Fudge’s voice stopped abruptly. There was the sound of five noses being blown.

“Well, there you have it, Rosmerta,” said Fudge thickly. “Black was taken away by twenty members of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad and Pettigrew received the Order of Merlin, First Class, which I think was some comfort to his poor mother. Black’s been in Azkaban ever since.”

Madam Rosmerta let out a long sigh.

“Is it true he’s mad, Minister?”

“I wish I could say that he was,” said Fudge slowly. “I certainly believe his master’s defeat unhinged him for a while. The murder of Pettigrew and all those Muggles was the action of a cornered and desperate man—cruel… pointless. Yet I met Black on my last inspection of Azkaban. You know, most of the prisoners in there sit muttering to themselves in the dark; there’s no sense in them… but I was shocked at how normal Black seemed. He spoke quite rationally to me. It was unnerving. You’d have thought he was merely bored—asked if I’d finished with my newspaper, cool as you please, said he missed doing the crossword. Yes, I was astounded at how little effect the Dementors seemed to be having on him—and he was one of the most heavily guarded in the place, you know. Dementors outside his door day and night.”

“But what do you think he’s broken out to do?” said Madam Rosmerta. “Good gracious, Minister, he isn’t trying to rejoin You-Know-Who, is he?”

“I daresay that is his—er—eventual plan,” said Fudge evasively. “But we hope to catch Black long before that. I must say, You-Know-Who alone and friendless is one thing… but give him back his most devoted servant, and I shudder to think how quickly he’ll rise again…”

There was a small chink of glass on wood. Someone had set down their glass.

“You know, Cornelius, if you’re dining with the headmaster, you’d better head back up to the castle,” said Professor McGonagall.

One by one, the pairs of feet in front of Harry took the weight of their owners once more; hems of cloaks swung into sight, and Madam Rosmerta’s glittering heels disappeared behind the bar. The door of the Three Broomsticks opened again, there was another flurry of snow, and the teachers had disappeared.



“Harry?”

Ron’s and Hermione’s faces appeared under the table. They were both staring at him, lost for words.

THE FIREBOLT

Harry didn’t have a very clear idea of how he had managed to get back into the Honeydukes cellar, through the tunnel, and into the castle once more. All he knew was that the return trip seemed to take no time at all, and that he hardly noticed what he was doing, because his head was still pounding with the conversation he had just heard.

Why had nobody ever told him? Dumbledore, Hagrid, Mr. Weasley, Cornelius Fudge… why hadn’t anyone ever mentioned the fact that Harry’s parents had died because their best friend had betrayed them?

Ron and Herinione watched Harry nervously all through dintier, not daring to talk about what they’d overheard, because Percy was sitting close by them. When they went upstairs to the crowded common room, it was to find Fred and George had set off half a dozen Dungbombs in a fit of end of term high spirits. Harry, who didn’t want Fred and George asking him whether he’d reached Hogsmeade or not, sneaked quietly up to the empty dormitory and headed straight for his bedside cabinet. He pushed his books aside and quickly found what he was looking for—the leather bound photo album Hagrid had given him two years ago, which was full of wizard pictures of his mother and father. He sat down on his bed, drew the hangings around him, and started turning the pages, searching, until…

He stopped on a picture of his parents’ wedding day. There was his father waving up at him, beaming, the untidy black hair Harry had inherited standing up in all directions. There was his mother, alight with happiness, arm in arm with his dad. And there… that must be him. Their best man… Harry had never given him a thought before.

If he hadn’t known it was the same person, he would never have guessed it was Black in this old photograph. His face wasn’t sunken and waxy, but handsome, full of laughter. Had he already been working for Voldemort when this picture had been taken? Was he already planning the deaths of the two people next to him? Did he realize he was facing twelve years in Azkaban, twelve years that would make him unrecognizable?

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