Harry Potter and the Chained Souls

Chapter 25: Talk About Us

Moody sat staring into the crackling fire in Dumbledore's office, his gnarled features slack with a stunned look of sorrow. "I've known her since she was a little girl," the old Auror croaked. "Her father was one of the best Aurors I ever knew – and one of the best men. Katrina was her father's daughter, through and through. She had his passion for justice, his integrity. Seeing her follow in his footsteps…" Moody ran a sleeve roughly across his eyes. "She was a model of what an Auror should be; one of the best and she did him proud. Now…"

"She lost both her husband and brother to Death Eaters," Dumbledore said gently. "It was obviously more than she could bear."

"That's no excuse for murder!" Moody retorted.

"No. It's no excuse. But it is a reason."

The door opened and Snape came in. "Severus, how is Draco?" Dumbledore asked.

"Fine, now that the Imperius Potion has worn off. We had to restrain him for a while because he kept trying to leave the hospital ward, insisting that he had to find Professor Knight." Snape cocked an eyebrow at Moody, who grimaced and looked away.

"Madam Pomfrey is keeping him in hospital overnight for observation," Snape said, returning his attention to Dumbledore. "But I'm certain there will be no permanent harm done."

"I am very glad to hear it," Dumbledore said.

"If there is nothing else, then," Snape said, "there is another matter that I need to attend to."

"Of course, Severus."

Snape gave Dumbledore a curt nod and turned to leave, but Moody stopped him.

"Potter, here, says you knew," the Auror said gruffly, jerking his head at Harry who had been watching the proceedings in silence.

Snape cast a quick glance at Harry then turned to face Moody. "That's right."


A small, bitter smile touched Snape's lips. "Your own credo, Moody: trust no one. I spotted her leaving the castle one evening during a raging thunderstorm – hardly an ideal occasion for an after-dinner stroll. So I followed her. She Apparated to London where she met a man whom I recognized as a Death Eater. At first, I thought that she must be working for the Dark Lord, but the next day the man turned up dead and I realized she had to be your vigilante. I decided to keep an eye on her until I could find some proof of her culpability. I've followed her on several occasions, but she managed to elude me. When I saw Draco leaving the castle this evening, I suspected it might be Knight's doing and followed. Mr. Potter intercepted me and I presume you know the rest."

Moody stared at Snape in amazement. "You knew all this and you didn't tell anyone?"

"I had no proof. It would have been my word against hers and I knew which of us you'd believe."

Snape turned away from the stricken look on the Auror's face and left the office. Harry watched him go then stood up and addressed Dumbledore. "Sir, may I go back to my dormitory now?"

"Yes, Harry," Dumbledore said. "There is no further need for you to stay. Good night."

Harry nodded to Dumbledore as Snape had done and left. He could hear the breathless buzz of gossip circulating among the students as he headed for Gryffindor Tower and marveled at how quickly news managed to travel through the castle. It had hardly been two hours since he and Snape had brought Malfoy to the hospital wing. Dumbledore had arrived shortly thereafter with Professor McGonagall and Snape had quickly explained what had happened. He had stayed with Malfoy while Dumbledore and Harry went up to the headmaster's office. Moody, Kingsley Shacklebolt and Tonks were summoned and this time Harry got to tell the tale. Moody refused to believe him at first, but eventually came around. Tonks and Shacklebolt then left to alert the Ministry and now there was nothing left to do but wait for the DPS to track Knight down.

The Gryffindor common room was full of students when Harry arrived.

"Harry!" Ron called, waving Harry over to the corner where he sat with Ginny, Hermione and Neville.

"Have you heard?" Hermione asked as Harry finished pushing his way through the crowd and joined them.

"Yes, I heard," Harry said then dropped his voice. "Actually, I was there."

"We thought you might have been," Ginny said softly.

"It's true then?" Neville asked. "Professor Knight really is the Death Eater Vigilante?"

"Yes." Harry quickly told them how he'd used the Marauder's Map and had spotted Snape and Malfoy heading into the forest. "I followed them, but it turned out that Knight had slipped Malfoy Imperius Potion to lure him and Snape away from the castle. She was planning to kill Malfoy and frame Snape for the murders. When she realized that I was there and that she wouldn't be able to pull it off, she Disapparated."

"I can't believe it was Professor Knight who killed all those people," Neville said, clearly distressed at the notion.

Ron shook his head. "Just goes to show that anyone can snap."

"Yeah, and all this time I've been going to her for advice," Harry said bitterly.

"Harry, you can't blame yourself for that," Ginny insisted. "She was a respected Auror and Moody did send her here to spy on Snape. There's no way you could have known."

"I know that, but I played right into her hands every time. She's the one who told me that she saw Snape talking to that Death Eater who died in the Underground. And then with that Stinging Tentacula she told me it was probably someone outside of Hogwarts who had planted it and I believed her."

"You wouldn't have expected her to lie to you, Harry," Hermione said.

"What do you suppose the Ministry will do to her when they catch her?" Neville asked.

"They'll send her to Azkaban, I imagine," Hermione said.

"That's if they catch her," Ginny pointed out. "They haven't shown much interest so far, have they?"

"The Death Eaters might catch up with her first," Ron said. "They certainly have the incentive."

Neville paled. "I was just wondering. I know my gran's going to be upset. She knew the family really well and Professor Knight's the only one left."

Neville's distress was sobering and they all sat in silence for a moment.

"What do you suppose Dumbledore will do about Defense?" Hermione said at last.

Harry looked at her in surprise. He hadn't even thought about their lessons.

"He'll have to get a replacement, don't you suppose?" Ginny said.

"If he can get one," Ron said. "They've been pretty hard to scare up, haven't they?"

"We have to have a teacher!" Hermione insisted. "We have our NEWTs this year."

"You'll pass your NEWT, Hermione," Harry said. "We all will. Don't worry."

"That's easy enough for you to say, Harry," Ron said. "You'd make an Outstanding on yours even if you never had another lesson."

Harry blushed slightly, but though he was confident that Ron was right about his prospects for passing the exam, he felt a flicker of doubt as he remembered Knight's last words to him: You still have a lot to learn about dueling, Potter.

Dumbledore's announcement at breakfast the next morning was somber and the students listened in grim silence to what everyone already knew. Many still looked disbelieving, though, even as they heard the official announcement from Dumbledore himself. No one had suspected Knight of being the Death Eater Vigilante.

"And now regarding a matter of more urgent consequence to you all," Dumbledore continued. "Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons are cancelled for the remainder of the term."

A murmur of complaint ran through the assembled students.

"However," Dumbledore raised his voice to silence the protest. "In place of those lessons, we will be instituting Defense Practicums which will be held here in the Great Hall and which students will attend once a week on the following schedule.

"On Monday evenings, the first, second and third year students will meet with Professors McGonagall and Sprout. Tuesday evenings, fourth and fifth year students will meet with Professor Flitwick. And on Thursday evenings, the NEWT students, both sixth and seventh years, will meet with Professor Snape.

"Why do we always get stuck with Snape?" Ron groaned as Dumbledore sat down.

"Probably because he knows the most about the Dark Arts," Hermione said.

"Why hasn't Dumbledore ever given him the job, then?"

Further discussion of Snape was interrupted by the arrival of the post owls delivering the morning papers. The headline in the Daily Prophet read, "The Dark Knight" and immediately captured everyone's attention. The accompanying front page story carried a brief history of Knight's family and her career as an Auror, as well as the grizzly details of her father and brother's murders. It was quite sympathetic and concluded by noting, rather indifferently, that Knight was still at large and so the Death Eater killings might well continue.

The Quibbler carried an abbreviated version of the same information, but devoted most of its article to warning that the Ministry, by authorizing use of the Unforgivable Curses by its Aurors, had set the precedent for people like Knight to consider themselves above the law. It also stated bluntly that, given Knight's exemplary record of service, the Ministry likely wouldn't be trying too hard to find her.

Harry wasn't sure whether to be glad of that or not and as he laid aside the papers, one look at his housemates told him that they were struggling with the same ambivalence. None of them talked much as they left the Great Hall. With Defense lessons canceled, they headed back to Gryffindor Tower where Harry spent the morning doing homework before heading off to lunch and Herbology. The routine of schoolwork helped him to put Knight out of his mind almost entirely until after dinner. But once back in the common room, thoughts of the woman returned as the first and second year students gathered before heading down to the Great Hall for their first Defense Practicum with McGonagall.

It was nearly time for Harry's Legilimency session with Snape as well and he was dreading it. Amid the flurry of activity that had followed Knight's escape, Harry's role in the intrigue with Moody and Knight had not come up, but Harry knew that couldn't last. This evening would be the ideal opportunity for Snape to confront him about it and he was not looking forward to explaining himself to the man.

Harry arrived at the Potions Master's office precisely at seven o'clock and immediately noticed that Snape had even more stacks of parchment piled on his desk than usual.

"Don't stand there, Potter," Snape said irritably as Harry hovered in front of his desk. "Sit down. Now that I have to teach Knight's lessons on top of my own, I have little time to waste."

Harry sat down and launched straight into the half-formulated apology he'd been rehearsing in his head. "Professor, I'm sorry. I had no idea Knight was the one who had killed those Death Eaters."

"Obviously," Snape said, making a note on the sheet of parchment in front of him. "However, that has no bearing either on my work or the reason you are here." Snape laid aside his quill, folded his hands on his desk and looked up. "Proceed, Potter, unless you've finally tired of wandering through my mind."

Harry stared at Snape. The man was perfectly composed, alert and waiting, but this wasn't at all what Harry had expected. Surely Snape was going to berate him for the trouble he'd caused. Surely he wasn't going to pretend it hadn't happened. As much as Harry had been dreading confessing the details of his stupidity to Snape, having the man ignore it entirely would be even worse.

"Well?" Snape said impatiently, breaking Harry's train of thought.

"You just want me to start?" Harry asked.

Snape raised an annoyed eyebrow at Harry. "That is your usual habit, is it not?"

"Yes, but…"

Snape scowled and Harry let out a deep breath. "Yes, sir." He sat forward in his chair and tried to focus as he looked into Snape's eyes. How can he look at me as if yesterday never happened? He can't have actually forgotten.

"I'm waiting, Potter."

"Sorry, sir."

Harry took a deep breath and forced himself to concentrate. A moment later he was standing on the familiar street outside the shop where Snape lived and worked.

It had been weeks since he'd been to the shop, but after Severus had foiled his last attempt to unmask the ominous, dark figure he'd been chasing, Harry had realized that as long as Snape was opposing him, he'd never succeed in discovering the importance of the mysterious figure. He needed Severus's cooperation or at least non-interference and that meant he needed a new strategy.

Harry stepped into the shop and found Snape hunched over his cauldron as usual. The young man looked up in surprise as Harry entered.

"What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be busy trying to find a way to uncover all of my secrets?"

"Right now I'd rather just talk to you, if that's all right?"

"I doubt this potion would interest you," Snape said dismissively.

"I don't want to talk about Potions."

Snape eyed Harry suspiciously. "What do you want to talk about?"

"Anything else. Come on, let's get out of here and go for a walk."

"I'm busy," Snape said coldly, turning his attention back to his potion.

"You're always busy, but whatever you're doing can wait. We both know that."

"I have nothing to talk about with you."

"Well, maybe we'll think of something."

Snape looked at Harry in exasperation. "I presume you're not going to take 'no' for an answer?"

"That's right. I'm not."

Snape shook his head in disgust, but he also turned down the heat under his cauldron. "Very well. Let's get this over with then."

He stalked out of the shop and Harry followed him. They started down the street and Snape said, "The truth. What is it you really want?"

"I told you. I just want to talk to you."

Snape smirked, clearly unconvinced. "All right, then talk."

Harry was stumped for a moment; he hadn't actually got that far in planning his new strategy. But he knew basically what he intended to do and cast about for some innocent topic to start with that wouldn't provoke Snape's suspicion any further.

"Do you go for walks very often?"

"Not particularly," Snape sneered. "Do you ask stupid questions very often?"

Harry ignored the barb. "I like walking."

"How nice," Snape said dryly.

"It's what I used to do when I was younger and had a row with my aunt and uncle. Since I had a row with them almost every day, I walked a lot."

"Why'd you have so many rows with them?"

"Mostly because they hated me."

"Why? Did you make them go for walks with you?"

"No. They got landed with me when my parents died and they were the sort of Muggles who didn't want anything to do with wizards. Of course, I didn't know that when I was little. I didn't know that I was a wizard at all until my letter arrived from Hogwarts. I just thought they hated me."

Snape looked at Harry in astonishment. "How could you not know that you were a wizard?"

"My aunt and uncle never told me. They thought if they kept it from me, they could stop me from becoming one, you see."

Snape scowled at the absurdity of such an idea. "What happened to your parents?"

"They were killed by a dark wizard when I was about a year old."

Harry could feel the young man next to him tense slightly. "I'm sorry," Snape said.

"Me too."

They walked in silence for a few moments before Harry spoke again. "My neighborhood was nicer than this, but it was just as empty. At least it felt that way to me. I had no friends at all. Everyone picked on me because I was strange and because sometimes I made odd things happen. My aunt and uncle always got especially angry at me for that. Sometimes they'd lock me in my cupboard for a week."

"Your cupboard?"

"Yeah. I slept in a cupboard under the stairs."

Snape looked at Harry as though certain Harry was having him on, but Harry's obvious forthrightness slowly seemed to convince the young man that Harry was telling the truth. He frowned and looked away as they continued down the street. They walked a block and then another and finally Snape broke the silence.

"At least you didn't get beaten by your own father."

Harry glanced at the young man, but Snape wasn't looking at him. "You're right;" Harry said. "I imagine that would be worse."

He waited a moment, but Snape made no further comment, so Harry prodded tentatively. "What about your mum? What was she like?"

Snape shrugged, still not looking at Harry. "She was all right. She died when I was young, though."

"What happened?"

Snape hesitated then answered in a tone that tried to sound indifferent, but didn't quite succeed. "She got sick and the Muggle doctors didn't know how cure her."

"What about St. Mungos?"

Snape was quiet for a long moment and when he spoke, his voice was very soft. "She was too ill to get herself there and my father didn't know how. He sent an owl to her family asking for help. I think it was the only time in his life he ever used one. We waited, but they never responded."

"Didn't they get the owl?"

"Of course they did!" Snape snapped, glaring at Harry as his calm demeanor vanished. "It came back without the letter. They just didn't care. Bunch of arrogant pure-bloods; they disowned my mother for marrying a Muggle and wouldn't have anything to do with us. They didn't even come to her funeral."

Snape looked away and took a deep breath, visibly reasserting control over his emotions. When he spoke again, it was in his usual calm voice. "I swore that day that I'd be a better wizard than any of them."

"I bet you are," Harry said truthfully. After a moment, he added, "At least you remember your mum, though. I don't remember my parents at all."

Snape looked at Harry and smiled bitterly. "That's the way life is. It isn't fair. Some people have everything, even if they don't deserve it, while others are left with nothing. The only thing you can ever really count on is yourself."

"You can count on your friends."

Snape raised a skeptical eyebrow. "I wouldn't know."

"You can count on me."

Snape looked appraisingly at Harry. "We'll see."

When Harry finally opened his eyes in Snape's office, he knew that he'd been in Snape's mind far longer than he ever had been before. Snape confirmed this a moment later as he glanced at the clock on his desk and did a double-take.

"Potter, it's nearly nine o'clock," Snape said in consternation. "What in Merlin's name have you been doing?"

"I'm sorry, Professor," Harry answered easily. "I never know what's going to happen and some things just take longer than others." He stood up and turned to go, but Snape spoke again and this time there was a mixture of surprise and suspicion in the man's voice.

"What did you do to me?"

Harry looked back at Snape in confusion. "What?"

Snape stood up, his fists clenching in fury. But it wasn't the anger that shocked Harry. It was the look of disgust in the man's eyes. "What did you do to me?"

"Nothing!" Harry answered truthfully. He and Severus had done nothing but talk.

Snape's lip curled in contempt. "Do you think I'm a fool, Potter? Just because I don't remember what you have done in my mind, doesn't mean that I can't feel the effects of your trespass. Now tell me what you did."

Harry stared at Snape helplessly, panic and confusion filling his mind. He'd done nothing to warrant this reaction from Snape and it made no sense. Severus had enjoyed their conversation. By the end, he'd seemed almost happy. He'd certainly been more relaxed and at ease than Harry had ever known him. So why was Snape acting as though he thought he'd somehow been violated? As if Harry had committed some despicable crime.

"Professor, I swear I haven't done anything to you," Harry said desperately. "I wouldn't."

Snape's eyes narrowed and Harry immediately felt the man's mind reach out to his. There was nothing gentle in the touch. Snape's furious indignation hit him with the force of a physical blow. Harry flinched, but he didn't try to pull away. He knew that would only incense Snape more and besides, he had nothing to hide. He'd done nothing wrong.

Snape's presence vanished from Harry's mind as quickly as it had appeared. The man's anger had subsided as well and he looked at Harry in bewilderment.

"I told you I hadn't done anything to you," Harry said indignantly.

"Apparently not," Snape conceded, looking away. "Very well, Potter; you may go."

Harry didn't move. "You haven't told me what's wrong. Why did you think that I'd –"

"It's of no consequence, Potter. It's probably just the effects of your protracted presence in my mind. I don't care what you're doing or how important you believe it to be. You cannot maintain the connection for such a length of time. If you do so again, I will put an end to these sessions. Is that understood?"

"Yes sir."

"Then go."

Harry left Snape's office, wondering if it really was the length of time he'd spent in the man's mind that had disturbed Snape so badly. He'd spent as much time studying with Dumbledore on at least one or two occasions and the old wizard hadn't seemed bothered at all. Of course that was Dumbledore. But, if prolonged contact with another wizard's mind could cause the sort of reaction he'd got from Snape, why hadn't Dumbledore warned him? Unless it was something specific to do with Snape. This wasn't the first time the man had seemed to be affected by one of Harry's forays into his mind.

Harry wished he knew what it was that Snape had sensed to rattle him so. It wasn't as though the session itself had been upsetting. Compared with Death Eater attacks or chasing dark, sinister figures, it had been uneventful – even pleasant.

His conversation with Severus had gone much better than Harry had hoped. He had only wanted to establish a rapport with Snape which he could then use to persuade the young man to allow him to pursue the dark figure unimpeded. But Severus had proved to be far more interesting to talk to than Harry had imagined. The young man had been cautious at first, making no secret of the fact that he suspected Harry's motives. But Harry had the benefit of knowing far more about Snape than Severus knew about him and he had spent enough years wheedling information out of people to know how to get his companion to talk.

Once Severus had let down his guard, the conversation had taken off remarkably. Snape's fleeting references to his childhood had captivated Harry's attention, but these quickly gave way to myriad other subjects: Hogwarts and their favorite subjects led to a discussion of the Dark Arts; the pure-blood prejudice and politics that had brought Voldemort to power; the co-existence of Muggles and wizards; the failings of the Ministry; even the frustrations of teaching. They had discussed all these and more and Harry had found Severus to be such interesting company that he hadn't even minded the young man's occasional passing reference to the "arrogant bullies" he'd had to put up with in school. Harry had been in no hurry to leave and so he'd stayed until the effort of maintaining the mental connection had become too much and he was forced to go. But how could something that had seemed so positive, so right, have caused Snape such distress?

Harry looked up from his reverie. He had let habit guide him while he pondered his session with Snape and discovered that he had arrived at the entrance to Dumbledore's office. He hurried past the gargoyle and up the moving, spiral staircase to find Dumbledore waiting for him as always. Harry immediately launched into an account of the nights events.

"I didn't mean to upset him so badly," Harry insisted. "I didn't realize that maintaining the connection for two hours would affect him that way."

Dumbledore stroked his beard and considered. "Actually, I do not believe that the problem was the length of time. There should have been no particular danger in that, so you may rest assured that you have done nothing wrong in that regard, Harry. Rather, I believe that it is what you did in his mind that caused Professor Snape's distress."

"But I didn't do anything!"

Dumbledore held up a hand to silence Harry's protest. "Of course you did. You had a long conversation with Severus, one which you both seem to have enjoyed thoroughly."

"Why should that be a problem?"

Dumbledore smiled sadly. "Do you recall, Harry, that I warned you not to say or do anything in Professor Snape's mind that you would not normally say or do in his presence?"

"Of course, but –"

"And can you imagine having the sort of conversation with Professor Snape that you had with Severus this evening?"

Harry looked away and shifted uneasily in his seat. "No."

"That is the problem. You think of Severus and Professor Snape as distinct individuals, Harry, and yet they are, in fact, one and the same person. Although neither may be aware of the other, each is affected by what the other experiences. You cannot seek to build trust with one while eschewing it with the other because Professor Snape can sense the emotional conflict even if he cannot identify its source."

"Then I might as well stop these sessions now, because I'm never going to be able to discover why that figure is important if I can't win at least a little of Severus's trust."

"I agree. You have little prospect of solving that mystery without Severus's cooperation."

"So you want me to quit?" Harry asked in disbelief.

Dumbledore smiled and his eyes twinkled as he looked at Harry over the rim of his glasses. "I did not say that. I merely said that your relationship with Professor Snape must remain roughly parallel to your relationship with Severus."

Harry stared at Dumbledore. "You can't be serious. You can't expect – Snape's about as approachable as a nesting dragon. There's no way I can form that kind of a relationship with him. He doesn't like me. He won't even talk to me."

"Professor Snape may not be the most affable of men, but from what you have told me, neither is Severus. I realize it is easier to reach out to a young man your own age than it is to take such initiative with your teacher who is old enough to be your father. Nevertheless, if you are seeking to earn Severus's trust, you must find a way to earn Professor Snape's as well. You have been doing rather the opposite, I fear."

Harry signed. "All right, sir. I'll try."

Harry left Dumbledore's office feeling thoroughly discouraged. Whatever trust had existed between Snape and him the year before had long since vanished and he had no idea how to rebuild it. How was he supposed to even begin when Snape routinely pretended that things hadn't happened and wouldn't even talk to him? Harry gritted his teeth. He knew the answer to that, of course. He'd have to goad Snape into talking to him just as he'd goaded Severus into doing so – and hope that his professor didn't give him a month's detention for insolence.

Harry slowed to a halt. He had once again let habit guide him and was nearly at Gryffindor Tower. It was late and the halls deserted. He knew that he should go up to his dormitory and leave these concerns for another day. But he had spent too much time worrying over Snape for one reason or another this year and he couldn't bear the thought of yet another day spent dreading another meeting with the man. He had to at least attempt to make some headway with his taciturn teacher.

With that decided, Harry turned around and headed back to the dungeons. Snape was still in his office marking essays and looked up in surprise as Harry arrived.

"Potter, what are you doing back here?"

"I need to talk to you, sir."

"It's rather late for that, Potter. Whatever you need to say can wait until tomorrow."

"No it can't. I told Dumbledore what happened earlier and he said that I needed to figure out what was wrong and fix it."

Snape raised an eyebrow at Harry. "Did he? And did he specify that it should be done tonight?"

"I need to do it tonight."

"Very well then, Potter. As I said earlier, your protracted presence in my mind was simply… unsettling. I'm certain you meant no harm and I'm confident you won't repeat the error. Therefore you may consider the matter resolved. There is no need to talk about it further."

"And what about last night? Is that something else we don't need to talk about?"

"As a matter of fact, it is," Snape answered smoothly. "And in any case, it has nothing to do with what occurred this evening."

"Actually, I think it does."

Snape frowned. "How so?"

"Do you remember last year when you told me you couldn't continue to teach me if I didn't trust you?"

Snape's eyes narrowed. "Yes."

"I think the same thing is true now. I think the reason you were – unsettled – tonight is because you don't trust me."

"A fascinating theory, Potter," Snape said sourly. "I'll be certain to give it due consideration." Snape turned his attention back to his work. "Now, I believe that you have taken up enough of my time, this evening. Return to your dormitory."


Snape looked up once more. His eyes glinted and when he spoke it was in a dangerously quiet voice. "What did you say?"

"I said, no. I'm not leaving. I can't do this anymore, Professor. Maybe you can push things aside and forget about them, but I can't and I can hardly stand to be in the same room with you anymore, it's getting so crowded with all of the things we don't talk about! I accused you of being a murderer last night. You can't pretend that didn't happen!"

"Potter, you were hardly alone in assuming that I was the Death Eater Vigilante."

"No I wasn't. But I'm the one who snuck around to spy on you. I'm the one who stupidly tipped Knight off to the fact that you were following her. I'm the one who gave her the evidence to use against you. Draco could have died and you –"

"Katrina Knight would not have succeeded in her plans even if you hadn't been present," Snape interrupted dismissively. "So spare me any foolish guilt on that account."

In another man, such a statement might have sounded boastful, but Snape said it with such matter of fact certainty that Harry had no doubt that it was true.

"As for the rest," Snape continued. "I'm used to being distrusted both by my enemies and allies alike. Those are the wages of being a spy. It's of no consequence to me."

"I don't believe that."

"You may believe what you like, Potter. That, too, is of no concern to me."

"Fine. Maybe you don't care. But I do."

"Why?" Snape asked in exasperation. "We both have far more pressing worries. What good do you imagine will come of belaboring this? Do you think I don't realize what happened?"

Snape's lip curled in contempt. "Moody told you I was the murderer and you believed him. He also persuaded you to spy on me; it was obviously you who broke into my rooms at headquarters last summer, which is where, I presume, you gathered your incriminating evidence against me. You bided your time until the moment was right, then passed that evidence to the person you believed to be Moody's agent. That you were mistaken is neither here nor there. As usual, luck was with you and there was no harm done. The only thing that astonishes me is that Moody had the shrewdness to recruit the one person I wouldn't have suspected to betray me."

Harry winced. "I didn't mean to betray you. I never intended to give those hairs to Moody, but when Faye Morgan's brother was killed, I had to do something."

"Of course," Snape sneered. "I should have realized you couldn't pass up an opportunity to play the hero. Tell me, Potter, why must it always be you? Why do you feel compelled to right every wrong regardless of whether or not you have the slightest inkling of what you're doing?"

"Because it was my fault! If I'd given Moody those hairs in the first place, Faye's brother never would have died. Or at least that's what I thought at the time."

"And why didn't you give them to him in the first place? You'd gone to enough trouble to bypass my wards."

Harry hesitated. The reason he'd given to Knight and that he'd told himself over and over was on the tip of his tongue: They were in the middle of a war and Snape was far too valuable to spend it sitting in Azkaban. It was a good reason, but Harry knew it wasn't really his reason.

"I just didn't want to believe it was true," he whispered. "What Moody said made so much sense – that after what Voldemort had done to you, you'd snapped. And you kept sneaking out of the house all the time. I thought it had to be you, but I didn't want to know; not for sure."

Snape stared at Harry in bewilderment. "Why not?"

Harry stared back at the man wondering if he really had forgotten everything they'd been through together the previous year. "Don't you know?"

Harry's eyes bored into Snape's searching for some recognition, some acknowledgement of the bond they had once shared. "Every night I went to bed wondering if you were going to be dead or in prison when I woke up. And every day I sat there in our lessons, wondering if you'd killed someone the night before and trying not to let on what I was thinking."

Snape's eyes widened slightly and this time Harry felt the familiar calm, controlled presence in his mind that he was used to. It was gone again a moment later and Snape stood up. He paced across the room, then turned back to look at Harry. "That was why you kept looking at me with such dread? Because you were convinced I was the killer?"

Harry nodded. "Yes."

Snape searched Harry's eyes once more, but this time he didn't reach out to Harry's mind. Nevertheless, he seemed to find the answer he was looking for. "All that time and worry," he murmured.

To Harry's astonishment, Snape seemed relieved – which Harry thought was strange under the circumstances. But then he'd never understood the man.

Snape came and stood in front of Harry, his eyes boring into Harry's as he spoke with quiet intensity. "Listen to me, Potter. I have and will kill when my life or the life of someone I am charged to protect depends upon it, or when it is necessary to the war we are fighting. You know that. But I am not a murderer. I do not kill out of hate or vengeance or for personal gain. Believe me, there would be dozens more graves littering the countryside if I did."

"Then why do you let people spread those sorts of rumors about you? You knew that Moody suspected you and that he was telling everyone you were the killer."

"How would you have suggested that I stop him? There was never any evidence that I was involved in the deaths. It was simply assumed. Must I provide an alibi every time a Death Eater, anywhere, dies under suspicious circumstances? Tell me, Potter, what would you have done in my place?"

Harry considered then admitted, "I'd have told them all to sod off."

Snape's mouth twitched. "Not particularly eloquent, but yes, that was essentially my position. People judge me as they will, Potter. They always have. I gave up trying to change their minds long ago."

"Well, I'm not going to be one of them any more, Professor. I give you my word on that."

"We'll see."

Harry looked sharply at Snape. The man was giving him the same frank, appraising look that Severus had only a few hours earlier which disconcerted Harry until he remembered Dumbledore's admonishment. Snape and Severus were one and the same person. They just didn't know it – which meant that Harry had to earn the trust of not one, but two of these acerbic, taciturn men. Brilliant!

"Goodnight Mr. Potter," Snape said, dismissing Harry.

Harry stifled a sigh and managed a wan smile in return. "Goodnight, sir."

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