Chapter 7: Moody's Mission
Harry slumped into his seat next to Ginny, picked up the paper and read the front page article.
While the details have not been confirmed, Harry Potter was the alleged target of a bold Death Eater attack on the streets of Muggle London yesterday. Ministry Aurors held twenty assailants at bay, eventually capturing eight. Potter, 17, was rumored to have killed the leader of the attack, Reginald McFarlane, a long-time supporter of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Potter's whereabouts have been a mystery since he left Hogwarts at the end of last term, shortly after the Victory at Hogsmeade...
Harry tossed the paper aside. "Great! Now the whole world knows that I killed that Death Eater."
"Well, it's not as if anyone's going to blame you," Ron said, gesturing at the discarded paper with his fork. "You're a bloody hero, according to the Prophet."
"I don't feel like a hero."
Ron, Hermione and Ginny exchanged uncomfortable glances.
"Harry, there's an entire article on McFarlane," Ginny said. "He was a pretty nasty character by all accounts, so even if you hadn't been fighting for your life, I'd say you did the world a favor. You've no reason to feel guilty!"
Harry looked at Ginny and smiled. "I know. It just takes a little getting used to, that's all. Besides, I've always hated reading about myself in the paper."
"You know what those reporters are like," Hermione sniffed indignantly. "They leap at any chance they get to use your name."
"Yeah, be grateful they don't know where you are," Ron said. "You'd never have a moment's peace. They'd be hounding you for an interview day and night."
Harry laughed at that. "I think I'd rather face Death Eaters."
Harry ate and chatted with his friends and his good humor was thoroughly restored by the time they headed back upstairs. In the entrance hall they met Moody.
"There you are, Potter," the old Auror said. "I need a word with you. Alone."
Harry was surprised by Moody's request; the Auror had mostly ignored him in the past. Curious, Harry shrugged at his friends who continued upstairs without him. Moody watched them until they'd disappeared down the first floor hallway, then looked around the entrance hall as if to ensure that no one was spying on them.
"I can't talk for very long," Harry said. "Professor Snape's expecting me for my lesson."
"Snape's not here," Moody said. "He's away on a job for Dumbledore."
Harry frowned. He'd only talked to Snape a few hours earlier and his teacher hadn't said anything about being away. In fact, he had specifically said that he expected Harry to attend his lesson. That meant Dumbledore must have called him away unexpectedly. Harry couldn't decide if that was a good sign or bad.
With a final glance over his shoulder, Moody motioned Harry towards the library. "In here."
Harry followed the man into the library and Moody shut the door.
"So what is it you want to talk to me about?" Harry asked.
"I hear you want to be an Auror."
"Do you think you've got what it takes?"
Harry bristled at the question. "Yeah, I've got what it takes. I've faced Voldemort and his Death Eaters which is more than most can say."
Moody chuckled. "I wasn't calling you a coward, Potter. You've got the guts. I know that. And you're a damn good fighter, too. You did well yesterday. But it takes more than that to be an Auror. An Auror has to put the law first and you have a penchant for rule breaking."
Moody pointed an accusatory finger at Harry. "I'm asking you, Potter. Can you put the law above your own judgment, above your own personal feelings?"
"I – of course I can," Harry said, taken aback by the older man's intensity.
"Be certain. Because if you can't you'll do more harm than good."
"I'm certain," Harry said firmly.
"Humph," Moody snorted. "Since the last week of June, five Death Eaters have died." He held up his right hand, fingers spread to emphasize the point. "Five. All under unusual circumstances.
"The first man turned up dead in Knockturn Ally. It happens. A shady deal turns sour or someone crosses someone else. But it doesn't happen to a Death Eater. They're given a wide berth, believe me, because no one wants to antagonize You-Know-Who.
"A week later, a man was found dead in his flat. His own wand proved to be the murder weapon and it was ruled suicide by the Ministry.
"Another man died two weeks ago when he was struck by a Muggle motorist and killed. Two Aurors posing as Muggle policemen interviewed the motorist and several other witnesses. All said that the driver wasn't at fault and that the victim seemed to appear out of nowhere right in the middle of the road. The Ministry's calling that one an Apparating accident."
"Wait, I read about that in the Daily Prophet," Harry said, frowning in concentration. "Vincent Howard was his name."
"Very good, Potter. Not many people would have caught that buried among all the news of the war. The other deaths I mentioned got no better coverage, believe me."
"But why should they have done? They were just random deaths. They weren't connected with the war or Voldemort. Whoever killed the man in Knockturn Alley probably didn't know he was a Death Eater. It's not the sort of thing you go about advertising, is it? Suicide isn't unheard of and neither are Apparating accidents."
"So it was all just coincidence, was it? Is that what you believe?"
Harry shrugged. "What else?"
Moody pursed his lips and paced across the floor. "Well, you're in good company. As it so happens, most of my colleagues and the rest of the Ministry agree with you. But you – and they – are wrong. Everyone else may be ready to overlook these deaths, but I don't believe in coincidence and I don't for a minute believe they were random. I think they were murder."
Harry stared at Moody, nonplussed. "You're joking."
"Two nights ago two more men died. Got into a row and killed each other - at least that's how it was meant to look. But if you'd been in as many fights as I have and seen the condition they were in, you'd know it's not possible."
Harry frowned. He had to admit that the odds of two men killing each other in a fight couldn't be high and five Death Eaters dead in as many weeks was suspicious, but still… "I don't see how these deaths could have even been related, let alone murder."
"You're familiar with the effects of the Imperius Curse, aren't you?"
"Well, there's a reason why it's classified as Unforgivable. You can make someone fight to the death, kill a friend, Apparate in front of an oncoming car, even turn his own wand on himself. And unless you're caught in the act, there's absolutely no way to prove you did it."
Harry shivered. "You think someone used the Imperius Curse to kill those Death Eaters?
"I do and I've got a good idea of who it is."
Harry's jaw dropped and he gaped at Moody in disbelief. "You're mad."
"Am I? He certainly has the motive."
"He's not a murderer!"
"Really? You're sure of that?"
Harry shifted uncomfortably and tried a different tack. "Look," he said in a calm, reasonable tone. "You don't know that these deaths were murder, and even if they were, Snape couldn't be responsible. He was at Hogwarts until the end of term and he's been here ever since."
"Merlin's beard, boy, think! All he has to do is walk out the front door and he can Apparate anywhere in Britain, like that." Moody snapped his fingers. "An hour later he's back in bed and no one the wiser. These deaths have the mark of a wizard who's an expert at both Dark Magic and covert operations. And I can't think of many who'd be targeting Death Eaters."
Harry looked away. As much as he didn't want to believe Moody, Harry had to admit that the Auror's reasoning was sound. Besides, he knew better than anyone how often Snape slipped out of the house in the night. Could the man really have been going to commit murder? It seemed preposterous that Snape could be teaching him Potions during the day and killing people at night. The very thought made Harry feel rather sick.
"Why are you telling me this?" Harry asked.
"Because I need your help."
"My help?" Harry asked incredulously. "What can I do?"
"You're studying Potions with Snape, aren't you?"
"Yes." Harry nodded, wondering why that would matter.
"So I imagine you're spending a fair bit of time with him up in that lab of his."
"I suppose so," Harry answered guardedly as an uncomfortable suspicion of where this line of questioning was going began to form in his mind.
"How are you two getting on?"
Harry gritted his teeth. "Well enough."
Moody nodded, seemingly satisfied. "Good."
"You can't expect me to spy on him?"
"I can and I do. I have physical evidence from the scene of one of the crimes, but I need something from Snape to match it against – hair, fingernails, a few drops of blood."
Harry stared at Moody. "What!"
"It shouldn't be that hard," Moody said, waving a dismissive hand.
"I won't do it! I'm not going to sneak around trying to get evidence against him."
"Because –" Harry hesitated, unable to put his feelings into words. "He's my teacher."
"Oh come on, Potter! At least make up a better excuse than that."
Harry scowled. "If you've got blood or something why don't you just use Fred and George's Sniffer Charm?"
Moody shook his head. "That's a clever spell, but it's simplistic. It certainly wouldn't be able to penetrate all of the wards on this place." Moody waved his hand to indicate the house around them. "And it can be blocked like any other tracking charm once the target's onto it. I actually tried the spell when I was here last week, but it was no good, so Snape's obviously taken precautions against it."
"Or maybe you've just got the wrong man."
"There's only one way to find out."
Harry bit his lip. "You tried to get Remus to do this, didn't you?" he said accusingly. The conversations he'd overheard between the two men suddenly made sense. Moody hadn't been urging Remus to spy on him. It was Snape he had wanted Remus to watch. "He refused, so why should I do it?"
"Lupin isn't an Auror and he doesn't have any aspirations to be one. Do you want to be an Auror or not?"
"Of course I do!"
"Then you need to start thinking and acting like one. An Auror works for justice and he doesn't turn a blind eye to a crime just because the victim deserved what he got or because the perpetrator happens to be his teacher. You just told me that you could put the law above your own judgment and feelings. Have you changed your mind already?"
"No," Harry answered miserably.
"Potter, listen to me. If Snape is committing murder, he needs to be stopped. And if he's not then no harm done. You could be the one to exonerate him."
Harry couldn't argue with Moody there. If Snape was innocent, wasn't it worth proving? Surely there was no harm in that. Harry supposed that Aurors had to do some less than pleasant things in order to see justice done. He bit his lip and nodded reluctantly. "All right, I'll see what I can do."
"Good man," Moody said, clapping him on the back. "Make certain you don't let on to anyone what you're doing. We wouldn't want Snape to get wind of it. Understand?"
Harry grimaced. "Yes."
The Auror opened the door and surveyed the entrance hall warily then looked back at Harry. "You're doing the right thing, Potter," Moody assured him, then limped away.
Harry watched Moody leave the house, trying to convince himself that the old Auror was right. But he couldn't help wondering as he watched the man go, if he was doing the right thing, why did it feel so wrong?
The next morning Harry quickly scanned the obituaries in the Daily Prophet wondering if any of the people who had died the previous day might have been a Death Eater. He didn't think so. The two wizards and witch listed had been elderly, had apparently died of natural causes, and each had a brief but glowing testimonial written about them.
Relieved, Harry laid the paper aside and took another bite of toast as Snape swept into the room and took his accustomed seat at the far end of the table. He was flipping through the yellowed pages of a battered book and paying no attention to anyone else at the table as usual. Harry, however, couldn't help watching the man. He couldn't put Moody's accusations out of his mind and considered that this was one time when he truly would have preferred to have been kept in the dark. As it was, Harry had laid awake most of the night struggling alternately with dread that Snape might be out murdering someone and ambivalence at his own promise to help catch him at it.
Harry knew that Snape was capable of killing, of course. Harry personally knew of six Death Eaters his teacher had killed only months before. But that was different. The Death Eaters had attacked them and Snape had had no choice but to kill them in order to protect his position as a spy for Dumbledore. Going out of his way to hunt down Death Eaters who posed no immediate threat was something else entirely. It was the difference between war and cold-blooded murder.
Harry felt a poke in his ribs and looked around. Ginny was staring quizzically at him.
"What's wrong?" she whispered with a meaningful glance at Snape.
"Nothing." Harry tried to appear nonchalant, but Ginny didn't look convinced.
"So what shall we do today?" Ron asked. "Chess? Exploding Snap?"
"You need to finish your homework," Hermione said. "You haven't even started Professor Sprout's essay."
Ron ignored her and addressed Harry. "I got the latest Quidditch magazines yesterday."
"Today Mr. Potter has to make up the Potions lesson he missed on Thursday," Snape said, making all of them jump. He looked up at Harry with a smirk. "I trust you haven't forgotten that, Potter?"
Harry had, but he wasn't about to say so. "Of course not."
"Then I'll see you in the lab in ten minutes." Snape rose and left the kitchen.
"Git!" Ron said indignantly. "You'd think he could give you a break after all you've been through."
"Now, Ron," Ginny said with mock earnestness. "Obviously Snape just enjoys Harry's company so much he can't bear to go more than a day or two without it."
Harry rolled his eyes at that. "Unfortunately the feeling isn't mutual. I'd better get up there, though, before he thinks up a reason to give me another lesson tomorrow."
Harry headed for the lab wishing that he could be doing anything else. It wasn't the lesson that he dreaded so much as being with a man who might very well be a murderer. Suddenly Snape's words from the other night came back to him.
"Murder is a selfish, wanton act prompted by the murderer's own darkest desires. You aren't a murderer, Potter, and no matter how many times you may be forced to kill, you never will be. I know your mind well enough to know that."
It occurred to Harry that Snape had sounded awfully knowledgeable about murder. He tried to dispel that thought as he entered the Potions lab and sat down at his work bench. Snape began lecturing before he had even settled onto his stool.
"There are many potions whose effects, if produced by a spell, would be classified as Dark Magic," Snape began. "Poisons are the obvious examples of these. While not all poisons are deadly, all have undesirable physical effects upon those who ingest them."
Without meaning to, Harry ran down his mental list of the Death Eaters who had been killed. None had been poisoned, but that didn't really tell him anything about Snape's guilt or innocence.
"However, even more insidious are the numerous potions which ensnare the mind," Snape continued. "The most familiar of these are love potions. While the overwhelming majority of these are no more than wishful thinking and old wives' tales, there are one or two brews that are indeed effective at besotting the heart.
"The most serious of the mind-controlling potions is the Imperius Potion. It acts much like the Imperius Curse, subjugating the victim's reason and will to the potion-maker's commands. But unlike the curse, the potion cannot be fought. Once ingested, the victim will be the slave of the master for one hour unless an antidote is administered.
"Closely related to the potions that bewitch the mind, though generally more benign, are those capable of altering one's mood…"
Snape's comments on mood-altering potions were lost on Harry. The Imperius Potion sounded as though it could have come in very handy in murdering the Death Eaters. It wasn't as convenient as the Imperius Curse, but it was certain and Harry wondered how Snape might have maneuvered each of the victims into taking it.
"Potter, are you paying attention?"
Harry looked up at Snape, abashed. "Sorry, sir."
Snape scowled. "Since you obviously don't feel the need for my instruction," Snape drawled, "I'll leave it to you to brew the antidote to the Doldrums Potion on your own."
Snape turned away and strode over to his work bench where he began tending the potion simmering there. Harry turned his attention to his own empty cauldron and the array of potions ingredients in front of him, but as he set about the day's work he couldn't keep from casting furtive glances at Snape. Harry wondered what would happen to the man if he did turn out to have murdered the Death Eaters. He'd surely be sacked. Would he be sent to Azkaban? If so, what would that mean to the Order and their efforts to fight Voldemort?
"Potter, you're never going to finish that potion if you spend all of your time watching me," Snape commented irritably as he scribbled in his notebook.
Harry started and looked away, then glanced sheepishly back at Snape again. The man was now regarding him impatiently.
"Well, what is it?"
"Nothing," Harry said. He hesitated a moment then continued. "I was just wondering… you said there are a lot of potions that are the same as Dark Magic – poisons and so forth. Does that mean that only a Dark wizard would use them?"
Snape looked slightly taken aback as though surprised that Harry cared enough about his lesson to pose a question. "Potions are not like spells, Potter. They don't require intent either in preparation or use, so anyone with the requisite skill could prepare and use them."
"But would they? Would anyone other than a Dark wizard use the Imperius Potion for instance?"
Snape shrugged and turned his attention back to his cauldron. "It's difficult to say what people will do, particularly when in desperate straits."
"Would you use them?"
Snape looked sharply back at Harry. His eyes flashed, then narrowed shrewdly. Harry kept his face as impassive as possible and forced himself not to look away, but he used Occlumency to guard his thoughts from Snape's penetrating gaze. At last the man spoke.
"Under some circumstances, yes, I'd use them."
Harry's heart sank. "So you're saying the ends justify the means?"
"What I'm saying is that the Aurors have been given carte blanche to use the Unforgivable Curses. These potions are no worse."
"But if we use the same tactics as our enemies, doesn't that make us just as bad as them? If we're willing to use any means to achieve our goals, how can we claim to be any better than those we're fighting?"
Harry stopped. Snape was standing very still and regarding him with the same closed expression he'd worn two nights before when Harry had called him an expert on guilt.
"Given that some would consider spying on an enemy less than honorable," Snape said in a careful tone that betrayed no emotion, "I would say the answer to that question depends a good deal on one's opinion. Every situation is unique, so sweeping generalities are less than useful. Unless, of course, you have something specific in mind?"
Harry's mouth was dry. "No," he whispered, not meeting Snape's eyes.
"Then I suggest you concentrate on your potion." Snape returned to his work and Harry, not daring to look at his teacher again, did the same.
Snape added a strand of unicorn hair to his cauldron and glanced over at Potter. The boy had been hard at work for the last fifteen minutes and was obviously trying to avoid drawing any attention to himself. Snape smirked. Regardless of the fact that Potter had become relatively competent at Occlumency, he had never learnt to hide his feelings and the emotional turmoil raging within him now was easily visible on his face.
Not that Snape even needed that cue to guess what was on Potter's mind. Between the boy's pointed barb about his guilt the last time they'd spoken and earnest outrage over his less than pure ethical standards now, that was obvious enough. Apparently, the debacle in London had jolted Potter into taking a long hard look at what he could and could not condone as acceptable behavior, not only in himself but in others as well and perhaps most particularly in his Potions Master.
Whatever the catalyst, though, Potter's opinion of him was crystal clear. The mixture of dread and disgust in those green eyes every time the boy had glanced his way had been unmistakable and since Snape had done nothing to the boy to warrant such a reaction, he was positive that it could only mean one thing: Potter had reconsidered the naïve absolution he had so rashly bestowed upon his teacher at the end of term and changed his mind.
It was about time.
Some things couldn't be forgiven, certainly not as easily and completely as Potter had pretended they could be. Snape had always known the charade couldn't last. The boy had to come to his senses eventually and Snape was actually relieved that it had finally happened. Keeping Potter at arm's length the last month had been exhausting.
The first two weeks of summer in particular, the boy had been tenacious in trying to engage him in conversation, apparently operating under the misguided assumption that being away from school should imply a more relaxed and personal relationship with his teacher. After a couple of weeks of frigid responses from Snape, however, Potter had seemed to finally realize that this teacher didn't welcome these overtures. Unfortunately, this hadn't improved matters. Potter had given up attempts at conversation and had subsided into sulking, which was even worse. As Lupin had so eloquently pointed out, the boy's disappointment was obvious, and it infuriated Snape.
It was his job to protect Potter with the expectation that the boy would be pivotal in bringing about the Dark Lord's downfall. That was the only thing that mattered to Snape and he had been honest with Potter about the lengths to which he would go. He would do whatever it took to see that evil vanquished, even endure Potter himself.
But that was a far cry from befriending the boy. He certainly had never promised to do that. The very notion was ludicrous! Snape could think of few things he wanted less than a closer relationship with Harry Potter, especially after that hideous afternoon when he had been forced to bare his soul to the child. How could the obtuse boy not have understood that?
Snape glanced at his student once more and a bitter smile touched his lips. Perhaps Potter finally understood now. He certainly seemed to be finding his teacher's company every bit as disturbing as Snape found his and Potter's resulting unsociability suited Snape just fine. The less personal interaction with Potter he had to deal with, the better he could concentrate on their shared goal of defeating the Dark Lord. With a final brief sneer Snape turned back to his potion, feeling at ease for the first time since the Victory at Hogsmeade.
The next few days were some of the worst Harry had endured at Grimmauld Place. To start with, it had quickly become apparent that gathering the evidence Moody wanted was not going to be as easy as the old Auror believed. Snape kept the Potions lab and storeroom pristine. Neither held so much as a large speck of dust let alone blood, hair or fingernail clippings. Snape also kept no personal effects around the house; he didn't even hang his traveling cloak in the entrance hall. Instead, he kept everything in either his bedroom or office, both of which were always locked and undoubtedly warded. Even at the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, Snape didn't seem to trust anyone.
Harry's Potions lessons weren't going well either. If the lessons had been unpleasant before, they were grueling now. He found it very hard to concentrate when he was with Snape and knew that his work was suffering for it. Harry's biggest worry, though, was Snape himself.
It might have been just his guilty conscience, but Harry was sure that Snape suspected something. Harry didn't think that the man had used Legilimency against him; nevertheless, Snape had taken to smirking contemptuously at him and there were moments when Harry was certain that Snape must have caught him out somehow and knew exactly what he was up to. What disturbed Harry most, however, was that Snape didn't appear to be at all concerned. Rather, he seemed almost satisfied. Was Snape that confident that no one would ever be able to prove his guilt? Or did he just enjoy watching Harry squirm during his lessons?
Harry put those worries aside as he opened the morning paper and began to turn to the Obituaries page. Before he reached it however, a small article at the bottom of an inside page caught his attention.
Death Eater Victim of Muggle Killers
In what appears to have been a case of poetic justice, Ophelia Brosnan, 42, a known Death Eater who has long been sought by the Ministry of Magic, was stabbed to death yesterday evening in an alley in the East End of London, presumably a victim of Muggle brigands. The body was discovered by Muggles and investigated by the Muggle authorities before the Aurors arrived on the scene, therefore details of the murder are sketchy. There were no witnesses. The only information the Aurors could provide this reporter was that Brosnan had been viciously stabbed and robbed, though what use Muggle thieves might make of galleons, sickles and knuts is unknown…
Harry stared at the article. He wanted very much to believe that Muggles had attacked Ophelia Brosnan, but something told him that wasn't the case. This sounded entirely too much like the other Death Eater fatalities: unusual, but easy enough to dismiss if one discounted the fact that this was now the sixth Death Eater to turn up dead in under two months.
"What are you reading, Harry?" Ginny asked, glancing over at the paper.
"Nothing!" Harry closed the paper a little too quickly.
Ginny stared at him incredulously, but then looked up at the sound of the kitchen door opening. Her expression shifted to one of surprise and joy. "Dad!"
Ginny stood up to greet her father who had just entered the kitchen along with Remus and Tonks. Harry, Ron and Ginny stood up as well. Mr. Weasley hugged his daughter affectionately and did the same for Hermione. Then he patted both Ron and Harry on the back.
"What are you doing here, Dad?" Ron asked. "I thought you were swamped at the Ministry."
"I am, but I needed to see Remus and thought I'd stop in to see all of you."
"Have some breakfast, Arthur," Remus offered and they all sat down.
Mr. Weasley took a sip of the tea that appeared next to him then turned to Harry. Despite his smile, his brow was furrowed in a slight frown of worry. "You all right, Harry?"
"Yes, sir. I'm fine."
"You caused quite a stir at the Ministry last week."
Harry felt himself blush slightly, acutely aware that he had been responsible for endangering Ginny and Ron yet again. "I'm sorry. I suppose I should have known –"
"Harry, I'm not blaming you," Mr. Weasley interrupted with a dismissive gesture. "It wasn't your fault. But you need to understand that you're making certain people at the Ministry – powerful people – rather nervous."
"What's that supposed to mean, 'nervous'?" Ron asked.
"They consider Harry to be a risk," Remus said bluntly. "And events like the one a few days ago only bolster that impression."
Mr. Weasley sighed. "Yes, Ian Day had a fit."
"Who's he?" Ron asked.
"He's the director of the Department of Public Security."
Ginny frowned. "I've never heard of that department."
"I don't imagine you have," Mr. Weasley said. "It was set up last year to identify security risks and coordinate our defenses in light of You-Know-Who's return. It worked well at first, but they've begun to overstep their bounds in the last few months since Day took over. He's got a hand in everywhere now, even in Misuse of Muggle Artifacts."
"He's been trying to get control over the Aurors," Tonks interjected with uncharacteristic seriousness. "He wants to bring us under his department to 'better coordinate security operations'. A load of hogwash – he just wants the power the Aurors would give him. Our heads have been fighting him, of course, but he's a cunning one and knows how to maneuver to get what he wants."
"And he has his sights set squarely on you," Mr. Weasley said with a meaningful look at Harry.
"Probably because everyone thinks you're the key to Voldemort's defeat," Remus answered with a wry smile. "Anyone who's after power would be interested in that."
"Is he the one who insisted that I couldn't go out all summer?" Harry guessed.
Mr. Weasley nodded. "That's right, but you need to understand that there is more at stake here for you, for all of us, than inconvenience. After the attack in London, Day was openly calling for you to be taken into protective custody."
"What?" Ginny exclaimed. "You mean arrest Harry?"
"They can't do that!" Hermione said in outrage. "Harry hasn't done anything wrong!"
Mr. Weasley held up a hand to silence the protests. He sounded very weary. "Right now, I think Day could do almost anything he wants. That's why you have to be careful, Harry. Most of the people who count at the Ministry aren't taking Day's alarmist ideas seriously at the moment because you're going back to Hogwarts soon and everyone thinks that's the safest place for you. But any more public debacles like the one last week, especially after you're back at school, could be disastrous. You mustn't give him an excuse to act against you."
All eyes turned to Harry. He stared back at them then shrugged. "I'll do what I can."
"Is that all you have to say?" Hermione asked shrilly, still incensed.
"What else is there to say?" Harry snapped. "I'll do my best to avoid battling Voldemort or his Death Eaters in the streets, but I can't very well guarantee that won't happen. I can't hide under a rock. We're at war and I have to do my part to fight it. If I'm not going to let Voldemort stop me, then I'm certainly not going to let some idiot at the Ministry scare me."
Harry looked at Mr. Weasley. "Not that I don't appreciate the warning. I do."
"As long as you know the risk," Mr. Weasley said. "Well, I'd better be getting back."
Mr. Weasley drank the last of his tea, kissed Ginny on the forehead and with a nod to everyone else left.
"As if we don't have enough trouble," Ron complained. "The Ministry are mad."
"Voldemort has everyone panicked," Remus said with a sad shake of his head. "But I don't think you have to worry too much about Day at the moment, Harry. Dumbledore's at the Ministry weekly to ensure that cooler heads continue to prevail."
"That's good, because I have plenty of other things to worry about." Harry glanced at the clock. "Such as Potions lessons." He shoved half a piece of toast in his mouth and hurried out of the kitchen, but Moody intercepted him in the entrance hall. The Auror took Harry's arm and wordlessly pulled him into the dining room, shutting the door behind them.
Harry hadn't been looking forward to this meeting. "It's no good. I haven't found anything that you could use."
Moody scowled. "Potter, this isn't optional. Another Death Eater died last night."
"I know! I saw the paper. But hair, blood and fingernails aren't the sorts of things you find lying around just anywhere. What do you expect me to do, snip a lock of his hair when he's not looking?"
Moody grimaced, but grunted in grudging acknowledgement. However Harry's hopes that the Auror would abandon this mission were immediately dashed. "You'll have to check his bedroom, then."
"You expect me to sneak into his bedroom?" Harry gaped at Moody in disbelief. "If he found out, he'd kill me!"
"Listen to me, Snape almost never tells anyone exactly when or how he meets with the Death Eaters, though we know he has to be making contact with them at least once a week. But I happen to know that tonight he has something set up that should keep him out of the house for over an hour."
Harry frowned at the Auror in surprise. "How do you know that?"
Moody smiled lopsidedly. "Even Snape can't keep everything he does a secret. All you have to do is watch for him to leave the house. When he does, you should have more than enough time to slip into his room and find what you're looking for."
"That's assuming he doesn't have any nasty wards that will turn my hair white or make me break out in boils. How will I explain that?"
"Don't worry. I know a thing or two about wards. You go up to your lesson and make sure Snape stays busy. I'll have a look at the door to his room and let you know what spells he has in place and how to get past them. And remember, Potter - constant vigilance."
Moody pulled open the door, automatically surveyed the entrance hall, then motioned for Harry to leave. Harry left, feeling thoroughly disgruntled, but as he headed upstairs his annoyance with Moody gave way to trepidation at seeing Snape. Thoughts of Brosnan brought back his own memory of McFarlane's bloody death. Had Brosnan bled to death in another London alley? Had Snape surprised her in the dark and killed her or had he used the Imperius curse to subdue her? Maybe he had used Imperio to make her stab herself? That thought sent a shudder through Harry. He felt sick, but another emotion was rapidly overtaking his horror: anger.
What was Snape thinking? Was he completely mad? Didn't they have enough to worry about without him jeopardizing his work for the Order as well as the fight against Voldemort with such reckless, unconscionable acts? Harry knew better than anyone what Snape had suffered at Voldemort's hands, but vengeance and murder weren't the answer and with each step he climbed, he became more furious with Snape for not realizing that. He was also furious at being caught in the impossible position of knowing what Snape was doing and being unable to confront him about it. At this rate, if Snape didn't manage to get himself killed spying on the Death Eaters he was going to wind up in prison for killing them.
Well, he'd probably rather be dead or in prison than help me anyway! Harry thought sourly.
He'd arrived at the Potions lab and took a moment to close his mind and compose himself. Moody needed time to investigate Snape's wards and it wouldn't do for Harry to give Snape any more reason to be suspicious than he already had. It suddenly occurred to Harry how ironic it was that he was using the very skills Snape had taught him to deceive the man and immediately felt a sharp stab of guilt. He shook his head, impatient with himself. Snape was lying to everyone, too, and was guilty of far worse as well. Besides, an Auror couldn't let his feelings get in the way of his duty. Moody had said so and surely he knew what he was talking about. With that thought firmly in mind, Harry took a deep breath and went into the lab
Harry's Potions lesson went better than he could have hoped. Snape was starting the month's batch of Wolfsbane potion and between that and his usual work he had no time for Harry. After a few brief reminders about the day's Potion, he left Harry to his work and ignored him entirely. As a result, Harry's mood was much restored by the time he came downstairs and spotted Moody lurking in the library pretending to be searching through a stack of books. Moody was alone so Harry glanced around to ensure that no one was watching him and stepped into the library.
"Anything I can help you find?" Harry asked with a slight smirk.
"Possibly." Moody handed a book to Harry. "See if that's got anything in it about wards that work against Giants."
Harry flipped through the book until he found a piece of parchment with a list of charms and their countercharms written in a surprisingly flowing script. Harry perused the list then slipped it into his pocket. "Sorry, nothing here."
"Ah well, just a thought." Moody began replacing the books on the shelves and Harry went to help him.
"What do you want me to do once I have it?" he asked quietly.
"Just keep it safe. I'll come by tomorrow evening to pick it up. And make sure you don't forget to reset the wards when you're done or Snape will know someone's been in his room."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Believe me, I won't forget. I don't want Snape to know…" Harry trailed off and Moody started to turn away, but Harry reached out a hand to stop him.
"What will happen to him?"
The old Auror hesitated and for the first time Harry saw a flicker of sympathy in Moody's good eye. "That's up to the Ministry," he said gently.
"But you know. You must."
"The Ministry is unpredictable these days. I wouldn't venture to guess what their ruling will be and neither should you. It's our job to prevent crimes, not to pass judgment. Stay focused on your job, Potter."
Harry nodded unhappily and Moody laid a hand on his shoulder. "Good luck."
Moody left and Harry sat down on the sofa feeling the same uncertainty he had the first time he'd promised to spy on Snape for Moody. He couldn't help worrying about Snape's fate. Harry's own experiences with the Ministry's justice system had never inspired much trust and after Mr. Weasley's warning at breakfast, he had none at all. Moody's comment about the Ministry being 'unpredictable' hadn't helped either. Harry sighed in exasperation. He couldn't worry about the Ministry on top of everything else. I know I'm doing the right thing helping Moody, Harry told himself. But the voice in his head didn't sound terribly convinced.