A clap of thunder sounded outside; Hedwig, perched inside her cage, flapped her wings in alarm. Looking out the window, Harry could see that the rain was beginning to flood the streets.
“Besides,” Nymphadora added, rolling onto her back, “I knew Remus when I was a kid – we used to go to Sirius and Remus’s place for dinner every other week before we went into hiding. I’ll never forget what it was like after we came out. We waited a whole month after You-Know-Who disappeared – it was almost December, Mum and Dad made me put on scarves and mittens and all that – and I just wanted to go home and have everything back to normal, you know? I mean, I was eight. I didn’t get that we weren’t just going to go home and have everything be the same again. I was all excited because I wanted to see Gran and Grandad and Auntie Liz – Dad’s side, obviously – and Sirius and Remus and Charis and Edgar’s new baby, and then Sirius was there the second we came out the door. You know what the first thing he said was? Before ‘hello’ or anything like that? He looked at Mum and he said, ‘Lily and James are dead, Remus is in Azkaban, no one will let me have Harry, and Charis and Edgar’s entire family have been dead since September.’”
Lightning illuminated the street; it was only three o’clock in the afternoon, but the sky was growing darker by the second. For a moment, Harry wondered whether the basement would flood. “Their entire family was dead?” he asked, forcing himself to sit down. Perhaps if he stopped pacing about the room, he thought, his stomach would feel better. “Even the baby?”
“Yeah, even the baby.” Nymphadora examined one magenta fingernail; Harry had the impression she didn’t know where else to look. “They had three kids, Charis and Edgar – Ambrose is the one she’s pregnant with in Regulus’s diary. Then they had Felicity before they even finished school, and Charis was pregnant with Rosamund the last time we saw them. Charis ended up being like Mum, she broke with the whole Slytherin crowd. The Boneses were purebloods, but they never went in for thinking they were superior. Evan Rosier’s dead too – he went the full-blown Death Eater route. Mad-Eye Moody and two other Aurors ended up killing him as he tried to escape through his dining room.”
For the first time, Harry fully realized what it meant to be the boy who lived. Somehow, it had never really sunk in that the Death Eaters had murdered other children – that he was the boy who lived because other boys had died. “What about Snape?” he demanded, standing up again. It was impossible to sit calmly when he knew Sirius, Andromeda and Ted were upstairs deciding what to do about Lupin’s letter. “He was a Death Eater with Rosier and the rest of them, right? Why didn’t the Aurors kill him? Why does he get to teach at Hogwarts instead of being locked up in Azkaban having to remember every bad thing in his life – “
Nymphadora snorted. “He turned spy in the last few months of the war and the Ministry gave him immunity.”
“They told him if he’d give up the goods on the rest of the Death Eaters, he wouldn’t have to go to prison.” Hedwig had been looking curiously at the bag of owl treats Harry had set next to her cage; Nymphadora stood up, went to the wardrobe, and gave her one. “It’s a good thing you asked me and not Sirius, Sirius’ll rant for hours about it if you get him going. He doesn’t think Snape ever had any real change of heart – he reckons he realized which way the wind was blowing and decided to save his own skin.”
“Yeah,” Harry said bitterly, “no kidding. That’s why Snape hangs round the Malfoys and treats everyone like crap, because he’s finally found the good in himself. How could Dumbledore even fall for that?”
“I’ve got no idea. Don’t get Sirius started on that one either.”
Another clap of thunder erupted, this one so loud that it sounded as though someone was shooting a canon from across the street.
“What was Lupin like, anyway?” Harry asked Nymphadora. He had heard Black’s descriptions of him several times, but he realized now that he’d never had the chance to ask anyone else. “Back when you knew him.”
To his amazement, Nymphadora grinned. “Remus was great,” she said, sitting up and crossing her legs. “He really was – if Mum and Dad were planning to go out either Friday or Saturday, and they found out Sirius was at the school overnight on Friday and Remus was there overnight on Saturday, they’d go out Friday so Remus could look after me. Once you got to know him he could be really funny. Gran gave me this book of Muggle fairytales one Christmas and I brought it over to Sirius and Remus’s place – Sirius was correcting essays, so Remus said he’d read it to me. I’m sitting next to him and he opens the book, and the first story is Little Red Riding Hood. Right away – I mean, the second he turned to that page – he looks over at Sirius and says, ‘Sirius, a piece of enemy propaganda has infiltrated this house.’”
“You know – because of the Big Bad Wolf. So Sirius gets this shocked look on his face – I mean, not really shocked, sort of melodramatic – and says, ‘Be strong, Remus. Do your best.’ I didn’t know what they were talking about, so I was whining, ‘Remus! Read my book!’ Remus looks down at the page and says, ‘This is the story of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Snake.’”
Maybe it was the barely contained laughter in Nymphadora’s voice, or perhaps Harry was so anxious that he needed to find something funny; either way, he realized he was smiling in spite of himself. “He knew how to deal with Sirius, too,” Nymphadora continued, watching the lightning outside. “You know how sometimes Sirius’ll really get in a mood about something – “
“Be quiet a second,” Harry said suddenly. “I think I can hear them upstairs.”
For a moment, the only sound was the rain outside; Harry stood on top of his bed, trying to put his ear as close as possible to the ceiling. Given that the rafters were still more than a foot above his head, he wasn’t sure it was doing him much good. “ – almost has to know where the body is,” he thought he could hear Andromeda saying. “I don’t know how else he’d be able to prove that Regulus is dead – “
“I bet the Malfoys put Regulus somewhere really creepy,” Nymphadora whispered. She was standing on the other bed, barely managing to balance on her toes. “I really do, I bet they shoved his body in a corner and built a wall in front of it or something.”
Harry looked at her. “Can’t you do something with the Metamorphmagus thing? Make your legs really long so you can get closer, or something like that?”
Nymphadora shook her head. “It would probably rip up these jeans.”
“ – need to think of what the stress of a trial would do to Harry – “
“Why don’t we actually ask Harry what the stress of a trial would do to him?” Harry muttered to himself. “What, I’m so delicate and fragile I can’t take people talking about how my parents died, or something? What about what the stress of not having a trial’s doing to Lupin?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Nymphadora said, sitting down again. “That’s just Mum – even if he’s convinced Remus did it, there’s no way Sirius is going to pass on the chance to get in contact with him.”
Harry opened his mouth to tell her about Swift’s theory, but then stopped himself. Black would tell Nymphadora if he wanted her to know. He wondered if Black was still planning to take him to church the next day.
“I want to know what’s so great about Narcissa that everyone wants to make excuses for her,” said Nymphadora, leaning against the headboard. “Mum thinks she’s completely oblivious to the fact that her husband’s an evil git, Regulus fell in love with her even though she was his cousin – I don’t think she’s that extraordinarily beautiful, either. I mean, she’s beautiful, but it’s not like she’s perfect. Her mouth is sort of funny-looking.”
“You’ve met her?” Harry asked, surprised.
“No, but I’ve seen her. I’ve seen her with Lucius, too, and I’ll say this: either their marriage has got loads better since Regulus wrote his diary, they’re both really good actors, or Regulus never stood a chance.”
There were footsteps on the stairs; Harry sat down immediately, trying not to look nervous. A moment later, Black opened the door.
“Tomorrow is Palm Sunday,” he said, coming in and leaning against the wall. Ted and Andromeda were behind him, still in the corridor; Andromeda’s face had gone very white. “Next Sunday is Easter Sunday, and the Sunday after that, we’re going back to Hogwarts. I’m going to have Brutus move for an appeal on that last Saturday. This is our first holiday together, and I’d like to spend it without being annoyed by the press; if Remus has been waiting since the end of February, I don’t think it’ll hurt him to wait another two weeks. I don’t intend to tell anything to Kreacher until just before Brutus files the motion, either. He’ll never believe Lucius killed Regulus and he can be dangerous if he gets angry enough. Once we get back to school, I want you to concentrate on your exams – I don’t think I’ll need to be in court until after the term ends.” He took a deep breath. “ I imagine the veracity of this diary is going to be a contentious issue in the case against Lucius, and depending on the Ministry’s prosecutorial strategy, it might come into Remus’s trial as well. Harry, I think before all this is over you and Nymphadora will probably have give statements about finding the diary, at the very least.”
“Why the very least?” asked Nymphadora. “What’s the very most?”
“At the most, you’ll have to appear in court and testify about it.”
Harry glanced at Nymphadora. “Fine,” he said, trying to ignore the way his heart was pounding hard against his chest. “I don’t care. No matter what happens – at least by the end we’ll know, right?”
“That’s right,” Black replied quietly. “At least by the end, we’ll know.”