Chapter 22: Day and Knight
It was a dull, overcast day which did nothing to improve the block of dingy row houses that greeted Harry as he left Snape's house. He gave no thought to this, however, as Snape headed off down the street. Harry followed the man, but purposefully lagged behind, not wanting to get close enough to incur Snape's wrath again. Unfortunately, this didn't last long.
"Potter, stop dawdling and keep up!" Snape growled, forcing Harry to quicken his pace.
Harry stole a quick glance at the man whose face was set in an angry scowl. Snape was dressed as a Muggle, though not as nattily as he had been the day they'd gone to London during the summer. Today he had on a pair of black jeans and a heavy, black jumper underneath which the collar of a black tee shirt was visible. Harry was struck again by how unselfconscious Snape seemed to be and how easily he blended into the rough, run-down neighborhood around them.
Of course he does, a voice in Harry's head chided him. He lives here.
"You live here?" Harry blurted out in disbelief as the incongruity of that fact suddenly struck him.
Snape threw an icy glare at him. "Is there a problem with that?"
"No! Of course not," Harry answered quickly, trying to recover from his faux pas. "It's just that this is a Muggle neighborhood."
"Brilliant observation, Potter," Snape sneered. "No wonder you're a mediocre student. My father was a Muggle; my mother was a witch. They chose to live in a Muggle neighborhood. I hardly find that astonishing."
Harry had never realized that Snape was a half-blood, but he suspected it wouldn't be wise to comment on that. Instead he cast about for something else to say that might alleviate some of the oppressive tension between them.
"Where are we going?"
"Back to Hogwarts, of course," Snape replied irritably.
"Why can't we just Apparate from here?"
"As you just pointed out, this is a Muggle neighborhood. Must I remind you that any use of magic among Muggles can be easily traced? While there are numerous wards on my house, I would prefer not to draw attention to it by Disapparating from the vicinity. It's bad enough that I had no choice but to Apparate directly to it yesterday because of your recklessness."
"I wasn't reckless!" Harry snapped. Snape's continuous hostility was grating on his nerves. "And I didn't ask you to bring me here."
"As always, your gratitude is heart-warming. Tell me, Potter, you do realize that I risked my life to save yours?"
"Yes, and I'm sure you did it just so you could lord it over me."
"I did it because Dumbledore is convinced that you have the best chance of defeating the Dark Lord - which unfortunately makes your life rather more important than most."
"Well then, since it was all for the war effort, I suppose you don't need my thanks."
"No, as a matter of fact, I don't. What I expect from you is some measure of respect and not to be insulted for my efforts on your behalf."
"I didn't insult you!"
Snape stopped and so did Harry.
"Really?" Snape said angrily. "What would you call it, then, I wonder?"
Harry felt himself blush, but Snape continued, his voice rising as he gave vent to his fury.
"Do you honestly think I'm that stupid, Potter? Even if I were so inclined, do you think my professional ethics so low, my moral judgment so depraved, my common sense so utterly lacking that I would be foolish enough to engage in such compromising behavior with a student? You flatter yourself!"
"Well, how did you expect to react?" Harry yelled.
"With a little maturity, perhaps!"
"I'd never heard of the bloody Healer's Gamble!"
"So you assumed the worst, naturally," Snape snarled bitterly. He and Harry glared at each other in silence for a moment then Snape turned and started down the street once more. Harry hesitated then followed him.
They came to the end of the block, turned the corner and Harry stopped dead. Snape came to a halt as well and looked irritably at him.
"Potter, what are you doing?"
"I know this place."
It was true. Off in the distance to the right he could see the smokestacks of the factory. To the left, he recognized the twisting streets that he knew led down to the river. Up ahead, would be the railroad tracks. It was all exactly as he'd seen it in Snape's mind – all except for one thing. Harry turned around and looked back the way they'd come. Blocks of houses stretched as far as Harry could see. But none of it existed in Snape's mind. Instead this was where the high brick wall stood. But why would Snape wall off this entire section of the neighborhood – including his own home – in his mind?
"Of course you recognize this neighborhood," Snape said impatiently. "You undoubtedly glimpsed it in my memories last year."
Harry looked up at the man. "I suppose –"
Harry broke off as a movement across the street caught his eye and he glanced past Snape to where a figure in a long black cloak was watching them from a doorway. Snape whirled around and raised his wand which seemed to have appeared in his hand out of nowhere. He was just in time to deflect the hail of silvery arrows that hurtled at them from the other wizard's wand. Then Snape flicked his wrist and the figure in the doorway collapsed.
It had happened so fast that Harry hadn't even had time to draw his wand, but when a second figure appeared from a side street, Harry was ready. He whipped out his wand and cast a non-verbal Stupefy at the man; however, the Death Eater was on his guard and ducked back to safety.
Snape blasted the corner of the building where the Death Eater had disappeared then yelled, "Come on!" He took off running down the street and Harry chased after him, hearing the distinctive 'popping' of half a dozen wizards Apparating into the street behind them. A shout went up and two curses sizzled past Harry just as he and Snape ducked into an alley. They dashed down the narrow, rubbish-strewn street as the shouts of even more newly arrived enemies pursued them. Then they burst out the other end and broke into a dead run.
Snape led the way, hurtling down streets, through narrow courts and along alleys without pausing. The Death Eaters pursued them like a pack of baying hounds and Harry knew it would only be a matter of time before their enemies encircled them and cut off any further flight. He tried to envision the neighborhood and imagine where they might find safety, but could think of nowhere. Besides, he'd lost all sense of where they were. Snape, however, seemed to know exactly where he was going and Harry fervently hoped they'd get there before the Death Eaters caught up with them.
Snape turned down another alley. Harry, who was on Snape's heels, immediately saw that this was blocked midway down by a chain-link fence, but Snape didn't hesitate. He vaulted over the fence and kept running. Harry leapt the fence as well and raced after Snape just as the man turned another corner. Harry skidded around the corner and stopped. Snape had vanished. Harry could see the entire length of the alley and there was nowhere to hide. Nor could Snape have possibly made it to the end; Harry had been right behind him.
As Harry stared in bewilderment, a hand reached out and grabbed him. Snape dragged him into a low passageway that ran between two sagging brick buildings. Harry hadn't noticed it even though he'd been standing only a few feet from it because a trick of the light made the entrance to the brick-lined tunnel blend in perfectly with the surrounding walls.
Harry followed Snape a dozen paces down the dark, cramped tunnel then Snape stopped, crouched down and pulled Harry down next to him. Harry could already hear the Death Eaters at the entrance to the alley calling to their fellows at the other end. He pulled his wand from his pocket, but Snape laid a warning hand on his arm. Harry looked at the man in the dim light. Snape was perfectly still and alert, poised to react to any threat. But there was no trace of fear on his face and Harry felt his own anxiety ease. He took a slow, deep breath and his tension fell away leaving him alert and watchful like Snape.
A shadow passed across the entrance to the tunnel, then another, but they didn't stop. Harry heard more voices, some angry, some frustrated, but after a few minutes these faded and the alley grew silent. Harry felt Snape relax next to him. The man sat down and Harry did the same, leaning back against the rough brick wall and stretching out his cramped legs.
"We'll wait here a few more minutes to ensure that they don't come back," Snape said quietly.
Harry nodded. "Did you know they'd be waiting for us?"
Snape shrugged. "Using magic outside the wizarding world is like sending up a flare. The Death Eaters undoubtedly detected us Apparating in yesterday. A few of them know I live here, so I suspected they'd set a lookout."
"If they know you live here, why don't you move?"
"They'd find me wherever I went. Here, I know every hiding place and shortcut for miles."
Harry nodded slowly in understanding. Voldemort could probably send an army of Death Eaters after Snape and they'd never catch him here. It would be like trying to hunt a fox in his home territory. But Harry understood something else, too.
"There weren't a lot of nooks and crannies like this where I grew up," he said. "I just learnt to run really fast."
Snape looked at Harry in surprise then the corners of his mouth twitched in acknowledgement. "I did my share of that as well."
Snape turned back to watch the mouth of the tunnel.
"Professor?" Harry said softly. "I do appreciate you saving my life."
Snape's eyes flickered towards Harry. "You needn't thank me, Potter. That's my job."
"It wasn't your job to risk your life like that. There was no guarantee that spell was going to work."
"There are few guarantees in life and those that do exist are universally unpleasant. I wasn't going to stand by and watch you die if there was a chance that I could prevent it."
Harry took a deep breath. "I know. And I'm sorry – for insulting you."
Snape glanced sharply at Harry, then away again. "I don't want an apology from you, Potter."
"Why not? I owe you one."
Snape continued to look away and was silent for so long that Harry was sure the man wasn't going to respond. At last, however, Snape spoke almost to himself. "Seventeen isn't an easy age." He rubbed his left forearm absently and turned back to Harry. "I think it's time to go."
It wasn't exactly forgiveness, but Harry knew it was as close as Snape could come and the man didn't seem to be angry with him any more. This time as they set off, the silence between them was a comfortable one. They made their way to the river without further incident and Disapparated, appearing an instant later in front of the main gate at Hogwarts.
The grounds at Hogwarts were covered with a light blanket of snow – just enough to sparkle brightly beneath the clear blue sky. The scene was beautiful and Harry immediately felt his spirits lift at the welcome sight of school. Snape took a moment to transfigure his Muggle clothes into robes then they started up to the castle.
When they arrived in the entrance hall, Snape told Harry, "Go up and see Madam Pomfrey. Dumbledore said she'd be waiting for you."
"He said she'd be waiting for both of us. Aren't you coming?"
"Of course he is," Professor McGonagall said, coming down the stairs to meet them.
"I have no need to see Madam Pomfrey," Snape assured her. "I'm fine."
"I'm certain you are, but that is neither here nor there."
Snape glared at McGonagall, but she stared imposingly back and obviously wasn't going to tolerate any argument.
"Oh, very well," Snape said irritably. He turned and stalked off towards the hospital wing.
"Make sure he gets there," McGonagall whispered to Harry who nodded and hurried after the Potions Master.
Madam Pomfrey was indeed waiting for them. In fact, she practically pounced on them as they entered the ward.
"There you are! The headmaster sent word nearly an hour ago. Come this way, Potter. You too, Professor."
Madam Pomfrey led them to two nearby beds. Harry hopped up on one, but Snape didn't sit down. He stood with his arms folded, looking impatient.
"Tell me what happened," the matron said, addressing Snape.
"Potter was attacked by a Stinging Tentacula. I estimate that I began treatment approximately five to seven minutes after the attack occurred. In addition to cauterizing the pustules, Potter received two full doses of belladonna."
Pomfrey looked as though she wanted to ask Snape something else, but instead she turned to Harry.
"Where were you stung?"
"My arms and chest."
"Take off your shirt and let me see."
Harry pulled off his sweatshirt and tee shirt and wasn't surprised to hear Pomfrey gasp as she caught sight of his bare chest. She shot a disbelieving look at Snape who smirked.
"Mr. Potter never does anything halfway," he said. "Except for his schoolwork, of course."
Pomfrey turned back to examine Harry once more, running a professional eye over his chest as well as his arms. Harry could tell that she was counting his scars and doing a mental calculation to guess at how much toxin he must have received. She looked up to meet his eyes and Harry saw with uncomfortable certainty that he ought to be dead.
The matron took his right hand next and inspected his palm with the thin white scar running across it. Her gaze flickered towards Snape once more and Harry was startled to see a mixture of sympathy and something that looked almost like reverence in her eyes. Snape, however, had turned away and missed the look entirely.
"Madam Pomfrey!" McGonagall said, hurrying into the ward. "May I see you a moment?"
Pomfrey stepped away from Harry to meet the other woman. "What is it, Professor McGonagall?"
McGonagall whispered something Harry couldn't hear and Pomfrey frowned slightly. "Yes, they're both fine, but –"
McGonagall interrupted her and though Harry still couldn't hear what she was saying, she clearly wasn't happy. Harry looked over at Snape who was watching the exchange as well. The man looked back at him and Harry knew they'd both come to the same conclusion. Whatever was going on, they weren't going to like it. Pomfrey looked at McGonagall askance, but nodded. McGonagall turned towards Harry and Snape and raised her voice.
"Potter, get dressed. I need all three of you to come with me."
Harry pulled on his shirt and followed McGonagall along with Snape and Pomfrey from the ward. The deputy headmistress quickly led the way to the staff room where a number of people were already waiting.
Professor Sprout was seated at the staff table as were Draco Malfoy, Ron, Ginny and Hermione. The latter three jumped up as Harry entered the room. Ginny hugged him tightly and Hermione looked ready to burst into tears as she embraced him.
"Oh, Harry! We were so frightened."
"It's all right," Harry said, feeling self-conscious at the display of emotion in front of his teachers. "I'm fine."
Just then Hagrid arrived, ducking to enter the staff room. "Harry!" he roared, seizing Harry and pulling him into a crushing bear hug. "Merlin's beard! We all thought you were dead!"
"I'm fine, Hagrid. Really," Harry said, gasping for breath.
"Hagrid, for heavens sake!" McGonagall said. "Let go of Potter. The boy can't breathe."
Hagrid released Harry then pulled out his huge handkerchief and blew his nose loudly.
"Everyone, sit down," McGonagall said, taking the seat at the head of the table. "There is a development that we have to deal with and we haven't much time."
McGonagall was interrupted by the door opening once more. To Harry's astonishment, Percy Weasley stuck his head in the room.
"Here they are," he said to someone over his shoulder.
"Mr. Weasley, I told you to wait downstairs!" McGonagall said irritably.
Percy, however, had already stepped aside to let another man enter the room. The newcomer appeared to be in his thirties: a small, thin man, not much more than five feet tall, with dark brown hair. Harry had never seen him before, but immediately disliked him. The fellow had a pinched look about his mouth as though he'd just eaten a lemon, but it was his eyes that bothered Harry. They were gray, cold and calculating, and darted about the room as if searching for some hidden enemy. The man smiled sourly at McGonagall.
"I preferred not to wait. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ian Day of the Department of Public Security."
Harry and his friends exchanged glances as McGonagall addressed the man.
"Mr. Day, as I told Mr. Weasley, I hardly see how Mr. Potter's accident yesterday is a matter for the DPS to investigate."
"That's quite all right," Day said. "I wouldn't expect a school mistress to understand."
McGonagall pressed her lips together into a very thin line as Day pulled a small black notebook from his pocket.
"Where is the headmaster?"
"Away," McGonagall said curtly.
"And where has he gone?"
"I wouldn't know."
Day's eyebrows rose skeptically, but he didn't pursue the matter. Instead he opened his little book, flipped several pages and consulted his notes.
"A Stinging Tentacula?" he said, looking up. "Are these commonly found in the local area?"
"Of course not!" McGonagall said.
"What about in the forest adjacent to the grounds?"
Hagrid spoke up. "I know every inch of that forest and there isn't one of them plants anywhere in it."
Day pursed his lips and regarded Hagrid distastefully. "You must be the groundskeeper, Hagrid?"
"He teaches Care of Magical Creatures," McGonagall said.
"And who is the Herbology professor?"
"I am," Sprout said.
"Have you an explanation for how that particular plant found its way into that cave?"
"An infected animal obviously took refuge in the cave before it died."
"And where would such an animal have come from? Your own groundskeeper just testified that there are none in the forest, nor indeed does there appear to be any other viable habitat for miles. If you are an expert in Herbology then you must know that what you've proposed is impossible."
"It's unlikely. It's not impossible and there is no other explanation."
Day smirked slightly. "You have Stinging Tentaculas here at school, I believe."
"They are a standard part of the seventh-year Herbology curriculum and we have never had an accident."
"I'm sure you haven't. Are they secured?"
"Of course they are! They're kept in sealed cases."
"And the greenhouse where these are kept – is it warded? Is there a guard posted?"
"Given the extreme danger these plants present, I should think that would be a standard precaution."
Sprout looked at Day as though she thought he was mad. "The plants aren't going to break out."
"No, however someone might break in. Isn't it possible that someone could have intentionally infected an animal and transported it to that cave, then lured Mr. Potter there as well?"
"That's the most preposterous thing I've ever heard!" McGonagall said.
"More preposterous than the plant turning up when there isn't another specimen in nature for miles around?" Day turned to Malfoy. "You are Draco Malfoy?"
"The son of Lucius Malfoy, the notorious Death Eater?"
Draco flushed scarlet, "My father is Lucius Malfoy, yes."
"What were you doing in that cave?"
"Nothing! I didn't want to go into Hogsmeade and I was bored, so I thought I'd go for a walk. That's not a crime."
"And you just happened to lead Mr. Potter into that particular cave?"
"I didn't lead him anywhere! He followed me. I didn't even know he was there."
"Really? And I suppose that you don't know how that plant got into the cave, either?"
"No, I don't."
"Please, Mr. Day," Hermione interjected. "Draco couldn't have been responsible. If Harry hadn't shoved him out of the way, he's the one who would have been stung."
Day pursed his lips and looked disdainfully at Hermione, "You'd swear to that?"
"Yes!" Harry said. "We were there. We know what happened. None of us knew that plant was there."
Day looked sourly at Harry then scanned all of their faces, obviously looking for some trace of guilt or deceit. Finding none, he made a note in his book then turned his suspicious gaze back to Harry.
"How is it that you survived, Mr. Potter? An attack by a Stinging Tentacula is normally fatal."
"Professor Snape saved my life."
Day's gaze shifted to Snape. "And how did you manage to do that?"
"I used the Healer's Gamble."
Day's eyes lit up. "Are you aware that the use of that spell has been banned by the Ministry for over one hundred years?"
"Of course I am?"
"And you chose to break the law?"
Snape raised a contemptuous eyebrow at the man. "I chose to save Mr. Potter's life."
"I see." Day looked back at his notebook. "It's true, is it not, that you were at one time a Death Eater?"
Snape's eyes narrowed slightly. "Yes."
"And how long did you serve He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"
"Mr. Day, I hardly think that is relevant to your current investigation!" McGonagall said angrily.
"No, it's not. I simply find Professor Snape's prior service noteworthy. A man who would stoop to serving You-Know-Who doesn't have the moral rectitude of someone I would expect to find teaching children."
Everyone gaped at Day. McGonagall had gone white and Harry was very close to pulling his wand on the man when Snape spoke.
"Fortunately," he drawled, "moral rectitude is not required in potion-brewing."
Harry looked at Snape who was smirking and seemed completely unruffled by Day's insults. In fact, he looked very much as though he might laugh.
"Was there something else?"
Day's mouth drew together in a particularly sour pucker and he snapped his little notebook shut. "I believe that further questions would be better asked at the Ministry. He looked at Percy. "Mr. Weasley, will you summon the Aurors to take Professor Snape into custody?"
"What?" McGonagall jumped to her feet, clearly outraged. "You're arresting him? On what charge?"
"Professor Snape has admitted to willfully breaking the law."
"Then he would be mistaken," came a quiet voice from the doorway. Dumbledore was standing there, regarding them all serenely.
"Dumbledore," Day said, scowling at Hogwarts' headmaster. "I was told that you were away."
"I was until just now. However, I can assure you that Professor Snape has done nothing illegal."
"He knowingly used a spell that has been banned by the Ministry."
"I presume you are referring to the Healer's Gamble. That ban specifically prohibits a healer from using the spell on a patient. It makes no mention of the spell's use by private individuals."
"Professor Snape is not a private individual. He was obviously acting in his capacity as a teacher at this school and treated Mr. Potter as such."
"I'm afraid I must disagree. Professor Snape performed that spell in his own home without any direction or assistance from anyone at Hogwarts. That places his actions outside the scope of his professional duties and beyond the purview of the Ministry."
"That is one interpretation."
"It is one the Minister for Magic concurs in. I have only just left him, in fact, and he agrees that there has been no impropriety."
Day's mouth turned down in a frown, but it was obvious that he had been outmaneuvered. "Very well, Dumbledore. You may have it your way – this time. But consider yourself warned. If your students or staff engage in any further suspicious activities, I'll be back and the Minister will not take such a lenient position." Day strode from the room with Percy on his heels.
"Odious little man!" McGonagall said.
"He'd have the whole of Britain in Azkaban if he had his way," Professor Sprout said.
Dumbledore sighed. "Alas, Ian Day sees conspiracies everywhere, I'm afraid. Fortunately, that is not something we need worry about at the moment. Harry, you and your classmates may go. Minerva, I would like to meet with the staff in fifteen minutes. And Severus, I need a word with you in my office, first."
Everyone rose. Snape followed Dumbledore out of the room. Harry and his classmates left as well, Draco hurrying away towards the dungeons while the Gryffindors headed for their common room.
"I can't believe Percy's working for that git!" Ron said indignantly as they walked. "I didn't think even he was that low. Why didn't Dad tell us?"
"Probably because he knew how you'd react," Ginny said. "You have to forget about Percy, Ron. You're not going to change him."
"No, but I'd still like to throttle him."
"Did Professor Snape really use the Healer's Gamble?" Hermione asked, changing the subject.
"Yes," Harry said cautiously. He really didn't want to get into the details of that. Fortunately, Hermione didn't press him for any.
"I've read about that spell," she said. "It's true that it was banned over a hundred years ago."
"Why?" Ron asked. "It obviously works."
"It was considered too dangerous. Back in the late eighteen hundreds, a very nasty variety of poisonous mushroom was accidentally brought over from North America. It thrived in damp climates, of course, and was soon popping up everywhere. A lot of people mistook it for a native edible variety and scores of people wound up at St. Mungos before anyone figured out what was going on. Some recovered; others didn't. But in two weeks, four healers died along with their patients while performing the Healer's Gamble and the Ministry banned the use of the spell after that."
"What happened to the plant that attacked me?" Harry asked.
Ron answered. "Professor Sprout took care of it although she said there wasn't much left of it when she got there. Hermione's spell pretty well finished it off."
"It is weird, though, that it managed to turn up in that cave," Ginny said.
"You don't reckon that Day could be right about Malfoy planting it, do you?" Ron asked.
"Not about Malfoy," Harry said, turning the matter over in his mind. "He definitely didn't know it was there. Though I think Day might be right about someone planting that thing in the cave."
"But that's mad! Why would anyone do that?"
"I don't know, but I don't think Malfoy was just out for a walk yesterday."
"What do you mean?" Hermione said.
"I mean that I don't think I'm the one someone was trying to kill."
"What are you saying?" Ginny asked. "You think someone's trying to kill Malfoy?"
"Maybe," Harry said. "He has enough enemies. All I know is there's something odd going on with him. He went into that cave for a reason and I'd like to know what it was. I'm betting whoever put him up to it is the same person who left that plant there."
Malfoy seemed to have come to the same conclusion as Harry. He looked positively grim on Monday as they wrote their Defense Against the Dark Arts exam and kept glancing over his shoulder as if he expected someone to attack him at any moment. He was so nervous Harry actually felt sorry for him. When the exam was over, Harry lingered behind.
"Professor Knight, can I talk to you for a minute?" he asked as the last of the students left the classroom.
"What is it, Potter?" Knight looked unusually tired and strained.
"I wanted to talk to you about what happened on Saturday."
Knight paled and looked away. "I heard it was a near thing. Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. But I can't help wondering how that plant got into that cave."
Knight turned away to put the stack of exams into her briefcase. "What do you mean?"
"Well, it's not a very likely place for it to have turned up. I think someone might have put it there on purpose."
Knight snapped her briefcase shut and turned back to Harry. "I heard that was Ian Day's theory."
"Yeah. He's paranoid, but I think he might be right about that."
"You think Malfoy was responsible?"
"No. I think Malfoy was the intended victim."
Knight regarded Harry in silence for a moment. "That's a very shrewd deduction, Potter. What is it you want to discuss with me?"
"I want to know if there's some way to tell if anyone's tampered with the plants in the greenhouse."
Knight's eyebrows rose skeptically. "With the plants?"
"With the plants, the cases, anything. You're an Auror. Is there some way to tell who touched them last?"
Knight shook her head. "There are no sophisticated wards on the greenhouses and anyone getting near those plants would have had to be wearing dragon hide gloves. They wouldn't even have left fingerprints."
"But there has to be some way to track down who might have done it. There aren't that many people here at Hogwarts who could have done."
"It might not have been someone at Hogwarts," Knight suggested. "In fact, I'd be inclined to bet it wasn't."
Harry looked at the woman in surprise. "How do you reckon that?"
Knight smiled tiredly. "Malfoy's the son of a Death Eater. Anyone who isn't living under a rock knows that and plenty of people have reasons to hate Death Eaters. Then too, his father likely has enemies among the other Death Eaters. That lot doesn't hesitate to stab one another in the back, you know, and anyone with a vendetta against Lucius Malfoy could be looking to take it out on his son. So while I agree with you that Malfoy was the intended target, I doubt that you'll find the culprit here at school."
Harry stared at Knight in amazement. It hadn't even occurred to him that the attempt on Malfoy's life could have come from someone outside Hogwarts, but now that Knight had said so, he could see that it was true. Anyone who knew the Malfoys knew that Draco was at Hogwarts and the Stinging Tentaculas in the greenhouse couldn't be the only specimens in Britain. Anyone could have put the plant in that cave. After all, it wasn't on Hogwarts grounds. Harry felt enormously relieved at that realization because it meant that there wasn't necessarily a would-be murderer at Hogwarts. He smiled at the Auror.
"Thanks Professor. I knew it would help to talk with you."
Knight gave Harry her small, wry smile. "Anytime, Potter."
Monday evening, Harry was actually looking forward to his meeting with Snape for a change. He was eager to discover what was behind the wall in Snape's mind. His uncharacteristic enthusiasm must have shown, however, because Snape scowled suspiciously at him when he arrived.
"How much longer are you going to be taking up my time with this?"
Harry shrugged. "Until Dumbledore says it isn't necessary any more."
Snape's expression darkened even further, but Harry knew the man had no excuse to argue against Dumbledore's orders.
"Very well, Potter. Proceed."
Harry reached out mentally and dived into Snape's mind. Snape had quickly learnt how to follow Harry down into the depths of his mind so that Harry barely had to check his descent at all now. Tonight however, he could feel Snape's reticence as they descended as though Snape could sense his intent.
The neighborhood sprang up around Harry and he set off at once for the wall that blocked the way to Snape's house. It was an imposing edifice, twenty feet high and running across this entire side of the neighborhood. Harry walked along it looking for a way through.
"What are you doing?"
Harry looked around to find Snape watching him. The young man looked even more suspicious than his older incarnation had.
"I was just wondering what's on the other side of this wall," Harry said.
"There has to be something behind there."
"It's nothing you need to see."
"I'd like to take a look, anyway, if you don't mind." Harry turned back towards the wall, but Snape pulled out his wand.
"Actually, I do."
Harry looked at the young man in surprise.
"Step away," Snape said.
Harry stepped away from the wall and Snape's wand followed him.
"I was only curious," Harry said, trying to sound nonchalant. "Have you been back there?"
"I know what's back there and I told you, it's nothing you need to see. It's none of your business."
"All right then," Harry said carefully. "Why don't we go do something else? We could go over to the school or down by the river and see if anything's going on."
Snape lowered his wand and looked away. "I have things to do."
"You know, you've never told me where you live," Harry said. "Maybe you could show me your house."
"I stay in the shop. You know that."
"That's not a real home. Don't you have a house, some place where you grew up?"
Snape looked sharply back at Harry. His expression was shrewd and guarded. "You need to leave now."
"Leave and don't come back!"
Harry looked into the young man's eyes which were at once angry and haunted and he wondered what horrors Snape kept hidden behind the wall. How bad can it be? "All right; I'll leave. But I'll be back."
Harry closed his eyes, opened them and was back in Snape's office. He looked into Snape's eyes and for a split second saw a much younger man looking back at him uncertainly. Then Snape blinked and the moment was gone.
Harry quickly left Snape's office and headed for Dumbledore's.
"Good evening, Harry," Dumbledore greeted him as Harry entered the office.
"I take it your session with Professor Snape didn't go well tonight."
Harry sat down and proceeded to explain what had happened on his way back to Hogwarts the previous day.
"I realized that the neighborhood I've been seeing in his mind is the neighborhood where he grew up. Only there's a wall in his mind that doesn't exist in reality," Harry concluded. He sat back and sighed. "I wanted to get through it tonight."
"I presume you were unsuccessful?"
Harry nodded glumly. "He pulled his wand on me and told me to get out and never come back."
To Harry's annoyance, Dumbledore chuckled.
"It's not funny."
"No, it isn't. But, forgive me, surely it wasn't unexpected either. You couldn't have imagined that Severus would allow you access to an area of his mind that he has obviously taken great pains to hide."
Harry sighed. "I suppose not. But I don't know what to do. I have to get through that wall, but I don't want to fight him."
"No, I doubt that would be particularly productive. I should think diversion would be a better strategy. A little subterfuge can avoid a great deal of conflict and you do have a talent for finding your way into places where you shouldn't be. I am confident that you will find a way.
"There is, however, another matter I need to discuss with you. I realize that you were planning to stay at school for the holidays, however, I shall be away on the continent over Christmas and given Ian Day's recent visit, I think it would be better for you to be safely beyond his reach during that time. Specifically, I would prefer that you, Miss Granger and the Weasleys spend the holidays with Remus."
"Really? That'd be great!" Harry said, enthusiastically. He was happy to spend Christmas at headquarters as long as his friends were with him.
"Good. I have already made the arrangements. You will not be taking the train. Instead, you will Apparate to headquarters Friday afternoon directly following your last exam. Professor Snape will be joining you as well and I expect you to take the opportunity to continue your sessions together over the holidays.
"I believe your instincts are correct, Harry, and that breaking through the wall in his mind is of the utmost importance. I look forward to hearing of your success the next time we meet."
Harry nodded determinedly. "You will."