Chapter 9: What Seeds are Sown
Snape didn't like Lupin. He had numerous reasons for this, chief among them Lupin's friendship with James Potter and Sirius Black. The man's incessantly pleasant personality also grated on Snape's nerves. Then there was the matter of Lupin's Lycanthropy. Snape, like most wizards, had an instinctive distrust of Dark Creatures and the fact that Lupin would have mindlessly killed him without hesitation when they were sixteen had James Potter not prevented it was not something easily forgotten.
Nevertheless, Snape did have to grudgingly admit that that incident hadn't really been Lupin's fault. Nor could he deny that Lupin had proved his trustworthiness beyond doubt in the last several years. In fact, if Snape was entirely honest with himself, what galled him wasn't that the man was a werewolf per se, but rather that he was a well-liked werewolf.
Everyone who knew Remus Lupin thought highly of him despite the fact that he turned into a murderous beast once a month. And what he and Nymphadora got up to when they were alone did not bear thinking about. By contrast, no one thought well of Snape. He was tolerated and occasionally grudgingly respected for his usefulness, but no one liked him.
Though Snape would have suffered Cruciatus rather than admit it, he bitterly resented Lupin for achieving what had eluded him his whole life. The one thing that made this bearable was the power he held over Lupin in the form of the Wolfsbane potion. Lupin, for all his friends, needed Severus Snape and that gave Snape his edge of superiority – an advantage he was about to put to good use.
Snape rapped sharply on Lupin's study door then pushed it open and walked in without waiting for an acknowledgement.
Lupin was leafing through a stack of parchment as Snape entered and he looked up in surprise. "Severus? Is something wrong?"
"You might say that." Snape closed the door, folded his arms and fixed the other man with his most self-assured sneer. "You might also explain what you were doing in my office last night."
Remus frowned. "What?"
"Did you think I wouldn't know? Did you think you could slip past my wards undetected?
"Severus, I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Don't play innocent. That was old when we were in school."
"So was your penchant for expecting the worst of everyone. Would you mind at least explaining what you think I've done?"
Snape favored Lupin with a coldly accusing stare. "Someone circumvented my wards and entered my office while I was out last night."
Lupin's eyes widened in alarm. "You can't be serious."
Snape stepped forward to tower over the other man. "Don't play games with me. You were the only one here. Was it Moody who put you up to it? Did you finally decide to go along with his vendetta against me in order to remain in his good graces? That's poor payment for my efforts in preventing you from turning into a mindless beast once a month, don't you think?"
Lupin paled, then flushed scarlet and jumped to his feet. His voice was as angry and indignant as Snape's. "If you know about Moody's suspicions then you must also know that I have never supported them and I certainly wouldn't stoop to snooping around your office!"
"How very honorable. And you expect me to believe that?"
"I'm telling you the truth, Severus! Aren't you a competent enough Legilimens to know that?"
"I don't trust even Legilimency to penetrate the mind of a werewolf, and I will never trust you."
"Most people would never trust a reformed Death Eater, either. So where does that leave us?"
The two men glared at one another and Snape felt the shadow of a doubt cross his mind. If this was an act, it was a good one and despite the fact that he loathed Lupin he had to admit that breaking into his office didn't seem the werewolf's style.
"If you weren't in my office then who was? Are you claiming that someone came into the house, broke into my rooms then left without your noticing? Incompetence makes a rather pathetic defense, don't you think?"
"I was awaiting word from Dumbledore, not guarding the front door or patrolling the halls," Lupin said testily. He ran a hand through his graying hair and sighed. "Are you sure someone was in your office?"
"Don't be insulting! Of course I'm sure!"
Lupin sighed again and paced across the room. When he turned back his expression was both worried and earnest. "It wasn't me, Severus."
Regardless of his comment to the contrary, Snape knew the man was telling the truth and he was furious, both with himself for having assumed that Lupin was guilty and with Lupin for proving him wrong. He was also frustrated. He knew that he had very little chance now of discovering who had invaded his office. There were no obvious suspects, though he could think of a number of their colleagues who would have been all too eager to take Moody's side against him. Unfortunately, there was no way to prove which of them might have been involved. Snape began to prowl restlessly around the room considering his options.
"What were they after?" Lupin asked suddenly.
Snape glanced irritably at the man. "I've no idea."
"Was anything taken? What was disturbed?"
"You expect me to tell you that?"
"Severus, if I'm not your burglar, there's no reason to keep the information from me and if I am then I already know the answer. Either way there's no harm in telling me."
Snape stopped pacing and regarded Lupin sourly but had to admit his reasoning was sound.
Lupin frowned. "Excuse me?"
"Nothing was taken. In fact, to all appearances, nothing was disturbed at all. However, since it's unlikely someone broke into my rooms and touched nothing, I would say the culprit was uncommonly skillful. In fact, he made only one mistake. And that, I think, I will refrain from sharing."
Lupin had started pacing again. "Have you considered that this might not have been Moody's doing at all?"
"If you're going to blame Moody's phantom spy –"
"Just because he's paranoid doesn't mean Moody's always wrong. We still don't know how the Death Eaters came by Fred and George's Sniffer charm. I don't for a moment believe that it was a coincidence and I don't believe you do either."
Snape waved his hand impatiently. "If there was even a hint of a traitor among us, I would be the first to advise caution, but there isn't. I have said this again and again. None of our operations have been compromised. There has been no information leaked. And as for my office being burgled it's hardly likely that one of the Dark Lord's spies would bother. I don't keep the Order's secrets lying around on my desk and even if I did, any spy would scarcely need to search my office for information. I should think attending any of our meetings would be a better option."
"What if he's not after information on the Order?" Lupin said quietly. "What if he's after you?"
Snape had considered this possibility too, but dismissed it not so much because it lacked merit, but because he hadn't the slightest evidence to support it. He hated Lupin for bringing it up.
"Then I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint him in his quest."
"I'm serious. Is there anything in your office that might compromise you?"
"More than I already am?" Snape had intended the words as a contemptuous sneer, but hadn't put nearly enough energy into them to achieve that effect. Instead, they simply sounded weary and bitter and left an awkward silence hanging in the air.
Wordlessly, Snape turned to leave, but Lupin stepped forward to block him. "What do you intend to do?"
"Since you claim that you neither broke into my office nor know who did, I'd say that's none of your business."
"Confronting Moody will get you nowhere."
"I don't need your advice."
"I'm trying to help you!"
An odd look flickered in Lupin's eyes, then his expression became hard and his voice cold. "I owe you for the Wolfsbane Potion, remember? For 'preventing me from turning into a mindless beast once a month'."
"Then stay out of my way and don't tell anyone what we've discussed. This is none of your business." Snape brushed past Lupin, but Lupin caught his arm.
"What affects the Order is all of our business, Severus, and if Moody was behind this, I'll curse him myself along with whatever bloody idiot did his dirty work." Lupin spoke in a quiet, carefully controlled tone, but his eyes burned with anger.
Snape was startled by the sudden fierce emotion in the usually mild-mannered man and he regarded Lupin with interest. "Why are you so sure he's wrong about me?"
The anger in Lupin's eyes vanished, replaced by a shrewd look. He gave Snape a small, wry smile. "I'm not. I've just always been one to overlook the failings of my friends."
Snape scowled. "We aren't friends."
"We aren't enemies either – at least not on my part. Moody may forget that we share a common purpose, but I haven't. We already have an uphill battle in this war without fighting each other."
"Ever the voice of reason and reconciliation, eh, Lupin?" Snape sneered. "Pity no one has ever listened."
"You're welcome to be the first."
Snape snorted derisively and reached for the doorknob.
"Just don't forget that I know where my priorities lie," Lupin said. He spoke almost in a whisper, but the hard, feral look was back in his eyes and all at once an unexpected thought sprang unbidden to Snape's mind. It was the wolf that he was seeing: fiercely loyal and protective of its own, vicious to the enemy. But even as Snape held Lupin's gaze, the look vanished again and Lupin stepped aside, mild and unflustered once more.
The wolf in sheep's clothing. Snape almost smiled at that notion. Perhaps Lupin had a few admirable qualities buried under that tame exterior after all. He gave the man the briefest nod of acknowledgement and left.
Harry picked at his breakfast and debated for the hundredth time what to do about the handkerchief still tucked away in the drawer of his bedside table. Objectively, it seemed obvious that he should turn over the evidence he had to Moody as he had promised he would. So why was he so reluctant to do so? Did he secretly believe that the Death Eaters deserved to die? Was it just because Snape was so valuable to the Order? Somehow Harry didn't think so, but he couldn't shake the growing sense of dread that he was doing something wrong.
Harry automatically glanced down the table to where Snape usually sat, but neither he nor Remus had come down to breakfast. That didn't particularly surprise Harry. With a sigh he forced down the last of his toast and headed upstairs for his Potions lesson.
The second floor hallway was silent as a tomb and Harry could just make out the angry voices coming from Remus's study. He frowned, wondering what Snape and Remus could be arguing about this early in the morning. His curiosity immediately got the better of him and he crept quietly down the hall towards the study in the hopes of hearing what was being said.
"Are you sure that someone was in your office?"
"Don't be insulting! Of course I'm sure!"
Harry froze and felt his heart try to leap out of his chest. It was impossible. Snape couldn't know that he'd been in his rooms. He'd gone over the charms and counter charms a dozen times. He'd taken meticulous care and knew that he hadn't made a mistake in casting them. How could Snape know?
"Confronting Moody will get you nowhere."
Harry was startled out of his thoughts by Remus's voice which sounded as though it was just on the other side of the door.
"I don't need your advice."
Snape's voice was equally near and Harry turned and fled quietly as he could back down the hallway. He heard the door behind him open and ducked into the Potions lab.
Knowing that Snape would likely be arriving at any moment, Harry went straight to his workbench and began setting up his Potions supplies. His mind was racing, but his initial panic was beginning to fade as his well-honed instincts for dealing with a crisis took over. Even if Snape somehow knew that his wards had been tampered with, he surely didn't know who had done it. Harry realized that all he had to do was refrain from attracting Snape's suspicion long enough to find Moody and figure out a plan for handling this.
Harry took a deep breath and forced himself to relax. He calmed his mind and by the time Snape stalked into the room Harry's breathing and heart rate were almost normal.
"What are you doing here, Potter?"
"I just thought I'd get an early start today, sir." Harry met Snape's eyes and quickly made sure that the Occlumency barriers he now commonly maintained around the man were in place.
Snape's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "How admirable," he sneered as he came towards Harry. "I don't suppose those keen ears of yours overheard the conversation Lupin and I were just having?"
Harry could feel his heart rate increase as Snape stared unblinkingly at him. "No."
"You're a pathetic liar, Potter."
"I know you two were arguing."
"And did you happen to gather what we were arguing about?" Snape was standing directly in front of Harry with only the workbench between them. His eyes bored into Harry's and Harry gritted his teeth, not daring to look away.
"I've no idea."
Snape smirked and Harry knew at once that the man didn't believe him.
"Well, then I'll let you in on the secret," Snape purred softly. "Someone broke into my quarters last night."
Harry swallowed hard and Snape favored him with his nastiest smile. "You look troubled by that news, Potter. Did you think that the Order of the Phoenix was a group of noble, honest, trustworthy freedom fighters? I hate to disappoint you, but you're woefully mistaken. As much as I regret to disabuse you of any heroic fantasies, the truth is that the vaunted Order is nothing more than a motley collection of those whom Dumbledore deems to be useful in the fight against the Dark Lord. Nothing more is required for membership, so the fact that there are burglars and thieves among us is no surprise."
Harry's mouth was dry but he managed to keep his voice steady. "Do you know who did it?"
"I have my suspicions, but unfortunately I wouldn't put it past any of them which is why you are not to breathe a word of this to anyone: not to your friends and certainly not to any of the members of the Order. You are not even to whisper it in Miss Weasley's ear. Do you understand? The only advantage I have over the culprit is that he doesn't know that I know he was in my office. I will not risk you giving that information away."
It took every bit of Harry's self-control, but he somehow kept his face impassive. "You have my word, Professor. No one will hear it from me." Then a daring idea came to him. "Sir, why would anyone want to break into your office?"
Harry watched Snape for any hint of guilt, but Snape's smirk held only bitterness. "Because no one trusts me, Potter. Surely you can sympathize with that."
Harry frowned slightly in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"Do you think that I don't know why you've been so distracted of late?"
Harry's heart leapt. "What?" he whispered.
"Do you think I haven't seen the way you look at me – the wariness and disgust in your eyes every time you glance my way?"
"I – I don't know what you're talking about," Harry said, gripping the edge of his workbench tightly.
"Stop lying to me! I know what you think of me, no matter that you've been using Occlumency to guard your thoughts. I can read your emotions on your face."
Harry knew the game was up. "Professor, I know what war can do to a person. I understand and I'm not blaming you –"
"Of course you blame me! I can see it in your eyes every time you look at me! And why shouldn't you? They were your parents."
Harry blinked, entirely lost, as Snape continued.
"It's your right, Potter. I don't deny it."
Harry stared at Snape as understanding dawned and he felt enormous relief flood through him. "Professor, I don't blame you for what happened to my parents. I told you that."
"Spare me the Gryffindor nobility, Potter. Do you suppose I care what you think of me? I have but one goal and that is to see the Dark Lord finished and if I must bear your company to ensure that, so be it. But I will not be lied to!"
"I'm not lying!" Harry said indignantly.
"Really? Then what is the problem?"
Harry opened his mouth and stopped. He couldn't tell Snape the truth; he'd given his word to Moody and Snape would kill him if he confessed to being the one who had broken into his office. Besides, he didn't think accusing Snape of murder would improve the situation.
"Not even a mediocre excuse at the ready?" Snape's sarcasm was laced with bitterness as though this was the final insult.
The relief Harry had felt moments before was rapidly giving way to frustration. "Professor, I swear –"
"STOP LYING TO ME!" Snape yelled. "Do you think that's a kindness, Potter? Do you think I want your pity? I never asked for your forgiveness, nor do I want it any more than I want the grudging tolerance I am forced to endure from my fellow allies when they aren't whispering about me behind my back or sneaking into my rooms to look for anything to use against me. I prefer honest hatred. At least I could always count on your father for that. Now get to work!"
Harry watched helplessly as Snape turned away. He knew there was nothing he could say or do to salvage the situation and felt a pang of guilt at the realization that he had made a complete mess of things. His apparently inept break in of Snape's bedroom had confirmed Snape's worst opinion of his fellow Order members. Worse than that, Snape believed that Harry still blamed him for James and Lily's deaths and Harry was helpless to persuade him otherwise. Harry briefly considered confessing everything, but gave up the idea at once as untenable.
Harry might not have felt so bad if only Snape's bitter frustration hadn't been so evident in his snarled words. It was the same impotent fury he had vented at Dumbledore the night before and it was obvious to Harry that for all his protestations to the contrary, Snape cared deeply about what others thought of him. Harry also finally understood, too late, why he had felt so uneasy spying on Snape. If it had been anyone else, Harry knew that he would have gone to them and confronted them with Moody's accusations, given them a chance to defend themselves. He hadn't given Snape that chance. Instead he'd snuck around behind his back, spied on him, broken into his private rooms, and judged him guilty on circumstantial evidence alone. Regardless of what crimes Snape might have committed, he deserved better than that and Harry felt sincerely ashamed at having treated the man so shabbily. He also felt sick at the prospect of handing Snape over to Moody.
The next few hours were grueling ones for Harry. Snape was in a foul mood, glaring and snapping at him at the least provocation. But what made the situation especially miserable for Harry was the guilty knowledge that for once he deserved every disgusted glance and harsh word.
At last Harry's potion was complete and he trudged back to his room where he immediately caught sight of his bedside table where the cursed handkerchief was still lying in wait for him. He grimaced, pulled open the drawer and picked up the innocuous piece of white cloth, less certain than ever as to what he should do with it.
Harry whirled around, shoving the handkerchief into his pocket. Ron was standing in the doorway looking quizzically at him.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to startle you. Dumbledore's downstairs. He wants to see you."
Harry had forgotten that Dumbledore was coming. Any other time he would have been delighted at the chance to talk with the wizard, but Harry could see no way that Dumbledore might help him with his current dilemma. He could hardly confess to the man that he'd been spying on Snape.
"Are you all right, mate?" Ron asked with a small frown of concern. "You look done in."
"I'm okay. Thanks." Harry managed a wan smile then hurried past Ron before his friend could ask him any more questions.
Dumbledore was alone in the entrance hall. He was bent over examining the gash on Mrs. Black's portrait while the old woman dozed in her frame, but he straightened up as Harry appeared and let the heavy curtains fall back across the canvas.
"Ah, Harry, there you are."
"Hello, Professor. You wanted to see me?"
"Yes. Dobby has prepared a lovely tea and I'd like you to join me," Dumbledore said, leading Harry into the library where an impressive variety of biscuits and tea sandwiches had been laid out alongside a large porcelain teapot.
"You know, this is my favorite room in this house," Dumbledore remarked, taking a seat on the sofa and indicating that Harry should sit next to him. "It contains a remarkable collection of books. Most are very Dark of course, but instructive nonetheless. After all, we must understand an enemy's methods if we are to defeat him. Tea?"
"Sure. Thanks." Harry sat down as Dumbledore poured two cups of tea and handed one to Harry. Dumbledore raised his cup, breathed in the aroma of its steaming contents and smiled contentedly.
"It's good to see you, Professor," Harry said in an effort at conversation.
"It's very good to see you too, Harry. Biscuit?" Dumbledore waved at the platter on the table before them.
"Er, no, I'm fine, thanks."
"They're excellent; particularly the almond ones with the drizzle of chocolate on top." Dumbledore smiled encouragingly at Harry.
"Okay." Harry relented and took a biscuit.
Dumbledore sipped his tea then continued. "Do you know what I have always appreciated about tea, Harry?"
Harry bit into his biscuit and shook his head.
"No matter how urgently busy I may be, it is the one time of day I allow myself – often force myself – to set aside my cares and relax. That is a very useful thing."
Harry stared at Dumbledore. "Sir, why did you want to see me?"
"Remus tells me that you've been unusually withdrawn of late. Is anything particular disturbing you?"
Harry looked away. "No. Nothing particular." He took a swallow of tea, still not looking at Dumbledore.
"How are Potions lessons coming along?"
Harry shrugged. "Okay, I suppose."
"And you and Professor Snape are managing to survive one another?"
"More or less."
"That sounds more like less, I must say."
Harry shook his head. "It doesn't matter. I have more important things to worry about."
"Do you?" Dumbledore sounded as though this was unexpected news. His eyes searched Harry's and Harry longed to confide in the man and ask his advice. Instead he glanced away again.
"So do you have any news about Voldemort?"
"None that I am in a position to share at this time. As I said before, I will discuss that with you at Hogwarts." Dumbledore took another sip of his tea then turned his attention to the tea sandwiches, examining each variety with interest.
The silence stretched uncomfortably and Harry shifted restlessly in his seat.
"Sir, can I ask you something in confidence?" Harry blurted out at last.
"Of course you may." Dumbledore deftly plucked a tiny sandwich off the tray and turned his attention back to Harry.
Harry hesitated, unsure how to begin, but Dumbledore smiled warmly. "It's all right, Harry. Just say whatever is on your mind."
Harry took a deep breath and plunged in. "If someone you knew was suspected of a crime – of murder – and you had evidence that could be used against him, would you turn that evidence over to the authorities even if it meant that this person would go to prison?"
Dumbledore regarded Harry calmly, but Harry was certain he saw the barest hint of mischief glinting in his eyes. "I take it this is a hypothetical question?"
Harry nodded. "Yes. Hypothetically, what would you do?"
"First, I must ask why I would believe I shouldn't reveal this evidence. Is this person a friend of mine?"
"No," Harry said quickly. "He's not a friend."
"Would I be betraying his trust by revealing information gained in confidence?"
Harry shifted uncomfortably. "I wouldn't say he trusts me, but sort of, yes."
"I see. And are there any other extenuating circumstances I'm likely to be considering?"
Harry nodded. "What if this person was, for instance, an Auror who was fighting against Voldemort only he had crossed the line and begun to kill some of Voldemort's people without provocation? Would you look the other way because the victims are Death Eaters and what he's doing serves our side in the war?"
"Ah, you pose a difficult question, Harry."
"What's acceptable in war and what's not?" Harry said glumly. "Where do we draw the line?"
Dumbledore shook his head. "While that may be a consideration, it is not, I think, the central question confounding you. The question you pose is one of loyalty. To whom or what do we owe our allegiance and how do we choose between conflicting loyalties?
"On the one hand, each of us has a duty to work for justice. To withhold evidence of a crime as serous as murder unquestionably violates that principle."
Harry bit his lip and nodded grimly. "Then I should hand over the evidence."
"I didn't say that."
Harry frowned. "But –"
"Clearly you do not believe that to be the right choice."
Harry sighed in frustration. "It doesn't matter what I believe."
"On the contrary, nothing matters more!" Dumbledore set his teacup down and regarded Harry earnestly. "We are accountable for our actions, Harry. If we don't believe in the choices we make then how can we possibly live with them?"
"But what if I honestly don't know what the right choice is?" Harry asked desperately.
Dumbledore picked up his tea once more and sipped it. "Do you recall last year when I insisted that you needed to resume your Occlumency lessons with Professor Snape?"
Harry nodded. "Of course."
"And do you recall why I demurred at teaching you myself?"
"You said that he could teach me something that you couldn't."
"Something that was critical for you to know and which I could not explain but which you needed to discover on your own. Tell me Harry, did you discover what that was?"
Harry considered. Snape had taught him a lot during their Occlumency and Legilimency lessons, but he couldn't imagine that Dumbledore couldn't have taught him the same techniques. Reluctantly, he shook his head. "Not really."
Dumbledore smiled, seemingly unconcerned with this answer. "Let me give you a hint. It had nothing to do with your actual lessons; however, it was a result of them."
Harry frowned. Dumbledore had lost him completely now.
"Forgiveness, Harry. Compassion. That is what Professor Snape was and is uniquely qualified to teach you. After Sirius's death your distrust and – dare I say – your hatred of Professor Snape were quite apparent. But I was convinced that given the opportunity you would reject that hatred and when Professor Snape told me what transpired between you in my office at the end of term I knew that I had not been mistaken.
"I have never been more proud of you than I was that afternoon. It is an easy thing to forgive our friends their mistakes, to see the best in them. It is far more difficult to do that with those whom we dislike, those who have genuinely wronged us. Few people could have found the generosity and compassion to forgive as you did – it was far beyond what most people in your place would have done."
"It's more than Professor Snape thinks I've done," Harry said. "He still thinks I blame him. He told me so himself."
"That is hardly surprising."
"Harry, you have a large heart and when you forgive, you do so completely. You are very like your mother in that. She also had a great capacity for compassion and for seeing the best in everyone. Lily would have forgiven Severus in a moment, as you did, for his accidental betrayal.
"But you must understand that not everyone can forgive so easily. James, I fear, never would have forgiven Severus. That was his greatest failing. Severus is also a man who does not forgive easily, neither others, nor especially himself and to accept forgiveness is often harder than to offer it. He has fifteen years of guilt to come to terms with – a tall order by any standard. You have forgiven him for what, in his mind, was an unforgivable act. Consequently, he cannot accept your forgiveness because he doesn't believe that he is worthy of it. He cannot forgive himself."
"What am I supposed to do then?"
"Nothing beyond what you are already doing. You can extend your hand in friendship; however, you cannot force another to take it. But neither should you give up in the face of his rejection. I have said before that your greatest strength is love and you yourself have deduced that it is the power that can defeat Lord Voldemort. You must never underestimate its value.
"You asked me if I would condemn someone who had committed murder in the fight against Voldemort, but I cannot answer that question for you, Harry. Just as the lesson you learnt from Professor Snape could not be taught with mere words, so too, the answer you seek cannot be told to you by others, for it lies in here." Dumbledore laid a hand over his heart.
"Do we have a duty to see serious crimes punished? Of course! But we also have duties to our family and friends; to those who trust and depend upon us and to those upon whom we depend. We may even owe a duty to our enemy and these duties are not always compatible with one another. Perhaps our most pressing duty at the moment is to fight Voldemort. We are at war for the very survival of our world and to willfully undermine our chances of success would be unthinkable. If your hypothetical murderer is also crucial to victory, what then?
"There is no easy answer to this dilemma. It is your compassion and innate sense of right and wrong, Harry – your conscience, in other words – that must guide you in making this difficult choice and I cannot possibly know all of the duties that might affect your decision. I can tell you this, however. Discover which duties are warring within you and you will know which one demands your highest loyalty. Above all, trust your instincts. They will not lead you astray. Do what you believe is right in your heart despite what anyone else may tell you. That is the only true integrity."
Dumbledore smiled and his eyes twinkled mischievously once more. "Hypothetically, of course." He drank the last of his tea then rose and Harry stood up as well. The old wizard gripped Harry's shoulder comfortingly. "I will see you at school in two weeks, Harry. Until then, if you should need anything, don't hesitate to owl me."
Dumbledore left and Harry sat back down on the sofa lost in thought. His tea had gone quite cold when there was a soft rap on the door. Harry looked up as Moody came in and shut the door. The old Auror looked at Harry expectantly.
"Well, Potter? Did you get it?"
Harry stood up and stuck his hand into his pocket, grasping the soft handkerchief tightly. "No. I never got into Snape's room."
Moody's face fell. "We were gone for over an hour, Potter. What happened?"
"It was Remus. I was halfway through disarming the wards when he turned up. He nearly caught me and I didn't dare go on with him prowling the halls."
Moody cursed under his breath. "Did you get the wards reset?"
The old Auror sighed in frustration and paced across the floor, his wooden leg thumping rhythmically as he went.
"Look, I'm sorry," Harry said with genuine regret. "Maybe Aurors are trained for this sort of thing…"
Moody waved his hand dismissively. "It's not your fault, Potter. I should have realized that Lupin would be in the way. These things happen. If I let every setback I'd ever run up against stop me, I wouldn't have put even half the Death Eaters in Azkaban that I have." He gave Harry a lopsided grin. "Don't worry. I'll get Snape."
Harry nodded and managed a small smile as Moody stumped out of the room then he let out a deep breath and released his grip on the handkerchief in his pocket. That hadn't been as hard as he'd expected. Maybe he was getting better at lying, or maybe it was just easier when he didn't feel guilty about it.
Harry left the library and headed upstairs to his bedroom with an energetic, purposeful spring in his step. The room was empty so he went straight to his trunk and pulled the handkerchief from his pocket. The neatly folded white square gave no hint of the black strands nestled inside as Harry tucked it safely into the pocket of his dress robes, but Harry hoped that those hairs might help him solve the Death Eater murders without Moody's knowledge, which was exactly what he intended to do.
Dumbledore's advice had helped him to finally make sense of his conflicting emotions and the uncertainty that had been weighing on him. For the first time since Moody had approached him about Snape, Harry knew exactly what he needed to do. His first duty was to defeat Voldemort and he wasn't about to see one of his most crucial allies go to prison if he could help it. But neither could he countenance murder, so while Harry couldn't hand Snape over to Moody and the less than scrupulous wizarding justice system, neither could he simply ignore these crimes. Besides, Moody wasn't going to stop hunting for proof of Snape's guilt and if the killings didn't stop it would only be a matter of time before he found it.
Harry's only option was to beat the crafty old Auror to it. How he was going to do that Harry had no idea, but he reckoned he'd work it out. If he could find the proof of Snape's guilt first, then he could confront Snape with it and show him the danger in what he was doing. With luck that would convince Snape to give up this mad vendetta without involving the Aurors or prison.
Harry smiled grimly, certain that all of his friends would think him mad if they knew he was taking on this responsibility on top of everything else he had to worry about, but it was the only alternative he could live with. Trying to save Snape from himself might not be what an Auror would do. It might not even be the smart thing to do. But Harry knew it was the right thing to do and that was all that mattered.