Chapter 24: The Enemy of My Enemy
"Come in, Harry," Dumbledore said, smiling. "I must say that you're back earlier than I would have expected."
"I need to talk to you."
"Come and sit down, then. I fear it's too early to offer you a sherbet lemon. Would you like some tea?"
"No. Thank you. I need to talk to you about Professor Snape."
Dumbledore nodded. "I take it you were successful in breeching the wall in his mind?"
"And what have you discovered?"
Harry quickly described the scenes from Snape's childhood he'd seen along with the Death Eater attacks.
"And you saw virtually these same scenes both times you entered his mind?"
Harry nodded. "Yes. I think they're sort of like anchor points: defining moments that have made him what he is."
"Excellently put, Harry! That is quite discerning. But I would venture to guess that these scenes were hardly surprising to you. Surely they were not disturbing enough to bring you to my door at this hour on a Sunday morning."
"No, but I also saw a figure: a man, I think, though I couldn't see his face. Each time the Death Eaters appeared, he was there, too, but he didn't take part in the attacks. Instead, he just stood and watched everything. There was something… ominous about him. It's hard to explain, but he seemed even more dangerous than the Death Eaters. Then when I tried to follow him, he vanished."
Dumbledore regarded Harry keenly. "Have you any idea what this figure might represent?"
Harry shook his head. "No." He hesitated then continued. "I saw something else, too. I saw my mother."
For the first time since Harry had begun describing the contents of Snape's mind, Dumbledore's calm, attentive expression faltered. For an instant there was an odd mixture of hope and fear in the old wizard's eyes. Then it was gone and Dumbledore sat forward in his chair. "You saw Lily?"
"Yes. I met her by accident when I was chasing that mysterious figure. She looked as if she were a little younger than me."
Dumbledore nodded slowly. "I see."
"Professor, you said that the people in our minds are those who have touched our lives. But if that's true –"
"Then why is Lily Evans in Professor Snape's mind?" Dumbledore finished. He smiled at Harry. "Your mother was a remarkable person, Harry. You have her generosity of spirit, her love of justice, her great capacity for compassion. She touched many lives for the better, though her own was far too brief. I imagine that she lives as a representation of kindness and integrity within everyone who knew her."
Lily had been kind to Snape, Harry remembered. She had stood up for him when James had humiliated him so badly on the afternoon of their Defense OWL – a kindness Snape had soundly rejected, but which obviously had made an impression on him, nonetheless. Snape had known so little kindness in his life. Harry supposed it made sense that what little empathy the man possessed would be represented by Lily and Harry felt sheepish for having imagined that she might have meant anything more to him.
"You have made excellent progress in penetrating Professor Snape's mind," Dumbledore continued, interrupting Harry's thoughts. "I believe you now have that well enough in hand that you and I can resume our lessons together. You do need to keep up your dueling skills. Shall we say Sunday afternoons?"
The next several weeks passed routinely enough for Harry. He was busier than ever now that he had lessons with Dumbledore again on top of his sessions with Snape and lessons with Professor Knight. Harry didn't mind, however. He was somehow keeping up with his school work and he was making steady progress with Knight. He had managed his first wandless magic: a summoning charm that Knight said had saved her life more than once.
Harry's lessons with Dumbledore were a joy. He'd spent so much time in the grim, depressing landscape of Snape's mind that he'd forgotten how beautiful and peaceful Dumbledore's garden was. Just being there rejuvenated him and helped to steel him against the bleakness of the Potions Master's mind. Dumbledore seemed to understand this too: although he still sent beasts and monsters against Harry, he also allowed Harry time to simply wander the garden and enjoy its tranquility.
Harry's only real frustration came during his sessions with Snape. He was intent upon learning the secret of the mysterious figure in black, but try as he might, he couldn't catch the elusive man…
Harry raced along the dark street in pursuit of the sinister, cloaked figure. He had memorized these streets – every pothole or obstacle that could trip him up and though he could see nothing, he ran with confidence as fast as he could, his senses entirely focused on the sound of footfalls and the swish of robes ahead. He was gaining on his quarry and raised his wand without slowing his pace. "Luminosus!"
A brilliant light burst from the end of Harry's wand and lit up the street as brightly as day. The figure in black cringed away from the light as though it was painful and darted into one of the dilapidated buildings lining the street. Harry followed him into what appeared to be some sort of warehouse. He could hear running footsteps ahead and raced through rows of crates in pursuit. But the stacks of boxes were like a maze and he soon lost all sign of the man. He stopped to listen, but the only sound he could hear was his own ragged breathing. The sound of footsteps had vanished.
Harry slammed a fist against one of the crates in frustration then retraced his steps and exited the warehouse into the overcast morning. He closed his eyes and opened them again to glare at the man sitting across from him...
"I take it that was less than useful," Snape said, obviously no happier about this state of affairs than Harry was. He massaged his forehead and sighed. "Potter, what is it that you're trying to accomplish?"
"I can't tell you that," Harry replied sullenly to the question Snape had taken to asking nearly every time they met. "But I'm going to work it out, Professor. I swear it," Harry said, not bothering to hide his anger and not caring that his words sounded like a threat. After all, it was Snape who was making this so bloody difficult even if the man didn't consciously know it.
Harry cast a final glare at Snape and stalked out of the office. He didn't notice the flicker of fear that passed across the man's face as he left.
The Ravenclaw versus Slytherin Quidditch match promised to be a welcome chance for Harry to forget about his problems for a while. Harry was hoping to see Ravenclaw trounce Slytherin, of course. In particular, he was looking forward to seeing Malfoy bested by the new Ravenclaw Seeker. Cecile Wellington was an outstanding flyer – and Muggle-born, something Harry intended to rub the Slytherin's nose in after she beat him to the Snitch. But this hope was dashed as soon as the teams took to the air. Malfoy wasn't among the Slytherins. Wilkes Cutting was playing Seeker instead.
"Where's Malfoy?" Ron asked, echoing Harry's thoughts.
"Maybe he's ill," Ginny said. "I can't imagine him missing a match otherwise."
Hermione was scanning the Slytherin section of the stands with her Omnioculars. "Well, he's not in the crowd, so he must be ill."
"Maybe," Harry said suspiciously.
"Do you suppose he might be up to something?" Ron asked.
"I don't know, but I think we'd better find out. You three wait here and keep an eye out for anything suspicious. I'm going to fetch the map and find out where he is."
As the whistle sounded to start the match, Harry left the stands and hurried back to the castle. He retrieved the Marauder's Map from his dormitory and scanned it. The castle itself was virtually empty, so it didn't take long to spot the dot marked Draco Malfoy on the top of the Astronomy tower. Malfoy had no business being up there and Harry didn't hesitate. He headed for the tower himself.
As Harry approached the top of the tower he could hear a distant roar go up from the stadium. He drew his wand, eased open the door to the top of the tower and looked around. Malfoy was standing at the parapet, gazing through a pair of Omnioculars at the tiny figures darting about on brooms over the stadium.
"Come on, come on!" Malfoy grumbled to himself. "Block him!"
Another roar went up from the stadium and Malfoy swore. The match obviously wasn't going well for Slytherin. Harry watched Malfoy in bemusement for a few moments then finally spoke.
The Slytherin jumped and whirled around, dropping the Omnioculars as he whipped his wand out of his pocket and leveled it at Harry. Harry raised his own wand, but the other boy didn't attack him. He simply glared at Harry.
"Potter! What are you doing here?"
"What am I doing here?" Harry said, stepping onto the tower. "What are you doing here? Why aren't you out there playing?"
"That's none of your business." Malfoy picked up his Omnioculars and pocketed them, then scowled over his shoulder as another roar went up from the stadium.
"Why are you watching the match from up here?" Harry asked.
"I told you, that's none of your business," Malfoy said, glaring at Harry once more.
Harry eyed the other boy closely. Malfoy was clearly tense and Harry reached out mentally.
"Stop that!" Malfoy said. "Do you think I'm stupid? Do you think I can't tell that you're trying to use Legilimency on me?"
Harry's eyebrows rose in surprise. The Slytherin had been unaware of his use of Legilimency the previous year, but now Harry could feel the obstruction in Malfoy's mind. It was nothing like the subtle misdirection and powerful defenses he was used to sensing in Snape and Dumbledore's minds, but it was effective enough and Harry wondered when Malfoy had learnt Occlumency – and why.
Harry didn't really need Legilimency though. The way the other boy's eyes kept darting worriedly around told him enough.
"What are you scared of?" Harry asked.
Malfoy flushed. "I'm not scared. Now get out of my way, Potter!"
Malfoy pushed past Harry and headed for the door.
"Do your teammates know that you skived off? Does Snape? I don't suppose you'd mind me mentioning it to him."
Malfoy whirled back to face Harry again and raised his wand. He looked even paler now and glanced around nervously, as if the sound of Snape's name might make his head of house appear out of thin air. "You say one word to him, Potter –"
"And what? You'll curse me? I'm not going to let you get away with any stunt like casting the Dark Mark again. And Snape won't cover for you this time, either."
Malfoy scoffed. "You think I'd sabotage our own match? That'd be clever, especially with no alibi."
Harry frowned. Malfoy was right; that made no sense. Given his conspicuous absence, if anything happened during the match, the Slytherin would be the first one suspected. "What are you doing up here, then?"
"You think I'd tell you that when you're only going to run and tell Snape?"
"If you tell me the truth then I swear I won't tell him or anyone else what you say or even that I saw you."
Malfoy snorted. "You expect me to believe that?"
"I'm not a liar like you, Malfoy," Harry said. "But it's up to you. If you prefer, you can walk away and I'll go to Snape right now. Then you can tell him why you skived off."
Malfoy's eyes narrowed with a look of pure hatred, but he and Harry both knew that he had no choice. He gritted his teeth and lowered his wand. "I didn't play today because I'm not thick enough to go flying while Snape is sitting there in the stands watching. I'm not going to make it that easy for him to pick me off."
Harry stared at him in confusion. "Pick you off? What are you talking about?"
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Can't you work that out? You're the one who said he'd take care of me. But he's not going to manage it. You hear me, Potter? He's not taking me out. I'm smarter than that."
Harry gaped at Malfoy in disbelief. "You think Snape wants to kill you? You can't be serious."
"I wouldn't be the first, would I? What's the count up to now? Fourteen? Fifteen?"
Harry felt his stomach twist at the mention of the murdered Death Eaters, but despite his own ambivalence, he felt the need to defend Snape. "There's no proof Snape's involved in those deaths."
Malfoy snorted derisively.
"All right," Harry said. "Let's say you're right. Maybe Snape has stooped to fighting dirty in order to take down some of our enemies. That's what Slytherins do, isn't it? Win by any means? We're at war and it isn't as if any of your lot wouldn't turn him over to be tortured to death given half a chance. So all's fair, I reckon. But that's nothing to do with you and he certainly wouldn't kill you."
"Well, someone's trying to do it," Malfoy hissed. "Or have you forgotten what happened at the end of our last match?"
"I remember you knocked yourself senseless when you ran into the goalpost."
"Exactly, and I'd rather avoid any more accidents."
Harry scowled. "What do you mean?"
"Do you honestly think I'm so incompetent that I'd run into a goalpost I've flown circles around a hundred times?" Malfoy scoffed. "I saw the bloody thing coming. I could have dodged it with my eyes closed. I just didn't."
Malfoy glanced away with a troubled expression. "I remember thinking I needed to swerve around it. But every time I started to pull my broom over, something stopped me, told me not to bother, that it wasn't important and I didn't need to worry about it."
Harry felt a chill run down his spine. What Malfoy was describing sounded an awful lot like being under the Imperius Curse. "No one could have cursed you while you were flying, not even Snape."
"That's what I thought at first."
"What changed your mind?"
"That bloody plant we ran into. What do you think?" Malfoy nearly spat the words and Harry realized just how strained the Slytherin's nerves were.
"Anyone could have put that plant in that cave for any reason," Harry said reasonably. "It might have even turned up there on its own."
"Maybe, but the note I got telling me to meet there didn't write itself."
"So, someone did put you up to going out there?"
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Of course. You didn't really think I was out there because I was bored, did you?"
"But a note could have come from anyone."
"Give me a little credit, Potter. I'm not stupid enough to wander blindly into danger for a lark the way you do. There are passwords and code phrases to ensure that messages aren't faked."
"Well then, Snape wouldn't have been able to fake a note to you, would he?"
"He was a Death Eater, plus he's a Legilimens and a spy. If anyone could do it, he could."
Harry cocked one eyebrow at the Slytherin. "You think awfully highly of him."
"I never said he was stupid, just a traitor."
"He's a spy and I'm sure Voldemort has a few, too."
"He was my father's best friend and he betrayed him!" Malfoy snarled. "Snape used him and made a fool of him! Do you know what that cost my father?"
"I can guess," Harry said quietly. "I know what it cost Snape."
The two young men stared at one another in silence then a deafening roar, far louder than the previous ones, rose from the Quidditch Pitch. Harry and Malfoy both looked out towards the stadium and Harry could see the tiny Ravenclaw players in blue all converging on one of their teammates who was pumping the air excitedly. The Slytherin players, in contrast, sat their brooms, unmoving.
Malfoy sighed in disgust then looked back at Harry. "Maybe you think there are some things Snape won't stoop to doing, Potter, but I know better. If you've got an ounce of brains to match that Gryffindor courage, you'll remember that. And you'd better remember your promise, too." With that final warning, Malfoy stalked out the door.
Harry was almost certain that Malfoy's suspicions of Snape were unfounded – at least that's what he kept telling himself. No matter what else Snape might do, he surely wouldn't harm a student. Nevertheless, Harry couldn't shake a pervasive sense of dread and arrived at Snape's office Monday evening more determined than ever to unmask the dark figure lurking in the man's mind.
This time Harry didn't try to chase the black-robed figure. Such obvious pursuit clearly wasn't going to work. Instead, Harry hid in the dark alley that the figure usually took when the Death Eater attack was over. Harry waited in the deep shadows, listening to the screams from the street. As the sounds of the attack died away, he stood very still and waited. His patience was rewarded by the sound of someone approaching. He waited until the figure was directly across from his hiding place, then jumped out and tacked him from behind.
Harry could have used magic, of course, but he suspected that the man would be on guard against that, whereas a physical attack might take him by surprise. The strategy worked. Harry knocked the man to the ground and pinned him there. The fellow was quite strong though, despite the fact that he was surprisingly slim beneath his voluminous robes. He threatened to throw Harry off, but Harry had done his share of brawling and managed to hang on while he pulled his wand from his pocket.
A fist connected with Harry's jaw; apparently his anonymous opponent had done his share of brawling too. Harry lost his grip on the man beneath him who took advantage of the moment to break free. He shoved Harry roughly away and rolled to his feet. But Harry still had his wand out.
The man's reflexes were excellent however. He dived for the ground and rolled behind a large rubbish bin, just avoiding Harry's spell. Harry didn't care. He was on his feet now and his quarry had nowhere to run. The man couldn't hide forever and Harry was going to be sure to get a good look at him when he reappeared.
Harry's wand went flying and he stumbled as the force of the spell hit him. But the attack hadn't come from the vicinity of the rubbish bin. It had come from behind him and Harry whirled to confront the young man who had disarmed him.
Snape stood with his wand pointed directly at Harry, regarding him calmly.
"I thought you said that I could do as I pleased here!" Harry said angrily.
"I did," Snape replied in an infuriatingly smug voice. "But I never said that I wouldn't intervene."
"Why?" Harry demanded in frustration, stabbing a finger at the rubbish bin. "Why don't you want me to find out who he is?"
"Because it won't solve anything!"
"Yes, it will! I can feel it."
Snape flicked his wand at Harry's which leapt into the air and flew towards him. He caught it then stepped forward and handed it to Harry. "It's time for you to leave."
"Why do you let him rule your life?" Harry demanded.
"That's none of your business. Stop meddling in what you don't understand or we're both going to be sorry."
Harry glared defiantly at Snape, but the young man raised his wand once more. "I will curse you if I have to."
Harry knew that Snape wasn't bluffing. With a final disappointed glance at the rubbish bin, he closed his eyes.
"The vigilante got two more Death Eaters last night," Seamus announced at breakfast on Wednesday morning as he scanned the Quibbler's front page. Harry grimaced and looked away, but Seamus's next words caught his attention. "Blimey! I think I knew one of them."
"You know a Death Eater?" Lavender asked incredulously.
"Yeah," Seamus replied. "He was a student here, a couple of years back – Thomas Morgan."
"Not Faye Morgan's brother?" Ginny asked. "She's a sixth-year Slytherin. She's in Defense with us."
"Probably," Seamus said, reading through the article. "It says here he had a sister at Hogwarts."
Harry looked over at the Slytherin table and noted that a significant number of the students weren't at breakfast. A glance at the head table confirmed that neither Snape nor Dumbledore were present either.
"Poor Faye," Ginny said. "How awful for her."
Ron shrugged. "Well, that's what happens when your brother's a Death Eater."
"That's not a very sensitive thing to say, Ron," Hermione said. "It isn't her fault."
"I didn't say it was and I'm sorry for her. But being a Death Eater isn't exactly a safe occupation."
"It isn't with this fellow running around killing them," Dean agreed, nodding at the paper.
"I wonder how many Death Eaters there are," Neville said, thoughtfully. "Do you suppose this vigilante might kill them all?"
"Nah," Seamus answered. "You-Know-Who would only recruit more."
"It seems to me that might be difficult given all these deaths," Parvati said.
"He's really persuasive," Dean said with a dark look.
Ginny nudged Harry. "I'm going to go see if Faye's still here."
Harry nodded. "I'll come with you."
Harry and Ginny went out to the entrance hall where a group of Slytherins was gathered. Compared to the throng of students who had gathered to console Therese Gains when her father had been killed, the clutch of students was shamefully small and it was obvious that the overwhelming majority of the students felt no particular sympathy for the family of a Death Eater who had been killed.
The door to the staff lounge opened. Dumbledore emerged, looking tired. Beside him was a girl – Faye, Ginny had called her. Her eyes were red and swollen and she barely seemed to notice her classmates clustered nearby until they came forward to console her. The girl was clearly as devastated by her loss as Therese had been and Harry felt anger flare up inside him at the injustice of her situation. Why shouldn't she deserve compassion for her grief just because her brother had been fighting on the wrong side of the war?
Ginny headed across the hall towards the girl and Harry followed her up to the knot of Slytherins who turned and eyed the Griffindors warily as they approached. Ginny ignored the hostile stares and addressed Faye.
"I'm sorry about your brother," she said sincerely. "I know what it's like to lose someone you love and I'm sorry for you and your family."
Faye stared at Ginny in surprise, then swallowed hard and nodded, blinking rapidly.
Harry was about to add his own condolences, but before he could think of the right thing to say, he felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Professor Knight standing next to him. She stepped past him to address Faye.
"Miss Morgan, I'm so sorry," she said, clearly meaning it. "I know –"
"I don't believe Miss Morgan needs your sympathy, Professor," Snape's icy voice cut in. He had been standing off to the side, behind Dumbledore, but stepped forward to confront Knight. His expression was as cold as Harry had ever seen it and Knight looked back at him with a stricken look.
Snape's lip curled in unmistakable contempt then he turned to the girl who was looking at him with wide-eyed uncertainty. "Come along, Miss Morgan," he said in a tone that was only marginally warmer. "Your family is waiting for you."
He took Faye's arm and quickly maneuvered her past those around them – nearly dragging the girl towards the front door. Dumbledore followed them, pausing only briefly to give Ginny a sad smile, before he, Snape and Faye disappeared outside.
"What do you suppose has got into Snape?" Ginny said. Harry didn't answer. He knew exactly why Snape had been so rude to Knight. No one else would have understood the look that had passed between the two Professors, but Harry had. Snape knew that Knight was spying on him. His sneer had all but said so, and Knight had paled at the realization. She didn't have a prayer of catching Snape out if he was on to her, Harry knew. The war would be over before Knight ever found the evidence she needed to stop Snape's killing spree.
"Harry?" Ginny said. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah," Harry answered. "But we need to talk. Let's go and find Ron and Hermione."
"Snape is the Death Eater Vigilante?" Ron said incredulously.
"Harry, you can't be serious!" Hermione protested, looking horrified.
"I wish I wasn't," Harry said grimly as he paced his dormitory. "Everything points to him and has for months."
"But it's all just circumstantial," Hermione said. "We know he's been spying on the Death Eaters. It could just be coincidence that he's been away every time someone's been killed."
"That's a bit of a stretch, isn't it?" Ron said. "Besides, it fits that Snape would want revenge after what Voldemort did to him. And he's certainly capable of killing."
"I still don't believe it!" Hermione insisted obstinately.
"Do you think I want to believe it?" Harry said. "I'd be dead half a dozen times over if it weren't for him. He risked his life to save mine. But I can't go on like this. He can't go on like this!"
"What do you plan to do?" Ginny asked. "You said that Professor Knight has been investigating him for months and she obviously hasn't found a way to stop him."
Harry sighed. "I'm not sure, exactly."
"You need to talk to him," Hermione told Harry firmly. "You owe it to Snape to give him a chance to explain. Tell him what you suspect and see what he says."
"Oh, that would be a lovely conversation," Ron said, rolling his eyes. "'Good evening, Professor. Have you killed any Death Eaters lately?'"
Hermione looked stonily at Ron, but Harry spoke before an argument could ensue. "Ron's right, Hermione. Snape's barely speaking to me. He certainly isn't going to admit to me that he's killing the Death Eaters."
"What else can you do, though?" Ginny asked. "There's no evidence."
"Actually, there is."
"What?" Hermione said as she, Ron and Ginny all looked at Harry in surprise.
Harry opened his trunk, reached into the pocket of his dress robes and pulled out the small white handkerchief. He unfolded it to reveal the long black strands of hair and explained.
"Moody has a strand of hair from the scene of one of the murders. He's sure it belongs to the killer. These are Snape's. If the two samples match, it would prove that Snape's guilty."
"Why haven't you turned these over to Moody or the Ministry?" Ron asked.
Harry had no good answer for that and could only shrug helplessly. "I don't know."
"Harry, you're either serious about stopping these murders or you're not," Hermione said.
"I know." Harry stared down at the seemingly innocuous strands of hair. Hermione was right. He had to do something. Faye Morgan's brother would still be alive if he'd turned over the evidence to Moody during summer. One way or another, the killings had to stop."
Harry folded up the handkerchief once more and shoved it into his pocket. Then he headed for the door.
"Where are you going?" Ginny asked.
"To do what I should have done in the first place."
Harry left Gryffindor Tower and made his way to Professor Knight's office. The Defense teacher looked up wearily as Harry knocked and pushed open the door.
"Potter, what can I do for you?"
"I have something to give you." Harry pulled the handkerchief from his pocket, unfolded it and laid it on the desk. "You said you needed evidence of Snape's guilt. Well, there it is."
Knight stared down at the long strands of black hair in astonishment. "Where did you get these?"
"That's not important. The point is they're Snape's."
Knight looked at Harry. "You're sure?"
"Positive. I got them myself."
Knight looked down at the strands once more in silence, her brow furrowed in thought.
"I don't want anyone else to be killed, Professor," Harry continued earnestly. "And I know there's no other way to stop Snape. If there were… but this has gone too far and it has to stop. Moody said he could use these. Can you give them to him?"
Knight looked at Harry once more and for an instant he saw pity in her eyes. Then it was gone and she smiled sadly. "I'll make sure he gets them."
Harry nodded once and turned to leave.
"Potter, it's not your fault that Thomas Morgan died."
Harry looked back at Knight and managed a grim smile. "Thanks, Professor."
For the next four days Harry waited anxiously for the DPS to descend upon Hogwarts to arrest Snape. All the while his emotions seesawed back and forth between relief that Snape's killing spree was finally going to be halted and guilt at having betrayed the man. It didn't help that Snape seemed more taciturn than ever and Harry couldn't help wondering if the man's conscience was finally starting to get the better of him.
By Sunday evening, however, Harry's concern for Snape was becoming overshadowed by frustration. How long could it take for Knight to give those hairs to Moody? Harry wondered, glaring up at the staff table where the Defense teacher sat talking with Professor Flitwick. Then another thought occurred to Harry. What if she had sent them by owl and they'd been lost? Or what if the Ministry still refused to listen to Moody even with the evidence? What then?
Knight smiled at Flitwick and rose to leave the hall, seemingly without a care in the world. Harry scowled after her then shoved aside his half-eaten dinner and turned to his friends.
"Come on, let's get out of here."
Harry tried to put thoughts of Knight and Snape out of his mind as he, Ginny, Ron and Hermione headed out of the Great Hall. He'd done his part. He'd just have to trust Knight, Moody and the Ministry to do theirs.
"Ginny?" Faye Morgan called, coming towards them across the entrance hall. The girl looked tired and worn and approached the Gryffindors uncertainly.
"Hi Faye," Ginny said, giving the girl an encouraging smile. "I didn't know you were back. How are you?"
"I'm all right. I got back this afternoon." The girl took a deep breath. "I just wanted to say thank you. You're the only one aside from my housemates who said that you were sorry about Thomas. All things considered… well, I just wanted to say thank you. And I want you to know –"
Faye broke off. Her eyes had grown bright, but she swallowed and went on. "I want you to know that Thomas wasn't a bad person." Faye glanced around to make sure no one was listening to them then dropped her voice. "He didn't understand what being a Death Eater was like before he joined and he said it was the worst mistake he ever made. He wanted to quit; he was planning to do it as soon as he could manage it." Faye dragged a sleeve across her eyes and sniffed. "That's what hurts most, I think. If he'd lived just another couple of months, he could have disappeared and gone into hiding."
"I'm so sorry," Ginny whispered.
Faye nodded miserably. "Professor Snape worked so hard to arrange it, too."
Harry started. "Snape?"
Faye glanced over her shoulder and dropped her voice to barely more than a whisper. "He's been helping some of us and our families. He has connections, you know – ways of helping people avoid You-Know-Who. He's been working with my family for almost a year and everything was nearly ready. He was furious when he found out that Thomas had been killed. It was frightening, really; I've never seen him so angry."
Faye looked back at Ginny. "Anyway, I just wanted you to know." The girl turned away and headed for the dungeons. Harry gazed after her in bewilderment then turned to meet the equally confused stares of his friends.
"Why would Snape be furious that Thomas had been killed if he was the killer?" Ginny said.
"Maybe he's not," Hermione replied firmly.
"Or maybe it was all just an act to throw suspicion off himself," Ron said.
Harry bit his lip and considered. Snape was surely capable of putting on an act if it suited him, but was it possible that they had all been mistaken? It had been months since Harry had seriously doubted Snape's guilt, he realized, but maybe that was why the DPS hadn't come to arrest Snape. Perhaps the strands of hair hadn't matched after all!
"I'd better go and tell Professor Knight," Harry said.
He left his friends and set off for the Defense teacher's office. But when he arrived and knocked at the door, there was no answer. Harry sighed. Knight was usually in her office correcting homework for an hour or so after dinner and she had often told her students to come and see her then if they were having any problems with their assignments. But naturally she'd be gone the one time Harry needed to see her.
Muttering under his breath, Harry headed for his dormitory where he retrieved the Marauder's Map from his bedside table. Knight had to be somewhere and he intended to find her. He wasn't going to spend another night agonizing over Snape, if he could help it. He was out of patience and wasn't going to wait for answers any longer.
Harry scanned the map with a practiced eye, but before he could spot the Defense teacher, something else caught his attention and turned the blood in his veins to ice water. Moving across the grounds was a solitary dot labeled Draco Malfoy. It was headed straight for the Forbidden Forest and following it at a discreet distance was another tiny dot labeled Severus Snape.
Knight forgotten, Harry grabbed his Invisibility Cloak and ran out of his dormitory. He raced down the stairs, his last conversation with Malfoy playing over and over in his head. He emerged into the bright moonlit night and could easily make out the familiar black-robed figure striding across the grounds far ahead of him. Pulling his Invisibility Cloak around him, Harry took off at a dead run after Snape.
Harry had nearly caught up with Snape by the time the man reached the forest and disappeared into it. Harry slowed as he entered the forest, listening for the sound of Snape's footfalls, but heard nothing. The forest was pitch black but Harry didn't dare light his wand. Instead, he groped his way forward along the path. Suddenly, someone seized him from behind, spun him around and shoved him up against a nearby tree. A light flared in the darkness, his cloak was yanked away and Harry was left blinking into Snape's glittering black eyes.
"Well, well, Potter, out for an evening stroll?"
"How did you know I was here?" Harry demanded, trying to pull free of Snape's grasp.
Snape sneered at him and kept him pinned against the tree. "Alas, Invisibility Cloaks do not come equipped with silencing charms. I heard you coming across the lawn before I entered the forest. What are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same thing?" Harry retorted.
"That is none of your business. Why were you following me? Can't you resist any opportunity to stick your nose in where it doesn't belong?"
Harry glared at Snape but remained silent. Snape's eyes narrowed and Harry felt the man's mind touch his. Harry threw up his mental defenses.
"What are you hiding?" Snape demanded.
"Nothing. You're the one who keeps sneaking out of the castle at night."
"And how exactly would you know that?" Snape asked in a low, dangerous voice. "Didn't I warn you to stay out of my affairs? Just how long have you been spying on me?"
Harry took a deep breath and met Snape's angry glare with his own. "Long enough. I know what you're doing."
"Really? And what, pray tell, do you think you know?"
"You're the one who's been killing those Death Eaters."
Snape blinked in surprise then a small smile touched his lips. "So, out of everyone in Britain you've decided that I must be the culprit? Do you happen to have any evidence of this or does my character simply speak for itself?"
"You've been away every time that a Death Eater has been killed. It was the same over summer."
"That's rather circumstantial evidence to inspire such certainty, don't you think?"
"I'm not the only one who thinks you're responsible."
"Ah, so someone's put you up to this, have they? Who? Lupin?"
Harry hesitated and Snape's eyes flashed. "I should have known," he said bitterly, tightening his already vise-like grip on Harry. "So, have you been spying on me for him? What have you told him?"
"Nothing!" Harry said. "I haven't told him anything and I didn't come out here to spy on you. I came to stop you."
Snape released Harry and stepped back, glaring at the young man in contempt. "Come to save my soul, is that it, Potter? Well, you needn't have bothered. My soul isn't worth saving as surely even you should know by now."
He started to turn away, but Harry grabbed the front of his robes. "Don't ever say that," Harry snarled. "Don't throw your life away on vengeance. It isn't worth it!"
"Don't throw your life away on vengeance, Severus. It isn't worth it."
Harry froze. The words had been as clear as if they'd been spoken aloud and it took Harry a moment to realize that the young woman's voice had only been a memory in Snape's mind. Harry searched Snape's eyes, but the man's mind was now tightly shut and Snape was looking at him with a peculiar expression, almost as if he were seeing Harry for the very first time.
A cry rang out from somewhere deeper in the forest. Snape snatched up the Invisibility Cloak and tossed it at Harry. "Put this on and stay close." He took off through the forest and Harry, donning his cloak, followed.
They came to a clearing bathed in moonlight. Malfoy stood on the far side, staring blankly ahead. But it was the figure standing next to him that made Harry's jaw drop.
"Ah, Snape, there you are," Professor Knight said with a wry smile as she raised her wand. "I knew I could count on you to follow Malfoy if he left the castle alone."
"Did you?" Snape looked at Malfoy. "Draco? Can you hear me?"
"I'm afraid I had to give him a dose of Imperius Potion in order to get him to cooperate. He'll only respond to me, now. Isn't that right, Draco?"
"Yes, Professor Knight," Malfoy said dreamily.
Knight smiled again. "Throw down your wand, Snape."
Harry watched Knight and Snape stare at one another in a silent contest of wills and tried to fathom what was happening. Knight had clearly used Malfoy to lure Snape out of the castle. But why? Was she planning to arrest him? Why couldn't she have done that at school?
At last, with a disgusted sigh, Snape tossed his wand on the ground and folded his arms, regarding Knight with a look of pure contempt. "So, what exactly do you have planned?"
Knight held out her hand and Snape's wand leapt into it. She pocketed her own and brandished his. "It's time for you to be revealed as the Death Eater Vigilante."
"Really?" Snape raised an eyebrow. "That will be rather difficult to arrange with no evidence."
"Oh, but there is evidence. Moody found a single strand of long black hair at the home of one of the first Death Eaters killed."
Snape's eyes narrowed. "He would need a matching sample for that to be of any use."
"Yes, he would. Fortunately, Mr. Potter has managed to provide me with exactly what I needed."
"Has he?" Snape said, slowly.
Harry cringed and looked pleadingly at Snape, though the man couldn't see him. He wanted to throw off his cloak and explain that he hadn't wanted to turn over the evidence, but that he'd had no choice.
"Actually, he's been sneaking around after you for months," Knight said, conversationally, making Harry's cheeks burn with shame. "Moody asked him to do it originally, but he's been acting on his own since he arrived at school. I caught him following you a few months ago and told him – quite truthfully – that Moody had asked me to watch you too. You can imagine his relief at finding an unexpected ally. He was only too happy to tell me everything."
Harry closed his eyes, wishing that Knight would shut it. Why did she have to go on like this?
"The boy always was too trusting," Snape commented dryly.
"It was quite a stroke of luck, actually," Knight continued. "If I hadn't spotted him that night in London, I never would have seen you and realized that you were following me. If I hadn't, I'm sure you'd have had me in Azkaban by now."
Harry's eyes flew open and he stared at Knight. He couldn't have heard that right.
"I did wonder how you'd managed to evade me so effectively all this time," Snape said. "But you still haven't told me how you plan to frame me for the murders you've committed."
Harry heard the words, but his mind seemed incapable of accepting them. There had to be a mistake. Moody had sent Knight to Hogwarts to catch Snape. She was one of the most respected Aurors in Britain. She couldn't be the killer. Harry's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of his own name.
"Potter came to me four days ago," Knight was saying. "He told me the killing had to stop, then gave me a handkerchief, saying it contained the evidence I would need to prove your guilt. Imagine my astonishment when he unfolded it to reveal several long black strands of your hair."
"Pity they won't match the one Moody has," Snape pointed out.
Knight smiled. "You underestimate me, Snape. I went to see Moody that very night and took along a hair I'd plucked off one of the student's robes. I told him I thought it might be yours but that I wasn't sure and he obligingly brought out his sample in order to run the test. It failed, naturally, and I was bitterly disappointed. While Moody went to get me a drink to console me, I swapped the hair he had for one of yours."
Snape smiled and inclined his head admiringly. "Very well done. So now what? Will you arrest me and send me to Azkaban?"
Knight shook her head and Harry could see the first hint of regret in her eyes. "You're far too cunning, Snape. So is Dumbledore. Memories can be retrieved and the truth discovered if the right people are willing to put out the effort. I can't afford that.
"Tonight, I followed you and Draco into the woods and got here just in time to see you kill him. I tried to subdue you, but everyone knows you're an expert duelist. You attempted to cast an Obliviate spell on me, which I blocked. Unfortunately, it rebounded on you. I did promise Potter I'd do my best to get you a stay in St. Mungos rather than Azkaban."
"How considerate of you."
Knight raised Snape's wand. "Potter will be devastated, but that's the fortunes of war."
"Not nearly as devastated as you think," Harry growled. "Expelliarmus!"
Snape's wand shot out of Knight's hand as Harry pulled off his Invisibility Cloak.
Harry had his wand pointed straight at Knight and he was trembling with rage. "It was you all along. I trusted you and you used me. You lied to me!"
"I had no choice, Potter. We're at war."
"You murdered those people."
"It wasn't murder; it was justice! They were Death Eaters. They deserved to die!"
"And what about Draco? Is he a Death Eater too?"
"No," Snape replied. "He's not."
"He will be," Knight snapped in return.
"So you're going to kill him for what he might become," Harry said in disgust. "You've been trying to kill him all year: first during our Quidditch match and then with that plant." Harry shuddered at the thought. "Do you know what kind of death he would have suffered in that cave?"
"Do you know what kind of death my brother suffered?" Knight snarled. "Lucius Malfoy led the attack that killed him!"
"I imagine Miss Morgan can sympathize with your grief for your brother," Snape interjected.
"That was an accident," Knight said. "I never meant to kill the boy. But he saw me and I couldn't let him live."
Snape's lip curled. "Of course not."
"I'm not a murderer!" Knight insisted. "Can't you understand? If we're going to win this war, we have to use our enemies' tactics against them." She looked from Snape to Harry. "You both know that," she said, her voice rising shrilly. "Snape, you've done the same."
"I haven't stooped to murder," Snape said quietly. "I learnt long ago that when you start dealing in death, invariably the wrong people end up dying. I kill only when I have no choice."
Knight snorted. "How noble. It seems Potter was right about you, after all. But I intend to win this war and I'll do whatever it takes."
"I think the DPS may have something to say about that," Harry said. "Stupefy!"
But Knight had pulled her own wand from her pocket and wordlessly blocked Harry's spell. "You still have a lot to learn about dueling, Potter."
Knight flicked her wand towards Malfoy who still stood quietly oblivious to the confrontation in front of him as well as to his own peril. But Snape seemed to anticipate Knight's move and reached out at the same moment.
"Mobiliquendam!" A large tree branch lying on the ground leapt into the air and slammed into Knight.
She stumbled and Harry yelled, "Stupefy!" once more. But Knight had already started to spin around and before Harry had completed his spell, she had Disapparated and was gone.