“Yes, your mum used to think your dad was a git,” Black said, glancing over his shoulder as he changed lanes. “I wouldn’t read too much into it if I were you – it was just the classic situation with girls maturing faster than boys. He thought he was hilarious and she thought he was obnoxious. He thought they ought to go on a date and she thought he should flush his head down the toilet. If this car doesn’t make it to Canterbury by eleven o’clock, it’s going to come home much smaller and without a fender.”
Ted’s 1967 Volkswagen Beetle was a wheezing little car with a dented steering wheel, two floor mats missing, and a front window that refused to roll down. “We could always park it somewhere and take the Knight Bus,” Harry suggested, grimacing as the car bounced over a pothole. “It would be a lot faster – “
“The Knight Bus is for people who can afford to be late,” Black replied. “I haven’t been late to Mass since 1984 and I’m not going to start now – besides, we’ll attract attention if we don’t get there on time.”
“Forget the Knight Bus, then,” said Harry at once. It was enough to be going to church for the first time he could remember. He didn’t need the entire congregation staring at him too.
Until a few weeks ago, Harry had never given much thought to church, except to note that other people went there and the Dursleys didn’t. When he had thought about it, he’d considered himself lucky to have escaped; Piers Polkiss had to go to church with his parents every Sunday wearing a tie and pressed trousers, and if Aunt Petunia hated how Harry looked on normal days, she would surely loathe having to make him look presentable in a suit once a week. “What religion am I supposed to be, anyway?” he asked Black, checking both cuffs to make sure they were buttoned. “If my dad was WCG and my mum was Church of England and you’re Catholic – “
“You know, your parents and I never had that discussion.” There was some sort of spattered insect on the windshield; Black turned on the wipers and pushed it off. “If you’d rather go to WCG with the Tonkses on Friday – “
“No, I’ll go with you.” A bright yellow convertible drove past them, heading in the other direction. “What’s the difference between WCG and the rest of them?”
“At first there were just the Catholics in England,” said Black, pushing a stray piece of hair away from his face. Ted, who had a barbershop in Diagon Alley, had cut several inches off Black’s hair the night before, leaving him with a ponytail that ended just above his shoulder blades. “For Christian religions, I mean. Then Henry VIII threw a fit because the Catholic Church wouldn’t let him get rid of his wife and marry a new one, so he formed the Church of England. The Wizarding Church of God branched from the Church of England, which is why my family never joined it – we weren’t about to change religions just because some Muggle king couldn’t get an annulment.” He thought for a moment and added, “Also, Communion is a sacrament in the Catholic Church and you haven’t made it, so don’t go up for it when everyone else does. Catholics believe that during Communion we literally eat the body and blood of Christ.”
Harry wasn’t sure he’d heard right – he couldn’t have heard right. “You eat – literally? A body?”
“Don’t worry,” Black replied, changing lanes again. From the last several road signs, it looked as though they would be on time at St. Dymphna’s. “It still looks like bread and wine. Remus used to say that I ate more human flesh in a month than he’d eaten in his entire life.”
“What religion was he?” Harry asked.
Black drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. “Remus was an agnostic. No belief one way or the other.”
“What are the Malfoys?”
It took Black a while to find a place to park the car, but when they got out it was two minutes to eleven. “We’ve got to go inside the cathedral to get to St. Dymphna’s,” Black said, walking quickly as Harry followed him. “It’s the floor stones to the right of the tomb of the Black Prince – no relation to me or Snape. Sit when everyone sits, stand when everyone stands, kneel when everyone kneels, and don’t go up for communion.”
Harry had never been to Canterbury Cathedral before; he would have liked to spend more time looking around, but it was difficult enough to cut through the crowds. It seemed a service had just concluded. The cathedral was filled with Muggles, most of them holding palm fronds. “This way,” Black said, nearly running into a man in a brown jumper. “Right over there – the metal figure lying on the floor.”
Harry just barely had time to look at the Black Prince before Black pulled him to the side. “Here,” he said, gesturing with his foot. “Step on this with your right foot, this with your left foot, and bring your left foot to join your right. Go ahead. I’ll be just after you.”
Taking a deep breath, Harry stepped on the stones.
A split second later, he was standing in an empty stone vestibule, its walls lined with torches. Suddenly Black was beside him. “I think they’ve just started,” he said, going for a large wooden door. “Come on. No one’s going to be looking at us.”
And indeed, no one did.
The sanctuary of St. Dymphna’s was packed full of people; Harry didn’t think he’d ever seen so many kinds of magical beings in one room. Just past the door was a pew full of house-elves, all of them dressed in crisp white pillowcases. Two dappled centaurs stood at the back of the far aisle. There were several ghosts, most of them sitting together in clusters of three or four, and the empty spot that Black found for them was next to a family of goblins, including three goblin children who kept poking each other with their palm fronds. As organ music echoed through the chamber, the entire assembly stood and began to sing a song from their blue hymnals. Harry swallowed.
“Don’t worry,” Black said in his ear. “I never sing either.”
The priest was coming down the center aisle, a skinny bald man with a thick brown mustache. As Harry’s eyes followed, he spotted Sir Patrick Delaney-Podmore, Nearly Headless Nick’s old rival, holding his head in both hands and scratching his nose. Sir Patrick noticed him and winked.
The first part of the Mass was hard for Harry to understand; there were a lot of responses from the congregation, none of which he knew. He did know a few of the people in attendance: Tom from the Leaky Cauldron was sitting near the front, far to the left of Madam Pomfrey and just behind Roger Davies from the Ravenclaw Quidditch team. Hannah Abbott from Hufflepuff was sitting across the aisle and two rows ahead of Harry, not far from Florean Fortescue, the ice cream parlor owner who had helped Harry with his witch-burning essay over the summer.
As everyone sat down in the pews, a tall boy with wavy hair caught Harry’s eye. Cedric Diggory was in the fourth row.
“In a way, today’s passage is a startling piece of Scripture,” the priest began, standing behind the pulpit. It took a moment for Harry to place his accent as German. “Jesus Christ rides through the streets of Jerusalem, greeted and welcomed by the people. They lay down their cloaks and palm branches in the road, celebrating His arrival. This is the height of Christ’s popularity during his human life. The crowds love Him.” The priest paused. “And yet five days later, these same people are calling for His death by crucifixion.
“Pontius Pilate gives them a chance to spare His life, and they don’t take it! They choose to save Barabbas instead – Barabbas, the notorious rebel. How could Jesus Christ be so welcomed by the people of Jerusalem, and yet these same people refuse to spare His life less than a week later? I think the answer lies in two places. First, people can be cowardly – and I don’t just mean human people, I mean all of us. Second, sometimes people support the right thing for the wrong reasons.”
What about the opposite? Harry wondered. Did people sometimes support the wrong thing for the right reasons?
He couldn’t say he liked the teenage Regulus who had written the diary – they probably would have despised each other if they’d ever met – but at the same time, Harry felt sorry for him. He could even understand Regulus in a way – he knew what it was like to feel lonely, to want a happy family. Had Regulus truly wanted to kill Muggles and Muggle-borns? Or had he just never seen them as equals? It was hard to imagine Regulus wanting Nymphadora to die – or Selene Harris, the beautiful Muggle-born girl in his house.
From what Harry could tell, Regulus had truly longed for two things at the age of fifteen: to have his family reunited, and to be with Narcissa Malfoy. I don’t even care if Narcissa is in the Dark Lord’s service, he had written, because I know how passionate she is about family. Was that what Regulus had sought in the Death Eaters? A way to have his family reunited?
“I didn’t know you were Catholic.”
Harry looked up. The service had ended; Sirius was a few rows ahead of him, talking with Madam Pomfrey, and Cedric Diggory was standing in the aisle. “I’m not,” he said, silently vowing not to look like an idiot. “Sirius is, though – Professor Black. He’s my godfather.”
“Really?” Diggory sat down in the pew in front of Harry, looking over the back. “I didn’t know that.”
“Yeah. He’s – I’m living with him now.”
“Oh.” Diggory swallowed, running his fingers through his hair; for the first time, Harry wondered if Diggory was as nervous around him as he was around Diggory, though he didn’t know why he would be. Diggory was older, taller, a prefect and Quidditch captain, not to mention better-looking. “We’re not from around here either – we’re about a mile outside Ottery St. Catchpole in Devon. Near the Weasleys,” he added, noticing the look of recognition on Harry’s face. “They’re on the other side of the village, though.”
A slender, long-legged woman came over to the pews; Harry had never seen her before, but he would have recognized her anywhere as Diggory’s mother. “You’re Harry Potter?” she asked him. Harry nodded. “I’m Meredith Diggory, it’s nice to meet you. Come on, Cedric, we’ve got to get home and get lunch started.”
“See you at school,” Diggory said. His cheeks were flushing pink.
Sirius was coming down the aisle on the other side of the pew, looking considerably more relaxed than he had before church. “Ready to go home?” he asked Harry, reaching out and squeezing his shoulder. “Had enough cannibals for one day?”
“Who did Regulus talk to?” Harry asked suddenly. Sirius looked surprised. “He had to have had some friends besides Narcissa, right? Are his friends all dead?”
“I have no idea,” Sirius replied, leaning back against the pew. “After I left home, I more or less lost track of what he was doing.”
“Somebody’s got to know,” Harry said. His mind was running over Regulus’s diary, trying to remember if Regulus had mentioned anyone in particular. “He worked for Horace Slughorn, right? Do you think he would have told him anything?”
Sirius took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “As far as I know, the only one he confided in was his diary,” he said. “And if he left any other papers behind, they’re probably in his room.”