophet offices and to Hogwarts. They talked of it as they ate, stopping only when Dobby appeared with a copy of the morning’s paper. A quick glance showed Harry that it contained several stories deemed newsworthy enough for the front page.

Public Calls for Immediate Action

Letters and howlers have been pouring into the ministry since yesterday’s expose on the words of Albus Dumbledore regarding the incident in the Great Hall.

Public opinion seems to be divided on the matter, with some calling for Dumbledore to be sentenced to Azkaban for the deaths of two aurors and six students, while others simply want his immediate resignation. A small portion of the community supports his actions, despite the cost in lives.

The board of governors refused to comment at this time other than to state that a snap judgment would be in the interests of no one.

Also on the front page was a short article about the fallen Death Eaters.

Death Eaters a Terror No More

Ministry officials have revealed that with the death of the body of Voldemort all his followers have also perished. Both those imprisoned at Azkaban and those still on the loose have been discovered dead, in a condition that closely resembles mummification.

One official was overheard questioning the survival of Professor Severus Snape at Hogwarts, who was brought to trial at the time of Voldemort’s first defeat as a Death Eater, but was released on the word of Albus Dumbledore that he was a spy for the side of light wizards and witches.

Professor Snape declined to comment other than to roll up his sleeves and display clearly unmarked arms.

Harry was pleased to note that the editor had taken his words more literally than he’d meant, and had stopped his people from hiding behind euphemisms. The man was dead after all, and saying his name would no more bring him back to life than it had summoned him when spoken.

New Minister of Magic Elected

Madam Amelia Bones, interim Minister of Magic, has been voted into office. She will hold the post until the next scheduled election, though that will extend her term past the normal ten years by several months.

Taking over her place as head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement will be Kingsley Shacklebolt, promoted from his position as auror.

*

“You know what? Let’s go to Diagon Alley today. Have lunch, window shop, whatever. I’m safe now and you can wear whatever face you want.” Blaise gave Harry a meltingly hopeful look.

Harry pondered a moment, glanced at Remus, then back at Blaise. “I don’t see why not. I’ll use my real appearance. Should anyone ask my name is, er, John. But now that you bring it up. . . . Remus, would you care to come along at least for a little while? I really should talk to the twins, and it’d be simpler if you eased the way.”

“Sure,” replied Remus. “I haven’t seen the twins in a while anyway.”

“Let’s go get changed and meet in a half hour,” suggested Blaise as he jumped up from his seat, then dashed off.

They apparated to a quiet alley near the Leaky Cauldron and trooped in together, bypassing the knots of people that cluttered the establishment and out the back door. Once through the archway they headed straight for 93 Diagon Alley and into the shop of the twins.

Fred and George were both in the front of the store, chatting idly behind the counter. They looked up when the bell above the door jingled, wide smiles crossing their faces as they spotted Remus.

“Moony!” exclaimed one of them in delight. “It’s about time you stopped by.”

“Mmm, yes. You two willing to take a short break? We have some catching up to do.” Remus scanned the shop for any customers or clerks, then gave the twins a pointed look.

“Of course,” said one as he slipped out from behind the counter and went to flip the lock and sign on the front door.

“Let’s just go in back, shall we?” said the other, leading the way.

After the door was closed the twins perched on one of the counters lining the walls of the small room and looked expectantly at Remus.

“I thought you might like to know that Harry is doing quite well,” said Remus with an odd smile.

“You’ve seen him?”

“He’s all right?”

“Where is he?”

“When can we see him?”

Remus waved his hands in front of his face, laughing. “I’d like to introduce you to Blaise and John,” he said, pointing them out respectively. “Guys, these are Fred and George Weasley, not that you can usually tell them apart. I’m sure you remember them from Hogwarts.”

Before anyone had a chance to exchange greetings Harry cut in with, “Is this room secure?”

The twins exchanged a look. “It’s warded against nosy people, if that’s what you mean.”

Harry grinned. “As I’d expect from you two.”

The twins exchanged another look, then stared at Harry intently.

“You look familiar for some reason.”

“I expect I’ll be getting that a lot, but I’ll let you two in on a little secret.”

The twins perked up and leaned forward, then edged back slightly as Harry returned to his “Harry” form. “Harry?”

“Who else?” he said with a smile, a second before he was engulfed in a round of hearty back slaps and hugs. When they managed to settle a bit, he said, “I know you’ve always supported me, thanks to Moony, so when Blaise suggested we come visit Diagon Alley, you two came to mind. But, guys . . . I don’t want this getting out.”

“Merlin, no!”

“We can keep a secret!”

“Besides, I had a little proposition for you, if you’re interested. . . .”

A half hour later, when the plans were loosely set, he had another suggestion for them. “Perhaps I’m a little bitter, but I had another idea. You did such a lovely job on the trick sweets over Fudge that I thought of something else you might like making.”

Both twins leaned in with mischievous smiles.

“Bumblebees.”

“Bumblebees?” The twins exchanged a glance then looked back at Harry.

“Bumblebees. Little bee shaped sweets that make the eater into a bumbling idiot for a while. You know, in honor of a certain someone. . . .”

The twins grinned at each other and said in unison, “We’ll get right on that, Harry!”

“The only thing. . . . Well, I expect you two have an owl, at least for personal use?” Harry asked.

“Of course,” they said.

“Where we are, the wards are quite strict. If your owl is here, could I see it? I can’t key it in without at least having held it.”

One of them shot off immediately through another door and came back with a tawny owl, murmuring to it before handing it over to Harry, who stroked its feathers for a minute before smiling.

“Right. No problem, then.” Harry set the owl on a bare spot on the counter and looked at Blaise. “Don’t suppose you’d care to become the proud new owner of an owl would you? Hedwig is much too visible for me to use all the time. I wouldn’t want to send her off with mail constantly and have people recognize her. Someone might try to intercept or hurt her.”

Blaise took on a thoughtful aspect, then said, “All right. We can make that our last stop before we head home.”

Harry shifted back to his true form and said to the twins, “I think we should get going. But you’ll be able to owl us by tomorrow certainly.”

The twins nodded as Remus cut in with, “I’ll think I’ll stay here a bit longer and discuss that other idea. You and Blaise go enjoy yourselves. Er . . . do you want me to fill them in on everything, or shall it wait until they can visit?”

“Wait, I think. It’d be safer back at the house. Figure out a day that’s good.”

They left in high good humor, promising to get together soon. After a relaxed lunch at a cozy restaurant partway down the alley, Harry and Blaise continued on, popping into various shops and buying the odd thing or two.

As they were leaving Flourish & Blotts they were approached by two people, one male, one female, and among the last people Harry wished to see at present, if ever. However, they ignored him and stopped in front of Blaise. Harry was surprised given that Blaise had been in Slytherin house.

“Zabini,” said Hermione evenly, casting a curious look at Harry.

“Granger, Weasley,” replied Blaise calmly.

“We didn’t expect to see you. You’ve been missing for quite a while.”

Blaise shrugged. “Better to disappear for a while than to be dragged into something I had no interest in.”

“Yes, of course. Considering that you’re alive I expect that’s true. Who’s your friend, if I may be so bold as to ask?”

Blaise shrugged again. “No one you’d know.”

“Name’s Chandler,” said Harry absently, doing his best to look disinterested.

“You remind me of someone,” she said, then glanced at Ron, who was standing with his arms crossed.

Harry didn’t bother answering, instead shifting the bags he was carrying from one hand to the other.

“A lot like someone,” she persisted, ignoring a nudge from Ron.

“Was there something in particular you wanted?” asked Blaise with a hint of impatience.

“We thought it was quite curious that you should suddenly reappear,” she replied, still giving Harry a speculative look.

Blaise stared to open his mouth to speak when he was roughly pushed to the side and into Harry, who blinked and immediately became alert, scanning the area around them. A crowd had formed as they’d been speaking, a crowd that looked none too happy.

Harry grabbed Blaise’s sleeve and pulled him back as the crowd started to push in closer.

“You!” shrieked a plump witch dressed in a shockingly yellow robe appliquéd with daisies and sunflowers.

“You!” shouted a beefy wizard, bearing an expression that reminded Harry keenly of his Uncle Vernon.

Hermione clutched at Ron nervously and looked around with wide eyes. “W-what?”

“It’s because of people like you—”

“You drove him off, you sick—”

“What’ll we do if another wizard like You-Know-Who arises?!”

“Who’ll save us then after people like you drove off our savior!?”

“What kind of friends do you think you are, anyway!”

“He may never return now, and we blame you two!”

“How dare you show your faces here among decent people!?”

“How can you possibly believe that letter?” Hermione said firmly. “It’s ridiculous! Salazar couldn’t possibly be Potter!” she yelled, again ignoring a nudge from Ron.

“How dare you disbelieve The Daily Prophet? They had proof you wretched girl!”

Harry looked at Blaise and jerked his head back. “Let’s get out of here,” he whispered. “They look pretty angry, and I think I’ve seen enough.”

Blaise nodded and turned, pushing through the crowd. When they reached the outskirts of the angry mob Harry looked over his shoulder, wincing at a particularly nasty epithet, then resolutely walked away. Luckily for them, the owl shop was clear of any trouble, and they slipped inside its cool interior. A half hour later they emerged with a caged owl and headed toward the Leaky Cauldron, ignoring the crowd still blocking a good part of the street further down.

Resetting the wards to allow for two new owls along with Fred and George was little trouble, and Blaise apparated in shortly after with a devious smile on his face. The two of them dashed upstairs to unload their bags, then went off to find Remus.

Harry could tell Remus was suspicious as soon as he laid eyes on them, but that might have been their expressions.

“What have you done now?” Remus asked with a long-suffering attitude.

“We ran into some, er . . . old acquaintances . . . in Diagon Alley,” said Blaise cheerfully as he flopped onto the ground.

“Uh huh,” said Remus as Sirius floated in from another section of the garden.

“Granger and Weasley felt the need to approach us,” supplied Harry.

“Did they now?” asked Sirius, now floating slightly above the bench Remus was seated on. “What happened?”

“Granger seemed a little too curious about Harry here, but the crowd that formed around us and started hurling insults at her and Weasley more than made up for it.”

Blaise went on to explain the encounter as Harry tried hard not to laugh in the aftermath. He shouldn’t be so pleased, he knew, but at the same time it felt good to know that those two weren’t getting away with their reversal of loyalty in the eyes of the public, hypocrisy aside.

“Fred and George can visit anytime, by the way,” said Remus once Blaise was finished and everyone had settled down. “The clerks can take care of the store so long as the twins are there to open or close the place.”

“Brilliant,” said Harry.

*

Several days later the twins arrived, having been escorted by Harry (as John), so that they’d be able to apparate there in the future. According to them, Ron and Hermione had escaped the crowd and taken refuge at their shop, causing the twins to close up again for the second time that day.

They found cold comfort, though, as the twins were quite unsympathetic to their plight, and had pointed out that they never once believed that Harry had gone mad or was a danger to himself and those around him.

As George had said to them, “You can stay here until it dies down, but don’t expect us to coddle you. This isn’t a place to hide from your own actions.”

Ron had tried to start a fight over the concept of family sticking together, but had gone silent when Fred pointed out that Harry was family, and it didn’t stop the majority of the clan from turning their backs on him. The two of them had apparently gone off in a huff the second the crowd had dissipated, casting scornful glances over their shoulders.

“Frankly, Harry, we were glad to see them go,” said Fred, identified as such by the pale orange jumper he was wearing. “Ron is family, but he needs to wake up. Nobody is infallible, and in another world we might have been wrong to choose as we did, but in this one we didn’t. He let Hermione talk him into believing, after she was talked into it by Dumbledore. Somewhere along the line he needs to learn to think for himself.”

“Anyway,” said George as he pulled two envelopes from his pocket, “when we visited the Burrow the other day I noticed these sitting around. They’d tried to owl you but the letters just came back. We brought them, but obviously it’s your choice to read them or burn them. They’ve no idea what we did.”

Harry hesitated for a moment, then stuck out his hand to receive them. “I’ll read them a bit later,” he said, taking the envelopes and stuffing them into his pocket.

The remainder of their visit was taken up with Harry giving them a condensed re-telling of the past few years from his point of view. After a hearty lunch had been served up and eaten, the twins left, promising to keep in touch.

*

Harry,

I’m sure you’ve heard many things in the past few years. But I think you should know that I’m a firm believer in things happening for a reason. I also believed in Albus Dumbledore. After all, if you couldn’t trust him, who could you trust?

You going to Azkaban fell under both those. You went, and I listened, and in the end I believed it was for the best. I know now that you probably heard and understood every word I said the day we visited, but I think that you should not hold those words against me, for they were spoken in ignorance of the truth.

I hope that you can find it in your heart to put the past where it belongs. Everything turned out all right in the end.

Hermione

Harry could feel his mouth twisting with every word he read. After staring at her letter for some countless minutes, he reached for a fresh sheet of lined paper and a ballpoint pen.

I can plainly see that some things have not changed over the course of time. You speak to me of trust and belief, of discarding the words you spoke on that day, and of putting the past where it belongs.

I say to you that in all that you’ve said in this letter, you did not once speak of apologies, or of being wrong, or remorse. You never did like admitting you could be wrong.

Just a week ago you maligned me once again, before you knew my name was cleared. I find it quite amusing that almost in the same breath you praised Salazar. As a friend remarked to me, my actions as Salazar were the biggest prank of my life, and my letter to the Daily Prophet my second. I laughed. Did you?

The Hermione I knew and trusted is a ghost of the past. The boy you knew is much the same. He is dead, and I stand in his place. Maybe someday I’ll be able to look at you and not hear you telling me the things you did, but right now you ask far too much for so little in return.

Harry Potter

He folded the letter, shoved it into an envelope, then sealed it and addressed it. He didn’t want to open Ron’s letter any more than he had Hermione’s, but forced himself to regardless.

Harry,

Mate, are you okay? I can’t believe I let myself fall for all this rot! I still don’t understand what happened. I swore to myself back in fourth year that I wouldn’t be so stupid again, and look what I do.

I was so happy when Salazar took care of things, but I couldn’t help thinking it should have been you. And then against all odds, it was. Bloody brilliant!

A few days ago in Diagon Alley Hermione and I ran into Blaise Zabini—you remember he was a Slytherin in our year?—and some friend of his. Hermione was being her usual self, trying to dig up information and pushing for answers. I tried to shut her up, but she kept right on.

And then out of nowhere there’s this crowd surrounding us, yelling and shouting about how it was our fault that you might never come back. Hermione didn’t want to believe you were Salazar (she even called you Potter), and that really riled them up. I tried to get her attention again, but it didn’t work.

We got away from them thankfully, but Fred and George weren’t too happy to see us. It all got me to thinking, though—maybe I’d got so used to Hermione always being right about stuff that I stopped thinking for myself sometimes.

It doesn’t matter, though, because I can’t change the things I’ve already done. I let you down in the worst way possible, and I’m sorry for it. Maybe we’ll never be friends again like we were, but hopefully someday we can talk, even if it’s only about quidditch.

And I want you to know, Neville never believed you were crazy. Neither did Bill or Charlie. I’m pretty sure Remus never believed it either, seeing as how he visited you so much. The twins—no one ever could get them to voice an opinion.

Ron

Harry had to give him credit. Ron was at least trying, and Ron at least apologized and tried to come up with a reason for his actions. Funny though how he’d almost echoed his brother’s words. He grabbed another sheet of paper and started writing.

Ron,

You’re right that you let me down, but to some extent I place blame on Dumbledore. In some ways it’s like when Sirius died. For a long time I placed the blame squarely on my shoulders, but once I stopped grieving constantly and starting thinking more clearly, I realized that there were a multitude of decisions and choices from several people which led to that end.

I was not alone in my culpability, and I don’t think you are either. I don’t know if we’ll ever be friends again, but I can’t predict the future either. I won’t know exactly how I feel about a lot of things for a while.

Thank you for telling me about Neville and the others. When I am up to getting further correspondence, I’ll let you know how to contact me.

Harry

After getting the reply into an envelope and addressed, Harry picked up it and the other and found Hedwig.

“Hey, girl. I have two letters for you. Are you up for a journey?”

She hooted agreeably and stuck out her leg.

As Harry attached them he said, “I want you to be careful, Hedwig. And don’t stick around for replies, okay?”

She nipped at his fingers, hooted again, and flew off.

A short time later he cornered Blaise in the above stairs hallway, then dragged him off into his bedroom. After closing the door he turned to Blaise and said teasingly, “I captured you again. Can I keep you?”

Blaise didn’t bother to answer in words, but who ever said a man had to speak to use his mouth?