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Harry Potter and the Chained Souls

By Theowyn

Fantasy / Adventure

Chapter 15: Conflicts of Interest

The next several weeks were uneventful, though Harry was still getting very little sleep and was finding it increasingly difficult to stay awake each night watching Snape. Consequently, he wasn't sorry to have to shorten Quidditch practice on Tuesday and Thursday mornings as the sun rose later and later each day with the advent of autumn. Ron, of course, was bitterly disappointed, but Ginny pointed out that even if they could fly in the dark, they'd never spot the Quaffle or Bludgers, let alone the Snitch.

Ron compensated by sneaking in a little extra flying time on his own whenever he could and encouraging their newer teammates to do the same. Meanwhile, Hermione was spending most of her free time sequestered in the archives of the library searching for information on Riddle's friends. Ginny and even Ron helped out when they could, but Hermione refused to let Harry do so.

"You have enough to do already," she insisted in exasperation whenever he offered to join in the search. Harry felt guilty leaving all the work to his friends, but he knew that Hermione was right. Between his lessons with Dumbledore and Knight, detention with Snape and the homework threatening to bury him, he was barely getting on as it was.

The first serious storm of the season to hit Hogwarts arrived the first Friday in October, replete with howling winds and drenching rain. The storm persisted all day and through the night and still showed no sign of abating Saturday morning. Harry canceled Quidditch practice and even Ron didn't look too disappointed, especially when they arrived in the Great Hall for breakfast where dark, lowering clouds hung ominously over the tables.

As if the weather weren't enough dissuasion, Filch, who was beside himself from trying to keep up with the mud and water that had been tracked through the castle, was in the entrance hall, and glared fiercely at any student who looked as though they might even be considering going outside. None were. Most made straight for their cozy common rooms after breakfast and Harry would have given anything to join his friends as they headed back to Gryffindor Tower. Instead, he reluctantly descended to the dungeons for detention with Snape.

The Potions Master's office was particularly dank and dreary this morning. As usual, Snape barely glanced at Harry as he took his accustomed seat at the workbench and continued revising his homework from summer. Harry dreaded these sessions. He didn't mind the work so much, but the oppressive silence invariably left him irritable and depressed. Worse, the hollow feeling in his stomach that he'd felt during his first detention continued to plague him every time he set foot in Snape's office. There were too many memories here – or at least there were for Harry.

Harry looked up from his essay and scowled. Snape, on the other hand, didn't seem affected by the memories at all and acted as though the months of lessons they'd endured together had never happened. That was what rankled most. Of all the things Snape chose to pretend had never happened, this was too much. That he could sit there week after week without giving the slightest sign of remembering those long evenings made Harry burn with indignation. It was all he could do not to shout at the man and demand acknowledgment. But Harry controlled himself: he didn't need any more detentions than he already had, so he bit his tongue, turned back to his essay and tried to forget the previous term too.


It was nearly two o'clock when Harry finally climbed back through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor common room. Ginny, Ron and Hermione were waiting for him and they had brought him some ham and boiled potatoes from lunch which Harry tucked into gratefully.

"How much longer can Snape keep you in detention for your ruddy homework?" Ron asked indignantly.

Harry shrugged and swallowed a mouthful of potatoes. "I only have two essays left to rewrite, so hopefully it'll only be a couple of more weeks."

"Well, that's not too bad then," Hermione said encouragingly.

"That's assuming Snape doesn't think up some other excuse to give Harry detention," Ron said.

"I'm sure Snape has better things to do with his time, Ron," Ginny said.

"I don't know. Snape's always been a bas – a git," Ron hastily amended at Hermione's disapproving glare. "And he certainly enjoys making your life miserable, Harry."

"Yeah, he does," Harry conceded in a flat, neutral tone. "Look, let's not talk about Snape anymore, okay? Who's up for a game of Exploding Snap?"

Ron, Ginny and Hermione all agreed and they sat down to play in front of the cheery fire crackling in the fireplace. Harry determinedly pushed all thoughts of Snape aside and with a full stomach and the company of his friends, his mood quickly improved.

The afternoon wore lazily on as the storm continued outside. After Exploding Snap, Harry played chess with Ron, polished his broom and even devoted a little time to studying. At dinner, he ate heartily then returned to Gryffindor Tower where he and his friends ensconced themselves by the fire once more. Weeks of too little sleep soon began to take their toll on him, however. Between the meal he'd eaten, the sound of the rain pelting the windows, and the warmth of the fire, Harry found it increasingly hard to keep his eyes from drifting shut. He sat up straighter in his chair in an effort to keep from nodding off, but it was no use. Even though it wasn't yet eight o'clock, Harry couldn't stay up any longer.

"I'm going to bed. I'm done in," he told his friends.

Yawning, Harry went up to his dormitory, changed into his pajamas and climbed into his four-poster where, for the first time in hours, his thoughts turned to Snape. He reached under his pillow, pulled out the Marauders's Map and looked at it in disgust. For nearly a month he'd been watching his teacher wander the castle half the night almost every night and he was sick of it. If the man wanted to go murder a dozen Death Eaters tonight he could bloody well do it. Harry wasn't up to keeping vigil any longer. He opened the drawer of his bedside table and was about to stuff the map into it when something caught his eye. A lone dot was moving out on the grounds. Harry frowned and squinted at it then felt his heartbeat quicken. It was Snape and as Harry watched, the dot vanished into the Forbidden Forest.

Harry stared at the map in consternation. Surely Snape couldn't be going on one of his covert outings now. He'd always waited until after midnight to sneak away when they were at Grimmauld Place. But they weren't at Grimmauld Place any more and after a moment's consideration, Harry was forced to admit that he really had no reason to believe that Snape would only leave Hogwarts at such a late hour. During summer, Snape had been constrained by secrecy to leaving the house after everyone was asleep. But here at Hogwarts he had far more freedom to come and go without anyone noticing.

Harry cursed his own shortsightedness. It was no wonder he had never spotted Snape leaving during any of those long, sleepless nights he'd spent staring at the Marauder's Map. The man could have gone and come back every night before Harry even began his watch. Harry hadn't been paying close attention to the Daily Prophet recently since he had thought he was keeping a close eye on Snape and he couldn't help wondering now if he'd missed any suspicious deaths.

Harry pressed his lips together in a grim line. There was nothing he could do about it if he had. The question was what should he do now? He hadn't bargained on Snape leaving in the evening when everyone in the castle was still up and about. Snape could slip out, unquestioned and unremarked, but Harry couldn't. If nothing else, he'd have to make some excuse to his friends and he hated lying to them. Worse, he wasn't even sure anymore if he should follow Snape.

In his imagination, Harry had envisioned tailing Snape as the man stalked his next victim along some deserted, fog-shrouded road in the dead of night – like a scene from one of the hackneyed murder mysteries Dudley used to watch on TV when they were little. Now that he really thought about it, Harry recognized how absurd that idea was. Snape was certainly more subtle than that. Harry could easily imagine him casting the Imperius Curse on someone in a busy café then whispering a word to them about Apparating in front of a bus on their way home. So even if Harry followed Snape, there was no guarantee that he'd be able to catch the man out.

For that matter, there was no guarantee that Snape was even going to kill anyone this evening, Harry reminded himself firmly. What if the man was simply going to spy on the Death Eaters. They couldn't conduct all of their business after midnight, after all. What would happen if Snape was in the midst of a group of twenty of Voldemort's followers and Harry Apparated into the middle of it? Nothing good: that was certain.

Harry sighed. The fact was that he hadn't given nearly enough thought to how he was going to catch Snape and he was beginning to suspect that it was going to be considerably more complicated than he'd hoped. Still, he had to start somewhere. Harry looked out the window at the steady rain spattering his window and grimaced.

Of course, I would have to spot Snape sneaking out tonight, Harry thought sourly as he got out of bed and dressed again. He pulled on a warm sweatshirt, shut his bed curtains tightly in the hopes that no one would notice he was gone, and wrapped his Invisibility Cloak around him. Then, unseen, he made his way back downstairs and out of the common room.


Harry got out of the castle without incident and headed for the Forbidden Forest, trying to avoid the muddiest of the sodden ground and to keep his Invisibility Cloak from being ripped away by the wind. By the time he reached the relative shelter of the forest, he was soaking wet. He dried his glasses then pulled out his wand.

"Sniff."

His wand twitched eagerly in his hand, but it gave no indication of which way to go. That had to mean that Snape was no longer in the forest, but had Disapparated out of the Sniffer Charm's immediate range. This was no surprise. Harry had assumed that Snape was heading into the forest in order to get beyond the school's anti-Apparation ward. He raised his wand and concentrated on Snape but also on Apparating at a distance from his teacher. A hundred yards would probably do and he imagined that distance in his mind. Then he spun around and Disapparated.

He appeared on a busy sidewalk and looked around trying to get his bearings, but almost at once a passerby bumped into him. The man, a Muggle by the look of him, stared incredulously at the seemingly empty space in front of him then reached out tentatively. Harry dodged the outstretched hand and ducked into a nearby doorway. The man groped at the air for a moment then glanced around in embarrassment and hurried on his way.

Harry pulled off his Invisibility Cloak and stuffed it under his sweatshirt then surveyed his surroundings. He was in London and while the weather was chilly, there was no storm here. He held out his wand which obediently swiveled to point down the block. Harry slipped his wand into the pocket of his sweatshirt keeping hold of it so that he could feel the direction in which it was pulling. Then he stepped out of the doorway and started down the street, following the invisible draw on his wand.

Two blocks down, Harry was nearing the corner of a busy intersection when his wand suddenly jumped so violently that he almost lost his grip on it. Harry stopped and surreptitiously as possible, pulled it from his pocket once more. It immediately jerked to the right and Harry moved cautiously forward to peer around the corner.

Snape was dressed as a Muggle, naturally. He stood at a bus stop, reading a magazine and evinced such a perfect mixture of impatience and boredom that for a moment Harry wondered why on earth the man was waiting for a bus instead of simply Apparating wherever he wanted to go. An instant later the truth occurred to him. Snape obviously wasn't waiting for a bus. He had to be waiting for something – or more likely someone – else. Was Snape planning on meeting an informant here – or one of his victims?

Harry ducked back around the corner, out of his teacher's sight and considered. He'd have to follow Snape and whomever he was meeting, but the streets were too crowded for him to wear his Invisibility Cloak and he'd never get close enough to find out what Snape was up to without it.

Harry's wand twitched in his hand, breaking his concentration. He peered back around the corner at the bus stop and started. Snape was no longer there. He had crossed the street and was moving at a brisk pace away from Harry down the opposite side of the street. Harry swore under his breath and hurried after the man.


The next half-hour was one of the most nerve-wracking Harry had ever endured. He felt ridiculously exposed following Snape through the streets and hung back as far as he could while still keeping Snape in sight, all the while poised to jump into the nearest doorway to avoid being spotted should Snape glance behind him.

It wouldn't have been so bad if Harry had had any sense of where Snape was going, but the man seemed to be wandering aimlessly. He'd walk for several blocks, stop for a bit, cross the street and go another few blocks in some other direction then head back the way they'd come until they'd made a big sprawling circle. Then Snape would strike out in a new direction and repeat the process.

At last, Harry saw Snape enter a building up ahead of him and quickened his pace until he reached what turned out to be a pub. Harry sidled up to the dingy window of the establishment and cautiously peeked in. Snape was at the bar ordering a drink and Harry scowled. The man was probably thirsty after walking so far. Harry was thirsty, too, and tired and still damp from the rain. The prospect of cooling his heels on the street – where the temperature was steadily dropping – while waiting for Snape to finish his nightcap was not appealing.

Harry looked around irritably and spotted the darkened doorway of the building next to the pub. If he stepped into the shadows, he could don his Invisibility Cloak and then sneak into the pub, which wasn't prohibitively crowded. It would at least be warm inside and he'd be able to spot anyone whom Snape might be planning to meet.

However, just as Harry finished formulating this plan, someone seized him from behind and spun him around. Taken entirely off guard, he stared in astonishment at the person who had grabbed him. It was Professor Knight and she was glaring furiously at Harry.

"What the bloody hell are you doing, Potter?"

"Professor? What are you doing here?"

Knight raised her eyebrows at Harry. "I believe you're the one who needs to explain yourself."

Harry stared at his teacher in silence. He knew that he was in deep trouble. He could think of no plausible excuse for why he should be in London. Never mind a legitimate one that might mitigate his punishment; he couldn't think of any reason at all other than the truth and he couldn't reveal that. Reflexively, Harry's eyes flickered back towards the pub's window. The glance took only an instant, but it was enough. Knight looked through the window as well and her eyes widened in surprise which quickly shifted to understanding. Without a word, she grabbed Harry's arm and pulled him away from the pub and into the nearby doorway.

"Why are you following Snape?" she demanded.

It would have been ludicrous to try to deny the obvious, but Harry had no idea what to say. "I – I was just curious," he stammered. "I saw him leaving the castle and couldn't imagine where he might be going in a storm."

Knight's mouth twitched in an amused smile. "Has anyone ever told you that you're a dreadful liar?"

Harry sighed. "Look, I know it was stupid of me to follow him. I don't know why I did and I'm sorry. Just take me back to school and give me detention. All right?"

"Since it's Professor Snape whom you've been spying on," Knight said, eyeing Harry shrewdly, "I think it'd be more appropriate if I let him mete out the punishment."

"No!"

Knight smiled triumphantly. "The truth then, Potter – all of it – or I drag you into that pub right now."

Harry's heart sank. "Professor, please," he begged. "Professor Snape can't know that I was following him."

"Why not?"

"I can't tell you!"

"Not good enough, Potter."

"It's too complicated and I can't explain it!" Harry said desperately. "But I swear that I won't be the only one who's sorry if Snape finds out. Please, Professor! I'll serve any detention you want. I'll do anything. Just please believe me. I'm telling you the truth."

Knight regarded Harry thoughtfully for a moment then said quietly, "Would it help if I told you that I was following Snape, too?"

"You?" Harry said incredulously. "Why?"

"You first, Potter. Who put you up to spying on him?"

"I can't tell you that."

"Moody?"

Harry gaped in astonishment. "How did you know that?"

"Because he asked me to keep an eye on Snape, too. Why do you suppose he recommended me to teach Defense this year?"

Of course, Harry thought. Moody had said that he wouldn't give up trying to find proof of Snape's guilt and the only way to do that was to have someone close to Snape, watching him. That realization immediately gave way to dread, however. By all accounts, Knight was one of the best Aurors in the business. If she was on Snape's trail then the man was in serious trouble.

"Professor, listen to me," Harry said urgently. "I know what Moody thinks and I know that Snape may be acting outside the law, but you can't arrest him! There's no telling what the Ministry will do to him and we need him in the fight against Voldemort. There has to be another way to stop these killings."

"Whoa, Potter! Slow down. No one's talking about arresting anyone."

"That's what Moody wants."

"Moody doesn't always get what he wants. Alastor's a good man, but he's a bit… inflexible. I know enough about Snape to know that tossing him in Azkaban probably wouldn't be to our best advantage. Right now, I'm trying to determine what would be, so I need you to tell me everything you know."

Relieved that Knight wasn't planning on arresting Snape, and thankful to finally have someone he could talk to, Harry quickly told Knight what he knew of Snape's nocturnal activities since they'd arrived at Hogwarts.

"This is only the second time I've actually seen him leaving the castle, but I'd bet there have been others. The thing is…" Harry hesitated, but Knight pressed him.

"What?"

Reluctantly, Harry continued. "The last time I saw him leave Hogwarts, a Death Eater went missing and her body was found in the Thames."

Knight was silent a moment, then seemed to come to a decision. "Moody would be furious if he knew that I was discussing this with you, but seeing as you're already involved, I can't imagine it'll hurt. Snape's been acting erratically for some time. To tell the truth, he's a loose cannon. Not that anyone could blame him after what he's been through. Walking the fine line as a spy was hard enough and after Voldemort caught him… a person can only take so much. Everyone has a breaking point. There's no shame in that and it doesn't make him a monster. But he does need to be watched and stopped if he gets too far out of hand."

"Professor, if he's killing people, he has to be stopped and Moody said he wouldn't rest until Snape was in prison."

"Don't worry about Moody. I'll handle him. Right now we have to worry about Snape and I promise that I'll do everything I can to keep him out of prison. Given the circumstances we can probably get him a stay in St. Mungos instead."

The sound of a door opening close by caught their attention and Knight pulled Harry further back into the shadows of the doorway, just as Snape emerged from the pub. He glanced up and down the block then crossed the street and disappeared down the block.

Harry raised his wand, but Knight stopped him. "You've had enough adventure for one night, Potter."

"But we have to follow him."

"I have to follow him. You have to get back to school – and you have to stay there; no more playing detective. I can't have you tailing Snape around Britain. For one thing, your safety is more important than anything he's doing and if he spots you, it'll only make matters worse. I'm trained in surveillance, so let me do my job, all right?"

Harry nodded. He knew that Knight was right and he was grateful that he no longer had to carry this burden alone. "All right."

"Good. Now, let's get you back to Hogwarts and we won't mention this to anyone. Agreed?"

Harry gave his teacher a small smile. "Agreed. Thanks, Professor."

Knight favored Harry with her own familiar, wry smile. "Don't mention it, Potter."


Harry didn't have to search the obituaries for a suspicious death this time. It was on the front page of the Daily Prophet. Shortly after midnight, Orson Uric had descended to the Leicester Square tube station in London and thrown himself in front of an oncoming train. Witnesses said Uric appeared perfectly calm before jumping to his death, waiting patiently on the platform with the other prospective passengers. The incident had made the front page of the Times as well, the Prophet reported, and indeed this seemed to be the main worry of the wizard authorities who were highly sensitive to any Muggle-wizard altercations given the current war.

Luckily, the Times was primarily concerned with the possible effect on passenger service and reassured its readers that there would be no delays on the Piccadilly line as a consequence of the tragedy. Both the Aurors and the Muggle police had ruled the death a suicide, of course, but Harry was quite certain that they were wrong.

Harry laid the paper aside, thoroughly disheartened by this latest grisly death. He looked up at the staff table where Snape and Knight were seated like a pair of grim bookends. Knight met Harry's eyes and gave him the barest nod of acknowledgement before looking away again. Snape seemed lost in thought; his brow furrowed in concentration. But as Harry watched the man, he could have sworn that Snape's eyes flickered momentarily towards Knight.

Harry quickly looked away. Had Snape seen the glance he'd just exchanged with Knight? Did he suspect that the Auror had been sent here to spy on him? Snape wasn't stupid and if anyone was a match for Knight, he was. Harry wondered if he ought to warn Knight of that, but he was distracted from that thought as he caught sight of Draco Malfoy over at the Slytherin Table.

Malfoy held a copy of the paper and was glaring at Snape with open hostility. As Harry watched he leaned over and whispered something to Crabbe and Goyle who then glared at Snape as well. Fortunately, most of the students didn't seem to notice this, but all the same, Harry was sure that if Malfoy kept this up, others would start to put two and two together. The Slytherin shoved his breakfast away in disgust and rose from the table. Harry hesitated only a moment before following him.

"Malfoy!" Harry called to the Slytherin across the deserted entrance hall.

Malfoy turned to scowl at Harry. "What do you want, Potter?"

"I think a few of the first-year Hufflepuffs might have missed the way you were glaring at Snape just now," Harry said quietly as he came up to Malfoy. "So I thought I'd remind you of the conversation we had on the train."

"Still trying to protect your favorite murderer, eh, Potter? I'd have thought you'd have better things to worry about, such as staying alive."

"And I thought Slytherins were supposed to be cunning."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that if you don't stay clear of Snape, you'll be the one with plenty to worry about."

Malfoy sneered. "Is that a threat, Potter? What are you going to do, punch me in the nose again?"

"No, I reckon Snape can take care of you himself." Harry smiled grimly as Malfoy's smirk vanished. "You might want to remember that before you decide to cross him."

"Is there a problem here?"

Harry and Malfoy looked around to find Snape approaching them.

"No," Malfoy said quickly. "No problem at all."

"None." Harry agreed.

Snape's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Then I suggest you both move along."

Neither student needed to be told twice. Malfoy hurried towards the stairs to the dungeons at once while Harry sprinted up the main staircase. But Harry couldn't help wondering how much of their conversation Snape had overheard.

Harry didn't return to Gryffindor Tower. Instead he headed for the second floor and knocked at Professor Knight's office door.

"Come in, Potter," Knight said as Harry poked his head into her office. She didn't look at all surprised to see him.

Harry shut the door behind him and approached the woman. "Orson Uric's death wasn't suicide, was it?"

Knight raised her eyebrows. "Technically, it was. Whether or not he was acting of his own free will is impossible to say."

"Did you see Snape meet with him?"

"No. Thanks to your intervention, I lost Snape."

Harry sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "So we still don't know if Snape is responsible for these deaths?"

"We have no proof, if that's what you're asking. But the circumstantial evidence is quite strong."

"But it isn't actual proof."

"No. It's not. But just because you can't prove something doesn't mean that you don't know it's true. Has Snape had an alibi for even one of these deaths?"

Harry considered then shook his head slowly. "No."

"Last night you and I both saw him in London. A few hours later a Death Eater committed suicide not half a mile from where we'd been. Do you really believe that was coincidence?"

Harry shook his head again and his voice was barely above a whisper. "No."

"Potter, you're out of your league here and you have more important things to worry about. I told you to leave this to me, so let it go."

Harry shook his head. "I can't. I won't try to spy on him, but I need to know what you're planning to do."

"Actually, you don't."

"Professor –"

"Potter, why is this any of your business?"

"Because I'm already involved and I have to know if it's really him!"

Knight cocked her head to one side and studied Harry. "Why does this matter to you? Surely, you have no love for Death Eaters?"

"That's not the point."

"If it's a matter of justice –"

"It's not – at least, not mostly."

"What then?" Knight asked in exasperation. "I've already told you that I'll do what I can to keep him out of prison."

"I know that. It's just…" Harry bit his lip. He'd been trying for weeks to find the words to express what was troubling him and he still couldn't find them as he groped for an explanation. "I know what it's like to kill. Even if you feel justified, even if you know that you had no choice, it's still horrible. It's like a little bit of something inside of you dies too."

Knight shook her head. "Not everyone has your conscience, Potter, and Snape doesn't strike me as the most noble of men. It may not disturb him to kill his enemies."

"I don't believe that!"

"You don't believe it or you don't want to believe it?"

"I don't believe it," Harry repeated stubbornly.

Knight regarded Harry thoughtfully for a moment. "Why is it so important to you to be able to respect him?"

Harry blinked and stared at the woman. It was as if Knight had just removed a blindfold he'd been wearing, allowing him to see for the first time in weeks. That was it, of course. The inexplicable turmoil he'd been struggling to name wasn't about the murders themselves or even Snape's fate. What was really troubling him was that whatever else Snape might have done, Harry desperately wanted to believe that the man wouldn't stoop to cold-blooded murder.

Harry shook his head slowly. "I'm not sure why it's important. It just is."

Knight sighed and stood up. She came around her desk and laid a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Potter, I promise I'll let you know if I find any evidence against Snape. But in the meantime, you have to let this go."

Harry bit his lip. He had come to realize in London that catching Snape was going to be an involved and time-consuming task – something he could ill-afford to devote himself to. Just trying to keep an eye on the man was daunting enough and the whole thing was distracting him from the far more important task of learning to defeat Voldemort. If Knight could do the work for him, he needed to let her.

"You'll let me know as soon as you find out anything? Before you tell anyone else, even Moody?"

Knight smiled. "You have my word."

Harry took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "All right then. It's a deal."


Turning over the surveillance of Snape to Knight lifted a tremendous weight from Harry and his spirits rose accordingly. After a good night's sleep he was actually looking forward to his lessons, particularly Defense Against the Dark Arts.

"As we've seen in the last few weeks," Knight said, beginning the day's lecture, "curses can be applied to any object: a cup, a book, a pair of shoes. These typically violent curses are easy enough to detect if you know how and if you can detect them, you can find a way to disarm them. All that's required is caution and a sufficient knowledge of counter curses. Practice long enough and hard enough and any one of you could learn to counter the most sinister of these.

"However, curses can also be applied in a broader manner to achieve more subtle effects. For instance, a garden might be cursed to produce only weeds, or a house might be cursed so that no one will live in it for more than a few months. Only a very skilled witch or wizard can cast these intangible curses and they are much trickier to detect than the usual sort. Often their existence can only be inferred. Consequently, they are the most difficult to counter and some may seem all but impossible to break.

"But make no mistake – even the most subtle of these curses can be broken if you can discover the spell used to cast it. In fact, there is no persistent curse in existence that cannot be broken given the right knowledge and skill."

"How many of the Aurors would you say have the right knowledge and skill?" Malfoy interrupted in a languid drawl. "I've heard that the attrition rate is so high in the Auror Service that most of those serving now haven't even completed training."

Harry glanced impatiently at Malfoy who was slouched in his usual seat at the back of the classroom, sneering disdainfully. Most of the other students did too. Since the start of term, the Slytherin had become increasingly surly in Defense and now hardly a lesson went by that he didn't manage to make some subtly disparaging remark about the usefulness of defending against the Dark Arts, the competence of the Aurors in fighting the war, or both.

Malfoy seemed to have even more contempt for Knight than he did for Snape – or perhaps he simply acted up in Defense because he could get away with it. Whereas Snape never tolerated any impertinence from his students and was quick to deduct house points or award detention, Knight was much more lenient. She never disciplined Malfoy for his cheek, but neither did she ever let it pass.

Malfoy's contempt for Knight was entirely mutual. The Auror clearly loathed the Slytherin which was no surprise given that Malfoy made no secret of where his loyalties lay. Probably because of this, Knight seemed to take great pleasure in putting Malfoy in his place rather than simply punishing him.

"That's true, Mr. Malfoy," she said unconcernedly. "Fortunately, their opponents are all cowards which evens the odds."

Malfoy flushed in anger as Knight continued with her lecture. "These types of curses can also be used on a person or on a group of closely related blood relatives, but that is exceptionally rare. It would require an extraordinarily skilled witch or wizard to cast such a persistent curse on another human being."

"You mean like cursing someone so that their loved ones all die violent, premature deaths?" Malfoy asked.

Everyone froze and for a moment there was absolute silence in the room. No one needed to be told that Malfoy had gone too far this time. It was apparent from the look on Knight's face.

"Mr. Malfoy," Knight said in a cold, calm voice. "Since you seem incapable of holding your tongue in my lesson, you will have detention this evening. And if you say one more word this morning, it will be fifty points from your house as well. Everyone open your books to chapter six. I want a two-foot essay on Intangible Curses by our next lesson."

As the students pulled out their books, parchment and quills, Harry looked back at Malfoy. The Slytherin obviously didn't mind having detention. In fact, he looked positively smug and Harry fervently hoped that Knight would give him a very nasty detention indeed.

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